Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Last Call

David Frum is shocked...shocked!!!...that there are racists in the GOP.  Shocked, he says!

Now the more haunting question: How did this poisonous and not very subtly racist allegation get such a grip on our conservative movement and our Republican party?

I know there will be Republican writers and conservative publicists who will now deny that birtherism ever did get a grip. Sorry, that’s just wrong. Not only did Trump surge ahead in Republican polls by flaming racial fires – not only did conservative media outlets from Fox to Drudge to the Breitbart sites indulge the birthers – but so also did every Republican candidate who said, “I take the president at his word.” Birthers did not doubt the president’s “word.” They were doubting the official records of the state of Hawaii. It’s like answering a 9/11 conspiracist by saying, “I take the 9/11 families at their word that they lost their loved ones.”

Yet even now, the racialist aspect of the anti-Obama movement has not subsided. Trump has moved from the birth certificate to questioning the president’s academic qualifications for the Harvard Law School. Trump himself was a troubled student (at one point he attended a military school) who nonetheless gained admission to Wharton. His father’s wealth and business success cannot have hurt with that application. Yet he feels himself qualified to pronounce on who is and who is not smart enough to attend Harvard Law. Barack Obama graduated magna cum laude. (And to anticipate a new line of attack – yes, Harvard Law School exams were blind-graded.) He was elected editor of the law review. And his classmates, left and right, universally admired his abilities.

I wish it were otherwise, but it does seem that these racialized attacks on Obama have exacted a toll on him. But they also have exacted a toll on the opposition to Obama. The too-faint repudiation of birtherism by regular Republicans has shaped not only the Obama brand, but also the Republican brand. It was not only white people who heard the implied message about who counts and who does not count as a “real American.”

David Frum would have a more valid point if the members of the set of "Republicans guilty of too faint opposition to the birthers in the GOP" didn't include David Frum.  He's been banging this "Gosh you guys should stop with the birther stuff" gong now for a couple of years.   Naturally, the worst criticism Frum could come up with about this idiocy is that it's probably the internet's fault:

Or maybe all this reflects an even more basic trouble in modern media democracy: With cable blaring 24/7 and the Internet distributing rumors faster than thought and Facebook creating digital enclaves of like-minded networks across the planet — maybe we’ve all lost some of our immunity to lunacy.

Which is hysterical, because Frum's been part of that "modern media democracy" for a very long time now.  If it took until now for him to realize that yes, the GOP has been trading on white fear about Obama for a good three years, I wouldn't count on him to correctly analyze a light bulb being burnt out.  What's different now than three years ago about where Obama was born, David?

Methinks the Frum doth protest too much.  Sorry, Village.  You don't get a pass on this.  Frum is looking for absolution, and I'll be damned if I give him the pleasure.  Meanwhile, the rest of the GOP is just as crazy as they were yesterday.

Seniors Want Their Unicorn Plan

And the rest of America can go to hell.  Steve M. flags down this Gallup poll story that tells the tragic tale:  America's seniors are more than happy to throw everyone under 55 into the volcano if it means they keep their government health care.

Preferred Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan, by Age, April 2011 Preferred Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan, by Age, April 2011

Why yes, creating a class war and pitting America's current seniors against the rest of the country in order to destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for those under 55 is working out pretty damn well for Republicans if half the country is willing to say "Sure, you can take my social programs away to give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans."  But here's the real killer:

Party Better Able to Deal With Federal Budget, April 2011

Independents, by a pretty large margin, trust the Republicans on the budget and not the Democrats.  I can see why Obama maybe wants to get the subject off birtherism and talk about the budget.  But the media conglomerates have a massive interest in pushing the Ryan Unicorn Plan, and push it they will.  Now we're seeing the results.

Democrats have a long road ahead.

Assembling A Hit

Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" is officially filming and will hopefully be out next year.

"The Avengers" officially begins filming today, according to a letter posted yesterday by writer-director Joss Whedon at Whedonesque.
"Tomorrow we start shooting," writes the geek auteur, before adding, "I THINK I'm legally permitted to say that."

Whedon doesn't offer any hints about the plot of the movie, although he does say that they'll be shooting "the pivotal death/betrayal/product placement/setting up the sequel/coming out scene," which is probably a joke, but a boy can dream, can't he? (Elsewhere in the letter, Whedon says that he's pretty sure the movie is about the Justice League.)

"The Avengers," currently slated for a May 4 release next year, will unite the lead characters from Marvel's "Iron Man," "Captain America," "Hulk," and "Thor" into one mega-adventure. (And remember: If everything goes according to plan, "The Avengers" will also inspire a few franchises of its own.)

We'll have both Thor next month and Cap gets his movie in late July, and next year all four heroes get together under Whedon's direction for...well pretty much the most hyped comic nerd movie ever.   Very excited for all three films.

Epic Fail: PlayStation Style

Last week, Sony’s online network for the PlayStation suffered a catastrophic failure through a hacking attack. And since then, the roughly 77 million gamers worldwide like Mr. Miller who have accounts for the service have been unable to play games with friends through the Internet or to download demos of new games.
Then, on Tuesday, after several days of near silence, Sony said that as a result of the attack, an “unauthorized person” had obtained personal information about account holders, including their names, addresses, e-mail addresses, and PlayStation user names and passwords. Sony warned that other confidential information, including credit card numbers, could have been compromised, warning customers through a statement to “remain vigilant” by monitoring identity theft or other financial loss.
And then it gets worse.  A security consultant brings up the real problem with Sony's actions.  It reeks of guilt and realization of a major flaw, one so serious they had no choice but to pull the plug and pray for the best.  This could escalate a simple mistake or an inevitable win for a hacker into a painfully public Shame-A-Thon.
“It is very unusual for Sony to completely rebuild a system after a security breach, rather than just stopping the bleeding and going back to some kind of restricted network,” said Mark Seiden, a longtime information security consultant. “The fact that two separate networks are involved in this security breach suggests Sony discovered a major underlying problem that already existed.”
It remains unclear who the hackers were. Anonymous, a well-known hacking group that has been blamed for previously attacking the Sony and PlayStation Web sites, denied any responsibility; the group’s Web site stated, “For once we didn’t do it.”
There will surely be more coming over the next several days.  I'll update as details are cleared up.  Right now all that we know is Sony has a PR nightmare and access to some accounts has been compromised.  The rest could be the tip of the iceberg or exaggerated speculation.  I don't think this is a death blow for Sony by any means, but this could do damage to online gaming as a whole.  Some of that is going to depend on how far this goes.

This Week's WTH - Moose & Squirrel Matinee

What happens when a bigoted old fart has a long, stuttering brain fart on television?  One minute and six seconds of YouTube so-awful-it's-good hilarity. 

Robertson: Well, it’s the left; it’s this culture of death. The far left is livid about killing babies. They want to kill to do this, they want to destroy. You go back, and I don’t want to play all this psychological stuff but nevertheless, if a woman is a lesbian, what advantage does she have over a married woman? Or what deficiency does she have?
Meeuwsen:  [pause] Well, she can’t have children.
Robertson: That’s exactly right. And so if these married women don’t have children, if they abort their babies, then that kind of puts them on a level playing field. And you say, nobody’s there to express that? Isn’t that shocking, well think about it a little bit ladies and gentlemen.
He wants us to think about it a little bit?  Okay, but he better take his turn first.

Am I the only one who thinks he has something in common with a certain someone we know?  Robertson's comments about the "culture of death" and Palin's "culture of life" statement make me wonder if they share the same speech writer.  An auctioneer on peyote is easier to follow than these two.

Obama's Birth Of An Error

Whichever White House advisor or staffer or member of President Obama's inner circle talked the President into releasing his "long form" birth certificate?  Fire them.  Immediately.

The White House released President Obama's original birth certificate Wednesday.

The surprise release follows recent and sustained remarks by businessman Donald Trump, among others, that raised doubts as to whether the president was born in the United States.

Obama's birth certificate [PDF]

"This whole birther debate has been really bad for the Republican Party," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said.  But the discussion is "crowding out the debate" on more important issues and is a distraction, he added.

The so-called "birther" debate is "good politics" but "bad for the country," said Pfeiffer.

Let's go over the reasons why this was a completely idiotic move:

1)  It's not about the birth certificate, it's about raceSee yesterday's Mike Signorile show post.  Birthers will not believe the certificate.  They will claim it's a fake.  The controversy will continue unabated because it was never about the validity of the certificate, and has everything to do with a several million insecure white folks needing justification to explain away how we have an African-American man in the White House.

2)  Obama, now playing along, will be attacked for this.  Would he have been attacked for not releasing it?  The last two years proved he would be, yes.  But Obama has now justified the Birthers by responding to them again some 28 months after releasing his birth certificate the first time.  This whole "controversy" is now newsworthy because somebody talked Obama into doing this.  Instead of starving the fire in the room and letting the GOP fall on its face over this, Obama has made this a "earth is flat, views differ" story.  It's Obama's word against Trump's now.

3)  Obama is now on the defensive.  By acknowledging this stupidity as something the White House has to deal with some two years into the presidency, he's assured that this is all the Village will be talking about.  Once again, the GOP lunatics are allowed to frame the issue as legitimate, and now there's literally nothing Obama can say or do now to get back on the offensive here against this.  The birther issue will now dog him for the rest of the Presidency.  Worse, now the GOP birthers will be rallying around this for a very long time.  It was a trap and somebody talked Obama into walking right into it.

4)  The Village will now never let this go.  So Obama had a nice little presser just now where he got up in front of the press and said "You know, I want to talk about the budget, you guys wanted to talk about my birth certificate, so here you go, now knock it off."  This now absolutely guarantees that the press will talk about nothing but how mean ol' Obama really shouldn't be dictating to them what not to talk about, and guarantees they will be talking about the birth certificate and not the budget either.

Bottom line is whoever talked Obama into this, well that person needs to be fired.  But in the end, Obama greenlighted this, and it's going to suck all the oxygen out of the room on real issues.  This is one of those times where calm, cool, "No Drama Obama" would have waited Trump and his idiot buddies out and Obama would have won.  Trump immediately responded that he's talking full credit for the White House's move.  Oh, and Trump now wants Obama's college records.  Surprise!

Now it's a guaranteed circus from the "carnival barkers" in the GOP all the way through 2012.  Dumb, dumb, dumb move.

[UPDATESteve M. argues the other side of the coin, and I can see his point.  But this is one of those situations where all the logic in the world won't help:  racist assholes will get their dog whistle "He's not one of us and you'll never convince me otherwise" issue no matter what Obama releases, and our stupid, irresponsible media will continue to treat their "concerns" about the President's past as a "real story that real Americans care about" rather than admit it's nothing more than idiotic, racist bullshit...because doing so would mean the Village press would have to admit their complicity in selling it to millions of Americans.

Not going to happen.  They'll just push the "both sides do it, we're covering the story" crap to their heart's content.

The Target Is Roe

In Ohio, the GOP is rallying around the "Heartbeat Bill" that's advancing through the state legislature, that would ban abortions as soon as the fetus has a detectable heartbeat, basically ending abortions in the state.

Not to be outdone, Louisiana is aiming to take out the "basically" qualifier and to criminalize abortion altogether in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.  MoJo's Kate Sheppard:

Anti-abortion lawmakers in state legislatures around the country have already drawn national attention—and outrage—for pushing bills that would drastically limit access to abortions. But in Louisiana, one "unapologetically pro-life" lawmaker wants to go even further. State Rep. John LaBruzzo, a Republican from Metairie, has introduced a bill that would ban all abortions in his state—with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother—and charge women who seek abortions and the doctors who perform those abortions with "feticide."

Louisiana state law calls for jail sentences of up 15 years, with hard labor, for the unlawful killing an unborn child. LaBruzzo told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the inclusion of the line subjecting women to "feticide" prosecution for seeking abortions was a "mis-draft," and including it "would make [the bill] too difficult to pass." He promised the provision will be removed from the bill before it goes to a committee vote. But while LaBruzzo doesn't expect to punish women who seek abortions, he would still like to see doctors working on the chain gang for providing a constitutionally protected medical procedure.

The Constitution, of course, is exactly what LaBruzzo is targeting. He admits his proposal is intended as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional right to privacy included the right to abortions in some circumstances. LaBruzzo says he'd like his bill to become law and "immediately go to court," and he told a local paper that an unnamed conservative religious group asked him to propose the law for exactly that purpose. When contacted by Mother Jones, LaBruzzo's secretary said he would "prefer not to do an interview" on the bill but would possibly answer written questions. As of press time, he had not responded to our inquiries.

The point here is to get a 5-4 vote overturning Roe and criminalizing abortion procedures in the US.  Nothing short of that will be acceptable.  So they will try and try until it happens, period, wasting the people's time with clearly unconstitutional laws until they can get another conservative on the court and end it.

You would think Republicans would be worried about jobs right now, but people aren't as important as the unborn.

Planned Obsolescence

The Republican crusade to rid the country of abortion providers may have hit a snag on the national level (as Republicans were unable to defund Planned Parenthood nationally) but a number of Republican-controlled state legislatures are pushing to shut down Planned Parenthood clinics at the local and state level.  The man in the middle (and it's always GOP men leading the charge to defund women's health services) is Indiana's Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is about to have either his called truce on social issues ended...or his Presidential aspirations.

Though he says he is firmly anti-abortion, Daniels has repeatedly made the case that Republicans should put aside such issues in 2012 to focus on economic problems. “We're going to need to unify all kinds of people, and we're going — freedom is going — to need every friend it can get," he explained in a recent interview.

Daniels has already taken heat from rivals and Republican activists for his approach. If he vetoes a law that takes on one of social conservatives’ biggest targets, he could make it much harder for himself to navigate the 2012 primary field. And even as he talks of a truce, Daniels has a legacy to preserve as an abortion opponent in his state.

But family planning in Indiana is a fiscal as well as a social issue. Half of all births in the state are covered by Medicaid. If Daniels signs the Senate version of the bill, he would likely be giving up $4 million in federal dollars and bringing the state into a costly legal battle.

Because federal law blocks states from choosing which organizations can provide family planning services to Medicaid patients, the measure could cost the state all federal funding for family planning. Planned Parenthood is prepared to sue if the proposal is signed into law. They also estimate that the move would cost the state $68 million in Medicaid expenses for unintended pregnancies by reducing birth control access.

But Indiana Republican wingnuts are more than happy to have this legal fight, and even happier to see the Federal government strip all family planning Medicare money from the state.  After all, only evil poor people with evil, evil vaginas would suffer here, so why would that matter to a group primarily composed of wealthy men?

Besides, if Indiana doesn't pass the bill (and Mitch Daniels decides to end his political career in the GOP) Sam Brownback will in Kansas.

"We have the prospect of being the first state in the nation to enact that kind of law," said Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, proposed eliminating the Planned Parenthood funding in his proposed budget for fiscal 2012, which begins July 1.

"Gov. Brownback, along with the overwhelming majority of Kansans, opposes taxpayer subsidy of abortions," said Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag.

The money that goes to Planned Parenthood is sent to clinics in Wichita and Hays. They are among nine health clinics run by the organization in Kansas and mid-Missouri.

The money pays for family-planning services for low-income women. It also helps pay for contraception, pap smears and cancer screenings, among other things. It's against federal law to use the money for abortions.

The Planned Parenthood money is among $2.9 million that the state receives in so-called federal Title 10 funds, which go toward family-planning activities.

Brownlie called the plan to eliminate Planned Parenthood funding "bad policy, bad health care and bad politics."

But it doesn't matter.  Given the kind of state power the GOP now has in the backlash against Obama and Washington, the Republicans are more than happy to throw millions of women under the bus to keep the rabid tea party Christian Objectivist base happy.  That's all that matters to them, at least.  That and getting elected.


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