Friday, August 06, 2010

Great quote from "Million Dollar Baby"

I'm 32, Mr. Dunn, and I'm here celebrating the fact that I spent another year scraping dishes and waitressing which is what I've been doing since 13, and according to you, I'll be 37 before I can even throw a decent punch, which I have to admit, after working on this speed bag for a month, may be the God's simple truth.

Other truth is, my brother's in prison, my sister cheats on welfare by pretending one of her babies is still alive, my daddy's dead, and my momma weighs 312lbs. If I was thinking straight, I'd go back home, find a used trailer, buy a deep fryer and some oreos.

Problem is, this the only thing I ever felt good doing. If I'm too old for this, then I got nothing. That enough truth to suit you?

Maggie Fitzgerald "Million Dollar Baby"

news jobs and oil

Dismal Jobs Report Riles Wall Street

American companies added just 71,000 jobs in July—below analysts' expectations and far less than the 200,000 new monthly jobs needed to lower the unemployment rate. The jobless data, reported Friday morning by the Labor Department, sent markets sharply lower. By Friday afternoon, the Dow was down over 130 points. The unemployment rate for July remained at 9.5 percent and the "underemployment" rate held at 16.5 percent from June. Economist Dean Baker writes in The Daily Beast about the dismal outlook for the rest of the year, plus where the jobs are—and are not.

Read it at The Daily Beast

BP Eyes Reservoir Below Capped Well

BP might drill once more in the same undersea pocket of oil in the Gulf whose catastrophic leak they just plugged, the company said Friday. "There's lots of oil and gas here," BP's chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, said. "We're going to have to think about what to do with that at some point." Until Suttles announced Friday that BP would use the relief well, now days away from intersecting with the wellhead, to seal the well from the bottom, the company had been hedging regarding exactly how they planned to use it—if left unplugged, BP could use it to extract the estimated $4 billion worth of crude still in the reservoir. That sum must look especially attractive to the company as it potentially faces tens of billions of dollars in liabilities from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Of course, reopening the well would do nothing to help BP's popularity in the region. "People died out there on that rig," Linda Kaye Randolph, a real-estate investor in the area said in an interview Thursday. "It isn't about the money. It would bother me that they're not respecting the people who died there. There's thousands of other wells. They can find another place. Leave that one alone."

Read it at CBS News

Stupid is as stupid does!

'Birther' gets his day in court
CNN reports that decorated Army doctor and 18-year veteran Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin is scheduled for a court hearing in Virginia. Lakin faces court martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq because, he believes, President Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore ineligible to be Commander in Chief.

The charges against Lakin include disobeying a lawful order and dereliction of duty.

Numerous fact-checking organizations have debunked the theory that the president is not a United States citizen. The governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, has also confirmed the president was born in the United States. Despite the evidence, according to a CNN poll, Lakin is among over a quarter of Americans - so called 'birthers' - who continue to doubt Obama's citizenship.

the F....word News Network! FNC

Media Matters: Of mosques and mendacity

If you've followed the conservative media over the past few weeks, you can be forgiven for thinking that it's a tough time for white Christians in America right now, what with the New Black Panthers denying white people their voting rights and undocumented workers clogging up our civic machinery with "anchor babies." The message coming from Fox News and some of the more determined attention-seekers on the right is that we're in a battle for white America's Jesus-worshiping soul, beset as it is by immigrants and black USDA officials and, perhaps most threateningly, Muslims.

The New York City landmarks commission decided this week to act in the interest of New Yorkers rather than out-of-state conservative pundits and voted to clear the way for the construction of an Islamic center in lower Manhattan, a few blocks from the site where the World Trade Center once stood. This was unacceptable to said pundits, who insisted that this site of America's mourning should be exempted from American values. "We're all about religious freedom," explained Sarah Palin, but only "down the road." Newt Gingrich announced, "I favor religious freedom," but not "right at the edge of a place where, let's be clear, thousands of Americans were killed in an attack by radical Islamists."

The argument from the right is relatively straightforward -- Muslim terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers, therefore we should ban all things Muslim from the area, in the interest of healing and sympathy (although, as Salon noted, they were curiously silent when Muslims began praying in the Pentagon shortly after 9-11). That argument necessarily holds all Muslims accountable for the detestable acts of the small and violent minority of Muslims who take up the terrorist mantle. On its own, that would be offensive enough, but people like Palin and Gingrich purport to be sensitive to that distinction and nonetheless run roughshod over it. Palin famously took to her Twitter account to exhort "peaceful Muslims" to "refudiate" the Islamic center. Gingrich acknowledged the differences between "radical Islamists" and other Muslims before launching into an unhinged attack on the "Ground Zero mosque" and "Creeping Sharia in the United States."

Others simply can't be bothered to even pretend to understand that "Muslim" does not equal "terrorist." A "recruiting tool for domestic extremists" was how Rush Limbaugh described the Islamic center. Glenn Beck called it an "Allah tells me to blow up America mosque." Comments like these badly mischaracterize what the "Ground Zero mosque" actually is and the role it will play in America's unsettled relationship with the Muslim world.

The people behind the mosque are Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan, and contrary to what the right wing would have you believe, Time magazine says they're "actually the kind of Muslim leaders right-wing commentators fantasize about: modernists and moderates who openly condemn the death cult of al-Qaeda and its adherents." Rauf has written a book titled What's Right with Islam Is What's Right with America. In late 2001, after the 9-11 attacks, Rauf was quoted in New Jersey's Bergen County Record as saying that Islam must "define its 'American-ness,' that is, adapt to the American culture." The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, who knows Rauf, describes him as representing "what Bin Laden fears most: a Muslim who believes that it is possible to remain true to the values of Islam and, at the same time, to be a loyal citizen of a Western, non-Muslim country."

That message, however, is unimportant to right-wingers who are more interested in turning the "Ground Zero mosque" into a wedge issue and stoking Islamophobia for political benefit. The tragic farce of it all, as described by Slate's William Saletan, is that people like Palin and Gingrich, who purport to be standing up against terror and for America, are actually promulgating the same message as Osama bin Laden -- that "the United States represents Christianity, al-Qaida represents Muslims, Christians won't protect Muslims, the West hates mosques, peaceful coexistence is a fraud, and the 'war on terrorism' is really a war on Islam." It's hard to argue with that assessment when you hear the likes of Limbaugh claiming that the "Ground Zero mosque" means Muslims are "planting the flag of victory."

Jonathan Chait surveyed the right-wing opposition to the mosque and concluded that "a lot of people are going to eventually feel ashamed about where they stood." That might be true, but all signs seem to indicate that these people are about as familiar with the concept of shame as they are with religious freedom.

A big week for "judicial activism"

If the conservative media have taught us anything else -- and they haven't -- it's that members of the judiciary who are progressive and don't adhere strictly to right-wingers' shifting interpretations of the law are "judicial activists" who "legislate from the bench" and see the Constitution as a "living document" and so forth. Of course, the conservative faction of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts is carving out quite a legacy of judicial activism, but that doesn't count because they're conservatives.

And speaking of the Roberts court, it picked up its newest member this week as Elena Kagan, President Obama's pick to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, was confirmed by the Senate in a largely party-line vote that, while it got the job done, did not portend well for future nominations. She will be the next associate justice of the Supreme Court in spite of a spirited smear campaign by conservatives who were not about to limit themselves to cries of "judicial activism." They hurled just about every attack they could at Kagan throughout the nomination process, and it's still going strong even though the deed is done.

Just this week alone, conservatives attempted to force a delay on Kagan's vote by screaming that she lied to the Judiciary Committee about her stance on partial birth abortion. When that failed, they claimed she does not believe in and seeks to destroy the Constitution, they attacked her looks, and even called her a stealth Muslim.

But as intense as the attacks on Kagan were, the fusillade against Judge Vaughn Walker was even worse. Walker ruled this week that California's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, and right-wingers lit into him not just because he ruled against their interests, but because he's gay. "Nero, like Judge Vaughn, wanted the community to embrace his unnatural way of life," declared The Washington Times, perhaps subconsciously acknowledging the stale antiquity of its position. The Times also insisted that Walker should have recused himself from the case because he is gay, a ludicrous argument that earned swift rebukes from people who actually know what they're talking about.

The intense right-wing focus on Judge Walker's personal life, however, managed to overlook one aspect of his background -- the fact that he was nominated as a federal judge by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

But such things are bound to happen to "judicial activists" when they do clearly unconstitutional things like stand up for equal rights.

He meant what he said, he said what he meant, Fox News stood by him, 1,000 percent

It's been clear for some time now that the culture of accountability at Fox News doesn't, you know ... exist. If you're a Fox News employee, you can get away with pretty much anything. Photoshopping the faces of New York Times reporters to make them ugly caricatures of themselves? No problem. Bringing on a racist anti-Semite to attack the African-American presidential candidate? Nothing to worry about. Cropping video of the president to claim he spoke for terrorist sympathizers? Give that man a raise!

But if there's a poster child for Fox News' permissive attitude toward media malpractice, it's Glenn Beck. After all, this is the guy whose attack on the president as a "racist" cost the network millions in ad revenue, and the worst he got was Rupert Murdoch's enthusiastic "good on ya!" (a Fox News spokesman later said Murdoch "does not ... think the president is a racist"). And this week we learned that there really doesn't seem to be anything Beck can do that will get him in trouble with his bosses.

It all started back on May 28, when Beck attacked Simon Greer of the Jewish Funds for Justice, who had called Beck a "con man" for "bottling [his] ideological agenda and labeling it theology." Beck responded by saying that Greer's philosophy "leads to death camps. A Jew, of all people, should know that. This is exactly the kind of talk that led to the death camps in Germany. Put humankind and the common good first." After Beck attacked this prominent Jewish individual for helping to promote a second Holocaust, Fox News executives decided it might be a good idea to meet with Greer on behalf of their once-again wayward star and talk things over.

According to TVNewser, Fox News senior vice president Joel Cheatwood made clear to Greer that, in spite of Beck's horribly offensive rhetoric concerning one of the worst instances of genocide the world has ever known, Fox News "absolutely stood behind Glenn Beck 1000%."

So while this is obviously a disheartening development for society at large, Fox News hosts should be excited. If Fox executives will allow Glenn Beck to accuse Jews of, in the words of Greer, " paving the way for fascism," then they're free to get as creative as they want and attack anyone for pretty much anything.

Of course, they already do that anyway, but at least now it's official.

Simon Maloy is a Research Fellow at Media Matters for America.

Fear-Mongering for American Votes

Xenophobia: Fear-Mongering for American Votes

Leading Republicans have gotten chilly toward the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to people born in the United States. Senators Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Sessions and Jon Kyl have been suggesting that the country should take a look at it, re-examine it, think it over, hold hearings. They seem worried that maybe we got something wrong nearly 150 years ago, after fighting the Civil War, freeing enslaved Africans and declaring that they and their descendants were not property or partial persons, but free and full Americans.

As statements of core values go, the 14th Amendment is a keeper. It decreed, belatedly, that citizenship is not a question of race, color, beliefs, wealth, political status or bloodline. It cannot fall prey to political whims or debates over who is worthy to be an American. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” it says, “are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

People like Mr. Sessions, who pride themselves on getting the Constitution just right (on, say, guns), are finding this language too confusing. “I’m not sure exactly what the drafters of the amendment had in mind,” said Mr. Sessions, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, “but I doubt it was that somebody could fly in from Brazil and have a child and fly back home with that child, and that child is forever an American citizen.”

It’s true that air travel was not a big focus in 1868, but this is not about a horde of pregnant jet-setting Brazilians, if, indeed, such a thing even exists. The targets are Mexicans, and the other mostly Spanish-speaking people who are the subjects of a spurious campaign against “anchor babies” — children of illegal immigrants supposedly brought forth to invade and occupy.

Usually alarms about scary foreign infants are made by one-note zealots like Tom Tancredo of Colorado. But it’s a bipartisan temptation. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, who berated Republicans this week about abandoning their principles over birthright citizenship, did so himself in a 1993 bill for which he later apologized.

Thankfully, the Constitution is sturdy. The birthright-deniers will not easily rewrite it or legislate around it. More than a century of jurisprudence stands against their claim that the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” (an exception for diplomats’ children and members of sovereign Indian tribes) also alienates undocumented children.

The proponents of changing the 14th Amendment also would have to acknowledge the big-government colossus that new rules would require, burdening all parents to prove their children’s status. New battalions of attorneys would gain full employment to fight over thousands of newborns rendered stateless each year, an instant, permanent underclass. Then there’s the obsolescence of all those civics texts, old movies, patriotic picture books and red-white-and-blue songs.

The United States has never had a neat, painless way to add newcomers. But our most shameful moments have involved the exclusion of groups, often those that do our hardest labor: Indians, African-Americans, Chinese, Irish, Italians, Catholics, Jews, Poles, Japanese-Americans, Hispanics. America has stood proudest when it dared to stretch the definition of who “we” are.

As a result, this is still the most welcoming country for immigrants. A few politicians chumming for votes in an off-year election cannot be allowed to destroy that.

PAUL KRUGMAN The Flimflam Man

The Flimflam Man By PAUL KRUGMAN

One depressing aspect of American politics is the susceptibility of the political and media establishment to charlatans. You might have thought, given past experience, that D.C. insiders would be on their guard against conservatives with grandiose plans. But no: as long as someone on the right claims to have bold new proposals, he’s hailed as an innovative thinker. And nobody checks his arithmetic.

Which brings me to the innovative thinker du jour: Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Mr. Ryan has become the Republican Party’s poster child for new ideas thanks to his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a plan for a major overhaul of federal spending and taxes. News media coverage has been overwhelmingly favorable; on Monday, The Washington Post put a glowing profile of Mr. Ryan on its front page, portraying him as the G.O.P.’s fiscal conscience. He’s often described with phrases like “intellectually audacious.”

But it’s the audacity of dopes. Mr. Ryan isn’t offering fresh food for thought; he’s serving up leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce.

Mr. Ryan’s plan calls for steep cuts in both spending and taxes. He’d have you believe that the combined effect would be much lower budget deficits, and, according to that Washington Post report, he speaks about deficits “in apocalyptic terms.” And The Post also tells us that his plan would, indeed, sharply reduce the flow of red ink: “The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan would cut the budget deficit in half by 2020.”

But the budget office has done no such thing. At Mr. Ryan’s request, it produced an estimate of the budget effects of his proposed spending cuts — period. It didn’t address the revenue losses from his tax cuts.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has, however, stepped into the breach. Its numbers indicate that the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion.

And that’s about the same as the budget office’s estimate of the 2020 deficit under the Obama administration’s plans. That is, Mr. Ryan may speak about the deficit in apocalyptic terms, but even if you believe that his proposed spending cuts are feasible — which you shouldn’t — the Roadmap wouldn’t reduce the deficit. All it would do is cut benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich.

And I do mean slash. The Tax Policy Center finds that the Ryan plan would cut taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population in half, giving them 117 percent of the plan’s total tax cuts. That’s not a misprint. Even as it slashed taxes at the top, the plan would raise taxes for 95 percent of the population.

Finally, let’s talk about those spending cuts. In its first decade, most of the alleged savings in the Ryan plan come from assuming zero dollar growth in domestic discretionary spending, which includes everything from energy policy to education to the court system. This would amount to a 25 percent cut once you adjust for inflation and population growth. How would such a severe cut be achieved? What specific programs would be slashed? Mr. Ryan doesn’t say.

After 2020, the main alleged saving would come from sharp cuts in Medicare, achieved by dismantling Medicare as we know it, and instead giving seniors vouchers and telling them to buy their own insurance. Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s the same plan Newt Gingrich tried to sell in 1995.

And we already know, from experience with the Medicare Advantage program, that a voucher system would have higher, not lower, costs than our current system. The only way the Ryan plan could save money would be by making those vouchers too small to pay for adequate coverage. Wealthy older Americans would be able to supplement their vouchers, and get the care they need; everyone else would be out in the cold.

In practice, that probably wouldn’t happen: older Americans would be outraged — and they vote. But this means that the supposed budget savings from the Ryan plan are a sham.

So why have so many in Washington, especially in the news media, been taken in by this flimflam? It’s not just inability to do the math, although that’s part of it. There’s also the unwillingness of self-styled centrists to face up to the realities of the modern Republican Party; they want to pretend, in the teeth of overwhelming evidence, that there are still people in the G.O.P. making sense. And last but not least, there’s deference to power — the G.O.P. is a resurgent political force, so one mustn’t point out that its intellectual heroes have no clothes.

But they don’t. The Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America’s fiscal future.