Creating False Equivalencies and other Nasty Campaign Tricks

Politics has always been an ugly business in America.  All you have to do is follow the lives of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, or Andrew Jackson to get some idea of how the personal can be turned into the ugly political.  Rumor becomes fact.  Innuendo becomes headlines. Character assassination becomes de rigueur.  It’s hard to know exactly when modern politics went over the edge.  I would definitely have to point to folks like Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, and Frank Luntz.  Although, Donald Segretti comes to mind too.  The age of social media and blogs has created a sleaze industry.  Andrew Breithbart was the sheistermeister of the internet and his site and sites like Red State continue the tradition of creating tropes, memes and canards to sucker an uninformed electorate.  AM radio and Fox News certainly don’t raise the standard either. Sleazy politics is on steroids these days.

The funny thing is that some things do speak of character and other things appear to be manufactured to create faux outrage.  I frankly believe that strapping your sick dog on the roof of your car for a long trip says something about your decision making and your humanity.  I don’t think a small child in a third world country eating dog meat because that’s what he’s been given to eat by his parents to be an equivalent morality play.

We are clearly in the swift boat age.  Right after the attack on 9-11 the politicizing of the event took off.  It was bound to happen.  I used to keep track of the number of times that Dubya used the term  “lessons of 9/11″ to justify torture, invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the attack on 9/11, and signing into law severe restrictions on our civil liberties and personal privacy.  Every single SOTU address and re-election stump speech always contained the phrase “lessons of 9/11″.  I’m actually pretty outraged that the Romney and some elected officials think they’re innocent of trumping up the “lessons of 9/11″ while accusing the President of Politicizing the Bin Laden killing.  Meanwhile, they’re politicizing the situation with a Chinese dissident while the Secretary of State is in active negotiations with the Chinese Government on the status of the dissident and his family.

All of this just drives me nuts.

The newest of these trumped up faux outrage moments is now called “Elizabeth Warren’s Birther Movement”.

If you are 1/32 Cherokee and your grandfather has high cheekbones, does that make you Native American? It depends. Last Friday, Republicans in Massachusetts questioned the racial ancestry of Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senate candidate. Her opponent, Senator Scott Brown, has accused her of using minority status as an American Indian to advance her career as a law professor at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas. The Brown campaign calls her ties to the Cherokee and Delaware nations a “hypocritical sham.”

In a press conference on Wednesday, Warren defended herself, saying, “Native American has been a part of my story, I guess since the day I was born, I don’t know any other way to describe it.” Despite her personal belief in her origins, her opponents have seized this moment in an unnecessary fire drill that guarantees media attention and forestalls real debate.

This tactic is straight from the Republican cookbook of fake controversy. First, you need a rarefied elected office typically occupied by a certain breed of privileged men. Both the Presidency and the Senate fit this bill. Second, add a bit of interracial intrigue. It could be Kenyan economists eloping with Midwestern anthropologists, or white frontiersmen pairing with indigenous women. Third, throw in some suspicion about their qualifications and ambitions. Last but not least, demand documentation of ancestry and be dissatisfied upon its receipt. Voila! You have a genuine birther movement.

The Republican approach to race is to feign that it is irrelevant — until it becomes politically advantageous to bring it up. Birthers question Obama’s state of origin (and implicitly his multiracial heritage) in efforts to disqualify him from the presidency. They characterize him as “other.” For Warren, Massachusetts Republicans place doubts on her racial claims to portray her as an opportunistic academic seeking special treatment. In both birther camps, opponents look to ancestral origins as the smoking gun, and ride the ambiguity for the duration.

My children are 1/4 Japanese.  My youngest daughter has absolutely no physical traits that would lead you to believe she has a Japanese Grandmother.  My oldest daughter definitely has the mixed race look.  But that’s not the point.  Neither is the actual fraction or what’s historically been called the number of ‘drops of blood’.

Both of my children have a mixed identity because we fully embraced my husband’s mixed ancestry.  We eat Japanese food.  The kids went to Japan school for a period of time and can speak and write a bit of Japanese.  My mother-in-law lived with us and our home was filled with her cooking, her language, and her upbringing.  The girls also know about their family history from Japan and they’ve explored its culture.  We also talk about a lot of different things including  that my uncle was very responsible for the argument on the Japanese Internment policy to the Supreme Court for the Roosevelt Administration and that another uncle by marriage on my father’s side lost a cousin to the Baatan Death March.  His aunt was appalling rude to my husband every time we went to family reunions.  Both  heritages are a party of our family story and our family traditions. We discuss the anti-Japanese hysteria of the World War 2 period, the Japanese War atrocities, and the H Bombs that ended the war as well as my mother-in-law’s experience as a starving teenager in Kyoto who had to smuggle rice in her kimono.  All of this is a part of our heritage as melting pot Americans.  When I first walked to the counter of the Japanese Grocery store here in New Orleans with my items I was told “You shop like Japanese housewife.”  I am genetically as WASPY as they come. That’s what comes from being brought into a culture as a teen and surrounded by it for 20 years. There’s a very real part of me that IS Japanese now.  I am a New Orleanian after 16 years living in the inner city of New Orleans and being surrounded by all if its rich heritage and neighborhoods. These identities will stay with me no matter where I go.

That’s the deal to me.  If Elizabeth Warren feels connections to her Native American Ancestry and if its part of her family story and tradition, do we really need to question if her ‘drops of blood’ justify her connection and her identity?

Discussing real issues and real moral character is difficult in this age of swift boating, contrived outrage, and false equivalencies.  It’s especially difficult because so many groups can get access to money and the media and push through some pretty outrageous tropes.   Unfortunately, most of these tropes are head line grabbers and the customer-hungry media will jump on it and ride it as long as possible.  It is really shameful that the noble pursuit of maintaining a healthy democracy seems to include such manufactured tit-for-tat.  US voters deserve better.

And that’s the way it was …

Some times I just have to wonder how a news anchor can keep a straight face when covering specific news stories.  It seems Shep Smith went rogue while covering Newt Gingrich’s campaign suspension.  C&L’s Karoli captures the absurdity of the moment well.  Minx covered this in her late night news thread but I really thought I’d give the Karoli bit a shout out because of the You Tube below. It comes from the Obama-Biden campaign.  You have to know more of these are coming. You also need to go see Minx’s post because the Luckovich cartoon take off of Porky’s ending to Loony Tunes will give you a big ol’ smile.

After a rambling and nearly-incoherent speech, Newt Gingrich finally dropped his bid for the Republican nomination and Mitt Romney’s campaign issued a predictably benign and “hugs all around” statement about it, saying:

“Newt Gingrich has brought creativity and intellectual vitality to American political life. During the course of this campaign, Newt demonstrated both eloquence and fearlessness in advancing conservative ideas. Although he long ago created an enduring place for himself in American history, I am confident that he will continue to make important contributions to our party and to the life of the nation. Ann and I are proud to call Newt and Callista friends and we look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead as we fight to restore America’s promise.”

This would not be news except that Shepard Smith’s reaction to that statement was just classic and delicious. I think he should not be working for a channel who is almost always “weird and creepy,” but since he is, I’ve got to say that this should go down in the annals of classic news anchor reactions:

Politics is weird. And creepy. And now, I know, lacks even the loosest attachment to anything like reality.

The facial expressions are as wonderful as the words. While Newt didn’t really sing a full-throated praise of Mittens, he did manage to choke out words to the effect that Mitt was still better than President Obama. Of course, the reason Shep was so taken aback was because of statements during the campaign like these:

If you have a bitterly fought primary–which is an honest appraisal of the 2012 Republican primaries–then you’re going to have lots of Kafkaesque Kumbya moments when all the bitter rivals have to make nice with the winner.  That can never been an easy thing to do.  However, we have these SuperPacs that are bringing negative campaigning to new lows.  We’ve also seen a series of debates with endless harangues.  How on earth is the kiss and make up moment supposed to go under that circumstance?

Here’s another story today on Bachmann’s luke warm “endorsement” of Romney.

Michele Bachmann has finally decided to endorse Mitt Romney – 119 days after she dropped out of the race.

The endorsement will come at a joint Romney-Bachmann appearance on Thursday.  No doubt Bachmann will talk about the importance of beating Barack Obama and how Mitt Romney is the one to do it. She’ll almost certainly say that conservatives must unite behind Romney because of the importance of beating Obama.

But here’s the thing: Shortly before she dropped out, Bachmann told me – point blank – that there was  no way Romney could beat Obama.

“He cannot beat Obama,” Bachmann said. “It’s not going to happen.”

Wow, with endorsements like these, who needs opposition research?  Anyway, Karoli has the video of Smith’s moment of Zen. It’s worth tripping over to C&L just to see the look on his face.  Meanwhile, so long Newt, we knew you FAR TOO WELL.

Partisan Rules and the Agonizing Death of a Functional Republic

My very Republican father and I were talking about the high levels of unemployment and the impact that was having on the deficit and the current problems with Social Security and Medicare.  He was trying to reconcile how long this thing has drug on and why he wasn’t seeing any efforts being made that were similar to what happened during the Great Depression.  He’s no FDR fan either.  Even he had the sense that there were forces that were at work that were preventing a recovery.  I muttered something about partisan politics and he had to agree.  It’s gotten so that beating your opponent takes precedence over what you’re supposed to do once elected. We’re electing people that don’t want our government to work.  They only want to win and spin.

You’ll undoubtedly hear a lot in the upcoming days about Robert Draper’s new book ‘Do Not Ask What Good We Do.’  It’s a book about the Republicans in Congress and their political agenda.  There’s a focus on Tea Party politicians as well as the gang of stubborn white patriarchs.  We knew from the very beginning–as announced almost immediately by Mitch McConnell–that the Republicans were intent on making Obama a one term president.  The book details some very ugly things about the effort. It also details how elected Republican pols have begin to act like an angry mob at times because many have come with their own brand of “kill the beast” that is our Constitutional Republic.  Still, the Draper book does not appear to be about one vast monolithic,  stereotypical Republican right winger as it profiles some of the most controversial members. The anger binds them and divides them in intriguing ways.

At what point does ugly partisanship and sour grapes become such an issue that voters will wake up and vote their own interests for a change?  Why are we such a nation of Angry Birds these days?

As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington.

The event — which provides a telling revelation for how quickly the post-election climate soured — serves as the prologue of Robert Draper’s much-discussed and heavily-reported new book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives.”

According to Draper, the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz.

For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama’s legislative platform.

“If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” Draper quotes McCarthy as saying. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”

The conversation got only more specific from there, Draper reports. Kyl suggested going after incoming Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for failing to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes while at the International Monetary Fund. Gingrich noted that House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) had a similar tax problem. McCarthy chimed in to declare “there’s a web” before arguing that Republicans could put pressure on any Democrat who accepted campaign money from Rangel to give it back.

As most of you know, I was not a supporter of candidate Obama.  However, there are no words to express how I feel about the idea of a group of elected officials planning a political coup during some of the worst days of our Republic over what seems like a bunch of partisan sour grapes.  In this tale, there is little care or thought given to the suffering of the country in the grips of a recession and endless, worthless wars.  There is only plotting for personal power.  There are a lot of details about how the election of the Tea Party candidates has led to more problems that make our country look ungovernable and our differences irreconcilable.  In some ways, the Republican take over of the House sandbagged the very people that plotted to make it so.

The anti-big-government zealotry that swept the Republicans into power turned out to be a major obstacle in the debt-ceiling negotiations with the White House. As Eric Cantor told Joe Biden in the talks, the best compromise House Republicans could offer was “giving you a vote on the debt ceiling. You may not think that’s a big deal. But you’ve got to understand, I’ve got a lot of guys that think that not raising the debt ceiling may not be such a bad thing—that in fact it may be just what we need.” Cantor then added wistfully “We’re working hard to educate our guys.”

The House Majority Leader didn’t want to wind up suffering the same fate during the debt ceiling negotiations as the No. 2 House Republican, Roy Blunt, who became a pariah among conservatives for his role in negotiating the details of TARP in 2008. When Cantor saw that he couldn’t bridge the differences between the Republicans and the White House on revenue increases, he backed out of the talks. To avoid blame, Cantor claimed that the Democrats were intending to do the same and he just wanted to preempt them. This “had no basis in fact,” Draper wrote.

Draper profiles many of the strongest Republican Tea Party characters in the book.  This includes Allen West who appears to be completely out of touch with any form of reality as we know it.

Draper profiles firebrands like Florida’s Allen West, a former Army lieutenant colonel who attempts to induce his draconian brand of military discipline on America’s finances and security apparatus. West is also the only Republican member of the Congressional Black Caucus. West comes across as someone whose mouth gets him in trouble (he recently nabbed coverage for labeling 81 of his House colleagues communists, and then got more coverage for refusing to back down from the accusation); his hand-wringing paranoia would have more bite if it weren’t so nostalgic. But in Draper’s reporting, he becomes a surprisingly nuanced person who isn’t afraid to defy the more conservative elements of his base (including a vote clearing the way for that Republican whipping-horse, the Environmental Protection Agency, to clean Florida’s waterways after farmers in his district encouraged him to vote that way).

This may not be one of those books that stands the test of time.  But, we need this kind of hand book right now.  Here’s a headline that will give you some pause: “Dick Lugar trails by 5, poll says”.

Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar has fallen behind state Treasurer Richard Mourdock by five points, according to a new poll released Thursday.
The survey, taken Tuesday and Wednesday by Wenzel Strategies on behalf of Citizens United, places Mourdock at 44 percent and Lugar at 39 percent. Nearly 17 percent remain undecided with just 12 days to go until the Indiana Senate primary.

Citizens United is backing Mourdock in the May 8 contest.

Wenzel found that Mourdock’s lead is powered by self-described tea party conservatives, who comprise 36 percent of the GOP electorate.

Among that group of voters, Mourdock holds a commanding 63 percent to 24 percent lead. Lugar’s ability to keep the race close is due to moderates and traditional conservatives, which both favor the incumbent, according to Wenzel.

It seems like we had the birth of our nation in the Age of Reason and we may experience our death throes in the Age of the Angry Mob.

Thursday Reads

North Dakota Badlands--where I'd like to be this morning

Good Morning!!

Like JJ, I’m a little sick of the political news these days. Plus I’m a little under the weather with a cold, so please be patient if I don’t make a whole lot of sense today.

I heard a little of Mitt Romney’s victory speech on Tuesday night, and when I got up yesterday I decided to read the transcript. The speech was every bit as vapid as I remembered.

There is not one specific policy mentioned in the speech, just attacks on Obama and promises that no one could fulfill. Romney begins by playing to the people he has been disrespecting throughout the primaries:

For every single mom who feels heartbroken when she has to explain to her kids that she needs to take a second job … for grandparents who can’t afford the gas to visit their grandchildren … for the mom and dad who never thought they’d be on food stamps … for the small business owner desperately cutting back just to keep the doors open one more month – to all of the thousands of good and decent Americans I’ve met who want nothing more than a better chance, a fighting chance, to all of you, I have a simple message: Hold on a little longer. A better America begins tonight.

Really? A better America with no employer-provided health care, no Social Security, no Medicare, no Planned Parenthood? Romney claims that his “success in business” has taught him how to create jobs and build a booming economy (Even though his business was buying up successful companies and bleeding them dry. And even though he didn’t do those things when he was Governor of Massachusetts.)

…you might have heard that I was successful in business. And that rumor is true. But you might not have heard that I became successful by helping start a business that grew from 10 people to hundreds of people. You might not have heard that our business helped start other businesses, like Staples and Sports Authority and a new steel mill and a learning center called Bright Horizons. And I’d tell you that not every business made it and there were good days and bad days, but every day was a lesson. And after 25 years, I know how to lead us out of this stagnant Obama economy and into a job-creating recovery!

Really? The only thing I’ve heard him recommend is tax cuts for rich people and more austerity for the rest of us. What am I missing? Then he asks the Reagan question–are you better off now than you were back in 2008?

what do we have to show for three and a half years of President Obama?

Is it easier to make ends meet? Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one? Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more in your job? Do you have a better chance to get a better job? Do you pay less at the pump?

If the answer were “yes” to those questions, then President Obama would be running for re-election based on his achievements…and rightly so. But because he has failed, he will run a campaign of diversions, distractions, and distortions. That kind of campaign may have worked at another place and in a different time. But not here and not now. It’s still about the economy …and we’re not stupid.

At least Romney seems to have found a better speechwriter, but as Ezra Klein points out:

Three and a half years ago…Barack Obama wasn’t yet president. The date was Oct. 25, 2008, and Obama hadn’t even won the election yet, much less taken office.

The National Bureau of Economic Research says the recession officially began in December 2007. The worst of it came in the fourth quarter of 2008. Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009. The time frame Romney chose, in other words, thrusts the very worst of the recession into Obama’s lap despite the fact that he wasn’t even president yet. It’s like blaming a fireman for the damage the blaze did before he arrived.

As Klein says, the real question should be “are you better off now than you would have been had Mitt Romney been president?” Romney claims Obama wants the government to control our lives.

This President is putting us on a path where our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars. He’s asking us to accept that Washington knows best – and can provide all.

We’ve already seen where this path leads. It erodes freedom. It deadens the entrepreneurial spirit. And it hurts the very people it’s supposed to help. Those who promise to spread the wealth around only ever succeed in spreading poverty. Other nations have chosen that path. It leads to chronic high unemployment, crushing debt, and stagnant wages.

I have a very different vision for America, and of our future. It is an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. Because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hard-working, educated and skilled employees is intense, and so wages and salaries rise.

I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents – some successful even beyond their wildest dreams – and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.

That last part is what Romney seems to really need–adoration for his achievement of getting rich at the expense of all the little people who were driven out of work and into bankruptcy while Romney headed Bain Capital. Other than that, it sounds like he’s talking about the Eisenhower-Kennedy years–except in that economy the wealthy and corporations paid their fair share of taxes.

I don’t think Romney has made his case to be President, unless people just want to vote for him because he “loves America.”

The Romney campaign is synchronizing it’s work with the Republican National Committee, so I wonder if this idea came from the campaign or the RNC: Republican National Committee Files Complaint Over Obama Travel

The Republican National Committee has filed an official complaint with the Government Accountability Office over President Barack Obama’s use of official resources for campaign travel.

In a letter to the watchdog agency, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus writes to call attention “to a case of misuse of government funds benefitting “Obama for America” (OFA), otherwise known as the president’s reelection campaign.”

Priebus pointed to Obama’s current trip to North Carolina, Colorado, and Iowa — three battleground states — to discuss extending lower interest rates on student loans as examples of this tax-payer funded campaign travel.

“One might imagine that if this were genuinely a government event he might have stopped in a non-battleground state like Texas or Vermont,” Priebus said.

“This President and Air Force One seem to have a magic magnet that only seem to land in battleground states in this country,” Priebus told reporters earlier Wednesday before the complaint was drafted.

And so on… The GAO replied to a request from Buzzfeed:

GAO Spokesman Charles Young told BuzzFeed that the watchdog agency has yet to receive the RNC letter. “But we conduct our work at the request of the Congress.”

That was a pretty good slapdown. I seem to recall George W. Bush making a lot of speeches in swing states back in 2004. I wonder if Priebus was upset about that too? Geeze.

Vanity Fair has posted video of a memorial service held for Christopher Hitchens on April 20th. Hitchens died on December 15, 2011. In his honor, I’d like to quote from one of his Slate pieces that is very relevant to the 2012 presidential race: Mitt Romney and the weird and sinister beliefs of Mormonism.

The founder of the church, one Joseph Smith, was a fraud and conjurer well known to the authorities of upstate New York. He claimed to have been shown some gold plates on which a new revelation was inscribed in no known language. He then qualified as the sole translator of this language. (The entire story is related in Fawn Brodie’s biography, No Man Knows My History.* It seems that we can add, to sausages and laws, churches as a phenomenon that is not pleasant to watch at the manufacturing stage. Edmund Wilson wrote that it was powerfully shocking to see Brodie as she exposed a religion that was a whole-cloth fabrication.) On his later forays into the chartless wilderness, there to play the role of Moses to his followers (who were permitted and even encouraged in plural marriage, so as to go forth and mass-produce little Mormons), Smith also announced that he wanted to be known as the Prophet Muhammad of North America, with the fearsome slogan: “Either al-Koran or the Sword.” He levied war against his fellow citizens, and against the federal government. One might have thought that this alone would raise some eyebrows down at the local Baptist Church.

Saddling itself with some pro-slavery views at the time of the Civil War, and also with a “bible” of its own that referred to black people as a special but inferior creation, the Mormon Church did not admit black Americans to the priesthood until 1978, which is late enough—in point of the sincerity of the “revelation” they had to undergo—to cast serious doubt on the sincerity of their change of heart.

Read the rest at the link and see if you think Romney’s religion is relevant. Ross Douthat is concerned about it.

I’m going to wrap this up, because I’m really not feeling well, but I want to share a story with you from Boston. It’s a week or so old, but still worth highlighting: ‘She-Hulk’ collars alleged T creep after lewd act. It’s a about a young woman (who didn’t want her name used) riding the MBTA, minding her own business and then suddenly finding herself the object of–to put it mildly–unwanted attention.

“This guy was just being a real creeper,” she said. As she shuffled along the train, he followed her. She zoned out, listening to music, only to look up and see him standing over her.

“I looked up and felt awkward, so I looked down,” she said. She said the man was exposing and touching himself, but tried to cover himself with his shirt.

The woman — not someone to meekly let an alleged creep get away with it — shouted out what he was doing, but no one stepped in to help. She said one male passenger even shrugged. So, she said, she went into “She-Hulk” mode, lunging as the man tried to bolt at Packard’s Corner in Brighton.

She said she held the man with one hand and “berated” him while she waited for the cops to arrive. She said he looked frightened.

“He kept saying sorry, but he was just sorry for himself,” she said.

The Boston Globe had an account of the arrest of the perp, Michael Galvin, 37, of Hudson St. in Somerville.

Officers found Galvin being dragged by his apparent victim, who grabbed him by his sweatshirt as he attempted to leave the train at the stop….When she caught up to him, he allegedly said, “I think I need help, I think something is wrong with me.” The woman held him until police arrived, according to an MBTA Transit Police report released by the agency.

Police arrived and spoke to Galvin, who said his shorts fell down accidentally on the packed and jostling train, the report said.

But the woman told a different story. Galvin allegedly approached her slowly on the crowded train. She told officers that she “got a weird vibe from the guy and tried to move away but couldn’t because the trolley was so packed.”

When Galvin was near her and she looked down, she said she saw that his shorts were pulled down “just enough to have his penis exposed, and he was stroking it.”

It’s just one small win for women, but a very satisfying one, IMHO.

So what are you reading and blogging about today?

Wednesday Evening Reads: Great Tits and Newt Gingrich

Oh boy…just a warning, tonight’s post is going to be infantile.

Good Evening!

Did you hear the news today? Newt is out! (And yes, that title is a bit tongue in cheek. The Great Tits I am talking about are song birds, more on that later. And yes, that title is in reference to T & A meaning Newt is the ass.)

Okay, on with the show:

The big story tonight is from the Supreme Court…and the apparent favoring of Arizona’s argument regarding Immigration. I know that Dakinikat has a post up about this, but I wanted to cite a couple quotes from the NYT article she linked to:

Considering Arizona Immigration Law, Justices Are Again in Political Storm -

Justices across the ideological spectrum appeared inclined to uphold a controversial part of Arizona’s aggressive 2010 immigration law, based on their questions on Wednesday at a Supreme Court argument.

“You can see it’s not selling very well,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a member of the court’s liberal wing and its first Hispanic justice, told Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., referring to a central part of his argument.

Mr. Verrilli, representing the federal government, had urged the court to strike down part of the law requiring state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop if the officials have reason to believe that the person might be an illegal immigrant.

“Why don’t you try to come up with something else?” Justice Sotomayor asked Mr. Verrilli.

Damn, that is not a good sign for those of us who believe this Arizona Immigration law takes things way to far into the danger zone. However,

Should the court uphold any part of the law, immigration groups are likely to challenge it based on an argument not before that court on Wednesday — that the law discriminates on the basis of race and ethnic background.

Indeed, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made clear that the case, like last month’s arguments over President Obama’s health care law, was about the allocation of state and federal power.

“No part of your argument has to do with racial or ethnic profiling, does it?” the chief justice asked Mr. Verrilli, who agreed.

Should the court uphold most or all of the Arizona law or strike down the heart of the health care law, it would represent a political blow to President Obama in the final stretch of the campaign season. The health care decision is also expected by June.

Wednesday’s argument, the last of the term, was a rematch between the main lawyers in last month’s case. Paul D. Clement, who argued for the 26 states challenging the health care law, represented Arizona. Mr. Verrilli again represented the federal government. In an unusual move, Chief Justice Roberts allowed the argument to go 20 minutes longer than the usual hour.

But one thing is certain, Verrilli, who is the same lawyer that argued the Health Care case…and we saw what a blunder that performance was, Verrilli seems to have stumbled again today.

Mr. Verrilli, whose performance in the health care case was sometimes rocky, seemed on Wednesday occasionally to frustrate justices who might have seemed likely allies.

At one point Justice Sotomayor, addressing Mr. Verrilli by his title, said: “General, I’m terribly confused by your answer. O.K.? And I don’t know that you’re focusing in on what I believe my colleagues are trying to get to.”

Wow. You know, a lawyer arguing before the SCOTUS…that is like the top achievement of a career. You got to prepare for this sort of thing. That this  lawyer came unprepared or ill-equipped to handle such a demanding hearing, twice, makes me wonder…WTF?

Anyway, the “remarks” are something to read, some of them sound very annoyed, check it out.

Reuters has an article discussing some background on Zimmerman: George Zimmerman: Prelude to a shooting

A pit bull named Big Boi began menacing George and Shellie Zimmerman in the fall of 2009.

The first time the dog ran free and cornered Shellie in their gated community in Sanford, Florida, George called the owner to complain. The second time, Big Boi frightened his mother-in-law’s dog. Zimmerman called Seminole County Animal Services and bought pepper spray. The third time he saw the dog on the loose, he called again. An officer came to the house, county records show.

“Don’t use pepper spray,” he told the Zimmermans, according to a friend. “It’ll take two or three seconds to take effect, but a quarter second for the dog to jump you,” he said.

“Get a gun.”

I urge you to read this article, just a couple more teaser paragraphs:

During the time Zimmerman was in hiding, his detractors defined him as a vigilante who had decided Martin was suspicious merely because he was black. After Zimmerman was finally arrested on a charge of second-degree murder more than six weeks after the shooting, prosecutors portrayed him as a violent and angry man who disregarded authority by pursuing the 17-year-old.

But a more nuanced portrait of Zimmerman has emerged from a Reuters investigation into Zimmerman’s past and a series of incidents in the community in the months preceding the Martin shooting.

Based on extensive interviews with relatives, friends, neighbors, schoolmates and co-workers of Zimmerman in two states, law enforcement officials, and reviews of court documents and police reports, the story sheds new light on the man at the center of one of the most controversial homicide cases in America.

This next link made me think of Ralph, one of our regular readers and commenters. He has followed the countdown of Atrios “Wanker of the Decade.” This is a summary plus, you might say, of the winner of this Wanker award:  10 of Thomas Friedman’s Dumbest “Big Ideas” | Media | AlterNet

In conferring the honor of “Wanker of the Decade” on New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, blogger Duncan Black observed that “truly great wankers possess a kind of glib narcissism, the belief that everything is about them while simultaneously disavowing any responsibility for anything.” The sorry “state of the world is what it is,” Black continued, “in large part because people in positions of great power think this absurd buffoon of man is a Very Serious Person.”

Wow, some of the stuff Friedman has said is f’d up! I mean, I knew the guy was “wanker” extraordinaire, but some of his articles from the early and middle 90’s are way out there. Read that link to see what I mean.

Now a couple cartoons to pass the time before the Great Tit article.

4/26 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Gingrich bows out | Mike Luckovich

Yes both from Luckovich…

4/25 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Global warming | Mike Luckovich

Now, it is with great pleasure that I present to you the headline that made me spit my green coffee this morning…- Great tits join mobs with neighbours they know

Oh, it gets better…

Great tits in nestbox (c) Chris Perrins Great tits with familiar neighbours successfully raise more chicks
Like many birds, great tits are protective parents, often putting themselves at risk to mob predators that threaten their chicks.

A study has now shown that they will join anti-predator mobs if they hear alarm calls from birds they know well.

Scientists found that the birds would “join in” defensive mobs that were instigated by neighbouring birds they were familiar with.

The findings are published in the journal Biology Letters.

“Joint mobbing” – birds ganging up to fend off predators – has been seen in many bird species.

But the researchers were particularly interested in the phenomenon in great tits because, in their previous work, they noticed that the birds’ lives were affected by the birds they lived next door to.

Oh, there is nothing like joint mobbing from a group of great tits…believe me, when great tits feel the things they care about are in danger…they get protective and form anti-PLUB mobs….oops, I mean anti-predator mobs. And when these Great Tits gang up and help their neighbors to fight against the predator GOP politician, oops I did it again…I mean perceived dangerous predator…watch out!

Well, think of this as an open thread/evening reads…and post whatever you want!