Monday, May 30, 2011

Blue Monday, Emmylou Harris edition

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron

Friday, May 27, 2011

Blog line o' the week

Was that a groundswell of excitement, or did my dishwasher just start a cycle?

That would be Doghouse Riley's reaction to the formidable pairing of Huntsman/Bachman 2012 suggested by everyone's favorite Reagan administration alumnus, Ed Rogers.


A web of one

Brother, can you spare a dime, vol. 645

In an earlier post, I wrote that I wasn't going to excerpt Rick Perlstein's lament for the forgotten Hubert Humphrey, but I can't resist.

Instead Humphrey, who had re-entered the Senate in 1971, spent the rest of the decade doggedly devising legislative solutions to the Great Divergence. His Balanced Growth and Economic Planning Act, introduced in May 1975, when unemployment was at a post-Depression high of 9 percent, proposed a sort of domestic World Bank to route capital to job creators. (It spoke to his conviction, in a knee-jerk, anti-corporate age, that pro-labor and pro-business policies were complementary.)

And at a time when other liberals were besotted with affirmative action as a strategy to undo the cruel injustices of American history, Humphrey pointed out that race-based remedies could only prove divisive when good jobs were disappearing for everyone. Liberal policy, he said, must stress “common denominators — mutual needs, mutual wants, common hopes, the same fears.”

In 1976 he joined Representative Augustus Hawkins, a Democrat from the Watts section of Los Angeles, to introduce a bill requiring the government, especially the Federal Reserve, to keep unemployment below 3 percent — and if that failed, to provide emergency government jobs to the unemployed.

It sounds heretical now. But this newspaper endorsed it then, while 70 percent of Americans believed the government should offer jobs to everyone who wanted one. However, Jimmy Carter — a new kind of Democrat answering to a new upper-middle-class, suburban constituency, embarrassed by industrial unions and enamored with the alleged magic of the market — did not.

“Government cannot eliminate poverty or provide a bountiful economy or reduce inflation or save our cities or cure illiteracy or provide energy,” President Carter said in his 1978 State of the Union address, a generation before Bill Clinton said almost the same thing, cementing the Democrats’ ambivalent retreat from New Deal-based government activism.

I couldn't resist because in the same paper, David Leonhardt writes something important about our own post-Depression high unemployment.

An economy that is growing this slowly will not add jobs quickly. For the next couple of months, employment growth could slow from about 230,000 recently to something like 150,000 jobs a month, only slightly faster than normal population growth. That is certainly not fast enough to make a big dent in the still huge number of unemployed people.

Are any policy makers paying attention?

Apparently not. House Republicans have decided that lowering corporate tax rates will do the trick, apparently not noticing that corporations are sitting on piles of cash and still aren't hiring. The administration -- whose grip on power will be affected more by unemployment next year than Bin Laden's demise this year -- doesn't seem to have any new ideas to offer. And Bernanke seems chastened by the political criticism he's facing from economic ignoramuses like Rand Paul.


Big River


The Happy Warrior, reconsidered

Hubert Humphrey made a pact with the devil. Believing that it would strengthen Johnson's push for civil rights legislation he joined an administration that was also convinced it could win where Kennedy hadn't -- in Vietnam. And so, he became a forceful defender of a war that, by 1968, was indefensible. And he lost by the proverbial nose to Richard Nixon.

I have to admit, my perspective on one of the last of the New Dealers was heavily colored by Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, in which he describes Humphrey, among other things, as a ward healer and lackey for Johnson.

Rick Perlstein today calls for a reappraisal. I won't excerpt because the whole thing is worth a look.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Obama mau maus Parliament

As Newt Gingrich so insightfully pointed out last year, Barack Obama is a bitter, bitter ant-colonialist.

Citing a recent Forbes article by Dinesh D’Souza, former House speaker Newt Gingrich tells National Review Online that President Obama may follow a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview.

Gingrich says that D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama’s behavior — the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”

“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

“This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president,” Gingrich tells us.

And, boy did this play out yesterday when the first president with a decidedly Kenyan worldview spoke before his former colonial overlords.

Just days after becoming embroiled in a dispute with Israel’s prime minister as he tried to referee one of the globe’s most intractable ethnic-nationalist disputes, Mr. Obama referred to his own multicultural heritage as he praised the fact that Britain, like the United States, does not define citizenship by ancestry. Mr. Obama said:

[T]here is one final quality that I believe makes the United States and United Kingdom indispensable to this moment in history, and that is how we define ourselves as nations.

Unlike most countries in the world, we do not define citizenship based on race or ethnicity. Being American or British is not about belonging to a certain group; it’s about believing in a certain set of ideals — the rights of individuals, the rule of law. That is why we hold incredible diversity within our borders. That’s why there are people around the world right now who believe that if they come to America, if they come to New York, if they come to London, if they work hard, they can pledge allegiance to our flag and call themselves Americans; if they come to England, they can make a new life for themselves and can sing “God Save the Queen” just like any other citizen.

Yes, our diversity can lead to tension. And throughout our history there have been heated debates about immigration and assimilation in both of our countries. But even as these debates can be difficult, we fundamentally recognize that our patchwork heritage is an enormous strength — that in a world which will only grow smaller and more interconnected, the example of our two nations says it is possible for people to be united by their ideals, instead of divided by their differences; that it’s possible for hearts to change and old hatreds to pass; that it’s possible for the sons and daughters of former colonies to sit here as members of this great Parliament, and for the grandson of a Kenyan who served as a cook in the British Army to stand before you as president of the United States.

Then, too, there might have been a hint of relief in the ovation Mr. Obama received at this point from members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

That’s because there was some anxiety, just after Mr. Obama was elected in 2008, that he might bear a grudge against Britain after The Times of London reported that his grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama had been “imprisoned and brutally tortured by the British during the violent struggle for Kenyan independence.”

Although Mr. Obama made no reference to allegations that his grandfather had been tortured in his autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” the British newspaper reported that Hussein Onyango Obama was held for two years in a prison camp and very harshly treated. The Times explained that Britain’s attempts to quell the rebellion that led to Kenyan independence were extremely violent:

Mr. Onyango served with the British Army in Burma during the Second World War and, like many army veterans, he returned to Africa hoping to win greater freedoms from colonial rule. Although a member of the Luo tribe from western Kenya, he sympathized with the Kikuyu Central Association, the organization leading an independence movement that would evolve into the bloody uprising known as the Mau Mau rebellion. [...]

The British responded to the Mau Mau uprising with draconian violence: at least 12,000 rebels were killed, most of them Kikuyu, but some historians believe that the overall death toll may have been more than 50,000. In total, just 32 European settlers were killed.

In her history of the Kenyan rebellion, “Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya,” Caroline Elkins estimated that “somewhere between 130,000 and 300,000″ Kenyans might have been killed by the British or died in mass detention camps like the one Mr. Obama’s grandfather was held in for two years.

I'm sure we can expect a more nuanced perspective from Gingrich any day now, if the next "Rapture" doesn't come along first.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Blue Monday, Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan edition

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ghost riders on the storm

And just because this is amazing.

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Public health threats

The Obama administration finally recognizes the zombie threat.

Pity poor Tom Skinner, a top spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who has been valiantly trying to interest reporters in a new study in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report trumpeting “10 Great Public Health Achievements.” Unfortunately for Mr. Skinner, over at his agency’s public health blog, his colleagues were posting something that really got to the beating heart of morbidity and mortality: the first official C.D.C. instructions on coping with a zombie apocalypse.

Yes, that’s right. With a straight face, the normally staid health agency had posted a primer on how to prepare for an invasion of the brain-eating undead.

“So what do you need to do before zombies ... or hurricanes or pandemics for example, actually happen?” the post said. “First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house. This includes things like water, food, and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp.”

The idea, said David Daigle, a C.D.C. spokesman whose portfolio includes disaster response, came up as they were discussing how to make the agency’s annual “It’s Hurricane Season Again” press release a little sexier.

“One of the communicators mentioned that when we were tweeting about Japan and radiation releases, someone tweeted back asking us if it could set off a zombie attack,” Mr. Daigle said.

He took the idea to the agency’s director of preparedness, Dr. Ali S. Khan, a specialist in infectious disease and a rear admiral in the Public Health Service.

“Most other directors would have thrown me out,” Mr. Daigle said. “He said, ‘Let’s form a Zombie Task Force.’ ”

It's about time.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

I wonder how Corsi's book is selling

One of the secrets to Obama's success, it seems to me, is his ability to signal to his supporters that they're in on the joke.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Harmon Killebrew

We moved to Minnesota when I was six. The Twins had moved there in 1961. So, I had a Rod Carew bat from Sears, but Harmon Killebrew was my favorite.

Anticipation for The Killer in the late ’50s rivaled the lust for Harper now. But the interminable five-year wait for his arrival as a Senators regular puts the impatience of the current Bryce Bulletins to shame. Killebrew homered in the majors at 18, and at 19 against the Orioles, he hit the longest blast in Memorial Stadium history at 471 feet. Stop torturing us, fans pleaded, by sending him back down to Charlotte, Chattanooga and Indianapolis!

Yet there’s a lesson in proper prodigy grooming in the Killebrew tale. When he got to Washington for good at 22, he was ready, leading the American League with 42 homers his first full season. And he wasn’t prepared just when he was in the batter’s box. Killebrew, who died Tuesday at 74, not only hit 573 homers but will be recalled as one of the finest gentlemen in all of sports, not just baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Whatever can possibly be meant by the word “maturation,” Killebrew achieved it. We are left with the memory of a magnificent career and a man who was loved for his humility, kindness and charity with his “Miracle League” for children with physical and mental challenges. He was at ease and open, almost ego-less, whether with the biggest stars, a President who came just to see him play or the guy picking up his dirty uniform.

Once, asked what he did for excitement, Killebrew said, “I like to wash the dishes.”

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A toxic combination

As Jon Chait notes, Republicans feel in their bones that the Ryan budget plan is political poison, yet to criticize it is to be subject to certain rejection.


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Three days of peace, music and pedophilia

Under the annals of "Who could have ever predicted..." comes the results of the Catholic Church's investigation into the cause of their recent history of child fucking.


Glad we cleared that up. Move along. Nothing to see here.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Paul Ryan's sinister plan

Not the one to end Medicare -- which his ideological soulmates are walking away from (and now walking back the walking away from...GOP "policy 'debates'" are so darned confusing) -- but the one that has, according to Patrick Caldwell, completely changed the terms of the debate on Medicare.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

The carnival barker's ratings

After weeks of the political press following the buffoon around and sniffing his every racist utterance, Trump does what Trump does.

In addition to his statement, Mr. Trump announced his decision in person at Monday’s event for the broadcast networks to preview their fall lineups.

“I will not be running for president,” he said, according to Brian Stelter of The New York Times, who is reporting live from the event. Advertisers cheered at the news.

Of course they did.


Blue Monday, Crash on the Levee edition

Friday, May 13, 2011

Down in Mississippi


Thursday, May 12, 2011

War dogs

After it was announced that a dog accompanied the Special Forces troops that stormed bin Laden's compound, interest in "War Dogs" has spiked. No wonder.

The bonds that grow in battle between the Labs and their Marine handlers are already the stuff of heart-tugging war stories. But few have had the emotional impact of that of Pfc. Colton W. Rusk, a 20-year-old Marine machine gunner and dog handler who was killed in December by sniper fire in Sangin, one of the most deadly areas in Helmand. During his deployment, Private Rusk sent his parents a steady flow of pictures and news about his beloved bomb dog, Eli, a black Lab. When Private Rusk was shot, Marine officers told his parents, Eli crawled on top of their son to try to protect him.

The 3-year-old Eli, the first name of the survivors listed in Private Rusk’s obituary, was retired early from the military and adopted in February by Private Rusk’s parents, Darrell and Kathy Rusk. “He’s a big comfort to us,” Kathy Rusk said in a telephone interview from her home in Orange Grove, Tex. After the dog’s retirement ceremony in February at Lackland Air Force Base, an event that generated enormous news coverage in Texas, the Rusks brought Eli for the first time into their home. “The first place he went was Colton’s room,” Mrs. Rusk said. “He sniffed around and jumped up on his bed.”

So far, 20 Labrador retrievers out of the 350 have been killed in action since the Marine program began, most in explosions of homemade bombs, Marine officials said. Within the Special Operations Command, the home of the dog that went on the Bin Laden mission, some 34 dogs were killed in the line of duty between 2006 and 2009, said Maj. Wes Ticer, a spokesman. Like their handlers, dogs that survive go on repeat deployments, sometimes as many as four. Dogs retire from the military at the age of 8 or 9.

To an American public weary of nearly 10 years of war, dogs are a way to relate, as the celebrity status of the still-unknown commando dog proved. (President Obama is one of the few Americans to have met the dog, in a closed-door session with the Seal team last week.)

A photo essay.


The Doomsday Pickup

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another fixture of New York City passes

Bill Gallo. You didn't always like what he said, but he was the tabloid cartoonist's cartoonist.

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Blue Monday, Rev. Gary Davis edition

Thursday, May 05, 2011

A good meal

This sounds very pleasant.

Earlier, at the firehouse on West 48th Street, Mr. Obama sat with the firefighters for a lunch of eggplant Parmigiana and pasta with scallops, shrimp, and sun-dried tomatoes in a cream sauce.

The atmosphere was festive, the firefighters said afterward, though Mr. Obama also told them about the tense moments in the White House situation room on Sunday as he and other senior officials watched the raid unfold in Pakistan. “We sat together as gentlemen around the table, celebrating getting justice,” said Leonard Sieli, a firefighter.


Monday, May 02, 2011

Blue Monday, The Stanley Brothers edition


Obama seems to be very good at keeping the plates spinning.

On March 14, Mr. Obama held the first of what would be five national security meetings in the course of the next six weeks to go over plans for the operation.

The meetings, attended by only the president’s closest national security aides, took place as other White House officials were scrambling to avert a possible government shutdown over the budget.

Four more similar meetings to discuss the plan would follow, until President Obama gathered his aides one final time last Friday.

At 8:20 that morning, Mr. Obama met with Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser; John O. Brennan, the counterterrorism adviser; and other senior aides in the Diplomatic Room at the White House. The president was traveling to Alabama later that morning to witness the damage from last week’s tornadoes. But first he had to approve the final plan to send operatives into the compound where the administration believed that Bin Laden was hiding.

Not to mention negotiating with the state of Hawaii to release his long form birth certificate.

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A chapter ends

I experienced some modicum of the terror felt in New York City on September 11, 2001, so there is certainly a palpable sense of justice in the news.

At the same time, Osama bin Laden seemed to be becoming less and less relevant; killing him in a firefight may open a new chapter the contours of which remain to be seen.

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