Thursday, February 25, 2010

The "Mike" Johanns-bot executes most recent programming

The "Mike" Johanns-bot as seen in 2008 before its most recent software upgrade.

Below is an article by Don Walton of the Lincoln Journal-Star about Sen. "Mike" Johanns-bot's comments on the use of reconciliation to pass health care reform in the Senate.

You might remember the Johanns-bot's gig with the previous administration as Android Secretary of Agriculture. Nebraskans overwhelmingly elected it to serve in the United States Senate, which is pretty generous, considering the incredible mess it and the rest of the Bush administration made of the country. When you consider how red the Cornhusker state is, though, it makes perfect sense.

Anyway, the Johanns-bot has been recently reprogrammed, and it is now mindlessly executing its new programming as it interacts with the news media. I'll reproduce Walton's story here together with my comments.
Sen. Mike Johanns said Thursday the best conclusion to President Barack Obama's health care reform summit would have been a pledge not to seek Senate approval using the so-called reconciliation process.

That procedure would allow enactment by a Senate majority of 51 votes, bypassing the need to acquire 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster.

Comprehensive health care reform "should not be rammed through" by using a process that was designed to control spending, Johanns said.
It appears that certain facts have not been downloaded to the Johanns-bot. Reconciliation has been used 22 times since 1980. Republicans have themselves used reconciliation, and the Android senator belongs to the Republican Party. In addition, Republicans have made the use of reconciliation necessary, since they refuse to vote for any health care reform supported by Democrats and have threatened use of the filibuster. In fact, it may be safely said that Republicans are abusing the filibuster, so the Johanns-bot's insistence on the rules of the Senate in the present case is quite amusing. Apparently, the Johanns-bot's database does not include these important facts.
Reconciliation "bypasses thoughtful consideration of legislation," he said.

"Let's just take reconciliation off the table," the Republican senator said, and seek bipartisan agreement through discussion and debate.

"Nothing would clear the air more," Johanns said during a telephone conference call from Washington as the health care reform conference was winding down.
Again, the Johanns-bot is mindlessly executing its programming by repeating Republican talking points. Both houses of Congress have been working on health care reform for a year, so it is rather implausible to claim that the resulting legislation has not been thoughtfully considered. Clearly, the Johanns-bot is either incapable of rudimentary logic (as is many of his Republican colleagues) or it is simply malfunctioning. Further, it has been programmed to recognize a Democratic victory as a threat to the Republican Party to which it owes everything, including its many software upgrades. And Democrats could score a victory by passing health care reform through reconciliation. The Johanns-bot promises bipartisan agreement if reconciliation off the table, but it is programmed to avoid bipartisan activity at all costs.
Obama told congressional leaders at the summit he believes the public isn't too interested in Senate procedures.

"I think most Americans think that a majority vote makes sense," he said.

Johanns said he was "very disappointed" that Obama shaped Thursday's discussion around a modified version of the Democratic bill approved by the Senate in December.

That proposal has been "overwhelmingly rejected" by the American people, he said.
Here again the operation of the Johanns-bot is predicable and reliable, in spite of potential problems with its central processing unit. It has been programmed to state that Democratic health care bills have been overwhelmingly rejected by the American people even though that contradicts the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll which also indicates that most Americans support many of the features of the bill.
"My hope is all of us can start with a notion that we need to write down on a sheet of paper what we want to achieve," Johanns said.

And that could be "the starting point," he said.
Unfortunately, the Johanns-bot has not downloaded all those health care bills that have been written down on paper. Perhaps it had been deactivated for repairs at some time last year; that would explain why it apparently missed the starting point about a year ago. Whatever the reason for its tenuous grip on reality, the Johanns-bot's programmers are strongly motivated to send it out into the world in its present state: if the Johanns-bot, the McConnell-bot, the Cantor-bot, the Boehner-bot, and others can convince Democrats to scrap a year's worth of hard work and start over, they could delay the passage of health care reform for who knows how much longer.


"The Republican Party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance industry."

At least one Democrat is not a wimp: Anthony Weiner.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two Worlds: Fans of Joseph Andrew Stack and the son of Vernon Hunter

As reported by the Associated Press:
Authorities say Stack, 53, targeted the IRS office building in Austin on Thursday, killing employee Vernon Hunter and himself, after posting a ranting manifesto against the agency and the government. He apparently set fire to his home before flying his plane into the office building.

Hunter's son, Ken Hunter, said he's alarmed by comments that the pilot was a hero.

"How can you call someone a hero who after he burns down his house, he gets into his plane ... and flies it into a building to kill people?" Hunter told ABC." "My dad Vernon did two tours of duty in Vietnam. My dad's a hero."
What follows are messages posted to the wall of Fans of Andrew Joseph Stack on Facebook as of approximately 3:30 p.m. CST today.
Gustavo Rodríguez Vázquez I believe that Governments are merely tax collectors to fleece the citizen who is the only added value generated through their work. This situation creates more poverty and unemployment and governments only offer greater tax burden to try to reduce what in reality is a systemic crash. Each day there will be more Andrew Joseph Stack willing to fly an airplane or more Santiago Mainar (a Spain (Europe) hero) willing to end Government pressure with a shotgun.
2 hours ago · Report

Hilary Fox
7 hours ago · Report

Mauricio Fernandez i believe that our fellow hero is the first of many occurenses yet to come. until then, i salute you Mr. Stack, someone who died for what he believed in; a true american
Yesterday at 10:05pm · Report

Ann Willette Andrew Joseph Stack has brought to the forefront the issues surrounding millions of US citizens who have been inflicted by the injustices of the IRS and the US government and I applaud his action to bring this plight to the attention of the nation. It is sad he took with him a civilian, whose son says his father would have helped. There is no help from an IRS employee - they are bound to uphold the law as enacted by Congress. There are people trying to feed their families after being garnished by the IRS - at the tune of $154 per week. An impossibility by any standard. But, if you aren't born in this country and you manage to get here, you are entitled to "rights" that the US population does not have, but who must pay taxes for. For his courage, I applaud Andrew Joseph Stack.
Yesterday at 7:59pm · Report

Michael Joseph Serafin God Bless Mr. Stack. This Goverment Has Lost Touch With The People That Elected Them!
Yesterday at 6:18pm · Report

Sayyid Zakaria He was a great man. He was Hero. No one should pay more than 5% in tax. the govn. use tax money for stupid war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yesterday at 5:54pm · Report

Jeffrey Swihart Joseph Andrew Stack. Everyone wants to paint this guy as a kook, you guys should know better than to jump to conclusions. He had a family, a home, a plane. Kook's dont have those things. I read his paper (manifesto), nothing commy there. Just a man who had taken all he could take. I under stand that thinking. I'm not saying he didn't go off the deep end, he did. But out of the blue? just because? Every time somthing like this happens they want to cry CRAZY.... Every single time?, I don't think so. I'm quickly approching the edge my self. I know what that feels like. Afraid, desperite, alone, betrayed, angry.
Yesterday at 2:34pm · Report

Kelly Mcbride Today I heard a stroy about a man who bulldozed his home instead of letting the bank foreclose on it. But our tax dollars will be used to bail out the bank and all will be fine...except for the poor taxpayer that now has no home.
Yesterday at 12:06pm · Share · Report

Joe Dzurinda Last week when it happened I said Joseph Stack was a hero. That day should be a holiday. Unlike his daugher I have no remorse for the person he took with him. As far as I'm concerned IRS employees are not human beings. In my opinion Joseph missed 199.
Yesterday at 11:28am · Report
Mauricio Fernandez likes this.

Gustavo Rodríguez Vázquez In Spain (Europe) we have our own Andrew Joseph Stack, his name is Santiago Mainar and fight for the rights of the citizens and his inalienable sphere of individual freedom.
Yesterday at 3:56am · Report

Kelly Mcbride
Let's see how long this one lasts. By the way, freedom of speech is one of those rights that the administration has been ignoring of late. The right of the people to peaceably assemble is limited even in cyberspace. C'mon Americans, don't let it go on any longer. I don't suggest violence, just a firm discipline of the wayward children we call our government.
Sun at 10:58pm · Report
Update: as of approximately 10 a.m. CST Wednesday, Fans of Andrew Joseph Stack on Facebook is history. I hope Jeffrey Swihart and others like him get the help they need.

Sandy Levinson: "The stench of fascism"

The New York Times reports that Glenn Beck, in his closing speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, described "progressivism" as a cancer, "the disease in America." Let there be no doubt that this is nothing more than the stench of fascism, which relies on treating one's political opponents as what Carl Schmitt, the great (I use that word advisedly) Weimar political theorist (who ended up supporting Hitler's takeover in 1933), termed "enemies" who were viewed ultimately as subhuman (as "cancers" are), ulutimately fit to be eradicated "by any means necessary." Forget Newt Gingrich, who also spoke, and who, by contemporary standards, is almost a reasonable elder statesman of the GOP, actually willing to work, on occasion, with Hillary Clinton. The voice of way too much of contemporary "conservatism" (the scare quotes are also deliberate, because it is an insult to "conservatives" to say that they are necessarily fascists) is fascistic.

Beck and his ilk feel free to call on Democrats to denounce anyone who strays from a quite narrow "political correctness." Jessie Jackson is still being criticized, after his many apologies, for his "hymietown" remark of 1984. God help us if Barack Obama were ever discovered to have written a term paper at Occidental in which he argued that there might be something to be said for "socialism." But Republicans say nothing. They are truly "useful idiots," who are counting on their ability to rein in Glenn Beck (and Sarah Palin) before they destroy the country. It is past time for Republicans to be called on whether or not they tolerate millions of their fellow citizens being called "cancers" and "diseases." We are indeed in a true moment of cultural and political warfare, in which Glenn Beck has made very clear that he has no regard whatsoever for the most basic notions of civility (which begin by granting the possibility that one's opponents simply disagree rather than are "cancers" to be ripped out of the body politic).

What "Beckism" presages is more terrorist violence like that conducted in Austin, Texas, where a demented citizen flew into an IRS building and killed a true American "hero" a/k/a known as a public servant who had dedicated his life to tax collection. One might remember that Justice Holmes called taxes "the price we pay for civilization." Part of our move toward fascism is to view as "heroes" only those who carry guns and are prepared to risk their lives while preparing to inflict fatal violence on others. We must recognize that all public servants are, in their own ways, "heroes." The Republican Party for the past generation has systematically viewed all public servants, save for the military, as chumps, who if they had any real talent, would be working in the private sector (perhaps in Goldman Sachs, etc.). I truly fear for our country.

Lightly edited by Φ


Ban on flying airplanes into buildings reconsidered

Steve King: Congressman, propagandist, terrorist sympathizer

As you are probably already aware, a man recently flew a small airplane into an office building in Austin, Texas, with the intention of attacking Internal Revenue Service offices there. Stack and an I.R.S. employee died.

You might think that Republicans and conservatives—you know, the law-and-order crowd—would have a problem with this sort of terroristic behavior. After all, what really is the difference between Stack and, say, Timothy McVeigh, that prick who destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, besides knowledge of an example set by 19 other pricks on 9/11?

But you would be wrong.

Stack's daughter, Samantha Bell, has called Stack a hero. According to the Associated Press, Bell "called her father a hero for his anti-government views but said his actions, which killed an IRS employee, were 'inappropriate.'"

And even Steve King, Republican member of the House of Representatives, has expressed sympathy for Stack. You might remember King as one of the pricks who publicly and conspicuously carried large stacks of paper around with them in protest of Democratic health reform legislation last year. According to King,
I think if we’d abolished the IRS back when I first advocated it, he wouldn’t have a target for his airplane. And I’m still for abolishing the IRS, I’ve been for it for thirty years and I’m for a national sales tax. [...] It’s sad the incident in Texas happened, but by the same token, it’s an agency that is unnecessary and when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it’s going to be a happy day for America.
Stack even has his own fan page on Facebook. Scott Langert is the creator of the page. You can contact him to let him know what you think of his activities on Facebook.

I seem to remember Ari Fleischer telling me to watch what I say and do. I guess that applies only when Republicans are in power.

Update: Clyburn Denounces King For Making Excuses For IRS Attack (VIDEO)

Pull the Reconciliation Trigger

In this interesting column, Robert Reich argues that Democrats ought to use the reconciliation process to pass health care reform in the Senate. This would allow them to pass the legislation with only 51 votes instead of the 60 that would be needed to jump procedural hurdles that Republicans have threatened.

It's worth reading. Here, for example, are some facts Reich mentions that you might not be aware of:
George W. Bush used reconciliation to enact his giant tax cut bill in 2003 (he garnered only 50 votes for it in the Senate, forcing Vice President Cheney to cast the deciding vote). Six years before that, Bill Clinton rounded up 51 votes to enact the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the largest expansion of taxpayer-funded health insurance coverage for children in the U.S. since Medicaid began in the 1960s. Through reconciliation, we also got Medicare Advantage. Also through reconciliation came the COBRA act, which gives Americans a bit of healthcare protection after they lose a job ("reconciliaton is the "R" in the COBRA acronym.) These were all big, important pieces of legislation, and all were enacted by 51 votes in the Senate.
Now, people talk about reconciliation as if it is some sort of nuclear option. It's not. Reich deals with other arguments against using reconciliation. The only remaining argument, I think, would be that Democrats simply don't have the guts to make health care reform happen.

Just do it.

The health care summit may be useful as political theater, but we're not likely to accomplish anything there. Just today, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor called the White House health care reform bill a "non-starter," and that bill doesn't even have a public option in it. The Party of No will never say yes.

Just Freaking do it.

Update: Reid: GOP Should 'Stop Crying About Reconciliation'

Sunday, February 21, 2010

George Will's mental breakdown continues

George Will continues to wallow in the partisan mud.

Check out this segment of the roundtable discussion on ABC's This Week today. Will was asked to comment on film of Sen. Evan Bayh's announcement that he would not run again for this Senate seat. Here's a partial transcript:
Bayh: There is much too much partisanship and not enough progress. Too much narrow ideology, and not enough practical problem-solving. Even at a time of enormous national challenge, the peoples' business is not getting done.

Moran: Is he right, George?

Will: Well, it's hard to take a lecture on bipartisanship from a man who voted against the confirmation of chief justice Roberts, the confirmation of Justice Alito, the confirmation of Attorney General Ashcroft, the confirmation of Condoleeza Rice, the Secretary of State. Far from being a rebel against his party's lockstep movement, Mr. Bayh voted for the Detroit bailout, for the stimulus, for the public option in the health care bill. I don't know quite what his complaint is.
Will's response to Bayh's criticism of the Senate is to claim that Bayh is just as partisan as anyone else he might be criticizing. That is, in answer to Moran's question whether Bayh's claims about the Senate are correct, Will attacks Bayh—not what Bayh said, but Bayh himself. Now, I loathe hypocrisy as much as the next person, but this is a freaking fallacy, plain and simple. They call it an ad hominem, or attack against the person, in rudimentary critical thinking textbooks. Rather than address the truth or falsity of Bayh's criticism, Will simply attacks Bayh. Even if Bayh is guilty of the very partisanship he decries, his diagnosis of the gridlock in Washington may be entirely correct.

So what explains Will's intellectual lapse? Well, what choice does he have? Bayh is right; it is abundantly clear that Republicans are to blame for the gridlock; Will is allied with the Republican Party. So the only thing he can do is distract you by bringing up something completely irrelevant.

Hey, George: that shit belongs on Fox. Stop ruining my Sunday morning show, all right?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Q: Bush deficit bad, Obama deficit good? A: Elder column terrible.

The self-proclaimed Sage of South Central needs to matriculate.

Or he could control his urge to lie by omission.

In "Bush deficit bad, Obama deficit good?" Larry Elder accuses New York Times columnist Paul Krugman of hypocrisy. That is, an hypocrisy that I'm confident exists only in Elder's simple-minded conservative fantasyland.

The World Nut Daily columnist claims that it is hypocritical of Krugman, a Nobel prize-winning economist, to attack the Bush II deficits and yet defend the Obama deficits:
Questions: Didn't Krugman, less than six years ago, call the deficit "enormous"? Wouldn't he, therefore, consider a $1.5 trillion deficit at 10 percent of GDP mega-normous? Didn't he describe the economy with 5.5 percent unemployment as "weak"? Isn't the current economy, at 9.7 percent unemployment, even weaker? If the 2004 deficit was "comparable to the worst we've ever seen in this country," wouldn't today's much bigger deficit cause even more heartburn?

Nope. Now a huge deficit is actually a good thing: "The point is that running big deficits in the face of the worst economic slump since the 1930s is actually the right thing to do. If anything, deficits should be bigger than they are because the government should be doing more than it is to create jobs." The deficit "should be bigger"?!
Therein lies the answer to your questions, O Sagely One. No one, except those with a partisan axe to grind, will claim that the economic troubles during the first Bush II administration were anywhere near as serious as our current economic crisis. This is obviously a relevant difference.

If government has any role in managing the economy, it should run surpluses when the economy is growing and deficits when the economy is contracting. This would make it easier for government to stimulate the economy when necessary. Bush II and the Republican Congress chose to run up huge deficits at the wrong time by starting an unnecessary war of choice and making unnecessary cuts in taxes. (It might be argued that the economic effect of the 9/11 attacks required stimulus in the form of tax cuts. But this would not show that Krugman is a hypocrite, again because the threat of the economic impact of the 9/11 attacks was nowhere near the economic threat we faced in 2008.)

It is easy to believe that their real agenda is to force the government to shrink: cutting government services is less unpopular than raising taxes, thanks to the GOP's incessant call to cut taxes in response to virtually every problem. Their current complaints about deficit spending—which many of them failed to make during the previous administration, by the way—represents the next phase of this plan.

I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with the enormous debt we're racking up. But I don't believe that Republicans are being entirely forthcoming about their motivations. And I don't believe that Krugman is being a hypocrite. Rather, the so-called Sage of South Central has, intentionally or otherwise, oversimplified the discussion in order to score political points. This is a common strategy in our civic debate, unfortunately, and our civic debate suffers for it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Captain America Nails It

According to a Yahoo! News Blog entry, Tea Partiers are taking umbrage to a comic book and have won an apology from Marvel. Brett Michael Dykes describes the content of the comic book in question:
Issue 602 of the comic features Captain America investigating a right-wing anti-government militia group called "the Watchdogs". Hoping to infiltrate the group, Captain America and his African-American sidekick The Falcon observe an anti-tax protest from a rooftop. The protestors depicted are all white and carry signs adorned with slogans almost identical to those seen today in Tea Party rallies like "tea bag libs before they tea bag you" and "stop the socialists."

The Falcon mentions that the gathering appears to be "some kind of anti-tax protest" and notes that "this whole 'hate the government' vibe isn't limited to the Watchdogs." He then tells Captain America that he doesn't think their plan will work because "I don't exactly see a black man from Harlem fitting in with a bunch of angry white folks." Captain America then explains that his plan entails sending The Falcon in among the group posing as an IRS agent under the thinking that a black government official will most certainly spark their anger.

Unfortunately, the Tea Partiers were asking for it.

Tom Tancredo recently spoke at the Tea Party convention in Nashville. And he claimed that Obama was elected because voters did not have to pass a literacy test to vote. Literacy tests were, you'll recall, one tool racists used in the South to violate African Americans' right to vote.

Obviously, we can't assume that Tea Partiers are racist because they invited Tancredo to speak at their little convention.

But I'm not crying into my beer about this kerfuffle either.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"I pledge allegiance to the G.O.P. . . ."

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Rachel Maddow calls out Republicans for voting against policies they support simply because President Obama has also expressed support for them. And Maddow has the evidence just in case you need to be convinced. Here's a partial transcript:
Republicans proposed a deficit commission. President Obama endorsed the idea so then Republicans decided they‘re against it.

Republicans proposed pay-as-you-go rules for budgeting. President Obama endorsed the idea. Then Republicans decided they were against it too. Republicans who voted for the bank bailout are now criticizing President Obama for that same bank bailout.

Republicans supported President Bush‘s policy of trying terrorism suspects in U.S. courts. Now that President Obama is implementing that same policy, they decided they‘re against that now, too.

Republicans supported a cap-and-trade policy against global warming. Now that President Obama is trying to pass that same policy, Republicans have decided - say it with me now - they‘re against that, too.

See the pattern here? What Republicans are doing on policy is no longer interesting. It is so thoroughly unrelentingly, consistently predictable that anyone who thinks it‘s an open question as to what Republicans are going to do about the next legislation that‘s proposed just is not paying attention.
Maddow documents at great length Republicans voting against the stimulus and yet defending the use of stimulus money in their home districts as good policy. Lisa Lerer of Politico has also documented this example of Republican hypocrisy.

Why would Republicans do this?

They are loyal to the Republican Party first. Remember McCain's "Country First" campaign slogan? A complete crock.

Maddow's advice to Democrats?
Charging [Republicans] with hypocrisy, appealing to their better, more practical, more what‘s-best-for-the-country patriotic angels is like trying to teach your dog to drive.

It wastes a lot of time. It won‘t work. And ultimately the dog comes out of the exercise less embarrassed for failing than you do for trying. Grow up, Democrats. Face the music. Do it alone. You‘re the majority. Kill the filibuster if they won‘t let you use that majority. The country needs you to.
I couldn't agree more.

Show transcript:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Retard's Teleprompter

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sarah Palin Uses a Hand-O-Prompter
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy

Sarah Palin and her running mate

Sarah Palin with her 2008 and 2012 running mate, Trig Palin. Source:

In "Sarah Palin Is a Genius at Taking Umbrage," Emily Bazelton writes that Palin, because she is the mother of a child with Down Syndrome, can get decent political mileage out of over-the-top umbrage in certain situations. Further, Palin (or her handlers) know this and take advantage of it. "It's another genius shot from her motherhood arsenal—an arsenal she's figured out how to deploy like no other woman in politics," writes Bazelton.

Which situations? Recently, Obama said that he bowls like he's in the Special Olympics. And Rahm Emanuel recently criticized some liberals as being "fucking retarded."

What's kind of funny about all of this is that I have often thought that Palin is fucking retarded. And I have thought that she campaigns for national office as if she were in the Special Olympics.

I still find it hard to believe that she wants to be President, now that she is producing so much video for Fox News that might be used against her down the road. But, as Bazelton points out, she appears to be positioning herself to do just that.

One of the many things that bothers me about Palin is her running mate, Trig Palin. The Palins must have thought that they had hit the jackpot when she found herself pregnant with a Down Syndrome baby. Trig is now a living, breathing, token special needs child that Palin can use to appeal to voters and disarm their rational faculties. The strategy is so transparent, I don't know why more people don't complain about it. To use some Kantian language, Trig is being used as a means to Palin's political ends. And since Trig cannot consent to Palin's scheme, he is being used as a mere means. This is morally wrong. Her base—or that part of it that realizes what she is doing—is giving her a pass because it is politically expedient to do so.

Or so they think.

Last weekend, as Palin was pandering to the Tea Party in Nashville, she asked everyone, "How's that hopey-changey stuff workin' out for you?"

"Not great," I thought, "since you and the Party of No have, with your extreme partisan maneuvering and propagandizing, made change so difficult, bitch."

Obama won the last election by fifty-two percent. How does Palin expect to win an election by mocking potentially all of the people who voted for him? I don't understand the strategy. In fact, one might even call the strategy "retarded."

A Few Climate Denial Crocks of the Week

Here are two videos from the series Climate Denial Crock of the Week with Peter Sinclair.

You have probably heard someone justify skepticism about the reality of climate change by pointing at the snow outside their window—as if a colder-than-usual winter was proof that all of the scientists who are convinced that climate change is real somehow made a mistake. In this video, Sinclair explains what is wrong with this argument.

Some global climate change deniers justify their skepticism by claiming that large numbers of scientists actually deny the reality of global climate change. It is often said that 32,000 scientists have signed a petition denying its reality. But it's a crock. Sinclair explains why in this video.

An Overview of the Same-Sex Marriage Debate v1.3


Monday, February 8, 2010

The Smug and the Dead

Two especially interesting blog entries concerning the Tebow Super Bowl ad produced by Focus on the Family have appeared on Slate recently. Those of you who haven't seen the ad may see it below.

In "The Invisible Dead: The grisly truth about the Super Bowl abortion ad," William Saletan discusses the facts about Pam Tebow's medical condition when she declined to abort the being who would become Tim Tebow. Saletan writes:
Pam's story certainly is moving. But as a guide to making abortion decisions, it's misleading. Doctors are right to worry about continuing pregnancies like hers. Placental abruption has killed thousands of women and fetuses. No doubt some of these women trusted in God and said no to abortion, as she did. But they didn't end up with Heisman-winning sons. They ended up dead.
Read the entire entry here.

In "Tebow Ad All Smiles, Cruelty," Amanda Marcotte discusses the perhaps unintended suggestions of the ad. Marcotte writes:
When you argue that you survived a harrowing pregnancy because you're "tough," you imply that other women who die under similar circumstances were too weak to deserve to survive. It's already bad enough that the religious right shames women who choose abortion for choosing their education, careers, relationships, already existing children, or their own lives over the obligation to have another baby. But shaming women for being weak who die trying to fill the mandate (or who are deprived of the choice) to bear children at all costs? That's dark indeed, no matter how glowingly white the background of the ad is.
Read the entire entry here.

Marcotte's blog entry resonated with me. As I recall saying elsewhere in this blog, a loathing of human beings is an essential part of Christianity, no matter how vociferously any particular Christian might deny it. Some Christians, however, reserve a special loathing for those of us who dare not to conform to their Christian worldview. The Tebow ad is an insult to anyone who is not irrational enough to roll the dice with their own lives like Pam Tebow. The smiling faces delivering the underlying "misogynist ideology," as Marcotte puts it, aren't nearly as kind as they are smug. And if there's one thing I hate, it's smugness. How they hope this ad will appeal to the very people the ad insults is a mystery.

Paul Krugman: America Is Not Yet Lost

Published: February 7, 2010

A version of this article appeared in print on February 8, 2010, on page A21 of the New York edition of the New York Times

We’ve always known that America’s reign as the world’s greatest nation would eventually end. But most of us imagined that our downfall, when it came, would be something grand and tragic.

What we’re getting instead is less a tragedy than a deadly farce. Instead of fraying under the strain of imperial overstretch, we’re paralyzed by procedure. Instead of re-enacting the decline and fall of Rome, we’re re-enacting the dissolution of 18th-century Poland.

A brief history lesson: In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Polish legislature, the Sejm, operated on the unanimity principle: any member could nullify legislation by shouting “I do not allow!” This made the nation largely ungovernable, and neighboring regimes began hacking off pieces of its territory. By 1795 Poland had disappeared, not to re-emerge for more than a century.

Today, the U.S. Senate seems determined to make the Sejm look good by comparison.

Last week, after nine months, the Senate finally approved Martha Johnson to head the General Services Administration, which runs government buildings and purchases supplies. It’s an essentially nonpolitical position, and nobody questioned Ms. Johnson’s qualifications: she was approved by a vote of 94 to 2. But Senator Christopher Bond, Republican of Missouri, had put a “hold” on her appointment to pressure the government into approving a building project in Kansas City.

This dubious achievement may have inspired Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama. In any case, Mr. Shelby has now placed a hold on all outstanding Obama administration nominations — about 70 high-level government positions — until his state gets a tanker contract and a counterterrorism center.

What gives individual senators this kind of power? Much of the Senate’s business relies on unanimous consent: it’s difficult to get anything done unless everyone agrees on procedure. And a tradition has grown up under which senators, in return for not gumming up everything, get the right to block nominees they don’t like.

In the past, holds were used sparingly. That’s because, as a Congressional Research Service report on the practice says, the Senate used to be ruled by “traditions of comity, courtesy, reciprocity, and accommodation.” But that was then. Rules that used to be workable have become crippling now that one of the nation’s major political parties has descended into nihilism, seeing no harm — in fact, political dividends — in making the nation ungovernable.

How bad is it? It’s so bad that I miss Newt Gingrich.

Readers may recall that in 1995 Mr. Gingrich, then speaker of the House, cut off the federal government’s funding and forced a temporary government shutdown. It was ugly and extreme, but at least Mr. Gingrich had specific demands: he wanted Bill Clinton to agree to sharp cuts in Medicare.

Today, by contrast, the Republican leaders refuse to offer any specific proposals. They inveigh against the deficit — and last month their senators voted in lockstep against any increase in the federal debt limit, a move that would have precipitated another government shutdown if Democrats hadn’t had 60 votes. But they also denounce anything that might actually reduce the deficit, including, ironically, any effort to spend Medicare funds more wisely.

And with the national G.O.P. having abdicated any responsibility for making things work, it’s only natural that individual senators should feel free to take the nation hostage until they get their pet projects funded.

The truth is that given the state of American politics, the way the Senate works is no longer consistent with a functioning government. Senators themselves should recognize this fact and push through changes in those rules, including eliminating or at least limiting the filibuster. This is something they could and should do, by majority vote, on the first day of the next Senate session.

Don’t hold your breath. As it is, Democrats don’t even seem able to score political points by highlighting their opponents’ obstructionism.

It should be a simple message (and it should have been the central message in Massachusetts): a vote for a Republican, no matter what you think of him as a person, is a vote for paralysis. But by now, we know how the Obama administration deals with those who would destroy it: it goes straight for the capillaries. Sure enough, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, accused Mr. Shelby of “silliness.” Yep, that will really resonate with voters.

After the dissolution of Poland, a Polish officer serving under Napoleon penned a song that eventually — after the country’s post-World War I resurrection — became the country’s national anthem. It begins, “Poland is not yet lost.”

Well, America is not yet lost. But the Senate is working on it.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Pot and the Kettle

The following passages appear in an Associated Press story.
Questioning the Supreme Court and other government branches needs to stay within the range of fair criticism or "run the risk in our society of undermining institutions that we need to preserve our liberties," Justice Clarence Thomas said Thursday.
Thomas also told an audience at the University of Florida law school that some comments he hears about the court "border on being irresponsible. . . ."
Thomas supported the 5-4 ruling that allows companies and unions to spend freely on ads that promote or target candidates by name.
Thomas said the court should be questioned but is bothered by some rhetoric with "the idea of assigning ulterior motives to opinions that people don't agree with, rather than saying simply that the court doesn't agree with my argument. . . ."
Thomas brushed off a question about campaign finance, wasn't asked specifically about adding more minorities to the court or who he expects will be the next justice to leave the court. He did, however, address campaign financing Tuesday at an event at Stetson University.
"I found it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it were The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company," Thomas said at Stetson, according to a report in The New York Times. "These are corporations."

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson