No Regrets?

I have talked myself into a no regrets position on yesterday’s disaster. After all, we here at KIAV get to say… sadly…”I told you so.” As Brady has many times pointed out, if a Democrat runs like a GOOPer the Goop wins every time.

Nothing underscores Brady’s point like the fate of the House Blue Dog Democrats. There used to be 54 of them, now there are 26. Two retired, two ran for higher office and lost, and 24 lost their bids for re-election. All of them ran against Obama and the progressive agenda. I have long suspected that Democrats would be better off without them, and can’t say I am unhappy to see them gone.

We lost two Senate Blue Dogs, Evan Bayh, (IN) who resigned, and Blanche Lincoln, (AR), who lost by a wide margin. Liincoln was a phony Democrat if ever there was. Ask whether Bill Halter, the progressive who the Democratic Party refused to support, would have made a better showing.

Now we have a House in the hands of John Boner, a scumbag of the highest order. He has been harping on balancing the budget for generations while voting for every GOOP spending spree and loading up the rich with tax breaks. Will they keep their promises and balance the budget or continue in the tradition of past GOOP majorities who have run up record deficits and mountains of wasteful government spending? Curiously, we will be lucky if the old time GOOP money spenders come back. Failure of the federal government to spend, and thus STIMULATE the economy, will drive the economy into the tank.

On the Senate side, the Democratic Party has a one-vote majority and a buffer of two independents. One of them, Bernie Saunders, is a progressive who can be relied upon to support rational policies. (Note to Bernie, don’t let them take you for granted.) The other is that whore Joe LIEberman, who is most likely, at this moment, pedaling his ass to the highest bidder. Some Blue Dog Democrats can also be expected to be sniffing around the minority leader’s office, most notably Bennie Nelson of Nebraska, who is no Democrat and we should be glad to be rid of him. Add Mary Landreu or Bill Nelson to the mix and you could get a GOOP majority.

Truth is, I almost regret that we do not have a clear GOOP majority now. I never cared much for Hairy Reed and had hoped that whacked out old broad from Nevada would go to Washington. Imagine Mitch McConnell trying to ride herd on her and Christine O’Donnell. It would be worth it just for the comedy.

Get A Brane, You Moran!

In case you’re wondering, we did our job here in the eighth district of Virginia. Rep. Jim Moran decimated opponent Patrick Murray tonight with a 23-point lead.

You won’t see this district’s election in the headlines. And that’s a shame. Because the election here in the Peoples’ Republic of Arlington is the real story.

You see, Rep. Moran is a progressive.

Here’s a bit from the Alexandria Times, a news organization I wasn’t aware existed until tonight:

In his acceptance speech Moran rejected claims his party had overreached since President Barack Obama’s inauguration, comparing their legislative successes with the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In a year when many candidates campaigned against government intervention, Moran embraced health care reform, Wall Street regulation and the stimulus bill.

The soon-to-be 11-term congressman predicted Republicans running on an anti-government platform may have trouble governing. Moran also pledged to work with Obama to fight off any attempt at rolling back the party’s legislative gains.

“We cannot allow the politics of fear and narrow-mindedness to win over the American legacy of … optimism,” he said. “We’re Democrats second and Americans first. This is our country and we’re proud to see it realize its full potential.”

Now, it is understood that Northern Virginia is generally liberal politically. But. Do you think it’s a coincidence that a Democrat who governs as a progressive and who ran as a progressive ended up with his boot on his opponent’s neck and will now serve his 11th term as a congressman, in an election year when Democrats in congress are considered to be an endangered species?

Bear in mind, Moran’s job security isn’t a fait accompli. Moran first won the position in 1990 versus a six-term Republigoat, Stanford Parris.

If you’ll recall, this writer called this election as it actually occurred on September 7, 2010. I wrote, very specifically:

Democrats are going to LOSE in November.

Freaky, right?

But the logic behind my prediction holds. Democrats in this election season ran away from their accomplishments, not on them.

Speak up, Harry Truman:

I’ve seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the fair Deal, and says he really doesn’t believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don’t want a phony Democrat. If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don’t want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign.

But when a Democratic candidate goes out and explains what the New Deal and fair Deal really are—when he stands up like a man and puts the issues before the people—then Democrats can win, even in places where they have never won before. It has been proven time and again.

It has been proven time and again. Right here in the eighth district. Democrats should pay attention to Jim Moran.

That’s Nice and All, But…

Jon Stewart this past weekend gave a barn-burner of a speech adjacent to his “Rally to Restore Sanity.” The embed:

And the transcript, thank you, Huffington Post:

And now I thought we might have a moment, however brief, for some sincerity. If that’s okay—I know that there are boundaries for a comedian / pundit / talker guy, and I’m sure that I’ll find out tomorrow how I have violated them.

So, uh, what exactly was this? I can’t control what people think this was: I can only tell you my intentions.

This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or look down our noses at the heartland, or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear—they are, and we do.

But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus, and not be enemies. But unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke.

The country’s 24-hour, political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen. Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the dangerous, unexpected flaming ants epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.

There are terrorists, and racists, and Stalinists, and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned! You must have the resume! Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Party-ers, or real bigots and Juan Williams or Rick Sanchez is an insult—not only to those people, but to the racists themselves, who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more.

The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker—and, perhaps, eczema. And yet… I feel good. Strangely, calmly, good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us, through a funhouse mirror—and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist, and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead, and an ass shaped like a month-old pumpkin, and one eyeball.

So why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle, to a pumpkin-assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, of course our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable—why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution, and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own?

We hear every damned day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done. The truth is, we do! We work together to get things done every damned day! The only place we don’t is here (in Washington) or on cable TV!

But Americans don’t live here, or on cable TV. Where we live, our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done—not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.

Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often something they do not want to do! But they do it. Impossible things, every day, that are only made possible through the little, reasonable compromises we all make.

(Points to video screen, showing video of cars in traffic.) Look on the screen. This is where we are, this is who we are. These cars. That’s a schoolteacher who probably think his taxes are too high, he’s going to work. There’s another car, a woman with two small kids, can’t really think about anything else right now… A lady’s in the NRA, loves Oprah. There’s another car, an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter; another car, a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan.

But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief, and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers’. And yet, these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze, one by one, into a mile-long, 30-foot-wide tunnel, carved underneath a mighty river.

And they do it, concession by concession: you go, then I’ll go. You go, then I’ll go. You go, then I’ll go. ‘Oh my God—is that an NRA sticker on your car?’ ‘Is that an Obama sticker on your car?’ It’s okay—you go, then I go.

And sure, at some point, there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder, and cuts in at the last minute. But that individual is rare, and he is scorned, and he is not hired as an analyst!

Because we know, instinctively, as a people, that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together. And the truth is there will always be darkness, and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land.

Sometimes, it’s just New Jersey.

That’s nice and all, but:

I think Stewart’s sentiment here ignores a vital truth about American small-d democracy today, and in fact, which has permeated the political landscape since, oh, I dunno, 1776? And that is, quite simply, that there are and always have been two competing and disparate visions in this country regarding the role of the federal government.

The side I most often find myself on values something called “the commons” and believes that one of government’s most vital roles is to maintain and regulate that shared, necessary infrastructure that is vital to a strong, thriving democracy and, not to mention, a robust economy.

I think, for example, that a strong public school system benefits everyone, including those who do not have children. If my cabbie can read and count, if the waitress can count change, and if a select few of public-educated children develop a method for creating a heart muscle in a test tube, the benefit is for everyone and for sea to shining sea as well. I think as well that a nation’s banking system is part of the commons, and I think that the overzealous privateers in that industry have recently proven to us what happens when it is removed from that designation. I think a nation is only as strong as its shared infrastructure, and that one role of government is to tax its citizens and to use the proceeds to build and maintain that infrastructure.

This is a vastly different viewpoint from the “ideas” that drive today’s weird political rhetoric, the notion that everything and anything should be bought and done for a profit, that ownership is the only virtue, that the “free market” is the One True God, that a person who advocates for the commons is by default a communist.

This is not on-ramp traffic. It is a protracted war, a longstanding attempt by millionaires and billionaires to pave over and to wall into sections the commons, and the peoples’ attempt to prevent them from doing so.

One additional note regarding Stewart’s commentary regarding cable television news: Equivocating Keith Olbermann’s rhetorical style somehow with that of those who are employed by Fox “News” is ridiculous. Not to say that everyone should supplant news sources completely with any cable television news program, but I dare say that at least Olbermann is not cheering on the folks who are leading us into the next dark age.

Has the Post Stopped Hiring Editors?

The Washington Post got the story about the Rally for Sanity about right, but for one small detail where they called Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert the “founding fathers” of fake news. Wrong by a mile.

Fake news for the sake of comedy (you might give Rupert Murdock founding father status of fake news for the sake of right wing manipulation) goes back nearly 40 years. For founding fatherhood, you need to skip across the pond to get to David Frost (and probably some other Brits… Frost brought the concept to the USA). The show was TW3 or That Was The Week That Was. In the nature of founding fathers, we cannot forget, as well, Chevy Chase and (founding mother) Jane Curtiin and a long line of SNL newscasters.

Doesn’t anyone at the Post edit anymore? Is everyone at the Post so young that no one knows this basic footnote to cultural history?

And I guess you could say who cares? It’s just a style point. Wrong again dumbass. There is such a thing as a historical record, and every little distortion of it fuzzes up the time line, confuses reality, makes lying a lot easier for weasels like Chainey and Busch and Rupert Mouse.

As they say at The Dan Quayle Foundation, “Use You’re Brane, Morans!”

Private Prisons Threaten Us All

We have written here before about the dangers of private prisons. Two years ago, Pennsylvania juvenile judges were caught taking bribes to fill up private prisons in that state (See Raygun Style Free Market Justice). In that case, hundreds of innocent kids got the maximum sentence as the prison system paid out millions to the guys who sent them there.

We have also written about how private prisons have failed to provide adequate medical care to inmates, causing deaths in many cases (See More Free Market Justice). Moreover, we have noted that the private prison system has a built in incentive to lobby for harsh laws so that they can add to the bottom line. Now we have evidence that this is indeed what they are doing.

NPR reports that it was an outfit called The American Legislative Exchange Council that drew up the Arizona law that requires immigrants to carry papers. ALEC is sponsored by, among other COPORATIONS, Corrections Corporation of America, the largest operator of private prisons in the country. ALEC apparently drafted the model legislation after a panel discussion in which the private prison community made clear that it sees tremendous future growth in the illegal alien market.

Given the business model, that certainly makes sense. First, the market is “detention” in this case, not necessarily imprisonment, so it’s altogether more informal. Second, immigrants do not have the legal rights, or access to counsel that might trouble the prison system. Third, their families are less accessible, and thus less likely to sue in the event that something ugly happens. All in all, illegal immigrants are great for corporate profits.

I think it is now fairly clear that there is no greater threat to human rights in the United States than the private prison system. In a matter of a few years, they have managed to develop levels of corruption we used to associate only with third world countries. Now they are lobbying against the constitutional rights of free people just to make a buck.

What will we be 50 years from now?

There is a petition drive to make private prisons illegal. Here is the lnk. A Single Voice Project.

Phelps II: Freedom From Religion?

I suspect that the Christofascists who have been telling us about how we enjoy a right to “freedom of religion, not freedom from religion” must be watching Snyder v. Phelps very closely. If there is an absolute right to the expression of “rhetorical hyperbole” is anyone safe from religious fanatics attending your funerals, weddings… camping on your doorstep?

The Phelps Gang and the First Amendment

I don’t believe the First Amendment forgives intentional tort against private citizens, and I think the Supremes are going to come to that very conclusion in the case of Snyder v. Phelps. Good on em I say.

Here are the facts of this case. Matthew Snyder, a U.S. Marine, was killed in action in Iraq. The Westboro Baptist Church has a practice of picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in action because they claim their deaths are God’s retribution for tolerance of gays in the USA. (I believe Phelps, like a number of Evangelical and some Jewish sects, believes a righteous society would kill all its queers.) Snyder’s funeral was held in a Catholic Church in Maryland with full military honors and the Phelps Gang set up a required distance from the front of the church and protested. Mr. Snyder Senior, to avoid seeing the protesters, rerouted the funeral procession to use an alternative church door. None the less, a media circus ensued which was generally recognized to have disrupted the funeral.

The Phelps Gang admitted that it specifically targeted Snyder because it was seeking revenge on Marines because they have physically assaulted the Phelps gang at previous protests. The Phelps gang carried a number of signs. Some of them addressed general themes of “public interest,” such as “God Hates Fags,” and “Priests Rape Boys.” They also carried signs thought to be specifically aimed at the decedent, such as “God Hates You,” and “You’re going to Hell.” Other signs graphically depicted gay male sex.

In addition, after the funeral was thus disrupted, the Phelps Gang published an “Epic Poem” on their website called “The Burden of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder.” It stated, in part:

God blessed you, Mr. and Mrs. Snyder, with a resource and his name was Matthew. He was an arrow in your quiver! In thanks to God for the comfort the child could bring you, you had a duty to prepare that child to serve the Lord his God—period! You did just the opposite—you raised him for the devil. . . Albert and Julie ripped that body apart and taught Matthew to defy his Creator, to divorce, and to commit adultery. They taught him to support the largest pedophile machine in the history of the entire world, the Roman Catholic monstrosity. Every dime they gave the Roman Catholic monster they condemned their souls. They also, in supporting satanic Catholicism, taught Matthew to be an idolater.

The Phelpses proclaimed that God:

“Killed Matthew so that his servants would have an opportunity to preach his words to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, the Maryland legislature, and the whorehouse called St. John Catholic Church at Westminster where Matthew fulfilled his calling.”

These words caused Mr. Snyder Senior to barf when he read them, and he ultimately suffered a mental breakdown.
The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress has four elements: (1) the defendant must have acted intentionally or with reckless disregard to the way his actions affect others; (2) the defendant’s conduct must be extreme and outrageous; (3) the conduct must be the cause (4) of severe emotional distress. The Federal District in this case found the Phelps Gang liable for intentional infliction. The Fourth Circuit reversed on First Amendment grounds.

The key here is a line of First Amendment cases that run from NY Times V. Sulllivan, to Jerry Falwell v. Hustler. The NYT case, studied by every journalism student, held that a public figure cannot be libeled even if matters said about him/her were factually incorrect if there was no malicious intent on the part of the newspaper. Hustler said a public figure cannot claim intentional infliction of emotional distress even if things said about him are not true regardless of how outrageous, if they were none-the-less satirical. (Hustler published a fake interview with Falwell in which he confesses having had sex with his mother in the outhouse.) Public figures, the courts have concluded, have inserted themselves into the public debate and should be willing to take more heat than the average citizen. Moreover, public figures have access to the public forum in ways that private citizens do not, and thus are better able to defend themselves.

In Snyder, the Fourth Circuit added an entirely new rule. Reading Hustler the court concluded that The Phelps Gang was absolutely protected by the first amendment and that there is a complete tort immunity for speakers of “rhetorical hyperbole.” Thus, the Fourth Circuit concluded, it is not important whether Snyder is a private citizen, as opposed to a public figure.

The Fourth Circuit analysis completely misconstrues Hustler, and completely misunderstands the basic approach of NYTimes, which balances the constitutional rights of the parties against the public’s interest in robust debate and information transparency. Hustler concludes that the public’s right to make fun of public figures is more important than the public figure’s right to dignity. There is not much doubt that the Hustler case would have had a different result if Jerry Falwell had been a country preacher with no national standing.

There is no rational basis for failing to protect the private citizen standing of the Snyder family from being targeted by fanatical maniacs with dubious claims to having raised issues of important public interest. Nothing about the debate of the rights of gay citizens is advanced significantly by their choice of military funerals as a focus for their protests. More importantly, specific attacks on the Snyder family cannot be said to have in any way advanced the public debate. The Snyders themselves had never inserted themselves into the public arena on this or any subject, Cpl. Snyder was not gay, had not made claims about gay persons or otherwise made claims that would make him a target for this protest.

The Assassination of Dr. Tiller

If you haven’t seen it, you’ve got to see Rachel Maddow’s hour-long look at the murder of Dr. George Tiller in May 2009. There are several aspects to this special that makes it especially worth viewing.

The first part of “The Assassination of Dr. Tiller” that makes it such important viewing is the snippets of testimony from Tiller’s convicted assassin, Scott Roeder.

I think it’s easy to dismiss Roeder as a fringe political element. I also think that’s a wrong thing to do. Because I think more of what the right wing does is fueled by logic similar to Roeder’s than any observer might realize. I don’t think that many of these folks might have the stomach to gun a man down in his own church. But I do think that their seemingly righteous, simplistic call to “save the babies from being murdered” can lead to some monumental leaps of justification for them. I think a good number of right-wing politicos these days feel quite comfortable lying about their own record, lying outright about policy, about doing anything at any cost to win, because Jesus Christ wants them to stop all the horrible baby murdering. I believe that Scott Roeder’s simplistic world view is more pervasive than most of us might understand. And I believe it is driving a good deal of our politics.

I loved hearing Dr. Tiller describe how he came into his abortion practice. Here’s what he said, during an interview in 2000 by Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.

Patients in the practice we had asked me if I was going to do abortions like my father did. And I was horrified! Why would these nice people say that he was a scumbag type physician? But the women in my father’s practice for whom he did abortions educated me and taught me that an abortion is a matter of survival for women.

In the beginning, Dr. Tiller took (and, it seems, simultaneously developed) his own best advice: Trust women.

The most outstanding aspect of this program comes about 22 minutes in, when Maddow interviews some of Tiller’s former patients. One woman was 25 weeks pregnant and was told that her child had less than a 3 percent chance of surviving the birth. The second had already painted the nursery but was told that her child would likely be severely disabled. What is clear from these interviews is that such a choice is never made lightly and is certainly something not to be judged until you’ve waddled a quarter-mile in some woman’s Crocs.

The scariest thing, I think, about this event is that it worked.

Dr. Tiller’s Wichita clinic closed, as did two others in that city. Now if you live in that neck of the woods and need such care, you gotta to to KCMO or to Denver. They may not have been able to overturn Roe yet in the courts. But they’re succeeding in pushing us back to pre-Roe days nonetheless.