Archive for December 30th, 2009

AL-05/AL-Gov: Sparks Decides To Remain in Gubernatorial Race

December 30th, 2009 admin No comments

After a less-than-24-hour flirtation that stemmed from a Politico article and some offhanded comments made by his campaign manager, Alabama state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks made it clear today in a series of press conferences that he is not planning a run for Congress:

State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks pledged to continue his bid for governor on Tuesday, saying there was “never a point” where he considered running for the North Alabama congressional seat held by Parker Griffith, who last week switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.

“We are more committed now than ever to run for governor of the state of Alabama,” Sparks said outside the Madison County Courthouse.

In an odd twist, Sparks accused the campaign of his Democratic rival for the gubernatorial nomination, Congressman Artur Davis, of flogging the Sparks for Congress story, and alleging that Davis had done it before by promulgating the rumor that Sparks might switch to a race for Lt. Governor.

Of course, a big part of the “Sparks for Congress” rumors began not with Davis, but with the words of Sparks’ own campaign manager, who while not confirming any interest for Sparks in the Congressional race, did feel compelled to point out that his boss had won every county in the 5th district during his successful campaigns for Agriculture Commissioner.

Speculation now turns to a pair of potentially top-tier candidates on the Democratic side. One is former state auditor Susan Parker, who was defeated in a 2002 Senate bid by Jeff Sessions but won a seat on the state’s Public Service Commission in 2006. The other potential candidate is judge Deborah Bell Paseur, who narrowly lost a bid for the state Supreme Court last fall but did manage to carry the counties of the 5th Congressional district in that race by more than five points.

Of course, the Republican nomination in the 5th district is still very much an open question. Just yesterday, conservative insurgent candidate Les Phillip issued a new campaign mailer aimed at district conservatives, reminding voters that nouveau Republican Parker Griffith was donating cash to Howard Dean and Harry Reid within the last five years.

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Privacy Versus Security

December 30th, 2009 admin No comments

With the threat of terrorism back in the headlines, so is the question of privacy versus security:

A suspected terrorist’s attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner may override privacy concerns and intensify a push for full-body scanning equipment at airports as the U.S. plans to buy more of the machines.

And to make clear what we’re talking about:

A spokesman for a company that makes the machine says that:

… his company has mitigated that [privacy] concern by blurring body images and having technicians viewing the images in a different location from the screening equipment.

… but is it enough?

Where do you stand? An unnecessary invasion of privacy or a necessary trade-off in a dangerous world?

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Late afternoon/early evening open thread

December 30th, 2009 admin No comments

Stephen Colbert mocks Glenn Beck in the most-watched Colbert Report video of the year:

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"Silence is the virtue of fools"

December 30th, 2009 admin No comments

In the days since the attempted terrorist attack on a U.S. airliner, Republicans and their lackeys have been out in force with one message: President Obama is weak on terrorism.

And of course, Democrats have been quick to rebut their ridiculous and hypocritical claims, right?

There’s a meme circulating among some Democrats that Republican attacks on Obama’s terrorism policy in the wake of the thwarted Detroit bombing will just go away if they are ignored.

Seriously? How did that work out for John Kerry?

For crying out loud, my fellow Democrats, step the hell up and stop letting Republicans set the debate — check that — they’re not setting the debate, they’re the only ones talking.

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TWI’s Spencer Ackerman makes fool of Pat Buchanan

December 30th, 2009 admin No comments

Okay, let’s be fair. The headline here might be overstating things, because Pat Buchanan makes a fool of himself on a daily basis. But still, Spencer Ackerman got way the better of him today on Morning Joe during a discussion on how authorities should handle the failed Christmas Day attacker.

A basic approximation of the arguments went like this:

BUCHANAN: They should have strapped him to the tip of a nuclear-armed missile pointed straight at Yemen, launched the rocket, and tortured him in flight to find out all his secrets, or at least so we can feel good about the size of our collective wang.

ACKERMAN (laughing to himself): Okay, well, we should treat him like the criminal he is and put him before our legal justice system. And you know what else? It turns out that following the law works, because legal interrogations are already yielding valuable intelligence.

Keep in mind that the above “transcript” is a fictionalized rendition of what actually transpired. But it’s really not that far off the mark.

Enjoy the pwnage:

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Bow ties are the new pajamas

December 30th, 2009 admin No comments

Poor Tucker Carlson, still chasing away memories of Jon Stewart (WSJ, emphasis added):

Tucker Carlson announced plans to launch, a conservative-leaning news site that will aim to be an answer to the Huffington Post.

“We’re sincerely trying to think through what comes next in journalism,” said Mr. Carlson, a Fox News contributor and former host of CNN’s “Crossfire.” “I think we can answer the basic question, which is: How do you keep reporting? How do you make reporting a viable business?”

He said that he wants to emphasize original reporting. “We don’t simply want to be parasites of other news sites,” he said. “We want to be creators of news,” though he added, “We’re not in it to beat anybody.”

Mr. Carlson told reporters and bloggers at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., that the site would focus on coverage of President Barack Obama’s administration. “There just aren’t enough people covering this administration and telling the people what’s going on,” he said.

You notice where he made the announcement? From the Heritage Foundation. Good lord! Talk about wingnut welfare, Tucker Carlson haz it!

Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with conservative foundations helping launch new websites, but you’d think that a “libertarian” like Tucker Carlson would have a little more faith in that ol’ free market magic. You know, the free market that has supported progressive sites like TPM, Daily Kos, and Huffington Post.

But then again, to be fair to Tucker, those sites didn’t have to support a big ass bow tie. And apparently that bow tie needs all the help it can get.

Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our Cheetos, thank you very much. Yum, yum.

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Midday Open Thread

December 30th, 2009 admin No comments
  • Pushing the Obacalypse is shaping up to be the Gee Oh Pee’s campaign strategy for 2010, writes David Corn. Rep. Pete Sessions, the Texas Republican, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, sent David Corn the same email a lot of us got, which, amid other hyperbole, stated:

    In just one year, liberals have altered the course of this country so dramatically that current U.S. policy is almost unrecognizable from the conservative values on which we built this country.

    America cannot survive on this new course. Fortunately 2010 offers us a chance to hold the far left accountable and elect Representatives who will stand up for our American values in Congress.

    Yikes and a half. You mean the far left?

  • If you gotta have your news graphically, you might head over to GOOD for a gander at their year’s end effort on The Biggest News Stories of the Year. There, you can get a full-screen treatment of this transparency:
  • Assuming Ron Paul doesn’t seek another shot at the brass ring, here is the guy most likely to try to take on the Paulite mantle: Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is heading to New Hampshire.
  • Joe Lieberman: How About Another War?:

    Referencing his own travels to Yemen, and meetings with unnamed U.S. officials, the senator chirped: “Iraq was yesterday’s war, Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war.”

    Lieberman, whose refusal to serve in the military when he could have during the Vietnam era has never prevented him from spouting hawkish views so over-the-top that his wiser colleagues to keep him off committees that deal with issues of war and peace, seems to be unaware that “acting preemptively” in the manner he suggests, is an act of war.

  • Ha! Ha! Ha! A tea partier and his money are soon parted, with the cash going right into the hands of the GOP consulting group that created the “party.” One of the leading Tea Party PACs, called Tea Party Express, has paid out nearly two-thirds of its funds to the consulting group that created it.
  • If you thought wackos would just fade away in the second decade of this century, you…uh…missed the boat. Because Randall Price will be back in Turkey digging into the ice on Mount Ararat, searching for Noah’s Ark. He says they’re close. “While we’d like to think it’s Noah’s Ark, we’re not sure what it is, but it’s in the right place,” he said.
  • In Science, Andrew J. Oswald and Stephen Wu have concluded a scientific study purporting to show by nonsubjective measures the 10 unhappiest states in the U.S.: In reverse order, with No. 10 first: Rhode Island, Ohio, Massachusetts, Illinois, California, New Jersey, Indiana, Michigan, Connecticut, New York.
  • Not that anyone here has ever been afflicted, but Anatomy of A Brain Fart might still be of interest. Who knows what could happen in 2010?
  • Nate Silver offers A Note on Activism, Populism and Polarization at the End of the ‘Aughts:

    Take the Tea Parties, for example. Liberals don’t give nearly enough credit to the technological sophistication of the Tea Partiers. Back in the old days — you know, like 2005 or so — getting several hundred people together at several hundred different locations would have required months of planning. But thanks to the Tea Partiers’ ability to find one another on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and so forth — and to some extent the megaphone of Fox News — these protests can come together fairly spontaneously. The left’s use of the Internet has been much more heralded, but obviously has been exceptionally impressive too, particularly the extent to which the most listened-to people on the left (think Markos Moulitsas or Jane Hamsher) tend to come from nonpolitical backgrounds. Then there are things like the Ron Paul movement, which would have gotten absolutely no traction without the Internet.

  • After nearly 37 years of solitary confinement, the consequences of a trial that depended on manufactured evidence, Herman Wallace, now 68, is still shackled to the table when his 70-year-old sister arrives for her weekly visit at one of the country’s most infamous prisons, the former slave plantation at Angola, Louisiana.

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"Mission Accomplished" vs. "Mend it" vs. "End it"

December 30th, 2009 admin No comments

Paul Krugman:

Republicans, it seems, are going to run on repealing health care reform. Bad call. They are, I believe, misreading the polling.

It’s true that the health care bill is unpopular. But as many people have pointed out, a significant fraction of those who say they disapprove of the bill disapprove from the left. And more generally, answers to the question “Do you approve of the Senate bill?” are not the same as answers to the question, “Do you want to roll back what’s in the bill?”

Consider Massachusetts. As I’ve pointed out in the past, the MA health reform has low approval ratings — yet 79 percent of the state’s voters want the reform to continue.

Indeed, just 11% of voters there want to repeal MA’s health reform law. And as Krugman points out, even though voters have been decidedly negative on the bills before Congress, voters have consistently said the nation would be better off with health care reform than without it.

If Republicans — as seems overwhelmingly likely — do end up running on a “repeal” pledge, they may be making a mistake, but it’s important to remember that Democrats could make a similar mistake, for they too must decide how to position themselves relative to health care reform.

Broadly speaking, once it passes, there are three different positions one can take on health care reform:

  1. Say that health care reform once and for all solves the national health care crisis (”Mission Accomplished”)
  1. Say that while health care reform is a major step on the path towards solving the national health care crisis, it doesn’t finish the job and more must be done, particularly on cost containment/affordability (”Mend it”)
  1. Say that repealing health care reform is essential to addressing the national health care crisis (”End it”)

For Republicans, the choice is between options #2 and #3 — “Mend it” vs. “End it.”

For most Democrats, the choice is between options #1 and #2 — “Mission Accomplished” vs. “Mend it.”

Just as Republicans are erring by opting for the absolutist “End it” positioning, Democrats would err by opting for the absolutist “Mission Accomplished” positioning. Instead, they should claim credit for the good things in the health care reform bill — insurance reforms, expansion of coverage, closing the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole,” starting cost containment inside Medicare — but own up to the fact that this bill doesn’t finish the job. Health care spending is still out of control, and we aren’t getting enough for it. Health care costs must come down, and they must come down significantly.

Conceding that this bill doesn’t fix every problem under the sun doesn’t condemn the bill, it’s a simple recognition that the problems with our health care system are massive and can’t be fixed in one step.

It is also important to point out that if it were not for corporate special interests and a dysfunctional Senate, this bill could have done even more. The fact that those obstacles exist does not mean the bill doesn’t do good things, but it does mean that there is still work left to be done.

With the finish line in sight, declaring “Mission Accomplished” must be an awfully sweet temptation. But doing so would be an blunder of Rovian proportions. It might feel like good politics, but it wouldn’t be good politics.

If Americans must choose between “Mission Accomplished” and “End it” when it comes to health care reform, the political system will have failed them once again. There’s no telling which side will prevail. But if the choice is between “Mend it” and “End it,” mend it will win every single time.

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If You Thought Hoekstra’s Attempt To Cash In On Terrorism Was Bad …

December 30th, 2009 admin No comments

In the wake of the attempted terrorist bombing of a U.S. airliner, the actions of Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) is giving new meaning to the phrase, “ugly American.”

It isn’t enough for Hoekstra to just try and cash in on attempted terrorist attacks, he’s also decided to do a media tour to peddle blatant hypocrisy:

Hoekstra says the U.S. needs to be more forward-leaning in its approach to terrorism and put into place the latest technology for dealing with it.

Well, sure, except when Hoekstra is voting against that technology:

… A full 108 Republicans voted against the conference version, including Boehner, Hoekstra, Pence, Michelle Bachmann, Marsha Blackburn, Darrell Issa, and Joe Wilson.

The conference bill included more than $4 billion for “screening operations,” including $1.1 billion in funding for explosives detection systems, including $778 million for buying and installing the systems.

And at some point, perhaps some of our Democratic representatives might consider stepping up and pointing out the ugly hypocrisy and politicizing of terror that is coming from their “friends across the aisle.”

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MI-Gov: Hoekstra Trying To Cash In On Terror Scare

December 30th, 2009 admin No comments

Apparently, for right-wing Congressman and gubernatorial aspirant Peter Hoekstra, it wasn’t enough for him to sprint from TV camera to TV camera trying to siphon off as much exposure for himself during the recent news flurry surrounding the terror attempt aboard a Detroit-bound flight. He now is seeking to cash in on the aborted attack:

U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra was blasted Monday for using an attempted terrorism attack to raise money for his campaign for governor.

A fundraising solicitation Hoekstra’s campaign e-mailed Monday criticized the response by President Barack Obama administration’s to a failed attempt to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it neared landing at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The solicitation showed poor judgment, according to a campaign spokesman for Rick Snyder, an Ann Arbor venture capitalist and 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate.

The letter itself, the text of which can be found here, is far from subtle:

For almost a decade I have been a leader on National Security and at the forefront of the war on terror. I understand the real and continuing threat radical jihadists pose to our great state of Michigan and our great Nation.

I have pledged that I will do “everything possible” to prevent these terrorists from coming to Michigan.

But I need your help.

If you agree that we need a Governor who will stand up the Obama/Pelosi efforts to weaken our security please make a most generous contribution of $25, $50, $100 or even $250 to my campaign.

Hoekstra made the decision earlier in 2009 to leave his western Michigan-based seat in the Congress (where he has served for seventeen years) in order to run for Governor of Michigan. He faces an exceptionally competitive primary, which includes not only Snyder, but also state attorney general Mike Cox and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.

The Democratic frontrunner, thus far, is state Lt. Governor John Cherry, although some other Democrats could be competitive (including former Michigan State football coach George Perles), while others are still eyeing the race.

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