Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why isn't this an indictment of failed Democratic leadership?

Say what you want about the GOP, they have always been completely honest that their singular mission has been to destroy the Obama Presidency. Republicans have had no intention of ever working with the POTUS on any matter of public policy and have never shied away from saying so to anyone who asked.

Andrew now reports that Mike Pence has renewed this position by stating unequivocally that the House GOP will refuse to work with Obama on anything. The 'news' in this piece is that official GOP policy on working with the WH will not change after the election.



And despite the fact that Democratic leadership has know where the GOP stands for two years now, they go into the Mid-terms next week with no coherent strategy or response.

The POTUS and DNC should have been beating Republicans over the head with their bad behavior from the start. The public has been angry for 4 years about the hyper-partisan behavior in Congress and this election should have been like shooting fish in a barrel.

If this isn't failed leadership, what is?

It really shouldn't be a mystery to anyone that independent voters are ready to throw Democrats out of office. Voters want leadership. Not impotent handwringing.

At this point, my biggest fear for Tuesday is that the impotent Harry Reid will narrowly win re-election and be unanimously reelected the Democratic leader of the Senate.

America's Meanest Airlines

Yahoo News looked at the Airline Quality Rating (AQR) Report, the American Customer Satisfaction Index and the Air Travel Consumer Reports and compiled a list of America's Meanest Airlines.

Here are the 5 meanest:

5. US Air
4. American Airlines
3. Alaska
2. United
1. Delta

Frankly, I'm surprised AA is only ranked 4th. I was expected a first place finish for them. While they have made improvements in the last couple years, they're pretty damn mean. I stick with them only because I travel out of STL and they are the best option for direct flights on an airline where I can accumulate miles that can be exchanged for International travel. Many of my co-workers are devoted to SWA but I hate that Redneck Rodeo and free tickets to San Antonio or Albuquerque have no value to me.

I'm also surprised United did so poorly because in my very limited experience with them, they were great. Talk to anyone from Alaska and they will tell you how horrible Alaska Air is. Having flown thru Atlanta several times and knowing people who collect Delta miles, I'm not surprised Delta did poorly. Hartsfield is the best designed airport in the US but flying thru Atlanta makes O'Hare seem like a model of air traffic efficiency. Delays at ATL are legendary among business travelers.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Let’s Index the Gas Tax

Josh Borro at NRO has a great idea to index the Federal gas tax to inflation,
Indexing the federal gasoline tax (which is essentially what this proposal is—indexing the gas tax to the price of gas) is good policy. The gas tax was last raised in 1993, and has fallen by a third in real terms since. Many state gas taxes and other vehicle taxes have also fallen in real terms. But this has not led to lower spending on road construction and maintenance—from 1994 to 2008, while GDP grew 103 percent and road spending grew 102 percent, gas and vehicle tax receipts rose only 70 percent.

Governments have made up the difference by tripling their borrowing to finance roads and tripling the diversion of general revenue to pay for road costs. This is a bad trend, because gas taxes below the cost of roads use cause inefficient overuse of roads, and the higher sales and income taxes used to plug the gas tax gap are a drag on the economy. Real annual reductions in gas tax rates hasn’t starved the beast, but have made the way we pay for our road infrastructure less efficient.
Of course he's correct about the efficiencies of indexing and inefficiencies of not doing so, but shouldn't we also catch up the current gas tax to 2010 dollars? There's nothing efficient about indexing a gas tax to inflation that begins from a 30% plus hole.

And of course there's even less efficiency in trying to catch up the gas tax to actually pay for highway costs but trading $4 Trillion in income taxes to get it, but that's really a post for another day.

(Via from Andrew Sullivan)

The failure of American Democracy

As I've said before, I believe Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish at the Atlantic is a must read on a daily basis. I say this even though Andrew is prone to hyperbole and at times is just over the top. Nobody is perfect.

A common theme at The Dish is the failure of elites in our society to call out the charlatans and expose them as the frauds they are. The fact is that our democracy pays a high price for the failure of elites in journalism to actually vet those who they permit to be opinion leaders and who run for office.

One of Andrew's readers very succinctly spelled out this morning the importance of elections to the continuation of a healthy democracy:
We need to keep some focus on the consequences of elections, not just the horse race. In this increasingly difficult and complex world, we face enormous challenges, and it is imperative that our president be smart, knowledgeable (dare I say well educated), willing to work hard to master the various issues and problems that face us, and flexible in his or her thinking and ideology. Do any of these apply to Palin? No.

The failures of the Bush presidency were, in large part, due to his personal weaknesses - his evident lack of interest in and knowledge of policy issues, his shallowness, and his obvious boredom with the day-to-day responsibilities of governing. Even so, he is head and shoulders above Palin.
What we now commonly call the 'mainstream media' or MSM have completely failed us in their reporting of public issues, policy and election reporting and America suffers because of it.

When Sarah Palin is covered uncritically as a national counter-point to Obama administration policies, our Democracy is in shambles.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fraud in the GOP's pledge to balance budget

Edward Luce in the Financial Times calls out the GOP's silly election year 'pledge'. Luce contrasts the Republicans recent Pledge to America to David Cameron's Conservative party pledge to UK voters precipitating their takeover of the British Parliament after many years in the minority.

Here's the crux of Luce's argument,
But the real contrast was in the substance. Although Mr Cameron’s Conservatives fudged the extent of spending cuts as the election approached, they stuck firmly to the line that there could be no tax cuts if Britain were to restore its budget to balance.

In contrast, John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, flanked by the “Young Guns”, only one of whom is younger than Mr Cameron, promised to maintain all the tax cuts that George W. Bush instituted, never raise any taxes again in any shape or form, and do all this while restoring America’s budget to balance.

All of which might have been plausible were it to have spelt out the draconian spending cuts that would therefore be necessary to bring the budget back to surplus. But it declined to do so. Instead it ring-fenced more than three-quarters of the US federal budget – social security, Medicare and defence spending – and promised to impose caps on the remaining, “discretionary” portion of it.

In numerical terms, the $320bn the party has specified in spending cuts over the next decade is dwarfed by the $4,000bn in tax cuts that it promises – all on top of the current double digit budget deficit.
There's no mystery here. The weight of Empire is bankrupting us as surely has it has bankrupted every empire before us.

It takes a real effort and concerted effort to loose elections to these buffoons.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roy Blunt's campaign ad he doesn't want you to see

This is as distasteful as anything I've ever seen. Blunt's campaign created this and then pulled it from his web site.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

An humanitarian disaster of historic proportion

is unfolding in Pakistan as 20 MILLION people are displaced by flood waters with more rain coming.

I will never forget the destruction and suffering I have witnessed today,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon after flying over hard-hit areas with President Asif Ali Zardari. “I have witnessed many natural disasters around the world, but nothing like this.”

One of the most efficient charities in the world whose work is never political, AmeriCares Disaster Relief and Humanitarian Aid Organization is already on the ground in Pakistan delivering food and medicine. But Americares can't do their work without help from us.

No donation is too small. Please considering giving something to Americares now.

Friday, August 13, 2010

GOP determined to permanently bloc Ambassador to Turkey

Obama has nominated Foreign Service veteran Frank Ricciardone as Ambassador to Turkey. Ricciardone has served Clinton and Bush in Turkey, Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan. GOP senators have decided to permanently block Ricciardone because they believe the career foreign service professional has been too close to host governments in past service.

Remember when Republicans believed in 'up or down' votes?

Remember when Republicans were people of honor?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bigotry rears it's ugly head in Grand Isle

I guess I'm just naive but this still shocks me. Via Kevin Drum and LA Times,
An influx of nearly 1,000 BP contract workers — many of them black and Latino — brings out an ugly side of tiny Grand Isle. Confederate flags go up: 'Our way of telling strangers to keep out.'
_____

Theresa Brunies, 48, who has hung a large Confederate flag over the outside balcony of her home, said, "I'd hate for Grand Isle to become known as a racist community. But these flags are just our way of telling strangers to keep out."
Meanwhile, crime in Grand Isle is down this year compared to last year according to the Grand Isle Police Department's statistics.

The self-described 'resort town' defends itself by saying "we're not used to strangers". "Strangers" being defined in Grand Isle as all resort guests who are not white.

Monday, August 09, 2010

In the Sun

A fan made video.



The audio is Michael Stipe performing "In The Sun" with Coldplay in 2005.
The video is a mixture of videos from Fran├žois Truffaut's movie "Les Quatre Cents Coups" (a.k.a. The 400 Blows) released in 1959.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"...huffing the glue of their own bankrupt ideology"

Andrew has a very insightful post looking at the current state of the GOP, the November election and thereafter,
They could not cognitively handle that they had supported an administration that spent like left-liberals, poured trillions into nation-building in failed states, fought a war on dramatically false pretenses, authorized illegal torture by presidential decree, lost a major US city, and turned a surplus into a spiraling deficit, leaving no wriggle room for when a storm like the financial collapse of 2008 occurred. So they simply went into denial, and blamed everything on the person who inherited this catastrophe.

Reduced to a purer rump based in the South, they reinforced their worst tendencies, as parties often do after losing elections in landslides. They became more anti-illegal immigrant, they chanted slogans about "liberty or tyranny" rather than offering proposals to solve our many problems, they became older and whiter and angrier. And because of the enduring recession and a centrist attempt to find a way for working poor to afford health insurance, they blamed all their woes on a black communist, taking from whites and giving to minorities. And from this strong elixir, they gained an appearance of strength. They may well do well this fall as a protest vote.

But what then? They do not have the courage or conviction of the British Tories, who are actually cutting spending with a vengeance, while tackling climate change and promoting values like commitment and responsibility for all citizens, gay and straight. And so they will be asked by Obama, if they win back the House, to take a stand on the debt, along the lines of his debt commission. What then? Will they grow up and deal or retreat in Palinite denialism?

I suspect the latter ... which could well lead to a landslide for Obama in 2012.
Andrew has more.

It remains to be seen if the GOP will win back the House, and it is not as certain as you read in the papers. The fate of the House Democrats is in Obama's hands. IF Obama hits the road and campaigns hard to sell his agenda and accomplishments and hits the GOP hard for obstructionism, the House will be held. If not,....congratulations Speaker Boehner.

But even if Republicans retake the House, what do they then have to offer the American people? One need look no further than last Sunday's MTP in which DSCC Chair John Cornyn (R-TX) and NRCC Chair Pete Sessions (R-TX) 3 months from the election were completely incapable of offering any vision of GOP leadership.

Clinton lost the House in his first Mid-term and his re-election could not have gone better.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Monday, May 17, 2010

National Congressional Ballot

I tweeted earlier that TPM's Congressional Generic Ballot showed Democrats at +0.6. I was surprised by that number, so I wanted to check Pollster's National Congressional Ballot, and sure enough, Democrats are +.06.


Click on image to enlarge


Of course this is just a snapshot of a point in time, but it's nevertheless pretty surprising and very much contrary to the media meme which is just a regurgitation of the GOP talking point of a GOP landslide in November. This doesn't mean Democrats are going to pick-up seats in the midterms, but assuming the trend holds (and there is every reason to believe it will) it does suggest Republicans will fall far short of their goal of retaking the House or even matching Democrats pickups in Reagan's first midterm when Republicans lost 26 seats.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The angry mob eats its own

Sen Bob Bennett (R-UT) was first elected to the Senate in 1993 and has been a reliable Republican vote ever since. He steadfastly opposes a woman's right to choose; did everything he could to ensure gays never gained equal protection (Bennett was the sole committee vote - of either party - to oppose the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which would provide benefits to the domestic partners federal employees); equally opposed citizenship or equal protection for brown people; thought Bush's domestic wiretapping was a great idea; repeatedly opposed SCHIP, and actually believed a tax cut for wealthy people could solve any problem.

Bennett's reward for this loyalty was to be unceremoniously denied renomination at the State Republican convention.

Republicans have foolishly and irresponsibly whipped their ignorant base into an angry mob that they can't control.

Joe Klein sums up,
We are in a moment when anger seems more important than experience or wisdom. Sometimes anger is justified. Right now, a sober review of the problems we face in a very unstable world requires something more: it requires a judicious national conversation about the decisions we make as a people. Are we spending too much or too little? Are we taxing too much or too little? If we're spending and taxing too much, which services need to be curtailed--and I mean, real services that cost real money, like defense and entitlements. If we can't decide what to cut, then perhaps we need to tax ourselves more--if so, how and what should we tax?

The fact that we can't seem to have this sort of conversation right now, that's it is ripped away from the vast majority of decent Americans by telecharlatans and infotainers, does not speak well for our ability to survive as the greatest nation in the history of the world. The departure of Senator Bob Bennett is a small event in a national tidal wave of witless extremism and thoughtlessness.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Drill Baby Drill, Ctd.

Scientist from NOAA after having flown over the growing oil slick on the Gulf have recalculated and determined that oil is leaking at the rate of 210,000 gallons a day. A five fold increase from the original estimate of 42,000 gallons or 1000 barrels a day.

With current wind patterns, the slick will reach the Louisiana shore by Friday.

Here's a handy graphic from the New York Times,


click on image to enlarge

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

GOPs non-risk on stalling Financial Reform

A lot is being written by the usual bloggers as well as MSM outlets (see here) about the risk Senate Republicans are taking by stalling financial reform. It makes for a great story and the logic is solid, except that it's just wrong.

The GOP has nothing to lose from filibustering financial reform because there are no vulnerable Republican senators left in the Senate. Those who might be vulnerable like Judd Gregg (R-NH) or Voinovich (R-OH) or even Bond (R-MO) are retiring and those who might have been sweating like McCain (R-AZ) and Grassley (R-IA) had their strong Democratic rivals take cabinet post in the Obama Administration. The one positive for the GOP to come from the beatings they took in 2006 and 2008 is that they lost all their vulnerable seats.

The GOP might risk not gaining as many seats as they otherwise would, but that's pretty abstract (abstract thought has never been a strong suit for Republicans) and there's still a lot of time between now and November so Republicans are pretty much in the driver's seat.

Conversely, from a financial perspective, this has to be a huge money raiser for all things Republican related.

All we can do is sit back, watch and see if Harry Reid really can pull his ass out of the fire.

Drill Baby Drill!


U.S. Coast Guard Photo

The deep water oil spill that has resulted from the oil rig fire last week is now spread over 2000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico and is moving toward land. The well is leaking 42,000 gallons of crude per day into the Gulf as shrimp and crab season is opening. If that wasn't bad enough,
submersible robots were trying to activate valves at the wellhead, known as blowout preventers, to cut off the leak. If that doesn't work, this Transocean driller could drill relief wells to stop the flow of oil. But it could take months.
Months of 42,000 gallons a day of crude spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. If they can't activate the valve(s) at the well head -- or if that doesn't work -- we are facing the largest ecological disaster in US history -- all from one well and a pretty mundane sort of accident. The economic devastation to the Gulf Coast could measure in the hundreds of billions.

This will not endear Obama and his new off shore drilling policies to ecologists. Republicans, however, led by Sarah Palin are expect to travel to the Gulf coast as the spill comes ashore to bath in the life giving oil and praise BP for bringing to us.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The media-ideological-industrial complex

Andrew Sullivan has offered a very insightful description of the contemporary GOP:
what we have seen this past year is the collapse of the RNC as it once was and the emergence of a highly lucrative media-ideological-industrial complex. This complex has no interest in traditional journalistic vetting, skepticism, scrutiny of those in power, or asking the tough questions. It has no interest in governing a country. It has an interest in promoting personalities and ideologies and false images of a past America that both flatter and engage its audience. For most in this business, this is about money. Roger Ailes, who runs a news business, has been frank about what his fundamental criterion is for broadcasting: ratings not truth. Obviously all media has an eye on the bottom line - but in most news organizations, there is also an ethical editorial concern to get things right. I see no such inclination in Fox News or the hugely popular talkshow demagogues (Limbaugh, Levin, Beck et al.), which now effectively control the GOP. And when huge media organizations have no interest in any facts that cannot be deployed for a specific message, they are a political party in themselves.
Andrew makes this observation in the larger context of responding to Josh Green's conclusion that Palin is in this for the money and not to run for President. Andrew remains convinced that Palin will the 2012 Republican nominee for POTUS. For what's it's worth, I think Josh is right and Andrew is wrong: If Palin were interested in governance, she would still be Governor of Alaska. Nevertheless, Andrew's description of the modern Republican party seems spot on to me. I would only disagree with Andrew in that I believe his description of the GOP has been applicable since at least the end of the Cold War.

By my estimation, the anti-intellectual/anti-governance wing of the GOP began to take control in earnest during the Reagan years, with George H. W. Bush being the last Republican administration that actually cared about governance. And not surprisingly, current GOP thinking considers Bush I to have been a dismal failure. With Gingrich taking charge of the Republican Party in 1994, any serious interest in governance was thrown to the side in pursuant of the kooky right-wing ideological goal of cutting taxes until the Federal Government was bankrupted, aka starving the beast. And this remains the current thinking in the GOP -- if the Federal Government is literally bankrupted than it can't fund social security and medicare. That a bankrupt US Government would cause a global economic collapse of Biblical proportions is frankly, too big an intellectual concept for these Republicans grasp. What Andrew describes is nothing more than the natural progression that began in the anti-intellectualism of the Reagan years.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

'Bring A Chicken to the Doctor' dance mix

Yet another GOP kook

Sen Harry Reid's GOP opponent and likely the next junior Senator from Nevada - Sue Lowden - has suggested a solution to high medical prices is to return to a barter system where we might offer a doctor chickens in exchange for treatment. Seriously, she said this and she's "not backing down".

Watch the video:



And in case you think Lowden is just some nut who got lucky in the primary, she is the former Republican Chair on Nevada.

Democrats show die of sham ever losing elections to these idiots. Seriously, Democrats can and do make fun of the train wreck that the GOP has become, but Democrats lose elections to them all the time. We should die of shame.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Apple's Next iPhone?

Gizmodo has video showing the G4 Apple iPhone allegedly found lost in a bar in Redwood City camouflaged to look like a 3GS.
What's new

• Front-facing video chat camera
• Improved regular back-camera (the lens is quite noticeably larger than the iPhone 3GS)
• Camera flash
• Micro-SIM instead of standard SIM (like the iPad)
• Improved display. It's unclear if it's the 960x640 display thrown around before—it certainly looks like it, with the "Connect to iTunes" screen displaying much higher resolution than on a 3GS.
• What looks to be a secondary mic for noise cancellation, at the top, next to the headphone jack
• Split buttons for volume
• Power, mute, and volume buttons are all metallic

What's changed

• The back is entirely flat, made of either glass (more likely) or ceramic or shiny plastic in order for the cell signal to poke through. Tapping on the back makes a more hollow and higher pitched sound compared to tapping on the glass on the front/screen, but that could just be the orientation of components inside making for a different sound
• An aluminum border going completely around the outside
• Slightly smaller screen than the 3GS (but seemingly higher resolution)
• Everything is more squared off
• 3 grams heavier
• 16% Larger battery
• Internals components are shrunken, miniaturized and reduced to make room for the larger battery
What they don't report is how much memory was in the 4G.

Here's the detailed story about how the iPhone 4G was lost and found. Plenty of people are skeptical about this story and many assume it was abandoned on purpose for free publicity in the geek world.

Here's the letter from Apple claiming the 4G.

Of course, I will buy the next iPhone the day it's released.

DNC national cable ad

Gearing up for the financial reform battle, the DNC has a nation-wide cable TV ad up.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The facinating FLA Senate race

Florida Republican voters who once loved Gov. Charlie Crist now hate him, yet according to a new Quinnipiac poll, Crist as an indie beats both GOP idol Rubio and the Democrat nobody has ever heard of, Rep Kendrick Meek.

How unknown is the ably named Meek? 73% of voters didn't know enough about him to rate him as either favorable or unfavorable.

Finally, according to TPM, Crist vetoed the GOP signature education bill yesterday resulting in his longtime friend, political mentor and campaign chairman Connie Mack to resign from his campaign. So Crist is either going to run as an independent for Senate or go down in a political blaze glory. Either way, it's going to be fun to watch.

Finally finally (I had another thought) the lack of a serious Democratic challenger in Florida is a perfect example of modern day political cowardice infecting both parties. No serious Dems entered the Florida senate race because Charlie Crist was so popular that conventional wisdom had him unbeatable. Dems will lose seats in both Houses in some races they may have won simply because the strong candidate wouldn't run an uphill battle. See Beau Biden who is not running for his dad's seat in Delaware as a perfect example. It looked uphill so Dems have just surrendered the seat. Republicans did the same in several seats Dems picked up in 2006 and especially 2008. This cowardice is a byproduct of the over emphasis money now plays in every race.

The Ultimate Fox/O'Reilly video takedown

This is really funny. You should send a link of this video to every O'Reilly fan you know.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Southern Discomfort

Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham has an important OP/ED in today's NYTs taking on the GOP's love affair with Confederate revisionists. Noting that revisionist confederacy always comes at times of racial and social stress (in this case the administration of Obama) Meacham takes a look back their history,
If neo-Confederates are interested in history, let’s talk history. Since Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Confederate symbols have tended to be more about white resistance to black advances than about commemoration. In the 1880s and 1890s, after fighting Reconstruction with terrorism and after the Supreme Court struck down the 1875 Civil Rights Act, states began to legalize segregation. For white supremacists, iconography of the “Lost Cause” was central to their fight; Mississippi even grafted the Confederate battle emblem onto its state flag.

But after the Supreme Court allowed segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, Jim Crow was basically secure. There was less need to rally the troops, and Confederate imagery became associated with the most extreme of the extreme: the Ku Klux Klan.

In the aftermath of World War II, however, the rebel flag and other Confederate symbolism resurfaced as the civil rights movement spread. In 1948, supporters of Strom Thurmond’s pro-segregation Dixiecrat ticket waved the battle flag at campaign stops.

Then came the school-integration rulings of the 1950s. Georgia changed its flag to include the battle emblem in 1956, and South Carolina hoisted the colors over its Capitol in 1962 as part of its centennial celebrations of the war.
Meacham aptly concludes, "We cannot allow the story of the emancipation of a people and the expiation of America’s original sin to become fodder for conservative politicians playing to their right-wing base."

Indeed.

"Proud Of Being Ignorant"

Ta-Nehisi Coats has written an excellent summary of the contemporary GOP.

And to those who dismiss the Conservative fringe as no different than the liberal fringe, Ta-Nehisi brilliantly demonstrates that the difference is as large as the grand canyon.

When Republicans loved Obamacare

It was Romneycare. Lee Fang at Think Progress looks back to the years 2006-2007 when the Heritage Foundation was enthusiastic about Massachusetts’ universal health care program and thought an individual mandate "was clearly consistent with conservative values".

It's like I've been saying, the Conservative movement is intellectually bankrupt.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Pope's fingerprints

"As abuse cases with the pontiff's fingerprints mushroom, Teta's case and that of another Arizona priest cast further doubt on the church's insistence that the future pope played no role in shielding pedophiles." The AP (via Fox no less)

The Bishop of Tucson "pleaded" for 12 years for then Cardinal Ratzinger to defrock Father Teta whose abuses of boys in the confessional the church's own inquiry described as "almost satanic". Once a priest takes his vows, only the Vatican can defrock him known as laicization. The bishop removed Teta from his parish but while awaiting (for 12 years!) action from then Cardinal Ratzinger, Teta remained on the payroll and continued to work with young people as a priest. Of course the bishop of Tucson could have alerted the police, but evidently did not.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Reform passes

PhotobucketPresident Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and senior staff, react in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, as the House passes the health care reform bill, March 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

David Frum doesn't think HCR,...

has gone so well for the GOP, and he makes some good points. Here's the crux of his concern,
No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?
Republicans losses are America's gains, and we need to hold them to their promise of running on a repeal.

There is no question that the Democrats will lose seats in the November election (Reagan never recovered the 26 House seats he lost in the 82 midterms). And there is also no question that the lack of leadership in Congress and from the White House in the last year will be reflected in these losses. But passing the Health Care bill will shore up Democratic majorities in both Houses and hopefully taught some much needed lessons in leadership to all involved.

What part of Goldman Sachs is good for the Country?

is the question Roger Lowenstein asks in today's NY Times magazine. Lowenstein is a veteran of 6 Wall Street Banks before he retreated to a boutique brokerage and founded the Sequoia Fund.

For many years Wall Street served a public function privately raising the capital necessary for economic expansion -- allowing Proctor & Gamble to build a new factory -- for example. But starting in the 1990s, Lowenstein argues, Wall Street started inventing new derivative securities that essentially allowed the Goldman Sachs of the world to bet for or against markets as a way of making money versus the old fashion way of actually investing in something real. Now infamous mortgage backed securities is an example of these exotic derivatives. Wall Street banks were selling to their client investors these securities while at the same time betting against those same securities out of their own trading accounts with (now infamous) credit default swaps.
Asked about mortgage securities [before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Comm] that Goldman both sold to clients and bet against, [Goldman CEOI] Blankfein, while expressing regret for what he admitted was improper behavior, added: “In our market-making function, we are a principal. We represent the other side of what people want to do.” He went on to say that when Goldman sells a security that subsequently goes up (i.e., on which the other party makes money), “we wish we hadn’t sold it.” So much for putting the customer first.

For much of Wall Street, capital-raising is now a sideshow. At Goldman, trading and investing for the firm’s account produced 76 percent of revenue last year. Investment banking, which raises capital for productive enterprise, accounted for a mere 11 percent. Other than that, it could have been a hedge fund.

Author Michael Lewis in his new book -- The Big Short -- explains how the big Wall Street banks invented a market by turning junk bonds into triple A rated bonds to sell to their clients for a profit and then profit a second time by betting against the junk they sold, but I digress,...

Lowenstein sees the constant trading that is now so common in all markets (look at the ever shifting price of crude oil as another example) a problem that should be curbed. One way to curb speculative trading is to impose a transfer tax on major trades. The idea of such a tax is gaining traction in Europe. Maybe it's time we thought about it too.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Matt Steinglass beats the Market

and thinks his investment manager is a genius. Matt makes an obvious point that seems completely lost on the GOP,
I invest with one of those Warren Buffett-style “values investor” types. I started putting money into the market in significant amounts back in 2000. Today I took a look at how he’s doing with my money, and I saw that at some point over the past few weeks, my overall stock performance, since I started putting money into the market, had edged into the black. Since 2000, overall, I’m up a bit less than 1%.

In other words, my investment manager is a genius who is beating the market by over 20%. 10 years ago, the S&P was at 1346. It’s down 22.5% in the past decade.

So I’m with Paul Ryan: I think we should take our Social Security funds and start investing them in the financial markets. Right?
Social Security was created after the Stock Market collapse of 1929 as an insurance policy for future generations against collapsing stock markets. The basic social contract is to provide some income in retirement for those who spent their life working hard and contributing to our economy. Every developed country in the world has a form of social security.

Our Social Security was never intended to be the only retirement income for anyone, although for the working poor, it often is there only income.

Social Security is also insurance against ignorance. Remember the thousands of Enron retirees who had invested 100% of their 401(k) in Enron stock only to be whipped out? They all still have Social Security. What would they have if they had been allowed to invest their Social Security savings?

What is the value to society and our economy retirees have income in which to provide for themselves and what would the cost be if they were destitute?

What moral obligation do we have to those who worked a lifetime paying taxes and contributed to our economy?

What would happen to todays retirees who lost 22.5% of their social security savings in the last 10 years?

What would happen to equity markets if they were flooded with hundreds of billions of new dollars each and every year by social security investors?

Would the Republicans running Wall Street banks and investment houses reap huge riches from those hundreds of billions of new dollars pouring into equity markets each and every year? Of course they would and perhaps this is why the GOP advocates destroying social security never mind the best interest of the country or it's working class.

My guess is nothing is lost on the GOP.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The American Takfiris

Adam Serwer, a writing fellow at The American Prospect, filling in for Ta-Nehisi Coates today shines a light on Bush error torture explaining as perfectly as anything I've read what a horrible stain they have placed on our nation.

Forgive the long quote. This is a must read,
The theological justification for al Qaeda's wholesale slaughter of civilians was provided by Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, also known as Dr. Fadl, one of the founding fathers of al Qaeda. Because the murder of innocents is forbidden in Islam and the murder of Muslims in particular, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden required some sort of theological framework for justifying terrorism. This was provided by al-Sharif, who essentially argued in his book, "The Compendium of the Pursuit of Divine Knowledge," that apostates could be murdered, and that approach, takfir (which has come to be known as takfirism) allowed al Qaeda to, for all intents and purposes, kill anyone they wanted without violating the laws of Islam by declaring them to be apostates. In other words, Dr. Fadl helped provided a theological justification for something that everyone involved knew was wrong.

The legal memos justifying torture aren't very different in terms of reasoning--it's clear that John Yoo and his cohorts in the Office of Legal Counsel saw their job not as binding the president to the rule of law, but to declare legal any tactic that the executive branch believed necessary to fight terrorism....

The torture memos--indeed, all of the pro-torture arguments rest on a similar intellectual themes to the takfiris. Suspected terrorists are "illegal enemy combatants", outside the framework of laws that would otherwise guide us. Just as the takfiris justify the killing of even self-identified Muslims by excommunicating them as "infidels", torture apologists argue that even American citizens like Jose Padilla who are accused of being terrorists become legal "apostates" without any rights the president is bound to respect. These are extraordinary circumstances, this is an extraordinary war--and so, the Bush administration turned to Yoo, a man who believes the president is bound by no laws during wartime:
There is much more, so again, I commend you to read the whole post. As I told a conservative friend last year, history will condemn Bush administration for their use of torture. Adam concluded "...while those who stained America's honor with war crimes have escaped accountability for now, these American takfiris will eventually be judged by history with a clarity we cannot muster today. The arc of the universe is long...you know, all that stuff."

The DoJ's report on torture

The Atlantic's James Fallows has a must read on the DoJ OPR report,
The report is available as a 10MB, 289-page PDF download here. Seriously, this is a document that informed Americans should be familiar with, as a basis for any future discussion about the costs and consequences of a "global war on terror" and about the maintenance of American "values" in the world.

Through American history, there have been episodes of brutality and abuse that, in hindsight, span a very wide range of moral acceptability. There is no way to "understand" lynchings that makes them other than abominations. But -- to use the extreme case -- America's use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki will always be the subject of first-order moral debate, about whether any "larger good" (forcing an end to the war) could justify the immediate suffering, the decades-long aftereffects, and the crossing of the "first use" frontier that this decision represented.

My point now is not to go through the A-bomb debate. It is to say that anyone who is serious in endorsing the A-bomb decision has to have fully faced the consequences. This is why John Hersey's Hiroshima was requisite basic knowledge for anyone arguing for or against the use of the bomb. The OPR report is essentially this era's Hiroshima. As Hersey's book does, it makes us confront what was done in our name -- "our" meaning the citizens of the United States.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Stimulus Creates 1.6 to 1.8M Jobs

Firms like IHS Global Insight, and Macroeconomic Advisers exist to provide (sell)independent non-political economic analysis to the private sector that require that information to manage their businesses, make investment and expansion decisions, etc.

David Leonhardt in today's NY Times takes a look at analysis by these firms and Moody's Economy all of whom have called the much maligned stimulus bill a success:
Just look at the outside evaluations of the stimulus. Perhaps the best-known economic research firms are IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Economy.com. They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative.
That this information runs counter-factual to daily media reports speaks volumes about the Obama Administrations abysmal message machine which is Obama's biggest failure of leadership. The President has the bully pulpit which gives him a megaphone the opposition does not have, and yet their meme of "a failed stimulus" carries the day.

Of course, until the economy starts creating jobs on a monthly basis instead of losing jobs, there is a limit to what even the best message machine can do, but still,....

Monday, February 08, 2010

Taking on Anthem Blue Cross

Finally! A insurance company is being called out and forced to justify an absurd rate hike.

Anthem Blue Cross parent Wellpoint's boasted an eightfold increase in Q4 2009 profits to $2.7B and to celebrate they are instituting unprecedented rate increases even as the national economy was contracting. The rate increase in California for many individual insureds was 39% (a friend in St Louis had the same increase) and Health and Human Services has finally had enough.

Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to Anthem President Leslie Margolin demanding an explanation,
"With so many families already affected by rising costs, I was very disturbed to learn through media accounts that Anthem Blue Cross plans to raise premiums for its California customers by as much as 39%,...."

"These extraordinary increases are up to 15 times faster than inflation and threaten to make healthcare unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of Californians, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet in a difficult economy."
_____

"I believe Anthem Blue Cross has a responsibility to provide a detailed justification for these rate increases to the public,"..."Additionally, you should make public information on the percent of your individual market premiums that is used for medical care versus the percent that is used for administrative costs."
Anthem should be used as the poster child for repealing anti-trust exemptions for insurers. Let members of Congress go on the record weeping of the blight of these poor insurers.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Raging Grannies Rip CBS

The South Florida Raging Grannies don't care much for CBS' politics. You need to watch this very funny video.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The POTUS addressing the House GOP retreat

As promised in a tweet, here is the President's remarks and subsequent Q&A.

It became clear during the campaign that Obama was a very effective speaker with the uncanny ability to turn anything around with a good speech. Watching this exchange you realize that Obama really is a bright guy with an exceptionally good policy mind. For reasons that I will never understand Republicans greatly underestimate him (an example being their decision, which they now regret, to broadcast this appearance). Then President Bush appeared at the 2007 Democratic House Retreat with no broadcast and absolutely no Q&A.

Here are the President's remarks,



Here is the full Q&A that followed,

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Text of Obama's State of the Union Address

Can be found here.

Filibustering Everything

The President in his first State of the Union, "if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town -- a supermajority -- then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well."

John Kyl (R-AZ) was rankled by this comment on NPR this morning expressly denying that Republican were doing any such thing, but in fact, they are guilty as charged.

The folks at TPM gathered the data and put together this handy chart.



Democrats cannot give the GOP a pass on this. The POTUS and the leaders in Congress have to call them out at every opportunity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lossing Teddy's seat

No matter how anyone wants to spin it, this is a great symbolic win for the GOP and a great symbolic loss for the Democrats.

I was going to write a post about my take on this failure of Democratic leadership -- and make no mistake -- that is exactly what happened -- but Josh Marshall already summed it up well,
The central problem the president is laboring under is the fact that the economy remains in a shambles. And unemployment remains at a toxic 10%. Beyond that though the Democrats are suffering because they have shown voters an image of fecklessness and inability to deliver results at a moment of great public anxiety and suffering. Big changes provoke great anxiety, especially in such a divided society. But Democrats are not just having dealing with the ideological divisions in the country -- which is what the Tea Party movement is about. They're also losing a big swathe of the population that is losing faith that the Democrats can govern, that they can even deliver on the reforms and policies they say are necessary for the national good. As I wrote earlier, this is about meta-politics. If the Democrats, either from the left or the right, walk away from reform, they will get slaughtered in November. They'll get it from the people who want reform, from the people who never wanted reform and from sensible people all over who just think they can't get anything done.
Given the debacle of health care reform, can any of us look someone in the eye and assure them that Democrats in Washington can govern?

And the President deserves as much blame as the buffoons in Congress. As Howard Fineman said last night on MSNBC, Obama took all his winning in the Presidential election and gave them to Max Baucus.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The 'terrorist attacks' Giuliani forgot,

Yesterday morning on GMA, Rudy Giuliani told George Stephanopoulos "we had no domestic attacks under Bush -- we've had on under Obama". Stephanopoulos you might expect would take exception to this outragious lie -- He did not. Here's the video.

Of course, on September 11, 2001, the cities of New York and Washington DC suffered from significant and memorable terrorist attacks. Rudy "America's Mayor" Giuliani was mayor of New York at the time and has spoken of it often until yesterday.

But there where other attacks as well which I will list with the help of Jake Tapper's Political Punch,

• British national Richard Reid on December 22, 2001 attempted to blow up American Airlines flight 63 from Paris to Miami with a shoe bomb.

• Egyptian national Hesham Mohamed Hadayet shot and killed two Israelis and wounded four others at the El Al ticket counter at LAX on July 22, 2002.

• The 2001 anthrax attacks, which killed five people, and has yet to be solved.

• John Allen Muhammed aka "the DC Snipper" killed at least 10 people in 2002 and was convicted by a Virginia court of terrorism, among other charges.

Stephanopoulos has since said that critics who have suggested he might have pressed Rudy on this nonsense are correct. Really?