Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday Stuff

I love the line from Keith here that "if your son happened to be George W. Bush, the blind spot would be the size of a galaxy."

Until Poppy Bush's foul progeny was foisted onto the stage in the 2000 contest, I would have to say that the 1988 election was the foulest presidential contest I'd ever seen, and that's saying something (there were issues with Dukakis, sure, but 41 did such a thorough job of dragging that contest in the mud that all perspective was lost).

And as I always say, if anyone has an issue with K.O. or Rachel Maddow, give me dates, events, names, and particular circumstances, and we'll talk. Otherwise, shut the hell up.

...and here's some good Saturday night, bar-hoppin' music.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Stuff

(Posting will continue to be flaky into next week, by the way, either here, at Wordpress, or both.)

Man, Harry Reid is one tired-ass Senate Majority "Leader" (nothing but excuses, here)...

...particularly in light of the "respectful opposition" noted here...

...oh, and by the way, this is the only type of "surge" I want to see in Afghanistan (and good luck finding a clip like this while watching "The Most Trusted Name In News" full of beltway idiots yelling at each other before some Ken or Barbie doll host smiles and says "we'll have to leave it there")...

...and if you would, please give a listen to my new favorite song.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (10/16/09)

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 (and I also posted here).


2010 military budget. Voting 281-146, the House authorized a $680 billion defense budget (HR 2647) for fiscal 2010 that includes $130 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $27.9 billion for military health care. The bill was opposed mainly over its expansion of the federal hate-crimes law to cover offenses based on sexual orientation, gender or disability.

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.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).

Voting no: Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
Once more, Smith and Pitts care about human rights for straight people only, and I know Gerlach ran the risk of supporting the dreaded “homosexual agenda” if he had voted Yes, but on the other hand, I don’t think it’s going to look too good in campaign ads when fellow Repug gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett claims that Gerlach didn’t “support the troops” here by voting against the defense budget.

But then again, anyone who really thinks Gerlach will be PA’s next governor must also think Pancake Joe is actually a moderate anyway.

Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Voting 208-216, the House defeated a Republican bid for firmer measures in HR 2647 (above) against transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States. The motion proposed an absolute ban on prisoner transfers to U.S. soil, in contrast to language in the underlying bill that makes transfers possible 45 days after President Obama has given Congress a plan to close the military prison.

A yes vote backed the GOP motion.

Voting yes: Adler, Castle, Dent, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Pitts, and Smith.

Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Murphy, Schwartz, and Sestak.
Chalk this up as another rather interesting vote for “Democrat” Tim Holden, as well as John Adler (as I’ve said a zillion times, move these people stateside and isolate them; just don’t let them communicate with anyone – this town want them in the worst way, and I say, let ‘em have them).

Rep. Charles Rangel. Voting 246-153, the House referred to the ethics panel a Republican bid to unseat Rep. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.) as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. This measure (HR 805) blunted a separate GOP motion to immediately remove Rangel because of official and personal misconduct he has publicly acknowledged.

A yes vote backed the Democratic-sponsored motion.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz, and Sestak.

Voting no: Castle, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, and Smith.

Not voting Voting "Present": Dent.
I have to admit that defending Charles Rangel is not uppermost on my “To Do” list; I cannot understand how someone can somehow forget to report about half a million dollars of income and still remain in charge of the House Ways and Means Committee, to say nothing of escaping jail.

Still, I think it’s pretty funny that the Repugs are trying to remove Rangel from heading Ways and Means for “official and personal misconduct” considering that they once tried to implement the rule change described here in November 2004 in order for former House Majority Leader Tom (“Dancing With The Stars”) DeLay to keep his leadership post even if he had been indicted (the House Repugs later rescinded the rule). Also, here is another example of DeLay receiving unconscionably favorable editorial treatment, IMHO.


2010 military appropriations. Voting 93-7, the Senate approved $636.3 billion in military appropriations for fiscal 2010, including $128.2 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $28.3 billion for service members' health care. The bill (HR 3326) funds a 2.9 percent military pay raise; caps production of the F-22 Raptor fighter jet; funds C-17 cargo jets over Pentagon objections; provides $7.7 billion for the National Missile Defense, and authorizes 1.425 million active-duty troops and 844,500 reservists.

While the House bill above authorizes the defense budget, this bill would actually spend the money.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

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

Military contractors. Voting 68-30, the Senate banned military contracts under HR 3326 (above) to companies that deny employees the right to sue over alleged workplace mistreatment. This would end, at least for fiscal 2010, the standard practice of contractors requiring workers to submit grievances to mandatory arbitration and forgo lawsuits.

A yes vote backed the amendment.

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

Not voting: Specter.
As noted here, this amendment was sponsored by Sen. Al Franken in response to the heart-wrenching story of Jamie Leigh Jones, the gang-raped KBR contractor (and by the way, here are the 30 alleged homo sapiens who voted against it, trying their best to legitimize some of the most repugnant behavior imaginable carried out in our name and on our dime).

Update 10/17/09: And by the way, to learn more about why all this matters, click here.

Update 10/23/09: If this is true, then it's time to retire, Sen. Inouye.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Summers Of Our Discontent

This is a couple of days old I know, but the following was posted over at Open Left here about the director of the White House Economic Council, Larry Summers…

The Obama administration has helped pull the U.S. economy back from the “abyss” with aggressive efforts to spur growth and stabilize financial markets, (Summers) said on Monday…

…”Thanks largely to the Recovery Act, alongside an aggressive financial stabilization plan and a program to keep responsible homeowners in their homes, we have walked a substantial distance back from the economic abyss and are on the path toward economic recovery,” Summers wrote to House Republican leader John Boehner.
Of course, this was a response to Representative Man Tan’s repeated childish assertions (including here) that the “stim” hasn’t accomplished anything of benefit to our economy, which is 1) patently untrue, and 2) a laughable criticism from the leader of the party in the House that preoccupied itself with “values” issues, rewarding its most moneyed pals with tax cuts and waging war without end that led us to the edge of the precipice.

This comes on the heels of Ryan Lizza’s recent portrayal of Summers in The New Yorker, in which we learn, among other things, the following from Lizza…

Summers told me that, as a graduate student, he first studied claims, made famous by economists at the University of Chicago, that financial markets are always rational and self-correcting. He said, “I encountered a sentence that was much quoted: ‘The efficient-market hypothesis is the best established fact in social sciences.’ Any sentence like that is a red flag to an ambitious academic.” Summers produced a body of work that undermined the efficient-market hypothesis, or E.M.H. A memorable paper on the subject, which he wrote in the early eighties but never published, began, “THERE ARE IDIOTS. Look around.” According to Justin Fox’s recent book, “The Myth of the Rational Market,” that paper persuaded Fischer Black, one of the leading theorists of E.M.H., to essentially abandon his belief in the hypothesis.

In 1982, (Martin Feldstein, Summers’ most influential mentor) was named the chairman of Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, and Summers followed him to Washington. Feldstein had been hired to add intellectual heft to the Reagan White House, and he had no qualms about publicly challenging Reagan’s more extreme supply-side advisers. His concerns about rising deficits and his calls for raising taxes made him a hero to congressional Democrats. Reagan’s Treasury Secretary, Donald Regan, told Congress that Feldstein had learned everything from libraries rather than from the real world and that the members could just throw away his annual economic report. Feldstein was marginalized, and returned to Harvard in 1984. (After the experience, Reagan threatened to abolish the C.E.A.) Feldstein’s truthtelling greatly affected Summers, and his own research became more focussed on battling economists, like Reagan’s supply-siders, whose work, as he saw it, was grounded in abstractions and wishful thinking. He wrote, “No small part of our current economic difficulties can be traced to ignorant zealots who gained influence by providing answers to questions that others labeled as meaningless or difficult. Sound theory based on evidence is surely our best protection against such quackery.”
Even though Feldstein was a conservative, I still find it a bit appalling that Summers would end up essentially adhering to right-wing dogma, agreeing with the “quackery” of favoring tax cuts as a primary stimulus in his current role.

Lizza’s article also tells us the following on the origin of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the “stimulus”…

There were sound arguments why (a) $1.2-trillion figure was too high. First, (Chief of Staff Rahm) Emanuel and the legislative-affairs team thought that it would be impossible to move legislation of that size, and dismissed the idea out of hand. Congress was “a big constraint,” (Senior Advisor David) Axelrod said. “If we asked for $1.2 trillion, it probably would have created such a case of sticker shock that the system would have locked up there.” He pointed east, toward Capitol Hill. “And the world was watching us, the market was watching us. If we failed to produce a stimulus bill, that in and of itself could have had deleterious effects.”

There was also a mechanical argument against a stimulus of that size. (Obama OMB Director) Peter Orszag, who was celebrating his fortieth birthday that day, said that, while the argument for a bigger stimulus was sound theoretically, there were limits to how much money the government could practically spend in the near future.

Summers brought a third argument to the debate, one that echoed his advice to Bill Clinton sixteen years earlier, when his Administration was facing persistent budget deficits that Summers believed were suppressing economic growth. He, like Romer, was guided by an understanding that in financial crises the risk of doing too little is greater than doing too much. He believed that filling the output gap through deficit spending was important, but that a package that was too large could potentially shift fears from the current crisis to the long-term budget deficit, which would have an unwelcome effect on the bond market. In the end, Summers made the case for the eight-hundred-and-ninety-billion-dollar option.

When the meeting broke up, after four hours of discussion, interrupted only briefly when the President brought out a cake and led the group in singing “Happy Birthday” to Orszag, there was still indecision about how big a stimulus Obama would recommend to Congress. Summers, (Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina) Romer, (Treasury Secretary Tim) Geithner, Orszag, Emanuel, and (Deputy Director of the National Economic Council) Jason Furman huddled in the corner to lock down the number. Emanuel made the final call: six hundred and seventy-five to seven hundred and seventy-five billion dollars, with the understanding that, as the bill made its way through Congress, it was more likely to grow than to shrink. The final legislation was for seven hundred and eighty-seven billion dollars.
And as far as what to do about the toxic assets on the balance sheets of the most vulnerable banks, Lizza tells us the following…

On Sunday, March 15th, Geithner was summoned to the White House for a meeting with the President and his senior aides about whether Obama should adjust Geithner’s plan—or scrap it and come up with something else. Geithner did not go unprepared: he brought with him his advisers Lee Sachs and Gene Sperling, who ran the N.E.C. during the Clinton Administration, and six other staffers. Geithner had a line he often used that summed up how he and his colleagues at Treasury would prevail: “Plan beats no plan.” The meeting lasted seven hours. Obama’s advisers were so divided that he left them in the Roosevelt Room after the first two hours, saying, “You guys work this out, and when I come back I want you to tell me what your agreed-upon approach is.”

Romer believed that the banks wouldn’t lend again until they were well capitalized. For banks in severe stress, she favored creating a government-backed “bad bank” to take the toxic assets off the banks’ books and then recapitalize them with government funds—essentially a version of nationalization, and what the Swedish government had done during that nation’s financial crisis of the early nineties. This argument was quickly rendered moot because of the cost. There wasn’t much money left in the TARP kitty, and any chance of getting more from Congress had ended with that morning’s news: A.I.G., which had received a hundred and seventy billion dollars in federal money, had handed out multimillion-dollar bonuses to the executives responsible for the company’s demise. Axelrod said, “The one thing that was absolutely clear was, we were not in a position to go back to Congress.”

Summers played the role of “the ultimate murder board,” according to Sperling, making the Treasury officials defend their ideas the way a Ph.D. student must defend a dissertation. He challenged and provoked Geithner to make sure that he had thought through every aspect of the plan. They argued back and forth, as they had done in the Clinton Administration, and their intensity was often jarring to the other Obama advisers. Summers didn’t trust the regulators, and was particularly worried about whether the stress tests designed by them were sufficiently tough on the banks. He pointed out that, in the days before Lehman, Bear Stearns, and Washington Mutual crashed, the same regulators had said that capital at those institutions was more than adequate.

In the end, though, Summers acknowledged that there were no better options, and Geithner’s plan survived intact. On March 31st, Summers sent the President a page-and-a-half memo outlining the reasoning behind the decision not to nationalize any banks. Obama was on his way to the G-20 meeting in London, and he wanted to be prepared with the best case against it.

The memo was divided into four sections. First, Summers explained that there was no legal authority to take over large bank-holding companies like Bank of America and Citigroup. Next, he pointed out that full nationalization of a financial institution might trigger systemic shocks, as investors retreated from other banks, creating exactly the kind of panic that nationalization was intended to prevent. (As Sperling often argued, “You might come out and say, ‘I’m gonna take over Bank of America and Wells Fargo, but everybody else is safe!’ Maybe they believe you. And maybe they don’t. But if you get this wrong the Dow’s at thirty-five hundred! You’re the worst economic manager in the history of the United States!”)
I grudgingly have to give Summers a bit of credit for realizing the potential market shock of nationalizing our most vulnerable banks, though how that differs from the de factor public ownership of these institutions by virtue of the infusion of TARP funds is something which escapes me.

I will also acknowledge Summers’ vast knowledge in economic theory and practice as well as public policy, which, despite what I consider his “too cautious by more than half” approach, has served Obama well.

However, as noted here, Summers has favored reduction of capital gains taxes as opposed to infrastructure investment as a financial stimulus (even though he quite rightly opposed tax cuts favored by congressional Republicans in 1999). Summers is also a product of the “revolving door” between both the Dubya and Obama treasury departments (with both Geithner and his predecessor Henry Paulson, as well as Sachs and Sperling, having worked at Goldman Sachs; Summers earned $5 million from the hedge fund D. E. Shaw, and collected $2.7 million in speaking fees from Wall Street companies that received government bailout money, as Wikipedia tells us).

Oh, and for the record, let it be known that Summers is the guy who told Chris Dodd to remove caps on executive pay for firms receiving TARP funds, including Bank of America and Citigroup (I’ll be polite and use their proper names). I would ask that you keep this in mind if, God forbid, Dodd actually loses his Senate campaign to “teabagger” sympathizer Rob Simmons next year (here), as a result of the drip-drip-drip of negative Dodd press out there more than anything else.

(Also, I’m not even going to get into Summers’ run-in with Dr. Cornel West, the so-called “toxic” memo about the theory of dumping waste in third-world countries, and perhaps his most notorious moment, which would be the speech about “women’s representation in tenured positions in the sciences” he gave while president of Harvard, which Froma Harrop commented on here.)

Instead, I’ll leave you with the following from Ian Welsh of Open Left (and the bad word is his, not mine, though it’s apropos)…

All (Summers, Geithner, and the rest of the Obama economic team) did was throw cash at the problem, without dealing with the underlying issues, which is why they didn’t manage (as Jerome points out) to kickstart ANY net private spending. They didn’t break up major banks. They didn’t allow bankruptcy judges to rewrite mortgages. Their mortgage program kept hardly anyone in the house. And their money for financial firms did not increase lending by one cent.

So, as a Stirling Newberry likes to say “the economy breathes fine, as long as we don’t unplug the life support machines”.

That’s all they did - throw the economy on life support by hooking it up to a money spigot, then wander off and have a cup of coffee and tell each other how brilliant they were, not noticing that they hadn’t actually cured the patient.

This is going to be the (worst) “recovery” of your lifetime, unless you’re in the financial sector at a relatively high level. Bank profits have recovered but ordinary people are not, in a generation, going to see a full recovery from this clusterfuck - employment will not recover to pre-recession levels before the next recession, and I don’t expect it to recover after that recession either.

At this point, in fact, I am expecting this to turn into a double dip recession—this “recovery” will not have any significant legs.

Anyone who believes (Summers) when he pats himself on his back should remember that Summers record of being wrong about everything of significance is awe inspiring in its completeness. This is the man who helped create the necessary preconditions for the financial crisis through radical deregulation of financial markets, then didn’t see the crisis coming till it was already well underway.

Oh, and one reason any peaceniks reading this kiss any chance of the Afghan war ending is that Obama needs the war stimulus to keep the economy on life support and military Keynesianism is the type of stimulus Republicans and Blue Dogs won’t vote against.

Welcome to endless war, money for rich people, and trickle down for you. The future looks an awful lot like the past, doesn’t it?
In Ryan Lizza’s fine New Yorker article, he tells us that, as a young boy, Summers’s parents would “often gave Larry a math problem to work on (when they went out for the evening). If they forgot, his mother has recalled, he would rush out the door after them and demand one. According to (Summers’s uncle and fellow noted economist Kenneth) Arrow, Summers’s father taught him statistical methods from an early age, and in the sixth grade Larry created an analysis of baseball games that attempted to predict the probability of a team’s performance at the end of the season based on its position in the standings on the Fourth of July.”

Well, this being October 15, 2009, I’d like to see Summers perform this little exercise again and seriously attempt to predict where we will be economically approximately a year and a month from now, as well as three years and a month from now. If our Democratic congressional majorities end up evaporating because of his refusal to fight for the fundamental reform we so sorely need (and in the process, admit his own culpability for the institutional rot that seeped in during the late '90s while he served under President Clinton), to say nothing of a loss of the White House, I would like to have a little advanced notice.

Update 10/17/09: "Annals of rank hubris" indeed here (h/t Atrios).

Update 7/24/13: VIOLATION!...(just kidding - have at it :-).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wedneday Stuff

For the benefit of anyone who hasn't seen it yet, this is the most thorough evisceration of a cable "news" network that I have ever seen, and who else could do it but Jon Stewart and The Daily Show (oh, and speaking of "The Most Trusted Name In News," here's more - h/t Atrios)...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
CNN Leaves It There
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

...and we're supposed to take this asshat Shadegg and his political party seriously after a rant like this...

..."Worst Persons" (Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Mormons compares their bigoted assault on marriage equality to the civil rights movement, with his bunch on the side presumably of those marching to defeat segregation, which is interesting because Oaks and his bunch were on the side trying to maintain segregation at all costs; Bill (Do You Care If Another Bomb Went Off In Tikrit?) Orally and Brit Hume pretend that they crticized Dubya on Iraq...I'll repeat that because it's so hilarious; Bill Orally and Brit Hume pretend that they criticized Dubya on Iraq; but yep, this is a real capper with Glenn Beck, whose delusions include the belief that Obama "cares more about the war on Faux Noise than the war on Afghanistan" - in response, Ben Smith of Politico tracked some of Beck's most favorite topics, and if this isn't a "pot, meet kettle" moment, I don't know what is)...

...and RIP, Dickie Peterson.

Update 10/16/09: Anon, the only reason why I deleted the comment was because publishing the full path of your link messed up my site layout. Here is the link you included - I'll take a look.

Obama's Ongoing Faith-Based Fandango

The New York Times opined as follows today (from here)…

President Obama promised in his campaign to preserve President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative aimed at helping social service programs sponsored by religious organizations win federal grants and contracts. He also promised a vitally important change: groups receiving federal money would no longer be allowed to hire employees on the basis of their religion.

The idea was to prevent discrimination and preserve the boundary between church and state. But Mr. Obama has not made good on the promise. His February executive order revamping the White House office for religion-based and neighborhood programs left untouched a 2002 presidential directive authorizing religious-oriented programs that receive federal financing to hire and fire on religious grounds.

Also left untouched was a constitutionally suspect 2007 memo concluding that the government cannot order religious groups not to discriminate as a condition of federal financing — even in programs like Head Start, where religious discrimination is outlawed. The memo, based on a far-fetched interpretation of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was produced by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. That is the same outfit that wrote the memos authorizing torture.
And by the way, as noted here, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed because of what was determined to be government interference in Native American religious practices, though that of course has now morphed over time into ostensibly protecting all religious practices, overturning laws if "religious exercise is substantially burdened" by them, as Wikipedia tells us (yes, I think that’s a shaky-at-best legal precedent also).

Also, the Times and other news outlets have voiced disappointment in the past over Obama’s failure to end the odious Bushco practice of religious discrimination in hiring decisions that involve federal funding (this editorial from February is very similar to what the Times tells us today, for good reason).

With all of this in mind, I thought the blogger Firefly asked some good questions here in July ’08 about the constitutional clash with the whole concept of faith-based initiatives (which, to my mind, have largely gone unaddressed – Question #3 pertains to funding of these initiatives, which I posted about here a couple of months ago).

Still, though, I believe the faith-based initiatives concept has some promise; as this St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial notes, under Obama, there will be no new funding (which is pretty much par for the proverbial course with this; even before the bottom fell out of our economy, Dubya, as part of his ongoing bait-and-switch with these people, refused to fund them in accordance with his promises). Also, I believe there will be more inclusion given some of the president’s outreach gestures such as this and this.

And this tells us that the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives (and Neighborhood Partnerships, I musn't forget) under Obama is headed by Josh DuBois, who originally became active in politics in reaction to the slaying of Amadou Diallo in New York City (DuBois earned a master's degree in public affairs in 2005; the Wikipedia article also tells us that he worked as an aide to Representative Rush D. Holt, Jr., and was a fellow in the office of Representative Charles B. Rangel).

I was curious to find out if there were any further developments on this matter in light of today’s Times editorial as well as those of prior news organizations and web sites, but I was unable to locate a link to the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives from the White House web site (strange, since there are links to just about everything else).

Yes, I get the whole “No Drama Obama” thing, and putting off action on so-called “values” issues such as this in favor of what you could arguably consider more tangible tasks such as health care reform and climate legislation, to say nothing of the Afghan war, is basically good politics (what good is it to end up alienating core constituencies somehow when pursuing larger objectives?).

However, Mr. President, I should tell you that it is also a lousy model for governance. As with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a statement from your office in support doing the decent thing (and thus ending discriminatory hiring practices from outfits that take taxpayer funds for what, to my mind, are questionable reasons) would energize part of your constituency and thus generate exponential results.

And at long last, “change” would be something a whole lot more substantial than merely a logo on a T-shirt.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday Stuff

"Worst Persons" (yep, Glenn Beck is a loon, which we knew of course, worrying about a "smear" campaign against Fix Noise...nope, the truth by itself is incriminating enough...and that gives Keith an excuse to show a set of clips with Bill Orally alleging that he's being "smeared" also; God, first the falafel, and now this - good thing I don't have a full stomach at the moment; Michelle Malkin pulls her typical act, trying to incriminate someone at the New Jersey elementary school where they sang the Obama song early in the morning, and by the end of the day, this person had received death threats...yep, describing her as "a mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it" works for me too...and by the way, Malkin was wrong as usual, since the lady in question had nothing to do with the song, and even if she did, that wouldn't justify the lunatic behavior of Malkin and her single-digit-IQ followers; but the makers of the new RNC web site take the prize for claiming that baseball great Jackie Robinson was a Republican, when in fact he was an independent, and famously described his horror at the 1964 Repug convention which nominated Barry Goldwater for president - more on this insult to the Internet, as well as basic common sense, here)...

...and it looks like there's a bunch of archival '50s clips here, including some "Duck and Cover" stuff (hey, where's Bert the Turtle?).

Kagan Conjures An Insipid Somalia Slam

(And I also posted here.)

Fred Kagan decided to give us his idea of a history lesson today on Bill Clinton’s 1993 foray into Somalia here (as in, gee, Obama had better go “all in” in Afghanistan lest he repeat Number 42’s mistake)…

When it became clear that the situation on the ground (in Somalia) was deteriorating, however, the local military commander asked for reinforcements. President Clinton was reluctant to send them, and Secretary of Defense Les Aspin refused to provide Gen. Thomas Montgomery with the armored vehicles and air support he had requested. On Oct. 3, 1993, a team of Rangers and Special Forces troops were caught in an ambush in Mogadishu, Somalia. Without armor or adequate air support, they lost 18 dead and 77 wounded. The images of dead American soldiers being dragged through Somali streets continued to haunt the United States for more than a decade.
Yes, this definitely was not a shining moment for this country. However, it should be noted here that, even though General Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the main target of the raid, was not apprehended, several "tier-one personalities" in Aidid’s militia were apprehended (of course, in Bushco parlance, those “personalities” would be trumped up as this week’s No. 2 al Qaeda leaders in whatever region before subsequent reporting by the New York Times or intelligence briefs revealed them to be either a doorman, driver, or some other lower level functionary).

And as noted here, Sen. John “Country First (which one I wonder at times, though)” McCain sponsored a resolution at that time to pull our troops out of Somalia (and the Qaeda presence has only grown in that country since then). Of course, McCain had also done the same thing about our intervention into Haiti (geez, wonder what he’d be called in our “post 9/11” world if he sponsored two resolutions to take our forces out of dangerous places now?).

Even as Mark Bowden, author of “Blackhawk Down” (the book about the Somalia mission, particularly in Mogadishu – it also became a movie) tells us here…

The choice was made by Aspin because, as he later explained it, of concern for so visibly escalating US military involvement when Congress was pushing for a pullout (Aspin later said he regarded his decision as having been a "mistake").
(And as noted here, how nice it would have been if Aspin's arguably most notorious successor in that job had shown a fraction of Aspin's truthfulness.)

The point of this post is not to pillory Les Aspin, a capable individual who ended up making two horrific mistakes as Defense Secretary under President Clinton (Aspin resigned over the Somalia episode and died of a stroke a year and a half later). The point is to show how severely politics clouds the judgment of those who claim to be experts in military policy, and how that impacts our fight in Afghanistan primarily (with the Somalia mission a chore Clinton inherited from Poppy Bush, though I don’t mean to absolve Clinton totally by pointing that out).

By the way, I said that Aspin made two horrific mistakes, with his handling of the Somalia mission as the first one.

This was the other (not totally his fault, though), from which we are still trying to recover.

(And speaking of Somalia, I thought this was an interesting item concerning our 43rd president.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Stuff

(Posting is dicey again for tomorrow - we'll see.)

Lawrence O'Donnell (sitting in again for K.O.) talks with Dan Savage about what President Obama could do about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which is namely to issue an executive order ending suspending enforcement of it while Patrick Murphy leads the effort to undo it legislatively...

...and given this item, I thought this song was appropriate (though it reflects exactly what Obama SHOULDN'T do on "DADT"; I would say that LGBT individuals have waited long enough...and yes, I think a little of G.E. Smith goes a long way also).

And one more thing - WAY TO GO, PHILS!

Exploding More “Anonymous” Harwood Hackery

I guess I’m a little “late to the party” on this, but I think I should say something about the latest dustup involving John Harwood of the New York Times (here, and I also posted here)…

Yesterday, CNBC correspondent John Harwood set off a min-firestorm on the left after he claimed that the White House views gay and blogospheric criticism of the administration’s foot-dragging on gay rights issues as part of the “Internet left fringe.” Harwood claimed that an anonymous adviser said that “those bloggers need to take off the pajamas, get dressed and realize that governing a closely divided country is complicated and difficult.”

Asked for comment, White House senior communications adviser Dan Pfeiffer emailed:

“That sentiment does not reflect White House thinking at all, we’ve held easily a dozen calls with the progressive online community because we believe the online communities can often keep the focus on how policy will affect the American people rather than just the political back-and-forth.”

Whatever you think of the White House’s record on gay rights issues or the respect it does or doesn’t have for the blogosphere, paraphrased second-hand claims from a single anonymous adviser don’t really seem like grounds for sweeping conclusions about the White House’s alleged disdain for the online community.
I would most definitely agree with that. Also, I don’t mean to totally give the Obama White House a pass here; it’s possible that Harwood is telling the truth, but as far as I’m concerned, if you can’t go “on the record” with something like this that admittedly would offend some Obama supporters, then do you have the guts to go “on the record” with anything at all?

Or here’s a rather quaint thought; if the person won’t go on the record, then DON’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT IT, OK??

But I suppose this isn’t surprising for Harwood, who, as noted here, started copping a plea on the dreaded “liberal bias” even though it wasn’t even put as a question, looked into his crystal ball for more portents of doom and gloom for Obama here, thought that it was “remarkable” for Obama to be on the verge of victory even though he’d led for the entire contest here, and, once he was elected, accused Obama of “a course of tax increases and ambitious social engineering” here.

And lest anyone think that Harwood has it in only for Obama, here is his reaction to the infamous dress worn by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that had the male beltway punditocracy behaving like pre-pubescent schoolboys (the only event of its kind that had a stronger affect was the “wink” from Just Plain Folks Sarah Palin at her “debate” with Biden). However, I will give Harwood credit for this on the matter of Obama’s speech to the school kids.

Oh, and for the record, I don’t own a pair of pajamas. And I can claim that I’m not part of the “Internet left fringe” either; I never get invited to the meetings.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Stuff

I haven't paid a lot of attention to Dylan Ratigan, but I thought this was as good a time as any concerning Afghanistan; I think in the early part of this report, Richard Engel sounds a bit hawkish, but as the report goes on, you really get a picture from him of what a mess the country truly is (he has volumes of "cred" on this obviously, and I haven't see the documentary that aired tonight...all of this is a setup for linking to Frank Rich's fine column today on this subject here)...

...and NOW he's hedging about "whether or not we should have gone in" Iraq? On what "other days" do you plan to "cover" this, Sen. McSellout (here)?