Friday, March 27, 2009

The Reaction in review (March 27, 2009)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:

Creature Feature: This week Creature got fond of "Quotes of the Day" -- regarding (Goldman Sachs exec), (Michele Bachmann) and (Republicans' numberless budget).


By Carol Gee: "President Obama lays out Middle East strategy" -- The post analyzes the Obama speech regarding his recently unveiled plan for the war in Afghanistan/Pakistan.

By Robin J. Walker: "Pakistani government aid to militants" -- Guest writer from the Truman Project asks some key questions about the dilemma of ISI support to the Taliban and other militants.

By Capt. Fogg: "War with the Newt" -- Fogg takes a sharp pen to his choice of the "Craziest Republican of the Day,"Newt Gingrich.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Michael J.W. Stickings, neocon?" -- Michael's very clever post examines where he and Krazy Bill Kristol/KrazyBob Kagan agree and disagree.


By Carl: "The teeth of the hydra" -- Carl's post skillfully lays out the facts surrounding the drugs and guns issues raised by SOS Hillary Clinton's comments regarding the U.S. contribution to Mexico's war against drug cartels.

By Mustang Bobby: "Get serious about taxes" -- Bobby's post sheds much helpful light on the question of raising taxes and fighting deficits, taking apart Republican myths.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Bobby Jindal still wants Obama to fail, and explains why" -- Michael insightfully wrote regarding the leading figures in the Republican party's desire " . . . Not that this or that policy fail, but that he fail[s] . ."


By Jim Arkedis: "The young people poll" -- Guest poster from the Progressive Policy Institute provides good insight into a possible trend towards seeing Democrats as "patriotic."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Being Meghan McCain" -- This is a good little piece about McCain's appearance on Larry King Live.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Andrew Sullivan on Cheney, torture, and the GOP's big problem" -- Michael begins, "I have long admired Andrew Sullivan for his vehement stance on --that is, against -- torture and its enablers in the Bush administration, from Bush and Cheney right on down."


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "The thuggery of Bill O'Reilly" -- Michael shares the tale of the Oreilly show producers stalking and intimidation of Amanda Terkel of the blog Think Progress.

By Grace: "An open letter" -- Grace writes passionately about Canada's very important contributions to the war in Afghanistan, explaining how American broadcasters and politicians have shown their ignorance regarding the truth.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Frank Rich on Obama's 'Katrina moment' " -- A very effective analysis of populist rage and its implications for the Obama administration's capacity to work through the current financial crisis.


By J. Thomas Duffy: "My Ronnie can do anything" -- Duffy takes former Reagan speechwriter, Peggy Noonan to task for her wide-ranging and obviously shallow criticism of the Obama administration.

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President Obama lays out Middle East strategy

By Carol Gee

President Barack Obama laid out U.S. foreign policy for areas of the Middle East in a speech Friday morning. The transcript can be seen in its entirety on Swampland at Time Magazine, "Obama goes to war,"by Michael Scherer. HT Twitter. The speech will be analyzed in a dozen different languages all over the world. Here is my take in English from Texas:

Troop levels -- To train Afghan security forces, the U.S. will deploy 4,000 troops to Afghanistan. These forces will join the 17,000 additional troops sent to fight in the south and east earlier this year. Training the Afghan military and police forces will be "for the first time fully resourced." That is a relatively limited military build-up in the overall scope of our military presence in the region. To quote:

Every American unit in Afghanistan will be partnered with an Afghan unit, and we will seek additional trainers from our NATO allies to ensure that every Afghan unit has a coalition partner. We will accelerate our efforts to build an Afghan Army of 134,000 and a police force of 82,000 so that we can meet these goals by 2011 – and increases in Afghan forces may very well be needed as our plans to turn over security responsibility to the Afghans go forward.

Civilians on the ground -- The remainder of U.S. effort in Afghanistan will involve a substantial increase in the nonmilitary effort. It will include "agricultural specialists and educators; engineers and lawyers, to "develop an economy that isn't dominated by illicit drugs." Secretary Clinton will "seek support from partners and allies next week in the Hague." The President emphasized the primacy of a civilian effort, an investment in the future of the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, explaining,

That is why my budget includes indispensable investments in our State Department and foreign assistance programs. These investments relieve the burden on our troops. They contribute directly to security. They make the American people safer. And they save us an enormous amount of money in the long run – because it is far cheaper to train a policeman to secure their village or to help a farmer seed a crop, than it is to send our troops to fight tour after tour of duty with no transition to Afghan responsibility.

The speech was comprehensive and wide ranging. Much of it was to explain why the strategies were chosen. It was, at its core, a speech for everyone laying out plans and expectations for all who will be participating. A variety of things that went wrong in the past were addressed: lack of accountability for spending, no-bid contracts, and wasteful reconstruction will be remedied with "increase[d] funding for a strong Inspector General at both the State Department and USAID, and include robust funding for the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction." Specifics to combat corruption in Afghanistan were mentioned, such as benchmarks that will insure that international assistance goes to the Afghan people. The President pledged to set metrics for our own government "to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable."

President Obama also discussed his ideas about the Taliban movement at some length, differentiating between those who are "irreconcilable" and those who are not. There was a plan for reconciliation that specified, as the President put it,

There is an uncompromising core of the Taliban. They must be met with force, and they must be defeated. But there are also those who have taken up arms because of coercion, or simply for a price. These Afghans must have the option to choose a different course. That is why we will work with local leaders, the Afghan government, and international partners to have a reconciliation process in every province. As their ranks dwindle, an enemy that has nothing to offer the Afghan people but terror and repression must be further isolated. And we will continue to support the basic human rights of all Afghans – including women and girls.

Nations all over the world will be asked to join the U.S. in the Afghanistan war against al Qaeda. That is how it is being billed. Major increases in nation building for both Afghanistan and Pakistan is an important aspect of the administration's strategy. Alliance building will be a major part of the U.S strategy. Other nations must see that their security interests are at stake unless there is a clearly concerted effort by any nation vulnerable to an attack from the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. To quote the President,

But this is not simply an American problem – far from it. It is, instead, an international security challenge of the highest order. Terrorist attacks in London and Bali were tied to al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan, as were attacks in North Africa and the Middle East, in Islamabad and Kabul. If there is a major attack on an Asian, European, or African city, it – too – is likely to have ties to al Qaeda's leadership in Pakistan. The safety of people around the world is at stake.

When the President travels abroad next week he will be asking for specifics from other nations:

From our partners and NATO allies, we seek not simply troops, but rather clearly defined capabilities: supporting the Afghan elections, training Afghan Security Forces, and a greater civilian commitment to the Afghan people. For the United Nations, we seek greater progress for its mandate to coordinate international action and assistance, and to strengthen Afghan institutions.

And finally, together with the United Nations, we will forge a new Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan that brings together all who should have a stake in the security of the region – our NATO allies and other partners, but also the Central Asian states, the Gulf nations and Iran; Russia, India and China. None of these nations benefit from a base for al Qaeda terrorists, and a region that descends into chaos. All have a stake in the promise of lasting peace and security and development.

The futures of both Pakistan and Afghanistan are clearly linked in the President's mind. Each is vulnerable to what goes wrong within its neighbor's borders, all having a shared responsibility for security. A "standing, trilateral dialog" with regular meetings among the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates will lead the effort that will be marked by "enhanced intelligence sharing and military cooperation along the border, while addressing issues of common concern like trade, energy, and economic development." The President emphasized over and over that solutions are not merely military. To quote:

To enhance the military, governance, and economic capacity of Afghanistan and Pakistan, we have to marshal international support. And to defeat an enemy that heeds no borders or laws of war, we must recognize the fundamental connection between the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan – which is why I've appointed Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to serve as Special Representative for both countries, and to work closely with General David Petraeus to integrate our civilian and military efforts.

Pakistan's needs for assistance have a very high priority with the President, who also expects the country to meet certain responsibilities. This is what he said, in no uncertain terms,

The terrorists within Pakistan's borders are not simply enemies of America or Afghanistan – they are a grave and urgent danger to the people of Pakistan. Make no mistake: al Qaeda and its extremist allies are a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within. It is important for the American people to understand that Pakistan needs our help in going after al Qaeda.

. . . That is why we must focus our military assistance on the tools, training and support that Pakistan needs to root out the terrorists. And after years of mixed results, we will not provide a blank check. Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders. And we will insist that action be taken – one way or another – when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets.

President Obama then expressed support for Congressional action to assist Pakistan with "resources that will build schools, roads, and hospitals, and strengthen Pakistan's democracy." To quote further:

I am calling upon Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by John Kerry and Richard Lugar that authorizes $1.5 billion in direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years . . . I'm also calling on Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Maria Cantwell, Chris Van Hollen and Peter Hoekstra that creates opportunity zones in the border region to develop the economy and bring hope to places plagued by violence. And we will ask our friends and allies to do their part – including at the donors conference in Tokyo next month.
All in all it it is an impressive plan. It is a rather large departure from that of the previous administration. The key elements appear to be redirecting the policy from Iraq to Afghanistan/Pakistan, minimizing the number of additional troops committed to Afghanistan, changing the military-only strategy to diplomacy, nation building, development, and accountability. In the end the biggest thing is that the President fully intends to engage everyone around the world who is willing to help end the conflict, though there was no time line included. It is too bad that the incursion into Iraq, costing over 4000 U.S. military casualties, set us back all those years and dollars. Not to mention the thousands and thousands of Iraqi lives lost. President Obama's only alternative, it seems was to start over with a very different strategy.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Global warming forces readjustment of Swiss-Italian border

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This is fascinating:

Melting glaciers in the Alps may prompt Italy and Switzerland to redraw their borders near the Matterhorn, according to parliamentary draft legislation being readied in Rome.


The Italian Military Geographic Institute says climate change is responsible for the Alpine glaciers melting.

"This draft law is born out the necessity to revise and verify the frontiers given the changes in climate and atmosphere," [Democratic Party MP Franco] Narducci said. "The 1941 convention between Italy and Switzerland established as criteria [for border revisions] the ridge [crest] of the glaciers. Following the withdrawal of the glaciers in the Alps, a new criterion has been proposed so that the new border coincides with the rock."

And, of course, deeply troubling.

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Joe the Plumber hates America's working men and women

By Michael J.W. Stickings

He's back. As if "reporting" from Israel wasn't enough, Samuel "Joe" Wurzelbacher will be campaigning against the Employee Free Choice Act:

Mr. Plumber will speak at rallies against the measure in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia on March 30th and 31st, according to a spokesperson for the anti-EFCA group Americans for Prosperity.

"The public loves Joe the Plumber," the spokesperson, Mary Ellen Burke, claimed to me. "They see him as a role model."

If that's the case, the "public" is fucking stupid. But I don't think Ms. Burke knows what she's talking about.

Pressed on whether Joe the Plumber has any particular claim to being a spokesperson on the issue, Burke replied that "he represents the American worker."

Right. Sure he does. Why don't we ask American workers what they really think of this right-wing charlatan and fool?

And then why doesn't he just go away? Right, because he's one of the leading faces of American conservatism -- and, for that, for such a visible sign of conservatism's moral and intellectual bankruptcy, we should be grateful. He does nothing but harm, in my view, to the right, such an appalling embarrassment has he become.

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Pakistani government aid to militants

By Robin J. Walker

Robin J. Walker, a national security and international relations scholar and policymaker with a special interest in South Asia and non-proliferation, is a fellow at the Truman National Security Project.

This is Robin's first post at The Reaction. Check out his blog Smart Influence, which he started just last month. It features some extremely sharp commentary on his national security and foreign policy interests. -- MJWS


A front page article in Thursday's New York Times explored the support that Pakistan's government, specifically the S wing of the Inter-Service Intelligence, or ISI, is still providing to militant groups, including the Taliban, who are conducting attacks in Afghanistan. This support has continued despite repeated requests and high level visits from American and British officials.

These militant connections are partly to counter fears of Indian encirclement, since India has invested heavily in Afghan reconstruction, and most of the Pakistani military still sees India, not the militants, as their main threat and opponent, and Pakistan has a long history of using militants as proxy fighters against India, particularly in Kashmir. This connection fairly clearly led to the bombing of India's embassy in Kabul last summer.

A few key questions remain:

1) How closely was the ISI involved in last November's Mumbai attacks by Lashkar-e-Taiba? Was it just intelligence sharing and protection, as Pakistani officials claim, or was the whole thing a proxy attack planned by Pakistani military, or even civilian, leadership?

2) How deep do the connections between ISI and the militants run? Is it largely the work of a "few bad apples" who maintain their ties, or something much bigger?

3) What can the United States/coalition do to entice Pakistan to renounce support for these groups and leaders? Certainly just sending the Predator drones into Quetta and elsewhere in Baluchistan is possible (and being debated -- watch for news of expanded strikes in the next few weeks), but is it worth the cost?

(Cross-posted from Smart Influence.)

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War with the Newt

By Capt. Fogg

"Prophets are always disappointed, dear Nostradamus. That's why new ones are always in the wings updating the catastrophes."

- Andre Codrescu -

One of the reasons that I changed my major away from psychology many years ago had to do with some films showing real mental patients, including schizophrenics, in the days of straight jackets and padded cells. The mental state of these poor people wasn't what I wanted to be immersed in for the rest of my life. Little did I know. I haven't thought about it for 45 years, but recently, listening to the barking of Newt, St. Rush, Ann, Michelle, and Laura, the wild-eyed ravings of hysterical madmen come to mind again.

The latest is from the would-be-relevant Newt Gingrich, who is seeking to fill the power vacuum caused by the collapse of the Bush administration by issuing vacuous proclamations with reckless disregard to what his words mean. Seeking the authority of amplitude, Newt squeals out that Barack Obama, currently disappointing his most liberal supporters by being a centrist and a pragmatist, is leading us toward a dictatorship and Liberal Fascism.

Analyzing such speech is probably pointless, since only those in a true fugue state need to have the ironic irrationality explained. Of course Newt isn't really schizophrenic and so isn't deserving of sympathy. He's just a witch hunter and like all of them, he invents the witches he uses to elevate himself to the powers he attributes to them.

Of course he'd like to make you think it's all about those vaunted "conservative principles" he pays lip service to while supporting bloated authoritarian government in the pocket of industry, (fascism) but as I've said many times, "principles" are what we call our most unworkable ideas. In the case of Newt, they're not even ideas he believes in. What he does believe in is the Big Lie and the oft repeated lie, knowing that the more outrageous his claim, the more it will be believed and that nothing is too ridiculous, unfounded, impossible or meaningless to be claimed. Hence terms like "liberal fascist" that combine contradictory words, yet even more ridiculous coming from a source that has more successfully promoted incestuous collusion between a military industrial complex and news media using false data, fabricated scenarios, illegal surveillance and other infractions against liberty and the law to promote their goals.

We will most likely hear more sirens wailing and more Newts and Cheneys and Limbaughs pumping up the volume and trying to convince us to re-elect the party that has robbed and raped us and left us lying in the ditch. The longer doom eludes us, the more prophets thereof will howl.

(Cross-posted from
Human Voices.)

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"It looks like they're building a budget molecule." -- Ann Friedman, Ezra Klein's editor, on the preposterous health care "flow-chart" in the Republicans' highly anticipated and utterly mock-able, numberless "budget" proposal. SNL should be paying the GOP to write their skits for them.

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Michael J.W. Stickings, neocon?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

TNR's Michael Crowley is reporting that leading neocons Krazy Bill Kristol and Krazy Bob Kagan, two of the key figures behind PNAC, have created The Foreign Policy Initiative, a PNAC-like think tank dedicated to the proliferation of neocon principles like American hegemonism. Here's what they intend to promote:

  • continued U.S. engagement -- diplomatic, economic, and military -- in the world and rejection of policies that would lead us down the path to isolationism;
  • robust support for America’s democratic allies and opposition to rogue regimes that threaten American interests;
  • the human rights of those oppressed by their governments, and U.S. leadership in working to spread political and economic freedom;
  • a strong military with the defense budget needed to ensure that America is ready to confront the threats of the 21st century;
  • international economic engagement as a key element of U.S. foreign policy in this time of great economic dislocation.
Actually, as a somewhat hawkish liberal, I agree with much of that.

Engagement instead of isolationsism? Check.

Support for democratic allies and opposition to "rogue regimes"? Check.

Human rights and freedom? Check.

A strong military? Well...

See, here's the problem. While much of this sounds good, the reality is something else entirely. By support for "America's democratic allies," what Kristol and Kagan mean is unquestioning support for Israel -- and a right-wing Israel at that. By "a strong military," what they mean is the capacity to wage multiple pre-emptive wars at will, unilaterally. Remember, these are the people who would like to see the U.S. go to war against Iran.

And while I appreciate neocon opposition to anti-democratic regimes like those that tyrannize China and Saudi Arabia, what these neocons want is the spread of right-wing American neo-liberalism, not so much "economic freedom" as a world made safe for rapacious capitalism.

In short, this is PNAC 2. The goal is still American hegemony, an Americanized world in which neocon policies rule. And, to that end, the weapon is not so much "engagement" as all-out warmongering.

And the message is this: If you cross America, or if you just don't fit in with America's interests, or if the neocons just don't like you, America will kick your ass.

I'm all for promoting freedom and democracy and human rights. But not this way, not through the construction of empire, through the arrogant imposition of power.

I, too -- and liberals like me -- want change around the world, from Darfur to North Korea, from Zimbabwe to Burma. But you can't force that change with might, that is, by beating every problem, every rogue regime, into submission. What is required is genuine American leadership in the international community, serious diplomatic efforts combined with a willingness to work multilaterally in pursuit of peace, in pursuit of shared goals.

Kristol and Kagan, as usual, just don't get it.

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So predictable: The Republican tax-slashing non-budget

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The House Republicans have an "alternative budget." There isn't much in the way of detail, but, of course, the emphasis is on tax cuts for the wealthy:

Under the Republican plan, the top marginal tax rate would be slashed from 35 to 25 percent, facilitating a dramatic transfer of wealth up the economic scale. Anyone making more than a $100,000 would pay the top rate; those under would pay 10 percent.

As Steve Benen points out, it's not a "budget" at all, let alone a "detailed" one. And it's just more of the same, and worse, from a party that has simply run out of ideas (and that didn't exactly have many good ones to begin with):

So, Bush/Cheney lowered the top rate from 39.6% to 35%, which cost hundreds of billions of dollars and helped create the largest budget deficits in American history. Now, the very same GOP lawmakers want to send the top rate from 35% to 25%, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, all in the name of deficit reduction.

How much would this cost? The "detailed budget" doesn't say. What it would do to the deficit? The "detailed budget" doesn't say. What would Republicans cut to pay for this massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans? The "detailed budget" doesn't say. How much would Republicans raise or spend over all? The "detailed budget" doesn't say.

For more, see Taylor Marsh, Ezra Klein, John Cole, and The Anonymous Liberal.

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By Michael J.W. Stickings

Reuters -- in Kabul, Afghanistan:

A would-be suicide bomber accidentally blew himself up on Thursday, killing six other militants as he was bidding them farewell to leave for his intended target, the Interior Ministry said.

"The terrorist was on his way to his destination and saying good-bye to his associates and then his suicide vest exploded," a statement from the ministry said.

So... no virgins?

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

The teeth of the hydra

By Carl

I've spent many an hour trying to wrap my planet-sized brain around the enormity of the cultural problems affecting this country.

To be sure, I don't have many answers. Hillary Clinton
might have some insight, though:

MEXICO CITY - The United States is at least as responsible as Mexico for the violent drug wars that are roiling its southern neighbor because of an insatiable US market for narcotics, the failure to stop weapons smuggling southward and a three-decade "war" on drugs that "has not worked," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday.

"Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians," Mrs. Clinton said.
"How could anyone conclude any differently? . . . I feel very strongly we have co-responsibility," she said.


The gun and drug culture, believe it or not, are very tightly tied together, and I don't just mean the dealers who carry Glocks.

I mean that there is a subculture in America that attempts to subvert the system and pervert our citizenry by promoting both guns and drugs in tandem.

No, not video game authors and publishers, although I have no doubt they are complicit.

I mean the people who buy and use both of these items.

Now, I've made no bones about where I stand on guns. I think there is a limited need for legal guns for protection and provisions in some sectors of the country, but that on the whole, we should do whatever we can to limit and/or ban them. Period.

On drugs, I have a slightly different outlook. There are some drugs that are inherently so destructive that access to them ought to be as difficult as humanly possible, and in point of fact, I'd include tobacco on that list along with crystal meth, heroin, and possibly cocaine.

And then there are some drugs that are dangerous, but when used in moderation or under supervision should be decriminalized. LSD, mescaline, and cocaine (if it's not outright outlawed). And I do mean "under supervision."

Finally there are, or rather is, the drug that should be legalized, full stop: pot. And you can keep alcohol legal, as well. And I suppose I'd be grossly outvoted on my call for the closely guarded regulation of tobacco, so it likely would remain here, even if suicide by smoking is a leading cause of death in this country.

Hillary Clinton's acknowledgement of the sales of assault weapons across the Mexican border as a result of spats amongst rival gangs for the right to smuggle illegal drugs back into the United States highlights a rather disturbing fact: it is in the (legal) gun sellers' best interests to see (illegal) drugs flourish.

They have a vested financial interest in it. And that stinks. Drugs create gun users, both criminals and legal (since the crime rate goes up as drugs become more and more pricey).

By creating a criminal subculture-- 700,000 Americans are arrested each year for pot possession and sales alone, and that represents slightly less than half of all drug arrests in this country-- you create a need to take justice into one's own hands, rather than look to the legal authorities.

Legalize pot, for example, and 700,000 more Americans are walking the streets without a criminal tarnish every year. That could mean a few thousand or tens of thousands of illegal guns off the street. And illegal guns start somewhere along the lines as legal gun sales.

Not only that, but as crime rates decrease because of legal or decriminalized substances, legal gun ownership would wane slightly, since people will feel safer on the streets and in their own homes.

If the NRA has a problem with stemming supply, then why not turn the tables and lower demand? After all, it's not like 700,000 pot-laced zombies are going to start breaking and entering homes in search of Cheetos. The NRA would be hard-pressed to take offense at that point, even if that would expose the underbelly of the truism I've laid out here.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"Honestly, if Michele Bachmann didn't exist, we'd have to invent her." -- Steve Benen, commenting on Bachman's absurd legislation that "would bar the dollar from being replaced by any foreign currency." Bachman is playing to the reinvigorated New World Order crowd here (or, in other words, the GOP base). For more, see the equally loony Glen Beck and, for that matter, all of FOX News.



She's been our Craziest Republican of the Day before, and she is again now, just as she qualifies pretty much each and every day.

You can read her madness here: "Bachmann Demands Truth: Will Obama Administration Abandon Dollar for a Multi-National Currency?"

Really? This is an issue for her? What, she thinks Obama will adopt the Euro or something?

Look up "insanity" in the dictionary. There's got to be a picture of her there, right?


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Get serious about taxes

By Mustang Bobby

E.J. Dionne suggests that the best way to cut the deficit is to raise our taxes:

Every budget analyst knows this, and every politician knows that it's far easier to bemoan deficits in the abstract than to risk spending cuts or tax increases that hurt sizable groups of voters. "There are no more low-hanging fruit," says Tom Kahn, the staff director for the House Budget Committee. "The low-hanging fruit have already been picked. Any tax increase or spending cut is going to trigger opposition from somewhere."

In an ideal world, Obama would come right out and say we'll need broad-based tax increases. But that would be suicidal right now. Witness the reaction to his effort to put a 28 percent ceiling on deductions. His proposal would affect only 1.2 percent of taxpayers, yet even that idea seems to be dying in Congress.


The task of those who genuinely care about deficits is to make the world safe for tax increases. Under current conditions, it's a whole lot easier for politicians to talk a lot about deficits, and then just let them grow.

The Republicans love to make a big show about how they are the party of fiscal responsibility and cutting taxes and the Democrats are the ones who promote tax-and-spend. Never mind that the largest tax increases in the last generation came from Ronald Reagan in 1983 and that the biggest tax cut so far proposed has been in the budget sent up by Barack Obama; they will have their talking points. They also try to get mileage out of the faux-populism of "it's our money; why send it to Washington?" It's as if the government was some alien occupying force that collects taxes and we never get a dime back from "them." Ironically, the Republicans who complain the most about taxes are, by and large, from states like Alabama and Mississippi, which get the most money back from the government in the form of Medicare, welfare, and other government programs that fill in the gaps that the state can't pay for.

The Republicans' rant about President Obama's plan to let the Bush tax cuts come to an end and raise taxes on those who make more than $250,000 makes it sound as if the world will come crashing down on the "small businesses" who will then have to lay off their entire work force just to pay the IRS. Either they are painfully ignorant of the tax code or they are willfully misleading their listeners. The tax hikes would hit only those who have a net income over $250,000, and it would not be on the entire amount, just the portion over $250,000. As for small businesses, anyone who has even a passing knowledge of how business works would know that the taxes are only on earnings over $250,000, not on the gross income. For a business to make over $250,000 a year, they would have to gross somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million. That may be a small business to some people, but that's not doing too badly. Besides, anyone who runs a multi-million dollar company but can't hire a tax attorney or an hourly employee at H & R Block, for that matter, to find ways to get every deduction entitled to them doesn't deserve to get a break.

Then there's the old canard about the government being full of waste, fraud and abuse, and they hold up examples of the Pentagon paying $500 for a toilet seat or some such apocryphal tale. However, the latest examples of waste, fraud, and abuse are coming from the government entities of Bank of America, Citibank, and A.I.G. And when they talk about the red tape and inefficiencies of the government, they like to say something along the lines of "Would you like your health care run by the government?" Well, considering the fact that Medicare has administrative costs that run to about 3% of their annual expenditures as compared to an HMO, which typically spends upwards of 15% if not more, then, yes, I'd like the government to run the health care system, at least as far as efficiency is concerned. The fall-back is to hold up the Post Office as another example of inefficiency. Really? When I can send a birthday card door-to-door to my Mom in Ohio in two days for under fifty cents via UPS or Fed Ex, let me know.

Sure, paying taxes is not everyone's favorite duty, and a lot of people would like pay as little as possible -- so would I. I would also like to fly first class for free, not pay rent on my house, and, while you're at it, have the physique of Michael Phelps. It ain't gonna happen (especially the last part). But if we're going to have the services we've come to expect -- indeed, become entitled to -- such as decent roads, a strong defense, safe airways, secure financial institutions, clean water, good and productive schools, and help for those who can't help themselves, then we have to pay for them. The government, be it state, local, or federal, has to get the money from somewhere, and if it's not in the form of taxes, we have to borrow it from somewhere else. Lately it's been from the Chinese. Not to go all xenophobic, but I would rather have the money come from us rather than be in hock to a country that doesn't have the same outlook on basic forms of human rights that we do -- or at least aspire to.

To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., "taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society."

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Bobby Jindal still wants Obama to fail, and explains why

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Give Jindal some credit. He's smarter than most of his Republican colleagues, and at least he can intellectualize his views. Unlike, say, Dear Leader Rush, he doesn't just sweat ignorance and bigotry.

And so there he was at a fundraiser Tuesday evening, rationalizing the common Republican desire for Obama to fail:

My answer to the question is very simple: "Do you want the president to fail?" It depends on what he is trying to do.

Well, sure, to a point. When Bush proposed privatizing social security, for example, I wanted him to fail. On a case-by-case, or policy-by-policy, basis, it makes sense to hope either for success or failure.

Jindal overstates his case, though, when he suggests that (Democratic) opposition to the Republican desire for Obama to fail is just "political correctness run amok." It isn't political correctness, it's recognition that Obama is trying to pull the country out of an historic economic crisis. It would be one thing if Republicans, including Dear Leader Rush, challenged Obama on a policy-by-policy basis, if they said something like, "We hope his health-care reform proposals fail because we object to them on principle, because we like the system just the way it is now." But they don't. They say, "We want Obama to fail." Period. Sure, they toss around the usual ideological talking points (all would be fine if only taxes were slashed and the government were reduced to insignificance), but the message is pretty clear: Screw the economy. Screw the American people. As long as Obama fails, that's all that matters.

Think of it this way: After 9/11, what if Democrats had said, "We want Bush to fail"? Well, they didn't do that, and, when they did criticize Bush, and as there was more and more criticism over time, mostly over Iraq, they didn't mean that they wanted Bush to fail, say, in securing the homeland against another attack. They disagreed with Bush's policies, with the means to the end, as well as with some of the ends (unchecked executive power, for example), but it was not a blanket desire that he fail. And while there may have been some exceptions, with some on the left succumbing to derangement, their hatred of Bush trumping all other considerations, they were, for the most part, dismissed as cranks and relegated to the periphery. What we have here is much different, the desire on the part of leading figures in the Republican Party -- Rush, Jindal, many others -- that Obama fail. Not that this or that policy fail but that he fail, including that his efforts to revive the economy and help the American people get through this incredibly difficult time fail.

Jindal can intellectualize and rationalize all he wants -- I get where he's coming from, even as I disagree with his "political correctness" claim. But most Republicans aren't like Jindal. They just want Obama to fail. Period. And, for that, they are once more, as so often, putting party and (radical right-wing) ideology before country. They're not in power in Washington, thankfully, but their obstructionism is nonetheless a dangerous obstacle to Obama's efforts at a time when the American people need their leaders to work for the common good.

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If you seek... Eric Cantor

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So you know how Obama took all that grief for taking time to fill out his March Madness bracket for ESPN, notably from the loathsome Republican Coach K. of the loathsome Duke Blue Devils?

As if the president shouldn't take any time to himself, as if he shouldn't have any fun, as if he should ignore his family and go without sleep to solve the world's problems.

And as if Bush, that notorious slacker, ever would have been criticized like Obama was. (Although, to be fair, expectations for Obama are much higher than they ever were for Bush. With Bush, it was just assumed that he wasn't paying attention.)

Now, I realize that the president has a bit more on his plate than a congressman, but how about Eric Cantor -- Virginia Republican, rising GOP star, determined partisan, and spokesman for the party's extremist ideology -- showing up at the Britney Spears concert in D.C. on Tuesday and missing Obama's press conference?

How did his right-wing "family values" ever withstand such an assault? And how can he justify taking time away from his busy schedule trying to obstruct efforts to pull America out of an historic economic crisis?

Oh, right, lest we forget...

Britney's a Republican, isn't she? Or at least, not so long ago, a big-time Bush-backer. Maybe he was just doing some, uh... research. (F-U-C-K, Mr. Cantor. Get it?)

(Actually, I don't really care what Cantor does in his spare time. Britney's not my cup o' tea, but whatever. Just so long as he and his moralist friends on the theocratic right appreciate the utter hypocrisy of their "family values" policies. They don't, of course, but it's good to know that Cantor "enjoyed" the show.)
(Photo from Yahoo.)

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Here's a quarter...

By Carl

call someone who cares.

I have the utmost respect for the civic duty that you are now performing at A.I.G. You are as blameless for these credit default swap losses as I am. You answered your country’s call and you are taking a tremendous beating for it.

But you also are aware that most of the employees of your financial products unit had nothing to do with the large losses. And I am disappointed and frustrated over your lack of support for us. I and many others in the unit feel betrayed that you failed to stand up for us in the face of untrue and unfair accusations from certain members of Congress last Wednesday and from the press over our retention payments, and that you didn’t defend us against the baseless and reckless comments made by the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut.

[...] I’m not sure how you will greet my resignation, but at least Attorney General Blumenthal should be relieved that I’ll leave under my own power and will not need to be “shoved out the door.”

Point one: Liddy has agreed to take one dollar as compensation, despite the fact that most of this happened off his watch. Thuis writer has, as well.

Point two: The writer, Jake DeSantis, is an executive vice president of the Financial Products division of AIG, as "head of business development for commodities", the division that has very nearly, and still may yet, sunk the entire global economy. So I think the question must be asked...


OK, you had a different responsibility, I get that. But you know something?

I am an officer at a firm. My niche is very narrow, and I'm well paid for it. But as a point of order, we officers make it our business to understand what's going on in the rest of the company. Why?

You never know when you'll be put in charge of something else. That's the way American corporations work.

You ask why your CEO "betrayed" you. WHERE THE FUCK WERE YOU???? when your co-workers were scamming money and making bets on bets on bets?

If you want to understand what happened at the Financial Products division of AIG, let me put forth this analogy. It's simplistic and flawed, but it's not completely wrong.

I sell you a homeowner's insurance policy. That's a bet that I make that your house won't burn down. If it does, I owe you the agreed amount. If it doesn't, well, I've scored pure profit from you (your premiums, which are pooled and invested in order to cover any losses suffered by policyholders) but you've had the peace of mind of knowing you won't take a loss.

The way I make money is not directly from your premiums, but by spreading my risk around by selling more and more policies and trying to diversify who buys them, so that if a big fire hits a neighborhood, it will only affect a percentage of the money I'm holding onto.

That's the traditional insurance business. A similar scenario works in the traditional mortgage market.

Now let's move onto the Financial Products division.

I take that policy, and in order to score some quick cash, I let people bet that the policy will earn money. Then, in order to make even MORE money, I sell insurance to the gamblers that will cover their losses.

Oops. You'll notice what just happened: I've taken what risk I had spread out and consolidated it. Worse, I'm on the hook at both ends in the event the house burns down: I pay the policyholder and now have to pay all the gamblers who bet on the policy!

So, Jake, I ask the question again: WHERE THE FUCK WERE YOU???

If a simpleton like me, who only has an accounting degree, can understand that you're betting against yourself, why couldn't a high-powered executive vice president figure out from washroom conversations that your entire division was one big-ass house of cards? You're the head of development of business commodities! How could you not be curious about the products your own people are developing????

And there, right there, that's the problem. These aren't commodities. We're not talking about pork bellies or corn or oil.

We're talking about people's homes. Their lives. Their jobs.

So shut up, walk away, and be glad you got out with your skin and dignity.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Obama sparks conversation

By Carol Gee

Everybody has an idea about how President Obama is doing now that he is 60+ days into his presidency. "He's doing to much. He's not moving fast enough. He shouldn't be laughing during such times. He says one thing and does another. He is overexposed in the media, etc., etc." Today's post talks about last night's prime time news conference media fallout. It says a bit about the president's upcoming trip abroad, and it concludes with conversation about citizen involvement in the political process and in the community.

The Chattering Class includes White House correspondents -- President Obama held his second formal news conference Tuesday night. When MSNBC's Chuck Todd asked the President why he hadn't asked the American people to make more sacrifices, President Obama (to paraphrase) pointed out that a lot of people are making great sacrifices due the the severity of the current economic crisis.

The Chattering Class regarding Obama's news conference -- All the beltway pundits are weighing in with judgments about how it went in my morning's e-mailed newsletters.

  • Snark -- John Harris and Jonathan Martin at were particularly edgy and unfavorable in their presumptuous theater critic style piece, "What Obama said and what he meant." The piece fell rather short of its "cute and clever" mark. It came of as "bent out of shape." I'll quote a few examples:

    Obama fluently answered the questions, sometimes at considerable length. But his responses were typically variations on a single-word theme: Whatever.

    . . . Most of all, he’s entirely comfortable with his bet that he and the country can worry about certain inconvenient facts—like a 10-year deficit total of $9.3 trillion under his plan — some time later. . .

    [concluding with] ON DEFENSE SPENDING.

    What he said: “Kevin Baron, Stars and Stripes. Is Kevin here? There you go.”

    What he meant: You have to admit, I am clever. I get to call on a reporter who is not from one of the big news organizations, whose subject is going to be easy to predict, and whose question I can answer by pointing out that I want to improve health care for veterans.

    Obama also told Baron he supports reforming military procurement policies, a bipartisan goal, but acknowledged it is hard to do.

    He also called on reporters from other niche outlets, such as the Hispanic network Univision, while stiffing reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.

  • Straight -- Contrast the snarky tone of the Politico article with that of Adriel Bettelheim at Congressional Quarterly/Politics. To quote from the article "Obama's Push for Patience and Faith in his Goals":

    . . . Obama has embarked on a publicity blitz that included recent appearances on “The Tonight Show” and “60 Minutes” and continued Tuesday night with his hourlong session in the East Room with reporters.

    “We will recover from this recession. But it will take time, it will take patience, and it will take an understanding that when we all work together, when each of us looks beyond our own short-term interests to the wider set of obligations we have to each other — that’s when we succeed,” Obama said in his opening remarks.

    . . . The appearances also could mobilize public if not business support for expanded regulation of hedge funds and non-bank financial companies that Obama is expected to push at the Group of 20 economic summit in London early next month.

The Advocates regarding the President's upcoming trip to the G-20 --

Leaders of the world's largest economies will get together in London in a few days. Josh Peck of wants President Obama to exercise his influence over other world leaders to include the poorest nations in their solutions to the financial crisis. And he wants us to join in the effort. To quote:

Please advocate for the resources, reform, and regulation that developing countries need to weather the financial crisis. Please sign the petition.

The President said at his news conference that he wanted us to keep up with what is going on in our government. We should work to stay informed and to stay involved by letting the government know our opinions about issues. We are encouraged to continue the conversation by raising our citizen voices. One way to do that is through the Pledge Project at Organizing for America, the old Obama campaign organization now housed at the Democratic National Committee. Michelle Obama has already "set an example at the nation's table and beyond," reports Christy Hardin Smith of Firedoglake. At Democracy for America, Howard Dean returns to celebrate the March 25 anniversary of the founding of his community action organization.

Congress is doing its part to encourage community action. They are currently working on legislation that expands community service opportunities. The House passed the "GIVE Act" that rewards young people with education stipends, job training and more. The Senate will soon take up its version, the "Serve America Act." Heather Smith is at Rock the Vote. She encourages us to speak up for passage of the measure: We need the Senate to pass the Serve America Act, the boldest service legislation in 70 years.

Additional Advocacy Resources:

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Could we have an Afghan policy, please?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

TNR's Michael Crowley:


Obama: US will 'stay on the offensive' in Afghanistan

Okay, great. But as opposed to what -- sitting around and waiting to be attacked? This comes on the heels of Obama's statement on "60 Minutes" that the U.S. is looking for an "exit strategy," which was treated as minor news. Well, of course we want an exit strategy. The question is: What is it? Or rather, what constitutes conditions that allow us to leave Afghanistan. So far, none of this sounds much like a clearer strategic plan than George W. Bush had for the country. Hopefully we'll get more meat when Obama gives his Afghanistan speech, reportedly this Friday.

Yeah, that'd be nice, not least because many of us -- and I could myself as one who supported he war but who has since grown disenchanted with it -- aren't quite sure what the point is anymore. Security in Kabul? The long-term viability of the national government? The establishment of a friendly, lasting democracy? The destruction of the Taliban? The elimination, to the extent possible, of al Qaeda elements in the Afghan-Pakistan border region?

Is it a war? Is it a peacekeeping operation? Or is it an occupation?

What would constitute "victory"? And when could the troops come home?

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Lolcats? WTF?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'm a cat person. I really am. And I don't mind photos of cats. I don't even mind "cat-blogging," though I've never posted a pic of my cat here.

And I'd like to think that I'm fairly Internet savvy, that I'm up with, if not in on, the major fads.

But how is it that I'd never heard of I Can Has Cheezburger until yesterday? Don't know what that is? Then don't go any further. Enjoy your blissful ignorance.

But if you're curious, or you know of it already, check out this fine piece by Slate's Farhan Manjoo, my favourite tech writer. Apparently, the whole "lolcat" thing has become a significant cultural phenomenon, with ICHC pulling in a whopping one million unique visitors a month (and growing). All for somewhat amusing cat photos and really silly, "ironic, allusive, peculiarly spelled captions." It's even making money for its owner, Pet Holdings, which has become a one-stop resource for many such memes:

Pet Holdings markets memes: In addition to I Can Has Cheezburger, the company also runs Failblog, which collects photographic instances of spectacular flops; Engrish Funny, a chronicle of poorly translated signs; GraphJam, in which people try to distill life into PowerPoint-type slides (such as "Relationship Between Money and Problems," an ascending, 45-degree line graph); and Once Upon a Win, a trove of awesome, faddy things from the past (friendship bracelets, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, videos of Weird Al).

I sort of get it, lolcats and the other memes, and some of it's funny, but... really? This is popular? This is how so many people waste time online? This is profitable? Huh.

But so what? Isn't the Internet great? Seriously, isn't it?

(Well, seriously, this has to be a Sign of the Apocalypse. Yes, it's #65.)

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Hopelessly devoted

By Mustang Bobby

Glenn Greenwald has an interesting post up at about the difference between conservatives and liberals when it comes to, as he calls it, "the lock-step uncritical reverence – often bordering on cult-like glorification – which the 'conservative' movement devoted to the "Commander-in-Chief."

An entire creepy cottage industry arose – led not by fringe elements but by right-wing opinion-making leaders – with cringe-inducing products paying homage to Bush as "The First Great Leader of the 21st Century" (John Podhoretz); our "Rebel-in-Chief" (Fred Barnes); "The Right Man" (David Frum); the New Reagan (Jonah Goldberg); "a man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius" who is our "Big Brother" (John Hinderaker); and "the triumph of the seemingly average American man," the supremely "responsible" leader who, when there's a fire, will "help direct the rig to the right house and count the kids coming out and say, 'Where's Sally'?" (Peggy Noonan).

Mr. Greenwald's point is that you're not seeing such cringe-producing (not to mention barf-making) slavish devotion to President Obama. There may be a few columnists and bloggers out there who still think he can walk on water, but there isn't the concerted choir of angelic voices praising every move he makes, and he's even had to endure some push-back from members of his own party on Capitol Hill.

In the case of the Republicans' Soviet-style of praise for their leader, whoever he is, it can be interpreted in a couple of ways. The first is that in the case of someone like Ronald Reagan, they truly believed he was the Savior Incarnate, sent to rescue us from the clutches of the Evil Empire, and they truly believed -- and still do -- that his touch and presence was blessed. Questioning his policies or decisions amounted to blasphemy, and anyone who did -- even slightly -- was branded as a traitor. The intention was to banish all opposition and leave the Democrats with having to explain why they hated America.

Naturally they tried to use this technique with George W. Bush, but it was pretty clear from the git-go that they were doing it more as a cover for the obvious fact that Mr. Bush was no Reagan in terms of vision or even the ability to put together a coherent paragraph. Even before he took office, Mr. Bush was being mocked for his syntax, mispronunciations, and affected phony Texas accent. So it was imperative on the part of the conservatives that he be elevated to the same level as his predecessor (skipping over his father) and given the full Tabernacle treatment to insulate him from the onslaught. No matter what he did, said, or tripped over, the right wing would protect him, and even when it came to having to twist themselves into pretzels to make sense of his logic, they had his back. They did it for what they believed to be the greater good: securing a permanent majority for the Republican Party and K Street. There is, however, another disturbing possibility: they actually believed that George W. Bush was as brilliant and miraculous as they said he was. If that doesn't creep you out, what will?

The biggest difference between conservatives and liberals is that the liberals have no problem whatsoever knocking their own. There are plenty of observers from the left -- myself included -- who have no problem calling out President Obama on something when they disagree with him. It may seem counterproductive, but in the end, they usually get some semblance of their act together enough to elect a good president every now and then and actually accomplish some things in Congress. As Abraham Lincoln once noted, "no matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens." And given the Republicans' recent rounds of circular firing squads involving everyone from Michael Steele and Rush Limbaugh, Meghan McCain and Ann Coulter (and Laura Ingraham tossing in a pie or two), not to mention the continuing adventures of Michele Bachmann, they may be taking a page from the Democrats' playbook.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Start big

By Creature

I have to assume President Obama's budget was born out of the lesson learned from his stimulus proposal. That is, don't negotiate with yourself. With that in mind, I see the president being amenable to Congress' cutting back some of his wish list. I assume, this time, that was the plan all along.

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The young people poll

By Jim Arkedis

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

Democracy Corps conducted a poll of 606 voters between the ages of 18-29 -- in other words, the voters who will determine attitudes and election results for the next several decades. As pertains to foreign policy and national security issues, there is an undeniable trend towards the Democratic Party.

A few sample numbers:

Q: Is the Republican Party patriotic?
63 yes / 27 no

Q: Is the Democratic Party patriotic?
67 yes / 22 no

Q: Who is better in the "war on terrorism"?
D: 42/ R: 35

Q: Are you "warm" or "cool" on the war in Iraq?
Warm: 19/ Cool: 64

Q: Are you "warm" or "cool" on the war in Afghanistan?
Warm: 24/ Cool: 55

I'll briefly focus in on the "patriotic" question, because the Republican Party has done a great job strangling this issue for all it's worth. According to a CBS News story from 2007:

According to the Roper Center iPoll database at the University of Connecticut, pollsters have rarely asked Americans whether specific candidates or individuals were patriotic. But when they do, Republicans have the upper hand. In early 2004, according to a Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll, more Americans said being patriotic applied more to Republican George W. Bush than to Democrat John Kerry. In 1988, more voters thought the current President's father George Bush was very patriotic than thought Democrat Michael Dukakis was. Twenty years ago, in the middle of the Iran-Contra scandal, 73 percent of Americans agreed that Oliver North was a "real patriot."

That this issue is now trending Democratic among young voters can't be emphasized enough. In my mind, there's a correlation (though not exactly a direct one) between the public's perception of the parties' "patriotism" and the president's connections to the military and willingness to use force.

Obama has done a better job of passing this "Commander-in-Chief test" during his short time in office than Bill Clinton did in eight years. (Clinton tried, but was thrown off initially by "gays in the military" and then Monica Lewinsky.) Obama has coupled his objections to the Iraq War's premise with a desire to withdraw while keeping America's national security interests intact. At the same time, he has emphasized Afghanistan's importance and shown no hesitation in deploying more American troops. Obama has supported measures to care for America's uniformed personnel in ways the Bush administration objected to (GI Bill; PTSD). And, finally, his steady resolve has been expressly or tacitly endorsed by the likes of Colin Powell, Adm. Mike Mullen, and Gen. David Petraeus.

Since America's youth aren't tied to older perceptions/portrayals of weak-kneed Democrats trying to show muscle (ahem, Dukakis in the tank), they are giving credit where it's due. You might say Democracts have Bush's legacy to thank for such a good showing.

(Cross-posted from All Our Might.)

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Being Meghan McCain

By Michael J.W. Stickings

On Larry King, Meghan McCain described herself as "a progressive Republican," "liberal on social issues." She also came out in support of gay marriage as well as in support of abortion rights.

On Obama: "He's our president and when the election was over and when President Obama won, all negative feelings were gone. I support the president."

On the GOP: "I just want to show that you don't have to think one way and fit into this one box in order to be a member of the Republican Party."

She's an admirable young woman, and I respect her views, as well as her opposition to the dogmatic extremism of her party, but I suspect she's fighting a losing battle.

The leaders of her party, from Dear Leader Rush on down, do want Obama to fail and do demand ideological purity. There are exceptions, to be sure, but the party has moved to the far, far right post-Bush, and those who oppose the conservative base have been cast out.

There just aren't many moderates left, and she may be on her own when it comes to being progressive.

She can say whatever she wants to say -- courageously, I might add -- and she ought to continue to do so, but she shouldn't expect Republicans to pay her much attention other than to attack her for daring to challenge their orthodoxy.

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Press does GOP bidding, again

By Creature

If only the Washington press corp had internalize a Democratic talking point, or two, then maybe this country wouldn't be in the mess we're in. Last night's collective performance was a disgrace.

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Andrew Sullivan on Cheney, torture, and the GOP's big problem

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I have long admired Andrew Sullivan for his vehement stance on -- that is, against -- torture and its enablers in the Bush Administration, from Bush and Cheney right on down. It should come as no surprise, then, that I think he's right on here:

The least popular vice-president in memory is not helping the Republicans regroup - according to this piece from the Hill. But Cheney is not giving these disgraceful and classless interviews to help the GOP. He's giving them because it is beginning to dawn on him that he is in very serious trouble - legally, politically, historically. As the full details of his obsession with the torture program emerge, and as the gruesome nature of the actual torture becomes clearer, he knows he will go down in history as a war criminal, defined for all time as the man who took America and the West to the dark side with no easy way back. He's trying to prevent that with the usual bluff and bravado. But even Bush isn't buying all of it any longer.

It seems to me that what we need is simply more disclosure of all the government knows about what Cheney and Bush did.


Cheney is out there hurting his party, helping the president, and sowing fear - because he has to if he is to survive as anything but a pariah. The one thing he cannot stand is sunlight. So let it in, Mr President. Let it in.

Very, very well put. (Though I certainly don't mind Cheney hurting the GOP. We can't get enough of that.)

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Talk radio just got a whole lot worse

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will be back on the airwaves Wednesday, serving as a fill-in host on a Chicago talk radio station.

Blagojevich will host the Don Wade and Roma Morning Show on WLS-AM — a show the station refers to as "the most positive, optimistic radio show in the universe" — alone from 7-9 am Wednesday. The station confirmed to CNN that the gig is a one-time occurrence.

So that would be... today.

But to tune in or not to tune in? On the one hand, it would be a shame for Blago to succeed. Surely we don't want that. On the other hand... why the hell not? There is rarely such opportunity for unintended hilarity, and it could be rather entertaining.

A question, though: Is Blago being brought in to guest host because the irony was just too much to resist?

If you want "positive" and "optimistic," after all -- and how stupid is that slogan? -- he's not exactly the best choice.

Unless it's positivity and optimism regarding his own massive ego and delusions of entitlement and superiority.

Yeah, this could be hilarious. Blago on Blago, ad nauseam. What could be better?

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