Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, March 22, 2010 11:53 pm

Meanwhile, John Ashcroft is frantically transferring assets into his wife’s name …

So there’s this American citizen. Got a funny name, Abdullah al-Kidd, but he’s still an American citizen. And a long time ago, back when the pants-wetters were in control, the government decided he was a terrorist. And it detained him. Illegally. For more than a year. Without charging him or asking him to testify against anyone else.

I suppose al-Kidd got mad. But he’s also trying to get even, in the most American of ways: He is suing then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Last September, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that al-Kidd’s suit could go ahead to trial because Ashcroft’s behavior in allowing al-Kidd to be treated this way had been so egregious that the normal rules that protect public officials against lawsuits for doing their jobs didn’t apply.

Ashcroft asked the full 9th Circuit to hear his appeal. Late last week, it said, unambiguously, No. al-Kidd’s suit against Ashcroft can proceed to trial.

Now, whether or not al-Kidd can prove his claim, let alone get any money out of Ashcroft for it, is another question entirely. And, frankly, Ashcroft is lucky he’s only getting sued, not indicted. But the appeals court’s decision to let this case go to trial is a huge victory for the rule of law and might be the most important step yet in holding the lawless senior officials of the Bush 43 administration accountable.

A remedial civics lesson for congressional Republicans

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 11:10 pm
Tags: ,

Digby has rung the bell, suckahs, and school is in:

I can’t help but recall hearing a whole lot of patronizing advice from these same people a few years back when anyone breathed that President Bush might not have legitimately taken office since he lost the popular vote, his brother manipulated the system in Florida and he was was installed by a partisan supreme court decision. Back then it was all “get over it,” and “I’ve got political capital and I’m gonna spend it!” Now, these same people are all screaming that it’s a usurpation if the Democrats win the majority and then pass legislation that they don’t like.

It’s fairly clear that Republicans don’t understand how democracy works. You campaign, people vote, you win elections, you get a majority, you pass legislation. They seem to think Democracy means that elections are irrelevant, majorities are meaningless and that all legislation is contingent upon the permission of the Republican Party.

I’m sorry these people are so unhappy. I know how they feel. I used to hate it when the Republicans passed some disgusting initiative that went against everything I believe in. But I don’t recall having a mental breakdown at the notion that they could do it even though I didn’t want them to. The idea that they were obligated to do my bidding didn’t actually cross my mind.

As they used to say repeatedly, “elections have consequences.” If the people don’t like this bill, they have every right to turn the Democrats out of office and repeal it. But screaming hysterically that it’s cheating to pass legislation with a majority just proves that these folks’ great reverence for the constitution is based more on their love of wearing funny hats than anything that’s written in it.

This is how the system works. If you don’t like it, start pressing for a constitutional amendment that requires that all legislation be approved by every teabagger in the land before it can be enacted. Or start campaigning to put your teabaggers in office so they can have a majority and enact the legislation you like. In either event, stop the whining about “abuse of power.” They passed a bill you don’t like, for crying out loud, it’s not like they seized office with a partisan decision by the Supreme Court and then invaded a country that hadn’t attacked us or anything.

Oh, and in case you think she’s gloating, co-blogger Tristero adds this:

Democrats fail to understand that the real fight, the one with no holds barred whatsoever, began exactly one millisecond after the gavel came down. And if history is any judge, they are completely unprepared for what is about to hit them.

Foul epithets? Teabaggers carrying guns to rallies? Members of Congress finding excuses to justify terrorism against government offices? Don’t Democrats get it? That’s what the rightwing fanatics hellbent on wrecking this country were doing when they were being polite . That’s their idea of civility. The gloves have just come off. After all, they got nothing to lose.

“A republic if you can keep it,” a wise American once said. I’d feel a lot more confident that we could if I thought that Democrats had the slightest understanding of exactly what it will take.

I believe Tristero is right. I believe it will get ugly. But, as I posted just a while ago, I also believe there’s a way to win for Democrats who are willing to man/woman up.

UPDATE: Amanda Marcotte offers an interesting hypothesis as to why Republicans don’t believe in the Constitution:

Well, it’s simple, really. They assume, if they don’t state it outright, that large numbers of American voters shouldn’t have the right to vote. That’s the implicit argument when Sarah Palin praises white rural voters as “Real Americans”, when Birthers obsess over the idea that the first black President simply can’t be eligible for office, when tea baggers yell racist and homophobic slurs at politicians, and when they insist that you eliminate black voters from the count if you want to find out how popular a politician “really” is. When Bart Stupak laughed out loud at the very idea that nuns have opinions worth listening to—and listed a bunch of men whose opinions were the ones that counted—you had a similar sentiment being expressed. Universal suffrage seems like a fundamental part of democracy to liberals, but it appears that conservatives think it de-legitimizes the results of elections. And that if you do something without Republicans on board, you’re eliminating those who represent the only people who count.

I don’t know if I buy this hypothesis or not, but it certainly would explain Hans Spakovsky‘s popularity among Republicans.

Unsolicited political perspective and advice, worth perhaps quite a bit more than it is costing you

Over at Sadly, No!, HTML Mencken (and boy, do I wish I’d thought up that nom du Web) wraps up the long political season just ended:

That even this crappy version of HCR — which is better than nothing and is worth fighting for — passed at all was because of Nancy Pelosi. I’m sure this will make D.A. cry, but Hopey Changey, who has managed his own political capital with the same skill neocons managed the occupation of Iraq [OUCH!! — Lex], deserves negative credit for its passing. When elected, he had a mandate to kick Republicans in the teeth; he wouldn’t have lost a single supporter had he immediately demonized and demagogued the [expletive] out of insurance companies and Wall Street, two of the most hated groups in American history. But he didn’t; he sucked-up, he kissed-up, he [messed] up. And it almost ruined everything. …

Also, spare me the crap about Republicans’ tying Obama’s hands. Their head are exploding, they voted as a disciplined anti- bloc, they are inciting teabagger violence, they are totally freaking the [expletive] out over this tepid, Romney-esque HCR, because they were gonna do that no matter what; that is how they are. Only a total fool — a bipartisan fetishist, perhaps? — would think otherwise …

Word. If Obama had actually fought this battle, he could have won much, much more than this. (UPDATE: If you compare the piece above with this embarrassingly inept David A. Sanger “News Analysis” in The New York Times — “Mr. Obama proved that he was willing to fight for something that moved him to his core.” … “… he showed that when he was finally committed to throwing all his political capital onto the table …” — as if! — you understand just why the Times is barreling toward oblivion at rates that must be scaring its high-interest major creditor and inducing infarctions among the stockholders.)

If I were a Democratic incumbent running this year and I voted for the health-care bill, I would read this and plan my campaign strategy accordingly:

At least this once a workable majority in the government has stood up to the forces of cruelty and injustice, and whatever else happens to us in the course of this long emergency, it will be a good thing if the party of fairness and justice identifies its adversaries for what they are: not “partners in governing,” or any such academical-therapeutic bull—-, but enemies of every generous impulse in the national character.

I hope that Mr. Obama’s party can carry this message clearly into the electoral battles ahead, painting the Republican opposition for what it is: a gang of hypocritical, pietistic sadists, seeking pleasure in the suffering of others while pretending to be Christians, devoid of sympathy, empathy, or any inclination to simple human kindness, constant breakers of the Golden Rule, enemies of the common good. In fact, the current edition of the Republican party has achieved something really memorable in the annals of collective bad intentions: they have managed to create a sense of the public interest whose main goal is the destruction of the public interest.

This is exactly what the Republican majority on the Supreme Court did earlier this year by deciding that corporations — which are sociopathic by definition in being answerable only to their shareholders and nothing else — should enjoy the same full privileges in election campaign contributions as human persons, who are assumed to have obligations, duties, and responsibilities to the common good (and therefore to the public interest). This shameful act by the court majority only underscores the chief defining characteristic of Republicans in their current incarnation: an inability to think. And so, naturally Republicans gravitate toward superstition and the traditional devices of improvident religious authorities — persecution of the weak, torture, denial of due process, and dogmas designed to spread hatred.

I hope the American public begins to understand this, because they have been manipulated in their own pain and hardship by these dark forces, and their thrall to the likes of John Boehner, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush, Hannity, and the rest of these vicious morons could easily increase as their economic hardships deepen. We’re facing a comprehensive contraction of wealth and economy that is going to challenge every shared virtue in our national soul, and we’re not going to meet these difficulties successfully without a sense of mutual obligation and sympathy for each other. The Republican party is just itching to turn a giant thumbscrew on the US public — that is, before they try to start burning their enemies at the stake. We understand that the Health Care Reform Act is a first stand against that.

That’s right. I would take this legislation and I would beat my opponent over the head with it like a rented mule. Let them be the ones to campaign for denying health care to children. Let them be the ones to campaign for medical bankruptcy. Let them be the ones to campaign for insurance companies that fatten their bottom lines by ginning up “pre-existing conditions” and tossing people off their rolls. Let them be the voice for the guys that take 30% off the top. Let them be the candidate of “I’ve got mine; f— you.”

They want to campaign on a platform of repealing some real, positive (if inadequate) changes? Man, I’d be begging to be thrown into that briar patch. The only thing I’d like better than that would be to campaign against the CEO of Goldman Sachs.

The perspective-impaired heard from

I supported the health-care reform bill, but only because the only other option on the table was the status quo. Every serious idea the Republicans have had in the last 20 years was already in the bill by the end of last year, and the corporate whores who control Congress — and, to be clear, I’m talking about Democrats here — refused even to consider single-payer and only kinda sorta pretended to consider a public option. So, no, I’m not jumping for joy that the bill passed because I realize we still have a long, hard slog ahead of us before we have a health-care system that’s both equitable and efficient.

Still, some of the opponents made such asses of themselves that it’s tempting to celebrate, and even to rub their faces in it, on the basis of the notion that if it enrages jackasses like them, then it’s probably much better than I think it is.

One such jackass calls himself “Confederate Yankee,” by which name I guess we’re supposed to assume that although born in the North, he supports secession. His idea of pithy political humor runs along the lines of, “Every time I try to watch Congress on TV, I soon find myself wishing a disgruntled JAL 747 pilot was nearby.” His assessment of Sunday’s vote is, “I stand by my comment that the Democrats who crammed this unwarranted bill down the throats of the American people who clearly and overwhelmingly opposed it deserve to be drawn and quartered.”

So, we’ve got a guy who is proud of wanting to not be an American. He thinks joking about a terrorist wiping out Congress is funny. He believes the bill, which was enacted by a majority vote of a duly elected Democratic majority in Congress, led by a president who campaigned specifically on health-care reform and won by one of the larger majorities in decades, was not only “unwarranted” (I’m not even sure what he means by that) but also “crammed down the throats of the American people,” by which I guess he must mean “enacted according to law and the Constitution after 15 months of vigorous public debate.”

(And forgive my Freudianism, but with regard to the whole drawn-and-quartered thing, what is it with wingnuts and male genitalia?)

Elections have consequences, as my fellow Republicans were kind enough to remind the country after they stole one, and this Republican, naturally seems to have conveniently forgotten that. Dude, you wanna secede? Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, because honestly? When it comes time to take care of the country’s serious business, pants-wetters like you are only going to get in the way.

But as bad as CY is, some of his commenters are positively drama queens. My favorite comment was from some guy calling himself “Odin’s Acolyte”: “We have a war now, should this become law. The little liberal weenies who have been crying about illegal wars over seas are about to have a real reason to cry. This shall not stand in my land. Never.”

So. Many. Targets.

So, OA, are you declaring war on the United States? Because if so, I’m pretty sure there’s a nice mesh cage in Gitmo with your name on it. I wish there weren’t, but unfortunately for you, son, I’m not the president.

“I’m gonna give you a real reason to cry.” What, are we 14 here? Or are you going to go around with your big manly-man firearm and start shooting random supporters of health-care reform? There’s a word for that, dear: terrorist.

“This shall not stand in my land.” Which land is that, dear? Marvel Comics Land?

“Ever”? As opposed to, like, next Tuesday?

(And forgive my Freudianism, but I simply must ask: “little weenies”? And what is it with wingnuts and things that “shall not stand”?)

UPDATE: Some 7-year-old shapeshifter has disguised himself as John McCain:

“There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year. They have poisoned the well in what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.”

Well, try as I might, I can’t find anything Freudian in that. (I must be slipping.) But I must say I’m very concerned about how the Democrats are going to get anything done once they have to give up all the John McCain’s Mighty Big Truckloads of Cooperation they’ve gotten so addicted to.

UPDATE: John Cole points out something very interesting about media coverage of McCain — something I bet wouldn’t be allowed if a Democrat in the minority in Congress had behaved this way:

What is amazing is that a Senator is openly saying “F— the nation’s business, we’re a bunch of kids,” and no one in the media will point out how worthless and childish the Republicans are. Even worse, no one is even surprised.

UPDATE: OK, one last bit (!) of Freudianism, but I’m just the delivery guy:

You can’t make this stuff up.

Why something had to be done

Homeowner’s haiku

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:23 pm
Tags: ,

My 9-month-old roof
Is leaking onto my bed.
Oh, [bleep]. Monday? Check.

Another quote of the day …

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 8:08 pm
Tags: ,

… from Marine Gen. Douglas Stone, who commanded Iraqi detention operations under David Petraeus: “What if exactly what we’re doing in detention is exactly what the enemy wants? Is that not aiding and abetting the enemy?”

Quote of the day …

Filed under: Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 8:02 pm
Tags: ,

… from James Howard Kunstler, on health insurers’ reaction to passage of the health-care reform bill: ” … we’ll see how they cope with the idea that being alive in a treacherous world is the fundamental pre-existing condition.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010 11:20 pm

Americans and Waterloo

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 11:20 pm

Upward social mobility in the U.S. has declined to near-U.K. levels and lags that of most other Western industrialized democracies, OECD finds.

I no longer expect, or even hope, for my kids to do better than I have done, given Peak Oil, global warming and incipient fascism. If they do as well, and manage not to be jailed for their political beliefs, they’ll be OK if they watch their budgets carefully.

I think.

Republicans and Waterloo

Sen. Lindsey Graham predicted a while back that the health-care vote would be President Obama’s Waterloo. Uh, not so much, says fellow Republican David Frum.

Now, I’m not sure I buy everything Frum’s selling here, just as I don’t buy the insane notion that passing this bill will guarantee Democratic hegemony for a generation the way the New Deal did. But here’s one part with which I wholeheartedly agree:

I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished.

The Republican Party can win elections, but at the end of the day it has to govern, too. And the people with the most influence and sway over voters in the party right now aren’t the least bit interested in governing, or anything else that smacks of being accountable for their statements and actions.

As Ray Donovan once asked, “Where do I go to get my reputation back?”

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Journalism — Lex @ 11:04 pm
Tags: ,

Shorter New York Times public editor on the paper’s ACORN coverage: “You [expletive]ed up. You trusted us.”

UPDATE: Simon Owens offers a bit of background on the pressure on the Times to correct its reporting.

People are people …

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 10:58 pm
Tags: ,

… and none of us, not even Americans, are immune to some seriously bad ideas:

French documentarians conducted an experiment where they created a faux game show — with all the typical studio trappings — and then instructed participants (who believed it was a real TV program) to administer electric shock to unseen contestants each time they answered questions incorrectly, with increasing potency for each wrong answer.  Even as the unseen contestants (who were actors) screamed in agony and pleaded for mercy — and even once they went silent and were presumably dead — 81% of the participants continued to obey the instructions of the authority-figure/host and kept administering higher and higher levels of electric shock.  The experiment was a replica of the one conducted in 1961 by Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram, where 65% of participants obeyed instructions from a designated authority figure to administer electric shock to unseen individuals, and never stopped obeying even as they heard excruciating screams and then silence.  This new French experiment was designed to measure the added power of television to place people into submission to authority and induce them to administer torture.

(Milgram made a cameo here at Blog on the Run in 2005.)

None of this should be at all surprising to anyone who has observed, first, the American political and media class, and then large swaths of the American citizenry, enthusiastically embrace what was once the absolute taboo against torture, all because Government officials decreed that it was necessary to Stop the Terrorists.  But I just watched an amazing discussion of this French experiment on Fox News.  The Fox anchors — Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum — were shocked and outraged that these French people could be induced by the power of television to embrace torture.

Speaking as employees of the corporation that produced the highly influential, torture-glorifying 24, and on the channel that has churned out years worth of pro-torture “news” advocacy, the anchors were particularly astonished that television could play such a powerful role in influencing people’s views and getting them to acquiesce to such heinous acts.  Ultimately, they speculated that perhaps it was something unique about the character and psychology of the French that made them so susceptible to external influences and so willing to submit to amoral authority, just like many of them submitted to and even supported the Nazis, they explained.  I kept waiting for them to make the connection to America’s torture policies and Fox’s support for it — if only to explain to their own game show participants at home Fox News viewers why that was totally different — but it really seemed the connection just never occurred to them.  They just prattled away — shocked, horrified and blissfully un-self-aware — about the evils of torture and mindless submission to authority and the role television plays in all of that.

So Fox News broadcasters, even the psych majors among them, haven’t encountered Stanley Milgram’s work in their education and experience. Color me shocked.

But there’s a bigger point here, one that we ignore at our peril: The research of Milgram and others has found that, for reasons that may or may not be well understood, human beings have such an innate desire to please authority that most of them will willingly torture, even kill, other human beings win that approval. The idea that, in the Reality TV Age, television only amplifies this effect strikes me as Dr. Science Meets Captain Obvious.

I’m just enough of a pessimist to believe that evil can appear at any time among the banal choices and duties of everyday life, that we won’t always recognize it immediately for what it is, even when it is looking at us in the mirror, and that we therefore must always be wary. That means all of us, even — especially — we Americans.

Featuring special guest star Warren Buffett as The Lizard King, Jim Morrison Axl Rose …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:49 pm
Tags: ,

… a Geico recruiting commercial, featuring real Geico employees and The Man:

Tea and magic mushrooms

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Journalism — Lex @ 9:24 pm
Tags: , ,

Radical liberal socialist Bruce Bartlett — and, by “radical liberal socialist,” I mean, “former official in the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations” — takes to the pages of the radical liberal socialist Web site to examine the beliefs of the Tea Party movement. And what does the Tea Party movement believe? Let’s just say Alice and the White Rabbit might recognize their world, but you and I wouldn’t:

Curious about the factual knowledge these people have regarding the issues they are protesting, my friend David Frum enlisted some interns to interview as many Tea Partyers as possible on a couple of basic questions. They got 57 responses — a pretty good-sized sample from a crowd that numbered between 300 and 500 people. (Survey results are here.) …

Tea Partyers were asked how much the federal government gets in taxes as a percentage of the gross domestic product. According to Congressional Budget Office data, acceptable answers would be 6.4%, which is the percentage for federal income taxes; 12.7%, which would be for both income taxes and Social Security payroll taxes; or 14.8%, which would represent all federal taxes as a share of GDP in 2009.

Not everyone follows these numbers closely, and Tea Partyers may have been thinking of figures from a few years ago, before the recession when taxes were higher. According to the CBO, the highest figure for all federal taxes since 1970 came in the year 2000, when they reached 20.6% of GDP. As we know, after that George W. Bush and Republicans in Congress cut federal taxes; they fell to 18.5% of GDP in 2007, before the recession hit, and 17.5% in 2008.

Tuesday’s Tea Party crowd, however, thought that federal taxes were almost three times as high as they actually are. The average response was 42% of GDP and the median 40%. The highest figure recorded in all of American history was half those figures: 20.9% at the peak of World War II in 1944.

To follow up, Tea Partyers were asked how much they think a typical family making $50,000 per year pays in federal income taxes. The average response was $12,710, the median $10,000. In percentage terms this means a tax burden of between 20% and 25% of income.

Of course, it’s hard to know what any particular individual or family pays in taxes, but according to IRS tax tables, a single person with $50,000 in taxable income last year would owe $8,694 in federal income taxes, and a married couple filing jointly would owe $6,669.

But these numbers are high because to have a taxable income of $50,000, one’s gross income would be higher by at least the personal exemption, which is $3,650, and the standard deduction, which is $5,700 for single people and $11,400 for married couples. Owning a home or having children would reduce one’s tax burden further.

According to calculations by the Joint Committee on Taxation, a congressional committee, tax filers with adjusted gross incomes between $40,000 and $50,000 have an average federal income tax burden of just 1.7%. Those with adjusted gross incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 have an average burden of 4.2%. …

Tea Partyers also seem to have a very distorted view of the direction of federal taxes. They were asked whether they are higher, lower or the same as when Barack Obama was inaugurated last year. More than two-thirds thought that taxes are higher today, and only 4% thought they were lower; the rest said they are the same.

As noted earlier, federal taxes are very considerably lower by every measure since Obama became president. And given the economic circumstances, it’s hard to imagine that a tax increase would have been enacted last year. In fact, 40% of Obama’s stimulus package involved tax cuts. These include the Making Work Pay Credit, which reduces federal taxes for all taxpayers with incomes below $75,000 by between $400 and $800.

According to the JCT, last year’s $787 billion stimulus bill, enacted with no Republican support, reduced federal taxes by almost $100 billion in 2009 and another $222 billion this year. The Tax Policy Center, a private research group, estimates that close to 90% of all taxpayers got a tax cut last year and almost 100% of those in the $50,000 income range. For those making between $40,000 and $50,000, the average tax cut was $472; for those making between $50,000 and $75,000, the tax cut averaged $522. No taxpayer anywhere in the country had his or her taxes increased as a consequence of Obama’s policies.

It’s hard to explain this divergence between perception and reality. Perhaps these people haven’t calculated their tax returns for 2009 yet and simply don’t know what they owe. Or perhaps they just assume that because a Democrat is president that taxes must have gone up, because that’s what Republicans say that Democrats always do. In fact, there hasn’t been a federal tax increase of any significance in this country since 1993.

I wonder if it will concern the mainstream national media at all that they’re paying such attention to a group that, by and large, doesn’t know what in the pluperfect hell it is talking about. I also wonder whether that same media will consider the question of whether their own poor job performance might be contributing to that ignorance.

Actually, no, on second thought, I don’t wonder at all.

UPDATE: They don’t know how to Google or use, either:

People with ties to Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project, Tea Party Boise and other conservative causes plan a protest outside Rep. Walt Minnick’s office this weekend, with the claim that the Idaho Democrat co-sponsored one of the health care bills that Congress is considering.

Their assertion is untrue, however; Minnick never sponsored such legislation…

Props to the RNC, which initially flogged this story, for admitting forthrightly that it had been mistaken. You don’t see the RNC do that every day.

(Full disclosure: The writer, Erika Bolstad, is a friend and former co-worker of mine.)

Rigged game

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 9:02 pm
Tags: ,

Like a lot of Americans, I invest. But, like most Americans who invest, my investments are pretty tame: insurance, 401K/403b, IRA, savings plans for my kids’ college. What giants like Goldman Sachs and Lehman Bros. do day-in and day-out isn’t going to affect my day-in, day-out investment strategy because I really don’t have a day-in, day-out strategy, I have a long-term one.

But some people, primarily those in the financial industry and those who retain them, do have more of a day-to-day interest, and as Atrios notes, their silence in the face of revelations about Lehman Bros. is, well, the dog that didn’t bark:

I think the reaction to the Lehman scandal (not particularly strong generally) is very telling. The investor class should, much more than me, care that a major company was engaged in accounting fraud and should worry, much more than me, that other companies are doing the same. That they aren’t says a lot about how the game really works.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until it stops being true: Rigged. Game.


A few days ago, Sen. Chris Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, introduced a proposal to better regulate the financial industry. That’s a joke, inasmuch as the financial industry responded, by and large, with gushing approval, which ought to make ordinary taxpayers extremely suspicious.

However, House Minority Leader John Boehner sees even this little fillip — which seems designed far more to  land the retiring Dodd a comfortable post-Senate sinecure in the industry he is purporting to regulate than it does to protect taxpayers — as an assault on the basic freedoms of bankers:

Boehner said he urged bankers not to be shy when meeting with the lawmaker staff members and to send a message that new regulations and taxes translates to into banks having less available for lending.

“Don’t let those little punk staffers take advantage of you and stand up for yourselves,” Boehner said. “All of us are hearing from our friends and constituents on lack of credit, you can’t get a loan, the more your government takes and taxes, the more regulations you have to comply with the more cost you have there and less amount you are going to have available to loan to customers.”

Cuz those poor, defenseless bankers have been helpless before the onslaught of rapacious congressional staffers. Nice to know, too, how much respect Boehner has for congressional staffers, some of whom work for him.

The bigger issue, of course, is: Will either the House or the Senate bill prevent another Too Big to Fail meltdown/bailout? And the answer is no. That’s the real outrage.

Rove gets Roved

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 12:35 am
Tags: , ,

First we started marketing politicians like we marketed consumer goods.

Now, it’s the other way ’round. Woohoo!

Not that it’ll happen, but it’s a nice thought

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 12:15 am

Sen. Chris Dodd, in a fine example of Hey-look-it’s-a-unicorn legerdemain as his finance nonreform package enters the legislative fray and his future employers weigh his loyalty, asks Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the collapse of Lehman Bros. Apparently Bad Things Were Done.

Was this a great first day of spring, or what?; or, Rock, choke, Jayhawk …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 12:11 am
Tags: ,

Sunny, high in the 70s, Kansas losing in the second round …

After the winter we had, it seems unbelievable to be turning on the A/C on the literal first day of spring (well, it was 10 minutes ago), but right now it is 82 upstairs in my house.

Saturday, March 20, 2010 11:28 pm

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means,” cont.

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Control Your Womb, says he’s in a living hell:

Leading a revolt against President Barack Obama’s healthcare legislation over abortion has been a “living hell” for Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).

The telephone lines in his Washington and district offices have been “jammed” and he’s gotten more than 1,500 faxes and countless e-mails — most of which he says don’t come from his constituents.

Fifteen hundred faxes. Wow. That’s, like, three whole reams of paper. The horror.

Stupak said he didn’t anticipate how big the abortion issue would become during the healthcare reform debate, nor did he figure to find himself a household name.

“I’m a little surprised,” Stupak said.

If you’re a little surprised, then you’re more than a little stupid.

The 57-year-old Democrat said he has a history of working behind the scenes with Democratic leaders on abortion.

“In the past, we’ve always been able to work it out,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve not been able to work it out.”

Yeah, poor Bart. I guess those pro-choice voters just got tired of being punched, but, really, calling, faxing and e-mailing their displeasure certainly seems a tad harsh.

To be absolutely serious for just one moment, I am sorry that protesters called his home and upset his wife. But I also am sorry he appears to believe that she appears to believe that someone held a gun to her husband’s head and forced him to run for Congress.

UPDATE: John Cole, FTW:

In a country where abortion is legal, how did the anti-choice goons so thoroughly game the system that their one pet issue can not be funded federally? I have tons of things that are “moral issues” to me that are funded against my will, but no one gives a [expletive]. And you know what — I’m OK with that, because I understand how our democracy works. You don’t get any trump cards. And unlike the anti-choice squad, my “moral issues” are not dictated to me by the lunatics at Focus on the Family or by the hypocrites in a couple thousand year old business run by old men who look the other way when child rape happens.

UPDATE: Uppity womenfolk Nuns weigh in with Stupak:

Today, “60 leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 Catholic nuns” sent a letter to federal lawmakers urging them to pass the Senate health care legislation. They decried the “false” information floating around about abortion provisions and said that the bill’s “historic new investments” for pregnant women are the “REAL pro-life stance.” The nuns’ letter was a significant and unusual break with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which continues to denounce the legislation. This afternoon, Stupak dismissed the nuns, saying that he listens to only male religious figures and far-right religious organizations:

Congressman Bart Stupak, D-Mich, responded sharply to White House officials touting a letter representing 59,000nuns that was sent to lawmakers urging them to pass the health care bill.

The conservative Democrat dismissed the action by the White House saying, “When I’m drafting right to life language, I don’t call up the nuns.” He says he instead confers with other groups including “leading bishops, Focus on the Family, and The National Right to Life Committee.”

Yeah. Because those bishops have been so on top of all those other problems. So to speak. Good to know Stupak’s getting advice from people who don’t have a clue in hell what they’re talking about.

Another urban legend sussed out; American civic discourse goes to hell

A Facebook friend who opposes the health-care bill now being debated in Congress sent me the following:


Some interesting statistics from a survey by the United Nations International Health Organization.

% Men & Women who survived a cancer five years after diagnosis:
U.S. 65%
England 46%
Canada 42%

% Patients diagnosed with Diabetes who received treatment within six months:
U.S. 93%
England 15%
Canada 43%

% Seniors needing hip replacement who received it within six months:
U.S. 90%
England 15%
Canada 43%

% referred to a medical specialist who see one within one month:
U.S. 77%
England 40%
Canada 43%

Number of MRI Scanners (a prime diagnostic tool) per Million people:
U.S. 71
England 14
Canada 18

% of seniors (65+), with low income, who say they are in “excellent health”
U.S. 12%
England 2%
Canada 6%

It sounded bogus to me, primarily because although I’d covered health care as a journalist, I’d never heard of anything called the United Nations International Health Organization. So I Googled it. Didn’t find the organization, but I found a lot of mentions of it, most in the same context as you see here. A couple claimed this report had appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, but I ran a Google search of various phrases pulled at random from this piece against that site but didn’t get a single hit.

I suppose it’s only fitting that even on the eve of the vote, lies are still making their way around the world.

Relatedly, the Rev. Julie Peeples of Congregational United Church of Christ here in town had a nice piece in the N&R today in support of the health-care reform bill. As you would expect, the IGMFY crowd jumped on it. And at a rally in Washington today, opponents were calling Rep. John Lewis “nigger” and Rep. Barney Frank “faggot.” (And as you would expect, the wingnuts are either silent, in denial or blaming the victims.)

I get that they’re angry. What I don’t get is what they’re angry about. I further get that when people are angry, it’s usually because they’re, at bottom, afraid. But, in this case, afraid of what? Afraid of socialism? The majority of health care is in private hands now and will remain so if this bill is enacted. Afraid of higher costs? The CBO says it’ll reduce the deficit by $130 billion over 10 years and $2.2 1.2 trillion* the 10 years after that. Afraid that 30 million currently uninsured people will now have some kind of insurance? Scary.

We’ve had some truly scary stuff happen in this country in the past decade — terror attacks; illegal invasions; torture; warrantless wiretapping; theft of national wealth from the middle class to benefit a tiny, hyperwealthy elite. And this is what brings the spittle-spraying crowds to the steps of the Capitol?

Y’all oughta be ashamed. Thomas Jefferson would dopeslap every last one of you.

*Rather significant typo fixed. Savings are still huge, however.

UPDATE: The Facebook friend who originally sent me this asked some follow-up questions, which I figured might be of interest to those interested in this post. Here’s what I told her:

Comparing quality of health care among different countries is, as I learned while covering the medical beat, a complicated subject that’s measured in complicated ways. There’s no single link that will give you “the answer.” Moreover, systematic efforts to do so are barely 15 years old, so there’s not a ton of reliable data yet. (A generation from now we should be in better shape to draw some meaningful conclusions.)

The two most heavily used indicators of quality of health care are infant mortality rate (that is, number of deaths of children younger than 1 year per 1,000 live births) and average life expectancy at birth. In fact, infant mortality has been found to be a reliable indicator of not just health care but the effectiveness of national government in general.

But even those basic stats aren’t always reliable. For example, the former Soviet Union fudged infant mortality by not counting a lot of neonatal deaths as “live births”.

Still, those are starting points and most people can understand them without any special education or training, so let’s look at them.

The 2009 CIA Factbook’s ranking of 224 countries by infant mortality rate is at

You’ll find the U.S. with the 180th highest infant morality rate out of 224 countries, with 6.22 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Countries with significantly lower rates — say, under 5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births — include pretty much all of Europe, along with such other countries as Israel, Macao, Hong King, Singapore, Japan and Bermuda. (Canada’s rate is 5.04.)

The life-expectancy-at-birth ranking is here:

The U.S. ranks 49th out of 224 countries. We lag not only the usual suspects but also such places as Bosnia & Herzegovina, which not that long ago was one big shooting gallery.

And remember, we pay more than twice as much per capita for our health care as do citizens of anywhere else on the globe. If the care we were getting were twice as good — or even, by professional consensus, the best — that’d be one thing. Instead, we’re paying beyond top dollar for, comparatively speaking, mediocre care. So while no one could rationally claim that we have the worst health care system among industrialized countries, one can certainly claim rationally that we’re getting the least health care for our money of anyone. Indeed, it would be hard to argue rationally otherwise.

One reason this is so is because we place much more emphasis on treatment than prevention. And I mention this because the biggest public-health care problem of the next 20 years is going to be obesity, the best way to treat obesity is to prevent it, and we do an abominable job of preventing obesity.

A good overview of the subject of comparing nations’ health care, with some interesting examples, is here:

One thing I recall reading back in my newspaper days is that the gap between the U.S. and other countries gets a lot narrower when you look just at people older than 65, starting with the simple statistic of remaining life expectancy at age 65. Why? Simple: Medicare.

Also: here’s some interesting commentary on that report I linked earlier:

UPDATE: My friend replies:

I guess I’m listening to too much FoxNews. How come that is the only network that seems to bring up the uncomfortable issues like: the how the IRS will be involved and why I should be concerned about intrusion of the feds:

From The Washington Examiner, Byron York:

In short, health care reform, as currently envisioned by Democratic leaders, would be built on the foundation of an expanded and more intrusive IRS.
Under the various proposals now on the table, the IRS would become the main agency for determining who has an “acceptable” health insurance plan; for finding and punishing those who don’t have such a plan; for subsidizing individual health insurance costs through the issuance of a tax credits; and for enforcing the rules on those who attempt to opt out, abuse, or game the system. A substantial portion of H.R. 3200, the House health care bill, is devoted to amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 in order to give the IRS the authority to perform these new duties.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

P.S. This is not “stoopid.”

And I replied:

This is one of a number of aspects of the bill with which I do not agree. Like I said, the bill is not perfect, it’s just preferable to the status quo, which is the only other option on the table.

And Fox is far from the only outlet that objects to this provision. A lot of people far to my left objected to it as well. (Example.)

That said, most people who already have health insurance through their employers aren’t going to notice any much difference. (Update: premium changes are in the range of 1% in most categories; some go down, some go up.) Fox is simply trying to use the IRS to scare people because appealing to them on the basis of factual argument wasn’t getting them anywhere.

A good question

Filed under: Journalism — Lex @ 7:21 pm
Tags: , , ,

There’s some serious meltdown going on in Right Blogistan because some wingnuts are discovering that other wingnuts are, well, nuts.

Apropos of which, D. Aristophanes of Sadly, No!, who is not now and never has been a wingnut, asks:

When do we, the longstanding voices of sanity in these matters, get any friggin’ credit at all for having called these spades, spades for years and years and years? Too lazy to link, but we’ve seen a marked rise in rightbloggers actually linking here (and to other lefty blogs) for evidence/support for their various excommunications of former bedfellows … yet nary a word of acknowledgment for being … right all along, begrudging or not, comes our way. Not looking for new allies, just some common courtesy.

Seems like not too much to ask. I don’t expect it, but then the Debbie Schlussels of the world don’t link here and never have.

(Speaking of which, Debbie, if you call yourself a journalist, I wouldn’t be trying to draw so much attention to the fact that I’m only now discovering that Sean Hannity and Ollie North can’t be trusted. I mean, golly, who knew?)

And I realize that it is too much to ask, but I’m going to ask anyway: When do the people who were right and are not crazy get all the MSM jobs, instead of wingnuts like Erick Erickson?

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

… which is a pretty significant mistake if, like The Washington Post, you are in the word bidness:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, already one of Washington’s largest lobbying groups, is gearing up to play a major role in this year’s midterm elections on a scale that rivals the nation’s two main political parties.

Modeled in part on Barack Obama‘s 2008 campaign juggernaut, the group has built a grass-roots operation known as Friends of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It has a member list of 6 million names, aimed at lobbying on legislation and swaying voters to back preferred candidates, primarily Republicans, in battleground areas, officials said.

Interesting that the Post article even links to a reasonably workable definition of “grass-roots” while using the term to describe a top-down, centrally funded, $50 million effort. I’m sure there’s some Professional Journalist reason why they’re doing this that I’m just not enough of an insider to understand.

I don’t have anything to add to the fact that DougJ doesn’t have anything to add

Filed under: I want my religion back. — Lex @ 2:30 pm

Which child molesters would Jesus wait 30 years to suspend?

The first and last lines of this Times piece on the Catholic sex scandal in Germany say it all:

The priest at the center of a German sex-abuse scandal that has embroiled Pope Benedict XVI was suspended Monday, more than 30 years after the church first heard allegations that he had molested children.


“If you get divorced and remarry you can’t take communion, but someone convicted of molesting children can hold mass for the rest of his life,” Ms. Wankerl said.

Friday, March 19, 2010 8:56 pm

Affirmative action for morons

For decades, a prefrontal lobotomy has been a prerequisite for landing a Wall Street Journal op-ed page gig. The New York Times, in an admirable effort to join the Journal in including stupid people in the national conversation, has added Ross Douthat to its op-ed stable:

Our nation might be less divided, and our debates less poisonous, if more artists were capable of showing us the ironies, ambiguities and tragedies inherent in our politics — rather than comforting us with portraits of a world divided cleanly into good and evil.

The thug and pro-logic bigot Daniel Larison ripostes:

Yes, the problem might be that we do not have artists capable of rendering contemporary architects of a war of aggression that was based on shoddy intelligence, ideological fervor and deceit in a sufficiently subtle, even-handed manner. If only Hollywood were better at portraying the depth and complexity of people who unleashed hell on a nation of 24 million people out of an absurd fear of a non-existent threat! Life is so unfair to warmongers, is it not? Then again, the reason our debates are so poisonous and our nation so divided might have something to do with the existence of utterly unaccountable members of the political class that can launch such a war, suffer no real consequences, and then reliably expect to be defended as “decent” and “well-intentioned” people who made understandable mistakes.

Fortunately, we have commenters such as “MBunge” to put Larison in his place, restore order and decency and, oh, by the way, contextualize U.S. government failings since World War II:

… you cannot understand what happened under George W. Bush without recognizing the precedences [sic] set under Bill Clinton. Watergate established that if you get caught, you’re better off coming clean than trying to stonewall. Lewinsky established that if you get caught, lie your ass off, make it all about politics and never stop fighting … and you can get away with it.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, someone has finally had the guts to tell the truth, name the names and invoke The Clenis(tm) as the source of all our civic ills, thereby restoring order to an unruly American intellectual marketplace. Thank God.


Who says conservatives have no sense of humor?

Filed under: Fun,I want my country back. — Lex @ 8:47 pm
Tags: ,

Certainly not The American Conservative:

Mr. Yoo served from 2001-03 in George W. Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel, where he wrote the memos authorizing the use of torture on 9/11 detainees. Yoo is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Torquemada Fellow in Information Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and author, most recently, of Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush.

“‘I don’t do Windows’: Pretty funny in hindsight, eh?”

Filed under: Fun,Geek-related issues — Lex @ 8:40 pm
Tags: ,

Some 30-year-old computer manuals remain both timely and amusing.

Somebody’s lying …

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 8:29 pm
Tags: ,

… and Zero Hedge thinks it wasn’t Merrill Lynch, it was Fed chairman Ben Bernanke … who was under oath at the time. But remember, kids: Lie about a consensual extramarital affair, get impeached. Lie about screwing the American taxpayer, get TV appearances and cocktail wienies.

From the vault

Filed under: Cool! — Lex @ 8:26 pm
Tags: ,

Just as certain songs and odors, long unexperienced, can bring memories flooding back when experienced once again, so can books:

At a bookstore, I had picked up a novel called The Black Obelisk by Erich Maria Remarque, the German author of All Quiet on the Western Front, which was published in 1928. The plot of The Black Obelisk, which came out in 1956, unfolds in Germany following World War I. It has historical veracity, sharply differentiated characters, Nazis, and, believe it or not, humor. I loved it for the first sixty pages—at which point I realized that I had loved it before, forty-odd years ago.

I was enjoying it so much the second time that I kept going to the end. My pleasure came in different ways: At the first reading I wondered what would happen; the second time around I was full of anticipation for what I knew was coming. I had the sensation that I was walking a familiar path, one strewn with long-undisturbed memories of my own life around the time of that first reading.

It was in 1964; I was seated at a café by a beach in Argentina, hearing Vaughn Monroe’s voice pour out of a scratchy loudspeaker, singing “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” A wild storm broke over the town of Miramar that night, where we were staying, my wife and I and our new daughter. I recalled hearing the waves crump like mortar shells on the beach.

Why, I asked myself, had I not retrieved these memories before? Why had I let them lie there, darkened by the decades that had fallen over them like soot? My mind, or the office within it responsible for organizing and filing memories, apparently decided to lock away those recollections for good. It took the late Herr Remarque to spring them. That these memories had nothing to do with the book itself suggests that anything buried deep in the brain, when dredged up, can have clinging to it things that have nothing to do with the object recovered.

The writer suggests that re-reading books we read long ago may be a way to help us protect our memories against the ravages of age. It’s true, although for a lot of older people, remembering things from 50 years ago is less of an issue than remembering what you had for breakfast this morning. Still, anything that exercises the brain is probably good.

Also, note to self: Read The Black Obelisk. Even though I haven’t read it before.

And somewhere, Mark Pittman is smiling, at least for the moment

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:21 pm
Tags: , , ,

A federal appeals-court panel says the Fed must give up records on bank bailouts. Certainly the Fed will appeal this to the full court and, if it loses there, the Supreme Court. But this lawsuit, begun by the late Bloomberg reporter Mark Pittman, has so far generated legal rulings that, despite the whining of the Fed, the government and the banksters, yes, indeed, how our money is used is our business.

UPDATE: Oh, yes, they did:

The requirement of disclosure under FOIA and its proper limits are matters of congressional policy. The statute as written by Congress sets forth no basis for the exemption the Board asks us to read into it. If the Board believes such an exemption would better serve the national interest, it should ask Congress to amend the statute.

Normally, courts don’t tack on sentences like that last one, because, well, everyone who was awake in eighth-grade civics knows how that works. When they tack it on, it’s to make a point, and the point is that, contrary to what the Fed’s attorneys want people to think, this isn’t even a close legal question, not to say the Roberts SCOTUS won’t pretend otherwise.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: