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.


Caron Butler: (via Ivan Carter)

"Coach Jordan will be a lifelong friend and somone I communicate with for the rest of my life," Butler said. "To see him go, that was tough. That's why I didn't talk yesterday because it hurt but as the same time, now that we got Obama on the sideline with us now, we're going to ride with it."

Obama? You mean Tapscott?

"Yeah, he's light-skinned. He has a law degree. He stands for change, he uses big words, he's new in the district and he's in control now, so shout-out to Obama. We won tonight so we have hope."
Change we can believe in, wizards fans.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Frankly, what did they expect?

I wanted to add this as an update to my last post on the subject, but it made enough of it's own point that I figured it merited it's own post. The relationship between the netroots and Barack Obama has become increasingly difficult to explain to those who haven't seen the whole primary process unfold on the liberal blogs, but this Glenn Greenwald piece "On Progressive Criticisms of Obama's Cabinet" describes the failures of the online left better than anything I've seen:

So many progressives were misled about what Obama is and what he believes. But it wasn't Obama who misled them. It was their own desires, their eagerness to see what they wanted to see rather than what reality offered.

Early on in the primary cycle, Markos Moultisas -- in a post I recall vividly though can't find -- wisely urged that progressives refrain from endorsing or supporting any of the Democratic candidates unless they work for that support, make promises and concessions important to the progressive agenda, etc., lest progressives' support end up being taken for granted. But that advice was largely ignored. For whatever reasons, highly influential progressive factions committed themselves early, loyally and enthusiastically to Obama even though he never even courted that support, let alone made commitments to secure it.

That may have been perfectly justified -- by pragmatic calculations regarding electability, by excitement over his personality and charisma, by the belief that he was comparatively superior to the alternatives. Still, the fact remains that progressives, throughout the year, largely lent Obama their loyal support in exchange for very little.
That just about nails it. I understand all of those calculations and other forms of choosing a candidate, but when you take people's stated positions and advisers out of the picture, you really can't act surprised when he starts picking people strikingly similar to those who advised him and chooses people who believe in his stated policies.

My only objection to Greenwald's point was covered in my previous post, where I believe his foreign policy team doesn't match at all with the world view that he campaigned on. But for the majority of these complaints, he is spot on. The complaining was one thing, but defining silence on important appointments and the non-nonsensical defending of some of these moves is really shocking.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Case of the Mondays: Eddie Got Fired

No matter how bad your Monday was, it wasn't nearly as bad as it was for that guy:

The Wizards have relieved Coach Eddie Jordan of his duties. Jordan was informed of the decision this morning around 8 a.m. shortly after he and his wife, Charrisse, handed out Thanksgiving turkeys to the needy at a team-sponsored charitable event. Associate Head Coach Mike O'Koren was also let go.

Can't exactly say he didn't have it coming. It doesn't matter that Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood are out with long-term injuries. There is no way this team could start 1-10 and Jordan could get to keep his job.

I told JJ recently that I didn't believe owner Abe Pollin would make the move, despite the fact that it was the right decision. Pollin's history of loyalty speaks for itself (Wes Unseld, anyone?) and I thought the fact that Jordan has presided over the team for four consectutive playoff seasons would see him remain at least until the end of the season. I was wrong, though, and I'm glad I was.

To put this into some perspective, this franchise hasn't made the playoffs that many times in a row since 1976-1980, a run which included 1978's NBA title and a Finals appearance in 1979. Furthermore, not only was Jordan the Eastern Conference's longest-tenured coach, but he was also the THIRD-LONGEST TENURED COACH IN THE NBA behind Jerry Sloan and Greg Popovich! Pure insanity.

If he was going to be fired though, now would have to be the time. The truth is that the team has succeeded in spite of Eddie Jordan. His rotations make no sense. He can't diagram any kind of set play that actually works. His lack of a defensive culture has been mind-boggling. This year's 1-10 start was the final straw, with many of these losses being inexcusable (New York two nights ago, Atlanta and Miami, only to name a few).

So, happy trails to Coach Jordan. Ed Tapscott will replace him on an interim basis, if for no other reason than the fact that he looks almost exactly like Eddie Jordan and maybe the players won't be able to tell the difference. The only place I'm concerned about a difference being made is in the win column.


Barack Obama, is not, and has never been where I'd like him to be on economic issues. That was the main reason that I had favored John Edwards before he dropped out of the primary and subsequently revealed himself to be a self obsessed douche. Obama has used a fair amount of populist rhetoric in his speeches, most notably when he accepted the nomination, but as for advisers and policy, he has always been very clear about where he stands, and what type of policy makes him comfortable.

That is completely fine. He telegraphed his beliefs on these issues throughout the primary and we shouldn't be surprised. At one point after the primary when some on the left complained that he "straying" from his beliefs, he asked"have you listened to any of my speeches?", and he couldn't have been more right. He's honest to the core, and you can't ask for anything more than that.

With that being said on economic policy, one of my greatest hopes for the Obama presidency was Foreign Policy. From the offset of the primary, I was hugely impressed with his FP team, which seemed eager to challenge the conventional wisdom that put us where we are today, centered around a criticism of the Iraq war. And not to attach too much of this thinking to one person, but the presence of Samantha Powers alone made me favor his approach more than any of the other candidates. Even when his rhetoric on his overall foreign policy plan tacked to the right during the general election, I just looked at it in the same way that I did his populist rhetoric. Until the people who craft things behind the scenes changed, I wouldn't take it too seriously.

Here is the team he has chosen to implement his agenda:
Secretary of Defense: Robert Gates

Secretary of State: Hillary Clinton

Secretary of Homeland Security: Janet Napolitano

National Security Advisor: General Jim Jones (BALLLLLLLLINNNNN!!!!!!!)
I'll start by saying that I like Napolitano in that role. The homeland security post will largely have to manage and clean up a pretty crappy bureaucracy, and since she's been a pretty good governor, that seems like a nice fit.

But what else can we say about the group?
When you look at that list, it makes you ask a few questions:

When you campaigned on your foreign policy judgment, why do you choose to surround yourself with people who clearly don't possess that same good judgment?

When you won the primary and the election in large part due to your opposition to the Iraq war, why do you surround yourself with people who all supported it?

When you hear people talking about teams of rivals, doesn't that imply there will be a rival?

I felt like I knew what to expect from his economic team (and later on today, we'll know officially how right or wrong I was), but this foreign policy team is downright disappointing. While they are all at his command and will execute his agenda, I simply don't understand why you assemble a conservative team unless you were planning on making your policy much tamer than it originally seamed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Friday Night

Didn't go to any parties. But I did make this:

It took four hours to get the telescope functioning, and I had to reset the entire system and program in every bit of information about location, time and orientation from scratch. Then another hour or so to get this one image, because I accidentally un-aligned the telescope and the Orion Nebula was the only thing I could find manually. And even after all that work, the focus is off more than I'd like and I'm not really sure how to correct it.

If there's any moral to this all, it's that science is fucking hard. There isn't even anything but aesthetics riding on this project, and it was amazingly difficult.

Still, as far as first attempts go, I couldn't be more satisfied. Also, a plane happened to fly precisely through my field of vision! To put the total insanity of that in perspective, its lights took up 3/4 of the frame and if I hadn't happened to have been looking at precisely that moment I would have missed it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Welcome, reader, to the second Train of Thought Executive Order Bonanza! For those of you who missed the first, written back in late 2000, here’s what you missed: we jokingly advised President-elect Bush to use executive orders to make a mockery of checks and balances. That may have been a mistake, as Bush went on to make a mess of the government by using an unprecedented number of them. Turns out the rule of law has no defense against executive orders, which can be used to do just about anything.

Sources inside the Obama camp (specifically JJ, who was given top-level access to their plans after his work in Virginia (which many credit with single-handedly turning the Old Dominion state blue)) have revealed some of the orders Obama plans to issue in the first hours of his presidency:

-First up is one which will rescind a Bush-era order: Executive Order 834753457, in which Bush exhorted American armed forces to “kill the shit out of everything” and “blow up the fuck out of stuff” with “MAXIMUM INDISCRETION.” Further references to making use of “total recklessness” in choosing targets apparently reveal that Bush felt this might bring a fast end to the conflict in Iraq. While it should be noted that the vast majority of American troops have ignored this order, Obama has been quoted as saying this order “doesn’t really look like it belongs, seems a little… threatening?” Expect it to be axed quickly after Inauguration Day.

-Next to be removed will likely be Executive Order 58734895738475234, issued days after 834753457. This one was a meta-order, urging people like Rove and Cheney to come up with executive orders designed to “baffle scientific progress” at “any cost.” From constricting stem cell line access to making it legal to “throw poo at scientists” in the street, it appears many later Bush-era executive orders were based on ideas developed here. A hand-written note by Obama in the margin of this order notes that this one is particularly stupid, and that “this Bush guy must be some sort of jackass.”

-Another planned order is entirely new. While angered by Lieberman’s constant betrayals and general air of backstabbitude, Obama has apparently decided to take the high road in regards to his senate positions. However it does look like there will be some comeuppance: Obama is turning the rest of Lieberman’s senate career into a real-life game of Asshole. Lieberman will be forced to wear a beer box labeled “ASSHOLE” on his head at all times when in Washington, and can be told even by the most junior legislators to drink at any time. This will make watching C-SPAN approximately 57.3% more exciting, and makes a powerful example for other Democrats currently attempting to decipher their stances on hope and/or change.

-On the subject of hope and change, Executive Order #3 for the Obama presidency will likely make it legal for people with Obama bumper stickers to use their vehicles to inflict damage on cars bearing Confederate battle-flag bumper stickers. Funds will be allocated to upgrade Hope and Change cars with a variety of pikes and spinning blades. A complicated formula based on the number of bumper stickers, size of bumper stickers, and visibility of their placement will determine how much damage they’ll be allowed to do. While this might turn highways in many southern states into dangerous warzones, Obama has rightfully noted that the results will be “fucking sweet.”

I for one can’t wait for these to be signed into law. Here’s to hoping Obama-era executive orders will be as ridiculous as those from the last eight years, but in a good way.

Who Are These People?

Before you actually watch this video, I should note that the Huffington Post article on the subject is accurately entitled Sarah Palin Does TV Interview While Turkeys Are Slaughtered In The Background (VIDEO):

Also, please note the $295 Burberry scarf.

Gay Marriage

It's a complicated issue, one that matters both very deeply, because of civil rights, and very little, because marriage is a deeply problematic institution that isn't as important as the country thinks. I've got a lot more to say about it. But for the moment, let this suffice:

via Andrew Sullivan and Graph Jam.

EDIT: Also, I forgot to mention this recced Kos diary, which proposes a hostile takeover of the highly offensive Mormon practice of posthumously baptizing non-Mormons, in the form of "converting" dead Mormons to homosexuality. The first prayed-for convert? Joseph Smith, of course!
Dear God of the Homos,

With your great and everlasting love that blessed the covenants of Achilles and Petroclus, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, and of Jonathon and David, bless then the soul of Joseph Smith of Sharon, Vermont with your divine penis. Let it pierce the anus of his soul, and let you be forever joined to him, since on this oppressive earth, he was denied the pleasure of the male sex.

Forever and ever, our brother Joseph Smith has now joined our family (We Sing the Hymn to Praise God of the Homos!).

Blessed be God of the Homos,


Photo Ethics: the AP Bans all Images Provided by the Department of Defense

Apparently, the DoD has no compunctions about heavily editing their photos before releasing them into the world. According to the BBC (from which the below image is shamelessly stolen), the AP caught on to the alterations in General Dunwoody's portrait only after sending the photograph to its clients. Since this violates their rules of photographic ethics, they immediately retracted the image and banned all photos provided by the US Department of Defense – at least until they can put some safeguards in place.

AP says that adjusting photos and other imagery, even for aesthetic reasons, damages the credibility of the information distributed by the military to news organisations and the public.

"For us, there's a zero-tolerance policy of adding or subtracting actual content from an image," said Santiago Lyon, AP's director of photography.

As you can see, the image was not merely retouched (I'd be surprised if every image run in any publication isn't retouched) but has the United States flag added as a backdrop:

The army, of course, maintains that they did nothing wrong:

Colonel Cathy Abbott, chief of the US Army's media relations division, said the Dunwoody photo did not violate army policy that prohibited the editing of an image to misrepresent the facts or change the circumstances of an event.

"We're not misrepresenting her," Col Abbott said. "The image is still clearly Gen Dunwoody."

The whole thing is pretty funny, in a way: we can't even trust the military not to lie in their photos! But while it seems obvious that news sources can't accept altered images, the issue is not so simple in practice. Considering that this is their choice of official portrait, I'm not sure the Army did do anything wrong. At the least, the AP seems to have an unrealistic view of the digital world, not to mention photography in general.

The problem is, there are no obvious lines between retouching and altering. Does the removal of pimples or stray hairs count? Changing the color balance? Combining multiple shots to make a panorama or increase the dynamic range of the ultimate exposure? What about altering the color of the sky by taking a color sample – but no actual pixels – from another image? Or opening someone's eyes in a group portrait by cloning in their face from an image taken mere seconds later with precisely the same configuration? Above all, though: what about selective cropping, which has always been a completely unavoidable problem in photography?

Obviously there's something wrong if photojournalists are allowed to make images look however they want, with no regard to the situation when they were taken. I'm actually something of a purist about photography, and essentially never use Photoshop to do anything to my own work besides dusting and light color correction. But as I say, this is an official portrait: what difference does it make whether the Army took the time to stand her in front of a flag in real life, or after the fact?

It's all too easy to cling to standards, as though they'll reliably preserve the truth or force us to correctly represent the world. The fact is, though, they won't: the image alone is never sufficient for truth. Photographs never portray the situation "as it actually took place." The correct course of action isn't to cover that up with relatively arbitrary rules, it's to make people aware of what photographs are, and what they mean.

No one could have seen this coming.

From the New York Times:

Washington continued to be gripped by the drama surrounding Mrs. Clinton’s fate and the possibility that Mr. Obama might bring his toughest rival for the Democratic presidential nomination into his cabinet. Mr. Obama’s advisers said the talks had gone well, but would not say if an agreement to avoid conflicts had been reached, as the Clinton camp has indicated.

Even if the guidelines for Mr. Clinton’s future activities are on the verge of being resolved, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton must still decide if they can put the rancor of their long and bitter primary battle behind them. The two sides have a framework on “what he needs to do to satisfy the vetting concerns and that gives her an opportunity to consider the job on the merits,” said one person close to the Clintons.

Both sides were engaged in a delicate public and private dance, maneuvering for position and reputation in case the deal falls through. Aides in each camp have grown increasingly sour toward the other in recent days as the matter played out publicly.

In their public signals, the Clintons are trying to take the former president’s activities off the table as an issue, in their view eliminating any excuses for Mr. Obama not to give Mrs. Clinton the job. Some in the Obama camp are bristling at what they see as strategic leaks by the Clintons aimed at boxing in the president-elect and forcing him to offer the post.

The tension could foreshadow a complex relationship burdened by suspicion and enmity should Mrs. Clinton become secretary of state. By putting her in the cabinet, Mr. Obama could remove a potential thorn in the Senate on issues like health care and a potential rival for the nomination in 2012 if his term proves rocky. But he could also face a rival power center within his own administration with her on his team.

WOOOO! A team of rivals!

Self serving leaks? Sneaky tactics? From the Clintons!?!?

Well I for one am shocked.

Even with her hawkish foreign policy views aside (which it's not like he ran his entire campaign against or anything), why on earth would you want to bring this much bullshit into your administration? With so many qualified and genuinely awesome candidates out there, what positives does she even bring to the table to put her in consideration?

Can anyone come up with a reasons why this is be a smart move? The best reason I can come up with that she would do less damage to progressive goals in the cabinet, and I'm pretty sure I don't even believe that one myself.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Senate Democrats get spineless, and the Netroots loses their understanding of politics

Can anyone say they were surprised? TPM:

Senator Harry Reid just spoke to reporters after the private caucus meeting with Dems over Joe Lieberman's fate, and he confirmed it: Lieberman will not be stripped of his Homeland Security chairmanship, because the "vast majority" of the Democratic caucus wants him to stay.

"This was not a time for retribution," Reid said, adding that "we're moving forward."

Lieberman was removed from the Environment and Public Works Committee, a largely meaningless punishment since it's a topic (unlike Homeland Security) on which he has no differences with Dems.

Asked about liberal "anger" towards Lieberman, Reid said: "I pretty well understand anger. I would defy anyone to be more angry than I was."

Honestly Harry, I really wouldn't go there.

But he added: "If you will look at the problems that we face as a nation, is this a time we walk out of here saying boy did we get even?"

"I feel good about what we did today," Reid said. "We're moving forward."

Lieberman himself, meanwhile, said he was able to keep his slot thanks to Barack Obama, whose recent statement said he held "no grudges" against Lieberman. Lieberman singled out the "appeal by President Obama himself" as a key reason he's staying.

So, Senate Dems will be allowing Lieberman to keep his plum spot despite the fact that he has been deeply awful in that role, and despite the fact that he endorsed efforts by the GOP to imply that Obama is in league with terrorists, suggested that Obama endangered our troops, and said Obama hasn't always put the country first.

Worse, Reid is echoing an argument he knows is false: That this is only about retribution. Reid and his fellow Senators have made the political decision to leave Lieberman in a job that he was a disaster at, rather than make the good governmental decision to remove him for the good of the country.

Just another reminder of what we're "moving forward" from:

A committee chairmanship is a reward, not something anyone is entitled to. And let's remember making him chair isn't meaningless, he used his power to block any investigations of the Hurricane Katrina incompetence, which you'd think would be reason enough to strip him of his post alone.

And then there's this: (Via Stoller):
Asked what it would mean if Lieberman kept his chairmanship, one Senate Democratic aide said bluntly: "The left has been foiled again. They can rant and rage but they still do not put the fear into folks to actually change their votes. Their influence would be in question."
I started to write a response, but just found that Sirota had already said the same thing but better:

It's pretty odd that only two weeks after a landslide election that saw a huge ideological progressive mandate, Democratic congressional leaders think it's a great public message to declare jihad on progressives.

I don't know, call me crazy, but I think 67 million people voted for Democrats because they want Democrats to reject Bush's ideological conservatism and solve problems - not spend their time making paranoid, quasi-McCarthy-ist speeches deriding "the Left."

But they do it because they know people will continue to take this crap. I am honestly getting more and more worried about the netroots developing their own brand of "dear leader syndrome" where no matter what a popular figure does, people start justifying insane positions simply because a popular figure has taken them. Over the past couple of weeks we've seen people on liberal blogs sing the praises of Rahm Emmanuel, excitedly support the bailout because the leadership said so, defend Volker and Summers as treasury secretary candidates and love the idea of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. But yesterday was a new low. When the top rec listed diaries on Dailykos are titled "Lieberman vote IS the change we need, not its repudiation" and "Revenge, Dean had it right", it's enough give you serious pause.

I frankly don't care that two people who a greatly respect like Howard Dean and Barack Obama think that this was the right way to handle this situation. It isn't. In this case, they are wrong. It shouldn't matter who they are, and it doesn't mean they are bad people. But they are wrong. And they can say that it's about revenge and bipartisanship all they want, but I'm sure even they know that's not true. It's about investigating Hurricane Katrina, and it's about stopping someone who says you hang out with terrorists a platform to speak for you and your party. Competent governance and allowing someone to spread lies under your banner are bigger issues than something as petty as "revenge". The worst part in all of this is that defending people blindly when they are wrong shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how politics works, and reminds those leaders exactly why they didn't listen to you in the first place.

Luckily, there are people like Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who I was fortunate enough to see speak yesterday at a Campaign for America's Future event. During the Q&A, he paused in mid answer and said this:(scribbled down from my notes, so may not be exact quote)
This may sound like sacrilege in this room, but Barack Obama has the potential to be a great president. But when you’re president, you get pulled from a lot of different directions. Right now, he’s getting pulled by a lot of centrists, and all comes down to who pulls him the hardest. He could very easily be a centrist president. But if we pull the hardest, then we have a great potential for progressive change.
And it's the netroots must do a the majority of this "pulling". As FDR said to his supporters in one of my all time favorite political quotes: "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it."

I believe Obama operates in a similar way, and that's gives me great hope about his presidency.

"Making them do it" is the cornerstone to effective politics. And based on the results of the Lieberman vote, we obviously have a lot of work to do.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Lincoln Bible = The Obama Bible?

An anonymous but reliable tipster informs me that the Lincoln bible is being prepped to serve as the Obama bible during the 2009 inauguration.

If true, that would be – to say the least – one of the more incredibly cool bits of symbolism in a campaign more flush with symbolism than basically any campaign ever. Except maybe, well, Lincoln's.

Up is down, day is night

And Jim Inhofe is saying things like this: (via atrios)
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said Saturday that Congress was not told the truth about the bailout of the nation's financial system and should take back what is left of the $700 billion "blank check'' it gave the Bush administration.

"It is just outrageous that the American people don't know that Congress doesn't know how much money he (Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson) has given away to anyone,'' the Oklahoma Republican told the Tulsa World.

"It could be to his friends. It could be to anybody else. We don't know. There is no way of knowing.''
. . .
"I have learned a long time ago. When they come up and say this has to be done and has to be done immediately, there is no other way of doing it, you have to sit back and take a deep breath and nine times out of 10 they are not telling the truth,'' he said.

"And this is one of those nine times.''

Monday, November 17, 2008

King Cotton

Via Strange Maps, a member of our Cool blogroll, here's yet another take on the presidential demographics:

Both these maps show the same segment of the southern United States, and demonstrate a similar pattern. Yet each describes a wholly other era and a completely different process.

The bottom map dates from 1860 (i.e. the eve of the Civil War), and indicates where cotton was produced at that time, each dot representing 2,000 bales of the stuff. Cotton was King back then, and mainly so in the densely cultivated border area between Louisiana and Mississippi, and in an equally dense band of cotton cultivation starting west of the Mississippi-Alabama line, tapering out across Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Other cotton centres are the areas around Memphis and what appears to be Lawrenceburg in southern Tennessee.

The top map dates from 2008, and shows the results of the recent presidential election, on county level. Blue counties voted for Obama, red ones for McCain (darker hues representing larger majorities). In spite of Obama’s national victory, and barring Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, all Southern states (i.e. all states formerly belonging to the Confederacy) went for McCain. The pattern of pro-Obama counties in those southern states corresponds strikingly with the cotton-picking areas of the 1860s, especially along the Louisiana-Mississippi and Mississippi-Alabama borders (the pattern corresponds less strikingly and deviates significantly elsewhere).

In a way, all this means is that the descendants of slave families voted overwhelmingly for Obama. Not exactly a surprise. But the map is still really striking, isn't it? Even nearly 150 years after the civil war, the racial/political demographics split in almost precisely the same way and, one could argue, for some of the same reasons.

The influence of our history on the present is crystal clear.

Case of the Mondays: I feel foolish

I can't help but feel partly responsible for the Washington Redskins' 14-10 loss to arch-rival Dallas last night. I guess spending the whole week hyping up the contest meant an epic potential for a letdown if things didn't turn out the way we would have liked. This is exactly what happened.

However, my lack of foresight pales in comparison to that of the Redskins organization, who pretty much guaranteed a loss with two unbelievable acts of bad karma. The first was to hand out "Redskins Rally Rags," this coming after our last game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was basically overrun with opposing fans and their long-standing tradition, the Terrible Towel. As a response, we straight-up copied one of the most original aspects of a very die-hard fan base with a lame attempt at a gimmick. Very stupid.

But if that wasn't enough to ensure defeat, we also picked last night to honor former greats Art Monk and Darrell Green, both of whom were inducted into the latest class of the NFL Hall of Fame. This was a setup for failure from the very start, as one of Washington's most famous victories in the history of the rivalry came in 2005 in Dallas when the C*wb*ys honored Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and the Throat Cutter. Trailing 13-0 with less than four minutes left to play, Mark Brunell threw two touchdown passes to Santana Moss, giving the Skins an improbable 14-13 win. Of course, the football gods would punish us for idiotically trying to get away with viturally the same thing!

Yes, maybe it's true that what happened on the field was more responsible than what happened off the field. But it's always more fun to find a scapegoat than to admit to yourself that perhaps your team is not very good.

Beating Dallas would have effectively ended their season. Not too many chances come along to bury your rival, so to blow this chance is especially tough. In no way is our season over, we've just left ourselves with a lot more work to do. Next week, we travel to face an awful Seahawks team, but keep in mind how we've done against horrible teams earlier this season. Plus, in recent history we have played terribly in Seattle. Even though this year's Seattle team is not as strong as those recent ones, our record in that stadium is still very poor. Games like these are exactly what I was worried about and until we actually go out and take care of business, I will still be worried about our ability to make the playoffs.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Epistemology of 21st Century Journalism, Part 1: Why Newspapers are Dying

The short answer? They haven't been writing enough articles like this.

For reasons you'll see in a moment, I agree with Andrew Sullivan that blogs are parasitic on the work of traditional journalists, particularly that of good investigative reporters. But aspects of this situation are changing: bloggers have started to win their fights for press credentials, and the prestige and access that traditional journalists used to enjoy exclusively is starting to look merely overpriced in the face of hard, unique work like FiveThirtyEight's On The Road series and just about everything original put out by Talking Points Memo (not to mention larger sites like The Huffington Post). No longer is it embarrassing to be interviewed by an internet-only publication: as often as not, bloggers are professional journalists who provide information that is utterly lacking in the mainstream, and people have started to realize it.

To make matters infinitely more interesting, some surprising names have started showing up in the bylines on some of the larger blogs: Keith Olbermann, John Kerry (who, it turns out, is awesome), Ted Kennedy, NY Governor David Patterson and a number of others all write diaries on Daily Kos; Darcy Burner and ACORN NYC executive director Bertha Lewis are now frontpagers on OpenLeft. That's a fantastic development. To be in direct communication with people in (relative) national power is something that ordinary citizens haven't had a chance to experience since the early 20th century, if ever.

What makes it so cool are moments like Friday, when Olbermann's post about Clinton's Secretary of State chances was joined on the Kos reclist by a strenuous objection to his reasoning and sources. That is actual, real discourse, and if it hasn't completely unclothed the emperor then it's at least revealing his fairly silly purple underpants.

There's only one truism worth its salt in the Western intellectual tradition, after all, and it was Socrates's fundamental point: no one really knows what they're talking about. There are experts, and there are geniuses, but if you push them hard enough then they'll come up short every single time. And yet, the more you push, the more interesting it gets.

The fact that NYT or CNN reporters are trusted merely because they're in the news is therefore a structural problem with our approach to knowledge. The internet has helped to reveal it, by offering alternatives and forcing improvement, but it's always been there. In part because of that revelation, the traditional media is starting to fail on a number of fronts.


It's not a bad thing, that they're floundering. With all due respect to the incredibly talented people who work in the mainstream – and there are many – the industry as a whole just has no hope of keeping up with the pace of analysis that the average internet user has come to expect. After reading FiveThirtyEight, OpenLeft and Pollster for a month or two, for example, watching someone on CNN talk about their "Poll of Polls", or seeing the AP hype its latest poll without the slightest deference to the surrounding context is downright embarrassing – and it's a problem that arises because there's no one to tell them to wake up and improve their methods.

To make matters worse, a columnist for the New York Times cannot possibly read and understand every one of the thousands of daily comments. And why should they? Most of them, as far as I can tell, are by crazy people who don't even try to understand the issue. By contrast, the comments on the blogs I read tend to be more manageable and of high enough quality that the solicitation of comments is are often the point of the post. A certain amount of self-selection is a good thing, even if it comes with a price.

As a professor of mine once argued, though, the fracturing of journalism could represent a return to our epistemological condition before the idea of "objectivity" was invented, when trust and knowledge was based more on the individual's personal acquaintance with a speaker than in the norms governing what they said and how they came to conclude it. But that simultaneously short-changes the blogs while over-selling traditional journalism: while the mainstream tends to rely on a small number of relatively static commentators, the internet (at least in its present uncrystallized form) is beautifully meritocratic. Though the actual situation is naturally more complicated, it's not far from the truth to say that bloggers succeed or fail entirely because of their ability while the positions of pundits in other media are determined by a much more roundabout process. (Also, objectivity is made up. But that's another story).

To put it in polemical terms, the internet is more diverse, more open to criticism, smarter, faster, soon to be more heavily populated (if it isn't already). Paradoxically, by contrast, the large media outlets are too small, too limited, too isolated, and too inflexible to partake in the dialogue about current events. Which makes them, in internet terms, too stupid. The small number of traditional news organizations simply cannot offer the depth of analysis of thousands of small blogs.

And there is something absolutely wonderful about the range of news sources today. I'll talk about this in more depth in a later post, but the ability to read five or six articles on a given topic, note their differences and come to an independent conclusion is something that only internet-based media can provide. Once exposed to that diversity, the idea of reading the NYT cover-to-cover everyday seems like just a waste of time. Why trust any one source to get everything about an important story right, anymore?


Yet this is probably a good time to start talking about how we really do need The Press, since newspapers across the country are on the brink of failure (including the vaunted New York Times, whose profits dipped 51% last quarter), posing a real threat to that beautiful diversity.

One of the reasons we need them is theoretical: without national discourse – even stupid national discourse – there's effectively no discourse. We need the stereotypical, largely stupid, sometimes corrupt, constantly maligned mainstream media to say things that we can agree or disagree with. They define the parameters of the debate, because theirs is the largest soapbox. Even if it's sometimes detrimental, they keep us talking about the same things.

But the other, deeper reason we need them is practical. While we may be able to expect a really good blog to reliably post most of the interesting stories of the day, we can't expect any single internet source to have dozens of reporters stationed all over the word. Not yet, anyway: it's an incredibly complex and expensive endeavor to handle the legal challenges and safety concerns posed by international journalism, and blogs aren't up to it yet even though they imply some exciting possibilities. Despite the growth of truly independent news sources, traditional reporters are still the people on the ground for nearly every major story.

That said, the situation facing most freelance journalists today is essentially the same as that facing bloggers. As David Simon repeatedly notes, the cost-cutting measures that newspapers have undergone over the last decade and a half have lead to a general lack of support for investigative reporting (which hits ex-pat reporters particularly hard) and a push to try and win a Pulitzer by presenting the sad but largely bullshit story of a misunderstood community-member. Well, that hurts everyone. I don't care as much if the analysis portion of ceases to exist, since, as I have argued, blogs do it better. But we need investigative journalism for any of this to work, and that's precisely what's been slipping.

So it's a great relief to see the New York Times putting out more articles like Secret Order Lets U.S. Raid Al Qaeda by Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti. This is no puff piece. It doesn't begin with a pointless emotive anecdote. It doesn't even provide any analysis. It's just deeply important, meaningful information presented in a clear and factually oriented manner with a sense of narrative flow and of the importance of knowing how important military decisions are actually made. And that's evident from the very first line:

WASHINGTON — The United States military since 2004 has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, according to senior American officials.

It's a serious and prescient issue, and so they literally don't waste a single word in the opening. And while there's a ton of information in the article, enough to give the reader a picture of how the command structure works, it's only about two net-pages long. Really, it's as good an article as I've ever read. It gives me hope for the survival of newspapers, despite the overwhelming odds.

Of course, it's worth noting that I read it online.

The Colbert Transition

From photography analysis blog BAGnewsNotes comes this hilarious note about Stephen Colbert's relationship with the office of the presidency:


That was then.


This is now.

The end of satire? No, probably not. But things are going to be a little different.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Awesome Beer of the Week: Russian River's Damnation

I was about to write that this post is almost a week late, then realized that the election eclipsed the post before what would have been Monday's post... so this is seriously late.

Well, whatever. This week has been hellish and awesome, and so it's only fitting that the Awesome Beer of the Week is Damnation by Russian River Brewing Company.

It's been said that Southern Tier is the East Coast's Russian River, which makes a good deal of sense to my limited experience: RR's Damnation, like ST's Heavy Weisen and Imperial Oatmeal Stout, is an original, balanced, ballsy take on beloved existing flavors. Being an East-Coaster, though, Damnation is the first, and remains the only, beer of theirs I've tried.

I should probably note at this point that Russian River has two beers – Pliny the Elder and Pliny The Younger, both Imperial IPAs – in the top ten of Beer Advocate's "Best of BA". Though that list is heavily biased towards stronger, higher-alcohol, "Imperial" brews, it's still amazing to have two beers in the top ten. There's another brewery with that honor, but it's the Belgian Brouwerij Westvleteren, whose beer is not technically available commercially. As in, you have to personally travel to the Abbey to purchase it and they will only sell you enough for personal use. Predictably, their strongest beer (a Quad) is called the "Holy Grail" of beer-drinking and has the highest rating on the site.

Long story short, Russian River has about the best reputation you can have.

Damnation did not disappoint. The only way I can describe it is to say that it's part Saison, part Tripel, with a dose of something that transcends both. It's certainly Belgian-inspired: though it doesn't quite fit into a single style, it's got the warm banana and yeasty flavor, along with a good dose of citrus. Just, the balance between the warmth and the particularly sour (and sour-smelling) citrus is uncharacteristic and seriously fantastic. You can taste the alcohol but it's still thoroughly easy to drink. All in all, it manages to be refreshing and drinkable without sacrificing complexity or virility.

The crowning blow, though – the real killer – is that it finishes with vanilla's aftertaste. Not a vanilla aftertaste, mind you, though that'd be cool too. I'm talking about that warm, tantalizingly delicious jolt that accompanies a good lick of vanilla ice cream. Truly, it's holy hell. I mean, they can do that?

Well, I sure didn't see this coming...

Oh Boy:

President-elect Barack Obama offered Sen. Hillary Clinton the position of Secretary of State during their meeting Thursday in Chicago, according to two senior Democratic officials. She requested time to consider the offer, the officials said.

Multiple reports have indicated that Clinton was under serious consideration for the nation's top diplomatic post, in addition to Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, the Republican Senator from Nebraska.

Here's the thing. Since absolutely every position Hillary Clinton has ever taken was done with running for President in mind, we don't actually know how she'd act if she were in a real position of power. If she can't use her position as secretary of state as a springboard for higher office, what will she do to pass the time? Her vote on Iraq was a political calculation, same with the vote on Iran. How does she actually feel about those votes? What is her actual foreign policy outlook?

I can honestly say I don't know. All I know is that if someone is willing to make decisions of that importance as throwaway political calculations, I don't want them anywhere close to real power.

Oh yeah, and Mark Penn in the west wing.


Oh, you mean those Clinton years...

Dean Baker keeps it real:

Those following the meeting of Barack Obama's economic advisory committee could not have been very reassured by the presence of Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, both former Treasury secretaries in the Clinton administration. Along with former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan, Rubin and Summers compose the high priesthood of the bubble economy. Their policy of one-sided financial deregulation is responsible for the current economic catastrophe.

It is important to separate Clinton-era mythology from the real economic record. In the mythology, Clinton's decision to raise taxes and cut spending led to an investment boom. This boom led to a surge in productivity growth. Soaring productivity growth led to the low unemployment of the late 1990s and wage gains for workers at all points along the wage distribution.

At the end of the administration, there was a huge surplus, and we set target dates for paying off the national debt. The moral of the myth is that all good things came from deficit reduction.

The reality was quite different.
Read the whole article for a history of economic policies during the Clinton years, and why they helped set the stage for the crisis we have now. While Bush made things far, far worse, history in some Democratic circles has been re-written to make his 8 years of nothingness sound like FDR's first term.

Let's be clear, I understand a great deal of this feeling comes from having suffered through the last 8 years with shit-for-brains as president, but can't we set the bar a little higher than not starting senseless wars and not totally fucking up the economy?

In the picture above, one of the three recently testified before congress that his economic philosophy has been proven wrong. The two that haven't are economic advisers to the president elect, and have both been mentioned as candidates for Secretary of the Treasury.

Not good. Let's bury this failed brand of economics once and for all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Some Insight Into Our Ridiculous Country

Courtesy of Wikipedia: a list of presidential pet names. All the recent ones are common-enough knowledge to be worth skipping, so let's start with the '70s and work our way backwards:

Jimmy Carter:
• Grits - dog
• Misty Malarky Ying Yang - Siamese cat

Lyndon B. Johnson:
• Beagle and Little Beagle - beagles
• Him and Her - beagles
• Blanco - white Collie
• Yuki - mongrel dog

John F. Kennedy:
• Macaroni - pony
• Butterfly, White Tips, Blackie, and Streaker - (offspring of Pushinka and Charlie)

Harry S Truman:
• Monster Jungle X-ray - Boa Constrictor

What the fuck. I mean, sure, some creativity with pet names is to be expected. But Misty Malarky Ying Yang? Monster Jungle X-Ray? Who are these people?

This is a heavily abridged list, I might add. Kennedy had 19 pets, for example, it just seemed particularly worth noting that the man named his pony Macaroni.

Moving down a few more decades, we get to Calvin Coolidge. Suffice it to note that he named his cat "Tiger," while also keeping two lion cubs at the white house. Or, not suffice it to note, because the rest of his list is also completely out of this world:

• Boston Beans - Bulldog
• Rebecca and Horace - Raccoons
• Smoky - Bobcat
• Tiger - cat
• Wallaby
• Two lion cubs
• Antelope
• Billy - Pygmy hippo

Naturally, I don't have to tell you that Theodore Roosevelt had a menagerie, though naming a Garter Snake "Emily Spinach" could show, I dunno, something, about what the country is like in those days. Really, though, the prize from that era goes William McKinley. Why? Because he named his pet parrot "The Washington Post."

Unfortunately, things get a little boring during the 18th an 19th centuries. Aside from Van Buren's tiger cubs and John Quincy Adams's Silkworms and American Alligator, there's just George Washington. But oh, is there George Washington:

• Sweet Lips, Scentwell and Vulcan - American Staghounds
• Drunkard, Taster, Tipler and Tipsy - Black and Tan Coonhounds
• Royal Gift - Donkey

America: Yeah, we kinda tend to elect insane people.

Swagger like us

Oh yeah, you better believe there will be (at least) one post on this subject per day until Sunday...

What does this map tell us?

From the New York times: (via John Cole)

The Red and Blue are the percentages they voted R or D compared to the 2004 election.

So they voted for Kerry, but for some reason they couldn't vote for Barack. Going door to door in southwestern VA a lifelong democrat told me that she just didn't think Barack would look out for "us" the same way John McCain would. Looking at this map it seems like she wasn't the only one who felt that way...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Yes Men do it again (Updated)

These newspapers were distributed throughout New York City early today:(Via the albany project)

John Lennon's "War is over, if you want it" line comes to mind. I'm sure some people ridicule it (as the idiotic comments on the gawker link prove), but I find activism like this is genuinely powerful stuff, and these days no one does it better than the Yes Men.

Update: Even better, they made a full online edition filled with articles, although none are even close to as funny as this fake Thomas Friedman column:
The sudden outbreak of peace in Iraq has made me realize, among other things, one incontestable fact: I have no business holding a pen, at least with intent to write.

I know, you’re thinking I’m going too far. I haven’t always been wrong about everything. I recently made some sense on global warming and what we needed to do about it, for instance.

But to have been so completely and fundamentally wrong about so huge a disaster as what we have done to Iraq — and ourselves — is outrageous enough to prove that people like me have no business posing as wise men, and, more importantly, that The New York Times has no business continuing to provide me with a national platform.

In any case, I have made a decision: as of today, I will no longer write in this or any other newspaper. I will immediately desist from writing any more books about how it’s time for everyone to climb on board the globalization high-speed monorail to the future. I will keep my opinions to myself. (My wife suggested that I try not to even form opinions, but I think she might have another agenda.)

Baffled? I don’t blame you. So I’ll cite some facts to support my decision — a practice, I must admit, I have too seldom followed.


Fred Smoot is awesome

Smoot, shown here pwning Dallas, has been brilliantly spreading hateful rhetoric against the C*wb*ys at local schools.

No, no, I'm not referring to THAT.

Via the Sports Bog:
"This week we come back and play the Cowboys, so you know what time it is," Smoot told the elementary schoolers. "I'm gonna teach y'all at a young age to hate the Cowboys."

It just gets better after that.

Anyhow, the point of all of this is that several of the post-reading kid questions had tangential references to football. Like, one kid asked Smoot about the favorite game of his career; "probably this year, when we went down to Dallas and beat the Cowboys to death," he said.

Another kid asked about the team's record; "right now we're 6-3," Smoot said. "After Sunday, we'll be 7-3."

I mean, he was dousing these kids with flammable anti-Cowboys propaganda and then turning a verbal flamethrower on them. What ever happened to educational objectivity?

A third kid asked Smoot if he was the champion of football; "Yes, we're the champions of football, because we are the Redskins," he said.

A fourth kid wanted to know Smoot's favorite color; "burgundy and gold, that's my favorite two colors," he answered.

This is exactly what we need. The Redskins organization should be sending out as many players as possible to various local schools and instilling a hatred of Dallas at an early age.

Smoot leaves us with this:
"We hate Dallas," Smoot said. "We hate Dallas. It's just been like that, and it's always gonna be like that. I got family members that love Dallas so I don't even talk to them during the week. That's just what it is. I literally don't talk to them....You know, I was in that Mississippi [State]-Ole Miss hatred battle, and once I got here and Darrell Green kind of sat me down and said look here, this is how it is, this is your Ole Miss now. And I kind of bought into it..."

More fun with your money

[Sec. Henry Paulson, pictured shortly after bailout bill passage]

No one could have seen this coming. Giving 700 billion dollars with no strings to the Bush administration was such a good idea:
The financial world was fixated on Capitol Hill as Congress battled over the Bush administration's request for a $700 billion bailout of the banking industry. In the midst of this late-September drama, the Treasury Department issued a five-sentence notice that attracted almost no public attention.

But corporate tax lawyers quickly realized the enormous implications of the document: Administration officials had just given American banks a windfall of as much as $140 billion.

The sweeping change to two decades of tax policy escaped the notice of lawmakers for several days, as they remained consumed with the controversial bailout bill. When they found out, some legislators were furious. Some congressional staff members have privately concluded that the notice was illegal. But they have worried that saying so publicly could unravel several recent bank mergers made possible by the change and send the economy into an even deeper tailspin.

"Did the Treasury Department have the authority to do this? I think almost every tax expert would agree that the answer is no," said George K. Yin, the former chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the nonpartisan congressional authority on taxes. "They basically repealed a 22-year-old law that Congress passed as a backdoor way of providing aid to banks."
And then there's this:
The nation may be diving headlong into recession, but that's not stopping financial firms from a cherished year-end tradition: the awarding of bonuses.

The number of bankers who will share the bonus pool has also decreased because of layoffs, the report found.

The top executives will likely get paid "primarily in paper," meaning stocks and stock options, according to Alan Johnson of Johnson and Associates. Pay will be down, he said, but there will still be "thousands of people who make millions of dollars."

In the report, he said, however, that "thanks in part to the financial bailouts and mergers we've seen recently, the decline in incentive payments won't be as drastic as first thought."

Awesome. Well at least we've got that transparency we were promised:

[Neel Kashkari, the former(by several weeks) Goldman Sachs Executive in charge of giving away your money]
To see Neel Kashkari field questions from a crowded room, one might think he's still being paid by Goldman Sachs rather than American taxpayers.

The interim assistant secretary of the Treasury for financial stabilization yesterday had a tone of impatience during a question-and-answer session, leaving some attendees feeling cheated.
. . .
When it came time for questions, the former Goldman Sachs executive told the eager audience that he had time for just "two or three."

In response to the first question, about the government's latest lifeline for beleaguered insurance company American International Group, Kashkari gave a clipped response before quickly moving on.

"This morning's action at AIG was a one-off event" that was necessary for the financial stability of the markets, he said. "He didn't say anything that I couldn't have learned from going to the Web site," griped one mortgage entrepreneur. Treasury spokeswoman Jennifer Zuccarelli said it's not unusual for public officials to answer a few questions before moving on. Kashkari's impatient tone comes amid a growing desire for openness about how government agencies, including the Treasury, are handling billions of taxpayer dollars being used to prop up Wall Street.

Yesterday's news that the Treasury and Federal Reserve increased the size of American International Group's rescue to around $150 billion from $123 billion intensified concern that Uncle Sam isn't spending wisely.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News sued the Federal Reserve for information under the US Freedom of Information Act, claiming the Fed refuses to identify the recipients of almost $2 trillion of emergency loans as well as the troubled assets the bank is accepting as collateral.

The more news that comes out about this thing, the worse it seems. It's important to remember that the those who strongly advocated passing this bailout weren't innocent bystanders caught up in a whirlwind, they knew what they were doing.

They were giving 700 billion dollars to the Bush Administration's Treasury Secretary without any meaningful strings attached. And it's not like you needed news stories like these to know that it probably wasn't going to end well.

One more reason to hate the C*wb*ys

As if you needed any more, just thought now would be a good time to remind everyone that NFL Hall of Famer, former Dallas C*wb*y and douchebag Michael Irvin once stabbed a teammate in the neck because he refused to get of out of a barber's chair to let him get his hair cut first. The C*wb*ys organization, classy as they are, then paid the rookie not to go to police or the media about the incident.

I'm not making this up.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Open Left Meets the Obama Administration

This is awesome:

Veteran Democratic official Mike Lux has been tapped by Barack Obama to serve as an adviser and progressive liaison during the transition period, the Huffington Post has learned.

Lux, who worked on the Clinton administration transition efforts in 1992, confirmed the hiring but, citing a need for clearance, declined to offer further information.

The staffing move provides the Obama team with an important outlet to the progressive community -- a constituency from which the president-elect currently enjoys great support but one that has a wide range of priorities and will be holding Obama most firmly to his campaign promises once he takes office.

After working in the Clinton White House on issues ranging from health care and the budget to school lunch policy, he founded Progressive Strategies LLC and began writing for the site in July 2007. He also helped co-found a number of progressive institutions including: Americans United for Change, Center for Progressive Leadership, Grassroots Democrats, Progressive Majority, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, and Women's Voices/Women Vote. He writes for the Huffington Post.

As readers of this site know, I consider Openleft to be the most intelligent, and well written progressive blog there is. The fact that someone associated with that site has an official role in the transition team is unthinkably cool, and reflects extremely well on the Obama himself.

A history lesson

Jan. 22, 1983. The NFC Championship between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas C*wb*ys. Shall we say... "selective" highlights.

I love the old crowds at RFK Stadium so much it hurts.

(Happy Veteran's Day, everybody).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Like "Maverick", BUT MORE BADASS

President Elect Obama's Secret Service Codename:

The Secret Service traditionally has given pithy, private names to those whose lives they protect. The monikers are a throwback to a time when electronic communications were not encrypted, and they no longer serve a security function. Still, they give an occasional peek at the players' personalities, in addition to serving as great trivia questions.

President-elect Barack Obama: R E N E G A D E

Now, lets compare this to past Presidents:

Dwight Eisenhower - Scorecard or Providence
John F. Kennedy - Lancer
Richard Nixon - Searchlight
Gerald Ford - Passkey
Jimmy Carter - Lock Master/ Deacon (close 2nd place in my opinion for best)
Ronald Reagan - Rawhide (yee frickin' haw Gorbachev)
George H. W. Bush - Timberwolf
Bill Clinton - Eagle
George W. Bush - Tumbler (I'll let J.N. take care of this one)

Just How Batshit Was Richard Nixon?

I referenced this in my last post, but rereading it is making me laugh so hard that it seems worthy of a post in its own right. Last year, the Nixon Foundation released what could well be the funniest memo ever written by a president in office. Slate summarizes:

Among these was an extraordinary piece of Nixoniana: a meandering 11-page memorandum (PDF) that Nixon sent in 1970 to his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, urging that White House staffers talk up what a warm human being "RN" was. (As was his habit, in the memo Nixon referred to himself repeatedly in the third person.) Nixon complained that "average voters" regarded RN as "an efficient, crafty, cold, machine." To help correct this common misconception, Nixon cited "warm items" (Page 3) such as "the calls that I make to people when they are sick, even though they no longer mean anything to anybody" (Page 4). "I called some mothers and wives of men that had been killed in Vietnam," he added, helpfully.

Because he was Nixon, he resented somewhat the social imperative that the president be courteous. "[W]e have gone far beyond any previous president … in breaking our backs to be nicey-nice to the Cabinet, staff and the Congress … around Christmastime," Nixon groused (Page 3). "I have treated them like dignified human beings and not like dirt under my feet" (Page 4), he continued. Connoisseurs will recognize this last as a choice illustration of Nixon's rhetorical tendency to render the thing he denies (that he treats subordinates "like dirt under my feet," that he is "a crook," that the press will "have Dick Nixon to kick around") much more vivid than the denial itself ("not," "won't").

The public's failure to appreciate RN in "the whole field of warmth" (Page 4), Nixon believed, stemmed in part from his own humble reluctance to recite "all the good deeds" he had done. "The President does not brag about all … he does for people" (Page 4). He had kept to himself, for instance, that "when I learned that Alex Butterfield's daughter … had been badly injured, I told Alex to bring her to the office even though I knew she would be embarrassed about her appearance" (Page 5). Nixon resigned in August 1974 after Oval Office tapes showed that he had worked to cover up the White House's role in the Watergate burglary. He never did persuade the American people "with regard to the whole warmth business" (Page 6), and the 1970 memo, which appears below and on the following 10 pages, stands as a poignant illustration why not.

In other words: Really seriously fucking batshit. Amazingly batshit. Batshit like no one you have ever personally met.

This dude was our president.