Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, May 28, 2012 10:38 pm

Memorial Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 10:38 pm
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Greetings. Not dead. Not even sick anymore. Life just happens. (If you follow me on Facebook, you have some inkling of this.)

But it is Memorial Day, which I take seriously. And because I take it seriously, and because I take seriously the appalling waste of the lives of our service members in Afghanistan and Iraq, the vet suicide rate (currently 18 per day, and more now in total than died in combat in OEF/OIF), the pure evil behind cutting VA funding, and the subject of war in general, I’ll refer you to this, which I wrote almost seven years ago and which remains, I believe, relevant.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 10:38 pm

Odds and ends, school break edition

I’m really enjoying not having to study, but I haven’t been hit by the inspiration for anything lengthy. So here’s what’s going on:

* * *

Pretty much everybody thinks Rupert Murdoch isn’t fit to run a media company. And, hell, we know that. But when Parliament thinks Rupert Murdoch isn’t fit to run a media company, well, that could have real-life, tangible, bottom-line consequences. Because the UK doesn’t let just any old thieving, lying, wiretapping raper of the hopes of the parents of kidnapped children own a media company the way the U.S. does. No, News Corp. could have to actually divest itself of its 40% share of BSkyB. Ouch.

* * *

So on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, Obama shows up in Afghanistan and commits this country to spend, at the current rate of $2 billion a week, one and a quarter trillion dollars over the next dozen years in that country. One and a quarter trillion dollars, I hasten to add, that the United States cannot spare. I mean no disrespect to the victims of 9/11, and a great deal of respect to the Americans who have had to fight the resulting military campaigns, when I ask: Tell me again who won the war on terror? and/or, Have you people never heard of Pyrrhus?

* * *

I see that not only do the Republicans want to wage war on women, they insist that only straight men can join the fight.

* * *

Finally, Fec reflects on MLK’s call for a national guaranteed minimum income, varieties of which have been endorsed by such wild-eyed liberals as Milton Friedman (who called it a “negative income tax”):

Consider, if you will, that the oligarchy, by virtue of access to the Fed’s ZIRP [zero interest rate policy -- free loans to banks], has already achieved the status of guaranteed income. Was MLK in reflection so terribly wrong? As we contemplate the end of unemployment benefits for 700k of our citizens, and underemployment for many more, do not the ravages of outsourcing and global corporatism render a circumstance where the least of us is just as entitled to at least a wage of existence as the bankster supping at the .25% discount window, especially as the proceeds are immediately fed into a gamed engine of guaranteed profit?

If we are bailing out the Europeans for their folly, is it nor more just to provide subsistence wages to our own whose only fault is absence of opportunity, particularly by design of the corporatists who enjoy the very same protections manifold?

Are we not finally at the point where Bernanke‘s famous helicopter drops cash upon the least of us, as it has surely rained bountifully upon our most fortunate?

I assure you that the poor have no wish for anarchy or the imposition of some stringent biblical reconstruction. They merely wish to enjoy those essential things we all aspire to: a full belly, a comfortable home and freedom from financial worry.

To those cretins who proclaim such an idea is socialism, I reply they are too late. Socialism is rife among the fortunate; it is merely those left out who have yet to commit this supposed sin. Is not the greatest act of fairness to now include everyone with income, given that the most criminal among us have already lined their pockets to the point of embarrassment?

If we are headed toward a great conflagration of currency devaluation and hyperinflation, is it not right that the poor finally be allowed to join the bacchanal before its end?

Actually, of this much I am sure: No matter exactly how this country goes down, it will go down never once having given any serious policy thought to the true needs of the least among us. That just isn’t how we roll.

(Also, although I am somewhat sympathetic to my friend’s view of the Occupy movement as it manifested itself today on what was supposed to be a big, national show of strength, I also am somewhat sympathetic to Charlie Pierce’s take: “From the start, I said that the best thing about the Occupy movement was that at least they were yelling at the right buildings. … What I do know is that, if it weren’t for the people in the streets last autumn, the Obama people would be running a very different campaign and Willard Romney wouldn’t look half as ridiculous as he does.”

Thursday, February 2, 2012 8:09 pm

“He captured it in a way that made amnesia no longer an option.”

On the 50th anniversary of the National Book Award for William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, the folks at the Smithsonian remind us not only why the book was so valuable then but also why it is so valuable today.

A lot of people on both sides of the aisle are still trying to argue that amnesia about our own sins is an option. Right now they’re winning, but I’m pretty confident of history’s verdict.

Thursday, October 7, 2010 8:17 pm

“We have always been at war with Eurasia.”

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:17 pm
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Ten years ago today, we invaded Afghanistan.

It’s long past time we came home.

Monday, September 6, 2010 9:48 pm

If you’re concerned about the deficit …

… you might start by worrying about the $1 billion+/year being spent by the Pentagon to convince people here and abroad that our efforts in Afghanistan are succeeding.

Monday, August 9, 2010 9:51 pm

Hey, remember that July 2011 deadline for U.S. forces getting out of Afghanistan?

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 9:51 pm
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Spencer Ackerman is in Afghanistan right now, and he has three words: Nah. Guh. Happen.

What’s going to be interesting is when at least some factions of the nominally independent Afghan government look up from the current military agreement between our two countries and say, “Wait, what? No, dude, it says. Right. Here.: July. 2011.

And by “interesting,” I mean “violent.”

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 7:54 pm

Memo to John Boehner and his batsh*t friends

We need to get the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not need to stay there, let alone raise the retirement age to 70 and cut Social Security benefits to pay for it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010 10:29 pm

Everyone who thinks we need a more cost-effective government can start here

CIA Director Leon Panetta figures it costs us about $1 billion per year to fight al-Qaeda in Afghanistan … per al-Qaeda member.

Someone want to justify this? Because I can’t.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 12:22 am

Eye on the ball

Filed under: Journalism — Lex @ 12:22 am
Tags: , ,

The stink over Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s disparaging remarks about his commander-in-chief remind me of something: that I’m old enough to remember when David Stockman got his education.

I don’t mean his college degree, which he got in 1964 or thereabouts. I mean his experience as Ronald Reagan’s first White House budget director — and with the national media and his fellow Republicans — after he talked to William Greider of The Atlantic, perhaps too candidly, about his work.

What Stockman actually said was almost forgotten immediately. What the press insisted on talking about, to the exclusion of almost everything else, was: What would happen to David Stockman? In particular — and, God, how tired I grew of hearing this phrase — would he be taken to the woodshed? In other words, the most important story in U.S. government for — well, I don’t remember how long, now, because it was almost 30 years ago, and it was probably only days, but it seemed at the time like months — was, “Will some bureaucrat keep his job?”

Not “Is the government doing what it is supposed to?” or “Is the government doing what it’s doing cost-effectively?” or even “Do the people who are running the government know what they are doing?”

No, it was all about David Stockman’s Job.

(And people think TODAY’s news media suck.)

See if you can guess what it was that Stockman said that actually got people all het up in the first place. Go on. If you weren’t there at the time, you’ll never figure it out.

Well, it was this.

The main idea on which Ronald Reagan had campaigned in 1980 — cutting top marginal income tax rates would stimulate business and industry enough to generate a net increase in revenues — was bogus. During the campaign, Stockman said, he’d never believed all that strongly in the idea in the first place, and once he got into the actual business of crafting a budget, he knew it was crap.

Now, a news media that had the first idea of what it was doing might be expected to pounce upon, pursue, expand upon and analyze the idea that the signal piece of ideology behind a president’s historic, overwhelming electoral victory was fraudulent. That, however, was not the news media we had.

Had we had that media, we might have learned much sooner (perhaps even before the 1980 election) what Stockman finally told us in 1986, long after he had left government: The President of the United States didn’t have the first damn idea what he was doing with the budget.

Michael Kinsley summarizes in his New York Times review of the book:

There are repeated scenes of the President sitting in amiable silence through policy discussions until some word or phrase -”Medicare,” perhaps, or ”oil depletion allowance” -sets him off on an anecdote, usually revealing that he has totally misunderstood the preceding conversation. A reference to the Cabinet’s failure to cut personnel costs leads to a long and familiar anecdote about filing cabinets. Senator Bob Dole comes by to plead for cuts in programs other than welfare. Mr. Dole utters the word, ”welfare.” Mr. Stockman thinks, ”I wish he hadn’t said that.” And sure enough, ” ‘Bob’s getting at the same thing we found in California,’ the President observed right on cue. He went on to make a point precisely the opposite of Dole’s.”

Cabinet members take skillful advantage of the Commander in Chief’s capacity for befuddlement. Secretary of Transportation Drew Lewis convinces him that quotas on Japanese cars are not a violation of free trade because Government regulations have hampered American producers. (Japanese cars must meet the same regulations, of course.) Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger shows up for a meeting intended to settle whether the defense buildup should be $1.46 trillion over five years or only $1.33 trillion. His chief prop is a cartoon of three soldiers – one, a pygmy without a rifle, representing the Carter budget; one, ”a four-eyed wimp . . . carrying a tiny rifle,” representing $1.33 trillion, Mr. Stockman’s defense budget; and one, ”G.I. Joe himself . . . all decked out in helmet and flak jacket and pointing an M-60 machine gun,” representing $1.46 trillion. This is how Presidential decisions are made.

This information would have been helpful to know in real time. It certainly would have been helpful to know before the 1984 election, although I doubt it would have made any difference.

I tell this story because we’re in a similar situation with McChrystal and his disrespectful staff: we’re focusing on whether one guy will keep his job.

In fact, he probably should have lost it long ago:

After Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former-NFL-star-turned-Ranger, was accidentally killed by his own troops in Afghanistan in April 2004, McChrystal took an active role in creating the impression that Tillman had died at the hands of Taliban fighters. He signed off on a falsified recommendation for a Silver Star that suggested Tillman had been killed by enemy fire. (McChrystal would later claim he didn’t read the recommendation closely enough – a strange excuse for a commander known for his laserlike attention to minute details.) A week later, McChrystal sent a memo up the chain of command, specifically warning that President Bush should avoid mentioning the cause of Tillman’s death. “If the circumstances of Corporal Tillman’s death become public,” he wrote, it could cause “public embarrassment” for the president.

“The false narrative, which McChrystal clearly helped construct, diminished Pat’s true actions,” wrote Tillman’s mother, Mary, in her book Boots on the Ground by Dusk. McChrystal got away with it, she added, because he was the “golden boy” of Rumsfeld and Bush, who loved his willingness to get things done, even if it included bending the rules or skipping the chain of command. Nine days after Tillman’s death, McChrystal was promoted to major general.

Two years later, in 2006, McChrystal was tainted by a scandal involving detainee abuse and torture at Camp Nama in Iraq. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, prisoners at the camp were subjected to a now-familiar litany of abuse: stress positions, being dragged naked through the mud. McChrystal was not disciplined in the scandal, even though an interrogator at the camp reported seeing him inspect the prison multiple times.

As the article points out — and unwittingly illustrates — McChrystal has been a media favorite, for reasons probably only a forensic psychiatrist could explain: Even while writing an article that exposes McChrystal, Michael Hastings says the Tillman scandal “would have destroyed the career of a lesser man” (emphasis added).

Well, should McChrystal lose his job? Probably, for two reasons: 1) Active-duty service members, who matter who they are, are forbidden from publicly criticizing the commander-in-chief, no matter who he/she is. 2) This isn’t McChrystal’s first such mistake. He publicly criticized the counterinsurgency plan for Afghanistan developed by Vice President Joe Biden — who, like him or not (and I think he’s kind of an ass), has a lot more foreign-policy experience than McChrystal does. Not to say that McChrystal is bad at what he does. Quite the opposite. But what he does, or has done, mainly, is black ops, which is, at best, one tool among many in a comprehensive counterinsurgency program and at worst just flat illegal.

But to focus only on McChrystal’s insubordination is to miss a much bigger picture: McChrystal’s — this country’s — counterinsurgency strategy is failing in Afghanistan. In all fairness, that’s not for lack of trying on McChrystal’s part:

McChrystal has issued some of the strictest directives to avoid civilian casualties that the U.S. military has ever encountered in a war zone. It’s “insurgent math,” as he calls it – for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies. He has ordered convoys to curtail their reckless driving, put restrictions on the use of air power and severely limited night raids. He regularly apologizes to Hamid Karzai when civilians are killed, and berates commanders responsible for civilian deaths. “For a while,” says one U.S. official, “the most dangerous place to be in Afghanistan was in front of McChrystal after a ‘civ cas’ incident.” The ISAF command has even discussed ways to make not killing into something you can win an award for: There’s talk of creating a new medal for “courageous restraint,” a buzzword that’s unlikely to gain much traction in the gung-ho culture of the U.S. military.

In fact, the response from his command has been even more negative:

Being told to hold their fire, soldiers complain, puts them in greater danger. “Bottom line?” says a former Special Forces operator who has spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I would love to kick McChrystal in the nuts. His rules of engagement put soldiers’ lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the same thing.”

And if the U.S. were winning hearts and minds, perhaps — perhaps — the U.S. casualties might be worth it. But that isn’t happening:

In the first four months of this year, NATO forces killed some 90 civilians, up 76 percent from the same period in 2009 – a record that has created tremendous resentment among the very population that COIN [counterinsurgency] theory is intent on winning over. In February, a Special Forces night raid ended in the deaths of two pregnant Afghan women and allegations of a cover-up, and in April, protests erupted in Kandahar after U.S. forces accidentally shot up a bus, killing five Afghans. “We’ve shot an amazing number of people,” McChrystal recently conceded.

We’ve been in Afghanistan longer than in any other war. The person whom we went to war to get, Osama bin Laden, is still alive and not even in the country anymore. The best minds in U.S. counterinsurgency have been set on the problem of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and have come up dry. McChrystal is failing. The U.S. military effort in Afghanistan is failing. It is time to bring the troops home.

That is the fact that matters most. Whether or not Stanley McChrystal gets to keep his job or retire with the thanks of a grateful nation, while certainly important to Stanley McChrystal and those who love him and work with him, is not, ultimately, an important national concern.

The media couldn’t keep their eye on the ball in the David Stockman case in 1981. They won’t keep their eye on the ball this time. And more people, American and Afghan alike, will die unnecessarily because of it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 10:40 pm

When I called the war in Afghanistan “the longest war” …

… looks like I was more right than I knew.

I snarked that there was no way the copper, gold, lithium, etc., supposedly in Afghanistan was “newly discovered.” But what I didn’t think about was why The New York Times might pimp a decades-old story now.

Because the war in Afghanistan is shaping up as a failure and our deadline for withdrawing arrives within a year. Duh:

… guaranteed U.S. access to “strategic reserves” of “strategic minerals”, where possession is nine tenths of the game and the resources are just as valuable still in the ground as mined and processed for market, is a heady brew to mostly-hawkish senior policymakers and Very Serious think-tankers, especially if the end of the sentence goes “and China doesn’t get them.” [New York Times reporter James] Risen’s stenography isn’t aimed at us, but at them and will be used to add some geopolitical weight to the arguments McChrystal and others are already beginning to make as to why they should be allowed to break their promise to Obama and the U.S. should stay in Afghanistan a few years longer.

The people jumping up and down, screaming, “We’ve got to DO something before the ChiNEEEEESE get all the precious!”  are some of the same people who lied us into a war. Of course they would pull a stunt like this, and I’m ashamed that I didn’t jump immediately to that conclusion or one very much like it.

UPDATE: Oh, for crying out loud, Risen even admits it:

“Several months ago, Milt [former CIA officer Milt Bearden, who was active in Afghanistan in the 1980s] started telling me about what they were finding,” Risen said. “At the beginning of the year, I said I wanted to do a story on it.” At first both Bearden and Brinkley [Paul Brinkley, a deputy undersecretary of defense charged with rebuilding the Afghan economy, with whom Bearden is now working] resisted, Risen said, but he eventually wore them down. “Milt convinced Brinkley to talk to me,” he said, “and Brinkley convinced other Pentagon officials to go on the record. I think Milt realized that things were going so badly in Afghanistan that people would be willing to talk about this.”

Memo to the New York Times ombudsman: Having a Times staff writer pimping an exploitative pro-war policy (which, by the way, would violate a military agreement between the U.S. and another sovereign nation) to the Very Serious People of Washington is a wee bit of an ethics problem. Particularly when that war is going badly. Just sayin’.

Monday, June 14, 2010 8:46 pm

The longest war; or, OK, technically I guess it WASN’T about oil. It was about iron, gold, copper, lithium …

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 8:46 pm
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And I guess now we know why:

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

A couple of thoughts:

  • Anything that provides Afghanistan’s people a viable alternative to growing opium = good.
  • It’s a lot easier to minimize the environmental insult of extraction industries by planning to do so from the beginning than it is to go back and mitigate damage already done. This fact will be ignored in the impending gold (copper/cobalt/lithium) rush.
  • Everyone who thinks these deposits really were “recently” discovered and “previously unknown,” c’mere — I’ve got some BP stock to sell you.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010 5:55 am

Where empires go to die

So this weekend, we passed two sad milestones: the 1000th death of a U.S. servicemember in the Afghanistan war and $1 trillion spent on OEF/OIF. This coming weekend, we will have been in Afghanistan for 104 months, making it the longest war in U.S. history (Vietnam was 103).

We need to get the hell out of both Iraq and Afghanistan. We are not winning, we are not preventing terrorism, we are not doing anything but alienating the civilians, creating new terrorists and destroying our own economy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:30 am

Good, but not pleasing, to know

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 10:30 am
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Via Spencer, David Zucchino of the LA Times explains the various competing tensions that U.S. junior officers and NCOs have to weigh as they try to bring peace to the Kandahar region. Once again I honor and appreciate their service … and resent the people whose decisions have made it necessary for them to be there in that situation the first place.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:22 pm

Mission accomplished

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 10:22 pm
Tags: , ,

Remember how bin Laden said he planned to bankrupt America?

It’s working.

Saturday, February 13, 2010 11:18 pm

Your tax dollars at work; or, The fun never ends with these people

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 11:18 pm
Tags: ,

Blackwater-trained Afghans are defecting to the Taliban. Can we just shut the company down and confiscate all the assets of the corporation and its officers and directors, please? Maybe we can use the money for the education of the survivors of U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan/Iraq.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 11:06 pm

Odds and ends for 1/27

And people think I’m crazy for suggesting that Obama is as bad as Bush: Marcy flags something that the Washington Post’s Dana Priest wrote down but apparently failed to grasp the significance of: “Somewhere there’s a list of Americans who, the President has determined, can be killed [by their own government] with no due process.” OK, I’ll say it: Impeach him. I’m dead serious. Because if what Priest reports is true, the president has illegally and extraconstitutionally conspired to commit murder.

Think George W. Bush will watch on teevee?: Britain’s former prime minister Tony Blair testifies Friday in the inquiry into that country’s decision to join the war in Iraq. Even if he escapes indictment — and that is far from certain — Blair’s place in British history appears sure to fall into the Brit equivalent of Warren Harding country.

Cue ominous music: The SEC voted 4-1 today to suspend automatic redemptions from money-market funds. People who value these investments for their liquidity now have no reason to value them. Let the stampede begin. What’s the larger meaning? I have no idea, but I’m about 98% sure it ain’t good.

The banksters screw us again: Citi temporarily tamped down some of the criticism of its big bonuses by announcing that every part of anyone’s bonus over $100,000 would be paid in stock, not cash. The idea is, you tie employees in to the company’s goal of long-term growth and profitability. Which would be great if the stock weren’t redeemable for a couple or three years. But this stock? Will be redeemable in April. As stock bonuses go, that’s practically cash.

How the banksters screwed us the first time: The so-called “Schedule A,” the list of crap mortgage-backed securities that the New York Fed took off AIG’s hands at 100 cents on the dollar when they were actually worth around half that, has finally been made public. Not sure exactly what it will mean, but inasmuch as the NYFRB tried to keep this list secret until 2018, you can be reasonably sure it’s nothing good.

Smoking gun: Goldman Sachs could and should have had to eat some of its bad investments in 2008, but the New York Fed let it off the hook, documents show. That’s the same New York Fed then run by our current SecTreas, who REALLY needs to be returned to the private sector posthaste. Oh, wait: He has been a “public servant” his whole life. Well, that’s OK. After what he appears to have done for Goldman, they should pay him a princely sum for life and not even require him to show up for work. Then they’d have a slight taste of how we taxpayers feel, except for the part where they NEVER ACTUALLY DID ANYTHING FOR US, not that I am bitter.

Cops bumping into each other: Joining the House Oversight Committee in looking into the New York Fed’s bailout of Goldman Sachs and AIG is Neil Barofsky, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as the bank bailout program, who testified today before Congress.

Oh, and lookee what Mr. Barofsky had to say: “According to these [Federal Reserve Bank of New York] executives, then-President [Tim] Geithner ‘acquiesced’ to the executive’s proposal. When asked by [Barofsky's office]  if the executives felt they had received their ‘marching orders’ from then-FRBNY President Geithner to pay the counterparties par [instead of the roughly 48 cents on the dollar they actually were worth], one FRBNY official responded ‘yes, absolutely.'” But … but … Geithner and the White House both say Geithner wasn’t involved in the decision to screw taxpayers by paying AIG customers (including Goldman Sachs) more than they should have. So somebody’s lying. And Barofsky’s the one under oath.

And the hits just keep on coming: A report from Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, nails Tim Geithner’s butt to the wall.

Memo to commenters on this article: Genocide is not a contest. There is no prize.

If Steven Pearlstein were president, he’d say the state of the union sucks.

Mixed blessing: In his article “Appalled in Greenwich Connecticut [sic],” downloadable (.pdf) from his site StumblingonTruth.com, Clifford Asness of AQR Capital Management, whom I have not read before, combines grossly unfortunate metaphor (“Unfortunately for this President, he will, I hope, find the financial community not cowering from his Cossacks on a shtetl in the Pale of Settlement (Greenwich, CT), but meeting his accusations with logic and patriotism.”) with both an entitlement mentality AND common sense (“So, how do you fix too-big-to-fail? Well, this is complicated, give me a moment. I got it. You let them fail.”). For a quant, he manipulates words real purty. I may return.

The problem with cutting Medicare and Medicaid: Abe Sauer explains.

Tax the rich! Tax the rich! Oregon’s doing it. Sort of. A little. For the first time in 80 years. But the media is all Scott “Our Next President” Brown, so if you don’t hear about this, that’s why.

Wrong AND lame: President Obama’s proposed 3-year freeze on domestic discretionary spending is not only exactly not what the economy needs in a time of depressed consumer demand, it’s also almost meaningless in its effects on the budget deficit, given that it doesn’t affect big-ticket items like defense, wars, interest on the national debt or entitlements. It’s one more example of trying to appear to people who believe you incapable of doing the right thing that you’re doing the right thing. You will never win those people over, so you ought to just go ahead and do the right thing. Simpler. More effective. Pisses off the people who are wrong. Everyone’s a winner.

Rhodes Scholar tackles spending freeze, president loses.

Related: A roundup of amusing reactions to the quote freeze unquote.

And if you want to look for budget savings, here’s a suggestion. Even George W. Bush’s last Defense Secretary thinks we’re spending too much on defense, and spending it the wrong way. Observes Spencer Ackerman, who covers this stuff for a living, “Everyone in Washington who studies the Pentagon budget quickly finds gobs and gobs of wasteful spending. Not some people. Not dirty hippies. Every. Single. Defense. Analyst.”

Can we like ACORN again? Reminder: O’Keefe’s videotapes were doctored. And August J. Pollak’s commentary on the case is short enough and good enough for you to hie thee hence and read it in its entirety. Go on. I’ll wait.

(pause)

Oh, good, you’re back. Moving on, then …

Conflict of interest: Tyler Durden points out reason to believe that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a quite personal reason for wanting to see Bumbling Ben Bernanke reconfirmed as Fed chairman as early as Thursday.

Whoops! Not so fast, there, Fast Harry: Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., claims to have documents showing that Bernanke overruled his advisers in approving the AIG bailout. And here we thought Harry Reid was just venal. Y’know, nothing is becoming Jim Bunning’s Senate career like his leaving of it. Maybe the old guy is going senile, but he’s actually, at long last, acting in the public interest here. Or maybe he just hates Democrats. Either works for me.

Hard cases make bad law, and this hard case has led a judge to make some awful case law.

You might want to put down the knife, Ms. Quinn, because the Secret Service does NOT mess around: Obama has been advised to make sure the bunny is secure. Commenter El Cid at Balloon Juice adds, “I think it’s kind of funny that Sally Quinn goes to the trouble of asking her readers to ‘indulge [her] for a moment’, as if that woman spends the tiniest femtosecond of her life not being indulged.” And this would be funny if every other Washington journalist weren’t just like her.

The teabaggers are “good Republicans even if they don’t know it.” That’s about the best description I’ve seen.

Speaking of good Republicans, the ones doing PR for the party are just top-notch: The GOP response to the State of the Union tonight was given in — I am not making this up — the hall where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated.

The public option: C’est popular. Corporations: pas tellement: In a Research 2000 poll in 10 swing congressional districts whose seats are currently held by Democrats, a majority of Republicans favor a public option, and a plurality of Republicans, 43%, say Democrats need to do more to fight big corporations.  In the single N.C. district polled, Larry Kissell’s NC-08, voters overall favor a public option by 73% to 16%, with 11% undecided, and a 59% majority of voters, the biggest majority of any of the 10 districts, said Democrats need to do more to fight big corporations. It’d be interesting to see the results if the vague “big corporations” was changed to “banks” or “health-insurance companies” or both.

Against it for all the wrong reasons: Polling ace Nate Silver points out that part of the reason health-care reform isn’t polling as well as its supporters wish is that sizable chunks of the population believe (bad) things about the bill that are objectively untrue.

Why wouldn’t a combination of high-deductible health-insurance plans and Health Savings Accounts fix the problem? That’s pretty much the question one of my cousins asked me in an e-mail the other day. Well, Nancy, here’s your answer.

It would be funny if these people didn’t effectively control the entire U.S. school textbook market: The Texas Board of Education [sic] bans Bill Martin Jr.’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? from its third-grade reading list after confusing its author with that of the book Ethical Marxism.

Afghanistan Fail: The guy who once held Stanley McChrystal’s job running the U.S. military in Afghanistan and is now ambassador to Afghanistan says McChrystal’s anti-insurgency effort in Afghanistan is doomed.

Good news, for a change, for vets: Iraq and Afghanistan vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder but denied monthly disability benefits from the VA can join a class-action lawsuit to get their disability ratings increased to the level required by law, which will make them eligible for benefits. The relevant law was quite clear on what disability rating vets with PTSD are supposed to be assigned, so the fact that someone even had to sue over the issue is a disgrace and an outrage.

CBS: Morons: They won’t let people run factual advertisements about George W. Bush’s war crimes, but they’ll let Christianist wingnuts Focus on the Family run a forced-pregnancy ad during the Super Bowl. I think maybe I’ll just skip the game, then — all the best parts (i.e., the other commercials) will be on YouTube next day anyway. Also, I hope all the fans of Tim Tebow, who’ll star in the commercial, read this. The money quote comes from “an NFC South talent evaluator” who is most likely with the Bucs, since the Saints and Falcons are fixed for starting QBs and the Panthers have neither the money nor the draft pick to go after a potential first-round QB.

Don’t don’t-ask-don’t-tell: That well known military-hater, retired Gen. John Shalikashvili, who implemented “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says it’s time to repeal the military’s ban on openly gay people. I’d say that time actually was 1775, but I’m happy to welcome J-Shal to the bandwagon.

The lessons of Stuyvesant Town: But by all means, let’s re-confirm Ben Bernanke. Jesus wept.

Rush Limbaugh confesses that he AND the world would be better off if he killed himself: Only on The Onion, unfortunately.

Why Howard Zinn and not Rush Limbaugh?: Zinn, who came up with the radical idea that the history of a democracy shouldn’t be by and for aristocrats only, is dead at 87.

Would it be irresponsible to speculate that since he’s getting a divorce, Karl Rove is now free to woo and wed Jeff Gannon? It would be irresponsible not to.

OK, this is just weird:

You’re looking at the performance of Apple stock earlier today. That big dip came right around the announcement of the iPad. I’m not sure what it means, but I’m pretty sure it ain’t what the Apple board expected.

Best. Apple. Humor. Ever.: The Wikipedia Entry for the iPad (until today): “iPad was a prototype for a feminine hygiene product that purported to digitize a woman’s menstruation cycle and store it on a password-protected Web server.[1]“ More iPad humor here, but guys may want to give it a miss.

Keith Richards, sober? Because he was so upset by how hard Ron Wood fell off the wagon? I think The Awl says it all: “If Keith Richards stops drinking because he thinks you have a problem, well, you have a problem.”

This cannot possibly end well: George Lucas is producing a computer-animated musical.

And you thought Blog on the Run was minor-league: I’ll have you know this blog has just 35 fewer paying customers than Newsday.com, so there. And that’s after spending $4 million less on my site design than Newsday spent on theirs!

And you thought my carpal-tunnel syndrome happened because I type a lot.

How Japan intends to win the World Cup (this one goes out to my friend Beau):

(Note that the numbers on the radar are kph, not mph.)

And, finally, things journalists should know about polls:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 10:20 pm

Odds and ends for 1/20

Guantanamo homicides update: Col. Michael Bumgarner, the officer at the center of Scott Horton’s article in Harper’s about the “suicides” of three Guantanamo detainees on the night of June 9, 2006, issues a non-denial denial, including denying ever knowing the same witness whose Army Commendation Medal certificate he had signed less than three weeks before the deaths. If that’s the best he can do to cover something up, he’d better get a lawyer.

And speaking of homicides, a memo to the president: Inviting Rick Warren to pray around your inaugural, misguided as it was, is one thing. But attending an event sponsored by the Christofascist anticonstitutionalists The Family is just ridiculous. And sitting down to eat At. A. Freakin’. PRAYER BREAKFAST with a guy who is trying to legislate homicide (a fact that the article in the Ugandan paper, whose Web site claims it offers “truth every day,” conveniently forgot to mention)? Completely, flatly, absolutely unacceptable.

What you don’t know can hurt you: Did you know that the EPA has not banned asbestos despite its clear causal relationship to lung cancer? Did you know that it can’t? I didn’t. But apparently the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act makes it impossible. Fortunately, some changes to the law — which endangers the health of not only consumers and chemical workers but also the medical personnel who treat the latter — are in the works.

Things you should know about Afghanistan: Bribery is 23% of GDP, and the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says that about three-fourths of its investigations involve at least one Westerner.

Things you should know about banks, courtesy of David Stockman, once Ronald Reagan’s budget director: “The baleful reality is that the big banks, the freakish offspring of the Fed’s easy money, are dangerous institutions, deeply embedded in a bull market culture of entitlement and greed. This is why the Obama tax is welcome: its underlying policy message is that big banking must get smaller because it does too little that is useful, productive or efficient.”

Things you should know about the fault line that caused the Haiti earthquake, particularly if you live in the Dominican Republic: “It is important that the world takes [Purdue seismologist Eric] Calais’ warning about the Septentrional Fault, with a great deal of Urgency. The fault, which runs through the Northern Dominican Republic is due for a quake even larger than that which occurred in Haiti. The Dominican Republic should learn all that it can from Haiti’s experience, as they are proverbially walking down a geological hallway with a large kick me sign affixed to their back.” With very cool, very scary maps.

Professionals face the threat of the amateur: This article focuses specifically on certain types of musicians, but it makes clear that the boundary delineating amateur from professional is growing thinner and grayer in a wide range of areas (including my former bidness, journalism). This tension has been manifest since the medieval rise of craft guilds and informs today everything from blogging to labor law.

And bloggers are killing journalism: Jeffrey Birnbaum, a journalist who has done more to expose the malignant effect of lobbyists on Congress than perhaps any other, is leaving journalism to become a lobbyist. This is not unlike the Mafia luring away the nation’s best FBI agent. Actually, it’s worse: Lobbyists are a bigger plague on society than the Mafia in terms of dollar value of the damage they cause, and there were already far fewer journalists of Birnbaum’s caliber and expertise than there are FBI agents. Sigh.

Opposition to gay marriage faces the threat of the McCains: Sen. John McCain’s wife Cindy has joined the “NoH8″ campaign in California to repeal Prop 8, which banned gay marriage. (Their daughter Meghan joined last summer.) Good for her.

Interesting poll results you probably haven’t seen on TV: By a 3-2 margin, people who voted for Obama in 2008 AND who voted for Republican Scott Brown in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts oppose the current health-care bill — not because it goes too far, but because it doesn’t go far enough.

Marrying insight and brevity, Brad at Sadly, No! sums up the meaning of Tuesday’s election: “People will support you if they see that you’re making their lives better. If you don’t do that, then they’ll get [angry] and vote for whatever else is around. And guess what? ‘Whatever else is around’ is, sadly, the [expletive] GOP.”

And after Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing corporate contributions to politicians, the U.S. will look like Italy: Italian lawmakers have preliminarily approved a bill that would retroactively limit the length of criminal trials, which would have the entirely incidental and coincidental (I’m sure) effect of making pending corruption and tax fraud charges against prime minister Silvio Berluscone just … go away.

Great moments in editing, via my friend Alex Johnson at MSNBC.

And, finally, the Quote of the Day, from Jon Walker — it’s long, so I put it at the end:

Let me put this as simply as possible. Democrats control everything in Washington right now [except SCOTUS, but for legislative purposes, yeah -- Lex]. They control the White House. They have huge margins in the House and in the Senate. Democrats have larger margins in both chambers than any party has had for decades. They have zero excuses for failing to deliver. Americans will not find some nonsense about having only 59 Senate seats as an acceptable excuse for failing to accomplish anything. If Democrats think they can win in 2010 by running against Republican obstructionism, they will lose badly.

Not only will Democrats lose badly if they adopt this strategy, but they will be laughed at. Republicans never had 59 Senate seats, and that did not stop them from passing the legislation they wanted. Trying to explain to the American people how, despite controlling everything, Democrats cannot do anything, because a mean minority of 41 Republican senators won’t let them, is a message that will go over like a lead balloon. If you try to use that excuse, people will think elected Democrats are liars, wimps, idiots, or an ineffectual combination of all three.

Monday, January 11, 2010 10:55 pm

Odds and ends for 1/11

U.S. v. terror: Conviction rate in civilian courts? 88%. Conviction rate in military tribunals? 15%. So someone explain to me again why Dick and Liz Cheney are still getting airtime?

Harry Reid v. Trent Lott: To elaborate a bit on a comment discussion Fred and I had in a previous thread: What Harry Reid said about Obama was grossly awkward and inept, but he said it in a context of praising Obama. What Lott said, on the other hand, was praising a segregationist. These two things are not logically, linguistically or morally equivalent.

Guantanamo v. the Constitution: Those party animals at McClatchy News Service have served up a pyrotechnic package of print (with a whole bunch o’ Web stuff, too, including source documents) in observance of the eighth anniversary of the incarceration of the first terrorism suspects at Gitmo. The series touches on subjects ranging from holding, and torturing, innocent people to the Taliban’s influence within the prison (yeah, you read that right).

Generation R(ecession) v. the economy: Newsweek’s Rana Foroohar notes some interesting characteristics of people who come of age in bad economic times. Unfortunately, notes Chris Lehmann at The Awl, she draws some of the wrong conclusions.

Afghans v. everybody else: Incredibly mixed findings in this ABC News poll from Afghanistan. They hate both us and the Taliban. They almost unanimously think their government is corrupt, but they actually support President Hamid Karzai more than they used to. And they’re about evenly divided over whether civilian deaths are more NATO’s fault or more the insurgents’ fault for mingling with civilians.

Matt Labash v. perspective women: In his feature “Ask Matt Labash” on Tucker Carlson’s new anti-Huffington Post, the Daily Caller, Matt Labash calls red-light cameras “legalized rape” and calls Rachel Maddow “the sexiest man alive.” Way to court those swing voters, guys.

Dylan Ratigan v. Geithner: The MSNBC reporter/anchor is starting to carve pieces out of SecTreas Tim Geithner’s hide, and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy not named Bush, Cheney or Rove.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger: Gay marriage on trial — literally: The lawsuit Perry v. Schwarzenegger went to trial today in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. At issue is the constitutionality of Proposition 8, enacted last year by referendum to deny the right of marriage to couples of the same sex in Cali. Expected to last about 3 weeks — with the case likely to end up before the Supreme Court no matter who wins. Your all-purpose source for trial info is here, and if the opening arguments are any indication — which they may or may not be — gay-marriage proponents are headed for a big win.

The perfect v. the very good: Actually, the U.S. health-care debate is now more like the acceptable (if you drop the Stupak amendment) v. the bad, and the bad is winning.

Law enforcement v. the drug war: A lot of former cops, judges and prosecutors have endorsed legalizing marijuana in California, where a legislative committee is scheduled to vote on just that next week. Whether the full legislature passes the bill may be immaterial, though; an initiative to regulate and tax pot is on the November ballot and expected to pass.

Congresscritters v. reality: About six in 10 Americans say terrorists probably will find some way to strike us again. Unfortunately, that’s probably correct, but you wouldn’t know it to listen to some of the Congressional Republicans who are suggesting that 1) we should all be peeing in our pants over the guy who nearly set his crotch on fire and 2) that if you torture enough people and bomb enough civilians, all terror can be prevented.

Time v. knowledge: I am shocked, shocked to learn just how many Balloon Juice commenters did not know that the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.

It’s like Vegas: What happens on Facebook stays on Facebook. Forever.

There an app for your cheapo phone if you’re a student at UNC-Wilmington, where a couple of people set out to create useful apps for the 88% of us who can’t afford smartphones.

Shorter Jonathan Alter: Clap louder and the Democrats will be fine in 2010.

Best SEC comment letter EVER: (h/t Zero Hedge)

Saturday, January 9, 2010 11:07 pm

Odds and ends for 1/9

Roger Ailes: drama queen. Dude, the Islamicist terrorists of the world are not out to get you because the Islamcist terrorists of the world, by and large, have no freakin’ idea who you are.

Charles Murray, shorter: Man, there are a lot of black people in Paris.

Dick Cheney sure looks funny with that second southern orifice, thoughtfully torn for him by Phoenix Woman at Firedoglake.

Because everything else they’ve touched has worked out so well: Blackwater is a contender for the contract to train the Afghan national police force — and wants a cool billion for the job.

Speaking of Afghanistan, we’re out of our depth there from an intelligence standpoint (witness the CIA deaths at Forward Operating Base Chapman), and the general who wrote the report with that conclusion leaked it because apparently his superiors were ignoring him. But the surge will make everything peachy!

Sunday, December 20, 2009 11:28 pm

Odds and ends for 12/20

How do you surge?: McClatchy’s Nancy Youssef talks about some of the logistics issues, primarily the strain being put on facilities at Bagram and Kandahar that were never meant to handle as much as they’re handling now, let alone what they’ll be asked to handle as the surge begins. One issue among many: sewage. Ew.

Poetry corner: “Joezymandias”

Worst ideas of the decade, per the WaPo. Ed adds Invading Iraq without a Plan, Market Worship, and Vampire Saturation. I think Vampire Saturation wasn’t an idea so much as something that just sort of happened. However, I think a Zombie Apocalypse is a fabulous idea, and I’ll keep you posted as to my progress in that regard.

Best U.S. political analysis by someone too young to remember Nixon and too drunk to make sense, from commenter R-Jud at Balloon Juice: “To answer the question, ‘Were people this stupid before Nixon?': of course. They just didn’t have a huge, completely subservient, instantaneous multimedia complex capable of giving them airspace or feeding them the latest catchphrases. Another thought: you could say that the people cynically manipulating the crazies, as Nixon did, have died off or faded away over the last 40 years, and in their place we’ve been electing a bunch of the true-believing crazies, who’ve grown up on the Republican groupthink their entire lives. The crazy just keeps boiling down and down to its pure essence.”

Oh, is THAT all?: I blogged on the day it happened that the Supremes had refused to grant cert in Rasul et al. v. Myers et al., in which some Guantanamo detainees had sued Donald Rumsfeld and 10 military officials for having been tortured. At the time, I was hoping that SCOTUSblog, usually the go-to source for interpretation and analysis of high-court decisions, would fill in the contextual gap. As of this writing, that hasn’t happened. But the detainees’ attorneys — who, to state the obvious, have an interest — and Empire Burlesque say the Supremes, agreeing with the Obama Justice Department, which, unconscionably, agreed with the Bush Justice Department before it, have effectively decided that military detainees abroad “are not persons” and therefore “have no right not to be tortured.” Now, aren’t you glad you voted for change?

Before you praise Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., as a “fiscal conservative,” note this.

“I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier”: Way-cool video from Airventure 2009, to the tune of The Killers’ “All These Things I’ve Done” (h/t: Fred):

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 10:56 pm

Odds and ends for 12/16

Like Willie Sutton said, you rob banks because that’s where the money is: And if you want to cut the deficit, you also go where the money is:

Health-care reform: Nate Silver has 20 questions for people who want to kill the health-care bill, and Jon Walker has 20 answers. Go read this. Seriously, right now. I’ll wait. Because this might be the best combination of comprehensive and clear that you’ll find on whether or not the current Senate bill deserves to live. Kudos to both bloggers.

Glenn Greenwald says Obama is getting the health-care bill he really wanted. I find it hard to disagree.

But it isn’t the health-care bill WE wanted: 63% of Americans say they wanted Medicare expanded to cover 55- to 64-year-olds; only 33% disagree.

It isn’t the health-care bill doctors wanted, either: UC-San Francisco physicians explain, among other things, why the patents-forever provision is such as bad idea.

Indeed, health-care reform is JUST LIKE the Holocaust: Hey, if Laura Ingraham says it, it must be true, right?

Matthew Yglesias on Time magazine’s choice of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke as Person of the Year, for the win: “[I]t demonstrates a very specific class skew — extraordinary intervention into the market place just long enough to fix the situation from the point of view of asset-owners while leaving wage-earners holding the bag. But the owners and managers and editors of Time Magazine and the companies that advertise in it probably don’t care so much about that.”

What could possibly go wrong?: Western military leaders are seeking additional support in Afghanistan from … wait for it … Russia.

But … but … but … Republicans believe global warming is a myth!: A poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds Democrats significantly more likely than Republicans to have visited a fortuneteller or to claim to have seen ghosts or talked to the dead. (Interestingly, whites, blacks and Hispanics all reported having seen ghosts at about the same rate.)

“One more such victory and we are ruined”: The Pentagon actually wins a Gitmo detainee’s habeas-corpus case … but comes out looking like dirt.

And the fun doesn’t stop with health care: John Cole of Balloon Juice observes, “The best thing about health care reform is that it is a primer for Banking and Financial Regulation. We get to look forward to watching the House bill get neutered down by the conservadems, the GOP will be aligned in unison with industry against, and then when the final bill is not up to Howard Dean’s standards, the progressives can sink it because it isn’t good enough, and noted liberals like Tom Harkin, Ron Wyden, and Russ Feingold will be labeled sellouts to the cause just like they were with health care. Also, I’m sure this will all be Rahm’s fault.”

John Cole was right: Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., indeed is getting ready to screw us over some more on bank bailouts. His 2010 re-election already is in serious jeopardy. Good.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009 9:19 pm

Odds and ends for 12/8

No place like home: The military had hoped to increase “dwell time” — time service members spend stateside between overseas deployments — from the current one year for every year overseas to two years. But with the surge in Afghanistan, that probably ain’t gonna happen, and the media, with the exception of the noted military-hater Rachel Maddow, hasn’t said much about it.

Waste of electrons: There’s a thread over at EW.com about whether the relationship in the “Twilight” series between Edward and Bella is abusive. It has stretched to something like 900 comments. Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t the whole notion of “abusive relationships” in the context of fictional vampires a joke? In fact, doesn’t it trivialize a decidedly nontrivial subject? Oh, hell, is there any chance I’ll get those brain cells back?

Throwing tomatoes at Sarah Palin is wrong. One should throw substantive questions at her instead. They’d hurt more.

At least they hired an expert: Jonah Goldberg has gotten a million-dollar advance to write a book, The Tyranny of Cliches.

“I had … an unequaled tolerance for squalor”: A first-person account of living in a van while a grad student at Duke, to avoid student-loan debt.

Excellent idea, way overdue: N.C. Medical Board posts expanded information on 35,000 physicians and PAs, including disciplinary actions and other embarrassing info the public needs.

This isn’t an Internet meme, but it should be: “My God, what a stupid premise.”

But climate science is a fraud!: Andrew Malcolm compares polls that actually ask two different questions.

But they’re “community organizers,” so let’s take their money away: An investigator finds that “in fact, there is no evidence that action, illegal or otherwise, was taken by any ACORN employee on behalf of the videographers” and that videotapes of ACORN employees “appear to have been edited, in some cases substantially, including the insertion of a substitute voiceover for significant portions of Mr. O’Keefe’s and Ms. Giles’s comments, which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding.” Color me shocked.

The real ACORN takeaway: In light of Jon Stewart’s earlier takedown of ACORN, commenter Waynski at Balloon Juice observes: “It’s a sad comment on the state of our media that we’re now looking for journalistic standards in the fake news guy, because he’s the only one who comes close to having any in the first place.”

Meet the new boss: The flawed, conflict-riddled system of rating securities, which contributed so much to our current economic unpleasantness, isn’t going to be changed much. Goody. I’m gonna invest in a mattress in which to put what little remains of my retirement savings.

Thursday, December 3, 2009 9:15 pm

Odds and ends for 12/3

With friends like these: Iraqi lawyer helps U.S., gets tortured by Iraqis for his trouble and now is suing U.S. for $200MM for trying to murder him.

With friends like these, cont.: Someone else unhappy with U.S. conduct in Iraq — the head of Blackwater (now Xe), Erik Prince.

Women’s rights: I wouldn’t say I expect to enjoy reading this book, but I’m looking forward to it. Nick Kristoff can be an insufferable ass sometimes, but on this issue he is doing God’s work and has been for a long time. (h/t: Janice)

Reality check: Who are we, Zbigniew Brzezinski asks, to criticize Afghanistan about government corruption? “Americans, of course, hate hypocrisy,” the LA Times’ Andrew Malcolm observes, “by everyone else.”

Elizabeth Warren for president: “America today has plenty of rich and super-rich. But it has far more families who did all the right things, but who still have no real security.”

The Republicans have a plan for health-care reform: Prevent it by any means necessary.

They also have a plan for fixing the deficit: killing Social Security and Medicare. Actually, that’s backward. It’s not that they want to kill SocSec/Medicare to fix the deficit. It’s that they’re making a big deal about fixing the deficit (now; not so much when it was Bush’s deficit) because that’s a plausible excuse for what they really want to do, which is pulling the New Deal and Great Society up out of our culture by the roots. Unfortunately, they lack the intellectual integrity to say so forthrightly. When they did say so forthrightly, about Social Security, in 2005, they got their heads handed to them.

Call this bluff: The banksters at Royal Bank of Scotland, which got the world’s largest bailout, say they’ll quit if they don’t get their bonuses. Don’t let the door hit you in the bum as you leave, tools.

Dylan Ratigan FTW: Reject Bernanke. He started the damn fire.

Shorter Jonathan Weil: FDIC, man up. Banks, pay up. Amen.

Jason Linkins points out a bit of a discrepancy in criticism of the Afghanistan withdrawal date: Critics suggest that setting a start date for withdrawals will just embolden terrorists to wait until we leave. This ignores the fact that even while we’ve been threatening “to go hard, forever,” the average yearly number of global jihadi terror attacks  has increased 607% since we invaded Iraq. Oops.

Relatedly: George Will takes a couple of cheap shots at Obama, and embraces the flawed slippery-slope argument in the item above, and mistakenly believes that Afghanistan is winnable anymore, but he also believes the right thing for most of the right reasons: This will not end well.

To all the first-time voters who supported Obama because you thought he’d get us out of George Bush’s ill-conceived wars: Here’s to the loss of your political virginity.

Lou Dobbs’ presidential aspirations = FAIL: Anti-immigrant group pulls support. Bwa!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 9:38 pm

Answer the questions, Mr. President

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 9:38 pm
Tags: ,

He didn’t, and I’ve got a dollar that says he never intended to.

It was an awful speech, and commenter “stevelaudig” at Hullabaloo correctly assesses why: “The more complicated the explanation, the more likely it is to be a deception.”

This is not new.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 9:50 pm

Odds and ends for 12/1

Green shoot (me): Delinquent balances underlying commercial mortgage-backed securities totaled $32.55 billion in October, up more than 500% from October 2008. They’re expected to top $65 billion by June, which would be a record 8.3% of the total.

Michele Bachmann, idiot: “Just over a year ago, 100 percent of the private economy was private.” Uh-huh. And just over a year ago, 100 percent of water was wet.

Jon Kyl, moron: The Arizona senator, who has repeatedly said President Obama needs to heed the request of Gen. Stanley McChrystal for more troops in Afghanistan, says any kind of deadline for getting them out — an “exit strategy” — would be “exactly the wrong way to go.” Perhaps he should have run that position past McChrystal, who said in October: “Gentlemen, I am coming into this job with 12 months to show demonstrable progress here — and 24 months to have a decisive impact. That’s how long we have to convince the Taliban, the Afghan people and the American people that we’re going to be successful. … That’s not a choice. That’s a reality.”

Alberto Gonzalez, imbecile: The former attorney general and unindicted co-conspirator, unable to find a job in any law firm, anywhere, or teaching law at any law school, anywhere, tells a political-science course at Texas Tech to “dream big” and hang in there until your crony network elevates you to power.

Mike Huckabee, deluded: Dude, God is telling you to pardon the wrong people. Plural.

Jason Linkins, not an idiot, moron or imbecile OR deluded: “I’d describe Politico‘s brand of journalism as banality, added to Scientology, multiplied by the spasmodic frenzy of a tween who hasn’t learned to displace their unfulfilled erotic needs onto emo vampires.”

Ben Nelson, just dumb, but United States Senator dumb, meaning he’s in a position to cause actual trouble: We need to pay for the Afghanistan escalation, but we don’t want to increase the deficit and we don’t want a war tax because we fought WWII without one, so let’s sell war bonds! (I am now cleaning my own gray matter off the walls of my study.)

Whom would Jesus card?: The Houston Salvation Army is among seven charities checking the immigration status of poor families before giving toys to the kids.

Things we don’t talk about when we talk about military missions and government spending.

Needed to create jobs: More direct infrastructure investment, fewer tax credits. This imbalance hobbled Stimulus I, which was no more than half as big as it needed to be to begin with.

The return of common sense: Fafblog on the war in Afghanistan: “Let us never forget just what’s at stake in the war in Afghanistan: nothing less than the success of the war in Afghanistan.” Pretty much.

Related: As the number of troops in Afghanistan grows, so will the number of contractors. Because that worked out so well last time. Comments Clavis at TPMMuckraker: “I think it would be cheaper if we simply paid the Afghanis to shoot themselves.”

Plus, he sounds exactly like Rush Limbaugh. Also.: MSNBC talk-show host Ed Schultz ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed. He had this to say about the Obama state-dinner party crashers (whom, I promise, I will mention no more): “What if one of them were a ninja? Obama could have been killed.” On hearing this, my thoughts ran roughly in this order: 1) Ninjas? Cool! 2) Yeah, and he could have been killed even though they weren’t ninjas. Idiot. 3) Pirates v. ninjas! 4) Obama v. Ninjas! 5) Obama v. Ninjas: The Video Game! (c) 2009 Lex Alexander. I win.

There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio David and Tamron, than are dreamt of in your philosophy: Of course they let bin Laden get away at Tora Bora on purpose. No other explanation comports with both the facts we have and Occam’s Razor.

And, finally …

Tiger Woods is changing careers: The Borowitz Report has the inside scoop.

UPDATE: I’m feeling generous, so here’s a bonus:

Write your own punch line: The COO of McDonald’s is retiring … for health reasons.

Must. Have.: Vodka. In a pill. (h/t: Maru)

Monday, November 30, 2009 10:56 pm

Odds and ends for 11/30

Somebody make this guy a senator: Vermont’s Bernie Sanders on reappointing Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Fed: “No, I absolutely will not vote for Mr. Bernanke. He is part of the problem. (If) he’s the smartest guy in the world, why didn’t he do anything to prevent us from sinking into this disaster that Wall Street caused and which he was a part of?” Now all we need is 50 more just like him.

More Sanders, just because it’s so damn refreshing to hear someone standing up to banksters on behalf of taxpayers: “If the taxpayers of this country have spent $700 billion bailing out Wall Street because they are too big to fail, why is it that 3 out of the 4 largest financial institutions today are bigger than they were before the bailout, why is it ok that 4 large financial institutions write half the mortgages, two thirds of the credit cards, and control 40% of the deposits. The bottom line to me is that the middle class in this country is collapsing. We have seen this trend downward for many many years. We need a new direction. We need President Obama to take this country in a new way,new economic policies and you don’t appoint the same old guys if you’re going to do that.”

Relatedly: Fifteen questions the Senate Banking Committee should ask Bernanke but probably won’t.

Shorter McKinsey: The European commercial real estate market to the contrary, 2 + 2 != 5. Even shorter McKinsey: If you own a dime of European commercial real-estate financing, you’re so screwed.

Sex scandals can be/Grounds for excellent haiku/Enter this contest: Talking Points Memo is having a contest to see who can submit the best haiku about one (or more) of 2009’s political sex scandals. Send yours to talk@talkingpointsmemo.com.

AIG? Is not, after all this talk of bonuses for its employees, out of the woods, which means taxpayers aren’t, either. Sigh.

Sarah Palin’s “bus” tour? Also included some trips by chartered private jet. Which would be fine if she’d just, you know, either said that up front or not even made mode of travel an issue. But no.

Even Republicans think Newsweek’s Jon Meacham is an idiot: Meacham said Cheney should be the GOP presidential nominee in 2012. But a WashPost poll of Republicans finds that only one respondent out of about 800 — 0.125% — thinks Cheney best represents Republican principles. And when respondents were asked an open-ended question about who the nominee should be, no one suggested Cheney.

Memo to John Harris of Politico: Explain to me again why thinking rationally about how to solve the country’s problems is a bad thing. Because we tried that whole deciding-with-the-gut thing already and look where that got us.

Reason No. 5,677 why Obama ought to do the right thing on Afghanistan, rather than what Republicans say he should do, courtesy of Andrew Sullivan: “If he ramps up Afghanistan and delays Iraq withdrawal, he will lose his base. If he does the full metal neocon as he is being urged to, he should not be deluded in believing the GOP will in any way support him. They will oppose him every step of every initiative. They will call him incompetent if Afghanistan deteriorates, they will call him a terrorist-lover if he withdraws, they will call him a traitor if he does not do everything they want, and they will eventually turn on him and demand withdrawal, just as they did in the Balkans with Clinton.”

Because if we don’t know about it, then we don’t have to do anything about it: The Supreme Court, overruling an appeals court, lets the Obama administration keep secret some photos of torture. Dammit. We will regret this ruling, and probably sooner rather than later.

Monday, November 23, 2009 9:56 pm

Odds and ends for 11/23

  • Critics of the health-care reform bills complain that the government will start paying for it years before people actually begin to receive services. And that’s a valid complaint. But if it all started together, wouldn’t they be complaining about that, too, because that would represent a failure to get the money in place first?
  • House Appropriations Chairman David Obey warns the president that if the U.S. wants to send more troops to Afghanistan, he won’t approve funding (which could be $40B) without a “war surtax” to pay for it. Obey absolutely opposes sending more troops, so that’s what this is really about for him, but the fact is, we shouldn’t be paying for wars off budget, as we have been doing.
  • There’s a huge bloc of voters out there for the grabbing for any politician willing to champion consumers’ rights and fight stuff like this.
  • A couple of months old but still noteworthy: Almost 1 in 4 U.S. households has suffered a layoff during the current recession; 44% have either lost a job or had their wages or hours cut; 53% of those polled (including majorities of both Republicans and Democrats) call unemployment the nation’s top problem; 51% said this year’s stimulus bill was the right thing to do and 81% said Obama has not done enough to help the economy.
  • How did I miss this — and when did Muammar el-Qaddafi go to work for The Onion? (h/t: Jill)
  • Some people just flat shouldn’t be allowed to be cops. Joe Apaio is definitely one of them.
  • Yet more on how the Fed, and Tim Geithner in particular, screwed up its handling of AIG. If it seems like I’m harping on this subject, it’s because I think it contains important lessons that I’m terrified we’re not going to learn.
  • Sewage? You’re drinking it, and there’s almost a 1-in-10 chance it made you sick last year.
  • Congresswoman and raving lunatic Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., says she can’t understand “why the Democratic Party would be opposed to me.” The appropriate question is why any sentient life form would not be opposed to her.
  • And, finally, advice for journalists, from Athenae at First Draft: “Mourning the death of hard news? Go do some.”

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:)

Monday, November 9, 2009 8:18 pm

One question about sending 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan …

Filed under: Reality: It works — Lex @ 8:18 pm
Tags: , ,

… and it’s not me asking, it’s The Wall Street Journal: Where are they going to come from?

Hint: It ain’t gonna be the kids.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 10:23 pm

Odds and ends for 10/28

ECONOMY

HEALTH CARE

  • I’ve said before that the cost of malpractice insurance isn’t enough of a factor in health care to justify damaging the legal system with “tort reform” (read: limits on the only real way to punish a lot of actors in the health-care field). At least one doctor agrees with me.
  • Sen. Joe Lieberman represents a state, Connecticut, where 68% of voters favor a public option in health insurance. So, naturally, Lieberman supports it, too — if, by “supports it,” I mean “intends to filibuster it.” This would be the same Joe Lieberman who told his state’s voters in 2006, “[W]hat I’m saying to the people of Connecticut, I can do more for you and your families to get something done to make health care affordable, to get universal health insurance, to make America energy independent, to save your jobs and create new ones.”

AFGHANISTAN

  • The report the outgoing Bush administration prepared on Afghanistan for the incoming Obama administration was put together in one hour. “The upside is that this was one more hour than was spent reviewing the ‘Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside The U.S.’ memo.”

CULTURE WARS

SCIENCE

  • Two years ago, while no one was paying attention, two German scientists broke the speed of light. Or so they say. If true, then Einstein is a putz our whole understanding of time and space will change.

CRIMINAL INSANITY N.E.C.*

There’s a word for such people: sociopaths. I hope there’s soon another word for them: defendants.

*Not Elsewhere Classified

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