Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Minnesota may have a second senator

Minnesota Supreme Court rules in favor of Franken.

Lord knows the Senate Republicans will do everything they can to convince Gov. Pawlenty to refuse to certify and Stormin' Norman to pursue this all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but this may mark the beginning of the end.

UPDATE: Coleman concedes

Labels: ,


It appears that Dana Milbank has been "a dick" for quite some time.

As for Mr. Milbank's overarching thesis, it's shallow and dubious at best. "The purpose of this book is to celebrate the virtues of good, solid, in-the-gutter campaigning," he writes. "Such nasty, smashmouth politics are said by the goody-goodies to be destroying our democracy, alienating the electorate and suppressing voter participation. I believe the opposite is true: that nasty is nice on the campaign trail, that it's cool to be cruel."

He contends that "tough and negative campaigns allow candidates to demonstrate and build leadership qualities," and that "in the smashmouth world of politics, if you don't differentiate yourself and say what's wrong with the other guy, you aren't going to win," adding, "nor should you."

It's no secret of course that negative campaigning can often be effective, but for Mr. Milbank to revel in attacks and invective seems downright perverse. Of the mud-slinging in South Carolina and push-polling conducted on behalf of Mr. Bush, he writes: "This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we've been waiting for. Bush, backed into a corner, has gone on the attack, and it's working. He's dumped the Mr. Nice Guy routine, and he's attacking McCain directly." In another chapter he credits Mr. Gore's "heightened and near hysterical rhetoric about Bradley" with enabling him "to take the upper hand in the Democratic race."

Perhaps Mr. Milbank is such an ardent proponent of negative campaigning because it gives him something juicy to write about without having to go to the bother of doing a lot of legwork, or seriously analyze his subjects. Perhaps he merely thought that taking a stand opposed to conventional wisdom would make for a provocative book. Given his sophomoric and simplistic thesis that we should "stop equating the negative with the bad," it's clear that he completely missed the boat with this book. If he had waited until Nov. 7 to begin his reporting, he could have had a field day with the torrent of partisan demagoguery and toxic anger that erupted after Election Day.

Via Brad DeL


Enter Sandman

It has been an extraordinary run and it has been a privilege to watch as the youngsters of the '96 team -- Posada, Jeter, and Mariano Rivera -- grow up, two of whom will be first-ballot HOFers and the other, Posada, will likely be a source of argument until, hopefully, he's in there too.

But more than anyone, Mariano Rivera has been the most interesting to watch. Quiet, professional, human, Mo has simply dominated, year after year, long after many ninth inning pitchers have flamed to stardom only to flameout. And he does it, basically, with one pitch. A pitch thrown more or less at the same speed, in the same place, over and over again. The hitters know what's coming. Still Rivera nails down the saves. In the regular season and, with a few painful exceptions, the post season.

Salmon continued: “Without a doubt, he’s the biggest reason they were the team that they were. They had a great team all the way around, but they had a guy they knew could close the door every night.”

Salmon, who retired in 2006 after 14 seasons, faced Rivera 12 more times after Rivera’s debut. He never reached base again. The pitcher who seemed so ordinary as a starter had perfected a cutter that may still be the most effective weapon in baseball.

“It just got on you so quick, with the cutting action,” Salmon said. “I never even squared another ball up on him. Any kind of good swing was a foul tip or maybe something off the end of the bat. He was sort of magicianlike. It was like I had a hole in my bat.”

Salmon played with three renowned closers: the hulking Lee Smith, whose 478 saves rank third on the career list, behind Rivera and Trevor Hoffman; Troy Percival, whose high leg kick and violent delivery confounded hitters; and Francisco Rodriguez, a mess of arms and legs flying in all directions.

Rivera is different. His mechanics are pristine, with no wasted energy. He comes at hitters in an easy, fluid motion, lulling them to sleep and then carving them up. One at-bat a night is not enough for most hitters to adjust.

“I faced guys who were more intimidating, in the sense that you don’t see the ball, or they’re throwing so hard, it’s just power,” Salmon said. “But it was real comfortable to hit off him, because he wasn’t doing anything special. You see the ball and you start to swing, and it jumps and it’s by you, and you’re like, ‘What happened?’ It just always surprised me.”

Rivera is 39, but his stuff remains so sharp that since April 21, 2007, he has converted 87 of 91 save opportunities, the best rate in the majors. More than his pitches, though, Rivera has an unwavering ability to compartmentalize every game, to never let one outing bleed into the next. And he knows his body, conserving pitches in the winter and the bullpen, throwing just enough to be ready for maximum effort when needed.

Jonathan Papelbon, the Red Sox all-star closer who is as emotional on the mound as Rivera is reserved, stated recently that he'd "consider" closing for the Yankees. When asked about this the other night Rivera laughed and said, "He have to wait until I'm retired." When will that be? "When I'm not competitive." Papelbon may prove to have been another flameout before that happens.

Labels: ,

The promise of Sharia Law

Ezra wonders if there will be universal health care and a public plan.

Now, clearly, Sowell's a lunatic. But I am always amazed that the people who are most likely to throw out there the specter of sharia law as a result of liberal policy are the same ones who would most likely approve of fundamentalism.

But he may have a point. If Iran is armed with two nuclear weapons we would have no alternative but to surrender as our massive retaliatory capability is really just so much Styrofoam.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Judicial activism and the Dred Scott decision

To commemorate today's truly empathetic Supreme Court majority decision, here's an example of real judicial activism.

[Scott] was an opinion [Roger B. Taney] had long wanted to write. Eighty years old, the chief justice was frail and ill. The death of his wife and daughter two years earlier in a yellow fever epidemic had left him heart-stricken. Yet he clung to life determined to defend his beloved South from the malign forces of Black Republicanism. In his younger days Taney had been a Jacksonian committeed to liberating American enterprise from the shackles of special privilege. As Jackson's secretary of the treasury he had helped destroy the Second Bank of the United States. His early decisions as chief justice had undermined special corporate charters. But the main theme of his twenty-eight year tenure on the Court was the defense of slavery. Taney had no great love of the institution for its own sake, having freed his own slaves. But he did have a passionate commitment "to the southern life and values, which seemed organically linked to the peculiar institution and unpreservable without it." In private letters Taney expressed growing anger toward "northern aggression." "Our own southern countrymen" were in great danger, he wrote, "the knife of the assassin is at their throats." Taney's southern colleagues on the Court shared this apprehension, according to historian Don Fehrenbacher; Justice Peter Daniel of Virginia was a "brooding proslavery fanatic" and the other three were "unreserved defenders of slavery." Because of the "emotional commitment so intense that it made perception and logic utterly subservient," the Dred Scott decision was "essentially visceral ian origin...[sic] a work of unmitigated partisanship, polemical in spirit [with an] extraordinary cumulation of error, inconsistency, and misrepresentation."

--James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, pages 173-4, "Mudsills and Greasy Mechanics for A. Lincoln"

In Supreme Court cases, I guess what matters is for whom the majority feel "empathy."

Labels: , ,

Capped trade

This bothered me this morning.

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Sunday praised the energy bill passed by the House late last week as an “extraordinary first step,” but he spoke out against a provision that would impose trade penalties on countries that do not accept limits on global warming pollution.

“At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we’ve seen a significant drop in global trade,” Mr. Obama said, “I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out there.”

He added, “I think there may be other ways of doing it than with a tariff approach.”


The House bill contains a provision, inserted in the middle of the night before the vote Friday, that requires the president, starting in 2020, to impose a “border adjustment” — or tariff — on certain goods from countries that do not act to limit their global warming emissions. The president can waive the tariffs only if he receives explicit permission from Congress.

The provision was added to secure the votes of Rust Belt lawmakers who were wavering on the bill because of fears of job losses in heavy industry.

In the floor debate on the bill Friday, one of its authors, Representative Sander M. Levin, Democrat of Michigan, said, “As we act, we can and must ensure that the U.S. energy-intensive industries are not placed at a competitive disadvantage by nations that have not made a similar commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.”

I mean, isn't that the point? If an industry in another country is not going to act to limit emissions, shouldn't there be some mechanism by which that industry pays a price?

Well, don't take my word for it. Take Krugman's.

The truth is that there’s perfectly sound economics behind border adjustments related to cap-and-trade. The way to think about it is in terms of a well-established theory — the theory of non-economic objectives in trade policy — that owes its origins to Jagdish Bhagwati, who certainly can’t be accused of being a protectionist. The essential idea is that if you have a non-economic objective, such as self-sufficiency in food production, you should choose policy instruments to align incentives with that objective; in normal circumstances this leads to consumer or producer intervention, rarely to tariffs.

But in this case the non-economic objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, never mind their source. If you only impose restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from domestic sources, you give consumers no incentive to avoid purchasing products that cause emissions in other countries; as a result, you have an inefficient outcome even from a world point of view. So border adjustments here are entirely legitimate in terms of basic economics.

And they’re also probably OK under trade law. The WTO has looked at the issue, and suggests that carbon tariffs may be viewed the same way as border adjustments associated with value-added taxes. It has long been accepted that a VAT is essentially a sales tax — a tax on consumers — which for administrative reasons is collected from producers. Because it’s essentially a tax on consumers, it’s legal, and also economically efficient, to collect it on imported goods as well as domestic production; it’s a matter of leveling the playing field, not protectionism.

And the same would be true of carbon tariffs.

Dean Baker agrees.

What Does "Free Trade" Have to Do With Taxing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

That is the question that the NYT should have been asking in an article that reported President Obama's opposition to taxing imported items from countries that have not taken steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The point of his cap and trade program is to make items that require large amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions more expensive, thereby discouraging their consumption.

If goods can just be imported from countries that have no tax on GHG, then the point of cap and trade is undermined, as goods that require large amounts of fossil fuels will just be produced abroad. It is understandable that importers and other special interest would be opposed to measures that prohibit this sort of evasion, but that has absolutely nothing to do with "free trade."

Krugman and Baker. Resolved.

So what's going on here?

Obama's a pretty smart guy, and he's surrounded himself with extremely capable economists and climate change experts. Eliminating the tariff creates an opening for opposition voices threatening "job losses because of the 'energy tax.'" Sometimes I worry that Obama makes one mistake his predecessor never made: negotiating with himself. If this is some sort of free trade "reasonableness" intended to win over sensible Republicans and "moderate" Democrats, it seems a poor choice.

UPDATED to correct idiosyncratic spelling

Labels: ,

And I wasn't even annoyed by Steve Phillips and Joe Morgan

Chien-Ming Wang wasn't great, but finally gets a W, and more importantly, Mariano earns his 500th S. Emma Span provides a nice summation.

Labels: ,

Willie Mays is dead?

I kept hearing that yesterday.


Close literary analysis

The Stein-Beckett-Obama connection finally revealed.

Via, as usual, LGM.


Sentimental journey

You know, I've been feeling sort of nostalgic about a 70s-era, Central American military coup.

In the first military coup in Central America since the end of the cold war, soldiers stormed the presidential palace in the capital, Tegucigalpa, early in the morning, disarming the presidential guard, waking Mr. Zelaya and putting him on a plane to Costa Rica.

Mr. Zelaya, a leftist aligned with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, angrily denounced the coup as illegal. “I am the president of Honduras,” he insisted at the airport in San José, Costa Rica, still wearing his pajamas.

Later Sunday the Honduran Congress voted him out of office, replacing him with the president of Congress, Roberto Micheletti.

The military offered no public explanation for its actions, but the Supreme Court issued a statement saying that the military had acted to defend the law against “those who had publicly spoken out and acted against the Constitution’s provisions.”

Leaders across the hemisphere, however, denounced the coup, which American officials on Sunday said they had been working for several days to avert.

President Obama said he was deeply concerned and in a statement called on Honduran officials “to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic charter.

“Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference,” he said. His quick condemnation offered a sharp contrast with the actions of the Bush administration, which in 2002 offered a rapid, tacit endorsement of a short-lived coup against Mr. Chávez.


Blue Monday, Hound Dog Taylor & Little Walter edition

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sky Saxon, RIP

Mr. Saxon composed songs and played electric bass, but it was perhaps his sullen, stylized lead vocals that best characterized the band. Never as threatening as the Stones, they were, instead, rather sweetly dangerous, appearing on white-bread television music and dance shows like “American Bandstand” wearing tailored bellbottoms and velour shirts or shiny Nehru jackets. Mr. Saxon voiced the vaguely menacing lyrics to songs like “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine,” “Painted Doll” or “Pushin’ Too Hard,” a pulsing, anthemic warning to any girlfriend with ambitions to rein in her man.

The Seeds flamed out in the early 1970s, but they lingered in the annals of rock history as representatives of their time and place. Their songs have appeared in movies including “Cop Land” (1997) with Sylvester Stallone and “Secretary” (2002), the story of a dominant-submissive relationship, which starred James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Sky Sunlight Saxon was the name he used in later years, the middle name given to him in the 1970s as a member of the Source Family, a spiritual cult whose leader — known as Father Yod or Ya Ho Wha — started what has been described as the quintessential hippie commune; Mr. Saxon was also known within it as Arelich. He was born Richard Elvern Marsh in Salt Lake City in 1937, according to several online sources. Ms. Saxon said her husband’s birthday was Aug. 20 but would not confirm the year because he believed age was irrelevant, she said. He moved to Los Angeles to start a music career after high school.


Friday, June 26, 2009

What the hell Friday

A new feature for this web-log ("blog"): What the hell Fridays!

What the hell is up with Scalia and his new found support for people's (rather than corporation's or the Bush administration's) civil rights?

What the hell is up with Michelle Bachman? I mean, what the hell?

What the hell is up with Mark Sanford and his incredibly weird "reflections?"

What the hell is up with the General Electric corporation's network news decisions?


One too many mornings


Mexicali Blues?

Rush Limbaugh knows a little something about south of the border romance.


Thursday, June 25, 2009


Genuinely saddened by the passing of Farah Fawcett. She always seemed genuine if a little lost, and an actor who deserved more good roles.

For me, she was a milestone. This poster came out when I was 13. And while I found Jacyln Smith more intriguing and I was smitten with "the smarter one," Kate Jackson, Farrah certainly changed the way I looked at the world. It wasn't the iconic hair.

It was the nipples.

I was forever changed. The world was suddenly filled with beauty.

Rest in peace after a long, horrendous illness.

Labels: , ,

Jounamalism school

The coverage of Mark Sanford's Lost Weekend is indeed edifying.

In fact, the Post fell so hard for the Appalachian Trail line that they even ran a story -- "For the Gov, A Little Me Time," by reporter Will Haygood, highlighting the quirkiness of Sanford's decision to "trek off into the woods," without ever stopping to ask whether tale was true. For good measure, the story reported: "The governor, it should be noted, is quite happily married" -- something it had no way of knowing.

And the Wall Street Journal headlined its post: "Once Lost, Gov. Sanford Is Now Found," and wrote a lede similar to Cillizza's.

There's a larger point here than just, we were right and you were wrong (really there is).

None of these are the biggest crimes in the world, but still: It feels absurd to have to point this out, but politicians and their staffers frequently have reason to dissemble, about issues far more important than an extra-marital affair. Too often, though, the press treats public statements from elected officials' offices -- especially those purporting simply to provide information, like the Appalachian Trail line -- as self-evidently accurate. It's as if, despite everything, some in the press can't quite bring themselves to believe that politicians might try to mislead people.

The odd thing about mainstream reporting -- embarrassment rarely leads to change. Or is the Washington press corps simply immune to embarrassment?


Donald Fehr and the MLBPA

I meant to comment on Donald Fehr's announcement that he would be retiring next year, but I got busy yesterday. That's fortunate in a way because Joe Sheehan says it all way better then I would have.

There are jobs that demand of the person filling them that they be able to forgo popularity to do them well. No one likes public defenders. No one likes tax auditors. And no one likes the men who have chosen to represent baseball players as if they were a group of laborers in an industry long dominated by a paternalistic management and covered by an unquestioning press largely bought and paid for by the same.

Don Fehr took on this task and did it very well for a quarter-century. He did it as his peers in the NFL, NBA, and NHL all lost major labor battles and saw their unions weakened, or in the NFL's case completely broken and turned into a house union. The relative popularity of Fehr and his NFL counterpart, the late Gene Upshaw, ran in inverse proportion to how good each man was at his job of representing the athletes in their charge. Since 1983, when Fehr took over following the brief, unlamented stint of Ken Moffatt, the MLBPA has established itself as the most powerful players' association in sports, and one of the few successful unions in American labor. They won three grievances over collusion at a time when free agency was still in relative infancy. They beat management in the courts when necessary. Under Fehr's watch, we're into the longest stretch of labor peace since the players were serfs.

For this, Fehr became a reviled figure, first for not caving in to MLB's demands in 1994 and leading the players into a strike that lasted through the World Series, then for defending the principle of privacy, the right to refuse unwarranted searches, and the sanctity of collective bargaining, all as the public, management, and a grandstanding Congressional committee looked to trample all three.


To some extent, Fehr had no chance to build a legacy. Marvin Miller took the players from servitude to freedom. There's no follow-up act to that. Miller was up against Bowie Kuhn and a set of owners with a plantation mentality; Fehr faced off against Selig, who yanked all of the magnates in line and presented the first united front from management that the players had ever seen. Selig learned by facing off with Miller, and because of that he was a tougher adversary for Fehr.

Sure, you can point to the $3 billion the players will take home this season, but that's a slightly smaller piece of the pie then they've gotten in the past, in part because Fehr and his players lost the 2002 negotiations, which set terms for restrictions on the labor market—givebacks—that are now the structural framework for all negotiations. The summer of 2002, when the media openly contrasted the negotiations with the events of September 11, 2001, and the amount of economic illiteracy in the coverage of the issues reached a peak, would likely have played out much differently a generation prior. The 2002 players were not prepared to strike, and Fehr recognized that and made a deal; that's leadership, even if it's not remembered as such.

Read the entire piece if you're interested in recent MLB history. And if you don't think Don Fehr was a tremendous union leader, ask an NFL player.

Via LGM.


Schadenfreude for all the wrong reasons

To be clear, I enjoy watching a sanctimonious conservative hoisted by his petard as much as the next lefty blogger, but Sanford should be demonized for his behavior in rejecting federal stimulus money to help the people of his state in financial distress during an economic catastrophe. He should not be demonized for something that's between his wife, his girlfriend, his children. Yes, he lost his mind there for a long weekend, but the first hints of his truly horrendous judgment were on view some months ago.

And the person who leaked Sanford's emails is truly sleazy.

UPDATE: As usual, Roy is on the case.

Labels: ,

"Empathy?" We don't need to steenking empathy"


I don't know exactly what empathy means. I suppose at a minimum it means you want a judge who will depart from the meaning of the constitution when a sympathetic case arises. It does seem to raise a warning that we're talking about a judge who does not follow the law.
I know his hearing and subsequent Senate rejections were more logs on the culture wars pyre, but the nation really dodged a civil rights catastrophe back in 1987. Because if he can be so disingenuous and intellectually dishonest about the meaning of the word "empathy" and what it means for a judge, imagine what he could have done with words like, "privacy" or "human dignity."

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Comedy central

I guess Mark Sanford finally found a stimulus package he couldn't reject.

Thank you! Try the veal.

In all seriousness, I wonder how the good people of South Carolina feel about their governor who felt no moral compunction to reject 700 billion federal dollars for things like school construction in a state that badly needs school construction, but had no problem jetting off for weekend of driving along the Argentine coast with his mistress.

He put his political aspirations ahead of the needs of his state's people at a time of economic crisis. And now those aspirations are looking pretty limp.

Thank you! I'm here all week!

Labels: , ,

More Nixon tapes

Really great stuff!

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding, “Or a rape.”

Nine months later, Nixon forced the firing of the special prosecutor looking into the Watergate affair, Archibald Cox, and prompted the resignations of Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus. The next day, Ronald Reagan, who was then governor of California and would later be president, told the White House that he approved.

Reagan said the action, which would become known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” was “probably the best thing that ever happened — none of them belong where they were,” according to a Nixon aide’s notes of the private conversation.


A call between Nixon and Mr. Colson just after midnight on Jan. 20 showed that Nixon anticipated, when the treaty was announced, that he would be vindicated for continuing to bomb North Vietnam. He especially relished the hit that he believed members of Congress who opposed the war — whose public statements he pronounced “treasonable” — would suffer.

Several conversations center on the pressure Nixon placed on South Vietnam’s president, Nguyen Van Thieu, to accept the cease-fire agreement. Ken Hughes, a Nixon scholar and research fellow at the Presidential Recordings Project at the University of Virginia, said he was struck by listening on one of the new tapes to Nixon’s telling his national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, that to get Thieu to sign the treaty, he would “cut off his head if necessary.”

Mr. Hughes said the conversation bolstered his view that Nixon, Thieu and Mr. Kissinger knew at the time that the cease-fire could not endure, and that it was not “peace with honor,” as Nixon described it, so much as a face-saving way for the United States to get out of the war. In 1975, North Vietnam would violate the cease-fire and conquer South Vietnam.

And Billy Graham!

The tapes also include a phone call from February 1973 between Nixon and the evangelist Billy Graham, during which Mr. Graham complained that Jewish-American leaders were opposing efforts to promote evangelical Christianity, like Campus Crusade. The two men agreed that the Jewish leaders risked setting off anti-Semitic sentiment.

“What I really think is deep down in this country, there is a lot of anti-Semitism, and all this is going to do is stir it up,” Nixon said.

At another point he said: “It may be they have a death wish. You know that’s been the problem with our Jewish friends for centuries.”

I wonder if Nixon's brain was preserved. It would be a fascinating thing to research.


On the Appalachian Trail

I look forward to the GOP primaries in 2012.

UPDATE: Knew this one was coming, didn't you?

I will say this about Republicans. They may be hypocrites when it comes to "the sanctity of marriage," but they are hopelessly romantic.

Sanford flew back from Argentina to Atlanta early on Wednesday. He told a reporter for The State, South Carolina's biggest newspaper, that he had changed his earlier plans for a trip and had decided at the last minute to go to Argentina and drive along its coastline.



Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Hip shooting onanism"

Joe Klein's comments on McCain's bleatings on Iran are exactly right, and that phrase certainly paints a vivid picture, doesn't it?

Certainly, Bush the Younger, McCain and the rest of that crowd have absolutely no idea who the Iranian people are. The are not Hungarians in 1956. They do not believe they live in an Evil Empire. They still support their revolution. They shout "Allahu Akbar" in the streets, which was the rallying cry of 1979. They are proud of their nuclear program, even if many have doubts about the efficacy of weaponizing the enriched uraniam that is being produced. They want greater freedom, to be sure. And they believe that the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad forces--and the militarized regime they have empowered, the millions of basiji and revolutionary guards--is a profound perversion of that revolution. They are right. They deserve our prayers and support. But they don't need grandstanding from an American President, and they certainly don't need histrionics from blustery old John McCain.

What Klein does not mention is the beltway media's complicity in this. They know McCain has no expertise on Iranian politics or society and they certainly have heard him express his profound concern for the well-being of the Iranian people. No, he's a ubiquitous fixture on TV because the journamalists are lazy and know that McCain will read off the script that Obama and, by reflection, Democrats, are weak on defense. Obama's response to Iran surely proves that even if no rational being would agree. Even as public opinion has shifted markedly and now view Democrats as relatively strong on national security issues, that "weak" framing is just too easy to hang on to.

Labels: ,

Just not worth it

Shorter David Brooks: Unlike an invasion of a country that did not threaten us ($1 trillion and rising) and tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans ($1.8 trillion), health care just isn't worth "bankrupting the country."


Transparent schizophrenia

Dan Froomkin, soon to leave the wasteland that is the Washington Post editorial pages, asks some good questions about the Obama administration's "open government."


Gone missing

It would be considered pretty irresponsible for a private citizen to provide no other details then that he was going to be on the Appalachian Trail -- which pretty much runs the entire east coast.

Labels: ,

Monday, June 22, 2009

The protest intensifies

Roger Cohen is doing some excellent reporting and analysis from Tehran.

The third question — the strategic goal of the uprising — is increasingly fraught. Khamenei said, “The dispute is not between the revolution and the counterrevolution,” and that all four electoral candidates “belong to the system.” He was right, if his words had been spoken the day after the vote.

Ten days on, however, the brutal use of force and his own polarizing speech have drawn many more Iranians toward an absolutist stance. Having wanted their votes counted, they now want wholesale change. If Moussavi wants to prevail, he must keep his followers tactically focused on securing a new election. That’s essential because it’s the one position the opposition within the clerical establishment will go along with.

Whatever happens now, all is changed utterly in Iran. Opacity, a force of the Islamic Republic, has yielded to a riveting transparency in which one side confronts another. The online youth of Iran will not be reconciled to a regime that touts global “ethics” and “justice” while trampling on them at home.

I received this from an anonymous Iranian student: “I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to be killed. I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow!”

And she concludes: “I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so that they know we were not just emotional under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mogols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children.”
Are factions opening up? Were they always there, waiting to fracture behind a guise of unanimity?

Labels: ,

Pat Buchanan's English-only problem

He and his fellow nativists need to learn the language.

Labels: ,

The designated moonbat

It's too uncomfortable for those in power to keep him around when history has proved him right.

That’s why the firing of Dan Froomkin now makes a perverse sort of sense. As long as the right was in power, he was in effect the Post’s designated moonbat, someone who attracted readers but didn’t threaten the self-esteem of the self-perceived serious people at the paper. But now he looks like someone who was right when the serious people were wrong — and that means he has to go.

Via Greenwald.

Labels: , ,

Blue Monday, Sonny Boy Williamson edition

A thing of beauty.

Labels: ,

Neda's killing

Repressive regimes need to better coordinate their various and vast internal security forces. In Iran, the police seem to be wavering while the Revolutionary Guard and the Basiji seem to be doubling down despite new evidence of fraud. This kind of thing is not wise if the regime's hope is for things to calm down and the protesters to simply go home.

But in Time, Robin Wright says this may be the calm before the storm, partly thanks to the widely circulated video of a woman known as "Neda" being gunned down on Saturday:

Although it is not yet clear who shot "Neda" (a soldier? pro-government militant? an accidental misfiring?), her death may have changed everything. For the cycles of mourning in Shiite Islam actually provide a schedule for political combat — a way to generate or revive momentum. Shiite Muslims mourn their dead on the third, seventh and 40th days after a death, and these commemorations are a pivotal part of Iran's rich history.

....Shiite mourning is not simply a time to react with sadness. Particularly in times of conflict, it is also an opportunity for renewal. The commemorations for "Neda" and the others killed this weekend are still to come. And the 40th day events are usually the largest and most important.

If Wright is correct, Tuesday could be a pivotal day. Stay tuned.

Tin soldiers, indeed.

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Health care's diminished noise machine

Given that the health care "debate" on the blow dry shows has been dominated by conservative voices predicting the dire future awaiting us if "government run" health care is passed, it is tempting to wonder if the right wing noise machine has begun to seem like so much white noise to many Americans.

The national telephone survey, which was conducted from June 12 to 16, found that 72 percent of those questioned supported a government-administered insurance plan — something like Medicare for those under 65 — that would compete for customers with private insurers. Twenty percent said they were opposed.

Republicans in Congress have fiercely criticized the proposal as an unneeded expansion of government that might evolve into a system of nationalized health coverage and lead to the rationing of care.

But in the poll, the proposal received broad bipartisan backing, with half of those who call themselves Republicans saying they would support a public plan, along with nearly three-fourths of independents and almost nine in 10 Democrats.

The poll, of 895 adults, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Though this is somewhat ominous.

It is not clear how fully the public understands the complexities of the government plan proposal, and the poll results indicate that those who said they were following the debate were somewhat less supportive.

But they clearly indicate growing confidence in the government’s ability to manage health care. Half of those questioned said they thought government would be better at providing medical coverage than private insurers, up from 30 percent in polls conducted in 2007. Nearly 60 percent said Washington would have more success in holding down costs, up from 47 percent.

Sixty-four percent said they thought the federal government should guarantee coverage, a figure that has stayed steady all decade. Nearly 6 in 10 said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to make sure that all were insured, with 4 in 10 willing to pay as much as $500 more a year.

And a plurality, 48 percent, said they supported a requirement that all Americans have health insurance so long as public subsidies were offered to those who could not afford it. Thirty-eight percent said they were opposed.

In a follow-up interview, Matt Flurkey, 56, a public plan supporter from Plymouth, Minn., said he could accept that the quality of his care might diminish if coverage was universal. “Even though it might not be quite as good as what we get now,” he said, “I think the government should run health care. Far too many people are being denied now, and costs would be lower.”

While the survey results depict a nation desperate for change, it also reveals a deep wariness of the possible consequences. Half to two-thirds of respondents said they worried that if the government guaranteed health coverage, they would see declines in the quality of their own care and in their ability to choose doctors and get needed treatment.

“It is the responsibility of the government to guarantee insurance for all,” said Juanita Lomaz, a 65-year-old office worker from Bakersfield, Calif. “But my care will get worse because they’ll have to limit care in order to cover everyone.”

So is the current campaign to liken a public plan to...France...working, albeit not as efficiently as in the past? Or, as I suspect, is it having its effect, but have people also begun to digest the fact that spending on health care is drowning us and that the need is so great only the federal government can begin to make a difference?

Of course, as Bob Somerby relentlessly points out, consistently left out of the debate is the fact that the U.S. spends nearly double per capita on health care what every other developed country spends (excluding Luxemburg!) and by all metrics our care is no better, oftentimes worse. If that were ever permitted to be uttered on the teevee when Graham or McCain (and what is it with the neocon opposition to universal health care?) declare that Americans have the best health care system in the world, na na ni na, na, perhaps the public support would be...universal.

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The face of the regime

This seems like the equivalent of a blink.

In a long and hard-line sermon on Friday, Ayatollah Khamenei declared the June 12 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad valid and warned that demonstration leaders “would be responsible for bloodshed and chaos” if demonstrations continued.

Regional analysts said that, by calling for an end to the rallies, Ayatollah Khamenei had inserted himself directly into the confrontation, invoking his own prestige and that of Iran’s clerical regime. But his speech also laid the groundwork to suppress the opposition movement with a harder hand, characterizing further protests as against the Islamic Republic itself.

And today, reportedly, the crack down is bloodier, but the protesters aren't backing down.

Fareed Zakaria believes this is the beginning of the end of the regime.

Fareed Zakaria: One of the first things that strikes me is we are watching the fall of Islamic theocracy.

CNN: Do you mean you think the regime will fall?

Zakaria: No, I don't mean the Iranian regime will fall soon. It may -- I certainly hope it will -- but repressive regimes can stick around for a long time. I mean that this is the end of the ideology that lay at the basis of the Iranian regime.

The regime's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, laid out his special interpretation of political Islam in a series of lectures in 1970. In this interpretation of Shia Islam, Islamic jurists had divinely ordained powers to rule as guardians of the society, supreme arbiters not only on matters of morality but politics as well. When Khomeini established the Islamic Republic of Iran, this idea was at its heart. Last week, that ideology suffered a fatal wound.

CNN: How so?

Zakaria: When the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a "divine assessment," he was indicating it was divinely sanctioned. But no one bought it. He was forced to accept the need for an inquiry into the election. The Guardian Council, Iran's supreme constitutional body, met with the candidates and promised to investigate and perhaps recount some votes. Khamenei has subsequently hardened his position but that is now irrelevant. Something very important has been laid bare in Iran today --- legitimacy does not flow from divine authority but from popular support.


CNN: What should the United States do?

Zakaria: I would say continue what we have been doing. By reaching out to Iran, publicly and repeatedly, President Obama has made it extremely difficult for the Iranian regime to claim that they are battling an aggressive America bent on attacking Iran. In his inaugural address, his New Year greetings, and his Cairo speech, there is a consistent effort to convey respect and friendship for Iranians. That is why Khamenei reacted so angrily to the New Year greeting. It undermined the image of the Great Satan that he routinely paints in his sermons. In his Friday sermon, Khamenei said that the United States, Israel, and especially the United Kingdom were behind the street protests, an accusation that will surely sound ridiculous to most Iranians. The fact that Obama has been cautious in his reaction makes it all the harder for Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to wrap themselves in a nationalist flag.

Labels: ,

Ali Akbar Khan


Mr. Khan, who was named a national treasure by the Indian government in 1989, carried on the musical traditions of his father, Allauddin Khan, whose ashram in East Bengal produced some of India’s most celebrated musicians, notably Mr. Shankar, the flutist Pannalal Ghosh and the sitarist Nikhil Banerjee.

Unlike his father, a volatile and uneven performer, Mr. Khan maintained an austere demeanor onstage while coaxing passages of extraordinary intensity from his sarod, an instrument with 25 strings, 10 plucked with a piece of coconut shell while the remainder resonate sympathetically.

“He was not as flashy as Ravi Shankar, but he had the ability to play a single note, or a simple passage of notes, and draw out such amazing depth,” said John Schaefer, the host of “New Sounds” and “Soundcheck” on WNYC-FM in New York. “That’s why he was able to get a world of emotion and color out of ‘Malasri,’ which is often called a three-note raga. That, for me, stands as the calling card of the genius of Ali Khan.”

The violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who brought Mr. Khan to the United States in 1955, called him “an absolute genius” and “the greatest musician in the world.”

Friday, June 19, 2009

You say you want a revolution? Really?

DH Riley, on the latest burblings from the DPL himself (of which we've spoken earlier):

Really, if eight years of disaster is not enough of an answer to the perpetual campaign for hollow insincerity, then someone kindly remind this fuck just how much it accomplished when his side was in control. Weren't we all Georgians just last August? Weren't we Orange Revolutionaries and Cedar Revolutionaries before that? Is is at all peculiar that We weren't all Kurds as well, back when that would have been inconvenient for a Republican administration? Isn't it bad enough that a large chunk of American foreign policy is dedicated to the proposition that we can control the rest of the planet with our high-powered brain emanations? Does it have to be Jonah's brain?

Watching the news from Iran play out, I find myself unsurprised that the same self-absorbed fucks who led the chearleading for invading Iraq now want President Obama to be more "forceful" in renouncing the 12th century religious regime in control of the government and in announcing our BFF status with the students risking their lives to demand a fair election. With the same blissful ignorance with which they supported unleashing six years of hell on Iraqis, the neo-onanists now demand that we throw the full obese weight of American support behind a political campaign we'd paid no, none, nada, attention to one month ago, since all our attention then was on bombing those selfsame Iranians.

Now, I am no "Iran hand." I do not speak Persian, Farsi, or, truth be told, English. But I will venture that, as I look at the pictures and listen to the voices that manage to escape out of that country, our support -- or the UK's -- is the last thing the protesters want or need. Nevermind the obvious fact that in inserting our own goutish nose into their affairs will only give ammunition to the fundamentalists' charges that the students are, at best, dupes of the West and, at worst, provacateurs employed by the West (consider the response on the Right if the USSR had proclaimed its solidarity with the protesters in Chicago in 1968). The truth is they are protesting for a politician who is perhaps a moderate when it comes to the laws and values of the Islamic Republic. These protests are not an attempt to undo the revolution against the Shah or to overthrow the mullahs. They are protests to demand that their votes are counted fairly (something we ought to consider trying sometime). I don't know if the many women seen in the photos want to throw off the veil or simply to throw out a politician who seems to hate their sex, supporting legislation to permit a man to unilaterally announce his divorce and to outlaw alimony. I don't know if the students are marching for Whisky Sexy Democracy or simply to support a politician who might use a slightly less heavy hand and might have a slightly better clue about improving the Iranian economy.

I don't know. What I do know is, this ain't about us.

Labels: ,

It's tough being a policy maker

Cristine Romer and Paul Krugman begin to understand how hard it was to be a policy maker in 1937 U.S. and 1990s Japan.

Via Yglesias.


Don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys

Unless universal health care is passed, anyway.


Republicans have strange health care fantasies

"Inserting a bureaucrat between you and your doctor." Now, that's just icky.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Washington Post shreds its last bit of credibility

And fires the one opinion writer at the paper who dared to criticize the Bush administration and has, since the latest inaugural remained true to the principles of "White House Watch" and turned his sites on Obama's actions -- the successes and the failures.

One of the rarest commodities in the establishment media is someone who was a vehement critic of George Bush and who now, applying their principles consistently, has become a regular critic of Barack Obama -- i.e., someone who criticizes Obama from what is perceived as "the Left" rather than for being a Terrorist-Loving Socialist Muslim. It just got a lot rarer, as The Washington Post -- at least according to Politico's Patrick Gavin -- just fired WashingtonPost.com columnist, long-time Bush critic and Obama watchdog (i.e., a real journalist) Dan Froomkin.

What makes this firing so bizarre and worthy of inquiry is that, as Calderone notes, Froomkin was easily one of the most linked-to and cited Post columnists. At a time when newspapers are relying more and more on online traffic, the Post just fired the person who, in 2007, wrote 3 out of the top 10 most-trafficked columns. In publishing that data, Media Bistro used this headline: "The Post's Most Popular Opinions (Read: Froomkin)." Isn't that an odd person to choose to get rid of?

What exactly is the Post's business model and what, exactly, is the mission of its editorial page?

Labels: ,

Noble Victimhood, or The Southern Strategy

Next time someone says that the nimble Twitter will send (liberal) blogs to the La Brea Tarpit of new media formats (much the way humans killed off the dinosaur), point him or her here. Because there is no word count in blogs I won't excerpt any of it. It must be read in its entirety.

Labels: ,

Menage a trois?

I haven't blogged about L'affaire Ensign because Republican hypocrisy on marriage and morals is not earth shattering news. But this is getting surpassingly strange.

The son of the couple at the center of the sex scandal that has engulfed Sen. John Ensign was being paid by National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2008 at the same time his mother was having an affair with the Nevada Republican.

Both Doug and Cynthia Hampton were already working in senior positions for Ensign when their son Brandon Hampton was hired to do “research policy consulting” for the NRSC in March 2008.

The younger Hampton, 19, was paid $5,400 before he left the Ensign office in August last year, Federal Election Commission records show.

That means during March and April 2008, three members of the Hampton family were working for Ensign. Both Doug and Cynthia Hampton stopped working for Ensign at the end of April 2008.

According to people familiar with the matter, Ensign’s affair with Hampton took place between December 2007 and August 2008.

Must have been some strange dinner table conversations at that home.

Labels: ,

Reliable backdrops

As one of the commentors to this post notes, if NPR doesn't want Wan Williams to associate himself with NPR while on FoxNews, NPR should disassociate themselves from him.


They just look at you with those brown eyes

C-Money (Brian Cashman, Yankee GM), is, shall we say, straightforward.

• Brian Bruney “lied” to him about his elbow. “It drives me nuts,” Cashman said. Cashman said he went to Scranton to see Bruney’s rehab the first time around. “It was a waste of a two-and-half-hour drive,” he said. He compared injured players to pets because they can’t or won’t tell you what is wrong.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Gallows politics"

Except for that term, used by Leon Panetta to describe Dick Cheney's dark warnings about an impending attack brought on by the Obama administration decision not to torture people, Jane Mayer's long article about the new CIA chief hasn't gotten much attention. It should. While it doesn't add a lot that's new, it brings to the fore a lot of disparate threads that are making things complicated for the administration and threaten the agency directly.

One of the takeaways is that the Obama administration, while trying to cover for Bush era abuses at the agency and in the White House OLC in order to avoid "political destractions," may find those distractions oozing out over a longer period of time.

Ken Gude, an associate director at the Center for American Progress, who specializes in national-security issues, and who has close ties to the White House, believes that Obama’s instinct, like Panetta’s, was to set up a truth commission of some sort. “I think the political staff walked it back,” he says. “They said it would be a distraction.” Obama’s political advisers dread any issue that could trigger a culture war and diminish his support among independent voters. They also see little advantage in picking a fight with the C.I.A. But the decision to discourage an accountability process, Gude says, has backfired. The Administration has lost control of the story, as revelations about C.I.A. misdeeds have continued to emerge through lawsuits and the press. “It’s now become the distraction they wanted to avoid,” Gude says. “The White House briefings have been dominated by questions about releasing documents and photos.” It’s understandable, he says, that Obama wouldn’t want to spend his energy on Bush’s mistakes. But, he warns, “they can’t leave the impression that they’re trying to cover it up.”


[...] Other legal actions threaten to expose yet more secrets of the C.I.A.’s torture program. A prosecutor appointed by the Justice Department, John Durham, has convened a grand jury in Washington to weigh potential criminal charges against C.I.A. officers who were involved in the destruction of ninety-two videotapes documenting the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and other detainees. Mickum told me that he has met several times with Durham, and believes that the scope of his inquiry may have expanded to include a review of whether the C.I.A. began using brutal methods on Zubaydah before it received written authorization from the Justice Department. (This would provide an extra motive for destroying the videotapes.) Mickum said, “I got the sense he was very serious.” (Durham declined to comment.) The A.C.L.U., meanwhile, is suing to get access to classified descriptions of what was on the destroyed videotapes. Last week, Panetta filed an affidavit opposing the disclosure, which he said “could be expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security.” Once again, he was protecting Bush-era interrogation secrets.

Pressure is also coming from abroad. In Italy, two dozen C.I.A. officers are on trial in absentia for participating in a 2003 rendition. Robert Seldon Lady, the agency’s station chief in Milan at the time, can no longer travel to Italy without danger of arrest, nor can the other C.I.A. officers named in the case. Spain has opened a criminal investigation of six Bush Administration officials in connection with torture. And in London a former rendition victim is suing the British authorities. After a British judge ruled that the plaintiff, Binyam Mohammed, should be given access to C.I.A. intelligence documents that the agency shared with British authorities, the Obama Administration surprised liberals by pressuring the British government to stop the disclosures.

Obama no doubt prefers to let the judges in this country and abroad lead the charge to shine a light on Bush era abuses, so as not to have his administration be accused of a political vendetta. It could get very messy, though, particularly if other countries start indicting members of the Bush legal team.

And Sonia Sotomayor may be ruling on more national security issues then she might otherwise have expected. It will be interesting to see how she testifies about those issues in her confirmation hearings.

Labels: , ,

Krugman's housing bubble

From The Corner of Obliviousness and Laziness:

'Things I'm Glad I Never Said' [Mark Hemingway]

Arnold Kling digs up this Paul Krugman chestnut from 2002:

To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble.

Oy. Might want to remeber that sentence next time you consider any of Krugman's economic advice.

(via Moynihan via McArdle)

Um, Krugman, in his actual 2002 column (which Hemingway does not bother to link to), does not say the U.S. needs a housing bubble. He says Alan Greenspan needs one in order to explain The Sage's optimism about the economy in the face of the NASDAQ bubble bursting and the likelihood of "double dip" inflation during the Bush II years.

Indeed, Krugman was quite prophetic as Greenspan did drive down interest rates and encouraged variable rate mortgages, thus pouring gasoline on a burning housing sector.

But the best part: Hemingway is too lazy to even come up with his own post title.

UPDATED to get rid of some annoying NRO html coding, fix spelling...the usual, ya know.

UPDATED II: Arnold Kling reconsiders.

Labels: ,


The epic fail of conservative social networking.

Labels: ,

Rock 'n Roll heaven

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

If we'd bombed them, they wouldn't be dying in the streets

Jonah Goldberg, in October 2007, states neither is agreement or disagreement to the notion, simply finding the subject "interesting."

To Bomb Iran, Or No? [Jonah Goldberg]

A letters symposium over at Commentary. There's also the lead article by Josh Muravchik in defense of Neoconservatism. I'm about half-way thru. It's very interesting. More later.

Today, he's exasperated that the Obama administration won't fly in and help the Iranian people in the midst of a disputed election.

Reportedly, you are biding your time, waiting to see what happens, as if it is a great mystery. Your campaign lived and breathed YouTube. Check it now, check it often. You and your team promised "soft power" and "smart power." Well, let's see some of that. Because by not clearly picking a side, it appears you have chosen the wrong side.

Do you fear antagonizing the powers-that-be in Iran? That ship has sailed. Though I am sure they're grateful for your eagerness not to roil the seas around them. Is it because you think "leader of the free world" is just another of those Cold War relics best mothballed in favor of a more cosmopolitan and universal awe at your own story?

"Enough about those people bleeding in the street. What do you think of me?" Is that how it is to be?

As Drum notes, Obama really drives these people nuts.

Meanwhile, Greenwald is all over those who once wanted to kill a lot of Iranians, but now want the U.S. to help them.

Much of the same faction now claiming such concern for the welfare of The Iranian People are the same people who have long been advocating a military attack on Iran and the dropping of large numbers of bombs on their country -- actions which would result in the slaughter of many of those very same Iranian People. During the presidential campaign, John McCain infamously sang about Bomb, Bomb, Bomb-ing Iran. The Wall St. Journal published a war screed from Commentary's Norman Podhoretz entitled "The Case for Bombing Iran," and following that, Podhoretz said in an interview that he "hopes and prays" that the U.S. "bombs the Iranians." John Bolton and Joe Lieberman advocated the same bombing campaign, while Bill Kristol -- with typical prescience -- hopefully suggested that Bush might bomb Iran if Obama were elected. Rudy Giuliani actually said he would be open to a first-strike nuclear attack on Iran in order to stop their nuclear program.

Imagine how many of the people protesting this week would be dead if any of these bombing advocates had their way -- just as those who paraded around (and still parade around) under the banner of Liberating the Iraqi People caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of them, at least. Hopefully, one of the principal benefits of the turmoil in Iran is that it humanizes whoever the latest Enemy is. Advocating a so-called "attack on Iran" or "bombing Iran" in fact means slaughtering huge numbers of the very same people who are on the streets of Tehran inspiring so many -- obliterating their homes and workplaces, destroying their communities, shattering the infrastructure of their society and their lives. The same is true every time we start mulling the prospect of attacking and bombing another country as though it's some abstract decision in a video game.

But it's all of a piece, really. Goldberg and his ilk really don't care about the Iranian people. They care about "regime change." If bombing the shit out of a country can produce that result regardless of the carnage, well, eggs break, donchyaknow. If loud bluster in support of the opposition can...do something...resulting in a crack down on the "Imperial stooges," and their supporters rounded up and sent to Iranian prisons as agents of the U.S., then, well, at least we made our voices heard. Their logic and reasoning may be homicidally flawed, but it is consistent.

Labels: ,

Obama's sinister plans for health care reform

This is just strange.

Opening a week in which health care will dominate attention in Congress, the president’s speech on Monday was the latest example of an oft-used ploy to press his case: appearing before skeptical audiences, confident of his powers of persuasion but willing as well to say what his listeners do not want to hear.

I leave it to others who know more about this stuff to determine whether the CBO's projections are correct or off-base, but...um...it's a "ploy" to talk to your skeptics?

Our discourse on health care is seriously fucked up.



It is amazing that John McCain, whose knowledge of health care is probably up there with his economics acumen, simply goes unchallenged when he makes these claims.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Rooting for Ahmadinejad

U.S. and European diplomats are doing everything they can to avoid being seen as supporting the reform candidate in Iran, lest said candidate be seen as a puppet of the West. They go even farther, though, saying Ahmadinejad's victory -- whether he or the religious leadership stole it or not -- is actually the best case scenario.

"We even had a nightmare scenario yesterday," a senior European diplomat said the day after the meeting with Burns and Ross in March. If a moderate were elected and negotiations with Iran still went nowhere, how would the U.S. and Europe stop Iran from going nuclear? With its centrifuges spinning, Iran could continue to amass enriched uranium while presenting to the outside world an openness to compromise, the diplomat explained. When it came time to confront a stalling Iran by dropping the carrots and applying the sticks, said the senior European diplomat, "Try to imagine how difficult it would be to say 'I stop, I don't negotiate anymore,' " if a moderate were in charge in Tehran. (See TIME's photos of the Iranian elections and protests.)

In the days since Iran's troubled election, hard-liners in Israel and neoconservatives in America have made no secret of their glee at still having Ahmadinejad as an antagonistic foil to help build support for taking a tougher line on Tehran's nuclear ambitions. But there is also widespread relief in the Administration, as well as among some moderates on Capitol Hill and in Europe, at the result. Despite all the attention paid to the office of the Iranian presidency, nuclear policy is set by the religious leaders of the country, and they have shown a determination to amass enriched uranium regardless of whether hard-liners or moderates have been President. (See TIME's photos: "The Long Shadow of Ayatullah Khomeini.")

Still, in addition to his power over domestic and economic policy, the Iranian President is the face for the country abroad. And in that respect, a victory by Mir-Hossein Mousavi would have presented a worst-case scenario for Western efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear program, senior Administration officials said Sunday. He would have presented a softer, less confrontational face to the outside world. And he would have been able to stall even before he entered into negotiations with the excuse of taking all summer to get a new Cabinet and negotiating team in place.

While that sounds pretty realpolitik in the face of disappointed reformers in Iran, it makes logical sense. And it raises the question, if the religious leaders did steal the election, why? A moderate reformer would have eased their people's real economic complaints at least for a while and would have softened the regime's image around the world while doing nothing to diminish their power or stopping the centrifuges.


Now, THAT'S funny

Somehow, I don't think Michelle Obama is going to consider Sarah Palin a model in how to respond to unfunny jokes.

A prominent South Carolina Republican killed his Facebook page Sunday after being caught likening the First Lady to an escaped gorilla.

Commenting on a report posted to Facebook about a gorilla escape at a zoo in Columbia, S.C., Friday, longtime GOP activist Rusty DePass wrote, "I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors - probably harmless."

Busted by South Carolina political blogger Will Folks on his FITNEWS blog, DePass told WIS-TV in Columbia, "I am as sorry as I can be if I offended anyone. The comment was clearly in jest."

Then he added, "The comment was hers, not mine," claiming Michelle Obama made a recent remark about humans descending from apes. The Daily News could find no such comment.

The Republican Outreach campaign continues.


Change? We don't need no stinkin' change

EJ Dionne marvels at the short term memory loss.

Among other things, the Chamber promises "legal action to challenge unconstitutional and unlawful government regulations." Might that presage -- again, the New Deal parallels are striking -- a battle between a progressive president and a conservative Supreme Court?

Obama's preference is to transcend conflict, not confront it. He has been careful to present himself as a defender of free enterprise (as FDR did) and to insist that only unfortunate chance has made him the arbiter of the fate of banks and car companies.

Yet the paradox is that if the recovery continues, as Obama hopes it does, support for change will weaken, those threatened by change will be emboldened and slogans only recently discredited will be revived. The greatest danger to Obama's plans comes not from the Republican Party but from how short our memories are.

In the same paper, Summers and Geithners outline their proposal to not let a good financial crisis go to waste.

And, over at the Times, Krugman warns that it's starting to look a little like 1937.

Labels: ,

Blue Monday, Etta James edition

w/ bonus delirious Dr. John

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dangerous politics

CIA director Panetta, on the rhetoric of Dick Cheney.

Panetta, pouring a cup of coffee, responded to Cheney's speech with surprising candor. "I think he smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue," he told me. "It's almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it's almost as if he's wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that's dangerous politics."


Iran's culture war

Juan Cole says it was stolen.

Mir Hosain Mousavi was a plausible candidate for the reformists. They were electing people like him with 70 and 80 percent margins just a few years ago. We have not been had by the business families of north Tehran. We've much more likely been had by a hard line constituency of at most 20% of the country, who claim to be the only true heirs of the Iranian revolution, and who control which ballots see the light of day.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Drug law madness continues

Before the Wise Men get too eager to declare that every stinking pile of shit left by the last occupant of the White House is now owned by Obama, here's another thing he inherited from the Bush DoJ.

In imposing his sentence on Charles C. Lynch, who ran a dispensary in the surfing hamlet of Morro, Judge George H. Wu said the changed federal policy did not directly affect his ruling. But the judge talked at length about what he said were Mr. Lynch’s many efforts to follow California’s laws on marijuana dispensaries and the difficulty the judge had finding a loophole to avoid sending him to prison.

“I find I cannot get around the one-year sentence,” Judge Wu said of federal sentencing laws.

The judge said he had reduced the sentence from a mandatory five years because Mr. Lynch had no criminal record or history of violence, and did not fit the strict definition of a “leader” of a criminal enterprise.

Mr. Lynch, 47, was convicted last summer on five federal counts in connection with the running of his dispensary and the selling of medical marijuana to customers under 21.

Legal experts said the case highlighted the conflict between state and federal laws on medical marijuana. Federal law prohibits the cultivation, sale and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but 13 states allow it. In prosecuting for medical marijuana, the Bush administration had considered only federal laws.

Advocates of medical marijuana said the Lynch case would have a chilling effect on activities and undermine state laws. At his trial, and again in seeking leniency in his sentence, Mr. Lynch argued that he had complied with California’s law, which allows certain uses of marijuana with a doctor’s prescription.

“He is caught between California’s voter-approved medical marijuana system and the Bush administration’s single-minded effort to smother it,” said Stephen Gutwillig of the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization that favors a change in drug policy. “That Attorney General Holder changed federal policy three months ago only makes this miscarriage of justice all the more disturbing. Charlie is like a forgotten prisoner of war, abandoned after a truce was declared.”

Labels: ,

From his cold, not quite dead hands

The Jews were coming to get his guns, so he shot a black man. The Times reporters can explain why this "lone wolf" did it, but they can't seem to wrap their head around how.

Local and federal authorities in Washington said Thursday that they were focusing on Mr. von Brunn’s intentions and how he got the rifle. Because of his felony conviction in the crime at the Federal Reserve, he was prohibited by federal law from buying or possessing a gun. But Mr. von Brunn could have had the rifle, described by the authorities as “an older weapon,” since well before his conviction.

Mr. von Brunn brought a .22-caliber rifle and a .30-30 rifle when he moved into an apartment in Annapolis, Md., two years ago, according to the affidavit. The police recovered the .30-30 as well as ammunition for a .22 from his bedroom after the museum attack.

Um, google "ashcroft gun shows," okay? It may lead you right back to your own newspaper!

No word yet on the NRA's statement deploring...

Labels: , ,

James von Brunn and the Women's Studies Dept.

The past isn't even past

Bob Somerby takes us down memory lane.

IT HAPPENED LAST TIME: Tragically and painfully, a certain percentage of people are mentally ill. (Translation: They strongly believe wide networks of things which are plainly absurd or untrue.) Tragically, James von Brunn was numbered among them. Yesterday, at age 89, he acted. As a result, a sane, decent person is dead.

Last week, Scott Roeder killed Dr. George Tiller. Result: Some are wondering if the rise of Obama is creating stress in the minds of some unbalanced people, stress which has led them to act. This is a thoroughly worthwhile discussion. And it’s worth remembering that the same damn thing pretty much happened the last time.

By “last time,” we mean the last time we had a Democrat president. As you may recall, that president was Bill Clinton—and crazy stories spread far and wide about his intolerable ways. The liberal world ran off and hid in the woods—and, to all intents and purposes, the “mainstream press corps” didn’t exist. And sure enough! By September 1994, a man name Frank Corder decided to act. This incident largely went down the memory hole, like most misconduct directed at Clinton. But in real time, Judy Keen reported the apparent attempt on the president’s life in USA Today.

“Crash exposes risks,” the headline said. “How tough is it to protect a president?” Even after 9/11, this event remained largely deep-sixed:

KEEN (9/13/94): Frank Corder's flight in his tiny red-and-white Cessna exposed one of the White House's main vulnerabilities—an attack from the air.

"It finally happened," says Marlin Fitzwater, press secretary to former presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan. “Everybody has always speculated that someone could fly kamikaze-style into the White House. I don't think there's any way to prevent it.” If there is, Secret Service officials are hunting for it now.

President Clinton and his family were asleep at Blair House, across the street from the White House, when Corder flew over Washington's treetops under a sliver of moonlight, somehow evaded what's supposed to be the world's best security and crashed into an old magnolia tree two floors below the Clintons' empty bedrooms.

The worst damage: a cracked window.

But the "what ifs" surrounding the incident reignited ominous questions around the capital—questions that get to the heart of how tough it is to protect a president. What if the plane had been carrying explosives? What if terrorists had been piloting it instead of the inexperienced Corder?

The White House's occupants made light of the dramatic crash. "This has been quite an unusual day here at the White House," Hillary Rodham Clinton told guests.

Still, one fact loomed large: Monday's incident was the worst White House security breach in nearly two decades.

In fairness, the Clintons were murderers, drug-dealers, socialists. Perhaps for that reason (no one seemed to know), Corder had finally decided to act. He tried to crash his plane into the White House, hitting a large tree instead. Corder died in the incident.

It was “the worst White House security breach in nearly two decades,” Keen reported. And a few weeks later, it happened again. “Target: White House,” said the headline on Keen’s report. “Did bullets also bring a wake-up call?”

KEEN (10/31/94): Two weeks ago, President Clinton stood at a podium outside the White House's north entrance to welcome a U.S. delegation home from Haiti.

Saturday, that same north entrance was sprayed with a gunman's bullets.

If the motives for the shooting spree at the White House were murky Sunday, one thing seems increasingly clear: This president—who loves to mingle with crowds and chafes at being trapped in the Secret Service's protective bubble—is probably about to change his ways.

That may mean no more meandering across Lafayette Park on his way home from church, as he did a few weekends ago, with tourists flocking just feet away. And no more north entrance appearances.

The shooting was the second frightening White House security breach in six weeks.
Last month, a Maryland man crashed a stolen plane onto the lawn, killing himself.

"These two incidents may save this president's life at some point, because he's had a wakeup call," says terrorism expert Neil Livingstone.

In this incident, a man named Francisco Duran “pulled a rifle from his coat, stuck it through the fence and started spraying rounds,” Keen reported. “It took Duran 10 seconds, the Secret Service estimates, to squeeze off 20 to 30 rounds” before “two passersby subdued him.”

Given the zeitgeist of the 1990s, memory of these incidents quickly disappeared. We recall them because, as a comedian, we did a few jokes about these events (and perhaps one other) for a brief time in early 1995. Our premise? The crazy attacks seemed to stop as soon as Newt Gingrich became House speaker. (In the wake of the November 1994 elections.) Our jokes got a few laughs in DC. (We were surprised.) We didn’t try them elsewhere.

Were unbalanced people driven to act by all the crazy talk about Clinton? Are unbalanced people being so moved by Obama’s rise today? By crazy and semi-crazy talk about him? Von Brunn, who killed a decent person, apparently believed Obama isn’t a citizen. But then, Corder and Duran may well have thought that Clinton kept murdering people. Not to mention his drug-dealing ways!

We think it’s worth remembering that this happened the last time too. Beyond that, we think it’s worth wondering why the attacks by Corder and Duran found their way down the memory hole to the extent that they did. Hint: This was very much the way of the 1990s. In its own more dignified manner, the mainstream press corps was also flying little planes into the White House at this time. (They have never tried to explain why.) Later, they spent two year flying planes into Campaign 2000. In that case, they finally got their way. Are we happy with how that turned out?

And now we have Glenn Beck.

Labels: , ,



The Left Banke

Are they on a golf course?

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 11, 2009


What is worse, watching a player who may be coming to the end of his career or watching a player who may have lost it in what should be the peak of his career?


Look at me, dammit

The amusing folks at The Corner had surprisingly little (aka "none") to say yesterday about the right wing extremist's murder of a security guard at the Holocaust Museum yesterday, other than one angry post about why this is different then the "International Jihadist Threat [aka "brown people]," Janet Neapolitano's a dumb fascist and these guys aren't even "right wing." Then there's this:

'Weekly Standard may have been shooter target' [Mark Hemingway]

Ben Smith at Politico:

FBI agents visited the offices of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine yesterday after a shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum and told employees they'd found the magazine's address

A senior Standard staffer confirmed the visit but declined to discuss it in detail. An FBI spokeswoman, Katherine Schweit , also declined to comment on the investigation.

Two other sources said two FBI agents arrived shortly after 5:00 p.m. Thursday at the 17th Street offices of the magazine. They told staffers that they had found the address of the magazine on a piece of paper associated with the shooter, James von Brunn, and asked whether the Standard had received any threats.

I was visting a friend at TWS's office a few hours before the shootings yesterday. Wow.

Is it wrong to speculate the guy was planning to drop off samples of his writing in hopes of getting a good gig?

It would be wrong not to.


Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com Site Meter