The unbearable lightness of being a Tea Partier, part II

November 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

In The unbearable lightness of being a Tea Partier, I wrote:

The Tea Party is another manifestation of a rightwing phenomenon whereby carefully crafted talking points are force-fed to the public through Fox, talk radio, chain emails and other outlets, then regurgitated in the form of deeply-held convictions.

A fundamental characteristic of Tea Partiers’ views is the vehement embrace of ideas with little or no grounding in knowledge or comprehension and the parroting of Fox-style soundbites as though they were carefully considered positions.

…The point is not to denigrate or minimize people’s views, but to demonstrate that the views are often based on erroneous information, misinformation or outright lies delivered by cynical millionaires like Rupert Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

If you’re going to ‘defend’ the Constitution or deny global warming or reject “big government”, you might want to do your own research before taking the word of Constitutional scholars and climatologists like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Christine O’Donnell.

Or as I put it recently: Only in the Tea Party can you defend a Constitution you haven’t read, deny climate change you’re causing and slam government programs you support.

I can’t imagine a more cogent articulation of the Tea Party phenomenon than this:

Barack Obama is having his Hillary Clinton moment

November 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Early in 2007, as I was working on preparations for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign announcement, I had a conversation with one of her senior strategists about her chances of winning the nomination.

I said that I worried about one thing above all others: the day the aura of inevitability and invincibility surrounding her candidacy was punctured. It wasn’t a matter of if that day would come, simply a matter of when.

Once it happened, a virtuous circle would become a vicious circle, a vortex which could destroy her campaign. Sort of like the inverted passion in a relationship where love turns to hate, and the positive energy of one feeds the negative energy of the other.

To be clear, contrary to what many pundits believed and wrote, Hillary Clinton never bought into that aura; she was confident, but she was also a realist, understanding that only hard work, focus and discipline would get her over the finish line. And she was true to that dictum until the very end, showing inspiring strength of character and resolve.

Still, that moment I feared came, starting with a debate late in 2007 and culminating with her defeat in Iowa. Barack Obama expertly surfed the ensuing wave and captured the nomination.

Today, he’s having his Hillary Clinton moment. Inevitability and invincibility have turned inside out and opinion-makers across the political spectrum are writing his political obituary, doling out advice and criticism by the bucketful, bemoaning the demise of hope and change.

It was bound to happen. Bubbles are born to burst. I’ll be the first to say that he and his strategists accelerated the process by failing to adhere to core Democratic and progressive values and by telegraphing to the public that “compromise” was more important than principle. But either way, this moment was fated.

So, where does it lead? If Hillary Clinton’s current stature is any indication, President Obama has good reason to be hopeful.

Thank You, Republicans!

November 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

This Alan Grayson video is an instant classic:

Roger Ailes: Obama “just has a different belief system than most Americans”

November 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’d like to know how Roger Ailes sees the world, read Howie Kurtz’s exclusive interview with the Fox News chief:

The 70-year-old Ailes, dressed in a lavender shirt and tie, goes on in this vein, saying the network isn’t singling out Obama for criticism but that its style “tends to be more direct” in challenging presidents. Then he offers this observation about Obama: “He just has a different belief system than most Americans.”

For anyone unfamiliar with the twisted worldview of the far right, that’s code for Kenyan, un-American, socialist, treasonous, Muslim-sympathizer.

Further illuminating Ailes’ worldview, here’s his take on Glenn Beck accusing George Soros of being “a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps”:

Ailes says Beck relied on Soros’ own account and that “his point wasn’t really about Nazis or the Holocaust, more about the character of George Soros.” There are some “left-wing rabbis who basically don’t think that anybody can ever use word, Holocaust, on the air.” As for Soros, “if he has a problem with Glenn Beck, he ought to man up, come on [the air] and talk to him about it.”

Finally, he supports Beck “because he’s so intelligent and basically sensitive.”

More on Beck’s sensitivity here.

Our Response to Ken and Arianna on Our Agreement to Build The Huffington Post Together

November 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

After trying to open a friendly, private dialogue with Ken Lerer and Arianna Huffington and being stonewalled by them for months, on November 15, 2010, we filed a lawsuit against them. We filed it even though our professional reputations and relationships in the progressive movement are very important to us, and we knew that some people might misunderstand our intentions. Our decision to file this lawsuit, with the commitment to donate any proceeds to progressive causes, shows how strongly we feel about it.

This is a legal case, and as such, our claim will be fully supported by documents and by the testimony of those who were there. It is disappointing but not surprising that Ken and Arianna would release a statement attempting to belittle our good faith attempts to resolve our concerns as friends.

The only document they referred to in that initial response, which they have now tried to retract, is one that supports our assertion that we were in a joint venture with them.

Here are some details worth noting:

We wrote the blueprint - In November and December 2004, we gave Ken and Arianna documents and met with them, describing a website that combined the specific elements that make the Huffington Post what it is. Ken and Arianna have said repeatedly that although it seems obvious now, no one had ever done something like this before. Ken and Arianna now admit we gave them the memo but somehow contend it wasn’t the genesis of the Huffington Post.

We presented our ideas at the meeting in Arianna’s living room - Ken and Arianna have claimed on numerous occasions that they “hatched” the idea for the Huffington Post at a December 3, 2004 meeting in Arianna’s Brentwood home. But Arianna had a transcript made and she circulated it. It shows that Ken did not say a single word at that meeting and Arianna moderated. Only Peter spoke forcefully at the meeting about the Internet and the need to create a new online strategy for Democrats, based on the plans we had for the website.

We had an agreement to work together - Starting in November 2004, we had a series of meetings, conversations and email exchanges with Ken and Arianna, and we all agreed to build the site together. As late as December 22, 2004, we were sharing full plans, with budgets, staffing and other details, with them. They simply took our ideas, our concepts and our agreement to work on the site together and used them to raise money to do the site without us, failing to live up to their part of the joint venture. We have documents and emails reflecting this course of events.

We were friends with Arianna, and that is how we approached her - Of all the attendees at the December 3 meeting, the only one actually staying at Arianna’s house was James. In the years before and after Arianna supposedly ‘rejected’ working with us, she was very happy to take our posts, links, contributions, suggestions, and guidance, and to praise us profusely privately and publicly. We have numerous such emails and communications.

When we raised our concerns with Arianna in August, we did so with the same respect and friendship we had shown in all the previous years. Contrary to the mischaracterizations in the statement put out by Ken and Arianna, we made no specific monetary demands and simply said we were seeking closure and fair resolution. We made clear that money was not the objective, that we just wanted what was fair, and we said that we could just make a joint donation to fund progressive causes. We praised the work so many of our friends had done to make the Huffington Post into the success it is, and said we wanted to be team players and to continue to contribute to the site’s future success. We tried time and again just to have a dialogue, as the friends we thought we were, and Ken and Arianna refused to speak to us.

Peter Daou & James Boyce

Cholera has killed almost 1000 Haitians, hundreds of thousands at risk

November 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

More pain for the people of Haiti:

Haiti’s cholera toll has risen above 900, including dozens of deaths in the teeming capital, as the epidemic showed no sign of abating just two weeks ahead of presidential elections.

Of Haiti’s 10 provinces, six now have been touched by the cholera epidemic according to the health ministry, which said 14,642 people so far had been treated in hospital, about 2,300 more than on Friday.

The aid group Save the Children said 40 percent of those who have died in the epidemic were not in a hospital or clinic, suggesting they had no treatment or had not recognized symptoms of a disease that can kill within hours.

Bush is getting a pass for torture, but could he face legal problems outside the U.S.?

November 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

I’ve been following the astonishing callousness and carelessness with which George W. Bush admits to having authorized torture:

The U.S. media long ago determined that George W. Bush’s transgressions have ceased to be newsworthy. One of the reasons is that the Obama administration made the disastrous decision not to investigate Bush. That cop-out allows Bush to freely admit he approved torture…

Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said, “Waterboarding is broadly seen by legal experts around the world as torture, and it is universally prosecutable as a crime. The fact that none of us expect any serious consequences from this admission is what is most interesting.”

M. Cherif Boussiani, an emeritus law professor at DePaul University who co-chaired the U.N. experts committee that drafted the torture convention, said that Bush’s admission could theoretically expose him to prosecution. But he also said Bush must have presumed that he would have the government’s backing in any confrontation with others’ courts.

Georgetown University law professor David Cole, a long-standing critic of Bush’s interrogation and detention policies, called prosecution unlikely. “The fact that he did admit it suggests he believes he is politically immune from being held accountable. . . . But politics can change.”

Here’s an interesting perspective:

Now that President Bush is back with an autobiographical book defending his tenure, so are those who want him arrested for torture. In this article from France’s Rue 89, Jean-François Lisee informs that every country – all 146 of them – that are signatories to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, are obliged to arrest Mr. Bush, and Lisee points out that a few have already begun proceedings against Bush Administration officials.

For the Rue 89, Jean-François Lisee writes in part:

If no action is taken against Bush in his home country, that opens the possibility of indictment in a third country.

A total of 145 other countries, including Canada, are signatories to the U.N. Convention Against Torture. And all signatories have committed to enforcing its provisions, even against offenders residing in other territories.

Therefore, with varying degrees of success, proceedings have been initiated in Spain and Belgium against foreign heads of state, notably the Chilean Pinochet. Water boarding is now considered a form of torture worldwide, and those responsible must be prosecuted.

In fact, a court in Madrid last January opened proceedings against Bush advisers who wrote memos illegally authorizing the use of torture. The case is pending, but the issue was pursued precisely because no American authority took action against the officials responsible.

It’s a safe bet that George W. Bush is now in the crosshairs of the Spain tribunal. If it were to condemn him, even in absentia, he would then be subject to the mutual extradition treaty in force among 24 European countries. In other words, Bush couldn’t travel to any of these countries without incurring the risk of being deported to Spain to serve out his sentence.

The awful power of Rush Limbaugh

November 10, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

There’s no denying that Limbaugh is a major player in American politics, feeding a stream of liberal-bashing propaganda to rapt listeners.

Mike Stark describes it this way:

Rush Limbaugh is heard by more people on a near-daily basis than any other person in the world. I’m not positive about that, but pretty damned sure. A good cable news audience (Bill O’Reilly sets the standard here, I believe), may reach 5 million people on an excellent night. Network news shows get 7-8 million people.

For three hours every single weekday, Rush Limbaugh reaches (for at least part of those 3 hours) 20 million people. The naked fact is that he is the most influential political voice in the United States. Probably moreso than the President himself.

Over his 25 years of broadcasting, Rush has built up a ton of trust with his audience and completely changed the AM radio spectrum. Hannity is close on his tail in terms of reach. Just behind him, you find Beck. And Ingraham. And Levin and Savage and Medved and Prager and Dobbs and Mancow and Bennett and Doyle…. and… and…. and….

What is more scary? The fact that these folks vote in wildly disproportionate numbers. They aren’t passive listeners. They open their wallets (fear does that to some folks, I guess), forward ridiculous email chains (when is the last time you got a progressive email from a crazy uncle?) and can be reliably counted upon to flood Congress with faxes, letters and phone calls. All of that gives them an outsized voice in our politics. It’s why our issues poll well, but we can’t elect people that do what we want them too. The talk radio crowd, combined with the moneyed interests, crowd progressive voices out.

I’d love to see a graphical representation of American politics compared against the arc of right wing talk radio. My bet is that it’d open up some eyes. I suspect that too many of us believe that since we see talk radio for the hucksterism that it is, it can’t really be a true threat. And I don’t think that could be more wrong. Talk radio is the nervous wiring of the right wing. The Koch’s and Scaife’s and the Waltons may be the brain sending signals through the wires, but as an organizing tool, it’s incredibly potent.

There would be no Tea Party without the likes of Limbaugh:

Anecdotal evidence continues to mount that the Tea Party is another manifestation of a rightwing phenomenon whereby carefully crafted talking points are force-fed to the public through Fox, talk radio, chain emails and other communication mechanisms, then regurgitated in the form of deeply-held convictions.

I say “force-fed” because if you tune in to these outlets, it’s a relentless stream of indoctrination:

Liberals are worse than terrorists — Global warming is a hoax — Obama is a Kenyan socialist — Gays are trying to corrupt our children — “Big government” is oppressing us — All Muslims are bent on our destruction — “Activist judges” are trying to undermine the Constitution The Constitution’s two main tenets are that everyone should have the right to carry assault weapons and that America is a Christian nation.

A fundamental characteristic of Tea Partiers’ views is the vehement embrace of ideas with little or no grounding in knowledge or comprehension and the parroting of Fox-style soundbites as though they were carefully considered positions.

There’s an entire universe of liberal-bashers on the air, but Limbaugh remains a central figure. Hard to imagine what the country would be like without the anger and hatred he peddles.

Inspiring: Anuradha Koirala fights trafficking of Nepal’s women and girls

November 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A true hero:

Anuradha Koirala is fighting to prevent the trafficking and sexual exploitation of Nepal’s women and girls. Since 1993, she and her group, Maiti Nepal, have helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 12,000 victims.

Koirala: I would like to urge all the human beings around the world: Please close your eyes and imagine these girls are your daughters, and you will feel the pain of being trafficked.

Don’t watch this video of Afghan women

November 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A terrible reality for Afghan women:

Even the poorest families in Afghanistan have matches and cooking fuel. The combination usually sustains life. But it also can be the makings of a horrifying escape: from poverty, from forced marriages, from the abuse and despondency that can be the fate of Afghan women. “If you run away from home, you may be raped or put in jail and then sent home and then what will happen to you?” asked Rachel Reid, a researcher for Human Rights Watch who tracks violence against women.

Returned runaways are often shot or stabbed in honor killings because the families fear they have spent time unchaperoned with a man. Women and girls are still stoned to death. Those who burn themselves but survive are often relegated to grinding Cinderella existences while their husbands marry other, untainted women. “Violence in the lives of Afghanistan’s women comes from everywhere: from her father or brother, from her husband, from her father-in-law, from her mother-in-law and sister-in-law,” said Dr. Shafiqa Eanin, a plastic surgeon at the burn hospital, which usually has at least 10 female self-immolation cases at any one time.

The most sinister burn cases are actually homicides masquerading as suicides, said doctors, nurses and human rights workers. “We have two women here right now who were burned by their mothers-in-law and husbands,” said Dr. Arif Jalali, the hospital’s senior surgeon. Doctors cited two recent cases where women were beaten by their husbands or in-laws, lost consciousness and awoke in the hospital to find themselves burned because they had been shoved in an oven or set on fire.

Unless you’re prepared to be shocked and enraged, don’t watch this video:

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