Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Professional courtesy not withstanding, Sessions is a douchebag

Senator Leahy makes a point.

MICHELE NORRIS: You know there are facts and then there are labels that sometimes can follow people, and when you have a sitting senator basically saying a nominee is lying before the committee, does that harm her as she goes forward, regardless of what happens with the confirmation?

PATRICK LEAHY: I suspect this will depend on the credibility of the senator.

MN: And are you questioning the credibility of Senator Sessions on that?

PL: You asked a broad question and I, uh, I responded to it.


A cautionary tale

I was listening to the radio broadcast during the early innings so I didn't see this last night. It's still sweet the next day, though.

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Whiffs of '37

The whole notion that Germany, politically, cannot continue to pour stimulus into the economy because they still remember the way inflation helped caused the rise of the Nazi party is not on its face ludicrous, but that history is largely myth and, today, it also doesn't make much sense. The current German government isn't Weimar. The German state is not saddled with gigantic reparations to France and England. Germany is still not struggling to recover from a war in which over 2 million German soldiers 2.5 million Germans and Austrians were killed.

The world’s rich countries are now conducting a dangerous experiment. They are repeating an economic policy out of the 1930s — starting to cut spending and raise taxes before a recovery is assured — and hoping today’s situation is different enough to assure a different outcome.

In effect, policy makers are betting that the private sector can make up for the withdrawal of stimulus over the next couple of years. If they’re right, they will have made a head start on closing their enormous budget deficits. If they’re wrong, they may set off a vicious new cycle, in which public spending cuts weaken the world economy and beget new private spending cuts.

On Tuesday, pessimism seemed the better bet. Stocks fell around the world, over worries about economic growth.

Longer term, though, it’s still impossible to know which prediction will turn out to be right. You can find good evidence to support either one.

The private sector in many rich countries has continued to grow at a fairly good clip in recent months. In the United States, wages, total hours worked, industrial production and corporate profits have all risen significantly. And unlike in the 1930s, developing countries are now big enough that their growth can lift other countries’ economies.

On the other hand, the most recent economic numbers have offered some reason for worry, and the coming fiscal tightening in this country won’t be much smaller than the 1930s version. From 1936 to 1938, when the Roosevelt administration believed that the Great Depression was largely over, tax increases and spending declines combined to equal 5 percent of gross domestic product.

Back then, however, European governments were raising their spending in the run-up to World War II. This time, almost the entire world will be withdrawing its stimulus at once. From 2009 to 2011, the tightening in the United States will equal 4.6 percent of G.D.P., according to the International Monetary Fund. In Britain, even before taking into account the recently announced budget cuts, it was set to equal 2.5 percent. Worldwide, it will equal a little more than 2 percent of total output.

Taking the wrong lessons from bad history and mixing that with bad economic "theory," is not a recipe for a global economic recovery.

After all, it's worked so well in Ireland.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Can't we all just get along?

I mean, there are all different kinds of reporters with different approaches and different beats. They have their roles. But when it comes to a face off between Lara Logan, who has really done some great reporting with rockets flying over her head, and Matt Taibi, who once tried to interview presidential candidate John Kerry while wearing a gorilla suit*, I'll go with Lara.

And I gotta say, I think most of Balloon Juice readers are good folks, but the comments section is a bit raw today.

* Because our politics are, ya know, a joke. And the choice of presidential candidates in 2004 non-existent.


Monday, June 28, 2010

"Trading on the name of the Washington Post"

Greg Sargent is a little pissed at his fellow employees, and rightly so.

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Kick the poor

Though mind-numbingly dull, there were some high moments in todays edition of "Kagan: Confirmation Conflation!" Such as this moment when learn that Senator Kyle really fucking hates the poor, the disenfranchised, the defenseless, etc.

But there are some gems to be gleaned from some of the mini-speeches senators have delivered. Greg Sargent, for example, highlighted some fascinating comments from Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R.), in which the right-wing Arizonan took on the very concept of judges looking out for the defenseless.

"Judge Sotomayor explicitly rejected the 'empathy' standard espoused by President Obama -- a standard where 'legal process alone' is deemed insufficient to decide the so-called 'hard cases'; a standard where the 'critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart.'

"Perhaps because his first nominee failed to defend the judicial philosophy that he was promoting, the President has repackaged it. Now, he says that judges should have 'a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people ... and know that in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.' [...]

"Kagan wrote a tribute to Justice Marshall in which she said in his view it was the role of the courts and interpreting the Constitution to protect the people who went unprotected by every other organ of government. The court existed primarily to fulfill this mission. And later, when she was working in the Clinton administration, she encouraged a colleague working on a speech about Justice Marshall to emphasize his unshakable determination to protect the underdog."

I suppose I'm not the target audience here, but this reads like praise to me. President Obama thinks jurists should "a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people"? That sounds like a principle with real value. "Powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens"? Sign me up. Looking at the courts as champions of those "unprotected by every other organ of government"? Preach it, brother. Thurgood Marshall had an "unshakable determination to protect the underdog"? No wonder he's a national hero.

Except, of course, Kyl meant all of this as a condemnation. What I perceive as compliments were intended as derision. Kyl was repackaging progressive principles and commitments to protect the defenseless as concepts to be ignored and rejected. Indeed, the subtext wasn't subtle -- to embrace these ideas makes one unsuitable for the bench, at least as far Kyl is concerned.

Now you can see why a Republican senator's apology to BP would fail to really have any consequences for him. Comments like these reflect Congressional Republicans' world view.

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Robert C. Byrd, 1917-2010

West Virginia could almost be renamed Byrdland. RIP.

In an interview in 2005, when asked what he considered his proudest Senate achievement, Mr. Byrd said it was his efforts to bring federal money to West Virginia. “I’m proud I gave hope to my people,” he said.

That success also attracted criticism. Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonpartisan watchdog group, regularly crowned him the “king of pork,” citing projects like the Robert C. Byrd Highway, two Robert C. Byrd federal buildings, the Robert C. Byrd Freeway, the Robert C. Byrd Center for Hospitality and Tourism, the Robert C. Byrd Drive and the Robert C. Byrd Hardwood Technologies Center.

West Virginians were grateful for the help. Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia and the state’s junior senator since 1985, said Mr. Byrd had meant “everything, everything” to the state. Mr. Byrd knew, he said, that “before you can make life better, you have to have a road to get in there, and you have to have a sewerage system and all those things, and he has done that for most of the state.”

Almost entirely self-taught, the Senate has lost one its smartest members, the last of the New Dealers.


Blue Monday, Grateful Dead edition

Friday, June 25, 2010

Vin Scully

I may have to tune in to the Dodgers' radio station this evening.

There had been much more fanfare the last time the Dodgers triumphed at Yankee Stadium. That was in 1955, when Scully said the words Brooklyn fans had never heard before, and would never hear again: “Ladies and gentlemen, the Brooklyn Dodgers are the champions of the world.”

Walter O’Malley, the owner, took the Dodgers’ executives and Scully to the Lexington Hotel, where they rested before the victory party at the Hotel Bossert in Brooklyn. Scully picked up his date — Joan Ganz, who would one day create “Sesame Street” — for an unforgettable drive.

“In Manhattan, it was the fall and football was in the air, two hours after the baseball game,” Scully said. “We drove through the tunnel — I don’t know if we went through the Lincoln or the Battery tunnel — and it was like V-J Day and V-E Day all rolled into one in Brooklyn. They were dancing in the streets. It was just one monumental block party.”

Scully continued: “And when we got near the Bossert hotel, the streets were lined with people. They had sawhorses to restrain them — although the people were very good, they weren’t about to do anything — but they took our cars about a block from the hotel, and we had to walk down the street into the hotel, like you were in a parade, with people cheering. We walked down the street together into the Bossert hotel where all hell was breaking loose, and that was amazing.”

Michael Kay, the Yankees TV broadcaster, has sounded like a little kid all week in anticipation of being in Dodger Stadium with his hero.


More of that "hopey changey" stuff

Yeah, this is a "big fucking deal," too.

The bill has been the subject of furious and expensive lobbying efforts by businesses and financial trade groups in recent months. While those efforts produced some specific exceptions to new regulations, by and large the bill’s financial regulations not only remained strong but in some cases gained strength as public outrage grew at the excesses that fueled the financial meltdown of 2008.

Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who shepherded the bill through the House, said the bill benefited from the increased attention that turned to the subject of financial regulation after Congress completed the health care bill.

“Last year when we were debating it in the house, health care was getting all of the attention and it was not as good a bill as I would have liked to bring out because we were not getting public attention,” Mr. Frank said. “What happened was with the passage of health care, the American public started to focus on this.”

Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said legislators were still uncertain how the bill will work until it is in place. “But we believe we’ve done something that has been needed for a long time,” he said.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner also praised the conference committee for its work. “All Americans have a stake in this bill,” he said. “It will offer families the protections they deserve, help safeguard their financial security and give the businesses of America access to the credit they need to expand and innovate.”

Legislators had aimed to finish their reconciliation work before President Obama travels to a G-20 meeting this weekend in Ontario, and to approve and deliver a final bill for the president’s signature by Independence Day.

At two minutes before midnight Thursday, some 14 1/2 hours after they began work Thursday morning, members of the House-Senate conference committee approved a final revision of the measure known popularly as the Volcker Rule.

The rule, named for Paul A. Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman who proposed the measure this year, restricts the ability of banks whose deposits are federally insured from trading for their own benefit. That measure had been fiercely opposed by banks and large Wall Street firms, who viewed it as a major incursion on some of their most profitable activities.

We can complain about all the back room dealing, but this is a pretty spectacular accomplishment. Certainly not perfect, but I really never thought they'd get this done.


Today's needle drop

Thursday, June 24, 2010



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Young Napolean

I shouldn't opine on military matters because even if in terms of actual experience of warfare, I'm just as experienced as this guy, I'm too ignurint about these things. And I'm usually wrong, anyhow.

Nevertheless, I will say that Doris Kearns Goodwin is certainly correct -- Lincoln did not want to fire McClellan because of the harm it might do to the Army of the Potomac.

For example, one night in 1861, Lincoln went with his secretary of state, William Seward, and his young aide John Hay to McClellan’s house. Told that the general was out, the three waited in the parlor for an hour. When McClellan arrived home, the porter told him the president was there, but McClellan passed by the parlor and climbed the stairs to his private quarters. After a half hour more, Lincoln again sent word, only to be informed that the general had gone to sleep.

Hay was enraged, writing in his diary of the “insolence of epaulettes” and “the threatened supremacy of the military authorities.” To Hay’s astonishment, Lincoln “seemed not to have noticed it specially, saying it was better at this time not to be making points of etiquette and personal dignity.” He would hold McClellan’s horse, he’d once said, if a victory could be achieved.

But, ultimately, McClellan's self-importance could not overcome his fear of his opponent (and sympathy to his opponent's cause). By process of painful elimination, Lincoln finally found the one general who had good judgment and shared Lincoln's determination to defeat the Rebels and end the shameful institution of slavery.

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Let's play two!

The Stanley Cup? Mr. Cub, himself? Wow. I realize this is Chicago, not Chattanooga, but it is amazing.


First hit

Great game. Nice moment. Beautifully captured.

But for me, the story of this game was Colin Curtis, a 25-year-old prospect drafted in 2006 out of Arizona State. He lined out in his major league debut on Monday night, but on Tuesday night Joe Girardi sent him out to pinch hit for Pettitte with two outs in the top of the eighth. The Yankees had already put the game moderately out of reach by scoring four runs in the frame, bringing the lead to 7-2, so there was really no pressure at all on Curtis. He took a ball and then a strike before launching a fastball to the wall in center field. Two more runs scored and Curtis ended up on second with a double, his first major league hit.

His eyes went to the ball, tracking it as it came in to the infield and found its way to second base umpire Laz Diaz. I’ve never been on the field in these moments, so I always wonder how it is that everyone on both sides immediately knows that the ball needs to be saved, but they always do. As Robinson Canó crossed home plate, he immediately began signaling for the ball. For his part, Diaz got Curtis’s attention, pretended to tuck the ball back into his pocket to be used again, then laughed as he tossed it towards the Yankee dugout. Curtis was suddenly eight-years-old again, and he grinned from ear to ear. The YES cameras found his family in the stands, focusing on his older brother who was high-fiving everyone within reach.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Anosognosia, or, unknown unknowns

Errol Morris, the documentarian ("Fog of War"), is writing a five-part series on "The Anosognosic's Dilemma." I'm not sure where he's going with it, but in riffing on Donald Rumsfeld's famous "there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns," I think I see some interesting connotations for our current political dilemma -- basically, for a lot of voters (and Congress people), they are often too stupid to know they're stupid. He quotes David Dunning, a Cornell professor of social psychology,

Well, my specialty is decision-making. How well do people make the decisions they have to make in life? And I became very interested in judgments about the self, simply because, well, people tend to say things, whether it be in everyday life or in the lab, that just couldn’t possibly be true. And I became fascinated with that. Not just that people said these positive things about themselves, but they really, really believed them. Which led to my observation: if you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent.


An anosognosic patient who is paralyzed simply does not know that he is paralyzed. If you put a pencil in front of them and ask them to pick up the pencil in front of their left hand they won’t do it. And you ask them why, and they’ll say, “Well, I’m tired,” or “I don’t need a pencil.” They literally aren’t alerted to their own paralysis. There is some monitoring system on the right side of the brain that has been damaged, as well as the damage that’s related to the paralysis on the left side. There is also something similar called “hemispatial neglect.” It has to do with a kind of brain damage where people literally cannot see or they can’t pay attention to one side of their environment. If they’re men, they literally only shave one half of their face. And they’re not aware about the other half. If you put food in front of them, they’ll eat half of what’s on the plate and then complain that there’s too little food. You could think of the Dunning-Kruger Effect as a psychological version of this physiological problem. If you have, for lack of a better term, damage to your expertise or imperfection in your knowledge or skill, you’re left literally not knowing that you have that damage. It was an analogy for us.

The first and second installments of the five part series are really fascinating.

Anyway, I was thinking about this -- and the dilemma it poses for progressive legislation -- after reading Somerby's post today when he reacts to a David Brooks column in which the fauxiologist cites a poll showing that only 6% of respondents thought the stimulus package had saved any jobs and helped the overall economy. Somerby writes,

That “absurdly low,” counterfactual belief is the just tip of the iceberg. In the wake of the oil disaster, what do actual voters think about our energy issues? In that New York Times/CBS poll, only 29 percent of respondents thought “protecting the environment” should be a higher priority than “developing new sources of energy.” (Forty-nine percent preferred the latter priority.) Among Gulf Coast respondents, 54 percent favored “increased drilling for oil and natural gas off the U.S. coast.” Only 36 percent thought “the costs and risks are too great.”

Somerby also links to Digby who laments that "zombie ideas" -- namely, that Social Security is insolvent and didn't anticipate baby boomers' retirement, and that it would be a mistake to put jobs creation ahead of deficit reduction when the unemployment rate is above 10% -- constantly drive our politics.

That last is why those of us who are of that age group are feeling burned at the idea that after paying in extra for most of our working lives to forestall cuts when we hit retirement, we're now being told that we're a bunch of scofflaws who have to live on catfood in our old age for the good of the children. It's not exactly a persuasive case for planning ahead, being responsible and paying your way. We were, after all, paying for our own parents and grandparents while creating a surplus for ourselves so our own kids wouldn't be overburdened. It's not a great argument for trusting the government. But then, that's the whole point is it not?

Update: Krugman's NYT column on the deficit is also a must read. Why he should have to argue something as elementary as the idea that high unemployment is exploding the deficit and failing to deal with that through stimulus rather than magical thinking will only make matters worse is beyond me. But he does. Once again, we're down the rabbit hole.

We just seem incapable of recognizing that one full side of our body (politic) is paralyzed, or even if we recognize it, we behave as if that does not matter.

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McChrystal's bad manners

Other than not wanting to read Holbrooke's emails, I haven't read anything in the excerpts from the Rolling Stone story that illustrates McChrystal disrespecting the president or VP. But the whole incident shows an amazing lack of judgment on his part and on the part of his staff. It's embarrassing stuff.

McChrystal gets called to the White House on Wednesday to direct the monthly Afghanistan/Pakistan briefing — oh, and to explain himself and see if he can keep his job. As I wrote for the Washington Independent, firing him carries its risks. There’s only a year to go before the July 2011 date to begin the transition to Afghan security responsibility and the Kandahar tide is starting to rise. It’ll be hard to fire McChrystal without ripping the entire Afghanistan strategy up, and I’ve gotten no indication from the White House that it’s interested in doing that. On the other hand, if senior administration officials are and I just haven’t picked up on it, McChrystal just gave them their biggest opportunity.

And what an opportunity. You can read the Rolling Stone profile through Politico. The amazing thing about it is there’s no complaints from McChrystal or his staff about the administration on any substantive ground. After all, McChrystal and his allies won the argument within the White House. All the criticisms — of Eikenberry, of Jones, of Holbrooke, of Biden — are actually just immature and arrogant snipes at how annoying Team America (what, apparently, McChrystal’s crew calls itself) finds them. This is not mission-first, to say the least.

In fact, you have to go deep in the piece to find soldiers and officers offering actual critiques — and what they offer is criticism of McChrystal for being insufficiently brutal. Everyone of them quoted here is a mini-Ralph Peters, upset because McChrystal won’t let them “get our fucking gun on,” as one puts it. I have a lot of respect for Michael Hastings, the author of the profile, but there are many greyer shades of on-the-ground military perspective than that, and I’ve seen them up close. But Hastings does a good and insightful job of showing that McChrystal is stepping into a diplomatic vacuum and acting as an advocate for Hamid Karzai despite Karzai’s performance in office.

"Bite me?" Really? That's the best they can do? It certainly puts Joe Biden in an even more elevated place in terms of strategy in Afghanistan. Not only can he say "I told you so," he can do it knowing that the leaders of the strategy he opposed can't come up with anything more substantive than immature name calling.

But the fact that McChrystal hasn't resigned tells me that the Administration has no interest in replacing him with just around a year to go before troop withdrawals begin.

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Joe Barton would like to apologize

The once weekly Douthat column

Ezra Klein, who each and every day writes the equivalent word-count of a dozen Ross Douthat weekly columns, is, I believe, employing a euphemism when he calls Douthat's latest "interesting." I think he means, "inane drivel."

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Monday, June 21, 2010

"Maybe he says 'fine' to everybody"

Michael Tomarsky writes in Democracy that liberals, progressives...whatever...are predisposed to an often ugly combination of defeatism and political cannibalism that constantly sets back attaining the very goals they demand. It's a result, Tomarsky writes, of a political culture that elevates every misstep as a catastrophe to the progressive cause. Every word out of Rahm's mouth is evidence of his treachery and the Obama administration's failure to bend all 59 Democratic Senators as a failure of will, not political reality.

But it's also a result, Tomarsky goes on to say, of a misreading by progressives of progressive political history. We tend to view the great achievements of the 20th century -- the New Deal, the Civil Rights Act, the Great Society -- as snapshots, blissfully unaware of the painful political process, the half-measures, the compromises, the back-tracking, the sell outs, that went into finally achieving those great moments.

So Tomarsky is set on helping us see the full picture of history.

The clubs regularly used by liberal critics who hammer the Administration for its tentativeness and caution are the New Deal and the Great Society. He must be more like Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson; there were proud liberals who didn’t vacillate, didn’t muck around with this bipartisanship foolishness, and licked their chops at the prospect of a good fight, as evidenced by the "I welcome their hatred" quote, which FDR directed at the "economic royalists." We were also treated, especially in the Administration’s first six months, to regular comparisons to Roosevelt’s famous Hundred Days: "By this time, FDR had . . . "

The Hundred Days were a wondrous thing, there is no denying it. But today, when we ask why Obama couldn’t just do that, we misunderstand the context in which they occurred. Roosevelt took office with an unemployment rate of 24 percent. For Obama the number was 7.6 percent. FDR also became the president of a desperately poor nation. It’s hard to make a precise comparison, because good economic numbers on household income go back only to 1947, but some economists who’ve looked at the question have determined that the median household income in 1933–in today’s dollars–was in the range of $15,000 to $20,000. That figure today is right around $50,000, and the poverty threshhold today for a family of four is about $22,000. In other words, not only were incomes far, far lower then, but most people were poor–if not officially, then effectively. And one in four workers had no work. That is light years away from today’s America, even post-crisis, and it made for a desperate situation in which all manner of experimentation was welcomed by a public that often literally couldn’t eat. So the Hundred Days set about changing that–but did not, at least as regards the unemployment rate, which stayed above 20 percent until 1936.

The New Deal was not a seamless narrative of aggressively liberal steps in which conservatives were sent scampering. It was full of starts and stops, and it took a long time. There were many reasons for this, but a chief one had to do with Roosevelt himself–seen by the more impatient reformers of his day as equivocal and adhering to too few core beliefs, exactly the way some see Obama today. Alan Brinkley, in Liberalism and Its Discontents, reminds us that the general historians’ view of Roosevelt, quite far removed from that presented in the sound bites and summaries employed today, was that of "a man without an ideological core and thus unable to exercise genuine leadership." Huey Long, who sat out on FDR’s left flank, complained of this in a quote in which he invoked his ideological nemesis, the Senate majority leader from Arkansas: "When I talk to [Roosevelt], he says, ‘Fine! Fine! Fine!’ But Joe Robinson goes to see him the next day and he says ‘Fine! Fine! Fine!’ Maybe he says ‘Fine’ to everybody."

Tomarsky also reminds us that 13 of the 30 Republicans in the Senate voted for Medicare. Imagine what that would do for Obama's agenda if he could rely on even a handful of Republicans to support the reform of what is a very broken health care system.

Tomarsky's point is that if you were a "baby boomer," born between 1945 and 1965, you were raised to believe that modern American history was a progressive one. A chain of one progressive victory after another. Then there was Carter's loss to Reagan. An aberration, many raised to revere the New Deal and the Great Society thought. But that flies in the fact of the larger historical picture in which the late 1930s-1980 were really the anomaly. The "interregnum between the Golden Ages," as Salvatore and Cowie quote Paul Krugman. We have been in the midst of an era of a sharply more conservative, more individualistic reading of the Constitution.

Today, as we watch Obama struggle against a unified Republican opposition; as we contemplate a Supreme Court rendering decisions like the one in Citizens United v. FEC; as we witness the rise of the Tea Party movement; as we bear in mind that the financiers of the conservative movement spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on political advocacy of many sorts, several times more than George Soros and his ideological confederates spend on direct political activity; we see that we inhabit a political culture very far removed from those of the 1930s and 1960s. The misery prevalent during the former era allowed for vast experimentation. The prosperity of the latter, and a faith in government that still existed then, provided a basis for collective action. And our time? Think of this: We’ve experienced the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s, and the only mass movement to emerge from that reality is a right-wing populist one. Progressives must believe in and work toward a politics of the common good, but we must also be clear about why that is harder today than it once was.

Harder, but Tomarsky's article is titled "Against Despair." We can't let the historical obstacles progressives have always faced, or the new powerful media conservatives now control, force us to give up. We can't let unfair historical comparisons to FDR and LBJ make the current administration's real accomplishments be sold short. And we certainly can't let some people's disappointment that Obama hasn't brought the banksters to their knees, put the health insurance companies out of business, or told Joe Lieberman to go fuck himself, stop us from being engaged in this messy process called "progress." Something was started in 2006 that became glorious one night in Grant Park in 2008. We need a basis in reality combined with an intensity of purpose. Remember, he other side has none of the former but an abundance of the latter (just yesterday I saw an Audi -- an Audi! -- with an "I miss Ron" bumper sticker).

If we wallow in disappointment or let that disappointment morph into rage we only give concervatism more power than it already has.

Anyway, I've lifted liberally from the article (pun intended, of course), but the whole thing is essential reading, especially during what the Times' foremost Concern Troll calls, Liberals' Summer of Discontent.

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Blue Monday, John Lee Hooker edition

Words of wisdom

It's funny, unlike most graduating seniors this year, Liberty U grads probably are certain of a job due to various rightwing welfare schemes, but even still, I don't think this is helpful advice.

Learn, laugh, love. Sleep hard, but sleep less. Pray on your knees.

To whom much is given much is required. You have been given the world and beyond. ... Never want anything too much. You will pay too high of a price one way or another. Labels are meaningless, but Louis Vuitton shoes are really the best. Someone you meet today is afraid or suffering. Find them. Find them every day and comfort them. Shoot to kill. Always tithe.

Wouldn't it be easier to shoot to kill before you comfort them rather than after? Just sayin'.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Corporate Going Gault

This is all sorts of foolishness.

Each of his confrontations with corporate executives had its own rationale. G.M. had become so uncompetitive, Mr. Obama argued, that its imminent collapse was threatening the jobs of millions of workers; the only way to save the company from its own worst instincts was to become its temporary owner and bring new blood into the boardroom. (It will take years to determine if that worked, but on Thursday, though it was overshadowed by the grilling of BP’s chief executive on Capitol Hill, G.M. announced it was forgoing its usual summer shutdown of most of its plants so it could meet renewed demand.)

The Wall Street executives who needed the government to prop them up, but still thought their services were worth millions a year, were cast by Mr. Obama as a shameless privileged class. Toyota was described as seeking profits over safety; Wellpoint, the insurance giant, was castigated for seeking to insulate itself from the new health care legislation by taking actions that the law will soon prohibit.

Against that backdrop, forcing BP to take a $20 billion bath — even before the inevitable lawsuits are filed — seemed an easy decision. Mr. Obama had no legal basis for the demand, but concluded he did not need one. “He had a power other presidents have used — you call it jawboning,” Mr. Emanuel said.

The question is whether the cumulative effects of these actions create an impression that, over the long run, may make it harder to persuade both American and foreign corporations to cooperate with Mr. Obama’s program to reinvest and reinvigorate the American economy.

“He’s walking a very fine line here,” said Jeffrey Garten, a professor of trade and international finance at the Yale School of Management and a former top official in the Clinton administration’s Commerce Department. “He is taking each case on the merits as he sees it, but he runs the risk of sowing a level of mistrust about all big companies. And it’s those companies — not small businesses — that he will need to invest and innovate for the kind of recovery he wants.”

My, you know, emphasis. Yes, it makes sense that corporations -- both foreign and domestic -- would decide to either not do business in the States or, better yet, simply not invest for growth here because President Obama can say mean things to themselves when provoked (by a financial meltdown caused by greed and stupidity, hundreds of thousands of jobs lost by incompetence, or a broken pipe under the Gulf caused by cost-cutting and regulatory malfeasance). After all, it's not like we're the largest economy in the world with the safest currency and lowest rates of interest. I'm sure Exxon-Mobile will be the next to go since we sure don't buy enough gasoline and they could be next to receive a presidential tongue-thrashing. I mean, if I were a CEO, I'd say, "Who needs this shit? We're outta here. They're not this abusive in mighty France."


About right


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shakedown Street

By pretty much any measure, the agreement at the White House in which BP agreed to set up a $20billion escrow account and got nothing in return from the president would seem like a big success for Obama and the people affected by the "spill" and its after effects.

Not to Republicans and their media reps who saw this as another example of a Chicago-style shakedown and another example of wealth redistribution. These guys...


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fair and deluded

Shorter Pantload: They probably print conservative stuff too, but how can be fair and balanced if they print hysterical lefty rants about soccer?

Via Roy.

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No clemency

I suppose you could argue that Arizona's governor is not approving clemency for an ailing prisoner who's served 35 years for a murder he probably didn't commit because she really thinks it's the right thing to do.

Or you could say she's doing it to get elected to a full term as governor of Crazyland, in which case you'd have to say this further confirms Jan Brewer is a monster.

Last year, the five members of the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency unanimously recommended to Ms. Brewer that Mr. Macumber be released after 35 years in prison “to correct a miscarriage of justice.”

But Ms. Brewer rejected the board’s recommendation without explanation in November. It is possible that politics played a role in her decision; Ms. Brewer, a Republican who became governor last year, is running for a full term in November.

“She denied the application right after she announced that she was running for governor,” said Katherine Puzauskas, a lawyer with the Arizona Justice Project at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. The project, which was founded by Mr. Hammond and works to overturn wrongful convictions, has represented Mr. Macumber since 2000.

There is little political upside to granting clemency, but there is a substantial risk, as Mike Huckabee learned when a man whose sentence he commuted as governor of Arkansas in 2000 killed four police officers last year.

P. S. Ruckman Jr., a political science professor at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Ill., has been fuming about Ms. Brewer’s handling of the Macumber case. “I have been following state clemency for 30 years,” Mr. Ruckman said, “and this is easily, easily, the most disturbing. It’s borderline despicable.”

“Common-sense notions of justice should compel a governor to provide an explanation for imprisoning a man deemed innocent by an official board created to make such judgments,” he added. “You don’t imprison a man for no reason.”

A spokesman for the governor said Ms. Brewer had reviewed the case thoroughly, but he provided only boilerplate concerning her reasoning.

“Every executive clemency case is carefully scrutinized as the governor balances the very real and important concepts of public safety, justice and mercy,” the spokesman, Paul Senseman, said in an e-mail message.

Mr. Macumber is 74 and in failing health, with heart problems and arthritis, and the threat he poses to public safety is not obvious.

I would have to say that choosing Janet Napolitano as Dir of Homeland Security looks worse and worse.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Crisis as opportunity

Real climate change legislation has no chance of passing the Senate before November (remember, a House version of the legislation passed, I believe, some time around the Mood Ring era). The Obama administration is under intense pressure to do something to help his beleaguered partisan colleagues facing brutal odds for re-election and this is not an issue guaranteed to do that...quite the opposite. Climate change denial is rising. Obama's poll numbers, while not sinking, are not. Congress talks jobs, jobs, jobs, while afraid to do anything for fear of Tea Party Deficit Backlash.

Meanwhile, images of underwater gushing oil sear, our "addiction" to oil, as a former president put it, continues unabated, and it's important to remember the response to Santa Barbara.

So what will he say tomorrow evening after making his fourth visit to post-Beyond Petroleum Gulf Coast? Will he use his first address from the Oval Office to lament the spills and the death of a way of life in the Gulf, then talk about new regs he will propose and demand Congress do something? Or will he really demand Congress do something and take real action on Climate Change and our dependence on oil? Marc Ambinder speculates.

If Obama went big, the political ramifications would be serious and unpredictable. The Senate and House campaign committees would plotz. He would face vociferous opposition from members of his own party; David Axelrod would have a call sheet 50 pages long from consultants who want to know whether he is out of his mind. These people want Obama to talk about jobs, and jobs only. Getting a climate bill would require both the power of presidential persuasion and a hefty amount of behind-the-scenes maneuvering. (Sherrod Brown would receive weekly phone calls from Rahm Emanuel asking him what it would take to get his vote.) There is no good political reason to go Big. (I tend to believe that the political repercussions of pressing for a climate bill would not be nearly as disadvantageous as one presumes; on the one hand, presidential approval ratings tend to influence the performance of a president's party; on the other, candidates now have a handy way to distance themselves from the president.)

But, at times, the President has different equities than members of his party. This is one of them. Figuring out how to solve this existential problem is on Obama's shoulders, not Congress's, really. Climate change denialism is rising, and no one on the President's level is fighting back. The chances of building a consensus for climate change legislation will not be helped by the addition of a few Republican senators. More vulnerable Democrats are up for re-election in 2012 than in 2010. If now isn't the right moment, there may never be a better one.

This is what Obama was elected for. No, I'm not one who assumed he would lead us to a new era of progressivity as he walked on water distributing loaves and, ironically, fishes. He's a pragmatic progressive who has effectively maneuvered through crisis after crisis, fixing and retooling a fucked up system broken by three decades of nearly uninterrupted neglect and incompetence. As with the financial meltdown he inherited, this is another crisis he has to take advantage of to remake how we think about oil dependence, the federal government's role in regulating dangerous industries, and how his administration is taking action and leading a nervous Congress to do what needs to be done now.

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Gangsta life

Why does anyone watch this guy, let alone look to him for informed political commentary? Via Tapped.

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Blue Monday, J.B. Lenoir edition

Lithium dreams

What can possibly go wrong?

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

Who knows? Maybe this will prove to be just the thing to end decades of tribal fighting. But given the Karzai challenges, and could lead to even more resistance from the Taliban. Not to mention the interest other regional powers will take in this.


Saturday, June 12, 2010


Tomorrow morning, don't do as I did this morning and decide to read this story at breakfast, about the connection between animal cruelty and other criminal activity, especially domestic violence.

This might make you hurl your eggs, too.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

"The alien in the White House"

Hard to imagine the WSJ op ed page sinking much lower than the depths in which it has plumbed for a long time, but it seems to have achieved that dubious distinction.


In which Neil Young throttles the life out of Old Black

Posting's gonna be light, and probably non-existent tomorrow, so here's a little Ol' Geezer Rock 'n Roll for ya.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A (not so) skeptical public

Americans, it turns out, are not so skeptical of global warming as they are skeptical of poll questions.

Our findings might seem implausible in light of recent polls that purport to show that Americans are increasingly skeptical about the very existence of climate change. But in fact, those polls did not produce conflicting evidence at all.

Consider, for example, the most publicized question from a 2009 Pew Research Center poll: “From what you’ve read and heard, is there solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades, or not?” This question measured perceptions of scientific evidence that the respondent has read or heard about, not the respondents’ personal opinions about whether the earth has been warming. Someone who has had no exposure to scientific evidence or who perceives the evidence to be equivocal may nonetheless be convinced that the earth has been heating up by, say, the early blossoming of plants in his garden.

Or consider a widely publicized Gallup question: “Thinking about what is said in the news, in your view, is the seriousness of global warming generally exaggerated, generally correct or is it generally underestimated?” This question asked about respondents’ perceptions of the news, not the respondents’ perception of warming. A person who believes climate change has been happening might also feel that news media coverage of it has been exaggerated.

Questions in other polls that sought to tap respondents’ personal beliefs about the existence and causes of warming violated two of the cardinal rules of good survey question design: ask about only one thing at a time, and choose language that makes it easy for respondents to understand and answer each question.

Imagine being asked this, from a poll by CNN: “Which of the following statements comes closest to your view of global warming: Global warming is a proven fact and is mostly caused by emissions from cars and industrial facilities like power plants and factories; global warming is a proven fact and is mostly caused by natural changes that have nothing to do with emissions from cars and industrial facilities; or, global warming is a theory that has not yet been proven.”

Notice that the question didn’t even offer the opportunity for respondents to say they believe global warming is definitely not happening — not the sort of question that will provide the most valid measurements.

When surveys other than ours have asked simple and direct questions, they have produced results similar to ours. For example, in November, an ABC News/Washington Post survey found that 72 percent of respondents said the earth has been heating up, and a December poll by Ipsos/McClatchy found this proportion to be 70 percent.

This is important to keep in mind as Lindsay Graham is the latest Republican to pull the Lucy Act. It seems this could be a singular issue in which a large majority of Americans are in agreement. They believe it's happening, despite the billions spent to dishonestly create questions about the science and the efforts of non-climate scientist scientists to try to put scholarly glosses on bullshit, they believe it's probably caused by human activity, and they believe the federal government should act by using tax credits as incentives. Moreover, there is simply no reason for Senators of both parties to not do the right thing. There are Republicans in the Northeast whose states suffer from coal-burning plants in the Midwest, there are Republicans in the Southwest whose economies would benefit from non-carbon emitting power generation. And even a major catastrophe which, you'd think would spur action, simply hasn't. If anything, the Gulf spill has decreased bipartisan support for passing a bill (and, by the way, when do we stop calling this over 10,000 barrel a day rape a "spill?").

It's depressing. I'm not questioning Harry Reid's legislative priorities. The Recovery Act was an emergency, the Lilly Leadbetter Act was way overdue, and the Affordable Healthcare Act was, to coin a phrase, a Big Fucking Deal -- just to name a few of the big ticket items this Congress passed. But this could have topped off a truly remarkable legislative era and it seems to be dead on arrival.

We await Nate Silver's judgment of this, of course.

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Separated at birth?

Is it me, or does the Lady Gaga phenomenon and the "rise" of birther Orly Taitz seem suspiciously coincidental?


Confederacy of dunces

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Homage to Phillie fandoms

Aw, sweet; granddad (or geezer dad) initiating a young child into the joys of being a Philies fan..

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Analyzing the guano

Roy, methinks, is much too modest.

Though abnormal psychology is not our forte...

Oh, it is, man. It is.


Who will lead the Grand Army of the Potomac?

I've been reading his memoirs as well and often pause to wonder, is there anyone out there who can serve as Obama's U.S. Grant? Would Obama recognize the one man who would fight?

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Blue Hoovers

Of course this makes no sense for an economy that is just barely in recovery mode, but "Blue Dog" Democrats mistake economic literacy for fiscal discipline. As for their jobs being on the line if jobs gains don't materialize soon, I'd say don't count on that.

The Medicaid provision, which would extend assistance first granted in last year’s stimulus package, was considered such a sure bet by many governors and legislative leaders that they prematurely included the money in their budgeting. But under pressure from conservative Democrats to rein in deficit spending, House leaders in late May eliminated $24 billion in aid to states from a tax and jobs bill that was approved and forwarded to the Senate.

The voting public -- at least those with jobs or getting Social Security checks -- appears to be less concerned with massive job cuts then they are with the federal deficit of which they know nothing and are not helped by our Big Media Pundits.

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I guess now we'll be hearing that he's too emotional.

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Behold the Dittoheads

Sounds fun, doesn't it?

But how do you make such a special once-every-couple-of-years event even more exciting? If you’re Rush Limbaugh, you pay One Million Dollars to a very famous singer and piano player who is also very famously homosexual and British and a gay-marriage supporter and AIDS activist — and that’s how, we guess, Sir Elton John wound up performing at Limbaugh’s latest wedding. But the sexiest men at the Miami occasion were the guests. Karl Rove, Fred Thompson, Sean Hannity, Rudy Giuliani, Clarence Thomas … it wouldn’t have been any more fantastic if God Himself decided to rain burning poison shit from the sky, forever. And if you’re one of those people who didn’t figure out around 1992 that James Carville is an amoral scumbag, then perhaps you would’ve been surprised to see Carville and his Bride of Frankenstein enjoying the festivities.

Viagra and an Oxycontin chaser, anyone?

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Liber-randian and the irrelevant blogger

Great moments in journalistic pandering, from the usually interesting Mark Leibovitch.

They did not give out allowances, which they viewed as a parental version of a government handout. They did not believe in strict curfews; Mr. Paul says that unintended consequences — like speeding home to beat the clock — can result from excessive meddling from a central authority.

While Mr. Paul’s laissez-faire views produced a family of likeminded thinkers — “We’re all on board,” says the oldest son, Ronnie Paul — they inspired the middle child, Rand, to follow his father’s career path, first into medicine and now politics. If he prevails in November after winning the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Kentucky last month, he and his father would form a two-man libertarian dynasty.

Father and son are described as each other’s political sounding boards, confidants and support systems. “Dad and Rand spent hours having great philosophical discussions about issues,” said Joy Paul Leblanc, the youngest sibling.

I'm sure there were fascinating "discussions about issues," but other than a mention of "Austrian economics" and Ayn Rand, not a single "issue" is discussed in this story. Instead we get a lovely illustration of growing up Brady Bunch (but with fewer rules!) a vaguely creepy, self-centered father (the "solitude of the lawn mower?"), and self-absorbed son (he complained about a graded paper he got back, not because of the grade, but because there were "too many red marks" on it).

That was Saturday's pulp edition. So it was great to open up Sunday's and see an even more enlightened and enlightening political sketch.

Here are Mickey Kaus’ issues, in a nutshell: labor unions (which he blames for the destruction of the California educational system, the auto industry and assorted government institutions) and illegal immigration (which he thinks can’t be solved with a general amnesty). He has opinions on everything from health care to marijuana legalization, but these tend to hew closer to the Democratic party platform, while the former issues are where he differs from what he calls the “lock-step Democrats.”

“We need a government that works, an economy that’s hot, and people have to make enough money to live a life of dignity,” he argues. “That’s what the unions and the Latino lobby are getting in the way of.”

Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, whose relationship with Mr. Kaus goes back to their Harvard Crimson days, describes the Kaus philosophy thusly: “Mickey sees himself as a liberal whose mission in life is to correct the flaws of liberalism.”

Unions and the "Latino lobby" are getting in the way of money and dignity? Interesting viewpoint as he would seem to be more interested in making sure the working class is unable to organize and latinos be treated in any way other than with dignity.

"Irrelevant blogger," as Kos calls him in the story is too kind.

And, as with the Pauls' libertarianattude, there is no effort -- none -- to explore what a Senator Kaus -- or even irrelevant blooger Kaus -- would do about unions, Latinos, or the auto industry. But we do know he dated Arianna Huffington!

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Town Hall missing

I can certainly understand the instinct to not wanting to be screamed at by older white men, but I wonder if this is such a good idea.

If the time-honored tradition of the political meeting is not quite dead, it seems to be teetering closer to extinction. Of the 255 Democrats who make up the majority in the House, only a handful held town-hall-style forums as legislators spent last week at home in their districts.

It was no scheduling accident.

With images of overheated, finger-waving crowds still seared into their minds from the discontent of last August, many Democrats heeded the advice of party leaders and tried to avoid unscripted question-and-answer sessions. The recommendations were clear: hold events in controlled settings — a bank or credit union, for example — or tour local businesses or participate in community service projects.

And to reach thousands of constituents at a time, without the worry of being snared in an angry confrontation with voters, more lawmakers are also taking part in a fast-growing trend: the telephone town meeting, where chances are remote that a testy exchange will wind up on YouTube.

For incumbents of both parties facing challenging re-election bids, few things receive more scrutiny than how, when and where they interact with voters. Many members of Congress err on the side of being visible, but not too visible, and make only a few public appearances while they are back in their districts.

I mean, the so-called "independents" we hear about all the time are supposed to be put off by extreme behavior. If that's the case, isn't seeing some lunatic screaming into the face of a congress critter just the thing to get independents riled up in support of the incumbent? Especially now that voters seem to be, if not embracing health care reform, then at least willing to give it a chance.

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Blue Monday, Big Walter Horton & Ronnie Earl edition

Friday, June 04, 2010

Party leader -- impeachable offense

Mark Amber on the press' responsibility to refuse to give credibility to the ridiculous accusations flying around the Sestak and Romanoff "quid pro quo" stories.

More potentially pernicious than liberal bias, than the false equivalences bias, than really just about any other bias that journalism that injects into a public discussion of a story, is the power that comes from merely selecting which subjects to cover. Whatever the collection of facts about White House officials attempting to influence primary elections is, it is not a scandal. It is not the type of story that journalists with credibility and experience should be selecting to cover. It's the type of story that journalists ought to resist covering, precisely because the act of giving it attention elevates the arguments that don't correspond with the truth. If journalism is good for anything, it is to provide what Republican Bruce Bartlett calls "quality control" over the narrative. Well, a big mess just slipped by.

Where the White House erred is obvious. In claiming to hold themselves to an ethereal, fairly impossible ethical standard, they are partly responsible for the casual criminalization of regular political discourse. In some ways, this White House has been more transparent and more committed to generally accepted ethical practices. Although Obama never promised to abstain from politics, he invited some of this scrutiny by refusing to delineate what he found acceptable and what he did not. But this is a venial sin compared to the transgressions of organized journalism.

The story has been given legs, it seems, because the disaster in the gulf is too monotonous and Obama's been in office for 18 months and Michelle hasn't yet been accused of firing the WH pastry chef for "political reasons."

But it is a ridiculous story. The president is the leader of his party. Of course, he makes political decisions on who to support in contentious primaries and it is generally the incumbent. True for Republican presidents. True for Democrats. There was no quid pro quo -- in Sestak's case, because nothing of value was offered, and in Romanoff's, the WH staff simply inquired into whether he was still interested in the jobs he'd previously applied for before deciding to run for the Senate.

Those in the media who know its not a story on its own merit, but shows that the Obama administration is politically sloppy-- and that this means something in the bigger picture -- are equally ridiculous. As Amber notes, they aren't very good at this thing because...they aren't very good at this thing. Opposite of the "Chicago style of politics" they're constantly accused of playing, they aren't very interested in strict party discipline. They're not thugs.

Of course, as Somerby points out, the fact that William Jefferson Clinton was involved just deepens the conspiracy for these D.C. pundits, and makes editors tingle, just a little bit, remembering the good ol' days.

As with the Richard Blumenthal epic storyline, our so-called liberal media is very good at throwing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune at our liberal politicians who are unable to hold themselves entirely removed from the political fray, and aren't perfect. Standards to which Republican politicians are clearly not held. That is what gets disasters like George W. Bush elected.


Antidote to the usual bullshit

I haven't weighed in too much on the 28 out Perfecto, but when idiots over at National Review start comparing it to the BP spill in the Gulf, then I guess something must be said.

Truth is, whether this leads to more instant replay or not, I'm not too concerned, but if they had had instant replay, veteran umpire Jim Joyce would not have his name inextricably tied to that of Armando Galarraga, a guy who last year gave up more hits than innings pitched.

And that, in some ways, would have been too bad. Because we are, everyday, surrounded to our necks with people -- from business, the public sector, the press, you name it -- running as far away as they can from their fuck ups. Accountability has become as quaint as the dial-up phone. And not to sound too much like fauxioligist David Brooks, this small incident in a game played by millionaires was a reminder that taking responsibility for your actions can, sometimes, be its own reward.

The whole thing was a thing of beauty and a reminder that baseball is an amazing, unpredictable game (and all props to Joe Posnanski): the look on Galarraga's face when he heard "safe," which seemed to say, "Really, are you sure?;" the almost beatific smile on the pitcher's face as he walked calmly back to the mound, which seemed to say, "Man, is this game crazy, or what?;" going back and quickly getting the third out instead of completely unraveling, which you might have expected under the circumstances; Jim Joyce's tearful, brave meeting with the baseball beat writers after the game; then, yesterday, the ovation (mixed, yes, with boos) as the umpires came on to the field; Joyce trying to hold back his tears of appreciation; Galarraga looking nervous and uncomfortable as he brought the lineup card to the plate; the shaking of the hands, and the shoulder punches pitcher and umpire gave each other at the end of the encounter.

I am proud to love this game and I never cease to be amazed that there still are people like Jim Joyce, who never thought his long career would be remembered for one blown call (but always knew it could happen), but still came out to stand behind the plate the next day.

And, yeah, watching the start of the Detroit/Cleveland game yesterday, I admit to shedding a few bro-tears myself.


BP's new presser

I'm sure Anne Womack-Kolton can reprise her work as VP Cheney's head of press relations, and make BP just as much the picture of wise, steady, and transparent leadership as was her former boss.

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As opposed to what?

I appreciate the intent, but, really, isn't pretty much all American music of the last 100 years or so, "Black Music?"

Samba pa ti


Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Clown Show

David Weigel has a great interview with Alexander Zaitchik who's written what sounds like a laugh-a-minute profile of Glenn Beck.

What sort of attempts did you make to interview Beck for this book? If you made those attempts why were you denied?

I never tried to get in touch with him or his inner-circle. Even if he had agreed to talk to me, which was extremely unlikely, I wouldn’t have believed a word that came out of his mouth. Beck may not know much about politics or history, but he has arguably the most demonstrably sophisticated instinct for self-promotion on earth. I wasn’t interested in allowing Beck to use the book as a way to reinforce his well crafted and partly fictitious redemption narrative. Nor was I interested in trading my cerebellum for subject-access. I’ll leave that kind of thing to Zev Chafets.

Um, snap.

Shots at Zev "Rush is misunderstood" Chafets aside, Zaitchik makes a great point.

In the last year, Media Matters and other liberal groups have made a cottage industry of Beck-watching and Beck-bashing. I think you show that he loves this stuff — he loves it when people mock him for crying. Is the left doing a shoddy job of challenging Beck?

It is very easy and extremely tempting for liberals to tee-off on everything that comes out of Beck’s mouth. He’s a giant tree whose branches bend with juicy, chest-high fruit. But what I think a lot of people don’t understand is that this is all by careful design. Beck understands that controversy is the closest thing to a publicity perpetual-motion machine. He’s been courting controversy for decades. That’s the name of the game he learned in radio—get them talking about you, raise your profile—and it's in his blood in a way it can only be for someone who has been fighting for his survival in ratings wars since he was a teenager. It’s all about being in the news, finding the next biggest stage on which to promote his shows and his sponsors. Beck loves it when people go after him for crying, or blog about silly questions like, “Did he really boil the frog?”

Back in Baltimore in the early '90s, he crafted this whole extensive bit around hamsters and snakes in order to get PETA protesting in the station parking lot. He’s a positional marketing mastermind. It’s not a coincidence that the “third most listened to” show on talk radio is so well branded as being hosted by “the crying conservative with the chalk board and the Truth.” He knows exactly what he’s doing. I wish the left was better at resisting some of the bait he dangles on a daily basis, and focus on the bigger picture, like the agenda of [David and Charles] Koch-funded groups like Americans for Prosperity, which feeds Beck most of his scripts. That, and the content of the religious pseudo-histories he keeps telling people to read. At some point, enough is enough, and the left is letting him run this never-ending diversion play.

Like a lot of "modern conservatives," Beck is fueled by victimhood and his audience -- themselves feeling like the victims of what they perceive as affirmative action on their backs -- drinks it in like nectar.

More on the Koch brothers and their dad, a founding member of the John Birch Society.


Just like a judge in Putnam County


Yeah, sometimes they just blow the call.

Galarraga will never get his perfect game back. His center fielder, Austin Jackson, had kept it alive for him on the first pitch of the top of the ninth, racing on a full sprint to the distant warning track at Comerica Park, fully extending his left arm for a twisting, over-the-shoulder catch. After Mike Redmond grounded out to shortstop, Donald bounced a ball between first and second. Miguel Cabrera fielded it and threw to Galarraga covering.

The ball got there in time. So did Galarraga. He seemed to catch the ball near the top of the webbing; perhaps Joyce did not hear the telltale thwack of ball meeting leather before he heard Donald’s foot cross the base. He spread his arms — safe, an infield single.

It's a tough job.

The Yankees cruised to victory over the Orioles, and Robinson Cano ("doncha know!") is still blisteringly hot.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Eyes of the World

Worst case scenario

Via a commentator to a Clive Cook post comes this gem.

James Carville emerges from the conflagration riding a burning alligator.

Will this affect the midterms?



Where are the jobs? Where's the jobs bill?

David Leonhardt explains why debates over a job stimulus bill versus deficit reduction is a false one.

Of course, even if the bill is not very expensive, it is worth passing only if it will make a difference. And economists say it will.

Last year’s big stimulus program certainly did. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 1.4 million to 3.4 million people now working would be unemployed were it not for the stimulus. Private economists have made similar estimates.

There are two arguments for more stimulus today. The first is that, however hopeful the economic signs, the risk of a double-dip recession remains. Financial crises often bring bumpy recoveries. The recent troubles in Europe surely won’t help.

The second argument is that the economy has a terribly long way to go before it can be considered healthy. Here is a sobering way to think about the situation: If the next four years were to bring job growth as fast as the job growth during the best four years of the 1990s boom — which isn’t likely — the unemployment rate would still be higher in 2014 than when the recession began in late 2007.

Voters may not like deficits, but they really do not like unemployment.

Looking at the problem this way makes the jobs bill seem like less of a tough call. Luckily, the country’s two big economic problems — the budget deficit and the job market — are not on the same timeline. The unemployment rate is near a 27-year high right now. Deficit reduction can wait a bit, given that lenders continue to show confidence in Washington’s ability to repay the debt.

As a result, Congress does not have to choose between the problems. It can pass the jobs bill, putting people back to work, and even pass a separate bill to help struggling states. History has shown that state aid, which prevents layoffs of teachers, emergency medical technicians and other workers, is the single most effective form of stimulus.

Such logic, alas, is in short supply in the Senate these days.


Comp Lit

Today's deep thought: Sweet Jesus I hate Maureen Dowd.


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The WaPo abets "epistemic closure"

I knew that headline would grab you.

But really, if Fred Hiatt and the rest of the Wise Men running the WaPo Opinion section had any scruples about forwarding an honest discourse in our society, they would fire Michael Gerson, former wordsmith for George W. Bush, current liar on the WaPo Opinion page.

Sadly, they have no such scruples.

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Where's the outrage, vol 8,492

In past recessions, a 10% unemployment rate would have rattled politicians, as was the case in 1983. Today, with unemployment persistently hovering above 10%, Brad DeLong is amazed and unsettled by the lack concern shown by lawmakers in Washington.

Some wise senior Democrats have told me to calm down. The differences between today and 1983 aren’t all that great, they say. Because the Democrats are in power they don’t want to paint a grim picture. Republicans traditionally worry much more about inflation than unemployment; they’re unable even to figure out what policies they want. Moreover, in 1983 it was clear that the monetary and fiscal expansion trains were leaving the station. It was easy for politicians to call for bold and decisive action to fight unemployment, secure in the knowledge that such actions were already in motion and one could soon take credit for them.

But whenever I wander the halls of Washington these days, I can’t help but think that something else is going on—that a deep and wide gulf has grown between the economic hardships of Americans and the seeming incomprehension, or indifference, of courtiers in the imperial city.

Have decades of widening wealth inequality created a chattering class of reporters, pundits and lobbyists who’ve lost their connection to mainstream America? Has the collapse of the union movement removed not only labor’s political muscle but its beating heart from the consciousness of the powerful? Has this recession, which has reduced hiring more than it has increased layoffs, left the kind of people who converse with the powerful in Washington secure in their jobs and thus communicating calm while the unemployed are engulfed in panic? Are we passively watching an unrepresented underclass of the long-term unemployed created before our eyes?

Meanwhile, an entire generation seems to be forgotten.


Nom de plume

I eagerly await D.H. Riley's response to this week's Thoughtful Moderation while Excusing 30 Years of Republican Rule by David Brooks, but in the meantime...

President Obama swept into office having aroused the messianic hopes of his supporters. For the past 16 months he has been on nearly permanent offense, instigating action with the stimulus bill, Afghan policy, health care reform and the nearly complete financial reform. Whether you approve or not, this has been an era of bold movement.

But now the troops are exhausted, the country is anxious, the money is spent and the Democratic majorities are teetering. The remaining pieces of legislation, on immigration and energy, are going nowhere. (The decision to do health care before energy is now looking extremely unfortunate.)

Really? How so? Would GOP leadership have been any more cooperative on an energy bill then they showed when it came to health care? Cap and Trade would have still been "Cap and Tax," and Obama's willingness to negotiate on off-shore drilling would, in hindsight, be even more disappointing then it now is, as Deepwater Horizon continues gushing oil.

Health care legislation, Mr. Brooks, was, as Vice-President Biden so memorably put, a big fucking deal. A weak tea, compromised energy bill would likely have proved an embarrassment.

Meanwhile, the biggest problems are intractable. There’s no sign we will be successful in preventing a nuclear Iran. Especially after Monday’s events, there’s no chance of creating a breakthrough in the Arab-Israeli dispute. Unemployment will not be coming down soon. The long-term fiscal crisis won’t be addressed soon either.

In other words, if the theme of the past 16 months was large change, the theme of the next period will be gridlock and government’s apparent impotence in the face of growing problems.

The party he subscribes to has been the source of gridlock for the past 16 months and we're still waiting for conservative ideas on how to curb Iranian nuclear ambitions, which grew only more intense during the Axis of Evil era, or Israeli apartheid, which only grows more self-confident as the country's Only Friend never leaves its side.

Everybody is comparing the oil spill to Hurricane Katrina, but the real parallel could be the Iranian hostage crisis. In the late 1970s, the hostage crisis became a symbol of America’s inability to take decisive action in the face of pervasive problems. In the same way, the uncontrolled oil plume could become the objective correlative of the country’s inability to govern itself.

The plume taps into a series of deep anxieties. First, it taps into the anxiety that the people running our major institutions are just not that competent. Second, it feeds into the anxiety that there has been an unhappy marriage between corporations and government officials, which has had the effect of corrupting both. Most important, the plume exposes the country’s core confusion about the role of government.

No, it's not Katrina. Because, as Brooks bravely skates around it, Katrina exposed the Bush administration for failing to do what was exactly the role of government -- reacting quickly and effectively to a natural disaster that was predicted days in advance. And leading FEMA was an Arabian Horse breeder who was appointed for his political connections, not his competence, after eight years in which FEMA had reorganized itself in the wake of failings during the first Bush administration. And that "marriage" Brooks refers to, I'm not sure it was a marriage as much as it was a three-some.

We should be able to build from cases like this one and establish a set of concrete understandings about what government should and shouldn’t do. We should be able to have a grounded conversation based on principles 95 percent of Americans support. Yet that isn’t happening. So the period of stagnations begins.

A grounded conversation? I refer him back to last summer's town hall meetings and to the intelligent, informed dialog coming out of various "Tea Party" events. What is that "95 percent of Americans" support? That angels exist? That the sun ain't yellow, it's chicken? If there is any consensus on anything like the role of government and regulation then he's yet to identify it.

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