Archive for February 4th, 2009
I have been reading the Daily Howler for years now. Some times I agreed with him, some times I did not, most of the time I misspelled his name. Over the years, though, I never really understood his constant outrage over the treatment Al Gore got in 2000. If you have read him for a while, as I have, you will notice it always comes up sooner or later, and I never understood it and sometimes made jokes about it in the comments section here and elsewhere.
Until now. The past few weeks, DougJ’s frequent posts about the WaPo chat rooms and other encounters with the chattering classes have been really eye-opening. His most recent post, in which Ruth Marcus creates a false equivalency to the eight year crime spree we just endured with some woman not paying a couple hundred in taxes really just sums up how twisted the conventional wisdom is in DC.
I know many of you keep saying we should just ignore the talking heads and the chattering classes, and we should just tune them out, but that is ridiculous. We can’t. They control the debate, and their silliness, their inconsequential bullshit, and their tit for tat false equivalencies are really destroying this nation. I got a phone call last night from someone, and the gist of the conversation was “Well, so much for hope and change. That didn’t take long. How about Obama’s performance officer not paying her taxes, either?” This wasn’t an uneducated, uninformed person- this is someone who follows the new, which is precisely the problem.
Don’t get me wrong- I think it is insane these three candidates were not vetted better, but what is driving me truly and utterly to the brink of madness is the notion that the sins of these people is somehow on par with the real sins of the past eight years. The “shoe on the other foot” comment from Marcus almost made me spit up. Of course I got that phone call last night, and the reason I did was because HE IS INFORMED, at least by the standards of the day. He reads the newspapers and watched the nightly news shows on the cable networks. When you are getting your information from folks like Ruth Marcus, what could possibly go wrong? …
Yesterday, President Obama’s nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Daschle, withdrew after it was revealed he failed to pay over $100,000 in taxes. In the wake of Daschle’s departure, the right-wing is gunning for another Cabinet victim — Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), the nominee for Labor Secretary. The Heritage Foundation writes, “Hilda Solis: The Next Tom Daschle?” Some more examples:
National Review: While everyone is looking at Tom Daschle’s tax problems…a new issue has arisen concerning another Obama cabinet nomination, that of Rep. Hilda Solis to be Secretary of Labor.
The Weekly Standard: A seemingly innocuous letter sent to the Clerk of the House of Representatives last Thursday by President Obama’s Secretary of Labor nominee Hilda Solis raises serious and troubling legal questions about her nomination and apparent violation of House ethics rules.
RedState: [I]f we are lucky we may just see the appointment of this hardcore union shill go down in flames.
According to The Hill, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) “has questioned whether Solis had done lobbying work while she was both a House member and an official at a pro-labor group, American Rights at Work” (ARW). Solis’ confirmation has been indefinitely delayed, and today Obama nominated Ed Hugler, deputy assistant secretary for operations at the Labor Department, to serve as acting secretary.
As The Wonk Room noted last week, even before these lobbying charges were raised against Solis, Senate Republicans were “burying her in paperwork.” Their real gripe appears to be her support for the Employee Free Choice Act; the New York Times called the delay in her confirmation “a way for Republican senators to score tough-guy points with business constituents who are driven to distraction by the thought of unions.”
And as for the “conflict of interest” that the right wing is highlighting? Solis wasn’t paid for her activities with ARW, and as the Washington Independent pointed out, her role was well-known and ceremonial:
What would be the charge? Either that she participated in lobbying by being a leader with ARW, or that she erred by originally not mentioning this job in her disclosure documents. Two reasons this might not work: Solis’ role in ARW was well-known and ceremonial (it’s on their Website), and no congressman has hinted that he/she would file a complaint that could make a splash but not be deemed frivolous and politically motivated.
Greg Sargent reported recently, “Some top operatives in the labor movement are frustrated with the Obama administration for not giving them the go-ahead to publicly target Republicans who appear to be stalling Solis’ confirmation.” “The anonymous hold on Solis is a clear proxy fight for Employee Free Choice,” said a top operative at a prominent union. “And from the Obama Administration … crickets.”
Interesting case, discussed by Sherry F. Colb, Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell Law School.
In March of last year, an eleven-year-old girl died of untreated diabetes, while her parents prayed for her recovery and chose not to consult a medical professional. The medical consensus is that Madeline Kara Neumann (who was known by her middle name) probably took about a month to die – in terrible pain, wasting away to 65 pounds by the end – and that insulin and intravenous fluids would have saved her young life.
Prosecutors subsequently charged Kara’s parents with second-degree reckless homicide under Wisconsin law for failing to prevent her death. Last month, the judge in their case rejected the defense’s argument that the prosecution was violating the couple’s rights to religious freedom. As a matter of law, this ruling is uncontroversial. Yet the case raises the more difficult and broader question of how the law should treat anti-social behavior that is motivated by religious faith.
Kara Neumann’s Case
The First Amendment argument for the Neumanns’ faith-healing defense is quite weak. The U.S. Supreme Court has said, in Employment Div. v. Smith, that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause does not entitle religious actors to an exemption from the even-handed application of generally applicable laws; it entitles them only to be free from discrimination based on religion. For this reason, in Smith itself, the Court found no First Amendment right on the part of Native Americans to use peyote, even though the peyote ritual is part of a Native-American religious tradition.
One could (and many did) fault the Supreme Court in Smith for its failure to understand the distinction between requesting a special exemption from a generally applicable law, and calling for the Court’s recognition that a forbidden religious practice (such as using peyote) might be meaningfully equivalent to lawful, majority-religion practices (such as drinking wine as a sacrament). Some outrage likely flowed as well from the view that the religious use of peyote is innocuous. The same, of course, cannot be said for the faith-based neglect of a child’s medical needs.
Moreover, even under the more robust Free Exercise regime that preceded the religious neutrality of Smith, the Court had held that parents may not …
From the Drug Policy Alliance:
Who’s really in charge here?
While on the campaign trail, President Obama promised to end medical marijuana raids in places like California where the right to use marijuana on a doctor’s recommendation is protected.
And now, the DEA has raided not one, but at least four medical marijuana dispensaries in California. Either those were hollow promises or President Obama’s Department of Justice is not respecting his stated positions.
Sick patients who use medical marijuana in states like California are in grave danger from these wasteful abuses of federal power. You can do something to help.
Last week, thousands of DPA Network supporters like you faxed the White House imploring President Obama to end these raids. He has yet to respond — so now is the time to take the next step.
By taking just a few moments to call the White House now and urge President Obama to honor his campaign promise to end these raids, you can protect sick and dying patients. There are detailed instructions on the website.
DPA Network is already working behind the scenes with our allies in Congress to pressure the new administration to stand up for justice. Together, we can ensure the safety of patients across the country, but only if you take action.
Steve Benen has a good post, including some insight into the strengths of the GOP:
When Republicans were running the show in DC, it was obviously a rather pathetic sight. The problem wasn’t just with the GOP proposals — though they were, to be sure, a complete mess — but with the Republicans’ inability to actually govern the country. It quickly became apparent, especially in 2005 and 2006, that being in the majority and holding positions of power doesn’t play to Republicans’ strengths — it requires them to exercise power effectively. That’s just not what the GOP does.
But it occurs to me, watching the debate over the economic stimulus package the last few weeks, that Republicans are not without talents. Indeed, I’d argue GOP lawmakers are right where they need to be to play to their strengths. They’re not good at governing, but they’re exceptional at stopping others from governing. They don’t have what it takes to be a functioning majority party, but they’re a finely-tuned machine when it comes to working as an obstructionist opposition party, blocking good ideas, manipulating news outlets, and misleading the public.
Indeed, in the midst of a global economic calamity, Republicans are walking around with their heads held high, despite chronic unpopularity, a lack of political authority, no policy agenda, and a record of abject failure. Why? Because they’re doing exactly what they do best.
Josh Marshall noted this afternoon:
Behind all the back and forth over the Stimulus Bill is a simple fact: …
Andrew Sullivan notes this article from the BBC, reporting on threats made by the U.S. to punish Britain if British courts disclose what was done to one of its citizens, Binyam Mohamed, a former Guantanamo detainee who is suing the British Government for its complicity in his torture. British judges "said they wanted the full details of the alleged torture to be published in the interests of safeguarding the rule of law, free speech and democratic accountability" — what are those strange things? — but decided not to do so because it was "persuaded that it was not in the public interest to publish those details as the US government could then inflict on the citizens of the United Kingdom a very considerable increase in the dangers they face at a time when a serious terrorist threat still pertains."
So not only has our own Government erected an impenetrable wall of secrecy around what it has done, but is demanding that other countries do the same, upon threat of being punished. As Sullivan said: "Torture is a cancer. It spreads through the legal system until it destroys the integrity of all of it. It will also destroy alliances if allowed to spread. The scale of that destruction has yet to be measured or understood. Obama has now drawn a line under it. But that is only the start of a process of recovery."
Dick Cheney gave a 90-minute interview to The Politico‘s John Harris, Mike Allen and Jim Vandhei that provides probably the most explicit expression of the warped mentality that drove the country over the last eight years. The fear-mongering and false claims are far too numerous to chronicle here.
I’ll be on The Rachel Maddow Show tonight to discuss this interview and related issued. I believe my segment will begin roughly at 9:30 p.m.
In writing the article about the interview, Harris, Allen and Vandehei included a cursory paragraph noting that Democrats view Cheney as a "man who became unhinged by his fears, responsible for major misjudgments in Iraq and Afghanistan, willing to bend or break legal precedents and constitutional principles to advance his aims," but otherwise did nothing other than mindlessly repeat what Cheney said without a word of skepticism about it — like the good stenographers they are — thereby demonstrating why Cheney wisely chose them for his first post-White-House interview. Harris was just on MSNBC talking to David Shuster about the interview and did nothing but recite what Cheney claimed; neither uttered a word of challenge to any of it.