Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Guess where I've been:

New Train of Thought Field Trip (not to Free Republic again, I promise) after someone figures it out.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Great Moments of 2008: Cultural Exchange

Yao Ming, on Ron Artest being traded to the Rockets:
"There's worry. Obviously, yes. We will think about it, of course. Hopefully, he's not fighting anymore and going after a guy in the stands. I haven't talked to Ron yet, so it's hard to say."
That's pretty damn stupid. Ron Artest, your response?
Yao has played with a lot of black players, but I don’t think he’s ever played with a black player that really represents his culture as much as I represent my culture.
Sweet Jesus, that's even worse. But you get an even better story when Ron goes back on his meds the next day:
Artest was admittedly stung by the remarks when he heard them Wednesday, specifically the comment about "going after a guy in the stands," saying that Yao's words "hit me in the soft spot when I read that."

By Wednesday night, though, Artest was already downplaying the controversy in an appearance on a Sacramento radio show he frequents -- KHTK-AM's Carmichael Dave show -- and describing himself as "a Yao Ming soldier." Artest also tossed out the possibility of traveling to China to show support for Yao during the Olympics.
And then during the first month of the season, Ron Artest keeping his word and acting as a Yao Ming Soldier:

Ron Artest and Yao Ming, 2008's great moment in cultural exchange!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Holidays, Part II: Photographs!

For my second installment, here are the 12 photos I distributed randomly among family on Christmas day:

Happy Holidays, Part I: "Merry Christmas"

Happy Holidays, everyone! Just wanted to share the glorious new webcomic Red Phone by Marc Leahy, premised on the growing relationship between George W. Bush and Barack Obama:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Just like last year, my present to you is the Garfield Christmas special. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Great Moments of 2008

It's nice to put my disappointment at some of the transition picks into perspective with the fear of a Hillary Clinton presidency that we all had at this point last year. What a year for Mark Penn. Last year he was a well respected political strategist whose expertise was unquestioned, and now he can be immediately discredited as the person who completely tanked Hillary Clinton's chances of being president. It's also nice that everyone now seems to hate him as much as I always did, and I am kind of glad that we still are the top hit when you google "Mark Penn Asshole".

Merry Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

When you're Sidney Crosby...

Repeatedly punching someone in the balls while they're fighting someone else doesn't merit a suspension.

And for the record, neither does this:

Both non-fines and non- suspensions fit's nicely with the NHL's "whiny douchebag" portion of the rulebook. The "allow whiny douchebags get away cheapshots" line was added to the previous "give game misconducts and fines for completely legal hits on whiny douchebags" section.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Good news and bad news for Labor

Good News: Hilda Solis as secretary of Labor. TomP:

A labor official says Rep. Hilda Solis of California will be nominated as labor secretary by President-elect Barack Obama.


She looks like a good choice.

Time and time again, Hilda has stated that the strength of the national economy is directly linked to the ability of America's workers to organize. For this reason, Hilda proudly cast a "yay" vote in favor of H.R. 800, the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that restores the right of workers to form a union.

On Trade:

Supporting Fair Trade, Not Free Trade

Hilda only supports responsible U.S. trade policies that are fair to working families within the U.S. and abroad. She avidly opposes all trade agreements that do not include strong labor, environmental, and human rights protections.

Her track record in the House of Representatives reflects her strong support for Fair Trade policies. She was a leading opponent of the United States - Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) because it would contribute to the rapid job loss within the United States and further the decline of working and environmental conditions in the Amercas. In addition, she staunchly opposes granting President Bush "fast track" trade negotiating authority, an authority that would effectively silence Fair Trade proponents in Congress.

Hilda Solis for Congress

Voted NO on promoting free trade with Peru. (Nov 2007)

Voted YES on assisting workers who lose jobs due to globalization. (Oct 2007)

Voted NO on implementing CAFTA, Central America Free Trade. (Jul 2005)

Voted NO on implementing US-Australia Free Trade Agreement. (Jul 2004)

Voted NO on implementing US-Singapore free trade agreement. (Jul 2003)

Voted NO on implementing free trade agreement with Chile. (Jul 2003)

No MFN for China; condition trade on human rights. (Nov 1999)

With a record like that on trade, she would have made a great Trade Representative. Too bad the guy he picked kind of sucks:
Many trade specialists figure that Mr. Obama, who views himself as an internationalist, will find a way to back trade liberalization.

By naming Mr. Kirk, Mr. Obama nodded to the free-trade wing of the Democratic Party, which is small but has important ties to business. As Dallas's first African-American mayor, between 1995 and 2001, Mr. Kirk promoted Dallas on trips overseas and extolled the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In 2001, for instance, he championed plans to build a "Nafta Freeway" between the U.S. and Mexico to speed cross-border shipments. At the time, he called such a road a "true river of trade between our communities."

That's not good, but mostly expected based on Obama's previous positions on trade.

Solis will be good for rebuilding the department that Bush destroyed, which will be as difficult of a job as anyone will get on the 21st. I wish her appointment had come sooner, and I'd be lying if I didn't think it was representative of where labor sits on his list of priorities. Even that great friend of organized labor Bill Clinton included the Sec. of Labor as a part of his economic team (although in fairness, labor was soon dropped out of that group, and of relevance all together with the push for NAFTA).

So all in all, mixed feelings. A president who is willing to go hard whipping votes for the wall street bailout, but is largely absent as the auto loan deals collapse is probably not going to go to the mat votes for the Employee Free Choice Act. If I had to make a guess now, I'd say he lets them bring it up, lets it fail, and claims he did all he could but they didn't have the votes. I'm not saying his support of the bill is disingenuous, but it doesn't seem anywhere near the top of his priorities, so the idea that he'd use political capital on it is highly unlikely.

But then again, he may have talked a good game for a few weeks during the primary, but he has always been right of center on trade, and while he talked about passing the employee free choice act, it's not like he made concrete statements of when he'd pass it (like Clinton, Edwards and some others did during the primary). On those grounds it's hard to get too upset when someone doesn't deliver things they never promised to do. (Trade might be the exception here, but he backtracked so quickly I don't think people really believed it)

As always, prove me wrong, Barack. I just keep getting the sense that Labor not prepared for the shaft they are about to receive.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Onion Reports Real News As Though It Were Not

In an article entitled Area Woman Becomes Republican Vice Presidential Candidate, The Onion raises the most substantive challenge to the reality/satire distinction since Henry Kissinger won the 1973 peace prize in real life:

WASILLA, AK—In a dramatic capper to a year that already saw her son's hockey team go to district finals, a successful remodeling of the den, and her scoring of front-row tickets to a traveling production of the Broadway smash hit Les Misérables, Wasilla resident and former beauty queen Sarah Palin, 44, was chosen as the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee. The mother of five, who enjoys attending church potluck dinners with husband Todd, an unemployed commercial fisherman, reportedly "jumped at the chance" to become the second most powerful person in the country. "Oh, what a nice thing for [GOP running mate] Sarah [Palin]," said Debbie McInnes, who met Palin two years ago at an advanced step aerobics class at the Wasilla YMCA. "She's such a good person, and so pretty! I think she'd be super-enthusiastic to take on that job." Although Palin ultimately never got the chance to come within a heartbeat of ruling a global superpower and its 300 million citizens, she said she was happy enough to have beaten out the other potential Republican VP candidates, including a Nebraska receptionist and a congresswoman from Ohio with more than 20 years of political experience.

Oh Sarah, how you have felled the mighty.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

George Tenet, as played by Mel Gibson?

Sounds like it:
I just picked up Patrick Tyler's forthcoming book, A World of Trouble, about America's tortured relations with the Middle East, and the prologue contains this whopper of a scene, one that is quite devastating, if true: An enraged George Tenet, drunk on scotch, flailing about Prince Bandar's Riyadh pool, screaming about the Bush Administration officials who were just then trying to pin the Iraq WMD fiasco on him:
A servant appeared with a bottle. Tenet knocked back some of the scotch. Then some more. They watched with concern. He drained half the bottle in a few minutes.

"They're setting me up. The bastards are setting me up," Tenet said, but "I am not going to take the hit."
And then this:

"According to one witness, he mocked the neoconservatives in the Bush administration and their alignment with the rlght wing of Israel's political establishment, referring to them with exaxperation as, "the Jews."

Although I haven't read the book and don't know the source, I'm going to say it's a slam dunk case that George Tenet is an anti-Semite.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Joe Buck Disgusting Act of the Week: Juan Williams

The Joe Buck Disgusting Act of the Week is awarded to whatever event/person best deserves Joe Buck's unnecessary and over the top outrage after a 2004 Randy Moss' touchdown celebration.

I guess he was hanging out with Rahm and Bill over the weekend. From his appearance on The Reilly's Factor(where else), discussing Muntader "the Shoe Throwing Hero" al-Zaidi and the Iraqi people:

WILLIAMS: But on a serious level, how many American lives have been sacrificed to the cause of liberating Iraq? How much money has been spent while they’re not spending their own profits from their oil? American money. So I just think it’s absolutely the act of an ingrate for them to behave in this way. Just unbelievable to me.
Hey Juan, "on a serious level", here's why the Iraqis might not be so grateful:
– More than four million Iraqis forced to flee either to another part of Iraq or abroad.
– Four million Iraqis regularly cannot buy enough food.
– 70 percent are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50 percent in 2003.
– 28 percent of children are malnourished, compared to 19 percent before the 2003 invasion.
– 92 percent of Iraqi children suffer learning problems, mostly due to the climate of fear.
Add that to estimates of several hundred thousand civilian deaths, and it really makes you wonder why "they behave this way".

Instead of some profanity laced rant about how far Juan Willams' head is shoved up his own ass, I'll leave it to Matt Yglesias who has as smart of a response as I've ever seen to this type of idiocy:

Americans love and respect the men and women who volunteer for military service under our flag. And those of us who’ve had friends serve in Iraq, and especially those who’ve personally served in Iraq and watched friends be killed or maimed, think only the best of the people who’ve been doing dangerous jobs in difficult circumstances. But I think it’s crucially important not to allow these positive sentiments about soldiers and marines to deteriorate into sentimentality about the mission they were undertaking in Iraq. The Iraqi people didn’t ask to be liberarted conquered and occupied by a foreign power that destroyed their country and then immediately set about meddling in Iraqi politics and until just a month or so ago was struggling mightily for the right to permanently station military forces on Iraqi soil contrary to the will of the Iraqi public. Not only did Iraqis not ask for such services, but nobody anywhere has ever asked for them.

The harsh reality is that this was not a noble undertaking done for good reasons. It was a criminal enterprise launched by madmen cheered on by a chorus of fools and cowards. And it’s seen as such by virtually everyone all around the world — including but by no means limited to the Arab world. But it’s impolitic to point this out in the United States, and it’s clear that even a president-elect who had the wisdom not to be suckered in by the War Fever of 2002 has no intention of really acting to marginalize the bad actors. Which, I think, makes sense for his political objectives. But if Americans want to play a constructive role in world affairs, it’s vitally important for us to get in touch with the reality of what the past eight years of US foreign policy have been and how they’re seen and understood by people who aren’t stirred by the shibboleths of American patriotism.

Some reality would be nice, but if that's what you were looking for, then you probably wouldn't have been watching the O'Reilly Factor.

Oh Hell Yes: Dr. Steven Chu

JJ already put up a post about this, and I'll still be in the thicket of work for another couple of weeks, but I want to take a second to note how excited I am about Dr. Chu's nomination (which has now been made official).

The Department of Energy is not not some backwater outpost. With a budget of around $24 billion, they are one of the largest funders of science in the entire world. The National Science Foundation, for a quick contrast, only gets $6 billion annually. NASA gets $16B. The fact that the energy secretary has never been a qualified scientist is just absurd, and I expect the change in tone and level of discourse on these issues to be one of the biggest improvements on previous administrations.

Watching some of his speeches, it's clear that Chu is not messing around. He actually intends to introduce new solutions to these growing problems, both by advancing technology in obvious but unexplored ways and by unapologetically altering the way we live our overly wasteful lives. We are actually going to have a secretary of energy with scientific and environmental priorities! This is huge.

Train of Thought Field Trip: Shoe Derangement Syndrome

Mocking freepers might be easier than shooting fish in a barrel, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. After spending several hours watching a .gif file of the incident I started to wonder who could possibly see it and keep a straight face. Personally, my favorite part is that Bush somehow seems more surprised by the second shoe than the first. “Heh, close call there, now I’m gonna teach that Shoesy a lesson… WHAT?! A SECOND SHOE?! WHERE DID HE GET THAT???

If anyone can be counted on to take an uproariously funny event and suck all the fun out (replacing it with a healthy dose of hatred and xenophobia), it’s Free Republic. At some point in the last month they’ve recovered from the shock of finding out that McCain wasn’t actually ahead of Obama all along- apparently every poll in the business got it right! I’ve taken the extreme displeasure of trawling through three shoe-themed threads, and passed the racism and stupidity directly on to you! Here we goooooooooooooo:

Determined to create a perpetual motion machine using spinning Python corpses, NaughtiusMaximus connects the dots and comes to a horrifying conclusion:

“Well, the United States just elected an appeaser and some asshat journalist just threw shoes at the President of the United States with apparent impunity. The next act of major league terror is coming soon to a city near you. The government will not be able to protect you. Take steps to protect yourself and your family.”

Signs of the end times, no doubt about it. Jimfree has harbored a grudge against Damascus, MD, for quite some time:

“My oldest worn out filthy shoes are aimed at Damascus, Riyahd and the usual places.”

You tell ‘em, buddy. Doc1019 agrees with Jimfree:

“The back end of my toilet faces Mecca … there, take that Mohammed.”

You think that’s offensive? I’ve invented a toilet that rotates to face Jerusalem, the Ganges River, and the Western Wall. Who will dare to throw shoes at me now? Next, Paige points out something the media forgot to mention:

“HEY brain dead MEDIA MORONS, they are MUSLIMS, the guy who threw the shoe is a MUSLIM, stop with the ARAB BS. MOST of all, they hate our AMERICAN Guts. The despicable Muslim putz DISRESPECTED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS DEPLORABLE.”


“Pretty amazing reflexes. I’d have W on my dodgeball team any day.”

Godawful president, but… man, he sure can dodge a shoe! If you hear anything it’s just the sound of the bar being lowered so far that it emerges on the other side of the world. Meanwhile Jwalsh07 doesn’t seem to understand the concept of poetry, or justice, or really anything for that matter:

“Bush should have shot him. Poetic justice and all.”

Robert A. Cook wraps things up with an awe-inspiring post that brings in a few of our favorites:

“So, if we hold up our shoes to Obama’s face during his next speech, he could not be insulted, could he?
After all, to look at a man’s shoe is only an insult to a Muslim. Right?”

But Robert A. Cook would have to be a Muslim to use that as an insult, but if that were the case he couldn’t possibly be an racist anti-Muslim internet user, but if he isn’t then his post doesn’t make any sense, but then (head explodes)

I promise I’ll find a fresh supply of morons for our next field trip, but for now let’s all just take a moment to appreciate the relentless font of stupidity that is The Free Republic.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tennessee making a strong case to be stripped of its statehood

I've never been a fan of Tennessee. Any state that's brought us Harold Ford Jr. and the UT football team is already enough to get on my bad side, but recently they've taken things to another level.

First off, Harold Ford was made a full time commentator on all of the MSNBC shows during the election season, and this has continued into the present. Now I know this isn't directly the state of Tennessee's fault, but since they spawned him, I have to hold them partially responsible. Unless he is answering the question "Do you think that your support of the Iraq war and terrible economic policy had something to do with the fact that you were the only democratic senator in a competitive race to lose during the "sea-change" election of 2006?", Harold Ford should not be on television. Period.

Second, another recent sign that Tennessee was up to no good came when the New York times released this election map.

Now maybe Tennessee and Arkansas just LOVED John Kerry and really hated Obama's tax plan, but something tells me that wasn't the reason they went so strongly against the national trend.

Then today, I read this: (via Ta-Nehisi)
So I was driving through western Tennessee on my way home for the holidays and I saw a sign for the "Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park" along the interstate.
Hmm... Nathan Bedford Forrest. Where have I heard that name before. Oh right. First Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Or as the Tennessee Environmental Department calls him, "the intrepid Confederate cavalry leader."
Nice. Naming a state park after a Klan leader. And not just any Klan leader, this guy is a former confederate general who ordered the massacre of 200 black union prisoners of war. It was such a horrifying event that even a confederate soldier described it this way in a letter:
"The slaughter was awful. Words cannot describe the scene. The poor, deluded, negroes would run up to our men, fall upon their knees, and with uplifted hands scream for mercy but they were ordered to their feet and then shot down. I, with several others, tried to stop the butchery, and at one time had partially succeeded, but General Forrest ordered them shot down like dogs and the carnage continued. Finally our men became sick of blood and the firing ceased."
Hearing a story like that really makes you want to name a state park after the guy, doesn't it?

I always have a token state that I demand should have it's voting rights stripped until DC gets theirs, and it's about time for a change. I used to pick Utah, because few people have attempted to do more damage to this city than Orin Hatch, but recent events have pushed it over the edge towards Tennessee.

When you stop naming your state parks after Klan leaders, stop letting Harold Ford protégés run unbelievably offensive ads, and stop getting blown out by shitty PAC 10 teams in the first game of the season... then we'll talk.

Case of the Mondays: Fun with ukuleles

I cannot even begin to describe to you how depressed I am over the Skins' hapless 20-13 loss yesterday to a 1-11-1 team, a loss which effectively ended our playoff hopes. I am even sadder still that my eerie premonitions of a collapse turned out to be true (that was supposed to be a reverse jinx, dammit! Stupid accute sports knowledge!!!)

So, in order to juxtapose my audible weeping at my desk at work, here's a guy playing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on the ukulele. Someone please pass me a kleenex.

George W. Bush Murdered in Surprise Shoe Assault

This morning the world was shocked by the news that President Bush had been attacked by a shoe-wielding Iraqi during a press conference. Although major news networks and the government quickly moved to stifle the truth, it has now been uncovered: contrary to their claims that Bush is 'perfectly fine' and that 'the shoe missed him,' expert Youtuber Bleeep has proved conclusively that Bush was killed in the attack. Here is Bleeep's tribute video, graphically depicting the kill and the immediate aftermath.

Shocking stuff. 12/15/2008- never forget.

Friday, December 12, 2008

18 complete and utter assholes

Bob Bennett, R-UT
Richard Burr, R-NC
Saxby Chambliss, R-GA
Tom Coburn, R-OK
Norm Coleman, R-MN
Bob Corker, R-TN
John Ensign, R-NV
Chuck Grassley, R-IA
Judd Gregg, R-NH
Orrin Hatch, R-UT
Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX
Johnny Isakson, R-GA
John Kyl, R-AZ
Mel Martinez, R-FL
John McCain, R-AZ
Mitch McConnell, R-KY
Lisa Murkowski, R-AK
John Thune, R-SD
These 18 senators (all Republicans) are the people who voted for the 700 billion dollar no strings attached bailout to Wall Street, but voted against the plenty of strings attached 14 billion dollar loans for the auto industry that would prevent 12 million people from losing their jobs.

I understand a principled opposition to all bailouts. But to give 700 billion dollars to crooks who tanked their companies by behaving recklessly while refusing to save the jobs of 12 million people who have NOTHING to do with their industry's downfall is a level of callousness that I really can't begin to imagine.

I'm have more on the auto bailout at some point when I have more time am in less of a blind rage.

If there were instant karma, these guys would be living in UAW made cars under a bridge this Christmas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Harry Reid does not accept your bribe.

I haven't been a big fan of how Harry Reid "led" the Democrats in the senate, but this story might be one of the coolest things I've ever read. Via Ezra Klein:
In July of 1978, a man named Jack Gordon, who was later married to LaToya Jackson, offered Reid twelve thousand dollars to approve two new, carnival-like gaming devices for casino use. Reid reported the attempted bribe to the F.B.I. and arranged a meeting with Gordon in his office. By agreement, F.B.I. agents burst in to arrest Gordon at the point where Reid asked, “Is this the money?” Although he was taking part in a sting, Reid was unable to control his temper; the videotape shows him getting up from his chair and saying, “You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!” and attempting to choke Gordon, before startled agents pulled him off. “I was so angry with him for thinking he could bribe me,” Reid said, explaining his theatrical outburst. Gordon was convicted in federal court in 1979 and sentenced to six months in prison.
Let me get this straight. Even though he knew it was a set-up, Reid was so incapable of containing his rage that he proceeds to go Sprewell on the guy while the FBI is in the room?! Where did that Harry Reid go? Wouldn't the senate Republicans be a little less filibuster-happy if they thought the guy across the table might flip out and try to kill them?

If there's anything we need in the senate, it's highly combustible Ron Artest type doing the negotiations, and I'm not really joking.

So despite his usual "strength through weakness" approach to politics, the Blagojevich bribery scandal touched a nerve and led to this shocking response from Reid:

On Wednesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Dick Durbin drafted a letter -- which they subsequently urged their Democratic colleagues to sign -- that calls on the Illinois Governor to not just remove himself from office but to "under no circumstance" make a last-minute appointment to fill Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.

Should Blagojevich disregard these warnings, Reid and Durbin write, the Senate would "be forced to exercise our Constitutional authority under Article I, Section 5, to determine whether such a person should be seated."

The Majority Leader then added: "Is Harry Reid gonna have to choke a bitch?"

A scientist for Energy Secretary?

Yes we can:
President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who heads the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be the next energy secretary, and he has picked veteran regulators from diverse backgrounds to fill three other key jobs on his environmental and climate-change team, Democratic sources said yesterday.

Chu, the son of Chinese immigrants, won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1997 for his work in the "development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light." But, in an interview last year with The Washington Post, Chu said he began to turn his attention to energy and climate change several years ago. "I was following it just as a citizen and getting increasingly alarmed," he said. "Many of our best basic scientists [now] realize that this is getting down to a crisis situation."
While it may seem like common sense to have a scientist as energy secretary, according to dkos diarist Shawn in Showme, this is a first:
If you look at the history of the Department of Energy, you'll find that there's never been a Secretary who actually was an expert on energy. The closest we've ever gotten was Charles Duncan who had a chemical engineering degree and had a cup of coffee out of school at Humble (later Exxon). For some reason it just never occurred to the President to install a person who was qualified for the position.

Instead we've been subjected to a long line of career politicians, military men and folks that were as far away from energy as you could get (Reagan's first Secretary of Energy was an oral surgeon) . Is it any wonder that our energy policy is set by industry since the person who is supposed to do that doesn't have a clue?

Not only does Chu have a clue, he's a Nobel-prize winning scientist and is already working under the auspices of the Department of Energy at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
Why is having a scientist so important? Well for starters, as Chris Bowers points out, they'll be less likely to listen to all of the bullshit that will be thrown their way:
Placing a scientist at the head of the Department of Energy is very exciting to me, because we will be dealing with a true expert on the subject matter. Further, it is not just any scientist, but the scientist at the center of solar and biofuel research, meaning that industry lobbyists won't stand a chance when talking to him. Yet further, it means that his closest colleagues will also be alternative energy scientists, thus resulting in some excellent deputies and assistants. Even yet further, having a physicist like this in the cabinet means there will be a true science and technology expert within the cabinet, which could bleed over into decisions in other areas.
An appointment like this is the physical representation of the change that mandated on November 4th. Out with people who were bought by the energy companies, and in with someone who truly understands the impact of our energy policy on the world.

To be perfectly honest, I don't know that much about the rest of the team, or about this field for that matter, but this seems very good from what I can tell. There are several readers who follow this field very closely (or are scientists themselves) and I'd be curious to know their take.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Compromise, Pelosi Style

BarbinMD sums up an article about the crafting of the "compromise" for the auto bailout, and considering my recent post on Pelosi I figured I'd point it out:
-Democrats bent to the will of the president on several key demands, most notably in agreeing that the emergency funding would be drawn from an existing loan program aimed at promoting fuel-efficient technologies.

-Democrats had hoped to take the money from the Treasury's $700 billion financial rescue program, but the White House objected. A breakthrough came Friday, when Pelosi dropped her opposition...

-The Democratic proposal makes no provisions to replenish the loan fund, as Pelosi had hoped.

-Democrats flirted with the idea of naming a seven-member board to oversee the auto bailout but decided instead to have the president name an individual, as Bush had suggested.
This seems to follow the usual pattern of negotiations under Reid and Pelosi:

  • Step 1: Bush Makes demands.
  • Step 2: Pelosi and Reid give forceful reply with their own set of demands.
  • Step 3: Bush restates original demands.
  • Step 4: Pelosi and Reid cave to major Bush demands while winning concessions on minor issues.
  • Step 5: Pelosi and Reid hold press conference trumpeting the bill as a success.
Same as the Iraq war debate, and just about all other "negotiations" between the president and congress this past couple of years, most shamefully during the last two when they've had real power. Thankfully, the election of Barack Obama severely limits the damage her "negotiations" can do in the future.

Obviously there had to be a give and take on the auto bailout with Bush still in charge, but allowing him to appoint the overseer of the loans seems a bit much. Hopefully January 20th marks the end of the no spine caucus.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Obama? Fuck him!"

This should help distance Obama from the whole Blagojevich thing:
The tapes reveal a two-term governor who no longer wants his job, badly wants cash and is determined to leverage a financial benefit out of his appointment powers.

He also appears to think little of the president-elect, whom he calls a "motherf***er" at one point.

“F**k him,” Blagjoveich says of Obama during a lengthy call with top aides and his wife recorded on November 10th, “For nothing? F**k him.”

In another section of the complaint, Blagojevich expresses exasperation that Obama and his team aren't willing to offer him an inducement in exchange for appointing an aide, apparently Valerie Jarrett, to the Senate.

Blagojevich "said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but 'they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F**k them,'" says the complaint.

What an dick. Kudos to Patrick Fitzgerald for kicking ass once again.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Obama stands with Chicago's laid-off workers

Simply Awesome:

CHICAGO — Representatives of the company whose laid-off employees are staging a sit-in at the shuttered factory where they worked will meet Monday with union and bank officials, a congressman said.

Some 200 workers who abruptly lost their jobs last week have said they won't leave the Republic Windows and Doors plant until they get assurances they will receive their severance and vacation pay. Their demonstration has drawn support from President-elect Barack Obama and others.

. . .

Republic Windows and Doors told the workers on Dec. 2 that they would be out of work by the end of the week.

Leah Fried, an organizer for the United Electrical Workers, said the company told the union that Bank of America had canceled its financing. The bank had said in a statement that it wasn't responsible for Republic's financial obligations to its employees.

The announcement of the meeting comes after a wave of publicity about the sit-in and appearances by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Obama, who said Sunday that the company should honor its commitments to the 200 workers.

"The workers who are asking for the benefits and payments that they have earned, I think they're absolutely right and understand that what's happening to them is reflective of what's happening across this economy," Obama said at a news conference Sunday.

To their amazement, the workers have become a national symbol for thousands of employees laid off nationwide as the economy sours.

"We never expected this," said factory employee Melvin Maclin, vice president of the union local that represents the workers. "We expected to go to jail."

For Obama not only to support them, but to state that they're "absolutely right" is a major deal. And the fact that management suddenly decided to restart negotiations is another reminder of the power of the bully pulpit. Very, very cool.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hi, Everyone!

First of all, I want to apologize for my unannounced absence from The Train of late.

And unfortunately, second of all, I want to take a moment to turn that unannounced absence into an announced hiatus. Having ten days left in my college career would be a hectic time even if I didn't work the way that I do – but since my writing style tends to consist in several months of "thinking" and "research" followed by a couple weeks of nearly uninterrupted writing, well, it's really hectic.

But here's a glimpse of what I've been doing on the astrophotography front.

ATTEMPT 1, 11/21/08 (already showcased here):

ATTEMPT 2, 12/3/08:

While the first image is a single shot, taken on my first successful night of imaging, the second is a composite image of 23 separate exposures stitched and blended together in Photoshop. This not only allows for a much wider field of view, it means that I can balance different exposures and levels of focus. And the good news is that I haven't fully taken advantage of the technique, so should be able to get something even better (though not so much better) before finishing the project.

While I was hesitant to recommend that anyone click on the previous image (it looks about as good as it ever will at the smaller size), this time I encourage everyone to check out the larger version.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Obama Transition Round-up

There's been a lot of important transition news from the transition all week, so I figured this might be the best way to quickly get through all the things that went down.

-Good: Jared Bernstein Named Joe Biden's economist. I'm with atrios here in wondering why the Vice President needs an economist, but Jared Bernstein is awesome, a progressive, and it's good that he's officially anywhere in the administration.

-Good: Xavier Becerra offered position of US Trade Rep. This could be nice since he's been a strong critic of NAFTA over the past few years. This isn't all good however, because he voted for the Peru deal and China PNTR, so that puts him in the same "doesn't get it" crowd as many dems, but slightly to the left of Obama on trade. Which is good.

-Bad: Obama goes back on his promise to install "windfall profits tax" on oil companies, saying that since the price of oil has fallen, there's no longer a need. The problem with that explanation is that if the companies don't make windfall profits... they don't get taxed. That's the whole point of the law. So it doesn't make sense for Obama to arbitrarily say that since the price has gone down, there's no need for that law. The law polices itself. If they don't have windfall profits, they won't get taxed!

-Good: Mary Beth Maxwell is rumored to be the choice for Labor secretary. She has a great record, and would be an amazing choice if the rumors are to be believe. I'd write more, but since it's still rumors I'll wait until more info comes out.

-Bad: Labor secretary still hasn't been announced, while the other economic positions have. Speaking of that, add this as another bad, and a personal one too. Bill Richardson would have made an amazing secretary of state, and would have been one of the most progressive foreign policy voices we've had in some time. So they send him to the chamber of commerce, where he'll fully be able to exercise his center-right economic views. Ugh.

Good: Susan Rice as U.N. Ambassador. I'm excited about her position just because her FP views are decently further to the left than anyone else on board. I had this whole joke set up about how this makes two people in his administration who were right about Iraq if you include Barack Obama. That was until I found out I was wrong and she wasn't really against the war. Oh. So it's back down to one person in his administration who was right on the war. I know the whole it's only him that matters argument and everything, but jesus, you'd think you could at least get one other person in there. It's not like you based your whole campaign around your opposition to the war or anything.

-Good: Gates Stripped of his top deputies. Very, very good. The Gates appointment still sucks, but this moves it from "Horrific" to "Fairly Annoying".

-Bad: Tim Geithner already sucking (who could have imagined):

Yeah, so Geithner, Obama's appointee for Treasury Secretary wants Bair, the director of the FDIC (the folks who take over failed banks) to lose her post because she hasn't been a "team player" and supposedly isn't working for the good of the economy, but for her own agency.

So why doesn't Geithner like Bair? Because she had the guts to stand up and suggest that homeowners needed real help. This may not have been the "team player" thing to do, but it was the right thing to do for the economy, contrary to what Geithner thinks. And it showed that Bair was concerned first with doing what was right for the economy, the country and ordinary people.
-Bad: Obama brushing off a question about his and Hillary Clinton's foreign policy differences as "fun for the press". I really don't get this one, and it seems like even in some netroots circles now asking this question is akin to continuing the media obsession with "Clinton vs Obama drama". This stuff matters, than ran for president with two very different views of the world. It isn't "fun" to wonder whether Hillary Clinton's policy is to sabre-rattle or negotiate with Iran. This shit matters. If she relinquished all those opinions and has adopted all of your positions, then say so. The people who voted for your foreign policy deserve that much. Oh yeah, and WHO COULD HAVE IMAGINED...

-Unbelievably Bad:
NEW YORK — President-elect Barack Obama's vast list of donors is being asked to donate to Hillary Rodham Clinton as she scrambles to reduce her massive campaign debt before she becomes secretary of state and federal ethics rule limit her fundraising, an Obama adviser said Thursday night.
I seriously hope enough people respond with an email telling them to fuck off. Ever wanted to fund union busting? Help retire a multimillionaire's debt! Makes sense to me!

-Good: The photoshoping ideas that come from this part of the same article:
Clinton also plans to sell a children's book, titled "Dreams Taking Flight" by author Kathleen Krull, about her pioneering candidacy. Clinton's mother, Dorothy Rodham, planned to send an e-mail to supporters later this week asking them to purchase the book to help raise funds to pay down Clinton's debt.
An kids book on the Clinton primary campaign? I can't wait for the sections on race-baiting, and invoking RFK's assassination! Those will be particularly inspirational!

-Seriously Good: Obama's speech today on the staggering job loss across the country:
But now is the time to respond with urgent resolve to put people back to work and get our economy moving again. At the same time, this painful crisis also provides us with an opportunity to transform our economy to improve the lives of ordinary people by rebuilding roads and modernizing schools for our children, investing in clean energy solutions to break our dependence on imported oil, and making an early down payment on the long-term reforms that will grow and strengthen our economy for all Americans for years to come."

46 More days...

Cluster-bomb ban treaty unanimously accepted!

Just kidding.

Let’s see, who supported the ban? Laos, pfft, what do those guys know about cluster-bombs, anyway? Not like they still have to deal with unexploded ordinance we dropped on them during the Vietnam War or anything. Who else… ah, Lebanon. The article is kind enough to point out that the Lebanese have 4 million bomblets spread across southern Lebanon, care of Israel’s wildly successful attempt to outdo Bush with regard to enacting shitty foreign policy.

Alright, so maybe they have something here. It does make me curious about who would oppose this treaty- let’s take a quick look at a few notable non-signers:


Wow, I sure am proud to see my country up there with that crew. Putin would probably request that you pry any weapon system from his cold dead hands, China must have a list of places they’d love to make uninhabitable with cluster-bombs, and Israel proudly went through them like they were going out of style back in 2006. I thought we had learned our lesson in Afghanistan, however.

Maybe a new President will give us a chance at reversing this shameful decision.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pelosi Power!

As I was walking back to work, I passed a bookstore no more than a block from the U.S. Capitol and saw this:
Yes, that is a real book. I stood outside in the cold for close to a minute, reading and re-reading the cover: "Know your Power: A message to America's Daughters" by Nancy Pelosi.

It looks like we have another cantidate for The Alanis Morissette School of Irony.

As if to drive home the point, when I got back to work, I was greeted by this front page article with vintage Pelosi-speak on the bailout:
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers want the Treasury to insist that banking institutions sharing in the $700 billion bailout comply with limits Congress imposed on executive salaries and use the money for its intended purposes.

In the first comprehensive review of the rescue package, the Government Accountability Office said Tuesday that the Treasury Department has no mechanisms to ensure that banking institutions limit their top executives' pay and comply with other restrictions.

"The GAO's discouraging report makes clear that the Treasury Department's implementation of the (rescue plan) is insufficiently transparent and is not accountable to American taxpayers," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
I agree Nancy, the handling of the bailout hasn't been transparent, or accountable to tax payers. What's strange is to hear you talking as if this wasn't the same piece of legislation that you helped craft! Upset that it doesn't have any teeth? That didn't seem to bother you when you were rushing it through the house and whipping your own members to vote for it!

If these type of rants sound familiar, it's because Nancy Pelosi seems to have a recurring problem with that whole "knowing your power" thing.

In fact, since this will no doubt occur again in the future, let's use one of my old posts to create a Nancy Pelosi rant madlib:
Few things enrage me more than when Nancy Pelosi talks about an issue in the same way that you or I would discuss current events.

When I say I'm disappointed we aren't doing much to (problem that requires congressional attention) , that's a reasonable thing me to say, since I'm a citizen and my powers to change that are limited.

When Nancy Pelosi says she's disappointed she wasn't able to (problem that requires congressional attention) , that makes me want to throw her a copy of the U.S. Constitution, since she is the fucking Speaker of the House, and has more power to (problem that requires congressional attention) more than anybody other than the president.

I'd like to think I had the same power as the Speaker of the House. But since I don't it's pretty frustrating to hear her talk as if she's not, you know, Speaker of the Fucking House.
So after seeing today's headline...
Few things enrage me more than when Nancy Pelosi talks about an issue in the same way that you or I would discuss current events.

When I say I'm disappointed we aren't doing much to enforce transparency for the bailout , that's a reasonable thing me to say, since I'm a citizen and my powers to change that are limited.

When Nancy Pelosi says she's disappointed she wasn't able to enforce transparency for the bailout , that makes me want to throw her a copy of the U.S. Constitution, since she is the fucking Speaker of the House, and has more power to enforce transparency for the bailout more than anybody other than the president.

I'd like to think I had the same power as the Speaker of the House. But since I don't it's pretty frustrating to hear her talk as if she's not, you know, Speaker of the Fucking House.
Think of all the time we've saved for the next time she's talking about the war!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Auto industry crisis as a three act play

From the some hero in the comments on John Cole's blog:

Dramatis Personae

BIG THREE, a manufacturer of automobiles
UAW, Big Three’s employee
MITT ROMNEY, an idiot


BIG THREE: I have plans to build automobiles, but I need labor to do so!

UAW: I will labor for you if you will pay me $40 per hour.

BIG THREE: I will not pay you $40 per hour.

UAW: But I need to save for my inevitible retirement, and any health concerns that may arise.

BIG THREE: I will pay you $30 per hour, plus a generous pension of guaranteed payments and health care upon your retirement.

UAW: Then I agree to work for you!


UAW: I am building cars for you, as I have promised to do!

BIG THREE: I am designing terrible cars that few people want to buy! Also, rather than save for UAW’s inevitible retirement when I will have to pay him the generous pension of guaranteed payments and health care that I promised, I am spending that money under the dubious assumption that my future revenues will be sufficient to meet those obligations.


UAW: I have fulfilled my end of the deal by building the automobiles that you have asked me to build.

BIG THREE: Oh no! I am undone! My automobiles are no longer competitive due to my years of poor planning and poor judgment!

MITT ROMNEY: This is all UAW’s fault!

Amazing. And if you're wondering why Mitt Romney, it's because of this brilliant Op-ed he put out a few weeks back.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Obama's Cabinet, Progressive faith in his economic team, and why I don't share it

I've always liked Openleft's right to respond policy, so I figured it would be a good idea to put Obama's response to criticism of his nominations up here, as well as some other thoughts, defenses and theories about Obama's appointments.

First, Obama's response to criricim of his cabinet nominees:
"Understand where the vision for change comes from, first and foremost," he said. "It comes from me. That's my job, to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure then that my team is implementing [that vision]."

"The last Democratic administration we had was the Clinton administration," said Obama. "So it would be surprising if I selected a Treasury Secretary who had had no connection with the last Democratic administration, because that would mean that the person had no experience in Washington whatsoever. And I suspect that you would be troubled and the American people would be troubled if I selected a Treasury Secretary or a chairman of the National Economic Council, at one of the most critical economic times in our history, who had no experience in government whatsoever. What we are going to do is combine experience with fresh thinking."

"I think when you ultimately look at what this advisory board looks like, you'll say this is a cross-section of opinion that in some ways reinforces conventional wisdom and in some ways breaks with orthodoxy in all sorts of ways," he went on. "And that's the kind of discussion we want. We want ideas from everybody. What I don't want to do is to somehow suggest that somehow suggest that since you served in the last Democratic administration, that you're somehow barred from serving again. Because we need people who are going to be able to hit the ground running."
Paul Krugman's take on the economic team:
A thought I’ve had: there have been some complaints from movement progressives about the centrism/orthodoxy of Obama’s economics appointments. To some extent this was unavoidable, I think: someone like the Treasury secretary has to be an experienced hand who can deal with Wall Street, and I haven’t heard anyone proposing particular individuals with clearer progressive credentials to hold that position. (And for those of you wondering about yours truly — I’m temperamentally unsuited, have never had any desire for the job, and probably have more influence as an outside gadfly than I ever could in DC.)
The now fairly widespread in progressive circles theory that Obama is using centrists to pursue progressive policy, put into words by Robert Kuttner:
As progressives, we can view President-Elect Obama's emerging economic team in one of two ways. Either he has disappointed us by picking a group of Clinton retreads--the very people who brought us the deregulation that produced the financial collapse; the fiscal conservatives who in the 1990s put budget balance ahead of rebuilding public institutions. Or we can conclude that he has very shrewdly named a team of technically competent centrists so that he can govern as a progressive in pragmatist's clothing--as he moves the political center to the left.

Which will it be? Certainly, Obama's press notices are phenomenal, and Republicans have almost been more enthusiastic than Democrats. When Arianna Huffington and I debated George Will and David Brooks on George Stephanopulos's This Week Sunday morning, the conservatives were, if anything, more approving of Obama's picks than we were.

On another channel, Republican guru Ed Rollins could be heard exulting about the Obama cabinet. I even had the out-of-body experience of debating Pat Buchanan on Hardball, to find that he thought Hillary Clinton was a terrific choice for Secretary of State. Obama now has the highest approval ratings on record for any president-elect, and he has the entire Republican pundit class in a swoon.
. . .
Obama is the president, and he will do what he deems necessary. In my writings during the campaign, I sometimes found myself second-guessing Obama's strategy--and he invariably turned out to be smarter than I was.
And finally, David Sirota's take on Kuttner's theory:
As Rachel says, he seems to be saying he's going to put policy over personnel. Or, as I noted, it's what David Axelrod told the New York Times: "He's not looking for people to give him a vision - he's going to put together an administration of people who can effectuate his vision."

There's no real precedent for this in politics. Sure, presidents have hired bureaucrats or functionaries to implement their vision, but there's not many examples of them hiring high-profile ideologues like, say, Larry Summers and getting them to carry a vision that's very different from their own ideological vision.

In other words, it's usually the case that "personnel is policy," as Grover Norquist once said. That's especially true in an executive branch that's so large it tends to demand policy delegation. But if that truly is Obama's strategy, and he can pull it off - that is, if he can get ideological free-market fundamentalists (and nobody credible on either side of the aisle really argues that Summers, Geithner, et. all are anything but that) to carry progressive FDR-ish legislation - then he will indeed be one of the master politicians of history. And if anyone seems to have the political skills to do it, it is Obama.
Ok, that's a lot to throw out there at once, but I figured it would be the best way of making the point that if you ever decided to take my opinions with more than a grain of salt, there are a lot of very smart people out there who disagree with me on this one.

I also think that some people misinterpret the criticism of his appointments, and now is as good a time as any to clear that up.

While some of the nominations make zero sense in my book, in no way do I think that Obama's foreign policy team will somehow make him want to bomb Iran or prolong the war in Iraq as members of his cabinet have advocated. I believe him when he says that he sets the mission, and it's his team who carry out the mission. And as for the economics team, if you did your homework on Obama's economic policy beliefs during his time in the senate and throughout presidential run, a center right team shouldn't be much of a surprise.

So why am I still disappointed by many his choices in both teams? Believe it or not, it has very little to do with ideology.

One of the ideals of this country is our belief in a meritocracy. If you are right, then you will be rewarded for being right and rise to the top. (Granted this is rarely true in practice, especially in politics, but I do believe that the ideal matters) When Obama's cabinet is described in the media, you hear the words "pragmatic" and "technocrat" quite a bit, and he seems to be getting praised for picking people who "put policy over partisanship", and just about every other Broader-y cliche in the books. But all of the lofty team of rivals rhetoric seems to exclude what should be the biggest question of them all: Who was right and who was wrong?

It was Barack Obama during the primary who made the powerful case against Hillary Clinton that experience doesn't count if it's experience getting things wrong. And to a large degree his appointments fail that same test.
  • Robert Gates was wrong about the Iraq War when it began and was wrong about it in 2007 when he stated that leaving Iraq would have "dire" consequences for the U.S.
  • Tim Geithner screwed up the handling of the citigroup bailout less than a month ago.
This has nothing to do with ideology, this has everything to do with not rewarding the same people who got us into the mess we're in today. There are quite a few well respected economists who predicted the housing bubble, decried this financial deregulation and were right to be worried about the bailout. There are plenty of experienced people who were right about the war in Iraq and right about the Kyl-Lieberman amendment. When you run your campaign based on good judgment, one would assume you'd fill your cabinet with people who have shown that same good judgment in the past, instead of promoting those who have repeatedly lacked it.

And as for Kuttner's(and others) argument about Obama's economic team secretly executing a progressive policy, I would be lying if I didn't see it as anything other than moderately insane.

I say this knowing that plenty of people who I greatly respect believe this to be true, but having followed Barack Obama's career and economic advisers for some time, they are making a leap that I'm just not comfortable making. Barack Obama's economic policies will be tremendously better than anything we've seen in some time (this speech is a great start), but people need to be realistic with their expectations. If he's had people like Summers, Rubin, Furman, Goolsbee as his closest economic advisers with very little progressive economic representation during his time in the senate and throughout his presidential campaign, then it is more than likely that he believes in their economic philosophy.

No one, and I mean NO ONE, would be happier to be wrong about this than me. And like I said before, the economic crisis has gotten to the point that it may force Geithner and Summers to do something more radical than they had planned, the way it forced Paulson to take equity in the banks. But to think that somehow Obama nominated a bunch of center right economists to carry out an amazingly progressive economic agenda that even Obama himself hasn't mentioned or committed to seems a bit off the deep end to me. Not impossible, but in my mind it's about as probable as him making this Jim Jones National Security adviser, or naming Hillary Clinton a high ranking member of his cabinet.

Oh, yeah, that last one actually happened. Whoops.

Well, if we learned anything this year, it's that ANYTHING IS POSSSIIIIBBBBLLLEEEE!!!

Prove me wrong Barack, the ball's in your court.

Project for the New New American Century: December Newsletter

Last May we here at PNNAC boldly announced the creation of our think-tank with a bold list of bold foreign policy objectives. Designed to ensure continued American dominance in the upcoming century, our list of countries marked ‘INVADE RIGHT NOW’ urged President Bush to follow through immediately. Had he done so, we would be looking at a very likely world today. Sadly the President was swayed by a shadowy network of voices of reason and wet blankets, who ensured that not a single policy suggestion was enacted.

The results, clearly, have been tragic. Our enemies have been emboldened by the complete “pussification” (their word, not mine) of George Bush, who they claim has gone from a “Grade-A warmonger” to a “fairly unobjectionable guy.” Signs of their strength can be seen across the globe, making the clear and urgent threat posed by pre-war Iraq look like a mere desert mirage: Ships hijacked off the East African coast, crowded airports in Thailand, vaguely scary things done by some bad guys, poorly-spelled rants about the evils of America written on the internet. If we are to avert the coming disasters, President Obama must act quickly to follow every single one of our prescribed measures.

These days the threats facing America change quickly, so most of our suggestions have changed. Make no mistake, however: unless these nations are promptly destroyed, the consequences for Americans today and for future generations will be dire.

1. Kyrgyzstan: The only nation carried over from the first list, Kyrgyzstan is still asking for it. Beside their stupid name and goofy-looking bands, Kyrgyzstan has also refused to relocate their capital, Bishkek. The least they could do is engage in a massive renaming campaign, designed to render civilized nomenclature to a place which very sorely needs it. Until they do, they should live in constant fear of merciless retribution for their crimes against tasteful names.

2. Iceland: For months it has been clear that the economic crisis has been especially cruel to Iceland. When the country was jokingly put up for auction, many Chinese jumped at the chance. We believe it is clear that President Obama should immediately enact a policy of actually buying and selling Iceland several times daily, to send a message to China. While this may be impractical given that our own economy isn’t in particularly good shape, and while this would certainly cause Icelandic Gross National Consternation Levels to rise uncontrollably, sometimes America has to make some sacrifices to stay on top. When the Chinese see that America actually does things that they only joke about on the internet, despite many overwhelmingly negative consequences, they will be forced to acknowledge American supremacy.

3. New Zealand: With their country destroyed (by nuclear weapons, ironically), Jermaine Clement and Brit McKenzie will be forced to stay in America- actually, all New Zealanders will, due to the internment camps. Anyway, this will enable us to force them to make them create additional episodes of Flight of the Conchords in a timely fashion. Still want to end the show after the second season? I’m sure a few days of waterboarding will change their minds. Another dire threat to America erased.

4. Alaska: “As Putin rears his head over the airspace of America, where do they go?” The Project for the New New American Century couldn’t have put it any better, Sarah Palin. Amazing illustrations of that question aside, it’s time to show Putin we mean business. Destroying Alaska will leave Putin without a good place to rear his head over the airspace of America, which will surely bother him. As we all know that rearing his head over the airspace of America is his favorite pastime, this will be a victory of modest, yet fulfilling, proportions.

5. The Moon: From causing the tides to enabling lunacy, the Moon has wreaked its havoc on the Earth for long enough. It’s time to put a stop to our Moon troubles forever, by blowing it up or crashing it into something else (Pluto might be a good idea there, giving its supporters something to worry about besides completely arbitrary classification disputes). Did you know that the Moon has helped some of our greatest national foes? For example: Osama bin Laden has almost certainly, on at least one occasion in his life, been out at night and found his way around by the light of the Moon. Without this light his attempted navigation would have ended up becoming a madcap slapstick comedy, complete with banana peels and slide-whistles. Moon, your time is waning.

We hope President Obama is wise enough to break from the precedent set by Bush, and delivers on his promise to change our foreign policy.



Saturday, November 29, 2008


Pop quiz: Which of these factors contributed to the start of World War II?
  • Economic factors in Germany being such that 'making paper airplanes' was a better use for money than 'spending ' or 'saving.'
  • Hitler stirring things up, babbling about lebensraum, invading Poland, etc.
  • Gay people (also: people who wear leather).

If you answered with 1 and/or 2, great job, you're undeniably less retarded than Michael Savage. That's right, Michael Savage believes that gay people and leather clothing were the largest contributors to the start of the second World War. In case you've forgotten, this is the same Michael Savage who went berserk* when people imprisoned by the United States were given trials, so he's got a pretty grand history of lunacy at this point. Here comes MediaMatters with the quote:

"[S]ocially, we're far worse -- more degenerate than Wiemar Germany. At least in
Wiemar Germany, men couldn't marry men and women couldn't marry women. So we're probably 10 leagues below the degeneracy that brought about Hitler. We're
probably 50 leagues below the degeneracy that brought about Hitler. We are the
sickest, most disgusting country on the earth."

6.54 wrote about the dangers of gay marriage a few weeks ago: polar ice caps melting, Russian invasion, all sorts of awful stuff. But even he didn't foresee the true danger: Hitler. Hell, we'd actually be lucky to get away with merely Hitler this time, given that in Wiemar Germany men couldn't marry men and women couldn't marry women. Having our standard-grade degeneracy mixed with this ultra-strength gay marriage degeneracy will almost certainly result in some sort of super-Hitler (uberhitler?), an unstoppable force of evil that will leave every. last. gay. married.

I had no idea that gay marriage was this dangerous. Thank you Michael Savage, you've saved us all.

*Ahahahahhahaa god I just reread that quote of his in that piece, even 5 months later I laugh until I cry whenever I see that. Just imagining Savage quaking with anger at the thought of evidence being presented against those who are accused of having done wrong, it does not, and will not ever, get any funnier than that.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Awesome Beer of the Week: Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse

There's a heartwarming story behind this Awesome Beer of the Week. As the back of the bottles read,

This brew is the result of the long friendship of Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver and Schneider brewmaster Hans-Peter Drexler. Garrett had always admired the delicate balance of flavors in Schneider Weisse, while Hans-Peter had long enjoyed the effusive hop character of Brooklyn East India Pale Ale and BLAST! Garrett’s concept for the collaboration was that each brewmaster would brew essentially the same pale, hoppy weissbock in the other’s brewery, but with different hopping to reflect the local hop flavor.

There are, therefore, two versions of this beer. I like the Brooklyn better than the Schneider, though it's impossible to tell whether that's because of the American-style hopping or the German sense of balance – perhaps both. Either way, it's a magnificent beverage, delicious from the first taste and with a particularly long and shifting development of flavors.

At around 8% alcohol, it's too strong to drink carelessly. But the higher alcohol isn't something that you normally see in Hefeweizen-derived beers and the extra kick is a great twist. While beers that are as refreshing as this one tend to make better summer beverages, the sheer tastiness and higher alcohol make it suitable for year-round consumption.

Here's what the Schneider version looks like:

And here's the "Brooklyner:"

The Obama Econ Team

As Announced Monday:
  • Treasury Secretary: Timothy Geithner
  • Head of National Economic Council: Larry Summers
  • Council of Economic Advisors Chair: Christina Romer
  • Director of Domestic Policy Council: Melody Barnes
Let's start with the good: In Melody Barnes we have our first real life progressive in the Obama administration! She seems very passionate about immigration, income inequality, so I'm really looking forward to what she can accomplish in charge of the domestic policy council. In 2007 she wrote this:
Here at home there is urgent work to do to fight the historically high -- and growing -- gap between our richest and poorest citizens. While the mean income of households on the low end of the income spectrum -- the bottom 20 percent -- is just $10,655 a year, the income of the top twenty percent of households averages almost $160,000. That's 15 times as much. At the same time, according to the latest census figures, the middle class, beset with stagnant wages and mountainous debts, is shrinking. The sad fact is that one of our most cherished values as a society, namely equality of opportunity, is fading as a reality for far too many people. Economists have shown that a child born into a lower-income family has only a 1 percent chance of making it to the top of the income distribution, while children from prosperous families have a 22 percent chance. To restore fairness to our system, I will embark on a multi-faceted approach including increasing our investment in public education, promoting genuine health care reform, and backing a higher minimum wage.
Very Impressive to say the least. What about Christina Romer? Ezra Klein:
So far, Christina Romer, Obama's pick for chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, is attracting many more plaudits from the right than the left. Tyler Cowen, Will Wilkinson, Greg Mankiw, and Justin Fox are very pleased, as much of Romer's work centers on the injury taxation inflicts on the economy.
It seems like a pretty straight-forward pick, nothing that will rock the boat or differ much from Furman/Goolsbee/Summers ideologically.

Speaking of Larry Summers, here is what the economically centrist-right New York Times Editorial Page said about his and Geithner's appointments:
Both men, however, have played central roles in policies that helped provoke today’s financial crisis. Mr. Geithner, currently the president of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, also has helped shape the Bush administration’s erratic and often inscrutable responses to the current financial meltdown, up to and including this past weekend’s multibillion-dollar bailout of Citigroup. Given that history, the question that most needs answering is not whether Mr. Geithner and Mr. Summers are men of talent — obviously they are — but whether they have learned from their mistakes, and if so, what.

We are not asking for moral mea culpas. But unless they recognize their past mistakes, there is little hope that they can provide the sound judgment and leadership that the country needs to dig out of this desperate mess.

As treasury secretary in 2000, Mr. Summers championed the law that deregulated derivatives, the financial instruments — a k a toxic assets — that have spread the financial losses from reckless lending around the globe. He refused to heed the critics who warned of dangers to come.

That law, still on the books, reinforced the false belief that markets would self-regulate. And it gave the Bush administration cover to ignore the ever-spiraling risks posed by derivatives and inadequate supervision.

Mr. Summers now will advise a president who has promised to impose rational and essential regulations on chaotic financial markets. What has he learned?

At the New York Fed, Mr. Geithner has been one of the ringmasters of this year’s serial bailouts. His involvement includes the as-yet-unexplained flip-flop in September when a read-my-lips, no-new-bailouts policy allowed Lehman Brothers to go under — only to be followed less than two days later by the even costlier bailout of the American International Group and last weekend by the bailout of Citigroup. It is still unclear what Mr. Geithner and other policy makers knew or did not know — or what they thought they knew but didn’t — in arriving at those decisions, including who exactly is on the receiving end of the billions of dollars of taxpayer money now flooding the system.

Confidence in the system will not be restored as long as top officials fail or refuse to fully explain their actions.
Well that's not exactly a ringing endorsement, and this is from people who agree with their economic ideology! And about that Ideology: (Also from the New York Times)
The president-elect’s choices for his top economic advisers — Timothy F. Geithner as Treasury secretary, Lawrence H. Summers as senior White House economics adviser and Peter R. Orszag as budget director — are past protégés of Mr. Rubin, who held two of those jobs under President Bill Clinton. Even the headhunters for Mr. Obama have Rubin ties: Michael Froman, Mr. Rubin’s chief of staff in the Treasury Department who followed him to Citigroup, and James S. Rubin, Mr. Rubin’s son.

All three advisers — whom Mr. Obama will officially name on Monday and Tuesday — have been followers of the economic formula that came to be called Rubinomics: balanced budgets, free trade and financial deregulation, a combination that was credited with fueling the prosperity of the 1990s.

But times have changed since then. On Wall Street, Mr. Rubin is facing questions about his role as director of Citigroup given the bank’s current woes. And in Washington, he and his acolytes are calling for a new formulation to address the global economic crisis that Mr. Obama will inherit — and rejecting or setting aside, for now, some of their old orthodoxies.
The Times even added a chart to make sure you got their point, how nice of them!
Add in nice things like Summer's nice note to Ken Lay About how "I'll keep my eye on power deregulation and energy market infrastructure issues." and you can guess I'm not a big fan.

It's at times that it saddens you even more that progressive economists like Dean Baker, Paul Krugman, James Gailbraith, Brad Delong, Josef Steiglitz aren't around to see this, because this would have been their time to clean up the mess that the conservative economics created.

Oh wait, you mean they're all alive and well, and no one asked them to be a part of the administration? So it's not like the Rubinites were the only ones left... Obama simply chose them over the people who actually got these things right in the first place?

Cause that makes sense. Honestly, I'm just glad I'm not a progressive economist because it's really hard to think of a more frustrating job. You can be right about just about everything from the housing bubble to our trade policy, and when "your" party comes in to power, they turn to the same old losers who screwed things up to begin with.

In the end, this somewhere around what I guessed Obama's economic team would look like. Aside from some popluist rhetoric here and there, these are the type of people he trusted throughout his senate career and his run for president, and so it makes sense that he'd want them crafting economic policy for his administration. I may think they suck (and I do), I'm not at all upset or disappointed the way I was with his Foreign Policy team. He's an economic centrist, and other than a few populist speeches towards the end of his campaign, it's not like he ever signaled anything wildly different.

But ending on something positive, here is a press release from the president of the Campaign for America's Future, Bob Borosage:
It's not the personnel, it's the policy. And on this, Obama has been clear. He's announced a massive recovery plan based on putting people to work with public investment in areas vital to our future.

The crisis we face makes Rubinomics irrelevant. Deficit spending must go up, finance must be re-regulated, trade imbalances must be reduced and manufacturing can no longer be scorned.

Obama is choosing experienced hands for the crisis, trusting that their experience does not impede the new thinking needed to get us out of this hole. He'll set the direction. And so far, he’s on course.
While I honestly don't know if I share Borosage's optimism, one thing that I do believe in is this quote from Brad DeLong:
"These are not moderate times. To be moderate now is to be radical. To be radical is to be moderate."
Hank Paulson probably never imagined he'd be taking equity in U.S. Banks, but when he was forced, he pulled the trigger. Desperate times might call for putting aside failed ideologies, enriching friends, and doing things that actually work. And those things that actually work are a hell of a lot further to the left of anything these people are proposing. But if this is the pragmatic administration we're being told it us, we just might see some very radical moves.