Saturday, October 31, 2009


San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is out as contender for the 2010 Democratic California Governor nomination. That leaves no announced Dem contenders, and Former Governor (pre-term limits)/current CA Attorney General in a very good position should he want the nod. Newsom couldn't raise the bucks although one wonders if, given his record, there's a sex scandal in the wings.

Word is out that Afghan challenger to President Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah, may quit the run-off election due to a breakdown in talks designed to lessen the corruption by Karzai's faction that plagued the original vote. Should that happen, expect the U.S. to go smaller rather than larger in that country militarily (lack of credible partner).

And in upstate New York's 23rd Congressional district, Republican special election candidate Dierdre Scozzafava has suspended her campaign in light of her extremist Conservative Party rival, Doug Hoffman, endorsed by quitter Sarah Palin among many others, stomping her in the polls. This lead to a great Sunday column by Frank Rich on the "The G.O.P. Stalinists":

The more rightists who win G.O.P. primaries, the greater the Democrats’ prospects next year. But the electoral math is less interesting than the pathology of this movement. Its antecedent can be found in the early 1960s, when radical-right hysteria carried some of the same traits we’re seeing now: seething rage, fear of minorities, maniacal contempt for government, and a Freudian tendency to mimic the excesses of political foes. Writing in 1964 of that era’s equivalent to today’s tea party cells, the historian Richard Hofstadter observed that the John Birch Society’s “ruthless prosecution” of its own ideological war often mimicked the tactics of its Communist enemies.

The same could be said of Beck, Palin and their acolytes. Though they constantly liken the president to various totalitarian dictators, it is they who are re-enacting Stalinism in full purge mode. They drove out Arlen Specter, and now want to “melt Snowe” (as the blog Red State put it). The same Republicans who once deplored Democrats for refusing to let an anti-abortion dissident, Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, speak at the 1992 Clinton convention now routinely banish any dissenters in their own camp.

Go Hoffman.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Scary Stuff

No, it's not lyin' Liz Cheney. No, it's not even lyin' Dick. (There's a future band name in there.) It's not even lyin' Lieberman.

It's Halloween photos from times past.

You can mythologize about the good old days. The past is just plain scary.

One day we'll all be ghosts.

Halloween on a Saturday night for the first time since 1998. What could possibly go wrong?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Special Interest Group

There are still some oppressed minorities seeking a fair shake:

Have a heart!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Military Matters

A tremendously bad day for Pakistan citizens who prefer not to be blown up, with ninety-one confirmed dead and several hundred wounded by a car bomb set off at a crowded market like the very announcement of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's arrival. Assuming this was the Taliban, they also struck in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing five members of the U.N. foreign staff, their goal appearing to be disruption of the upcoming run-off election.

All of this is likely to put pressure on President Obama to send more troops, although rumor has it he won't go as far as General McChrystal wants. It's not a problem solved just with guns, although one wonders if the Taliban are there to stay -- and, if they gain power, suppress freedoms like rights of women, for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the White House did enjoy a victory in paring away wasteful spending in the military appropriations bill it signed today. The President says there's more he's like to see cut and next year with Congressional midterms will be a bigger test, but it's a move in the right direction. For some reason the GOP (and a lot of Dems) love to complain about all pork but the military kind.

The President also took a special midnight trip to honor the return of military dead at Dover Air Force Base. It is heartening, if grim, to know the President is making himself palpably aware of the cost.


Mad Men SPOILERS per this week's even more brutal episode than the previous four.

Just watched the episode again, "The Gypsy and the Hobo," and see the structure as 5 duets of varying length, not a lot of group scenes, only as backdrop for the Roger and Ex- Flame story. In terms Don's reveal with Betty it's one of two reflective subplots, this one about two mature people rediscovering each other after a quarter century and learning the truth about who the other really is. In this one the man has the upper hand over the woman, who he sees as having deceived him, or at least his heart, leaving it broken. This one ends without reconciliation, and like all the stories in the episode, it's about identity, both the idea of changing the name on a label (i.e. Whitman->Draper) and identifying the "meant to be" provider of love:

"You were the one."
"You weren't."

This one has to end up broken up so that we can finish with Don and Betty together.

The second major duet is between Joan and her psycho-baby husband, Greg. We learn that he's hid a huge part of his past from her, possibly the very thing that cripples him emotionally and vocationally, he mother having run off and his dad's subsequent nervous breakdown. Greg continues to shatter after a poor interview, his confessions continuing to mirror those of Don later in the episode, only he ends with a brand new choice of identity, joining the army to continue as a surgeon (and we surely pity those soldiers who will end up sacrificing their lives under his knife). Ironically, he's going the opposite way of Don, who left the army to assume a new identity.

Again, in this reflection the couple stays together but it looks like it could blow at any moment.

The two minor duets are Joan's call to Roger and Don's swan song with Suzanne. Joan and Roger once again get the best lines, the closest to Adam's Rib style Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn tight and brilliant 40's style dialogue. There's a real affection there (was Joanie "the one?") as between two equals, with both knowing what's going on but acting like adults, again an inversion and welcome relief from the troubled Don/Betty duet, the "positive." And Joanie once again gets an instant classic line, "Look at you figuring things out for yourself." Even Roger has to laugh and give her credit.

The Don-Suzanne plot serves to give us Dick Whitman in his most ideal state, i.e. in the bedroom being vulnerable with an understanding woman/young mother figure as was missing from his childhood. Besides the obvious suspense of her waiting in the car as he heads into his nearly twenty minute duet with Betty, Suzanne is another road not taken, most keenly represented and felt in the shot of Don framed by the doorway after his initial confession to Betty, what John Ford fans know as "The Searchers shot" that opens and most notably closes the picture, both times framing John Wayne's Ethan Edwards, a man eternally adrift. That Don chooses not to pass through it speaks to the courage that makes him a character worthy of dramatization. When Betty busts him for his big identity lie, he turns from Don to Dick but with a difference from times past. As Jon Hamm says, when Don gets in trouble, Dick runs.

Not this time.

In fact, besides the Emmy-inducing work of Hamm in his breakdown before his wife, and the extraordinary strength January Jones draws up in her confronting him, what comes through is how fragile the thread really is, that thing that holds together our identities -- family, house, job, spouse -- all a construct to weep over, weep for what was lost or denied, for the mistakes we made to get ourselves into these very traps, yet how terrifying it would be to suddenly have them stripped away. David Byrne once sang, "And you may ask yourself, how did I get here?" Don't asks Betty, "Would it have made any difference?"

The costumes for Halloween are the icing on the cake, and as Don and Betty bring the kids to a house where the father giving out candy is the same dad who discussed teacher Suzanne with Don in the lead-up to the affair, we get the emblematic line of the episode, if not the series: "And who are you supposed to be?"

Per this episode, you might have to ask your partner.

Monday, October 26, 2009


So Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is putting the bill on the healthcare reform bill on floor with a public option. The key is that it is the "opt-out" option which will enable red states (most likely, if any) to close off that avenue for lower health insurance premiums to their citizens. As Jane Hamsher wisely says, the devil is in the details, and we'll see if a governor or legislature alone can opt-out a state. One would think a referendum would be an important if not deciding element, but as the traditional South continues to marginalize itself and it's rump Republican Party, this option let's them do as they will, so be it should it pass.

While the final votes in both houses have not yet been tallied, conferenced, and tallied again, it looks like momentum is on the side of this opt-out option proposed just three weeks ago. Here's a hopefully ironic list of pundits who declared the public option dead weeks ago (much as many declared Obama a lost candidate over and over again), and here's Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) on how the White House was prevailed upon to drop the Snowe-y triggers and go opt-out. All in all, if the public option survives in any useful way, it's the progressives who need to be thanked for standing firm.

From a political point of view, I say that the Democratic Congress and Democratic President, two Houses and an Executive branch all won by strong margins in the last election (last two, actually) have a duty to bring the very legislative promises that got them elected to a floor vote, as intact as possible. This is what democracy is all about, and if the voting public disagrees down the line they can vote in another party or other leaders. Elections have consequences -- even stolen ones decided by daddy's Supreme Court appointees.

And, on the brass tacks political side, Ezra Klein points out why Reid was savvy to include the public option and what may happen, win or lose:
This accomplishes two things for Reid. First, as Frates's unnamed lobbyist points out, he can lose this vote but credibly claim that he went to bat for a pretty good compromise on the public option. Second, it creates consequences for those who want to vote against the public option. Rather than killing the proposal in a back room, moderates who won't vote for cloture will actually have to vote against cloture. That makes them a target in their next election, and ensures a lot of harassment from the left. Reid is, in other words, making it harder -- not impossible, but harder -- for them to oppose the public option. Procedurally, it's a big win for public option advocates.

Here's to victory without a lot of sneaky nastiness stuck in whatever final bill passes. Bottom line is that any U.S. healthcare system that currently wastes $800 billion per year needs reform, ASAP.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I'm with Nico

Nico Pitney, who led the new journalism charge during the Iran uprising earlier this year, publishing tweets and smuggled info, often through Iranians in the U.S. with family still over there, schools the always frustrating Howie Kurtz and others including a flack from the rightwing Washington Times who keeps intentionally mistaking FNC for a journalistic rather than propagandistic operation, in just why the Obama Administration was dead right to go after Faux News:

Key is the 80% anti-Obama slant during the "news" portions of their daily broadcast (I'm assuming the 20% was more neutral than positive), as they pretend to differentiate from the opinion, which is often actually dangerous to the physical survival of our fairly elected President.

What's interesting to me is how the Washington Times person starts off talking like a concern troll that the Admin has made a bad move, that it's backfiring, rather than engaging with the substance of the charge, and continues that tack most of the rest of the piece. Interestingly enough, Jane Hall who left Fox may not appear to agree with everything Pitney says, but her reasons for quitting back him up completely.

And please, no more false equivalencies with MSNBC. Sure, Maddow and Olbermann lean left, but they back it up with real facts, not innuendo and smears, often using the GOP politicos' own words, while at the same time MSNBC gives the entire morning to Joe Scarborough, former GOP Congressman. And they actually practice reasonably objective journalism, the traditional kind, during their news coverage. FNC is actually run by the most successful Republican campaign strategist of the past thirty years, for an avowedly conservative mogul from Australia who's key holdings includes the coarse muckraking rag, The New York Post and the conservative (editorial) Wall Street Journal. Oh, and they called the 2000 election for George Bush before the Florida results were final, influencing the election finish -- that was George's cousin John Ellis who made the call -- talking to George five times that night.

My take: the Obama Administration is right to call out FNC for being different than the others and give them the asterisk. It rallies the true believers and forces a lot of others to spend time defending FNC, which only creates a smoke/fire perception and opportunities for guys like Pitney to go on the air and point out the FNC bias.

Since Obama always thinks long strategy rather than short news cycle, those decrying the wasted time and effort by the Admin now don't see how the set up is long-haul. The tarnish on FNC isn't going to go away after a week. It's just defining it now and forever. Or at least until Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch buy the farm, and new owners move in.

But anyone would be foolish to lose that loyal 2-3 million viewer audience that keeps paying the bills. The business model works for FNC. It just doesn't work for America.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Pivot and The Frontier

Obama gave a major, major speech on climate change and his upcoming energy policy at MIT on Friday:

Whole transcript here. Interesting that what struck me about the speech wasn't just the ideas, since I've heard them going back to his campaign, but the final passage starting at 17:00, like this:

So we're going to have to work on those folks. But understand there's also another myth that we have to dispel, and this one is far more dangerous because we're all somewhat complicit in it. It's far more dangerous than any attack made by those who wish to stand in the way progress -- and that's the idea that there is nothing or little that we can do. It's pessimism. It's the pessimistic notion that our politics are too broken and our people too unwilling to make hard choices for us to actually deal with this energy issue that we're facing. And implicit in this argument is the sense that somehow we've lost something important -- that fighting American spirit, that willingness to tackle hard challenges, that determination to see those challenges to the end, that we can solve problems, that we can act collectively, that somehow that is something of the past.

I reject that argument. I reject it because of what I've seen here at MIT. Because of what I have seen across America. Because of what we know we are capable of achieving when called upon to achieve it. This is the nation that harnessed electricity and the energy contained in the atom, that developed the steamboat and the modern solar cell. This is the nation that pushed westward and looked skyward. We have always sought out new frontiers and this generation is no different.

Today's frontiers can't be found on a map. They're being explored in our classrooms and our laboratories, in our start-ups and our factories. And today's pioneers are not traveling to some far flung place. These pioneers are all around us -- the entrepreneurs and the inventors, the researchers, the engineers -- helping to lead us into the future, just as they have in the past. This is the nation that has led the world for two centuries in the pursuit of discovery. This is the nation that will lead the clean energy economy of tomorrow, so long as all of us remember what we have achieved in the past and we use that to inspire us to achieve even more in the future.

I am confident that's what's happening right here at this extraordinary institution. And if you will join us in what is sure to be a difficult fight in the months and years ahead, I am confident that all of America is going to be pulling in one direction to make sure that we are the energy leader that we need to be.

Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

It's something lost under eight years of Cheney and Bush, it's the Turner Thesis, also known as the Frontier Thesis, that he put out in 1893 about how the American character had been defined by the "Frontier Line" up until 1890, per the U.S. Census Bureau. Some ideologues try pointing to it as a justification for "American Exceptionalism" in the obnoxious, I'm always right sense, but Turner talks about the dangers of a loss of civics due to the frontier-conquering nature of Americans as well. He concludes without predicting the future so much as tying up the past with a ribbon:
From the conditions of frontier life came intellectual traits of profound importance. The works of travelers along each frontier from colonial days onward describe certain common traits, and these traits have, while softening down, still persisted as survival in the place of their origin, even when a higher social organization succeeded. The result is that to the frontier the American intellect owes its striking characteristics. That coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends; that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance which comes with freedom--these are traits of the frontier, or traits called out elsewhere because of the existence of the frontier. Since the days when the fleet of Columbus sailed into the waters of the New World, America has been another name for opportunity, and the people of the United States have taken their tone from the incessant expansion which has not only been open but has even been forced upon them. He would be a rash prophet who should assert that the expansive character of American life has now entirely ceased. Movement has been its dominant fact, and, unless this training has no effect upon a people, the American energy will continually demand a wider field for its exercise. But never again will such gifts of free land offer themselves. For a moment, at the frontier, the bonds of custom are broken and unrestraint is triumphant. There is not tabula rasa. The stubborn American environment is there with its imperious summons to accept its conditions; the inherited ways of doing things are also there; and yet, in spite of environment, and in spite of custom, each frontier did indeed furnish a new field of opportunity, a gate of escape from the bondage of the past; and freshness, and confidence, and scorn of older society, impatience of its restraints and its ideas, and indifference to its lessons, have accompanied the frontier. What the Mediterranean Sea was to the Greeks, breaking the bond of custom, offering new experiences, calling out new institutions and activities, that, and more, the ever retreating frontier has been to the United States directly, and to the nations of Europe more remotely. And now, four centuries from the discovery of America, at the end of a hundred years of life under the Constitution, the frontier has gone, and with its going has closed the first period of American history.

The Republicans have confused war with frontier. The new frontiers are those of connectivity and planet saving. Bush squandered the tidal wave of volunteerism all Americans but emphatically young Americans offered on 9/12 and beyond. Obama's right that American innovation and dominance of new energy grids and sources should not be a partisan issue. It's about future generations, just like the conquering of the frontier.

And this time we don't have to resort to genocide to do it.

Horror and Halliburton

Hard to take story about a young woman who went to Iraq working for contractors KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary, and within four days of arriving was drugged and gang raped by KBR employees. And that's not the worst of it -- when she reported this crime to her superior, she was locked in a shipping container with two armed guards. Only after convincing one of the guards to let her call her father did her rescue get put into motion. It's all here in this harrowing Rachel Maddow segment.

After refusing to take any action against the rapist employees, Halliburton has been working hard to keep this from going to trial, including trying to get a silencing out-of-court arbitration per the employment contract created under then-CEO Dick Cheney. But it's looking that that's not working for them.

Meanwhile, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) got an amendment to a massive defense bill passed in the Senate making it illegal for the U.S. government to do business with contractors who deny victims of assault the right to bring their case to court. Seem like a slamdunk, yet thirty Republican Senators, and only Republicans, voted against it. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) called it a political amendment aimed at punishing a company the Dems didn't like. Nice sentiment for the victims from the supposed law 'n' order crowd, list here:
Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

You read that right. McCain (R-AZ) was one of the thirty.

Now there are rumors that powerful senior Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) is looking to strip the amendment from the final bill. There's a denial from his office, but who knows what will happen, with the Pentagon against it.

After all, what matters more, rape or riches?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


The GOP teabaggers have made some sort of Satanic bargain with the rich folks Club for Growth to take down the most moderate members of their party, most notably in New York State and Florida.

Starting with Florida, where popular Governor Charlie Crist is running for Senate in what would think would be a walk, but has been challenged in the Primary by arch-Conservative Marco Rubio and is losing ground -- just within his own Party. Crist's sin?
By any reasonable standard, Crist would be considered a conservative. He is pro-life, pro-gun, antitax, big on law and order, a foreign policy hawk. But these are not reasonable times. In February, Crist not only came out in favor of Barack Obama's stimulus package; he welcomed the stimulator himself to Florida. There is a picture, which Floridians will see more than once before the primary, of the governor and the President arm in arm. Crist's aides can list the various things the stimulus funds have done for Florida — saved the jobs of 26,000 teachers, for starters. They will also tell you that Florida is a net "donor" state: it sends more money to the Federal Government than it receives. "Why shouldn't we get our fair share?" the governor asks. And as for his Obama hug, "He is the President of the United States. You honor the office."

Then again, according to other polls, about a third of Republicans nationally don't think Obama was born in the U.S. A disproportionate number of them are the people who go to rallies and vote in primaries.

The biggest Rubio battlecry is against "big government," although the Joe Klein piece goes on to describe the practical problems with the issue, like how hurricanes forced then-Governor Jeb Bush, Republican, to start a state home owners insurance fund, as the private insurers were sky-high, and the state fund went on to become the largest in Florida.

And furthermore, would Florida have turned down the stimulus with Rubio in the Senate? Lose all that money to keep teachers in schools and property taxes low? And wasn't it a Republican President, George Bush, who bailed out the banks? And if he hadn't, would more than half of America have been okay with losing their pension funds?

Take that Amtrak up north now to New York's reliably Republican 23rd Congressional District, parts of the district having been represented only by a GOPer since before the Civil War:
Yet polls show the Republican candidate in serious trouble. State Republican Party leaders prevented an open primary race and instead engineered the nomination of one of their own, moderate, pro-choice Assemblywoman Deirdre Scozzafava.

Angry conservatives in the 23rd rebelled, rallying to the third-party candidacy of local accountant Doug Hoffman. Hoffman and Scozzafava are splitting the Republican vote between them, allowing Democrat Bill Owen to emerge as the front-runner.

David Frum goes on to discuss the hypocrisy of GOP mouthpiece Hugh Hewitt, who chastises New Jersey independent candidate for Governor, Chris Daggett, who is drawing votes from Republican Chris Christie, but doesn't say the same about Hoffman.

A friend of mine opined yesterday that we he's tired of "us vs. them" and thinks we need a Third "moderate" Party. I'd argue that two would be nice, as long as one of them wasn't filled with disbelievers in Obama's citizenship. Since last November, self-identification of Republicans has fallen from 25% of the electorate to 20%, a 1/5 drop. I'd bet most of that 20% is in the South, making the GOP a regional "rump" party.

The fact is that teabaggers are good for Fox News ratings and rightwing talk radio because those organizations only need 1-3% of listeners to make profits, not 51% of a country or even a district to win. The Democratic Party is actually acting very moderate right now in most areas by standards of the 20th Century, even the idea of universal health coverage being first introduced by Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, and later championed by Cold Warrior and Democrat, President Harry Truman. There's a lot of folks that think the Dems could be more progressive, and in essence it is two parties within the big tent.

Maybe there could be a sane Republican party and a crazy offshoot. Maybe it needs to break in two and have 10% hardcore, 10% able to attract disaffected, semi-conservative Dems. I don't see the Dems splitting any time soon -- winning has a way of keeping everybody on the train.

The fear, of course, is the gravy train. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and I believe there should be checks against abuse. Only Communist countries have only one party. Nor do I believe that any party can deal a death blow to the other, or there would have been no Democratic Party after Carter, Mondale and Dukakis.

An opposition will return, most likely under the GOP moniker. If unemployment spikes at 25% under Obama maybe the radical right will have it's day, pace the Weimar Republic. But if this President continues to serve in good health I believe things will, slowly, get better, and if so the GOP will have a big choice to make.

Maybe the teabaggin' Glenn Beck right exhausts itself, dwindles, and the so-called GOP moderates or realists take back the Party.

But that may not happen if there are none of them left in the GOP to do so.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Great American

Hard not to tear up watching this 86 year-old WWII veteran's plainspoken plea for gay equality:

Transcript in this post.

Save for a few stubborn states, marriage equality is just a few electoral cycles away.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Peeps!

Always excited to see my people getting credit for doing good things:

Two Republican party chairmen from South Carolina, in trying to defend Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-SC) practice of not using earmarks, said DeMint "is watching our nation's pennies," just like "the Jews who are wealthy."

Edwin O. Merwin and James S. Ulmer, chairs of the Bamberg County Republican Party and the Orangeburg County Republican Party, respectively, wrote an op-ed in the Times and Democrat this Sunday.

"There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves," they wrote. "By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina and instead using actual bills, DeMint is watching our nation's pennies and trying to preserve our country's wealth and our economy's viability to give all an opportunity to succeed."

Nothing like having my peeps compared to a rightwing moron from South Carolina by two other morons within the context of penny-pinching.

Thanks, goyim!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sense on Afghanistan?

Here's the news revealed today about the Administration's approach to Afghanistan:
The White House signaled Sunday that President Obama would postpone any decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan until the disputed election there had been settled and resulted in a government that could work with the United States.

“It would be irresponsible,” Mr. Emanuel told CNN. Then he continued, paraphrasing the senator, that it would be reckless to decide on the troop level without first doing “a thorough analysis of whether, in fact, there’s an Afghan partner ready to fill that space that U.S. troops would create and become a true partner in governing.”

The election in Afghanistan was so badly marred by allegations of fraud that they helped prompt Mr. Obama to rethink the strategy he unveiled just in March, officials have said. Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., among others at the White House, had already soured on Mr. Karzai, whose government and family are accused of corruption and ties to drug dealing. The election reinforced those doubts, officials said.

This sounds to me like the opposite answer that we gave in Vietnam, the opposite of trying to prop up a corrupt regime that will just look at the U.S. as fools with money to waste on them. I'd be interested to see if there's consensus agreement among Nettertainment readers on this, since I haven't seen as much divergence on the Afghanistan issue as, say, health insurance reform.

After all, Karzai appears to be stonewalling any attempt at an honest election result:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai may not accept the results of a vote recount from the summer's general election, officials from his campaign hinted, adding a further twist to the already fraught post-poll political environment. On Sunday, his supporters began demonstrations against "foreign interference" in the elections.

As they await the results of a recount to try to adjust for widespread fraud, officials from the Karzai campaign began over the weekend to cast aspersions on the process, centering their criticism on the United Nations-backed Electoral Complaints Commission, which is re-tallying the numbers. The commission finished its audit Saturday, and is reviewing it before releasing it in coming days. If Mr. Karzai is found to have less than 50% of the vote, it could force a run-off with his top challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.

Sounds like a little too much like Iran, doesn't it?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gloves = Off

The insurance industry played it's asshole card this week, and lost any pretense of Presidential friendship:

Bonus mop:


Friday, October 16, 2009

Author Author

This is why, at heart, I'm such a big fan of Barack Obama:

This was especially true last March 13, when the incendiary sermons of Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, blew up all over the cable networks. On that Thursday, Obama had spent the entire day and evening in the Senate. That Friday, after enduring a series of tough interviews, Obama informed Axelrod and campaign manager David Plouffe, “I want to do a speech on race.” And he added, “I want to make this speech no later than next Tuesday. I don’t think it can wait.” Axelrod and Plouffe tried to talk him into delaying it: He had a full day of campaigning on Saturday, a film shoot on Sunday, and then another hectic day campaigning in Pennsylvania on Monday. Obama was insistent. On the Saturday-morning campaign conference call, Favreau was told to get to work on a draft immediately. Favreau replied, “I’m not writing this until I talk to him.”

That evening, Saint Patrick’s Day, less than seventy-two hours before the speech would be delivered to a live audience, Favreau was sitting alone in an unfurnished group house in Chicago when the boss called. “I’m going to give you some stream of consciousness,” Obama told him. Then he spoke for about forty-five minutes, laying out his speech’s argumentative construction. Favreau thanked him, hung up, considered the enormity of the task and the looming deadline, and then decided he was “too freaked out by the whole thing” to write and went out with friends instead. On Sunday morning at seven, the speechwriter took his laptop to a coffee shop and worked there for thirteen hours. Obama received Favreau’s draft at eight that evening and wrote until three in the morning.

He hadn’t finished by Monday at 8 a.m., when he set the draft aside to spend the day barnstorming across Pennsylvania. At nine thirty that night, a little more than twelve hours before the speech was to be delivered, Obama returned to his hotel room to do more writing. At two in the morning, the various BlackBerrys of Axelrod, Favreau, Plouffe, and Jarrett sounded with a message from the candidate: Here it is. Favs, feel free to tweak the words. Everyone else, the content here is what I want to say. Axelrod stood in the dark reading the text: “The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made.… But what we know—what we have seen—is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope—the audacity to hope—for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.”

He e-mailed Obama: This is why you should be president.

When critics say "Obama gives a good speech" as if the tongue-tied child-speak of George W. Bush somehow led to great policy, it irks me no end. Obama writes a great speech. Years ago I attended a three night seminar with Martin Scorsese who ultimate said that unless he had something of value to say, all the technique in the world was for naught.

Obama almost always has something of value and interest to say.

I like writers. They're the smartest people in the room. (Witness Tina Fey, so much more than just a performer.) Most politicians with books have ghostwriters. Theodore Roosevelt was the last President to write his own stuff. When Obama got to the Senate, he and Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) bonded over they fact that they were the only Senators that wrote their own books. Obama is believed by his team to be the best speechwriter among them. He writes at night, in the wee hours. Right on.

The whole GQ piece linked above is tremendous, starting with an early appearance to a meagre audience at a bookstore to promote Dreams From My Father, Obama's memoir, which sold diddly the first time around. Then, republished after his electrifying 2004 Democratic Convention speech, it ran right up to the top of The New York Times Bestseller List.

Writers know what it means to toil by their lonesome to make something that works. (I'd argue a lot of computer programmers have related experience.) Vaclav Havel, the playwright who went on to lead the first free government in Poland is a great example. To be a successful writer you need vision, a strong sense of self, some understanding of humanity, and a stick-to-it-ness even when nobody in the world cares or wants you to stick-to-it.

Decent qualities in a politician, wouldn't you say?

Rachel Take Down Supreme


This guy is a smooth obfuscator, but he's not on a Fox shoutfest, and she is clearly the smartest commentator type anchor on TV.

Journalist lives, even if relatively barren on TV.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Death Penalty FAIL?

At the urging of several different friends, I read The New Yorker piece last month about Todd Willingham, who was executed in Texas for a crime that may never have happened. This is the most prominent case right now of potential death penalty applied to an innocent man.

I won't go into all the details, and you can read the piece here, but essentially he was convicted of murdering his two young children by arson, on evidence which has arguably been disproven by breakthroughs in arson detection science, evidence provided by what appear to be woefully underqualified arson "experts" in northeast Texas.

I thought the story would be an uninteresting low-life tale; in fact it's a page-turner. But a new story is emerging, one of potential cover-up by Texas Governor Rick Perry (R), who is looking at a difficult primary battle against popular Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who's going after his job.

Perry has removed officials on the science panel investigating the Willingham case, just 48-hours prior to a key hearing with the scientist disproving the Willingham arson evidence, and replaced them with his own people. Sure looks like he's covering for a failed death penalty system -- and Perry's own failure to commute Willingham's sentence to give time for the evidence to be fully examined.


Perry's going the demonization route, calling Willingham a "monster." Hutchison's campaign are using the apparent conflict of interest against Perry with a press release including:
The issue is Rick Perry’s heavy-handed politicization of a process and Commission established by the legislature to provide critical oversight. First, Rick Perry delayed the formation of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, then he tried to ensure it didn’t have funding and when all else failed, he fired everyone he could. The only thing Rick Perry’s actions have accomplished is giving liberals an argument to discredit the death penalty.

Nothing like watching GOPers fight it out, but the bigger issue here is the finality of the death penalty. Look, when I hear about a villain who kidnaps, rapes and murders a fourteen year-old girl, I say fry 'em. But justice is imperfect, especially in certain parts of the country, and arson is perhaps the hardest crime to pin down as murder. Even decades in prison capped by exoneration is better than exoneration post-lethal injection.

So what wonder is, with exonerations based on DNA evidence happening routinely these days, is there still a perfect argument for the state putting convicted individuals to death, rather than life imprisonment?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Out of Committee

So the "Baucus bill," no matter how heinous, has moved out of the Senate Finance Committee, passed 14-9 almost entirely along party lines, save for Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Sen. Snowe made it clear that she may not vote for the final bill that comes out of reconciliation between the Senate and the House of Representatives (where the Public Option, favored by 2/3 of Americans, still exists in their bill), and significant hurdles remain.

But Senator Snowe did mention history in her statement, and I can foresee a moment coming where Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats have to make a decision whether they want to be part of a historic development or...well, if they vote against a bill that still passes, they've sort of covered their butts. That "no" vote may be forgotten in light of success.

However, if it is Democrats like Kent Conrad, or quasi-Dem Joe Lieberman, or even enough Republicans to block consideration or passage and throw their own victory party, I predict that individuals will start going down in history as villains.

American not only wants health insurance reform, they are desperate for it. Get ready for that work plan so dear to you to require more funding from you, the worker, as the employers of America cut back their contributions -- per Rupert Murdoch's own Wall Street Journal:

As companies begin unveiling their workplace benefits for next year, many employees are learning they will have to dig even deeper into their pockets for health coverage.

Such price increases have become a fact of life during open-enrollment season, when workers sign up for their health plans. But the jump is expected to be steeper in 2010 than this year, as employers struggle with the impact of the recession and continually rising insurance costs. Employees will pay $4,023 on average in premiums and out-of-pocket charges next year, up 10% from 2009, according to a projection from Hewitt Associates, a benefits-consulting firm. In dollar terms, it's the biggest boost since the firm started keeping track of the data a decade ago.

For workers, that will mean larger payroll deductions, as well as spending more on co-payments and other fees tied to care. Companies also are expected to prod more employees into cheaper coverage by getting them to sign up for high-deductible health plans. And many employers are trying to rein in the expense of covering workers' families, sometimes by making insurance for kids and spouses pricier.

Me, I favor Single Payer, and that's the only way we'll ever have 100% coverage in this country. But clearly now we see, without a Public Option, there's no backstop, and the President's prediction of costs spiraling out of control will come agonizingly true.

Monday, October 12, 2009


So the health insurance industry (AHIP) paid for a report that explicitly supports their anti-reform efforts, blindslides the White House after meeting last week and not bringing up the more inflammatory issues in the report and threatens to raise health insurance premiums 111% if reform passes.

And someone in the insurance industry thought releasing this report was a good idea?

Per Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY):

Way to help move things along:

On a conference call a few minutes ago, a finance committee aide said the AHIP report critical of the committee's health care reform bill will actually serve to help the legislation's chances of final passage.

"Instead of creating doubts, the report is actually having the opposite effect and has drawn a lot of ire from those who support reforms," the aide said. "Frankly, it will create a lot of momentum in the Senate to pass reform."

Let's hope.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Getting Real

Anita Dunn, White House Communications Director, explains in the most upfront manner possible, that this is not going to be a passive White House, thank the good Lord. She does it in this interview with the sometimes disingenuous Howie Kurtz of CNN, with the focus of the first 2/3 on why Fox News is not a news network like any other, but rather what we all know it to be (in so many words): a propaganda unit:
"The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. And it is not ideological... what I think is fair to say about Fox, and the way we view it, is that it is more of a wing of the Republican Party."
"Obviously [the President] will go on Fox because he engages with ideological opponents. He has done that before and he will do it again... when he goes on Fox he understands he is not going on it as a news network at this point. He is going on it to debate the opposition."
"[Fox is] widely viewed as a part of the Republican Party: take their talking points and put them on the air, take their opposition research and put it on the air. And that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news organization like CNN is."
This is exactly the tone that every single Democrat needs to take with Fox News, and in the long run it will help the other (actual) cable news networks with their own identities, assuming they are finally over being the "me, too!" network to Fox. You can't beat FNC in the cable news ratings because it isn't news, it's reality TV with its own orbit of stars, or rather it's alternative reality, with assumed values of a fictionalized works and soap opera-long plotlines.

In any case, it's nice to have Dems with cajones and like Rep. Alan Grayson (R-FL), Ms. Dunn has them:

Now let's see if FNC fairly covers the real story happening right now in our America.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Healthcare Reform Jujitsu

The Obama Administration has found renewed momentum, you might say found their first real momentum, with some help from their GOP friends.

Sure, maybe if they don't paint a Hitler mustache on the President or fake out with "death panel" and "kill granny" talk so maybe they're out of touch with the modern Republican Party, or RINOs anyway, but with the moral support (if not fine detail agreement) of ex-office holders like Bill Frist (who, incidentally, I thought was great on Real Time with Bill Maher Friday night, knocking down the host's ridiculous long-spouted beliefs against flu vaccination and other science-based facts like using pharmaceutical drugs to control hypertension), Bob Dole, Jim Baker, Tommy Thompson, Chuck Hagel and others, Obama's looking more and more like the eventual winner...once again:

In fairly obvious coordination, the DNC hits with a viral ad reiterating the point, albeit less artistically:

While I've had plenty of disagreements with the old guard represented in the list, they sure do look like adults compared to the clowns -- Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, Kyl, Grassley, etc., etc. -- at the Federal level for that Party right now.

Combined with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office findings this week that the Baucus bill would actually reduce the deficit over time, we're seeing the now classic Obama strong finish. Nobody currently does better in the endgame (or scares their supporters more in the lull along the way) than Obama, and I expect that's what's happening now.

And, once again, I expect that our terrorist enemies will be learning this lesson eventually as well.

Friday, October 09, 2009


I had the same reaction as a lot of people when I first got the news today that President Barack Obama had been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize: a little premature?

We'll get to the Right in a moment, but in the strongest bastions of the Anti-War Left there's a sentiment that he needs to prove it -- by deescalating Afghanistan, pulling fully out of Iraq, keeping out of war with Iran and closing Guantanamo once and for all. If and only then will he deserve the Prize.

On the Right it's been rather convincing. In the sense that it has convinced me of the Nobel committee's unanimous wisdom. The criticism of Obama's win is as harsh as it was for his loss with the International Olympic Committee last week, inspiring this response from the Democratic National Committee:
"The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists -- the Taliban and Hamas this morning -- in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize," Brad Woodhouse said in a statement.
Harsh words! But the de facto leader of the GOP agrees:
Folks, do you realize something has happened here that we all agree with the Taliban and Iran about and that is he doesn't deserve the award. Now that's hilarious, that I'm on the same side of something with the Taliban, and that we all are on the same side as the Taliban.
A parody list of GOP/Fox News talking points here, some of which are already no longer satire. My favorite:

6. Besides, who cares what a bunch of geeks in Oslo think? The International Olympic Committee speaks for the whole world.

The Nobel committee defended their decision:

The five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee - four of whom spoke to The Associated Press, said awarding Obama the peace prize could be seen as an early vote of confidence intended to build global support for the policies of his young administration.

They lauded the change in global mood wrought by Obama's calls for peace and cooperation, and praised his pledges to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms, ease U.S. conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthen its role in combating climate change.

"Some people say - and I understand it - 'Isn't it premature? Too early?' Well, I'd say then that it could be too late to respond three years from now," Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, told the AP. "It is now that we have the opportunity to respond - all of us."

Jagland said the committee whittled down a record pool of 205 nominations and had "several candidates until the last minute," but it became more obvious that "we couldn't get around these deep changes that are taking place" under Obama.

Their lips to God's ear on the deep changes part. But maybe their right about time being of the essence, not waiting until it's too late to award this recipient. For as readers of Nettertainment know, I do believe the Rightwing rhetoric and imagery distortion such as aligns with and promotes the Teabaggers is geared towards dehumanizing our President and providing a proverbial license to...well, am I so crazy to think it?:

Robert Lowry, a businessman running against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), stopped by a local Republican event that was held at a shooting range. Lowry stepped up to show his marksmanship, and fired at a human silhouette target -- with the letters "DWS" written next to the head.

Lowry later told the Sun-Sentinel that he did not know who wrote the letters next to the target, but that he did know they were there when he started shooting. After further questioning, he admitted it "was a mistake" to shoot at the target.

Ah, that gun culture again.

Credit where credit is due: President Obama's opponent in the 2008 election, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was both gracious and patriotic about the award:

In contrast to the biting statement issued by the RNC, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says he's "proud" that an American president has been awarded the Nobel peace prize.

"I’m sure that the president is very honored to receive this award," McCain told CNN's John King.

"And Nobel Committee, I can’t divine all their intentions, but I think part of their decision-making was expectations. And I’m sure the president understands that he now has even more to live up to. But as Americans, we’re proud when our president receives an award of that prestigious category."

On a more humorous note, the U.S. State Department said:
Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum -- when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes.
The President himself was modest, almost to the point of showing his own embarrassment at winning an award he did not seek, but used it as a complement to our entire nation (deserving, no doubt, for having transcended a legacy of racism in voting him into office) and a charge for worthy future action:

And finally, here's the opinion I find most bracing, from one of Andrew Sullivan's readers, reminding of the spirit that originally drew so many of us to Primary candidate Obama the night he won the very first Caucus, in Iowa:
Remember how Obama should have stepped aside and let Hillary win the primaries? Remember how America wasn't ready for a black President, of course, so why didn't he just realize it and wait his turn? Remember last summer when the candidate went to Germany and gave speech before hundreds of thousands of adoring fans? How arrogant. Who does he think he is? Only a president should do that. He should have at least waited until he won. And then he did win. And he took a world tour and gave a game changing speech in the Cairo. Who did he think he was? A rock star? The arrogance and audacity--it's breathtaking. If the man would just wait his turn, dammit.
Per Presidential candidate Obama, our moment is now.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

People Kill People

I'm not exactly sure what to think about this story, except that it backs up my fear of guns in the home. A Pennsylvania mother who lost her handgun license for a period due to wearing it openly to a soccer game has been killed by her husband in an apparent murder-suicide:

Some neighbors told the Lebanon Daily News they heard or saw the children — a 10-year-old boy and girls ages 2 and 6 — running from the house and screaming “Daddy shot Mommy!” shortly before the 911 emergency center was alerted at 6:20 p.m.

Debbie Mise, who lives nearby, said she heard a strange sound followed by the screams of the children. “I heard something heavy drop or fall, and then right away I heard the kids screaming, but I thought they were playing,” Mise said. “It was loud. But it didn’t sound like a pop.”

The backstory:

Meleanie Hain was thrust into the national spotlight when she took a gun, in plain view and holstered on her hip, to a soccer game Sept. 11, 2008, at Optimist Park in Lebanon.

Her permit to carry a gun was revoked by Lebanon County Sheriff Michael DeLeo on Sept. 20, 2008. DeLeo said Hain showed poor judgment in wearing her gun to the game. Hain’s permit was reinstated by Lebanon County Judge Robert Eby on Oct. 14, 2008, but the judge asked her to conceal it at soccer games. Hain said she would continue to carry it openly under the Second Amendment.

Hain then filed a lawsuit against DeLeo for $1 million in U.S. Middle District Court seeking reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and costs, emotional distress and lost wages.

This is, like, three types of crazy. First off, I don't care what anybody thinks about Second Amendment rights, there's no way I'd keep my kid at a game where a parent was openly armed, not unless Al Qaeda had invaded and we were all ironed up. Have you seen how pissed off some parents can get at these games? "That was no foul!" Bang! We've already had a parent killed by fists at a child hockey game, do we really want any of them packin' heat?

And what if some stupid kid grabs the gun, thinks its a toy, bang! That's a headline that come come from a blue state just as easily as a red.

Second type of crazy: a $1,000,000 lawsuit for twenty-four days without a gun permit? After bringing one to a game like that? Give me a break. She should have just gotten on the Teaparty gravy train and become a Glenn Beck star for a month, made those legal fees back in a jif and then some.

Then there's the crazy husband himself. Now, maybe this proves she needed to carry a gun, to protect against him, although I'd argue a concealed defense would work just as well. But to me this is a story about the tragedy of gun culture itself.

When such a family believes that guns can be relied upon to solve problems beyond, maybe, household defense in a high crime area, I don't want to be their neighbor. It's just not healthy thinking, it's caveman or reptile brain thinking. Sure, one can argue that the gun used in the murder-suicide "ended" things for Meleanie and Scott Hain, maybe the "ultimate solution" for their marital disagreements, but it sure has created a lifetime of problems for their poor orphaned children.

There are @ 30,000 gun-related deaths every year in America. Is that a number that should concern anyone? How about that @ 55% of these are suicides? (Assume that includes murder-suicides?)

I'm not for blanket U.S. gun elimination and stand with the President on Second Amendment rights. I do believe states should regulate as needed by localities. Most of all, I believe that domestic gun ownership should be treated by our culture as drunk driving has come to be treated: uncool and dangerous.

After all, having a gun in the home makes it three times more likely that you or someone you care about will be murdered by a family member or intimate partner.

Family values?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Approaching the Tipping Point

Today feels like the day that healthcare reform or health insurance reform is gaining momentum.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has just come out with its findings that the Senate Finance Committee version of the bill, while not my personal favorite to date, will actually reduce the deficit over 10 years. Matt Ygelsias posts the chart here.

Fox News Anchor Shep Smith won't let Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) spout the same old fear-inducing myths about the Public Option unchallenged:

Former Senate Majority Leaders Bill Frist and Bob Dole both come out favorite healthcare reform as is currently being fashioned. In Dole's case he chastises his own Republican Party for knee-jerk partisanship. (It looks like Obama is able to find the bipartisanship he seeks -- only with GOPers no longer in office.)

And now an idea started by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) has the potential to end the debate and get a Public Option passed: giving individual states the right to Opt-Out of the government run insurance plan if they like. This requires a kind of proactive Federalism on the part of the states, and thereisnospoon over at DailyKos outlines the benefits of this approach (headlines -- go here for details):
  • It forces GOP legislators to put up or shut up, leaving them in a very uncomfortable position.
  • It leaves the rest of us with a strong public option, even after it's watered down.
  • It hampers the ability of Republicans to lie about healthcare issues.
  • Businesses will have an incentive to move to blue states.

The latter could be a major plus for California, with our now 12% unemployment rate. But the big news would be, as the piece points out with its own partisan opinion as to who would win:
Rarely do the Left and the Right have a head-to-head opportunity to prove out, in real time, the relative superiority of their respective value systems and legislative choices, with real and immediate consequences not only for the partisan legislators involved, but for the legitimacy of a Party's entire ideological underpinnings.

I say let the contest begin.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Confusistan Pt. 2

I stand corrected, as comments in the past two posts directly address the Afghanistan question, even if answering with uncertainty. I find myself leaning towards Master Fu's argument for the Biden position which is essentially limited and surgical without totally giving up. One wonders if it eventually leads to escalation, maybe not with this President, but perhaps keeping it as Special Ops as possible will keep it off the public radar as well, for better or worse.

New news or new no news, the President met today with Congressional leaders for a frank discussion where he said he would not substantially reduce troop levels and assured them that, "that his decision won't make everybody in the room or the nation happy." Agreed, no matter what he decides. After all, even in his own Party, there's a bill being introduced from the left by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) to cut off any funding for a troop increase in Afghanistan, while Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is calling for massive troop increases.

Meanwhile, NATO says that while 8 U.S. soldiers may have been killed in that big eastern Afghanistan battle this past weekend, over 100 enemy fighters were killed as well. Suspicious number? Is this like Vietnam again -- what day of the month is it = # of Vietcong reported killed by U.S. forces?

Master Fu does question the value of Afghanistan. We can't deny the threat -- the man at the center of the recently foiled bomb plot in NYC was an Afghan immigrant, Najibullah Zazi, trained at an Al Qaeda camp in Pakistan. This is the threat that the Dems have run on, the threat they said Cheney/Bush took our eye off of in pursuit of the man who did not attack us. And then there's China's stake in the country, per Robert D. Kaplan:

In Afghanistan, American and Chinese interests converge. By exploiting Afghanistan’s metal and mineral reserves, China can provide thousands of Afghans with jobs, thus generating tax revenues to help stabilize a tottering Kabul government. Just as America has a vision of a modestly stable Afghanistan that will no longer be a haven for extremists, China has a vision of Afghanistan as a secure conduit for roads and energy pipelines that will bring natural resources from the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. So if America defeats Al Qaeda and the irreconcilable elements of the Taliban, China’s geopolitical position will be enhanced.

This is not a paradox, since China need not be our future adversary. Indeed, combining forces with China in Afghanistan might even improve the relationship between Washington and Beijing. The problem is that while America is sacrificing its blood and treasure, the Chinese will reap the benefits. The whole direction of America’s military and diplomatic effort is toward an exit strategy, whereas the Chinese hope to stay and profit.

Just when you think you're starting to make sense of it, things just get more Confusistaning.

Monday, October 05, 2009

U.S.A. Notes

So there were no responses to the Afghanistan question in yesterday's post -- fair enough, I dunno myself. Today we've got the issue of the dollar potentially no longer being the basis for the price of a barrel of oil, and the question of what that will do to the value of our currency. My bet is that if so many countries have so much debt in dollars, wouldn't they want those dollars to be worth something? Or do I have it backwards...

In better U.S. news, some of our nation's biggest corporations are expressing their displeasure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's stance against climate change legislation by quitting that organization.

Oh, and after being in seventh place last year, thanks to our new President (and, I would add, the more open-minded than expected democracy that elected him), we are once again the most admired country in the world.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


The latest news from Afghanistan is grim: 8 U.S. soldiers killed in a remote eastern province. The recent election, which should have solidified the new democracy, appears to have been rife with corruption. At home, President Obama is facing pressure from both the left and the right, and for those of us who agreed with candidate Obama that the Cheney-Bush Administration squandered our gains in the country which actually contained those who attacked us on 9/11 by fomenting their pre-determined (as in before even getting elected) war in Iraq, we're also concerned about creating an Obama Vietnam, pace President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

There's an interesting collection of contributor advice in The New York Times that's worth a read. Unfortunately, the first entry is entitled "Reform of Go Home" which would seem to be answered by the Afghan election news cited above. Disconcerting notes include this being a "Type B" war where the enemy has little to lose (i.e. no land) and uses the length of time against the democracy (U.S.A.) trying to beat them, and the funding of the Taliban by Pakistani sources.

So as there's been a legitimate debate about U.S. internal policy in the comments section of this blog recently, here's my question: do we know what to do next in Afghanistan yet, are we waiting on the President's decision to react pro/con, or does someone have a strong opinion about what our country should be doing -- or not doing -- over there?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Forty

Nice piece in The New York Times on the 40th anniversary of Monty Python's Flying Circus and both the upcoming event and documentary. Fave graf:
Some enterprising graduate student someday will doubtless trace the various strains that went into Python comedy. The Chapman-Cleese sketches tended to originate in confrontation, as in the parrot piece, for example, while the Oxford stuff was sillier and more notional. It was Mr. Jones and Mr. Palin who dreamed up the idea of having the Spanish Inquisition turn up in a middle-class living room. And Mr. Gilliam’s instinct was, as he says, to “get rid of all the weak bits” and fill in the gaps with his surreal, sometimes Dada-like animation. Partly through his influence the troupe subverted the sketch form itself, dispensing with beginnings or endings, sometimes walking off the set (or being stomped by a giant foot) right in the middle of a scene.

What seems to be an official "Daily Python" site here, and not one but two Wikipedia entries.

Bonus musical number:

Monty Python's Flying Circus - The Lumberjack Song - Watch more amazing videos here

Still funny?

Friday, October 02, 2009


So the President spends a few hours in Copenhagen pitching for an Olympian economic stimulus for Chicago, and as he's flying back on Air Force One getting a briefing from our military man leading in Afghanistan, the U.S. loses in the first round of IOC voting, with Rio de Janeiro taking the gold for 2016 two rounds later.

As someone who has worked for three different television networks at three different Olympic Games, I have a vast fondness for the event and a little understanding of how such decisions are made. Rio was the right choice for several reasons: the first South American games in history, and the ability for the games to change the city, what with all the infrastructure that must be built over the next seven years, the money that will flow in and, yes, work its way down to local businesses and workers, and the pride it instills, putting the city on the map, looked at in a way it hasn't been before.

Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago can't make that claim for 2016.

Since all the other national leaders of contending cities showed up, I'm glad Obama went as well. Imagine the reaction if the result had been the same and he'd been the one who hadn't shown up. Yet for some reason, wait a minute, it's coming to me...yes, now I remember why so many conservatives and Republicans were gleefully celebrating America's loss of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games: their undisguised hatred of President Barack Obama. Stronger than their love of America. Perhaps revealing their hatred of America, i.e. the America of today and the future?

Check out this gathering of conservatives erupting into unanimous applause. This is the so-called Americans For Prosperity -- one of the main organizing groups behind the tea party protests -- yet they don't seem to be behind prosperity for Chicago in 2016:

Credit where credit is due: former GOP Representative Joe Scarborough thanks the President for trying. And sure, there are good reasons from a progressive standpoint to oppose Chicago winning the Olympics and be happy for the loss -- this way, no poor renters will be displaced by new Olympic stadiums and the city won't incur Olympian debt; but bottom line is that it's not as big a deal for Chicago to lose as it is for Rio to win.

Check out their celebration. With bonus Pele:

Now that's going to be a hell of a party in 2016.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

More Fun in the New World

Matt Yglesias nails it on Grayson:
I think the real issue—and the real import—of Grayson’s statement is that it involved breaking one of the unspoken rules of modern American politics. The rule is that conservatives talk about their causes in stark, moralistic terms and progressives don’t. Instead, progressives talk about our causes in bloodless technocratic terms. This is also one of the reasons that Ted Kennedy’s stark, moralistic attack on Robert Bork’s legal theories are for some reason often cast by the MSM as some kind of illegitimate smear campaign. The reality is that it was just him talking about a conservative the way conservatives relatively talk about liberals. Like Grayson he characterized his opponents’ views polemically, but wasn’t offering any kind of wild factual distortions. But moralism from the left is very unfamiliar to American political debates.

Which is why a GOP Representative withdrew his censure motion -- this wasn't Joe Wilson hollering "You lie!" at President Obama during the Joint Session address, this is a real moral question, and it serves to distract from what's really going on, because this is what cuts through the cable bullshit. And there's a lot more people who believe the core proposition that the Republicans are saying "no" to health insurance reform since they've quite publicly made it their strategy since the inauguration that who believe (despite their decibel level) that Obama wants to kill granny.

Interesting today was the Senate Finance Committee passing the more "conservative" (in the sense of measured/gradual) public option amendment by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA):

The amendment creates a "federally funded, non-Medicaid, state plan which combines the innovation and quality of private sector competition with the purchasing power of the states," according to an overview.

It would be available to people with incomes above Medicaid eligibility but below 200 percent of the federal poverty level -- a very narrow window. However, Republicans fear -- and progressives hope -- that once the plan becomes law there will be pressure to expand it.

The plan would not be free. It is based on Washington state's Basic Health plan, which costs roughly 60 dollars a month, with the remainder of the premium subsidized by the state.

Private insurers would be eligible to participate in the plan, as would HMOs or other networks of health care providers.

Meanwhile, credit where credit's due:
Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.) offered unusually blunt assessments of the fringe elements of his party and conservative media on Thursday, calling the popular and bombastic Fox News host Glenn Beck a "cynic" whose show was antithetical to American values.

"Only in America can you make that much money crying," Graham said of Beck. "Glenn Beck is not aligned with any party. He is aligned with cynicism and there has always been a market for cynics. But we became a great nation not because we are a nation of cynics. We became a great nation because we are a nation of believers."

Appearing before a crowd of Washington's elite power players and opinion-makers, Graham spoke largely without filter, offering acidic takes on subject well beyond Beck. The Senator called the birther community that questions the president's U.S. citizenship "crazy" and implored them to "knock this crap off" so the country could get on to more important matters.

"I'm here to tell you that those who think the president was not born in Hawaii are crazy," said Graham, who went on to dispel another myth: that Obama is a closet Muslim.

Penance watch begins now.

And why does Republican Bill Bennett hate America?