Wednesday, April 30, 2008

There should be a gas tax -- on the candidates

Dean Baker calls the Times to task for not identifying McCain's and Clinton's pandering for what it is.

Senator Clinton joined Senator McCain in calling for the temporary elimination of the 18.4 cent a gallon gas tax over the summer. While the article notes that, "environmentalists and many independent energy analysts" share Senator Obama's view that the elimination of the tax would save consumers little, it still asserts that, "his position allowed Mrs. Clinton to draw a contrast with her opponent in appealing to the hard-hit middle-class families and older Americans who have proven to be the bedrock of her support."

Actually, almost all economists would agree that the tax cut proposed by Senators Clinton and McCain would save consumers nothing. With the supply of gas largely fixed by the capacity of the oil industry (they claim to be running their refineries at full capacity), the price will not change in response to the elimination of the tax. The only difference will be that money that used to go to the government in tax revenues will instead go to the oil industry as higher profits.

If Senator Clinton is able to use this proposal to draw a contrast with Senator Obama in expressing concern for middle-class families it could only be attributable to the extraordinary incompetence of the reporters who are covering the campaign. While typical middle-class families may not have the time and background to realize that Senator Clinton's proposal would not save them any money, reporters do.

The fact that Senator Clinton, like Senator McCain, sought to deceive them with a bogus tax cut should have been the main theme of today's election reporting.

The Post explains further.

The moratorium proved politically popular in Illinois, but economically questionable. The Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission estimated that the state lost $175 million in revenue during the six-month period. A subsequent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that gas prices fell by an average of 3 percent while the moratorium was in effect, meaning that only 60 percent of the savings from reduced taxes was passed on to consumers.

"It turned out to have a pretty small effect," said Joseph Doyle, an assistant professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Consumers were slightly better off, but the benefits were spread very thinly, and the government was a lot worse off."

A Chicago Tribune poll showed that only 28 percent of motorists believed that they were actually paying less for gas as a result of the suspension of the tax.

Some economists say that a nationwide "gas tax holiday" would have even less impact on gas prices than a moratorium like the one passed by Illinois in 2000. "It's basic economics," said Len Burman, director of the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank. "Gas is always in very short supply during the summer, which is why prices go up. In order to reduce the price, you would have to increase supply, but that is difficult over the short term, because the refineries cannot add capacity."

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Ex;plorations in ergot fungus

On the following Monday, he deliberately swallowed a dose of LSD and rode his bicycle home as the effects of the drug overwhelmed him. That day, April 19, later became memorialized by LSD enthusiasts as “bicycle day.”

Dr. Hofmann’s work produced other important drugs, including methergine, used to treat postpartum hemorrhaging, the leading cause of death from childbirth. But it was LSD that shaped both his career and his spiritual quest.

Albert Hoffman, dead at 102.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Jeremiad continues

I was going to write about the latest Wright "controversy," but John Cole has gone ahead and done it for me.

So Jeremiah Wright has acted like a jackass the past few days, and he may have acted supremely selfishly by hurting Obama’s electoral chances. Regardless, he may be a flawed man, but that does not undo all the good he has done over the years. I don’t know of any bloggers with thirty years of service to the poor and the indigent. Get back to me when Chris Matthews feeds hungry people for three decades. And even with all his flaws, Jeremiah Wright did give us this quality bit of entertainment, and I have to admit to enjoying someone treat the media with the respect they deserve (which is to be mocked, have eyes rolled at them, and taunted as Wright did yesterday at the Press Club).

Maybe it is because I am totally and unrepentantly in the tank for Obama, but I just can’t get worked up over what his pastor said. Maybe it is because I am not religious, and I am used to religious people saying things that sound crazy. Or maybe I just refuse to spend any more time and energy getting worked up over and denouncing, distancing, and rejecting the wrong people- people who really don’t matter in the big scheme of things. If you have a memo from Jeremiah Wright to John Yoo showing how we should become a rogue nation, let me know. If you have pictures of Jeremiah Wright voting against the GI Bill, send it to me. If you have evidence of Jeremiah Wright training junior soldiers on the finer aspects of stacking and torturing naked Iraqi captives, pass them on.

Can I get an "amen?"

It is all a rather fascinating drama of father figures and prodigal sons, and it's just as well it's playing out now. Anyone still capable of being swayed by this stuff in November will have long grown weary of Obama's former pastor.

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But Scalia is such a nice guy when you get to know him

Just a day after his fellating by Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes, Scalia once again shows how "original" his "originalism" really is.

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"A hundred years"

If the McCain campaign objects so strongly to the DNC using his own words against him, shouldn't he deny having said what he said?

Because that would be fun.


Middle relief



A vicious circle

In order to be a successful blogaterian, one must read what idiots like Brooks, Kristol etc. write. But the more one reads those idiots, the less one wants to read them. The blog, as a result, suffers. C'est la vie.


Monday, April 28, 2008

McCain's health care idiocy

It knows no bounds. Get this, from a guy who gets his health care directly and for free from the U.S. government.

The Arizona senator criticized national government-run health plans in some European countries.

"I'm not going to do like the Europeans have and have expensive health care systems that are neither efficient or, frankly, the quality we have here in America," he said.

McCain plans a broader speech on his health care proposals on Tuesday. He toured the children's hospital in Miami, visiting a 36-day-old baby who was born prematurely with a heart disease and survived surgery, but who doctors said will need a lifetime of care.

A lifetime of care she won't be able to get with McCain's plan, because it's called a pre-existing condition. And he claims Obama's out of touch with "poor people."

As for cost and quality...

In Greece, the government and individuals combine to spend about $2,300 per capita on health care each year, and the average life expectancy is 79 years. Canada, where the hospitals are probably cleaner, spends about $3,300, and people live to about 80. Here in the United States, we spend more than $6,000, yet life expectancy is just below 78.

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A fake ID problem

The Supremes decide that efforts to prohibit people's rights to vote need only the slimmest of cause.

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Inside Dylan's brain

At least if you buy Duff MacDonald's theory about the Theme Time Radio Hour.

“It’s a quarter of a million miles from earth to the moon, and there’s no one I’d rather go with than Dinah Washington.”


Incoherence, or just "inconviction"

Yes, "inconviction" -- a word I've coined to sum up McCain's positions and campaign planks. While Clinton runs because she believes she's the right kind of technocrat to fix our problems, and Obama because he believes he represents a new kind of bridge-building politics (yes, I'm being simplistic to make a point), why, someone ought to ask, is McCain running?

Apparently not because he believes he will bring new "dignity" to the race.


Blue Monday, James Cotton edition

Everybody, take a little nip.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Kristian Kulturkamp

Oh, those internets. Every now and then you stumble upon a site and you are reminded why God gave us the mili-industri-academe complex which, in turn, gave us all those systems of tube, which, voila, gives us this:

Following cultural studies, ethnography, and cultural anthropology, I believe it's important to understand the radically utopian impulses, unspoken yearnings, and unconscious desires that flicker through contemporary evangelical Christianity. Dawkins and Hitchens make short work of Christianity and all its bigoted, irrational works and ways, for which we owe them a debt of gratitude. But their analysis lacks subtlety, and their understanding of why so many are seduced by religion, especially in America, is millimeter-deep. To say that Christianity is a Bronze Age fable, a holdover from the primitive childhood of the species, may be deeply satisfying to those of us tending the Enlightenment flame in these new dark ages, but it's also thumpingly obvious. Harris and Hitchens may be right, but they're not terribly enlightening, at least to anyone not living on a flat earth, in a pre-Copernican cosmos.

Then, too, there's the obvious problem that Dawkins is a humorless prig, as sanctimonious in his unbelief as true believers are in their faith. (I'm with Cartman on this one.) He's on a Mission From God when it comes to prosecuting the atheist case---a one-man crusade so obsessively all-consuming it runs the risk of elevating his unfaith to a sort of faith. He makes an ornament of power, as the postmodern Marxist McKenzie Wark would say. Meaning: he so fetishizes the object of his critique that he ends up exalting it, giving it more power than it actually has. As for Hitchens, he's blind to the situational irony of his own position, namely, our most mordant critic of religion is, at the same time, a fervent fundamentalist on the question of Iraq. Buried under an avalanche of evidence to the contrary, he insists that our little imperial adventure in Iraq is a Just Cause; that all the blood and treasure spilled there is just the price of "sewing democracy" in the Middle East. If that isn't the limit case in blind faith, I don't know what is.

Read it all, and enjoy!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Protest this, bitches

Via Roy, I do believe wingnuttia has just opened a new wing in the think tank:

I'm not suggesting Snipes isn't guilty, or shouldn't go to jail, but you never hear a peep from the supposed freedom loving liberals when it comes to how government taxes and spends, thereby controlling our lives, as well as our livelihoods.

You can peace march all you want, try to persecute telco's for providing information to the government, and stage all the faux torture events you want in protest of government actions.

But what's perfectly clear in America today is one thing - you don't screw with the tax man. Never let it be said that our government doesn't know from whence its power springs.

It would be wise to consider that when debating hyper-regulative responses to issues like global warming and supporting politicians who love big government. It always comes with a price. And ultimately that price is freedom, just as much as it is dollars.

In relative terms, there will be little or no liberal hand-wringing over the Snipes conviction, which causes one to wonder if they really understand freedom at all. Snipes appears to be guilty, but he WAS striking Big Brother at its heart in a way few if any anti-war protesters ever do.

Perhaps Snipes can use that for his appeal.


Like a hurricane

Odd, McCain's new focus on the government response to Katrina since he had nothing to say on the subject last New Orleans. Then, of course, he was still pandering trying to shore up his base.

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Why am I treated so bad?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

McCain protectionism

Dean Baker has a question:

Senator McCain's distortions on health care are far more important than Senator Clinton's distortions on sniper fire in Bosnia. How about some serious reporting on the issue?

Though even Baker admits that flag pin lapel-gate is probably more pressing.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Another reason I am annoyed by people

What is it about air travelers that prompt them to complain about a delay because their plane is being checked and repaired before taking off?

A delay is more irksome than the thought of a cargo door flying off at 30,000 feet.

There are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking.
I realize people have connections and all that, but really.

UPDATE: They just announced that today's in-flight entertainment will be "Mad Money (with Katie Holmes!)" Now that's something to complain bitterly about.

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Steven Mosher

I heard this guy speak tonight. Never have I sat through a more smug, disingenuous mix of naive idealism and obsessive fear that "we" will change in the face of growing Chinese economic and military power.

His lecture was titled, "China, the Olympics, & the War Against People" [sic].

Early on he mentioned he had been a member, in the 1980s, of "Team B," which he pointed out, without a trace of irony, acted as a policy counterpoint to CIA analysts who consistently "under estimated the power of the Soviet Union."

He is part of the reason McCain must not be president. Remember that, oh Democratic voters, feeling what ever you're feeling tonight. Mosher left unsaid what it is we are supposed to do about China's "war on people," other than to boycott the opening of the Olympic Games. I think he and his ilk are less reticent about what they advise neoconophiles on Capitol Hill.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The myth of Jack Abramoff

I'm beginning to think it's true what they say, that every time the name "Abramoff" is heard, a Republican, somewhere, dies.

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Blue Monday, Hank Williams edition

It's still Monday here on the Left Coast.

"Three chords and the truth," Harlan Howard once said of Hank Williams.

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Infamy. Indeed.

Anti-FDR conspiracy theorists take heart. If Sen. Clinton had been president...nay, alive, in 1941, who knows?

As she spoke Monday in her father’s hometown, Scranton, Mrs. Clinton reinforced the message of her advertisement, arguing that Mr. Obama was untested. “I don’t want you to take a leap of faith or have any guesswork” about the next president, she said. “We’ve had enough of that,” she added.

Her commercial was the first in which a Democratic candidate had used Osama bin Laden in the presidential race, although Republicans, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, have done so. In her commercial, Mr. bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is featured along with grainy images of the stock market crash of 1929, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Hurricane Katrina.

In an interview Monday with Larry King on CNN , Mrs. Clinton said the advertisement addressed the reality “that the new president will inherit some of the most dangerous and difficult decisions that any president has had to make in a very long time.”

“I want people to think seriously about leadership, because that’s what I’m offering in this campaign,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Straight Talk jalopy staggers on.

A longtime political patron, Mr. Diamond is one of the elite fund-raisers Mr. McCain’s current presidential campaign calls Innovators, having raised more than $250,000 so far. At home, Mr. Diamond is sometimes referred to as “The Donald,” Arizona’s answer to Donald Trump — an outsized personality who invites public officials aboard his flotilla of yachts (the Ace, King, Jack and Queen of Diamonds), specializes in deals with the government, and unabashedly solicits support for his business interests from the recipients of his campaign contributions.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Know your rights

All three of em.


Now, let's turn to Iraq

Fortunately, I was not one of the 10 million viewers as I was in Europe last week. Looks like I missed a laugh riot.

“We set a new record because it took us 45 minutes before we even started talking about a single issue that matters to the American people,” Mr. Obama told an audience of nearly 2,000 in Raleigh, N.C., many of whom applauded. Reached by phone on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Stephanopoulos, a former aide in the Clinton White House who hosts “This Week” on ABC, sounded somewhat taken aback.

“We thought it made sense to deal with the core controversies,” he said, by way of explaining those early questions. All of them, he said, went to “what has become the No. 1 issue between the candidates — who can win in November?”

Ultimately, he said, “the debate covered a lot of ground.”

But Mr. Stephanopoulos said that after digesting much of what had been sent forth in the blogosphere on Thursday morning, he would have approached one critical aspect of his job differently. “I could imagine moving up some of the questions,” he said. “You can differ over that.’”

Hopefully, we've seen the last of the Democratic debates.

Meanwhile, about that concerned citizen's flag pin question...

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Feeling the love

I'm back.

Sorry for the long absence. I'm sure it pained you, Dear Reader, not having my guidance through these times that try our very souls.

In any case, serious jet lag, having just returned from Europe where people are very, very interested in the U.S. election ("We should have a vote," said one quite successful Continental); Obama is seen as an inspiration that might, just might, save our stature, at least among Europeans (someone I spoke to from the Middle East felt strongly that America's "anti-Arab" policies will not change regardless of the president); and, in one conversation I learned I was a Hamas-loving terrorist enabler, and in the next, an anti-Arab Israeli apologist.

The Continental man referred to above said that Americans were "lucky. There is anti-French feeling around the world," he said, "and anti-English feeling. But there is no real anti-American sentiment; just anti-Bush feeling." Maybe there's hope yet. At least among our European friends. The Middle Eastern woman mentioned earlier was more disquieting. She's a successful business woman who has lived in the U.S. and worked most of her career for U.S. companies, and yet she felt that we -- by re-electing Bush -- are complicit in his policies, and, hence, we as a people cannot be rehabilitated. A bit scary.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Yes, they're just as fucked up as we are

Breaking news: Mark Speight found dead (go ahead and google it, if you give a shit).

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Today's fortune cookie

There is no group more sensitive to the sensibilities of "small town America" than the most "elitist" among us.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Freedom we like to watch

Another great moment in movement conservative history.


Friday, April 11, 2008


His 3 for 31 isn't going to last long, so I hope the Yankees can get through the next few days without Big Papi awaking from his slumber.

As I sit on an airport runway, with planes lined up as far as the pilot's eye can see, it's heartening to hear Wang set them down quickly in the first. Wireless technology is pretty cool, too.

UPDATE: Suzyn Waldman tells us that it's "Native American Night" at Fenway, with a split screen (they have modern electronics at Fenway?) showing Jacoby Elsbury and Joba Chamberlain during the national anthem.


Nasty? No, just nasally

How much you wanna bet Mike Bloomberg is being heavily courted to be McCain's VP nominee? Two imperious guys on the same ticket would be interesting.

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I guess what we need is a good ol' fashioned dose of socialism.

As the credit crisis has slowly expanded and worsened, there has been a flurry of activity in Washington to reduce the damage from it. There are bailouts and tax breaks, and even checks to parents of school-age children.

But there is remarkably little action aimed at getting the credit system functioning again.

In part, that is because there is a scarcity of ideas. Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman whose legacy has not crumbled since he left office, was right this week when he said the financial engineers had created “a demonstrably fragile financial system that has produced unimaginable wealth for some, while repeatedly risking a cascading breakdown of the system as a whole.”

But it is far from clear what should replace it, or if it can somehow be mended.

To be sure, we had a system that worked for generations, based on commercial banks constrained by regulation. But that system is not coming back, as Mr. Volcker noted in his extraordinary speech to the Economic Club of New York this week.

“Any return to heavily regulated, bank-dominated, nationally insulated markets is pure nostalgia, not possible in this world of sophisticated financial techniques made possible by the wonders of electronic technology,” he said.

In any case, the banks are not all that healthy anyway, thanks to their losses from the strange securities created under the new system.

For the time being, the solutions being pushed would not seem unreasonable to an old-fashioned socialist. Most new mortgages are now guaranteed by the government or by government-sponsored enterprises, whose ability to lend is being expanded.

The Bear Stearns precedent seems to assure that investment banks have joined commercial banks in the Fed’s safety net, and the Fed has now taken control over what Mr. Volcker calls “mortgage-backed securities of questionable pedigree.

Floyd Norris concludes with a swift parting shot to "The Oracle."

There is a real risk that the ad hoc efforts now being made to deal with this crisis will create other problems. Mr. Volcker, who knows how inflation can get out of hand, said the current situation reminds him of the early 1970’s, when inflation began to accelerate. The Fed’s moves to slash short-term interest rates and bail out Wall Street, however necessary they may be, could easily raise inflation and cause more damage to the weak dollar.

It is striking to realize that while Mr. Volcker has been gone from the Fed for two decades, he is, at 80, two years younger than his successor, Alan Greenspan. Had Mr. Volcker somehow kept the job, he almost certainly would have been more skeptical about the new financial architecture — and less popular on Wall Street — than Mr. Greenspan was when times were good. But the bad times we are now entering might not have become nearly so large a threat.

Norris does say finger-pointing is inappropriate as no one could foresee the severity of the crisis. Maybe so, but as his final paragraph indicates, Greenspan and his then-deputy, Bernanke, could have tried to cool things down when it was clear the housing market had hit the red zone.

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Buddy Guy and Carlos Santana

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

The end state

Joe Klein thinks Obama asked the sharpest questions during the Petraeus/Crocker hearings.

Obama hit Petraeus and Crocker with an artful series of questions about the two main threats: Sunni terrorists like al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Iran. He noted that al-Qaeda had been rejected by the Iraqi Sunnis and chased to the northern city of Mosul. If U.S. and Iraqi troops succeeded there, what was next? He proposed: "Our goal is not to hunt down and eliminate every single trace of al-Qaeda but rather to create a manageable situation where they're not posing a threat to Iraq." Petraeus said Obama was "exactly right."

Obama asked Crocker about Iran: We couldn't expect Iran to have no influence in Iraq, could we? "We have no problem with a good, constructive relationship between Iran and Iraq," Crocker replied. "The problem is with the Iranian strategy of backing extremist militia groups and sending in weapons and munitions that are used against Iraqis and against our own forces." Obama then pursued Barbara Boxer's previous line of questioning: If Iran is such a threat to Iraq, why was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad greeted with open arms and apparently a lot of official kissing in Baghdad last month? "A visit like that," Crocker said, avoiding the question, "should be in the category of a normal relationship."

At which point, Obama dropped the hammer. The current situation in Iraq was "messy," he said. "There's still violence; there's still some traces of al-Qaeda; Iran has influence more than we would like. But if we had the current status quo and yet our troops had been drawn down to 30,000, would we consider that a success?" Crocker, semi-speechless, chose to misinterpret the question, saying a precipitous drawdown to 30,000 troops would be disastrous. But Obama's question was more diabolical. He was saying, Hey, al-Qaeda's on the run, and Iran is probably more interested in harassing the U.S. military than having another war with Iraq. How much better does the situation need to be for us to leave? He had taken Joe Lieberman's dart and beaten it into a plowshare.

Obama's question was slightly disingenuous. Few people believe that the Sunni Awakening movement—the insurgents who flipped to our side after a fling with al-Qaeda—would stay peaceful if the U.S. military weren't there as a buffer between them and the Shi'ites. The Iraqi army remains a mess of militias in camouflage. But we have had a significant success in Iraq and dealt al-Qaeda-style extremism a resounding defeat. So why not continue the judicious withdrawal that has begun?

Why not, indeed. Because "winning" is not the end state the Bush/Cheney junta have in mind. It's staying, with huge permanent bases and an occupation in support of a puppet government (a puppet government cozy with Iran's leadership, nevertheless).

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McCain: dangerous, none too bright

George W. Bush redux, only with "straight talk!"

The concerns have emerged in the weeks since Mr. McCain became his party’s presumptive nominee and began more formally assembling a list of foreign policy advisers. Among those on the list are several prominent neoconservatives, including Robert Kagan, an author who helped write much of the foreign policy speech that Mr. McCain delivered in Los Angeles on March 26, in which he described himself as “a realistic idealist.” Others include the security analyst Max Boot and a former United Nations ambassador, John R. Bolton.

Prominent members of the pragmatist group, often called realists, say they are also wary of the McCain campaign’s chief foreign policy aide, Randy Scheunemann, who was a foreign policy adviser to former Senators Trent Lott and Bob Dole and who has longtime ties to neoconservatives. In 2002, Mr. Scheunemann was a founder of the hawkish Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and was an enthusiastic supporter of the Iraqi exile and Pentagon favorite, Ahmad Chalabi.

“It maybe too strong a term to say a fight is going on over John McCain’s soul,” said Lawrence Eagleburger, a secretary of state under the first President George Bush, who is a member of the pragmatist camp. “But if it’s not a fight, I am convinced there is at least going to be an attempt. I can’t prove it, but I’m worried that it’s taking place.”

And, now, I don't give a lot of credence to the following paragraph, since it's reported by Elisabeth Bumiller and arrives unattributed, but the content is surely backed up by the facts.

One of the chief concerns of the pragmatists is that Mr. McCain is susceptible to influence from the neoconservatives because he is not as fully formed on foreign policy as his campaign advisers say he is, and that while he speaks authoritatively, he operates too much off the cuff and has not done the deeper homework required of a presidential candidate.

In a trip to the Middle East last month, Mr. McCain made an embarrassing mistake when he said several times that he was concerned that Iran was training Al Qaeda in Iraq. (The United States believes that Iran, a Shiite country, has been training Shiite extremists in Iraq, but not Al Qaeda, a Sunni insurgent group.) He repeated the mistake on Tuesday at hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Of course, this could all just be a case of McCain pandering to whomever he happens to be speaking to at the time, and it may take unnamed Republicans to make this happen, but maybe there is a chance that reporters will now and then clear the rosy haze when they gaze upon him.

Truth is, McCain is an imperialist in the mode of Theodore Roosevelt (before T.R. assumed office and learned what a cock-up our occupation of the Philippines was). He's a neocon in that he sees foreign policy as a means of expanding American power. In the past, he's been slightly more realistic than they in his views of the means to wield that power. That may be changing.


Giblets is my co-pilot

Playing politics with the medal of honor

Phil Carter's Intel Dump has moved. Set your bookmarks accordingly, because he writes stuff like this:

Then, on Sept. 29, 2006, Monsoor sacrificed his life when his SEAL team encountered heavy enemy contact:

Due to expected enemy action, the officer in charge repositioned him with his automatic heavy machine gun in the direction of the enemy's most likely avenue of approach. He placed him in a small, confined sniper hide-sight between two SEAL snipers on an outcropping of the roof, which allowed the three SEALs maximum coverage of the area. He was located closest to the egress route out of the sniper hide-sight watching for enemy activity through a tactical periscope over the parapet wall. While vigilantly watching for enemy activity, an enemy fighter hurled a hand grenade onto the roof from an unseen location. The grenade hit him in the chest and bounced onto the deck. He immediately leapt to his feet and yelled "grenade" to alert his teammates of impending danger, but they could not evacuate the sniper hide-sight in time to escape harm. Without hesitation and showing no regard for his own life, he threw himself onto the grenade, smothering it to protect his teammates who were lying in close proximity. The grenade detonated as he came down on top of it, mortally wounding him.

For this action, President Bush posthumously awarded Petty Officer Monsoor the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony yesterday.

Within the military, we decorate our heroes (and Monsoor certainly is one) to reward their bravery and establish their example as one we might aspire to. Monsoor's actions deserve our admiration and awe.

I am deeply disturbed, however, by the White House's unfortunate decision to hold this ceremony on April 8, 2008 -- the same day as the Petraeus and Crocker testimony before Congress. The timing of this ceremony could not have been accidental. It was clearly a political maneuver; an attempt to leverage the personal valor of Petty Officer Monsoor for political gain. That is wrong. Petty Officer Monsoor's sacrifice and valor are worthy of their own day -- not one designed for maximum political advantage.

Indeed, I understand that the cable news coverage of the testimony of Petraeus and Crocker was interrupted to go to the White House for the ceremony.

Just as the White House wanted.

The fact that I'm still shocked by this behavior perhaps says something about my own naivete.

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Our southern occupation

Typically, conservatives point to southern males as the only ones patriotic enough to serve in the U.S. military. But, it turns out, they may actually be insurgents infiltrating the occupying force!


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

More on that 100 years thing

Even if one accepts McCain's analogy, that we've been in Japan for 60 years and South Korea for 50, and that he only wants that if American troops aren't being targeted for death every time they leave the Green Zone (or, lately, stay in it), why? We know why we're in Japan and South Korea (the former's to keep our back yard -- the Pacific Ocean -- nice and clean, and the latter's to keep South Korea from being overrun by the -- I think -- fourth largest standing army in the world; why we're still in Germany is unclear to me, of course).

What would a century's long occupation of Iraq be there to do? Stymie al Qaeda in Iraq? Well, endless surge propaganda has convinced me that Iraqis are more than capable to do that. To keep Iran out of Iraq? Right. To keep the Russian horde from invading, perhaps. That complies with McCain's world view.


A reason to get up in the morning


Matthews's contract expires next year, and NBC officials clearly would like to renew it for considerably less than the $5 million a year he is making now. Whether it's a formal talking point or not, NBC officials seem bent on conveying the message that they could get the same ratings, or better ones, for considerably less money.


100 years, 1000 years

If the RNC feels the need to issue a press release to "discredit" Dems who quote McCain's comments on Iraq (and no, Mr. Somberby, they're really not "out of context), then I think it's incumbent on Sen. Obama and everyone else to keep firing away.

On a related note, the Tiger Woods reference is obnoxious, but did he call McCain a "ghoul?"


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

David, neocons are a tribe, too

Shorter David Brooks: I learn from a book I haven't read that Iran Iraq is made up of tribes? Who knew?

UPDATED for stupidity

Thanks to the commenter who overlooked that.



Greenspan says "Not my fault," and Dean Baker is having none of it.

If Greenspan had explicitly warned of the bubble, explaining carefully with charts and graphs how the run-up in house prices was inconsistent with longstanding trends in house prices, and could not be explained by the fundamentals in the housing market, it is likely that it would have taken the air out of the bubble years ago. He also could have warned explicitly of the sort of financial meltdown that we are now seeing, which would lead to hundreds of billions of dollars of debt write-downs by banks and other financial institutions.

Such explicit warnings from the nation's central banker likely would have persuaded major actors in financial markets to act differently. This is the course of action that was advocated by some of us who recognized the housing bubble at the time.

It is difficult to see any negative consequences that could have resulted from Greenspan providing accurate analysis to the public and financial markets. It is unfortunate that the pages of the WSJ and most of the rest of the business media were not open to this view years ago. It is remarkable that these views are still excluded from the debate.


Homeland über alles

Adam Liptak Tuesday.

Securing the nation’s borders is so important, Congress says, that Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, must have the power to ignore any laws that stand in the way of building a border fence. Any laws at all.

Last week, Mr. Chertoff issued waivers suspending more than 30 laws he said could interfere with “the expeditious construction of barriers” in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The list included laws protecting the environment, endangered species, migratory birds, the bald eagle, antiquities, farms, deserts, forests, Native American graves and religious freedom.

The secretary of homeland security was granted the power in 2005 to void any federal law that might interfere with fence building on the border. For good measure, Congress forbade the courts to second-guess the secretary’s determinations. So long as Mr. Chertoff is willing to say it is necessary to void a given law, his word is final.

The delegation of power to Mr. Chertoff is unprecedented, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. It is also, if papers filed in the Supreme Court last month are correct, unconstitutional.

People can disagree about the urgency of border security and about whether it is more or less important than, say, the environment. Congress is entrusted with making those judgments, and here it has spoken clearly. In the process, it has also granted the executive branch more of the sort of unilateral power the Bush administration has so often claimed for itself.

No one doubts that Congress may repeal old laws through new legislation. But there is a difference between passing a law that overrides a previous one and tinkering with the structure of the Constitution itself. The extraordinary powers granted to Mr. Chertoff may test the limits of how much of its own authority Congress can cede to another branch of the government.

Mr. Chertoff explained the reasoning behind the law in a news release last week. “Criminal activity at the border,” he said, “does not stop for endless debate or protracted litigation.”

Mr. Chertoff has issued three similar waivers, and a challenge to the constitutionality of one of them has just reached the United States Supreme Court. If the court decides to hear the case, its decision will almost certainly apply to last week’s waivers as well.

The case was brought by two environmental groups, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club. They sued Mr. Chertoff last year over his decision to suspend 19 laws that might have interfered with the construction of a border fence in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in Arizona.

Congress, the groups said, had given Mr. Chertoff too much power.

“It is only happenchance that the secretary’s waiver in this case involved laws protecting the environment and historic resources,” the groups told Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of Federal District Court in Washington. “He could equally have waived the requirements of the Fair Labor Relations Act to halt a strike, or the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in order to force workers to endure unsafe working conditions.”

(Happenchance? You don’t see that word every day, and certainly not in a court filing.)

The groups said Congress cannot hand over unbridled power to the executive branch even as it cuts the courts out of the picture. They relied mostly on a 1998 Supreme Court decision striking down the Line Item Veto Act, which had allowed the president to cancel parts of laws.

In December, Judge Huvelle rejected the challenge and allowed construction to proceed. She said she had no jurisdiction to decide whether Mr. Chertoff was correct in saying the waivers were necessary, and she ruled that the delegation of power to him was constitutional.

“The court concludes that it lacks the power to invalidate the waiver provision merely because of the unlimited number of statutes that could potentially be encompassed,” Judge Huvelle wrote.

A petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case was filed three months later.

Did you notice the missing step? In addition to forbidding judges from second-guessing Mr. Chertoff’s decisions, Congress forbade federal appeals courts from becoming involved at all. After losing before Judge Huvelle, the groups’ only recourse is to hope the Supreme Court decides to hear their appeal.

In their petition, the environmental groups said the Supreme Court had never upheld a broad delegation of power like that given to Mr. Chertoff without the possibility of judicial review of executive branch determinations. Nor, they said, has any appeals court.

It is the combination of those two factors — the broad granting of power to the executive branch and cutting the judicial branch out of the process — that makes the 2005 law so pernicious, the groups say.

The government’s response is due next week. In a brief filed in the district court last year, Justice Department lawyers told Judge Huvelle that the urgency of border security must trump other interests. They added that Congress may delegate particularly broad powers in the areas of national security, foreign affairs and immigration because the Constitution gives the executive branch great authority in those areas.

The line-item veto decision does not apply, the government lawyers said, because Mr. Chertoff is not repealing laws for all purposes, just suspending them for his fences.

It is true, of course, that Congress gave up its powers here voluntarily. But Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had a response to that point in his concurrence in the line-item-veto case.

“It is no answer, of course, to say that Congress surrendered its authority by its own hand,” he wrote. “Abdication of responsibility is not part of the constitutional design.”

Justice Kennedy made a broader point, too, one perhaps more apt today than it was 10 years ago.

“Separation of powers was designed to implement a fundamental insight,” he wrote. “Concentration of power in the hands of a single branch is a threat to liberty.”


Monday, April 07, 2008

Idiots on parade!

Posting will be light as Giganticorp seems to think they pay me to think about their issues instead of how the Republican Party continues to fulfill it's destiny to destroy the world, but I couldn't pass this one up.

I know most of my readers say, "Oh shit, another baseball post," whenever I start in on one, but did anyone watch the ESPN game last night and did this really happen?

Unrelated postscript: Homeplate ump Jeff Kellogg just took a fastball to the face because A.J. Pierzynski seemed to get crossed up and just missed it. So he takes a fastball to the face and goes down like a sack of potatoes, and Jon Miller says, as they prepare a replay, "He's wearing a microphone, let's go back and have a look...) And I think, "Don't play the dude's audio!!!" And then they roll the replay, and it -- incredibly predictably -- goes like this:


Pierzynski: Oh -- my God.
Kellogg: (on the ground) Fuck.

Friday, April 04, 2008


Tapped's Kate Sheppard has a compendium of links to articles, posts, etc. on the radical legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. The Washington Post's slide show and narration by the photographer Matthew Lewis is particularly riveting. His iconic shot of an angry MLK is compelling as I'm not sure he'd be any less angry were he alive today.

But King reserved some of his toughest assessments for the U.S. government, which he called "the greatest purveyor of violence" in the world.

I think he'd be proud of Barak Obama. I'm certain he'd have much to agree upon with Jeremiah Wright.


"100 years"

I'm sure that, if asked, John McCain would explain that, "Hell, Japan and Germany didn't even have an army to desert when we began occupying them!" In the meantime, we'll stand down when they stand...

BAGHDAD — More than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen either refused to fight or simply abandoned their posts during the inconclusive assault against Shiite militias in Basra last week, a senior Iraqi government official said Thursday. Iraqi military officials said the group included dozens of officers, including at least two senior field commanders in the battle.

The desertions in the heat of a major battle cast fresh doubt on the effectiveness of the American-trained Iraqi security forces. The White House has conditioned further withdrawals of American troops on the readiness of the Iraqi military and police.

The crisis created by the desertions and other problems with the Basra operation was serious enough that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki hastily began funneling some 10,000 recruits from local Shiite tribes into his armed forces. That move has already generated anger among Sunni tribesmen whom Mr. Maliki has been much less eager to recruit despite their cooperation with the government in its fight against Sunni insurgents and criminal gangs.



"Domestic military operations"

As a serious analyst on these types of issues, all I can say is, what the fuck?

''Our office recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations,'' the footnote states, referring to a document titled ''Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States.''

The fourth amendment, in case you've forgotten:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Via Greenwald whom you should read.


John Cole reads these assholes, so you don't have to

How Do You Sleep?


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Zimbabwe chaos

It doesn't look like Mugabe's going to go easily.


Watts will burn with Clinton effigies

This is why I read Roy every day, but he is perhaps too polite to point out that it isn't Democrats who "portray both the GOP and America" as racists." The GOP, has never really needed any help in that area.

As for America, well, 40 years isn't really that long a time.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Big Beaver!

"Too many Kagans"

Wow, Joe. Just wow.

7. On the day that John Yoo's remarkable torture memo is released, this foolishness is a reminder that none of these people--none of the vicious, mendacious, naive, simplistic, unapologetic, neo-colonialist ideologues who promulgated this disaster--should have even the vaguest claim on the time or tolerance of fair-minded people. Fred Kagan's certainty is an obscenity, his claim to expertise a farce.
And as Duncan notes approvingly, no gratuitous mention of the dirty fucking hippies.

UPDATE: Fixed link.

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Issa hearts New York's Bravest

Darrell Issa to New York firefighters: "Drop dead."

WASHINGTON - A California congressman drew the fury of New York lawmakers yesterday - after he said the feds shouldn't pay another dime to help the 9/11 emergency responders who became ill after working at Ground Zero.

"I have to ask why . . . the firefighters who went there and everyone in the City of New York needs to come to the federal government," Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican, said during a House subcommittee hearing.

"How much money has the federal government put out post-9/11, including the buckets of $10 and $20 billion we just threw at the State and the City of New York versus how much has been paid out by the City and the State of New York?" Issa asked.

I guess it's a sign that our long, terrible nightmare has ended and we're so over 9-11. No reason to be nice to New York City anymore. Thank God for that.


Shocking the conscience

81 pages.

"If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network," Yoo wrote. "In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch's constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions."

Interrogators who harmed a prisoner would be protected by a "national and international version of the right to self-defense," Yoo wrote. He also articulated a definition of illegal conduct in interrogations -- that it must "shock the conscience" -- that the Bush administration advocated for years.

"Whether conduct is conscience-shocking turns in part on whether it is without any justification," Yoo wrote, explaining, for example, that it would have to be inspired by malice or sadism before it could be prosecuted.

Abu Ghraib.


Straight talking questions

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination should pick Edwards as his/her VP. Elizabeth Edwards.


Meet the new boss

It's good to know that the man who thinks that the war on terroislamofascism is the greatest "existential threat" we face, doesn't know who the fucking players are.

It depresses me to think it, but I'm pretty sure that his very ignorance is what will propel him to the Oval Office.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Opening night!

And A-Rod goes the other way, splitting the outfielders to score Abreu in the first. Yay.

UPDATE: That was everything a Yankee fan coulda wanted.


"Huzzah for the tunnel"

They're baaaaaaaack!

Meanwhile, it's great to know that even if the Pentagon is doing really creepy shit and not telling anyone where they're spending more than the combined budgets of the FDA, National Science Foundation, and NASA, the military industrial complex has a damned good sense of humor about it.

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"Bush" is now a cuss word?

Howard Dean calls McCain a "Bush Republican." The RNC squeals that this amounts to a "character smear."

Who knew?

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McCain's "free ride"

I think Eugene Robinson could take it quite a bit further and call his colleagues on the free raid they're giving Saint McCain on all issues, but it's a start.

Quite a "defining moment" in Iraq, wasn't it? At this rate, John McCain is going to be proved right: The war will last a century.

That is indeed what McCain meant, by the way, no matter how his apologists try to spin it. Those who claim that by "a hundred years" McCain was talking about a long-term peacetime deployment like the U.S. military presence in South Korea are being disingenuous or obtuse. In and around Seoul, citizens aren't shooting at American soldiers or trying to blow them up with roadside bombs -- and U.S. combat forces aren't taking sides in bloody internecine battles over power and wealth.


If Democrats are going to take several more months to settle on a presidential nominee, they had better find some way to stop giving John McCain a free ride on Iraq. He should have to explain why he wants to keep us on George Bush's long, winding path to nowhere.

The problem is, it's not the Dems who are giving McCain a free ride. It's the press corps. Case in point: what's McCain's reaction to the humiliating defeat of Maliki and Iraqi security forces (and American air cover) this weekend?

Crickets chirping.

But he has a point. Obama should pretty much ignore Clinton at this point and direct all his fire at McCain's position on Iraq and his economic advisers. Better yet, he should continue to mock McCain. Clinton should stop sniping at Obama's inelectibility and start talking about why she's different from McCain on these issues.

UPDATE: From reader "Anonymous:"

Iraqi PM: Basra operation was 'success'"

Patience, patience. A "success" like this one requires a bit more time for the "spin meisters" to confabulate.

I feel certain that by the end of the week, it will have proved to be the "mother of all victories."

UPDATE II: According to Somerby, I've been played a rube. The thing is, though, I got Robinson's short hand. Iraq is not Japan. It didn't surrender unconditionally and agree to an occupation. Nor is it South Korea, relying on the U.S. to protect it from a rapacious (and crazy) neighbor (no, Iran is not like North Korea, even if they roost on the same "axis"). That's what Robinson's saying here; he's refusing to take McCain's statement at face value.

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Class based

Dahlia Lithwick takes a look at Sen. Obama's past statements on affirmative action and suggests that he could take the entire discussion of this red hot political subject in an entirely different direction.

Should Obama become the Democratic nominee, this could be one of the tougher issues on which to find common ground. Ward Connerly—a prominent opponent of affirmative action—is pushing to get referendums on the subject onto ballots in at least five states this fall. It may be difficult for Obama to avoid taking a definitive stance: Affirmative action, says Connerly, "is probably the most difficult race issue [Obama] will have to face." If the candidate denounces affirmative action, Connerly predicts, "his support among blacks will plummet from around 80 to 50 percent. Then, bear in mind that much of his support in Iowa, Vermont, and Wyoming came from white males, who by a margin of 70 to 30 oppose affirmative action."

The challenge is made all the more difficult by Obama's reputation for fresh thinking: This is a perfect chance for him to break with the liberal orthodoxy on race-based preferences, according to both conservatives and liberals who oppose these programs. To this day, some of the conservatives from the Law Review wonder whether Obama agrees with them on race-based affirmative action—a testament to his skill at projecting empathy, if nothing else. "But in politics you can only be a moderator for so long," says Connerly. Eventually, "you must become a referee."

Obama has certainly sent signals that he is not doctrinaire on the issue. In an interview last May on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos, he was asked whether his own daughters should someday receive preferences in college admissions. His response was unexpected: "I think that my daughters should probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty advantaged." He added, "I think that we should take into account white kids who have been disadvantaged and have grown up in poverty and shown themselves to have what it takes to succeed." His comments lit up the blogosphere with speculation that as president he might spearhead a major policy change, shifting the basis of affirmative action from race to class disparities.

That's of a piece with his speech in Philadelphia, where he recognized class-based grievances as legitimate. But, of course, in our enlightened political discourse, it is more important to analyze the use of "uh" in his speech, than what it is he says all other times.


Heckuva job, Maliki

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