Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Saturday, November 21, 2009 5:06 pm

Jesus, save us …

… from the evil done in Your name.

Chuck Colson is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore. He has published a temper tantrum screed called “The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.” Colson, the Watergate-conspirator-turned-Christian-Nationalist, has produced a manifesto of Christianist jihad, a mishmash of factual and contextual errors and distortions, gross misreadings of history and other documents, and an utter betrayal of both the Constitution and what Jesus stood for. The word “conscience” shouldn’t be allowed within a thousand miles of this piece.

Chuck also badly needs an editor.

Because I have some personal experience with Colson’s — to be polite to the point of self-censorship — disingenuousness, I was going to fisk the thing, and I expected that that fisking was going to take days. Fortunately, instead of starting last night, I went to bed sick, and when I woke up this afternoon, I found that tristero had done the job for me, addressing everything from the factual inaccuracies to the not-so-subtle comparison of Obama and the Democrats to Hitler and the Nazis.

I’m not entirely sure what Chuck Colson is, but I can give you a quick list of things he is not: Telling the truth. Well-meaning. Changed in any meaningful way from the thuggishness of his Watergate days. A patriot. A Christian. Anything but evil.

UPDATE: Fec’s wife’s stepmother’s son … um, I guess that would make him Fec’s stepbrother-in-law … shows Colson how it’s done.

In which yr hmbl corrspndt contritely admits he was wrong

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 2:21 pm
Tags:

I thought there was a relatively small but still significant group of Americans whom Sarah Palin could not alienate no matter how idiotic, self-absorbed and paranoid she could be.

I was wrong, and I sincerely apologize. Hee.

Friday, November 20, 2009 11:50 pm

Because you just can’t have too many pictures of crocodiles eating sharks …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 11:50 pm
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… here’s another one:

Freedom of assembly? Pshaw! That’s so 1787!

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 11:09 pm
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit effectively overturns the assembly clause of the First Amendment as well as the Fourth Amendment freedom from arrest without probable cause.

It would be nice to think the Supremes will overrule, but I suspect Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia will vote to uphold. I suspect Stevens, Breyer,  Ginsburg and Sotomayor will vote to overturn.

Anthony Kennedy, what say you?

Odds and ends for 11/20

Huge win for the good guys, by which I mean taxpayers: House Finance Committee overwhelmingly and with true bipartisan support votes to audit the Fed. Barney Frank, previously a supporter, voted against. He’s going to need a damn good explanation.

Welcome to the 21st century, beehortches: Muslims want an anti-blasphemy law? Well, I want a jet pack and I ain’t getting that, either.

Come for the counsel, stay for the funny anecdotes (or vice versa): The NYT asks a shrink to tackle the fraught topic of holiday family get-togethers.

Transact this: Economist Dean Baker on the case for a financial-transaction tax. Short version: Yes, it would raise (microscopically) the cost of capital, but like booze and cigarette taxes, it would discourage something harmful: in this case, the kind of high-frequency, high-volume, low-value trading currently dominating the stock market. (Let’s face it, when the market can go up significantly on a day when more than a third of all trading involves the stock of just four companies — four basically insolvent companies — does the economy really benefit?)

Show some respect: A large majority of Americans, and 53% of Republicans, think it’s OK for the president of the United States to bow to the leader of a foreign country he’s visiting when it’s custom to bow in that country, according to a poll from that hotbed of pro-Obama liberalism, Fox News (question 18).

Shorter Amanda Hess, for the win: Why is sexism only a problem when it affects Sarah Palin?

Funding priorities: Can we please all agree that whatever else goes into health-care reform legislation, it ought not contain a dime for stuff that doesn’t work? Or has Teh Stoopid rendered even that common-sense position untenable?

Consumer advocacy: Elizabeth Warren sez, “We need a new model: If you can’t explain it, you can’t sell it.”

Once-a-century confluence?; or, Who are you and what have you done with the senator?: When Sen. James Inhofe and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer agree that it’s time SecTreas Tim Geithner resigned, maybe it really is time Tim Geithner resigned.

“The storm, the ocean – it did not take them from us. It just called them home.”

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 9:33 pm
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My friend Joe Killian eulogizes his uncle and grandfather.

Previously.

Thursday, November 19, 2009 9:47 pm

Odds and ends for 11/19

Good news, bad news: The good news: The S&P 500 is sitting on a ton of cash. The bad news: The cash came from being overleveraged and from failure to invest in existing business and/or growth, which will lead to bad future news on both revenues and employment.

It’s OK if you’re a Republican: The Obama White House gets criticized for attempting to manage the news cycle … by Karl Rove.

Shorter Peter Wehner: Sarah Palin hasn’t an idea in her head, but just because she’s both stupid and a whiner is no reason to criticize her. (No, I’m not making this up. Even better: I’m linking to Commentary.)

Why competence matters: New Orleans flooded after Hurricane Katrina because the Army Corps of Engineers messed up, a federal judge rules. Cue the lawsuits, and this is one case in which I don’t want to hear any whining about tort reform.

If you want to make an omelette heal a soccer player, you have to break a few eggs birth a few horses: This is the kind of alternative medical treatment for which I might well look for an alternative … any alternative. (h/t: friend and former co-worker Christie on Facebook)

Texas declares war on marriage: Does mathematics’ reflexive property of equality (a = a) apply to Texas family law? If so, then in banning gay marriage, the state might have outsmarted itself and banned all marriage when it added this phrase to its constitution: “This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” And one of the legal statuses identical to marriage is, well, marriage. At least, so says the Democratic candidate for attorney general.

If you’re going to hire a hack, at least hire a talented hack: President Obama has named former Bush White House spokesbot Dana Perino to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees civilian U.S. government broadcasts. I’m trying to decide whether to be outraged or to conclude that it’s a good idea to have a propagandist in charge of propaganda. Or to conclude that it’s a good idea to have a propagandist in charge of propaganda but wish for a GOOD propagandist rather than Perino.

North Carolina’s Mel Watt is on the side of the demons in the audit-the-Fed debate. Those of you in the 12th District, which includes many of us right here in fair Greensboro, need to get in his face about this. Whether you’re in NC-12 or elsewhere, you can petition the appropriate committee leaders here. More background here.

Because Goldman Sachs didn’t have enough people qualifying for big, taxpayer-financed bonuses already: The vampire squid is promoting 272 people to managing director.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Banksters. (Bonus: background info on how U.S. credit card fees paid by merchants and passed on to consumers, are some of the world’s highest.) Memo to the Democrats, which will cost them far less than the advice they get from professional consultants: When your political opponent starts gouging the public, during the holidays, in the middle of a recession — when he basically hands you a chair and says “Hit me over the head with this!” — if you want to win elections, you hit him over the head with it. (Key phrase there being, “If you want to win elections …”)

“Nothing bespeaks personal character like the volatile use of violence on your opponents”: Chuck Norris confesses that anger-management issues rule out a political career for him. Hey, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Why does Glenn Beck hate America? No, really.

Remember: Conservativism cannot fail, it can only be failed: Bonus fun: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting is a “registered hate group.” Where do you register as a hate group? How much does it cost? How often does the magazine come? Do you get movie passes?

And, finally …

Today’s Quote of the Day, on how conservatives are blaming all electoral ills, including legitimate Republican losses, on ACORN, from Hullabaloo commenter “Pseudonymous in NC” (and, no, that’s not me; I only wish I had thought of this): “For wingnuts, ‘ACORN’ rhymes with ‘trigger’. That’s what this poll tells you.”

 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 8:27 pm

Odds and ends for 11/18

The Securities and Exchange Commission: Not so secure. Oy.

Recovery.gov needs to recover: Some of the government Web site’s job-creation/recovery stats are wrong, including attributing job creation to a nonexistent congressional district, and the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, David Obey, is not happy about it. That said, for the first time in the history of ginormous emergency government spending initiatives, there’s a boatload of data online that anyone can access and analyze.

Biting the moose that feeds, etc.,: Sarah Palin hates the media. This isn’t just a fact. This isn’t just an insight one can glean from her new book. This is largely what the book is ALL ABOUT. However, Sarah Palin is getting, by some reports, up to $7 million to write, publish and promote her book, all of which are media-related practices. To paraphrase “Calvin and Hobbes,” cognitive dissonance goes CLANK. Too bad Sarah Palin is talking too much to hear it.

Dead Bank Walking: More legal problems for Bank of America.

And Republicans wonder why people call them racist: Sen. David “Diapers” Vitter, R-La., says he doesn’t know whether Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court case striking down bans on interracial marriage, was properly decided. (Yes, I know that, hypothetically, one could argue that the case was wrongly decided but that there were other legal/constitutional routes to the same desireable conclusion. But that doesn’t appear to be what Vitter’s doing here.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 8:42 pm

Odds and ends, Nov. 17

  • Our eyes are on Afghanistan, but the prize is energy-rich Uzbekistan. So they boil political opponents alive. Big freakin’ deal.
  • The Special Inspector General of the fed bank bailout program says we need to audit the Fed already. Fine minds agree. So let’s audit the Fed already.
  • Tim Geithner’s pissing away of taxpayer money earlier this month, to the benefit of — surprise!! — Goldman Sachs and AIG —  would’ve been grounds for dismissal, if not execution, in any country that wasn’t already a banana republic. Unfortunately, we’re all now singing the Chiquita song:

This, Mr. Geithner, is what moral hazard is all about. Thanks to your actions you have doomed the U.S.’s formerly free and efficient equity markets to the biggest capital market bubble in history, which, like any ponzi, has only two outcomes: it either keeps growing in perpetuity as greater fools crawl out of the woodwork to keep it growing, albeit at ever slower marginal rates (note, this did not work out too well for Madoff), or it eventually pops. And the longer it takes to pop, the greater the ultimate loss of value: one day Madoff’s business was worth $50 billion, the next day it was $0. And that is precisely the same fate that American capital markets will have at some point in the upcoming months or years. When future historians look back at what specific action caused the biggest crash in U.S. capital markets history, Mr. Geithner’s cataclysmally botched negotiation of the AIG counterparty bailout will undoubtedly be at the very top of the list. In the meantime, just like in the Madoff case where the trustee is trying hard to trace where any stolen money may have been transferred to, to see the fund flows in our ongoing “ponzi in progress”, look no further than the bank accounts of Goldman bankers as they receive their biggest ever bonus this year …

 

  • Relatedly, I’m a lot less bothered about Obama bowing to an Asian leader than I am about his bowing to Goldman Sachs.
  • Question of the day, from Michael Lind: Shouldn’t the government pledge allegiance to the people, rather than the other way around?
  • Nice punking of an anti-immigration crowd. Not-so-nice behavior of the cops on hand, who were shoving around nonviolent counterprotesters rather than the anti-immigration folks who started the fisticuffs.
  • Time to revoke David Broder’s membership in the Wise Old Mainstream Media Pundits’ Club: When you say it’s more important to do something, anything, now than to do the right thing, you’re reckless. When you say that about a decision over whether to start, or expand, a war of choice, you’re just batsh*t insane definitely not supporting the troops.
  • Faith may well complement competent psychiatric care, but it is no substitute, a fact that appears to have escaped the Department of Veterans Affairs. And this is just one facet, albeit a particularly annoying one, of the VA’s utter failure to cope competently with the mental-health problems of veterans of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. My senior senator, Richard Burr, ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a guy with a DSCC bulls-eye on his back this election year, could do himself a lot of political good, in addition to doing a lot of real-world good for a lot of deserving people, if he just rode this issue like a beast across the plains of Mongolia.
  • And speaking of Richard Burr, call the WAAAAmbulance. Apparently, Senate Republicans are concerned that TV commercials about them supporting government contractors who let their employees get gang-raped may engender bad feelings against … um, well, the 30 Senate Republicans who supported government contractors who let their employees get gang-raped. (Here’s the one on Burr:)

The deficit monster

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:39 pm
Tags: ,

Now that the economy is stumbling back to normal health (disclaimer: at least, that’s what CNBC appears to be trying to get me to believe), I’m supposed to believe that the biggest threat to our economic health right now is the deficit. Inasmuch as I have believed for pretty much my entire adult life that the biggest threat to our economic health right now is the deficit, this shouldn’t be a hard sell.

But at least at the moment, I’m not buying it. And if the people who are selling are having trouble getting someone like ME to buy, whether or not a majority of the country agrees with them (which in fact it does, at least at the moment), then maybe they need to entertain the possibility that the deficit is NOT, in fact, the biggest threat to our economic health right now.

I would argue that the biggest threat to our economic health right now is the lack of jobs, which is hurting us at the most basic level: The number of Americans who “lack consistent access to adequate food” is now 49 million. Yeah, you read that right, 49 million, or about 1 in 6. Of those, a third are actually skipping meals or at least cutting portions; the rest are eating regularly, but only with the help of food stamps, food banks or soup kitchens:

“Many people are outright hungry, skipping meals,” said [James Weill, director of the center that did the story]. “Others say they have enough to eat but only because they’re going to food pantries or using food stamps. We describe it as ‘households struggling with hunger.’ ”

Well, some of us do:

“Very few of these people are hungry,” said Robert Rector, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “When they lose jobs, they constrain the kind of food they buy. That is regrettable, but it’s a far cry from a hunger crisis.”

During the last close-to-comparable recession, in the early 1980s, news like that would have been atop the front page — not only because of the number of people doing without but also because back then the public was still capable of outrage at such deliberate lying about the misfortune of our fellow Americans. Now? Eh. We shrug, so much have our expectations been lowered by those who are stealing from us.

But I digress.

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that the deficit really is the single greatest economic danger we face. Problem is, the media are both explicitly and implicitly conflating ALL spending with deficit increases. But not all spending increases the deficit, if it is offset by increased revenues and/or by spending cuts elsewhere.  Consider this bit of Politico analysis:

… it will be tough for many Democrats to sell themselves as deeply concerned about spending after voting for the stimulus, the bailouts, the health care legislation and a plan to address global warming, four enormous government programs.

Well, yes, it will … if all four of those programs increase the deficit. However, at least two will not. Politico even acknowledges manages to report this fact without acknowledging that it completely undermines the whole deficit argument:

For starters, the White House has not dropped plans for an aggressive global warming bill early next year that will be loaded with new spending on green technology and jobs – that would be paid for with tax increases. Democratic lobbyist Steve Elmendorf says the White House focus on deficit reduction could easily kill the cap-and-trade effort. “I think this means cap-and-trade has to go to the backburner,” he said.

Now, whatever you think of the merits of cap-and-trade, we’re talking about a bill that, as Politico explicitly acknowledges, would be paid for with tax increases. That means it will not add to the deficit. So why even bring it up in this context?

OK, so what about health-care reform? Well, David Sirota has a math problem for you to solve:

Let’s say you’re a congressperson or “tea party” leader looking to champion deficit reduction — a cause 38 percent of Americans tell pollsters they support. And let’s say you’re deciding whether to back two pieces of imminent legislation.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the first bill’s spending provisions cost $100 billion annually and its tax and budget-cutting provisions recoup $111 billion annually, thus reducing total federal expenditures by $11 billion each year. The second bill proposes $636 billion in annual spending and recoups nothing. Over 10 years, the first bill would spend $1 trillion and recover $1.11 trillion — a fantastic return on taxpayer investment. Meanwhile, the second bill puts us on a path to spend $6.3 trillion in the same time.

Save $110 billion, or spend $6.3 trillion? If you’re explicitly claiming the mantle of fiscal prudence, this should be a no-brainer: You support the first bill and oppose the second one.

The first bill would be health-care legislation. As currently priced and structured, it would actually reduce the deficit, compared with doing nothing. So explain to me again why enacting it would make the deficit worse?

Sirota’s related point, which isn’t someplace I’d originally set out to go but is probably worth addressing anyway, is that right now we’re spending $636 billion annually on defense. And that’s just what we budget. The actual war-fighting appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t even part of the budget, and they total hundreds of billions more.

Moreover, we spend more money on defense every year than the rest of the world combined. I’m thinking that if we want to reduce the deficit, we need to do a Willie  Sutton and go where the money is. That’s defense spending in general and spending for two unnecessary Asian land wars in particular.

But if, God help you, you watch the Sunday talk shows, what you’ll hear is that the only way to bring the deficit under control is for entitlements to take a hit. Crap. We can cut defense spending. We can raise taxes on the wealthy. We can raise the cap on income subject to the Social Security withholding tax. If we stop and think about it, we have a number of options for reducing the deficit without gutting Social Security or Medicare. (And it bears repeating that although you often hear about a Social Security crisis, there isn’t one: Even if we do nothing, Social Security can continue to pay what it owes for several more decades, and only minor fixes now would suffice to keep Social Security solvent over its entire 75-year time horizon.)

We can also stop sending hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to the banks. If they’re going to fail — and, in a truly free market, Citi and Bank of America, at the least, would have failed long ago — better to bite the bullet and let them do it now. Let’s further eliminate “too big to fail” as an instrument of public policy: “too big to fail” means too big, period.  And when banks do dumb things with their/our money, they need to go under and be nationalized, not kept artificially alive with endless transfusions of your hard-earned cash.

These steps, even in combination, wouldn’t eliminate the deficit. But, done right and targeted correctly, they could bring the deficit down to a more sustainable level, buying us time to rebuild a healthy economy whose expansion, based on solid fundamentals, eventually will build the tax base up to the point at which a final assault on deficits becomes feasible.

But the answer is NOT to let them take more of your Social Security. And when you hear anyone suggest otherwise, very quickly turn around and stick your pocketknife through the hand he’s about to place on your wallet.

Monday, November 16, 2009 2:41 am

“Everybody is very quiet for the rest of the afternoon.”

My brother Frank’s wife, Christine, is the granddaughter of a man who fought in the German Army against the Soviet Union during World War II. He kept a journal, which one of Christine’s brothers is having translated and is trying to find a publisher for. I learned about this at Frank and Christine’s wedding, and being a huge WWII history buff, I asked to read some of the journal.

It’s what I expected: appalling.

The combat on Germany’s Eastern Front was some of the most savage in a war unprecedented in its savagery. And while history has (correctly) placed the lion’s share of guilt and blame on Nazi Germany for what happened in Europe during that war, it’s worth remembering that, their propaganda to the contrary, the Soviets committed great evil as well. Two examples, both from near the end of the second month of the German invasion:

15. August [1941]

The entire division went out of the battle. The brave regiments march past us on the street. You brave and incomparable lads, where are all the comrades that went shoulder on shoulder with you towards the front when you used the street the last time? One approaches me on my stretcher to shake my hand. Why not? We have both bled in the drumfire of Kiev. Exhausted, he sits down next to me, drinks from my bottle, eats my ration, and has ten draws from my last cigarette. He then told me something from the last hours before they were retired from the front:

“Before we retreated we laid minefields. The Russians somehow found out. They then collected the sick and disabled from the mental and care homes. The infantry herded them then over the minefields before they followed. It was a great picture: naked as they had been when getting them our of their beds, they ran in lines toward our positions. Hundreds were torn apart by the mines.” Only these beasts could think of something so evil. And something like that is our opponent.

The numbers of losses slowly find their way to us. The I.R. 530 [infantry regiment] was almost completely annihilated and will be filled with the remainder of I.R. 529 and 529.

And, a few days later:

18. August [1941]:

I am without pain for the first day [since suffering a bad leg wound on 11 August] and leave my stretcher for the first attempts of walking. I witness the first interrogation of Partisans on the meadow. A troop of scouts arrested a group of people which they now interrogate. They are three young girls in the age between 18 and 20 and one lad around 17. They say they were workers of a textile factory which were let go due to the lack of work. Their passports are too new and the amounts of money they carry are too large for workers. They cave in after two hours of interrogation and confess to be Partisans.

Their mission is [from] the infamous [Soviet] Major Friedmann. They have the following orders: They should join a second group of Partisans near Wassilkow in the night to the 08/19. The second group will bring highly sensitive explosives. The girls shall find out the location of the headquarters here in Barachty and in Wassilkow. They are supposed to be blown up August 20. Wow, we are really surprised. We were going to be attacked. We also learn something about the hierarchy of their group. They work in mixed groups of boys and girls, mostly students. These groups are not larger than 5. Their tasks include the destruction of gasoline and ammunition depots, bridges, and roads. They lay out signs for the air force. They kill single outposts and motorcycle messengers (that means butcher, because even the girls are trained on the knife).

In order to ensure effectiveness, they have long established a wide ranged communication network. When the German troops moved in, competent Red soldiers, mostly commissars, stayed behind disguised as normal farmers in order to coordinate the work of the Partisan units. They work now hand in hand with these terror groups. The mess that has formed behind the front will give us headaches for a long time. Finally, the translator ask the girls how they got to the Partisans. What I hear deeply moved me. The murderer Friedmann summoned them one day and gave them the choice to either go with these orders through the German lines or witness their parents and siblings lined up at a wall and shot. Also, if they do not return, their relatives are going to be killed.

Nevertheless, the commander decides that the four have to be executed immediately. I can see how difficult it is for him to give this order. But it has to be!

The four are led away. Three young and fresh girls will die for these blood hyenas in Kiev. A group of soldiers with rifles lines up and the girls are blindfolded. That is nothing for us old guys who are used to fight with devil and death. But there are three girls of great beauty for whom we feel compassion. However, they are ordered to shoot iron projectiles into these young bodies. I cannot witness this. I retreat in the most remote corner. Finally after what seems an eternity, I hear the rifle salvo.

The war against civil[ians] is not for us ‘front hogs’. Everybody is very quiet for the rest of the afternoon.

I hope Christine’s brother is able to find a publisher. This kind of primary source material is invaluable, the moreso for coming as it does from a part of the war where the body count was so high.

And every politician, pundit and jackass blogger who is so eager to take this country to war, or to expand a questionable war in which it already is involved, ought to be required to read this stuff.

Yet another reason why the Stupak amendment and its backers must be slapped around

I blogged a little while ago about the inanity of the Stupak Amendment, a mind-numblingly stupid and unconstitutional rule pushed hard by, among others, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. But other than Catholic reflexive opposition to abortion, I completely overlooked another significant motive for the bishops’ behavior, one that definitely bears discussion:

The scale of the church’s involvement in the rapidly growing $2.5 trillion dollar American health care industry is staggering.

What the Stupak-Pitts amendment does for the Catholic health care system is omit a competitive advantage secular and other religiously-affiliated hospitals without doctrinal restrictions can use to simultaneously market their services to both the expected influx of newly insured patients and the outpatient medical professionals who will treat them.

By restricting insurance coverage of women’s reproductive health care, the competitive barriers faced by Catholic institutions will be eliminated …

First rule of investigative journalism, kids: follow the money.

Wingnut bloggers = great Americans … or, at least, an opportunity to discuss order of succession

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Fun — Lex @ 12:42 am
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DougJ at Balloon Juice finds a right-wing blogger using the Psalms to call for President Obama to die.

To their credit, almost all the commenters call the guy out. Several raise the specter of a visit from the Secret Service (and personally, I hope it’s more than just a specter). But DougJ, displaying that wit for which Balloon Juice is noted, goes off in a different direction, wondering how many officeholders would have to die before a Republican would be in line for the presidency.

One of the wingnut’s commenters, DougJ later observes, notes that the body count would run like this: Barack Obama, (VP) Joe Biden, (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi, (Senate Prez Pro Tem) Robert Byrd, (Cabinet members in the order in which their departments were created, beginning with State) Hillary Clinton and (Treasury) Tim Geithner before you’d get to a Republican, (Defense) Robert Gates.

In response to which, DougJ poses a metaphysical question: “Can God create a line of succession so long that He cannot kill everyone on it?”

Sometimes, the only appropriate way to deal with idiocy is to mock it.

 

Why America shouldn’t worry about Khalid Sheikh Muhammad being tried in civilian court in New York

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 12:15 am
Tags: ,

Spencer Ackerman, FTW:

What’s an actual insult to the victims of 9/11 is the idea that America is not strong enough to withstand the blatherings of a mass murderer. For me, the prospect of KSM grandstanding at his trial falls into I-wish-a-[expletive]-would territory. I want to hear how KSM builds a case against America, because everyone will hear how laughably conspiratorial and clownish it is. Think of what a cathartic moment it will be when America sees the face of the man considered to be [bin Laden's] most efficient henchman and he delivers a pitiful harangue to a bank of cameras. No one will be emboldened to do anything but laugh. The only downside will be his inevitable discussion of how CIA operatives tortured him.

My hope for the KSM trial is that it does more than all this. It should forever shatter the pernicious myth that al-Qaeda is composed of supermen — supermen against whom America has no choice but to alter its character and most precious laws in order to confront. I suspect we’ll have an Eichmann-in-Jerusalem moment — and sorry for the unfortunate Nazi/al-Qaeda analogy; al-Qaeda are not the Nazis but I couldn’t really think of any other parallel — except instead of the banality of evil, we’ll see the lunacy and vanity and self-absorption of it. That’s because al-Qaeda’s weltanshauung depends on a myth that holds America to be implacably determined to snuff out the glory of Islam. In reality, most Americans couldn’t give a [expletive] about Islam and only started to know the first thing about it because of 9/11.

Pretty much. Some people with whom I’ve differed on this issue, here and on Facebook, have wondered why I have suggested that they’re soiling their drawers when they call for KSM to stay in Gitmo. Well, this is why. KSM is far closer to clown than to Bond villain. And whatever you might shred the Constitution for, you don’t shred it for a clown.

 

 

Sunday, November 15, 2009 11:39 pm

Quote of the day, business-acumen edition

Filed under: Fun,Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 11:39 pm
Tags: ,

Actress Megan Fox on her movie “Jennifer’s Body”: “People expected ‘Jennifer’s Body’ to make so much money. But I was doubtful. The movie is about a man-eating, cannibalistic lesbian cheerleader, and that pretty much eliminates middle America.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009 3:41 pm

Staying occupied

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 3:41 pm
Tags: , , , ,

My friend Joe Killian, on Facebook: “Writing obits for my grandfather and uncle, contacting various papers about placing them. Because it’s really all I can do just now.”

Previously.

 

Friday, November 13, 2009 8:49 pm

Odds and ends, Nov. 13

  • Typing Under Ladders: Today’s Friday the 13th. I have exactly no interesting Friday-the-13th stories to tell. To the extent that I can remember the dates at all, two of the unluckiest days of my life, one involving romantic failure and one involving serious physical injury, occurred on the 4th of a month.
  • Home Game: Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and four other accused planners of the 9/11 terror attacks will be tried in civilian federal court in New York, just blocks from Ground Zero. The wingnuts are soiling their drawers at the thought of terrorists (accused, but still) on U.S. soil. Me? I think the U.S. court system can handle the case and that the FBI and NYPD are more than up to handling the security. This ain’t, in other words, an issue over which I’m going to lose any sleep. Nor should you.
  • Bloviation By Other Means: I watched CNN’s Lou Dobbs only enough to determine that he was a pompous, phony ass upon whom none of my time should be wasted, and so I don’t care that he left CNN except that I think he’s planning to run for president. Or for governor of Alaska. Whichever.
  • Nice Guys: Married women who learn they have a serious illness are seven times as likely as married men to end up separated or divorced.
  • Back from the Dead: Under the guise of deficit reduction, the rich are coming after your Social Security again. Don’t let them get away with it.
  • Undessicated after all: You remember when we rammed our manly missile into the moon a few weeks ago? Turns out the moon was wet. All innuendo aside, while this doesn’t throw everything we thought we knew about the moon up for grabs, it changes quite a lot, including the consensus on whether there ever might have been life on the moon. Cool.
  • Double Standard: If pro-choice women are considered immoral for threatening to oppose any health-care reform that bans spending federal money on abortion, what does that make the Roman Catholic Church?
  • Delay, Deny & Hope That I Die: Why would Senate Republicans delay extending unemployment benefits for weeks and weeks, and then finally vote unanimously in favor of them? Because procedural rules made delay the functional equivalent of denial, so they could screw people and still look good as far as the voting record went. Bastards.
  • Listening to the People Who Were Right: Ten years ago, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., correctly told his colleagues that repealing the Glass-Steagall Act was a bad idea, one that within 10 years we would come to regret. So why is it that Byron Dorgan isn’t running all things financial in Washington today? Did you not just hear what I said? He correctly told his colleagues that repealing Glass-Steagall was a bad idea.
  • Cyber Pearl Harbor has already happened. Twice. Both times on George W. Bush’s watch, although so far as anyone can tell, it doesn’t look like Obama has learned anything from his predecessor’s mistakes.
  • I Believe the Technical Term for This Is “Fraud”: One reason Chrysler got a lot of taxpayer money was that it was going to produce greener cars. Only now that it has actually gotten the money, guess what it’s not doing?
  • Another Sin to Lay at the Feet (Tentacles?) of the Vampire Squid: Oh, nothing much, really. Just an oil scam. A $2.5 trillion oil scam.
  • Relatedly, and finally, Why Goldman Sachs Should be Broken Up, by, interestingly enough, Goldman Sachs.

Thursday, November 12, 2009 11:55 pm

Say a prayer …

… for my friend and former co-worker Joe Killian’s uncle and granddad, and their crewman, whose commercial fishing boat went down in a storm last night off Cape May, N.J.

Let’s get in on the ground floor

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 6:26 am
Tags: ,

If we can’t audit the Fed, Zero Hedge suggests, then it’s time for an initial public offering. Maybe THAT way we can find out what’s on its balance sheet.

Hey, nothing ELSE has worked.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 6:03 am

Welcome home; or, It was all great until they started slipping me tongue

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 6:03 am
Tags:

As it was with Odysseus, an American soldier’s dogs welcome him home from overseas:

Happy Veterans Day.

On Veterans Day, one veteran’s story

Filed under: Sad,Salute! — Lex @ 6:00 am
Tags: ,

“Ginmar” did a tour in Iraq with the U.S. Army. It did not go well. She — well, why don’t I show her the respect of letting her tell it:

I was a soldier in Iraq who rode the gun turret on the long dusty roads of Iraq, past palm trees and herds of sheep, past waving men and women, past fields of sunflowers and charred craters in the Baghdad highway where men and women had lost their lives. I talked, over and over again, to men and women who looked in to my eyes, and told of relatives lost to war, to insurgents, and to disease and malnutrition wrought by years of a blockade that left a whole generation of kids so small that I repeatedly mistook twenty-year-old men for twelve-year-old boys. I took mortar attacks in strike—at the time—shouting at an attack that resulted in bombs every five minutes that I’d wasted five bucks on an alarm clock with a snooze alarm when I could have just used the insurgent snooze alarm. I sat across tables and across carpets with men who’d cheerfully try to kidnap me or kill me and marveled at the manners of the Middle East, where mutual enmity is no excuse for tea and flower language. “Come, let us have tea and discuss this unfortunate situation where this RPG happened to fire at you while it was in my hand.” I’ve seen things that I will discuss with no civilian, because the [worst] things I saw happened to civilians, to civilian bodies, and I believed then and now that it was my job to have protected them, to the point of risk to myself, and that I failed. I, I, I, I know, but I saw these things and the language to describe the intimate details of war, the effects on the heart, are so hard to find that the accounts I do manage of it stumble and start, punctuated by long pauses of helpless silence, until an experience comes to mind that can be described in English words: “bomb, mortar, civilian casualties—Oh, the euphemism!—-blood, my fellow soldiers were injured and I was useless and helpless, I looked into an Iraqi man’s brown eyes at close range with my finger on the trigger and took one extra breath and realized he was not a suicide bomber, I talked with Iraqis and watched their hope and gratitude turn to fear and disappointment and hopelessness, I talked to innocents imprisoned for things they didn’t do and I couldn’t save them from prison, why on earth can’t I find a way to talk about this because it’s stuff that happened to other people that haunts me the most? My fellow soldiers, sailors, and Marines were killed–cruelly, sometimes—-and looking into Iraqi eyes, I saw the same grief and loss. It didn’t happen to me and I have no right to claim it, but when the VA treats me like a mammogram waiting to happen, all this and so much more remains locked inside me, where it boils and comes out in nightmares and knives, with blood the only relief from the guilt and the grief, the emptiness and helplessness, the panic and confusion.

No, freedom isn’t free.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 8:59 pm

Quote of the day

Filed under: Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 8:59 pm
Tags: ,

From John Cole at Balloon Juice, on the whining of Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., that Republicans are being excluded from deliberations on the health-care reform bill:

You want to have some say in the bill? Become constructive negotiating partners. Show that there is some reasonable expectation that you will vote for the bill if your changes are implemented. Offer amendments designed to make the bill better, not tank it. Slap down idiots like Palin and McCaughey and Bachmann who are running around lying and screaming about death panels. Stop holding rallies on the Capitol steps waving pictures of emaciated corpses from Dachau. You worried about cost containment — stop doing everything you can to protect profits for your big insurance buddies. Until then, stfu.

Word.

 

Get on board

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:30 pm
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Brilliance: Laurel & Hardy dance to The Gap Band’s “Party Train”:

Stupid Stupak

Filed under: Reality: It works — Lex @ 8:15 pm
Tags: ,

One good reason why the Stupak and Hyde amendments are junk laws that need to go:

I could see my baby’s amazing and perfect spine, a precise, pebbled curl of vertebrae. His little round skull. The curve of his nose. I could even see his small leg floating slowly through my uterus.

My doctor came in a moment later, slid the ultrasound sensor around my growing, round belly and put her hand on my shoulder. “It’s not alive,” she said.

She turned her back to me and started taking notes. I looked at the wall, breathing deeply, trying not to cry.

I can make it through this, I thought. I can handle this.

I didn’t know I was about to become a pariah.

This isn’t that uncommon:

I had learned the day before that the baby I thought was nearly 12 weeks old had no heartbeat, and had actually died at 8 weeks.  I was given three options: wait for a miscarriage to occur on its own, something I was told my body had no intention of doing anytime soon, take medication that would expel the fetus, passing it in my own home (classified a “chemical abortion”) or come in for a D&C to remove the fetal materials.

As much as I struggled with the sudden realization that the pregnancy was over, I also found myself trying to decide financially what I was willing to do.  A chemical abortion would cost $40, but I would be alone, bleeding, and it could still be incomplete and I would require a D&C anyway, since my pregnancy was so advanced.  Surgery would be quick, total, and under controlled circumstances, but would likely be our full maxed insurance amount of $1500.  And of course, there was the free option of waiting for my body to finally realize I wasn’t pregnant, but after 4 weeks the risk of infection was steadily climbing, increasing my chances of future miscarriage, infertility, or even death.  With a toddler at home, and still nursing hopes for extending our family some day, this was not an option.

I chose the quick and total route of the D&C, despite the costs, prioritizing my health and the health of possible future children.  I was lucky, and could afford to make that choice, because currently, my insurance cannot chose to refuse to cover what the hospital as termed an abortion.

Thanks to the Stupak amendment, that can now change.

And then there’s this legal analysis, which undermines some of the nice things Democrats have said about their bill:

Essentially, the amendment violates the underlying principle of health care reform, as articulated by President Obama, that “no one will lose the benefits they currently have.”  The truth is that under the Stupak-Pitts amendment, millions of women would lose benefits that they currently have and millions more would be prohibited from getting the kind of private sector health care coverage that most women have today.  To put a fine point on it, millions of women would lose private coverage for abortion services and millions more would be prohibited from buying it even with their own money.  Simply put, women’s access to private coverage for abortion would be restricted by health care reform.

I understand there are 41 House votes lined up against the health-care bill if it comes out of conference with the Stupak amendment (which would ban the use of federal money for abortion services in federally funded insurance plans) intact. That’s 41 Democratic House votes. It’s enough to kill the bill no matter what Republicans or other Democrats do.

I’ve given up expecting the current crop of Republicans to do the right thing on individual rights; the most moderate of them anymore are still borderline fascists. But the Democrats have no excuse. If this bill emerges from conference with the Stupak amendment intact, it should fail … and Democrats should pay the price in 2010. Because it won’t be the progressive Dems from deep-blue districts who’ll get ousted. It’ll be Blue Dogs.

Monday, November 9, 2009 8:52 pm

At least he got off his but; or, Sockpuppet Fail

“Liberal Fascism” author Jonah Goldberg has a brother named Joshua. Joshua, also a Republican, ran for New York City Council this year. Lost pretty badly, but, hey, it’s a Democratic town*, his campaign started late for reasons beyond his control, and in all seriousness, even though I think his brother’s an idiot, I respect him for running and appreciate his willingness to try to contribute to the public dialogue.

And if he’d stopped there, we’d all be good.

But no …

*And yet at least one Republican won. And get this — he’s a heathen!

Bloomberg speaks

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:52 pm
Tags: ,

Two items, offered without comment.

Item the first:

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s investment bank, survivors of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, are set to pay record bonuses this year.

The firms — the three biggest banks to exit the Troubled Asset Relief Program — will hand out $29.7 billion in bonuses, according to analysts’ estimates. That’s up 60 percent from last year and more than the previous high of $26.8 billion in 2007. The money, split among 119,000 employees, equals $250,400 each, almost five times the $50,303 median household income in the U.S. last year, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The three will award more in stock and defer more cash payments under pressure from regulators to tie pay to long-term results, compensation experts said. They may still face public wrath over the size of bonuses after the government injected capital into all the major financial institutions following Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s collapse in September 2008.

“Wall Street is beginning to resemble Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in the film ‘Gone With the Wind’: ‘Quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,’” Paul Hodgson, a senior research associate on compensation at the Portland, Maine-based Corporate Library, said in an e-mail. “It doesn’t seem as if even political threat, disastrous PR, envy, rising unemployment rates and home repossessions is enough to get any of these people to refuse the bonuses they have ‘earned.’”

Item the second:

The U.S. unemployment rate may rise to a post-World War II high of 13 percent in the aftermath of the recession, said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates Inc. in Toronto.

“This is going to be the mother of all jobless recoveries,” Rosenberg said today in an interview on Bloomberg Radio. “At the beginning of the year, who was calling for unemployment to go up to 10 percent?”

Rosenberg said the recession, the deepest since the Great Depression, “is truly secular in nature” and said the economy is “in a post-bubble credit collapse.”

A 13 percent unemployment rate would be the highest since monthly records began in January 1948, according to Labor Department data. The previous postwar high was 10.8 percent in December 1982.

 

 

 

The Fort Hood killings

Filed under: I want my religion back. — Lex @ 8:50 pm
Tags: ,

I haven’t said much about the Fort Hood killings up to this point because 1) with respect to sympathy for the victims and their families, and gratitude to the sergeant who, although wounded herself, took the shooter down, I could think of nothing to say that wasn’t already being said, and 2) with respect to the suspect, I knew very little and was loath to speculate.

There are reports now that the suspect, Maj. Nidal Hasan, was a Muslim extremist who had attempted to contact al-Qaeda. Assuming, at least for the moment, that that’s true, what does it say about U.S. Muslims generally?

Zero. Zilch. Nada. Al-Qaeda is about as mainstream Muslim as the Ku Klux Klan is mainstream Christian.

It says a helluva lot, however, about religious extremists generally, and what it says needs to be repeated and understood: Religious extremists are dangerous. They’re dangerous to less extreme adherents of the same faith, they’re dangerous to everybody else. Whether they are Orthodox Jews killing opponents of Israeli settlements in Palestine or Christian extremists assassinating abortion doctors and fomenting revolution in the American Northwest, they are dangerous.

They must be kept away from weapons of mass destruction … and that includes the levers of government power.

On the occasion of my 20th anniversary in newspapers, I said that one of the two big battles of the 21st century will be medievalism vs. modernism. Five and a half years on, I see no reason to change that view.

How not to end up like California

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 8:50 pm

California, with its rump GOP, Proposition 13 (which froze property taxes at 1978 levels) and a state constitutional mechanism for appropriating money by popular vote without a vote on, like, where the money is coming from, is in a tremendous financial crisis and is widely viewed as ungovernable.

That might or might not be the case. But one notion underlying that crisis — that everything government does is bad — got its moment before the voters of not one but two states last week, and both states soundly rejected it:

In Maine, voters rejected a tax-limitation measure by a walloping 60 percent to 40 percent. In Washington state, a similar measure went down, 57 percent to 43 percent.

They lost in part because opponents of the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights measures (known as TABOR) did something that happens too rarely in the national debate: They made a case for what government does, why it’s important and why cutbacks in public services can be harmful to citizens and the common good.

The Maine outcome is particularly striking inasmuch as a gay-marriage issue on the ballot pumped up turnout among presumably anti-government conservatives:

Opposition to these measures went well beyond the ranks of ideological liberals. Recall that on the same day that Maine rejected TABOR, it also rejected gay marriage. In Lewiston, a socially conservative working-class city, 59 percent voted against gay marriage — but 58 percent also opposed TABOR.

I’ve long argued that if a service is worth government’s doing, then it’s worth paying for. That’s just being a grownup. Reasonable people can, do and should disagree about whether a particular service should be the government’s responsibility, but if a majority decide that it should be, then lawmakers need to man (and woman) up and find the money to do the job right, not in a half-assed fashion that deliberately and perniciously undermines confidence in the whole notion of government.

Maybe they really do worship trees

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:43 pm
Tags: ,

Critics of people who believe human behavior is driving climate change have, on occasion, suggested that to these people, anthropogenic climate change is a “religion.” Apparently, at least one judge agrees:

In a landmark ruling, Mr Justice Michael Burton said that “a belief in man-made climate change … is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations”.

The ruling could open the door for employees to sue their companies for failing to account for their green lifestyles, such as providing recycling facilities or offering low-carbon travel.

Let me file a brief amicus brief in this case: Science and religion are not the same thing. You moron.

 

Fraudsters? Or worse?

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 8:42 pm
Tags: , ,

I’ve said before that Congress or the executive branch needs to go like a bat out of hell after government fraud, particularly in the big-ticket area of military contracts. So I’m delighted to see this news (although not at all delighted that such an announcement was necessary, if you follow), but I have two questions:

1) Why is this not treason?

2) Wanna bet this is only the top molecule on the iceberg?

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