Saturday, December 22, 2007

Liberal Fascism: From The Minimum Wage To Organic Baby Carrots

Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large of the National Review, is living proof that nepotism is a big part of movement conservatism (see also: the NY Post's John Podhoretz). His mother, Lucianne Goldberg, was a key conservative figure in the 1990s and instrumental in propelling the Lewinsky scandal. Jonah rode his mother's coattails right to the top of conservative punditry, using his position to lament that foiled terror attacks prevent new draconian security policies and praying for a Pinochet-like figure to come along and smash the Iraqis into submission.

He has also published a new book, which he's been trying to complete for over two years. Obviously such a long writing process has no doubt produced a masterpiece of political thought and discussion. The book is entitled 'Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning '. The cover-

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This is a very serious, thoughtful book. That cover shows the original title-- 'Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation From Mussolini to Hillary Clinton' (and yes, that's not a joke). Perhaps realizing that went too far, he then changed the proposed title to 'Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation From Hegel to Whole Foods'. And then, maybe deciding that Whole Foods is not exactly Auschwitz (Organic soda? That's going too far, you monsters!), Goldberg finally settled on that third, more benign title above.

One site has posted some scans of the inside of the book, featuring exciting chapters like "Adolf Hitler: Man of the Left" and "The New Age: We're All Fascists Now". Hitler was a vegetarian, you know, and that is proof that all liberals are evil. Also, American affirmative action policies are just like Hitler's race policies (according to Goldberg, "the white male is the Jew of liberal fascism"). This is a serious, deep mind at work. But the highlight of the book jacket is this passage-
"The quintessential liberal fascist isn’t an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade-school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore."

Holocaust survivors, feel free to share your thoughts with Mr. Goldberg on his treatise the next time he is giving one of his 'All I am Saying is Give War a Chance' lectures at your local college campus.

A commenter on Matthew Yglesias' site sums it up: "Apparently he thinks fascism means 'things I don't like.'" Conservative authors are very, very serious people.

[UPDATE: More hilariously awful book excerpts- here, here, here, here, and here.]

It's The Economy, Bushie!

This section from an article on Bush and the economy amused me-
President Bush worked to reassure Americans on Monday about the economy but said "there's definitely some storm clouds and concern" because of the nation's credit crunch and mortgage problems...

...The audience of roughly 80 people listened to Bush with respectful silence. Yet a line that normally gets him applause — "I'll veto any tax increase" — drew no reaction at all.

Funny that an unwillingness to change course in the face of obvious trouble would not be met with enthusiastic applause. Poor Bushie. Life outside the bubble is so unpleasant.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Iraqis Hate Us; That Means We're Winning

A Washington Post article earlier this week on Iraq notes-
Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of "occupying forces" as the key to national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the U.S. military last month...

Yikes, that sounds like bad news! Oh wait, the next paragraph reads-
...That is good news, according to a military analysis of the results. At the very least, analysts optimistically concluded, the findings indicate that Iraqis hold some "shared beliefs" that may eventually allow them to surmount the divisions that have led to a civil war.

It's "good news" that the warring Iraqi factions hold the "shared belief" that the occupying U.S. army is evil and needs to leave their country? That is some Colbert-quality stuff (and I thought the writers were on strike!).

This, to me, again illustrates that-- 5 years in-- we still have no strategy or long-term plan... we're just bouncing from one idea to the next ('shock and awe' to 'mission accomplished' to 'stay the course' to 'surge'), some less disastrous than others, but all with no final act or realistic assessment of cost (in lives, money, missed opportunities).

Let's review. We invaded their country, which pissed the Iraqis off, which is good because the (current) goal of our occupation is to make them all get along, which they can't because our occupation is a divisive force. So, in response, we stay, and start building permanent bases, and continue to try and pacify the country by going neighborhood to neighborhood, turning each town into a sealed-off garrison town along the way, until either the country is properly worn down or our military breaks down. Then... Victory!

There are very serious people running our country. You're unpatriotic to think otherwise.

Headline of the Day

ABC News video (via Yahoo): Calif. teen dies after insurance company denies transplant

What a great system. If we had national health care, poor girl might've had to wait on line.

More Odds and Ends

The stockings were hung by the blog with care, in hope that news soon would be there...

Earlier this week, the NY Times reported this bombshell: "At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials." The White House, as you can imagine, didn't much care for the story.

Bet they hated this too: "Congress on Tuesday struck back at the Bush administration's trend toward secrecy since the 2001 terrorist attacks, passing legislation to toughen the Freedom of Information Act and increasing penalties on agencies that don't comply."

Despite protests, the New Orleans city council voted to demolish 4,500 public housing units.

Here is a story that illustrates how ridiculous our health-care system is... VISA is offering/selling 'medical gift cards' (up to $5,000) that people can give as presents. They can be used for "doctors' visits or deductibles, prescription co-pays, contact lenses and even elective surgery." How proud to be an American we all should be.

The Daily Kos has a good breakdown of all the factions of the modern GOP.

And why does the GOP establishment fear Huckabee? One answer: "[T]he deal has been that 'the crazies' stay below-radar in return for below-radar policies (e.g., judges, denying funding to international organizations who don't believe in abstinence-based policies). Huckabee is a threat because he violates the terms of the unspoken deal." Bingo.

Other campaign news... Tom Tancredo, having dragged the GOP to the right on immigration, drops out; he's endorsed Romney. Speaking of Mitt, his dad marched with Dr. King. Or not. Newsweek remembers John Edwards. And as much as I try to like Sen. Clinton, I find her Rove-style attacks on Obama revealing.

Finally-- a flashback from last year-- Bill O'Reilly explains what Christmas is all about.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Take a Bow Senate Republicans, You Earned It!

Hey, speaking of legislation... congratulations are in order for the Senate Republicans, who've broken the filibuster record for a single session of Congress, with a full year to spare! Since January, the GOP has filibustered 62 times. Bonus congrats to Democrats for not even making them go through with an actual, painful filibuster! You all did great.

The reviews are pouring in! From the Campaign for America's Future-
“In just one session, a minority in Congress has prevented a mind-blowing 62 pieces of legislation from going to the floor for an up or down vote,” said Campaign for America’s Future co-director Roger Hickey. “Our report shows how over and over again, the uncompromising minority has thwarted the will of majorities in Congress and of the American people, holding the Senate floor hostage to a radical right-wing agenda.”...

...Eric Lotke, Campaign for America’s Future research director and lead author of the new report, calls the obstruction a “deliberate strategy.” He observes that the congressional Republicans block legislation, then blame the Democrats for getting nothing done. “It’s like mugging the postman and then complaining that the mail isn’t delivered on time.”

Brian Young, of Roadblock Republicans, adds-
“Only a group with a near-pathological disregard for the actual health of our democracy, only a group with a single-minded focus on the cynical political strategies of their consultants, only a group with an imperious disdain for the people of the country could’ve pulled off such a feat.”

And what a feat! It's so impressive and newsworthy all the major news networks can't stop talking about Iowa poll numbers, Britney's sister's pregnancy, Iowa poll numbers it!

Here's a partial list of what has been blocked: an exit strategy for Iraq, expansion for children's health care, allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, taking away tax breaks to oil companies to use the $$ for renewable energy, making it easier for workers to unionize, restoring habeas rights for detainees, and more!

You know, pesky stuff like that! Good riddance! Boy, when conservatives say that party that governs best is the party that governs least, they mean it! See you next year!

What He Said

AmericaBlog's John Aravosis on the successful passage of the watered-down energy bill-

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The sad thing is that this is actually progress. In comparison to doing nothing, of course.

[PS- Some conservatives are freaking out... because the bill mandates energy-efficient bulbs. I know conservatives are opposed to change, but I think humanity will survive the loss of the incandescent bulb.]

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Time's Person of the Year is...

...Vladimir Putin.

Yep, the magazine that freaked out in 2001 and gave the award to feel-good candidate Rudy Giuliani rather than obvious newsmaker Osama bin Laden, and who last year stopped trying and made everyone the winner, has chosen Russia's polonium-wielding dictator as the man who embodies 2007. [*insert looked-into-his-soul joke here*]

Time explains their decision, noting that they looked beyond the obvious choices-
"TIME's Person of the Year is not and never has been an honor. It is not an endorsement. It is not a popularity contest. At its best, it is a clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world—for better or for worse. It is ultimately about leadership—bold, earth-changing leadership. Putin is not a boy scout. He is not a democrat in any way that the West would define it. He is not a paragon of free speech. He stands, above all, for stability—stability before freedom, stability before choice, stability in a country that has hardly seen it for a hundred years. Whether he becomes more like the man for whom his grandfather prepared blinis—who himself was twice TIME's Person of the Year—or like Peter the Great, the historical figure he most admires; whether he proves to be a reformer or an autocrat who takes Russia back to an era of repression—this we will know only over the next decade. At significant cost to the principles and ideas that free nations prize, he has performed an extraordinary feat of leadership in imposing stability on a nation that has rarely known it and brought Russia back to the table of world power. For that reason, Vladimir Putin is TIME's 2007 Person of the Year."

Runners-up: Al Gore, J.K. Rowling, Chinese President Hu Jintao, and Gen. David Petraeus.

I think that any of those (well less so with Rowling, of course) would've been better representations of 2007, but they wanted to think globally here, and I guess I can see that.

The section on their website has some good reads, including a piece on Russia and China, a look back at the "you" choice from last year, and a good feature on other people who mattered (ie. the Burmese monks, Nicolas Sarkozy, Alberto Gonzales, Obama and Hillary, Ron Paul, Blackwater's Erik Prince, Rupert Murdoch, the Jena 6, and... Billiam the YouTube Snowman). That about sums up what an odd year this was. Bring on 2008, I'm tired.

Darn That Liberal Media!!1!!!

Via, a video summing up the sewer that is cable news-

On a related note, Bill Moyers did some actual journalism this past weekend with a segment on media consolidation, the FCC, and the scrapping of the media cross-ownership ban. Congress is expected to debate the issue soon/eventually.

Senate OKs $70B for Iraq, Afghanistan

That's the headline out of the big 'omnibus' budget battle this week. I have no comment.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's This About a Southern Strategy?

Here's an amusing story worth mentioning (in light of my post last month on Paul Krugman's thoughts on the GOP and racism). This is Trent Lott's final week in office and his colleagues were saluting him today on the floor of the Senate. Perhaps by acknowledging his accomplishments, you ask? No, it doesn't seem he ever had any, because all they're doing is defending his 2002 statement about Strom Thurmond's presidential run.

Thurmond, as you may recall, ran for President in 1948 on the Dixiecrat third party ticket in opposition to the Democrats' growing support for civil rights. In one campaign speech that year, he said-
"I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigger race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches."

He went on to carry four states and receive 39 electoral votes. One of the states he won was Mississippi, home of Mr. Trent Lott. At the 100th birthday of Thurmond in 2002, Sen. Lott (who, in his congressional career, had voted against renewal of the Voting Rights Act, voted against the continuation of the Civil Rights Act, and opposed the Martin Luther King Holiday) volunteered this compliment-
"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn't of had all these problems over all these years, either."

Gosh, I can't imagine why anyone would be offended at the Senate Majority Leader for that.

Defending the honor of Sen. Lott today were Senators Specter (R-PA), Hatch (R-UT), and Smith (R-OR) in particular (the latter was less defensive five years ago). Said Specter, "What Senator Lott said was in no means out of line". None of these men-- of course-- mentioned or acknowledged what the remarks were.

Have fun lobbying these jackals next year, Trent. May you continue to make u$ all proud.

Odds and Ends

As of this morning, I am officially done with my Christmas shopping! Here's the news...

The international climate change talks in Bali this past week resulted in 'compromise' agreements between the participating countries, which is probably code for half-measures that won't address the core problems.

It's endorsement season, as candidates prepare to enjoy the holidays with family stalk Iowans. And look here, Sen. Joe Lieberman (of the Connecticut for Lieberman party) has endorsed fellow war-cheerleader John McCain. Voters of Connecticut, feeling duped yet?

Refrain from New Jersey jokes for at least a week or so... they just signed into law the first ban on the death penalty in over four decades. Kudos.

Late-night shows to come back in January despite the strike? Possibly.

A new report reveals that the army doesn't enforce Don't Ask, Don't Tell as strictly these days (they need all the soldiers they can keep). As Andrew Sullivan notes, this shows that "The anti-gay policy is in fact a peace-time luxury, designed to perpetuate and legitimize bigotry - not to ensure effective defense."

Finally, news from around the world... Turkish troops enter northern Iraq to pursue Kurdish rebels; Israel launches an assault in Gaza; Putin prepares to go from President to Prime Minister in Russia; the U.N. condemns last week's terror attacks in Algiers; there are a lot of people in China; and in Cuba, Castro acknowledges he'll eventually be gone.

Mr. Dodd Goes To Washington

MSNBC 'Countdown' guest-host Alison Stewart discusses Dodd's (temporary) victory on FISA.

Conservatives in Disarray; Republicans Just Too Liberal

This letter was the first one I read in the NY Post yesterday-
"Michelle Malkin has hit the nail on the head: Not only does Mike Huckabee sound like a Democrat, but all of the candidates running for president from the Republican Party sound like Democrats ("GOP Border Baloney," PostOpinion, Dec. 12).

It's getting harder to tell the parties apart.

What has happened to Republicans today?

Why do they think that they must sound and act like Democrats in order to receive the nomination for president?"

Yes, the problem with modern Republicans is that... they're too moderate or liberal??! Please someone tell me that the Post editors simply forget to mention that the letter was written by a Mr. "S. Colbert".

All this Huckabee hatred (now fueled by the party establishment) shouldn't shock me. Here is what Time's Joe Klein observed at a GOP focus group during a recent debate-
"Now, for the uninitiated: dials are little hand-held machines that enable a focus group member to register instantaneous approval or disapproval as the watch a candidate on TV...

...In the next segment--the debate between Romney and Mike Huckabee over Huckabee's college scholarships for the deserving children of illegal immigrants--I noticed something really distressing: When Huckabee said, "After all, these are children of God," the dials plummeted. And that happened time and again through the evening: Any time any candidate proposed doing anything nice for anyone poor, the dials plummeted (30s). These Republicans were hard.

But there was worse to come: When John McCain started talking about torture--specifically, about waterboarding--the dials plummeted again. Lower even than for the illegal Children of God. Down to the low 20s, which, given the natural averaging of a focus group, is about as low as you can go...

The members of the group were overwhelmingly white. There were two Latinos. They seemed nice, concerned, relatively well informed and entirely intolerant citizens."

Somewhere, Dwight Eisenhower is rolling over in, and punching, his grave.

I am really not sure what these people want. Whereas Democrats are trying to pick their favorite out of an interesting field of quality candidates, the Republicans are just depressed about their options (I have a few Republican friends; they really do feel deflated).

But why? The Romneys and Giulianis and others have spent the past year or so moving farther and farther to the right (less so with Huckabee, he's always been there) to satisfy them, using increasingly insane rhetoric along the way. And it's still not enough. Short of running a Zombie Reagan-Sean Hannity ticket, what do these people want?

As Andrew Sullivan loves to point out, the GOP created this monster ("Rove's Frankenstein", he calls it) and now the chicken is coming home to roost. They cultivated a bare-minimum base out of many of America's more extreme political elements (religious fundamentalists, military hawks, anti-tax zealots, nativists and bigots, etc) and, as a short-term strategy, it worked. But now, with so much in trouble-- the economy, foreign policy, etc-- Americans are looking to the future, looking for progress and rationality. And the GOP is trapped.

They're not finished by any chance, but for now I'm enjoying watching the most divisive majority in American history spiral downwards.

Monday, December 17, 2007

They Hate Us For Our Freedoms

Reminding us today that Senate filibusters not only have to involve actual filibustering, but also can be used to block things other than health-care, minimum wage increases, and alternative energy bills is Chris Dodd.

At issue here is the temporary FISA revision passed this summer under a cloud of fear (with Trent Lott and others warning that al Qaeda would blow us all up over Labor Day weekend if it wasn't). Democrats promised to fix matters when the temporary bill came up for final passage in the Fall. That time has come, and not only are Democrats prepared to rubberstamp the permanent renewal of a bill that rewards the President's lawbreaking for years, but also gives retroactive immunity to the telecom companies who aided the program. This is where Dodd and a few others have drawn the line.

But what about the terrorists (?!!), I can hear some ask. Well-
For months, the Bush administration has waged a high-profile campaign, including personal lobbying by President Bush and closed-door briefings by top officials, to persuade Congress to pass legislation protecting companies from lawsuits for aiding the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program...

...A lawsuit was filed in federal court in New Jersey challenging [NSA's] wiretapping operations. It claims that in February 2001... N.S.A. met with AT&T officials to discuss replicating a network center in Bedminster, N.J., to give the agency access to all the global phone and e-mail traffic that ran through it.

The accusations rely in large part on the assertions of a former engineer on the project. The engineer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said in an interview that he participated in numerous discussions with N.S.A. officials about the proposal. The officials, he said, discussed ways to duplicate the Bedminster system in Maryland so the agency "could listen in" with unfettered access to communications that it believed had intelligence value and store them for later review. There was no discussion of limiting the monitoring to international communications, he said...

Now, I may only have a Bachelor's degree, but I'm pretty sure that February 2001 was before the attacks used to justify all this behavior. Like the invasion of Iraq, the Patriot Act, and other actions, warrantless wiretapping is something the Bush Republicans have long wanted (Cheney took the post-Nixon reforms personally) and have gleefully used the deaths of 3,000 people to get their wishes.

And yet no more than a handful of Senators is standing up against the legitimization of this.

Matthew Yglesias perfectly sums up the now-cliche fear driving Democrats here-
"It's more or less the politics of 2002 all over again, a belief that public distemper with the economy will glide Democrats to victory if only those mean 'ol Republicans don't run on national security."

And you can be sure that, when the Democrats cave, Republicans will be so kind to them!

Frankly, it is amazing that Harry Reid even allowed Dodd to do this, because apparently modern Senate rules require him to only do what the Republicans want. Dodd left the campaign trail in Iowa to do this, showing a quality of leadership that (sadly) only an also-ran can afford. He may never be President, but he'd make a hell of a Majority Leader if Democrats ever got the balls to mutiny against Reid's limp 'leadership'.

Here is a clip of Sen. Dodd on the Senate floor discussing the issue-

Earlier in the morning, Kennedy had said: "The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity. No immunity, no FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he's willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies."

And that, folks, is how you play ball. Not that it matters. Short of a massive infusion of spine on Capitol Hill very soon, Sen. Dodd is only delaying the inevitable. The Senate hates us for our freedoms.

[UPDATE: VICTORY!! Sen. Reid made the decision to pull the bill until next year.]

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weekend Video Theatre: Christmas In Fallujah

Coming from NY, I am a huge Billy Joel fan (seen him play MSG several times, with and without Elton John). I'm also a big supporter of his decision after 'River of Dreams' to quit while he was ahead.

Now he has written a new song called 'Christmas in Fallujah', inspired by letters from soldiers in Iraq. Joel doesn't sing the song... he outsourced that part to a local Long Island musician named Cass Dillon. It's available on iTunes, with proceeds going to Homes for Our Troops (they build homes for wounded Iraq/Afghanistan veterans).

Here, Joel and Dillon perform the song live in Chicago-

Not his best song ever, but it has a good message and cause. I am also amused by all the angry (likely conservative) comments on iTunes complaining that Billy Joel shouldn't get political. Yes, god forbid "Cold war kid" Billy Joel-- writer of 'We Didn't Start The Fire', 'Leningrad', 'Allentown', 'Goodnight Saigon', and 'No Man's Land'-- should ever engage in social/political commentary. Of course, these are probably the same type of conservatives who thought Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" or John Mellencamp's "Pink Houses" made great campaign anthems until somebody showed them the lyrics.

Maybe they prefer Toby Keith ass-kicking music, but even he apparently opposes this war.

A Brief History of the Bill of Rights, 2001-2007

This site has compiled a pretty decent overview of how the Bill of Rights has weathered the Bush years. Equally depressing and terrifying, it's a must-bookmark page.