Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pronounced "sew-toe-my-YOR"

What are we hearing about Judge Sonia Sotomayor now that she's been nominated to the Supreme Court?

"She's a terrible judge! She has a 60% reversal rate!"

"She's racist! She belongs to la Raza, a racist Hispanic group!"

"She's a Hispanic woman!"

Really, that last one is being used as a talking point against her (at least it has the dubious benefit of being true). Apparently, the fact that she is both Hispanic and female, at the same time, is proof positive that her selection was due to Affirmative Action. (Because, after all, there's no way that a Hispanic female could possibly be qualified otherwise, is there?)

"She has a 60% reversal rate!" You know, I love how that number is being bandied about by unhinged right-wingers. But since only 5 cases have gone to the Supreme Court, it's strange that it's even expressed in percentages, which are only useful when discussing significantly more than 5 of anything.

And, weirdly enough, since the reversal rate of the Supreme Court of the United States (or as some of us like to call it, SCOTUS) actually runs about 75%, doesn't that mean that she's doing better than average? Come on, folks! If you're going to play with numbers, at least stick to the ones you understand.

As for her "wise Latina woman" quote, let's look at this thing we call "context." It's used in legal circles sometimes, so it's almost related to the meta-subject here. But in a more specific way, it relates to Judge Sotomayor's statement, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Wow. That sounds almost like she's answering a question, doesn't it? In fact, she was specifically discussing the importance of judicial diversity in determining race and sex discrimination cases. Which is what the panel discussion was about.

And if you think about it, a woman who could have been a target of discrimination might have a more accurate view of it than, say, some fat complacent white man with limited opportunity to be discriminated against.

But really, why does this matter? The right wing didn't go up in flames when John Yoo (the author of the terror memos) wrote the following about Justice Clarence Thomas:
As his memoir shows, Justice Thomas's views were forged in the crucible of a truly authentic American story. This is a black man with a much greater range of personal experience than most of the upper-class liberals who take potshots at him. A man like this on the Court is the very definition of the healthy diversity his detractors pretend to support.
Ooh, look at that. John Yoo is a radical liberal!

More to the point, let's look at the confirmation hearing for little Sammy Alito. For some reason, the GOP didn't feel that they should oppose a conservative judge based on the following exchange.
U.S. SENATOR TOM COBURN (R-OK): Can you comment just about Sam Alito, and what he cares about, and let us see a little bit of your heart and what's important to you in life?

ALITO: Senator, I tried to in my opening statement, I tried to provide a little picture of who I am as a human being and how my background and my experiences have shaped me and brought me to this point.

I don't come from an affluent background or a privileged background. My parents were both quite poor when they were growing up.

And I know about their experiences and I didn't experience those things. I don't take credit for anything that they did or anything that they overcame.

But I think that children learn a lot from their parents and they learn from what the parents say. But I think they learn a lot more from what the parents do and from what they take from the stories of their parents lives.

And that's why I went into that in my opening statement. Because when a case comes before me involving, let's say, someone who is an immigrant -- and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases -- I can't help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn't that long ago when they were in that position.
For some reason, the same arguments, made by a white conservative, don't elicit the same reaction from the GOP. It's strange, isn't it?

SO they move on to their next meaningless talking point. "She's racist! She belongs to la Raza!"

The National Council of La Raza (NCRL), despite all the blatherings of that pinheaded moron Tom Tancredo, is not "a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses." They're a support group, fighting poverty and discrimination in the Hispanic community. (You can read about them here, if you want.) But in summary, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo put it like this:
For those who aren't familiar with it, La Raza is basically a Latino equivalent of B'nai Brith or the NAACP. Garden variety and uncontroversial unless you thinks it's a public safety issue if more than a handful of Mexicans or Puerto Ricans get together in one place at the same time.
And I love this "racist" talk - let's look at the sources.

There's that useless gasbag Tom Tancredo, who built an entire presidential campaign on attacking Hispanics (frequently suggesting that every illegal immigrant is a criminal - "They need to be found before it is too late. They're coming here to kill you, and you, and me, and my grandchildren"); he even sang "Dixie" with the white supremacist group "League of the South."

Ann Coulter, who likes to point out that "Slavery... is the only African institution America has ever adopted," and who once wrote an article on immigration with the fascinating title "Bush's America: Roach Motel."

Rush Limbaugh - does everybody remember him saying that Donovan McNabb was overrated because he was black? Or Michelle Wie, the best 16-year-old golfer in the world" "(It's) a marketing tool they're using to build her to up to a level much greater than her actual accomplishments." (I mean, come on! A black or an Asian, actually good at sports?)

Glenn Beck, who links illegal immigrants to everything that's ever gone wrong with the country, probably to include the shooting of Lincoln.

Newt Gingrich, who wants us to believe that the "war here at home" against illegal immigrants is "even more deadly than the war in Iraq and Afghanistan")

Pat Buchanan - oh, come on! Pat is America's second most famous racist, right after David Duke.

(Oh, and notice how I did that: not only did I give specific examples of these people's racism, but for the most part, it's specifically the racism that NCLR is set up to fight.)

And before you say that these statements are all opposing illegal immigration, let's remember Pat Buchanan on the subject:
(They) are not assimilated into America. Many Hispanics, as a matter of fact, you know what culture they are assimilating to? — the rap culture, the crime culture, anti-cops, all the rest of it.
As I mentioned above, the NCLR is a support group. And the difference between a hate group and a support group is pretty obvious to most of us.

Hate groups like the KKK focuses on the loss of power by the white race because of all these brown people and "mongrel races." They use violence to promote their ends, and tend to break a lot of laws: as I'm sure you're aware, thousands of blacks have been killed, and hundreds of thousands attacked, injured or intimidated by the Klan since their inception after the Civil War.

Support groups like the NCLR are completely unrelated. The closest similarity that can be drawn has to do with the fact that they're fighting poverty and discrimination against a specific ethnic group. But, since that particular group does, in fact, suffer discrimination (for example, look at the specific examples up above), they have every right (and perhaps even the obligation) to do so.

They don't use violence to achieve their aims, they use financial assistance, education and mutual support.

(And, incidentally, you can ignore that whole "Reconquista!" argument - that's a conspiracy theory made up by noted lying gasbag Michelle Malkin.)

But in the end, all this talk is just the end result of continued GOP obstruction. It didn't matter who Obama chose as Supreme Court nominee, the GOP had already said that they were going to oppose whoever was chosen.

The new Republican Party motto: "We don't care about the country, just our political agenda."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Newt"? Those are reptilian, right?

You know, it's strange. Nancy Pelosi is taking a lot of heat from the GOP lately, because of questions regarding when she knew what regarding the torture of our prisoners.

All these unhinged right-wingers are calling on Nancy Pelosi to resign, but nobody wants there to be a commission to establish the truth (or lack thereof) to the torture charges. Did America torture? Were Bush and Cheney complicit in ordering torture? How many laws were broken, and how many people need to go to jail?

Personally, I really don't care whether Pelosi resigns or not. I just want a bipartisan commission to look into the charges and find out the truth. (You remember, "the whole truth and nothing but the truth.") Once we know that, if it turns out that Pelosi was complicit, she can face the same charges as the rest of them.

Now, why would the CIA lie about briefing her? But then again, the same question goes for Pelosi. One of them did a bad thing and doesn't want to admit it. Either Pelosi lied and was briefed, or Leon Panetta lied and she wasn't.

Or maybe, just maybe, the truth lies somewhere between.

On the other hand (or maybe on the third hand - I've lost count), the CIA is one of the groups who would probably be complicit if a full torture investigation were to take place. So maybe they're a little more motivated to lie, if you think about it.

The CIA is claiming to have records of having briefed Nancy Pelosi, which she is disputing. Unfortunately, as there's ample evidence that the CIA records are riddled with errors, perhaps those same records aren't the best evidence that she was told anything (as Emptywheel, over on Firedoglake amply demonstrates - for that matter, Professor Goodman from Johns Hopkins, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, lists several examples of the CIA lying to Congress throughout the latter half of the 20th Century).

And as time goes on, more and more people are coming forward to question the CIA's record keeping. Congressman David Obey revealed that the CIA memos name an appropriations committee aide as present at one briefing, when the aide recalls being told he was not cleared to stay there. So Obey is joining Jay Rockefeller and Bob Graham in questioning the accuracy of the CIA memos. Even newly-minted Democrat Arlen Specter is almost (but not quite) coming out and saying that maybe the CIA needs to double-check their records.

For example, according to the CIA, Congressman Porter Goss got a briefing on March 8, 2005, even though he was not only no longer a congressman at the time, he was the director of the CIA. Now, if they can't even get the simple details like who's their boss straight, maybe there's some problems in the CIA records over there.

One of the chief people coming forward to say "She's lying! She needs to resign!" is Newt Gingrich. (Really? Mr "Family Values"? The guy who served his wife with divorce papers while she was lying in the hospital recovering from cancer? Yup, there's the perfect role model for the GOP.)

Part of the reason Newt lost his position as Speaker was that the American people began to see what a petty, small-minded man he was, with his fixation on bringing down Clinton and his 1995 "government shutdown" - as Tom Delay explained it in his biography No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight, "He told a room full of reporters that he forced the shutdown because Clinton had rudely made him and Bob Dole sit at the back of Air Force One." (Three years later, he paid $300,000 in ethics sanctions, including claiming tax-exempt status for a college course run for political purposes.)

Does it seem like I'm bringing up unrelated parts of Newt's past, kind of an ad hominem attack? (That means "attacking the messenger, not the message." See there? I'm being educational again!) Well, he seems to be holding Nancy Pelosi up to some unreasonably high standard of behavior - it would be nice if he could live up to any part of it. If you're going to make personal attacks, you open yourself up for exactly the same treatment.

And it has to be a personal attack, too. Good old Newtie can't be as angry about Pelosi attacking the honesty of the CIA as he claims. Because he did exactly the same thing last year.

Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for February 2008: the National Intelligence Estimate had just come out, and the CIA had explained that there was no good reason to spend a few trillion dollars and several hundred American lives to invade Iran. Our boy Newt felt that he had to go on stage in front of Conservative Political Action Conference (or CPAC) make the following statement:
We have a large proportion of the Intelligence community deeply committed to defeating the policies of President Bush. The fact that he is the elected Commander in Chief of the American people, the fact that the laws have been passed by the elected legislators of the American people, seems to be no matter to this bureaucratic elite, which arrogates to itself the right to do things that are stunningly destructive.

The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran can only be understood as a bureaucratic coup d’├ętat, deliberately designed to undermine the policies of the United States, on behalf of some weird goal.
Now, why is it that Nancy Pelosi can't suggest that, as the evidence is beginning to show, the CIA's record keeping could use some help, but Newton Leroy McPherson Gingrich is allowed to say that the CIA is trying to overthrow the President?

Is it possible that this is just some empty political rhetoric from a well-educated, morally-deficient, puffy-featured empty suit? Could that be what's going on?

But that's where the entire GOP is slipping away from reality. You can't say "Pelosi KNEW! She's GUILTY!" without admitting "OK, Bush and Cheney broke the law and need to go to jail." Somebody really needs to pick a position here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Overstaying his welcome

You know, it's a strange thing. Dick Cheney, during his period in the Vice Presidency, was almost a cipher: his name became synonymous with the term "undisclosed location." But suddenly, now that he's no longer a public figure, the man is everywhere. For some reason, he decided to make the rounds of the talk shows, saying ignorant crap like the policies of the Obama administration "will in fact raise the risk to the American people" (apparently ignoring that it was the administration that he copiloted that made the American people hated in every corner of the globe). Cheney felt the need to peddle his particular brand of fecal matter on Face the Nation, on Sean Hannity, on every show willing to book him.

Now, why would he do that?

Well, it's simple. While "undisclosed location" is two words, the best synonym for Cheney is "complicit." He and Bush, working together, authorized the torture of prisoners by people acting at the behest of the American government. They decided that the best way to combat terrorists was to use the tactics of a petty dictator. And Dick Cheney knows that if he can't cloud the water and raise false arguments on the subject, he has a good chance of going to jail. (He's already had to cancel any travel plans to Spain, after all, where they're investigating the whole mess - unlike other countries like the USA, for example.)

Of course, his argument, "it doesn't matter what we did - we protected America!" ignores a number of factors. It ignores the fact that you can't prove a negative: would America have been attacked if Bush and Cheney didn't disregard every moral guideline developed back to the Bible that they both claim to revere?

It ignores the fact that attacks on American soil by foreign agents are few and far between. Before 9-11, you had to go back to the World Trade Center bombing of 1993.

It ignores the Americans killed in foreign countries (including almost 4300 American military members in Iraq - gee, I'll bet their families feel safer).

It completely ignores the anthrax attacks, against American citizens and on American soil that the Bush Administration was never able to solve.

And it ignores one simple question: if the only way to preserve the American Way of Life is to completely destroy every moral value that America has ever held, is it really worth it?

And the people who are listening to this pompous, fatuous, fat-headed former Vice President - the people who believe that Dick Cheney, who would collapse in seconds if he was ever subjected to even the mildest forms of abuse that he authorized and still supports - every one of these people is ignoring one important, overwhelming fact. A simple thing that puts the current statements of our boy Dick into a slightly different light.

Dick Cheney is a liar.

He's practically pathological about it. He started lying when he got into office, and he's continued ever since.

(OK, that statement is probably unfair: I suspect that he was a liar long before he got into office, but that's the period that's important to us, so let's run with it.)

Dick Cheney consistently and continually lied to the American people that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, which they were willing and able to use on Americans. He also actively attempted to press a non-existent connection between the 9-11 hijackers and Iraq.

He manipulated intelligence reports, he shredded documents, and he gave millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to his former company, Halliburton; he simultaneously claimed that he had no connection to Halliburton, despite the fact that he was getting millions of dollars in severance payments from them every year for the first five years of his vice presidency. (Gee, I wonder if that would give him a reason to ensure that their profits stayed up?)

And Dick Cheney would not only lie, he would even lie about his lies. Correspondent Gloria Borger interviewed him on CNBC's Capitol Report on June 17, 2004, and asked about a claim he had made, saying that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had a meeting in Prague in April 2001 with an Iraqi agent. "You have said in the past that it was 'pretty well confirmed'."

Cheney was firm in his answer. "No, I never said that. I never said that. Absolutely not."

Unfortunately, she was quoting him from a Meet The Press interview from 2001, when he'd been speaking with Tim Russert (in an interview that even appeared on the White House website at the time).
Well, what we now have that's developed since you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that's been pretty well confirmed, that (Atta) did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack.
Later in that same interview, Cheney admitted that the report from the 9-11 Commission had concluded that there was no relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, but said that he, Dick Cheney, disagreed with the report. So Borger asked the obvious question.

"Do you know some things that the commission does not know?"

"Probably."

(Logically, the 9/11 Commission asked him to present this information to them. He didn't. And finally, after months of stonewalling, they released a fairly terse statement on the subject. "The 9-11 Commission believes it has access to the same information the vice president has seen regarding contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq prior to the 9-11 attacks.")

During the 2004 presidential campaign, Cheney stood up onstage with John Edwards, and made at least six blatant lies that he never had to answer for or explain.

The mistreatment of prisoners has long been one of Cheney's favorite subjects to stretch the truth about. One of the most fascinatingly strained examples of tortured logic from Mr. Cheney occurred in 2005, when the human rights group Amnesty International had the unmitigated gall to complain about the All-American torture of Guantanamo detainees. Cheney's response was unique.
Occasionally there are allegations of mistreatment. But if you trace those back, in nearly every case, it turns out to come from somebody who has been inside and been released back to their home country and now are peddling lies about how they were treated.
Let's break down that statement.

1. ...it turns out to come from somebody who has been inside... Who else would complain?

2. ...and been released back to their home country... And they were released for a reason, too, Dickie. Those are the people who the government was unable to make a case in front of a judge and continue to hold them. (Maybe because they were... I don't know, I'm just guessing here... maybe they were innocent?)

3. ...and are now peddling lies about how they were treated. "Lies," Dick? Aside from the fact that no member of the Bush administration seemed to understand that the concept of "lying" might actually be a bad thing, why would innocent people, released back to their home country, need to lie? Because "they hate America"? And why would they hate America? Maybe because we threw them into prison, abused them, and never gave them any hope of release? Gee, imagine that…

Does anybody remember Dickie going on Larry King Live in June of 2005? You remember, when he said that he felt that Iraq was "in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

Sure, everybody remembers that. But nobody remembers him, four months later, contradicting himself, saying that "Like other great duties in history, it will require decades of patient effort." ("Decades?" That's a long throe.)

Which brings us around to the most important question: if Dick Cheney is unable to talk without lying, why are people still listening to him? And why has the supposed "liberal media" given him a place where he can spread these lies?