Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Patriotism and intelligence on one side"

At the Glenn Beck Ascends Into Heaven Festival, the call for more public prayer was paramount, and the congregants of Beck Church demanded more prayer in public schools. Curiously, we've been there before...in 1875. From Jean Edward Smith's remarkable biography of U.S. Grant:

By the end of the Civil War, Catholics constituted a majority in several Northern cities and church leaders began petitioning state legislatures for government support of parochial education. Protestants responded by calling for legislation prohibiting the diversion of public funds to religious institutions. The dispute escalated...Evangelical Protestants joined with nativists who were convinced of the pernicious designs of the Catholic Church to seek a constitutional amendment that affirmed the existence of God, confessed Christ as savior, and acknowledged true relition as the sole basis for civil government. By 12875 the school question, Protestant versus Catholic, had become a burning national issue.

Why Grant waded into the dispute has never been adequately explained. But on September 30 1875, without warning or preliminary buildup, the president of the United States gave both Protestants and Catholics a stern lecture on religious tolerance and the separation of church and state...Speaking to the veterans of the Army of the Tennessee...Grant made the most emotional speech of his career. He reminded the old soldiers of the hardships and sacrifice of war. "We believed then and we believe now that we have a government worth fighting for, worth dying for.


"If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason and Dixon's, but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other." In heartfelt words, Grant asked his countrymen to defend the guarantees of "free thought, free speech, a free press, pure morals unfettered by religious sentiments, and of equal rights and privileges to all men, irrespective of nationality, color, or religion."
Grant would go on to demand that the United States "Keep the church and state forever separate." And later in the year, he would ask for a constitutional amendment making it the duties of each state to establish and maintain free public schools that would be entirely secular, "the teaching of religion would be banned, and public aid to sectarian schools would be forbidden."

He even called for the taxation of church property.


We've come a long way -- the forces of "superstition, ambition, and ignorance" were on full display this weekend.

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The war is over, long live the war

It is somewhat remarkable that Barack Obama is going to fulfill a campaign promise in pulling our forces out of Iraq. Brian Katulis and Larry Korb of the Center for American Progress argue that it wasn't the surge that ended the civil war and made this pull out possible, but rather Obama's decision to set a timeline for pulling out.

A few hours before President Obama's Oval Office speech on Iraq, Brian Katulis and Larry Korb of the Center for American Progress are out with an interesting take on what's happened in that country since George W. Bush's much-debated 2007 troop surge. They argue, as others often do, that it wasn't a relatively minor boost in American troops that calmed Iraq's vicious sectarianism. But unlike most other commentators, who argue variously that the civil war had burned itself out and that the Sunni Awakening was a phenomenon unrelated to the surge, they argue that it was growing talk within American policy circles about setting a deadline for troop withdrawals that, in effect, scared the Iraqis straight:

Deadlines for a strategic redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq -- initially proposed in 2005 by leaders like former Representative Jack Murtha, championed by Democrats in Congress and candidates in the 2006 midterm elections, and outlined by the 2006 bipartisan Iraq Study Group -- all sent the important signal that Iraqis needed to take greater responsibility and ownership of their own affairs. The message that America's commitment to Iraq was not open-ended motivated forces such as the Sunni Awakenings in Anbar province to partner with the U.S. to combat Al Qaeda in 2006, a movement that began long before the 2007 surge of U.S. forces.

The message that Americans were leaving also motivated Iraqis to sign up for the country's security forces in record numbers. The "surge" of U.S. troops to Iraq was only a modest increase of about 15 percent -- and smaller if one takes into account the reduced number of other foreign troops, which fell from 15,000 in 2006 to 5,000 by 2008. In Anbar province, the most violent area, only 2,000 troops were added.

I know, I know, there will still be many opportunities for Americans (not to mention Iraqis) to die and for violence to return, but this, as VP Biden would put it, "a big fucking deal" and we should, solemnly of course, celebrate this fact.

Obama is betting that by putting a timetable for withdrawal in Afghanistan, Afghans will be similarly motivated to sort out their political quagmire.

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David Leonhardt Andrew Ross Sorkin is very young, but I didn't know he was so naive.

Just last week, Paul S. Otellini, chief executive of Intel, said at a dinner at the Aspen Forum of the Technology Policy Institute that “the next big thing will not be invented here. Jobs will not be created here.”

Mr. Otellini has overseen two big acquisitions in the last two weeks — the $7.7 billion takeover of the security software maker McAfee and the $1.4 billion deal for the wireless chip unit of Infineon Technologies. If he is true to his word, those deals will most likely lead to job cuts in the United States, not job creation.

When, when, when, has a merger or acquisition led to job gains? When? Name me one example.

U.S. companies are hoarding cash, perhaps as much as a $ trillion. Their stockholders are demanding that they do something with it -- either return it in the form of dividends or buy something. Executives are choosing the latter. Then eliminating jobs to pay for the acquisition.

Truth is, our betters are better at slashing jobs than they are creating "the next big thing."

UPDATE: "Then," "than," what's the diff?


Sensitivity training

Our pundits and our business elites are nothing more than mewling children, demanding more sugar, ever sensitive to the slightest hint of criticism.

Less than two years ago, Democrats received 70 percent of the donations from Wall Street; since June, when the financial regulation bill was nearing passage, Republicans were receiving 68 percent of the donations, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group.

But what is surprising is that some of the president’s biggest supporters have so publicly derided his policies, even at the risk of hurting their ability to influence the party in the future. Issues like the carry-interest tax on private equity or the Volcker Rule have become personal.

Why so personal? The prevailing view is that bankers, hedge fund mangers and traders supported the Obama candidacy because he appealed to their egos.

Mr. Obama was viewed as a member of the elite, an Ivy League graduate (Columbia, class of ’83, the same as Mr. Loeb), president of The Harvard Law Review — he was supposed to be just like them. President Obama was the “intelligent” choice, the same way they felt about themselves. They say that they knew he would seek higher taxes and tighter regulation; that was O.K. What they say they did not realize was that they were going to be painted as villains.

That Wall Street view of itself as a victim has prompted much of the private murmurings and the unfortunate — or worse — outburst from Stephen A. Schwarzman, who likened the administration’s plan for taxes on private equity to “when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.” Mr. Schwarzman later apologized for the “inappropriate analogy.”

Christ, these people sicken me.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Courage versus cramps

D.H. Riley compares the "disgruntled whites" at Beck's Festival of Dim Slob Picnic on August 28, 2010 with those who gathered on the National Mall on August 28, 1963.

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Million dollar babies

Kevin Drum notes that Meg Whitman is having an easy time protecting her flank from the Right because the state GOP has signed on to her money. But he also notes that she's having an especially easy time because she's running against a ghost Democrat.

This is the damnedest campaign I've seen in a long time. Granted, Labor Day isn't until next week, and Brown simply doesn't have the kind of money that Whitman does. But so far I've barely heard a peep out of him, and the peeps I have heard have been nothing more than the most soporific kinds of generalities. It's almost as if he's decided he's too tired to bother campaigning at all, and that's really not the image a 72-year-old career politician wants to send out. I sure hope there's some kind of deep strategy here that I'm not privy to. Whitman is a deeply cynical campaigner, but she has enough money to keep most of the public from seeing that. If Brown doesn't start beating her up soon, it's going to be too late.

That sounds right to me, and I'll tell you why I know -- because the same dynamic is happening here in the Connecticut Senate race. If Richard Blumenthal thinks he can coast his way based on his name and laurels as Attny General, then he's going to be very disappointed. The Horror Show that opposes him may be down in the polls but she is very likely to make good on her vow to spend $50 million of her own money on the campaign this Fall. And I gotta tell you, I'm already seeing a lot of Linda! bumper stickers on cars around the state.


Blue Monday, Howlin' Wolf edition


More and more frequently we hear pundits question the efficacy of the stimulus programs initiated by the Obama administration. Even though, according to the CBO, a million jobs were saved as a result, because we're not seeing a huge decrease in jobless claims, or because no one is building the next Grand Coulee dam, then the stimulus just doesn't feel quite real. Don't believe it.

Ultimately, even Obama's speed focused economists agreed that stimulus spending shouldn't dry up in 2010. And some Democrats were serious about investing wisely, not just spending more. So House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted on $17 billion for research. House Education and Labor Committee chairman George Miller fought to save Race to the Top. And while the grid didn't get a $100 billion reinvention, it did get $11 billion after decades of neglect, which could shape trillions of dollars in future utility investments. (See 10 big recession surprises.)

It takes time to set up new programs, but now money is flowing to deliver high-speed Internet to rural areas, spread successful quit-smoking programs and design the first high-speed rail link from Tampa to Orlando. And deep in the Energy Department's basement — in a room dubbed the dungeon — a former McKinsey & Co. partner named Matt Rogers has created a government version of Silicon Valley's Sand Hill Road, blasting billions of dollars into clean-energy projects through a slew of oversubscribed grant programs. "The idea is to transform the entire energy sector," Rogers says. "What's exciting is the way it fits all together."

"They Won't All Succeed"
The green industrial revolution begins with gee-whiz companies like A123 Systems of Watertown, Mass. Founded in 2001 by MIT nanotechnology geeks who landed a $100,000 federal grant, A123 grew into a global player in the lithium-ion battery market, with 1,800 employees and five factories in China. It has won $249 million to build two plants in Michigan, where it will help supply the first generation of mass-market electric cars. At least four of A123's suppliers received stimulus money too. The Administration is also financing three of the world's first electric-car plants, including a $529 million loan to help Fisker Automotive reopen a shuttered General Motors factory in Delaware (Biden's home state) to build sedans powered by A123 batteries. Another A123 customer, Navistar, got cash to build electric trucks in Indiana. And since electric vehicles need juice, the stimulus will also boost the number of U.S. battery-charging stations by 3,200%. (See how Americans are spending now.)

"Without government, there's no way we would've done this in the U.S.," A123 chief technology officer Bart Riley told TIME. "But now you're going to see the industry reach critical mass here."
So far, the jobs are slow to materialize, mostly because companies are slow to hire because of fears of a slide back in to recession. It will take time, but we will see real transformation of our economy because of the stimulus package. Trouble is, will Democrats be punished for "stimulus," even if the actual contents of the stimulus package are popular?


Thursday, August 26, 2010

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming

I realize that my absence from the blogosphere is allowing our once proud nation to fall further down the road to Perdition. I'll be back soon.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Leave the Constitution out of it

Seems pretty clear.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The whiner's version:

“I want to regain my First Amendment rights,” she said. “I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I’m sort of done with that.”

I hate to tell you this, "Dr" Lauara, but the First Amendment doesn't play in to this. Congress isn't making anti-"Dr" Laura laws. Your stupid, racist rant made your advertisers nervous.

Seems to me, there's a difference.

I wonder where all the contrition from a few days ago went. Maybe it's more profitable to be the "victim" of lefty haters.

Buh bye.

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Bobby Thompson


“Now it is done,” Red Smith wrote in The New York Herald Tribune. “Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.”

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On the road again

Madam Cura are hittin' the road. Postings may be light for the next couple of weeks.


After all, what's with those hats?

It's funny, in Ross Douthat's latest supply of laxatives to New York Times readers, in which he extols the benefits of nativism (i.e., xenophobia and bigotry) and calls into question the ability of American Muslims to properly "assimilate" unless they are "pressure[d] to conform to American norms, exerted through fair means and foul," he makes virtually no mention of other Americans who resist assimilating with American culture and religious traditions.

This is typical of how these debates usually play out. The first America tends to make the finer-sounding speeches, and the second America often strikes cruder, more xenophobic notes. The first America welcomed the poor, the tired, the huddled masses; the second America demanded that they change their names and drop their native languages, and often threw up hurdles to stop them coming altogether. The first America celebrated religious liberty; the second America persecuted Mormons and discriminated against Catholics.

But both understandings of this country have real wisdom to offer, and both have been necessary to the American experiment’s success. During the great waves of 19th-century immigration, the insistence that new arrivals adapt to Anglo-Saxon culture — and the threat of discrimination if they didn’t — was crucial to their swift assimilation. The post-1920s immigration restrictions were draconian in many ways, but they created time for persistent ethnic divisions to melt into a general unhyphenated Americanism.

Nor, curiously, did he mention American religious leaders who, like the Burlington Coat Factory Park51 Muslim Center leader, openly questioned whether American behavior and policies had a hand in motivating the murdering crazies who flew two planes in to the World Trade Center.

And yet, for Douthat, only one religion is required to answer for their co-religionists' crazy.

But if that's not the case, what is it with those Murder Caps?

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Now, about those Mormons and their tabernackles

Note to Dems, if you don't want to get swept up in a fake "scandal," shut the fuck up.

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The Savory Collection

This could be the most remarkable find in the history of jazz.

For decades jazz cognoscenti have talked reverently of “the Savory Collection.” Recorded from radio broadcasts in the late 1930s by an audio engineer named William Savory, it was known to include extended live performances by some of the most honored names in jazz — but only a handful of people had ever heard even the smallest fraction of that music, adding to its mystique.

After 70 years that wait has now ended. This year the National Jazz Museum in Harlem acquired the entire set of nearly 1,000 discs, made at the height of the swing era, and has begun digitizing recordings of inspired performances by Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Bunny Berigan, Harry James and others that had been thought to be lost forever. Some of these remarkable long-form performances simply could not fit on the standard discs of the time, forcing Mr. Savory to find alternatives. The Savory Collection also contains examples of underappreciated musicians playing at peak creative levels not heard anywhere else, putting them in a new light for music fans and scholars.


Part of what makes the Savory collection so alluring and historically important is its unusual format. At the time Savory was recording radio broadcasts for his own pleasure, which was before the introduction of tape, most studio performances were issued on 10-inch 78-r.p.m. shellac discs, which, with their limited capacity, could capture only about three minutes of music.

But Mr. Savory had access to 12- or even 16-inch discs, made of aluminum or acetate, and sometimes recorded at speeds of 33 1/3 r.p.m. That combination of bigger discs, slower speeds and more durable material allowed Mr. Savory to record longer performances in their entirety, including jam sessions at which musicians could stretch out and play extended solos that tested their creative mettle.

“Most of what exists from this era was done at home by young musicians or fans, and so you get really bad-sounding recordings,” Mr. Schoenberg said. “The difference with Bill Savory is that he was both a musician and a technical genius. You hear some of this stuff and you say, ‘This can’t be 70 years old.’ ”

As a result, many of the broadcasts from nightclubs and ballrooms that Mr. Savory recorded contain more relaxed and free-flowing versions of hit songs originally recorded in the studio. One notable example is a stunning six-minute Coleman Hawkins performance of “Body and Soul” from the spring of 1940; in it this saxophonist plays a five-chorus solo even more adventurous than the renowned two-chorus foray on his original version of the song, recorded in the fall of 1939. By the last chorus, he has drifted into uncharted territory, playing in a modal style that would become popular only when Miles Davis recorded “Kind of Blue” in 1959.

But, sadly...

Mr. Schoenberg said the museum planned to make as much as possible of the Savory collection publicly available at its Harlem home and eventually online. But the copyright status of the recorded material is complicated, which could inhibit plans to share the music. While the museum has title to Mr. Savory’s discs as physical objects, the same cannot be said of the music on the discs.

“The short answer is that ownership is unclear,” said June M. Besek, executive director of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts at the Columbia University School of Law. “There was never any arrangement for distribution of copies” in contracts between performers and radio stations in the 1930s, she explained, “because it was never envisioned that there would be such a distribution, so somewhere between the radio station and the band is where the ownership would lay.”

At 70 years’ remove, however, the bands, and even some of the radio networks that broadcast the performances, no longer exist, and tracking down all the heirs of the individual musicians who played in the orchestras is nearly impossible.


Monday, August 16, 2010


The intellectual lights of Greater Wingnuttia can run circles around your liberal logic.

And, oh Jesus, when they got into the thought experiments... prominent rightwing screamery Town Hall riddled us this: "Would President Obama speak out in support of a minister... if a self-identified 'moderate' Christian sought to erect a giant church at, say, a site where radicals claiming to be Christians had murdered 3000 abortion clinic doctors, so long as the construction was done in 'accordance with local laws and ordinances'?" There's only one possible response to this kind of argument: Huh?


Nativism's blessings

I'm sure you've seen this all over the blogosphere this morning, and I hate to link to it as it only encourages them, but...what the fuck?

The same was true in religion. The steady pressure to conform to American norms, exerted through fair means and foul, eventually persuaded the Mormons to abandon polygamy, smoothing their assimilation into the American mainstream. Nativist concerns about Catholicism’s illiberal tendencies inspired American Catholics to prod their church toward a recognition of the virtues of democracy, making it possible for generations of immigrants to feel unambiguously Catholic and American.

Really? Comparing Mormons' (illegal) polygamy to...what...Ramadan? The U.S. government didn't "persuade" Mormons to give up polygamy, they demanded it in return for admission to the Union*. What Islamic practice are we to pressure Muslims to abandon, "through fair means and foul?"

Ross Douthat: determining who may assimilate and who may not.

* But still practiced by many fundamentalist Mormons.


Blue Monday, Albert King edition

Manhattan less diverse than the Pentagon?

In all the hubbub regarding the Muslim Community Center planned for Park Place in lower Manhattan, it is never mentioned that at one of the other sites in the Holy Trinity of Ground Zeros, there already stands a mosque.

It's called the Pentagon.

It's almost as if the whole Ground Zero Mosque thing has been whipped up as a campaign wedge issue.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Look back in anger

I know I probably don't have to point this out to most of the dearly beloved readers of this humble blog, but if you find yourself feeling less than fired up about the upcoming midterm elections, then ponder this for awhile.

Except for a climate change bill, the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats have followed through on the agenda laid out at the beginning of the 111th Congress in January 2009 despite concerted Republican opposition. The victories were wrenching, partisan and procedurally ugly, but they were victories.

“He said what he was going to do, and he did it,” the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said about the president.

While Republicans consider much of the legislation flawed and even harmful, they grudgingly concede that Democrats compiled a record perhaps unrivaled since the Great Society programs of President Lyndon B. Johnson were passed during the 89th Congress or the New Deal programs were pushed through the 73rd Congress by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. And though they had large majorities, Democrats did not have substantial opposition help or the cushion that Roosevelt had with 313 Democrats in the House from 1933 to 1935, or the 68 Senate seats that Democrats controlled during Johnson’s tenure in 1965.

Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, said Democrats pushed through legislation that was breathtaking in size and scope, even though approval typically came on very thin margins and party-line votes in the Senate.

“This is big stuff,” Mr. Sessions said. “They would probably say it was great for America. I would say it was bad for America.”

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, is often assailed by Democrats for blocking the Democratic agenda. He said the results absolved him of that charge.

“I am amused with their comments about obstructionism,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview. “I wish we had been able to obstruct more. They were able to get the health care bill through. They were able to get the stimulus through. They were able to get the financial reform through. These were all major pieces of legislation, and if I would have had enough votes to stop them, I would have.”

Emphasis, of course, mine.

This should "fire up the base," if the base can be fired up for a midterm as they were four years ago. Translating it for those outside of that base but not part of the Republicans is proving to be very hard.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

This is the very purpose of right wing radio

I can certainly sympathize with Jamelle Bouie, but am amazed by the naivete. Has he never listened to "Dr." Laura Schlesinger? Or any other right wing nut given a voice on the AM dial?

This is what they are there to do -- to give voice to the aggrieved white audience who just can't believe how privileged minorities are, compared to whites. After all, black comics can say "nigger" on HBO. If I use that word, I'm unfairly considered racist. Can you believe that?!

It's oh so not fair!


Don't keep me wonderin'


The fact that George W. Bush is increasingly seen as a voice of "sophistication and moderation" shows just how far the GOP has jumped the tracks.

Two outfielders -- Kansas City's Blanco and the Yankees' Swisher -- had to leave last nights game with heat exhaustion. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt and none arrested.

Just sayin'.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010


At least he's a baseball fan

Watching the Yankees/Rangers game last night, in which George and Laura Bush were seated in a front row box with Nolan Ryan, I mentioned to Madam Cura that, hard as it is to believe, George W. Bush may be the last sane Republican.

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Thursday cats and dogs watch blogging

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Waiting for a Redeemer

Oh, thank God.

And Giblets.


Joblessness and politics

This paragraph from David Leonhardt's column this morning, pretty much sums up the problem with the Senate and our dysfunctional response to permanent unemployment.

This pattern probably helps explain why the Senate has taken such a leisurely approach to helping the economy in recent months. Many of the states in the best shape also have small populations and, as a result, outsize political power. In Nebraska, where the unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, there is one United States senator for every 900,000 people. In Florida, where the unemployment rate is 11.4 percent, there is one senator for every nine million people.

Andrew Mellon nods, approvingly

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You know, bring 'em on

She spent $22 million to win the Republican nomination against an opponent who, basically, did not campaign. Although CT has not had a Democratic governor since Reconstruction, or something, it's a deeply blue state.

And she's a fucking loon and runs a business with less integrity than a strip club.

But, according to the Times -- who, by the way, has been waging a weird war against Blumenthal for months, apparently using McMahon's oppo research -- Dems should be worried.

Richard Blumenthal, the longtime Democratic attorney general of Connecticut, has been winning elections handily in the state for nearly two decades and seemed destined for higher office. But the woman who emerged from the Republican Senate primary on Tuesday night, Linda E. McMahon, is unlike any challenger he has faced.

And now the national Democratic Party finds itself with another headache heading into a grueling midterm election season.

Ms. McMahon, the former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, built a formidable political organization from scratch in 11 months, has bombarded the state with a dozen television advertisements that have made her nearly as visible as the ubiquitous Mr. Blumenthal, and has fired up the perennially underdog Connecticut Republican Party.

Ms. McMahon has promised to make her race against Mr. Blumenthal one of the country’s most expensive. She spent $22 million to capture the Republican nomination and is prepared to spend an additional $28 million to win the seat.

And Ms. McMahon will almost certainly wage a personal and potentially nasty campaign that will question Mr. Blumenthal’s integrity and take advantage of voter anger to paint him as yet another career politician.

I can also add this, Blumenthal is hardly "ubiquitous." To date, he hasn't campaigned. He hasn't had to.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Advice for Gibbs

Brad DeLong on what Gibbs should have said.

We hear the frustration. We understand it. We are frustrated too. Large pieces of our agenda have been completely stalled by procedural obstacles in the legislature. Large pieces have been enacted in imperfect form. We agree: the glass is not full. The economy, while improving, is still in bad shape. Global warming is unaddressed. Guantanamo Bay is still open. But while the glass is not full, it is definitely not empty. A realistic look should convince anyone that the glass is much more than half full...


Stupid headline of the day


Wall Street closely watching Fed's next move

Really? What do they expect the fed to do? Buy bonds? Issue a strongly worded statement affirming they'll do everything in their power...?


The professional left

Of course, we're never going to be "satisfied" with compromise, but that's our job as the "professionals." His boss's poll numbers don't "stink" amongst us, though.


Monday, August 09, 2010

Exit, chute left

Now, I thought I was having a shitty day.

It all happened as the plane pulled into the gate at JFK after what had been a routine flight from Pittsburgh. But shortly after landing, a passenger stood up as the plane was taxiing to the gate and began removing his bags from the overhead bin. According to the Wall Street Journal's Sean Gardiner, the flight attendant, identified as Steven Slater, asked the passenger to return to his seat.

A "heated" exchange ensued, which culminated in Slater walking to the rear of the plane, where he grabbed the intercom. "To the passenger who called me a motherf***er, f*** you!" Slater yelled, passengers tell the New York Daily News. "I've been in the business 28 years. I've had it. That's it." He activated the emergency chute and slid away.

Slater then walked along the jetway into the terminal, where he took a shuttle to the employee parking lot. Observers watched as he ripped off his JetBlue tie and threw it to the ground. Slater got into his vehicle and drove to his home in Queens. According to the New York Times' Ray Rivera, he was arrested shortly afterward and faces charges of criminal mischief and trespassing.

A source tells WNBC that Slater was "having a bad day."


And, also

This made me laugh.

The idea that these guys are doing nothing but vacationing is idiotic. They are never truly on vacation, and there is a reason they all come into office looking like McCaulay Culkin and leave office just a few years later looking like Keith Richards. Just make it stop.

But, sadly, it will never stop.


Black Monday


Friday, August 06, 2010

There's that asterisk again

The other day, a WNYC announcer, giving the day's local news highlights, mentioned that Alex Rodriguez had hit his 600th home run, but it came with an asterisk, she said, because he'd admitted to steroid use as a Texas Ranger.

After regaining control of the car and my supreme annoyance, I decided not to call the station to complain that there are no "asterisks" in the record books.

I was thinking about that when I turn to today's "News Analysis," in which long time sports writer Harvey Araton admires how strongly Aaron hit towards the end of his car and approaching Ruth's record. By implication, a negative comparison with the "ethically" impure Barry Bonds, and the perhaps physically declining Alex Rodriguez (despite being the youngest to reach 600, his HR pace is significantly down this year, kind of a small sample to start giving up on the guy now).

Rodriguez’s 600th home run, slugged off Toronto’s Shaun Marcum on Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, made him the seventh, and youngest, player to achieve that milestone. Now he begins the climb toward 700 before — barring impairment or shocking deterioration — taking aim at Babe Ruth (714), Aaron (755) and Bonds (762).

But how will Rodriguez get there — in a slugging frenzy, like Bonds, or as a 40-something designated hitter, hanging on as much for the record as for his paycheck?

Remember how Aaron’s career achievements were portrayed as Bonds obliterated baseball’s geriatric slugging standards and ultimately a nation’s believability? Compared with a 37-year-old who clubbed 73 home runs in 2001, Aaron was mildly derided as an earnest toiler who never hit 50 in any one of his 23 major league seasons.

Re-examined in the light of subsequent steroid revelations and admissions, Aaron’s assault on Ruth becomes more impressive than anything ever seen during the recent era of lying eyes.

“Two of Aaron’s best years for homers were at age 37 and 39,” said David Vincent, a home run historian for the Society for American Baseball Research. “He hit 47 in ’71 and 40 in ’73, the year before he passed Ruth. He doesn’t necessarily fit the mold for sluggers in their late 30s.”

Actually, Aaron broke the mold, hitting 203 home runs in the five seasons after his 35th birthday and 245 over all, second in that category behind the presumed-to-be-chemically-enhanced Bonds. By comparison, Willie Mays hit 37 at age 35 and never again topped 28. Ken Griffey Jr. hit 35 at 35 and went steadily downhill. Reggie Jackson hit 39 at 36 and faded like a California sunset.

After Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa taught us to trust no one over 35, it became too easy to overlook Aaron’s stunning late-race sprint on Ruth — who, for the record, also fared pretty well as a quasi geezer, hitting 49 home runs at 35 and following up with 46, 41 and 34.

Look, I have great admiration for Mr. Aaron, who grew up under Jim Crow and came up through the Negro Leagues. I remember being utterly shocked as a boy by the death threats he received as he approached Ruth's record. Giants walked among us. Even if they were Braves.

But to write about the accomplishments of his Sunset Years and take pot shots at McGwire and Sosa as cheating geezers seems odd. If you are going to extol the man for "having some of his best years" in the early 70s, and not mention the fact that the pitcher's mound was lowered by five inches in 1969 because averages and power numbers weren't high enough for MLB leadership 'cause we know fans love the long ball, is not being very honest.

Also and...I'll be honest myself and note that power numbers did not magically climb immediately following the lowering of the mound, as I learned today in this study the magnificent Joe Posnanski brings to our attention, as power numbers did in 1918-1920 ("jackrabbit ball"), 1976-7, and 1987 -- years long before the appearance of steroids in baseball. I only mention to remind us that there are all manner of ways we know MLB can affect numbers (expansion teams, size of the stadiums built in the 90s, the construction of the baseball itself -- remember the "dead ball era?"), and we know the players themselves can through a variety of means (the hardness of the bats they choose, better conditioning -- Aaron, whose off-season conditioning, we're told, was "run, run, run," apparently knew the importance of the lower body in hitting better than many of his peers, etc.).

What we don't know is what effects steroid use have had.

F'rinstance, Araton mentions that three of Rodriguez's best seasons corresponded with the three in which he admits to using steroids as a Ranger*. What Araton doesn't feel necessary to mention: balls fly out of the stadium in which Rodriguez played his home games those years because of its proportions, Texas heat, and windscreen. Meanwhile, Yankee Stadium -- built for the left handed Ruth -- is supposed to be death to right handed power hitters, such as Rodriquez.

So, let's drop the asterisk talk and tales of moral superiority.

* Which is only partially true. His third highest year was 2007, as a Yankee, after testing had begun.

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A memorial to stupid

The Sufi Imam leading the group building the Park Place Islamic Center is not "behind the attacks" of the World Trade Center.

One would have hoped that using the victims of 9/11 for political gain would have ended after nine years. After all, we've stopped giving a shit about the health of those who first responded to those attacks.

One would be wrong.

Serwer writes

But look, here's the point: If Kristol's "decent Muslims" exist, there aren't many of them. And they couldn't possibly have any influence on Muslims who have read the Constitution, and therefore got the idea that they have the same rights as everyone else. Pretending to have the consent of "decent Muslims" doesn't change the fundamental principles at stake here, nor does it hide the fact that conservatives are demanding government intervene in the project not because of terrorism, not because of extremism, but because the builders happen to be Muslims. Even if opponents of the project produced a Muslim who met their decency standards, it's not as though American Muslims could collectively abdicate their rights to self-determination through a set of conservative-friendly spokespeople.
And, by the way, this isn't about offending the sensibilities of the millions of "decent (non-Muslim) Americans" passing the joint on their way to work or the Starbucks daring to serve lattes "in the shadow of the Trade Center." This is about 1.) capitalizing on what they perceive as "real America's" hatred for the practitioners of a certain Bronze Age faith; and 2.) hopes that this can tirelessly wear on and become another irrelevant midterm wedge issue...and not just in New York, folks.

After all, I don't recall Kristol's enraged reaction to Bush's warm relations with a "decent Wahhabi," but maybe I wasn't paying attention.

UPDATE: As I was saying, "not just in New York."

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Six days on the road

Giving up

Railing against the con men

Although in the end Paul Krugman's relentless calling out as bullshit Bush's claims about his tax cuts -- everything from returning the surplus to supply-siding out of the 2003 stock nose dive -- did not stop Congress from passing those tax cut windfalls to the wealthiest.

Still, he was a refreshing blast of honesty in a miasma of clueless punditry.

Today, he sets his aim on the latest darling of Kaplan Test Prep Daily, the ever so hot Paul Ryan.

Mr. Ryan has become the Republican Party’s poster child for new ideas thanks to his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a plan for a major overhaul of federal spending and taxes. News media coverage has been overwhelmingly favorable; on Monday, The Washington Post put a glowing profile of Mr. Ryan on its front page, portraying him as the G.O.P.’s fiscal conscience. He’s often described with phrases like “intellectually audacious.”

But it’s the audacity of dopes. Mr. Ryan isn’t offering fresh food for thought; he’s serving up leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce.

Mr. Ryan’s plan calls for steep cuts in both spending and taxes. He’d have you believe that the combined effect would be much lower budget deficits, and, according to that Washington Post report, he speaks about deficits “in apocalyptic terms.” And The Post also tells us that his plan would, indeed, sharply reduce the flow of red ink: “The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan would cut the budget deficit in half by 2020.”

But the budget office has done no such thing. At Mr. Ryan’s request, it produced an estimate of the budget effects of his proposed spending cuts — period. It didn’t address the revenue losses from his tax cuts.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has, however, stepped into the breach. Its numbers indicate that the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion.

And that’s about the same as the budget office’s estimate of the 2020 deficit under the Obama administration’s plans. That is, Mr. Ryan may speak about the deficit in apocalyptic terms, but even if you believe that his proposed spending cuts are feasible — which you shouldn’t — the Roadmap wouldn’t reduce the deficit. All it would do is cut benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich.

And I do mean slash. The Tax Policy Center finds that the Ryan plan would cut taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population in half, giving them 117 percent of the plan’s total tax cuts. That’s not a misprint. Even as it slashed taxes at the top, the plan would raise taxes for 95 percent of the population.

Read the whole thing.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010


Jenn Sterger, who you may remember from her promos on Versus during Le Tour, has sure seen two more dicks than she cared to: Brett Favre's and an editor from Deadspin.

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Interrupting my moment of freaking Zen

Leaving aside the fact that conservative advertisers look ridiculous and cheap by running their ads on liberal web sites (buying "run of political blogs" or something), I love clicking on the ads since I know it costs the assholes money every time I do. But please, guys, have the ads open in a new tab or window, k?

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The party of Lincoln and Grant

Yes, Republicans in the Senate are intent on "refudiating" Reconstruction.

In related developments, I saw on CNN last night that the "issue" of Obama's birth certificate is back on the campaign trail in advance of the mid-terms. Don't these people know he was conceived immaculately?

And we learn that Obama's private thoughts reveal the most hackneyed racial stereotypes.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Figures I'm at work listening to the radio...

It is high, it is far, it is gone.

Alex Rodriguez, after some 800 at bats since he hit 599, becomes the 7th player in MLB history to hit at least 600 home runs.


The latest assult on our freedoms and general Americawsomness

Calling them on it

Cowardly fucks, or something like that...

Rep. Weiner (D-NY) explains,

The specifics of the debate last week should be an example of an issue beyond partisan dispute. The bill in question was created to help the thousands of citizens who went to ground zero after the Sept. 11 attacks. These are Americans who wanted to help, and who scientific studies now show are falling ill and dying in troubling numbers.

After nine years, the House had a chance to make this right by voting on a bill that would provide treatment, screening and compensation to Americans who sacrificed their safety that day, as well as Lower Manhattan residents and others who have suffered injury from exposure to the dust and debris.

Though it should have been a legislative slam dunk, the bill was defeated on a simple up-or-down vote, with only 12 Republicans voting in favor. Just 21 additional Republican votes would have been sufficient for passage.

It was frustrating to hear Republicans say these people didn’t deserve more help because, as one put it, “people get killed all the time.” Others called it another big entitlement program. Some said it was a giveaway to New York, or complained that the bill would have been paid for by closing a tax loophole. We responded to each of these arguments over the summer in the hours of hearings and markups of the bill. And the answers are pretty simple.

The truth is that this is a limited program, with a cap, because it is restricted to 9/11 responders and others directly affected by the toxic substances. As we all remember, the victims of ground zero dust came from all over the nation — they weren’t just New Yorkers. And, frankly, I don’t see what’s wrong with trying to close a loophole that lets foreign multinational corporations avoid paying taxes on income they have earned in the United States.

There were also Republican objections that we put the bill on the “suspension calendar,” which is generally used for noncontroversial legislation, as this measure should have been. This move meant that the bill required a two-thirds favorable vote for approval rather than a simple majority, but it also kept the bill from getting bogged down in debate and stuck with poison-pill amendments.

Still, what upset me most last week were comments voiced by Republicans who claimed to be supporters of the bill, yet who used their time on the House floor not to persuade skeptical Republican colleagues to vote yes but to excoriate Democrats for using the suspension calendar.

Although I had already spoken earlier in the debate, on Friday I felt it was important that someone object to this effort to make the health of those at ground zero just another partisan issue. And I got angry. I didn’t break decorum, but I did say what I was thinking and feeling.

I love the House of Representatives and its rules, and I was careful to respect regular order. But I believe sometimes we mistakenly assume you can’t follow those rules and also say what you think, forcefully. Especially when this galling behavior has been on display for years now.

This wasn’t the first time obstructionism has come to us cloaked in procedure. Recall that after months of negotiations, Republicans voted unanimously against the health care reform bill. And then they complained about process. Similarly in January, after Senate Republicans introduced a bill calling for a deficit commission, they refused to support the legislation when the president took them up on the idea. And, of course, they used technical objections as an excuse.

Instead of engaging in a real debate about how to address the challenges we face, Republicans have turned to obstruction, no matter the issue, and then cry foul after the fact. They claim to want an open legislative process with more consultation and debate, but the truth is they simply don’t want to pass anything.

Meanwhile, conservative television and talk radio programs are full of false anger, intended to scare Americans. I think some genuine frustration at this misleading tactic is overdue.

Exactly right.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Lower Manhattan "mosque"

This humble blog hasn't entered the fray regarding the building of a mosque and cultural center near the site of the 9/11 murders. That's mainly because I don't really care much for mosques, churches, synagogues, tabernacles...you get the idea. I'm fine with the architecture, but the bronze age belief systems kind of annoy me. And I am often critical of Michael Bloomberg, particularly when he did a black flip on trying terrorist suspects in the Federal court in New York, but he is to be commended for supporting tolerance in the face of extremism and tribalism.

Shouldn't we be encouraging an American form of moderate Islam? Shouldn't we be encouraging construction in Lower Manhattan? I mean, the more the merrier.

UPDATE: As Scott Lemieux puts it so well:

…Wherever there’s wanktastic pandering to wingers to be done, Joe Lieberman will be there!


The dog that catches the car

If the GOP loses conservatives who also want government to...ya know...work, then what will become of the party. Rep. Bob Inglis -- the six term Congressman who told his North Carolina constituents that they shouldn't watch so much Glen Beck only to lose his primary by 50 points -- may be the canary in that coal mine (dogs, canaries...it's a metaphor salad!).

It was the middle of a tough primary contest, and Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) had convened a small meeting with donors who had contributed thousands of dollars to his previous campaigns. But this year, as Inglis faced a challenge from tea party-backed Republican candidates claiming Inglis wasn't sufficiently conservative, these donors hadn't ponied up. Inglis' task: Get them back on the team. "They were upset with me," Inglis recalls. "They are all Glenn Beck watchers." About 90 minutes into the meeting, as he remembers it, "They say, 'Bob, what don't you get? Barack Obama is a socialist, communist Marxist who wants to destroy the American economy so he can take over as dictator. Health care is part of that. And he wants to open up the Mexican border and turn [the US] into a Muslim nation.'" Inglis didn't know how to respond.


The week after that meeting with his past funders—whom he failed to bring back into the fold—Inglis asked House Republican leader John Boehner what he would have told this group of Obama-bashers. Inglis recalls what happened:

[Boehner] said, "I would have told them that it's not quite that bad. We disagree with him on the issues." I said, "Hold on Boehner, that doesn't work. Let me tell you, I tried that and it did not work." I said [to Boehner], "If you're going to lead these people and the fearful stampede to the cliff that they're heading to, you have to turn around and say over your shoulder, 'Hey, you don't know the half of it.'"

In other words, feed and fuel the anger and paranoia of the right.


I sat down, and they said on the back of your Social Security card, there's a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life's earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks. I have this look like, "What the heck are you talking about?" I'm trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative. So they said, "You don't know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don't know this?!" And I said, "Please forgive me. I'm just ignorant of these things." And then of course, it turned into something about the Federal Reserve and the Bilderbergers and all that stuff. And now you have the feeling of anti-Semitism here coming in, mixing in. Wow.

Inglis thinks the party's credibility will be damaged by following the "hot microphones" of Beck, Limbaugh, and Palin and fueling the angry misinformation of the far right of his party. The result, he thinks will be long-term weakness for the GOP, but it may also mean short term success, and if they win back the House in October -- unlikely but not impossible -- he says Democrats will have "an enjoyable couple of years watching that dog deal with the car it's caught."

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Rising star...of something

Because he is only 40 and Republican the Times is compelled to do a glossy profile.

“Do you want this welfare state, which puts us down this tipping point, advances this culture of dependency, moves us away from the America idea toward more of a Western European social democracy welfare state? Do you want that which invites a debt crisis? Or the alternative party is offering you an opportunity society on top of a safety net where we reclaim these ideals and principles that founded this country. That’s what we owe you. And if we get back in office and we shrink from that challenge, shame on us.”

In this highly charged election season with both houses of Congress at stake, not a lot of politicians are lining up publicly behind Mr. Ryan. He is, nonetheless, suddenly a rising star in some corners. And like many other politicians whose ideas were once considered extreme, only to later be mainstream — like Ronald Reagan — Mr. Ryan is seen as on the leading edge of something.

Of what, we aren't really told.

But no matter. He is young. And has hair.

Fit from years of an intense exercise program called P90X and with hair as thick as Rod R. Blagojevich’s (and cut in a more contemporary fashion), Mr. Ryan has become a regular on the cable news circuit, and a book about conservative politics that he co-wrote — “Young Guns” — will include his picture on the cover when it comes out this fall.

Ooh, snap. The Carly Fiorina school of political analysis.

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Monday, August 02, 2010

Ezra gets played

In another episode of "Who could've foreseen," Senator Huckleberry, who had previously said comprehensive immigration reform was too toxic to bring to the floor or the Senate earlier this year, announces he plans to bring an even more toxic bill to the Senate floor.

In April, I defended Lindsey Graham when he threatened to abandon climate change if Harry Reid moved on immigration first. Graham's tactic seemed extreme, but I understood his position. As one of the GOP's most prominent supporters of immigration reform, he would be unwittingly conscripted into a strategy that meant to split Republicans from Latinos and wouldn't end in a bill. In fact, Graham made a convincing case to me in a subsequent interview that engaging immigration this year would make a comprehensive bill less likely. "If you bring up immigration in this climate, you'll divide the country further," he said. "You'll get a huge vote for border security and interior enforcement, but when it comes to pathway to citizenship, you'll break down big-time."

How then to explain Graham's announcement -- on Fox News, no less -- that he's stepping into the immigration issue with a proposal that's much more divisive, and much more dangerous? “I may introduce a constitutional amendment that changes the rules if you have a child here," he said. "Birthright citizenship I think is a mistake. ... We should change our Constitution and say if you come here illegally and you have a child, that child's automatically not a citizen."

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Blue Monday, Bukka White edition

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