Browsing the archives for the Obama Administration tag.


SCOTUS Nominee: Sonia Sotomayor

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Obama Administration, Supreme Court

The Washington Post profile of Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Souter, sounds really good to me.

At Yale, her classmates recall a young woman with a brilliant legal mind who was tough when arguing for her views. And although they said she never forgot her modest background, and always identified with the disadvantaged, her main passion was for the law, not a particular political agenda. …

… In 1984, George Pavia, a New York lawyer representing Fiat and other Italian business clients, said he was looking for a young lawyer with courtroom experience to help with products liability cases. He said he found Sotomayor “just ideal for us in terms of her background and training.”

“She is liberal, as am I,” Pavia said. “Liberal without being a flaming type of do-gooder or anything of the sort. To call her a centrist would not be accurate. To call her wild-eyed would also not be accurate. She is far too rational, far too interested in the underlying facts.”

Sotomayor grew up in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in the Bronx and was educated at Princeton and Yale Law School. People quoted in the profile praise her for being even-handed and non-ideological in her judgments.

In an article published before the announcement, Peter Baker of the New York Times announced that “the Left” already was unhappy with President Obama’s short list of potential nominees, which included Sotomayor, because we lefties would only be content with a “full-throated, unapologetic liberal torchbearer to counter conservatives like Justice Scalia.”

“It’s quite likely the left is not going to get what it wants,” said Thomas C. Goldstein, co-head of the Supreme Court practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and founder of Scotusblog, a well-read Web site. …

… “Unless Obama restrains his compulsion toward centrist consensus and appoints real progressives to replace not only Souter but Ginsburg and Stevens, our right-wing court may get even more conservative,” Jeff Cohen, founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, wrote on a Web site for progressive commentary, OpEdNews.com.

Personally, I think most of “the Left” will be fine with Justice Nominee Sotomayor. We’ll see.

Update: CNN has published Sotomayor’s resume and her record on notable cases. Scroll down for the record. From what I see she tends to side with the individual against government and corporate interests. Righties are going to have a fit. I like this lady.

Update: Scott Lemieux ‘s take on Sotomayor

It’s a good, solid pick. Not a home run like Karlan would have been, but I also don’t think she’ll be another Breyer; I see another Ginsburg at worst. For me, she would have been #2 among the viable candidates after Wood, and I don’t think Wood is clearly more liberal; they’re within a range in which appellate court records don’t reveal enough information to make firm judgments.

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The “Common Ground” Fallacy

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abortion, Obama Administration

This is a warning I’ve issued before, and now I’m issuing it again: In our ongoing national argument over abortion, be careful of the phrases “common ground” and “abortion reduction.” People using these phases don’t necessarily mean the same things by them.

Right now there’s an ongoing debate on the religious Left (yes, there is a religious Left) on the issue of terms and frames and publicly planting the flag of progressivism on moral high ground. Chip Berlet explains:

Instead of embracing the Democratic Party platform and its call for reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, there is an ongoing effort by some pragmatists to reach out to people of faith by adopting the Christian Right frame of reducing the number of abortions.

This shifts the debate from a framework of human rights for women to a narrower Christian Right framework of labeling abortion as a problem to be solved. Reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies will also reduce the number of abortions, but this tactic also functions as an umbrella, sheltering issues such as access to contraception, sex education, and prenatal care for pregnant women who choose that path.

We are talking about shifting the frame to gain a political advantage. That’s what the Christian Right has foisted on Democratic centrists—a rigged frame. The Christian Right goal has been abortion reduction for decades. On the other hand, the Democratic Party platform developed by Team Obama is framed as reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies. Big difference.

President Obama clearly has emphasized reducing unwanted pregnancies over some vaguely defined “abortion reduction.” He did this in the campaign and in the Notre Dame speech last week.

However, the terms “abortion reduction” and “common ground” are interpreted as “criminalizing abortion” on the religious Right.

Today this news item at Human Events, by Wendy Wright of that wretched abomination known as “Concerned Women for America,” has the wingnuts in a lather:

Two days before President Obama’s commencement address at Notre Dame, I was at the White House for one of the meetings that he spoke about. About twenty of us with differing views on abortion were brought in to find “common ground.” But the most important point that came from the meeting was perhaps a slip from an Obama aide. …

… Ask nearly anyone, “What is Obama’s goal on abortion?” They’ll answer, “Reduce the number of abortions.” A Notre Dame professor and priest insisted this in a television debate after Obama’s speech. The Vatican newspaper reported it. Rush Limbaugh led a spirited debate on his radio program the next day based on this premise.

But that’s not what his top official in charge of finding “common ground” says.

Melody Barnes, the Director of Domestic Policy Council and a former board member of Emily’s List, led the meeting. As the dialogue wound down, she asked for my input.

I noted that there are three main ways the administration can reach its goals: by what it funds, its messages from the bully pulpit, and by what it restricts. It is universally agreed that the role of parents is crucial, so government should not deny parents the ability to be involved in vital decisions. The goals need to be clear; the amount of funding spent to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions is not a goal. The U.S. spends nearly $2 billion each year on contraception programs — programs which began in the 1970s — and they’ve clearly failed. We need to take an honest look at why they are not working.

Melody testily interrupted to state that she had to correct me. “It is not our goal to reduce the number of abortions.”

The room was silent.

The goal, she insisted, is to “reduce the need for abortions.”

BTW, this is directly from President Obama’s Notre Dame speech (emphasis added):

So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let’s reduce unintended pregnancies. Let’s make adoption more available. Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women.” Those are things we can do.

Sometimes during the campaign Obama wasn’t as clear as some wanted him to be, but on the whole he has consistently said that the foundation of his abortion policy would be to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. But wingnuts hear the words “common ground” and “abortion reduction” and somehow think this is going to translate into a program of criminalizing abortion. And when someone explains to them that is not what he meant, they get all huffy about it.

But the Right has a pattern of feigning shock and outrage whenever President Obama goes ahead and does something he clearly said he would do. Either that or they’re just damn bad listeners.

Wendy Wright’s out-of-hand dismissal of contraceptive programs is based on nothing but woeful, and willful, ignorance. The money spent on contraceptive programs (I don’t know if it’s $2 billion now; it was $1.4 billion in 2004) has provided a handsome return, according to an unbiased scholarly study:

Using a methodology similar to prior cost-benefit analyses, we estimated the numbers of unintended pregnancies prevented by all U.S. publicly funded family planning clinics in 2004, nationally (1.4 million pregnancies) and for each state. We also compared the actual costs of providing these services ($1.4 billion) with the anticipated public-sector costs for maternity and infant care among the Medicaid-eligible women whose births were averted ($5.7 billion) to calculate net public sector savings ($4.3 billion). Thus, public expenditures for family planning care not only help women to achieve their childbearing goals, but they also save public dollars: Our calculations indicate that for every $1 spent, $4.02 is saved.

See also Steve Waldman, “The Truth About Contraceptives Stimulating the Economy.”

Wendy Wright at Human Events continues:

Note what Obama said in his speech at Notre Dame:

“So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions. …”

Notice how the wingnut left out the rest of the sentence, “… let’s reduce unintended pregnancies.”

Abortion advocates object to the phrase “reducing abortions.”

That’s because, as Chip Berlet says and as I have said before, when the Right talks about “reducing abortion” they mean criminalizing abortion. We on the Left are fine with reducing the number of abortions, but we want to be crystal clear that the means to do that is primarily through reducing unintended pregnancies.

Howard Dean, then head of the Democratic National Committee, validated my concern. He told NBC’s Tim Russert: “We can change our vocabulary, but I don’t think we ought to change our principles.”

By all his actions so far, Obama is following this plan.

Obama needs to be honest with Americans. Is it true that it is not his goal to reduce the number of abortions?

More importantly, will he do anything that will reduce abortions? Actions are far more important than words.

The irony is, as I’ve said many times before, that criminalizing abortion does not reduce abortion. It only drives it under ground. On the other hand, there is copious empirical evidence that increased use of contraceptives really does drive down the rate of abortion, whereas criminalizing it does not.

What was that about actions being more important than words, Ms. Wright?

In fact, the “common ground” of which the Obama Administration speaks is reducing the number of abortions through reducing the number of unintended pregnancies. But wingnuts like Wright do not want to reduce the number of abortions; they just want to make abortion a criminal act. So there will be no common ground with them, unless they move out of Crazyland and decide to accept reality.

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The Notre Dame Speech

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abortion, Obama Administration

I read the text of President Obama’s Notre Dame graduation speech, and as usual it was a fine speech.

I’m glad he spoke directly to abortion, and that he made it clear that when he speaks of reducing the number of abortions he means to do it primarily by reducing the number of unintended pregnancies. So often “abortion reduction” and “common ground” are code words for “we’re going to nibble Roe v. Wade to death with stupid abortion restrictions.”

Frances Kissling writes,

By stressing a long-standing Democratic Party commitment to preventing unintended pregnancy and supporting pregnant women who continue pregnancies under a new name — “reducing the need for abortion” — he got most of these Catholics to vote for him in 2008.

Still, Obama yoked the strongest possible feminist affirmation of the right to choose abortion to his message of abortion reduction — and many pro-life Catholics voted for him anyway, a sign of how disgusted they were with the Republicans. At an April 29 press conference the president explained why he is pro-choice in terms that most feminists would applaud. “The reason I’m pro-choice is because I don’t think women take [abortion] casually. I think they struggle with these decisions each and every day. And I think they are in a better position to make these decisions ultimately than members of Congress or the president of the United States.” A feminist theologian might tweak the language, but the bottom line is that the president’s theology is feminist. Women are moral adults and agents; they think about abortion in complex and thoughtful ways and they should be trusted to make the decision. The president has not waffled on abortion.

I’ve said many times that what really separates people who want to criminalize abortion and those who don’t is not whether they think a fetus is a person. It’s whether they appreciate that a woman is a person. “Women are moral adults and agents; they think about abortion in complex and thoughtful ways and they should be trusted to make the decision.” Exactly. To me, terminating a healthy pregnancy is a sad thing, but reducing women to the status of brood animals is a lot sadder.

Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times that the President “appealed to partisans on both sides to find ways to respect one another’s basic decency and even work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.” Baker also said,

Anti-abortion leaders protested his appearance at the University of Notre Dame and he was heckled four times during a commencement address by protesters yelling slogans like “abortion is murder.” But the audience shouted down the hecklers and cheered Mr. Obama as he called for “open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words” in a debate that has polarized the country for decades.

Meanwhile, Randall Terry was seen on campus pushing a baby carriage occupied by a doll covered in blood.

Peter Baker mentioned a recent Gallup poll that shows a rise in the number of people calling themselves “pro-life.” Ed Kilgore and Matt Yelgesias explain why the poll is misleading.

Personally, I liked this part of the President’s speech, even the “G” part:

But remember, too, that you can be a crossroads. Remember, too, that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It’s the belief in things not seen. It’s beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us. And those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.

And this doubt should not push us away our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, cause us to be wary of too much self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open and curious and eager to continue the spiritual and moral debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame.

Reinhold Niebuhr, big time.

Update: See E.J. Dionne:

The thunderous and repeated applause that greeted Obama and the Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president who took enormous grief for asking him to appear, stood as a rebuke to those who said the president should not have been invited.

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One-Way Bridge

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abortion, Obama Administration

This article from Wall Street Journal illustrates by alarm bells should go off whenever anyone speaks of “common ground” on abortion. Laura Meckler writes that President Obama is inviting advocates from across the political spectrum to try to find common ground on abortion. And that’s grand. But notice where the “common ground” is:

Ms. Barnes told participants that the White House is interested in hearing ideas in several areas, among them: sex education; responsible use of contraception; maternal and child health; pregnancy discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere; and adoption.

Those are all ideas any good feminist/liberal/progressive/pro-choicer can accept easily. That’s including adoption, as long as the decision to give up maternal rights is made without coercion of any sort.

The White House position is to reduce the number of abortions in America by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in America. Again, that’s a position any feminist/liberal/progressive/pro-choicer is comfortable with. We’ve been making the same argument for years.

Now, who is not in favor of better sex education and greater access to contraceptives? The so-called “right to life” movement is not in favor of those things. Anti-choice organizations run the gamut of taking no position on contraceptive use to being actively opposed to contraceptives. They’re all opposed to sex education, preferring the sham substitute, “abstinence only.”

I talked about the alarm bells — there are some allegedly “progressive” religious leaders making noises about common ground on abortion, and they talk about reducing abortion rate. But when you hear the term “abortion reduction,” look under the hood to see what’s running the engine. Sometimes “abortion reduction” is a code word for reducing the number of abortions by chipping away at abortion access through creative legal restrictions.

So, I prefer to talk about reducing unwanted pregnancy, not reducing abortion, although fewer abortions certainly is one of the outcomes of reducing unwanted pregnancy. And providing material support for women who don’t want to abort but are in a place in their lives where pregnancy and child care are untenable is fine with me, too, as long as reducing unwanted pregnancy is the first priority.

I’ve long argued that the way the abortion controversy is presented in media is a false dichotomy. The conventional wisdom is that the pro- and anti-choice sides are equally extreme and must meet in the middle. Although you can find people with all manner of extremist positions, if you look at the major pro- and anti-choice organizations, you are not looking at two equally extremist sides. One side —

  • Supports avoiding unwanted pregnancy as much as possible through contraceptive use and informed sexual behavior. This in turn will reduce the rate of abortion.
  • Supports Roe v. Wade, which includes the provision that states may prohibit elective third-term abortion as long as exceptions can be made for life and health of the mother.
  • Supports the decisions of women who choose to carry pregnancies to term.

The other side —

  • Either refuses to support contraceptive use or is actively opposed to it.
  • Wants to criminalize all abortions, even very early ones, including non-elective abortions in cases of medically compromised pregnancies.
  • Wants to take the ability to make reproductive decisions away from women.

This is just not two equally extreme sides.

As Lynn Harris writes at Salon, media lazily equate positions such as those advocated by the White House as a “compromise” with anti-choice positions.

… it’s not necessarily accurate to portray such framing — no matter who does it and what issues one may have with the particulars — as a “compromise.” Especially given the increasingly vocal opposition to contraception, since when is supporting it a compromise? When it comes to abortion, lots of us have been talking about prevention, and about how “it’s not just about Roe” — or, for that matter, “choice” — for a good while. I’d call this expanding the debate, not ceding ground. And now that legislators and journalists have picked up on it, the longer the focus on prevention and healthcare gets misrepresented as “compromise,” I say the longer we’ll be fighting.

Update: Obama budget eliminates funding for “abstinence only” education. Time for the dancing banana —

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Juxtapositions; or Kindle to the Rescue

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Bush Administration, economy, Obama Administration

The latest word on the possible Boston Globe closedown is that the Union blinked. The Globe will stay in business, for now.

Full disclosure: The Boston Globe is owned by the New York Times Company, as is the other site I write for, About.com. A couple of months ago the company announced it was cutting the stipend for those of us who write for About.com on contract. Of course, we don’t have a union, so there wasn’t much we could say about it.

But also in today’s New York Times — will Kindle come to the rescue? I’ve never used one (although if you buy one from Amazon, please click through using the kindle widget on the sidebar so I get a cut, thanks). However, I can foresee a time when most of us will have broadband kindle-type devices with us all the time so we can download and read current news wherever we are. I would like that. No paper, no ink, no printing, big cost savings for newspapers. Not so good for printers, of course.

Paul Krugman discusses falling wage syndrome. Lots of people are taking wage cuts, and falling wages create more economic stagnation. Bill Anderson at LewRockwell sniffs,

You see, Krugman believes that there should be no consequences to an unsustainable boom, and that once a bubble bursts, then the spending that occurred during the boom must be continued at all costs. That is not economics, folks. That is nonsense.

Krugman wrote that an economy needs spending, or else it is stagnate. And if an economy is heading for stagnation, it needs more spending. I don’t see how anyone could argue with that. One thing defines the other; like if it doesn’t rain for a long time, it’s a drought. In other words, it’s not about what should happen, or what Krugman wants to happen, but what will happen. Hardly nonsense. But you know libertarians; Ann Coulter will win the Nobel Peace Prize before libertarians will admit Krugman might be right about something. He could say water flows downhill, and they’d argue with him.

The righties must have worn themselves out over the weekend defending the honor of hedge funds, because so far they’ve been quiet about the President’s plan to crack down on multinational corporations that use tax loopholes to avoid paying U.S. taxes. But Andrew Leonard writes,

But the president’s announcement Monday morning of a push to crack down on tax loopholes that allow multinational corporations to avoid paying what they owe to the U.S. government is already spawning half-hearted chatter on the cable news shows: It’s more proof of Obama’s antipathy to business.

The criticism is muted, however, because it’s just not a winning political proposition to defend multinational businesses that offshore jobs at a time when populist fervor rages so high.

Well, yeah. And if you missed it, be sure to catch the story about the Bush Administration’s American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 and how well that worked. It was great for business but bad for the economy, a circumstance that ought to cause heads to explode at LewRockwell.

Never fear for the rich, folks. Steve M tells us that in the past 100 days they’ve dropped $100 million on the George W. Bush Presidential Library. If they’ve got that much money to waste, I can’t feel too sorry for ’em.

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Pity the Poor Hedge Fund!

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economy, Obama Administration

This follows up the last post, on “Why Is There an Economy?” A blogger named Corky Boyd is outraged that the Obama White House is strong-arming business.

Yesterday (May 1) on Detroit’s Frank Beckman’s morning talk show (WJR), bankruptcy attorney Tom Lauria made the incendiary accusation that the members of the White House had threatened to use the “the full force of the White House Press Corps to destroy” his client’s reputation if it didn’t acquiesce to highly unfavorable terms of the government’s proposed Chrysler restructuring plan. Because of the strongarm tactics, Lauria’s client dropped its opposition. …

…There is a pattern here. Financial institutions holding billions of Chrysler’s secured debt are being held hostage by the TARP loans they are not permitted to pay back. They are being forced to accept just pennies on the dollar for loans they made in good faith less than two years ago. Just like mob loan sharks, the administration wants them under its thumb so they can extort more and more concessions.

This is an abuse of power that goes beyond Nixon.

Oh Noes! Why is the White House being so mean to the nice businessman?

Here’s the reason: The client who is being strong-armed is hedge-fund manager Perella Weinberg Partners LLP. Perella and a couple of other hedge funds that owned a part of Chrysler’s debt have been obstructing Chrysler’s attempts to restructure itself and avoid bankruptcy. The hedge funders wanted Chrysler liquidated so they could take their money, and too bad if the loss of Chrysler sets off a chain reaction of failed suppliers and other businesses that send the entire American economy into a tailspin. Not to mention what would happen to the retirees, who would lose their pensions, etc.

Lisa Lerer at The Politico explains what happened.

“Bankruptcy is only required today because of the greed of a few hedge funds that held a fraction of Chrysler’s debt,” said Rep. Candice Miller, (R-Mich.) “President Obama today stated that he did not stand with these hedge funds and neither do I.”…

…“The administration put a great deal of pressure on those entities to go forward,” said Rep. Gary Peters, (D-Mich.) “They gave these hedge funds every single possible opportunity to accept the deal.”

Last night, the Treasury department sweetened their $2 billion cash offer to holders of Chrysler’s secured debt by $250 million. The secured debt holders would have gotten the cash in exchange for retiring roughly $6.9 billion in debt. The administration also extended an original 6pm deadline to continue negotiating through the night.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, (D-Mich.) blamed the breakdown in negotiations on three large hedge funds – Oppenheimer Funds, Perella Weinberg Partners and Stairway Capital.

“We’ve been working with them every day, last night, and up until this morning,” said Stabenow. “They pushed as hard as they could.”

The White House strong-armed Perella Weinberg Partners into signing on to the $2 billion deal in order to leave something left of Chrysler to restructure. This in turn will, it is hoped, save thousands of jobs (you’re saving not just Chrysler, remember, but also suppliers) and at least some portion of employee health and retiree benefits. And this is good not just for the employees and retirees, but for the state and local economies in which these businesses are located.

In other words, three hedge funds tried to hold a chunk of our nation’s economy hostage, and the White House didn’t let them get away with it. And this meathead blogger says the White House is abusing power. Jeez louise, people are stupid.

Update: A mouthpiece for Plutocracy called “Founding Bloggers” links here, saying,

Right on cue, here is a liberal blogger that makes the case against the evil capital investors who would dare exercise their rights under contract.

What the pea-brains aren’t noticing is that there are vast numbers of contracts that are being shredded or amended because of the plight of the automakers. These include contracts with suppliers and, probably, dealers as well as workers. Everybody else is taking a hit. The White House is trying to spread the pain around so that there’s something to salvage and the overall U.S. economy doesn’t take a bigger hit than it’s already taking.

In a perfect world the automakers would be making a profit and the capital investors would be making a nice return on their investment. But when the Titanic is going down it’s not the time to complain that you paid for a cabin with a better view and want a refund.

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Justice Souter Retiring

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Obama Administration, Supreme Court

Thank you, Justice Souter, for hanging in there until Bush was gone.

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The Air, the Air Is Everywhere

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conservatism, environment, Obama Administration

rightwingoverse I’m hoping Salon and Tom Tomorrow don’t mind my borrowing a panel of today’s strip, but I haven’t seen anything that better sums up the current state of the Right than the panel at left. What’s hysterical about it is that it’s not exaggerated.

The Right cannot merely disagree with Democrats and with the Obama Administration. No; every point of disagreement (which is everything the Obama Administration is doing, because it’s them doing it), no matter how minor, is framed not as a bad idea but as The End of the Universe as We Know It.

For example, at the Los Angeles Times Jonah Goldberg explains the role of the Environmental Protection Agency in the evil plot to bring America into the grip of dictatorship. Because the EPA (Goldberg says, ominously) has given itself the power to regulate everything, including the air you breathe.

Nominally, the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement last Friday only applies to new-car emissions. But pretty much everyone agrees that the ruling opens the door to regulating, well, everything.

According to the EPA, greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide — the gas you exhale — as well as methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. It is literally impossible to imagine a significant economic or human activity that does not involve the production of one of these gases.

Ah, how diabolical. The EPA can regulate everything that involves carbon dioxide, which is pretty much all air-breathing life forms on this planet.

For a little background, read the New York Times editorial on the EPA policy:

The formal “endangerment finding” names carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases as pollutants subject to regulation under the federal Clean Air Act. This in turn sets the stage — after a 60-day comment period — for broad new rules touching major sectors of the American economy and profoundly influencing how Americans use and generate energy.

The finding is also likely to accelerate the progress of climate legislation in Congress and will give the United States the credibility it lost in international climate negotiations during the Bush administration. The next round of talks is scheduled for Copenhagen in December.

The decision has been a long time coming. Two years ago, the United States Supreme Court ordered the agency to determine whether greenhouse gases harmed the environment and public health and, if so, to regulate them. Scientists at former President George W. Bush’s E.P.A. largely agreed that greenhouse gases are harmful and should be regulated. In December 2007, the agency forwarded an endangerment finding to the White House, where senior officials promptly suppressed it, refusing even to open the e-mail to which it was attached.

Talk about judicial activism! The Supreme Court was in on the plot two years before Obama became President! Of course, what you don’t see anywhere in Goldberg’s column is anything resembling a reasoned, documented argument why the EPA’s policy regarding greenhouse gasses is not the best approach for, you know, protecting the environment.

BTW, here’s the background on the Supreme Court decision, which passed by a 5-4 vote, the usual dissenters (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas) dissenting. More here and here.

But, you know, there’s a list that goes on and on. The marginal tax rate for millionaires is bumped up by 3 percent, and the wingnuts start screaming about econo-fascism. (Because, you know, calling it socialism isn’t working.) What you don’t get is anything resembling a reasoned, factual discussion of Obama’s actual tax policies (as opposed to the fantasy Obama tax policies the Right complains about) and why they might not be a good idea.

For that matter, someone explain why wingnuts scream bloody murder when someone suggests paying taxes is patriotic. They say they love America, but they don’t want to pay to maintain it? Isn’t that a bit like saying you love your children, but not enough to be bothered to feed and clothe them?

A rightie might argue they are only opposed to taxes that are too high or unfair taxes — taxing some people at a higher rate than others. OK, fine. Then stop fomenting hysteria and attempt a reasoned, factual discussion. (Clue: A fact is generally defined as something that has objective, verifiable reality; it is not anything you want to believe because it fits your prejudices.)

In other news, the lying aggregate of fecal matter known as “Newt Gingrich” went ballistic because President Obama not only shook hands with Hugo Chavez; he smiled and shook hands at the same time. Satyam Khanna points out at Think Progress that lots of presidents have shaken hands with dictators and smiled while they were doing it.

Gingrich said on NBC,

How do you mend relationships with somebody who hates your country, who actively calls for the destruction of your country and who wants to undermine you?

Which brings me back to the cartoon at the top of the post. We turn once again to Richard Hofstadter, here quoting Theodore W. Adorno:

The pseudo-conservative, Adorno writes, shows “conventionality and authoritarian submissiveness” in his conscious thinking and “violence, anarchic impulses, and chaotic destructiveness in the unconscious sphere… The pseudo conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers, consciously or unconsciously aims at their abolition.”

How much more spot on can one get? They’ve somehow simultaneously staked claims on both “love it or leave it” super-nationalism and “hate the Gubmint” anarchism, which may be unprecedented.

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Torture

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torture

By now you’ve heard the Obama Administration released the memos used by the Bush Administration to justify torture. As Digby says,

This is the very definition of the banality of evil — a dry, legalistic series of justifications for acts of barbaric cruelty.

Many are angry that the President has promised not to prosecute CIA officials involved in torture. About the only justification for this I’ve seen is from the Anonymous Liberal, who writes,

I know many of you disagree with me on this, but I think Obama did the right thing by promising not to prosecute CIA officers who acted in accordance with the OLC’s prior advice. Given the kind of things these folks are asked to do and the important missions entrusted to them, they have to be able to rely on the legal advice they’re given by the government. If we start prosecuting people for conduct they were specifically advised was legal by the OLC, it will severely hamper our ability to conduct future intelligence work. No one will trust the advice they are given, they’ll worry that the rug will be pulled out from under them at some point down the road. That’s an untenable situation.

But also,

The people who should be punished are the people who gave the advice. The lawyers. The Jay Bybees, John Yoos, and David Addingtons of the world. Obama did the right thing by releasing these memos today. It is now up to us to make sure they generate the degree of outrage that they should.

I am uncomfortable with not prosecuting the CIA officials, since “just following orders” hasn’t been a defense since the Nuremberg Trials. However, releasing the memos themselves was the most important thing, and prosecuting the people who gave the advice is the next most important thing. However, I don’t think that what the White House says about the CIA officials necessarily ties Congress’s hands, does it?

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This I Don’t Understand

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Obama Administration, The Constitution

The CIA is closing its “black op” prison sites, so that’s good. But the Obama Administration is trying to keep the power to imprison terrorism suspects for extended periods without judicial oversight.

There are some things the Administration is doing with which I disagree, but nevertheless I sorta kinda see why they’re doing what they’re doing. But this I don’t understand.

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