Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Ronny can do anything

Or; "Oh Ronny, If Only We Had Your Steady Hand

By J. Thomas Duffy

My goodness gracious, is Peggy Noonan on drugs?

Does she have an abuse problem?

We brought this up a few weeks ago, and, again, yesterday, in her Murdoch Street Journal column, she's all over the place, the wine swishing out of the glass with her sweeping arm motions, dissing - again - President Obama, in a greatest hits tribute to the Right Wing Freak Show.

And, of course, as the #1 Ronald Reagan Groupie, she brings her sweetheart, love bunny touchstone to the forefront, letting us all know that, according to her, if only we had Ronny's steady hand to guide us today, the world (well, her world) would be Shangri La.

In her "Neither a Hedgehog Nor a Fox: The unbearable lightness of Obama's administration", she opens with;

Such impressions—coolness, slightness—can come to matter only if they capture or express some larger or more meaningful truth. At the moment they connect, for me, to something insubstantial and weightless in the administration's economic pronouncements and policies. The president seems everywhere and nowhere, not fully focused on the matters at hand. He's trying to keep up with the news cycle with less and less to say.

It's the "Obama is too cool" thing, again.

And, too busy.

Mr. Obama likes to say presidents can do more than one thing at a time, but in fact modern presidents are lucky to do one thing at a time, never mind two. Great forces are arrayed against them.

See, Obama is supposed be more like those Republican Presidents of the past, just chillin' out, not getting too worked up about punching the time clock, just, kind of, go at, in a nice soft pace.

I guess that is the impression you get of how the job should be, if you happen to be a speechwriter for a President in his mid-to-late 70's, and in the early stages of dementia (but we know, in her heart, Little Miss Peggy was much more than just a speechwriter to her Ronny).

With naps built into Ronny's schedule, we can see how Peggy must think Obama is too busy.

And, in her first salute to the Right Wing Freak Show, in their unending meme of Obama's use to the teleprompter, Little Miss Peggy has to dwell on that, just a bit (well, actually, more than just a bit), and lets us know her Ronny didn't need a teleprompter, and could tell jokes better than Obama;

This in part is why the teleprompter trope is taking off. Mr. Obama uses it more than previous presidents. No one would care about this or much notice it as long as he showed competence, and the promise of success. Reagan, if memory serves, once took his cards out of his suit and began to read them at a welcoming ceremony, only to realize a minute or so in that they were last week's cards from last week's ceremony. He caught himself and made a joke of it. One was reminded of this the other day when Mr. Obama's speech got mixed up with the Irish prime minister's. Things happen. But the teleprompter trope has taken off: Why does he always have to depend on that thing?

There is a new Web site where the teleprompter shares its thoughts in a breathless White House diary. It's bummed that it has to work a news conference next week instead of watching "American Idol," it resents being dragged to L.A. in Air Force One's cargo hold "with the more common electronic equipment." It also Twitters: "We are in California! One of the interns gave my panels a quick scrub and I'm ready to prompt for the day." And: "Waiting for my boss's jokes to get loaded for Leno!"

Index cards ... Teleprompter ...Eh!

Maybe it's the drugs, or the wine, but Little Miss Peggy then comes down with amnesia, defending The Bush Grindhouse, in particular, the war crime-committing Vice President, Dick Cheney.

Mr. Obama's second job is America's safety at home and in the world. Dick Cheney this week warned again of future terrorism and said Mr. Obama's actions have left us "less safe." White House press secretary Robert Gibbs reacted with disdain. Mr. Cheney is part of a "Republican cabal." "I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy." This was cheap.


Mr. Cheney's remarks, presented in a cable interview, looked political and were received as partisan. The fact is he was wrong and right, wrong in that a subject so grave demands a well documented and thoughtful address.


But Mr. Cheney was, is, right in the most important, and dreadful, way. We live in the age of weapons of mass destruction, and each day more people and groups come closer to getting and deploying them. "Man has never developed a weapon he didn't eventually use," said Reagan, without cards, worrying aloud in the Oval Office.

What can be used will be used. We are a target. Something bad is going to happen—don't we all know this? Are we having another failure of imagination?

Little Miss Peggy must have bought the subscription series of the Bush Legacy Project, since she is pitching the "Bush (and Cheney) kept us safe" thing - again.

Yeah, as pointed out, roundly, they kept us safe - after September 11th.

See, and again, perhaps the drugs, or wine, Little Miss Peggy has forgotten how The Commander Guy, and his henchmen cronies, lied, manipulated and altered the intelligence, so as to go on fearmongering, raising the Terror levels, most vigorously, whenever one of their many scandals was hitting the front pages, or a big vote in Congress was coming up.

And, Ronny kept us safe, without a teleprompter, or index cards.

All Ronny had to do was, sigh, "worry aloud".

I don't know, we get the feeling, perhaps with an empty wine bottle knocked on its' side, the little bottle of her prescription nearby, the wine left in her glass still swishing around, spilling over the edge, as Little Miss Peggy throws in the CD player, the Luther Barnes classic, and sings along, substituting the word "God", with "Ronny".

Her Ronny can do anything.

Luther Barnes, and the Red Budd Gospel Choir - My God Can Do Anything

My God Can Do Anything - Luther Barnes- Church Mix 3

Bonus Little Miss Peggy

Kevin Baker: The Magic Reagan - More misguided arguments for his greatness

Blue Texan - Peggy Noonan: At Least Bush Kept Us Safe, Except For That Whole 9/11 Thing

Bob Cesca: No Attacks Since When?

We Already Know What He Was Thinking - Us vs. Them

Noonan Gives Palin, McCain A "Full Detroit"

For Peggy Noonan, Next Stop, Willoughby!

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Wall Street's welfare continues

By Creature

Krugman on the Geithner's new plan: "What an awful mess."

Geithner's plan is full of clever all in the name of saving his buddies the trouble of going under. People gambled. They lost. We pay. Wall Street's wonder boy is in denial. He (and, the entire financial services industry) needs therapy. It would be cheaper.

Meme has more.

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Mythological beasts

By Mustang Bobby

The never-ending battle against reason and enlightenment continues.

A Texas legislator is waging a war of biblical proportions against the science and education communities in the Lone Star State as he fights for a bill that would allow a private school that teaches creationism to grant a Master of Science degree in the subject.

State Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) proposed House Bill 2800 when he learned that The Institute for Creation Research (ICR), a private institution that specializes in the education and research of biblical creationism, was not able to receive a certificate of authority from Texas' Higher Education Coordinating Board to grant Master of Science degrees.

Berman's bill would allow private, non-profit educational institutions to be exempt from the board’s authority.

“If you don’t take any federal funds, if you don’t take any state funds, you can do a lot more than some business that does take state funding or federal funding,” Berman says. “Why should you be regulated if you don’t take any state or federal funding?”

HB 2800 does not specifically name ICR; it would allow any institution that meets its criteria to be exempt from the board's authority. But Berman says ICR was the inspiration for the bill because he feels creationism is as scientific as evolution and should be granted equal weight in the educational community.

“I don’t believe I came from a salamander that crawled out of a swamp millions of years ago,” Berman told "I do believe in creationism. I do believe there are gaps in evolution.

"But when you ask someone who believes in evolution, if you ask one of the elitists who believes in evolution about the gaps, they’ll tell you that the debate is over, that there is no debate, evolution is the thing, it’s the only way to go.”

I found this story at Shakesville, posted by Misty, who put it up without commentary, with the exception of the title: Inherit the Dumbassery.

What this fellow is looking for is a Masters in Divinity, which is granted by many colleges and universities, including Yale. But then, they would have to admit that what they are studying is theology, and they don't want to admit that that's what they're pushing, because Creationism, to them, isn't theology.

These people desperately want to be accepted into the scientific community because that would make them appear to be legitimate to the public at large as opposed to only those who follow their beliefs. They want to make their "science" acceptable to the non-believer. However, most people who understand the basics of science that they teach you in Grade Six know that science studies facts, not beliefs. Facts can be tested and quantified, proven or disproved. A scientific fact doesn't change because you don't believe it, and wishing doesn't make it so.

The true fraud here isn't the promotion of Creationism over evolution; it's the labeling of creation as a science when there's no factual evidence to back it up.

What's next; a Masters in Zoology specializing in unicorns and hippogriffs?

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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The Reaction in review (March 20, 2009)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:

Creature Feature: This week finds several great little Posts About Punditry by our Associate Editor, Creature: Fake Populism, Blue dogs in the Senate, Meet the Press: same as it ever was, and Too much stupid.


By Carol Gee: "They say this is how it is supposed to work" -- This post is an opinion piece about the shallow-thinking demands for perfect performance by the President and members of his administration.


By Carl: "Too juice not to take a swipe at" -- Carl's priceless post gives us a preview of the "former president Bush's (Oh... thank God!)" proposed book about decisions.

By Carol Gee: "Guantanamo, Iraq, and Iran -- a digest" -- This post is a round-up of the current national security issues associated with the Middle East, the Department of Justice and the Obama administration.


By J. Thomas Duffy: "Idiocracy, The Sequel" -- Duffy fills us in on the technology take-over of the court systems resulting in multiple mistrials.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie..." -- This post gives great insight into North Korea's Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il and his taste for pizza.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Crisis in Madagascar" and "We are Madagascar" -- Michael reports that The Reaction is one of North America's leading blogs on all things Madagascar, and then proves it.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Don't Blame Dodd" and "Don't Blame Dodd, Revisited" -- Michael makes excellent arguments, citing Glenn Greenwald, that attacks on Senator Christopher Dodd regarding AIG are unfair.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Stay classy, John McCain" -- Michael's great post asserts that "John McCain has a long history of being a jerk" and concludes, "At the very least, McCain has once again exposed the partisan core that has always been his driving force."


By Carl: "Does it matter?" -- Carl's very thoughtful post brings some welcome perspective to the problems of the period, including poverty, the future of the economy and things in Pakistan.

By Capt. Fogg: "Guillotine! Guillotine!" -- This post takes to task the conservative Republican Right's calls for public execution of AIG execs, or boiling them in oil, etc.; you get the picture.


By J. Thomas Duffy: "Breaking! ... Obama takes action, seizes AIG's March Madness office pools and brackets" -- Duffy's funny post synthesizes the AIG (Always Incredibly Greedy) and basketball tourney pool stories into a very creative piece.

By Capt. Fogg: "It's a Doocy, all right" -- Fogg captures exactly how many of us feel these days in our upside-down world gone insane.

By guest poster Jim Arkedis: "Just wait until next year..." -- Arkedis is a very good writer who makes the looming fight over the Pentagon budget very understandable. See also, his (3/19) post on Russia.

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The unbearable insignificance of being Eliot Spitzer

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Eliot Spitzer, as you may know, is now a columnist at Slate. Here's the title of his latest effort:

No word if the ex-governor relieved some of the immense stress by dumping thousands and thousands of dollars on high-priced hookers. Oh, and choking them.


But seriously... Spitzer's a smart guy. And I actually still respect him (or, at least, his views). And he may very well be right that "[t]here has never been a tougher time to be a governor." He knows a great deal about Wall Street, and about the economic crisis, and I suppose he ought to be taken seriously.

But it's tough, isn't it, what with all that we now know about him?

His fierce moralism, once directed with such righteous intensity at the corrupt, simply lacks much credibility now. And the hypocrisy is just too humorous to ignore.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

They say this is how it is supposed to work

By Carol Gee

Washington, D.C. -- President Barack Obama has maintained a very full agenda since taking office two months ago. Our New President of Change promised he could do change, and that he could do more than one hard task at a time. It appears that he, indeed, can "walk and chew gum" at the same time. And, oh how he needs to be able to do that, ever so perfectly:

We elected you, now fix it. We all made the mess, now you clean it up. You and all those very smart people you brought with you need to get after it. Faced with economic, military, diplomatic, domestic and political challenges, the President is expected to do magic often all by himself. Competence demands that it be done soon and perfectly, no room for slack. You need to jettison people as soon as they become a liability.

And, oh by the way, you need to look good while you are at it, and talk good, too. And everybody in your administration needs to talk good too. And you can't change your mind about too many things or the stock market will panic. We are impatient and extremely anxious, the lot of us. We want everything fixed now. And you need to hurry up, but not too fast or too much. And it all needs to be accounted for on the Internet, because you promised transparency and accountability.

And we will be watching you every minute, and we will make constant running judgments about whether you and the Democrats are winning or losing. Because winning is everything in this town; we are in permanent campaign mode. And blaming is the coin of the realm.

See Behind the Links for further information.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Too much stupid

By Creature

After seeing today's NY Post cover: "O Yuks it up on Leno as economy burns," I'm thinking I need to stop paying attention to politics. Though, having a political blog makes that a bit tough.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Meet the Press: same as it ever was

By Creature

Newsday's TV Reporter, Verne Gay, thinks Meet the Press "is now the de facto safe show on Sunday morning" since David Gregory took over. Really?

The problem? Actually, problems. The new moderator often seems like he's wearing a suit made for someone else - Russert - and as a result has yet to clearly establish why he got this gig instead of anyone else in the conga line of potential successors. Gregory is terrifically polished, well-informed, a good listener and has the talking points of both sides down cold. But he also seems more intent on covering the waterfront than digging for news, or in pushing the talking heads off their talking points.

I agree with Verne, "pushing people off their talking points" is not a Gregory strong suit, but, then again, I don't recall Russert knocking many people off theirs either.

Just ask Dick Cheney.

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Too juice not to take a swipe at

By Carl

Sometimes, I have to let my inner imp out:

Former President George W. Bush, who once famously called himself "The Decider," is writing a book about decisions.

"I want people to understand the environment in which I was making decisions. I want people to get a sense of how decisions were made and I want people to understand the options that were placed before me," Bush said in an interview Wednesday from his office in Dallas.

News of the book emerged Tuesday when Bush spoke in Canada. Tentatively called "Decision Points," the book is scheduled for a 2010 release by Crown, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, which in turn is a division of Random House Inc. Financial details were not disclosed. Instead of telling his life story, Bush will concentrate on about a dozen personal and presidential choices, including giving up drinking, picking Dick Cheney as his vice president and sending troops to Iraq.

Clearly, this is an important book, important enough that it will be released by Scholastic Books under the
Cozy Corner brand.

Now, former president Bush (Oh... thank GOD!) says he'll write about a dozen or so decisions he's made in his life. This means you can expect five serious topics, since that's how many fingers he'll have free once he puts crayon to coloring book. In this mathematical regard, Bush is like the idiot savant in Rain Man, only not savant.

Once his editor... you know, Laura?... points out to him that a dozen is more than five, and even removes his shoe to help him count that high, Bush will suddenly realize he'll have to pad his book out in order to make it biggerer. My suspicion is, by the end of the book (you know, the pages you can't color in) he will be talking about his choice of breakfast cereals.

I, I could have gone with the tiger's flakes, y'know (they ain't payin' me for endorsements, so I ain't mentionin' names!), but Laura tells me those have ingredients, so she helped me pull the box of them "oatie O's" *winkwink* off the top shelf. It's good to be the Decider!


What's probably going to piss him off more than anything else is that this book will be marketed as remaindered fiction, alongside OJ's If I Did It, thus becoming the second book in history to be binned during the first edition.

Now, I've received an advance galley of Decision Points, and while I can't claim this is how the book will ultimately be released, I wanted to share with you some of the decisions Mr. Bush has made in his life:

Ginger vs. Mary Ann -- He comes firmly down on the side of Mary Ann, although he has some very nice things to say about Ginger's tits. This took 85 pages, if you count the obscene doodles with palm trees and Lovey Howell.

Boxers vs. briefs -- Ultimately, he decides he doesn't like lawyers very much, but that Rocky fella seems like a nice guy. He wonders why he only fought the six times, since he made a helluva champion.

Coke vs. Pepsi -- This one he's very decisive about: Coke. As he puts it, "Pepsi tickles your nose when you snort it."

Much of the book seems to ramble in a fairly incoherent manner, but that might be due to the fact I was reading it watching Bill O'Reilly last night. Or perhaps he wrote it watching Bill O'Reilly last night. I'm not sure. It is short, coming in at a crackling 184 pages, which includes five pages copied directly from My Pet Goat.

I expect any moment now to receive an email from offering me a free copy or twenty with any paid subscription, along with Ann Coulter's latest book, two books by Michelle Malkin, and a SlapChop.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)


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Guantanamo, Iraq, and Iran -- a digest

By Carol Gee

Attorney General Eric Holder is indicating that he is reluctant to examine detainee treatment under the Bush administration. This followed the publication of information about a 2007 International Red Cross report containing detainee interviews that claimed torture. Holder did say that he would be bound by "wherever the law and the facts take" the DOJ, noting once again that they do not want to criminalize policy differences. The DOJ has recently had discussions with European officials about taking some of the detainees. The AG reported that they are looking who and what method might be used to try other detainees, suspected of crimes. This comes from CQ Politics of 3/18.

The Obama administration's new definition of terrorists looks a lot like the old one, says Christopher Weaver, writing for ProPublica on 3/17. The administration is no longer using the phrase "war on terror" and now, "enemy combatant." In a detainee habeas corpus case, the DOJ did not substantially change the claim to hold suspected terrorists, as it is tied to the 2001 Congressional resolution known as the AUMF. New rules will still have to be adopted. To quote the article's conclusion:

The filing is littered with ambiguous phrases like "private armed groups" and a "novel type of armed conflict" instead of "enemy combatants" and the "war on terror." The scrapping of martial lingo backs away from the Bush-era argument that asserts the commander in chief's right to lead the military independently from Congress. However, in a press release the Justice Department explained that the latest definition still relies on the international laws of war as they apply to a 2001 congressional resolution that authorized the president to use military force.

"They're recognizing a right to detain," Madeline Morris, a Duke law professor who helped prepare a major brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of several detainees. "They're recognizing that that right is not governed by existing [laws of war]," in these cases, and that new rules will need to be articulated.

What they're not doing, so far, is showing their hand, our experts agree. "In every way, it's better than the old definition," said Mariner, the Human Rights Watch expert. "It's just not substantially different."

Several Republican senators are attempting to derail the nomination of Christopher Hill as the new Ambassador to Iraq, according to CQ Politics (3/17/09). Led by Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), five senators sent a letter to President Obama urging the withdrawal of Hill's name from consideration. Brownback has also threatened to but a hold on the nomination. The others are Jon Kyle, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, James Inhofe, and Christopher Bond.

Just exactly how to engage with Iran was the subject of a very interesting analysis by Adam Graham-Silverman of CQ Politics on 3/16. The headline points to a "just right approach." Dennis Ross is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's special adviser on the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia. In addition to Ross, Richard Haas, Senator Kerry, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, and Zbignew Brzezinski also weighed in with opinions. It is a good read. To quote further:

The administration’s review of U.S. policy toward Iran could be completed this week and will have to provide answers to some pressing questions, from what concessions and pressure the United States can bring to the table to what kind of Iranian nuclear program it can accept

In conclusion, here are a couple of excerpted paragraphs regarding the Middle East from my most recent CQ Behind the Lines newsletter by David C. Morrison:

Courts and rights: . . . another Post piece has the ACLU calling for an independent prosecutor to investigate CIA torture allegations. . . Old terror case files are being dusted off as the Obama administration considers prosecuting high-profile Guantanamo Bay detainees in civilian courts, focusing on pre-9/11 crimes, AP reports. . .

Over there: . . . “What failed in Iraq, fails in Afghanistan,” Strategy Page flatly concludes — as The Long War Journal sees two Taliban leaders denying recent reports that their leader is in peace negotiations with the Afghan government. The White House is considering expanding strikes inside Pakistan against Taliban power centers beyond the tribal areas currently targeted, The New York Times reveals.

See also Behind the Links for further info on this subject.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"I see Coach K is now concern trolling Obama regarding his bracket picks. All this 'focus on the economy' stuff is killing me. To listen to folks, all Obama needs to do is get in a quiet room, concentrate real hard, and the economy will be fixed!" -- John Cole

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What’s Russian for "cold feet"?

By Jim Arkedis

Jim Arkedis runs the All Our Might blog at the Progressive Policy Institute.

In 2005, Iran and Russia signed an $800 million contract so that Tehran could acquire five S-300 systems (known as the SA-20 around here), designed to simultaneously track 100 targets and fire at aircraft 120km away. It also has “high jamming immunity,” which I assume means that foreign armies can’t block its tracking mechanisms

How significant is this contract? Very, on two counts:

1. “If Tehran obtained the S-300, it would be a game-changer in military thinking for tackling Iran,” says long-time Pentagon advisor Dan Goure. Tehran would likely deploy the S-300 around the critical Nantanz nuclear facility, effectively nullifying the military advantage of a US or Israeli plan to attack it. (NB: I’m not suggesting there is wisdom in attacking Iran, but rather addressing only the military balance of power.)

2. $800 million might not seem like a lot these days, but to Iran it still is. How much? Well, the highest number I could find for Iran’s defense budget was $6.2billion. Some think it’s as low as $4.8billion. In other words, the S-300 is a massive outlay.

But is Russia balking at the sale? Reports today suggest the deal is now conditional. And they’d better have a good reason - the cash-strapped Soviet military ghost could sure use the money.

Simply put, it looks like the Russians are trying to curry favor with the Obama administration. It’s a long way before declaring this a victory for diplomacy over confrontation, but this would seem a qualified positive first step. And if Russia suspends the sale indefinitely, what is DC’s quid pro quo?

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By Creature

That's the number of continuing unemployment claims in millions as reported by the Labor Department today. That is a record high and more than most expected. A year ago the number of people on the dole was only 2.85 million. The numbers show finding new work is hard but, I guess, if you're looking for a bright side, the number of new jobless claims fell a bit more than expected. Yay (or something).

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BREAKING: Newt Gingrich should STFU

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's the dramatic headline at Human Events, the "Headquarters of the Conservative Underground," a sort of right-wing BDSM dungeon:

Okay, whatever. The MSM still take Gingrich seriously, but I don't, and I don't intend to spend any time on his predictably right-wing populist pander. (I'm not a big fan of the bailouts, but I do acknowledge that the financial sector will collapse without a substantial infusion of capital. And if the financial sector collapses, bank after bank, how is that good for the economy, which in order to keep moving forward needs those with money (i.e., banks) to lend it to individuals and businesses alike -- and how is that good for the American people?)

But how is this in any way "BREAKING"?

Or, in the Conservative Dungeon, is it just "BREAKING" whenever Newt opens his mouth? That it seems to be -- for there is nothing new here, nothing genuinely breaking -- says a great deal about the state of conservatism today.

Instead of actually doing anything to boost the economy, and to support the American people in a time of historic crisis, Newt and Rush and the rest of them are just sniping from the sidelines, spewing ideological extremism and otherwise being anything but constructive.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Don't blame Dodd, revisited

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Does Sen. Chris Dodd's admission that he was, as CNN put it, "responsible for language added to the federal stimulus bill to make sure that already-existing contracts for bonuses at companies receiving federal bailout money [e.g., AIG] were honored" change matters? That is, given this mea culpa, is Dodd the one to blame for the AIG bonuses?


Because it wasn't an admission -- and certainly not a mea culpa.

"The administration had expressed reservations," he said. "They asked for modifications. The alternative was losing the amendment entirely." In other words, it was the Obama Administration -- Geithner and Summers -- that pushed for the loophole, not Dodd. "I agreed reluctantly," he added. "I was changing the amendment because others were insistent."

Earlier today, I linked to, and quoted extensively from, Glenn Greenwald's post on the matter, a post that rightly credited Jane Hamsher, who has done some exceptional investigative work here, with exposing the shenanigans behind the loophole, and with pointing the finger directly at the Obama Administration. Glenn has updated his post in light of Dodd's "admission":

I explicitly wrote that it was Dodd who, after arguing vehemently against this provision, ultimately agreed to its inclusion. And the statement from Dodd's office that I quoted above included the same series of events ("Because of negotiations with the Treasury Department and the bill Conferees, several modifications were made, including adding the exemption"). That's exactly what Dodd said today on CNN.

The point was -- and is -- that Dodd was pressured to put that carve-out in at the insistence of Treasury officials (whose opposition meant that Dodd's two choices were the limited compensation restriction favored by Geithner/Summers or no compensation limits at all), and Dodd did so only after arguing in public against it. To blame Dodd for provisions that the White House demanded is dishonest in the extreme, and what Dodd said today on CNN about the White House's advocacy of this provision confirms, not contradicts, what I wrote.


It was the Treasury Department -- at least according to a Treasury official granted anonymity for the extremely compelling reason that he "asked not to be named" -- that pushed for the carve-out, and did so over Dodd's objections. That was the point from the beginning. That's precisely what made it so outrageous that the administration was trying to blame Dodd for a provision which Obama's own Treasury officials advocated, pushed for and engineered.

Now, there may be a Treasury (and Geithner/Summers) side to this that hasn't yet been effectively articulated. Perhaps, just perhaps, "the limited compensation restriction" was the best that could have been achieved. But I suspect not. And what is simply revolting -- if not nearly as revolting as the AIG bonuses, of course -- is the campaign of blame that has been waged against Dodd, an avoidance of responsibility on the part of the administration along with an assault, of sorts, on a loyal Democrat and one of the key figures in the Senate on the bailout issue.

Glenn is right. This is "dishonest in the extreme." And, as far as I can tell, it's simply indefensible.

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The hobgoblin of small minds

By Carl

Say what you will about Rush Limbaugh, but
at least he's consistent:

During the March 17 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh -- "a great leader for conservatives" -- defended American International Group (AIG) from criticism of the company's controversial employee retention bonuses. Limbaugh declared, "A lynch mob is expanding: the peasants with their pitchforks surrounding the corporate headquarters of AIG, demanding heads. Death threats are pouring in. All of this being ginned up by the Obama administration." Limbaugh later claimed, "This $500,000 limit on executive pay -- let me tell you why it won't work. New York City will die. New York City needs a whole bunch of people being paid a whole lot of money, so they can tax their butts off, so that the city can maintain its stupid streets, potholes, and welfare state. Without the super wealthy in New York, it's over. ... This -- it's just a populist ruse. It's just designed to people go, 'Yeah, yeah!' "

Most people have focused on Limbaugh's
"ginned up" comments. Some have focused on the fact that underlying what Limbaugh has said, there's a kernel of populist truth there: people are angry about the bonuses because they are rather hideous.

And there's also something miniscule to be said in defense of the fact that New York City's economy is tied to the economic health of the brokerages and more, the brokers in them. As New York's economy goes, so goes the Northeast. As the Northeast goes, so goes much of the East C
oast. As the East Coast goes... and so on.

It would take a better apologist than Rush Limbaugh to make that case.

I choose, however, to focus on the fact that this kind of statement is consistent with the kind of parody-conservatism that Limbaugh has preached for decades now.

I hope he lives a long life and continues to feed this malevolence into the mainstream media.

There is a saying that politics is the art of the possible. There is also a saying that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Let's take a closer look at those, shall we.

The art of the possible is attributed to Otto von Bismarck in 1867, although no one can cite the precise words he said. John Kenneth Galbraith had an interesting corrollary in which he said politics is the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.

I tend to think that Bismarck was warning us (meaning people) that politics was an avenue by which that which can be done is done. He's also widely credited with the saying that the making of laws and sausages are two things which entail things you really don't want to know about, which dovetails nicely with this saying.

You see, politics is about compromise. Politics is about recognizing there are opposing factions who have a different agenda than yours, and trying to include those people in your political stances and actions.

It is, in short, about what degree of compromise you are willing, or more important, need, to go to get things done.

A foolish consistency being the hobgoblin of small minds is pretty self-evident, and Ralph Waldo Emerson was spot on when he talked about this. The full quote is even more revealing:

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

Certainly describes the far right of this country to a tee. It also describes the far left in this country, but they don't have the megaphone that small minds like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham have. A foolish consistency bellowed at high decibels is to be admired for the breathtaking stupidity it entails. As Abe Lincoln used to say, better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.

By jumping through the hoops of fire that he has, Limbaugh has proved beyond a shadow of doubt that he is consistent.

And a fool.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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The GOP: against regulating pay before they were for it

By Creature

I can't defend the Obama administration too much over the AIG bonus fiasco (their blaming of Chris Dodd has started an avalanche that is just unacceptable). However, it's good to see that the president today took a shot at the hypocrisy coming from the GOP on all this. Greg Sargent:

In an apparent shot at GOPers who are blasting the bonuses, Obama said that there are "a whole bunch of folks now feigning outrage" that a year or two ago would have said "we should never meddle" in the private sector.

ThinkProgress runs down the flip-flopping Republicans here.

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Idiocracy, The Sequel

By J. Thomas Duffy

When the casting call comes for the sequel to Idiocracy, these jurors -- and court officials -- must make all effort to be first in line.

Mistrial by iPhone: Jurors’ Web Forays Are Upending Trials

Last week, a juror in a big federal drug trial in Florida admitted to the judge that he had been doing research on the case on the Internet, directly violating the judge’s instructions and centuries of legal rules. But when the judge questioned the rest of the jury, he got an even bigger shock.

Eight other jurors had been doing the same thing. The federal judge, William J. Zloch, had no choice but to declare a mistrial, wasting eight weeks of work by federal prosecutors and defense lawyers.


Last week, a building products company asked an Arkansas court to overturn a $12.6 million judgment against it after a juror used Twitter to send updates during the civil trial.

And on Monday, defense lawyers in the federal corruption trial of a former Pennsylvania state senator, Vincent J. Fumo, demanded that the judge declare a mistrial after a juror posted updates on the case on Twitter and Facebook. The juror even told his readers that a “big announcement” was coming Monday. But the judge decided to let the trial continue, and the jury found Mr. Fumo guilty. His lawyers plan to use the Internet postings as grounds for appeal.

Jeralyn, over at Talk Left, seems to have the Luke Wilson role here:

The solution seems easy enough -- require jurors to park their cell phones with the Marshals when entering the courthouse.

Holy Cow!

Bonus High Tech Hijinks

News In Brief - Wikimania Attendees Take Over Event ...Wikimania Conference Ends Abruptly In Cacophonous Chaos ...First Speaker Drowned Out By Attendees With Edits, Footnotes and Sub-Categories

Apple Settles With Cisco!; Rolling Dice With New iBeckham Phone ...Jobs Promises Aging Soccer Star Can Store "Billions of Photos" of Himself; New "Posh" Command Added

New iPod Phone Requires Downloading Calls

Life Imitates Art ... Or, Did Burt Lancaster Invent Google Earth?

Breaking News! Giant Search Engine Downed By GOP and RNC Staffers ... Google Crashes! Besieged With “I’m Feeling Lucky” Searches From White House, Congress ... Amazon, D.C. Novelty Stores Hit With Run On Magic 8-Balls

Top Ten Cloves: How The Amazon Kindle Can Effect The Legal World

Bonus Bonus

Idiocracy - The Trailer

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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A - I - G - revisited

By Carol Gee

An irate Congress is taking aim at AIG, according to CQ Politics, now 80% owned by taxpayers. Mr. Liddy, put in place as the caretaker C.E.O. was grilled by a House committee today. Probably the most interesting thing that emerged was that the Federal Reserve knew about, and evidently approved the employee bonuses all the time. Monday, 79 House members wrote to President Obama asking him to take action against AIG. The executive bonuses paid out of bailout monies from the U.S. treasury have so upset congressional Democrats that they might introduce legislation aimed at the company, namely taxes that could return a large portion to the treasury, Senator Dodd's idea, also adopted by Rep. Gary Peters of Michigan. Another idea, put forth by Rep. Barney Frank would be for the government to assert itself as an owner.

The AIG uproar is helping Representative Frank and his House Financial Services Committee to speed House efforts on new regulations, according to Tuesday's Politico article by Mike Allen and Victoria McGrane. The most likely method could be an enhanced role for the Federal Reserve with purview over the entire financial system, not just the banks. Rep. Franks will begin with legislation to set up a systemic risk regulator (likely the Fed), and then move on to consumer protection regs. Senator Dodd plans a single regulatory bill by the summer, supported by the Senate leadership's desire to move quickly.

AIG recently made its annual financial filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, ProPublica reports. The company stands to loose another $11 billion because of what its London operation did. If the company's credit rating is lowered, counterparties (pdf list-6p.) could claim anywhere from $8 to $11 billion, depending on how much it is dropped. It seems that all that is stopping the rating agencies is the bailout. AIG has shipped billions of the bailout money abroad to some of the largest foreign banks, Politico reported on Monday.

Regulatory reform -- Firedoglake offers a way that we can take action with Congress. It is a petition to sign: "No More Dough Till We Know Where It Goes." And Craig Crawford's CQ Politics-Trailmix 3/16 post urges President Obama to "Man Up Against AIG, Mr. President." Conservatives at the Becker Posner Blog are skeptical about the idea that more regulation is needed, claiming that regulators failed to exercise authority they already had.

In conclusion, I have had an intensely personal interest in the AIG story. This entire episode has felt so very strange to me. Until just a few days ago, AIG is where my retirement funds were lodged. Thanks to the generosity of Treasury and the taxpayers, I now have my AIG/TDA deposited in my local community bank, no worse for the wear of a plummeting stock market and profligate managers. That was because of the diversification of my portfolio into a very conservative set of retiree "funds." I do not credit that to my own skill, however, but to "blind-a**" luck and a savvy account rep that set it up that way for me at work when I started the fund in the mid 1990s. Whew!

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Blue dogs in the Senate

By Creature

Putting aside the matter that Evan Bayh refuses to out some of his Senate colleagues who are joining his new "moderate" coalition in the Senate, what really disturbs me is that upon hearing the news of such a moderate collation Joe Scarborough calls it "great." If an inteluctually dishonest conservative like Joe is on board we know were in for a mess of watered down, ineffectual, status quo loving, center-right legislation. Moderation for moderation's sake may be good politics for some, but it makes for crappy legislation.

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When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie...

By Michael J.W. Stickings

That's... totalitarianism?

Yup, North Korea now has pizza, among other Italian delicacies, available at a new ristorante in Pyongyang:

It has taken almost 10 years of work, but North Korea has acquired the technology to launch a project very dear to its leader's heart - the nation's first "authentic" Italian pizzeria.

The launch of Pyongyang's first Italian restaurant meanwhile brings to fruition a ten-year effort by Kim Jong-il -- a renowned gourmand and lover of western food -- to create the perfect pizza and pasta in his homeland.

Last year a delegation of local chefs was sent by Kim to Naples and Rome to learn the proper Italian techniques after their homegrown efforts to mimic Italian cuisine were found by Kim to contain "errors".

Umm... errors? Like cilantro instead of oregano? Or was the crust not stuffed properly?

In the late 1990s Kim brought a team of Italian pizza chefs to North Korea to instruct his army officers how to make pizza, a luxury which is now being offered to a tiny elite able to afford such luxuries in a country that cannot feed many of its 24 million inhabitants.

Despite the food shortages high-quality Italian wheat, flour, butter and cheese are being imported to ensure the perfect pizza is created every time.

Yeah, I'm sure it's perfection incarnate. Good totalitarian eats!

As for the North Korean people, well, they're dying of starvation anyway. As long as Dear Leader Kim's ego is satisfied, that's really all that matters.

Seriously, he really is one of the world's most loathsome little shits, madness incarnate in a land gone mad.

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Crisis in Madagascar

By Michael J.W. Stickings

See, I told you The Reaction is one of North America's leading blogs on Madagascar. Here's another post to prove it.


Yesterday, it was being reported that President Marc Ravalomanana was "holed up" in one of his palaces, and prepared to die, while opposition leader Andry Rajoelina was leading a coup.

Well, Ravalomanana has resigned. Here's the latest:

Military leaders in Madagascar have conferred full powers on 34-year-old opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, hours after the president resigned.

The officials said they had rejected an invitation from President Marc Ravalomanana to take up power as a military directorate.

Mr Rajoelina earlier installed himself in the president's offices, seized on Monday by pro-opposition troops.

He announced a new constitution and elections within two years.

...[A]fter a day of confusion the military seems to have given clear backing to Mr Rajoelina, apparently resolving a long power struggle on the Indian Ocean island.

How amusing, in a way, that Ravalomanana tried to sell himself as the front man for military rule. So much for those elections that put him in power.

As for the really young new guy, well, time will tell. Elections and a new constitution within two years? We'll see. Given that the military clearly runs the show in Madagascar, there is good reason to be skeptical. Indeed, there is good reason to think that the current crisis may well turn into a civil war.

(Here are some photos.)

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Don't blame Dodd

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Another must-read, an extremely important one, from Greenwald:

There is a major push underway -- engineered by Obama's Treasury officials, enabled by a mindless media, and amplified by the right-wing press -- to blame Chris Dodd for the AIG bonus payments. That would be perfectly fine if it were true. But it's completely false, and the scheme to heap the blame on him for the AIG bonus payments is based on demonstrable falsehoods.

Jane Hamsher has written the definitive post narrating and indisputably documenting what actually took place. The attempt to blame Dodd is based on a patently false claim that was first fed to The New York Times on Saturday by an "administration official" granted anonymity by Times reporters Edmund Andrew and Peter Baker (in violation, as usual, of the NYT anonymity policy, since all the official was doing was disseminating pro-administration spin). The accusation against Dodd is that there is nothing the Obama administration can do about the AIG bonus payments because Dodd inserted a clause into the stimulus bill which exempted executive compensation agreements entered into before February, 2009 from the compensation limits imposed on firms receiving bailout funds. Thus, this accusation asserts, it was Dodd's amendment which explicitly allowed firms like AIG to make bonus payments that were promised before the stimulus bill was enacted.

That is simply not what happened. What actually happened is the opposite. It was Dodd who did everything possible -- including writing and advocating for an amendment -- which would have applied the limitations on executive compensation to all bailout-receiving firms, including AIG, and applied it to all future bonus payments without regard to when those payments were promised. But it was Tim Geithner and Larry Summers who openly criticized Dodd's proposal at the time and insisted that those limitations should apply only to future compensation contracts, not ones that already existed. The exemption for already existing compensation agreements -- the exact provision that is now protecting the AIG bonus payments -- was inserted at the White House's insistence and over Dodd's objections. But now that a political scandal has erupted over these payments, the White House is trying to deflect blame from itself and heap it all on Chris Dodd by claiming that it was Dodd who was responsible for that exemption.

In this case, I fear, the Obama Administration has no one to blame but itself.

For more on the appalling AIG bonuses, see Steve Benen and, on Geithner and Summers, Chris Bowers. It's linked above, but make sure to read Jane Hamsher's brilliant post.

(Note that the right -- notably, Fox Business -- has picked up on the anti-Dodd smear, as Glenn mentions.)

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Stay classy, John McCain

By Michael J.W. Stickings

John McCain has a long history of being a jerk. Two recent cases in point:

1) When asked by George Stephanopoulos today, via Twitter, what he thought of his daughter Meghan's "feud" with right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham (about which we've posted here and here) and right-wing sexpot Ann Coulter (about which we've posted here) -- McCain said only this: "I'm proud of my daughter and she has a right to her opinions."

When asked whether he agreed with Meghan's opinions, he only said this: "[L]ike any family we agree on some things and disagree on others."

Translation: McCain does not agree with his daughter.

But what "opinions" are we talking about? Meghan criticized Ann Coulter for being "offensive, radical, insulting, and confusing all at the same time" and said that "there's an extreme on both parties and I hate extreme."

That's all.

As McCain apparently does not agree with his daughter, he must believe that there is not in fact extremism in both parties. He surely believes that there is extremism in the Democratic Party, though, so what he must mean is that there is no extremism in the Republican Party, which is to say, that the likes of Coulter and Ingraham, not to mention Dear Leader Rush, as well as their views, are not extreme. Similarly, he must believe that Coulter is neither offensive nor radical nor insulting. This from a man who throughout his long career has fashioned himself an independent, a maverick, above the partisan political fray.

Now, it may be that McCain does agree with his daughter but doesn't want to admit that he does, perhaps for partisan political reasons of his own. You know, because the Republican Party, his party, has been taken over by extremists to whom he must now pander, or to whom he thinks he must now pander, if he is to have a future in the party, a future of any significance and influence.

Again, so much for the self-made, media-enabled mythology on which he's been coasting. McCain is a coward or a hypocrite, or both, as well as a shameless opportunist. The mythology has always been a facade covering a partisan and self-aggrandizing core, but at least, at the very least, he used to speak out against the radicals in his party, including the theocrats. He may not always have been an admirable man, but from time to time he did and said admirable things. He sold his soul for the Republican presidential nomination and played to the far right with Palin and his pandering campaign, and now, having lost, the pandering continues.

Whatever he really thinks of his party's extremists and extremism, he's playing right along.

But that's not the worst part.

As a father, should he not have been critical of Ingraham's personal attacks on his daughter? Ingraham basically called her a "plus-sized" dimwit, after all. Could he not have spoken in her defence? Could he not have said that such attacks are simply not acceptable?

What a classy guy. What a great father. What a jerk.

2) And how about this?

As Stephanopoulos writes: "McCain said it is 'too early' to tell if President Obama has put the nation at risk of a terror attack, refusing to agree or reject Cheney's recent comments" (about which we've posted here and here).

Too early to tell?

No, McCain didn't go as far as Cheney did, but it was reckless and irresponsible fearmongering nonetheless, not least coming from a supposed national security expert, and, while presented as a neutral observation coming from a non-partisan authority, it was just as partisan a smear, in its own way, as anything Cheney said -- in fact, it was worse, given that McCain has more credibility than Cheney outside the conservative insanitarium.

But how exactly is it "too early" to tell. Does McCain now believe that banning torture, closing Gitmo, and putting an end to Bush-Cheney abuses of power could make America less safe? What else has Obama done to warrant McCain's skepticism? I can understand how Cheney is opposed to Obama's policies, but McCain?

Could it be that McCain has always been much more like Cheney than he's ever cared to admit? Could it be that, like Rush, he wants Obama to fail?

At the very least, McCain has once again exposed the partisan core that has always been his driving force.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Does it matter?

By Carl

One small step for men,
one small step for mankind:

The United States and Britain have welcomed the Pakistani government's decision to peacefully resolve its political crisis by reinstating deposed Supreme Court justices.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the resolution a first step towards reconciliation.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband separately praised Pakistan's president and opposition leader for putting the country's interests first.

The diplomats had urged Pakistan's leaders to defuse the week-long crisis, expressing concern it would divert Islamabad's attention from the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Truly, this is good news and a positive step for the world.

I'm just not sure what it's going to mean in the grand scheme of things. I did some thinking over the weekend, the kind of thinking that back in 2006 made me realize that the country was going to hell in a handbasket very quickly. Some of my more economically savvy friends laughed at me back then but they ain't laughing now.

Even I had my doubts that I might be overstating the case for a long-overdue collapse.

I think things have hit bottom, now. I don't have any evidence of this beyond some broad sense of things. I called the bottom of the market at around 7,000, and I seem to have been pretty accurate, based on a similar seat-of-the-pants call.

That's not to say the way ahead will be easy. It won't. We won't magically zoom back up to the middling levels of 2005, never mind the levels of 1999. It will be a slog and many people will be hurting, but we'll make it back. 2011, I think, will show some clear and positive signs for this nation. 2010 will show some stirrings. Even Christmas this year will have some reasons to celebrate.

I think.


The longer the U.S. economy is weighed down the way it is, the more dangerous the world will become. Poverty has a way of bringing out the worst in people and if you need any evidence, you need look no further than al Qaeda's support structure. The way they recruit new terrorist foot soldiers is to go to the poorest sections of Muslim populations and talk up life ever after and the promise of jihad.

Sounds like Christian missionaries, when you come right down to it.

The longer this downturn lasts, the more poverty there will be, and the more fertile ground for recruitment. That Pakistan has chosen to make this largely symbolic gesture towards freedom is nice and all that, but the bottom line is, they can't hold back the tide of fundamentalism without a thriving economy and I just don't see that happening anytime soon over there.

Indeed, if we are lucky, and cooler heads prevail over the next decade, it's possible we might avoid another widespread, global conflict that marries itself to our economic recovery. It will require luck. Too many things can go wrong between now and prosperity for us to rely solely on the goodwill and small gestures of men and women in power.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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