Judge Denies Gitmo Detainee’s Bid For Relief – Hunger Strikes Continue

I suppose if all the prisoners killed themselves Gitmo would be de facto closed.

In 2010, Hogan tossed out most of the government’s evidence against al-Madhwani on grounds his confessions were coerced, allegedly by U.S. forces, before he became a prisoner at Guantanamo. But Hogan ruled that statements he made during two military administrative hearings at the U.S. detention center in Cuba, where he was assisted by a personal representative, were reliable and sufficient to justify holding the detainee.

According to his lawyers, Musaab al-Madhwani is in his 11th year of imprisonment and has never been charged with a crime.

70% Say the GOP Out of Touch with Most Americans, and ho hum


Michael Tomasky carves up the stunning numbers from the ABC News poll: 70% believe that one of the two major parties is out of touch but get this, 49% of Republicans think their party is out of touch!  Half of them!  Their own party!  Out of touch!  So what’s next?

… it is one of the central problems in our politics, and perhaps the central one that these 49 percent have no one representing them. 

We are a two-party country, period. One of those parties is still somewhat ideologically diverse, running from Maxine to Max (Waters to Baucus). The other one is not. That is our problem. And it will remain so until rich moderate Republicans decide to get together and put their money behind organizations to give moderate Republicanism life and muscle again.

So Tomasky is hoping for a silent (maybe) majority of Republicans to either grow a spine and decide to reform the moderate wing of the party, or take it back altogether from the know-nothing extremists who’ve been bollocksing up everything. He has accepted that we are a two party country, period. I don’t agree. I do believe we can adopt more than the two parties that have been our reality for 100 years. 

But more to the point I believe it’s much more likely that that third party would be created by a schism within the GOP. And if that happens it’s not going to be moderates developing a sack. It’s going to be one of the brands of know-nothing (libertarians, Christianists) deciding to make a statement and going rogue.  

I’m rooting for this because it would give the Democrats a chance to run things in uniform government for a bit, which we badly need to heal the malfeasance of the GOP and push things into the 21st century on economic fairness, climate change, renewable energy, education, etc.  

Boston Tragedy – Having Trouble with that “T” Word

Maybe it’s just because the violence is so goddam pointless or my inner editor is being overly picky, but while what happened in Boston is terrifying, and an act of terror, I’m not sure it’s “terrorism”.

I grew up when the IRA was constantly active both in Ireland and England creating an atmosphere of fear.  If something blew up in London, Belfast or Derry, you knew who did it and you knew why. I just can’t help thinking that unless somebody comes forward and claims responsibility and says why they did it and makes a demand of some sort it’s not really terrorism, it’s just wanton cruelty and bloodlust.  Or maybe it’s just not effective terrorism.  

Either way it sucks.

Gosnell will be the New Benghazi

And likewise, the RWNJs will be oblivious to the irony.

Famously, GOP Congressmen droned on in high dudgeon about the security breaches that caused the Benghazi tragedy, pausing not at all when having to answer (usually “yes”) whether they voted for the $300M cut in embassy security the leadership pushed through. 

Likewise, in this tragic case, conservative anti-choice voices will scream bloody murder and accuse the “liberal” media of a cover-up (natch!) when the actions of the anti-choicers will only make such tragedies more common. 

Irin Carmon on Salon has the lowdown.

This week, as Virginia-based pro-choice activist Michelle Kinsey Bruns noted on Twitter, “Fitting that the right is trying to whip folks into a frenzy over #Gosnell the same day VA is trying to put safe abortion care out of reach.” She’s referring to so-called TRAP laws, which are regulations aimed at abortion clinics that have nothing to do with safety — say, the size of parking lots — to seek to drive them out of business, and which are expected to go forward in a vote today. According to Tara Murtha, a Philadelphia-based reporter who has been covering the Gosnell case from the start, in the aftermath of Pennsylvania’s own TRAP laws, the state went from 22 free-standing clinics to 13. As Murtha puts it, “The bottom line is that politicizing abortion led to Gosnell. Their answer? Politicize it more.”

Hilarious – “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” on top of UK Charts

Because Thatcher died. All you need to know about what the Brits thought about their late leader.

“ The BBC is in a bind after opponents of Margaret Thatcher pushed the song “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” to the top of the British charts in a posthumous protest over her divisive policies.

The online campaign to drive the “Wizard of Oz” song to the No. 1 spot on the U.K. singles chart was launched by Thatcher critics shortly after the former prime minister died Monday of a stroke at age 87.

As of Friday, the song was No. 1 on British iTunes.


Coal is in Trouble (no matter how hard the angry white guys fight it)

The coal industry doesn’t just have the EPA, doctors, and all rational people living in the 21st century against it. The cost of natural gas is pushing it out.

Here’s some bleak news for the coal industry: As much as 65 percent of the U.S. coal fleet could find itself under threat in the years ahead, thanks to cheap natural gas and stricter air-pollution regulations.

That’s according to a new peer-reviewed study by three researchers at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who take a detailed look at the costs of operating both coal-fired power plants and natural-gas plants around the United States.

I hate to get technical but coal is crap. It’s poison like McDonalds. If coal had ever been forced to be priced for the externalities of destroying the landscape, rivers, lakes, lung diseases, etc. it would have been gone long ago – like whale oil.

Update: Renewable Energy accounted for 82% of all new electric generating capability in the US in the first quarter of 2013. That is awesome news! If the GOP would just get out of the fucking way…

Margaret Thatcher was on board to stop climate change

Take note American Margaret Thatcher lovers: The Iron Lady was in favor of dealing with climate change. She delivered a speech to the Second World Climate Conference November 6, 1990!  Conservatives please read and take note and if you really do revere her memory, follow her footsteps:

Mr. Chairman, since the last World War, our world has faced many challenges, none more vital than that of defending our liberty and keeping the peace. Gradually and painstakingly we have built up the habit of international cooperation, above all through the United Nations. The extent of our success can be seen in the Gulf, where the nations of the world have shown unprecedented unity in condemning Iraq’s invasion and taking the measures necessary to reverse it.

But the threat to our world comes not only from tyrants and their tanks. It can be more insidious though less visible. The danger of global warming is as yet unseen, but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations. 

Many of the precautionary actions that we need to take would be sensible in any event. It is sensible to improve energy efficiency and use energy prudently; it’s sensible to develop alternative and sustainable and sensible … it’s sensible to improve energy efficiency and to develop alternative and sustainable sources of supply; it’s sensible to replant the forests which we consume; it’s sensible to re-examine industrial processes; it’s sensible to tackle the problem of waste. I understand that the latest vogue is to call them ‘no regrets’ policies. Certainly we should have none in putting them into effect. 

Of course the rest of her record was kinda disasterous.

She called Mandela “a terrorist” but backed the brutally murderous Pinochet regime in Chile. Prosecuted silly Falklands war. Raised taxes on the lower class (25% to 30%) while cutting taxes for the well off (top rate lowered from 83% to 60%) which caused riots.
■As education secretary—prior to becoming prime minister—she cut school milk for elementary school children and won her first nickname, “Thatcher the milk snatcher.”
■She pushed “a high-risk, deregulated market-orientated system in which the poverty gap widened rapidly and ‘loadsamoney’ rewards at the top rocketed in ways frowned upon in Europe and Japan. With ‘big bang’ deregulation…in 1986 paralleling developments in Ronald Reagan’s United States, the path was open to the financial crisis that engulfed Anglo-Saxon capitalism in 2007.”
■She defeated the unions—especially the miners, in a series of challenges. But most deep-mine pits in England ended up closing.
■She brooked little criticism. She sacked party members who questioned her divisive practices: “‘Is he one of us?’ became a stock Thatcher question, asked of impartial civil servants and even would-be bishops.”
■Her political career essentially ended when her own Cabinet told her that due to the unpopularity of her policies she should step down and allow another Conservative Party member to lead their party.

What Charlie Pierce said – Which group of angry old white men will lead them?

Pierce is all about the latest nonsense to come from Tiger Beat on the Potomac (Politico) about how the Republican Party is going to be saved by, get this, Rand Paul (Aquabuddah-KY).  

(From Politico) Led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), libertarians hope to become a dominant wing of the GOP by tapping into a potent mix of war weariness, economic anxiety and frustration with federal overreach in the fifth year of Barack Obama’s presidency
There’s the usual fol-de-rol about how Ron Paul was too crazy old manish, but his progeny is going to make libertarianism more palatable, essentially by abandoning it in practice, but talking it up in empty rhetoric. 

Rand Paul is aggressively trying to pass that test and unite the various factions. He’s taken a series of steps to distance himself from his father’s most unpalatable positions, from articulating a more nuanced position on the drug war to taking a harder-line on national security and more vocally professing his opposition to gay marriage and abortion.

Pierce, as usual pierces this veil of crap:

Hey, Crazy Uncle Liberty (!). The reason he delivers the message differently is that it’s…not…the…same…message. It’s a new age attempt to keep another generation of dissatisfied white men in the Republican coalition without sounding like somebody who saw Jesus in the Wheatena this morning. (He sells the snake oil more smoothly than you did, and that’s a fact.)  In this context, “libertarianism” is a marketing device, a way to keep young bond traders comfortable within a party whose base is still snake-handlers and still stock-piling arms against the inevitable Kenyan Muslim gun-grab…

So, they’re basically Tea Party types who’d (pragmatically) still allow the government to bust you for selling an ounce of weed but not for selling millions of dollars in trash derivatives. Got it.

It is an odd sort of libertarianism that believes government has a right to poke around in a woman’s lady parts, but a businessman can decide not to cater to or hire minorities. The weird waters Sen. Aquabuddah swims in aren’t just inconsistency they’re intellectually bereft of any thing to anchor to and that’s what makes him the ideal Republican today. 
I’ve been looking for the schism that could finally rent the GOP in twain and there are many. The most popular implosion theory is that the party does slowly, quietly, shhhh, (whispering) drop portions of the radical Christianist agenda like their adamantine opposition to gay marriage and maybe even personhood laws. Then the Gary Bauer brigade would then take their ball home and create a third party.
But the angry old white Christianists, for all their rhetoric are, by their nature, followers. Unless some charismatic messianic leader arises to lead them out of the GOP to a third party, I don’t see it. The Christianists may be disaffected, but they won’t abandon presidential politics. Some may bury themselves in local and state politics and hope they can push a new confederacy of southern and midwestern states that choose Christianity over democracy.
But I see in the ambitious toe dipping in the 2016 waters by Sen. Paul the potential of the libertarian wing of angry old white men to make a more serious run than his father ever did. He will fail to get the nomination because he would be a worse disaster for the GOP’s prospects than 10 Williard Romneys mated with 10 Rick Santorum’s (now that’s a disaster movie for SyFi – the Attack of the Romtorum!), and that would pull the libertarian tea party wing into a showdown with the establishment. The libertarian angry old white men will absolutely go off into the woods to bang drums, shoot guns and vow eternal enmity to the GOP. They would form a third party in a second splitting off a good third or more of the GOP.

The System Isn’t Broken the GOP Is

Jonathan Bernstein in Salon explores some recent ruminations (especially election law expert Rick Hasan’s) on fixing our ridiculously gridlocked system but asserts that it’s not the system that is broken, the GOP is.

Hasan notes that our constitutional system was set up so it was difficult to pass legislation unless there was consensus, yes. And yet we always got things done, albeit usually in a way that was too late or too compromised to be real justice or effective government. Bernstein argues that the insane stasis we live under today isn’t really about the system, even the abuse of the filibuster, but rather the dysfunctional Republican Party and their perverse adoption of a confrontational style of discourse that comes with the conservative marketplace – the industry that includes talk radio, Fox News, fund raising, book sales – that actually incentivizes bomb throwing over compromise.

 Simply put, a large portion of the party, including the GOP-aligned partisan press and even many politicians, profit from having Democrats in office. Typically, democracies “work” in part because political parties have strong incentives to hold office, which causes them once they win to try hard to enact public policy that keeps people satisfied with their government. That appears to be undermined for today’s Republicans.

Except that while in the past such extremism was unsustainable, through gerrymandering and a constant propaganda drum beat the GOP has profited from behavior that should have had them rooted from power.  

What Bernstein and others do not take into account is that 30 years of such propaganda has created an entire generation of politicians, pundits and conservative voters that have been indoctrinated in lies and are immune to facts. So yeah, they should be out of power, throwing bombs, being a pain in the ass to the Democrats trying to govern. But they’re not out of power on the sidelines, they’re in power in Congress, in the courts, in state houses, acting out as if they were on the sidelines with no responsibility for governing.

From the GOP primary voter to the Speaker of the House they exhibit:

  • An aversion to normal bargaining and compromise

  • An inability to banish fringe people and views from the mainstream of the party

  • An almost comical lack of interest in substantive policy formation

  • A willingness to ignore established norms and play “Constitutional hardball”

  • A belief that when out of office, the best play is always all-out obstruction

Without a third party for rational traditional conservatives to go to, the present GOP is hell bent on shutting down governing. I don’t know how they will survive. The question is whether they can be stopped before we all go over the cliff together. 

Fast and Furious and Benghazi, the sequester and the various fiscal cliff fights, they all point to a party that is all about the outrage that used to just be the bailiwick of talk radio:

Republican politicians who believed that the job of a member of Congress is to be outraged, and once they’ve done that, they can pretty much go home.

I agree with Bernstein to the extent that our constitutional system is probably not as much to blame as some think. But our political system has been waylayed by the dysfunctional GOP. One of two things should have happened by now (or should happen soon):

1. The GOP moderates based on their failures in 2006, 2008 and 2012; or

2. The GOP is sent packing because of their failure to moderate and disdain of actual governing.

But what actually happened is they did not moderate after 2006 and 2008 and were rewarded for it in 2010. They got spanked again in 2012, but show every sign of having a short term memory problem that forgets everything except 2010. If they do not get spanked again in 2014…

Actually – This was a Great Jobs Report (not my words)

After hours of hand wringing about the disappointing jobs report this morning, followed by progressive tweets about “maybe now D.C. will do something about jobs instead of the deficit (fist waving)”, and conservative tweets saying “Ha, the Obamasequester is going to be blamed for this! #tcot”, I swam over to the other, more thoughtful side of the think tank.

The overall labor force is at it’s lowest since 1979. That’s a whole lot of jobs that the job creators have shed over 34 years. That’s a painful reality of outsourcing, globalization and greed. That’s one of the reasons the 1% have aggregated so much more wealth than they had in 1979. So that sadness continues.

We know that the USPS cut 12,000 jobs in March, and that continues the woeful public employment numbers that have dragged down the overall jobs numbers despite private increases all through this recession (something like 700,000 public jobs gone). This difference alone, unlike previous recessions where public jobs held steady or increased, has made it a way tougher slog to normalcy. So that sickness continues.

However, via Joe Weisenthal, Matt Busigin, an economist and investor claimed this was a “great” report. Why:

  • The important leading sub-indices (professional/business services, construction) were strong.
  • In the key demographic groups, unemployment dropped massively, suggesting that a lot of what people are worried about is just based on aging demographics, not anything cyclical.
  • As for the mass exit from the workforce, it finally appears that people have the confidence to retire.

But he wasn’t alone. Over at Bonddad’s blog New Deal Democrat pointed out that:


    • The broad U-6 unemployment rate, that includes discouraged workers, fell a full .5% from 14.3% to 13.8%
    • the index of aggregate hours worked in the economy also surged .3 from 97.9 to 98.2
    • temporary jobs – a leading indicator for jobs overall – increased 20,300
    • construction jobs added 18,000
    • the number of people unemployed for 5 weeks or less – a better leading indicator than initial jobless claims – fell by 203,000 to 2,464,000. This may be a new post-recession low. If it isn’t, it’s close (I’ll double check this and update). UPDATE: It’s the second best by 11,000. In March 2011, the number was 2,453,000. This is NOT recessionary.
    • January’s report was revised up 29,000 to 198,000. February was revised up 32,000 to 268,000. Positive revisions like this happen in recoveries, not at the onset of recessions
    • average hourly earnings increased $.01. While the YoY change declined to +1.8%, when we get the CPI for March we are probably going to find that real, inflation adjusted hourly earnings are the most positive in several years
    • the average workweek increased .1 to 34.6
    • overtime hours increased .1 to 3.4
    • the most commonly reported unemployment rate, U-3, also declined to a new post-recession low of 7.6%

Finally, in what I guess will provoke the most heated debate from this report, almost 500,000 people dropped out of the labor force. This is why the various unemployment measures declined. The employment/population ratio declined to 58.5%, and the labor force participation rate dropped to the lowest level since 1979. How much of that is pessimism by potential employees, and how much is the ever increasing level of Boomer retirements I will leave up to the combatants, but you probably would be right figuring that a lot of both is going on.