Thursday, December 10, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
And the GOP still hasn't figured out how to use the Internet in positive ways preferring instead to be nasty and hateful (see above links).
Now enter the Connecticut GOP which thought it would be fun to set up 33 impostor Twitter accounts and impostor Web pages pretending to be the state's Democratic leaders, including the Connecticut Speaker of the House. The Republican plan was to send out fake posts under the Democrats names misstating their positions on various issues.
Twitter has suspended the impostor accounts as a violation of their terms of service, leaving the state GOP bewildered.
"That's unfortunate," was state Republican Chairman Chris Healy's response when told of Twitter, Inc.'s decision. "I'm not quite sure what the issue is, other than that the Democrats were successful in stopping free speech."It seems that even in 2009, our world frightens and confuses Republicans.
Healy's party may have suffered a setback with the loss of its Twitter campaign, but Republicans are still operating the 33 Web sites they created using the names of those same Democratic lawmakers. As far as anyone knows, this is the first time any state party has used such a tactic to mock its state opponents.
"It's our idea, actually," said Healy. He said Republicans want voters to understand how badly they're being screwed by the Democrats who approved billions in new taxes rather than cut spending.
Healy has no intention of shutting those sites down just because of Democratic protests.
"They didn't think of it first, so that's why they're whining," Healy said.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
My drinking buddy, Dave Weigel explains,
The Democrats are in worse political shape than they were a year ago because unemployment is at 9.8 percent, the war in Afghanistan has grown less popular, and the bailouts of struggling banks are seen as wastes of money that haven’t worked. Republicans benefit when they talk about this stuff. But Beck and the others don’t let them talk about this stuff. For the past few months, they have moved the discussion onto fantasy terrain, accusing the president of reaching for dictatorial powers and surrounding himself with “radicals” who want to destroy capitalism.Andrew has a perfect example.
....by paying attention to these conservative witch hunts, they’ve definitely kept their base revved up. But in the current political context, it seems like they’re missing the forest for some shrubs. It’s as if Democrats tried to press their advantages in 2005 not by going after the Iraq War or the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina, but by spending weeks attacking mid-ranking members of his administration and claiming that President George W. Bush was driving the nation toward fascism. And remember, one of the huge political mistakes of 2005 was the Republican decision to do a full-court press on an issue that had come from conservative activists and pundits: the fate of Terri Schiavo.
"You can kill Taliban forever because they are not a finite number". Gen. Stanley McChrystal.Without question, the greatest challenge the United States has faced since Vietnam is the current war in Afghanistan. The war in Iraq was a walk in the park by comparison. Iraq was a modern nation with modern infrastructure and a literate and urban population. Afghanistan is none of these things. At best, one if four Afghans can read, and in many parts of the country, almost no one can read. In Helmand province, where the British were tasked with training police recruits, not one of the recruits could read. How do you train a police recruit who is illiterate and can't complete a simple incident report?
In casual conversations about Afghanistan, an American arrogance often pops up, especially from Conservatives, that by simply providing more American firepower, the sea will part, rainbows will sprout, and I guess the illiterate will read. The failure of Vietnam, they will explain, (58,000 American dead, 2,000 missing and 303,000 wounded, millions of tons of bombs dropped) was a lack of US Military commitment.
The Sunday NY Times Magazine has an excellent article that explains in reasonable detail exactly what Gen McChrystal and through him, the American people, are up against in Afghanistan. and it is daunting.
The magnitude of the choice presented by McChrystal, and now facing President Obama, is difficult to overstate. For what McChrystal is proposing is not a temporary, Iraq-style surge — a rapid influx of American troops followed by a withdrawal. McChrystal’s plan is a blueprint for an extensive American commitment to build a modern state in Afghanistan, where one has never existed, and to bring order to a place famous for the empires it has exhausted. Even under the best of circumstances, this effort would most likely last many more years, cost hundreds of billions of dollars and entail the deaths of many more American women and men.And a lot of serious people think it's folly to even consider taking on this task of nation building.
George F. Will, the columnist, recently said as much. So did Rory Stewart, the British scholar-diplomat who has spent years in the region. Vice President Biden is said to favor such a choice.Nevertheless, I think it's worth a try, but only if we have the aid, financial and otherwise, of the rest of the developed world. We must stop believing that as America we can make miracles through the sure force of our will and with enough guns and bombs. The mission in Afghanistan will only succeed if we modernize this stoneage country with roads, schools, wells and electricity. Of course safety and security come first, but that is only the beggining.
...Richard Haass,... president of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Before that, through June 2003, Haass was director of policy planning at the State Department under President George W. Bush.) ...is particularly persuasive, in part because he does not pretend to have easy answers. After eight years of mismanagement and neglect, Haass says, every choice the United States faces in Afghanistan is dreadful. The weight of the evidence, he says, suggests that curtailing our ambitions is the option least dreadful.
Read the article and tell me what you think.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Via Andrew Sullivan, Nick Beaudrot writing at Donkeylicious makes note of a GOP thats skills at policy are so atrophied as to make them useless,
Lately I seem to be having conversations with wonkish right-of-center types who have this-or-that idea about how to design a simpler, more efficient, and more effective policy to deal with taxation, climate change, health care, whatever. But it always stops there. No one talks about managing the transition. No one talks about convincing Mitch McConnell to back these ideas. No one talks about sixty votes. No one talks about the interest group dynamics in Washington. No one even talks about working for a decade to elect members of Congress who might be more amenable to these sorts of policies. It's just policy in a vacuum. Which is an interesting intellectual exercise, but not a legitimate substitute for governance, an ultimately messy endeavor.As we are reminded on a daily basis, the Dems could certainly use some help at crafting meaningful and beneficial public policies in all these areas, but lawmakers have no interest.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Echoing Michael Gerson's blog post from late September accusing Obama of serious narcissism in his UN speech, George Will jumps on the Olympic ego trip bandwagon. In his column today, Will does a word count:"In the 41 sentences of her remarks, Michelle Obama used some form of the personal pronouns 'I' or 'me' 44 times. Her husband was, comparatively, a shrinking violet, using those pronouns only 26 times in 48 sentences." Gerson had said of Obama's UN speech that he could not recall another "major American speech in which the narcissism of a leader has been quite so pronounced."
Ezra points us to Language Logs' Mark Liberman who took a look at this question once before and republished his results today in response to Will's column,
I took the transcript of Obama's first press conference (from 2/9/2009), and found that he used 'I' 163 times in 7,775 total words, for a rate of 2.10%. He also used 'me' 8 times and 'my' 35 times, for a total first-person singular pronoun count of 206 in 7,775 words, or a rate of 2.65%.
For comparison, I took George W. Bush's first two solo press conferences as president (from 2/22/2001 and 3/29/2001), and found that W used 'I' 239 times in 6,681 total words, for a rate of 3.58% — a rate 72% higher than Obama's rate. President Bush also used 'me' 26 times, 'my' 31 times, and 'myself' 4 times, for a total first-person singular pronoun count of 300 in 6,681 words, or a rate of 4.49% (59% higher than Obama).
For a third data point, I took William J. Clinton's first two solo press conferences as president (from 1/29/1993 and 3/23/1993), and found that he used 'I' 218 times, 'me' 34 times, 'my' 22 times, and 'myself' once, in 6,935 total words. That's a total of 275 first-person singular pronouns, and a rate of 3.14% for 'I' (51% higher than Obama), and 3.87% for first-person singular pronouns overall (50% higher than Obama).
Liberman also considered the possibility that Obama had become more narcissistic with the passage of time,
Liberman should crunch the numbers on some of Reagan's pressers and speeches. Reagan loved to tell stories in which he was the featured hero (including a story of his witnesses the liberation of death camps in occupied Europe which was a complete fabrication. Reagan was never left the US during the WWII years).
As a result of this previous experience, I had a first-person-counting script all ready to go, and it took only a few seconds to check the new transcripts. This time around, Barack Obama's Olympic remarks included 26 first-person-singular words out of 1130, for a rate of 2.3%. This is slightly below his typical rate for presidential press conferences, and a bit more than half the rate of the George W. Bush pressers that I measured earlier (2.3/4.49 = 51%, to be precise).
And finally, like Ezra, I'd love to see Will and Gerson to respond, but there's no chance of that. Will, after all, still denies global warming.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I hate to write about this, but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing.It's all fun and games until a Federal Courthouse is blown up or someone is shot. We've seen in this country where the ugliness can lead.
I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.
And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.
So who will stand up and demand the GOP denounce this hate? It won't be the Chair of the RNC who this week sent out a fundraising appeal comparing Obama's "fanaticism" to Stalin and Kim Jong Il.
When will major media figures press politicians to denounce this stuff? When do they stop getting free passes on ever media appearance?
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
First up, Dan Bartlett,
On page 212 we learn that Dan Bartlett (no relation) a senior White House staffer took credit with the president for an idea Latimer had come up with. The picture of Bartlett Latimer presents confirms what I have heard from other White House staffers--he was utterly incompetent but had a knack for getting along with Bush, which was enough to relentlessly push him up the ladder of success from Bush go-fer to one of the most important officials in government. Latimer says there was a whole group of such people in the White House: "These were mostly well-meaning people who rose to the very top because they were likable, not supremely qualified." That's an understatement.It's not exactly a revelation that personal loyalty to Bush got unqualified hacks promoted to positions far beyond their ability, ie Alberto Gonzales and Harriett Miers.
Latimer then turns to Rove,
Latimer is surprisingly critical of Karl Rove, given that he remains a darling of conservatives. Latimer correctly notes that Bush should have won the 2000 election easily and that it was close only because Rove stupidly wasted millions of campaign dollars in a futile effort to win California in the last days of the campaign instead of shoring up Florida. Latimer also notes that Bush's re-election should have been a slam-dunk but ended up being close. Thus Latimer thinks that Rove's reputation as a political genius is totally undeserved. I agree. Here Latimer summarizes his assessment of Rove:Again, this is not exactly a revelation. A Republican friend of mine asked me to admit that Rove was a political genius and my response was the same as Latimer's. No genius would have had Bush wasting his time in California which he had no hope of winning, the last few weeks of the election. I call the California strategy Karl's Folly. Under Rove's guidance Bush was reelected with the smallest margin in American history and this during a war. Republicans still defend Rove but only because of their instinct to circle the wagons. Soon enough, they will be throwing him under the bus.
"Karl was not the hero of the Bush White House, the brilliant behind-the scenes strategist. He was what all the liberals said he was: the villain. And to make matters worse, a clumsy one at that. He employed ham-handed tactics, put forward obviously unqualified subordinates, and stubbornly defended them. He'd turned out to be less a Voldemort than a Boris Badenov chasing Rocky and Bullwinkle."
(HT again to Andrew)
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
By the end of the Clinton administration, I was content to celebrate the triumph of conservatism as I understood it, and had no desire for other than incremental changes in the economic and social structure of the United States. I saw no need for the estate tax to be abolished, marginal personal-income tax rates further reduced, the government shrunk, pragmatism in constitutional law jettisoned in favor of "originalism," the rights of gun owners enlarged, our military posture strengthened, the rise of homosexual rights resisted, or the role of religion in the public sphere expanded. All these became causes embraced by the new conservatism that crested with the reelection of Bush in 2004.What Karl Rove hath wrought.
My theme is the intellectual decline of conservatism, and it is notable that the policies of the new conservatism are powered largely by emotion and religion and have for the most part weak intellectual groundings. That the policies are weak in conception, have largely failed in execution, and are political flops is therefore unsurprising. The major blows to conservatism, culminating in the election and programs of Obama, have been fourfold: the failure of military force to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives; the inanity of trying to substitute will for intellect, as in the denial of global warming, the use of religious criteria in the selection of public officials, the neglect of management and expertise in government; a continued preoccupation with abortion; and fiscal incontinence in the form of massive budget deficits, the Medicare drug plan, excessive foreign borrowing, and asset-price inflation.
By the fall of 2008, the face of the Republican Party had become Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber. Conservative intellectuals had no party.
(HT to Andrew Sullivan)
Saturday, September 19, 2009
The majority of Republicans are not racist and oppose Obama's policies because they want him to fail for partisan political reasons -- not because he happens to be of African decent. Anti-Obama Congressional Republican venom doesn't seem any different to me in tone or substance from the anti-Clinton venom that poisoned our politics in the 90's and piqued with only the second time in our nation's history that a president was impeached. These people are serious kooks but their hatred is not about race.
The GOPs problem with race is their all to cozy relationship with racists and racism. I don't have the writing talent of Bob Herbert whose column today clearly explains and calls out the GOP's disgusting tolerance for racism so long as it delivers votes.
Republicans have been openly feeding off of race hatred since the days of Dick Nixon. Today’s conservative activists are carrying that banner proudly. What does anybody think is going on when, as Anderson Cooper pointed out on CNN, one of the leaders of the so-called tea party movement, Mark Williams, refers to the president of the United States as an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug, and a racist in chief.Speaking to my Republican friends, when will you find the courage to denounce the GOP love affair with racism and demand your leaders do the same?
After all these years of race-baiting and stirring the pot of hatred for political gain, it’s too much to ask the leaders of the Republican Party to step forward and denounce this spreading stain of reprehensible conduct. Republicans are trying to ride that dependable steed of bigotry back to power.
But it’s time for other Americans, of whatever persuasion, to take a stand, to say we’re better than this.
Mitt spoke today at the Value Voters meeting in DC and Dave Weigel was there to document the flip-flops.
If this were any other candidate it would be a minor story. After all, we're talking about a politician. Obama was against mandates before he was in favor of them, for instance.
Mitt Romney at the Values Voter Summit this morning:
When government is trying to take over health care, buying car companies, bailing out banks, and giving half the White House staff the title of czar – we have every good reason to be alarmed and to speak our mind!
Romney at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February:
I know we didn’t all agree on TARP. I believe that it was necessary to prevent a cascade of bank collapses. For free markets to work, there has to be a currency and a functioning financial system.
But Romney's flip-flops involve polar opposites. In the 30 years I've followed politics I've never seen anything like Mitt.
Romney was against Reagan before he was for him; for abortion before he was against it; for gun control before he was against it, for universal health care before he was against it, and on, and on, and on,....
Does Romney stand for anything? In a couple hours any opo firm could turn out a dozen ads to run against Romney.
Go to Youtube and search "Romney flip flop" and you will find many, many video. Here are a few, starting with my favorite:
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
For black people, the clear benefit of Obama is that he is quietly exposing an ancient hatred that has simmered in this country for decades. Rightly or wrongly, a lot of us grew tired of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, mostly because they presented easy foils for Limbaugh-land. Moreover, again rightly or wrongly, they were used to define all of us.Of course there is much more, and his take on Sharpton, et al, is also spot-on.
But Barack Obama, bourgeois in every way that bourgeois is right and just, will not dance.He tells kids to study--and they seethe. He accepts an apology for an immature act of rudeness--and they go hysterical. He takes his wife out for a date--and their veins bulge. His humanity, his ordinary blackness, is killing them....
You will not find a more clear-eyed view on race in American than Coats' but this is only the smallest part of his writing. His Atlantic blog really is a daily must read.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
You know you have crossed the 'reasonableness line' for conservatives when Joe Scarborough is calling you out. Joe was a class of 94 Congressman of the 'Newt Army'.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Not everyone knows Rob Miller, but thanks to Joe Wilson, that is changing in a dramatic way,
There's a gold rush on for Rob Miller, the Democrat running in South Carolina against Rep. Joe "You Lie" Wilson. He's taken in more than $100,000 through the ActBlue.com Web site since Wilson broke protocol in the House chamber Wednesday night with his shocking shout at President Obama. And the total is rising by the minute.Remember when Republicans used to curtly speak of "Bush derangement syndrome"?
About half the money is coming from readers of the liberal Daily Kos blog through a group called "Defeating the man who yelled 'liar' at Obama." Other groups also apparently formed in the passion of the moment have names like "No More Name Calling" and "Joe's Gotta Go (People against inappropriate outbursts)."
By the way, a TPM reader has a very insightful explanation of why Wilson lost his self-control that is worth a read.
UPDATE: Rob Miller's ActBlue page has now raised more than $350,000 for his campaign to unseat Joe Wilson. If you have a few extra bucks, throwing Rob's way sends an important message to the GOP.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
But he has suffered from his lack of leadership in health care and was tonight too little too late? Time will tell.
[Editor's note: The original video posted here was removed from Youtube and has been replaced by the following videos breaking the speech into 5 parts]
The interviews were conducted over a 15 months with the understanding that the article would be embargoed until after Paulson left office. The result is an interesting look into the mindset of the Treasury Secretary during the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression.
Paulson wouldn't criticize lawmakers by name but was clearly frustrated with Republicans who would reassure him in private and publicly attack his plans.
Interestingly, life-long Republican and former Nixon aid Paulson has much praise for both Speaker Pelosi --“Nancy Pelosi to me was a wonder in this deal, and she was available 24-7, anytime I called her on the cell phone" -- and admiration for Barney Frank,
As I look back over our conversations, one man whose name comes up frequently and stands out as an exception to everything that left Paulson cold about Washington’s way of doing business is Barney Frank,...“This is a guy that’s got the intellect, he’s got the energy, he cares, and he wants to legislate, knows how to legislate,” Paulson said. “He’s interested in getting across the finish line. Now, I just wish he were a Republican and we all shared the same policy principles, and you’d cut a wide swath!”One last excerpt that also includes Frank. On September 29 of last year, House Republicans had defeated the TARP bill which has been hammered out over a weekend,
Paulson and administration officials were shocked, though Barney Frank read the situation correctly, as Paulson recalled: “He said, ‘Well, sometimes, you know, kids have got to run away from home and be hungry before they come back.’ ” Four days later, the runaways came home, and a barely revised version of the program passed. “It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, to go up there, to go through these hearings, which are all about … it’s entertainment, and it’s speaking to the people back home, and it’s sound bites. And to be doing that at the same time you’re trying to negotiate something this important was exhausting.”
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Perhaps this was the day the youngest Kennedy brother became a man.
Teddy's words remembering Bobby could be said about him today,
My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.
Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.
As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:"Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not."
Sunday, August 16, 2009
On Saturday McCain tweeted,
Late evening with Col. Qadhafi at his "ranch" in Libya - interesting meeting with an interesting man.Think they swapped stories about blowing passenger jets out of the sky?
Friday, August 14, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Cato's Ilya Shapairo writes that Judge Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court "represents the very worst of racial politics,..."
Matt thinks Shapairo's view may be a little shallow,
....the idea that picking one appellate judge rather than another for a promotion could possibly be the very worst of racial politics is ludicrous. At its very worst, racial politics in the United States involved the systematic disenfranchisement of millions of people, their subjection to pervasive social and economic discrimination, and the maintenance of the apartheid system via the threat and reality of state-sponsored terrorist violence. At its very worst, racial politics in the United States involved persistent filibustering to prevent the federal government from doing anything to curb widespread lynching. At its very worst, racial politics in the United States involved a violent rebellion that sought to dismantle the country in the name of chattel slavery and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.Matt's being polite. The Right's problem with race is that they remain dominated by racists.
But despite that long history, broad swathes of the American right remain persistently and willfully blind to the problem of discrimination against non-whites. Their view is, essentially, that racism emerged as a problem sometime in the year 1967 and that the problem consists of white people being unduly burdened by efforts to remediate something or other.
Monday, August 10, 2009
IBD says we need look no further than the British healthcare system to know what's in store. “People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K." IBD warns, "where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."
Of course, that same Stephen Hawking who wouldn’t have a chance in the United Kingdom was in fact born in the United Kingdom, has lived his entire life in the United Kingdom and lives there still today, at the ripe old age of 67. (He was in fact hospitalized earlier this month.) Hawking is, you might say, living, breathing proof that these people are first-class fools.Can't argue with that.
(HT to TPM)
Saturday, August 08, 2009
The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.We've been down this road before with the GOP. It's all fun and games until a Federal Courthouse gets blown up.
There are lots of valid criticisms that can be made against the health reform plans moving through Congress -- I've made a few myself. But there is no credible way to look at what has been proposed by the president or any congressional committee and conclude that these will result in a government takeover of the health-care system. That is a flat-out lie whose only purpose is to scare the public and stop political conversation.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Senator McCaskill (D-MO) opposes $2B in new money for the program but would consider allowing already appropriated stimulus money be moved to this program.
Call Sen McCaskill's office -- (202) 224-6154-- and politely tell her that you support the $2B in new money for the program and that you hope she will reconsider her opposition.
While you're at it, it wouldn't hurt to call Sen Bond (who opposes everything except a tax cut or another drink) --(202) 224-5721 -- and let him know you support the new Cash for Clunkers funding.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Fred Kaplan provides some excellent context on the killing of the F-22.
This really is a big deal. Congress has not killed a program since 1977 when the Carter administration killed the B-1 which Reagan resurrected.
The DoD needs a dramatic change in thinking about their weapons systems and blue sky funding for exotic weapons systems with little or no utility.
Kaplan quotes Sec Def Gates in a speech delivered July 16 that the US cannot continue
to design and buy—as we have the last 60 years—only the most technologically advanced versions of weapons to keep up with or stay ahead of another superpower adversary, especially one that imploded nearly a generation ago. … We must break the old habit of adding layer upon layer of cost, complexity, and delay to systems that are so expensive and so elaborate that only a small number can be built, and that are then usable only in a narrow range of low-probability scenarios.Imagine if your state police demanded $120m to purchase 600 Mercedes v12 SL600's at $200k each because that was the only way to have the fastest, most advanced production car. This is exactly what the DoD does on every single program.
While the rest of the Western world provides health care and builds out modern infastructure, we fall into neglect and disrepair laboring under a cold war era military budget spending lavishly to fight an enemy that disappeared a generation ago and it will bury us if we don't rein it in.
And there is nothing fiscally conservative about anyone who votes for the status quo.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Campbell does not want to concede on national TV that Obama is the legitimate president of the United States and Matthews won't let it go. Good for him.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Upon checking in on Sunday, I walked to the nearest metro station and purchased a 3 day pass. The metro system in Budapest is 100 years old and has suffered from years of neglect, however, in recent years improvements have been made and the system (subways, trams and buses) seems to work well. Hungarian is much more an Eastern than European language. Signs do not have English help making figuring out the station stops a little tricky but all very manageable with a map and a little effort.
I hoped on the metro and made my way to the Terror Museum. The museum looks back at many years of terror inflicted on the Hungarian people first by the fascist (both homegrown and Nazis) and then by the Soviet liberators and attempted revolutions. The bottom line is that Budapest was nearly leveled by the Soviet siege of the Nazi occupiers in 1945 and again badly damaged by the 1956 revolution that ultimately failed to overthrow the Soviet overlords.
Learning about Budapest's history has colored my view of city. While many parts are shabby many other parts in the tourist areas I'm visiting are beautiful. Construction is going on everywhere as the city modernizes with amazing speed. The EU needs to do for Hungary what it has done for Spain and is doing for Poland.
I spent today walking along the Danube, around the Parliament building and went through St Stephen's Basilica. My timing at the Basilica was perfect. A free concert by the European Youth Orchestra was underway and I was able to sit and enjoy for about 30 minutes. The building itself is stunningly beautiful and in excellent shape. I was able to go up to the top of the dome and walk around the outside taking it a great view of the city.
After lunch at a river cafe I headed up Andrasse ut which is a very nice shopping and dinning street where the Opera is located. I walked past a movie crew setting up to shoot while others were eating in a mobile dinning bus. I'm told Spielberg shot many street scenes for "Munich" on this street. I can see why Budapest would be a popular location for a movie set in Europe.
My hotel is very nice and very reasonable. Checking in on Sunday I did not see many people and wondered if the hotel was full. I know tourism is off in Europe and I was able to negotiate a significant reduction in my room rate in Prague. Well, when I went down for breakfast this morning, the room was packed. It's very common for European hotels to include breakfast but one never knows exactly what that means. Big breakfasts are an American and UK tradition while mainland Europe tends for the "Continental" breakfast, hence the name. This hotel breakfast has everything from eggs, bacon and sausage to cereals, breads, cheeses and cold cuts (a popular Euro breakfast item).
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Paris is always great. It rained every night but yesterday was sunny and cool and I walked from the Eiffel Tower through the 7th Arr (my usual Paris address) along the Seine to Norte Dame and Ile Saint Louis around to the Louve.
Americans like to talk about the rudeness of French but that has never been my experience. On this trip - like the last - people could not have been more friendly and helpful everywhere I went. They went out of their way to speak English to me even has I tried laughably to speak French. Every cafe experience was pefect, friendly and easy.
The neighborhood in which I stayed -- Etoile and Ternes -- in the 8th Arr really grew on me. It's more residential than touristy with many upscale shops and cafes. The Paris metro system is sprawling and crazy like the streets of Paris but I now feel comfortable using the system and was easily able to get anywhere I wished.
Headed now to Budapest via easyJet which is the British version of Southwest complete with all the charm.
Friday, July 17, 2009
After our original plane in Chicago was taken out of service for maintenance, a substitute 767 was quickly found and we left Chicago 90 minutes late. The flight was very smooth and I actually slept reasonably well, arriving in Paris just 1 hour late.
Yesterday, Paris was hot (89f) and sunny. Last night thunderstorms moved in (while I was having dinner at an open air cafe) and it's been cloudy and cool since.
Getting in late meant I only had to wait about an hour for my room which really made the day much better. After a hot shower, I headed to the Orangerie Museum and took in the Tuileries before heading back to the hotel for a break.
Today I took the Metro to the Picasso Museum and then navigated my way through le Marais to the Pompidou Center and their enormous collection of 20th Century art.
The iPhone's maps application is pretty handy. Getting off at the St Sabastien metro stop I typed "muse de picasso" into the map and hit the search button. Within a few seconds, walking directions popped up without having even entered an address. I used the GPS tracking to make sure I was on course. Same thing when heading to Pompidou. Just typed in "pompidou center" and walking directions popped up.
Another great iPhone app is Paris Metro 09 which lets me pick starting and stopping stations and it routes me -- all off line-- with the most direct train lines. Anyone who has used the Paris metro knows what an overwhelming maze it can be.
Having had my fill of museums for the day I walked past Norte Dame and took the metro back to the neighborhood by my hotel for a sandwich and some wine at a local cafe. Yesterday I wasn't crazy about the neighbor around the Hilton, but it's growing on my fast. The cafes I've hit have been filled with locals and the food has been good and reasonable.
One typical Paris Metro story. I was at the Bastille station looking at a map on the wall when a very young Roma girl walked up to me and literally stuck a tiny infant in my face as I turned around. The girl could not have been older than 16 and the baby appeared to be only days old. She held the baby up like it was on a platter. The baby was sleeping but not even wrapped in a blanket. Behind her was another girl who appeared to be slightly older with an older baby. When I said "NO!" both girls just giggled and moved on to the next tourist. She never spoke to me so it was unclear if she wanted money or was selling the baby.
Tonight I'm heading to Monparnasse for dinner and more walking around Paris.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
It's an interesting feature. I have it set to just show the city. I could set it so that it shows my precise location, which I think is too much information for a public web site.
I will try to make occasional posts, and will hopefully be adding photos to my Flickr page along the way.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Holder, 58, may be on the verge of asserting his independence in a profound way. Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration's brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do. While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months.Needless to say, if Holder appoints a Special Prosecutor the GOP will go into full revolt, the likes of which we have not seen in a very long time.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office just told TPMDC that the senator will file for cloture on the nomination of Robert Groves, whom President Obama tapped to be director of the Census Bureau on April 2.Is it possible that the flaccid Harry Reid has grown a pair? More likely he was told if he didn't start leading he would be ousted.
Groves, the 60-year-old director of the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center, sailed through confirmation hearings in Mid-may, but shortly thereafter, anonymous Republican senators held up his nomination, preventing a confirmation vote and leaving the bureau without a director. Earlier today Roll Call (sub. req.) reported that those holds were placed by Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and David Vitter (R-LA).
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Before making a decision later this year, the White House also is expected to look at other economists, including Roger Ferguson and Alan Blinder, former Fed vice chairmen; Janet Yellen, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank; and Christina Romer, chairman of Mr. Obama's Council of Economic Advisers.I think one of the biggest mistakes Bill Clinton made was to appoint Alan Greenspan to a second term. An absurd cult of the personality developed around him that made it impossible for anyone to disagree with him. And it's undeniable that his monetary policy of keeping interest rates unusually low during Bush's first term was a major contributing factor the our economic collapse.
Mr. Bernanke's reputation on Wall Street has ebbed and flowed. But a Wall Street Journal survey conducted this week of 46 private-sector economists found that 43 endorsed his reappointment. "Bernanke's leadership during this financial crisis was outstanding, but not flawless," said Scott Anderson of Wells Fargo & Co., one of those surveyed. "But given human limitations and the limitations of economic and financial knowledge he deserves another tour of duty." Some saw benefits to continuity. "Don't change horses in midstream," said David Wyss of Standard & Poor's. Others cited the alternatives: "Stated differently: Don't appoint Summers," said Nicholas Perna of Perna Associates.
I'm not qualified to make a solid evaluation of Bernanke's performance but has a matter of basic public policy, no Fed Chair should serve more than one term. We don't need any more Greenspans.
And it's my guess that like Clinton before him, the POTUS will find it very hard not to reappoint Bernanke.
An excerpt of DeMint's remarks from The Washington Independent, wherein he was relating a recent conversation with an Iranian immigrant,
They understand socialism. They understand tyrants. But none of us have ever had it here. We don’t even know what it looks like. Part of what we’re trying to do in “Saving Freedom” is just show that where we are, we’re about where Germany was before World War II where they became a social democracy. You still had votes but the votes were just power grabs like you see in Iran, and other places in South America, like Chavez is running down in Venezuela. People become more dependent on the government so that they’re easy to manipulate. And they keep voting for more government because that’s where their security is. When our immigrants get here, they’re worried, because they see it happening here.What exactly is the Senator saying? That a coup may be in order if Republicans continue to lose elections?
Here's the crux,
But despite the unified front they tried to present, it is clear that all of Netanyahu's aides dislike each other: They are constantly badmouthing each other and blaming each other for leaks. Arad, for example, demanded that Hauser undergo a lie-detector test and is now demanding the same of Hefetz. And the latter two say "it is impossible to work with" Arad.....Could Bibi actually believe that the POTUS orders American school children to read political propaganda, or anything else?
Netanyahu appears to be suffering from confusion and paranoia. He is convinced that the media are after him, that his aides are leaking information against him and that the American administration wants him out of office. Two months after his visit to Washington, he is still finding it difficult to communication normally with the White House. To appreciate the depth of his paranoia, it is enough to hear how he refers to Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, Obama's senior aides: as "self-hating Jews."
"He thought that his speech at Bar-Ilan would become mandatory reading at schools in the United States, and when he realized that Obama gave no such order, he went back to being frustrated," one of his associates said.
The article is not well written which calls its credibility into question, but Haartz is a real English language Israeli news outlet. And if half of the article is factual, Bibi's government cannot stand very much longer.
Here's the crux,
Yet there will be no escaping another story line. Faced with exasperating criticism and the accumulating cares of public office -- she quit to cash in. Her admirers can excuse anything, but to the much larger audience of non-admirers, Palin will look a lot like those CEOs who wrecked their banks and the national economy while accepting huge bonuses for themselves personally. John McCain’s slogan in 2008 was "Country First." Palin’s in 2012? "I seen my opportunities, and I took ‘em."Sarah Palin is the very embodiment of everything that is wrong with the Republican party. Guys like Huckabee and Romney only get it half right.
Sarah Palin hasn't left highschool. She is the prom queen writ large as Todd Purdum explains in his entertaining Vanity Fair profile (note that all her critics are Republicans). People are to be used until they no longer advance the princess, then they are cast off. People who criticize Princess are singled out as mean and the princess puffs her lips and plays the victim. Power is for Princess to have her revenge on those who wouldn't worship her or dared to disagree with her.
The simple truth is that with lower oil prices, being the governor of Alaska has become much harder. With the Government in the red and not enough earnings in the Alaska Permanent Fund to send the big checks she promised everyone -- and showing actual leadership out of the question --there was only one thing for Princess to do: Quit, and head south where they still love the GOP's favorite little victim. Watching Romney, Huckabee and Gingrich (with whom she competes most directly for the substantial kook vote) while she was stuck in Alaska dealing with issues prove too much for Princess. And everyone in Alaska is mean now.
In Sarah Palin, the GOP is reaping what it has sowed the last 20 years and it's entertaining as hell to watch. Theocratic anti-intellectualism in a Louis Vuitton silk jacket.
Morgan Stanley plans to repackage a downgraded collateralized debt obligation backed by leveraged loans into new securities with AAA ratings in the first transaction of its kind, said two people familiar with the sale.I seem to recall problems with similar 'securities' in the recent past.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove was deposed Tuesday by attorneys for the House Judiciary Committee, according to Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the panel’s chairman.I'll be surprised if anything comes of this testimony but it's important for at least two reasons. One, the power of Congress to conduct investigations and take sworn testimony; and two, the historical record.
Rove’s deposition began at 10 a.m. and ended around 6:30 p.m, with several breaks, Conyers said.
Conyers would not comment on what Rove told congressional investigators, what the next step in the long-running Judiciary Committee investigation would be or whether Rove would face additional questioning.
Ours is a democracy and it is important to our future survival that history record exactly what took place in the last 8 years. Not looking back makes President Obama's job easier, but it is not good for the country. We need to know even the gory details.
Friday, July 03, 2009
Best cocktail party story ever!
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
The worst kept secret in DC is that Ted Kennedy is gravely ill with cancer and may well never vote in the US Senate again, and certainly cannot be counted on for regular cloture votes. And should Sen Kennedy retire, MA law does not allow the Governor to appoint a replacement. Only the voters may fill any vacancy at the next special election which would take at least months.
Likewise, the 91 year old Sen Byrd has just been released from a 1 month hospital stay and is also very ill and weak, and may never again vote in the Senate.
So in short, Franken makes 58.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Despite GOP pressure to proceed with a Constitutional appeal in the Federal Courts, I expect Norm Coleman to concede the race by days end, Gov Pawlenty to sign a certificate of election tomorrow and for Senator Franken to be sworn in when the Senate resumes business following the holiday recess.
Both Coleman and Pawlenty look forward to a political future, and there is no upside for either fighting a unanimous MN Supreme Court ruling.
No Federal Court would grant an injunction should Coleman file a Federal action, and I would expect the MN Supreme Court to issue a Writ of Mandamus should Pawlenty baulk.
And finally, the GOP doesn't have the votes to maintain a filibuster.
UPDATE: Norm Coleman has conceded to Al Franken.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Paul Krugman puts up the long term data (courtesy of NASA) which is undeniable. Since 1880 (ie, the beginning of the Industrial Revolution) the planet has gotten steadily warmer. Within this long-term trend is lots of short term variations ("noise" as Krugman says) which is invariable the focus of the deniers. I recall that cold snap in the mid 70's very well, by the way.
Many of the global warming deniars are just not intelligent people, but George Will knows better, so why does he continue to trade in intellectual dishonesty?
Friday, June 26, 2009
Matt uses this battle to point out in a very smart post just how dysfunctional the congressional committee system has become,
[The F-22 showdown is] an illustration of America’s desperately dysfunctional institutional structure. One basic problem of democratic governance relates to concentrated interests versus diffuse ones. Organizing broad groups of people to advance the public interest in the face of entrenched opposition is difficult. And the committee structure is like it was designed to make this problem as bad as possible. The upshot of the way congress does business is that agriculture policy is made by a special minority of legislators who represent the interests of agricultural producers. And energy policy is made by legislators who represent the interests of energy producers. And defense policy is made by legislators who represent the interests of defense contractors. If you just announced an unexpected swap and had the Armed Services Committee set farm policy and the Agriculture Committee do procurement, you could get better results.What Matt doesn't do is tell us how to accomplish this.
It used to be that institutional reform was an important priority for progressives and in the 1970s they managed to make some progress on curbing the authority of committee chairman. I think it would be smart to continue to put emphasis on that kind of thing—encouraging policy to be set by broad national governing coalitions rather than idiosyncratic committees that are easily captured by interest groups.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Sanford says he was in Buenos Aires alone and spent time driving along the coast. The AP notes,
Trying to make such a drive could frustrate a weekend visitor to Argentina. In Buenos Aires, the Avenida Costanera is the only coastal road, and it's less than two miles long. Reaching coastal resorts to the south requires a drive of nearly four hours on an inland highway with views of endless cattle ranches. To the north is a river delta of islands reached only by boat.The Republican Lt Governor, Andre Bauer, isn't happy,
Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said he was concerned that the governor's staff lied about Sanford's whereabouts, adding that if they didn't know where he was they should have said so.It's hard to imagine Sanford's political career surviving such a flake-out. He is not nationally known outside the GOP -- at least not before now -- and needs to be cultivating big money supporters to fund a presidential bid.
"For his staff to lie to the people of South Carolina and say he was one place when in fact he wasn't, that concerns me," Bauer said.
Now is the time the Big Money crowd is trying to figure out what horse to back for 2012 and they have no interest in throwing good money after bad. Politicians are investments for these people and they are not going to invest in a pol whose national claim to fame is disappearing for 6 days while his staff was lying to the public. The goal of the big money folks is getting in early on the ultimate winner. It hard to imagine any serious money people now investing in Sanford.
Then again, these are Republicans and some of them think Newt is going to save their party, while still others like Sarah Palin, so anything is possible.
UPDATE: MWS reminds me that the same equation is true for the best campaign staffers.
Gov. Mark Sanford arrived in the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this morning, having wrapped up a seven-day visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, he said. Sanford said he had not been hiking along the Appalachian Trail, as his staff said in a Tuesday statement to the media.Well, that's one way to end a presidential bid before it starts.
Sanford, in an exclusive interview with The State, said he decided at the last minute to go to the South American country to recharge after a difficult legislative session in which he battled with lawmakers over how to spend federal stimulus money.
Sanford said he had considered hiking on the Appalachian Trail, an activity he said he has enjoyed since he was a high school student.
"But I said 'no' I wanted to do something exotic," Sanford said "... It's a great city."
By the way, I'm spending New Years in Buenos Aires, so I will be able to confirm or deny the greatness of the city.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
CNN is now reporting that the state police SUV that Gov. Mark Sanford drove off in last Thursday has turned up but not Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, where Sanford had reportedly been seen. They found it at Columbia Metropolitan Airport, the airport in the state capital.
Sanford was changing planes in Atlanta on Delta?
At this point, I don't know what to believe.
TPM is quoting Gov Mark Sanford's wife, Jenny as just now telling CNN, "I am being a mom today. I have not heard from my husband. I am taking care of my children." I could not find this quote on CNN.
To recap, Gov Mark Sanford left Columbia SC last Thursday in a state police SUV and and was completely out of contact with his office and family as of yesterday. The SC state police was concerned enough to search for the whereabouts of his cell phone. His office added to this confusion by issuing conflicting reports (suggesting they had been in touch with the Governor and then walking that back), and apparently misleading the Lt. Governor's office.
Finally, as of this morning, Sanford's office reports that the Governor did in fact call in, and was surprised by the controversy over his time away. His office now reports that he was out hiking the Appalachian Trail (on Naked Hiking Day, no less) and would be back in the office tomorrow (Wednesday).
In fairness to Sanford, I thought this was a very reasonable explaination. Hiking the AT (as hikers call the Appalachian Trial) is a perfect way to decompress after a stressful time at work, and it would make him out of contact for periods of time. His wife's comments to the press that she didn't know where he was and had not heard from him would be nothing more than she protecting him from press intrusion while he's trying to take a much needed break,...
But this all goes out the window when Jenny Sanford tells CNN as recently as this afternoon that she still doesn't know where her husband is and has not heard from him. He didn't call his wife and kids before or after he checked in at the office? And this just calls back into question the fact that his office didn't have a straight story to begin with, and didn't just tell the SC state police where is was before they started searching for his cell signal,...
This all stinks.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Here is the second statement released today from Governor's office,
"The governor put in a lot of time during this last legislative session, and after the session winds down, it's not uncommon for him to go out of pocket for a few days at a time to clear his head. Obviously, that's going to be somewhat out of the question this time given the attention this particular absence has gotten.What they are not saying is that they have had contact with the Governor, as the Lt. Governor's office had said earlier today. If the Governor's office was in contact with Sanford, the SC state police would not be searching the airwaves for his cell phone, as reported earlier.
Before leaving last week, he let staff known his whereabouts and that he'd be difficult to reach. Should any emergencies arise between the time in which he checks in, our staff would obviously be in contact with other state officials as the situation warrants before making any decisions."
And if the Governor's office is to be believed, they are keeping his whereabouts from his wife and children.
Can Sanford 2012 survive a flake-out of this magnitude?
UPDATE: Someone continues to tweet from Sanford's account.
The AP reports,
"He was writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids," Jenny Sanford told The Associated Press while vacationing with the couple's three sons at their Sullivans Island beach house. She said she wasn't concerned about her husband,....The Lt Governor has no idea where he is either and neither do several of his close friends. His office says they know his whereabouts but they aren't telling. His office is, however,"in touch" with him.
Sanford's spokesman says needed a break to "recharge" after losing his fight to cut education spending rather than take money stimulus money.
What kind of father disappears from his family "for a break" and doesn't even call his children on Father's Day?
This has "nervous hospital" written all over it.
UPDATE: The State newspaper in SC has more here. Until today, The Governor's office was unable to reach him and had no idea where he was. Apparently, he has a history of ditching his security detail at odd times but never has he been out of touch for so long. The SC state police had gone so far as to attempt to locate him by tracking his cell phone -- his phone was last located in near Atlanta before he turned it off.
Two words: psychiatric break.
By all reports from the oral arguments, the conservatives on the court were very hostile to the Act, and it was widely believed to be in danger. My speculation is that this 8-1 decision was a compromise all around to prevent (save?) the Roberts Court from striking down one of the most significant pieces of legislation in the history of the United States. In other words, don't take this 8-1 decision to be a reaffirmation of the VRA.
Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog explains
Though the Supreme Court by a wide margin today formally rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5, the reality is far different. The decision unambiguously served notice that the Justices are prepared to invalidate the statute as it stands. Congress is now effectively on the clock: it has the period between now and the date that it decides a follow-on challenge by a covered jurisdiction that is not permitted to “bail out” of the statutory scheme to amend Section 5. If the statute remains the same by the time the next case arrives, the Court will invalidate the statute.An amended Voting Rights Act should mandate and proscribe early voting for all federal elections and proscribe minimalist ID requirements for voting in Federal elections.
Today’s ruling is thus as much subtext as text. An entire section of the opinion is devoted to the constitutional infirmities of Section 5. There is no counter-point. Nor do any of the Court’s more liberal members issue a reassuring concurring opinion indicating that Section 5 would survive a constitutional challenge - though some surely believe it.
The Court’s opinion will go down in history I think as among the Chief Justice’s most significant, and a model for his philosophy of judicial minimalism, which plays out in this case in two separate respects. First, the Court gives Congress in the first instance the opportunity to exercise its constitutional responsibility to apply the Constitution. Second, the opinion brings together a wide majority of eight Justices for a result with which they can all agree.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
50% of self-described Republicans favor such a plan as do 73% of independents.
These results mirror the results of the WSJ's poll earlier in the week (pdf) -- results which the WSJ comically attempts to play down in their own coverage of their poll.
That Congressional Democrats are having trouble finding the courage to support a government plan despite this overwhelming public support tells us everything we need to know about these gutless wonders who struggle to maintain public support over time even as their policies are favored.
Write your member of Congress and both Senators and tell them your support is dependent upon their bringing us a government option for health care.