Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Stuff

So how crazy is Michele Bachmann anyway? Do you really want to know?...

..."Worst Persons" (yep, there's "symbolism" in a 19-page "budget" with no numbers, Gretchen - "symbolic" of an utterly incompetent opposition party, that is; Michelle Malkin thinks the proposal from Sen. Ben Cardin of providing non-profit status to newspapers is a "bailout," which automatically means it's one hell of an idea; and this is truly an historic day, boys and girls - UPS DROPS FALAFEL BOY AS A SPONSOR!!! HOORAY!!! GO BROWN!!! - more here)...

...and I wonder if Billo's "pipe" will be "up" if more sponsors bugger off...

...something to think about as we celebrate the weekend.

Knocking Natasha And Lambasting 'Canuck-Care'

I read something particularly ridiculous in the Bucks County Courier Times this morning, and I wanted to take a few minutes to respond; I should emphasize, though, that the paper was merely reprinting this story from another source.

It seems that a physician named Cory Franklin wrote a column trying to explain how Canadian health care (as opposed to the wonderful, American for-profit system) was responsible for the tragic death of actress Natasha Richardson last week…

Richardson died of an epidural hematoma, a bleeding artery between the skull and brain that compresses and ultimately causes fatal brain damage via pressure buildup. With prompt diagnosis by CT scan, and surgery to drain the blood, most patients survive. Could Richardson have received this care? Where it happened in Canada, no. In many American resorts, yes.
That’s one of the most ridiculous lies that I’ve ever read; to the great credit of The Nation’s Betsy Reed, she wrote as follows (here)…

Franklin, it turns out, is either guilty of deception or shockingly shoddy journalism, or some combination of both. A phone call from The Nation to the Centre Hospitalier Laurentien in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts elicited some interesting information. The hospital has a CT scanner. Its director of communications would not, out of understandable deference to the family's wishes to protect her medical privacy, divulge whether or not Richardson received a scan. But there's no reason to believe that she did not.
Trust me; I have it on good information that a CAT scan is a universally accepted protocol for head trauma (Mrs. Doomsy is a nurse, just for the record).

And while I don’t know if Franklin is trying to influence the debate on heath care in this country by writing this dreck, it really wouldn’t be much of a stretch to assume that he was, wouldn’t it?

With that in mind, I should note that I finally saw “Sicko” a few weeks ago when I was laid up (I thought this was a good critique), and while those who instinctively convulse at the mere mention of Michael Moore will despise it no matter what you or I say, I should note that I thought it was a pretty thorough examination of the state of health care in this country, and it shed some interesting insights into how other countries provide this service (here is an opposition point of view by Kurt Loder – as always with Moore, I think what he has to say should be the beginning of the informed debate on the issues he makes movies about, not necessarily the middle and the end too).

And that is particularly true when the side seeking to preserve the status quo can rally around the type of outrageous propaganda foisted on us by Dr. Franklin, as noted previously.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (3/27/09)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week (more embarrassment with Pancake Joe, and our other senator needs a trip to the proverbial woodshed - and I also posted here).

Tax on bonuses. The House passed, 328-93, a bill (HR 1586) levying a 90 percent tax on bonuses paid since Jan. 1 to executives of American International Group (AIG) and other firms receiving at least $5 billion in taxpayer bailouts.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: John Adler (D., N.J.), Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).
This was the bill sponsored by Dem Gary Peters of Michigan; though Obama ended up coming out against it, I would say that it galvanized the public’s opposition to the “banksters” (as Atrios calls them) and AIG in particular.

AmeriCorps expansion. The House passed, 321-105, a bill (HR 1388) that would more than triple the ranks of AmeriCorps, Volunteers in Service to America, and the National Civilian Community Corps while greatly expanding the agencies' missions.
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak, and Smith.

Voting no: Pitts.
See what I mean?


Public-lands conservation. Voting 77-20, the Senate passed a bill (HR 146) that would conserve tens of millions of acres of public land, mostly in the West.

A yes vote was to send the bill back to the House.

Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Ted Kaufman (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

Elena Kagan confirmation. Voting 61-31, the Senate confirmed Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan as U.S. solicitor general, a post that involves representing the United States before the Supreme Court. Kagan, 48, is the first woman to hold the post.

A yes vote was to confirm Kagan.

Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Kaufman, Lautenberg and Menendez.

Voting no: Specter.
This tells us that Snarlin’ Arlen was unhappy with Ms. Kagan for the following reason…

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) has recently criticized Ms. Kagan “for not providing ‘sufficient answers’ on issues ranging from the death penalty to habeas corpus rights for detainees suspected of terrorism,” Politico reports.

Specter’s criticism could be pivotal, since he is the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which sent Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Senate floor.

In a nine-page letter, Specter says Kagan’s views on an array of policy matters are important since the Supreme Court periodically asks for the solicitor general’s advice on whether to take up a case. Kagan is thought to be on Obama’s shortlist if there is a Supreme Court vacancy.

Specter also asked Kagan to explain her views on whether the president can circumvent federal law to conduct warrantless surveillance, and he wants her opinion on Second Amendment and eminent domain cases — all hot-button issues with conservatives.
“Not providing sufficient answers,” huh Arlen?

Remember the “Strip Search Sammy” Alito confirmation hearings? Remember how Ted Kennedy wanted to find out more information on the so-called ”Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a group that at the time (of Alito's enrollment) tried to limit entry to Princeton by minorities and women,” as the AP tells us here? (and remember how Huckleberry Graham asked if Alito was a bigot, reducing his wife to tears, though no Dem ever sought to ask such a question but merely wanted to know what Alito did with the "Concerned Alumni"?).

Remember how you went nuts, as follows?

(In December 2005) Kennedy sent a letter to Specter seeking a committee subpoena for private documents of William A. Rusher, a founder of the group, that Kennedy said might shed light on Alito’s membership when he attended Princeton.

Specter said he had not received the letter and bristled at Kennedy’s pledge to push repeatedly for a committee vote on a subpoena.

“I will not have you run this committee,” said Specter, who brushed aside Kennedy’s threats.

Kennedy later submitted for the record a letter from Specter’s staff responding to Kennedy’s letter.
And you’re lecturing our new Solicitor General about “not providing sufficient answers”?

As always, screw you, Arlen.

Update 4/8/09: And I guess you want Obama to fail also based on this, Snarlin' Arlen?

Ron Kirk confirmation. Voting 92-5, the Senate confirmed former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk as U.S. trade representative, putting him in charge of administering U.S. trade policies. Kirk, 54, is the first African American to hold the post.

A yes vote was to confirm Kirk.

Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Kaufman, Lautenberg, Menendez, and Specter.
This week, the House took up a public-lands bill, while the Senate debated an expansion of AmeriCorps and other service programs.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday Stuff

(Also, I was able to post over here after all.)

Oh yeah, I would consider Karl a subject matter expert on this...

...and Bill Orally is also a subject matter expert of sorts in his own utterly sorry way (more here)...

..."Worst Persons" (Fox humanoid Megyn Kelly laments AIG death threats - no I don't condone that, but seriously, that's a surprise? - which is hilarious considering that such fare is typical for their network, with examples too numerous to name, including what I noted previously; Glenn Beck talks to a dead fish and complains about Obama and the Teleprompter, and yes, this is ALREADY old; and climate change denialist House Repug Joe Barton of (where else) Texas recites his tired litany once more)...

...and I tried to find a good Motown video featuring the Funk Brothers to commemorate the passing of Uriel Jones, and I thought this would suffice even though this post-dated Jones and his fine crew a bit (circa 1980, when the Temptations returned to Motown).

Obama Inherits Our Muay Loco Mex Drug War

This story tells us the following (registration required)…

…high-powered guns used (in the murder of an elite agent in Mexico’s police force and the attack on a federal police office in which, miraculously, no one was killed) on the evening of Sept. 24 undoubtedly came from the United States, say police here, who estimate that 100 percent of drug-related killings are committed with smuggled U.S. weapons.

The guns pass into Mexico through the "ant trail," the nickname for the steady stream of people who each slip two or three weapons across the border every day. The "ants" -- along with larger smuggling operations -- are feeding a rapidly expanding arms race between Mexican drug cartels.

The U.S. weapons -- as many as 2,000 enter Mexico each day, according to a Mexican government study -- are crucial tools in an astoundingly barbaric war between rival cartels that has cost 4,000 lives in the past 18 months and sent law enforcement agencies in Washington and Mexico City into crisis mode.
So what did we do in response?

These drug traffickers, with their steady supply of U.S. weaponry, are the target of President Bush's proposed $500 million U.S. aid package to help Mexico battle cartels.
(Oops, my bad – this story is from October 2007).

Oh, wait – here’s another one that’s a bit more recent which tells us…

"Drug-trafficking organizations have made life at the border increasingly dangerous," Michael J. Sullivan, acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said in El Paso. "And this danger extends across the border and into several parts of Mexico."

In Mexico City, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said the goal of what officials are calling Project Gunrunner is to dry up the cartels' arms supply in the U.S. by punishing gun dealers who knowingly sell weapons to "straw" buyers who then resell them illegally.
Oops, my bad again – this story is dated from January 2008 (well, continuing)...

"I certainly foresee a tightening-up of the way gun dealers distribute guns if, in fact, they are selling to straw purchasers," Mr. Mukasey said after meeting with his Mexican counterpart, Eduardo Medina Mora, and Mexican President Felipe Calderón.

"I see tighter enforcement of regulations requiring that they get proper identification and that they check these people before they sell guns, and inevitably we are going to find people who are not doing what they ought to do, and they will be prosecuted," Mr. Mukasey said in an interview.

The new measures will also give Mexican law enforcement officials greater access to the eTrace computer database in the United States, allowing them to use the serial numbers to trace weapons used in Mexican crimes to U.S. gun dealers.
By the way, who out there besides me can envision a situation where, upon attempting to prosecute the gun manufacturer – and the last I checked, gun manufacturers had immunity from prosecution, as noted here – that entity turns around and blames the gun dealer instead for a role in the crime, and vice versa…also, here is a prior post on this subject with some sensible comments in opposition.

I’m sure you get my point here, which is that, despite expensive initiatives aimed at allegedly trying to stem the flow of guns into Mexico (and elsewhere, for that matter) and efforts at information sharing regarding primarily-U.S.-made weapons used in the commission of horrific acts of violence against law enforcement and others, the problem of gun violence committed by individuals in the employ of Mexican drug cartels has only gotten worse.

So what are we going to do about the crooked border patrol agents who are allowing the guns from this country and the drugs into this country, then? Sorry to impugn the vast majority of border patrol agents who I’m sure do the right thing, but they have to be culprits here to some extent since that border “fence” is working perfectly, I’m sure.

As we ponder that, here is a story to read dated yesterday that tells us of the following steps by the Obama Administration in the latest sorry chapter of this conflict (yet another mess inherited from Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History)…

• Sending about 350 additional personnel from the Homeland Security Department for a host of border-related work, including doubling the border enforcement security teams that combine local, state and federal officers.

• Adding 16 new Drug Enforcement Administration positions in the southwestern region. DEA currently has more than 1,000 agents working in the region.

• Sending 100 more people form the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to the border in the next 45 days.

• Boosting the FBI's intelligence and analysis work on Mexican drug cartel crime.

• Increasing the inspection of rail cargo heading from the U.S. into Mexico and putting X-ray units in place to try to detect weapons being smuggled into Mexico.

(Also), the FBI is stepping up its efforts along the Southwest border by creating a Southwest Intelligence Group that will serve as a clearinghouse of all FBI activities involving Mexico, according to Todd Hulsey, spokesman for the FBI in Albuquerque.
Part of the reason why I’m posting about this is to provide some context when the right-wing frothing and general hysteria begins over the thoroughly accurate quote from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here that "Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade,” as well as her commendably straightforward analysis that "our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians."

She has more guts than most of the men who take up space in our nation’s capital, and this is still more proof (and this tells us of the toll in Mexico).

Also, to get an idea of just how extensive the reach is of the Mexican drug gangs into this country, consider the kidnapping of six-year-old Cole Puffinburger last October from his home in Las Vegas by “three armed men, described as Hispanic” who tied up his mother and left with him, according to this story. Fortunately, as noted here, he was found alive a few days later, and the boy’s grandfather was questioned as a result (he allegedly stole drug money from those who kidnapped the boy – don’t know if charges were ever filed).

Here is my point, though – suppose the gang had kidnapped someone, and something went horribly wrong and that person was killed (maybe they grabbed the wrong person, that person resisted, whatever – and by the way, I don’t mean to condone kidnapping under any circumstance here). In that awful event, would be still hear the hue and cry about protecting that mythical right to own a gun supposedly enshrined by the Second Amendment?

I know the answer, but I’m compelled to ask the question anyway.

With that in mind, I should note that this is one of the few stories I’ve seen that dares to even imply that “reviving the gun control debate” is an aspect of this problem on our border in any way at all. And if you want still more proof of how our politicians have been completely and utterly cowed by the NRA on the issue of gun control, here is a letter that 65 of our Democratic U.S. House representatives sent to Attorney General Eric Holder pleading with him not to touch the gun issue (hat tip to Ben Smith of The Politico for the letter; there are some people who definitely should know better here such as Paul Hodes, Eric Massa and Pete DeFazio, and people for whom this is “par for the course” such as Heath Shuler, Ciro Rodriguez and Tim Holden – my great thanks to Patrick Murphy for not signing onto this).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it as many times as I have to; like it or not, the Democrats are the party of sensible gun control measures in this country. As long as they run away from that, crime will escalate, our prisons will continue filling to capacity, and more people will die.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday Stuff

Posting is 50-50 for tomorrow, by the way, just so you know.

And I don't know if "inspired" is the word, but I was certainly compelled to find this video after reading about this; I would say that those bastards at IBM who are shipping 5,000 jobs offshore should watch this, but somehow I don't think it would make a bit of difference to them...

..."The Few, The Proud - The Crazy" (and apparently, craving for social acceptance also? Gee, how about NOT BEING TERRORISTS, THEN??!!)...

...and yes, it's true that I've either linked to or commented on these first two items already on "Worst Persons," but hey, any way I can take a shot at Bill Orally and Rupert The Pirate at the same time - aaaarrgghh, me hearties! Stow Jim Hawkins below the poop deck! - you better believe that I will...

...and you can consider this my musical response to Jake DeSantis, executive vice president of the financial products unit of AIG, who wrote a resignation letter that appeared on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times today (here).

Update 3/28/09: Kudos to Matt Taibbi for this.

Wednesday Mashup (3/25/09)

I haven’t done this for a little while, so I thought I was due; this is just a bunch of “quick hits” (and I also posted over here).

  • With each passing day, I understand less and less why Senate Repug Judd “The Dud” Gregg of New Hampshire was ever considered for the job of Obama’s commerce secretary, unless the White House thought Gregg could be snookered and New Hampshire Governor John Lynch would name a Senate Dem in his place. I say that given this story in the New York Times today, showing Gregg posing in front of a handsomely made GOP chart showing Obama’s projected budget deficits (hey, the “party of No” has to be capable of doing something, right? And of course, as noted here, neither Gregg nor his playmate Jeff Sessions had a problem with voting against LIHEAP funding to help low-come families pay for their heating and air conditioning).

    Given all of this posing, I thought this great Daily Kos post gives us the proper historical context on how we now find ourselves in this state (oh, and did I mention that Gregg voted for TARP but against the automaker loan, as noted here?).

  • Update 3/26/09: Wank on, Judd, wank on.

  • This may come as a shock to all of those who want to charge for newspaper content published online, but Maryland Dem Senator Ben Cardin recently introduced a bill that would allow newspapers to receive tax breaks as non-profit organizations as another means to help alleviate the crisis faced by the fourth estate (a success story in this model is noted here).

    Writer Steve Coll of The New Yorker has what I think is an interesting perspective on this here; he supports the idea in part for the following reason…

    The typical spend rate for endowed nonprofits is in the five-percent range. If the Washington Post had a two billion dollar endowment, it would be able to fund a very healthy newsroom. And this is before revenue from continuing operations—advertising, circulation, etc., which could surely cover at least the cost of distribution and overhead, particularly if the form of delivery is increasingly digital. Two billion dollars, by the way, represents something in the neighborhood of five per cent of Warren Buffett’s net worth, the last I knew that figure. (Buffett is a director of the Washington Post Company and one of the great public-minded businessmen of his age, although my impression is that, as someone who is so talented at making money, he is congenitally unhappy about giving it away—so he has asked his friend Bill Gates to do it for him).
    In the other corner, we have John Temple, who states as follows from here…

    …even the national newspapers these writers treasure do far more than inform their citizenry with serious reporting on public affairs. That's just a part of what they do. I can tell you from experience that the comics are far and away the section of newspapers that many readers feel most passionate about. Coll's Washington Post publishes comics. Are we going to have nonprofits publishing the funny pages? Members of the public getting tax breaks for donating to keep Garfield alive? If we want to be so high-minded to create nonprofits for public service journalism, we'd have to exclude not only comics but also sports, entertainment, cooking, lifestyles, gossip, horoscopes, puzzles and all the other stuff that readers love but has nothing to do with Jefferson's ideals.

    We're a country that values freedom and independence. Invariably, by going the nonprofit route, newspapers would become more beholden to government and more subject to regulation.
    And I thought Temple’s remarks were particularly telling since the paper he formerly worked for, the Rocky Mountain News, went under after 150 years, and a model of the type Coll and Cardin advocate might have saved his paper, though not in a form he might prefer (and I thought Temple had an interesting remark about how French papers, for example, employ amateur journalists to do about 70-80 percent of the work).

    I’m glad Cardin and company have put this issue front and center, if for no other reason because it is a break from the incessant drone of “charging for content is our way back to profitability,” which is not only flat wrong, but it allows our journalistic practitioners to continue engaging in nonsense like this (h/t Atrios) while thinking that no price will ever be paid in a loss of circulation as a result.

  • And what do you know – it looks like one of this country’s highest profile corporations is, according to this, “going to shift a large number of jobs to India” (probably about 4,600 according to the story - Update: It's 5K according to Reuters).

    You would think that the life forms that run some of these operations would consider our tanking economy and the subsequent effect on our workforce when they make these decisions (yes, I know, silly me). But this is perfectly in keeping with how IBM operates, given that they disciplined employees for showing pro-union signs in their cars on company property (the judge ruled that IBM’s actions constituted an unfair labor practice) here, and here, they reclassified the jobs of sales technicians as exempt from overtime; when the employees fought back, IBM decided to settle and re-classified a whole range of jobs as non-exempt and eligible for overtime…along with 15 percent pay cuts all around, with overtime as the only means to recover the money.

    I just thought I'd post this as a public service to those Asian workers who now know how low their propsective new employer will stoop when the time comes to screw them over.

    Bastards ("Big Blue," I mean).

  • Finally, this from Michael Morrill at Keystone Progress tells us the following…

    President Obama has made a powerful case for investing in what is "absolutely critical to our economic future": green energy, universal health care and educational opportunity. He's asked for a budget for America with a totally new set of priorities. But those who profit from the old ways are already lobbying to keep things the same.

    Because of the way things are done in Washington, only a few members of Congress can control whether President Obama's ideas make it to the next round of budget-making. But even if you don't live in one of those districts, we've found a way that you can make a difference.

    Together with a huge coalition of other progressives, we're asking you to be part of a virtual phonebank to dial up the constituents of those key budget-writers, and helping them make the all-important calls to Congress. We've got a simple online system which handles all the dialing and everything, but YOU have to have those conversations with our fellow citizens.

    Click here to
    VOLUNTEER TO TALK TO VOTERS to win Obama's priorities.

    The most effective way to reach someone is a personal conversation from a real person, not a bunch of recorded robo-calls. If you'll volunteer to tell these constituents why it's important to pass a budget which builds a new kind of country, some of them will agree to call their Congressmember. If enough of us volunteer to do that, we'll win.

    Click here to
    volunteer to join us this Tuesday, March 24th; Wednesday, March 25th; or Thursday March 26th, in a nationwide "virtual phonebank" to pass the budget.

    We'll begin with quick training calls at 6 PM Eastern if you're in the eastern half of the country and 5 pm Pacific if you're in the west. Then, we'll hit the phones.

    We're using a simple computer program that removes a lot of the bad numbers so we can maximize the amount of time you spend actually talking to human beings. All you need to do is sign up right now, and be ready Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday with a phone and computer.

    Michael Morrill
    For more information, click here.

  • Update: Sounds like there's more work to do to remind Our Man Arlen how to do his job (here and here).

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    Tuesday Stuff

    Gee, I guess Snarlin' Arlen doesn't want to be our senator from PA anymore based on this...

    ...and it will sure be a happy day when this asshat is put out to pasture also...

    ...and color me shocked here; maybe she knows a bit from whence she speaks?...

    ...and here's an ultra-cool homemade video for us to enjoy while we all laugh at Ed Henry.

    Cohen's Clumsy Obama-Pelosi Construct

    (Also, I posted over here on a matter closer to home; haven’t used this pic lately, I know.)

    It’s been a little while since I’ve checked in with some of “the usual suspects” in the world of Beltway punditry, so I thought it was time to review the latest offering from Richard Cohen of the WaPo; if his column today is any indication, I can see that I haven’t missed much.

    What passes for Cohen’s argument here is that, somehow, the doings of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic congress have somehow co-opted the early days of the Obama presidency (yeah, I know – I guess he has to pay the bills too)…

    The tale of two political figures was written one day last week when Pelosi went down into the well of the House and pitched the bill to heavily tax the bad people at AIG who received big bonuses. Using the tax code to exact punishment for political reasons is both bad policy and bad law -- why not put gun-shop owners and cigarette manufacturers in the 100 percent bracket? -- but it hurtled through Pelosi's branch of the government with nary a hearing and few discouraging words, and only the mildest suggestion from the president that the bill was really a dumb idea.
    You can argue about the merits of the proposal by Michigan Dem Congressman Gary Peters to apply a 60 percent surtax on bonuses over $10,000 to any company in which the U.S. government has a 79 percent or greater equity stake in the company, as noted here. If nothing else, I think it’s a terrific starting point for a discussion about how to recover what is owed to us by those criminals at AIG, even if Peters’ proposal doesn’t make it to Obama’s desk, where I’m sure it would be vetoed anyway (to say nothing of even passing out of Congress).

    However, let’s please dispense with this argument that the tax code in this country is somehow sacrosanct, OK? This tells us that The Sainted Ronnie R, in the process of applying his two notorious tax cuts, lowered the high-end rate first from 70 to 50 percent, and then from 50 to 28 (actually, as Wikipedia tells us, the authors of the second cut were Democrats Richard Gephardt and Bill Bradley, both of whom should have known better – exactly the kind of Third Way/DLC/accommodationist/triangulationist garbage that ensured Democratic election losses for years until Dr. Dean came along and decided to compete in all 50 states).

    And when those rates were lowered, I seriously don’t recall any protest from Cohen; indeed, this Cohen column from 1996 called the 1981 Reagan tax cut “probably the single most important legislation of the decade,” a particularly laughable comment when, as noted here, Reagan implemented the largest tax increase in U.S. history the following year, a fact happily forgotten by the “Reagan revisionists,” though noted by Will Bunch in his great new book on the subject (I know I’ve plugged it a lot, but it should be required reading, IMHO).

    Anyway, back to Cohen today…

    The president is slipping in the polls. Last month, he had a 64 percent approval rating. This month it was 59 percent, but more to the point, the National Journal's astute Charlie Cook noticed that political independents were trending Republican. Some of this was bound to happen, but some of it is a consequence of Obama remaining undifferentiated, defined more by allies like Pelosi than by enemies like the GOP.

    In foreign policy, where a president is monarch, Obama has been a change agent. But in domestic matters, Obama's image has become muddled. He remains more popular than credible. Where does he draw the line? Not at tax delinquency, clearly, and not at earmarks, clearly, and not at real school reform, which he advocates but has done little to implement. He sometimes says he's angry, as with the AIG bonuses, but it's a parental pose designed to fool children and is not a genuine emotion. Obama eschews symbolic politics.

    This is not the case with Pelosi. She is a strong speaker of the House, both an ideologue and a pragmatist, who cherishes her prerogatives and guards her turf -- more like Newt Gingrich than previous Democratic speakers -- but her message is hardly one of change. It's early yet, but already she's left her mark on the government -- and, in the process, all over Obama's image.
    To begin, I don’t recall any earmarks in the stimulus bill, so I don’t know how Cohen claims Obama didn’t “draw the line” there. And “school reform”? He’s been president for two months and three days, for God’s sake! And the Pelosi-Gingrich comparison is so laughable that it doesn’t deserve a serious response, particularly when Cohen doesn’t even bother to support his own argument.

    So instead of becoming consumed with Cohen’s spin here, let’s look at some numbers from the reality-based community, shall we?

  • This tells us that this country doesn’t fundamentally blame Obama for the AIG mess, though that’s not to say that it couldn’t become a millstone as time drags on (until today, though, the markets seemed to be responding for the “warts and all” approach from Geithner/Summers, privatizing the profit for the “banksters,” as Atrios so aptly calls them, while socializing the risk, as usual).

  • This shows some polling ending last week with numbers that have barely budged concerning Pelosi, Obama and congressional Dems and Republicans as a whole (as well as Reid, Boehner and McConnell individually).

  • This, however, does tell us that Obama’s support among Appalachian white voters as well as older, middle class voters continues to be a source of concern (much as it was during the Democratic primary when these people voted for Hillary Clinton).

  • Finally, this tells us what kind of ratings the Obama/Steve Kroft interview received on “60 Minutes” on Sunday (at least people are still tuning him in).
  • However, I’m sure that in the days and weeks ahead, Cohen will find a way to conjure up a narrative that this is all symptomatic of Obama’s “weakness” (at least the author can definitely be considered an expert on “the stale air of business as usual”).

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    Monday Stuff

    This and this truly communicate what kind of a guttural nematode Bill Orally really is, as does this takedown by Jon Stewart...

    The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
    Bill O'Reilly's Right to Privacy
    Daily Show Full EpisodesImportant Things w/ Demetri MartinPolitical Humor

    ...and I think this song is apropos, in a way.

    A Newly Centrist Plea From A Wingnut Canadian MP

    The New York Times Book Review section today brought us the following in a critique of the latest from Leslie Gelb…

    Few Americans know the inner world of American foreign policy — its feuds, follies and fashions — as well as Leslie H. Gelb. He served Lyndon B. Johnson in the Pentagon and Jimmy Carter in the State Department. He was a foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times and president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Power Rules” builds on that lifetime of experience with power and is a witty and acerbic primer for moderate pragmatists.

    His chief targets are ideological dogmatism and imperialist hubris. America should be unafraid to exercise power, but it must be mindful that power’s reach usually exceeds its grasp. According to Mr. Gelb liberal Democrats should stop apologizing when they use American power, and conservative Republicans should stop believing that no problem can resist the application of American force. Both need to understand that power is wasted when it’s used unwisely. The chief missing ingredient in United States foreign policy, he argues, is common sense.
    There’s not a lot to argue with here, I’ll admit. That is, until you consider that the reviewer of Gelb’s book is Michael Ignatieff.

    As Wikipedia tells us here…

    …Ignatieff was a prominent supporter of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.[16] Ignatieff says that the United States established "an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known." The burden of that empire, he says, obliged the United States to expend itself unseating Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in the interests of international security and human rights. Ignatieff initially accepted the position of the George W. Bush administration: that containment through sanctions and threats would not prevent Hussein from selling weapons of mass destruction to international terrorists. Ignatieff believed that those weapons were still being developed in Iraq.[17] Moreover, according to Ignatieff, "what Saddam Hussein had done to the Kurds and the Shia" in Iraq was sufficient justification for the invasion.[18][19]

    In a 2007 New York Times Magazine article, (Ignatieff) wrote: "The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president, but it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion." Ignatieff partly interpreted what he now saw as his particular errors of judgment, by presenting them as typical of academics and intellectuals in general, whom he characterised as "generalizing and interpreting particular facts as instances of some big idea". In politics, by contrast, "Specifics matter more than generalities".[20]
    I’ll never forget reading that article; it was thoroughly nauseating, unctuous in what passed for contrition while somehow triumphal in its recognition of all that was stupidly obviously to any life form with an IQ higher than that of a termite (and by the way, it yielded what might be the single funniest blog post I’ve ever read by David Rees here – yes, there are some writings by Ignatieff during that period that are more grounded in the real world, but he utterly signed on for Dubya’s Not-So-Excellent Iraq Adventure along with virtually everyone else in our corporate media when push came to the proverbial shove).

    Basically, Ignatieff extolling a “common sense…anti-utopian, evidence-based, pragmatic, moderate foreign policy focusing on achievable goals,” given his past statements, makes about as much sense as me writing a blog post in praise of the virtuous, patriotic leadership of Dick Cheney (and somehow, with lines in the Gelb review of “Surging the United States military into the south of Afghanistan will help chiefly as a political demonstration of commitment,” I really don’t think Ignatieff has learned his lesson).

    And in the event of such a “surge,” how long a duration would Ignatieff have in mind? “Six more months,” maybe?

    More “Old Gray Lady” Presidential Pundit Piffle

    (I also took issue with some commentary from Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times here.)

    Yesterday in the Times, Stolberg tried to compare the furor concerning the AIG bonuses with other presidential “distractions” from here, as follows…

    Mr. Obama is hardly the first American president to grapple with a distraction, a diversion — an outright red herring, some might call it — that grew bigger than itself. Ronald Reagan had the Air Force’s $7,622 coffeepot and the Navy’s $435 claw hammer, as well as an ill-fated effort to save money by classifying ketchup as a school lunch vegetable. Bill Clinton had midnight basketball and a high-priced haircut from a Beverly Hills stylist aboard Air Force One. George W. Bush was blindsided by an executive branch decision to contract with Dubai Ports World, an Arab-owned company, to manage terminals in six American ports.
    You mean Stolberg didn’t mention Jimmy Carter and the “killer rabbit”? She must be slipping.

    I’m not sure how it is exactly that anyone can consider the genuine rage over what AIG has perpetrated with our government acting as willing accomplices to be nothing more than a “distraction” and thus worthy of the comparisons noted above; a member of our pundit class would have to be truly out of touch to consider an event completely symptomatic of the meltdown of our financial markets to be nothing but a “red herring.”

    Also, I’m not going to comment on anything having to do with Reagan as noted above; those people in the mythmaking industry concerning our 40th president can jump to his defense if they so choose (once more, all of that and more is discussed in Will Bunch’s fine book on that subject).

    No, I’m taking issue here with what Stolberg said about President Clinton because if Stolberg is going to slam The Big Dog, then she should do the same thing to Poppy Bush, who had the following to say about midnight basketball (remember the whole “thousand points of light,” thing? Well, this tells us more)…

    And you know, when Van Standifer visited the White House a few months ago, he said, ``The last thing in the world that Midnight Basketball is about is basketball.'' He said it was about providing opportunities for young adults to escape drugs and get on with their lives. And he's right. Midnight Basketball has become a real community institution. And people come to play and to watch and to cheer and to find new hope and to shape their lives. Streets once littered with drugs and plagued by violence have become peaceful and passable. Not surprisingly, the crime rate has dropped by 60 percent since this program began. And so, Van, in my view, you are doing the kind of creative thinking that we need to encourage everywhere in this country.
    Also, Stolberg resurrects the myth about how Clinton’s haircut on Air Force One by Beverly Hills stylist Cristophe supposedly held up air traffic at LAX in 1993, when in reality…

    According to Federal Aviation Administration records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the May 18 haircut caused no significant delays of regularly scheduled passenger flights - no circling planes, no traffic jams on the runways.
    However, I will grant that Stolberg is an expert in “red herrings”; I think she’s highly credible on the subject, given that they’re plentiful in her “reporting.”

    Update: Speaking of the AIG "distraction" and related financial disasters, as far as I'm concerned, this question should be asked above all others.