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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ambinder Nails Today's Energy Announcement

March 31st, 2010

President Obama announced a plan for offshore drilling today. Marc Ambinder says it's a pretty solid win for the administration. I agree. I think this is going to breathe new life into cap and trade in a big way. I can almost hear the President discussing this with the increasingly fringe-leary Republicans... "You get on board with cap and trade and you can go home bringing a partial victory on one of your party's bread and butter issues." 

Ambinder says "for a Democratic president, this is a pretty gutsy move to open the public debate about an energy bill. Or, well, maybe it's not: it's high-reward, low-risk; environmentalists will complain, but then again, environmentalists complain.  Aside from the substance, which is beyond our ken, the politics of this move is easy: with one fell swoop, Obama deprives Republicans of the major talking point they'd use to object to more expansive government-based climate remediation and energy prospecting policy."

Remarkable Yet Unsurprising

March 31st, 2010

From the Washington Monthly

Referencing the now unfriended neocon David Frum's recent riff that ""Republicans originally thought that Fox [News] worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox,"  a recent RNC fundraising e-mail is reprinted in it's entirety. It would seem that Chairman Steele is stumping more for Hannity than his party.
RNC Chairman Michael Steele 
"Dear XXXX,
I wanted to let you know that I just finished reading Sean Hannity's new book, Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama's Radical Agenda. As they so often do, Sean's words left me energized for November and even more committed to making the gains necessary to bring the Obama agenda to a halt.

In the book, Sean does more than just tell us why we need to defeat the Obama Agenda. He also gives us a blueprint for getting it done. I cannot recommend it enough -- and I'm confident that, like me, you will be ready for the upcoming elections with a renewed commitment.

Michael Steele
Chairman, Republican National Committee"

Sean Hannity and Air Force Amy

To the casual reader, it would seem more of an attempt to raise sales of the book than to raise Committee funds at a time when Steele is under fire for so much apparent waste. And yes, that is an undoctored photo of Mr. Hannity with Nevada's famously legal prostitute Air Force Amy. Oh, family values.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Today's Deep Breath

March 30th, 2010

One doesn't have to believe in any form of deism to realize that we sophisticated humans aren't exactly, well, all that so to speak. Everyone should take a look at the March 2010 issue of the Smithsonian and marvel at the world we generally forget we live in. Naturalist photographer Melissa Farlow has, in recent past, captured some of the most extraordinary shots of America's still regal wild horses. Do yourselves a favor and read the article. Her adventure in achieving parity within the horses' environment is almost as moving as the images themselves.

There are no Tea Parties or radical left rants here...
photo copyright Smithsonian/Melissa Farlow 2010

Telling the Truth Does Make People Stronger

March 30th, 2010

Sometimes, it is more impressive than others to find someone telling a simple truth about themselves.

"To keep living as I did up until today would be to indirectly diminish the glow that my kids where [sic] born with. Enough is enough. This has to change. This was not supposed to happen 5 or 10 years ago, it is supposed to happen now. Today is my day, this is my time, and this is my moment"

Friday, March 26, 2010

Okay, WaPo. What Did Happen in Korean Waters Today?

March 26th, 2010

Today there appears to have been a maritime accident off the Korean Peninsula. Were not sure what else has occurred but we do know a South Korean Military vessel has sunk. We also know that something got everybody really wound up.

Early reports were dire and inflammatory but the WaPo seems not to archive and update as usefully as some news sites. That is to say, their earlier 'sky is falling' story has been replaced by a more even tempered piece at the exact same link.

Now the WaPo is quoting presidential spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye "It is premature at this stage to discuss the cause of the sinking"..."It has not been determined whether this incident is related to North Korea."

The North Koreans are threatening "unprecedented nuclear strikes" but, as the Jerusalem Post notes dryly, "The North routinely issues such warnings."

What we do know for sure is that american markets did stunningly well considering the news. CNN Money reports, "a conflict between North and South Korea may have caused some stock selling. Reports said an explosion tore a hole in a South Korean vessel in the disputed waters near North Korea, and South Korean officials were investigating whether it was an attack from the North.

Can you imagine the Friday market panic if we were still uncertain on health care reform?

More On Frum at The Daily Dish

March 26th, 2010

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for posting a very telling interview with him.

This speaks volumes to the theory that, far from being some great conservative reawakening, the events of the last year represent an ever narrowing purity test and a shrinking base.

Watch it here.

C. Montgomery Burns Award for Best Corporate Scare Tactic

March 26th, 2010

Pete du Pont, yes a member of the du Ponts, clearly knows what the little guy needs. Writing a consistently dishonest op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal with the precious title,"Welcome to Europe," he continues to trot out utterly discredited statistics on the new health care laws. In particular, "a Republican House Ways and Means Committee report estimated that 16,500 IRS agents will be employed to make sure that people sign up--and pay for--the health insurance they will be forced to purchase.." 
Pete du Pont

That's pretty scary stuff except it is not true and he knows it's not true (but it's still getting a lot of play on the right). To illustrate, here is IRS Commissioner Daniel Shulman:
IRS Commissioner Daniel Shulman

Mrs. David Frum Gives Her Perspective

March 26th, 2010

After the bruising week her husband has had following his unwelcome and simply honest analysis of comtemporary conservatives, Danielle Crittenden discusses what it's like to see the party of Reagan become the party of Beck. 

"As the old saying goes, if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. Perhaps that's why the Frum household now has three."

I Read the Bill... And The Bill... And The Fix

March 26, 2010

by F. Grey Parker

Several weeks ago, I began my own personal endgame with Health Care Reform. For months it seemed, the growing mantra of the opposition had become the argument that nobody understood the legislation, just as it had been with 2009's stimulus package against which Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) had so famously boomed. We just didn't get it. It didn't matter whether we were discussing the House Bill, the Senate Bill or the Fix. The leadership of the opposition kept telling us that we were against it and if we weren't, well, then we just didn't understand it. These arguments didn't sit right with me from the beginning. There was something about that declaration, so insistently parochial, that was patently offensive to me.

Alarming News Just In

March 26th, 2010

If this is true, this is just plain bad with a capital "B."

From the Washington Post
photo copyright AP 2010

"A South Korean naval vessel with more than 100 aboard was sinking on Friday in waters near North Korea and Seoul was investigating whether it was hit in a torpedo attack by the North, South Korean media said.
Broadcaster SBS said many South Korean sailors on the stricken vessel were feared dead.
South Korea's YTN TV network said the government was investigating whether the sinking was due to a torpedo attack by the North, and Yonhap news agency said the Seoul government had convened an emergency meeting of security-related ministers.
Yonhap also reported a South Korean navy ship firing toward an unidentified vessel to the north.
North Korea in recent weeks has said it was bolstering its defenses in response to joint South Korean-U.S. military drills that were held this month."

Maddow To Brown: Really, Scott? Really?

March 26th, 2010

As some of you may know, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) has been fundraising lately on the false premise that he must defeat future challenger Rachel Maddow. The rumor of her looming candidacy apparently originated with that most sage and trustworthy of sources, Facebook. The most surprised of his constituents to hear that Ms. Maddow was running was, well, Ms. Maddow.
photo copyright MSNBC 2010

Although Ms. Maddow has been taking time on her MSNBC program to quite hilariously deny that she has any intention of running against the Senator, she took the added measure of running a full page ad today in the Boston Herald, reprinted here on the MSNBC site.

Maddow: "I am not running against Scott Brown. I never said I was running against Scott Brown. The Massachusetts Democratic Party never asked me to run against Scott Brown. It's just not true. Honestly. I swear. No, really."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Why We No Longer Have "$10,000 Toilet Seats"

March 25th, 2010

To anyone who has spent the past 30 years interested in what the government of the United States purchases with it's citizens' money, words like "black budget" and "secret ops" and "waste" have become as innocuous as hotel wallpaper. They also have, for more than a decade become less common in print although we now have a covert culture which has never been stronger. The previous administration managed to severely undermine both it's core principles of superior private sector efficiency and restraint on the public purse with a single, fundamental shift in how we wage war.

The reason for our decreasing familiarity with the details of our own nation's bellicose budgets can be summed up in a single word: contractors. Perhaps your eyes are already starting to glaze over. The word is so commonplace. In it's very commonality lies it's insidiousness. Call me old fashioned, but I hear the word contractor and my first natural mental connection is, well, a plumber or an electrician. To be sure, many of them are just that but I'd wager their billing schemes would land them in prison in a hot minute if practiced here in the States.

It is ironic that the party who has shrieked so loudly during the last 14 months' divisive health care debates with regards to the sanctity of free market principles should bear the largest responsibility for a hootin', hollerin' taxpayer funded boondoggle by farming out the responsibility of American soldiering to their precious  private sector. As war profiteers go, these guys would make old Joe Kennedy blush.

The thing is, we also use them as killers. We call trained mercenaries operating outside of both serious congressional oversight or even a middling adherence to the Army Field Manual "contractors."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Lot Can Happen In A Week.

March 16th, 2010

One week ago, the thought of a simple up or down vote, in the form of Reconciliation, was regarded in conservative quarters as a

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ambinder On The Ongoing Birther Adventure

March 12th, 2010

Five upcoming GOP senatorial candidates have waffled on the issue.

From a post today at the Atlantic:

"Several of these candidates have later corrected their initial hesitation, but it is precisely that initial hesitation that contains so much information about what Republican candidates fear right now. No doubt that Portman and Marco Rubio know that Birtherism is bullshit. The gap between their private beliefs and how they articulate them publicly is fairly wide. I'm not a fan of stories that begin with X "refuses to denounce" Y -- I usually skip them. I make an exception here because the accusation is so reckless, so tied to race and culture, and so stupid that those who try to Wink at the Birthers are adding potency to a poison that everyone is forced to gulp."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

We Are Having RSS Feed Issues

March 10th, 2010

We are working on it.

The Continuing Rebuttal of Marc Thiessen

March 10th, 2010

Matthew Alexander, a former senior military interrogator who publishes under a pseudonym for security reasons, has written a caustic review of Marc Thiessen's recently released and garishly pro-torture manifesto:

"My gut reaction on reading Marc Thiessen's new book, Courting Disaster, was: "Why is a speechwriter who's never served in the military or intelligence community acting as an expert on interrogation and national security?"

Certainly, everyone is entitled to a voice in the debate over the lawfulness and efficacy of President Bush's abusive interrogation program, regardless of qualifications. But if you're not an expert on a subject, shouldn't you interview experts before expressing an opinion? Instead, Thiessen relies solely on the opinions of the CIA interrogators who used torture and abuse and are thus most vulnerable to prosecution for war crimes."

As Thiessen continues his attacks on not just the rule of law but traditional morality as well, another voice has added itself to his growing chorus of detractors. This one is conservative author and editor, Conor Friedersdorf who argues that it is irresponsible for editors to even publish his work for it's lack of quality:

"The readers who propelled him onto the New York Times bestseller list can be forgiven if they’re not knowledgeable about United States law, the military code of conduct, or devastating counterarguments that require a bit of outside knowledge. But the editors who willingly publish this man again and again, despite the poor quality of his work and his inability to answer his strongest critics, are being negligent and unprofessional."

Thiessen, on The Daily Show last night, was skewered:

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Pass it. Dammit.

March 10th, 2010

Pass it. Enough said.


March 10th, 2010

On his program today, Glenn Beck stipulated the we will go down in history as "a suicidal nation" because we won't "take back" all of our federal land in the western states to exploit the natural resources. He describes those  resources as "Fort Knox" and alleges that to not blanket mine and drill is going to literally cause the Russians or the Chinese to march in after we are "economically bankrupt" and "take it" in some sort of international foreclosure.

"We've been talking about health care for a year and American's don't want it!"


He has lamented the "lack of rationality" in America. Excellent. I'd like to remind you all of this one:

By 11 minutes into this program, Beck has likened the Obama's administration's environmental protection proposals to erecting "a statue of Stalin," played the intro to "the Andy Griffith Show" while decrying suggested fishing restrictions and mocks federal dietary recommendations by eating a piece of what he calls "fatty fat fat pie."

"You might have a heart attack, but you'll die with a smile on your face."

The obvious arguments against the Right will not work against those with clearly diagnosable insanity.

Wunderkind Ezra Klein Sorts Stuff Out

March 10th, 2010

In this month's Newsweek, Ezra Klein opens a column so straightforwardly that it is almost unique in comparison with his contemporaries. 

"Ask a kid who just took civics how a bill becomes a law and she'll explain that Congress takes a vote and if a majority supports the bill, the bill goes to the president. That's what we teach in textbooks. In reality, the Senate is a contest to find who's better at manipulating the rules for purposes that they were never meant to serve. For the minority, everything depends on its skill with Rule XXII. For the majority, it's all about its understanding of the budget reconciliation process. For the country, it's a mess."

The filibuster has grossly outlived it's usefulness. However, it is unlikely at this time that any major reform of the maneuver will happen this year. I would warn against those of us on the Left forgetting the Right's abuses in the event that majority control of the Senate returns to the Republicans in November. If that is to happen, we must not become what we have beheld.

Bill Kristol Confuses Petulance With Rebuttal

March 10th, 2010

In a post yesterday which almost ghaspingly defends the, quite frankly, neo-fascistic Liz Cheney campaign against the fundamental tenets of American jurisprudence, William Kristol says:

"Carville and Greenberg judge that 'The decline in both the presidential and Democratic approval ratings on security issues has been driven, at least in part, by strong Republican attacks on some specific policies and actions.' "

Okay. Fine. But the reason for the decline over the past few weeks in a sense of national safety under the stewardship of President Obama and Attorney General Holder is that those attacks were, at their very core, the kind of thing one used to expect from thugs, punks and Birchers. Not only are they manipulative, but, they disrespect more than two centuries of American legal ideals.

When an openly right wing idealogue like Ken Starr says this is fundamentally wrong on a traditionally center-left wing outlet, perhaps it is time to admit that you are, in point of fact, wrong.


March 10th, 2010

Wow. I may be able to stomach the several hours of talk tv I have to watch later.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Way We Approach

March 9th, 2010

It seems hard to believe that the American nation has become so inured to the subject of torture that we no longer discuss whether it is moral but rather how much is too much. The voices of reason, and frankly the voices of actual military men and women with experience, need to rise and come together more than ever before. 
Captured on their way to Gauntanamo 2005 copyright Reuters

As I work on the follow up to part one of my series on torture, I have been accumulating a somewhat substantial library on the ethics of warfare. The American Traditionalists have the apologists over a barrel but it continues to be their very reasonableness that resonates less in the whiz-bang news cycle. Reason is, in it's essence, not sound bite ready. That is why the attack we Traditionalists need to make (and I do not use the word attack casually) needs to be as relentless as the savagery of those who oppose it.

However, it is also essential, as we move forward, to remember that dogma is the enemy of analysis. I recently found a pearl of wisdom from an seemingly unlikely source. As a note to all, and without meaning to be glib, this is a more common occurrence when one frequently seeks out the rationale of one's opposition rather than trawling for gaffes.

Frederick Kagan is a Neo-Conservative who has been, at times, another Bush apologist with no military experience and a diplomatic/governmental background that gave him absolutely zero exposure to Middle Eastern culture or strategy prior to our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many readers learned how much he "doesn't know" in what I can only describe as a regrettable hatchet piece from the DailyKos, an activist website whose goals I usually share.

From Frederick Kagan's, "War and Aftermath":

"It is a fundamental mistake to see the enemy as a set of targets. The enemy in war is a group of people. Some of them will have to be killed. Others will have to be captured or driven into hiding. The overwhelming majority, however, have to be persuaded." 

There is a great deal more in this work to be applauded. His goals may be suspect but, as is sometimes the case, his analyses of the moral principles that ultimately achieve long term peace are correct.

Were I content to be a simple dogmatist, I would have overlooked him at best. At worst, I would have scanned briefly, stopping only to find some flawed politic to tear my teeth into.

So I have a simple set of requests. If your are a Liberal, watch more FOX. If you are a Conservative, watch more MSNBC. If you are, as I would hope, developing a distaste for major issues being "examined" in five minutes or less, for the love of God, read more.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Cautious Defense of the Stimulus

March 8th, 2010

The Financial Times' Clive Crook makes the cogent argument that the real benefit of last year's stimulus was it's impact on taxes, particularly at the state level. What's refreshing here is the plainness of the analysis as rebuttal to the more dogmatic critics of last years spending.
image copyright Getty Images

"But as Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution points out, more than half the stimulus took the form of tax cuts – either directly, or by avoiding increases in state taxes that would otherwise have been necessary. As the recession took hold, state governments saw their revenues drop. They face limits on their borrowing. Without federal assistance, they would have had to put their taxes up."

After suffering through glib phrases like the "Keynesian myth," assertions that the stimulus has failed to "significantly slow job loss" and the vulgar opportunism of men like Rep. Tom Price (R-GA),  this clear dissection is long overdue.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

It's Called Torture

March 6th, 2010

In a case that could prove to be dynamite in the Torture Debate,  US District Judge Wayne Andersen ruled that the torture claims of two US citizens who served as contractors in Iraq may go forward in their suit against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Again, the allegation is that two United States citizens, one a Navy veteran, were tortured by our own forces.

From the linked story:

"The men claimed they were subjected to sleep and food deprivation, threats of violence, actual violence (emphasis added) and prolonged solitary confinement, according to yesterday’s ruling. Andersen said if those claims were true, “a court might plausibly determine that the conditions of confinement were torturous.” "

Fighting For The Wealthy

March 6th, 2010

Although Sen. Jim Bunning's (R-KY) congressional "hold" on extending unemployment benefits was lifted this past Tuesday, the fight over continued assistance to the neediest Americans is only beginning. The Republicans are playing very irresponsible games with assistance to the rich, so to speak, as is evidenced by the demands of legislators like Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AR).

From Paul Krugman in the pages of the New York Times.

"the House has already passed a bill that, by exempting the assets of couples up to $7 million, would leave 99.75 percent of estates tax-free. But that doesn’t seem to be enough for Mr. Kyl; he’s willing to hold up desperately needed aid to the unemployed on behalf of the remaining 0.25 percent. That’s a very clear statement of priorities."

Liz Cheney Takes Another Hit

March 6th, 2010

From The Caucus at the New York Times:

"A former Justice Department official who led the Bush administration’s courtroom defense against lawsuits filed by Guantanamo detainees is denouncing attacks on Obama administration appointees who previously helped such prisoners challenge their indefinite detention without trial."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Interesting Figures

March 5th, 2010
Courtesy of Nate Silver by way of The Daily Dish:

Malkin Makes Sure It Was Another Ugly Week

March 5th, 2010

It has been an ugly week. It has been made far more so by Michelle Malkin. As of this evening, I will be dropping her link from my links list to the right. My page may be humble and my readership so small as be described as quaint. But I have basic minimum standards. The William Kritols and the National Reviews of the American Right will have a place in the list. But, she has finally found comfort in the political gutter with fellow travelers such as Joseph Farah.

Don't worry. I will continue to read her so you don't have to.

In the past week, Mrs. Malkin has referred to Lindsey "Grahamnesty" (her words) as being guilty of "collaborating" with President Obama on the issues of immigration and John Kerry on the environment. Under a headline screaming that yesterday's Pentagon shooter was a "registered Democrat," she made sure to let us know she was above "playing MSNBC/NYTimes-style “gotcha” with this one." After campaigning long and viciously against the Holder Justice Department plans to try KSM in an open proceeding, she accused the President of flip-flopping rather than simply saying thank you. She celebrates Women's History Month with accusations of "liberal misogyny." She glibly smears Rep Charles Rangel's (D-NY) committee resignation under the banner "Culture of Corruption Watch." I went back and compared this in form and style to her intensely vigorous investigation of an actual criminal indictment against her old friend Tom Delay. 

I can not much more brook her intellectual dishonesty by maintaining so much as a link to her page from mine.

Strangely, she has been silent on the now debunked Islamist conspiracy to poison our soldiers food. Having been so very sure of it earlier, I still await the retraction.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bulldog Grayson Riding High

March 4th, 2010

I have been arguing for months that what the Center and Left electorate is craving is a little more Chutzpah. This would seem to bear that out.

From the Huffington Post:

"The candidate leading the Florida GOP primary to determine who will take on Rep. Alan Grayson, the Democrat who represents the Orlando-based district, is none other than Grayson himself."

The Dis-ingenuousness of Bart Stupak

March 4th, 2010

As was reported in today's Huffington Post, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich) is threatening to torpedo the Health Care Reform bill if it fails to contain his particular language preventing the use of public funds for abortion procedures. If there were not already a law specifically preventing that very activity, this could be seen as a legitimate position.  

Passed in 1976 and renewed annually, The Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of any taxpayer funds in paying for an abortion accept in the case of a pregnancy which endangers the life of the expectant mother. Whether one agrees with this standing legislation is immaterial to the debate at hand. Now along comes The Stupak-Pitts amendment named for the Senator from Michigan and his ally from the so-called "Family," Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-Pa).

For a particularly good piece on the "Family," click here.

As described in the New York Times, "The amendment prevents women who receive federal insurance subsidies from buying abortion coverage — but critics assert it could cause women who buy their own insurance difficulty in obtaining coverage." 

It is worth noting that Rep. Stupak has a somewhat checkered history with regards to other issues. He has been right a lot of the time but he could not be more wrong in this instance. One has to wonder if this stridency is the price for continued membership in the "Family."

Stuart Continues To Take On Fox

March 4th, 2010

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The Politics of Hate

March 4th, 2010

In a report today on Politico, the contents of an official Republican National Committee fundraising document were revealed likening Obama to The Joker and using increasingly common code words of fear such as the Republican intention to "save the country from trending toward socialism."

The RNC is moving quickly to distance Chairman Michael Steele from the fallout.