Friday, October 29, 2010



The "Leader" and the SS Waffen Candidate

This has so much texture for deep analysis of language, motives, and politics. Almost makes me want to start a blog.

Mr. Boehner is to appear Saturday at a rally for Lucas County Republicans, one of several county rallies he is attending to thank volunteers for their get-out-the-vote efforts. Mr. Iott recently announced on his Web site that he would be appearing with Mr. Boehner at the event; his campaign staff did not return e-mails seeking to confirm his attendance.

“Leader Boehner will be rallying Republican volunteers at the Lucas County Victory Center to support the local Republican Party’s get-out-the-vote efforts,” said Don Seymour, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner.

Elan Steinberg, a spokesman for the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, asked Mr. Boehner to reconsider the joint appearance. “We know that Rich Iott is not a Nazi,” Mr. Steinberg said in a statement. “But his failure to apologize for his Nazi role-playing demonstrates a profound failure of moral judgment and sensitivity which cries out for a response.”

Mr. Boehner has donated $7,000 to Mr. Iott’s efforts to unseat Representative Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat.

We know Rich Iott is not a Nazi, but he likes to dress up like a member of the SS on weekends.

"Leader Boehner." Isn't that a lot like "Fuhrer Boehner?" Just sayin'.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Don't tread on me apparently does not apply here

But it's understandable. Tim Proffitt, the Rand Paul supporter, has a bad back.

The woman, 23-year-old Lauren Valle from Washington D.C., appeared to be following a specific set of instructions detailed on's website designed to attract media attention. Profitt claims he believed Paul was in danger from the woman and that he acted to protect the candidate, but the campaign has condemned Profitt's actions. "I put my foot on her, and I did push her down at the very end, and I told her to stay down," Proffitt said, "I actually put my foot on her to... I couldn't bend over because I have issues with my back."
And although the Paul campaign seems to have disassociated themselves from Proffitt, for Rand himself, it's no big deal. Just a little jockeying around.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Exotic backgrounds -- the Senate vs. the House

According to Charlie Cook, how big a problem a candidate's "exotic background is depends on whether the candidate is running for the Senate or the House.

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Blue Monday, Stevie Ray Vaughn edition

Contextualized Juan Williams

Intellectual honesty compels me to note that, having heard a fuller recording of Juan Williams' comments on the O'Reilly show last week, I now think NPR was too quick to fire him for those comments. That's not to say that his association with NPR wasn't an embarrassing one for NPR -- he's a hack of the highest order -- but in this particular case, it would have been better to use his comments last week to challenge -- as he did with O'Reilly -- the ease with which conservative reactionaries practice bigotry against Muslims.

As for ThinkProgress, who released the edited tape: Dudes, we have to hold ourselves to slightly higher standards than the Breitbarts and the other assholes of the world.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Wan Williams

Longtime readers of this blog (I love you, man!) know how much I love to kick Fox News's "liberal" sidekick. Williams is was a hack purveyor of conventional wisdom on NPR and an obvious beard for Fox News. That said, I didn't really plan on writing about his "firing" by NPR. And, of course, Ta-Nehisi Coates says it best, anyway.

Moreover, I think we often overstate the difficulty of not uttering foolish thoughts. Every one of us has, at one time or another, thought something truly abominable. But we've generally learned not to speak those thoughts, not simply out of politeness, but because we know that most of those thoughts are demonstrably wrong. We are, in other words, not just concerned with hurting people feelings, we're concerned with sounding like idiots. Among people who talk for a living, one would hope that the sense would be better developed--not less. I'm a writer. The bar for me clearly and intelligently expressing myself should be higher, not lower, than someone penning a letter to their Congressman.

I recognize that, in point of fact, media often doesn't actually work that way, and often operates on another set of values, including, but not limited to, volume and outrage. I'm not clear on why NPR has to associate itself with those values. Frankly, I feel the same way about CNN and Sanchez. This is not about free speech. Sanchez and Williams are free to say whatever they want--just as their employers are free to dissociate themselves from their remarks in any legal manner they choose.

I'm all for free speech. But I would not expect my current employer to allow me to use this space to vent, as fact, all the prejudiced thoughts that fly through my head. I guess I understand how you come to believe that someone in Muslim dress is less American, or that Michelle Obama is actually "Stokely Carmichael in a dress." But I'm not clear on why, in this era of blogs and social media, NPR then owes you their association.
Juan Williams likes hanging around with Fox News's coolest kids and like any nerd hanging with the jocks, he has to constantly prove that he can be just as tough and obnoxious as any of them.

NPR should have fired him a long time ago.

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Chamber of Horrors

Yeah, it would be a shame if customers of some of these companies learned where the dollars they spend with them are going.

Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicked off a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations.

Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities.

And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending. These large donations — none of which were publicly disclosed by the chamber, a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret, as it is allowed by law — offer a glimpse of the chamber’s money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall’s Congressional elections.

They suggest that the recent allegations from President Obama and others that foreign money has ended up in the chamber’s coffers miss a larger point: The chamber has had little trouble finding American companies eager to enlist it, anonymously, to fight their political battles and pay handsomely for its help.

And these contributions, some of which can be pieced together through tax filings of corporate foundations and other public records, also show how the chamber has increasingly relied on a relatively small collection of big corporate donors to finance much of its legislative and political agenda. The chamber makes no apologies for its policy of not identifying its donors. It has vigorously opposed legislation in Congress that would require groups like it to identify their biggest contributors when they spend money on campaign ads.

Proponents of that measure pointed to reports that health insurance providers funneled at least $10 million to the chamber last year, all of it anonymously, to oppose President Obama’s health care legislation.

“The major supporters of us in health care last year were confronted with protests at their corporate headquarters, protests and harassment at the C.E.O.’s homes,” said R. Bruce Josten, the chief lobbyist at the chamber, whose office looks out on the White House. “You are wondering why companies want some protection. It is pretty clear.”

The unwashed and their ability to hurt the feelings of CEOs make it vital for the Chamber of Commerce to exist.

But it is interesting the CoC calls it, "protection." I guess it really is a racket, after all.

To support the effort, the chamber has adopted an all-hands-on-deck approach to fund-raising. Mr. Josten said he makes many of the fund-raising calls to corporations nationwide, as does Mr. Donohue. (Both men are well compensated for their work: Mr. Donohue was paid $3.7 million in 2008, and has access to a corporate jet and a chauffeur, while Mr. Josten was paid $1.1 million, tax records show.)

But those aggressive pitches have turned off some business executives. “There was an arrogance to it like they were the 800-pound gorilla and I was either with them with this big number or I just did not matter,” said Mr. Tyree, of Chicago.

Another corporate executive, who asked not to be named, said the chamber risks alienating its members.

“Unless you spend $250,000 to $500,000 a year, that is what they want for you to be one of their pooh-bahs, otherwise, they don’t pay any attention to you at all,” the executive said, asking that the company not be identified.

Chamber officials acknowledge the tough fund-raising, but they say it has been necessary in support of their goal of remaking Congress on Election Day to make it friendlier to business.

Some businesses, anyway.

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Stagger Lee


Please refrain from any unruly conduct

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Baseball will be played on Friday

The usual gang aren't very optimistic, but beats the hell out of Friday night's other entertainment choices.

One game at a time, baby. One game at a time.

And how 'bout them Gi'nts. Can The Freak beat Halliday to close it out tonight?


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tea Party uber alles

So this appears to be the latest in Tea Party campaign message: "Nice [life, democracy, privacy, press freedom, etc.] you got there. Shame if something happened to it.

They're getting a taste of power before a single vote has been counted. And they like it. A lot

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Let's bite their legs off

CC and the Yankees try to win one game today.

But, as Emma Span asks,

Molinas… why’s it always have to be Molinas?


Monday, October 18, 2010

Obama mythbusters

When I saw the headline, I thought Mythbusters would be doing a show debunking things like his Muslim religion, his birth in Kenya, his socialism and jackbooted fascism.

No, not so much.

President Obama is scheduled to appear on the December 8 episode of “MythBusters,” a Discovery Channel reality show. What’s up with that? Is Mr. Obama just trying to match Sarah Palin, who is getting her own show on Discovery-affiliated TLC?

Ha. Ha.

Well, maybe. But the stated point of Obama’s star turn with Jamie Hyneman, Adam Savage, and the rest of the “MythBuster” gang is to promote science and math education. Monday is science fair day at the White House – besides officially announcing his television appearance, Obama will play host to the winners of a range of science and math competitions, from the Intel Science and Engineering Fair to the Team America Rocketry Challenge.

“If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you’re a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement too,” said the president last November.

Appearing on “MythBusters” probably is a pretty good way to get the attention of all the nine-to-14-year-olds in America who are interested in creating explosions with common household items. Which is pretty much all of them, when you get down to it.

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Another "voice"of the New York Yankees dies

Freddie Schuman and his spoon and frying pan won't be heard in Yankee Stadium anymore. He was 85 and there was no bigger fan.

I only hope he had a chance to see the Yankees comeback on Friday night.


Blue Monday, John Coltrane edition

Saturday, October 16, 2010

With one foot in a bucket, he inserts the other in another

I heard today that insane Republican nominee for New York governor refused to accept his campaign manager's resignation. That was his second mistake.

ALBANY - Flame-throwing Carl Paladino took another swipe at Andrew Cuomo over homosexual lifestyles yesterday, saying the Democrat isn't doing enough to legalize gay marriage.

Paladino, who staunchly opposes gay nuptials, accused Cuomo of being a hypocrite for touting his support for same-sex weddings now - but being "all but invisible" when the issue was before the Legislature last year.

"He was asked by those pushing for the measure to call three wavering senators," the Paladino campaign said in the first of what it promises will be daily "Cuomo Land" attacks.

Political pros were puzzled that Paladino would attack Cuomo on gays, given that the Tea Party darling's campaign unraveled this week after he delivered an anti-gay diatribe.


"I’m never really surprised, but I am thrilled sometimes."

So said Joe Girardi after last night's game.

I wouldn't have blamed Ranger fans for celebrating early when Dustin Moseley entered the game in the sixth. But when he struck out four over two perfect innings, the little "Lets go Yaaaankeees" chant started playing in my head.

The best part was quieting the ubiquitous "Yankees suck" chants in Arlington.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Rich Whitey

When I heard about the typographical travails of Green Party candidate, Rich Whitney, I was thinking the same thing, but just haven't had time to post much.

I can definitely see how black voters are going to be hesitant to vote for "Rich Whitey."

I wonder if this means that Whitey, I mean Whitney, will pull fewer votes from the Democrats than Green Party candidates usually do. Maybe some Republican voters in the other precincts will see the name and think, "This is the candidate I've been waiting for."

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You didn't hear no baby crying


"Get out there and restore some sanity!"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

'Tis thus aspiring Dulness ever shines

As we head, reeling, into the November mid-terms, thoughtful Reader, one can turn ones eyes to the old poets. Yeats, of course, comes to mind, but I think that for our purposes we'll be turning more and more to The Dunciad by Alexander Pope. Though written in 1729, it is eerily prescient with its cast of Dunces in the Kingdom of Dulness. This comes from Book 4, where the goddess Dulness ascends her throne.

Yet, yet a moment, one dim ray of light
Indulge, dread Chaos, and eternal Night!
Of darkness visible so much be lent,
As half to show, half veil, the deep intent.
Ye pow'rs! whose mysteries restor'd I sing,
To whom time bears me on his rapid wing,
Suspend a while your force inertly strong,
Then take at once the poet and the song.

Now flam'd the Dog Star's unpropitious ray,
Smote ev'ry brain, and wither'd every bay;
Sick was the sun, the owl forsook his bow'r.
The moon-struck prophet felt the madding hour:
Then rose the seed of Chaos, and of Night,
To blot out order, and extinguish light,
Of dull and venal a new world to mould,
And bring Saturnian days of lead and gold.

She mounts the throne: her head a cloud conceal'd,
In broad effulgence all below reveal'd;
('Tis thus aspiring Dulness ever shines)
Soft on her lap her laureate son reclines.

Beneath her footstool, Science groans in chains,
And Wit dreads exile, penalties, and pains.
There foam'd rebellious Logic , gagg'd and bound,
There, stripp'd, fair Rhet'ric languish'd on the ground;
His blunted arms by Sophistry are borne,
And shameless Billingsgate her robes adorn.
Morality , by her false guardians drawn,
Chicane in furs, and Casuistry in lawn,
Gasps, as they straighten at each end the cord,
And dies, when Dulness gives her page the word.
Mad Mathesis alone was unconfin'd,
Too mad for mere material chains to bind,
Now to pure space lifts her ecstatic stare,
Now running round the circle finds it square.
But held in tenfold bonds the Muses lie,
Watch'd both by Envy's and by Flatt'ry's eye:
There to her heart sad Tragedy addres'd
The dagger wont to pierce the tyrant's breast;
But sober History restrain'd her rage,
And promised vengeance on a barb'rous age.
There sunk Thalia, nerveless, cold, and dead,
Had not her sister Satire held her head:
Nor couldst thou, Chesterfield! a tear refuse,
Thou weptst, and with thee wept each gentle Muse.

Sure, I'm an east coast elite. You can be one, too.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

35 cents: social media and social activism

I've been meaning to call attention to this Malcolm Gladwell piece for a week, but just haven't had the opportunity.

The Woolworth’s lunch counter was a long L-shaped bar that could seat sixty-six people, with a standup snack bar at one end. The seats were for whites. The snack bar was for blacks. Another employee, a black woman who worked at the steam table, approached the students and tried to warn them away. “You’re acting stupid, ignorant!” she said. They didn’t move. Around five-thirty, the front doors to the store were locked. The four still didn’t move. Finally, they left by a side door. Outside, a small crowd had gathered, including a photographer from the Greensboro Record. “I’ll be back tomorrow with A. & T. College,” one of the students said.

By next morning, the protest had grown to twenty-seven men and four women, most from the same dormitory as the original four. The men were dressed in suits and ties. The students had brought their schoolwork, and studied as they sat at the counter. On Wednesday, students from Greensboro’s “Negro” secondary school, Dudley High, joined in, and the number of protesters swelled to eighty. By Thursday, the protesters numbered three hundred, including three white women, from the Greensboro campus of the University of North Carolina. By Saturday, the sit-in had reached six hundred. People spilled out onto the street. White teen-agers waved Confederate flags. Someone threw a firecracker. At noon, the A. & T. football team arrived. “Here comes the wrecking crew,” one of the white students shouted.

By the following Monday, sit-ins had spread to Winston-Salem, twenty-five miles away, and Durham, fifty miles away. The day after that, students at Fayetteville State Teachers College and at Johnson C. Smith College, in Charlotte, joined in, followed on Wednesday by students at St. Augustine’s College and Shaw University, in Raleigh. On Thursday and Friday, the protest crossed state lines, surfacing in Hampton and Portsmouth, Virginia, in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and in Chattanooga, Tennessee. By the end of the month, there were sit-ins throughout the South, as far west as Texas. “I asked every student I met what the first day of the sitdowns had been like on his campus,” the political theorist Michael Walzer wrote in Dissent. “The answer was always the same: ‘It was like a fever. Everyone wanted to go.’ ” Some seventy thousand students eventually took part. Thousands were arrested and untold thousands more radicalized. These events in the early sixties became a civil-rights war that engulfed the South for the rest of the decade—and it happened without e-mail, texting, Facebook, or Twitter.

Gladwell goes on to throw cold water on the notion that revolutions in Moldova and Iran were fomented by twitter and facebook (how many people have Internet access in Moldova, why were the Iranian election protest tweets and facebook postings in English rather than Farsi?), and to note that even when social media seems to have been extremely successful, say in soliciting contributions for Darfur, the commitment to the cause is reed thin. Social media is useful at building networks, but not at building deep connections among people. A facebook friend is not, really, a friend.

So one crucial fact about the four freshmen at the Greensboro lunch counter—David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, and Joseph McNeil—was their relationship with one another. McNeil was a roommate of Blair’s in A. & T.’s Scott Hall dormitory. Richmond roomed with McCain one floor up, and Blair, Richmond, and McCain had all gone to Dudley High School. The four would smuggle beer into the dorm and talk late into the night in Blair and McNeil’s room. They would all have remembered the murder of Emmett Till in 1955, the Montgomery bus boycott that same year, and the showdown in Little Rock in 1957. It was McNeil who brought up the idea of a sit-in at Woolworth’s. They’d discussed it for nearly a month. Then McNeil came into the dorm room and asked the others if they were ready. There was a pause, and McCain said, in a way that works only with people who talk late into the night with one another, “Are you guys chicken or not?” Ezell Blair worked up the courage the next day to ask for a cup of coffee because he was flanked by his roommate and two good friends from high school.

The kind of activism associated with social media isn’t like this at all. The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life.

This is in many ways a wonderful thing. There is strength in weak ties, as the sociologist Mark Granovetter has observed. Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvellous efficiency. It’s terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions of the dating world. But weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism.

In a new book called “The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change,” the business consultant Andy Smith and the Stanford Business School professor Jennifer Aaker tell the story of Sameer Bhatia, a young Silicon Valley entrepreneur who came down with acute myelogenous leukemia. It’s a perfect illustration of social media’s strengths. Bhatia needed a bone-marrow transplant, but he could not find a match among his relatives and friends. The odds were best with a donor of his ethnicity, and there were few South Asians in the national bone-marrow database. So Bhatia’s business partner sent out an e-mail explaining Bhatia’s plight to more than four hundred of their acquaintances, who forwarded the e-mail to their personal contacts; Facebook pages and YouTube videos were devoted to the Help Sameer campaign. Eventually, nearly twenty-five thousand new people were registered in the bone-marrow database, and Bhatia found a match.

But how did the campaign get so many people to sign up? By not asking too much of them. That’s the only way you can get someone you don’t really know to do something on your behalf. You can get thousands of people to sign up for a donor registry, because doing so is pretty easy. You have to send in a cheek swab and—in the highly unlikely event that your bone marrow is a good match for someone in need—spend a few hours at the hospital. Donating bone marrow isn’t a trivial matter. But it doesn’t involve financial or personal risk; it doesn’t mean spending a summer being chased by armed men in pickup trucks. It doesn’t require that you confront socially entrenched norms and practices. In fact, it’s the kind of commitment that will bring only social acknowledgment and praise.

The evangelists of social media don’t understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend and that signing up for a donor registry in Silicon Valley today is activism in the same sense as sitting at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro in 1960. “Social networks are particularly effective at increasing motivation,” Aaker and Smith write. But that’s not true. Social networks are effective at increasing participation—by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires. The Facebook page of the Save Darfur Coalition has 1,282,339 members, who have donated an average of nine cents apiece. The next biggest Darfur charity on Facebook has 22,073 members, who have donated an average of thirty-five cents. Help Save Darfur has 2,797 members, who have given, on average, fifteen cents. A spokesperson for the Save Darfur Coalition told Newsweek, “We wouldn’t necessarily gauge someone’s value to the advocacy movement based on what they’ve given. This is a powerful mechanism to engage this critical population. They inform their community, attend events, volunteer. It’s not something you can measure by looking at a ledger.” In other words, Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice. We are a long way from the lunch counters of Greensboro.

Keep that in mind the next time you read a "report" on Sarah Palin's latest twit.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Blue Monday, Paul Butterfield edition

The Times keeps its cred

With a profile of Glenn Beck in last week's Times Magazine, and coverage of Pam Geller and Ann Coulter in two -- two -- stories yesterday, the Times is clearly committed to keeping fear alive.

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Friday, October 08, 2010

The states' anti-Keynesian experiments

It's beginning to feel a lot like 1937 these days.

Companies added 64,000 jobs last month, after having added 93,000 jobs in August, the Labor Department reported Friday. But over all, the economy shed 95,000 nonfarm jobs in September, the result of a 159,000 decline in government jobs at all levels. Local governments in particular cut jobs at the fastest rate in almost 30 years.

“We need to wake up to the fact that the end of the stimulus has really hit hard on local governments,” said Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Project. “There is much more of a slide in the job market than what we really need to clearly turn around.”

Exhibit #1, hack ideologue Chris Christie, who has decided his state needs neither jobs nor a working infrastructure...Oh, nor the federal money intended to pay for it.

The largest public transit project in the nation, a commuter train tunnel under the Hudson River to Manhattan, was halted on Thursday by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey because, he said, the state could not afford its share of the project’s rising cost.

Mr. Christie’s decision stunned other government officials and advocates of public transportation because work on the tunnel was under way and $3 billion of federal financing had already been arranged — more money than had been committed to any other transit project in America.

The governor, a Republican, said he decided to withdraw his support for the project on Thursday after hearing from state transportation officials that the project would cost at least $2.5 billion more than its original price of $8.7 billion. He said that New Jersey would have been responsible for the overrun and that he could not put the taxpayers of the state “on what would be a never-ending hook.”

In scrapping the project, Mr. Christie is forfeiting the $3 billion from the federal government and jeopardizing as much from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The state may also have to repay the federal government for its share of the $600 million that has already been spent on the tunnel.

The tunnel, which would have stretched under the Hudson from North Bergen, N.J., to a new station deep below 34th Street in Manhattan, was intended to double the number of trains that could enter the city from the west each day. The project’s planners said the additional trains would alleviate congestion on local roads, reduce pollution, help the growth of the region’s economy and raise property values for suburban homeowners.

The tunnel was also supposed to provide jobs for 6,000 construction workers just as some other big transit infrastructure projects in the city, like the Second Avenue subway, were winding down.

Instead, the contractors hired to dig the tunnel will soon start laying off workers.

I would be stunned except that Christie has shown nothing but contempt for the people of New Jersey since he began his campaign.

Krugman concludes thusly:

So this was a terrible, shortsighted move from New Jersey’s point of view. But that’s not the whole cost. Canceling the tunnel was also a blow to national hopes of recovery, part of a pattern of penny-pinching that has played a large role in our continuing economic stagnation.

When people ask why the Obama stimulus didn’t accomplish more, one good response is to ask, what stimulus? Leaving aside the cost of financial rescues and safety-net programs like unemployment insurance, federal spending has risen only modestly — and this rise has been largely offset by cutbacks at the state and local level. Many of these cuts were forced by Congress, which has refused to approve adequate aid to the states. But as Mr. Christie is demonstrating, local politicians are also doing their part.

And the ideology that has led Mr. Christie to undermine his state’s future is, of course, the same ideology that has led almost all Republicans and some Democrats to stand in the way of any meaningful action to revive the nation’s economy. Worse yet, next month’s election seems likely to reward Republicans for their obstructionism.

So here’s how you should think about the decision to kill the tunnel: It’s a terrible thing in itself, but, beyond that, it’s a perfect symbol of how America has lost its way. By refusing to pay for essential investment, politicians are both perpetuating unemployment and sacrificing long-run growth. And why not? After all, this seems to be a winning electoral strategy. All vision of a better future seems to have been lost, replaced with a refusal to look beyond the narrowest, most shortsighted notion of self-interest.

Short-sighted indeed. Christie could have railed against cost-overruns, union rules, construction delays, etc., all the while benefiting from the largess of other federal and regional agencies and watching New Jersey's construction workers go back to work

But what it does do is make Republican operatives swoon and Christie dream of the Oval Office.

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Could be our theme song

Thanks to Steve Goldman for the reminder.


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Humane Society's radical agenda

And Cass Sunstein is a communazi who hates dogs.

I am so thoroughly sick of these people.


No Hoover Dams for you

I heard a segment on Marketplace last evening in which an author said (paraphrasing) a country is reflected in its infrastructure and ours is in ruins. He lauded the stimulus for building new rail lines but said they are too long in coming and too vulnerable to being...derailed.

They’re actually running on the platform of making sure the trains not only don’t run on time, but don’t run:

Republicans running for governor in a handful of states could block, or significantly delay, one of President Obama’s signature initiatives: his plan to expand the passenger rail system and to develop the nation’s first bullet-train service.

In his State of the Union address this year, the president called for building high-speed rail, and backed up his words with $8 billion in stimulus money, distributed to various states, for rail projects.

But Republican candidates for governor in some of the states that won the biggest stimulus rail awards are reaching for the emergency brake.

In Wisconsin, which got more than $810 million in federal stimulus money to build a train line between Milwaukee and Madison, Scott Walker, the Milwaukee County executive and Republican candidate for governor, has made his opposition to the project central to his campaign.

Mr. Walker, who worries that the state could be required to spend $7 million to $10 million a year to operate the trains once the line is built, started a Web site,, and has run a television advertisement in which he calls the rail project a boondoggle.

“I’m Scott Walker,” he says in the advertisement, “and if I’m elected as your next governor, we’ll stop this train.”

Oh, hell no! We don’t want no efficient high speed transportation around here! We’ll get to work in bumper to bumper traffic in our pick-em-up-trucks with “Jesus is my copilot” and “Palin 2012” bumper stickers, just the way God intended. Turning down a billion dollar train because you will have to pay 8 million a year in maintenance is like giving away a free car because you might have to one day buy windshield wiper fluid.

More on this idiocy here.

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Pixel mashup

Monday, October 04, 2010

Blue Monday, Jimi Hendrix edition

Social Security versus John Philip Sousa

Although we already spend more on defense than all other nations combined, the killing machine known as William "the bloody" Kristol, along with the usual conservative welfare suspects argue that we are dangerously weak and might get pushed around if we don't start buying more stuff soon.

So today, we get three conservative luminaries -- Arthur Brooks, the head of the American Enterprise Institute; Edwin Feulner, the head of the Heritage Foundation; and Weekly Standard editor and policy entrepreneur William Kristol -- arguing in the Wall Street Journal that unless we start buying some weapons, disaster is around the corner:

Even with the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, this year the Department of Defense will spend some $720 billion -- about 4.9% of our gross domestic product, significantly below the average of 6.5% since World War II...

We should be vigilant against waste in every corner of the budget. But anyone seeking to restore our fiscal health should look at entitlements first, not across-the-board cuts aimed at our men and women in uniform.

Furthermore, military spending is not a net drain on our economy. It is unrealistic to imagine a return to long-term prosperity if we face instability around the globe because of a hollowed-out U.S. military lacking the size and strength to defend American interests around the world.

You've got to hand it to them: $720 billion per year on defense, as far as they're concerned, is a "hollowed out" military. And about that GDP number, the "average since World War II" utterly distorts the question. Through the 1950s, we spent more than 10 percent of GDP on defense every year, peaking at 14.2 percent in 1953. At our current level of GDP, that's the same as spending over $2 trillion a year on defense. The point is that the size of the economy should have nothing to do with what we spend on defense. I assume that Brooks, Feulner and Kristol don't think that when the economy contracted during the Great Recession of 2008-2009, we should have cut our defense spending, just because the economy was smaller. And if next year we have terrific growth, it doesn't mean that we suddenly face a need to spend more on defense.

I thoroughly enjoyed the line about the need to be "vigilant" in looking for waste in the military budget. Nevertheless, we must reduce popular and effective "entitlement" programs -- otherwise known as the social safety net -- so that we can

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, when discussing his plans to cut back overhead and excessive spending in the military, often makes the comparison that the number of people in military bands is larger than the number of State Department Foreign Service officers. He never indicated that the bands were heading for the budget chopping block, but when I wrote about them two weeks ago the defensive response was so great that I decided to take a second look at their cost.

The Marine Corps provided the only solid number. It spent $50 million last year on its military bands, including $10 million to support the 130 elite musicians in the Washington-based Marine Band, known as "The President's Own," whose prime mission is to provide music for the White House.

The Marines have another 600 musicians in 12 bands around the country, costing $35 million, according to a Corps spokesman.

There are no comparative figures available for the overall costs of military bands in the Navy and Air Force, because they are carried as expenses for subsidiary organizations spread around the country and overseas.

The Army, according to a spokesman, estimates that it spends about $195 million a year on its bands, but that does not include those of the National Guard. Altogether, the Army says on its Web site that it has 5,000 musicians, describing itself as "the largest and oldest employer of musicians in the country."

Based on the Marine figures, total Defense Department spending could reach $500 million or more a year.

Clearly, our defense forces will be "hollowed out" if the armed forces are unable to release the CD, "This is Navy Country," from the Navy's own country and bluegrass band.

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Supreme Court Update

Linda Greenhouse reviews how we are increasingly ruled by 5-4 decisions.

Almost as soon as Justice O’Connor left, for example, the court jumped into an issue she had resisted: whether school boards trying to prevent re-segregation can take race into account in student assignment plans. Despite the absence of any conflicting lower court decisions — the primary marker of a case the Supreme Court deems worthy of its attention — the court agreed to hear challenges to race-conscious plans in Louisville and Seattle. In its ruling on these cases, known collectively as Parents Involved, the court voted 5 to 4 to invalidate the plans.

The court thus began a rightward and almost entirely 5-to-4 march through its precedents that prompted Justice Stephen G. Breyer to declare from the bench on the final day of the 2006 term, “It is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much.”

Read on.

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Friday, October 01, 2010

The TARP on our politics

It is certainly ironic -- at a time when most of us assumed irony is dead -- that one of the few programs launched by the Bush administration, and now being used to kill the political fortunes of everyone from Bob Bennett to Barack Obama, has succeeded.

WASHINGTON — Even as voters rage and candidates put up ads against government bailouts, the reviled mother of them all — the $700 billion lifeline to banks, insurance and auto companies — will expire after Sunday at a fraction of that cost, and could conceivably earn taxpayers a profit.

A final accounting of the government’s full range of interventions in the economy, including the bailouts of the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is years off and will most likely remain controversial and potentially costly.

But the once-unthinkable possibility that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program could end up costing far less, or even nothing, became more likely on Thursday with the news that the government had negotiated a plan with the American International Group to begin repaying taxpayers.

The rescue of the troubled insurer included $70 billion from the bailout program that was enacted two years ago, at the height of the global financial crisis late in the Bush administration, initially to prop up big banks.

At the White House on Thursday, the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, briefed President Obama about A.I.G. and about the broader outlook for the expiring rescue program, putting the projected losses at less than $50 billion, at most. Yet neither the White House nor Congressional Democrats are likely to boast much in the month remaining before midterm elections. For most voters, TARP remains a four-letter word.

Brian A. Bethune, the chief financial economist in the United States for IHS/Global Insight, while critical of parts, called the program over all “a tremendous success. Now obviously, they can’t go out on the campaign trail and say that, because certainly, for a lot of voters, it’s just not going to resonate.”

The “bank bailout” was the first big issue, before the Obama administration’s roughly $800 billion stimulus plan and its health insurance overhaul, to stoke the rise of the Tea Party movement. After supporting TARP, several Republicans have lost elections largely because of their votes. For many Americans, TARP is more than a vote; it is a symbol of big government at its worst, intervening in private markets with taxpayers’ billions to save Wall Street plutocrats while average Americans struggle through the recession those financiers spawned.

Fewer than three in 10 Americans say they believe the program was necessary “to prevent the financial industry from failing and drastically hurting the U.S. economy,” according to a poll in July for Bloomberg News.

Of course, what is often forgotten, is that TARP didn't bring out the tea party crazies. It was when the Obama administration proposed helping struggling homeowners stop drowning in their underwater mortgages that set off the righteous, smarmy indignation.

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Counter-punching is a good strategy

Finally, a Democrat embracing the Affordable Care Act and what it really means for voters...and what repeal would mean for them as well.

It's about time. Perhaps it's desperation on Feingold's part, but I wish other incumbents would have the courage -- and the sense -- to take some pride in their accomplishments.


"She's my girl"


When teddy bears attack

A re-enactment of the great Palidino vs. Dicker smack-down.

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