Friday, November 30, 2007


RIP, man.

Some went better than others.

And then, there's Snake River.

All that was great and true about the good ol' USofA.


Are the WaPo's political reporters really this hackstatic?

Torture the poor

Mental Revenge

Waylon, in 1966, sneering worthy of Dylan.


Rudy! responds!

This oughta be good.

Mr. Giuliani, in an interview on the CBS Evening News, went further. Speaking of the Web report, which was posted on Wednesday afternoon on, he said: “This story is five years old. It came out two hours before a debate. It’s a typical political hit job with only half the story told.”

A five year old story that came out two hours before the debate? The creationists are more coherent with their timing.

I think it's time for Biden to revise his formulation. Giuliani isn't just "a noun and a verb plus 9-11," he leavens it consistently with lies.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tearing apart a satin pillow

The best analysis of last night's GOP "debate" I've read yet...from His Rudeness.

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True conservatives

I understand the Weakly Standard is denouncing the questions from last night's debate, bemoaning "a vaguely threatening parade of gun fetishists, flat worlders, Mars Explorers, Confederate flag lovers and zombie-eyed-Bible-wavers as well as various one issue activists hammering their pet causes."

No, that's not today's GOP at it?

We are not and will never be good Republicans for we are loyal to our heritage, loyal to our faith, and loyal to our brethren. This makes us racists according to the Newt Gingrich Republicans of the world who seize the right wing mantle while capitulating in every regard to the ideological and intellectual premises of the Left. It would be a betrayal but they were ever loyal to the talking points they spew out. Just like Lincoln the state is their God and power their sacrement and principle has no place in their faith. Thankfully their are still people brave enough to stand up and be heard and rest assured we will be heard in these primaries and next election. The Republicans can’t hope to stay in power without us so sooner or later the Stupid Party will gave to go looking for Oz to donate a brain to them. Such a day can’t come too soon.

Loyal to their heritage...loyal to their brethren. Wonder what that could mean.

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GMing is hard

This exchange, between Steve Goldman and Cliff Corcoran, is illustrative of why Major League Baseball is the greatest professional sport (and yes, I'm including pro curling).


Yada yada yada

Didn't watch it; watched an excellent movie instead. But if you want a rundown of the...ahem...fireworks -- and the growing Shag-gate scandal -- spend some time at TPM for one stop shopping.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Studying thought to- be crimes

This is ominous.

Perhaps because it appears to content itself with merely studying a problem that doesn't yet exist, the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act has slid under the media radar. The bill passed the House by a massive 404-6 margin and is expected to sail through the homeland security committee of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. The law amends Title VIII of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to establish a 10-member "National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism," tasked with centralizing and studying data. After 18 months, that commission will produce a report, then disband and establish a "Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States." The Center for Excellence (not to be confused with Montgomery Burns' "Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence" award) would then continue to "study the social, criminal, political, psychological, and economic roots of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism," presumably until it becomes a problem in America, at which point the center will then work toward eradicating that as well.

Particularly so as the media seem to be unconcerned with it.

But what, exactly, are they going to study, you ask?

What else? Websites.

Look carefully, and you learn that Harman's real targets aren't the homegrown plotters so much as their legal Web sites. In her remarks, she thus leads with Samir Khan, the North Carolina blogger whose jihadi Web site showcases Osama Bin Laden's videos and other anti-American propaganda. Vile, but legal. She moves on to another interrupted plot—by Ahmed Mohamed and Youssef Megahed—but focuses on their YouTube video. She rounds up her case with California native Adam Gadahn's 45-minute Internet video, called "An Invitation to Islam."

The name of Harman's hearing was "Using the Web as a Weapon: The Internet as a Tool for Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism." And in those same introductory remarks, Harman fretted that Americans in search of radicalization "no longer need to travel to foreign countries or isolated backwoods compounds to become indoctrinated by extremists or learn how to kill their neighbor. On the contrary, the Internet allows them to share violent goals and plot from the comfort of their own living rooms." Let's be honest, then. The point of this new legislation isn't just to interrupt existing homegrown terror plots but to do something about the radical ideas that inspire them. That may be a worthy goal, but it's assuredly a goal that implicates protected speech.

I guess in a world where torture can't be considered a crime by the United States Attorney General unless he knows who's doing the torturing, I guess it's ok to make criminal ideas and words if the government finds them "intimidating."


What do they talk about all Winter?

I thought of this when I saw the headline in the Times this morning: "Top Prospects Merely a Down Payment on Santana."

Viewing the proceedings from afar in Charlotte, N.C., for the past week, I was struck by the complete lack of interest in baseball outside the bounds of the New York metro area. It’s 24/7 football and basketball, college and pro, and 6-12 page sections on local high school playoffs as their fall seasons come to an end. Major League Baseball is covered, but it’s a compilation of AP stories piled into maybe 500 words, with a lead with bare-bones information. No nuts, no bolts, no meat, no potatoes. Not even gravy.

I understand that as an editor, local stories always national. You have to cater to your audience. In the South, football is a year-round sport much like baseball is for us here in New York. Chris Russo got it right when he said New York is a baseball town. It’s nothing for a baseball story to knock football, hoops or hockey off the back pages, even in the offseason. I can’t describe the relief I felt when perusing the New York papers to see story headers like "JOBA NOT A LOCK TO START."

Amen to that, brother.


Hear my train a-comin'

Jimi would be 65 today.



Today's Theme Time revelation, according to Bob: The Lovin' Spoonful, "got their name, by the way, from the same place as British band, 10cc."



Timing is everything

I've heard of rats, but now the cronies are fleeing the sinking ship?

Hubbard, of Indiana, was a low-profile economic adviser to the president whose strength came from his closeness to Bush. The two both attended Harvard University. Hubbard also has close ties with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Hubbard accompanied Paulson on some of his trips to China to lend White House support to efforts to get China to reform its economy and narrow the huge trade imbalance between the two nations.

Among other issues, Hubbard has been deeply involved in the debate over the State Children's Health Insurance Program and Bush's proposal for a major shift in tax policy to, for the first time, treat health insurance costs as taxable income.

The National Economic Council was created in the Clinton administration to coordinate economic policy. The first NEC director was Robert Rubin, who went on to become Clinton's Treasury secretary.

Hubbard took the post at the beginning of Bush's second term, when the administration had high hopes for achieving success on a number of major issues such as addressing Social Security's funding problems and overhauling the tax code. However, as Bush became mired in problems involving the Iraq war, his domestic initiatives failed to make headway in Congress.

Hubbard first met Bush when they were both attending Harvard's business school in the 1970s, getting MBA degrees. Hubbard later became president of E&A Industries, an Indianapolis investment firm.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Annapolis -- it must be a great idea

I scoffed at Condi's conference, thinking it a spur-of-the-moment, ad hoc, seize a moment when preznit is momentarily engaged kind of thing. But, as Matthew Druss notes, anything that gets the spittle-flecked set this crazed must be a good thing.

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Changing the subject

Despite the current ascendancy of Condi, Cheney's irregular heartbeat can be heard in the distance.

Although Rice has changed her views, Bumiller writes that Cheney "today surrounds himself with senior advisers dubious about the Annapolis meeting."

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that one former top Cheney aide said last week that Israeli-Palestinian peace should not be a U.S. government priority.

"'Priorities for the United States right now should be three or four major crises that are reaching the near acute stage,' David Wurmser, formerly the U.S. vice president's senior adviser on Middle East issues, said Tuesday at an Israel Project luncheon in Washington, D.C.

"Wurmser cited nuclear crises in Iran and North Korea, instability in Pakistan and the radicalization of the Venezuelan government. He expressed amazement at seeing 'a secretary of state almost tearing a hole in the atmosphere flying to Israel and the Palestinian territories trying to negotiate a peace treaty.'"

Wall Street Journal reporters Cam Simpson and Jay Solomon have more from Wurmser: "The point is that right now we've invested the Secretary of State's time in something I don't think is central to our interests," Wurmser said. "We need to change the subject into something that we can handle and we can defeat Iran with."

Emphasis mine.

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Diplomacy = rape

Almost daily I read something that leaves me slackjawed and vaguely ill. Today it's Frank Gaffney who compares the Bush/Rice conference in Annapolis to the barbaric gang rape of a young Saudi woman.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. - It is fitting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chose the U.S. Naval Academy for the venue of today's so-called Mideast peace conference. The reputation of that extraordinary institution in Annapolis has been sullied in recent years by a succession of rapes of young women.

Despite official efforts to low-ball its significance, Miss Rice's conclave is shaping up to be a gang-rape of a nation on a scale not seen since Munich in 1938, when the British and French allowed Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini to have their violent way with Czechoslovakia.

This time, the intended victim is Israel. As with the effort to appease the Nazis and Fascists nearly 70 years ago, however, the damage will not be confined to the rapee. The interests of the Free World in general and the United States in particular will suffer from what the Saudis and most of the other attendees have in mind for the Jewish State — namely, its dismemberment and ultimate destruction.

Millions of Americans have lately been introduced to the Saudis' attitude toward gang-rape, pursuant to the theocratic code known as Shariah that they seek to impose on us all. We learned that a 19-year-old Saudi woman identified only as the Girl of Qatif was kidnapped and raped by seven men. The rapists were to receive prison sentences and whippings. The woman was sentenced to receive 90 lashes for the crime of sitting in a car with a male who was not a relative. When she had the temerity to appeal her barbaric sentence, it was increased to six months in prison and 200 lashes.

There will, of course, be no punishments for the perpetrators of the coming gang-rape of Israel at Annapolis. To the contrary, the Bush administration feels deeply indebted to the Saudi foreign minister for his participation and that of a representative of a country Miss Rice's department lists as a state-sponsor of terror: Syria.

It gets even better as Gaffney seems to conclude that, by dressing so provocatively I guess,. Ehud Olmert and the people of Israel have it coming to them.

The bigger problem is that the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seems disposed to go along with the emerging “international consensus.” Indeed, Mr. Olmert has already signaled a willingness to compromise his country's future security and integrity as a Jewish state in the hope of rescuing his failed premiership and avoiding prosecution for corruption. For their part, his people seem to be sleepwalking, unable to believe every one of their longstanding national requirements (for example, a unified Jerusalem, secure borders, no “right of return” for “refugees,” etc.) is being abandoned in the pursuit of a “peace” no one can seriously believe is in prospect from the Saudis and their friends.

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Giving up our rights

Guilty as charged

I stand before you, a former English Major, admitting my guilt for stabbing America in the back in 1981.



For Mitt, it depends.


Really, less than you need to know about FISA

Monday, November 26, 2007

Where we discuss the current cinema

Madame Cura and I went to two movies this weekend which at the end of each, audience members actually applauded (albeit weakly). Can't remember the last time I experienced that at a suburban movie theater.

No Country for Old Men is an intense experience from the moment it begins. Are there still places as remote as the Coen brothers' locations? And the sound...I'm not sure if there was even a soundtrack, just environmental sounds that, by their isolation and intensity, build tension in ways that a soundtrack never could. Every role was also played to the hilt; each character believable and well drawn. The skewed humor is the Coens at their best.

I'll let Roy give you the intellectual review...I too was disappointed in the end (spoiler alert). That said, definitely worth seeing, particularly if you've been a fan of the Coens since Blood Simple.

I'm Not There is an entirely different affair. What seems, on paper, to be a fairly hackneyed idea -- using six different actors to play Dylan at different phases of his career and using different names, not of which are "Dylan" -- turns out to be absolutely essential. Todd Haynes realized that each aspect of Dylan's career wasn't just evolution, change, growth...that Dylan became a different actor himself. Particularly good were Cate Blanchett as Jude and Heath Ledger as Robbie. Blanchett was almost too perfect in capturing the Don't Look Back Dylan of amphetamines and heroin. And Ledger's Robbie (and, even more so, the painfully beautiful Charlotte Gainsbourg) evokes the heartbreak and anger that underlay so much of Blood on the Tracks and Desire. Julianne Moore, in a smaller part (if you can believe that), captures middle aged Joan Baez (Alice Fabian) as well.

I did have some quibbles (maybe more than quibbles) Joan Baez treated like some bit actor who happened to come across Dylan.

I would have wondered if Haynes failed to unmask the myth-making that has always been Dylan's career or if the myth-making was the point, had I not noticed that Grey Water Park Productions was involved. In none of the mostly ecstatic reviews did I see it mentioned that Dylan's company produced the movie. So, myth-making was the point. Also, while the Rimbaud character was interesting, what the Rimbaud character arose from isn't explored at all. In other words, did Dylan just use the Village "scene" as a jumping board to something else, or did he absorb that world even as he took advantage of the kindness (and books and records and politics) of strangers? The movie washes over that with excerpts from "a documentary" that makes New York just a freak show and Dylan a passerby with No Direction Home. Like the 60 Minutes interview of a few years back, in which Dylan expressed amazement that songs like "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" just sprang into his head like some Venus on the half shell, the movie expands this notion that Dylan wasn't synthesizing everything he was hearing and reading, soaking it up like a sponge. His genius was (is) in squeezing that sponge, not in free associating imagery existing in his head pre-formed, as though in religious ecstasy, as soon as he decided to stop singing Woody Guthrie songs. With this movie Dylan continues work on his efforts to control the perception of his career.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Being "Dylan" is part of his art.

It would have been interesting to show these characters producing albums. Dylan's success comes from the albums, not from single performances, and producing those albums are all hard work and serendipity.

Also, some historical perspective, please. In 1966, during Dylan's tour of England, the Beatles were no longer the Fab Four, acting cute in their tight suits, and -- I'm sorry -- no English audience ever rushed the stage when Dylan went electric. Hell, the descriptions of the "angry reactions" of crowds in the U.S. were, when you listen to the tapes now, obviously overblown.

And while I liked Richard Gere's character, I think they could have had a lot more fun with the songs of The Basement Tapes.

But the movie's a rush and it's easy to start trying to figure where certain dialog came from -- a Dylan interview, interviews with other players back in the day -- so much of it sounds familiar to me. And the use of different film stocks, different camera types, and the various changes in pacing are ecstatic.

Now that baseball season is relinquished to the Hot Stove, guess I'll be going to more of these newfangled "picture shows."

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Alex Rodriguez, free agent

Word is the Yankees and Rodriguez and the Players' Union have come to terms over the marketing contract for Rodriguez's career milestones.

I hope Mike Lupica is crying bitter tears that the Yankees did not decide to take the "principled stand" and tell Mr. Rodriguez to take his purse swinging ways elsewhere. Idiot.

In any case, over at Hardball Times, John Brattain asks us to consider an interesting proposition: that while Scott Boras announced A-Rod's opting out of the contract during the Red Sox dismantling of the Rockies, Rodriguez himself opted for free agency a few weeks later.

If his goal was simply to get a package worth $275 million why bother opting out? The Yankees were already in the ballpark (factoring in the Rangers’ money and the three years remaining on the previous deal) with their extension offer. Something else that has to be kept in mind is seven years ago, A-Rod did not agree to terms until late January 2001. Boras feels time is an asset in increasing offers; that is why he wanted Rodriguez on the market—to get a bidding war going that would last a month or two.

Another thing to consider is how quickly Boras announced the opt-out coupled with making sure A-Rod had no contact with the Yankees whatsoever. Reports indicate that the future Hall of Famer had to be convinced by Boras to exercise the clause in his contract. It appears that Boras felt that any interaction between his client and New York’s front office/ownership could result in a quick agreement on an extension. To get Rodriguez into the marketplace meant ensuring that such a meeting not take place. While part of the timing of the opt out announcement was to make a point about how A-Rod could match the Fall Classic headline-for-headline, the other part evidently was to guarantee there would be no opportunity for the Yankees to make an offer that the third baseman would probably accept.

Every indication is that Rodriguez wished to remain where he is and his agent convinced him that even after opting out the Yankees brass’ proclamation about not negotiating simply was not the case.

Might the Yankees have re-entered the bidding even had A-Rod not made the gesture of making contact? We will never know, but one thing we have learned is this: Rodriguez did not want to take any chances. It gives us an idea of how important remaining in pinstripes was to Barry Bonds’ heir apparent as home run king.

We do not know what the final numbers of the new deal will look like yet; however while it will be a new record deal, it is nowhere near as impressive as it was seven years ago for several reasons. To begin with, back in 2000 the next highest contract was $92 million less—the deal that Manny Ramirez received from the Red Sox. A-Rod’s new deal will be just $23 million higher than the old record. Further, after Ken Griffey Jr. was traded to the Reds, he signed an extension with Cincinnati. While it was perceived that Junior gave the Redlegs a hometown discount, the total package was the highest given a player to that point in time.

Still another consideration is factoring in inflation, the value of the dollar, and that baseball’s revenue increased from under $4 billion to over $6 billion since 252 was signed. Rodriguez’s aggregate salary rose from $25.2 million to $27.5 million—a raise of just $2.3 million. Does anybody actually think that Scott Boras opted out and created this many headaches and bad publicity for his client just to get an extra $2.3 million annually?
As we learn more we also learn that Rodriguez is smarter and more independent of Boras than the Knights of the Keyboard and the Radio Waves give him credit for. I mean, it's a helluva lot smarter talking about the potential to make real money over time with Warren Buffet than with Scott Boras.

Rodriguez is no fool and does have a strong sense of baseball history. He recognizes that had Harry Frazee been more interested in baseball than Broadway and had never sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, the 714 homeruns The Big Bam hit for the Beanbags would have gotten him the keys to the city, a nice car, and free meals for the rest of his life at any of Boston's fine eateries. He would not have been the sports and marketing star of the 1920s he would become as he hit those homeruns while wearing pinstripes in the glare of New York.

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Spiked makeup

A true story of grit, courage, and determination.

And a swimsuit competition.


"A tonal shift"

Dare I say it? Kevin Drum is SHRILL.


No love for Hollywood Fred

Thompson says Fox News is biased agin' him. He's probably right.


Blue Monday, Josh White edition

Daddy Warbucks...

...your party is calling.

While Mr. Treadwell, the grandson of a founding executive of General Electric, plans to raise money from donors, he has privately told party officials that he is ready to invest more of his money to unseat Representative Kirsten Gillibrand, a freshman Democrat, Republicans close to him said.

Ken Spain, a spokesman for the House Republicans’ campaign committee, said that the recruiting effort has made the party more competitive heading into the elections.

“We have been very fortunate in our recruiting efforts,” he said. “There will be a number of credible Republican challengers running for Congress next year that happen to have access to personal financial resources. They are in position to run strong, well-financed grass-roots campaigns next year in some of our top targeted districts.”

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Friday, November 23, 2007




Shorter Charles the K: Nancy Pelosi's habit of saying exactly what our commanders say is a knife in teh back.

How do they avoid acknowledging the realities on the ground? By asserting that we have not achieved political benchmarks -- mostly legislative actions by the Baghdad government -- that were set months ago. And that these benchmarks are paramount. And that all the current progress is ultimately vitiated by the absence of centrally legislated national reconciliation.

I can understand Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, saying that the central government needs to seize the window provided by the surge to achieve political reconciliation. We would all love to have the leaders of the various factions -- Kurd, Shiite and Sunni -- sign nice pieces of paper tying up all the knotty questions of federalism, de-Baathification and oil revenue.

What commander would not want such a silver bullet that would obviate the need for any further ground action? But it is not going to happen for the same reason it has not already happened: The Maliki government is too sectarian and paralyzed to be able to end the war in a stroke of reconciliation.



King Corn

Odd approach to this story, which reads like it was written by the Ethanol Producers Association. Basically, corn farmers are "beleaguered" all the way to the bank.

A phone call to Tim Recker, president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, found him in his combine, harvesting the last of a bumper crop.

"I got 225-bushel corn that I'm doing right now, which is phenomenal," Recker said by cellphone from a field near the town of Arlington. That's 225 bushels per acre. For a corn farmer, that's living in the tall cotton.

And yet, despite the fabulous harvest and the boom in ethanol made from corn, corn farmers often sound beleaguered and aggrieved. Corn, they say, has been getting a bad rap.

"You have to wear a flak jacket," said Bill Couser, who farms 5,000 acres here in the central Iowa town of Nevada (pronounced ne-VAY-da). "When we planted this crop, people said we were the villains of the world."

This mundane plant, once arguably dull as dirt, its name useful as an adjective ("corny") to describe something kind of lame and hillbillyish, has become improbably controversial. The gist of the criticism: So much corn, doing so many things, serving as both food and fuel, and backed by billions of dollars in government subsidies, has been bad for America and the rest of the world.

No mention in the story of this.

The cost of everything from tortillas to cereals and cornstarch will rise in Canada because America's policy of subsidizing ethanol to cut dependence on foreign oil has led to rising demand for corn, says a report.

Corn-based staples such as tortillas have become more costly, along with other grains, fruits and vegetables that are pushed aside as farmers cash in on corn, said CIBC World Markets' chief economist Jeff Rubin.

"When you add it all up it's fairly significant because food inflation is already well over four per cent and we would expect it to move higher as more and more corn production is diverted to ethanol as is required under President Bush's plan," Rubin added.

"When you overlay that with the inflationary hit from oil itself, they're going to produce the hottest inflation numbers that we've seen yet this cycle."

The U.S. federal and state governments provide massive subsidies - $8 billion last year - to encourage ethanol producers to expand and corn farmers to supply the crops to help make the fuel.

Or this.

Recent declines in ethanol prices have sharply reduced profitability for ethanol producers, USDA’s chief economist Keith Collins told the House Agriculture Committee last month.

Speaking at a hearing on disaster conditions across the nation on Oct. 18, Collins noted that ethanol prices have weakened since mid-summer as additional plants have come on line, adding to ethanol supplies and contributing to some infrastructure bottlenecks.

For example, prices at ethanol plants in Iowa and Nebraska have fallen nearly 50 cents per gallon since late July 2007. During the same period, futures prices on the nearby contract have lost about 40 cents per gallon.

Until recently, ethanol premiums have averaged 50 cents per gallon compared with unleaded gasoline. The situation has suddenly reversed, with wholesale ethanol prices as much as 39 cents per gallon below the wholesale price for gasoline during September.

The outlook for ethanol prices appears even less favorable in the futures market, with the nearby Chicago Board of Trade contract for ethanol trading 50 cents per gallon below the nearby New York Mercantile Exchange contract for reformulated gasoline blendstock.

This shift in the ethanol-gasoline price relationship has sharply reduced returns for ethanol producers, according to Collins. “With current retail gasoline prices at $2.80 per gallon, wholesale prices without federal and state excise taxes would be about $2.20 per gallon. Nearby futures for ethanol are trading at $1.57 per gallon, 71 percent of the $2.20-per-gallon estimated wholesale gasoline price and about equal to ethanol’s energy value relative to gasoline.”

U.S. ethanol production capacity for today is estimated at 6.9 billion gallons, up 2 billion gallons from a year ago. Production capacity is expected to increase sharply over the coming 18 to 24 months, if the 76 plants currently under construction are completed.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I am stupid, hear me roar

Astounding feats of logic.

Isn't it curious how the left constantly wailed about Scott McClennan allegedly lying during his press conferences, but now that he is saying something that smells like trash talk about Bush, he is suddenly a truth teller.


"I am not a number..."

For Ruth Marcus and the other members of The Village.

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Eight years that never happened

MoDo quotes a letter to the WSJ editor (no link; if you want to read the whole thing, you know where she lives).

“She hasn’t accomplished anything on her own since getting admitted to Yale Law,” wrote Joan Di Cola, a Boston lawyer, in a letter to The Wall Street Journal this week, adding: “She isn’t Dianne Feinstein, who spent years as mayor of San Francisco before becoming a senator, or Nancy Pelosi, who became Madam Speaker on the strength of her political abilities. All Hillary is, is Mrs. Clinton. She became a partner at the Rose Law Firm because of that, senator of New York because of that, and (heaven help us) she could become president because of that.”

She quotes the letter because as much as MoDo relishes bathing in bullshit, she wants to get the "she's just Bill Clinton's wife" meme across, but knows she can't say it without having to admit...

...the woman is the two-term senior junior senator of the great state of New York.


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Blaming the troops

Trolling the archives, I was reminded of this golden oldie, from those bleak days of October 2004.

If you look through the right-wing media universe this morning you will hear that perhaps the explosives were never at al Qaqaa at all. Or if they were there perhaps Saddam's men carted them off in March. Or if Saddam's men didn't cart them off for the insurgency then the Russians carted them off to Syria. Or if, God forbid, it really did happen as the critics say, well, President Bush wasn't there. It was the fault of the troops on the ground.

If you can't quite get your head around the audacity of that last one, that's what the president's surrogate Rudy Guiliani said this morning on one of the morning shows.

"The actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there," said Mr. Guiliani, "Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?"


Happy place?

Man, the once all-suffering-all-the-time Red Sox Nation is changed, man. Changed, I tells ya.

Peter back once again. And I think Theo and the powers that be did everything EXACTLY right. Mike's desire to come back to the team he loves certainly helped decide matters.....he could have had a cool $50 million for four years spent (suffering?) in Philly, but he wisely decided to stay at the place where the Fenway Faithful, Red Sox Nation and Red Sox International converge. It's a brilliantly joyous piece of Oz, and it's called Fenway Park. Yellow Brick Road included.

Things were not always so bright and shiny.

But the Red Sox have been beaten senseless by those damn Yankees again, and the psychological toll threatens to shake the faith of a long-suffering Nation. How much more can New Englanders take?

The Yankees stripped the Red Sox of all dignity last night, pummeling six Boston pitchers en route to a hideous, 19-8 victory, which gives them a 3-0 lead.

So there. For the 86th consecutive autumn, the Red Sox are not going to win the World Series. No baseball team in history has recovered from a 3-0 deficit and this most-promising Sox season in 18 years could be officially over tonight. Mercy


Long time gone

To borrow Atrios's formulation...Wanker of the Day: Ruth Marcus.

Krugman responds.

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Coverage denied

Via C&L, the LA Times looked at the healthcare proposals of the leading GOP candidates and found, not surprisingly, that under each of their proposals the cancer-surviving candidates would themselves be denied coverage.

WASHINGTON — When Rudolph W. Giuliani was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the spring of 2000, one thing he did not have to worry about was a lack of medical insurance.

Today, the former New York mayor joins two other cancer survivors in seeking the Republican presidential nomination: Arizona Sen. John McCain has been treated for melanoma, the most serious type of skin malignancy, and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson had lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.

All three have offered proposals with the stated aim of helping the 47 million people in the U.S. who have no health insurance, including those with preexisting medical conditions.

But under the plans all three have put forward, cancer survivors such as themselves could not be sure of getting coverage -- especially if they were not already covered by a government or job-related plan and had to seek insurance as individuals.

"Unless it's in a state that has very strong consumer protections, they would likely be denied coverage," said economist Paul Fronstin of the Employee Benefit Research Institute, who has reviewed the candidates' proposals. "People with preexisting conditions would not be able to get coverage or would not be able to afford it."

If the arguments against the Democratic presidential candidates' healthcare plans include higher taxes and greater government involvement, then the Achilles' heel of the GOP plans is their dependence on the private market, which often rejects applicants with health problems.

Republicans want to expand the existing private insurance system, offering new tax breaks as a way of helping people buy insurance individually. But they also want to avoid federal regulation that would tell insurers whom they have to cover and how much they may charge.

That means the self-employed and others seeking individual coverage would be subject to a marketplace in which insurers generally pick the healthiest applicants and turn the rest away. Cancer survivors -- even if they have been free of disease for several years -- are routinely denied health insurance when they try to purchase it as individuals.

Even if coverage is offered, it often comes with restrictions or high premiums that many find unaffordable.

In the individual market, coverage rules "are really quite fussy," said Karen Pollitz, a Georgetown University research professor who specializes in the field. "Most companies won't touch you if you have a cancer history within five years, and with some companies . . . if you've ever had cancer, you can't get coverage."

Fortunately for Giuliani, Thompson, and McCain, they don't have to worry. As current or former government employees, they're covered under the "socialized medicine" of state and federal government healthcare plans.

Best line in the story: "Thompson's plan is a broad sketch at this point, and an advisor said specific options on coverage remained in development." Like the man himself.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Imus that roared

Hate to say it, but Wolcott's got a point.

Since his ignominious exit, I've had nothing to listen to in the morning. Once I finish my mediation, I turn on the radio and soon turn it off again, one disappointed little cowpoke. Have you tried listening to that jockstrap yammerfest WFAN installed in Imus's stead? It's awful, AWFUL. The other New York morning shows--nothing but sleet and drivel. I try listening to NPR but I'm just not a good enough person to be the receptacle for all that homogenized reasonableness lightly sugared with whimsey and vitamin-enriched with valuable life lessons. I'd rather hear Imus complain about a dead gnat floating in his herbal tea, or something equally earth-shattering.


Allman Brothers Nation

Shorter David Brooks: The failure of the Obama campaign to catch fire is reason for the Allman Brothers oeuvre to be taught in high school.

I realize -- boy, do I ever -- how difficult it must be to come up with 800 words twice a week, but is Brooks even trying? And I, too, pine for the 70s, when Rock 'n Roll was just that, and NYC real estate could be had for 10 bucks, but the idea that there was this golden age when your average radio listener was aware that the Rolling Stones were channeling Muddy Waters is just stupid. His confusion over what constitutes "roots" and "pop music" illustrates just what a nerd David Brooks must have been 30 years ago. And to think that if we just had Procol Harem on a high school syllabus then we'd have cultural cohesion is a sign that the New York Times opinion page is as deep as the Bonneville salt flats.


A-Rod derangement syndrome

Ok, ok, Rodriguez was less than a class act in the manner in which he opted-out/opted in to his new Yankee contract (and, please, I don't want to hear how Boras "bungled" his way into a $270 million/10 year contract for his client), but Harvey Araton has clearly lost his mind.

Rodriguez has long been a money magnet and serial attention grabber, but now we are supposed to believe that Boras alone bungled Rodriguez’s second free agency fling? After Boras forced him onto the open market with Guantanamo-like tactics, human rights activists from Goldman Sachs had to intervene. Warren Buffett weighed in. If 11th-hour snags develop in the negotiations with the Yankees on a contract that reportedly could reach more than $300 million over 10 years, who’s on deck?

"Guantanamo-like tactics?" Did he waterboard Hank Steinbrenner? What. Is. He. Talking. About?


Monday, November 19, 2007

"There are givers and there are takers"

Paul Lemmon of the AFL-CIO eloquently explains what it means for the country that unions have lost concentration of membership and therefore political power. He's a powerful advocate.

Whether by coincidence or design, the decline of industrial unions has neatly coincided with the decline of a middle class...with the decline in confidence for many Americans that if they do their job they'll have a job to do, and if they get sick it won't mean (ever more elusive) bankruptcy.

But Ezra slips around an important point. When I was growing up in the late 70s unions like the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO were still powerful, but were easy scapegoats for a country that was seeing the decline of the America's industrial power. That image -- of sleazy, corrupt union leadership that cared more about its members' dues than its members was hammered in to us relentlessly, and was believable because even union members themselves knew their leadership to often be just that. But as far as I can tell, McArdle's a kid*. If, as Ezra suggests, she thinks of union leadership that way, where does that come from?

*UPDATE: Apparently that assertion is flat wrong.

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I iz learning

Blue Monday, Chester Burnett edition

May I have a talk with you?

It doesn't get any better.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

The marijuana rumor

McCarthy was a great manager, but a lousy human being.

Why did McCarthy start the rumor? With detective-like qualities and using as a guide a manuscript his grandfather wrote, Matt Dahlgren pieced together the story.

It began with a meeting, at the suggestion of James Dawson, who covered the Yankees for The New York Times, between Dahlgren and Lefty O’Doul, an expert hitting instructor, at the wedding of Joe DiMaggio and Dorothy Arnold.

McCarthy, apparently seeing O’Doul as a threat, learned of O’Doul’s hitting help and confronted Dahlgren about it. After that season (1940), McCarthy orchestrated Dahlgren’s trade to the Boston Braves.

At the time, McCarthy explained the trade by saying that Dahlgren’s arms were too short to play first base, even though Dahlgren, who had replaced Lou Gehrig the year before, was widely considered the league’s finest first baseman.

But in a subsequent conversation with “baseball insiders,” McCarthy offered a different reason for the trade, demonstrating his resentment of Dahlgren at the same time. Dahlgren, his grandson quoted McCarthy as saying, would not have made a game-losing error in a late-season game that hurt the Yankees’ pennant chances “if he wasn’t a marijuana smoker.”

Dahlgren did not become aware of the rumor for a couple of years, but it was responsible for a series of moves in his career. In the next two seasons, 1941 and ’42, he played for the Braves, the Cubs, the Browns and the Dodgers. Early in 1943, Dahlgren had an unpleasant salary session with Rickey, a frugal — cheap — general manager.

This has to be one of the strangest baseball stories I've ever heard. Dahlgren was one-time all star, a terrific first baseman (though no replacement for The Iron Horse when it came to the bat), and his career was destroyed by intimations he smoked marijuana? Don't talk to me about how great the game was back then if managers and team executives were willing to trade away or ignore good players -- because of the color of their skin or allegations that they smoked marijuana.

Of course, Lefty O'Doul is always in the thick of things.

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Patients without borders

You can't but have enormous respect for the doctors, dentists, and other healthcare workers who give so much time, but it is shameful that this situation exists.

The group, most often referred to as RAM, has sent health expeditions to countries like Guyana, India, Tanzania and Haiti, but increasingly its work is in the United States, where 47 million people — more than 15 percent of the population — live without health insurance. Residents of remote rural areas are less likely than their urban and suburban counterparts to have health insurance and more likely to be in fair or poor health. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly half of all adults in rural America are living with at least one chronic condition. Other research has found that in these areas, where hospitals and primary-care providers are in short supply, rates of arthritis, hypertension, heart ailments, diabetes and major depression are higher than in urban areas.

And so each summer, shortly after the Virginia-Kentucky District Fair and Horse Show wraps up at the fairgrounds, members of Virginia Lions Clubs start bleaching the premises, readying them for RAM’s volunteers, who, working in animal stalls and beneath makeshift tents, provide everything from teeth cleaning and free eyeglasses to radiology and minor surgery. The problem, says RAM’s founder, Stan Brock, is always in the numbers, with the patients’ needs far outstripping what his team can supply. In Wise County, when the sun rose and the fairground gates opened at 5:30 on Friday morning, more than 800 people already were waiting in line. Over the next three days, some 2,500 patients would receive care, but at least several hundred, Brock estimates, would be turned away. He adds: “There comes a point where the doctors say: ‘Hey, I gotta go. It’s Sunday evening, and I have to go to work tomorrow.’ ”

The photos are a glimpse into a "There go I but for the grace of God" universe.

I'm sure Rudy! would say that this is the best of all worlds.



Saturday, November 17, 2007

Police discretion

Boston police plus low income kids minus Constitutional protections rarely equals discretion.

Boston police are launching a program that will call upon parents in high-crime neighborhoods to allow detectives into their homes, without a warrant, to search for guns in their children's bedrooms.

The program, which is already raising questions about civil liberties, is based on the premise that parents are so fearful of gun violence and the possibility that their own teenagers will be caught up in it that they will turn to police for help, even in their own households.

In the next two weeks, Boston police officers who are assigned to schools will begin going to homes where they believe teenagers might have guns. The officers will travel in groups of three, dress in plainclothes to avoid attracting negative attention, and ask the teenager's parent or legal guardian for permission to search. If the parents say no, police said, the officers will leave.

If officers find a gun, police said, they will not charge the teenager with unlawful gun possession, unless the firearm is linked to a shooting or homicide.

The program was unveiled yesterday by Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis in a meeting with several community leaders.

"I just have a queasy feeling anytime the police try to do an end run around the Constitution," said Thomas Nolan, a former Boston police lieutenant who now teaches criminology at Boston University. "The police have restrictions on their authority and ability to conduct searches. The Constitution was written with a very specific intent, and that was to keep the law out of private homes unless there is a written document signed by a judge and based on probable cause. Here, you don't have that."

Critics said they worry that some residents will be too intimidated by a police presence on their doorstep to say no to a search.

"Our biggest concern is the notion of informed consent," said Amy Reichbach, a racial justice advocate at the American Civil Liberties Union. "People might not understand the implications of weapons being tested or any contraband being found."

But Davis said the point of the program, dubbed Safe Homes, is to make streets safer, not to incarcerate people.

"This isn't evidence that we're going to present in a criminal case," said Davis, who met with community leaders yesterday to get feedback on the program. "This is a seizing of a very dangerous object. . . .

"I understand people's concerns about this, but the mothers of the young men who have been arrested with firearms that I've talked to are in a quandary," he said. "They don't know what to do when faced with the problem of dealing with a teenage boy in possession of a firearm. We're giving them an option in that case."

Understanding the concerns of Boston's poor have always been their prime mission.

Fortunately, such issues never confront us in the suburbs.


Friday, November 16, 2007


What a difference a few weeks make.

NEW YORK - Major League Baseball had this message for Alex Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras: Shame on you.

Boras announced during Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday night that A-Rod was opting out of the final three seasons of his contract with the New York Yankees. The timing left baseball officials livid, and Boras apologized Monday evening, just after Rodriguez filed with the players’ association and became a free agent for the first time since 2000.

“We were very disappointed that Scott Boras would try to upstage our premier baseball event of the season with his announcement,” Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer, said Monday in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

That was then, this is now.

Major League Baseball officials suddenly have a new rooting interest. His name is Alex Rodriguez.

Officials don’t like what they’re hearing about the contract Rodriguez is negotiating with the Yankees — 10 years for about $270 million. But they like another number associated with A-Rod: 518.

That’s the number of home runs he has, and when he hits 245 more — in six years, perhaps — he will supplant Barry Bonds in the record book. That is what officials will root for.

Who says Alex isn't "clutch?"


Run away

Perhaps the coolest thing about public buildings in the UK.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

English rain

A week in London...a fantastic that's what Roger Waters was writing about.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Stpp the presses

Oh. My. God. The Clinton campaign served up a softball to the candidate. Shocked. Shocked, I tells ya. Made The Guardian newspaper no less.

Seven years of invitation-only "Town Hall Meetings" by the Bush Imperium, but this is news.


McCain, soft money, and swift boating

The maverick's integrity slip is showing once again.

The group running the commercial in South Carolina is registered as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation. As such, it is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts from individuals without any disclosure, as long as it can argue that it is more concerned with the promotion of an issue — like the final passage of the Wounded Warriors bill — than the election of a candidate.

The lack of disclosure makes it hard to tell how the group spends its money, and impossible to say where it gets its money, and whether its donors have already donated directly to candidates.

The group was started by Rick Reed, whose firm helped produce the 2004 Swift Boat advertisements that questioned Senator John Kerry’s war record in a way that Democrats, and even Mr. McCain, said was unfair — but, also, in a way that both sides agree did great damage to Mr. Kerry’s presidential campaign. Mr. Reed is also a long-time strategist for Mr. McCain, working for his 2000 presidential campaign and briefly for his 2008 campaign, before it ran short on money and trimmed its operations.

The group is running its first advertisements in a crucial early voting state, South Carolina, just as Mr. McCain’s campaign is poised to accept federal matching funds and thus internal spending limits. Mr. McCain was badly beaten in the state in 2000.

Mr. McCain immediately called on the group to cease its activities when its existence was first reported, by The Associated Press, on Friday. Mr. McCain said on Fox News Sunday that he had not spoken to Mr. Reed to ask him to do so directly.

“I have not called Rick Reed because I don’t know what his involvement is,” Mr. McCain said. “I have condemned those ads.”

Mr. McCain’s opponents have called his condemnation disingenuous. Referring to the 2002 campaign finance law that Mr. McCain sponsored with Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, a spokesman for Mitt Romney, Kevin Madden, said, “Isn’t it ironic that the author and champion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill now has a soft-money effort created on his behalf?”

Mr. Reed said in an interview that his group was indeed financed largely by supporters of Mr. McCain, but that it was not expressly put together to help his former client. Mr. Reed declined to name the group’s backers, and said he was duty bound to ignore Mr. McCain’s request to stop running the commercial.

Mr. Reed said his group intended to be around after the presidential election to promote candidates who were in line with the group’s considerably broad stated purpose: to inform “the public and opinion leaders as to how we can best assure that America remains secure and prosperous.”

Duty bound, indeed.

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Blue Monday, Constipation blues edition

Let him go, let him go.

With Serge Gainsbourg...ya seen it here first, folks.

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Of Musharraf and Jolie

It's amazing how little the difference between UK and US TV...Rupert Murdoch is ascendant (the first time I turned on the TV, "The Simpsons" was on). But there are some subtle differences.

For instance, this morning on BBC1, the blow dried ones looked very much like they could be on GMA or The Today Show, and yet, in a story you might expect to find on those shows -- on Attention-deficit disorder and whether medication works -- they actually were still talking about it after I'd taken a shower and shaved. No ADD there, unlike how it might be covered on a US morning program.

And even on Skynet, Rupert's baby, the nightly news program's coverage of a Musharraf news went on for 10-15 minutes rather than the requisite 30 seconds you'd expect in the U.S. That said, they segued from that to at least 20 minutes of live coverage of Brad and Angelina arriving at the London opening of "Beowulf," with detailed analysis of Grendel's mother's "nudity" in the flik.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Please pardon our appearance

The blogging may be light -- in terms of quantity, that is; I realize the intellectual depths found here are already helium-like -- I'm heading out of town into an uncertain intertubes future.

The expert

From today's NY Times:
Mr. Kerik, in the face of his troubles, has carried himself with what many would view as characteristic hubris, making frequent television appearances over the last year to speak as an expert on a range of subjects, from fighting terrorism to the war in Iraq.

Hello? Pardon the pun, but this is more of an indictment of the media who continually bring in fools and charlatans like Kerik, than it is of Kerik himself.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris

Not the best sound or picture, but, oh, what a moment.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007


More hidden clauses in Schilling's contract.



We all know that the Irish saved civilization. Now we learn they invented slang, too.

“Snazzy” comes from “snasach,” which means polished, glossy or elegant. The word “scram” comes from “scaraim,” meaning “I get away.” The word “swell” comes from “sóúil,” meaning luxurious, rich and prosperous, and “sucker” comes from “sách úr,” or, loosely, fat cat.

There is “Say uncle!” (“anacal” means mercy), “razzmatazz,” and “malarkey,” and even expressions like “gee whiz” and “holy cow” and “holy mackerel” are Anglicized versions of Irish expressions, he said. So are “doozy,” “hokum,” “humdinger,” “jerk,” “punk,” “swanky,” “grifter,” “bailiwick,” “sap,” “mug,” “wallop,” “helter-skelter,” “shack,” “shanty,” “slob,” “slacker” and “knack.”

It's quite a list.

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Crazy absolution

I was going to do a post about the weird stalking of Conan O'Brien by a mad Boston priest, but I'll let The Superficial do it.


Hey, it worked for the Nazis

Our national discourse sinks even lower.


Homeless veterans

The war in Iraq is beginning to make its presence felt here in the U.S.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 — More than 400 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have turned up homeless, and the Veterans Affairs Department and aid groups say they are bracing for a new surge in homeless veterans in the years ahead.

Experts who work with veterans say it often takes several years after leaving military service for veterans’ accumulating problems to push them into the streets. But some aid workers say the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans appear to be turning up sooner than the Vietnam veterans did.

“We’re beginning to see, across the country, the first trickle of this generation of warriors in homeless shelters,” said Phil Landis, chairman of Veterans Village of San Diego, a residence and counseling center. “But we anticipate that it’s going to be a tsunami.”

With more women serving in combat zones, the current wars are already resulting in a higher share of homeless women as well. They have an added risk factor: roughly 40 percent of the hundreds of homeless female veterans of recent wars have said they were sexually assaulted by American soldiers while in the military, officials said.

“Sexual abuse is a risk factor for homelessness,” Pete Dougherty, the V.A.’s director of homeless programs, said.

Special traits of the current wars may contribute to homelessness, including high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and traumatic brain injury, which can cause unstable behavior and substance abuse, and the long and repeated tours of duty, which can make the reintegration into families and work all the harder.

The VA does seem to be trying to address the problem, but no doubt the watchwords of the Bush administration will prevail: too little, too late.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fact checking Rudy!

The other day, I called "bullshit" on Giuliani's claims that Kerik's ends justified the means. I knew that Giuliani's assertion that crime was drastically reduced under Kerik's 18-month tenure was nonsense, but being The Vega, didn't feel like actually, ya know, doing any research to back that up.

Greg Sargent has.

Recall that the last thing Rudy wants is for his first commissioner, Bill Bratton, to get any credit for this accomplishment. And Rudy knows no one outside of New York knows the finer points of who served and when. So Rudy now blithely tells America that the crime drop was largely the work of Kerik -- leaving us, again, with what seems to be three whoppers in one sentence.


Wingnut welfare

Well, well, not surprisingly, it appears that the authors' deceit is matched only by their publisher.

Some of the authors’ books have appeared on the New York Times best-seller list, including “Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry,” by Mr. Corsi and John E. O’Neill (who is not a plaintiff in the suit), Mr. Patterson’s “Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Compromised America’s National Security” and Mr. Miniter’s “Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush Is Winning the War on Terror.” In the lawsuit the authors say that Eagle sells or gives away copies of their books to book clubs, newsletters and other organizations owned by Eagle “to avoid or substantially reduce royalty payments to authors.”

The authors argue that in reducing royalty payments, the publisher is maximizing its profits and the profits of its parent company at their expense.

“They’ve structured their business essentially as a scam and are defrauding their writers,” Mr. Miniter said in an interview, “causing a tremendous rift inside the conservative community.”

Too funny. These bozos get on the liberal media's best selling lists because their publisher dumps the books, giving them away or a deep discount, then they complain about their royalties. Of course, there's a money quote:

Mr. Miniter said that meant that although he received about $4.25 a copy when his books sold in a bookstore or through an online retailer, he only earned about 10 cents a copy when his books sold through the Conservative Book Club or other Eagle-owned channels. “The difference between 10 cents and $4.25 is pretty large when you multiply it by 20,000 to 30,000 books,” Mr. Miniter said. “It suddenly occurred to us that Regnery is making collectively jillions of dollars off of us and paying us a pittance.” He added: “Why is Regnery acting like a Marxist cartoon of a capitalist company?”


Tuesday, November 06, 2007


This seems ominous, particularly if you happen to live anywhere near an Iranian government building.

LONDON, Nov. 6, 2007 (Thomson Financial delivered by Newstex) -- Gold hit its highest level since January 1980, as wider economic stress prompted safe haven buying, the dollar hit another record low against the euro and high oil prices stoked inflation jitters.

Those who decide why markets go up or down are saying it's more fallout from the subprime lending disaster, but nothing makes gold and oil look better than an imminent third front in the war against people whose language we don't understand.


Extremists in Pakistan

Teh stupid.

Reading Hilzoy's collection of wingnut reaction to events in Pakistan is illuminating. If you didn't have access to blogs, CNN, The New York Times, or indeed any other source of news besides your own fevered, terrified blogs, you'd think Musharraf is our last and only hope to hold back the Taliban from having a nuclear bomb aimed at Des Moines (Hilzoy has the links, if you want em).

Nuance from Don Surber:

"Musharraf is a pro-Western man in the second-largest Muslim country on the planet, after Indonesia. That does not make him too popular. But allowing Pakistan to fall into the hands of a Taliban-like government is far worse."

Jihad Watch:

"One hardly has to regard General Musharraf a saint in order to appreciate that his removal would more likely usher in an era of Sharia and jihad than New-England-town-meeting-style democracy."

And then there is the Fresno State scholar, Victor Davis Hanson:

"It would be hard to think of a bigger mess than Pakistan: nuclear; half the population radically Islamic; vast sanctuaries for the architects of 9/11; a virulent anti-Americanism in which aid and military credits are demanded but never appreciated; dictatorship at odds with America’s professed support for Middle-East constitutional government-all the while doing little to hunt down al Qaeda while assuring us that the possible radical alternative, with some reason, is far worse." (Emphasis added.)

Hilzoy, in her post, analyzes the actual support of Sharia law in Pakistan and finds causes for concern not so much.

Me, I'll take a different tack. While I'm sure the authority-loving wingers salivate at the idea of shutting down elections and arresting "activist judges," someone might point out to them that it isn't the Taliban taking to the streets to call for the ouster of the dictator we've bankrolled to the tune of $10-20 billion since 2001. No, Musharraf cut his deal with the Taliban and it is the General's own forces who've permitted Osama bin Laden safe passage.

The hordes that threaten Pakistan
-- more specifically, Musharraf -- are lawyers and judges demanding he hold free elections. Democracy, baby. Remember when it was cool? Nowadays, for our friends on the American Right, free elections aren't so appetizing any more.

Today, the second day of protests, the police arrested 50 lawyers in the eastern city of Lahore and clashes broke out between hundreds of lawyers and Pakistani police officers in Multan, about 200 miles to the southwest. On Monday, in Lahore and other cities, thousands of lawyers protested, with many beaten by baton-wielding police officers and then thrown into police wagons. By the end of that day, about 2,000 people had been rounded up by the authorities, among them 500 to 700 lawyers, according to lawyers and political officials.

It was unclear how Chief Justice Chaudhry, who was fired on Saturday and is under house arrest, was able to gain access to a cellphone. He and other lawyers said they hoped to re-create the protest campaign they carried out this spring when the lawyers mounted big rallies in major cities after General Musharraf had removed Chief Justice Chaudhry from the Supreme Court bench. General Musharraf’s popularity plummeted during the protests, and Mr. Chaudhry was reinstated after four months, invigorating the Supreme Court and the general’s opponents.

On Saturday, citing a need to limit terrorist attacks and “preserve the democratic transition,” General Musharraf suspended the Constitution, dissolved the Supreme Court and the four provincial High Courts, and silenced privately owned television news channels. Many of the Supreme Court judges are, like Mr. Chaudhry, under house arrest.

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Experiencing torture firsthand -- and getting fired for it

This is, to borrow the phraseology of our soon to be new AG, "abhorrent."

Daniel Levin is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative Republican. Now recall Michael Mukasey’s suggestion that he didn’t know what waterboarding was? Levin took a logical approach: he decided to experience it firsthand. And he came to a conclusion that, in my mind, shows unacceptable flexibility in accepting the technique. But how did the Bush White House react to this? It was swift and simple: Levin was forced out of office.

When Levin took over from Goldsmith, he went to work on a memo that would effectively replace the Bybee memo as the administration’s legal position on torture. It was during this time that he underwent waterboarding. In December 2004, Levin released the new memo. He said, “Torture is abhorrent” but he went on to say in a footnote that the memo was not declaring the administration’s previous opinions illegal. The White House, with Alberto Gonzales as the White House counsel, insisted that this footnote be included in the memo.

But Levin never finished a second memo imposing tighter controls on the specific interrogation techniques. Sources said he was forced out of the Justice Department when Gonzales became attorney general.

The Bush Administration’s swift reaction: any deviation from the torture litmus test results in dismissal.

The matter raises some more very unpleasant questions.

Levin was trying to impose some guidelines on the use of waterboarding as a technique. The purpose of the guidelines was to preserve some very questionable basis to argue that the practice was not torture. Why did the Administration stop this? I can only see one explanation. They wanted full flexibility. That means that they contemplated practices that would venture into the most extreme, cruel and horrible treatment. No limitations. Let the torturer have at it.

Impeach George W. Bush and Richard Cheney. Now. Their fear of prosecution for their actions is strong evidence of their guilt.

One of the questions that's been troubling me during this "debate" over "techniques." How long before these "abhorrent" yet still-legal sorta techniques begin to seep into domestic law enforcement?


Raising the cap

Good point.

And on a rare personal note, I can tell you that had the GOP been successful at achieving their most cherished goal since the New Deal -- the elimination/privatization of Social Security -- Madam Cura and I would be even more hard pressed to help to make sure some aging relatives are able to preserve their remaining dignity.


Tortured experiences

Alright, never mind the idea that draft deferment Rudy had a "difference experience" with torture than McCain, is he saying that he and his fellow federal prosecutors used torture on Mob suspects? Wouldn't that, ya know, put their convictions at risk?

Oh, and shorter Rudy!: Bernie was such a good police chief that little "details," like Mob associations, should be overlooked.

Of course, even that premise is bullshit.


Monday, November 05, 2007


Jessica Biel is apparently going to play a bizarrely-injured, sex-fiend, political activist. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a smarmy senator. In a movie co-authored by Al Gore's daughter. This I gotta see.

The movie is something called Nailed, which Russell co-wrote with Al Gore’s daughter and will direct himself. HR says it stars Jessica Biel and Jake Gyllenhaal and here’s what it’s about… I’m going to quote them directly, because HR’s plot description is just that unbelievable: “Biel would play Sammy Joyce, a socially awkward small-town receptionist who has a nail accidentally shot into her head by a clumsy workman, eliciting wild sexual urges.” I’ve seen this movie before, usually on Showtime, late at night. It was good, but for some reason none of the women ever wore tops.

Lest you think this is just your run-of-the-mill softcore porno written by a former Vice President’s daughter, they’ve mixed in some political mumbo jumbo. Apparently Joyce takes her super-horniness to Washington in order to fight for the rights of the bizarrely injured. There, she meets an immoral congressman played by Gyllenhaal and screws him, and then uses her screwing him to benefit her crusade and start a career in politics. It was either that or porn. Politics was probably the better choice, though the difference between the two is rather minimal.

Side note: Jake Gyllenhaal is now officially the luckiest dude on the planet. I would literally be willing to sleep with Heath Ledger if it meant being able to play his role in this movie. Perhaps that was his plan all along.

I also want to go on record as saying that this will be the best movie of the year, whichever year it ends up getting released in. It’s also fairly realistic. Just imagine all the good Jessica Biel could accomplish in the world if she ever actually unleashed her out of control libido. Her hotness has already fooled the world into thinking she’s a great actor, she should take it a step further and go into politics. Why not negotiate Osama’s surrender or use it to reduce the national debt? Success is inevitable. She’s irresistible

And, yeah, I got nothing.

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Doing the Yankees a favor?

Hmmm, this is certainly counter-intuitive.

Now we understand why Rodriguez did not meet with the Yankees or return their calls. He did not want to give the Yankees an opening to make him a good offer, leaking the details to the news media. The expected news media circus would have added weight to the otherwise implausible Yankees claim that they could not negotiate in free agency without gaining a reputation as a weak bargainer and would have added more risks to a subsequent decision to opt out.

In other words, Rodriguez wanted to test the market and to make it easier for the Yankees to get back into the game. If he really did not want to return, why would he care about the news media circus? Why not hear the offer, then burn the bridge?

But here is the crucial piece of evidence that shows how much Rodriguez wants to wear pinstripes: the opt-out announcement during the final World Series game. We can assume that Rodriguez learned late last Sunday that Joe Girardi would be named the manager of the Yankees the next morning. If Rodriguez opts out after that announcement, his decision would be taken as a negative response to Girardi’s hiring.

This could sour his relations with Girardi and finally make it rational for the Yankees not to match a market offer. That would upset Rodriguez’s strategy. How does he credibly signal that he is fine with the choice of Girardi and wants a pathway back to the Yankees in free agency?

That is where the World Series announcement comes in. In bargaining lingo, it is a credible signal of his desire to remain a Yankee because it is costly. In other words, to show his Yankees preference, Rodriguez was forced to appear classless by disturbing the sanctity of the Series and by stepping on Boston’s triumph. That’s a cost.

Meanwhile, in other baseball news, Joe Torre's Dodger press conference is going on. I don't know who introduced Joe, but all his talk about character, baseball covenants, etc., etc., you'd think Grady Little, the man he replaced, is a crack dealer.


Blue Monday -- Rev. Gary Davis edition

Incredible. Just incredible.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Creamy wingnuttery goodness

Pakistan's "lawfare"

Via TPM, the Informed Comment blog is featuring posts from Dr. Barnett Rubin who is live-blogging events from Islamabad. Watching Musharaf's speech he noted something familiar:

Judging by the General's actions, judicial activism is a much more sinister and immediate threat than terrorism, as all of his actions since yesterday have targeted the former rather than the latter. Indeed Musharraf's agents managed to pirate the codes to prevent Geo TV from uploading its programs to satellite, while Maulana Fazlullah's FM station in Swat continues to broadcast calls for jihad without impediment.

Judicial activism? Where'd he get that one. Oh, yeah. But Rubin learns that Musharraf's resemblance to the religious right in this country isn't the only thing he's learned from his political enablers in this country.

Opposing "judicial activism" is one of the rallying cries of American right. Initially this was simply a cover for racism, as the most salient examples of "judicial activism" were Brown vs. Board of Education and other decisions by the Warren Supreme Court overturning American apartheid. Over time, however, the term began to cover a larger protest against attempts to extend the rule of law to the disadvantage of the powerful.

Not until the Bush administration, however, was this political code word integrated into the National Security Doctrine of the United States. Scott Horton of Harper's, writing on "Bush's War on the Rule of Law" describes how the attack on judicial activism entered national security doctrine through the concept of "lawfare":
According to Major General Charles J. Dunlap Jr., now the Air Force’s deputy judge advocate general, lawfare is the “strategy of using or misusing law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve an operational objective.” As the neoconservative lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey have put it, lawfare aims to “gain a moral advantage over your enemy in the court of world opinion, and potentially a legal advantage in national and international tribunals.” The concept, which has been discussed in the Federalist Society and at National Review Online, became doctrine in the March 2005 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America: “Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism.” Note the equation of “international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism.” In other words, turning to courts for the enforcement of legal rights, appeals to international tribunals, and terrorism are seen as the elements of a single consistent enemy strategy. In the strange reasoning of the lawfare theorists, lawyers who defend their clients, or who present their claims to domestic or international courts, might as well be terrorists themselves.
This could serve as a cogent summary of the doctrine presented by President Musharraf. Unlike Bush, Musharraf at least had the decency to announce to the whole world that he was placing the constitution "in abeyance" and arrogating all power to his sole person. The Bush administration prefers to promulgate shadowy memoranda, signing statements, and Humpty-Dumpty like amendments to the meaning of common words. Since the courts are instruments of terrorists (and can even be used to demoralize the security forces!) counter-terrorism logically requires the abolition of the rule of law.

Comparing England and India in the 19th century, Karl Marx wrote, "The country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future.” But the 20th century refuted Marxism through praxis, giving birth to new laws of history. In the 21st century, the country that is less developed institutionally only shows to the more developed the image of its own future.

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