Presidential Style, Historic Accomplishments, and Gravitas

President Barack Hussein Obama has been in office a year and months now, and having suffered with him through the health care fight, and now watching the man visibly, nearly viscerally, and certainly adroitly, grow into this complicated role, now, that’s really something to behold.

I’m thinking of course about the nuclear summit and the photo collage on this morning’s Washington Post and Shitty Corporate Mouthpiece of the man shaking hands with many world leaders, at an event that has been the largest gathering of world leaders in one place in decades and decades, an event forged by Mr. Obama’s sheer will, by his own gravitas, and by his undeniably wealthy background on the issue at hand.

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As was stated by this amateur pundit in the heat of the 2008 primary, Obama’s keen interest and tireless work on the issue of loose nukes was an aspect that made him a well-tuned candidate for the job. And so this week, he’s hit a new stride, opening this leviathan conference with the announcement of a stunning success, that of a non-nuclear Ukraine. I know that Limbaugh and Beck and everyone of them in between will do their best to either deny President Obama credit for sealing the deal or to convert non-proliferation efforts into a loser for Obama. But we know better. Even Ron Raygun professed to know better. “No nukes” isn’t just a picket sign. It’s a good idea, an especially good idea when you have rogue tribes who would gladly snap the stuff up and kill us with it.

Today I think that with this conference, President Obama has already cemented his legacy, but then, we thought he’d done that with health care reform. Let’s just say that I do not think “legacy” is going to be a problem for this president.

And now, he’s got some more legacy building to do, what with second U.S. Justice seat to fill. I’d fancifully tossed out the name of Ron Kuby, of course, and I still think the ideer has some merits. But if I were advising this man on this issue today, I would want to make sure to tell him that whatever guy or gal you put in that hot seat, he or she is going to have to be awesome. Get someone with the gravitas of a moon, someone whose presence of personality and character will make the hearing room expand and will make every person in the audience swear they hear bugles playing somewhere. Place someone there who is undeniable, a steady, unstoppable force straight to the big white steps. I wish I knew the name of the candidate I’m describing here, but he or she should definitely have been born under a red sun, or better yet, let’s just resurrect Warren Burger. Such a candidate, and such a decisive success as a wallop on this nomination, that would mean political dividends for Obama, but would also perhaps clean up some of the nonsense that surrounds the SCOTUS nomination process post-Bork post-Thomas.

Get this nomination perfect, that’s my advice. Perfect. Get an overwhelming success here to emphasize all the other lovely successes. That’s how ya do it.

In Other News: Fox 'News' Has A 'Brain Room'

As reported by Media Matters For America:

On Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum claimed that the “Fox News brain room” determined that President Obama’s statement that a recent Supreme Court ruling would “open the floodgates” for foreign corporations to spend in U.S. elections was “wrong,” adding that “the court specifically wrote that it was not overturning restrictions on foreign dollars.” In fact, four of the Supreme Court’s justices agreed in their opinion that the decision “would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans” to make certain election-related expenditures.

Not only that, but what Fox “News” reported doesn’t even make sense (surprised?).

Let’s just say that, indeed, the Supreme Court Republicans Of The United States (SCROTUS)* had written a specific banination of foreigners buying media in support of specific candidates during election seasons in the United States into the mind-numbingly stupid and shitty decision they made in Citizens United V. American Democracy.

How do you enforce it?

If Abu Dabu Du Inc., based in Saudi Arabia, has a subsidiary firm based in Scammon, Kan., called Elvis Smith and Sons Widgets and Pooper Scoopers Inc., what stops company A from putting a little money into company B to buy an ad on election eve claiming that Barack Obama dines regularly on puppy-tail soup?

The fact is, we won’t know for sure for a while if Citizens United V. American Democracy will open a loophole for foreign influence or not. But it is possibly one of the possible consequences. And flat-out denials of that won’t alter the reality of the matter.

* Thanks to Steph and the Mooks.

Up Yours, Supremes!

On January 27, 2010, a man threw his shoe at a Supreme Court Chief Justice.

Probably not what you’re thinking. The shoe-ee was Dorit Beinisch, Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court. Pinchas Cohen walked into a hearing where residents of a northern town were asking the court to shut down an authorized producer of medical marijuana and winged shoes at the man. The first shot beaned him; the second one missed as he fell to the ground.

So. It could have been worse.

Not by much, though. President Barack Obama didn’t do any shoe throwing. But he did look the nine United States Justices right in the eye and told them directly what he though of their piece-of-shit ruling in the Citizens United Vs. American Democracy decision.

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interestsWith all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.

This was a rare public dress-down of the judiciary by the executive. It was the most stunning moment of last evening’s SOTU, made even moreso by the revelation that The Ali-Ton 3000 was mouthing a protest to the President’s accusations even as he made them. In that moment, people, the President of the United States was speaking for you in a way that was utterly. pure and democratic. It was, how you say, a teachable moment.

A Sad Song Just to Turn it Around


What a baaaaaaaaaaad day.

Awful. Just awful. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwful.

The Supreme Court has just put American democracy up for sale on Ebay. Not that it wasn’t already leased.

Here’s what President Obama had to say about today’s decision:

With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.

This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington—while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates.

That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.

Isn’t he cute?

How the hell are you going to do that, Barry? Corporations can buy Congress now. And, by the way, how are you going to do all this banking stuff when corporations can buy Congress now? Hell. How are you going to do anything?

There is nothing to be done about this legislatively, nothing that can be done quickly to change this. This is the main reason that progressives MUST support Obama through to a second term even if they find him lacking. Obama must be allowed to change the 5-4 imbalance on the Supreme Court. Or, the Constitution must be amended to clarify that a corporation—a word that DOES NOT APPEAR IN THE CONSTITUTION ONCE—IS NOT A PERSON.

I say, if it can’t scratch its ass, it’s not a person.

I do often wonder if the Tea Baggers understand what the Boston Tea Party was actually about—a protest of a multinational CORPORATION allowed to run amok.

We’re gonna need a new tea party, and I don’t mean one of these lame and sometimes racist events we saw in Hot Stupid August.

And OH! Poor Air America!

I was such a fan. I even coughed up $50 when Danny Goldberg came around with his hat held out. (The bumper sticker is still on my beloved jalopy.) AAR started out with the right idea but soon lost its nerve after Evel Cohen screwed them. Then Goldberg screwed them from the back, cutting loose the network’s finest product, the wonderful Morning Sedition. That would be the full arc of AAR’s shark-jump.

It was downhill from there. Having cut its finest ensemble cast, it allowed other casts to go by way of attrition, replacing them, likely to save a few shekels, with 1A1M* programming. THEN they fired their BEST 1A1M practitioner, one Randi Rhodes, ostensibly** because she called Hillary Clinton a whore, not on the air, mind you, but in front of a crowd after dark in Sam Framcisco. And they fired Kent Jones. And so on, and so on. As of its current incarnation, the lineup is so awful I don’t even know what it is. Lionel and Montel Williams? Please.

I know this isn’t a good time for the business of media. AAR’s statement mentions this. But, Air America, I’m sorry, pal. You did it to yourself.

Fortunately, AAR’s near six-year run buoyed a lot of careers. It spawned the wonderful Rachel Maddow and sent her to the big time. Its turbulence caused many liberal talkers to strike out on their own or to strike deals with larger media companies. It also raised awareness of the existence of them and others who were never branded AAR. And, how could one fail to mention that Air America Radio was the bridge for one fellow from comedian to Senator?

Ted Baxter of Fox “News” and his progeny will have a lot of fun with this. They’ll gloat. They’ll trumpet the failure of Air America Radio. And yes, at the core of it, AAR may have failed. But the success that has rippled as a result of its existence has been stellar. And liberal talk radio is not dying, suckers. In fact, we went and jumped to TEEVEE!

So long, Air America Radio. It’s a shame because with today’s decision by SCOTUS, we may actually need you now more than ever.

*One Asshole, One Mic

**Rhodes later explained on-air that AAR was actually trying to leverage her to alter her contract…

It's Time To Renew Your ACLU Membership

I was reminded the other day by a commercial on 1050-AM WZAA to renew my ACLU membership. Here’s a little something that might remind readers of KIAV:

The actions of a Kentucky high school football coach have been questioned after he took nearly two dozen players on a field trip to an evangelist church service where nearly half the kids were baptized.

Breckinridge County High School Coach Scott Mooney last month used a public school bus to transport the kids approximately 35 miles but arranged for a volunteer driver and promised to pay for the gas himself, according to Superintendent Janet Meeks, who attended the service and witnessed the baptisms of her public school students.

“It was completely voluntary,” Meeks told, noting that of the team’s 46 players, about 20 elected to go on the trip. Of those attendees, nine were baptized.

“They didn’t get anything for attending,” she said. “They didn’t get anything for not attending.”

The mothers of one of the baptized boys has said publicly that she was upset to learn her son had been baptized without her consent on a trip sponsored by a public school employee.

“Nobody should push their faith on anybody else,” Michelle Ammons told the Louisville Courier-Journal.” They have no right to take my son on a school bus across county lines to a church to be baptized.”

But Meeks said that Ammons was the only parent to express disatisfaction with the trip. A couple of parents were in church at the time of the service.

The purpose of the outing was to see noted evangelist Ronnie Hill, and that was seemingly known to every parent but Ammons, Meeks said. Since the trip, school officials have spoken with Ammons in an effort to rectify the situation, but Ammons told the Courier-Journal that she is considering legal action.

Mooney, the school’s coach for the last few years, she said, “talked with the kids a few times about what the trip invoved.”

Mooney did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages.

No permission slips were issued, she said, because “it wasn’t considered a school-sponsored event.”

Bill Sharp, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said the trip seemed to violate the Supreme Court’s separation of church and state clause, especially since the coach likely discussed the trip with students during practices.

“The message conveyed to the students is there’s an official endorsement,” Sharp told

“There’s certainly a coersive element,” he said. “He’s in a position of authority.”

I hope the school and the coach get sued out the ass.

Pat Buchanan is a Dumb Ass

Here is the way affirmative action works. Say you have four equally qualified candidates for a job. That is, four people with college degrees, five years experience and a demonstrated ability to smell doughnuts have applied for a job that requires a college degree, five years experience and a demonstrated ability to smell doughnuts. One of the four is black. Affirmative action requires that you hire the black person. Why? To overcome a demonstrated tendency of managers to hire people of their own race regardless of the qualifications of the candidates.

Affirmative action is simple justice. It ensures that candidates with a disadvantage get put on an equal playing field. It does not require that you hire the black candidate regardless of qualifications, only that you hire the black candidate if he or she has the same qualifications as other candidates. And it works. I have not hired black candidates who were not as qualified as the others in the field, and I have hired black candidates who were equally qualified as the other candidates because I knew I needed to do what was right (even though I believed I would get along better with one of the white candidates… ability to get along with the boss was not in the job description, but ability to manage staff is always required of the boss… and also parenthetically, this turned out to be a great hire.)

When I was in law school many people grumbled about one of the black students because of rumor that he had barely passed the LSAT. No one had any way of knowing how well he scored on the LSAT, and he seemed to be holding his head above water in law school, just like a lot of the rest of us… including the punks who were complaining. The notion was that this was an “affirmative action” admission, and there was something wrong with that. Bullshit, or course. This kid graduated from law school and is still working in his home town… just like a lot of the complainers are now working in their home towns.

I had a friend who was a very successful practicing lawyer in Lawrence, KS, who told me his story about getting into law school. “I was bored with the business school and decided I wanted to go to law school,” he said, “So I went over and enrolled.” He had not graduated from undergraduate school. He was a white male, and he wanted to go to law school, so they took him in. That was 1957. He attended law school for a year before they discovered he did not have an undergraduate degree. They made him finish his last year of college while he took his second year of law school.

The fact is that for centuries we selected our legal leaders from a pool of people who never had to pass an LSAT or otherwise prove that they were deserving of the honor. We just enrolled them and they went to class and became lawyers. There was always affirmative action for white men, they always got chosen first. We always built barriers to admission for women and minorities. They have always had to prove they are deserving. Affirmative action is a tool that gives women and minorities a fair shake. There is nothing wrong with that.

I admit it does not always work. On the Supreme Court of the United States we have a shining example of its failure. Clarence Thomas was a mediocre lawyer and is a less than stellar member of the Supremes. His resume prior to the Supremes was inauspicious. Honors English Graduate of Holy Cross, graduated Yale Law in the middle of his class. (He was admitted as part of an affirmative action program.) Could not find a law firm job that interested him (he is said to have rejected jobs from firms that suggested he do “pro bono” work… a sure sign of an affirmative action hire). Assistant Attorney General in Missouri for three years, two years at Monsanto, then to Washington to work for his former boss, John Danforth. That got him appointed to Raygun’s EEOC , and an appointment to the D.C. Cuircuit, where he served two years before getting the nod to the Supremes. He was appointed by the GOOP to prove that they like black people, and I suppose it is possible he was the best qualified black available to them, but he was certainly not the best qualified lawyer. They could have nominated a woman, or any one of the hundreds of qualified GOOP white men who Pat Buchanan champions. These guys lost their chance, after all, in deference to a mediocre black attorney.

What is most annoying about That Dumbass Pat Buchanan is his refusal to admit that Sotomayor is qualified for the position… even better qualified than most. Cum laude Princeton and Yale Law Review editor, New York City prosecutor, professor at City College, 17 years on the federal bench. Put her resume in a pool with 100 other lawyers selected at random and it will surface at the top. Absent affirmative action would she lose out to a white guy?

Pat Buchanan is just a dumbass.

Stunner: The 'State Secrets Privilege' Is Based On A Big Pile Of Crap

This American Life episode called “Origins” is fascinating (as usual). It is in “Act Two: The Secret Life of Secrets” that we learn that the “state secrets” privilege, upon which the federal government claims it can withhold information if it deems it necessary for national security, is based on a big fat steaming pile of poo.

The piece tells the story of Judy Lother, a Boston suburban housewife whose father was killed in the crash of a B-29 Superfortress in 1948 in Norcross, Georgia. From the Wiki:

Their widows brought an action in tort seeking damages in federal court, under the Federal Tort Claims Act. As part of this action, they requested production of accident reports concerning the crash, but were told by the Air Force that the release of such details would threaten national security. Because of the failure of the government to produce the documents, a directed verdict in favor of the plaintiffs was granted by the trial court. The judgment was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The United States Supreme Court reversed the decision, and remanded it to the trial court.

By overturning the decision, SCOTUS recognized state secrets privilege for the first time ever. They also assumed that there was some classified information in the accident reports regarding the top-secret stuff that was on that aeroplane at the time that would jeopardize national security were it released.

But there wasn’t.

Curious about her father’s fate, Judy Lother began to use this thingie called “the Internet.” Eventually, she came across the now-declassified accident reports, which referred to a top-secret project on that aeroplane, but which did not reveal an iota of the data therein. (Her testimony before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties of the House Judiciary Committee, January 29, 2008: PDF or View as HTML)

So, you see, even the Supreme Court precedent that recognized “state secrets” is based on a big fat lie. Ain’t that somethin’?

There is movement afoot right now in committee to reform this pile of crap. For an explanation, please see Leahy’s news release here and Kennedy’s here. This does appear to be a decent attempt to tighten up a segment of law that has been way to sloppily managed for too long.

And, oh, yes: The Heritage Foundation hates it. Heh.

Judging the Judges

Four conservative judges on the U.S. Supreme Court believe that once you anoint someone with the label “judge” they will act with the utmost independence, objectivity and honor. That would be true, even in a case involving millions of dollars that will directly affect the guy who paid a fortune to buy you your seat on the bench precisely because he knew you would be in a position to vote on his case. Right.

Fortunately there are still five rational judges on the Supremes. Here are the facts of Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., _____ U.S. _____ (June 8, 2009), which expands the rules to follow when a judge considers his recusal. Massey is one of the largest coal companies in the world, with a massive stake in West Virginia, (and should I note that a lot of coal industry folks, particularly Massey folks, contribute a lot of money to the GOOP?) was found guilty in West Virginia of using its substantial market power to squeeze out a small operator.

John Gibeaut describes the transaction in the February,2009, Journal of the American Bar Association.

The Harman mine in southwestern Virginia’s Buchanan County was a rickety skeleton when lifelong coal man Hugh M. Caperton purchased it in 1993. But Caperton, a native of Slab Fork in neighboring West Virginia, saw gold in those Appalachian hills.
The mine yielded high-grade metallurgical coal, a hot-burning and especially pure variety that steel mills crave to fuel the blast furnaces used to make coke needed in their production process. By the end of 1993, the mine’s yield had increased to 1 million tons a year, quadruple its previous output. Caperton also replaced the contract workers who used to ply the precious bituminous with 150 union miners in one of the nation’s poorest states.
Then along came A.T. Massey Coal Co. and its CEO, Don L. Blankenship. Massey, which has headquarters in Richmond, Va., wanted the high-grade coal too. But Caperton at first was unwilling to sell, despite what he described as warnings from Blankenship: “He basically threatened me and said, ‘Don’t take me to court. We spend a million dollars a month on lawyers, and we’ll tie you up for years.’ ”
Blankenship wasn’t lying. Through a series of complex, almost Byzantine transactions, including the acquisition of Harman’s prime customer and the land surrounding the competing mine, Massey both landlocked Harman with no road or rail access and left Caperton without a market for his coal even if he could ship it.
Caperton finally cried uncle in early 1998 and agreed to sell. But on the day the deal was to go down, Massey got up and walked away, sending Caperton to court instead of the bank.

Caperton won a $50 million verdict in the lower court, and Massey appealed. To increase his odds on appeal, Massey Chair Don Blankenship created a 527 fund, which dumped $3 million into the 2004 supreme court election in support of candidate Brent Benjamin.

Benjamin won, and when the case came before the court, he refused to recuse himself. Caperton lost the first vote 3-2, but before a rehearing could be held, two other judges recused themselves. Justice Spike Maynard, who voted for Massey, stepped aside because photos of him vacationing on the Riveria with Mr. Blankenship were published in the local papers. Justice Larry Starcher, who had voted for Caperton, stepped aside because he called Blankenship a “clown,” and said what most West Virginians considered to be the obvious, that Blankenship had bought himself a seat on the Supreme Court. An irony here. If you look to the standards for recusal that operated prior to Caperton v. Massey, the only person here who would have to recuse himself was Starcher, who had a personal beef with the appellant.

Maynard did not need to recuse himself for the same reason that Benjamin did not do so. Supreme Court precedent (prior to Caperton) demands that a judge only recuse herself if there is a direct conflict with one of the parties (thus the Starcher recusal) or there is “a direct personal, substantial pecuniary interest” in the case. While a practicing attorney is required to avoid “the mere appearance of impropriety,” Judges are so superior that they are always presumed to be impartial, unless they have a direct financial interest.

Thus, Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts (who wrote the dissenting opinion) had no trouble concluding that there were no grounds upon which Justice Benjamin should recuse himself… he had no personal beef with either party, and aside from the fact that the Appellant had spent $3 million getting Benjamin elected, Benjamin had no immediate pecuniary interest in Massey Coal.

The majority opinion is very narrowly circumscribed, and addresses only extraordinary cases such as this one, where “Blankenship’s significant and disproportionate influence— coupled with the temporal relation between the election and the pending case offer a possible temptation to the average … judge to…lead him not to hold the balance nice, clear and true.” In short, the majority believes that our trust in people who carry the title Judge should be tempered by reality.

The minority whines that a result of this decision will be less confidence in the judicial system and more “Caperton” challenges to judges. As to the first argument, I think the opposite is true. Had Caperton lost his decision, the public would have rightly concluded that the courts are crooked. His victory is a victory for the courts. As to the second argument, will there be more “Caperton”claims? Most likely, and a good thing, too.

If Sonia Sotomayor Is A Racist, Then I'm A Cool Black Dude

I’m sorry. I liked the line so much, I had to use it as a headline.

But let’s have a look at this ridiculous charge that Sonia Sontomayor is a racist. First, let’s remind ourselves about who Newt Gingrich, one of the leaders of this charge, is.

Newtie Gingrich is an abysmal person. He is terrible. He approached a wife to discuss the terms of divorce as she lay on her cancer bed. He himself admitted that he was having an affair while he was leading the charge against President Bill Clinton for having an affair. Newt Gingrich is pond scum, the absolute worst of hypocrites and therefore is very comfortable at the helm of the GOOP with the likes of Cheney, Limbaugh, Bill Bennett, and other various assorted shitheads.

Newt tweeted this today:

White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.

I don’t know about you, but I find it a little ironic that the 140-character restriction forced Newtie to sound a little bit like Tonto. I understand that his next tweet was

Bowell gotta move now. Teepee full of shit.

Do you notice that every last person who is raising this bizarre charge of racism is a honky*? It is downright laughable to hear all of these white guys level charges of racism. Downright laughable. I haven’t heard anything from Alan Keyes yet, though I’m sure he agrees. Still. It’s just outright laughable.

Especially when you consider that there was nothing, nothing racist about what the lady said.

She was speaking at a conference called “Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation.” If you read the speech, you will see that she is actually fully discussing her own struggle for objectivity in spite of and because of her heritage. In fact, in another portion, she indicates that white old guys are indeed capable of empathy:

I…believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable.

There are and will be many bizarre attacks on this woman in her bid to become an Associate Justice. This, I think, is one of the sleaziest. I personally wish they’d wait for the hearings to start, and that they’d actually give this nominee a fair, well, hearing, and, also, that they’d perhaps remember that there was this Senator named Barack Obama who unequivocally supported the nomination of one John G. Roberts.

But I reckon all that would just be too much common sense for the GOOPers.

*”Honky” is one of the four best words in the universe. This is a scientific fact.