Friday, February 27, 2009

He didn't know watermelons were a stereotype

One of the most annoying things about the faux apologies that go around these days is that the apologizer implicit assumes the rest of us a credulous fools who are as stupid as they are.

The latest is Los Alomitos, Calif., Mayor Dean Grose. He said he was unaware of the racial stereotype that black people like watermelons.


Evidently he assumes that we're stupid enough to believe that it's just a coincidence he chose watermelons to be on the White House lawn in his email "joke."

Here's a photo of the mayor from his Web site. I don;t know how old he is, but he's obviously not a young kid and it's simply unbelievable that a grown man his age didn't know about the stereotype.
In the Army we used to call this sort of behavior pissing-on-me-and-telling-me-it-is-raining.
It's bad enough he did it, but please don't insult our intelligence by pretending it was some innocent mistake.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mocked by a Nobel prize winner

Krugman notes that conservatives used to agree with liberals that there are some things that governments properly do, such as defense and provide for public safety.

Hence his surprise that Jindal criticized funding for monitoring volcanos that could erupt, obviously a public good that no private interest could undertake.

Basically, the political philosophy of the GOP right now seems to consist of snickering at stuff that they think sounds funny. The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

GOP too stupid to earn votes of the college-educated

Scott Horton's long post has plenty of example, but this one stands out for the profound ignorance it reveals:

And of course there was the recent historical excursion of Ohio Republican Congressman Steve Austria:
“When (President Franklin) Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression,” Austria said. “He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That’s just history.”
Except of course that Roosevelt became president in 1933 and the Great Depression started in 1929 in the presidency of Republican Herbert Hoover.

He goes on: How does this play to the voters? In an intriguing article in the current National Journal, Ronald Brownstein and David Wasserman take a look at how Republicans are doing with educated voters. Their view: Democrats are scoring “dramatic gains” among better educated voters, namely those who hold college diplomas. They bore into a number of sample counties, like Oakland County, Michigan, which was once reliably Republican—and where well-educated voters now feel the G.O.P. is just too stupid to earn their vote.

The whole post is here:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sullivan explains again the stakes in the torture debate

Rather bemusedly he wonders how conservatives could support such a surrender of absolute power to the state.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Talking sense

Beltway blatherings about bipartisanship get dissed here by Thomas Frank of the Wall Street Journal:

The way I remember it, the No. 1 issue in the election was the collapsing economy, followed at some distance by the Iraq war. On both of these questions, Mr. Obama prevailed because he was the candidate who promised most convincingly to reverse Republican policies -- not because he planned to meet the GOP halfway across the charred ruins of American prosperity.
The reason the Washington media think bipartisanship is the top issue, even when economic disaster stomps Americans like Godzilla, is because of the way it reflects their own professional standards. They are themselves technically impartial, and so it's only natural for them to wish for a hazy millennium in which everyone else in Washington is impartial, too.
It is supposed to be high-minded stuff, this longing for a bipartisan golden age. But in some ways it is the most cynical stance possible. It takes no idea seriously, since everything is up for compromise. The role of the political parties is merely to cancel each other out, so that only the glorious centrists remain, triangulating majestically between obnoxious extremes.
What's more, bipartisanship's boosters can't even discern friend from foe. The Republican caucus in the House of Representatives, which seems to be growing even more conservative as its numbers shrink, has clearly resumed the strategies of the early Gingrich era -- obstruction, bomb-throwing and more obstruction. But to the mainstream media, the angry Republican pols seem to mainly discredit Mr. Obama, who failed to win over the GOP. Which will, of course, encourage the bitter-enders to obstruct even more.
Never has Beltway orthodoxy looked as clueless and futile as it does today. Confronted with the greatest failure of economic ideas in decades, it demands that the president make common cause with people for whom those failed ideas are still sacred. To think we can solve our problems in this way is like hoping to chart a route to the moon by water.

Science integrity is a National Defense issue

I don't know how to put it more bluntly than this, but the creationist/global warming-denialist knuckleheads making up the core of the GOP these days and passing crap like the so-called "Louisiana Science Education Law" (sic) are a present danger to the United States.,2706,Analysis-of-SB-733-LA-Science-Education-Act,Lousiana-Coalition-for-Science

This warplane was NOT designed by people who disregard science, folks:

Maj. Micah Fesler, a 433rd Weapons Squadron pilot, flies an F-22A “Raptor” from a Lockheed-Martin factory in Georgia to Nellis AFB, Jan. 9. This Raptor is the first to be delivered to the 57th Wing from Lockheed-Martin, and is scheduled to be used by the U.S. Air Force Weapons School for training of PhD-level instructor pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Phil Landram)

This is the kind of weapon designed by people who have no use for science and believe the world was created 6,000 years ago:

An artillery shell rigged as an IED in Iraq. Photo taken from site

Fire Yoo

Prof. Brad DeLong makes the case well:

An excellent artilce on the F-22, the last US 'Ace' and air supremacy by Mark Bowden

Well worth the read if you have the time.

Quote worth noting, emphasis mine: The Air Force fears that the dominance of U.S. airpower has been so complete for so long that it is taken for granted. The ability of the United States to own the skies over any battlefield has transformed the way we fight. The last American soldier killed on the ground by an enemy air attack died in Korea, on April 15, 1953.
Russia, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Pakistan, and others are now flying fourth-generation fighters with avionics that match or exceed the F‑15’s. Ideally, from the standpoint of the U.S. Air Force, the F‑22 would gradually replace most of the F‑15s in the U.S. fleet over the next 15 years, and two or three more generations of American pilots, soldiers, and marines would fight without worrying about attacks from the sky. But that isn’t going to happen.

OVER VIRGINIA -- Lt. Col. James Hecker flies over Fort Monroe before delivering the first operational F-22A Raptor to its permanent home at Langley Air Force Base, Va., on May 12. This is the first of 26 Raptors to be delivered to the 27th Fighter Squadron. The Raptor program is managed by the F-22A System Program Office at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Colonel Hecker is the squadron's commander. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why people don't trust the Left on Defense

Look, there's no denying that there's a lot of room for criticizing American foreign policy, especially its military interventions over the years. I think it's even reasonable to say that the majority of them have been ill-conceived. But it;s not accurate to say that ALL of them are and if there's a post World War II war that is justified it's the war in Afghanistan. People opposing THAT war frankly sound daft to most people. Like the Congresswoman who voted against entering World War II (the sole vote -- she also voted against WWI, but wasn't alone that time), facing such people you have to say under what conditions would you support fighting? Waiting until the Nazis/Japanese/Taliban/Al-Qaeda are attacking your neighborhood a little too late, no?

Nice discussion here:

Barack Obama said from Day One he wasn't against all wars, just dumb ones. In that sentiment he probably captured the common sensical approach of most Americans. When you are attacked there's really no other reasonable response. The only people who don't fight back are those too weak to do so, and there's not a very happy record for weak people in our human history. Weak political units can only survive if protected by some powerful entity (power being an extremely relative term in this context -- but relative power is the only relevant context for military conflicts).

Let's be very, very, clear on this. While Obama's opposition to the war in Iraq (the dumb war) was important to his winning the presidency, his support for waging justified war in Afghanistan was vital for winning the presidency. The voters would never have voted for a pacifist for commander in chief.

Completely off the deep end

Pat Robertson was quoted criticizing Rush Limbaugh's "I hope he fails" comment on a "conservative" Web site. Surprising enough, but even more surprising are the comments that follow.

My Lord, they are full of hatred, bile and nasty criticism of Robertson!

There's every indication that the "right" in this country is collectively melting down and losing their marbles.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Climate "truthers"

From The Reality-based Community:

Most of the glibertarians, cultural conservatives, and gadget-heads who constitute the useful idiots around the core oil-and-coal-company global-warming denialist constituency would be horrified to imagine themselves playing the role of 9/11 Truthers, or RFK Jr. pumping the thimerosal/autism link, or Thabo Mbeki claiming that AIDS isn't caused by HIV. But all four "movements" are alike in depending on compete mistrust of actual scientific experts. (Holocaust denialism is similar in that respect, but different in being almost entirely insincere: the Holocaust deniers seem to be saying, "Hitler didn't kill all those Jews, and I'm glad he did.")

They ought to be worried

Newsweek is reporting that a Justice Dept. report will say that the Yoo and company torture memos were "incompetent."

They ought to be worried.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Stunning case of judicial corruption

Two judges pleaded guilty to a kickback scheme that sent hundreds, maybe thousands of kids to privately run juvenile lockups for minor offenses.

Details here:

I'm very wary of "privatizing" core governmental functions, including incarceration. I don't think the state should delegate police, fire, prison or military functions to private entities. No one should be in a position to profit from exercising power over other people.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

State Secrets II

Greenwald is critical of Obama and skeptical, Sullivan skeptical and not so critical. I tend to agree more with Sullivan overall and I'm not alarmed, yet, at Obama's early stance on State Secrets.

That said, I think Greenwald is right that the enduring solution is legislation that fixes this abomination created by the executive branch and the courts.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Police can do no wrong


Basic facts: Four white plainsclothes cops beat up a 12-year-old black girl in her own yard because they thought she was a hooker. Girl is being tried for assaulting a police officer.

It's this kind of thing that results in a large swath of American society (namely blacks, Hispanics and any whites who know any) having no faith in the police.

No matter how outrageous the police conduct is, the system protects them and their abuse of power. Gun down a black guy with dozens of bullets? No problem. Beat up a child. No problem.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

State Secrets

Anti-torture advocates are up in arms over the Obama administration's refusal to back off from a Bush-era assertion of State Secrets privilege.

Sullivan counsels caution:

Greenwald is harshly critical:

I'm willing to give the few-week-old Obama team to figure out its stance on the various cesspools left to them by the Bush administration. But I think it's useful to make a stink about it and not give Obama a pass.

The State Secrets privilege is problematic. It was born in a lie and seems to have protected far more crimes and embarrassments in its tenure than genuine secrets (which don't seem to need court protection very often).

Wikipedia has a good summary of the facts:

The privilege was first officially recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1953 decision, United States v. Reynolds (345 U.S. 1). A military airplane, a B-29 Superfortress bomber, crashed. The widows of three civilian crew members sought accident reports on the crash but were told that to release such details would threaten national security by revealing the bomber's top-secret mission. The court held that only the government can claim or waive the privilege, and it “is not to be lightly invoked”, and last there “must be a formal claim of privilege, lodged by the head of the department which has control over the matter, after actual personal consideration by that officer.” The court stressed that the decision to withhold evidence is to be made by the presiding judge and not the executive.
As a footnote to the founding case establishing the privilege, in 2000, the accident reports were declassified and released, and it was found that the argument was fraudulent, and there was no secret information. The reports did, however, contain information about the poor state of condition of the aircraft itself, which would have been very compromising to the Air Force's case. Many commentators have alleged government misuse of secrecy in the landmark case.
Despite this ruling, a case might still be subject to judicial review since the privilege was intended to prevent certain, but not all, information to be precluded.

Obama press conference

Seemed to go rather well, as far as I could see.

Obama's unflappable and takes the long view, which makes him really hard for the Bush I-Clinton-Bush II trained press and punditry to figure out.

The cable news cycle and political press tend to be like Wall Street day traders, excessively focused on short-term considerations. Wise investors, we're always told, look out for the long term and I think Obama is showing that rings just as true for politicians.

Tactical politics may be entertaining, but the vast majority of people, of voters, only check in on an occasional basis and they miss out on most of the tactical maneuvering. They're interested in the long haul. We saw that with the public reaction to the Iraq war. While the pundits were still debating, the public rendered its judgment.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rush Limbaugh is a dumb fuck

He evidently said this:

Obama’s plan would buy votes for the Democrat Party, in the same way FDR’s New Deal established majority power for 50 years of Democrat rule.....

Let me emphasize the key part: Obama’s plan would buy votes for the Democrat Party, in the same way FDR’s New Deal established majority power for 50 years of Democrat rule.....

How stupid can you be to utter this and not understand the implications of what you are saying?

Yes, Rush, if the GOP doesn't wise up it could be another 50 years before they recover ... if ever. Or maybe they'll be the Whigs and get replaced by an genuine conservative party instead of the right-wing knucklehead semi-fascist anti-science racist kooks completely in the pocket of corporate interests that passes for a Conservative party now.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

It's not going to be enough

Krugman on the plan:

The short answer: to appease the centrists, a plan that was already too small and too focused on ineffective tax cuts has been made significantly smaller, and even more focused on tax cuts.

Of course, read the whole thing:

In contrast to Krugman, I think Obama will be able to go back. As a matter of fact, I think he was always going to need to go back. For one thing, the problem is way too big for one measure to address it all. For another, adjustments will need to be made. And third, I think the timescale we're working with will be so long that multiple dips will be needed. The 2001 recession took almost four years to work through. This one is only a year in, and seems to be much more serious, so the only real question is whether we are on our way out of it by the end of Obama's first term.

I don't think Obama is necessarily in trouble even then, so long as he is seen as having been trying to do something and if he manages to have even some local successes. FDR won re-election even though he hadn't seen a recovery (or even made it worse, if you believe GOP 'history'). Obama may very well win again even if the economy is still in the crapper because the Republicans (like their 1930-era forbears) can only win if they have some new ideas to offer!

If there's anything the Republicans have shown a dearth of, it's new ideas.

Until they think of some, the country will stick with Democrats, regardless of their success or the lack thereof.

Not very reassuring, Bob

Robert Reich speculates about the next shoe about to drop:

By the way, get ready for some really horrifying bailout numbers. Goldman Sachs -- not one to exaggerate the overall problem -- recently estimated the total value of troubled U.S. bank assets to be $5.7 trillion. Hence, do not be surprised if the next stage of the bank bailout dwarfs the cost of the stimulus package. My guess is that's reason the administration wants the stimulus bill approved before it fully unveils the price tag of the next bank bailout.

Gut feeling -- it won't be enough

I think the stimulus package, regardless of what exact form it takes, is not a bad thing. It's at the least, politically necessary that the government appear to be doing something.

But at the end of the day I don't think it will prove to be enough.

I don't have any deep economic data to back this up. I don't have a crystal ball or a degree in economics, although I don't think there's any evidence either one would be useful in making a forecast.

No, I base my opinion on the simple observation that at every single stage of this unfolding crisis the "experts" have severely underestimated the nature, scope and duration of the problem.

Looking at Congress members, particularly the GOP, yammering about tax cuts and spending (which they suddenly hate), shows that they really don't get it.

The speed and scale of the crisis has stunned the general public, so the coming reaction has been delayed, but it will come. Dick Cheney, of all people, warned the Republicans about a "Hoover moment." They aren't listening.

The class warfare that the wealthy have waged for the last couple of decades (note the disconnect between earning power and productivity) is very dangerous. Historical precedent suggest that it could end rather badly for the let-them-eat-cake crowd. While U.S. political structures are probably robust enough to prevent the worst kinds of reaction, that's not true elsewhere and I'd be especially watchful about how things play out in more volatile places such as China, India, Brazil, Russia and, closer to home, Mexico.


Blue is 1990, red is 2001 and green is the current downturn.

Friday, February 6, 2009

GOP lifts off from any connection with reality or principles

There are a few things evident from the last few weeks:

Republicans are opposed to deficit spending By Democrats -- but not Republicans.

Republicans are happy to setting strict rules on how much taxpayer money you can receive if you are on welfare or a union auto worker -- but not if you're a Wall Street CEO.

Republicans are happy to cut taxes -- so long as most of the tax cut benefits the wealthy.

Republicans are against class warfare so long as it's waged against the rich -- but it's OK against the middle class, working class and poor.

Republicans are all for bipartisan compromise -- so long as they get what they want but don't have to actually vote for it.

Democrats are invertebrates.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Obama starts to lay down markers

Frankly, I think bipartisanship support for the Stimulus package is probably a waste of time in the current situation.

I don't see any reason to think the GOP is going to do anything constructive until they realize that they have something to lose. Obama needs to make it clear he's going to pass something they like less if they aren't willing to compromise.

Gergen is talking on CNN is talking about "driving the GOP away" but if they're NOT going to vote for it anyway then there's little reason to placate them. IF the GOP wants to get stuff out of the bill, some of them need to be willing to provide a few votes at the end of the day.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Doing the right thing is good strategy

Scott Horton lays out the details behind our eviction notice from our Kyrgyz airbase:

But this is far from the whole story. In fact at the time the Kyrgyz agreed to let the United States open the base, the two nations enjoyed excellent relations and the Kyrgyz public was arguably the warmest and most pro-American of the region. That changed rather dramatically, and the change did not result as much from Russian propaganda as it did from American ineptitude and misconduct. For a decade, American advisors and aid contractors had lectured the Kyrgyz on the need for budgetary transparency and anti-corruption measures. Yet when the United States Government first arrived in country with a serious contract to negotiate—for the creation of the air base—it wound up concluding an under-the-table deal with the president’s family under which most of the financial benefit from the airbase wound up parked in offshore bank accounts. That deal was cut by Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon with Rumsfeld’s direct involvement. Had a private U.S. company cut such a deal it would probably have found its officers on the other end of an indictment under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act brought by a U.S. attorney. However, following an FBI investigation that confirmed these depressing facts, the Bush Administration concluded that in this as in other areas, it would hold itself immune from the criminal law standards it applied to ordinary citizens.
But the longer-term problem was with the Kyrgyz. A prominent Bishkek lawyer discussing the dealings over the base with me pronounced a judgment that I heard consistently: “We finally got an up-close look at your government. You’re a bunch of hypocrites, no less corrupt than our own government–just a lot bigger.”
Off to a bad start, things quickly got even worse. In 2006 U.S. serviceman
Zachary Hatfield shot and killed Aleksandr Ivanov, a truck driver employed by the base’s aviation fuel contractor. The incident was catastrophically mishandled by U.S. military and diplomatic personnel. U.S. spokesmen issued a statement claiming that Ivanov had physically threatened Hatfield with a knife, and that Hatfield shot him in self defense. While making vague and unconvincing statements of “regret” about the “incident,” the soldier was whisked away back to the United States. That was flight to avoid prosecution and to block a homicide investigation–such flight, of course, a serious crime unto itself. While offering vague assurances that the soldier would be dealt with under the military justice system (something which, in the eyes of the Kyrgyz, never occurred), American officials did little to atone for the crime. Kyrgyz newspapers made mincemeat of the proffered excuse, reporting that Hatfield’s claims that Ivanov was armed with a knife were untrue and establishing that Ivanov had made numerous prior deliveries to the base, and was known to the soldier. The Kyrgyz media fanned suspicions that the homicide was an unprovoked act, accounts that American officials only fueled by issuing a false report and failing to convincingly show either contrition or an intention to bring the soldier to justice. The U.S. government offered a $2,000 damages payment to Ivanov’s family on account of his death, an act widely viewed in Kyrgyzstan as a calculated insult. Although the U.S. embassy later clarified that this was an interim payment only and that a larger sum would be paid later, the damage was done.
The American management of the incident was totally bungled, leaving the local population with the idea that the Americans on the base were arrogant and not accountable to the law. The public’s view of Americans underwent a radical and sudden transformation. A nation once seen as generous benefactors now were seen as arrogant bullies.
“This base is doomed,” I was told repeatedly. It is only a matter of time before public opinion forces its closing. The question at this point is whether America will learn any lessons from this experience.

Lest anyone think this is an isolated occurrence, remember the problems we have had in Korea and in Okinawa recently over similar criminal acts involving local people. No one expects that you can avoid all criminal activity by soldiers, but how it is handled is critical. It's not just a question of strictly following the rules, it's a question of diplomacy. Soldiers shouldn't be handed over to the mob to appease the locals, of course, but they equally need to face the music just as they would back home.

Unfortunately, or Kyrgyz critic was right, the U.S. under Bush was just as corrupt as the local government, and for much the same sorts of reasons. Obama may correct this, but much of the damage has already been done. It only takes one "Aw shit" to cancel a lot of "attaboys" and Bush's "aw shits" erased the hard-earned attaboys of 200 years.

Cheney snarls that the next terror attack will be Obama's fault

Because he won't crush little boy testicles in order to prevent it, the wimp.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Daschle pulls out

I don't have a dog in this race, except in the general sense of hoping that the Obama administration will be reasonable successful in dealing with our big problems.

So I don't care that Daschle is out, but I do worry that the bar is getting awful high and we may be losing out on a lot of human talent that simply can't stand up to the scrutiny we demand and never even applies to join the government.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Make me

That appears to be the Bush/Rove position on testimony to Congress

Can't say I like the looks of this

Some unsettling charts from the blog Seeking Alpha

Bank borrowing from the Fed to Dec 2007:

And in 2008!!!!

(Note that this is the same chart, but the scale has changed -- check out the left side of the chart)

Holder confirmed

Despite the fact he refused to promise NOT to prosecute Bush-are crimes.

Iraq elections

While turnout was not as high as hoped, it was very peaceful, so overall I think we can be pleased with how the weekend's elections in Iraq went.

I think there's less than an even chance that the habit will stick, but whether or not it will stick is in the hands of the Iraqis, themselves now, as it should be.

Now it's time for us to redeploy, remove the irritant of a foreign occupation and redeploy troops to the more important fight in Afghanistan, and start rebuilding the Army.

Slate - Encyclopedia Baracktannica