Monthly Archives: February 2010

Friday night oldies (in the morning, but at least it’s Friday)

I’m trying here. Really. I almost forgot this amazing guy . . .

Breaking news

The sound is off on my teevee, which is tuned to the money channel, CNBC. And there, almost drooling, is the appalling Larry Kudlow – he who got everything wrong as the economy spiraled into a nasty place – there’s Larry talking over some video. Why it’s a caravan of cars, apparently  transporting Tiger Woods. This is bigger than the Dow for sure!

Apparently the Woods had just spoken to a room full of people he probably didn’t know, and at that podium he told the whole wide world he’s really sorry for having sex with all those ladies.

It was necessary to follow those cars from the air, because twenty years ago a football player drove his car (white SUV) on a highway and helicopters followed him. And the media moguls saw that and said it is good. And they saw that and they said why that it is easy to do. And they saw that and said maybe there’s money for us here. And they saw that and envisioned their idiot audience (yeah, like me) watching it. And so they said unto their minions on the lower floors: do that. Do that often.

Now that Tiger has apologized, I can get on with my life I guess.

Good morning

So CPAC is swinging into it second day, all full of new energy after an infusion of crap (sorry) from their old friend – and ours – Richard Cheney, former vice-president of the these United States. He was introduced to the squeals and cries and thunderous applause of his surprised audience by his really vile daughter, Liz Cheney.

Vietnam? Where was that?

I’m tired of seeing her on Sunday morning shows. She is rude.

And so the CPAC crowd basked in the Cheney sunshine, as he thundered on his usual themes. Democrats will kill you. Terrorists will kill you. Taxes will kill you. Health care will kill you. They love that stuff.

But off in Afghanistan, there are thousands of troops who know exactly what will kill you. Bullets and bombs, my friends, bullets and bombs. They’re still ducking those on the 133rd day of the ninth year of the war there.

Oh, the lazy, it creeps . . .

Because it’s almost bedtime, but this did catch my attention – from Brendan Nyhan at pollster.com (lifted in its entirety):

Matt Drudge is currently blaring this headline about a new CNN poll (PDF):

CNN SHOCK POLL: MAJORITY SAY OBAMA DOESN’T DESERVE 2ND TERM

Actually, the poll isn’t especially shocking. As The Hill points out, “52 percent of Americans said President Barack Obama doesn’t deserve reelection in 2012″ — a number that is almost identical to the proportion who disapprove of the job he’s doing (50%).

For context, a Fox News poll in August 2001 asked the following question about George W. Bush:

Considering how President (George W.) Bush has performed so far, do you think he deserves to be reelected or would the country probably be better off with someone else as president?

The results? 36% said Bush deserved to be reelected, 42% said the country would be better off with someone else, and 22% said it depends or weren’t sure. These numbers are actually worse than Obama’s relative to the 55% approval/32% disapproval numbers the Fox poll showed for Bush.

s’ok George, it was a long time ago

America, its luck exhausted, at last has a president from the academic culture.

So sayeth George Will today.

The column was about Palin. Credit to him for this:

” . . . today’s saturation journalism, mesmerized by presidential politics and ravenous for material, requires a steady stream of political novelties. In that role, Palin is united with the media in a relationship of mutual loathing.”

He got that right.

Miami Marco knocks ‘em dead

Florida Republican Marco Rubio gave the opening speech at the big annual Conservative Political Action Conference in D.C. this morning.

Those are NOT teleprompters

I’m sure he planned to share grave matters of State with his rapt audience, but first he had to fulfill his contractual obligation as a CPAC speaker, and take his turn with Obama-uses-Teleprompters-omg-the-commies-are-coming!

There were two Teleprompters in front of him.

(CPAC no doubt made an error installing them – we all know conservatives don’t need Teleprompters.)

Rubio said what will no doubt be his clarion call up to November: 2010 is a referendum on the very identity of our nation.

Well, that sucks. Dear god, don’t let him be my senator.

He also – most charmingly – often used the Limbaugh insult: Democrat Party.

And he remembered all of that without writing anything on his hands.

I was worried about this

It’s begun raining in Haiti. Heavily. And the rainy season is just a few weeks off.

This is going to make the unimaginable even worse. God help those people.

Not a terrorist; terrorized perhaps

This is really quite sad. The Austin pilot who crashed his plane into an IRS office seems to have done it as a protest. He also sounds as if he hopes – and maybe expects – others to follow his lead until government and business take notice.

In his manifesto, he rails against many things, but at the heart of it is a man who views the world from the bottom looking up and sees ‘up there’ only the vicious and greedy in the persona of government and big business. He feels utterly abused and used. And he’s tired of fighting back.

Anyone who takes his beef this far has lost touch.  But even as he draws an exaggerated picture full of stereotypes, he is not all wrong. A good deal of what he sees is there. He isn’t imagining all of it; what he is imagining, is that that is all there is.


He ends his ‘manifesto on a bitter-sweet note, offering himself up:

“I am finally ready to stop this insanity.  Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.”

Good morning

I’ve been fretting about our involvement in Yemen (home of the Christmas bomber) since hearing Michael Isikoff of Newsweek on C-SPAN yesterday. He said that we have drones in the air there. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know if this is the right thing or the wrong thing to be doing. But I do know that our history tells us these things can escalate into much more than the American people are willing to support. And these things end up being counter productive – making our own position in that country far worse than if we’d kept our distance.

Whadda ya say pal? Shall we get us another war?

Today, Marc Lynch, on the Middle East Blog in Foreign Affairs, says Don’t Lose Perspective on Yemen.

“I’ve always thought that the global Counterinsurgency strategy [COIN] conception is a recipe for overstretch and exhaustion, as the frontier endlessly recedes and American resources are squandered in a futile attempt to bring order to the un-orderly parts of the world.”

and

“ . . . the administration shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking it must “do something” to fend off political harping from the right and end up over-committing… or taking steps which ultimately make the situation worse.”

He gives kudos to the Obama administration for their current position and their quiet work in Yemen for the past year. But the usual voices are beginning to howl for ‘action’ (Joe Lieberman anyone?). They must not be a podium at this debate. Not again.

Especially not when today is the 132nd day of the ninth year of the War in Afghanistan.

It’s sad actually

Conservatives, especially of the CPAC variety, need to accept that they are not cool. They do not ‘get’ popular culture. For god’s sake it’s what they rail against. So when they try to ‘get down’ with it, well, don’t look unless you are very strong.

Michael Steele appears to be rubbing off on the whole bunch.

Good morning

On CSpan this morning is Simon Johnson, an economist who knows stuff. He referred to the regulatory apparatus in the U.S. as Byzantine. He said that when AIG was moving into reckless territory and inventing all those interesting new ways of  conducting business, they went ‘regulator shopping’.  And that was possible in the labyrinth of our system. Of course, many of the other big boys did the same thing.

courtesty Newsweek (I hope)

Interestingly, Johnson keeps his own money in a community bank in Massachusetts and a credit union in D.C. He endorsed the Move Your Money movement. (Go here to find a bank/credit union in your area.)

Last night, PBS re-aired their Frontline documentary about Brooksley Borne, the only regulator (somewhere in FDIC) who warned the Federal government (in the 1990’s) about the new ‘credit default swaps’. Unregulated, she warned, they would destroy us. But that was an inconvenient warning for the trio at the top of the US system – Bob Rubin, Larry Summers (and Alan Greenspan). They put a stop to her right quick! Rubin’s deputy was Timothy Geitner. Bet these fellas are thrilled to be back in charge. (You can watch it at the link.)

Obama may have to answer for that.

But I’ll bet the troops in Afghanistan – and Yemen according to Michael Isikoff this morning – are a little too busy to follow the career paths of the nation’s eminent economists. Because they’re busy fighting a war on this 131st day of the ninth year of that war.

Photoshopped?

Is it possible that Rep. John Boehner has such amazingly beautiful eyes? I don’t think so . . . I’ve seen him on TV hundreds of times. These are not even the man’s own eyes!

And whoever wielded the wand? Not a very good job.

Friday night oldies (on Tuesday)

Perhaps – if just to preserve what’s left of my own dignity – I should refrain from the day-of-the-week naming of these little oldies posts. My record remembering to do this on Friday is not unblemished.

Here’s last week’s oldie. No live video, but wonderful audio.

Good afternoon

Life as I knew it prior to a little encounter last month with the local gendarmes (over something called ‘posted speed limits’ which led to some unpleasant complications) has returned at last to normal. The last loose end was tied up in Traffic Court this morning. It is truly over. I shall forever more drive like I was my own mother.

The last time I was in a Traffic Court was in CT about 30 years ago. Remembering that experience, I armed myself with hard candy and a paperback of Fareed Zacharia’s very good  The Future of Freedom. But whoaa, have things ever  changed! The courtroom was set up for maximum efficiency, there was sufficient staff present, everyone knew what they were doing and things moved along at a steady pace. Not a minute was wasted. I was out of there in 48 minutes. Quite remarkable.

Since becoming an official old person, I have had to contact Federal agencies online a few times – Social Security, Medicare, the IRS etc. Each encounter has been easy, rapid and without problems. Website architecture is the best – user friendly, intuitive and helpful. And fast.

We keep hearing that the Feds can’t do anything right? Anybody ever tried to resolve a tech problem online with Comcast? Verizon? Dell? MS? Give me the Feds anytime; they are good at this.

And I hope they’re just as good at taking care of our troops when they come home from Afghanistan, where it is the 130th day of the ninth year of the War there.

A bit more Bayh

Matt Sledge (of Indiana) at Huff Post just now on what’s up with Bayh’s decision to step down.

” . . . what really must have gotten to Bayh was the intensely personal tenor of the attacks on Bayh’s wife, Susan.

For many years Susan’s membership on several major corporate boards (eight of them, in 2008) was something of an open secret. Only over the course of the health care reform debate was it widely spoken about in Indiana. With Bayh playing a prominent role in the haggling over the public option and medical device fees, it was impossible to ignore the fact that WellPoint, a behemoth insurer, was paying Susan Bayh hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Between 2006 and 2008 Susan earned $2.1 million from health insurers. Legal under Senate rules, Susan Bayh’s refusal to step down from WellPoint’s board, and her husband’s denial that the millions she had earned from WellPoint would influence him, were greeted with derision from ethics watchdogs.”

Whether this is right or this is wrong, it stinks. Sledge notes that Bayh’s PAC got 85% of its money from out of State. The state’s other Dem Senator Dick Durbin’s PAC got 27% from out of state.

UPDATE: Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey (and very old) is in the hospital. What is going on here? Is it some sort of subconscious mass suicide?

As Chris Bowers said: I see.

Lifted in its entirety from Open Left:

On February 8th, Republican House leader John Beohner sent a letter to the White House, demanding that the White House post online any health care proposal it wished to discuss at the health care summit:

If the President intends to present any kind of legislative proposal at this discussion, will he make it available to members of Congress and the American people at least 72 hours beforehand?

So, four days later, the White House accepted this demand, and announced it would post a legislative proposal online more than 72 hours before the summit:

Since this meeting will be most productive if information is widely available before the meeting, we will post online the text of a proposed health insurance reform package.

So, naturally, the next day, Boehner attacked the White House for giving into his demand:

“A productive bipartisan discussion should begin with a clean sheet of paper,” Boehner said in a statement.

I see.

Don’t believe it for a minute

What in the world is Evan Bayh doing? What is he saying? He announces he’s not running in November one day before the filing deadline in Indiana. His state party has no candidate. He has made a truly odd and quite stunning statement denouncing the entire congress. There are rumors that the reason he’s stepping down have to do with his wife being a big time pharma/insurance lobbyist. But as distasteful as that is, it’s hardly unusual. Tom Daschle’s wife was the premiere pharma lobbyist in DC.

So what’s up? Is this really political or is there a nasty scandal threatening?

UPDATE: A bit of confirmation from afterbirthnation (okay, I’m not sure how I feel about that name) on the wife-of-Bayh angle. He points to some comments from Ezra Klein (Yes! It is Ezra Klein Day! here at Whatever Works!) and then he adds:

” . . . the fact that his wife has been made enormously wealthy working for health insurance giant Wellpoint had nothing, nothing whatsoever to do with his sudden sadness over the lack of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill. Of course, by bipartisanship he means passing a health care bill that mandates insurance or else for the 30 million who either cannot afford it or chose not to buy in while doing very little to control costs for average families.”

Cry babies

Today, in his blog at The Washington Post (you know – the paper everyone pretends is part of the liberal media?), Ezra Klein takes aim at the nonsense Republicans are spouting – the constant whine that the Democrats’ health care reform bill doesn’t include any Republican ideas.

That is wrong.

Klein went to “the GOP’s “Solutions for America” homepage, which lays out its health-care plan in some detail. It has four planks. All of them – yes, you read that right — are in the Senate health-care bill.”

He takes them one by one. And proves the lie.

But this is more a media story than a wonky policy fight. Exactly how clever does a reporter have to be to check a fact online? And make that part of his reporting? It is what they’re supposed to do.

So good for Ezra Klein who – despite his age – does the job the way it should be done – but is not being done by his elders, the celebrity stars of the media establishment.

His post wraps up with:

“And finally, we shouldn’t forget the compromises that have been the most painful for Democrats, and the most substantive. This is a private-market plan. Not only is single-payer off the table, but at this point, so too is the public option. The thing that liberals want most in the world has been compromised away.

And furthermore . . .

Mr. Dick Cheney offended me again as I described in a post yesterday. Then Joe Biden responded. Biden did a not bad job, but he fell short of the tone that I think is now required.

  • DICK, THAT’S JUST NONSENSE!
  • WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THAT MAN TALKING ABOUT?
  • CAN HE HEAR HIMSELF?
  • IT’S REALLY HARD TO BELIEVE HIS MEMORY HAS FAILED HIM SO COMPLETELY.

Demean him. Denigrate him. If one responds to him with reason, Cheney simply comes back and says the same thing all over again and the news babblers play it as he said/he said. Insult the guy – in the most polite way possible of course.

And I truly wish that one of the babblers would point out that what Cheney has been doing is unprecentented. Yes, Gore did it –  a year after Bush was inaugurated and about a war being launched. Cheney started in within months, which was absolutely unprecedented. And he has had only one single message which the press darlings seem willing to hear over and over again. His message, as I said in the post below, is ‘but they’re not doing things the way I would.‘ Jeez.

Good morning

There’s a noticable change outside this morning. The air is a bit warmer – it inspires, beckons. Of course, get a little hope going and we all know old man winter will be back to blow a cold laugh right in our faces. But it’s February and his strength will fail him. Time is on our side.

But not everywhere. I read an article last night and my heart is breaking again. It’s an account of America’s Secret Afghan Prisons. We’re still doing it, we’re still out there turning friends into enemies and foolishly lying to ourselves. Put lipstick on it all we want; we – and the Afghans – know what this is. These are the methods of  tyranny. This is not what the good guys do. When I hear these stories – and while I weep for what they’re now calling ‘the disappeared’ (Chile anyone?) – I grieve for my country and for myself. I pay my taxes, so they do this in my name.

We’ve snatched Afghans from their homes in the middle of the night. And tell the family nothing. For days, for weeks and longer. Some haven’t been heard from at all. This is brutish. Allies don’t do this. So what are we?

“These night raids have become even more feared and hated in Afghanistan than coalition airstrikes. The raids and detentions, little known or understood outside the Pashtun villages, have been turning Afghans against the very forces many of them greeted as liberators just a few years ago.”

So when I fear for our troops there, should I perhaps care only for some of them? I really don’t know. But I do know it’s the 129th day of the ninth year of the War in Afghanistan. And how long has this been going on?

It does get tiring, so tiring

How can these simple facts fail to drown the fake flames of outrage over KSM being tried in a Federal civilian court?

FACT ONE: The Bush Administration prosecuted 120 Guantanamo detainees in Federal Court. They got 120 convictions.

FACT TWO: The Bush Administration prosecuted 3 detainees in military tribunals. Two were released back to their home countries.

Got that media gob-smacked again!

“This one’s different” is not the answer. Richard Reid – the shoe bomber as opposed to  the underwear bomber – was tried in a Federal civilian court and is now in da pokey forever. (the other night on The Daily Show, Newt Gingrich said that was because Reid is an American citizen. Not so, Newt. Reid is a British citizen.)

Allowing that the Obama administration lost control of the message and allowed the Republicans to define it, their position was correct. So why was it attacked so quickly and so  relentlessly – sufficient that now a majority of Americans are saying NO to a Federal trial. It’s a mystery and honestly, it’s stupid.

Good afternoon

It’s getting quite annoying to see Dick Cheney again occupying one of the most sought-after perches in the media, bloviating – on ABC this time – and saying absolutely. nothing. new. Just another round of:

Obama’s doing it wrong, never mind what we did, he’s doing it wrong. And frankly he don’t look too American to me. He doesn’t care about old white guys like me – unless their name is Biden! Who shouldn’t even be in that damn office because I was just the bestest veep ever and this ungrateful country should have kept me there through at least a few heart transplants. (Not that those are likely to work, Dick.)

I’m sure the troops in Afghanistan have a thought or two for the genius who managed to keep them there for eight years doing – what? That was such a good plan that here we are – the 128th day of the ninth year of the War in Afghanistan.

And a word to ABC – exactly why is Mr. Cheney given 15 minutes on the Sunday morning news show? Did he bring any news? Did he inform on the issues – at all? And how did Bob Scheiffer on CBS manage to have Joe Biden responding a few nanoseconds later? Are these media giants leaving the house without their camouflage again?

UPDATE: God help us – this silliness is now the lead story at 6pm on CNN. Not to get all repetitive here, but do we not still  have a few wars and a serious recession underway? Is Haiti not still dying? Are there not still power outages all over the country? Has Iran not got a little action going?

Not exactly news

There’s a ‘government is broken’ thread going on here. So it seems appropriate to take a look at this full page ad appearing  today in The Washington Post.  It’s not visible here, but there’s a line at the bottom reading “We never forget who we’re working for” and it’s signed Lockheed-Martin. (The whole ad can be seen here.)

I think what they actually meant to say was “No Pennsylvania congressman should ever forget who they work for.”

Good morning

It appears Big Dog is again paying the price for those Big Macs he loved so much. Most of us can sympathize with the urges to eat stuff that isn’t good for us. Or smoke it or drink it. Or maybe act it out. We are so imperfect; sometimes life is defined by the struggle to control self destructive behaviors.

When Clinton stopped into a D.C. MacDonald’s during a ‘jog’ in the first months of his presidency, people related. Then after his by-pass he began doing what he should have been doing all along. The fat fell off, he got a spring in his step and the red flush wasn’t as visible on his face.  Example is a powerful teacher. An entire generation grew up with Clinton as president – they’re around 30 now. I hope they’re paying attention.

And I hope they’re paying attention to the fact that it’s the  126th day of the ninth year of the War in Afghanistan.

They have always been with us

E.J. Dionne is an observant and thoughtful guy. In this morning’s column he looks at the Tea Partiers and reminds us all of some history:

“Something else is going on in the Tea Party movement, and it has deep roots in our history. Anti-statism, a profound mistrust of power in Washington, dates all the way to the Anti-Federalists who opposed the Constitution because they saw it concentrating too much authority in the central government. At any given time, perhaps 20 to 25 percent of Americans can be counted on to denounce anything Washington does as a threat to “our traditional liberties.”
. . .
Understanding the principled anti-government radicalism that animates this movement explains why its partisans see the conservative Bush as a sellout and the cautiously liberal Obama as a socialist. For now, their fears of Obama are enough to tether the Tea Partiers to the GOP. In the long run, establishment Republicans are destined to disappoint them.”

This bit of history doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to seek ways to bring that 20% into reality. We should. And as long as they are anti-Washington, they are dissatisfied and angry and vulnerable to demagogues-to-come. Which, unlike dissent, is NOT good for a nation.

Good morning

The world gets more and more interesting every day and it makes me want to live forever so I can see how it works itself out (or doesn’t!). But I’m off to get a bone density scan, which is a very old thing to do, so I guess that forever thing isn’t likely.

And today is the 125th day of the ninth year of the War in Afghanistan.

Again I ask: Is Texas still seceeding?*

If so, I wish they’d just hurry up.

* Hat tip Ed.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Well, in my memory anyway. These days I’d just as soon watch from afar.

Back in the 60’s, I was living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. In fact, I resided in a somewhat shabby studio apartment in a somewhat shabby hotel on upper Broadway. On the ground floor was a so-so night club the name of which is long gone. And six nights a week Tito Puente was the featured entertainer. (No need to listen to records when I was home!)

I worked in theatre and had a  number of friends who lived downtown in Greenwich Village. So I was often down there and one of our favorite places was a bar called The Limelight on Sheridan Square. (It became quite famous as the NY home of the Irish Clancy Brothers.)

And I was there one magic winter day when a blizzard began (there was no Weather Channel then). A group of us sat in a front booth, watching the snow come down. It was enchanting and we began drinking Irish Coffees. Which probably contributed to our decision to walk north on Broadway all the way to West 77th Street. A very long walk. Especially in the snow.

And so we did. We walked. All the way, four abreast in the middle of the road, singing winter songs. It was one of the best days of my life.

Oh, here’s the beef

I was born in New York City.  My nieces lived there in September of 2001 and were both within a very few miles of ground zero. One niece had an office in Building #7. She’d worked into the wee hours the night before and decided to go in late. At nine a.m. that day, she was dressed and about to leave her apartment.

I have an acquaintance whose father was an engineer for the Port Authority and was involved with developing and building the twin towers. He worked on it for 18 years. She said he wept for days. He was born in NYC too.

And twice now, I’ve heard Jon Stewart passionately tell his guests where he wants Kahlid Sheik Mohammed to face a jury. Same as me. Same as Laura’s dad. I want him tried in New York City where he can be stared down by the people he did this to. Every day. From every direction.

But Mayor Bloomberg is a friggin’ coward and I’ve no idea whose pressure he’s bowing to. His flip flop does no service to his town.

There is hardly a city in the world better equipped to handle security and crowds. And there isn’t a police force in the world more willing to do the job. (Police commissioner notwithstanding.)

Moving the trial out of New York is wrong. It sucks. Big time.

Where’s the beef?

On these brisk mornings-after, I hope the tea party conventioneers still think they got their $100K  worth out of  Ms. Palin this weekend. I listened to the speech. I looked at the transcript.

This is the most coherent – and at the same time irrelevant and frightening – passage I could find:

I think, kind of tougher to, um, put our arms around, but allowing America’s spirit to rise again by not being afraid to kind of go back to some of our roots as a God fearing nation where we’re not afraid to say, especially in times of potential trouble in the future here, where we’re not afraid to say, you know, we don’t have all the answers as fallible men and women so it would be wise of us to start seeking some divine intervention again in this country, so that we can be safe and secure and prosperous again. To have people involved in government who aren’t afraid to go that route, not so afraid of the political correctness that you know — they have to be afraid of what the media said about them if they were to proclaim their alliance on our creator.
Sarah Palin, on what should be one of Congress’s top 3 priorities: to wit, ask for divine intervention

Got that? One of what should be Cognress’s top 3 priorities.

Watching, it seemed to me that different parts of her audience were cheering at different points in the speech. These tea partiers have such various agendas, or causes, or issues that their own priorities must conflict quite a bit.

I really like that our darlings in the media covered the event like snow in Washington. Any gathering that can draws as many as 530 paid attendees demands a nation pay close attention.

(There were over half that number at my retirement party. And where were MSNBC and FOX may I ask?)

Hat tip The Constant Weader.