Our regular featured content-On This Day In History May 3 by TheMomCatPunting the Pundits by TheMomCatThese featured articles-Good German by ek hornbeckGenetically Modified Food by ek hornbeckBlame Canada by ek hornbeckThis is an Open ThreadThe Stars[...]
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Elizabeth Warren campaign rallyElizabeth Warren is not a professional politician. That's one of the things that we like most about her as a candidate. She's not running for Senate for her own self-aggrandizement, but to make a difference for the 99 percent in Massachusetts and in the country.
The downside, however, of being a novice politician has shown this week in her continuing flat-footed responses to the character attacks coming at her from the Right, over whether or not she truly has Native American blood (by all accounts she does) and whether she used that heritage to further her career (by all accounts she didn't).
This is as clear a case of the politics of personal destruction as we've seen in a while, and if you don't believe that, you need to read this column in the Boston Herald, the original source for the story. You're not going to find a more sexist and racist potrayal of Warren, one that exposes precisely what the Right is trying to do to her here. It's a smear job, straight out of the Lee Atwater-Karl Rove playbook, not-so-subtly telling a key segment of voters that this uppity woman (who may or may not also be a minority) took a job away from a white man.
Yes, it's bullshit. Yes it's a blatant character attack without substance. But it's dominated the news cycle this week, and it's time it went away. Warren has to make that happen. The voters of Massachusetts don't care about her grandfather's high cheekbones or her family oral history or her Oklahoman pride in her heritage. She's not running for governor of Oklahoma, she's running for the Senate in Massachusetts, a job for which she is eminently qualified, just as every university who has hired her has attested. It's indisputable that she's where she is today because of her glowing qualifications and hard work, not because of her bloodline or gender.
So it's time for Warren to pivot and stop getting sucked into letting her personal story become fodder for the Right. In retrospect, it was a mistake to check an innocuous box on a questionnaire for a law school faculty directory in 1985, and she should say so. Likewise, if Warren was aware that Harvard touted her as a Native American hire in 1996, she should acknowledge that it was a mistake on her part not to object at the time. She needs to simply own those mistakes, and move on to the real story: what's at stake in this election.
That's whether Massachusetts will continue to be represented by a senator who is nothing but a standard-issue, George W. Bush Republican, backed by Karl Rove. Massachusetts voters need to know that Scott Brown has committed to endless obstruction of President Obama's efforts and that he wants to take the country back to the disastrous policies of Bush.
They're using the Rove attack playbook because they're scared of Elizabeth Warren and the success she has had a consumer advocate. Scott Brown is a reliable lackey for the Republicans and for Wall Street, and they don't want to lose him. That's what this story is about. And that's what Warren and her campaign need to talk about, every day.
Help her tell that story. Chip in $5 to help Elizabeth Warren get the message out about what's important to Massachusetts.
Following the recent petition delivery by medical marijuana activists to her San Fransisco office, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) put out a statement expressing strong concerns about the federal government's increasingly aggressive[...]
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There is an immutable fact about history ? if you weren?t there, if you didn?t personally know and speak to the history makers, you can have no irrefutable, complete evidence of their intent. You can know concrete things, like dates. You can read treatises written by the historical participants and get some insight into what they were thinking. “Experts” can fill in some blanks. But at some level you can?t know, beyond a shadow of doubt, everything they thought, and more importantly, why.
Thomas Paine?s oft-cited Federalist Papers are a case-in-point. Constitutional fundamentalists often look at them as the end all and be all of all things Thomas Paine. We can verify many things Paine did and we can infer some intent from his writings, but the papers are only our best insight into the mind of Thomas Paine, not everything the man believed or how he dealt with those beliefs. Inference depends as much upon the reader as the writer, not unlike a fundamentalist?s view of the Bible.
I personally believe in the notion that the Constitution is a beautifully malleable document meant to live and grow and evolve as history waxes and wanes. I think that we should adhere to it as closely as possible, but I also think it is folly to apply 18th century societal norms and thought to a 21st century world. We are not the same citizens and this is not Philadelphia circa 1776.
Of course, I can?t irrefutably say that without a shadow of a doubt because Paine, Jefferson, and Washington weren?t my BFFs and available for an entertaining political debate over dinner. I can only speak to the here and now.
The argument is doubly clouded when ideologues pick and choose historical evidence. For example, proponents of corporate personhood often forget that interpretation wasn?t explicitly contained in the Constitution. Corporate personhood was the invention of an ?activist? Civil War era Supreme Court decision. My opinion is that it was a bad decision then and a bad decision now, but I can no more point to an amendment saying it is bad any more than a CEO or Supreme can point to it and say it’s swell. The difference is that I don’t get a vote. I’m not a Supreme and I don’t have the money to successfully argue the point. It’s galling, especially since one of the reasons the corporate personages have the money is because my rights as a flesh and bone citizen are subservient to theirs.
Likewise, opponents of mandated health care like to say that compelling citizens to buy specific things has never happened in America. However, there are cases of just that sort of behavior in our past, behavior that isn?t explained in the Federalist Papers or other writings.
In the late 1700s, Congress passed laws requiring ship owners to buy medical insurance for their seamen, force ?able-bodied men? to buy a gun, and require seamen to buy medical insurance for themselves. All were signed by Constitutional framers.
Even today, localities may require residents of a neighborhood to partially pay for the installation of water and sewer lines because the majority of the neighborhood?s residents have voted to have them installed. To do otherwise, would allow those who didn?t want to pay to put the entire burden of that infrastructure improvement on their neighbors, even as they can use it.
The debate about health care isn?t so much a Constitutional debate as a societal one. Should the government be able to act in support of the greater good or find itself constrained by 18th century thought, word, and deed? I think the framers would understand and take the route of the greater good. But you can?t prove the opposite any more than I can prove they would.
History is funny that way.
Obama: The bin Laden raid was the "longest 40 minutes of my life."[...]
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Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng just called in to a congressional hearing on his case. They put him on speakerphone. [...]
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Donald Rumsfeld now says the raid to nab Osama bin Laden was not a tough call, but five years ago Rumsfeld pulled the plug at the last minute on a Navy Seal raid against high-value al Qaeda targets.[...]
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Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Voting party over policy is a major dynamic in our electoral system, present in both Republican and Democratic sides of the Duopoly. Making loyalty to a party, or person, the basis for voting (and then for governing) is one of the most significant factors in keeping us stuck in our limiting either / or choices.
On May 1, Obama released the ?Presidential Proclamation ? Loyalty Day, 2012.? It?s what WH occupants do, so nothing unique to him, even though the Day is largely unknown. What it represents, though, is essential to the Two Party Front for the Oligarchy?s successful restriction of our options. The May Day actions are over, but the Loyalty Day framing is present, every day, and every election.
Renaming, and rebranding, May Day to ?Loyalty Day? was done in 1958, by Congress, then signed by Eisenhower the next year. I wrote about this here. That rebranding ? or to put it another way, that effort to change the subject ? isn?t Obama?s doing. But the proclamation he issued ? as May Day actions organized by Occupy, labor unions, immigration advocates, students and more were happening ? is a good, or bad, illustration of the marketing that helps maintain the gap that exists between Electeds, Elites, 1%-ers ? however you refer to them ? and the rest of us. A focus on ?loyalty? to the Constitution and our ?proud heritage? isn?t bad in itself. But when ?loyalty? is defined by those Electeds, Elites and 1%-ers in ways meant to benefit the definers, there?s a problem.
The proclamation is a familiar jumble of patriotic, feel good words that mostly serve as a distraction, a way to change an unpleasant (to the Electeds and Elites) subject insisted on by, in this case, people who focused on May Day concerns. We aren?t supposed to think, we?re supposed to pat ourselves and each other on the back for being ?loyal.? And ?loyal? citizens don?t rock the Two Party boat, and certainly don?t take May Day type concerns seriously. Because then, you?d be a communist or a socialist, kind of like using ?Forward? as a campaign slogan is communist or socialist.
The Presidential Proclamation ? Loyalty Day, 2012 follows. (All bolding is mine, indicating what might be tenuously related to 2012 realities for the 99%).
More than two centuries ago, our Founders laid out a charter that assured the rule of law and the rights of man. Through times of tranquility and the throes of change, the Constitution has always guided our course toward fulfilling that most noble promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve the chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. America has carried on not only for the skill or vision of history?s celebrated figures, but also for the generations who have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears and true to our founding documents. On Loyalty Day, we reflect on that proud heritage and press on in the long journey toward prosperity for all.
In the years since our Constitution was penned and ratified, Americans have moved our Nation forward by embracing a commitment to each other, to the fundamental principles that unite us, and to the future we share. We weathered the storms of civil war and segregation, of conflicts that spanned continents. We overcame threats from within and without ? from the specter of fascism abroad to the bitter injustice of disenfranchisement at home. We upheld the spirit of service at the core of our democracy, and we widened the circle of opportunity not just for a privileged few, but for the ambitious many. Time and again, men and women achieved what seemed impossible by joining imagination to common purpose and necessity to courage. That legacy still burns brightly, and the ideals it embodies remain a light to all the world.
Countless Americans demonstrate that same dedication to country today. It endures in the hearts of all who put their lives on the line to defend the land they love, just as it moves millions to improve their communities through volunteerism and civic participation. Their actions help ensure prosperity for this generation and those yet to come, and they honor the immutable truths enshrined in our Nation?s founding texts. On Loyalty Day, we rededicate ourselves to the common good, to the cornerstones of liberty, equality, and justice, and to the unending pursuit of a more perfect Union.
In order to recognize the American spirit of loyalty and the sacrifices that so many have made for our Nation, the Congress, by Public Law 85-529 as amended, has designated May 1 of each year as ?Loyalty Day.? On this day, let us reaffirm our allegiance to the United States of America, our Constitution, and our founding values.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2012, as Loyalty Day. This Loyalty Day, I call upon all the people of the United States to join in support of this national observance, whether by displaying the flag of the United States or pledging allegiance to the Republic for which it stands.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.
I?m not demeaning displaying the flag and pledging allegiance to the Republic. But if that?s all that happens on Loyalty Day and every other day, then we really, really need to remember May Day, and keep the 99% efforts going into the days and weeks and months, and yes, years, ahead. And very importantly, we need to pay attention to who?s claiming, and defining, our ?loyalty.?
(Puppet graphic via Occupy Wall Street)
A few days ago we looked at a gay activist, Paul Morabito, once tapped as the chairman of the GLAAD Advisory Board, giving large sums of cash to virulent homophobes running for office. Why would a gay man or woman write checks to politicians obsessed, the way Buck McKeon and his wife are, with anti-gay fanaticism? Well, in Morabito's case, he's a lobbyist and went to lunch with McKeon, chairman of the dripping-with-goodies House Armed Services Committee, who "suggested" he max out to Mrs. McKeon's state Assembly campaign-- which Morabito did the following day. Two shady operators-- what I just described is illegal-- scratching each other's backs... gay rights be damned. This week we saw Rep. Mary Bono Mack pleading with the LGBT community not to "stereotype" Republican congressmembers (because a few of them were rooting for Chaz on Dancing With the Stars), even in the light of vicious House Republican attacks on equality. But Morabito's maxed out contribution to McKeon is chump change compared to the millions of dollars another gay donor has been funneling to anti-gay Republicans. Meet... Peter Thiel.
Never heard of him? In the new issue of Out they have a "Power List" which names the 65 most powerful gay people in America. #1 is Apple's Tim Cook. #2 is TV superstar Ellen DeGeneres. There are a smattering of congressmembers-- like Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Barney Frank (D-MA)-- but no Republican congressmembers. No Lindsey Graham (R-SC), no Miss McConnell (R-KY), no Aaron Schock (R-IL), no Mark Kirk (R-IL), no David Dreier (R-CA), no Patrick McHenry (R-NC), no Trent Franks (R-AZ), no Adrian Smith (R-NE), no... well you get the point; they'll all in the closet. We saw this week, in the case of Richard Grenell the mortal danger Republicans are in when they come out and admit who they are. But, there are Republicans-- though not elected ones-- on the list, from Matt Drudge and Shepard Smith to the #3 guy on the list, 44 year old San Francisco venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Thiel isn't a household name-- not like other Power Listers from Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, Jane Lynch, David Geffen and Suze Orman to Houston Mayor Annise parker and fashion designer Tom Ford. But he's a billionaire. And a major Republican donor.
In the past two years the German-born Thiel has ponied up $2.6 million for Endorse Liberty, the Ron Paul SuperPAC. But he's also given hundreds of thousands of dollars to more mundane, stridently anti-gay politicians and organizations, from the Wisconsin Republican Party (desperately seeking funds to keep Scott Walker in office), Paul Ryan's Prosperity PAC, the RNC and NRCC, Eric Cantor's Every Republican Is Crucial PAC to a rogue's gallery of anti-gay Republicans like Mike Coffman (R-CO), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Josh Mandel (R-OH), Rand Paul (R-KY), and, of course to Ryan and Cantor personally. And lots, at least $3,000,000 so far.
A former derivatives trader, one of the lowest forms of humanity, Thiel eventually co-founded PayPal and hit the big time when eBay allowed it's own heavy-handed, greed-driven attitude to utterly destroy Billpoint, it's own PayPal predecessor. They then bought PayPal, making Thiel very rich-- his share was $55 million-- and allowing him to invest half a million dollars in the start-up, Facebook, a stake now worth over $2 billion.
Thiel lucked out with some savvy, gutsy investments but politically... oy veh. An unrepentant elitist of the Ancien Régime mold (with a white-jacketed butler) and devotee of Gordon Gekko, he's a modern day democracy hater.
Thiel?s belief system is a mixture of unapologetic selfishness and economic Darwinism. In a personal statement produced last year for the Cato Institute, he announced: ?I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.? The public, he says, doesn?t support unregulated, winner-take-all capitalism, and so he won?t support the public any longer. ?Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women-- two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians?have rendered the notion of ?capitalist democracy? into an oxymoron,? he writes. If you want to go around saying that giving women the vote wrecked the country and still be taken seriously, I suppose it helps to hand out $100 bills.
In the 1995 book he-coauthored with David Sacks, The Diversity Myth, Thiel praised a renegade law student who shouted ?Faggot! Faggot! Hope you die of AIDS!? outside an instructor?s window:
?[The student's] demonstration directly challenged one of the most fundamental taboos: To suggest a correlation between homosexual acts and AIDS implies that one of the multiculturalists? favorite lifestyles is more prone to contracting the disease and that not all lifestyles are equally desirable.?
Of course, Thiel was still closeted at the time-- he didn?t come out until nine years ago, at age 35. In the New Yorker profile, Thiel says he now wishes he had never written about the episode and writer George Packer adds that, ?the subject of homosexuality remains one that he doesn?t much like to discuss.?
When asked during a debate late last year about his policy toward Israel, Mitt Romney said it’s “very simple. You start off by saying that you don?t allow an inch of space to exist between you and your friends and your allies.” Claiming (without basis) that President Obama publicly “threw Israel under the bus,” Romney added, “if you disagree with an ally, you talk about it privately. But in public, you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your allies.”
But it doesn’t appear that Romney, nor his staff, feel the same way about America’s European allies. Back in March, Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron had a friendly visit in Washington and the Guardian reported yesterday that the Romney campaign didn’t like it too much:
Senior advisers to Mitt Romney have bitterly criticised David Cameron’s recent White House “love-in” with Barack Obama before Romney’s first visit to London for the opening of the Olympic Games.
Referring to Cameron’s highly flattering toast to Obama during a banquet given in the prime minister’s honour when he visited Washington in March, a senior aide said: “You don’t take sides in an election year“.
The aide said that Cameron’s visit to the White House showed a “lack of experience,” that he was “not very skillful” and that the visit “infringed” on the U.S.-U.K. special relationship.
It seems that trashing America’s European allies is a hallmark of the Romney campaign. “We’re becoming far more like a European social welfare state and people don’t want to see that,” the presumptive GOP nominee says regularly. And in his New Hampshire primary victory speech back in January, Romney had particularly harsh words for Europe, suggesting that European countries aren’t “free and prosperous“:
[Obama] wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society. We want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity.
This President takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe; we look to the cities and small towns of America. [...]
I want you to remember when our White House reflected the best of who we are, not the worst of what Europe has become.
And in a recent speech given at a private fundraiser, Romney said he wants to restore “the principles of liberty and freedom and entreprenuership and innovativeness” to the United States, as opposed to countries in Europe, which are becoming weak by “sacrificing their military.”
Romney’s hypocrisy on keeping conversations with allies private doesn’t stop with his and his campaign’s public criticism of America’s European friends. Last month, the Romney campaign called on Obama to “release the notes and transcripts of all his meetings with world leaders so the American people can be satisfied that he?s not promising to sell out the country?s interests after the election is over.”