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What Conservatives Mean When They Say "Libertarian"

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 14:00

It took the Republican Party sixty years of dedicated effort to make the word "liberal" radioactive in some parts of the United States. In less than half that time they've also done a pretty good job of making "Republican" just as disliked, associated as it is with the politics of wretched excess, fetishizing ignorance, bowing to K street lobbyists, and diaper-wearing-toe-tapping-lesbian-bondage sexual hypocrisy.

So lately conservatives, and especially the most hard right wing of conservatives, have been on the lookout for other terms they can use rather than the dreaded "R" word when describing themselves. Some of them have jumped on board the Glenn Beck self-promotion tour. Considering that it's an artificial movement generated around a cheap media persona, declaring yourself a supporter of the Tea Party is a bit like being a proud member of a Monkees Fan Club (and you don't even get to hear "Last Train to Clarksville"), but hey, it plays better than being a part of the George W. Bush legacy.

Other conservatives have jumped in a different direction and declared that they're really "small government Libertarians." Only they don't seem to understand what Libertarian actually means. Take for example this article in which Jacob Hornberger anoints 1880 as the peak of America's Libertarian golden age.

Let’s consider, say, the year 1880. Here was a society in which people were free to keep everything they earned, because there was no income tax. They were also free to decide what to do with their own money—spend it, save it, invest it, donate it, or whatever. People were generally free to engage in occupations and professions without a license or permit. There were few federal economic regulations and regulatory agencies. No Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, bailouts, or so-called stimulus plans. No IRS. No Departments of Education, Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor. No EPA and OSHA. No Federal Reserve. No drug laws. Few systems of public schooling. No immigration controls. No federal minimum-wage laws or price controls. A monetary system based on gold and silver coins rather than paper money. No slavery. No CIA. No FBI. No torture or cruel or unusual punishments. No renditions. No overseas military empire. No military-industrial complex.

As a libertarian, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a society that is pretty darned golden.

Ah, the 1880s. I can hear people getting wistful from here.

A golden age in which people kept all that they earned. Of course, what they earned in the absence of those debilitating minimum wage laws could be nothing more than worthless tokens from the company store. What they earned from twelve hours of work seven days a week could be actually be a bigger debt to the company that sent you into a mine or factory and made you pay for the wear on your tools, the water you drank, the fuel for your lamp, even the blasting powder you used.

Still, a lifetime of debt wasn't so bad in a golden age without OSHA and its safety laws, since lifetimes could be quite brief. Mining accidents didn't kill a piddling 29 men, they killed thousands every year. Over 3 miners out of every 1,000 died on the job each year (twice the rate of Great Britain with it's freedom-robbing concern for safety). But miners were pikers compared to folks on the railroad. Trainmen fell at a rate that made each year of work roughly equal to the risk of being among the troops on D-Day. Now that's freedom you can feel (well, briefly). It was an age where any construction project worth its salt could measure progress by body count and factory workers were privileged to know that they really were valued far less than the machines they tended. And death wasn't all that this golden age had to offer! It was an age when American workers could look forward to the liberation of being disabled for life, and know that they wouldn't be burdened by the crushing burden of worker's compensation or government aid.

Any laborer making it to to retirement would find... well, whatever they had laid aside for themselves, assuming they were paid in actual money and that they were cagey enough to hide it somewhere their employer couldn't "borrow" it. Meaning that a large percentage got to experience the invigorating freedom of starting a second career as a beggar after decades of crippling repetitive work, breathing toxic fumes, and exposure to corrosive chemicals made them unable to continue to hum hi-ho at their old tasks. Well over half of America's senior citizens basked in the autumnal liberty of living in poverty.

It was a golden age without labor laws in which only 5% of people faced the awful restriction of an 8 hour work day while 3 times that many were blessed with a workday that was 12 hours or longer. Many industries, breweries for example, had a standard workday of 15 hours. And with all the extra freedom of that age, many children were able to experience the blessings of back-breaking labor starting every day by the time they reached the age of 10, with more than a third generating freedom dollars before they turned 15.

Of course, that wasn't hard since this was a golden age of few public schools. Except it wasn't. Public education was common across the country, even in remote communities. Even the tiniest frontier village rarely went long without a school, many states had organized school districts, and in a good number of areas the ratio of teachers to students was actually higher than in our own socialistic era. Perhaps what Hornberger meant to say was that there were few schools available to minorities. In many areas minorities lived with "compulsory ignorance," as they were not only excluded from public schools, but discouraged (often violently) from seeking education. That accounts for a literacy rate of less than 40% among African-Americans in 1880. As laws changed and more schools became available for all, that rate grew by more than 30% over the next three decades. However, white literacy remained about the same -- not surprising since whites were already suffering from those socialistic public schools well before 1880.

It truly was a golden age. One in which, thanks to that lack of nasty safety requirements and the troublesome health organizations, the average lifespan was all the way up to 40! An age in which, unfettered by the shackles of regulations on clean water and Hitler-like restrictions on sewage, 50,000 Americans died of cholera. An age in which parents could experience the ultimate freedom endowed by watching 1 child in 5 die in infancy, and 1 out of 3 fail to reach adulthood. Those numbers are for white Americans. Minorities experienced even more of the freedom that comes from burying your children.

It truly was a golden age where there were "no immigration controls" as long as, you know, you were white and European. Oh, and wealthy. Otherwise, you were subject to laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act, or regulations that allowed anyone to be denied admission on the basis of poverty. Once you were in, you could love the freedom from Jim Crow laws, and the liberty that came with being denied to right to vote, or the ability to protect yourself from abuse. Of course Hispanic, Black, and Asian-Americans were all stimulated by the freedom that comes from having your home burned, your community ransacked, your wife and daughters raped, your belongings stolen, and your body left to turn as "strange fruit" in trees that sprouted across the country. All without un-American interference by the government. There's no freedom like the freedom that comes when you aren't forced to endure a trial by a jury of your peers and can get on with more expedited forms of justice.

It was a golden age when the last bands of Native Americans still struggling along under the illusion that they were free, were invited into the real liberty that is life on the reservation. And an age where they got to see the lands their ancestors had occupied for centuries or tens of centuries handed over for destruction. Imagine the liberty you get from seeing your lands taken away, your children beaten for speaking their own language, your religious practices used as an excuse for slaughter, and your entire culture erased.

A golden age, free from money-grubbing FEMA, where 400 people could die in a snow storm... then 400 more could die in the next. An age when Florida didn't need no stinking assistance in picking up the thousands who died in hurricanes and Midwestern states laughed off the hundreds who died in tornadoes -- all without warning from a communist government weather bureau.  An age where dams could be built without concern for any damn fish living in the water, or any damn people living downstream. An age where you were free to inhale the asbestos that wafted from factories and the mercury fumes that steamed from metal refineries. And free to see the interesting effects such exposures had on your offspring.

An age without communist limits on commerce or immoral government tests, where thousands of Americans each year died from tainted food. Where you didn't need no stinkin' license to hand out medicines. An age free from the horrors of the FDA where parents could feel good about using a childrens' cough remedy laced with opium, cocaine, formaldehyde, and wood alcohol. An age when nobody told us how much lead we could have in our water, or how much soot we could have in our air. An age where the injured and elderly had the God-given right to starve.

It was a golden age of rights for women in which... oh, wait. Sorry. I forgot for a moment that women don't count when measuring freedom. Good thing, since in 1880 they couldn't vote, were excluded from many occupations, faced restrictions on their ownership rights, and were often treated as the property of their husbands. Naturally, their reproductive rights consisted of the right to reproduce -- or die trying.

Of course, what Hornberger was likely envisioning was the flip side of all this liberty. The freedom of being a rich in a society where those with money enjoyed tremendous advantage. The freedom that factory owners and robber barons enjoyed in treating workers as they wanted, employing private armies to beat or kill those who opposed them, and indulging any whim in the sure knowledge that a large enough bribe could smooth things over.

The good news for Jacob is that it's not too late. It doesn't require a time machine and a trip to the 1880s to experience all the joys of this golden age he so longs for. You can reach this land of paradise with a couple of flights and a short boat ride. It's called Somalia.

The truth is, there are real Libertarians out there, people who place a very high value on individual rights and who believe this government -- like most every government -- too often interferes with those rights. Of course, actual Libertarians realize that for individual rights to have any meaning, they require the presence of a body that can ensure those rights.  They know that freedom can't be maintained in an absence of information, and that there must be agencies that create the transparency needed for effective individual action and ensure there are consequences to dishonesty. Real advocates of the free market realize that term has no meaning unless the market is free from coercion and the law is not defined by "might makes right." They know that individual freedoms are incompatible with a system where corporations are treated as super-citizens and that Libertarianism requires that workers be more valued that abstract entities that live only on paper.

The difference between actual Libertarians and Republicans hiding from their tarnished name is quite easy. Actual Libertarians are concerned about the freedom of individuals. Conservatives use Libertarian as a code word meaning "I want to continue to enjoy all the privileges I do now, but I don't want to share them with you and most of all I don't want to pay any taxes." Push come to shove, they're happy to abbreviate that to "Screw freedom. I just don't want to pay taxes."

Driven to Destruction – The Streetcar Conspiracy

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 13:30

(Driven to Destruction is a series outlining how America became so dependent on the personal automobile, and how we must break this dependency if we want to create a sustainable way of life for future generations.)

The second installment of Driven to Destruction outlined how advertising trends have created a mystique-based car culture that is very difficult to transform. For 100 years, commercials from auto and oil companies have helped create a national ethos in which the automobile is king. But clever advertising is far from being the only culprit. Our love affair with our cars has also been fueled by the devious actions of a few major corporations – most notably General Motors.

The PBS documentary “Taken For a Ride” describes how the once ubiquitous electric streetcar was driven into the ground by the automobile. It wasn’t a fair fight:

When you’re talking about public transportation in America, for the first part of this century, you’re talking about streetcars. Trolleys ran on most major avenues every few minutes.

In 1922, only one American in ten owned an automobile. Everyone else used rail. At that time Alfred P. Sloan (President, General Motors) said, ‘Wait a minute, this is a great opportunity. We’ve got 90 percent of the market out there that we can somehow turn into automobile users. If we can eliminate the rail alternatives, we will create a new market for our cars. And if we don’t, then General Motors’ sales are just going to remain level.’

Sloan had the idea that he wanted to somehow motorize all the major cities in the country. (GM bought) the largest bus-operating company in the country and the largest bus-production company. And using that as a foothold, GM moved into Manhattan. They acquired interests in the New York railways and between 1926 and ‘36 they methodically destroyed the rails.

When they finally motorized New York, GM worked hard to create the impression of a nationwide trend away from rail. But there was no trend. Buses were a tough sell. They jolted. They smelled. They inched through traffic. City by city, it took the hidden hand of General Motors to replace streetcars with Yellow Coach buses.

The piece-by-piece destruction of the streetcar industry didn’t stop with General Motors. A number of corporations in the auto and oil industries realized that it was in their best interests to work together:

In 1936, a company was founded that would grow to dominate American city transportation. National City Lines had no visible connection to General Motors. In fact, the director of operations came from a GM subsidiary, Yellow Coach, and members of the Board of Directors came from Greyhound, which was founded and controlled by General Motors.

The money to start this new company also came from Greyhound and Yellow Coach. Over the next few years, Standard Oil of California, Mack Truck, Phillips Petroleum and Firestone Tire would join GM in backing this venture. National City Lines grew quickly. By 1946 it controlled public-transit systems in over 83 cities. From Baltimore to St. Louis, Salt Lake City to L.A., the company had grown into an empire.

And this empire was created for one reason – to absorb as much of the streetcar industry as possible, and then to shut it down. Since this conspiracy of corporations was methodically destroying a very efficient and beneficial industry, there was antitrust action taken – but all that came of the proceedings were fines of $5000 for each company involved and $1 for the treasurer of GM who oversaw much of National City Lines’ operations.

The opening words of “Taken For a Ride” tell us why this tragic bit of history is so important for us today:

This is a story about how things got the way they are. Why sitting in traffic seems natural. Why our public transportation is the worst in the industrialized world. And why superhighways cut right through the hearts of our cities.

We might add, “And why when gas hits $4 a gallon, politicians on both sides of the aisle start chanting ‘drill, baby, drill”.” We are addicted to oil because we are addicted to driving. And we are addicted to driving in large part because of the profit lust of a handful of men who ran a handful of corporations back in the 1930’s and 40’s.

This profit lust still exists today. The historical parallels are eerie. When the streetcars were shut down and GM conspired its way to soaring sales, many people who could not afford cars were left with few transportation options. Meanwhile, the government could do no better than laughably small fines.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Big Oil And Big Auto continue to rule the American transportation scene. These days, Standard Oil (ExxonMobil) is raking in record profits and GM is receiving huge government bailouts because it is now “too big to fail.”

Looking back at the lessons of the streetcar’s demise, it is clear that breaking our dependency on the automobile will not be easy. There are many powerful forces working dilligently to maintain the status quo. How can we keep corporate interests from dominating the energy policy of the 21st century?

In the next installment of Driven to Destruction, we will look at how the development of the Interstate highway system deepened the impact of the car culture, and how its story can give us clues as to how to develop new attitudes about transportation in the future.

Sunday Talk Shows Open Thread

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 12:50
Looks like Wall Street reform is the main topic on the shows today. Tim Geithner is on "Meet the Press."

Scott Brown is on "Face the Nation." Funny thing about Brown. While he was the darling of the teabaggers, Wall Street invested heavily in Brown during his campaign earlier this year:In a six-day span just before the US Senate election, Republican Scott Brown collected nearly $450,000 from donors who work at financial companies, a sign the industry is prepared to spend heavily in the upcoming midterm elections to beat back new controls and taxes President Obama wants to impose.

The donations, from hundreds of financial executives, far exceeded what Brown received from doctors and others in the health care industry in the final days of the campaign.Those Wall Street bankers will expect to get their money's worth from Brown.

And, Mitch McConnell, who is shamelessly lying about reform, just lying about it, is on CNN. Let's see if Candy Crowley actually challenges his lies -- and the fact the he's doing the bidding of Wall Street. On behalf of Wall Street, McConnell is now leading a filibuster of the reform bill. Be interesting to know how much Wall Street has promised to McConnell. Obviously, as we saw from that $450,000 in just six days for Scott Brown, they can really deliver with the campaign contributions.

The main news maker today will undoubtedly be Bill Clinton. He's on ABC with Jake Tapper. Jake has been tweeting previews of the show and this one caught my eye: Clinton: Rubin + Summers Gave Me Wrong Advice on Derivatives, and I Was Wrong Never dull with Bill Clinton.

Here's the lineup.

Your Abbreviated Pundit Round-up

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 11:23

Sunday opinion, with even more opinion than usual.

Dan Balz:

The author of the 1993 DLC report, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, sees almost no relationship between the Perot movement and today's tea party activism. Nor does he believe there is much mystery to the true allegiance of the tea party movement. Its members are, he believes, the base of the Republican Party by another name.

Perot voters, he argued, were consciously breaking with the two parties. The tea party activists are not. "While the tea party people seem very critical of the party, they are very embracing of the party," he said. "They want to shape and define the Republican Party."

We discussed Perot voters aboput a month ago right here in APR. There are similarities and differences, including in numbers.

Jonathan Capehart:

Finally, I have to highlight results in three areas that have me scratching my head, rolling my eyes or both. A majority of the nation (52 percent) thinks Obama's policies are moving the country toward socialism, as does an overwhelming majority of Tea Partiers (92 percent). Most Americans (58 percent) believe Obama is a "natural born citizen" of the United States, as do 41 percent of Tea Party types. But a total 59 percent of Tea Party-types don't when you combine those who "don't know" (29 percent) and those who say flat out that he was born in another country (30 percent). And most Americans (83 percent) and most Tea Partiers believe Obama treats whites and blacks the same. But a stubborn 25 percent of Tea Partiers said that Obama, the nation's first African American president, favors blacks over whites. Clearly, they're not paying attention to Tavis Smiley. He would disagree -- and loudly.

Republicans don't like him, Jonathan. Breaking: Republicans don't like anything.  

Ron Brownstein:

The Republicans' "narrative" about Obama's economic agenda -- articulated again in Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's attack on financial reform -- has been straightforward and unrelenting. In their telling, Obama is transforming the United States into a sclerotic European social-welfare state; forcing the strained middle class to fund both a "crony capitalism" of bailouts for the powerful (the charge McConnell leveled against the financial bill) and handouts for the poor (through health care reform); and impeding recovery by smothering the economy beneath stultifying federal spending, taxes, and regulation.

The fear among the Democracy contributors is that against this disciplined assault the White House is suffering from what could be called a "narrative gap." By which they mean that the White House has inadvertently allowed Republicans to shift public discontent from business to government by not working more doggedly to link President George W. Bush's anti-regulation, tax-cutting policies not only to the 2008 meltdown but also to the economy's meager performance over his entire tenure. (During Bush's two terms, the economy created only one-fourth as many jobs as it did under Clinton; poverty rose sharply; and the median family income declined, after rising 14 percent under Clinton.)

That's about six months after we said it here.

Frank Rich:

"It’s Not About Race" declared a headline on a typical column defending over-the-top "Obamacare" opponents from critics like me, who had the nerve to suggest a possible racial motive in the rage aimed at the likes of Lewis and Cleaver — neither of whom were major players in the Democrats’ health care campaign. It’s also mistaken, it seems, for anyone to posit that race might be animating anti-Obama hotheads like those who packed assault weapons at presidential town hall meetings on health care last summer. And surely it is outrageous for anyone to argue that conservative leaders are enabling such extremism by remaining silent or egging it on with cries of "Reload!" to pander to the Tea Party-Glenn Beck base. As Beck has said, it’s Obama who is the real racist.

I would be more than happy to stand corrected. But the story of race and the right did not, alas, end with the health care bill. Hardly had we been told that all that ugliness was a fantasy than we learned back in the material world that the new Republican governor of Virginia, Robert McDonnell, had issued a state proclamation celebrating April as Confederate History Month.

Charles Blow:

On Thursday, I came here outside Dallas for a Tea Party rally.

At first I thought, "Wow! This is much more diverse than the rallies I’ve seen on television."

Then I realized that I was looking at stadium workers. I should have figured as much when I approached the gate. The greeter had asked, "Are you working tonight?"

I sat in the front row. But when the emcee asked, "Do we have any infiltrators?" and I almost raised my hand, I realized that sitting there might not be such a good idea.

Saturday's column, too good to pass up.

Andrew Alexander:

It didn't take long for cynics to weigh in after Monday's announcement that The Post had won four Pulitzer Prizes.

"Who cares! WaPo is dying, strangled by the neocons," wrote an online commenter.

"Congratulations to the lunatic-left's bible," said another.

And this from a reader who noted the declining fortunes of newspapers: "Why does this matter any more?"

In many ways, it doesn't.

Sunday Talking Heads: April 18, 2010

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 09:00

Good Morning everyone!  I have to thank res ipsa loquitur at Rising Hegemon for bring back this July 2009 video classic on Goldman Sachs.

Talking Heads today talk about tea parties, financial reforms, elections and cetera.

Washington Journal: 7:45am – Martin Crutsinger, Associated Press, Senior Economics Writer.  8:30am – StudentCam Winner Interview.  8:30am- George Pataki (R), Fmr. NY Gov. 1995-2006 & Revere America.org, Chairman.  9:15am – Thomas DiFilipo, Joint Council on International Children’s Services, President & CEO.

ABC’s This Week: Jake Tapper hosts.  Former President Bill Clinton “to talk about Haiti, his efforts to engage the next generation of leaders with the Clinton Global Initiative University and politics.”  Roundtable: George Will, Donna Brazile, Al Hunt, and Kim Strassel of The Wall Street Journal.


CBS’ Face The Nation: Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), his first Sunday show since he was sworn into the Senate.

Chris Matthews: Joe Klein TIME; Kathleen Parker The Washington Post; Norah O’Donnell MSNBC; John Heilemann New York Magazine. Topics: All The New Rage: How Dangerous Is The Current Anti-Washington Anger?  Would the GOP Recapture The House With A Gingrich-LikeContract With America?

CNN’s State of the Union: Republican Senate leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY).  Then Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).  Also economic roundtable.

Fareed Zakaria – GPS:

Fox News Sunday: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).  Then Gen. Ray OdiernoFox News AllStars: Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, Bill Kristol, Juan Williams.

NBC’s Meet The Press: Treasury Secretary Tim GeithnerRoundtable: Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), National Journal’s Ron Brownstein, and Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart.

Newsmakers: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) discussed the prospects for his party to maintain their majority in the 2010 midterm elections, saying the passage of the health care bill “energized” his party. Rep. Hoyer also went over the chances of the Senate passing financial regulatory reform.

Q & A: Stanley Crouch, author and regular columnist for The New York Daily News. Mr. Crouch is the author of over ten books on culture and jazz. His novel, “Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome” was published ten years ago. Included in this interview, a discussion of President Obama, health care, and political parties.

Religion & Ethics: Evangelicals and Nuclear Security.  Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.  Eradicating a Global Scourge.  Tariq Ramaden.

60 Minutes: 21st Century Snake Oil – “60 Minutes” hidden cameras expose medical conmen who prey on dying victims by using pitches that capitalize on the promise of stem cells to cure almost any disease. (This is a double-length segment.)  Pacino – In a rare sit-down interview, Oscar-winning actor Al Pacino talks about his films and how he prepares for them, including his upcoming movie in which he stars as Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

To The Contrary: Topics:  1- Actress Sigourney Weaver on women and environmental awareness; 2- Cleaning up the nation’s water supply.  Panelists: Formal Federal Prosecutor and Judge Debra Carnahan; Conservative Commentator Tara Setmayer; National Council of Negro Women’s Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever; and Center for Immigration Studies’ Jessica Vaughan.

Univision’s Al Punto: First Lady Michelle Obama, Mexican First Lady Margarita Zavala de Calderón, Mrs. Cynthia Salazar, Mother of the Children Murdered by Mexican Soldiers; Mr. Raymundo Ramos, President of Nuevo Laredo’s Human Rights Council, Juan Luis Guerra, Award-Winning Singer/Songwriter.

Virtually Speaking: Jay Ackroyd and Joan McCarter, Joan (mcjoan) is a front page blogger at Daily Kos.


FDL Book Salon: Chat with Naomi Cahn and June Carbone about their new book, Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture.  “The authors show how the Red-Blue divide goes much deeper than this value system conflict–the Red States have increasingly said “no” to Blue State legal norms, and, as a result, family law has been rent in two.”  5pm ET.

FDL Movie Night Monday: The Weather Underground.  “Fueled by outrage over racism and the Vietnam War, the Weather Underground waged a low-level war against the government throughout much of the 1970s—bombing the Capitol building, breaking Timothy Leary out of prison, and evading one of the largest FBI manhunts in history.”  Chat with director Sam Green, and host Lisa Derrick, Monday, 8pm ET.

European airspace closed again

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 07:43
It's odd looking up and not seeing anything besides a few birds up in the sky. The ash isn't exactly noticeable because there were few clouds in the sky yesterday. It's not a strong blue but that's often the case due to pollution.

Our friend at least has been ticketed for Monday so provided they fly, he's in luck. Yesterday as he phoned his airline (American) he had an amusing problem with their voice activated system. He was doing OK with the initial questions and the system could give out that "18 April" was the same as "April 18." Fine. Then it asked for his name. Our friend has a bit of a London accent so the way he pronounces his name wasn't the way the voice automated system thought it should sound. After three attempts and him getting a bit worked up about it, I stopped him and pronounced it with my American accent. Bingo. I came back a few hours later and he was back on the phone with the airline voice automated system and had a laugh because he was now speaking with his attempt at a Texan accent. It worked.

Another story and here, lots of satellite maps and images of the ash clouds. BBC:Millions of stranded travellers face further air chaos as the volcanic ash from Iceland that has closed most of Europe's airspace continues to spread.

An estimated three-quarters of flights were cancelled on Saturday. About 20 countries closed their airspace - some have extended flight bans into Monday.

Disruption is now said to be greater than that after 9/11 and the volcanic activity shows no sign of abating.

Two airlines have carried out test flights to see if it is safe to fly.

The Netherlands' KLM said one of its planes, a Boeing 737, had reached its maximum operating altitude of about 13km in the skies over the Netherlands, and there had been no problems during the flight.

Sunday Talk - How Do You Spell Relief?

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 05:28

Despite the fact that taxes are at their lowest levels in 60 years (in large part due to the stimulus bill he signed into law), thousands of old white people gathered around the country to sing out against the communist uspurper, Barack Obama.

Having been warned ahead of time by organizers not to show any signs of racism and/or homophobia, teabaggers kept it classy.

Thank God for small favors.

Late Late Night FDL: Double Or Mutton

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 05:00

Double Or Mutton starring Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog.  This Warner Bros/Looney Toons cartoon was released on July 23, 1955.

Directed by Charles M. Jones.  Produced by Edward Selzer.  Story by Michael Maltese.  Animation by Keith Darling, Ken Harris, Abe Levitow, and Richard Thompson.  Layout and Backgrounds by Philip DeGuard.  Voices by Mel Blanc and others.  Original Music by Milt Franklyn.

What’s on your mind tonight?

Open Thread and Diary Rescue

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 04:00

Tonight's rescue brought to you by Got a Grip, mem from somerville, shayera, vcmvo2, watercarrier4diogenes, and YatPundit, with srkp23 editing.

jotter serves up High Impact Diaries: April 16, 2010.

carolita brings Top Comments 4-17-10 – Patriotic Games Edition.

Enjoy and please promote your own favorite diaries in this open thread.

Bring back the Elgin Marbles

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 03:34
Back around 1800, when Greece was still suffering from 400 years of Turkish occupation, the British ambassador, Lord Elgin, got permission from the Turks to remove a good chunk of the Parthenon and bring it back to London, for display in the British Museum. Now that the Turks are gone, the Greeks would like their Parthenon back.

It's an interesting issue. I can sympathize with the argument that you can't ask that ever piece of antiquity from everywhere around the world be returned to its nation or origin, or you'd empty every museum in the world. Having said that, how does this story differ from the Nazi's pilfering the Louvre? While I'm sympathetic to the notion that not every artifact should go home, the Parthenon is a big deal. And taking massive chunks of it during a foreign occupation is, well, tacky. Now that the Greeks have a new modern museum to house the "Elgin Marbles," the British lose their number one argument - that the antiquities were better preserved in England than in Greece, where they could be better cared for. Not anymore.

Below is a cute video that demonstrates the problem. It's tied to a Web site called "Bring them back."

Late Night: The Flushing of the Conservative Mind

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 03:07

In some of the more polite precincts of the Internet, which I typically avoid, there has been quite the debate raging over whether or not 21st-century conservatism is marked by “epistemic closure,” meaning essentially that conservatives have fallen so deeply into the Fox News Matrix that they’ve lost the capacity to perceive consensus reality.

To which I would reply, “no shit,” as this is hardly news over here in the not so polite precincts of the Internet, where we may use bad words a lot but at least have always had enough sense to know that Jonah Goldberg is an ass. Goldberg’s explanation for why he is actually a very bright fellow and it’s liberals neener neener who are the real doodyheads is quite, uh, impressive, yes, that is the word for it:

The one obvious area where liberals claim to have a passel of “new ideas” is in the realm of public policy best described as the push for a “green economy.” Personally, I do not believe these ideas are new so much as they are new wrappings on old fashioned statism. But reasonable people can argue about that. Still, it’s worth noting that the reason these new ideas are being pushed so hard (again, aside from the Trojan Horse for socialism dynamic) is that liberalism is almost completely bound up in a very narrow, very alarmist, interpretation of global warming. And, if I were hunting for epistemic closure, it’s hard for me to imagine a better place to look for it than that staggering bubble of groupthink.

Right. It’s the Left that is out to lunch on climate change.

A lot could be said here; one might observe that the “Climate-gate e-mail scandal” has ended up with the thorough exoneration of the scientists involved — but no worries, hot steaming piles of comfort food for confused conservatives was cooked up and dished out soon enough (note the complete absence of engagement with the substance of the Oxburgh report, and then wade through the comments, if you dare).

But if you really want to know who’s got the epistemic closure going on, observe that the egregious Lord Monckton, a star of the right-wing denialist industry (watch the video, it’s great), has just revealed himself as someone suspecting that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. And that Jonahy Goldberg is making fun of the idea that rising global temperatures might make asthma more of a problem.

Polling and Political Wrap-Up, 4/17/10

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 02:50

Could a little-known city councilman score an upset and flip a Senate seat to the Dems? Rasmussen thinks so, if the GOP nominee is conservative insurgent J.D. Hayworth. Don't worry, though, the Ras-ster returns to form elsewhere.

Also, you'll be surprised by the incumbent Senator who got outraised by his challenger this quarter, and one other incumbent Senator is fighting a pollster, which is rarely a good idea. All this and more, in the weekend edition of the Wrap.


GA-Sen: Good News for Dems As They Get Solid Challenger for Isakson
In what sure looks to be a challenging year for Democrats, they are still managing to land some solid recruits to go after Republican incumbents. The latest example is in Georgia, where state labor commissioner Michael Thurmond is going to announce next week that he will challenge freshman Republican Senator Johnny Isakson. Thurmond gives Democrats a statewide elected official in the race, albeit one that will have to overcome fairly low name recognition, if a recent Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll in the state is any indication.

IA-Sen: Conlin Narrowly Outraises Grassley In Hawkeye State
This will come as a bit of a surprise to a lot of folks, and is a particularly pleasant one in a time when good news for Democrats in electoral politics is a touch hard to come by. Leading Democratic challenger Roxanne Conlin actually beat Charles Grassley in the money chase in the 1st quarter. Conlin raised $ 629K, which edged out Grassley, who reported $ 613K for the quarter. Grassley, as a long-time incumbent, still retains one structural advantage to be expected: he has a five-to-one cash on hand edge over the challenger.

KY-Sen: Bunning-McConnell Feud Comes to 2010 Senate Race
Was this week's surprising endorsement of insurgent candidate Rand Paul by outgoing Republican Senator Jim Bunning a shot at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? Reid Wilson at the National Journal thinks so, and he brings some pretty compelling evidence. For example, Bunning's claim that Paul's primary rival, Trey Grayson, was insufficiently conservative is somewhat rebutted by the fact that it was Bunning who encouraged Grayson to get into the race after his retirement. The sudden animus, therefore, could be more properly directed at McConnell, who earned Bunning's unyielding animosity for very overtly encouraging the retirement of his Senate mate.

The endorsement was a brutal slap at Grayson, who loses a key argument for his primary. Grayson had been making excellent hay out of the argument that Paul was endeavoring to be a national political figure, and had no real support in-state.

NV-Sen: Reid Fights The Polls (...and the Polls Won)
Apparently, the campaign of Senator Harry Reid forgot the maxim about not getting into fights with people who buy their ink by the barrel, because this one is just brutal to witness. You might recall that on Monday's edition of the Wrap, we noted a new Mason Dixon poll, taken for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, had Reid trailing leading Republican Sue Lowden by high single digits. The Reid campaign pounced on the poll, dismissing its findings on the logic that the poll did not list all of the available options listed to voters in the Fall, including the state's famous "None of the Above" option.

Inspired by the critique of the Reid campaign, Mason Dixon and the LVRJ simply...released another poll. With all of the options. Showing Reid losing this time by ten points (47-37). That led team Reid to criticize this poll as invalid, as well, saying that it was not of likely voters. The Reid campaign argued likely voter screens were particularly important in Nevada, a state they claim has chronically low voter turnout.

Not only did the newspaper dispute the charge, they were joined by Pollster writer Charles Franklin, who pointed out that random-digit dialing of registered voters is a perfectly valid polling method.

In other Nevada Senate news, Tea Party candidate Scott Ashjian, despite his mountain of legal woes, got one piece of good legal news this week. A Nevada State Court ruled that he could remain on the ballot, after his candidacy was challenged by a conservative lawsuit which stated that he could not stay on the ballot because he was still a registered Republican when he ran under the Tea Party banner.

NY-Sen: Schumer Might Finally Draw a Candidate
In a week where the GOP lost their top candidate to take on Kirsten Gillibrand in New York, they might have found a candidate to take on the other U.S. Senator in New York up for election this year: Chuck Schumer. The candidate is Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos. Maragos is a political newcomer of sorts, he has only served as county comptroller for about four months. Schumer is heavily favored to be re-elected to his third term in the Senate.


PA-12: Dems Get Serious About Holding Murtha Seat in Special Elex
Pulling together what the National Journal's Reid Wilson referred to as a "wartime budget", the DCCC has reserved almost a million bucks in ad time between now and the May 18th special election in southwestern Pennsylvania to replace the late John Murtha. The first ad hits Republican Tim Burns on favoring a national sales tax, saying that it will raise the costs on food, gas, and medicine. Burns squares off against Democrat Mark Critz in the election. The GOP released an internal poll last week showing Burns up narrowly.


NH-Gov: Democratic Incumbent Announces Bid for 4th Term
This will come as a surprise to virtually no one, but Democratic Governor John Lynch announced that he will be seeking a fourth term as Governor of New Hampshire. Lynch was first elected in 2004 (NH Governors serve two-year terms) by defeating then-incumbent Republican Craig Benson. His main challenger this time around is likely to be Republican John Stephen. A recent Rasmussen poll had Lynch, routinely re-elected by huge margins, leading Stephen by double-digits, though below the 50% threshold.

OR-Gov: Great Moments in Debating, With John Kitzhaber
This sounds like something that only happens in really overproduced television political dramas, but it actually occurred Wednesday night at a Democratic gubernatorial debate. In the midst of a student-run debate at the University of Oregon between candidates John Kitzhaber and Bill Bradbury, someone in the audience screamed for a doctor for an elderly man having a seizure. Kitzhaber, who was an ER doctor before his foray into politics, left the stage and administered first aid to the man until paramedics arrived. After a twenty-minute delay, the debate resumed. Bradbury, to his credit, was fulsome in his praise for Kitzhaber's handling of the incident, as well as his ability to resume debating after dealing with such an event. A raw video of the event is available here.


Ras stays out West to close out the week, hitting three states in the Intermountain West: Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. Could Rodney Glassman pull off the upset of 2010 if J.D. Hayworth finds a way to knock off John McCain? Ras has it closer than you might think. Other than that, this edition of the Ras-A-Palooza is just Ras being Ras.

AZ-Gov (R): Gov. Jan Brewer 26%, Buz Mills 18%, John Munger 14%, Dean Martin (R) 12%
AZ-Sen (R): Sen. John McCain 47%, J.D. Hayworth 42%
AZ-Sen: Sen. John McCain (R) 54%, Rodney Glassman (D) 32%
AZ-Sen: J.D. Hayworth (R) 48%, Rodney Glassman (D) 39%
CO-Gov: Scott McInnis (R) 48%, John Hickenlooper (D) 42%
UT-Gov: Gov. Gary Herbert (R) 57%, Peter Corroon (D) 29%
UT-Sen (R): Sen. Robert Bennett 37%, Tim Bridgewater 14%, Mike Lee 14%, Merrill Cook 6%, Cherilyn Eagar 4%

Designate Your Gay Hospital Visitor Today!

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 02:00

photo: LorenJavier via Flickr

Thursday, honoring the mandatory Nancy Pelosi part of ObamaCare’s sweeping reorganization of the nation’s healthcare system, the President commanded all Americans to designate A Gay to visit them when admitted to the hospital, for purposes of selecting floral arrangements, choosing operating theatre music and mood lighting, designating appropriate draperies for the recovery room, and overruling immediate family’s decisions about care.

All Americans must immediately choose A Gay to be their Mandatory Gay Hospital Visitor. It’s not known whether Bi-Sexuals will qualify for this designation (and such designations are expected to be challenged in court) so if you plan a hospital visit soon, you’d better go All Gay in your choice.

In areas where Gays are scarce, they may accept up to ten hospital designations, but Americans are urged to coordinate their illnesses, injuries, and elective procedures to avoid overtaxing their Gays with too many hospitalized Americans at one time. Americans will be responsible for transportation costs if their Gay travels from afar, since major health insurance companies are not now expected to cover these costs. Special pre-planning Gay Travel Insurance will be offered as a rider to most insurance policies offered on the national exchange, although this will not go into effect until 2014.

Medicare and Medicaid will not provide Gay Travel Assistance, so Americans on these socialist programs are required to choose a local Gay as their hospital visitor.

Where Gays proliferate — San Francisco, New York City, Miami, South Carolina — Americans may designate entire Gay Teams as hospital visitors. This will enable Gay Team members to honor their prior commitments to Rosie Cruises, Palm Springs White Parties, Pride parades, and Mississippi proms.

Americans are urged to avoid any elective inpatient surgery during June, due to nationwide Pride celebrations, and California Gays are not required to honor hospital visitations on May 22, Harvey Milk Day.

It’s still unclear whether Closeted Gays are eligible for the program, and the Obama Administration is rumored to be considering an entirely new category of Openly Closeted Gays, known to be Gay-Partnered but fiercely protective of their privacy. It’s also unknown how this new category would operate openly within the regulations and still be able to overrule family members.

So, choose your Gay today! If you like, you may indicate your choice in the comments.

And, Citizens! Thank you for obeying this Gay-Mandatory section of ObamaCare. Others will be announced shortly.

UPDATE: While Gay-Marrying your hospital visitor is not required, Speaker Pelosi urges you to consider it, especially if you have a happy heterosexual marriage in need of ruination.

Shocking News About Tea-Partiers

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 01:46

No one could have anticipated this:

... tea-partiers are disproportionately attached to, and perhaps influenced by, FOX News. And they are particularly enamored of Glenn Beck. Nationally, just 18 percent of people have a favorable opinion of Beck (the majority have no opinion whatsoever about him). But most tea-partiers do. Do the math, and you'll find that 59 percent of those who do think highly of Beck consider themselves a part of the tea-party. This is, in fact, the single biggest differentiator of any of the items that the NYT asked about: not ideology, not any particular political belief, but whom they watch on television.

And what are they listening to day after day?

Which must be why Michele Bachmann (LUNATIC-MN) describes teabaggers as the “happiest people you would ever want to meet.”

John Cleese spends over $5,000 for travel because of the volcanic ash

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 01:30
Stories like this are everywhere at the moment. My friend who is trying to get to the US for a conference said others were driving to Spain in hopes of catching a flight out since there have not been as many disruptions there. A few years ago I had to get to an appointment so I hired a taxi out of London and spent nearly $400 because of a British rail strike. The things we do to keep our appointments.He's more famous for a sketch about a Norwegian blue parrot than a Norwegian taxi, but John Cleese may have to change his routine. The actor and comedian reportedly took a cab from Oslo to Brussels on Friday costing 30,000 kroner (£3,300) after he was stranded, along with thousands of others, in the Norwegian capital by the volcanic ash plume from Iceland.

Cleese was in Norway to appear on the Scandinavian talkshow Skavlan when the cloud descended, closing airspace around the city. "We checked every option, but there were no boat and no train tickets available," he told Norwegian TV2 in a telephone interview posted on the network's website. "That's when my fabulous assistant determined that the easiest thing would be to take a taxi."

CAF Sponsors the Virtual Summit on Fiscal and Economic Responsibility for People Who Did Not Wreck the Economy

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 01:00

graphic: Mike Licht via Flickr

Deficit hysteria will reach a fever pitch this month, as the nation’s leading advocate of gutting Social Security and Medicare, Wall Street mogul Pete Peterson and his acolytes are hosting a heavily hyped “2010 Fiscal Summit.”

To help counter their deficit propaganda, for the rest of this month Campaign for America’s Future will host our own Virtual Summit On Fiscal And Economic Responsibility.

We’re reaching out to progressive bloggers and economists — who unlike Peterson, did not wreck the economy — and we’d love it if you would join us.

Please email Bill Scher at bscher@ourfuture.org if you want to participate, and he’ll send you instructions how to post at the Virtual Summit.

Why is it so important that we unite to counter the Peterson Fiscal Summit?

The economy may have hit bottom, but unemployment remains at near double-digit levels, with almost 25 million people unemployed or under-employed. And yet on April 28 former President Bill Clinton, Citibank’s Robert Rubin, former Fed Chief Alan Greenspan, and others who helped wreck the economy are lending their names to Peter G. Peterson’s effort to shift the country’s focus from creating jobs to reducing the deficit – and cutting Social Security and Medicare.

Millions of people face the loss of their jobs or their homes, and tens of millions of seen much of their life saving vanish as the financial crisis threw the country into deep recession. Repairing this damage and restoring the economy to healthy growth should be the top agenda for Washington policy makers.

But no, that’s not the way Washington works.

Instead of focusing on economic growth, the same people who brought on this entirely preventable disaster are now trying to get the country to focus on the budget deficit the only force supporting the economy. Wall Street investment banker Peter Peterson is sponsoring a “fiscal responsibility summit,” in Washington on April 28.

Among the featured speakers at the Peterson event are former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan, who sat by as the bubble rose to ever more dangerous levels and junk loans were pushed by the million. Robert Rubin, who first set many of the financial deregulation policies behind this disaster in place as Treasury Secretary, and later profited from them to the tune of $110 million as a top executive at Citigroup, will be another speaker.

Peterson’s crew hopes to use this high profile event to increase pressure on Congress and the Obama administration to focus on the deficit and set aside efforts to fix the wreckage from the housing bubble and restore healthy growth.

The rest of us may not have Peterson’s billions, but we do have the Internet. Therefore CAF will be helping to coordinate a virtual summit that will respond to the Wall Street-funded Peterson fest, by featuring the comments of bloggers on restoring sound economic growth.

We ask bloggers, especially economist bloggers, to write on these topics in advance of the Peterson summit and to share their views with us. Please email Bill Scher at bscher@ourfuture.org if you want to participate.

We hope that you’ll have some time to join this effort. The people who wrecked the economy should be held accountable for this disaster. They are not the ones who should be setting the national agenda going forward. We can stop them before they do even more damage.

Thank you.

Dean Baker

Co-director, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Roger Hickey

Co-director, Campaign for America’s Future

NH-02: A Clear Choice

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 00:46

This week, the Dartmouth College Democrats hosted Katrina Swett and Ann McLane Kuster in events just days apart. Each candidate was asked a similar question. Their answers are telling.

There was Orange to Blue candidate Kuster:

In an interview with The Dartmouth, Kuster said that her progressive record — including her committed pro-choice stance, opposition to troop increases in Afghanistan and opposition to nuclear energy — distinguishes her from her opponents in the primary.

And there was Lieberdem Swett:

When asked by a student what distinguished her from the other candidates in the race, Swett said that she viewed herself as the most practical, non-ideological candidate for the Democratic nomination.

“I believe I am the most electable,” she said.

Swett, of course, has never stopped touting her electability since her 2002 loss to Charlie Bass.

That's their own words: It's a choice between Kuster, who is distinguished by her progressive record, and Swett, who believes she is electable because she is non-ideological.

Ann McLane Kuster for Congress
Contribute to Ann McLane Kuster

MDP 2010 Convention: Lots of Buzz About Downticket

Sun, 04/18/2010 - 00:02

It’s noisy in COBO Center here in downtown Detroit. There’s a lot excitement in the air, people chatting loudly and animatedly, hugs and back slapping and hand shaking all over. Perhaps it’s because it’s crispy-cold outside and the Democrats have snapped out of their spring fever induced by a burst of June-like weather we had earlier this week.

And perhaps it’s because they have a real progressive with strong cred running for Secretary of State in Jocelyn Benson, and a potential floor fight brewing between Richard Bernstein and David Leyton for State Attorney General. There’s been the usual chanting and sign waving by supporters of the candidates prior to the first vote for SOS; I expect more shortly after vote counting has completed. So far it looks like a blowout for Benson over her competitor, Janice Winfrey.

The AG vote will be different. Bernstein is a member of large and well-known law firm, Bernstein & Bernstein. David Leyton is a seasoned prosecutor from Genesee County, home of Flint, Michigan and Michael Moore’s old stomping grounds. Bernstein is a smart guy but made a big gaffe when speaking about unions earlier in the campaign from which he hasn’t fully recovered. Leyton picked up UAW’s endorsement only last night, and is rumored to have picked up another union’s endorsement today. Bernstein did pick up the endorsement of two of the more progressive caucuses this morning, though. My gut tells me Leyton will edge out Bernstein.

Cheers go up as the districts announce themselves and the names of the representatives from their backyards. Lots of noise for Gary Peters, Sander Levin, John Conyers — but expected since they are from some of the most populous districts.

And she’s done it, Benson wins.

I think you need to keep an eye on this candidate.

More later, we’re starting the speechifying for the AG candidates, time to get out the

UPDATE: (heck, I have no idea what time it is, I think it’s 3:00 pm local time) Phew, speeches done…must say Bernstein can offer a good closing statement. Leyton is a more traditional AG candidate, entire family introduced Could be tight depending on the county. Counties and districts are starting to take their votes. Again, more when we have results.

By the way, I met a solid Dem who is a likely candidate for MI-01. Shhhh…mum’s the word…

US military warns oil output may dip causing massive shortages by 2015

Sat, 04/17/2010 - 23:40
This should be pretty. From the Guardian:The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact.

The energy crisis outlined in a Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command, comes as the price of petrol in Britain reaches record levels and the cost of crude is predicted to soon top $100 a barrel.

"By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day," says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis.

It adds: "While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India."

Late afternoon/early evening open thread

Sat, 04/17/2010 - 23:30

What's coming up on Sunday Kos ….

  • Dante Atkins will discuss the importance of younger voters to the Democratic cause and how the Party can better reach this crucial demographic.
  • Is health reform driving doctors out of business and to refuse patients, or  might that simply be part of ongoing change coming to the practice of  medicine?  DemFromCT will review the “new normal” landscape from a doctor’s perspective.
  • What liberal media? Meteor Blades will take a look at the Sunday talk shows, triggering his gag reflex.
  • AdamB will review Rob Witwer's and Adam Schrager's The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care).
  • Devilstower looks into the abyss of the libertarian "golden age," and doesn't like what's looking back.
  • Against the background of the past few weeks of non-stop nuclear weapons news, Page van der Linden will strongly caution those who want to forget Cold War history, and those who want to revise it and view its key players through rose-colored lenses. She will focus on a particular book that she thinks everyone should read, because the ripple effect from past mistakes is still influencing us today.
  • Hunter will have a few words of well-deserved praise for John McCain.