Thursday, April 30, 2009

The incredible shrinking Republican Party

So U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has left the Republican Party and become a Democrat. Not only is this no great surprise, but the GOPers who are now dissing Specter are being naïve and hypocritical. But worst for them, these sour-grapes Republicans are proving that they are deaf, dumb and blind to the problems in their own party.

Whether or not you are a Specter fan, you have to give him props for being honest and up front. He said that he made the decision to cross the floor because his politics are increasingly “at odds with the Republican philosophy.” Ain’t that the truth.

Specter has always been an independent-minded moderate who confounded partisans on both the left and the right. He is more similar to “independent Democrat” Joe Lieberman of Connecticut than anyone left in the Republican ranks.

And it’s certainly no coincidence that Specter is from the Northeastern United States. More and more, the Northeast is becoming a Republican-free zone. That’s because Northeast or New England-style Republicans used to set the tone for the party, that of a moderate, populist, libertarian, big tent. But now, the GOP is a regionalized, Southern, right-wing, reactionary party that has become so extreme that moderates like Specter no longer feel welcome.

Make no mistake, however. This problem did not start with Barack Obama’s election in 2008. Another Northeasterner, former U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, gave up his Republican membership in 2001 to sit as an independent. As he said at the time, he did not leave the party, but the party left him. And yet another Northeasterner, former U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, also turned his back on the GOP for the same reasons.

Now, there is not one single Republican member of the House from New England. And the only state from the region with Republican senators is Maine, with Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe as the standard bearers of a Republican Party that does not exist anymore.

To her credit, Snowe understands the problems plaguing her party. As she wrote in the New York Times this week, “In my view, the political environment that has made it inhospitable for a moderate Republican in Pennsylvania is a microcosm of a deeper, more pervasive problem that places our party in jeopardy nationwide. … There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party.” (

Today, it is clear – to be a moderate is to be a Democrat. (How long before Snow and Collins follow Specter’s lead?)

To be expected, the few Republicans left are angry. But their comments miss the mark that Snowe hit with a bull’s-eye. And Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele – the guy in charge of the party – is the most clueless of all.

“Let’s be honest,” he said in a written statement. “Sen. Specter didn’t leave the GOP based on principles of any kind. He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record.”

OK then, let’s be honest. In fact, Specter was brutally honest about how he would likely lose next year’s Republican primary because Republican primary voters are now more extremist and right wing than ever. There is no shame in running away as fast as possible from the wing nuts who would vote in that primary.

Also, does Mr. Steele really thinks that his party and its politicians are free of acting out of self interest?

Most ridiculous, however, is how Mr. Steele goes after Specter as a Republican in name only who didn’t fit into the Republican Party because of a “left-wing voting record.”

If Specter’s record is so left wing and out of sync with the rest of the party, why the heck would Steele want Specter to stay? At least Rush Limbaugh was honest enough to say he was glad Specter left.

Ironically, it was Steele who got in trouble with his party earlier this year for saying he favors “individual choice” on the issue of abortion, opposes a federal ban on same-sex marriage rights, and thinks Limbaugh’s radio show “incendiary” and “ugly.”

Come to think of it, maybe Steele should become a Democrat, too.

Most likely, however, Steele and his misguided approach will stay in the GOP as the party grows smaller and smaller and smaller.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

FREAK OF THE WEEK: Miss California USA Carrie Prejean

This week, the FredBlog shines its freaklight on Carrie Prejean, the Miss USA contestant who blames her beauty-contest loss on her support for “opposite marriage.”

I wish it weren’t so easy to pick on beauty contestants. Then again, they keep saying the darnedest things. Remember Miss Teen South Carolina Caitlin Upton talking about “the Iraq,” maps and “U.S. Americans”? More recently, there was Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza, who couldn’t wait to tell everyone about what a great vacation spot the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay is.

That brings us to Carrie Prejean, first runner up in last weekend’s Miss USA pageant and the latest to put her stiletto-heeled foot in her mouth.

Here’s what Prejean said when celebrity judge Perez Hilton asked her about her views on marriage rights for same-sex couples: “We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a women. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.”

First of all, what the fudge is “opposite marriage”? Isn’t the opposite of marriage divorce?

Secondly, she has seemingly declared California to be its own country, since that is where she lives that has declared – thanks to Prop 8 – that same-sex couples are not allowed to marry. Maybe she just forgot that four U.S. states continue to allow same-sex couples to legally wed.

As far as “in my family,” I’d hate to see what happens if it turns out she has a gay sibling or cousin.

Oh, and that’s how you were raised? Well, Ms. Prejean, were you also raised to sound as stupid as possible while trying to get by on nothing but your looks?

To make matters worse, Prejean then went on the “Today” show to say that her views are “not about being politically correct. For me, it’s about being biblically correct.”

Well, Ms. Prejean, let’s see you point to the passage in the bible that explicitly states that civil societies should treat gay and lesbian people like second-class citizens. Even better, point to anything at all in the bible that forbids lesbians from getting married.

Oh, and since it’s so important for you to be “biblically correct,” then I’m sure you never wear clothing of mixed fabrics, you approve of slavery, you support the death penalty for adulterers, and you “give to everyone who asks of you.”

And if you do give to all who ask, I politely ask that you stick to pageantry and leave the political punditry to others. That would be a gift worth giving.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Obama’s security czar needs a lesson in Canada

It’s bad enough when some no-name member of Congress from Texas clings to the xenophobic falsehood that the 9/11 terrorist attackers snuck into the United States through Canada. But when the president’s Homeland Security Secretary is equally misinformed, Obama, we have a problem.

First off, let’s clear the air once and for all. The 9/11 hijackers did NOT – repeat, did NOT – enter the United States by way of Canada. In fact, they entered the United States LEGALLY. So if dumbass American bureaucrats want to fix the problem of foreign terrorists on American soil, start with fixing your own immigration system and stop blaming the Canadian border.

That said, it is a shameful embarrassment that Janet Napolitano – President Obama’s security czar – would stoop to the same disingenuous level of blame Canada.

All this came to a head Monday night when Napolitano gave an interview to the CBC, Canada’s public broadcast network. First she said, “To the extent that terrorists have come into our country, or suspected or known terrorists have entered our country across a border, it has been across the Canadian border.”

Never mind the fact that she’s just plain wrong, the CBC’s Neil Macdonald then asked, “Are you talking about the 9/11 perpetrators?” And unbelievably, she said, “Not just those, but others as well.”

NOT JUST THOSE? Are you kidding me? Napolitano – Obama’s handpicked choice to “keep America safe” – is either knowingly lying or sadly ignorant.

The next day, Napolitano tried to correct the error by saying that she “misunderstood” the question. Um, Ms. Napolitano, the question really wasn’t all that confusing.

So she went from blame Canada to blame the media. Real helpful.

In her follow-up statement, Napolitano said, “I know that the September 11th hijackers did not come through Canada to the United States. There are other instances, however, when suspected terrorists attempted to enter our country from Canada to the United States. Some of those are well known to the public – such as the Millennium Bomber – while others are not, due to security reasons.”

Two things are troubling about her statement: First, it was Canada that HELPED stop Ahmed Ressam from crossing the British Columbia/Washington state border and foiled his supposed plan to blow up the Los Angeles airport back in 1999.

Secondly, that was one incident. Oh, Napolitano says there are others that she can’t talk about for “security reasons.” That not only is very Bush-ian, but how can we trust someone who would so easily revert back to the horribly wrong 9/11-Canada connection.

But even more troubling were Napolitano’s comments during that CBC interview that she wants a “real border” between the United States and Canada. “I know that the pattern at the Canadian border has been informality.” Napolitano – a former governor of Arizona – also sees no difference between the Canadian and Mexican borders.

This is pathetic.

First of all, the border between the United States and Canada is indeed REAL. Just ask all those people who line up at the border –sometimes for hours at a time – to cross it in order to work or shop or play tourist. To listen to Napolitano, you’d think the crossings at places like Detroit and Niagara Falls are lawless free-for-alls. And as an American living in Canada, trust me, Ms. Napolitano, it’s a REAL BORDER!

But perhaps most troubling is that she sees no difference between America’s borders with Canada and Mexico. The U.S.-Canada relationship is primarily one of business and trade, and the treatment of the border needs to reflect that.

In Mexico, the issues are illegal immigration and illegal drugs, so it makes sense that there would be a different policy on that border. To punish Canada because of the sins of Mexico is shortsighted and, frankly, offensive.

Sadly, Canada’s wandering Conservative government seems to be more than willing to give Napolitano a pass. Napolitano’s equivalent in Canada – Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan – seemed unconcerned when he said, “I don’t believe that there’s an effort to change the level of security at the Canadian border.”

Is he on crack? It’s already happening.

If Obama was being honest a few months ago when he said he “loves Canada, then he needs to put his Homeland Security Secretary on notice that such gross mistreatment of the United States’ strongest ally will not be tolerated.

Monday, April 20, 2009

FREAK OF THE WEEK: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

This week, the FredBlog shines its freaklight on Sarah Palin, the Alaska governor and former vice-presidential candidate who can’t seem to tell the difference between pro-choice and pro-life.

I know, I know, Sarah Palin is way too easy a target. But this past week, she made the same politically expedient mistake that many on the right make – either purposefully or out of ignorance – in order to score points with social conservatives.

Palin, in her first appearance in the lower 48 since losing last November’s election and being banished back to Alaska, went to Indiana to speak at the Vanderburgh County Right-to-Life Banquet. With about 3,000 attendees, it’s reportedly the largest such annual event in the nation. (Quelle surprise it’s in Indiana!)

As part of her rambling speech, Palin actually told a touching and heartfelt story about the time she found out she was pregnant with her youngest son – and that he would be born with Down Syndrome. The experience not only tested her faith, she said, but tested her commitment to anti-choice politics.

When she found out, “That blew me away, it rocked my world,” she said, according to published reports. “… It was a time I asked myself, was I going to walk the walk?” She was out of state at the time, and “just for a fleeting moment I thought, ‘No one knows me here; no one would ever know.’ … Then I understood why some people would think they could change their circumstances, just take care of it. … [My husband and I] went through some things a year ago that’s helped me understand a woman and a girl’s temptation to make this go away.”

Now, I do not criticize Palin at all for agonizing over what must be an incredibly difficult decision. And I certainly do not criticize her for choosing to bring her youngest son into the world. (Frankly, I think she made a wise choice.)

However, I do criticize her for coming to understand why a woman would choose to have an abortion and yet still come down on the side of the government prohibiting a woman from making that choice.

I criticize her for contemplating what are her legal choices, and yet still wanting to take one of those choices away from other women.

And I criticize her for making the choice that was right for her and her family, while wanting to force that same choice on every other woman in a similar situation.

In essence, the position she outlined in her speech is best described as pro-choice: She weighed her options, and made a choice. I applaud the choice Palin made. But how dare she want to take that same freedom away from other women.

Whether or not Palin is confusing the issue purposefully – or is just too stupid to realize what she’s doing – her followers are eating it up. Attendees of the Indiana event quoted in the media rallied to Palin’s side even more so after hearing her speech.

Palin and her lemmings have every right to speak out against abortion. They have the right to encourage those who find themselves in Palin’s situation to, as they say, “choose life.”

But they do not have the right to use Palin’s choice as a weapon to take away that choice from others.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No, that’s not “tea-bagging”

Question: When is tea-bagging not tea-bagging? Answer: When the phrase is used by conservatives to show just how out of touch they are.

April 15 is Tax Day in the U.S. And while no one is really happy about paying taxes, some conservatives are really teed off. So teed off are they that they held Boston Tea Party-type protests all over the country. The Boston Tea Party of 1773, if you recall, occurred when the American colonists threw British tea into Boston Harbor to protest what they considered to be unfair taxation.

But these modern day Tea Partiers, who say they are angry about all the corporate bailouts, don’t seem to have access to loose tea the way they did back in ye olden times. So they have resorted to the next best thing – tea bags.

And what did they call their act of tea-based protesting? Tea-bagging.

Yes, tea-bagging!

Obviously, some public-relations mastermind behind this new movement never thought to check the Internet to see what “tea-bagging” really means. I won’t describe it here, but have a ball – or two – by checking out the definition at

Now some of the “tea-baggers” are angry that the protests have been referred to as “tea-bagging” by the media. Well, then why did these brainiancs call it “tea-bagging” to begin with?

Why is there a Twitter page called, “TeaBagObama”? Why have there been cries to “Teabag the White House” and “Teabag Congress”? Why is there a blog called “Teabag Obama,” which includes a post called “Teabagus Maximus,” which offers “proper teabagging instructions" ( And, seriously, the post includes the line, “Here's a great method to get around the assholes.” And when tea-bagging, that could be important!

I have no problem with people protesting what they view as unfair taxation. But at least be consistent.

These same people should have been protesting all the money George W. Bush flushed away, from corporate bailouts to a failed war. After all, one big stimulus package is not that much different from another big stimulus package, especially when it comes to tea-bagging.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

FREAK OF THE WEEK: Billy Bob Thornton

This week, the FredBlog shines its freaklight on Billy Bob Thornton, who is following in the footsteps of Joaquin Phoenix, going from critically acclaimed actor to freaked-out-of-his-mind musician.

If you haven’t seen or heard Thornton’s bizarre appearance on the Canadian show Q, it’s well worth watching at And it’s an appearance that set off a whole week of freakiness.

It all started when Billy Bob’s band, the Boxmasters, came to Toronto to promote themselves as the opening act for Willie Nelson in a number of Canadian cities. As part of the promotional plan, all four Boxmasters came to the studios of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to be interviewed by host Jian Ghomeshi on his show “Q.”

You have to wonder if Billy Bob was inspired by Phoenix’s recent appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” because Billy Bob was clearly not of sound mind.

First, when asked how long the band had been together, Billy Bob said, “I’m not sure what that means.” Ghomeshi, surprised, restated the question, but Billy Bob said he still didn’t understand. In fact, Billy Bob had that same reaction to a couple other questions as well.

It only got weirder, with Billy Bob saying he has never met Nelson, with whom his band is touring, and talking about monsters and building models when asked about his childhood musical memories.

Billy Bob’s bandmates, who answered questions posed to them clearly if boringly, looked embarrassed by their leader’s stupidity.

But then things really heated up when Billy Bob said he was angry that Ghomeshi introduced him as an actor. It seems that Billy Bob’s people told Ghomeshi’s producer that he was not to ask the grumpy star about his movie career. In fact, Ghomeshi didn’t. He only mentioned Billy Bob’s acting and screenwriting resume as part of the introduction.

No matter. Billy Bob was already pissed, and there was no pleasing him at this point.

Billy Bob went on to criticize Canadian audiences for their supposed politeness – according to Billy Bob, Canadian audiences don’t throw things during their shows, while American audiences do! He made the point by saying that Canuck crowds are like “mashed potatoes with no gravy.”

It got even weirder when Billy Bob refused to take part in an in-studio performance by his bandmates.

With the interview over, the bizarreness ended, right? Wrong. During the following day’s show in Toronto, Billy Bob called Ghomeshi an “asshole,” which elicited boos from the audience. “Boo all you want,” he continued, “but I want to say something. … I talked to this asshole yesterday.” And he just kept talking.

For someone who wanted to focus on music, why was he even bringing this up during his performance?

And for such a supposed big man, he certainly took the coward’s way out in the end. The Boxmasters cancelled their final Canadian performances in Montreal and London, Ontario, and Billy Bob blamed his bandmates.

Billy Bob’s publicist Arnold Robinson told the Toronto Star: "It is absolutely not because of the CBC interview. One of the band members and several of the crew have the flu and need a couple of days off to recuperate. Billy does not have the flu. The band is only concerned about giving the audience the best show possible, and when one of them is down with the flu, they can't do that.”

Yeah, that’s right, the flu, that’s the ticket.

Hey Billy Bob, if you are serious about this whole live music biz, you should learn the old chestnut, “The show must go on.” If you’re going to criticize others as being mashed potatoes, you’ve got to learn to take your lumps.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

An Afghanistan ultimatum

A new law passed last week by Afghani President Hamid Karzai’s government restricting the rights of women has forced me to think that it may be time to do in Afghanistan what President Obama is planning to do in Iraq – leave!

In case you haven’t heard, this new – and odious – law would severely restrict the choices and rights of Shiite women in Afghanistan. This is bad law on at least two fronts.

First, the law is a clear violation of human rights. The measure would reportedly make Shiite women nothing more than wards of their husbands, even requiring spousal permission to leave the house. Worse, the law forbids a woman from saying no to having sex with her husband – meaning that husbands can now legally rape their wives.

This is bad enough on its face, but it is made worse by politicians – particularly Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government – who argue that NATO forces are there in order to HELP Afghani women. Former First Lady Laura Bush even made the rights of Afghani women her signature issue in the latter years of Bush’s presidency.

But no, women’s rights is not really the reason for the war in Afghanistan – it was a red herring created by politicians and sold to the American and Canadian public when support for the original reason for the mission fell.

And what is that original reason? Just ask Obama. Here’s what he said last month: "So let me be clear: Al Qaeda and its allies – the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks – are in Pakistan and Afghanistan.” So fighting terrorism is why we are there. To that end, Obama plans on INCREASING the number of troops in Afghanistan.

This might be a worthy cause for continuing to fight in Afghanistan, but don’t sell the voting public a bill of goods that we are there to help Afghani women.

The second reason why this new law is wrong is that it applies only to the country’s Shiite minority, and not the Sunni majority. So Shiite women will have fewer rights than Sunni women. Treating people differently based on one’s religion? That should not be tolerated.

Supporters of Afghanistan have argued that women already don’t have many rights there, so all the law does is codify common practice. Plus, they say, Afghanistan is a different culture than the West, and repealing this law will not immediately change attitudes and cultural norms.

Well no, it won’t. But that’s no argument not to make the law reflect what should be. The U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn’t eradicate racism, but it sure did empower blacks and other minorities – over time – to stand tall and be counted. Repealing this repugnant law in Afghanistan can only help women there.

Others argue that Afghanistan is a sovereign nation, and Western and NATO forces don’t have the right to tell this foreign government what laws to pass or repeal. That’s true, to a point. After all, nations like the U.S. and Canada are spending money and lives in Afghanistan. NATO forces are, in theory, helping to build a stable nation there. And Karzai only has whatever power he has because of that Western-backed coalition. Does Karzai really want to piss off his NATO patrons?

This must be where we draw a line in the sand. This law has to go – or we do.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

FREAK OF THE WEEK: Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza

This week, the FredBlog shines its freaklight on Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza, who seems to think that a place where people are tortured and held prisoner without being charged with a crime is a greeeeeaaaaat place to take a vacation.

Caitlin Upton, the 2007 Miss Teen USA contestant from South Carolina, made headlines for her rambling speech about “the Iraq,” maps, and “U.S. Americans.” (If you don’t remember, check out to jog your memory.)

Well, good news, Ms. Upton. You are no longer the dumbest beauty queen ever. THAT title now goes to the reigning Miss Universe, Dayana Mendoza of Venezuela.

I guess she never got the memo – or the thousands of news reports – that the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has become an international embarrassment, a place where human rights were thrown out the window by the George W. Bush administration, where prisoners are allegedly routinely tortured, and where “enemy combatants” are held for years without being told why. In fact, things there got so bad that President Barack Obama has said he will shut down Guantanamo by the end of the year.

Enter Miss Universe for her version of spring break. According to published reports, Mendoza wrote on her blog last week that the prison there is a “relaxing, beautiful place” to visit. She called her trip an “incredible experience. … It was a loooot of fun!” (That’s five Os, if you’re counting.)

Here’s what else she had to say: “We visited the detainees’ camps and we saw the jails, where they shower, how they recreate themselves with movies, classes of art, books. It was very interesting. I didn’t want to leave, it was a such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful.”

Great. Guantanamo Bay as tourist attraction before it’s even closed down.

And she didn’t want to leave? It was relaxing and calm? I wonder if those who have been sleep deprived, beaten, locked up indefinitely and tricked into thinking they are drowning find it “relaxing” and “calm.”

“We also met the military dogs,” she wrote, “and they did a very nice demonstration of their skills.” After all, going to Guantanamo is just like watching the dolphins at Sea World, isn’t it?

Makes me wonder if she thinks water boarding is a good way to ride the waves and enjoy the surf. Maybe someone should give her some lessons, and then she could see just how fuuuuun Guantanamo Bay really is.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why is fired GM leader getting more money?

Is firing someone, but handing him $23 million as he walks out the door, really a punishment? That’s the question left in the wake of Rick Wagoner, the man who was the CEO of General Motors until he was given his walking papers by the Obama administration.

Everyone seemed to be celebrating the fact that finally one of those high-flying corporate CEOs was given the boot. After the Obama administration let those banking and AIG guys ride along with their outrageous and nonsensical bonuses, the feds finally did what needed to be done with GM.

But wait, what’s all this about a “pension payout”?

That’s right. Wagoner was handed a $23 million golden parachute just for screwing up the company and subsequently getting fired. (That’s the job to get – one that will pay you to be fired!)

According to published reports citing GM’s annual report, here is what Wagoner’s gift-for-failure will include:

·      An accumulated pension of $22.1 million

·      Stock awards worth $367,000

·      Deferred compensation of $535,000

Deferred compensation? Why is this guy getting ANY compensation for being fired?

Of course, Wagoner’s supporters are rallying to his side, saying GM is legally bound to pay it out because it’s in his contract.

Wait a minute. This was the same argument the administration – in the form of Director of the White House National Economic Council Lawrence Summers – tried to make about those AIG “retention bonuses.” And a day later, President Obama did a 180 and said he would do everything possible to make sure taxpayer money wasn’t frittered away as supposed “bonuses” to corporate ne’er-do-wells.

At a time when workers are being told that they need to reconsider their contracts in order to save the companies they work for, these corporate bandits should be told the same, legal contracts be damned.

And if GM is getting all this federal bailout money, the now-fired former CEO shouldn’t be getting $23 million of company funds. He should get exactly what he deserved for leaving GM in ruins.