Saturday, February 28, 2009

Santelli the shill

Shocking news. It appears Santelli's 'spontaneous' rant was likely rehearsed. The whole silly tea party protest was really a pre-planned astroturf operation, designed six months ago as part of a larger anti-Obama PR campaign. Still conjecture at this point, but the circumstantial evidence is strong. Welcome to Swift Boat 2.0.

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Times change

Remember when Wingnuttia was all upset about defacing the flag and disrespecting the office of president in "a time of war?" Those were the good times.

And I'm not sure what to say about teabagging, except oh dear, think of the children. Wondering when NAMBLA joined movement conservatism? Must have missed the memo. [h/t Atrios]


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Praise Jesus and pass the porn

Shocking news. The more sexually repressed the demographic group, the more on-line porn they purchase. The differences are small but the sales data shows that the more conservative and religious they are, the more porn they buy on-line. Interestingly, the religious don't buy on Sundays, but make up for it during the rest of the week.

It would be interesting to see the IQ factor in this data. As commenters have pointed out, with all the free porn on the internets, why on earth would anyone pay for it?

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday night flamenco

Something to take your mind off the ills of the world tonight. My friend Tom McClung put me on to this guitarist today.



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Time for recall elections

Shocking news. Surprisingly, unemployed residents get angry with their wingnut governors for rejecting stimulus money to increase their benefits.
The Republican governors of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas, along with Alaska and Idaho, have raised protests, saying that expansion could eventually require them to raise taxes.
This, of course, is not true. There is nothing that prevents the states from sunseting the benefits once the federal money runs out. Who would have expected that unemployed people have more time to fact check and figure this out?

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Crazy at CPAC

Yes, it's that time again, when movement conservatives throw themselves a big old pep rally. From the young and the aimless College Republicans, to the grizzled veterans of the culture wars, the forever faithful get together to bring on teh crazy. Oh wait, did I say crazy? I meant batshit insane.

Instead of holding hands and singing Kumbaya, they're punching each other in the shoulder and belting out Our Day Will Come. As their new head honcho assures them, all they need is a little rebranding.

Cosa is pretty sure he can help them with the rebranding part, but he's open to suggestions. Leave yours there.

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Volcano Monitoring


As it turns out, most people, who are not the governor of Louisiana, think it's a good thing. [NASA photo]

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

What's an intelligent conservative to do?

At a time when the GOP has been co-opted by the hard core culture warriors now known as movement conservatives, it's tough to be an intellectual conservative like James Joyner. He joins other academics in lamenting the loss of his party. I feel for him. It must be embarrassing to watch the party be defined by anti-intellectual Xian creationists like Palin and Limbaugh and Joe the Plumber. Still, this argument strikes me as intellectually lazy and contributes to the problem.
Put another way, Republicans thrive as the party of normal Americans — the people in the middle culturally and economically. This is true of our leadership as well — we have a history of nominating figures who came first from outside politics. Our base is the common-sense voter in the middle who bought a house she could afford and didn’t lavishly overspend in good times and who is now subsidizing the person who didn’t.
As I said in my comment over there, I'm a bit put off by the notion that the GOP's base is the "normal" person in the middle. Judging by the pure numbers in 08, and the Democratic party gain, that would not seem to be the case.

I'd also love to see some figures on party affiliation to back up the claim that it was Democrats who bought houses they couldn't afford. It seems to me that a lot of the problems people are having stem as much from HELOCs as ARMs and I would love to see some hard numbers on who went to the HELOC cookie jar too many times before blithely claiming it's a quirk limited mainly to Democrats. I'd be willing to bet it's evenly divided or that the opposite is just as likely to be true.

Unsubstantiated claims of this sort are what feeds the angry hordes' irrational indignation and serves to validate the wrongheaded notion that any unproven claim is true if enough "honest but uneducated" people believe it. If the intellectuals want their party back, they would do well to insist on fact-based debate.

In the alternate, they could take a cue from John Cole and come join us in the Democratic party's tent. We like smart people on this side of the fence.

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Towards a sane marijuana policy

Signaling an end to one of the most senseless and destructive aspects of US drug policy, AG Holder announced at a recent presser that the "Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana clubs that are established legally under state law." Surely a relief to the terminally ill who depend on the plant to ease their pain, not to be forced into the black market to get their medicine. Arresting these people and their providers, who pose no real danger to society, cost us billions in tax dollars that could be better spent elsewhere.

Further, now matter what you think about the use of the plant as a medicine, the pure economics of generating income by allowing the dispensaries to operate instead of draining public coffers to shut them down, makes the strongest argument for the policy. Consider this for instance:
Harborside is charged an 8.75 percent tax. With revenue of around $1 million per month, its annual sales-tax bill comes in at something like $875,000 per year. And that's just one shop. Betty Yee, chairwoman of the State Board of Equalization, which oversees tax collection, told me that there's no way to break out exactly how much money the state is getting from pot clubs because it doesn't require them to state on their tax forms what product they sell. ("Regardless of legal status, anyone can get a seller's permit," she explained.) However, she did release the tax records of some clubs that had been raided by the federal government, noting that because they employed sizable numbers of people, they also paid state and federal income and payroll taxes. The Compassion Center, licensed by Alameda County, paid $3 million before being shuttered in October 2007 by the DEA. Nature's Medicinal, licensed by Kern Country, paid close to $1 million in 2007, which included $203,000 in state and federal income taxes, $365,000 in payroll taxes, and $427,000 in sales taxes. The Compassion Center employed and provided health benefits to fifty people; Nature's Medicinal twenty-five.
Additionally, marijuana legalization advocates estimate, if the plant was made legal for recreational use as well, the tax revenue in California alone would be in the range of $2 billion. At a time when our economy is tettering on the brink of collapse, our legislators would do well to listen to public opinion -- a majority of Americans support full legalization -- and consider ending the war on marijuana altogether. Our society has survived well with a thriving underground industry. It's about time we allowed the consumers to step out of the shadows and contribute to our economic health in the full light of day.

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Joe the Whatever


Joe the (not) Plumber seems to be finally nearing the end of his 15 minutes of fame. Dropping into the belly of the beast, he's in DC promoting his new book in between stalking the "thieves and liars" on Capitol Hill for PJ Media. Joe stood behind the miked lectern in the basement of Borders to regale a veritable mob of a dozen, who wandered over to hear "average Joe's" deep insights. He advised the accidental throng that plumbing is hard work. But here's the exciting part:
Joe says he plans to work in construction (hello, stimulus package!) once his gig doing commentary for a conservative Web site runs out at the end of March.
Guess PJM decided to let their rising star, Joe the War Correspondent, flame out. Good thing he has a back up plan, because Joe the Author probably isn't going to make him rich enough to pay those socialist taxes either. He only sold 5 books. [photo James M. Thresher - WaPo]

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Quote of the Day

Honey Bear Kelly:

Please don't walk around barefooted.
You might step on my shattered illusions.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Zombie is the new 'jump the shark'

Zombie banks. Zombie lies. Did I call this zombie meme or what? Today Krugman posts, "All the President’s zombies". And quoting the Economist:
At this stage, I joked, I’d be just as happy with them just saying, “We have a strategy, we will continue to inject capital to prop up zombie banks indefinitely. That’s pretty much the whole plan and we’re counting on it bringing the financial sector back to life someday, somehow”. Is it just me or is that pretty much what Ben Bernanke said yesterday?
Sadly, Bernanke's zombie policy is murdering my retirement account just when I really need it to bail myself out

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The hook-up culture

I knew things changed a lot since I was in the dating scene but I had no idea how much. This is surely the headline of the day. "Market for Romance Goes From Bullish to Sheepish".
"It's been incredibly stressful for me," said Neil Welsh, 27, the guy in the suit, who until last year was marketing director for a booming real estate company. "I was so used to using my financial situation to leverage my dating."
Leverage his dating? It sounds more like a hedge fund transaction than a relationship. As Phila explained, "What he means is that he used best practices to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of his strategic plan to offer world-class, customer-centric interactions with female stakeholders."

Romance is truly dead.

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Random Thought

Any article that comes under a headline that says What Obama Should Do, or What Obama Really Means, or Obama Must, or Obama Might and so forth, isn't really worth reading.

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Oh My God

He was reacting to the necktie. Either that or it was a moment of pure clairvoyance. I don't know who said it, but tell the truth, don't you think that's what everyone was thinking by the end of Jindal's speech?

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Scoring the speeches

In a word:

Obama: Wow
Jindal: Ow

I don't suppose anyone could have rebutted Obama's speech and sounded inspirational but watching Jindal was just painful. I see the GOP's future and it looks like a wasteland from here.

And what a relief to have a president I can listen to again without wanting to commit acts of violence to my teevee screen. It's so refreshing to have a leader who speaks like a mature adult. I'd almost forgotten how that feels. I like it.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

McCain sounds sour note at Obama's summit

I wonder if McCain realizes how silly and petulant he looked at President Obama's fiscal responsibility summit on Monday? Sam has a partial transcript but you really have to watch the full video here to get the full flavor of the sour grapes McCain is choking down with this little quip. It's so obvious he thinks he scored a real zinger in bringing up the presidential helicopter. He gets all puffed up with his own cleverness and then pathetically deflates when Obama righteously outclasses him with his response to the dig.

Why McCain thought it was a good idea to bring up a procurement that Obama had nothing to do with, remains a mystery. It was Bush who ordered the new fleet of 28 planes, including the new helicopter, at a cost of $11 billion dollars. McCain ends up looking not only petty, but like an idiot.

More must reads on this story. The Caucus has the ultimate photo of the event and captures the essence of McCain's bitterness, while watertiger skewers the desiccated old goat along with a bonus jibe at McCain's former running mate, who shared her paranoid fantasies about how the media is "out to get her" yesterday.

It chills the blood to think what disasters that dubious duo would have caused by now had they somehow managed to win the election.

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The Village view vs. the real world

Greg Sargent flags a new poll that proves a point a lot of us have been making for a long time. The Village wisdom that there is a huge public hunger for some silly show of phony bi-partisanship is a figment of their imagination.
Which do you think should be a higher priority for Barack Obama right now — working in a bipartisan way with Republicans in Congress or sticking to the policies he promised he would during the campaign:

Working bipartisan way: 39%
Sticking to policies: 56%
And the GOPers may be winning the news cycle, but they're not winning in the court of public opinion.
Which do you think should be a higher priority for Republicans in Congress right now — working in a bipartisan way with Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress or sticking to Republican policies?

Working bipartisan way: 79%
Sticking to policies: 17%
Meanwhile, Santelli's stockholder revolt doesn't seem to be inspiring very many people either. Maybe someone should alert the media.

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Bush back on the road

Word has it that Bush has 10 speaking engagements in the U.S., Europe, and Asia this year. The first one will be in Canada next month. I have to wonder how much he's getting in speaking fees and who would be willing to pay them? Hard to believe there's anyone left in the world who didn't get enough of him in the last eight years.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Back to the past

For all those who were wondering how long it would take Sully to go back to his conservative roots.... I think it's happening now. The premise that we need deep cuts in the legacy social safety net programs is as hard core right as it gets. As Krugman said, what's needed is to rein in out of control health care costs or nothing else matters.

Of course, the best way to control health care costs is to have a single payer national health insurance system. Unsurprisingly, Sully seems to be against that.

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Facts on the filibuster

I don't understand the air of resignation here. Apparently you can make the GOPers filibuster by requiring their presence on the floor, but you can't make them talk. The consensus among the smart people is that it would make for bad teevee and Reid says the GOPer could keep asking for a roll call vote. Beutler says that's not quite right and they couldn't necessarily keep asking for a roll call.

Either way, so what? Most Americans don't understand cloture votes. To the average Jake, it just looks like the Dems are caving to the GOPers' temper tantrums. It's not like the majority of Americans are glued to CSPAN watching them make the sausage anyway. As long as the GOPers are required to physically be there to block a vote, it will be reported that GOPer X is holding the floor and blocking further business. At least it will be clear that it's the GOPers who are obstructing. That doesn't strike me as a bad thing. And I'd bet it would still cut down on its use for every little thing.

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Unshared experiences

It's true that the politicians who decide policy and those who drive our public discourse live in a world far removed from the ordinary working class person without an Ivy League education. This includes most of the A-list bloggers but on the left side of Blogtopia, they're at least aware of the gap in shared experience.

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Pity poor Roger Simon

I happened to catch the last few minutes of an interview with Roger Simon on Book TV last night. He's pushing his new book called something like, "Why I cast myself in the role of a Hollywood outcast, even though I'm a no talent has-been and nobody outside of PJ Media cares what the hell I think." I've never seen him speak contemporaneously before. I swear, he makes Joe the Plumber look erudite.

The last question was whether he thought Obama's election was a signal that the country was finally overcoming racism. His answer in short was -- no. Racism hasn't existed in 50 years. By golly, some of his friends are black. And besides blacks have it easy. The only real discrimination is against conservatives who just can't catch a break since liberals took over the world. What a putz.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rahming through the gate

I see Ryan Lizza's piece in NYT on Rahm Emanuel is driving some discussion today. Rahm called out Krugman for criticizing the stimulus bill and the negotiations that weakened it. Matt is right of course, that Krugman created context for the debate. Somehow I think Rahm is aware of that and his dig at Krugman is part of the process.

I'm no fan of Rahm's but I'm thinking he did a good thing here. In recognizing Krugman's criticism, he gives him more credibility to frame the context. The dynamic works to strengthen them both. I have some serious concerns about giving Rahm that kind of power, but it's working to nudge the window left. We're making progress.

Oddly, as a life long pacifist, I find myself wishing that everybody keeps fighting.

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America's worst sheriff

I'm clearing out the inbox and here's a worthy point and click activism for today. This is about the Arizona sheriff who is famous for making the inmates march through town wearing only pink underwear and serving spoiled food, among a number of other egregious mistreatments of prisoners. According to the email, he isn't doing his job either:
As Sheriff, it's been Joe Arpaio's job to keep Maricopa County safe from crime. But Joe Arpaio has 40,000 outstanding felony warrants rotting on his desk , and violent crimes have soared under his watch. For years he's sought publicity by ridiculing inmates. Now, he's rounding up immigrant detainees and marching them through town to a separate "tent city," complete with electric fences, to allegedly "make room for more."

Instead of prosecuting felons, Joe spends his time racking up publicity and recruiting "posses" to sweep low-crime, Latino neighborhoods. He stops people for "driving while brown."

That's why we're calling on the Department of Justice to investigate Joe Arpaio's dangerous, racist antics. Watch our new video exposing Sheriff Joe - then sign this petition to the Department of Justice.
Arpaio is the kind of sadistic thug that needs to be removed from any position of authority. I don't know what good it does to sign if you don't live in Arizona, but it couldn't hurt and it only takes a few seconds to do it. Sign if only to let Holder know that we want people like this to be held accountable.

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Nearly seditious

Ah, the "professional" media at Fox News. I couldn't make it through the whole video segment that Glenn posted. These people are genuinely crazy. I can't believe that they get paid for this. On some level, I can't believe they can't be arrested for it. I mean, I'll all for the right to dissent but as far as I was able to watch, I think this verges on sedition, despite the intial disclaimer. It's not just bad journalism, it's irresponsible.

Further, I have to think if MSNBC had hosted a bunch of lefty anarchists speculating in this manner during the Bush regime, there would have been a thunderous call from the right to throw them all in Gitmo.

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My new record album

I found this really fun meme at m. heart's blog, so I had to try it.


I don't have photoshop so I just figured out how to do it in regular old MS Paint, which I barely know how to use. I'm not entirely happy with it. I would have tweaked the placement of the text if I knew how to edit but considering it took me four tries to just get this far, I decided to run with it. I expect it's much easier with a real photoshop program. Anyway, here's how the meme works.

1 - Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random. The title of the article is the name of your band.

2 - go to http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3. The last few words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days and the third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use photoshop (or similar) to put it all together.

By the way, in case you wanted to know, Sadak is a 1991 Bollywood film loosely based on Robert DeNiro's Taxi Driver, so I guess my album would be the soundtrack.

My friend JP played and check out m. heart's album for inspiration. They did a much better job of it.

Update: I did a new one for my other blog. It's a little better.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

The truth is going to hurt

Honesty is the best policy but I hope they're prepared for the inevitable GOPer caterwauling when the numbers come out.
For his first annual budget next week, President Obama has banned four accounting gimmicks that President George W. Bush used to make deficit projections look smaller. The price of more honest bookkeeping: A budget that is $2.7 trillion deeper in the red over the next decade than it would otherwise appear, according to administration officials.
And this part makes me a little nervous. "The new accounting involves spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Medicare reimbursements to physicians and the cost of disaster responses." I really hope that the strategy here is to use the numbers to sell a national health care plan and ending the occupations rather than a plan to further downgrade reimbursements to doctors that are already too artificially low.

And if this is true and the Obama administration is really trying to kill the email lawsuit against the Bush adminstration -- well -- it's doing nothing to bolster my confidence that we're going to see any real transparency or accountability any time soon. Obama can't just pick and choose what to uncover.


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Pathetic liars

Investor's Daily breathlessly reports a few wingut convergences allegedly numbering in the low hundreds represents a "growing movement." Hogberg uncritically accepts inflated crowd estimates as proof the latest winger mania is growing, but for crying out loud, these protests were flogged to death on every wingnut blog including Malkin's and they could only muster an outraged crowd of dozens, if one is to judge by the photos she posted.

Then again, lying is lifestyle for these people. Just ask George Will. It wouldn't be nearly so irritating if they didn't make such a good living at it.

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Stupid sexist polls

If our elite media can get any more stupid than this, just shoot me now. I don't want to live to see it. And I'd really love to know why we never see a poll asking which male politician you would trust to mow your lawn or change your oil.

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Blog bytes - Hello It's Me edition

Song in my head. Funny I didn't remember Todd wearing makeup like that. But on with the show...

Happy Anniversary to Ruth and Diane. They're trying to reach 250,000 hits so click over, would you?

Phila has the best nudibranch ever this week. I love the color on this one and it has the sweetest little smile. I'm linking to the main page so you can scroll down for his week Hope Blogging. Even if his vocabulary is too daunting for you, scroll through for the graphics. They're especially pretty this week but his links are cheering too. It's nice to be reminded that good things happen.

Paul Krugman never gives me a shoutout but apparently he reads this sucky blog.

Watertiger turns on the wayback machine and finds an ironic magazine cover.

JP posts a video message for Obama and it's always worth a scroll through to see his kittens.

Love cat blogging? 4LG has them too and these are three of my favorite felines.

Marcellina hits the big time in a feature story at BackStage. They screwed up the authorship of her blog and of course Marcellina isn't her real name so if you want to figure it out, the clues are here.

I really want one of these toys.

If you're looking for a good meal in DC, Hecate has started a series of restaurant reviews. More here.

Uncle Blodge, who teaches in an inner city school gets post of the week.
End of day
Other than the sub running out of the building screaming "I don't get paid enough to take this shit" it wasn't so bad...
Much more at the link.

And lastly, I called into NTodd's show again this week. It's archived here. I start at about 32 minutes in. I recommend you listen to it all, but I have discovered that if you open it up into Real Player, you can fast forward to hear me. People who listened live, said some nice things about it, but it makes me cringe. I still said "ya know" way too many times and I said "hopefully." Gah.

I could have made my points much more clearly as well. I thought of better ways to say it after it was over of course. Still, I think it was better than the first try, so I'm improving. I think if I do it a couple more times, I won't be so nervous and will sound more natural. It's odd how knowing I'm on the radio unnerves me. If I had just been in a room with NTodd talking casually, I wouldn't sound like such a dork.

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Montana Gov mocks Palin

Not that I'm complaining. I'm glad to see her shunning the spotlight, but it is curious that Palin cancelled yet another appearance at a major event.
Montana Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer ribbed Alaska Republican Gov. Sarah Palin Friday for announcing at the last minute that she will not be attending a Sunday discussion of energy policy that the two governors were scheduled to lead at this weekend's meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) in Washington.
This following her ducking out of the starring role at the upcoming wingnut convention, CPAC. Maybe it's just that the guys at NGA aren't very nice to her. Or could it be that the bigwigs she partied with when she attended the Alfalfa Dinner in DC told her to sit this out lest she say something stupid in public about energy policy, which was to be the topic of the panel she was to moderate for the NGA? Whatever the reason, Schweitzer's putdowns were rather amusing.

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GOPers tout funds after rejecting recovery bill

At least they're consistent in their hypocrisy. In a typical GOP ploy to take credit where none is due, after voting against the recovery bill, some 22 GOPers are bragging about the benefits the funds will bring to their states. I have to wonder if their constituents are as stupid as the GOPers think they are and really won't notice that it was Democratic votes that delivered the bucks.

On a related note, in a clear play for 2012 primary voters, Jindal is rejecting $98 million in stim bill money to increase unemployment benefits for residents of Louisiana, citing concerns over an unfunded mandate when the money runs out. But as has been pointed out by others, the state has the means to sunset the additional funding to avoid having to raise taxes later. It appears Jindal thinks punishing the poor (read that black voters) is good politics, even though it's lousy policy. Sadly, he's probably right considering his base. But despite the fact that LA is one of the few states escaping the full brunt of unemployed workers, those residents still need the money. Denying them emergency assistance at this point is just plain inhumane.

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Bipartisanship bites

I've been thinking for a long time that the problem with bipartisanship is that it's still partisan. Bipartisan implies that both parties stay within a narrow ideological confine and compromise via tradeoffs rather than blending differing views to come up with a new model of action. I would think the ideal would be non-partisanship. Wherein every issue is viewed through a pragmatic, rather than a political lens. Today Avedon points me to this post by Deacon Blues, who articulates my thoughts really well.
Rather than setting this up as Democrats versus Republicans, Obama has a chance to recast the political scene as a battle between those who want the status quo for the elite few versus those who want progress and problem-solving for the many, namely Main Street. Membership in the second group knows no party ID, and both the White House and these GOP governors should not shy away from touting the perils of being held hostage to an extremist do-nothing cabal bent on destroying the village.
I think that nails it. Bipartisan deal making still ends up as a tug of war over party power. Maybe if change was framed as a non-partisan effort, everybody could win. Well, except for movement conservatives of either party.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Media Twits

The Villagers still don't get it:
The great challenge that this White House is dealing with is the 24/7 nature of the Twittering media that no other president has ever dealt with on the policy front. It's the natural evolution, considering that campaigns have gotten this kind of coverage for years. Still, this environment of incremental up-down rulings by the punditocracy (most notably business pundits, see yesterday) on Obama's first month of policy, is quite the message handling challenge for this White House. Right now, it’s chosen to deal with it by flooding the zone; instead of pushing one storyline a week, they go ahead and try and sell multiple messages. Can they keep up the pace?
Guess they didn't notice they're not the gatekeepers anymore. A little surprising that people who live and breathe polls didn't see all the ones that show public opinion isn't lining up with the media twitters. As Greg Sargent puts it, "It’s Our Legislative Accomplishments, Stupid."

And a look at the Obama's website does remind us, that he has delivered some damn good legislation.

Not that shabby for only a month's work. [Graphic via Greg]

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GOPer Govs want bucks without conditions

It's not that GOPer governors really don't want the federal money from the recovery bill. It's just that they don't want any strings attached on how to spend it. Guess it might make it harder to funnel 'teh pork' to their favored cronies.
Republican governors Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rick Perry of Texas expressed reservations this week about accepting their states' shares of the stimulus package because they are worried that the federal government will impose conditions on how it can be spent. Opposing the plan "doesn't preclude taking the money," said Mr. Sanford.
Really. Because banks never ask for conditions when they give you money. And charitable endowments never come with strings. Oh wait....

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The GOP's new icon

Santelli the Snake Oil Salesman. The GOPer's frothing at the mouth base loves him. K-Lo's already pushing Palin/Santelli 2012. On the bright side, maybe we won't be hearing so much from Joe the Plumber anymore.

I have more to say at DetNews. [graphic via gaping void]

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The credit crisis - animated

Joe Gandelman finds an eleven minute video that explains the credit crisis in terms that anyone can understand. Best video on the subject I've seen since that flash animation on the shitpile done with stick figures way back in the beginning of this mess.


The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

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They really love me

I don't know why I bother to engage my critics at DetNews. It's a losing battle. Wingnuts never admit they're wrong. Still, you know you're cracking the cognitive dissonance a little when they're reduced to comebacks like this.
Her goal is not truth.
Her goal is the destruction of the United States.
(Constitutional Patriot)

I pity her, and weep for those condemned to live in the society she and her friends think they can design.
(MTCicero)
The pairing is almost poetic don't you think? Sort of wingnut haiku.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Slow news cycles are deadly

Slow news cycles breed stupid discourse. I think it was Glenn Thrush who I was starting to like at Politico but today he produced possibly the most inane piece of the new millenium. He decided to 'fact check' Hillary Clinton's claim that she likes both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Except he didn't actually check her iPod, he speculated at length on her possible motives for choosing the songs she listed and decided she had calculated ahead of time what her answer would be, should the question come up.

For the record, I like both groups. Although I like the Stones better, if I had an iPod, which I don't, I would likely have songs from both on it. And surely I would have Motown as well. I also remember George Bush being asked that question once. What I don't recall is any breathless speculation about the motives behind his list, although I do remember the songs being discussed at great length. If memory serves the Village consensus was that it proved his populist creds.

Yesterday I saw some headlines about Obama and flags. I believe Obama's lack of lapel pins may have been discussed. Your professional media. Bringing you the really important news. They really do live in an alternate universe.

(Thanks to Mike at C&L for the linky love.)

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Laundering drug money

That the banking industry has been laundering money for drug cartels is conventional wisdom among drug policy reformers. It's long been recognized that one of the greatest stumbling blocks to meaningful common sense reform in dealing with the illegal drug trade is that the banking industry to no small extent depends on their business. So it's no surprise to learn that bank owner and Texas billionaire Allen Stanford is intimately tied to the drug cartels. What is surprising is that the authorities are doing anything about it.

He's on the lam now and watches from an unknown location as his banks are being seized worldwide. It would be good if this case led to a greater scrutiny of the symbiotic relationship between the illicit drug trade and the entire international banking system. Maybe then the public would better understand the motives of those who continue to advocate for failed policies that create more problems than they solve.

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War on terror under Obama

I knew this is where I would be at odds with Obama and while I was initially encouraged by the drop of the "war on terror" framing, the developments since have been less than reassuring. As far as I can tell, Obama is allowing the same people to dictate bad policies. I've been horrified by the unmanned drones bombing innocent civilians in Pakistan. I'm sorely disappointed to see Obama embrace poppy eradication as a solution to the drug problem in Afghanistan. I'm unhappy about sending in more troops and I'm not sure what to make of this latest development over supply routes into that country through perhaps the worst human right violater in the world.

As usual, I turn to Cernig for the analysis and share his concerns and agree there are better solutions. And by the way, Newshoggers should be your first read on any terror related policy.

In the interim, I'm most philosophically aligned with NTodd. Rather than trying to win wars, we should be creating space to win peace.

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GOPers voted against tax cuts too

Steve Benen reminds us that while the focus of the recovery bill debate has been about spending, one the biggest tax cuts in US history -- $282 billion over two years -- was included in the bill that the GOPers voted against. The difference of course between these cuts and Bush era cuts are the latter were passed out to the wealthy while Obama's cuts target working and middle class families.

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Swiss Bank reveals secret bank accounts

Switzerland's largest bank, UBS AG made a deal with the US government to open the records of about 19,000 account holders. However, they may only reveal the identities of a few hundred along with paying a $780 million fine for assisting its clients in illegal tax dodges.

According the US government's press release US account holders hid about $20 billion, letting them evade $300 million a year in taxes. That sounds low to me. How could $20 billion only generate a few hundred million in taxes? Any math geeks reading who can tell me what percentage they would be paying at that rate? [hat tip]

Meanwhile, The UK authorities are conducting a similar investigation of their own tax evaders. [hat tip]

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The new millenium Brady Bunch

It appears these people are coming out to sell a book or something. A Brady family for our times, only instead of just combined kids, it's combined marriage partners.
Fast forward to today, and our family is now composed of Alan, Eric, Leslie, Amber, and myself, plus our children: Todd, Steve, Jennifer, Lisa, and Amber is currently pregnant. Eric and Leslie are legally married, and we've added a few rooms to the house. We have two family meetings a week, one of which is for adults only, both of which can get lively and loud. We've had our arguments over money, people monopolizing other people's time, dealing with children's issues, and so forth — like any other family — but we just have more voices in the discussion.
Not clear on how they establish paternity of the children. Maybe they don't care.

I can't help but think the potential for icky STDs must be expotentially greater but I don't think there's anything morally wrong with it. Whatever floats your boat as the saying goes, but it doesn't sound attractive to me. Mainly because my adventures in group living have been universally dismal. Not easy to find multiple compatible roommates. And for me, it was hard enough to deal with one husband. I can't imagine two at once.

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Random thought

The slower the news cycle, the more blog spats. So far this week I see Nate Silver vs. David Sirotta, with Armando (BTD) apparently appointing himself as referee or maybe sideline commentator is a better way to describe it. Today I see Steve at Outside the Beltway is trying to start something with Matt Yglesias. And those are just the ones I've stumbled on. I'd bet there's more I haven't noticed.

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Romney feeling the pinch?


Much speculation about this new real estate listing. Did he lose money in the downturn? Maybe he wants to downsize to avoid a McCain style media scruntiny on his RE holdings if he tries again in 2012? Perhaps he wants to disassociate himself with his Mormon roots? Who knows? Whatever the reason, Mitt Romney's cabin for sale.
The "cabin" in Deer Valley, Utah, which overlooks a reservoir and mountains, comes fully furnished with custom-made light fixtures, specially sculpted fireplace screens, and eight full bathrooms. Called the "perfect retreat," it is 9,500 square feet on 11 acres. The asking price: $5,250,000.
He's also selling his mansion in Massachusetts but not to worry. The Romneys won't be homeless. "[A]fter Romney suspended his bid for president last year, he paid $12 million for an oceanfront home in La Jolla, Calif." And he still has the $10 million estate on Lake Winnipesaukee. Rumor has it his dog is hoping they don't plan on driving between the two estates. [Via buzzflash]

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Politico' s Calderone pimps GOPer party line

Maybe it's the stress of trying to find new ways justify the unjustifiable in carrying the GOP's water, but I don't think I've ever seen a a major media news outlet publish a sillier and more unbalanced screed than Calderone's attempt to make routine hirings at the White House into some kind of sinister plot. Citing as sources some of the leading voices of Wingnuttia, the Weekly Standard, the National Review, Brent Bozell and Michelle Malkin, (yes, this Malkin), Calderone is aghast that six whole journalists bailed from a dying industry to take a more secure job with this administration.

I've got two words for our befuddled 'journalist.' Tony Snow. And I could add Karen Hughes. Furthermore, at least these six are upfront about their employment. I mean who could forget Armstrong Williams? And then there's Cheney's great affection for Tim Russert, who presumably fluffed for love rather than money.

Steve Benen also notes that revolving door spins both ways.
What Bozell may not realize is how true a different dynamic is: when some left the Bush administration, what was the natural landing spot? Major media outlets. I know of at least seven prominent examples -- Michael Gerson joined the Washington Post; Sara Taylor became a pundit for MSNBC; Tony Snow joined CNN; Frances Fragos Townsend also joined CNN; Nicole Wallace was hired by CBS News; Dan Bartlett was also hired CBS News; and Karl Rove became a Fox News "analyst," a columnist for Newsweek, and a columnist for the Wall Street Journal.
Oddly, Calderone seems to have forgotten all this in the space of only a few weeks, since a Democrat was sworn in as POTUS. One might think such an unbalanced piece is the textbook definition of partisan bias.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Must reads on the drug war

The UN meets every ten years to decide on drug policy conventions. At the next meeting, three former Latin American presidents are preparing to call for an end to the so-called war. "Former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria said there was no meaningful debate over drugs policy in the United States, despite a broad consensus that current policies had failed. ...[He] said Washington appeared increasingly isolated in its repressive approach as Latin America and Europe move toward treating drug abuse as a health problem rather than a crime."

In more good news on that front, Nora Callahan of November.org flags this news from PRI's The World:
LYNCH: Now, it looks like the tone is changing. Obama has long wanted to repeal the 1988 ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs inside the United States, but he needs Congress to go along to make that domestic change. So he’s shifting his gaze outward. In a significant break from both Mr. Bush and Bill Clinton before him, Barack Obama is making his support for needle exchange programs official, at least abroad. Today, Laura Tischler of the State Department confirmed the US is giving its negotiators new guidelines.
They're not going so far as to embrace some of the other sensible harm reduction programs such as legalized dispensaries for addicts but still it's a welcome change from the zero tolerance policy of the Bush regime. Nora also has a petition that calls for restoring earned early release parole to federal prisoners. Take a minute and sign it. This would be a big step to restoring some sanity to our sentencing structure and could alleviate prison overcrowding.

Johann Hari had a knockout piece on the big picture. One interesting fact, "Drugs syndicates control 8 percent of global GDP - which means they have greater resources than many national armies. They own helicopters and submarines and they can afford to spread the woodworm of corruption through poor countries, right to the top." Legalization would put these cartels out of business.

Radley writes the letter Michael Phelps shoud have. It starts like this:
Tell you what. I'll make you a deal. I'll apologize for smoking pot when every politician who ever did drugs and then voted to uphold or strengthen the drug laws marches his ass off to the nearest federal prison to serve out the sentence he wants to impose on everyone else for committing the same crimes he committed.

Meanwhile, SoBeale notices a hilarious promotion for the local hockey team. Bong hits for Michael.

And in other good news for the Olympic toker, SC decided not to pursue criminal charges because they didn't have enough physical evidence. Rumor has it part of the problem was too many other people had used the same bong for them to get DNA evidence. Not sure if that's true, but it is kind of funny.

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Who Am I

Song in my head and some (mostly) lighter links to get you through the day.

When in doubt, blame Soros.

Classic Cole. The party of fiscal conservatives.

Too much good to flag one only at Rising Hegemon. Just scroll.

How dereg gave Texas the highest homeowner insurance rates in the country.

Does your city twitter?

Out of the closet. Tas at Comments from Left Field, outs himself .

Damn, that does look good.

Cosa gave me some great love songs for Valentine's Day.

This is really old but I hadn't seen it. I didn't even know Bloom County was still running. Anyway, in case you missed it too, this made me laugh.

Humans litter shamelessly. Space junk.

Lots of pictures of East St Louis.

These aren't the best shots I've ever taken, but they're cheery. Spring, it's coming.

And, if you like this sort of thing, this is comprehensive. NY Fashion Week.

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Bristol Palin speaks - Updated

Daughter of a former VP candidate and unwed teenage mother, Bristol Palin gives her first interview since giving birth. Word has it she told Grandma Sarah that Greta was dropping by with the TV cameras only a day before the interview. Somehow grandma managed to clear her busy schedule to hog some limelight, toting her own living camera prop -- baby Trig, who is now an uncle -- in tow unexpectedly popping up to tote baby Tripp in for his teevee debut.

I would say more but TBogg has this one covered.

Update: Video clips of the interview. (Post edited to correct my intial misunderstanding of Sarah's surprise appearance.)

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President for Life?

This is going to drive the fringe right here crazy. A referendum passed in Venezuela abolishing term limits, paving the way for Hugo Chavez to remain in power indefinitely. Of course he still has to run every six years and win the elections, so it's not exactly an endorsement for a dictatorship, but it is still kind of stunning.

I haven't followed the politics there closely enough to form a strong opinion on this, but I'd note in passing that Venezuela appears to be having their own economic meltdown with the price of oil dropping, so it's not a given that Chavez will be able to win in 2013 if he runs out of money to continue his programs for the poor, who have kept him in power so far. The electorate everywhere can be fickle.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Brain food

Nate Silver posts on the two "progressivisms," rational and radical. It takes a while to digest so I'm not going to say much more than I don't really fit completely into either category. Which is kind of the story of my life. I may have more to say about this one, after I've thought about it for a while.

The fringe right is putting words in Obama's mouth to argue a point Obama didn't really make about the economy.

Scott's piece at Harpers about Gitmo literally made me want to vomit. I mean I reached for the wastebasket. Why did we let this happen? We should have been marching and banging pots on the streets in protest.

Meanwhile, the 'professional' reporters are still freaking out that Sam Stein, showed them up by asking the best question at the press conference where the President called on a "mere blogger" for the very first time. The pros asked about ARod and steroids. Sam asked about prosecuting war criminals. I know which one I found more important. I suspect I'm not the only one.

This last link from the UK's Times. I've never heard of Bryan Appleyard before. Judging from the clues here I'm guessing he's a tiresome, self-satisfied prig, and a creationist to boot. But I'm linking to his 100 best blogs because I've never heard of most of them, a few sounded interesting, and I want to archive the post. If you check any of them out, please leave your reviews.

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Krugman scares me - Updated

Read it all, it's one of his best ones ever, but here's the shorter version: You're not really poor now. You were never really rich. It was all an illusion. And btw, we're probably screwed.

Update: Cosa Nostradamus checks into comments with a really good response. Check it out.


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No respect for the B-list

This story currently at the top of Memorandum about the four Tennessee state representatives, all Republicans, who signed up as plaintiffs in yet another dunderheaded lawsuit demanding that Obama prove his US citizenship has apparently already been taken down at Tennessean.com. But if you go to the Pirate's Cove link, he quotes it extensively.

Judging from the excerpts, it's not nearly as good as the prime snark that Capt. Fogg delivered on the same story last Friday, that I flagged on Saturday here. But did he get front paged? No.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not criticizing Gabe here. I know Memeorandum runs on an algorithum that grabs links according to traffic, but it's just a damn shame that some of the best writing on the internets is so often missed because no one has figured out how to write code that would grab links based on the quality of the content. I continue to think Fogg is one the most wrongly over-looked bloggers in Blogtopia.

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My prediction

I'm noticing a trend that I think is going to grow. The new catch phrase that we'll be sick of hearing in a few months is going to be "zombie lies." And zombie as an adjective will come to be used to describe many failed policies and institutions.

I used it myself several times in the last week. I thought I invented it but, even though I didn't see those posts, a quick google check shows that a couple of others used it first. Still, I'm now on record as an early adopter. So when you get tired of hearing it, I suppose you can partly blame me.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

More on the Fairness Doctrine - Updated

David Neiwert posts the same argument I made a couple of days ago, only much more eloquently.

I'm glad to see this argument being made on the A-list. I hope it gets some legs because I think it's the only way to fix the problem. Worth a read in full.

Update: I decided to publish a more eloquent post of my own at Detroit News to help this meme get rolling.

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That's Rich

Not much of interest in the news today but Frank Rich has a column worth reading. My favorite graf:
This G.O.P., a largely white Southern male party with talking points instead of ideas and talking heads instead of leaders, is not unlike those “zombie banks” that we’re being asked to bail out. It is in too much denial to acknowledge its own insolvency and toxic assets. Given the mess the country is in, it would be helpful to have an adult opposition that could pull its weight, but that’s not the hand America has been dealt.
He's right about that. Building on yesterday's post, it's too bad that the GOPers don't see what they're doing wrong. It worries me a little to see them slitting their own throats. The two party system we have now is already too incestuous and we can look to history to see that one party control breeds more corruption than it does good works. This "changing the way DC works" thing, isn't going to be easy.

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Reforming the filibuster - Updated

Steve Benen notes that somehow it's become accepted practice to evoke the filibuster for every little thing when historically it was rarely used. I've been saying for a long time now that they destroyed the intent of the instrument when they changed the rule so the mere threat of a filibuster was enough to shut down a vote.

I've seen quite a few calls to eliminate it altogether. I think that's wrong. As it was originally constructed, it serves as an important safeguard to protect minority interests. I do however believe that they need to revoke the new rule and require that a filibuster actually be conducted if the oppostion feels strongly enough to evoke it. I'm pretty sure that would cut down on its indiscriminate use.

Update: Matt weighs in to suggest the filibuster be eliminated altogether and suggests that historically it was never intended as an instrument at all. In reading the history I think he misinterprets the Founder's intent. Unlimited debate was a feature of our early Congressional assemblies. It was rightly abolished as unwieldy in the House, as the membership grew, but the Senate is, and remains, a small enough body to use it as an effective safeguard on the balance of power. And history certainly makes my point.
The filibuster has tremendously increased in frequency of use since the 1960s. In the 1960s, no Senate term had more than seven filibusters. One of the filibusters of the 1960s, was when southern Democratic Senators attempted to block the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by making a filibuster that lasted for 75 hours.
It was used 104 times in 2008 and that's just through October.

One might argue that even under the former rule, it's been used for bad ends, but any tool can be abused. People have committed murders using a plumber's wrench. Does that mean we should abolish wrenches? A filibuster can be broken by simply not allowing any other business to be conducted until its conclusion. If the argument is good, then it succeeds in swaying the debate. If the argument is bad and it becomes clear its purpose is simply to obstruct, public opinion will force its conclusion. The important thing is the argument is actually aired, and debate is not shut down by mere threat.

My friend BJ at Newshoggers makes a similiar argument to one I made the last time this came up. We shouldn't be to quick to disarm the opposition when we're in power, lest the we find ourselves defenseless when the balance of power shifts, as it always does. The filibuster has served us well, for well over a century, until they changed the rule to make it too easy to use. Reverting the rule will serve us much better than abolishing the tool.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Opposition

In thinking it over, I don't agree with Atrios on this.
I don't have a problem with Republicans who, on balance, wanted the bill to pass but still voted against it. I don't really think it's “cowardice” or whatever, they're simply making it clear that they're the opposition party. And that's a good thing!
I don't think it's cowardice either. It takes balls to be that tone deaf and wilfully vote against a bill that polls with majority support. But I don't think it's a good thing they voted against it simply to express party unity.

Steve Benen posts similar thoughts to Atrios, saying that's how the system is supposed to work. I'm thinking that's what wrong with it. I've got nothing against principled oppostion, but if you know the bill is good and you want it to pass, then vote for it. Opposition simply for the sake of establishing rigid ideological solidarity strikes me as a bad thing.

I suppose it's inevitable in a two party system, but it's unhelpful in terms of working for common goals. Clearly, we need more parties to change that dynamic. I wish somebody could figure out how to build some.

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Penny ante antics

My pal and confidant, Capt Fogg, who just completed another trip around the sun today, unearths the latest manufactured outrage from the murky depths of the fever swaps of wingnuttia. It seems the government is going to redesign the penny in honor of Lincoln's birthday.

There's an outrage alert being passed around by viral email calling the troops to assemble in defense of God and country because the back of the coin doesn't say, "In God We Trust." I don't want to spoil the ending, so click over to Fogg's post to get the punch line to this joke. Unbelievable.

Fogg is on fire this week. He also cuts to the chase with Occam's butterknife . He tells us, "'lawmakers' in Tennessee, the former site of the only-in-America Scopes trial that proved to the world that Americans are demented idiots if not actually an atavistic subspecies, are up to something completely similar. They are insisting that our new president prove his citizenship to them by furnishing his birth certificate -- again." How do these people get elected to office?

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Isn't that just like a Republican

If there was a hypocrisy event in the Olympics, the GOPers would be gold medalists. After fighting tooth and nail against the stim bill, blasting the "excessive spending" and characterizing the provisions as a payback for Democratic special interests, two GOPers issued press releases praising the bill. Florida Rep. John Mica and Alaska Rep. Don Young had the nerve to take credit for spending targeting their home states without mentioning that they had voted against the bill themselves. Not that it's a big secret, but their apparent assumption that their constiuents are too stupid to notice is rather breathtaking.

On a related note, Joe Lieberman is being hailed as a hero by some for stepping in to coax the Senate GOPers into getting on board to pass the bill. To be fair, Joe's vote for the bill was never in doubt, but his last minute fly-by to shove a couple of people through the negotiating room door, is hardly heroic. It's a classic pseudo-independent ploy of his to take credit when he really didn't do any of the work.

Jane isn't buying into the whole "aren't you glad we didn't kick him out of the caucus now" schtick and neither am I.

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All you need is love

Happy Valentine's Day my dears. If you have a sweetie, hope you have a wonderful romantic celebration and if you're like me, and don't have one, treat yourself to something nice anyway, because you deserve the best in life either way. As my gift to you all, this post is all just fun links.

Starting with this charming love story I ran across last night. I don't know if Rosie and Aaron are for real or if it's just a underground viral ad campaign, but their Compilation Sundays photo series is really beautiful.

Marcellina has a sad yet uplifting story about her neighbor. Keep scrolling for her photos of Austria that never fail to soothe my weary soul.

I love how Phila finds the hope in the news every week. It's easy to forget good things happen too but he found a lot of them.

The irresistible Erin O'Brien goes on assignment and shows us her boudoir photo session. As an added treat, she offers up some vintage burlesque photos. These may be NSFW, if you work in an uptight place.

Tacitus Voltaire pens a love song for us. If you were lost, I'd come and find you.

My favorite sea creature has a brilliant clay animation, Octopus love.

And being me, we can't totally avoid politics, so check out DLB's Remembering Reagan. Hilarious. I loved it.

I also loved this photo of Obama in a Snuggie. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy. [h/t HBK]

Speaking of warm and fuzzy, JP dependably delivers your weekly ration of cute kittehs pix. Scroll through for Larry Elvis and Curly's latest poses. Also don't miss the newest arrival to the DFH pet zone, Maddie will melt your heart.

And newly added to the blogroll, Moonbootica posts her share of cute kitties from the UK along with the latest pop Brit tunes. Cosa Nostradamus capture beaches in Hawaii and Plantsman delivers flowers and other botanical goodies.

And lastly, a couple of more shots of my personal history. I lived on a farm down the hill from William Cullen Bryant Homestead for many years. I never took the tour, but I often hiked in the woods behind it. And I always loved Northampton's City Hall. The inside of that building was just as beautiful.

Happy Day my darling readers. I love you all dearly.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Forget the Fairness Doctrine

I see the Democrats are finally validating the wingnut paranoia and making some noise about resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine. I've been saying for a while that I thought that was a good idea but I've thought about it since and I think it's a waste of time. I don't think it will work.

When the Fairness Doctrine was abolished we still had about 50 independent media organizations disseminating the news. We're now down to six conglomerates who control the information chain. Even with a Fairness Doctrine, the media moguls would just give the opposing views the worst time slots so it wouldn't have the desired counterbalancing effect. I'm thinking now, the answer is to simply break up the conglomerates. I don't see any other effective way to combat the profit driven pollution of the public discourse.

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Under pressure

The best and brightest of the progressive left, like Avedon and Digby and Glenn Greenwald have been scolding us since before Obama was sworn in for failing to put enough pressure on our new president to move to the left in governance. Glenn posts today on the co-opting of liberal activists, decrying the dearth of organized resistance to the administration's shifting to the center right. Their points are well taken but these are not ordinary times.

For one thing, I don't believe anyone, not even the smart people who make a living on economics, really understand the full scope of the economic peril we're in. I'm relatively certain that no one knows how to solve it. Everyone's guessing at the right answer. To the extent that I'm willing trust anyone's opinion, it's guys like Roubini and Stiglitz and Krugman who got it right. So I've put my energy into pushing their solutions instead of explicitly pushing Obama in a direction I prefer.

For another, it's not so easy to take a principled stand when homelessness is breathing down your neck. I've been out of work for six months now. For complicated reasons that are nobody's fault I'm unable to collect unemployment benefits. I'm deeply in debt. I'm reaching the end of my savings that have only allowed me scratch by for all this time because they've been supplemented by the generous help of friends and strangers. But generousity has its limits and the economic fallout is reaching deep into everyone's pocket. This is no way to live, so it's been in my enlightened self-interest to try to help Obama succeed.

I was willing to cut him slack even as I was horrified by his appointments and what I considered to be the wrong approach to dealing with the opposition because he's the one that has to solve the problems. I thought it wise to give him some space to try his own way first because I sure as hell don't have any foolproof answers and my future literally depends on his doing so. Public confidence is funny thing. I believe it hinges more on perception than reality. And as I said earlier today, I think the most important thing was for Obama to emerge from this first fight looking like a leader, no matter what cause is served.

If all goes according to plan and the stimulus bill passes today, that goal will be achieved and it only took a month. We still have the better part of four years to move Overton's window. And much as I believe progressive ideals are best, I also believe the common good was better served by allowing them to fail in the short term in order to better position ourselves for victory in the end game.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I suspect I'm not the only one that's been holding back out of anxiety over an uncertain future. I'm guessing that once the economy improves and people feel more secure, there will be plenty of activists who will be ready to start pushing back again. I'll certainly be one of them. [graphic]

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Millbank wanks

Guilt by implication? I think David Plouffe deserves the digs Dana Millbank is taking against him for this tone deaf staging of a speech at the National Press Club, that excluded the press. It's not that I don't believe he has the right as a private citizen at a private event to bar the media, but the choice of venue is odd. He should have anticipated the bad press. Or maybe he did and figured the old maxim is true. He's promoting his book and there "ain't no such thing as bad press as long as they spell your name right."

I do however have a major quibble with Dana Millbank for identifying Plouffe as "the former Obama campaign manager" several times in the piece without once mentioning that he didn't get an appointment in the Obama administration or even on the transistion team. It sets up a subtle guilt by association in that many casual readers might not remember Plouffe is no longer associated with Obama. I know what Plouffe's motives are, but one has to wonder what motivated Millbank to do that?

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Obama takes the lead

Only time will tell if there was some long term benefit to the last few weeks worth of bipartisan outreach by President Obama. For myself, I think although the effort failed to acheive consensus, it succeeded in drawing a bright line in the public's mind between Obama's willingness to be inclusive and the GOPers stubborn refusal to admit any mistakes and the bad faith underlying their relentless obstructionism. But whatever the long range implications, it looks like Obama has abandoned the strategy and is embracing a new game plan.

It's a welcome change. At this point it's almost not important whether what Obama is proposing is a good or bad plan. What's important is that he drives the narrative instead of allowing it be defined by the competing factions inside the Beltway.

The people are terrified right now. They're scared of the future and they don't really care about political comity. They want to feel secure again. They want a leader to take charge and make them feel safe. It's a good sign that Obama is finally stepping into that role. That will do more to encourage consumer confidence than any spending -- good, bad or indifferent.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

In case you were wondering

I ran across a photo of the ski area where I learned to ski. It's abandoned now, but I recalled some fond memories of the place at Last One Speaks.


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Health care costs can't be cut by competition

Echnide has a great article on health care at Alternet. It's long and not easy to excerpt but here's a few salient points.
In 2008, the U.S life expectancy at birth was 78.1 years, while the corresponding figures in Canada and the U.K. were 81.2 and 78.9 years respectively. Infant mortality rates (measured as deaths per 1,000 live births in a calendar year, and usually regarded as valid measures of care quality) show a similar pattern that year: The U.S. rate was 6.3, the Canadian, 5.1 and the British, 4.9.

And what did we pay to get those not-so-impressive results? A lot. In 2005, the latest year for which cost data is available on all three countries, the U.S. spent 15.3 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care, while the health care systems of Canada and the U.K. managed to get by with 9.8 percent and 8.3 percent of their GDPs.

To put these numbers into an even starker perspective, note that the Canadian and British systems covered everyone, but the U.S. system spent a lot more while leaving around 16 percent of Americans uninsured.
Read the whole thing. She makes a compelling argument that real cost control is impossible to obtain via measures that try to increase competition in the private health care markets. It's simply not an industry that lends itself to efficiency via free market competition.

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Random thought

I wonder if Halliburton is sorry they committed to building their world headquarters in Dubai last year? Considering the current conditions there, I'm betting they may have overpaid for their real estate.

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With media like this.... Updated

Why is the average Jake so dumb about current events? Because they rely on the 'professional' media for information and what they get is tripe like this. Here we have almost a full page on the "winners and losers of the stimulus bill." In a normal world, one might think from the headline that the post would tell you what got funded and what didn't. But no.

What you get is a half a page of speculation over which Village insider gained some political points in the absurd machinations that finally got the bill through the legislature, a serious plug for Karl Rove's latest predictable chirping to the GOPers from his perch at the WSJ and more speculation about whether Jindal's selection to give the counter-SOTU address will help his chances in 2012. Not that Jindal has showed any signs of wanting to run for president.

In other words, these three 'political analysts' delivered a full page of Village gossip without a single shred of useable information. Hell, Robin Givhan's vapid Style pieces on what the politicorati are wearing have more substance My only questions are, why do they paid for this and how can get this gig? I could do it in my sleep.

Update: Shocking expose by Village Jester Andrew Malcolm: Late night comedians make jokes. About the current President. Instead of the has been who just left the White House. Because you know, topical humor is so over.

Update two: The Caucus does it better. Here we get some details on what's in the stimulus bill, or rather out of it, find out what EnergySec Chu is up to, discover Geithner is toning down his rhetoric in support of investment banker greed, and get a killer quote from Karl's banal screed, (which I admit I didn't read myself on principle).

Karl sez: "The bill he signs will create a raft of new programs and be the biggest peacetime spending increase in American history." Um, peacetime spending? Did Uncle Rove forget that we're in the middle of the never ending war on terror?

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