Monday, December 31, 2007


More Dead for your New Year's Eve reveries. Check out Donna's expression as Jerry finishes up his solo.

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Blue Monday, New Year's Eve edition

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Stockholm syndrome

Bizarro world.

Mr. Kristol will write a weekly column for The Times beginning Jan. 7, the newspaper said. He is editor and co-founder of The Weekly Standard, an influential conservative political magazine, and appears regularly on Fox News Sunday and the Fox News Channel. He was a columnist for Time magazine until that relationship was severed this month.

Mr. Kristol, 55, has been a fierce critic of The Times. In 2006, he said that the government should consider prosecuting The Times for disclosing a secret government program to track international banking transactions.

In a 2003 column on the turmoil within The Times that led to the downfall of the top two editors, he wrote that it was not “a first-rate newspaper of record,” adding, “The Times is irredeemable.”

Writes Josh Marshall,

But the weirdest thing about the choice is that Sulzberger and Co. have failed to grasp the taxonomy of the neoconservative literary cartel. David Brooks is the house-broken William Kristol, the cadre tasked with operating just behind enemy lines, or at least in the no-man's-land where only a kinder gentler version of the faith can be propounded. And they already have him.

Cue the movie trailer announcer voice:

IN A WORLD where a war mongering columnist gets every prediction exactly wrong, only one man can take a shit in the lobby of the New YorkTimes and get a job there.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Will to power

Adam Liptak wonders aloud how much of the new and improved imperial presidency the Bush/Cheney successor will maintain.

I don't think it's that difficult to find an answer, at least for a few of the leading candidates. On the Democratic side, Hllary Clinton's voting patterns in the Senate have been consistent in upholding the power of the presidency, clearly with an eye on her future and inspired by her husband's battles with Congress. In Giuliani's case...please. Huckabee's imperious and nasty behavior towards "enemies" as governor of Arkansas are mighty telling. He may be stupid, and dangerous, but he certainly never forgets his prerogatives. And let's not forget Romney...

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All the wank that's fit to print

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and all the fucking saints.

WHAT DOES THE WANKING MAN WANT? MORE. That's the way it always is with these affirmative action programs. You give them the moon and they want the stars. Andrew Sullivan on Billy Kristol's new New York Times column:
He's obviously an extremely talented writer and editor, and I guess some naked partisanship on the right is necessary to balance out Krugman. But ideologically, having both David Brooks and Bill Kristol as the sole representatives of the right-of-center is to focus on a very small neocon niche in a conservative world that is currently exploding with intellectual diversity and new currents of thought. There are about five "national greatness" conservatives out there. Four of them now have columns in the WaPo or NYT: Kristol, Brooks, Krauthammer and Gerson. Thank God, I guess, for the blogosphere. We have no restrictions here, do we?
The Times adds another winger, but it's the wrong kind of winger. Eventually they'll need a fold-out section to accomodate all the different conservative gradations (closed-borders, anti-gay, bullshit libertarian, etc) the committee requires, and that isn't even taking into account all the free dispatches Michael Yon will demand the Times run when the eschaton is immanentized.
Yeah, I had to look it up, too.

David Sirota's take on the loathsomeness.

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Ramblin' man

I think the C&Lers are missing the point. There is a long tradition of U.S. presidents going abroad as a tonic to collapsing approval ratings back home. But, as is typical of the complete ignorance of history that the Bush administration consistently evinces, they don't seem to realize it only helps if the residents of the countries the leader of the free world visits like him.


Friday, December 28, 2007


Spencer Ackerman reports that we can't expect to learn who assassinated Benazir Bhutto unless Musharraf wants to find our who assassinated Bhutto.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

David Broder typed this in the garage with the car running

Shorter Dean of Washington: Voters will punish them if Democrats in Congress don't give Senate Republicans what they want.

Among the "key measures" counted in the news release are voice votes to protect infants from unsafe cribs and high chairs, and votes to require drain covers in pools and spas. Such wins bulk up the statistics. Many other "victories" credited to the House were later undone by the Senate, including all the restrictions on the deployment of troops in Iraq. And on 46 of the measures passed by the House, more than one-third of the total, the notation is added, "The president has threatened to veto," or has already vetoed, the bill.

One would think that this high level of institutional warfare would be of concern to the Democrats. But there is no suggestion in this recital that any adjustment to the nation's priorities may be required. If Pelosi is to be believed, the Democrats will keep challenging the Bush veto strategy for the remaining 12 months of his term -- and leave it up to him to make any compromises.

Yes, he wrote that.

Broder, seems blissfully unaware that Democrats "control" the Senate 50-49-1 and Republicans have, basically, filibustered every bill until it met their requirements, whether it meant unfettered power for the president, non-regulation of pretty much everything, torture, etc. He seems even less sentient when he writes, "leave it up to him to make any compromises." Bush has never compromised and he's got 50 loyal boot lickers in the Senate, including Joe Lieberman.

But that's the Democrats' fault.

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Ship of tools

Another year closer to idiocracy.


Reining Shrums

I meant to post on this the other day, but I read it in an airport and was too tired to get back to it later in the day. Nevertheless, it continues to infuriate me.

It was the spring of 2004, and Senator John Kerry had just secured the Democratic presidential nomination. But as huge sums of money began pouring into his campaign, his top strategists had more on their minds than just getting ready for a tough race against President Bush.

Behind the scenes, they were fighting over the lucrative fees for handling Mr. Kerry’s television advertising. The campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, became so fed up over the squabbling that she told the consultants, led by Robert Shrum, one of the most prominent and highly paid figures in the business, to figure out how to split the money themselves.

Divvy it up they did. Though the final tally has never been publicly disclosed, interviews and records show that the five strategists and their firms ultimately took in nearly $9 million, the richest payday for any Democratic media consultants up to then and roughly what the Bush campaign paid its consultants for a more extensive ad campaign.

Mr. Shrum and his two partners, Tad Devine and Mike Donilon, walked away with $5 million of the total. And that was after Ms. Cahill, in the closing stages of the race that fall, diverted $1 million that would otherwise have gone to the consultants to buying more advertising time in what turned out to be an unsuccessful effort to defeat Mr. Bush.

Questions about how the Kerry campaign could have become such a bonanza for one small group of advisers — and whether the fees squandered money that could have been used for courting voters — are still reverberating inside Democratic circles as the 2008 campaign moves into high gear. And with more money than ever on the line this time around, resentment has been building, donors and other operatives say, at how, win or lose, presidential elections have become gold mines for the small and often swaggering band of media consultants who dominate modern campaigns.

Apparently, this is an affliction that only affects Democrats. The "standard" 15 percent advertising commission ended over two decades ago and Republican candidates have long realized that you pay your media buyers a fee, not a commission that only encourages them to waste more money.

But, then again, Republicans aren't afflicted with Bob Shrum.

Like other consultants, Mr. Shrum, who with his partners also earned about $3 million of the $7 million in fees paid by Vice President Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000, defended the fees he earned. “I don’t make any apologies for the fact that I managed to make a career out of something I love to do,” Mr. Shrum said.

Mr. Shrum, who is not involved in this year’s race, has been criticized for favoring the same populist themes in both the Gore and Kerry losses. But he and other Democratic consultants say the work has become even more difficult as the presidential campaigns get longer, the audiences become more fractured and the attacks and counterattacks force them to churn out more and more ads. They also said that they often had to pay subcontractors to help, and that the Republican consultants could afford to charge less because they earned more doing similar work for corporate clients.

So, why aren't Democrats able to hire consultants with day jobs advising corporate clients? That's why I don't get my knickers in a knot when I hear that Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's top adviser, runs a firm that helps its clients fight off union activity and other unsavoriness. Expecting lily-white purity from all aspects of our candidates campaigns leads us right into the arms of congenital losers like Shrum.

Over the years, the Democrats have tended to build their advertising teams around a few highly paid stars whose focus is politics, while the Republicans often spread their fees among a broad mix of political consultants and ad executives from Madison Avenue. Democrats have tended to pay slightly higher percentages of their advertising budgets in fees and commissions, but those small differences have often added up to millions of dollars in additional compensation.

That, in essence, is why Al Gore is not finishing his second term and instead we have the moral equivalent of a fructose-sweetened breakfast cereal for president. Remember, Nixon's chief advisers were ad guys. We need people who know how to tell good stories and how to make sure the right stories are told to the right people at the right time. And to apply best practices when compensating their advertising and media advisers. Once upon a time, Democrats were good at this. What happened? I've worked in this business for more than 20 years and am pretty certain the major advertising companies will not lose any business from their corporate clients for taking on the Obama or Clinton campaigns as clients.

It's all business. Nothing personal. And yet, our candidates go back to the well, time and again, with advisers who couldn't sell water in the desert, but who are pretty effective at selling themselves.


The source of all of our woes

Fred Thompson is a scumbag.


Bhutto assassinated

Bhutto had enormous failings, but she also took an enormous risk to return to Pakistan. The region falls further into chaos.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Blue Monday, Howlin' Wolf edition

Christmas? What Christmas? It's always summer in Newport to me.

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Now, that's entertainment

Delayed for three hours yesterday, at least there was the prospect of "36 channels of in-flight entertainment" on Jet Flu to keep us company throughout the night. That prospect is severely diminished, however, when you realize that about ten of those channels are going to rotate a Chuck Norris "Total Gym" infomercial all night long.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007


So, Mitt's dad, George Romney, ran for president in 1968 as the man who brought us the Gremlin?

Mr. Romney’s father, George, also made it to the top rungs of the corporate ladder. He was an automobile executive who, in 1947, named his youngest son — the one now running for president — Willard Mitt Romney, in honor of J. Willard Marriott, a close friend who later founded the Marriott hotel chain. In 1954, George Romney was appointed chief executive of the American Motors Corporation, maker of the Rambler and the Hudson Hornet cars.

He earned an average of about $275,000 a year over the next decade, according to tax returns that he released to a writer for Look magazine when the elder Mr. Romney was preparing to run for president in 1968. That translates to about $1.8 million a year in today’s dollars.

By any standard, George Romney was a rich man. But he did not make anything close to what his son has made. Mitt Romney is worth as much as $350 million today, making him one of the wealthiest presidential candidates in recent decades.

The differences between the two generations of Romneys are remarkably consistent with broader trends. George Romney’s pay as a chief executive put him in the 99.99th percentile of the income distribution, meaning that he was making more money than all but 1 in 10,000 other Americans at the time.

In 2005, someone at the equivalent spot in the distribution earned almost $10 million, according to research by two economists, Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. This richest 0.01 percent of earners made 5.1 percent of all income that year, up from just 1.2 percent in 1960.

I know, I know, the Gremlin wasn't introduced until 1970, but still...


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Compassionate conservatism

Huckabee's history of commuting the sentences of convicted felons for political reason is bad enough, but what really strikes me is the viciousness with which he defends his decisions.

On Feb. 19, 2004, Mr. Huckabee announced his intention to grant Mr. Fields clemency. The announcement led to a legally required period for public comment, and among those who weighed in was the Arkansas office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In a politely worded letter to the governor, Teresa Belew, MADD’s local executive director, pointed out that Mr. Fields had a record of “ignoring second chances.” She urged Mr. Huckabee not to give Mr. Fields another break.

Mr. Huckabee did not welcome MADD’s recommendation.

Days later, in a letter that he demanded be kept confidential, Mr. Huckabee sharply criticized Ms. Belew for going public with criticism about the Fields case. “I cannot understand why you sent the letter to news organizations,” he wrote. He suggested that MADD was simply trying to fan “the flames of controversy that have been stirred in this case by the unusual curiosity of certain media members.”

He also had a more political score to settle. It concerned his wife, Janet Huckabee, who in 2002 lost her campaign to unseat Arkansas’s incumbent secretary of state, Charlie Daniels.

“You’ll further have to help me understand,” he wrote to Ms. Belew, “why you have been so public with this letter when during the last campaign season, MADD refrained from public comment regarding my wife’s opponent, a public official with several D.W.I.’s, one of which was in a state-owned car.”

Mr. Huckabee’s letter, obtained by The New York Times, is one of several examples of how Mr. Huckabee bristled at public criticism of his clemency decisions.

"Unusual curiosity?" Because he commuted the sentence of a four-time convicted drunk driver who happened to have political connections? There is something deeply unsettling about Huckabee.

Meanwhile, another unsettling candidate for the Republican nomination (and is there any other kind?) seems to have realized that the more personal appearances he makes on the hustings, the lower his approval ratings sink.

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Hoover raids

It's always good to know that there have been closer brushes with authoritarianism in this country.

A newly declassified document shows that J. Edgar Hoover, the long-time director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a plan to suspend habeas corpus and imprison some 12,000 Americans that he suspected of disloyalty.

Hoover sent his plan to the White House on July 7, 1950, 12 days after the Korean War began. It envisioned putting suspect Americans in military prisons.

Hoover wanted President Harry S. Truman to proclaim the mass arrests necessary to “protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage.” The F.B.I would “apprehend all individuals potentially dangerous” to national security, Hoover’s proposal said. The arrests would be carried out under “a master warrant attached to a list of names” provided by the bureau.

The names were part of an index that Hoover had been compiling for years. “The index now contains approximately twelve thousand individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven per cent are citizens of the United States,” he wrote.

“In order to make effective these apprehensions, the proclamation suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus,” it said.

I was unaware of so much seditious activity in opposition to the Korean War. And I'm surprised the Bush/Cheney administration declassified what they surely must have thought was a helpful document.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Santa has left the building

A tough way to make a living

Couldn't happen to a better licker of Bush's boots.

Buried by legal bills and hard up for cash, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales hit the college speaking circuit last month hoping to rake in big bucks. Instead, he's been raked over the coals, heckled or flat out turned down by students whose institutions he charges exorbitant fees to tap his amnesiac mind.

And things aren't likely to get any easier for Gonzo (as he's known in the tabloids) now that he has been identified as among the top Bush White House officials involved in discussions about the fate of the destroyed interrogation tapes.

Even before the CIA tapes scandal, Gonzales had become the subject of angry editorials and protests on campuses near and far. At the University of Florida last month, he was viciously heckled to the point that two students wearing black hoods and orange jumpsuits blaring the words "civil liberties"- impersonating prisoners at Abu Ghraib - walked on stage and stood next to the former attorney general as he spoke. (Until they were arrested.)

It was a tough way to make $40,000. And it stands to get tougher. Gonzales is scheduled to speak on Feb. 19 at Washington University in St. Louis, where more demonstrations are expected, according to the student body president.

The talent agency Gonzales signed up with to get him speaking gigs at colleges and universities doesn't seem to be having a ton of luck. The agency, Greater Talent Network, based in New York, sent out a blast email to schools pitching Gonzales as a top-notch get - without mentioning, of course, that he's raising money for his legal defense fund. (Given the uproar, it's a good thing the agency promises its clients "the experience to handle any crisis, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week." Though one crisis the agency cannot handle is questions from reporters about Gonzales' popularity - or lack thereof - on the speaking circuit. "No one here would answer questions from a reporter," snapped one of the associates who answered the agency's phone, before she hung up on us.)

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Imaginary friends

Romney defended himself against attacks that the Church of Latter Day Saints is a racist organization by making shit up.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Straight talk!

John McCain tries to get a NYT story squashed and compares that story to a sleazy push poll by the 2000 Bush campaign.

That must be why the media loves him!

By the way, Digby -- a true straight talker -- is having a fund raiser.

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PEDs and HGHs

Ok, I haven't really weighted in on the Mitchell Report revelations with more than a brief nod. I plead guilty, but with the extenuating circumstances that there wasn't really anything in it that we didn't already know. Use is fairly widespread, but use is limited to marginal players for the most part.

Expect for Andy Pettite. That did surprise me. But Pettite's misdeads involved a couple of injections of human growth hormone with the intent to speed recovery from an injured elbow, "to help the team," according to his accuser. And someday, Steve Goldman may get his wish and someone will explain to the public the uses and effects of HGH so they'll no longer be naturally lumped with steroids.

Of Clemens, those of us who watched him decline with the Red Sox than suddenly turn it around with the Blue Jays and the Yankees had our suspicions. And we found pretty cynical the press coverage that relentlessly accused Bonds of juicing but chalked Clemens' anti-aging to his "incredible work ethic." If the reports are true, like Bonds, he used the stuff to lengthen a career that was clearly on the wrong side of the bell curve. And like Bonds, if the report is true, Clemens was right when he said that steroids "worked pretty good" for him (and, if true, those Red Sox fans who vilified Dan Duquette for letting Clemens walk owe the former GM an apology).

And when Andy Pettite did the right thing and admitted his HGH use and apologized, it certainly lent credibility to the report. It makes sense that the same trainer who supplied (and injected) him was probably doing the same for his workout partner. In fact, it's likely that it was his buddy's idea to give them a try in the first place.

At the same time, though, the Mitchell Report accusations against Clements rely on one guy with a Federal plea deal. There are no receipts, no delivery statements. So I don't blame Clemens for his "vigorous" denials. Unlike Bonds, there are no BALCO timetables to be decoded. And unlike Pete Rose, there are no betting slips to hang him with. For Clemens to admit that the report is true, there would be calls from the peanut gallery for him to return four of his Cy Youngs. That's a steep price to pay even if failing to admit and apologize may make him a villain in the eyes of many of the writers who vote for the HofF.

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We're winning!

Our presence is a force for unity!

Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of "occupying forces" as the key to national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the U.S. military last month.

That is good news, according to a military analysis of the results. At the very least, analysts optimistically concluded, the findings indicate that Iraqis hold some "shared beliefs" that may eventually allow them to surmount the divisions that have led to a civil war.

Hating an occupying force even more than you hate your rivals for power is not a "shared belief." It's a hatred of an occupying force.



Demanding a correction without disputing the content of a news story.

The White House press office responded with uncommon hostility to the Times story this morning, demanding a correction -- while conspicuously not denying the substance of the story.

In a blistering early-morning statement, Perino wrote: "The New York Times today implies that the White House has been misleading in publicly acknowledging or discussing details related to the CIA's decision to destroy interrogation tapes.

"The sub-headline of the story inaccurately says that the 'White House Role Was Wider Than It Said', and the story states that ' . . . the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes . . . was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged.'

"Under direction from the White House General Counsel while the Department of Justice and the CIA Inspector General conduct a preliminary inquiry, we have not publicly commented on facts relating to this issue, except to note President Bush's immediate reaction upon being briefed on the matter. Furthermore, we have not described -- neither to highlight, nor to minimize -- the role or deliberations of White House officials in this matter.

"The New York Times' inference that there is an effort to mislead in this matter is pernicious and troubling, and we are formally requesting that NYT correct the sub-headline of this story."

At today's mid-day briefing, Perino announced that The Times had agreed to run a correction in tomorrow's paper. But that doesn't make her argument any more sound.

Yes, nobody in the White House has said anything of substance on the record -- but that doesn't mean there wasn't a controlled and intentional leak intended to steer reporters away. In fact, on December 7, the day after the tape story broke in the New York Times, multiple administration officials spoke to multiple reporters spreading what now appears to be a misleading narrative involving Miers.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy holidays!

Letting Limbaugh write her column

Maureen Dowd takes her hackism and misogyny to whole new levels. How many words can you find in Rogets for "hag?"

And so the inevitable came to pass this week when Rush Limbaugh began riffing about an unflattering picture of Hillary in New Hampshire that Matt Drudge put up on his Web site with the caption, “The Toll of a Campaign.”

“So the question is this,” the radio personality said. “Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?”

Observing that Hillary is stuck with a looks-obsessed culture and that the presidency ages its occupants, including W., Limbaugh observed that “men aging makes them look more authoritative, accomplished, distinguished. Sadly, it’s not that way for women, and they will tell you.”

And Hillary, he noted, “is not going to want to look like she’s getting older, because it will impact poll numbers, it will impact perceptions.” So, he added, “there will have to be steps taken to avoid the appearance of aging.”

He said that voters lean toward attractive men, too, and that since TV, it’s less likely that a bloated “fat-guy” president would get elected — recalling that some were gauging whether Al Gore would run by checking his weight.

Limbaugh finished up with this: “Let me give you a picture, just to think about. ... The campaign is Mitt Romney vs. Hillary Clinton in our quest in this country for visual perfection, hmm?”

Paul Costello, who was an aide to Rosalynn Carter and Kitty Dukakis, calls this “the snake belly of the campaign,” and notes drily: “We’ve been staring at aging white men from the beginning of the democracy.”

Yet if you were beginning to think that a chastened MoDo was going to defend her fellow woman of a certain age, you haven't been paying attention for the past decade.

Yet it’s true that looks matter in politics, even though Abe Lincoln still ranks as our favorite president. J.F.K.’s tan and Nixon’s 5-o’clock shadow helped turn that 1960 debate in Kennedy’s favor, just as Gore’s waxy orange makeup and condescending mien hurt him in a debate with W.

Well that bit of disingenuous blather was inevitable, wasn't it? As is this.

An older Iowa man, who saw her this week in Le Mars, was impressed. “Hillary is much more handsome — or beautiful — live,” he told The Times’s Jeff Zeleny. “She doesn’t photograph very well.”

Since this is the first time we’ve had a woman who was a serious contender for president, it’s been an adjustment to watch her more changeable looks, and to see the lengths she goes to get the right lighting and to make the right wardrobe choices. She has a much more consistent look than she did as first lady, when she made a dizzying — and disconcerting — array of changes in her hair and style.

Hillary doesn’t have to worry about her face. She has to worry about her mask. Back in the ’92 race, Clinton pollsters devised strategies to humanize her and make her seem more warm and maternal. Fifteen years later, her campaign is devising strategies to humanize her and make her seem more warm and maternal.
With that kind of analysis, another Pulitzer can only be just around the corner.

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Destroying NOLA

What Katrina failed to destroy, the Bush administration's HUD is determined to finish off.

In fairness, HUD's eagerness to tear apart the fabric of community that supports New Orlean's poor precedes the Bush administration. But the destruction of Katrina, compounded by the Bush administration fabled incompetence was a chance to rethink this; to figure out ways to improve the city, not further dislocate an already uprooted community.

Few would argue for preserving every one of the projects as it exists today. The facades of a 1950s section of the B. W. Cooper housing complex, for example, are monotonously repetitive. Its claustrophobic lobbies are in sharp contrast to the more private, individual entrances found in some of the older apartments, and the overall quality of construction is low.

But the best of the projects, built as part of the New Deal’s progressive social agenda, feature many elements that are prized by mainstream urban planners today.

At the Lafitte housing complex, a matrix of pedestrian roads fuses the apartment blocks into the city’s street grid and the fabric of the surrounding neighborhood. Low-rise apartments and narrow front porches, set around what were once beautfully landscaped gardens, are intended to encourage a spirit of community.

The quality of the construction materials would also be unimaginable in public housing today: Their concrete structural frames, red-brick facades and pitched terra cotta roofs would seem at home on a university campus.

The problems facing these projects have more to do with misguided policy and the city’s complex racial history than with bad design. The deterioration can be attributed to the government’s decision decades ago to gut most of the public services that supported them.

In the last few months the public has been able to judge firsthand how hollow HUD’s argument for demolition is. Just a few miles from Lafitte, the developer Pres Kabacoff is completing a renovation of the five remaining two- and three-story apartment blocks at the St. Thomas housing project, a complex that was partly demolished before the storm. The apartments, which are similar in scale to Lafitte’s, were renovated at a cost of under $200 per square foot — roughly what new construction with lesser materials would have cost.

Their handsome brick facades, decorated with wrought-iron rails and terra cotta roofs, are a stark contrast to the generic suburban tract houses that surround them on all sides. (And they are likely to be far more durable in the next storm.)

The point is that HUD’s one-size-fits-all mentality fails to take into account the specific realities of each project. The agency refuses to make distinctions between the worst of the housing projects and those, like Lafitte, that could be at least partly salvaged. Nor will it acknowledge the trauma it causes by boarding up and then eradicating entire communities in a reeling city.

If the point is to turn New Orleans into some kind of exurban housing tract, what's the point?

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Christmas Carol

Promotional Announcement: Wynona (Ashley's sis, I think), Jon Secada (who?), Olivia Newton John, and -- I think they said this -- "stars from 'Dancing with the Stars'" will be the headliners of ABC's "Christmas with the President at Ford Theater." If that doesn't sum up Our Great Times then Lincoln surely died in vain.




We've reached the point with this war where what ordinary people would regard with horror and revulsion is perceived by its fans as great news. Of course, as ever, they're not nuts, we're nuts. "If peace arrives even in Baghdad," sighs Totten, "...somebody, somewhere, will complain that Iraq has been taken over by the imperial powers of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Starbucks." I say, send Starbucks now: their product tastes like foul water, too, but at least it's been boiled.

And see Kia, in comments.

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I'm not there

Wow, doesn't she look like him, once upon a time?

Consider this an open thread, you slackers!

Just kidding.

UPDATE: Couldn't resist the title.



Congratulations, Senator Dodd.

Majority Leader Harry Reid has just pulled the FISA bill from consideration in this session. It will be brought up at some point next month.

Without Senator Dodd's leadership today, it is safe to assume that retroactive immunity would have passed.

This is a great victory for the American people. His outspoken opposition to retroactive immunity and the Intelligence Committee's FISA bill made it impossible to move forward now. From a process standpoint, that took the persistent shadow of a Dodd filibuster on this legislative process, a "hold" against any legislation that included retroactive immunity, and today, a refusal to grant unanimous consent to rules of debate that would have made it harder to strip retroactive immunity from the Intel Committee's bill through the Dodd-Feingold Amendment. He brought along some of the Senate's most passionate voices -- Senator's Feingold, Kennedy, Boxer, Wyden, Brown and Bill Nelson joined him to stand up to the President today.

At least we have one Senator in CT who isn't a caricature of Deputy Dawg.

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Monday, December 17, 2007


Pursue-ant to my last post, Doghouse Riley says it a lot better.

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Tako Sushi

It's getting monotonous. Every day, another example of the statist, business friendly "elites" of the party, screaming "It's aliiiiive," as yet another monster of their making begin to get up off the operating table.

Dean Allen, a plump and friendly fellow sporting an American-flag tie, told me that he runs something called Spirit of Liberty; he’s also helping Witherspoon’s campaign. “Some of these people may be coming in here to get jobs washing dishes, but some of them are coming in here to hijack airplanes,” he explained. “If you’re down there trying to look at the people coming across the border, maybe a lot of them are just motivated by economics, and they want a job washing dishes or cutting grass. But I can’t tell Jose Cuervo from the Al Qaeda operatives by looking at them, because they cut their beard off. It’s like trying to get fly manure out of pepper without your glasses on, you know? I mean, not a racist thing, but they’re all brown with black hair and they don’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic or Spanish, so if they don’t belong here and they don’t come here legally, I want to know who’s here.” He echoed McCain’s observation that the anti-immigrant feeling is strongest in states with new Hispanic populations. “The illegal Hispanic population, it’s definitely growing,” he said. “I can tell you just from how many you see when you walk in Wal-Mart, and you drive down the street and you see buildings now with writing in Spanish that says ‘tienda,’ which is Mexican for ‘store.’ You didn’t see that even a year or two ago.”

After speaking for forty-five minutes, Witherspoon walked across the street with me to Tako Sushi and we sat outside, where heat lamps warmed us. Witherspoon is tall and bald, and he spoke quickly, like a man full of opinions he’s been eager to vent. In his speech, he had run through many of the issues that have been festering on the right: the Law of the Sea treaty; an alleged plan to combine Canada, the United States, and Mexico into a super-state; the Patriot Act. But he was most exercised about immigration and about Lindsey Graham’s betrayal on that issue. “There’s a lot of unrest in South Carolina,” he told me gravely. “And people are concerned that the Senator no longer represents the views of mainstream South Carolinians in a lot of ways. Immigration is the No. 1 issue, no question there. We’re concerned about illegal immigrants coming in here and—well, under the Bush Administration, it’s now seven years into his term, and he hasn’t done a lot about it.” He was not impressed by Bush’s big-tent philosophy of courting Hispanics as the future of the Republican Party. “The big tent is great. But that doesn’t mean ’cause it’s a big tent you should include everything under the tent.”

The GOP is reaping what they've sown. For liberals of the past 50 or so years, it's been a matter of waiting -- sometimes patiently, sometimes not so much -- for the Democratic party leadership to "come around." Civil rights, environmental protections, wage fairness -- wacky ideas that were untenable to the party's "elites" at the time, but of which they would eventually come to see the political advantages. For the Republican leadership, it's different. It's never been about policy, beyond tax cuts and deregulation. It was only about power. So they fed a constituency of the aggrieved, the spittle-flecked, the xenophobes, The Republicans encouraged the burgeoning stardom of phony fanatics, never seriously distancing themselves from their hateful speech. The Republicans, with the uneasy support of their corporate donors, empowered the crazies and the phony tough -- or at least made the idiots feel empowered. And now they aren't proving so patient.

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Airplane blue Monday

Drug war intransigence

It's not the judges, it's Congress.

There was an avalanche of sentencing news last week. The Supreme Court gave trial judges more power to show mercy, the United States Sentencing Commission gave almost 20,000 prisoners doing time on crack cocaine charges a good shot at early release, and even President Bush commuted a crack sentence.

The net effect: tinkering.

The United States justice system remains, by international standards at least, exceptionally punitive. And nothing that happened last week will change that.

Even the sentencing commission’s striking move on Tuesday, meant to address the wildly disproportionate punishments for crack and powder cocaine, will have only a minor impact. Unless Congress acts, many thousands of defendants will continue to face vastly different sentences for possessing and selling different types of the same thing.

Worth reading the whole thing...Liptak Mondays...

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Sunday, December 16, 2007


As Somerby has been reminding us for, lo, these last eight years, Frank Rich did as much as anyone to advance the false media "analysis" that would kill Al Gore's chance to keep George W. Bush out of power. He is, of course, at it again.

The inclusiveness preached by Obama-Oprah is practiced by the other Democrats in the presidential race, Mrs. Clinton most certainly included. Is Mr. Obama gaining votes over rivals with often interchangeable views because some white voters feel better about themselves if they vote for an African-American? Or is it because Mrs. Clinton’s shrill campaign continues to cast her as Nixon to Mr. Obama’s Kennedy? Even after she apologized to Mr. Obama for a top adviser’s “unauthorized” invocation of Mr. Obama’s long-admitted drug use as a young man, her chief strategist, Mark Penn, was apparently authorized to go on “Hardball” to sleazily insinuate the word “cocaine” into prime time again. Somewhere Tricky Dick is laughing.

Not only is Clinton "shrill" in a way that none of her male counterparts are, apparently, capable, but now she's positively Nixonian. Yes, "Tricky Dick" would no doubt be laughing...he was the master of creating a narrative about his opponents for a gullible press.

Our "liberal" columnists are our greatest impediment.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

The NRA economy

It's clear, now, why our economy is looking so good these days -- the National Rifle Assoc. vets the Bush administration's economic advisors.

“When I was at Treasury I worked with Ned Gramlich” — the late Federal Reserve governor —“on an initiative to get mortgage lenders to agree to best practices for their subprime loans,” she recalled the other day. But in 2002, she left Treasury for Amherst, Mass., where she joined the faculty of the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts — and promptly lost track of the issue. “I didn’t see the implications, nor did I realize this kind of lending had taken off,” she said.

Then, in the summer of 2006, the White House called. The person the administration had hoped to nominate as chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the nation’s primary bank regulator, was suddenly proving unacceptable. (According to the Washington rumor mill, that choice, Diana L. Taylor, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s companion and, at the time, New York’s superintendent of banking, was nixed by the National Rifle Association, presumably because of Mayor Bloomberg’s antigun stance.)

Suddenly, the administration needed a new nominee — a Republican who understood the issues surrounding financial institutions, was a known commodity in Washington, and had friends on both sides of the aisles. That describes Ms. Bair, a lifelong moderate Republican who cut her teeth working for Bob Dole, to a T. She took office in June 2006.


Hearting Huckabee, transparent Rudy!

I can't understand why the Republican establishment won't embrace the former Arkansas governor. His GOP credentials are impeccable: opposed health care reform and got paid for doing so.

When Mike Huckabee became lieutenant governor of Arkansas in 1993, he complained of being burdened by college tuition bills for his son, the expenses of two residences — one in Texarkana and the other in Little Rock — and the cost of commuting between the two.

With an annual salary of $25,452, he said he was falling short in covering the bills. “It was costing me money to be lieutenant governor,” Mr. Huckabee recalled in a 1997 newspaper interview.

To bridge the gap between his income and his expenses, Mr. Huckabee and a few close political advisers came up with a plan. They formed a nonprofit organization that raised money for Mr. Huckabee to travel the country promoting conservative politics to fellow ministers and attacking Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health care plan.

In its three-year life span, the organization, Action America, collected $119,916 from a dozen or so donors. Among them were former Senator Bob Dole’s political action committee, an Arkansas cotton gin owner who had been jailed for stock fraud, and R. J. Reynolds, the tobacco giant that had opposed the Clinton health plan. As for Mr. Huckabee, he ended up with $61,500 for his efforts before becoming governor in July 1996 and shuttering the group.

As information about the secretive group began to leak out in 1997, Democrats in Arkansas pressed for the identity of its donors, which Mr. Huckabee has refused to disclose. In addition, he failed to report his Action America income on his 1994 financial disclosure form, resulting in a “letter of caution” from the Arkansas Ethics Commission in 1997.

As Mr. Huckabee moves to the top tier of Republican candidates, his involvement in Action America and accusations of ethical lapses while he held office in Arkansas are drawing new scrutiny. In all, at least 16 ethics complaints, including the one involving Action America, were filed against Mr. Huckabee, with violations found in five of them and a $1,000 fine assessed.

As for Action America, new details have emerged, first reported by Newsweek, about the extent of tobacco money behind it and the way the industry tried to use Mr. Huckabee’s rising profile among conservatives to create grass-roots opposition to the Clinton effort, which would have raised taxes on cigarettes.

Mr. Huckabee, who was president of Action America, has denied knowing that Reynolds money was behind the group — a claim other officers of Action America dispute. But long before Mr. Huckabee began seeking the Republican presidential nomination, he resisted efforts to identify Action America’s donors.

Meanwhile, Jim Dwyer reminds us of the open government Giuliani promises.

A few years back, a man named Russell Harding held a City Hall patronage job that came with a government credit card, which he used to steal more than $250,000.

Crooks happen. What kept Mr. Harding in thievery for three years was that the city government, led by his patron, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, slammed the door on the one person who sought the Harding credit card records, a reporter with The Village Voice who filed freedom of information requests.

These requests were stalled until the next mayor took office and released the documents. Before long, Mr. Harding was packed off to prison.

In a debate among Republican candidates this week, Mr. Giuliani was asked what promises he would make about running an open White House.

“I would make sure that government was transparent,” Mr. Giuliani said. “My government in New York City was so transparent that they knew every single thing I did almost every time I did it.”

That was a daring claim, considering that prying information out of the Giuliani City Hall required teams of lawyers with the persistence of mules. To cite three of the most prominent examples, he tried to block the release of different batches of public records to the city’s Independent Budget Office, to the city’s public advocate, and to the state comptroller. He was sued on each occasion. He lost every time. He appealed each decision. He lost every appeal.

“So,” Mr. Giuliani said during the debate, looking toward his presidency, “I would be extremely open.”

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Fear and loathing

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Baseball news!

The Yankees and Alex Rodriguez completed the terms of Rodriguez's 10 year, $275 million contract.



You were expecting something else?

Oh, the Mitchell Report? Sounds like a pretty bad afternoon for Roger Clemens* and his reputation for being the hardest working man in baseball,

I did find this passage pretty illustrative of who Mitchell blames and who he, basically, doesn't:

1. Bowie Kuhn and Baseball’s First Drug Policies

Baseball’s first written drug policy was announced by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn
at the beginning of the 1971 season.83 At the time, the problem of drug abuse, especially the use of marijuana, had gained national attention, and Congress had just enacted the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.84

While focusing on prevention and treatment in the first instance, baseball’s original drug policy provided for the possibility of discipline for failure to comply with federal and state drug laws. Just a year earlier, pitcher Jim Bouton had published his memoir, Ball Four, in which he alleged that there was widespread use of amphetamines by major league players.85

The 1971 drug policy memo stated that the “unprescribed possession or distribution of
amphetamines or barbiturates (including ‘greenies’)” was a violation of law that could be the
basis for discipline.

Notice No. 12, Memorandum from Major League Baseball Office of the Commissioner
to Administrative Officials of Major League Baseball Re: Drug Education and Prevention
Program, dated Apr. 5, 1971.
Pub. L. No. 91-513, 84 Stat. 1236 (1970) (codified as amended in various sections of
21 U.S.C.).
See Jim Bouton, Ball Four at 81, 157, 171, 211-12 (Wiley 1990 ed.).

Might have mentioned that Bowie Kuhn tried to suppress the publication of Ball Four.

I also find it interesting that the dangers of steroids and HGH are mentioned, but nothing on the advantages of using. In fact, the report admits that HGH is not believed to benefit players' strength and conditioning.

One other thing. I firmly believe this whole thing would have been dealt with had the owners not unceremoniously dumped Fay Vincent as commissioner. He was the only commissioner the players had reason to trust. Not Kuhn, not Ueberroth, and surely not Bud Selig.

* If you can convict on the testimony of one witness and guilt by association.

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"Ship of tools"

Yes, Chris Matthews is insane. But given his weird ideas about the workings of the internal combustion engine, surely he's lost his pundit credentials to talk about the concerns of real people.

Soon, this well-matched pair of pundits were explaining the presidential politics of the past eight years. Matthews raised a typically vacuous point—and omigod! Oh! My! God! Rich waxed about George Bush’s “brilliance:”

MATTHEWS (continuing directly): You know, the good question in the last campaign—and neither candidate did so well—and I think Bush may have edged out John Kerry on that—to get to your point, if your car is broke down along the side of the road, and you’re trying to fix a tire or whatever, your engine is steamed up, over-boiled or whatever, who’s going to stop and help you? Hillary? Obama? Who wins? Does either one of them win it out? Or are they both too big-picture to stop and help you?

RICH: Well, I think, in this campaign, they would not only both stop and help you, but they would change the tire themselves.

I’m joking. And there may be also a gender issue there that you would—you would think the man would do it. But, but I do think it’s a continuing problem among Democrats in general, if not Obama. For instance, that’s why, even if it’s unfair, the $400 haircut keeps coming back to haunt John Edwards.


RICH: And sort of the brilliance of George Bush was, even though he was an aristocrat, an Andover-Yale-Harvard blue blood, he somehow convinced the American public that he would change that tire and buy you a beer, while he had a non-alcoholic beer himself—


RICH: —and share it with you.

That’s why the $400 haircut keeps coming up, Rich said—bringing the $400 haircut up. And beyond that, that was the brilliance of Bush! “Somehow,” Bush was able to convince the public that he was a regular fellow.


Previewing Republican talking points


I mean, Shaheen's probably correct in saying that the GOP hit squads will target Obama for pretty much everything he's written in his two books, but that doesn't mean it's valuable to raise this now. And, besides, smoking pot? Who fucking cares? Hell, this might even help Obama among the farmers of Iowa. Just makes Clinton look increasingly desperate.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ike Turner

Indeed, the coalition would be ripped asunder

Seeing the cover was hilarious enough. Reading the text is side-splitting:

Uniting the conservative coalition is not enough to win a presidential election, but it is a prerequisite for building on that coalition. Rudolph Giuliani did extraordinary work as mayor of New York and was inspirational on 9/11. But he and Mike Huckabee would pull apart the coalition from opposite ends: Giuliani alienating the social conservatives, and Huckabee the economic (and foreign-policy) conservatives. A Republican party that abandoned either limited government or moral standards would be much diminished in the service it could give the country.

The last seven years have surely proven that.

They go on to talk about some kind of moist field of candiates.

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The editors and their principles

Unfortunately, I had just taken a gulp of coffee when I saw this.


The Mitchell Report

Tomorrow's the big unveiling. ESPN's Howard Bryant has been following the investigation for the past several months. His conclusion:

Some of the cracks in the Mitchell investigation's foundation -- Mitchell's inability to compel players to cooperate, for example -- were unavoidable, insiders say. Others were not, including the investigators' lack of familiarity with baseball's locker room and insider culture, and Mitchell's own apparent conflicts of interest.

Over the past 20 months, the investigation has exposed a raw nerve in an already-fractured industry. Now, in the days before its release, the contents of Mitchell's final report remain shrouded in mystery. The question is whether Mitchell's findings will heal or further harden baseball.

"I don't think any good came out of it, because it's all going to damage the game," said one American League trainer about the investigation. "Part of me thinks, OK, they blame the trainers. Then what? Or they blame the GMs. Then what? Or they name players. Then what?

"But the one thing it did is solidify the testing program and make everyone aware. I thought this all should have been done in-house, but it has made everybody accept it more, that there's no going back. Nobody at any level can say they don't know anymore. This is the world, and there's no going back."

The story is at times hilarious and depressing, and its hard to figure out what Mitchell will conclude and what he'll use for evidence. Interviews with trainers? The 2003 drug testing results, which the Players Union thought were confidential? What Curt Schilling might have let slip while next to Mitchell in the Red Sox Executive Bathroom? David Pinto summarizes and adds:

The Sports Network interviewed the people Mitchell interviewed to find out how the investigation was carried out. A quick summary:
  • A number of people think Mitchell has a huge conflict of interest due to his relationship with the Red Sox.
  • Various groups (GMs, trainers, strength coaches) feel they will be unjustly blamed in the report because their jobs have no protection (no union, no ownership).
  • There was a sense that the investigators didn't know the right questions to ask. They also wanted speculation when facts were not available.

Here is one example of a complaint:

"The problem was, what did they want us to say?" said a team trainer who was interviewed by Mitchell's investigators in 2006. "They wanted us to speculate. And I wouldn't do that. They wanted me to say who I thought was using steroids. And when I said, 'I don't know,' they would say, 'Well, you work most closely with these guys. You work on their bodies every day. You weren't the least bit suspicious when you saw their bodies change?'

"This was the kind of stuff I was most afraid of, because they didn't ask me about specific people with specific information that they had. They asked me to guess. I said my guess was no guess at all, because what would happen to me if I said a guy was using steroids who wasn't? What if I guessed wrong? Then my name is out there, I get fired, and I'm easily replaceable."

There's good reason not to speculate. Bob Tufts, a player from 1981 to 1983 with San Francisco and Kansas City wrote me over the weekend to complain raise issue with the Mitchell investigation. He suffered from having his name associated with drugs:

The only issue with me was the cocaine stuff in SF and KC in my days there. As I told Murray Chass, I was told by a former club official and also a current federal judge that I was not able to get a job in 84 due to my name being associated with Blue, Aikens, Wilson and Martin. Due to this, it is best to tell the papers suing for names in the Radmomski files to shut up before you possibly damage another career.
In truth, I see very little good coming of the Mitchell Report. If names are named, a lot of reputations would be damaged, but it won't affect a player's career (though Hall of Fame entry may be affected for any stars named) or money. If names aren't named, the "fans" will think it's a white wash, and may think so anyway if team ownership isn't part of those named as culpable. And even if names are named, the good players will continue to be dogged by suspicion.

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The Primate

I've read he's a learned man, but he says some really stupid things.

"Everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of new life ... constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace," Benedict writes.
Via Matt.

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I saw Plant and Page ten years or so, so I knew they still had great chops, but sounds like they put on a fantastic show.

The excitement in the hall felt extreme, and genuine; the crowd roars between encores were ravenous. At the end of it all, as the three original members took a bow, Mr. Bonham knelt before them and genuflected.

In 1980, I was at a show at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, CA (Santana, I think, with Al Di Meola...remember him?), when Bill Graham turned the usual boos he was met with into cheers as he announced a new Zeppelin tour set for the following spring. John Bonham died shortly after. I hope, with John's son behind the drum kit, another tour is in the offing. Though, and I'm just guessing here, the only thing worse than a Neil Young fan at a concert is a Zeppelin fan.


"Turn 'em all in"

Maybe now we can stop the narrative that Giuliani is a "moderate" on social issues. It was never really true...he was just running for mayor of New York City, for chrissakes, where abortion is mandatory and everyone is gay...but that train has officially left the station.

Mr. Giuliani has also changed his tone on immigration. He was quoted in The Washington Examiner on Tuesday as saying that when he was mayor of New York, he realized that the Immigration and Naturalization Service was not about to deport the estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants in New York.

“If they could, I would have turned all the people over,” Mr. Giuliani said in the interview, which was given for the new book “Meet the Next President: What You Don’t Know About the Candidates” (Threshold Editions), by Bill Sammon, a reporter for The Examiner. “It would have helped me. I would have had a smaller population. I would have had fewer problems.”

In 1994 as mayor, Mr. Giuliani said the opposite.

“Some of the hardest-working and most productive people in this city are undocumented aliens,” he said. “If you come here and you work hard and you happen to be in an undocumented status, you’re one of the people who we want in this city. You’re somebody that we want to protect, and we want you to get out from under what is often a life of being like a fugitive, which is really unfair.”

Meanwhile, Alan Keyes is back??!!


Sports talk culture

I think this is true. One is tempted to exaggerate, but one of the few places we hear real discussions of economic disparity, race, drug use, etc., is sports talk least the better ones, like Mike & The Mad Dog and, as discussed in the article, Rome's show (which I'm not all that familiar with).

In my opinion, there's no space to critique our current economy, whether you're Democrat or Republican. They're all on board around, basically, the government's to support corporations, rather than the old liberal, Keynesian economy, where the government's there to at least try to mediate the market forces. Everybody's on board now, I think even Barack Obama or Hillary: It's just unrestrained capitalism.

So I listen to radio. In order to do the research I also listened to Howard Stern and, you name it. NPR. And the only place where I hear some critique of our economic system, other than, oh, you know, Air America, is sports-talk radio, of all places. So I think in some ways, that's the potential.


Against it before they were for it

This would be funny, if...

Mr. McConnell and his fellow Republicans are playing such tight defense, blocking nearly every bill proposed by the slim Democratic majority that they are increasingly able to dictate what they want, much to the dismay of the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, and frustrated Democrats in the House.

In fact, the Senate Republicans are so accustomed to blocking measures that when the Democrats finally agreed last week to their demands on a bill to repair the alternative minimum tax, the Republicans still objected, briefly blocking the version of the bill that they wanted before scrambling to approve it later.

It's interesting. Under the direction of Eddie "the chins" Gillespie, Bush has taken to petulantly referencing "lazy Congress," rather than denigrating the "Democrat Party." It's a curious strategy to be sure and even has some incumbents in his own party sounding worried.

“I am not seeing much common ground, meeting in the center,” said Senator Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, a Republican who is seeking a third term. “And if we don’t find that, the Senate will fail in its governing responsibilities.

“The thing that’s important to remember is that the Senate was structured to govern from the center, to find the common sense. There is little sense about this place right now.”

Bush and McConnell don't seem to care all that much about that.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

This day in baseball

Ah, those were the days.

Dec. 11, 1959: The New York Yankees traded outfielders Norm Siebern and Hank Bauer, first baseman Marv Throneberry, and pitcher Don Larsen to the Kansas City Athletics for outfielder Roger Maris, shortstop Joe DeMaestri, and first baseman Kent Hadley.

It was bad enough for the A’s to send Maris, already widely recognized as one of the most exciting young left-handed power hitters in the game, along to the Yankees and their short right field porch. But it was far worse that they did it for no defensible reason.

Yes, Siebern was a fine young left-handed-hitting outfielder. But so was Maris; exchanging one for the other accomplished nothing for the A’s, and moreover Maris was younger than Siebern, more powerful, quicker on the bases, and a far better fielder. And yes, Throneberry was an impressive young long-balling first baseman, but so was Hadley; Throneberry as well provided nothing the Athletics didn’t already have.

And Bauer and Larsen had of course once been standouts, but at this point Bauer was obviously over the hill and the tender-armed Larsen had struggled in 1959. Acquiring them wasn’t close to worth surrendering DeMaestri, Kansas City’s light-hitting but slick-fielding first-string shortstop.

The deal worked out spectacularly for the Yankees, of course, as Maris immediately blossomed into a back-to-back MVP-winning superstar. But the discomfiting aspect of the trade was the manner in which it was so transparently designed to serve the Yankees’ purposes, and their purposes only: they achieved an upgrade from Siebern to Maris while costing themselves nothing (indeed, while converting the unneeded Bauer and Larsen into a useful backup shortstop in DeMaestri). Meanwhile the Athletics improved nowhere.

Given the cozy business relationship between the Yankees’ and Athletics’ ownerships (K.C. owner Arnold Johnson held the deed to Yankee Stadium, and was thus the Yankees’ landlord), and the long string of similarly questionable trades between the franchises that had been occurring since Johnson’s acquisition of the A’s in 1954, there’s little conclusion to draw other than that this one stunk to high heaven.


Peeling The Onion

Is the purpose of the Bush/Cheney administration to deny The Onion of story ideas?

President Bush intends to name former Washington Post columnist James K. Glassman to lead the State Department's struggling efforts to improve the United States' image abroad, replacing longtime Bush confidante Karen Hughes.

Glassman, now chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the Voice of America, will be named the new undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, administration officials said. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the announcement has not yet been made.

The officials said the choice was expected to be made public by Friday, the day Hughes has set for her departure from the position after two years.

Glassman was chosen in part because he has already won Senate confirmation for his current job, which he began in June, and the administration was looking for someone who could avoid a bruising confirmation fight in an election year, the officials said.

Glassman wrote a weekly column on investing for The Post from 1993 to 2004 and also was a top manager of several publications, including the magazines Atlantic Monthly, the New Republic and U.S. News & World Report and the congressional newspaper Roll Call.

If confirmed, Glassman, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank, would take over an outreach operation that has been criticized for being ineffective, particularly in the Muslim world.

Hughes boosted the number of Arabic speakers representing the United States in Arabic media, set up three public relations centers overseas to monitor and respond to the news, and nearly doubled the public diplomacy budget, to almost $900 million annually. Despite her efforts, polls have shown no improvement in the world's view of the United States.

The Post doesn't mention his qualifications other than taking wingnut welfare at AEI, but I'm sure Glassman will bring the same steely-eyed realism to relations with "the Muslim world" that he brought to investment advice in the '90s.


"Ha, ha, Ted"

Jesus Christ, Goldberg is a fucking idiot.

Let's see. Ted Kennedy said the tapes were destroyed in response to the Democratic victory in 2006 in order to cover administration tracks in a Watergate-like cover-up. The tapes were actually destroyed in 2005, on the decision of career CIA officials (You know: the Valerie Plame crowd) and the lawyers gave them a greenlight. Nice try Ted, thanks for playing and please take this home version of the Bloviator is Wrong as a consolation prize.

The key takeaway from the destruction of these tapes is 1.) It can't be a "Watergate-like cover up," because it took place in 2005, and 2.) it's a perfect opportunity to discredit....Valerie Plame...a nuclear proliferation expert.

Glad we cleared that up.

And this is from an op-ed writer for the LATimes. We live in a modern Athens.

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What ifs and buts

Dahlia Lithwick and Emily Bazelon wonder what it would have meant had the CIA not destroyed the torture tapes.

Kevin Drum started asking the questions we are posing over the weekend. He pointed out that the tapes would have revealed "not just that we had brutally tortured an al-Qaeda operative, but that we had brutally tortured an al-Qaeda operative who was (a) unimportant and low-ranking, (b) mentally unstable, (c) had no useful information, and (d) eventually spewed out an endless series of worthless, fantastical 'confessions' under duress." Those confessions, and others like them, have been the underpinning for much of the government's legal assault on the rule of law in recent years, from free and open trials, to secret expansions of executive powers. Certainly Drum is speculating, just like we are. It's impossible to say for sure what the tapes would have revealed, much less how such revelations might have changed all these recent events. But it's worth trying to refit the pieces, because this evidence was deliberately obliterated. Otherwise, the CIA's act of destruction wins.

Like so many crimes committed over the past seven years, I'm not holding my breath that anyone will be held to account on this.

Kevin Drum continues to ask interesting questions.

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The Knicks have season-ticket holders?

Their must be a name for such a pathology, similar to Munchausens, or something, that would lead someone to go to Madison Square Garden night after night to watch Isaiah Thomas's Knicks play.

On several occasions, the Knicks' embattled coach could be seen talking to fans at center court near the Knicks' bench. Longtime season-ticket holder Mara Altschuler claimed that Thomas blamed the fans for the Knicks' problems. When some fans began chanting Jeff Van Gundy's name, Thomas replied, "You ran him out of here as well," according to Altschuler.

Thomas later appeared surprised when asked about his conversations with fans. He didn't deny them but rather gave a convoluted answer that didn't exactly clear things up. "I was just, uh, trying to make sure, um, that we kept the team together and we stayed focused on what we were doing and trying to win a basketball game," Thomas said. "Our fans are great. They support us and they show up and we're glad they're here."

Thomas' relationship with fans has been especially strained since September, when it was alleged during the Anucha Browne Sanders sexual harassment trial that he made a derogatory comment about white season-ticket holders. Thomas has vehemently denied saying such a thing to Sanders.

Last night's back and forth with season-ticket holders came on the same day that the Garden reached an $11.5 million settlement with Sanders that was announced 90 minutes before tipoff.

Thomas refused to answer questions about the settlement, saying only: "As I've said before, I am completely innocent. This decision doesn't change that. However it's in the best interests of Madison Square Garden to move forward. And I fully support it."

Oh, yeah.

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Moral equivalence

raises its ugly head!

For a Party standing squarely against moral equivalence, they expend a lot of energy telling voters that the Democrats did it, too.

I wonder if it will work. We are closer to the 2008 elections than we are to the 2006 elections that put Pelosi and Reid into power. All deserve whipping, but given the choice, whom will the voters seek to punish next year -- the Party of the wheelman, or the Party of Mr. Big?

Some Democrats are forced to say they were wrong to support the Republicans, and some Republicans happily admit that those Democrats were wrong to support them. Sometimes, when you try to reframe the issue, you find that the issue is actually framing you.


You crack me up


ric·tus (rĭk'təs) Pronunciation Key
n. pl. rictus or ric·tus·es

1. The expanse of an open mouth, a bird's beak, or similar structure.
2. A gaping grimace: "his mouth gaping in a kind of rictus of startled alarm" (Richard Adams).

The astute Chris Cillizza, though, thought Giuliani's performance was proof he "more than ready to hit the major league fastball." Great analysis, Chris.


Monday, December 10, 2007


Open thread: Tom Brady: (a.) greatest QB evah? (b) greatest evah, period?

I have no idea what Bob Ryan is trying to get at, here.

But we all bought into it, anyway. We loved the weekly blowouts. We loved the talk about records. We loved the idea that Tom Brady might blow past Babe Ruth and Roger Maris. We loved the idea that the Patriots might really be the Greatest Team That Ever Was. It was fun to talk about, for sure.

I'm pretty sure that Ryan knows this, seeing as how he's the senior baseball writer at The Globe, but perhaps senility has led him to think that Ruth and Maris played for the New York Football Giants.



May have to start a new feature here: Adam Liptak Mondays, or something.

A judge in Canada has ruled that the United States has violated international conventions on torture and the rights of refugees.

n his studiously technical 124-page decision, Justice Phelan found that a one-year deadline for filing asylum claims here, enacted by Congress in 1996, had been applied in recent years in ways that violated the international convention on refugees.

He found a similar flaw in a provision of the USA Patriot Act that, as interpreted by the Bush administration’s immigration courts, allows people to be excluded for providing material support to terrorists — even if the support was coerced or under duress.

In other words, providing food at gunpoint may be material support of terrorism, as is paying ransom for a kidnapped relative.

Justice Phelan’s decision also cited the findings of a Canadian commission in the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian whom the United States sent to Syria, where the commission said he was tortured.

Canada has paid him more than $10 million, which is one way to respond to his ordeal. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently conceded in general terms that the matter had not been “handled as it should have been,” which is another.

Justice Phelan said the “real life” example of Mr. Arar made the contention that the United States does not comply with the torture convention “credible.”

Over/under -- how many years will it take for the U.S. to regain its status in the world?

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Blue Monday, Tupelo edition


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Huckabee's rape and murder problem

Yes, there is something odd about the way the mainstream press is covering Huckabee's DuMond problem.

HUCKABEE AND DUMOND....Today in the LA Times, Richard Serrano has a story about the Wayne DuMond affair that's headlined "Parole case may dog Huckabee." The question at hand is: why did Mike Huckabee, as governor of Arkansas, push for the parole of Wayne DuMond, a convicted rapist who was then serving a 39-year sentence in the state Department of Correction's Tucker Unit? Let's listen in (all italics mine):

Three [parole] board members...said Huckabee raised the issue of DuMond's release, asking to discuss the matter with them in a closed session. They said his religious beliefs, and the influence of the evangelical community from which he came, drove him.

....[Jay] Cole, the minister who befriended DuMond, said: "The governor felt compassion for Wayne. He was sorry for him. So, I asked the governor to help. I asked him if anything could be done. And Mike had a lot of people on his neck trying to get him to get Wayne released."

....Cole, meanwhile, was working to help DuMond. Cole said he talked to "probably a hundred people" about his hope of winning DuMond's release, turning foremost to the evangelical community...."All of them thought Wayne was innocent," said Cole.

Interesting! Out of all the Arkansas prisoners who claimed to have discovered God, the Arkansas evangelical community chose DuMond as its poster boy. I wonder how that came about?

The answer, of course, was not merely that famous Southern evangelical compassion for convicted rapists serving out long sentences in state prison. It was because DuMond's victim was Bill Clinton's second cousin once removed, and the Clinton-hating fever swamp had long since turned DuMond into yet another of its spittle-flecked conspiracy theories about the endless treachery and hellish vengeance of William Jefferson Clinton upon his enemies. But you'll find not a single mention of this in Serrano's story.

I noticed a similar omission in the NY Times' coverage this morning. In fact, the Times' approach was to include his involvement in the DuMond case and his 1992 assertions that AIDs patients should be quarantined. In other words, higher profile, higher scrutiny. Not a word said about an obscure talk show nut and a New York Post attack dog obsessed with the Clenis.

Huckabee was then new to his job — he’d been in office only a couple of months — and was fearful of his first stumble, the official said.

In an effort to stem the political fallout, Huckabee and his staff agreed to meet for the first time with Dumond’s victim, Ashley Stevens, her family, and Fletcher Long, the prosecuting attorney who sent Dumond to prison. In interviews, both Walter “Stevie” Stevens, Ashley’s father, and Long both said they came away frustrated that Huckabee knew so few specifics about the case.

“He [Huckabee] kept insisting that there was DNA evidence that has since exonerated Dumond, when that very much wasn’t the case,” recalled Long. “No matter that that wasn’t true … we couldn’t seem to say or do anything to disabuse him of that notion.”

In fact, there had never been any DNA testing in the Ashley Stevens case.

The state official who advised Huckabee on the Dumond case confirmed that the governor knew very little about Ashley Stevens’ case:

“I don’t believe that he had access to, or read, the law enforcement records or parole commission’s files — even by then,” the official said. “He already seemed to have made up his mind, and his knowledge of the case appeared to be limited to a large degree as to what people had told him, what Jay Cole had told him, and what he had read in the New York Post.”

Jay Cole, like Huckabee, is a Baptist minister, pastor for the Mission Fellowship Bible Church in Fayetteville and a close friend of the governor and his wife. On the ultra-conservative radio program he hosts, Cole has championed the cause of Wayne Dumond for more than a decade.

Cole has repeatedly claimed that Dumond’s various travails are the result of Ashley Stevens’ distant relationship to Bill Clinton.

The governor was also apparently relying on information he got from Steve Dunleavy, first as a correspondent for the tabloid television show “A Current Affair” and later as a columnist for the New York Post.

Much of what Dunleavy has written about the Dumond saga has been either unverified or is demonstrably untrue. Dunleavy has all but accused Ashley Stevens of having fabricated her rape, derisively referring to her in one column as a “so-called victim,” and brusquely asserting in another, “That rape never happened.”

The columnist wrote that Dumond was a “Vietnam veteran with no record” when in fact he did have a criminal record. He claimed there existed DNA evidence by “one of the most respected DNA experts in the country” to exonerate Dumond, even though there was no such evidence. He wrote that Bill Clinton had personally intervened to keep Dumond in prison, even though Clinton had recused himself in 1990 from any involvement in the case because of his distant relationship with Stevens.

“The problem with the governor is that he listens to Jay Cole and reads Steve Dunleavy and believes them ... [sic.] without doing other substantative work,” the state official said.

Had Huckabee examined in detail the parole board’s files regarding Dumond, he would have known Dumond had compiled a lengthy criminal resume.

Funny, the Post didn't mention this either.

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