Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Last Call

A winner is Kenya.
It's an invitation that would make a Tea Partier's head explode -- and confirm all the worst fears of the Birthers.

The Kenyan government is taking on the Tea Partiers head on -- hosting a "Real Tea Party" in the Capitol next Tuesday to promote the country's status as the world's number one exporter of tea. And they are explicitly contrasting it with the other tea parties that have been held of late on the Hill.

"The Government of Kenya, the world's #1 tea exporter, cordially invites you to a proper Kenyan Tea Party on Capitol Hill (one without a political agenda)," the invitation boasts. (Click link to see the invitation.) "Please join Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister, the Honorable Uhuru Kenyatta, at Kenya's tea tasting event, complete with food pairings and tea leaf readings."
EPIC WIN.  Absolute, complete, and total.  Note to self:  Pick up Kenyan tea at Jungle Jim's or Findley Market to show my support.

Identi-Tea Crisis

Arizona seems to be locked in a race with Oklahoma and Utah to see which state legislature can produce the biggest pile of racist/misogynist/general-asshole bills since Obama took office.  If the state's lunatic immigration law wasn't enough for you, cactus central is really bucking for the lead this week with its brand new Birther Bill.

The Arizona House on Monday voted for a provision that would require President Barack Obama to show his birth certificate if he hopes to be on the state’s ballot when he runs for reelection. The House voted 31-22 to add the provision to a separate bill. The measure still faces a formal vote.
It would require U.S. presidential candidates who want to appear on the ballot in Arizona to submit documents proving they meet the constitutional requirements to be president. Phoenix Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema said the bill is one of several measures that are making Arizona “the laughing stock of the nation.” Mesa Republican Rep. Cecil Ash said he has no reason to doubt Obama’s citizenship but supports the measure because it could help end doubt.
The only doubt that's ended for me is the doubt that Obama Derangement Syndrome was ever going to go away anytime soon.  To recap, Arizona Republicans don't doubt the President is a US citizen...but are doubting he's a US citizen enough to pass a law requiring him to submit papers to Arizona in 2012 should he run for re-election.  And there's enough assholes in Arizona to pass this legislation.

But they don't doubt Obama, you see.  235 plus years up until now it's been an oversight, apparently.  Jagoffs.

The Race To Replace Justice Stevens, Part 2

A lot of criticism has been put on the White House about the President's upcoming Supreme Court nominee choice being "safe" and the President backing away from a conflict.  My response has been that since the GOP will oppose whomever the President will pick, he might was well pick someone as liberal as Stevens was.

Today, the White House indicated that it does indeed believe that about the Republicans and is now prepared for that fight.  Christina Bellantoni:
President Obama thinks Republicans will engage in a full battle over his Supreme Court nominee regardless of the person's ideological leanings, and in some ways "that realization is liberating for the president" to choose whomever he pleases, an administration official told TPMDC.

In comments that are at odds with the conventional wisdom about what Obama needs to do to make sure the Senate confirms his nominee to replace John Paul Stevens, a White House official involved in the confirmation process tells TPMDC that the President isn't taking a cautious approach to selecting a nominee. Despite having one less Democrat in the Senate than when Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed last year, the administration isn't limiting itself to reviewing only centrist candidates for the court vacancy, the official said.

"It doesn't matter who he chooses, there is going to be a big 'ol fight over it. So he doesn't have to get sidetracked by those sorts of concerns," the official told me. The GOP has attempted to obstruct "anything of consequence" put forth by the Obama administration since he took office, the official said. "The president is making this decision with a pretty clear view that whoever he chooses is going to provoke a strong reaction on the right," the official added.
Brilliant.  That's exactly what the White house should be saying at this point, and it alleviates a lot of my concerns about the selection process, and that Obama had already all but decided on Elena Kagan.  Double G offers an alternative pick:  Judge Diane Wood, a strong choice all around.
If one were to analogize the search for Justice Stevens' replacement to the recently concluded health care debate, Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diane Wood would be the public option.  Just as the truly left-wing health care approach (a single-payer system) was eliminated from consideration before the process even began, so, too, have the truly left-wing candidates to replace Justice Stevens (Pam Karlan, Harold Koh) been ruled out as "not viable."  As a result, the moderate-progressive compromises (i.e., the public option for health care and Diane Wood for Stevens' replacement) are falsely depicted as some sort of liberal extremism, merely because they're the least conservative options allowed to be considered.  Contrary to how she's now being cast, Judge Wood is a very cautious and law-based jurist who resides far from the furthest left end of the mainstream judicial spectrum.  In fact, one of her most distinctive attributes is the uniform respect and collegial relationships she has with her conservative colleagues on one of the nation's more right-wing courts.
Greenwald makes a very convincing argument that Wood will pass muster and is a preferable pick to Kagan based on her decisions in a number of cases, exploring her displayed jurisprudence and its similarity to that of Stevens.  We'll see if the White House follows suit, after last week it seemed that Kagan was the choice.  now, the White house has clearly signaled that the decision has not been made.  Perhaps Wood is being considered, or even a more liberal-leaning justice.

Regardless, this is a very positive sign, and the White House is correct, any justice Obama nominates will be attacked as a liberal ideologue.  the Sotomayor hearings were proof enough of that.

Dear America:

"Irrational hatred of the noble American Tea Party movement is all the fault of the worst President ever, Bill Clinton."

--  Byron York, Washington Examiner

Bonus Verbatim Stupid:  "How did this story line grow? Many of the claims that extremism is on the rise in America originate in research done by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based group that for nearly 40 years has tracked what it says is the growing threat of intolerance in the United States. These days the SPLC is issuing new warnings of new threats. But today's warnings sound an awful lot like those of the past."

Yes, because in the past African-Americans weren't lynched, subject to cross burnings, blown up in churches and murdered, and that hatred didn't translate into the militia movement and a violent hatred of liberalism in government with purveyors like Tim McVeigh, Eric Robert Rudolph, and most recently, Scott Roeder.

Lord knows we should just ignore the Hutaree clowns and the gun nuts on the 15th anniversary of McVeigh's little statement to the world and blame Bill Clinton again.

District Of Equality, Part 3

Once again, the half a million plus residents of Washington, DC get screwed out of having a representative in Congress because Republicans insist that the price of having that vote is a reversal of the city's gun control laws.
The House has abandoned plans to take up legislation giving residents of the District of Columbia a vote in Congress that has been denied them for over two centuries.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that he was "extraordinarily disappointed" that the legislation, which was expected to come to the House floor this week, appeared unlikely to advance due to opposition to an amendment to the bill that would have elimated most of the city's stringent gun control regulations.

"At this point in time I do not see the ability to move it in this session of Congress," said Hoyer.

The measure would have given the District's 600,000 residents a House vote and would have temporarily given Republican-leaning Utah a new at-large seat, expanding the size of the House from 435 to 437 members. 
Story continues below ↓
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But giving the people of DC a full-voting Representative...an overwhelmingly African-American city, by the way...full voting rights?  Like any Republican is going to allow that.  Time and time again this gets poisoned by Republicans insisting that DC pays a price for the rights the rest of us take for granted.  Even giving Utah a new voting district wasn't good enough for the Republicans this time.  And for 200 years it hasn't been.

Your Papers, Please, Phoenix and Flagstaff

Arizona's GOP governor Jan Brewer may be just days away from signing into law Arizona's zero tolerance policy on illegal immigration, forcing police into racially profiling, arresting, and deporting anyone they have a "reasonable suspicion" about as far as being in the country illegally.
According to Brewer's spokesperson, she now has until 5 p.m. Saturday to act on the bill.

Brewer can sign the bill, veto it or do nothing, which would still allow the bill to become law.

"It's morally inconsiderate and not right. It's not right," said Sonnia Whiteman, an opponent of SB 1070.

It appears some of the nation's prominent religious leaders would agree with Whiteman.

In a Sunday post on his blog, Los Angeles archbishop Roger Mahony likened the potential law to "German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities."

Though Governor Brewer has yet to speak out about the bill, she now has five days to sign the bill into law or veto it, sending it back to the legislature.
Needless to say, the backlash against the bill has been brutal.  And of course, the Republicans are simply saying they are enforcing the law.
Members of the group said they believe the law would give local law enforcement license to racially profile.

"The bottom line of what (SB 1070) does is victimize an entire class of people," said Antonio Bustamante with the Hispanic Bar Association.  "It's a Bill of Rights for racial profiling."

The law would require police to question people about their immigration status if there is any reason to believe they are in the country illegally.

"Right now, the way things are being targeted, is that all Latinos are undocumented, and that's absolutely not true," said protester Alejandra Gomez.  "I'm a citizen, and if I'm pulled over, that's ridiculous. It's unjust, it's immoral and it's inhumane."

The bill is sponsored by Senator Russell Pearce.

"I find it amazing that we continue to debate an issue that's so simple to me -- enforce the laws," said Pearce at a recent meeting.

Supporters say the bill uncuffs law enforcement to protect the state from violent criminals. U.S. Sen. John McCain endorsed the measure Monday.

"I think the people of Arizona understandably are frustrated and angry," the Arizona Republican said. "It's also a commentary on the frustration that our state Legislature has that the federal government has not fulfilled its constitutional responsibilities to secure our borders."
You know what would end this law really, really quickly?  Let's truly "uncuff law enforcement."  If I were an Arizona police department chief and this becomes law, I'd have my officers pull over everyone, white, black, Latino, Asian, everybody.  I'd set up checkpoints.  I'd say "I have a reasonable suspicion you may be in Arizona from Canada or Denmark or France illegally.  I need to determine your status."  And I mean hit everybody.  Back up traffic.  Do it smack in the middle of a busy traffic situation.  Particularly outside any gated communities, country clubs and golf courses. 

Then just claim you're doing your job.

This law would be overturned in a matter of weeks the first time a wealthy Republican donor got caught without their driver's license and booked for possible deportation proceedings.  This law would vanish with remarkable alacrity, like a thunderstorm in the Arizona desert.

That would get this nixed almost immediately.

That's my solution.  Hope we have some Arizona readers...

The Right To Be A Campus Bigot

If anything, the oral arguments before the Supreme Court on Monday in the case of a Christian student group refusing to admit gay or lesbian members seems to strongly suggest that SCOTUS is very interested in allowing the right to bigotry.
With pointed questions and sharp tones, the court's most vocal conservatives repeatedly challenged the University of California's Hastings College of the Law's treatment of the Christian Legal Society. The skeptics say the school violates the organization's First Amendment rights to define their own membership.

"It is so weird to require the campus Republican club to admit Democrats," Justice Antonin Scalia said, using an analogy. "To require the Christian society to allow atheists not just to join, but to conduct Bible classes, that's crazy."

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito voiced similar sentiments. As is customary, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, a frequent Scalia ally, was silent throughout the hour-long oral argument.

"I'm pretty optimistic," Stanford Law School professor Michael McConnell, the attorney for the Christian Legal Society, said on the Supreme Court steps afterward.

In a sign that the closely watched freedom-of-religion case is heading for a split decision, however, justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor questioned whether another group might ban women or minorities under the Christian group's reasoning.

"What is wrong with the purpose of a school to say, 'We don't wish (to recognize) any group that discriminates?'" Sotomayor asked.

Justice John Paul Stevens, participating in one of the last oral arguments of his 34-year career, echoed the point by asking about a hypothetical student group whose "belief is that African-Americans are inferior."
McConnell replied that a student organization could be allowed to require members to hold racist beliefs but couldn't be allowed to restrict membership based on an applicant's racial status.

"You can have a student organization, I suppose, of that type," Scalia offered, but "it wouldn't include many people."

Goldman Sachs Of Cash

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs continues to not hurt for profit.
Goldman Sachs blew past consensus forecasts on the top line and bottom line in the first quarter as the Wall Street giant sought to get back to normal in the face of impropriety allegations.

The company reported earnings per share of $5.59 in the period, compared with estimates of $4.01. Revenue was $12.78 billion, versus estimates of $11.07 billion by analysts polled by ThomsonReuters.

Goldman's profit was well ahead of the $3.39 per share reported in the first quarter of last year. Its net income rose to $3.3 billion, double the $1.66 billion from the same time period in 2009.
Nice work if you can get it.  Good thing we bailed these guys out, huh?  I'm betting your company didn't double its profit from this time last year and split billions in bonus checks too.

Meanwhile, it's worth hearing Matt Taibbi's take on the whole Goldman Sachs issue since Friday's charges were announced.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Digby asks, upon flagging this video of yesterday's open carry protest in Virginia:

I can't help but feel a little sorry for this guy. He's a sad old thing. But why couldn't he find meaning in his life mentoring poor kids? Why do these people find so much meaning in this faux macho, nihilistic silliness?
Becuase some people are defined not by what they love, or what they do, or what they accomplish, but by entirely what they hate and fear.  And people who are filled with that look for ways to lash out against that.  The government was perfectly fine with many of these types until the day a man named Barack Hussein Obama was elected to be the man in charge of it.

Now they fantasize about bringing that government down and being seen as heroes.  If you've ever watched the show Dexter, you may recall the episode in season 2 where Dexter investigates a murder in a comic book store, and wonders how the people of Miami would treat him if he were the protagonist of a dark comic book series rather than a serial killer who murders other killers.  Dexter, for a brief moment, considers the accolades he might receive as a hero...and then his reality slams the door on such nonsense.

The video above is the same sort of dark, almost comic book fantasy.  This guy clearly considers himself one of the good guys, screaming about his weapons and what he'll do to those who try to take them.  If he actually did any of that, the cops would most likely plug the guy without hesitation.  They talk tough, but a great many of them are just scared and lashing out.

It's the ones that continue that fantasy and take it to extremes that you have to worry about.

The Count Of Charlie Crist, Oh! Part 15

The odds of Florida GOP Gov. Charlie Crist going independent went up considerably over the last 24 hours.
Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) has confirmed that he is considering an independent campaign for Senate.

"I can tell you I'm getting a lot of advice in that direction," Crist told ABC Action News in Tampa. "I'm a listener and so I'm certainly listening to it,"

"The law gives you until April 30 to make such a declaration," Crist added. "And I'm gonna take my time and be as thoughtful as I think I need to be, and it should be for the people before making that decision."
Indeed, Republicans are lining up to take their parting shots at Crist, warning him that he's done if he decides to make this a three-way race and split the vote among conservatives.  The latest:  Mitt Romney giving Crist something of an ultimatum: stay in the primary and lose like a man, or drop out and endorse Rubio.  Running as an independent is not one of Crist's options, according to the GOP.

So that leaves Crist in an interesting position.  All indications are he's going to bolt any time now given the fact he's down 25 points and nobody in the GOP is giving him the time of day.  Everyone has come out for Rubio.  I think here the Republicans have made a terrible mistake:  they haven't given Crist any reason to stay in the GOP and take his lumps.  In fact, the GOP has done everything it can to make Charlie Crist the poster boy for Republicans that need to be purged from the party altogether (ask Joe Lieberman what happens then.)

As I've said before, the guy most wanting Crist to do this is the Democrat in all this, Kendrick Meek.  He stands to benefit greatly from such a close race.  We'll see what happens, but my gut is telling me Crist will change his party stripes before the end of the month deadline.

Collins Goes No Go

Yesterday GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee predicted 70 bipartisan votes in the Senate for financial reform legislation. If that's true, Corker has a long way to go as Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins says she will vote to filibuster financial reform.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced after meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Monday that she will vote to filibuster a Democratic Wall Street reform bill.

Her announcement hurts Democratic chances of moving financial reform legislation through the Senate this week.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last week that he planned to bring the legislation to the floor this week, but Collins’s stance means that Democrats will likely not have the 60 votes needed to begin floor debate.

Collins said she and Geithner found common ground on many areas of financial regulatory reform and urged Democrats to spend several more weeks negotiating the measure. 
The key here is "this week."  Right now, all 41 GOP Senators will filibuster this bill if brought as is to the Senate floor.  Remember, Corker's qualification was "By Memorial Day".  The message is clear:  the GOP is playing the same game they did with health care reform.  GOP Senators will say "I can't vote for the bill in its current form now, but with another couple months of work, it might get to a point where I can support it."  That will continue until the Democrats get sick of it.  How many Republicans actually voted for HCR?  None.

If Democrats fall for this, they actually deserve to get tossed by the voters because they're not smart enough to represent the American people.  For now, Reid seems quite interested in forcing the GOP to actually make that filibuster vote, which would put all 41 GOP Senators on the record against financial reform.  Reid is doing the right thing here, and needs to stick with it.

Force the GOP to vote against it.  Go go Party of No!


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