Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cenk Uygur: Condi Rice Pulls A Nixon!

Condoleezza Rice was recently speaking at Stanford when students asked her an excellent question on waterboarding and torture. They have her answer on tape and it isn't pretty. Condi Rice absolutely pulls a Nixon.

read more | digg story

The "Southerning" of the GOP

Ezra on Demints assertion that a mass exodus of northern states (due to "forced unionization") is what's really behind the continued "southerning" of the GOP:

Huh. I am interested in your theories, Mr. DeMint, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. I'd also like to remind the general audience that Jim DeMint is a United States Senator who serves on the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the Committee on Foreign Relations, and the Joint Economic Committee. He is, in other words, a supposedly serious person doing serious work. And yet he appears to think that the United States has recently experienced a massive migration phenomenon as Northerners moved south to escape "forced unionization." Not only is this false on the merits, but it's not even the sort of intuitively true thing that later turns out to be false. It's just nonsense.
Nonsense is all you have when "No" is your only policy choice. Tighten down those screws, Wingers! Let this guy helm the "facelift." That's new.

These are the people lending voice to your revolt against relevancy and winning elections.

And speaking or regions, we've got our own little problem to deal with hear. Find out more this Saturday.

Palin/Joe the Plummer 2012!

Balloon Juice's John Cole:


On the plus side, Senate staffers inform me that Republicans in the Senate are visibly in agony right now. So at least we have that!

At this point, the GOP might want to re-introduce the Schiavo legislation, just replacing the name “Terri Schiavo” with Republican.

It is also worth noting that however much fun this is, and believe me, it is a good bit of fun, that Specter is kind of an asshole. We even have a category for him here- Spectering, for all of his waffling. Having said that, anyone who brings the fringe lunatics that remain in the GOP pain is alright by me, and I’m petty and shallow enough to admit it.

Palin/Joe the Plumber 2012- do it wingnuts, I double dog dare you.

Triple dog dare.

The Stimulus in Utah

Salt Lake Tribune:

Families in need

Nearly $90 million will bolster the food-stamp program, helping feed more than 70,000 Utah households. More than $570,000 will preserve Meals on Wheels programs at senior centers, which faced state cuts. More than $8.4 million will help battle homelessness, and nearly $500,000 will provide emergency food and shelter to needy Utahns. Child care and development block grants got a $22-million-plus boost.


The first installment, $53 million, of $300-million-plus coming to the state helped preserve coverage for more than 25,000 elderly, disabled and pregnant Utahns.


The state will receive more than $73 million for weatherization and energy efficiency -- nearly $38 million for the Weatherization Assistance Program and $35-million-plus for the State Energy Program.


With an assist from Sen. Bob Bennett, $50 million in stimulus cash will flow to the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, the bulk of it to help pay for a pipeline that will funnel water through Spanish Fork Canyon to Utah and Salt Lake counties.

Tragic, isn't it? And me fresh out of tea bags! Our brave legislative leaders just simply couldn't do any more to turn down this awful, awful money they (ka-ching!) needed to fill in a gigantic budget hole. They fought the good fight, but there just wasn't enough cognitive dissonance to keep it up.

Even self defeating ideology and empty rhetoric has it's limits, huh?

UPDATE: A nice "overview" of the stimulus in Utah by Todd @ UDP.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sen. Jim Demint (R-SC): My New Favorite Wingnut

I didn't think anyone would be so soon surpassing Rep. Michele Bachmann on our bat-shit comedy meter, but Senator Jim Demint is quickly doing just that.


Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC): GOP lost Pennsylvania because "forced unionization" caused Republicans to flee the Northeast for the safety and comfort of the southern motherland.
Whiskey Fire:

Apparently Jim DeMint has informed CNN that "we're seeing all across the country now that the biggest tent of all is the Tent of Freedom."

To which there can only be one response:



DeMint, a fierce opponent of government expansion, told the CPAC crowd that conservatives might have to “take to the streets to stop America’s slide into socialism.”

Jim DeMint shows once again why he's in the Party of Ideas--wrong, twisted and made-up ideas. His latest claim?
“If you send a kid to [public] school in D.C., chances are that they will end up in a gang rather than graduating.”
One could immediately jump on the "how racist is that?" bandwagon, but Think Progress has a better rejoinder: the graduation rate in D.C. is 70 percent, while the graduation rate in DeMint's South Carolina is 56 percent, the fourth worst in the nation. Schedule some remedial ed. for the good Senator.
It goes on from there.

I thought they'd hit the pinnacle of self-mockery with the Tea Baggn'. I was wrong. Comedy Central holds no candle to the wingnut scorned.

Michael Steele Is So Mad He Can't Even Make Sense

These RNC emails are comedy gold lately.

I hope Arlen Specter's party change outrages you. It should for two reasons:

First--Specter claimed it was philosophical--and pointed his finger of blame at Republicans all over America for his defection to the Democrats. He told us all to go jump in the lake today.

I'm sorry, but I don't believe a word he said.

Arlen Specter committed a purely political and self-serving act today. He simply believes he has a better chance of saving his political hide and his job as a Democrat. He loves the title of Senator more than he loves the party--and the principles--that elected him and nurtured him.

Second--and more importantly--Arlen Specter handed Barack Obama and his band of radical leftists nearly absolute power in the United States Senate. In leaving the Republican Party--and joining the Democrats--he absolutely undercut Republicans' efforts to slow down Obama's radical agenda through the threat of filibuster.

Facing defeat in Pennsylvania's 2010 Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record, and an end to his 30 year career in the U.S. Senate, he has peddled his services--and his vote--to the leftist Obama Democrats who aim to remake America with their leftist plan.

As recently as April 9th, Senator Specter said he would run in the Pennsylvania primary next year as a Republican. Why the sudden change of heart? Clearly, this was an act based on political expediency by a craven politician desperate to keep his Washington power base--not the act of a statesman.

His defection to the Democrat Party puts the Democrats in an almost unstoppable position to pass Obama's destructive agenda of income redistribution, health care nationalization, and a massive expansion of entitlements.

Arlen Specter has put his loyalty to his own political career above his duty to his state and nation.

You and I have a choice. Some will use Specter's defection as an excuse to fold the tent and give up. I believe that you are not one of those people. When Benedict Arnold defected to the British, George Washington didn't fold the tent and give up either.

The leftist leftists leftist agenda is too leftist and Steele is good and irrelevantly pissed about it for reasons he can't even elaborate on it's so leftist! You should be pissed too, and asking why later! Oh and SOCIALISM!!! Are you an angry mob yet? Grrrrr! Please donate.

I do agree with Steele on one thing though: GOPers shouldn't give up. The wingnuts have hijacked your party. Take it back. Starting with Steele.

The Last Moderate

Via Political Wire:

Olympia Snowe: "It is true that being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of Survivor -- you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you're no longer welcome in the tribe. But it is truly a dangerous signal that a Republican senator of nearly three decades no longer felt able to remain in the party."

Alaska, Like Utah, Will Cash That Stimulus Check

Et tu, Palin?

Palin initially said she would accept only about two-thirds of the $930 million available to Alaska, but spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said Palin changed her mind after the public weighed in during legislative hearings prior to lawmakers passing bills to seek almost all funding.

Among the stimulus funds Palin has directed her agencies to seek are $264 million for transportation projects, $130 million for Medicaid and $171 for education.

"I thank legislators for their work on the federal economic stimulus package and the public for participating in the process," Palin said in a written statement.

"The Legislature has accepted these stimulus dollars, and my agencies will make appropriate applications for funding. As we move forward, we must continue to exercise fiscal responsibility and prudent planning to develop our resources and build a stronger Alaska, and not assume federal dollars will continue to pay so many of Alaska's bills," Palin said.

This is playing out about as we could expect, and while it's fun to gloat, it's important to also realize the duality required from most state GOP leaders these days. Just like our own legislature, there is a lot of big talk and posturing for ideological purity concerns, but in the end, it's been "so how soon will that check be here?"

This is a lesson in bullshit detection, as well as economic turnaround. Republicans are all talk, no real policy (that works).

Questions for Bishop and Matheson


For example, as Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, searched for something nice to say about Obama, he finally offered, "I think what's he's done with the Somali pirates, that's very positive. I like that. To build the F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter), is good. But cutting the crap out of the rest of the military doesn't help."

Surprisingly, Matheson said somewhat similar things, praising smaller actions by Obama and then saying, "I've had some issue about trying to drive some of the big issues of the day in a more partisan way than I'd like … On the big issues of the day, you've got to have bipartisanship."

Delegation Republicans tend to blast Obama on his economic-stimulus bill, environmental actions, foreign affairs and his liberal philosophy — and offer compliments only on style or small issues. Matheson is more complimentary on the environment and Obama's philosophy.

"The stimulus was terrible," Bishop said, sounding a popular refrain among Republicans. The four Republicans in the delegation opposed it; Matheson voted for it.

Two questions for the federal delegates. For Bishop: Do you mean this stimulus? Or this one? How about this one?

Utah will soon receive a $321 million chunk of stimulus money that will go largely toward schools, the U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday.

The feds have officially approved Utah's application for the money, much of which will help fill holes in the state's education budgets for this school year and next.

Todd Hauber, state associate superintendent, said the money will help save teachers' jobs and classroom education throughout the state.

"This is money we otherwise wouldn't have had in the state," Hauber said. "It really is preserving education programs within the state."

State lawmakers were able to limit cuts to schools to only about 5.2 percent for next school year thanks largely to the promise of this stimulus money.

Emphasis mine, Rob, as it seems you've missed that part (repeatedly), while you were out tea-bagging. And for Matheson: "You've got to have bipartishanship." Why?
No seriously. WHY?

You are both welcome to get back to me at your own convenience. No rush. There's no expiration date on stupid statements with little supporting evidence. Take your time and think it through (for once).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Counting To 60

Thanks to Arlen, now we just need Al seated.

NBC News confirms that Republican Sen. Arlen Specter has switched parties, which would give Democrats a filibuster-proof 60 seats if/once Al Franken is seated

The next-generation arms race begins

According to a new report, President Obama's Pentagon has commissioned the creation of a "highly classified" version of "the Internet of the future" in order to develop new cyberweapons and defense mechanisms to protect U.S. infrastructure in the coming decades. ... Cool.

read more | digg story

Monday, April 27, 2009

The GOP: Not a Party, a Cautionary Tale

And one Democrats would do well to remember.

Despite what looks like a wealth of available material -- such as the populist outrage over American International Group, exploding deficits -- Republicans have been unable to do any damage to Obama's public image thus far, and it's not for lack of effort. The president returned from the Caribbean last week to a torrent of right-wing scorn and accusations that he was making America appear weak in the world and enabling our enemies by being too cozy with geopolitical hotheads like Hugo Chavez and Manuel Ortega.

First Newt Gingrich went on the "Today Show" to catalog Obama foreign-policy failings. "I think symbolically -- we've had weakness in the last two weeks with North Korea, we have weakness with Iran, we have bowing to the Saudi king, we have weakness with Hamas, we have weakness with Cuba," the former House speaker declared.

And just to drive home the point, former Vice President Dick Cheney emerged from his secret undisclosed location to warn: "The world outside there, both our friends and our foes, will be quick to take advantage of a situation if they think they're dealing with a weak president or one who is not going to stand up and aggressively defend America's interests."

All week, the echo chamber tried to amplify the putting America at risk message: If only someone were listening. It seems that the only real consequence of the GOP's efforts so far is dwindling support and diminished credibility for the party. Obama's job-approval rating is at 64 percent in the latest Gallup poll, while only 22 percent of people think that the Republican Party care about people like them. For Democrats, that number was 57 percent.

Not many years ago, Democrats were all over the place. No focus, no identity. No real plan that spoke to voters, even within their own reliable base. What's happening now within the GOP is similar to those "post-Clinton" years for the Democrats, and not something that won't sneak up on the party again "post-Obama," should the relevant lessons not set in.

There is a lot of talk about progressive budgets, and progressive agendas being realized, but behind the scenes, the "brand" of the Democratic party needs to be cemented and sold in our own words (not the GOP's this time) to voters. It's too early to predict, with certainty, a full on political realignment of the nation, but without doubt the next few years will be a redefining period for the Democratic Party that will have lasting effects.

State Chair Race: Jeff Bell and Wayne Holland, Jr , Weber County Convention (w/ Video)

Last Saturday, Weber and Cache Counties held their 2009 organizing conventions, and we were able to get video of both (Weber is up, Cache coming soon). What was of course most interesting for me personally were the speeches by State Chair Candidate JM Bell and incumbent State Chair Wayne Holland, Jr. Here is what they both had to say:

Candidate, Jeff Bell:

State Chair Incumbent, Wayne Holland Jr.

The Weber County convention, in entirety, is linked here, Davis County and (upcoming) Cache County conventions available here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Only in Utah County


Utah County Republicans defeated a resolution opposing well-heeled groups that a delegate claims are pushing a satanic plan to encourage illegitimate births and illegal immigration.

Don Larsen, a Springville delegate, offered the resolution, titled "Resolution opposing the Hate America anti-Christian Open Borders cabal," warning delegates that an "invisible government" comprised of left-wing foundations was pumping money into the Democratic Party to push for looser immigration laws and anti-family legislation.

Larsen said Democrats get most of the votes cast by illegal immigrants and people in dysfunctional families.

But it's not the Democrats who are behind this strategy, Larsen said. It's the devil.

"Satan's ultimate goal is to destroy the family," Larsen said, "and these people are playing a leading part in it."

Larsen's resolution contained quotes from the New Testament on the battle between good and evil. The copy of the resolution handed to delegates stated it "fulfills scriptural prophecies about our times."

Larsen offered a similar resolution at the 2007 convention. That also was defeated by delegates.

David Rodeback, a delegate from American Fork, urged delegates to forcefully reject the resolution, as it would do the party more harm than good.

Who are these people to put the future of their party before the eternal soul of our country against such a subversive invasion of people who are "differnt from us!" Approval the resolution, before it's too late!

On a related note, Don Larsen will be speaking right after LaVar and Gayle at Sutherland Institutes's next "fight teh gay" festival, and Carl Wimmer wants his input on some legislation for the 2010 legislature.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I Like Your Christ, I Do Not Like Your Christians

Sometimes I think the biggest challenge to the family and christian values are those who claim to promote the family and christian morals.

IRONY: Rep. Harman bugged by the NSA; Spies and Scandal?

Reports in Congressional Quarterly and the New York Times indicate that a National Security Agency (NSA) wiretap authorized by the FISA Court recorded Rep. Jane Harman trading political favors with a suspected Israeli agent. When the FBI attempted to open a criminal investigation into the matter, Attorney General Gonzales allegedly intervened. They "needed" Harmon's vote on passing surveillance legislation.

Ah, the irony.

read more | digg story

Jim Webb Says Drug Legalization is "On the Table"

The leader of a congressional effort to reform the criminal justice system said Thursday that all issues — including drug legalization — need to be on the table. Sen. Jim Webb, who has made criminal justice and prison reform a signature issue of his this year in Congress, is the most high-profile lawmaker to indicate openness to drug legalization.

read more | digg story

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The SideTrack's Annual "Who's Who" of Sutherland's "Earth" Week Event (Day Two)

Day two of Sutherland's "Earth" week, and our spotlights on the speakers they've brought in. (Yesterday's guests here, and read the institute's own descriptions here). Unable to attend myself, I've spoken with several there yesterday, and confirmed, indeed, that an argument was made that C02 in high concentrations was a good thing we should all be happy for. No amount of head shaking or eyebrow raising does John Christy's looney-ness justice. But moving on.

Today we have Frank Conte of Beacon Hill Institute, and John Charles Jr, CEO of Cascade Policy Institute.

Frank Conte, Beacon Hill Institute

Not much bad to say about Frank himself. He's the director of communications, and the frequency with which he's sent out BHI releases, I assume he's doing a bang-up job. The institute itself, however, leaves much to be desired when it comes to their climate change claims (when they even admit it's happening). The latest “The Economic Analysis of the Western Climate Initiative’s Regional Cap-and-Trade Program,” (forwarded to me by Sutherland as well) is basically an extension of the Western Business Roundtable's industry PR campaign labeled as "study," aimed at undermining the Western Climate Initiative, and falsifying information about cap-and-trade. Their claim, in short: WCI's cap-and-trade initiative will destroy our economy. Two problems I found in the "study." One: they are studying South Carolina and New York to predict what will happen in the Rocky Mountain region. Odd. And Two: They aren't talking about cap-and-trade at all, but an outright state energy tax... which, um, isn't what WCI's cap-and-trade program is recommending. They of course hide this little nugget carefully in the appendix of the publication:

For the 100% permit auction assumption, we modeled the price increases an increase to the state fuel tax, in the case of households and the transportation sector, or a state fee, in the cases of the commercial and industrial sectors. We chose state fees and taxes because they best mirror how the cap-and-trade system that would (1) drive up electricity and fuel prices and (2) provide a stream of revenue to the participating states. For the 25% permit auction assumption we modeled the 25% of the price increase as a tax and 75% of the increase as an increase in the price index for the applicable sector.
So, cap-and-trade is bad for western states, and we can prove it, using models not at all similar to cap-and-trade, and a hypothetical from two states not even near the western region. TaDa! Proof. Or something.

John Charles, Jr, CEO Cascade Policy Institute

My first experience with Cascade Policy Institute came from my penchant for CATO Institute (who help fund the institute) daily podcasts. Cascade was referenced a lot, usually in topics relating to free markets and unfettered deregulation (something even CATO has backed off on since the financial market collapse). Pretty standrad stuff. The words "liberty" and "non-Partisan" are used often in their releases, and they would really like to see a market based solution to just about everything (from Health Care to addressing Climate Change). To their credit, they don't (a new phrase I've coined) "pull a Christy" and tell us warming a good thing. They also think it might not really be happening. Their webpage reads like a greatest hits of every free market screed you've ever heard. School vouchers are the shiz-nit. Cap-and-Trade causes cancer. Etc. They would have us believe the same markets that brought us "too big to fail" and "I'm sorry, we don't cover that procedure" would be the best solution to something as serious as climate change.

Sutherland made it easy for me this year. I'm expected more from them, to be honest. Where's the edge? Where's the originality? A weatherman, a guy who thinks C02 is the new Coke (okay, that's pretty original), another rep from another think tank using Republican Playground Math to prop up "policy," and another libertarian love-fest, telling us all problems would go away if that pesky federal government would just let states pollute as necessary? That's the best you can throw at us Dirty F#@king Hippies? C'mon!

Undeterred, I still have tomorrow's "documentary" filmmaker to digest. Stay tuned.

A Case for Accountability

From Congress' Matters David Waldman:

Senate Democrats and those inside the Obama administration are rightly concerned with reports that Republicans are still threatening to filibuster the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head up DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Grassroots and netroots activists are urged to voice their support for the nomination, which is a priority for the administration.

However, it's difficult for me to muster a great deal of enthusiasm for and/or invest political capital in the fight to install a highly qualified and highly ethical OLC chief in the face of the administration's retroactive immunization of the unqualified and highly unethical OLC staff that attempted to provide cover for programs of torture. I'm pleased to have such strong and talented candidates to fill the jobs, and ideally, those are exactly the types of people you want filling these important roles in providing legal advice to the administration.

But really, if the message is that if you stray horribly afield on torture and detainee policies that even the Bush "administration" DOJ will rebuke your memos and utterly reject the "legal reasoning" -- if that's even a fair term to use for what's in those memos -- you will not only not be held to account, but those who followed your advice will also have nothing to answer for, then some small part of me asks who cares about filling those jobs with qualified people?
Though it would be vindicating in many ways, I would hate to see the "Torture Memos" review become a witch hunt or political revenge theater (mostly because it hands the Republicans their "martyr" act). And one of the many things forgotten about what Nixon did to this country is that the ugliness of his trial, and exit from office, permanently effecting the Executive office, and -- until Dick Cheney -- rendering the President less effective, acting in fear of prosecution at all times. But what happened to Nixon was necessary, even cathartic for the country. Is this situation the same?

I think it's important that prosecution talk only arises during the investigation in cases where the law breaking is blatant, not implied by "intent," but yes, considering the pervasive taint that the entire system suffers going forward should there be no retribution for the past, this investigation, and any subsequent prosecutions are key to maintaining a healthy, reliable governmental system. Justified prosecutions will go a long way to restoring integrity and faith.

"Completed Crime"

Mulling over the irony of Jane Harman's (D-CA-36) wiretapping troubles under a warrantless program she aggressively defended. It's funny, but it's all still too infuriating for me. CQ Politics:

Justice Department attorneys in the intelligence and public corruption units who read the transcripts decided that Harman had committed a "completed crime," a legal term meaning that there was evidence that she had attempted to complete it, three former officials said.

And they were prepared to open a case on her, which would include electronic surveillance approved by the so-called FISA Court, the secret panel established by the 1979 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to hear government wiretap requests.

But that's when, according to knowledgeable officials, Attorney General Gonzales intervened.

According to two officials privy to the events, Gonzales said he "needed Jane" to help support the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, which was about to be exposed by the New York Times.

Harman, he told Goss, had helped persuade the newspaper to hold the wiretap story before, on the eve of the 2004 elections. And although it was too late to stop the Times from publishing now, she could be counted on again to help defend the program

He was right.

Politicization is too nice a word.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The SideTrack's Annual "Who's Who" of Sutherland's "Earth" Week Event (Day One)

Today is Earth Day, and second time around, Sutherland Institute is kicking off it's reaction to environmental stewardship with their own "Earth" Week.

I like to think Mero and boys dumped the Heartland Institute lackeys this year due to my flawless reporting on their guest speakers last year. I like to think that, mainly, because it pisses them off. And apparently Roy Innis is much too busy exploiting the poor in the name of defending the poor to shill for the energy industry in exchange for donations for nearly defunct CORE. So who do we have for the 2009 "Earth" Week?

Opening day speakers are ex-weatherman turned TV channel founder John Coleman, and Alabama state climatologist John Christy.

John Coleman

It goes without saying that asking a weatherman (since his freshman year in college) turned television exec about global climate change is like consulting your local pharmacist for information on global pandemics. But that aside, who is John Coleman? A San Diego meteorologist who founded The Weather Channel, and was forced out. (He now refers to his own channel as "the premiere propaganda outlet for the global warming scam.") He has a blog. He wants to sue Al Gore for fraud. He was one of Sen. Inhofe's supposed "400 Scientists." His biggest argument against the very idea of man made climate change hinges on the archetype used by so many confused deniers: the confusion of weather with climate. It snowed in May once, thus, no overall warming trend. TaDa! Science thwarted! Coleman himself admits his only experience is with weather, not climatology. I guess Sutherland was simply looking to fill a time spot? My dog was free, and he can predict rain... they needed only to ask.

John Christy

To Alabama State Climatologist Christy's credit, he has a PhD and does acknowledge that global warming is real, and that the human contribution could have a great effect. To his discredit, he has a habit of citing data rejected by climatologists at large to assert that warming will be a good thing, and rising CO2 concentrations will benefit the planet. A direct quote: "I don't see danger. I see, in some cases, adaptation, and in others something like restrained glee, at the thought of longer growing seasons, warmer winters, and a more fertile atmosphere." Desertification. Inland flooding. Extinction. What glee! Oh, and he brings a little bit of Heartland Institute to this years "Earth Week" after all. Christy was a primary contributor to Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths published by Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is funded by (wait for it...) ExxonMobil.

So, two John's today. John #1 thinks climate change is complete fabrication, not happening at all. John #2 thinks climate change is real, and possibly man-made, but a super duper good thing, like Christmas. Makes... sense?

That's all for now. Tomorrow's speakers will be Frank Conte of Beacon Hill Institute, and John Charles of the Cascade Policy Institute. We'll have the dirt on them as well.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sen. Hatch, Comedian

Ah, Orrin, you big joker, you. Salt Lake Tribune:

During last year's debate over the Bush administration's wiretapping program, Sen. Orrin Hatch derided critics worried about domestic spying as feeding into the fear of people who "wear tinfoil hats around the house and think that 9/11 was an inside job."

Now, it turns out, the conspiracy theorists may have been right.

The New York Times reported Thursday that the National Security Agency overreached in its so-called terrorist surveillance program by intercepting private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans beyond what was approved of by Congress.

Congressional Democrats plan hearings on the revelation.

Hatch -- a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who was a leading voice for legislation giving immunity to telecommunications companies who had engaged in the wiretapping for the government --- slammed accusations that the government might tap Americans' phones or email.

"Painting this type of picture only feeds the delusions of those who wear tin foil hats around their house and think that 9/11 was an inside job," Hatch said in a Senate debate, according to the Congressional Record. [...]

Hatch said Thursday that he had not read The Times report but that he didn't believe it was as significant as indicated. If the report is true, he said, hearings would be appropriate.

But the Utah Republican said the "tin foil hat" remark was meant as a joke and not as a disparaging remark.

"Those people sitting around worried about black helicopters or tin foil hats don't have much of a sense of humor," Hatch said, adding that while he deals with serious issues he also cracks wise on occasion. "There are so many people who are wild about these issues that they really don't look at the facts."

Like Senators?

Making Socialism Popular

From The Daily Beast, writing on a recent Rasmussen poll, comes the possibility that the Right Wing Noise Machine's attempts to paint Obama as a socialist infiltrator may be having unintended consequences: a rise in popularity for socialism that didn't exist before.

The actual Socialist Party in America is small and inconsequential, and the only professed socialist in Congress, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, keeps a low profile on the national stage.

No, it’s increasingly clear that socialism’s newfound popularity comes from the Mitch McConnells, John Boehners, Rush Limbaughs, Sean Hannitys, and Glenn Becks of the world, whose repeated invocations of the term have pushed a previously DOA political movement to new heights of popularity.

The Rasmussen poll on socialism needs to be viewed in the context of the overall political environment. The Republican Party is both smaller and less liked than at any time in modern history. In the latest CBS/NYT poll, the GOP had a putrid 31 percent approval rating, its lowest ever recorded. President Obama was more than twice as popular in the same poll, with a robust 66 percent backing his performance. The GOP is also tinier than ever: Only 24 percent of respondents from one recent Pew poll identified as Republican, an astoundingly low number for a two-party country.

So it's not at all surprising that when Rush Limbaugh (approval rating: 19 percent), Sen. Mitch McConnell (approval rating: 23 percent), and Rep. John Boehner (approval rating: 18 percent) lecture Americans about how Barack Obama is a socialist, well, people just might start deciding that they prefer socialism by default. When politicians like Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) channel their inner Joe McCarthy and claim that some 17 members of the House are socialists, one would bet the collectivized farm that the congressional 17 are way more popular than the guy waving the list of them.

That's gotta burn.

A Discussion On Deficits

While it may never really be known why groups of people gathered together yesterday to honor tea bags, or protest something (it wasn't the most cohesive protest messaging wise), it seems that the federal government's deficit/debt had something to do with it. As often happens in the Utah blogging community, a discussion has broken out around it.

First we have Todd @UDP with the party's thoughts on the tea party.

Democrats have history voters can trust of recently doing a similar job during the Clinton administration that brought us four years of budget surpluses. [...]

To be fair, the Utah GOP kept their 2008 campaign promises that they would not increase taxes during a recession.

You will note during this past legislative session, they did not increase anything called a tax: gas taxes, cigarette taxes, centrally assessed property taxes that hit big business, income taxes, or severance taxes.

Instead, they decided to increase the cost of nearly everything else: vehicle registration fees, business fees, court fees, college tuition, public employee health insurance co-pays and premiums, public school student fees, and even marriage license fees.

‘nough said?

The talk of the Clinton budget caught Jesse's attention.

This is just the latest in a series of historical revisions to give the impression that Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility at a time when they are continuing the Bush legacy of giving away taxpayer funds to wealth corporations and using economic means to engage in social engineering. The facts simply do not bear out their claims.
To which Todd responded.

Bush’s increasing debt for national security would be understandable if it weren’t accompanied by two massive tax cuts that did nothing to increase productivity, an irresponsible prescription drug benefit where the real cost was hidden from the Congress and no cost controls were permitted, failure to live by “pay-go” standards, and an unprecedented number of Congressional earmarks.

The Obama administration favors spending at this time to ameliorate the fiscal crisis and to do so in a manner that invests in long-term productivity that makes it easier to pay down the costs when the crisis abates. There are legitimate quibbles about the details, but the responsible nature of this principle is sound.

With the current news of bailouts, taxes, and recessions, the national debt is something that is being brought up more than it had been for the previous 8 years. That doesn't mean it isn't an important discussion to have (nor was it then), but to keep things in perspective, we can't pay off a national debt if no one has a job, since there would be no tax base. Likewise if the economy is shrinking, or hasn't rebounded to it's previous robust levels, then the tax base still isn't reaching its potential. Hence the economy rightly is the current focus, with concerns about the national debt taking a bit of a backseat for now. When the economy has rebounded, which it will (expediated by some stimulus), we can and should then turn our attention to the national debt. The Clinton model is a good road map when we reach that point. Debts aren't paid off overnight, nor are large deficits turned into big surpluses.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

DFA Night School: Building A Better County Party

From the inbox:

Building a Better County Party
Wednesday - April 22, 2009
8:30pm Eastern time


One of the greatest victories the progressive movement has achieved in the last five years is taking back the Democratic Party from the forces of caution and capitulation of the previous decade.

The Obama campaign, like the Dean campaign before it, has brought in a whole new class of leaders and activists who will be able to outwork and outmaneuver an entrenched leadership class. Listen in to DFA Night School next Wednesday for a free online training to hear their stories and share your own.

Our guest trainer will be Jennifer Coken, the former Chair of the Denver County Democratic Party. We will spend the hour reviewing proven strategies and ideas you can use to make your local Democratic Party become more open, active and engaged in your community.


Glenn Beck, Secessionist

The man has lost it.

You can't convince me that the Founding Fathers wouldn't allow you to secede.

The Constitution is not a suicide pact, and if a state says: `I don't want to go there, because that's suicide, they have a right to back out. They have a right -- people have a right to not commit economic suicide...

...Texas says go to hell, Washington, which by the way has been said before. I believe it was Davey's about time that somebody says that again."

Argh! The Bush Legacy Strikes Again

Mark Towner must be ecstatic, sitting somewhere, no longer blogging, enjoying the constant attention piracy is getting the past few days. But in the immediate situation, admittedly overshadowed -- as all else -- by the troubles brewing still in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, there is a real concern in the growing abilities and numbers of modern day pirates.

Todd @ UDP:

This current incident was resolved by the magnificent United States Navy under orders from President Obama.

The United States got out of Mogadishu once. Will we have to go back?

A former CIA officer, talking to Ken Silverstein at Harper's Magazine, says yes. An excerpt: “We’ve been trying to deal with this from the ocean side, by sending the navy. We can’t afford to patrol that big a piece of the ocean. We need to deal with this problem from the beach side, in concert with the ocean side. We need to work in Somalia and in Lebanon, where a lot of the ransom money has changed hands. But our operations in Lebanon are a joke, and we have no presence at all in Somalia. The U.S. Navy should not have to shoulder this mission alone. Where is the CIA? The pirates have a base of operations and infrastructure. They’re not going out 400-plus nautical miles from shore in shitty boats; they have fuel supplies, docks, mechanics, and support infrastructure, on the beach. It’s all findable and disrupt-able. We need a contingent of agency personnel in Ethiopia and Somalia to go after this infrastructure, leadership and control elements in Somalia, and an aggressive human intelligence effort in Lebanon to follow, and choke off the money.”

The Bush legacy strikes, again. One more thing to fix, President Obama.

I don't remember every having a national debate on whether or not the US should or can be the world's police, but if we are going to make such an effort, it's important to remember why the short-sighted and poorly planned foreign policies of Bush's GOP have undermined even that effort.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Catch a Tea Party Tomorrow, See What We Must Not Become

How can the Democratic Party avoid what we will see on display tomorrow from Republicans and John Birchers at the Tea Parties? This sums it up.

If you rated me on a scale of 1-10 about how much I trust Obama, 1 being lowest and 10 being highest, I'd probably rate at close to a 10. I will give him the benefit of the doubt just about every time. And if you asked my number one political goal over the next year, or four, it would be simple: help Barack Obama be a successful President.

Then why, you may ask, have I been so tough on the administration on the banking issue? Because my trust in his overall goodness and progressivity, and being willing to give him and his team the benefit of the doubt, does not mean that I shouldn't speak out clearly when I disagree, or hold him accountable as he repeatedly asked us to do throughout his campaign and transition.

To Obama's great credit, he has never been a leader who has demanded blind and absolute loyalty. Instead, like the old community organizer that he is, he has actively encouraged people to hold him accountable, to disagree with him, to "make him do it" (the famous FDR quote to labor leaders Chris referenced in his post).

Ronald Reagan used to say "trust, but verify." With me, I guess the operative phrase is "trust, but organize." I am proud of this President, proud that I supported him in the primary, proud that I raised money and knocked on doors for him, proud that I had the honor of working for him in the transition, proud to support all the great things he has already done and proposed. But if progressives believe he is wrong on something important, we should still speak out and still organize.
The Republican Party now suffers from a self induced ideological hang up that poisons their policy and holds back rational thought while fracturing any relevant discussion about the future (beyond Tea Baggn', of course). Criticism of George Bush (pre Nov 2008) was heresy in the GOP ranks. The extremes of their party are winning out over the moderate "Huntsman's" and that's good for Democrats. They are rallying the unhinged base, and turning off independents twice as fast. Again, good for Democrats. They are impervious to change, circling the wagons around failed policies, and low information support, in a world of hyper-information and center-left sentiment. Still good for Democrats.

But blind loyalty within our own party, or the notion that "it's alright if a Democrat does it," condemns us to the same future, eventually. Many have challenged the work of David Sirota and Glenn Greenwald almost as they would traitors to a cause, despite the fact that these are two of the most progressive advocates writing today. Comments on a recent HuffPo article criticizing the latest bank bailout accused the writer of being a GOP mole. Suggestions of primary challenges for DINO's in blue states have been met with unjustified defense amounting to little more than "but he/she is a Democrat... why complain?" Because there are better Democrats out there, or these DINO's can be made better Democrats. It's not about the "D" it's about putting our country back on track, and undoing the dangerous "conventional wisdom" instilled in both Republicans and Democrats alike by Reagan. It's about fighting the definition Gingrich's GOP carved for our party, which we accepted without much resistance. It's about policy that actually works, not ideology that simply sounds good shouted at a faux-populist rallies with unfortunate names. That's all the GOP has now, and it's their lack of taking a good long look at themselves that allowed it, and allows it to continue full force.

Whether your goal for the Democratic party is to maintain a centrism, or push it further left, we can learn a lesson from the current incarnation of the Republican Party. We have to maintain a healthy party/policy level introspection and openness to criticism from the inside to keep things going in the preferred direction, while offering credit for the moves we support.

Take a few minutes tomorrow and stop by the Tea Bagger parties happening all around the country. Just watch (or better yet, get video, and send us a link). See for yourself what unquestioning devotion to party and ideology, irrespective of changing circumstances, or any semblance of understanding attached to political or social realities delivers. See what a lack of internal criticism leads to, and imagine ourselves there in 10 years.

We aren't immune, and keeping an open mind to differing ideas even within the ranks of a single party will stop us from getting where they will be tomorrow.

Plus, you'll have a good laugh.

ACORN plotting to poison conservative squirrels

I don't have any proof that ACORN activists are plotting to poison conservative squirrels (or Libertarian, for that matter), but perhaps FOX News can book me for an appearance so I can spout my insane, imaginary conspiracy theory.

read more | digg story

Get Your Tea Bag On TeeVee

It's like they're begging to be made fun of.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Glenn Beck Takes Tea Bags And Goes Home

Awwww, this is just too bad really.

Radio and television host Glenn Beck has decided to back out as keynote speaker for the San Antonio Tea Party. He announced on his radio program on Thursday morning that he is concerned his presence may distract from the message the organizers are trying to send.
Thankfully for tea baggers in San Antonio, Ted Nugent, having not been a distraction from anything since the mid 70's, will still appear.

Yes, Clarence Thomas's Day Job Is Interpreting The Constitution

This makes me wonder if he's any good at his night job.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas may have just clarified why he doesn't talk much:
‘Today there is much focus on our rights,” Justice Thomas said. “Indeed, I think there is a proliferation of rights.”

“I am often surprised by the virtual nobility that seems to be accorded those with grievances,” he said. “Shouldn’t there at least be equal time for our Bill of Obligations and our Bill of Responsibilities?”

Funny, I don't remember there being a "Bill of Obligations" or a "Bill of Responsibilities" in the Constitution of the United States of America. But since Thomas is an originalist who interprets the Constitution the way the founders intended, I suppose it must be in there somewhere.

Tea Parties, All The Way Down

I'm still having a lot of fun with these tea parties, but Krugman puts my juvenile mockery in a more serious context:

Last but not least: it turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.

But that’s nothing new, and AstroTurf has worked well for Republicans in the past. The most notable example was the “spontaneous” riot back in 2000 — actually orchestrated by G.O.P. strategists — that shut down the presidential vote recount in Florida’s Miami-Dade County.

So what’s the implication of the fact that Republicans are refusing to grow up, the fact that they are still behaving the same way they did when history seemed to be on their side? I’d say that it’s good for Democrats, at least in the short run — but it’s bad for the country.

For now, the Obama administration gains a substantial advantage from the fact that it has no credible opposition, especially on economic policy, where the Republicans seem particularly clueless.
Clueless is a good word.

Carry on, Tea Baggers.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Jindal Backtracks on Refusing Stimulus Funds

Paraphrasing Jindal, Palin, Sandford, et al: "Hey guys, turns out it was really fucking stupid of us to say we were turning it down."

Jindal is going to build a train from the "wasteful spending" fund he bemoaned not 60 days ago. Isn't it ironic. (Don't you think?) But too his credit, he's standing strong on requesting zero funds for Volcano monitoring for New Orleans. What a brave little guy.

So let's recap. Much like our own legislature, these states need the money. They can do good things with the money. Without the money, it's only cuts and cuts and cuts. And budget cuts (don't tell the Tea Baggers) don't grow an economy shrinking at a staggering pace, or tamp down climbing unemployment.

Utah legislators trumped the small percentage of stimulus funds they turned down, relative to what they accepted, in the hopes that we wouldn't notice. Can't blame them for trying. They'd produced a gigantic budget shortfall, and that must've been very stressful for them to deal with. The legislators of LA and AK, etc. are dealing with that burden, compounded by the fact that their respective Governors went on TV and said stupid things that sounded nice to wingnuts, but forgo the practicalities of real word budgets, economies, and people.

And so, quietly scolded, the Governors are cashing the checks and the red state legislatures are wiping their brows, and they (we) owe it all to those dirty socialists in the White House and the Senate, who saved our asses. Literally. Wait and see.

This has been a lesson in Just Because They are Shouting It Doesn't Make It A Good Idea, a free public service of The SideTrack.

Dobson Concedes

Via Think Progress, Focus on the Family's James Dobson admits "religious right" defeat in culture wars.

Although I think he's off on what this means for the future (I predict no bolts of lightning for equal rights and reduced popularity for legislating morality), he's dead on in regards to the Religious Right's failure.

Some ideas just have a short shelf life, James. Time is the bigot's worst enemy.

Well, time, and microphones.

Anti–Gay-Marriage Ad Sparks YouTube Revolt

"There's a storm gathering." A minute-long TV spot by a group called the National Organization for Marriage is already spawning YouTube parodies of its grave, Terminator-esque warning about gay marriage destroying the American Way of Life.

read more | digg story

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Recovery "Percolating", with a few words from the states.

Tea Bag This

Bowers and Rosenberg on increased public spending, and a likely victory of public opinion for progressives: Public Spending, In Context.

"Center-right" nation, my ass. Democrats can't (and shouldn't) take credit for the shift in attitudes toward growing government, and government doing more. But the party will get credit for finally realizing the notion into policy, and laying to rest antiquated ideas by enacting progressive policy.

Real News' America, Pt. 4: Unions and the Movement

Howard Zinn on social upheaval.

Parts 1, 2, and 3 here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Obama "Absolutely" Supports Tossing Wiretap Lawsuits

We knew this one was coming (he campaigned on it), but it's still disappointing. And this new "immunity" meme is as ridiculous as Bush's Telco defense.

In response to a question at Thursday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that President Obama stands firmly behind a Justice Department brief filed last week which aims to have a civil liberties group’s lawsuit dismissed.

He “absolutely does,” Gibbs said. “Obviously, these are programs that have been debated and discussed, but the President does support that viewpoint.”

The Electronic Frontier foundation is suing the NSA for damages over a program in which the government tracked the phone calls and emails of thousands of Americans following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

In their filing Friday, the Justice Department argued that the case should be dismissed because information surrounding the program was a “state secret” and therefore couldn’t be litigated or discussed. It also proposed that the government was protected by “sovereign immunity” under federal wiretapping statutes and the Patriot Act, arguing that the United States could only face lawsuits if they willfully elected to disclose intelligence obtained by wiretapping.

In other words, the motion posited that government agencies couldn’t be sued for spying because they never intentionally told anyone they were engaged in warrantless wiretaps, even if such a program violated the law.
During his presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama criticized the Bush Administration for its use of “state secrets” as a legal argument to prevent lawsuits from moving forward. His campaign website listed state secrets under the headline “Problems.”

“The Bush administration has ignored public disclosure and has invoked a legal tool known as the ‘state secrets’ privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of court,” his campaign site said.

Raw Story questioned Gibbs about the apparent contradiction.

“Before he was elected, the President said that the Bush administration had abused the state secrets privilege,” this reporter asked. “Has he changed his mind?”

“No,” Gibbs replied. “I mean, obviously, we're dealing with some suits, and the President will -- and the Justice Department will make determinations based on protecting our national security.”

“So he still thinks that the Bush administration abused the state secrets privilege?” Raw Story asked.

“Yes,” Gibbs said.
Enough with the Nixonian 'state secrets' defenses, huh? Some day, under some circumstance, it might actually be a justifiable defense, and no one will buy it because of it's overuse.

EFF says it's not a lost cause yet.

What is Killing Newspapers?

The too frequent choice to present stenography of the inane and irrelevant rather than even a few minutes of investigation with The Google.

The most basic journalism training tells you to inform, as much as possible, succinctly. It seems as if some take this to mean "provide as little information as possible, so as not to confuse the reader."

If the unanswered questions in a story outweigh the information provided, you have not better informed a reader, you've inadvertently implied a conclusive end to the story, doing more to misinform than anything else.

ShamWow Political Investment

David Sirota goes infomercial to make a point.

Feeling sorry for yourself? Struggling to get by? Wondering how you can get a bailout? Well, stop moping, because it's not too late!

I may not have Suze Orman's verve or Billy Mays' voice. But I've discovered a revolutionary risk-free investment plan straight from those who brought us the economic meltdown. So in this column-fomercial, I won't waste your time with Ginsu knives or cash-for-timeshare schemes — I'm going to help make you rich beyond your wildest dreams!

Look, we've all heard about Wall Street's losses. But you probably didn't hear about Corporate America's newest sure thing: a path to financial freedom far more reliable than any decent-paying job. It's something so old-fashioned that even amateur investors can understand it!

It's called graft — a surefire wealth creator that takes your investments, modifies laws, and delivers returns that the best stock trader could never dream of. This is the ShamWow of strategies, the Flowbee of economics, the Ronco of investing. Just look at the profits it generates!

In the last decade, the financial industry's $5 billion investment in campaign contributions and lobbyists resulted in deregulation, which delivered trillions to executives. And when the bubble burst, there was another boatload of free money! By Bloomberg News' account, $12.8 trillion worth of taxpayer loans, grants and guarantees — all to Wall Street!

But wait ... there's more!

The Associated Press this week reports that "companies that spent hundreds of millions lobbying successfully for a tax break enacted in 2004 got a 22,000-percent return on that investment" — $100 billion in all. That could be you!

Read the rest here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Top 10 Nerf Guns of All Time

In many ways the Nerf gun is the go-to toy shooter. Here are our picks for the top 10 nerf guns of all time, from the classics to the contemporaries.

read more | digg story

Encourage Tea Bagging

We really should. It's a realization that came to me from this open letter to conservative tea baggers that hits right on the nose:

We've had a president who decided that he could revoke the citizenship of Americans based on his own say-so -- and no conservatives were worried about their loss of rights. We've had a government assert that it could spy on any communications, without warrant or cause -- and no conservatives took to the streets, alarmed at the threat to their Constitutional protections. We found out we went to war over a weapons program that didn't exist -- oops. We found out that we subjected innocent, though brown, people to imprisonment without recourse, and others to torture so cruel that it rendered them mentally incompetent. We buried the nation in a mountain of debt -- well, them's the breaks. We forked over billions of dollars in giveaways to oil companies that were already making larger profits than any other companies in the history of the world -- hell, gotta keep John Galt in caviar. None of it raised a peep from any of you, you were all fine with it. The government could do no wrong -- except not going far enough.

But if returning to the tax policies that existed before Bush is the thing that's got a bee in your bonnet, claiming the end of the republic is at hand -- go for it. If you've suddenly decided that preventing government efforts to stave off a second Great Depression is the thing you're going to hang your collective hats on, or that saving one of the prime manufacturing sectors still left in the country is a bridge too far, by all means protest. Who's stopping you? Who's intimidating you?

On the contrary, the rest of us find your "tea bagging" to be superbly instructive.
In your search for faux-populist rage and feeding of manufactured conspiracy, you're driving the last nails into the coffin of the GOP outside of regional strongholds and fringe lunatic beds of low information. By all means, carry on! Every big name we can get tied to these events, the better. Let us know if we can help in organizing these displays of cognitive dissonance. Behind you all the way!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chaffetz, Man-Child Hero of Petulant Children

The man is an embarrassment.

Kudos, District 3. You've voted yourselves up as the laughing stock of the west.

Tea-Baggers Unite!: Acorn Conspiracy Edition

This will not stop being funny for a very, very long time.

So on the whole, no, I would very much encourage the geniuses behind this national Conservative Tea-Baggery to take to the streets as planned. Michelle Malkin, however, fears that The Left has set in motion a diabolical plot to insinuate certain of its members into the very thick of this public tea-bagging:

For the next 9 days, the left-wing blogosphere and left-wing clueless pundits will hammer away with their unreality-based Tea Party smears.

And on the ground, the tax-subsidized and Soros-subsidized troops are going to try and wreak havoc every way they can. Many readers and fellow bloggers have seen signs that ACORN may send in ringers and saboteurs to usurp the anti-tax, anti-reckless spending, anti-bailout message.

Damn that Soros fellow, anyhow! Why must he be constantly spending his vast ill-gotten fortune in a secretive and shadowy fashion in order to spread rumors and lies that there is some shadowy secretive conspiracy behind the actions of political opponents? He's always doing that. Fortunately Malkin is above such tactics, and duly provides proof of the Soros-ACORN sabotage-scheme, in the form of a link to a blog that links to a message board where a random commenter says that ACORN is up to no good. CASE CLOSED. I mean, obviously this is not just paranoid gibberish; the commenter certainly sounds like she's very calm, collected, and sensible:

Groups like ACORN and CODEPINK are nothing but Anti-American criminal organizations. BEWARE. I just stocked up on Pepper spray at JUST IN CASE

And, yes, that is a real link to an online Christmas Ornament shopping site, one that does indeed sell pepper spray, although, regrettably, this pepper spray is not holiday-themed.

The Onion doesn't hold a candle to half cocked wingnuttery with megaphone.

UPDATE: This is too good to be true. Alan Keyes has signed on to the DC Tea Party. Let the comedy commence.

Poor Ol' Sen. Howard Stephenson

At first, Sen. Stephenson's hatred of all that is newspaper was humorous. But after reading his latest unhinged diatribe, this time in the Utah Taxpayer Association's newsletter, my feelings have turned to pity. Crazy is just so sad, especially when it takes them young.

Stephenson now stands as an example of how poorly informed, and foolish even an elected official can sound if their information intake dips below a healthy level. Someone buy him a subscription to the Salt Lake Tribune before he cracks.

Rep. Rob Bishop attempts to balance out the bat-shit with numbers (not actual conclusive mathematical deduction, just random numbers), but ends up saying little more than "spending under Democrats is bad, whereas the budgets I rubber stamped under Bush were super" and "not-subsidizing oil companies is anti-free market."

Yeah, didn't make sense to me either, but they have to say something, right?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

GOP Standing Up... for Torture Memos

Party of NO, blackmailing for Bush.

Senate Republicans are now privately threatening to derail the confirmation of key Obama administration nominees for top legal positions by linking the votes to suppressing critical torture memos from the Bush era. A reliable Justice Department source advises me that Senate Republicans are planning to “go nuclear” over the nominations of Dawn Johnsen as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if the torture documents are made public. The source says these threats are the principal reason for the Obama administration’s abrupt pullback last week from a commitment to release some of the documents. A Republican Senate source confirms the strategy. It now appears that Republicans are seeking an Obama commitment to safeguard the Bush administration’s darkest secrets in exchange for letting these nominations go forward.

Stimulus Hypocrisy

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today:

In Iowa we’ve been fortunate that construction money for highways is going to get out very quickly. The governor is making decisions now on education funding and Medicaid funding, which are the other two big pots of money. So I believe you’re going to see the stimulus impact of that taking place pretty soon.

I think with, for instance, in the state aid money — I should say the stimulus money that’s going to go through the state aid formula — you’re going to find some teachers that might otherwise be laid off maybe won’t be laid off. And the Medicaid money — I think you’re going to find some cutbacks at the state level that would have happened without the stimulus package won’t have to happen now.

Grassley, less than 60 days ago:
R-Iowa, voted against allowing the bill to go forward in a key procedural vote Monday. The package prevailed, however.

“America is getting a bill that’s big on government spending and small on much else, including help for Iowa,” Grassley said afterward.
Cognitive dissonance is too kind a word.

Surveillance: If The President Does It, It's (Still) Not Illegal

Very disappointing.

Unlike in the prior cases where the Obama DOJ embraced the Bush theory of state secrets -- in which the Obama DOJ was simply mimicking arguments previously made in those lawsuits by the Bush DOJ -- the motion filed on Friday was the first response of any kind to this lawsuit by the Government. EFF filed the lawsuit in October but purposely agreed with Bush lawyers to an extension of the time to respond until April, in the hope that by making this Obama's case, and giving his DOJ officials months to consider what to do when first responding, they would receive a different response than the one they would have gotten from the Bush DOJ. That didn't happen. This brief and this case are exclusively the Obama DOJ's, and the ample time that elapsed -- almost three full months -- makes clear that it was fully considered. This demonstrates that the Obama DOJ plans to invoke the exact radical doctrines of executive secrecy which Bush used not only when they are taking over a case from the Bush DOJ, but even when they are deciding what response should be made in the first instance.
This rant from Greenwald comes after a DOJ decision was quietly slipped through on Friday not only defending previous immunity decisions on warrantless surveillance, but expanding them. The DOJ basically ruled that you could not sue the government for surveillance without a warrant, but could only sue them for an improper disclosure of any information they might find while surveilling you without a warrant or cour oversight of any kind. Greenwald continues:
Equally difficult to overstate is how identical the Obama DOJ now is to the Bush DOJ when it comes to its claims of executive secrecy -- not merely in substance but also tone and rhetoric. I defy anyone to read the Obama DOJ's brief here and identify even a single difference between what it says and what the Bush DOJ routinely said in the era of Cheney/Addington (other than the fact that Bush used to rely on secret claims of national security harm from Michael McConnell whereas Obama relies on secret claims filed by Dennis Blair). Even for those most cynical about what Obama was likely to do or not do in the civil liberties realm, reading this brief from the Obama DOJ is so striking -- and more than a little depressing -- given how indistinguishable it is from everything that poured out of the Bush DOJ in order to evade all legal accountability.
And EFF weighs in:
Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is suing the government over the warrantless wiretapping program, notes that the government has previously argued that changes to the Patriot Act protected the government from lawsuits surrounding eavesdropping. But he says that this is the first time that they've made the case that the Patriot Act protects the government from all surveillance statutes.

"They are arguing this based on changes to the law made by the USA PATRIOT Act, Section 223," Bankston said in an email to Raw Story. "We've never been fans of 223--it made it much harder to sue the U.S. for illegal spying, see an old write-up of mine at: --but no one's ever suggested before that it wholly immunized the U.S. government against suits under all the surveillance statutes."
We knew he was bad on FISA, but I didn't expect it to be this bad.

Very. Disappointed.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bound by Ideals

The Prezdint, in Turkey, talking sense.

"One of the great strengths of the United States," the President said, "is ... we have a very large Christian population -- we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."

Corporate Front Group Launches "News" Site to Fight EFCA

CAP, in the inbox:

Last Friday, the Workforce Fairness Institute launched EFCA Wire, "a new 'news' site that's totally devoted to making the case against" the Employee Free Choice Act. As The Progress Report has noted, the Workforce Fairness Institute is nothing more than a corporate front group "founded by several longtime Republican operatives," and likely funded by anti-EFCA giants like Wal-Mart and Home Depot. In a recent interview with Fox News's Glenn Beck, one of those operatives -- former Bush and McCain advisor Mark McKinnon -- pushed the line that Employee Free Choice removes the secret-ballot option, a claim that even the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board has begrudgingly admitted is false. Therefore, it's no surprise that EFCA Wire's main purpose is to promote yet another lie. According to the Washington Post's Greg Sargent, the site will place "a particular emphasis on the damage [the Employee Free Choice Act] would allegedly do the economy." But estimates by the Economic Policy Institute show that Employee Free Choice would actually lead to higher wages, better benefits, and a more productive economy.
Astroturf "news" is the new Jerome Corsi. Be wary.

AFL-CIO has opportunities for you (yes, even Utahn's!) to get involved in fighting back.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

More Gatekeeper Demise?

Me, waxing poetic on changes in the music and film industries, similar to those we've seen in the news and information world.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ah, Jim

You can be such a turd.

Utah's federal delegation unanimously opposed a budget blueprint for the coming fiscal year, including the state's lone Democrat in Congress.

Rep. Jim Matheson was one of 20 Democrats to vote against the fiscal 2010 budget proposal on Thursday night, saying it spent too much and included more financial bailout money.

Matheson, who joined many fellow moderate Blue Dog Democrats, opposed the $3.6 trillion spending proposal. GOP Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz also voted against the non-binding budget resolution.

"We know what happens when we go hog-wild with spending and take on dangerous levels of debt," Matheson said in a statement. "This budget increases government spending by greater than the rate of inflation. We have to do some serious belt-tightening and there's no recognition of that fact in this proposal."

Two points for the DINO. 1) Appropriations that would be our first step toward health care reform are in the budget, and 2) The Recession. You can make the connections yourself, I'm sure.

Obama Breaks Up 'Heated' Spat Between Sarkozy, Jintao

"...The exchange between Sarkozy and Hu got so heated, said a source -- who is not a member of the Obama administration -- it was threatening the unity of the G-20 leaders' meeting... But Mr. Obama stepped between the two men, urging them to try to find consensus, and giving them a "pep talk" about the importance of working together."

read more | digg story

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Numberless GOP Budget, Now Has Numbers, Maybe...

If they can find it. You couldn't write this stuff!

At a press conference Wednesday, the two top Congressional Republicans -- House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) addressed a crowd of some 50 Republicans and their colleagues and ripped Obama's multi-trillion-dollar budget as too expensive. But they didn't, apparently, have a copy of their own budget, according to reporter Sam Stein.

"Do you guys have a formal budget yet?" asked a reporter.

"Mr. Ryan will outline the Republican budget at 10:30 this morning. And yes we do have it," replied Boehner, referring to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).

A silence followed, with reporters apparently unsure what to ask next.

Democrats mocked the GOP budget, details of which appear fully in the Wall Street Journal.

Tea-Baggers Unite!

If this isn't the most ridiculously funny thing I've read in weeks...

Obama's in for it now. Some local conservatives are throwing a "tea party." It won't be long until Utah severs relations with ol' King 'Bama.

Adam Gardiner is organizing the soiree for April 15, high noon, at the Federal Building downtown. He's expecting a fist-shaking group of frustrated and powerless right wingers, including congressmen Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop. And you can bet publicity bottom-feeder Mark Shurtleff will be there. The A.G. has set his cap the seat of Sen. Bob "Burn a Flag" Bennett and this is just the crowd he's playing to.

An this should bring tears to wing nut eyes throughout the state — the tea party will be televised on Glenn Beck.
Tea party. Heh. Regardless of which side you are on (sane, or brain-dead reactionary), this is probably going to be an event to witness. Charging the camera now, just to be safe.

Party Identity - Offense vs. Defense

Curtis Haring on targeting races in Salt Lake County:

For far too long, the Salt Lake County Democrats have been playing defense - focusing on maintaining the local, state, and federal races rather than expanding out and attempting to win more races. This is understandable, as reaching out to virgin territory is risky and takes resources away from the races we have won in the past. It is risky because it means that we may lose races from time to time in what we all believed to be Democratic strong holds. It is risky because we, as Democrats, feel that we are surrounded on all sides and that this would be a waste of resources.

[...] When the party plays defense, they require a charismatic candidate to win in non-traditional areas; when the party plays offense, they require that candidates stick to the Democratic ideals we all pride ourselves in. The offensive version avoids us being angry at DINO’s (Democrats in name only) and allows our message to less easily get distorted by Republicans.
Democrats in Utah, not just Salt Lake County, often seem to suffer from "battered party syndrome." Nationally, the party struggled with this for years as well. If anything from the national races can be applied to Utah (and admittedly, not much can) it's as Haring says: we've let the Republicans define us more than we have worked to define ourselves, and defining ourselves has proven to be a winning strategy.

Haring deserves the win.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's Alive! (or Why UDP's Todd Taylor is Da Bomb)

The Utah Democratic Party shows some (online) life.

Todd Taylor, Executive Director of the Utah Democratic Party, offered up an impressive batch of posts at the UDP website today. I won't assume the posts are in direct response to the criticisms Bob and I have thrown out, but their timing is perfect. I took this bit, particularly, to heart.

Arizona Democratic legislators got killed – despite major spending by the State Party on legislative races – losing three seats in the House and one seat in the Senate.

Idaho Democrats lost some ground – losing just one seat in the State House. But they got a consolation prize: they picked up a new congressman in Walt Minnick – a good trade for them.

Montana’s Democratic legislators had a dramatically mixed outcome. Despite re-electing Gov. Schweitzer with 65% and Senator Max Baucus with 73% and the Obama campaign coming in heavily in the final weeks when they smelled an opportunity, Democrats lost three seats and control of the State Senate. But they did pick up one seat in the House which was just enough to gain control of that chamber.

New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado – where Obama won and played a major role in local campaigns – had reasonably good nights for their legislative candidates. New Mexico picked up three Senate seats and one House seat. Nevada picked up two Senate seats and one House seat. Colorado picked up one Senate seat and two House seats – but their presumptive new Speaker of the House lost his re-election.
Consider me humbled, Todd, and sincerely.

It was a "baby steps" year for Democrats in the West, overall. Here in Utah, I agree, we ran into a galvanized Republican base out voting in opposition to Obama. Perhaps, I should have chosen my words more carefully and said instead that several surrounding states appear to have a more aggressive party, perhaps because the state chairman and leadership have better humanized themselves with the online communities. Their prospects seem brighter with a more aggressive message, which is a draw for support from both small, grassroots donors and volunteers (who tend to be of the more youthful crowd, getting their information online). They provide a more clear image of identity. Appearance, message, image and identity. I'm not saying we don't have it, but the message isn't getting out there.

But then I may have to eat all of my words, reading these posts. It appears there is a fight left in the UDP office after all. This is exactly what seems lacking in the image of the party (online), and helps to fill the void of presence (or will, if it becomes a habit) the UDP has so far maintained with the 18-35 year-old crowd. More of this, please!

Check out the rest of Todd's posts on politics in the west, and the 2009 Legislative session.

2008 Election:
2009 Legislature:

Good stuff.