Tuesday, March 31, 2009

British Invasion

The Obamas have invaded England. The mainstream press, as always, is wrong in their first nervous nelly assessments that he's going to have trouble with the other countries over there. Wrong.

Obama, as always, is in demand. He's making his move to thaw U.S.-Russian relations with a long-overdue round of nuclear arms negotiations. He's got Richard Holbrooke breaking the ice with Iranian diplomats. He finally getting us towards a sensible policy towards Cuba.

He was a star the last time he was in Europe and right now the world thinks of him as their President, even if to the chagrin of their own leaders.

Deal with it. America is back, baby, with the best strategist we've had in ages, and I predict he'll leave an even more popular presence than when he arrived.

Tally ho.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dick Death

How sick an individual is Former Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney?

Death squad sick, per Seymour Hersh:

"After 9/11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet. That does happen

"Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command -- JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. ...

"Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.

"Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us."

How El Salvador 1980's. The man who would have been right at home as Grand Inquisitor in the Spanish Inquisition is a stain on American history. I have no doubt that this man, the most successful bureaucrat in the modern history of our nation, gets off on torture. As Andrew Sullivan connects per this portion of a CNN transcript:
UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: To -- not to get information. Just the pleasure of doing it. They make it pleasurable, pleasurable (INAUDIBLE) doing it.

COOPER: So, it doesn't -- it doesn't yield useful information; it's just doing it because they enjoy it?

UNIDENTIFIED DRUG CARTEL MEMBER: Yes. Information, they have information from the government, so they have all the information they can get. Most of the -- most of the -- most of the torture is for pleasure.

That's always the bottom line -- participatory porn for the most violently repressed. And the Grand Inquisitor's role is to recruit and license the most brutal in society to indulge their violent perversions, or to bend otherwise decent types to do the same.

The only solution: Indict.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


It looks like Obama has a plan for GM and it's shifting into gear:
The chairman and chief executive of General Motors, Rick Wagoner, resigned Sunday as part of a broad agreement with the Obama administration to funnel more government aid to the ailing auto giant, according to people close to the decision.Mr. Wagoner, who has served as G.M.’s top executive since 2000, agreed to step down after it was requested by the president’s auto task force, these people said.
I'll be interested to see how the President's plan unfolds, expecting the same level of strategic intelligence that has been his trademark since the campaign.

And how about how he treated the CEOs he summoned to the White House last week?

Will the ever learn, maybe with a generational turnover?

The Long Arm

Nice news from Spain. Bush Administration torture leaders Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Douglas Feith and (my personal favorite due to his intolerable smugness level) David Addington may be on the road to j-u-s-t-i-c-e:
A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said.

Judge Garzón, however, has built an international reputation by bringing high-profile cases against human rights violators as well as international terrorist networks like Al Qaeda. The arrest warrant for General Pinochet led to his detention in Britain, although he never faced a trial. The judge has also been outspoken about the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

Spain can claim jurisdiction in the case because five citizens or residents of Spain who were prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have said they were tortured there. The five had been indicted in Spain, but their cases were dismissed after the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained under torture was not admissible.

Right on right on. Because not only were these War Crimes and betrayals of American tradition and reputation, these were ineffective, harmful measures:

When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.

The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.

In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said...

...Abu Zubaida was not even an official member of al-Qaeda...

The massive incompetence of the Cheney Administration is matched only by it's venality and corruption, Okay, that's two things it's matched by. It was a very, very dark time, and it only ended a few months ago.

It's crucial that these villains be prosecuted so that the story stays alive. Let no one forget what was done by these men and the thieves they enabled, at the highest levels of our democracy, at a time when we need righteous action instead. And, as I've often said, when the deeper truth(s) of that Bizarro administration finally come to light, it will be worse than you've imagined so far.

Or me.

Or anyone.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Strapping In

This may be my favorite advertisement ever:

Then there's Matt Taibbi, the hardnosed young journalist who took the self-pitying resignation letter that AIG exec v.p. Jay DeSantis ran in The New York Times and not only shredded it, but has balled up the pieces into bullets and shoved them back down DeSantis' throat:

Only a person with a habitually overinflated sense of self-worth could think he deserves a $700,000 retention bonus, even if it has to be paid by taxpayers, when in reality no one "deserves" that much money. It may be that some people do get paid that much, but most people who make that much money have enough sense to realize their cushy lifestyles are an accident of fate, of birth, of class, not something that is "supported" by some unwritten natural law of compensation.

Hey Jake, it's not like you were curing cancer. You were a fucking commodities trader. Thanks to a completely insane, horribly skewed set of societal values that puts a premium on greed and severely undervalues selflessness, communal spirit and intellectualism -- values that make millionaires out of people like you and leave teachers and nurses, the people who raise your kids and clean your parents' bedpans, comparatively penniless -- you made a lot of money.

Good for you. Consider yourself lucky. But your company went belly-up and broke, almost certainly thanks in part to you, and now you don't get your bonus.

So be a man and deal with it. The rest of us do, when we get bad breaks, and we've had a lot more of them than you. And stop whining. Jesus Christ.

Taibbi's just as much fun to hear in person. Prime time's not quite ready for his truth, but he's so dead on that they're enjoying having him on the show:

But the big game is changing once again thanks to the change agent we elected last fall. Today the President picked his war, the one he said we needed to finish all throughout the campaign, and now it is upon us:
In announcing a plan on Friday that could be his signature foreign policy effort, Mr. Obama said that he would send more troops — some 4,000 — but stipulated that they would not carry out combat missions, and would instead be used to train the Afghan Army and the national police. He left himself open to the possibility of sending more as the situation warrants.
All is could think of was John Cale, whom I saw in London in 1980 performing his biggest "hit" off his career-defining Sabotage/Live album, "Ready for War". At the end of the performance I saw, Reagan ascending, Cale screamed into the microphone until the band dropped their instruments and scurried off, ultimately leaving himself only to stick his head out from behind the curtain one or twice more to scream the anthemic line again.

This performance from a few years later may end more quietly, but it says exactly what I've been thinking ever since our new President announced his War:

Strap in.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

More Genius

So the Republican members of Congress, or some of them, released their answer to the Obama budget today. It was billed as a budget but turns out to be much, much less than that. The verdict: brutal:

Not to mention:

It's a field day, starting with White House reaction:

Pro blogger reaction includes outright ridicule:
If you're having a bad day, I highly encourage you to spend some quality time with the Republican budget proposal. It's reads like what would happen if The Onion put together a budget. "Area Man Releases Proposal for 2010 Federal Spending Priorities..."

...Bush, famously, described his first budget by saying, "It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it." Indeed it was, and did. This isn't. There are no numbers. Let me repeat that: The Republican budget proposal does not say how much money they would raise, or spend.
...to considered analysis:
However, another point of interest in the “plan” is that it stakes out some fairly radical positions on monetary policy near the end. They condemn the Fed’s current quantitative easing strategy and, somewhat confusingly, specifically urge the Fed to stop doing this on the grounds that listening to the Republicans is necessary to preserve the Fed’s independence. They “support a requirement that the Fed establish some numerical definition for price stability and maintain that policy.” And most strikingly of all for a party that mostly defines itself in opposition to the dread specter of Europe these days, they want the Fed to abandon its current generalized prosperity mandate in favor of a European Central Bank-style pure inflation target...

...If you want to make a serious inquiry into the roots of persistently high unemployment in many European states relative to the United States, one great place to start would be in the policy difference that the GOP wants to eliminate here. The European Central Bank has no mandate to concern itself with keeping unemployment low. Consequently, unemployment is generally not low.
I don't doubt that we need parties balancing each other in Federal government, but the GOP is going to have to wash out the whole current generation of leadership and replace them with serious legislators if they're ever going to serve that function. Because the reason for this debacle includes a desire to step on the President's first-ever Internet press conference taking serious questions from regular Americas, and a freight train of GOP internal conflict and individual egos:

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) raised objections to an abbreviated alternative budget "blueprint" released today -- but were told by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) they needed to back the plan, according to several Republican sources.

The argument, coming a week before the full House and Senate are scheduled to vote on the budget, underscores the minority party's woes in a mounting unified opposition to President Obama's $3.6 trillion FY2010 budget proposal.

Ryan, the ranking Republican on the budget committee, plans to introduce a detailed substitute amendment for the Democrats' spending plan next Wednesday -- and still intends to do so.

But he and Cantor were reportedly told by Boehner and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) they needed to move more quickly to counter Democrats' charge they were becoming the "Party of No," according to House GOP staffers.

The 19-page document, prepared by Pence's office, was distributed two days after President Obama criticized Republicans for trashing his detail-crammed 142-page budget outline without producing a credible alternative.

“In his egocentric rush to get on camera, Mike Pence threw the rest of the Conference under the bus, specifically Paul Ryan, whose staff has been working night and day for weeks to develop a substantive budget plan," said a GOP aide heavily involved in budget strategy.

"I hope his camera time was gratifying enough to justify erasing the weeks of hard work by dozens of Republicans to put forth serious ideas," the person added.

The nation is at a critical crossroads; clowntime needs to be over. But the "detailed" GOP "budget" is being promised for next Wednesday.

You know, April Fool's Day.


It appears that House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) prefers Spears to Obama. Wow, taste. I mean, Radiohead, Bruce Springsteen, P.J. Harvey or even Duffy, I see your point. But Britney?

And then there's Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele explaining that his "gaffe" regarding Rush Limbaugh was actually "strategic":

Did he mean that he was using strategery?

Oh, and sorry, Gov. Palin, your legislature will take the stimulus funds.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Our Guy at the Top

This is why:

Here's an analysis of the press conference from the classroom management point of view.

Key exchange -- Ed Henry:

"I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak."


Monday, March 23, 2009


So is Obama a hero now, and Geithner o.k?
I guess the same cable news geniuses that were starting to blame Obama for the situation he inherited are going to start praising him now?

Tell me when it happens...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bye-Bye BSG

Just a quick note on the grand finale of Battlestar Galactica since there's other stuff written that goes into detail here and here, and a fabulous interview with chief creative officer Ron Moore here. And lots more out there if you've got the Google. I'll try to avoid SPOILERS but probably won't.

So there's a lot of fan comments against the ending, as if one could expect anything else, and I think they're all wrong. While I was watching the finale and the huge battle, the biggest since the rescue on New Caprica several seasons ago, I realized they were going for the title of "Best Science Fiction Television Show Ever" in a big balls-out way. Not only were the climactic battles huge and reminiscent of the best science fiction book covers from the 1970's, with scale like Larry Niven's Ringworld, but thematically the capper took in maybe 155,000 years of history, give or take a few, and successfully consummated the marriage of docudrama science fiction (think Outland) with the mindbending sci-fi tradition, the kind that keeps you thinking and discussing and even arguing long after the show or book or movie is over.

The character closures were tremendously satisfying -- Baltar becoming a pivotal agent of good, the end of Roslyn's journey and Adama's grief so realistically and bravely captured by Edward James Olmos, Tory's evil act suddenly returning like the repressed always does and with such disastrous consequences, Athena thanking Boomer for delivering Hera with a round of bullets, Lee staking claim as the nearly mythological adventurer and Starbuck realizing her true nature with tremendous peace.

If there's a character who could carry on it would be Starbuck, but while it might be spectacular to follow her travels (the Route 66 of science fiction shows?) there'd have to be some invented drama to make her character interesting now that she's so clear.

And I loved the cameo by Ron Moore, perhaps aluding to the moment where he gets the idea for the series?

The previous Best Science Fiction Television Show of All Time was the first two seasons of the original Star Trek series. No other show had so consistently delivered on the promise of sci-fi literature, even as it had been building for decades. The Twilight Zone was the previous master, and The Outer Limits had its moments, but the combination of heady concepts and pulse-racing moments has never been bested until now, and what makes it so interesting is that BSG is so very different -- more sociological, with the biggest "supernatural" elements being saved for the resolution, focused more singularly yet more grandly in the overall arc, as ultimately revealed.

The conceit that this show happens not in the present nor the future is the biggest part of the reveal. The godlike force is the one that plays in the imagination -- is it science, perhaps, by another name?

A finale like this means the series will have a huge life post-initial broadcast. Not only will audiences pore over it for clues to the ending, but the reputation it'll develop for having ended so well (despite the more hardcore fans who might try a little fanfic if they can't handle the creator's own vision) will drive interest.

As for me, I missed the second half of the first season and all of the second, including the Pegasus arc featuring the always excellent Michelle Forbes.

So I've got something to live for.

So say we all.

Stays in Touch

Regularly, like FDR, talking to the people and explaining himself clearly, compellingly:

And he can punch back as well.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Circuses of Bread

Concerning the AIG bonus tax, I agree with this Andrew Sullivan reader:
It's stupid, and probably unconstitutional, sure. But it's great because it gets us past what is, in the big picture, a trivial issue. If the bill becomes law, Americans can feel like the government did something to get their money back and we can move on to dealing with real problems. A lawsuit challenging the bill will follow, and in a year or two, it will get struck down, and no one will care, because we'll either be on our way to a recovery, or so deep in shit that we'll have much bigger problems on our mind.
I'm glad people have gotten angry, and it's good for the powers that run this country -- both Wall Street and Washington -- to remember that class war starts with them.

But the thing to remember is that fascism starts at home and it's based solely on populist rage, always borne of fear. Those who harness that rage in America can get pretty far -- Huey Long, Joe McCarthy.

Currently Governor Sarah Palin and whoever that guy is who's playing Joe the Plumber appear to be top contenders, vying for it. She's having her political action committee, Sara PAC, determine policy in Alaska, turning down Obama's stimulus (like education) money so she can run against him and for the GOP nomination on it. Endlessly. And as for Joe, with his soft-spoken dogwhistle to the rage, I contend he could be our next face in the crowd:

The fact is that there is ample reason to be angry with the capitalist class of money manipulators who take such a high percentage of our nation's wealth but diminishing responsibility there at the top of the food chain. But these banks are going to take a lot of dollars -- much or most of which will be in reserve so they can legally open their doors every day -- and it'll take at least a year to winnow through all the bad instruments. And maybe eight years until it's all cleaned up -- if Obama gets to enact enough controls.

John McCain is right: lay off of Geithner. Especially on the left. He's a regulatory guy who's finally working for an honest President, and he's working on the biggest economic meltdown since 1929 without a full staff yet. Schwarzenegger is right:

Schwarzenegger, along with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, met with President Barack Obama today in a closed meeting to discuss how to shore up federal spending on transit systems and renewable energy projects.

After the meeting, Schwarzenegger said the trio let the president know that "we are 100 percent behind him on this, to go out and to sell this to the American people.

" I think there is a tremendous demand out there for this,'' he said. "Not only does it help us make our economy function better, but also it helps us in creating jobs."

Every time you think of a bank getting bailed out, think about all the pension funds and municipalities that can't afford for our banking system to collapse. That's the gun those behind the derivative business grafted onto AIG's good name are holding to our nation's head.

It's going to be a rough ride, but I can't imagine anyone better equipped than our current President to navigate us through it.

Can you?

60 / 6

At the end of President Barack Obama's appearance on The Tonight Show, Jay Leno thanked him for "one of the best nights of my life." It's extraordinary -- a sitting President at time of shocking economic crisis gets on a late night talk show and explains exactly what happened with AIG that got us here, enacting common sense regulation, and what kind of technological change is already happening that America is getting behind with his recently enacted stimulus package. All while seeming calm like a movie star with Jay:

The fact that he can convincingly state that things will get better -- provided we get back to a less selfish society -- speaks volumes over what we've endured these past eight years.

Or eight years as of sixty days ago because we've just hit two months officially on the job. Change is still happening, and not only on late nite. Obama sent out a viral video message to the Iranian people, and their leadership, an olive branch at a time of their national holiday:

Eid-eh Shoma Mabarak, baby.

Nice change from that one.

Happy 6th Anniversary.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Heartfelt condolences to Liam Neeson and sons, and the entire Richardson/Redgrave family for the loss of Natasha Richardson, who died very suddenly from a freak ski accident.

One can only imagine the real-life horror of how the events must have unfolded, from a seemingly insignificant fall through some sort of revelation of real damage leading to her being airlifted to NYC and dying soon after being declared brain dead due to bleeding, to the chasm in the immediately family now without a mother and wife.

I never had the good fortune to see Ms. Richardson onstage in her classic Anna Christie or Cabaret performances (Tony nominated and winning, respectively). However, I first experienced her strong talent in the title role of Paul Schrader's Patty Hearst, an underrated depiction of one fascinating and hellish corner of the 1970's. She did a great job channeling the real-life kidnapped heiress and leaving the audience on a haunting question at the end. Highly recommended.

Richardson's death reminds me of that of Carole Lombard, the brilliant comedienne who was at that time married to screen king Clark Gable. It was 1942 and Lombard was 33, on her way back to L.A. from a war bonds rally when her plane crashed outside of Las Vegas killing all 20 people aboard, including her mother. Gable reportedly never got over losing her, and one imagines Neeson will face a similar fate.

There's a lesson here about living each day to the fullest because it can all be gone tomorrow. Actors like Neeson and Richardson do/did exactly that every time they step/stepped onstage.

One hopes that provides some solace, but subject to such real tragedy -- and horror -- it'll be hard for that solace to take root.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Who knew?

Credit where credit's due:

Bush declined to critique the Obama administration in his first speech since leaving office in January. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has said that Obama's decisions threatened America's safety.

"I'm not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena," Bush said. "He deserves my silence."

Bush said he wants Obama to succeed and said it's important that he has that support. Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has said he hoped Obama would fail.

"I love my country a lot more than I love politics," Bush said. "I think it is essential that he be helped in office."

He may be a war criminal, but he's showing a helluva lot more class than his scumbucket Vice President.

Monday, March 16, 2009


So AIG, the massive insurance company our nation has just bailed out, is using our tax money to pay bonuses to the least deserving -- the pigs that got us into this mess:

"This is a corporation that finds itself in financial distress due to recklessness and greed," Mr. Obama said Monday, his voice rising in anger. "Under these circumstances, it's hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses, much less $165 million in extra pay."

At issue are retention bonuses for employees of AIG's financial-products division, whose credit default swaps brought AIG to the brink of collapse. The government controls AIG through an 80% equity stake and as a major lender and doesn't have legal authority to freeze payments on its own. The U.S. has committed $173.3 billion to AIG, including $70 billion from Treasury's rescue fund.

Obama's pissed, per the above quote from this appearance today:

What's to be done? For one, New York State Attorney General (and frontrunner for next NYS Governor) Andrew Cuomo is getting strapped:

The attorney general is seeking the list of employees who will receive these bonuses, as well as their job information and performances. Mr. Cuomo said that the company had failed to heed a previous request for this list.

Mr. Cuomo is also demanding the contracts guaranteeing these bonuses and the names of individuals who developed and negotiated the agreements.

A spokeswoman for A.I.G. told DealBook in an e-mailed statement: “We are in ongoing contact with the Attorney General and will respond appropriately to the subpoena.”

One wonders what the government can do -- especially for the money that's already in the hands of the scumbags who built the derivatives business and live in a different America than 99% of us. If we own the company, can we abrogate our own contracts? Or, per these very smart guys:
Firstly, the US trustees in charge of the firm must immediately instruct the corporate treasurer to make no payments of any bonuses. They also need to order him to issue stop payment orders on any checks that fly out the door at the last minute, as with Merrill Lynch. Then the trustees need to split off the derivatives unit from the rest of the firm and separately incorporate it. This step leaves AIG's other businesses free to operate as usual. If the recipients of the bonuses refuse to waive them, then the derivatives unit should at once be thrown into bankruptcy, terminating all obligations to pay them. Right now, press reports suggest that the firm's top management waited until the last minute to inform the government of what was happening. AIG CEO Edward Liddy, accordingly, should be asked to resign at once, for the sake of public confidence and to send a clear signal that gaming the system is unacceptable. It is also past time for an investigation of the validity of AIG's past accounting and securities disclosures and its executive compensation program by the Office of Thrift Supervision, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the FBI.
Here's my theory: if you investigate deeply enough into anyone at this level of securities trading and manipulation, there is sure to be something prosecutable that comes up.

Squeeze these piggies. Until they squeal.

Brutal News

On the run so little time to post in depth, but I read the best explanation for why the newspaper business is no longer tenable in a post by Clay Shirky. Read the whole thing, brilliant analysis, with this sample:

Revolutions create a curious inversion of perception. In ordinary times, people who do no more than describe the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals. The last couple of decades haven’t been ordinary, however. Inside the papers, the pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world was increasingly resembling the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. Meanwhile the people spinning visions of popular walled gardens and enthusiastic micropayment adoption, visions unsupported by reality, were regarded not as charlatans but saviors.

When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry. Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse. This shunting aside of the realists in favor of the fabulists has different effects on different industries at different times. One of the effects on the newspapers is that many of their most passionate defenders are unable, even now, to plan for a world in which the industry they knew is visibly going away.

Shirky goes back to Gutenberg's invention of the printing press to find comparable data, i.e. how did the world change then based on this new technology, and what were the unlikely "experiments" that resulted in new, significant forms.

Read it, if you want to know why you won't be getting a paper delivered to your door very soon.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Please, sir, may I have another?

I don't want to keep relying on this Jon Stewart takedown of Jim Cramer, CNBC and the whole twisted relationship between big media and Wall Street, but I can't help commenting on Tucker Carlson's quote today regarding the matter.

In a Politico piece on how media critics have been piling on Cramer, Carlson goes counter:
Carlson, reached Friday, described Stewart as "a partisan demagogue."

"Jim Cramer may be sweaty and pathetic — he certainly was last night — but he's not responsible for the current recession," Carlson told POLITICO. "His real sin was attacking Obama's economic policies. If he hadn't done that, Stewart never would have gone after him. Stewart's doing Obama's bidding. It's that simple."

Could Carlson, who's career suffered mightily after a confrontation with Stewart on his soon-after cancelled CNN Crossfire, be looking for another helping?

Just a reminder, here's the appearance that was later seen at least 1.8 million times online:

Maybe Carlson has earned himself a mention on Monday night's Daily Show...?

Friday, March 13, 2009


It was all anybody could talk about today, and it was pretty intense because clearly our big expensive news media can't do their job. CBS felt that Murrow blood running through their veins and ran Jeff Greenfield's excellent piece:

Watch CBS Videos Online

Time media critic James Poniewozik gets to the core of the modern television journalism problem -- and how Cramer was trapped by it under Stewart's questioning:
"These people were my friends." Cramer said that, or something like it, repeatedly: that longtime friends flat-out lied to him. So problem one: coziness with sources is death for the information business. Now, Cramer is a commentator, not a reporter, and I don't begrudge him friends per se. But it is a problem when reporters either become too close to their subjects to treat them skeptically, or become so obsessed with access that they are leery of being too skeptical: i.e., "If I do that, they'll never talk to me again."

Journalists prize getting people to talk to them, with good reason, but they shouldn't be hostage to it. Part of the problem is a culture in which interviewing is privileged over research: "reporting" is defined as getting a person to talk to you, preferably a famous person. But as the original Daily Show CNBC clip showed, research can be pretty powerful—then it created a situation where Cramer pretty much had to talk.

So what I heard today was that Jon Stewart is doing CNN and MSNBC job for them, that it's only the court jester who can speak truth to the emperor as he reveals him to have no clothes, and that he's essentially our century's Mark Twain.

Or maybe our Jonathan.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cramed Him

Jon Stewart went well beyond any comic's usual job tonight on The Daily Show, but more importantly he went far beyond any cable newsperson. Any.

The feud with CNBC and Jim Cramer had been building for almost two weeks, and one has to give Cramer credit for coming on the show to try and end it, but Stewart took Cramer, CNBC and, by extension, the entire entertainment-industrial complex to task. Stewart essentially represented the American people -- everyone who lost half their IRA in four months thanks to massive, massive Wall Street greed -- while Cramer revealed in his whipped-dog response to the grilling a number of things:
  1. He doesn't realize that he is "them."
  2. He's not a responsible financial journalist, he's just a guy with opinions for hire.
  3. When the faux-anchor of a fake news show is asking tougher questions than an entire financial news network, that network loses whatever reputation it may have thought it had as a responsible financial journalistic outfit, and instead appears to be just another cheap sales job on those rubes we call the American people.
The whole uncut interview (they lost maybe 8 minutes for TV) will be up by the morning on the show's website -- you can watch the whole thing -- here's a hefty taste:

Stewart's a hero for standing up and challenging the media powers, even it through their court jester.

Oh, and the markets are up significantly this week. Does that mean that Obama is a hero, or at least can the stupid people on TV stop blaming him for the crash now?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I do believe the GOP will return to power, although there will be anywhere from 4 to 12 years in the wilderness depending (a) how the economic and national security situations fare, and (b) whether the more moderate wing can both coalesce around a set of principles as well as convince the more radical elements to let them lead.

At this point I'm not entirely clear what those principles might be, but it may end up being defined by young GOP activists like Meghan McCain, daughter of Sen. John. She writes regularly for The Daily Beast, she's got a blog where she reveals she's got good musical taste -- listening to Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and she's Twittering regularly. At 24 she is a young voice, and while she may not be the intellectual center of the party, she's raising issues in a sensible, refreshingly unpretentious way. (Because as Jonah Goldberg and so many others have shown us, even young Republicans can write pretentiously.) And if you still don't believe me, she's the first really significant Republican voice that I know of to declare that she's against Ann Coulter:
To make matters worse, certain individuals continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes about Republicans. Especially Republican women. Who do I feel is the biggest culprit? Ann Coulter. I straight up don’t understand this woman or her popularity. I find her offensive, radical, insulting, and confusing all at the same time. But no matter how much you or I disagree with her, the cult that follows Coulter cannot be denied...

...Coulter could be the poster woman for the most extreme side of the Republican Party. And in some ways I could be the poster woman for the opposite. I consider myself a progressive Republican, but here is what I don’t get about Coulter: Is she for real or not? Are some of her statements just gimmicks to gain publicity for her books or does she actually believe the things she says? Does she really believe all Jewish people should be “perfected” and become Christians? And what was she thinking when she said Hillary Clinton was more conservative than my father during the last election?..

...I am not suggesting that extreme conservatism wasn’t once popular, nor am I suggesting I should in any way be any kind of voice for the party. I have been a Republican for less than a year. Still, even after losing the election, I find myself more drawn to GOP ideals and wanting to fight for the party’s resurgence. And if figureheads like Ann Coulter are turning me off, then they are definitely turning off other members of my generation as well. She does appeal to the most extreme members of the Republican Party—but they are dying off, becoming less and less relevant to the party structure as a whole...

...More so than my ideological differences with Ann Coulter, I don’t like her demeanor. I have never been a person who was attracted to hate or negativity. I don’t believe in scare tactics and would never condone or encourage anyone calling President Obama a Muslim. But controversy sells and Coulter is nothing if not controversial. Everything about her is extreme: her voice, her interview tactics, and especially the public statements she makes about liberals. Maybe her popularity stems from the fact that watching her is sometimes like watching a train wreck.

You goP, girl.

Even better, she was just on Rachel Maddow's show and they were great together.

Now I'm guessing that even if/when her friends list ascends to lead the GOP I'll still be voting Democratic, mostly, although who knows what happens to that party once Obama's had his (please, Lord) eight, but America could do a lot worse that a class of Republicans who don't make a living demonizing Liberals. She seems like a decent, together young individual without an axe to grind, so it'll be interesting to see how she'll grow in her political thinking and potential influence over the years. Is she already part and parcel of the military-industrial complex, or maybe a more benign mutation of it? Is her public stance in favor of gay marriage going to help make that right a reality?

There's a second segment as well, with its own charms, including more of the mutual respect between these two political women:

Y'know, that she turned out like this actually speaks well of her father.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Mark Nikolas has a nice post over at HuffPo categorizing prominent Republicans based on how much they are evolving to meet the new paradigm(s) we're experiencing. Some are Adapting (for example, columnist David Brooks, Governors Charlie Christ and Jon Huntsman) while some are Struggling To Adapt (Sen. John McCain, Gov. Bobby Jindal), while others are Slipping Towards Extinction (House Minority Leader John Boehner, columnist George Will) and still others are Extinct or Soon-To-Be (Bush, Cheney, Kristol and, best of all, Coleman).

I'll be interested to see if this list holds true a year from now, or by the 2010 election or, most importantly, by the next General Election in 2012.

Check it out.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Crisis Made Clear

Want to know how the credit crisis happened? Thanks to a loyal reader for this tip, here's a cartoon than may end up more popular than Watchmen:

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Per another of our loyal readers, it's hard to imagine that former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan doesn't end up swirling down the toilet bowl of history...he's even the only individual called out in this video.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


The attacks on President Obama from the Republican Right have been tame so far, if the news of escalation is to be believed:

Republicans are on the offensive against the popular chief executive at a point when they lack a chief spokesman and remain divided among figures offering competing visions for the party's future, including radio personality Rush Limbaugh and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele. But the party has unified around the theme of limiting increases in government spending.

"It's risky because the president is popular and because of his charisma," said Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.). "And when you don't have a single spokesman, it's hard to communicate. But there is a sharp philosophical divide."

GOP officials said they would avoid personal attacks against Obama. "It has to be about the policies," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.).

That already sounds shaky. Even more as the WaPo article continues:

Republicans have already lined up to oppose Obama's budget, but they acknowledge it will be hard to make it clear to the public that they have a vision beyond opposing the president.

"One of the challenges that is presented to the minority party is to get heard," Steele said last week on NBC's "Today" show. "We're going to keep pushing it and trying to make as much noise as we can in a positive direction."

And on some issues, Republicans might have trouble presenting a unified strategy because they do not agree internally. Although House Republicans have organized a group to produce an alternative to the health-care proposal Obama and congressional Democrats are working on, there are strong differences among Republicans on how to approach the issue.

It seems that Obama is reading to the Republicans straight out of Sun Tzu's classic, The Art of War:
30. Disciplined and calm, to await the appearance
of disorder and hubbub amongst the enemy:--this is the art
of retaining self-possession.
Whether or not the Democrats themselves remain united is an interesting question, as the party is brilliant at slitting its own throat.

But let no one forget which party spent the last eight years either getting us into this mess or failing to prevent or even temper it, for their own ideological and corruption-based reasons.

And don't forget that in the only national plebiscite this country holds, once every four years, we voted resoundingly for "change" last November.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Still the Man

A month and a half into his first term and our President is still working hard and making us proud. Here's this week's video address:

Here's the kind of rich folks -- who was a fully functioning contributor to the disaster of the Bush/Cheney Administration that left Obama with as few options as they could -- that he's up against while he tries to pull the U.S.A. into the 21st Century:

Bonus interview: Obama spent 35 minutes with The New York Times and even called later for more clarification. Favorite quotes:

Q. The first six weeks have given people a glimpse of your spending priorities. Are you a socialist as some people have suggested?

A. You know, let’s take a look at the budget – the answer would be no.
What I’m refusing to do and what I’ve instructed my staff that we will not do is to try to kick the can down the road, to try to paper over problems, try to use gimmicks on budgets, try to pretend that health care is not an issue, to continue with a situation where we are exporting – importing – more and more oil from the middle east, continuing with a situation in which average working families are seeing their wages flat line. At some point, we’ve got to take on these problems.

Let's get his back.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The D Word

Unemployment is at a 25-year high, and that's the official 8.1% which doesn't include those who have given up on looking or are in part-time jobs when they'd prefer full-time, i.e. getting their old job back, which is estimated (the "U-6"number) at 14.8%.

Yep, Bush, Cheney, Phil Gramm and their fellow geniuses have bankrupted America, just like many on the left had been predicting all along. And now they try to pin it on Obama.

What's really happening is a complete remaking of the workforce, Industrial Revolution-style. This is where the rape of the Earth and our greed for luxury is meeting the road. Slews of the jobs going away are not coming back, some will take years to return, but essentially America has to reorganize huge sectors of its economy around new forms of businesses and work. It's why the stimulus is so crucial and why the safer landing would have included universal health insurance already in place.

Instead, those who got us here in the first place, think that decent health care is only a right for those rich enough for it.

Don't let them tag Obama. Make they pay so they can't do this again for a long, long time.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Ponzi Network

I'm not sure how long this video will be available, since Viacom always pulls them from YouTube, so go to this HuffPo link if it disappears below, but Jon Stewart's evisceration of CNBC in the wake of Wall Street mouthpiece Rick Santelli's Daily Show guest appearance cancellation is one of the finest and most visceral explanations of everything wrong with today's financial cable news ever created -- better than any created by any news organization:

And to think it was on a "comedy" show...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

What a Rush

I remember when the phrase, "rush," first came into vogue back in the 1970's. It referred to drug use, of course, that first over-the-top-of-the-hill feeling that users reportedly experienced when they got high. It also came to mean any sudden, positive excitement, like the first Indiana Jones movie or mega-roller coaster ride or performing onstage in a rock band for the first time. As in, "What a rush!"

That comes to mind as I originally intended to take it very easy tonight and just write about the latest total moron in the news, someone so inept that they put their cat in their bong to calm it down and (this is where the story gets, uh, fuzzy) appeared to have smoked the bong with the cat in it.

It's a new Dr. Seuss book: The Cat in the Bong Comes Back. "Would you smoke it with a cat? Would you smoke it in a hat?"

How stoned was that guy? I mean, smoking out of a cat bong...what a rush!

But the real Rush of the week is the gift that keeps on giving:

Per one of Josh Marshall's equally entertained readers:
You know what's great about all this Rush nonsense? It looks like the Democrats, from Robert Gibbs to Rahm to the DCCC, are finally using some of the techniques of bitch-slap politics against the
Republicans. If GOPers are put on the spot and agree with Rush, they're taking an unpopular position about the direction of the country. If they disagree, they're immediately forced to grovel and look weak doing it. Only in this case it's sort of like the bitch-slap theory combined with jujitsu, because the Dems are actually getting Rush to administer the slaps. I'm about your age, and I'm not sure I've ever seen the Dems have the confidence to make Republicans look weak like this.
The Dems have put up the "I'm Sorry Rush" apology widget. How fast was that? And just in case anyone thinks that "Drac" Limbaugh is somehow cuddly, Media Matters has a historic library of Rush's nasty mouth, going back to when he called 13 year-old Chelsea Clinton the White House dog.

But Rush was right about one thing. There was a great desire among maybe almost 50% of the country to want George W. Bush to fail, starting with a desire for him to lost the post-election shenanigans to Al Gore, since he had lost the popular vote. DeRosa World has a nice endorseable list. My personal faves:

I wanted President Bush, Jr. to fail to steal the surplus the Clinton Administration left him.

I wanted President Bush, Jr. to fail in raping our tax code.

I wanted President Bush, Jr. to fail to privatize Social Security.

I wanted President Bush, Jr. to fail in mocking climate change.

I wanted President Bush, Jr. to fail in letting Osama Bin Laden escape.

I wanted President Bush, Jr. to fail getting re-elected in 2004.

I wanted President Bush, Jr. to fail in shredding the Constitution.

I wanted President Bush, Jr. to fail in sanctioning torture.

I wanted President Bush, Jr. to fail causing a second Republican 'great depression'.

I wanted President Bush, Jr. to fail in looting the Treasury days before he left office.

There's more goodies. In fact, this may be the most entertaining week in non-election politics since Bill Clinton called Newt Gingrich's bluff and turned the tables on his smugness.

There is no star in the Republican Party the equal of Rush. Palin, Jindal, Steele, Romney. I mean, c'mon; Huckabee is the smartest, Paul (i.e. some descendant of his) is the future. Christ and Huntsman and Flake and maybe Owens all show promise. Cantor is a joke, McConnell is relatively toothless (and lucky to still have a job), Boehner doesn't seem very bright. Coleman is dead man walking, Santorum is over, Delay is over, Gingrich is a legend in his own mind, Giuliani is over. Thompson... McCain...


Gotta wonder what they're smokin'.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Like a Violin

Watch the Republicans dance to the jiggy-jig-jig of Rush Limbaugh, as the Obama Administration plays the violin. Per Rahm:

Newly elected Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele tries to distance the mainstream of his party from Limbaugh and, like every single other Republican who has done so before him, gets slapped down by Rush and crawls back in on his knees begging His Corpulence's forgiveness. Grown men.

What's worse, other recent GOP screw-ups feel obliged to jump on the bandwagon:

The most recent offering of support came from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who on Monday night said that he was glad to see RNC Chairman Michael Steele apologize to Limbaugh after Steele had called the conservative talk show host's program "incendiary" and "ugly."

"I'm glad he apologized," said Jindal, appearing on CNN's Larry King Live. "I think the chairman is a breath of fresh air for the party. As I said before I think Rush is a leader for many conservatives and says things that people are concerned about."

I don't give Steele a year in the job, and by a year I mean June.

Everything is magnified right now because, as E.J. Dionne nails it:

The central issue in American politics now is whether the country should reverse a three-decade long trend of rising inequality in incomes and wealth.
So David Frum, however misguided his political affiliation might be, has how Limbaugh fits in right:

On the one side, the president of the United States: soft-spoken and conciliatory, never angry, always invoking the recession and its victims. This president invokes the language of “responsibility,” and in his own life seems to epitomize that ideal: He is physically honed and disciplined, his worst vice an occasional cigarette. He is at the same time an apparently devoted husband and father. Unsurprisingly, women voters trust and admire him.

And for the leader of the Republicans? A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as “losers.” With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence – exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we’re cooperating! Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush’s every rancorous word – we’ll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time.

The Republican Party is in a state of civil war. I'm not sure how long it will last if Limbaugh, Palin and the like continue to define the core party, because it already feels like the moderates and giving up, past a fight or aging out of their roles. Maybe, like the Whig Party, the GOP splits up, with the most rightwing keeping the trademark.

They're promising tactics while Obama is running the long game. Unlike with Democrats of recent vintage, being on the high wire at all times is a key component of his plan. And he's shown he can handle risk -- unlike his current adversaries.

All they do is whine whenever the truth comes out.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Biggest Question Mark

I've been reveling bromantical since yesterday, even going over the best part with guys friends, by phone and text, like:
"The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long," Obama said in his weekly radio and video address. "But I don't. I work for the American people."
I can't remember the last Democrat that I really thought was a badass. Maybe Bill Clinton when he handily won the apocalyptic-billed staredown with then House Leader Newt Gingrich. Maybe FDR:
Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.
So unlike Presidents Cheney or Bush Jr., Obama's shown his toughness now months after convincing the last hold-outs that he had it in a campaign setting, now with how he has commenced governing. There's a long way to go but, like FDR, he seems to enjoy a good fight.

I believe the course he's taking on the economy, and hopefully soon the banks, is the right one, and at some level I think all of that is solvable, and that he's making the right bets. And I even believe there is a destination for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will include both Israel's survival and the chance for a non-degraded life for Palestinian families, even if it isn't easy to get there.

But the Iran question is the most problematic of all, the conundrum. The fascist theocracy running the country has no incentive to stop building atomic energy, as the oil will run out, but it also has no incentive to stop moving towards atomic weaponry, if the regime wants to protect itself.

The good news is that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on Sunday that Iran is not close to being capable of making nuclear weapons.

The bad news is that the regime is still evil:
A U.S. journalist has been arrested in Iran, and her father said Sunday she told him in a brief phone call she was detained after buying a bottle of wine.

Roxana Saberi, 31, has not been heard from since her last call on Feb. 10, her father, Reza, told The Associated Press on Sunday.

"We haven't heard anything," he said. The family decided to go public, he said, "because we wanted to get some information."

...Roxana Saberi is a freelance journalist who has reported for National Public Radio and other media and has lived in Iran for six years...

...Saberi's father said his daughter was finishing a book on Iran and had planned to return to the United States this year.

The book is about the culture and the people of Iran, he said. She was hoping to finish it in the next couple of months and come home to have it published.

On one hand, they're showing their hand: they're scared enough of her book to arrest her. On the other, they're very, very bad news.

My guess is that this will be the longest game of the Obama Administration. He and Secretary of State Clinton must be prepared for a very long period of engagement in hopes that the longer it goes on, the more it will weaken the existing regime, as did cultural infiltration of the Soviet Union. And think about how much easier it is now to get illicit cultural and political materials from our side into there -- it just beams in. Easier to hide, as you don't even need to store locally anymore.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but does there seem to be a knottier problem, especially with Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld having removed Iran's enemies to the West and East. Especially with Iran wanting to best Saudi Arabia in control of the region.

Especially with all that oil.

Good vs. Evil?

There's a very important point at the heart of Conservatism that should always be part and pole of the general political debate, which is the notion of liberty in so much as it runs into conflict with equality, two key tenets of our Independence from Britain and our Constitution. America was built on rule of law over rule of mob, and while we aren't always true to that ideal, the idea of equality, i.e. equal justice under one set of laws, is at the core of American greatness just as much as the freedom to be whomever you can be, which gives us our engine of perpetual innovation.

And while the pendulum swings between Roosevelt and Reagan and back to Obama, there is an American middle that at least tries to stay on the side of the common man or woman, the idea that this is a non-ideological tension, that somewhere in the middle we're all in it together.

Not so much with the #1 daily voice of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh. Mr. Limbaugh, in some sort of open-necked Dracula look, was the featured speaker at the CPAC event on Saturday, serving red meat for the faithful:

"This notion that I want the president to fail, this shows you the problem we've got. This is nothing more than common sense and to not be able to say it? Why in the world would I want what we just described: rampant government growth, welfare that is not being created yet is being spent? What is in this, what is possibly in this that any of us want to succeed? Did the Democrats want the war of Iraq to fail? They certainly did. And they not only wanted the war in Iraq to fail they proclaimed it a failure.... They hoped George Bush failed. So what is so strange about being honest and saying I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation?"

The crowd, watching in three individual ballrooms because of overcrowding, went absolutely wild.

Notwithstanding the elliptical lying about the Bush Administration, yjr self-justifying mischaracterizations of the left and the deliberate context-ectomy of his comments, his core argument takes the liberty tenant of Conservative philosophy and uses it as a blunt object, pounding fear into anger with the language of hate.

He's not the only fighter, though. Our President today discussed his newly submitted budget in his weekly video address. I'm fascinated with how strategically he passed the stimulus, deflating a lot of hubbub and proving his ability to win quickly and against conventional Washington wisdom, and followed it up with a vague feint towards bank bailouts, capping public attention with a triumphant plan for ending the Iraq War in early 2011, so that the budget made less of a splash, feeling more like an extension of the stimulus battle he already won.

That package may have been the pilot, but this is the full series. Obama is seeking to make so many of the changes he campaigned and won on, and that so many have wished for for so long, in the most direct way possible, i.e. budgetary policy. Included in his plan is the first battle on the road to a fully reformed national health insurance system. And as Obama says:

"I realize that passing this budget won’t be easy. Because it represents real and dramatic change, it also represents a threat to the status quo in Washington. I know that the insurance industry won’t like the idea that they’ll have to bid competitively to continue offering Medicare coverage, but that’s how we’ll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs for American families. I know that banks and big student lenders won’t like the idea that we’re ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that’s how we’ll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won’t like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that’s how we’ll help fund a renewable energy economy that will create new jobs and new industries. I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this:

"So am I."

Am I wrong? Is this not a struggle between the force of activism, optimism, energetic thoughtfulness determined to help average Americans across this great land, vs. a recidivist, fearful, bitter ideological foe?

Is this not good:

vs. evil?:

You be the judge.