Berkeley economist Brad DeLong offers 10 big-picture thoughts on the Affordable Care Act’s history, politics, and performance to date. It’s smart, it’s easy to understand, and, to my eye, it’s 100 percent right — even the parts where he criticizes President Obama.
Thursday, August 7, 2014 8:31 pm
Sunday, August 3, 2014 3:49 pm
Even before I came into office, I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the twin towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And, you know, it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots, but having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that’s what that report reflects.
A mid-level Bush functionary? No. That’s the current president of the United States, a man who, just weeks into his presidency, described waterboarding as torture.
What a craven, morally bankrupt speech. From the incongruous use of “folks” to describe people against whom the United States of America committed violations of U.S. and international law, to the point of death in dozens of instances, to the condescending notion that in the immediate wake of 9/11 we were all so deathly terrified that we would have thrown any and all moral and constitutional principles aside for the sake of a false assurance of safety, this is a morally toxic pile of bullshit. And it’s even more offensive, coming as it does from the same president who told graduating West Point cadets in 2010:
A fundamental part of our strategy for our security has to be America’s support for those universal rights that formed the creed of our founding. And we will promote these values above all by living them — through our fidelity to the rule of law and our Constitution, even when it’s hard; even when we’re being attacked; even when we’re in the midst of war.
Now, however, we get, “But we were SKEERED!” and “It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious.” These comments are the ashes of our last remaining hope that this president, twice elected against one addled former war hero and one stone-cold sociopath, might, in his grappling with perhaps the most difficult ethical quandary a U.S. president has faced since Hiroshima, finally lead us down the path of righteousness. The reason he doesn’t want to look back is that his view in that direction is objectively wrong. Some of us — many of us, in fact — were saying AT THE TIME that it was important to preserve our humane values, such as they were, while pursuing the 9/11 perps, even as we feared that the crew in power was about the last group in the country likely to do that. We were right then; we are right now.
What prompted these remarks was the report by the CIA inspector general that, contrary to all previous assurances, the CIA had, in fact, hacked the computers of congressional staffers tasked with overseeing the CIA. Yet this president, who should be firing John Brennan and referring his case to the Justice Department’s criminal division, instead is defending him and his agency, not only against the current crimes (the CIA is barred by law from domestic operations, in addition to laws banning hacking without a warrant) but also against its previous war crimes. By the way, Brennan played a role in those, too; Obama never should have nominated him in the first place.
Torture is never right. Not ever. It is illegal, immoral, and ineffective. We waterboarded people? Dear God, so did Japanese military leaders during WWII, and you know what we call them now? Executed war criminals.
This president needs to get rid of John Brennan today. (And if he won’t and the House is really hot to impeach somebody, they could do a lot worse than to start with Brennan.) And despite having saddled himself with the worst attorney general since John Mitchell, he needs to direct that AG to open a criminal investigation of torture, focused not on the Lynndie Englands of the world but on those who gave the orders. We are bound by U.S. and international law to do so, and if the law means anything anymore — an open question, I admit — then we have no other choice.
“Looking forward, not back,” this president’s mantra, hasn’t worked. And looking forward won’t work until we look back, in anger and sorrow, come to terms with what we did, and make at least some sincere effort toward atoning for it. Following the laws to which we as a country were willing signatories is the bare minimum, but right now I’d settle even for that. Otherwise, this stuff will only happen again, and next time it will be worse, because, as history teaches us, the next time is always worse.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 7:41 pm
Are we that crazed about our own precious safety that we simply don’t give a shit anymore about what other nations think when it comes to us “protecting” ourselves from “terrorists”? At this point, the United States views the world as one giant conspiracy out to destroy truth, justice, and high school football. We’re so … insane that Osama bin Laden must be laughing his crab-bitten ass off at the bottom of the ocean. …
The biggest allegation so far is that the NSA monitored the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A question about it to Press Secretary Jay Carney led to one of the all-time great weasel answers: “The President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel.” Now, the Rude Pundit may not be a big city diplomat, but he is a professor, and he knows when the past tense is missing in a sentence. [That's] so weaselly that actual weasels stood on their hind legs and applauded. …
And before anyone tries to say this is no big deal, much ado about nothing, metadata, or whatever self-deluding nonsense you wanna toss onto the shitpile, what’s more important, huh? Hearing Angela Merkel order take-out bratwurst or whatever … they do in Germany? Or assuring ongoing cooperation from our, you know, allies? ‘Cause those alleged allies are already thinking of telling the United States to [forget about] sharing spy information.
Of course, a little phone and email eavesdropping would be preferable for the people of Pakistan and Yemen, where Obama’s drone war is killing [many] civilians. Like, you know, the “18 laborers, including a 14-year-old boy, [who] were killed in multiple strikes on an impoverished village close to the border with Afghanistan as they were about to enjoy an evening meal at the end of a long day of work” in July 2012. The U.S. reported that as a successful terrorist murder operation, but Amnesty International discovered that it was, in fact, 18 laborers, including a 14-year old boy, who had [nothing] to do with terrorism. There’s lots more like that in both countries where we rain fiery death on the people.
What’s the game here? Is it that once Obama was shown the real threats to the United States, the [stuff] we’re all too stupid to be allowed to see, he lost his … mind and decided to go survivalist? Or is it that Obama is so concerned, like Democrats before him, to be seen as … tough … at home that he doesn’t really care what people overseas think about the spying and the drones missiles?
The Rude Pundit has a problem with all of this. He can’t just sweep it under the rug, say he trusts Obama, go about his daily life, and be glad that he’s not getting attacked. [Forget] that. He didn’t sign up for this. He’s not gonna pretend it’s okay because it’s not. And if it takes our European allies and the human rights organizations we have trusted for decades to smack us back into reality, then, please, slap away at our contorted faces.
I’m nobody’s idea of a national-security expert, but I would think that when our allies are threatening not to share intelligence with us anymore because of what we do and how we do it, we might want to rethink what we do and how we do it. And these two issues are far from the only problems I have with our president over national security.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012 6:56 pm
OK, if you don’t want to repeat after me, kids, repeat after Kevin Drum: There. Is. No. Fiscal. Cliff.
The former Calpundit and Political Animal econowonk, now with Mother Jones, explains it all for you:
Which part has the worst effect: the spending cuts or the tax increases?
That’s tricky! CBO estimates that the effect per dollar is greater for spending cuts than tax increases: roughly a dollar of GDP for every dollar of spending cuts versus about half a dollar of GDP per dollar of tax increases.
However, the absolute size of the tax increases is much larger than the absolute size of the spending cuts. Overall, CBO estimates that the spending cuts will reduce GDP by about 0.8 percentage points; the end of the payroll tax holiday will reduce GDP about 0.7 percent; and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts will reduce GDP by 1.4 percentage points.
But wait a second. There are two parts to the Bush tax cuts: the middle-class cuts and the cuts for the rich.
Right. And here’s the thing: CBO figures that letting the middle-class tax cuts expire would shrink GDP about 1.3 percentage points.
But that’s almost the entire effect of letting the Bush tax cuts expire.
Right. And everyone agrees we should extend the middle-class tax cuts. So if we did that, but let the tax cuts on the rich expire, it would have virtually no impact on growth.
So that would make a ton of sense. Are we going to do that?
Good question! Republicans are dead set against it, so it’s going to be a big fight.
What about the payroll tax holiday?
Everyone seems willing to let that end, so that’s not really very controversial.
Why is that? It has a pretty big effect.
Beats me. It would make a lot more sense to extend the payroll tax holiday than to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich, but Republicans are opposed to the tax holiday and Democrats have already caved in on this. Mostly it’s because they’re worried that extending it would set a precedent for keeping payroll taxes lower forever, and that would hurt Social Security’s finances.
Conversely, Republicans care a lot about tax cuts for the rich. At the moment, they claim they’ll kill any deal to avoid the fiscal cliff unless they get to keep them.
Are they serious?
There’s more, but that’s the gist. Having just been told by voters not to blow up the economy any more, the GOP is dead set on doing and the Dems are less than fully dead set on stopping them. Sigh.
There is some good news, though. President Obama has been asking the Republicans for $1.6 trillion over 10 years in tax increases ever since the Great Debt Ceiling Joke of 2011. He campaigned for a year on that very proposal. And on Nov. 6, he won by a — what’s that word, again? Oh, yeah, landslide. So, Mitch the Turtle and the Weeping Cheeto can just take that.
Oh, and Kevin also says, for the love of God, stop talking about raising the retirement age.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 7:49 pm
… but sometimes the levels of Stoopid demonstrated by people who REALLY OUGHT TO KNOW BETTER are just so off the charts that mockery is the only sane response.
Exhibit A: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you former “Saturday Night Live” cast member and current irrelevance Victoria Jackson, whose behavior in recent years has been so off the charts that I even briefly suspected that it was the most sophisticated satire in history …
… joined by another fictional irrelevance, Star Wars’ Emperor Palpatine:
But wait! You say that’s not enough Republican butthurt? You say you want MORE?? Well, let Salon.com oblige you with “The 20 Biggest Sore Losers” from last night. And if you’re a real glutton for conservative punishment, you can always don hazmat gear and go wading through the miasma of FreeRepublic.com. (No, I ain’t linking there.)
One other thing: I’m seeing some cautionary communications from conservatives suggesting that Obama has no mandate to do anything. Hmm, well, let’s see. George Bush electoral votes, 2000: 271. George Bush electoral votes 2004: 286. Obama, 2012: 332.
I’d say that at the very least, Obama has a mandate to ignore the wingnut right’s bullshit, press an agenda of jobs, infrastructure investment (including global warming and related environmental issues) and health-care reform, and unleash hell on the obstructionists. That doesn’t come anywhere near the “shred the Constitution” mandate upon which Bush the Lesser embarked in his first term, but, gosh, Obama only got 16% more electoral votes. Inasmuch as he’s black and all, he’d’ve needed at least 600 electoral votes to claim that kind of mandate.
Monday, November 5, 2012 10:38 pm
It is vitally important that the Republican party be kept away from as much power as possible until the party regains its senses again. It is not just important to the advance of progressive goals, though it is. It is not just important to maintain the modicum of social justice that it has taken eighty years to build into the institutions of our government, though it is. It is important, too, that that you vote for one of these men based on whom else, exactly, he owes. Who is it that’s going to come with the fiddler to collect when you get what you’ve bargained for?
Barack Obama owes more than I’d like him to owe to the Wall Street crowd. He probably at this point owes a little more than I’d like him to owe to the military. The rest he owes to the millions of people who elected him in 2008 — especially to those people whose enthusiasm I neither shared nor really understood — and he will owe them even more if they come out and pull his chestnuts out of the fire for him this time around. He may sell them out — and, yes, I understand if you wanted to add “again” to that statement — but they are not likely to revenge themselves against the country if he does and, even if they decided to, they don’t have the power to do much but yell at the right buildings.
On the other hand, Willard Romney owes even more to the Wall Street crowd, and he owes even more to the military, but he also owes everything he is politically to the snake-handlers and the Bible-bangers, to the Creationist morons and to the people who stalk doctors and glue their heads to the clinic doors, to the reckless plutocrats and to the vote-suppressors, to the Randian fantasts and libertarian fakers, to the closeted and not-so-closeted racists who have been so empowered by the party that has given them a home, to the enemies of science and to the enemies of reason, to the devil’s bargain of obvious tactical deceit and to the devil’s honoraria of dark, anonymous money, and, ultimately, to those shadowy places in himself wherein Romney sold out who he might actually be to his overweening ambition. It is a fearsome bill to come due for any man, let alone one as mendaciously malleable as the Republican nominee. Obama owes the disgruntled. Romney owes the crazy. And that makes all the difference.
I expect Pat McCrory to be elected governor tomorrow and for his coattails to bring this state’s electoral votes back into the red column. And I expect McCrory to spend the next four years signing every damn-fool piece of lunacy the teabaggers in the General Assembly send his way, because that’s the GOP base in this state now, and McCrory has ambitions. And the damage from this dynamic will be significant. Make no mistake. If we’re not careful, by 2016 we’ll be well on the way to making Mississippi look good.
But, if honest ballots are counted honestly, Barack Obama will win re-election with a minimum of 300 electoral votes. And given issues ranging from Iran to global warming, that might be the difference between life and death, both here and abroad, to millions of people. Me? I’ve already voted. I am disgruntled, very much so. But I am not crazy.
A final word to my friends in deep-blue states who aren’t totally happy with Obama’s record and are thinking about casting a protest vote for Jill Stein or Roger Rabbit or whomever: I hear you. But know this: Those crazy folks I mentioned above intend, if Obama wins the electoral vote but not the popular vote, to claim that Obama is not a “legitimate” president. They will go through every hare-brained legal exercise they can find to try to prevent him from returning to the White House, and there are at least four Supreme Court justices who will nod and smile at any damn-fool argument these crazy people try to make. Yes, yes, George Bush lost the popular vote in 2000. But expecting logical consistency from crazy people, although not necessarily crazy itself, is a fool’s errand. Let’s just erase this contingency by giving Obama a popular-vote margin not even well-organized, well-funded crazy people can steal.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012 5:44 pm
Either that, or there’s not a shred of evidence that he was, because those (most famously including Orly Taitz) who have filed suit claiming that he was born in Kenya are now 0-for-166 in district courts, with nine cases pending.
Counting rulings by the appellate courts and SCOTUS, that total rises to 0-for-258.
I’d take better odds on whether Mitt Romney was born in the trunk of my car.
Give it up, guys.
Monday, October 29, 2012 7:12 pm
As I write, I imagine that all kinds of hell is breaking loose in the Northeast, the kinds of hell that, among other things, make it difficult to report in real time on what kinds of hell are breaking loose. I’ve covered hurricanes before, and believe me when I tell you that it is No Damn Fun, from getting sandblasted by what used to be that dune over there to living on Lance Toastchees and bottled water from your trunk for four days while wearing the same clothes and being unable to bathe to trying to navigate a car that don’t float when half or more of the bridges are underwater. People, including myself, joke about the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore as the Angel of Death, but I’ve done Cantore’s job (albeit for a different news outlet), and I would have to think very, very hard before doing it again, for love or money.
It’s bad enough in any one location. But when all hell breaks loose in a huge region, and when that region is the most heavily populated of its size in the country … well, we have no precedent for this. And when it happens a week before a presidential election, the potential for feces to hit the fan is shattering the glass on every meter in the boiler room.
And yet there also is likely to be an enormous point of clarity coming out of this event, as Charlie Pierce explains:
However, as to the campaign itself, and taking as axiomatic that almost anything can “impact” an election as close as this one apparently is shaping up to be, there’s absolutely no telling what the effect of massive four-day weather event in the middle of this week will have on the events of the middle of next week. Certainly, in situations like this, the president has several trump cards he can play simply by virtue of being the incumbent. He can act as president. He can engage FEMA and the rest of the federal disaster apparatus to help those governors, Republican and Democratic, who are in the path of the storm. (He just might be in more pictures with Chris Christie over the next week than with Joe Biden.) He can demonstrate, top to bottom, by example, why “leaving it to the states” and, worse, “the private sector can do it better” are empty platitudes. The storm is hitting 12 states. This is something we need to do as one country. …
The problem, of course, is that a good piece of the political opposition doesn’t recognize this president as president when the sun’s shining. The people who will tell you that disaster relief is best left to the states, or to the private sector, are going be howling at the White House if some cat isn’t brought down from a tree in Cape May in less than five minutes. There are a thousand things that can go unavoidably wrong in a situation like this. It is the most fertile environment imaginable for unpredictability. The good news for the president is that he’s in charge. The bad news for the president is that he’s in charge, and the opposition is still truthless, and demented.
(Pardon this interruption from your host for this illustration of just how demented that opposition is:)
(We now return you to Pierce:)
Here’s the last thing that I’d like to throw out there before we all go 1856 all over for a while. This entire campaign has been fought out over the issue of whether or not we are all members of a viable political commonwealth with implicit mutual obligations to act through our government — a self-government that is, or ought to be, the purest creative project of that commonwealth — for the common good, or whether that government is some sort of alien entity repressing our fundamental entrepreneurial energy. Over the next few days, I believe, we are going to see that argument brought to the sharpest point possible. If you want to see how this event will “impact the election,” look to what answer to that question emerges from the storm. It will tell us a lot about the election, and about ourselves.
When the Framers put the phrase “general welfare” into the preamble to the Constitution, things like Sandy were what they had in mind. And whether we remember that fact over the next week and more will determine whether we keep, and whether we deserve to keep, the “Republic, if you can keep it” that Benjamin Franklin and his compatriots bestowed upon us when that document was signed.
To probably no one’s surprise, I voted for Obama. But this ad from film director Joss Whedon makes me think maybe that wasn’t such a hot idea.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012 7:32 pm
Freelance journalist Benjamin Hall in this guest post for Esquire:
I have just returned from Aleppo, the northwestern Syrian city with some of the most bloody fighting (at least 20 dead today) and some of the most striking examples of just how factious the rebellion has become.
I watched as one FSA brigade fired a 50-caliber machine gun as cover fire for another to retrieve a dead body, only for the same two groups to scream at each other later and refuse to help in fighting the next day.
I watched (and ducked) as rebel groups fought over a new weapons influx and shot over each others’ heads, and I wondered: If they’re shooting arms at each other, how do we decide who to better shoot at Assad’s army?
I watched (and listened) as FSA members told me they prefer to enter into Aleppo illegally, rather than crossing through an FSA gate held by the Islamic Asft Alshmal brigade, saying, “They’re not our guys — they’re bad and they take bribes from refugees.”
I watched (and worried) as Salafi jihadis entered into the conflict here, voicing their opposition to Western values — and their aim to impose Sharia law — and I wondered: “Partners”? What partners?”
Obama seems to be indicating (correctly) that it is impossible to know where U.S.-backed weapons will end up and who will get them — that it could then become irresponsible to arm any factions at all. “We are making sure that that those we help are those who will be friends of ours in the long term,” he said on Monday — in a seemingly rationale (if cautious) approach.
Romney believes (correctly) that weapons are getting to the wrong people already, and that is irresponsible for the West not to try and flow weapons to more moderate groups — that it is not impossible. “We need to have a very effective leadership effort in Syria,” he said at the debate, “making sure that the insurgents there are armed and that the insurgents that become armed are people who will be the responsible parties.”
The president shot back that the U.S. is, in fact, “playing the leadership role,” but therein lies the Catch-22: If the U.S. doesn’t actively arm rebels, fundamentalists might get more weapons anyway; if the U.S. goes far enough, as Romney has suggested, to arm FSA partners with rockets and surface-to-air missiles, Sunni insurgents can’t be far behind in tracking down that kind of heavy artillery in the crossfire. And we all know how that turned out in Iraq.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 12:34 am
Commenter Frank Armstrong at Charlie Pierce’s place: “I think tonight Barack’s name was Inigo Montoya, and Willard did something bad to his father.”
Saturday, August 18, 2012 11:33 pm
Sarah, Proud and Tall, on Peggy Noonan,
Peggy thinks that the Joe Soptic Super PAC ad is an appalling personal attack that makes Obama “look perfidious and weak” and so he should disavow any such combative behaviour, but she also seems to think that Mitt should stop being so nice, take his gloves off and start fighting back. This seems a little inconsistent, but it’s hard to type and make a coherent argument at the same time, especially when you have your pearls clutched in one hand and a mason jar of gin in the other.
Friday, August 10, 2012 8:40 pm
“Personal property is the effect of society; and it is as impossible for an individual to acquire personal property without the aid of society, as it is for him to make land originally.
“Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a continent to possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases, that where the former do not exist, the latter cannot be obtained. All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man’s own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilisation, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.”
So, all you Randian sociopaths, who’s more American?
Monday, July 9, 2012 8:55 pm
Tom Levenson of Balloon Juice datelines his post from the Lion Gate of Mycenae, where no little bloodletting began and ended (internal links copied from elsewhere in Tom’s post for clarity):
Wars are not Homeric poems, which is something Homer himself clearly understood, if Odysseus’s conversations with the heroes who preceded him into Hades offer any hint. They wreck people, and not simply those who are obviously war’s casualties. I’m not going to belabor that thought in this forum, because so many here know this as well or better than I.
So: idiots will be with us always, and two otherwise utterly inconsequential folks like Messrs. Nicholson and Davis—barely public figures at all—aren’t worth the spit it would take to express my true opinion.
No: what matters is that this kind of talk can’t take place without the tacit permission of actual leaders—informal ones, like Limbaugh, and the actual political actors on the right, figures like Boehner, McConnell, Cohen, Ryan, McCain, whoever. First among them, of course, is the man who would be president, Mitt Romney.
Leaders shape the frame of argument. They delineate the forms of dissent and opposition. They define, both by what they say and by what they fail to rule out, whether we have a small “r” republican approach to government, or rule by the manipulators of the manipulated mob. When they stay silent they are the cowards of the headline, passive bystanders as their followers betray the basic principles of (small “d”) democratic politics.
Greece is a good place from which to think about this. You don’t have to go back to Agamemnon or to Plato; living memory—the civil war, the colonels, very recent memory indeed offer regular reminders of the fragility of government by consent of the governed. Words matter here, and have for millennia.
So it is in this place, with that history in mind, that I am reminded once again that the habit of dismissing crap like that spewed by Nicholson and Davis as wingnuts being wingnuts is not acceptable. The speakers themselves may not count for much, but for a nominally civil society to allow such speech to pass without massive retaliation, actual leadership from those who would lead from that side…well, that’s how individuals get hurt, and democracies die. It’s happened before, not many miles from where I sit as I write this.
But … but … but … Rev. Wright!!111!!1eleventy
Tuesday, May 1, 2012 10:38 pm
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.”
Monday, March 12, 2012 8:17 pm
Q22 Do you think Barack Obama is a Christian or a
Muslim, or are you not sure?
Not sure 41%
Q22 Do you think Barack Obama is a Christian or a
Muslim, or are you not sure?
Not sure 36%
I wish being stupid were painful.
Bonus fun: 60% of those surveyed in Alabama and 66% in Mississippi do not believe in evolution. Someone want to explain to me again why these states still get two senators apiece?
Thursday, March 8, 2012 10:10 pm
That’s apparently the only rational explanation for the Big Reveal: Obama hugging some guy more than 20 years ago in video that aired on PBS in 2008.
This was supposed to bring down a Presidency? Really?
Some stuff is so stupid that all one can rationally do is mock. I didn’t check, but I’m sure the Farkers were on the case. And before I went to bed, not only was Twitter joining in (@owillis, in particular, made a number of distinguished contributions), but a submeme also had arisen involving mashing up #HugGate with lines from movies. Forthwith, because Samuel L. Jackson is a badass, my humble contribution to the proceedings:
I’m honored that Angry Black Lady made this her Tweet of the Day.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012 8:45 pm
Even with the most basic scientific caveat — it’s just one study — this probably seems intuitive to a lot of people:
The rich really are different from the rest of us, scientists have found — they are more apt to commit unethical acts because they are more motivated by greed.
People driving expensive cars were more likely than other motorists to cut off drivers and pedestrians at a four-way-stop intersection in the San Francisco Bay Area, UC Berkeley researchers observed. Those findings led to a series of experiments that revealed that people of higher socioeconomic status were also more likely to cheat to win a prize, take candy from children and say they would pocket extra change handed to them in error rather than give it back.
Because rich people have more financial resources, they’re less dependent on social bonds for survival, the Berkeley researchers reported Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As a result, their self-interest reigns and they have fewer qualms about breaking the rules.
“If you occupy a more insular world, you’re less likely to be sensitive to the needs of others,” said study lead author Paul Piff, who is studying for a doctorate in psychology.
But before those in the so-called 99% start feeling ethically superior, consider this: Piff and his colleagues also discovered that anyone’s ethical standards could be prone to slip if they suddenly won the lottery and joined the top 1%.
“There is a strong notion that when people don’t have much, they’re really looking out for themselves and they might act unethically,” said Scott Wiltermuth, who researches social status at USC’s Marshall School of Business and wasn’t involved in the study. “But actually, it’s the upper-class people that are less likely to see that people around them need help — and therefore act unethically.”
Some of the comments unintentionally reinforce the researchers’ arguments, too, such as this one time-stamped 8:41 a.m. today:
Unlike the illegal Mexicans who sell oranges on street corners rich people actually have somewhere to go. There’s a sense of urgency in their lives, a plan, some sort of schedule. I find that the people with the slowest brains are generally the slowest drivers and walkers. Doing the California roll at a stop sign usually happens when the less motivated, lazier drivers can’t decide what to do.
Wow. Just … wow. The possibility that the California roller’s GPS might have just gone on the fritz doesn’t even occur to this commenter. [/irony]
This finding, if it holds up, has implications for the growing wealth and income inequality in the U.S., where the top 0.1% and .01% are putting distance between themselves and the rest of us at an accelerating rate. Even people who don’t believe that inequality is, in and of itself, bad suggest that growing inequality may mean that the rules are being enforced differently depending on how much money you make or political power you hold — an impression reinforced by the vast number of war criminals and fraud-committing economy-destroyers who haven’t seen so much as a subpoena, let alone the inside of a cell.
But these findings — again, subject to confirmation — suggest something even more insidious: Great wealth isn’t just a symptom, it may also be a cause. This research suggests that having more makes one want more still while blinding one to the needs of others. And that, in turn, undermines one of the greatest stories we Americans tell ourselves about ourselves: that all of us are created equal.
Although I thought the 2008 election presented Barack Obama with a Rooseveltian opportunity, I was not under the illusion that he would be another Roosevelt. I contented myself with the reality that he merely was not another George W. Bush or John McCain. That has helped, but it hasn’t been enough — and lately, at long last, Obama himself seems to be realizing it. Consider this speech he gave today to the United Auto Workers, one in which he gave the four remaining GOP presidential candidates a righteous hiding:
“You want to talk about values?” he asked. “Hard work — that’s a value. Looking out for one another — that’s a value. The idea that we’re all in it together — that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper — that is a value.”
He continued: “But they’re still talking about you as if you’re some greedy special interest that needs to be beaten. Since when are hardworking men and women special interests? Since when is the idea that we look out for each other a bad thing?”
Memo to the wingnuts: There are many worse things in the world than the United Auto Workers, and in the past 30 years we’ve been confronted with them damn near daily. Jesus, in that book the Dominionists among you claim to love so much but instead have turned into just one more idol, said we’re to look after one another. He meant everyone, everywhere. I’d be happy if, in the actuarially remaining lifespan I have, we just started doing it consistently here in the U.S.A.
America: It was a really good idea. And it can be once again.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 8:59 pm
Your president, ladies and gentlemen …
Not half bad. Oh, hell, who are we kidding? He hit maybe 50% of the right notes. But he still managed to sound pretty good with that band behind him. Of course, two alley cats copulating could sound good with that band behind them.
(*Line from this.)
Monday, February 13, 2012 7:45 pm
h/t: Athenae, who comments, “Obama looks around like, ‘And I don’t have one with the presidential seal on it WHY, now?'”
I like the part where the kid says he tested it by shooting himself in the leg with it. That’s giving it up for science.
Thursday, February 2, 2012 8:09 pm
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.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 8:54 pm
… when Blagojevich first faced accusations of trying to sell President Obama’s former Senate seat, speculation was rampant that allegations of corruption would marr Obama’s presidency before it even began.
For months after the initial accusations became public, media figures kept vaguely claiming that a “cloud” was now hanging over Obama, even though there was little evidence Obama or his staff had done anything wrong. When Obama said he wouldn’t comment on an “ongoing investigation,” that drew comparisons to the Valerie Plame and Jack Abramoff corruption scandals. When no gotcha moment occured, cable news pundits actually took to criticizing Obama for not being more effective in convincing reporters not to baselessly speculate that he was corrupt.
It’s not hard to understand how this happened, given how cynical American politics can get. Many reporters must have been thinking, “when was the last time a politician denied being involved in a corruption scandal and was actually telling the truth?”
It’s usually a better than even bet that they aren’t. And in the case of the Blago tale, the anticipation of a juicy corruption scandal going “all the way to the top” just didn’t pan out. It wasn’t the political press’ finest moment.
Journalists frequently attempt two things they’re pretty awful at: psychoanalysis and divination. That’s one small but real reason why journalism is held in such ill repute.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 9:13 pm
Slightly longer Eryn Green: “We are not a culture inclined to the confrontation of our own delusions.” (See also my previous post.)
Random observation: Some of the posts on Esquire’s political blog — and I guess I knew Esquire had a political blog, but I only tonight looked at it for the first time — are quite good.
Monday, October 18, 2010 8:49 pm
The NYT’s Paul Krugman, writing not about economics but about the Obama administration: “… to put it another way, the administration has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
No guts, no glory. Which would be fine if millions of Americans weren’t jobless, homeless, dying in illegal wars and other minor scrapes.
Thursday, June 3, 2010 8:29 pm
With George W. Bush, one of the metanarratives was the number and kind of things he and his administration did, and were criticized for, for which there was no precedent — torture, Fourthbranch, the number and breadth of his signing statements, and on and on.
With Barack Obama, the corresponding metanarrative is the number and kind of things he and his administration have done, and been criticized for, that in fact are far from unique, Steven Benen observes:
for a year and a half, the political world seems to have created whole new rules for Obama, which aren’t applied to others — and haven’t even been applied to other presidents. This week’s flaps over Sestak and Memorial Day plans only reinforce how truly ridiculous the phenomenon has become.
And I would argue that the meta-metanarrative is: He’s illegitimate. He should not be president. Indeed, Michael Tomasky argues that antidemocratic action based on that belief will be the inevitable result if Republicans retake the House this fall:
If the Reps capture the House of Representatives this fall, they will have basically limitless power to keep these things churning forever, turning political horse-trading into potential crimes. They’ll hold hearings, issue subpoenas, you name it. Remember the Clinton days. It will never end.
And they’re even crazier now then they were then, now that they’ve convinced themselves we got us a Mooslum preznit.
This is what’s at stake this fall. Forget policy. It’s this: endless hearings and investigations until they find something that gets the public worked up, or until the public just cries uncle and says oh okay we’re sick of hearing you crazy people, if it’ll shut you up, just impeach the bastard already.
Remember, the effort to impeach Bill Clinton started well before anyone had ever heard of Monica Lewinsky. It was an effort to do nothing less than to overthrow a democratically elected president on the grounds that — well, no one has ever satisfactorily explained on what grounds, perhaps because when you impeach an adulterer but praise a war criminal, your explaining skills by definition are inadequate.
Now, when you call them on this and ask them why they hate democracy, Republicans protest that this isn’t what they’re after at all. They would be substantially more credible if the Tea Partiers, of which Republicans cannot seem to get enough, weren’t out there trying to repeal the 17th Amendment.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 6:37 am
Former federal prosecutor bmaz rounds up some of the documented misconduct in the Deepwater Horizon case:
The failed blowout preventer on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig had a hydraulic leak and a dead battery in one of its control pods, and testing in the hours before an April 20 explosion revealed that pressure in the well was dangerously out of whack.
While some data were being transmitted to shore for safekeeping right up until the April 20 blast, officials from Transocean, the rig owner, told Congress that the last seven hours of its data are missing and that all written logs were lost in the explosion.
Heavy drilling fluid was unconscionably replaced with lighter seawater against industry standards just prior to the blowout. Over heated objections by experts on the scene, BP management supervisors overruled drillers, and insisted on displacing the mud with seawater
The broken blow out preventer had not been inspected in over five years.
BP was in a severe economic and time crunch to finish the job quickly and were over six weeks behind schedule.
Immediately leading up to the explosion, BP used procedures that violated their own drill plan; and in spite of indications of a “very large abnormality,” kept testing until they got something they could disingenuously claim fulfilled the test.
BP management supervisors refused to run the comprehensive cement bond log test, a definitive test of the integrity of a well’s cement mandated by Federal Regulations if there are concerns with the results of negative and positive pressure tests like were clearly present.
The BP management official on Deepwater Horizon making the unconscionable decisions, over the vehement objections of seasoned drilling experts, Robert Kaluzza has refused to testify by invoking his 5th Amendment criminal right against self incrimination.
BP officials aboard the rig wanted to skip required pressure tests and tried to impose a drilling plan sent directly from BP’s Houston headquarters that had not been approved, as required, by the federal government’s Minerals Management Service.
bmaz then lays out the elements of the crimes of violating the U.S. Clean Water Act and manslaughter and adds:
It is hard, if not impossible, to find any way that the conduct of both BP and its key decision making officials responsible for the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, and corresponding mass loss of life, do not fit within the ambit of the above crimes. Why has the Obama Administration and its DOJ not acted? Why is there not a dedicated criminal investigation open and securing critical evidence?
As best as can be ascertained, the only real DOJ Main [i.e., Justice Department officials from Washington headquarters -- Lex] assets sent to the Gulf scene are Tony West and Ignacia Moreno, the talking heads for the Civil Division and Environmental Divisions respectively, a tasking that screams of a total coddle-the-petroleum-industry-and-manage-the-fallout move, not a get-tough criminal consideration.
The DOJ could also be using the Texas Refinery Fire probation case that BP is still under the court’s jurisdiction for from their 2007 felony conviction as an easy investigatory and prosecutorial tool; but the DOJ will not even address the thought, much less act on it.
The Obama Administration and its DOJ owes the citizens a better effort than they have mustered to date. It is funny they are out trying to prosecute Guantanamo defense attorneys for doing their jobs and are still hell bent to persecute inconsequential marijuana crimes, but have no burning desire to go hard after BP, the biggest environmental criminal in history. How can that be?
Ooh! Ooh! I know this one!
“Because Guantanamo defense attorneys and inconsequential possessors of marijuana do not make the kind of political contributions on which both major parties depend.”
Impeach the SOB.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010 8:09 pm
President Obama has said he doesn’t want to focus on the past when it comes to prosecuting torturers. But focusing on the past when it comes to Bush-era whistleblowers? Oh, man, he’ll do that all day. Jackass.
Saturday, May 22, 2010 5:18 pm
Spencer Ackerman, not normally a huge Obama critic, nails it:
[In his commencement address at West Point, the president says:]
A fundamental part of our strategy for our security has to be America’s support for those universal rights that formed the creed of our founding. And we will promote these values above all by living them — through our fidelity to the rule of law and our Constitution, even when it’s hard; even when we’re being attacked; even when we’re in the midst of war.
And this is what kills me, because it’s so apt a diagnosis and so foreign from what Obama’s presidency is actually pursuing. “Fidelity to the rule of law and our Constitution, even when it’s hard” would cause Attorney General Holder to refuse to create a framework from indefinite detention without charge — perhaps the least American idea there is — rather than assenting to it under pressure from Sen. Graham. There would be no inexplicable expansions of exemptions within Miranda after a 53-hour law-enforcement manhunt immediately produces intelligence cooperation from an American citizen-turned-extremist. And there would most certainly be no assertions of the right to execute an American citizen without due process of law on mere suspicion of involvement with small men on the wrong side of history. Actually, come to think of it, that’s the least American idea there is.
There would be no embrace of the military commissions, and certainly no prosecution under them of someone who as a 15-year old allegedly threw a grenade that killed an American soldier — heinous, but clearly a traditional battlefield act — for a war crime. There would be no calculation that the path to closing down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay involves embracing the commissions and indefinite detention without charge. There would be no equivocation that the best venue for trying the men responsible for plunging us into this Constitutional dark age is the civilian courts that have proven so successful at dispensing internationally-recognized justice. And there would be no hectoring of the civil liberties community for being naive enough to believe that the Constitutional principles Obama espoused as a candidate — and, every now and then, in speeches like this — are indeed necessary and sufficient to guide us out of that dark age.
Instead, if it’s true that he will promote these values above all by living them, then he is simply not promoting them. I’ll leave it to you to determine if Obama is not promoting them at all or not promoting them as much as I’d like, as I try to be humble enough to remember there is a distinction there. But remember what the argument on offer here is from the president: American values are necessary sources of positive-sum international action, and the promotion of American values begins with our demonstrated fidelity to them. So we are depleting our own stated strength.
Some sunshine patriots wrap themselves in the flag. But it’s just as cynical to wrap yourself in the Constitution.
This goes to the heart of why so many of us were not just so opposed to George W. Bush’s policies but also so angry at him: While claiming to protect what was good about America, he actually was diligently undermining it on every front. (And for the unpardonable sin of being right, we were accused of having Bush Derangement Syndrome, but that’s a subject for another post.)
Now Obama is doing the same thing — indeed, in arguing that he can legally hold indefinitely someone acquitted of all charges and assassinate American citizens without charge or trial, he has gone even further astray from the Constitution than Bush.
(And those of us who opposed Bush lose either way. If we say nothing, we’re just “Obamabots” or partisan Democrats, and if we say anything, we’re ridiculed for having supporting Obama over John “More of the Same” McCain in the first place. Oh, well. In so many ways, it ain’t about us.)
Friday, May 21, 2010 9:22 pm
Impeach the SOB. Bush crapping all over habeas corpus was one big reason why people voted for Obama. It was wrong when Bush did it, and it’s wrong now.
I am unsure why Obama believes things have to be this way. Hell, Britain, which under Tony Blair may have gone at least as far along the road toward totalitarianism as the U.S. did under Bush, is abruptly reversing course now that Nick Clegg’s the new sheriff:
It is outrageous that decent, law-abiding people are regularly treated as if they have something to hide.
It has to stop.
So there will be no ID card scheme.
No national identity register, no second-generation biometric passports.
We won’t hold your internet and email records when there is no just reason to do so.
CCTV will be properly regulated, as will the DNA database, with restrictions on the storage of innocent people’s DNA.
And we will end practices that risk making Britain a place where our children grow up so used to their liberty being infringed that they accept it without question.
There will be no ContactPoint children’s database.
Schools will not take children’s fingerprints without even asking their parent’s consent.
This will be a government that is proud when British citizens stand up against illegitimate advances of the state.
That values debate, that is unafraid of dissent.
That’s why we’ll remove limits on the rights to peaceful protest.
It’s why we’ll review libel laws so that we can better protect freedom of speech.
And as we tear through the statute book, we’ll do something no government ever has:
We will ask you which laws you think should go.
Because thousands of criminal offences were created under the previous government . . .
Taking people’s freedom away didn’t make our streets safe.
Obsessive lawmaking simply makes criminals out of ordinary people.
So, we’ll get rid of the unnecessary laws, and once they’re gone, they won’t come back.
Pretty impressive, huh? But wait! There’s more!
The judicial inquiry announced by the foreign secretary into Britain’s role in torture and rendition since September 2001 is poised to shed extraordinary light on one of the darkest episodes in the country’s recent history.
It is expected to expose not only details of the activities of the security and intelligence officials alleged to have colluded in torture since 9/11, but also the identities of the senior figures in government who authorised those activities.
William Hague‘s decision follows a series of reports in the Guardian and other media over the last five years about the manner in which British intelligence officers were told they could interrogate terrorism suspects they knew were being tortured, and the way in which that secret policy was used in effect to subcontract torture to overseas intelligence agencies.
There has also been a steady drip of disclosures about the way in which British territory, airspace and facilities have been used during America’s programme of extraordinary rendition and about orders that led to British special forces in Iraq handing over detainees to US forces, despite fears they were to be tortured.
Finally, the British army has been forced to admit that at least eight people died in its custody in Iraq, including a number who were being interrogated using illegal techniques including hooding.
Obviously I’ll believe it when Parliament enacts the law and when the appropriate British officials are brought up on criminal charges, and not one second before. Still, I think it’s worth pondering a couple of questions here.
First, does Britain think it is any less vulnerable to terrorism than the U.S. is? I kind of doubt it, even with Northern Ireland at peace.
And how is it that Britain, which Americans consider less democratic/less free than they consider themselves, can attempt to hold its powerful accountable for their misdeeds when we say there is nothing to be gained from doing so?
Apparently Britain’s leaders feel more of a sense of responsibility, more of a sense of obligation to comport themselves in accordance with the law, than American leaders do — except for Dennis Kucinich, whom no one takes seriously precisely because he expects our leaders to comport themselves in accordance with the law, even if it means introducing a bill to ban something that’s already banned just to underline the point.
I think we as Americans have two choices: We can start raising hell with Howard Coble and Mel Watt and Brad Miller and Kay Hagan and Richard Burr to hold past and current officials accountable for their crimes. Or we can tear up the Declaration of Independence and go apologize to the corpse of George III.