Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yankees tickets

In a nod to these touch times and to make a trip to the ball park more affordable for hardworking families, the Yankees announced yesterday a reduction in ticket prices from $2500 a seat to $1250.

Even the Yankees are willing to sacrifice.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter's flip

While I was commuting to Chicago for a hearing today, Arlen Specter switched parties.

Assuming Franken is seated sometime this summer, the Democratic caucus will have 60 votes in the Senate theoretically preventing GOP filibusters. I say theoretically because it hasn't happened yet.

What Specter's flip doesn't mean is that he will be a different person. He will vote against Obama proposals with which he does not agree, but so what? Having Specter in the caucus means Dems will only be required to muster 51 votes as opposed to 60.

Specter can be counted on to vote for cloture to allow a simply majority vote. After all, he wouldn't win over skeptical Democratic supporters, Obama campaign appearances or a big committee position (As I understand he joins the caucus with 5 terms seniority) supporting GOP filibusters.

If the Dems can't come up with 51 votes from a 60 member caucus then the bill or nominee needs to fail.

Statement by Senator Arlen Specter

Statement by Senator Arlen Specter
(Editor's Note: This statement was released by the office of Senator Arlen Specter on April 28, 2009.)
I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.
Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.
When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.
Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.
I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

FBI counter-terrorism expert: "no actionable intelligence gained from torture"

In an OP/ED in today's NYT, retired Special Agent Ali Soufan speaks out publicly for the first time, regarding the successes the government had with traditional, non-torture interrogation techniques.

Soufan, who was directly involved in the interrogations of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah points out that the best intel came from traditional interrogation, and not torture. Here is a taste,
We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.

There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.
It increasingly appears that torture was used when prisoners where not saying what we wanted them to say, regardless of truth. For instance, waterboarding someone until they tell you they worked for Saddam. Using torture to obtain false confessions is with out question, a war crime.

A million armed man march?

The Washington Independent reports that the Ohio Militia is planning "a peaceful demonstration of at least a million militia men marching on Washington" for the July 4 weekend.

"No shooting, no one gets hurt. Just a demonstration. The only difference from any typical demonstration is we will all be armed."

Just imagine how this plays out on national TV. Of course the city of Washington denies them a permit or places a "no weapons" restriction on a permit, which only serves to stir them up and draws that many more into the "armed march" on Washington. Has hundreds of thousands of armed militia men descend on the National Mall,tens of thousands of families cancel vacations and flee the nation's capital. And all the while Republican leaders in Congress, Rush, Newt -- the whole gang -- appear endlessly on national TV speaking with impassioned sympathy for the armed militia holding Washington DC hostage. As the occasional shot is sent in the direction of the White House or Capital, Rep Mike Pence explains that this is nothing more than an understandable expression of frustration at Democrats who have betrayed the nation,...

The Ohio Militia is calling the bluff of the GOP and NRA in ways I never imagined possible. This could be a lot of fun, and I guess I should add, scary as hell.

(posted from the Hilton Garden Inn, Denver Airport)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The GOP brain trust

The folks at TPM have been following Congressional hearings and picking out real gems from the GOP.

Here, Energy Sec and Nobel Laureate Steven Chu attempts to explain plate tectonics and continental drift to a smug TX Rep Joe Barton who thinks he's outwitted Dr. Chu and his fanciful beliefs.

Hillary To Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN): "Pres Obama Won The Election"

Via TPM, Hillary really makes Indiana's Mike Pence look foolish pushing this Chavez destroyed the Obama canard.

In fairness to other Republicans, Pence is particularly dimwitted. He was the mastermind behind the GOP alternative budget that literally did not have a single dollar figure.

China, Venezulia and legalizing pot all more popular than the GOP

This according to the latest CNN poll. Chris Bowers at Open Left tracks this stuff, and loves to note what is more popular than the Republican party.

This is what happens to a political party that doesn't have a plan for anything and simply says no to everything. That will no longer fly in America.

(Posted at O'Hare waiting to fly to Denver)

Tortured to find al Qaida link to Iraq

McClatchy reports this morning that persistent torture was used to force a confession on links to Iraq,
"The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

"There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people to push harder," he continued.
If true this represents a very dark chapter in US history.

Can we all agree that these allegations must be investigated in a non-partisan way by a special prosecutor and if reliable evidence that prisoners were tortured by US personnel to compel them to link Iraq to al Qaida can be found, than those ordering this torture need to be prosecuted, no matter who they might be?

If we simply ignore these allegations it will take a generation or more to restore or moral standing in the world.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Drawing a line on the map

The Gulf of Aden sits atop the Horn of Africa bordered on the south by Somalia and on the north by Yemen. Ships must transit the Gulf of Aden in route to, or coming from, the Suez Canal (pictured on the map at the north end of the Red Sea by the Gulf of Aqaba).

30% of the world's oil passes through the Gulf of Aden and a ships only other option heading to Europe or the Americas is to go around Africa.

Thus, the Gulf of Aden is an ideal spot for pirates.

It had previously been believed that 350 miles off the coast of Somalia was a safe distance to avoid pirates which is where the Mearsk Alabama was when attacked.

The EU has a large navel presence in the Gulf of Aden conducting anti-pirate patrols as does India and increasingly China. The US is a little late to this party.

Why not simply create a safe transit zone by drawing a line on the map 200,300 or whatever miles off Somalia beyond which any local craft will be presumed to be a pirate boat subject to boarding or worse? Such a line could concentrate the International naval forces resources into a more manageable area and provide International shipping a measure of comfort. The safe transit zone would also be easier to monitor by air with spotter planes or drones radioing navel ships to intercept craft that violate the zone.

Is this already being done and I just don't know it?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Waterboarding Used 266 Times on 2 Suspects

I guess I'm just weak, but I find this shocking.

The NYTs reports today that the CIA waterboarded Abu Zubaydah 83 times in August 2002 and while Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003.

I'm confident that if a US citizen were waterboarded 83 times much less 183 times the right-wing intelligentsia -- such that it is -- and Fox News would not only call the practice torture, but would also insist on nothing less than an invasion in response.

Albert Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. What does this story tell us about the quality of our intelligence people?

Friday, April 17, 2009

David Frums lonely voice

I think David Frum is nearly as frightened by the GOP nutballs as I am.

Writing in The Spectator, Frum observes listen to Fox News and other conservative media, you’d think we were living in Czechoslovakia in the final hours before the 1948 communist coup. Anchors end interviews by solemnly pledging to defend liberty and oppose tyranny. The network’s rising star Glenn Beck has mused about the coming turn to totalitarianism — and warned his audience that he has not been able to ‘debunk’ fears that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is constructing an archipelago of concentration camps for political opponents of the Obama administration.
Frum notes that "free market economist" have put forth credible plans in opposition to the administration, but Congressional Republicans have chosen fantasy and denial in lieu of leadership, "congressional Republicans have either denied the seriousness of the downturn, or called for balancing the budget first, or united around a scattered grab-bag of tax proposals exciting only to the interest groups that would benefit from them."

I'll say what Frum can't or won't: The GOP is intellectually bankrupt and has been for years. Threats of 'spilling the blood' of the administration and threats of succession is all they have to offer.

TX Republican Congressman calls for bloodshed

Congressman Michael McCaul (R TX) calls on his constituents to 'shed the blood' of the Obama administration.

It’s about our founding fathers who in 1773 threw a little party called the Boston tea party. And fought against tyranny and oppressive taxes, does that sound familiar? We’re continuing that revolution right here in Austin, TX today. Thomas Jefferson once said that the tree of liberty will be fed with the blood of tyrants and patriots. You are the patriots.

That particular Jefferson quote is very popular with right-wing militias and was a favorite of Tim McVeigh.

At the time of his arrest McVeigh, was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Abraham Lincoln and the motto: sic semper tyrannis (thus always to tyrants), the words shouted by John Wilkes Booth after he shot Lincoln. On the back, it had a tree with a picture of three blood droplets and the Jefferson quote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

The Congressman knows exactly what he's saying. Sadly, McCaul has a legitimate issue worthy of a national conversation, but his use of the rhetoric of right-wing terrorists deminishes his point.

(Via Matt Yglesias)

A Texas Border drug war?

It's been all the buzz in the National media that the drug war in Mexico has spilled over into Texas border towns.

Folks in El Paso have had enough and are calling BS on the story.
According to the FBI, more than 1,600 people were killed by cartel violence in Juarez in 2008. El Paso, a city of 755,000, recorded just 18 murders last year. Laredo had 11; Brownsville and McAllen had three and nine, respectively. By comparison, Washington, D.C., with a population smaller than El Paso’s, had 186 homicides in 2008

Thursday, April 16, 2009

GOP's White Slavery fears?

This photo was taken yesterday at one of the GOP teabagging events. Apparently non-whites don't pay taxes, or maybe aren't entitled to citizenship?

Tx Gov Perry threatens secession

Via Rev Moon's Washington Times,
“We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we’re a pretty independent lot to boot.”
Needless to say, he's taking some heat for these remarks.

Conservative elites intentionally misleading their flock

Matt Yglesias has an excellent observation that I've been thinking about for some time,
I don’t really think there’s any “problem” with the Tea Parties except for the fact that they’re dead wrong on the merits. Had we implemented what I take to be their preferred policies—no bailout, “spending freeze,” and tax cuts; something along the lines of Jim DeMint’s alternative stimulus plan—we would have millions of additional unemployed Americans, more malnourished children, more cutbacks in city services, a longer recession, slower long-term growth, and higher budget deficits. It’s too bad that such a large minority of the public has such drastically wrongheaded views, and it’s really too bad that conservative elites spend a lot of time misinforming their constituents rather than acting responsibly.
This is true in so many instances. And I don't mean those on the left are always correct on any given issue, but so often the opinion leaders from the right are just out in left field in such a way as to make me really wonder what they are really thinking.

NSA wiretapping members of Congress

Debate has raged about NSA wiretaps for several years, and last year Congress gave the NSA authority to spy on Americans without warrant under certain conditions. Congress made sure there would be no penalty if the NSA disregarded the legal curbs.

Well, Congress has been rewarded for its cowardice with a revelation, oddly buried in this New York Times Story on NSA abuses,
As part of that investigation, a senior F.B.I. agent recently came forward with what the inspector general’s office described as accusations of “significant misconduct” in the surveillance program, people with knowledge of the investigation said. Those accusations are said to involve whether the N.S.A. made Americans targets in eavesdropping operations based on insufficient evidence tying them to terrorism.

And in one previously undisclosed episode, the N.S.A. tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant, an intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said.
I'm guessing members of Congress are just shocked. It appears in this particular case, the NSA's intention was to politically embarrass the unnamed member of Congress.

Many of the left are convinced that the NSA wiretapped the Kerry campaign. I've always considered this fringe thinking. Can anyone now declare with any confidence such spying is beyond the realm of possibility?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

""teabagging" has strong sexual connotations."

Finally! Dick Armey's FreedomWorks--which is staging the national day of Republicans teabagging Democrats--has figured out that they have a problem with teabagging.

Here is a flyer they have up at their site with warnings for their "protestors"(pdf).


The term “teabagging” has strong sexual connotations.
Be wary of anyone with a camera asking you if you are a
“teabagger” or if you enjoy “teabagging” or similar leading
questions – they are trying to make a fool of you.

Netroots interviewers might ask leading questions about
immigration, President Obama, etc., to bait you into making
comments they can paint as racist. Remember: the Tea
Party is about responsible government and liberty for all
Americans, regardless of our differences.

Interviewers might also ask questions designed to show you
are uneducated and ignorant. If you don't know an answer to
what they ask you, be honest and say that you don't know.

(via TPM)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tea bagging?

How is it possible that so many people could be so cluelessly unhip and literally no one will tell them what it means to 'tea bag' someone?

Fox News, and in particular Neil Cavato, have been endlessly promoting a national 'tea bagging' of Democrats and apparently are as clueless as those pictured.

Via the Wonk Room, David Shuster -- who clearly get's it -- took Fox and Cavato to task last night going so far to note that, "if you are planning simultaneous tea bagging all around the country, you’re going to need a Dick Armey."

Here the Shuster video. For fun, count the puns,

Monday, April 13, 2009

President Obama's visit to Iraq

Unanimous MN court rejects Coleman contest

The AP Reports,
"The overwhelming weight of the evidence indicates that the November 4, 2008, election was conducted fairly, impartially and accurately," the judges wrote. "There is no evidence of a systematic problem of disenfranchisement in the state's election system, including in its absentee-balloting procedures."
Coleman has 10 days to appeal to the MN Supreme Court, which he vowed to do weeks before he actually lost.

TPM reports that the MN SC will have an problem with quorum to hear the appeal. Two of the judges served on the canvassing panel now affirmed by the special 3 judge trial court and have recused themselves from previous decisions re this contest. A third judge, Christopher Dietzen, donated to Norm Coleman 5 years ago (years before Franken announced). This leaves only 4 judges to decide the case, including the judge who appointed the 3 judge panel. Will Justice Dietzen ask Franken to waive any conflict, and would Franken do so? What happens if only 4 judges are left to hear the appeal? Don't know if MN rules have a quorum requirement, but I do know that a tie would affirm Franken's win.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The status of bipartisanship

Dan Balz reports on status of bipartisanship from the view of Washington insiders, and in doing so buries the lede,
Given the makeup of the two parties, a more reliable arbiter of the ongoing political debates may be the attitudes of political independents. To date, they are sticking with Obama. In Gallup's most recent weekly average, 60 percent of independents said they approved of how he was handling the job, statistically unchanged from the week of his inauguration.
When will members of the Washington press corps just tell the unpleasant truth that the GOP has no intention of doing anything to support the President? It was no different during the Clinton administration when that President was also forced to pass a budget without a single Republican vote.

Before even meeting with President Obama on his stimulus package in January, Boehner and Cantor were rallying their troops to vote "no" and bragging about it to anyone who would listen. And in the spirit of bipartisanship, Obama added additional tax cuts to the bill and other items sought by Cantor, for which the President was rewarded with not a single GOP vote in the house.

This is how Republicans do business with Democratic Presidents. Why doesn't Balz just say it?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pure and simple greed

Matt is exactly right,
But it’s a sign, I think, of a kind of sickness running through American society that we’ve lost the willingness to just say clearly that ceteris paribus greedy behavior is not virtuous behavior. In the spirit of decency, of course, we recognize that none of us are without sin. It would be crazy to try to condemn everyone who’s ever done anything greedy to the gallows. But the fact still remains that greedy behavior is not admirable behavior and that, as Krugman says, it’s very unlikely that the “best” young people were going into finance. And to say that they’re not necessarily good people need not entail that they’re criminals. Simply the fact that the best people are people who aren’t primarily driven by greed.

I don’t think Barack Obama should orient his policy agenda around that kind of moralizing. But it’s not an observation we should consider shocking to make in civil society.
I really struggle to understand people who are indignant at the suggestion that they should not make many millions of dollars in compensation from a business they literally drove into bankruptcy.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Banking Crisis Over!

Good news, Time Magazine reports Wells Fargo made money in Q1 thus ending the banking crisis and quickly as it began.

We can all go home now.

Obama's commencement address at Norte Dame

I love it when hypocrisy is called out, and Lawrence O'Donnell would have none of it, as Pat Buchanan was peddling hypocrisy by the bucket load last night on Hardball.

Pat begins by making the case for the sanctity of human life but in short order, O'Donnell has him dancing in the blood of every executed criminal in history. Warning, it's get ugly.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Glenn Beck's descent into madness,....

Doesn't this man have any producers?

Republican kooks: We have a list

It is not exactly a secret that the GOP is literally full of kooks and conspiracy theorists, and it's not just on the radio. They are in Congress and the Senate.

One of the shinning star kooks of the GOP is Michelle Bachmann, who has proposed an amendment to the US Constitution to prevent the Obama administration from replacing the Dollar with a global currency.

Of course, the Obama administration has no intention of replacing the dollar, and has never suggested anything of the sort.

But Bachmann is a crazy idiot and it seems she's not alone in this. At least 30 House Republicans (15% of all House Republicans) are with her on this, and TPM has the list which sadly includes Missouri's own Todd Akin,
Todd Akin (R-MO)
Spencer Bachus (R-AL)
Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD)
Judy Biggert (R-IL)
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Paul Broun (R-GA)
Henry Brown (R-SC)
Dan Burton (R-IN)
Michael Conaway (R-TX)
John Culberson (R-TX)
Mary Fallin (R-OK)
John Fleming (R-LA)
Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
Phil Gingrey (R-GA)
Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)
Darrell Issa (R-CA)
Walter Jones (R-NC)
Steve King (R-IA)
Mark Kirk (R-IL)
Doug Lamborn (R-CO)
Tom McClintock (R-CA)
Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI)
Ron Paul (R-TX)
Joseph Pitts (R-PA)
Bill Posey (R-FL)
Tom Price (R-GA)
David Roe (R-TN)
John Shadegg (R-AZ)
Glenn Thompson (R-PA)
Zach Wamp (R-TN)
All Missourians should call Congressman Akin's office and ask if he is serious about this matter and why he is so frivolous with Constitutional amendments.