Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why he gets the big bucks

My April Fool's posting had Barack resigning, and I thought it was pretty funny. The rest of the world yawned.

Actually, had I managed to provoke even so much as a yawn, I would have been pleased. I thought the headline might bring in the wingnuts, but even that small stratagem failed.

Yesterday, Andy Borowitz showed how to do this story. So he's four weeks late - he's hysterical:

The reporters seemed stunned by the President's decision in light of the fawning media coverage he received during his first 100 days, but the hyperbolic nature of that reportage, ironically, may have been the prime motivator behind Mr. Obama's shocking move.

"Let's face it, I'm not going to get better coverage than I have to date," he said. "The only guy with a higher approval rating is that dude who landed the plane on the Hudson - or maybe that other dude who escaped from those pirates."
At least I got the structure right.

All the same deck chairs

You think Newt and Sarah are trying to get on board?

The Republican establishment is ossified, schlerotic. Now they're going to slap a "New Improved" sticker on the packaging and launch a campaign to convince the weak-minded that the same tired formulas are different - because they have a "New Improved" sticker on the package.

Best of both worlds

With a little help from the Republicans, maybe we Democrats can hold the hot Pennsylvania Senate seat with the current DINO until 2010 and then elect a true Democrat.

Yeah, probably a fantasy...

It's entertaining how comfortably Republicans can make both sides of an argument to different groups of people:

After Arlen Specter bolted the GOP Tuesday, Republicans like party chair Michael Steele attacked him as a "leftist" with a history of "left-wing" stands.

That was yesterday.

Twenty-four hours later, his former colleagues in the Senate GOP are rushing to embrace Specter's past in a new campaign designed to highlight the consistency of his Republican record.

You really can't believe a single word that comes out of their mouths.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's the frequency, Arlen?

Looks as though 60 hurts...

Click image for full Pat Bagley/Salt Lake Tribune cartoon.

Expecting a different result

The Republican Party still hasn't become accustomed to resounding rejection. There is a huge amount of keening, wailing, and breast-beating over Arlen Specter's marriage of convenience to the Democrats. No self-examination other than Olympia Snowe's, however, just more kowtowing to Rush and his doughy [sic] band of ditto-heads.

What does this mean for Democrats? This is good ... for Arlen Specter. It trades now for later. Specter probably would have lost to a real Democrat in 2010, if he didn't lose in the primary to Club for Growth ideologue Pat Toomey. On the other hand, 2010 nationwide looks damn good so far (subject to change with events), so sacrificing a future win for a better chance to pass Obama's agenda now is probably a good trade-off. Atrios hates it, but he's from Pennsylvania and no doubt tired of being represented by Arlen's frequent poses of moderation, belied by later actual votes.

Snowe and Susan Collins are probably pissed that they didn't make a deal. They've been joined at the hip for a while, though, so Specter was probably easier to peel off than the pair of them.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Respect for facts

Michele Bachmann shows her usual unwillingness to be constrained by any truth in telling a story to the wingnuts.

Here's the thing: Americans are at least temporarily onto the Republican Party. Every time one of the remaining GOPers does something obviously stupid, the likelihood of a new, sane center-right party goes up, and that's good news.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The four Rs

Reform, revenue, regressivity, and recessions.

Taxation is always difficult. No one loves it. Those of us who believe in active government recognize its necessity, even if the yahoos on the right continue to scream for starting with cuts long after the budget has already been seriously slashed. Their thinking is a Markov chain - they can't remember any cut as long as there's something, anything left that might conceivably be cut.

Massachusetts is considering three ways to raise transportation and other revenues:

  • Toll increases on the Turnpike, which the MTA board passed because it was the only act in their power to avoid default and then rescinded while the branches government dickered
  • Increased gas taxes on everyone, most notably Gov. Deval Patrick's 19c per gallon increase
  • Increased sales taxes on everyone, Speaker Robert DeLeo's proposal (now passed by the House)
All these revenue sources are regressive and unfair in some way. Even though the impact of each instance is small, in total they're substantial, and they disproportionately affect those who are least able to pay them. Toll increases would extract further unfair revenue from a minority subset of beneficiaries of the Big Dig.

Gov. Patrick is right to emphasize reform at the same time as revenue. It's not only good politics; it's good government. I know for a fact that the legislature is aware of this. My State Rep told me so in no uncertain terms yesterday as she dreaded the trade-offs of today's vote.

I told her I supported the gas tax. Why if it's so regressive? It's better targeted than a general sales tax, and it has other positive effects on the environment. But it's far from ideal, a confirmation as if we needed another that politics is always the art of the possible.

What no one has proposed is a progressive income tax. One reason is that Article XLIV of the Massachusetts Constitution forbids a typical progressive income tax on ordinary income.

Of course, raising taxes of almost any kind in the kind of economic downturn we're facing has very adverse effects. We don't want people to tighten their spending even more and add to the depth of the recession. But, again, the Massachusetts Constitution requires a balanced budget every year.

The best proposal would take a leaf from Obama's book. It would reduce the 5.3% tax rate to 5% for the poor and middle class, but it would raise the rate on the affluent.

Not only is this a more progressive tax, a revenue-neutral change to a progressive tax would actually be stimulative, too, since poor and middle class taxpayers are more likely to spend their cuts and thus contribute to aggregate demand in a time when the fall of demand risks a feedback cycle of further economic shrinkage. Even a revenue-increasing proposal actually has a chance to be net stimulative, though that aggregate effect would depend on actual numbers.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Laugh in the face of torture

... but only from the safety of Internet distance.

Click each clip for full cartoons from Nick Anderson, Signe Wilkinson, and Mike Luckovich.

Bomb squad called to supermarket

Fruit case filled with boxes of some infernal device that looks a lot more like a cherry bomb than this:

We really have lost our minds. I've seen dog turds that look more like explosives. But at least the cops got to deploy their robot.

Click thumbnail for The Tech's report.


Step back from this:

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized Friday for a department assessment that suggested returning combat veterans could be recruited by right-wing extremist groups.
I read it this way:
(Blameless) Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized Friday for a department assessment that suggested (the undeniable fact that) returning combat veterans could be recruited by right-wing extremist groups.
When our discourse is debased by the political requirement to pretend that true facts are false - even to mollycoddle an otherwise deserving group - it's difficult to have the sort of honest, no-bullshit discussion that is required for good government.

It's political correctness run amok.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Proffer to Republicans

You don't want us Democrats to criminalize policy differences?

God, what a weaselly formula, but you've managed to get the whole establishment media to adopt it. David Broder even wants the criminal enablers of torture to keep their reputations. If the proper officials do it, it must be proper:

The memos on torture represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places -- the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department -- by the proper officials.
Here's the deal, Republicans: Refrain from criminal policies, and we won't lock you up for it. And it's not negotiable, at least not for me.

Press eats up flattery

Our Washington press corps is even more dysfunctional than the rest of the political establishment, but if you kiss their asses, they'll kiss back. No matter who's doing the kissing nor who's getting kissed, it's gross, and self-respecting adults wouldn't need to have their butts smooched.

At best, our White House press corps deserves a D+. I'd flunk them.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sickle claw to the throat of GOP special pleading

Like his blog's namesake, Winston Smith of Philosoraptor rips the flesh of his Republican prey in a particularly apt and succinct way:

The one thing it's absolutely clear that we absolutely cannot do is: demand scrupulous investigation and trial in Blowjobgate but not Torturegate.

We might forgive traffic tickets but not murders. We might forgive neither. If we're not too bright, we might forgive both. But it's simply not possible to rationally forgive murders but not traffic tickets.
Go and read it all. It's worth every word.

He even uses my favorite word.

Update (4/28): Digby comes through on the same theme:
I just pray no fellatio was involved in the torture regime or there is going to be hell to pay.

Whatever happened to Amy Carter?

I know CNN is out pounding the hustings and looking under rocks for the new leadership of the Republican Party. Heck, I'd get sick of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, too. (Side snark: I know all the wingnuts think Nancy Pelosi has had botox, and it's pretty clear that nothing short of a jowlectomy would help McConnell, but isn't it obvious that Boehner has work done?)

Meghan McCain I understood as some kind of cross-promotion, even though I don't know for sure that there's any shared ownership between CNN and the Daily Beast. The corporate media is so incestuous, though, that it's a plausible theory.

Now Liz Cheney (no, not Lynne) has her audition. It's awful enough that Darth Cheney himself is basking in the very spotlight he avoided when the media might have held him accountable for the power he wielded in such frequently criminal ways. Vain hope, I now, but the press's watchdog role is one I still honor in the breach. But I wonder why a beneficiary of nepotism in government, such as the Worst Veep Ever's daughter, should get our attention at all.

It's not as though any such privilege has ever been accorded a Democrat, at least not a non-Kennedy Democrat.

(Who would've thought that jowlectomy would be in Firefox's dictionary!)

Update (8/1/2010): It appears that Chelsea Clinton's wedding has provoked interest in whatever happened to Amy Carter? As a random Internet oddity, Google has led a few of them here. I have no idea where she is or how she's living her life. I just wish that Liz Cheney were living as quietly.

My point above was, of course, that the big media cares more about scions of Republican dynasties than about Democratic ones. No, check that, it's not the whole picture. Big media does care when a Democratic son or daughter does something scandalous.

They just don't care what Democratic kids think when they've grown up.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Waiting for another second opinion

Nobody wants to settle for mere reality.

Click image for full Tim Eagan "Deep Cover" cartoon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Torture for politics

Not national security. To provide political cover for the Iraq war, which the Bushists wanted from the beginning, the entire military and foreign policy apparatus of Duhbya's maladministration sought torture to justify assertions they knew were bullshit.

Repeated torture of bad men sought a predetermined answer, not even intelligence. It was a series of war crimes in either case, but it is much more awful that it had no practical national purpose, only the craven goal of staying in power. It was about breaking the prisoners, not about learning what they knew.

The Bushists knew what they were doing. That's why they were so careful to put in place their bullshit get out of jail free cards from the Office of Legal Counsel.

There have to be consequences for these despicable people.

Sitting here on the group Duhbya bench

Who forgot to invite Dick?

Click image for full Steven G. Artley cartoon.

Get ya externality heah

In honor of Earth Day...

Click image for full Bruce Plante/Tulsa World cartoon.

Party of nose

Click image for full Pat Bagley/Salt Lake Tribute cartoon.

Opinions that don't matter

When Darth Cheney's opinions mattered, he was silent. Now, he's sowing the propaganda for the base of Republican Party who still miss him. Yes, unbelievable as it is to sane people, there are still people who long for Cheney's brand of unconstitutional, robustly torturing, militaristic fascism that made piles of money for the right people.

My question is why CNN is pimping Fox propaganda. Are they hoping to deliver more of the same as Darth takes his non-victory lap? For an alleged conservative, Cheney sure is willing to dispense with any tradition that's not codified into law - and lots of them that are.

I really hope this guy is on his way to the Federal penitentiary for his crimes, though I know that's an unlikely hope.

Get a BRAIN! Morans.

Some serious blue shift in this universe. Ironic, that.

Click image for full Tom Tomorrow/Salon cartoon.

Update (4/23): For those who are not aware of all Internet traditions, here's the wingnut from the pro-war rally who started it all:

I'm just glad he knew how to spell USA.

By the way, you'll also find a quote of this picture in the last panel of This Modern World, hence its particular relevance to subject matter, its aptness stunningly and cooperatively confirmed by globeisatrocious in comments.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's the business model, stupid

Via Dan Kennedy (starting here), I've found Michael Kinsley confirming a claim I've often seen:

Newspaper readers have never paid for the content (words and photos). What they have paid for is the paper that content is printed on. A week of The Washington Post weighs about eight pounds and costs $1.81 for new subscribers, home-delivered. With newsprint (that’s the paper, not the ink) costing around $750 a metric ton, or 34 cents a pound, Post subscribers are getting almost a dollar’s worth of paper free every week — not to mention the ink, the delivery, etc.
The problem is the loss of ad revenue in the inevitable migration from newsprint to pixelprint.

Even if this were not true, readers are not going to pay for content. Charging for it is a fantasy. The quote above simply proves it's not any more unfair that Internet content is free than it ever has been.

The terrible shakeout will continue in local papers until ad revenue equilibrates to fewer outlets and the survivors go on. I still say do what you can win at and aggregate the rest, whether it's from traditional sources such as the AP or from content-generating bloggers who are springing up everywhere covering their own towns, which the papers have mostly abandoned.

Playing to the batshit insane

It's all clear now. John McCain is attacking Barack Obama with bullshit faux outrage about the crazy rightwing extremists trying to recruit vets because of primary opposition in 2010 from crazy-eyed wingnut and immigration militiaman Chris Simcox.

When running in a Republican primary, it's always useful to appear as batshit insane as possible. That's known as playing to the base.

Al Sharpton for veterans

John McCain demands an apology for a report, started under Duhbya, from Homeland Security. The report itself is a scant eight pages, and anyone could read it for themselves, yet many commenters clearly haven't. Here's one:

if the report had said americans are prone to this kind of thing it would be correct. don't just say veterans. ... --just truth (April 21st, 2009 1:16 pm ET)
In fact, the report says that there are many extremist groups already in America (duh!), that these groups want the combat skills of veterans (duh!), and that they're recruiting (duh!). It doesn't "just say veterans" by any stretch of the fevered imagination.

McCain is playing uproar, appealing to ignorant emotions. He knows it, and it's despicable, although it's Republican politics par excellence.

You know, we already know that there are wingnut extremists in the military, just as there are in the general public. If the veterans' equivalent of Al Sharpton thinks their service entitles them to squelch true statements, they ought to review the Constitution that they swore to defend.

Note to Obama: Don't apologize. Don't explain. Parry and thrust: "I'm saddened that John McCain obviously hasn't read the report or hasn't understood it. I invite all Americans to read it for themselves in order to see that it specifically states that right-wing extremists are targeting veterans for recruitment, not the other way around. If John McCain actually objects to that clear statement of fact, it could only be because he's defending the extremists, and I know McCain well enough to know that's not the case. What he's doing here is pretending outrage for political reasons, and we're only sorry to see him stoop so low as to inflame our cherished vets about an insult that isn't there at all."

Monday, April 20, 2009

North Korean style rhetoric

Sen. Al Franken has hired an aide. The Republican response?

"This is another shameful episode of disenfranchising voters from Al Franken, and his disrespect for the constitutional rights of all citizens. While the due process and equal protection rights of our fellow citizens are being denied, Al Franken is determined to thumb his nose at the Minnesota Supreme Court," [State GOP chair Ron Carey] said in a statement.
Kim Jong Il would be so proud.

I'll make it into propaganda

Newt Gingrich knows propaganda. You can bet that, even if Obama had stonily refrained from smiling, Newt would be making propaganda use of whatever Obama might do that Newt's wingnut target demographic might object to if told to be outraged. Or Newt could just make it up, no biggie.

Sue if it's close

Prediction: Republicans will continue their record of trying to win in court what they can't win at the polls. NY-20 will go to Democrat Scott Murphy, but don't be surprised if Jim Tedisco's lawsuits prevent Murphy taking office this year.

Still, the current proceeding is fine. The process should be: Identify and count the legal votes. Declare the winner.

This hearing is about the first step, and it's legitimate for both sides to be there. Just wait for what comes next...

Update (4/24): I'm delighted to eat crow on this, although the gamy taste itself is a reminder to hold myself to the standard I push on others: Don't try to predict the news. Talk about what actually happens when it finally does happen.

Congratulations and good wishes to Jim Tedisco for not being Norm Coleman.

Low credibility marker

Someone who quotes Bill O'Reilly in a piece on bipartisanship and outreach is pimping his mass culture cred and probably has nothing original to say about politics.

What did O'Reilly say? That the "president has polarized Americans." BillO is a man who spends his show every day dividing the tiny rump of head-in-the-sand angry ignoramus conservatives from "ultra-liberals," i.e. everyone else.

BillO is one of those wingnuts whom Barack puts in the "imaginative crowd."

Laws must change someday

Who knew it would take 40 years and still counting since John Mayall's song came out on vinyl? Marijuana itself has been illegal in the United States for twice as long.

Legalizing pot is a long way from the most important issue we face, but you might think that, after giving up on our 50-year-old, failed Cuba policy, we might rethink our failed marijuana prohibition.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sooner the better?

Just another pr-, uh, brick in the wall...

Click image for full Bruce Plante/Tulsa World cartoon.

Eye of Newt

Some weird sisters have been brewing up a potion of poison for the polity.

Click image for full Jeff Darcy/Plain Dealer cartoon.

That sink-in feeling

"If people see with their own eyes, we're in deep shit."

Click image for full Tom Toles/Washington Post cartoon.


If this were the worst of torture, we could stop worrying about it!

Click image for full Jeff Danziger cartoon.

Wingnut pundits and their audiences

Wingnut pundits - Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, and many others - think that the people who listen them are illiterate idiots. If you listen to them and believe what they say, you're often proving them right.

The Huffington Post has the full text of the Homeland Security report on rightwing extremists. Go read it; it's only eight scant pages of text, and it's mostly in English rather than law enforcement bureaucratese. Here are some selections of particular interest:

Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists. DHS/I&A is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.
So who's DHS warning about? Veterans? No, rightwing extremists recruiting veterans.
DHS/I&A assesses that rightwing extremist will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. ... The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today.
The only way you can possibly construe this as an attack on veterans in general is if you are insane or illiterate - or if you're pandering to an audience that you know loves appeals to its insanity and illiteracy.

As if arresting Timothy McVeigh disrespected all veterans instead of the one who executed the largest act of domestic terrorism in more than a century...

Even Michelle Malkin, despite clearly being insane, should normally not feel that this report targets her (even though it doubtless targets at least a few members of her audience). Malkin's loony on immigration, yet the report carefully and Constitutionally says:
Debates over appropriate immigration levels and enforcement policy generally fall within the realm of protected political speech under the First Amendment, but in some cases, anti-immigration or strident pro-enforcement fervor has been directed against specific groups and has the potential to turn violent.

Note: Someone needs to remind the author of the report that Barack Obama's election was historic. It will be some years yet before it can be described as historical.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Golden age of education

Right-wing pundits hate education for a lot of reasons, but chief among them is that it makes it harder for them to find suckers to enrage into their tea bag movements:

Another indication of malleability is that I.Q. has risen sharply over time. Indeed, the average I.Q. of a person in 1917 would amount to only 73 on today’s I.Q. test. Half the population of 1917 would be considered mentally retarded by today’s measurements, Professor Nisbett says.
Trot this out next time some one waxes nostalgic for the so-called good old days of American public education.

It also may explain a lot about trench warfare.

What he said

Ellis Weiner nails the tea bag astroturf would-be movement:

2. These same people, whose economic and physical well-being are a matter of supreme indifference to the richest families in America, have been persuaded to insist on policies that will only benefit the richest families in America. There is a term for these people, and it isn't "right-wing" or "conservative" or "patriotic" or even "Republicans." The term is "sucker." These people are suckers. They have been tricked and manipulated into working against their own interests and for the interests of people who could literally not care less about them. Their patron saint isn't Barry Goldwater or Thomas Paine or Ronald Reagan or Jesus H. Christ. It's P.T. Barnum.


6. Fox News, a factory of propaganda and lies on the best of days, has decided "the hell with it" and become an outright partisan fomenter of "revolution." ...


[I]s all this manipulated, phony "grass-roots" outrage fated to lead to some serious danger to innocent people? For every thousand citizens who gather in public to scream idiotic slogans and proudly flaunt their ignorance, how many more are laboring away in basements and garages, building bombs or assembling arsenals? How many does it take to lead to disaster?

The anger and fear of these people are real and, probably in most cases, justified, however much they misidentify their causes. That's what the Limbaughs and Hannitys and Becks depend on exploiting in order to make themselves rich and famous. But this entire cycle (rage; exploitation; more rage) seems to me worse than usual, as does its manipulation by the wealthy and their servants.

Laugh all we want at the ridiculous foolishness on the right. But more wingnut violence is coming. Count on it.

(h/t Main St. USA)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

All of a sudden

Dianne Feinstein is worried about illegal NSA domestic spying now? She's holding hearings about overbroad surveillance now?

The good news is that the Obama administration is allowing the NSA to care about the laws that govern it. That's change I can believe in.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Man up, conservatives

The Fox-pimped anti-tax protesters didn't dump their ridiculous tea bags in Lafayette Park because they didn't have a permit! Man up, guys, and get arrested. That's how civil disobedience works.

Instead, defeated by the National Park Service! That's gotta leave an owwie.

United States of Wingnut

Every society has its weirdnesses. Many people inside the society don't even realize how weird they seem to outsiders. A history of homosexual hazing of schoolboys? Isn't that the English way?

Sometimes, a society changes enough within one lifetime that oldsters feel more than normally alienated - or maybe that's a universal, I'm not sure. Within my lifetime - and I'm only an oldster to the very young - the American national conversation has shifted far to the right. Extreme voices that would have been universally condemned when I was young are now defended by mainstream conservatives.

So it is with right-wing extremists. The FBI releases a report on increased activity and recruiting by extremist groups, and conservative Republicans worry that this somehow infringes their free speech rights!

[C]onservative radio talk show host Roger Hedgecock was not persuaded. "If the Bush administration had done this to left-wing extremists, it would be all over the press as an obvious trampling of the First Amendment rights of folks and dissent," he told CNN.
That's just weird. It's their potential violence that the FBI is targeting. It's not as though the extremists are reluctant to talk about the need they see for violence. It's not as though they aren't already armed. Sheesh.

Yet somehow this report is evidence of the asymmetrical victimization of right-wing extremists! Consider this: When was the last time a left-wing extremist killed someone? Does Ted Kaczynski count against the left? If so, huuuge organization - we better worry about the revolution of the Luddite bombers.

Yes, there have been some property crimes, and those deserve a police response, but some deranged right-winger kills someone every few months, and threats are much more common. Yet, big media bends way over backward to adopt conservative questions, even if they won't admit that they asked those canned questions:
A DHS official said the department was not trying to squelch free speech by issuing the report. "There is no link between extremists being talked about in that report and conservative political thinkers, activists and voters," the official said.
As if the DHS official would bring that up on his own!

But here's the best part:
In fact, the Obama administration in January did issue a warning about left-wing extremists. Both reports were initiated during the administration of former President George W. Bush.
In sum, a perfectly reasonable and obviously true report commissioned by a conservative administration squelches the free speech of radicals on the right (but not the left) by noting their propensity for political violence, and conservatives are therefore the victims of the liberal administration that merely releases the report. The media reports this as if it were plausible.

Yeah, this is something really weird about our society.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Weak tea

The Republicans have nothing to offer but a stunt that's a weak echo of something that really mattered more than 230 years ago. A very weak echo about the color of dirty dishwater, histrionics in the name of history.


The media are covering the Republican nonsense as if it matters. The reason? Bullshit outlet Fox News is pimping the propaganda constantly. There is no corresponding media force on the Democratic side.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Genocide dreams and radiation wishes

If you step back a little from the Somali pirate episode, the big picture of the wingnut freaks who post comments on newspaper sites is beyond just ugly, beyond even bloodthirsty, which I called it last week. What the wingnuts call for, what they want, is genocide.

Why are we wasting our time on these low lifes - two or three nuclear weapons and the problem is solved - kill them, their wives and babies too! --judgebert (4/13/2009 6:13:43 PM)

Maybe this would be a good opportunity to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal... --NovaMike (4/13/2009 2:19:32 PM)

smoke the entire country --proudgaycuban (4/13/2009 2:10:24 PM)

They need to just level the region since it's mostly a region of mercenaries and theives. --lidiworks1 (4/13/2009 1:36:36 PM)

Somalia is a geographic area with no government, just warlords, pirates and the people that suck off them. It is time to turn that geographic area into glass. --mortified469 (4/13/2009 1:06:26 PM)

Nuke Mogadishu ... --redsoxnation (4/13/2009 11:04:34 AM)

President Obama should ask Somalian authorities to clean up the area within one week and if they fail US Forces should flatten entire coast. --shahjahanbatti1 (4/13/2009 10:21:07 AM)
Apparent from their large numbers is the fact that these are mainstream conservatives, which only shows how extreme conservatism has become. They're impatient with talk, no matter how many lives it saves, and if you won't talk, you have to kill everyone.

Invoke Godwin's Law all you like, but this is how a people get desensitized enough to commit holocaust.

Update: Here's more:
The first death of a US citizen at the hands of a pirate should unleash the full force and fury of the US Navy upon Somalia. Tell Rand McNally to stop printing any more maps because the US Navy & Marines are about to wipe a country of the face of the earth and any maps showing a country named "Somalia" will instantly become obsolete. --Ted11 (4/13/2009 5:45 AM EDT)

Never their fault

The media is not responsible for any of the intrusive "news" coverage of the Palin-Johnston soap opera. Sarah Palin's press secretary made them cover it.

I note for the record that Newt Gingrich objects to the silly coverage of the Obamas' dog but raises nary a peep about Palin's ex-intended-son-in-law. Yes, he still wants to be President. Being right on the dog story won't help him, but keeping silent on Wasilla Place will.

Is there anyone in big media who's more useless than Howard Kurtz?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dogbert koan


The Texas Lege and many others in gun country have moved beyond guns as neutral ("Guns don't kill people. People kill people.") to guns as a positive social good ("An armed society is a polite society.").

We'll see.

Click image for full Nick Anderson/Houston Chronicle cartoon.

What wingnuts want

Almost from the minute the Somali pirates took Richard Phillips hostage, nasty ugly wingnut commenters on news sites attacked Barack Obama for doing nothing to save him. Even as the Navy steamed into the area and besieged the pirates in their lifeboat, they continued to demand Armageddon and right the hell now.

Even this morning, after the rescue had happened but before new of it was widely known, they kept up their derision:

Nice going, Obama. A pirate crew in a dinghy holds of the United States Navy and you twiddle your thumbs. You are a disgrace! --adamis (4/12/2009 6:41 AM EDT)

Time to man up..pity we didn't elect one. --USARMY1 (4/12/2009 8:07 AM EDT)

The only thing amusing about this entire situation is the obama apologists' derision of those who would like the US to do something besides negotiate with and placate terrorists. ... The current president seems intent on apologizing to the world for america's faults. He is not a decisive leader, he is not inspirational, he is not a transforming figure. He is simply not ready for the 3 am call. The phone rang and he doesn't know what to do. --pk812 (4/12/2009 9:09 AM EDT)

We elected a coward. ... --obamasucks2 (4/12/2009 9:22 AM EDT)
What these immature idiots want is for the President to come out on TV, their favorite source of propaganda, and rant and rave in order to calm them down. Walk softly and carry a big stick? No way, not when you're the big bully. Duhbya was perfect for this - perfectly blustery.

They'll never learn to put their brains before their anger. But you'd think they might have enough reptile brain to learn, in the words of Bob Dylan, "Don't speak too soon, for the wheel's still in spin."

GOP fetishes

Tim Pawlenty sticks with failed Republican fetishized positions. Of course, Republicans think a tax cut can solve any problem.

But that's old news. The funny part is the constant refrain of small business this, small business that. Republicans don't really care about small business. They use it for protection from the true accusation that they are in the pocket of big business - and have been for many decades.

This is a case of a Democratic formula backfiring. Sometime around the 1970s, Dems wanted to reassure voters that they were in fact in favor of a strong economy, but they had been hammering big business so hard since the Great Depression that they had to make a distinction about which businesses deserved their help and advocacy.

Republicans quickly saw the advantages of this market positioning. After all, only a narrow niche of voters would ever find big business to be warm and fuzzy, and they already knew the GOP was buttering their bread.

Elite media loved and love this formula, too. Every economic downturn brings out formulaic stories about how many jobs small business creates. The better studies, though, show that small business does not create net jobs at anything like the scale of big business.

What you'll notice if you look closely at actual policy, as opposed to dishonest GOP marketing, is that Republican goals always help big business and leave a few crumbs for small business, much as their tax cut policies do for the very wealthy vs. the middle class.

At bottom, the Republicans' single most important policy position is tax cuts. The rest is just marketing. They don't really care whether a tax cut will solve a problem, economic or otherwise. They only care to lower their patrons' taxes.

In the end, we're back to the old news. The chant of "small business" is only about helping big business.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Eating crow

Arizona State president Michael Crow tries to fix the insult his PR department flung at Barack Obama. Only calculated disrespect can explain why ASU would withhold an honorary degree. I mean, who here really thinks an ASU degree has so much special cachet that it needs a principled defense?

But Crow doesn't try very hard. He only names something after Obama, and while it's a scholarship program, that's easily undone as soon as Obama's commencement speech is done.

If I were in the White House, I'd call Crow up and tell him that Barack has a conflict on May 13. That's a polite way to say go to hell.

That's just me, though. I'm not as sweet as Barack is.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Free market

I define market broadly as any decentralized system for allocating resources, any system that relies on many choices of many actors. Obviously, some markets are freer than others, but freedom in a market is often not proportional to its success, either in efficiency or in fairness.

In China, private choices have led to too many boys and not enough girls. This is the result of the collision of culturally driven demand, biotechnology, and entrepreneurship.

One might argue that the legal constraint of China's draconian one-child policy was the definitive source of this future problem. I don't find that credible because the very same trend is also occurring in India and South Korea, which do not have similar policies. No, those couples who selectively abort their female fetuses are mainly responding to the incentives their cultures provide for sons.

Keep this in historical perspective. The West is ahead of the East on the role of women but not that far.

In any case, markets as well as government plans have unintended consequences. The Chinese sought to solve their runaway population growth, and they did. But they got this demographic weirdness.

Scarce commodities become more valuable, but the expressions of the new value of females in China will probably take many forms. A few possibilities:

  • Women will be able to choose among suitors.
  • China will import women from neighboring, poor countries - Vietnam, North Korea, Cambodia. Many will be used as prostitutes and discarded.
  • There will be a diaspora of Chinese men. Some of them will assimilate; some will be spies.
  • Homosexuality among men will be more common.
  • War is likely as a response to domestic social unrest.
The future is always uncertain. Extra men with nothing much to lose might revolutionize Chinese politics, though I look around at recent history of hopelessness in Ireland and the Middle East, and I'm not optimistic. Still, there's no reason my crystal ball should have all the answers. Add yours in comments.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


We Americans like to think of ourselves as a peace-loving nation. We aren't.

Sure, some of us are, possibly many, maybe even a majority. Maybe not. But there's a strong current of blood lust not even a step up from savagery that runs through many Americans' violent and ugly view of the world.

Iran's nuclear ambitions? Don't ask questions. Don't talk. Don't bother with economic coercion. Attack.

To your lastpoint: eliminate their capability now, so they cannot use it later. Do not make the mistake of thinking they won't. and, talking will not get us there. --ronreganfan [sic] (4/9/2009 12:18 PM EDT)
Pirates from lawless Somalia? Don't negotiate the release of their hostages, backed by the threat of force. Attack everyone everywhere.
Yesterday, April 8th, 2009, Somali pirates attacked an American merchant ship. To the government of Somalia, I say the following: You must get contol of your population and end their piracy right now. If you don’t, we will. If ending their piracy means destroying what little there is of your sorry nation, we will destroy your sorry nation. If any Somali pirate ever again attacks an American ship, we will act accordingly. Do not appeal for mercy. Do not mistake our resolve. --camper9574 (4/9/2009 5:22 AM EDT)

Negotiation is not an option. Get Captain Phillips back safely, then take quick and severe action.
If some innocents get in the way then they should not have been in the area. --icepack (4/9/2009 7:30 AM EDT)
These idiots have no idea how vast the Indian Ocean is. (Note: I have no qualms whatsoever about defending shipping. I'm just not willing to kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out.)

North Korean missile? Never mind that Kim Jong Il is probably sick. Never mind that this society will collapse under its own weight quite soon. Attack.
Newt Gingrich says he would have disabled the long-range missile before it ever left the launch pad. --from the CNN story

Yes, the US should have bombed the launch pad as soon as the threat became known. Now the North Koreans will think they can get away with it every time. --Cameron (April 6th, 2009 4:00 pm ET)
Fortunately, many commenters on the Jack Cafferty story of Jingo Newt recognize the Republican war drumbeat for what it is.

This is what the bully faction of the conservative movement has to offer: perpetual war. Fer chrissake, in 2003, they wanted to invade France for merely verbal disagreements with the Bushists.

We're already in theater in two wars, maxed out on both our soldiers and our credit cards. If we fought all the wars the wingnuts want us to fight, we would be on a permanent war footing. And our deficits? We'd never see a balanced budget again.

The stupidest attitude of all that the bully faction of the Republican Party sweats out through every pore is that if you don't agree with their every carpet-bombing knee-jerk reflex, you must want to befriend every enemy and show America's throat to their knives.

So, of course, it's all Obama's fault that these conflicts heated up. It's all Obama's fault that he hasn't yet killed anyone. Never mind that all three of these problems have been going on for years. Nope, the wingnuts' selective amnesia prevents them from ever seeing problems in context, where those problems are more complicated.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Nailing down the constituencies

Newt Gingrich is a Fox contributor, natch! Any hoary old wingnut conservative can get a soapbox on that propaganda bullshit bin. CNN has been trying to get in on the compost action, too, for no obvious reason other than that they know him.

Newtie looks to be nailing (down) the core Republican constituencies. Why not? Like March's face of the Republican Party, he's an outdated, corpulent, pasty-faced gasbag - and those are his good points. Today he decried Obama's appointment of Harry Knox to "the White House advisory council on faith-based initiatives." For Newt, the appointment of this gay non-denominational preacher is proof that the Obama administration is "anti-religious."

Like Newt's religious! He's only pandering to fundamentalist Christians to try to immunize himself against his own repeated adultery and divorce. Oh, sure, Newt has converted to Catholicism, which is weird. Isn't he automatically denied communion because of his multiple marriages?

Newt still thinks he can be President, though, and he has also been appealing lately to the paranoid bullies and the anti-tax know-nothings who'll do the bidding of the wealthies.

Do unto others

Fundamentalist Christian doctors want the right to exclude legal treatments they don't approve of, whether they're medically appropriate or not. These people have a preschooler's understanding of the golden rule: If they like vanilla ice cream, everyone should have vanilla ice cream, even people who prefer chocolate. Even people who are lactose intolerant. Even people who are allergic to the point of anaphylactic shock to it.

Personally, I'm not willing to have to take a religious history in the emergency room when the doctor should be taking my medical history. If I wanted a crackpot, I'd be somewhere else.


In a news article, I seldom see examples this glaring of Republican framing than this claim that Obama's budget is a battle between the thoroughly deprecated LBJ and St. Reagan. As if that alone were not enough, the article gives the Reaganaut myth-makers both the first word and the last.

My diagnosis: This was an RNC press release with a few convenient Democratic comments shoehorned into the middle in the name of faux balance.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fear is the mind-killer

Contrast the Bushist response to North Korea with the Obama administration's response.

Bushist: Screaming, fear-mongering Chicken Little, followed by the silent treatment that a high school girl might inflict on her puppy love.

Obama: Measured, serious, reassuring. No panic, no stupidity. Diplomatic but no pushover.

Now, remind me, who are the grown-ups?

They didn't teach you that in law school either?

"Trotter showed you his files because he has to. It's called disclosure, you dickhead."

Ted Stevens got screwed. It's pretty awful when the public integrity prosecutors lack integrity. It is still pretty obvious that Stevens was taking graft, legally or not, but no one should be convicted on obviousness.

Prime defect of liberalism

Liberalism has a lot to offer. Its economic results are better than laissez-faire and much better than a command economy. Its core value of fairness extends to everyone; people can be who they are under a liberal government.

The prime defect of liberalism is that it's not simple-minded, and many voters are. If you have to explain anything beyond the superficial to them, they glaze over and vote for the pandering idiot. Conservatives have proven over and over again to be superficial themselves (Sarah Palin) or at least willing to pander in order to win.

Here's an example: Initial reports indicate that English language immersion for non-native speakers is not working for the Boston Public Schools. It was legally mandated by ballot initiative in 2002, and I voted against it.

There are several points to make about this news story:

  • The drop-out rate got worse for foreign speakers, but it got worse for native speakers at about the same pace. I suspect the change is mainly the result of better counting.
  • Nonetheless, the new law banning traditional bilingual education has not (yet?) lived up to its promise.
  • The school system's failure to make better efforts to provide support services is unconscionable and must be remedied. "Once it's the law of the land, it has to be done well," said Miren Uriarte, ... coauthor of the report.
More to the point, the whole debate is filled with extremes that benefit no one. One commenter (probably more) recounts how his father was immersed in English in the 1920s and emerged with no accent. Most stories like this are bullshit seen through rosy lenses of nostalgia. Most people who succeeded this way started very young and had more help than any of their ideologically committed descendants find convenient to admit. Even if some immigrants did succeed at this, that in no way shows that sink or swim is the best way to learn to swim.

The hard fact about bringing immigrants to English is that it's difficult and complicated, not subject to the easy answers that both extremes want - that the nativist, anti-immigrant bigots want most of all. A few facts:
  • Immersion works well for young children. They soak up English without much effort. These children become interpreters for their parents.
  • Native language support (where the Boston schools are failing) is essential to give older kids a chance. Even so, it's just a chance, not a guarantee.
  • Traditional bilingual education is not a guarantee, either.
My observation: Immigrants I've talked to, often in a patois of my broken Spanish and their broken English, may have given up on English fluency for themselves, but they haven't given up on it for their children.

Chances are, if you got here, you're already a liberal. After all, this was complicated and nuanced.

Fart in the general direction of North Korea

It's hard to believe that Newt Gingrich gets credit for being smart when he's this willing to pander to the stupid, jingoist wing of his party. Of course, it's just that the non-stupid, non-jingoist wing is so tiny.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Joined at the ...

Eliot Spitzer was caught in a prostitution scandal a year ago. He has this to say about it:

It was an egregious violation of behavior that I fell into for many reasons, but none of them an excuse or justifiable.
I'm sure that David Vitter has said similar mea culpas over his past two years. It's hard to judge any public figure's sincerity base solely on words.

However, there is one difference that's pretty striking: David Vitter remains a member of the U.S. Senate after 634 days as a known consorter with whores - and I'm not even counting the first time he is alleged to have paid to play.


If the Republicans are still protecting Duhbya from full revelation of the lawlessness of his regime (h/t Tom at Inverse Square), if John Cornyn and other authoritarians still favor torture, if the Senate might hold up confirmation to the OLC of lawyers who don't believe in electing kings, make them filibuster under klieg lights while cameras record them.

As yet, Obama has not restored the Constitution as the fundamental law of the land. Instead, we have a patchwork of law and the naked power that the Bushists were so fond of rationalizing like power-corrupted rulers from the Nazis to the Soviets to Saddam Hussein. (No, I'm not saying that Duhbya was as bad as these guys, just that he used one universal technique of despots - the legalistic rationalization of crimes.)

Now that we've stopped torturing, it's time to end tortured logic in support of torture. A strategic leak would be welcome and an act of true patriotism.

Cleaning Augean stables

So it's not just Krugman. Go read this:

Consider what happens when the government acquires an insolvent bank. The shareholders and the debt holders of the bank’s holding company may be essentially wiped out...

Treasury’s new plan, the Public-Private Investment Program, reduces that incentive by preserving shareholder and debt holder ownership of insolvent banks. ...

The government will bear almost all the exposure to losses from these transactions, but earn only a small fraction of any profits. ...

Even if it is successful, the program will add very little new capital to the banks — roughly only the amount paid for toxic assets that is over and above their current value.
I have nothing to add to this clearly written, clear-eyed, hard-headed piece - well, nothing other than my accolades.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Garry Trudeau was once the finest journalist working in America. Only recently has Jon Stewart bumped him to number two.

Click image for full Doonesbury.

Had me at hello

Click image for full Tom Toles/Washington Post cartoon.

Sorry, didn't recognize you

"Purse your lips any harder, Madge, and Angelina's going to need plumping."

Click image for full Steve Kelley/Times Picayune cartoon.

Update: This is post 2000 in my blogging career so far! You'd think I could find a more productive way to spend my time.

Would you buy a new car from this man?

Loans are available!

Click image for full David Horsey cartoon.


If I had a hold of that end, I'd want a moon suit.

Click image for full Jeff Danziger cartoon.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Our Mother of Incomprehensible Securitization

Funeral held, libertarians still in denial stage of grief.


... but it's still possible that the Boston Globe might vanish. For the record, this would be a very bad thing for Boston and for Massachusetts. It would also be bad for a close friend of mine who draws his paycheck there, not to mention several other staffers I know to one degree or another.

Big Media often get its nose out of joint because we bloggers flay it for various stupidities and cupidities. It takes the attitude, love me, love my mistakes. Or, give me an A+, when all I've really earned is a B-/C+.

The blogosphere wants the good intelligent reporting that Big Media used to do more of, before it decided to dumb down in a vain attempt to be cable news on paper. We know that we need grist. It's just that we like that grist to be factual, instead of laced with bullshit, the way so much of our culture is.

Another losing issue

Long run, gay rights are yet another losing issue for the Republicans. That's what it is to be conservative: You drag your feet against progress, but it inevitably overwhelms you.

I know this because I was sitting in a car late last night talking with my Republican doubles partner, and she told me that she had been maid of honor at the marriage of two of her softball teammates. It's the one thing she'll admit we Democrats have right.

Granted the younger people I know live in Massachusetts and they're a self-selected set with some selection bias, but they all favor gay rights. As the old normal ages out into cemeteries, the new normal will be gay civil marriage. Though not for some time in Utah, Idaho, and the Deep South...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Proof of life

Are these binoculars backward?

Click image for full Tom Tomorrow/Salon cartoon.

Drama queen

Mark Sanford (R-SC) will take stimulus money after all, but he does not have to be happy about it. He just wants the federal government to leave him the hell alone - just as long as he gets on TV being left alone.

This is possibly the dumbest thing yet said by an elected official about the stimulus:

The stimulus "may or may not work," Sanford continued. "But wouldn't it make sense if it doesn't work to take 10 percent of that to pay down debt so that our finances are in stronger order, so that if it doesn't work, and if the storm is still raging 24 months from now, we're in a stronger financial position to spend more, to issue more debt, to do a whole host of things that would help people at the state level?"
Pretty much, I'm going to save my raincoat in case it's still raining in 2 years, so that then I can keep myself dry!
Frank Morgan, the schools superintendent in rural Kershaw County, likened Sanford's proposal to spend stimulus money to pay down debt to "trying to pay off your mortgage while your kids are starving."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Counting on their fingers

Conservative pundits are like four-year-olds who have learned to count but forget to count themselves:

In between Jonah's petulant laments about how conservative opinion cannot be heard in The Mainstream Media, Bill Kristol talked about his New York Times column and his Washington Post column, John Podhoretz told stories about his tenure editing The New York Post Editorial Page and Charles Krauthammer's years of writing a column for Time and The New Republic, and Jonah referenced his Los Angeles Times column. None of them ever recognized the gaping disparity between those facts and their woe-is-us whining about conservative voices like theirs being shut out of The Liberal Media. So important in conservative mythology is self-victimization that they maintain it even as they themselves unwittingly provide the facts which disprove it.
Jean Piaget would say that these conservatives don't conserve, which is a serious developmental deficit. The pay's good, though.

Half measure

It's all well and good for Democrats to set some boundaries on the self-entitled fluffing that so many executives engage in with their corporate boards in order to loot their companies, irrespective of real performance. But they've only done it for companies we're in the process of buying. Naturally, the Republicans are agin anything that might limit the ruling class's ability to finance more ... Republicans.

I'm not in favor of direct regulation of executive salaries. What I do favor is a limit on the ability of publicly traded corporations to use exorbitant salaries as expenses against income when they file their taxes. More than 25, 40, 50 - pick a number - times the median wage? Not deductible. Further, having seen first hand the results of pumping a stock to ridiculous and temporary heights to accrue massive bonuses, I favor very liberal clawback laws that include shareholder standing to sue under well-defined circumstances.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Impeccable timing

April Fools Day, and "Republican Budget II" is out. It's a low budget horror movie.

I wonder if they'll be able to get the numbers to add up when they try again in a couple of weeks.

Why bullshit permeates our politics

The New York Times ballyhoos baldly hypocritical Republican threats to filibuster Obama nominees as "storm clouds."

Reporter Neil Lewis then tiptoes ever so gingerly around the hypocrisy with this bit of indirection: "These are certainly different times."

Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen's language was harsh, the story says, but the strongest Lewis can find is "outlandish" and "shockingly flawed." Anyone following the OLC torture memo controversy and its companion pimping dictatorial Presidential power ("unitary executive") might be forgiven for finding her language too mild. If she had called a festering stew of lies, bullshit, and the will to fascism, she would not have been out of line.

For her language, now the consensus of non-wingnut legal observers, John Cornyn (R-Bushism) terms her not serious. This is well-known Beltway-speak for "unwilling to go along with the arrogant stupidity of the king in his new clothes."

Then the wingnut blogs weigh in, accusing Johnsen of equating pregnancy with slavery. Any moron who tries can see plainly that the comparison she made was between involuntary pregnancy and involuntary servitude. But this is a common rhetorical technique of the Republican noise machine. (Remember: If you're against Petraeus, you're against the military.) The fact that it's arrant bullshit is beneath the Times's willingness to observe. That wouldn't sustain the false equivalence between Republican crap and reality.

Last, Lewis grants Republican Senators anonymity to float their "strategy." He's either in on the game or contemptibly naive enough to think that his story is not part of their strategy.

Why does bullshit permeate our politics? Because the media makes no effort whatsoever to filter it out.

BREAKING - Obama resigns

Birth certificate a forgery. "Obama" really born Antuanique Robinson on the South Side of Chicago.

"It wasn't a cool enough life story to write books about. Since my father was in prison, I made up the Kenya story, but no, I didn't murder my mom and grandmother to keep them quiet," said the chagrined former gang member.

Tony Rezko denies knowledge, "Ya think I woulda hung around with a punk from the South Side?"

Real reason? Obama paid all his taxes - not qualified to serve in his own administration.

Joe Biden to take oath of office. "My first act as President will be a Hair Club for Men stimulus package."

In other news: Ann Coulter aborts love child with Matt Drudge. "After he broke my jaw, I only let him sleep with me because he told me he was gay."

Grown-ups in charge

Barack Obama is not playing at being President. He actually has the capacity to handle the job - from the economy to health care to garden variety natural disasters like floods in the high plains. All at once.

If the people in charge believe in government, government can get things done. I just hope voters will remember the contrast between the unrelieved incompetence of Bushism and the cool can-do of Obama and the Democrats.

Foolish consistency

Both Republicans and Democrats approach dead heat elections consistently:

  • Democrats always say, "Count the legal votes, and certify whoever has the most."
  • Republicans always say, "Tie goes to the Republican."
Norm Coleman's lead on election night should be completely definitive:
Norm won on election day and everything has been corrupt since then. Mark Ritchie = hack. --johngalt18

But John Boehner is telling the press that he's confident the Republican will win. No, not just confident. Jim Tedisco "will win."

For my part: Count the votes. Recount the votes. When the count is right, declare the winner.