Monday, December 12, 2011

American Airlines Apoligizes to Alec Baldwin


As Newt Gingrich appears poised to seize the 2012 Republican nomination, I'm reminded of this dramatic reading of one of Newt Gingrich's press releases. The reading starts at about 3:45

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What a Wonderful World

Via The Dish, a tribute to David Attenborough's final appearance on the BBC. I crew up loving his nature programs. How much longer do we have to enjoy any of these miracles on nature?

Friday, December 09, 2011

Pujols could have had it all, but instead he chose $254 million

I'm not sure if Albert understands the difference between being a much loved icon and being just another hired gun, but he will very soon.

CBS baseball columnist Scott Miller certainly understands the difference. His column today is a must read.
When it gets ugly for Albert Pujols -- and it's going to get ugly for Albert Pujols -- he'll have himself to blame. Because it didn't have to be this way. Pujols could have been Derek Jeter. He could have been Cal Ripken. He could have been Ernie Banks or Ryne Sandberg or, yes, Stan Musial. Instead he'll be Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez or Gary Sheffield, just another big-bopping mercenary playing out the string in a city he chose because it offered the biggest selection of his favorite color: green. And if there's one thing sports fans don't have tolerance for, it's a mercenary who isn't earning his keep.

It's not just what will happen late in his career, when Pujols turns 40 -- or maybe 45; there are scouts who believe he was born in the 1970s, not 1980 -- but what will happen as soon as he hits a prolonged slump. Pujols just signed for A-Rod money, and A-Rod gets no slack from Yankees fans. Same goes for Pujols when he starts another season the way he started 2011, hitting .233 in early May and languishing 50 points below his career batting average into August. Fans in L.A. will see his batting average on the scoreboard and they'll boo. That's what fans do, especially to players who make about $60,000 per plate appearance and who spend an evening at the ballpark striking out twice and grounding into a double play. That's $180,000, down the tubes.

This is the future for Albert Pujols, just as it's the future for all but baseball's immortals. Pujols could have been one of those, but he sold his soul. At least he got top dollar for it.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Carrier IQ

Trevor Eckhart is all over the news with the below video showing how Carrier IQ software on your Android phone is recording and transmitting every possible detail of your phone use (including all web pages visited and the content of your text message BEFORE you even see them). The software company initially threaten to sue Trevor for exposing them, but as since back away, presumable having spoken to their own counsel and PR people.

I would expect several major class action lawsuits filed by the end of this week.

UPDATE: As predicted, Carrier IQ has been hit with the first, of what will be many, many class action lawsuits.

Herman Cain's new lie detector ad

This guy is one serious wack job.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bruce Bartlett. Not a Gingrich fan

Bruce Bartlett, who served in WH of both Ronald Reagan and George H.W, is a dying breed in GOP ranks. Bartlett, who values expertise, pinned a column today defending Congresses professional institutions which Speaker Gingrich gutted in the 90's and now attacks. On Gingrich's recent attacks on the CBO and GAO? "utter nonsense".
Mr. Gingrich’s unprovoked attack on the C.B.O. is part of a pattern. He disdains the expertise of anyone other than himself and is willing to undercut any institution that stands in his way. Unfortunately, we are still living with the consequences of his foolish actions as speaker. We could really use the Office of Technology Assessment at a time when Congress desperately needs scientific expertise on a variety of issues in involving health, energy, climate change, homeland security and many others. And given the enormous stress suffered by state and local governments as they are forced by Washington to do more with less, an organization like the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations would be invaluable. It is essential that Congress not cripple what is left of its in-house expertise. Gutting the G.A.O. and abolishing the C.B.O. would be acts of nihilism. Any politician recommending such things is unfit for office.
The anti-intellectualism that controls the radical Republicans running GOP comes at a very real price to the U.S and could ultimately be our undoing. Bartlett is not alone in Republican ranks on protecting the institutional expertise of Congress. Uber conservative Sen Tom Coburn (R-OK) issued a report defending the GAO and pointing out the savings the GAO generates by identifying and eliminating government waist.

FMGD: Former Massachusetts Governor Disorder

FMGD is a delusional disorder that afflicts certain political nerds who convince themselves despite all contrary evidence that a former Governor of Massachusetts can win a national election.

I've suffered from FMGD twice and now I see it infecting otherwise bright and reasonable Republican friends.

Monday, November 28, 2011

DNC's new ad "Trapped"

Running in 5 battleground states.

Given the timing, does this indicate a DNC preference for Gingrich over Mitt?

Below is the long form DNC video.

Mitt v. Mitt: The story of two men trapped in one body

There is just too much of this. I can't see how he survives these attacks.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The bottom line on accusations against Cain

Pejman Yousefzadeh tries to talk some sense into Cain Supporters,
I don’t even care at this point whether the charges are accurate; even if we assume that they are not, Cain’s habit of shifting his story in addressing the accusations, his campaign’s treatment of reporters asking questions about the charges, and now, the wild claims that other campaigns are behind the attacks, offered with little supporting evidence, show the Cain campaign in a very bad light, and show that the candidate himself is confused, desperate, and entirely on the defensive. No one should have any confidence whatsoever in Cain’s ability to survive a fall election campaign against a battle-hardened Obama team

(h/t to Andrew)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Andrew sums up the Republcan field

In one clever paragraph, Andrew Sullivan has perfectly summarized the Republican field,
My own take on this is that Cain is a great performer - he makes a living as a motivational speaker, after all - and the rest of the field is hobbled by one glaring problem respectively, while Cain isn't. Perry is simply too dumb and lazy to be president. Romney too transparently opportunist for a purist party. Paul is disqualified because of foreign policy. Bachmann is a programmed bonkers-bot. Santorum is a frothy substance whose views of the world are frozen in place sometime around 1986. Gingrich is an asshole who could never win the presidency, and even those who like his permanent smirk/snarl understand that. Huntsman might as well be Al Sharpton, because of his views on climate change, gays and because of his working for Satan. No wonder Cain has a shot, given the debates. He is likable and brilliant at simple, effective presentation. He has the skills of an actor, and a roguish shamelessness that reminds me a little of Clinton. Even though you know he's a total charlatan, you still kinda like the guy.
It's funny because it's true.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Romney calls out Perry and Jeffress

Romney deserves credit for calling out Perry and Jefress over Jefress' Value Voter's summit when Jeffress called the LDS church a cult. Perry has a long history of being way too cozy with every bigoted and racist wackadoodle paster south of the Mason Dixon line (here's a primer). It's notable that Romney apparently has no problems with Perry's friends who are racists or bigots except for anti-Morman bigotry, which would make for a good t0pic for an enterprising journalist to ask Mitt about. And FYI, not surprisingly LDS church isn't the only faith with which Jeffress has issue. For fun, someone should ask Jeffress about Roman Catholicism.

But the bigger problem Romney faces in this confrontation is that Dr. Robert Jeffress isn't just any wackadoodle bigoted pastor, He's the current President of the 16,000,000 member Southern Baptist Convention. "Progressive" is not a word that one would use to describe the Southern Baptist Convention-- It wasn't until 1995 that they repudiated slavery, support for which was a founding principle of the organization. One would think that such a repudiation would be an easy thing 130 years after the Civil War, but it turns out many of it's members were not at all happy with the move. And when Jefress called the LDS church a cult, he was in fact simple stating the current position of the Southern Baptist Convention he leads.

So, when Romney confronts Perry demanding he repudiate Jeffress, he's indirectly asking Perry to repudiate the Southern Baptist Convention -- and in so doing, Romney is repudiating the Southern Baptist Convention.

Can Romney realistically hope to win the White House without the Southern Baptists?

(Posted from Rome, Italy)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Remembering Steve Jobs

I'll be honest with you, I always had the impression Steve Jobs was an asshole. I also always thought he was a genius. He and Steve Wozniak changed the way we view the world. Companies like IBM and Xerox were experimenting with desktop computers, but it was Jobs and Wozniak and their start-up company Apple that had the vision to bring consumer computers into our homes and on our desks and in doing so, transformed our lives. I know this sounds like hyperbole, but it's true. Just imagine for a moment how different your daily life would be without a computer.

Brian Lam was the editorial director of Gizmodo in April, 2010, when they had the good fortune to obtain a prototype copy of the iPhone 4, and showed it to the world. The ensuing imbroglio between Gizmodo and Apple got pretty ugly.

Brian has now left Gizmodo and is writing his own blog. In a very warm and sweet post today, Brian remembers Steve Jobs and shares some regrets of his own following the iPhone 4 story.
I was on sabbatical when Jason got his hands on the iPhone prototype. An hour after the story went live, the phone rang and the number was from Apple HQ. I figured it was someone from the PR team. It was not.

"Hi, this is Steve. I really want my phone back."

He wasn't demanding. He was asking. And he was charming and he was funny...

"I appreciate you had your fun with our phone and I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at the sales guy who lost it. But we need the phone back because we can't let it fall into the wrong hands."

I thought, maybe its already in the wrong hands?

He continued, "There are two ways we can do this. I can send someone to pick up the phone–"
Me: "I don't have it"

"–But you know someone who does…or we can send someone with legal papers, and I don't want to do that."

He was giving us an easy way out. I told him I had to talk to my dudes. Before he hung up, he asked me, "What do you think of it?"

I said, "It's beautiful."
There's much more and it's well worth the read.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Are we finally winning the war on terror?

Andrew thinks so and makes his case in an excellent post I commend you to read.

While the Bush administration spent 8 years pursing an ideological war of division at home (Americans who disagreed with them were as much the enemy as bin Laden himself) and abroad and squandering billions of dollars like drunken sailors, the Obama administration has gotten serious about taking the fight to the terrorist leaders who have waged war on the West long before the events of September 11, 2001.

Andrew contrasts the approaches of the previous and current administration,
Compare the two presidents. One unleashed a war in Afghanistan he then left to languish, and sparked an unjustified war in Iraq, that became a catastrophe of mass death and chaos. He both maximally antagonized the Arab and Muslim world and didn't even score a major victory against the enemy. In many ways, Bush gave al Qaeda an opening in Iraq where it never had one before, and allowed its key leadership to escape at Tora Bora. The torture program, meanwhile, fouled up our intelligence while destroying our moral standing in the world.

Obama has ended torture and pursued a real war, not an ideological spectacle. He has destroyed almost all of al Qaeda of 9/11 (if Zawahiri is taken out, no one is left), obliterated its ranks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, found and killed bin Laden, in a daring raid pushed relentlessly by the president alone, capturing alongside a trove of intelligence, procured as a consequence of courage and tenacity rather than cowardice and torture.

I know the next election will be about the economy. But what it should also be about is the revelation of the Republicans as fundamentally weak on national security. Caught up in their own ideology, they proved for eight years they'd rather posture and preen than do the intelligent, relentless, ethical intelligence work that is only now leading to victory.

Obama, in other words, is winning the war Bush kept losing. And since Cairo, we have witnessed the real flowering of democratic forces in the Middle East - unseen during the Bush-Cheney years. For all the tireless efforts of the Israelis to cripple US foreign policy against Jihadism, Obama has done the job. If he fails to make this case in the next election, he will, in my judgment, be blowing an important opportunity to reinforce a structural advantage against the GOP on national security.
I have been very critical of Obama's failed leadership on domestic issues, but I think Andrew gets this right. The so-called war on terror is not a war between sovereign state actors but against individuals and their networks that exist outside of governments. To defeat them, you have to relentlessly hunt them down, one by one, and kill them. While Bush and Cheney quixotically tilted at windmills and launching invasions of governments not involved, Obama has focused the power of the DoD and CIA like a laser on the individuals actually leading the terror war against not just the US, but the Western world. This by the way, is how Israel has been defending itself against terror since the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"So many are bigots,..."

I did not watch the debate last night, but a question about DADT posed by Soldier Steven Hill, a soldier serving in Iraq, has generated a lot of heat today. Hill is gay and asked the Republican candidates if they intended to circumvent the repeal of DADT if elected to the presidency. Hill was met by resounding boos from the audience and scorn from Rick Sanatorium. No one, by the way, could be bothered to thank the soldier for his service.

In response to the audience boos and Santorum's "bizarre" answer that repealing DADT somehow gives gay soldiers permission for sexual misconduct that is not enjoyed by straight soldiers, Andrew Sullivan seems to have had an epiphany.
10.18 pm. Santorum claims bizarrely that repealing DADT means permission for sexual activity for gays in the military. This is a lie. The same rules of sexual misconduct apply to gays and straights alike. And a gay service member is booed by this foul crowd. Santorum keeps saying "sex is not an issue." But that's the current policy! This has nothing to do with sex, as Santorum surely knows. And again, the crowd reveals itself as hateful - even when it comes to those serving their country in uniform. This is one core reason why I cannot be a Republican. So many are bigots - and no one - no one - stands up against them. They're a bunch of bullies congratulating themselves on rooting out the queers..[Bold emphasis mine - italics is Andrew]
Andrew makes an important point -- No one inside the GOP will stand up to these bigots. No one on that stage last night could be bothered to thank this soldier for his service, much less to defend the US being the LAST NATO nation to allow gay people to serve openly. Hell, it's hard to find anyone to stand up to the racists in the party -- especially when they comes from the tea party.

How many friends do you have who are self-described Republicans who ever offer anything other than excuses for the bigotry that permeates the Republican party? Better yet, how many self-described Christian Republicans have you ever heard offer anything but excuses for the hatred that is endemic in the GOP?

At some point, if you're not willing to take a stand in opposition to hatred, don't we have the right to assume you share that hatred?

Don Ward: Job Creator

Surprisingly, very few people seem interested in taking on the silly 'job creator' BS being peddled by the GOP. Dana Milbank is an exception.

When Republicans talk about the mythic 'job creator' they confuse income, as in profits after all business expenses are paid, and gross revenues - -which no one pays taxes on.

Like Mibank, I too am a 'job creator' who will never create a single job. While I'm not a C-Corp (Milbank is), I am a partner in a law firm and my income comes from the profits of that law firm. But here is the obvious problem with this job creator BS being peddled by the GOP: After all the firms expenses are paid, rent, postage, supplies, computers/office equipment, etc. and most significantly, after all of the firms employees have been paid, I get my portion of what is left, and this is what my income taxes are based upon. You could reduce my income tax to zero and neither I nor my law firm would hire a single additional employee. Likewise, you could double my income tax (please don't) and my law firm would not lay off a single employee.

Wages for employees is an expense that comes off the top before there is any income. No one, no corporation, small business, no anything pays income taxes on revenues that are used to pay the expenses of the business, including personnel expenses, be they employees or outside contractors -- they never have and no matter what happens -- they never will.

If any business - small or otherwise - chooses to add employees, the cost of these employees come out of their pre-tax revenue and NOT their income. Income is reduced by the cost of employees and therefore not taxed -- ever.

Milbank takes a look at the Nation's job creators and discovers nearly all of them are like he and I,
According to Small Business Administration statistics, based on 2009 Census data, 21.1 million of the 27 million small businesses in the United States are “non-employer firms,” which have no workers other than the owner. Of those, 18.7 million are “sole proprietors,” 950,000 are partnerships and 1.4 million are corporations, like me.

When lawmakers talk about small businesses as the engine of growth, they bring to mind entrepreneurs building start-ups from their garages. But when officials talk about protecting the “job creators” from tax hikes, they are mostly protecting a bunch of doctors, lawyers, freelancers, contractors and the like.
So, next time someone tells you that raising the percentage of the top tax bracket will kill America's job creators, tell them to stop being a douche bag. It's consumers who are the job creators.

Demand, and only demand, creates job. Tax cuts will never create jobs.  

Businesses aren't hiring right now because they don't have the demand for more of what they sell, whether it's goods are services.  No matter how many regulations or taxes exist, if a market exists for more of the goods or services any business sells, they will hire all the necessary people to sell more product, because selling more product directly equates to higher profits.   Anyone who suggests otherwise is either ignorant or intentionally being misleading.

In my business we have added more attorneys the last 2 years.  We did this because we had rising demand for their services, which we sell for a profit.  The amount of taxes we pay on that profit has absolutely nothing to do with the hiring decision -- One has no relation to the other. 

The undeniable value of stimulus

and why do smart Republicans always lie about this?

The New York Stock Exchange infamously crashed in October 1929, seven months after Republican President Herbert Hoover took office. Hoover was the former Secretary of Commerce. In the wake of the crash, banks began to fall like dominoes. There was no FDIC and millions of Americans lost all their savings when their banks failed -- which caused an obvious snowball effect ('I can't pay my employees because I lost all my money in the bank'. 'I can't pay my mortgage b/c I lost all my savings and my job'). My great grandfather who had been a prosperous painter lost his life savings and 3 houses. He never recovered financially and died in 1972 with $500 to his name.

The Hoover administration responded to the bank failures and subsequent recession with austerity -- they did nothing. Hoover believed unemployment payments would be addictive and discourage work. He did agree to deport all Mexicans from the United States on the belief they were taking "American" jobs, and he insisted on balanced budgets. Does all this sound familiar?

Hoover lost reelection in a landslide to FDR who took office in March 1933. FDR immediately began instituting The New Deal. Here is the effect of the New Deal on GDP:

the New Deal Graph
(The Y-Axis is GDP expressed as a percentage increase over the lowest GDP in 1933. Note that in 1929, the GDP is nearly 40% ABOVE the 1933 low, and this was surpassed in 1936)

This graph comes from an article by Paul Abrams written in response to Republican criticisms to Obama's 2009 stimulus program.

Note the downturn in 1936 and 1937. As Abrams explains,
This is as close to a "scientific experiment" as there can be in macroeconomics: from '33 to '36 Roosevelt unleashed the New Deal and what passed at the time as massive spending. The GDP grew every year by double-digits.

Then, in a reversion to his true roots as a fiscal conservative, FDR decided that it was time to slash spending to balance the budget. The economy contracted. Then in '38, realizing the error of his ways, Roosevelt started spending again, and GDP grew every year thereafter.
The next time someone tells you the New Deal was a failure, ask them to explain this graph.

I am as concerned about systemic Federal deficits as anyone, and unlike all these Republican self-described 'fiscal conservatives' my concern didn't start on January 20th, 2009. But now is not the time to back off on Federal spending -- at least now when it comes to building projects. We have neglected our infrastructure for 30 years. With the rest of the world running to US debt to keep their money safe, the US can borrow money at a net rate of zero percent. Now is the time for a trillion dollar construction bill to rebuild highways, airports and to build out a modern high speed rail system to connect regional cities like Saint Louis and Chicago.

Unfortunately for the U.S., Republicans have dug in on opposing anything Obama wants and Obama has abdicated his leadership role for so long now that there is little hope his new found voice can save us from what appears to be the makings of a global depression.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's the end of my youth as I knew it

Yesterday, with no fanfare, REM made the following announcement on their homepage,
To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening. R.E.M.
It is, they insist, an amicable parting, and there is no reason to believe otherwise. REM has always been a very close-knit band. While on the 1995 Monster tour in Europe bassist Mike Mills suffered a ruptured appendix. Mills urged them to get a stand-in bassist to continue the tour but his bandmates refused to leave him behind. They postponed several shows and stayed with Mills in Germany until he was released from the hospital and able to travel.

I became an REM fan in college when they released their second album, Reckoning. The following year they released Fables of the Reconstruction and I was hooked. Of course my youth ended long ago but as long as REM was together recording and touring it didn't seem so far in the past. I'm honestly and little sad. Now, there's only U2 -- which I knew as an alternative college band when I was in college.

You younger folks smirking will understand how this feels when the band that wrote the soundtrack to your college years calls it quits.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned above that Michael Stipe -- as Air Force brat -- attended high school in Collinsville, Illinois while his dad was stationed at Scott (I think Michael's family moved his senior year and he graduated somewhere else). When REM was St Louis in 1995 Michael looked up his best friend from Collinsivlle High who by then had a young son. They were Michael's guest at the Riverport concert that night and Michael gave them a heart-felt shout-out during the show.

What I didn't know was that while Michael was living in Collinsville he was one of the Rocky Horror junkies that used to show up at the Varsity Theater in U-City every Saturday night.

Amazingly, Joe Williams of the StL Post-Dispatch found this video. Do you recognize the kid in drag dressed as Frankenfurter?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Plague upon the house of Texas?

Have you been following the pestilence that has stuck Texas? This summer Texas recorded the hottest summer that any state has ever endured in recorded history.

Coming with all this heat is the worst drought ever recorded in the United States. Above is a US Drought map that illustrates how extreme the drought has been, and there's no end in sight, even has the heat begins to subside. Lakes and rivers have completely dried up.

Has a fundamentalist Christian who spurns science and theories of global warming, looking at this map, how can you reach any other conclusion but that a vengeful God hates Texas and is literally burning Texas off the face of the earth?

God's eternal and unchanging word,
Nahum 1:3-5 (KJV)

3The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

4He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.

5The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein
If Rick Perry were to be elected president, would God's wrath follow him and engulf the entire country?

P.S. to Georgia -- looks like your next.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer


Marine Dakota Meyer, pictured above having a beer with the President on the patio of the Oval Office, is an American hero of extraordinary courage. Disobeying orders, Marine Juan Rodriguez-Chavez (A Mexican immigrant to the United States) drove a Humvee 5 times through withering Taliban fire with Meyers manning the gun turret, to rescue fellow marines and Afghan soldiers pinned down in a Taliban ambush.

Rodriquez-Chavez and Marine Capt. Ademola Fabayo (An immigrant from Nigeria who thinks of himself as a New Yorker), who manned the gun turret on the fifth rescue attempt, received the Navy Cross for the extraordinary valor they showed that day. Rodriquez-Chavez and Ademola are pictured here the day they received the Navy Cross.

NPR tells the story very well,
Shortly after dawn on a September morning in 2009, American and Afghan troops set out on patrol along a rocky mile-long stretch in eastern Afghanistan. They were heading to a small village for a routine meeting with tribal elders.

Suddenly, everything went wrong.

Cpl. Dakota Meyer and Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, who had stayed behind with the vehicles, heard small arms fire in the distance and knew instantly it was an ambush. Rodriguez-Chavez then heard an officer yelling for help on the radio.

"He said, 'I have wounded here. I need to get them out of here. If I don't get [backup] fires, we're all going to die here,' " Rodriguez-Chavez recalled.

So the Marines had to act. Meyer, then age 21, kept asking for permission to help the stranded troops, but the officers said no.

"And then finally, I requested one last time," he said.

Again, the answer was no.

So Meyer and Rodriguez-Chavez decided on the spot to disobey orders.

"He looks at me and says, 'Let's do it,' " Meyer said.

That decision was the start of a long day — a six-hour fight to save the trapped men.

Going Back, Again And Again

Rodriguez-Chavez hopped behind the wheel of a Humvee and drove straight into the ambush. Meyer climbed into the vehicle's gun turret and tried to pinpoint the elusive enemy.

But he said it was hard to identify the Taliban. "They look like normal people, and the next thing you know they're shooting at you," Meyer said.

The Taliban fired mortars, and then rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire as the two Marines got closer. There were explosions and ricochets. The Humvee's side mirror was ripped off by the fire. The noise was deafening.

"Imagine one of those real loud firecrackers blowing up next to your ear," Rodriguez-Chavez said.

Yet Meyer kept firing back, with the shell casings from his machine gun spilling into the Humvee.

"It's kind of crazy, because everything slows down. It seems like it was forever and ever," Meyer said. "And it starts running through your head: I'm never going to see my family again."

Finally, they found a group of Afghan soldiers, the first men who'd been cut off. The two Americans piled the Afghans into the Humvee, including some who had been wounded.

As they dropped off the Afghan soldiers in a safe place, the Afghans warned the Americans, "Don't go back, don't go back."

But the two Marines did go back — again and again.

Rodriguez-Chavez already has been awarded the Navy Cross, the second-highest award for valor.

Surrounded By Taliban

Both men thought they were probably going to die that day. They remember having this exchange.

"Hey man, we'll probably get stuck out here," Rodriguez-Chavez said.

"We'll just die with them, because I can tell you right now they're not going to get out of here without us," said Meyer.

They drove back and forth five times, and Meyer in particular took chances, exposing himself repeatedly to enemy fire. At one point, he was hit in the right arm.

On the final run, it got worse. Rodriguez-Chavez heard a report over the radio.

"Like, hey man, you're getting surrounded," he was told.

And they were. Taliban fighters swarmed toward them — firing AK-47s.

Meyer shot at the Taliban, hitting one in the head and others in the body, Rodriguez-Chavez said. "From the front of the Humvee, they were maybe two or three feet," he said.

The Marines drove on to try to rescue the final group of troops. Nothing had been heard from them for hours. Meyer hoped they'd just lost radio contact.

"What I thought was they had probably pushed up in to a house and lost [communications], and they were just waiting on us to get in there," Meyer said.

A Dozen Marines, Two Dozen Afghan Soldiers Saved

It turned out these American troops were dead. But that didn't stop Meyer, who ran to retrieve the bodies. Taliban gunfire kicked up dirt around him.

Eventually they brought the bodies back to base. Meyer helped place his dead comrades on a helicopter.

After six hours, it was over. Meyer kept thinking one thing.

"You feel like a failure. Why isn't that you being carried on that bird? Why are you standing here and they're not?" Meyer said.

Meyer was anything but a failure. His actions, say military officials, saved more than a dozen Marines and two dozen Afghan soldiers.

Meyer was promoted to sergeant before he left the Marines, and is now living in his native Kentucky, where he is a construction worker. Rodriguez-Chavez is now a gunnery sergeant stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where he teaches troops how to drive Humvees and trucks.

Monday, September 12, 2011

How to beat Terrorism? Refuse to be Terrorized

Spencer Ackerman has a great September 11 piece up at Wired's Danger Room.

Trying to pick out a quote that sums up the essay doesn't do it justice so go read the whole thing. It's not especially long.

Spencer begins,
Ten years ago today, 2,996 people were murdered, unleashing a pair of destructive, mutually reinforcing trends. To prove their relevance, terrorists keep trying to attack the United States at home. And the media and politicians react to it with hysteria, running in fear of getting blamed for a successful attack and perpetuating the gigantic, expensive, counterproductive National Security State. As awful as the snuffing of so many souls on 9/11 was, the second trend has often proved more dangerous than the first.

In case you haven’t noticed, hysteria is what the terrorists want. In fact, it’s the only win a decapitated, weakened al-Qaida can get these days. The only hope that these eschatological conspiracy theorists possess for success lies in compelling the U.S. to spend its way into oblivion and pursue ill-conceived wars. That’s how Osama bin Laden transforms from a cave-dwelling psycho into a world-historical figure — not because of what he was, but because of how we reacted to him.

We have spent 6.6 TRILLION DOLLARS -- with a 'T'-- in response to the bombings of September 11th, with no end in sight. This spending is bankrupting the United States which is exactly Osama Bin Laden hoped we would do.

Read Spencer's essay and share it with others. We really need a new, rational, approach.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

McCain and Graham keeping it classy

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham released a joint statement on the fall of Gaddafi,
The end of the Qadaffi regime in Libya is a victory for the Libyan people and for the broader cause of freedom in the Middle East and throughout the world. This achievement was made possible first and foremost by the struggle and sacrifice of countless Libyans, whose courage and perseverance we applaud. We also commend our British, French, and other allies, as well as our Arab partners, especially Qatar and the UAE, for their leadership in this conflict. Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Qaddafi, but we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower.

Friday, August 19, 2011

It's a sickening feeling

Kevin Drum perfectly captures the feeling,
Watching the world slide slowly back into recession without a fight, even though we know perfectly well how to prevent it, is just depressing beyond words. Our descendents will view the grasping politicians and cowardly bankers responsible for this about as uncomprehendingly as we now view the world leaders who cavalierly allowed World War I to unfold even though they could have stopped it at any time.
The GOP is a party of fools and opportunist, like Romney who certainly knows better but is so obscenely ambitious that he would watch the world fall into a global depression if that is the price for him to be president.

And as Ezra Klein says so clearly writes, this is macroeconomics 101
What should hap pen next is not that hard: Con gress should pass leg is la tion great ly increas ing sup port for the econ o my now and reduc ing the deficit by about $4 tril lion over the next 10 years ($3 tril lion once you include the dis cre tionary cuts in the debt deal). It's not rock et sci ence, and it shouldn't be par ti san. Ask ex-Reagan advis er Mar tin Feld stein, or ex-Bush Trea sury Sec re tary Henry Paul son -- or read Jack ie Calmes ask ing them -- and you'll hear the same thing. This is just stan dard eco nom ic the o ry. But Repub li cans in Wash ing ton are not going to apply it.
And don't read this as a pardon for Obama. His multiple failures of leadership have led directly to our coming under the thumb of these fools and idiots.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

David Frum takes stock in the post-Palin GOP

David Frum has written Sarah Palin's political obituary, "Over the past three years, Palin has systematically laid waste to the basis for a presidential campaign. By her own words and actions, she has discredited herself and alienated her one-time supporters."

But before the GOP gives Palin the final kiss-off to political obscurity, Frum wants the GOP to "make an assessment and accounting" of what allowed them to have embarrassingly embraced such a dim-wit.

Frum lays out 3 lessons to be learned from the Palin debacle.

1. "More respect for brains as a qualification for the presidency"
Within days of the announcement of Palin as GOP running mate, it became obvious to everybody that she could not pronounce two coherent consecutive sentences on any aspect of national policy, foreign or domestic. A lot of effort went into arguing that this ignorance did not matter, or even that it represented a weird kind of plus factor.

Three years later, we no longer hear such excuses for Palin. But it remains true even now that Republicans do not take intelligence or expertise very seriously as qualifications for the presidency. Mitt Romney's smarts do him surprisingly little good; Rick Perry's non-smarts do him disturbingly little harm; and Michele Bachmann's out-beyond-the-Orion-belt substitutions for familiarity with life here on Earth only intensify the admiration of her fan base.

2. "Quit treating consumption patterns as substitutes for character"
....the choice of cowboy boots over loafers, enjoyment of hunting rather than bicycling, a preference for ketchup over mustard — these tell us precisely nothing about a candidate's character.

Yet it was precisely these kinds of irrelevant lifestyle choices that persuaded so many conservatives that Sarah Palin would be a fitting leader. She drops her "g"s! Her husband owns a fishing boat! She shoots moose! (Not really on that last point, but that's the story we were told at the time.)

3. "Involve more women as party decision-makers"
In the single month of October 2008, Sarah Palin's favorabilities among independent women dropped by more than 20 points. Within a year of Palin's appearance on the national scene, a plurality of female Republicans dismissed her as "unqualified" for the presidency....

In 2008, John McCain had a choice of three female Republican senators, two female Republican governors, and an array of Republican female CEOs, including Meg Whitman, who would gain the Republican nomination for governor of California in 2010....But there was one clear advantage that Palin did possess over her more traditionally plausible rivals: her looks....

What Ziegler said out loud, millions of American women discerned for themselves: Here was a woman candidate chosen by men who do not respect women. No surprise what happened next.

The first two points seem pretty obvious. I've wondered out-loud for years to Republican friends why the GOP is so often drawn to real dopes -- un-serious, incurious anti-intellectuals whose most obvious trait seems to be vanity. The answer, by the way, probably has something to do with the GOP best and brightest being too busy make real fortunes in business and needing someone in office dumb enough to be easily flattered into raping the environment and transferring as much government funds to the aforementioned business people as possible before the public sours on him and casts him off into obscurity. But I digress,...

But this last point is perhaps the most important. Republicans as a group are very hostile to women. Look at how they treated then first lady Hillary Clinton? It was a vindictiveness and hatefulness that was just obscene. And of all the Democratic foes for the GOP to point to these last 5 years, the most hateful and vitriolic treatment has been reserved for Nancy Pelosi. The choice of Sarah Palin was very telling of the GOP view of women.

Republican extremism ctd.

Matt Eckel at Foreign Policy Watch attempts to make the empirical case that the GOP is demonstrably more extreme.

Matt concludes
There used to be Rockerfeller Republicans. There used to be Republicans who had grudgingly made their peace with the pillars of the American welfare state. There used to be Republicans who, on the most crucial domestic issue axis (the economy, and government’s regulatory and redistributive role therein) could be trusted to act with a modicum of responsibility. I don’t see those around anymore. I do see a political environment where people like Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry dominate the conversation in a way Pat Robertson never managed to do. That really does represent a further shift toward the “extreme.” It’s not just something political consultants have made up.

Perry's [small] World View

The Daily Beast's David Sessions reads Rick Perry's latest book (Perry's written two books) so you don't have to.

In reading the review it seems that Perry is pretty much what you imagined him to be; an ultra-Southern extremest anti-intellectual. "Perry tends to portray policy expertise as sham and pretension, mocking political arguments, legal reasoning and historical analysis that attempt to articulate context or nuance."

But as contemptuous and wasteful as Perry finds the Federal Government, like so many conservatives with masculinity issues, he has no problem with unchecked wasteful spending if it is for war,
War seems to be a love like no other for Perry—the one arena where he’s happy for the federal government to break all his rules. After bemoaning in chapter after chapter the federal government’s inherent, hopeless corruption and waste, he asserts that the U.S. seriously underspends on national defense and that the Pentagon’s sprawling bureaucracy is both indispensable and infallible. He even argues strenuously against cutting funding for the F-22, a fighter jet the outgoing defense secretary, Robert Gates, called a Cold War relic and a source of massive waste.
The F-22 is fantastically expensive, flown zero flights in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya (because there is no mission for it in those wars), and can't fly at all in the rain (literally) but it is built in Texas, so that is really all anyone needs to know.

I stand by my earlier comment that Perry will never be more popular than the day he announced his presidential bid. Even Republicans have had their fill of dim-witted Texas cowboys who are all hat and no cattle.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rick Perry's Reverse Class Warfare

Scott Galupo is blunt, in a way that more opinion writers should be,
Today I'm wondering where the Reagan Republicans are. The sweeping 1986 tax overhaul that Reagan signed into law broadened the tax base, closed loopholes, and lowered individual income tax rates. It also established the Earned Income Tax Credit program, or EITC, which eliminated millions of the working poor from the rolls altogether. Expanded by President Clinton in 1993, the antipoverty program has been a smashing bipartisan success.....

Now it's become commonplace among the right to question whether such programs are "fair."The idea that the middle class—or whoever Rick Perry means by "We"—is suffering because the lower classes aren't paying taxes; the idea that the rich would create more jobs if their share of national wealth was even more heavily concentrated; the idea that, if everyone had "skin in the game," the economy would somehow improve, even as the beneficiaries of programs like the EITC are bearing the brunt of the Great Recession—all this is, to put it bluntly, a load of crap.

It's a stupid, nonempirical, and corrosive mindset.
It's also not in the spirit of Christianity and Christ's message by people who use their Christianity as a sword to sit in judgement of all those with whom they disagree.

Has Southern white extremism taken over the GOP?

On more than one occasion I've mentioned Chris Caldwell's 1998 Atlantic essay, The Southern Captivity of the GOP. Chris is a senior editor at the Weekly Standard, so it's hard to charge liberal bias.

In 1995 Michael Lind (a Texan) wrote an article for The New Republic that called the 94 take over of the House as a Southern Coup. Lind tried to put the extreme politics of the Gingrich Congress in an historical perspective.

Lind has updated his 1995 article with a new article in Salon entitled, The Tea Party, the debt ceiling, and white Southern extremism. Lind makes the case that the so called Tea Party is just the latest incarnation of Southern minority extremism holding the country hostage to get what they want.
From the earliest years of the American republic, white Southern conservatives when they have lost elections and found themselves in the political minority have sought to extort concession from national majorities by paralyzing or threatening to destroy the United States....

The Republican Party's attempted government shutdown of 1995 marked the new domination of the Republican Party by Southerners like Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay. The impeachment of their fellow Southerner Bill Clinton was an attempted coup d'├ętat by the Southern white minority in the United States, which, as in 1860, was frustrated because its candidate lost the presidential election.

The debt ceiling crisis is the latest case in which the radical right in the South has held America hostage until its demands are met. Presidents Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln refused to appease the Southern fanatics. Unfortunately, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress chose not to follow their example and instead gave in. In doing so, they have encouraged the neo-Confederate minority in Congress to find yet another opportunity in the near future to extort concessions from America's majority by sabotaging America's government.
While you might not buy into all of Lind's thesis (I do), it's hard to argue that with the Gingrich Congress in 1994, that Southern extremist politics took over the GOP. Clearly, this is not the party of Goldwater, Nixon, or George H.W.

(HT The Dish)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This is becoming fascinating

Watching the heavy hitters in the Conservative media pummel Rick Perry.

The latest is this headline from the WSJ Washington Wire:
Perry Points to 'Idiotic' U.S. Rule That Doesn't Exist
For a small-government conservative on the presidential campaign stump like Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a new federal regulation forcing farmers to get commercial drivers licenses would make a perfect example of Barack Obama’s Washington run amok.

Unfortunately, there is no such regulation....

The GOP dilemma in one paragraph

John Batchelor at The Daily Beast perfectly sums up the problem with the current GOP field,
So far, the GOP is not constructing a candidate who can prosper in the states in which the 2012 election will turn. And the two major candidates, Romney and Perry, fail to deliver outside their own narrow, predictable records. Romney’s governorship in deeply blue Massachusetts is a waste and provides no momentum in the heartland, especially given his role in leveraged buyouts that helped transfer America’s manufacturing jobs to Asia. Perry’s governorship in red Texas is equally a waste, as the GOP hardly needs a hog-calling country parson lite from West Texas to carry the Old South. How does Perry go North with the shopworn baggage of Johnny Reb superiority and an unapologetic evangelical paternalism?
I wish I could write so well.

Karl Rove is afraid of a Perry campaign

Two things seem pretty obvious. 1, Karl Rove does not care for Rick Perry, and 2, Rove fears a Perry campaign.

From TPM,
"You don't accuse the chairman of the federal reserve of being a traitor to his country. Of being guilty of treason," Karl Rove told Fox News Tuesday. "And, suggesting that we treat him pretty ugly in Texas. You know, that is not, again a presidential statement."
In case you missed it, in response to a question before a crowd in Iowa yesterday, Perry said that for The Fed Chairman to initiate a third round of quantitative easing (increasing the cash supply by the Fed purchasing T Bill) would be "almost treasonous" and appeared to threaten the health and safty of the chairman should he visit Texas after having done so.

Perhaps the funniest thing about Rove's comments, is the fact that he was the first to criticize Perry on Fox News for his outrageous remarks and his doing so is actually controversial.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Perhaps someone still off the field will step in and run"

In an interesting editorial today, Murdoch's WSJ writes off Bachmann, Perry and Romney and pleads for a yet unknown figure to enter the race.

Murdoch's WSJ on Bachmann,
...winning a straw poll of activists is a long way from persuading voters she has the experience and judgment to sit in the Oval Office. (Libertarian Ron Paul, who has no chance to win the nomination, finished a close second.) Mrs. Bachmann has a record of errant statements (see Battle of Lexington and Concord, history of) that are forgiven by Fox Nation but won't be if she makes them as a GOP standard-bearer.

More substantively, her attempt to position herself at all times as the anti-establishment outsider has made her seem on occasion less principled than opportunistic. She quickly distanced herself from Paul Ryan's Medicare reform when it came under liberal fire, even as she purports to be the scourge of uncontrolled spending. Her recent opposition to the debt-ceiling deal on grounds that GOP leaders should have insisted on first passing a balanced budget amendment, while holding only the House, was a political fantasy.
Murdoch's WSJ doesn't like Perry any better,
The questions about Mr. Perry concern how well his Lone Star swagger will sell in the suburbs of Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where the election is likely to be decided. He can sound more Texas than Jerry Jones, George W. Bush and Sam Houston combined, and his muscular religiosity also may not play well at a time when the economy has eclipsed culture as the main voter concern.
And if you thought Murdoch's paper would come out for Romney, guess again,
The emergence of Mr. Perry and Mrs. Bachmann is nonetheless more evidence that GOP voters continue to have doubts about their candidates. Mitt Romney is a weak front-runner who has money and campaign experience and looks Presidential. But he gives little evidence that he has convictions beyond faith in his own technocratic expertise. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is likewise running on his resume more than a philosophy of government. We would have thought that John McCain proved you can't beat Mr. Obama on biography.
So who does Murdoch's mouthpiece like? They haven't meet him or her yet,
Republicans and independents are desperate to find a candidate who can appeal across the party's disparate factions and offer a vision of how to constrain a runaway government and revive America's once-great private economy. If the current field isn't up to that, perhaps someone still off the field will step in and run. Now would be the time.
So does this mean the establishment GOP -- i.e. the guys with all the money -- will try and starve off Perry and Bachmann?

I don't think Romney needs their money. Romney's LDS base will keep him flush as long has he's running.

Perry and Bachmann are under attack

....from their own party!

From 'The Hill GOP12',
First, the Wall Street Journal was spooked about the Michele Bachmann/Rick Perry surge, and just now, Karl Rove issued a similar warning.
"You don't want these candidates moving so Right in the Republican primary that it becomes impossible for them to win the general election, because it will become a self-defeating message in the primary.

People want to win. They don't want somebody who goes so far to the extremes of either party that they lack a chance to carry a victory off in November."
Earlier today, the WSJ wrote an op-ed that seemed to suggest that neither Michele Bachmann nor Rick Perry were particularly electable.

Friday, August 12, 2011

S&P Senior Director Lays Downgrade at Feet of Republicans.

Politico quotes an S&P Senior Director involved in the downgrade decision.
A Standard & Poor’s director said for the first time Thursday that one reason the United States lost its triple-A credit rating was that several lawmakers expressed skepticism about the serious consequences of a credit default — a position put forth by some Republicans.

Without specifically mentioning Republicans, S&P senior director Joydeep Mukherji said the stability and effectiveness of American political institutions were undermined by the fact that “people in the political arena were even talking about a potential default,” Mukherji said.

“That a country even has such voices, albeit a minority, is something notable,” he added. “This kind of rhetoric is not common amongst AAA sovereigns.”
The United States remains the world's largest economy by a significant margin. As a practical matter, isn't it hard for the S&P to justify a downgrade of US debt while France, for instance, remains AAA? Or better still, the Isle of Man and Guernsey? The only reasonable explanation is as listed above, but even so, surely some of this downgrade has to be about S&P seeking some PR. Remember, S&P (along with Moodys) was giving AAA ratings ti all the toxic mortgage backed securities .

Here is the S&P list of Sovereign bond ratings.

(H/T to TPM)

Mitt Romney and the Luckiest People in the World

Yesterday, Mitt Romney informed a feisty crowd in Iowa that Corporations are people too.

This video was prepared to illustrate Romney's point for all you skeptics out there,

This is the first time in a very long time that I feel good about something the Democratic opposition has done.

Michele Bachmann's 'submission' to her husband

Byron York, of all people, went there in last night's GOP debate,
YORK: In 2006, when you were running for Congress, you described a moment in your life when your husband said you should study for a degree in tax law. You said you hated the idea, and then you explained: “But the Lord said, be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husband.” As president, would you be submissive to your husband?

BACHMANN: What submission means to us, if that’s what your question is, it means respect. I respect my husband, he’s a wonderful, godly man and a great father. And he respects me as his wife. That’s how we operate our marriage. We respect each other, we love each other.
I think this is one of those 'only Nixon could go to China' moments.

And WaPo's Jennifer Rubin is right: it is a fair question about an accurate quote and Bachmann hit a home run with her answer.

Politico's Mike Allen has exclusive excerpt

From Gov Rick Perry's POTUS announcement*speech,
The change we seek will never emanate out of Washington. It will come from the windswept prairies of middle America; the farms and factories across this great land; the hearts and minds of God-fearing Americans -- who will not accept a future that is less than our past, who will not be consigned a fate of LESS freedom in exchange for MORE government. We do not have to accept our current circumstances. We will change them. We’re Americans. That's what we do. WE roll up our sleeves, WE get to work, WE make things better.
Good prose.

My 2 cents, Perry is more of a threat to Romney than Obama (and then there is this). Perry sings the Evangelical song very well, and those people don't even think Romney is Christian.

As bad as things are, I can't see the country turning again to a dim witted Texas Cowboy who calls for national days of fasting and prayer to solve our problems.

But I'm wrong all the time.

* This link will expire today. There is no permanent link to Mike Allen's Political Play Book.

Friday, August 05, 2011

If you love this land of the free,

Bring em' home, bring em' home....
To welcome our darling girls and boys
Bring 'em home, bring 'em home

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Biden: 'I'm In Charge, Not Panetta'

Josh Green has a scoop.

On Monday he was speaking with Rep Barney Frank who had just come from a caucus meeting where every one was pretty much freaking out about the debt ceiling deal. Frank spoke to VP Biden and OMB Director Jack Lew.

As Frank tells the story to Josh,, Biden was at the caucus, and I said I was upset about Afghanistan and Iraq. So Jack Lew says, "Well, we're winding them down." I said, "What do you mean, you're winding them down? I read Panetta saying that he's begging the Iraqis to ask us to stay." At which point Biden asserted himself and said -- there's clearly been a dispute between them within the administration -- "Wait a minute, I'm in charge of that negotiation, not Panetta, and we have given the Iraqis a deadline to ask us, and it is tomorrow, and they can't possibly meet it because of all these things they would have to do. So we are definitely pulling out of Iraq at the end of the year." That was very good news for me. That's a big deal. I said, "Yeah, but what if they ask you for an extension?" He said, "We are getting out. Tomorrow, it's over."
I'm sure you all hope, as I do, that this is in fact the truth.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Obama's permanent damage to the Presidency and the Country

Playing off of Kara Brandeisky's article explaining how Clinton refused to negotiate the debt ceiling with Gingrich in 1995, Matt Yglesias explains how Barack Obama may have done lasting damage to the Presidency and the Country.

It's not that Clinton ultimately did not make policy concessions, he simply refused to link any concessions to the debt ceiling increase.

As Matt observes,
This had important implications going forward. Implications like—future Presidents were not expected to make concessions linked to the debt ceiling. My initial guess was that President Obama could and should pursue the same strategy, and leave ugly confrontations with Congress to the annual appropriations process where they belong.

Instead we have Keith Hennessy not only excited about the terms of the debt ceiling deal but gushing that “it also establishes a pattern for when the debt limit expires in 2013.”

This seems to me like a disaster for the country. Teaching the lesson that intransigence on the specific question of the debt ceiling brings about policy concessions seems to me to signal to all members of congress that they ought to spend the winter of 2012-2013 positioning themselves as intransigent on the debt ceiling. Now that “resolving the debt ceiling with a last minute compromise after months of threatened default” has become normalized as a way of doing business, it seems to me that we’re certain to face a situation sooner or later where the country winds up unable to pay its bills. This is going to be a lingering threat to good governance in the United States.
Matt is exactly correct. Obama has lead us into a disaster. What a disappointment.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Obama got pawned

No matter how you slice it, Obama got pawned in a very embarrassing way. And it started last December.

This is Tom Tomorrow's cartoon from last month (which Josh Green described at the time as prescient) that captures perfectly exactly how a naive POTUS got played in a way that really defies explanation.

Click on the image to enlarge

Paul Krugman reminded us this morning, that many people, including Marc Ambinder (the below questioner last December) saw this coming when Obama cut the December budget deal trading away the only leverage he had.
Q Mr. President, thank you. How do these negotiations affect negotiations or talks with Republicans about raising the debt limit? Because it would seem that they have a significant amount of leverage over the White House now, going in. Was there ever any attempt by the White House to include raising the debt limit as a part of this package?

THE PRESIDENT: When you say it would seem they’ll have a significant amount of leverage over the White House, what do you mean?

Q Just in the sense that they’ll say essentially we’re not going to raise the — we’re not going to agree to it unless the White House is able to or willing to agree to significant spending cuts across the board that probably go deeper and further than what you’re willing to do. I mean, what leverage would you have –

THE PRESIDENT: Look, here’s my expectation — and I’ll take John Boehner at his word — that nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse, that that would not be a good thing to happen. And so I think that there will be significant discussions about the debt limit vote. That’s something that nobody ever likes to vote on. But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he’s going to have responsibilities to govern. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.

And so my expectation is, is that we will have tough negotiations around the budget, but that ultimately we can arrive at a position that is keeping the government open, keeping Social Security check going out, keeping veterans services being provided, but at the same time is e-prudent when it comes to taxpayer dollars.
Like I said, P-A-W-N-E-D

There is nothing more fatal to a presidency than the appearance of weakness.

The Democratic and Republican Base

and why Dems are constantly 'triangulating'.

Matt Yglesias puts up some solid polling data on how Americans self-identify as conservative, liberal, etc. Based upon this data, Matt concludes,
People who think of themselves as “conservative” are in a very real sense the “base” of the Republican Party. A politician who positions himself as to the right of Susan Collins but the left of Jim Jordan is doing what most self-identified Republicans want. But “very liberal” Democrats are a marginal block of people, and the median self-identified Democrat also self-identifies as a moderate. Liberals just aren’t the “base” of the Democratic Party in the same way that conservatives are the base of the GOP. Balanced news coverage is all well and good, but commitment to balance sometimes distracts people from the fact that the parties are very asymmetrical in their structure and composition.
I think this explains why Democrats are able to triangulate, but not why the do so.

The explanation of why Democrats are willing to triangulate is simple pragmatism. Democratic leaders actually care about good public policy and want to use government policy to effect changes that they believe are in the best interest of the groups they serve.

Republicans on the other hand really don't care at all about public policy and think 'good government policy' or 'good government' are oxymorons. To over-simplify only a little, with the exception of defense spending and tax reductions, Republicans don't care if any bill ever passes out of Congress and generally believe the fewer, the better. Maybe put another way, with the exception of transferring money from government to corporate America -- and in particular the military industrial complex-- or tax reductions, Republicans don't care about policy. And when they do get behind policy we end up with Medicare Part D which is nothing more than a transfer of money from the treasury to Big Pharma.

Given this environment, if Dems don't triangulate nothing positive will ever get done.

Our problem is not the 87 Freshmen in Congress

I, and pretty much everyone who reads this, want to be rid of the 87 GOP freshman representatives because they are standing in the way of responding sensibly and effectively to the economic crisis of our lifetimes.

We dismiss them as know-nothing Tea Partiers but we are stuck with them until at least 2012 and it's likely that for most of them, many more years.

What I came away with after Boehner's follies last week was that these folks are very serious and need to be taken seriously.

First, the Freshmen sincerely believe that they have a mandate to rein in Federal spending that is seriously out of control. Most Americans, my self included, certainly think Federal spending has gotten seriously out of control.

Second, they believe the best way to rein in out of control spending is for a Constitutional amendment to forbid future deficit spending. Those of us who have had the benefit of a decent college level class or two in macroeconomics can see the problem with such an amendment, but we deny at our own peril the appeal this has to ordinary Americans fond of saying things like, "I can't spend more than I make, so why should the government?"

And most importantly, these Freshmen are sincere. They really want to bring down Federal spending in a large way. Of course the are misguided on where the spending actually is, much less where it should be cut, and they are equally misguided on revenues. Nevertheless, they deserve our respect for the sincerity of their beliefs.

But our real problem is not these 87 new congressmen. Jared Bernstein today identified our real problem,
If your conclusion is that Democrats got rolled because the President is a lousy negotiator, I disagree. Not on his negotiating skills…as someone said in comments, I wouldn’t want him in the auto showroom with me when I’m bargaining for a better price. I disagree that better negotiating skills would have made a big difference. The problem goes much deeper.

....If too many Americans don’t believe in or understand what government does to help them, to offset recessions, to protect their security in retirement and in hard times, to maintain the infrastructure, to provide educational opportunities and health care decent enough to offset the disadvantages so many are born with…if those functions are unknown, underfunded, and/or carried out poorly, why should they care about how much this deal or the next one cuts?

Those of us who do care about the above will not defeat those who strive to get rid of it all by becoming better tacticians. We will only find success when a majority of Americans agrees with us that government is something worth fighting for.
The Freshman do not understand the important roll government plays in the modern economy of a first world country and neither do many Americans. This is where our elected officials, chief among them being President Obama come in. They must educate the public on the important roll many of our spending programs play in the lives we all enjoy. And this has been my biggest disappointment with Obama to date. His failure to use the bully pulpit to educate, weather it's health care reform (how many times did we hear him say 'we can't afford to do nothing'? Zero by my count).

One example is Medicare. Medicare will not go away because it is the only way elderly Americans can obtain health care. There will never be a private market to insure the elderly because it would be a lousy way to make money. So we all must work together to bend the cost curve down on Medicare before it consumes us.

A second example is the military. Empire is bankrupting our country.

So when do we have this adult conversation?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Contrasts in House Leadership

Ezra Klein Makes a very astute observation of the contrasts in leadership from Speaker Pelosi to Speaker Boehner,
When Nancy Pelosi served as Speaker of the House, her job was conditioning her members for disappointment. It was Pelosi who had to bring them around to a Senate-designed health-care law that lacked a public option, a cap-and-trade bill that gave away most of its permits, a stimulus that did too little, a bank bailout that endangered their careers. Pelosi had to do that because, well, that’s what the speaker of the House has to do. To govern is to compromise. And when you’re in charge, you have to govern.
But Boehner chose a different course.
He made his bill more conservative. He indulged his members in the fantasy that they wouldn’t have to make compromises. It’s as if Pelosi, facing criticism for dropping the public option, had tried to shore up her support by bringing a single-payer health-care bill to the floor. Even if that would have pleased her left wing, what good would it have done her? Her job was to prepare her members to take a vote that could lead to a successful outcome
It remains to be seen if Boehner's indulgence of the right-wing freshman was a mistake or not. Ezra's definition (and mine as well) of a successful outcome, and Boehner's are clearly two different outcomes.

So far, the Freshmen refusal to compromise much at all has gotten them what they want. The Democrats have capitulated to this point, seemingly getting only a debt increase that will last thru the 2012 election without making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

But, no compromise bill has passed through the House and I've seen nothing in the words or conduct of the Freshmen that suggests to me they have any intention compromising beyond the Bill passed Friday night.

I'm convinced the Freshmen welcome a default.

So, while all the nattering nabobs in the Village seem convinced that Boehner somehow "must" work with Democrats to get through this compromise Bill, Boehner certainly has said nothing -- or done nothing to this point -- to suggest he has any intention of doing so.

"It's my way or the highway" has worked so far, why would they change course now?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Attributing Acts of Terror to Religion

Earlier I described the man accused in the Norway massacre as "Christian terrorist Anders Breivik". I did this not because I think Christianity was responsible for the action of this mad man, but to point out the absurdity of those on the right insisting that any terrorist who is also a Muslim be labeled a Muslim terrorist. I'm sure for many my intentions were not clear.

Anyway, The Daily Show takes on this issue this week very clearly making the point I failed to make.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
In the Name of the Fodder
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Netflix Relief Fund

It's time to be serious.

Words I never thought I would type

Michele Bachmann is right. Enough already! Leave her husband alone.

Of course it's crazy to think you can "cure" homosexuality through therapy, prayer or whatever. What did you expect? This is Michele Bachmann's husband, for Christ's sake! That one can be "cured" of homosexuality is a religious view that, unfortunately, many Americans share. The Bachmann's have the right to their own religious views just has tragically misguided religious self-loathing gay people have the right to seek a religious "cure".

Sure, Marcus Bachmann may very well be a major closet case, but who cares? Of course he reminds all of us of Cam on Modern Family. That is not the point.

The public certainly has the right to know when the spouse of a candidate for public office holds controversial views or who's profession might be controversial, but enough all ready. It's been reported and thoroughly covered, so move on.

I hate it when the media obsesses over a candidate's spouse or family members, seeking sensation over important and substantive coverage of the candidate's views and positions. The fact that this sort of character destruction is a favorite game of Republican strategists doesn't make it right. I hated it when it was Geraldine Ferraro's husband, First Lady Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama who was outrageously described by Fox News as "Obama's baby moma"(video here). None of them deserved the abuse they took and neither does Marcus Bachmann.

Michele Bachmann is a genuine wackadoodle lunatic with bat-shit crazy ideas and that needs to be the focus of press coverage. It goes without saying that anyone who married this kook has to be nuts himself. But focus on the candidate.

The summer of liberal discontent

With all the focus on the GOP civil war, it's easy to forget that the Left is very unhappy too.

Politico's White House correspondent Glenn Thrush sums it up,
Democrats ... are increasingly restive as they balance loyalty to Obama and their own commitment to preserving entitlement programs and tax equity, core principles which they see as being chucked overboard in the interest of appeasing tea party Republicans. ... 'Every policy outcome for liberals is a loss at this point,' said a senior party operative ... A Washington Post survey released last week found that the percentage of self-described liberals who 'strongly' support the president's performance on jobs has fallen 22 points [since last year], from 53 percent to 31 percent now. The percentage of African-American Democrats ... who think he's doing a good job on the economy has plummeted from 77 percent last year to a little over 50 percent now. ... Most liberals have nonetheless always closed ranks around Obama, and he remains the most popular leader of their party in a generation. ... The White House, led by Stephanie Cutter, ... keeps in regular contact with progressive leaders. Shortly before Obama's Monday night speech to the nation Cutter checked in with the group, which pressed her politely on the Medicare proposal; Cutter reportedly assured them that the deal was off the table.

Yes, it is scary but what does it mean

David Frum,
Early this morning, I had breakfast with a member of Congress—a person I like, respect, have donated to in the past, will donate to in the future, and know isn’t crazy. This man shares at least 90 percent of my views. He’s not a Tea Party Caucus member but is a stalwart in the conservative Republican Study Committee. He has a safe seat and, like me, sees some serious problems with the Boehner plan. That said, he made it clear that he’s not going to vote for the plan or anything much like it. I didn’t argue with him—he’s a man of conviction and believes in what he’s doing—but he’s exactly the sort of level-headed conservative who is going to be needed to get the plan (or anything realistic that raises the debt ceiling) across the finish line. Without his vote, we’re heading for default.
Does this mean he will not vote to raise the debt ceiling under any terms? Or, under what terms will he support an increase in the debt ceiling? David doesn't say.

I'm convinced that a very large number of House conservatives have no intention of raising the debt ceiling.

Rep Joe Walsh's Tea Party Glass House

Jon Capehart in the WaPo today,
The new embodiment of “those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) He’s called President Obama a liar on the debt-ceiling issue. In that now infamous YouTube video, Walsh hectors the president. “I won’t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids and grandkids unless we structurally reform the way this town spends money!” he said. Or should I say “he said rhetorically

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Walsh's ex-wife has been suing him for the last nine years for $117,437 in child support.

Walsh's lawyer does not deny that he owes back child support, but does dispute the amount. Having practiced family law in Illinois for a number of years, I can tell you that a claim for back child support means he's been under a court order to pay a sum certain every month and has obviously not been keeping up with those payments. It is usually an easy mathematical task to add up a child support arrearage. The obligation to pay an exact amount per month having already been decided, apparently 9 years ago. Illinois has generous pre and post judgment interests laws which may have put some water in this number.

I'm guessing this big-mouthed douche will be looking for work come next November. I just hope he stands for re-election for what should be an easy Democratic pick-up.

And don't forget to show @RepJoeWalsh some twitter love today.

UPDATE: Walsh's statement on the Sun-Times story. Walsh calls the story 'a hit piece' but does not deny any of the allegations.

High Praise in Foreign Policy

What American couldn't use a little good news today? David Rothkopf offer's high praise of some work overseas that has been mostly unnoticed,
In this moment of national confusion and public despair with officials in Washington, variations on the following cry have often been heard, "Somewhere in the world there must be an American political leader with a vision of tomorrow, a focus on what is really important and an ability to translate rhetoric into success."

I'm pleased to report that there is. If it has escaped your attention it's because that politician has been on the other side of the world the past couple of weeks advancing American interests and the policies of the president with meaningful results and exceptional skill.

That politician is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is just completing an around-the-world mission that has taken her from the economic frontlines of the eurozone crisis to the markets of tomorrow in Asia. The trip, obscured in the noise around the debt ceiling debate, has been a real triumph for the Obama administration and has revealed that many of its policies over the past two years are now bearing significant fruit. It has also revealed the State Department's deftness and bench-depth in dealing with an Asia agenda that is vastly more important in every respect than virtually anything that has been discussed inside the beltway for months.
If you need a little boost, I would encourage to read the whole post. From opening up a new relationship with India while strengthen frayed ties with Pakistan (who would have thought both of these were even possible?)while simultaneously forging a deep relationship with China "but also systematically and often invisibly working to strengthen ties with many of the smaller countries in Asia."

There is no question that Asia is the future of the 21st century and having an administration that understands this is in and of itself, great news.