Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pentagon Report: Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Won't Harm Military

The Pentagon released its study on ending "don't ask, don't tell," the policy that bans gay men and women from serving their country. The study concludes that repealing the policy will not disrupt military cohesion. The majority of those in uniform support ending the ban. It is indeed time to end this institutionalized bigotry–and it must be done now in the lame duck session of the Senate, before the Republicans take over:

The Pentagon has concluded that allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the United States armed forces presents a low risk to the military’s effectiveness, even at a time of war, and that 70 percent of surveyed service members believe that the impact on their units would be positive, mixed or of no consequence at all.

In an exhaustive nine-month study on the effects of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the 17-year-old policy that requires gay service members to keep their sexual orientation secret or face discharge, the authors concluded that repeal would in the short run most likely bring about “some limited and isolated disruption to unit cohesion and retention.” But they said those effects could be mitigated by effective leadership.

...At a news conference on Tuesday announcing the release of the report, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said repeal “would not be the wrenching, traumatic change that many have feared and predicted.” He said it was a “matter of urgency” that the lame-duck Senate vote in the next weeks to repeal the law.

If not, Mr. Gates predicted fights in the courts and the possibility that the repeal would be “imposed immediately by judicial fiat.”

David Stockman, Reagan Budget Director, Criticizes Republican Fiscal Irresponsibility

Just as he did in an NPR interview and a New York Times commentary, David Stockman, former director of the Office of Management and Budget under the Reagan administration, has broken with Republican economic orthodoxy. At a time when his party wants to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, adding $700 billion to the deficit over 10 years, Stockman criticized the Republicans for their fiscal irresponsibility. Stockman made the following points to Fareed Zakaria of CNN:

• We need “a higher tax burden on the upper income.”

• “After 1985, the Republican Party adopted the idea that tax cuts can solve the whole problem, and that therefore in the future, deficits didn’t matter and tax cuts would be the solution of first, second, and third resort.”

• The 2001 Bush tax cut “was totally not needed.”

• On claims that Reagan proved tax cuts lead to higher government revenues: “Reagan proved nothing of the kind and yet that became the mantra and it just led the Republican Party away from its traditional sound money, fiscal restraint.”

• Former Vice President Cheney “should have known better” than claim the Bush tax cuts would pay for themselves.

• “I’ll never forgive the Bush administration and [former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry] Paulson for basically destroying the last vestige of fiscal responsibility that we had in the Republican Party. After that, I don’t know how we ever make the tough choices.” (h/t Think Progress)


Monday, November 29, 2010

Rep. Darrel Issa Ready To Cut Gov't. Spending–But Not His Committee's

Expect a flood of investigations initiated by Representative Darrel Issa (R-CA) when he assumes the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. His stated goal is for the government "to go on a diet":

The Republican who will lead the chief investigative committee in the House is planning to vastly expand scrutiny of the Obama administration by seeking new subpoena powers for dozens of federal agency watchdogs in hopes of using their investigations and his own in an aggressive push to cut spending and shrink the government.

OK, how about we start by cutting and shrinking the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee? Whoa! That's not the idea, according to Issa:

But even before he sets after the executive branch, Mr. Issa is fighting a more immediate battle, preventing cuts to his own committee by Republican leaders. “That’s a case I have to make,” Mr. Issa said in a speech to investigators, auditors and prosecutors at a conference on fraud prevention in Philadelphia this month. “I have already made it to Leader Boehner and Eric Cantor,” he said, “that oversight on my committee cannot be cut just to make some symbolic statement, that I am going to need the resources.”

I see. To cut Issa's committee would merely be a symbolic show. He needs money and resources for his government committee to go after the money and resources of other government committees.

Johnny Rotten Of The Sex Pistols Now Hawking Butter

In the 1970s, John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, called for "Anarchy in the U.K." and proclaimed that the Queen "ain't no human being." This is the punk rocker of whom Neil Young sang, "It's better to burn out than it is to rust." Perhaps Young should have written, "It's better to burn out than it is to sell out." Lydon is now cashing in on his former rebel image to sell Country Life British Butter. Watch:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Attack Of The 50 Foot Palin–And The Right Wing She Represents

Recalling the 1958 science fiction movie "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman," Mother Jones magazine portrayed the "Attack on the Middle Class" by a right-wing represented by Sarah Palin. This movement depends on "A confused and frightened citizenry vot[ing] against its own self-interest." Palin's pose as a "mama grizzly" obscures her role in a movement dedicated to destroying the programs that ensure the existence of a middle class. James K. Galbraith comments on those targeting Social Security and Medicare (especially following the release of the Bowles-Simpson commission on deficit reduction) in Mother Jones:

...The same forces that went after the unions in the 1980s, that relentlessly pushed free-trade agreements while manufacturing jobs evaporated, and that destroyed housing values in the 2000s—they're on the prowl again. If Social Security and Medicare are cut, finance and insurance companies will skim the cream—the wealthier, healthier participants—while leaving everyone else to fend for themselves. Social Security and Medicare, they think, are easy prey, once we've been softened up by scare stories about how they're on the "brink of bankruptcy" and we "can't afford them."

It isn't true, of course. Social Security and Medicare can't go bankrupt, just as the Pentagon can't. They're not in some separate bank account or lockbox—they're government programs that we either choose to pay for or don't. And not only can we afford them, they're a bargain, providing modest comfort and decent care to people who would otherwise financially burden their families—or die.

MOMA: Abstract Expressionist New York

"Abstract Expressionist New York" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York captures the breadth and excitement of the most prominent postwar art movement from the 1940s until the 1960s. The museum played a major role in introducing the abstract expressionists, who were mostly working in New York.

One gains a renewed appreciation for the variety of work by these artists. Jackson Pollock's Number 1A (1948) is filled with the raw energy associated with an artist who proclaimed, "I am nature":

Willem de Kooning's "Woman 1" (1950) is part of a savage, primal–some even say misogynistic–series from a painter who never completely abandoned the human figure:

By contrast, Mark Rothko produced a body of work noteworthy for its introspective, contemplative qualities, as seen in "No. 5/No. 22" (1950):

Those interested in exploring this fascinating period should read "New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century" by Jed Perl, which I reviewed here. "Abstract Expressionist New York" is at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd St., NYC, until April 25, 2011.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"127 Hours": Youthful Hubris And The Determination To Live

"127 Hours" does something that would seem impossible in a film: hold the viewer's interest in a main character trapped in a small space for over five days. Directed by James Boyle and based on the book "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," the film recounts the 2003 ordeal of Aron Ralston, a hiker in Blue John Canyon, Utah.

Ralston, in another remarkable performance by James Franco (he also played Allen Ginsberg in "Howl," recently reviewed here) is filled with youthful hubris: he drives too fast, speed walks through the terrain and readily flirts with two young women he meets there. His plan to join them at a party the next night is ruined by a terrible mishap: after suffering a fall, Ralston discovers that his arm is caught between a boulder and rock wall. He keeps his head enough to video record his situation, hoping his testimony will be sent to his parents after his probable death. Ralston reflects upon the fact that he tried to be a hero, not even telling anyone about his solitary trek. Suffering from exhaustion and lack of nourishment, he falls into hallucinations in between trying and failing to remove the boulder. 

The ultimate solution is simple and brutal: to amputate his arm between the elbow and wrist. This grisly operation is difficult to watch, but so is the claustrophobia and seeming hopelessness of Ralston's situation. In fact, his predicament is so grim that one feels a sense of liberation after he hacks through his arm. The ultimate power of "127 Hours" is in this determination to live at all costs.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings Revive 60's Soul

If the black-and-white cinematography and bandstand setting seem distinctly retro, they fit the music of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Jones' powerful vocals and the background voices and instrumentation combine to make this Brooklyn band leaders among the soul and funk revivalists. Jones sings "100 Days, 100 Nights," the amount of time required for a man's heart to unfold.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

You Can Get Anything You Want At Alice's Restaurant

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers. Enjoy Arlo Guthrie's Thanksgiving anti-war classic, "Alice's Restaurant" (lyrics here), based on true events. This video features the wonderful illustrations of Andrew Colunga. Part one leads into part two:

Bush Memoir Reveals McConnell's Hypocrisy On Iraq

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) publicly criticized the Democrats who called for troop reductions in Iraq in September 2006–the same month he privately appealed to President Bush for such reductions. Further, while the Democrats were motivated by honest misgivings about the war, McConnell's position was based on purely political considerations: the electoral prospects of the Republicans. McConnell's hypocrisy and lack of principle were revealed in George W. Bush's "Decision Points"–and criticized in an editorial in the Courier-Journal, "McConnell's True Colors":

In his new memoir, Decision Points, the former president tells of a meeting he held in September 2006 with Mr. McConnell, then the Republican whip in the Senate. The occupation of Iraq was going horribly, American and Iraqi casualties were rising sharply, costs had mushroomed into the hundreds of billions of dollars, and Iraq was teetering on the brink of full-scale sectarian civil war. Mr. McConnell was concerned, and he gave the president his advice.

But why was he concerned? It wasn't because of bloodshed, destruction, a hemorrhaging budget or a slide toward disaster. He was fearful that the morass in Iraq would cause the Republican Party to take a beating in the approaching mid-term elections. And what was his advice? He urged the president to “bring some troops home from Iraq” to lessen the political risks, Mr. Bush writes.

This incident, which Sen. McConnell's office has not denied, shines brightly on the contemptible hypocrisy and obsessive partisanship that have come to mark the senator's time in office.

At the time that Sen. McConnell was privately advising Mr. Bush to reduce troop levels in Iraq, he was elsewhere excoriating congressional Democrats who had urged the same thing. “The Democrat[ic] leadership finally agrees on something — unfortunately it's retreat,” Sen. McConnell had said in a statement on Sept. 5, 2006, about a Democratic letter to Mr. Bush appealing for cuts in troop levels. Sen. McConnell, who publicly was a stout defender of the war and Mr. Bush's conduct of the conflict, accused the Democrats of advocating a position that would endanger Americans and leave Iraqis at the mercy of al-Qaida.

Unless he is prepared to call a former president of his own party a liar, Mr. McConnell has a choice. He can admit that he did not actually believe the Iraq mission was vital to American security, regardless of what he said at the time. Or he can explain why the fortunes of the Republican Party are of greater importance than the safety of the United States.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Poll: Republicans Have No Mandate On Health Care, Bush Tax Cuts

A recent McClatchy-Marist poll contradicts Republican claims that their electoral victories amount to a policy mandate. The majority does not want to scrap health care reform or extend Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest:

A majority of Americans want the Congress to keep the new health care law or actually expand it, despite Republican claims that they have a mandate from the people to kill it, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

The post-election survey showed that 51 percent of registered voters want to keep the law or change it to do more, while 44 percent want to change it to do less or repeal it altogether.

Driving support for the law: Voters by margins of 2-1 or greater want to keep some of its best-known benefits, such as barring insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. One thing they don't like: the mandate that everyone must buy insurance.

At the same time, the survey showed that a majority of voters side with the Democrats on another hot-button issue, extending the Bush era tax cuts that are set to expire Dec. 31 only for those making less than $250,000.

Chart: Yglesias

American Companies Booming Under Comrade Obama's "Socialism"

Funny how spectacularly well American companies are doing under our socialist president. Who would have guessed that they'd experience record-breaking profits under his Marxist policies?

The nation’s workers may be struggling, but American companies just had their best quarter ever.

American businesses earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or noninflation-adjusted terms.

...Corporate profits have been doing extremely well for a while. Since their cyclical low in the fourth quarter of 2008, profits have grown for seven consecutive quarters, at some of the fastest rates in history. As a share of gross domestic product, corporate profits also have been increasing, and they now represent 11.2 percent of total output. That is the highest share since the fourth quarter of 2006, when they accounted for 11.7 percent of output.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Krugman: Republicans Have "No Interest In Making America Governable"

Paul Krugman describes the ways in which the Republicans are blocking any resuscitation of the economy–and endangering national security by obstructing the New Start arms control treaty. Why? Senator Mitch McConnell (KY) clearly stated the Republican goal: to make Obama a one-term president. The country's economy and security be damned, if progress on either front means that the president will take any credit. Krugman is especially dour now that the GOP is taking over the House:

The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing. And that party now controls one house of Congress, which means that the country will not, in fact, be governable without that party’s cooperation — cooperation that won’t be forthcoming.

...Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, appealed for help in confronting mass unemployment. He asked for “a fiscal program that combines near-term measures to enhance growth with strong, confidence-inducing steps to reduce longer-term structural deficits.”

My immediate thought was, why not ask for a pony, too? After all, the G.O.P. isn’t interested in helping the economy as long as a Democrat is in the White House. Indeed, far from being willing to help Mr. Bernanke’s efforts, Republicans are trying to bully the Fed itself into giving up completely on trying to reduce unemployment.

And on matters fiscal, the G.O.P. program is to do almost exactly the opposite of what Mr. Bernanke called for. On one side, Republicans oppose just about everything that might reduce structural deficits: they demand that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent while demagoguing efforts to limit the rise in Medicare costs, which are essential to any attempts to get the budget under control. On the other, the G.O.P. opposes anything that might help sustain demand in a depressed economy — even aid to small businesses, which the party claims to love.

Right now, in particular, Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits — an action that will both cause immense hardship and drain purchasing power from an already sputtering economy. But there’s no point appealing to the better angels of their nature; America just doesn’t work that way anymore.

And opposition for the sake of opposition isn’t limited to economic policy. Politics, they used to tell us, stops at the water’s edge — but that was then.

These days, national security experts are tearing their hair out over the decision of Senate Republicans to block a desperately needed new strategic arms treaty. And everyone knows that these Republicans oppose the treaty, not because of legitimate objections, but simply because it’s an Obama administration initiative; if sabotaging the president endangers the nation, so be it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Warren Buffet: Wealthiest Should Pay "A Lot More In Taxes"

Warren Buffet, billionaire and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, told Christiane Amanpour of ABC's "This Week" that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest should expire. He also repudiated the Republican "trickle down" theory. Among Buffet's comments from the interview, to air November 28:

“If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further. But I think that people at the high end–people like myself –should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we’ve ever had it.”

“The rich are always going to say that, you know, just give us more money and we’ll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you. But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blocking Arms Control Treaty, GOP Plays Politics With National Security

Why are the Republicans blocking the Senate from ratifying the New Start arms control treaty? Senator John Kyle of Arizona (left), lead GOP negotiator, announced that after months of discussions, there's no time to reach an agreement. Consider the consequences:

Gary Samore, the top White House arms-control official, said Thursday he feared that putting off the treaty until next year would mean it “could be delayed indefinitely.” As a result, the United States and Russia would not resume nuclear inspections that lapsed last year, which he said would fuel distrust and lead to “a greater likelihood you could get into an arms race.”

He also said a failure to ratify the treaty would undercut Russian support for the campaign to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear program. “To do that, we really need the Russians with us,” he told a forum at the Nixon Center. And he suggested that Mr. Kyl might not get his [nuclear] modernization money because Democrats and conservative Republicans in the next Congress would not go along. “Support for that could evaporate if the treaty is not approved,” he said.

Don't the Republicans, who bill themselves as the party of national security, want to block Iran from developing nuclear weapons? Don't they want to know how many warheads the Russians have? Didn't Reagan himself state that the United States should "trust but verify" when negotiating the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty? Aren't they concerned about the possibility of Russian "loose nukes"?  Aren't Henry Kissinger, James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, all of whom served in Republican administrations, supporting the treaty?

Why, then, are the Republicans blocking the treaty? Once again, it's to deny President Obama a victory. They're playing politics with national security or, as Maureen Dowd put it, "Nuking the White House."

Steve Brodner: "Sarah Palin's Alaska" Divorces Politics From Policy

In this editorial cartoon, Steve Brodner states that Sarah Palin, in "Sarah Palin's Alaska," divorces politics from policy–even though Palin herself can never be divorced from politics. Instead, we get an airbrushed image of "us in the paradise of America" in which "we all look so good and young and funny" and with which we're supposed to identify: "Wouldn't you really want this if you could choose your own reality?" It's an appealing "message with no message"–a mix of reality show and political ad in which the main character earns about $250,000 per episode or $2 million in total. Watch:

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Barbara Bush: Palin Should Stay In Alaska

Larry King's interview with George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush will be shown tomorrow. In it, the former president seems undecided about the Tea Party. The former First Lady, though, is clear about Sarah Palin: "I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful, and I think she's very happy in Alaska and I hope she'll stay there." Watch:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rep. Pence: Bush Tax Cuts Didn't Work, So Let's Extend Them

Representative Mike Pence (IN) is one Republican who actually admits that the Bush tax cuts did not stimulate the economy and create jobs. He's correct; the Bush tax cuts were followed by the slowest economic growth since World War II. So what's Pence's solution? Extend the Bush tax cuts–and then fight for more cuts. Pence makes his incoherent argument here:

PENCE: Jim DeMint and I are offering legislation on Capitol Hill today to say, look, let's make all the current tax rates permanent, uh, and then let's start to work from there toward putting in place the kind of policies that'll really get this economy moving again. You know, I think it's fair to say, if the current tax rates were enough to create jobs and generate economic growth we'd have a growing economy. It's not working now. Let's at least give some certainty there and then we'll fight for more tax relief. (h/t Political Correction)

Rep. Grayson On What The Rich Can Do With Bush Tax Cut

Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) discussed what the top one percent can do with their Bush tax cut, starting with buying a Mercedes each year for a decade (actually, according to Moody's Analytics, the wealthiest save rather than spend their tax cuts, contrary to the Republican "trickle down" theory). Grayson's proposal: take the same money and, instead of giving it to the rich, use it to to employ three million Americans. The newly employed are more likely to pump money into the economy immediately and won't have to move into their cars. Watch:

Fox Commentators Mock Palin's Show, Thinking The Mics Are Off

Believing the microphones are off, Fox commentators tell each other what they really think about the new show "Sarah Palin's Alaska." This time, Palin can't dismiss the mockery as coming from the "liberal media." One question: who leaked this from Fox? Listen:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Winwood And Clapton Revive Blind Faith

Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton play a soulful rendition of "Can't Find My Way Home" from their short-lived band Blind Faith, which released one album in August 1969. The July 2007 performance took place in suburban Chicago at the Crossroads Guitar Festival, a benefit for Clapton's Crossroads Centre rehab facility in Antigua. At the end of the song, Winwood signals to Clapton that they hit their mark.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bush Tax Cuts Followed By Slowest Economic Growth Since WWII

The Republicans are committed to making the Bush tax cuts permanent, even though they would cost nearly $4 trillion over 10 years, including $700 billion in order to extend them to the richest Americans. How do the Republicans, supposed "deficit hawks," justify going into such debt in order to shovel so much cash at the wealthiest? Traditional GOP dogma holds that tax cuts will stimulate the economy. The wealthy will hire more people and the money will "trickle down."

The eight-year Bush era provides an opportunity to examine whether this theory has any validity. Economics journalist David Leonhardt does so in his article, "Were the Bush Tax Cuts Good for Growth?" The answer is decidedly not–from every economic indicator:

...Why should we believe that extending the Bush tax cuts will provide a big lift to growth?

Those tax cuts passed in 2001 amid big promises about what they would do for the economy. What followed? The decade with the slowest average annual growth since World War II. Amazingly, that statement is true even if you forget about the Great Recession and simply look at 2001-7.

...Here’s a chart ranking five-year periods over the past 50 years, in descending order of average annual growth:

I mean this as a serious question, not a rhetorical one: Given this history, why should we believe that the Bush tax cuts were pro-growth?

Is there good evidence the tax cuts persuaded more people to join the work force (because they would be able to keep more of their income)? Not really. The labor-force participation rate fell in the years after 2001 and has never again approached its record in the year 2000.

Is there evidence that the tax cuts led to a lot of entrepreneurship and innovation? Again, no. The rate at which start-up businesses created jobs fell during the past decade.

...Every available piece of evidence seems to suggest that the Bush tax cuts did little to lift growth....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Republicans' Earmarks Ban: Deficit-Reduction Posturing

Senator Mitch McConnell (left) of Kentucky is among the Republican Senators who are supporting a two-year ban on earmarks, congressionally directed spending for state projects. They hope to show their base, including the Tea Party, that they're serious about deficit reduction. How serious are they? First, consider what earmarks actually amount to:

Millions of Americans are out of work. The government is running a $1.3 trillion deficit. We just had an election that sent at least one clear signal: cut that deficit. So what is Washington talking about? Earmarks, the $15.9 billion in projects designated by Congress in the last fiscal year for favorite projects. That’s less than half of 1 percent of federal spending.

Now consider their top economic priority, permanently extending the Bush tax cuts for all, including the wealthiest:

Permanent cuts would bust the budget. Extending all of them would cost nearly $4 trillion over the next decade — $3.2 trillion for the so-called middle-class cuts and $700 billion for the richest Americans. There is no plausible level of spending cuts to offset the damage; the result would be chronic deficits and debilitating debt.

What motivates the Republicans to take a stand on earmarks?

Republicans in the House and Senate are to vote this week on prohibiting earmarks, which have become a symbol of government excess and backroom dealing, although they account for a very small part of the overall budget.

The Republicans, then, are interested in "symbolically" cutting spending. They certainly aren't interested in really doing so. They're ready to attack projects that add up to $15.9 billion annually while adding $3.2 trillion, including $700 billion for the wealthiest, to the deficit over the next decade.

Let's not forget that McConnell can't conceive of the fact that tax cuts are paid for and add to the deficit. In any event, the earmarks ban doesn't add up; it's nothing more than Republican deficit-reduction posturing. The Republicans hope to impress their base with their earmarks ban. Their real agenda is to extend the Bush tax cuts and shovel more cash at the rich, deficit be damned.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Obama Ready To Work With The "Leaders Of Uncompromise"

Despite President Obama's compromises on the stimulus package, health care reform and financial regulation, he faced a wall of opposition from the Republicans. Following their election victories, the Republicans continue to state that they are opposed to compromise. Senator Mitch McConnell clearly said that the GOP agenda is to ensure that Obama is a "one-term president." Confronting the forces that disavow compromise, President Obama has stated that now is the time to...compromise. Animator Mark Fiore depicted the president's dedication to working with the "Leaders of Uncompromise":

Rush Limbaugh's Blatant Racism

Andrew Sullivan exposes the blatant racism of Rush Limbaugh, who apparently finds this Obama-graffiti illustration appropriate and amusing:

The image above appears on Rush Limbaugh's Web site. Is any American more adept at exploiting racial dog whistles? It's always egregious enough to be calculatingly offensive, but never quite an open and shut case, because most of all the talk radio host revels in being called a racist so that he can throw up his hands and complain about liberal race-baiting. The accompanying text (emphasis added):
This guy is an utter wrecking ball all by himself on the world stage to the point now of getting embarrassing.  This presidency of Obama's, it doesn't take much to irritate the left.  Try this:  "Barack Obama's presidency is graffiti on the walls of American history."  That's what his administration is.  No more than graffiti on the walls of American history.  We have a juvenile delinquent for a president who has ruined so much public and private property, not even his gang is making much of an effort here to protect him.  It's an utter disaster.
This is self-concious and all the more disgusting for that reason.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bush's Book Belongs In The True Crime Section

The photo above shows where George W. Bush's book "Decision Points" belongs: in the true crime section of the bookstore. Bill Maher and Michael Moore discussed why this would be an appropriate location. Watch:

Maher: "To listen to Bush this week talk about how 'it was the right thing to do to go into Iraq because we took out a dictator. His two reasons: A) [Saddam Hussein] was trying to get WMD. Well, no. Not really. No. He was trying to get Viagra at that point in his life. That's true. And his other reason, he was consorting with terrorists. Again, not really true. Yeah we took out a dictator but at what cost? These soldiers coming home with brain damage."

Moore: "That's right. Thousands dead. All as a result of this. I swear to God, historians will mark this as the crime of the century, this phony war that he sent these kids to. This book should be put in the crime section of every bookstore and library in America." (h/t The Raw Story)

On his web site, Moore placed an article by Bill Quigley, professor of law at Loyola University. From "Bush Pens True Crime Book":

In his memoir (which some wise people have already moved in bookstores to the CRIME section) George W. Bush admitted that he authorized that detainees be waterboarded, tortured, a crime under US and international law.

Bush’s crime confession coincides with reports that no one will face criminal charges from the US Department of Justice for the destruction of 92 CIA videotapes which contained interrogations using waterboarding.

Where is the accountability for these crimes?

Bush and other criminals will be brought to justice if the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) have their way.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bipartisanship: Hope Springs Eternal

"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." - Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

"On issues that go straight to principle and straight to the concern the American people have on spending and taxes and values, there'll be no compromise." - Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN)

"And to sit here and say we're just going to go about halfway, or we're going to send a signal that it's going to be uncertain for job creators and investors to put capital to work, that's exactly what we don't need right now." - Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA)

"This is not a time for compromise, and I can tell you that we will not compromise on our principles." - Congressman John Boehner (R-OH), soon to be House Majority leader

"What's going to be critically important over the coming months is creating a better working relationship between this White House and the congressional leadership. What we need to do is make sure that everyone is pulling together, both Democrats and Republicans." - President Barack Obama on the White House talks planned for November 18

Mr. President, please pay attention to what the Republicans are telling you–and what they've shown you for two years! They have no interest in bipartisanship, compromise or what's best for the country. The Republicans even reject ideas they supported just because you are for them and they don't want you to get any credit. Take McConnell at his word: their only goal is to get you out of office. Do we have to draw you a picture?

Illustration: Matt Bors

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: The Clash Protest The Clampdown

Dubbed "the only band that matters," The Clash was the greatest of the British punk rock groups whose lyrics expressed radical protest against the conservative policies of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. Led by Joe Strummer, the band here sings in 1983 of those "working for the clampdown," the forces of repression. Thatcher's reign culminated in the London poll tax riot of 1990, sparked by the plan, later rescinded by her successor, John Major, to levy the same rate of local taxation regardless of income. With this past week's violent student protests in London against tuition hikes proposed by a new Tory government, one wonders if another generation of British rockers will pick up the mantle of protest from The Clash.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nancy Pelosi Should Remain Democratic House Leader

Speaking to E. J. Dionne, Nancy Pelosi presents a powerful case as to why she should remain the Democratic House leader, albeit in the minority role. Pelosi knows why the Republicans were so determined to attack her:

"Because I'm effective," she answers matter-of-factly. "It's why they had to do it. They had to put a stop to me because we were effective in passing health-care reform, which the health insurance industry wanted to stop; Wall Street reform, which Wall Street wanted to stop; [reforms of] students loans for taking the money out of the banks and giving it back to the taxpayer and to families."

And in what might be read as a reminder of why she should remain as leader, she adds: "I'm one of the most effective fundraisers that the Congress has had . . . because I believe in something."

Her analysis of why the party lost the House is compact. "Nine and a half percent unemployment damaged the majority," she says. "What made a difference in the election is the fact that they said we are spending money, and where are the jobs?" While she believes that what Democrats did on health care, education and Wall Street reform was ultimately about fixing the economy, the party has to think "shorter term" in putting "jobs, jobs, jobs front and center." That's her battle plan.

Pelosi is indeed an outstanding leader who passed major legislation despite unified Republican and Democratic Blue Dog opposition. She also has a clearheaded view regarding why the Democrats lost the midterms: jobs. That's the bottom line, and it has nothing to do with the right-wing noise machine's rants about "socialism" or "big government."

Similarly, if the administration starts to lead on employment, all the talk about whether Pelosi hampers Obama or whether she's "too liberal" will be irrelevant. In any event, it's high time that Democrats stopped running scared whenever Republicans hurl the term "liberal" at them. We need more Democrats like Pelosi, who embraces her liberalism and does her job effectively. Nancy Pelosi should remain the Democratic House leader.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

70 Percent Of Oklahomans Pass Amendment Banning Courts From Using Islamic Law

Cenk Uygur, host of The Young Turks, weighs in on the passing of an amendment approved by 70 percent of Oklahomans banning state courts from using Islamic law, also known as Shariah. Thank goodness they acted quickly and decisively on this danger posed by the state's 30,000 Muslims out of a population of 3.7 million. Apparently the courts couldn't wait to start issuing fatwas in Oklahoma. Uygur poses one pressing question: how are they going to handle the cases already decided according to Islamic law? After all, the number adjudicated so far through Shariah is...zero. A judge put a temporary restraining order on the ban following a lawsuit by Muneer Awad, head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Oklahoma chapter, who contends that it violates his First Amendment rights by creating an "official disapproval of his faith." Watch:

Supreme Court Conservative Judicial Activism Corrupted Our Electoral System

The Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was an outrageous act of conservative judicial activism. This decision rejected all campaign spending limits, threatening our democracy and giving corporations unprecedented influence on candidates and elections. It allowed candidates to accept contributions from unspecified sources, as was evident during the recent elections. It was completely antithetical to campaign finance reform and the public funding of elections. Instead of referring to "campaign contributions," we should refer to the buying of elections and influence by what it is: corruption. The cartoon above by Khalili Bendib in Truthout points out that no matter the terms of reference and no matter where it takes place, corruption is corruption.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Republicans' Draconian Budget Plans Spell Disaster For States

Republicans' plans for states coming under their rule promise to worsen struggling economies. They aim to cut public employment, increasing the ranks of the jobless. Their focus is on cutting the deficit, something that should come only after adequate economic stimulation (which we did not get the first time) has had a chance to work. They refuse to boost government revenue through raising taxes on the wealthy. Drastic cuts in education will make it more difficult for students to attend college. They want to block financing of the health care bill, even though the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over a decade. Consider what the GOP has in mind in states where they are assuming power:

Republicans who have taken over state capitols across the country are promising to respond to crippling budget deficits with an array of cuts, among them proposals to reduce public workers’ benefits in Wisconsin, scale back social services in Maine and sell off state liquor stores in Pennsylvania, endangering the jobs of thousands of state workers.

...State workers, education leaders and social service agencies are bracing. Since last week, some have met in various states to prepare counterattacks against what Terry W. Hartle, of the American Council of Education, which represents leaders of colleges and universities, described as the “eye-popping” level of “draconian” cuts it would take to balance some state budgets without new revenues.

...Some Democrats, like B. Patrick Bauer, the departing speaker of the Indiana House, say they fear what some of the proposals — like ones in Indiana to cut unemployment benefits, create an automatic refund mechanism for taxpayers if state reserves reach a certain level, and shrink the size of government — may ultimately mean for poor people, working people and sick people. “They ought to all be worried,” Mr. Bauer said.

...In many of these states, the new federal health care program is now certain to face new efforts to slow or stop it. Some of the newly elected governors have suggested joining a lawsuit, already supported by leaders of other states, opposing it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Defense Secretary Gates: Lame Duck Congress Should Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

At this point, there are only two ways to end the "don't ask, don't tell" law: either the lame duck Congress repeals it or President Obama ends it through executive order. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is urging the former course of action–though he seems doubtful that it will be done. From the AP:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is encouraging Congress to act before year's end to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military. It's a position shared by his boss, the president.

But his new Marine commandant [Gen. James Amos] thinks otherwise and the Senate has not yet taken action, setting up yet another hurdle for gay activists who see their window quickly closing. After Tuesday's elections that saw Republicans chip away at Democrats' majority in the Senate and wrest the House from their control, their hopes for ending the 17-year-old law have dimmed.

"I would like to see the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' but I'm not sure what the prospects for that are and we'll just have to see," Gates told reporters traveling with him to Australia this weekend.

Gates has said he would prefer Congress act after the Pentagon releases its study of how repeal would be implemented, which is due Dec. 1.

...The House has passed legislation repealing "don't ask, don't tell," but it has not yet seen a vote in the full Senate, where Democrats don't have the votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. Democratic leaders says they are trying to reach a deal across the aisle now that Election Day has passed.

...A Gallup poll in May found 70 percent of Americans favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly.

...Between 1997 and 2008, the Defense Department discharged more than 10,500 service members for violating the ["don't ask, don't tell"] policy.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Steve Brodner: In Politics, Every Day Is "Opposite Day"

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Steve Brodner explains his illustrations:

Kids have a game they play called “Opposite Day.” The idea is that it’s funny when you say the opposite of what you mean. Of course in politics, every day is “opposite day.”

For example: John Boehner, the GOP House leader, claims to be a deficit hawk, but he’s in favor of a budget-busting tax cut for the super rich. He’s kind of a deficit chicken, but hey, it’s “opposite day.” Or how about Glenn Beck, who shows an Oprah-like well of compassion for humanity. And then will say things like how he fantasizes about killing Charles Rangel with a shovel. Well yes, “opposite day.”

Then there’s senator Jim Demint of South Carolina, a Tea Party figure who is for getting government out of your personal life. That turns out to include the government firing gay men and single women based on their sexuality. Hmmm … “Opposite day!”

How about Joe Leiberman and the so-called centrist Democrats. They are pro-job, pro-USA they say. Well that amounts to voting against the anti-outsourcing bill that would’ve slowed companies moving jobs to China. Looking more like Hu Jintao. A new kind of patriotism. Opposite.

So, you know, looking at it this way, it starts to make sense to me now. They are honest in an “opposite day” kinda way.
(h/t: PBS)

Wallowing In Bloody Destruction

Illustration by Stephen Pitt; Caption by Truthout:

In this illustration, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and Reps. John Boehner and Eric Cantor are standing in the bloody human, economic and social destruction their party caused during the reckless Bush reign. It lingers because these men stand in the way of relief to the middle class, which they bled for militant corporatistic ventures with a straight face.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Maddow: Obama Administration Has No Real Plan To End "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

On September 9th, California federal judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled that the "don't ask, don't tell" law violates the equal protection and First Amendment rights of gay men and women in the military. Since then, a federal appeals court has decided to permit the military to enforce the law while the decision is being appealed. Which government branch is defending the law? The Justice Department of President Obama, who has vowed to end it:

[President Obama's] Justice Department, following the tradition of defending laws enacted by Congress as presumptively constitutional, has fought efforts to overturn the law and has said the military needs time to develop orderly policies for change. The department also noted that the administration did not support the law “as a matter of policy and strongly believes Congress should repeal it.”

...The House voted to change the policy in May, but in September the Senate voted not to take up the bill.

This last action of the Senate is significant, since the Obama administration is counting on that very body to repeal it. Not only didn't the Senate take up the bill in September, but it also just gained six Republican seats. Just before the elections, Rachel Maddow pointed out the "incoherence" of the administration's policy. Watch:

Maddow: The White House is assuring everyone that the policy will end. And when you drill down on how they say it will end, they say it will end because the Senate will end it -- even though the Senate has just chosen not to end it. And the Senate is poised to get more conservative, not less, in the imminent elections. This is incoherence. ...Unless you believe that the United States Senate after this year's elections is going to do the right thing by gay service members, then the decision by the Obama administration whether or not to appeal this ruling is likely a decision between killing this policy now and letting it survive, probably forever. ...Everybody says the Justice Department appealing this ruling is an inevitability. It does not have to be. It is not inevitable. If the administration believes the law is unconstitutional, there is precedent that supports the administration not appealing it and letting the law die. ...A plan that has no chance of becoming reality is not a real plan, no matter how much you say it is. You can either end it or you can stop saying you will. (h/t: The Raw Story)

The precedent Maddow refers to is President Truman's 1948 decision to end racial segregation in the military by executive order rather than through legislation. If President Obama believes that "don't ask, don't tell" is unconstitutional and knows that the Senate won't repeal it, why doesn't he also end the law by executive order?

Meet The New Freshman Class Of Extremist Senators And Representatives

Meet the new freshman class of extremist senators and representatives who are on a mission. Come January, they’re ready to roll up their sleeves and undo all the progress made in the last century. Why, it’s “Morning in America” again! Watch:

(h/t: People For The American Way)

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Billy Bragg And KT Tunstall Set The Wheel On Fire

British singer-songwriters Billy Bragg and KT Tunstall join forces in this powerful rendition of Bob Dylan's "This Wheel's On Fire," a song that The Band made famous in their "Music From Big Pink" album. The performance took place at the "Talking Bob Dylan Blues" concert, Barbican Hall, London, September 26, 2005.

Robinson, Herbert, Krugman: What Could Obama Have Done Differently?

Prior to the elections, Eugene Robinson and Bob Herbert wrote columns contemplating whether Obama could have strengthened his standing through alternative priorities. On Thursday, Paul Krugman considered the same issue.

In Robinson's view, a different course was not possible:

[Progressives] argue that the Obama administration's political mistake wasn't pushing its liberal program too hard but not pushing it hard enough...

...Sorry, but it doesn't wash. The problem is that for all the talk of changing the way Washington works, you still have to get actual legislation through an actual Congress. ...The votes for a full-fledged progressive agenda -- single-payer health care, for example -- simply were not there.

...What if Obama and the Democrats had devoted every waking hour to the three issues that Americans care about most: jobs, jobs and jobs?

Well, unemployment would still be painfully high; there's no way the economy could recover 8 million jobs so quickly, no matter what Washington did...

Herbert takes issue with Robinson's last point on jobs:

President Obama and the Democrats blew an important opportunity at the beginning of the president’s term. That was the time, with the economy in virtual free fall, to rally the American people behind a grand plan to rebuild the nation and its economy for the long term...

...Job creation was the most important issue. With his sky-high approval ratings and the economy hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of jobs a month, a bold and creative employment initiative, tied to long-term investments in infrastructure and green energy, was the issue that President Obama could — and should — have used to trump Republican obstructionism.

Krugman has argued for almost two years that Obama's stimulus package was inadequate. He continued to make this case both before and after the midterm elections:

Could Mr. Obama actually have offered [an ambitious recovery] plan? He might not have been able to get a big plan through Congress, or at least not without using extraordinary political tactics. Still, he could have chosen to be bold — to make Plan A the passage of a truly adequate economic plan, with Plan B being to place blame for the economy’s troubles on Republicans if they succeeded in blocking such a plan.

But he chose a seemingly safer course: a medium-size stimulus package that was clearly not up to the task. And that’s not 20/20 hindsight. In early 2009, many economists, yours truly included, were more or less frantically warning that the administration’s proposals were nowhere near bold enough.

...[Obama] still has the ability to engineer significant relief to homeowners, one area where his administration completely dropped the ball during its first two years. Beyond that, Plan B is still available. He can propose real measures to create jobs and aid the unemployed and put Republicans on the spot for standing in the way of the help Americans need.

Robinson's argument is the weakest in its contention that there was nothing the president could have done differently, since the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats obstructed him and any jobs initiative would have been inadequate. Wouldn't more active engagement and leadership–and possible progress–on jobs have made a difference, at least to his political standing? Herbert is correct in stating that Obama should have been more focused on jobs, the primary issue with the public.

Krugman, however, presents the best case regarding what Obama should have done and what he should do now. While agreeing with Herbert on a jobs initiative, Krugman makes the crucial point: with the private sector and the population not spending, it was the government's place to stimulate the economy–and to do so adequately. He states that Obama can propose measures to help the economy; it is telling, though, that Krugman no longer calls for a second, stronger stimulus. He realizes that the president has been weakened to the point that such an initiative is politically impossible.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Conservative Blue Dog Democrats Crushed In Election

So how did the conservative Blue Dog Democrats do? More to the point, how did the Republican Lite brand do? After obstructing the Democratic agenda, 28 out of 54 were thrown out. Apparently conservatives don't appreciate them, preferring real Republicans, and liberals support those who help enact progressive legislation. Neither category defines the Blue Dogs:

Notable losses included Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-S.D.), the coalition's co-chair for administration, and Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), the co-chair for policy (shown left)...

The Blue Dogs, a coalition of moderate to conservative Democrats in the House, have consistently frustrated their more progressive colleagues and activists within the party, especially during the health care debate. Blue Dog members pushed to limit the scope and the cost of the legislation and resisted some of the mandates of the bill. Last summer, seven of the eight Blue Dogs on the House Energy and Commerce Committee even threatened to block health care reform unless it met their cost requirements.

Other areas where Blue Dogs have helped put the brakes on ambitious progressive priorities are global warming measures and legislation that would make it easier for workers to unionize.

Rand Paul: We're Beholden To The Rich, So Let's Not "Punish" Them

Rand Paul, Kentucky Senator-elect (R), explains, "There are no rich, there are no middle class, there are no poor. We're all interconnected in the economy." Is this a sense of economic cosmic oneness, or is Paul, a libertarian, suddenly espousing the Marxist goal of a classless society? Paul pulls back and reverts to GOP talking points: since we either work for or sell stuff to rich people, we can't be punitive by not extending the Bush tax cuts to them. Of course, the cost to the deficit of shoveling more cash to the wealthiest is $700 billion over 10 years–but if we don't commit to it, we won't continue to reap the economic benefits of the Bush tax cuts, right? That's despite the fact that, according to Moody's Analytics, rich Americans save rather than spend their tax cuts. Watch Paul's mini economics lesson:

Since Paul senses that we're all one and doesn't want to punish anyone, he'd also stand for labor rights and raising the minimum wage, right?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Marching Backwards: The Republican Agenda For The Next Two Years

In an editorial this morning, the New York Times urged readers to vote. We're used to such appeals encouraging Americans to do their civic duty and exercise this precious right. That, however, was not the focus of the piece. The editors urged its readership to consider the Republicans' obstructionist agenda and vote against it. Now that the Republicans have taken the House, the points the Times raises following the vote are still relevant–indeed, they're more relevant than ever. Regarding the nation's critical issues, here's what we can expect from the Republicans as they try to march us backwards over the next two years:

• Since Mr. Obama was elected, millions of poor children who did not have health insurance got it. A reform law was passed that already allows young people to be on their parents’ plan until they are 26, bars insurers from dropping coverage after a beneficiary becomes sick, and removes lifetime caps on coverage. In 2014, many more benefits will kick in.

Republicans are determined to undo that progress. It would be a disaster. The law is the best chance in years to provide health insurance to the rapidly rising numbers of uninsured and to begin trying to slow cost growth in medical care and insurance.

• The country needs tax reform that is fair and doesn’t get us even deeper in the red. Republicans are interested only in one thing: permanently extending tax cuts for the rich, adding $700 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

• The country needs jobs and to be globally competitive. Republicans are determined to block Mr. Obama’s sensible proposals to create good jobs by rebuilding fraying infrastructure or creating new energy industries.

• The country needs sound regulation. If there is any doubt about that look at the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Or the bank bailout that — despite what the Republicans are saying — happened on Mr. Bush’s watch. The Republicans want more heedless deregulation.

• With very few exceptions, Republican candidates are hostile to the administration’s efforts to address climate change and reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. There has already been talk on Capitol Hill of stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

Cartoon: Tom Toles

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An Exhausted Christine O'Donnell Sleeps After Halloween

Illustration: Stephen Pitt (h/t: Truthout)

Sam Seder: Five Reasons To Vote Against Republicans

Sam Seder acknowledges that many liberals are disappointed with the extent of change over the past two years. But he also provides five excellent reasons to vote against the Republicans in terms of Social Security; jobs; tax cuts for the rich; repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and Obama tacking to the right in response to a Republican Congress. Watch:

Video: "Hi, I'm A Tea Partier"

The cartoon below provides an excellent refutation of Tea Party rhetoric about "freedoms under attack," "socialistic health care," taxes, energy, social issues and deregulation. If you don't think that there are Tea Partiers, Glenn Beck fans and others on the right who actually profess these beliefs, a video from Beck's rally will clarify matters. In the meantime, watch the following and vote on November 2nd for candidates who stand against Tea Party ideas:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Two Things Friends Don't Let Friends Do

Friends don't let friends drive drunk and...