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Archive for February 10th, 2010

America’s Confused Approach to Afghanistan

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 10th, 2010 5:45 am by HL

America’s Confused Approach to Afghanistan
U.N. officials and American military commanders suggest that diplomacy might be coming alive on the Afghan front, but neither the Pentagon nor the White House seems to have clearly identified what the United States wants in Afghanistan.

By William Pfaff

U.N. officials and American military commanders suggest that diplomacy might be coming alive on the Afghan front, but neither the Pentagon nor the White House seems to have clearly identified what the United States wants in Afghanistan.


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New Mexico House Votes 65-0 To Move State’s Money To Credit Unions, Community Banks

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 10th, 2010 5:44 am by HL

New Mexico House Votes 65-0 To Move State’s Money To Credit Unions, Community Banks
New Mexico’s House of Representatives voted Monday to pass a bill that allows the state to move $2 billion – $5 billion of state funds…

Court Keeps White House Spy Docs Secret
A federal appellate panel on Tuesday blocked a court order requiring disclosure of e-mail between the White House, Justice Department, National Security Agency and Office…

Mike Enzi Butchers ‘Blagojevich’ In Senate Speech (VIDEO)
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) butchered the pronunciation of disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s name Tuesday. Enzi’s flub came during a filibuster against the confirmation…


Eric Boehlert: Palin headlines birther conference; press pretends not to notice

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 10th, 2010 5:43 am by HL

Eric Boehlert: Palin headlines birther conference; press pretends not to notice

If you don’t think there’s a media double standard that favors Republicans over Democrats, then let’s play a game of what-if.

What if, in 2006, at Yearly Kos, the first annual convention of liberal bloggers and their readers, organizers shelled out $100,000 for former Vice President Al Gore to address attendees? And what if the same organizers booked as an opening-night speaker a fringe, radical-left conspiracy theorist who’d spent the previous year pushing the thoroughly debunked claim that some Bush White administration insiders played a role in, and even planned, the 9-11 attacks. What if the speaker (also proudly anti-Semitic) received a standing ovation from the liberal Yearly Kos crowd?

Given that backdrop, and given the fact that the 9-11 Truther nut had for weeks bragged about his chance to share the stage with Gore, do you think the press would have demanded that Gore justify his association with a hateful conference that embraced a 9-11 Truther? Do you think pundits would have universally mocked and ridiculed Gore’s judgment while condemning the Yearly Kos convention as being a hothouse of left-wing hate? Do you think Gore’s appearance would have become a thing?

I sure do.

Gore and liberal bloggers would have been crucified by the press and the D.C. chattering class if the scenario I described ever unfolded in real life. (FYI, it goes without saying that organizers for Yearly Kos, now known as Netroots Nation, would never dream of mainstreaming an anti-Semitic 9-11 Truther via a prime-time speaking gig.)

But this past weekend in Nashville, at the first National Tea Party Convention, the Beltway press did just the opposite with regard to Sarah Palin’s keynote address, which did follow a prime-time speech by “birther” nut Joseph Farah, who over the years has carved out a uniquely hateful and demented corner of the right-wing blogosphere. Because, yes, at the Tea Party convention, Farah, a proud Muslim-hater and gay-hater, did receive a standing ovation from the conservative crowd after he unfurled his thoroughly debunked birther garbage. (i.e. Obama “doesn’t have a birth certificate.”) And Farah did brag in the weeks leading up to the event about his chance to share the stage with Palin, to associate with Palin. (“Sold out! Palin-Farah ticket rocks tea-party convention,” read the headline at Farah’s discredited right-wing site, WorldNetDaily.com.)

Worst of all, though, the press played dumb about the whole thing.

Fact: Virtually nobody in the corporate media said boo about Palin helping to legitimize Farah by sharing the same stage with him. She was given a total free ride.

And I mean nobody. According to Nexis, there were more than 150 newspaper articles and columns published in the U.S. last week that mentioned both Palin and the Tea Party. (Combined, The New York Times and The Washington Post published 18 of them.) Yet out of all those articles and columns, exactly two also mentioned Joseph Farah by name. (Congrats to the Philadelphia Daily News and New Hampshire’s Concord Monitor.)

And keep in mind that lots of scribes, even after listening to Farah’s rambling rant, filed dispatches from Nashville stressing how mellow and mainstream the Tea Party convention was turning out to be. According to the Post, the mood at the Nashville confab was “festive, even giddy.” And no, not a single word in the Post dispatch mentioned Farah’s high-profile birther harangue.

Bottom line: The birther movement embarrasses most conservatives. Yet even when they invite a birther nut to speak at their conference, the press still won’t ask tough questions. Instead, journalists politely look away.

It didn’t used to work that way. There’s been a long media tradition of holding politicians accountable for their public associations, especially when they appear at conventions that feature fringe rhetoric from controversial speakers. Reporting on who politicians agree to share a stage with has always been considered not only fair game, but genuinely newsworthy.

It’s just that in this instance, the press gave Palin a complete and unobstructed free ride, a free ride Al Gore never would have been afforded.

In fact, the stage-sharing question was actually of added importance at the Tea Party event, because the movement remains somewhat undefined, since, unlike a political party, it does not have obvious leaders. The people Tea Party organizers choose to associate with provide telling insight into where the movement might be headed.

As Joel Mathis at Philadelphia Weekly wrote last week (emphasis in the original):

Whenever liberals point out some of the nuttier stuff at the Tea Party gatherings — the racist signs, the comparisons of Obama to Hitler or the talk of revolution and secession — Tea Party sympathizers offer a couple of excuses: The nutty stuff is at the fringe, not really representative of the group as a whole and it’s not fair that you focus on that! Or that the whole thing amounts to political theater, not to be taken that seriously.

But this convention is making it harder for a reasonable observer to distinguish between the nuts and the mainstream. They’re all on the same stage together.

I realize some people will take issue with my headline and my claim that the Tea Party gathering in Nashville was a “birther conference.” They’ll claim the controversial topic was not the dominant issue addressed at the event and that I’m trying to tar a mainstream movement with the distasteful fringe. And that’s why there was no reason for the press to dwell on the issue over the weekend.

Baloney.

I’m not the one making the birther connection. It was the Tea Party convention planners who made the conscious decision to place the topic front and center. Face it, when organizers invite a high-profile birther disciple to address the entire convention, and when he receives a standing ovation after pushing the birther craziness, then they’re hosting a birther conference. End of story. (And that’s when the press should have taken note.)

And can we please retire the media-sanctioned Republican defense that the racially tinged birther crusade represents a tiny, misguided element of the conservative movement? That’s more baloney. Birthers have been mainstreamed, thanks to the GOP Noise Machine. How else would you explain the fact that more than 60 percent of self-indentified Southern Republicans either believe Obama was not born in America or aren’t sure?

Birthers have hit critical mass, which became blindingly obvious over the weekend when mainstream GOP star Sarah Palin spoke at a convention that rolled out the red carpet for the No. 1 birther cop.

Again, if Tea Party organizers didn’t want the conference to be viewed as a birther clearinghouse, then they shouldn’t have invited Farah, whose only real claim to fame in the past year has been his increasingly deranged obsession with Obama’s birth certificate. (FoxNews.com on Farah: His “raison d’etre of late has been to challenge Obama’s eligibility to be president.”)

But they did invite him.

If Tea Party organizers had pangs of guilt after Farah’s speech, they could have denounced his comments. Sure, it would have been incredibly hypocritical, since, again, they invited Farah, and everyone in the Nashville ballroom knew what he was going to talk about. But if organizers wanted, for purely political reasons, to retroactively distance themselves from the debunked conspiracy theory, they could have done that.

But nobody did.

Keep in mind that there was online speculation Saturday that conference leaders were going to hold a press conference to downplay the birther angle.

But the press conference never happened.

There was also speculation that Palin might show some courage Saturday night and, from the Tea Party stage, create her own Sister Souljah moment and denounce the birther garbage.

But Palin did not. (Recall that in December, Palin told a radio host the public was “rightfully” making an issue about Obama’s birth certificate and that she didn’t “have a problem with that.” Farah’s WND used her comments to highlight its prior “reporting” on Obama’s birth certificate and sell its birther swag.)

And wait, didn’t conservative media activist Andrew Breitbart call out Farah at the Tea Party convention?

Didn’t Breitbart denounce the birther crusade as a “self-indulgent,” “narcissistic” “losing issue”? Well, yeah, but that happened outside the convention hall, and out of view of the conventioneers — not exactly a profile in courage. Meaning Breitbart was reportedly “grumbling audibly” about the birther stuff during Farah’s speech, but when Breitbart had the convention stage to himself that night — when Breitbart followed Farah’s crazy remarks — did Breitbart loudly denounce the birther nonsense in front of the Tea Party convention crowd?

Plus, before Breitbart gets credit for being a conservative voice of reason on the birther obsession, please note that last year, one of Breitbart’s own sites, Big Hollywood, routinely pushed the “self-indulgent” birther crap. (e.g. “In Defense of the Birthers.”) So it’s hard to take Breitbart’s sudden birther denunciations seriously.

Let’s return to the original what-if scenario, just to stress that if a high-profile liberal netroots conference during the Bush years ever, ever embraced the 9-11 Truther crusade the way Palin’s Tea Party convention so publicly did last weekend with birthers, the emerging online progressive movement would have instantly discredited itself in the eyes of corporate media. Adopting a one-strike-you’re-out rule, journalists would have gleefully written up the netroots’ obituary, denouncing the movement as unserious and unstable. And yes, they would have taken special pleasure in piling on Gore for having anything to do with such an odious event.

But Palin strolling onto the same Tea Party stage after convention-goers gave a birther fanatic a standing ovation? That’s just not news, people.

Curse that liberal media!

Follow Eric Boehlert on Twitter.


Pawlenty Brings $100K Check To Alabama GOP. Who’s The Mystery Donor?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 10th, 2010 5:42 am by HL

Pawlenty Brings $100K Check To Alabama GOP. Who’s The Mystery Donor?
Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty brought a $100,000 check to the Alabama GOP last week. And no one is saying who it’s from.

Obama Admin On Al Qaeda: Don’t Panic!
Ramping up the push-back against GOP criticism of the handling of the attempted Christmas bombing suspect, a top Obama aide argues in a new op-ed that America’s “system of justice” is fully capable of dealing with terrorists.



Palin to ‘Lip Sync’ Future Speeches Says Aide

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 10th, 2010 5:39 am by HL

Palin to ‘Lip Sync’ Future Speeches Says Aide
Palin to ‘Lip Sync’ Future Speeches Says Aide By E.T. Mandible Nashville Journal-Advertiser February 8, 2010 Exclusive to the Journal-Advertiser NASHVILLE – In the wake of her speech last Saturday to the Tea Party convention held here, an aide to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told this reporter that her future speeches would be lip-synched. (Lip-synching is a technique where […]


Corporate Media’s Cave-In to ‘Liberal Bias’ Attacks Pose a Real Threat to Our Democracy

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 10th, 2010 5:38 am by HL

Corporate Media’s Cave-In to ‘Liberal Bias’ Attacks Pose a Real Threat to Our Democracy
The right has convinced Americans that the news media has a liberal bias, lending cover to the neocon leanings of the Washington Post — and Palin’s propaganda.

The right has convinced Americans that the news media has a liberal bias, lending cover to the neocon leanings of the Washington Post — and Palin's propaganda.

‘Christian’ Manifesto Comparing Liberals to Nazis Gathers Signatures of Religious Right Leaders — and Catholic Bishops
Right-wing Christian leaders are making a concerted push to gain thousands of new signatures for their hate-filled Manhattan Declaration.

Right-wing Christian leaders are making a concerted push to gain thousands of new signatures for their hate-filled Manhattan Declaration.

Obama Bows to the Whining of the Rich
After corporations and rich folk began to complain, the White House scaled back its proposals aimed at companies that shift profits offshore.

After corporations and rich folk began to complain, the White House scaled back its proposals aimed at companies that shift profits offshore.


Why The Ethan Bronner Case Matters

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 10th, 2010 5:37 am by HL

Why The Ethan Bronner Case Matters
The story this far is that the New York Times is seriously on the defensive because the son of its Israel correspondent, Ethan Bronner, joined the Israeli army. In the end, the Bronner story is not that significant. He will…



New York TimeMiddle EastEthan BronnerIsrael Defense ForcesIsrael

Squeezing Intel Out of Terrorists
As a companion piece to Matt Yglesias’ ontology of Miranda rights, I want to look at the underlying first-order basis of the intelligence obtained from terrorists in custody. Very simple: they give it to us. Obviously they don’t do so…


Miranda warningMirandaLawUnited StatesLaw Enforcement


Inhofe?s Grandchildren Build Igloo To Mock Killer Snow Storm: ?Al Gore?s New Home?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 10th, 2010 5:36 am by HL

Inhofe?s Grandchildren Build Igloo To Mock Killer Snow Storm: ?Al Gore?s New Home?
The record-breaking snowstorm that has shut down the mid-Atlantic region for days has become a favored target for mockery by Republicans who deny global warming, seemingly on the supposition that deadly blizzards invalidate the science of climate change. Before the storm hit, the Virginia GOP launched a web ad mocking “12 inches of global warming,” […]

Inhofe family iglooThe record-breaking snowstorm that has shut down the mid-Atlantic region for days has become a favored target for mockery by Republicans who deny global warming, seemingly on the supposition that deadly blizzards invalidate the science of climate change.

Before the storm hit, the Virginia GOP launched a web ad mocking “12 inches of global warming,” attacking Democrats who had voted in favor of climate and clean energy legislation. Now, after hundreds of thousands of people lost power, several people have been killed, and states of emergency declared in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) family has joined in the mockery, building an igloo on the National Mall and calling it “Al Gore’s New Home“:

The Oklahoma Republican’s daughter, Molly Rapert; her husband, Jimmy; and their four children built an igloo — roomy enough to fit several people inside — at Third Street and Independence Avenue Southeast. They officially dedicated the humble abode in honor of global-warming crusader Gore, even posting a cardboard sign on the igloo’s roof reading “AL GORE’S NEW HOME” on one side and “HONK IF YOU [HEART] GLOBAL WARMING” on the other. Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is famously one of Congress’ most vocal critics of global warming. And he told HOH that he found his family’s ironic tribute to Gore — which came during one of Washington’s snowiest winters on record — “really humorous.”

In reality, winter snows do not invalidate the reality that the planet just experienced the hottest decade on record. Scientists have been warning for decades that global warming would increase the severity of winter storms.

This past January was the warmest January on record for the planet. And as National Wildlife Federation climate scientist Amanda Staudt notes, winter storms are getting fiercer even as the season gets warmer. “The last few years have brought several unusually heavy snowstorms as warmer and moister air over southern states has penetrated further north, colliding with bitter cold air masses,” she explains.

Insurer Denies Life-Prolonging Treatment To Five-Year-Old Boy With Cancer
One of the worst abuses of private insurance companies is the practice of using spurious reasons to deny claims for medical treatments, which are often necessary for saving patients’ lives. Kyler Van Nocker’s story shows that even 5-year-old kids are not exempt from this insurance company abuse. Van Nocker has neuroblastoma, which is a […]

Kyle Van Nocker One of the worst abuses of private insurance companies is the practice of using spurious reasons to deny claims for medical treatments, which are often necessary for saving patients’ lives.

Kyler Van Nocker’s story shows that even 5-year-old kids are not exempt from this insurance company abuse. Van Nocker has neuroblastoma, which is a very rare form of childhood cancer that targets the nervous system and creates tumors throughout the body.

Due to successful treatment in 2007, Van Nocker’s cancer went into remission, giving him 12 months of pain-free life. Unfortunately, in Sept. 2008, the cancer returned, and Van Nocker was once again in need of treatment. Unfortunately, his health insurer, HealthAmerica, refused to pay for one form of treatment doctors believe could save his life (MIBG treatment) because they consider it “investigational/experimental” since it has yet to be approved by the FDA.

Yet in April 2008, the insurer approved cheaper treatment for Van Nocker that was also “experimental,” prompting Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky to ask, “So why, pray tell, is HealthAmerica playing the ‘experimental therapy’ card in the case of the MIBG treatment Kyler now needs? Gee, money couldn’t have anything to do with the decision, could it?”

Van Nocker’s parents are suing HealthAmerica, citing the fact that the company has apparently been dishonest about its criteria for the types of treatment it will cover and is denying payment for treatment in this case because of the high cost of the procedure — $110,000 pays for only two rounds of MIBG treatment. “These companies have to be brought to the courthouse to get them to do the right thing,” says the VanNockers’s family attorney. “This child needs this treatment, or else.”

The sad truth is that Van Nocker is certainly not alone in having his claim denied by a major health insurer. The California Nurses Association (CNA), a nurses’ union and health care advocacy group, recently released a comprehensive study of claims denials across California. The study found that the six largest insurers in California rejected 47.7 million claims in the first half of 2009, nearly 22 percent of all claims submitted.

The United States is the only industrialized nation without cradle-to-the-grave, universal health care. In no other developed country would a child with cancer have to go without care because an insurance company decided it was not profitable enough to cover him.


A Difference of Direction on Health Care

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 10th, 2010 5:32 am by HL

A Difference of Direction on Health Care
Yuval Levin, National Review
Monday, February 08, 2010Which Way, Not How Far   [Yuval Levin]The Ezra Klein post that Stephen Spruiell ably critcizes below raises (by failing to see) an important point. The difference between most conservatives and most liberals on health care is not a difference of degree but a difference of direction — a difference on the question of which we way want to move from our existing highly inefficient system of paying for health insurance.Both sides agree there are huge problems with the current system, and they even agree on what some of those problems are: there…

Education & the Fallacy of “Fairness”
Thomas Sowell, RealClearPolitics
A recent flap in a Berkeley high school reveals what a farce “fairness” can be. Because this is ultra-liberal Berkeley, perhaps we should not be surprised that a proposal has been made to eliminate four jobs as science teachers and use the money saved for programs to help low achievers.In Berkeley, as in many other communities across the country, black and Latino students are not performing as well as Asian and white students. In fact, the racial gap in academic achievement at Berkeley High School is the highest in California– no doubt a special source of embarrassment in…

Eric Holder’s War
Dayo Olopade, American Prospect
(White House/Pete Souza)Hours before dawn on one of the last days of October 2009, the deadliest month for American troops in Afghanistan since 2001, Eric Holder, attorney general of the United States, strode out of a C-17 cargo plane parked at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. President Barack Obama, having reversed the ban on media coverage of the arrival of war dead at Dover, trailed just behind. During the official military ceremony, the two friends stood in dark suits, silently saluting 18 servicemen, including three Drug Enforcement Agency officials claimed by the Afghan War days prior….

Murtha’s Dissent Was Crack in Iraq Consensus
John Nichols, The Nation