Saturday, November 28, 2009

A different world

Never mind that the husband of his former employer repeatedly used terrorist attacks in other countries as opportunities to proclaim solidarity with other freedom-loving countries, while at the same time subtly and not so subtly advancing the notion that the terrorists are attacking "over there." Andrew Malcolm now claims that Obama's condolences to Russia for a possible terrorist attack is "not presidential." And unlike George W. Bush, who would never use such events as political and score-settling opportunities, the Obama administration just can't resist.

Oh well.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Remember when a White House's idea of a good joke was a video about Barney the dog looking for WMD? Good times.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Clearly, these kids are just smart asses

In listening to the coverage of health care reform and reading today's NYT, I've been trying to figure out how to articulate a point. Of course, the wunderkinds beat me to it: what if it required a filibuster-proof super-majority and a CBO report attesting to its deficit neutrality to escalate involvement in Afghanistan?

All I've listened to today is hand-wringing lamentations of the dire effect on our national debt of health care reform and those oh-so-scary-the-baby-boomers-are-coming-entitlement programs, as though our two wars are paid for out of some special endowment set up specifically for the purpose.

I guess the Pentagon has the lock box Gore wanted for Social Security.

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In these great times

This, I actually read today...

Worries for Gosselin kids' future

While Jon and Kate's squabbles get attention, a blogger worries what all this will mean for the kids.

Ah yes, the Yahoo TV Blog.

Perhaps it's best we don't have fiber optic cable wiring every house in America, with almost unlimited bandwidth.



Never mind the assumption that supporting health care reform is obviously "risky," if more Democrats were as unambiguous as Senator Bennett (D-CO) in stating that good policy is more important to them than keeping their jobs, it could change the dynamic completely. It would be harder to paint Democrats as "spineless," and would put the "centrists" in the spotlight as preferring status quo rather than real improvements in people's lives, which, ya know, is the central point of being a member of the Democratic Party.


Little Acorns

The pulp edition of this story in The Times, regarding potential higher interest rates on U.S. debt, had this sub-headline:

At $700 Billion a Year, Cost Will Top Budgets for 2 Wars, Education and Energy

Fascinating, but a couple of things:

  1. Isn't the budgets for Education and Energy dwarfed by the budget for 2 wars?
  2. Isn't the budget for 2 wars (and massive Bush tax cuts -- not to mention prescription drug benefits that didn't require drug companies to negotiate or allow seniors to purchase their drugs from other countries, i.e., free trade) the significant source of our current U.S. debt?
Just sayin'.

And then there's this little bit of folksy wisdom from Bill Gross, all-around genius:

“What a good country or a good squirrel should be doing is stashing away nuts for the winter,” said William H. Gross, managing director of the Pimco Group, the giant bond-management firm. “The United States is not only not saving nuts, it’s eating the ones left over from the last winter.”

There haven't been any "nuts" to save since George W. Bush took a projected budget surplus and drove it into the basement, taking out the water heater and the sump pump. And no mention by Gross of how he and his funds benefited from TARP, or how he has tried to influence Treasury in the lackluster idea of the "Public-Private Investment Fund."

But remember, Gross seems to be saying, the problem lies in your curls.

The headline of one of the NYT stories linked to above has as its headline, "Bill Gross of Pimco Is on Treasury's Speed Dial." He seems to be on NYT reporters' speed dial as well.

But beyond that, the shoddiness of this story is exemplified by this, the implication that the U.S. has been a sub-prime borrower:

“The government is on teaser rates,” said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group that advocates lower deficits. “We’re taking out a huge mortgage right now, but we won’t feel the pain until later.”

Please. Dean Baker, reliably, has more.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Creep show

Charles Blow tells creep show Congressman, John Shadegg (R-Craven and Repulsive) that, thanks, but we can handle it from here, asshole.

Representative John Shadegg of Arizona really knows how to put on a show.

Earlier this month, he used a live baby as part of a quasi-ventriloquist act on the House floor. Creepy? Yes. Still, we let it slide.

But he doesn’t get two passes in a row. Monday, he took a swipe at Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City for saying that the city could handle the security for the trial of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

Shadegg sniped, “I saw the mayor of New York today said ‘We’re tough. We can do it.’ Well mayor, how are you going to feel when it’s your daughter that’s kidnapped, at school, by a terrorist?”

Say what you will about New Yorkers, but question our toughness, you will not.

Whether a civil or military trial would provide the best chances of securing a conviction while simultaneously signaling to the world a righting of America’s moral compass is a fair debate. But questioning whether New York City can handle the trial is an insult.

(By the way, what’s with this business of the mayor’s daughter being kidnapped? It sounds like the plot of a Jackie Chan movie.)


Free agency

A typically terrific post by Doug Glanville, on his own experience of the insecurity and promise of free agency.

Glanville had a good year at Texas in 2003 (as a platoon based on his PAs), and he was traded to the Cubs during their pennant drive (and lost in heartbreaking fashion in the NLCS. Traded back to the Phillies in 2004, the end of his career.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

History made on a Saturday

It's Saturday afternoon and we have just come closer to achieving the 60 year Democratic goal of universal health care and meaningful reform then we've ever before come in this country.

How much do you want to bet the consensus on the Sunday morning idiot shows will be why this is good news for Republicans and, of course, President McCain?

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Lies that destroy good policy

So, it turns out that there is a growing consensus among economists that the stimulus, while not as big as it should have been, has done pretty well.

These long-running arguments have flared now that the White House and Congressional leaders are talking about a new “jobs bill.” But with roughly a quarter of the stimulus money out the door after nine months, the accumulation of hard data and real-life experience has allowed more dispassionate analysts to reach a consensus that the stimulus package, messy as it is, is working.

The legislation, a variety of economists say, is helping an economy in free fall a year ago to grow again and shed fewer jobs than it otherwise would. Mr. Obama’s promise to “save or create” about 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010 is roughly on track, though far more jobs are being saved than created, especially among states and cities using their money to avoid cutting teachers, police officers and other workers.

“It was worth doing — it’s made a difference,” said Nigel Gault, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, a financial forecasting and analysis group based in Lexington, Mass.

Mr. Gault added: “I don’t think it’s right to look at it by saying, ‘Well, the economy is still doing extremely badly, therefore the stimulus didn’t work.’ I’m afraid the answer is, yes, we did badly but we would have done even worse without the stimulus.”

Certainly, economists who feared the package was too small were probably right and the administration's forecasts were probably too rosy, but all in all, preventing what looked like at the time as an inevitable "Great Recession," seems to have been accomplished.

Among Democrats in the White House and Congress, “there was a considerable amount of hand-wringing that it was too small, and I sympathized with that argument,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s and an occasional adviser to lawmakers.

Even so, “the stimulus is doing what it was supposed to do — it is contributing to ending the recession,” he added, citing the economy’s third-quarter expansion by a 3.5 percent seasonally adjusted annual rate. “In my view, without the stimulus, G.D.P. would still be negative and unemployment would be firmly over 11 percent. And there are a little over 1.1 million more jobs out there as of October than would have been out there without the stimulus.”

Politically, however, the president is saddled with his original claim that, with the stimulus, the jobless rate would peak at 8.1 percent — a miscalculation that Republicans constantly recall. While the administration has said its economic assumptions were in line with private forecasts, most of which also underestimated the recession’s punch, it was more optimistic than most.

“That was a mistake,” said Jeffrey A. Frankel, a Harvard University economist and former Clinton administration official who is a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research panel that judges when recessions start and end. “I thought so at the time.”

Christina D. Romer, chairwoman of Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said attention to that too-rosy projection “prevents people from focusing on the positive impact of the fiscal stimulus. So of course I find that frustrating.”

Here are the charts.

Unfortunately, "it coulda been worse," is a tough political platform to embrace, particularly as foreclosures continue to rise and job creation remains elusive.

But making things worse has been the ongoing drumbeat of Republicans who, as Romer understates, prevent us from focusing on the positive. Quite the contrary.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio, citing the growing unemployment rate, said Sunday the president's economic stimulus program has done nothing but increase the size of government. He said businesses are "sitting on their hands" because of government spending and proposals for health care and other initiatives he contended would increase taxes.

"Business people are afraid to invest in their business, afraid to grow their business, because they don't know what's going to happen next," Boehner said on CNN's "State of the Union."

All to be expected, I suppose. He is, the "leader" of the opposition. But the mendaciousness, and the constant argument against government stimulus to help jump start a stalled economy, showing either ignorance or cynicism...or both... has no doubt fed into poll results that show 51% of Americans think that canceling the rest of the stimulus would create more jobs. Which is...insane. But reflects the talking points of the Republican Party.

We're seeing a similar dynamic in the recent suggestions that women wait to begin having mammograms until fifty, and to delay pap smears until later in life (I realize I'm simplifying the recommendations in my haste). Although the recommendations are years in the making and are the results of numerous studies, Republicans have inevitably pounced on them as proof of Democrats' dastardly plans to "ration" health care and that effectiveness research -- a key aspect of health care reform -- will result in denying life-saving tests and procedures in order to save money. Despite the fact that medical effectiveness, not cost-effectiveness is the only thing mentioned in the recommendations.

These are medical recommendations, not directives, and women can make informed choices on what types of preventive medicine they want (especially if they have health care, something Republicans are pretty set on denying them anyway). They are intended to empower women, not deny them of care. But instead it's science be damned. Let's react to these recommendations as if they were political slogans of the other party. It feeds the distrust people have towards the medical community and government in general, making the possibility of informed, useful policy decisions more and more difficult.




Sorry for the paucity of posts, but in between demands that I perform "work" for my "employer," I've been on a trip through the world of dental specialists -- an endodontist, a periodontist, an oral surgeon, back to the periodontist -- all in pursuit of stopping the pain of an abscess and still hold on to my rear lower molar. The journey included the fascinating development of a shard of bone, chipped off from the bone where the abscess was doing its evil work, working its way through the gum tissue and emerging like a spicule to rip at my tongue every time I chewed, talked, and, oh yeah, swallowed. This led, on Thursday, to the oral surgeon who, despite not being able to see anything really wrong with the vital tooth, was all ready to extract it. But I resisted and instead went back to the periodontist to have her look below the gum line to see if the damage to the tooth could be found, fully expecting that she'd extract the tooth in the end anyway.

It could not be found. But she removed all the bone shards and determined that the tooth seems fine and there it remains in my mouth this morning. The bad news is she really doesn't know, then, what caused the abscess and infection that caused the initial pain, maybe a fracture in the jaw caused by a childhood chin plant or the removal of my wisdom teeth thirty years ago.

I and my tooth are doing fine.

While the journey was a fascinating look at the marvels of modern dental equipment, including the very cool panoramic x-ray (weird to see my entire jaw bone, roots of all my teeth, and what I think is the stem of my brain), all of this was done "out-of-network," so I now look forward to, in addition to a week or so of eating soft foods (good thing turkey is the worst tasting edible meat in the world), months of dealing with insurance claims.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Noblesville, Indiana

Via Doghouse, I bring you this snapshot on those people to whom Bob Somberby insists we must pay attention.

He pointed out that the statement about Allah did not have a question mark behind it, so he did not think it was an attack. However, Parker also said the church does not have punctuation lettering for the sign.



Well, it looks like watching the Knicks this season isn't going to be more interesting after all.




Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Must be Santa

Nothing says Klezmer Christmas like Bob Dylan.


Make it stop

Is it me, or is The Atlantic's "Voices'" obsession with ex-gov. Palin and her photos a trifle weird.

Based on the comment trails for Ta-Nehisi, I guess his readers are in to it, but still.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Misunderstanding populism

First, let's get this out of the way:

As for the theory of evolution, the most she really asks is that both sides of the discussion be taught.

And that from a dude
who proclaims himself a proud atheist?

And what he calls "populists," Riley explains, we call "Republicans." Those from whom George W. Bush never lacked support, even as his polling numbers with the rest of the country scaped Nixonian lows.

Politics isn't about achieving anything for these people--not anything positive, which has proven to be too damn hard without making concessions to what Nabokov called "reality"--it's about the home team winning. It's about jabbing a stick in the eye of anything that moves differently than they do. Real populism is the last thing they, or Palin, or her PR team, would want.

Exactly. What Palin enjoys in popularity is largely the belief, generally a wrong-headed one, that she pisses liberals off.


Ceding the high moral ground is never a good idea

Jeffrey Toobin explains the long history of abortion (and yes, Scalia, it existed when the Founders were writing the Constitution) and why the Stupak amendment is such a threat to women's rights.

A clear understanding of the structure of the health-care proposals currently under consideration shows why the Stupak amendment is such a threat to abortion rights. At the heart of the proposals is the idea of an exchange, where consumers will be able to select among competing insurance plans. Theoretically, the exchange will increase consumer choice, promote competition, and (somewhat more theoretically) lower costs for everyone. If there is a public option, it will be offered through the exchange. At first, many of the people using the exchange will be those who are unable to pay for health insurance on their own. For them, the government will offer a sliding scale of subsidies. It is largely these subsidies which will increase the availability of insurance; estimates of how many people will gain coverage vary, but it may be close to forty million.

Restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion go back to the Hyde amendment, which became law more than thirty years ago; for example, there has long been a ban on abortions under Medicaid or in military hospitals. But the implications of the Stupak amendment are broader, because of the structure of the exchange. To start with, Stupak states that anyone who buys insurance with a government subsidy cannot choose a plan that covers abortion, even if that person receives only a small subsidy, and even if only a tiny portion of the full premium goes for abortion care. And the influence of the amendment reaches beyond the recipients of federal subsidies. Stupak would prohibit the public option from offering any plans that cover abortion. Further, it is expected that each year more Americans will use the exchange, including people who don’t need subsidies, but under the Stupak amendment insurance companies would have no incentive to offer those people coverage for abortion services, since doing so might cost them the business of subsidized customers. Today, most policies cover abortion; in a post-Stupak world, they probably won’t. With a health-care plan that is supposed to increase access and lower costs, the opposite would be true with respect to abortion. And that, of course, is what legislators like Stupak want—to make abortions harder, and more expensive, to obtain. Stupak and his allies were willing to kill the whole bill to get their way; the liberals in the House were not.

Toobin quotes Justice Ginsberg, "abortion rights 'center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.'”

As for the politics of the issue, Scott Lemieux observes, "The idea that anti-choicers don't actually want to legally restrict abortion for poor people but just want Democratic politicians to give them a pat on the head makes no sense in theory and is pretty clearly wrong in practice."



Very useful:

In light of the latest conservative freakout over diplomatic protocol and following the rule of law, here's a handy fill-in-the-blanks statement you can use for the next one: "I am shocked and appalled that this president would take the unprecedented step of _____ before ______ on his overseas trip to _____. This fits into a familiar pattern of the Obama administration, most recently seen at home in his decision to ______, which emboldens our enemies and further pushes America into a _____ state that would have been unrecognizable just ______ months ago."

I love time-savers.


Monday, November 16, 2009

"He's with us on everything except the war," vol. 842

Last night, not far from my home, something called the Interfaith Fellowship held a candle-light vigil at Stamford High School, Smokin' Joe's alma mater and across the street from Joementum's "Stamford home." I thought about going (about 500 people did, according to the fire marshal), but eventually decided that it would be a waste of time. Lieberman long ago stopped caring what progressive Dem voters thought since he blames us for his primary defeat in '06 and assumes that only Republicans would vote for him in '12. Opposing universal health care (and specifically, a public option), helps him with his insurance industry donors and the only voters in CT that still value him. It's a two-fer for him and no amount of prayer is going to change that.

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Blue Monday, Elvis edtion

Little Walter classic.

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"With all due respect, sir, shut the fuck up"

In not so many words, David Axelrod tells Mitt Romney that the former governor is an ass.

"You know, I know that Governor Romney has never had responsibility for any decision akin to this, so he just may not be familiar with all that it entails. But I think the American people are being well served by a process that is assiduous and in which every aspect of this is considered. Because, after all, lives of American servicemen are involved here. An enormous investment on the part of the American people, we ought to get it right."

It would be an encouraging sign if we actually took the time to get our war strategies right before rushing in. It would a cold day hell for a present day conservative to appreciate that.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nuanced policy discussions

Last night on NPR, though it's not in the transcript, Davey Brooks said, in an aside, that he was "surprised" that fiscal concerns were playing into the strategy discussions of what's next in Afghanistan. No surprise there. War seems to be the one thing the federal government spends on over which conservatives feel there should be no ceiling.

At a stop at a military base in Alaska on Thursday, President Obama told a gathering of soldiers that he would not risk more lives “unless it is necessary to America’s vital interests.” He added during his visit to Tokyo on Friday that he wanted to avoid taking any step that could be seen as an “open-ended commitment.”

The administration said Friday that it planned to cut up to 5 percent at domestic agencies in fiscal 2011 as part of an effort to reduce the federal budget deficit, which rose to $1.4 trillion with the economic stimulus and financial bailouts.

Several leading Republicans have criticized Mr. Obama’s willingness to spend more freely on domestic programs and urged him to provide General McChrystal with the resources he is seeking in Afghanistan.

“Keeping our country safe: Isn’t that the first job of government?” said Senator Christopher S. Bond, a Republican from Missouri and the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “If we have just a minimalist counterterrorism strategy, the Taliban will come back over the mountains from Pakistan, and they will be followed by their co-conspirators from the Al Qaeda organization.”

The Taliban are already coming "back over the mountains from Pakistan." But that aside, how after eight years of futile war, staying there indefinitely will "keep our country safe," is not mentioned. But nuance isn't the thing for the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.


Nothing "common" about them

The New York Times gets it right.

Mr. Holder said those prisoners would be prosecuted in federal court in Manhattan. It was an enormous victory for the rule of law, a major milestone in Mr. Obama’s efforts to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and an important departure from Mr. Bush’s disregard for American courts and their proven ability to competently handle high-profile terror cases. If he and Vice President Dick Cheney had shown more faith in the laws and the Constitution, the alleged mass murderers would have faced justice much earlier.

Republican lawmakers and the self-promoting independent senator from Connecticut, Joseph Lieberman, pounced on the chance to appear on television. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they said military tribunals are a more secure and appropriate venue for trying terrorism suspects. Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a former judge who should have more regard for the law, offered the absurd claim that Mr. Obama was treating the 9/11 conspirators as “common criminals.”

There is nothing common about them — or Mr. Holder’s decision. Putting the five defendants on public trial a few blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center is entirely fitting. Experience shows that federal courts are capable of handling high-profile terrorism trials without comprising legitimate secrets, national security or the rule of law. Mr. Bush’s tribunals failed to hold a single trial.

Left unmentioned is the absolutely predictable rise of the Giuli911 and the absolutely predictable failure of the media to call bullshit on him.

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The pet goat operations manual

Friday, November 13, 2009

Filibuster fever

Catch it.

And remember what happened last time?

Democrats, angered by the continued filibuster, forced Republicans to stay on the floor around the clock. As time continued, Senate Majority leader Robert Byrd (D-WV) used a little known provision to order the Senators to the floor at 12:30 in the morning. When Republicans refused to heed the order, Byrd used another provision to compel the hold-outs.

"Madame President, I move that the Seargent-at-Arms be instructed to arrest absent senators and bring them to floor," Byrd said.

Many Republicans fled from the Sergeant-at-Arms and at one point Senator Bob Packwood (R-OR) was bodily carried onto the floor of the Senate.

A report on the ensuing search was published in The Washington Post on February 25, 1988:

Shortly before midnight, [Sergeant-at-Arms Henry K.] Giugni and five armed Capitol Police plainsclothesmen began scouring senators' hideaways in the Capitol and their suites in nearby office buildings. They spotted Senator Steven Symms (R-ID), but he fled before they could apprehend him.

Giugni found Senator Lowell P. Weicker Jr (R-CT) in his hideaway. Weicker, a man of formidable size and temper, refused to submit. Giugni, who was later praised by all sides for his poise under fire, decided to look elsewhere.

This brought his to Packwood, who -- having heard that the Giugni posse was on the prowl -- had locked the doors of his Russell Building office, barricading one of them with a chair. But Giugni had a passkey and entered the outer office. Packwood, hearing the intruders, jammed his shoulder against his door just as Giugni was coming through, reinjuring a finger that he had broken two weeks ago in Oregon.

Republicans denounced Senator Byrd's actions and expressed outrage at the arrest order and at Sen. Packwood's injury in particular.

"Senator's Packwood fingers will heal, but I don't know if the United States Senate will heal," said Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) on the floor the next day. "The scar tissue is going very deep at this time in the life of the Senate as a result of what happened yesterday."

Now that would make for some compelling C-Span.

And remember where the word "filibuster" comes from.

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Straight, no chaser



Um, ew.

As you may or may not know, Thune is the junior senator from South Dakota, the man who beat Tom Daschle in an epic campaign five years ago. The first thing everybody knows about him is that he is tall (6 feet 4 inches), tanned (in a prairie, sun-chapped sort of way) and handsome (John McCain jokes that if he had Thune’s face he’d be president right now). If you wanted a Republican with the same general body type and athletic grace as Barack Obama, you’d pick Thune.

Except he's, ya know, not black.

John Cole puts it best: "...why do so many profiles of Republican presidential candidates read like soft-core gay male pornography (not that there’s anything wrong with that)?"

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The free market is good for thee but not for me

They don't have a revenue problem, they have a spending problem.

UPDATE to provide a link.


Soiling their pants

The reaction was predictable, but like Steve Benen, I'm not exactly certain what Boehner and the equally repulsive Peter King are afraid of. That Federal detention facilities in NYC aren't up to the job? That the socialistnazis citizenry of New York will rise up in solidarity with him and demand his immediate release? Or that KSM is impervious to bullets and can penetrate solid walls?

Major Strasser: Are you one of those people who cannot imagine the Germans in their beloved Paris?
Rick: It's not particularly my beloved Paris.
Heinz: Can you imagine us in London?
Rick: When you get there, ask me!
Captain Renault: Hmmh! Diplomatist!
Major Strasser: How about New York?
Rick: Well there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade.

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Doc Ellis and the no-no

Better than Greece, Turkey

Facts have a liberal bias.

Seeking to make the case for less government involvement in health care, a brief analysis (PDF) by the Joint Economic Committee’s ranking Republican, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, in September compared the rate of health care spending growth in the United States with the 29 other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development from 1997 to 2006. The analysis noted that on average the rate of growth was lower in the United States than in countries in the O.E.C.D.

Since the United States is one of the few nations with a largely private health care system, Mr. Brownback’s memorandum concluded that countries with primarily government-run systems often do a worse job controlling cost growth than does the United States. The conclusion is that giving government more control over health care here would be a big mistake.

It is an idea with wide appeal, but these data, at least, do not support it. “They extrapolate from one statistic to make conclusions about how comparative systems work that are at odds with what the broader evidence shows,” said Richard Saltman, a professor of health policy at Emory University, who has published an online critique of Mr. Brownback’s memorandum.


The 5.9 percent rate of spending growth in the United States is below the O.E.C.D. average of 6.6 percent, but the 30 countries in that group represent a broad continuum of economic development. Many of the nations with higher spending growth rates, like Greece and Turkey, are poorer countries that until recently spent very little on health care, said Gerard Anderson, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Those countries are trying to make up for their lack of investment.

The picture looks quite different when one compares our growth rate with that in countries similar to ours, with higher incomes and higher costs but more government involvement. Health care spending in these countries — France, Germany, Japan and Switzerland, among others — actually grew more slowly than in the United States. “Economically competitive countries are able to control their costs better than we can,” Mr. Anderson said.

Republicans need to try harder.


Bring 'em on

Appropriately (and about time), the 9/11 "mastermind" will be brought to justice where the trial belongs, in New York City.

New York City has been different. In March, for example, when the administration prepared to bring Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a suspect in the 1998 bombings of United States embassies in Africa that killed 224 people, to face trial there, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said the city was well-accustomed to handling high-profile terror suspects.

“Bottom line is we have had terrorists housed in New York before,” Mr. Schumer said at a March news conference at the Capitol with other Democratic leaders. “They’ve been housed safely.”

Mr. Schumer at the time pointed to the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted on terrorism-related charges in New York. “The main concern is bringing these terrorists to justice and making sure the public is safe,” Mr. Schumer said. “I have faith that the administration will do both.”

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dante's inferno

In which circle would you put this guy?

Schultheis voted in February against a bill requiring pregnant women to be tested for AIDS to prevent spreading the disease to the children. He said then that infected children would set examples for women against sexual promiscuity.

For the record, I don't support "a bill requiring pregnant women to be tested for AIDS" because I believe in a right to privacy and freedom from government intrusion. It does not have anything to do with sanctimonious christianism and its brotherhood with the Taliban.

UPDATE: I take that back if the test is optional. Giving a mother more information is not a bad thing.

The state senator is still a douchebag.

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The new Taliban

Steve Coll reads a new anthology of the latest scholarship on the Taliban. He's impressed and disturbed.

Overall, the work Giustozzi has pulled together here is as up-to-date as scholarship can be. There is an emphasis on how the Taliban have evolved and changed in local settings since 2001. Equally striking, however, is the portrait that accumulates of the Taliban’s continuity. The book’s essays describe how national and provincial figures from the nineties-era Taliban government, formally known the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, remain intact and operate as a shadow administration, holding portfolios similar to their previous ones.

The Taliban were not shattered in December, 2001, and then forced to reassemble. Rather, their national government in Kabul and Kandahar retreated into exile in Pakistan, survived a relatively brief period of disarray, and then reassembled itself to return to its southern and eastern strongholds in Afghanistan.

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Greatest ad ever and coping with winter

(click to enlarge)

Meanwhile, Joe Pawlikoski has a few suggestions to help you stay sane during Hot Stove Season.

That said...Curtis Granderson is available?!

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This deliberation, this proclivity to absorb all the options, which makes John McCain batshit insane and Dick Cheney choke on the blood that fills his mouth, is one of the central reasons Obama was elected. And in Afghanistan (if anon-sourced reports can be trusted), he appears to be asking the obvious question: How does this thing end?

As Mr. Obama convened his war council for 2 hours and 20 minutes on Wednesday, the final session before departing for a trip to Asia on Thursday, he suggested he was not satisfied with his options. It was the eighth Situation Room meeting in the last two months on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and officials said Mr. Obama pressed for clarifications on a series of questions.

Where are the off-ramps for the military? What is the exit strategy? When will Americans and their allies hand responsibility to the Afghanistan government? Can the Afghan government improve its credibility?
I find that encouraging.

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How to make a holiday

(click to enlarge)

It's the day after Armistice Veterans Day, but Madam Cura wanted me to pass this along, written by a veteran of another "good" war. She writes,

It's the day after veteran's day, but all the more reason to send this along - any day is worth remembering the dismembering, the death and destruction, and the fervent wish that we can find something more constructive to spend & waste our time and energy pursuing... No?


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Space dot com redux

Lou Dobbs, martyr to the dot com bubble the undocumented alien loving politically correct.

Does anyone even know on what channel Fox Business News can be found?

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Horse shit and climate change

Elizabeth Kolbert has a terrific review of Superfreakonomics, in which she concludes,

To be skeptical of climate models and credulous about things like carbon-eating trees and cloudmaking machinery and hoses that shoot sulfur into the sky is to replace a faith in science with a belief in science fiction. This is the turn that “SuperFreakonomics” takes, even as its authors repeatedly extoll their hard-headedness. All of which goes to show that, while some forms of horseshit are no longer a problem, others will always be with us.

Paul Krugman laments
that the Times will not permit him to use such descriptive language.

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Veterans Day

Memorial Day is for soldiers who didn't make it home. Today, Veterans Day, is intended as a reminder of those who've returned from wars fought on our behalf. Although they call to mind the victims of a senseless attack, these 13 brief stories about service men and women returning home or about to be shipped out to our messes in Iraq or Afghanistan, unsuspecting in what they thought was the safety and security of the Fort Hood community, embody those who are still serving or who have returned from war, too often scarred and damaged. And yet proud.

UPDATE: Sweet.



Now, no one is more of a defender of an independent high school press than the Vega, having once been the proud editor of a suspended high school newspaper. But I'm missing the outrage here. I'm not so sure how unusual it is to ask to review attributed quotes before publication. It is certainly not uncommon (I saw it in All the President's Men, dammit!) to read something to a source and ask for factual confirmation before it's published. And frankly, given Scalia's famed openness, Kennedy is a veritable ray of sunshine. It sounds like the appearance was a waste of time, anyway...for the students.

The article itself, by Kristian Bailey, a Dalton senior and one of the paper’s editors in chief, is a straightforward account of Justice Kennedy’s biography and his wide-ranging remarks. The article is expected to be published in the paper’s next issue. Editors at The Daltonian either would not comment for this article or did not respond to requests for an interview, although a staff member provided a draft of The Daltonian’s article.

At the assembly, Justice Kennedy discussed the separation of powers, federalism, Isaac Newton (“the poster boy for the Enlightenment”) and George Washington (“the poster boy for the Constitution”), according to the article. One student quoted in the article expressed disappointment that Justice Kennedy had not had time to answer the written questions students had been asked to submit.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sportswriting versus political reporting

This piece from the Times' "Bats" demonstrates why I much prefer to read the sports page, particularly the baseball beat, then I do any of the political reporters that, figuratively, clog up the bases in the paper's A section.

At the same time, Cashman also praised Matsui’s overall body of work.

“He’s one of the game’s great R.B.I. guys,” he said. “There’s probably not too many people you’d pick to be at the plate with the game on the line ahead of him. When he’s healthy, he can perform, and thankfully for us it culminated in a world championship. He stayed healthy all year long, and it carried into the postseason.”

Matsui, who was the World Series most valuable player, is 35 and has surgically repaired knees that preclude him, the Yankees have said, from playing left field.

“As far as we’re concerned, he’s a D.H.,” Cashman said. “We don’t see outfield in the future for us.”

Those two statements by Cashman, about the danger of small sample sizes and about how the Yankees would not play Matsui in left field, demonstrate how remote a possibility it is of his returning to the Yankees. Cashman, however, is also establishing parameters for negotiations.

By ruling out the importance of the World Series in evaluating a player, he has taken away the agent Arn Tellem’s best argument for re-signing Matsui. Also, by declaring that he does not envision Matsui in the outfield, he undercuts his prospects elsewhere.

No "anonymous sources," though, admittedly, you saw a lot of those back in the Boss Steinbrenner days. The reporter doesn't take it for granted that what Cashman says is true. Matsui's knees are shot, "the Yankees have said." Context. This is why Cashman is saying what he's saying now.

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Hasan's research

Much was made of the presentation Nidal Malik Hasan gave at Walter Reed in 2007, with reports on NPR indicating -- without citing any examples -- that it was over the top and promoted Islam to an uncomfortable audience.

Dana Priest got a copy of the presentation. Seems pretty reasonable, although the unsurprising conclusion may have made army officials uncomfortable, specifically, that waging war on Muslim countries was bad for the morale of Muslims in the U.S. Army.

Does that provide a rationale or motive for the mass murder in Fort Hood last week? Hell if I know, but it does explain why U.S. investigators noted Hasan's calls to the Yemeni cleric, but ultimately felt it was connected with the ongoing research he was doing.

Major Hasan’s 10 to 20 messages to Anwar al-Awlaki, once a spiritual leader at a mosque in suburban Virginia where Major Hasan worshiped, indicate that the troubled military psychiatrist came to the attention of the authorities long before last Thursday’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood, but that the authorities left him in his post.

Counterterrorism and military officials said Monday night that the communications, first intercepted last December as part of an unrelated investigation, were consistent with a research project the psychiatrist was then conducting at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington on post-traumatic stress disorder.

That won't stop hyperventilating Congressman from demanding an investigation and blaming the Obama administration for "dragging its feet." And it won't stop Rush Limbaugh for comparing Hasan and his mosque's imam guessed it...Barack Hussein Obama and Rev. Wright.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, I'm not saying that officials couldn't be covering their collective asses on this, but the overheated reaction that, surely, this was a sure sign that 13 people were about to die is typically ridiculous.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Seasonal adjustment

Floyd Norris points out that the jobs report that caused so much gnashing of teeth last week was actually pretty positive and may be a sign the economy is really turning around.

At least for some people.

In reality, the government report says unemployment rates remained steady at 9.5 percent. And the number of jobs actually rose, by 80,000. And the number of jobs for college educated Americans rose more than in any month in the last six years.

If those were the numbers in the articles, we would hear about the economy stabilizing, and talk about the Obama stimulus plan starting to have the intended effect.

So why is this the first time you’ve seen those better-looking numbers? It is because the government adjusted them before they were released.

The adjustments are for seasonality. For some reason, October is the month with the largest seasonal adjustment down in jobs. So the increase in the unemployment rate does not reflect people actually losing jobs. It reflects the belief that seasonal factors should have added more jobs than they did.

All this may be very reasonable, and there is no way I can think of to test whether the seasonal adjustments are reliable. But I suspect seasonal factors are less important this year, when the economy may be changing directions, than they normally are.

Studying the unadjusted numbers provides some indication that the hiring is starting to improve for better jobs. The number of jobs for college graduates, according to the household survey, rose 755,000 in October, before seasonal adjustments. That is the third-largest increase since the government started counting those figures, in 1992. (It trails increases of 895,000 in February 2002 and 755,000 in October 2003.)

On the other hand, the number of jobs fell for those with less education. If this report does indicate that the job recession is ending, it is an end that is providing immediate benefits for the educated, not for many of the people who most need help.


Family ties

How much money has the Lieberman family earned from the health care industry?

At the time she joined the public relations and lobbying conglomerate in the spring of 2005, she expressed the touching hope that she would somehow be able to help those in need. "I have had a lifelong commitment to helping people gain better healthcare," she said in a press release. "I am excited about the opportunity to work with the talented team at Hill & Knowlton to counsel a terrific stable of clients toward that same goal." Less than a year later, having pocketed $77,000 in salary, she quit without explanation -- just as her husband was facing a tough primary that he would eventually lose. Throughout the campaign, Hadassah Lieberman, her husband and their spokespersons explicitly refused to discuss her professional activities, except to note that she had not been required to register as a lobbyist.

To be fair, Hadassah no longer works as a health care lobbyist. That's not the case for another "centrist" who may vote to filibuster a health care bill.

The best that can be said about the Lieberman family's conflict of interest is that it appears to have ended in 2005 -- while the Bayh family continues to collect enormous amounts of money from the same health insurance and drug companies that will benefit from her husband’s actions. Indeed, the smell of ethical rot arising from the Bayh household is even worse than the self-serving aroma that surrounds the Liebermans.

Susan Bayh was invited to join the board of Wellpoint back in 1998, when the Indiana-based company was still called Anthem Insurance and had not yet completed the mergers that made it the largest health insurer in America (and gave it monopoly status in many regions of the country). According to her official biography on Wellpoint's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, her qualifications to sit on the board of a billion-dollar corporation were minimal, to put it politely. She was 38 years old, teaching law at a local university, with limited experience as a corporate attorney at Eli Lilly & Co., the big pharmaceutical company that is also headquartered in Indiana. But then her husband, Evan, after two terms as governor, had just been elected to the United States Senate.

Hadassah, Conason notes, is now an "ambassador" for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. So you'd think that covering uninsured women who are most at risk from breast cancer would be something important to her. But, as we learn repeatedly, the Liebermans' moral compass often points in the opposite direction of Joe's ambition to be both the GOP's BFF and a weekly guest on the Sunday Idiot Shows.


Shocking developments

Imagine, a Republican Congressman who puts the needs of his constituents ahead of the "needs" of his party's "leadership."

Of course, his vote came at the expense of women's health.


Blue Monday, Mississippi John Hurt edition

Catholic Bishops war on poor women

Abetted by a number of House Democrats. Truly disappointing and I don't see how this gets fixed in "reconciliation," especially given that Reid's hill is a lot steeper to climb than Pelosi's.

Because of the limits placed on the exchanges, most of the participants will have some form of premium credit or affordable subsidy. That means most will be ineligible for abortion coverage. The idea that people are going to go out and purchase separate "abortion plans" is both cruel and laughable. If this amendment passes, it will mean that virtually all women with insurance through the exchange who find themselves in the unwanted and unexpected position of needing to terminate a pregnancy will not have coverage for the procedure. Abortion coverage will not be outlawed in this country. It will simply be tiered, reserved for those rich enough to afford insurance themselves or lucky enough to receive from their employers.

Once again, women's health issues are governed by stupid men.

The question is, will exchanges cover erectile drugs? See above.


Friday, November 06, 2009

The end of history

History channel historian and UC Fresno prof., Victor Davis Hanson's knowledge of U.S. history extends all the way back to the year 1992.

Nor do I think (cf. the implication of Obama's "this White House" comment) that either the Clinton or Bush White Houses "forgot" Native Americans; in fact, they actually increased spending on so-called Indian affairs and looked favorably on the multibillion-dollar Native American gaming industry.

The president has repeatedly communicated the message that various groups — African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, etc. — have been maltreated by past generations of illiberal Americans, though not by our president, who is exempt from such sins and belongs to the "ignored" and "forgotten" victim category that is forced to "struggle."

Bonus points for mentioning Obama's allegiance to the views of Bill Ayres, Rev. Wright, and some guy named Pfleger that I assume is not a chess master.

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It's like 9/11...and they couldn't be happier

The alleged Fort Hood shooter's alive, so presumably we'll learn his motives eventually at a trial, maybe even through investigative reporting (as opposed to rampant speculation). That's how we're supposed to do things in America.

Well, in my America. Not his, or theirs, or theirs.

The reason's simple, and the same as it was during 9/11: they think soiling oneself is a sign of patriotism, and consider those who pants are not full of shit to be traitors.

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Little Martha

To go from childish, unadulterated joy yesterday morning to shock and deep, deep sadness by evening...our hearts go out to the victims' families.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Cue the military music

The Wall


Just to say it, after Mary J Blige's rendition of the national anthem, I said to no one in particular, "We don't need no stinkin' fireworks at Yankee Stadium!"


1,000 words


No doubt

With five outs to go.

“I want to play for another five years,” Rivera told the fans in a postgame ceremony.

Alex on what it's all about.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The paranoid style

If you're looking for clear-eyed analysis if yesterday's election results, LGM's your spot. If you're looking for the item that best anticipates the craziness that we can expect at least through 2010, this is it.

The thing that worries me about yesterday's results is that Dems will misguidedly follow the typical Beltway analysis of this being 1.) all about Obama's lefty agenda; 2.) a warning to Dems on going "too far" on health care, climate change legislation etc.,; 3.) the electorate is swerving rightward.

All utter nonsense.

On #1, Obama's favorability is still plenty high in VA and NJ. I mean, look to New York City for a read on how a bad economy combined with an uninspired campaign ("He's capable!") left Bloomberg both $142 million less wealthy and almost out of a job despite a 20-1 advantage on spending and an equally uninspiring opposition.

On #3, turnout for off-year elections is generally low and dominated by older, wealthier, more conservative voters.

And on #2, Dems had better start delivering on progressive health care and cap & trade legislation as well as other issues meaningful to younger, more liberal voters or we'll really be lamenting the results a year from now. The voters who were energized in 2006 and propelled Obama to the White House in 2008 are not going to be inspired to vote by half-measures and compromises with Joe Lieberman.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

No jokes

Paul Waldman has an encouraging piece on the growing support for decriminalizing marijuana possession. He also adds a postscript that is sadly necessary:

Postscript: You may have noticed that this was a column about the legal status of marijuana that contained no pot jokes. Unfortunately, many reporters (not to mention bloggers) who write about this topic can't help but start their pieces by saying something like, "Fire up the skull bong and get out your copy of 'Terrapin Station'" followed by a liberal sprinkling of puns about someone "blowing smoke" or gratuitous references to the munchies. Wouldn't it be nice if we could talk about this issue like adults?

Yes, yes it would.

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Short rest

Admittedly, I took advantage of A.J.'s disastrous performance to get to bed earlier than 1 AM (Saturday's game) or Midnight (Sunday's game). Of course, I knew that, even down 8-2 at the time, the Yankees would make it interesting before the game's end, but that's the chance you take.

Taking 2 of 3 in Philly was the goal. They accomplished that. Back to the Bronx where they'll face Petey. Seems fitting.

UPDATE: Can't remember who said it about what batter, but to paraphrase, I wouldn't pitch to Chase Utley to intentionally walk him.


Wingnuttia on health care

Over the weekend, the New York Times took a look at liberal pie thrower, Alan Grayson, and wondered if he was the left's version of a wingnut. Nevermind that what Alan Grayson said to offend the sensibilities of the Times and forced Republicans to reach for the smelling salts -- that the Republicans health care plan was, "Get sick and you die" -- is essentially accurate.

So, no, Grayson is not a wingnut. This is our representative from Greater Wingnuttia:

Representative Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, warned, “I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country.”


Monday, November 02, 2009

Lee and Burnett

I'm hoping Burnett can match Lee tonight, but with no DH and with Molina continuing as Burnett's personal catcher (the one reason I could see against Burnett pitching in Philly tonight) Lee is facing a seriously diminished Yankee offense. So, we're probably looking forward to another 2009 baseball game, Wednesday night in the Bronx...but if Jeter and Damon keep getting on base and if last night's ninth inning woke Teixeira and Rodriguez...

Against Lee?


Blue Monday, Led Zeppelin edition

Who covers third on the Teixeira shift?

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I should be floating on air given the Yankees' gritty, gutty win last night (and reminder #4,758 that there is only one Mariano Rivera), but, christ, Lieberman pisses me off.

Lets not forget, Joe Lieberman opposes the public option, opposes the public option with an opt-out compromise, opposes the public option with a trigger compromise, opposes the Baucus plan that had no public option whatsoever, opposes even working on comprehensive reform at all this year, and is prepared to use a filibuster tactic that he used to think shouldn't exist.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Hubris, much?

This was Friday's cover of the Philadelphia Daily News.

As our friends at River Avenue Blues put it, "And they say Yankee fans have a sense of entitlement."


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