Friday, January 29, 2010

Continuing their Winning ways

Via Baseball Musings comes this exchange between a disgruntled season ticket holder and a very knowledgeable Yankee Stadium ticket representative. There are plenty of reasons not to re-up your season ticket package. Randy Winn is not one of them.

I mean, I'll miss Johnny Damon as much as anyone, but geez, get a life. Get a clue.



Keep reaching across the aisle guys.

The Senate took a vote on requiring Congress not to pass legislation that it can't pay for. All 40 Republicans voted no.

Democrats and the media should hold to account the recklessness and fecklessness of Congressional Republicans. Of course, it's a given that neither will.

It should be remembered -- and Obama should use his bully pulpit to make this clear -- that for eight years Republicans decided that governing was hard and instead went on a joy ride: an unfunded mandate on education; two wars that were never accounted for in a budget; a medicare prescription drug plan that was -- you guessed it -- unfunded.

Instead, it's the Democrats who are accused of driving up the deficit and "stealing our children's future."

The Pay-Go vote makes it clear that it's obstruction, not governing, that is close to Republicans' hearts. And if Democrats won't speak up about this, Americans will simply continue to be angrily ignorant.


Uncle Sam Blues

Labels: ,

Don't underestimate "San Francisco values"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Insiders

Judicial temperament and the State of the Union

Samual Alito, activist and expressive judge.

The Justices are seated at the very front of the chamber, and it was predictable in the extreme that the cameras would focus on them as Obama condemned their ruling. Seriously: what kind of an adult is incapable of restraining himself from visible gestures and verbal outbursts in the middle of someone's speech, no matter how strongly one disagrees -- let alone a robe-wearing Supreme Court Justice sitting in the U.S. Congress in the middle of a President's State of the Union address? Recall all of the lip-pursed worrying from The New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen and his secret, nameless friends over the so-called "judicial temperament" of Sonia Sotomayor. Alito's conduct is the precise antithesis of what "judicial temperament" is supposed to produce.

It is sweet,, that Sam Alito must call "colleague" someone he tried very hard* to keep out of Princeton.

As for the speech itself, I haven't had much to say about itmainly because I've been busy doing the devil's work, but mostly because I don't have much to say about it, other than, as is usually the case when I listen to the president, I'm glad he's the president.

One thing I think the speech seems to have effectively done was to cool the anger from the left for the time being. Any fears that Obama would go into a defensive crouch were put to rest.

And I have to ask, does the image of Eric Cantor and John Boehner doing fair impersonations of Tab Hunter** and George Hamilton** in their primes inspire Republicans?

* As an aside, the only indication that Alito was a member of CAP comes from his job application to be Edwin Meese's Deputy Assistant AG. Republicans.

UPDATE: ** Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Labels: , , ,

A post about my ignorance, or, what else is new?

I never happened to read any of Howard Zinn's or J.D. Salinger's famous works. Did I miss anything?


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Early Winn

It appears that the Johnny Damon Era in New York has ended.


A failure to communicate

If this is true, then I'm not sure that criticism of the president that he didn't make the case strongly enough, or of Congress's use of back room deals to get Cloture in the Senate are entirely fair. Truth is, the majority of Americans are just fine with the status quo, even when the status quo is not sustainable.

Most Republicans would no doubt argue that the public is rejecting the Democratic plan for reforming the U.S. health care system, but a report released yesterday shows the Democrats came up short in a far more fundamental sense. They failed to convince the public that the system is flawed enough that it needs fixing.

A new survey from the highly respected Robert Wood Johnson Foundation indicates that slightly more Americans are confident in their ability to access and afford health care than they were in May 2009. Despite all the town halls, the rallies organized by pro-reform progressive groups, the pro-reform television ad campaigns, the Congressional hearings featuring Americans injured by a flawed insurance apparatus, the public is simply not convinced that the health care system is broken enough that it needs to be changed dramatically. (And I might add, despite all the reporting that's been done about how broken the U.S. health care system is.)


I hadn't thought too much about the "Volker's Rules" unveiled last week -- breaking apart the major banks' retail banking and investment banking sides -- because in the era of global banking, a unilateral U.S. move might have some effect, but not enough to stop the next banking meltdown. Nevertheless, the idea made sense to me, but critics -- especially those on Wall Street -- called it empty populism by Obama. And Gordon Brown, probably speaking for other European leaders, dismissed the very idea.

But now, the head of the Bank of England has stepped forward to say he likes the plan.

LONDON — Mervyn A. King, the governor of the Bank of England, is an owlish, self-effacing man who, in contrast to his more outspoken peers in Frankfurt and Washington, strikes a public posture that borders on the demure.

But as outrage over lush banking profits gathers steam on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. King finds himself at the vanguard of a growing movement that argues that big banks must separate their higher-risk trading and investment banking businesses from their core deposit-taking functions.

Last week, such a proposal pushed by the former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker made headway. President Obama shocked Wall Street by proposing that large banks that collect customer deposits be banned from engaging in proprietary trading activities.

At a hearing before a parliamentary treasury committee on Tuesday, Mr. King used some of his strongest language yet to support such a separation. In the process, he hailed Mr. Obama for having moved so quickly.

“The U.S. has been more open in moving to a safer banking system than we are,” he said. “After you ring-fence retail deposits, the statement that no one else gets bailed out becomes credible.”

To illustrate his point that increased regulation and higher capital requirements alone would not be sufficient to forestall another banking crisis, he pointed to Citigroup — which once was seen as a model for combining all banking functions under one roof.

“You had regulators in the building and four of the most respected people in the world running the bank,” he said, citing its architect, Sanford I. Weill; the former Treasury secretary Robert E. Rubin; the former International Monetary Fund official Stanley Fischer; and a veteran international banker, William Rhodes.

“They did not set out to destroy Citibank, but when you have a large complicated institution, things happen,” he said. “That is the argument for trying to create firewalls.”

Under post-Depression laws, bank holding companies in the United States were not allowed to own investment banks before 1999. But in Europe, no such division ever existed.

In fact, until last week such a notion had been roundly criticized, more a provocative debating point in an academic seminar than a practicable piece of legislation. Others speculated that the idea would surely be swatted away by muscular banking lobbies if it ever came close to becoming law.

Indeed, some see the idea, far-fetched and steeped in principle as it may be, as more an emblem of Mr. King’s own unyielding sense of what is right and what is wrong for the markets — albeit one that in this case is in tune with the public mood.
Over in Davos, Barney Frank thinks he can incorporate it into House legislation. George Soros embraces the idea as well, though he thinks it doesn't go far enough.

Labels: ,

Pimps no more

Gawker is all over the Little Plumbers Citizen Journalists who allegedly tried to tap Mary Landrieu's phones entered a federal building with intent to commit a felony. The circumstances surrounding one of the arrested is fun, fun, fun.

Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, the acting U.S. Attorney for the western district of Louisiana. Which makes it rather awkward that he was arrested in, and is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for, the eastern district of Louisiana. The elder Flanagan ascended to the gig just one week ago after his Bush-appointed boss left office; none other than Sen. Mary Landrieu has submitted recommendations for his replacement to the White House. UPDATE: And Obama has nominated Landrieu's recommendation, Stephanie Finley. But Sen. David Vitter has placed a hold on Finley's confirmation because he wants assurances from the White House that Jim Letten, the U.S. Attorney who will be overseeing Flanagan's prosecution, won't be replaced. In other words, Flanagan's dad only has a job because the job of the guy who's prosecuting his son is in potential jeopardy. Vitter wants Obama to re-nominate Letten, a step that Landrieu says is redundant seeing as how he already has the job. Louisiana politics.

Labels: ,

The growth of entitlements remains a mystery

NPR likes to talk about its listeners' "Driveway moments." What they don't usually talk about is the less pithy but no less common, "Bang your head on the steering wheel moments." These usually occur in conjunction with segments featuring one or more of Mara Liasson, Cokie Roberts, and Juan Williams.

Today was just such a day as NPR ran two segments back to back. One featuring Mara Liasson lecturing us on the bad politics of health care followed by another on the unprecedented national debt. In the latter, "entitlements" were especially noted, failing to point out that nearly half of U.S. health care costs are paid through Medicare and Medicaid. No connection, of course, with the good policy of health care reform and how it would improve the budget deficit picture significantly over the long term.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Unanimity in the House of Representatives

Unanimity for Lester Flatt anyway, and who can argue with that?

Title: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that Lester Flatt has made an invaluable contribution to American art as both a songwriter and a performer, leaving an indelible legacy in bluegrass music.


Counting votes, distrusting colleagues

Greg Sargent interviews the House Majority Whip who says he's got the votes to pass the Senate bill...if Obama throws his weight behind it tomorrow night and the Senate agrees to "fix it" through reconciliation.

In an interview with me, House majority whip James Clyburn also urged the President to throw his weight behind this approach during tomorrow’s State of the Union Address, declaring that it would be “helpful.”

The comments from Clyburn — who’s been canvassing opinion from members in recent days — could contribute to a growing sense that this is course of action most likely to succeed, and could give ammo to to those pressing this case.

“I feel certain that the House Democrats will pass health care reform if the fixes that we feel need to be made to the Senate bill are guaranteed,” Clyburn said. Asked directly if the House votes would be there if this happened, Clyburn said: “Yes, sir.”

But they sure don't trust their colleagues across the hall and want any promises in writing.

Meanwhile, it's useful to read David Hersenhorn's and David Pear's explanation of the politics and procedures of going this route, which seems the only route that doesn't lead to the Land of Fail.

And, just to say it, every big speech Obama's given -- the 2004 Democratic convention keynote, the Philadelphia "Race Speech," the 2008 acceptance speech in Denver, the health care speech back in September -- seems to carry with it more import than the last. Tomorrow's speech seems to fall into that category. Most SotU speeches are little more than numbing lists of successes and proposals, but this one is going to have to do more than provide a list of goodies to the American people ("Mars, bitches!"), although I'm sure it will do that. It's going to have to convince Congress to do the right thing and convince at least the half of viewers who are still capable of being convinced that it is the right thing.

This is what he ran for and this is why we -- me, anyway -- voted for him.


RAM -- What's at stake here

A slideshow of the recent visit to Los Angeles of RAM, Remote Access Medical.

"Remote." At The Forum.

Pass the fucking bill.


Dirty tricks for not reforming Health Care

Well, it seems rat-fucking is the new black in some political circles, as four people were arrested as they tried to gain access to Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office to tap her phones.

According to The New Orleans Times-Picayune, one of the men arrested was James O’Keefe, a filmmaker who produced videos purporting to document questionable practices at some field offices of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as Acorn. In the videos, Mr. O’Keefe and an associate, Hannah Giles, posing as a pimp and a prostitute, secretly filmed themselves seeking and receiving financial advice for a brothel from Acorn workers.

All four of the people arrested in New Orleans were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony. At least two of the four people were dressed in telephone company work clothes and construction hats when they were arrested.

Also arrested was the son of the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana.


Interesting that these intrepid would-be Merry Gangsters chose Mary Landrieu as a target, one of the bluest of the Blue Dogs.

I wonder what the potential punishment is if the alleged criminals are convicted of attempted phone tapping in a federal building. I also wonder who will pay their lawyers.

Labels: ,


I understand the politics of this, but, man, nearly my adult life I've been hearing this song.

WASHINGTON — President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs, and for increases no greater than inflation after that, an initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit, administration officials said Monday.

The officials said the proposal would be a major component both of Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address on Wednesday and of the budget he will send to Congress on Monday for the fiscal year that begins in October.

The freeze would cover the agencies and programs for which Congress allocates specific budgets each year, including air traffic control, farm subsidies, education, nutrition and national parks.

But it would exempt security-related budgets for the Pentagon, foreign aid, the Veterans Administration and homeland security, as well as the entitlement programs that make up the biggest and fastest-growing part of the federal budget: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Isn't nearly every dollar of Pentagon spending labeled under the category of "security-related?"

And I realize that much of the stimulus is either spent or is already committed to infrastructure projects that won't start until this year, but we are still perilously teetering on the precipice of another recessionary dip, aren't we?

Further, the failure of the administration to make clear (and take a stand) that health care reform remains a priority that will create jobs and reduce the deficit is increasingly egregious.

Finally, there is the actual process of determining what is frozen, what is cut, and what continues to get funded. It won't be pretty, or progressive, of that I'm pretty sure. As Ezra Klein writes,

Then comes the collision between the budget and Congress. And here things get dicier. Congress can stick to the administration's freeze but throws out the administration's proposed cuts. The way this works is simple: The administration will target worthless programs, like agricultural subsidies, in order to preserve good programs. But the reason worthless programs live in budget after budget is they have powerful backers. And those backers will rush to Congress to protect their profits. You think Blanche Lincoln, who chairs the Senate Agricultural Committee and is behind in the polls for her 2010 reelection, is going to let her state's subsidies get gored?

Now you've removed some of the cuts, but you still want to hit the overall target. So the cuts could get reapportioned to hit programs that lack powerful constituencies. Many of those programs help the poor.

We were, just a few weeks ago, on the verge of a massive shift towards providing a real safety net to the poor and, yes, the middle class.


UPDATE: Jared Bernstein, progressive economist and Joe Biden's economic policy advisor, responds in a lengthy, informative interview on Rachel Maddow's show last night: "There's going to be no stupid Hooverism around here."

Labels: ,

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Raiders deny

Typically, a news report will come out saying that "unnamed sources" say that coach so-and-so will not be coming back next year. Typically, teams will deny the report and express confidence in the coach.

That's just not the Raiders' style


Make them fillibuster

Good for Gov. Rendell.


The Concern Troll is right

Steve Benen also offers up some good advice for Dems: listen to Bill Kristol.


Rebuilding the party

He watched the whirlwind in Massachusetts last week, so like so many other thoughtful observers of our political scene, Micheal Bérubé has some very good advice for the Democrat Party. First up, back off on the Party's relentless and aggressive pushing of the Radical Queer Agenda and end the demand for a Single Payer Healthcare System!


Lonely Justice

Adam Liptak writes about the final days of Justice John Paul Stevens, his full throated dissent on the 5-4 decision equating corporations with citizens, and his distress at the activism of a Roberts' Court intent on remaking law to fit longtime conservative ideas about corporations, individual rights, and law as a means to protect the less fortunate.

“The majority blazes through our precedents,” he wrote, “overruling or disavowing a body of case law” that included seven decisions.

Justice Stevens, who served in the Navy during World War II, reached back to those days to show the depth of his outrage at the majority’s conclusion that the government may not make legal distinctions based on whether a corporation or a person was doing the speaking.

“Such an assumption,” he wrote, “would have accorded the propaganda broadcasts to our troops by ‘Tokyo Rose’ during World War II the same protection as speech by Allied commanders.”

The reference to Tokyo Rose was probably lost on many of Justice Steven’s readers. But the concluding sentence of what may be his last major dissent could not have been clearer.

“While American democracy is imperfect,” he wrote, “few outside the majority of this court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.”


Art News

It's good to know that "art" can still make news in These Great Times. But I have to ask, are there any insignificant Picasso paintings?



I think the only thing that makes this "a bridge too far" is the necessity of 60 votes for cloture, but I think this gets it about right.

So, confusion. It's unavoidable at this point--the system is still shuddering from the aftershocks of the Massachusetts election and it's difficult to sense what sort of legislation is still possible. But it would be nice to hear the Administration acknowledge something like this: We went a bridge too far. When you have to resort to deals like the Cornhusker Kickback, the Lieberman collapse, the union buyoff, you don't have the broad support that's necessary to put something like health care reform into law. As Karen has argued, that's the most important message from Massachusetts. Another message: we like the universal health care we have in Massachusetts, but we don't want to make any sacrifices--especially when it comes to Medicare funding--so that the rest of the country can get universal, too.
Unfortunately, health care legislation is hard and complex, and it is much more interesting to reporters to cover the politics and the deals rather than what reform means for you and me. Congressional Democrats don't have a Fox News megaphone to help them make those points and, frankly, I'm not convinced many Congressman have any idea what's in the two bills that have been passed. That leaves -- or left -- the administration. I realize the president didn't want to put his finger on the scale for either the Senate's or the House's approach. But as he himself has pointed out, there are more similarities than differences. Obama has the national pulpit to make the case about what's good -- right now -- about the bills. Not, "oh, it's imperfect," but rather this is what passage is going to do for you and your family right now. This is how it will get better down the road.

The question is, is it too late to do that?

Labels: ,

Plouffe to the rescue?

Yesterday, he offered up some very sound advice to Democrats. And we also learned he's returning as an outside political consultant for Obama. This is good news, but will be spun as a bullet point in the "Dems in disarray" meme.


Blue Monday, John Lee Hooker edition

Friday, January 22, 2010

Health care chat

TNC and EK. Worth a read.


Stop whining

Shorter Krugman: Pass the fucking thing already.

Longer Krugman:

Finally, some Democrats want to just give up on the whole thing.

That would be an act of utter political folly. It wouldn’t protect Democrats from charges that they voted for “socialist” health care — remember, both houses of Congress have already passed reform. All it would do is solidify the public perception of Democrats as hapless and ineffectual.

And anyway, politics is supposed to be about achieving something more than your own re-election. America desperately needs health care reform; it would be a betrayal of trust if Democrats fold simply because they hope (wrongly) that this would slightly reduce their losses in the midterm elections.

Now, part of Democrats’ problem since Tuesday’s special election has been that they have been waiting in vain for leadership from the White House, where Mr. Obama has conspicuously failed to rise to the occasion.

But members of Congress, who were sent to Washington to serve the public, don’t have the right to hide behind the president’s passivity.

Bear in mind that the horrors of health insurance — outrageous premiums, coverage denied to those who need it most and dropped when you actually get sick — will get only worse if reform fails, and insurance companies know that they’re off the hook. And voters will blame politicians who, when they had a chance to do something, made excuses instead.

Ladies and gentlemen, the nation is waiting. Stop whining, and do what needs to be done.

And kudos to Jon Stewart. We need progressive voices on the teevee that actually counter the bullshit coming from the other side, not add to the miasma.

Labels: ,

"Trampled Underfoot"

For Congressional Democrats pondering their future:

Labels: ,

"You never call"

For those of you who never call your Congressman's office, it's easy. Just go here and enter your zip code. I did, called the number, and an aid picked up after one ring. Took only a few seconds to relay the message to support the Senate Health Care bill and get this thing done. The guy seemed happy to hear a constituent voicing support, especially since I think the most vocal of our citizenry tend to be batshit insane. Just sayin'.

UPDATE: I'd be remiss if I didn't add that if you happen to be represented by a Republican, I guess you can save your nickel.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It takes a lot to win and even more to lose

Slowly, steadily, I find myself asking: how could George W. Bush and the Republican Party cause so much lasting damage to our country and the world with only bare majorities in Congress, while Obama and Democrats now seem unable to rectify that damage despite have large majorities in both houses?

I know the answer, of course, as it goes by the name of the "Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, and Evan Bayh wing of the Democratic Party," but still, it's disturbing and no way for a nation that wants to survive the 21st Century to govern itself.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Centrism all tarted up like liberalism

Nate Silver looks back at the year in post-partisanship and finds it wasn't what he expected. Instead of a centrist sheen on fairly liberal policies, we've gotten centrist policies effectively painted by Republicans to look like Social/fascism. Nevertheless, he has some good advice.

I absolutely acknowledge that the White House has inherited an exceptionally difficult situation, one made much more difficult when the economy continued to bleed 700,000 jobs per month in January through April. Many of the problems that they have encountered, I would not have seen coming, and many of the mistakes that they have made, I would have made too.

But the Democrats do have the benefit of hindsight now -- and they ought to take advantage of it. For one thing, they need to be very careful about rewarding Republican nihilism. The best case is when you can simultaneously achieve both a policy and a political victory. More often, especially given the structural constraints imposed by the Congress, you'll have to settle for one or the other. But I would be very careful about any course of action which concedes victory to Republicans on both levels. Mistakes were made along the way to health care reform, but you've paid the political price for health care: now pass the fucking thing.

As for the rest of the policies in your portfolio, take an inventory and figure out which have the votes to pass right now (through reconciliation where prudent), which can't be passed no matter what, and which could be achieved but will require some expenditure of political capital. And then on the other axis, wargame everything and figure which it would be to your benefit to have an extended public debate about (this would almost always be for political theater rather than policy reasons), which you should put up to vote, but as quickly as possible, and which ought not to see the light of day.

I know: easier said then done. But henceforth the Democrats, from the White House on downward, have gotten a remarkably poor return on the investment of their political capital. The failures are more tactical than strategic. But to do what Democrats usually do, and crawl into a shell in the face of adversity, is not advisable.

The trouble -- if that's the word -- is that Obama isn't there to play political theater. He appears to genuinely and sincerely believe he can get important stuff done, and he knows he doesn't (and didn't when he took office, remember) have 60 votes to get anything through the Senate without Republican support. As such, he's got an awfully hard row to hoe. Republicans may not have a single coherent idea about repairing our economy, but they can see the monthly jobs reports and they know this thing ain't turning around quickly. They figure they can ride out the remainder of this Congress on nothing more than nihilism and the Sunday Talk Shows and still achieve big gains in November, relying on the amnesia of the American people (and pundits). Cynical, certainly. But no one knows the political benefits of a well-tended cynicism better than the political heirs of Richard Nixon.

Labels: , ,

Not promising

You can be fairly certain that one lesson that the GOP did not take from yesterday's election in Massachusetts was that working in a bipartisan way to move Obama's domestic agenda forward is a good thing for them, politically.

Republicans showed no new signs of willingness to work with the Democrats. Asked what he would be willing to work on with majority, the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, offered meek praise for Mr. Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan but did not offer a single example on domestic policy.


For it before they were against it

Exactly. If House Democrats refuse to send the Senate bill to the president for his signature, their opponents in November will not fail to hammer them for having voted for health care reform in the first place. They'll lose that debate and still have lost the opportunity to enact the biggest piece of quality of life legislation of their political life.

Losing the Senate seat that I believe, if I've got the history right, the Kennedys brought with them from Ireland is painful. No doubt about it. And I can appreciate that many Dems are now fearing their political demise. But nothing will so dispirit Democratic voters as House Democrats walking away from health care reform now.

The fundamental pact between a political party and its supporters is that the two groups believe the same thing and pledge to work on it together. And the Democratic base feels that it has held to its side of the bargain. It elected a Democratic majority and a Democratic president. It swallowed tough compromises on the issues it cared about most. It swallowed concessions to politicians it didn't like and industry groups it loathed. But it persisted. Because these things are important. That's why those voters believe in them. That's why they're Democrats.

But the party looks ready to abandon them because Brown won a special election in Massachusetts -- even though Democrats can pass the bill after Brown is seated. What that says is crucial: Whereas the base thought it was making these hard compromises and getting up early to knock on doors because these issues are important, the party thought all that was happening because, well, it's hard to say. It was electorally convenient? People need something to do? Ted Kennedy wanted it done?

Bobo the prognosticator says that "ramming through" health care reform with a 59-41 majority in the senate would be "political suicide." In fact, the opposite is true.

Labels: ,

A message to Congressional Democrats

We welcome our Republican overlords

There will soon be 41 Republican Senators, giving them a super-majority in the 100-seat body. Time to implement their agenda. Christ.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Boehner gets "serious"

The Contract on America, revisited.

Though little-known publicly, Mr. Jackson has been at the center of Republican strategic planning for years and was closely involved, for instance, in the Bush administration push to add drug coverage to Medicare as well as its unsuccessful drive to add personal savings accounts to Social Security.
So, the guy who was influential in getting an unfunded trillion dollar entitlement passed and wants to push Social Security to the wilds of Wall Street. Sounds like a winning argument.



After MA

No telling what will happen after the polls close in the Bay State this evening, but a couple things occur to me. A health care reform bill has passed the Senate and if Nancy Pelosi has the votes, she'll get it to Obama's desk. Of that I'm sure. And, like Ezra, not to downplay a potoential loss of a "safe" Senate seat, but having the so-called "filibuster-proof" 60 votes did not prove to be such a sure thing in passing a historic health care reform bill on which Obama and the Democrats had placed at the top of their agenda. Those 60 votes will be (or would have been) meaningless on things like Cap and Trade, Banking Reform, etc.

Yeah, I'm whistling past the graveyard.

And, about the "national implications" a Coakley loss will sure to inspire pundits to muse upon: if Jesus H. Christ himself had called Curt "Drama Queen" Schilling a Yankee fan, the Son of God would lose the state to the Devil.


Reading the populist tea leaves

Michiko Kakutani reviews Joseph Stieglitz's new jeremiad about the Obama adminstration's fiscal policy and makes an inference that has me genuinely confused.

In a November 2008 Op-Ed article for The New York Times, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote that a huge stimulus package — as much as $1 trillion over two years — was needed to turn the Great Recession into a robust recovery and that new regulations were needed to change the destructive behavior of Wall Street that had brought about the fiscal calamities in the first place.

Some four months later, he wrote another Op-Ed piece for The Times in which he assailed the Obama administration’s plans for dealing with ailing banks, arguing that it was “a win-win-lose proposal: the banks win, investors win — and taxpayers lose.” He went on to characterize the administration’s approach as “ersatz capitalism, the privatizing of gains and the socializing of losses.”

Mr. Stiglitz’s new book, “Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy,” expands these populist arguments further. He deconstructs the causes of the Great Recession of 2008, assesses the responses to the crisis by the Bush and Obama administrations and lays out suggestions for how America might use this “near-death experience” to address flaws in its economic system and reconfigure itself for the 21st century — a century in which it faces daunting problems like a ballooning deficit and trade imbalance, mounting job losses in the manufacturing sector and challenges from China and other countries.

If I'm to believe the reports coming out of Massachusets and the various tea parties, the "populist arguments" are about a health care bill that is "moving too quickly," a stimulus bill that "spends too much money," and a hatred for Wall Street tempered by an even greater hatred for "big government" and "socialism." I'm baffled.


But first, a word from our sponsor

Today's edition of, "I wish I'd written that."

Labels: ,

Monday, January 18, 2010

Must-read of the day

"An edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring"

Martin Luther King Jr., April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, New York.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

Please read the whole speech, entitled "Beyond Vietnam" A Time to Break the Silence."

Labels: ,

Blue Monday, Muddy Waters edition

Banks' pinzer tactics

Sounds like bad cop (Constitutional challenge) versus good cop (sweet, sweet lobbying goodness), as the banks try to fight back the populist tide.

A court challenge would open a new front in the banking industry’s assault on additional financial regulation. It might also further splinter the powerful financial lobby. The issue has already pitted smaller banks, which would be exempt from the tax, against their less popular Wall Street peers, and it has even stirred debate within the large banks over whether such an aggressive legal strategy would be politically wise.

Privately, executives at several large banks said they believed a legal battle was doomed to fail in Washington and risked escalating public rage over the bailouts of the banks. These executives say the industry may be better off pushing for a watered-down version of the tax. Most banks are just beginning to consider how, or whether, they would oppose it.

It will get even more complicated when Congress, at the banks' insistence, include GM and Chrysler in the formula.

Labels: ,

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Call the whambulence for Dallas

Yes, I believe Favre just ran up the score. The football scolds will not be pleased.

Labels: ,

Not Avatar

Madame Cura and I saw The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus last night. Now that was a movie I would have enjoyed in 3-D. Like another recent release, it's visually stunning, but it actually has a great story, characters you care about, venerable Christopher Plummer, and Tom Waits as Mr. Nick.

Heath Ledger is no less a revelation than he was as The Joker, and Terry Gilliam's ability to seamlessly solve the problem of his leading man senselessly dying in mid-filming is brilliant.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti's history

Via one of this blog's best friends, the so-called "Dave," we recommend this piece from Tracy Kidder, who recounts the history of Haiti (although the famous "pact with the devil" is shockingly omitted) and what can be done to help the country and strengthen it's weak public institutions.

Hence the current state of affairs: at least 10,000 private organizations perform supposedly humanitarian missions in Haiti, yet it remains one of the world’s poorest countries. Some of the money that private aid organizations rely on comes from the United States government, which has insisted that a great deal of the aid return to American pockets — a larger percentage than that of any other industrialized country.

But that is only part of the problem. In the arena of international aid, a great many efforts, past and present, appear to have been doomed from the start. There are the many projects that seem designed to serve not impoverished Haitians but the interests of the people administering the projects. Most important, a lot of organizations seem to be unable — and some appear to be unwilling — to create partnerships with each other or, and this is crucial, with the public sector of the society they’re supposed to serve.

The usual excuse, that a government like Haiti’s is weak and suffers from corruption, doesn’t hold — all the more reason, indeed, to work with the government. The ultimate goal of all aid to Haiti ought to be the strengthening of Haitian institutions, infrastructure and expertise.

This week, the list of things that Haiti needs, things like jobs and food and reforestation, has suddenly grown a great deal longer. The earthquake struck mainly the capital and its environs, the most densely populated part of the country, where organizations like the Red Cross and the United Nations have their headquarters. A lot of the places that could have been used for disaster relief — including the central hospital, such as it was — are now themselves disaster areas.

But there are effective aid organizations working in Haiti. At least one has not been crippled by the earthquake. Partners in Health, or in Haitian Creole Zanmi Lasante, has been the largest health care provider in rural Haiti. (I serve on this organization’s development committee.) It operates, in partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Health, some 10 hospitals and clinics, all far from the capital and all still intact. As a result of this calamity, Partners in Health probably just became the largest health care provider still standing in all Haiti.

You can learn more about Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasanta, and donate, here.


Solving problems is why they're there

Obama previews his campaign for health care reform and the 2010 midterms.

So, I know everybody in the media is all in a tizzy -- "Oh, what's this going to mean politically?" Well, let me tell you something. If Republicans want to campaign against what we've done by standing up for the status quo and for insurance companies over American families and businesses, that is a fight I want to have. (Applause.) If their best idea is to return to the bad policies and the bad ideas of yesterday, they are going to lose that argument. What are they going to say? "Well, you know, the old system really worked well; let's go back to the way it was"? That's not going to appeal to seniors who are now seeing the possibility of that doughnut hole finally closing and so they can finally get discounts on their prescriptions. (Applause.) That's not going to appeal to the small businesses who find out all the tax credits that they're going to get for doing right by their employees -- something that they have been wanting to do, but may not have been able to afford. It's not going to be very appealing to Americans who for the first time are going to find out that they can provide coverage to their children, their dependents, all the way up to the age of 26 or 27.

And that's why I'll be out there waging a great campaign from one end of the country to the other, telling Americans with insurance or without what they stand to gain -- (applause); about the arsenal of consumer protections; about the long-awaited stability that they're going to begin to experience. And I'm going to tell them that I am proud we are putting the future of America before the politics of the moment -- the next generation before the next election. And that, after all, is what we were sent up here to do: standing up for the American people against the special interests; solve problems that we've been talking about for decades; make their lives a little bit better; make tough choices sometimes when they're unpopular. And that's something that every one of you who support this bill can be proud to campaign on in November.

Now, I know that some of the fights we've been going through have been tough. I know that some of you have gotten beaten up at home. Some of the fights that we're going to go through this year are going to be tough as well. But just remember why each of us got into public service in the first place -- we found something that was worth fighting for. There was something we thought was important enough that we were willing to stand up in the public square, risk loss, risk embarrassment, because we knew in our hearts that something wasn't right, that we weren't in some measure living up to the American ideal, and that we thought that if we got involved and engaged in the democratic process, somehow we could make it a little bit better.

Echoing Ezra, I have no idea how persuasive this is to the public at large, but the Democratic base needs to hear stuff like this. As for the general public -- getting something done and solving problems is exactly what many voters feel isn't happening in Washington. Having a huge piece of legislation under their belts, regardless of how much their opponents will rail at it, is a lot better than having come this far and failed going into November.

Labels: ,

Toussant L'Overture

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Deadball era

Amazing stuff.


Haiti's misery

Things have been so miserable for so long in Haiti that it's hard to fathom how things could be worse. And to make it even more tragic, if that's possible, things had evidently been looking up for the people of Haiti, at least a little bit.

Here's a list of where to help.

And then there is this motherfucking piece of wormy dog shit, who is still a foremost spiritual leader of the Republican party.

Labels: ,

I don't think they think they're biting the hand that feeds them

I had quite a few "conversations" with progressive, well-read friends over the holidays who were apoplectic over the health care bills, wanting them substantially changed or even killed. The reasons were reasonable enough on the face of it -- no public option and a mandate means a windfall for the insurance companies. No amount of arguing that the companies would face a slew of new taxes to pay for subsidies, would be forced to pool risk among tens of millions more people who are now not covered because of cost or pre-existing conditions, would face new competition in the form of exchanges, etc., could budge them from their perch that the whole thing is just a gift to the evil health insurance companies.

I wonder if this will help convince them otherwise.

Throughout the health reform saga, AHIP, the industry group for health insurance companies, has sought to position itself as favoring reform. At the same time, left-wing critics of the bill, joined by a minority of right-wing critics of the bill, have sought to characterize the reform effort as a giveaway to the insurance industry. But as National Journal reported yesterday, the reality is that insurers have spent huge sums of money on television ads aimed at defeating reform:

That money, between $10 million and $20 million, came from Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Kaiser Foundation Health Plans, UnitedHealth Group and Wellpoint, according to two health care lobbyists familiar with the transactions. The companies are all members of the powerful trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans. The funds were solicited by AHIP and funneled to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to help underwrite tens of millions of dollars of television ads by two business coalitions set up and subsidized by the chamber. Each insurer kicked in at least $1 million and some gave multi-million dollar donations.

And Igor Volsky observes that this is hardly the only thing insurers have done to try to block reform:

As former health insurance executive Wendell Potter told ThinkProgress, insurers are using a variety of front groups to advance a hidden attack campaign. The industry regularly feeds talking points to right-wing media like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, mobilizes anti-reform “grassroots” groups and coordinates with conservative think-tanks to produce academic-appearing reports to advance their cause.

The insurance industry has also funded state efforts to challenge the constitutionality of health reform. Insurers have “spent heavily on political contributions” in the 14 states seeking to ratify constitutional amendments that would repeal all or parts of the new measure and contributed thousands of dollars to the attorneys generals seeking to disqualify reform. Earlier this month, Lee Fang reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield Association “played a pivotal role in crafting this anti-health reform states’ rights initiative.

The insurance industry is much less popular than other interest groups with a stake in reform, so it doesn’t like to be seen as publicly spearheading the charge against reform. But the fact of the matter is that even though the new mandate/subsidy structure will give at least some insurers a bunch of new customers, the medium-run trajectory of reform is bad for private insurers. Right now, insurers are largely shielded from competition and are almost 100 percent immune to needing to please their actual customers, getting to deal with HR bureaucracies instead. In an Exchange-based world, individuals will be choosing from among several plans and insurers will be accountable to customers. What’s more, the principle that it’s the government’s job to make health care work will lead to pressure for further regulations and further squeezing of industry profit margins.

Look, as I've written before, the goal of health care reform has never been to make insurance company execs cry. Killing reform will surely make them happy.

UPDATE to fix an even more confusing headline than you're reading now.


Chauffeured Ford

Shorter Harold Ford, former Tennessee congressman, turned banker/TV pundit, turned wannabe Senator from the Great State of New York: Universal health care would cost New Yorkers money but doing something about excessive pay at banks violates the very tenets of Holy Capitalism.

Greenwald has more
, and DougJ at Balloon Juice wonders about what kind of future "access" the million bucks per year Ford's been earning from BofA will buy the bank should Ford get elected to the Senate (or head the DNC).

It is funny, as Greenwald points out, that we find ourselves rallying around Kristen Gillibrand considering that when Gov. Patterson appointed her, the collected response was either "WTF?", or, "Who?" She was an upstate Blue Dog congress woman who reflected the views of her conservative district, much like Ford in Tennessee. I think the difference is that she has transformed herself in deeds more than words, becoming rather reliably progressive (Ford would say Schumer's and Reid's minion). Ford, on the other hand, will not even admit that his "former" pro-choice, flag-burning amendment-supporting, anti-gay, seal the border with Mexico, and I love the NRA stances were reflections of the people he represented. Now he wants us to believe that proclaiming himself "pro-choice" was some kind of framing instrument.

Mr. Ford twice voted for legislation in the House that would make same-sex marriage illegal. In 2006, when Tennessee voters considered a ballot initiative to outlaw the practice, he vowed to support it. “I oppose gay marriage,” he said at the time.

But in the interview, he said he had changed his mind. He said that he had endorsed civil unions since entering Congress, and that, after watching the debate about marriage unfold in state legislatures and courtrooms, his position had evolved.

“I don’t think it’s a great leap to go from civil unions to gay marriage,” he said. “I may be in the minority in believing that. But I don’t think there is.”

When pressed, he said he would seek to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage, and said he would “revisit” the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Mr. Ford has repeatedly described himself as “pro-life,” and has voted to ban a procedure opponents call partial-birth abortions and to require that minors receive parental consent before receiving an abortion.

In the interview, however, he said: “To describe me as pro-life is just wrong. I am personally pro-choice and legislatively pro-choice.”

Explaining the previous remarks, he said he refused to cede “the language of life” to the political right. Mr. Ford said that he had always supported abortion rights, but that when he campaigned in Tennessee, he used the phrase “pro-life” more broadly to highlight what he saw as the hypocrisy of Republican policies that denied benefits to returning war veterans, or equal pay to National Guardsmen.

He said he would not abandon his opposition to partial-birth abortion and support for parental consent, saying that if a 15-year-old girl cannot see an R-rated movie without an adult, she should not receive an abortion without a parent’s permission.

He supported Congressional legislation in 2006 to allow local police officers to investigate and arrest illegal immigrants, despite the objections of many advocates and lawmakers, like Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who said it would discourage people from cooperating with the police. He says his views on the subject have changed.

“I have come to better understand the issue,” he said. “Empowering local enforcement to do what federal law enforcement was not doing seemed to make sense in my state,” he said, referring to Tennessee. Mr. Ford, a member of the National Rifle Association, also voted for legislation to limit lawsuits against gun makers, and he cast one of the few Democratic votes for a bill to repeal the District of Columbia’s restrictions on guns.

When asked about the tough restrictions that mayors in New York and Newark have put in place, however, he said, “All of Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor Booker’s efforts in the region, I support.”

The only constituency he seems to genuinely be beholding to now is Wall Street.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Coppertone Poltics"

Kareem Abdul Jabbar:

It's really interesting how the conservative movement has jumped on Harry Reid's racial observations regarding Barack Obama's candidacy. They feel that Reid made some type of faux pas. Senator Reid was making a candid observation about racial attitudes in America. For many Americans, dark skin and the Negro dialect are a definite negative when considering a political candidate. Those attributes are associated with all of the negative stereo types of blacks that have become part of America's history.

The conservatives are trying to say that those statements by Reid are the equivalent to Trent Lott's praise for the racist segregationist presidential campaign of Strom Thurmond. There is no rational way that speaking about racial attitudes that have been in play since the beginning of our nation is the equivalent of endorsing a racist presidential candidate. But the conservatives insist it's a match. Go figure. I hope Mr. Reid continues to lead the Dems successfully. The conservatives will continue to live in their fantasy world.

In retrospect, what is striking, though not surprising, about the hours spent jabbering about Reid's use of the word "negro" or "dialect (we're not really sure, no one would say what was offensive about Reid's comments)," was there was virtually no discussion of what Reid's comments were describing in American politics and the problem of institutionalized racism.

Labels: ,

McGwire? I thought you said MacGyver

Well that's finally over, though it was painful to watch the man weeping on TV (Costas is tougher than George Stephanopolous). I think Steve Goldman sums up my thoughts on the subject.

Whether you consider McGwire a Hall of Famer or not depends on the degree of outrage you feel over steroid use, that is, over the dishonest act rather than the effects of the cheating, because (again) when it comes to the latter, we just don’t know. The problem is that we’re now talking about matters of character rather than performance, surely a hypocritical and subjective thing to be doing. Let he who is without sin etcetera, etcetera and so forth. The Hall of Fame is already so compromised, so corroded with the sanctimonious drool of so many writers and their quasi-religious “first year” rule and odd embrace of Jim Rice, the way they betrayed the elderly Buck O’Neill, that it’s difficult to make any qualitative argument and instead say simply this: the Hall of Fame is the museum of baseball. For better or worse, Mark McGwire was an exemplar of a certain kind of baseball, just like Cap Anson was an exemplar of another kind. Like it or not, those years happened, those events happened, and we should keep remembering them, keep talking about them forever. Hell, yes, Mark McGwire should be in. We made him and he’s ours, so we should keep him.

Especially the bit about the betrayal of Buck O'Neill.

Now, what will Bonds or Clemens do? McGwire wanted to return to the game and to the St. Louis organization so he did what he had to do. I'm not sure Bonds cares about the HoF and he certainly has no plans to return to the game, and Clemens is too wrapped up in his own self-imagery to admit anything other then self-discipline and working harder than everybody else that played. And surely some sort of Maoist self-criticism/confession is now a BBWA requirement for HoF consideration.


Robot nurses

Denmark's use of medical technology, particularly technology that allows elderly patients to conduct tests at home and send the results to their doctors over the internet, is certainly intriguing and one of the more exciting possibilities of health care reform in this country. One of my biggest peeves is the need to fill out reams of data about myself every time I visit a different health care provider, and imagine if those who require health monitoring don't have to find a ride to the doctor or spend the day waiting in hospitals.

COPENHAGEN — Jens Danstrup, a 77-year-old retired architect, used to bike all around town. But years of smoking have weakened his lungs, and these days he finds it difficult to walk down his front steps and hail a taxi for a doctor’s appointment.

Now, however, he can go to the doctor without leaving home, using some simple medical devices and a notebook computer with a Web camera. He takes his own weekly medical readings, which are sent to his doctor via a Bluetooth connection and automatically logged into an electronic record.

“You see how easy it is for me?” Mr. Danstrup said, sitting at his desk while video chatting with his nurse at Frederiksberg University Hospital, a mile away. “Instead of wasting the day at the hospital?”

He clipped an electronic pulse reader to his finger. It logged his reading and sent it to his doctor. Mr. Danstrup can also look up his personal health record online. His prescriptions are paperless — his doctors enters them electronically, and any pharmacy in the country can pull them up. Any time he wants to get in touch with his primary care doctor, he sends an e-mail message.

All of this is possible because Mr. Danstrup lives in Denmark, a country that began embracing electronic health records and other health care information technology a decade ago. Today, virtually all primary care physicians and nearly half of the hospitals use electronic records, and officials are trying to encourage more “telemedicine” projects like the one started at Frederiksberg by Dr. Klaus Phanareth, a physician there.

Several studies, including one to be published later this month by the Commonwealth Fund, conclude that the Danish information system is the most efficient in the world, saving doctors an average of 50 minutes a day in administrative work. And a 2008 report from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society estimated that electronic record keeping saved Denmark’s health system as much as $120 million a year.

Now policy makers in the United States are studying Denmark’s system to see whether its successes can be replicated as part of the overhaul of the health system making its way through Congress. Dr. David Blumenthal, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School who was named by President Obama as national coordinator of health information technology, has said the United States is “well behind” Denmark and its Scandinavian neighbors, Sweden and Norway, in the use of electronic health records.

Denmark’s success has much to do with the its small size, its homogeneous population and its regulated health care system — on all counts, very different from the United States. As in much of Europe, health care in Denmark is financed by taxes, and most services are free.

Privacy about medical records is certainly an issue. As an aside, it's interesting to note the different aspects of privacy concerns in the U.S. and Europe; here, we worry (in addition to financial information) about medical records more than just about anything; in Europe, things like political persuasion and union membership are considered highly sensitive, probably because health insurance isn't an issue, while civil and labor unrest often are.

But there seems to be a lot of other daunting things to overcome:

  • Our level of access to broadband, relative to countries like Denmark, is pathetic
  • Our education levels, particularly among a broad swath of older Americans, is likely hard to overcome
And those are the reasonable concerns. Add to that fears that "Obamacare" is about the government "taking over health care" and wants to compile data on you for nefarious purposes, and the possibility of electronic medical records seems like a far-off dream.

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 11, 2010


According to Joshua Geltzer, author of US Counter-terrorism Strategy and al-Qaeda: Signalling and the Terrorist World-View, acting like a pissed off "daddy," might not be the strongest course of action for the president.

BOB GARFIELD: Would you recommend to a president of the United States, in the event of successful attacks, maybe in which hundreds or thousands of lives are lost, that he similarly understate the response that we don't go into full mobilization mode, we don't give succor to our terrorist enemies by overreacting, even when the damage is catastrophic?

JOSHUA GELTZER: I think that to the extent that we can react effectively but quietly, that combination is ideal, or at least the best of various tough alternatives. So, to take an example, I think this administration which has actually ramped up the Predator strikes along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border has spoken about them less than the previous administration did. So even while engaging in more of them, it’s said less about them.

Now, we don't know exactly how successful these attacks have been, but the idea of doing them quietly and not exulting in particular successes may allow for the practical success without the counterproductive signaling.

I'm not thrilled with the idea of Predator Drones along the border, though I understand the appeal to the Pentagon and the White House. I do, however, agree that speaking less about them -- and less bellicosely -- even as we ramp up their use, is a change for the better.

Labels: , ,

Who Reid's "Negro" comment really hurt

I have to apologize to those Republicans who I accused of using Reid's "Negro" comment for cynical, political gain. I should have given them the benefit of the doubt that they felt strongly that his comments really were hurtful. To white people.


More good news for Republicans


Maureen Dowd parodies herself?

As a descriptive matter it is in fact the case that many people yearn for politicians to respond to national security threats in a manner that fills certain psychological needs rather than in a way that represents a reasonable policy response to a problem. But normally when you hear this explicitly stated, it’s by someone like me accusing other people of implicitly wanting this. It’s rare that you see something like Maureen Dowd’s column explicitly making the point:

He’s so sure of himself and his actions that he fails to see that he misses the moment to be president — to be the strong father who protects the home from invaders, who reassures and instructs the public at traumatic moments.

He’s more like the aloof father who’s turned the Situation Room into a Seminar Room.

Sorry, no. The Situation Room is not a Seminar Room, but it’s also not the Reassuring Dad room. It’s a place where the President meets with key officials to decide what to do in response to emergencies. The “moment to be president” starts when you swear the oath of the office and it ends when your successor takes office. And the job is to make decisions that reflect a realistic assessment of the risks, of the available policy options, and of the costs and benefits involved in the different options. Reassuring children is a job for parents. Treating adults like they’re little children is, perhaps, a job for newspaper columnists.

Right. Remember, if we'd wanted someone who overreacts to a crisis, we'd have elected John McCain.


Black enough

The weekend chatter about Reid's comments is funny enough in its own right, but it is amazing the supposed shock over Harry Reid's comments when, at the time Reid made the comments, the color of Obama's skin was a preoccupation with the media.

Labels: ,

Blue Monday, Big Mama Thorntoon (and others) edition

Negro dialect

Ta-Nehisi Coates on the great difference between Harry Reid's inappropriate and embarrassing comments and Trent Lott's segregationist leanings.

I think you can grant that, in this era, the term "Negro dialect" is racially insensitive and embarrassing. That said, the fair-mind listener understands the argument--Barack Obama's complexion and his ability to code-switch is an asset. You can quibble about the "light skin" part, but forget running for president, code-switching is the standard M.O. for any African American with middle class aspirations.

But there's no such defense for Trent Lott. Lott celebrated apartheid Mississippi's support of Strom Thurmond, and then said that had Thurmond won, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years.'' Strom Thurmond run for president, specifically because he opposed Harry Truman's efforts at integration. This is not mere conjecture--nearly half of Thurmond's platform was dedicated to preserving segregation. The Dixiecrat slogan was "Segregation Forever!" (Exclamation point, theirs.) Trent Lott's wasn't forced to resign because he said something "racially insensitive." He was forced to resign because he offered tacit endorsement of white supremacy--frequently.

Claiming that Harry Reid's comments are the same, is like claiming that referring to Jews as "Hebrews" is the same as endorsing Nazism. Whereas a reputable portion of black people still use the term Negro without a hint of irony, no black person thinks the guy yelling "Segregation Forever!" would have cured us of "all these problems."

Leaving aside political cynicism, this entire affair proves that the GOP is not simply still infected with the vestiges of white supremacy and racism, but is neither aware of the infection, nor understands the disease. Listening to Liz Cheney explain why Harry Reid's comments were racist, was like listening to me give lessons on the finer points of the comma splice. This a party, rightly or wrongly, regarded by significant portions of the country as a haven for racists. They aren't simply having a hard time re-branding, they don't actually understand how and why they got the tag.

These guys are lost. But Michael Steele's "off the hook" strategy will, presumably, point the way back. Not for nothing, I offer the wise and venerable words of my people: Negro, please.

Pete Hoekstra was surprisingly reasonable when he commented that the GOP should keep out of this. I think that's the right strategy, but Liz Cheney and Michael Steele are two of the dumbest and most transparently cynical people on the planet.

CHENEY: But, you know, can I just point out that I think one of the things that makes the American people frustrated is when they see time and time again liberals excusing racism from other liberals. And I think that, you know, clearly, Senator Reid's comments were outrageous. And the notion that they're being excused...


STEPHANOPOULOS: But in a private conversation that he thought was off the record...

CHENEY: I don't think racism is OK, George, whether you're saying it in private or in public. And the excuse of it by liberals, you know, is -- is really inexcusable.

But I do think, frankly, you know, he's given the voters of Nevada yet one more reason to oust him this -- this next time around, and I suspect that's what they'll do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: George, you're shaking your head.

WILL: I don't think there's a scintilla of racism in what Harry Reid said. At long last, Harry Reid has said something that no one can disagree with, and he gets in trouble for it.

CHENEY: George, give me a break. I mean, talking about the color of the president's skin...

WILL: Did he get it wrong?

CHENEY: ... and the candidate's...

WILL: Did he say anything false?

CHENEY: ... it's -- these are clearly racist comments, George.

WILL: Oh, my, no.


HUNT: ... quickly, Liz, I -- I think it was certainly an indelicate comment, but, in fact, during the election, there were stories and there were people commenting on Tiger Woods, Adrian Fenty. I mean, I think it's very unfortunate, but I think there is an element that says that -- that -- that some -- some blacks do better than others because of appearance. I don't think that's right...


HUNT: ... but I don't think...


CHENEY: ... this may be the way that liberal elites speak to each other in private. It is not the way that people that I know speak to each other in private or public...

I'll bet.

Labels: ,

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fouling Kennedy's seat?

This is the guy who would derail health care reform?

At the assembly in King Phillip's High School auditorium, State Senator Brown called each student out, one by one, using curse words that every mother would be horrified to hear and would've covered their children's ears if they were there. Above the protests of all the teachers who were aghast at the state Senator's anti-social behavior and foul language, Brown refused to stop his child-like tirade calling each student out one by one in great pleasure.

Some polls now have this douche leading Coakley in the special election to fill the late Ted Kennedy's seat.



Roger Ailes is most certainly a media and political strategist genius. But, according to this story, in addition to being despised by the children of his boss, he's also (unsurprisingly) seriously paranoid and self-absorbed.

As powerful as he is within the News Corporation, Mr. Ailes remains a spectral presence outside the Fox News offices. National security had long been a preoccupation of Fox News, and it was clear in the interview that the 9/11 attacks had a profound effect on Mr. Ailes. They convinced him that he and his network could be terrorist targets.

On the day of the attacks, Mr. Ailes asked his chief engineer the minimum number of workers needed to keep the channel on the air. The answer: 42. “I am one of them,” he said. “I’ve got a bad leg, I’m a little overweight, so I can’t run fast, but I will fight.

“We had 3,000 dead people a couple miles from here. I knew that any communications company could be a target.”

His movements now are shadowed by a phalanx of corporate-provided security. He travels to and from work in a miniature convoy of two sport utility vehicles. A camera on his desk displays the comings and goings outside his office, where he usually keeps the blinds drawn.

Mr. Ailes said he received frequent threats over the years, but his concerns for the safety of his family were heightened by an incident at his New Jersey home after the 9/11 attacks. There was an intruder on his property, but no arrest was made. In Putnam County, he has bought several properties surrounding his home. A sign outside his house shows an illustration of a gun and advises visitors that it is under video surveillance.

The former "Mike Douglas Show" staff member probably had more to do with getting Nixon elected in 1968 than anyone else besides Nixon himself. It's remarkable how much alike the two men seem to be, except that Nixon might have taken himself a little less seriously.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, January 09, 2010

A deep seated hatred of the U.S. military?

With any luck, this will cause David Horowitz's head to explode.

More than 300,000 veterans and their dependents are enrolled in American institutions of higher education, their numbers swelling as a result of a new, more generous version of the G.I. Bill that Congress passed in 2008. The veterans and their federal benefits are being embraced by community colleges and huge campuses like the University of Texas, as well as by online schools like the University of Phoenix.

They are bringing to the esoteric world of academia the ballast of the most real of real-world experiences, along with all the marks of the military existence, from crew cuts to frayed nerves to a platoon approach to social life.

Perhaps nowhere is this new wave more striking than at Columbia, which more than any other Ivy League institution has thrown out a welcome mat for returning servicemen and women. There are 210 veterans across the university, integrating a campus whose image-defining moment in the past half-century was of violent protests against the Vietnam War.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 08, 2010

Noun + verb + 911 = Rudy Giuliani

It's so sad about Giuliani's dementia.

Condolences to Mr. Biden on the loss of his mother.

Labels: ,

Served with papers, then a flashlight

Via TBogg, domestic terrorism, Bush administration-style.

In a taped interview at the hospital as she was surrounded by bloodied bed sheets and hunks of pulled-out hair, Farren's wife told police she escaped the house after hitting the panic alarm and then driving to a nearby home on Weed Street with her two daughters, a 4-month-old and a 7-year-old, after Farren tried to pull her into a bathroom with a kitchen knife, a police report said.

She said the dispute began when Farren wanted to talk to her about divorce papers she delivered to him on Monday. He wanted them to get back together, but she told police that she could not stay with him because of his explosive temper, the report said.

In the third-floor master bedroom, Farren walked toward her, but she told him not to approach and he flew into a rage, she told police.

He tackled her and began pulling out "gobs of hair," she said in the report. He then began beating her with a metal flashlight and drove her to the floor under the blows, she told police.

Bleeding heavily, she passed out and, when she came to, he began strangling her. With his hands around her neck, she lost her sight and began searching for the panic alarm with her hands, she told police.

Farren said, "don't hit the alarm button," but eventually she pushed it and the alarm began to sound, the police report said.

Hearing the alarm, "he went nuts," and began to hit her again with the flashlight, the report said.

Farren then told her he was going to slit his wrists and went and got a large knife, the report said. He went into the bathroom and tried to get her there too. Thinking that he was going to try to kill her, she ran to her daughter's bedroom and screamed, "daddy's trying to kill me," and "we have to leave now," the report said.


Farren worked as a deputy counsel for George W. Bush from 2007 until he left office; in this role, he took on a number of issues, including dismissal of several U.S. attorneys and the disappearance of White House e-mail communications.

Prior to joining the Bush legal team, Farren served as a vice president in charge of government relations for Xerox.

Farren worked in the U.S. Department of Commerce under President Ronald Reagan and became under secretary for international trade for President George H.W. Bush in 1989. In 1992, Farren left the Commerce Department to become a deputy manager for the unsuccessful Bush-Quayle re-election campaign.

Farren served as deputy director for George H.W. Bush's transition team and prior to joining the Commerce Department in 1983, he served for two years as deputy director of White House liaison at the Republican National Committee.

Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but it reminds me of the Bush administration's legal underpinnings of civil liberties and foreign affairs. Would it be irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to.


Giuliani is proving to be a poor comedian

It's a bad habit for a comedian to laugh at his own jokes. One would hope that Rudolph Giuliani's reputation as an "expert" on national security would now be irreparably damaged to the point no serious news outlet will take him seriously. But I won't hold my breath.

Labels: ,

The politics of banking reform

I've accused Krugman of ignoring political realities in the past, but on this I think he's right.

Let me conclude with a political note. The main reason for reform is to serve the nation. If we don’t get major financial reform now, we’re laying the foundations for the next crisis. But there are also political reasons to act.

For there’s a populist rage building in this country, and President Obama’s kid-gloves treatment of the bankers has put Democrats on the wrong side of this rage. If Congressional Democrats don’t take a tough line with the banks in the months ahead, they will pay a big price in November.

And reports like this don't help.

There seems to be some misreading of "voters' moods" around the country in which it is assumed that the president's party is going to take a massive hit in the Fall. I think that thinking can lead to self-fulfillment if Democrats aren't careful. Truth is, there is a deep anger at the elites in Washington and in the financial sector who helped to create the atmosphere of greed and self-enrichment that's left millions unemployed and millions more falling further and further behind economically. Democrats need to take advantage of that mood -- and the fact that Republicans will try to obstruct anything they do -- to push serious reform on the financial institutions that were on the verge of melting down in 2008 and would have done so without massive infusions of taxpayer dollars. Then remind voters in the Fall that it was under a Republican administration that the collapse occurred and that Republican politicians are uninterested in reining in those financial institutions.

I haven't written much about Chris Dodd, even though I live in the Nutmeg State and have long been a big supporter of his, other than to note that State Attorney General Blumenthal should have a far easier time holding the seat for Democrats than Dodd would. In deciding not to run for reelection Dodd did the right thing for himself, the party, and the country. The question now becomes will he feel even more free to usher in real financial reform, or will those who oppose reform be able to run out the clock on Dodd's term?


Weblog Commenting by Site Meter