Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Worried about a gas tax?

Deval Patrick is right that a gas tax would be a good way to raise additional revenue against budget shortfalls. Demand is pretty strong, but even so, a reduction in demand for gasoline has other positive public policy outcomes. A reduction in pollution is the biggest.

But, not to worry all you frothing anti-tax teabaggers: He doesn't have the votes, not even close, at least not in the House. It takes 81. Fifty would be a miracle.

Editorial decision

This doesn't happen by accident. Someone in a management position at CNN decided that this bullshit story quoting Dick Cheney as liking Republicans (how novel!) deserves to float to the top of the ticker for the second day in a row. Also, as someone in the now-deleted comments observed, why would anyone quote from the Washington Times, which is even more a wingnut propaganda outfit than Fox?

Darth does get off one unforgettable line:

"I think that it's just a matter of time before the party begins to sort of firm up around a few key individuals, and we'll hear big things from them in the future," Cheney said.
And here I thought firming up around key individuals was the problem that Ensign and Sanford had.

Monday, June 29, 2009


No, 'C' doesn't stand for Christ. What would communists do?

"This is President Obama saying 'Well, we have to cover this up, because there's such terrible torture things we did, people will get angry about it.'

That's why we prosecute it, you don't conceal that. That's what the Soviet Union would do, that's what China would do, not the United States of America," [Bruce Fein, a former senior Justice Department official in the Reagan administration,] said.
Disbarment is a negligible consequence, but at least it's some small punishment for torture.

Wrong lesson from history

When I read that Obama was warning against carbon tariffs, I had a couple of thoughts:

  • The only way to equalize cost pressures faced by American manufacturers is to make sure that competing foreign products face them at the border.
  • Of course, that same fairness rationale works against other ardent market-based sprints to the bottom - other environmental concerns, labor standards, etc.
  • Smoot-Hawley. Raising tariffs in a recession is canonically bad.
  • Tariffs blunt comparative advantage and thus the economies of globalization.
Good, I thought, Obama is thinking about job one, the economy. Without fixing the economy, there's no scope to fix anything else.

Only, no, these carbon tariffs aren't due to take effect until 2020. If the economy is still dead by then, only Michelle Obama will be eligible for the Presidency, and I'm sure Congress can remain true to form and delay them if need be.

Today, Krugman weighs in:
[I]n this case the non-economic objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, never mind their source. If you only impose restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from domestic sources, you give consumers no incentive to avoid purchasing products that cause emissions in other countries; as a result, you have an inefficient outcome even from a world point of view. So border adjustments here are entirely legitimate in terms of basic economics.
So, I've thought about this again, and I now see that the first two points outweigh the last two.

Culture of hype

When the death of Billy Mays can lead CNN.com, you have to know that our culture has lost its way into inconsequential worship of D-grade celebrity. Mays may have been a great guy, but his cultural value as a penny-ante, grating, shouting cable TV pitchman for crappy overrated products was a net negative.

I only wanted Mays off my television, not dead, but god, is this what we've come to? At least Michael Jackson had real, honest-to-god talent to accompany his transcendent weirdness.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

David Vitter watch, day 717

The response of conservatives to sexual misconduct in their leaders is objectively pro-hypocrisy:

[W]hile Vitter, Ensign, Gingrich and perhaps Sanford have been able to retain their positions and political viability, the same cannot be said for the most recent offenders on the progressive side. Neither Eliot Spitzer nor John Edwards, each among the most promising figures in the Democratic Party, will ever be a candidate for public office again, although their misbehavior was no worse than what their Republican counterparts did.
Not to mention, pro-adultery.

Lost in irony

Click image for full Elena Steier cartoon.

No stuffing cash in your bra, either

Click image for full Bruce Beattie cartoon.

Canonical response to bad puns

Many of my relatives, friends, and acquaintances would like to have this response in their arsenals.

Click image for full Randy Bish/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review cartoon.


Click image for full Adam Zyglis/Buffalo News cartoon.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Simple, simplistic, simple-minded

Simplicity is often good, but simple-minded free market economists bury their heads in a sand of simplistic cases because they can't reconcile the economic systems with their easy cases.

Krugman fails to call bullshit on his friends and colleagues quite as vehemently (shrilly?) as he does on politicians. That's understandable, though fortunately his commenters feel no such compunction to politesse.


Indefinite detention on the unchecked say-so of the executive is just as wrong when the executive is Obama as it was when the executive was Darth Cheney, uh, Duhbya.

Downpayment on credibility

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jesus Glocking Christ

Schools, universities, national parks, restaurants, bars - why not church!

Personally, I can feel manly with only my penis holstered up by my underwear. (No, I don't consider it a concealed weapon.) I don't need a .38 under the front seat of my car or a semiautomatic next to the bed to keep me feeling adequate if someone gives me the finger on the highway or says something about my equipment or skills in bed. These theoretical situations are why I have a brain.

Bottom line: A lot of these people are so far around the bend that they ought not be permitted out on the grounds alone, much less armed. Eventually, one of them will miss when reaching for the toilet paper after squeezing off a round, absentmindedly pick up the bathroom gun, and shoot himself in the ass. I guess that's one way to get ripped a new asshole.

Lip service

"Hey, baby, how about a little hanky-panky, followed by a traditional marriage?"

Click image for full Mike Keefe/Denver Post cartoon.

Acting like adults about adultery

Mark Sanford, politically, has made news for some truly great silliness. All his posturing about whether he would accept federal stimulus funding cravenly played to all that's most misanthropic and uneducable in the Republican base. It did get him a lot of national attention from a media that is dying to anoint the next conservative saint.

Now, of course, Sanford is making tremendous gobbets of tabloid news for his disappearance into a love affair. The only reason any of that matters should be the disappearance, not the affair. He did fail to discharge his duties for a week, but lots of people cheat, and we really cannot afford to have all of them resign their positions of responsibility, even if they've been exposed as arrant hypocrites. (Hey, they're Republicans. Hey, they're politicians.)

Fred Thompson, with his own checkered romantic past, belabors Sanford in the great mosh pit of American sexual politics:

I don’t have any sympathy in a situation where you’ve got a wife and four fairly young kids . . . don’t play it out in public.
Lots of others are shocked, shocked that Sanford would betray his wife. More than anything, they're shocked that he would betray them - or, if Democrats, shocked and delighted at the opportunity to kill off a rival. For the Republicans, it still mostly seems to be about the sex:
One county GOP leader said the governor “talked about how our leaders have stepped away from our core values, and said one thing on the campaign trail or out in the public and did something different in the background.’’
As time passes, we will again find out that some of those calling loudest for Sanford's resignation are even now conducting their own affairs. We could do without this hypocrisy by letting even politicians have a private life with - or, in this case, possibly without - their families.

Update (6/28): I've been corrected on this with a reminder that Sanford himself campaigned on family values, which makes the GOP leader quoted above correct. There does have to be accountability for hypocrisy on all sides.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Criminalizing ibuprofen

The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that ibuprofen is not sufficient motivation for a strip search. Well, duh!

Only Clarence Thomas disagreed. He had the following impeachment-worthy comment:

“Preservation of order, discipline and safety in public schools is simply not the domain of the Constitution.”
The Court didn't rule on the policy that led to the strip search, since that policy was not at issue. But I'm not bound to the case; I can say that zero-tolerance policies such as this are stupid, stupid, stupid. They are tools for overzealous martinets to lord their precious authority over children.

I only regret that the Court immunized the idiots who performed this abusive search.

(By the way, the CNN story on this ruling is completely inadequate. Every time a professional journalist publishes a story like that, he proves that blogs are not the problem.)

Acceptable to notice

Krugman, as usual, nails the great nexus of stupid between our national political press and the lunatic leaders of the conservative movement:

These people were always crazy. It’s just that for the time being they’re sufficiently weak that it’s considered acceptable to notice.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Twitter twits

Click image for Matt Bors cartoon.


Has any other failed VP candidate's travel schedule ever received as much attention as vacuous Sarah's?

Update: If the media needs a picture of a pretty woman, how about Elizabeth Banks? She's quite a bit more beautiful than Palin.

I suppose it's too much to ask that we might pick news - and women - on some other criteria.

Click image for source, credit David Shankbone.

What your taxes bought

Massachusetts spends a lot of money on public elementary and secondary education. The recent austerity budget passed by the legislature protects state funding of schools, instead cutting much muscle (and quite a large amount of fat).

The American Institutes for Research just published a study that suggests this is a good funding priority:

The report, issued today by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), based on international performance benchmarks in math for 4th and 8th grade students concluded that only 4th graders in a handful of states – among them Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Kansas and Vermont – are learning at B or B- levels when compared with students internationally.

At Grade 8, only Massachusetts achieves a grade of B.

How can I be happy about Bs? The highest ranked unit in the world, Hong Kong, achieved only a B+. Of course I'd like to beat that. But we're still waaay ahead of the rest of the U.S. and among the elite of the world.

I expect to blog on this good news a bit more as I read the rest of the study.

(h/t Yglesias)

Another Sarah Palin story

... from before she was ten.

Nixon was a piece of ... work, wasn't he?

Program note

Yes, there has been a fall-off in my usual incredible blogging stamina (if I do puff my chest out and say so myself). As we say here in Massachusetts, I've been wicked busy.

There's work, which I'd like to keep doing, and sometimes that calls for extra efforts. This is one of those times. Plus, the IS people are now blocking Blogger logins, so it's harder for me to file items, though not impossible. I actually agree with this policy, though ideally I'd like for them to relax it on the lunch hour.

I've been playing piss-loads of tennis, too. Since I learned in midlife, I'm not that good at it, but I enjoy it. And the drinking afterward. Especially with a carefully selected few. Alone in days this week, I have today off from whacking a yellow ball, but I plan to update my friend's state rep web site instead of blogging continuously. I'll probably ice my knees and stretch my back while I riff HTML.

I've also been trying to get household affairs in order after long neglect. That won't be over soon, but at least I'm going to get new tires on my car later today.

Meanwhile, consider this an open thread. Hell, y'all don't need me to start the next fight.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Situational ethics


Conservatives unwittingly reveal that they actually believe that President Obama can change an adversary into a friendly liberal democracy simply by talking. Of course, it is still true that they think his words have to match their foolish posturing.

Hey, does that mullah look like Darth Cheney to you?

Click image for full Tom Tomorrow/Salon cartoon.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Truth hurts

... but the truth is not torture.

Waterboarding is.

Click image for full Garry Trudeau cartoon.

Can't stand competition

Click image for full Elena Steier cartoon.

Circles and arrows

"And there was nothing he could do about it..." Not even at his own expense.

Click image for full Bruce Beattie cartoon.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Where Obama's support is a negative

Iran, of course. The worst thing President Obama could have done would have been to land with both feet in open support of Mir Hossein Moussavi.

Good government, bad politics

On the legislature's consensus budget:

“Until I can comment thoughtfully and with some study, I’m going to withhold comment,’’ [Gov. Deval] Patrick told reporters yesterday.
But let's call it what it is: an austerity budget with some but probably not enough good reforms.

Oops! Not dust

The self-contradictory bullshit of Iranian politics show in high relief.

The ayatollahs still run things, but the state claims it's a democracy. For Ali Khamenei, the fact that the Presidential contenders all pay lip service to the reactionary 1979 revolution gives great solace. It was definitely not a liberal democracy he and his fellow theocrats were looking for.

Khamenei had already made his decision, of course. The only question for the authorities is how to pacify to population to their adherence to Stalin's maxim: The voters decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.

Oh, and the protesters are dust, according to Ahmadinejad, but then they aren't. After all, there are so many of them. Uncountable numbers.

Fundamental flaw

The problem with the Obama administration's defense of Darth Cheney from the tender ministrations of Jon Stewart: It's legalistic bullshit to claim that Darth "cooperated" with the Plame investigation.

A little more incredulous

Robert Gibbs's response to Duhbya was fine as far as it went:

"I think we've had a debate about individual policies. We had that debate in particular – we kept score last November and we won," Gibbs said.
I would have put a sharper point on my rejoinder: Can you believe this guy? Can you believe that after all the things he botched, he still wants more of the same?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How liberals are different

We still leave our own judgement engaged when one of our own is in charge.

My take: If you're overexposed to Obama, you're probably watching too much TV.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Needs of the Republicans

... outweigh the needs of the many.

It is simply critical for Republican electoral chances that the stimulus not work, and the best way they can get it not to work is to stop it early. So what if that takes a huge dose of doublethink.


For the Party of No, a missing yes is just as good in the Senate as a present no. The continuing farce in Minnesota has become an illegitimate abuse of process.

Norm Coleman is a capable speaker of the wingnut creed.

Why liberals think Republicans harbor racists

Because too often they do. The Tennessee liberal blogosphere (yes, it exists - it's even strong and vibrant) summarized here.

(h/t GoldnI on DailyKos)

Won't hear this on talk radio

A Canadian in the U.S. debunks myths of Canada's single-payer health care system:

[I]f the only way we compared the two systems was with statistics, there is a clear victor. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to dispute the fact that Canada spends less money on health care to get better outcomes.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Shout-out at the Not OK Chorale

Click image to see the full score from Jeff Danziger.

For a mess of pottage

This arrogant SOB sold his office for a mere $57,000.

Click image for full Dan Wasserman/Boston Globe cartoon.

Confederacy of dunces

I'm actually more sympathetic to those who are behind the TV times. Hey, even I am waaay behind the times with my vintage turn-of-the-millennium cell phone.

But the ignorant eagerness to blame Obama is what I found funny.

Click image for full Rob Rogers/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoon.

Get slicked down

Trust me, you want to click this image to see the full Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Another guy who doesn't know any math

Paul Krugman on right-wing extremist violence...

Republican ballot-counting

Islamic Republican ballot-counting, tee-hee. Put a cleric in charge and fudge the vote-count so much that it looks like a mandate from god.

This is how it's done:

The authorities closed universities in Tehran, blocked cellphone transmissions and access to Facebook and some other Web sites, and for a second day shut down text-messaging services.
And, of course, this shows Khamenei was in on it from the beginning:
Ayatollah Khamenei closed the door to any appeals for intervention in a statement issued on state television on Saturday afternoon, congratulating Mr. Ahmadinejad on his victory and urging the other candidates to throw in the towel. “Our respected president is the president of all the people, including those who were his rivals yesterday, and they should all help and support him,” he said.

Pretty useless picture

Or pretty comma useless picture, either one.

CNN has posted some chartjunk that - lo and behold - proves that the heavily populated states will create the most jobs from the stimulus. Well, duh!

What we need from charts like this is a number that explains, not one that is the least possible work. In this case, a much better number would have been new jobs as a percentage of existing employment. Even better might have been new jobs as a proportion of current unemployment.

But either would require a calculator...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Very common interests

Click image for full Steve Artley cartoon. And spend some time looking for all the jokes.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Never mind

He can't be one of theirs. He got caught.

Holocaust Museum murderer James von Brunn is waaay beyond Republican even though the average Republican is pretty extreme.

Hysterically - and completely in keeping with Republican denial of awkward reality - Rush Limbaugh among others has been attempting to foist von Brunn off on liberals as one of us.

Oops. Von Brunn despises Obama too.

So much for leftwing political violence...

Even Fox notices

Silence Do-Good may scoff, but there are qualitative and quantitative differences between lunatic loons on the left and frothing wingnuts on the right. To name one, gun ownership...

I'd guess that Shepard Smith is looking to make a career move.

(h/t Philosoraptor, linking to Andrew Sullivan, embedding Talking Points Memo)

He'll have a gasperilla

No politics that I can think of in this one, just a wicked funny joke.

Click image for full Ted Rall cartoon.

Shut up, he explained

Click image for full Tim Eagan/Press Democrat carton.

How the fight started

Losing the hen-pecked vote...

Click image for full David Horsey/Seattle Post-Intelligencer cartoon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Megalomania knows no species

Because any time I can put Animaniacs into lovable liberal, I will.

Click image for full Tim Jackson cartoon.

I like my cigar

Click image for hilarious Chan Lowe/Sun-Sentinel cartoon.

Best medicine, blah blah blah

Click image for full Jimmy Margulies cartoon.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gonna leave a mark

Imagine you have an ego as large as Newt Gingrich's. (No, don't get distracted into Anselm's ontological argument for the existence of god.) With an ego that large, it really has to steam the conservative so-called intellectual that a ditz like Sarah Palin is much more popular among wingnuts than he is.

Capitalists selling rope

Even though the V.I. Lenin quote, "The capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them," is apparently apocryphal, U.S. high tech companies are champing at the bit to sell China technology to harness and suppress the open society of the Internet.

Much as I would like it

This story probably has real content, rather than being a figment of the reporter's imagination, but I think the Obama effect is probably somewhat overstated. Not everything in the world has to be explained by something coming out of America.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A mess that needs reform

The Democratic side of the aisle will have to clean up its own mess. There aren't enough Republicans in the House to matter. But three indicted Speakers in a row ought to be a wake-up call that there's a systemic problem that makes corruption too easy and tempting.

Reform without all the mess

All the messy reform, that is.

If there's no public option, the option Roy Blunt (R-Status Quo) calls "a non-starter," there's no sense wasting time on a health care bill. Once again, the Republicans are the party of no.

Note to CNN: Blunt is not "heading up health care efforts in the House." He's a Republican in the house which has no filibuster. He doesn't have a leadership role that matters.

Update (6/13): Robert Reich hits this topic in Salon.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A different kettle of lard

Click image for Tony Auth/Philadelpia Inquirer cartoon.

It's a long story

Self-deceit usually takes a while.

Click image for full Doonesbury.

Creative financing

Click image for full Elena Steier cartoon.

Pressing on

There was at least one guy at the Massachusetts Democratic Party with a press credential, and there were TV cameras on the floor, though I didn't pick up who was filming. Today, though, hardly any coverage at all - a feature on the youth convention in the Globe, an unrelated story on Democratic scandals on Beacon Hill that would have tied in naturally to Deval Patrick's speech, a filler story on a moving violation and fender bender by the mayor of Fall River, and an AP file in the Herald limited to slot machines, not even anything sandbagging Robert Haynes's fiery and rambling speech. Maybe there are sound bites on local TV, maybe not.

Moral of the story: If you want coverage in this era of shrinking journalism, you have to cover yourself. Even change agents have to adjust to change.

So far, though, there's nothing on Youtube, nothing on massdems.org, and nothing on devalpatrick.com.

Blame Barney Frank

The GOP and their laissez-faire economists really need some way to blame Barney Frank for this:

"I doubt this approach would play well with regulators, investors, rating agencies, etc," [John P. McMurray, chief risk officer of Countrywide Financial] wrote. "To some, this approach might seem like we've simply ceded our risk standards and balance sheet to whoever has the most liberal guidelines."
Fortunately for them, they don't care about facts.

(h/t Atrios)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

If we're replaying the past

Mitch McConnell says the threat of a Republican filibuster against Sonia Sotomayor is just payback.

So he wouldn't mind if the Democrats in the Senate threatened to go nuclear.

Sure he wouldn't.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sine qua non

Without an effective public option, there is no effective health care reform. That's why the Republicans are against it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A good piece of hickory

So what if gets Sotomayor's ethnic heritage wrong!

Click image for full Clay Bennett/Chattanooga Times Free Press cartoon.

Hairy eyeball

Click image for full Nick Anderson/Houston Chronicle cartoon.


Better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

"Since when can you get out of huge national debt by creating trillions of dollars of new debt?" [Sarah] Palin asked. "It all really is so backwards and skewed as to sound like absolute nonsense when some of this economic policy is explained."

"We need to be aware of the creation of a fearful population, and fearful lawmakers, being led to believe that big government is the answer, to bail out the private sector, because then government gets to get in there and control it," she said. "And mark my words, this is going to be next, I fear, bail out next debt-ridden states. Then government gets to get in there and control the people."

"Some in Washington would approach our economic woes in ways that absolutely defy Economics 101, and they fly in the face of principles, providing opportunity for industrious Americans to succeed or to fail on their own accord," she said. "Those principles it makes you wonder what the heck some in Washington are trying to accomplish here."

I don't think Palin could pass Economics 101. She's never heard of Keynesian stimulus. She doesn't know the difference between private debt and public debt. She has no idea of the vicious cycle of contraction that's still a very real danger.

And she "explains" it all as a nefarious plot to take over the country. She has all the analytical skills of Pinky combined with the good will toward his fellow mice of the Brain.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fry an egg on Newt's face

Even backing off of the phrase "new racism," Newt's not embarrassed enough to make a sincere apology. He just chose a word that was too strong, no biggie.

Jeff Sessions is making a virtue of the tiny little climb-down Newt did manage by touting Newt's supposedly unusual willingness to admit error.

That's the GOP for you. Throw out the red meat for those in their constituency for whom white privilege isn't large enough, then whisper to the dogs to stop barking.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Such a deal

How many in the glove compartment?

Click image for full Mike Lester cartoon.

Back to haunt you

You'll want flowers, too.

Click image for full Chan Lowe/Sun-Sentinel cartoon.

Spare me the euphemisms

... although this one can be useful if it comes with a package.

Click image for full Ted Rall cartoon.

Monday, June 1, 2009


The H-1B visa program has always been about displacing citizen workers for the purpose of lowering their wage growth. When American corporations use the pick-up line that, hey baby, we just want to ensure our competitiveness, what they mean is that they can't compete with low wage countries, so they have to import their workers. Too bad citizens have to go flip burgers.

If you think about motive, this is easier to understand:

The exact size of the H-1B labor force in the U.S. is uncertain because of a lack of accurate data. The U.S. sets a cap of 85,000 H-1B visas annually.
If the government really cared, it would make it its business to know this.

I work with lots of foreigners, some who are here on H-1B visas. They're mostly great people, but that doesn't make it good policy to hire them in preference to qualified Americans.

His own Ron Ziegler

All those claims that we invaded Iraq because it was the "central front in the war on terror"? No longer operative.

The Bushists took office with the PNAC plan to remake the Middle East in their hip pocket.