Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Liberty Street Has Moved!

Liberty Street has moved from Blogger to Wordpress. The new address is All of the posts (all 2,919 of them) and comments (considerably less of those!) have been imported to Liberty Street at Wordpress -- and they all remain at Blogger as well. All of the posts and comments in other words are both at Blogger and Wordpress. The difference is that there will be no new posts here -- which means that this notice will stay on top ad infinitum.

A note of caution: I had to repopulate the blogroll manually, since only posts and comments can be imported. Some blogs were no longer at the address I had, or had not been updated in a very long time (like one or two years). I did not bring those over. But if I have inadvertently delinked any blog that is still alive and kicking, please let me know and I will put you back on immediately.

I am looking forward to "seeing" my current readers at the new site, and to meeting many new ones as well.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

CNN - health insurance

On CNN, Dr. Sanjay Gupta claims that 20% of those without health care in America earn more than $75,000 a year. No source for those figures was given.

Frankly, I'm dubious. All the folks that I know that do not have health insurance earn less than $30,000 / year.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

This Happened in America

A young woman in Ohio -- the victim of an assault -- was arrested, hogtied face down in a jail cell by seven police officers, female and male, strip-searched, and then left, completely naked, in the jail cell for six hours, using toilet paper to try and keep warm during that time. Raw Story reported this atrocity:

Hope Steffey's night started with a call to police for help. It ended with her face down, naked, and sobbing on a jail cell floor. Now, the sheriff's deputies from Stark County, Ohio who allegedly used excessive force during a strip search 15 months ago face a federal lawsuit, and recently released video won’t help their case.

Steffey's ordeal with the Stark County sheriff's deputies began after her cousin called 9-1-1 claiming Steffey had been assaulted by another one of their cousins. When a Stark County police officer arrived, he asked to see Steffey's driver's license. But instead of handing over her own ID, she mistakenly turned over her dead sister's license, which she contends she keeps in her wallet as a memento. That's when the situation became complicated.

The video below shows what happened. It is, I think, the most horrifying thing I have ever viewed. It's very hard to watch. I was shaking through most of it. The sound of Hope Steffey screaming and sobbing in terror and humiliation will stay with me for a long time.

John Cole:
Things are out of control when people can do things like this and think they are doing “the right thing.” Check their faces- an odd sort of professionalism, going through the motions pinning this defenseless woman to the ground and essentially raping her, and no one stops to think it is inappropriate for men to be in the room (not to mention against clear procedures). No one asks “why are we doing this?” No one asks “Why is this woman here” (she was the one who called for help- I bet she will not make that mistake again). No one asks why she needed to sit for hours naked, humiliated, hysterical, and alone in a cell for anyone to walk by and gawk at her in a completely vulnerable state. No one thought to give her a blanket or talk to her as she was covering herself in toilet paper to keep warm.

What is wrong with our system? What is wrong with the police that it is not a radical belief for me to think “I should probably cross the street, there is a cop walking down this side.”

The Political Cat draws a line between Hope Steffey's ordeal, and the police killing of an African-American woman a year later, allegedly in the course of a drug raid, also in Ohio.
During the course of the raid, they injured Wilson's year-old son, who was in her arms at the time. The child has since had his finger amputated as a result of the injury. Ms. Wilson's partner, 31-year-old Anthony Terry, was arrested and removed from the premises.

Obviously the common element in these two events is police brutality -- and that brutality is nourished and grows in the soil of indifference:
... If the officers who stripped Ms. Steffey had been punished immediately for their behaviour, it is possible that Ms. Wilson might be alive today. If police officers were given better staffing levels, better training, it is possible that Ms. Steffey's ordeal and the orphaning of the Wilson children would never have occurred.

And then there is this paragraph, in which Political Cat writes about the balancing act between understanding -- with empathy and compassion -- the difficulty and stress of police work, while at the same time not using that understanding as an excuse for abandoning accountability:
Law enforcement is a very tough job. Imagine yourself in the position of a cop, knowing that at any moment you could lose your life or limb or job because of one incorrect assessment, one second extra in making a decision. Understandably, cops get pretty fucked up after working a job like that day after day for years. The pressure on one's personal life, one's family life, one's relationships, has to be unreal. But that does not excuse the actions of those officers involved in either case. Ultimately, what it points to is an inability by these men and women with guns and badges to understand that people who are not white or male or do not have guns and badges are still people and should be treated humanely. We do not have to follow the precepts of the madman in charge who tells us that torture is OK, and humans have no innate rights. There is a better way. And most of all, law enforcement officers need to learn not to exercise inappropriate levels of force against others just because they can.

Well said. In fact, this being Blogroll Amnesty Day, and Political Cat being a smaller blog, and one I did not know about before finding the link on Memeorandum, I am going to add her to my blogroll.


Clinton Campaign Brings Push-Polling to California

If you knew that Hillary Clinton was pushing people to vote for her under the guise of conducting legitimate telephone polling, would you be more or less likely to vote for her?

Ed Coghlan was just starting to prepare his dinner in the northern San Fernando Valley the other night when the phone rang. The caller was very friendly. He identified himself as a pollster who wanted to ask registered independents like Coghlan a few questions about the presidential race and all the candidates for Super Tuesday's California primary.

Ed, who's a former news director for a local TV station, was curious. He said, "Sure, go ahead."

But a few minutes into the conversation Ed says he noticed a strange pattern developing to the questions. First of all, the "pollster" was only asking about four candidates, three Democrats -- Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, who was still in the race at the time -- and one Republican -- John McCain.

Also, every question about Clinton was curiously positive, Coghlan recalls. The caller said things like, if you knew that Sen. Clinton believed the country had a serious home mortgage problem and had made proposals to....freeze mortgage rates and save families from foreclosure, would you be more likely or less likely to vote for her?

Ed said, of course, more likely.

Every question about the other candidates was negative. If Ed knew, for instance, that as a state senator Obama had voted "present" 43 times instead of taking a yes or no stand "for what he believed," would Ed be more or less likely to vote for him?

"That's when I caught on," said Coghlan. He realized then that he was being push-polled. That malicious political virus that is designed not to elicit answers but to spread positive information about one candidate and negative information about all others under the guise of an honest poll had arrived in Southern California within days of the important election.

As Joe Gandelman points out, Clinton seems to be building a reputation for such underhanded tactics:
First, came the controversies about the innuendos about Senator Barack Obama, the apologies and the occasional resignation (after the info was thrust into the news cycle). Next came The Bill Clinton offensive and display of the race card. And now comes this L.A. Times’ blog report about push polling — again coming from supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton[.]
And the Clinton campaign? Did they immediately deny it and/or denounce it and say they not only had no part in it but they completely repudiate such tactics?

Phil Singer, the spokesman for the Clinton campaign. was contacted by e-mail last night. He answered that he was there. He was asked if the Clinton campaign was behind the push-poll, knew who was behind it or had any other information on it. That was at 5:27 p.m. Pacific time Saturday. As of this item’s posting time, exactly eight hours later, no reply had been received.

Silence is sometimes eloquent — particularly if it seems to be part of a distinct pattern.

We have been through eight years of lies, prevarications, corruption, and anti-democratic tactics. Hillary Clinton knows that she is seen by many voters as the establishment, business-as-usual candidate. If, knowing that, she still runs her campaign this way, what's she going to do if she becomes president?


Saturday, February 02, 2008

It's Blogroll Amnesty Day!


What is Blogroll Amnesty Day, you ask? It's an opportunity to blog about the value that smaller, non-A list blogs bring to the blogosphere, and to suit our actions to our words by linking to, and blogrolling, underrecognized blogs -- which for the purposes of B.A.D., are defined as blogs that get less traffic than our own blogs. So help yourself to a brioche and read up.

One of the great things about other bloggers' blogrolls is that you discover wonderful, intelligent, engaging, laugh-out-loud blogs you would most likely never have discovered on your own. Some of the blogs below I've known about for a while but just hadn't gotten around to blogrolling yet. Some I came across while searching on Truth Laid Bear or Technorati, and didn't know about before now. And still others I found by perusing bloggers' blogrolls.

Read. Link. Blogroll. It's the B.A.D. thing to do.

The Crone Speaks: CEPetro in a new incarnation, still much, much more than an average woman.

The Scientific Activist: "The truth isn't always black or white, but an informed public is an empowered one, so I won't shy away from the complex issues. Most importantly, though, The Scientific Activist takes on the people and obstacles standing in the way of the progress and proper application of science. Enemies of science, beware!" But for those who appreciate excellent writing and informed, intelligent commentary, enjoy!

Grammar.Police: Art, culture, grammar, and liberal politics all in one place.

Watching the Watchers: Did you know that John McCain has no objection to the U.S. occupying Iraq for the next century? You'll find out stuff like that here.

Brendan Calling: If you're a right-wing idiot, don't pick up the phone.

The Apostate: The apostate is a Pakistani woman raised Muslim in Saudi Arabia, now an atheist by belief and a paralegal by trade, living in California.

The Bilerico Project: group blogging on lgbtq issues, and more.

Bitch Ph.D.: What draws me to a blog is some mysterious combination of subject matter, attitude, writing style, and design. This one has all of the above. It's really good.

Bloggasm: Simon Owens' media blog, "with an emphasis on online media and journalism."

Blue Wren: Wren is a writer, "liv[ing] in a small mountain town with Mr. Wren, a psycho dog and a kingly cat." Or is that a kinky cat? She has gorgeous photographs of cats and her outdoor surroundings.

Mock, Paper, Scissors: This is really three separate blogs, interweaving satirical art with standard blog posting. The concept and the implementation of it blows me away. I've never seen anything quite like this blog before.

There are hundreds -- thousands -- more blogs equally as good as these 11, just waiting to be discovered and appreciated. The vast majority of blogs are small blogs. Just imagine how much more interesting and varied the blogosphere might become if we all link and blogroll five or six on a regular basis.

Just sayin'.


Every Hero Needs A Villain

At least 91 people were killed today in two separate suicide bombings in Baghdad:

Two women described as mentally disabled and strapped with remote-control explosives — and possibly used as unwitting suicide bombers — brought carnage Friday to two pet bazaars, killing at least 91 people in the deadliest day since Washington flooded the capital with extra troops last spring.

Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, Iraq's chief military spokesman in Baghdad, said the women had Down syndrome and may not have known they were on suicide missions, but gave no further details on how authorities pieced together the evidence. He also said the bombs were detonated by remote control.

The coordinated blasts — coming 20 minutes apart in different parts of the city — appeared to reinforce U.S. claims al-Qaida in Iraq may be increasingly desperate and running short of able-bodied men willing or available for such missions.

But they also served as a reminder that Iraqi insurgents are constantly shifting their strategies in attempts to unravel recent security gains around the country. Women have been used in ever greater frequency in suicide attacks because they often encounter less scrutiny by security officials.

The same folks who told us the surge worked because violence was down are now swearing up and down that the surge worked because violence is up again. In particular, they point to the fact that the suicide bombers were women with Down's Syndrome as proof that Gen. Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy is a success:
These attacks today are not the first time al Qaeda in Iraq has stooped to using female suicide bombers. They have been used several times, including twice earlier this month in Diyala.

This tells us several things.

First, it tells us that al Qaeda in Iraq recognizes that attempts to use male suicide bombers and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), their preferred method of suicide attacks for those seeking martyrdom, are no longer effective. These attacks fail because the combination of coalition military forces, Iraqi security forces, and neighborhood militias, known as "concerned local citizens" (CLCs) creating a security system that increasingly works, and makes it very unlikely that these preferred attacks will succeed. There is also some speculation that the influx of would-be foreign suicide bombers into Iraq is drying up.

Today's attacks also tell us that al Qaeda in Iraq is getting very desperate in seeking the high-casualty attacks that they so value. They were forced to scrape the bottom of the proverbial barrel, and use not only women (which they'd prefer to subjugate), but mentally disabled women at that, suggesting that finding willing volunteers is becoming ever more difficult.

These attacks today serve to show that al Qaeda in Iraq is not quite finished, but then, that is something we already knew. What is does show us is just how desperate they are to retain relevance in a war that is going very badly for them.

Far from today's attacks being a sign of the "surge" in Iraq failing, the extraordinary lengths al Qaeda was forced to take to carry out these attacks show that the "surge" and the COIN doctrine implemented by General Petraeus are working precisely as we'd hoped.

Is Bob Owen trying to tell us that he and his fellow war and more war supporters were hoping for the kind of attack that happened today?

Bryan at Hot Air is hoping that his "liberal readers" will now see that it was all those jihadis blowing up young women with Down's Syndrome in Iraq before 2003 that forced Pres. Bush to invade, and and that they will abandon their delusion that there were no suicide bombings at all until Saddam Hussein had been overthrown and the U.S. military occupation put in place:
I also bring all of this up in the hope that liberal readers might finally extract their craniums from their backsides and realize that whatever you think of Bush, he’s not the problem. He didn’t start the war and he’s not the cause of the jihad. Animals of the type who would blow up innocent mentally disabled women to kill scores of other innocent people cannot be reasoned with. There’s nothing to talk over with people like that. They live in a state of violent depravity that puts them beyond reason barring some massive change in their own minds. We infidels aren’t going to make that chance [he means "change"] by playing nice. We have to defeat them.

Libby Spencer tries to inject some rationality into the discussion:
... For the record, assuming it's true, I think it's just horrible that whoever was behind this latest disaster used Down's women to perpetrate the bombings but I don't see it as a sign of desperation. I see it as a sign of adaptation and a brilliant one at that. Perhaps Mr. Owens can educate me on how our troops are supposed to counter this new evil tactic? That would be helpful.

and gets this response, in comments:
A "brilliant sign of adaptation". You seem very eager to give cowardly fascist murderers who used helpless pawns praise. Why don't you just slap yourself in the head a few times for writing something that stupid.

The "conversation" continues in that vein. Apparently what we need to do is scream insults at the AQ terrorists and call them names. That's much more fun than facing the real problem (Libby, in comments):
... We've got a brass heavy, stationary military force fighting roving bands of nimble guerrillas. By the time we adapt to their tactics, they're already moving on to something new.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Election News

MoveOn today endorsed Obama, after the organization's membership overwhelmingly chose him over Clinton:

In a resounding vote today, Political Action's members nationwide voted to endorse Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination for President. The group, with 3.2 million members nationwide and over 1.7 million members in Super Tuesday states, will immediately begin to mobilize on behalf of Senator Obama. The vote favored Senator Obama to Senator Clinton by 70.4% to 29.6%.

Senator Obama accepted the endorsement stating:

"In just a few years, the members of MoveOn have once again demonstrated that real change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up. From their principled opposition to the Iraq war - a war I also opposed from the start - to their strong support for a number of progressive causes, MoveOn shows what Americans can achieve when we come together in a grassroots movement for change. I thank them for their support and look forward to working with their members in the weeks and months ahead."

The Nation quotes Eli Pariser, MoveOn's executive director:
"We've learned that the key to achieving change in Washington without compromising core values is having a galvanized electorate to back you up ... and Barack Obama has our members 'fired up and ready to go' on that front."

It makes sense that he would. Obama began his career as a community organizer.

Howie Klein was part of the 70.4%. I think he makes the essential point about Clinton with this comment: "As good a candidate [as] Hillary is, she still is very much a part of the Clinton Establishment which directly gave us the Bush Regime." Exactly.

Kyle Moore has mixed feelings about the MoveOn endorsement:
Like so many spoils up for grabs in the course of an election, this is a mixed bag. Against Obama is the fact that MoveOn doesn’t have the best image in the political world and especially during a general election will definitely be used against him to paint him as a “liberal”.

Yes, and there's something else to be said about that, too: Obama IS a liberal. That's not the kiss of death -- Michael Goldfarb certainty that it is, notwithstanding.

In fact, Steve Benen has noticed something interesting:
I’ve been thinking about some of the recent endorsements Obama has picked up.

From the more conservative side of the party:

* Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
* Former South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian

From the more centrist side of the party:

* Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.)
* Gov. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)
* Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kan.)

And from the more liberal side of the party:

* Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)
* Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
* Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)

Put it this way: do members and Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska agree on much?

Ultimately, this may or may not amount to much. As I’ve said before, there’s little evidence that endorsements actually translate to votes. For that matter, Hillary Clinton has plenty of high-profile supporters of her own. Indeed, Maxine Waters’ backing helps show at least some support for Clinton from the liberal wing of the party.

But I heard a pitch from an Obama supporter a while back that stuck with me: He unites the left and divides the right, while Clinton divides the left and unites the right.

In light of the MoveOn endorsement, we can probably expect to hear this line quite a bit more. After all, I never quite expected to see a candidate successfully outflank Clinton from the left and the right.


Thursday, January 31, 2008

There's A List Somewhere....

I started laughing as soon as I saw the headline on Memeorandum -- even before I saw Steve Benen's first sentence:

ANOTHER AL QAEDA NO. 3.... Stop me if you've heard this one: al Qaeda's #3 man has been killed.


I Do Not Understand People

I found this at the BooMan Tribune and certainly must agree that it is a dichotomy, especially a nation most of whose citizens profess to believe in this.

Once upon a time a wise man told us "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." Supposedly we are a nation which was founded in part on the moral and ethical teachings of this man, a nation many of whose citizens worship him as the Son of God. Yet we ignore his teachings. We love our pets. We feel sadness, even grief, and are moved to action at the sight of abused animals. We feel their pain. Why are so many Americans, even Christian Americans, so unable to transfer those same empathic impulses to their fellow human beings?

In addition to the ASPCA advert we have witnessed the very public humiliation and jailing of the popular athlete, Michael Vicks, lately of the Atlanta football team. We are sympathetic to four-legged animals when they suffer and it not their fault. Why can't we have the same feelings for our fellow humans when it is not their fault?

We have about fifty million (that's a five, followed by seven zeros as in 50,000,000) of our fellow citizens without health insurance. Abominable.

We need a single payer health care system, similar to Medicare, for the whole country. Period. End of comment.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Honesty, Such A Lonely Word

Florida Republicans are up to their usual electoral shenanigans again.

Paul Kiel at TPMmuckraker passes along a reader's experience trying to cast a provisional ballot:

I voted in Lee County, Florida this morning - being in Southwest Florida, its a Republican stronghold in the state. The poll worker who opened the door for me advised "Just show your driver's license to the desk and you can vote." Only problem is that this is patently untrue, Florida providing for casting of provisional ballots and all. When I told the nice lady at the registration desk that I had lost my wallet and was going to cast a provisional ballot, she gave me the perplexed look of the uninformed. Fortunately, there was a gentleman at the "special services" desk who knew what to do and he got me on my way to voting. Then he told me that I had to "contact the supervisor of elections and provide proof of my right to vote or they will not count my ballot." Sigh. This also is not true in Florida - no proof is required if the only basis for casting the provisional was the lack of proper identification. The supervisor is suppose to run the driver's license number provided (which I gave them) against the state database and when they match the vote is counted.

I am fortunate enough to be both interested in the political process and fairly well educated. I can, however, imagine the very real possibility that such statements will lead a less informed voter to turn away thinking that her or she is not able to vote. There is, of course, nothing my experience to suggest anything but ignorance was the root cause of the misinformed statements of these poll workers. But when the general comes around next fall and we have these well-meaning yahoos speaking out of their asses like this it can become a real problem. Whether by design or by indifference, the result will be the same.

Kathleen Sibelius, the governor of Kansas, has endorsed Barack Obama.

Andrew Sullivan watched the SOTU against his better judgment:
I tried not to watch it and failed. It felt phoned in. The contrast between the banal cheeriness of the president's demeanor and the grave threats he faces was unsettling. It's good for a president to have some emotional resilience in that job. But Bush seems almost pathologically detached from any real understanding of the effects of what he says and does. If you're him, that's probably a good thing. If you're anybody else, it's horrifying.

King George the 43rd signed the FY 2008 defense authorization bill today, and then immediately declared four provisions in that new law to be nonbinding:
Bush’s signature yesterday came with a little-noticed signing statement, claiming that provisions in the law “could inhibit the President’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations.” CQ reports on the provisions Bush plans to disregard:
President Bush yesterday signed the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after initially rejecting Congress’s first version because it would have allegedly opened the Iraqi government to “expensive lawsuits.”

Even though he forced Congress to change its original bill, Bush’s signature yesterday came with a little-noticed signing statement, claiming that provisions in the law “could inhibit the President’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations.” CQ reports on the provisions Bush plans to disregard:

One such provision sets up a commission to probe contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another expands protections for whistleblowers who work for government contractors. A third requires that U.S. intelligence agencies promptly respond to congressional requests for documents. And a fourth bars funding for permanent bases in Iraq and for any action that exercises U.S. control over Iraq’s oil money.

In his “Memorandum of Justification” for the waiver, Bush cited his Nov. 26 “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship” between Iraq and the United States. This agreement has been aggressively opposed by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress as not only unprecedented, but also potentially unconstitutional because it was enacted without the agreement of the legislation branch.

Last but not least, here is a heartwarming story about supporting the troops.


Keep Huntin'

I cannot add anything to this story at TPM.