Friday, June 5, 2009

Wake Up America, The Media Treat Far-Right Views As Mainstream (Plus The News and Views Round Up)

Wake Up America, The Media Treat Far-Right Views As Mainstream (Plus The News and Views Round Up)


Wake Up America, The Media Treat Far-Right Views as Mainstream
By Steve Benen, Washington Monthly

The Right Finds Its New Attack on Obama
By Steve Benen, Washington Monthly
Only a few hours after his historic speech conservatives go after the president. Read more  OH MY GOD; He didn’t stand up and say: “I have a few things to say to you towel-headed TERRORIST Muslim extremist that America will wipe from the Face of the Earth if it means nuclear incineration of half the planet TO SEND YOU ALL TO ALLAH!

E.J. Dionne Jr. has a very interesting column today that notes the media's "tilt to the right."

Yes, you read that correctly: If you doubt that there is a conservative inclination in the media, consider which arguments you hear regularly and which you don't. When Rush Limbaugh sneezes or Newt Gingrich tweets, their views ricochet from the Internet to cable television and into the traditional media. It is remarkable how successful they are in setting what passes for the news agenda.

The power of the Limbaugh-Gingrich axis means that Obama is regularly cast as somewhere on the far left end of a truncated political spectrum. He's the guy who nominates a "racist" to the Supreme Court (though Gingrich retreated from the word yesterday), wants to weaken America's defenses against terrorism and is proposing a massive government takeover of the private economy. [...]

Democrats are complicit in building up Gingrich and Limbaugh as the main spokesmen for the Republican Party, since Obama polls so much better than either of them. But the media play an independent role by regularly treating far-right views as mainstream positions and by largely ignoring critiques of Obama that come from elected officials on the left.

Sotomayor divulges details on record, writings, selection as ...
By Julie Hirschfeld Davis 
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee chairman, wants hearings to begin next month, with the goal of holding a confirmation vote before Congress leaves in early August for a monthlong summer vacation. He's negotiating with the top Republican on .... rulings to the Senate Judiciary Committee.It's all part of her response to a questionnaire that asks about personal and financial details, potential conflicts of interest and the process that led to her nomination. ...
The Gaea News -


Blogging from Afghanistan IV,-Pics

by Ralph Lopez

Price of Success in Afghanistan: What Are the Stakes for the International Community? 
As a new administration in Washington seeks to change the direction of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, and other governments gauge what they can sustain by way of contributions to the international effort there, debate is intensifying on both sides of the Atlantic—as well as in the wider region that surrounds Afghanistan—on what the external assistance and security presence can realistically hope to achieve.  To give focus to that debate, The Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress held a luncheon roundtable on June 2, to discuss “The Price of Success in Afghanistan: What Are the Stakes for the International Community?”  The discussion was informed by a panel of contrasting perspectives—Lawrence J. Korb, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, Francesc Vendrell, Visiting Professor, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, and former European Union special representative in Afghanistan, andStephen Walt, Professor of International Relations, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. View video here.

Was the White House tipped off about Souter retirement ...
In her 172-page questionnaire submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon, Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor said she was contacted by the White House on Monday, April 27, days before the news broke. ... Don't be stupid with your moot point and your who cares. What this means is that Souter handed off to our dirty socialist president a newshook he could use in collaboration with the dirty socialists at NPR to disrupt the news cycle at a time of their choosing ...
Beltway Confidential -

Dick (Uncut): Jon Stewart Destroys Cheney (and the National Press Club for Good Measure)
By Alex Leo, Huffington Post
"Daily Show" calls out Cheney for blaming 9/11 on Richard Clarke. Read more »

Cheney: "There Was Never Any Evidence ... Iraq Was Involved In 9 ...
By The Huffington Post News Team 
If impeachment is what Clinton got for a blow-job, what should happen to Bush/Cheney, who murdered 5000 of our children, for their own personal agendas? Reply Favorite Flag as abusive Posted 08:36 PM on 06/02/2009 ...
Video on The Huffington Post -

Cheney Offers New Lies About 9/11 and Iraq |
By Bob Fertik 
New York Times reporter Philip Shenon's book, “The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation,” reprinted some of Clarke's emphatic e-mails warning the Bush administration of the al Qaeda threat throughout 2001: “Bin Ladin Public Profile May Presage Attack” (May 3). “Terrorist Groups Said Co-operating on US Hostage Plot” (May 23) ... Impeach for Torture. 43.0%. Tell Congress toImpeach Cheney First. Goal: 100000. Now: 43050 ...
Bob Fertik's blog -

Arianna Huffington: When Will Dick Cheney's Tower of Lies Finally ...
By Arianna Huffington 
It is just inconceivable that Bill Clinton should have been subjected to the impeachment process but for the likes of Dick Cheney to be able to get away with murder - indirectly anyway. ... Cheney'sdevious PR move is a desperate man spinning a web of lies to deflect the fact that the tragedy of 9/11 occurred on Bush/Cheney's watch, ignoring the alarms set off by Clarke, Tenet et al, and ultimately dismissing the August 6 PDB as "covering one's ass. ...
The Blog -

Emptywheel » Why Did CIA Hide Dick Cheney's Role in Briefing?
By emptywheel 
WASHINGTON, 24 July 2005 — The Bush administration this week threatened to veto a Senate bill for $442 billion in next year's defense programs if it tries to regulate the Pentagon's treatment of detainees or sets up a commission to ... When John Dean visited FDL for a Salon he stated that Addington was first on his Impeachment wish list. Reply. BayStateLibrul June 3rd, 2009 at 6:15 am. 24. In response to scribe @ 20. Didn't Cheney argue that he was part of “no branch of ...
Firedoglake -

KIKO'S HOUSE: Caught In A Big Lie, Dick Cheney Backs Off & Other ...
By Shaun Mullen 
Caught In A Big Lie, Dick Cheney Backs Off & Other Bush Torture Regime News. Only a few pundits noticed, but there was a bombshell buried in an interview that Dick Cheney gave Fox News this week in yet another stop in his tour of legacy repair, ... Over a long career with newspapers, this award-winning editor and reporter covered the Vietnam War, O.J. Simpson trials, Clinton impeachment circus and coming of Osama bin Laden, among many other big stories. ...

Chomsky: What Obama Didn't Say in His Cairo Address Speaks Volumes About His Mid-East Policy
By Noam Chomsky, AlterNet
The U.S. has played a decisive role in sustaining the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Obama gave no indication that its role should change. Read more 

News From Underground: Obama's “Open Government” Is Closed…

Obama's "Open Government" Project Censors Popular Proposal to "End Imperial Presidency"

By David SwansonAfter Downing Street. Posted June 4, 2009

Is irony even the word for this? As soon as people vote online to push Obama to talk about empire, it's quietly removed from the list.

Is irony even the word for this? The president created a new online "open government" system in which people were free to brainstorm and vote proposals up or down. Far and away the leading proposal in the category of "Legal and Policy Challenges" as of the scheduled end of brainstorming was End Imperial Presidency. You can still find it, but it's been removed from that category and from the list of all proposals. Unless you have the direct link to it, you cannot find it, and when you do you can no longer vote for it. It has a label at the top with a closed lock and the words "pending moderator approval." When voting was scheduled to end on the 28th, this proposal was at the top in its category and ranked #3 over all.

Then the Open Government announced that it would keep the brainstorming open until June 19th and not begin Phase 2, involving discussion of the brainstormed ideas until June 3rd. So, voting continued, and "End Imperial Presidency" moved up to second place over all. And here we are on June 3rd, and the proposal has been removed from the running. I'm not sure if you call this irony, but I definitely wouldn't call it Open Government. During the campaign, the top demand of Obama's supporters on his website was that he keep his promise to oppose and filibuster immunity for telecom companies. During the presidential transition, the top question was whether Obama would allow the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor for Bush-Cheney. Both of those proposals were rejected. Now this one has been rejected as well.

In case it's deleted from the "Open" Government, this was the proposal to end the imperial presidency:

Leave the White House less imperial than you found it. Appoint an independent prosecutor to prosecute Bush, Cheney, and their top officials in order to deter in the future the crimes of aggressive war, misleading congress, defrauding congress, misspending funds, war crimes, murder, warrantless spying, torture, domestic propaganda, violations of the Hatch Act and the Voting Rights Act, obstruction of justice, misprision of felony, retaliating against whistleblowers, etc. Restore to Congress the power to legislate, the power to begin and end wars, the power to raise and spend money, the power to approve or reject treaties and appointments, and the power to oversee the functioning of the federal government including through the power of impeachment and the power of inherent contempt. That means no more signing statements rewriting laws, and instead support for legislation that would criminalize such behavior. And it means similar action on each of the other offenses.

We, the people, must:

Demand that Congress ban the use of funds for any activities created in violation of the law by presidential signing statements.

Amend the Constitution to clearly ban the use of presidential pardons to pardon crimes authorized by the president.

Amend the War Powers Act and the Constition to include the requirement that Congressional authorizations of war include time limits of no more than 12 months, after which Congress must vote again to extend the war or end it, to disallow the unconstitutional initiation of wars without Congressional approval, and to make the law enforceable.

Make war profiteering by any war maker a major felony. This would apply to any employee of the federal government or anyone who had within the past decade been an employee of the federal government.

Legislate a requirement that, in any war, the military aged children and grandchildren of the president, the vice president, all cabinet officials, and all Congress members serve on the front lines in the most dangerous combat positions -- no exceptions, no exemptions.

Prohibit the use of mercenaries or any armed contractors, as well as the use of any military force on American soil except when directly engaged in defensive war against a foreign nation.

Repeal the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, the Protect America Act, the original Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the PATRIOT Act.

Ban secret budgets, secret laws, and secret agencies.

Change the Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster.

Create a task force to research whether the Senate has ever served any useful purpose not better served by the House.

End all renditions, as distinct from extradition.

Amend the Constitution to make the ban on ex-post-facto laws include any laws that would retroactively grant immunity for crimes.

Amend the Constitution to bar the vice president from exercising executive power.

Amend the Constitution to clarify the congressional power of inherent contempt.

Amend the Constitution to include the right to vote and to have one's vote counted publicly at the polling place.

Give Washington, D.C., full voting representation in Congress.

Amend the Constitution to ban private financing of campaigns, create public financing, and provide free air time to candidates.

Sign and ratify the Rome treaty to join the International Criminal Court.


OPTIONAL PART 2 OF THIS PROPOSAL - Drafted and withheld at first, posted May 29th in response to useful comments from ttahiti and many others posted below.

Release more evidence, and support organizations suing in court for the release of evidence.

Ask Congress to update and reissue the subpoenas that were refused during the 110th Congress, and to enforce them through inherent contempt.

Support media reform and independent media outlets. Break up the monopolies. Invest in public media, including an E-Span election network to provide free substantive election coverage.

Advance a long-term vision in which the corrupting influences of money, media, and party are restrained, and our rights are restored, enforced, and expanded, including the right to vote and to have our votes counted publicly and locally, equal rights for all, environmental rights, the right to education and healthcare, worker rights, the right to basic welfare, freedom of press, freedom from war lies, and the right to know your rights.

Push for approval, ratification, and enforcement of international human rights treaties. Build toward Constitutional amendments or a convention with a plan to establish the right to know the laws and to have them applied equally, a ban on signing statements, whistleblowers protected, inherent contempt established, corporations stripped of human rights, monopolies restricted, clean campaign money and free media created, the power of parties reduced, nonpartisan (not bipartisan) redistricting, limiting election seasons, no more electoral college, a bigger House with no Senate, the right to be represented, no appointing of senators, limiting terms for judges, requiring a balanced budget, limiting bills to single topics and requiring clarity, allowing legislation by public initiative, allowing recall elections, creating citizen assemblies, and developing a fourth (people's) branch of government.

Why Is This Idea Important?

Empires end and they can end happily by voluntarily reforming, or they can end miserably by refusing to.

Gingrich's Moral Relativism

Posted on: June 3, 2009 9:30 AM, by Ed Brayton

Newt Gingrich has an interview in The Economist where he displays perfectly his peculiar form of faux-erudite demagoguery. After saying early on in the interview that Republicans "need to offer candidates who are articulate and who can offer sound intellectual reasons for their philosophy and their solutions," Gingrich goes on to resort to all kinds of disingenuous arguments. Here's one obvious example:

DIAIn 1998 you said the investigation into the Lewinsky affair was "very simply about the rule of law". That's the same argument used by those who want to investigate the Bush administration's interrogation techniques, yet you've compared the latter group to McCarthyists from the 1950s. When does applying the rule of law cross over into partisanship?

Mr Gingrich: The question in 1998 was whether a sitting president was lying under oath to a Federal judge--which is a felony. The correct solution was to move impeachment. No one suggested criminal proceedings. The current administration has appointed a group of lawyers whose firms represented terrorists (Attorney General Holder's firm represented 18 terrorists, their largest pro-bono activity). They represent an attitude which would undermine our national security, destroy the morale of the men and women who are risking their lives to protect America, and begin a process of witch hunts that would threaten the very fabric of the American system.

A brilliant combination of demagoguery and a red herring. First of all, this attack on attorneys for defending terrorists is something that anyone who cares about the rule of law and a fair judicial system stopped doing a long time ago. They didn't represent terrorists, they represented people accused of terrorism. And those who are accused of any crime are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and are entitled to a competent defense.

This principle is so important that the founding fathers put it right into the 6th amendment. It's so important that this nation spends billions and billions of dollars every year (and frankly, not nearly enough) providing attorneys for those who are accused of a crime but cannot afford one. This is something on which all rational people agree. And Gingrich's shallow demagoguery only shows that he is more than willing to ignore rationality -- and morality -- when it suits his political purposes.

The rest of his statement is one giant red herring. He doesn't even attempt to address the question asked to him about the rule of law, he merely attacks the motives of those he disagrees with and projects a list of patently absurd horrible things that would happen if the rule of law was actually applied to Bush administration officials.

It simply cannot be pretended by any decent or sane person either that waterboarding is not torture or that torture is not a crime in this country. The fact that we have convicted soldiers and civilians from other countries and from this country for the crime of waterboarding absolutely ends any debate on the first question; the existence of the Convention Against Torture ends any debate on the second.

Nor can it be denied that the Bush administration approved of the use of waterboarding at the highest levels. Dick Cheney has gone on national television and admitted, proudly and defiantly, that he approved of it. For those to whom logic actually matters, that really is the end of the argument: it is against the law, they admit to having violated the law and they should therefore be held accountable for doing so.

But Gingrich refuses to admit that waterboarding is torture and makes a strained and absurd argument to that end:

DIADo you believe any of the Bush administration's approved interrogation techniques amounted to torture? Asked another way, why is waterboarding torture when it's done by the Khmer Rouge, but "enhanced interrogation" when it's done by America?

Mr Gingrich: No. As a British court noted, waterboarding is not torture. Waterboarding has been routinely used to train American pilots in the military to understand what interrogation techniques they might encounter. The reference to the Khmer Rouge is the kind of moral equivalence President Reagan warned against in his "Evil Empire" speech in 1983. The Khmer Rouge killed millions of people, annihilated the Cambodian intellectuals, and was among the worst inhumane movements in the last century. The United States has used specific enhanced interrogation techniques in specific circumstances against very high-level terrorists for the purpose of saving innocent civilian lives, not for taking them.

In other words, when bad people waterboard people, then it's torture; when good people waterboard people, it's not torture. And we, of course, are always good people no matter what we do because our motives are pure. But motives simply are not relevant to the question of whether waterboarding is torture or whether torture is illegal. The U.N. Convention Against Torture, pushed through and signed by Ronald Reagan, is quite explicit. Article 2, Section 1 explicitly defines as torture the inflicting of severe suffering for the purpose of getting information from someone:

For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

And Article 2, Section 2 explicitly rejects the notion that a pragmatic argument about the necessity of getting such information can justify the use of torture:

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

And when he signed this treaty, Ronald Reagan talked not only about the moral obligation to prosecute those who torture, but declared that this principle is so important that if we fail to do so, other nations must do so:

"The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called 'universal jurisdiction.' Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution."

Reagan said unequivocally that we are required to prosecute for torture. We are bound by that law under our constitution to do so. This is not a witch hunt, it is a commitment to the rule of law. Conservatives are supposed to be in favor of that (and many of them still are today, like Bruce Fein).

For Gingrich, however, this is not a principle at all, it is merely a stick with which to beat one's political opponents. As soon as it becomes politically inconvenient for him, he resorts to the very moral relativism that he has so often excoriated his opponents for displaying.

Why is Charlotte Allen so mad at atheists?

Category: Godlessness
Posted on: May 22, 2009 11:29 AM, by PZ Myers

he LA Times offered me a little space to write a reply to Charlotte Allen in their online edition, so I did. You can read it at the LA Times or below the fold.

I'm already getting lots of unhappy email from people, so I must have done it right.

Charlotte Allen is very, very angry with us atheists -- that's the only conclusion that can be drawn from her furious broadside in The Times on May 17. She can't stand us; we're unpopular; we're a problem. What, exactly, is the greatest crime of modern atheists?

We're boring.

I can't actually argue with that. It's true. We're all just ordinary people -- your neighbors, your friends, your relatives. I know atheists who are accountants, real estate agents, schoolteachers, lawyers, soldiers, journalists, even ministers (but don't tell their congregations!). Our leading lights are college professors, scientists, philosophers, theologians and other such pedantic, scholarly riffraff. For entertainment, they read books, and if they want to do something ambitious and dramatic, they writebooks. I'm one of them, so trust me, I know -- we don't exactly live the James Bond lifestyle. Calling us boring is a fair cop.

But still -- why would anyone get angry about that? I find myself bored witless by games of chance, but I don't write irate letters condemning all card players and demanding the immediate shuttering of all casinos. I'm afraid I don't believe Allen. There are other motivations behind her denunciations, and they aren't as simple as that she finds us boring.

She should drop the pretense that the objectionable part of our character is our lack of excitement. What really annoys Allen is that in our books, blogs and media appearances, we challenge religious preconceptions. That's all we do. It's admittedly not exactly a roller-coaster ride of thrills, but it does annoy the superstitious and the fervent true believers in things unseen and unevidenced. We are also, admittedly, often abrasive in being outspoken critics of religious dogma, but it's also very hard to restrain our laughter and contempt when we see the spectacle of god-belief in full flower.

We witness many people who proudly declare that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago, roughly 9,000 years after the domestication of dogs, 5,000 years after the founding of Jericho and contemporaneous with the invention of the plow. They cling to these beliefs despite contradictions with history, let alone physics, geology and biology, because they believe the Bible is a literal history and science text. We find much to ridicule in these peculiarly unreal ideas.

We live in a world where the majority of the population are quite convinced that they have a direct pipeline to an omnipotent, omniscient being who has told them exactly how to live and what is right and wrong, and has spelled out his divine will in holy books. Unfortunately, there are many holy books, and they all disagree with each other, and of all these multitudes claiming possession of such a potent source of information, we similarly see widespread disagreement. This god seems to be an exceptionally unreliable oracle -- most of what he has supposedly said is wrong. We atheists do take glee in pointing out God's lack of consistency, which I'm sure Allen finds irritating.

Contrary to Allen's claim that we aren't interested in criticizing the important elements of religious belief, we are: We go right to the central issue of whether there is a god or not. We're pretty certain that if there were an all-powerful being pulling the strings and shaping history for the benefit of human beings, the universe would look rather different than it does. It wouldn't be a place almost entirely inimical to our existence, with a history that reveals our existence was a fortunate result of a long chain of accidents tuned by natural selection. Most of the arguments we've heard that try to reconcile god and science seem to make God a subtle, invisible, undetectable ghost who at best tickles the occasional subatomic particle when no one is looking. It seems rather obvious to us that if his works are undetectable, you have no grounds for telling us what he's been up to.

Allen requests that we atheists take religious belief seriously. We do; it's hard not to take seriously a bizarre collection of antiquated superstitions that are furiously waved in our faces in our schools, on television, in our politics and even on newspaper editorial pages. That we take the intellectually bankrupt beliefs of religion seriously is precisely why we do question it, and will continue to question it, in our boring way: by simply speaking out.

Glenn Beck Gets Freaky: A Look At Right-Wing Erotica

Andy Cobb, the man who proved that Somalia is a Libertarian paradise, who predicted the second coming of Christ in the form of a SCOTUS nominee, who brought the "let Texas secede" campaign to the Huffington Post, now takes us deep into the mind of Glenn Beck. It's terrifying.

In a new series called "Drill Baby Drill," Cobb explores conservative writings on the topic of sex. He chose Beck as his first subject because of a chapter in his 2003 book "The Real America: Messages from the Heart and Heartland," in which Beck describes (explicitly) making out with his sister. Cobb has reenacted this scene in the video below. At the end of that section of the book Beck wrote:

"By now, you probably have realized that I am not in love with my sister...So, what's the point? Why did I spend a whole chapter talking about a committed loving relationship with my sister? I did it because right now there is an organized ongoing effort to try to bend your values. To slowly shape your deepest beliefs into toleration and eventually acceptance."

Gay marriage bad, incest awesome?

Cobb promises further installments of "Drill Baby Drill." As he explains on his YouTube channel:

What do [conservatives] say about sex? How do they, y'know, talk sexy? The answers may surprise you. They may also make you throw up in your mouth a little bit. Subscribe now for more recreations of stories by and about Bill O'Reilly, David Vitter, Newt Gingrich, Lynne Cheney, and more. Using their own words when possible, court records when necessary.

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