Wednesday, March 31, 2010

If I were a terrorist...

... oh, boy.
This is a post I've long contemplated, but have never quite worked up the nerve to write.

Disclaimer: I am NOT a terrorist!
This post is written as a public service for DHS & FBI.

Basic message: forget about high-tech - focus on maximum impact (physical & psychological) low-tech.
The Hutaree militia provide a good model.

You all are worried about shoe bombers and underpants bombers, and about dirty bombs, and weaponized anthrax, and dual-component liquid explosives.
I have to take off my shoes and submit to sophisticated scans to get on an airplane.
I can't take more than 2 oz. of shampoo on the plane in carry-on.
Okay - these are legitimate concerns.
[... tho' I do wonder: has anyone ever demonstrated the feasibility of a dual-component liquid explosive, fabricated in a garage laboratory?]

BUT... how have we been attacked?
With box-cutters. (Which were illegal on airplanes BEFORE 9/11!)

How did Chechen extremists strike terror in Russia?
With low-tech (and relatively low impact) suicide bombers on subways.

How did Timothy McVeigh destroy the OKC Federal Building?
With fertilizer, diesel fuel, and a blasting cap.

Worry about low-tech.

If I were a terrorist, I'd first pick a target.
Well, actually, I'd pick a collection of targets.
I'd start with high-visibility, symbolic infrastructure:
- The Golden Gate bridge
- The Chesapeake Bay tunnel
- The Verrazzano bridge
- The Eads bridge
For maximum effect I'd try really hard to make the attacks simultaneous.

McVeigh provides the method: fertilizer, diesel fuel, and a blasting cap.
Two of these I can get easily. I don't know how to get or make a blasting cap, but bet one could be fabricated from a standard .45 caliber round.

This would be a beginning.

I'd target a few of the largest grain elevators.
Heck - the dust is explosive all by itself.
Not many grocery stores would run out of Cheerios as a result, but the attack on the food-distribution system would have a powerful psychological effect.

For maximum psychological impact I'd target a high-profile public event.
The SuperBowl comes to mind... maybe Game 1 of the World Series.
This would take a bit of planning and advance preparation.
I'd get my guys on the vendor crews and on the delivery crews (this makes the SuperBowl an easier target than a World Series game: the SuperBowl venue is chosen well in advance!).
Weapon of choice? Again, fertilizer, diesel fuel, and a blasting cap.
A couple of bags of diesel-impregnated fertilizer is all it would take, in each quadrant of the stadium.
You may not kill a lot of people, but the blast would be televised!

Finally, I'd heed Calvin Coolidge's dictum: "Any well-dressed man who is willing to die himself can kill the President of the United States."
Your folks have to look like our neighbors... and they have to be willing to die in the attack.

Because we are a high-tech nation, we imagine our enemies will attack us using high-tech methods.
We spend tons of $$$ devising protection against nukes smuggled into our ports.
We worry about high-tech biochemical attacks on our water systems.
[Aside: missile defense is a symptom of this same syndrome. A none-too-creative scenario has bad guys launching nukes using crude V-1 cruise missiles from ships parked just a few miles from our shores... against which missile defense is useless.]

Our obsession with high-tech blinds us to the real threats - box-cutters & fertilizer.

What weapons constituted the greatest FEAR in Iraq?
IEDs: IMPROVISED explosive devices.
IMPROVISED - using stuff ready-to-hand.
NOT chemical or biological weapons.
Certainly not nukes.
IMPROVISED explosive devices.

Again, I am NOT a terrorist, and this post is intended ONLY as a public service for the folks at DHS & FBI who are tasked with protecting us.

Why can't they get it? It's not that hard!

Vatican defends handling of Wisconsin priest

The Vatican could make this scandal disappear fairly easily by simply 'fessing up:
We - the Church -made mistakes. We are sorry. We'll do our best to see that we do not repeat our mistakes. We will from this time forward take all allegations of child sexual abuse seriously, cooperate with secular authorities, and ensure that accused clergy are segregated from pastoral duties. We beseech your forgiveness, which we do not deserve.
By continuing to deny and defend, the Vatican simply opens itself to further attacks.
By 'fessing up they'd be a much more difficult target.

FBI is myopic

FBI sees little chance of copycat militia plots

... well, okay: maybe not copycat.
How 'bout independent, home-grown, de novo domestic militia plots???

light posting...

We're finally getting around to putting the house back together after kitchen remodel... so light posting for a while.

I'm shocked

Senate Republican can't support finaancial reform bill

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An open letter to the Pope

Your Holiness:
You are not the victim!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Repost: the ad I'd like DNC to run

From last May:
It took me a while to realize that a commercial for Post's Shredded Wheat wasn't a DNC spoof of Republicans.
"Has progress taken us to a better place?
I'd say it's taken us for a ride.
Honestly, what thanks do we owe progress?"
The commercial makes the point that Shredded Wheat is the same cereal it's always been - simple, nutritious, tasty, etc. No gimmicks. The commercial emphasizes that the cereal has been made with "one simple, honest ingredient" -- 100% natural whole grain wheat, since it was created 117 years ago.

The commercial's tagline could be adopted by today's Republican Party:
We Put the 'No' in Innovation.
Here's the Youtube: Shredded Wheat
Can DNC buy the rights to this? They could even use the same on-screen spokesman!
"Has progress taken us to a better place?
I'd say it's taken us for a ride.
Honestly, what thanks do we owe progress?"

We're the Republican Party.
We put the 'no' in innovation!

Sigh: it's not just them

Arrest made in Cantor death threat
29 March 2010
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A Philadelphia man charged with threatening a Virginia congressman is being held without bail pending a psychiatric evaluation.

Authorities say 38-year-old Norman Leboon tried to post a YouTube video in which he threatened to kill Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, who is House minority whip.

... The FBI said Mr. Leboon calls himself the "son of the god of Enoch" in the video and calls Cantor "pure evil."

Eating their own, redux

Michael Steele Called Tone Deaf By GOP Brass, Urged To Resign
Of course, Mr. Steele hasn't yet resigned, so my heading, "Eating their own", is not quite right.

But - it's still delightful to see the loyal opposition in disarray - at least administratively.
(I'd be really tickled to see this level of disarray within the House & Senate Republican caucuses, but I'm not hopeful.)

I'd almost forgotten: more domestic terrorists in the news

Remember this story?

Here's the latest:
Tennessee man pleads guilty in plot against Obama
By SHEILA BURKE, Associated Press Writer
29 March 2010
JACKSON, Tenn. – A Tennessee man authorities say is a white supremacist has pleaded guilty to plotting to kill then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and dozens of other black people in 2008.

Twenty-one-year-old Daniel Cowart of Bells, Tenn., pleaded guilty Monday to eight of 10 counts in an indictment accusing him of conspiracy, threatening a presidential candidate and various federal firearms violations. Under a plea agreement, he faces 12 to 18 years in prison, but a federal judge could choose a longer sentence.

Co-defendant, 19-year-old Paul Schlesselman of Helena-West Helena, Ark., pleaded guilty in January and will be sentenced April 15.

Authorities have described the two as skinheads who planned a cross-country robbing and killing spree that would end with an attack on Obama.
News coverage of this plot was remarkably... non-existent. Seems white folks plotting to kill a presidential candidate just aren't news-worthy.

I'll take it that these guys' guilty pleas vindicate the original FBI investigation.

The 'family values' party at work

RNC spent almost $2,000 at bondage-themed strip club
By Steven Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers
... The party confirmed Monday that it reimbursed a California consultant for $1,946 spent at Voyeur, a high-end bar/lounge that's described on one Web site as "classic slutty" where "you might not be completely shocked at the almost naked women writhing on each other, but you will undoubtedly be in awe."
... and again I ask: is someone at DNC taking notes???


Christian militia accused of plotting to kill cops
On the one hand these arrests provide evidence that DHS's warnings about right-wing extremist groups were legitimate.

On the other hand, I'm not sure that I trust the FBI's version of the story in this case anymore than in cases involving home-grown Islamic terrorists.

Were the so-called Christian militia members in fact capable of carrying out their alleged plans? - or were they just talking trash?
Did an FBI informant provide most or all of the plausible operational means?

Yes - I am ambivalent, and will adopt a wait-and-see attitude.
Again, nothing would delight me more than to learn that, yes indeed!, these folks had serious intent coupled with imminent plans to act... but past 'terrorist' cases have hung on dubious FBI assertions.

History not learned (or taught) in school

The Well-Armed Lamb: The American Legion Coup D'Etat
If you're curious, there's more at Wikipedia: Whitehouse coup.

Watch this video!

No - it's not political... just spectacular!:
Outta the Cornfield: Outlook Ruin

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Appropriate expression of attitude...

... from Nance's blog:
I've never been this old in my life. Surely, I am too young and inexperienced for this.
(Wish I'd said that!)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

This may not be your thing... but just in case

Earth Hour
8:30 p.m., Saturday, 27 March 2010
It's sort of fun - turn off your lights for an hour.

Me? In the past I've broken out the oil lamps (strangely, I've got quite a few!).
Candles also work.
Or you can just wander around in the dark.

For what it's worth: this is a rather potent reminder of just how different our world is from that of our not-too-distant ancestor's.
London's Savoy Theater, built by D'Oyly Carte to showcase the operas of Gilbert & Sullivan, was the first public building lighted with electricity - in 1881!

... and I am reminded of a remembered quotation from a high school history text to the effect that Socrates would have felt more at home plopped down in 18th-century Philadelphia than would Ben Franklin if plopped down in 20th-century Philadelphia.
Technology had not advanced much from 5th-century BCE to 18th-century CE (2300 years) - lighting was still all based on fire, 'horsepower' meant just what the word says, oars and sails provided a ship's motive power.

Just for fun, spend an hour in the 18th century - turn off your lights at 8:30 p.m. tonight.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"She made me beat her!"

You'd think most everyone in today's America would be attuned to the fact that "she made me hit her" is a discredited defense.
But you'd be wrong.
Breitbart: Congressional Black Caucus members went "searching for ... racism" by walking through Tea Party crowd

Graham tells Beck -- Beck! -- Tea Partiers "get mad" because they "don't like being called racist"

Beck clarifies his theory: If violence breaks out from the right, it will have been intentionally provoked by Obama

[... these all courtesy Digby, who has more]
Of course! By passing health insurance reform using standard Senate & House procedures ("votes" these are sometimes called), the Democrats simply invited trouble. It's their own fault if some folks... well, some Tea Party folks (inspired and encouraged by GOP leadership) respond with violence!

"I had to hit her, officer. She made me do it. She defied me."

Does anyone remember the Cold War???

Former Cold War foes US, Russia to slash nukes
By TOM RAUM and ROBERT BURNS, Associated Press Writers
26 March 2010
WASHINGTON – The U.S. and Russia sealed the first major nuclear weapons treaty in nearly two decades Friday, agreeing to slash the former Cold War rivals' warhead arsenals by nearly one-third and talking hopefully of eventually ridding a fearful world of nuclear arms altogether.
Recall W's success with the Russians. Though W stated,
"I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul."
... nevertheless, he never achieved ANYTHING with the Russians!

Obama - the appeaser - has struck a deal on nukes.
... and he DIDN'T gaze into Putin's soul!!!

Just for the record: SoS Clinton is largely credited with this achievement.
Again: she didn't look into Putin's soul through his eyes either!
She just negotiated in good faith.

Yep - it's crystal clear: Dems are bad for national defense!

Meanwhile, over there

Alliance led by ex-Iraqi PM wins election narrowly
By REBECCA SANTANA, Associated Press Writer
26 March 2010
BAGHDAD – Former U.S.-backed prime minister Ayad Allawi and his secular, anti-Iranian coalition narrowly won Iraq's parliamentary elections in final returns Friday, edging out the bloc of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who angrily vowed to challenge the results.
Iraq had an election. A disputed election.

Allawi claims 91 seats in the Iraq parliament... to 89 for current Prime Minister al-Maliki. Allawi, tho' a Shi'ite, was supported by Baghdad's Sunnis. Finishing third, with "about 70 seats" was the party of Moqtada al-Sadr. The Kurdish party came in fourth.

One analyst has predicted that - if al-Maliki's challenge to the results is defeated - Allawi will form of coalition with the Sadrists & the Kurds. In many respects, this would be good news. Tho' the Sadrists are blatantly anti-American, they are also fierce nationalists. Al-Maliki is more-or-less an Iranian sympathizer. Allawi, the Sadrists, and the Kurds are not. This could be the beginning of a genuinely nationalist government, sympathetic to neither Iran nor America.
[... of course, we deposed and executed the last leader of Iraq who was not sympathetic to America!]

Who knows, maybe W was right.
[Oops! - I didn't really say that, did I?]
Seven years and $700Bn later...
... My bet is we could have achieved the same result with far less $$$.

Palin expresses my deepest hope! [update: it gets better!]

Palin: 'Everyone Here Today Supporting John McCain, We Are All Part Of That Tea Party Movement'
Gee, I really hope so! I earnestly, sincerely, deeply hope that the GOP and the Tea Party are co-extensive.

update: During this same speech, Ms. Palin also re-affirmed the GOP governing philosophy -
"We're not the Party of No.
We're the Party of Hell NO!"
Again, thank you, Sarah!

... oh, I almost forgot: I'm also earnestly, sincerely, deeply hoping that Sarah Palin continues to be the face of the GOP at least until 2012!

Idle thoughts on health insurance reform (for next time)

What if public education worked like health care?
- If you're lucky enough to work for a big company, you can buy into a company-subsidized education fund which foots the bill for your kid's education. If you lose your job, your kid can't go to school.
- if you're not so lucky, you can pay out of pocket to fund your kid's education.
- if you can't afford it, or choose not to buy education coverage... well, you can always home school!... or just decide that all that education stuff just isn't for you.
Why don't we do this?
Education is viewed as a necessity and a right. It's one of the things government ought to provide.
How do we pay for it? With taxes.
If you choose to 'opt out' you can - sort of. You still pay taxes to support public schools, but you can pay out of pocket for a private school if you've got the $$$.
Of course, education is funded locally.
[Which suggests a model for the next round of health insurance reform!]

What if local fire department worked like health insurance?
Again, if you're lucky enough to work for a big company, you can buy into a company-subsidized fire insurance program. When your house catches fire and you call 911, the first question isn't, "What's the address?", but "What's your fire insurance ID number?"
If you don't work for a big company, you can buy insurance on the open market.
If you can't afford it, or choose not to pay... well, don't bother calling 911.
Why don't we do it this way?
As with education, public safety is universally viewed as a legitimate role of (local) government, to be paid for with taxes.

So - why isn't timely access to quality healthcare similarly viewed as a basic right?
Beats me.

Again - this round of the debate is now concluded. I offer these idle thoughts in preparation for the next round.

This about sums it up for me...

The New Yorker, 22 March 2010

What'd I do?

PrivateBuffoon logged 57 visitors Thursday, which is about twice my normal traffic.
What'd I do?... and how can I do it again?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Write this down... again!

Senate Republican holds up jobless benefits
By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer
25 March 2010
WASHINGTON – As Congress raced to leave Washington for its Easter recess, a Republican senator blocked a stopgap bill to extend jobless benefits, saying its $9 billion cost should not be added to the national debt.
At the center of the battle is Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who's insisting that the measure be "paid for" so as not to add to the nation's $12.7 trillion debt.
I note that Senator Coburn is up for re-election in November.

Might he have a credible Democratic challenger?
Even if not, I'm really hoping someone at DNC is paying attention & writing this down - for use in October: "Repugs hate U.S. citizens!"

... and, just out of curiosity, how often did Senator Coburn vote FOR off-budget war funding, never suggesting that we somehow needed to pay for it?

Now is it over???

Congress completes overhaul of health care
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
25 March 2010
WASHINGTON – Capping an epic struggle, congressional Democrats put the final touches Thursday to historic legislation enshrining health care as the right of every citizen.
I'd like to cheer, but I'm afraid there's more procedural stuff yet to happen...
Let me know when I can let out a loud whoop.

We're not the only buggerers, so it's okay

... at least, that sounds like the defense offered by the Vatican.
Sex abuse scandal in US, Italy taints papacy
By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer
25 March 2010
... [The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano] lashed out at what it said was a "prevailing trend in the media" to ignore facts and spread an image of the Catholic Church "as if it were the only one responsible for sexual abuses — an image that does not correspond to reality."
Well, no - I don't think anyone has ever implied that the Catholic Church is unique... but even if the Church is being singled out - that's not much of a defense!
[... and this 'defense' conveniently ignores the central issue - which is that the Church deliberately covered up the abuse and allowed it to continue.]

Meanwhile a consistent story is emerging: Archbishop Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger - now Pope Benedict - time and again intervened to protect sexual predators and stifle investigations of sexual abuse by the priesthood.

"Dead or alive."

Bin Laden warns US not to kill 9/11 mastermind
Thu Mar 25, 2010
DUBAI (AFP) – Osama bin Laden has warned Al-Qaeda will kill Americans if the mastermind of the 2001 attacks on the United States, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, is executed, in a tape Al-Jazeera television aired Thursday.
Eight-and-a-half years after 9/11, bin Laden is still alive and free to produce videos.

Eight-and-a-half years.
Bush: bin Laden 'prime suspect'
17 Sep 2001
... Speaking with reporters after a Pentagon briefing on plans to call up reserve troops, Bush offered some of his most blunt language to date when he was asked if he wanted bin Laden dead.

"I want justice," Bush said. "And there's an old poster out West… I recall, that said, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive.'"
Good, tough talk there, W.
Now, when again did you plan to get bin Laden???

Eating their own

David Frum, AEI SPLIT: Conservative's Position 'Terminated' By Major Think Tank
Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum has resigned from the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, Frum announced on his Web site Thursday afternoon -- a move which suggests the conservative movement has cut ties with Frum over the straight talk he has been providing all week.

Following the passage of health care reform in the House, Frum made waves with a column for declaring that health care had proven to been "Waterloo" for the GOP, not for Obama as Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) infamously suggested. Republican lawmakers quickly dismissed Frum, a prominent reformist conservative, as a mere "former staffer."

Then Frum said on "Nightline" that the Republican Party's lockstep with the Fox News attack machine has hurt the party, and that "we're discovering we work for Fox." That may have been the last straw for AEI.
Frum is hardly a "moderate".
It's comforting to know that even the "intellectual" branch of the GOP cannot tolerate dissent, insists on ideological purity on all things & at all times, and cannot recognize political pragmatism when it sees it.
That these characteristics of the Tea Party have been adopted by AEI is a good thing!

Obama's "Bring 'em on" moment???

'Go for it,' Obama tells GOP on health repeal

This sounds eerily familiar... and not in a good way!
Bush: 'Bring on' attackers of U.S. troops
USA Today
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush said Wednesday that American troops under fire in Iraq aren't about to pull out, and he challenged those tempted to attack U.S. forces, "Bring them on."
... and we all know how well THAT worked out!

What? [update]

Quarter of Republicans Think Obama May Be the Anti-Christ

This calls for a clever riposte... but I'm left speechless!

[update: C&L reports that the Harris poll underlying the headline above is "not scientific, but based on who decided to take it online during the height of the health care debate..." Okay - a quarter of Republicans who felt like calling into a straw poll think Obama is the anti-Christ. That's actually less alarming!]

The Great Satan

Seems even conservatives are beginning to challenge that reactionary bastion, The Chamber of Commerce and its opposition to ANY financial reform legislation. As reported by Think Progress, the well-known progressive Larry Kudlow had this to say:
I want to say the Chamber of Commerce is a very negative force on this. Absolutely negative and absolutely wrong in my humble opinion..."
Even a few GOP Senators are getting in on the act:
Sens. Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Bob Corker (R-TN) said they expect Wall Street reform to pass this year. “I don’t think people realize that this is an issue that almost every American wants to see passed,” Corker said, arguing that the GOP made a “strategic error” by refusing to work in a bipartisan manner on the bill.
Miracle of miracles, even the Obama administration has found its voice, and is challenging the Chamber to its face.
Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal S. Wolin
Keynote address before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,
Center for Capital Markets
Competitiveness Fourth Annual Capital Markets Summit
“The Urgency of Financial Reform:
Why We Should Not Wait for One More Finance
Crisis before Fixing What’s Broken”
The speech is worth a read. After reviewing the regulatory failures that led to the meltdown of the U.S. financial sector, Deputy Secretary Wolin launches into a spirited attack on The Chamber:
The Chamber has also attacked our proposals to bring oversight and transparency to the derivatives market. That opposition is puzzling. The opaque, unregulated derivatives market was right at the center of the recent crisis.
And yet, the Chamber of Commerce – funded, no doubt, with a good deal of your money – has launched a lavish, aggressive and misleading campaign to defeat the proposed independent agency.

The Chamber has every right to oppose those policies with which its members disagree. But as a leading, respected institution, the Chamber also has an obligation to be honest – with you, its members, and with the American people.
This Center – the Chamber of Commerce Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness – sponsors a website, Stop the CFPA .com. In answer to the question, "what is the CFPA?" that website says the following:

It says the House has passed a bill that would "go so far as to dictate and require `plain vanilla' products, assuming federal bureaucrats know what is best for consumers." That is false. The bill creates no such authority. Neither does the Senate bill.

As the tea-party folks might say, "read the bill." You will not find plain vanilla or anything like it.
Yep - he cites the Chamber's lies and distortions, chapter & verse.

The Chamber of Commerce seems today simply another bastion of rich, white privilege - with little concern for the welfare of its members or the American people.

Too perfect!

Bush wipes his hand on Clinton’s shirt after shaking hands with Haitian residents.

Just for fun

Okay, this takes some prep (so may not be worth it in the end).

Politico on Wednesday ran an article, The backlash: Reform turns personal, which noted that, "The vitriolic health care debate has become personal...".

Among many cited examples of implicit & explicit threats against Dems and their families is this:
Last week, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) warned that anti-abortion Democrats would suffer politically if they voted for the health care bill; he singled out [Representative Steve] Driehaus [D-OH], saying he “may be a dead man” and “can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati” because “the Catholics will run him out of town.”
Apparently responding to the actual violence now being visited on Dems who voted for health insurance reform,...
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said, “The leader does not condone violence, and his remark was obviously not meant to be taken literally. He is urging Americans to take the anger they’re feeling and focus it on building a new majority that will listen to the people.”
The first thing that struck me about Steel's statement was the term used to identify Boehner: "the leader". Not "House Majority Leader Boehner", or "the House Majority Leader", or "the Majority Leader"... but, "the leader". It struck me as somewhat humorous.

Then I started thinking about it.
"The Leader."
Of whom is this reminiscent, and why does Steel's defense sound so familiar?

Well, let's see... there's the "Dear Leader", Kim Jong Il of North Korea... but no, Steel didn't say "dear leader", he said, "the leader".

... and then it dawned on me.
During his testimony, Hitler insisted that his party was determined to come to power legally, that the phrase "National Revolution" was only to be interpreted "politically", and that his Party was a friend, not an enemy of the Reichswehr.
Ah, yes: der Fuehrer! - "the Leader"!... here using language very similar to that used by Boehner-spokesman Steel. "National Revolution" is simply a metaphor for political action and should not be taken literally. Similarly, Boehner's suggesting that Congressman Driehaus "may be a dead man" is simply hyperbolic metaphor.

And those folks toting signs suggesting that, "If Brown can't, a Browning can!" are speaking metaphorically.
And when Representative Michele Bachmann says she wants people "armed and dangerous", she is, of course, speaking metaphorically.

I note that the Nazi party polled just over 18% in 1928 German Federal elections... and in the mid-30%s in the two federal elections in 1932.

My bet? If a "Tea Party" candidate ran for national office today, he'd garner 18% of the vote... and Sarah Palin can probably count on 35% of the vote in 2012.

Now, it's a bit of stretch to draw a parallel between the racist, homophobic Tea Party crowd and the Brown Shirts... But: just because you're a minority, slightly nutty party, that doesn't mean you can't take over a modern industrial state!
[Of course, Germany's parliamentary system facilitated the Nazi takeover.
Still... Led by Cheney (Liz!), these folks could have real clout in 2012!...
oops, my paranoia is showing. I'll start taking my meds - I promise!]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

not quite psychic

A few posts back I suggested Senate GOP would use recondite Senate rules to postpone passage of House amendments to health insurance reform as long as possible.

Somehow it never occurred to me that they'd use recondite Senate rules to simply shut down all Senate business.

Again: I sure hope someone is writing this stuff down!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Kitchen!!!



Pointless: a Canada joke

Canada was much-cited during health-insurance reform debate as a potential model (and even Sarah Palin confessed she'd taken advantage of the Canadian healthcare system!).

So, this is a bit late, and more than a bit lame, but here's my Canada joke:
Canada could have had it all: British culture, French cuisine, American technology.

What'd they end up with? American culture, British cooking, French technology!
Rest easy: this is the ONLY Canada joke I know!

Lerner & Loewe, courtesy "The Rant" by Tom Degan

I'm a Gilbert & Sullivan fan, but any reference to musical theater providing commentary on current politics is a good thing.
Here's Tom Degan's take on passage of health insurance reform:
Tonight, old man, you did it! You did it! You did it!
You said that you would do it and indeed you did!
I thought that you would rue it, I doubted you'd do it
But now I must admit it that succeed you did!

Lerner and Loewe
from My Fair Lady
["The Rant" by Tom Degan: All Through the Night]
Again, congrats to House leadership (Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, and Majority Whip Clyburn) and to Obama for getting this passed.

The referenced post from Tom Degan notes that the 1957 Civil Rights Act wasn't much to cheer about, either - but it did pave the way for LBJ's 1964 Civil Rights Act (the one we all remember).

The markets respond: Day 2

Dow: up 0.85%
Nasdaq: up 0.83%
S&P 500: up 0.72%

Gold: up 0.38% (go figure!)

Yep - the markets really HATE health insurance reform!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Gee, ya think?

From Think Progress:
Senate Republicans are planning “a wide assault” on Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-CT) financial reform bill today when the Senate Banking Committee convenes to discuss the legislation. Reuters reports that “about 300 amendments from Republicans will seek to weaken or kill key provisions of legislation.”
I can't believe it! Senate Republicans are obstructing financial reform? It can't be true... must be a typo.

[note: generally I'm a fan of Think Progress, but this blurb seems more in the "dog bites man" category than meriting a notice!]

I'd almost forgotten: W's legacy is far-reaching

Judge orders release of Guantanamo detainee

Oh, yeah - we're still detaining folks illegally down in Cuba.
Weren't we going to close this hell hole?

Darn! Guess this means we have to talk about 'cap & trade' again!

Eating less meat won't reduce global warming: study

Then again, Repugs wouldn't have supported eating less meat anyway: meat is American!

This is funny!

Democrats shouldn't expect much cooperation from Republicans the rest of this year, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned Monday. [...]

"There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year," McCain said during an interview Monday on an Arizona radio affiliate. "They have poisoned the well in what they've done and how they've done it."

[Washington Monthly, 22 March 2010]
Uh - Senator McCain... no disrespect intended, but: WHEN exactly were Republicans being cooperative?

... and this guy could have been President!

My letter to President Obama

Mr. President:

First, congratulations on getting the health insurance reform bill passed!

Second: note how many GOP votes the bill garnered:
House: 0
Senate: 0
This despite your best efforts.
You made concessions to the so-called loyal opposition.
They dissed you.

We saw exactly the same thing with last year’s Stimulus bill: you made concessions to the GOP, and got exactly 0 votes in return.

Face the facts: the so-called loyal opposition do NOT share your values.
They cherish the support of folks who shout ‘nigger’ and ‘faggot’ at members of Congress.
Their only interest is to water down legislation as much as possible – and still not vote for it.
You’d be better off doing what you finally did on health insurance reform: bargain with conservative members of your own party.

I know this advice is hard for you to take.
You are a rational, well-intentioned, magnanimous man.
You want to believe the best of others.
BUT: the so-called loyal opposition are not.
They only want to see you go down in flames.

By all means, continue the dialog with House & Senate Republicans.
Invite them to the White House for discussion.
Listen to them. Acknowledge their whining.
BUT: do NOT concede ANYTHING to them.
No matter how much you give them, they will never give you their votes.

Next up: Financial reform.
Do NOT concede anything to the GOP.
Work with the conservative members of your own party.

In ten years, no one will remember – let alone care – whether or not you achieved bipartisan solutions.
All that we’ll remember are your accomplishments: that you improved America for us all.


Just out of curiosity...

Do you suppose Obama has learned there's nothing to be gained from negotiating & compromising with the loyal opposition?

Looking forward apprehensively

Yes, Congressional Republicans just lost a big battle - the second such, after "Stimulus".
Yes, they continue to be the Party of No.

BUT: the GOP base (i.e., Tea Party folks) are wildly enthusiastic.

Where's the enthusiasm of the Dem base?
... and, more to the point, can the Dems counter Tea Party enthusiasm come November?
Who'll be leading the charge? - Will Obama take to the campaign trail again?
I'm thinking it just might take Obama's well-tested campaign charisma to counter the wild-eyed Tea Party at the polls.

We've seen that the supposedly 'solid' Dem majorities in House & Senate have been just barely enough to get anything done over GOP obstructionism.
ANY loss in either chamber would be bad...
... and it'd be really nice to increase existing majorities.

Challenge: if you've any ideas (brilliant or otherwise) to energize the Dem base & left-leaning 'independents', DO SOMETHING ABOUT 'EM!
NO: don't tell me - I'm not in any position to turn your ideas into action... if I knew how to influence the folks in charge I'd happily pass along your ideas - but I don't!

If you know how to influence the folks in charge, let the rest of us in on the secret! - Oh, and take advantage of that knowledge to put your good ideas for election-day dominance into action!

Just for fun: the market responds

How'd the market do in response to passage of health insurance reform?
If Republicans are right that this is the end of capitalism as we know it, you'd expect the markets to have tanked today.

Let's look.
Dow: up 0.41%
Nasdaq: up 0.88%
S&P 500: up 0.51%
Hmmm... seems the market likes it!
Then again, the investment being pushed by the doom-and-gloomers didn't fare so well:
Gold: down 0.73%
To be more-or-less honest: the market is held by those in the know to prefer certainty to uncertainty. Simply having the debate ended - one way or the other - could well be the good news to which the market responded today.

On the other hand, gold is everyone's favorite hedge against uncertainty.

Hmmm... this suggests that if the Dems got their act together & started confidently, boldly passing ultra-liberal, socialist legislation, the market would sky-rocket. (And, coincidentally, Glenn Beck would have reason to cry - both for the legislation, and for the decline in the value of his gold.)

Curmudgeons' night out???

Might it be time for another Curmudgeons' Night Out?
If you're in the area (ABQ), post your druthers in comments.
(... heck, even if you're NOT in area!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Oh, yeah: I almost forgot

Congrats to Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, and Majority Whip Clyburn for getting the votes!

... it even sounds as if the compromise with Stupak simply affirmed existing law.
[... anymore when I see "Pelosi" and "compromise" in the same sentence, I assume the Dems gave away the farm. Seems that's not the case this time... I could be wrong (it's happened before!).]

On the other hand, I'm in full agreement with PM over at Captain's Log:
"I say anyone who votes against this bill, republican or democrat should not be re-elected."
Let's name names!

Done deal in the House! (update... sort of)

... hey, if we count the Blue Dog Dems, we can even say it was 'bipartisan'...

(But: The GOP continues to be the Party of No. I sure hope folks are paying attention and that "Party of No" gets LOTS of airplay come October!)

Now to the Senate.

Update... sort of: Just to clarify current situation:
- House passed Senate bill.
When Obama signs it, it's the Law of the Land.

- House passed amendments to Senate bill.
- - After Obama signs the bill, the Senate is free to consider the House amendments.
- - Rumor has it Senate Dems will pursue 'reconciliation' to get this passed.
- Timeline: Supposing Obama signs the bill by then, Senate is set to take up House amendments on Tuesday.

My bet is that Senate GOP will prolong the process as long as possible - through use of recondite Senate rules they'd pummel Dems for using, through standard parliamentary procedural tricks (that they'd pummel Dems for using), ... who knows, maybe they'll introduce new legislation regarding same-sex marriage first thing Tuesday morning and demand debate.

BUT: with Obama's signature, there WILL be a health insurance reform LAW in place (however flawed it might be).

Someone else cites the Preamble in support of health insurance reform!

Healthcare reform and the U.S. Constitution

The commentator - for 15 years a hospital financial manager - focuses on the 'justice' clause.

A simple plea: in all policy debates, let's start with the Preamble!
We the people of the United States, in order to
form a more perfect union,
establish justice,
insure domestic tranquility,
provide for the common defense,
promote the general welfare,
and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Presumably even the loyal opposition can agree that this is what we're all about. It's a convenient place to start the discussion.

Just in case

I pointed folks to Nance's comment, but since it's well worth the read and folks might ignore my advice, here 'tis:
The irony would be fascinating if it wasn't so painful. So many of those who are drawn to the pseudo-power of the Tea Party movement are demonstrating a version of Stockholm Syndrome; they can't tell the difference between those who have historically exploited them and those who are willing to risk everything to help them.


Last August, guided by fellow curmudgeon PM, I linked to the following article. In light of recent Tea Party, uh, craziness, it seems appropriate to link it again.
The Far Right's First 100 Days: Getting More Extreme by the Day.
Bottom line: it's not paranoia - we on the sane left have reason to be afraid!

Good news

From Think Progress:
The ‘Kristol Ball’ predicts that ‘the bulk’ of health care reform will be repealed by 2013.
Given Wm. Kristol's phenomenal track record foreseeing the future, I'm taking his prediction regarding repeal of health insurance reform as nothing but good news! - If Kristol says it's going away, it's here to stay!

Sometime today (?)

House leaders plan separate health vote, rejecting 'deem and pass'
By Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 20, 2010
... Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Saturday that the House would take three votes Sunday: first, on a resolution that will set the terms of debate; second, on a package of amendments to the Senate bill that have been demanded by House members; and third, on the Senate bill itself.
Sometime today (Sunday, 21 March).

Full disclosure: I'm not a big fan of the Senate bill - I'm one of the 'public-option' socialists.
That said: let's start somewhere.

Assuming House Dems muster 216 votes - which seems not quite guaranteed - then the Senate has to pass the package of amendments.
My understanding is that Senate Dems plan to use 'reconciliation' to manaage this with a simple (51 vote) majority.
A Senate official (parliamentarian?) first has to rule that the amendments fit into the 'reconciliation' envelope.
Then Senate Dems have to muster 51 votes (actually I think 50 would do it, with VP Biden casting tie-breaking vote). 50 Dem votes in the Senate seems plausible.

Only House action is scheduled for today (Sunday).
The Senate side-show will take a while longer - and I've no idea what "a while" might be. End of the week?... end of the month?... before Nov elections?? ... in my lifetime???

I've got a fairly hectic Sunday, so I'll likely not be paying much attention till late afternoon or early evening.

Till then, I'll just keep my fingers crossed.

[pointless aside: why didn't Obama invest himself in this issue until the past couple of weeks???]

[pointless aside #2: at this point, I'm not viewing the House vote as a vote on health-insurance reform so much as a test of party unity. They could be voting on agricultural policy for all the substance matters to me right now. Can House Dem leadership deliver 216 votes on legislation that defines the Dem party and the Dem presidency???]

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The man's a living god!

Greenspan still in denial

'Twasn't all that long ago folks parsed Greenspan's farts (... to divine which way the economic winds were blowing) - he was a living god!

Fun while it lasted

UNM blown out by Washington.

Their true colors [update]

Tea Party Protests: 'Ni**er,' 'Faggot' Shouted At Members Of Congress
"... Preceding the president's speech to a gathering of House Democrats, thousands of protesters descended around the Capitol to protest the passage of health care reform. The gathering quickly turned into abusive heckling, as members of Congress passing through Longworth House office building were subjected to epithets and even mild physical abuse.

A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-M.D.) had been spit on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-G.A.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a 'ni--er.' And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a "faggot," as protestors shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams."

Nothing like civil political discourse.
... and the GOP continue to court these folks!

House Majority Whip, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), summed it up nicely:
"A lot of us have been saying for a long time that much of this, much of this is not about health care a all. And I think a lot of those people today demonstrated that this is not about health care... it is about trying to extend a basic fundamental right to people who are less powerful."
Fear-driven white mobs protecting privileges they're convinced are their birthright, and that they've been brainwashed into believing the Nigger President has stolen from them.

update: read Nance's comment! - more worthwhile than this post!!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Just making an observation...

Member of Texas polygamist sect sentenced 75 years
Now, I've previously suggested that some enterprising U.S. Attorney indict the Catholic Church under the RICO Act.

Some of you, my loyal readers, may have thought that this was extremely unlikely, because the Government is loathe to prosecute religious organizations.

The headline above belies that notion.
The Government has been quite happy to go after The Church of Scientology, religious organizations that promote child abuse, and other non-mainstream religious organizations.

We - our Government - burned down the Branch Davidian complex in Waco under Clinton's administration.

There really IS precedent for U.S. Government legal action against religious organizations.
The only novelty I've proposed is using RICO.
... and given the Catholic Church's history of child sexual abuse, I don't think it's all that much of a stretch.
It just takes one courageous U.S. Attorney.

Re: I almost missed it

Below I celebrate the 7th anniversary of "Operation Iraqi Freedom".

I forgot to include this observation: our more-or-less "original" war aims were attained within two years of the invasion:
1) Iraq has no WMD
2) Saddam has been deposed
3) Democracy has been established in Iraq
a. Constitution written and approved by electorate
b. Parliamentary elections held
c. Government formed
Tell me again: why are we STILL there?

Note: As far as I can tell, we went into Iraq with NO post-invasion plan.
We wanted to take out Saddam. We succeeded.
Now, what is the condition resulting when NO GOVERNMENT exists?
- You, in the back? What's that???
- That's right! ANARCHY - by definition, the absence of government.

Would that Rummy had been such a good student!
The Plan: take out Saddam.
The follow-up plan: [uh... ]

We saw this also in Afghanistan:
- get bin Laden! (oops!)
- drive out Taliban.
... and THEN???
Did it occur to anyone to ask, "How did the Taliban come to power in Afghanistan?"???
- Yes, you in the back again? What's that you say?
- Very good: "The Taliban came to power when the Soviet withdrawal left ANARCHY!"

Again, would that Rummy had been such a good student.

I'm not usually a fan of Tom Friedman, but I do like his characterization of the so-called Rumsfeld Doctrine:
Just enough troops to lose!
Again, Happy Birthday, "Operation Iraqi Freedom"!

I like both the metaphor and the substance!

From Woody over at The Well-Armed Lamb:
At The HCR Table, Was Prez. Shamwow Playing Bridge at a Poker Game?
... he [Tom Tomorrow] gets at the thing that has always bothered me about Prez. Shamwow's "negotiating style," his fundamental weakness, his apparent willingness to have negotiated away what the negotiation was supposedly to be about even before the negotiations have begun.
The metaphor, "Playing bridge at a poker game", is just quirky enough to make sense.

This willingness to give away the farm BEFORE negotiations have even started seems characteristic not just of Obama, but of the entire Democratic leadership. Why else would Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) kill single-payer before it even came up in committee last June???

Why was Speaker Pelosi so quick to take the public option OUT OF the reconcialition package... THIS WEEK???

It is particularly galling that these concessions to achieve so-called bipartisanship are then met with well-coordinated obstructionism by the loyal opposition.

As Atrios has noted:
The whole point of forging a compromise is to... get a deal done. I don't get why Democrats like to stick with the compromise even when there's no deal.

The Truth: How bin Laden escaped [update #2]

Former US general links Srebrenica to Dutch army gays
Thu Mar 18, 2010
WASHINGTON (AFP) – A retired US general on Thursday said Dutch UN troops defending Srebrenica in the Bosnian war failed to prevent the 1995 genocide partly because their ranks included openly gay soldiers.
This is the key to bin Laden's miraculous escape from Tora Bora in December 2001!

First, it is well-known that bin Laden is openly homosexual [citation needed (update: see below)] [note: al Qaeda is a non-standard transliteration of al GAY-duh].
Second, we now know [citation needed (update: see below)] the so-called "anti-Taliban tribal militia" supporting U.S. & NATO forces was made up largely of crypto-homosexuals. Not only did these crypto-homosexuals impair unit cohesion, they actively abetted fellow-homosexual bin Laden's escape!

The truth can now be told.

[Note: this goes a long way towards explaining why we haven't captured or killed bin Laden in eight-and-a-half years of active searching: our Afghan, Pakistani, and NATO allies are all predominantly crypto-homosexuals, protecting their fellow homosexual, Osama bin Laden!]

Update: PrivateBuffoon follower JC notes a flaw in this argument.
Crypto-homosexuals don't count. It's only open, honest, outed gays that ruin everything. I'll hit Google and see if I can find citations that prove our Afghan & Pakistani allies are infested with open, honest homosexuals (we already KNOW that our NATO allies are infested with open, honest homosexuals!)

Update #2: Here are the links
Gay Afghanistan, After the Taliban. Homosexuality as Tradition

A Pakistan you never knew! Being gay in the Islamic Republic

... and bin Laden?
Man-Love Thursdays in Afghanistan
“One of the great untold stories of al-Qa’ida is that they are all these men who fuck little boys."
If this doesn't prove my case, I don't know what will!

Something you can do [email link corrected]

You may have heard that the Texas School Board recently approved curriculum changes that distort history - basically substituting right-wing propaganda for what most of us would recognize as more-or-less honest history.

Given that the Texas market is the largest in the country, and that as a consequence text-book publishers cater to the whims of the Texas School Board, this decision has the potential to pervert the teaching of history nation-wide.

You can do your part.
Send an email to major text-book publishers.
[Thanks to Captain's Log for this link!]

[thanks to commenter Brion Emde for pointing out the problem with the email link!
For what it's worth, here's the link to the 'nice pictures' he references:Albuquerque, NM]

I just dissed DCCC

A few moments ago I took a phone call from DCCC, requesting $$$.
I politely informed the poor schmuck tasked with this call that I had no intention of giving $$$ to DCCC, and that I preferred to spend my limited resources supporting specific candidates I like.

The thought that $$$ to DCCC go in part to support the re-election of Bart Stupak (D-MI) and his ilk is all that it takes for me to politely decline to give $$$ to DCCC.

Next up: the Inquisition

From Think Progress:
Cuccinelli: Homosexual ‘acts’ are a ‘detriment to our culture.’
"... In a new interview with CBS 6, Cuccinelli says that gay “acts” are harmful to society:
Q: Do you think that gays — the practice of homosexuality — is a detriment to our culture?

CUCCINELLI: The acts are. You certainly want everybody in your society to be integrated into your society.
This echoes rather precisely the view of the 15th-century Catholic Church: yes, we want everybody in our society to be integrated into our society.
AND: we'll take steps to insure that EVERYONE IS integrated! - We'll ferret out the the non-conformists among us. In fact, we've got a really cool way to do this - it's called the Inquisition!

Come to think of it, AG Cuccinelli might be thinking about more modern political parallels, like Saudi Arabia's Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
In addition to having the power to arrest anyone engaged in homosexual acts, prostitution, fornication, or proselytizing of non-Muslim religions, they can also arrest unrelated males and females caught socializing, enforce Islamic dress-codes, Muslim dietary laws (such as the prohibition from eating pork) and store closures during the prayer time.
Yep - the Saudis just want everybody in their society to be integrated into their society.
(Conservative religious zealots are pretty much the same world-wide, regardless of their particular Confession. After all, they have The TRUTH, and are all just looking out for our best interests... saving our souls, and all that. If VA AG Cuccinelli could bring himself to confess Mohammed as G-d's Prophet, he'd probably be quite comfortable in Saudi Arabia.)

Note: What I'd really like to see is someone - either a political opponent or some Virgina media - parse AG Cuccinelli's remarks as I've done above! - taking them at face value, and calling out their natural political implications.

I almost missed it: "Happy Birthday to you..."

... Operation "Iraqi Freedom"!

Seven years ago today W took us into the Iraq quagmire - for no good reason.
More than $700Bn later, we're still stuck there.
For perspective:
Babies born 19 March 2003 are now in 1st grade.

6th graders then are college freshmen today.

[Note: I don't hear any Repugs (thx Woody!) complaining about the cost of this fiasco - more than $100Bn/year... most of it "off budget"!]

Are Democrats a single party?

From HuffPost:
Health Care Whip Count Live Updates: Will Reform Bill Have The Votes?
Sam Stein First Posted: 03-19-10
Ahead of this weekend's vote on health care reform, Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives have been engaged in fierce behind-the-scenes lobbying of undecided lawmakers whose support will be crucial to final passage of the bill.
From my perspective Sunday's vote has little to do with the merits of the current bill. It has everything to do with the identity of the Democratic Party.

If House Dems can't muster the needed 216 votes then the Democratic Party isn't, and voting for a "Democrat" means little.
I'm hoping Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, & Whip Clyburn are making this the focus of their pitch for votes - NOT the merits of the bill.
Whatever any individual Congressperson may think of the bill in question is irrelevant: this is a test of Democratic unity.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Our creature lives!

Followers of Sadr Emerge Stronger After Iraq Elections
Published: March 16, 2010 (*)
BAGHDAD — The followers of Moktada al-Sadr, a radical cleric who led the Shiite insurgency against the American occupation, have emerged as Iraq’s equivalent of Lazarus in elections last week, defying ritual predictions of their demise and now threatening to realign the nation’s balance of power.
[(*): Stories that I see in my home-delivered edition of the NYT are almost always dated the previous day. Today's is no exception: this article appeared on page 1 of my home-delivered NYT today, 17 March 2010... but is dated on the NYT website as published 16 March 2010.]
Does everyone remember Moqtada al-Sadr? Once upon a time I blogged about him fairly frequently - as the face of the loyal opposition in Iraq, and our singular creation.

He was a 2nd- or 3rd-tier mullah with a distinguished family name but few followers when our envoy, Paul Bremer, shut down his newspaper & issued an arrest warrant for him. From that day forward, al-Sadr was the face of the opposition to the U.S. occupation.

It's been a while since he's made news.
Seems now he & his political party are making significant gains in Iraq's highly-publicized national elections.
Welcome back to the party, Moqtada! - Glad to see you again.

The above-referenced NYT story includes this gem:
Their [the Sadrist's] apparent success in the March 7 vote for Parliament — perhaps second only to the followers of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki as the largest Shiite bloc — underscores a striking trend in Iraqi politics: a collapse in support for many former exiles who collaborated with the United States after the 2003 invasion.
So - the guy our incompetence elevated to leadership status is doing great, and the Iraqi National Congress exiles we
- 1) used to justify invading Iraq
- 2) were depending to govern post-invasion Iraq
are being shunned!

Thanks again, W! (W: the gift that keeps on giving.)

Oh, yeah: Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Today's NYT features:
Turning Green With Literacy
Published: March 16, 2010
WHY should we celebrate the Irish?

No doubt, several reasons could be proffered. But for me one answer stands out. Long, long ago the Irish pulled off a remarkable feat: They saved the books of the Western world and left them as gifts for all humanity.
For those who might want to read more, Cahill has written a delightful little book: How the Irish Saved Civilization.

[Snarky aside: I note that the Irish Potato Famine and ensuing influx of Irish to America (1847-1856) produced a "Nativist" anti-Irish backlash very similar to today's GOP anti-Hispanic hysteria.]

Should I rethink Tim Geithner?

A recent article in The New Yorker (No Credit) grudgingly praises SecTreas Geithner for successfully rescuing the financial sector.
In an appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show (Geithner on what went wrong), Geithner deftly parried Maddow's questions, discouraged follow-up, and made his case.

Ought I reconsider my previous rather disparaging characterization of Geithner's performance as SecTreas?

No - I don't think so.
Okay - he successfully tackled the financial crisis.
Problem is, we face not just a financial crisis, but an economic crisis, which he has completely ignored.
No one's borrowing (even if the banks were lending).
Unemployment's running at 10%.
Tax policy remains skewed towards the very well off.
It seems extremely unlikely that anyone I know will see his/her personal finances improve over the next few years, even if GDP recovers.
[I remind readers that GDP grew under W - but even 95%-ile households saw no improvement in real income during his tenure. The only boats lifted by this rising tide were the yachts of the extremely wealthy.]

So - no. I continue to view Geithner as a product of the Peter Principle, far too beholden to Big Finance, and far too incompetent to realistically address the deeper, more systemic issues underlying our economic malaise.

Did you know that...

Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is an admitted Sodomite?

[... No? Well, neither did I. It's probably not true. BUT: I did phrase the accusation as a question - this is not libelous! (The "Jeopardy" defense)... My preference would be for DNC to put together a series of "Did you know that...?" ads, to be aired in October.]

Is anyone taking notes?

Quick thought: I'm hoping someone at DNC/DCCC/DSCC, House Dem Caucus, or Senate Dem Caucus is taking notes on tactics used by their esteemed GOP opponents in the fight for health insurance reform. The tactics - powerful re-labeling (e.g. "death panels"), pure obstructionism, decrying use of standard parliamentary rules (e.g., "nuclear option", "no one ever uses reconciliation") have been extremely effective... oh - I almost forgot: bald-faced lying is among the extremely effective tactics.

My hope is that, when the Dems next find themselves in the minority, they dig up these old notes AND USE THEM!

(Come to think of it, even when they're in the MAJORITY, Dems might want to consider adopting some of these tactics!)


I find myself again reaching saturation point - the news isn't, my commentary is getting stale, and there's little that excites me. I can't bring myself to keep writing the same things over and over. ("Republicans are hypocrites?" Really???)

If I continue to get fun/interesting emails, maybe that'll give me something to post.
Otherwise, I think I've exhausted my supply of brilliant commentary for at least a couple of days.

The results are in

From Heath Haussamen's
Most voters in poll give Heinrich a thumbs-up
By Heath Haussamen • 3/14/10
The majority of those who voted in last week’s non-scientific poll on this site said they approve of the job Martin Heinrich is doing as U.S. representative for the 1st Congressional District.

Of 1,252 voters, 835, or 67 percent, said they approve of the job Heinrich is doing, while 399, or 32 percent, said they do not, and 18, or 1 percent, said they don’t know.
To be noted: this is a voluntary straw-poll - NOT a statistically-based so-call 'scientific' poll. As Mr. Haussamen states, "Dont' read to much into" the results!
[Again I wonder: why did those 18 "don't knows" bother to click the button?]

This week's poll:
Do you approve of the job Ben Ray Luján is doing as U.S. representative for the 3rd Congressional District?
... towards the top of left-hand panel.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ridicule: the appropriate tone!

From Alan Grayson for Congress, on Sarah Palin's visit to central Florida:
Palin, the former half-term Governor, current-nothing and future-even-less, charmed the all-Republican audience with her folksy folksiness and her homespun homespunnery. Atypically, Palin was wearing clothes that she had paid for herself. At the end of the event, she shared her recipe for mooseface pie.

In response to Palin's attack on Rep Grayson, Grayson actually complimented Palin. Grayson praised Palin for having a hand large enough to fit Grayson's entire name on it. He thanked Palin for alleviating the growing shortage of platitudes in Central Florida. Grayson added that Palin deserved credit for getting through the entire hour-long program without quitting. Grayson also said that Palin really had mastered Palin's imitation of Tina Fey imitating Palin. Grayson observed that Palin is the most-intelligent leader that the Republican Party has produced since George W. Bush.
Why can't more Dems adopt mockery & ridicule when replying to their esteemed GOP opponents & critics?

"When insults had class..."

A correspondent sends the following:
When Insults Had Class
These glorious insults are from an era before the English language got boiled down to 4-letter words.

The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor:
She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison."
He said, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."

A member of Parliament to Disraeli:
"Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."
"That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."

"He had delusions of adequacy."
- Walter Kerr

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."
- Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."
-Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
- William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it."
- Moses Hadas

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."
- Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends."
- Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one."
- George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill
"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second.... if there is one."
- Winston Churchill, in response.

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here."
- Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator."
- John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial."
- Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others."
- Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up."
- Paul Keating

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily."
- Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him."
- Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?"
- Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork."
- Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."
- Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination."
- Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music."
- Billy Wilder

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."
- Groucho Marx
I was gratified to be able to reply with an addition to the list:
"The covers of this book are too far apart."
- from a scathing review attributed to Ambrose Bierce
Have fun!

Not quite sure the point of this, but I'll plow ahead

I recently received an email from one of my more conservative correspondents, who was forwarding something that'd been forwarded to him.
The heading included the comment,
"This guy had the guts to put this on the internet. GOD BLESS HIM."

For whatever reason, I decided to reply. Below is email (italics) and my replies (bold italics):

- [his picture goes here: about my age, greying beard, baseball cap] -


I Am the Liberal-Progressive's Worst Nightmare
(you've got a beard, you wear a baseball cap... you're NOT MY worst nightmare!)

I am an American.
(me too - born in Tulsa, OK)

I am a Master Mason and believe in God.
(well, i'm not a Mason - I'm not much of a 'joiner'. I don't believe in God, but I sing in a Lutheran choir every Sunday)

I ride Harley Davidson Motorcycles, and believe in American products.
(I don't ride a motorcycle - does that make me a bad person? My truck is a Dodge... previous cars include another Dodge truck, a Ford minivan, and a Buick - that last one I bought 'cuz I wanted to do my part for GM back in 1988!)

I believe the money I make belongs to me and my family, not some liberal governmental functionary, Democratic or Republican!
(well, yeah - but I also believe that the military, police, firemen, roads, bridges, and a few laws - like you have to drive on the right-hand-side & stop at stoplights - are good ideas... and paying folks to serve in the military, be police & firemen, build roads & bridges, and enforce laws - well, the money has to come from somewhere. That's what taxes are all about - providing public safety, public health, public transportation... in general I'm a big fan of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution: "We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." - see all that stuff about a more perfect Union, Justice, domestic Tranquility, common defence, the general Welfare, and the Blessings of Liberty? That's what our taxes are supposed to be paying for! - Did you think it was all FREE???)

I'm in touch with my feelings and I like it that way!
(good for you!)

I think owning a gun doesn't make you a killer; it makes you a smart American.
(I don't own a gun, but I've no objection to you owning one. Some of my best friends own guns.)

I think being a minority does not make you noble or victimized, and does not entitle you to anything. Get over it!
(I'm with you here, too. BUT: I don't thing being a minority ought to automatically exclude anyone from an education, or a job, or a seat at a lunch-counter JUST BECAUSE he or she is a minority! - we're all Americans, and that DOES entitle ALL OF US to certain basic rights!)

I believe that if you are selling me a Big Mac, you should do it in English.
(Well, yeah - I appreciate that... but if the person behind me in line speaks Spanish, why not sell him a Big Mac in Spanish? - it doesn't hurt me in the least little bit. Do you speak any language other than English? If you traveled to Europe, would you expect everyone to speak to you in English???)

I believe everyone has a right to pray to his or her God when and where they want to.
(Yep - I'm with you here, too. How 'bout folks who don't believe in God? - are you okay with them, too? - and, oh yeah - I'd just as soon you not come knocking on my door trying to convert me!)

My heroes are John Wayne, Babe Ruth, Roy Rogers, and Willie G. Davidson, who makes the awesome Harley Davidson Motorcycles.
(Well, we don't have any heroes in common. Yeah, Babe Ruth was a great baseball player, and John Wayne & Roy Rogers made some great Westerns... but that's not quite in a 'hero' category for me... not a problem: you can keep 'em, I don't mind.)

I don't hate the rich. I don't pity the poor.
(I don't hate the rich - but I'd just as soon they didn't keep getting richer at my expense! - fair is fair.
If you got rich - or plan to get richer - by cheating me, then I have a problem. - well, could be my problem for being dumb enough to let you fleece me, but sometimes I'm really not given much of a choice. You might want to rethink the bit about pitying the poor... but if compassion isn't your thing, that's okay.)

I know wrestling is fake and I don't waste my time watching or arguing about it.

I've never owned a slave, or was a slave.. I haven't burned any witches or been persecuted by the Turks, and neither have you!
(ditto for me!)

I believe if you don't like the way things are here, go back to where you came from and change your own country!
(Hey - I wasn't crazy about Oklahoma - which is where I came from. I left. I now live in New Mexico. It's better here!)

This is AMERICA ..We like it the way it is!
("WE, Kemo Sabe?" - remember that bit about "a more perfect Union"? - I'm not sure America is all it can be - I think there's room for improvement. NO, I don't want to leave - can't think of anyplace I'd like better - but that sure doesn't mean I can't see any room for improvement here at home!)

If you were born here and don't like it you are free to move to any Socialist country that will have you. (And take Barak Obama with you.) Massachusetts started the ball rolling. Keep it going.
(Let me get this straight: because I think things could be better, I have to leave? Are you saying that anyone who counts himself a loyal American but doesn't agree with your politics ought to leave??? Am I missing something here?... In the Army - oh, yeah - I served! - did you? - anyway, in the Army there was a saying, "You salute the rank, not the man." So whoever the president is, he deserves some respect - just because he's the president. You apparently don't feel that way.)

Let's really clean house starting with the White House. The seat of our biggest problems.
(We get a chance every 4 years - it's called an election. I vote. Do you? - I note that the election doesn't always turn out the way I like, but I live with the results - that's part of being a citizen.)

I want to know which church is it, exactly, where the Reverend Jesse Jackson preaches, where he gets his money, and why he is always part of the problem and not the solution.
(I'm not sure what Jesse Jackson has to do with anything. Has he been in the news recently? Did I miss it?)

Can I get an AMEN on that one?

- [animated gif of "USA" goes here] -

I also think the cops have the right to pull you over if you're breaking the law, regardless of what color you are.
(yep, me too. BUT: I don't think they have the right to pull you over JUST BECAUSE of your color. "Suspected of being Black [or White, or Brown, or Red, or Green]" ISN'T breaking the law!)

And, no, I don't mind having my face shown on my driver's license.
(Neither do I - makes it so's I can cash a check & use my VISA.)

I think it's good.... And I'm proud that 'God' is written on my money.
(I'm losing you here. Why is this 'good' and why are you 'proud'? - Do you take pride in offending the atheists, agnostics, Hindus, and Buddhists among your fellow-citizens? Me - I don't believe in God and sort of don't like my money telling me I trust in Him!)

I think if you are too stupid to know how a ballot works, I don't want you deciding who should be running the most powerful nation in the world for the next four years.
(yep - I'm with you here, too... BUT: how would YOU distinguish between folks who understand the ballot & folks who don't? Just asking.)

I dislike those people standing in the intersections trying to sell me stuff or trying to guilt me into making 'donations' to their cause.......Get a Job and do your part!
(I'm not crazy about 'em either, and we've already covered 'compassion' above)

I believe that it doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes two parents..
(Well, that's a good start. ... and schools & teachers, and day-care, and relatives, and babysitters... and I'd think you'd prefer Sunday School...)

I believe 'illegal' is illegal no matter what the lawyers think.
(not sure your point here. yes, 'illegal' is illegal. tell me again what the lawyers have to do with it?)

I believe the American flag should be the only one allowed in AMERICA!
(there's another one I didn't know about? - do you mean state flags? - should we get rid of 'em??? I sort of like the New Mexico 'Zia' flag - does that make me a traitor? - again, what's your point?)

- [somewhat oddly, pic of modified American Flag here: 9 blue stars on white field, & only 9 stripes - 5 red, 4 white] -

If this makes me a BAD American, then yes, I'm a BAD American.
If you are a BAD American too, please forward this to everyone you know...
We want our country back!
(Again, "WE, Kemo Sabe?" - You want it back? Where'd it go? Did someone take it? Do you think I HAVE IT???? If I do - and I somehow missed that part - I'll gladly share. Or can't we share it? Is it either YOURS or MINE? - we both can't love AMERICA?)

- [photo of American Flag here] -

(Tell me again when God was in our country? - I missed that part in 8th-grade civics. The U.S. Constitution is our governing document. Not one mention of God anywhere. In fact, the Constitution explicitly prohibits considerations of religion from entering into government. No, I'm not talking about separation of church and state [First Amendment]. I'm talking about Article 6, Section III: "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.")

- [picture of dove holding banner with "God Bless You"] -

(Reading over my replies, it seems we've got quite a bit in common with one another. I agree with a lot of your points! ... Do you suppose we could figure out a way to live together? - Both of us loyal Americans, just with some different political opinions?)
Again: I'm not sure why I bothered to reply, or why I'm posting this - but both seemed like good ideas at the time.

Monday, March 15, 2010

This is more than scary!

Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants
Published: March 14, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan — Under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program, a Defense Department official set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants, according to military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States.

Is anyone doing any digging into the possibility that an "official" (presumably just a mid-level functionary) at DoD, or CIA, or FBI has, "under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program", set up a network of private contractors in the U.S. to help track & kill suspected dissidents???
... or am I just being paranoid?

RICO charges against Catholic Church???

Nope - no one has suggested this (except me).

But why not?
Pope under fire for transfer, letter on sex abuse
13 March 2010
... The pope, meanwhile, continues to be under fire for a 2001 Vatican letter he sent to all bishops advising them that all cases of sexual abuse of minors must be forwarded to his then-office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and that the cases were to be subject to pontifical secret.

Germany's justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, has cited the document as evidence that the Vatican created a "wall of silence" around abuse cases that prevented prosecution. Irish bishops have said the document had been "widely misunderstood" by the bishops themselves to mean they shouldn't go to police. And lawyers for abuse victims in the United States have cited the document in arguing that the Catholic Church tried to obstruct justice.
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (commonly referred to as RICO Act or RICO) is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.
Under RICO, a person who is a member of an enterprise that has committed any two of 35 crimes—27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes—within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering.

[Wikipedia, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act]
Among the 35 crimes included are extortion, bribery, dealing in obscene matter, and obstruction of justice.
Given that investigations into the Churh's sexual abuse have revealed that victims were paid off to keep quiet (bribery) and were implicitly threatened with damnation if they spoke up (extortion); that the nature of the offenses (child sexual abuse) constitutes obscenity, and that the Church has been deliberately, consciously instrumental in obstructing civil justice in these cases, I'd say there's a pretty strong RICO case to made.
Are any U.S. Attorney's willing to give it a shot?

Full disclosure: The Church counts me as one of her own - I was baptised in 1952.

If they really believe this, you'd think they'd vote FOR health-insurance reform [update]

Alexander: Passing Health Care Bill is 'Political Kamikaze Mission' for Democrats

If Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and other members of the so-called loyal opposition really believe that passage of health-insurance reform represents political suicide for Dems, why doesn't he vote FOR it? - You know, play the Dr. Kevorkian role: assist the suicide???

Update: seems Sen. Alexander isn't alone:
Graham: Pelosi has House Dems 'liquored up on sake' ready for 'suicide run'
By Jordan Fabian - 03/15/10
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Monday used language that compared House Democrats' efforts to pass healthcare reform legislation to a Japanese kamikaze mission.

"Nancy Pelosi, I think, has got them all liquored up on sake and you know, they're making a suicide run here," Graham said on the Keven Cohen Show on WVOC radio in Columbia, S.C.
Again I ask: if they really believe this, why not ASSIST the SUICIDE and vote FOR health-insurance reform?

C&L bounce

755 and counting...

Not sure where he got it in, but Mike Finnigan over at C&L somewhere mentioned my science post.
755 visitors so far today!

Thanks, Mike!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

well, no, it doesn't

Daylight Savings Time quickly approaches.

For what it's worth:
Daylight Savings Time does NOT save daylight!
There is exactly the same amount of daylight without Daylight Savings Time as with it!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Oh, good: someone else has noticed!

In Lehman’s Demise, Some Shades of Enron
Today's lesson:
Findings on Lehman Take Even Experts by Surprise
Published: March 12, 2010
... Based on standard repurchase agreements — short-term loans commonly used by many firms for daily financing needs, in which borrowers temporarily exchange assets in return for cash up front — Lehman took a particularly aggressive accounting approach to these transactions.

Here, the investment bank used repos to temporarily park assets off its books to make its end-of-quarter debt levels look better than they did — while calling them sales instead of loans.
Ah, yes: parking assets - disguised as 'sales' - to manipulate quarterly balance sheets!
Where have we seen this before?
ENRON! (see, e.g., "Nigerian Barges")

Again: to understand the collapse not only of Lehman, but of the U.S. financial system generally - READ ENRON!

Yes! ... and what I find particularly galling!

From Chris Hayes via Atrios over at Eschaton:
In the past decade, nearly every pillar institution in American society — whether it's General Motors, Congress, Wall Street, Major League Baseball, the Catholic Church or the mainstream media — has revealed itself to be corrupt, incompetent or both. And at the root of these failures are the people who run these institutions, the bright and industrious minds who occupy the commanding heights of our meritocratic order. In exchange for their power, status and remuneration, they are supposed to make sure everything operates smoothly. But after a cascade of scandals and catastrophes, that implicit social contract lies in ruins, replaced by mass skepticism, contempt and disillusionment.
Well, YES!... BUT - what I find particularly galling is the "defense" these titans offer when things go south:
Findings on Lehman Take Even Experts by Surprise
Published: March 12, 2010
... Patricia Hynes, a lawyer for [former Lehman Bros CEO] Mr. [Richard S.] Fuld, said on Thursday that her client “did not know what those transactions were — he didn’t structure or negotiate them, nor was he aware of their accounting treatment.”
[emphasis added]
"I just work here!"
Tell me again, what exactly was Mr. Fuld's job?
... and WHY was he getting paid many millions of dollars???

[For those of you old enough to remember the TV series Hogan's Heroes, I'll call this the "Sgt. Schultz defense":
For what it's worth, this defense was pioneered by Ken Lay, Enron's CEO.]

A question: why do the bankruptcy examiner's findings "take even experts by surprise"???
Haven't the 'experts' read Enron???
- if not, I'd say they're NOT 'experts'!!!

Just for fun: others check accuracy of economic predictions

Loyal readers know that I occasionally check the accuracy of my forecasts (political, economic, and other).

It's encouraging to see that others also check predictions:
Flashback: Economic Forecasting FAIL!
By the way: it's probably a GOOD THING to point out - frequently - that Republican tenure was a DISASTER for the economy!

Oh, good: others have noticed!

Behold! The "Memory Hole" Doth Gape!

Friday, March 12, 2010

I can't help myself!

Them! - Giant Ants in the New Mexican desert!... On tonight at 10:30, Turner Classic Movies.

I don't know how many times I've seen this not-particularly-good '50s Sci-Fi flick...
BUT: if it's on, I'll watch it!

I bet I can guess how this guy votes!

From OneFly:
Cat Killer

Discouraging... and scary!

Texas ed board vote reflects far-right influences

Developments like this in Texas certainly provide ammunition in the fight for national standards!
Panel Proposes Single Standard for All Schools
Tho' I'm not hopeful that proposal for national standards will ever be able to overcome the cries of "Socialism!" such a move would elicit.
Local control of schools is, after all, a Bible-based right!

Screaming Meanies

City Removes Spanish-Language Census Sign After ‘Angry’ Citizens And Lawmakers Raise A Fuss
... “If you’re here in the U.S. and can’t speak English, you need to go home,” [Prescott Councilman John] Hanna said.

Here we go again. (Or is it, "still"?)

The right (or, as they would characterize themselves, "center-right") today exhibit a xenophobia I've never before seen. Yes, I've read about the Palmer Raids, I've seen Scorsese's Gangs of New York, ... heck, I've even read Benjamin Franklin's anti-German rants!
BUT: I'd always assumed these episodes of anti-immigrant frenzy were "quaint, historical" chapters in our history.
Boy, was I wrong!

I note that in every other instance, the anti-immigrant frenzy has eventually died down, and more-or-less sane immigration policies adopted.
I can hope.

[... not to mention the chauvinism! - "If you're in America you damn well better speak English!" - this holds even for tourists! We proud Americans CAN'T SPEAK any other language! Our European friends are mostly tri-lingual (at least!). When the hicks from Prescott travel to France they expect everyone will speak English! - and are no doubt insulted to discover that not all do!]

Update: On the bright side!
1. Prescott. AZ may well be under-represented in the count. Too bad.
2. If this is what the Grand Old Party thinks is its future, I'm all for it! Hispanics are a large voting bloc - and getting larger. What's more, they're getting more engaged with politics! Tho' I suppose there'll be some self-hating Hispanic Republicans, overall I'd say the GOP's hatred of Spanish-speakers will alienate most of 'em! Welcome to the Democratic Party, y'all!

Finally: just for the irony - Here's one of the complaints lodged against George III in the Declaration of Independence:
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.