Saturday, February 06, 2010

Low risk of double-dip

By Creature

I sure hope Geithner's right. Reality, however, is painting a different picture. Have we learned nothing from the Bush years?

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Senator Shelby, why so defensive?

By Creature

Lash out much? Personally, I'd rather "coddle" a terrorist than hold the Senate hostage like one (but then again I kind of dig the Constitution and all those pesky rights).


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First Rule of Harold Ford ...

By J. Thomas Duffy

You don't talk about Harold Ford

Second rule of Harold Ford, you don't talk about Harold Ford.

Now, it would really be story, if it comes out that the that the helicopter-flyin', wanna-be-carpetbagger was a member of 'Fight Club'.

That would seem to be the case, as The Smoking Gun has unearthed Ford's rider, for his nicely-paid speaking gigs.

Harold Ford Superstar - U.S. Senate wannabe's tour rider anticipates swarms of adoring fans

Like Jay-Z and Lady Gaga, Harold Ford, Jr. has a tour rider.


According to the below contract for an appearance Wednesday at a Missouri college, Ford demands that when his limo driver picks him up, the chauffeur must be carrying a sign reading "H.F.." Presumably, if the Democrat's name was spelled out, hordes of fans/groupies would be alerted to his impending arrival and swarm him (something that has bedeviled the Jonas Brothers).

The Smoking Gun as a copy of the rider, so go check it out.

Alex Pareene, over on Gawker, had some fun with it, as well;

Presumably, if the driver just wrote "Harold Ford" (or "Ford"?), the would-be candidate would be swamped by a mob of adoring fans. So the rider stipulates that the sign read, cryptically, "H.F." (What if Howard Fineman is at the same airport? Or Hank Finkel? Or... Hitler Frankenstein?)

Bonus points to Alex, for using "Hank Finkel" in there.

Now, this isn't as extensive as the former Shadow President's rider, which demanded that Faux News be on any television within his eye range (and, we riffed on that with "Top Ten Cloves: Slogans and Tag Lines For Caffeine-Free Diet Sprite – If Dick Cheney Was Pitchman"), as the rider says, no shellfish, but nothing about caffeine-free drinks, or Faux News.

And, since Ford took to calling Senator Kirsten Gillibrand a "“parakeet", here's hoping he does run against her, and that she shits all over him.

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Polling ignorance: Why Americans supposedly reject Keynesian economics

"Americans Reject Keynesian Economics," blares a headline at Rasmussen Reports.

Wait... what?

While influential 20th Century economist John Maynard Keynes would say it's best to increase deficit spending in tough economic times, only 11% of American adults agree and think the nation needs to increase its deficit spending at this time. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 70% disagree and say it would be better to cut the deficit.

In fact, 59% think Keynes had it backwards and that increasing the deficit at this time would hurt the economy rather than help.

To help the economy, most Americans (56%) believe that cutting the deficit is the way to go.

Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans, in fact, say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.

I'm sorry, but this is fucking ridiculous. What the hell do Americans know about economics, let alone about the intricacies of Keynesian economics? How do they possibly know what would "help the economy"?

They don't. The poll is just a reflection of bias and ignorance "across demographic and partisan lines."

People don't like paying taxes and don't like supporting programs for other people. It's that simple. And, as the poll shows, it's not just Republicans that don't. Democrats, who should prefer "the Keynesian approach," given their general political preferences, don't like taxes or spending either.

So does this mean Americans by and large prefer small, limited government? Perhaps, but only until they're actually pressed. Do they want a strong military, effective national security, Social Security, Medicare, etc.? Of course they do. Do they want the government programs that they like? Sure. But how do they expect to pay for all of that? Well, they don't want to pay for it themselves -- who does? -- and so what they prefer is for others to suffer so that they may benefit.

So it's hardly surprising that Keynesianism, which Americans don't understand, isn't terribly popular. But the alternative is what? Are we to assume that Americans love monetarism? Would they prefer their economy to be solely in the hands of central bankers? Hardly.

And they certainly don't know what's best for the economy as a whole. America is a democracy, yes, but it's a good thing policy isn't set by public opinion poll.

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By Creature

It's pretty clear at this point that Rahm Emanuel is scared of Republicans (and fearless of hippies). Maybe his, yet to be seen, legislative brilliance outweighs all that, but it seems the trade-off has resulted in weak politics and an even weaker moral standing. He's the wrong man for the times. It's a shame the president can't see that.

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Obama, Clinton criticize Ugandan anti-gay legislation at National Prayer Breakfast sponsored by extremist theocratic group that sponsored Ugandan anti-gay legislation

I think we'd all be better off without those stupid National Prayer Breakfasts, just as we'd certainly all be better off without "The Family" (aka The Fellowship), the extremist theocratic group that sponsored yesterday's stupid breakfast and that includes in its ranks high-ranking Republicans like Mark Sanford and John Ensign -- and that runs the infamous C Street House in Washington.

Stupid? No, dangerous is more like it. To me, such politico-religious events have no place in a free and democratic society.

Still, I must praise President Obama and Secretary Clinton for using the occasion to criticize Uganda's awful anti-homosexual legislation, which the president called "unconscionable" and "odious."

That legislation, you see, was backed by... The Family/Fellowship. Indeed, it was a member of "The Family" who introduced the bill in the Ugandan Parliament. As I wrote back in November:

It's telling that a major force behind the Republican Party, and American conservatism generally, backs such appalling legislation. These people seem to have more in common with Uganda, Saudi Arabia, and other such illiberal places that they do with their own country and its liberal democratic principles. But then, for all their pro-American jingoism, they're actually quite un-American in terms of what they would like to do to America, and to the world, which is to remake it in the image of their own fundamentalism, including at the expense of basic human rights.

And yet, why is a so-called "National Prayer Breakfast" organized by these Christianist thugs -- thugs who think gays should be executed -- a major event in Washington? Why is it so significant that Obama, Clinton, and so many other major figures attend?

Uganda's legislation is appalling, but so too is "The Family" -- and so too is the ongoing political influence of "The Family" in Washington, and indeed at the highest levels of American politics.

For more, via Bilerico (with a must-read post on Uganda, "The Family," and the National Prayer Breakfast), here's Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, on Rachel Maddow last year:

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Teabaggers, fractured

Good job by CNN -- seriously -- subjecting the whole Tea Party madness to some genuine scrutiny, and for pointing out that all is not well out there on the extreme right.

Promoted enthusiastically by Fox News, backed by right-wing lobbyists and think tanks like FreedomWorks, co-opted by the GOP, dominated by Republican partisanship, and often happy to welcome Republicans to its ranks, leading Republicans like Sarah Palin, the tea party movement, such as it is one, isn't quite the grassroots independent revolution its admirers claim it is:

As the primary season begins, Tea Partiers disagree about where the movement is heading. Rival factions are battling over who will carry the Tea Party banner. Some members worry powerful groups are "astroturfing" what they think should remain a grass-roots group.

"I don't think the Tea Party knows what's happening to the Tea Party," Sacramento party activist Jim Knapp said. "I don't think there's any question the GOP has their tentacles into the Tea Party."

Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, founders of the Tea Party Patriots, say they are proud of what the movement has accomplished, but they are frustrated that other Tea Party groups are being run by Republican political consultants forking over lots of cash for recruitment.

The Tea Party Express, a conservative bus tour that crisscrossed the country last year, was run from inside a Republican political consulting firm.


Right now, [author John] Avlon said, the Tea Party groups are trying to flex their muscle and move the Republican Party further to the right.

But the unanswered questions are where that takes the Tea Party and how it affects the GOP in the long term.

"If it helps focus the Republican Party on a core message of a return to fiscal conservatism, which it abandoned when it had unified control of Congress... then I think that can help strengthen the party's commitment to that core unifying issue," Avlon said.

"But if it just empowers the extremes in the party, then I think when extremes control parties, when wingnuts hijack a political party -- ultimately, they take it off a cliff." 

Yes, yes, there is still a good deal of genuine grassroots independence among the teabaggers, a good deal of anti-Republican sentiment, as much of the movement represents a far-right assault on both parties, and on the political establishment generally, but it's clear the hijacking is underway -- and it comes from both sides, with the GOP trying to hijack the tea party movement and the tea party movement, or some of it, trying to hijack the GOP.

Indeed, as HuffPo reported last year, the movement has "an honored place within the mainstream Republican party." And it makes sense that Republicans are eagerly trying to merge the two -- according to a Rasmussen poll conducted late last year, the "Tea Party" is significantly more popular than the "Republican Party."

So what now? The identity crisis will no doubt continue, with a good deal of soul-searching at this weekend's national convention, but so will the joint efforts of Republicans and teabaggers to pull the GOP even further to the right than it is already.

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State of the Day makes the Daily Show

By Creature

Yes, my blog is being mocked, but who cares. The brief moment of fame comes right at the 1:00 minute mark.

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Palin is right, "retard" is wrong

Rahm Emanuel shouldn't have said it, Rush Limbaugh shouldn't have said it -- though what Dear Leader Rush said was much worse:

"Our political correct [sic] society is acting like some giant insult's taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards," Rush said, adding that Rahm's meeting [on Wednesday] with advocates for the mentally handicapped was a "retard summit at the White House."

In response, a spokesperson for Sarah Palin wrote that "Governor Palin believes crude and demeaning name calling at the expense of others is disrespectful."

Yes. Yes it is. And Rush is a demeaning, disrespectful jackass. 

But I'm sure this little spat -- she hardly ripped him, after all -- won't prevent her from engaging in many more mutual sucking-up sessions with him in future.

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Deficit hysteria

By Creature

It's all politics. Republicans are willing to let their constituents continue to flounder so they can score political points. At this point I don't expect anything different from them. However, it would be nice to see a Democrat or two debunking the fear as opposed to playing along (and this goes for the president too).

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Encore, Sen. Franken, encore!

Sen. Al Franken ripped into White House senior adviser David Axelrod this week during a tense, closed-door session with Senate Democrats.

Five sources who were in the room tell POLITICO that Franken criticized Axelrod for the administration's failure to provide clarity or direction on health care and the other big bills it wants Congress to enact.

It's possible that "ripped into" is an exaggeration. Still, we need much more of this. Democrats shouldn't take shit from anyone, including from the president, who needs to show a hell of a lot more leadership if he wants to keep his agenda from ending up in the dustbin of history.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Time for recess appointments?

By Creature

Beyond time.


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Sorry for the dearth of posts today. I'm tired, exhausted, worn out, busy with other things, and generally under the weather. But I'll be back with new posts later this evening and tomorrow. And, of course, the co-bloggers, who do so much for this blog, will be posting, too, as Creature and Carl did earlier.

-- Michael


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By Carl

You've no doubt heard the term "
Going Galt". That's where selfish people with an overinflated ego remove themselves from society for perceived insults to their self-sufficiency.

I think. The bottom line is, this is a case of addition by subtraction, and should be encouraged and often.

entire cities are about to experiment with this idea.

And while I pray that nothing untoward happens to the city, you know, like a major snowstorm that cripples the roads or the removal of interstate highway funding for the sections of freeways that run thru the domain...*hinthint*...I can't help but rub my hands in glee, a little:
More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.

The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter.

The more insane-- I mean, the more strident-- voices on the far right have long advocated the privatization of all public services. I'm guessing they didn't read history or perhaps their home-school didn't really cover it, since
history is not needed to play football.

For a very long time, local, state, and federal governments provided very little in the way of services: an army, a post office, a central bank.

People died. People starved. People watched their houses burned since they couldn't afford private contractors to put them out. People were robbed on the streets and cops wouldn't lift a finger to stop it. Why? Wrong corner.

Indeed, the very essence of liberal ideology was to reverse this horrible thought, that people have to fend for themselves in a Christian nation. We fixed those, or so we thought, and moved onto bigger and more important, yet more subtle, problems.
Not only have we slipped on the ground running towards those, things like healthcare reform, but now we find ourselves sliding back a slope to re-fight battles already long-won.

Except, this is a fight we may not have to fight. Indeed, I'd advocate losing. Colorado Springs is a very conservative town (home to the Air Force Academy) and if any town would once and for all put paid to the ridiculous idea of self-sufficiency, why not make it a town where the majority of people support the idea?

So I urge my readers to pack your household garbage, go visit Colorado Springs, the Littering Capital of the World, and leave it in their many beautiful, wondrous public parks.

Go ahead! No one's going to give you a ticket!

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)


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120 House Democrats demand public option

By Creature

Glad to see some life (and some fight), but, seriously, who's going to listen? Pessimism sucks.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Same old, same old

By Capt. Fogg

Seems "the most liberal Senator in all of American history" is even more of a hide-bound conservative than I imagined, if it's true that he intends to beef up the misbegotten War on Drugs rather than admit that the 73-year-old enterprise has succeeded in doing to drug use, to organized crime, and to public safety what the Volstead Act did when it made private alcohol sales and consumption a crime.

President Barack Obama's new drug czar, former Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske, told us just 8 months ago that the idiocy was over, that "we're not at war with people in this country," but action speaks louder than words.

The new budget for fiscal 2011's War on Drugs is increased over this year's, and the emphasis is still on "enforcement," which means more spitting on constitutional rights, more interference with private matters, more clogging up of courts, more disrupted families, more crime, more prisons training more harmless people to be criminals, and more ruining the lives of innocent people. In fact, it's more of George W. Bush and it's more of what has only made things worse and worse. Even so, that 15.5-billion-dollar budget vastly understates the cost to the nation as much as that of our former administration because it ignores the huge cost of incarceration and due process.

From "the War on Drugs is over" to:

In a time of tight budgets and fiscal restraint, these new investments are targeted at reducing Americans' drug use and the substantial costs associated with the health and social consequences of drug abuse,

took us only 8 months, and a return to doing what always fails, a return to pseudo-moralistic prohibitions, fraudulent medical data, and a continuation of being the biggest jailer in the world makes liars out of the idiots shouting "liberal" as much as it makes liars of our administration.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Question time with the Dems

By Creature

The Dems are trying to repeat the glory from Friday. I was skeptical (too much of a good thing and too friendly an audience). However, once again, it shows how versed the president is in policy, how serious the Dems are about governing, and it's allowing for more GOP pushback (not to mention some conservative Dem pushback--yes, I'm talking to you, Blanche Lincoln). For now, and it's far from over at this writing, the exercise gets a thumbs up.

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Ronald Reagan, conservatism, and the decline of the American Empire

I received an e-mail yesterday from an old college friend asking me why the right has canonized Ronald Reagan. I thought about it, thought about it some more, and came up with a reply, written fairly hastily, that I reprint here.


I think Reagan's victory in 1980 was the distillation of years and years of conservative activism. It all got started back in '64, when Goldwater's candidacy represented a new dawn for conservatism (although, in retrospect, and compared to today's conservatives, Goldwater hardly seems all that extremist). LBJ won easily, but that defeat is what launched what I think is broadly understood as "Movement" conservatism. Money from wealthy donors started pouring into think tanks like Heritage and Cato and into universities through various foundations (some of which paid for my graduate education) and into the media. It was a concerted effort, I would say, to topple what was seen as America's hegemonic liberal establishment. It's an interesting story, and I'd recommend checking out David Brock's The Republican Noise Machine for more.

Nixon subsequently energized conservatives, but he was never Goldwater. There were Vietnam and Watergate, of course, but more than that Nixon was a sort of anti-conservative Republican, given his support for price controls and other regulations to address the economic crisis of the time, his efforts at detente with China and the Soviet Union, and his somewhat moderate social policies. (This is why, in retrospect, those who have come to admire, or re-admire, Nixon tend to be politically moderate. Needless to say, though, this is not to excuse all that made Nixon such an appalling figure.)

Reagan, meanwhile, had emerged as the leader of the new conservative movement. He was a prominent anti-Communist in Hollywood, but it was as governor of California that he became a political giant on the right. He failed in his presidential bid in '76, but he was then well-positioned to be swept four years later. Remember, the '70s were a miserable decade: Vietnam, Watergate, stagflation, malaise, the Iran hostage situation, a hardening of the Cold War with Brezhnev in the Kremlin. Reagan was seen as the heralder of a new beginning, both for America in general and for conservatism in particular. And, to conservatives, he was pretty much everything they'd been dreaming of since '64: anti-government, anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-abortion, anti-Communist. He was, to them, he represented a turn away from the legacy of the '60s, the legacy that conservatism rejected and that continued to motivate them: civil rights, feminism, pacifism, etc.

It was a period of great upheaval in America. To liberals and progressives, it was a period of change for the better, of liberation. To conservatives, though, it was a period of destruction, and they longed for the way things were before. They still do. Watch Hannity and Beck and O'Reilly and Limbaugh. They all talk nostalgically about the way it was, about how great it was. Of course, it was never that way, and, to many -- women, minorities, the poor -- the way it really was was horrible.

But no matter. Reagan tapped into a combination of delusional optimism and abject fear. Somehow, in him, America was still the greatest place on earth, a place where women and minorities were still kept down, where military might made sure everything was right, where the haves could have what they wanted without regard for the have-nots, and whre the New Deal and the Great Society and the great upheavals of previous decades, both domestically and internationally, had never happened. It was "Morning in America," white-picket fences sparkled in the sunshine, the flag flew in the warm summer breeze, and there was no need to worry about the impending decline of the American Empire.

Somehow, that is, Reagan made conservatism right -- to conservatives, to much of the country. Liberalism had lost, not just electorally, with Reagan's win in '80, but also socially, with a turn to the right throughout the decade to come. In this sense, he was a genuinely transformational figure, as conservatism became not just a legitimate alternative to liberalism but, for a time, the triumphal American ideology. Or so it seemed, and as so it still seems to many on the right. (In actual fact, as Neil Postman once wrote, Reagan was actually a committed liberal/libertarian given his unflinching support for the free market even above this theocratic leanings, his unwavering belief in progress manufactured in and through the free market.) Even as conservatism triumphed, the country grew more liberal and more progressive during the '80s. It may be that that was inevitable, given the general liberal awakening that was the defining feature of the post-WWII years, but he did very little to stop it.

But that is of no concern to conservatives, who have come to regard his presidency with the same utopian nostalgia that they regard that earlier and supposedly better time in American history. And at a time when conservatism is largely without ideas, a failed and bankrupt ideology, that nostalgia sort of makes sense. If only America could return to Reagan, they say -- to his policies, but also, and more poignantly, to what he represented, to what he symbolized. The bad stuff -- Iran-Contra, notably -- they ignore. With respect to policy, it's the anti-government, anti-tax, pro-"family values," hawkish foreign and military policy stuff that guides them. But, again, it's much more than that. It's the flag-waving, and all that means, that seems to be the driving force. Americans, and not just conservatives, badly want to believe in America, or "America," again, and it's difficult to, given where America is in the world today, given all that has happened.

Obama, to me, is much closer to the spirit of America than Reagan ever was -- think back to Obama's brilliant speech on race in Philadelphia in '08 -- but Reagan remains much more accessible, in an emotional sense, than Obama ever will be (despite his historic victory in '08 and all that that victory meant especially to black Americans), and, to conservatives, Reagan not only fits the narrative as Obama never will but actually wrote the narrative that continues to define them.

You see, I think America is in decline, and, deep down, I think Americans sense that, if they don't know it already. This is more true of conservatives, who have divorced themselves from reality, than is it of liberals, but it is a phenomenon that transcends partisan divides. What I sense from Americans now is fear, fear of a world that has passed them by. Many are afraid of what is happening at home -- increasing multiculturalism and the recognition of gay rights, for example -- as well as of what is happening internationally, with the rise of China, the threat of Islamic jihadism, climate change, and so on.

This explains, in part, Obama's success, as many Americans have come to embrace, courageously and with open minds, the sort of change that he campaigned on -- even if we haven't seen much of it yet. (Obama is about hope for a better future that may come to be, whereas Reagan conservatism is about longing for a past that never was.) But it also explains, in part, in large part, the rise of the sort of fanatical conservatism you see on Fox News, in the right-wing blogosphere, and throughout much of the Republican Party -- the politics of fear, the vilification of the Other, ideological extremism, the complete inability to deal with the harsh realities of the world with anything other than simplistic notions of good and evil.

And it explains, also in large part, the canonization -- indeed, the deification -- of Ronald Reagan, in whom conservatives trust, and who used the flag and patriotic happy talk to shield America, and the American people, from the truth.

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More presidential pushback courtesy of Rachel

By Creature

However, for the AP, pushback is a double-edged sword. Seriously.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Quote of the Day

By Creature

"No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens." -- Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the Senate Armed Services Committee on DADT. Considering the source, really, just wow.

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What are they gonna do? Make him clean blackboard erasers?

By Carl

I think China might be
overestimating its worth:

On Friday the Obama administration signed off on a $6.4 billion (£4 billion) arms package for Taiwan. China, which claims the island, had repeatedly warned against the sale and retaliated by vowing to punish US companies.

Obama may butt heads with Beijing again in the coming weeks if he meets the Dalai Lama. The two nations also have a number of trade rows including Google's threat to leave China over the hacking of political activists' email accounts.

Officials and experts doubted that Obama was seeking to antagonise China. Rather, they said he had long planned to sell arms to Taiwan and meet the Dalai Lama but wanted first to develop a good rapport with Beijing.

Maybe next time, guys, you'll get on board with sanctions against Iran, which has shown a marked tendency these past few days towards
antagonist behavior.

Here's the thing:
China holds our purse strings in their hands. We can ill afford to antagonize them unnecessarily, lest they call in that one trillion dollars in notes and bonds they hold.


That's one trillion dollars that would deflate a $500 billion annual trade deficit the US runs with China, meaning that within two years, the US would basically balance its books with China. It would devalue the dollar and by extension, the yuan (which is tied pretty closely to the dollar), and destroy the Chinese economy.

It would be a Pyrrhic victory, to be sure. Call it Mutually Assured Destruction Economically (MADE).
Is China willing to go there over the Dalai Lama, and prove him right to boot, that the Chinese political system is bankrupt and that the rise of materialism in China will ultimately destroy the nation? Is it willing to go there over Taiwan?

Short answer: no. It's not. China has many advantages over America, from the sheer mass of people to make up a brute labor force or army, to a recent history of living well below their means for extended periods of time.

It is not, however, suicidal, particularly as it sees a chance for vindication and redemption after millennia of being taken for granted, of being held captive, of being second class to the west.

Obama is correct to act with impunity here, particularly considering that his initial overtures to China were met with open hostility, diplomatically speaking. The talks with the Dalai Lama are of less concern to China than the blatant arming of Taiwan (which, unlike Cuba, still has some worth strategically). Obama is wise to position his pieces in the event that the world turns in a direction that sees America in mortal danger from Iran.

The timing of this contretemps is interesting as well: Iran has threatened something, no one knows for sure what, for February 11. That's the thirtieth anniversary of the deposition of the Shah, and Ahmadinejad (who for typing's sake ought to be deposed himself) has said he will do something that will shock the world.

That Obama is making a stand now, before the 11th, signals to me that he is lumping China's intransigence over Iran into meting out the consequences of whatever will happen in the 11th.

Nukes? I doubt it, but it never hurts to be prepared. Chemical attacks? The destruction of Israel? All unlikely, but none impossible. Certainly the IDF has operated on the assumption these past months that their nation is in imminent danger from Iran, and if there's one thing the IDF does well, it's identify danger to Israel.

And the Pentagon is
taking notice.

In the meantime, Iran is making nice with neighbors that border it to the east and north, specifically the "Stan" states, like
Azerbaijan. Certainly, we can take this as a signal of closer ties to Russia and/or China. Look for reactions from Putin (via Medvedev) in support of Hu Jintao. That will be key.

But hey, American Idol is on tonight. You don't need to know we're that much closer to nuclear annihilation!

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Breaking! ... Groundhog sees Palin's shadow, predicts winter through 2012

By J. Thomas Duffy

The first signs of something gone awry came on Punxsutawney Phil's new Twitter account;

Eek! A horrifying shadow!

Stunning his handlers, from the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, as well as tens-of-thousands of fans and spectators who make the pilgrimage to this tiny Pennsylvania berg, the infamous prognosticating groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw the shadow of the abdicating, half-term former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, which spelled out we are in for winter, extending through 2012.

"This is terrible, just terrible," offered club president Bill Deeley, adding "we've never had anything like this happen before."

Reports indicate that other club members, as well as an untold number in the crowd, closest to Punxsutawney Phil , apparently also saw, what appeared to be, the likeness of Palin.

Deeley went on to say that "I hope this isn't that O'Keefe kid, or one of his friends, trying to pull a stunt... Or that Andrew Breitbrat guy, sending someone here ..."

William Kristol, the person who first promoted last years' losing Vice Presidential candidate, thought "it would wonderful for the groundhog to see Sarah Palin."

Maybe, the day after she gets elected President, in 2012, the sun will come out."

A spokesperson for the National Weather Service declined comment, stating, "We need to look at this more closely."

At the White House, a team of both administration personnel, as well as scientists, were abruptly dispatched to Punxsutawney, to investigate the claim further.

Peter Orszag, the President Obama's Director of the Office of Management and Budget was devastated by the news.

"We just released our budget and, now, that's all out the window."

Orszag indicated that most of the budget will have to recalculated, to take into account the loss of crops, and jobs, from the extended period of cold, snow, and ice, as well as the potential for catastrophic healthcare needs.

"We're talking about almost two-years of being in a deep freeze ... That's unprecidented, no government in our history has had to contend with something like this."

Palin, an undeclared candidate for President in 2012, and, under fire for using PAC money to make bulk purchases of her own book, said, through a spokesperson, that she welcomes the news.

"Snow and cold, youbetcha ... That be some good huntin' and dogsleddin' weather."

The Palin spokesperson added that "the governor was, no way, near Punxsutawney today", and immediately cast suspicion, blaming the prolonged winter, on White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanual.

Bonus Punxsutawney Phil Riffs

Ker Than - Groundhog Day & Punxsutawney Phil: Facts Behind Forecast

Chris Gaylord: Groundhog Day: PETA wants to replace Punxsutawney Phil with a robot

Altoona Mirror Editorial: Hey, PETA: Don’t bother Punxsy Phil

Bonus Bonus: Punxsutawney Phil On The Garlic

Groundhog Lied; Investigation Launched

Breaking News! ... Bush Administration To Tap Punxsutawney Phil To Bolster Foreign Policy ...Gobbler's Knob Appearance Tomorrow Will Be Last For Famous Prognosticator

More Discord In The White House ...White House At Odds With Groundhog Hire, Handlers Over Cheney Shooting ...Bush Said To Be "Livid, As Famous Prognosticator 'Never Tipped Us Off"; UK's Blair Said To Be Frantic For Direction

Breaking News! Bush Sees Shadow; Another Year of Lawbreaking Predicted ...Oval Office Event Draws Thousands; Top Hat and Tails, and an Outcome "Just Like The Movie"

Breaking News! Groundhog Sees Obama's Shadow

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Tales from the health care battlefront -- Part I

As the focus dies down from the legislative fight over health care reform, I felt the irresistible urge to share some stories, mostly my own but some belonging to others, of what it's really like out there to be sick and in the hands of the dysfunctional health care system in this country. Surprisingly, I don't have a lot of negative health insurance stories, which isn't to imply that there aren't any or they aren't deserving of the lambasting they get, just that in my experiences and others I've heard, there are plenty of villains to go around and who never get talked about in terms of needing to be reformed: hospitals, doctors, bureaucratic nonsense, and, above and foremost, people who handle the billing for them.

I'll share some quick anecdotes of others before, for the first time, I go into excruciating detail of my health plight of which I've often referred.

I'm still being treated for a bedsore that I acquired following surgery in May 2008. Two health care workers (they alternate) come to my home three times a week to change the WoundVac which we began using in October and has been showing impressive results.

One of the two women would like to be able to retire in the near future, but given the current status of the health care bills and the lengthy wait for its elements to take effect, she fears she won't be able to get insurance (Yes, an employee for a hospital's home health unit doesn't get health coverage in retirement) because her diabetes will be a preexisting condition. As the Senate version stands, insurers will still be able to charge her twice as much as someone without diabetes.

The other woman's story is sadder and more tragic. Her son has muscular dystrophy. They depend on the Medicare Advantage program, which requires that the patient have no assets. People who get it have to go through legal hoops to hide money or spend it away to qualify. Yes, you are only worth helping if you are penniless, but that is not her and her son's problem. He lives alone, but the program has already been cut to 15 hours of nursing visits a week. The whole impetus of the program was to keep patients out of nursing homes, and those costs and horror stories need not be recounted here. On top of that, he is prescribed opium because of a problem with chronic diarrhea, however Medicare recently arbitrarily decided it wouldn't cover opium anymore. This could lead to serious problems for someone who does not have someone there constantly. She is beside herself and has written to one of our senators, Jim Inhofe, for help. Good luck. Our other senator is Tom Coburn and our representative is Mary Fallin, who is too preoccupied with her run for governor to help constituents. Talk about taxation without representation. His mother fears she'll only get attention when she has to run his obituary.

I, for instance, could use help since I'm dependent on my aging parents as caregivers, but to qualify for most programs, you again have to be broke. We are not rich, but they count all our assets since we live in the same home. We aren't rich enough to pay for what we need and we aren't poor enough to get the help we need. The idea of hiring a lawyer to figure out how to hide cash as if we were criminals insults me. I do pay for a caregiver to help with things for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week to lessen some of the load off my dad, but by state law they aren't allowed to do medical things, so my dad still has to dress my stomach wound and irrigate my catheter if needed and change my pain path. There also are strange restrictions: the caregiver can help with my bowel movements, but he's not allowed to trim my toenails. This is how we treat our sick.

Another nurse I've come into contact with during home health care shared a tale of her son who was hospitalized in another state after a severe accident and called his mom, wanting to know what he needed to do, since he was still in college and on her insurance at the time. She said first and foremost to make sure that the doctors and nurses knew that he had a severe allergy to sulfa and not to give him anything that contained it and she'd be on her way. Once she arrived, she was horrified to find her son's entire arm swollen as well as the side of his face to where he could barely speak. The "no sulfa" band was clearly on his arm, but mom was clearly livid. She demanded to see the doctor who ordered the IV he was being given, which, of course, contained sulfa. The doctor, as most doctors do when challenged, took an arrogant tone and assumed that a patient's mother must be an idiot, not realizing she was a nurse, and when she asked if he didn't notice the notes that said her son was allergic to sulfa started to try to act like he was smarter with a "With chemisty..." before he could finish his pompous excuse, she stopped him with, "OK, let's start with chemistry. That's what I got my first degree in." There are good doctors, but they hate being challenged ever. That's why I've fired many in my lifetime. They need to be reminded often that they are the employee and the patient is the employer. It's good to give them a swift kick in the ego.

When I was first admitted to the hospital in May 2008, I was admitted by a very arrogant hospitalist, who came in once a day to check my heartbeat and lungs, ask me how I was doing and pretend he was listening. He was so obviously not paying attention, I toyed with the idea of saying ridiculous things like, "I'm OK, but last night a penguin came running across the floor of the room and then ran out again," just to see if he even noticed. One day, he pissed me off about something and he got into my face -- and you only do that once. The next year, when I had to be admitted to the hospital again, he came into the ER room where I was and introduced himself -- of course, he didn't remember me -- and said he'd be admitting me. "No, you aren't," I replied. "You admitted me last year and you were an arrogant asshole. Find someone else." I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the sight of his chin hitting the ER's linoleum.

This has already grown very long, so I think I'll save the rest of my tale for part II.


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Rogue Vogue

By Capt. Fogg

Was the huge vogue for Going Rogue helped along by having SarahPAC purchase thousands of copies of the best seller? Campaign contributors' money and funds from right-wing publications were used to produce and promote the book by giving out free copies while she got royalty checks.

"Irregardless" as a Sarah fan might say, it did help her legally transmute PAC money into a royalty check and since she walked off the job and isn't running for another position of public trust, the conversion apparently wasn't illegal. For those of us still interested in why she quit the Governorship, perhaps the ability to pocket all that PAC cash and avoid going to jail for it might help us to understand.

Perhaps some will remember that before she donned the robes of roguery, it wasn't a particularly nice way to describe anyone. Certainly not as nice or as honorable as Maverick, the title she was forced to relinquish after threats from the descendants of the eponymous cattleman, but who can doubt that the robes fit?

Meanwhile, back at that rogues' paradise called Facebook, Sarah has been channeling the wolves she used to strafe from various aircraft and attempting to sink her teeth into the Obama administration by going after Rahm Emanuel for using the word "retarded" in an internal strategy session -- as though it had been directed at Down's syndrome children and the Special Olympics and not at the stupidity of a co-worker. No, Sarah, retarded is not like the "N word" and although you'd love it to be, and although Mr. Emanuel has already been put in the position of having to apologize to the Special Olympics organization, you haven't said much about the "witches" you've praised your beloved pastor for persecuting. There are no Witches, only innocent people who don't share your religion -- there are people whose cognitive skills fall behind the norm no matter what euphemism you prefer. There are people who are stupid and there are people who are inexcusably and viciously retarding the progress of our country toward Liberty and Justice for all.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Liberalism restored: Obama's regulatory "revolution"

President Obama isn't "doing all kinds of crazy stuff that risks destroying America," as Bill Kristol claims, echoing a common Republican talking point that Obama himself ridiculed at last Friday's Q&A -- and Kristol just proved his point -- but he is leading what TNR's John Judis calls "The Quiet Revolution":

[T]here is one extremely consequential area where Obama has done just about everything a liberal could ask for -- but done it so quietly that almost no one, including most liberals, has noticed. Obama's three Republican predecessors were all committed to weakening or even destroying the country's regulatory apparatus: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the other agencies that are supposed to protect workers and consumers by regulating business practices. Now Obama is seeking to rebuild these battered institutions. In doing so, he isn't simply improving the effectiveness of various government offices or making scattered progress on a few issues; he is resuscitating an entire philosophy of government with roots in the Progressive era of the early twentieth century. Taken as a whole, Obama's revival of these agencies is arguably the most significant accomplishment of his first year in office.

This isn't so much about change as it is about restoration, about the recovery of the American liberalism of the last century, about equilibrium, about the possibility of a good, just, and decent society.

It's a "revolution," of sorts, but more accurately it's rejection of the neo-liberal anti-government movement that has come to dominate American conservatism since 1964, a movement that has torn apart the social fabric of the nation and replaced it with a neo-Darwinian "free" market propped up and promoted by a state rendered largely impotent, by a state that exists solely to protect the "winners" from the "losers," and when necessary to bail out those "winners."

Now, Republicans will still cry "Socialism!" or "Fascism!" or whatever other lie/smear they dream up, but this restoration is an effort to free the American people from the false freedom of the unregulated market. There's nothing totalitarian about it. As Obama's policies clearly show, it is an effort designed to save America, not to destroy it.

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The haunting of Colorado Springs

Seems things aren't so great in Colorado Springs these days:

This tax-averse city is about to learn what it looks and feels like when budget cuts slash services most Americans consider part of the urban fabric.

More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops -- dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.

The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter.

Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that.

Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero.

City recreation centers, indoor and outdoor pools, and a handful of museums will close for good March 31 unless they find private funding to stay open. Buses no longer run on evenings and weekends. The city won't pay for any street paving, relying instead on a regional authority that can meet only about 10 percent of the need.

"I guess we're going to find out what the tolerance level is for people," said businessman Chuck Fowler, who is helping lead a private task force brainstorming for city budget fixes. "It's a new day."

Uh, yeah. A new day with the social fabric being ripped apart. Like this:

Though officials and citizens put public safety above all in the budget, police and firefighting still lost more than $5.5 million this year. Positions that will go empty range from a domestic violence specialist to a deputy chief to juvenile offender officers. Fire squad 108 loses three firefighters. Putting the helicopters up for sale and eliminating the officers and a mechanic banked $877,000.

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Groundhog Day

Well, it's Groundhog Day... again...

And time to look back at one of the funniest movies of our time. Wait, it came out 17 years ago? Yikes.

My favourite part: Rita (Andie MacDowell) tells Phil (Bill Murray) that she studied 19th-century French poetry. The first time she says it, he laughs at her -- "Really? What a waste of time." -- and she recoils, not a little disgusted with his philistinism.

The second time, he goes all serious, looks up, and recites a few lines not from a 19th-century poem but from a song by the Belgian singer Jacques Brel, "La bourrée du célibataire" (1957):

La fille que j'aimera
Sera comme bon vin
Qui se bonifiera
Un peu chaque matin

Which means:

The girl that I will love
Will be like good wine
Which will improve
A bit each morning

(Which is pretty much what happens to Phil -- he keeps getting better.)

"You speak French?" she asks incredulously.

"Oui," he says quietly, blinking hilariously, half smiling, half smirking -- as always, smug, sarcastic, and vaguely sincere. It's all part of his ongoing plan, Groundhog Day after Groundhog Day, to get her to like him.

Brilliant. It's Bill Murray at his finest.

Happy Groundhog Day, everyone.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

So long, Charlie Crist... how about becoming a Democrat?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Dear Governor Crist,

You're being pummelled and sent packing by the extremist fringe of your own party -- no, sorry, that's wrong... let me begin again.

You're being pummelled and sent packing by the new mainstream of your own party, the right-wing extremism, way to the right of you and your centrist inclinations, of Marco Rubio and his backers throughout conservatism, or what passes for conservatism these days.

You're down by 12 to Rubio, according to Rasmussen, and, short of Rubio pulling a Larry Craig or something, you have no chance of winning the Republican primary for this year's Florida Senate race. Qunnipiac had the race far closer recently, but the trend is clear -- and it's not looking good for you. The Great Republican Purge continues, and you're one of the next key victims.

As Kos acknowledges, "[t]his is pretty much a grassroots uprising by Florida conservatives."

So what are you going to do?

"Everyone I talk to in Florida tells me that Crist is the ultimate political survivor, that he'll do whatever it takes to win," says Kos. "Well, I don't believe, and I won't believe it until he switches to the Democratic Party. Because if he wants to win his state's Senate seat, it's the only way he has a shot at it."

So how about it? You seem to like Obama, the Democratic Party is a far broader and more inclusive party than the GOP, you'd get along fine with the various centrists in the Democratic caucus (Bayh, Nelson, etc.), as well as with the rest of caucus, which is generally open-minded, the party leadership and much of the party grassroots would welcome you with open arms, you'd be given a chance to make a real difference fighting for what's important for the American people, like health care and jobs and like Arlen Specter, for example, you could find a comfortable home across the aisle, even if your main priority is saving your political skin.

Of course, you could run as an independent, as Chris Cillizza suggests, and that could work, but you surely know that very few independents make it in national politics, and, even if you did win, your seat wouldn't be safe.

Anyway, think about it. We'd be pleased to have you.

-- Michael Stickings

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Jobs, jobs, jobs

By Carl

I suspect that by the time the midterm election passes, you'll be sick of hearing that phrase, but... well, it's important.

And here's why:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The economy's 5.7 percent growth last quarter -- the fastest pace since 2003 -- was a step toward shrinking the nation's 10 percent unemployment rate.

There's just one problem: Growth would have to equal 5 percent for all of 2010 just to lower the average jobless rate for the year by 1 percentage point.

And economists don't think that's possible. [...]

Another way of looking at it: A net total of about 3 million jobs would have to be created this year to lower the average unemployment rate by 1 percentage point for 2010, economists estimate. Yet even optimists think the creation of 1 million net jobs is probably out of reach this year.

That's the conservative Republican legacy, folks! Thirty years of trickle down economics, of outsourcing, of cutting employment costs to the bone, have created an unemployment figure that will take six or seven years of astounding (and inflationary!) growth, just to lower the jobless rate back to the "full employment" level of 5% unemployment.

This is not to say that a liberal policy would have prevented unemployment in a time of economic crisis.

It is saying that the economic crisis would have been mitigated and the employment hemorrhage staunched with a liberal policy of protecting jobs, national health insurance, and a tamping down of the idiotic "me too-ism" of giving corporations more rights than individuals.

Conservatives put down the palying field here, folks. Liberals have had to respond in kind where necessary, holding our noses and jumping in despite the fact that it goes against our natures to delve into this kind of dirty business.

Economic royalty has had its due. I suspect it's in for a rude awakening in the 21st century. That ham-fisted attempt to corrupt the political process by a Supreme Court so up the asses of corporate America they ought to wear NASCAR-like sponsorships will not stand, and the politicians in Congress and the White House will only take the first steps to smooth ruffled feathers, but never enact real reform.

This is not a right vs. left issue. This is an Americans vs. Plutocracy issue, despite whatever nonsense corporate buttboy Glenn Beck is spouting, masquerading as "populism."

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Luntzing financial reform

By Creature

Democrats be warned. I've seen this play before and it doesn't end well. In an up-is-down, black-is-white world Frank Luntz is an evil genius. Emphasis on the evil.

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Republicans use military as a stage prop (yet again)... and this time may have broken the law

Guest post by Rob Diamond

Rob Diamond, a Truman National Security Fellow, is a Senior Vice President at Realty Capital International LLC, a global real estate investment banking and advisory firm. He was previously a Vice President at Bear Stearns & Co. Prior to his career in finance, he served as an officer in the United States Navy, completing deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Ed. note: This post was originally published at The Huffington Post. In December, we published a post on climate change and national security co-written by Rob and Truman Project COO John Powers -- you can find it here.


You did not have to be paying much attention during Tuesday's Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address to notice a young Army staff sergeant in full dress uniform seated prominently right behind Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and enthusiastically applauding and cheering the governor's attacks on Democrats.

Slight problem, you see. That is probably against the law.

Look it up for yourself right here in the Department of Defense (DoD) Directive entitled "Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces." The purpose of this DoD Directive is to mirror the Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees from engaging in partisan political activity in an official capacity. Since a DoD Directive is considered to be in the same category as an order or regulation, and military personnel violating its provisions can be considered in violation of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, our Republican friends may have just caused this brave young soldier to break the law. Thank you for that, Governor McDonnell.

Now, my point is not to single out this young soldier for punishment, but rather to highlight the continued use of members of our armed forces as stage props for Republicans. "Mission Accomplished" -- remember that one? Or just consider Sarah Palin's latest attempt to hold a rally (aka "book tour") at Fort Bragg this past November. Well, you can now add "Republican Response 2010" to what is a rather endless list, actually.

It was a Republican administration and Republican-led Congress that sent our military into two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) that were woefully under-planned, under-funded, and under-equipped. We all know that story. It was a Republican administration and Republican-led Congress that left my generation of servicemen and women with a Department of Veterans Affairs unable to meet the demands of millions of new veterans.

It has taken a Democratic president and a Democratic-led Congress to end the war in Iraq as well as finally commit the troops, resources, and strategy necessary to win in Afghanistan. And yes, it has been President Obama and a Democratic Congress that have given the VA the largest budget increase in its history ($15 billion dollars in 2010) and is working tirelessly to create a 21st-century VA to care for our newest generation of veterans.

I know many of you to my ideological right are already leaping out of your seats and shouting, "well then why were there men and women in uniform at the State of the Union address?" Pretty simple answer, actually. The State of the Union is not a partisan political gathering (as the Republican response clearly is). The State of the Union is mandated in the Constitution, and the entire government -- Republicans, Democrats, independents -- as well the Cabinet and members of the Supreme Court and the Joint Chiefs of Staff all gather to hear the president address the nation. The State of the Union is the exact opposite of a partisan political gathering. It is the heart and soul of our government coming together "from time to time" to address the entire nation on the state of our union.

My point is this -- Republicans love to stand in front of the military. It is about time they try and stand behind us as well.

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