Saturday, January 24, 2009

A (progressive) upstater's perspective on the Gillibrand pick

By LindaBeth

I, of course, personally have political disagreements with Gov. Paterson's pick to replace now-Secretary of State Clinton. And I recognize that Patterson's choice very likely was made largely for self-interest. Rep. Louise Slaughter, a well-liked Rochester and Buffalo-area 12-term Congresswoman, would have made an excellent choice.

All that said, I am getting pretty perturbed by the media coverage that Gillibrand does not represent New York (State). My understanding was that the main reason Paterson wanted an upstater to fill Clinton's vacancy was because of the virtual monopoly that New York City has on New York Senate seats. Filling it with an upstater would give that upstater the power of incumbency for her re-election, as well as a prominent voting record that can represent her rather than having to rely on name (or family) recognition to obtain a Senate seat by unseating the incumbent. With the amount of money needed these days to run a successful campaign, challengers -- especially upstate challengers -- have little hope for success in New York, and upstaters also have little hope for a viable campaign in New York State without New York City recognition, while New York City politicians scarcely need upstate, southern tier, central, and western New York recognition or support.* New York City proper has 8.2 million residents out of New York State's 19.3 million residents -- 42%, and Manhattan is one of the wealthiest areas in the country (while also having an enormous income disparity).

As you can see, the non-NYC regions of New York often harbor bitterness about the tyranny of the minority on the state, as well as the general NYC arrogance that dominates state-wide politics. And we were all pleased at the prospect of having a non-islander be a Senator. So while I am not thrilled with all of the politics of this particular capitol-region politician, I am highly displeased-no, offended-at the continued NYC-centrism surrounding the uproar over her designation. The suggestion that she's going to need to shift into representing "all of" New York (State), and not just her sole conservative district is on the one hand, true, but on the other hand, has never been the case for previous New York Senators. To suggest that her district is an anomaly of the state is only true if New York State = New York City. To say that her choice is not representative of New York because her views are contrary to Mayor Bloomberg or Carolyn McCarthy's efforts are to restrict guns perpetuates this idea that New York City political interests are the same as the rest of the state. And that's just not the case (much to my personal disappointment in many ways).

To be honest, I do not know the specific political views of non-NYC New York. I do know that in Rochester, we continue to elect Republicans as county executives and Democrats as mayors, and the greater area populations reside in the suburban areas of the county. In other words, our region continues to be Republican while our city proper is Democratic.

Since 1962, only one Country Executive, serving 11 years, has been a Democrat in the Buffalo area. The last Republican elected as Buffalo mayor was in 1954. The Syracuse-area Country Executive has been Republican since 1962.

In other words, non-NYC NY is much more moderate than downstate.

So no, I don't like all of Gillibrand's politics. And we can critique her appointment based on political disagreements. But the way that the politicos are criticizing the appointment by arguing that her views are not "New York" views are to completely disregarding the heterogeneity, and indeed, the importance of non-NYC political views, love 'em or hate 'em. She may not "represent" NYC views, but she seems to pretty well represent the variety of views in New York State.

* NY geography lesson: "upstate NY" only equals "everything but NYC" to those who live in NYC or who do not live in the state.

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Foxed up

By Capt. Fogg

President Obama has made so many egregious mistakes that we're all in terrible danger. He's sending the "worst of the worst" from Guantanamo to your children's playgrounds. His appointments can't be trusted and most "shocking" of all, even though Mike Wallace all but forced Chief Justice Roberts to swear him in the second time, Obama isn't really the president because he didn't have his hand on "The Bible." No, I haven't gone completely insane, I'm quoting Fox News. If you watched The Daily Show Thursday night, you saw the following clip:

You see, I'm not making this stuff up. The same people who told you we have to, in the name of freedom and our safety obey the Führer president, and the same people who supported each and every act that brought on our dire predicaments; who insisted that economic collapse was a liberal lie, that we were about to "win" in Iraq every day since we arrived, are telling you this one really can't be obeyed. Of course those with longer memories remember when Bill Clinton wasn't, for some Foxed up reason I no longer remember, really the president either and shouldn't be listened to.

So whether or not Fox lives up to its promise of revealing some hideous hidden "truth" behind every aspect of the Obama presidency once a day for the first hundred days, I won't be watching them. Unfortunately others will and for them the fiction will seem real and the fear will grow. I find it hard to feel any kind of optimism and those who think that we've "won" and that things are in good hands now may soon find that the process of losing started on November 20th.

The people who watch Fox usually don't watch anything else. They have no idea that the lies and distortions they've been hearing are often repudiated and disproved by all the other news services. They haven't a clue that one of the largest anti-American campaigns, indeed the most organized program of treason against truth, justice and democracy is broadcasting 24 hours a day. Fox is using and will use everything they can find to undermine confidence in our government and anything it does and as you can see is hoping our country will fall and our hopes will fail. To me, it constitutes as great a danger to our future as any foreign enemy or global economic collapse. Traitors, saboteurs, liars and purveyors of irrational hate, Fox News is the enemy and anyone who hopes not just for our survival, but our improvement owes it to the world to use every opportunity to expose them.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Obama, family planning, and foreign aid

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I continue to applaud enthusiastically through the early days of the Obama presidency.

So far, Obama is what many of us expected him to be, and more. He's closing Gitmo and banning torture, for example, and yesterday he reversed another of Bush's more egregious policies, one especially harmful to women:

President Obama struck down a rule Friday that prohibits U.S. money from funding international family-planning clinics that promote abortion or provide counseling or referrals about abortion services.

Obama said in a statement that family planning aid has been used as a "political wedge issue," adding that he had "no desire to continue this stale and fruitless debate."

The policy says any organization receiving U.S. family-planning funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development cannot offer abortions or abortion counseling.

"It is time we end the politicization of this issue," Obama said. "In the coming weeks, my administration will initiate a fresh conversation on family planning, working to find areas of common ground to best meet the needs of women and families at home and around the world."

How nice it is that the theocrats, who do so much damage both at home and abroad, and more to women than to men, are no longer in power.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

The Reaction in Review (Jan. 23, 2009)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:

"Termination, turning points, triumphs and taking off" are some of the takeaways from this Very Big Week.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Craziest Conservative of the Day: J. Harvie Wilkinson III" -- Michael's well reasoned view that Bush's judicial appointments were, indeed, partisan.

By J. Thomas Duffy: "Doc Block Death Knock? ... MSNBC climbs into the Big Yellow Taxi" -- Duffy's done it again, with his edgy look at the MSNBC dilemma of what to do with its prime time programming (includes neat Bonus Links).

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Carolyn Kennedy, Kirsten Gillibrand, and the inane silliness of the Senate seat drama in New York" -- Michael's title and post capture the essence of this strange New York episode.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Headline of the Day (Obama contra Bush edition)" -- Michael's very good summary of how President Obama begins to turn around our off-course ship of state.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Chris Matthews, verbal diarrhea, and the Obama Inauguration" -- This post focuses on "Tweety" and says it all for many of us who love to hate him.

By Capt. Fogg: "I hope he fails" -- Fogg's fiercely fought argument with Rush Limbaugh over the future of the Obama presidency.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Israel, white phosphorus, and the war in Gaza" -- Michael wades into this very murky mess with some very well-nuanced commentary.

By Carl: "A quiet moment" -- A wonderful narrative and personal reflection on the true meaning of Inauguration Day. See also, "Service"and Truth.

By Carol Gee: "Inauguration Wednesday" -- Checking out the previous day's predictions about how the Inauguration would play out.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Obama's First Inaugural Speech" -- Perhaps assuming there will be a second, a very insightful look at what President Obama had to say to the nation and to the world.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Canada denies entry to Bill Ayers" -- Our editor is Canadian, offering a good perspective for this post and the lively comment thread that followed.

By Edward Copeland: "Joy mixed with bittersweet" -- Edward's very moving personal narrative about how he and a friend became Democrats and could have celebrated the Obama Inauguration.


By Dan Tobin: "Seniors rule!!" -- Perhaps the last (?), and maybe the best, Tobin piece of e-mail hilarity from the former prexy as he leaves for Texas.

By Mustang Bobby: "Kristol: faithful to the end" -- Bobby passionately calls out William Kristol, and the administration he was defending, regarding the misguided war in Iraq.

By Creature: "The truth about banks and bailouts" -- "We can bail banks out all we want, but until the underlying rot of bad assets is addressed with honesty, and not ideology, nothing will change," says it all.

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Blagomania; or, my own personal Pearl Harbor

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's what (still) Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich told the AP yesterday:

Dec. 9 to my family, to us, to me, is what Pearl Harbor Day was to the United States. It was a complete surprise, completely unexpected. And just like the United States prevailed in that, we'll prevail in this.

TNR's Isaac Chotiner calls it the Quote of the Century. At the very least, it our Quote of the Day.

And I don't know about you, but I'm really looking forward to the three-hour Ben Affleck epic on the whole sordid affair. (Matt Damon as Blago?) A day of infamy captured forever in craptastic celluloid wonder. Can enough justice ever be done, though, to Blago's superlative self-absorption? The only word for it -- and I do hope it one day enters the psycho-medical lexicon -- is Blagomania.

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Obama: "I won."

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So said Obama to Republicans at a meeting with Congressional leaders this morning, responding to "Republican gripes about his stimulus package."

Conservative Allahpundit notes sarcastically that "[t]he golden age of bipartisanship beginneth." How hard it is to deal with reality when the tables have so dramatically turned.

And Obama wasn't being partisan, he was just telling it like it is. (If anything, he's being exceedingly non-partisan, much to the frustration of those of us who would like him to be much tougher. Though I suspect the toughness will come before too long, if only because Republicans, and especially the many wackos in the House, are themselves so brutally partisan.)

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Obama leads out in early days

By Carol Gee

We have seen a great deal of purposeful activity by the Obama administration since the start of business on Tuesday. What can we take from what we see and hear, both explicitly and implicitly? How is our new President doing, so far?

Calm -- One of the best newspapers in the business, The Financial Times, described President Barack Obama's "calm authority of a born leader." Speaking about his Inauguration day speech:

He was politically encompassing, reaching out to sceptics and opponents. He touched admiringly on US history and traditions, but without vainglory and not without reminding his listeners of its errors. Addressing his nation’s enemies, he was measured but stern. He did not disguise the difficulties that face the country; he addressed them with quiet confidence.

There is no bombast or chauvinism or phony sentiment in Mr Obama’s oratory. He inspires, yet his appeal is always to the intellect; still he holds an audience of this size spellbound. It was the performance of a born leader.

Decisive -- In a move designed to reinforce a commitment to governmental openness and transparency, it was reported in ProPublica that, "Obama Reverses Bush Executive Privilege Claim Over Documents" (1/21/09). To quote:

. . . President Obama issued an order rolling back the former administration's restrictive FOIA policies. And now, we learn President Obama has signed another order reversing President George W. Bush's controversial order that gave ex-presidents and their heirs broad authority to stop release of White House records. . .

Team-style governance -- The second day emphasis on the diplomatic side of the house is an effort to return balance to U.S. foreign policy. By enlisting a number of well-know, competent and high profile people to help with foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, it brings up the possibility of confusion about who is heading that enhanced emphasis. Typically, Politico asked Thursday, "who is in charge of foreign policy?" Author Ben Smith concluded, at least in the Middle East, "all of them," meaning Obama, Clinton, Biden, Mitchell and Holbrook. Each of these people understands who the leader is, and how much trust President Obama has in all. Every one of them has the capacity to know what the policy positions are and sit at the table with the authority to handle negotiations, to communicate policy and to bring back the views of the foreign leaders.

After a good Transition, what then -- Will the same things that worked well before the President was sworn in be effective during actual governance? The Democratic Strategist (1/16/09) spoke to some of these same questions recently:

Note: this is a special guest post from Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute. . . .

We’ll find out soon enough whether President-elect Obama is as adept at governing as he is at campaigning. But this much is already certain: Barack Obama has presided over a spectacular presidential transition – maybe the best in modern times.

In picking a crew of political heavyweights to run his administration, Obama has radiated both self-confidence and seriousness about governing. And in recent weeks, he has crystallized the key dilemmas facing the country with greater candor and specificity than ever before.

But, wait a minute -- How do we know it will be successful? Given the financial crisis, two wars, energy issues, global warming, etc., etc., what are the realistic chances? The following piece is recommended reading on this: Yahoo! News & "Seven reasons for healthy skepticism"# (1/21/09). To quote:

Here are seven reasons to be skeptical of Obama’s chances — and the Washington establishment he now leads: 1) The genius fallacy. . . 2) The herd instinct . . . 3) We are broke . . . 4) Words, words, words . . . 5) He rarely challenges the home team . . . 6) Everyone is winging it . . . 7) The watchdogs are dozing.

Perhaps not everyone will dutifully fall in line -- Another Politico list includes "Ten Dems Obama should look out for." To summarize (the full story is a good read): Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), VP Joe Biden, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif), Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla), Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont), Rep Barbara Lee (D-Calif), Senator Jim Webb (D-Va), and Michelle Obama.

Press relations not all roses -- (1/22/09) reveals more information about what President Obama's relating style with the press could be. Headlined, "Obama flashes irritation in press room," The vignette describes the inevitable tension between Press, wanting individual access to the president and the President wanting to make information public as he chooses.

Trivia -- It has only been a few days since power changed hands. On balance the leadership looks good. It feels nice to the adults back in charge. In conclusion here are a few miscellaneous fun facts, just to keep things light.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo"* and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Gillibrand and gay marriage

By Michael J.W. Stickings

She may be a horrible, horrible pick, but at least she supports same-sex marriage -- which all Democrats should, not just civil unions.

So I suppose that makes the pick somewhat less horrible.

(Maybe in her ideal world you'd be able to buy semi-automatic rifles at wedding chapels.)


For what it's worth, Kos thinks it's a win-win situation:

There are two alternatives:

1. Gillibrand was voting her districts, and will now tack hard to the left as she represents a much more liberal New York, or

2. She gets primaried and a more progressive Democrats -- one chosen by the voters! -- gets in. Heck, it could even be Caroline Kennedy, assuming she isn't afraid to face real voters!

Gillibrand is an accomplished politician who won in a brutally difficult House seat. But what made her successful in that district won't make her successful statewide. So she either adapts, or she dies. And in the end, it'll be the voters making that call.

As it should be.

Well, sure, but there's a third alternative: Gillibrand benefits from the power of incumbency and remains in the Senate after 2010 as a right-leaning Blue Dog with hard-right positions on gun control and other issues.

The point is, Paterson had the opportunity to appoint a solid liberal Democrat -- or (gasp!) a progressive -- to what is a fairly safe Senate seat. And he blew it.

And, yes, with Gillibrand headed to the Senate, I am wondering why I was so critical of Caroline Kennedy, who would have been the far better choice.

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Craziest Conservative of the Day: J. Harvie Wilkinson III

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I quote Chait, who quotes Wilkinson:

In today's Washington Post, conservative judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III appeals for an ideological truce in appointments that just happens to coincide with the exact moment Democrats have retaken the nominating power:

So the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit is set for a takeover. Popular commentary has it that the court, on which I serve, is a fortress or bastion or citadel of conservatism. Discussion of coming changes suggests more the fruits of a successful military campaign than the result of an election giving our new president the right to nominate members to a judicial body. ... With the new numbers in the Senate, the temptation is there to go for an ideological makeover. Yet the tempting course would prove a misguided one.

If you're wondering whether Wilkinson wrote a similar op-ed at the start of, or any time during, the Bush administration, the answer is no, he didn't.

Wilkinson also writes, "ideology should not be the foremost criterion for selecting a judge. Many people may not believe it, but judges are not politicians in robes." Tell that to the five justices who decided to be Republican precinct captains in 2000.

Exactly. There are no partisan judges quite like conservative partisan judges, and Republicans, including Bush, have been all about appointing rigidly ideological and unabashedly partisan judges. What happened in 2000 was just the most prominent example of partisan conservative judicial activism.

Perhaps this isn't crazy so much as typical. As in, the typical conservative double standard: do one thing when in power, say the opposite when not. Coming out of this past presidential election, for example, many conservatives claimed that Obama did not have a mandate to govern other than from the center-right, and certainly not to enact liberal-progressive policies, despite his decisive victory over McCain and his decidedly liberal-progressive policy platform. Regardless of this victory, they claimed, America remains a "center-right" nation. And yet, back in 2004, following a much closer election, many conservatives claimed that Bush, in winning re-election, had a mandate to implement pretty much whatever he wanted, including social security reform, and not just a "center-right" agenda but, with the exception of immigration, a far-right one.

And here they are again -- one of them, anyway, a prominent member of theirs swollen judicial ranks -- arguing, in stark contrast to how they conducted themselves when Bush was president, that Obama and the Democrats should take ideology and partisanship out of the judicial appointment process, or, to put it another way, that Obama and the Democrats should not act like Bush and the Republicans.

How convenient indeed. Whether Wilkinson actually believes his newfound post-partisan rhetoric or not, that is, whether he can write drivel like this with a straight face, I'm not sure. Perhaps he really is that self-delusional and perhaps, enveloped in his own partisan bubble, he really is that cluelessly hypocritical. Whatever the case -- and as earnest and as focused on the common good as he wants us to believe he is -- he's crazy.

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Paterson picks Gillibrand

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Updating my post from earlier today.)

The "confusing and even embarrassing two-month ordeal," as the Times put it, is finally over. As expected, and at long last, New York Governor David Paterson has named Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Hillary's vacated spot in the Senate.

Earlier, I suggested that Gillibrand, who represents a pro-Bush district, is "almost a Republican." Almost? I'd say she pretty much is, what with a 100% approval rating from the NRA, support for the Iraq War, and, as she herself put it, "one of the most conservative" voting records in the state, including voting for the FISA bill that included telecom immunity and to lift the ban on the possession of semi-automatic weapons in D.C. Her father was close to former Republican Governor George Pataki. She even once interned for former Senator Al D'Amato, a conservative and hyper-partisan Republican. (For more, see Eve Fairbanks' "Ten Things You Didn't Know About Kirsten Gillibrand" over at The Plank.)

What a horrible, horrible pick.

(Much more reaction at Memeorandum.)

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Doc Bloc Death Knock? ... MSNBC climbs into the Big Yellow Taxi

By J. Thomas Duffy

Okay, "Sticks nix hick pix" it isn't, but it appears MSNBC is looking to get out of the re-run business.

MSNBC Wants to Add a 3rd Prime-Time Show

Building on the momentum of its prime-time hours, MSNBC is developing a 10 p.m. program that would complement its left-leaning evening lineup, the cable news channel’s president said this week.


Unlike most major networks, MSNBC’s original programming ends at 10 each weeknight. The 8 p.m. program “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” is rerun at 10 p.m., where it usually ranks third.


But at 10 p.m., MSNBC replaced live programming with documentaries and repeats in 2006. It moved the reruns of “Countdown” there in March to capitalize on the political year. Reverting to tape at 10 p.m. puts the network at a disadvantage, especially on busy news nights. Meanwhile, CNN and Fox News are battling for first place in the hour. Last year, “Anderson Cooper 360” on CNN outperformed “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” on Fox News among younger viewers, but the Fox program averaged a higher number of total viewers.

Hmmm ...

We once joked, at the height of the Missing White Woman bonanza, that MSNBC was going to launch a 24/7 Rita Cosby Channel, and, apparently, they are reluctant to plaster a Keith Olbermann Doc Bloc of sorts, endlessly replaying his Countdown program on the channel.

And, now, they want to cash in on their "left-leaning evening lineup."

Something seems to come to mind about that:

Don't it always seem to go
That you dont know what you've got
Til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Perhaps this is an opportunity to make amends, for their boneheaded cowardness, for their capitulation to the Right Wing Freak Show, and the Bush Grindhouse, when they dumped anti-war proponent Phil Donahue from their line-up.

Exit Phil Donahue

Phil Donahue on his 2003 MSNBC firing: "We had to have two conservatives on for every liberal. I was counted as two liberals."

MSNBC Sabotages Donahue

Then again, we haven't seen Rita Cosby pop up anywhere.

From this view, it would be nice if they came up with a second "progressive" program, and stop subjecting us to the Tweety rerun at 7:00 pm.

And don't you dare put Morning Joke back in Prime Time!


Bonus MSNBC Riffs

MSNBC's Matthews Uninjured Pulling Head Out Of Judy Miller's Ass ... Hardball Host Fawns Over Former White House Stenographer; Stays Away From Tough Questions

Top Ten Cloves: Things Joe Scarborough Likes To Eat and Wear When Sitting At Computer

Developing Story - MSNBC Making Pitches To Become Eulogy Channel

Rachel Maddow: Hillary Apologist and Obama Basher

Bonus Bonus

Joni Mitchell Big Yellow Taxi

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Caroline Kennedy, Kirsten Gillibrand, and the inane silliness of the Senate seat drama in New York

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, how inane and how silly it is. And what the hell is taking so long?

It was supposed to be Caroline Kennedy, or so it was thought, given how hard she was campaigning for the job, and given her last name, but she suddenly withdrew from contention on Wednesday, reports conflicting, and since then it has been all about the spin.

The reason was Uncle Ted's health, but that wasn't really a valid reason, given that Uncle Ted has been unwell for some time and that Caroline isn't exactly his only caregiver (and it's an excuse that has apparently aroused Uncle Ted's fury), and yesterday, according to the Times, "one person close to the governor" -- such a vague source, no? -- "said that her candidacy had been derailed by problems involving taxes and a household employee." No details were provided, and there may not be many, but, if nothing else, the (intentional) leak suggests that Governor Paterson's office, with or without the approval of the governor himself, is trying to unload the blame on Kennedy, perhaps to distract attention away from the governor, who seems to have "lost control of the selection process." Neither Kennedy nor Paterson will come away from this whole ridiculous episode looking good, but while Kennedy will at least be able to go back to her private life, Paterson has proven himself to be a weak and ineffectual figure, unable to take charge of the situation. Seriously, all he had to do was pick someone, a Democrat to replace a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Democratic state. What's the problem?

Paterson supposedly decided on Kennedy "weeks ago." Fine. But then why the need for "a little misdirection to keep the suspense up," as one "Democratic operative with ties" put it? Why the need for so much stupid drama, for so much prolonged pointlessness? Well, who knows what motivates the governor? And who knows what to believe? Now that Kennedy has pulled out, that leaky person close to the governor, spinning wildly, is claiming that Paterson "never had any intention of picking Kennedy," given her lack of experience. Right. Sure. Paterson, or his office, is saying all the right things" -- namely that "the governor considers Caroline a friend and knows she will continue to serve New York well inside or outside of government" -- and Kennedy, through a spokesman, is still citing unspecified "personal reasons," but there just has to be more to this story, no?

Anyway, a choice has been made, at long last, and it's not New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo but, if WPIX-TV is to be believed, U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand of the state's 20th Congressional District -- a largely rural district that stretches along the part of the state, bordering Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and includes Glen Falls and Saratoga Springs.

Is Gillibrand a good choice? Sure, if you want a Blue Dog Democrat who's almost a Republican, a supporter of the NRA (and hence an opponent of gun control), and who has already bitterly antagonized her own party, with one of her fellow House Democrats, Long Island's Carolyn McCarthy, threatening to run against her in 2010.

Sorry, but that's not a choice I can believe in.

So... well done, Governor Paterson. You screwed up the entire process, delaying and delyaing, fooling around, spinning this way and that, and now you or those close to you are blaming Kennedy, who deserves some of the blame but hardly all of it, and, to make it all so much worse, you've apparently chosen a questionable Democrat with close ties to the GOP. If only your distinguished predecessor, the unquenchable Eliot Spitzer, had been able to keep his urges to himself. Surely he would have handled this process more professionally and chosen a more worthy replacement for Hillary.

Well, we'll see. It's not Gillibrand yet. Paterson will announce his pick today at noon. Stay tuned.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Senate committee approves Geithner

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Timothy F. Geithner was strongly endorsed by the Senate Finance Committee as secretary of the Treasury on Thursday, virtually guaranteeing his quick confirmation by the full Senate and assuring the new president that he will have the leader he wants for his economic team.

The 18-to-5 vote came a day after Mr. Geithner endured hours of grilling over his failure to pay thousands of dollars in back taxes. That lapse caused considerable embarrassment for Mr. Geithner, even as some members of the panel said they were willing to accept his word that the failure was an honest mistake.

To put it mildly, I'm iffy on Geithner (in part because I'm iffy on the financial bailout, of which he is one of the loudest cheerleaders, in part because he was part of the problem to begin with), but I do think Obama should be able to have the Cabinet he wants and, as was the case throughout much of the transition, given some of his more questionable nominations, I'm willing to put aside my reservations and trust that he knows what he's doing.

Besides, it's not like I want the Republicans to be successful in blocking any of his nominees, especially as high-profile a nominee as Geithner.

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Headline of the Day (Obama contra Bush edition)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's gotta be this one, right?

And what a start it has been:

President Obama moved swiftly yesterday to begin rolling back eight years of his predecessor's policies, ordering tough new ethics rules and preparing to issue an order closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which has been at the center of the debate over the treatment of U.S. prisoners in the battle against terrorism.

Acting to address several promises he made during his campaign, Obama met with top generals about speeding the withdrawal from Iraq and gathered his senior economic advisers as he continued to push for a massive spending bill to create jobs.

He also signed a series of executive orders and directives intended to slow the revolving door between government service and lobbying, and ordered his administration to share information more freely with the public.

Today, he will issue another order calling for the closure of Guantanamo Bay within a year, an immediate case-by-case review of the 245 detainees remaining there, and the application of new rules governing the treatment and interrogation of prisoners, including compliance with international treaties that the Bush administration deemed inapplicable to suspects in terrorism cases.

Any questions? Any more doubts as to Obama's commitment to genuine reform and to a progressive agenda of change? (Like Maha, I've had more than enough of the doubting.)

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Foreign policy, front and center

By Carol Gee

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed up for her first day on the job at Foggy Bottom. She made a big hit with her flock. Her boss, Barack Obama, the POTUS, and the new Veep, Joe Biden, are not taking very long to come and check up on her. They visited the State Department this afternoon. Their second day on their jobs focuses of Diplomacy and Development, not Defense. Like all of the brand new administration's initial acts, it makes a statement about priorities. Former Senator George Mitchell has been named the new special envoy for Middle East peace, and diplomat Richard Holbrook has the combined region of Afghanistan and Pakistan as his coordination portfolio

The Constitution is being dusted off .- Gitmo is going to close within a year; it began yesterday with an executive order and the suspension of trials. International crises will be seen through different eyes from now on. (HT to CQ Behind the Lines). Memeorandum headlines that President Obama is also going to shut down the CIA prisons, known as "black sites." And a special high level panel will figure out the statuses of the 200+ detainees and what is to become of them.

The military will be making adjustments to its new Commander In Chief. The Army is reviewing its weapons systems. President Obama is also having to adjust -- rapidly, to the foreign policy issues on the U.S. front burner, Gaza, for example. But his team is beginning to take hold of the reins of government. And just in time, it is. His policy statement on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has good ideas and some significant substance. It has been a momentous day, once again. It feels very much like a clean break with the former administration.

********** Middle East & Military Round-up **********

Israel --

Buzz Flash: "Doctor's raw pain shakes Israelis"* (1/21/09)

Buzz Flash: "Israel wanted a humanitarian crisis"* (1/20/09)

Common Dreams: "Israeli FM confronted at National Press Club"* (1/19/09)

Buzz Flash: "Israel to keep tight grip on Gaza reconstruction"* (1/19/09)

Think Progress: "Israel prepares post-war battle for public opinion"* (1/18/09)

Informed Comment: " Israel Should Stop the War and Let US Enjoy the Inauguration"* (1/17/09)

Alternet: "Why Did Congress Shamelessly Pander to Israel?"* (1/17/09)

truthdig: "Who's in Charge -- Obama, the Pentagon or Israel?"* (1/15/09)

Gaza --

Informed Comment: "They even killed the cats"* (1/20/09)

Buzz Flash: "Gaza Hospital, Tons of Food, Medicine Set Ablaze"* (1/16/09)

truthout: "Israeli Forces Shell UN Headquarters in Gaza"* (1/15/09)

Iraq and Iran --

Yahoo! News: "Iraqi guards said to throw party for shoe-thrower"* (1/16/09)

Washington Post: "Iran Using Fronts to Get Bomb Parts From U.S."# (1/11/09) -- to quote:

Despite multiple attempts by the Bush administration to halt illegal imports -- including sanctions against several Dubai-based Iranian front companies in 2006 -- the technology pipeline to Tehran is flowing at an even faster pace. In some cases, Iran simply opened new front companies and shifted its operations from Dubai to farther east in Asia, the officials said.

More on the Military --

Buzz Flash: "How to Sell 'Ethical Warfare'"* (1/18/09)

truthout: " 'War on Terror' Was Wrong"* (1/15/09)

truthout: "Future Shock at the Army Science Conference: Eco-Explosives, a Bleeding BEAR, and the Armani-Clad Super Soldier"* (1/15/09)

Memeorandum: "Top Officer Urges Limit on Mission of Military" from NYT's Thom Shanker (1/13/09)

BuzzFlash: "Army Suicides Rise as Time Spent in Combat Rises"* (1/12/09)

ProPublica: "Quick Picks -- Friendly Fire" (1/15/09) -- to quote:

Today, Salon questions the Army’s statistics on friendly fire deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army cites improved technology to explain the shockingly low rate compared to other wars, but an extensive Salon investigation earlier this year suggests an Army cover-up. Army responds See Army spokesman John P. Boyce, Jr.'s response to ProPublica here.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo"* and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Chris Matthews, verbal diarrhea, and the Obama Inauguration

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I love a good takedown of a self-important media blowhard as much as anyone, even if it's a liberal-leaning enthusiast for "change," which is why I appreciate Jack Shafer's biting critique of the manure-spewing Chris Matthews:

Nobody in TV news stir-fries his ideas and serves them to the audience faster than MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Drawing from a larder filled with old anecdotes, unreliable metaphors, wacky intuition, and superficial observations, the always-animated Matthews steers whatever's handy into the hot wok that is his brain. The sizzling free-associations skitter through his limbic system, leap out his mouth, and look for a resting spot in the national conversation, where they steam like fresh lava in untouchable heaps.

Read the whole thing.

Shafer focuses on Matthews's Inauguration Day "cooking" -- one must pity Shafer for having to endure so much Matthews in so little time -- and, needless to say, there was a lot of material, much of it, as usual, pathetically self-referential, pretentiously self-absorbed, and arrogantly self-aggrandizing.

My favourite bit: Matthews declaring that the crowds were actually cheering for MSNBC as "the network of the 21st century," then later name-dropping all the celebrities he met (including quasi-celebrity Val Kilmer, to whom he gave a ride home). Awesome.

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The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

By Carl

It strikes me odd how much better, how much more hopeful, I feel right now than I did even three days ago. I wonder why...

Oh, yeah. That might do it.

See, for thirty years, I've felt like an outcast in my own nation. A liberal. A stranger in a strange land and I couldn't grok society. I'd rail as the antithesis of culture, of the political spectrum. I felt a little like Cassandra, destined to have foresight yet doomed to be taken quite unseriously until events had passed that showed I was right.

Such was the power of the right wing hate machine that even I, a liberal even in this most blue of cities, felt a frisson of that hate.

Oh, there were moments, of course, like when Bill "Greatest. President. Ever." Clinton was elected twice. That comforted me, made me feel like part of the universe again.

Until the right wing hate machine, presented by Rupert Murdoch and funded by Richard Mellon "
Family Values Cost $750,000 A Month" Scaife decided he was too much a threat to the good of the nation, and started dismantling him, brick by brick.

The year 2000 held hope, as my real hero, the man I voted for twice in primaries, Al Gore succeeded in capturing the nomination. It looked, to coin a phrase, like a slam dunk, until Karl Rove got his precious little mitts on the election, and managed to squeeze a faux cowboy into the flight suit he had abandoned 25 years earlier.

Now there's a diet I probably should try, altho being around Karl Rove seven days a week probably would make me quit eating and start drinking more, so who knows?

After four years, I figured we had the bastard: approval ratings in the 40% range, half the country truly hating the man, an abortion of a war, an economy that took three years to jump start from the most mild of recessions in 2000 and 2001, and a man who failed to protect us from a terrorist attack, not because he was caught by surprise, but because he really just didn't give a damn about some feller named "Al Kaydah."

And then the Democrats, rather than choosing the most obvious candidate, a former general with bona fides out the wazoo in Muslim-West relations in Wesley Clark, or even the most antipodal candidate to Bush's elitism and out-of-touchness, a man who worked with the poor and could speak earnestly about the plight of the children left behind in John Edwards, picked a former war hero who had for thirty years ducked the charges smearing him from a nutcase former soldier who probably never even fired a gun, much less saved his men on a Swift Boat.

All this, again, funded and encouraged by the Wonder Twerps of Truthiness, Murdoch and Scaife.

That was a bitter defeat, to be sure. Even as horrid a candidate as John Kerry battled this machine down to the last minute, and almost, ALMOST, pulled it out. It shouldn't have been close enough that voting discrepancies in Ohio made a difference, just as 2000 should not have been close enough to let Florida's egregious backwoods voting systems and antiquated laws decide that election.

It should have Dems in a walk in both years.

A sidenote: Recent history gives us coalescing images of moments in time. Photography and videography have given us totems of events that sum up and define not only the historical significance of the instant, but the context and emotional content. Think of the Kennedy assassination, and the photo of Caroline and John-John with Jackie on the cortege route, or the flag at Iwo Jima, or this one from 9/11:

My suspicion is that history's pictorial judgement of the elections of 2000 will be this photo:

So we are left at the end of the 2004 election, defeated, dispirited, but not dormant. The anger that welled up inside progressives and liberals nationwide, and spread worldwide by the old saw "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice... can't get fooled again". Other nations woke up and realized that Bush was not going away easily, and decided to leverage their political strength against him. We here on the left took comfort in that, that the rest of the world would shun, as best as they could, this poseur president.

As time passed, and our anger solidified into action, the 2006 election loomed as a pivotal point in American history. It would set the stage for a revolution unlike any we had known previously, even our own Civil War, even our own birth, because this one would forge a future for our country without bloodshed. This one could unite a nation in the pursuit of true American values, of fair play and equal opportunity. It would prove the adage that, yes, ANYONE could be president.

It sure didn't hurt any that the Republicans had shot themselves in the collective face (in Dick Cheney's case, quite literally) by accomplishing nothing in over ten years of Congressional control. The politics of division revealed themselves to be the politics of do-nothingism, and America wondered why we even have a Congress.

It also didn't hurt that, hand in hand with this, and likely this bit was orchestrated by some on the left, the hypocrisies of the "family values" party were slowly uncovered, like a good stripping. The GOP missed the lessons of the early-'90s Democrats: never EVER let yourself be caught on tape or in a sex scandal. By Nov. 8, 2006, it was almost safe to be a liberal.

But there was still Dum-Dum to deal with. Were Pelosi and Reid correct not to pursue criminal charges against Bush? History will judge, but in my opinion, yes. Two years of haggling over documents would have frozen the nation worse than it already was, and would have made the bailouts and other economic stimuli passed and that still need to be passed, impossible. For the greater good, we let the guilty get off.

This is how our nation has always operated. This is how it must operate now. If you want to file cases in the Hague against the Bushies, I'll do what I can to see them brought to justice, but not here. Not now.

And now, we have a President who reflects in his very being the country: cool under pressure, able to laugh at himself, and diverse.

In other words, a liberal. He may, from practicality sake, be forced to dumb down his progressive credentials. I'm OK with that. He's not the Liberal President. He is President of the United States and that means respecting the thoughts and feelings of people in Nebraska as much as New Jersey.

I'm OK with that. It guarantees him an eight year term, and I kinda like "That One."

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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I hope he fails

By Capt. Fogg

I've called him all kinds of names, from Limpboy to liar to Rush the magic blowhard. This time Rush Limbaugh has left me at a loss for a proper pejorative. I guess that puts me in the drivers seat as a "driveby journalist" but when I listen to him this time, listen to him saying he hopes Barack Obama fails as president, hopes the "liberalism" he represents fails and pretends it's all about the kinds of people Obama appoints, the decisions he makes, I can only descend into obscenity.

He blames Obama, he says, for a policy that includes massive bailouts and the nationalization of the private sector. I shouldn't have to point out the distortion or the irony. The "liberals" he says, were out to get Bush even before Bush ruined the world, so it's fair even though Bush and his fake war were supported massively by such straw men as The New York Times, even though the economic policies Rush supports have failed consistently for 30 years.

Hoping Obama succeeds is "affirmative action," it's "supporting incompetence," it's advocating "socialism." He's the "last man standing" says he, but it's all about a better America for his nieces and nephews. I wish he were the last man standing -- against the wall, because if Obama fails to undo what people like Rush and the pirates and buccaneers he supports have done, the country will only be worth living in for the heirs of plutocratic bloviators and the world will be in ruins. If Obama fails, we all fail.

Was anyone ever so thoroughly dishonest, so completely reprehensible? Perhaps yes. Did anyone ever make so much money at it, maybe not. Behold the man who hopes you lose your job and your home because it offends his Reaganoid ideology. Here's the man who avoided the draft because his anus was sore, here's the man who tries to pin a drug charge on his housekeeper. Here's his 51,000 square foot home on the Atlantic ocean in Palm beach where he sits in the sun and complains about being a victim. You bought it for him, because you hate America, because you hate justice, because you're a coward, because you think bigotry is cute, because you're afraid someone will pull the rug out from under your miserable life if you don't side with the people who kidnapped America and held it for ransom.

Our country faces a world economic crisis as dangerous as anything we have faced. You and I are more likely to lose everything we have than at any time in the last 80 years; Rush isn't. In fact ,the worse it gets, and as he says, he hopes it will, the more material he has and the more support he will get from those who insist we need more of what Reagan and the two Bushes gave us.

If Obama succeeds, if we succeed in turning around the economy, stopping the biggest incursions into personal liberty in our history and in extricating ourselves from the war Bush started for his own reasons, Limbaugh will become as embarrassing and repugnant as the equally popular Father Coughlin did in the 1930s when it became obvious that his policies were indistinguishable from Hitler's. It can happen. We can be rid of him. Yes we can.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari." -- Obama spokesman Bill Burton, commenting on the stone-age technology found in the White House.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Clinton confirmed, Holder held back

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In case you missed it, Hillary Clinton was confirmed by the Senate, 94-2, and sworn in as the new secretary of state this evening.

One of her biggest boosters was John McCain. The two who voted against her? -- David Vitter and Jim DeMint, two of the more loathsome Republicans in that august body.

Meanwhile, with Specter and the Republicans looking to make a show of it all, a committee vote on AG nominee Eric Holder won't take place until next week at the earliest. (He'll be confirmed eventually.)

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Obama takes the oath... again

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, because Chief Justice Roberts flubbed it, screwing up the one job he had to do, because he and Obama just weren't on the same wavelength, and because idiots like Fox News's Chris Wallace made a big deal of the error and asked if Obama really was the president, even though he was, already, at noon on Inauguration Day, before he even swore on the Lincoln Bible, and because some "experts" thought it might be a good idea, and because of "an abundance of caution," as White House Counsel Greg Craig put it, and simply because the issue had to be put to rest, Obama took the presidential oath again, tonight, this time at the White House, presumably with Roberts not screwing up.

Okay. Can we move on? It's over.

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The next junior senator from New York will be... not Caroline Kennedy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It is being reported that Caroline Kennedy has withdrawn her name from consideration to replace Hillary Clinton as the junior senator from New York. She supposedly informed Governor David Paterson of her decision earlier today.

As I wrote last month, I didn't think she was the right person for the job, and I objected to her ongoing efforts to be appointed. It's not that I don't like her -- I suppose she's a fine philanthropist and a decent enough person, not least if judged according to the dismal standards of the U.S. Senate -- it's that she has no political experience and that she thought she was somehow entitled to be appointed simply by virtue of her own celebrity status, if not her famous last name -- or so it seemed.

It's like she decided, after getting her feet wet working for Obama, that she wanted the job, threw her name into the ring by letting anyone and everyone know, in not-so-subtle fashion, that she wanted it, and then launched a self-promotional campaign, including a whirlwind tour of the state she lives in but doesn't seem to know all that well, to overwhelm the competition, including Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a campaign that did not mean having to answer any questions or engaging with the competition or otherwise being subjected to the rigors of an actual political campaign. And, fine, it wasn't an actual campaign -- it's Paterson's decision to make, and he can appoint whomever he likes -- but the playing field was never even, and Caroline Kennedy had the upper hand simply because she's Caroline Kennedy.

While I understand and appreciate her concern for Uncle Ted, whose health is not good, I have to wonder about that self-promotional tour, about her campaign to be appointed. Was she ever really committed to it, did she ever really want the job, or did she just think she did, or was she just trying to convince us that she was? After all, it's not like Ted just became ill this week.

So what is the real reason for her sudden withdrawal? Why did she back out at the last minute? Maybe it really is her uncle's health, but it seems to me that there must be more to it than that.

Or maybe it was all just a big joke. And a big waste of time.


UPDATE: Or maybe she will be after all. Both the AP and NBC are reporting that she hasn't withdrawn (via PoliBlog).

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The beginning of the end of Gitmo?

By Michael J.W. Stickings


In one of its first actions, the Obama administration instructed military prosecutors late Tuesday to seek a 120-day suspension of legal proceedings involving detainees at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- a clear break with the approach of the outgoing Bush administration.

The instruction came in a motion filed with a military court in the case of five defendants accused of organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The motion called for "a continuance of the proceedings" until May 20 so that "the newly inaugurated president and his administration [can] review the military commissions process, generally, and the cases currently pending before military commissions, specifically."

The same motion was filed in another case scheduled to resume Wednesday, involving a Canadian detainee, and will be filed in all other pending matters.

Such a request may not be automatically granted by military judges, and not all defense attorneys may agree to such a suspension. But the move is a first step toward closing a detention facility and system of military trials that became a worldwide symbol of the Bush administration's war on terrorism and its unyielding attitude toward foreign and domestic critics.

Make sure to read Greenwald: "This is a very good and important step," albeit "only a first step and a temporary one at that. Subsequent actions that the Obama administration is clearly considering could severely undermine both the symbolic and substantive value of this act... Still, this order clearly signals that Obama -- even for one day -- did not want his name anywhere near the grotesque mockery of justice known as the "Guantanamo military commissions," tribunals that were created when his own political party, in the weeks before the 2006 mid-term elections, helped to enact the Military Commissions Act..."

The resurrection of America's image and standing around the world, not to mention of its commitment to its own ideals, has begun.

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