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Glenn Beck: The Breaking Point

Monday, April 13, 2009



By David Neiwert

Crooks and Liars

OK, enough. We finally reached our breaking point with Glenn Beck on Friday night.

Crooks and Liars has always been a watchdog site -- we watch the liars and thieves and crazies who come on your TV sets and we run the clips so you don't have to watch their shows. We always strive to find the wingnuttiest, most hypocritical, most mendacious and outright asinine examples we can find every day -- and nearly always they come from our friends on the right.

But Beck has recently become a special case. Every day for the last couple of months, when we've surveyed the wreckage of that day's right-wing video, Beck's have been the craziest, wingnuttiest shows out there. If he is where the American Right is heading, he bears watching.

But at some point the circuits just overload.

Friday night's show, which was all about extending Beck's previously stated belief that Obama is marching us into fascism, and helping plump Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism thesis, was that point.

Since I'm a student of the subject of fascism, I've written a lengthy response at my blog. But I'm not going to burden C&L readers with it.

We're not going to drop covering Beck altogether. We'll continue to report it whenever he makes a dangerous pronunciamento, of course, because our reasons for monitoring him in the first place have never gone away: His rhetoric is laden with particularly dangerous extremism, and he has the potential to wreak great damage. Indeed, that reason for keeping watch on him couldn't be more acute. And so simply reporting the dangerous stuff will keep him on our front pages enough....(Click for remainder.)

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Israel's Racist in Chief

AP Photo / Tsafrir Abayov
Israel’s new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, stands in a field just outside the Gaza Strip. Lieberman’s right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party had an impressive showing in Israel’s recent election, campaigning with the slogan: “Without loyalty, there is no citizenship.”
By Chris Hedges
TruthDig


It was unthinkable, when I was based as a correspondent in Jerusalem two decades ago, that an Israeli politician who openly advocated ethnically cleansing the Palestinians from Israeli-controlled territory, as well as forcing Arabs in Israel to take loyalty oaths or be forcibly relocated to the West Bank, could sit on the Cabinet. The racist tirades of Jewish proto-fascists like Meir Kahane stood outside the law, were vigorously condemned by most Israelis and were prosecuted accordingly. Kahane’s repugnant  Kach Party, labeled by the United States, Canada and the European Union as a terrorist organization, was outlawed by the Israeli government in 1988 for inciting racism.

Israel has changed. And the racist virus spread by Kahane, whose thugs were charged with the murders and beatings of dozens of unarmed Palestinians and whose members held rallies in Jerusalem where they chanted “Death to Arabs!” has returned to Israel in the figure of Israel’s powerful new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman openly calls for an araberrein Israel—an Israel free of Arabs.

There has been a steady decline from the days of the socialist Labor Party, which founded Israel in 1948 and held within its ranks many leaders, such as Yitzhak Rabin, who were serious about peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians. The moral squalor of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Lieberman reflects the country’s degeneration. Labor, like Israel, is a shell of its old self. Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party, with 15 seats in the Knesset, is likely to bring down the Netanyahu government the moment his power base is robust enough to move him into the prime minister’s office. He is the new face of the Jewish state....(Click for remainder.)

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Iowa and Vermont: The Politics of It

By Matt Coles
Blog of Rights, ACLU

Some week. The Vermont legislature voted to let same-sex couples marry, and the Iowa Supreme Court decided that it is unconstitutional not to let same-sex couples marry. Together, these two events are a much needed shot in the arm for marriage.

Iowa is the first win in a flat state without an ocean view. And the decision was unanimous. Vermont is the first time a state legislature (as opposed to a court) has opened marriage, and it did it by a stunning veto override.

Iowa and Vermont don’t erase the damage from losing Proposition 8 in California. They don’t have either the cultural or economic influence that the Golden State has. Still, there’s nothing like winning big to put the wind back in your sails.

Where the marriage movement heads now, though, is complicated. Iowa and Vermont will not be the start of same-sex marriage all over the country because that simply isn’t possible....(Click for remainder.)

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Tea Parties Forever

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times


This is a column about Republicans — and I’m not sure I should even be writing it.

Today’s G.O.P. is, after all, very much a minority party. It retains some limited ability to obstruct the Democrats, but has no ability to make or even significantly shape policy.

Beyond that, Republicans have become embarrassing to watch. And it doesn’t feel right to make fun of crazy people. Better, perhaps, to focus on the real policy debates, which are all among Democrats.

But here’s the thing: the G.O.P. looked as crazy 10 or 15 years ago as it does now. That didn’t stop Republicans from taking control of both Congress and the White House. And they could return to power if the Democrats stumble. So it behooves us to look closely at the state of what is, after all, one of our nation’s two great political parties....(Click for remainder.)

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Big Time Amazon FAIL



By Laura Northrup
The Consumerist


This holiday weekend, Amazon quietly made some changes to their sales ranks, removing selected gay and lesbian books from the site-wide rankings and from some search results. What books were "selected" and speculation as to why they were selected has led to an online uproar.

Besides the one thing they have in common, the de-ranked books are all otherwise diverse, ranging from romance novels to serious nonfiction books; policy analysis to teen novels. Amazon should have learned by now that they really can't do this sort of thing these days unnoticed.

When author Mark Probst noticed popular gay romance novels disappearing from the sales rankings and contacted Amazon about it, they explained their logic thusly:
In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.
Oh. Well, that explains it...hey, wait a minute! Why are books with little to no sexual content flagged as "adult" and losing their position in the sales ranks? Why do much dirtier books about heterosexual characters or people still have their sales rank? What, exactly, is Amazon up to here? It's unclear, and that's making people mad....(Click for remainder.)

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The Best Response to the National Organization for Marriage

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The Gathering Storm (FIXED)

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What Do a Rabbit, Colored Eggs and Candy Have to Do With Jesus? The History of Easter Revealed

By Kari Henley
The Huffington Post


Ever stopped to wonder how bunnies, eggs and scavenger hunts are related to Easter's religious celebration of Jesus dying on the cross and rising again? Strange bedfellows they are. I never had any idea as a kid. No one seemed to question the whole odd mix: why would a rabbit have a basket of eggs in the first place, and how that tied in to crucifixion and resurrection was another matter. Let's explore some Easter myths while popping a few chocolate Cadbury treats, shall we?

I grew up in a vaguely Christian family, and today am sort of a floating generalist. Our kids celebrate Jewish and Christian holidays, and are exposed to Buddhism, Hinduism and Native American practices. God has many names to us and we are not members of a church.

It seems I am not alone in that vague religious category. According to John Meacham- in his Newsweek article, "The Decline of Christian America" :
"the percentage of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith has doubled in recent years, to 16 percent; in terms of voting, this group grew from 5 percent in 1988 to 12 percent in 2008--roughly the same percentage of the electorate as African-Americans. (Seventy-five percent of unaffiliated voters chose Barack Obama, a Christian.) Meanwhile, the number of people willing to describe themselves as atheist or agnostic has increased about fourfold from 1990 to 2009, from 1 million to about 3.6 million. (That is about double the number of, say, Episcopalians in the United States.)"
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Make NO Mistake, Arctic Sea Ice is Melting

By The Washington Post

MAKE NO mistake, Arctic Sea ice is melting. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the maximum extent of the winter sea ice cover for 2008-09 was the fifth-lowest on record. Underscoring their point, the agencies added, "The six lowest maximum events since satellite monitoring began in 1979 have all occurred in the past six years (2004-09)."

Global warming is doing a number on Arctic Sea ice. The report noted that the Arctic winter was 1.8 to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average. This and other factors are causing the surface ice to melt. That ice is vital for reflecting the light and heat of the sun. Without it, the heat warms the Arctic Ocean, which then melts the ice below the surface of the water. This, along with older ice moving out of the Arctic, decreases the thickness of sea ice cover, which then melts more easily in the summer. "Ice older than two years now accounts for less than 10 percent of the ice cover," according to the study. "From 1981 through 2000, such older ice made up an average of 30 percent of the total sea ice cover at this time of the year."

These new data come as predictions of an ice-free Arctic Sea during the summer get ever closer. Just two years ago, an NSIDC scientist estimated that worrisome event could happen within 20 to 30 years. Last month, Warwick Vincent, director of the Center for Northern Studies at Laval University in Quebec, told Reuters, "2013 is starting to look as though it is a lot more reasonable as a prediction."...(Click for remainder.)

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The Wedded States of Equality

By John Sherffius
Boulder Daily Camera



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The Fundies Are PO'd at Rick Warren

By John Aravosis
AMERICAblog


Hate is the family value that holds the religious right together. And when one of them strays, when a religious right leader tries to back away in shame from his own homophobia, the rest of God's bigots get very very angry.

As you'll recall, I reported a few days ago about how evangelical leader Rick Warren appeared on Larry King the other night and seriously distanced himself from his past advocacy for Prop 8 in California, to the point of lying about his previous anti-gay positions and advocacy.

Well. That didn't go over very well in thumperland.

From the cult-run newspaper, the Moonie Times:
Evangelical leaders say they are bewildered and stunned by the Rev. Rick Warren's apparent turnaround on gay marriage after the famous California pastor said earlier this week that he was not a proponent of California's Proposition 8....

"I was extremely troubled by the way he appeared to be so anxious to distance himself from the same-sex issue and to make clear he was not an 'activist' and that he'd only addressed the issue in a very minor way," said the Rev. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said his denial is "absolutely baffling."

"Whether he supports Proposition 8 now, after the fact, is overshadowed by the bizarre claim that he did not say what the evidence so clearly proves he said."
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Republican Pants On Fire

By Stephen Pizzo
The Smirking Chimp


I've been on lie patrol this week. And I suggest ya'll join me as I stand guard at the border between what's really happening now and what the right wing liars say is happening right now.

Republicans are in a bind. They are out of power and no longer have access to the Bully Pulpit from which they assured us for 8-years that our lying eyes were indeed, lying to us. You know like when they used to told us the best way to regulate the financial services industry was not to regulate at all. Or when they assured us that Saddam not only had weapons of mass destruction, but they knew where they were. Or when they told us that cutting $1.6 trillion from the tax bills of America's top 1% of earners would spark a roaring. sustainable and egalitarian economy. That kind of stuff.

But alas, beginning in January conservatives lost that high wattage soapbox. But they're not gone. They've retreated to the woods where they are fighting a disinformation guerrilla war against the Obama administration and all things Democrat.

If we liberals learned anything over the last decade it's that the last thing we must do is "turn the other check," or just "consider the source." when these professional prevaricators go on the attack. Like any kind of fight, when the other side starts shooting, either start shooting back or you're toast....(Click for remainder.)

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Krugman Calls Out GOP Hypocrisy On Job Creation And Defense Cuts

By Amanda Terkel
Think Progress


In February, only three Republican senators broke party ranks to vote for the economic recovery package. Zero House Republicans voted for passage. Part of their opposition centered around the belief that an increase in government spending would do nothing to create jobs:
– “And first off the government doesn’t create jobs. Let’s get this notion out of our heads that the government creates jobs. Not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job. Small business owners do, small enterprises do. Not the government.” [RNC Chairman Michael Steele, 2/2/09]

– “Instead of focusing on three major issues — job creation, housing and compassion for Americans who have lost jobs through no fault of their own — to boost the economy, this bill has morphed into a bloated government giveaway.” [Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), 2/10/09]

– “When it comes to slow-moving government spending programs, it’s clear that it doesn’t create the jobs or preserve the jobs that need to happen.” [House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), 1/21/09]
However, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced plans to end production of the F-22 at the current 187 planes — down from the 381 planes the government was expected to order — many of these same conservatives were up in arms over the jobs that would be lost....(Click for remainder.)



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U.S. Economy: You Think You Are the Consumer, but You Are Really the Product

Photo by the justified sinner.
By Stirling Newberry
Firedoglake.com


Forget what you have been told about the financial crisis, because most of what has been written has been written from the view point of the financial system. That system exists to be an investment bank for the global wealthy. It packages revenue streams, and sells them. The most important one, was you. Your house, your willingness to pay for college, your willingness to pay for health insurance. What Goldman Sachs sells is you, in the same way that broadcast television sells viewers to advertisers. You aren't the customer of Citibank, you are the product.

What is happening is that the dollar is breaking into two parts. The financial system dollar is one issue, the US economy dollar is another. The rich of the world are still willing to loan the US government money to do the international things that the dollar does, but they are not willing to loan US consumers money. While people talk about fraud in the financial sector, the real root of this downturn is that people with money to loan don't want to loan it to American consumers. Citibank pays 0% for its money. You pay a great deal more for yours.

We can see this by what might seem a paradox, the dollar has strengthened, but the US trade balance has improved. If the relative cost of goods were the driving factor, the dollar getting stronger should have worsened the trade balance. The reality is that exports have gone up, and imports have gone down, because prices of US goods are not going up by much, and the recession has crippled US demand for imports. From now on, the US consumer is on pay-as-you-go from the rest of the world. Our economy is, as a result, likely to remain in a depression for some time to come, until the US starts selling things to the rest of the world that the rest of the world wants, and reduces the cost of being in the middle class.

This is a decoupling of the dollar as the world's fundamental currency, often called being the world's "reserve" currency—but the term reserve currency has a narrower technical meaning from its role as the currency of the American economy. Once the world loaned money to US consumers so that US consumers would support the policies required to maintain the world trade and stability system. The outside world hated what Bush was doing, but they did not hate it enough to stop him from doing it. Thus it let the US keep itself happy on a borrowing binge. But now the wars that this binge was meant to cover over are winding down, and there is a belief that the US will support the current level of engagement no matter what. Why keep us happy when we aren't going to pay back?...(Click for remainder.)

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Sen. Inhofe Gets His Crazy On (Again) and Confuses Military With Pork

By Lucas O'Connor
MyDD


Way back on Monday, Defense Secretary Gates unveiled the new proposed defense department budget. The gist of it is a decrease in big, old Cold War-era programs and boosts to the tools of asymmetrical warfare like intelligence, surveillance and rapid-response. Such a dramatic shift, in fact, that now TEN percent of the defense budget will be devoted unconventional warfare. Additionally, "Gates favors systems that have been proven to work and can be produced in large quantity at predictable costs". Crazy right?

Well, there IS crazy involved, cause Senator Inhofe was not pleased. "President Obama is disarming America. Never before has a president so ravaged the military at a time of war." Now normally when James Inhofe speaks, my brain floats away in disgust faster than Homer's at the cider factory, but in this case, Inhofe stumbled bass ackwards into a broader point.

Obviously this is a retread of the same old "soft on defense" claptrap, and it seems to fit in with the "soft on pirates" meme. Except... wait a second... piracy it turns out, is an example of asymmetrical, unbalanced warfare, which this budget is specifically designed to address. And it's via the spotlight on the grave threat of piracy that we establish:
In a sense, America needs three navies; yet, as this pirate crisis reveals, it may have only two. It has a blue-water force for patrolling the major sea lines, thus guarding the global commons. It packs enough precision weaponry on its warships to project power on land against adversaries like North Korea and Iran. But it still does not have enough of a sea-based, counterinsurgency component to deal with adversaries like Somali pirates and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy.
(Click for remainder.)

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The Daily Left: Anti-Gay Marriage Ad Full of Lies

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Marriage Wars: The Real Fight is Over Moral Superiority

By Bella DePaulo
The Huffington Post


Have you seen the "Gathering Storm" ad? It is the latest from the anti-gay marriage machine. Set against a gray, lightening-pocked, ominous background, it begins with the words: "There's a storm gathering. The clouds are dark and the winds are strong and I am afraid." It continues with one person after another (actors, all) declaring that same-sex marriage advocates are a threat. "Those advocates want to change the way I live," says one.

The ad touched off a televised maelstrom, with pairs of pundits yelling at and over each other with arguments that go round and round and never seem to come to any sensible resolution. The key question that befuddles gays who want to marry, and straights who have no problem with that, is this: How can one person's marriage threaten another person's? How is that even possible or plausible?

As Mike Barnicle asked when he was guest hosting Hardball, "I still don't get it. How, you know, if the couple upstairs, Ray and Tommy - what do they have to do with my life downstairs?"

The predictable arguments are trotted out: God doesn't want it. Marriage is for procreation. It is the foundation of civilization. By now, all of these are high hanging curve balls for the batters on the other team who have been swinging away at these pitches for so long. (See, for example, this parody of the "Gathering Storm" ad, and this blog.)...(Click for remainder.)

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Show Us Your Body, or We'll Feel You Up

By Suzanne Ito
Blog of Rights at ACLU


You know how when the weather starts to warm, the gym is buzzing with people toning to achieve that perfect beach body? Starting this summer, abs of steel will be in season anytime you fly.

Yesterday, Slate’s William Saletan wrote about the TSA’s new policy towards body scanner —a.k.a. "naked"—machines. Saletan points out that two years ago, the naked machines were offered as an alternative to physical pat-down searches to passengers who set off the metal detectors or were flagged for a secondary screening. Naked machines were considered less invasive than the grope-and-grab.

Well, the alternative will soon become the norm this summer, when the strip-search machines will replace the metal detectors in several U.S. airports. That’s right: this summer, you will no longer have a choice of whether to enter the naked machine or not. As Saletan puts it, the choice is "Show us your body, or we’ll feel you up."

We’ve written about these machines before, but all you really need to do is look at this picture to see what a "millimeter wave" machine shows airport security. Mortified yet? USA Today found that most flyers had no idea how graphic the naked machines’ images are, even before they stepped inside and subjected themselves to these virtual strip-searches.

One of the points that Saletan makes is that what was formerly voluntary is now mandatory. We hate to say “I told you so,” but this is the classic way that invasive technologies reach us: the authorities make them as palatable as possible to get the public to swallow them (they’ll say it’s "voluntary," or "applied only in certain cases," and tell you it’s chock-full of privacy protections). Then once they’re accepted, they become more and more intrusive in all the ways the ACLU always warns against....(Click for remainder.)

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When Turdblossoms Attack

By Heather
Crooks and Liars


From Countdown April 10, 2009. David Shuster and James Moore dissect Karl Rove's criticism of Joe Biden. Shuster's initial analysis is spot on. I take issue with some of what James Moore said in response.
Moore: But I have to suggest that there's something about Karl that is very...we ought to in many ways feel sad about. There's something pathological about Karl's inability to integrate reality into what he views to be reality. This is a man who has made things up, pathologically, there's a pathology to what Karl is doing. And he goes on and on and on. And we're talking about a man who basically ran a lie factory in the White House under the White House Iraq Group and has completely ignored everything that contradicts what Karl wants to be true.

This is what's going on in his brain. He has this little world that he sees on a video tape in his head and he believes it to be true. I think there's a great sadness in there and I think that we might want to pity Karl because Karl is completely disconnected from what's going on in the real world.
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The Regulatory Charade

Washington had the power to regulate misbehaving banks.  It just refused to use it.

By Eliot Spitzer
Slate.com


Does it strike you as odd that the American government has invested $115 billion in TARP money alone in Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America, fully 70 percent of their market cap ($164.5 billion, as of March 30), yet we have virtually no say in the management or behavior of these banks? Does it seem even odder that these banks are getting along extremely well with the government regulators who should be picking them apart for having destroyed the economy and financial system?

There is a grand, implicit bargain being struck in our multitrillion-dollar bailout of the financial-services sector. Those in power in D.C. and New York are pretending the bargain is: You give us trillions, and in return, we fix this industry so the economy recovers and this never happens again. In fact, the bargain is much more alarming: Trillions of dollars of taxpayer money will be invested to rescue the banks, without the new owners—taxpayers—being allowed to make any of the necessary changes in structure, senior management, or corporate behavior. In return, the still-private banks will help the D.C. regulators perpetuate the myth that regulators didn't have enough power to prevent the meltdown. In sum, banks get bailed out with virtually no obligations imposed; regulators get more power and a pass on their past failures. The symbiosis of the past decade continues.

We already see regulators, supported by investment and commercial banks, calling for expanded power—specifically the ability to reach hedge funds and other "private equity" with more oversight and to seize institutions that pose systemic risk with greater alacrity....(Click for remainder.)

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Here's a Little Challenge for Iowa's Homophobic Republican Legislators...



By Andy Ostroy

The Huffington Post


Last week Iowa's State Supreme Court ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, paving the way for gays and lesbians to legally marry. It's been hailed across the country as a bold, landmark measure that could ripple throughout other states.

Of course, the ruling has caused outrage and protest among conservatives, those god-fearing upholders of the great institution of heterosexual marriage. And in response to the Iowa Court's action, the state's House Republicans are vowing to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and threatening major political consequence to opposing Democrats (who just happen to control both the House and State Senate).

But before these narrow-minded, sanctimonious hypocrites go off full-cocked (pun intended) to amend the state's Constitution, perhaps they'd accept a little challenge. How about taking lie detector tests in which three key questions are asked:

1. Have you ever cheated on your spouse?

2. Have you cheated on your spouse more than once?

3. Have you ever engaged in homosexual activity?

Since the primary justification (and fear) behind banning gay marriage is that it threatens the sanctity of heterosexual unions, I believe we have a right to know how many straight and closeted gay Republican philanderers--along the likes of Bob Barr, Newt Gingrich, David Vitter, Vito Fossella, Larry Craig and Mark Foley--there are in Iowa's chambers before we allow them to pass judgement, and law, on others' morals....(Click for remainder.)

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Do Blue States Have Higher Unemployment Rates?

By Nate Silver
FiveThirtyEight.com


Democrats, since last November's election, have generally taken a much more aggressive and interventionist position on handling the ongoing economic crisis. It is generally assumed that this is simply because Democrats are more comfortable with the idea of governmental intervention into the economy in general, and that, to quote Stanford economist Paul Romer, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

Are there perhaps however less abstract reasons why Democrats have been calling for a greater response to the recession? Namely, is the economic crisis worse in blue states?

The answer is "perhaps", although it depends on what you mean by "blue state".

Below is a chart, with the 50 states sorted by their present unemployment rate. The unemployment rates are listed alongside six measures of the partisan makeup of the state: its vote for President in 2008, the current makeup of its delegation to the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House, the partisan affiliation of its governor, and the partisan affiliation of the upper and lower chambers of its state house. Instances where there has been a change in partisan control since last November are indicated with an asterisk....(Click for remainder.)


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Obama's Loyal Opposition

By Robert Kuttner
The Huffington Post


 "Part of the Way with LBJ"
--Students for a Democratic Society button, circa 1964

Progressives now find themselves in an awkward position of simultaneously wishing Barack Obama well, but feeling dismayed by his policies on some key issues, most notably the banking bailout. If this were a normal economic situation, the posture of semi-opposition would not be that big a deal. We would simply gratefully accept the decent policies and keep pressing for bolder ones. But a failure to revive the banking system would be Obama's Vietnam. It would wreck everything else.

It's a too-familiar position for progressives, one that winds back through all of the postwar Democratic administrations of my adulthood. We wanted Lyndon Johnson to push harder for civil rights and anti-poverty and not ruin it all in Vietnam. We were appalled at Jimmy Carter's attacks on government, his failure to use his large Democratic majority in Congress to press for progressive legislation, his refusal to lift a finger on behalf of labor law reform. The memories of Bill Clinton are sufficiently recent that we need little reminder of the needless tilt to the right on economic issues from NAFTA to welfare reform to financial deregulation.

What makes this situation different is, first, our gratitude on so many fronts combined with the very high stakes of the financial rescue. Barack Obama is an exemplary leader in so many ways, the leader we've been waiting for. His commitment to restore constitutional government is no small achievement. Those fighting for anti-poverty efforts and children's initiatives have never seen increases in federal resources comparable to the present ones. His foreign policy initiatives, from his reaching out to Iran to his efforts on behalf of nuclear non-proliferation are a breath of fresh air. And speaking of which, Obama seems serious about reducing the carbon footprint....(Click for remainder.)

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Obama Beats First National Security Test

By Jennifer Loven
Associated Press via The Huffington Post


WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy is showing only glimmers of life and two costly wars remain in the balance, but President Barack Obama's "no drama" handling of the Indian Ocean hostage crisis proved a big win for his administration in its first critical national security test.

Obama's quiet backstage decision to authorize the Defense Department to take necessary action if Capt. Richard Phillips' life was in imminent danger gave a Navy commander the go-ahead to order snipers to fire on the pirates holding the cargo ship captain at gunpoint.

For Obama, the benefits were instantly clear: an American life saved and a major victory notched against an increasingly worrisome scourge of the seas off the Horn of Africa.

Obama's handling of the crisis showed a president who was comfortable in relying on the U.S. military, much as his predecessor, George W. Bush, did.

But it also showed a new commander in chief who was willing to use all the tools at his disposal, bringing in federal law enforcement officials to handle the judicial elements of the crisis.

The rescue appeared to vindicate Obama's muted but determined handling of the incident. What won't be known for some time is whether Obama will benefit politically....(Click for remainder.)

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Afghanistan (Just Got Back)

By Rep. Jared Polis
Square State
Jared Polis is a Democratic member of Congress, representing Colorado's 2nd District.


AFGHANISTAN -- We just landed in United Arab Emirates.  Sorry I've been slow to reply on my Iraq posts, but it was because I was in Afghanistan the last two and half days.  I wasn't allowed to announce it ahead of time but now that I am back on "friendly" soil I can share my experiences as part of a Congressional Delegation visit to Afghanistan.

We visited two cities in Afghanistan, Kabul the capital and Kandahar in the south near the Pakistani border.  What a mess.  What another world.  No one can make sense of Afghanistan because it doesn't really make sense.

We hardly glimpsed the real Afghanistan.  Through the bullet-proof windows of our van, we saw a few children playing, women in Burkhas, and men going about their daily business as we drove from the airport to the Embassy, but our briefings were all in military bases or government buildings. 

I grew up loving Afghani food.  My parents befriended an Afghani immigrant in the early 1980s in San Diego.  My parents gave him our old pots when he started an Afghani restaurant in the area.   Later, he opened an Afghan import shop next door to the restaurant and it was a special treat as kids when we would go there and I could pick out some little Afghani trinket in addition to having a delicious meal.  A few years ago he moved his restaurant to one of the most posh areas of San Diego and it has been great to watch his success.

On this trip to Afghanistan, unfortunately not a single bite of Afghani food passed our lips.  We stayed on the military bases and embassy compound, ate in cafeterias, and the only Afghani we even met with was the Minister of the Interior.

Thus, despite travelling thousands of miles and visiting the country itself, my context and understanding of Afghanistan is pretty much the same as the average American's-based on the same information that the Obama administration and US military have given us in making their decisions.  If I had a few weeks I would love to really try to get to know some Afghanis. 

Despite our short stay and limited exposure, it was a great opportunity to learn from our generals, NGOs, and diplomatic officials as well as leaders of the Afghani government....(Click for remainder.)

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Why Obama's Cabinet Scares Me

By Steve Rosenbaum
The Huffington Post


Ok, quick - name the Obama Cabinet. Ready - set - go. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State. Tim Geithner, Treasury, um... uh.... right.

Sure, you may have gotten one or two more.

But - back when the election ended and the Obama administration got off to that fast start on the transition, I wasn't the only person thinking "The Best and the Brightest" was about to shape up to be the dream team that would bring new thinking and new energy to Washington.

Certainly the President has had setbacks in putting the Cabinet in place. He's had some high profile disappointments with Tom Daschle, Health and Human Services, and Richardson and Killefer. And it may be the problems we're facing are tough enough that even those with a passion to serve are having second thoughts about walking away from the private sector into lower paying and potentially reputation risking Federal gigs.

But that's not what has me worried, even scared.

It's this slightly unnerving feeling that maybe Obama is personally galvanizing, but just isn't great at putting together a team (insert whatever sports analogy you think fits here - he's a distance runner, but not the captain of a football team)....(Click for remainder.)

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Annotating Glenn Beck's "Thomas Paine"

By Jed Lewison
Daily Kos


Friday afternoon, Glenn Beck pushed his tea bag parties with one of the nuttiest nuts I've ever seen on television: a fictional Thomas Paine, exhorting American's to rebel against their government.

It's the kind of thing you have to see to believe, but at the same time, it's practically torture to sit through it.

So we got the idea of annotating the bizarre monologue using captions, and within a matter of hours, a new feature for DKTV was born: annotated video....(Click for original.)



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King of Jordan to Meet Obama on April 21st

REUTERS/Ammar Awad
By Suleiman al-Khalidi and Jonathan Wright
Reuters


AMMAN (Reuters) - King Abdullah of Jordan will meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on April 21 to lobby on behalf of Arab states for a stronger U.S. role in Middle East peacemaking, palace officials said on Sunday.

They said the staunch U.S. ally, the first Arab leader to hold face-to-face talks in the White House since Obama took office in January, will urge him to do more to bring about a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.

The monarch will also convey Arab concerns about the prospects for peace under the right-leaning Israeli government led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said his priority is to focus on economic and security issues rather than negotiating core issues such as statehood, borders, and the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

Diplomats said the monarch, backed by the Arab League and Arab allies of Washington in the region, will tell Obama that Arabs are still committed to an Arab peace initiative....(Click for remainder.)

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The First Dog, Bo

By Pete Souza
The White House





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The FOX "News" Noise Machine is Running on Fumes

By Mike Luckovich
TruthDig



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U.S. Navy Rescues Captain, Kills Somali Pirates

By Abdi Sheikh and Abdi Guled
Reuters


MOGADISHU (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy shot dead three Somali pirates and rescued cargo ship captain Richard Phillips on Sunday from a lifeboat off the coast of Somalia where he was being held captive, ending a five-day standoff.

Phillips' life was in danger when Navy snipers aboard a nearby U.S. destroyer shot his Somali captors, freeing him unharmed and killing three of the four pirates who had held him

after trying to seize his vessel, the Navy said.

The fourth pirate was in custody.

"I can tell you that he is free and that he is safe," said Navy Lieutenant Commander John Daniels.

A U.S. Navy commander made a split-second decision to fire on the pirates because he believed that Phillips, who tried to escape on Friday, faced imminent danger amid tense hostage talks with his captors and deteriorating sea conditions....(Click for remainder.)

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Americans Stick To Their Guns As Firearms Sales Surge

Amid fears that President Obama is planning a clampdown on guns, Chris McGreal reports from Culpeper, Virginia, on a new US arms race


Guns line the walls of the firearms reference collection at the Washington Metropolitan police department headquarters. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

By Chris McGreal
The Guardian


At the Guns and Ammo Warehouse they are reluctant to admit Barack Obama is right about very much. But customers enjoy the thought that his controversial campaign comment, that "bitter" small-town Americans are clinging to their guns, has proved more true than the president could have imagined.

Firearms sales have surged in the six months since Obama's election as millions of Americans have gone on a buying spree that has stripped gun shops in some parts of the country almost bare of assault weapons and led to a national ammunition shortage.

The FBI says that since November more than seven million people applied for criminal background checks in order to buy weapons, a figure excluding the many more buying at thousands of gun shows in states such as Virginia, without facing any checks.

Gun-shop owners and the National Rifle Association say the surge is driven by worries that Obama is planning to ban many types of firearms and that the deepening economic crisis will fuel a crime wave, as witnessed by the string of mass shootings in the past few weeks.

But control groups pressing for greater control on firearms accuse the NRA of funding a massive scare campaign to portray Obama as a gun owner's worst nightmare and to argue that tighter restrictions on weapons ownership are a threat to broader liberties and a step toward tyranny....(Click for remainder.)

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U.S. Citizens Held as Illegal Immigrants

(AP Photo/ACLU)
By Suzanne Gamboa
The Associated Press via Yahoo! News


Pedro Guzman has been an American citizen all his life. Yet in 2007, the 31-year-old Los Angeles native — in jail for a misdemeanor, mentally ill and never able to read or write — signed a waiver agreeing to leave the country without a hearing and was deported to Mexico as an illegal immigrant.

For almost three months, Guzman slept in the streets, bathed in filthy rivers and ate out of trash cans while his mother scoured the city of Tijuana, its hospitals and morgues, clutching his photo in her hand. He was finally found trying to cross the border at Calexico, 100 miles away.

These days, back home in California, "He just changes from one second to another. His brain jumps back to when he was missing," said his brother, Michael Guzman. "We just talk to him and reassure him that everything is fine and nobody is going to hurt him."

In a drive to crack down on illegal immigrants, the United States has locked up or thrown out dozens, probably many more, of its own citizens over the past eight years. A monthslong AP investigation has documented 55 such cases, on the basis of interviews, lawsuits and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. These citizens are detained for anything from a day to five years. Immigration lawyers say there are actually hundreds of such cases....(Click for remainder.)

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