Sunday, August 31, 2008

Palin fantasies

It makes me throw up a little in my mouth just thinking about it, but I believe McCain gave Dowd an orgasm.


The Palin family feud

TPM has been following the Palin investigation since long before anyone had ever heard of her. Too much good stuff to lift passages, read the whole thing. Whatever it does for the evangelical vote, it was a deeply cynical, pandering, and reckless choice. She doesn't have the temperament to govern The United States.

Much like the top of the ticket.

At 11 a.m. on Thursday, at the McCain vacation compound near Sedona, Ariz., Mr. McCain invited Ms. Palin to join him on the ticket. He hardly knew her, and she had virtually no foreign policy experience, but Ms. Palin was a “kindred spirit,” a McCain adviser said. Mr. McCain was betting, the adviser said, that she would help him reclaim the mantle of maverick that he had lost this year.
He chose her to "reinforce his self-image." Sheesh.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wiki savvy

Well, I guess it's nice that someone on the McCain/Palin ticket knows where to find the Internets.


You aren't nearly afraid enough

So says the Bush administration, according to Eric Lithblau.

WASHINGTON — Tucked deep into a recent proposal from the Bush administration is a provision that has received almost no public attention, yet in many ways captures one of President Bush’s defining legacies: an affirmation that the United States is still at war with Al Qaeda.

Seven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Bush’s advisers assert that many Americans may have forgotten that. So they want Congress to say so and “acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us and who are dedicated to the slaughter of Americans.”

The language, part of a proposal for hearing legal appeals from detainees at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, goes beyond political symbolism. Echoing a measure that Congress passed just days after the Sept. 11 attacks, it carries significant legal and public policy implications for Mr. Bush, and potentially his successor, to claim the imprimatur of Congress to use the tools of war, including detention, interrogation and surveillance, against the enemy, legal and political analysts say.

Some lawmakers are concerned that the administration’s effort to declare anew a war footing is an 11th-hour maneuver to re-establish its broad interpretation of the president’s wartime powers, even in the face of challenges from the Supreme Court and Congress.

The proposal is also the latest step that the administration, in its waning months, has taken to make permanent important aspects of its “long war” against terrorism. From a new wiretapping law approved by Congress to a rewriting of intelligence procedures and F.B.I. investigative techniques, the administration is moving to institutionalize by law, regulation or order a wide variety of antiterrorism tactics.

A fitting monument, I'd say, to the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast. An American city destroyed by the terrorist organization known as the Bush administration. That -- and a McCain administration even less interested in domestic security and life preservers both literal and figurative -- is what we really need to be afraid of.

The real timing of this, of course, has nothing to do with Katrina, but rather yet another election year gambit by the White House. Maybe this time, with Democrats resembling somewhat less a beaten dog, this issue will be part of the debate; certainly it must be part of the presidential debate.


Friday, August 29, 2008

But is she ready to lead?


I understand the logic, but...

She is a former mayor of Wasilla who became governor of her state in December, 2006 after ousting a governor of her own party in a primary and then dispatching a former governor in the general election.

More recently, she has come under the scrutiny of an investigation by the Republican-controlled legislature into the possibility that she ordered the dismissal of Alaska's public safety commissioner because he would not fire her former brother-in-law as a state trooper.

Drill here. Drill now.


Born in the USA

I was struck when I heard the Obama campaign cue up "Born in the USA" last night in advance of the acceptance speech. It's a song used too often by conservatives who never get the irony and hear only the chorus. Something tells me that for Obama's campaign, they understood the relevance to this campaign and its many layers.



Madame Cura and I watched the night's events on PBS, and after Barack's speech David Brooks indicated that the speech was ineffective and aimed only at Democrats. The other panelists looked at him like he had just vomited on national television. And I turned to Madame Cura and said, he'd obviously formulated his response to the speech before watching the speech.

His column today proves my point. No link. Seek it out if you really need bird cage liner or something for your dog to get sick on.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

"The United States of America does not torture."

Not now. Not ever.

In case you missed Kerry's speech, since I understand that unless you were watching C-Span, you missed it.

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Snarly McSnarl

Shorter actual John McCain: [link]



Well, the Yankees are all but done, but John Kerry and Bill Clinton reminded us last night of why we put our trust in them in the first place.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The roll call

Don't ever recall being moved by the roll call vote.

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What the...

Ambien? The angry old dude takes ambien?

Why is this not the biggest news since Thomas Eagleton decided not telling McGovern about his shock treatments was no big deal?

Eeeemagine the roar if Barack Obama were found to be taking sleeping pills with amusing side effects.

Then again, if memory serves (and I think it does), John McCain had no access to drugs for five and a half years.

I'll bet The Editors have Sifu Tweety has something to say about this.


Happy Meals

Sports talk TV

Funny 'cause it's true.

To strain this metaphor even further (and apologies to all non-sports fans), say the Green Bay Packers were playing the Chicago Bears and scored the first two touchdowns. If our political reporters were sportscasters, David Broder would insist that the Packers should let the Bears score, Sean Hannity would loudly proclaim that the Bears did score, and Cokie Roberts would misreport the score and then proceed to ignore the game.
Maybe that's why so many sports guys are getting into political coverage these days and proving much better at it.


Kicked to the corner

The doughy pantsload, in all of his glory.

My column today is on the selection of Biden as Obama's veep. I know it seems dated because of the convention and all that. But the thing is it only happened on Saturday. While I don't get into it in the column, I think the Obama campaign is very fortunate that they were able to change the subject so quickly from their VP pick. I think if they'd done it a week earlier it would have been torn apart. I also think they benefit mightily from the fact that the DC press corps personally likes Biden so much. We've heard Brit Hume, Chris Wallace and Fred Barnes all speak favorably of the guy on a personal level. That's fine. But it gives you a sense of how well liked he is by the DC establishment. I suspect it's partly because he is charming at the retail level. Lots of people say how good he is connecting with people in coffee shops and firehouses and all that. Fine, I take them at their word. But here's the problem. That charm does not translate on TV. It just doesn't. On TV he's a bore.


Biden is an awful pick and I think that will be obvious by the Fall. Though, as I said Saturday, I think he'll probably give a good speech tonight.

Impeccable logic.

And, by the way, the Biden pick was, as Sir Loadalot admits, Saturday. He writes a column for a Daily. Newspaper. He had plenty of time to draft a more newsworthy piece, like how Michelle Obama saying "the world as it is just won't do" really means she hates America. C'mon!


Wonders never cease

Every day, the McCain campaign comes out with a new "ad" that is in fact just a video they created to go with a press release to TV news departments. The press release says that they'll be appearing in "battleground states." But the only airing these videos get is on the TV news.

Steven Benen wonders why TV stations keep taking the bait.

But why would major news outlets repeatedly fall for the same trick, even when they realize the ads are created for the sole purpose of free media attention? There are competing explanations, but my hunch is a lot of outlets are just lazy, and video press releases make their jobs easier.

Um, yeah. It's no different then what corporations (and the White House) do in releasing video press releases. TV news stations are supposed to say where the videos come from, but seldom do, preferring to fill out their 30 minutes with moving pictures instead of just a reporter's face.


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That's some good healing

"That's not a maverick. That's a sidekick."

Well said, Sen. Clinton
. Well said.

UPDATE: Oops, that was Bob Casey.

That doesn't take anything away from Hillary's speech, which was all about what it meant to be a Democrat, not a Hillaryite.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I am not a political journalist. I'm a humble blogger with a memory laid waste by the ravages of time and a penchant for a plethora of vices.

But even I recall this stuff. Why can't the people who are, you know, paid to cover this shit remember what has happened in the not so distant past?

No, I'm not that naive. I know the answer. It's because it is a beltway sport to make fun of Sen. Clinton as fat, shrill, and power mad and to paint the Democratic nominee as a castrated pussy.

I expect Clinton's speech tonight will be an emotional thanks to her supporters and full-throated support for Barack Obama. The real "drama" will be seeing how the TV pundits twist and turn to cram it all into their prepackaged narrative box.

Via Digby.

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Why, oh why, can't we get a better press corps, for the millionth time

Michael Kinsley thinks the GOP is just better at winning presidential elections. Somerby begs to differ.

PART 2—PUNDIT’S LAMENT: Michael Kinsley penned a familiar old saw: Republicans play the game better. (For Kinsley’s column, click here.) These tired old tales pretty much type themselves. But here’s the way Kinsley put it:

KINSLEY (8/23/08): With so much going their way in this election, the biggest challenge the Democrats face is simple: The Republicans just play the game of presidential politics so much better. They play it with genius, courage, creativity and utter ruthlessness.

Kinsley forgot to include an obvious fact: It’s remarkably easy to “play the game well” when the press corps is willing to play on your team—for example, when major pundits like Jonathan Alter were willing to type “invented the Internet” and act like such “genius” claims made sense (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/25/08). Today, Alter tells us that Gore never said it. But uh-oh! Back when it actually mattered, he said something quite different.

It’s amazingly easy to play the game well—when mainstream journalists help you that way. Kinsley, in his upper-class aerie, is of course unaware of this part of the game. Although, in fact, he does blame the press. Or at least, he pretends to do so.

D'ya think?

The Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics, and Public Policy held a talk, moderated by Judy Woodruff, between the Sunday show honchos-- Brokaw, Bob Schieffer, and George Stephanopoulos. Discussing McCain's success in the Republican primaries, Brokaw attributed it to the candidate's "indomitable will," and opined that McCain won by simply being "the most authentic...he wasn't trying to reinvent himself."

This is not only wrong, but diametrically, screamingly wrong. It's not a difficult point--McCain won the primaries specifically by reversing himself on taxes, immigration, the religious right, and virtually every other issue important to the hard right. These policies were not only blazingly visible--Mitt Romney and others called him on it loudly during the Republican debates--but obviously destructive, as the last eight years have proven.

And yet, here is Brokaw saying of the candidate who by far has done the most to change his positions that McCain was "the most authentic...he wasn't trying to reinvent himself." Remember, this isn't old, retired, mildly irrelevant Tom Brokaw. This is the new (for now) host of Meet the Press, and certainly someone who will be a prominent figure in the coverage of the allegedly most-liberal cable network during the elections.


Whiner Nation

The Pie, it is definitely rising.

The key point is that 2007 was the end of an economic expansion — whether or not the NBER declares a recession, the employment situation, which is what matters to most people, has deteriorated sharply this year. So 2007 was as good as it got in this cycle. Yet median household income was lower than in 2000, while both the poverty rate and the percentage of Americans without health insurance were higher.

In short, the economic policies we’ve been following just aren’t working.



In the forgotten war.

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The United Nations said Tuesday it has found "convincing evidence" that U.S. coalition troops and Afghan forces killed some 90 civilians, including 60 children, in airstrikes in western Afghanistan.

The U.N. said it based its findings solely on the testimony of villagers and meetings with Afghan officials, and did not provide photos or evidence that its investigators saw any graves.

President Hamid Karzai's government, in a harshly worded statement, ordered its ministries of foreign affairs and defense to regulate the presence of foreign troops and try to negotiate an end to "airstrikes on civilian targets, uncoordinated house searches and illegal detention of Afghan civilians."

The U.S. coalition has said it killed 25 militants and five civilians in an operation in Shindand district of Herat province on Friday.

We rely on airstrikes, both because of lack of troop strength in Afghanistan and because of an overall preference to blast "the enemy" to smithereens from on high rather than fighting it out on the ground. The problem is, that in conflicts against a guerrilla insurgency operating in and around civilian areas, airstrikes are a blunt force and can be a mindless one at that.

What isn't said in the AP story though, but had read earlier, was that the airstrike was called in by Afghan troops, along with U.S. trainers. And that the "intel" may have come from a rival tribe.

A presidential aide who declined to be identified said that the Interior Ministry and the Afghan intelligence agency had reported from the region that there were no Taliban present in the village that night. The Afghan National Army, whose commandos called in the airstrike along with American Special Forces trainers, were unable to clarify their original claim, he said.

A spokesman for the Afghan Army declined to comment on Saturday.

A tribal elder from the region who helped bury the dead, Haji Tor Jan Noorzai, said people in the village were gathered in memory of a man who was anti-Taliban and was killed last year, and that tribal enemies of the family had given out false information.

“It is quite obvious, the Americans bombed the area due to wrong information,” he said by telephone. “I am 100 percent confident that someone gave the information due to a tribal dispute. The Americans are foreigners and they do not understand. These people they killed were enemies of the Taliban.”

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Putting the nut in "Peanut Gallery"

As is so often his wont, Roy has the line of the day:

I mean, I have to admit that George Will knows a lot about baseball, but who would want to go to an actual game with him?


The Prisoner

Did you know that John McCain was a POW?


Monday, August 25, 2008

Liveblogging the convention until I'm unable to see the keys

Do you remember a political convention with a great band?

8:23 Prediction: The Dem Convention theme will be Obama or 4 more years of Bush. The Repug Convention will be 4 years of Barack Hussein Obama.

8:24 Ha, all those liberal bloggers with press credentials. Fuck you 'cause Wolf Blitzer just told me that we're on the Floor of the Convention! Where are you and is your nose bleeding?

9:15 Caroline Kennedy to the podium, cue "Caroline" (um, weird) previously the band was playing Oye Como Va. But Ted's here and that's all that counts.

9:41 And he delivers a stemwinder. Lots of talk that it's a Bob Shrum speech. It wasn't the words, it was the delivery.


In this chapter our Hero ponders the benefits of cutting off His Nose to spite His Face

As Dan Froomking writes, "That'll show 'em."

Daniel Dombey writes in the Financial Times: "The Bush administration is set to put a high-profile nuclear deal with Russia on hold, according to US diplomats.

"Officials expect Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, to recommend that George W. Bush, president, recall the civil nuclear co-operation agreement from Congress in the wake of Russia's conflict with Georgia. . . .

"The move to put the nuclear agreement on ice would darken prospects for bilateral co-operation between the two countries in the area of nuclear safety."

Brilliant! Shorter Bush administration: I see your incursion into Georgia and raise you a nuclear standoff.

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Blue Monday, Little Milton edition

Hurtling towards a financial crisis

The Post, that is.

The positive side of this story is that Social Security's finances look much better than the Post's. If it keeps making up scare stories about Social Security, perhaps the date of its demise will be hastened.


The glitter effect

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Republican Party's women issue

Bill Kristol, feminist leader.

Will the Democratic party, which is committed (to say the least) to gender equity, and which in fact has a 50 percent quota for female delegates, accept Obama's imposition of a glass ceiling at its convention?

Rudolph Giuliani, astute observer of voters' issues.

"Senator Obama has made a choice more out of weakness than strength," Giuliani said today on ABC's "This Week."

Giuliani, who ran for the Republican nomination, said the presumptive Democratic nominee should have chosen Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Obama's chief rival in the nomination process.

"She had 50 percent of the Democratic vote. Obama has 50 percent of the Democratic vote," the former mayor said. "You almost have to go to extraordinary lengths to avoid her as the vice presidential pick of the party."

According to the Post, Giuli911 was the only Republican on today's Sunday Festival of Hack.

Which is too bad, because it would have been fun to listen to more Republicans express their concern for Democratic -- particularly women -- voters. Because that seems to be the plan.

I'm sure there are still angry Clinton supporters out there, though I can't imagine how naming Clinton as the VP would have salved those wounds, particularly as I never believed Clinton ever wanted the job. But before they start listening to McCain sympathetic embrace, they oughtta remember his sense of humor as well. Because, you know, as evidenced by the treatment of his chief-executive, landlord wife, I'm sure he has nothing but the utmost respect for women.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Social Securty hale and hearty

One more time, Social Security is not "in crisis."

The Congressional Budget Office, the agency charged with providing Congress with objective analyses of federal programs, released a new report today that shows the Social Security program is in good financial shape and will be for decades to come.

In fact, the CBO report says, “future Social Security beneficiaries will receive larger benefits in retirement…than current beneficiaries do, even after adjustments have been made for inflation.”

The report, which forecasts out 75 years, finds that while the accumulating surpluses in the trust fund will be exhausted in 2049, ongoing revenues will still be sufficient to fund about 81% of promised benefits at the end of the 75-year period (in 2082). The reason for this is that wages and Social Security revenues will continue to grow as the economy grows. The trust fund will cushion the large baby boom retirement, as it was designed to do, but most benefits will continue to be funded by direct transfers from workers to retirees, as they are now.

The fact that future retirees will receive higher benefits than current retirees, even if no changes are made to the program, is common knowledge among Social Security experts, but may come as a surprise to the average American, and even to many policy makers. This may be why the CBO, headed by respected economist Peter Orszag, decided to make that point in the first page of the new report.

Of course, that won't stop the "it's just an IOU" crowd (whom, I suspect, are at the same time global warming deniers, but I can't be sure of that).

The report is a timely counter to the alarmism being peddled by Pete Peterson, a billionaire investment banker and Secretary of Commerce under President Nixon. The Peterson Foundation has bankrolled a new movie, I.O.U.S.A., billed as “An Inconvenient Truth for the U.S. economy,” to sell the message that the country is on the brink of a financial meltdown.

In a 60 Minutes episode that preceded the film, Peterson Foundation President David Walker raised the specter of an entitlements crisis brought on by the boomer retirement: “When those boomers start retiring en masse, then that will be a tsunami of spending that could swamp our ship of state if we don’t get serious.”

Yet, according to the CBO projections, Social Security is in decent shape. Without any changes at all, the projected long-term Social Security shortfall equals a mere 1% of taxable payroll.

In fact, the report shows, if there is reason to be concerned, it's not the boomers, it's the brutal disparity of our economy.

The big problem facing Social Security isn’t the boomer retirement—which was fully anticipated and is the reason there is a trust fund—but rather growing income inequality. Because the earnings of most workers have stagnated while those at the top have skyrocketed, the share of untaxed earnings above the taxable earnings cap (currently set at $102,000) has grown from 10% in 1983, when the system was last in balance, to around 17% today. So a better way to address the modest shortfall than an across-the-board tax increase would be to raise or eliminate the cap on taxable earnings.

Privatizing social security won't help that. Quite the contrary.

Via Ezra.


Today's picks

Biden? Yeah, whatever.

The real news today is the Yankees' choice of starter for tonight's game. That Rajah of Rehab, Carl Pavano.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Obama's progressive economy

Things just seem to be going in directions that Obama's been calling for for months. First, we now do have a timetable for pulling out of Iraq something Bush/McCain said would be disrespectful to the troops and an invite to AQ.

And now, the Fed Reserve chief seems to be agreeing with Obama that if American taxpayers are on the hook for bailing out failing banks, then they ought to have some assurance that there is federal oversight of these institutions.

Most of the speech was focused on a series of proposals for an expanded and more stringent regulatory structure for the financial system. Mr. Bernanke suggested that the current design — a patchwork of various agencies, each with a specific area of coverage — should be broadened to encompass the global financial landscape.

He called for the Fed to take a leading role in regulating capital and risk levels at a range of banks and financial institutions. While the Fed has been the primary regulator for commercial banks, it has stepped up its supervision of investment banks since they gained access to the Fed’s liquidity spigots after the near-meltdown of the investment bank Bear Stearns.

Here's this, from David Leonhardt's analysis of Obama's plans for the economy that will appear in this Sunday's NY Times Magazine:

The closest thing to an Obama doctrine on market regulation was a speech he gave in March at Cooper Union in New York, called “Renewing the American Economy.” It included his usual praise of market forces, and his prescriptions for regulating the financial system were mostly mainstream Democratic fare, like tougher penalties for loan fraud, tighter rules and closer oversight for Wall Street. These steps might or might not prevent the next crisis, but they would certainly place a bigger emphasis on trying to do so. And the speech, if anything, probably placed Obama on the more aggressively liberal side of the Democratic platform. Afterward, Robert Kuttner, an unabashedly left-leaning Democrat, praised Obama for going “well beyond the current Democratic Party consensus.”

Shortly before Obama’s speech, the Federal Reserve made emergency loans to investment banks that hadn’t officially been under its supervision. Obama argued that, going forward, the Fed had to be given permanent oversight of any such institutions, because their executives would henceforth assume that the government would come to their rescue. If taxpayers were going to be on the hook for those banks when they failed, he suggested, the government should have the chance to minimize the risk of failure. (Since March, Fed officials themselves have inched toward a similar position.)

I urge you to read the whole thing. It underscores Obama's lack of ideological thinking on the economy in favor of an emphasis on experts (there's an interesting bit about his fascination with behavioral economics -- basically the study of why people make irrational decisions).

According to Leonhardt, Obama was greatly influenced by the free market advocates at the University of Chicago, where he taught Constitutional Law, and Leonhardt believes Obama is far more comfortable with free market thinking than most Liberal Democrats. And yet, Obama believes the laissez faire age of Reagan, tempered but advanced by Clinton, and "driven over a cliff by Bush," is now coming to an end, and he'll focus on regulating financial markets and addressing the chasm between the wealthiest Americans and most everybody else.

But above all, it paints Obama has perhaps the most truly Progressive Democrat to come along in some time.

If there is a theme to the Obama tax philosophy, it’s that the tax code is not quite as progressive as you think it is. Most of the public discussion about taxes tends to focus on the income tax, which taxes the affluent at a considerably higher rate than anyone else. But the income tax doesn’t take the biggest bite out of most families’ annual tax bill. The payroll tax does. And even as the federal government has been reducing income taxes over the last few decades, it has allowed the payroll tax, which finances Social Security and Medicare, to creep up. That’s a big reason that overall tax rates for the bottom 80 percent of earners have not fallen as much as rates for the affluent.

Obama’s second-most-expensive proposal, after his health-care plan, is the equivalent of a $500 cut in the payroll tax for most workers. (It is actually a credit that is applied toward income taxes based on payroll taxes paid.) In a speech this month in Florida, he proposed that the cut take effect immediately, in the form of a rebate, to stimulate the economy. For most workers, it would be the first significant cut in the payroll tax in decades, if not ever.

The other way that he would cut taxes involves a series of technicalities. But since the campaign began, Goolsbee has been arguing that those technicalities offer one of the best glimpses of how Obama thinks about the tax code. Right now, several big tax breaks that sound broad-based — like those for child care and mortgage interest — don’t always benefit middle-income and lower-income families. Another example is the Hope Credit for college tuition, a creation of the Clinton administration. Obama wants to more than double the credit, to $4,000. More to the point, he would make it “fully refundable.” As a result, a family with an income-tax bill of $3,000 wouldn’t merely have that bill eliminated; it would also receive a $1,000 check. Increasingly, the income-tax system becomes a way to transfer money to poor families.

All told, Obama would not only cut taxes for most people more than McCain would. He would cut them more than Bill Clinton did and more than Hillary Clinton proposed doing. These tax cuts are really the essence of his market-oriented redistributionist philosophy (though he made it clear that he doesn’t like the word “redistributionist”). They are an attempt to address the middle-class squeeze by giving people a chunk of money to spend as they see fit.

He would then pay for the cuts, at least in part, by raising taxes on the affluent to a point where they would eventually be slightly higher than they were under Clinton. For these upper-income families, the Tax Policy Center’s comparisons with McCain are even starker. McCain, by continuing the basic thrust of Bush’s tax policies and adding a few new wrinkles, would cut taxes for the top 0.1 percent of earners — those making an average of $9.1 million — by another $190,000 a year, on top of the Bush reductions. Obama would raise taxes on this top 0.1 percent by an average of $800,000 a year.

It’s hard not to look at that figure and be a little stunned. It would represent a huge tax increase on the wealthy families. But it’s also worth putting the number in some context. The bulk of Obama’s tax increases on the wealthy — about $500,000 of that $800,000 — would simply take away Bush’s tax cuts. The remaining $300,000 wouldn’t nearly reverse their pretax income gains in recent years. Since the mid-1990s, their inflation-adjusted pretax income has roughly doubled.

To put it another way, the wealthy have done so well over the past few decades, with their incomes soaring and tax rates plummeting, that Obama’s plan would not come close to erasing their gains. The same would be true of households making a few hundred thousand dollars a year (who have gotten smaller raises than the very rich but would also face smaller tax increases). As ambitious as Obama’s proposals might be, they would still leave the gap between the rich and everyone else far wider than it was 15 or 30 years ago. It just wouldn’t be quite as wide as it is now.

There's more, lots more. I especially was impressed when Leonhardt describes Obama (that damned elitist) telling a group of his advisors that for many laid-off factory workers, retraining to become healthcare providers or working in the service industry (what McCain told a Michigan audience to do during the primaries) just wasn't possible. These workers made things -- it was part of their identity. To that end, he wants to tackle the long-ignored infrastructure of our roads, bridges, communications to restore competitiveness and put people to work building things. It's a valuable insight. Basically, he's calling for the biggest public works effort since the Johnson Administration to cure two diseases -- a crumbling nation and a crumbling middle class).

Progressive means progress.

The challenge, Leonhardt comes to the obvious conclusion, is formulating a way for Obama to talk about this stuff without coming across in a way that's sleep-inducing wonkiness. That's why you could sense the real elation in his voice when he talks about McCain’s Cindy’s four seven eight I’ve lost count homes.

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Domestic spending

Chambers Bros

Thursday, August 21, 2008



A-course, you knew this was coming.

He also added: “This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years—in prison,” referring to the prisoner of war camp that McCain was in during the Vietnam War.

A nerve has apparently been touched.

I hope McCain's witless spokespeople continue to refer to his time spent "in prison." It will just remind folks of The Grand ol' Police Blotter that is his party. And his old buddy, Charles Keating.

And there was a time, early in the primaries, when Obama had yet to set up a "war room" for rapid response. I believe that's been fixed.

UPDATE: Doing the math of the McCain/Hensley property is incredibly hard.

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McCain's Safe House

Either they can't count to four, or else they have hidden Bat Cave like dwellings around the Southwest that they can't divulge.

WASHINGTON - Days after he cracked that being rich in the U.S. meant earning at least $5 million a year, Republican presidential candidate John McCain acknowledged that he wasn't sure how many houses he and his wealthy wife actually own.

"I think — I'll have my staff get to you," McCain responded to a question posed by Politico, according to a story Thursday on the publication's Web site. "It's condominiums where — I'll have them get to you."

Later, the McCain campaign told Politico that McCain and his wife, Cindy, have at least four in three states, Arizona, California and Virginia. Newsweek recently estimated the two owned at least seven properties.

And, by the way, his wife still refuses to release last year's tax returns.


Exit Iraq

Kevin Drum cites a WSJ article indicating that an agreement is in place for American combat troops to leave in 2011.

The NYT, on the other hand, indicates that that little detail -- along with immunity for American troops* -- remain "sticking points."

In Baghdad, Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister, said that the text of a draft had been agreed upon by negotiators on the technical and legal teams who had worked on it since March 11. But he cautioned that this fell short of a final agreement because it had yet to be approved by the political leadership in either country, including Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

“Both sides have reached the conclusion that there is no need for any further negotiations. A draft agreement is there. It is now a political decision,” he said in Baghdad.

He declined to say whether it addressed timelines for a withdrawal of troops or immunity for American servicemen.

But, as Kevin ponders what, if true, this means in terms of American politics, he believes that as this is all taking place under a Republican president, the GOP won't in turn be able to say the American military was "stabbed in the back" by liberal anti-war activists. To which I can only respond with one word: Vietnam. There, too, our departure was engineered under a Republican president and with bipartisan support, but that hasn't stopped the dolchstosslegende ever since.

* And what of security contractors?

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lightning Bolt

Ok, wow.


Vote (Republican) or die!

But Kevin, this has been the case for 40 years now, at least.

I know I'm not making an original point here. Conservatives, and neoconservatives in particular, have always thrived on a sense of being surrounded by manifest, civilization-threatening dangers. But somehow, even compared to their usual hysteria level, they seem to have turned their internal threat-o-meters up to 11 for this campaign. They're convinced that Russia is on the march, China is on the rise, Islam is a transcendent threat, we live on the cusp of world historical times, and if Barack Obama becomes president we're all probably doomed. And that's one reason the campaign has gotten so nasty. If you think the survival of the nation is at stake, you're certainly not going to be worried about a bit of freelance political smearing, are you?

That is what Nixon, Haldeman, Erlichman, Buchanan, et. al. used to justify to themselves that no level of criminality was off-limits to ensure that they, the Republicans, are the only ones capable of defending all that is right and safe in America. Ratfucking. Racism. Willie Horton. Purple band-aids. The ends justify, donchaknow.

It is true, however, that previous GOP candidates tried to appear to stay above the fray and disassociate themselves from their minions carrying out the dirty tricks. McCain, on the other hand, seems so convinced of his own superiority, so appalled by Barack Obama's candidacy, and so angry that the majority of Americans don't agree with him, that he's now leading the charge.

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Sectarian violence unabated

The surge has put an end to sectarian violence, hasn't it?

In the raid, Iraqi security forces burst into the Diyala provincial headquarters to arrest a Sunni member of the provincial council but ended up firing at a federal lawmaker and later engaging in a 30-minute gun battle with the local police on the streets of Baquba. The secretary of the provincial governor was killed at the headquarters.

It is still unclear who ordered the raid. Some witnesses, both Sunni and Shiite Muslim, said that some of the troops told witnesses during the operation that they were “the dirty division” and were acting on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who leads a Shiite-dominated government. Several security officials identified them as a special antiterrorism force.

The prime minister, worried about any perception of a return to the days when members of the Shiite-dominated security forces carried out attacks specifically against Sunnis, has ordered the formation of a joint committee to investigate the raid. The committee will be made up of officials from the ministries of interior and defense, as well as a judge from the Supreme Judiciary Council, according to Iraq’s state-owned television network.

The target of the raid was Husain al-Zubaidi, head of the security committee on the Diyala provincial council, who is in custody. Mr. Zubaidi, like most citizens of Diyala, is Sunni, but the local government is dominated by Shiites because many Sunnis boycotted the last election.

Since late July, Diyala has been the focus of a major security operation, involving 30,000 members of the Iraqi security forces, backed by American troops, which has resulted in hundreds of arrests.

Eric Martin has more on the Maliki government's effort to maintain power as they approach elections they are likely to lose.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Gulag

I didn't weigh in on the McCain cross in the dirt pseudo...whatever. It didn't really interest me, and far be it from me to try to analyze someone's religious fantasies be they true or false. There are, literally, a trillion reasons (or 4,000 and counting depending on your preferred metrics) to be against McCain and whether or not he made up a Christmas fantasy isn't one of them for me.

So this strikes me as particularly funny.

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Executive privilege


"Was Bush Involved in U.S. Attorney Scandal?" That's the headline over Emma Schwartz and Justin Rood's story for ABC News.

"Before the court of public opinion, White House spokespeople have long maintained President Bush had no involvement in the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys, the central decision that mushroomed into one of the biggest scandals in eight years of the Bush administration," they write.

"'[T]here is no indication that the President knew about any of the ongoing discussions [about firing U.S. attorneys] over the two years, nor did he see a list or a plan before it was carried out,' White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters in March 2007.

"In federal court, however, the administration's lawyers have been more ambiguous.

"'The record does reflect at this stage that the president was not involved in decisions about who would be asked to resign from the department,' Justice Department lawyer Carl Nichols carefully argued before a federal judge in June. But 'the record does not reflect that the President had no future involvement' in the scandal, he noted.

"Just how much of a role the president played in the firings and its aftermath remains unclear. But in trying to prevent top White House officials from testifying or turning over documents to Congress, the Bush administration 'is very consciously trying to walk a very fine tightrope,' explained Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University in Washington, D.C.

"On the one hand, experts say, the White House finds it politically necessary to make clear statements insulating Bush from the scandal. But in court, 'If they said [Bush] wasn't involved at all they would undermine their case for executive privilege,' Vladeck said. . . .

"Lawyer Stanley Brand, former counsel to the House of Representatives and one of the capital's leading ethics experts, put it more bluntly. 'The White House press people lie, but the lawyers have to tell the truth because they're officers of the court.' . . .

The court cases will outlive the administration's term. And since the Bush/Cheney administration is, at its heart, a criminal enterprise, those cases will be lively, as witnesses can no longer count on a presidential pardon. Unless, of course, Bush does a blanket pardon of anyone who worked in the administration, from Dick Cheney to the sous-chef.


Biden his time

So sue me, what can I say?

Anywhoo, as we speculate who Obama's VP pick might be, Publius reminds us of this precious moment from the Democratic debates:

Funny and foreign policy chops...a two-fer.

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Dean Baker

...should be read every day.

Thank you for your time.


Being John McCain

Shorter David Brooks:

I loved the mavericky stuff, but the Karl Rove shit works a whole lot better.
And does David Brooks know what "ne'er do wells" means?

Meanwhile, in another example of why the Times op-ed section is becoming so barren I expect to see tumbleweed blow across it in the morning, there's this (in the wood pulp version; haven't been able to find online):


In some editions of his column on Monday about the presidential forum at Saddleback Churck in California, William Kristol said that there seemed to be no basis for charges that John McCain was not in a "cone of silence" during Barack Obama's interview with the Rev. Rick Warren, and could there have heard questions posed forst to Senator Obama. Senator McCain was in a motorcade for part of Senator Obama's interview. A statement from his campaign said that the "never heard or saw any of Senator Obama's appearance."
They report. You decide.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Poor little rich girl

I expect the response from the McCain campaign to this story will go something like

The insinuation from NPR that the wife of John McCain, a former prisoner of war, lied about being an only child is outrageous.
Odd Corsi's "scholarship" about John McCain -- which has received decidedly less coverage than his book about Obama -- doesn't mention this.

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Oh, and by the way, he was a POW

Clearly, McCain does not want the fact that he was a prisoner of war to be the key communications aspect of his campaign.

Nicolle Wallace, a spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, said on Sunday night that Mr. McCain had not heard the broadcast of the event while in his motorcade and heard none of the questions.

“The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous,” Ms. Wallace said.

Outrageous, indeed.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

"It gets late early around here"

The last time the Yankees finished the season without a playoff berth, Danny Tartabull was the highest paid player on the team.


McCain's musical taste: A cry for help?

LG&M's Paul Campos studies the contours of John McCain's favorite songs and finds a gay man trapped inside the gruff, Most Patriotic Man's Man in America facade...

"Dancing Queen" was released in the United States on Nov. 12 1976, and five months later became Abba's only #1 American hit (the sugary pop confections of the Swedish quartet were always far more popular on the international scene, and they remain one of the top-selling musical acts of all time).

The narrative structure of the song is a model of classical economy: as one critic has noted, "[I]t's about a seventeen-year-old girl having a good time on a Friday night. Not fazed by the social pressures in her daily life as a teenager, all she wants to do is go out and look for a 'king' to dance with."

What, we might -- and will -- ask, was it about this story that a 40-year-old married father of three children found so compelling about this particular story in that long-ago spring of 1977, as he roamed the dance floors of discotheques in southern Florida? McCain himself has tried to answer that question, but his response merely confuses the issue, with its highly anachronistic reference to being shot down over North Vietnam a full decade earlier, thus (according to him) permanently disabling his musical taste, while at the same time granting him the gift of Patriotism.
...Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Making domestic spying eaven easier!

The ever-expanding powers of the FBI and local law enforcement.

The Justice Department has proposed a new domestic spying measure that would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans, share the sensitive data with federal agencies and retain it for at least 10 years.

The proposed changes would revise the federal government's rules for police intelligence-gathering for the first time since 1993 and would apply to any of the nation's 18,000 state and local police agencies that receive roughly $1.6 billion each year in federal grants.

Quietly unveiled late last month, the proposal is part of a flurry of domestic intelligence changes issued and planned by the Bush administration in its waning months. They include a recent executive order that guides the reorganization of federal spy agencies and a pending Justice Department overhaul of FBI procedures for gathering intelligence and investigating terrorism cases within U.S. borders.

Taken together, critics in Congress and elsewhere say, the moves are intended to lock in policies for Bush's successor and to enshrine controversial post-Sept. 11 approaches that some say have fed the greatest expansion of executive authority since the Watergate era.

They wouldn't use these powers to target peace activists, now would they?

German [of the ACLU], an FBI agent for 16 years, said easing established limits on intelligence-gathering would lead to abuses against peaceful political dissenters. In addition to the Maryland case, he pointed to reports in the past six years that undercover New York police officers infiltrated protest groups before the 2004 Republican National Convention; that California state agents eavesdropped on peace, animal rights and labor activists; and that Denver police spied on Amnesty International and others before being discovered.

"If police officers no longer see themselves as engaged in protecting their communities from criminals and instead as domestic intelligence agents working on behalf of the CIA, they will be encouraged to collect more information," German said. "It turns police officers into spies on behalf of the federal government."

Of course they would!

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Mother-of-pearl diamond snaps

Someday, I hope to retire to a spread in the High Sierras and wear the clothes this man popularized.

Until Wednesday, when he died at 107 in Denver, Mr. Weil was still chief executive of the company he founded and, until just before his death, came to work daily. He was regularly called the oldest chief executive still working.

Known as Papa Jack, Mr. Weil said he owed his longevity to quitting smoking at 60 (after starting at 40), drinking at 90 and eating red meat at 100. He did have a medicinal shot of Jack Daniels twice a week .

In announcing the death, his grandson, Steve Weil, Rockmount’s president, said Mr. Weil was to Western shirts what Henry Ford was to cars, and, indeed, the global spread of cowboy style owes much to him.

The shirt — tailored close to the body, with “yokes” that seem to broaden the shoulders of cowpokes and city slickers alike and often with distinctive “smile” pockets — offers more than snaps. But snaps matter, not least to cowboys who are not handy at sewing. They break loose easily if the shirt is caught on a hostile horn. (They also offer a dramatic way to bare one’s chest, but that might be another story.)

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Immaculate funk

Jerry Wexler, who paired Aretha with Duane at Muscle Shoals...amongst a few other things, like coining the term "rhythm and blues."

Mr. Wexler actually didn’t care for rock ’n’ roll, at least as it evolved in the 1960s and ’70s. Though he signed a British band called Led Zeppelin and eventually produced records by the likes of Bob Dylan, Carlos Santana, Dire Straits and George Michael, his main influence came in the 1950s and ’60s as a vice president of Atlantic Records, working largely with black artists who were forging a new musical style, which came to be called soul music, from elements of gospel, swing and blues.

“He played a major role in bringing black music to the masses, and in the evolution of rhythm and blues to soul music,” Jim Henke, vice president and chief curator for the Hall of Fame, said in an interview. “Beyond that, he really developed the role of the record producer. Jerry did a lot more than just turn on a tape recorder. He left his stamp on a lot of great music. He had a commercial ear as well as a critical ear.”

Mr. Wexler was something of a paradox. A businessman with tireless energy, a ruthless streak and a volatile temper, he was also a hopeless music fan. A New York Jew and a vehement atheist, he found his musical home in the Deep South, in studios in Memphis and Muscle Shoals, Ala., among Baptists and Methodists, blacks and good old boys.

“He was a bundle of contradictions,” said Tom Thurman, who produced and directed a documentary about Mr. Wexler in 2000. “He was incredibly abrasive and incredibly generous, very abrupt and very, very patient, seemingly a pure, sharklike businessman and also a cerebral and creative genius.”

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"We have cards"

Charles Krauthammer, in a piece titled "Russia needs a wakeup call," perfectly embodies the batshit silliness of the McCain/neocon response to what must be WWIX by now:

President Bush could cash in on his close personal relationship with Putin by sending him a copy of the highly entertaining (and highly fictionalized) film "Charlie Wilson's War" to remind Vlad of our capacity to make Russia bleed. Putin would need no reminders of the Georgians' capacity and long history of doing likewise to invaders.

"Vlad?" "Make Russia bleed?"

In the previous paragraph he called for Bush to support a Saakashvilli government in exile. Cue La Marseillaise! Our new De Gaulle!

Every event is the single greatest existential threat since the Cuban Missile Crisis (and imagine if McCain was faced with something like that -- we'd still be poking around the smoking ruins). Because this is THE MOMENT he's been waiting for.

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Unleash the dogs

A nearly 20 year duet of blather, bluster, and movie reviews comes to an abrupt end.

WFAN operations director Mark Chernoff said Russo would not make a final appearance on the station.

Russo said that was just part of the radio business.

"That's it. No goodbye shows, no final shows, no nothing," Russo said.

Russo said his departure has "absolutely nothing to do" with his relationship with Francesa. "That stuff is overblown," Russo said. "We had many more good days than bad ones."

In order to get to this point, WFAN, which is owned by CBS Radio, had to release Russo from a contract that runs until next spring. While Russo will be permitted to take a satellite radio gig, he would not be, according to the release, allowed to work for ESPN-1050, WFAN's only local sports-talk competitor.

Chernoff said Russo did not want to commit to a multiyear contract. Russo confirmed that assertion.

"I think WFAN realized I was lukewarm about making a long-term commitment to them," Russo said. "They knew getting me to sign would be dicey. I guess they didn't want a lame duck working with Mike."

Still, some industry sources were stunned CBS Radio brass would let Russo out of his contract. The "Mike and the Mad Dog Show" consistently generates between $15 million and $17million annually in advertising revenue. In a weak advertising sales environment, they are still steady earners. It remains to be seen if Francesa's solo act will be as attractive to advertisers.


Summertime Blues

Runnin' on stupid

"I know Hawaii is a state"

Cokie Roberts, providing insight as only she, the anti-elitist, can.

Minimizing public appearances may have provided less fodder for those detractors who have portrayed his vacation spot as elitist or exotic. Last weekend, Cokie Roberts, an ABC News analyst, said, “I know his grandmother lives in Hawaii, and I know Hawaii is a state, but it has the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place.” Ms. Roberts added, “He should be in Myrtle Beach if he’s going to take a vacation at this time.”
The photo accompanying the story shows him eating ice cream with his kids. Exotic, indeed.

But this is the best.

To conservatives, particularly the neoconservative set, Mr. McCain’s forceful responses have been welcomed. Conservatives have pointed out that Mr. Obama looks a bit out of touch this time. “I didn’t think that Obama had to do much during his week’s vacation — everyone deserves a break,” wrote Jim Geraghty of National Review Online. “But this week is starting to really turn into a week where you don’t want to be seen golfing.”

No, that would be bad. Now watch this drive.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

"A slow acting poison"

It will be interesting to see how many pundits will react to McCain's un-reaction to the Corsi book and his "not putting America first" rhetoric with as much personal disappointment as appears to be the case with Joe Klein.

But there is no excuse for what the McCain campaign is doing on the "putting America first" front. There is no way to balance it, or explain it other than as evidence of a severe character defect on the part of the candidate who allows it to be used. There is a straight up argument to be had in this election: Mcain has a vastly different view from Obama about foreign policy, taxation, health care, government name it. He has lots of experience; it is always shocking to remember that this time four years ago, Barack Obama was still in the Illinois State Legislature. Apparently, though, McCain isn't confident that conservative policies and personal experience can win, given the ruinous state of the nation after eight years of Bush. So he has made a fateful decision: he has personally impugned Obama's patriotism and allows his surrogates to continue to do that. By doing so, he has allied himself with those who smeared him, his wife, his daughter Bridget, in 2000. Those tactics won George Bush a primary--and a nomination. But they proved a form of slow-acting spiritual poison, rotting the core of the Bush presidency. We'll see if the public decides to acquiesce in sleaze in 2008, and what sort of presidency--what sort of country--that will produce.

Richard Cohen will, no doubt, remind us of McCain's personal heroism. Other pundits will claim he's not in control of his campaign, a fact that is...somehow...redeeming.

But McCain was supposed to be different. The press and the pundits bought into his straight talking double time and his mask of political integrity. They didn't notice that mask slip when he swallowed hard and hugged Bush in 2004. In an case, we'll see if any more follow Klein's angry lead and call McCain on the selling of what little soul he had.

I don't have that problem.

“John’s was the strongest credible voice in Congress supporting the President’s actions against Saddam Hussein,” Lindsey Graham said. “His support was critical.” Some of those closest to McCain thought he was going overboard. His daughter Meghan, a student at Columbia, who voted for Kerry, called McCain and chastised him when she saw him on television making statements she considered baseless. “Once, when John was talking on TV about what a great wartime leader Bush had been, my wife had to leave the room,” Chuck Larson, whose son-in-law has been flying F-18s over Iraq, told me. But many friends point out that once McCain agreed to join the Bush campaign team he would not hold back. “In for a dime, in for a dollar,” he commented to aides, who ribbed him about his role change. Kerry apparently took McCain’s conversion hard. According to a key Democratic strategist, it was not McCain’s rejection that angered him—he had always understood the odds were long. But Kerry had believed that they were bound by a special friendship, first forged in the nineteen-nineties, when they worked together to normalize U.S. relations with Vietnam. And when McCain moved into his political mode—praising President Bush so extravagantly that Kerry seemed diminished by the comparison—Kerry felt betrayed.


McCain is chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which since last year has been investigating the Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his business partner Michael Scanlon, and their dealings with Indian tribes. Abramoff is also the central figure in corruption and influence-peddling investigations by the Justice Department and the Interior Department. All of these have turned up potentially damaging disclosures about trips taken and gifts received by lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Many of McCain’s colleagues were fearful that now, in the Abramoff investigation, he would find it irresistible to cast a wide net, as he had in an earlier investigation into a Boeing tanker deal. In that deal, which was supported by the White House, the Pentagon, and key members of Congress, McCain exposed grievous flaws in oversight. Two Air Force officials resigned, two Boeing officials have gone to jail, the deal was scrapped, and McCain’s reputation as a giant killer was burnished. McCain decided to address members of his caucus in order to calm their apprehensions about the Indian Affairs Committee investigation. “There’s a lot of nervousness among a lot of people in Congress about trips they went on,” McCain told me, “and that’s why I talked to the caucus and explained that this is not a witch hunt. I have a narrow mandate at the Indian Affairs Committee. We’ll be tracing the trail of the Indians’ money, seeing who defrauded them—not looking at records of members’ trips.”


Five years ago

Something to tell my non-existent grandchillun about.


White flag

For those of you who don't listen to Mike and the Mad Dog on WFAN, this one's a classic of the genre: Mike Francessa rips Hank Steinbrenner, and rightly so. Hank ain't no George.

All I can say is, Joe Torre and Manny "Almost cut my hair" Ramirez seem to be having a ball.

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The shadow government

Imagine if Barack Obama sent "his delegation" to Georgia? The howls from the Right would be deafening. And McCain may actually be forcing Bush's hand and putting U.S. troops in a dangerous situation for non-existent U.S. interests (again).

Meanwhile, for those who think this is a case of an autocratic Russian bear pounding on a brave, Democratic Georgia, their memories are short.

Last fall, he deployed riot police with tear gas, rubber bullets and batons against unarmed demonstrators. He also used his police to destroy an opposition television station, which went off the air as masked officers stormed it. His critics say that while he is an unwavering American ally, his record as a democrat was long ago checkered.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman shot and killed

I would like to think this was a personal dispute, but it doesn't sound like it.

The secretary said a man had come into the party headquarters and insisted on seeing the chairman, whose office is the first room behind the reception desk, Ms. Lee said. When the secretary tried to put him off, by offering him bumper stickers, he walked past her into the office. “He kept saying he needed to see the chairman, and then just went around her and started shooting,” Ms. Lee said.

Ms. Lee said the secretary, who had lost her shoes during her flight and entered the store barefoot, repeatedly recited a description of the man: khaki pants, white shirt, silver-gray hair, late 40s. “She said, ‘He didn’t scare me, he was puzzling to me for some reason and I was trying to get rid of him.’ ”

The gunman fired three shots, the secretary told Ms. Lee, and then left, heading up the street toward the Capitol and getting into a blue truck. Other employees fled the building, with one running all the way to the capitol in an attempt to alert security.


And he's the foreign policy expert, right?

McCain claims he's talking to Saakashvilli every day?

How's that working out, either for Georgian or U.S. interests?

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Bedfellows and the Corsi bullshit

Media Matters does an excellent job of running down the "falsehoods" in former Swiftboater Jeremy Corsi's new book about Obama.

But I have another question...

Today's New York Times has a run-down on the book, and the paper reports that Corsi is planning to work with some conservative groups to run Swift-Boat style ads against Obama, and the wingnut noise machine is already going full throttle, with talk-show hosts promoting the heck out of it. The chief editor of the publishing house behind the book is GOP operative Mary Matalin.

...which is this: I can't hold it against a man if he chooses to marry a woman who is shrill, ugly, and an apologist for Dick Cheney; but why would any Democrat listen to him if he stays married to a woman who seems intent on undermining everything he claims to believe in? I understand the strange bedfellows of the beltway, but this relationship has to be considered pathological.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Putin as Reagan

This whole thing has the feel of a former super power trying to get its mojo back, similarly to Ronald Reagan's excursions in the 1980s. Problem is, civilians always get in the way.

The attacks on Gori and Tbilisi seemed to suggest that Russia’s aims in the conflict had indeed gone beyond securing the pro-Russian enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to weakening the armed forces of Georgia, a former Soviet republic and an ally of the United States whose Western leanings have long irritated the Kremlin.

Russia’s moves, which came after Georgia made the offer of a cease-fire and said it had pulled its troops out of South Ossetia, have caused widespread international alarm and anger and set the stage for an intense diplomatic confrontation with the United States.

Two senior Western officials said that it was unclear whether Russia intended a full invasion of Georgia, but that its aims could go as far as destroying its armed forces or overthrowing Mr. Saakashvili.

“They seem to have gone beyond the logical stopping point,” one senior Western diplomat said, speaking anonymously under normal diplomatic protocol.

The escalation of fighting raised tensions between Russia and its former cold war foes to their highest level in decades. President Bush has promoted Georgia as a bastion of democracy, helped strengthen its military and urged that NATO admit the country to membership. Georgia serves as a major conduit for oil flowing from Russia and Central Asia to the West.

But Russia, emboldened by windfall profits from oil exports, is showing a resolve to reassert its dominance in a region it has always considered its “near abroad.”

The military action, which has involved air, naval and missile attacks, is the largest engagement by Russian forces outside its borders since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

And, yes, you can expect to see Russian tanks in the next round of McCain ads.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Isaac Hayes

One of the great stories in modern American music and one of the most influential.

Hayes was born in 1942 in a tin shack in Covington, Tenn., about 40 miles north of Memphis. He was raised by his maternal grandparents after his mother died and his father took off when he was 1 1/2. The family moved to Memphis when he was 6.

Hayes wanted to be a doctor, but got redirected when he won a talent contest in ninth grade by singing Nat King Cole's "Looking Back."

He held down various low-paying jobs, including shining shoes on the legendary Beale Street in Memphis. He also played gigs in rural Southern juke joints where at times he had to hit the floor because someone began shooting.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Worries for civilians

President George W. Bush:

Mr. Bush referred particularly to attacks spreading beyond South Ossetia, a reference to the Russian airstrikes in parts of Georgia itself. “The attacks are occurring in regions of Georgia far from the zone of conflict in South Ossetia,” he said. “They mark a dangerous escalation in the crisis. The violence is endangering regional peace, civilian lives are being lost, and others are in danger.”



Thanks, Jerry, for showing us snow and rain.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

The Anti-Christ

Miami '72, or, Groundhog Day

From Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, sweet, sweet memories of campaigns past:

He arrived for his acceptance speech. The hall reverberated with Republican jubilation. Some wore buttons or carried signs reading NIXON IS LOVE and NIXON CARES and HAPPINESS IS NIXON. Others held on to their gold pennies with Nixon's face instead of Lincoln's, and souvenir "McGovern boxes" with a phony $1,000 bill and a white flag of surrender inside.

Then, to 30 million Americans, Richard Nixon, the peacenik they could trust, introduced the Checkers of 1972: little Tanya, a young Russian girl.

"Speaking on behalf of the American people, I was proud to be able to say in my television address to the Russian people in May, 'We covet no one else's territory. We seek no dominion over any other nation. We seek peace not only for ourselves, but for all the people of the world.'... [sic]

"On your television scree last night, you saw the cemetery in Leningrad I visited on my trip to the Soviet Union -- where three hundred thousand people died in the siege of that city during World War II."

(You want civilian casualties? I'll tell you about real civilian casualties.)

"At the cemetary I saw the picture of a twelve-year-old girl. She was a beautiful child.

"Her name" -- his voice broke -- "was Tanya.

"I read her diary. It tells the terrible story of war. In the simple words of a child she wrote of the deaths of themembers of her family. 'Zhenya in December. Grannie in January. Then Leka. Then Uncle Vasya. Then Uncle Lyosha. Then Mama in May.' And finally -- these are the last words in her diary: 'All are dead. Only Tanya is left.'"


"Let us think of Tanya and the other Tanyas and their brothers and sisters everywhere" -- Nixon's voice caught -- "in Russia, in China, in America, as we proudly meet our responsibilities for leadership in the world in a way worthy of a great people.

"I ask you, my fellow Americans, to join our new majority not just in the cause of winning an election, but in achieving a hope that mankind has had since the beginning of civilization. Let us builllllld a peace that our children -- and all the children of the world! -- can enjoy for generations to come."

At 1 a.m. police stood in formation, rhythmically beating their riot clubs. Their liberal police chief finally unleashed them to make arrests. With brutal dispatch, they collared two hundred miscreants, cheered on by martini-sipping yahtsmen moored at the marina. Though one was disappointed. He had heard the Yuppies were going to firebomb the boats and he was hoping for the insurance money.

Ch. 33, In Which Playboy Bunnies, and Barbarella, and Tanya Inspire Theoretical Considerations upon the Nature of Democracy
What's scary, beyond Perlstein's main thesis that Nixon was both a vessel for and a provocateur of white Middle Class resentment, is that the script hasn't changed all that much. The growing number of Watergate stories "following the money" or covering the trials always needed to balanced in the newspapers (almost exclusively The Post, and I wonder if the editorial staff were like Fred Hiatt's today, undercutting the very reporting appearing in other sections of the paper) by stories of McGovern malfeasance, however technical and minor. A public that reasonably responds, "they're all crooked." McGovern promised a civil campaign and yet "went negative," running ads about...Vietnam or Watergate. Washington columnists appalled that he would impugn the president's character ("bringing viscious slander to a presidential campaign") CBS, under pressure, pulling the rug out from under Walter Cronkite when America's Uncle dared to spend 15 minutes explaining Watergate's direct ties to the White House. Newsweek swallowing every pronouncement that the brilliant team of Nixon and Kissinger would end the war in a fortnight. GOP ads that shoveled lies that the party gleefully continued to run even after they'd been fact-checked and proven to be bullshit (the American people don't read The Times, they watch Bonanza). The campaign press, used as both prop and foil by a Republican who can plead victimhood even as he uses them to maintain the narrative his campaign has concocted.

And a Democratic Party that knows that it just has to win. Voter registration drives! Huge rally crowds. It would be unthinkable for the American voters to elect such an evil crook, a fascistic simpleton, a megalomaniacal liar, or a lightweight crank.

It all sounds familiar. The methodology is still in use today.

Believe me, if you live in Minnesota and you're having trouble finding salad greens in the grocery store later this month, it will be because the Republican Party has bought up the supply to hand out at the convention in Minneapolis so conventioners can wave the leaves and shout "Obama's arugula. Obama's elite." The TV cameras will soak it up.

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I can't control myself


Ignorami and the Intellectuals who love them

As usual, Krugman is talking sense.

What’s more, the politics of stupidity didn’t just appeal to the poorly informed. Bear in mind that members of the political and media elites were more pro-war than the public at large in the fall of 2002, even though the flimsiness of the case for invading Iraq should have been even more obvious to those paying close attention to the issue than it was to the average voter.

Why were the elite so hawkish? Well, I heard a number of people express privately the argument that some influential commentators made publicly — that the war was a good idea, not because Iraq posed a real threat, but because beating up someone in the Middle East, never mind who, would show Muslims that we mean business. In other words, even alleged wise men bought into the idea of macho posturing as policy.

What he fails to mention, though, probably because he doesn't dare to, is that his fellow intellectuals at the Times were the vanguard of this movement.

As Charlie Rose nods in agreement.

UPDATE: Well, that figures.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Gas Pump TV

Seems that the Obama campaign had an approved media buy with something called "Gas Pump TV" in Florida and an ad, though rejected by Sunaco, that was approved by Gas Pump TV.

Then something changed.


The Arab American connection

This just gets more and more intriguing.

Campaign finance records show Mr. McCain collected a little more than $50,000 in March from members of a single extended family, the Abdullahs, in California and several of their friends.

Amid a sea of contributions to the McCain campaign, the Abdullahs stand out. The checks come not from the usual exclusive coastal addresses, but from relatively hardscrabble inland towns like Downey and Colton. The donations are also startling because of their size: several donors initially wrote checks of $9,200, exceeding the $2,300 limit for an individual gift.

Making matters murkier, some couples in the family who contributed more than $9,000 to Mr. McCain also gave the maximum in December to either Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton or Rudolph W. Giuliani, or both, totaling in the case of at least one family more than $18,000.

On Wednesday, an article in The Washington Post said the donations were collected by Harry Sargeant III, a Florida businessman who has also raised money for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Giuliani.

It appears, however, that Mr. Sargeant, the finance chairman of the Florida Republican Party and the part-owner of a major oil trading firm, International Oil Trading Company, did not actually solicit the donations from the Abdullahs and their friends.

That task fell to a longtime business partner, Mustafa Abu Naba’a. Mr. Sargeant said in an interview that he has known Mr. Abu Naba’a for more than a decade and has worked with him on commercial ventures, including a contract with the Pentagon to supply fuel to the military in Iraq.


But when Mr. McCain claimed the mantle of presumed Republican nominee in March, Mr. Abdullah decided to support him.

“This is the horse I’m betting on for the future,” Mr. Abdullah said.

He told his friends and relatives that the contributions were tax-deductible, something he later seemed surprised to learn from a reporter was not true. Many in his circle appear to have little affection for Mr. McCain but said they gave mostly as a favor to Mr. Abdullah.

Abdullah Makhlouf, the owner of a discount stereo store who is one of Mr. Abdullah’s closest friends, and his wife contributed $9,200.

“He’s like a worse copy than Bush,” Mr. Makhlouf said of Mr. McCain.

When a reporter initially contacted Mr. Makhlouf, he denied giving to the McCain campaign.

After eventually admitting to the donation, Mr. Makhlouf added, “I’m still not going to vote for him.”

But wait, there's more.


And the band played on

I am reminded of Donald Rumsfeld informing reporters that it's really hot in Baghdad in August.

BAGHDAD — Iraqi lawmakers adjourned for the summer on Wednesday without passing a crucial election law that many here hoped would solidify the recent, still fragile gains in security. The failure seemed likely to mean the postponement of provincial elections, originally set for October, until next year — polling seen as vital to reconciling the deep-seated tensions among Iraq’s political and sectarian groups.

The decision to go on vacation rather than settle the issue underscored how little progress had been made on the most important recent political question to confront Iraqi leaders, in contrast to the military strides in making Iraq safer than it had been in years. The law was seen as so important to prevent new outbreaks of violence that President Bush, eager to leave office claiming lasting progress in Iraq, had called several Iraqi lawmakers urging them to pass it.

Of course, "safer than it had been in years," means 2005. So, the Surge is working and yet not achieving any of the political aims it was designed to achieve. Anyway, 2007:

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's prime minister urged parliament on Saturday to cancel or shorten its summer vacation to pass laws Washington considers crucial to Iraq's stability and the debate on how long U.S. forces should remain.

Parliament was scheduled to adjourn for all of August. American officials, however, began pressing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and parliament late last year to pass at least two laws viewed as a way to defuse the sectarian violence crippling Iraq: one on the distribution of oil and another on how to handle former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party.


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