Friday, July 31, 2009

Following the money

Yglesias points to an interesting chart showing the ebbs and flows of health care industry money to Republicans and Democrats. But the chart doesn't indicated which Democrats are benefiting most greatly from this recent boon.

On June 19, Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas made clear that he and a group of other conservative Democrats known as the Blue Dogs were increasingly unhappy with the direction that health-care legislation was taking in the House.

"The committees' draft falls short," the former pharmacy owner said in a statement that day, citing, among other things, provisions that major health-care companies also strongly oppose.

Five days later, Ross was the guest of honor at a special "health-care industry reception," one of at least seven fundraisers for the Arkansas lawmaker held by health-care companies or their lobbyists this year, according to publicly available invitations.

The roiling debate about health-care reform has been a boon to the political fortunes of Ross and 51 other members of the Blue Dog Coalition, who have become key brokers in shaping legislation in the House. Objections from the group resulted in a compromise bill announced this week that includes higher payments for rural providers and softens a public insurance option that industry groups object to. The deal also would allow states to set up nonprofit cooperatives to offer coverage, a Republican-generated idea that insurers favor as an alternative to a public insurance option.

At the same time, the group has set a record pace for fundraising this year through its political action committee, surpassing other congressional leadership PACs in collecting more than $1.1 million through June. More than half the money came from the health-care, insurance and financial services industries, marking a notable surge in donations from those sectors compared with earlier years, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

A look at career contribution patterns also shows that typical Blue Dogs receive significantly more money -- about 25 percent -- from the health-care and insurance sectors than other Democrats, putting them closer to Republicans in attracting industry support.

Most of the major corporations and trade groups in those sectors are regular contributors to the Blue Dog PAC. They include drugmakers such as Pfizer and Novartis; insurers such as WellPoint and Northwestern Mutual Life; and industry organizations such as America's Health Insurance Plans. The American Medical Association also has been one of the top contributors to individual Blue Dog members over the past 20 years.

It's almost enough to make you cynical.

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Through the sunshine and the shadows I'll always be the same


The crazy stakes

Be afraid. No, really. Be afraid.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Obesity and health care

McCardle is right that the government should not be in the business of hectoring people to lose weight, and I still affirm that "being fat" is one of the last vestiges of culturally and legally accepted discrimination. But I can tell you that she's wrong that "making vegetables available" doesn't work. I lived for several years above 120th Street in Manhattan and finding decent food to prepare and eat was a major chore. Far easier to go pick up something salty in a can down the corner at the bodega. And Ambinder's thoughtful rejoinder in exactly right. The whole thing is worth reading, but here's a snippet.

Labling obesity a "problem" isn't a behavioral intervention: it's a social structure intervention. And here's where the individual model really breaks down, even for those who don't blame obese people, per se, for their obesity. Obesity is highly correlated with socioeconomic status. And it is a most acute problem among young minorities: African American women, Mexican-American boys, and Native American children have much higher rates of obesity than white children do. Poor kids tend to be more obese than wealthier or middle class children. The reason for these disparities are both obvious and counterintuitive: in general, people tend to eat what they can, which means that they're buy the food they have access to. Wealthier people and people living in suburbs have access. Geographic location often correlates with lifestyle; history and social norms tend to be different, too, among ethnic groups.

McArdle is right that it it's not fair for government to lecture people about weight loss and exercise, but she's right for the wrong reason: policy choices -- ag subsidies, zoning laws, education and budget priorities -- create a flow that, absent any intervention, are sweeping many young kids, particularly poorer kids of color, into obesity. Government's role isn't to scold; it's to make better policy choices. She's wrong about the interventions, too: some, like a physical education project in Somerville, Mass., seem to be working. Taking fast food vending machines out of schools and weighing children at least once a year has arrested the obesity growth rate in Arkansas. Nationally, the obesity growth rate also seems to be be slowing.


Trash pile of history

Atrios is certainly right, there is something deeply wrong with our elite political and journalistic institutions. But what I find deeply amusing/horrifying is the utter lack of depth of analysis. I know it's too much to ask for Newsweek editors to consider that a "Middle East envoy" have some credibility in countries other than Israel, but the fact of the matter is, Bush may be popular in Israel because he's perceived by Israelis (and Arabs) as not thinking much of Arabs and not asking much of Israel.

Levey, author of the memoir Shut Up, I'm Talking: And Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government, is writing his second book, How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or Less Without Leaving Your Apartment.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Missed bunt should be an inning ender, not a career ender

But that could be Chien-Ming Wang's fate.

For Chien-Ming Wang, a series of events in Houston last June 15 [sic] led to one step that may have changed his entire life. For the Yankees, it could change how Brian Cashman approaches the coming trade deadline and building the team for next season.

Wang did not get a proper bunt down and ended up on first base with two outs in the sixth inning. A grounder to shortstop should have ended the inning, but Miguel Tejada tossed it away. Then Derek Jeter singled and Wang headed to the plate to score his first run in the majors.

The funny part? Wang actually took a nice secondary lead off second base and broke just when Jeter hit the ball. His teammates were laughing in the dugout, watching the pitcher run the bases. Then, about 10 feet from the plate, Wang started to limp. He had torn a tendon and ligament in his right foot.

Robinson Cano, one of Wang’s closest friends in baseball, had to help him to the dugout. Wang spent the next two months in a cast.

It's hard to say for sure, but it's very possible that in trying to recover from that single, false step on June 15, 2008 in Inter-league play, Chien-Ming Wang changed something subtly in his mechanics, leading to shoulder surgery that will end what had been a terrible 2009 season and will surely change the arc of his entire career.


Palin, as read by Shatner

White culture

Birthers of a Nation.

Above all others, the real celebrity here has been Rush Limbaugh. He's done this kind of thing before -- remember the "Barack, The Magic Negro" song? But in the wake of the Gates incident, he's managed to become even more hard-edged about it. "Here you have a black president trying to destroy a white policeman," Limbaugh declared this past Friday. Yesterday, he shared a dream he's had about the dangers to capitalism: "I had a dream that I was a slave building a sphinx in a desert that looked like Obama." And he joked that food-safety advocates will go after all the unhealthy foods people like to eat, one by one -- but they'll have to wait until Obama is out of office to ban Oreos.

Glenn Beck said this today on Fox News: "This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture. I don't what it is. You can't sit in a pew with Jeremiah Wright for 20 years and not hear some of that stuff, and not have it wash over."

During his new crusade of Birtherism, Lou Dobbs suggested on his radio show this past Wednesday, right before the Gates flare-up, that Obama could be an illegal immigrant, tying this into his usual preoccupation. "I'm starting to think we have a document issue," Dobbs said. "You suppose he's un-- no, I won't even use the word 'undocumented,' it wouldn't be right."

I'm starting to think Lou Dobbs is a ped -- no it wouldn't be right to use the word "pedophile."

Increasingly demented. Increasingly dangerous.

UPDATE: Rachel Maddow, that "Teabagging Queen," beat me to it.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Clinton, CBO projections and the danger of Blue Dogs

No one can take a complicated subject and thoughtfully explain it the way Barack Obama can. On the other hand, no one can take a complicated subject and do this with it the way Bill Clinton can.

Speaking a few days after the CBO estimated that the White House's latest "gamechanger," an independent Medicare Advisory Commission to set prices, would save little money over 10 years, Clinton urged policy-makers -- and here he means Democrats -- to not accept the CBO's scores without adding a dollop of common sense. " I recognize that if you're in that budget office, you've got to project the future," Clinton said. But certain programs would realize savings "regardless of whether the mathematical rules they are now up with will prove it or not." He said that those with a stake in changing the system "almost always get the short end of the stick" when it comes to budget projections. "In Washington, we strain a lot of gnats while we''re swallowing camels." Lost in the debate about how much health care reform will cost, Clinton said, is the debate about whether the reforms will work. (I took this to be an implicit criticism of Blue Dog Democrats who focus near-obsessively with the impact of health reform on the deficit and of committee chairs who have imbued the CBO with near mystical powers.)

My emphasis. I'm not entirely clear what straining gnats means, but it's a great image.

Meanwhile, in a true Krugmaniad, Paul Krugman does not even begin to think that the so-called Blue Dogs are anything but honest, if incoherent, in their criticisms of the various health care proposals.

One interpretation, then, is that the Blue Dogs are basically following in Mr. Tauzin’s footsteps: if their position is incoherent, it’s because they’re nothing but corporate tools, defending special interests. And as the Center for Responsive Politics pointed out in a recent report, drug and insurance companies have lately been pouring money into Blue Dog coffers.

But I guess I’m not quite that cynical. After all, today’s Blue Dogs are politicians who didn’t go the Tauzin route — they didn’t switch parties even when the G.O.P. seemed to hold all the cards and pundits were declaring the Republican majority permanent. So these are Democrats who, despite their relative conservatism, have shown some commitment to their party and its values.

Now, however, they face their moment of truth. For they can’t extract major concessions on the shape of health care reform without dooming the whole project: knock away any of the four main pillars of reform, and the whole thing will collapse — and probably take the Obama presidency down with it.

Is that what the Blue Dogs really want to see happen? We’ll soon find out.

I think what motivates the Blue Dogs on health care is nothing more than a knee jerk fear that their more conservative constituents will throw them out if they go along with anything that can be branded by potential oppenents as "tax and spend." I think those fears are obsolete, but there you have it. Having a safe seat is more important than being effective legislators -- and also more important than the relative success of their party. Right now, they have nothing to lose by opposing both health care reform and the deficit-neutral proposals that would help pay for it.

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Cpy editing

On the Media did a segment on the extinction of the copy editor genus at our major papers. One has to wonder about the NY Times.


Blue Monday, Muddy Waters edition

Too bad it cuts out before the song's end.

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Not surprisingly, a young, incredibly smart, honest blogger seems to be a lot like his father. Well, hopefully without the "performance" issues.


Speedy descent

I'm less interested in whether or not Walter Cronkite was on the short list to be McGovern's VP choice, than I am by this:

How ill was Cronkite in 2007? It's probably unrealistic to expect any 90-year-old to come to the phone when a reporter calls, but it's worth mentioning that the month before Leubsdorf's story appeared, Cronkite [sic] release a statement toasting Jane Pauley for winning the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism at Arizona State University. When I saw Cronkite give an address at Columbia University in February 2007, he apologized for being a little wobbly on stage, but he read his speech perfectly.

According to his recent obituary, the cause of Walter Cronkite's death was "complications of dementia." I have no idea what that means, but in any case, for him to wobbly but ably read a speech perfectly in 2007 and die from dementia in two years is scary.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

The ghost of health care past

Ezra Klein looks back at the Clinton health care plan of 1994 and comes to an interesting conclusion: Just as Republicans may be making a mistake by assuming that what worked for them back then will work again. But Democrats are taking too much the lesson of 1994, too.

There are important ways, however, in which the bills currently working their way through Congress do not go as far as Clinton's plan did 15 years ago. In attempting to ensure that Americans can keep the coverage they like, they do not always ensure that people can leave insurers they do not like. The insurance exchanges, in particular, are limited to the self-employed, the uninsured and small businesses. Someone who works for a larger employer would not have any more choice under these proposals. Indeed, the problem with trying to make sure that everyone can keep what they have is that you can't change very much. This makes it hard for advocates to explain exactly how health-care reform will improve conditions for the insured, at least in the short term.

Many in the White House say this is not a bug in the proposed system; it's a deliberate feature. The lesson of Clintoncare was that even if the American people want reform, they do not necessarily want change. And so Obama's health-care strategy involves a delicate effort to answer the question that doomed Clinton: How do you reform the health-care system without substantially changing it?

But this is not the early 1990s. The indemnity insurance that most Americans enjoyed then is virtually nonexistent today. The mergers and takeovers and consolidations in the insurance market have given people less choice and thus less power. Today, the cost issue is more acute, the president is more popular, the Democrats have more seats in Congress, and the Republicans are more fractured. Obama, in other words, was right to dismiss those who would "dust off that old playbook."

But the ghosts still hover. Republicans are fixated on what worked for them in the last health-care battle, and Democrats are overly concerned with what contributed to their failure. Just as Clinton's plan was weighed down by the impression that it would change too much, history may leave Obama's effort vulnerable to the charge that it is changing too little.

According to Ezra's history of managed care, Clinton's plan would have gone a long way in anticipating the explosion of health care costs. The cost to the country by its defeat must be astronomical.

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Health care and you

The NY Times does what a newspaper should do.

The health care reform bills moving through Congress look as though they would do a good job of providing coverage for millions of uninsured Americans. But what would they do for the far greater number of people who already have insurance? As President Obama noted in his news conference last week, many of them are wondering: “What’s in this for me? How does my family stand to benefit from health insurance reform?”

Many crucial decisions on coverage and financing have yet to be made, but the general direction of the legislation is clear enough to make some educated guesses about the likely winners and losers.

Worth your while.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Well, he does know something about conspiracies

I would be sad for G. Gordon Liddy as he mumbles and looks helpless even in his obstinance, but G. Gordon Liddy is a human piece of shit, so not so much.

Now at least it is clear that there is no piece of evidence that will "convince" the birfers. But it is an enjoyable show as they try to grasp a conspiracy that stretches all the way back to Obama's grandparents, abetted now by the Republican governor of Hawaii. And it is all to Obama's advantage as his opponents, crazy or not, are going to be lumped with these ranting, incoherent fools.

Keep it coming, guys.

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John Dawson, RIP

I set out running but I take my time
A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine
If I get home before daylight
I might get some sleep tonight


Thursday, July 23, 2009

I read the news today, oh boy

I don't know which better epitomizes the fun and exciting world we live in: That the cop who arrested "Skip" Gates on the professor's front porch is the Boston Police's profiling expert, or that a wild turkey is "terrorizing" some town in New Jersey.


The reviews are in!

Kevin Drum hated it. Professor Krugman liked his fellow professor's performance.

I couldn't disagree with Kevin more. I thought he showed not just a command of the issue, but a real passion for it. His long ("rambling") answers reflected both of those things. Yes, it's a complicated, wonkish subject, and he doesn't at this time know all the particulars that will land on his desk, but he laid out what was important to him, he framed Republican opposition to it as, essentially, opposition to him, and he made the important point that almost no one in the debate has made: that we spend more for less effective care. And, yes, he used real world examples of what denial of coverage means for families.

Of course, I was watching at 8 Eastern while Kevin watched at 5 Pacific. Wonder what effect that has.

And, weirdly, I hear a lot of criticism of Obama's anwer to the question, can you guarantee that nothing will change? Of course, the answer is no. That's why it's called "reform."

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Joy to the world -- something surprising every day

I'm so naive. I thought for sure that the post-press conference narrative would be that Obama's answers were too long, too detail-oriented, too wonkish, i.e., booooooring. But no, that wasn't the news at all.

Via Eschaton.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I tend to agree with Ta-Nehisi on this one. That won't come as much of a shock to long-time reader(s).

I will say that something recently happened to Madame Cura and I. I set off the alarm in our house and the company that monitors the signal called my office number rather than my home. So, as no one answered (I was, after all, at home, setting off the alarm), they called the police. Several hours later (!), the patrol car arrived. I met the (white) officers at the door, told them what happened, and they left. No ID required. Was that because of the absence of color on my face? I dunno.

Sounds like Gates, not unreasonably, was not happy, but it also sounds like he took it past where it needed to go once the matter was settled. But not unlike the recent trend in umpires who rather than just turn their backs to a player questioning the strike out, follow him back to the dugout hoping there'd be an ejection-worthy confrontation, the cop should have just said, "We were just responding to a report of a break in. Goodbye, sir." And left it that. Arresting the dude for being obnoxious isn't the right response.

And yeah, the Shem Walker killing gets no play outside of New York, and it is far worse. The guy is dead for trying to get someone suspicious to stop sitting on his mother's stoop.


Ah! Wasn't Al Gore fat?

The Fox News ridiculousness aside, and also leaving aside the notion that Koop's waistline was never an issue, this debate over whether the new surgeon general's dress size should disqualify her for the job only serves as a reminder that the "overweight" are one of the last groups of people in this country that can be openly maligned and discriminated against without fear of prosecution or even public admonition.


"It sucks," isn't rationale enough?

In a column that should please the hard-to-please Bob Somerby, the Times' David Leonhardt says what nearly every other journalist avoids saying when talking about health care.

Our health care system is engineered, deliberately or not, to resist change. The people who pay for it — you and I — often don’t realize that they’re paying for it. Money comes out of our paychecks, in withheld taxes and insurance premiums, before we ever see it. It then flows to doctors, hospitals and drug makers without our realizing that it was our money to begin with.

The doctors, hospitals and drug makers use the money to treat us, and we of course do see those treatments. If anything, we want more of them. They are supposed to make us healthy, and they appear to be free. What’s not to like?

The immediate task facing Mr. Obama — in his news conference on Wednesday night and beyond — is to explain that the health care system doesn’t really work the way it seems to. He won’t be able to put it in such blunt terms. But he will need to explain how a typical household, one that has insurance and thinks it always will, is being harmed.

The United States now devotes one-sixth of its economy to medicine. Divvy that up, and health care will cost the typical household roughly $15,000 this year, including the often-invisible contributions by employers. That is almost twice as much as two decades ago (adjusting for inflation). It’s about $6,500 more than in other rich countries, on average.

We may not be aware of this stealth $6,500 health care tax, but if you take a moment to think, it makes sense. Over the last 20 years, health costs have soared, and incomes have grown painfully slowly. The two trends are directly connected: employers had to spend more money on benefits, leaving less for raises.

In exchange for the $6,500 tax, we receive many things. We get cutting-edge research and heroic surgeries. But we also get fabulous amounts of waste — bureaucratic and medical.

One thing we don’t get is better health than other rich countries, whether it’s Canada, France, Japan or many others. In some categories, like emergency room care, this country seems to do better. In others, like chronic-disease care, it seems to do worse. “The fact that we spend all this money and don’t have better outcomes than other countries is a sign of how poorly we’re doing,” says Dr. Alan Garber of Stanford University. “We should be doing way better.”

That simple little fact goes unsaid by pretty much every analyst, reporter, Congressmen, administration official, and on and on. I realize being critical of the USofA is a dangerous road to venture down for a politician, but it is nice to see this covered on the front page of the Times.

UPDATE: Amazingly, Pres. Obama said just that last night. Once again proving that he's not afraid of the boogey men that have haunted this issue for more than 15 years.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"The old bulls" bullshit

The fact that the Senate bowed to Obama's veto threat on the F22 is quite significant in light of what I still think will be a vote on a health care bill sooner rather than later. It clearly disproves the growing conservative columnist idea/hope that Obama is too weak to go to battle against heavy hitters in his own party -- "the old bulls of the Senate," as Davey calls them (in what was one of the most wishful thinking columns he's regurgitated in a long while). While not all Democrats voted yes on the amendment stripping out the funding for the jet, clearly, Obama is the party leader.

Second, it supports E.J. Dionne's contention, that Obama just hasn't been scarred by the beat down Democrats suffered 15 years ago. He's not afraid of the "soft on defense" label when he opposes more hundreds of billions of dollars on vestiges of the Cold War. And he's not afraid of the bleatings of Republicans or the nervous gasps of the "brave Blue Dogs" when it comes to health care reform. "Tax and spend liberal" just doesn't have the sting it used to have.

And no, Mr. Brooks, the Republican party wasn't "lost" because it was taken over by Southerners "out of touch" with the nation's millions of moderates in "middle America." It was lost because it sold "middle America" a war for which it had no tangible aims other than to get rid of someone a Republican president didn't like and no discernible strategy for exiting. That, coupled with a philosophy of Government is the Problem Not the Solution (Except for Killing Other People), that was made instantly inoperative by Hurricane Katrina.

Democrats are not likely to lose power because of "liberal overreach" on health care when voters overwhelmingly voted for just such a reach in November. On the contrary, health care reform may be declining in the polls, but I doubt there is a coinciding rise in the poll numbers of our nation's private health insurers. If anything, Democrats will be punished in 2010 if they fail to pass a comprehensive bill. Obama and Emanuel know this.

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Roger Cohen continues to write some of the most intelligent and thoughtful columns on the events in Iran.


David Brooks, concern troll

As is the case so often, I got nothing so just read Dean Baker.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Frank McCourt

I think the storytellers are the toughest ones to lose.

“When I look back on my childhood, I wonder how I survived at all,” the book’s second paragraph begins in a famous passage. “It was, of course, a miserable childhood: The happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.

“People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and all the terrible things they did to us for 800 long years.”

I read Angela's Ashes while in the hospital for a collapsed lung in 1996, tethered to an oxygen machine and miserable. The grim little book kept me laughing in spite of it, because not only is there nothing worse than an Irish Catholic childhood, there are no funnier recounters of a miserable childhood than the Irish Catholics who survived them.


Activist judges

Heard the one about one of the most significant US Supreme Court decisions that, it seemed, almost no one paid any attention to?

Yeah, me neither. But it gives Federal judges enormous power to determine what's "plausible" and what's not.

For more than half a century, it has been clear that all a plaintiff had to do to start a lawsuit was to file what the rules call “a short and plain statement of the claim” in a document called a complaint. Having filed such a bare-bones complaint, plaintiffs were entitled to force defendants to open their files and submit to questioning under oath.

This approach, particularly when coupled with the American requirement that each side pay its own lawyers no matter who wins, gave plaintiffs settlement leverage. Just by filing a lawsuit, a plaintiff could subject a defendant to great cost and inconvenience during the pre-trial fact-finding process called discovery.

Mark Herrmann, a corporate defense lawyer with Jones Day in Chicago, said the Iqbal decision will allow for the dismissal of cases that would otherwise have subjected defendants to millions of dollars in discovery costs. On the other hand, information about wrongdoing is often secret. Plaintiffs claiming they were the victims of employment discrimination, a defective product, an antitrust conspiracy or a policy of harsh treatment in detention may not know exactly who harmed them and how before filing suit. But plaintiffs can learn valuable information during discovery.

The Iqbal decision now requires plaintiffs to come forward with concrete facts at the outset, and it instructs lower court judges to dismiss lawsuits that strike them as implausible.

“Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the five-justice majority, “requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”

Note those words: Plausible. Common sense.

The old world was mechanical. A lawsuit that mouthed the required words was off and running. As the Supreme Court said in 1957 in Conley v. Gibson, a lawsuit should be allowed to go forward “unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Things started to change two years ago, when the Supreme Court found a complaint in an antitrust suit implausible.

In the new world, after Iqbal, a lawsuit has to satisfy a skeptical judicial gatekeeper.

“It obviously licenses highly subjective judgments,” said Stephen B. Burbank, an authority on civil procedure at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. “This is a blank check for federal judges to get rid of cases they disfavor.”

And while few in the press paid much attention to the case, Federal judges have and they've been exceptionally busy throwing out cases they don't much care for.

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Old Timer's Day

Every year I watch the Old Timers celebration and I always enjoy it. Madame Cura was quite concerned that she hadn't heard Yogi announced, but he was there, looking fit, as was Don Zimmer, returning for the first time since '03. The Yankees do do this right, though I am struck every year when I hear, repeatedly, that only the Yankees can do this. I don't really understand that: The Tigers, Cubs, White Sox, Red Sox, Reds all have long histories, longer than the former Highlanders. The Dodgers and the Giants are storied franchises, albeit on a different coast than where they started. Is it the many World Serious Rings? Or is just that only the Yankees take this seriously enough and are prepared to pay the freight for all these guys to return.

And then, of course, there's this:

Time to go down on the field and see if I can ketch me some aged ballplayers. The first time they did this here -- by here I mean "in the old building" -- the Yankees welcomed Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and many other early 20th century greats. Today they welcome Chad Curtis. I was born too late.


"And that's the way it is"

I expected much wingnutosphere animosity towards the late Walter Cronkite due to his liberal bent, but I hadn't expected to be regaled with the odd notion that his product during CBS News' hay day was inferior to blogs.

Not much less thoughtless but offensive nonetheless are John Podhoretz and Say Anything, who suggest that Cronkite could learn a thing or two from bloggers, of all people. "There are no Walter Cronkites any more, and while I bear personal animosity to Cronkite himself, good riddance to that era," says the latter (I assume no slip). "But to have a big, giant, sloppy mish-mash of information available for the public to pick through than a carefully managed stream of news being spoon-fed to us by talking heads on television who became so trusted nobody dared question them."

I stand behind the theory I suggested last week.

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Yahoo is for yahoos

Blue Monday, Buddy Guy edition (with Jack Bruce)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite

Friday, July 17, 2009

Kind of like Karen Finley

I'm beginning to wonder if the joke's on us and the wingnutosphere is nothing more than a brilliantly conceived piece of performance art.

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The Epicurean Dealmaker speaks for so many of us.

But let's get real for a minute. This is a blog, people. This is a blog written by a pseudonymous investment banker who curses, exaggerates, and generally takes any and all liberties available in pursuit of an (admittedly confusing) agenda of both entertaining and informing his Dedicated Yet Quite Tiny Audience, usually not at the same time. It is a vanity project. It is a labor of love. It is something to do when I am bored, which has been happening with distressing frequency during these last several months. If you come here looking for evenhandedness, balance, and facts, I have to ask you just one simple question: What the fuck are you thinking?


"The hollow men"

Only baseball has fans such as these.

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The invaluable D.H. Riley has much to say about Andrew Sullivan and his cohort of "guest bloggers" at The Atlantic.

Here's a taste.

Hey, Grizzly Adams, Jr.: you, sir, were the posterboy for political party membership that transcended rationality for almost two decades, which leaves alone your ongoing membership in a Church which insists you're going to Hell. Whatever honor accrues for having scurried off that first ship the moment you noticed she'd run aground while following your charts, it does not include getting to pretend you weren't ever on board in the first place. But thanks for adding that CLIQUE bit; one sometimes forgets that The Atlantic and "Sherman Adams Junior High Eighth Grade Dance Decoration Committee" are near synonyms these days.

Read the whole thing. Trust me.


Gettysburg and Vicksburg

One thing about Pat Buchanan that is dated? He ain't heard of The Google.


Subj: Gettysburg National Battlefield Interpretations and Stories.
Dec. 16 2004 -- >From Superintendent Latschar, Superintendent of the Gettysburg National Battlefield:

Mr. Moody -

Thank you for your inquiry about our interpretive plans at Gettysburg National Military Park, and the information regarding Richard Poplar. His is an interesting story. It is not altogether unusual, however, since it's a well-established fact that many Confederate officers and units were accompanied by their personal servants. Some of these servants, like Mr. Poplar, were given honorary military rank, and even sometimes participated in combat, but neither Mr. Poplar nor the others could be regularly and legally enlisted in the Confederate States Army until March of 1865 when the Confederate Congress passed an act authorizing the recruitment of blacks.

At Gettysburg, to answer your question, we intend to include the stories of the thousands of blacks from both the north and south, both slave and free, that were associated with and/or impacted by the Gettysburg Campaign. As you know, this will not include the United States Colored Troops, since they were not at Gettysburg. But it would include the estimated 10,000 slaves who accompanied the Army of Northern Virginia on the Gettysburg Campaign, the free blacks and "contraband" blacks who supported the Army ofthe Potomac, the black Pennsylvania "home guard" reserve unit that was mobilized in reaction to the Confederate advance, the hundreds of free blacks in southern Pennsylvania who fled from the advancing Confederate army for fear of captured and sold south into slavery, and the unfortunate ones to whom that happened.

In short, all of our stories at Gettysburg will be told in context, so that individual stories are woven together to illustrate the larger whole.

I trust that this helps answer your inquiry.


John Latschar


Because the black regiments lacked experience and their guns were inferior, the enemy soon managed to close in for hand-to-hand combat. The black troops fought bravely, as they handled their bayonets with fierce determination, contesting every inch of ground until they were surrounded. At that point, McCulloch’s men poured a deadly fire along their lines, directing their efforts mainly at the officers, many of whom ultimately fell. Finally, overpowered by superior numbers, the black troops retreated to the river banks, but they continued to fire and to remain as organized as possible in what was up to this time the most vicious hand-to-hand fighting of the war.

Finally, the gunboat Choctaw cruised into position, fired at the enemy, and forced them to withdraw behind the levee. Undaunted, McCulloch’s troops continued to fire at the defenders.

The Confederates at this time attempted to extend their line to the extreme right, but two black companies were determined this action would fail. These companies, a part of the 11th Louisiana, fought from behind cotton bales and parts of the old levee until almost noon, when the enemy withdrew after nine hours of fighting against inferior numbers that would not be defeated. As McCulloch’s troops retired, the gunboat Lexington placed several well-directed shots and scattered the enemy in all directions.

The Confederates’ hatred of black troops was surpassed only by their animosity toward those white officers who led them. The fact generated nightmares. Rumors ran that officers were the victims of atrocities. Needless to say they had a poor effect on morale. But Bryant not only survived the fighting, kept his spirit, and avoided capture, he became conspicuous for his gallantry, constantly rallying his troops after they had been driven to the river banks. Shouting directions, he prodded and encouraged his men. His wiry stature seemed to rise with his fervor.

In his report to the adjutant general, Grant noted the heroism of the troops, despite their lack of military experience. He concluded, ‘With good officers they will make good troops.’

Pat Buchanan. Not only on the wrong side of history. He doesn't know very much about history.

As for the "white men" who wrote the Constitution. I can assure you, none of them were "working class whites," either.

Oh, and don't even get me started about "Normandy" when Jim Crow ruled the U.S. military.

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Southern Strategy

I appreciate Rachel Maddow's spirited and effective counter to Pat Buchanan. But he's not just "dating himself." He's a racist. That's a term that is tossed about too much, perhaps, but in Buchanan's case it's true. And if his tirades against "affirmative action baby," Sonia Sotomayor don't result in him losing his cable television perch (not to mention his long history of airing such views), then we might as well have David Duke hosting "Face the Nation."

On the other hand, says Adam Serwer,

In recent years, the GOP has made attempts—some sincere, some not—to reach out to communities of color. These have failed, largely because a substantial amount of the GOP’s shrinking base sees the nation the way Buchanan does, as being destroyed by outsiders who aren’t real Americans. This remains true even as American demographic trends promise certain doom for the party as it currently exists. As long as that’s the case—and as unpleasant as it may be—progressives should hope those reactionaries have a voice. To the extent that Pat Buchanan is hurting someone, it isn’t liberals, Democrats or even people of color. It’s the conservative cause. If anyone should really want Buchanan to be fired from MSNBC, it’s the leadership of the Republican Party.


Commenting on CBO estimates

I shout something along these lines at the radio pretty much every morning.

I would also like to propose a related rule: any reporters who receive a quote from a politician referencing this CBO score should be required to ask the politician which of these policies -- or which alternative cost-saving policies -- they support. And that should be on the record. I think it's perfectly legitimate to criticize health-care reform for not saving enough money. In fact, I think it's important. Health-care reform should save more money. But it's not legitimate to do that if you also oppose any and all measures for saving money.
Indeed, reporters should be required to ask politicians who point to the CBO as a reason for attacking health care reform: "Are you proposing, then, the status quo, in which we pay about twice as much per capita for health care than every other industrialized country and yet, by most measures, get inferior care?

But that's just crazy talk, I know.


I left my heart...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Self-defense is legal, except when it's not

For Cliff May, nationalism is fine for Americans, but not for those living elsewhere.

Fox headline just now:

CIA Director Pulled the Plug on “Secret” CIA Assassin Plan

But shouldn’t the media — not least Fox — be discussing (now that the cat is out of the bag) whether it’s a good idea to pull the plug on plans to eliminate Osama bin Laden and others dedicated to slaughtering Americans by the thousands?

On a BBC radio show the other night, the interviewer asked me: “Wouldn’t such a plan be illegal?”

I replied that I was pretty sure that defending Americans — and even using force to do so — is not illegal, at least not yet.

Um, I'm pretty sure that efforts by American agents to target and assassinate someone in another country we are not at war with -- even if it's Osama bin Laden -- violate the law of that country as well as our own. That's why this program -- whether it was just a PowerPoint presentation, as some have suggested, or something more actionable -- was kept secret from Congress.

Further, I wonder what May would squeal if we learned that Cuba had plans to "eliminate" this guy in Texas.

And, by the way, I doubt very much we've taken "eliminating" Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders off the table. For all their dubious morality and international legality, those predator drones are still buzzing around, I believe.


Threaten the children

I'm often critical of NPR, but the interview they ran last night, with the real estate developer behind the proposition to deny benefits to the children of illegal immigrants -- children who were born in this country and therefore, U.S. citizens -- was extremely powerful.

Not sure who the interviewer was; I think she's the head of NPR's new "California bureau." She was certainly very good last evening.

Californians should stop blaming "illegals" for an economy -- and a political system that abets it -- that is no less fundamentally "boom and bust" than it was in 18 fucking 49.


Good guy to have a beer with

Remember how that was often posited as one of the central reasons to vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Yeah, future citizens will gasp at the thought of it, particularly when you consider that Bush was, supposedly, a reformed alcoholic.

Nice to have a president with whom one can really be comfortable having a beer.

That said, TPM's slide show does not clear up the mystery of "The Bounce," but, priceless.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The hearings

I dunno, for some reason this reminded me of the Sotomayor roast confirmation hearings.

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Engaged against Palin

I get email.

Hi John,

You know how engaged I am and we all need to be on global climate change - so I wanted to send you a couple of links to posts I've done the past couple days, responding with the facts to an op-ed from Governor Sarah Palin yesterday -- we need to fight these distortions every chance we get until we get real reform. Between the way you worked with me to stop the drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the fight you lead last cycle to defeat the smears against Barack Obama, I know you're the team I need engaged to win this one.

Huffington Post

Daily Kos

Thanks, and I'll be in touch with things you can do to help as we go forward. Really have to fight hard on this one.

John Kerry

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He bounced it! He bounced it!

Watching President Barack Hussein Obama dare to toss out the first pitch of last night's (actually good, 2:30 or so) All-Star Game, I anticipated wingnuttia comparisons with the steely-eyed flight suited-one's post 9-11 performance, and accusations that Fox (FOX!) intentionally did not show the result of the throw. I was not, I admit, expecting a 700-plus word dissertation on it and the conspiracy involved, one that apparently included the "lefty" sportswriting contingent, Yadier Molina, and...ahem...Stan Musial.

The media fawning really is so shameless it's become self-parody. Take ESPN, for example.

Sadly, he does not provide an example from ESPN, so have no idea what he's talking about, especially since the Bristol, Connecticut Entertainment and Sports Network didn't broadcast the game.

Now, about that player who caught Obama's pitch: It was none other than the Cardinals' great first-baseman, Albert Pujols. What does that matter? Well, the tradition is that the first pitch is tossed to the catcher, not the first-baseman — and, in fact, the starting catcher for the National League last night was the Cardinals' own Yadier Molina. But while Molina is popular, Pujols is like God in St. Louis (in fact, a fan in the stands either last night or the night before was holding a banner that said, "In Albert We Trust").

"Last night or the night before." Yeah, I'd been drinking, too. But allow me to explain "baseball," and "catching" to the former assistant federal prosecutor (!). Yes, typically, the first pitch is thrown to a catcher, and Yadier Molina is indeed a catcher for St. Louis and was starting for the Senior League. But, just as typically, the starting catcher for the home team spends his time just before the game in the bullpen, warming up the starting pitcher.

As for the "booing." Didn't hear it, though I'll give Andy "Birther" McCarthy" the benefit of the doubt. But given "reality," their releative popularity, and the comparative manners between St. Louis and New York crowds, I doubt it matched the crowd's reation to a certain VP's trip to the Bronx, where his presence was merely announced.

UPDATE: Now, that's more like it!

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Minority report

If the GOP wanted to be perceived as the party of aggrieved white males, their performance in the Sotomayor hearings is boffo.


Hanging breaking ball

Baseball (yeah, sorry) is a seemingly slow game played at blink of an eye speed. But sometimes you see the look on the batter's face when he realizes that the 80 MPH curve the pitcher attempted to throw simply is not going to break, making it a batting practice fastball. The batter's eyes grow wide with anticipation.

That's the look on Judge Sotomayor's face
as she waits for Sessions to finish asking his question.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

If Iran falls and there are no conservatives to see it...

I know the wingnutosphere is ADD Central, but it is astonishing to me that attention to what is happening in Iran is simply nowhere to be found. I mean, what to make of the silence to this?

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Three prominent clerics criticized the Iranian authorities on Monday for failing to condemn the recent killing of Muslims in western China. Their comments often seemed aimed at the Iranian government’s own conduct during the crackdown after the disputed June 12 presidential election.

One of the clerics, Ayatollah Youssef Sanei, a reformist, drew a sardonic parallel, suggesting that Iran, which considers itself the defender of Muslims worldwide, could not criticize China’s repressive tactics while it was doing the same thing. He also said Iran’s silence was related to its commercial, military and political links with China.

“How could China suppress the Muslims so violently and seek good relations with Muslim countries, and sometimes dominate their markets?” Ayatollah Sanei wrote, in comments published on news services and reformist Web sites.

Several Parliament members and a member of the Tehran City Council have invoked the same comparison, Web sites reported. Although some seem genuinely upset by the deaths of Muslim Uighurs in western China, the issue has clearly gained a special resonance in light of the violence in Iran, where many opposition protesters have been killed and wounded since the election.

Is it because the right actually opposes the democracy movement in Iran as that might...might...diminish the blood lust towards bombing the country?

Or is it because they're siding with China anyway?

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Heritage foundations

Gene Robinson is making sense.

There is, after all, a context in which these confirmation hearings take place: The nation continues to take major steps toward fulfilling the promise of its noblest ideals. Barack Obama is our first African American president. Sonia Sotomayor would be only the third woman, and the third member of a minority group, to serve on the nation's highest court. Aside from these exceptions, the White House and the Supreme Court have been exclusively occupied by white men -- who, come to think of it, are also members of a minority group, though they certainly haven't seen themselves that way.

Judging from Monday's hearing, some Republican senators are beginning to notice this minority status -- and seem a bit touchy about it. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) was more temperate in his remarks than most of his colleagues, noting that Obama's election victory ought to have consequences and hinting that he might vote to confirm Sotomayor. But when he brought up the "wise Latina" remark, as the GOP playbook apparently required, Graham said that "if I had said anything remotely like that, my career would have been over."

That's true. But if Latinas had run the world for the last millennium, Sotomayor's career would be over, too. Pretending that the historical context doesn't exist -- pretending that white men haven't enjoyed a privileged position in this society -- doesn't make that context go away.

I'd go further. The Republicans grilling Sotomayor -- Cornyn, Sessions, and Graham -- are southern white males. Their heritage is one of oppression. Come to think of it, that may be why they are so fearful of those who would pay heed and respect to their own heritage. Having a "heritage" of oppressing minorities, finding themselves in the minority must be distressing.

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One of the last voices of reason

Drill baby, drill

When I first saw the link, I thought it was a joke.

Look, even Sarah Palin has First Amendment rights, and since the WaPo editorial page has already proven itself to be an embarrassment, with a miasma of Fred Hiatt, George Will and Charles Krauthammer, I don't think this will cause any further damage. But, really, there are other avenues for Sarah Palin to repeat right wing misdirection about cap and trade to shore up her bona fides for the base. No where in the column does she mention that the energy policy is an attempt to do something about carbon emissions. And somehow a provision to retrain workers in the oil sector to find jobs in other, green technology fields is a bad thing. And, as one would expect of her, she blatantly lies about "progressing on the largest private-sector energy project in history" -- a pipeline that right now has about as much chance of being built as is Sarah Palin's chance at being taken seriously on energy policy. But I love this:

Unfortunately, many in the national media would rather focus on the personality-driven political gossip of the day than on the gravity of these challenges. So, at risk of disappointing the chattering class, let me make clear what is foremost on my mind and where my focus will be:

This is like something off of SarahPac website.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Reproductive rights

Justice Ginsburg has long championed the notion that government should not make reproductive choices for women. That said, I did not know this until I read Emily Bazelon's interview with yesterday.

Q: Let me ask you about the fight you waged for the courts to understand that pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: I wrote about it a number of times. I litigated Captain Struck’s case about reproductive choice. [In 1972, Ginsburg represented Capt. Susan Struck, who became pregnant during her service in the Air Force. At the time, the Air Force automatically discharged any woman who became pregnant and told Captain Struck that she should have an abortion if she wanted to keep her job. The government changed the regulation before the Supreme Court could decide the case.] If the court could have seen Susan Struck’s case — this was the U.S. government, a U.S. Air Force post, offering abortions, in 1971, two years before Roe.

Q: And suggesting an abortion as the solution to Struck’s problem.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes. Not only that, but it was available to her on the base.

The whole timely interview is well worth your time.

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The past isn't even past

The image of a howling pack of hyenas, braying at a recalcitrant White House, demanding it investigate the malfeasance of the Bush administration, is ironic in the extreme. And while I may be bitterly disappointed, I don't believe the former constitutional law professor would derail an investigation by his own Justice Department (as opposed to "the Department of Law"). I do feel Obama wants to control the timing of those investigations and would very much prefer to get health care reform and and the energy bill through the Senate before this hits the fan.

But John McCain is a fool.

Professor Kumar said a president’s signature accomplishments often come in his first year in office, a pattern that Mr. Obama and his aides are keenly aware of. In addition, investigations at this time could open Mr. Obama up to accusations from Republicans that he is undercutting national security.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said on “Meet the Press” on NBC that despite his dismay at the Central Intelligence Agency’s past interrogation methods, including waterboarding, he opposed a criminal inquiry into torture, which he said would “harm our image throughout the world.”

“I agree with the president of the United States, it’s time to move forward and not go back,” Mr. McCain said.

Our image is already harmed. One way to fix it would be to show the world they we take our political leaders to account when they violate domestic and international law


Ben Stein's ignorance

Shorter Ben Stein: We should emit more carbon, not less.

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Not a fluke

The Yankees have been very good this season at beating the weaker teams in the AL, but against the elite teams? Well this weekend's nightmarish series against the LAAofA was pretty indicative of their chances should they make it to October.

Fair enough. They are 51-37 and if the playoffs started tomorrow, they would be the wild card.

But the Yankees have played four teams (the Angels, Red Sox, Phillies and Tigers) who lead their respective divisions at the break and they are 5-15 against those teams. That’s why you can’t dismiss this weekend as just some bad luck.

The idea for a $210 million team in a $1.5 billion ballpark isn’t to make the playoffs, it’s to win them. For now, the Yankees have not been especially competitive against the best teams.

That has to change in the second half. The Yankees have 10 more games against Boston, three against the Angels and three against the Tigers starting on Friday. And don’t forget the nine games left against Tampa Bay.

The Yankees had the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh yesterday. Teixeira struck out and Rodriguez hit into a double play, though he did hit the ball on the screws and Figgins made an outstanding play at third. Dem's the breaks.

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Blue Monday, Bob Dylan edition

Seems appropriate given that Barack Hussein Obama has sold us out to the Ruskies.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ever elusive

Funny, a few weeks ago and you couldn't swing a cat without hitting images of Dick Cheney telling us Obama's making us less safe. Now...not so much.

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.

Mr. Panetta, who ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23, briefed the two intelligence committees about it in separate closed sessions the next day.

Efforts to reach Mr. Cheney through relatives and associates were unsuccessful.


Friday, July 10, 2009

He got his money's worth

Inspired by one of this blog's only favorite commenters, and a-course by Tag-gate, we bring you The Master.

"You in the Hall of Fame? For what? Fucking up the World Series?"



What keeps Time afloat?

After we noted that Time magazine slid off the journalism road, crashed, burned and exploded, we find one of the people behind the wheel bragging about it and trying to start it up again.

I'm back from the Last Frontier with this week's dead tree cover story on Sarah Palin, written with the very excellent editor-at-large David Von Drehle. I don't think this will be the last we hear from the soon-to-be-former governor. To me, one of the most interesting aspects of the story is how vehemently the Palin camp blames Barack Obama.

From the story:

For Palin, however, these aren't isolated incidents. She believes they grow from the same root, which is too big and too formidable to ignore. "A lot of this comes from Washington, D.C. The trail is pretty direct and pretty obvious to us," says Meg Stapleton, a close Palin adviser in Alaska. Awaiting a flight back to Anchorage from distant Dillingham, Stapleton adds that the anti-Palin offensive seems lifted straight from The Thumpin', which describes the political strategies of Rahm Emanuel, who is now the White House chief of staff. "It's the Sarah Palin playbook. It's how they operate," Stapleton says.

Palin and her Alaska circle find evidence for their suspicions about the White House in the person of Pete Rouse, who lived in Juneau for a time before he became chief of staff to a young U.S. Senator named Barack Obama. Rouse, they note, is a friend of former Alaska state senator Kim Elton, who pushed the first ethics investigation of Palin, examining her controversial firing of the state's public-safety commissioner. Both Rouse and Elton have joined the Obama Administration. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs scoffed at the theory. "The charge is ridiculous," he said. "Obviously there is no effort ... From my vantage point, a lot of the criticism she is getting from others seems to be generated from self-inflicted wounds.

Meg went a step further at one point telling me, "I just hope to God Rahm Emanuel isn't using taxpayer money to come after Alaska." That's the way they think about it: that these Alaskans filing ethics complaints have been hoodwinked by Obama operatives into wasting the Alaskan government's time and resources. They believe that with Palin gone, the state will no longer face this barrage of "frivolous" compliants. On that point, they are probably right -- there will be much less interest in filing complaints against Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell. Palin, Meg said, was their target all along because she "represents the biggest threat to Obama. She's the only one who can get the base excited." I'm not entirely convinced of Obama's Nixon-esque sabotage capabilities, but I do think Palin has felt under attack for the last eight months and it wasn't a hard leap for anyone in her orbit to connect local progressive wingnuts and the Administration. Palin has never been great at playing defense.

Now, that is the Sham-Wow of hacktastic newsmagazine "journalism." Extol your own story and then proceed to accept, more or less at face value, the paranoid rantings of a press flak, claiming, Victoria Jackson-like, that Rahm Emmanuel is the anti-Christ. Well done, Ms. Newton-Small!

And think about the charge Newton-Small makes: "They believe that with Palin gone, the state will no longer face this barrage of 'frivolous' compliants. On that point, they are probably right -- there will be much less interest in filing complaints against Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell." Thisis not in the context of the Alaskan state legislature. It's about Rahm Emmanuel. She is charging the Obama administration with laying out ethics probes to hurt what she seems to perceive as a political rival. Did the Bush administration's criminality so soil the reputation of the Justice Dept. that this is not only believed, but accepted as par for the course? Or is Jay Newton-Small a fucking idiot? I report. You decide.

It's funny, this morning I clicked on a link to a story claiming Levi Johnson "knows" why Sarah Palin quit (Was someone in Palin's family one of his mom's customers?, I wondered). Only to learn that, according to him, she did it to "cash in." Whoa, I thought. Who'd a thunk it? But then I read the bizarro-world post from Jay Newton-Small and I realized that only those who know the Tundra-billies up close and personal can catch the grift.

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The parent trap

John Ensign of Nevada, who is perhaps the only man in America who wants Mark Sanford to keep talking, still can't keep himself out of the news.

“After the senator told his parents about the affair,” the statement issued by Mr. Coggins said, “his parents decided to make the gifts out of concern for the well-being of longtime family friends during a difficult time. The gifts are consistent with a pattern of generosity by the Ensign family to the Hamptons and others.

Now clean up that coffee you just spit out.

Meanwhile, "the media" is tearing these families apart.

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John Bachar, RIP

I guess this is how he would have like to go.

Around noon Sunday, he fell from a formation called Dike Wall, not far from his home. He is survived by a son, Tyrus. He also leaves climbing routes bearing his name across the Yosemite Valley.


Drake Levin, RIP

At least I think he's playing lead guitar here.


Thursday, July 09, 2009

That's why they call it "small ball"

Joe Mauer, one of the best hitters in baseball, led off the seventh, down 6-4, with a bunt single. On cue, the Yankees announcers are extolling his baseball virtues and how smart he is. "Even if he hit a home run they'd still be down a run," says Ms. Waldman. Justin Morneau promptly hits a slow grounder to second, just missing a double play. Kubel strikes out. The slow-footed Morneau is caught trying (inexplicably) to take second on a wild pitch that didn't get past the catcher nearly far enough.

If Mauer (.390/.463/.654) had hit normally, he may very well have gotten a double. In that case, he may very well have been on third on Morneau's grounder.

"Still down a run." But I'd rather enter the eighth down by one than two.

Meanwhile, Tag-Gate is getting more interesting every day.

Jeter calls Umpire Foster a liar. Craig Calcaterra wonders why Derek wasn’t fined for this:

So, we have a clear instance of a player saying that an ump is lying. Which is worse than simply saying that an ump blew a call, which in the past has gotten players and managers fined. No one seems to be rushing to fine Jeter this morning, however, which suggests one of two things: (1) that Jeter gets special treatment because he’s Jeter; or (2) that Major League Baseball thinks Jeter has a point and isn’t buying the ump’s story.

It’s more than (1). As Hirschbeck implied, Jeter isn’t a player to just spout off over a bad call. Derek built up a lot of credibility over the years by acting like a professional on the field. For Jeter to be this upset, for Jeter to call an umpire a liar, something real happened. I’m guessing Mr. Foster will be back in the minors real soon.


We had an election?

Time magazine skids off the journalism road, rolls multiple times down the hill, catches on fire, and explodes in a mushroom cloud of debris and despair.

In a classic example of newsmagazine overthink, Time profiles Sarah Palin with a cover story that practically celebrates her thin résumé and essentially makes the case that know-nothingism could be good for America. Seriously:

Palin's unconventional step speaks to an ingrained frontier skepticism of authority — even one's own. Given the plunging credibility of institutions and élites, that's a mood that fits the Palin brand. Résumés ain't what they used to be; they count only with people who trust credentials — a dwindling breed. The mathematics Ph.D.s who dreamed up economy-killing derivatives have pretty impressive résumés. The leaders of congressional committees and executive agencies have decades of experience — at wallowing in red ink, mismanaging economic bubbles and botching covert intelligence.

If ever there has been a time to gamble on a flimsy résumé, ever a time for the ultimate outsider, this might be it. "We have so little trust in the character of the people we elected that most of us wouldn't invite them into our homes for dinner, let alone leave our children alone in their care," writes talk-show host Glenn Beck in his book Glenn Beck's Common Sense, a pox-on-all-their-houses fusillade at Washington. Dashed off in a fever of disillusionment with those in power, Beck's book is selling like vampire lit, with more than 1 million copies in print.

Citing Glenn Beck as proof that many Americans are eager to turn to a pol with little expertise in national policy? But didn't the country just have an election? And didn't a significant majority vote for the guy with two Ivy League degrees who talked about bringing professionalism, science, and expertise back to policymaking in Washington? (Anyone remember Palin's climate change denialism? Not the Time people.)

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Too tan

A man named Barack Hussein Obama is the president of the United States. The first lady is the daughter of a working class couple from the south side of Chicago. Derek Jeter, who is just now stepping up to the plate, is the top vote getter for the AL All Star Team. Gays and lesbians are getting married in more and more states (box turtles may be next).

Surely we are living in a golden age of tolerance and understanding.

Surely not

"They just kicked us out. And we were about to go. Had our swim things and everything," said camper Simer Burwell.

The explanation they got was either dishearteningly honest or poorly worded.

"There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club," John Duesler, President of The Valley Swim Club said in a statement.

Via DH Riley.

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The Right will never stop thinking that all of life is a battle of the Orthogonians versus the Franklins.

Why elide the fact that Sarah Palin is a darling of Fox News, the highest-rated cable-news network in America? Or that she is regularly defended by Mr. Limbaugh, famous television personality Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin, a nationally syndicated radio host whose latest book just ended a run atop the New York Times bestseller list? Or again, surely these savvy Sarah Palin defenders know that the editors of National Review and The Weekly Standard, tenured members of the political establishment, lined up behind her candidacy, and that Gov. Palin herself is a millionaire who enjoyed a six-figure family income before she ever took the statehouse—never mind the lucrative book contract and pricey speaking fees now available to her.

Isn’t it actually the case that a good chunk of elite America loves Sarah Palin, or at least is willing to lend rhetorical and financial support to her? Why pretend otherwise? The cynical view is that elite conservatives benefit by hiding this fact from their audiences. Better to convince them that America’s cultural and political tastemakers are as thoroughly liberal today as was the case a generation ago. In that bygone era, The New York Times and the Big Three networks determined the news cycle, the Fairness Doctrine constrained the market for conservative radio, and the post-World War II democratic coalition dominated two-thirds of the federal government.

Way back in the year 2000, I can still remember where I was when I heard the news that one George W. Bush had launched an "exploratory committee" to determine whether he would run for president. I laughed ruefully, thinking, fucking GOP really is a cynical bunch. They'll hitch their wagon to that nasty, vicious incompetent all on account of his name recognition and connections with the christianists. They know he's not qualified to run a shoe store, let alone the country, but governing doesn't really matter to them. Winning does, and whipping up the base is their strategy to do just that.

I am not surprised that many in the Republican "elite" are using Saint Sarah in the same way and she's returning the favor. It's a grifter's party and she's the grifter queen.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Mechelle McNair

This is deeply sad.

…There are some, for instance columnist Jay Mariotti of, to whom the circumstances of McNair’s death provide “a lesson to all of us about the differences between a façade and reality.” But McNair’s career was a reality, not a facade, and so were the hundreds of hours of commitment he gave to community service. The hours he and his wife spent loading food, water and clothes onto trucks for Hurricane Katrina victims (McNair himself arranged for the tractor trailers) and the three children’s football camps he personally paid for this year weren’t façades.


Paint it black

Brad DeLong looks at the pros and cons of additional stimulus.

It's a balance of risks. Any second stimulus package passed this fall would have little impact on the economy until late 2010, that is true. But come late 2010 we might really need more demand to curb unemployment. On balance the inflationary risks of having an extra stimulus hit the economy in late 2010 if it is not needed are outweighed by the deflationary risks of not having an extra stimulus hit the economy in late 2010 if it is needed.

It is like driving a car with its windshield painted black by looking in the rear view mirror.


Cleveland attacked by pantomime bears?

On base percentage

The whole Dykstra phenomenon of about a year ago was very strange. He was touted as having this brilliant business sense and personally preached the sermon of frugality for aging athletes even as he lived as lavishly as he could. And he was touted as a boy genius by Jim Cramer, so of course, he's got to be good.

“My approach in investing is much the same as my approach to hitting,” he wrote. “I would rather take a walk or single and reach first than shoot for a home run and strike out swinging.” According to The Street’s “Stat Book Scorecard,” Dykstra’s picks earned $183,650 on a hundred and three trades in an eight-month period last year. “He had an Amgen trade,” Cramer said, referring to the biotech company. “It was like hitting the ball between the shortstop and the third baseman in a way that made me feel proud.” He went on, “I have yet to meet anyone other than Lenny from the world of sports who was able to make the transfer so that they have something to say that has value added. Many sports figures have been successful salesmen, but I would most likely have hired Lenny at my hedge fund, back when I was doing that.” Dykstra is now working on a book about investing, with the literary agent David Vigliano, whom he calls “the No. 1 book agent in the country.”

His slugging percentage kind of sucks, though.

The former center fielder for the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies has less than $50,000 worth of assets and 50 to 99 creditors, according to a petition filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California in the San Fernando Valley.

Dykstra, 46, already faces about 20 lawsuits stemming from his entrepreneurial work, including The Players Club, an athletes-only magazine start-up. He owes JPMorgan Chase & Co. $12.9 million, according to the filing, and Bank of America Corp.’s Countrywide and credit-card units a combined $4.2 million.

Dykstra also owes almost $1 million to jet charter services, about $342,000 to celebrity lawyer Daniel Petrocelli and $229,000 to literary agent David Vigliano.

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