Wednesday Reads: Madman and Rocket Man

Hey, I don’t usually like or retweet David Corn…but those two tweets above made me laugh out loud.

Going straight to cartoons, since I’m writing this outside in a very dark and dangerous state park that is surrounded by national forest.

Please note that many of those cartoons are from the foreign press.

This is an open thread.

https://instagram.com/p/BZPr0G5j7J3/


Here’s an idea: civil rights for everyone!

You know, everyone. Including those everyones who are female.

Rights are the solution to the Todd Akinses of the world, and it would be unspeakably obvious if people could remember that rights matter.

For some reason, even people on the left don’t get it. I had somebody say, when I was carrying on about free speech rights and Pussy Riot, “Fuck theories of speech. Free Pussy Riot.” So, let’s see. “Forget about rights. Give ’em their rights.” Uh huh. That makes a lot of sense. And that’s the “thinking” on the left.

People don’t even get it when it concerns their own rights. There are way too many examples, but here’s just one from Lexia commenting at Reclusive Leftist: “…the woman’s mother, who had worked as a nurse (she had wanted to be a doctor), but mostly as a wife, and so was left at retirement age, divorced, impoverished and living in a trailer with thirty seven leaks….

“The woman’s mother said to me, in response to some remark I made about women’s rights: ‘But that has nothing to do with us.'”

I’m not sure where this reluctance to think about principles comes from, but that’s why we have a problem. That’s why we can’t see that

SOME RIGHTS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN OTHERS.

I know we’re not supposed to shout, but, honestly people, what is so hard about that concept?

Take religion, for instance. At this point, it’s enough to say, “But it’s my religion!” to excuse just about anything. The media just stand there, being respectful, when a Todd Akin says “Women don’t count. I’ll tell ’em when they’ve been raped. I’ll tell those uterine incubators what to do. It’s my religion.” The Left mostly nodded along when Obama quite agreed that Catholic bishops shouldn’t have to put up with anything so anti-religious as female citizens making their own medical decisions. (But because he’s such a nice guy, it won’t be as bad as if that horrible Other Party was giving the bishops their wishes).

May I make a suggestion? I think we need a Church of Savage Death to all Godbags. They’re interfering with my religion, which is that we all leave each other in peace.

Yeah, I know. That’s about as logically consistent as destroying women while Allah is said to be Merciful and God is said to be Love.

It always takes only about one step to fall into complete logical absurdity if religion is put above civil rights.

It’s obvious if you think about it at all. No other right means anything if you are not, as the old language had it, secure in your own person. If you can be imprisoned until you agree with me, you have no freedom of thought. If I can requisition a kidney from you (because I’m dying and my life is at stake and you’re a perfect match and my religion is pro-life), you’re nothing but ambulatory organ storage.

If all that drivel was understood in the context of rights, the Todd Akinses and their spiritual cousins, on up to the mild-mannered and socially acceptable versions in the White House, would all be obvious for the antidemocratic throwbacks they are. They’d never get near the teevee. Because the media are dimly aware that no religion is so important that it can demand human sacrifices. Not even female ones.

Crossposted from Acid Test


SDB Evening News Reads: SOTU or STFU? Preview of Change and Hope…

That sounds like some kind of Star Wars movie title…

Good Evening!

Tonight is the State of the Union, and I haven’t actually seen one since George W Bush back in 2002. I’ve read them after the fact, I just can’t sit through all the clapping and other showmanship tricks that make the evening much longer than it should be.

Tonight, I just have one hope…and it is a far-fetched one, it is that Obama gets mic checked just as he starts talking!

It would be magnificent.

It would be glorious.

It would be just what he deserves, a reminder of who he is giving that speech to, and what we need to hear. But it isn’t just words that need to be spoken, there has to be an action…blah, blah, blah…I know I am preaching to the choir. So, let’s get on with the nights evening news reads.

For a few preview articles on tonight’s SOTU speech:

State of the Union? More Like State of the Campaign – NYTimes.com

Republicans have good reason to believe that when President Obama delivers the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, his goals are more partisan than presidential.

Cough…cough…more partisan?

Mr. Obama has shifted into full-bore campaigning. He expects little from Congress this year beyond the extension of existing payroll tax cuts. His highest-profile initiatives are designed to enhance his re-election prospects.

Where Republicans stand on shakier ground is in their assessment of Mr. Obama’s ultimate destination. On the principal conflict between the two parties this past year — over paring long-term debt and deficits — the president can still stake a stronger claim to the political center than his Republican antagonists.

Polls show that Mr. Obama’s budget positions are closer to those of most voters than the Republican positions are. His ultimate goal, advisers say, remains a bipartisan deficit deal along the lines of the one he nearly negotiated with Speaker John A. Boehner.

The article continues with statements about Obama being in “full re-election mode.”  More of the usual discussion…please give it a look if you like.

Obama to focus on tax inequality in State of the Union | Reuters

President Barack Obama will frame an election-year State of the Union address on Tuesday in starkly populist terms by calling for tax reform to get rid of inequalities that allow the wealthy to pay a lower rate than middle-class Americans.

His message follows the release of tax records by Mitt Romney, a potential Republican rival and one of the wealthiest men to ever run for the White House. With income mostly from investments, Romney pays an effective tax rate that is much lower than the top tax rates on wages.

“Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that does the same,” Obama said in advance excerpts for his 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT Wednesday) speech to Congress.

“It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts.”

Taxes are the most important thing according to the article…

Taxes are the most divisive issue at the heart of this year’s election campaign. Obama, seeking a second term despite a slow economic recovery and a high jobless rate, hopes to tap into middle-class voters’ resentment against Wall Street while their families are hurting.

What? Have we just given up on getting people jobs?

That is exactly what it seems like.

The GOP’s unemployment trap – F**ked – Salon.com

Romney and Gingrich aren’t talking about unemployment for a reason: Because they don’t have any solutions

No kidding!

The unemployment rate is gradually trending down. That’s the good news. The bad news is that by any civilized standard, the current state of the labor market in the United States is an ongoing atrocity.

As of December 2011, there were 13.1 million unemployed workers in the United States, an increase of more than 5 million since the Great Recession officially began in December 2007. Even worse, 5.6 million of those workers (42.5 percent) fall under the category of “long-term unemployed” — they’ve been jobless for 27 weeks or more. Since the end of World War II, we’ve never seen anything close to such a disaster; the previous high, in the aftermath of the 1981 recession, was only 25 percent.

This link to Salon is a new series they have started on long-term unemployment…it is called F**ked: The United States of Unemployment. Check it out.

The real story of America’s unemployed – F**ked – Salon.com

yvonne_fitzner

In “F**ked: The United States of Unemployment” — a new Salon series that will chronicle this important yet largely untold story — Academy Award-nominated director Immy Humes traces the birth and evolution of the 99ers movement. Over the course of the series, Humes will explore her personal struggle with long-term unemployment, the struggles of her fellow 99ers, and confront the stigma of what it’s like to be jobless in America today.

Love that picture. Only I probably would have written it on the backs of my hands and have the picture taken with me giving the double “bird” salute.

Now a couple of links about the other side, Gingrich was being a spoiled baby today, complaining about the lack of applause at last nights debate.

Well…CNN is giving in to the asshole from Georgia. Gingrich wants to hear his debate fans roar | Reuters

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, coming off one of his most subdued debate performances of the campaign, signaled on Tuesday he may skip future debates unless his supporters are given full license to clap, cheer and roar.

Gingrich complained that NBC News moderator Brian Williams had told the crowd to be silent before Monday’s debate in Tampa in an effort to stifle free speech and prevent the audience from turning on the media.

Free speech my ass…

The next debate is scheduled for Thursday in Jacksonville, Florida, and host CNN said it would not instruct the crowd to be silent before the it begins.

“As we have done in the past, CNN will ask the audience to be respectful of the candidates,” the network said in a statement. “We have always said that if audience reaction such as shouting or booing interferes with the debate or with the candidates’ answers, we will ask the audience to refrain.”

However, as we all know: Gingrich: ‘Wrong’ for NBC to Prohibit Audience Clapping at Debate – By Katrina Trinko – The Corner – National Review Online

UPDATE: I called up the Commission on Presidential Debates, which handles the general election debates, and they confirmed that audience participation has not been allowed in the past in debates, and will not be allowed this cycle either. So, if Gingrich is the GOP nominee, he’ll have to face a silent audience during his debates with the President unless the rules are changed.

UPDATE II: Asked if the Gingrich campaign would ask the Commission to change the rule requiring the audience to be silent if Gingrich became the nominee, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond e-mails NRO, “Yes, we would.  If we have learned one thing it is [that] people, not the media-moderators, pick the winner.”

God, I hope the Commission doesn’t give in to him like CNN, and the other moderators did. Last nights subdued audience was nice to see. I have gotten so sick of the “Roman Gladiator Venue” like behavior that we have seen in all the other debates.

And one last link, this was sent to me by Boston Boomer, it seems a bit of a surprise. Mitt Romney’s Father Palled Around With Saul Alinsky

The radical pioneer Saul Alinsky, who helped invent the practice of bottom-up politics through “community organizing” in the middle of the 20th century, has become a key bogeyman for Republican in the Obama era. Obama worked for Alinsky acolytes early in his career, and even contributed to an anthology titled “After Alinsky.”

“Saul Alinsky radicalism is at the heart of Obama,” Gingrich told CNN Sunday.

But Obama isn’t the only candidate with one-degree-of-separation ties to Alinsky. In his biography of Romney’s father, Michigan Governor George Romney, T. George Harris wrote in his book “Romney’s Way” that the elder Romney and Alinsky met after the Detroit riots of 1967:

When slum organizer Saul Alinsky, with the West Side Organization’s militant Negroes and clerics, wanted to meet with the white Detroit rulers, Romney indirectly arranged the meeting, and attended. Democratic Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh avoided the rough company.

“I think you ought to listen to Alinsky,” Romney told his reluctant white friends. ‘It seems to me that we are always talking to the same people. Maybe the time has come to hear new voices.” Said an Episcopal bishop, ‘He made Alinsky sound like a Republican.

And that is what I’ve got for you tonight…see you later on, Dakinikat will be live blogging the State of the Union for us, which is scheduled to start at 9pm EST.


Doublespeak, the Devil’s Advocate and Diogenes’ Endless Quest

Just when you think current events and various public utterances cannot get any more ridiculous, they do.  Often, much of what we hear and are expected to take seriously is wrapped in doublespeak, deliberately vague, obscure language to hide the speaker/writer’s true intent.

We’ve had examples galore as the 2012 election looms over DC, political candidates twisting themselves into pretzels to find the right combination of words to seduce voters.  Newt Gingrich, for instance, referred to his lobbying involvement with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac [for which he was paid handsomely] as providing advice as an ‘historian.’  John Boehner has taken a page out of Frank Luntz’s cannon, repeating the phrase ‘job creators’ as if it were a magical incantation.  Democrats are certainly not immune to this form of prevarication.  Every time I recall Nancy Pelosi’s infamous statement about the Healthcare Reform Bill, I wince: We have to pass the bill before we know what’s in it.

That being said, there’s a special spot in Doublespeak Heaven or Hell for John Yoo, who often writes for the American Enterprise Institute.

John Yoo.  Name sound familiar?  Mr. Yoo, the infamous legal advisor to the Bush Administration’s inner circle, recently jumped up, expressing considerable distaste for and worry over President Obama’s overreaching his authority, abusing and doing considerable damage to the US Constitution.  A reasonable person might conclude this is in reference to the recent indefinite detention clause in the National Defense Authorization Act, the one POTUS claimed he would not sign.  But then did.

But we’re not talking reasonable.  We’re talking John Yoo, deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel [OLC], Department of Justice from 2001-2003.

John Yoo helped strangle the English language, managing to transform the word torture into ‘enhanced interrogation,’ a smoke screen phrase that former Vice President Cheney is still defending, so he and his buddies can sleep at night.

Let’s recall the past.

John Yoo spun out legal arguments for wiretapping, warrantless surveillance on all communication coming in or out of the country as well as warrentless surveillance against American citizens; defended the use of torture [excuse me, enhanced interrogation], authoring the infamous ‘torture memo,’ in which he cited permissible techniques, including assault, maiming and drugging on orders of the President as long as they do not result in death, organ failure or impairment of bodily functions.  He also advised the suspension of the Geneva Convention, War Crimes Act, indicating that the US is no longer restrained by International Law in our endless War on Terror; declared that the President is empowered to make war without Congressional permission and, in fact, has the power to order military strikes inside the US.  He defended the President’s right to order rendition without Congressional approval, etc., etc., etc.

That John Yoo.  He was a very busy man while he held tenure as the Devil’s Advocate.

Mr. Yoo now says President Obama has exceeded his powers by his recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  As you may recall this is the nefarious agency, the wicked brainchild of Elizabeth Warren, to protect American consumers from the labyrinth of confusing language offered in loan and credit agreements.  For example, credit card agreements and home loans.

According to Mr. Yoo, who wrote a piece for the National Review Online, President Obama is making a sweeping claim in the very definition of ‘recess.’

But President Obama is making a far more sweeping claim. Here, as I understand it, the Senate is not officially in adjournment (they have held “pro forma” meetings, where little to no business occurs, to prevent Obama from making exactly such appointments). So there is no question whether the adjournment has become a constitutional “recess.”

And,

This, in my view, is not up to the president, but the Senate. It is up to the Senate to decide when it is in session or not, and whether it feels like conducting any real business or just having senators sitting around on the floor reading the papers. The president cannot decide the legitimacy of the activities of the Senate any more than he could for the other branches, and vice versa.

I find this argument particularly startling coming from Yoo, considering his defense of all things related to the expansion of presidential authority.

But there’s more,

Even with my broad view of executive power, I’ve always thought that each branch has control over its own functions and has the right — if not the duty — to exclude the others as best it can from its own decisions.

Broad view is an understatement because John Yoo is on record, as early as March 1996, declaring that the President has the right to declare war, not Congress.  During his tenure with OLC, he asserted that a President can suspend First Amendment Freedoms in wartime and that the power of the Executive is virtually unlimited in times of war.

You can’t have it both ways.  We’re still engaged in Afghanistan, involved in a seemingly perpetual state of war.

Yoo further states that in view of President Obama’s gross overreach:

Most importantly, private parties outside government can refuse to obey any regulation issued by the new agency. They will be able to defend themselves in court by claiming that the head of the agency is an unconstitutional officer . . .

Now to be clear, I am not a lawyer. I cannot comment on the legalistic merits of the argument.  Others have done that.  But I do think I have a fairly good eye for hypocrisy.  And then there’s this, in reviewing Mr. Yoo’s past declarations, summaries of his memos and advice on matters of war, torture and the suspension of civil rights, this recent charge against President Obama seems out of proportion.

And duplicitous.

It’s okay when neo-cons play with the boundaries and definitions of the Constitution but not when our presumably Democratic President does the same thing.  That’s not to say I agree with either political class redefining, remaking and declaring right and true what is and what is not permissible under the Constitution for very distinct political purposes, merely extending a particular agenda.  But once this questionable threshold is crossed?  The results are what they are.

What neither side refuses to speak to is the considerable danger there is in not accounting for what the next elected Executive is likely to do with ‘expanded’ powers, the establishment of a unitary president. This falls under the heading: Short-Term Goals. It should be noted that redefining the scope of the Executive Office was all the rage during the Bush years, something that Obama vowed to change.

But he did not.

Recalling Mr. Yoo’s penchant for reinterpreting the US Constitution during 2001-2003 [not a pleasant journey], I felt as if I’d literally entered a parallel Universe, one in which language is weaponized.  In this strange, ever-evolving cosmos, white is black, up is down, evil is good and ultimate power [with no accountability] is the Law.

George Orwell is screaming from the Heavens to be named a true prophet.

As for the US Constitution?  It can mean anything you want it to mean. It depends on which side of the political divide you’re standing on.

John Yoo is not a person I would ever turn to for legal advice.  Not for the world I wish to inhabit or wish available to my children and future grandbabies.  In fact, I would think after all the damage Mr. Yoo  [admittedly, he was not alone] did during the early years of the Bush Administration, he’d be reluctant to level charges against anyone ever again.

And yet, a quick check through the archives found that Yoo had weighed in on President Obama’s proposed Executive Order on Federal contractor disclosure.  This proposal would require contractors to provide their political-giving history, any gift over $5000.   The proposal, it is argued, will make the Federal contract system more transparent and accountable to the public.

How radical!

Yet Mr. Yoo suggests the proposal makes some of Richard Nixon’s ‘dirty tricks’ look quaint by comparison.  As an example, he conjures up the humiliating fate of anyone tempted by Presidential overreach, undoing the time-honored, Constitutional right of anonymous political speech [conveniently avoiding the issue of money-giving, as in, swamping our elections in massive amounts of payola].  Namely, the consequence of these sins leads to impeachment.

I’m falling down a rabbit hole.  A really dark rabbit hole.

A case in point, Mr. Yoo ties his concern for poor, vulnerable corporations to MoveOn’s boycott of the retail operation, Target, in Minnesota.  The boycott and subsequent bad press disclosed that Target had made a contribution to a conservative group supporting a gubernatorial candidate opposed to gay marriage.  Yet Target had repeatedly proclaimed itself a gay-friendly corporation.

Ian Millhiser at Think Progress summarizes Yoo’s analysis this way:

In other words, Target misled the public by calling itself a gay-friendly corporation, when it actually was secretly funding an anti-gay effort. Yet, because of disclosure, it was no longer able to maintain this charade and forced to end its two-faced practices. In Yoo’s twisted understanding of the world, this is a great tragedy and not a compelling argument for why disclosure laws are necessary.

I would like to think there’s a place in the Universe where bad actors are rehabilitated, where they reconsider bad decisions, damaging policies that serve only to injure the weak and/or take advantage of human vulnerabilities. Yet reviewing the twisted logic of John Yoo has given me real pause.  If fact, all these political players give me great pause.

This is particularly true with a primary season trudging along, Republican candidates making whacko statements and mean-spirited declarations. We’ve witnessed:

Michelle Bachmann’s delusions, the Eye of the Newt’s vindictive nature, Romney’s spinning positions, Santorum’s woman and gay problem, Perry’s aphasia, Jon Huntsman’s [sadly] invisible campaign and the cuddly libertarian Ron Paul, who yearns to return to the good ole days of 1900. We have not had the benefit of listening to the likes of Buddy Roemer, a voice that should be heard. But now add John Yoo to the brigade of howling voices, then mix a large measure of contradiction, deception and slick language games.

President Obama [who certainly has employed doublespeak with flair, spun numerous fantastic tales of his own] begins to look grounded, normal.

Which means, of course, I’ve definitely entered an alternate Universe.  Maybe this one:

The crazy season just goes on and on and on.  Which makes me think of Diogenes, wandering ancient Greece with lantern in hand, searching for that one honest man.

That was nearly 2500 years ago.  We haven’t learned much.


Aloha and thanks for all the Fish

Talk about your naughty list!

When President Obama signed a budget bill on Friday, he issued a signing statement claiming a right to bypass dozens of provisions that placed requirements or restrictions on the executive branch, saying he had “well-founded constitutional objections” to the new statutes.

Among them, he singled out two sections barring the use of money to transfer prisoners from the naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, into the United States and limiting the ability of the government to transfer them to the custody or control of foreign countries. Mr. Obama said he would apply them in a way that avoided infringing on his powers, without any specific explanation of what that meant.

The signing statement includes all kinds of things.

President Obama said Friday he will not be bound by at least 20 policy riders in the 2012 omnibus funding the government, including provisions pertaining to Guantanamo Bay and gun control.

After he signed the omnibus into law Friday, the White House released a concurrent signing statement saying Obama will object to portions of the legislation on constitutional grounds.

Signing statements are highly controversial, and their legality is disputed.

“I have advised the Congress that I will not construe these provisions as preventing me from fulfilling my constitutional responsibility to recommend to the Congress’s consideration such measures as I shall judge necessary and expedient,” Obama said in a statement as he signed the bill into law.

The signing statement says that on the issue of accused terrorist detainees, Obama will interpret and apply provisions that bar the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “in a manner that avoids constitutional conflicts.”

Obama also objected to Defense provisions in the bill that limit the president’s ability to put troops under foreign command and require 30 days advance notice to Congress for any use of the military which would involve more than $100,000 in construction costs.

The president also objected to a section aimed at blocking health, climate, auto policy and urban affairs “czars” from being employed by the White House and a provision that bars health officials from advocating for gun control. The signing statement also objects to a portion of the omnibus that limits funding for the Copyright Office.

He also singled out 14 provisions that he said infringed upon his power to conduct foreign affairs. One, for example, cut off certain aid to Afghanistan unless it was making progress in reducing corruption and allowed women to consult on projects.

“I have advised the Congress that I will not treat these provisions as limiting my constitutional authorities in the area of foreign relations,” Mr. Obama wrote.

Signing statements were once obscure, but they became controversial under President George W. Bush, who used them to advance sweeping theories of his own powers and challenged more provisions, including a torture ban, than all previous presidents combined.

The right wing is screaming about the czars provisions but some of the other ones look more worrisome to me. But then, I’m not an adjunct constitutional law instructor. I’m hoping some of our lawyers will translate this for us.