The Political Incorrectness of Helen Mirren

Monday, November 17, 2008

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

It seems the Brits are in a tiz over outrageous comments by Helen Mirren about rape trials.

Dame Helen Mirren was accused by the Solicitor General of making ignorant, absurd and dangerous comments yesterday after speaking out again about rape prosecutions.
In an interview, the 63-year-old Oscar-winning actress said that in such cases female jurors are deliberately selected by defence barristers because 'women go against women'.

She suggested that women jurors are less likely to convict a rapist since they tend to think the victim was 'asking for it'.

Well, how dare she suggest that sisterhood would not reign in a rape trial?

Trouble is she's absolutely right.

I would not claim to know how juries are selected in Great Britain, and it may well be totally random, as Solicitor General Vera Baird claims. But, here in the US, where attorneys are very involved in jury selection, it's an absolute fact that your better rape prosecutors try to stack juries with men.

I was somewhat stunned to learn this some years ago, while reading up on the "preppy murder trial." Robert Chambers, who was convicted for the murder of Jennifer Levin, was prosecuted by renowned attorney Linda Fairstein. Fairstein, who specializes is rape prosecutions said, when interviewed, that she would always try to tilt juries in the male direction, because women jurors are less likely to convict rapists. Her statement struck me as so counter-intuitive that it always stuck with me. I did a bit of googling, to check my own memory, and Fairstein is not alone in this assessment.

However, female jurors frequently do not side with the female complainant. Indeed, according to a Newsday article, “The most sympathetic juror a rape victim can hope for… is not a well-dressed, educated working woman, but a stocky, conservative, middle-aged Italian man. The Italian man, the researchers reason, regards women as fragile and in need of defense and will usually side with the accuser” (Tyre, 1991, p. 10). The article also quotes Barbara Eganhauser, a lead sex crimes prosecutor in Westchester County, who believes “women, even young women with contemporary lifestyles and values, often reject another woman’s accusation or rape and sex abuse out of their own fear” (Tyre, 1991, p. 10).

Several other authors also note that female jurors often do not accept as true the testimony of complainants. Attorney Julie Wright (1995) argues that these jurors distrust the complainants because they do not want to believe that something horrible could happen to “good people”. Such women subscribe to the “just world hypothesis,” that bad things do not happen at random, but rather everything in the world occurs for a reason. According to this theory, misfortune strikes only those worthy of hardship (Wright, 1995). Wright cites Elaine Walster’s research study, in which undergraduates were told of increasingly horrible things that happened to another person. The worse the event, the more likely the subject assigned blame to the other person, as it was “reassuring if the person [could] somehow blame the victim, taking the loss out of the realm of the uncontrollable” (Wright, 1995, p. 20). Using this logic, female jurors do not wish to imagine that rape could happen to them, and therefore the more they identify with the complainant, and the more hideous the crime, the more they need to deny the complainant’s claim. Wright notes that “Linda Fairstein, Chief of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit, has observed that ‘for many women, the need to shield themselves from their own vulnerability to sexual assault is paramount. If they can insist that the victim engaged in behavior that they would never engage in, such as visiting a bar or going to a man’s apartment, they can convince themselves they are not at risk’” (Wright, 1995, p. 22). Thus, it is so frightening for the female juror to identify with the complainant that she needs to deny the complainant’s testimony, in order for the juror to feel safe in the world.

Furthermore, Gloria Cowan (2000) contends that women often disbelieve other women’s tales of sexual violence out of their own internalized oppression. She writes that many women are hostile to their own sex, and internalize negative female stereotypes. These women are more likely to “blame the victim” in the case of rape or sexual harassment. Cowan’s research study, using questionnaire responses from 155 college women, found a correlation between women’s hostility towards other women and women’s toleration of men mistreating women. While Cowan’s article does not specifically apply to jurors in rape cases, it does provide a persuasive argument as to why females may be disinclined to believe the victim of sexual abuse.

Sad, but true.

Sarah Palin: Rainbow High

Thursday, October 23, 2008

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Recently, in her Huffington Post blog, Naomi Wolf compared Sarah Palin to Eva Peron. Now, there's an analogy that becomes more apt every day.

Like any peasant girl from the outskirts, Sarah Palin needs to dress the part of a political luminary.

While Palin's transformation from hockey mom to fashion plate has raised eyebrows, her "SNL" character, played by Tina Fey, has remained firmly in the red jacket. And according to Women's Wear Daily's Irin Carmon, "SNL" costume designer Tom Broecker said Wednesday night that dressing Palin for last Saturday's cameo required a compromise:

Of Palin, Broecker said, "In speaking with her, I had to get her to understand why she needed to wear the same thing as Tina [Fey]. We had gone off and created it for the first time a month ago, a look we identified as Sarah Palin. She had moved on in her own image of herself. I said, 'I know you've moved on ­ you're wearing tighter clothes, more black ­ but this is the character of Sarah Palin.'"

Silly SNL dresser. She needs to dress for her descamisados, up there in Alaska. (They're very cold.)

Besides, as John McCain says, "She needed clothes." (Well, ok. But does her seven year old really need a Louis Vuitton bag?)

The McCain campaign assures us the clothes will go to charity. What they don't tell you: She'll be throwing them from a balcony.

"Please understand what you are looking at when you look at Sarah "Evita" Palin. You are looking at the designated muse of the coming American police state."

-- Naomi Wolf

Stealing Elections 101

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

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With a tip of the hat to cometman, an update on the horror show that is Premier Election Systems, or Diebold. Cometman's other excellent diary, introducing cyber security expert Stephen Spoonamore, can no longer be found on Pff, because Pff is no more. Fortunately Arthur Gilroy reprinted it in full and it can be found here. Both of the Spoonamore interviews to follow. But first, this bit of joy from the Washington Post.

A voting system used in 34 states contains a critical programming error that can cause votes to be dropped while being electronically transferred from memory cards to a central tallying point, the manufacturer acknowledges.

The problem was identified after complaints from Ohio elections officials following the March primary there, but the logic error that is the root of the problem has been part of the software for 10 years, said Chris Riggall, a spokesman for Premier Election Solutions, formerly known as Diebold.

. . .

Officials in Butler County, Ohio -- north of Cincinnati -- were the first to raise the issue when 150 votes from a card dropped in March. Brunner's office originally said that 11 counties had the same problem but has since revised that to nine. Her office was not able to say how many dropped votes were discovered in those jurisdictions.

"I can't provide odds on whether dropped votes were not recognized" during the decade GEMS has been used, Rigall said, "but based on what we know about how our customers run their elections and reconcile counts we believe any results not uploaded on election night would have been caught when elections were being certified."

So, in 34 states, over 10 years this flaw that causes tabulation problems has only occurred 9 times. We know this because it's only been caught by election officials 9 times. Well, I know I feel better.

But now, the bad news. Diebold's voting machines may be riddled with problems such as these and we would have no way of knowing because Diebold won't allow any audit of their programming.

Stephen Spoonamore, a cyber security expert, who has made a career of auditing similar systems, is baffled as to why to Diebold allows its banking systems to be audited, but not its voting machines. Well, not really. This life-long Republican is pretty sure he knows why. Because they're designed to steal elections.

Among the revelations in these two interviews: 1) There is no such thing as unhackable computer security. The only defense is a transparent process that can be audited and Diebold won't allow it. 2) Spoonamore is certain that Max Cleland actually won the election he lost to the odious Saxby Chamblis. 3) A voting tabulator should have no reason to subtract votes, only add them. Yet, the Diebold machines have a subtraction function.

And much, much more.

Failing Ever Upward

Thursday, September 04, 2008

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Well, if you can't get Bernie Ebbers:

Carly Fiorina Live at the RNC
photo: AP/Paul Sancya

Carly Fiorina, who has been headlining with the McCain campaign -- and was even discussed as a possible running mate -- is being touted as a super-successful vagina-person. A reigning authority on big business and the tech world, or so we're told. Last night she spoke to the convention audience about the wonders of John McCain and with reporters about the travesty of sexist attacks on Sarah Palin.

These days, Fiorina is usually described as a former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Sounds impressive, but it leaves out a few things. Like the fact she's the former CEO because she was fired, loathed by many board members and shareholders, and handed a golden parachute worth over $21 million that resulted in a lawsuit against the company. On the day Fiorina was given her walking papers, HP's stock jumped 7 percent. That's a whole lotta hate.

The HP board of directors asked Carly Fiorina to resign last week, ending the six-year reign of the highest-profile woman in American business. HP's dismal financial results provide the easiest explanation for the dismissal: while its revenues are climbing slowly, its stock is down 50 percent since her tenure began, and her poorly conceived and contentious takeover of Compaq has done little to strengthen HP's balance sheet. (The poor performance perhaps justified the board's particularly harsh public statement, which didn't contain the usual excuse of a suddenly demanding family.)

But the problem wasn't just the substance of Fiorina's leadership--it was also her style. She had plenty of it. Fiorina brought panache to HP: she combined the showmanship of Steve Jobs with a dash of Donald Trump's ostentatiousness. Instead of working quietly for the first few years to fix the company, she believed that building buzz for herself--including appearances in early TV ads--was key to re-energizing staff and exciting customers. Tech CEOs named Jobs, Ellison and Gates can get away with this; as founders, they seemingly have more leeway in cultivating a cult of personality. But Fiorina's style clanged dissonantly off HP's wonky products and the staid corporate culture that HP founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard initiated 65 years ago in a Palo Alto, Calif., garage. Some employees loved her--but many disliked her and were no doubt glad to see her go. Last week, interim CEO Robert Wayman told NEWSWEEK that senior executives "were very pleased with the reaction of the employees to all the communication. They were way more comfortable than [senior execs] had worried they would be."

But, Fiorina picked herself up, dusted herself off, and reinvented herself as a political mover and shaker. Thus were we treated to her compassionate words last night about the concerns of average Americans.

Today, Americans are concerned about keeping their jobs. They're concerned about keeping their homes; about the rising price of food and fuel. They are concerned about whether they will able to find and afford the right kind of health care. They are concerned about whether they or their children with have the skills and education they need to compete in the 21st Century.

Yes. I'm guessing the thousands of workers HP laid off, under her tenure, had many such concerns.

At HP, Fiorina developed the reputation of a manager who knocked heads together—or who chopped them off. And there were massive layoffs during her tenure. In 2003, the company announced it would dismiss almost 18,000 people. (That year, the firm posted a $903 million loss on $56.6 billion in revenue.) When the outsourcing of jobs turned into a national political issue, Fiorina became the poster-girl for an industry campaign aimed at blocking any legislation that would restrict a company's ability to can American employees in favor of workers overseas. She and executives from seven other tech companies issued a report that argued that any such measures would hurt the U.S. economy. The best way to increase American competitiveness, they declared, was to improve schools and, yes, reduce taxes. At a Washington press conference, Fiorina said, "There is no job that is America's God-given right anymore. We have to compete for jobs." The remark did not go over well with critics of outsourcing, who have ever since used it as an indicator of corporate insensitivity.

Such detached perspective is a whole lot easier when your own fuck-ups net you a $21 million severance. Most of us average folk don't get to make soft landings on big piles of money, when we're shit-canned.

Last night she also talked about the importance of corporate transparency and accountability. Hmmm.....

In March 2004, after HP shareholders voted 1.21 billion to 925 million to expense stock options, she opposed the move, essentially opting to stick with accounting practices (that were used by other corporations) that did not reveal a company's true value. That same year, Forbes reported that Hewlett-Packard was "among many other U.S. companies that kept offices in Dubai and were linked to Iranian traders there." The article suggested that HP and other countries were skirting export controls to trade with Iran.

But, no one should be surprised that Fiorina's star is rising within the Republican Party. She could be its poster child. She embodies the ethic that has driven them since the glory days of Ronald Reagan and the era of greedy excess he ushered in.

We have reached escape velocity and launched into the No-Consequences Economy. To pause for a moment of overgeneralization: America used to be about exceptionalism and optimism, a place where anybody could try anything and make it work. Across the business and political spectrum, it's now about entitlement, where everyone deserves a shot but no one gets blamed for screwing it up. Stuff happens, as Donald Rumsfeld said, referring to another affair with no consequences for the architects. (Read more about the consequences of no consequences.)

When Bob Nardelli said in September 2006 that he took "full responsibility" for manhandling Home Depot, how was he to know that he'd be kicked out four months later with an extra $210 million in the bank? Or that he'd end up at the wheel of an American icon, Stan O'Neal, who also mouthed the responsibility platitude, received $160 million when he was dumped after billions of dollars of bets went bad and word leaked out that he had toyed with selling the company without talking to his board.

Other disgraced Wall Street executives are hot commodities in the job market, valued for their perceived ability to walk through fire and survive. Private equity firms are turning away from deals signed mere months before. J.C. Flowers & Co. even managed to leave Sallie Mae at the altar and not pay the contractually negotiated breakup fee. Housing-industry shills who championed a rising market are keeping their jobs. Banks that made disastrous loans are cutting in line to borrow at below-market rates from the Federal Reserve. "It's amazing, the lack of shame," says Lawrence Mitchell, a George Washington University professor and author of The Speculation Economy: How Finance Triumphed Over Industry. "The guys on Wall Street claim they believe in free markets and are entitled to enormous compensation because of their risk taking. But when they lose, do they say to themselves, 'I'm going to take my losses'? No, they go running to Uncle Ben"—Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman—"and he, in a grotesquely irresponsible move, bails them out.

After all, we've endured nearly eight nearly 8 years of an incompetent CEO President Portfolio once compared to Fiorina.

Fiorina didn't know the industry or the company, and she announced the day she arrived that she had her strategy.

No, Fiorina was right at home on that stage and will, no doubt, be right at home in a McCain Administration.

Sorting The Palin Family Laundry -- Updated

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

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I think when all is said in done, the thing I will take away from the bizarre Sarah Palin fiasco is the certainty that the Daily Kos is ridiculous. They win the prize for catapulting an utterly irresponsible piece of "journalism" into the public eye. While it shows the power of the blogosphere to shoehorn issues into the MSM, it also opens the left wing blogosphere to charges of really shoddy, tawdry, bottom-feeder reporting.

The absurdity of all this is not lost on Lee Stranahan, whose own coverage of the John Edwards mess, got him banned from the orange city.

The irony for me, of course, is that despite making over fifty short political videos with a clear progressive point of view, I was banned on DailyKos for saying that it seemed reasonable that John Edwards was seen at the Beverly Hilton late at night.

This is what marks Daily Kos as a thoroughly partisan organ, trafficking in the worst sort of hackery. When legitimate questions are raised about a prominent Democrat, shout down the offending voices for spouting tabloid sleaze. When dubious charges are leveled at a rather suddenly prominent Republican, it's full speed ahead and don't worry about trifles like proof before you publicly try and convict.

I will not be pulling up the Daily Kos story in question. I did so the other evening and it froze up my browser for a good twenty minutes. It wasn't worth it. I was stunned at the crappiness of it. I was stunned at the quite possibly libelous nature of it. I could not believe that a diarist could be so stupid as to state such assertions as fact. And, I could not believe that a blog as censorious as DKos allowed that to stand, when so many perfectly fair diaries have been deleted and so many reasonable people been banned.

I will, however, tip my hat to doberman pinche, who offered up the outrage of Townhall.

"Sarah Palin is NOT the Mother" is the title of this DailyKos blog that accuses Bristol, a completely fit-looking adolescent teen, of having a "baby bump" in a photo they allege was taken March 9th of this year.

"Sarah, I'm calling you a liar" wrote blogger ArcXIX. "And not even a good one. Trig Paxson Van Palin is not your son. He is your grandson. The sooner you come forward with this revelation to the public, the better. " Photos of Bristol with detailed commentary about her abdomen are contained in the post.

Not only is the DailyKos disgustingly inspecting Bristol's midriff with all the fervor of LA paparazzi examining J-Lo's or Jennifer Aniston's washboard stomachs for evidence of a "bump," the DailyKos is wrong on when the photo was taken. It was taken, and published, by the Anchorage Daily News in 2006. Baby Trig, a child with Down's Syndrome, was born on April 18, 2008. That's a long time for a teen girl to be carrying a "bump" which looks nothing more than the curve of a tight sweater.

The Daily Kos induced furor has now forced the campaign to announce that 17 year old Bristol is 5 months pregnant and planning to do what all good, Christian, teen mothers do; get married. I wish her well and I'm truly saddened that her private life has been dragged into the spotlight. But it is certainly arguable that Sarah Palin's own richly layered idiocy is largely to blame.

I'm ambivalent about a lot of this. There is certainly plenty of fodder with which to attack Sarah Palin's candidacy, without dragging out anyone's gynecological history. From the bizarre video in which she wonders aloud what a VP does all day, to the fact that her own mother-in-law seems unsure she's qualified, to the statements about Iraq being both a war for oil and God's work, to the fact that she was almost a recalled over corruption charges as mayor, to possible secessionist leanings... Okay. The list gets pretty long. But, I remain unconvinced that the questions surrounding the birth of little Trig aren't relevant and worthy of, all be it, more responsible scrutiny.

Sarah Palin: Not Flat Busted
Photo: Provided by the Palin Family
I Can't Take This Woman Seriously

I found myself somewhat at odds with Maryscott on this issue. I agree strongly about the sanctity of a woman's right to privacy regarding reproductive choice, but I have a hard time defending that right for a woman who would take that very privacy away from women everywhere.

I disagree (8.00 / 1)

and this is why. Because this is a woman, running for the Vice Presidency, who fully intends to have her nose in every other woman's uterus, not only in this country, but in any nation to which we apportion aid. This is a woman who wants to make abstinence only education the law of the land, but who can't get her own, unwed teen daughter to close her legs. And, I can say that now, because I just heard on the car radio that Bristol is pregnant right now, at 17, and they are busily arranging a shotgun wedding.

"What fresh hell is this?" -- Dorothy Parker


So. Because SHE'S a hypocrite, WE have the right to be hypocrites? (0.00 / 0)

Interesting logic.

--7.88, --6.56 If I can't rant, I don't want to be part of your revolution.


Because she's a hypocrite
(6.00 / 1)

she has a right to be exposed as a hypocrite. Period. It reminds me of when both Bush the senior and Quayle were asked if someone in their family had an unplanned pregnancy, if they would want them to have access to abortion. They both said, it would be a private family matter, and they wouldn't discuss it. Fuck that. When you're talking about intruding on the privacy and integrity of every other woman's body in America, fuck you. You don't get a right to privacy.
Right to life extremists are pushing for legislation all over that country that would force women who miscarry -- miscarry -- to prove it. So fuck 'em. You want to crawl up my twat with a flashlight? You don't get dispensation to do things that women could be prosecuted for under some of the legislation you and your wingnut pals want to push through. If she traveled after her water broke, she endangered the life of her unborn child. That will be prosecutable offense if some of these whackjobs get their way.

"What fresh hell is this?" -- Dorothy Parker

Admittedly, I can get a little worked up over this issue... And, I may have lost my objectivity. Mainly because I'm sick to fucking death of these whack jobs who are bound and determined to legislate a standard of morality that even they cannot meet.

But, there is a line. Daily Kos crossed it.

Update: It would seem that the powers that be at Daily Kos have been sufficiently shamed into deleting the diary (or diaries) in question. The user known as ArcXIX now shows no diaries in his listing. As of this writing, he also has no comments listed after 8/29, for whatever it's worth.

Irony, Thy Name is National Enquirer

Saturday, August 23, 2008

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

I've always had a healthy disrespect for tabloids. In fact, throughout my college years, when I was ensconced in my studies of media and journalism, I considered the term "tabloid journalism" an oxymoron. Boy, is my face red. But, not so red as is the Gray Lady's, I should think. She's now playing catch up on news her editors did not think "fit to print."

Scandal has turned Mr. Edwards into a pathetic has-been. It's had much the same effect on the news bosses at the mainstream media, who used to be the gatekeepers for all things fit to print. When the Enquirer broke the story months ago – while Mr. Edwards was still in the race – they treated it like poison ivy. “Classically not a Times-like story,” sniffed Craig Whitney, the standards editor of The New York Times. This was the same paper, you may recall, that recently ran an innuendo-laden story on John McCain and his friendship with an attractive lobbyist a decade or so ago. No wonder critics accuse the MSM of double standards – one for Democrats, and another for Republicans.

Indeed, the Enquirer turned up its nose at McCain non-story. It would seem, wisely so. This and other revelations from The New Republic -- they, of the Stephen Glass debacle. That The National Enquirer is burying the bona fide press corps in the sack, is shaping up to be the story of the year.

Normally, in the pitched tabloid battle for exclusives, losing a competitive bombshell like the McCain scandal would send Perel into fits. Not this time. Five Enquirer reporters had spent more than a month in 2007 chasing down the same rumors but failed to uncover any documentary evidence. "I wouldn't have run that piece, there was nothing in it," Perel told me recently about the Times story, which received widespread criticism when it ran. "It was filled with innuendo. . . . When you're done reading it, you're like, there's no there there."

My first intimation that the Enquirer might just be a force to be reckoned with came while I was watching a documentary on the O.J. Simpson trial. (No. It did not come during the actual trial; a story which became so burdensome, day after day, that I extended great effort to tune it out.) But, I was somewhat taken aback to hear more legitimate reporters speak in respectful terms about the quality reporting the Enquirer did on O.J. While other reporters were beating minutiae to death, the Enquirer was willing to get dirty, and in doing so, kept breaking the big stories. They became the go to source during that scandal.

In fact, the barbarians have been at the gates ever since the O. J. Simpson trial, which turned out to be a cultural and racial event of immense significance. The MSM couldn't bear to dumpster-dive into the lurid details, even as an insatiable public gobbled them up. That was when they began to lose their grip on deciding what is news. With the explosion of the blogosphere, their power is gone for good.

It seems that while many of the major media brokers are busy chasing headlines, Enquirer reporters are chasing actual stories. I speak not of the kinds of stories they do, but of the way they do their reporting. Like it or not they are doing actual investigative journalism -- something the TNR piece makes clear -- while far too many so-called reporters are writing stories from press releases and proving to be knee-pad wearing whores for the same unreliable sources, again and again.

New York Times "Reporter" Judith Miller
photo: Kevin Wolf AP

Nowhere has the whoredom of mainstream press been more evident than with the media circus over VP selection. Massive resources have been allocated for reporters to camp out on lawns and whip themselves, and, sadly, the public, into a frenzy over something that we were all going to find out anyway. Why is it so important to get a story first, when no one, but no one, will give a shit two weeks from now who "broke" the "Biden is the VP pick" story? The only thing mildly interesting in this woeful display has been watching some bloggers and reporters step on their cranks, in their haste to "get it first."

What is more important? Getting it first, or getting it right?

Perhaps the paper of record will be able to reestablish its cred with the newest investigation into John Edwards's smarminess. This they will do by retracing some of the source material for their successful reportage into Eliot Spitzer's smarminess. I hope it pans out for their sake, if not for Elizabeth Edwards's.

Has Bush Toppled Off the Wagon?

Friday, August 15, 2008

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

There has been a good deal of blogospheric chatter about the public antics of the leader of the free world, in full view of cameras, at the olympics. Much of it speculation about whether or not he's drunk off his ass.

The folks at BuzzFlash have been digging a little deeper into the trash heap, for a bit of the back-story. The tabloids have been dishing dirt about a potential split between George and Laura. Reason: his drinking.

If the Edwards scandal has taught us anything, it's that tabloids may traffic in sleaze, but their sleazy reporting is also often true.

Now, travel with us a little farther down the road on this one, because you only need look at Bush's inappropriate, juvenile, and just plain bizarre behavior during his Olympic trip to wonder if indeed he has been hitting the sauce again (of which there has been potential evidence in the past, including a bruised face and that strange pretzel and "near beer" choking incident, among others).

Now, I don't watch the olympics. I have better cures for the occasional insomnia. But, I've apparently been missing something of a show. Some of this seems a little undignified to me.

It certainly demonstrates a lack of presidential decorum, whether or not it proves drunkenness. But, for those of us who have long been concerned about having a dry drunk in office, it sends up something of a red flag.

Fair, Balanced, All Edwards, All the Time

Sunday, August 10, 2008

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

Now I would be the last person to say that the Edwards affair is not news. In fact, I've pretty consistently argued that it is news. But this is positively surreal.

I think my favorite part is where Erbe is explaining the political and national security implications of the Russia/Georgia war, as they show endless video of John and Elizabeth Edwards and Rielle Hunter.

Andrea Mitchell: McCain Ad "Factually Wrong"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

Andrea Mitchell committed a random act of journalism, yesterday, when she set the record straight on McCain's scurrilous attack ad. Mitchell would be in a position to know, since she was there.

In appearances on MSNBC, including "Hardball," she debunked McCain's claims that Obama cancelled his visit with wounded troops because he couldn't bring cameras. From the transcript (all emphases mine):

MITCHELL: ... And the other thing is, did he make a bad call in deciding not to go to Ramstein? He had every right to go to Ramstein...

BARNICLE: To visit the...

MITCHELL: ... to visit the troops in Landstuhl.

He had already been to visit the troops in Iraq without cameras, without an entourage. And he got, I think—his people, rather, got so backed off by warnings from the Pentagon, now, be please careful, and don‘t bring your military aide, because he‘s now a political aide. The Pentagon was way too aggressive probably in that. And they got so nervous, oh, well, this is going to look political, and they were damned if they did or damned if they didn‘t.



MITCHELL: Let me just finish one—just one point.

FINEMAN: I‘m sorry.


MITCHELL: There was never any intention—let me be absolutely clear about this. The press was never going to go. The entourage was never going to go. There was never an intention to make this political.

But by tacking it on to the tail end of a political—the political leg of the trip, they opened themselves up, they feared, to the criticism. And, if they had gone, they would have been criticized. And not going, they were criticized.

And the McCain commercial on this subject is completely wrong, factually wrong.

BARNICLE: Well, let‘s watch the commercial. And tell us where it‘s wrong.

. . .

MITCHELL: Well, first of all, the picture, the image that they use of him playing basketball is with the troops shot by a—an Army cameraman. That was DOD footage that the—the Pentagon shot of him in Kuwait shooting hoops—and a three-pointer, I might add.

BARNICLE: Yes. Swish.

MITCHELL: So, when he went to see the injured troops in the Green Zone, he did not bring a camera. There was no Pentagon camera. He did not even confirm to those of us covering by—covering that he had gone. I had to find out that he had gone through other sources, military sources.

I mean, the fact is that he was never planning to take the press corps. The press corps was going to be on the tarmac, locked up on the airplane while he went off by himself.

The only issue was whether he could bring a political aide, who was a retired military—retired Air Force general...

There is more on The Huffington Post, including a video of another Mitchell appearance and a "Countdown" segment discussing the perception/reality gap on McCain's "support" of the troops. Here are some highlights:

OLBERMANN: In falsely accusing Senator Obama of ditching U.S. troops in Germany because of press restrictions, the latest McCain campaign ad made an even more outlandish claim, quote, “John McCain is always there for our troops.”

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Except when he isn‘t.

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid noted in mid-2007, McCain only showed up for four of the past 14 Senate votes on Iraq. So far this year, he shown up for none, not even the resolution honoring the sacrifice made by the fallen.

And looking at just part of McCain‘s record of supporting the troops since the war in Iraq began, April 2003, he tabled the motion to provide over $1 billion of National Guard and Reserve equipment. October 2003, he tabled an amendment to provide an additional $322 million for safety equipment for U.S. troops in Iraq. March 2004, he voted against eliminating abusive tax loopholes that would have increased veterans‘ medical care by $1.8 billion.

March 2006, he voted against closing corporate tax loopholes that would have increased veteran medical services by $1.5 billion. April 2006, he voted against providing an extra $430 million for veteran outpatient care. May 2006, he voted against $20 million for veteran health care facilities.

March 2007, he didn‘t bother on a resolution to start redeploying troops from Iraq by March 2008. September 2007, he voted against Senator Webb‘s amendment that would specify minimum rest periods for troops in-between deployments; and in May 2008, he first spoke out against Senator Webb‘s G.I. bill and then didn‘t bother to show up to vote on it.

But none of that stopped him from accepting President Bush‘s praise when the bill ultimately passed.

Joining me now: our own Rachel Maddow, the host of “Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America Radio.

. . .

MADDOW: ... I think, they‘ve been waiting to count on so far, the idea that if you to squint and don‘t focus too much, the fact that he is a veteran can sort of substitute for the idea that he has done right by veterans as a politician, that he‘s done right by veterans and by the troops as a senator.

But the fact is, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, they gave John McCain a “D” for his voting record; they gave Barack Obama a “B-plus.” Disabled Americans Veterans gave John McCain just a 20 percent voting record; they gave Barack Obama an 80 percent voting record.

There‘s a difference between being a veteran and supporting veterans as a politician. He‘s just counting on people not being able to tell the difference.

John McCain Playing Politics with the Troops

Sunday, July 27, 2008

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I have written a good deal over the years about how much Republicans, and Bush in particular, love to use our military as political props. Now, when Obama does the right thing, by respecting a Pentagon directive, and canceling a visit to wounded troops in Germany, McCain resorts to a cheap maneuver, that, once again, uses our fighting men and women as political pawns.

As per VetVoice:

Barack Obama canceled a pre-planned visit to the troops in Germany yesterday after being told by the Pentagon that the trip would violate a Pentagon policy prohibiting campaign stops on military installations. No problem there.

However, the McCain campaign is now blasting Obama:

The McCain camp has nonetheless been using Obama's canceled trip to insinuate that he's anti-troops. "Barack Obama is wrong," McCain spokesperson Brian Rogers said in a statement yesterday. "It is never 'inappropriate' to visit our men and women in the military."

Clever talking point. Too bad it's total bullshit. There are times when it is completely inappropriate to visit our troops, like when you're a candidate for office, traveling with your campaign. The McCain campaign knows this perfectly well, having only recently been denied permission to speak at the Naval Aviation Museum.

And if that utterly fallacious statement from McCain's spokesman weren't enough, the campaign has leapt on this non-story with both feet and created what is probably their most disingenuous ad to date. (See above.) In it they imply that Obama made time for the gym, but not the troops, and that he didn't want to visit the troops without the cameras rolling. And the worst thing about this slime is that it will probably stick. Casting Democrats as "weak on defense" and "not supporting the troops" just never goes out of style.

But, at least one Senate Republican gets it. Here's Chuck Hagel, from his appearance on "Face the Nation."

CHUCK HAGEL: Let me add to that. As you know, Bob, the congressional delegation that you referred to ended when we parted in Jordan. At that point, it was a political trip for Senator Obama. I think it would have been inappropriate for him and certainly he would have been criticized by the McCain people and the press and probably should have been if on a political trip in Europe paid for by political funds-not the taxpayers-to go, essentially, then and be accused of using our wounded men and women as props for his campaign. I think the judgment there-and I don't know the facts by the way. I know what you've just read. No one has asked me about it other than what you've just asked about. But I think it would be totally inappropriate for him on a campaign trip to go to a military hospital and use those soldiers as props. So I think he probably, based on what I know, he did the right thing. We saw troops everywhere we went on the congressional delegation. We went out of our way to see those troops. We wanted to see those troops. And that's part of our job to see those troops, by the way, and listen to those troops, Bob. And we did.

Who is the Batman? George W. Bush?

Friday, July 25, 2008

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Separted at Birth?

Well, this was fairly inevitable. Batman is our new neocon hero. Wall Street Journal's Andrew Klavan has gone so far as to insist that the caped crusader is none other than George W. Bush.

A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds . . .

Oh, wait a minute. That's not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a "W."

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

I had little doubt that the moral ambivalence depicted in "The Dark Knight" would set off alarm bells for civil libertarians and give fodder to fans of the extra-legal. But Klavan (and yes, I find it hilarious that his name evokes that other pseudo-intellectual Cliffie Clavin of "Cheers" fame) has put forth a very shoddy analysis to back his claim.

Let's start with the obvious. Batman does not become a vigilante because of the nature of the criminals he's pursuing, however much like terrorists Klavan imagines them to be. He becomes a vigilante because of a broken system of government and jurisprudence. One which is in bed with the crime families it is supposed to be arresting and prosecuting. All of Gotham is a well-known cesspool of criminality, in which it is an open secret that institutions like the bank the Joker robs in the opening sequence, are owned by the mob. The crime in Gotham is not anomalous or unexpected, like terrorism. It's institutionalized into the very fabric of Batman's universe. Gotham is a city in which nearly every public and private institution is enmeshed in a culture of criminality. The handful of honest pols, police, and prosecutors, are hamstrung by the corruption in their own midst. Now that sounds like the Bush Administration. Batman, for his part, longs for a trustworthy gatekeeper of the public trust, and sincerely hopes that the apparently scrupulous Harvey Dent will make his tactics unnecessary.

Also, unlike Bush, et al., Batman is quite aware that he is breaking some laws. He's not insisting that everything he does is legal and enlisting attorneys to reinterpret the Constitution. He is beset by moral qualms that have never been expressed by that poster child for wrong-headed certitude, George W. Bush.

Batman also fights his own battles. He doesn't send thousands of men and women off to fight and die, after carefully avoiding war in a champagne unit of the National Guard. Bush is more like the wealthy, playboy persona Bruce Wayne adopts to throw people off the trail of his superhero identity.

Although Klavan doesn't specifically address it, the issue of torture has been raised, because of the brutal and sadistic tactics employed by Batman, and in some cases, undertakes under the imprimatur of the Police Dept. It has even been suggested, in some quarters, as testimony to the efficacy of torture. The propensity amongst Republican weenies to confuse movies and television with reality, has been well covered. But more to the point, if we are using "The Dark Knight" as an elucidation of the merits of torture, it would behoove us to recognize that torturing that "terrorist," the Joker, didn't work. In fact it played right into his hands. He used Batman's little chair smashing exercise to do what real interrogation experts have long warned any terrorist would in the event of the "ticking-time-bomb" scenario: Run out the clock.

There is no question that "The Dark Knight" tests the boundaries of major civil liberties questions. But the film, in addition to being set in a virtually lawless environment, also wrestles with those questions, rather than offer pat answers. It does not portray anything like the moral clarity Klavan suggests. Quite the contrary.

They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Hate, Pt. II

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

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Yes, it's amazing how attached some Christians are to spreading messages of hate. That "judge not" message just hasn't sunk in, for some, I guess. Case in point: This eye-witness account from Storm Bear, whose photo-journalism at San Francisco's City Hall recorded some rather disturbing moments for posterity.

One gentleman, a supporter dressed head to toe in leather, was playing his guitar and suddenly dropped like a tree at my feet, before I could bend down to check his pulse, cops swarmed the guy and started CPR. They were very professional.

Sadly, I think he might have died. They resuscitated him for 20 minutes and he did not respond. They started an IV of 1 liter of saline and gave him O2. About 10 minutes in, he swallowed and kinda of coughed and the crowd cheered.

. . .

One of the Christian protesters (pictured below) was chanting at his body - "Satan Got You!" "What is the Devil whispering in your ear about now?"

I yelled at the guy, "If you are such a Christian, why aren't you praying for the guy dying on the concrete?" The protester replied, "God killed him for loving fags!!" The cops even stepped in and told the guy to shut his mouth.

So, a supporter of gay marriage drops to the ground, apparently dead, and the self-professed Christian's response is to cheer God's wrath. But, what would Jesus do?

Hillary Clinton: Like School On Saturday

Thursday, June 05, 2008

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No class! I could swear I read somewhere that Hillary was going to meet with Obama before officially dropping out of the race. Nope. Not only did she not have the grace to concede and congratulate when Obama clinched the nomination, Obama had to learn from the media that she was dropping out this week. This, after news reports that calls from the Obama camp to the Clinton camp were not returned on Tuesday night.

How is that a woman with years in the highest tier of American politics has not mastered these basic political niceties and protocols? Everyday it becomes clearer and clearer to me why the Clintons were despised by the right and by the media, and it was not all about their politics. They simply have no class. They ARE completely narcissistic. And I say that as one who was disgusted throughout the 90s by the way they were treated. Hindsight is 20/20.

Brava Donna Brazile!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

For making a point I've been trying to make since Hillary began her heroic struggle for Michigan and Florida's suffrage.

“My momma always taught me to play by the rules,” she said, adding that “when you decide to change the rules, especially middle of the game … that is referred to as cheating.” Ms. Brazile said fairness dictated that the committee should take into consideration Michigan voters who might have written in a candidate or stayed away from the polls on primary day thinking that their vote would not count.

Thank you!!

How exactly is fair to voters of either of those states that their primary was misrepresented to them? How many, who would have otherwise made the time to cast a primary ballot, did not because they were told it was pointless. Even Hillary said it wouldn't "count for anything." But, no. Those Michigan and Florida residents who assumed that rules were rules didn't know Hillary Clinton, and the joke's on them.

Hillary Clinton is a study in disingenuousness; pleading for voters in Michigan and Florida not to be disenfranchised like the poor people in Zimbabwe, as she disregards the votes caucus participants in Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington state, which don't provide vote totals as part of their usual process. She would also ignore the will of 40% of Michigan voters who showed up in a "meaningless" primary just to vote against her. Jonathan Alter explains:

This does not include Iowa (where Obama first broke from the pack), Nevada (where Hillary won the popular vote narrowly), Maine (where Obama won easily) or Washington state (another strong Obama state). Why? Because these caucus states don't officially report their popular votes. But if we're going to truly count all the votes, official and nonofficial, as Hillary advocates, you can't very well not include caucus states.

. . .

Beyond not being official numbers, there's another problem with counting Michigan in these totals. Obama wasn't on the ballot there. You can say this was his own choice, but that doesn't change the fact that had he been on the Michigan ballot he would have received a lot of popular votes. How many?

Try 238,168. That's the number of Michiganders who voted for "uncommitted." Were they possibly genuinely abstaining? Maybe a few hundred of them at most. The rest were clearly Obama supporters who launched a grass-roots campaign. Everyone in Michigan knew on January 15 that a vote for "uncommitted" was a vote for Obama.

As of this writing, the matter seems settled. Florida will have its delegates seated with half a vote each. Michigan will as well, with Obama receiving the delegates for those intrepid "none of the above" voters. Hillary's minions, protesting outside, are right about one thing. It's not fair. It couldn't be, no matter how this debacle was laid to rest.

Time to Boycott the Donuts

Thursday, May 29, 2008

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I was venting my spleen last night about Dunkin' Donuts idiotic decision to cave to Michelle Malkin and her band of crazies in the right wing blogosphere. And the inimitable skippy stopped by to give me an action alert.

As skippy points out, by playing Malkin's game, Dunkin' Donuts not only insults one-time bohemian college students, like myself, who wore the ultra-hip keffiyah, but THE ENTIRE ARAB WORLD.

From Epicurious:

Of course, Malkin glosses over the fact that the kaffiyeh is a staple of Arab wardrobes all over the Middle East (Jordanians prefer red-and-white ones, Kuwaitis all-white ones, etc.), not just among those using violent means to create a Palestinian state. Simply saying that anyone who wears a kaffiyeh is demonstrating solidarity with Islamic terrorists is like saying anyone who wears a beret believes in Cuban-style communism as espoused by Che Guevara. True, Arafat made it his trademark, but it's critical to remember that to a vast number of Arabs, the kaffiyeh's basically just another kind of hat, and that to equate kaffiyeh-wearers with terrorists sets a dangerous precedent in a country that should have learned by now the pitfalls of underestimating the complexities of Arab (and Muslim) cultures.

Unless Malkin actually is saying that all kaffiyeh-wearing Arabs are jihadists and terrorists, which is certainly something she'd conceivably say.

But let's face it. That's how Malkin and her ilk think, as they stoke racist hate against Muslims... and some Sikhs and others who have the misfortune of looking somewhat Arabic. And now Dunkin' Donuts corporation has joined the appallingly ignorant in legitimizing prejudice.

we say, what's good for the batshit insane is good for the logical.

here's dunkin' donuts contact form. why not email them and let them know that you will no longer be buying their donuts or coffee or any product because their actions, at worst, in effect condemn all who wear scarves, and at best, are just plain looney?

be nice...and point out what epicurious says...a kaffiyeh is merely a piece of wardrobe worn by most people in the arab world, and to ascribe a political philosophy to its usage is moronic.

and we don't need to buy from moronic corporations.

Fuck Dunkin' Donuts

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

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This is really one of the most stupid, craven things I can imagine.

Does Dunkin’ Donuts really think its customers could mistake Rachael Ray for a terrorist sympathizer? The Canton-based company has abruptly canceled an ad in which the domestic diva wears a scarf that looks like a keffiyeh, a traditional headdress worn by Arab men.

Some observers, including ultra-conservative Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin, were so incensed by the ad that there was even talk of a Dunkin’ Donuts boycott.

"The keffiyeh, for the clueless, is the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad," Malkin yowls in her syndicated column.

. . .

Said the suits in a statement: "In a recent online ad, Rachael Ray is wearing a black-and-white silk scarf with a paisley design. It was selected by her stylist for the advertising shoot. Absolutely no symbolism was intended. However, given the possibility of misperception, we are no longer using the commercial."

You know it's funny. Those scarves -- the actual keffiyeh, not Rachels Ray's silk paisley -- were the height of fashion when I was in college. I had a couple of them, actually. I also drank a lot of Dunkin' Donuts coffee back then. The latter, I won't be doing again.

Jaon Walsh's Embarrassing Hillary Apologia

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Salon's Joan Walsh is outraged that anyone would think there was anything untoward about Hillary's reference to RFK's assassination as justification for her staying in the presidential race.

The world is divided between people who consider Bill and Hillary Clinton monsters, and people who don't. It used to be that the monster faction was limited to Republicans and certain mainstream media fixtures like Maureen Dowd and much of the MSNBC lineup. Now, increasingly, it involves too many Obama-supporting Democrats -- and the Clinton-hate is in danger of damaging the Democratic Party.

. . .

Thanks to my long weekend, I could probably get away without addressing the controversy over Clinton's RFK remarks, which is finally dying down. But I think this is an important and disturbing issue for Democrats. Criticize Clinton's vote to authorize the Iraq war, her pandering on the gas tax holiday, her lame remarks about "hardworking Americans, white Americans," her response to Obama's "bitter" remarks, her lackluster campaign strategy coming into 2008. I've criticized all of that, and more. But to argue that she was suggesting she's staying in the race because Obama might be assassinated -- even after both Clinton, and the journalists who interviewed her, said her reference was to RFK's June campaign, not to his heartbreaking murder -- requires either a special kind of paranoia or venal political opportunism.

That she was referring to Bobby's campaign and not his murder is objectively false. In the three documented instances in which Hillary has raised this issue, two of them referenced his assassination, specifically.

Scrolling through the 700 odd comments -- largely critical of Walsh's assessment -- I noted bowseat93's recommendation of Stephen Ducat's blog on Huffington Post, as food for thought on Hillary's motivations. Ducat lays out a far more telling time-line than Hillary's irrelevant primaries through history version.

On March 2 an ABC/Washington Post poll showed that 59% of Americans were worried "that someone might attempt to physically harm Barack Obama if he's the Democratic nominee for president." By March 6 Hillary Clinton was reminding her interviewer, Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel, of "the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June in L.A." This was a response to a question about whether her decision to stay in a race she couldn't win would hurt her party. It only seemed like a thoughtless non sequitur.

As we have recently learned, two months later, on May 23, while discussing the same issue with the editorial board of the Argus Leader, she called upon her audience to "remember [that] Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California." When two utterances of the same "gaffe" are nearly identical, like Senator Clinton's oft-repeated Bosnian sniper "misstatements," such mistakes are likely to be motivated, either by a conscious strategy or an unconscious wish.

Ducat's time-line inspired to me to check on another. In the fallout since Hillary's appalling gaffe, it came to light that Obama has had increased security, possibly due to death threats. It occurred to me that this was probably something Hillary must have known. Likewise Mike Huckabee, whose "joke" in front of the NRA, did not receive the scrutiny it deserved. So I did a little googling and I find it hard to believe that both Hillary and Huckabee did not know that Obama was granted a Secret Service security detail, since it was reported in the beginning of May.

The Secret Service said Thursday that Sen. Barack Obama was being placed under their protection, the earliest ever for a presidential candidate.

Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff authorized Obama’s protection after consultations with the congressional advisory committee.

. . .

Earlier reports said Obama had received a threat of some sort.

But a Homeland Security official said it was not in response to a specific threat.

Obama's campaign office deferred all questions to the Secret Service and Homeland Security.

So here are things Hillary obviously knew when she made her most recent, disastrous gaffe. That over half the country is concerned that Obama could be assassinated and that he has Secret Service protection earlier than any other presidential candidate -- and that there were non-denial denials about the issue of specific threats. Could she really be that careless and inconsiderate?

Here's the bottom line. Despite Walsh's protestations to the contrary on "Hardball" Hillary owes Obama a direct apology. And she owes an apology to the many Americans whose hearts went into their throats at hearing the word assassination in the context of her continuing to run against Obama. AND she needs to clearly and forcefully state that she has no desire to see the man assassinated? Why? Because she knows full well that she has a racist voter base, which she panders to on a regular basis. "Hard-working white people" indeed. You know. The people in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio, who stated openly to pollsters that race was an issue when they cast their votes for Hillary. Unlike John Edwards, Hillary has made absolutely no attempt to disown the support of those racists. Any one of them could be hearing Hillary's assassination in June references as a dog-whistle and a prompt to make the nightmare of over have the population a reality. Unless and until Hillary learns to admit a single fucking error and do something proactive to stop the potentially life threatening damage of her idiocy, I must assume that her gaffe was not a gaffe at all.

Oops. Did I Say That Out Loud?

Monday, May 26, 2008

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Blogged with the Flock Browser

Hahaha! Assassinations Are Funny!

Friday, May 16, 2008

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

Can someone explain to me what the fuck Mike Huckabee thought he was doing here? This is a joke? Fantasizing about someone aiming a gun at possibly the first black president of the United States? And note that he's in Louisville, Kentucky; deep in the heart of Hillary's (ahem) "key demographic."

Jon Stewart Grills Doug Feith

Thursday, May 15, 2008

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I missed this when it aired, but, on my husband's recommendation, I went looking for video. Jon Stewart proves once again that he is one of the only actual journalists in broadcast news. In this interview, he really puts Doug Feith's feet to the fire the way "real news professionals," let alone Congress, failed to in the run up to our invasion of Iraq.

Flying the Unfriendly Skies

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

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Airline Stewardess

Remember when flying was fun? Remember when flight attendants... attended? Not anymore. Now, apparently, their comfort comes first. Remember this waitress in the sky who forced a woman off the plane because she wouldn't drug her fussy toddler? Now comes a story of Jet Blue attendant who consigned a passenger to the bathroom because she didn't care for her jump seat.

Gokhan Mutlu, of Manhattan's Inwood section, says in court papers the pilot told him to "go 'hang out' in the bathroom" about 90 minutes into the San Diego to New York flight because the flight attendant complained that the "jump seat" she was assigned was uncomfortable, the lawsuit said.

. . .

The pilot told him 1 1/2 hours into the five-hour flight that he would have to relinquish the seat to the flight attendant, court papers say. But the pilot said that Mutlu could not sit in the jump seat because only JetBlue employees were permitted to sit there, the lawsuit said.

. . .

The aircraft hit turbulence and passengers were directed to return to their seats, but "the plaintiff had no seat to return to, sitting on a toilet stool with no seat belts," court papers say.

. . .

Mutlu's lawsuit, filed Friday in Manhattan's state Supreme Court, says JetBlue negligently endangered him by not providing him with a seat with a safety belt or harness, in violation of federal law.

Populist or Panderer?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

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A good explanation from Jonathan Chait of Hil and Bill's corporate friendly, or conservative, "populism."

Conservative populism and liberal populism are entirely different things. Liberal populism posits that the rich wield disproportionate influence over the government and push for policies often at odds with most people's interest. Conservative populism, by contrast, dismisses any inference that the rich and the non-rich might have opposing interests as "class warfare." Conservative populism prefers to divide society along social lines, with the elites being intellectuals and other snobs who fancy themselves better than average Americans.

Consider this analysis recently offered by Bill Clinton in Clarksburg, West Virginia: "The great divide in this country is not by race or even income, it's by those who think they are better than everyone else and think they should play by a different set of rules." This is precisely the dynamic that allows multimillionaires like George W. Bush and Bill O'Reilly to present themselves as being on the side of the little guy. A more classic expression of conservative populism cannot be found.

. . .

Likewise, Bill Clinton recently declared, "The people in small towns in rural America, who do the work for, and represent the backbone and the values of this country, they are the people that are carrying her through in this nomination." The corollary--that strong values and hard work is in shorter supply among ethnically heterogeneous urban residents--is left unstated. Hillary Clinton's statement about "hard-working Americans, white Americans" simply made explicit a theme that conservative populists usually keep implicit.

Here's a bit more from the Big Dog's mouth:

Per ABC News' Sarah Amos, this is what the 42nd president of the United States said Friday in Ripley, W.Va.:

"Hillary is in this race because of people like you and places like this and no matter what they say," Clinton said. "And no matter how much fun they make of your support of her and the fact that working people all over America have stuck with her, she thinks you're as smart as they are. She thinks you've got as much right to have your say as anybody else. And, you know, they make a lot of fun of me because I like to campaign in places like this, they say I have been exiled to rural America, as if that was a problem. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be here than listening to that stuff I have to hear on television, I'd rather be with you. There is a simple reason: You need a president a lot more than those people telling you not to vote for her."

I'm so glad team Clinton is moving away from all the divisive rhetoric.

Hillary Clinton: Not Ready for Prime Time

Saturday, May 10, 2008

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Who's Tom Morrow?

A hat tip to Talking Points Memo on a couple of insightful perspectives on Hillary's hard-working white people gaffe. First from one of Bill Clinton's most ardent defenders and co-author of "The Hunting of the President," Joe Conason.

There is indeed a pattern emerging -- and it is a pattern that must dismay everyone who admires the Clintons and has defended them against the charge that they are exploiting racial divisions.

. . .

But this time she violated the rhetorical rules, no doubt by mistake. It was her offhand reference to "working, hard-working Americans, white Americans" that raises the specter of old Dixie demagogues like Wallace and Lester Maddox. Was she dog-whistling to the voters of Kentucky and West Virginia?

While I still cannot believe she actually intended any such nefarious meaning, she seemed to be equating "hard-working Americans" with "white Americans." Which is precisely what Wallace and his cohort used to do with their drawling refrain about welfare and affirmative action. This is the grating sound of Richard Nixon's Southern strategy, even though Tricky Dick would never quite stoop to saying such things in public.

As Conason goes on to point out, Bill Clinton has a proven track record on race issues in Arkansas. It's hard to imagine that the Clintons themselves are racist at all. The problem here, as per Conason, is one of being incautious with language, on issues where caution is paramount.

Not surprisingly, Peggy Noonan is less charitable in her assessment.

White Americans? Hard-working white Americans? "Even Richard Nixon didn't say white," an Obama supporter said, "even with the Southern strategy."

If John McCain said, "I got the white vote, baby!" his candidacy would be over. And rising in highest indignation against him would be the old Democratic Party.

To play the race card as Mrs. Clinton has, to highlight and encourage a sense that we are crudely divided as a nation, to make your argument a brute and cynical "the black guy can't win but the white girl can" is -- well, so vulgar, so cynical, so cold, that once again a Clinton is making us turn off the television in case the children walk by.

"She has unleashed the gates of hell," a longtime party leader told me. "She's saying, 'He's not one of us.'"

Whether it is incautiousness or a cold political calculus and deliberate race-baiting, Noonan is right in her assessment of how Hil's comments read. The point is essentially moot. Language matters in politics. And while all politicians find themselves in bad moments and make stupid gaffes -- like Obama on "bitter" voters -- the stakes on the issues where Hillary has been grossly impolitic are so sensitive as to require the greatest of care. How is it that with her many years of "experience," Hillary is so completely unready for prime time?

Scarier still, because of the direct impact on matters of national security, was Hillary's ghoulish commentary on Iran. Or as Joe Conason put it:

In this protracted and often dispiriting prelude to the general election, few remarks have been as poorly chosen as Senator Hillary Clinton’s threat to “totally obliterate” Iran. What she obliterated with just those two words were her own boasts of superior diplomatic experience—and she managed at the same time to tar America’s international image with all the subtlety of the man she hopes to replace.

Context cannot excuse her, even though she uttered that gaffe in response to an intentionally provocative question: What would she do, as president, if the Iranian regime ever strikes Israel with nuclear weapons? First she could have noted that the question’s premise is wrong, at least according to the most recent National Intelligence Estimate, which found that Iran neither possesses nuclear arms nor is likely to acquire them anytime soon. Then she might have answered as all presidents (or aspiring presidents) should when asked about such hypothetical military scenarios: “Our adversaries know very well that we have the power and the resolve to respond if one of our closest allies is attacked.”

Alluding to the potential use of justified force is far smarter than blustering about an act of genocidal brutality. So why wasn’t that distinction obvious to Mrs. Clinton?

Hillary has become completely embarrassing. From her surreal "victory" speech, as her Indiana win was dwindling almost to the point of slipping away, to the mounting number of dangerously sloppy attempts at talking points. Won't someone please take the mic away from this woman before she does serious damage to something more important than her own reputation?

The Vast Clinton Conspiracy

Saturday, May 03, 2008

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Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." -- Friedrich Nietzsche

Any residual sympathy I had for the Clintons as targets of the "vast right wing conspiracy" was expended in the umpteenth chapter of "The Endless Saga of the Eternal Primary." This because team Clinton insists on borrowing heavily from the very playbook they so famously decried. The tactics should be familiar to those who've watched the machinations of that very VRWC: insinuations of guilt by association, reliance on the media of the right wing noise machine, faux populism and disingenuous charges of elitism, and, of course, blatant distortions of reality. With a self-righteous arrogance befitting the Bushes, it seems the Clintons are operating from the belief that it's only wrong when other people do it. And in their Bush-league hypocrisy, the charges of motes they hurl only make them seem totally oblivious to the many beams in their own eyes.

Witness their exploitation of the Ayers red herring. As per Clinton biographer Carl Bernstein:

Which raises the question: Is the Clinton campaign's emphasis on the Ayers-Obama connection significantly different or less spurious than the familiar (McCarthyite?) smears against Hillary, particularly those promulgated and disseminated by the forces she labeled "the vast right-wing conspiracy" in the 1990s?

Like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton has (at least so far as this reporter and biographer has been able to determine) consistently rejected the ideological rigidity of the radical Left and -- especially -- the notion of revolutionary violence as a means of political change in contemporary America, despite claims to the contrary by the VRWC. Like Obama -- and John McCain for that matter -- she has valued her friendships with individuals who figured in the Left-wing and anti-war movements of the 60s and Vietnam era. And like Obama and McCain, she has never wavered from her belief and faith in establishment politics, within the two-party system.

As Bernstein explains Hillary has carefully expunged much of her own idealistic interest in radical politics -- such as the Black Panthers trial -- from public accounts; even going so far as to bury her thesis on Saul Alinsky in unobtainable Wellesley archives. Yet her campaign has attempted to leverage Obama's even more tenuous link to radicalism. Notes Bernstein, with dismay:

One of Hillary Clinton's most winning attributes -- and Bill Clinton's too -- has always been their understanding of the complexity of American politics, and the danger of ideological demagoguery (witness their fight against the "vast right-wing conspiracy" and excesses). The resort by Hillary and her campaign to guilt-by-association--of which the Bill Ayers allegations are but one example: see Louis Farrakhan, or a comparatively-obscure African-American writer and perhaps -- communist party member named Frank Marshal Dixon, whom Obama knew in high school in Hawaii -- is, even for some of her most steadfast advocates, particularly dismaying. Like Gov. Bill Richardson and Senator Christopher Dodd, among others who have abandoned the Clintons, many old Clinton hands had hoped, judging from Hillary's triumphant and collegial senate years, that she -- and Bill -- had left behind such tactics when the Clinton Presidency ended in 2001 and the Right-wing threat to the Clintons' tenure in the White House had abated.

"The sad irony," noted Jonathan Alter in Newsweek, "is that these are the same [guilt-by-association] attacks used against her husband in the elections of the 1990s. The GOP tried to destroy Bill Clinton for his relationships (much closer than Obama's tangential connections) with Arkansas crooks, sleazy fund-raisers and unsavory women...

But, alas, no bit of Republican-style chicanery is too loathsome for the desperate Clintons to embrace. And, as this blogger was particularly dismayed to learn, a key architect of their new attack machinery is none other than Sidney Blumenthal.

Former journalist Sidney Blumenthal has been widely credited with coining the term "vast right-wing conspiracy" used by Hillary Clinton in 1998 to describe the alliance of conservative media, think tanks, and political operatives that sought to destroy the Clinton White House where he worked as a high-level aide. A decade later, and now acting as a senior campaign advisor to Senator Clinton, Blumenthal is exploiting that same right-wing network to attack and discredit Barack Obama. And he's not hesitating to use the same sort of guilt-by-association tactics that have been the hallmark of the political right dating back to the McCarthy era.

Almost every day over the past six months, I have been the recipient of an email that attacks Obama's character, political views, electability, and real or manufactured associations. The original source of many of these hit pieces are virulent and sometimes extreme right-wing websites, bloggers, and publications. But they aren't being emailed out from some fringe right-wing group that somehow managed to get my email address. Instead, it is Sidney Blumenthal who, on a regular basis, methodically dispatches these email mudballs to an influential list of opinion shapers -- including journalists, former Clinton administration officials, academics, policy entrepreneurs, and think tankers -- in what is an obvious attempt to create an echo chamber that reverberates among talk shows, columnists, and Democratic Party funders and activists. One of the recipients of the Blumenthal email blast, himself a Clinton supporter, forwards the material to me and perhaps to others.

. . .

But, rather remarkably for such a self-professed liberal operative like Blumenthal, a staggering number of the anti-Obama attacks he circulates derive from highly-ideological and militant right-wing sources such as the misnamed Accuracy in Media (AIM), The Weekly Standard, City Journal, The American Conservative, and The National Review.

To cite just one recent example, Blumenthal circulated an article taken from the fervently hard-right AIM website on February 18 entitled, "Obama's Communist Mentor" by Cliff Kincaid. Kincaid is a right-wing writer and activist, a longtime critic of the United Nations, whose group, America's Survival, has been funded by foundations controlled by conservative financier Richard Mellon Scaife, the same millionaire who helped fund attacks on the Clintons during their White House years. Scaife also funds AIM, the right-wing media "watchdog" group.

Suddenly, Hillary's endorsement in longtime foe Mellon Scaife's paper seems not so terribly surprising.


Any reader of David Brock's "Blinded By The Right" will recognize, in Blumenthal's modus operandi, the familiar tactic of force-feeding propaganda from far right venues to more mainstream sources, and into the established media narrative. After years of defending against this very tactic, he seems to have learned it well.

Some Clinton supporters who also knew about Ayers have been discreetly trying to catapult the story out of the right-wing sandbox into the wider mainstream media. On April 9, Fox News' Sean Hannity interviewed fellow right-winger Karl Rove, who raised the Ayers-Obama connection. The next day, ABC News reporter Jake Tapper wrote about Ayers in his Political Punch blog. The following week, on his radio show, Hannity suggested to his guest, George Stephanopoulos, that he ask Obama about his relationship with Ayers at the upcoming Philadelphia presidential debate. Stephanopoulos, who was Bill Clinton's press secretary, replied, "Well, I'm taking notes." The following night during the April 16 nationally televised Presidential debate, Stephanopoulos dutifully asked Obama about Ayers, who is now a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Possibly more insulting is watching the Clintons turn to that mainstay of Republican politics: making fun of pointy-headed intellectuals. Is there anything more disingenuous than the obviously well-heeled pol insisting that it's the other guy who's part of the elite?

In the annals of sheer audacity, I never thought anything could top the mind melting hypocrisy of the scion of one of the wealthiest, most insulated families in the world -- an alumnus of both Yale and Harvard -- convincing blue collar voters that he was just plain folk. Okay, Dubya still wins the prize on the faux populism scale. But there also, Hillary refuses to be outdone. Exploiting for all it's worth, Obama's "bitter" faux pas, she has once again joined forces with the Republican competition. This time to paint the black son of a struggling single mother as an "elitist," and her Wellesley and Yale educated self, as someone who couldn't tell arugula from iceberg lettuce.

In her latest triangulation two-step, Clinton has partnered with McCain on an all out assault on voter intelligence, with the shamelessly pandering "gas tax holiday." To drive the point home, this woman, whom the Secret Service has protected from all concerns automotive since 1992, set out on her own blue collar comedy tour of gas station photo-op destinations.

Would you want to have a cup of coffee with this woman?