BushCo Plans for Iran? And Bonus Wiretapping Info…

Two stories are creating a lot of chatter today: an unidentified senior Bush administration official allegedly told a senior Israeli official that BushCo will be going after Iran before their term ends, plus, is there more to the illegal wiretapping story than meets the eye? Or is this simply a “buy” opportunity for Halliburton stock?

Commentary By: Richard Blair

So much to consider, so little time today.

First up: The Jerusalem Post reports today on an Israeli Army radio claim that one of the Bush administration’s higher-up henchmen informed an Israeli official in a closed door meeting that Bush and Cheney are champing at the bit to go after Iran prior to the end of their term in office. Who would the senior BushCo henchman be? Hadley? (That’s my guess.) Of course, the White House today is trying to downplay such speculation. Attaturk has more on at Firedoglake. Think this is all tinfoil hattery? Allow me to point you to an earlier post of mine.

Next up: Both Digby and Emptywheel take on a Radar Online report that there’s much more to the Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping program than meets the eye. As you follow the links above, recall that Halliburton was contracted by DHS in 2006 to build detention camps in the U.S. Here’s how Marketwatch characterized the camp construction at the time the contract was awarded:

The contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to expand existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs, KBR said. The contract may also provide migrant detention support to other government organizations in the event of an immigration emergency, as well as the development of a plan to react to a national emergency… [emphasis mine]

Feel safer yet? And please, someone tell me once again why impeachment is off the table?

Goddammit, someone (who matters) please connect the dots…please…I know I’m just a blogosphere dilettante and my opinion is laughable…but there’s something happening here…what it is ain’t exactly clear…

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

PSSD, an Internet Curmudgeon, Died May 10

This is about a man I only knew on a message board over the internet, yet I know him to be far more than his curmudgeonly demeanor. Andrew contributed to causes and complained about his ex-wives, but the reaction to his passing, emotion from those in his real life and in his online life, tells us something about the future of politics.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

A friend of mine died in the last week. His name was Andrew Seltzer. But I never knew Andrew/Andy in real life. I only knew him online. Andy and I met at the Philadelphia Eagles Message Board, where he went by “Pssd” and I go by “Stingo.” Andy’s passing is not political, not in any direct sense, but it connects to the history of this blog. You see, the Philadelphia Eagles Message Board is in some ways the birthplace of this Blog, lo those many years ago. If the closing of Whiskey Bar was the mother of All Spin Zone, then the Philadelphia Eagles Message Board, where Richard Blair and I met, is certainly ASZ’s father. And there was no better and kinder, yet curmudgeonly cuss, on the Philadelphia Eagles Message Board than Andrew Seltzer, “Pssd.”

Andrew died on May 10th here in PA. One of the people on the Eagles Message Board (she goes by “wegotfive”) noticed Andy hadn’t posted in a while, and she tried everything she knew to find out about Andrew. She finally checked the Inquirer obits. (The online guest book updates slowly, but you’ll find many of those from the EMB signed in in the next couple days.)

It is odd in this day of the communication revolution that we sometimes find ourselves bonding with those we’ve never met and have only read. On this blog I can think of many I’ve conversed with, shared trials and tribulations with. That’s what the comment section is for, if not just for allowing people to express their political opinions. It makes us into a community. And while the passing of my friend brings up little in the way of a political discussion, I wonder.

How are our politics changing through these innertubes we use to get our political opinions out there? My wife and I are house hunting lately, and one of the chief criteria we are after is to move into a community where there’s genuine neighborliness. The passing of Pssd, and the welling of support on the Philadelphia Eagles Message Board, where dozens of people are writing about how deeply Andrew’s life enriched theirs, is an example, profound, of online neighborliness. As an online neighbor, Pssd might have given himself the persona of the old guy who yells at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn, but I know of many instances where he’s sent an unsolicited check to help out. Yes, online neighborliness it is. On a stupid football team message board? Well, I’m thinking the true politics of community depends upon us effecting the lives of others, on our abilities to effect their emotions, more specifically. Sometimes my opinion about my writing on here, and how it effects others, is that I’m farting in a hurricane with my words. From here on out I’ll know that there is a strong effect that comes from words on the internet. We are connected in far more significant ways than we give credit.

Here’s to you, Andrew Seltzer. I prefer to know you as Pssd. Thank you for your words, for your crusty, old man persona, and thanks for your generosity. Know this, Pssd, however and wherever you are. You touched many with stupid little words tapped out on a keyboard, and while they are in sorrow now, they are clearly for the better because of your words.

Monday, May 19th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Family Research Council: Black & White Is As Clear As Mud

The Family Research Council cherry picks the issues they employ to fleece their flock. With global warming, they argue God has a plan and the faithful shouldn’t have to sacrifice financially. On the other hand, when it comes to defeating gay marriage, they must have money and activism.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

The Family Research Council has followed in the footsteps of Focus on the Family with the introduction a new video segment on their web site. FRC calls their program The Truth in Black & White, and it features Tony Perkins, the president of FRC, and Bishop Harry Jackson.

I’ve included two of their videos below. In the first, Perkins and Jackson tackle stewardship of the earth and global warming. In the second, they take on the recent ruling of the California Supreme Court to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage.

The contrast found in the logic of these two videos is notable and indicative of the hypocrisy that is so often demonstrated by the religious right. Note that in the first video, Perkins and Jackson suggest that global warming hysteria is fear mongering and a fabrication of men like Al Gore. Apparently the God that speaks to Al Gore is a fraud…and men like Perkins and Jackson are here to tell us which God is real…and which problems the real God wants us to address.

They suggest that while we need to be good stewards of the earth, God knows what he is doing with his creation (the earth and its people) and he will sustain them according to his own plan. In fact, Perkins states that we shouldn’t “surrender national autonomy nor do we need to sacrifice the family budget and the income that families are making” when addressing that stewardship. Little did I know that God finds it acceptable for us to put the interests of the United States above those of the rest of the world and that he doesn’t expect us to give up any of our wealth in order to preserve his creation. Apparently God intends to subsidize this particular issue.

So let me see if I’ve got this straight. Men like Perkins and Jackson don’t think Americans should sacrifice any of their income to protect the planet…at least not in accordance with Kyoto or any of the plans put forward by the likes of Al Gore. On the other hand, these are the same people who routinely expect their followers to open their wallets and contribute generously to the FRC and the causes they deem to be necessary and in need of immediate attention.

That brings us to the second video which is on the subject of same-sex marriage. In this instance, apparently Perkins and Jackson don’t think God has a sufficient plan for addressing the issue of homosexuality…even though God would had to have known it would exist (and had a plan to address it) just like they contend he would have known that fears about the climate of the planet would eventually trouble some of its inhabitants.

Here’s where we begin to see the inconsistency and the hypocrisy. Perkins and Jackson conclude that the FRC and the religious right need to step in and take an activist role in preventing gays from obtaining the rights afforded to their heterosexual counterparts. Is this because God’s plan is lacking when it comes to gays? Funny how, in this instance, families are routinely asked to dig deep into their budgets to fund the FRC and their efforts to pass amendments in California and other states to ban same-sex marriage. Far be it for me to know what God deems a justified financial sacrifice…though Perkins and Jackson seem convinced they know.

In other words, with regards to global warming, God wants us to be good stewards but we need not and should not do anything drastic because he knows what he’s doing and he doesn’t expect us to crimp our budgets. On the other hand, he needs us to do everything we can to stop the gays. Is that because he doesn’t have a plan or because gays have somehow figured out how to outsmart God? Apparently Perkins and Jackson have concluded that God needs his hetero human subjects to become his proxy warriors in addressing homosexuality because he just can’t go it alone.

Perkins and Jackson seem to think all of this is completely black and white…but I contend it is merely more of the same cut and paste pontificating that has come to define their inane ideology. Talking in circles may suffice for those who are willing to suspend rational thought and ignore reasoned analysis…but I find it to be the equivalent of washing the windows with a bucket of dirty water.

Yes, the effort might make one feel better but it sure as hell does nothing to enhance one’s view and one’s understanding of what lies on the other side. Rather, it serves to preclude those on one side from ever having to consider arguments that might undermine the absolute ideology they embrace and the fears that endear them to it.

In the end, it’s obvious that Perkins and Jackson believe that personal faith should intervene in public policy…but only when doing so furthers the issues of faith they have conveniently chosen to cherry pick. Perhaps they think that’s black and white. I think it’s about as clear as mud.

Perkins & Jackson On Stewardship & Global Warming Hysteria (VIDEO)

Perkins & Jackson On CA Supreme Court Gay Marriage Ruling (VIDEO)

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Sunday, May 18th, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

California Supreme Court Overturns Ban On Same-Sex Marriage

The march towards equality for gays took a step forward today with the ruling by the California Supreme Court. While this is a day for celebration, there may well be setbacks should an amendment banning same-sex marriage pass in November. The battle is far from over.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

I realize I should be excited about the California Supreme Court’s decision to remove the ban on same-sex marriage…but the pragmatist in me simply won’t allow it. I’ll explain my thinking after the following excerpt on today’s ruling.

SAN FRANCISCO – – The California Supreme Court ruled today that same-sex couples should be permitted to marry, rejecting state marriage laws as discriminatory.

The state high court’s 4-3 ruling was unlikely to end the debate over gay matrimony in California. A group has circulated petitions for a November ballot initiative that would amend the state Constitution to block same-sex marriage, while the Legislature has twice passed bills to authorize gay marriage. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both.

Schwarzenegger, who has vetoed two measures that would have authorized same-sex marriage, today said he would abide by the court’s ruling.

“I respect the court’s decision and as governor, I will uphold its ruling,” he said in a statement. “Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.”

But as early as November, voters could be asked to render their opinion on an amendment that would again attempt to ban same-sex marriage.

A coalition of religious and conservative activists has submitted 1.1 million signatures to qualify the amendment, which would say that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Andrew Pugno, an attorney for the initiative’s sponsors, said the Supreme Court decision is a boost for the measure because opponents have been saying there is no real threat that same sex marriages will happen.

“This decision draws a line in the sand and makes it clear that this is the last chance for voters to have a say,” Pugno said. “This is proof positive for voters that the courts are out of control and the voters have to step up.”

First, the timing of this ruling isn’t advantageous. As we approach a critical election in which the Democrats are poised to take the presidency as well as additional seats in the house and the senate, giving the rabid right wing an issue to rally around is apt to boost the GOP’s fundraising, motivate evangelicals to get out and vote, allow John McCain to exploit the differences between the GOP and the Democratic Party with regards to same-sex issues (including forcing the Democratic nominee to clarify his or her position on the ruling and same-sex marriage), and give supporters of an amendment to add a ban on same-sex marriage to the California constitution ample ammunition to fund and promote their ballot measure (every right wing organization is going to pour money into this ballot initiative).

Secondly, I believe that the mood of voters had changed since the 2004 election. That change included less of an emphasis on values driven politics and more of a focus on issues that endear voters to the Democratic Party. Today’s ruling may return us to the days of God, guns, and gays…with a particular emphasis on gays. Should that happen, it would allow the detractors of the Democratic party to reemphasize the fact that they are generally in favor of extending more rights to gays, accepting of court rulings that expand rights even if the voters wouldn’t vote to approve them, and in favor of appointing more judges with similar views.

Let’s look at the chronology to better understand the shift that took place since 2004 and the likelihood that this ruling could facilitate a step backwards in terms of renewed voter resistance. Following on the heels of Massachusetts allowing gay marriage as a result of a 2003 court ruling, in February of 2004, San Francisco and other municipalities began issuing marriage licenses to gays. While all of these actions felt empowering and led to numerous celebratory moments, it was short lived (except in Massachusetts) and likely assisted in the passage of amendments to ban same-sex marriage in eleven states.

Following the 2004 election, Iraq, the economy, and other issues pushed the values agenda to the back burner as voters focused on other concerns. The outcome of the 2006 election supports that contention. As we’ve approached the 2008 election, the general perception has been that God, guns, and gays had fallen into disfavor with voters (or at least been overtaken by other priorities) and would not play a significant part in this election cycle.

If one believes that history repeats itself…and that the U.S. has a history of vacillating between left and right (in a manner reminiscent of a pendulum) when it comes to issue of morality…this ruling could create the momentum needed to effect a shift to the right…or at the very least a halt to the current swing leftward. While these back and forth swings seem inevitable, the timing of this ruling may be the accelerant that sets in motion the unfavorable shifts noted above…sooner than they would have otherwise occurred. That would be a classic example of an unintended consequence…but an unwelcome and unfortunate one no less.

Look, I also believe that the affording of rights can’t always be scheduled for maximum advantage…nor should they be delayed accordingly. History will undoubtedly view this ruling as one of the important steps in the chronology of granting gays equal status. Nonetheless, the journey between now and then may well include events that (similar to this ruling), at the time they occur, seem to be a step forward but that ultimately precipitate a temporary step backwards. As such, the soldiers need to be prepared for the times when retreat and retrenchment are the order of the day.

Today is a time for celebrating…but tomorrow may be another story. It is imperative that we remain vigilantly mindful of the impact our actions will have on the ever shifting political terrain. This means that it is essential for us to be aware of the positions each of the combatants holds on the battlefield. In the end, regardless of the victories and defeats, the march towards equality must never cease. Today we’ve won a battle…tomorrow the war proceeds.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Thursday, May 15th, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

California To Rule On Gay Marriage: Good News, Bad News?

The California Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on same-sex marriage tomorrow. Both sides anxiously await the ruling…hoping for the outcome they desire. Regardless of the decision, I’m afraid the battle is far from over.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Most of us are familiar with the expression, “Be careful what you wish for”, though I suspect it rarely keeps us from spending our time hoping to achieve or attain the things we seek. The fact that the California Supreme Court is set to rule tomorrow on whether the state can deny gays the right to marry will likely be a defining moment in our understanding of the concept of the double edged sword.

On the one hand, those who have waited years to have their relationships recognized may see a favorable ruling as the culmination of a dream come true. On the other hand, a favorable ruling will undoubtedly be seen as a nightmare to those who have expended untold energy seeking to prohibit any recognition of same-sex relationships. Hence, how the two sides absorb the outcome will likely have more meaning than the actual ruling.

The California Supreme Court will rule Thursday on the legality of the state’s ban on gay marriage.

The justices today posted a notation on the court’s Web site that the ruling in the civil rights challenge to the same-sex marriage ban will be posted at 10 a.m. Thursday. The Supreme Court heard arguments in five consolidated legal challenges in March, and had until early June to rule on the issue.

The long-awaited ruling is a crucial test of the simmering public, social and legal debate over gay marriage, triggered in 2004 when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed thousands of gay and lesbian couples to wed before the courts put a halt to the marriage licenses.

A ruling in favor of gay marriage could stoke a political firestorm in the fall if a proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage in California makes it onto the ballot. A decision on whether the initiative qualifies for the ballot is expected in June.

As such, tomorrow will bring both the culmination of hopeful expectations and the delivery of disappointment. Needless to say, that means the ruling is apt to inspire one side while inciting the other. How those perceptions are played out in terms of focus found or fear infused will likely have more to do with deciding the future of gay marriage.

So where will that leave us? Frankly, it leaves us where we’ve always been…needing to find the means to communicate with those we don’t understand in order to remove the misconceptions that serve to maintain what has to be viewed as an untenable status quo.

In the end, without real change, today, tomorrow, and the day after are one and the same so long as the issue of gay marriage remains a zero sum equation in the minds of the combatants. Tomorrow will have a winner…but we’d all be wise to realize that it may not be a victory.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008 |

Johnie McCain Calls for Good Judges, Like Clarence Thomas

John McCain assails Barack Obama about jdicial nominees yesterday, and it should be clear he does so in order to pander to the religious right. McCain claims he will appoint jurist who are highly qualified, but this is from the guy who voted for Clarence Thomas, an ideologue with the least of qualifications for the bench.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

John McCain is still campaigning, and yesterday it was to the base of the Republican Party, the Christian conservatives. He said all the right things to that crowd about the appointment of judges (the AP story about the speech is here). To that end, he’ll probably hearten the Christian conservatives who until now are luke warm on the McCain candidacy, but McCain forgets he’s still going to face a Democratic Senate. Maybe that’s his old age getting to him.

McCain led off his harangue about “activist” judges by calling out Barack Obama for opposing the nomination of Chief Justice Roberts. Yes, the Obama people are correct when they when they note that the “Straighttalk Express” to an extreme right turn with the speech. He wants this campaign enough to compromise every supposed principle he’s held. Then again, the desperation of old age that is driving McCain to pander in this election may just be a mirror of his constant bowing to the right. He did it yesterday, and he did it in his youth. But first, a bit of a blurb from his speech about the kinds of judges McCain would nominate, direct from the McCain web site:

Quite rightly, the proper role of the judiciary has become one of the defining issues of this presidential election. It will fall to the next president to nominate hundreds of qualified men and women to the federal courts, and the choices we make will reach far into the future. My two prospective opponents and I have very different ideas about the nature and proper exercise of judicial power. We would nominate judges of a different kind, a different caliber, a different understanding of judicial authority and its limits. And the people of America – voters in both parties whose wishes and convictions are so often disregarded by unelected judges – are entitled to know what those differences are.

Forget the notion that McCain disdains the appointment of judges altogether there, implying he would sacrifice their independence to the tyranny of the polling place. Believe me, I live in Pa where we elect judges, and it just isn’t a good idea, besides being completely contrary to the constitution McCain claims he wishes judges to uphold. What’s interesting here is that McCain claims he will appoint qualified judges. McCain’s vote for Clarence Thomas in 1991, perhaps the most unprepared nominee ever nominated, belies his claim to nominate jurists of quality. Indeed, McCain, the man who claims to be a maverick, walked in lockstep with Republicans in the close vote (52-48) to confirm Thomas’ nomination. It is plain McCain favors politically right-wing nominees far more than he favors “quality,” at least if you look at his record and not at his “straight talk.”

So what’s McCain going to say to defend his Clarence Thomas vote? Clearly Thomas is the second vote controlled by the right-wing ideologue on the bench, Antony Scalia. The man doesn’t even have his own philosophy. So on the issue of “quality” McCain claims he prizes, Thomas fails. Further, McCain claims he will not let political leanings get in the way of his nominations to the court, but his favoring of folks like Thomas clearly belie that stance.

Business as usual by MC Straighttalker. A pander here, a pander there, empty promises about avoiding politics in nominations, empty promises that he’ll favor “quality” on the bench. Clearly the pandering to the religious right wing trump McCain’s promises. My guess is that McCain would sacrifice our civil liberties if it would get him a vote.

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Brother (or Sister), Can You Spare A Dime?

ASZ’s Exxon-a-thon continues…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Just a reminder that ASZ’s first fund raiser in a long, long time continues through Friday, 5/9, and there’s a lot of swag and premiums to be had for your contribution.

Writing for and maintaining All Spin Zone is mostly a labor of progressive passion and bad habit, and we hope that both of these attributes are reflected in what you read here every day. Love and addiction, though, don’t pay the dedicated server hosting bills or address the critical need for a new computer (on my part).

The liberal blogosphere simply doesn’t have the infrastructure of financial support that props up a lot of right wing blogs. That’s why some of the absolutely best progressive blogs have had to fold up the tent over the past few years. We don’t plan on going anywhere, but we could still use your help. Please think of your support in those terms: an investment in a small part of a larger liberal continuum.

And we’ll show our appreciation for your assistance! We’ve accumulated a lot of nice, progressive swag over the nearly five years that we’ve been online, and we want to share some of the stuff we’ve collected with our readers. In return for your contribution (however modest or whatever you can afford) we’ll send you a token of our appreciation – and if your gift is over $50, you get to choose from some great, progressive reading out of our vast library.

So, please, consider a one time donation or a recurring subscription to All Spin Zone. In these tough economic times, we understand if you’re tapped out, and wouldn’t ask anyone to extend themselves. However, if you’re able to contribute a few bucks to support the site, we’d really appreciate it.

Thanks!

Monday, May 5th, 2008 by Richard Blair |
Category: Admin,Blogging

What True “Progressivism” Looks Like

This past week, the State of New Jersey enacted the Paid Family Leave Act. NJ residents will now be able to take time off under FMLA to care for a sick family member, and not totally lose their income. This type of legislation is the face of true progressivism, and represents what the Democratic Party brand should be all about.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

In the not too distant past, the U.S. Congress passed the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows anyone to take time off from work to care for a sick relative or to stay home after the birth of a child, without fear of losing their job. FMLA was passed at the outset of the Clinton administration, with the support of a Democratic Party-controlled congress. It’s axiomatic that such groundbreaking legislation would have never passed during the tenure of the Bush regime or the lapdog GOP congress that Bush enjoyed during the majority of his reign.

Unlike a long term disability, though, FMLA only guarantees an employee the ability to take the time off. There is no provision for compensation during the leave of absence. So, even though a relative might be terminally ill, if an employee actually does take FMLA to care for the relative, there’s no income during the time of absence. There just aren’t a lot of people who can take off 12 weeks, regardless of the circumstances, without a paycheck.

This past week, the New Jersey legislature fixed that issue for residents of the Garden State. Governor John Corzine signed the NJ Paid Family Leave Law, which provides for 6 weeks paid leave time at 2/3 an employee’s base pay. So now, at least in New Jersey, those who qualify for FMLA leave can do so without fear of being totally without income. How did New Jersey do it?

Very simply: everyone who works in New Jersey will kick in a few bucks per year via a payroll tax to cover the PFL insurance, in an arrangement almost identical to the disability payroll tax. $32 / year isn’t an onerous price to pay to retain some income, and will allow many more people to actually take time off during personally stressful situations. The final bill was a win-win for both employees and employers.

It took over 12 years to get this legislation done, but it’s groundbreaking – and shows what a true progressivism is all about. NJ PFL represents what the Democratic Party brand should be all about.

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008 by Richard Blair |
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