Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jerry's geetar

Here's what he's playing in the Copenhangen '72 show and here's what he's playing at Radio City.

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Happy fucking New Year

It just ain't New Years Eve without Jerry...

And at their peak.


Mandates work both ways

James Surowiecki explains the basic contradiction at the heart of the health reform bills -- members of both parties want to see an end to private insurance companies behaving like private insurance companies while still insisting on the supremacy of private insurance companies -- and explains why it's still worth doing.

So where’s the contradiction? Well, Congress’s support for community rating and universal access doesn’t fit well with its insistence that health-care reform must rely on private insurance companies. After all, measuring risk, and setting prices accordingly, is the raison d’être of a health-insurance company. The way individual insurance works now, risk and price are linked. If you’re a triathlete with no history of cancer in your family, you’re a reasonably good risk, and so you can get an affordable policy that will protect you against unforeseen disaster; if you’re overweight with high blood pressure and a history of heart problems, your risk of becoming seriously ill is substantial, and therefore private insurers will either charge you high premiums or not offer you coverage at all. This kind of risk evaluation—what’s called “medical underwriting”—is fundamental to the insurance business. But it is precisely what all the new reform plans will ban. Congress is effectively making private insurers unnecessary, yet continuing to insist that we can’t do without them.

The truth is that we could do just fine without them: an insurance system with community rating and universal access has no need of private insurers. In fact, the U.S. already has such a system: it’s known as Medicare. In most areas, it’s true, private companies do a better job of managing costs and providing services than the government does. But not when it comes to health care: over the past decade, Medicare’s spending has risen more slowly than that of private insurers. A single-payer system also has the advantage of spreading risk across the biggest patient pool possible. So if you want to make health insurance available to everyone, regardless of risk, the most sensible solution would be to expand Medicare to everyone. That’s not going to happen. The fear of government-run health care, the power of vested interests, and the difficulty of completely overhauling the system have made the single-payer solution a bridge too far for Washington, and for much of the public as well. (Support for a single-payer system hovers around fifty per cent.) That’s why the current reform plans rely instead on a mishmash of regulations, national exchanges, and subsidies. Instead of replacing private insurance companies, the proposed reforms would, in theory, turn them into something like public utilities. That’s how it works in the Netherlands and Switzerland, with reasonably good results.

One could recoil in disgust at the inefficiency and incoherence of the process—at the fact that private insurers will continue to make billions a year providing services the government has shown, via Medicare, that it can provide on its own. But, messy as the reform plans are, they can still dramatically transform the system for the good. Reform would guarantee that tens of millions of people who don’t have insurance will get it, and that people who have insurance now won’t have to worry about losing it. And, by writing community rating and universal access into law, Congress will effectively be committing itself to the idea that health care, regardless of risk, is a right. If a little incoherence is the price of that deal, it’s worth paying.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Accountability,double standards and a profound hatred for America

So, unlike his predecessor, President Obama did not wait six days during his vacation to make any kind of statement ( as Bush did during an otherwise scheduled news conference) about a lunatic trying to explode a piece of his clothing on an airline, and in fact demanded a systemic security review to be on his desk within two days. That of course means he does not take the threat seriously and is playing fast and loose with our national security. Oh, and he's "sending a message" to "terrorists" that we're no longer "at war" with them.

The very different reactions of Democrats in December 2001 and Republicans in December 2009 certainly has something to do with the post-9/11 halo Bush wore and the fact that his poll numbers would never be higher. But the truth of the matter is Democrats have simply not made attempted attacks on our people for the purpose of political advantage. Republicans, hysterically, have no such qualms.

I use the "why do they hate America?" line generally as a joke. But after months of watching the GOP march in lock step in opposition to any attempt to reform health care and provide it to millions of Americans who do without because they can't afford it or the insurance companies deny them coverage; after months of watching Republicans propose nothing but tax cuts for the rich and a a spending freeze in the wake of the worst economic depression since the 1930s; after months of listening to Republicans claim that our judicial system (the true American Exceptionalism) cannot handle a bunch of mass murder masterminds; and after a week of watching Republicans point fingers of blame and attempt to whip up a frenzy of terror (aka, the "terrorists'" goal) even as they are on record for putting a "hold" on TSA leadership because of the existential fear of collective bargaining and opposing spending on airport security; well, I begin to wonder, why do they hate America?

Meanwhile, as he did in 2001, Andrew Sullivan (or whoever writes his posts), wets his pants and goes a little funny in the head.

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Excellent advice from Mark Warner is God.


The Dude abides

Madame Cura and I were just discussing this with friends the other day.

“Trying to impress your academic colleagues and also make a dent in the popular market, that’s a fine line to walk,” Mr. Comentale added. “We wanted these essays to press the connection between the goofy and the profound.”

Reading “The Year’s Work in Lebowski Studies,” it’s hard not to recall some of the profound and not-so-goofy things the novelist Umberto Eco had to say about cult movies in his 1984 essay “ ‘Casablanca’: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage.”

“What are the requirements for transforming a book or movie into a cult object?” Mr. Eco asked. “The work must be loved, obviously, but this is not enough. It must provide a completely furnished world so that its fans can quote characters and episodes as if they were aspects of the fan’s private sectarian world, a world about which one can make up quizzes and play trivia games so that the adepts of the sect recognize through each other a shared expertise.”

(If the phrases “Nice marmot,” or “You’re entering a world of pain,” or “I can get you a toe” mean anything to you, then “Lebowski” has entered your private sectarian world.)

Mr. Eco certainly seemed to presage the existence of “The Big Lebowski” when he wrote in his essay about “Casablanca” that a cult movie must be “ramshackle, rickety, unhinged in itself.” He explained: “Only an unhinged movie survives as a disconnected series of images, of peaks, of visual icebergs. It should display not one central idea but many. It should not reveal a coherent philosophy of composition. It must live on, and because of, its glorious ricketiness.”

The glue that holds “The Big Lebowski” together, as gloriously rickety as it is, is Mr. Bridges’s performance. Pauline Kael once observed that Mr. Bridges, who is gathering Oscar buzz this month for his performance as a down-on-his-luck country singer in “Crazy Heart,” “may be the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor that has ever lived.”

I think this about sums up why The Dude is the spiritual icon for our Undiebomber and Pants Wetting for Political Advantage Age.

One of Mr. Gaughran’s students came up with this summary, and it’s somehow appropriate for an end-of-the-year reckoning: “He doesn’t stand for what everybody thinks he should stand for, but he has his values. He just does it. He lives in a very disjointed society, but he’s gonna take things as they come, he’s gonna care about his friends, he’s gonna go to somebody’s recital, and that’s it. That’s how you respond.”

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Criminal justice

Did the BushCheney administration fail to take existential threats to us seriously in the wake of the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, by not trying him in a military tribunal?


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pants pissing for fun and profit

Using an attempted murder for political and financial gain, Pete Hoekstra is a grand master.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) is now jumping upon the Northwest Airlines attack -- and using it to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign, the Grand Rapids Press reports.

In the letter, Hoekstra denounces the Obama administration on a whole range of national security issues -- ranging from Flight 253 itself to Guantanamo Bay, investigation of the interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration, and what Hoekstra calls Obama policies that "impress the 'Blame America First' crowd at home and his thousands of fans overseas."

This neither surprises nor outrages me. Why is that.

Over the summer, 108 House Republicans voted against the final conference report of the 2010 appropriation bill for the Department of Homeland Security, which included funding for explosives detection systems and other aviation security measures.

The no voters cited a procedural dispute over the appropriations process. They included Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Hoekstra and a who’s who of big-name House Republicans: Reps. Mike Pence, Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Joe Wilson (R-SC).


States' rights

Never under estimate the venality of state politicians.

WASHINGTON — Like about a dozen other states, Florida is debating a proposed amendment to its state constitution that would try to block, at least symbolically, much of the proposed federal health care overhaul on the grounds that it tramples individual liberty.

But what unites the proposal’s legislative backers is more than ideology. Its 42 co-sponsors, all Republicans, were almost all recipients of outsized campaign contributions from major health care interests, a total of about $765,000 in 2008, according to a new study by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan group based in Helena, Mont.

It is just one example of how insurance companies, hospitals and other health care interests have been positioning themselves in statehouses around the country to influence the outcome of the proposed health care overhaul. Around the 2008 election, the groups that provide health care contributed about $102 million to state political campaigns across the country, surpassing the $89 million the same donors spent at the federal level, according to the institute.

Any federal legislation is likely to supersede state constitutional amendments. But backers of the state measures say they want to send a message to Congress and also lay groundwork for fights about elements of the health care package that are expected to be left up to the states.

Or the corruption of the California proposition system.

Last year, for example, the drug industry poured more than $20 million into political contributions in states around the country. In California alone, the industry spent an additional $80 million on advertising to beat back a California ballot measure intended to push down drug prices.

Now, speaking on condition of anonymity because the pharmaceutical trade group is officially backing the federal overhaul, industry lobbyists say they are eyeing Congressional proposals that would expand a state’s Medicaid obligations, and are preparing to fight efforts to make some of it up by paying less for drugs. (A spokeswoman for the National Conference of State Legislatures said many states were contemplating just that.)



Shocking. The president waits to "gather information" and to try to "avoid increasing travelers' anxiety" before "reassuring Americans" that we'll be "kept safe" from future Undie-Bombers.

Representative Peter T. King of New York, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, criticized Mr. Obama’s silence Monday before the president’s statement. “We’re now, what, 72 hours into this and the president’s not spoken, the vice president’s not spoken, the attorney general’s not spoken and Janet Napolitano has now told two different stories in two days,” he said on Fox News. “First, she said everything worked; now she said it didn’t.”
Meanwhile, he interrupts a golf game to rush to the side of an injured child. WTF?

As Stalin once reportedly said, a single child is a tragedy, a dozen or so pants-wetting Republican Congressmen is merely a statistic.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Don't fuck with The Dean

Harry Reid's grave mistake.

And, yes, Reid criticized my friend and colleague David Broder. It’s true that Reid was hitting back, since David is not wild about Harry. Nonetheless, I dearly love Broder, as does everyone who has ever worked with him.

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Blue Monday, Jimmy Witherspoon and Ben Webster edition

Friday, December 25, 2009


I am indeed happy and amazed that we will very soon see the passage of the most progressive piece of legislation of my adult life. But I also hear NPR's Mara Liason say that there is no way Congress is going to take up a cap and trade bill in 2010. The lesson of the health care "debate" is that the Republican party is now imprisoned by its own ideology and "the fringe" hold the keys. That even on issues where you may have seen some senators who may have been willing to negotiate in good faith, like on environmental or health care issues, even "moderate" Republicans will join the obstructionists. Republicans, like the Great John McCain, who only a short time ago supported cap and trade can now be expected to oppose it loudly and mendaciously in order to turn a general good into a ball and chain for Democrats.

After health care it's hard to imagine what Congress can accomplish to address the nation's most pressing problems.

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Merry Christmas America

Thank a progressive.

First, there’s the crazy right, the tea party and death panel people — a lunatic fringe that is no longer a fringe but has moved into the heart of the Republican Party. In the past, there was a general understanding, a sort of implicit clause in the rules of American politics, that major parties would at least pretend to distance themselves from irrational extremists. But those rules are no longer operative. No, Virginia, at this point there is no sanity clause.

A second strand of opposition comes from what I think of as the Bah Humbug caucus: fiscal scolds who routinely issue sententious warnings about rising debt. By rights, this caucus should find much to like in the Senate health bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says would reduce the deficit, and which — in the judgment of leading health economists — does far more to control costs than anyone has attempted in the past.

But, with few exceptions, the fiscal scolds have had nothing good to say about the bill. And in the process they have revealed that their alleged concern about deficits is, well, humbug. As Slate’s Daniel Gross says, what really motivates them is “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is receiving social insurance.”

Finally, there has been opposition from some progressives who are unhappy with the bill’s limitations. Some would settle for nothing less than a full, Medicare-type, single-payer system. Others had their hearts set on the creation of a public option to compete with private insurers. And there are complaints that the subsidies are inadequate, that many families will still have trouble paying for medical care.

Unlike the tea partiers and the humbuggers, disappointed progressives have valid complaints. But those complaints don’t add up to a reason to reject the bill. Yes, it’s a hackneyed phrase, but politics is the art of the possible.

The truth is that there isn’t a Congressional majority in favor of anything like single-payer. There is a narrow majority in favor of a plan with a moderately strong public option. The House has passed such a plan. But given the way the Senate rules work, it takes 60 votes to do almost anything. And that fact, combined with total Republican opposition, has placed sharp limits on what can be enacted.

If progressives want more, they’ll have to make changing those Senate rules a priority. They’ll also have to work long term on electing a more progressive Congress. But, meanwhile, the bill the Senate has just passed, with a few tweaks — I’d especially like to move the start date up from 2014, if that’s at all possible — is more or less what the Democratic leadership can get.

And for all its flaws and limitations, it’s a great achievement. It will provide real, concrete help to tens of millions of Americans and greater security to everyone. And it establishes the principle — even if it falls somewhat short in practice — that all Americans are entitled to essential health care.

Many people deserve credit for this moment. What really made it possible was the remarkable emergence of universal health care as a core principle during the Democratic primaries of 2007-2008 — an emergence that, in turn, owed a lot to progressive activism. (For what it’s worth, the reform that’s being passed is closer to Hillary Clinton’s plan than to President Obama’s). This made health reform a must-win for the next president. And it’s actually happening.

So progressives shouldn’t stop complaining, but they should congratulate themselves on what is, in the end, a big win for them — and for America.

Meanwhile, I know every column by The Dean can be summarized as "a pox on both their houses," but really, he's caricaturing himself here.

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More of James Gurley

James Gurley, RIP

Weird coincidence that I'd posted the video for Birdsong, only to open the paper and learn that James Gurley had died.

I heard a lone saxophone raging like a madman,” he said. “And that’s what developed my style: Play it like crazy.”

And yeah, the members of Big Brother and the Holding Company should join Janis in the Hall (not that I give a shit about the Rock 'n Roll Hall o' Fame, but just sayin').

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Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sports editor for The Daily Worker

Lester Rodney, RIP. I'm sorry to say that I did not know this.

Even in The Daily Worker’s heyday, during the Depression, the working classes the newspaper championed were hardly lining up at newsstands for its box scores. But the paper, published in New York City, did have a sports section, run by Mr. Rodney, who was a card-carrying member, in the parlance of his day, of both the Communist Party USA and the Baseball Writers Association of America.

In the 1930s and early ’40s, Mr. Rodney, a grandson of Jewish immigrants from Europe, became an outspoken voice among sportswriters, apart from the black press, in condemning racial discrimination in professional sports.

Running a six-day-a-week Daily Worker sports section that he introduced in 1936, more than a decade before Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier, Mr. Rodney pressured the baseball commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and the major league club owners to end baseball’s racial barrier.

His columns cited the exploits of stars of the Negro leagues like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, and he quoted major league players and managers praising the talents of black players to buttress his argument that they offered a vast talent pool. He publicized Communist-led petition drives aimed at ending the majors’ exclusion of blacks.

“Negro soldiers and sailors are among those beloved heroes of the American people who have already died for the preservation of this country and everything this country stands for — yes, including the great game of baseball,” Mr. Rodney wrote in an open letter to Landis published in The Daily Worker in May 1942. “You, the self-proclaimed ‘Czar’ of baseball, are the man responsible for keeping Jim Crow in our National Pastime. You are the one refusing to say the word which would do more to justify baseball’s existence in this year of war than any other single thing.”

In recounting the mounting pressures baseball faced to end its color barrier, Arnold Rampersad wrote in his 1997 biography “Jackie Robinson” that “the most vigorous efforts came from the Communist press.”

Mr. Rampersad told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2005 that Mr. Rodney “was forgotten because he was a Communist.”

“But,” he added, “if Robinson was perceived by civil rights workers — and especially by Martin Luther King — as a historical turning point, anybody who facilitated the emergence of Jackie Robinson should be seen as one of the heroes of race integration.”

In his 1983 book “Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy,” Jules Tygiel wrote that The Daily Worker and Mr. Rodney “unrelentingly attacked the baseball establishment.”

Mr. Tygiel said that “the success of the Communists in forcing the issue before the American public far outweighed the negative ramifications of their sponsorship.”

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"The Big Man" approach to comedy

Stephen Colbert reminisces on his appearance at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner:

Colbert said he was genuinely surprised that he'd been invited to the affair and, with his colleagues, "worked very hard on it and the actual performance." It was an honor, a rare opportunity. "The actual performance was enjoyable for me. I really liked the jokes and was eager to do it."

Tom Purcell, a Second City alum and the television show's co-executive producer, explained the tactical rationale: Bush, he said, was the typical "Big Man" one might find in innumerable institutional settings. "We thought it was the Big Man. He hires somebody to make fun of him, and he chuckles. You see it at office Christmas parties. You say the boss is so cheap that....and he laughs and everybody laughs. That's what we thought we were doing. They wouldn't have brought us in if they didn't know what jokes we did."

Of course, in hindsight, that didn't seem exactly true, suggesting slightly insufficient due diligence by the association.

"We dipped a wick in a can of grape soda, threw it against a wall and little did we know the entire room was soaked in gasoline," said Purcell.

Added Colbert: "We felt like we were throwing joke Molotov cocktails, and then the room burst into flames." Throughout the panel discussion, gently moderated by NPR's Peter Sagal, one was reminded of one of the elements separating comic pros, like Colbert and colleagues, from your "hilarious friend" at the office and other funny amateurs, namely the Colbert crew's lightning speed. It's the difference between college football and the NFL.

Colbert disclosed that he did substantial self-editing upon looking at the president and discerning that he wasn't ecstatic. He had planned to play off Medal of Freedom awards Bush had given former CIA Director George ("It's a slam dunk") Tenet and former Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer; joshing about how Bush was clearly giving awards to everybody in sight.

"'But nobody gives this man an award,'" Colbert recalled as the thrust of the riff he scrapped. "'That ends tonight. I'm going to give the highest honor I can give....a certificate of presidency.'"

It would be akin to "something you get from The Learning Annex for taking a course. 'I, Stephen Colbert, acknowledge...'" Colbert looked at Bush and said to himself, "I'm going nowhere near this."

When the dinner was over, "I don't think I'm dying. I go to sit down and nobody's meeting my eye. Only [the late journalist-turned-White House spokesman] Tony Snow comes over and says I'm doing a great job." Then Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia came his way and told him he was brilliant.

"I said, oh, s-, don't let me like Antonin Scalia!"

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009


You will be shocked to learn that Sarah Palin lies about lies she's told.


"I never campaigned on a public option"

Lindsay Graham wishes he lived in Nebraska

"I have a 31% African-American population in South Carolina."

Sen. Lindsay Graham. Go ahead and click on it. We'll wait.

I'm sorry, but a speech on the Senate floor is not "a slip of the tongue." To Lindsay Graham there are no poor white people, and all the black people in his state will be eligible for Medicaid.


The Cheney foil

Adam Serwer argues that Human Event's "conservative of the year," Dick Cheney, provides a "convenient foil" for the Obama administration, which wants to distance itself from the previous administration on matters of national security without taking any substantive action to stop many of the abusive policies Cheney championed. While closing Guantanamo -- now another year delayed, at least -- is important, continuing to hold its detainees without charge makes the closure mostly symbolic. And one wonders if the Obama administration's stepped up use of drones in Pakistan isn't creating yet another generation of future terrorists. In other words, we only wish Obama's policies were as different from Bush's as Cheney heatedly and repeatedly claims.

Liberals seem, on the surface, pleased with Cheney's reemergence -- but they shouldn't be. Cheney isn't running for office, and his low favorability may only enhance his ability to scare the pants off people. Since 2007, support for torture has increased, not decreased. The president also faced a drop in poll ratings on national security issues that the were likely due in part to Cheney's assault. With the departure of officials like White House Counsel Greg Craig, who was tasked with closing Guantanamo, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Phil Carter, who had been a prominent critic of the Bush-era human rights abuses, the administration's short lived stint as the hope of civil libertarians and human rights activists may have finally come to an end.

And that's important. Because unless Obama makes a clean break from the past abuses, we will someday find ourselves with another administration led by a party that has made torture a key plank in its platform. And no credible voice of opposition.

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A tea bagger's prayer

If this were satire it would be deemed as just too implausible.

UPDATE: Perhaps so.

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Reconciling the House and Senate bills

Improvements on cost reforms and speeding up implementation makes a great deal of political and practical sense to me.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues are clearly in a tough spot. They already seem poised to yield on abortion and the public option to get a bill through the Senate. Now the Senate and the White House will be asking them to be more serious about holding down costs, too.

But the health experts I spoke to this week thought there was room for a sensible compromise. The House’s liberal leaders have a few realistic demands to make in exchange for accepting the cost-control measures in the Senate bill. Ideally, the House would also accept a couple of additional measures being pushed by John Rockefeller, Ron Wyden and other Senate Democrats.

After all, as Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Wyden have shown, there is nothing that says liberals need to be in favor of high medical costs.


For starters, they can hold firm to their start date for the main provisions of the bill: Jan. 1, 2013, a year earlier than in the Senate bill. That would help the uninsured. It would also help deflate the argument that health reform is going to ruin health care — just as the start of Medicare, one year after its passage in 1965, beat back the argument that it equaled socialism.

Two, the House can push for a national insurance exchange, rather than the 50 different state exchanges envisioned by the Senate. State-by-state experimentation has its place, and giving the states no say over the exchange would be a mistake. But 50 exchanges, with 50 Web sites and 50 sets of rules, seems like a recipe for duplication and waste.

Finally, if House leaders are tired of watching senators preen as fiscal conservatives (and are tired of being called profligate by pundits), the House can call out the Senate on its own weakness. The Senate, like the White House, has been somewhat deferential to hospitals, drug makers and doctors’ groups. What if the House pushed for bigger discounts on prescription drugs, as its bill calls for — saving the government $10 billion a year in the process? Or what if the House insisted on bigger penalties for hospitals that don’t do enough to prevent hospital-borne infections?

Speeding up implementation would raise the price tag, but offsetting that with stronger cost controls could help to frame this as real reform and real benefits for the American people.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

10 reasons* to support the bill

If you are dreading the holidays because of an anticipated argument over the Senate and House health care bills -- not with your tea partying Uncle Norbert who wants to kill the bill for some inchoate reasons having to do with a black Muslim man, but rather with your progressive cousin Lorelei who wants to kill the bill because it doesn't include a public option and doesn't hurt insurance companies -- than be sure to read Ezra's take down of Jane "It's a Bad Bill" Hamsher.

* Nine actually. Hamsher has a point on one of them.


The Melkman goeth

The Melky is over?

So, all those reports over the weekend that Damon won't be returning might have been a tad premature as I really can't see the Yankees going with a Gardner/Hoffman (Rule 5) platoon.

I'll miss Melky. He really had no business being the Yankees starting CFer and even less so as a corner outfielder. He was a streaky hitter, and by "streaky," I mean he tended to hit in April and May, not so much the rest of the season. But he had the only functioning throwing arm in the Yankees outfield, could work a walk, and he was a fun kid in the clubhouse. He was Mutt to Cano's Jeff.


Monday, December 21, 2009

And the Acela has electric outlets...Oh, wait

Simon Johnson analyzes the banksters' Trains, Plains and Automobiles" non-trip to Washington last week. Obama seems like a pretty easy going guy, but I think Johnson's right: this was surely evidence of the arrogance of these pricks and is sure to come and bite them in the ass one of these days.


I blame Golf Digest

Frank Rich gets paid to write one weekly column. One. And the best he could do (I no more link to him than I do to his fellow Heather, Mo. Dowd) was rehash a gossip story that's nearly a month old. And, of course, ties it back to the notion he's been waiting since 2000 to visit, that a Democratic candidate for president was some kind of offensive poseur.

Well, I'll let Mr. D.H. Riley explain it more colorfully then I ever could.

Now look: I'm no historian, but I'm pretty sure that by most reckonings The Naughts were more than a year-and-a-half old when 9/11 Changed Everything, and that much of that time had been given over to a Presidential campaign which was decided on the pressing issues of Al Gore's make-up, Al Gore's sighing, Al Gore's choice of suits, and Al Gore's outlandish claims that he 1) invented the Internet; 2) personally cleaned up Love Canal; 3) wrote, directed, and starred in that Love Story piece of shit, which was based on his cleaning up Love Canal while in college; and 4) did not enlist in the Army, and go to Vietnam, just to show George W. Bush up. And even though there is as yet no historical consensus on whether these matters were Total Fucking Bullshit or simply So Mother-Fucking Trivial as to Bugger Belief, there is no question that among their most ardent champions was one Frank Rich, Times Opinionator.

So do go on, Frank, with that "the television press has rarely owned up to its failure" routine. I can't tell you how fascinating I find that observation, coming as it does in the middle of a piece which ignores your own responsibility for setting this piece of shit decade in motion.

Because, fuck, Frank, teevee news is nothing more than a less-popular version of So You Think You Can Sing Like a Fifth-Grader? It may not have apologized for wrapping Bush's Iraq Adventurism in Old Glory, but then the worst War Whoredoggery on FOX can't have measured one-third the way up Judith Miller's contribution. Print media has a helluva lot to apologize for, Frank. And furthermore, I don't recall authorizing anybody to accept those apologies in my name. And, what's more, I don't.
Look, I'm sorry Frank Rich had a man-crush on Tiger Woods and is hurt that he's done something that no one other than his wife and, perhaps, his sponsors, should really give a rat's ass about. Similarly, I'm sorry that, oh, I don't know, a stimulus package or a health care reform bill that required the assent of 60 senators all of whom with their own agendas and political calculations, somehow is evidence that all the Hopey and Changeyness was an Obaman ruse to separate the rubes from their moneys. Scrawls Rich, suddenly turning the page from Bonds and Woods to Obama:

This can be seen in the increasingly urgent political plight of Barack Obama. Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it) or spineless timidity (as the left sees it). The truth may well be neither, but after a decade of being spun silly, Americans can’t be blamed for being cynical about any leader trying to sell anything. As we say goodbye to the year of Tiger Woods, it is the country, sad to say, that is left mired in a sand trap with no obvious way out.

By the way, a stimulus package that saved the U.S. economy from plunging still deeper and a health care bill that's the biggest piece of quality of life legislation since the 19 fucking 60s.

Is Rich not paid to read the news and analysis on which he prattles on and on, covering the most important real estate in opinion journalism each week? No, apparently not, because despite all available evidence to the contrary, he's convinced that Obama done him wrong and campaigned as something he is not. Like Al Gore's brown suit, that's a much easier and more compelling factoid than actually going back to see if Obama's campaign rhetoric over-promised or not. Easier still than attempting to inform and educate his readers.

Frank Rich is a lazy hack. Like his colleague Gail Collins who feels put out at having to learn the names of a few senators, the hard work of legislating (or golfing for that matter), bores him. All that's left is how shiny the surface can be kept polished.

Somewhere in journalism hell, whatever Sulzberger that decided a theater critic would make a superb liberal political columnist, is slowly being turned on a spit.


The Great Man Theory, or, Grow Up Already

Mark Schmitt reminds us that it takes heavy lifting -- not just a politically gifted politician -- to make real progressive reform.

Consider, for example, the widely predicted possibility that the only major accomplishment of the current Democratic majority before the midterm election will be an imperfect version of health-care reform, while financial reform, cap-and-trade, and long-term economic-investment strategies are blocked or delayed. If that occurs, is it simply that the president didn't give enough priority to those other causes?

That's one possible explanation. Another would be that the work underlying the current health-reform effort began years before Obama even announced his campaign for the White House. Drawing on the lessons of past failures, when reform had no organized constituency, advocates and funders put massive resources into groups such as Health Care for America Now. They picked up political scientist Jacob Hacker's idea of a public plan within a structured insurance marketplace and developed it to give progressive advocates of a single-payer system something politically realistic that they could get behind. And they worked to ensure that all the Democratic candidates for president (with the exception of single-payer stalwart Rep. Dennis Kucinich) converged around roughly the same basic model. Years of health-reform-policy development, projects to improve public awareness of health reform, and advocacy campaigns were able to lay the groundwork for health reform well in advance. It was never going to be easy, but the best possible mechanism for achieving the long-thwarted goal was constructed for the president to flip the switch.

Compare that with the slow and meandering path to financial-regulatory reform. Yes, it's possible Obama doesn't see the urgency of it, or maybe his economic advisers are too cautious or subservient to Goldman Sachs. But it also matters that few liberals were working on this cause before the Wall Street collapse. No coherent alternative model had been developed, and no effort had been made to build a constituency for financial reform. While we had think tanks keeping tabs on various aspects of the economy, from the federal budget to the labor market, no one was systematically watching the development of super--complicated financial institutions, noting the risk posed by financial derivatives and promoting alternatives. A counterpart to the health-reform effort, Americans for Financial Reform, was launched this year but obviously it has a lot of catching up to do.

None of this is to forgive Obama his errors of commission or omission. But just as his campaign was built on a base of organizing, online activism, and civic engagement that preceded him, so the success of his presidency and this Congress will depend on the strength of the progressive infrastructure. If progressives don't support these structures for policy development and advocacy, further failure will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the fault will lie not in our star but in ourselves.

And then, as if on cue...

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Blue Monday, Carrie Robinson gospel edition

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WTF blanket

The Bronze Age

Leading GOP "intellectuals" cite a winter snow storm as proof that God is pissed about the Copenhagen accord.

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I don't recall being so excited about a series of cloture votes.

In the reception room just outside the chamber, Sen. Ted Kennedy's widow Vicki embraced Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and John Kerry (D-MA). Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, standing alone in the corner of the room, shouted a hearty congratulations to Dodd.

Still a ways to go, but...


Sunday, December 20, 2009


Today's Krugmaniad excerpt:

I’m not talking about the progressives who have rejected this bill because they don’t think it’s good enough; I disagree, but I respect their motives. I’m talking instead about the self-described centrists, pundits and politicians, who have spent years lecturing us on the need to make hard choices and actually come to grip with America’s problems; you know who I mean. So what did they do when faced with a chance to help confront those problems? They made excuses.

Health care costs are, as everyone serious acknowledges, at the core of many of our difficulties, very much including long-term budget deficits. What reformers have been saying for years is that the only way to tackle health care costs is in the context of a reform that also tackles the problem of uninsurance; and so it has proved. As Atul Gawande and others have pointed out, the Senate bill tries a wide variety of approaches to cost containment — in fact, just about everything that has been suggested. We don’t know which of these approaches will work or how well, but that’s more than anyone has managed to achieve ever before.

Oh, and the legislation is fiscally responsible from the start.

So did the deficit scolds, the people who preach the need to rein in entitlements and start paying our way, rally behind the cost-containment plans? Um, no. As I said, they made excuses, whining that the bill doesn’t do enough (as if there were any chance of passing a bill with everything they want), or insisting that even though the legislation does do the right thing, it doesn’t matter, because Congress won’t let the cost cuts go into effect — which turns out to be a claim at odds with the evidence of history.

And the lesson I take from that is that these people are insincere. They like posing as defenders of fiscal rectitude; they like declaring a pox on both houses; but when push comes to shove, their dislike of social insurance, their refusal to consider any government economy measures that don’t involve punishing people with lower incomes, trumps their supposed concern about acting responsibly.

Of course, Ben Nelson take it to a whole 'nother level.


Too much Snowe

I couldn't help snorting when I read this:

Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a Maine Republican who had been considered a possible Democratic ally, said she would oppose the measure because it was being rushed. “It is a take-it-or-leave-it package,” she said.

That's the height of absurdity. Olympia J. Snowe could have anything she wanted in this bill, had she chosen not to act in lock step with her party's leadership in opposing any bill.

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Beware of Chinese leaders bearing grudgest

I don't think Obama had any interest in leaving Copenhagen without an accord.

Speaker after speaker from the developing world denounced the deal as a sham process fashioned behind closed doors by a club of rich countries and large emerging powers. The debate reached such a pitch that the Sudanese delegate likened the effect of the accord on poor nations to the Holocaust.

That set off a backlash and many of the smallest and most vulnerable nations, while continuing to express reservations, began falling in line behind the deal. Ultimately, all but a handful of countries — Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan and Saudi Arabia among them — went along with the decision to accept the document.

Before the parties gathered in Copenhagen, the United States and China had been sniping at each other over various aspects of the proposed agreement, particularly over American demands that Beijing agree to a system of international monitoring, through which its public promise to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy — the rate of emissions per unit of economic activity — could be verified. But as that friction was growing, there was also significant progress on sharing clean energy technology and even exchanges between American and Chinese environmental officials over ways to accurately measure greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Obama and Premier Wen Jiabao of China conducted a productive summit meeting in Beijing last month. On Thanksgiving Day, the Chinese government announced its pollution reduction target and said it would enforce it with domestic law. American officials privately said the target was too low and raised questions about the reliability of Beijing’s reporting methods, saying that some form of international monitoring would be necessary. China protested and declared that it would not sacrifice its sovereignty to an outside verification scheme.

The friction boiled over on Friday, as Mr. Obama arrived at the Copenhagen meeting.

Twice during the day, Mr. Wen sent an underling to represent him at the meetings with Mr. Obama. To make things worse, each time it was a lower-level official.

It was bad enough, said officials, describing the atmosphere later, that Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei was sitting at the table with President Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and other world leaders. But Friday afternoon, after what administration officials believed had been a constructive one-on-one meeting between Mr. Obama and Mr. Wen, the Chinese premier sent his special representative on climate change negotiations, Yu Qingtai, to a meeting of the leaders of major countries, including Mr. Obama.

The White House made a point of noting the snub in a statement to reporters. Mr. Obama, for his part, said to his staff: “I don’t want to mess around with this anymore. I want to talk to Wen,” according to an aide.

The White House set up an evening meeting between Mr. Obama and Mr. Wen. It also set up a separate meeting with Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, and Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister. The approval of those was needed to seal any climate deal.

Shortly before the appointed time of the meeting with Mr. Wen, Denis McDonough, the national security council chief of staff, and Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, arrived and were startled to find the Chinese prime minister already meeting with the leaders of the three other countries.

They alerted Mr. Obama and he rushed down to the site of the meeting.

“Mr. Premier, are you ready to see me?” Mr. Obama called from the doorway. “Are you ready?”

Despite its tense start, the meeting led to an accord that settled a number of issues, including a compromise on wording on the issue of monitoring and verification that satisfied Mr. Wen.

Mr. Obama then took the proposed text to a group of European nations whose representatives grumbled but signed off.

I'm sure the various wingers and neofools will see this as being too deferential to the inscrutable Chinese, but for the first time in a long time it looks to me that the U.S. has begun to take its rightful leadership on addressing carbon emissions. A weak accord, and far short of goals, but a deal and start nevertheless. Hmmm. Not to compare to what hopefully is a deal that gets a lot closer to its goals, health care reform, but I sense a pattern. Action's better than inertia if change is to happen.

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Motorcity is burning

While I go shovel, you groove on this.


Joining the club

Joe Biden:

I share the frustration of other progressives that the Senate bill does not include a public option. But I’ve been around a long time, and I know that in Washington big changes never emerge in perfect form.

Joe Biden considers himself a progressive? Welcome to the club, Joe.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Because women's health care isn't complicated enough

I think this is pretty ridiculous, but if it gets the needed 60 votes, I can live with it (of course, I won't be needing abortion coverage so that may color my opinion). But sheesh, am I wrong, or does the weird language indicate that Nelson does not want to be the one who killed health care reform. And for that, I'm grateful.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

It harms the comedy of the Senate

Mariano Rivera

Pro athlete of the year. Check out the video explaining why he is virtually unhittable.

And a question for Yankee fans, is Nick Johnson this year's edition of Nick Swisher? Last year, you may recall, the Yankees seemed to be out of the Teixeira sweepstakes after signing Swisher to play 1B. Are the Yanks, in signing Nick, trying to put greater pressure on Damon to accept a two year plus option deal? The Yankees don't seem to be in the Holliday mood this year, but they weren't thought to be talking to Tex last year.

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Honky Tonk Angel

The Senate we have, not the Senate we wish we had

From today's Krugmaniad:

Bear in mind also the lessons of history: social insurance programs tend to start out highly imperfect and incomplete, but get better and more comprehensive as the years go by. Thus Social Security originally had huge gaps in coverage — and a majority of African-Americans, in particular, fell through those gaps. But it was improved over time, and it’s now the bedrock of retirement stability for the vast majority of Americans.

Look, I understand the anger here: supporting this weakened bill feels like giving in to blackmail — because it is. Or to use an even more accurate metaphor suggested by Ezra Klein of The Washington Post, we’re paying a ransom to hostage-takers. Some of us, including a majority of senators, really, really want to cover the uninsured; but to make that happen we need the votes of a handful of senators who see failure of reform as an acceptable outcome, and demand a steep price for their support.

The question, then, is whether to pay the ransom by giving in to the demands of those senators, accepting a flawed bill, or hang tough and let the hostage — that is, health reform — die.

Again, history suggests the answer. Whereas flawed social insurance programs have tended to get better over time, the story of health reform suggests that rejecting an imperfect deal in the hope of eventually getting something better is a recipe for getting nothing at all. Not to put too fine a point on it, America would be in much better shape today if Democrats had cut a deal on health care with Richard Nixon, or if Bill Clinton had cut a deal with moderate Republicans back when they still existed.

As Krugman rightly points out, only a few years ago G.W. Bush and Senate Republicans were able to block a modest expansion of health care for children.

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Now, about those death panels

The Worst Deliberative Body in the World™ lives up to its name once again.

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Broken news

I'm so glad that Politico's editor is now on the Pulitzer board.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Swimming only prolongs the drowning

For Mitch Daniels, architect of the 2001 tax cut that led to massive U.S. deficits, his state's $billion "Rainy Day Fund" is not to be used during a monsoon.

That likely aspirant for national office should be kept as far from the White House as possible.

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The decline and fall...

Proof that we are observing the End Times.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What's good for JPMorgan is good for America

Brad DeLong,

"I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street," President Obama told Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes. In a narrow sense, that may be true. But Obama did run for office in part to keep the unemployment rate from rising to -- and staying above 10 percent. And his pursuit of that end has aligned the president with the fat cats.


Bur for indirect government policies to boost spending, they must boost asset prices--especially long-term, risky asset prices. And guess who owns the most long-term, risky assets? Guess who benefits most when those long-term, risky asset prices rise?

Yep. It's fat-cat bankers. That's what fat-cat bankers do: they raise money--mostly by borrowing--from people who want to keep their wealth liquid and relatively safe, and they use this money to buy long-term risky assets, relying on their technical skill and judgment to preserve a margin between what they are paid by borrowers and what they must pay, in turn, to their creditors.

In a crisis like the present, if you avoid the nationalization and extravagant deficit-spending route, and you still succeed in avoiding persistent mass unemployment, you will have done so by a process that boosts asset prices and enriches fat-cat bankers.

The fact that the policies you undertake to avoid persistent mass unemployment also help fat-cat bankers doesn't mean that you can¹t implement other policies to place burdens on them. Progressive income and wealth taxes, tight capital and regulatory requirements, impositions of enormous risk on financiers in order to remove the possibility that they will retain their wealth even as their organizations go bankrupt these are all policies that make fat-cat bankers' lives less fat and less feline. And I am strongly in favor of enacting all of these long-term structural reforms.

But there¹s no point in pretending that the policies that avoid persistent mass unemployment are not the same policies that enrich fat-cat bankers. They are. At this moment, what is good for JPMorganChase is good for America -- and vice versa.

In effect, Obama did run for office to help out a bunch of fat-cat bankers on Wall Street. He just may not have realized it at the time.

He can ridicule them, though. Makes 'em mad.

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Courage, Johnny Hallyday

Supermaxed out boogey men

Line of the day comes from Roy, commenting on the fears of our "belligerati," that the Guantanamo convicts will intimidate the guards at our supermax prisons, releasing these gibbering madmen into the streets of rural Illinois:

Our cons teach them to make Pruno, they teach ours to make jihad!


Lieberman gets everything wrong

Lieberman opposed Medicare buy-in for adults aged 55-64 -- something he'd supported only three months ago -- because the "patriarch of the public option" had suggested that it was "a dream; better than the public option."

Turned out the "patriarch," Yale professor Jacob S. Hacker, claims he said no such thing.

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Lieberman included Mr. Hacker in the camp of people who favored the Medicare expansion: “Jacob Hacker, who’s a Yale professor who is actually the man who created the public option, said: ‘This is a dream. This is better than a public option. This is a giant step.’ ”

Mr. Hacker contradicted that characterization, saying he had made only two public statements about the Medicare expansion. And he said his praise was muted in both cases, in part because he said he did not want to suggest that the proposal was a sufficient substitute for the public plan that he has long championed.

“I am saddened that Senator Lieberman would attribute to me words I never have spoken (or thought) and even more saddened that he would suggest that he made such a fundamental decision on the basis of what I didn’t say.”

In one of those statements, an interview broadcast Dec. 9 on “News Hour” on PBS, Mr. Hacker called the Medicaid-expansion proposal “an enormous positive development.” He added: “It’s actually the original idea, if you will, for the public option, simply letting people get into the Medicare program that provides broad, secure coverage at an affordable price.”


Re-start would mean no start at all

Kevin Drum speaks sense to those (I'm looking at you, Howard Dean), who think that since the Health care bill does not achieve all that we'd like it to, specifically a weakened public option, that Congress should start over.

If healthcare reform dies this year, it dies for a good long time. Say what you will about the Democratic leadership, but Harry Reid, Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi, and Steny Hoyer all know this perfectly well. So do John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. (Boy do they know it.) But if it passes, here's what we get:

* Insurers have to take all comers. They can't turn you down for a preexisting condition or cut you off after you get sick.
* Community rating. Within a few broad classes, everyone gets charged the same amount for insurance.
* Individual mandate. I know a lot of liberals hate this, but how is it different from a tax? And its purpose is sound: it keeps the insurance pool broad and insurance rates down.
* A significant expansion of Medicaid.
* Subsidies for low and middle income workers that keeps premium costs under 10% of income.
* Limits on ER charges to low-income uninsured emergency patients.
* Caps on out-of-pocket expenses.
* A broad range of cost-containment measures.
* A dedicated revenue stream to support all this.

What's more, for the first time we get a national commitment to providing healthcare coverage for everyone. It won't be universal to start, unfortunately, but it's going to be a lot easier to get there once the marker is laid down. That's how every other country has done it, and that's how we did it with Social Security and Medicare, both of which had big gaps in coverage when they were first passed.

But if we don't pass it, we don't get any of this. Not now, and not for a long time. Instead of being actual liberals, we'll just be playing ones on TV.
This is not the "collapse of health care reform," as Dean so hysterically puts it. There's still a great deal of heavy lifting to do, especially if they hold firm to getting it out of the Senate by Christmas. Let's get this thing done and stop carping about.

UPDATE: Nate Silver is also speaking sense to those that would kill the bill.

UPDATE 2: As for Dean, he may be implementing his diabolical plan to get the bill passed by fooling the Liebermans of the world into thinking he hates it. My brain hurts.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I'm not sure I get this trade either, from the Phillies' point of view. They traded prospects for Cliff Lee at the trading deadline last summer when the prospects demanded by Toronto for Halladay were too high a price. Now they're trading many of those same top prospects and Lee in a three team deal to get Halladay. Am I missing something*?

*Apparently, the Phillies' negotiations with Lee over a contract extension weren't going well. But that still leaves the Phillies where they were yesterday: with an ace and a bunch of mediocrity in the rest of the rotation.


Eyes on the prize

I'm done kvetching about Lieberman's sanctimoniousness and narcissism, only to point out that killing Medicare buy-in for people aged 55-64 could be used to hurt him among one of his prime demographics in 2012. People I trust on this matter say it's a good bill, not a great one, but a good one that accomplishes many of the goals we started out hoping for.

That said, does Reid have 60 votes even with Joementum?


Monday, December 14, 2009

Venomous? That's unfair to snakes

In a curious intra-paper spat, Charles Lane calls the Whambulence for poor ol' Joe, whom Ezra Klein had earlier accused of killing thousands with his "principled" stand against any compromise on a health care bill. Lane doesn't dispute any of Klein's accusations, nor the study that ties lack of insurance to the deaths of thousand. As an argument against Klein's point, I'd say "Fail." To wit:

Joe Lieberman is an odd political duck, to put it mildly. I understand that he seems to bear a grudge against the Democratic liberals who tried to unseat him in 2006 because of his vote for the war in Iraq, and that he might be engaged in a little pay back right now. Perhaps he's shilling for his home state insurance interests, as if no other senator would ever do such a thing.

But his position on the Medicare buy-in is hardly beyond the pale. That's more than you can say for Ezra Klein's venomous post.

Actually, I come to the opposite conclusions. As evidence, I give you Joe Lieberman three months ago.

I wondered when Lieberman initially supported the compromise that included the Medicare buy-in provision. Lieberman had previously stated that he opposed the public option because...well, for a myriad of reasons...but in particular because it would "hurt providers." To many providers, Medicare buy-in is even more onorous than a public option (which would do little, if anything, to hurt providers and was, in fact supported by a majority of them).

But Lieberman was okay with it, before he realized late last week that liberals in the party were themselves actually okay with the compromise. Truth is, I'm pretty certain Lieberman doesn't even think through the provisions he opposes because his opposition is sensitively calculated only to the feelings of whom he perceives as his political opponents.

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For Senators Lieberman and Nelson

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Blue Monday, Junior Wells edition

It's Ned Lamont's fault, clearly

The only explanation: Lieberman will kill any health care bill supported by liberals.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Today in links

Applying science to drug policy decisions? Never happen.

Belief in God is a requirement to enter political office in North Carolina.

Proof that beer bottles are effective skull crackers. Empties are better than full bottles, fortunately. And, by the way, kudos to the Times for including icons in their annual "Year in Ideas" edition to help find a story read in the pulp edition on their website.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cage death match

One of the by-products of the Thers Tintin smackdown.


Peering over the edge, or, The Imp of the Perverse

Steve Benen is shocked by the results of polls that indicate most Americans are more concerned with lowering the deficit than with boosting the economy.

I'm not. Rare is the day when we don't hear some politician or pundit wringing his or her hands over the rising deficit and the interest we'll be paying on it (somewhere, down the line, when interest rates aren't historically low, they usually don't add). Rarely are these serious people called, as Benen calls the poll respondents, "crazy." As on cue, I just heard President McCain railing against the just barely passed omnibus spending bill, connecting a rise in government spending (that's non-defense spending, of course) with the fact that people are out of work. He did not explain the connection, but there you have it.

But it also points to the failure of economists and government officials to explain well why fiscal stimulus -- not deficit reduction -- is still needed to put people back to work. We're just not very good at it, and instead take it for granted that it's been historically proven, that economics does offer models for these things that have mostly been born out. That failure leaves a big hole in which Republicans can drive their obstructionist truck through.

Similarly -- and similarly horrifying -- according to The Guardian's George Monbiot, the number of people who don't believe climate change is leading to a warmer planet is actually growing. Monbiot says the denial industry sows much of the confusion, but he also laments the shrugging reaction of the client science community over the leaked or hacked emails from the East Anglia climate researchers. Of course they reflect trivial personal frustrations and the desire to make data coherent, responds the scientists. But it's easy to manipulate "climategate" to undermine the scientific consensus and underscore the notion that it's all a hoax. Truth is, as with those who call evolution "just a theory," "scientific consensus doesn't seem to sway many people -- in some cases a majority of them. In the face of that the science has to be rigorous and impeccable, so a stronger reaction to the contents of those emails needs to be taken by those who care about climate change.

Whether its economists and policy makers explaining how an economy works, or scientists and policy makers explaining how carbon emissions are going to cause incredible economic and political dislocation only a few years in the future, better stories are needed to be told, and we need to stop reacting to those who deny evidence that is before their eyes by slapping our foreheads and calling them "crazy."

On climate change, it occurs to me, we might start by stealing a page from the deficit hawks who've effectively convinced a great many people that deficits are "stealing our children's future."

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Friday, December 11, 2009

The people in the front row



That Rolling Stone would continue to employ a pale imitation of Hunter Thompson who can't get basic facts straight shows just how far that publication has fallen.

Look, there is plenty to be disappointed by with the administration's approach to the stimulus, job creation, and financial regulation (not to mention things like executive privilege), but Taibbi's hysterical, "meandering conspiracy," doesn't so much as graze reality. Governing's tough, and there are always choices to be made, but they are not always between "good" and "evil."

His father, a real reporter, must be so proud.


Mythical Republicanism

I'd like to see Baucus go as well, but now I remember why I never read Megan McArdle.

I'm sorry, I tried to be all breezy and cynical about this, but it's time for Democrats to tell Max Baucus that it's time for him to resign. Not because he had an affair with an employee, which doesn't bother me as long as it doesn't bother the employee. But nominating your girlfriend for US Attorney, and then withdrawing the nomination when a paper says they're about to break the story, clearly indicates that you know it's unsavory. Say what you want about Republicans, but they have a much better sense than their opponents of when it's time to grab one of their own and throw him off the sled to the wolves running behind.

Curiously, she provides no examples of Republicans grabbing "one of their own and throw him off the sled to the wolves running behind." She can't write nuther.


"One big overblown latke."

Quote of the day (on the "controversy" over the White House Hanukkah celebration), from Rabbi Levi Shemtov:

“I feel that we need to save our communal kvetching in reserve for when it’s more called for and really matters."

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Blind Willie McTell


No, we haven't forgotten the Bush surplus

Speaking of "re-writing history," I give you the Corner's Victor Davis Herodotus Thucydides Hanson:

The Trumanization of Bush? A Public Policy poll lists that an astounding 44 percent of those interviewed said they would now prefer George W. Bush to President Obama. Bush's post-9/11 security protocols kept us safe, Iraq will probably work, and his regrettable deficits and big spending proposals like No Child Left Behind and the prescription-drug benefit, in comparison to the ongoing $1.7 trillion deficts and the $9 trillion more slated to come in the next few years, make Bush seem almost fiscally sound. Maybe the public also sees Bush's post-presidential magnanimity quite in contrast with Obama's tawdry whines about the prior administration. In other words, I think Obama will have to drop "Bush did it" — since it seems to be creating nostalgia in comparison to the current alternative of bows, deficits, apologies, and Chicago cronyism — and far more still to come.
Don't know about you, but I'd forgotten that Bush left office with a budget surplus. Global peace, I reckon, too.

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The Obama doctrine

From his Nobel Prize speech (full transcript here).

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there's nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing naïve -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower.

But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions -- not just treaties and declarations -- that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another -- that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldier's courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause, to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.

So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly inreconcilable truths -- that war is sometimes necessary, and war at some level is an expression of human folly. Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy called for long ago. "Let us focus," he said, "on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions." A gradual evolution of human institutions.


This brings me to a second point -- the nature of the peace that we seek. For peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based on the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting.

It was this insight that drove drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War. In the wake of devastation, they recognized that if human rights are not protected, peace is a hollow promise.

And yet too often, these words are ignored. For some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are somehow Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation's development. And within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists -- a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values around the world.

I reject these choices. I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent-up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence. We also know that the opposite is true. Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America's interests -- nor the world's -- are served by the denial of human aspirations.

So even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear that these movements -- these movements of hope and history -- they have us on their side.

Let me also say this: The promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach -- condemnation without discussion -- can carry forward only a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.


Third, a just peace includes not only civil and political rights -- it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.

It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine and shelter they need to survive. It does not exist where children can't aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.

And that's why helping farmers feed their own people -- or nations educate their children and care for the sick -- is not mere charity. It's also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, more famine, more mass displacement -- all of which will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and environmental activists who call for swift and forceful action -- it's military leaders in my own country and others who understand our common security hangs in the balance.

So, which is it, Dear Reader: "Could have been Bush," or, "PC anti-Americanism for his European overlords?" I'm a trifle confused.

Based on the criticism I've read, I'm guessing their attention spans wouldn't permit them making it past the fifth paragraph.

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But...what about Grenada? Vietnam? Panama? Korea?

Over at the The Corner, it takes two of their writers to conclude that the Nobel speech was an utter failure because Obama failed to list the latest war in Iraq as a just one.

As far as the re-writing of history is concerned, there was the predictable, and increasingly tiresome, criticism of the Bush administration — particularly unfortunate when speaking to a global audience in a foreign city. In this regard, in describing the need to use force legitimately — a key element of both the just-war theory and international law governing self-defense — President Obama identified the war in Afghanistan and the first Gulf War as examples. The 2003 Iraq War was conspicuously absent from this list. Indeed, in case his listeners somehow missed the point, the only thing that the president said about the Iraq War is that it “is winding down.”

I ridicule these people for being unable to let go of their notion of Iraq II as a great and glorious crusade in which they fight from the sidelines, but..."re-writing history?" By omitting a war that he has long opposed as, rightly so, "stupid," and counter to our national interests, how is that "re-writing history?" I can't believe that slipped past K-Lo's brilliant blue pen.


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Gail Collins expertly performs her role of making Maureen Dowd look insightful.

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