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Tuesday, October 13, 2015


I am Debbie. I am The Gatekeeper.

by Tom Sullivan

Whatever has possessed DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is creating a buildup of negative human emotions in her party, and it must be stopped before it produces a psychomagnotheric slime flow of immense proportions.

Who ya gonna call? Beats me.

First off, The Gatekeeper has decided in the face of dissension in her ranks that there will be only six Democratic debates. “We’re going to have six debates. Period,” Wasserman Schultz told a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in September.

By limiting the number of debates, the DNC is "ceding the discussion and attention to the Republicans," Martin O'Malley's campaign manager told Politico. Plus, it gives the appearance that the DNC is protecting front runner Hillary Clinton. If The Gatekeeper is trying hard to appear impartial (as I read somewhere), she is leaving the opposite impression. DNC vice chairs, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak, have also called for more debates, and the chatter among other members is not favorable to Wasserman Schultz.

Gabbard was recently on television again calling for more debates. The Gatekeeper has since disinvited Gabbard from the Rectification of the Vuldronaii, or at least from tonight's Democratic debate in Las Vegas:

"The prevailing message of that was that because I continued to call for more debates, that I should not go to the debate in Las Vegas," the Hawaii congresswoman said. "The issue here is not about me saying, 'Boo hoo, I'm going to miss the party.' The issue here is one of democracy and freedom of speech."

The New York Times reported earlier Monday that Gabbard had received a message through her staff about her attendance at the event one day after she appeared on television calling for more Democratic debates. Bernie Sanders campaign then offered her a ticket later on Monday.

According to the Times report, Wasserman Schultz wants to keep the focus on the candidates "rather than on a 'distraction' that could divide the party." Instead, The Gatekeeper has become the distraction. Gabbard tells the Times:

“When I first came to Washington, one of the things that I was disappointed about was there’s a lot of immaturity and petty gamesmanship that goes on, and it kind of reminds me of how high school teenagers act,” Ms. Gabbard said in a telephone interview on Sunday night. She said she would watch the debate in her district in Hawaii, which elected her to her second term last year.

“It’s very dangerous when we have people in positions of leadership who use their power to try to quiet those who disagree with them,” she added. “When I signed up to be vice chair of the D.N.C., no one told me I would be relinquishing my freedom of speech and checking it at the door.”

Immaturity and petty gamesmanship? Oh, there's plenty of that.

In addition, for some reason Harvard professor and Democratic candidate Lawrence Lessig will not be on the stage in Las Vegas, Chris Hayes reported last night:

"While three of the Democratic candidates, Lincoln Chaffee, Martin O'Malley, and Lawrence Lessig all scored less than half a percent in latest national polling, only two of them get to take part tomorrow. Lessig is the only one being excluded from the debate stage." [timestamp 1:15]

As Hayes noted, it is CNN's network and they can set their own rules, even if "somewhat mysterious." Still, Lessig's exclusion seems capricious, believes Bloomberg:

Lessig may be a gadfly, but he has a base of support. In just one month, he's raised more than $1 million from 8,000 donors. Compare that with Chafee, who brought in $29,000 over the first six months of the year. Lessig has raised enough money to qualify for public matching funds -- and if the public is going to pay for his campaign, the public ought to be able to see him on the stage.

Lessig has one other qualification going for him: Unlike Sanders, he's actually a Democrat. And no matter how far-fetched his candidacy is, he's right to demand his party take a more democratic approach to the debates.

That's even weirder given The Gatekeeper's April welcome of Bernie Sanders to the race, and her more detailed explanation to insiders for why Bernie Sanders will get to be on the Democratic primary ballot:

Senator Sanders doesn’t need to change his voter registration, because he can’t.  According to the Vermont Secretary of State, Vermont does not have party registration.  (The same is true in Virginia, where Senator Webb is registered to vote.)
  • According to the DNC Rules, requirements for nomination as President or Vice President on the Democratic ticket require a candidate to do the following:
o   be registered to vote, and shall have been registered to vote in the last election for the office of President and Vice President; and
o   have “demonstrated a commitment to the goals and objectives of the Democratic Party”
  • Additionally, the DNC 2016 Convention Call says that this person should have "a record of public service, accomplishment, public writings and/or public statements affirmatively demonstrates that he or she is faithful to the interests, welfare and success of the Democratic Party”
  • Given his long record as a champion for creating jobs, fighting for hard working, middle class families, and living up to the Democratic goals of equality and opportunity, and given the fact that he caucuses with Senate Democrats in good faith, Senator Sanders clearly meets those requirements.
  • Therefore, provided he meets the ballot access requirements in each state, he is eligible to seek the Democratic nomination, and we welcome Senator Sanders to the Democratic field.

That would seem to apply to Lessig, the registered Democrat. CNN, however, will not be welcoming Lawrence Lessig to the stage tonight. On the other hand, CNN has a spare podium handy just in case Gozer the Traveler should appear.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Who Sez the NY Times Got No Humor? 

by tristero
First, there's the headline: Latest Unease on Right: Ryan Is Too Far Left. Anyway you cut it - haha or peculiar - that's a funny thing to say. And then there is this hysterical lede:
Far-right media figures, relatively small in number but potent in their influence, have embarked on a furious Internet expedition to cover Representative Paul D. Ryan in political silt.
"Silt?" That's not the first word that comes to mind when I think about what far-right figures like Schafly cover their opponents with. Kind of looks a little bit like "silt,"though. But the "i's"in third position and there's an "h"in second.

And then there's this:
[Paul Ryan] was half the brain on a 2013 compromise with Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, to funnel more money to the government and avert two years of budget brinkmanship, even though two years earlier, he had refused to sit on the original committee that tried and failed to find a solution to the government’s financial problems.
"Half the brain?" Yeah, I always thought that about Paul Ryan.

Oh, I'm running low on popcorn now. Gotta make more.


by digby

We know she calculates every utterance months in advance with massive focus groups and polling so this is somewhat surprising:
ANOTHER ROUND: In preparation for this interview, I watched a lot of your interviews, and I noticed you never sweat, like physically. I’ve done like a little bit of press and I get so hot — TV lights, stage lights. I’m sweating now and I’m sitting still. What is your deodorant situation?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, you’ve only done a little bit. When you’ve done as much as I have —

ANOTHER ROUND: But like, what is your secret?

HILLARY CLINTON: My secret is just you do it so often. You didn’t see me 40 years ago when I did my first ones. Right?

ANOTHER ROUND: I don’t mean sweat because you’re nervous. I just mean physically. I’m genuinely curious what your deodorant is.

HILLARY CLINTON: You know, I just turned off the thermostat. [Clinton glances at the wall.] No, no, I don’t know.

ANOTHER ROUND: Do you have a spray situation. Is it a liquid? I’m not joking.

HILLARY CLINTON: Solid. Solid block. I like the solid. Solid block is much better.

ANOTHER ROUND: OK. This is an odd question that I lobbied for a lot because it’s one of my favorite questions to ask people. If you don’t have an answer, that’s fine, but I will be a little sad. What’s the weirdest thing about you?

HILLARY CLINTON: The weirdest thing about me is that I don’t sweat.

ANOTHER ROUND: Obviously. Best argument for Hillary as a robot: zero sweat.

HILLARY CLINTON: You guys are the first to realize that I’m really not even a human being. I was constructed in a garage in Palo Alto a very long time ago. People think that, you know, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, they created it. Oh no. I mean, a man whose name shall remain nameless created me in his garage.

ANOTHER ROUND: Are there more of you?

HILLARY CLINTON: I thought he threw away the plans, at least that’s what he told me when he programmed me — that there would be no more. I’ve seen more people that kind of don’t sweat, and other things, that make me think maybe they are part of the new race that he created: the robot race.

ANOTHER ROUND: So there’s a cyborg army is what you’re saying.

HILLARY CLINTON: But you have to cut this, you can’t tell anybody this. I don’t want anybody to know this. This has been a secret until here we are in Davenport, Iowa, and I’m just spillin’ my electronic guts to you.

ANOTHER ROUND: And without bourbon.

HILLARY CLINTON: Without any bourbon. Yeah. That’s why I have to wait ‘til the end of the day.

It's for real, too.

I am disappointed to learn she doesn't like tequila, though. There goes my vote. I can't vote for anyone who doesn't want to do shots of Chinaco with me.

I'm thinking Chafee looks like he might be a tequila drinker...

Creepy brainwashing video of the day

by digby

They will never go away ...

Citizenlink is Focus on the Family

h/t to @downwithtyranny

"That's called reporting"

by digby

This is rich. Politico reports on NY Times editor Dean Baquet views on the paper's Clinton coverage which I think fair-minded people can all agree has been pretty egregious. (Exhibit A. Exhibit B.)
Responding to accusations that the Times is unfair to Clinton and her campaign, Baquet acknowledged the Times' screw-up on a recent story — which the Times corrected — that erroneously claimed a criminal inquiry was being sought into Clinton's email usage during her time as secretary of state. 
While that story "fueled" criticism about the Times' Clinton coverage, said Baquet during an interview on CNN, "We're aggressive on all the candidates." He likewise emphasized the breadth of the Times' Clinton coverage. 
"I will also point out that we also broke the story today about dissension within the Benghazi committee," he said. "We also did the most deeply reported story about who did what in the whole Benghazi fiasco that led to the death of a U.S. ambassador, which I think the Clinton people would say was fair and did not point a finger at her. So I think if you add all that up, and add up the daily coverage of her, we're not unfair. You have to look at the full picture. And you have to look at the fact that when we screw up, we own up to it." 
Defending the Times' Clinton reporting has become a familiar activity for Baquet.“If you look at this reasonably, there is no institutional animus toward the Clintons. I don’t buy it,” he told The Daily Beast last month for an article titled, "Is The New York Times at War with Hillary?" 
During a June appearance at Hunter College with Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., a woman in the audience said to him during the Q and A  portion of the event, "I'd like to know why The New York Times signed an agreement with Peter Schweizer, right-winger, to promote his book," a reference to "Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich" 
...We did not sign an agreement. That's been mischaracterized. We took information—" 
"From a right-wing crackpot like him?" 
"We take information from all kinds of crackpots. That's called reporting. You take information, you check it, you use it, you use what's accurate..."
(That woman also claimed that reporter Amy Chozick was a right winger which Baquet denied and about which I have no opinion.)

But the fact is that taking information from anti-Clinton crackpots is journalistic malpractice by definition. It's gotten them into so much trouble in the past you'd think they would have learned their lesson. They are clearly eager to believe any breathless accusation and simply cannot be trusted to verify the facts properly, as that "criminal referral" episode proves. They need to hire someone to police their emotional need to believe any silly bullshit the Republicans throw over the transom. They aren't going to be the Woodward and Bernstein of Clinton scandals, certainly not on the basis of wingnut oppo BS.  It just makes them look like idiots over and over again.

It's true that this piece today about what goes on inside the Benghazi committee is an excellent expose of the decadence and dissolution among the staffers as well as their clear political intentions. Good for them.  One does wonder if Kevin Mccarthy hadn't opened his big mouth and this whistleblower hadn't come forward if anyone would have looked this deeply into it.  The committee has been around a long while, longer than any committee in House history, doling out its little tid-bits of juicy stuff for DC reporters to get all excited about.

Sure, it's a crack-pot committee but they take information from all kinds of crackpots...


How the extremist strategies of the NRA have overtaken Republican politics

by digby

(First, let me get this out of the way. If any of you right wingers are reading this, I never say that the NRA has been giving guns away. Salon tweeted that the NRA had "armed" America and my twitter feed is full of people screaming at the top of their lungs that I'm and idiot libtard who thinks the NRA has provided gun owners with their guns. It's a misreading of Salon's tweet and a perfect demonstration that nobody actually reads the article which says nothing of the sort. But whatever ...)

Anyway, the article is really about how the NRA's "take-no-prisoners" strategy has been taken up by Republicans as a whole ---  and largely because it's worked for them. An excerpt:

How did they go from being swashbuckling, conservative Reagan warriors wanting to “make America great again” to mutinous revolutionaries determined to bring down the state by any means necessary? There are, no doubt, many reasons for it, from a highly influential demagogic media to the final realignment of the two parties after the civil rights movement. Certainly the ascension of the young Reagan backbenchers, led by Newt Gingrich, put the revolution in warp drive before it careened out of control.
But the recent emergence of the Tea Party right and the intransigent “Freedom Caucus”in the House evinces an anarchistic spirit that even Gingrich couldn’t have imagined. (And he has quite an imagination.) No this slash-and-burn style was modeled elsewhere, by an ultra-successful right-wing institution which continues to flex its muscle today: the NRA.
The NRA had once been a sportsman and safety organization, which took a turn toward the political back in the ’70s, just as the conservative movement was gaining steam. By the ’90s it had transformed itself into a potent political institution which perversely thrived when it was attacked, and built its clout by never giving an inch. Ever.
This strategy was devised and carried out by their very able leader, Wayne LaPierre. According to this article by Joel Achenbach, Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz in the Washington Post about the NRA’s rise, LaPierre understood very early that the organization could leverage any attempts at gun regulation into an expansion of its membership (and its coffers):
LaPierre knew what notes to hit to satisfy the hard-liners. At the annual meeting in 1993, LaPierre told the members, “Good, honest Americans stand divided, driven apart by a force that dwarfs any political power or social tyrant that ever before existed on this planet: the American media.”
Democrats in Congress and some Republican allies passed an assault-weapons ban in 1994. That fired up the NRA base. The NRA’s rhetoric grew harsher. Out on the political fringe, the militia movement grew in influence, as anti-government activists warned of black helicopters carrying federal agents dressed like ninjas. The militants cited the 1992 shooting deaths of two civilians in a federal raid at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and the 1993 siege by federal agents of a religious sect’s compound in Waco, Tex., that culminated in a fire killing 76 people.
They were hardcore and completely intransigent. The article quotes the head of the ATF who attempted to set up meetings with the NRA to try to find common ground or even communicate. He was met with silence. LaPierre wouldn’t even speak with the head of the agency when they ran into each other in an airport. The NRA didn’t want compromise, it wanted confrontation.
Of course, the NRA’s mission wasn’t without its challenges. For example, LaPierre had a setback in 1995 with the Oklahoma City Bombing, when even supporters became unnerved by his anti-government rhetoric; he eventually had to back-pedal to retain legitimacy. But soon the writing was on the wall that the parties were polarizing completely on this issue, and LaPierre went all-in with the GOP to defeat Al Gore for the presidency in 2000. The Democrats were predictably cowed by the beltway conventional wisdom and decided that guns were no longer an issue for which they were prepared to fight. Thus, the NRA became the lobbying juggernaut it is today.
And despite board member Grover Norquist’s silly bleating that gun safety activists communicate to gun owners that “you don’t like me” — and therefore no communication is possible — the fact remains that gun-safety advocates are asking for very little, and the NRA spits in their faces and laughs every time they bring it up. Just remember LaPierre’s cynical response to Newtown to get the drift. The organization gets its power from its unwillingness to compromise even one little bit.
And you can’t really argue with results: We are overwhelmed with gun violence, people are dying in large numbers, and yet it’s impossible to address the problem. This is the power of the NRA.
The right-wingers in the Tea Party and the Freedom Caucus have learned LaPierre’s lesson well.

Read on ... The NRA is undoubtedly the most successful right wing institution in America. They lead the way.
Is Paul Ryan really the savior who will bring them together?

by digby

This came into my email from Richard Viguerie, Godfather of the conservative movement:
The Magic Number Is 218

It takes a majority of the House to elect a Speaker, so in theory it takes 218 votes to replace establishment Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner with a conservative.

Getting to 218 is a seemingly daunting task when the House Freedom Caucus, the group of conservatives that led the successful opposition to Boehner and Kevin McCarthy, his handpicked candidate to take over the Speaker’s gavel, has only 40 to 50 members.

Paul RyanBut the reality is that there are a lot more than 40 to 50 House Republicans who want to do the right thing – the majority of House Republicans have simply been bamboozled and intimidated into believing that conservatives are a minority, when in fact they are the majority, even in the establishment-controlled House of Representatives.

In a recent vote on a Continuing Resolution to fund the government at the existing Obama-endorsed level, 151 House Republicans voted against the House Republican leadership. Truth be told this was the vote that prompted Boehner’s departure.

So who voted for the CR to keep the government running at Obama’s ruinous spending level?

Mostly Democrats, and a relatively small number of Republicans who are in the establishment “leadership” or who could be intimidated by them into voting “YES” on a bill that funds Planned Parenthood, Obamacare, Obama’s executive amnesty and continues the ruinous deficit spending that Republicans promised to reign-in way back in 2010.

And, not surprisingly, the Republican “YES” votes are a Who’s Who of the establishment Republican candidates to replace John Boehner as Speaker.

Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican House Majority Leader whose campaign for Speaker just imploded was a “YES.”

Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican Chairman of the house Ways and Means Committee was a “YES.”

Darrell Issa, the California Republican who once served as Chairman of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee was a “YES.”

Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the big spending member of the Appropriations Committee and former Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee was a “YES.”

Charles Dent of Pennsylvania who recently suggested that liberal Republicans should abandon the GOP and form a “bipartisan coalition” to elect a Speaker was a “YES.”

And so were National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden and virtually all of the Members of the NRCC’s “Patriot Program” that funnels PAC and K Street money to vulnerable GOP incumbents – as long as they toe the leadership’s lobbyist-friendly line.

Who didn’t vote for the Obama-approved Continuing Resolution?

Daniel Webster, the principled limited government constitutional conservative Florida Representative who is the endorsed candidate for Speaker of the House Freedom Caucus voted “NO.”

Jim Jordan, the principled limited government constitutional conservative Representative from Ohio who once served as Chairman of the Republican Study Committee and helped found the House Freedom Caucus voted “NO.”

Jim Bridenstine, the principled limited government constitutional conservative who helped organize the opposition to Boehner in January voted “NO.”

And most importantly, Dave Brat, the Virginia conservative who won his 2014 congressional primary to defeat Eric Cantor, McCarthy’s predecessor as House Majority Leader voted “NO.”

And, after Cantor’s 2014 defeat, how did establishment Republicans who are already facing principled limited government constitutional conservative primary opponents, like Martha Roby of Alabama, Pete Sessions of Texas and Renee Ellmers of North Carolina vote?

No surprise – they all voted “NO” as well, because they may be arrogant and venal, but they are not stupid – they can at least read a poll and understand that the Republican grassroots demand congressional Republicans stand against Obama’s policies and will likely vote out any Republican who fails to fight them.

The magic number to elect a Speaker is 218. So far 151Republicans have shown that, even if they lack principle, they are interested in political self-preservation and are willing to vote for conservative outcomes when their political futures are at stake.

We urge you to call your Representative, the House switchboard is 1-866-220-0044, to demand that he or she vote for a thorough house cleaning in the House Republican leadership team and that no one, like Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy or Darrell Issa, who voted for the Obama CR be elected Speaker.

Keep in mind that Viguerie makes most of his money when the Republicans lose elections. This is him after the loss of the congress in 2006:

Sometimes a loss for the Republican Party is a gain for conservatives. Often, a little taste of liberal Democrats in power is enough to remind the voters what they don’t like about liberal Democrats and to focus the minds of Republicans on the principles that really matter. That’s why the conservative movement has grown fastest during those periods when things seemed darkest, such as during the Carter administration and the first two years of the Clinton White House.

Conservatives are, by nature, insurgents, and it’s hard to maintain an insurgency when your friends, or people you thought were your friends, are in power.


It's about power, people, and learning how to use it

by digby

Dave Dayen patiently explains how primary politics works:

On Wednesday, Clinton decided to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the just-inked trade deal with 12 nations that is a centerpiece of Obama administration second-term achievements. “The bar here is very high and, based on what I have seen, I don't believe this agreement has met it,” Clinton said in a statement, cruelly timed to the moment that top White House officials were holding a conference call defending the deal.

This has sent a chill into the hearts of a particular Washington specimen: the self-appointed guardians of order. Mark Halperin flatly accused Clinton of lying about her opposition to TPP. Others pointed to Clinton’s praise for TPP in her recent book, or the 45 times she’s spoken out in favor of it. And Ezra Klein pronounced himself “unnerved” because it shows her as calculating and poll-driven.

In other words, the theory goes, Clinton is pandering, taking a position that she may not sincerely support to appease a faction of the constituency she wants in her corner. Unions don’t like TPP or the Cadillac tax, and with Bernie Sanders breathing down her neck, Clinton had to adjust her profile to keep their endorsements rolling in.

There are definitely signs that Clinton had prior (and very possibly, future) support for TPP. Her top policy advisor on the deal while at the State Department, Robert Hormats, praised it the day before she came out against it. If you take the temperature of those in her policy orbit, you would probably find more supporters than opponents.

But a lot has changed since November 2012, when Clinton called TPP “the gold standard in trade agreements.” One point she made in this week’s PBS interview on the topic is that, while at the State Department, she pushed for higher standards in the South Korean free trade agreement, yet was still disappointed in the results. “Even a strong deal can fall short on delivering the promised benefits,” Clinton said in her statement.

Indeed, the U.S.-Korea deal led to an 80 percent increase in the bilateral trade deficit and 75,000 U.S. jobs, according to the liberal Economic Policy Institute. So a retrospective view, combined with witnessing first-hand the struggles of the American worker on the campaign trail, may have brought Clinton to a considered change in viewpoint.

But the bigger issue is this: What’s wrong with pandering? Our system of government, as it has evolved, offers precious few opportunities for ordinary people to get into the national conversation. Big Money has a tight grip on governance through insistent lobbying, and for the most part they fund national elections.

For once, the Democratic nominating fight, and the emergence of Bernie Sanders, has given public interest groups a voice, a rare channel to impact the political system. We shouldn’t roll our eyes at that; we should respect it. National leaders should have to listen to their constituents and earn their support. Primaries are one of the only moments that allow such an opportunity.

The thing about outside leverage on politics is that it’s not static. It can change, and leaders can drop their panders when it suits them politically. Public interest groups and ordinary citizens must not take anything for granted and remain insistent. They are correct to look at this skeptically.

But here’s what we know from political science, a point made most eloquently by the same Ezra Klein who is so unnerved by Clinton’s position-taking: Politicians typically keep their campaign promises. Presidents may not fulfill them, but that has more to do with Congressional obstruction than a flip-flop.

In other words, locking in a particular endorsement in a primary has real lingering effects. That makes the process some call pandering, which I would call paying attention to your political base, all the more important. If you can move a candidate on an issue you care about, you can keep them in that position for a long time.

Read the whole thing. He's 100% right. And this piece should also speak to certain progressives who are unfortunately pooh-poohing her opposition as being a meaningless pander and another sign of her inconsistency. That is a big tactical mistake.

Look, we cannot know what is in Hillary Clinton's heart any more than we could ever know what was in Barack Obama's heart or Bernie Sanders' heart or any other politician's heart. We don't sleep with them or get drunk with them or share time on the psychiatrist's couch with them. And we, as citizens, only have limited ability to hold them to their promises. Once elected, they're in for their term and that's that. So primaries are the only way we have to push these politicians to take positions that the grassroots care about.

In this race it's working very well. As it happens a very lefty candidate is getting big crowds and is nipping at the front-runner's heels. That's good! Maybe he'll win! But even if he doesn't, this race is making all the candidates move left on a number of issues which means the system is working in liberals' favor for a change. We should be thrilled.

Can we ensure that Clinton or Sanders will deliver on every one of these lefty goals in office? Of course not. Unlike the ignorant Tea Party who think that because 12 people in their district elected them that they are entitled to have their agenda enacted unchanged, liberals supposedly understand that our system of government requires some cooperation and compromise within the caucus itself and the government at large. We don't delude ourselves into thinking they can single-handedly enact the platform they ran on once in office. (Right????) So we try to get these candidates on record, get them to commit to our agenda, try to provide them with a congress that can help them win and back them when they take progressive positions, and givem hell when they don't. That's our job as citizens and activists. At election time we try to move even more of our agenda into the platform. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I know that people get personally invested in candidates. It's human. We all do it. But it's also very important to keep in mind that this whole game is about leveraging power (and in the progressive sphere, empowering people, particularly those who have been marginalized and excluded.) We lefties don't have a lot of levers to pull -- money from small donors and primaries and that's about it when it comes to the presidency. Where we have more clout is in the congress and if we spent as much time concentrating on that as we do on the American idol presidential race we might have more luck building progressive power that could actually do some good. A strong congressional check on any president who went back on his or her word without reasonable cause would be the best way to keep them accountable.

If you'd like to support some good progressive for congress this cycle, you can do so here. Blue America is seeking them out and trying to help them all over the country. As always.


How to get more than "routine media coverage" from your state's mass shooting 

by Spocko

This last year you might have been in community that has gone through a life changing experience--a mass shooting. Hopefully for you and most of your local media, it's a once in a lifetime experience.

Your local media covered the story and you expected action to be taken by "The Powers That Be" so this doesn't happen again.

Then you watched in stunned confusion as the national media, who have seen these tragedies many times before, marked it as routine. National politicians called it routine. Your story is just part of a larger trend.

Of course you believe your story deserves more than "routine media coverage." How can the media be numb to your story? Aren't they human beings? Don't they feel the need to do something different this time ? Isn't that their job? No. It's yours.

There's a problem - But it's not the media's problem
The media are stuck in a format they are afraid to break. Because breaking it gets them in trouble. So they lament the problem, but let the public know they can't do anything about it. That's what Bill Goodykoontz of the The Arizona Republic did in his column for USA Today. "Shooting coverage is routine, and that's the story.

Something has to give. We can’t give up on outrage and heartbreak. Not as media, and not as a society. A story like today’s still has to shock us. It still has to move us.

Russell Frank of Newsweek, reviewed how other media outlets covered the story with Numbing Routine of Responding to Mass Killings"
The coverage has begun to seem generated, as if one could simply key in the facts of a specific case and a software application could spit out the stories without human agency. Far from helping matters, the stories reinforce the sense that we are stuck in a cycle from which there is no escape.
Frank's comment about agency was telling. He pointed at others to do something differently, but he didn't, it would get him in trouble.

Others analyzed it, like James Warren did for The Poynter Institute in his piece Mass murder and the media routine. He quoted Danny Hayes, a George Washington University political scientist who's studied the media and mass shootings.
"There will be calls for gun control, just as there were after the August on-air killing of two journalists in Virginia. And the media will focus on the issue for a few days. But unless political leaders, perhaps spurred by gun control advocates, decide to make a concerted push for policy change, the issue will probably fade from view pretty quickly. It almost always does."   
What can be done? 
In September I wrote a piece about changing how the media cover shootings following the WDBJ shootings. Following that I started talking to my friends at States United to Prevent Gun Violence, Media Matters and The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. I also spoke to friends in the print and TV media. I started writing a few more pieces on steps to take to change the media coverage.
My goal was to help activists in each state better prepare for the next shooting the media deemed newsworthy. Then the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon happened.

Lately I've been talking to my friends at Ceasefire OregonNebraskans against Gun ViolenceArizonians for Gun Safety and Newtown Action Alliance.  I've adopted a 50 state strategy because your state could be next.

Read the rest here at Spocko's Brain

About that war crime ... Who's taking orders from who in the Afghan war?

by Gaius Publius

Click to sign.

There's new reporting on the U.S. bombing of the Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. As you may know, Doctors Without Borders wants the incident, in which 22 people were killed, including patients who burned to death in their beds, investigated as a war crime. (You'll see their reasons lower in this piece.)

Now, thanks to excellent reporting by Ryan Grim at Huffington Post, we have more information. The bombing was apparently done at the request of the Afghan military, who had also attacked the hospital with Special Forces less than three months before the U.S. bombing. 

The implications of the bombing are horrific. The implications of this new story are worse. Let's say it is a war crime. Did we do it because the Afghans said to? Who's taking orders from whom in that war? And do U.S. commanders even care whom they're bombing, if they're blindly bombing targets chosen by others?

If so, in the game of Genius and Bully, we're just the bully. From Ryan Grim's report:
Kunduz Hospital Was Raided By Afghan Special Forces Just Three Months Before U.S. Bombing

The raid hints at a motive for the strike.

Afghan special forces raided the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz less than three months before a U.S. bombing killed 22 staff members and patients.

The raid took place on the afternoon of July 1, according to a statement from the hospital at the time. U.S. authorities have since said that Afghan forces called in Saturday's bombing, which lasted for more than an hour, and that the U.S. was unaware it was striking a hospital.

The previous raid suggests that Afghan authorities were aware the facility was a hospital and had a hostile relationship with its staff prior to calling in the U.S. bombing.

According to a statement posted online in July, "heavily armed men from Afghan Special Forces entered the [Médecins Sans Frontières] hospital compound, cordoned off the facility and began shooting in the air."

"The armed men physically assaulted three MSF staff members and entered the hospital with weapons," the statement continued. "They then proceeded to arrest three patients. Hospital staff tried their best to ensure continued medical care for the three patients, and in the process, one MSF staff member was threatened at gunpoint by two armed men. After approximately one hour, the armed men released the three patients and left the hospital compound."

While the motive of the raid is unclear, Afghan forces have long protested the practice of providing medical treatment to insurgents. But international law says that as soon as a fighter is in need of treatment, he is no longer a combatant. [...]
Note this: "U.S. authorities have since said that Afghan forces called in Saturday's bombing..." Do Afghan forces direct American bombing? Again, the implications of just that sentence are pretty bad.

Is This a War Crime?

We've come a long way since World War II, when Nazi atrocities were prosecuted as war crimes, while incidents like the fire-bombing of Dresden and Tokyo, not to mention the destruction of Hiroshima, were not even brought up. Now we have ways to sometimes bring even the powerful to justice. The request of Doctors Without Borders? An independent international investigation.

Here's a DWB statement (one of several) on the incident that plainly says there's prima facie evidence of a war crime (my emphasis):
MSF is disgusted by the recent statements coming from some Afghanistan government authorities justifying the attack on its hospital in Kunduz. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present.

This amounts to an admission of a war crime. This utterly contradicts the initial attempts of the US government to minimize the attack as 'collateral damage.'

There can be no justification for this abhorrent attack on our hospital that resulted in the deaths of MSF staff as they worked and patients as they lay in their beds. MSF reiterates its demand for a full transparent and independent international investigation."
And now from a CREDO petition also calling for an investigation (emphasis and footnotes in the original):
Sign the petition: Justice for Doctors Without Borders

In the middle of the night on Saturday, a U.S. military plane "repeatedly and very precisely" bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital filled with doctors, nurses and wounded patients in Kunduz, Afghanistan.1

The airstrike killed twelve Doctors Without Borders staff members and ten patients, including three children, and injured scores more. Some patients literally burned alive in their hospital beds.2

So far, the Pentagon has only released incomplete and contradictory accounts of what happened and why.

On Sunday, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) stated that: "Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body. Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient."3

The world needs to know how and why this grave violation of International Humanitarian Law was committed.4 Those responsible for what we presume to be an atrocious war crime must then face justice. Please join Doctors Without Borders in calling for an immediate and independent international investigation.

Tell President Obama and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter: We join Doctors Without Borders and demand an investigation by an independent international body into the U.S. airstrike on the Kunduz hospital.

The Pentagon initially claimed that the hospital was hit by accident after U.S. troops nearby came under fire and called in the airstrike, then later changed its story and said that no U.S. troops were in the area and that Afghan troops called in the strike.5

But the Pentagon's story simply doesn't add up. According to Doctors Without Borders: "Not a single member of our staff reported any fighting inside the MSF hospital compound prior to the U.S. airstrike on Saturday morning... We reiterate that the main hospital building, where medical personnel were caring for patients, was repeatedly and very precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched."6

Further, "The bombing took place despite the fact that MSF had provided the GPS coordinates of the trauma hospital to Coalition and Afghan military and civilian officials as recently as Tuesday, September 29, [five days before the airstrike] to avoid that the hospital be hit."7

Shockingly, the bombing continued for more than half an hour after Doctors Without Borders staff began making frantic calls to U.S. and Afghan military officials.

The Pentagon's claim that the hospital was bombed by accident is also contradicted by statements by Afghan officials, who have tried to justify the attack by claiming that the hospital was used by the Taliban for military purposes. [...]
You can sign the petition here. If our military is innocent, what do they have to fear, right?

And if you consider that, after 15 years of war in Afghanistan, it's time to get out, you might give these folks a little of your time and attention as well.

(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)



Thinking of you, Bob Inglis

by Tom Sullivan

The Village media are only slowly, maybe, opening their eyes to the fact that the T-party shock troops in the House really are off their nuts. ("Sie haben nicht alle tassen im Schrank," as German friends used to say. They don't have all their cups in the cupboard.) Frank Bruni describes them this way:

Those bomb throwers are mirrors of the voters who are saying no to Jeb Bush, no to Chris Christie, no to John Kasich, no to anyone who was once or could soon be the darling of the northeastern Acela corridor.

That's describing GOP electeds and their constituents politely.

Digby already posted the transcript and video of Republican congressmen Charlie Dent and David Brat going at each other yesterday on Meet the Press. What was astounding was watching conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt dress down both of them:


A pox on both your wings. I am very and desperately hoping that Paul Ryan is praying about it and accepts this and here's my question. Yesterday a Russian jet was set down in Turkey. Yesterday almost 100 people were killed in Ankara, Turkey. The world is on fire. How dare you, with the American people waiting for leadership, paralyze the House? Charlie, you have to stop going on CNN and blasting David. And David, there are like 15 of you people. The Freedom Caucus is, like, 15 people. Paul Ryan's is like by 225 Republicans. Get with the program, guys.

What Hewitt means is, can't we all just drop some bombs? Real ones, not rhetorical? And the Götterdämmerung Caucus is a few more than 15.

The GOP insanity is bad news for Hillary Clinton, of course, but nothing Villagers have any journalistic reason not to have noticed before now. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum four years ago were just the warm-up acts, Bruni notes. Plus South Carolina's Trey Gowdy who defeated not-conservative-enough Bob Inglis in a June 2010 primary. Back home, the T-party called him "Bailout Bob" for voting to prevent the collapse of the U.S. financial system.

Who were those voters who pitched Inglis for T-party Trey Gowdy? Inglis, if you recall, discussed that in a post-primary interview with Mother Jones:

During his primary campaign, Inglis repeatedly encountered enraged conservatives whom he couldn't—or wouldn't—satisfy. Shortly before the runoff primary election, Inglis met with about a dozen tea party activists at the modest ranch-style home of one of them. Here's what took place:

I sat down, and they said on the back of your Social Security card, there's a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life's earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks. I have this look like, "What the heck are you talking about?" I'm trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative. So they said, "You don't know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don't know this?!" And I said, "Please forgive me. I'm just ignorant of these things." And then of course, it turned into something about the Federal Reserve and the Bilderbergers and all that stuff. And now you have the feeling of anti-Semitism here coming in, mixing in. Wow.

To any Villager just catching on to where these people are coming from, the immortal words of John McClane: Welcome to the party, pal!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Bo is 7

by digby

All first dogs are great. Always better than any human in the White House, no matter what party. But I don't think there will ever be a better one than this:

And, by the way, no self respecting dog thinks any human is cool, as Bo proves here. To a dog we're all dorks, even the president:

Via POlitico.
Dent vs Brat

by digby

(Are those a couple of evocative names or what?)

Anyway, if you missed it this morning the Charlie Dent, a very conservative member of the House who nonetheless understands how the government is structured and David Brat the braindead giant slayer who defeated Eric Cantor in a primary appeared on Meet the Press today and almost scratched each other's eyes out:


Well, to discuss what Ted Cruz calls utter panic inside the Republican party, I'm joined by two strong voices representing two different wings of the party inside the House: Dave Brat of Virginia, he's the man who arguably fired the first shot of the conservative revolution, or the most recent one within Congress, with his primary defeat of then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor back in June of 2014.

Also with us is Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. He's a strong moderate voice within the party. And he actually represents one of the few swing districts left in Congress. President Obama carried his district in 2008, and Mitt Romney narrowly carried it in 2012. Gentlemen welcome to both of you.


Thanks Chuck.


Congressman Brat, let me start with you. You're a member of the Freedom Caucus. What is it that you want, and what is it that Speaker Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, and Eric Cantor haven't delivered?


Right. Well, they all ran on a pledge to America. And just like your 72% of the folks out there in the real world, say, "We make these promises when we run, but then when we get up here, we're called 'unrealistic' by the Washington establishment and the bubble up here." What we want is what the American people want.

We have $19 trillion in debt, $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. All federal revenues will be spent in 11 years on just entitlement programs and interest on the debt. There will be not one dollar left for the military, education, transportation, and all of running government. So the American people want us to make progress on that.

Plus, President Obama, when I came in last year in November, we had the unconstitutional amnesty. Our leadership said we were going to fight tooth and nail on that thing. It's unconstitutional. President Obama said it 20 times on TV. Then you have overreach on all sorts of Dodd-Frank on the financial side, EPA regulation, a bad Iran deal. The people say, "Hey, step up and make the case for us." And so that's what we want to do.


Well, and Charlie Dent, Congressman Dent, I've heard and I think you're one of those who have said this, your response to him, particularly in spending issues would be, "You've done what you can with a Democratic president." Is that right?


Well, that's correct. But in order to address all the policy issues David just discussed, we have to get back to functionality. We have to prove to the American people we can govern. And that means we have to make sure the government is funded. We must make sure that we're not going to default on our obligations. We have to take care of transportation issues, tactics, extenders, et cetera.

To the extent that we are dysfunctional, we can't address these major policy issues. So really the issue is this: is we need to expand the governance within the Republican party. Those who have the capacity to say yes. What we've seen in Washington are a lot of people who hope no, and then they vote yes. We saw that on the continuing resolution a few weeks ago, and we're going to see it on a number of other issues going forward.


You know, it's interesting. You were nodding, nodding, nodding, and then you went, "No, no, no." Okay. Define the nod, and define the nos.


The governing up in this place seems to always mean increased spending. That's what it means up here in D.C. That's not what governing means to the American people. Governing means getting the ship going in the right direction. So we have this budget chaos. Every year, right before Christmas, right? So we've got a CR coming up, we're going to fund it. Then we have an omni coming up second week of December.


Using a lot of Washington speak here. I just want to say, a short-term budget deal, or a long-term compromise.


Right. And so the point is, guess what? It's going to be utter chaos. The left is going to throw in all their toys they want into this thing, the right's going to throw it in. This was orchestrated on purpose, in my view. The budget committee finished its work back in April, May. Yeah, we voted the next step in the budget process, it goes to appropriations, 12 bills.

We passed five, the Senate only one. The Senate is a major problem. But we shouldn't be waving a white flag ahead of time. Charlie's kind of saying we should just give in and cave because we don't have the votes in the Senate.


That's not what I'm saying at all.


The compromise comes later when we get to the White House.


Let me push back though on two different things here from each side of your argument. With you, Congressman Brat, at the end of the day, the conservative movement's not a majority. And you don't necessarily even have a governing majority inside the House. So if you don't have that, how --when do you say, "Okay, I'm getting 50% of what I want, and it's the best I can do now, as I go to the campaign so I can go elect a Republican president."


Totally disagree with the premise. We do have a majority. Last week on the CR, we had 153 Republicans vote against leadership's budget. That's the 153. The press is the only people that talks about these 40 guys and all the press today in The Washington Post said there's chaos.

The only chaos up here is on K Street and then Democrats are freaking out because if we actually have to balance a budget, right, even Keynes, a liberal economist, knew you had to run surpluses in the good years so you could pay for the deficits in the bad years. We've had seven years in a row of $500 billion deficits. It's terrible.


Let me-- and Congressman Dent, one of, I think, Congressman Brat's and other people's complaints, and over half of the Republican Congress has been elected in the last six years. And their complaint is this: you know what, we get here, and we don't have an opportunity to actually vote on the change, vote on some of the issues that we would like. Leadership tells us what we can or can't do. We don't get that opportunity to lose, essentially. Maybe we will lose. Maybe leadership's right, but you don't give us the opportunity to do it. What do you say to him on that?


Well, I think the leadership has been frankly very accommodating to those members who don't vote for the bills at the end of the process. This happens routinely. And I think a number of us have had enough of it. David just mentioned 150 Republicans voted against the continuing resolution. I can tell you that over half the Republican caucus strongly supported the continuing resolution. Only 91 voted for it.




Why? Because again we're back to hope yes, vote no. And they'd rather let the 91 of us take the flack, they can go home and tell folks that they stayed strong. This is a bill, by the way, that just level-funded the government for two and a half months. That's all it did.


Alright, I want to do something. Go back to the future here meeting the rest of the press. I'm going to bring in my panel in here to join in the question. Eugene Robinson from The Washington Post, Hugh Hewitt, of course, who probably both of you have been on his radio show, Nathan Gonzales, who you both had an interview with before you actually won your office, and Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post. Hugh, fire away.


A pox on both your wings. I am very and desperately hoping that Paul Ryan is praying about it and accepts this and here's my question. Yesterday a Russian jet was set down in Turkey. Yesterday almost 100 people were killed in Ankara, Turkey. The world is on fire. How dare you, with the American people waiting for leadership, paralyze the House? Charlie, you have to stop going on CNN and blasting David. And David, there are like 15 of you people. The Freedom Caucus is, like, 15 people. Paul Ryan's is like by 225 Republicans. Get with the program, guys.


How do you know we're not on the program? I mean, you're doing fine.


We support Paul Ryan. If he wins the conference, no, we support his agenda.


Yeah, we have a constitution as a country, I've got five policy principles, and--


And it's not a hard question. Will you support Paul Ryan--


Well, if you let me answer it, it'd be easier. I've got give policies on my webpage and five process. If he goes with that, we're gonna give him a strong look.


You're holding the caucus hostage.


The answer is, yes, I will support Paul Ryan. But Paul Ryan is also a very smart man. The underlying governing and political dynamic of the House has not changed. Paul Ryan, if he becomes speaker, and I hope he does, what will happen is he will have to make accommodations and collaborate with the Democrats to pass a debt ceiling, to pass a budget agreement, and an omnibus appropriations bill.

If he does those things, he will have his legs taken up by some of his own members. We all know that. Now, if he chooses to go through the status quo, with the status quo, then the House will continue to be mired in this paralysis and the institution will be weaker, the speaker would be weaker. He's going to have the same problems that John Boehner had and Kevin McCarthy is about to experience.


All right, Gene Robinson fire.


Congressman Brat, your litany of complaints about the Obama years, ObamaCare, immigration, all the things that you complained about illustrate that you cannot set the national agenda from the House of Representatives. You simply cannot, that cannot be done. You have to win the White House. Are you not, with the Freedom Caucus, essentially making it less likely that there will be a Republican president elected next year? And then less likely that you'll be able to set the national agenda?


No, absolutely not. I mean, we've got pox on both of us coming from D.C. talking heads. And then--



What everybody up here is missing are the objective economic numbers. We have a guaranteed financial crisis in law coming up in 11 years. And we're missing the American people. Go poll the American people. You want to know my response? I follow the American people. i don't-- Charlie here wants us to follow, like, a caucus or whatever. He wants to kick us out of our conference for voting our conscious.


I don't want to do that.


Well, you're on record last week saying it.


Populist support for Congress is--


I never said any such thing. That's an outrageous thing to say.


-- It's Sunday morning--


That's an outrageous thing to say.


--No, it's absolutely true.


That's not true. No, that's--


You said we "need to be punished," end quotes.


No. I said we should marginalize people that don't know how to governor, who don't want to govern. I believe that members of Congress have a responsibility to govern. And that means, you know, Hugh raised the issue of the world being on fire.


Yeah, right.


Shutting down the government in the middle of this would be a terrible thing. Our men and women in uniform need us to provide--


Right, right.


--Some certainty and stability. He's right. The world is on fire. So we have to get our act together. But the point is, for those who don't want to govern, we have to establish bipartisan coalitions to pass any meaningful legislation--


There you go again.


But that's what we've had to do all year.


So you want Nancy Pelosi to help determine our speaker for the Republican conference.


No, I want Republicans to, but you won't support Paul Ryan.


Our own leadership, if I could just finish my sentence--


He just asked the question.


How do you know that? I never said that.


He just asked the question.


You're missing it, Charlie. I just said I will support if he's for the process and for the policy that the American people want. Everything I said, you want Nancy Pelosi to be in on speaking in our-- and you want to kick out conservatives out of our own conference. It's unbelievable--


You empowered Nancy Pelosi when you sided with her on the DHS appropriations bill. You sided with Nancy Pelosi on the Iran disapproval resolution.


Charlie, you're doing a discharge position and you sided with her on trade, a Republican--


--the Republican principle


Let him finish this sentence.


Not me, that was you who sided.


That's a sentence, good. Charlie, this week is doing a discharge petition with 40 Republicans to go with Nancy Pelosi to get the export/import bank back into play this week, going around the whole--


I'll tell you why.


--going against the whole committee structure of the Republican Congress--




--that we're trying to bring--


I'm going to jump in here, the final question.


We need good process.


Final question here. When do you need to hear from Paul Ryan about whether he's in or not? Does it need to happen in the next 24, 48 hours?


I don't think it has to happen in the next 24, 48 hours. This is a tough decision. Paul's a smart guy. He's got to make a hard choice. May I address the discharge petition?


Very quickly.


Very quick.


Very fast.


Some of us, the governing wing, want to use the process to advance good legislation. Others want to use the process to obstruct--




Crony capitalism.


We're going the save a lot of jobs in Pennsylvania. We sent locomotives to developing countries that don't have foreign capital market--


Free markets.


Let me pause right here. Congressman Brat?




Are you okay with Kevin McCarthy staying as majority leader?


Yeah, absolutely. We have good talks with him. He came and talked with us. The whole conference is making great progress toward these reforms we're talking about, getting back to regular order. Kevin was, "Yes, yes, yes" on that. So the talking points that we're in this war, it's overblown. Get to the facts.


All right, I am over time already. I promise.


I didn't get a turn.


Well, you're going to get a turn later in the show. These guys have to get going. Thank you both.

Congressman Dent, I really think viewers got an understanding of the differences inside your conference. I appreciate it.


Yes, thank you, thank you.

I think that speaks for itself.

And Howard Kurtz said that the liberals are over-hyping the GOP's problems in the House:

KURTZ: Kevin McCarthy's stunning decision to drop out of the election for speaker has thrown the house into an uproar. A very big story, no question about it, but some liberal commentators seem to be taking a certain glee in the GOP's troubles. […]

Are the media in general and some liberal commentators in particular, turning this into, I don't know, Armageddon?

Uh huh.

H/T to John Amato


QOTD: Matt Yglesias

by digby

He responds to that disgusting piece of work Keith Ablow and his friend Ben Carson's sick, anti-semitic implication that the Jews of Europe didn't fight the Germans and if they'd just had a couple of shotguns in the basement and a few more handguns they would have beaten the SS and Wehrmacht. O at least they would have proved to armchair tough guys like Carson and Ablow that they were worthy of respect by pretending to be Hollywood's Butch and Sundance and going out in a hail of gunfire.

Yglesias points out what anyone with a 6th grade education should know, which is that the wh9ole fucking world had trouble beating the Germans including untold numbers of Jews who died trying to do it.  (Grrrr, this is so outrageous that we even have to argue about it!)

He concludes with this:
The problem was that defeating the German military was hard. Here's a photo of some Jewish partisans being hanged in Minsk in modern-day Belarus. Minsk is about 600 miles east of Berlin but the German military was there hanging Jewish anti-Nazi fighters because they had successfully defeated the Polish military, and then defeated the Soviet military in a number of battles allowing them to occupy vast swathes of Soviet territory. Hitler also conquered France, Norway, and a number of other countries that — like Europe's Jewish population — fought back. They were simply unsuccessful. If you're interested, here are ten great stories of Jewish resistance but they tend to end up being rather sad — the German war machine was sophisticated and ruthless.
That should sober up these inane right wing freaks but it won't. They believe they would be able to hold off the US Military, a fighting force 100 times more powerful in every way than Germany in WWII. It doesn't even occur to them that by blindly supporting the American global military empire, the government they fear and loath so greatly could turn on them and there is nothing they could do about it.  Having a cute little arsenal in your garage isn't going to keep out Jade Helm, boys. Not if they really want to do it.

And the sick, depraved thing is that if this were to happen here it would be some right wing fanatic deciding to round up Muslims or Mexicans and Ben Carson and Keith Ablow would be right there helping the military do it. You know they would. In fact, Carson goes on and on about how armed Americans could "help" the military fight off a foreign invader:

“What I’m talking about is the reason we have a Second Amendment in there,” Carson explained. “In case of an invasion by foreign power, the people will be able to aid the military. And also, if we have a time when we have the wrong people in office and they want to dominate the people, the people will be able to defend themselves."

As if the American military needs a bunch of yahoos with Ar-15s running around. But it's worth thinking about exactly what he's talking about there. He's the guy who says we should use drone planes on the border, after all. And he's not sure at all that Muslims can be loyal Americans.

He's a very short-sighted person.



The only way to stop a bad guy with a dildo is a good guy with a dildo

by digby

I think this should go national:

Students at the University Of Texas at Austin are planning to protest a new law that permits the concealed carry of handguns on campus — with dildos.

The “campus carry” law passed by the Texas legislature and signed by the Governor in June, requires UT Austin and the other campuses in the UT system to allow students to carry guns on campus. It gives the schools some discretion on how to implement the law.

The protest is designed to draw attention to the fact that carrying a dildo to class could be “prohibited expression” under university rules. The rules prohibit “any writing or visual image, or engage in any public performance, that is obscene.”

“You’re carrying a gun to class? Yeah well I’m carrying a HUGE DILDO. Just about as effective at protecting us from sociopathic shooters, but much safer for recreational play,” the organizer, Jessica Jin, wrote.

That's what all this gun nonsense is really all about. Might as well make it explicit. I suppose there's probably a case or two somewhere where a dildo killed someone. But it's pretty rare.


Sunday Funnies

by digby


(Actually not so funny ...)


Biden the healer

by digby

Here's a good piece by Noam Scheiber about what happened in the 2011 budget negotiations.  I bring it up for those who buy this morning's Village meme that Joe Biden is the man who can bring the country together.  If by bringing it together you mean getting hosed in negotiations with Republicans you might be right. The budget battles of 2011 were the lowest point of the Obama presidency and are the ugliest part of his domestic legacy. And no thanks to Biden.  Indeed, if it hadn't been for the loons on the right who simply didn't know what a fantastic deal they were being offered, if he'd had his way it would have been a whole lot worse. 

It turns out Obama made a critical if underappreciated mistake in the final hours of the back and forth: sending Joe Biden to haggle with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell once McConnell's talks with his Democratic counterpart, Harry Reid, had broken down.

From my after-the-fact discussions with Democratic aides in the House and Senate leadership, it’s clear that Reid had a plan for resolving the cliff and considered the breakdown of his talks with McConnell very much a part of it. By involving Biden, Obama undercut Reid and signaled that he wanted a deal so badly he was unwilling to leave anything to chance, even when the odds overwhelmingly favored him. It suggested that even if Obama plays his cards exceedingly well in the run-up to the debt-limit showdown, he could still come away with a worse deal than he deserves because of his willingness to make concessions in the closing moments.

Here’s what happened near the end of the cliff talks, as I understand it.

Read on for the details. In recent years Reid has banned Biden from negotiations and for good reason

But it is true, the Republicans love the guy so I'm sure Villagers are thrilled:
Mr. Cantor said he hoped the president would engage Mr. Biden more, recalling when the vice president negotiated a deal with presumptive Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, to head off the so-called “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and spending cuts at the end of 2012.

“Hopefully, I think the president may see the light and say if you want to get a deal done, bring in the deal man, Joe Biden,” he said.
Yeah, let's bring in the "deal man".


Reifying the economy

by Tom Sullivan

From Europe to the Pacific rim, capitalism marches on. Right over democracy. Guess what? People don't like it. You remember people? They're the ones, as Pope Francis suggested, the economy is supposed to serve, not rule:

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Berlin on Saturday in protest against a planned free trade deal between Europe and the United States that they say is anti-democratic and will lower food safety, labor and environmental standards.

The organizers — an alliance of environmental groups, charities and opposition parties — said 250,000 people were taking part in the rally against free trade deals with both the United States and Canada, far more than they had anticipated.


Opposition to the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has risen over the past year in Germany, with critics fearing the pact will hand too much power to big multinationals at the expense of consumers and workers.

"What bothers me the most is that I don't want all our consumer laws to be softened," Oliver Zloty told Reuters. "And I don't want to have a dictatorship by any companies."

Yet that is what it appears we have. We are moving towards "authoritarian capitalism" like China and Singapore, says Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek:

That’s for me — I’m very naïve here — the importance of all these agreements, TiSA and so on. These are agreements which will determine the basic coordinates of our economic and social life, flux of capital money, flux of information for decades to come. And it’s done in secret; nobody controls it. You know, this is where we are moving. The big decisions are done in top secret. They are not even debated.

In fact, he says, "when voters really do have a choice, it’s usually perceived as a crisis of democracy." Voters are the problem. "[W]e are basically returning to pre-democratic times, in the sense of majority cannot be trusted."

Because the values of the economy have overtaken human values. "We have fallen so far into this paradigm of reifying the economy that we've said that the basis upon which we decide something is right or wrong is whether or not it grows or shrinks GDP," Anat Shenker-Osorio observed at Netroots Nation 2014 [timestamp 2:30]

Faith in unregulated markets is misplaced, writes Robert Shiller, co-author of “Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception.” Human values matter:

In fact, the real success of economies that embody free markets has much to do with the heroic efforts of campaigners for better values, both among private organizations and advocates of government regulation. For example, before 1900 most of the patent medicines that were sold to the public were fraudulent.

Most of these frauds have since been eliminated, not by market forces, but by the activities of private citizens who took action not selfishly but for the public good. Examples include Harvey Washington Wiley (1844-1930) and Alice Lakey (1857-1935), whose campaigns led to the foundation of the Food and Drug Administration in 1906, and Stuart Chase (1888-1985) and Frederick J. Schlink (1891-1995), whose advocacy in the 1920s led to the establishment of Consumer Reports in 1936.

But the reality of global capitalism today is, "Everyone is violating the rules," says Žižek:

You have certain rules, but you are never really expected to follow those rules, you know. There are rules which you are expected to violate. And, a situation that interests me even more — there are not only things which are prohibited, but you are expected silently to do it, nonetheless.

This is why the economy feels out of control — the secrecy, the cheating, the race to the bottom, the running roughshod over humans in service to mammon. As I wrote:

Post-Reagan, deregulated capitalism has long looked like something out of Mary Shelley or science-fiction films, a creature we created, but no longer control. Billionaires and their acolytes see only its benefits, but as Jeff Goldblum's Dr. Ian Malcolm says in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, "Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running, and then screaming." Where once We the People held capitalism's leash, now we wear the collar.

On the Pacific rim, citizens of Australia and New Zealand are concerned about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They don't want "a dictatorship by any companies" either.

More trade is not what really concerns people. Sovereignty and democracy are. And stability. "People are really hungry … for economic stability, more even than economic opportunity," Shenker-Osorio told One News in New Zealand.

The question is whether "the economy" will allow them to have any. That is the question that hangs in the balance.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies

Pleasant dreams: Yakuza Apocalypse ** & The Quay Brothers on 35mm ***½

By Dennis Hartley

If you were to put Van Helsing, Highlander, Forbidden Zone, Godzilla and Youth of the Beast into a blender, and then splash the puree onto a blank movie screen Jackson Pollack style, you would end up with something resembling Takeshi Miike’s Yakuza Apocalypse.

Near as I could figure, the “story” centers on a yakuza boss who is magnanimous toward, and beloved by, the “civilians” of the (Neighborhood? City?) he lords over; as for his rivals in the criminal underworld…not so much. Oh, did I mention that he’s also a vampire? As this can give one an enormous advantage over one’s enemies (being already dead tends to make you immune to assassination), he’s been the top dog for a long time.

However, this dog’s about to have his day. I mean, any vampire yakuza boss with half a brain will tell you that you’re in deep shit when a guy who dresses like a pilgrim blows into town with a mini-coffin strapped to his back and a blunderbuss in his sash, announcing himself as an emissary of the actual underworld and cryptically warning anyone who will listen that “he” is coming. And so the boss finally meets his doom (don’t ask), but not before biting his most trusted lieutenant on the neck, thereby passing on his awesome vampire powers.  The freshly anointed boss has his work cut out for him; according to a “kappa goblin” (a guy with a beak, chronic halitosis, and a turtle shell growing out of his back), his town is about to have a visitation from the “world’s toughest terrorist”, a badass dude with an agenda that is “…so chilling, you gotta laugh.”

Are you following all of this so far? Shall I go on?

Worry not; I shan’t, because from this point onward, it gets sort of hazy. There’s something about the end the world, and a magic ring, but otherwise it’s just yelling, shape-shifting and martial arts shenanigans. There’s also too many superfluous characters jamming up an already needlessly busy storyline. I’ll admit that I got a few chuckles watching the “world’s toughest terrorist” deliver roundhouse kicks in his Teletubbie suit (that can’t be easy), and “Gander all you want at my kappa-ness,” may turn out to be my favorite movie line of the year. And someday, some way, I will fully understand the significance of the knitting class in the basement, with all the students in leg irons. And on that glorious day, I will know that I have finally found the path to true enlightenment.

(Currently in limited release and available on VOD).

In my 2010 review of the documentary, Marwencol, I opened with the following quote:

From whence it follows, that one thing cannot have two beginnings of existence, nor two things one beginning; it being impossible for two things of the same kind to be or exist in the same instant, in the very same place; or one or the same thing in different places.

-John Locke, from An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

I’ve often wondered if twins were the possible exception to Locke’s rule. I’m sure we’ve all known twins (you might be one, for all I know). Likewise, we’ve observed those quirks unique to twins (like finishing each other’s sentences). But what about their minds, their consciousness? That’s when it gets into a weird area; which may offer some explanation for the weird and unique micro-universe that identical twins Stephen and Timothy Quay have been able to create through their stop-motion animation short films.

Three of their films have been curated by director Christopher Nolan as part of a special touring package that includes the world premiere of Nolan’s own short, Quay. Unfortunately, a preview copy of Nolan’s film was not available for review, but I am familiar with the three Quay Brothers selections (In Absentia, The Comb, and Street of Crocodiles), which have now been bundled and retitled as The Quay Brothers on 35mm.

It’s difficult to describe the Quay Brothers to the uninitiated. As I mentioned earlier, what they have created is literally their own micro-cosmos; their “sets” are meticulously detailed miniature constructs, and they use found objects, common household items (and occasional cameos from human actors) for perspective. This attention to micro detail gives them something in common with the subject of the documentary I referred to earlier, which profiles photo-artist Mark Hogancamp, who found a unique way to deal with the physical and mental trauma he suffered from a near-fatal beating. As I wrote:

Now, the Mark Hogancamp, that is to say, the corporeal being we perceive as “Mark Hogancamp” may exist and “live” in Kingston, N.Y., but as far as Mark himself is concerned, he actually lives in “Marwencol”. And Marwencol actually does “exist”. That being said, you’re not going to find Marwencol on Google Earth, because the entire town is located within the confines of Mark’s back yard. It’s a stunningly realistic 1/6 scale WW 2-era town, populated by G.I. Joes and Barbies, constructed over a period of years. This is not a hobby; it is on-going therapy (a luxury that he could not afford). Every doll has a back story; many are alter-egos of his friends and neighbors (including himself).

Is this a thing? Did the Quay Brothers experience a childhood trauma? I wonder if it’s therapy for them (once you’ve seen their work, you may beg them to get therapy). At any rate, do not expect traditional narrative. Their films can be unsettling…but not for the reasons you might assume. There’s no inherent violence, nor are they trying to “scare” you. Their films are more like pieces of dreams, or perhaps a screen capture of that elusive nanosecond of Jungian twilight that exists between nodding off and disconcertingly jerking awake a moment later. Catch them on the big screen if you can.

(Currently playing in Seattle and Detroit; info on upcoming playdates can be found here)

New! More reviews at Den of Cinema

--Dennis Hartley


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