Saturday, June 12, 2004

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I may be off-line for a while (maybe a couple hours, maybe a few days) while I try to swap out computers. Ordinarly this shouldn't be difficult. But I don't have a warm fuzzy about re-establishing the interface with the cable company.

Anyway, I'll get back up as soon as I can. Thanks for dropping by, and I hope to see you soon.


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Justice and Torture:
DOJ does the Double Shuffle

BeatBushBlog has a good post, spelling out line and verse on the U.S. statute that makes it a crime to commit torture outside the U.S. and its territories.

Ashcroft's DOJ is saying that Guantanamo is within U.S. jurisdiction for the purpose of torturing detainees, but not within U.S. jurisdiction if those same detainees try to sue for damages that resulted from torture.

Read Lying Bastards, then explain to me why the government lawyers who come up with this tortured logic still have jobs.


Friday, June 11, 2004

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Farewell to Hesiod

Via The Sideshow we learn that Counterspin is going off-line.

Counterspin was a vital voice in the left blogosphere, and a critical element in monitoring and countering the horse manure that flows, uninterrupted, from the misguided right.

But we all have lives, families, day jobs, and other commitments. Sometimes we have to decide to put down the key board for a while and do something else.

We'll miss you. Best of luck. Maybe sometime after the election in November, we can all meet up at the big Bloggers Convention somewhere, and drink a toast to the good work we have done and the the truth we sought to tell.

Vaya con Dios, Hesiod.

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I Never Thought I'd Say This, but

God Bless Howard Stern

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Remembering Ray

Today, with all the media consumed by the funeral of a former president, I am much more comfortable thinking about Ray Charles.

I can't count Ray as one of my significant musical influences. But his songs are so woven into the fabric of six decades of the American musical experience, that he must have touched us all, over and over again.

My first conscious memory of his music takes me back to elementary school. I must have been in the 5th grade. A friend and I were singing Hit the Road Jack as we walked down the school hallway. We were into it, and singing loudly. I remember one male teacher glaring at us. The message was clear. That sort of music was not appropriate for school children to be singing, at least not at our school. We might have lowered the volume a bit, but we kept right on singing as we moved on down the hall.

A few years later I heard a recording of Ray singing Georgia. What a beautiful song! I've loved it ever since. Probably dozens of people have recorded it over the years. But when I hear it in my head, it's Ray who's singing.

One of my favorite movies in high school was The Cincinnati Kid (Steve McQueen and Edward G. Robinson). Ray sang the movie's theme song. I went to record stores, looking for an album that had the song, but I never found it. Now I have The Cincinnati Kid on video and I can hear it any time I want.

It was about that time that I saw Ray on the Dick Cavet Show. He told a joke I'll never forget.
RAY: There's just one thing that bothers me about being blind.

DICK: What's that, Ray?

RAY: I can't see, man.
My freshman year at college I saw Ray perform live. It was in the old field house on campus that has long since been torn down. He was just out there in the middle of the basketball court -- just him and his piano. He gave a hell of a show: all soul, energy and tenderness rolled into one great musician bouncing around on his piano bench.

Years go by, and eventually everybody passes on. The great thing about music is that it survives us all. If I want to watch Ray again I can just throw in a DVD.

My kids watch Blue's Clues. There's one episode that is focused on learning about music. Ray appears as the voice of a hipster named G Clef, who explains melody, rhythm, and tempo, and how they are written as music on paper. I can't think of anyone I would rather have teach my girls music than Ray Charles. Thanks Ray -- for everything.

For those who are interested, Professor Kim has posted a collection of remembrances of Ray Charles. Also be sure to read Kim's own tribute HERE.

UPDATE: Forgot one. Avedon helped me remember, and she made me laugh, which I needed. Thanks.


Thursday, June 10, 2004

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Molly Ivins on
Bush taking care of veterans

Via The Sideshow
Just before Memorial Day, Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi said, "Our active military respond better to Republicans" because of "the tremendous support that President Bush has provided for our military and our veterans." The same day, the White House announced plans for massive cuts in veterans' health care for 2006.

Last January, Bush praised veterans during a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The same day, 164,000 veterans were told the White House was "immediately cutting off their access to the VA health care system."

My favorite in this category was the short-lived plan to charge soldiers wounded in Iraq for their meals when they got to American military hospitals. The plan mercifully died a-borning after it hit the newspapers.

In January 2003, just before the war, Bush said, "I want to make sure that our soldiers have the best possible pay." A few months later, the White House announced it would roll back increases in "imminent danger" pay (from $225 to $150) and family separation allowance (from $250 to $100).
There's more. Read on. Then remember the veterans, from those who were there on the beaches on D-Day (or jumped in behind the lines the night before), to those who are now in Walter Reed, hoping to recover their bodies and their lives after serving their country honorably. Tell me they don't deserve better than a knife in the back from a grateful nation.

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Constitutional Crisis
or just a 3-way pissing contest

As the Bush administration seems set on a course to butt heads with both the Surpreme Court and Congress, one could wonder if we're approaching a bit of a constitutional crisis.

Phil Carter considers the federal terror cases soon to be decided by the Supreme Court. Drawing largely from a recent Newsweek article by Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, Carter writes:
The DC grapevine that includes former Supreme Court law clerks, Solicitor General attorneys, law professors and pundits is abuzz that the Court is about to hand the Bush administration stunning setbacks in all three cases, sharply curtailing the Executive Branch's power to act with unfettered discretion pursuant to what it sees as its Constitutional wartime authority.
Atrios expects the Bush administration to declare that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction in these cases. That should make for an interesting constitutional confrontation. Wonder if they'll be sorry that they appointed Bush President in 2000. Chickens comin' home to roost, I guess.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill:
Attorney General John Ashcroft is refusing to turn over to senators a 50-page document containing advice from Justice Department lawyers to the CIA asserting that torturing suspected terrorists may be justified.
Too bad there aren't enough votes in the House to impeach. This time around there will probably be some actual high crimes and misdemeanors instead of just a little unauthorized falating.

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New Poll Numbers
and plenty of work to do

The LA Times (registration required) is reporting that, based on recent polling data, Kerry is building a solid lead over Bush nation-wide. But the electoral vote count shows no clear advantage to either candidate.

Perhaps more interesting than the article is the interactive electoral vote graphic, that is updated regularly to reflect the latest state polling numbers. It is showing a whole lot of states still up for grabs. Lots of work to do between now and that big victory party we're looking forward to in November.

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The Iraqi Chicken Joke

Thanks to Billmon for pointing to Juan Cole's posting of the Iraqi variations on the oldest joke in the world. It's the Blog Humor of the Week. Go read it.


Wednesday, June 09, 2004

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Reagan and Race:
the card's still on the table

Publius at Legal Fiction says that since Bush is now going to try to run on Reagan's record, maybe we ought to look at it.
But anyway, since our Commander-in-Chief has decided it’s ok to incorporate Reagan into his campaign, I think it’s ok to have a discussion of Reagan’s race legacy.


I want to start with Philadelphia, Mississippi, which I consider the most egregious of Reagan’s actions with respect to race. As the Post reminded us today, Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign by traveling to a small town in Mississippi known only for the murder of three college-student civil-rights workers who were merely helping black people vote.


It was, obviously, a national outrage. Yet, Reagan (at the urging of a young Senator Lott) kicked off his 1980 campaign there with a speech on states’ rights. The subtext was not lost on anyone. I have yet to hear any plausible justification for this action by any Reagan supporter. Although it was outrageous, it was a shrewd political move. To explain why, I’m going to have do a quick digression into American history.


In 1980, Reagan was merely following Nixon’s so-called "Southern Strategy." One of the architects of this strategy was Nixon advisor Kevin Phillips, author of the 1970 book The Emerging Republican Majority. Phillips explained that the goal of politics it to understand "who hates whom":
"That is the secret." The trick was to use the emotional issues of culture and race to achieve what Phillips’ mentor and boss, John Mitchell, called a "positive polarization" of American politics. (By "positive," Mitchell meant that Republicans would end up with more than 50 percent of the voters once the electorate was divided into warring camps.)

Fast forward to 1980. Despite the fact that the South went back to the Dems in 1976 (with the Southerner Carter in the wake of Watergate), Reagan knew that there were a lot of Wallace Democrats out there (who later became "Reagan Democrats"). This, then, is the only conceivable justification for Reagan’s trip to Philadelphia. Political candidates in democracies reflect popular emotions ... but Lots of (white) people were angry about civil rights, and Reagan was merely a reflection of a more systemic racism within the population as a whole. Thus, Reagan knew that he could win by bringing the Wallace Democrats into his coalition. To accomplish this goal, he blatantly exploited a racial tragedy by beginning his speech in a Philadelphia. There is simply no excuse for this behavior.
There's more. Publius was motivated to do some good research after watching too many hours of Faux News at his parent's house over the weekend, I think.

Though I don't know for sure, I suspect that Publius is a White guy. For the Black perspective on Reagan, be sure to read Professor Kim's Blog:
Quoting Joe Davidson of BET.com:

After taking office in 1981, Reagan began a sustained attack on the government’s civil rights apparatus, opened an assault on affirmative action and social welfare programs, embraced the White racist leaders of then-apartheid South Africa and waged war on a tiny, Black Caribbean nation.

So thorough was Reagan’s attack on programs of importance to African Americans, that the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights, an organization formed in the wake of Reagan’s attempt to neuter the official U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said he caused "an across-the-board breakdown in the machinery constructed by six previous administrations to protect civil rights."
If the Bush team wants to run on the Reagan legacy instead of their own, so be it. Let's just remember how Reagan played the race card and be aware that it is still on the table today.

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Responsibility for Torture
starts at the top

The LA Times (registration required) is reporting that some of the same interrogation tactics uncoved at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq were used on John Walker Lindh, the young American who was recruited by the Taliban and captured in Afghanistan.
What happened to Lindh, who was stripped and humiliated by his captors, foreshadowed the type of abuse documented in photographs of American soldiers tormenting Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

At the time, just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. was desperate to find terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. After Lindh asked for a lawyer rather than talk to interrogators, he was not granted one nor was he advised of his Miranda rights against self-incrimination. Instead, the Pentagon ordered intelligence officers to get tough with him.

The documents, read to The Times by two sources critical of how the government handled the Lindh case, show that after an Army intelligence officer began to question Lindh, a Navy admiral told the intelligence officer that "the secretary of Defense's counsel has authorized him to 'take the gloves off' and ask whatever he wanted."
If there is a smoking gun here, it is that the guidance on and authorization of interrogation methods was coming out of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Pushing responsibility for torture and violations of U.S. and international law down onto subordinates is what cowards do when they get caught.

Thanks to Jess for the heads up.

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Republicans and Democrats:
the differences are fundamental

Josh Marshall has a very thoughtful post on the differences between the Republicans and the Democrats. He writes in response to James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal, who in turn was responding to Josh.

While this discussion has roots that go back years, it came to the surface recently after Stephanie Herseth won the special Congressional Election in South Dakota last week. Her victory was greeted with this disclaimer by Rep. Tom Davis, (R-Va.), the former National Republican Campaign Committee Chairman:
"If you take out the Indian reservation, we would have won."
This led to charges by numerous pundits and bloggers that from the Republican perspective, minority voters are somewhat less equal than WASP voters, and the Democrats are somehow tainted through their association with those minority constituencies.

Taranto (writing in the WSJ, to which I do not have a subscription, and am therefore not providing a link) doesn't believe that the Republicans systematically discount minorities, and in fact, he still thinks it's possible to bring minorities into that mythical Republican Big Tent:
The obvious point is that if Republicans ever find a way of attracting significant numbers of black voters, the Democrats will be in big trouble. Forty years' experience has shown this is easier said than done, but surely it's possible.
Marshall rightly points out that for the Republican Party to attract large numbers of Blacks, Hispanics, Gays, or pro-choice voters, it would have to change in ways that would make it an entirely different party than it is today.
The Republican Party has not ... ignored blacks and other minorities. In the last 30 years the Republican Party has increasingly relied on the support of constituencies that feel embittered and resentful toward minorities and the poor. The party's mounting strength in the 1970s and 1980s was based on making inroads among conservative southern whites and appealing to the resentments that Democratic northern, working-class ethnic voters felt against school busing and affirmative action. Thus, the GOP's problem with minorities isn't incidental; it's fundamental. Any genuine effort to aid minorities or the poor would instantly alienate a substantial portion of the Republican base. It's an electoral bind, inexorable and fixed. The Republicans can't be the party of both black opportunity and anti-black resentment, no matter how big the tent.
It's an election year, and there are lots of other contests besides the one for the White House. Voters need to remember that there are fundamental differences between the two parties. Those differences should drive the choices we make on election day.

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Former Texas Jewboy
eyes Governor's mansion

I won't listen to Morning Edition since National Corporate Radio kicked Bob Edwards off. So I missed this feature on Kinky Friedman running for Governor of Texas:
June 9, 2004 -- Kinky Friedman used to perform offbeat country songs with his band, the Texas Jewboys. He later turned to writing mysteries. Now he wants to be governor of Texas. His slogan for the 2006 campaign: "How Hard Can It Be?"

Friedman's platform includes outlawing cat declawing. In addition, "we'll have the Texas peace corps, which is not an oxymoron," he says. "And remember, I'm a Jew. I'll hire good people."
Finally, a Texas candidate I can support! You can visit Kinky's campaign web site HERE.

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Brighten Up Your Day!

Thanks to Avedon Carol for pointing out that the UnaBlogger is nearing the half-million mark, and dedicating cheesecake to deserving bloggers (a short list Rain Storm didn't make, by the way).

Stop by, run up the numbers, and indulge in the content.


Tuesday, June 08, 2004

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Having a Little Trouble
getting along in the sandbox

Barely mentioned amidst all the hoopla over the U.N. Security Council approving the "Sovereignty" plan for Iraq, is the news that two of the principle factions in Iraq are not getting along.

The New York Times (registration required) reports that Kurds are threatening secession if the Shiites alter the interim constitution which currently gives the Kurds a veto over a permanent Iraqi constitution:
In a letter to President Bush this week, the two main Kurdish leaders, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, wrote that the Kurds would "refrain from participating in the central government" in Baghdad if any attempt was made by the new government to nullify the interim Iraqi constitution adopted in March.

Shiite leaders have said repeatedly in recent weeks that they intend to remove parts of the interim constitution that essentially grant the Kurds veto power over the permanent constitution, which is scheduled to be drafted and ratified next year.

The Shiite leaders consider the provisions undemocratic, while the Kurds contend they are their only guarantee of retaining the rights to self-rule they gained in the past 13 years, protected from Saddam Hussein by United States warplanes.

In their letter, Mr. Talabani and Mr. Barzani wrote that the Kurdish leadership would refuse to take part in national elections, expected to be held in January, and bar representatives from going to "Kurdistan."

That would amount to something like secession, which Kurdish officials have been hinting at privately for months but now appear to be actively considering. "The Kurdish people will no longer accept second-class citizenship in Iraq," the letter said.
This could be a source of some concern, but since Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz assured us that there are no ethnic tensions in Iraq, I guess we don't have to worry about it.

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Everybody is an Enemy;
Everybody is out to get him

Speaking of parallels between Bush and Nixon (see A Vote for the Dumb Rabbit below), Stout Dem Blog brings it all into a very sharp focus:
Worried White House aides paint a portrait of a man on the edge, increasingly wary of those who disagree with him and paranoid of a public that no longer trusts his policies in Iraq or at home.

"It reminds me of the Nixon days," says a longtime GOP political consultant with contacts in the White House. "Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That's the mood over there."

In interviews with a number of White House staffers who were willing to talk off the record, a picture of an administration under siege has emerged, led by a man who declares his decisions to be "God's will" and then tells aides to "fuck over" anyone they consider to be an opponent of the administration. ...

"...when the director challenged the President during the meeting Wednesday, the President cut him off by saying 'that's it George. I cannot abide disloyalty. I want your resignation and I want it now'."
It's deja vu all over again. Where are Barry Goldwater and John Rhodes now that we have another president who needs the facts of life explained to him?

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Former AZ Republican Chair
fronts for Ralph the Wrecker

The Arizona Republic reported that the former Executive Director of the Arizona Republican Party is leading the charge to get Ralph Nader's name on the ballot in Arizona. And he may be using his own cash to get the necessary signatures.
The chairman of the state Democratic Party called Monday for an investigation into whether a Republican consultant is a major source of funding for a petition drive to put Ralph Nader on Arizona's presidential election ballot.

The consultant, Nathan Sproul, dismissed the claim as a "wild accusation that has no bearing in fact."

"I'm not being paid by anybody to do petitions (for Nader), and I've not paid anybody to do petitions," said Sproul, who served for three years as executive director of the state GOP before going into political consulting and management in 2002.
Republicans funding the Nader campaign have been reported in other states previously. To my knowledge, this was the first time it's been seen in Arizona.

As I've noted before, Arizona could prove to be a key swing state in November. It went for Clinton in 1996, Bush in 2000, then elected a Democrat for governor in 2002. Getting Nader on the ballot could very well be the Bush's best shot at holding Arizona this year. And on a statistical note, if every state in the union votes the way it did in 2000 except Arizona, Kerry wins by 2 electoral votes.

(Thanks to Jess for the heads up)

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A Vote for the Dumb Rabbit

There's an old Doonesbury strip from some Sunday during Nixon's second term. Louie the poll man stops at the home of a middle-age, middle class couple in middle America. He asks:
"If a presidential election were held tomorrow, and the two candidates were Richard Nixon and the Easter Bunny, whom would you vote for?"

The husband replies, "Wow...That's a toughie."

The wife declares, "I'd go with the dumb rabbit."

Louie thinks to himself, "Hmm...Worse than I thought."
Two recent posts on the presidential election somehow reminded me of that Doonesbury strip.

Kevin Hayden has some interesting thoughts and numbers on the swing states. His bottom line is that, while key states are too close to call, Kerry is, at the moment, in much better shape than Bush on the electoral vote count.

Hayden's piece would be easier to follow if it had a few charts. I'd suggest opening another browser window and going to the American Research Group's interactive electoral vote calculator. It will make following Hayden's numbers much easier.

By the way, Election Projection, which is written by a Christian Bushie who calls himself The Blogging Ceasar (go figure), is being a lot more generous in giving out blue states than anyone else I've seen (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnisota, Oregon, and New Mexico solid blue, with Arizona, Nevada, Iowa, Missouri, and Florida leaning Blue). While he fully expects some dramatic changes before the election (thus avoiding some serious cognative dissonance, I suppose), he currently has Kerry leading Bush 337 to 201 in electoral votes.

Which brings me to Legal Fiction where Publius takes a close look at potential Bush campaign stategies and thinks that Karl Rove has got himself in a bit of a strategic jam.
So, the GOP is sort of stuck. If they move right, they lose votes in the middle and/or fire up the progressive base. If they move left, they lose their own base. It's an extremely tough predicament.
Interestingly, Publius still thinks Bush may win in November, but to do it Bush/Rove/Cheney would have to sacrifice the long-term future of their party in order to win the elction. They will sell out the center (whom they've probably already lost) in order hold on to the Rush-loving Right.
Bush's short-term tactics are thus in tension with the long-term GOP interests. The GOP majority can only survive by adopting a more centrist, Arnold Schwarzenegger style of politics. But - and this is the greatest failing of Rove - Bush probably cannot run credibly as a centrist in 2004. Rove has managed the rather remarkable feat of making Bush look extremist to the center (gay marriage amendment, Iraq, 2002 midterm elections), and looking too liberal to the base (immigration policy, deficits, Medicare, and Iraq - the latter applies to paleos only).

So what does Bush do? Essentially, Bush has to gamble on who would be willing to come back to him - his base or the centrist voters who voted for him (or were satisfied to stay home) in 2000. That question itself depends on two different questions: (1) Does energizing the base get more votes than moving to the center?; and (2) Should Bush coordinate his campaign with the long-term interests of the GOP in mind?

It's a really tough call, but it appears that Bush and Rove have already made the decision that the base is their only hope. Given their inexcusable polarizing tactics in 2002, that's probably right.
That the Bush team would do that doesn't surprise me. When have they ever had (or cared about) a long-term plan for anything?

But I don't think it will work. This time Bush isn't fooling anybody. The American people know who he is and what he's about. We have seen how he has damaged the economy, the environment, and American prestige and credibility around the world, and how he has sent hundreds of Americans and thousands of Iraqis to a brutal, senseless death. His entire corrupt, incompetent administration has been a miserable failure, based on ignorance and driven by arrogance.

The American electorate, at least from the center to the left, is united and mobilized in ways that this country hasn't seen since World War II. And the sentiment that drives it is "Anybody but Bush."

I think John Kerry is a very credible, experienced candidate, but I don't think that matters all that much this time around. Given the Doonesbury question above, I'd go with the dumb rabbit, too.


Monday, June 07, 2004

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Why Reagan was the Best:
It's a Matter of Conviction
Nobody from the White House was arrested or even indicted over the Christmas holidays, but it had the look of an uneasy truce and there was nobody in national politics who thought it would last much longer.

-- Hunter Thompson
December 29, 1986
In all the talk about what a great president Ronald Reagan was, especially how he stacked up against other 2-termers like Bill Clinton (see for instance Atrios' America's Greatest President, Maximum Approval Rating, and Presidential Approval Ratings), one important metric is repeatedly overlooked: the capacity of a President to fight governmental corruption. In this measure, Ronald Reagan succeeded like no U.S. President, before or since.

Think about it -- during the Reagan presidency, 30 members of his administration were convicted of various offences. That was back in the day when a special prosecutor was really special. Compare that to the Clinton administration where you had a namby-pamby, left-coast special prosecutor like Ken Starr. He took several years and spent millions of tax-payer dollars and all he got was one measly conviction. But that's not a really a big surprise because everybody knows that liberal administrations like Clinton's are soft on crime.

With Ron Reagan you had a real Hollywood sheriff for a President. And being tough on crime, he made sure that everybody in his administration either toed the line or did the time. Consequently, a lot of them did some time. That's the sort of tough Republican example young George W. Bush might really be able to emulate. I think most Americans would like to see that.

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The Texas GOP:
They're out there where the busses don't run

Kevin Drum nails the big Texas GOP convention for the gathering of dangerous fanatics that it is:
The thing is, you have to read the whole platform to see how dangerously unhinged these people really are. And while you're reading it you have to remember that they aren't just a harmless fringe group: they control the second biggest state in the nation and have produced the current top leadership of the United States.


These are not the words of sane people. This is not "reform," this is not "common sense," and this is not "restraining government growth." This is plain and simple madness and the people behind it have real influence.
Read the whole thing.

Atrios adds this quote from the Austin American-Statesman:
For many delegates at the three-day convention, religion and politics commingle with comfort, purpose and zeal. Delegates on Friday approved a platform that refers to "the myth of the separation of church and state."
Americans who think theocracy is a good idea scare the shit out of me. This is the sort of thing that during my twisted youth would inspire me to buy more bullets. But I have since learned that the keyboard is mightier than the assault rifle. Even so, these people are scary. If Hitler were some kind of Christian Ayatolla, he would have loved Texas. Like the travel ads say, "It's a whole other country."


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