Saturday, July 03, 2010

Yup, Marge, That Michael Steele Feller Shore Looks Like Roadkill

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

I'm almost as interested in the reaction of the Republican observers in the phone video that showed Michael Steele making those bizarre comments about the war in Afghanistan:
Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama's choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.

Well, if [Obama is] such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that's the one thing you don't do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that.
It's not clear if anyone in the audience is really aware that the Republican National Chairman's career is going up in flames before their very eyes. Indeed, those who are not too busy chatting and ignoring Steele seem to enthusiastically agree with him. At least the baldheaded guy seems aware that what Steele is saying is just weird.

I agree with Greg Sargent's take:
Let me have a stab at guessing what happened here. I say Steele initially meant to say that the Afghan war wasn't a war of our choosing because we were attacked on September 11th, forcing us to invade. But that came out all wrong because he garbled it by mixing it with an attack on Obama.

Next, Steele tried to attack Obama by pointing out that during the campaign he insulated himself against charges that he's a dove by calling for a ramp up in Afghanistan. Fair enough. But then he compounded the mess by slipping into a kind of auto-pilot mode where he just started criticizing the Afghan war as a disaster and unwinnable because it's now Obama's war. Result: Steele said that Obama chose this war, that we shouldn't be there, and we now can't win.
Worst of all, for Steele, is that he trod all over the GOP's favorite narrative, which is that Obama hasn't done enough in Afghanistan (and, subsidiarially, that Democrats have always been weak on the war in Afghanistan, blah blah blah). So immediately the loudest voices selling that pitch were quick to denounce him. Indeed, Bloody Bill Kristol called for his resignation.

On Fox News, you could watch the negative reviews roll in:
Karl Rove: "Well, that was a boneheaded comment by the chairman of the Republican National Committee."

Stephen Hayes: "It is an absurd comment, it is something I think certainly should cause him to resign."

Charles Krauthammer: "I think he has to go. This is a capital offense."
Well, his tenure has been nothing if not entertaining. Indeed, Michael Steele was the Democrats' best hope in 2010. We'll be sorry to see him go.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Karl Rove Says Lots Of Tea Partiers Tell Him They Miss President Bush. You Betcha

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Laura Ingraham, filling in for Bill O'Reilly last night, invited Karl Rove on to come and whine about how mean President Obama is for ripping into the deficit-spending policies of President Bush. He even calls Obama a "teenager" and "juvenile" for, um, pointing out the truth that Karl Rove hates to hear.

But then Ingraham pointed out that Bush was not particularly beloved of the new conservative-movement darlings, the Tea Partiers:
Ingraham: You speak to a lot of the Tea Party folks. I mean, you go all across the country promoting your book. You know, though, that the Tea Party people will say, 'Look, you know, we love President Bush, he's a patriot, he's a great man, but these guys were deficit spending, these guys were soft on the border, they weren't listening to us.' And they're running against candidates like Bennett in Utah, who got his marching orders, and others across the United States, who are the Establishment candidates, who supported a lot of what President Bush did, Karl. And how do you respond to that charge?

Rove: Well, first of all, look, I've just come through a 111-city book tour and I ran into a lot of Tea Party people. I didn't get that animus toward President Bush that you got. In fact, I got a lot of people who said 'We miss him terribly, we wish he were back in office.'
Apparently Rove has managed to miss all those episodes of the Glenn Beck program where he definitively labeled George W. Bush a "progressive Republican" -- and therefore part of the "cancer" that's destroying America -- as he did, for instance, in this bit:

Ever notice that Rove never shows up on the Beck program?

But Rove is no doubt right. There certainly ARE a lot of Tea Partiers who looooved them some deficit spending when it was a Republican president doing it while cutting taxes for the wealthy. And they really don't want to have to admit that they were wrong. They just want to have something to bitch at Obama about, because that's who they ALL have an animus toward.

Rove is really just admitting what we already know: The Tea Party is really just the Sore Loserman Party.

Al Sharpton Is Right: Beck's Followers Are The Antithesis Of What Martin Luther King Was About

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

We've been saying for awhile that for a guy like Glenn Beck to try to claim the mantle of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement for conservatives -- as he is clearly attempting to do with his August "Restoring Honor" rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial -- is nothing short of a travesty -- especially when you consider that he otherwise spends his time promoting the work of a Bircherite Mormon who was otherwise well known for smearing King as a Communist (a practice Beck himself is notably fond of applying to other black liberals like Van Jones) and attacking "progressives" as a "cancer", even though King himself not only was a self-described progressive, but even made speeches proclaiming Beck's great shibboleth, "Social Justice."

Last night, Al Sharpton went on the air with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC's Countdown and made clear that Civil Rights leaders are indeed deeply offended by Beck's desecration:
OLBERMANN: Read that phrase again: “we will reclaim the civil rights moment. We will take that movement, because we were the people that did it in the first place.” To your knowledge, who‘s this we he‘s talking about?

SHARPTON: I have no idea. From my study of history, those that claim to be the Tea Partiers and the followers and supporters of Mr. Beck and Mrs. Palin were the ones that today advocate the things that that march was against.

First of all, that march was to appeal to government to intervene and protect the rights of people. They are against big government. I mean, you don't have to get to race. Their idea of government and the idea that Dr. King and Roy Wilkins of—and others espoused is the exact opposite of what they're calling for. Dr. King met with Caesar Chavez and talked about how we protect people, no matter who they are, that come into the borders, and have a sound policy. They're the ones that are rallying against that. So I think that they are absolutely, unequivocally—I don't even have to get to the race side of this. They are against the concept of what the march was about in '63. And for them to now talk about we're going to reclaim or we're going to take back a movement, that they are the philosophical children of the Barry Goldwaters, who opposed it—I think it would be laughable if it wasn't so arrogant.

OLBERMANN: Yeah. What do you think—is there an attempt in here to desecrate Dr. King's memory and what everybody stood for then? Or is this just a publicity stunt by some sort of a megalomaniac?

SHARPTON: Well, whether it's an attempt to do the desecration or whether it's a publicity stunt, it can desecrate. The fact of the matter is the march was 47 years ago. So people that are middle-aged and younger would not understand what it was about if we did not do our rally that we do every year. And Urban League, Marc Morial and others that have inherited those organizations, as I came out as a kid in the aftermath of Dr. King's death from his movement—that's not what the movement is about.

The movement is about what they talked about them. Martin Luther King talked about America giving blacks and poor people a bad check. These people are the ones that don‘t want to even give you an unemployment check today. He talked about us having a judicial system that was fair. These are the people that defend brutality.

So I think that it will be a classic case of they're trying to hijack something. But there will be some of us in Washington, at another location. We're not going to confront them. We're going to do what we always do, affirm the dream to try to complete it, because we're not there yet.
Sharpton says the way to counter Beck's rally is for thousands to turn out for his "Reclaiming Rally" in New York the same weekend. And he said he's not alone in being offended:
SHARPTON: It's going—certainly it's energized by this distortion. I've talked to Martin Luther King III. He's coming and others. A lot of us are offended by it. But we're not going to play into that. We're going to put a clean glass next to whatever they do, wherever they do it.

OLBERMANN: It's a fascinating point that you can subtract the entire element of race out of this, and they've still gotten it wrong, from what Martin Luther King said in 1963.

SHARPTON: And if we had another hour, I could bring the race part up. If you just use government and what Martin Luther King said—read the whole speech. It is the exact antithesis of what they represent and what they‘re saying in the Tea Party.
Glenn Beck, of course, has no shame. It's about time someone called him out for his bizarre and hypocritical hijacking of Martin Luther King's legacy.

There's A Reason The ACLU Issued A Travel Warning For Arizona: Non-resident Citizens Could Face Arrest There

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

The ACLU raised all kinds of hackles the other day from defenders of Arizona's police-state immigration law, SB1070, when it issued a travel warning giving all out-of-state Latinos a heads up about the potential problems they face if they travel there:
The nation's top civil liberties group on Wednesday issued travel alerts for Arizona, saying the state's new law cracking down on illegal immigrants could lead to racial profiling and warrantless arrests.

American Civil Liberties Union affiliates in Arizona, New Mexico and 26 other states put out the warnings in advance of the Fourth of July weekend. The Arizona chapter has received reports that law enforcement officers are already targeting some people even though the law doesn't take effect until July 29, its executive director said.

The alerts are designed to teach people about their rights if police stop and question them.

The Arizona law requires police, while enforcing other laws, to question a person's immigration status if officers have a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally. It also makes it a state crime for legal immigrants to not carry their immigration documents and bans day laborers and people who seek their services from blocking traffic on streets.

Attorneys defending the law against constitutional challenges filed by the ACLU and others argue that the Legislature amended it to strengthen restrictions against using race as the basis for questioning by police. Five lawsuits are pending in federal court, and the U.S. Justice Department is believed to be preparing a legal challenge.

Despite the legislative action, the ACLU still believes that officers will inappropriately target minorities.

"We have a long history of racial profiling in this state, and this is basically going to really exacerbate that problem," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona.
The story has since been a hot topic at Fox News, where they've been searching up anybody who will say unkind things about the ACLU. Stuart Varney, filling in for Neil Cavuto on Your World on Fox yesterday, decided to ask Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona's 1st District about the advisory. And though Kirkpatrick opposes SB1070, she thinks the travel advisory is a "bad idea" -- just like the various boycotts of the state that erupted after the law was passed.

But Kirkpatrick doesn't explain why it's a bad idea, except to suggest that it will hurt innocent Arizonans (her same rationale for opposing the boycotts). What both she and Varney -- and for that matter, the Associated Press story -- neglected to explain to their audiences was that, if and when SB1070 is enacted, Latino American citizens who travel to Arizona will need to produce more than just their drivers licenses to prove their citizenship.

Radio host Mark Levine made this point clearly and succinctly to Laura Ingraham the other night when she was filling in on The O'Reilly Factor:

Levine: Certainly, a month from now, if this law goes into effect, all kinds of Latino American citizens may be in danger and I think what they're doing is they're telling people --

Ingraham: In danger?

Levine: Absolutely. Look, Laura, do you have --

Ingraham: How are they in danger? If they're legally in the United States, how are they in danger?

Levine: I'll explain. SB1070, the Arizona law, says if you're not carrying an Arizona drivers license, you can be stopped, and you can be arrested.

Ingraham: No profiling.

Levine: Let's say you're from New Mexico, or Utah, or Nevada, or any of the other fifteen states that don't require you to be a citizen in order to have a drivers license. I don't have an Arizona drivers license! Luckily for me, I don't look Latino, but if I go to Arizona without a drivers license, they can stop me.
You'll notice that Ingraham has no reply except to say that the law is popular anyway. (Yeah, we noticed that. So what?)

We explored this point in some depth previously:
Here's what the text of SB 1070 says:




But as Stephen Lemon points out, this language is actually pretty startling: You will be presumed to be an illegal alien in Arizona unless you can produce one of these four kinds of ID.

Now, I haven't been able to find anything in Arizona code requiring citizens to carry one of these forms of ID with them at all times. But SB1070 certainly does create that requirement. As Lemons says:
If during any police investigation, a cop has "reasonable suspicion" to think you're in the country illegally, he or she can presume you're an undocumented alien unless you provide one of several forms of ID.

... Subsequently, even U.S. citizens could be held until someone from Immigration and Customs Enforcement is called to sort them out.
Keep in mind that a cop can stop someone and begin the process during the "enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state." That's so broad as to include weed abatement and barking dogs.
But this also raises a huge question: What if you're from another state? What if you're only carrying an out-of-state driver's license?

Many states refuse to require proof of citizenship when issuing driver's licenses: they wisely understand that it's more important to have people driving their roads with licenses and documentation than not, and requiring citizenship papers is a good way to discourage it.

So if someone -- say, a fourth-generation Latino citizen with an accent -- traveling through Arizona with a California or a Washington driver's license has the misfortune to be pulled over in a traffic stop -- or maybe just one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's roadblocks -- and has the similar misfortune to arouse an officer's "reasonable suspicion" (say, he has a heavy accent or looks nervous), he could be hauled in and arrested under SB 1070, until someone back home can fax the birth certificate.
Levine somewhat misstates his case at the end: He can't be pulled over for looking Latino. But if he gets pulled over for a traffic infraction and all he has to show the officer is his California driver's license, he will be presumed to be an illegal alien and subject to arrest.

Pretty nasty state of affairs Arizona is cooking up in the desert.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Right's Up-is-down Revisionism: Mark Levin Tries To Claim The 'Klan's Agenda' And The 'Radical Left's' Are 'Pretty Similar'

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Methinks Levin has been reading Jonah Goldberg. How else can you explain his attempt the other day to claim that "liberal historians" have it all wrong, and that the Ku Klux Klan was never a right-wing organization.

Levin: You see, the left tries to write the history for this nation. And the left does that because it wants to encourage people, incentivize people, to move left. To support some kind of a statist agenda. Not the Klan's agenda, but the radical left's agenda -- which, in the end, are pretty similar, frankly. In the end it's all one big circle that meets at a point. Tyranny is tyranny, however it's dressed up. You have tyrants who wear suit and ties, and you have tyrants who wear goofy white uniforms.
Well, as we explained to Jonah, the 1920s Klan was the very epitome of right-wing politics in America, and it has remained so ever since:
The Klan was about much more than mere racism, which was more an expression of its larger mission -- enforcing, through violence, threats, and intimidation, "traditional values" and what it called "100 percent Americanism." It was essentially populist, certainly, but there was no mistaking it for anything "progressive." The latter, in fact, was its sworn enemy.

... And it is not as if the Klan has gone away since. In the ensuing years, it has remained the implacable enemy not merely of civil rights for blacks, but for any minority, including gays and lesbians. Its activities have remained associated with violence of various kinds, including a broad gamut of hate crimes committed against every kind of non-white, or non-Christian, or for that matter non-conservative.

In the recent past, it has revived its nativist roots by becoming vociferously active in the immigration debate, openly sponsoring anti-immigrant rallies at which the Klan robes have come out ...
Indeed, you can look around the Web at various Klan websites, if you care to give them the traffic, and see that this is still the case. For example at Thom Robb's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan site, a page is dedicated to their agenda.

Here it is. See if this looks like a "radical left" agenda to you:
The recognition that America was founded as a Christian nation.

The recognition that America was founded as a White nation.
["America was born as an extension of White European heritage. Those who formed the very ideals that we cherish such as freedom of speech, trial by jury, innocent until proven guilty, free enterprise, etc. were of White European heritage. All of the early laws of the United States from its very inception restricted citizenship to White people and all of the early charters, laws, compacts, etc were signed into effect by White people."]
Repeal the NAFTA and GATT treaties.

Put America FIRST in all foreign matters

Stop all Foreign Aid Immediately

Abolish ALL discriminatory affirmative action programs

Put American troops on our border to STOP the flood of illegal aliens

Abolish all anti-gun laws and encourage every adult to own a weapon

Actively promote love and appreciation of our unique European (White) culture

Outlaw the purchase of American property and industry by foreign corporations and investors.

Drug testing for welfare recipients

Repeal the Federal Reserve Act.

Balance the budget

Rehabilitate our public school system.

A flat income tax should be introduced to allow for the funding of community, state and federal projects.

Abortion should be outlawed except to save the mother's life or in case of rape or incest.

We support the death penalty for those convicted of molestation and rape

We support a national law against the practice of homosexuality
["This is a Christian nation and the Bible condemns homosexual activity and the perversion of our society which it encourages."]
We support the placing of all persons HIV positive into national hospitals

Restoring individual freedom to Christian America.

We support the voluntary repatriation of everyone not satisfied with living under White Christian rules of conduct back to the native lands of their people

Everyone who can work should work

We support a return to parental authority without government interference in the raising of our children

We respect the right of homeowners and that no one should ever be forced from their home for the non payment of taxes

We support state sovereignty resolutions

We advocate a strong defense department to safeguard American citizens

We support all U.S. veterans
Hmmmm. That sure sounds like a radical right-wing agenda to me. In fact, does anyone want to wager that Mark Levin has promoted more than a few of these same agenda items?

Sometimes, those tyrants in suits and ties are right-wing Republicans, too -- guys who wrap themselves in flags and pretend to be defenders of liberty and freedom. That's what the KKK was good at, too.

Karl Rove Claims Obama's Motives On Immigration Reform Are Pure Machiavelli: He Just Wants To 'Jazz Up Latinos' To Vote For Him

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

I just love it when Karl Rove goes all Projectionist on us and starts whining that the Obama White House is being tooooooo political. Anticipating today's planned speech on immigration reform from President Obama, Karl Rove went on Greta Van Susteren's show last night and warned that this was all Machiavellian theater:
Rove: Now, I gotta tell you, this is cynical, and it is hypocritical, and it's political with an issue that oughtn't to be treated sincerely, honestly, and outside of politics as much as possible.

I don't think the president's really interested in passing comprehensive immigration reform this year. He just wants a political issue to jazz up Latinos, and to get them to vote, maybe not for Democrats this fall, but for him in 2012.
Rove does this a lot.

It's what a poker player calls a tell: Whenever you hear that little high hitch in Rove's voice, it means he's scared.

He knows all too well that the Republicans' bellicose Latino bashing, embodied in Arizona's SB1070 and the right's ongoing adamant defense of it, will cost Republicans Latino voters for many years to come -- and considering demographic trends, that spells disaster for the GOP. Newt Gingrich knows this too, and has tried to use similar wedge rhetoric to cast Obama's motives as purely cynical.

It's true that Obama has been more timid than he need be on the issue, and his pandering to the nativists with National Guardsmen has been a source of real dismay.

On the other hand, he campaigned openly on immigration reform, and brought it up frequently during the 2008 election. He's also continually promised to move it forward, though as Rove suggests, his commitment has tended to flicker in the wind.

Still, it took Republicans in Arizona to finally prove, once and for all, that comprehensive reform can't wait. Because if it continues to sit on the back burner, the Republican nativists are going to be busy enacting their agenda in the vacuum.

It'll kill them in the long run -- maybe even in the short run too -- but they can't help themselves. It's just in their natures. Like projecting his own ugly predilections onto everyone else is in Karl Rove's.

President Obama's Immigration Speech: Long On Good Thoughts, Short On A Plan To Make It Happen

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

President Obama's speech this morning on comprehensive immigration reform was a good start to getting the ball rolling with this effort. (The transcript is here.) But that's all it was. And like a lot of Obama speeches, it was strong on philosophical substance -- though typically, it equivocated in trying to split the middle between the "poles" of the debate -- and pretty short on practical details for getting it done. He didn't even forecast a deadline for legislation.

The heart of the speech was this part:
Our task then is to make our national laws actually work -– to shape a system that reflects our values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And that means being honest about the problem, and getting past the false debates that divide the country rather than bring it together.

For example, there are those in the immigrants’ rights community who have argued passionately that we should simply provide those who are [here] illegally with legal status, or at least ignore the laws on the books and put an end to deportation until we have better laws. And often this argument is framed in moral terms: Why should we punish people who are just trying to earn a living?

I recognize the sense of compassion that drives this argument, but I believe such an indiscriminate approach would be both unwise and unfair. It would suggest to those thinking about coming here illegally that there will be no repercussions for such a decision. And this could lead to a surge in more illegal immigration. And it would also ignore the millions of people around the world who are waiting in line to come here legally.

Ultimately, our nation, like all nations, has the right and obligation to control its borders and set laws for residency and citizenship. And no matter how decent they are, no matter their reasons, the 11 million who broke these laws should be held accountable.

Now, if the majority of Americans are skeptical of a blanket amnesty, they are also skeptical that it is possible to round up and deport 11 million people. They know it’s not possible. Such an effort would be logistically impossible and wildly expensive.

Moreover, it would tear at the very fabric of this nation -– because immigrants who are here illegally are now intricately woven into that fabric. Many have children who are American citizens. Some are children themselves, brought here by their parents at a very young age, growing up as American kids, only to discover their illegal status when they apply for college or a job. Migrant workers -– mostly here illegally -– have been the labor force of our farmers and agricultural producers for generations. So even if it was possible, a program of mass deportations would disrupt our economy and communities in ways that most Americans would find intolerable.

Now, once we get past the two poles of this debate, it becomes possible to shape a practical, common-sense approach that reflects our heritage and our values. Such an approach demands accountability from everybody -– from government, from businesses and from individuals.
Then, as you can see in the video above, Obama lays out his strategy for getting this done: Republicans have to come on board. Well, in the year of the Tea Parties, we wish him lots of luck on that. This is just a recipe for endless compromises in legislation the name of bringing aboard a Republican who in the end turns around and screws them when the time to vote arrives. We saw this in the health-care debate, in financial reform, and a dozen other legislative initiatives. It doesn't work with these guys.

Frank Sharry of America's Voice has some thoughts about all this:

Be sure and read Sharry's more detailed thoughts at HuffPo. He's one of our best thinkers on immigration, and the president would do well to hew more closely to Sharry's advice on this than Rahm's, ifyaknowaddimean.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Glenn Beck's 'Marxism Alarm' Goes Off Again. Kind Of Like The Car That Goes Off When You Walk By It.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Glenn Beck had another one of those moments yesterday on his Fox News show, talking about the G20 Summit in Toronto:
BECK: Anyway, President Obama was there, and, um, he said something that kind of tripped my Marxism alarms. Here he is.
Mind you, Beck's "Marxism alarm" goes off all the time, with increasing shrillness and volume. It's kind of like the guy who sets his car alarm to such a sensitivity that it shrieks and squonks if you so much as walk within twenty feet of it.

Especially when you see what set it off this time:
Obama: A strong and durable recovery also requires countries not having an undue advantage. I think we all have the same interest -- and that is, the United States can compete with anybody -- as long as we've got an even playing field.
Somehow, to Beck, this sounded vaguely Marxist. But in fact, what Obama was saying was classic American capitalism. Because he was talking about the disadvantage at which currency restrictions force us to play:
"A strong and durable recovery also requires countries not having an undue advantage. So we also discussed the need for currencies that are market-driven," Obama said. "As I told President Hu yesterday, the United States welcomes China's decision to allow its currency to appreciate in response to market forces."
In fact, American presidents have advocated a "level playing field" within the world's markets for decades. Bush pushed it. So did Ronald Reagan.

What, does Beck think the USA should compete at a disadvantage? Or does this mean he thinks that free-market capitalism operates on an uneven playing field, and that capitalism and fair competition cannot coexist?

Because that, you know, is actually a classic Marxist position.

Sharron Angle Emerges From Media Shell, Tells Interviewer There's No Church-State Separation, Sees No Exceptions On Abortion

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Boy, the Tea Partiers sure threw Harry Reid a gift by making Sharron Angle the GOP nominee in his Senate race this fall. Indeed, though Angle has been mostly sequestered since winning the nomination, she's proving to be one of those gifts that keeps on giving.

She finally emerged from her Cave of Media Silence and went on TV in Vegas, interviewed by Jon Ralston in his excellent "Face to Face" program. And it wasn't pretty:
Only once did she flatly admit her pre-primary language was too strong, when asked to explain her comments that the citizenry will resort to “Second Amendment remedies” — referring to the right to bear arms — if conservatives didn’t win this election.

“I admit it was a little strong to say,” she said. “That’s why I changed my rhetoric to ‘defeat Harry Reid.’ ”

... She said the separation of church and state is a doctrine meant to “protect the church” and that elected officials should “bring our values to the political system.” She sidestepped her comments from the 1990s that the separation of church and state is an “unconstitutional doctrine.”
Actually, what she said was this:
Ralston: The separation of church and state arises out of the Constitution.

Angle: No, it doesn't, John.

Ralston: Oh it doesn't? Oh, the Founding Fathers didn't believe in the separation of church and state, the Establishment Clause, the First Amendment?

Angle: Actually, Thomas Jefferson has been misquoted, like I've been misquoted out of context. Thomas Jefferson was actually addressing a church and telling them through his address that there had been a wall of separation put up between the church and the state precisely to protect the church.

Ralston: So there should be no separation.

Angle: To protect the church from being taken over by a state religion. And that's what they meant by that.
This is just plain weird. In the space of mere seconds, Angle shifts from denying that the Constitution enumerates the separation of church and state to describing how it works. And yes, it is intended to protect religious freedom -- which is precisely why the separation is so absolute. After all, a "state religion" is enforced precisely by people who use the power of state to enforce their religious beliefs.
Which is also what Angle does when explaining her position on abortion:
When Ralston challenged her comments to a Reno conservative talk show host that abortion should not be available even in the case of rape or incest, Angle said she values life.

“You want government to go and tell a 13-year-old child who’s been raped by her father she has to have that baby?” Ralston asked.

“I didn’t say that,” she said. “I always say that I value life.”

She went further to say she believes government should stay out of the issue of abortion, but it decided to insert its control after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

“The government decided to get involved in this, not me,” she said. “I’m just defending my position.”
To say that this is incoherent is gross understatement. Angle is a perfect example of how the Republican Right in this country has gone over the cliff: there is nothing coherent or rational about her positions, except that they are those of a typical right-wing extremist.

I'm sure wondering how all those smug conservatives like Sean Hannity and Dick Morris who were reading Harry Reid's poll numbers a few months back and boldly predicting he would be gone as Majority Leader come November are feeling these days.

They can thank their beloved Tea Party movement, if they like.

Politics Daily's Patricia Murphy Pwns Sean Hannity, Blows Up His Right-wing Talking Points

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Yesterday's media heroine has to be Patricia Murphy of Politics Daily, who yesterday on Fox managed to make Sean Hannity look like buffoon and a tool. Of course, Hannity does this to himself every day, but Murphy gave it a little extra edge.

First, she flatly knocked down Hannity's little right-wing talking point about Elena Kagan purportedly "kicked the military off campus" at Harvard (she of course did did no such thing).

But the most delicious moment was this one:
Murphy: Let's be really, really honest here. There are members of the Tea Party -- it's a tiny, tiny minority -- members of the Tea Party, and I've seen them, who compare President Obama to Hitler. I've been there and seen it, I've been on this show --

Hannity: I've not seen it.

Murphy: He's been compared to the Khmer Rouge, and to Nazism, while I've been here, this is just common cultural --

Hannity: Whom compared him to that?

Murphy: Tucker Carlson! When I was sitting right here, on this show!

Hannity: [red-faced] Did you disagree with him?

Murphy: I did disagree with him.
Of course, if you go back and look at that clip now, it's worth noting that Hannity did not.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

'Over The Cliff,' The WaPo's Centrists, And The Fallacy Of The Middle

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

John's already pointed out the recent inclusion of our book, Over the Cliff: How Obama's Election Drove the American Right Insane in a summer roundup of political books titled "Flame-throwing political books from the right and the left".

Naturally, we're grateful for the attention from the post. Books editor Stephen Levingston, who wrote the piece, was also kind enough to invite us to contribute an op-ed in support of the book, "10 fictitious Tea Party beliefs", a little while back. (Notably, Levingston also contributed one of the more notable nuggets of information we included in the book last year when examining the correlation of racist attitudes to anti-health-care activism.)

But I was frankly taken aback by the way it was all framed, notably this:
Yes, it could be a long, hot summer. But when does a swat from the left cancel out a snipe from the right? When do we reach a state of political imbecility where only the noise exists -- and all thought and reason have drained away? You judge. Here are the titles.
We're grateful that ours was the first title that followed. And the list included some other interesting contributions to the debate, including Markos Moulitsas' forthcoming American Taliban. But I was even more struck by the right-wing titles to which, apparently, we were being held up as the right-wing equivalent of the "flame-throwing" season:

THE BLUEPRINT: Obama's Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency

THE NEXT AMERICAN CIVIL WAR: The Populist Revolt Against the Liberal Elite

THE POST-AMERICAN PRESIDENCY: The Obama Administration's War on America

TO SAVE AMERICA: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine

THE MANCHURIAN PRESIDENT: Barack Obama's Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists

Excuse me, am I imagining things, or is the serious, factual, fully documented and completely transparent effort that we put into this book being equated, journalistically speaking, with a pile of conspiracist lunacy?

Maybe it's just me, but the entire right-wing list seems actually to prove the point of our title: these people are nuts, plain and simple.

They not only push beliefs that are provably untrue, they are clearly indulging in the kind of insurrectionist extremism that ultimately produces the kind of violent acts Over the Cliff details in abundance.

Instead of hand-wringing about whether both sides are just getting too extreme, it might be worth pointing out that it's actually only one side of the debate that's throwing flames and engaging in real extremism -- and the other side is being painted as extreme for simply pointing out that fact.

I don't know if this kind of false equivalency is actually Levingston's sentiments or just those of his editors, but it has become an all-too-common feature of the WaPo's approach to news: treat people who tell lies and people who tell the truth as merely opposing sides of an opinionated debate.

It's the fake culture of centrism that exists in newsrooms around the country. It's a product of a classic logical fallacy that is commonly adopted by journalists eager to escape accusations of "liberal media bias" -- namely, the argumentum ad temperantiam:
A logical fallacy which asserts that any given compromise between two positions must be correct.

An individual demonstrating the false compromise fallacy implies that the positions being considered represent extremes of a continuum of opinions, and that such extremes are always wrong, and the middle ground is always correct. This is not always the case. Sometimes only X or Y is acceptable, with no middle ground possible. Additionally, the middle ground fallacy allows any position to be invalidated, even those that have been reached by previous applications of the same method; all one must do is present yet another, radically opposed position, and the middle-ground compromise will be forced closer to that position. In politics, this is part of the basis behind Overton Window Theory.
The ultimate expression of the fallacy is the following scenario: Person A claims that 2 plus 2 equals 4. Person B claims that 2 plus 2 equals 6. Person C, being a devoted centrist, concludes that 2 plus 2 must therefore equal 5.

Of course, sometimes debates occur in genuine gray areas where the facts and conclusions are murky and complex. But sometimes -- indeed, more often than not -- the actual facts can be gathered and appropriately assessed. That's what journalists, in fact, are supposed to do.

It would be good if sometimes WaPo editors remembered that sometimes, 2 plus 2 does not really equal 5.

Monday, June 28, 2010

David Gregory Says Al Qaeda Doesn't Have To Recruit (and McCain Agrees). Oh Really?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

It's hard sometime to believe the blithering, fact-free idiocy that passes for Beltway wisdom these days. Take David Gregory interviewing everyone's favorite Sunday talk-show guest, John McCain:
MR. GREGORY: I have a question that keeps nagging me about the enemy, about the Taliban.

SEN. McCAIN: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: The United States is engaged in working with the Afghan central government to recruit Afghan soldiers. Why do we have to recruit Afghan soldiers? Who's training the Taliban? Nobody has to recruit them. They're out there fighting for, you know, what they see as a future. Which is, by the way, is a dark, terrorist, annihilist future. Nevertheless, they don't have to be recruited, and yet we're in this position where we're trying to recruit Afghan soldiers.

SEN. McCAIN: You know, that's a very good question. And it's clear that the Taliban is a very extremist and very fanatical element, and I think this is true with all insurgencies. But I think you also find that the majority of the people in Afghanistan do not want the return of the Taliban. They're afraid, though, that when the United States leaves that there will be assassination squads going around and taking care of those who cooperated with the government and the Americans. Look, Karzai is not doing the things we want him to do. I don't think there's any doubt about that in many respects. Maliki was not doing the things we wanted...


SEN. McCAIN: to do. He was perceived as very weak. The level of sectarian violence in Iraq makes what's going on in Afghanistan pale in comparison, and I'm not saying it's not going to be long and hard and tough, and I'm not saying that it's going to be easy. And I--but I am convinced of one thing, you--fundamental of warfare, you tell the enemy when you're leaving, that--then they will wait. And Ho Chi Minh certainly is an authentication of that, of that course of action.
Can anyone tell me what the hell these two people are talking about? Or why they are considered wise and worthy voices to spend our time listening to on a Sunday morning?

Because Al Qaeda recruits all the time. It's a major part of their relative success. (Just Google "Al Qaeda recruitment" for a sample.)

Of course, it doesn't hurt that idiocy like this makes it possible for the United States to significantly improve the climate for recruitment of Al Qaeda terrorists, either.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Liz Cheney Doubts That Obama Is "All In" On (Eternal) War In Afghanistan

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Here's a fact: Right-wing authoritarians will never accept Barack Obama as their president, even if he does everything they demand of him to the jot and tittle. Just watch Liz Cheney on Fox News Sunday today, after Bloody Bill Kristol went so far as to praise Obama for his "clear commitment" to winning the war in Afghanistan:
Chris Wallace: Liz, does Bill Kristol have it right with the appointment of Petraeus and the comments that he made that we showed about no rush for the exits in July of 2011 and late this week -- are you as convinced as Bill is that the president is "all in" in Afghanistan?

Cheney: Ah, I think that Bill is right, that the president did the right thing and that the president deserves credit. I think that he unfortunately had to relieve McChrystal -- I think that McChrystal was a tremendous general and he did tremendous things in Iraq; when the entire story of Iraq is told I think he'll get the credit he deserves there with the special forces. He had to be replaced, however, and Petraeus is the right person for the job. And I do think the president's speech announcing the change was a good speech.

Now, I don't think we know for sure that he's all in. Because Petraeus can't do it alone. And if you don't have the changes in your civilian leadership that you talked about in your interview segment this morning, it will be very difficult to get this done.
It's obvious to everyone on the planet -- except the rabid right -- that Obama is "all in" on military-industrial complex's strategy for "winning" in Afghanistan -- but it's predicated on eventually "winning" (whatever that means) and then getting out. This is what Cheney really is after: like her father, she favors an endless war in Afghanistan, one that can just roll on forever, providing an endless excuse for our military involvement in the Middle East. They're looking out for American hegemony, and too bad about that body count.

Nothing Obama does will ever satisfy the likes of Liz Cheney. Right-wing authoritarians believe above all in bowing and adhering to those in authority -- and the thought of bowing to a Democratic president, liberal or otherwise, as a legitimate president is too much cognitive dissonance for them to handle.

Killer Whales In The Wild: A Sound-and-Slide Show From Haro Strait

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

And now for something completely different ...

This is not exactly your usual "what I did on vacation" video. Of course, I wasn't exactly on vacation: I was working on my next book, whose subject is going to be orcinus orca, the killer whale. That the work happened to entail spending two weeks kayaking on the western side of San Juan Island, sometimes with my daughter, was just incidental. Hey, it's tough work, but somebody's gotta do it.

As you can see, the art of catching good sharp images in a kayak is a work in progress; some of the pics are interesting from a behavioral sense but are unfortunately not as sharp as I'd like. Others, well ... see for yourself.

The sound sample is an edited mix. Many of the sounds were collected around noisome boat traffic, which is just about a constant for the orcas this time of year. At times it seemed as though they were shouting at each other over the din, it got so bad. Fortunately, near the end of my stay I was lucky enough to catch some samples in boat-free conditions, and you can hear the difference; those samples comprise the sound from about 3:35 onward.

I've uploaded a hi-def version to YouTube here.

You can get a lot of the same kinds of images live at the Center for Whale Research's OrcaCam site, which includes some archived footage and sound samples (click on the Audio tab) as well.

Or you can listen to it live from the Lime Kiln Lighthouse, where I wound up spending much of my time the past couple of weeks. They too have an audio archive that's just lovely. The live link can be fun if you're lucky enough to get whales going by live; otherwise you may just enjoy the sound of gurgling currents and passing boats.

For more information, always check out our friends at the Orca Network too.

What am I writing about? Well, it's still a work in progress, of course. But generally speaking, the subject I'm keen on tackling is the following proposition: Orcas pose a direct challenge to the human conceit that they are the planet's only intelligent species.

What do you all think? I'm interested in hearing all kinds of perspectives on this.