Friday, May 30, 2008

"A friendly lunch"

A fixture of my childhood afternoon television viewing.

Attention spans were longer in those days.

As is so often the case, Roy sums it up best.

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Livin' in the seventies

Um, wha?

Though both the Bush administration and the Iraq war remain deeply unpopular among New Yorkers, those elected officials and party activists gathered at the dinner seemed grateful for Mr. Cheney’s presence.

“It’s the vice president of the United States,” said Dean G. Skelos, a senior Republican state senator from Long Island. “I’m sure Jimmy Carter will be at many Democrat fund-raisers.”

All aboard the cluetrain.


I'm a man

I'm not sure Steve has "whiskers on his chin."

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Kafiyah = terrorist

The Times can smirk, but this is another example of our country's relentless campaign to make villains out of all things Arab and Islamic.

It ain't using the Koran for target practice, but next the thing you know, there will be outrage over falafel (and not just the sex toy kind).

Hearts and minds, baby. Hearts and minds.


The ailing party

The NY GOP is in disarray. Who do they call? Dick Cheney.

As Vice President Cheney arrives in the city today to address the New York Republican State Committee at its annual dinner, he will find a party in worse shape than one of his hunting buddies. The state's Republican Party, once a national powerhouse that yielded presidential nominees such as Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Dewey, is struggling through a seemingly continuous stretch of setbacks, embarrassments, and defeats, leaving Republican elected officials an endangered species throughout the state and party stalwarts divided over how to spur a recovery.

Excellent plan.


This has been another exciting episode of "Nixonland"

Although it's great that the GOP has learned to love the Red Army, I think Hilzoy's got a point.

Personally, I think being wrong about official US policy towards Iran, and about whether recent history shows that negotiating with them won't work, is more serious than being wrong about precisely which Nazi concentration camp your great-uncle helped liberate. But then, I also think that at a time when we are involved in two wars, our standing in the world is as low as it has been in recent memory, we have jettisoned our commitment to basic human rights and the rule of law, our economy is tanking, our currency seems to be in free-fall, the energy crisis has finally (and predictably) hit home with a vengeance, food and commodity prices are soaring world-wide, our health insurance system could most charitably be described as badly frayed, our infrastructure seems to be crumbling around us, and a whole lot of people are looking at losing their homes -- at a time like this, there are better things to talk about than flag pins, pastors, and the real explanation for Hillary Clinton's RFK moment.

Honestly: if this campaign is decided on those sorts of issues, we deserve what we get. It's just a pity our election will affect so many other people, who don't.

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Science marches on


The monkeys learned to hold the grip open on approaching the food, close it just enough to hold the food and gradually loosen the grip when feeding.

On several occasions, a monkey kept its claw open on the way back, with the food stuck to one finger. At other times, a monkey moved the arm to lick the fingers clean or to push a bit of food into its mouth while ignoring a newly presented morsel.

The animals were apparently freelancing, discovering new uses for the arm, showing “displays of embodiment that would never be seen in a virtual environment,” the researchers wrote.

“In the real world, things don’t work as expected,” said the senior author of the paper, Dr. Andrew Schwartz, a professor of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh. “The marshmallow sticks to your hand or the food slips, and you can’t program a computer to anticipate all of that.

“But the monkeys’ brains adjusted. They were licking the marshmallow off the prosthetic gripper, pushing food into their mouth, as if it were their own hand.”

And no, I'm not going to bloggedly snark about an army of robot-armed monkeys...


And Jesus said, "Yeah!"

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Oh, just shut up already

I care about as much about Scottie McClellan's book as I did his answers in the press room. He was a sniveler then. He's still a sniveler.


Obama goes to Miami

And seemed to win over refusing to pander to them.

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So many questions

Does Bush accept this role? Does it annoy him? Or is he too stupid (or arrogant) to care?

Don't answer.

Meanwhile, why hasn't Phil Gramm been indicted?

Meanwhile, will someone ask Joe Lieberman if God was drunk when he ordered up the holocaust?

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"Doesn't anyone here know how to play this game?"

Bad. Just bad.

As consolation, I can amuse myself by watching manager Joe Girardi self-immolate in the dugout.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008


This is insane on a number of levels.

The owner of six Los Angeles-area medical marijuana dispensaries and his wife were arrested by federal agents early today following an investigation sparked by a traffic accident in which a man allegedly high on one of the dispensaries' products plowed into a parked car on the shoulder of the 101 Freeway, killing the driver of the vehicle and paralyzing a CHP officer.

Virgil and Psytra Grant, the proprietors of the clinics, are facing a host of federal charges, including operating dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools and churches. The pair are expected to appear before a judge later this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Authorities are seeking a third defendant, who allegedly sold a pound of marijuana out of the back door of one of the clinics.

The war on medical marijuana can't get more insane, and if I was a bar owner, I'd be watching this case very closely.


Not so dirty after all

A dispatch from the alternate universe, PA.


Got his back

Man, with players like these, Willie Randolph has to feel not only disappointed by the shitty baseball the Mets are playing, but undercut by their comments as well.

The Mets botched a seven-game cushion with 17 games left to end the 2007 season, so they cannot let too much of 2008 slip away. If the Mets, who often perform like a lifeless bunch, do not improve, Randolph could pay. Some boisterous fans started chants of “Fire Willie” in the eighth and ninth innings, but they gained little momentum.

“He’s not playing,” first baseman Carlos Delgado said. “We got to go out and play. I think we need to be responsible and turn it up a notch.”

When Delgado and center fielder Carlos Beltrán were asked if they thought Randolph deserved to stay as manager, neither simply said yes. Delgado repeated that the Mets needed to play better. Beltrán said that a decision about the manager was made by ownership, and third baseman David Wright agreed.

“That’s not in our hands,” Beltrán said.

Um, well, Carlos, yes, it is.

Of course, Randolph’s Mets did not do it, did not win a game. Again. Minaya said he did not think Randolph’s situation was a distraction for players, but Beltrán said it was. Beltrán said the speculation about Randolph’s future could cause players to “come to the ballpark wondering if it might happen today,” referring to Randolph’s possible dismissal.

Wow, that's really coming to the defense of your manager. When Billy Wagner's the only guy with anything good to say, you're in trouble, Willie.

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China floods

I am not the first to point this out, but could the difference between the reaction of Chinese authorities' -- at all levels -- to the earthquake and the potential flood and our government's reaction to Katrina be any starker?

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The body man

Like clockwork: As it becomes inevitable who the Democratic nominee is going to be, the Times rolls out a story about his "valet" in which we are regaled with lists of the exotic, nay, "elitist" foods said candidate consumes.

What a body man does depends on the politician. Senator John Kerry’s aide for his presidential race in 2004 was dubbed “part butler, part buddy.” Bill Clinton’s aide when he was president said their relationship sometimes felt more like that of an old married couple. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has a body woman, the efficient and glamorous Huma Abedin. On NBC’s “The West Wing,” President Josiah Bartlet treated his body man, Charlie Young, like a son.

I guess McCain fetches his own water. Or maybe the Times just feels they've done too many lobbyist stories.

Early in 2005, Mr. Davis tried to develop another relationship with Pegasus when he and two other men suggested that it help bankroll a proposed new private equity firm. That firm was to focus on investments in domestic security companies, including those that vied for federal contracts, the person knowledgeable about Pegasus said.

A draft proposal for the new firm described Mr. Davis as a power player among Washington influence brokers.

“For the last three decades in the White House, Congress, federal agencies and politics both here and abroad Rick has operated at the highest level of decision and deal making,” according to a copy of that proposal reviewed by The New York Times.

Along with his work as a lobbyist, Mr. Davis at the time was also drawing a salary as the part-time president of the Reform Institute, a Washington group that Mr. McCain helped found to reduce “the influence of special interests” in politics and government.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Athwarting the public

John McCain chooses Memorial Day to tell our service men and women that he doesn't want to "entice" them to not re-enlist, and then proceeds to remind them of his default position of endless war.

Conceding that the war in Iraq has divided the American people, Mr. McCain predicted that additional sacrifices would likely be necessary. He promised not to back down from his stance on the war, he said, “even if I must stand athwart popular opinion.”

“I do not know how I could choose any other course.”

Fortunately, that's what elections are for.

What's particularly interesting about the online story is the comments, which are relentlessly scathing, except for one:

I don’t always agree with McCain (as he moves right, I agree even less often), but at least he has the guts to stand by his principles and cast the tough, if unpopular, vote. He tries to do what he thinks is right, not easy. How many other Republicans could at least try to pass campaign finance reform and immigration reform? These laws have not always worked out as intended (see campaign finance), but at least McCain tries to reach across party lines to do things that he thinks will benefit the country. Given that I don’t agree with Obama and McCain on many policy issues (where is the center), I will probably vote for McCain for his character, courage and demonstrated ability to reach across party lines to get things done. This will be real change, and I can believe that McCain will do it!

Posted by Bruce

Hmmm. The exclamation point is a dead giveaway.


Blue Monday, J.B. Lenoir edition

Decoration Day

General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868

1. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from hishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

2. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

3. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.

By order of


Adjutant General


Friday, May 23, 2008

McCain's debating style: "Get offa my lawn, you punk!"

Whoa. John McCain reminds us that he is an old, cranky bastard, as Mark Kleiman writes.

Today, John McCain was one of only three Senators who failed to show up for the debate and vote on Sen. Jim Webb's improved GI Bill. (Ted Kennedy is in the hospital, and Tom Coburn was at a funeral. McCain was at a couple of big-ticket fundraising events.) But McCain had made it clear that he opposed the Webb proposal because he shares the concern of the top brass that improved GI Bill benefits would lead to an increased rate of exit from the enlisted ranks.

Barack Obama, after acknowledging McCain's service, criticized him for opposing the bill. Obama was too polite, and too wise, to say what he could have said: that McCain, the son and grandson of Admirals and the husband of a multi-millionaire beer baron's daughter, never had to rely on the GI Bill for an education or the VA hospital system for his health care, and that McCain's opposition to the Webb bill reflected his constitutional incapacity for empathy with anyone less fortunate than he is. Obama said of McCain:

I respect Sen. John McCain's service to our country. He is one of those heroes of which I speak. But I can't understand why he would line up behind the president in his opposition to this GI bill. I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans. I could not disagree with him and the president more on this issue. There are many issues that lend themselves to partisan posturing, but giving our veterans the chance to go to college should not be one of them.
McCain responded with an astonishingly intemperate blast at Obama.

And a waaay we gooo.

It is typical, but no less offensive that Senator Obama uses the Senate floor to take cheap shots at an opponent and easy advantage of an issue he has less than zero understanding of. Let me say first in response to Senator Obama, running for President is different than serving as President. The office comes with responsibilities so serious that the occupant can't always take the politically easy route without hurting the country he is sworn to defend. Unlike Senator Obama, my admiration, respect and deep gratitude for America's veterans is something more than a convenient campaign pledge. I think I have earned the right to make that claim.

When I was five years old, a car pulled up in front of our house in New London, Connecticut, and a Navy officer rolled down the window, and shouted at my father that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. My father immediately left for the submarine base where he was stationed. I rarely saw him again for four years. My grandfather, who commanded the fast carrier task force under Admiral Halsey, came home from the war exhausted from the burdens he had borne, and died the next day. I grew up in the Navy; served for twenty-two years as a naval officer; and, like Senator Webb, personally experienced the terrible costs war imposes on the veteran. The friendships I formed in war remain among the closest relationships in my life. The Navy is still the world I know best and love most. In Vietnam, where I formed the closest friendships of my life, some of those friends never came home to the country they loved so well .


Perhaps, if Senator Obama would take the time and trouble to understand this issue he would learn to debate an honest disagreement respectfully. But, as he always does, he prefers impugning the motives of his opponent, and exploiting a thoughtful difference of opinion to advance his own ambitions. If that is how he would behave as President, the country would regret his election.

Perhaps if John McCain would take the time to actually do his job on the floor of the Senate rather than screaming at his opponent for, um, disagreeing with him, we could have a more temperate discussion. But what fun would that be? Just calm rejoinders like this from Senator Obama.

I am proud to stand with Senator Webb and a bipartisan coalition to give our veterans the support and opportunity they deserve. It's disappointing that Senator McCain and his campaign used this issue to launch yet another lengthy personal, political attack instead of debating an honest policy difference. He should know that this is not about John McCain or Barack Obama — it’s about giving our veterans a real chance to afford four years of college without harming retention. Senator Webb’s bipartisan bill will do this, and the bill that John McCain supports would not. These endless diatribes and schoolyard taunts from the McCain campaign do nothing to advance the debate about what matters to the American people

I can't wait for the debates.


Memorial Day

A couple of things to think about as we otherwise enjoy our three day weekend and U.S. troops continue to die for a lie and a president's self-image.

We are not winning hearts and minds.

BAGHDAD — An American helicopter strike killed eight civilians, including two children, during an assault near the northern Iraqi town of Baiji, the Iraqi police said Thursday.

The American military confirmed that two children were among the people killed Wednesday night during an operation against “known terrorists” working with the Sunni insurgent group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

But while the military expressed regret and confirmed that an investigation was under way, it said the children were “unfortunately” killed while traveling in a vehicle whose other occupants “exhibited hostile intent.”

An Iraqi police official in Salahuddin Province said the episode, near the village of Mazraa, would inflame anti-American feelings in the mainly Sunni area 100 miles north of Baghdad.

The official, Col. Mudhir al-Qaysi of the Baiji police force, cited police officials in the village who claimed that they had gone to the site of the assault “and found the killed family unarmed, and the bodies were burned and torn apart.”

Colonel Qaysi said, “The scene of the bodies is ugly, and these acts are unacceptable.” He said that the dead included seven members of one family, including a child no older than 5. “We were hoping that the American Army would seek to improve its image after many crimes carried out by its soldiers in Iraq,” he said.

In a statement, the American-led forces in Baghdad said the deaths happened during a raid on fighters belonging to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a Sunni insurgent group that American intelligence officials believe is led by foreigners. “The targeted individuals were known terrorists who were operating a facility used for weapons storage,” said the American military statement released Thursday.

And now more of our troops are likely to die.

Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric has been quietly issuing religious edicts declaring that armed resistance against U.S.-led foreign troops is permissible — a potentially significant shift by a key supporter of the Washington-backed government in Baghdad.

The edicts, or fatwas, by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani suggest he seeks to sharpen his long-held opposition to American troops and counter the populist appeal of his main rivals, firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.

But — unlike al-Sadr's anti-American broadsides — the Iranian-born al-Sistani has displayed extreme caution with anything that could imperil the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
It's time to go.


Lately, I see her ribbons and her bows


Election year judging

I'm shocked, shocked to learn that Justice Roberts's decisions would be determined by election year considerations.

Indeed, much of the commentary on the court’s performance during the last term was harsh, and it came not only from liberals. Judge Richard A. Posner, the conservative icon who sits on the federal appeals court in Chicago, offers some pointed and unusually personal criticism of Chief Justice Roberts in his new book, “How Judges Think,” published this year by Harvard University Press. The chief justice’s self-description during his confirmation hearing as a simple baseball umpire might have been a “tactical error” for one who evidently “aspires to remake significant areas of constitutional law,” Judge Posner writes, adding:

“The tension between what he said at his confirmation hearing and what he is doing as a justice is a blow to Roberts’s reputation for candor and a further debasement of the already debased currency of the testimony of nominees at judicial confirmation hearings.”

Such words from Richard Posner would cause any member of the court, let alone a relatively new and young chief justice who undoubtedly admires him, to swallow hard.

The court’s modulated tone may also stem from the fact that this is an election year. Lee Epstein, a political scientist and law professor at Northwestern University, said that political scientists had long observed an “election effect” on the court that results in more consensus and fewer 5-to-4 decisions during an election year than in the preceding term.

“Of course, lots of things could explain this, but the pattern is pretty interesting,” Ms. Epstein said in an e-mail exchange, adding that the justices “probably don’t want to provoke controversy, or become an issue, during the election — especially an election with a highly uncertain outcome.”

Activist judges, indeed. And isn't it interesting, if this is true, that the conservative judges would feel the need to move sharply leftward, albeit not too far, so as to avoid further harming the chances of the party what brung 'em in this year's election?


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sen. Kennedy

Not a good prognosis, but Kennedy's only gotten tougher as he's gotten older.

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A coordinated attack on NBC and MSNBC by the White House and its house organ Fox News? Can such a thing be possible?

Here is the particular exchange that Gillespie complained about at some length:

Engel: "You said that negotiating with Iran is pointless, and then you went further. You said that it was appeasement. Were you referring to Senator Barack Obama?"

Bush: "You know, my policies haven't changed, but evidently the political calendar has. . . . And when, you know, a leader of Iran says that they want to destroy Israel, you got to take those words seriously."

What NBC cut out was these two sentences: "People need to read the speech. You didn't get it exactly right, either. What I said was is that we need to take the words of people seriously."

NBC also omitted the rest of Bush's response: "And if you don't take them seriously, then it harkens back to a day when we didn't take other words seriously. It was fitting that I talked about not taking the words of Adolph Hitler seriously on the floor of the Knesset. But I also talked about the need to defend Israel, the need to not negotiate with the likes of al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas. And the need to make sure Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon."

If Bush had actually explained what he thought Engel got wrong, then the editing might have come in for legitimate criticism. But all Bush did was vaguely and confusingly suggest that what he was calling appeasement was "not taking the words [of enemies like Iran -- or Hitler --] seriously." By no accepted definition does that amount to appeasement. But regardless, Bush's point was dutifully noted in what NBC aired.

The White House's outsized reaction instead appears to be about two other things entirely.

It doesn't take a trained psychologist to observe that Bush got angrier and angrier as the Engel interview went on. That obviously had nothing to do with the editing; it had to do with Engel's questions.

Bush typically sits down with interviewers from Fox News -- or, more recently, Politico-- where he can count on more than his share of ingratiating softballs. But Engel, a fluent Arabic speaker who has logged more time in Iraq than any other television correspondent, assertively confronted Bush with the ramifications of his actions in the Middle East.

For instance, Engel noted: "A lot of Iran's empowerment is a result of the war in Iraq." He questioned Bush about his lack of an exit strategy in Iraq: "So it doesn't sound like there's an end anytime soon." He clearly upset Bush by saying that "on the ground," the situation in Iraq "looks very bleak." (Bush replied: "Well, that's interesting you said that -- that's a little different from the surveys I've seen and a little different from the attitude of the actual Iraqis I've talked to, but you're entitled to your opinion.")

He also challenged Bush on his legacy: "[I]f you look back over the last several years, the Middle East that you'll be handing over to the next President is deeply problematic: You have Hamas in power; Hezbollah empowered, taking to the streets, more -- stronger than the government; Iran empowered, Iraq still at war. What region are you handing over?"

And Bush seemed positively furious by the end of the interview, when Engel had this to say: "The war on terrorism has been the centerpiece of your presidency. Many people say that it has not made the world safer, that it has created more radicals. That there are more people in this part of the world who want to attack the United States."

So is it a stretch to suspect that Bush told his counselor to get a little revenge?

The other essential bit of context is the ferocious, high-profile campaign being orchestrated by Fox News star Bill O'Reilly, Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch against NBC and its cable channel, MSNBC. Just in case that had escaped the White House's attention before, a front-page Washington Post story by Howard Kurtz yesterday noted, among other things, that O'Reilly "routinely assails NBC . . . as an organization that 'spews out far-left propaganda,' is 'the most aggressive anti-Bush network' and is 'in the tank' for Barack Obama."


On Fox News's O'Reilly Factor last night, guest host Laura Ingraham and her guest, Karl Rove, applauded Gillespie's attack.

Laura Ingraham: "As you know, there has been a lot of criticism of NBC made by Bill that the news agency has gone far left. And this is just another piece of that evidence. . . .

Rove: "[T]his was either a very sloppy job of editing, or it was an example of bias. Either one of those doesn't speak well of NBC News. I mean, they deliberately edited out the president correcting Engel's depiction of what his speech was about. They deliberately left that on the cutting floor. . . .

"Look, NBC has got a real problem because we're now in a position where we are starting to see the journalistic standards of MSNBC, which are really no standards at all, creep into NBC, which is a respected news organization.

Like the polar bear, the First Amendment finds itself on thinner and thinner ice. That the metaphorical melting of that ice is abetted by the publisher of The Wall Street Journal is disturbing to say the least.

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Destroying a country in order to save it

We here at Vega central generally avoid giving advice to liberal hawks and neocons, and we know very little about Myanmar, but here goes. Instead of musing about the efficacy of mounting relief efforts in the guise of a U.S. invasion of the country, why not try helping the people of Myanmar.

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McCain's activism

Jeffrey Toobin listened to McCain's speech on appointing federal judges -- a speech he delivered in as obscured manner as he possibly could -- and hears the dog whistles for the conservative base.

The giveaway here was that McCain did not reveal the subject matter of this supposed judicial outrage. The case was Roper v. Simmons, in which a seventeen-year-old boy murdered a woman after breaking into her home, and was sentenced to death. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s opinion overturned the sentence and held that the Constitution forbids the death penalty for juvenile offenders. McCain’s reference to the Court’s “discourse” on the law of “other nations” refers to Kennedy’s observation of the “stark reality that the United States is the only country in the world that continues to give official sanction to the juvenile death penalty.” Likewise, Kennedy noted that the only other countries to execute juvenile offenders since 1990 have been China, Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. According to McCain, the United States apparently belongs on this dismal list.

Nor were his references to penumbras and emanations accidental. Those words come from Justice William O. Douglas’s 1965 opinion for the Court in Griswold v. Connecticut, in which the Justices recognized for the first time a constitutional right to privacy, and ruled that a state could not deny married couples access to birth control. The “meaning of life” was a specific reference, too. It comes from the Court’s 1992 opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed the central holding of Roe v. Wade, and forbade the states from banning abortion. In short, this one passage in McCain’s speech amounted to a dog whistle for the right—an implicit promise that he will appoint Justices who will eliminate the right to privacy, permit states to ban abortion, and allow the execution of teen-agers.

Toobin goes on to explain that, unlike most McCain positions these days (the Bush/McCain Iraqi debacle not included), McCain really means it.

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A little Red Sox love

Hat tip to Jon Lester.

In hospitals from Maine to Arizona and everywhere in between, patients probably gained a little courage from watching Lester celebrate. Maybe they smiled or cheered his every pitch. Even the Yankees fans.


It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world

Drum is right. Conservative nostalgia for the Cold War and the Soviet Union is sure a nice thing to see for us ol' commies. But what makes Iran, or it's "mullahs" apocalyptic?

Which again raises the issue of motivation. Ahmadinejad and his cohort are apocalyptic jihadi revolutionaries. Shouldn't what they believe be analyzed and factored in as we try to assess the threat that they pose? Or would that offend moderates too much? It seems awfully silly to compare them to the Soviet Union when, with the latter, we had a deterrence policy — Mutually Assured Destruction — that was explicitly based not only on the size of the enemy arsenal but on whether, given his motivations, he was likely to act. Obama appears content to calculate based on the size of the arsenal, period. That's not MAD, but it's madness.
Iran's war with Iraq was, in many respects, apocalyptic in the sense a huge number of Iraqi and Iranian men died. But, frankly, Iran had a huge population that their leaders felt were expendable. Iranian leaders. on the other hand, probably don't think their own power -- or their own lives -- are. Besides, they've got bigger problems than the existence of Israel: food prices.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Exceptional, or just "special?"

Shorter William "the bloody" Kristol: "Enraged, anti-GOP voters will greet John McCain with sweets and flowers."

Greenwald helpfully reminds us
why Kristol is on the OpEd page of the paper of record:

Rosenthal actually claimed when he hired Kristol that he did so to achieve "balance" and to create diversity on the Op-Ed page. Indeed. Last Monday, Kristol's column compared Americans who don't want to fight for Israel to Neville Chamberlain appeasers. Then, on Wednesday, Tom Friedman declared a "cold war" whereby Israel and the U.S. fight together (along with Sunni Arab dictators) against Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. Then, on Friday, David Brooks declared Obama suspect when it comes to hating Hezbollah enough, writing that Obama's statements bear "the whiff of what President Bush described yesterday as appeasement" and that "if Obama believes all this, he's not just a Jimmy Carter-style liberal. He's off in Noam Chomskyland." Obama then had to call Brooks, demonstrate his commitment to hating Hezbollah, and was cleared by Brooks (for now) of the charge of insufficient devotion to fighting Israel's enemies.

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Expect more of this kind of thing.

Kathleen Parker, wresting the Douchebag of Liberty mantle from Robert Novak.

But Ms. Parker...fuck you.

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Blue Monday, Pigpen edition

Sadly, he'd be dead in about a year.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sen. Kennedy suffers a seizure

Friday, May 16, 2008


Obama's response is exactly right.

"That's the kind of hypocrisy that we've been seeing in our foreign policy, the kind of fear-peddling, fear mongering that has prevented us from actually making us safer."Obama said McCain had a "naive and irresponsible belief that tough talk from Washington will somehow cause Iran to give up it's nuclear program and support for terrorism."
McCain's claim of "experience" is undercut at every turn by his childish, Bush-like talk, and by the inconsistency of his stances. The press won't call it on him, so Obama's right to do it.

But, Sen. McCain, continue yelling "get off my lawn, you punk" and, better still, "five more years!" Should prove effective.


Billy goat

The Jankees are bad right now, but the Metropolitans' world is a bad place to be right now.

On the eve of the Subway Series, with Mike Pelfrey's no-hit flirtation squandered, the Mets had a clubhouse eruption Thursday. Closer Billy Wagner looked across the room, in the direction of the vacant locker of Carlos Delgado, and blurted:

"Someone tell me why the ---- you're talking to the closer. I didn't even play. They're over there, not being interviewed."

Wagner paused for dramatic effect. Then, in a scene reminiscent of last year's Paul Lo Duca comments, minus the racial overtones, the closer sarcastically added: "I got it. They're gone. ----ing shocker."

Hey, Wagner, here's a suggestion: If you don't want the beat reporters gathering around your locker like so many vultures...

...don't give them money quotes by throwing your teammates off the bridge.

There's a technical term for this. I believe the Sabermetricians call it, being a dick.


Sniper fire?

Unfortunate headline?

McCain Aide Trains His Sights on Obama

There seems to be little hesitation on the part of editors of the leading national newspapers to make allusions to Obama's assassination these days.

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Bela Lugosi's Dead


Timetable for withdrawal

Ah, John McCain. He was against timetables for withdrawal before he was for them.

"Last April, Governor Romney said he supported 'timetables' for withdrawing our troops from Iraq and keeping them secret. When he suggested secret 'timetables,' General Petraeus' new strategy in Iraq was just starting. Opponents of General Petraeus' strategy all argued that we should not increase troop levels, but establish 'timetables' for withdrawing our forces from Iraq. It was clear at the time that some were hedging their bets on Iraq, positioning themselves politically by being deliberately vague on their support for General Petraeus' new strategy.

"Governor Romney also said that there wouldn't be any real difference on Iraq policy between the Republican nominee and Senator Clinton during the general election. Well, Senator Clinton advocates withdrawal from Iraq within 60 days. Should that be the policy of the Republican nominee in November? Would it be Governor Romney's?

"I understand if Governor Romney has changed his mind given the obvious success of the surge. But the fact is, like on so many other issues, Governor Romney has hedged, equivocated, ducked, and reversed himself.

"The only people who are owed an apology are the men and women fighting for our country in Iraq, who have a right to expect their leaders to stand by them and their mission not just when it is easy, but when it matters most -- when it is hard."

"Secret" timetables were so...appeasy back in January.

Yesterday, a non-secret timetable, albeit one designed to be settled after the next president's term of office, is just right.

In his speech delivered in Columbus, Ohio, today, McCain said that within five years he expects Iraq to be "a functioning democracy" with a "professional and competent" Iraqi Security Force capable of "defending the integrity of its borders."

Predicting the defeat of Al Qaeda in Iraq, McCain also forecast a U.S. military role, "but a much smaller one," that would "not play a direct combat role."

Of course, Romney's "timetable" would likely have included benchmarks a little more specific than "democracy, whiskey, sexy." And a pony. At least I think so. His were "secret." McCain, on the other hand, is telling the terraists what our game plan is. Shouldn't he apologize to the troops?

UPDATE: Turns out McCain was for "appeasement" before he was agin it.


The imaginary state

Why do all these Kleins hate the Jews?

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"A blank slate"

All kinds of stupid.


Without accountability

The war in Afghanistan takes an ominous turn.

KABUL, Afghanistan — A special investigator for the United Nations on Thursday accused foreign intelligence agencies of conducting nighttime raids and killing civilians in Afghanistan with impunity.

The investigator, Philip Alston, would not specify the nationalities of the intelligence agencies. But the descriptions he gave of units operating out of two American bases in southern and eastern Afghanistan suggested that he was accusing the Central Intelligence Agency or American unconventional-warfare units of operating without accountability to the Afghan government or the foreign military command in the country. Afghan forces working with foreign units were not under the control of the Afghan government, he said.

American officials in Afghanistan declined to comment on Mr. Alston’s accusations.

Mr. Alston, who directs a center for human rights and global justice at New York University’s Law School, spoke at a news conference after a 12-day visit to Afghanistan as the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. He reports to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

On Thursday, a suicide bomber killed 14 people and wounded 25, among them police officers and civilians, in an explosion in a town in southwestern Afghanistan. The target appeared to be a convoy of police vehicles, said the provincial governor, Rohul Aman.

Mr. Alston said he had concluded that civilian casualties in Afghanistan were intolerably high, and often could be avoided. The lack of accountability, and the complacency at so many killings by the police and international forces, was staggering, he said.

His comments seemed at odds with claims by NATO that civilian casualties had been greatly reduced in recent months.

International military forces have killed as many as 200 civilians in the first four months of this year, often in aerial bombings, but also in joint operations with Afghan security forces, he said. The Taliban have killed 300 civilians in the same period, he said. The Taliban may be attacking military targets, but 95 percent, probably more, of their victims were civilians, he said, citing figures compiled by the United Nations’ Afghan mission.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

He's an American. He says so himself.

Somerby spies a seismic shift in punditocracy's coverage of McCain: they're circling around a question they infer, but are yet afraid to voice: he's got a character problem.

POP THE QUESTION: Three cheers for Ruth Marcus, who proved on Wednesday that it actually can be done! Omigod! She wrote a column which challenged John McCain’s character—but unlike her colleague, Richard Cohen, she didn’t feel the need to tell us about McCain’s vast integrity first! Her column was headlined, “High Court Caricature.” She pulled few punches as she described the “tired broadside” McCain had offered about those famous old activist judges. How fake and phony was McCain’s presentation? Somehow, Marcus managed to give this example without feeling the need to praise his unparalleled honesty first:

MARCUS (5/14/08): McCain's bill of particulars against activist judges was particularly unimpressive. He assailed one justice for stating "that he was basing a conclusion on 'my own experience.' " This was John Paul Stevens this year questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty—and then, respecting the importance of precedent, voting with the majority to uphold lethal injection.

Grisly—but all too familiar. We don’t agree with every word in this column. But somehow, Marcus was able to describe McCain dissembling and pandering—without first taking a moment to let us know what a vast moral giant he is.

Harold Meyerson did the same thing, although we thought his column was weaker. (He had to drag West Virginia in!) Unfortunately, Meyerson failed to produce a good sound-bite. But he showed us McCain in full demagogue mode, playing the “real American” card. In a column called “McCain’s America,” Meyerson started with what is just gruesome, not with a tribute to McCain’s wondrous soul:

MEYERSON (5/14/08): If the McCain campaign is still trying out songs, there's one by a couple of Brits, W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, that it should consider. We have to change the words "an Englishman" to "American" to get it to work, but, that done, the song expresses succinctly and entirely the case for John McCain and, by implication, against Barack Obama:

For he himself has said it,
And it's greatly to his credit,
That he is American!
That he is American!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the sum total of the Republican message this year. That is why McCain's first post-primary ad proclaimed him "the American president Americans have been waiting for." Not the "strong" or "experienced" president, though those are contrasts he could seek to draw with Obama. The "American" president—because that's the only contrast through which McCain has even a chance of prevailing.

Why is McCain pimping himself as “the American president?” Must we really ask?

Must we indeed? The loathsome Tony Blankley answers the question. Of Obama (who, he helpfully points out, is black), he writes,

But his associations, and his San Francisco statement, his wife’s seeming anger at America, tend to confirm for some that he is in fact not a sufficiently typical American.

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Biden: "Bullshit"

First they came for the Haitians

Asylum, from Italy?

“We have a lot of government people here and lobbyists and lawyers and very educated, very savvy Washingtonians,” said Jim Cooper, Ms. Cooper’s father, a businessman, describing the reaction in his neighborhood, the Wessynton subdivision of Alexandria. “They were pretty shocked that the government could do this sort of thing, because it doesn’t happen that often, except to people you never hear about, like Haitians and Guatemalans.”


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The earthquake

A heartbreaking slideshow.

Peter Hessler writes about Sichuan Province -- a place where bad things happen with depressing regularity.

In China, when bad things happen, they happen in places like Sichuan. The province is landlocked, remote, and rugged; it’s always been heavily populated, and it’s always been poor. When I was in the Peace Corps, Sichuan was home to a hundred and ten million people, a staggering figure: roughly one of every fifty human beings on earth was Sichuanese. Since then, the central government has divided the region into two parts, Sichuan province and Chongqing municipality, but that has done nothing to change the sheer sense of massed humanity. And the recent earthquake is by no means unusual. If you’ve lived in Sichuan, and continue to follow it in the news, you become accustomed to terrible stories—floods and landslides and collapsed bridges. Periodically, I’ll receive an e-mail that stops me cold, such as the one that Kevin sent last May:

I am sorry to tell a bad news. My town is called Yihe in Kaixian County in Chongqing. Two days ago, a big thunder hit my wife’s village school. It killed 7 students and wounded 44 students. It was not my wife’s class. But when the tragedy happened, my wife was teaching her students. . . . I am sorry to tell you about the bad news. These days my wife and I are both sad and scared at home.

The Chinese often believe that human beings are shaped by the land around them. After my time in Sichuan, I came to agree; I had never lived among people who were so tough. The Sichuanese are natural workers, and they dominate construction crews in many parts of China. They are patient and tireless and determined, and they’re famous for pragmatism—Deng Xiaoping came from Sichuan. The people are also surprisingly good-natured and optimistic. Maybe that’s what happens when you’re a survivor, and maybe that also accounts for their sense of humor. On Tuesday, I received another e-mail from Willy:

…a minor quake measure 6.1 occurred again in Chengdu at around 3:00 and I called my friend there, they said when it happened yesterday, the whole house was like a swing. But this afternoon, when I called him, he said many of his colleagues (some teachers) were playing mahjong happily in the wake of the terrible quake.…
Do you still remember my uncle, who went to Gansu as the early migrant worker? His son survived the quake. . . . He was a college student in Aba Teachers’ College, which happens to be located in the epicenter. He is going to graduate in July, but he found a job for Yanjing Beer Company, the company asked them to go to Guangxi to get training instead of going back to school to study, so when the quake happened he was on the train to Guangxi not knowing that Yanjing Beer Company had saved his life.

Meanwhile, NPR has been doing a tremendous job of reporting this story with immediacy and sensitivity.

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Somethin's happenin' here

Forget Appalachia, the real news this morning is out of Mississippi, and it could not be any worse for the GOP.

The Democrat, Travis Childers, a local courthouse official, pulled together a coalition of blacks, who turned out heavily, and old-line “yellow dog” Democrats, to beat his Republican opponent, Greg Davis, the mayor of Southaven, a Memphis suburb. With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, the vote was 54 percent for Mr. Childers to 46 percent for Mr. Davis.

The seat had been in Republican hands since 1995, and the district, largely rural and stretching across the northern top of Mississippi, had been considered one of the safest in the country for President Bush’s party, as he won here with 62 percent of the vote in 2004.

Having lost a similar Congressional race this month in Louisiana, Republicans had worked desperately to win this contest, sending Vice President Dick Cheney to campaign for Mr. Davis, along with Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas; President Bush and Senator John McCain recorded telephone messages that were sent to voters throughout the district.

Merle Black, a Southern politics expert at Emory University, called a Democratic victory potentially “a huge upset, and an indication of a terrible year ahead for the Republicans.” He added, “In theory, this should be an easy win for them.”

Mimicking a strategy that proved successful in 2006, Democrats ran staunch conservatives in both this and the Louisiana race, forcing their Republican opponents to attack national party figures as surrogates.

And congratulations, California.

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The #1 analysist on the #1 baseball channel!


Yesterday and today, Hilzoy has been reviewing the career of Charlie Black, McCain's chief strategist and PR flack to some of the most hateful, vile dictators and strong men of the last half of the twentieth century.

McCain wants to be judged by the company he keeps.

But we shouldn't forget his military strategy, which included not only the massive and indiscriminate use of landmines, but also this:

"Savimbi's military strategy (...) was to make Angola ungovernable. His forces systematically targeted civilians and cut the economic links between city and countryside. He also eliminated internal rivals he regarded as too open to peace."


"In order to instill terror in the population and to undermine confidence in the government, Savimbi ordered that food supplies be targeted, millions of land mines be laid in peasants’ fields, and transport lines be cut. As part of this destabilization effort, UNITA frequently attacked health clinics and schools, specifically terrorizing and killing medical workers and teachers. The UN estimated that Angola lost $30 billion in the war from 1980 to 1988, which was six times the country’s 1988 GDP. According to UNICEF, approximately 330,000 children died as direct and indirect results of the fighting during that period alone. Human Rights Watch reports that because of UNITA’s indiscriminate use of landmines, there were over 15,000 amputees in Angola in 1988, ranking it alongside Afghanistan and Cambodia."

Current estimates put the number of unexploded landmines in Angola at around six million, and the number of people injured by landmines at 80,000.

Want to know what Charlie Black thought about this?

"Black, Manafort doesn't seem troubled by allegations that Savimbi tortured and murdered his rivals within UNITA or his resumption of the civil war. While Kelly declined to respond to questions regarding the substance of the firm's contract with Savimbi, in a 1990 interview Black defended him, saying, "Now when you're in a war, trying to manage a war, when the enemy ... is no more than a couple of hours away from you at any given time, you might not run your territory according to New Hampshire town meeting rules.""


Eventually, we cut our ties to Savimbi. When the apartheid government in South Africa fell, removing his other source of funding, he turned to blood diamonds to finance his endless war. Early on, he had claimed to be a democrat, and some conservatives believed him. In 1992, when he lost the election he claimed to have wanted all these years, he just started fighting again. The war went on for ten more years, until his death. When word got out that he had been killed,

"Residents of Angola's dilapidated capital, Luanda, greeted it with jubilation. People honked their horns as they drove through the rutted streets while others danced and fired shots in the air."

They were cheering for the end of twenty seven years of war: a war that would have been far less lethal without American support. That was what Charlie Black was lobbying for: the support Savimbi needed to utterly destroy his country. Thanks to Black's skill as a lobbyist, and his apparent lack of a conscience, Savimbi got it.

This is John McCain's chief political advisor. Think about it.

Better yet. Let's not think about that, and instead think about Obama's "ties" to Bill Ayers or his former pastor, two individuals not involved in his campaign in any way.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Damn Yankees

For those who have claimed that Jorge Posada is overrated and A-Rod sucks, well, now you get to see what the team looks like without them. And it ain't fun to watch.

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Something to ponder

The framers probably never foresaw this.

George W. Bush has now gone 40 months without majority approval from the country he's supposed to represent and govern. That's longer than Truman, Nixon, or any other president since the advent of polling. He has cracked 70% disapproval, another first, and is now more unpopular than Nixon was directly before he resigned from office. He is shockingly unpopular, and this is a reality that neither the Congress nor the media has quite figured out how to address. It's something of a crisis for our political system that the president has now spent over three years hated and mistrusted by the majority of the country, and yet has never felt the need to take steps to restore his legitimacy. Something is wrong.
And now he's heading off to the Middle East -- the second time in six months -- for another exercise in irrelevancy.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Apostate president?

I'm with Somerby on this one. What were the Times editors thinking?

Luttwak’s images of stoning, beheading and violent assassination (while security forces watch) is triggered by a noble impulse—the desire to refute “the oft-made claim that an Obama presidency would be welcomed by the Muslim world.” For ourselves, we’ve heard that “unrealistic hope” suggested once or twice—but we can’t recall when we heard it last. In Luttwak’s hands, this infrequent claim becomes a trigger for an exceptionally odd discussion, in which he spreads notions and images which should be approached with great caution:

LUTTWAK (continuing directly): This idea often goes hand in hand with the altogether more plausible argument that Mr. Obama’s election would raise America’s esteem in Africa—indeed, he already arouses much enthusiasm in his father’s native Kenya and to a degree elsewhere on the continent.

But it is a mistake to conflate his African identity with his Muslim heritage. Senator Obama is half African by birth and Africans can understandably identify with him. In Islam, however, there is no such thing as a half-Muslim. Like all monotheistic religions, Islam is an exclusive faith.

Is Barack Obama “half African by birth?” Does Obama have a “Muslim heritage?” Did Obama “convert” to Christianity? In the current American political context, these notions should be pursued very cautiously. Instead, the Times throws them out in an unseasoned stew, wrapped in the image of stoning and beheading. All so we can see through an “oft-made claim”—an oft-made claim which isn’t being made very often at all.

Was Luttwak’s topic worth discussing? Concerning that, we have no firm view. But a very peculiar set of images drives today’s unfortunate piece. Major figures like Obama are normally granted a higher threshold of dignity. Today, we’re invited to picture him getting beheaded because of his “conversion” to Christianity—all so Luttwak can try to debunk a claim few people are discussing. This somehow made sense to the New York Times. It doesn’t make much sense to us.

I hadn't read the op-ed, so I had no idea there was something worse than Kristol's column in the Times this morning.


The daddy party

I knew the GOP longs for a day when men are kings in their homes; I know they often put the "rights" of blastocysts ahead of the health of the mother; but I did not know they'd take it this far.

It was already shaping up to be a difficult year for congressional Republicans. Now, on the cusp of Mother's Day, comes this: A majority of the House GOP has voted against motherhood.

On Wednesday afternoon, the House had just voted, 412 to 0, to pass H. Res. 1113, "Celebrating the role of mothers in the United States and supporting the goals and ideals of Mother's Day," when Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), rose in protest.

"Mr. Speaker, I move to reconsider the vote," he announced.

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who has two young daughters, moved to table Tiahrt's request, setting up a revote. This time, 178 Republicans cast their votes against mothers.

It has long been the custom to compare a popular piece of legislation to motherhood and apple pie. Evidently, that is no longer the standard. Worse, Republicans are now confronted with a John Kerry-esque predicament: They actually voted for motherhood before they voted against it.

Republicans, unhappy with the Democratic majority, have been using such procedural tactics as this all week to bring the House to a standstill, but the assault on mothers may have gone too far. House Minority Leader John Boehner, asked yesterday to explain why he and 177 of his colleagues switched their votes, answered: "Oh, we just wanted to make sure that everyone was on record in support of Mother's Day."

By voting against it?

If Boehner's explanation doesn't make much sense, he's been under a great deal of stress lately.

There's the case of one member of his caucus, Rep. Vito Fossella (N.Y.); the father of three from Staten Island yesterday announced that he has a fourth, a 3-year-old love child with a woman from Virginia. That admission was prompted by his drunken-driving arrest in Virginia last week, when he told police he was on his way to see his daughter. "I think Mr. Fossella is going to have some decisions to make over the weekend," Boehner said at his news conference yesterday, cutting Fossella loose. Fossella was spotted on the House floor, in tears, speaking to the chaplain.

For the record, Fossella did not participate in the Mother's Day vote.

Via The Poor Man Institute.


McCain's environmental record

The Post has a good piece on McCain's...shall we say, nuanced...record on environmental issues, but this seems to be the takeaway:

When [League of Conservation Voters president] Karpinski tells audiences about McCain's environmental scorecard rating, he said, "jaws drop. . . . I tell them, 'He's not as green as you think he is.' "
And of course, McCain's grasp of the situation is sophisticated.

"We start building nuclear power plants, we'll have cheaper energy. Duh," he said.

"We?" Who's "we?" The energy companies aren't exactly rushing to fill the need, even as oil approaches $200 a barrel.


Civics lesson

Missouri would make it a requirement that, to be a good citizen you have to prove you're a citizen.

Best part:

Supporters of citizenship requirements, however, say the threat of voting by illegal immigrants is real. Thor Hearne, a lawyer in Missouri who has been a strong advocate of voter ID, cited a California congressional race in 1996 in which a Republican, Bob Dornan, was narrowly defeated. Mr. Dornan contested the results, claiming that illegal immigrants had voted.

After a 14-month investigation by state, county and federal officials, a panel concluded that up to 624 noncitizens may have registered to vote. The report came to no firm determination of whether any of those people had actually voted.

No, it certainly did not.

Justice Stevens must be so proud.


Blue Monday: John Coltrane edition

Afro Blue with the John Coltrane Quartet.

Ralph Gleason, I assume, is the guy groovin' with the pipe, leaning on McCoy Tyner's piano.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

A Krugmaniad too far

I'm sorry, Paul, but a week after your favorite candidate referred to "economists" "elitist views" of the gas tax (and, by inference, the effete elitism of Sen. Obama), and a day after she claimed to be the preferred candidates of "working, hard-working whites," accusing Axelrod and Brazile -- not Barack Obama, by the way -- of "insult[ing] the groups that supported Mrs. Clinton" is just a wee bit hard to swallow.

More tirades from Obama supporters against Mrs. Clinton are not the answer — they will only further alienate her grass-roots supporters, many of whom feel that she received a raw deal.

Nor is it helpful to insult the groups that supported Mrs. Clinton, either by suggesting that racism was their only motivation or by minimizing their importance.

After the Pennsylvania primary, David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, airily dismissed concerns about working-class whites, saying that they have “gone to the Republican nominee for many elections.” On Tuesday night, Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist, declared that “we don’t have to just rely on white blue-collar voters and Hispanics.” That sort of thing has to stop.

One thing the Democrats definitely need to do is give delegates from Florida and Michigan — representatives of citizens who voted in good faith, and whose support the party may well need this November — seats at the convention.

Emphasis mine. What "tirades" is he referring to? George McGovern's? What in Axelrod's statement even implied racism? And while the voters of Florida and Michigan may have gone to the polls in good faith, Clinton's demand that they be counted -- after she'd agreed to the rules beforehand -- is not.

That's just disingenuous, Paul. And no way to "heal" the party.

Stick to economics, dude. Starting, perhaps, with giving us your views on whether McCain's and Clinton's "gas tax holiday" is a good idea or not. After all, Krugman's one of those "elitist" economists Clinton keeps disparaging, is he not?


The greatest percussion section ever

In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Guantanamo's long shadow

The current generation of American military leadership will likely be as derided and degraded as the generation that led American forces in the 1960s.

WASHINGTON — When the Pentagon announced in March that Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood would become the senior American officer based in Pakistan, it reflected the military’s aim to put a crisis-tested veteran in a critical job at a pivotal time in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

But nearly two months later, the military has quietly canceled the assignment of General Hood, a 33-year Army veteran who was excoriated in the Pakistani news media for one of his previous jobs: commander of the United States prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

During General Hood’s command from 2004 to 2006, military authorities force-fed with tubes detainees who were engaging in hunger strikes at the Guantánamo prison, a step they justified as necessary to prevent the prisoners from committing suicide to protest their indefinite confinement. Also during General Hood’s tenure, reports that an American guard may have desecrated a Koran stirred wide protests in the Islamic world.


A third party bid?

George Wallace isn't dead.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The pundits have spoken

Our long national nightmare is over -- the pundits say it's over.

O'course, they're a month late...

Now, let's get to work.


Why Fareed Zakaria is like a fireman

Ok, remind me again, why is Fareed Zakaria considered a "public intellectual?"

As Mr. Zakaria sees it, the “economic dysfunctions in America today” are the product not of “deep inefficiencies within the American economy,” but of specific government policies — which could be reformed “quickly and relatively easily” to put the country on a more stable footing. “A set of sensible reforms could be enacted tomorrow,” he says, “to trim wasteful spending and subsidies, increase savings, expand training in science and technology, secure pensions, create a workable immigration process and achieve significant efficiencies in the use of energy” — if only the current political process weren’t crippled by partisanship, special-interest agendas, a sensation-driven media, ideological attack groups and legislative gridlock.

And a pony. I know, I know, he often writes relatively interesting columns in some weekly news magazine (though rarely letting on which side he's on other than sort of indicating he's not with the stupider side). His view on what policies can be reformed "quickly and relatively easily" is both naive and wacky. It's very much on a par with the obnoxious Nextel commercial in which all it takes is a handful of pragmatic doers ("Need clean water, guys?" "Aye." "Easiest job I ever had.") to change the way Washington slowly and painfully operates.

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Infinite monkeys, typing

This is why I read FJM every chance I get.

Infinite monkeys on infinite MacBooks could not construct a more false sentence.

That is baseball blogging poetry, man.


Memo to superdelegates

Barack Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, reminds the DNC of their own rules.

At some point – we would argue that time is now – this ceases to be a theoretical exercise about how superdelegates view electability. The reality of the preferences in the last several weeks offer a clear guide of how strongly superdelegates feel Senator Obama will perform in November, both in building a winning campaign for the presidency as well as providing the best electoral climate across the country for all Democratic candidates.

It is important to note that Senator Obama leads Senator Clinton in superdelegate endorsements among Governors, United States Senators and members of the House of Representatives. These elected officials all have a keen sense for who our strongest nominee will be in November.

It is only among D.N.C. members where Senator Clinton holds a lead, which has been rapidly dwindling.

As we head into the final days of the campaign, we just wanted to be clear with you as a party leader, who will be instrumental in making the final decision of who our nominee will be, how we view the race at this point.

Senator Obama, our campaign and our supporters believe pledged delegates is the most legitimate metric for determining how this race has unfolded. It is simply the ratification of the D.N.C. rules – your rules – which we built this campaign and our strategy around.

Meanwhile, Clinton vows to fight on in the hopes that Obama smokes one cigarette too many, or something.

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Wha' happened?

Sorry for the paucity and insipidness of recent posts (and how many times have I started a post with, "Sorry for the paucity and insipidness of recent posts"?). I've been, by turns, inundated by office work and on vacation, inundated by yard work.

Last night, though, I was returning from the Stadium and the Yankees' tough loss to the Native Americans listening to Clinton's odd speech -- we didn't know the outcome of NC and Indiana at the time, and could divine nothing about the results from her speech, other than she didn't sound too victorious. I think Ezra sums it up best.

What surprised me about the speech, though, is that she didn't do more to elevate her own prestige before the party. Whether she's accepted a likely loss or is still hoping for an unexpected win, warm feelings from Obama's sections of the party would help her path to the nomination or her reintegration into everyday politics. She's got good speechwriters -- Bill Clinton included -- who could write her an elevating, healing address. But as of yet, they've not tried that approach. The thinking may be that she can give that speech at the convention, but I'm surprised that they're not even trying that strategy. She's too far behind, with too little time on the clock, to grind this victory out. Whether the strategy is to save face or actually change the math, it requires a speech considerably different than this one.

At one point, I thought she was declaring victory, the next conceding defeat. And I also thought, God, if she does manage to win, the level of oratory in the Fall could be deadly.

I don't think she -- or William Jefferson Clinton -- have come to terms with the fact that they now depend on Obama winning the general election to maintain any kind of leadership status in the party. If he loses, she will be seen as having been a major contributor to his lack of stature in the Fall by doing McCain's oppo-research in advance. The bitter taste will not long disappear, and she'll pay for it if she decides to run again in 2012.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Is that a light at the end of this tunnel, or a headlight?

It may all come down to Gary.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Elitist views

With a gas tax holiday polling well, no doubt, Clinton now has a contempt for economists, environmentalists, budget specialists, policy wonks, etc., that rivals only the current president and the presumed Republican nominee. Inspiring.

While focusing mostly on Americans’ frustration with gas prices, Mrs. Clinton also indirectly revived her charge — made in the approach to the Pennsylvania primary — that Mr. Obama was an elitist and unsympathetic to the economic worries of average voters. Appearing on the ABC program “This Week,” she cast opposition to her plan to suspend the federal gas tax this summer as an “elite” view; while she was referring explicitly to economists’ criticism of the suspension, Clinton advisers said she was also seeking to include Mr. Obama in that group because of his opposition to her plan.

Obama's rise in the early caucuses and primaries -- in fact the entire Democratic slate in the early days -- seemed to be ushering in a new kind of political campaign. One that would stay ever so slightly above the bullshit. Instead, the bullshit is pulling Obama back to the ground. How depressing.


Our preference


"I actually am very hopeful that we don't get into a position where we have to get into a conflict," Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Israel's Channel Ten television when asked if he might recommend that U.S. forces strike Iranian nuclear facilities preemptively.

All the signs and portents are there for a massive U.S. strike against Iran in the next few months, say, October.

UPDATE: And, like clockwork, the New York Times plays its accustomed role.

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Blue Monday, Reverand Gary Davis edition

I would tear this old building down.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Like pigs to the slaughter

Coachella -- just like you been there.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008


It is ironic, that "Justice" is often represented as a woman.

DC Madam who ran a prostitution ring? Shamed, sentence to decades in prison, and now dead by apparent suicide.

David Vitter, Republican Senator who used said prostitution ring? Still a US Senator.

No wonder Ashcroft had her cover up.

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No bounds

It's incredible, the ability to continue to amaze and disgust after seven years.

A federal plan to protect endangered whales along the East Coast has been caught in interagency warfare and held in limbo by the White House, according to documents made public on Wednesday by a Democratic congressman and an environmental group.

Right whales, which were hunted to near extinction over five centuries, number perhaps 350. Roughly three a year are injured or killed in collisions with oceangoing vessels like containerized cargo ships.

The regulation drafted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would require ships to cut their speed by 40 percent or more, to 10 knots, near whale feeding and calving grounds.

The documents released by Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, including replies by NOAA scientists to their critics in the Office of the Vice President and the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, indicated that the critics wanted to rework the agency’s scientific data and weaken the draft regulation.

The slower speeds would increase shipping costs and might also make it more difficult to steer through rough seas, shipping interests said.


Loyalty Day

Long time occasional reader, "Ian," reminds me that today is "Loyalty Day."

Workers of the world...get a lapel pin flag on, already!


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