WTF, Japan?

Um… wasn’t I just reading in my Japanese Politics textbook that this would never, ever in a trillion billion years happen in Japan?

Major news from the Japanese elections:

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese voters swept the opposition to a historic victory in an election on Sunday, ousting the ruling conservative party and handing the untested Democrats the job of breathing life into a struggling economy.

The win by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) ended a half-century of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and breaks a deadlock in parliament, ushering in a government that has promised to focus spending on consumers, cut wasteful budget outlays and reduce the power of bureaucrats.

Holy fucking shit, Batman!

For those of you who haven’t read a (soon-to-be-revised) textbook on Japanese politics, here’s a brief primer: the Liberal Democratic Party is the conservative one, and the Democratic Party of Japan is the slightly less conservative one with a few liberals sprinkled in. I’ll let any actual Japanese readers give us a less-simplistic rundown of the two.

If you’re wondering why I’m a bit shocked, look at it this way: fifty years is a long time for any party to enjoy nearly unbroken power, but the LDP has been in power pretty much since the day the Empire ended.

Wow.

Japan’s going to be a mighty interesting place politically in the next few years…

Your Daily Dose of Health Care Reform Stupidity

This is delicious:

Texas Republican Pete Olson probably figured he could get away with using a young child as a propaganda tool at a recent town hall meeting — but he was in for a big surprise.

Republican Congressman Olson (R-TX) tells the townhall about a mother who was turned away by the free market doctors for her unborn child’s heart defect. She was denied by the free market doctors but persisted and was able to find a specialized doctor and got a very delicate operation and a heart transplant 17 days after he was born. Olson then claims that the public option would have denied him the needed health care and he would have died! After being challenged he abruptly ended the discussion. Watch as he is challenged, and clueless as to what to say.

As Olson spews out his talking points, people in the crowd repeatedly point out to him that it wasn’t the government who turned this poor child away, it was the insurance companies. Olson was absolutely gobsmacked when people started calling him out on his obvious gaffe as he stood there looking like a deer caught in the headlights.

Heh heh heh whoops. Sucks when your constituents are too smart for your own good, eh?

Free drinks for the folks who pwned him.

Digby shoots down the “all we need is tort reform!” bullshit. With a bazooka.

The latest right-wing meme attempts to answer the WWTD (What Would Teddy Do?) question by claiming he’d compromise the cause of his life away – a trope easily debunked, but you know how they react when caught out in a lie: they lie harder. Orrin Hatch is the latest to spout that bullshit. Jed Lewison, who as a staffer to Sen. Maria Cantwell got to see Kennedy in action, takes it down hardcore. Shove that reality in the faces of all who try to claim Kennedy was the Great Compromiser.

And, finally, Steve Benen and Kevin Drum want to know why there’s even a fucking debate:

Kevin Drum recommends we take a moment to get “back to basics.”

Let’s recap: the United States spends about twice as much on healthcare as any other developed nation in the world and in return receives just about the worst care. Can someone remind me again why there’s even a debate about whether we should put up with this?

We shouldn’t.

Think You’re a Libertarian? Think Again!

DarkSyde has put together a brilliant Top 10 Signs You Might Not Be a Libertarian:

Notice a propensity of newly minted Libertarians showing up lately? Perhaps it’s just coincidence their ranks swelled in inverse proportion to George Bush’s approval rating, ditto that so many are mouthing traditional conservative talking points. But what about the everyday gun toting townhall screamers and taxcutters and deficit hawks we see on cable news: are they really libertarian as so many claim, or just conservatives in glibertarian clothes? Here’s a few warning signs.

  1. If you think Ron Paul isn’t conservative enough and Fox News is fair and balanced, you might not be a Libertarian.
  1. If you believe you have an inalienable right to attend Presidential townhalls brandishing a loaded assault rifle, but that arresting participants inside for wearing a pink shirt is an important public safety precaution, there’s a chance you’re dangerously unbalanced, but no chance you’re a Libertarian.
  1. If you think the government should stay the hell out of Medicare, well, you have way, way bigger problems than figuring out if you’re really a Libertarian.

Plenty more where that comes from. Enjoy!

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Ooo, Virginia, you’re in for such a treat! Look who you’ve got running for Gov (h/t):

At age 34, two years before his first election and two decades before he would run for governor of Virginia, Robert F. McDonnell submitted a master’s thesis to the evangelical school he was attending in Virginia Beach in which he described working women and feminists as “detrimental” to the family. He said government policy should favor married couples over “cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators.” He described as “illogical” a 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing the use of contraception by unmarried couples.

The 93-page document, which is publicly available at the Regent University library, culminates with a 15-point action plan that McDonnell said the Republican Party should follow to protect American families — a vision that he started to put into action soon after he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.

During his 14 years in the General Assembly, McDonnell pursued at least 10 of the policy goals he laid out in that research paper, including abortion restrictions, covenant marriage, school vouchers and tax policies to favor his view of the traditional family. In 2001, he voted against a resolution in support of ending wage discrimination between men and women.

But that’s not the best part. This is:

The thesis wasn’t so much a case against government as a blueprint to change what he saw as a liberal model into one that actively promoted conservative, faith-based principles through tax policy, the public schools, welfare reform and other avenues.

Leaders must correct the conventional folklore about the separation of church and state,” he wrote. “Historically, the religious liberty guarantees of the First Amendment were intended to prevent government encroachment upon the free church, not eliminate the impact of religion on society.” [emphasis added]

Frothing fundie goodness wrapped in a crispy Con shell, right? And the only meager defense he can muster up is to say, “But I’ve changed!”

Two ways to defeat this sack of Con shit, liberal ladies and gentlemen of Virginia. When you’re talking to folks who don’t think the Establishment Clause is folklore, remind them that a man who’s hit ten points on his 15-point action plan to establish what amounts to a theocracy on the Commonwealth can’t credibly claim he’s become a moderate. And when you’re talking to frothing fundies who think that 15-point plan of his is divine, remind them he’s distancing himself from it at Mach 7.

That should do.

Speaking of elections, there’s two things the voters of Arizona should know before McCain stands for reelection. He admits that torture is illegal:

Sen. John McCain disagrees with former Vice President Dick Cheney’s claim that enhanced interrogation techniques helped keep the country safe. “I think the interrogations were in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the convention against torture that we ratified under President Reagan,” McCain told CBS’ Bob Schieffer Sunday.

But thinks we shouldn’t investigate:

“I believe that the president was right when he said we ought to go forward and not back. I worry about the morale and effectiveness of the CIA. I worry about this thing getting out of control,” the Arizona senator said.

There’s something deeply, deeply wrong with that man.

Speaking of things that are deeply wrong, is it just me, or does it seem really warped when companies not only whip their employees into a frenzy of fear about pending legislation, but start whipping up their customers, too? We saw Wellpoint send out an email blast to its customer base warning of increased premiums and all sorts of mayhem if health care reform passes. Now there’s an electric company trying the same thing on clean energy legislation:

An electric utility in southern Illinois is frightening thousands of its customers by spreading misinformation about President Obama’s clean energy reform agenda. The Wayne-White Counties Electric Cooperative has joined the American Petroleum Institute’s “Energy Citizens” propaganda campaign, telling its members to oppose the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Wayne-White is even “organizing a bus trip” to the state capital to join an API rally on September 1:

Wayne-White encourages concerned citizens to participate in the free bus trip and rally in Springfield. The co-op recently mailed out nearly 10,000 informational letters and signature forms to enable concerned citizens to help themselves by speaking out and opposing this issue. As of Monday, more than 4,000 postcards had been returned to the co-op office which will be hand-delivered to Burris and Durbin at their Springfield offices, the Wayne-White news release said.

Wayne-White’s CEO Daryl Donjon has claimed that the legislation, which would spur a clean-energy economy by capping pollution and supporting renewable energy and efficiency, “is an unfair tax to the Midwest and would raise electric rates by 80 percent.” In the letter sent to Wayne-White’s captive audience, the utility claims “Cap & Trade” will “lead to the transfer of wealth from the midwestern states to the coastal states” and is “scary.”

I do believe he gets his talking points from watching Faux News. Needless to say, they’re false. Totally false.

There’s something deeply wrong with the utility companies in Illinois. Donjon wants his customers to suffer polluted air and the effects of global warming. People’s Energy of Illinois doesn’t mind if their customer base dies in gas explosions as long as they can save a penny or two on high-pressure gas inlet valves. My Illinois readers may want to remind their utility company that dead customers = fewer customers. They seem to be forgetting that minor detail.

Moving on to astroturfing and other news, you’re going to love this:

So far, we’ve had Birthers, “death panels,” a “death book,” concentration camps for conservatives, and the pervasive “Obama=Hitler” meme. And that’s just been in the first eight months of Barack Obama’s presidency.

But if you thought the wingnuts had already driven over the cliff and into the abyss, just wait. They really have just gotten started on their descent.

In a few weeks, there’s going to be a big gathering of right-wing True Believers in St. Louis, at a convention called “How to Take Back America”.

[snip]

Guest wingnut luminaries speaking at the convention will include Rep. Michelle Bachmann, Rep. Steve King (the guy who claims that gays and lesbians wouldn’t become hate-crime victims if they didn’t flaunt it), Joseph Farah of World Nut Daily, and Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin (more about him shortly) plus, of course, such convention organizers as Phyllis Schlafly.

As Kyle at RightWingWatch notes, it looks to be a smashing good time, especially at the workshops, where you can bone up on such subjects as:

“How to recognize living under Nazis & Communists”

“How to deal with supremacist judges”

“How to defeat UN attacks on sovereignty”

“How to stop socialism in health care”

“How to counter the homosexual movement”

“How to stop the killings: pro-life solutions”

And a paranoid time will be had by all. It’s too bad I don’t own a fleet of black helicopters – this would be a prime opportunity for a prank.

Here’s something you probably won’t see on teevee, although you would’ve seen nothing else if someone vaguely associated with the left had spouted it:

Via Burnt Orange, while Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) appeared at a MoveOn.org health care event yesterday in Austin and reaffirmed his support of the public option, a couple hundred wingnuts staged a counterprotest.

[snip]

Secessionist-in-Chief Rick Perry and GOP Rep. Brandon Creighton (who authored a secessionist bill) were supposed to speak at the event but backed out at the last minute. Here’s who replaced them.

Instead of Perry or Creighton, the protesters had Larry Kilgore, a “Christian activist” and candidate for governor who has endorsed executions for homosexuals; Debra Medina, a Ron Paul Republican and a slightly-less long-shot candidate for governor; and Melissa Pehle-Hill, yet another fringe candidate and a member of a self-appointed “citizens grand jury” investigating Barack Hussein Obama, aka Barry Soetoro.

Kilgore captured the sentiment of the mob. (video here)

I hate that flag up there,” Kilgore said pointing to the American flag flying over the Capitol. “I hate the United States government. … They’re an evil, corrupt government. They need to go. Sovereignty is not good enough. Secession is what we need!”

We hate the United States!

Why does the right hate America?

Because the left’s in charge right now. They’ll be back to calling us traitors for requesting that the United States stop torturing people and not engage in so much domestic spying about two nanoseconds after another Con manages to weasel his way into the Oval Office, never fear. In the meantime, perhaps we should see if there’s a few square miles of the country we could lop off and shovel them all in to. After all, they’d like to secede so very much, and I hate to disappoint them.

They can travel to the new country of Greater Wingnuttistan on the Teabag Express:

An update on the cross-country Teabagging from CNN.

Hundreds of people turned out for a series of weekend events as the Tea Party Express cruised across northern Nevada.

[snip]

At an event Saturday in Winnemucca, Nevada, Carolyn Rowe came to the tea party in a T-shirt depicting Obama as the joker from “Batman.” In place of the familiar “Hope” logo of Obama’s campaign was the word “Joke.”

She says she is concerned about the number of so-called “czars” in the Obama administration and she fears losing her choice of doctor if health care reform passes.

I believe he’s trouncing the Constitution and taking control of our country in a direction we don’t want,” says Rowe, from beneath a wide brimmed straw hat. “I think he has a hidden agenda, and I think he doesn’t tell the truth and that in itself bothers me.”

So to review, George W. Bush started a war on false pretenses, illegally spied on American citizens, held people without warrants and tortured them, ginned up phony terror warnings for political gain, pissed on the Geneva Conventions and led the universe in signing statements — but Obama’s “trouncing the Constitution” because he wants everyone to have access to health care. Interesting.

A study in contradictions, are they not? And when they preach concern for the elderly, remember they only mean those elderly people who don’t try to mention inconvenient truths at town halls:

Here’s a press report of the event. This bit, I think, tells you what these brave, civil, patriotic dissenters are all about:

The tone of the forum was set early when audience members began shouting over 84-year-old Germaine Duval of Manchester, who told of having a stroke while she was driving near Livingston Park.

A hospital stay left her with thousands of dollars in bills, although she has Medicare, she said. “You have to do something about the gap (in Medicare coverage),” she said, but several people began shouting she had gone over the two-minute limit set for speaking.

Which speaks for itself.

Indeed.

Katrina: Revelation and Rebirth

No Sunday Sensational Science today, my darlings. We’ll soon have the latest installment of COTEB to occupy us, and while we wait, there are some important pieces on Katrina and its aftermath I hope you’ll peruse.

Katrina made landfall four years (and one day) ago. You all know what happened next: a city drowned, thousands were killed or displaced, and the Bush regime made a total hash of everything start to finish. Four years on, Obama’s the one promising to rebuild a city that should have already been shining and new.

But there are deeper stories to the horrific incompetence that nearly killed New Orleans:

I don’t get to use the word “heroic” very often. Van Heerden is heroic. The Deputy Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, it was van Heerden who told me, on camera, something so horrible, so frightening, that, if it weren’t for his international stature, it would have been hard to believe:

“By midnight on Monday the White House knew. Monday night I was at the state Emergency Operations Center and nobody was aware that the levees had breached. Nobody.”

On the night of August 29, 2005, van Heerden was shut in at the state emergency center in Baton Rouge, providing technical advice to the rescue effort. As Hurricane Katrina came ashore, van Heerden and the State Police there were high-fiving it: Katrina missed the city of New Orleans, turning east.

What they did not know was that the levees had cracked. For crucial hours, the White House knew, but withheld the information that the levees of New Orleans had broken and that the city was about to drown. Bush’s boys did not notify the State of the flood to come, which would have allowed police to launch an emergency hunt for the thousands who remained stranded.

Van Heerden, of course, lost his job for telling the truth. And that involves a tale of oil corporations furiously greenwashing and astroturfing, and a university more interested in cash than competence.

As for why it’s taken so long to rebuild the city, an explanation might be found in right-wing blatherer Neal Boortz’s opinion that rebuilding New Orleans will only bring back “the debris that Katrina chased out.” No one in the Bush regime would phrase it so crassly, of course but I don’t doubt that a heaping helping of scorn topped their general incompetence like rancid whipped cream on a shit sundae.

Apparently, in their world, people who didn’t own cars weren’t fit to live:

I did not seek out professor van Heerden about Bush’s deadly silence. Rather, I’d come to LSU to ask him about a strange little company, “Innovative Emergency Management,” a politically well-connected firm that, a year before the hurricane, had finagled a contract to plan the evacuation of New Orleans.

Innovative Emergency Management knew a lot about political contributions, but seemed to have zero experience in hurricane response planning. In fact, their “plan” for New Orleans called for evacuating the city by automobile. When Katrina hit, 127,000 wheel-less New Orleans folk were left to float out.

You know the tragic result.

Four years and a new administration later, New Orleans is finally seeing some progress:

Victor Ukpolo, chancellor of Southern University at New Orleans, said the administration has been able to “move mountains” for his school, virtually wiped out by Katrina and the breached levees. [snip] In half a year, Obama’s team says it has cleared at least 75 projects that were in dispute, including libraries, schools and university buildings. The administration has relied on a new, independent arbitration panel, and assigned senior advisers to focus on the rebuilding.

The administration recently reversed a FEMA rule that barred communities from building fire stations and other critical projects in vulnerable areas. Local officials said the rule could have effectively killed off some places.

[snip]

Jindal and Rainwater said the previous administration often wouldn’t recognize new information or acknowledge there were real disputes. Sometimes, Rainwater said, Bush officials seemed blind to the devastation around them and said they had to be good stewards of public money.

“They never recognized the enormity of what we’re working through,” Rainwater said. “We’re not just trying to rebuild buildings here but entire communities.”

“That’s the difference” under Obama, Rainwater said. “It’s the recognition. … We’re all able to sit down around the table.”

Hopefully those discussions will include urgent talks and then even more urgent action on flood control. Christie Hardin Smith visited New Orleans recently and brought back pictures showing how much has been accomplished. All of that progress could be wiped out in a virtual instant if the proper precautions aren’t taken.

Maybe someone in the Obama administration should have a little chat about New Orleans’s safety with Dr. van Heerden. The man has a good eye for a bad levee.

Let’s raise a round to him, and to the citizens of New Orleans past, present and future: by your efforts, may the Big Easy make a Big Comeback.

Salud, amigos.