Monday, February 28, 2011

Easy targets?

Many are surprised that for the most part, the American public supports the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions.

Well, those who are surprised just weren't paying attention.


A pension is not a "benefit"

David Cay Johnson corrects his colleagues' reporting on what is really going on with respect to Gov. Walker's power grab in Wisconsin.

Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin' s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.

That is, workers have bargained for lower pay in order to fund their pensions and health care. Read the whole thing.


Blue Monday, Grateful Dead edition

Friday, February 25, 2011

The CBS ethical handbook

Physically abuse your wife? Meh. Verbally abuse the show's creator? Well, that's another matter.

Or is the guy some kind of a performance artist?

UPDATE: Someone's reading my web-log.


Signing statements and DOMA -- whose rights are you fighting for, anyway?

Regarding the right's outrage, the Obama administration decided DOMA was an unconstitutional abridgement of individual's rights. The Bush administration was more concerned with the abridgment of the administration's rights.


The white whale


Fill'er up with ethel (if Ethel don't mind)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Douchebag for liberty, on line three, sir

An inneresting insight into the whole, hilarious Scott Walker gets punk'd affair from yesterday.

It looks like the secret to getting them to take your call is to present yourself to be as big of an asshole as the wingnut you’re calling—also, too, pretending to have money and power gets you respect and access.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Idiots in defense of treason

Modern day Confederates. Their ignorance and shamelessness are matched only by their cluelessness.

Before a cheering crowd of several hundred men and women, some in period costume and others in crisp suits, an amateur actor playing Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy on the steps of the Alabama Capitol on Saturday, an event framed by the firing of artillery, the delivery of defiant speeches and the singing of “Dixie.”

The participants far outnumbered the spectators, but it was to be the largest event of the year organized by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and one in a series of commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Confederacy and the War for Southern Independence. (Referring to the Civil War as anything other than an act of unwarranted Northern aggression upon a sovereign republic was rather frowned upon.)

The Sons’ principal message was that the Confederacy was a just exercise in self-determination that had been maligned by “the politically correct crowd” through years of historical distortions. It is the right of secession that they emphasize, not the cause, which they often describe as a complicated mix of tariff and tax disputes and Northern attempts to politically subjugate the South.

The other matter of subjugation — that is, slavery — went unmentioned on Saturday. (Davis himself did not refer to it in his inaugural address, but he emphasized the maintenance of African slavery as a cause for secession in other high-profile settings.). And the issue of slavery was largely brushed aside in interviews as a mere function of the time, and not a defining feature of the Confederacy.


But even the politics on Saturday were tied up in a larger sense of grievance, a feeling of being marginalized and willfully misunderstood. Expressions of this feeling led to some rather unexpected analogies, like when Kelley Barrow, a teacher from Georgia, declared that people of Confederate heritage “have been forced to go to the back of the bus.”

A teacher. Great.

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A Green Bay Packer sides with his fellow union members against the Koch-backed assault on union members' right to collective bargaining.

The Green Bay Packers veteran Charles Woodson issued a statement that said in part, “Thousands of dedicated Wisconsin public workers provide vital services for Wisconsin citizens.” He added: “They are the teachers, nurses and child-care workers who take care of us and our families. These hard-working people are under an unprecedented attack to take away their basic rights to have a voice and collectively bargain at work.”

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Meet the Mets

Here's your chance to show your solidarity with the distressed fans of the distressed New York Metropolitans.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Is it bedtime yet?

Ezra Klein compares Democrats' and Republican's governing philosophies.

Republicans and Democrats, it seems, govern rather differently. Republicans are proving themselves willing to do what liberals long wanted the Obama administration to do: Play hardball. Refuse compromise. Risk severe consequences that they'll attempt to blame on their opponent. The Obama administration's answer to this was always that it was important to be seen as the reasonable actor in the drama, to occupy some space known as the middle, and to avoid, so much as possible, the appearance of dramatic overreach. This is as close as we're likely to come to a test of that theory. In two cases, Republicans have chosen a hardline and are refusing significant compromise, even at the risk of terrible consequences. Will the public turn on them for overreach? Applaud their strength and conviction? Or not really care one way or the other, at least by the time the next election rolls around?

The 1995 shutdown comparison might give us hope that Republicans' overreach on this will turn the public on them. In fact, the public is already turned against them, according to most polls. Obama is more popular now than Clinton was in 1994. So, when grandma's Social Security check doesn't arrive, if Obama and his political team "message" correctly, you'd think that the public would side with "No Drama Obama."

But none of that will matter if jobs don't materialize, and Republicans at the state and federal level, seem determined by evidence of their policies to do their damnedest to make sure those jobs don't come. Killing federally funded intrastate high speed rail lines and and interstate tunnels don't exactly help the economy. Neither does shutting down the federal government.

The pundits drone on that Republicans won the midterms because Obama "overreached" on stimulus and healthcare, and that Republicans "overreach" will result in a similar reaction with voters.

I don't know about the latter. I do know that Obama didn't overreach on healthcare reform. He campaigned on it. Relentlessly. As for the stimulus "overreach," it wouldn't have been perceived as overreach if it had not just stopped the bleeding of jobs that it did, but had actually delivered on creating more jobs.

It wasn't overreach. It was the fucking economy last year. The same dynamics will be in play in 2012.

But perhaps Chris Rock is correct in his optimism.

You got kids? Kids always act up the most before they go to sleep. And when I see the Tea Party and all this stuff, it actually feels like racism’s almost over. Because this is the last — this is the act up before the sleep. They’re going crazy. They’re insane. You want to get rid of them — and the next thing you know, they’re fucking knocked out. And that’s what’s going on in the country right now.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The Iraqi defector code-named "Curveball" by the CIA and who was a main source of "intel" used to make the case for invading Iraq -- especially Colin Powell's now infamous UN presenation -- now admits everything he said was a lie.

Even before the invasion, there was strong evidence that Mr. Janabi was an unreliable source, evidence which critics now say the Bush White House and the C.I.A.’s top leadership ignored.

Mr. Janabi, who defected to Germany in the 1990s, met repeatedly with German intelligence officials beginning in 2000. They refused to allow C.I.A. officials to meet directly with him, instead providing the Americans only with reports of what he had said.

Eventually, though, the Germans grew doubtful of their informer and passed on their suspicions to American intelligence officials.

Mr. Janabi said in his interview with The Guardian that he still believed that it was right for him to lie, because it was the only way to rid Iraq of Mr. Hussein.

In an interview conducted in German and translated by The Guardian, he said: “Believe me, there was no other way to bring about freedom to Iraq. There were no other possibilities.”

I think it is telling that, despite all of this "freedom" brought to Iraq, Mr. Janabi still lives in Germany.



Lara Logan is one very brave person. As are most female reporters who report from overseas.

UPDATE: I was going to write, I don't know what's worse, but that's not true. The "she had it coming" crowd is, while totally predictable, totally vile. And, my, how their view of "the Arab street" can so quickly go from "freedom. sexy. whiskey." to "drunken. testosterone. dusk-hued."

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Imagine, a governor who's a mensch

The anti-Christi.

Mr. Malloy grew up with dyslexia and physical disabilities. He still cannot write or type. And as he closes a 20 percent budget deficit, he spends much of his energy finding ways to spare the most vulnerable.

But what is most striking about Mr. Malloy, a Democrat, is that just six weeks after taking charge of such a mild-mannered state, he is publicly taking shots at his celebrated counterpart in New Jersey, attacking his politics and policies, his intellect, even his personality.

“Being bombastic for the sake of being bombastic,” Mr. Malloy said, “has just never been my take on the world.”

Like Mr. Christie and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, Mr. Malloy, 55, is a former prosecutor: he tried felony cases in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office before moving to Stamford, where he was mayor for 14 years. He has inherited a state hobbled by bad fiscal habits and bills that piled up as hard choices were avoided.

Unlike his counterparts, though, he has set out to prove that even in an age of austerity one can govern as a defender of the social safety net.

As a candidate last year, he took a beating for refusing to forswear tax increases. He also promised not to gut education or shift the costs of services on to cities and towns. (He also stuck by his opposition to the death penalty while a gruesome triple-murder trial riveted the state, and wants to treat possession of less than an ounce of marijuana like a traffic ticket.) He won by barely half a percentage point.

As governor, Mr. Malloy laid down ground rules. He said spending, which was on a course to grow by $1.8 billion, would remain flat. He said he would not borrow to cover operating expenses, as the state previously did. He promised to pay the state’s pension obligations fully and to make costly catch-up payments for years they were skipped. He ruled out early retirement plans, saying they really did not save anything and only stretched the pension system thinner. And he imposed strict accounting standards to bring more transparency to the state’s balance sheet.

The strategy was simple: demonstrate a willingness to make tough cuts first; then demand sacrifice from labor; and only then ask the public to go along with tax increases.

That, of course, puts him in direct opposition with Governors Christie and Cuomo, who say their citizens are already overtaxed.

But Mr. Malloy does not apologize for proposing tax increases.

“It’s what’s right for my state,” he said. “Connecticut would not be Connecticut if we cut $3.5 billion out of the budget. We are a strong, generous, hopeful people. We’d be taking $800 million out of education. You can’t do that in this state. You’d have to gouge the Medicaid system. You’d have to close 25 percent of the nursing homes. What do you do with people?”

Nor is he shy about trying to avoid public-sector layoffs, which would result in the opposite of a stimulus, he has said, since teachers and clerks spend most of what they earn.

“I’m not sure that some governors just don’t want to lay off people for the sake of laying off people and being able to say they did,” he said, speaking of those who may have their sights on seeking national office, say in 2016. “I think there’s a certain collection of merit badges that’s going on here.”

Ooh, snap.

It remains to be seen -- in the Nutmeg State as well as at the national level -- whether reasoned political discourse, rational policy, and a refusal to make only the poorest sacrifice, will result in good politics and policy.

I hope so.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Spring has sprung

Jay Jaffe says it best:

As far as sports holidays go, if the Super Bowl is Christmas (commercialized and nationalized to the extent that many of those who celebrate it do so without any acknowledgement of the day’s meaning), and Opening Day is Thanksgiving (a properly national holiday that surprisingly retains a sort of understated warmth and significance), then Pitchers and Catchers is Groundhog’s Day, a day we all know is meaningless, but whose promise of spring in the latter days of a long, cold winter, proves irresistible nonetheless.

It's actually kinda mild here today in the DMZ between Red Sox Nation and Yankee Universe.

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The bond markets

Really? The "If only for the sake of the bond markets?"

“I would like to get something done. I don’t want to have two years of nothing,” said Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin and the new chairman of the House Budget Committee. “It would be nice to get some achievements, if only for the bond markets — to keep them at bay for the time being.”

That really sums it up, doesn't it. All this optical illusion, where the only spending cuts will come on the backs of the historically disenfranchised or to enhance nuclear weapons security, for no other reason than to keep some mythical bond wolves at bay.


Blue Monday, Robert Johnson, Cream edition

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I'm sure we can all agree that freedom of speech isn't free

It seems that a group of Muslim students in Univ. of Calif. Irving disrupted a speech given by Israel's ambassador to the U.S. They were suspended for semester as a result. Pretty harsh in and of itself, but now the Orange County District Attorney wants to prosecute the students for conspiracy to disturb a public meeting.

Over-zealous prosecutor? Singling out Muslims for exercising their right to assemble and speech? Oh, I don't know, maybe yes and yes?

But then there's this gem.

Since the charges against the students were filed on Friday, the district attorney has come under fire from several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. The chancellor’s office has not taken any position on the prosecution, but on Wednesday, 100 faculty members urged Mr. Rackauckas to drop the charges.

But Mr. Rackauckas is showing no signs of backing down.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, Susan Schroeder, said in an interview: “It seems that the basic question is what if we substituted different groups — what if this were the Klu Klux Klan who conspired to silence a speech by Martin Luther King.”

An excellent argument to be sure. As we all know, the ACLU has been highly selective in who the organization will represent.

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Meet the new boss?

I haven't written much about what's been going on in Egypt (or Tunisia, or Yemen, for that matter), because the time that I don't have I make for in ignorance. Nevertheless, it's been extraordinary to watch unfold. And now, perhaps, this.

CAIRO — The command of Egypt’s military stepped forward Thursday in an attempt to end a three-week-old uprising, declaring on state television it would take measures “to maintain the homeland and the achievements and the aspirations of the great people of Egypt” and meet the demands of the protesters. The development appeared to herald the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

But I wonder if the protesters will feel victorious in ushering in a military government, even one that promises to meet their demands.

Several military leaders and officials in Mr. Mubarak’s government indicated that the president intended to step down on Thursday. Some reports said he aimed to pass authority to his hand-picked vice president, Omar Suleiman, but what role Mr. Suleiman would play in a military government, if any, remained uncertain.

We've been told repeatedly about the respect Egyptian society has for its military, and perhaps this will lead to an orderly transition to a more democratic political system, but I don't know of too many military leaders in history who have gladly given up political power at the end of a "transition" to civilian rule.

The character of the military’s intervention and the shape of a new Egyptian government remained uncertain. A flurry of reports on state media on Thursday indicated a degree of confusion — or competing claims — about what kind of shift was underway, raising the possibility that a competing forces did not necessarily see the power transfer the same way.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Keeping the government out of healthcare, indeed

I know that expecting intellectual consistency and honesty with Congressional Republicans is, I don't know, absurd, but let me get this straight: Republicans' opposition to the Affordable Care Act is based largely on their opposition to the federal government having anything to do with what should be personal decisions regarding health insurance (and on their belief that health care is not a "right"). And yet, they are sponsoring a bill to raise taxes on private insurance plans that cover abortions.

"This House is more pro-life than it's ever been," said Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa) yesterday.

Anyone who thought that the Tea Party Republicans are not all about the Kultur Wars is deluded.

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Blue Monday, Neil Young edition

Friday, February 04, 2011

Crisis communication

When an obscure, "alternative" weekly publishes a story about you that is unflattering, but also accurate and hilarious, you probably should just let it go. Not threaten to sue and draw attention to said accurate, hilarious, but previously obscure story.

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"Peaces en Regalia"


The weird Reagan Legacy Project

Although they cite the same Gallup numbers, Paul Waldman and Kevin Drum disagree about just how popular Ronald Reagan was. Steve Benen manages to agree with both of them. That is to say, Reagan wasn't particularly popular when he left office, but since then the GOP has actively worked to create the sense that he's wildly popular. No other Republican president has benefitted from such an active PR effort.


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