Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why does John Boehner hate America, and George Bush

John Boehner believes the 2016 Olympics should be in Rio where I suppose he can improve his spray on.

House Minority Leader John Boehner torched President Barack Obama Wednesday for his European trip to pitch the Chicago Olympics bid, criticizing the president for "going to go off to Copenhagen when we've got serious issues here at home that need to be debated."

Obama's trip has been maligned by most Republicans as the health care overhaul remains in a continued state of flux in Congress and the top general in Afghanistan awaits word on a troop increase.

They play us for rubes. Every day.


Kagans on the warpath...again

Joe Klein is shrill.

The Wandering Kagan Minstrel Singers are in full voice this week, plumping for all the usual stuff--regime change in Iran, a surge in Afghanistan. Happily, they have less stroke than they used to--the neocons are not only gone from office, but also pretty much gone from the vast centrist foreign policy consensus. Still, they endure: Fred Kagan allegedly is an adviser to Stanley McChrystal--advising caution, no doubt. But the primary offender this week is Robert Kagan, who is pushing for regime change in Iran on the op-ed turf of the Washington Post.

This is a particularly ridiculous and odious notion--not that the Iranian regime isn't disgraceful and badly in need of a thorough, internal cleansing. It is ridiculous because the vast majority of Iranian dissidents have no intention of overturning the Islamic Republic, but want to reform it. They are joined now by a significant slice of the theocracy, which is appalled by recent events and have no desire to live in a military dictatorship quietly dominated by the Revolutionary Guards. They have made it clear that they are opposed to foreign economic sanctions, to foreign interference of any sort. Mir Hossein Mousavi came out against sanctions a few days ago, on the ground that they would hurt ordinary people more than they would hurt the regime.

What makes the call for regime change particularly tone-deaf and odious is history. Iranians--all Iranians--are extremely aware of past US meddling in their country's internal affairs. There was the CIA involvement in the 1953 coup against Mossedegh. There was also the not-so-covert US support for Saddam Hussein, including the provision of chemical precursors for the poison gas Saddam used in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. The Iranian opposition knows that any association with the Great Satan will fatally taint their movement; they know that Barack Obama's low-key strategy has made life particularly tough on those, like Ahmadinejad, who feast on American bellicosity and overreach.

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Our moral decay

David Brooks wrote this week that our current debtor nation is the result of our loss of virtue. Paul Krugman notes that this state of affairs began in 1980. And who was sworn in as president that year? "Did we lose our economic morality?" Krugman asks. "No," he answers, "we were the victims of politics."

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"The Obama problem"

It's interesting that Newsmax would pull the column. Apparently calling for sedition was, on second thought, maybe not such a good idea. Hell, even LGF called it "Bad Craziness at Newsmax."

And it seems this former staffer for the Johnson and Carter administrations has been calling Obama names for quite some time.

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Republican tactics may not be so effective

Unfortunately, withholding money from the DSCC won't get Baucus, Conrad, and Lincoln to change their votes on the Public Plan. Yes, it brings a certain satisfaction, but they don't rely on money from the DSCC nor even from their constituents, but rather on the insurance companies they represented in yesterday's Finance Committee vote.


You could be the next Bill Kristol

The Washington Post, apparently unable to find a suitable colleague for the surrealistic stylings of Broder, Kristol, Will, Applebaum, and Cohen, are having a contest.

Start making your case.
Use the entry form to send us a short opinion essay (400 words or less) pegged to a topic in the news and an additional paragraph (100 words or less) on yourself and why you should win. Entries will be judged on the basis of style, intelligence and freshness of argument, but not on whether Post editors agree or disagree with your point of view. Entry deadline: Oct. 21, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Then get ready for the great debate.
Beginning on or about Oct. 30, ten prospective pundits will get to compete for the title of America’s Next Great Pundit, facing off in challenges that test the skills a modern pundit must possess. They’ll have to write on deadline, hold their own on video and field questions from Post readers. (Contestants won’t have to quit their day jobs, but they should be prepared to put in about eight hours a week for three weeks.) After each round, a panel of Post personalities will offer kudos and catcalls, and reader votes will help to determine who gets another chance at a byline and who has to shut down their laptop.

Eyes on the prize.
The ultimate winner will get the opportunity to write a weekly column that may appear in the print and/or online editions of The Washington Post, paid at a rate of $200 per column, for a total of 13 weeks and $2,600. Our Opinions lineup includes a dozen Pulitzer Prize winners, regulars on the national political talk shows and some of the most influential players inside the Beltway. We’ll set our promising pundit on a path to become the next byline in demand, the talking head every show wants to book, the voice that helps the country figure out what’s really going on.



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The inevitable

How long before we hear:

Know what other head of state wanted the Olympics in his country?

I've got the stopwatch running.

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Activist judges

Barack Obama has an opportunity to fill a great number of vacancies on the court. And, as is typical of Obama, he's looking to fill them with non-ideological pragmatists (much like himself). Sotomayor is a great example of that brand of judge -- and one you would expect to not be too difficult to confirm in our new warm and fuzzy post-partisan era.

Alas, one of the few things Republicans in Congress seem to be able to do is to block judicial and administrative appointments, using ideological arguments (charges of "racism" against a Latina woman from the Bronx comes to mind) against non-ideological targets. The one thing that still riles up the base of both parties is judicial appointments, and the Republican Party right now is nothing without their extreme base.

Jeffrey Toobin looks at
Obama's view of the courts, most notably his realization that progressive causes can no longer rely on the courts, but must make gains legislatively, unlike during the Civil Rights era. In fact, Toobin writes, all Obama is asking of the courts, the Supreme Court especially, is that they stay away from his legislative agenda. He wants things to more or less stay the way they are -- the opposite of "activist judges," the charge conservatives usually make on Democratic judicial choices. The phrase still works the base up to a frenzy.

But it's a false charge because, on the contrary, it's the Right that is now looking to the courts for redress and it's judges from the conservative spectrum that are the activists now, similar to the 1930s when activist judges tried to derail the New Deal.

In a way, Democratic Constitutionalism goes back to the origin of the activism-vs.-restraint debate. In the late nineteenth century, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court embraced a kind of activism when it struck down several state and local measures intended to regulate the economy or to protect workers. In the nineteen-thirties, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court struck down several early New Deal measures; in these cases, the Justices ruled that Congress lacked the constitutional authority to launch such federal initiatives as the National Recovery Administration. Franklin D. Roosevelt initially responded to these defeats with his infamous court-packing plan, but in time he was able to appoint Justices who deferred to legislative judgments about how best to address the Depression. In other words, in that era liberals believed in restraint, and conservatives were the activists. (That flipped in the Warren era.) Notably, when Sotomayor was asked her favorite Supreme Court Justice, she named Benjamin Cardozo, who was a leader in fighting the conservative activism of the thirties on the Court.

“What you’ll get with Obama is basically Carolene Products—‘Leave me alone on economic issues and protect me on civil rights,’ ” Richard Epstein, the conservative legal scholar who was interim dean of the Chicago Law School when Obama taught there, said. Carolene Products was a 1938 decision, involving skim milk spiked with non-milk fat, in which the Court set up a structure that would shape constitutional law for the next several generations. The Justices gave the elected branches a more or less free hand on economic issues but exercised greater scrutiny of measures that affected minorities. “Obama has nothing much he wants from the courts,” Epstein told me. “He wants them to stay away from the statutes he passes, and he wants solidity on affirmative action and abortion. That’s it.”

As David Strauss observed, “Fighting over the courts is not going to be a high-priority issue for Obama or the Democratic coalition. The Republican coalition cares a lot more about it at this point, because they want the Court to change on issues like abortion, affirmative action, school prayer, gun rights. If the courts stay right where they are, that’s fine with the Democrats. The Democratic agenda is more democratically focussed on legislation.”

In recent years, thirties-style conservative judicial activism, targeting federal legislation, has been returning to the Court. As Cass Sunstein, a former professor at Harvard Law School, writes in the “2020” collection, “Increasingly, conservatives have been drawn to ‘movement judges’—judges with no interest in judicial restraint, with a willingness to rule broadly and a demonstrated willingness to strike down the acts of Congress and state governments. Movement judges have an agenda, which, as it happens, overlaps a great deal with the extreme wing of the Republican Party.” Sunstein notes that the Rehnquist Court struck down more than three dozen federal enactments between 1995 and 2004—“a record of aggressiveness against the national legislature that is unequaled in the nation’s history.”

Over time FDR was able to reconstitute the court in a more conservative fashion. Let's hope Obama can replicate that history, but with relative youngsters in the activist majority, it's a long shot.

UPDATED to fix the usual suspects of typos


Monday, September 28, 2009

Blue Monday, T-Bone Walker edition


Spencer Ackerman doesn't like it when an evangelical Bush abettor with blood on his pen accuses a Jew of being insufficiently sensitive to anti-semitism.

What the hell, it's almost Yom Kippur, so I can always atone for my tone. But seriously: Michael Gerson needs to shut his fucking mouth before he ever even thinks accusing a Jew of insufficient vigilance against antisemitism. I don't know what lack of self-awareness convinces right-wing evangelicals that they're the true guardians of the Jews, but that condescending and parochial nonsense is its own form of antisemitism. We Tribesmen do not need some wire-rimmed enabler of one of the most destructive and inept presidents in American history to protect us from the perfidies of the world. It's us and not him who will pay the price for antisemitism, so if Gerson wants to actually act like a righteous gentile, he can start by not accusing Jews of apathy to their own people's wellbeing for the sin of not sharing his politics.

So to conclude: Gerson downplays the worst excesses of right-wing hatred, which displays itself through a more prominent and influential platform than does online hatred of any political coloration; and then he hijacks someone else's religion on a laughably flimsy pretext to defend his blind spots. Good to see, at least, that a Bush administration veteran is at least nondenominational in that approach.

And, in the spirit of the holiday, to my Jewish readers: You're forgiven!

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Stieglitz and Surowiecki

Professor Stieglitz sounds worried.


Anne Applebaum's outrage

Clearly, this is another example of the pressing need for a blogger ethics panel.

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Winning is better

Not making it to the post season last year made yesterday all the more satisfying. But Emma Span had the best line:

Meanwhile, I don’t know how Paul Byrd does it – repeatedly over the last few years he’s completely baffled the Yankees’ hitters, despite the undeniable fact that he’s Paul Byrd. On a typical day Paul Byrd couldn’t baffle my labrador retriever.

But Teixeira and Rodrigues got on in the sixth with two outs and Matsui brought them home for the lead. Bruney, Coke, and Rivera never looked back, though Mo made it sweaty in the ninth.

Congratulations, guys.

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Can't unplug the Wurlitzer

Really, the front page of the New York Times?

It is a source of debate whether “Cheney” is an asset or a liability for this 43-year-old lawyer and former State Department official who keeps turning up on TV, at lecterns and in discussions about future Republican candidates. There is also the question of whether the “Cheney message” on national security — which essentially translates to an aggressive and interventionist approach — is something the Republican Party should be trumpeting, or burying.

I think the fact that this did appear on the front page of our most pre-eminent newspaper is surely proof that "Cheney" is an asset for this otherwise unremarkable human being. But I guess this is all part of the new "sensitivity" to right wing talking points, as recommended by the "Public Editor."

Dean Baquet, the Washington bureau chief, said, “We did not ignore the Acorn story, so I don’t think it’s fair for people to say we blew it off.” The paper’s follow-up coverage has included a profile of O’Keefe, a report on a House vote to deny funds to Acorn, and an article on the Internal Revenue Service’s decision to drop Acorn from its volunteer tax assistance program. Baquet said people need to keep Acorn in perspective with other Washington stories: health care, two wars and the deep recession.

Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was “slow off the mark,” and blamed “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio.” She and Bill Keller, the executive editor, said last week that they would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies. Keller declined to identify the editor, saying he wanted to spare that person “a bombardment of e-mails and excoriation in the blogosphere.”

For once, the Times did cover this story appropriately -- looking at the politics behind the Acorn obsession. But having their hand slapped by...their own Public Editor...should lead to greater attention to Drudge. Whoopee!


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Now pitching...

One of the Bronx's own.


The birther grift

The first "birthomercial." But, really, behind the racism, ignorance, and attempts to delegitimize (once again) a Democratic president, it's all just your standard issue late night TV scam.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Why I read the internets, part XXVI

Riley's on a tear these days.

What I do know is there're a load of fucking crazy people out there, with or without diagnostic validity, and a lot of snopes-worthy illiteracy, and while it may be spread across the political spectrum, that's a different matter from being equally distributed. And frankly, I don't really care about its psychological engine, and what if I did? You don't need to prove motive to convict a murderer, and you don't need a former Weatherman and Presidential ghostwriter to know which way the Crazies blow. It's a country founded by slave-holding religious genocidists, fortuitously timed (if you were a white landowner) to coincide with the Enlightenment, one whose 150-year history of hardscrabble farming and isolated backwoods Biblical literalism ran smack into the Age of Invention, mass communications, and urbanization, which shamefully re-instituted racism in the 20th century, one which found itself with global economic hegemony after Europe self-destructed, and one where all the loose threads were darned into the world's ugliest pair of mentally-unstable socks, with the help of the International Communist Conspiracy, Martin Luther King, and hallucinating Leftists. And, now, from its own teevee network. I don't really give a fuck where it all came from, though feel free next time to enlighten us; I'm more concerned about why something like Slate finds it necessary to continually search for the Ultimate Right-wing Excuse. Maybe it's too much joystick. I sure don't give a fuck if somebody recklessly omitted to fully appreciate a flower or two that survived the massive Agent Orange application that was Reaganism. I'd like it to just go away. I'll settle for it being required to defend itself in that part of the world that isn't totally fucking nuts, and for Slate to decide which side of that line it wants to occupy.

Well, in Slate's defense, they don't employ Paglia.


"Cars crawl past all stuffed with eyes"

Special bonus:

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I gotta admit, Katie Couric does bring out the incoherence in powerful, batshit insane people.

COURIC: No, for this show, can you explain what you mean by the white culture? Because some people say that sounds kind of racist.

BECK: Really? It’s amazing to me that, for the first time, I think in history somebody can ask a question and say, “Don’t you think that maybe we have several pieces here?” We have several pieces; George Bush says my grandmother was a typical African-American that had, that had her views bred into her. You don’t think maybe we would ask questions about that comment? How is it that the first time I think in history, you should check on it, somebody says, “Hey. There’s some red flags here maybe we should look at?” … How am I? How am I the target for asking questions?

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Missing the point

John McCain will be on teevee for, like, the 13th time since being soundly defeated in the presidential election. He will, of course, call for "more troops" in Afghanistan, and will say that we should do what "McChrystal wants." Sadly, though, I doubt he's read McChrystal's report, which has been entirely misrepresented by politicians and reporters alike. Von has a very useful summary of what the Afghanistan commander really believes.

In light of the increasingly frenetic calls to reject Gen. McChrystal's report and to bring the troops back home from Afghanistan, it's worth looking at what Gen. McChrystal actually said. The unclassified version of McChrystal's report is here. The striking part of McChrystal's report is how different the report is from its caricature in the press. George Packer is correct when he writes:

McChrystal’s report is written in plain English, it’s self-critical, and it shows more understanding of the nature of the fight in Afghanistan than most journalism and academic work. The U.S. military now believes that the Afghan government is just as much a threat to success as the Taliban. That’s a bold conclusion, one that our civilians have not been willing to reach, publicly at least. And the description of the different Taliban networks is as clarifying as it is disturbing.

Admittedly, this humble blog also reacted to the report without, ya know, reading it; though in my defense, I was reacting more to Republeiberman reactions to it, but nevertheless.

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Climate skepticism takes its toll

Chickens coming home to roost.

Soon after Waxman-Markey passed, leaders of the natural gas industry met at an annual conference in Denver — where former Sen. Tim Wirth chewed them out.

Wirth used to represent Colorado and has long been an advocate of natural gas. Since 1998, he has been president of the United Nations Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works on climate change.

Wirth told the industry leaders that on Waxman-Markey, they blew it. "Every industry was deeply engaged, except one: Yours," he said. "The natural gas industry, the industry with the most to gain and the most to offer, was not at the bargaining table."

It's an especially harsh verdict because the Waxman-Markey bill was drafted only after high-profile negotiations with proponents of coal, nuclear, oil, wind, solar and other energy sources.

What Kept Natural Gas Out?

Three things kept natural gas away from that table.

First of all: politics. The industry likes Republicans and historically has funneled most of its campaign contributions to the GOP. But now, of course, it's the Democrats who control Congress.

The second problem: The natural gas industry has a lot of global-warming skeptics. Fred Julander, president of Julander Energy Co. in Denver, isn't one of them, but he understands their perspective.

"They want to be honest brokers," Julander says. "They don't want to take advantage of something they don't believe in, even if it improves their bottom line if it's based on a falsehood — which is, I mean, is in some ways commendable, but in some ways is short-sighted."

Well played, sirs. Well played. That said, I'm not sure being tied to beliefs that are not only wrong according to scientific consensus, but also hurt your industry, is "commendable." "Stupid" and "pig ignorant" are the words that more immediately come to my mind.

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Glenn Beck boils a frog

He is evil, stupid, and wrong. Both parts of that proverb are wrong. And I don't think that stunt is going to help his ad sales, but genius bidnessman Murdoch seems unconcerned about that.

But all that said, isn't there a Federal Law against this sort of thing? Why, yes, though up against a First Amendment challenge, there is:

18 USC 48 / PUBLIC LAW 106-152

Sec. 48. - Depiction of animal cruelty
(a) Creation, Sale, or Possession.
Whoever knowingly creates, sells, or possesses a depiction of animal cruelty with the intention of placing that depiction in interstate or foreign commerce for commercial gain, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

(b) Exception.
Subsection (a) does not apply to any depiction that has serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value.

(c) Definitions.
In this section
(1) the term ''depiction of animal cruelty'' means any visual or auditory depiction, including any photograph, motion-picture film, video recording, electronic image, or sound recording of conduct in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed, if such conduct is illegal under Federal law or the law of the State in which the creation, sale, or possession takes place, regardless of whether the maiming, mutilation, torture, wounding, or killing took place in the State; and

(2) the term ''State'' means each of the several States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and any other commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States

Murdering small creatures to make "a point." What a movement the Right is creating.

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Violence against census workers?

It seems unlikely that someone would scrawl "fed" on his body before committing suicide.

The body of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and teacher, was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky. The Census has suspended door-to-door interviews in rural Clay County, where the body was found, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Investigators are still trying to determine whether the death was a killing or a suicide, and if a killing, whether the motive was related to his government job or to anti-government sentiment. An autopsy report is pending.

Investigators have said little about the case. The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, said Wednesday the man was found hanging from a tree and the word "fed" was written on the dead man's chest. The official did not say what type of instrument was used to write the word.

FBI spokesman David Beyer said the bureau is helping state police with the case.

The level of hatred and violence out there seems to grow by the day. A census worker is not exactly some G-Man looking for moonshiners. What new Timothy McVeigh will be visiting gun shows this weekend?

UPDATE: Maybe not moonshine, but there may have been meth labs and marijuana growing in the area. Though that still doesn't explain why he was in such a remote place.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The irresponsibility of the Washington Post

Rick Perlstein talks with CJR's Greg Marx about the importance of the "conservative perspective" at the Washington Post, the history of the Right's effort to delegitimize Democratic presidents, and the Drudgification of the coverage of the Acorn "scandal."

GM: So what do you think would be a more appropriate way to handle this? In your recent op-ed in the Post, you wrote that “even the most ideologically fair-minded national media will always be agents of cosmopolitanism.” So is there a legitimate way to understand other perspectives?

RP: Well, the ACORN story is the story of a marginal group that made obvious mistakes, but also, equally obviously, does important good in very marginal communities where services are few and far between. So what other groups of equal stature are they doing investigations of? The whole Republican narrative about ACORN is that of the tail wagging the dog—the tail being ACORN, the dog being the Obama White House and the Democratic Party.

Let me give you an example of what might be responsible for the media to report. They could report that one of ACORN’s big crusades in 2004 was a Florida ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage, and a lot of political scientists found that, indeed, it increased political participation in Florida. Some of the people who came out to vote for it actually voted for Republican candidates. But the Kerry campaign had no liaison with this—it’s not that they didn’t want to, it was just that the Democratic Party was completely disconnected from this.

In the conservative imagination, the idea that ACORN is working on a ballot initiative and that it might increase turnout for a Democrat is taken as prima facie evidence that ACORN and the Democratic Party are working hand-in-glove to distort the electoral process. But the Kerry campaign didn’t even seem to be aware of ACORN’s effort in this case.

So if Brauchli wants to do an investigation of ACORN, he should be able to justify it to the extent that they’re important in the grand scheme of things. And they’re important in the grand scheme of things now because the Republicans are yoking them to a narrative about the legitimacy of the president—that is the story, that is the event that brings ACORN to the forefront. Compare, say, the Chamber of Commerce’s ties to the Bush Administration—Bush’s head of the Consumer Products Safety Commission was a former executive with the Chamber of Commerce—to ACORN. Has an ACORN staffer ever made it anywhere near an executive position in the Obama administration? The scale of connection is infinitesimal.

So that’s the story, how these false equivalences get struck. It is important and interesting to report on ACORN, but they should have done it two years ago, five years ago, ten years ago—and two years from now, five years from now, ten years from now. And I think any responsible canvass of what ACORN’s all about will say that it’s this hardscrabble group that overextends itself and does stupid things sometimes, and also does great, heroic things quietly and well.

Read, as they say...



As the guy says, "OMFG."

You see, America used to be a simple place, didn't it? The pilgrims set the tone by using religion as a unifier, not a bludgeon. Our neighbors, such as the Native Americans, were respected as natural inhabitants and were treated as such. Our country could do no wrong and you can hear that perfection in McCarver's voice.
I wish he'd done a duet with Joe Buck. Or Joe Morgan.

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Wholly unexpected.

Sen. Al Franken is going to be interesting to watch. Actually taking the time to read the US Constitution and explain its contents to a deputy ass't attorney general who's urging re-ratification of the Patriot Act is unique and relevant.


First they came for my Puccini, and I said nothing...

At the risk of dismaying many of those near and dear to me, I'm not a big opera fan. But when I learn that the newest battlefield in the Culture War is at The Met, then I guess duty calls me to attend.

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Today's stupid question

Why is it alright that nearly all states require car owners to carry auto insurance, but a health insurance mandate is "a stunning assault on liberty?"

And then there's Chuck Grassley, that plain-speaking corn farmer who always stands by his tweet word.

During his opening remarks, Mr. Grassley blamed the White House and Democratic leaders. Their pressure for the Finance Committee to act by a mid-September deadline, he complained, forced a premature end to talks among three Republicans and three Democrats that began last June. Four other committees finished during the summer.

“I find it utterly and completely appalling,” he said.

Mr. Grassley also cited policy objections to the Baucus legislation. He criticized its costs, though Mr. Baucus has proposed offsetting savings, and he objected to its mandates that individuals have insurance, though Mr. Grassley previously has said health insurance should be mandatory just as auto insurance is for drivers. He said the bill would not do enough to guard against aid going to illegal immigrants and for abortions, and complained that it would not limit malpractice awards.

For Democrats, Mr. Grassley’s list only reinforced their belief that he never would have compromised no matter how much time he had.



The Yankees clinched a playoff spot last night, a year after missing the post-season altogether. Texas lost, the Yankees beat the Angels in a rarity in Anaheim. The team took a shower and went back to their hotel.

The magic number is six.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Waving the bloody sock

I guess, to paraphrase one of Nate Silver's commenters, being a complete and utter dick has its downsides, even in Massachusetts.


The commander in chief

As was to be expected, leaders of the Daddy Party agree that once a military commander tells the POTUS that he needs more troops, then the former is now the commander in chief.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that he was "deeply troubled . . . by reports that the White House is delaying action on the General's request for more troops" and was questioning the "integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency" Obama himself set in motion. "It's time for the President to clarify where he stands on the strategy he has articulated," Boehner said, "because the longer we wait the more we put our troops at risk."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that "any failure to act decisively in response to General McChrystal's request could serve to undermine the other good decisions the president has made" on Afghanistan.

Never mind that there aren't any troops to send right now. Or that Afghanistan is in the midst of an election that is "tainted" at best. Or that the goal of the war -- to eliminate al Qaeda from within its borders -- has been achieved.

What's been odd is, what does Richard Holbrooke have to say? Isn't he our special envoy to Afghanistan?

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Summer winds

It turns out that, at the time -- the 1980s, that sepia-toned golden age when St. Ronnie was in ascendancy and all the bright young things of our current Republican party and its enablers were first probing their respective big toe into the muddy swimming hole of our political discourse -- Soviet military planners were the sanest ones in the room.

In the early 1980s, according to newly released documents, Fidel Castro was suggesting a Soviet nuclear strike against the United States, until Moscow dissuaded him by patiently explaining how the radioactive cloud resulting from such a strike would also devastate Cuba.

The cold war was then in one of its chilliest phases. President Ronald Reagan had begun a trillion-dollar arms buildup, called the Soviet Union “an evil empire” and ordered scores of atomic detonations under the Nevada desert as a means of developing new arms. Some Reagan aides talked of fighting and winning a nuclear war.

Dozens of books warned that Reagan’s policies threatened to end most life on earth. In June 1982, a million protesters gathered in Central Park.

Oh yeah, along with the dirty fucking hippies.

But anyway, pretty funny about that Castro dude, right? Except he wasn't alone in his view of Soviet military capacity.

Moscow’s effort to enlighten Mr. Castro to the innate messiness of nuclear warfare is among a number of disclosures in the Pentagon study. Other findings in the study include how the Soviets strove for nuclear superiority but “understood the devastating consequences of nuclear war” and believed that the use of nuclear weapons had to be avoided “at all costs.”

The study includes a sharp critique of American analyses of Soviet intentions, saying the Pentagon tended to err “on the side of overestimating Soviet aggressiveness.”

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I'm so used to thinking of him merely as Glennbeck, but I wonder: What does Beck think of Beck?

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Monday, September 21, 2009

If the NY Post were a real newspaper

The Yes Men are back.


Stockholm Syndrome

What was the line from the premier episode of Bored to Death? Something about, "I'm really interested in the Stockholm Syndrome?" I guess that goes for the Post's Ombudsman.


Stormy Monday, "Don't Keep Me Wonderin'" edition

Frustrating vid, but who cares?


So, who does the guy like to hang with?

We learned recently that Barrack Hussein Obama has a deep seated hatred for white people, especially, I guess, the Dunhams.

Now we learn that he doesn't care much for black ones either.

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W. Horace Carter, 88

Bitterly opposed the KKK when they began recruiting in the Carolinas -- the Carolinas! -- in 1950.

“The Klan, despite its Americanism plea, is the personification of Fascism and Nazism,” he wrote. “It is just such outside-the-law operations that lead to dictatorships through fear and insecurity.”

Thus began Mr. Carter’s campaign against the Klan, a fiercely antagonistic opposition to the organization’s policies and methods and its very presence in Columbus County, N.C., and Horry County, S.C. Over three years, his paper ran more than 100 Klan-related stories and editorials that he wrote. They reported and commented on rallies, shootings, beatings and a series of floggings that eventually brought the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the region and ended with federal and state prosecutions of more than 100 Klansmen, including Thomas Hamilton, who was known as the Grand Dragon of the Association of Carolina Klans.

Mr. Carter stood up to numerous personal threats against himself and his family. He was twice visited in his office by Hamilton, who promised retribution against The Tabor City Tribune and its advertisers. And though he more than once published letters defending the Klan in his paper, he found himself somewhat isolated by his community, where many people shared the Klan’s pro-Christian, anti-Communist outlook and were roused as well by its white-supremacist exhortations.

“He was a God-and-country kind of guy,” Russell Carter said about his father. “But he was committed to social justice, and he was not prepared for the fact that other people didn’t see it that way. He had very meager support, especially early on.”

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dead cats

From the last man to get this far in enacting health care reform.

At one point, Wilbur Mills, the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, expressed concern to Mr. Johnson about the cost of expanding the Medicare proposal. The president told him not to worry.

“I’ll take care of [the money]. I’ll do that ... We had an old judge in Texas one time ... we called him Al Caldy ... old Al Caldy Roberts, and he said, when they talked to him one time that he might’ve abused the Constitution and he said, ‘what’s the Constitution between friends?’ And I say..., that 400 million’s not going to separate us friends when it’s for health. ...

Master the Congressional Process

When Democratic House leaders called with the cheerful news that Medicare had passed in the Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Johnson quickly reminded them that the Rules Committee might introduce fatal delays:

“For God sakes, don’t let dead cats stand on your porch, Mr. [Sam] Rayburn [the former House speaker] used to say, ‘They stunk and they stunk and they stunk.’ When you get one [of your bills] out of that committee, you call that son of a bitch up before they [the opposition] can get their letters written.”

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Happy New Year

Fox on 15th

That's what Dean Baker often calls The Washington Page, particularly the World Headquarters for Hackery -- the WaPo OpEd page. It doesn't disappoint today.

But when Steve Benen writes that Krauthammer "hasn't been following the debate," he is, as one of the commenters says, giving "too much credit or lack thereof:'' Krathammer knows the debate, it's just that all his side of it has right now is misdirection and falsities.

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Heads will roll


Bourgeois blues


But Barack Obama, bourgeois in every way that bourgeois is right and just, will not dance.He tells kids to study--and they seethe. He accepts an apology for an immature act of rudeness--and they go hysterical. He takes his wife out for a date--and their veins bulge. His humanity, his ordinary blackness, is killing them. Dig the audio of his response to Kanye West--the way he says, "He's a jackass." He sounds like one of my brothers. And that's the point, because that's what he is. Barack Obama refuses to be their nigger. And it's driving them crazy.

It's about time.
In a subsequent post, Ta-Nehisi notes the "disappointment" expressed in comments to the report that Bill Cosby agreed with Jimmy Carter, that the rudeness towards Obama and the efforts to undermine his legitimacy reflects a racism that will not say its name. I guess Cosby should just sell pudding and not expose deep and lingering fears about the black man.


Anonymous law enforcement

Look, I don't know if this guy murdered the graduate student at Yale last week, but it sure seems as if he's being railroaded by New Haven cops and a media that abets them. I mean, "his attitude" is their evidence?

UPDATE: Oh right, they have a habit of doing this.

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Blogging for the enemy?

Say it ain't so, Pete.

Congratulations to Pete Abraham and to the Boston Globe.

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Shilling for shell

Oh, government investigators, be serious. How can you accuse Gail Norton of thinking about working for an oil industry giant when she was the secretary of interior and in charge of granting drilling leases? She never stopped working for the industry when she was named to the post.

I mean, get real.

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The medium is the message on fraud stories

In today's paper edition of the New York Times, the headline reads,

Few Cases of Fraud Involving Stimulus Money Have Been Detected, Officials Say

Oddly, the electronic edition of the same story is headlined,

On the Lookout for Stimulus Fraud

The messages convey vastly different notions, as the latter seems to imply that fraud is rampant. The story -- whether on paper or gamma rays -- remains the same.

Compared with the immense size of the stimulus program, the actual number of arrests so far has been microscopic. Earl E. Devaney, the chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the watchdog for stimulus money, said recently that federal prosecutors were looking at only nine stimulus-related cases, including accusations of Social Security fraud and of businesses improperly claiming to be owned by women and members of minorities.

“Quite frankly, I’m a little surprised it’s that small,” Mr. Devaney testified recently before the Senate, explaining that his office passes along questionable expenses to the various federal inspector general offices following the money, as well as to the Department of Justice. “I know, from talking to them, they’re very interested in sending some very loud signals early, as often as they can, with this money.”

The small number of cases is partly a function of how much stimulus money has been spent so far, and how it has been spent. While more than $150 billion of it has been pumped into the economy, according to a recent report by the White House, some $62.6 billion of that was in the form of tax cuts. Of the rest, $38.4 billion was sent to states for fiscal relief; $30.6 billion was spent to help those affected by the recession by expanding unemployment benefits and other safety-net programs, and $16.5 billion was spent in areas like infrastructure, technology and research.

The biggest accusations of stimulus-related fraud so far have not involved the theft of public money at all. Rather, they have involved con artists fleecing gullible people and businesses hoping to profit from the stimulus.

Is the difference in headlines the result of the different places these stories appear during the "purchase cycle?" After all, if you're reading the paper, you've already paid your $2.00. If you're perusing on-line, the headline needs to hook the reader to click on it. Or is it just sloppy journalism by the online edition?

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Keep guvmint outta my public transportation system

John Cole is right, stuff like this makes blogging very hard.

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The bi-partisan plan to destroy the Democratic Party

Max Baucus, genius.

Cutting $140 billion from health care spending by the government forcing middle class taxpayers to spend $140 billion more themselves on health insurance than they already are is breathtakingly stupid, both in terms of health care reform and politics.


Glenn Beck atop the trash heap of history

As Glenn Beck is committed to changing our lives, it's good to know about the author who changed his.

It's also good to remember that Joe McCarthy did not have a cable TV program or one of the richest media moguls in the world supporting him.

Via TPM.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cultural Revolution czar

Sorry for the lack of posts, but the expectations by The Man that I produce "work" have been overwhelming lately. And, besides, writing about our "politics" these days seems about as useful as standing around the monkey cage, exclaiming, "They're throwing feces!"


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Confidently we have no choice"

Tip of the day: President Obama, if you find yourself in agreement with these guys, you may want to reconsider your options.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

He can't do that, can he?


Blue Monday, Willie Dixon edition


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Sunday, September 13, 2009


A reader over at TPM gets it exactly right.


Saturday, September 12, 2009


I am so sorry I'm not at the 9/12 rally in Washington. The feeling of unity and warmth towards the rallyers' fellow Americans and support for our leaders must be a beautiful thing.

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"South Carolina must be destroyed"

South Carolina, the home office of treason.

As his army had approached Savannah in December 1864, Georgians said to Sherman, "Why don't you go over to South Carolina and serve them this way? They started it." Sherman had intended to do so all along. He converted Grant to the idea, and on February 1, Sherman's 60,000 blue avengers left Savannah for their second march through the heart of enemy territory. This one had two strategic purposes: to destroy all war resources in Sherman's path; and to come up on Lee's rear to crush the Army of Northern Virginia...

Sherman's soldiers had a third purpose in mind as well: to punish the state that had hatched this unholy rebellion...[A] soldier declared: "Here is where treason began and, by God, here is where it shall end!" A South Carolina woman whose house was plundered recalled that the soldiers "would sometimes stop to tell me they were sorry for the women and children, but South Carolina must be destroyed."

Destroyed it was, through a corridor from north to south narrower than in Georgia but more intensely pillaged and burned. Not many buildings remained standing in some villages after the army marched through. The same was true of the countryside. "In Georgia few houses were burned," wrote an officer; "here few escaped." A soldier felt confident that South Carolina "will never want to seceed again...[sic]. I think she has her 'rights' now." When the army entered North Carolina the destruction of civilian property stopped.

-- James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, ch. 27

Unfortunately, the rich history of the state shows that the inhabitants of South Carolina never really did get the message.

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Funny, I recall a debate on states' rights

It was called the Civil War. Over 600,000 men died.

The governor of Minnesota seems unaware of that historical blip.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Dime bag

Shorter David Brooks: Brilliant speech, but if health care "reform" adds "one dime" to the deficit, the Obama presidency will have been a failed, lying one.

First, Obama rested the credibility of his presidency on what you might call the Dime Standard. He was flexible about many things, but not this: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future. Period.”

This sound bite kills the House health care bill. That bill would add $220 billion (that’s 2.2 trillion dimes) to the deficit over the first 10 years and another $1 trillion (10 trillion dimes) to the deficit over the next 10 years.

There is no way to get from the House bill to deficit neutrality. The president’s speech guarantees that the more moderate Senate Finance Committee bill will be the basis for the negotiations to come.

The Dime Standard also sets off a political cascade. Since the Congressional Budget Office is the universally accepted arbiter in such matters, the Democrats have to produce a bill that the C.B.O. says is deficit-neutral, now and forever. That means there will be a seller’s market for any member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, who has a credible amendment to cut costs. It also means the Democrats will have to scale back coverage and subsidy levels to reach the fiscal targets.

In a word: No. What the "CBO says" has no bearing whatsover on, ya know, actual spending or savings. In fact, as in baseball where the double play cannot be "assumed" by the official scorer if an error is made on the play, the CBO is not able to measure the real savings of any health care bill if the reforms in it can't be measured historically.

The CBO estimate may certainly complicate the politics of this by, say under-estimating a politically challenging reform, such as effectiveness research (or as the health care experts on the right would put it, "getting between you and your doctor and a full body CAT scan"), but the estimate will not "add one dime to the deficit."

As for the "resting the credibility of his presidency" bit, well, Doghouse Riley doesn't do "shorter." Fortunately.

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"Day after tomorrow"

Who do you love, I mean, trust?

Reading Farley, where he says he parts company with Yglesias, it seems to be a distinction without a difference. Bottom line, I "trust" the Obama administration to cautiously and calculatingly forge a path that gets the most pragmatically progressive outcome given the current political landscape dominated by "centrists," and the need to avoid getting the Democratic party's collective hat handed to it in the mid-terms.

Totally unrelated Mildly related (speaking of trust), like South Dakota Carolina, Louisiana is a very strange place.

“The Cajun mentality has never admired someone who is untrue to their spouse,” said Morgan Goudeau, a Democrat who was the district attorney of St. Landry Parish for 24 years. “But if it’s going to be done, it would be better done with a prostitute than with a neighbor’s wife.”

While wearing diapers? The "Cajun mentality" is ok with that? Th'fuck?

UPDATE: My deepest apologies to the people of South Dakota.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Insuring those illegals

Fun fact on health care: About half of all illegal aliens have health care through their employer, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.


"I'm with stupid"

Learning to swim only prolongs the drowning

That's what sailors reportedly used to say. I was reminded of that old saw when I read this.

The Census Bureau's annual look at income and health coverage (based on surveys conducted in March) is out today. The rise in the poverty rate and in the percentage of Americans without health insurance got the headlines. But here's a fact that for some reason the Census Bureau didn't emphasize: The median household income in 2008 was $50,303. The median household income in 1999, expressed in 2008 dollars, was $52,748.

You've got to figure 2009 will see another decline in income, in which case Americans will end the decade significantly less well off than when they started it. We're not just treading water. We're going backwards.

In other words, a great many Americans are slowly, painfully, drowning.

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Paul Krugman responds to his own question by saying Obama should have given the speech in February.


If he had given the speech in February, he wouldn't have been able to give it last night -- when it actually mattered.

If I recall
, in February we were still wondering if we'd wake up without a working banking system.

And I agree with most commenters, the one false note was when Obama declared he'd be the last president to face our faltering health care system. He and his speechwriters had to know that's simply not true.


Open contempt

It's beginning to feel a bit like 1856. Why am I not surprised that the outburst came from a representative from South Carolina.

But really, setting aside the complete disregard for the dignity of the venue and the Office of the President of the United States (as Roy might say, Wilson is not the equivalent of someone from Code Pink), it's the willful ignorance that is so glaring.

Amusingly, if you go to Rep. Wilson's Congressional web page for "Health Care," you get the following:

This site is down for maintenance.
Please check back again soon.

Are these guys even trying any more?

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009


The loathsome Saxby Chambliss doesn't think the president is showing enough humility to "the folks on my side." Apparently Obama should bow and scrape before the angry mouth breathers at the town hall meetings that received media coverage because they were the ones filled with...well...angry mouth breathers.

Or, in other words, President Obama'd better act right.

You can take "folks" like Saxby Chambliss out of Jim Crow, but you can't take Jim Crow out of "folks" like Saxby Chambliss.

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The speech

Word is, Obama will come out in full favor of a public option. I've been willing to let the public option go as long as a health care reform bill ensures near universal coverage, no lifetime caps, or refusals due to pre-existing conditions (being alive, after all, is a pre-existing condition). But I think Krugman's right, if coverage is to be mandated, this can't be made to look like the Let's Make the Insurance Industry Even More Profitable Act of 2009.

But the speech I wanted to mention wasn't the one the president is making tonight, but rather the one he gave yesterday. More specifically, the media's coverage of it in the aftermath of a week's worth of Outrage TV from people who "disagree with Obama." But I'll let Doghouse do the blogging:

Anyway, a deep bow and a hearty secret teenaged reprobate handshake for the "about 100" students of Pendleton (IN) Heights High School who walked out of class yesterday to protest the school's refusal to let them watch the President's speech. For which, of course, they were all given Detention, the Lethal Injection of tiny minds, just so they all understood that artificial, uninformed, politically-motivated, television-buffoon-driven protests, real, imagined, or fabricated, would be given a full and friendly hearing by the school's administration, but that its students could just Shut Th' Fuck Up.


And I like to think I at least consider how my own opinions color what I hear on the idiot box, but this is one of those times when it's damn near impossible to see any justification. The locals ran this stuff for a week. They never had any problem finding some "spokesman" for "concerned" "parents" to fill the time. But somehow I had to turn to the internets to learn that Reagan had delivered an overt stump speech with children as a backdrop. (Not that he ever really did anything else.) The entire issue was framed by the loudest screamers among the bunch who resoundingly lost the last election to this guy, including, they kept telling me at the time, Red State Indiana for the first time in 45 years. Controversy! And having helped see to it that urban legend and political underhandedness would rule the day in the Doughnut counties, the locals were reduced to finding a Marion county school to serve as an example of the Parents May Opt Their Children Out alternative, noting that at Pike Township's New Augusta Academy about 30 students out of 800-plus were excused. Thirty. It suggests that every last fucking one of their parents had been interviewed by local news in the preceding five days.



Basking in ideological purity

Michelle Goldberg on the difference between the two parties' relationship with extremists and how, ultimately, it helps the Democratic Party.

Though many progressives feel betrayed by the administration's failure to fight for Jones, the White House had little choice. We live in a country where the far left has been marginalized in a way that the far right has not. There's much to lament in this state of affairs. It's a bitter shame that a brilliant man like Jones should be disqualified for his brushes with nuttiness, while conservatives who view global warming as a fraud perpetrated by the forces of the one-world government, or support Middle Eastern policies meant to hasten the second coming, are able to serve in Republican administrations. Nevertheless, it is generally a good thing that the Democrats don't coddle their crazies the way the right does.

The GOP benefits from the zeal of its foot soldiers, from their chiliastic, by-any-means necessary approach to politics. But the party is also limited by the extremism of its base, which has decimated it in large swaths of the country. It's worth remembering that even in this season of furious right-wing obstruction, the Republican Party is more powerless than it's been in a generation.

Goldberg alludes to, but doesn't come out and mention, the fly in the ointment. Extremists on the right vote, "leftists" not so much, particularly in mid-terms. Which means that between now and November 2010, Republicans in Congress will continue to act accordingly, in a completely nihilistic fashion, pleasing the base, but even in their powerlessness managing to drive the country perilously close to the cliff's edge.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The elites, the irony

Obama gives a speech asking kids to stay in school so that they can be successful. In response, parents on the Right keep their children out of school.

Damn, he's good.


Weird scenes inside the goldmine

As many of you know, Derek Jeter is four hits shy of Lou Gehrig's NYY franchise best. During yesterday's double header, he went 0 fer 8 with a walk. During the third inning of the night cap, the Yankees scored 8 runs on 8 hits, Melky Cabrera and one of the Molina brothers (eighth and nine placed hitters) each had two hits. During the onslaught, Derek appeared twice, reaching on a fielder's choice and lining out. Also, during the inning, Teixeira hit a HR deep into the Monuments out past the center field wall. The ball hit the netting above the monuments and rolled, finally nestling directly above...Gehrig's monument.

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The communist manifesto

History is a living, breathing thing. F'rinstance, until today, I was unaware that the Soviet Union was brought low by the Supreme Soviet's mandate of compact fluorescent lighting and Khrushchev's determination to have solar panels installed in his dacha.

As one of Roy's commenters noted, we all knew having Barry X in the White House would cause many on the Right to go stark raving mad, we just didn't know how quickly they would become boring as well.

In fact, the death of the Soviet Union has actually been a boon for neocommunists. Now, Obama and his fellow travelers like Jones, Ayers, Wright, Klonsky, and ACORN, can spout all the same totalitarian, anti-American, central-planning ideas the hard Left has always pushed, but in the abstract -- under such mushy labels as "social justice" and "green jobs." That is, they are liberated from having to defend the Soviet Empire, which, until 1991, was a living, breathing, concrete example of how horrific these ideas are when put in practice.

Oh. Kay.

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Fired up, ready to go

Monday, September 07, 2009

"It Might Get Loud"

Been meaning to post about this, but definitely worth seeing, if only to watch Jimmy Page, at home in the music room of his elegant estate, playing air guitar to Link Wray's "Rumble."


How many more years?

Happy Labor Day

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

High finance

Alan Binder laments the lack of haste in financial reforms and sees five main impediments to be overcome.

BACK during the Obama transition, the newly designated chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, enunciated what I’ll call the Emanuel Principle: “You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to do important things that you would otherwise avoid.” He was right. But I fear that the Emanuel Principle is about to be violated in the case of financial reform.

We are barely emerging from the greatest financial crisis since the 1930s. From last September to March, it was downright frightening. Yet by the time Congress left town for its summer recess, financial reform appeared to be losing steam.

Monday is Labor Day, the psychological end of summer. So, starting on Tuesday, it’s up to the administration and the Congressional leadership to breathe some life into what’s left of the reform concept.

Paul Krugman analyzes the "who could have predicted..." phenomenon of economic thought that brought common ground to the "freshwater economists" from the midwest and the "saltwater economists" from the coasts, leading both to miss the bubble.

It’s hard to believe now, but not long ago economists were congratulating themselves over the success of their field. Those successes — or so they believed — were both theoretical and practical, leading to a golden era for the profession. On the theoretical side, they thought that they had resolved their internal disputes. Thus, in a 2008 paper titled “The State of Macro” (that is, macroeconomics, the study of big-picture issues like recessions), Olivier Blanchard of M.I.T., now the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, declared that “the state of macro is good.” The battles of yesteryear, he said, were over, and there had been a “broad convergence of vision.” And in the real world, economists believed they had things under control: the “central problem of depression-prevention has been solved,” declared Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago in his 2003 presidential address to the American Economic Association. In 2004, Ben Bernanke, a former Princeton professor who is now the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, celebrated the Great Moderation in economic performance over the previous two decades, which he attributed in part to improved economic policy making.

Last year, everything came apart.

Few economists saw our current crisis coming, but this predictive failure was the least of the field’s problems. More important was the profession’s blindness to the very possibility of catastrophic failures in a market economy. During the golden years, financial economists came to believe that markets were inherently stable — indeed, that stocks and other assets were always priced just right. There was nothing in the prevailing models suggesting the possibility of the kind of collapse that happened last year. Meanwhile, macroeconomists were divided in their views. But the main division was between those who insisted that free-market economies never go astray and those who believed that economies may stray now and then but that any major deviations from the path of prosperity could and would be corrected by the all-powerful Fed. Neither side was prepared to cope with an economy that went off the rails despite the Fed’s best efforts.

And in the wake of the crisis, the fault lines in the economics profession have yawned wider than ever. Lucas says the Obama administration’s stimulus plans are “schlock economics,” and his Chicago colleague John Cochrane says they’re based on discredited “fairy tales.” In response, Brad DeLong of the University of California, Berkeley, writes of the “intellectual collapse” of the Chicago School, and I myself have written that comments from Chicago economists are the product of a Dark Age of macroeconomics in which hard-won knowledge has been forgotten.

What happened to the economics profession? And where does it go from here?

And then, of course, there is the story about banking's new bright idea: betting on your life insurance policy.

After the mortgage business imploded last year, Wall Street investment banks began searching for another big idea to make money. They think they may have found one.

The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.

The earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return — though if people live longer than expected, investors could get poor returns or even lose money.

Either way, Wall Street would profit by pocketing sizable fees for creating the bonds, reselling them and subsequently trading them. But some who have studied life settlements warn that insurers might have to raise premiums in the short term if they end up having to pay out more death claims than they had anticipated.

The idea is still in the planning stages. But already “our phones have been ringing off the hook with inquiries,” says Kathleen Tillwitz, a senior vice president at DBRS, which gives risk ratings to investments and is reviewing nine proposals for life-insurance securitizations from private investors and financial firms, including Credit Suisse.

“We’re hoping to get a herd stampeding after the first offering,” said one investment banker not authorized to speak to the news media.

All in a single issue! Happy reading.


If you're gonna say crazy shit, make sure you're in the GOP

I think Steve Benen's right, Van Jones is a more natural activist then a member of an administration.

Joking about Republicans being "a**holes" wasn't likely to be enough to Jones' ouster -- he wasn't in the administration at the time and he did, after all, refer to himself as an "a**hole" in the same remarks -- but it was that Truther petition that proved problematic. It also brought intense scrutiny on Jones' previous political associations.

Gawker has a very good summary of Jones' background and the smear campaign launched against him, but here's the key takeaway: "[Jones] was a bookish black kid from Tennessee who went to Yale Law and moved to San Francisco and became a radical. Then he decided to use his law degree and smarts to clean up and make things better from inside the establishment."

Right-wing critics have railed against Jones for months, but the campaign against him took a sharp turn in late July. Color of Change launched an effort targeting Glenn Beck's advertisers, so Beck targeted Van Jones, who helped create the group. At that point, Jones went from being an obscure administration official in an office few have heard of (the Council on Environmental Quality) to the most hated man on Fox News.

A few things to keep in mind going forward. First, we haven't heard the last of Van Jones, and that's a good thing. He's one of the nation's great visionaries on energy and environmental issues, and as Kate Sheppard noted, "[P]erhaps the even bigger irony here is that he's always been more effective and influential as an outside activist than as an administration official.... In all honesty, Glenn Beck may have more to worry about with Jones outside the White House than in it."

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New York Sanitary Commission

As a public service announcement, Emma Spans has an important reminder:

The Yankees’ division lead is now at eight and a half, and they haven’t lost three games in a row in almost two months (that was against the Angels, of course). Enjoy the long weekend, gang – and don’t forget, Monday night is Hand Sanitizer Keychain Giveaway Day at the Stadium for the first 18,000 fans 21 and older, so be sure to get to the game early! God.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

David Brooks, revolutionary

James Surowiecki finds David Brooks op-ed on "fundamental reform of health care" very strange.

Brooks’s piece is written as if the real hurdle to change is that the Obama Administration doesn’t realize what’s wrong with the health-care system, so that if Obama just read the right texts, he would be willing to push for fundamental reform. But the Administration knows more than enough about the problems with health care. It’s just trying to figure out how to come up with a politically possible solution.

Brooks is yet another member of the pundit class who can "advise" the president to be bold, then criticize him later for pushing for too much change. Back in March, he wrote,

Those of us who consider ourselves moderates — moderate-conservative, in my case — are forced to confront the reality that Barack Obama is not who we thought he was. His words are responsible; his character is inspiring. But his actions betray a transformational liberalism that should put every centrist on notice. As Clive Crook, an Obama admirer, wrote in The Financial Times, the Obama budget “contains no trace of compromise. It makes no gesture, however small, however costless to its larger agenda, of a bipartisan approach to the great questions it addresses. It is a liberal’s dream of a new New Deal.”

That came on the heels of the Obama administration ramming through a stimulus package and bank bailouts that, from all appearances, kept us from careening into Great Depression II. So now, making compromises to try to forge together a bill that might induce a few "Blue Dogs" from "Red States" and one, maybe two northeastern Republicans who aren't in thrall to the scorched earth policies of both the leadership and rank and file of the Republican Party, isn't enough change for Brooksie.



Explain to me, again, why we annexed Texas?


Too heavy

One of the reasons baseball has such a hold on me and, I think, much of the country for much of the last 100+ years, is that freaks, geeks, and just plain oddballs -- physical and mental -- are so much a part of the game.

Lincecum lost to another really strange character in a real gem last night.


It's a man's world

Very strange, but, strangely, it works.

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Friday history

Floyd Norris pays homage to Elbridge Spaulding, hero of the Civil War, and wonders if Ben Bernanke is his rightful successor.

Also in the Times, Richard Sandomir replays Lou Gehrig's last hit.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

The OC Register will not be going Gault

Ayn Rand would likely explain that "Freedom Communications" deserves bankruptcy protection on the grounds that the descendants of RC Hoiles remain heroic people, it's the newspaper industry -- with its freedom fencing need for "readers" and "advertisers" -- that is anti-heroic.

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A conservative debate on health care

This story on the dismay of conservatives who have found that their real ideas about health care reform are being ignored in favor of demonstrably false cries of "death panels," and "euthanasia," is amusing and telling.

“There are serious questions that are associated with policy aspects of the health care reform bills that we’re seeing,” said Gail Wilensky, a veteran health care expert who oversaw the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs for the first President George Bush and advised Senator John McCain in his presidential campaign last year.

“And there’s frustration because so much of the discussion is around issues like the death panels and Zeke Emanuel that I think are red herrings at best,” she said, referring to a health care adviser to President Obama whose views on some issues have been misrepresented by opponents.

The story highlights a couple of issues. One, we all know that serious policy debate is not on the table as Republican leadership in Congress prefers tantrums and the prospect of Obama's "Waterloo" over the government doing something to improve the lives of millions and save our health care system. Second, the conservative complaints cited in the story are based on notions that are easy to refute by looking at what is being proposed. Just as easy as death panels, frankly.

It's a tough position to be in, I admit.


The drama queen

Which leads one to ask: What implications would his bloody sock have for health care reform?

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The Snow paradox

Ezra has an interesting insight.

If Snowe drops off the bill, using the budget reconciliation process will probably be a necessity. The bill then goes through Sen. Kent Conrad's Budget Committee, giving him much more power over the product. The absence of any Republicans repels at least a couple of conservative Democrats. Passage becomes much less certain, which means a scaled-back bill becomes much more likely. This is the irony of the health-care endgame: The bill becomes much more conservative if it loses its final Republican.

I think we can safely assume that President Obama's remarks to Congress next week will be heavily influenced by Sen. Olympia Snowe's views on health care. Which, as Ezra points out in another post, would not be a bad thing...if, she's also willing to buck her party and vote for a bill. The Snowe/Kennedy Health Care for All Americans Act, anyone?

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David Broder's America

That answer would be, "yes."

UPDATE: Broder's apologies for Dick Cheney's violation of the law reminded me of what might be called The Broder Pattern, as Erik Alterman wrote last year:

Sadly, Broder's decision to avert his eyes from the distasteful and potentially criminal actions of his government is not exceptional; it's how he defines his job. Forty years ago he scolded those in the Democratic Party who challenged Lyndon Johnson's lies about Vietnam as " those involved." Twenty years ago he attacked independent counsel Lawrence Walsh's investigation into criminal wrongdoing in the Iran/Contra scandal. (Reagan had mused that he would likely be impeached should his extraconstitutional actions ever be discovered.) Broder supported Republican efforts to impeach Bill Clinton, whose behavior he deemed "worse" than Richard Nixon's police-state tactics during Watergate because Nixon's actions, "however neurotic and criminal, were motivated and connected to the exercise of presidential power." There is a pattern here, obviously. When a president abuses his constitutional warmaking powers, he can depend on Broder not only to defend his crimes but to attack those who would hold him accountable. This, in the eyes of perhaps the most honored and admired journalist today, is the proper function of the press in a democracy.

According to Broder, lies in the service of presidential power -- and torture! -- are acceptable means of Executive branch governance. A lie in the course of a civil court case that should never have been permitted to be brought against a sitting president is "worse" than Nixon's compiling of enemy lists, using the IRS to attack perceived enemies, covering up the break in of the Democratic National Committee, taking solicited and unreported cash in paper bags for his reelection campaign, and, oh yeah, secretly carpet bombing Cambodia and Laos, are essential tools of a wartime president. So Saith the Dean.

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Springtime for Hitler

Exactly what demographic does Pat Buchanan draw for MSNBC except for the admittedly large and formidable Nazi sympathizer segment of the audience?

An MSNBC spokesman did not respond when asked by TPMmuckraker about the network's decision to continue to showcase a Hitler apologist.

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