This post first appeared on Hullabaloo. The poor Wall Street fellas just want to bind up the nation's booboos:
Somebody really needs to talk to these guys. It's getting embarrassing. And the frat boy bonhomie with the Prez is very unfortunate, although his rejoinder was pretty good. I hope Obama heard the applause when he said that Main Street felt like it got whacked.
This post originally appeared at Hullabaloo. TPM is featuring an interesting article today about Alan Grayson's kooky opponent Daniel Webster. Seems he's keeping company with the Christian Reconstructionists (aka American Taliban):
Listed in his official voter guide as a top supporter is a right wing activist named David Barton, who has already come under scrutiny for addressing two white supremacist organizations. Barton claimed in both circumstances that he was unaware of the group's white supremacist ties. But that doesn't mean he's not possessed of extreme views of his own. From 1998 to 2006, he served as vice-chair of the Texas Republican party, which is notorious for having one of the most zealously conservative platforms in the country. In 2004, for instance, the platform advocated the following: 1. The abolition of the IRS and the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment.2. The elimination of the income tax, inheritance tax, gift tax, capital gains tax, corporate income tax, and payroll tax.3. "an orderly transition to a system of private pensions based on the concept of individual retirement accounts, and gradually phasing out the Social Security tax."4. The abolition of the Department of Education.5. Eliminating the government's right to restrict public display of "the Decalogue" (a.k.a. the 10 Commandments). The Texas GOP also "opposes the legalization of sodomy," and holds that "[h]omosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country's founders, and shared by the majority of Texans." Neither Barton nor Webster responded to requests for comment. Barton is the founder of the evangelical organization WallBuilders and was instrumental in Texas' efforts to change its state's (and the nation's) textbook standards.
That's right. It's Beck's intellectual mentor, Mr Black Robed Regiment himself. But this shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone who's followed Webster's career. He's a Christian Reconstructionist from waaay back. He's a follower of one of those evangelical cultleaders, Bill Gothard, who's been training CRs for decades with his "seminars." And he isn't the only one. (How about GOP leaders Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee?) Gothard has some very unusual views, not the least of which is this:

At his Advanced Seminars in 1983, Gothard introduced sex regulations based upon Old Testament commands. Under the session titled "Six Purposes, Principles, and Keys To Fulfillment In The Marriage Relationship," he told married couples to abstain from physical relations: 1. During the wife's menstrual cycle; 2. Seven days after the cycles; 3. 40 days after the birth of a son; 4. 80 days after the birth of a daughter; and 5. The evening prior to worship.

Some may even find the sexual guidelines found in his 1986 volume, Research in Principles of Life Advance Seminar Textbook, intrusive and offensive. What most would feel is personal and private between a couple and their physician, Gothard spells out.

On pages 170-171, Gothard suggests that a man keep track of his wife's menstrual cycle and use it as a reminder of the sufferings and death of Jesus, then quotes Isaiah 53:4-5.

It's a good thing these people aren't primitive and backwards like those awful fundamentalist Muslims. How do I know that Webster is one of his disciples?
Speaker Has Strong Ties to Institute by Peter Wallsten, T. Christian Miller, St. Petersburg Times, February16, 1997 Last summer, Daniel Webster journeyed to South Korea on a religiousmission, meeting with the country's president and other political and spiritual leaders. He was joined by Bill Gothard, the head of a $30-million Christian evangelical group. Four months after the trip, Webster ascended to one of the most powerful positions in Florida: speaker of the state House of Representatives. He brings with him 14 years of experience with Gothard's Institute in Basic Life Principles, where Webster has not only attended seminars, but also taught classes and even made an instructional video that raised money for the institute. The group preaches a literal interpretation of the Bible, including the belief that women should submit to their husbands' authority. With programs for lawmakers, judges, doctors, juvenile delinquents and home- schooling courses, the institute's reach is wide. It says that 2.5-million people around the world have participated in its programs. Webster is an enthusiastic supporter. His six children learn at home, taught by his wife, Sandy, using the institute's curriculum. The family, which also is active in its Orlando Baptist church, has participated in numerous institute seminars over the years. Webster said he does not want to force his beliefs on other people. "I've never tried to say this is what's right for everybody,'' he said. ""All I've said is, "Here's what works for me.' '' Webster said he will not let the institute's teachings dictate his legislative agenda in the House, where he is the first Republican speaker in 122 years. Still, the institute is attracting increasing interest in Tallahassee. Webster has hired four House staffers whom he met through the institute, although Webster's press secretary, Kathy Mears, pointed out that hundreds of people work for Webster. Mears herself has participated in institute courses. Over the years, Webster and state Rep. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, have recruited at least eight other Florida lawmakers to the program, including Sen. John Grant, R-Tampa, and Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. But Webster said there is no connection between Gothard's seven Bible-based principles and the five principles Webster is using to rank every measure the House will consider this year...
Granted, that was 13 years ago. But considering his proud meeting today with The Black Robed regiment pastor, I think it's fair to assume that his beliefs haven't changed. Just how many of these people are going to be in the US government if the Tea Party becomes the dominant faction in the GOP?
This post first appeared on Hullabaloo. Notice how there's no limit to how much money we can spend on this sort of thing:
In line with its "enforcement only" approach to immigration, the Obama administration has increased the number of border patrol agents, most recently as part of a $600 million border bill that passed without much ado this summer. But the rapid expansion appears to have come at a cost. The Los Angeles Times reports that there's been a surge in sexual misconduct and assault cases against Border Patrol agents—a development that some attribute to the increased militarization of the border and greater numbers of inexperienced officers. ..."They see themselves as a quasi-military body defending the country," one political scientist at the University of Texas at El Paso tells the Times reporter. "Add to that the fact that they are expanding rapidly, and you have thousands of rookies who have very little experience."
That's just great. No need to be cool under pressure in this overheated environment. Just hire a bunch of yahoos, give them a gun and immunity and let 'em loose.
The story also points out that the Border Patrol is the second largest police agency in the country after the New York City Police Department, having grown by 9,000 agents from 2005 to 2009 and currently employing 21,000. But there's far less transparency than in most major police departments: unlike most big cities, Border Patrol does not reveal how often it uses force and under what circumstances. And there's very little accountability, because "agents are loath to report peers and juries are reluctant to convict those standing guard along the country's borders."
I've been worried about the encroaching police state --- for which unlimited government spending is untouchable for some time. This, for instance, is from 2006:
I'm personally horrified by the excesses of this administration and terribly worried that the huge bureaucratic domestic surveillance apparatus they are building is going to be impossible to control. I hear tales from all over the country of wads of DHS pork going to local and state police departments to use to spy on their own citizens and we know that at the national level they've pretty much discarded the fourth amendment and have enabled both the foreign and military spy agencies to work within our borders. There's a lot of money and power involved, it's secret and it's fundamentally anti-democratic. We are building a police state and I firmly believe that, politics aside, if you build it they will use it. That all this has been done by the alleged libertarian small government Republicans is no surprise to me. They have always been about big bucks and authoritarianism over all else.
And sadly, on this issue most starkly, the Democrats have shown that they are no different. In fact, it's something that Obama can point to as the great success of his administration: he solidified a fully bipartisan consensus on the police state. (Not that there had ever been much daylight --- but there was a moment of hope for change for a while there.) *I also argued in that old post that the Democrats should make a pitch for privacy and populism with consumer protection arguments. It wasn't a bad idea. Too bad they never tried it.
This post originally appeared on Hullabaloo. From the "who could have ever predicted" file:
If you thought passing the health care overhaul was messy, wait until Republicans try to repeal it if they regain power this fall. It could come down to who blinks first, with some Republicans raising the prospect of a government shutdown. Even if Republicans succeed beyond any current predictions and capture both the Senate and the House, they wouldn't have enough GOP votes to overcome President Barack Obama's veto. But Republicans could still fall back on the congressional power of the purse, denying the administration billions of dollars to carry out the most far-reaching social legislation since Medicare and Medicaid. "The endgame is a fight over funding," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
During the health care debate, raising this point was cause for major slap downs from the Very Serious People who repeatedly assured me that once the legislation was passed they would never even try to repeal it because people would be so upset. When it was pointed out that the benefits weren't going to kick in for years, leaving a huge gap between expectations and reality for quite some time, I recall being told that the Democrats would be able to run on the achievement of passing it in the fall of 2010 and ever after and would protect its legacy. I wrote this back in December when the battle was raging:
There has been no public education about responsibility to buy insurance in all this or any strategy to manage expectations of what people will get with Health Care Reform. And because of that the right is going to have a field day telling everyone that the nanny state liberals are forcing them to give to money to insurance companies and then spending their tax money on poor (brown/black) people. So, again, running around saying "Mission Accomplished" is bad politics. As for the promise to fix all the problems once the bill is in place, I think people are vastly underestimating the forces that are going to be brought to bear to prevent that from happening. Republicans aren't so disorganized that they forgot that they must stop Democrats from giving people reason to believe in government. In addition to deploying their formidable communications apparatus to present health care reform as a massive failure to the majority who are currently covered by employers and will only see the effects from afar, they are going to strangle improvements in the cradle by any means necessary including leveraging their most valuable new voting demographic in the age of Obama --- the elderly. On top of that, we are entering an era of deficit fetishism and have an industry that has shown it will do everything in its power to protect its interests. It's not impossible, but watching the Democrats operate at the zenith of their institutional power over the past year does not give me any confidence that they want to, much less can, battle all that back.
They said that we just needed to pass this so we could get something better down the road. Perhaps that's true. But for the foreseeable future it's going to a fight just to keep the fairly crappy plan as it is, and I frankly have very little faith that' they'll be able to do it. I certainly hope they do. I assume that President Obama will veto repeal measures, and I would certainly assume that there will be enough Democrats left in congress to prevent an override. Funding will be an ongoing problem because of the way the program is designed, so I don't know if Obama can maintain the levels needed to gain support and if a Republican takes office with a GOP congress, we can forget that altogether. I still think, as I thought then, that this sanguine attitude about the future of this health care bill was extremely short sighted. Just now I saw Jonathan Alter on Ed Shultz's show impatiently defending Rahm Emmanuel from Adam Green's criticism by saying he had pushed through "the most important social legislation in 30 years." He explained that he'd told Alter that Democrats had tried it the "progressive" way for 50 years and failed and that you had to invite in all the special interests in order to get it done. (And apparently he was just spitting fire when Holy Joe backed out of the medicare expansion. Sure he was.) I assume that he's going to to be long out of the White House when the Republicans starve it of funding and repeal all the affordability measures. But don't worry, they'll keep in the provision that says insurers have to agree to provide policies for pre-existing conditions. It's just that they'll allow them to charge whatever they want for them. But the legislation did pass so it's not like Rahm won't always have his check mark in the "win" column. As far as the rest of us goes, the jury is still out.

This post first appeared on Hullabaloo.
It's not a sexy as Glenn Beck and his Black Robed Regiment of Christian Reconstructionists (just don't call them Mullahs ...) but this rally scheduled for next month in DC is just a teensy bit more relevant to our current problems. It's called One America, Working Together.

Here's the agenda:

Provide immediate relief for those who are currently unemployed

* Extend jobless benefits, COBRA, mortgage assistance, and other initiatives for those currently out of work.
* Target help for populations and communities in the greatest need

Provide immediate action to stimulate job growth and consumer demand

* Provide aid to states and cities – including direct job creation at local levels – especially in education, health care, social services and first-responder workforces
* Increase the ability of small businesses to obtain loans
* Fund infrastructure investment that spurs economic growth and clean energy enterprises

Provide a fair chance for everyone to succeed and advance in the workplace

* Everyone who works in America should have the right to join with their co-workers to have a voice on the job
* Pay all workers wages that allow them to support their families
* Increase and index the minimum wage
* Close all pay gaps
* End all forms of workplace discrimination
* Protect, honor, fully apply, and expan

This post originally appeared at Hullabaloo. This NY Times story says that the youth vote for Democrats is dwindling because of the economy. I think this quote is very telling:
“There’s a vibe,” he said on a recent afternoon, while pumping weights at the gym. “Right now it seems like Republicans just care a lot more than Democrats.”
I get that. They do seem like they care more. Those who are paying close attention realize that they either care more about destroying the socialist/Muslim menace or they care more about taking back the power they so recently lost. But either way, they do appear to give a damn. The Democrats, on the other hand, rather than coming out with their guns blazing at those who have made it impossible for them to fix these problems seem content with trying to convince people that it isn't as bad as they think it is. You know --- like when your friend tries to convince you that you shouldn't be upset about something you are upset about. It's annoying. And you realize very quickly that they just don't want to hear about it anymore. That's how the Democrats seem right now --- that they are sick of hearing about it. .
This post first appeared on Hullabaloo. The troops were awesome, America is awesome, we saved Iraq, we're saving Afghanistan, now everybody needs to turn the page on all those unpleasant differences we had over the wars and work together like awesome soldiers to fix the economy. Oh, and the troops are really awesome. Did that cover it? First impressions: David Gergen says he was perplexed, Zakaria called it workmanlike, Peter Bergen says that nobody knows what's happening about Afghanistan. Gloria Borger says that he was telling Democrats to STFU about Iraq. John King says he doesn't speak with enough emphasis and so people around the world don't know how to interpret it. On Fox Monica Crowley PhD is spitting nails that he didn't give Junior Bush a blow job, saying that "this guy's" completely lost the faith of the American people. He was trying to look presidential and he didn't succeed. Alan Colmes said he kept a campaign promise, that we will save money, he sold Afghanistan, and that he established himself as Commander in Chief. Bill O'Reilly wondered why he was so boring. I didn't bother with MSNBC but I hear somebody's getting thrills up the leg about his nicey nice to Bush. So there you have it. I don't know why this was an oval office speech. It seems like something you'd do before troops somewhere, but I guess it's a legacy/milestone thing. Oh, and I don't think I'll be turning the page any time soon on this one and this is why. Trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives wasted and ruined for nothing doesn't seem like something to be swept under the rug. But then I'm very big on putting out the trash and looking in the rear view mirror and reading the page before I turn it, so maybe that's just me.
This post first appeared on Hullabaloo. Sam Sedar did some interviews at the Beck Rally on Saturday. This one is particularly interesting because of the conflation of Obama being a Muslim and his adherence to Jeremiah Wright's ideology. I suppose there might be something other than race that informs her conclusions, but it's hard to see what it is. She's a likable person actually, easy smile and laugh, and I'm sure she is. As with so many of the tea partiers, the impression I get is that they are inspired and energized by the solidarity they feel with others there as much as anything else. They are searching for fellowship and meaning beyond the normal religious and political realm. (In some ways they remind me of the fervent Obama followers of the summer of 2008.) And let's face it, what she says about the two party's failing and political corruption could have been said by any one of us. The problem is that the ties that bind her to her fellows are toxic know-nothingism and reflexive tribal identity based upon race, religion and fear and loathing of those who would stake an equal claim to America. It's a dark vision, although I'm sure they don't see it that way --- their lack of self-awareness, as that woman showed in that video, is intellectually incapacitating. And their willingness to listen to demagogues hypnotically reinforcing their insular worldview is apparently limitless. (You'd think they'd get bored at some point.) I know people like that lady. In every respect but the political they are often good people. But this movement is giving voice to her demons, the bad place in her psyche that mistrusts anyone who is different, the fearful place that feels like she is losing her natural born position in the world, that lonely place where she feels as if she's on her own while others less deserving are getting all the attention. And these billionaire tea party financiers and opportunistic hucksters are manipulating her dark side, giving it permission to take over, releasing the beast that resides in all of us but which civilization, morality and reason usually keeps in check. But like Obamamania (which made the opposite pitch -- "hope and change") these fleeting political obsessions in American life can't live up to the huge expectations that are poured into them. This woman is going to be very disillusioned. Her idols are plastic action figures manufactured by millionaires. They can't do this job either. In fact, politics isn't really the proper arena for any of this yearning, something which Glenn Beck may have come to finally understand, as so many demagogues have before him. She has agency, so I don't feel particularly sorry for her. She is an adult, with the freedom to travel and the capacity to figure out what's wrong with the picture before her. It's not as if there aren't choices. But I understand what she's looking for. America is a soulless place these days, over-ridden with consumerism, greed and shallow entertainment values. Her religion has failed her by fueling the flock with hate instead of the affirmation of life it advertises. She yearns for meaning and Rupert Murdoch and Glenn Beck and the tea party are giving it to her in a nice recognizable package. But it's empty. And once the human beast is unleashed there's no telling what it will do. These billionaires and their hired demagogues are playing with fire, assuming that they can control all this --- the anger, the fear, the ultimate disillusionment. But what if they can't?
This post originally appeared at Hullabaloo. Not that we didn't already know this ...
If President Barack Obama needed any more incentive to go all out for Democrats this fall, here it is: Republicans are planning a wave of committee investigations targeting the White House and Democratic allies if they win back the majority. Everything from the microscopic — the New Black Panther party — to the massive –- think bailouts — is on the GOP to-do list, according to a half-dozen Republican aides interviewed by POLITICO. [...] And a handful of aggressive would-be committee chairmen — led by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas) — are quietly gearing up for a possible season of subpoenas not seen since the Clinton wars of the late 1990s. Issa would like Obama’s cooperation, says Kurt Bardella, spokesman for the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. But it’s not essential. “How acrimonious things get really depend on how willing the administration is in accepting our findings [and] responding to our questions,” adds Bardella, who refers to his boss as “questioner-in-chief.’
Here's a little sample of what we can expect (before the impeachment hearings begin.) First, there's the arcane, difficult to explain scandals which are pushed to give the impression of large scale corruption and malfeasance purely by virtue of the numbers of accusations and complicated nature of the charges. I call this the "where there's smoke there's fire" method of character assasination. nothing in particular sticks, but the cumulative effect of the barrage of charges leads to people just wanting it to stop:
Sestak, Romanoff and Jobgate. Most of the Clinton-era investigations — from Whitewater to Vince Foster to the Lewinsky scandal — targeted the president personally.Most potential GOP probes of Obama, by contrast, seem to be aimed at the administration’s periphery or policies — with the ironic exception of the one that revolves around none other than Bill Clinton. Bailouts, Bailouts, Bailouts. No investigation poses a more significant political danger to Obama than a no-holds-barred GOP probe into TARP, the AIG bailout, the Freddie-Fannie sinkhole and the administration’s de facto takeover of GM and Chrysler. Reason One: Perhaps the only issue uniting all voters is a shared hatred of all bailouts — so few Democrats, even die-hard liberals, would be willing to stand in front of a bus to defend Obama against attacks. Reason Two: One GOP aide described the bailouts as a “huge pool” from which to make document and e-mail requests — and issue subpoenas. The prospect of a massive and popular fishing expedition at the West Wing’s expense would delight the Republican base and create a political headache for the president’s team... Countrywide Mortgage and “Angelo’s List.” Sen. Chris Dodd’s embarrassing placement on the company’s VIP mortgage list played a major role in the Connecticut Democrat’s involuntary retirement earlier this year. Issa — using only the bully pulpit — has already forced Countrywide’s parent, Bank of America, to turn over reams of documents. If he becomes chairman, Issa will use the committee’s power to obtain more information on sweetheart deals, even if it involves GOP politicians, according to a person close to him. “I think the White House is underestimating him,” says a top congressional Democratic aide. “What makes him so dangerous is that he’s willing to turn on Republicans, too.”
The bailout inquiries are the most potent for the Republicans because they will further their aim of conflating all government spending with bailouts. One thing we can be sure of: this will not result in the American people being educated about the dangers of corporatism, so I hope that liberals don't get it in their heads that this is a righteous cause. In other hands it might be. In these hands it will make things worse. And then there is the pure lizard brain, red meat scandals a la Vince Foster and Monica. With Obama it isn't about hippie sex and feminazis as it was with Clinton. It's about race:
The New Black Panther Party. Smith, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, has already pressed Holder to look into charges that members of the New Black Panther Party intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling place in 2008. The San Antonio-area conservative — whose first campaign was managed by Karl Rove — is already on record criticizing Holder for dropping the Justice Department case against three Panthers, including one who brandished a police-style baton... ACORN. A whole host of Republicans — led by Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) on the party’s right wing — have demanded an investigation into the defunct community organizing group’s ties to the Obama campaign. Related: Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who stands a chance of leap-frogging Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), the ranking GOPer on the House Financial Services Committee — is pushing for a large-scale investigation of the Community Reinvestment Act.
And then there's just the pure titillation factor:
Minerals Management Service. The juiciest Bush-era revelations about the agency’s shortcomings have already been aired, including the fact that some MMS employees allegedly had sexual relations with workers they were supposed to oversee.
There's nothing they like more than televised hearings featuring somebody describing a sex act. (They should make a rule that all the congressmen have to keep their hands on their desks at all times when this is going on) A lot of this will go nowhere. But they are all very much aware of the possibilities that something will stick. They didn't know about Monica until Linda Tripp mouthed off to Lucianne Goldberg. Anything can happen with these investigations. And, as I said, the over arching point is to tar the administration with a flurry of accusations, which ends up making people suspicious and exhausted even if they don't believe the charges. And keep in mind that they impeached Clinton during a once in a generation economic boom. People tend to be very forgiving when their pockets are bulging with cash. At times like these, not so much.
This post originally appeared at Hullabaloo. Did you know that they are selling those full body scanners they want to deploy in airports to anyone who wants to buy them for use on city streets? Did you know that law enforcement is using them without warrants?
American Science & Engineering, a company based in Billerica, Massachusetts, has sold U.S. and foreign government agencies more than 500 backscatter x-ray scanners mounted in vans that can be driven past neighboring vehicles to see their contents, Joe Reiss, a vice president of marketing at the company told me in an interview. While the biggest buyer of AS&E’s machines over the last seven years has been the Department of Defense operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Reiss says law enforcement agencies have also deployed the vans to search for vehicle-based bombs in the U.S. “This product is now the largest selling cargo and vehicle inspection system ever,” says Reiss. [...] Though Reiss admits that the systems “to a large degree will penetrate clothing,” he points to the lack of features in images of humans like the one shown at right, far less detail than is obtained from the airport scans. “From a privacy standpoint, I’m hard-pressed to see what the concern or objection could be,” he says.
Absolutely. If you don't have anything to hide why would you object to police randomly x-raying you? Who has any expectation of privacy in their car --- or in their clothes?
But EPIC’s Rotenberg says that the scans, like those in the airport, potentially violate the fourth amendment. “Without a warrant, the government doesn’t have a right to peer beneath your clothes without probable cause,” he says. Even airport scans are typically used only as a secondary security measure, he points out. “If the scans can only be used in exceptional cases in airports, the idea that they can be used routinely on city streets is a very hard argument to make.”
And you certainly shouldn't have any expectation that they won't be keeping some data base. That would be ridiculous. The customer is always right.
The TSA’s official policy dictates that full-body scans must be viewed in a separate room from any guards dealing directly with subjects of the scans, and that the scanners won’t save any images. Just what sort of safeguards might be in place for AS&E’s scanning vans isn’t clear, given that the company won’t reveal just which law enforcement agencies, organizations within the DHS, or foreign governments have purchased the equipment. Reiss says AS&E has customers on “all continents except Antarctica.” Reiss adds that the vans do have the capability of storing images. “Sometimes customers need to save images for evidentiary reasons,” he says. “We do what our customers need.”
Nothing to see here folks. The founders never said that the government couldn't randomly x-ray your car -- and you --- without a warrant. And if they didn't say it, then there can be no law against it. Let's move along.