Saturday, February 14, 2009

Top Ten Cloves: Signs you're having a bad Valentine's Day

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: Valentine's Day - Not Like it Used To Be

10. Instead of a Vermont Teddy Bear, you receive former French President Chirac's clinically depressed poodle

9. You just started dating Cher, and she's pressing you on whether you are a Republican or Democrat

8. You receive a box of chocolate-covered peanut butter cups

7. Your date starts proudly quoting Virginia GOP Chairman Jeff Frederick

6. A minor argument turns into "I'm so glad that you could never be my wife because I surely wouldn't have to listen to that prattle from you every day."

5. You're sweetie just blew off a job in the Obama Administration, to keep his job as a goddamn Senator from a Nowheresville state

4. When visiting your girlfriend's Facebook, you discover her 25 Random Things - about another guy

3. Your girlfriend dumps you for Joaquin Phoenix

2. You're boyfriend read that article and hasn't showered for days

1. You go to pick up your date, and she starts throwing shoes at you

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Barack Obama, still America's valentine

By Creature

Ben Smith breaks through the beltway noise:

With Barack Obama’s victory in passing a massive stimulus package marred by days of bad press—as not a single House Republican backed the bill, his Health Czar went down in flames and his second pick for Commerce Secretary walked away—the administration has been cut down to size, and lost some of its bipartisan sheen.

Such, at least, has been the beltway chatter, but so far the numbers don’t back it up.

Obama’s approval rating remains well above 60% in tracking polls. A range of state pollsters said they’d seen no diminution in the president’s sky-high approval ratings, and no improvement in congressional Republicans’ dismal numbers. [...]

“It’s eerie—I read the news from the Beltway, and there’s this disconnect with the polls from the Midwest that I see all around me,” said Ann Seltzer, the authoritative Iowa pollster who works throughout the Midwest.

One day the beltway media will wake up to the reality that Rush Limbaugh and John Boehner do not speak for America.

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"It's like telling the coach who just won the Super Bowl, 'If you do things differently next time, you'll get a better result.'" -- Steve Benen, taking issue with John McCain's out-of-touch statement that he hopes the White House has "learned a lesson" after failing to pass successfully passing the cornerstone of the president's economic agenda.

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A headline a long time coming

By Creature

AP: Dems power stimulus bill through Congress

It's worth it to take a step back from the bickering of the moment and appreciate what the Democrats, and their three-week old president, managed to do. They "powered" a bill through Congress. In the end, all the GOP could do was whine. How cool is that?

Update: More perspective from Al Giordano.

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Blackwater going all Prince on us (But you can pronounce the name)

By J. Thomas Duffy

Who knows, if Prince (the musician) had picked out an esoteric, but pronounceable, name, how many more albums would he have sold?

And, I am quite sure the irony, of changing your company name, to that of a 1969 film of the same pronunciation, one about political murder, a government overthrown, with the rightwing across-the-board working to cover it up, is totally lost on them.

But that is exactly what Blackwater USA is doing

Meet the new company - "Xe," pronounced "zee."

From Noah Shachtman, at Wired's Danger Room;

For the last year or so, Blackwater Xe has been moving away from its core business of diplomat protection, and into -- well, just about everything else, it seems. Firm CEO Erik Prince has put together teams of spies-for-hire. The company is pushing ahead with plans to protect commercial ships, traveling through pirate-packed seas. And in case that doesn't work out, the company is making custom rifles, marketing spy blimps, assembling a fleet of light attack aircraft, and billing itself as experts in everything from cargo handling to dog training to construction management. It's even training pro athletes.

Shachtman was also a bit disappointed, that Blackwater, err, I mean Xe, didn't take his advice, as to changing their logo to his "Hello Kitty-style logos".

From USA Today's "What's in a name? Blackwater aims to bury its past with a new brand"

The company was founded in 1997 by chief executive Erik Prince and former Navy SEAL colleagues. They named it for the swampy black streams around Moyock, in northeastern North Carolina.

Wonder what the folks who run XE — "The World's Favorite Currency Site" — think about Blackwater's name change?

Xe is also the chemical symbol of Xenon, a colorless, odorless, heavy "noble gas" used in powerful lamps.

Final note: Wikipedia tells us that "xe" is a gender-neutral pronoun, neither male nor female.

Hmmmm ... I don't know about this, we all remember the "New Coke" fiasco.

Zachary Roth, over at TPM Muckraker notes also;

They've also renamed Blackwater Lodge & Training Center, the subsidiary that does much of their controversial overseas operations. It's now the "U.S. Training Center Inc." (Which doesn't exactly mesh with "Xe," but whatever.)

And reminds us;

It's not hard to guess why Blackwater (or wait, Xe) wants to get out of the private security business. In 2007, Blackwater guards opened fire in a Baghdad square, killing 17 Iraqis. Five ex-Blackwater guards were charged with voluntary manslaughter and are awaiting trial.

And recently, thanks largely to that incident and other cases where Blackwater has been accused of using excessive force, the Iraqi government declined to renew the company's contract to operate in the country. Soon after, the State Department announced that, in any case, it wouldn't renew Blackwater's contract to operate in Iraq.

Now, I suspect all the subscriber's to Mercenary Illustrated probably have boners, a new whiff of mystique, about this, even if they do have trouble pronouncing the new name.

But I don't know ...

This may very well turn into the Military-Industrial Complex's version of "Who's On First"

Who's On First?

Bonus Blackwater, errr, Xe, Riffs

"They will have flies walking across their eyeballs"

They Another "I'm Shocked ... Shocked To Find Gambling Going On Here" Moment ...

Top Ten Cloves: Ways The Iraqi Government Can Get Blackwater USA Out of The Country

All You New Iraq Diplomats, Don't Forget To Pack Your Brooms

Breaking News! Burma Junta Contracting Blackwater For Internal Security ...Could Mean Exit From Iraq For Embattled Mercenary Firm; Radio's Limbaugh Charges "Phony Monks" Stirring Up Trouble

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Friday, February 13, 2009

The Reaction in Review (Feb. 13, 2009)

A week's reactions that deserve a second look:


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Is the stimulus bill good enough?" -- Michael agrees with Paul Krugman's NYT column that asserts the stimulus package could have been bigger from the outset.

By Capt. Fogg: "Occam's butterknife" -- Fogg, a fine wordsmith, takes on the Tennessee lawmakers who "insist that our new president prove his citizenship to them by furnishing his birth certificate --again."

By Mustang Bobby: "It's all about them" -- Bobby analyzes Congressional Republican motivations for rejecting all efforts by the other party to find common ground.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "More on Gregg" -- Michael writes on point, "
Gregg may have reached out in good faith, acting the good bipartisan in a time of crisis, hoping to bridge the gap between Obama and the GOP, but he belongs to a party that is acting in bad faith, that is trying to score political points off the economic crisis, that is united in ideological fervour, and that is as partisan as ever."

By J. Thomas Duffy: "Happy Birthday Abie Baby!" -- Video from "Hair," the musical celebrates Lincoln's birthday plus several good bonus links.

By Carl: "It would be so nice if you weren't here" -- Carl's brilliant analysis of what is going on in the Republican psyche as a result of the LOSS of so many elections.


By J. Kingston Pierce: "He's no Ann Rule, but still ..." -- This is a great post, a fascinating homage to Abraham Lincoln, mystery fiction writer.

By Carol Gee: "Economic Recovery and Financial Stability Primer" -- A digest of resources for more effective citizen participation in the upcoming economic legislative fight.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Senator Leahy preparing to investigate Bush crimes" -- Michael digests comments from around the web on this latest Bush accountability (?) development.


By Mustang Bobby: "Sneaking into Cuba" -- Bobby's look at what lifting the embargo and travel restrictions on Cuba might actually portend.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Did Obama play the GOP on the stimulus bill?" -- This post looks at how the President's approach to gaining public support for his stimulus package has changed over time, and at the question of whether it was part of a larger plan?

By Carl: "Speaking Truth to Power" -- Carl's impassioned argument that significant government intervention is indeed needed, because "capitalism has failed the least among us."


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "A-Rod admits steroid use, blames youthful stupidity" -- Michael concludes that "it is simply ridiculous to think he didn't know what he was doing -- or what he was taking."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Damn Centrists" -- A powerful argument that asks "what's so great about centrism," in response to a Paul Krugman piece.

By LindaBeth: "Peanut outrage" -- The author of this post speaks for all of us quoting the New York Times.

Also featuring Creature's great "Quotes of the Day" from: Matthew Yglesias on nationalizing banks, Andy Card on George Bush, John Cole on Michael Phelps, and President Obama on how to get his stimulus bill through congress.

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Governing on a rocky road --

By Carol Gee

Friday, the 13th is President Obama's lucky day. The so-called "stimulus package" was voted out of the Senate late Friday night with the minimum of 60 votes, three of whom were rebellious Republicans. It was be lucky to pass. Democrats prevailed in the House of Representatives around noon with no Republican votes at all. Luckily the Democrats have a good sized majority in the House. President Obama is not having very good luck with the party of the Loyal Opposition. On this rocky road with this issue, bipartisanship is dead. It was, and probably still is, a lovely fantasy of President Obama's.

Actually it was probably never a viable option for governing in these times. The economy is too scary to Republicans. At some deep level they privately realize it went south on their watch. They have nothing new to offer to governance. Too many Republicans helped redistribute the nation's wealth upward, deregulated even more than was begun during the '90s, lived on corporate welfare from the government, turned a blind eye to greed, cozied up with lobbyists and special interests, and just generally screwed up. This time only three Republican Senators knew how to help out the country by joining with the other party. All the rest refused to help. Bipartisanship to the majority of Republicans means "my way or hit the road."

For the next four years, governing for Democrats will be a very rocky road. Surrounded by economic and foreign policy crises, second-guessed by the hypercritical mainstream media, rebuffed by Republicans, the Obama administration will be forced to get aid and comfort from the citizenry. Participatory democracy will be what saves the country during these trying times. Officials will have to call on all their considerable intellect, all their good faith, all their respect for the rule of law, and all the luck they can muster. Maybe the fact that this first big bill passed on Friday the 13th is a very good omen for governance by this group of fledgling statesmen and women.

See today's Behind the Links post -- "On a tough road" -- for all the pertinent links to news items associated with the stimulus package, the financial stability initiative, and the still empty Cabinet seats.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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BREAKING NEWS: Senate passes stimulus

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's done: 60-38. (The Democrats, the two independents, and three Republicans -- Specter, Collins, and Snowe -- voted for it, as expected.)

Once again, as in the House, Republicans put themselves squarely in opposition to the American economy and the American people.

And as flawed as the bill is, at least something was done at this time of historic crisis.

(I'm tired and don't have anything else to add. For our extensive coverage of the stimulus bill -- and the politics surrounding it -- click here.)

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From Arlen Specter, a glimpse into the cowardly heart of the Republican Party

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who broke with his party to support President Obama's stimulus package last week, said before the final vote Friday that more of his colleagues would have joined were they not afraid of the political consequences.

"When I came back to the cloak room after coming to the agreement a week ago today," said Specter, "one of my colleagues said, 'Arlen, I'm proud of you.' My Republican colleague said, 'Arlen, I'm proud of you.' I said, 'Are you going to vote with me?' And he said, 'No, I might have a primary.' And I said, 'Well, you know very well I'm going to have a primary.'"


"I think there are a lot of people in the Republican caucus who are glad to see this action taken without their fingerprints, without their participation," he said.


As much as I dislike Specter's "centrism" -- and his harmful contributions to the stimulus debate -- at least he isn't putting party before country, and self before all else, at a time when the American people need their leaders to act with courage and determination.

And at least you can say this about him: He's a bad Republican.

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"I say we go further and call it 'awesome capitalist cowboys' just to ensure that everything’s really in tune with American cultural norms. Everyone loves cowboys!" -- Matthew Yglesias, reacting to Matthew Richardson's and Nouriel Roubini's editorial in the Washington Post today calling for the nationalization, sorry, I mean "receivership" of our too-big-to-fail-already-failed-truth-hurts-doesn't-it banks.

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Is the stimulus bill good enough?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Krugman says no:

By any normal political standards, this week's Congressional agreement on an economic stimulus package was a great victory for President Obama. He got more or less what he asked for: almost $800 billion to rescue the economy, with most of the money allocated to spending rather than tax cuts. Break out the Champagne!

Or maybe not. These aren’t normal times, so normal political standards don't apply: Mr. Obama's victory feels more than a bit like defeat. The stimulus bill looks helpful but inadequate, especially when combined with a disappointing plan for rescuing the banks. And the politics of the stimulus fight have made nonsense of Mr. Obama's postpartisan dreams.

I agree, and I recommend Steve Benen's excellent post responding to John Cole's assertion that a larger bill just wasn't politically "feasible":

[W]hat if the president had started with a much more ambitious proposal, along the lines of Krugman's recommendation...

Let's say the president launched this endeavor by emphasizing the projections of a three-year economic gap of $2.9 trillion, and against this backdrop, unveiled a $1.2 trillion plan that emphasized the most stimulative measures (infrastructure, low-income aid, and states), while de-emphasizing less stimulative measures (tax cuts).

Now, I understand the argument -- if Collins/Snowe/Specter weren't comfortable with a $900 billion package, they certainly wouldn't go for a $1.2 trillion package. But I'm not sure. These three took a surprisingly arbitrary and haphazard approach to the negotiations. They wanted a smaller number, just so they could say it was smaller. They eyed $100 billion in cuts, because $100 billion had a nice ring to it. They were thrilled to fall under an $800 billion ceiling, not for any policy goal, but because it sounded "reasonable."

It seems more than plausible to me that if the House passed a $1.2 trillion plan, Collins/Snowe/Specter would start talking about the virtues of $1.1 trillion, or possibly just rounding it down to $1 trillion. And if so, and Krugman's right about the need for a more ambitious policy, it suggests we would have ended up with a bigger stimulus if we'd started with a bigger stimulus.

I think that's right. Obama should have pushed for a larger package from the outset and the Democrats should have been willing to let the Republicans filibuster (and express their opposition to helping the American people through this difficult time). I realize that would have been risky -- the risks being: no bill at all, or a lengthy delay, or perhaps ultimately a smaller package -- but the centrist gang likely would have agreed to a larger package if the starting point had been higher.

As it is, the bill is much, much better than nothing -- I'm really trying to be glass-half-full sort of guy here -- but there is legitimate concern that it won't stimulate the economy nearly enough.

And so some of the blame must fall on Obama and his post-partisan efforts. It's fine to reach across the aisle in hopes of securing bipartisan support, and hence broad political legitimacy, but at what cost? In this case, it may be at the cost of failing to do enough to pull the country out of economic crisis.

"There's still time to turn this around," concludes Krugman, "[b]ut Mr. Obama has to be stronger looking forward. Otherwise, the verdict on this crisis might be that no, we can't."

And the American people can't afford for failure to be an option.

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BREAKING NEWS: House passes stimulus

By Creature

And not a single Republican joined in, again. I hope America's paying attention.

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Sex torture: Mumbai suspect claims abuse

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This headline from Wednesday's Telegraph piqued my curiosity:

According to Fahim Ansari, one of the planners of the attacks, "three foreigners, including [a 'white woman], sexually abused him, causing him 'severe itching and wounds' on his body, including his genitals. A Muslim, he claims that "this amounts to torture because it is against his religion."

And I suppose it is, however little sympathy we may have for him, given that -- assuming this is true -- he was degraded and humiliated (and perhaps physically harmed).

Now, it may all be a lie aimed at discrediting Indian authorities, but -- again, if true -- it further undermines the non-Muslim world's standing in the eyes of Muslims, contributing (along with Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and the CIA's black sites) to the massive gulf that separates us from them.

And, yes, I know, when it comes to human rights, the Muslim world has, on the whole, no credibility at all. But we, Indians and otherwise, should be better than this.

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Now I’m pulling to your gravity / Spinning helplessly / I'm falling through the night / Like a lonely satellite

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In case you missed it, two satellites -- one American, one Russian -- collided earlier this week, about 500 miles over Siberia. "The impact produced a cloud of debris," reported the BBC, but there seems to be little risk to the International Space Station, "which is orbiting the Earth [well] below the course of the collision."

The collision was the "the biggest incident of its kind to date." And with "about 17,000 man-made objects above 10cm in size that orbit Earth," and with that number "constantly increasing," the threat of future space collisions is growing. For more, here's a Q&A on space debris.


The title of this post? (Bad) lyrics to a (probably terrible -- I've never heard it) song by the Backstreet Boys, "Satellite." It's on their "Helpless When She Smiles" CD single (2008).

How do I know this? Google. I was looking for the lyrics to Guster's "Satellite," a really good song by a really good band, when I came across this drivel. It just seemed more... appropriate.

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Occam's butterknife

By Capt. Fogg

Perhaps we owe it to Barack Obama that Darwin's birthday passed by without massive hysterical demonstrations attempting to prove that all species on Earth sprang into existence from thin air about 6000 years ago. Hysteria, the other mother of invention, is required since there is no evidence other than belief and all beliefs are equally possible and equally credible, as any number with zero as a factor is equal to any other. The barking and howling Republicans were too busy yesterday denying the demonstrable truth of Barak Obama's citizenship to deny the demonstrable truth of speciation through natural selection.

The amount of evidence for the proposition that Mr. Obama was born outside the USA or its possessions is nugatory and is as dependent on wishful thinking as is the evidence for "creationism." None the less, "lawmakers" in Tennessee, the former site of the only-in-America Scopes trial that proved to the world that Americans are demented idiots if not actually an atavistic subspecies, are up to something completely similar. They are insisting that our new president prove his citizenship to them by furnishing his birth certificate -- again.

Beyond the question of how one proves anything to demented idiots, is the question of why they haven't looked, as did the Supreme Court, at the evidence they are demanding: the evidence already on record and verified. His birth certificate has been furnished, verified by the Registrar of Vital Statistics and the Health Department of the State of Hawaii and by an independent group. Let me say it again: The director of Hawaii’s Department of Health confirmed on Oct. 31, 2008 that Obama was born in Honolulu.

In Tennessee, of course, Occam's Razor is as dull as a Republican's mind, and so Republican Congressmen Eric Swafford, Stacey Campfield, Glen Casada, and Frank Niceley, suspicious of a conspiracy, have agreed to join in a suit by the hilariously Orwellian sounding Defend Our Freedoms Foundation, demanding a writ of mandamus to obtain the birth certificate that has already been obtained and immigration records which do not exist. Postulating a conspiracy of incredible proportions between the State of Hawaii, the U.S. Supreme Court, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a legion of America-hating liberals to elect an alien president, certainly constitutes the multiplication of entities without necessity, other than the necessity to lie and cheat in order to unseat a popular president:

"Let's just put this to bed," Says Casada, who is also the chairman of the House Republican caucus.

"Yes, people may say, you're just chasing some conspiracy theory. It's a simple act on his part to just do, and we're done — move on."

People may indeed say so, even people on the Supreme Court. People may also keep lying until, by some kind of auto da fe, it becomes truth. What people ought to do, if they give a damn about their country and its future is to run these delusional, dishonest, dimwitted mystics out of the Congress and perhaps import some Chimpanzees to the State of Tennessee to improve the gene pool.

(Cross-posted from The Swash Zone.)

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Larry Sabato sees dim chance of Republican success in 2010

By Michael J.W. Stickings

He's one of the best political prognosticators in the business, and, peering into his Crystal Ball, Sabato sees more Senate gains for the Democrats next year:

Remarkably, even after losing six net Senate seats in 2006 and another seven or eight (pending the Minnesota resolution) in 2008, the GOP still has more seats up (19) than Democrats (17) in 2010. (There will be a big reversal in 2012, with 24 Democratic seats to only 9 Republican ones-but that's getting too far ahead of the story.) Even worse for the GOP, by almost any reckoning, there are more vulnerable Republican seats than Democratic ones on the 2010 ballot... Should Al Franken of Minnesota eventually be seated, a single net gain for the Democrats could get them to the semi-magic "sixty" that can theoretically shut off GOP filibusters. They could easily go beyond this minimal gain, if electoral conditions in 2010 permit.

Of course, the U.S. could be in the depths of the Great Depression II by then, so you never know. Still, there is good reason for optimism looking ahead, at least when it comes to a possible Democratic three-peat.

CNN has more here.

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Cabinet stupidity

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Anonymous Liberal makes a good point: "The Notion of a 'Bipartisan Cabinet' Has Always Been a Stupid One."

Very stupid.

If you elect a Democrat, you get a Democratic Cabinet. It's as simple as that. Or should be.

There are plenty of ways in which a president can demonstrate that he's open minded and willing to work constructively with the opposition. But putting members of the opposition in charge of implementing his policy is just dumb. The fact that the Beltway centrist chorus believes that this is what good presidents should do is just a reflection of their own bizarre obsession with symbolism and belief that bipartisanship is some sort end in and of itself.

I think it's important for Obama to continue to appear respectful and bipartisan in his general governing approach, if for no other reason than to provide a contrast with the never-ending immaturity and childishness of the GOP. But the best way to do that is by sitting down and talking to Republicans, not putting them in charge of various executive branch departments.

"Bob Gates is an exception to this general rule," AL states, and I think he's right -- whether or not you like Gates is beside the point. But there was no need for Obama to nominate Judd Gregg.

The symbolism -- along with the approval of the likes of David Broder and his centrist ilk -- just isn't worth it.

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"Ah, so these are the intertubes Ted Stevens was talking about? Where can I get Facebook? Death to Israel!"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Actually, this is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at an Iranian nuclear facility. (Michael Crowley posted the photo at The Plank.)

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that "the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb." Iran now has about 6,000 centrifuges enriching uranium, and it may soon "have enough low-enriched uranium to be able to quickly convert it to weapons-grade material."

All the more reason for direct talks between Washington and Tehran -- and soon.

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It's all about them

By Mustang Bobby

(Following up on Michael's post below.)

By now it should be obvious: the Republicans and the right wing have decided that the most important thing for America isn't that we get ourselves out of the messes we're in. They're not all that concerned about restoring the economy, getting people back to work, fixing the crippled public education system, or making health care affordable and accessible to everyone. Oh, sure, they say they want all of those things, but only on their terms. They don't particularly care if someone who isn't one of them comes up with a bright idea; in fact, they will do everything they can to torpedo it. If it doesn't come from a True Believer, it isn't worth considering, and they will do everything they can to sabotage it and take whatever collateral damage with it just for good measure. Their goal is to have them in power, regardless of the consequences. That's all that matters. It's that simple. And as Boatboy noted, it's insane:

Holding onto power in a democracy simply for the sake of holding onto power is not sane policy. Resisting a public infusion into an economy suffering from a lack of private resources just to resist public expenditure is not sane policy. Willfully neglecting domestic infrastructure due to the expense while engaging in imperial nation-building at obscene and unmanaged cost is not sane policy. Opposing deficit spending in principle after eight years of the most profligate overspending by your own party is not sane policy.

That brings up another point. Perhaps -- just perhaps -- a party staying in power for a long time can be justified if they produce effective results. After all, that is what elections are for in the ideal sense; if you do a good job, the voters return you to office based on a fair performance evaluation. If you don't, out you go, and if you're mature and wise, you accept the judgment and learn from the lesson. But when you completely and spectacularly screw up everything you touch and do it in such a blatantly cynical manner that even some of your staunchest supporters throw up their hands in disgust and all you're left with is a small band of gullible dittoheads who believe anything you say, that isn't a mandate for leadership; it's a cult.

One of the more telling aspects of this self-indulgence on the part of the GOP is the revenge factor. The three Republican moderates who crossed the aisle and voted for the president's stimulus plan made it quite clear that they knew they were courting peril in the form of backlash from their party back in their home states. Not, it should be noted, from the voters, who are too busy wondering where their next mortgage payment or paycheck is coming from to think about party politics. But it's clear that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) is going to face a primary challenge when he runs for re-election next year, and he freely admits that he took that into consideration when he joined the other two Senators, both from Maine, in voting for the stimulus. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the bill. Forget the fact that the bill might save jobs or fix the roads and schools; who cares about that? It was that he didn't follow the Path of Righteousness, and therefore he must be punished.

Here in Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist (R) is facing the same wrath:

As Democrats lavish praise on Florida's Republican governor for enthusiastically supporting their economic stimulus package, Republicans are questioning whether Crist damaged his future.

''I don't think he's helped any national Republican ambitions he may have by stepping up to the plate and batting for the other team. . . . There's a difference between working in a bipartisan way for the common good and switching sides and putting on the other team's jersey,'' said veteran Republican consultant Alex Castellanos. ''At the one moment when we've finally found our voice and remember who we are as Republicans, Charlie Crist forgets. It's stunning.''

Notice what Mr. Castellanos considers is the first priority: helping national Republican ambitions. That's it. The idea that the governor of the state would put the needs of the people, regardless of their party identification, ahead of political ambitions is, in his mind, crazy talk.

And so it goes. As Andrew Sullivan says, the GOP has declared war on President Obama and anyone else who stands in their way:

Their clear and open intent is to do all they can, however they can, to sabotage the new administration (and the economy to boot). They want failure. Even now. Even after the last eight years. Even in a recession as steeply dangerous as this one. There are legitimate debates to be had; and then there is the cynicism and surrealism of total political war. We now should have even less doubt about what kind of people they are. And the mountain of partisan vitriol Obama will have to climb every day of the next four or eight years.

The only saving grace to any of this is that Mr. Obama so far seems to be unflappable -- he was able to joke about the Commerce Secretary post at a dinner honoring Abraham Lincoln last night -- and in turn that has made the Republicans and the Orcosphere go to great lengths to be outrageous, much to the bemusement of those of us who are constantly looking for new material with which to mock them. You can't make up stuff like Joe the Plumber leading a panel discussion on economic policy. That's like casting Pauly Shore as Hamlet. Given the track record of the GOP and the economy over the last twenty years, you couldn't do worse... but why give them a chance to prove it?

President Obama has set forth a lot of lofty goals: get the economy back on track, get our troops out of Iraq, help settle the Middle East and make nice with our nervous allies, reform health care, fix the public schools, and put an end to the mob-style politics in Washington. All of those tasks seem daunting, but I think he has a better chance of playing one-on-one basketball with Kim Jong Il than he does of accomplishing the last one.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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The GOP's "total political war"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Andrew Sullivan, from yesterday:

This much is now clear. [The Republicans'] clear and open intent is to do all they can, however they can, to sabotage the new administration (and the economy to boot). They want failure. Even now. Even after the last eight years. Even in a recession as steeply dangerous as this one. There are legitimate debates to be had; and then there is the cynicism and surrealism of total political war. We now should have even less doubt about what kind of people they are. And the mountain of partisan vitriol Obama will have to climb every day of the next four or eight years.

Very well put.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

More on Gregg

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Following up on Creature's post from earlier this evening...)

Sen. Judd Gregg's explanation for backing away from the Commerce job for which Obama had nominated him was suitably self-absorbed: "I couldn't be Judd Gregg."

But how did he now know that when he accepted the nomination? What has changed? Sure, there's the stimulus bill, but it's not like that wasn't on his radar. He knew, more or less, what was coming, what the package would contain, and perhaps even what the partisan divide would be.

And -- let's be clear about this -- he reached out to Obama. He wanted the job.

And so I think Andrew Sullivan's explanation is probably about right:

When Judd Gregg approached the Obama administration to see if he could be a part of it, he was assuming that his own party wasn't going to adopt a policy of total warfare against the newly elected president in a time of enormous economic peril. Between that moment and the current all-out ideological assault on Obama, his position became untenable. His recusal on the stimulus package provoked fury at home (check out the comments here) and dyspepsia among the GOP who are intent on responding to an open hand with a clenched fist.

Gregg may have reached out in good faith, acting the good bipartisan in a time of crisis, hoping to bridge the gap between Obama and the GOP, but he belongs to a party that is acting in bad faith, that is trying to score political points off the economic crisis, that is united in ideological fervour, and that is as partisan as ever.

In the end, with Republicans enforcing orthodoxy, that was likely just too much for Gregg, who now skulks back home with his tail between his legs, no doubt hoping to avoid ostracism by stressing his Republican bona fides -- there were just too many "irresolvable conflicts," he now claims -- taking shots at the man he hoped would be his boss, and, perhaps most pathetically of all, suggesting that it was all just a big "mistake."

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Republican Gregg backs out of Commerce job

By Creature

I never understood Obama's attraction to Gregg in the first place. Well, beyond the (R) after his name. Time to move on. Time to pick a (D). Radical, I know.

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"First off, President Bush does know how to read." -- Andy Card, former chief of staff to President George W. Bush, correcting a misconception about his former boss. Andy, My Pet Goat doesn't count.

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Weak Willed

By Mustang Bobby

George F. Will can be a brilliant writer, and he's one of the few conservative pundits who, when pressed, will make sense or admit that he's wrong. But I would hope that when he's writing about something as large as the stimulus plan he could at least come up with his own objections rather than recycle the canards that have been making the rounds on the right wing talking points circuit.

Gary Wolfram of Hillsdale College notes that the size of the stimulus -- the House-Senate compromise bill is $789 billion -- is just slighly [sic] less than the amount of all U.S. currency in circulation and is larger than the entire federal budget was until 1983. Yet it is said that in the debate about this encompassing legislation -- which concerns what government can and should do, and ultimately what kind of regime America shall have -- people should "transcend" (so says Larry Summers, the president's economic adviser) politics. What, then, would be left for political argument to be about?

It is said that the negligible Republican support for the stimulus legislation means that bipartisanship is dead. But what can "bipartisanship" mean concerning legislation that concerns almost everything?

John McCain probably was eager to return to the Senate as an avatar of bipartisanship, a role he has enjoyed. It is, therefore, a measure of the recklessness of House Democrats that they caused the stimulus debate to revolve around a bill that McCain dismisses as "generational theft."

It seems that Mr. Will is disappointed that the Obama administration wanted to put economic recovery ahead of political one-upmanship. What a killjoy; so what if the unemployment rate continues to climb along with foreclosures? He wants to keep his gig as the taciturn schoolmaster on This Week, and if we're all getting along, he might have to get a real job.

Mr. Will's heart really isn't in it, either; he's quoting John McCain as the author of the "generational theft" line, when, in fact, it came from Michelle Malkin, the whack-job pundit who's best known for advocating internment camps for illegal aliens, stalking the family of Graeme Frost, and publishing the private information of her opponents on her blog. In short, she's not a nice person, and I would have thought that Mr. Will could do a little better than quote her second-hand. Even Mr. Will has expressed disdain for her kind of discourse.

I am sure that there are a lot of legitimate reasons to knock the stimulus plan that finally got hammered out by the House and Senate; as the president said, it won't be perfect, and personally I would have preferred to see a lot more money sent to the local schools to fix the plumbing. But to complain that it's considered bad form to attack it just for the sake of a political argument? That might carry a little more weight had it not been the Republicans who piled up the mountains of debt and lackadaisical oversight that brought us to this point. So it's a little ripe for him to be complaining about the way someone else is going about cleaning up a mess he didn't object to creating in the first place.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Happy Birthday Abie Baby!

By J. Thomas Duffy

Hair The Musical - Abie Baby

Perhaps the next best thing that came along after this song, was the weaving of Lincoln's Assassination into the storyline of the tremendous 'Homicide: Life on the Streets', it being an obsession of Detective Crositti.

Bonus Links

Top Ten Cloves: Things About If Abraham Lincoln Were Shot Today

Retro Garlic: Bring In The Homicide Guys!

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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A conversation with George W. Bush, right here in Canada

By Michael J.W. Stickings

"Bush to give speech at private event in Canada," reports The Dallas Morning News, leading me to wonder what the hell we Canadians did to deserve the honour. (Are the Saudis too busy?)

It's going to be "a conversation with George W. Bush" (seriously, I'm not making that up), Dubya's first post-presidential speaking engagement, and it'll be in Calgary on March 17.

Yes, Calgary, home of the famous stampede (a big rodeo) and the heart of Canada's right wing, a city that is only vaguely Canadian to some of us Canadians who don't identify with American-style conservatism.

I'm sure Bush will receive a warm welcome... and feel right at home.

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It would be so nice if you weren't here

By Carl

I'm going to avoid the whole "whatever happened to supporting the President no matter what?" theme that Blogtopia has been bandying about in reaction to the latest pathetic whining from the right:

So, President Obama phoned the Senate GOP sellouts Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter and praised them Friday night for showing their "patriotism" by cutting a trillion-dollar, backroom deal to mortgage our children and grandchildren’s future.

If that is "
patriotism," then I'm proud to be an unpatriot.

I should point out that Michelle Malkin is an American citizen through a loophole in the Constitution that allowed her mother to fly here, give birth, and have her daughter declared a "natural-born citizen." This is also known as having an "anchor baby," and allowed her parents, here on student visas, entry to American citizenship without going through the usual processes.

I'm sort of hoping she was a C-section, so that we could claim she wasn't born naturally, but a surgically delivered abomination and therefore deportable.

Which in no way should be construed as deprecating any other C-section births, of course. But I digress...

It would be easy to poke fun at these "sunshine patriots," as Thomas Paine put it. After anally-raping Uncle Sam for the past eight years in support of a President who couldn't spell "mandate" much less claim one, they now turn their backs on a country that so thoroughly repudiated them that their losing candidate, John McCain, couldn't claim as much voter support as the least palatable Democratic candidate since Michael Dukakis, John Kerry in 2004.

They are saying, as
Eric Cartman would say, "Screw you guys, I'm going home!"

America, love it or leave it. One is tempted to say that to a group so ugly, brutish, and vile that they contribute nothing to the national dialogue beyond foam and bluster.

And one might be wrong. I'm a liberal, so I guess that makes me tolerant. Here's what I think is happening:

The groundbreaking psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross devised the now famous "stages of grief"
Kubler-Ross model in 1969. We can celebrate that accomplishment by analyzing the right-wing reactions to November 4, 2008.

As the event approached, and the death of conservative became apparent, there was an awful lot of denial going on. Remember how Barack Obama was "
clearly not an American citizen"? The outlandish extent to which conservatives attempted to prove his illegitimacy is called "denial," and was Kubler-Ross' first stage.

Indeed, this stage kept going right up to the final electoral college vote on December 12. Some people didn't get out of denial until the Inauguration. And some, bless their stubborn little hearts, to this day claim he's illegitimate and not their president! How cute!

Anger, which is the next stage, is still pretty obvious, as any trip to any website where more than one conservaroach is infesting shows. Malkin's post about being an "unpatriot" makes that abundantly clear. Some have moved beyond this point, however, so let's continue.

Bargaining: We've seen this in the Senate this week. I don't think it's a coincidence that the folks who have the most progressive outlook in the Republican party have begun to negotiate the waters of an Obama administration and an economic meltdown. If you've read carefully the statements politicians have put out this week, you've read words along the lines of "if only..."

"If only the stimulus bill had more tax cuts. If only the stimulus bill didn't cost so much."

That, my friends, is bargaining.

Next comes depression. We're going to start seeing that as the Obama stimulus bill begins to revive the economy. Make no mistake. It will. Even if President Obama opened a window and threw $800 billion onto Pennsylvania Avenue, some stimulus would occur. Obama knows this. The smart Republicans do, too. They just don't like that it's a Democrat who, once again, gets to save the nation from the folly of the GOP.

And finally, acceptance. Now, I don't think we will ever see an en masse admission by Republicans that Barack Obama has done a fine job in turning the nation around. But it will be there in the dark shadows of the Republican psyche, a grudging acceptance that the nation chose wisely, as it sometimes is wont to do, particularly when the chips are down and we need the right man in office.

Until that day, thought, you can expect
more of this.

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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By Creature

That's the number of people who are in favor of "investigations into allegations that the Bush team used torture to interrogate terrorism suspects and its program of wiretapping U.S. citizens without getting warrants." That's everyone except the Republican base. If officials were looking for political cover, they just got some.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

He’s no Ann Rule, but still ...

By J. Kingston Pierce

As anybody who’s paid attention to the burgeoning racks of Abraham Lincoln-related books over the last six months probably knows, tomorrow will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of America’s 16th president--the last U.S. chief executive to be elected from Illinois before Barack Obama. In addition to all of the published works commemorating this occasion, scholar and author Henry Louis Gates hosts Looking for Lincoln, a two-hour documentary being shown tonight on PBS-TV. (Gates’ essay about “Honest Abe” was published earlier in The New York Times.) And National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon broadcast an extraordinarily fine essay last week that looks at the Great Emancipator, warts and all.

But leave it up to Mystery Readers Journal editor Janet Rudolph to remind us that Lincoln wasn’t simply a fine writer, skilled statesman, and crafty commander in chief, but he also penned at least one mystery short story, while still practicing as a prairie lawyer. As Rudolph writes in her blog, Mystery Fanfare:

Lincoln was a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe, and Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue” was first published around the time that Lincoln was defending the Trailor Brothers in 1841. He based his story “The Trailor Murder Mystery” on this case. It wasn’t uncommon then for lawyers to write true crime pieces which were popular with the public--and not considered a breach of etiquette. What is unusual is that Lincoln chose to write fiction based on this case. “A Remarkable Case of Arrest for Murder” (the original title) first appeared on the front page of the Quincy Whig on April 15, 1846 and was described, as “A murder mystery by Abraham Lincoln.” The story was reprinted as “The Trailor Murder Mystery” in 1952 in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

Click here to read Abe Lincoln’s brief foray into true-crime fiction for yourself. Or you can download an audio version of “The Trailor Murder Mystery”

READ MORE:How Would Lincoln Vote Today?,” by Michael Lind (Salon); “Lincoln’s 100th Birthday Noted by the Globe,” by Frank Herron (100 Years Ago Today).

(Cross-posted from Limbo.)


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Economic Recovery and Financial Stability Primer

By Carol Gee

The final vote on the original economic stimulus package took place some days ago in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now there is a major deal in the making. The agreement will get final passage in both houses of Congress. And it will probably be on the President's desk by Friday. On January 30, Ed Kilgore at the Democratic Strategist asked, "What was the meaning of "Zero?" The number "0" was the grand total of "aye" votes in the Republican column. Kilgore concluded,
This development may well hasten the day when the Republican Party finally faces a choice of reconsidering its ideology, or consigning itself to a long-term minority status.

Influencing how elected officials vote is an old and time honored type of activism. Telephone calls and e-mails to Senators and Representatives regarding pending legislation is one of the favorite tactics in use today. "Organizing For America Takes First Action for Obama Agenda," was reported on (1/30/09) at The Huffington Post. At the same time, the We Campaign - Repower America, joined in the mobilization emphasizing clean energy projects that should be included in the economic recovery package.

Going one step further: house meetings -- E-mailed from Organizing For America, Obama's army website (2/9/09). To quote from the e-mail I received:

Americans have organized Economic Recovery House Meetings in all 50 states -- including 382 in California, 255 in Florida, 115 in Ohio, 199 in New York, 105 in Washington, and 149 in Texas. That's more than 3,587 meetings in 1,579 cities and 429 congressional districts.

. . . Share your story about how this economic crisis is affecting you and your family and join your fellow Americans in supporting bold action to speed our recovery:

Thank you for organizing so much support at this crucial moment for our country,
Mitch Stewart, Director, Organizing for America

President Obama takes to the road and to the airwaves -- The President's first prime time press conference was his own effort to mobilize grassroots pressure on Congress to get something done.

Internet resources -- for use by citizens as they participate in the process:

  • The White House Blog - Announces the establishment today (2/10/09) of an official website for the Financial Stability Project just begun by the Treasury Department.

  • [] - a website now in development that anyone will be able to use for tracking the government's proposed new Financial Stability funds [see the new FS Fact Sheet - PDF 7 pgs.]

  • "Thomas" - Library of Congress website to read legislation, find out the status of bills, etc.

  • - The U.S. government's official web portal.

Reference from -- This week's most popular Conservative stories (2/2/09)

17 skewz (Moderate Right)- The Democrats' game plan

11 skewz (Center Right)- American Thinker Blog: ACORN eligible for billions from stimulus plan

19 skewz (Slight Right)- American Thinker Blog: AP Lies on unemployment

14 skewz (Moderate Right)- Rush Limbaugh: My Bipartisan Stimulus -

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

(Cross-posted at Behind the Links.)

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Sen. Leahy preparing to investigate Bush crimes

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and White House Chief Counsel Greg Craig discussed on Tuesday the Senator's proposal to set up a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate potential crimes of the Bush administration.

"I went over some of the parameters of it and they were well aware at the White House of what I'm talking about," Leahy told the Huffington Post. "And we just agreed to talk further."

Obama may or may not be on board -- he has said he wants to look ahead, not back, but also that crimes will be prosecuted -- but it may not matter, at least not at first:

Congress will likely proceed with investigations regardless of whether Obama is on board.

"Oh yeah," Leahy said when asked if he would go forward without Obama's endorsement. "I think the Senate and the Congress as whole has an oversight responsibility that has to be carried out here anyway. Now it is much easier with the cooperation of the administration. A lot of things with the subpoenas I issued the past few years, we got a lot of information but a lot of it was held back."

TNR's Jason Zengerle: "Of course, in a way, this might not be such a bad outcome for Obama. Let someone else do the dirty (and politically polarizing) work of investigating; then, if such an investigation turns up particularly egregious instances of illegality (which, depending on how egregious they are, could presumably stoke public outrage), his Justice Department can step in and prosecute."

Needless to say, stay tuned.

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Let the stimulation begin

By Creature

A deal has been reached in conference. The percentage of tax cuts dropped from 42% to 35%. I guess that's worth a cheer. Now let's see how many Republicans will get on board. There's enough to pass the bill, but counting Republican "yes" votes at this point is really about how badly they will fail, when painted as the party that chose to do nothing, come 2010.


UPDATE: It's smaller than the Senate bill and therefore still way too small: $789 billion. But the tax-cut drop is good, and, for what it's worth, Reid says it "creates more jobs than the original Senate bill and spends less than the original House bill." -- MJWS

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Jon Huntsman

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From TNR's Jason Zengerle:

Utah Governor Jon Huntsman (who, needless to say, is a Republican, not to mention a potential 2012 presidential candidate) has come out in favor of gay civil unions. It's not gay marriage, but it is Utah.

It is indeed, a deeply conservative state, and yet what Huntsman is taking a pretty progressive position on one of the right's key wedge issues. For that, he deserves our admiration.

But is he crazy, or what?

First, does he know what state he's from (the Mormon Church was one of the major opponents of California's Prop 8 and by an overwhelming margin most Utahans oppose civil unions)? Second, does he know what party he belongs to (forget marriage, even civil unions don't fly with most Republicans)? Third, does he really have future political aspirations (he would be mercilessly attacked by the right, and by the right's preferred candidates, in 2012, or whenever, for adopting a heterodox position like this)?

Still good for Huntsman for changing his mind and having the courage to stand up against bigotry in a state that is, without question, full of it.

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Newt Gingrich: wingnuttery with a smile

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In The Washington Times today -- and I feel dirty linking to it, and even dirtier for having been on its website -- Newt Gingrich asks the following question: "Where does the conservative movement go from here?" My answer is a simple one: Down the toilet and into oblivion. Newt, however, claims that it "has a simple and almost certainly successful future if it does three things," one of which, the first one, is this:

Advocate first principles with courage, clarity, persistence and cheerfulness.

Cheerfulness? Yes, because it's important to distract the baby's attention with a toothy smile before taking its lollipop.


The second one has to do with "developing solutions based on those principles," which, I suppose, is suitably vague.

The third one is that conservatives ought to "[b]e prepared to oppose Republicans when they are wrong and side with Democrats when they are right." Which is so ridiculous as to be amusing, because conservatives aren't about to side with Democrats in any meaningful way, so attached are they to the GOP.


Don't bother reading Newt's piece. It's predictable drivel from one of the right's leading egomaniacs. (I'm sure he thinks the conservative movement needs him if it wants to rise up from the sewer.) Even Maureen Dowd is more worthwhile today -- and I even find myself in partial agreement with her over the Wall Street bailout.

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