Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cheney's Over-the-top Rhetoric

Former Vice President Richard Cheney spent the first year of his retirement doing everything he can to undermine our president. In perhaps one of his more egregious (they have all been egregious but this especially so) statements to Politico.com this week, the former vice president said the president was downplaying the war on terror so that he can push his domestic agenda.

[W]e are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe, Joe Biden's predecessor told Politico. Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency — social transformation — the restructuring of American society.”

Our president is not, in spite of Cheney's assertions, pretending that we are not in war. In speech after speech, before and after winning the campaign for the White House, he reminded us that we are involved in two wars, one which he intends to "wind down" and one in which we will redouble our efforts. Nor did the president try to hide his intention to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Obama announced his decision in a speech which he delivered in prime time for all to see. We needed to, he said, deny Al Qaeda the safe haven they would otherwise use to plan future attacks on U.S. soil.

Moreover, the U.S. Attorney General, no doubt acting in consultation with the president of the United States, said he will try several war detainees in federal in Manhattan, noting as he announced his decision that they will face his accusers at the scene of the crime they participated in eight years ago. Justice will be meted out by the very ones who were attacked.

The president no doubt has a different strategy to win that war on Islamic terrorists. To the Pakistani administration's dismay, the president has authorized predator drone attacks that extend into Baluchistan. He is doubling down by adding an additional 30,000 troops into the war in Afghanistan. He is aiding Yemen's army as it fights to reconquer land now held by the Taliban within their own country. And he is moving war detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay to Illinois.

This latest move brought him criticism from the left and from the right. His progressive base thinks he is upholding his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center by establishing a new one on the homeland while his conservative opponents say he is tempting fate by creating a new target for terrorism (this even though the blind sheikh who was behind the first World Trade Center attack is being held on U.S. soil).

Much to Mr. Cheney's dismay, our president doesn't believe he needs to beat his chest everyday in order to fight this war against the Islamic terrorists. He might just believe speaking softly and carrying a big stick might be enough to do the job.

Pure Hatemongering

This will probably miss the top ten list for the most vile use of language because it came too late in the season and because it comes from an organization that really isn't taken too seriously but it really deserves to make the top ten list:

"A SERIOUS NOTE: As you can see, below we are making light of the bald-faced hypocrisy of homosexual activists, who demand tolerance for themselves even as they maliciously attack and victimize their critics — and falsely accuse them of “hate.” However, we are not including the most vicious manifestation of homosexual hatred that occurred this year: the recent murder conviction of Teah Wimberly, a lesbian student who shot and killed Amanda Collette, her 15-year-old classmate at Ft. Lauderdale’s Dillard High School — because Collette refused Wimberly’s same-sex romantic advances.

This is no joking matter, so Wimberly (courtroom photo below left) is not on our list. Needless to say, her conviction for the murder of the talented and beautiful Collette (pictured below right) — a murder directly tied to homosexuality — has not received anything close to the national media attention that made homosexual murder victim Matthew Shepard a household name. (Recall that the much-touted “anti-gay-hate-crime” motive for Shepard’s murder was later cast into serious doubt by ABC’s 20/20.)
Teah_Wimberly_Lesbian_Murderer_Court

Teah Wimberly was found guilty of murdering the target of her same-sex crush, Amanda Collette.

A little over a year ago, Amanda Collette became the ultimate victim of homosexuality when Wimberly shot her in the back at school. As the Miami Herald reported, “Collette, 15, a star dancer on the school’s hip-hop dance squad, had rejected romantic advances from Wimberly in the days before the shooting.” Minutes after the shooting, Wimberly cried in a call to the 911 operator: ”I didn’t want to kill her so I shot her in the back . . . I just wanted to give her the pain she gave me.”

Regardless of what other factors were involved in this tragedy, it is not unreasonable to assert that Collette would be alive today were it not for the modern GLBT activist movement, which aggressively seeks to mainstream sexual deviance and immoral gay/lesbian “relationships” as normal and acceptable — most tragically among young people.


Yes, Virginia, there was a time in America when young women did not have to worry about sexual harassment and sexual advances from other young women. And the GLBT movement is first and foremost to blame for the rising number of youth who are embracing homosexual behaviors and considering destructive “gay,” lesbian, bisexual, or “transgender” self-”identities,” at younger and younger ages. We ask you to pray for the families of both Collette and Wimberly, and pray for the Christian conversion of Teah Wimberly as she awaits sentencing."

Peter Barbera says we killed Collette because one individual who fell in love killed the person who rejected her entreaties. And we can blame the hetero-normative movement for the murder of anyone who spurned the entreaties of a member of the opposite sex.

Of All The "Reasons" to Criticize Obama

"Barack Obama was elected on the word "Change." We got it. I hope everyone who voted for him is happy with this change. He returned to his "childhood home" of Hawaii. One would think he would want to attend some Christmas service that he remembered from his childhood days." from your local moron in The Asbury Park Press

Monday, December 28, 2009

Napolitano

While she was making the rounds of the talk shows yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that "our system worked" since, "everybody reacted the way they should.". Our Homeland Security Department secretary was clearly on the defensive, evading or otherwise side-stepping question after question.

On "Meet the Press" she failed to say whether whether the terrorists' ability to sneak an explosive on board represented a failure to the system and she failed to say whether the failure to put those who are on the TIDE list onto the "no fly" list represented a lapse in the security system.

Her response? "Well, this is the way it works," she said. The Secretary didn't have her priorities straight. At this point in time she wanted us to believe that in her estimation, those involved in defending our homeland following the established protocols. Time will, it is hoped, tell whether the department and those under it responded appropriately but her main priority and her focus should be directed to the establishment and implementation of procedures that would deprive would-be terrorists from the chance to bring airplanes filled with passengers down.

Some conservatives, most notably Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic and Jonah Goldberg at The National Review, have called for her resignation. At this point I don't see what she has done that warrants her removal. Napolitano is at worst, guilty for being politically obtuse and behaving as a defensive bureaucrat. She was not responsible for the lapses in failure that preceded this incident. That lies with the officials who were screening passengers who boarded the plane in Lagos and Amsterdam.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Just a Thought on the Abortion Compromise

To get Senator Ben Nelson's vote (D-Nebraska) while retaining the support of the liberal Democrats who are already fuming over the elimination of the public option, Senator Harry Reid agreed to let the insurance companies participating in an exchange offer abortion coverage at their own discretion as long as the money that is paid to by the federal government is not directed to pay for abortions. Under the compromise, states can, however, bar insurance companies that choose to participate within their particular exchange programs from providing abortion coverage.

To me this seems like a suitable compromise, particularly for the conservatives who claim that they merely want to see Roe v Wade overturned so that each state can decide whether and to what extent if so it would accommodate those who want to have an abortion. Which raises a question in my mind - why the objection to this compromise? And when will the talk show hosts start asking the conservatives that very question?

Republicans' Priorities

"Public schools in Hawaii are closed most Fridays, rats scurry across bananas in an uninspected market, and there may not be enough money to run a Congressional election." excerpt from The New York Times

Rats on bananas (and I'm sure that's not the only thing they are on), and what do the Republicans want us to do with the unspent money currently reserved for Wall Street's Banks? They want to cut the deficit.

Couldn't the states use that money? Couldn't they use it to make sure there are no rats scurrying over our food?

An Alternative Strategy for Afpakistan

from last Sunday's The New York Times. Late, but still worth the read.

Iran's Disillusioned Theocratic Revolutionary

died today.

South Korea's Demographic Problems

Undervaluing the other sex does have its disadvantages.

Two Developments Concerning North Korea

some diplomacy
some trafficking update news
and some hacking/espionage news.
"Democratic leaders dropped a government insurance option and the idea of expanding Medicare to younger Americans. Reid also omitted language that would have eliminated the federal antitrust exemption for health insurers -- another nonstarter for Nelson." excerpt from The Washington Post

Talk about making a deal with the devil. So much for reform. The health industry will retain its monopoly and it will retain the right to raise its premiums on those with pre-existing conditions and it won't have to compete with the government or anyone else for customers who are forced to buy the product. Now, the subsidies purportedly will make it easier to purchase the insurance cartel's (yes, Keith Olbermann is right on this in spite of his over-the-top call for civil disobedience) lousy product but when those premiums but the industries inevitably will raise the premiums as time goes on. Will Congress increase its subsidies to offset those premium hikes? Can Congress afford to?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Obama and the Environment

Oh what do you know! Obama won't commit us to carbon reduction.

Putting the Democratic Party's Loss on Health Care in Perspective

John Aravosis is fuming and I can see why:

"It's not about the votes, people. It's about leadership. The current occupant of the White House doesn't like to fight, and the leadership in Congress has never been as good at their jobs, at marshaling their own party, as the Republicans were when they were in the majority. The President is supposed to rally the country, effectively putting pressure on opposition members of Congress to sit down and shut up. And the congressional leadership is supposed to rally its members to hold the line, and get the 51 votes necessary for passing legislation in a climate where the minority is too afraid to use the filibuster. When you have a President who is constitutionally, or intellectually, unable to stand for anything, and a congressional leadership that, rather than disciplining its own members and forging ahead with its own agenda, cedes legislative authority to a president who refuses to lead, you have a recipe for exactly what happened last night. Weakness, chaos, and failure.

We lost real health care reform not because we don't have a "real" filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. We lost health care reform because we don't have a real leader anywhere in our party. It's not going to get better if we elect more Democrats to the Senate and it's not going to play out any differently should we try to revisit this issue in the future."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lieberman

I think the Democrats have to strip Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut) from his chairmanship at Homeland Security if he doesn't vote for a health care bill that either expands access to Medicare or provides for a strong, easily accessible public option.

Grading Our Politicians

First off, I don't think the president doesn't look good rating himself when Americans are losing their jobs. The president may feel he is doing a good job but the people who elected him might not think he's done enough for them. He should have deflected that question and said he is too busy trying to re-jump the economy.

Second, leaving that aside, I'd rate him a gentleman's C on the economy and domestic issues. He really hasn't shown any leadership on health care, the economic stimulus package, or financial reform. He hasn't kept many of his promises on civil rights and had in fact, antagonized his relationship with gay Americans seeking their place on the table.

On Foreign Policy, I'd give him a B+. There have been some gaffes - his decision to turn down the Norwegian King's lunch invitation comes to mind - but the president overall has changed the tone and the way we approach the international community. I have my doubts about the president's Afghan strategy but he at least took his time to think it through.

He isn't failing on the domestic front because I need to factor in his dealings with Congress and the mess he has inherited from his predecessor. Congress has done an abysmal job. I'd give the Speaker and the House Democratsin general a C- and the Senate Majority Leader and the Senate Democrats a D.

The Republicans wouldn't even get an F since they haven't even made the effort to come up with an alternative set of policies to fix the economy and their failure to repudiate those who bring up the latest conspiracy theories suggests they should be expelled for uncivil behavior.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Frum Nitpicking Obama Speech

David Frum nitpicks his way through an exceptionally good, realistically sobering, speech.

Listen to this:

The Cold War ended with jubilant crowds dismantling a wall. Commerce has stitched much of the world together. Billions have been lifted from poverty. The ideals of liberty, self-determination, equality and the rule of law have haltingly advanced. We are the heirs of the fortitude and foresight of generations past, and it is a legacy for which my own country is rightfully proud.

“Of generations past?” Did those “generations” not contain any names? People – Americans! – who did brave things at risk and often at cost of their lives?

The memory of the crowd dismantling the wall is a lovely one. But the great events of November 1989 could only occur because of the successful defense of the Western world over half a century by the armed power of a military alliance headed by the United States. (NB – nor did the Cold War end in November 1989. It ended almost two years later, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.)

Notice the abstractions and passive verbs: “commerce” “have been lifted.” Unless the sentence begins with an “I”, there are no antecedents, no doers, no causes.


So what? Frum may very well be reading into this. Our failures are also described with passive verbs. "We know that," Obama said, "for most of history, this concept of just war was rarely observed. The capacity of human beings to think up new ways to kill one another proved inexhaustible." "It became clear to victor and vanquished alike," he said one paragraph down.

Before I continue, here's Frum again:

Frum again:

The sentence I am about to quote may well have begun as an attempt to pay tribute to another:

As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence.

But on the way to the tribute, Obama managed to insert two references to himself in a sentence that found room for only one reference of King. And there are surely ways to praise Dr King without exalting yourself even higher. As is, it seems that King is a great man because he made Obama’s career possible. One wonders: surely there must have been at least one or two other beneficiaries of King’s work as well?



He refers to himself in three notable occasions on several occasions and in each case he does not once use it to credit himself. President Barack Obama did not, as Frum suggest, claim to be the good thing the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did. He used himself as an (not the) of what nonviolent resistance can accomplish. Mr. Obama isn't "the one" who stands as the "other beneficiaries of King's work," as Frum would have us believe. He is, and Obama specifically told us, that he is "someone" who, as Frum puts it stands as a beneficiary of King's work as well."

Words have meaning. "Someone" according to Wikipedia tells us is an indefinite pronoun hat refers to one or more unspecified beings, objects, or places. "Merriam-Webster" defines it as "some person." The Free Dictionary says it refer to two groups of people, that "unspecified" group of people noted above, or that person who thinks he is really important. Frum obviously would have us believe that Obama thinks he is really something but one must also refer to the prepositional phrase "as someone who stands here." He can, in other words testify on Martin Luther King's behalf.


Oh and by the way, he did mention some "doers." In the beginning - Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela

And Towards the end - Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Richard Nixon (in his role as a peacemaker), Pope John Paul II, Lech Walesa, Ronald Reagan)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Foreign Policy Snub

Turning down invitations with heads of state? I'd expect that from President Barack Obama's predecessor but apparently our president found a way to embarrass the Norwegians. Did he really need to turn down the Norwegian's king's invitation to lunch?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Supreme Court Watch

Expect the Supreme Court of the United States to rule for the Christian group and it would be well within its right to do so. Mandating the inclusion of those who do not agree with the religious organization's mission dilutes its message.

Iraq Bombing, Afghanistan and the Question that Must Be Asked in Light of It

The war in Iraq, we are told, wasn't going too well until President Barack Obama's predecessor authorized the troop surge General David H. Petraeus sought. Sunni insurgents and Al Qaeda terrorists were bombing Iraq's cities into oblivion while Shia militiamen associated with the Mahdi Army and the Al Badr Brigades were murdering Sunnis, Christians, and gays living in and around Baghdad. The Kurds, meanwhile were forcibly removing or otherwise butchering Turkmen, Yazidis, Shabaks and anyone else with a weird non-Kurdish sounding name near Kirkuk. The troop surge, we were told, ended the civil war and President Barack Obama, apparently agrees.

This newly-found confidence in military might is unfounded. The uneasy peace that followed our surge can be attributed to the opposing factions' decision to bide their time. Once we leave they can re-start their war if the negotiations which the surge was implemented to encourage fall through. They just passed an election law after weeks of haggling yet the fate over Kirkuk (and more importantly) the oil fields that surround it as well as the fate of those non-Kurdish minorities that live around is still in dispute. In a blow to Iraq's Security Forces and the surge which was designed to heal that country's wounds, terrorists (which Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki claims to be affiliated with Al Qaeda and former Baathists) detonated 5 bombs across the city, klling 121 Iraqis.

Today, General Stanley A. McChrystal expressed some optimism for the new, far more sober and limited objective placed before the American troops - to deny the Taliban what it wants to do. In other words, we aren't going to defeat the Taliban and drag Al Qaeda spiritual leader Osama bin Laden from his cave. The occupying power never wins a stalemate. They want to leave by a certain point of time while their opponents, who are fighting for their homeland, wait them out so we will either squander what remains of our financial resources by piling up more debt while forgoing much needed infrastructure programs by keeping while our forces fight the terrorists until the Afghans can train themselves or we will leave the Afghans to their own fate. The president said he wants us to begin (not complete) a withdrawal in 2011. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, condition any withdrawal to the conditions on the ground. And the Afghan president says we'll have to stay until 2014 to get this done right.

Will the president have any resources to fight for the people who elect him?

Friday, December 04, 2009

A Conservative With a Proposal for Afghanistan

"Vice President Joe Biden, speaking at the Munich Security Conference earlier this year, emphatically rejected the idea of "spheres of influence" in the 21st-century global order. Yet a revival of this 19th-century concept for Afghanistan might be quite necessary -- with explicit zones for India and Pakistan in the north and south respectively, Afghan regions enjoying greater autonomy from the center, and binding provisions for ensuring a "neutral" central government in Kabul.

What the U.S. cannot do effectively within the timeline sketched out by the president -- and given limitations on the personnel and resources Obama is prepared to commit -- is to impose a central government on the country and get India and Pakistan to agree to whatever order we deem necessary in Kabul.

The success of the president's plan requires that Afghans actively take control over security to satisfy U.S. concerns about denying al-Qaida safe havens to train and plan. But without Pakistan's explicit support, the strategy of catching the Taliban and al-Qaida in a vise along the Afghan-Pakistan border fails. And while Obama neglected to mention India in his West Point address, India's ongoing and extensive reconstruction efforts are vital to the U.S. effort.

These roadblocks cannot be wished away, and factors outside America's control could spoil the best-laid plans in Washington. Rather than waiting for the inevitable complications to arise, the Obama administration would be well-advised to take a proactive approach in the days and weeks ahead to confront the realities that will likely give rise to them."
Nikolas Gvosdev at World Politics Review

I like it but there are some questions:

Can the Pakistanis and the Indians agree on their respectable zones of influence?

and

Will the Pakistanis rely upon the Taliban to govern their zone of influence or is there another group which they can rely on?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Frum's Error in Logic

"Having urged the president to honor his commitment to the Afghan war, we Republicans must honor our commitment to support him as he fights it. Given the public unenthusiasm for the conflict, there will be political temptations to “go rogue” on the president, if not now, then in the summer of 2010. That will be our test, for us to pass as the president has passed his. I know many Republicans and conservatives will say: “Hey – the Democrats did not give President Bush support when he most needed it.” Correct. They didn’t. And the country suffered for it. The right way to react to that dereliction of duty is not by emulating it, but by repudiating it. “For it before I was against it” has deservedly become an epithet for shameful wavering. Let’s not inflict it upon ourselves." David Frum at FrumForum.com

Except that when the Democrats were opposing the Bush administration they were opposing a policy they did not agree with. Asking the Republicans to side with President Barack Obama should be far easier than it was to ask the Democrats to back his predecessor. The Republicans generally agree with the president on the troop surge. The Democrats did not agree with Obama's predecessor on his troop surge.

Bacevich Strikes Again (On Afghanistan)

"If knowing when to cut your losses qualifies as a hallmark of statesmanship, Nixon flunked. Vietnam proved irredeemable.

Obama's prospects of redeeming Afghanistan appear hardly more promising. Achieving even a semblance of success, however modestly defined, will require an Afghan government that gets its act together, larger and more competent Afghan security forces, thousands of additional reinforcements from allies already heading toward the exits, patience from economically distressed Americans as the administration shovels hundreds of billions of dollars toward Central Asia, and even greater patience from U.S. troops shouldering the burdens of seemingly perpetual war. Above all, success will require convincing Afghans that the tens of thousands of heavily armed strangers in their midst represent Western beneficence rather than foreign occupation."



and for what end?

"What Afghanistan tells us is that rather than changing Washington, Obama has become its captive. The president has succumbed to the twin illusions that have taken the political class by storm in recent months. The first illusion, reflecting a self-serving interpretation of the origins of 9/11, is that events in Afghanistan are crucial to the safety and well-being of the American people. The second illusion, the product of a self-serving interpretation of the Iraq War, is that the United States possesses the wisdom and wherewithal to guide Afghanistan out of darkness and into the light."

" Andrew Bacevich in The Los Angeles Times

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ensign's Selfless Act

How selfless of Senator John Ensign (R-Nevada). He's not resigning because it will hurt the Republican Party and its effort to oust the senate majority leader.

Perhaps he should get himself a gig writing for The Daily Show.

Misleading Headline for a Very Good Article

The Hill has a very good article summarizing the CBO's analysis of the senate health care bill's impact on health insurance premiums.

See if the headline matches the news article and then ask yourself, did the headline writer read the story?

Here's the headline:

"CBO: Senate bill would increase individual insurance premiums"

Here's the CBS' findings as summarized by the reporter:


1. "It finds the Senate legislation would reduce premiums by up to 3 percent for 134 million people who get insurance as a job benefit at a large company. This population is by far the largest component of the health insurance market: When the reforms kick in, 70 percent of people with coverage would get it from their jobs, a slight increase from the current rate."

2. "The average premium for people who work at large companies would remain about the same: $7,300 annually for an individual plan and $20,100 for a family policy."


3. "For small businesses that cover their workers in the so-called small group market, the average change in insurance premiums would range from a 2 percent decrease to a 1 percent increase. Under the bill, 13 percent of insured people would fall into this category. Factoring in new subsidies available to people with incomes below 400 percent of poverty, individuals in this market would pay 8 percent to 11 percent less than they do now."

4. "The direst finding for Democrats — and the figure most highlighted by Republicans — is health insurance premiums would be 10 percent to 13 percent higher for the 13.3 million people required to buy insurance under the bill, compared to what they would pay absent the legislation."

but please note the caveats to #4:

a. the [expensive] subsidies noted to offset those increases [a public option that was open for every American citizen would eliminate the need for the subsidies since that would drive down costs] for 17.7 million people (57% of those who will see their premiums increased)

b. the reason for the increase - better quality care

"One of the chief reasons insurance premiums would be higher for some people is that reform would require insurance companies to offer everyone in the individual and small-group market more generous and more stable coverage and increase competition among insurers, the report notes."

In other words, the price isn't really going up, the services that you are required to pay for are.

So, back to my original question? Did the person who wrote the headline read the article?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Priorities: Afghanistan vs. Domestic Concerns

see here.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) raised a good point on ABC's "This Week" today.

"You know, if I were to put Afghanistan into the context of what's happening in America today, and what's happening now is not only a $12 trillion national debt; we're in the midst of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The middle class is collapsing. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing wider.

Piece in the paper today, one out of four kids in this country are on food stamps. One out of eight Americans. And when we go Christmas shopping, we're going to be buying our products from China, who are lending us money to fight the war in Afghanistan. So I've got a real problem about expanding this war where the rest of the world is sitting around and saying, isn't it a nice thing that the taxpayers of the United States and the U.S. military are doing the work that the rest of the world should be doing?"


We have only a finite amount of resources and the question our president has to ask is whether he would devote our financial resources to job building programs and health care for working American citizens or if he would squander it on an endless commitment to Afghanistan.

Well, we know where Senator Lugar (I-Indiana), who was on CNN's "State of the Union" stands:

"I believe there will be a separate accounting, but in any event, I think we will have to pay for it. I would just make this suggestion, that in the three weeks of debate we still have ahead of us, we really ought to concentrate in the Congress on the war, on the overall strategy of our country and the cost of it. And we ought to be on the budget. Passing appropriations bills in a proper way.

Now in the course of that, we may wish to break out that. We may wish to discuss higher taxes to pay for it. But we're not going to do that debating health care and the Senate for three weeks through all sorts of strategies and so forth.

The war is terribly important. Jobs and our economy are terribly important. So this may be an audacious suggestion, but I would suggest we put aside the health care debate until next year, the same way we put cap and trade and climate change and talk now about the essentials, the war and money."



I wonder if the Republicans understand what most hard-working Americans are going through.

Obama is really blessed by his enemies, for as much as he has fumbled the ball on health care reform and as much as he has decided to tie his policies to the "bankers" on Wall Street, his opponents are much worse. They really, as Matt Taibbi pointed out in his latest Rolling Stone article, hate him for the wrong reason. They hate him because he is a liberal, or because he is black or because he doesn't get offended when two male lovers hold hands and not because he is selling out to Wall Street. They hate him because he, however tepidly, "fighting" for something that could ultimately help them. Go figure.

"-Obama's Big Sellout" by Matt Taibbi

I get Rolling Stone, and read this depressing but must-read article. Too bad the link is not up yet.

Basic gist: Obama hired the people who have no interest in promoting financial regulatory reform.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Best Saturday Night Live Sketches

in a long time by far. They absolutely nailed it last night most notably with with the imaginary Sino-American press conference.

Palin's Prayer Porn

Get a look at this at this excerpt from Sarah Palin's "book" provided by Sally Quinn of The Washington Post.

(By the way, in her book Palin writes about, how, during the campaign, she took a call from Pastor Rick Warren when she was showering and that he offered to pray with her."I said, absolutely! Pray away! I would never turn down prayer even with limited hours in a campaign day, standing in a few inches of water with a shower curtain for a wardrobe. You do what you've got to do."

Obviously Sally Quinn doesn't think too highly towards claims that some higher being tells us what to do and she does a great job pointing to the contradictions in that line of thinking but on a lighter note,

I'm curious, since the former governor didn't mention it when she spoke about her shower prayer experiences - was she wearing the rosary in the shower and did the towel cover that?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Roundtable

Sarah Palin:

David Brooks nailed it on "This Week."

The 9-11 Trial:

The conservatives are split. David Brooks opposes it; George Will does not.

The Obama bow

a simple act of courtesy that probably went a long way towards restoring some good will from the president's counterparts. I'll take Obama's bow over his predecessor's "cowboy" persona any day.

Prejean's Hypocrisy Did Her In

"All Carrie Prejean ever really decided to do was answer a question that way." - Kathryn Jean Lopez defending Carrie Prejean in The National Review


Point 1:

"All Carrie Prejean ever really decided to do was answer a question that way" then behave in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles she espoused. Prejean survived Perez Hilton's question. Donald Trump defended her right to stand up for what she believed. What doomed her were the sex scandals that followed. Prejean's hypocrisy was her undoing.

Point 2: Concerning NOW's Silence

I don't think the National Organization for Women regards a woman's decision to dress up like a [straight] male's sex object highly.

Point 3: The Title "Honestly!"

Needs to be changed since it only reminds us of ex's claim that she told him to lie about the timing of the sex tapes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Solid Gay Rights Victory in Washington

Our margin for victory in Washington exceeds 6% points as of now, with approximately 9,500 votes left to count.

Trials: Punishing Terrorists the Right Way

Today our Attorney General, Eric H. Holder Jr., said his office will prosecute five war detainees accused of participating in the 09/11/2009 terrorism plots, in civil court and four war detainees, including one involved in the bombing of a U.S. naval destroyer in 2000, before a military commission.

Some conservatives, no doubt will oppose this decision. John Yoo, a law professor who served in the Bush administration's Justice Department, said will allow the accused to expose our intelligence gathering techniques within the courtroom. Others say Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who may be the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist act that killed 3,000 + men, women and children, may be released or otherwise acquitted by a jury of his peers since some of the information which his interrogators obtained was gathered through illicit means.

The information which the accused may seek may no doubt include classified information that should not be released to the public. The judge that ultimately hears the case, however, can impose restrictions on the release of that information and close at least a part of these trials from the public while letting the accused cross-examine the witnesses testifying against them.

Mohammed will have his day in court. He will face his accusers and the charges that are leveled against them and he will have the opportunity to refute them before a jury of his peers. If Mohammed and his co-conspirators are convicted they will face the death penalty, where again they will have an opportunity to confront, and refute the evidence used to justify its use. If they are acquitted, and there are no other charges pending against them, Mohammed and his co-conspirators could be set free.

Conservative grand-standing notwithstanding, this is a risk we face every day. Your local pedophile can be released if the evidence that is used against him was tainted by substandard evidence-gathering techniques. The suspected serial killer might be released if the testimony provided by him (or by other witnesses) is proven unreliable since it is coerced. Timothy McVeigh, the man who was convicted of and executed for the bombing of Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City fourteen years ago could have walked (to bomb again) another federal building if he was acquitted by the jury of his peers. Had the decision gone the other way, McVeigh would have lived to bomb another day.

In one sense, the stakes involved hear are loweer. Should he be acquitted, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed won't be released into the general public. Since he is not an American citizen, he will be released to the country of his birth or any other country that would accept him.

"The Right to Have a Roof Over [Their] Heads"

"The issue before you tonight is the right of people to have a roof over their heads and the right to work without being discriminated against." Michael Otterson, for the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons).


"Sexual orientation is an illusion. It only exists in the minds of activists, and their academics, who need to explain away why people do what they do even when they don't want to do it."
- Paul Mero of the nutty Sutherland Institute, brought to you by Chino Blanco at Pam's House Blend

I don't know why no one laughed when Mero (almost sounds like Nero) of the Sutherland Institute spoke before the Salt Lake City council.

But while I'm on the topic, why doesn't Obama use Mr. Otterson's talking points to push for ENDA which offers gays the most rudimentary of job protections but no housing rights. If anything, he could use the LDS talking points to push for housing protections once ENDA is passed. What did Mr. Otterson say this ordinance would protect? The gays' "right to have a roof over their heads?" who can object to that?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Obama's "Dithering" Quite Welcome

President Barack Obama's most strident critics, including former Vice President Richard Cheney, accuse him of "dithering" on the war in Afghanistan. They say he has proven himself to be an indecisive leader since he cannot decide whether he should send an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan, as General Stanley A. McChrystal said, or leave the country altogether. Failure to provide the requested troops would, they assert, lead to Afghanistan's loss to the Taliban and the Al Qaeda terrorist groups which provided them with the safe haven they used for planning the 9-11-01 terrorist attacks.

He was expected to endorse a smaller troop surge after his return from Asia but recent developments put that in doubt. First, Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, doubts the efficacy of sending any new troops into the country. Mr. Eikenberry, the report suggests, would have the president redirect our focus from the military to the civilian theater of operations in an effort to rebuild the nation.

Second, the president himself reportedly rejected all four proposals for the shift in strategy. Mr. Obama was not satisfied since he is specifically looking for an attainable, measurable goal so that he can withdraw our forces from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

I don't know if this can really be done and the president will probably be criticized no matter what he does. We will be second-guessing everything which the president does. There are no good options. Losing Afghanistan could mean losing Pakistan. The Al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan are connected to the terrorists the Pakistanis once considered their allies in its dispute with India. Doubling down however, adds to the cost in both both, manpower and finances. Billions of dollars could be squandered building a nation that cannot be built for an unspecified period of time before we ultimately conclude it was all for naught. The troops that might be needed elsewhere could be tied down in Afghanistan for years and the money that is wasted in Afghanistan could be used nation-building projects needed at home.

But I do find his "dithering" very comforting. He's thinking about this and he is challenging his advisers to think this through. At the very least, he doesn't want us to believe he will make a decision between flawed options that are justified by faulty or baseless assumptions.

I'll take his "dithering" over his critics gun-ho swagger any day.

If The LDS Can Back Gay Rights, Could Obama?

If the largely anti-gay LDS can endorse something as basic as nondiscrimination in housing, and employment, why can't the president and the Democrats, our purported allies, pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which only protects us from job discrimination?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Diversity in the Millitary Taken Too Far

On Sunday, the Army’s chief of staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., said he worried about a backlash against Muslims in the armed forces and emphasized the military’s reliance on those men and women.

“Our diversity, not only in our Army but in our country, is a strength,” General Casey said Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”
excerpt from The New York Times

I don't see why it should unless those who knew of this militant's background were so dense that they couldn't distinguish between a person who prays five times a day after saluting the flag and a person who condemns the United States for going to war, endorses jihad, and attempts to contact Al Qaeda.

The Attack on Diversity in the Military Taken Too Far

"There are lessons in the Pentagon’s gender wars for anyone who doubts the power of political correctness in the military. The feminization of the military has been at the hands of military leaders with medals attesting to their physical bravery who surrendered in the face of liberal cultural warriors. In recent years, the military’s ranks have been ruthlessly patrolled for any sign of resistance to the brass’s gender-blind agenda. When official definitions of sexual harassment, for example, include expressing reservations about women in combat or making note of gender-normed scores in physical tests, officers and troops learn to keep their reservations to themselves. Kingsley Browne has a terrific piece recounting the injustices that have resulted from the military’s aggressive zero-tolerance policies with respect to gender integration. General Casey has now reiterated his zero tolerance for misgivings about “diversity.” Message received. Is it any more likely that a colleague would report the jihadist sentiments of an active-duty soldier today than a week ago? When General Casey would be fretting about “chilling effects” and “backlashes?” at The Corner

Um. No. Major Nidal Malik Hasan's actions was not a woman. He is a man, so letting women serve in the military did not expose the soldiers to the likes of Hasan. And he acted like a "stereotypical" man. He didn't cry. He got enraged and then he killed people. And then he was stopped by a woman. Perhaps Mrs. O'Beirne should shop around for another excuse for keeping war hawks like herself out of harm's way.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"AP sources: Officials reviewed suspect's Web posts"

What a surprise.

Apparently some officials knew about this mass murderer's thoughts through his postings on the internet six months ago. And he was going to the Middle East.

Homophobia in the News Business

"Strange Bedfellows

Washington voters approve expanded gay rights" - strange, homophobic headline

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Some Good News on the Gay Rights Front

in Kalamazoo, we won.

We're losing in Maine. The enemy had just pulled into the lead. The results from Portland are in so the only hope we really have lies in Bangor but it's still close and we may pull ahead with any absentee ballots. Yes, we outspent the enemy but don't let that fool you. They don't need as much since they have the religious establishment behind them. They need only have their priests condemn gay people during one of their homilies, then get their volunteers to drive them to the polls.

I'll add the results to Maine when that happens.

In the meantime we are behind in Washington which is really bad. Yes, 13% of the precincts reporting but this isn't about marriage. It's about domestic partnerships.

This is a very bad night overall. The theocrats sweep Virginia and take the governor's mansion in New Jersey (though the Democrats kept the Assembly), they pulled ahead in Maine, albeit slightly and they are winning in Washington.

Addendum:

Oh. we are now winning in Washington (with three counties left to report) so we might have a split verdict with a 2.26%$ margin of victory in Washington (obviously with most of the support coming from the Seattle Metropolitan Area) and a 4% point loss (with most of our support coming from Portland).

Well, we at least won in two elections and on two important points.

We trounced the bigots in a small Michigan city on an anti-discrimination ordinance and then we upheld, albeit by a small margin a domestic partnership law in Washington.

I love this tidbit from the "The Stranger:"


Washington state's anti-gay bigots are slinking out of the Holiday Inn in Everett. The SECB wasn't allowed to reenter the ballroom after one of the security guards saw spotted the SECB's notebook. We did manage to catch up with Larry Stickney, director of the Washington Families Alliance and the "brains" behind R-71, in the nearly-empty hallway outside the ballroom.

"I don't deal with you guys," Stickney told the SECB. "You guys need to be practiced in civil discourse before I talk to you guys."


Still, ballots have yet to be counted in each county. The good news -




Andrew Sullivan
, as usual, sees some good out of Maine. Perhaps he was smoking a little too much.

NJ Gubernatorial: Turnout for Republicans Felt like a a Presidential Election; Turnout for Democrats Did not

Gloucester County - Corzine lost.

Middlesex County - Corzine is behind by a point though approx. 1/2 of the precincts have yet to report.

Cumberland County
- Corzine wins but with only 1/2 of the voters who turned out behind him.

Ocean County - overwhelmingly for Christie as expected

Monmouth County - again no surprise, for Christie with high voter turnout (hovering around the 50% mark)

Morris County - with turnout hovering around 47% of the vote - wipeout for Christie. No surprise

Corzine won Essex but turnout was low - hovering around 36%


Chris Christie unseated a very unpopular incumbent whose polling numbers never hovered near the 50% line. He was an ineffective communicator and an ineffective governor who failed to control spending in Trenton because he failed to reign in the unions that backed him. Voters in New Jersey were furious because they were paying high property taxes and getting nothing for it.

Republican Sweep

The Republicans not only swept Virginia but they took New Jersey. This may not have been a referendum on President Barack Obama but he was a political embarrassment since voters in both states ignored his plea for support. Corzine was a terrible candidate. He couldn't explain himself. He barely edged Christie out in Union and lost in Gloucester. Wow.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Maine: No on 1

Like their counterparts in Washington, Maine's residents will have an opportunity to affirm or reject the rights that state's legislature and governor have provided to Maine's gay and lesbian community but while the opposing camps in Washington are battling over domestic partnerships that read like civil unions, the opponents in Maine are battling over marriage, as well as the rights that it entails.

Before Governor John Baldacci (I-Maine) signed Maine's marriage bill into law, gays and lesbians who entered into relationships were given limited domestic partnership rights that included the same health care proxy and visitation rights referred to in prior post as well as some probate rights. Those are not being challenged by the "Yes on 1" people's veto campaign. Nevertheless, residents in Maine should vote "No on 1" for the same reason Washington's residents should vote for Referendum 71. Granting Maine's gay and lesbian Americans marriage rights will mean granting them all of the rights that they are currently deprived of now.

Those who oppose Maine's inclusive gay marriage law say teachers will use it to teach about homosexuality in Maine's public schools. They point to one case where Massachusetts' inclusive gay marriage law and another case in California's Alameda County to do just that. They have a problem with the facts. Maine, like California, leaves these matters within the hands of each school district so the conservative leaning school districts won't be forced to change their school curriculum to promote homosexuality. Liberal school districts, however, won't be deterred from implementing their anti-bullying programs if Maine's voters reject gay marriage. California's Alameda County promotes tolerance even though California's passed a constitutional amendment overturning that state's inclusive gay marriage law.

Voters should reject the fear-mongering their Catholic leaders are engaging in and affirm the right of all residents to care for their loved ones without any hindrances from the state.

Washington: Affirm Referendum 71

When voters in Washington State go to the polls this Tuesday they will be asked to either uphold or reject a law that grants same-sex couples (and senior citizen couples that don't marry) the same legal rights and responsibilities opposite-sex couples take for granted when they marry.

The state began the gradual process of granting these couples rights nearly 2.5 years ago. Legislation that was signed into law in 2007 and expanded in 2009 granted these couples the right to visit their loved ones in a hospital and to make fully-informed life-sustaining/ending decisions on his or her behalf and the right to make funeral arrangements, donate the deceased partner's organs, and dispose of the deceased partner's body as he or she sees fit. The legislation also provided for basic inheritance and estate administration rights and made communal property and domestic violence laws applicable to domestic partners.

Thankfully, Referendum 71 does not ask Washington voters to accept or reject those rights which were granted in legislation passed in 2007 and 2008. Gay Washingtonians will have the same hospital visitation and probate rights whether their neighbors vote to affirm referendum 71.

This referendum concerns the rights granted in legislation passed and signed into law this year. Senate Bill 6588 grants domestic partners all of the rights and responsibilities that the state affords to married, heterosexual couples without the label that purportedly offends those who consider "marriage" to be a religious sacrament. Specifically this legislation addresses the disparities in worker compensation coverage offered to married couples and domestic partners, and provide for the remaining disparities in familial treatment that were not addressed in the prior legislation.

This law, for example would grant an employee the same right to use sick leave to care for his or her same-sex domestic partner that an employee would have to care for his or her opposite sex spouse. Workers who would otherwise not be allowed to enroll their significant other into the company's health insurance plan will be allowed to do so under the same terms that are granted to married heterosexual couples. Unpaid wages will pass on to the surviving member in a domestic partnership.
and the state will treat domestic partnerships like married couples with respect to spousal rights, and child custody.

Referendum 71's proponents have done themselves no credit by casting this as a basic issue of fairness, nor have they done themselves any favors by allowing their opponents to cast this as a referendum on the homo-sexualization of their public schools. Programs designed to combat anti-gay prejudice in schools predate gay marriage and gay domestic partnerships. They thrive in jurisdictions where gay marriage is the law and they thrive in jurisdictions that do not offer gay marriage. And they are challenged in jurisdictions that have and don't recognize same-sex unions. One need only look at the gay tolerance program challenged in Massachusetts, where gay marriage was legalized and the gay tolerance program that thrives in Alameda County, California in spite of that state's repeal of that state's inclusive marriage laws.

Nor have they done themselves any favors by appealing for the rlease of the names of anyone who signed the petition challenging Washington's expanded domestic partnership law. Attention and resources devoted to this endeavor could have been used to educate Washington's voters about the ways this law affects their neighbors in their daily lives.

Those who say this amendment is about fairness and equality have been selling themselves short. No this is not merely about some abstract constitutional right or principle which voters can accept or reject and then move on with their lives. This is about real people facing real challenges. A vote to reject Washington's domestic partnership legislation isn't merely unfair towards those it was designed to help; it is cruel towards to them. It isn't merely a vote to deny gay people some abstract right married couples take for granted but rather a vote to deny them the right to use sick time to care for their loved one to in their moment of need or the right to provide their loved ones with the same access to their employers' health care plans their straight counterparts take for granted. This isn't merely about the same custodial rights to a child but the need to consider the son or daughter's strong bond to both parents in a dissolving familial unit.

Washington isn't merely voting on some abstract rights. They are voting on people's lives and once that state's residents see that they should be able to push these other side issues to the side. If this referendum's opponents are afraid this will encourage gay Washingtonians to press for the right to marry they can always gather the signatures required to challenge that law, just as they have done here. They could see this is about the disparity in employee pay offered to two individuals doing the same work.

So Much for Wall Street Regulation

"Whereas the original TARP included some oversight language and power to limit Wall Street bonuses, TARP on steroids includes no specific oversight or executive pay constraints. Whereas TARP permitted the government to underwrite both small and large banks, TARP on steroids allows taxpayer cash to go only to the behemoths (which, not coincidentally, tend to make the biggest campaign contributions). And whereas TARP limited the Treasury secretary's check-writing authority to two years and $700 billion, TARP on steroids would let him spend as much as he wants for as long as he wants." from Salon

Read this and weep. President Barack Obama promised change and one area where that change was most obvious was on Wall Street, where those who were responsible for the collapse on the stock market, the ones who wiped out pension plans got bailed out while the smaller banks that actually lend to small businesses have been ignored. Do not the Democrats, who now run both the White House and Capitol Hill know who they work for? Why are they giving the Obama and future administrations the authorization to write these Wall Street thugs a blank check when they should be devoting their time to cutting this banks down to size?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

David Plouffe's Audacity to Collect

David Plouffe managed President Barack Obama's successful bid for the White House last year. Next week, his book, "The Audacity of Hope" will officially be unveiled. One can expect Mr. Plouffe to sign up for every morning and evening talk show to plug his book.

We are told that the book will offer some insights into the president's running mate decision process. Senator Clinton, it is asserted, was one of the final six vice prospects to serve as President Obama's running mate. In fact, he might have gone for her if not for her even more crass and politically opportunistic husband, who was himself a former president. Mr. Clinton, the president believed, would be the third person in the room. Senator Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) made it onto the list of the final three but was beat out by the more informed and union-worker favored senator (then) from Delaware).

The president no doubt picked one of if not the most qualified candidates to serve as his vice presidential running mates. Biden knows foreign policy and he knows his way around the senate. His connection with the average white, middle-aged working to middle class American was probably an asset, particularly since the president had a difficult time winning in the primaries where they were the constituency.

Mr. Plouffe's book might not reveal anything unflattering or anything that might embarrass the president. Or then again, it might. But whatever the case, the book could not have been released at a worse time.

The president is in the middle of some intense negotiations with his former colleagues on the hill over health care reform. Senator Bayh, a moderately conservative Democrat who had as of yesterday threatened to filibuster any attempt to let the health care bill get debated on the floor, might not like any passages that suggest that Obama considered him a lightweight who lacked the experience and command of the issues which his former colleague from Delaware had. After hearing the excerpts played and then replayed on the talk shows, Bayh might not be in the mood to put his political career on the line for the president who did not pick him to serve as his running mate.

It wouldn't be the professional, let alone, right thing for Senator Bayh to do but politicians do look after their own personal interests first.

Nor would the president benefit from any passage concerning the president's relationship with the vice president and secretary of state. The vice president and the Secretary of State no doubt should be able to look beyond and ignore any political gossip coming from former political aide's book but any major revelations concerning the president's stronger degree of confidence in one of those two political players might undermine the other.

Obama's former campaign manager no doubt has the right to write a book about the campaign and his book may offer some insights into the campaign which any reporter would find interesting. Nevertheless he should have waited and given the president an opportunity to push major legislation forward without having to explain away passages that his cabinet members, close political advisers and former colleagues on the hill might find embarrassing or offensive.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"No More Matthew Shepards"

Isn't The Huffington Post exaggerating a little bit?

look, I'm glad this bill made its way to the White House, even if it had to be added to a Defense Appropriations Bill to do so and I'm glad it was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The president promised he would sign the bill into law if it reached his desk and it did reach his desk.

This bill gives prosecutors a new bargaining chip and, should they request it, federal assistance to charge defendants for crimes committed against minorities. And, should state and local officials fail to prosecute defendants for crimes committed against people because those victims are minorities, it gives the federal government the authority to exact justice. This bill does not save any lives.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Reid and Lieberman Dance Around Public Option

Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said his caucus will back a health care bill that include a public option even though he did not have, at that time, the 60 votes he would need to overcome a filibuster. Senator Reid, who is up for re-election in 2010, has been roundly criticized by the liberals he will need in his campaign for re-election for his failure to press for a public option and for his failure to rally the Democrats behind some other popular liberal causes like the closing of the constitutionally dubious war detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. The senate majority leader said he would not let the Obama administration detain war combatants on U.S. soil.

His Democratic constituents were pleased with yesterday's announcement. Though the public option would not be provided to everyone who wanted to opt for it, and though states would be free to opt out, Mr. Reid's support for the public option emboldened them. Mr. Reid, they thought, would not come out for a public option he would fail to obtain.

Today, however, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut), one of two independents who officially caucuses with the Democrats, undercut the reformers' efforts by announcing his intent to filibuster any motion to close the debate on this public-option inclusive health care reform bill, thereby denying them an up or down vote on the bill.

Mr. Lieberman had proven himself to be a disappointment to say the least. He unsuccessfully urged Connecticut Democrats to opt for him over Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary even if they disagreed with his support for the war in Iraq, then he endorsed Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) largely because of his support for the war in Iraq. The senator who, only three years ago, said he was a good Democrat who supports the Democratic Party some 85+% of the time. Today, however, the Senator has decided to back the health insurance industry that fills his campaign coffers when he is up for re-election. That he threatened to oppose this bill shouldn't be all that surprising since the state capital, Hartford, is "insurance capital of the world." Aetna is headquartered there.

Senator Reid should have, and perhaps has, seen this coming. The "independent Democrat" wasn't going to anger his backers within the insurance industry and when Mr. Lieberman downplayed Lieberman's announcement, he (perhaps?) showed his cards by suggesting that the "independent Democrat" would eventually vote for the bill once some unspecified modifications are made. Cynics would question Mr. Reid's commitment to the public option. Mr. Reid's announcement, they would assert, was designed to win some favor from the liberal base he would need in the upcoming election so if and when the public option went down into defeat they would turn their ire to the other senators who voted against it when Reid claims he couldn't help it since the votes were not there. I can't say those skeptics are wrong.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dithoconservatives

Conservatives who support dithering speak out.

Fixing Afghanistan is not only unnecessary, it’s also likely to prove impossible. Not for nothing has the place acquired the nickname Graveyard of Empires. Of course, Americans, insistent that the dominion over which they preside does not meet the definition of empire, evince little interest in how Brits, Russians, or other foreigners have fared in attempting to impose their will on the Afghans. As General David McKiernan, until just recently the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, put it, “There’s always an inclination to relate what we’re doing with previous nations,” adding, “I think that’s a very unhealthy comparison.” McKiernan was expressing a view common among the ranks of the political and military elite: We’re Americans. We’re different. Therefore, the experience of others does not apply.


Andrew Bacevich
. (well, this is an oldie but a goodie)


George Will
on "This Week"

Joe Scarborough "Morning Joe" today. (Clip will be linked to when provided).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Simple Notion: Liberty Applies to All.

"If you do not believe in same-sex relationships, don’t engage in them." - Judi Edwards, urging Washington State's voters to uphold gay residents' domestic partnership protections.

Her Argument: Let gay people do what they are going to do. Don't use the state to punish those whose religious precepts differ from your own. Don't make life unbearable for them and if you don't agree with what they do, don't hang out with them. How simple is that?

Friday, October 23, 2009

From Time Magazine: Geisenger's Doctor Reimbursement Experiment

from Time Magazine

In the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania, the Geisinger Health System is trying something different. The 726 physicians and 257 residents and fellows who work there don't do piecework. They are paid a salary — benchmarked against the national average — plus potential bonuses based on how well their patients do under their care. ...

... A doctor's pay is not fixed in advance. Salaries are pegged so that they stay within 80% of the national average, but up to 20% of income is based on teams' achieving performance goals. If the cardiac group keeps its complication and readmission rates below a certain level, paychecks get fatter because costs decrease. Ditto for the pediatric orthopedic team, which must successfully treat kids for, say, spinal curvature without being too quick with the knife for those who don't need surgery or too slow for those who do. "We keep cash compensation flexible and incentivized," Steele says. "That takes away some of the insane piecework."

Other Ways to Reimburse Doctors:

"There's pay-for-performance: compensation depending on doctors' success in keeping costs down and getting patients well. There's episode care: a fixed price for a procedure like a heart bypass that covers everything from pre-op to surgery to full recuperation. Most broadly, there's global care, which provides access to a diverse team of caregivers who cover all of a patient's needs for a single premium over the length of a policy — essentially episode care writ large."

The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act Continued

So that the lies concerning religious censorship can be debunked here is the actual text, located in Section E. of the Defense Authorization bill:


Pay particular attention to the parts I highlighted in bold.

SEC. 4701. SHORT TITLE.

This division may be cited as the `Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act'.

SEC. 4702. FINDINGS.

Congress makes the following findings:

(1) The incidence of violence motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim poses a serious national problem.

(2) Such violence disrupts the tranquility and safety of communities and is deeply divisive.

(3) State and local authorities are now and will continue to be responsible for prosecuting the overwhelming majority of violent crimes in the United States, including violent crimes motivated by bias. These authorities can carry out their responsibilities more effectively with greater Federal assistance.

(4) Existing Federal law is inadequate to address this problem.

(5) A prominent characteristic of a violent crime motivated by bias is that it devastates not just the actual victim and the family and friends of the victim, but frequently savages the community sharing the traits that caused the victim to be selected.

(6) Such violence substantially affects interstate commerce in many ways, including the following:

(A) The movement of members of targeted groups is impeded, and members of such groups are forced to move across State lines to escape the incidence or risk of such violence.

(B) Members of targeted groups are prevented from purchasing goods and services, obtaining or sustaining employment, or participating in other commercial activity.

(C) Perpetrators cross State lines to commit such violence.

(D) Channels, facilities, and instrumentalities of interstate commerce are used to facilitate the commission of such violence.

(E) Such violence is committed using articles that have traveled in interstate commerce.

(7) For generations, the institutions of slavery and involuntary servitude were defined by the race, color, and ancestry of those held in bondage. Slavery and involuntary servitude were enforced, both prior to and after the adoption of the 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, through widespread public and private violence directed at persons because of their race, color, or ancestry, or perceived race, color, or ancestry. Accordingly, eliminating racially motivated violence is an important means of eliminating, to the extent possible, the badges, incidents, and relics of slavery and involuntary servitude.

(8) Both at the time when the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution of the United States were adopted, and continuing to date, members of certain religious and national origin groups were and are perceived to be distinct `races'. Thus, in order to eliminate, to the extent possible, the badges, incidents, and relics of slavery, it is necessary to prohibit assaults on the basis of real or perceived religions or national origins, at least to the extent such religions or national origins were regarded as races at the time of the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

(9) Federal jurisdiction over certain violent crimes motivated by bias enables Federal, State, and local authorities to work together as partners in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes.

(10) The problem of crimes motivated by bias is sufficiently serious, widespread, and interstate in nature as to warrant Federal assistance to States, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes.

SEC. 4703. DEFINITION OF HATE CRIME.

In this division--

(1) the term `crime of violence' has the meaning given that term in section 16, title 18, United States Code;

(2) the term `hate crime' has the meaning given such term in section 280003(a) of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (28 U.S.C. 994 note); and

(3) the term `local' means a county, city, town, township, parish, village, or other general purpose political subdivision of a State.

SEC. 4704. SUPPORT FOR CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS AND PROSECUTIONS BY STATE, LOCAL, AND TRIBAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS.

(a) Assistance Other Than Financial Assistance-

(1) IN GENERAL- At the request of State, local, or tribal law enforcement agency, the Attorney General may provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or any other form of assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any crime that--

(A) constitutes a crime of violence;

(B) constitutes a felony under the State, local, or tribal laws; and

(C) is motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim, or is a violation of the State, local, or tribal hate crime laws.

(2) PRIORITY- In providing assistance under paragraph (1), the Attorney General shall give priority to crimes committed by offenders who have committed crimes in more than one State and to rural jurisdictions that have difficulty covering the extraordinary expenses relating to the investigation or prosecution of the crime.

(b) Grants-

(1) IN GENERAL- The Attorney General may award grants to State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies for extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.

(2) OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS- In implementing the grant program under this subsection, the Office of Justice Programs shall work closely with grantees to ensure that the concerns and needs of all affected parties, including community groups and schools, colleges, and universities, are addressed through the local infrastructure developed under the grants.

(3) APPLICATION-

(A) IN GENERAL- Each State, local, and tribal law enforcement agency that desires a grant under this subsection shall submit an application to the Attorney General at such time, in such manner, and accompanied by or containing such information as the Attorney General shall reasonably require.

(B) DATE FOR SUBMISSION- Applications submitted pursuant to subparagraph (A) shall be submitted during the 60-day period beginning on a date that the Attorney General shall prescribe.

(C) REQUIREMENTS- A State, local, and tribal law enforcement agency applying for a grant under this subsection shall--

(i) describe the extraordinary purposes for which the grant is needed;

(ii) certify that the State, local government, or Indian tribe lacks the resources necessary to investigate or prosecute the hate crime;

(iii) demonstrate that, in developing a plan to implement the grant, the State, local, and tribal law enforcement agency has consulted and coordinated with nonprofit, nongovernmental victim services programs that have experience in providing services to victims of hate crimes; and

(iv) certify that any Federal funds received under this subsection will be used to supplement, not supplant, non-Federal funds that would otherwise be available for activities funded under this subsection.

(4) DEADLINE- An application for a grant under this subsection shall be approved or denied by the Attorney General not later than 180 business days after the date on which the Attorney General receives the application.

(5) GRANT AMOUNT- A grant under this subsection shall not exceed $100,000 for any single jurisdiction in any 1-year period.

(6) REPORT- Not later than December 31, 2010, the Attorney General shall submit to Congress a report describing the applications submitted for grants under this subsection, the award of such grants, and the purposes for which the grant amounts were expended.

(7) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS- There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this subsection $5,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

SEC. 4705. GRANT PROGRAM.

(a) Authority To Award Grants- The Office of Justice Programs of the Department of Justice may award grants, in accordance with such regulations as the Attorney General may prescribe, to State, local, or tribal programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles, including programs to train local law enforcement officers in identifying, investigating, prosecuting, and preventing hate crimes.

(b) Authorization of Appropriations- There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out this section.

SEC. 4706. AUTHORIZATION FOR ADDITIONAL PERSONNEL TO ASSIST STATE, LOCAL, AND TRIBAL LAW ENFORCEMENT.

There are authorized to be appropriated to the Department of Justice, including the Community Relations Service, for fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012 such sums as are necessary to increase the number of personnel to prevent and respond to alleged violations of section 249 of title 18, United States Code, as added by section 4707 of this division.

SEC. 4707. PROHIBITION OF CERTAIN HATE CRIME ACTS.

(a) In General- Chapter 13 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

`Sec. 249. Hate crime acts

`(a) In General-

`(1) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person--

`(A) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and

`(B) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if--

`(i) death results from the offense; or

`(ii) the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

`(2) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RELIGION, NATIONAL ORIGIN, GENDER, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY, OR DISABILITY-

`(A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B) or paragraph (3), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person--

`(i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and

`(ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if--

title, or both, and shall be subject to the penalty of death in accordance with chapter 228 (if death results from the offense), if--

`(i) death results from the offense; or

`(ii) the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

`(2) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RELIGION, NATIONAL ORIGIN, GENDER, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY, OR DISABILITY-

`(A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B) or paragraph (3), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person--

`(i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and

`(ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, and shall be subject to the penalty of death in accordance with chapter 228 (if death results from the offense), if--

`(I) death results from the offense; or

`(II) the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

`(B) CIRCUMSTANCES DESCRIBED- For purposes of subparagraph (A), the circumstances described in this subparagraph are that--

`(i) the conduct described in subparagraph (A) occurs during the course of, or as the result of, the travel of the defendant or the victim--

`(I) across a State line or national border; or

`(II) using a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce;

`(ii) the defendant uses a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce in connection with the conduct described in subparagraph (A);

`(iii) in connection with the conduct described in subparagraph (A), the defendant employs a firearm, dangerous weapon, explosive or incendiary device, or other weapon that has traveled in interstate or foreign commerce; or

`(iv) the conduct described in subparagraph (A)--

`(I) interferes with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim is engaged at the time of the conduct; or

`(II) otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce.

`(3) OFFENSES OCCURRING IN THE SPECIAL MARITIME OR TERRITORIAL JURISDICTION OF THE UNITED STATES- Whoever, within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States, commits an offense described in paragraph (1) or (2) shall be subject to the same penalties as prescribed in those paragraphs.

`(b) Certification Requirement-

`(1) IN GENERAL- No prosecution of any offense described in this subsection may be undertaken by the United States, except under the certification in writing of the Attorney General, or his designee, that--

`(A) the State does not have jurisdiction;

`(B) the State has requested that the Federal Government assume jurisdiction;

`(C) the verdict or sentence obtained pursuant to State charges left demonstratively unvindicated the Federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence; or

`(D) a prosecution by the United States is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.

`(2) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION- Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit the authority of Federal officers, or a Federal grand jury, to investigate possible violations of this section.

`(c) Definitions- In this section--

`(1) the term `bodily injury' has the meaning given such term in section 1365(h)(4) of this title, but does not include solely emotional or psychological harm to the victim;

`(2) the term `explosive or incendiary device' has the meaning given such term in section 232 of this title;

`(3) the term `firearm' has the meaning given such term in section 921(a) of this title; and

`(4) the term `gender identity' for the purposes of this chapter means actual or perceived gender-related characteristics.'.

(b) Technical and Conforming Amendment- The analysis for chapter 13 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

`249. Hate crime acts.'.

SEC. 4708. STATISTICS.

(a) In General- Subsection (b)(1) of the first section of the Hate Crime Statistics Act (28 U.S.C. 534 note) is amended by inserting `gender and gender identity,' after `race,'.

(b) Data- Subsection (b)(5) of the first section of the Hate Crime Statistics Act (28 U.S.C. 534 note) is amended by inserting `, including data about crimes committed by, and crimes directed against, juveniles' after `data acquired under this section'.

SEC. 4709. SEVERABILITY.

If any provision of this division, an amendment made by this division, or the application of such provision or amendment to any person or circumstance is held to be unconstitutional, the remainder of this division, the amendments made by this division, and the application of the provisions of such to any person or circumstance shall not be affected thereby.

SEC. 4710. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.

For purposes of construing this division and the amendments made by this division the following shall apply:

(1) RELEVANT EVIDENCE- Courts may consider relevant evidence of speech, beliefs, or expressive conduct to the extent that such evidence is offered to prove an element of a charged offense or is otherwise admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence. Nothing in this division is intended to affect the existing rules of evidence.

(2) VIOLENT ACTS- This division applies to violent acts motivated by actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of a victim.

SEC.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr . Hate Crimes Protection Act

Tonight the Senate voted for a conference report for the nation's defense appropriations bill that includes a provision extending hate crime protections to the disabled and sexual minorities. Five Republicans - Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and outgoing Senator George Voinovich of Ohio, voted for the bill. The bill now heads to the president's desk, allowing him to fulfill the first of several promises he made to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. President Obama said he would sign a hate crimes bill into law.

As it stands, the federal government may investigate crimes committed against those who are victimized on account of their perceived race, ethnicity, religion or gender if but only if they were engaged in a federally protected activity. Sentencing for those who are convicted of a bias-motivated assault with a deadly weapon can be higher than those who are convicted of any other assault with a deadly weapon. Supporters justify the enhanced sentencing guidelines by noting how these crimes may have a greater impact on those living in the neighborhood. Any and every gay American will fear for their welfare when confronted with the news of another gay person's demise.

The Act, which was named for a Wyoming college student who was beaten to death 11 years ago, and an African American who was dragged to his death by a pickup truck, builds upon laws already on the book in three important ways.

First, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act adds three new categories - sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability - to the list of protected categories warranting federal intervention.

Second, the Act requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect data relating to bias-motivated crimes perpetrated against transgendered victims, paving the way for their future inclusion at some future point.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, it lifts the restrictions on the federal government's involvement so that it can investigate crimes which state and local authorities either choose not to or cannot afford to investigate, whether the victim was engaged in a federally protected activity or not.

Religious conservatives say this bill could (and will) be used to silence Christians who oppose homosexuality on religious grounds. "Hate crime laws force the court to guess the thoughts and beliefs which lie behind a crime," Tony Perkins, the president of the conservative Family Research Council said in his written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. ""Hate crime" laws put the perpetrator's thoughts and beliefs on trial. Hate crime laws are tantamount to federally prosecuting "thought crimes." The Family Research Council believes that all crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and that every violent crime has some form of hate behind it." Mr. Perkins notes that some pastors have been threatened by prosecution for violating hate speech laws in Western Europe and Canada.

The incidents which Mr. Perkins refers to have no bearing on the hate crimes statute which the president said he would sign in the near future. Those priests and ministers were cited for hate speech violations in countries where free speech isn't valued as strongly as it is valued in this country. The hate crime statute that will head to the president's desk does not outlaw speech. No priest can be tried for condemning homosexual conduct, whether it is done on a tv program or at the altar. A priest, minister, rabbi, or imam can, however, be tried for robbing, killing, or otherwise beating a person, whether he or she is gay or not and if, during the assault, the priest calls him a "sodomite" or a "faggot" the new act allows the federal government to try the priest for a hate crime.

Those who seriously fear for their free speech rights should look at how the law or laws like it has been applied to religious minorities and women. Like the homosexual, a feminist does not adhere to the evangelical preacher's code. The minister might, on occasion, condemn the woman who does not seek fulfillment in the home, raising the kids. An evangelical who fears that his anti-gay preaching can be used against him if and when he verbally accosts and then beats a gay man should in theory, fear that his anti-feminist preaching can be used against him if and when he verbally accosts and then beats a career-oriented woman. That same evangelical priest should, i theory, fear that his prior anti-Jewish (only Christians can be saved) or anti-Muslim rantings could be used against him.

Do they fear for their speech rights in these other, equally plausible scenarios? No. Of course not. Hate crimes are rarely prosecuted as such and to the extent that they are they've had no bearing on a priest or minister's ability to condemn homosexual conduct. California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Texas have passed hate crime statutes that include sexual orientation among their listed categories and yet priests and ministers in each of those states still preach against homosexuality.

I believe this failure to stifle anti-gay preaching can be attributed in part to the average minister's belief that he or she won't assault, maim, or kill a fellow human being. The minister, priest, rabbi, and imam who opposes gay rights should have no reason to fear criminal prosecution unless he or she plans to, let's say, bash any gay entering or leaving a gay establishment in the head with a baseball bat.

The president said he would sign this bill should it reach his desk. He should fulfill that promise quickly, and then move on to the other promises he made to the GLBT community on the campaign trail.