Friday, July 31, 2009

Progressives Vow to Block Fake Health Care Reform

Well, this is about as good of a birthday present as I could ask for:

July 31, 2009

Dear Madame Speaker, Chairman Waxman, Chairman Rangel, and Chairman Miller:

We write to voice our opposition to the negotiated health care reform agreement under consideration in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

We regard the agreement reached by Chairman Waxman and several Blue Dog members of the Committee as fundamentally unacceptable. This agreement is not a step forward toward a good health care bill, but a large step backwards. Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, for a public option with reimbursement rates based on Medicare rates - not negotiated rates - is unacceptable. It would ensure higher costs for the public plan, and would do nothing to achieve the goal of "keeping insurance companies honest," and their rates down.

To offset the increased costs incurred by adopting the provisions advocated by the Blue Dog members of the Committee, the agreement would reduce subsidies to low- and middle-income families, requiring them to pay a larger portion of their income for insurance premiums, and would impose an unfunded mandate on the states to pay for what were to have been Federal costs.

In short, this agreement will result in the public, both as insurance purchasers and as taxpayers, paying ever higher rates to insurance companies.

We simply cannot vote for such a proposal.


53 Members of the Progressive Caucus

As the Blue Dogs have shown, this is the type of pressure that works. Lots of credit goes to Jane Hamsher of firedoglake for her tireless work in making this happen.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

And Awaaaaaay We Go...

With another NFL (pre)season now officially underway, you can now expect the return of Washington Redskins coverage to The Train (otherwise known as the Redskins Ranting & Humiliation Station). With so many other credible sources for Redskins news and updates, I really have no business even trying to discuss the events and goings-on associated with the team. While I'm better served just directing you to better posts and articles than I could provide through links, this blog will occasionally read more like the diary of a frustrated, know-it-all Redskins fan so I want to thank you all for bearing with me. Now it's time to sit back and watch the rage flow freely as the season progresses.

When we checked in on the first day of Redskins training camp last year, the team was already in full-scale shitstorm mode. We had lost our starting left d-end for the season on the very first play of the very first 7-on-7 drill of the very first practice (... I'll calm down), as well as a key reserve for the exact same position. Nevertheless, we got off to a flying start, only to come crashing reasonably back down to Earth, where we probably deserved to end up all along, and then I became enraged several times during the offseason.

I have given up on the business of making predictions for how I expect the Skins to fare. I am so very wrong so much of the time that I'd rather not embarrass myself, plus with the Redskins, one truly has no clue what to expect heading into any given season.

With so many variables and plot lines affecting our upcoming campaign, what I will do is list which ones to watch for:

  1. HOW WILL JASON CAMPBELL PROGRESS? -- Our owners publicly undermined their faith in him twice by trying to acquire Jay Cutler, then later USC QB Mark Sanchez. Hell, we may even do it again! The fact is that there is a lot of pressure on Campbell to perform, especially since his contract is up after this year, and how he plays will dictate most of Washington's success this year. Since, you know, he's the quarterback and junk.
  2. WHAT, IF ANY, PLAYMAKERS WILL EMERGE ON OFFENSE?-- Everybody already knows our holy trinity of Clinton Portis, Santana Moss and Chris Cooley can make plays. The problem is that we got squat in terms of production from literally anybody else. Without making any major additions to our skill positions, we will need someone to step up big time from within or we'll likely face the same issues of last year's offense, which grew more stagnant as the year went on.
  3. HOW WILL JIM ZORN FARE IN HIS 2ND YEAR? -- I thought Zorn did extremely well in his first year as an NFL head coach - considering he had never even been an NFL coordinator. But after teams got film on his offense, the big plays dwindled down the stretch of the season. Will he be prepared for a new season with any wrinkles to the offense? Will he continue to grasp the dynamics of keeping peace and chemistry in the locker room? All of this remains to be seen.
  4. WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM OUR DEFENSE? -- In terms of yards allowed, we had a solid top-five defensive unit. We've made that corps stronger with the additions of Deangelo Hall, high-prized free agent Albert "Hey-Hey-"Haynesworth and standout rookie Brian Orakpo. However, we weren't able to generate many sacks or turnovers, which generally causes momentum shifts in games, or be truly dominant. We looked good on paper, judging by averages and other stats, but failed to snuff out teams when games were really on the line. These moves were made to address that, but no one knows for sure if they will actually work.
  5. IS OUR OFFENSIVE LINE REALLY ANY BETTER? -- The play of the offensive line is so overlooked by football fans and analysts. I can't emphasize enough just how shitty our o-line was last year and how much that affects what you can do with both the running and passing game. Again, we made one significant upgrade by signing former Redskin Derrick Dockery, but the rest is left to aging stars, inconsistent project players and huge risky gambles that may or may not work. It bears repeating that we have failed to address adding any real depth along the line, so the instant anyone gets injured, and they will get injured, it's back to drawing board, or relying on unproven players to step in and get the job done. While I'm ecstatic that we drafted Orakpo and think that it was pretty much a no-brainer to take him, we may look back at a 2009 draft class that featured three potential franchise left tackles and have it bite us in the ass for not making a move on any of them.
So there you have it. We'll check back in tomorrow and find out who we've lost for the season, or that we've signed Jeff George to a conditional contract after failing to sign Michael Vick. Or, we won't. But through all the anger and cynicism and doubt and sarcasm and masochism, it truly is an exciting ride for all NFL fans and the opening of training camp really does feel like the first day of Spring.


Happy birthday, sucka.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

S.P.A.S. Post 1: Palin's Poetisms

Even now, academics and journalists expend considerable effort "decoding," on the most basic level, the statements of Sarah Palin. Is she simply out of her depth, struggling to balance an incoherent narrative in a harsh spotlight? Mentally challenged? Just completely clueless about the basic meaning of the things she speaks about, or even just possibly her very words themselves?


We cannot understand her because she's secretly a poet. Of course, it's long been speculated that what appear to be Sarah Palin's inarticulate ramblings are in fact the work of a poetic genius trapped in the body of that gentle corrupt official. Here are some of Hart Seely's interpretations from last October:

"You Can't Blink"

You can't blink.
You have to be wired
In a way of being
So committed to the mission,

The mission that we're on,
Reform of this country,
And victory in the war,
You can't blink.

So I didn't blink.

(To C. Gibson, ABC News, Sept. 11, 2008)

"Befoulers of the Verbiage"

It was an unfair attack on the verbiage
That Senator McCain chose to use,
Because the fundamentals,
As he was having to explain afterwards,
He means our workforce.
He means the ingenuity of the American.
And of course that is strong,
And that is the foundation of our economy.
So that was an unfair attack there,
Again based on verbiage.

(To S. Hannity, Fox News, Sept. 18, 2008)

"Challenge to a Cynic"

You are a cynic.
Because show me where
I have ever said
That there's absolute proof
That nothing that man
Has ever conducted
Or engaged in,
Has had any effect,
Or no effect,
On climate change.

(To C. Gibson, ABC News, Sept. 11, 2008)

But finally, this week, luminary William Shatner has taken a stance on Palin's poetisms. The answer is now indubitable. Behold Shatner reading a selection from Palin's farewell resignation speech to the nation:

And just in case someone out there hasn't seen it – and for those of you that have, a reminder that it exists – here's a Shatner Bonus:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Train of Thought Field Trip: In The Grim Future Of The Birther Movement, There Is Only War

Watching Freepers decide whether they hate Muslims or communists more has lost some of its joy- their savage bloodlust always falls on the side of killing Muslims. A whole new matchup has come from an unlikely source, though- the Birthers. These are the guys who started by saying that Obama might not have been born in the USA, and have now advanced to positing that he’s the illegitimate Pakistani son of Malcolm X used as an anchor baby by his insane anti-American mother (honestly it would really make my day if even just one part of that turned out to be true). Naturally this viewpoint is pretty popular amongst the Free Republic/ Tea Party crowd.

Oddly enough our conflict comes from Ann Coulter, who decided that this whole thing is too out there (!!!) and dismissed the issue moments before calling the Birthers “cranks.” Hold on, don’t give her too many points for coming to a reasonable conclusion just yet! Keep in mind that she undoubtedly realized what very few of the Freepers have: that the GOP can ill afford to spend more time looking like insane racists. Whining about Sotomayor’s Latina pride and going on for months about how this black guy with an American certificate of live birth couldn’t possibly be an American is a recipe for disaster, assuming Republican politicians hope to eventually be electable outside the South once more.

What will triumph this time- the urge to follow their demagogue, or the promise of eventually unseating that damn Barack HUSSEIN Obama, Black Dude and President? This thread has all the answers:

Nanook sets the tone, albeit with a slightly puzzling non sequitur at the end:

Coulter has gone over to the dark side. Her
dark roots are showing.
Indeed they are, friend. BornToBeAmerican apparently hasn’t heard the good news:

Anne, you are losing it girl. In fact, I think
you have already. There would be No issue if
zero would show his Birth Certificate. Until
then, stop drinking the dims koolaide
Mr. K must have slept through the period where any Republican who suggested that Palin may not have been the best choice was tarred and feathered:

OK Coulter HAS NOT ‘gone to the dark side’ because
of this ONE ISSUE. Let’s not be as stupid as
democraps here. Ann Coulter is still one of the
most brilliant conservative voices that exist and
we need her. She is apparently not informed well
enough of the facts on this one issue.
Maybe she wouldn’t be one of your most brilliant voices if you hadn’t chased anyone with a functioning brain out of town? InvisibleChurch has no idea how the media works:

It doesn’t really matter if it’s true or not, no
one will be able to remove him from office. The
point is to keep pressure on the press, keep them
wasting resources refuting and defending it.

Psst buddy: a lively argument about stuff like this is how the media makes money, the more ridiculous crap you guys make up the happier they get. “Keep pressure on the press,” good lord, perhaps eventually they’ll drown in gold coins while attempting a Scrooge McDuck-style dive. The next post, by veteran poster FuzzyButt, reminds me of one of my favorite parts of Freeper logic:

I cannot believe that Ann Colter is bowing at the
alter of the looney left. Because Ann dear, that
is what you are doing if you carry even one drop
of water for this evil muslim fool.

If you haven’t arrived at the most outlandishly ridiculous conclusion possible, YOU are a member of the loony left! Extremely Extreme Extremist sounds like he was personally insulted by the DHS report, which means he must have some sort of critical insight on this issue:

Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen as
defined by the Constitution, and it's only a
matter of time before Americans will accept
an African-style communist dictatorship or a
short-term period of unrest and riots by the
Obamabots but which will restore our

Oh okay, I can see how one thing follows from the other. Rational Thought is an awesome username, pretend I wrote a joke about irony or something:

The trip I was referring to was the one a few
weeks before the Presidential election. The one
where he went to see his grandmother since she
wasn't doing so well. After the election, when
there was some free time, I noticed he didn't go
back to see her again.

I wonder if that’s because she died? Nah, couldn’t be. I can tell Bareford101 was THIS CLOSE to making an ACORN reference:

Coulter is bowing to pressure it sounds like...
who knows what the threats involve...

Finally WOSG shows up and starts making sense- which doesn’t go over well with his fellow forums users:

IMHO, Obama was born in Honolulu *AND* he will
never do anything to satisfy those with doubts
on that score (disbelievers of the evidence),
since it benefits him politically to have this
distraction out there.

You are correct, sir! Why anyone smart enough to figure that out would ever stick around on Free Republic is a mystery to me, it seems like they should be able to find some internet forum where they won’t be harassed and eventually banned for not being batshit insane. As my final exhibit here I’ll post the first of many angry replies WOSG received, from Jimbo123:

You cite George Soros’ as your
source? That’s a good one...

Address any of his points? No way duder, I’m just here to shit up the thread with a clich├ęd Soros reference and then blast off into the aether in a rocket ship powered by my own farts, bye!

Prediction: the AP will not exist in 10 years

I've blogged about the A.P.'s odd journalistic logic before (as have many others), but this is sure going to turn some heads: declaring that search results, links, quotes and the brief synopses used by news aggregation sites like Google News represent a violation of copyright law's Fair Use doctrine, the AP will hereby attempt to control links to any of its online articles. To monitor use of their content, all AP articles will soon house software they call a "wrapper" that will send data back to headquarters, and they have urged all other news organizations to do the same.

Certainly, the problems of profitizing news in the internet era are legion. As this Economist article notes, it costs a fantastic amount of money to maintain a worldwide network of editors and journalists – and that's exactly what good news requires.

My hopes lie with a microtransaction model of payment such as the one proposed by Journalism Online, where readers would pay cents per article rather than dollars per newspaper. Though it wouldn’t remove news organizations’ temptation to emphasize popularity over quality, it would at least solve one major problem: the ability to responsibly use news searches to read multiple articles on a given subject. While I’m happy to pay for news, I don’t trust any one newspaper to get it all right, all the time: better to rely on multiple streams of information that allow choice over what to read.

(I’d be particularly enthusiastic about a solution that charges based on the actual cost of production and distribution, which would share the cost across the entire readership: the more readers, the cheaper the cost to each individual. If the charge could be delayed a week or so for the number of readers to accumulate, it would create a marvelous incentive to share.)

Perhaps this move by the AP is the first towards such a model. Frankly, though, they don’t seem to be that smart.

For one thing, although they cloak their attempts to control content in legal language, they will not pursue any legal recourse against those who quote or link to their articles: “We’re not picking the legal remedy today,” says Tom Curley, AP CEO president. Why? As the above-linked NYTimes article on the subject remarks, “Executives at some news organizations have said they are reluctant to test the Internet boundaries of fair use, for fear that the courts would rule against them.”

No shit. While reproducing an entire article for profit would probably violate fair use, the AP doesn't have a prayer of arguing against internet links and short quotes in court. The relevant law comes from Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 107 of the US Code:

[T]he fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Note the emphasis on criticism, comment and news reporting. While the AP could try to make an argument based on the scale of the internet’s use of their content and its effect on their bottom line, really no court is going to rule that a headline and a link violates fair use. Yet rather than viewing the links as FREE ADVERTISING, that is precisely what the AP claims.

The campaign might make sense with enormous, successful, for-profit companies like Google: get them to share some of their still-climbing profits with the organizations that provide them with higher quality search results. But negotiations like that take place behind closed doors, not in such a public sphere. Also, Google News already has a licensing agreement with the AP.

No, they’re targeting people like, well, us here at The Train of Thought. (For the record, we make no money here.) For my part, if they don’t want me linking to their articles, then I won’t link to their articles. But lord knows why they want that.

Their stated goal is “not to have less use of the news articles, but to be paid for any use.” I agree, journalists should be paid. But the AP appears to be adopting an attitude of petulant extinction. Seriously: you want to increase traffic by taking a belligerent stance towards the non-profit blogs, aggregators and search engines that direct traffic your way? Good luck. Way to be, as they saying goes, dead right.

John Yoo v. Brilliant, Tasteless Pranksters

I've long wondered why John Yoo is teaching at UC Berkeley. Barring prison, it at least seems like he shouldn't be teaching. But if he can get a job teaching, how and why did he end up at Berkeley?

This video sheds some unsurprising but hilarious light on how it's going. And since I was on campus myself just yesterday, it seems particularly timely:

My favorite part is that the class applauds.

EDIT: This Glenn Greenwald piece about a letter by UC Law Dean William Orrick helps explain Berkeley's willingness to hire Yoo: the school's desire to defend and cement academic free speech transcends just about everything else.

EDIT II: Whoops, J.N. already posted this.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

taking the train of thought in a new direction

With JJ out of town, I hereby declare myself Train conductor-for-life. It's time to shake up the site a little bit by changing our focus- from now on we'll be the Sarah Palin Appreciation Station. During the election we were far too mean to poor Mrs. Palin, so now we can take some time to turn over a new leaf and show how sorry we are for spending several months calling her a gigantic moron.

To start I'd like to mark this momentous day: the end of her reign in Alaska. Time to use my MSPaint skills for good instead of evil-

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Much Needed Vacation

Pictured: JJ and DCJonesy, 7 PM tomorrow

Check my twitter feed @ManWithoutPants for occasional updates and pictures that will make you wish you were also in sweet, sweet Miami.

See you Wednesday.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Train of Thought Lounge: Baltimora

There's tons of shit that I wish I could be writing about, but this week has been about as busy as weeks get. It's one of the of the problems you get when blogging is a hobby and not your job. (Random super rich person out there who wants to make this my job, this is your chance!)

Anyway, in honor of Nimsofa's new home in Baltimora, here's one of the strangest/most awesome videos of the 80s: Baltimora, Tarzan Boy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Liveblogging Obama's Press Conference, 8 PM Tonight!

Sorry for the short notice, but I'll be liveblogging Obama's press conference tonight in another attempt to check out the Cover it Live software.

Stop by around 8 to check it out and join in!

Public Shaming of ex-Bush Officials, Part 8349583485

File this under 'fairly awesome,' although I'd still like to know how he managed to put on his costume and get on the chair without more people freaking out:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

People who should be made to feel insecure about their jobs

I have here in my hand a list of 40 senators, a list of names that were made known to the Senate as being in favor of continuing to spend money on the F-22 despite all sense and reason: despite their monstrous expenses, despite the Pentagon begging not to get any more of them, despite the many weaknesses and flaws of the F-22 which include, among many other things, not being able to fly in the rain. These jackasses wanted to continue the program:


Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
Dodd (D-CT)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Inouye (D-HI)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Martinez (R-FL)
McConnell (R-KY)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murray (D-WA)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Snowe (R-ME)
Tester (D-MT)
Thune (R-SD)
Udall (D-NM)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

Worth noting is that the list includes 15 Democrats, proof that feeding the MIC is a bipartisan pastime.

No, Not Everyone...

I know this is old, but that doesn't mean it's any less deserving of a smack down:
"The truth is, we and everyone else misread the economy," declared Biden. "The figures we worked off of in January were the consensus figures and most of the blue chip indexes out there."
Actually, the truth is that plenty of people have been right in predicting the economy over the last 8 years, and you chose to shut them out of the Administration. A recent Newsweek article attempts to figure out why Joe Stiglitz was left out:

Stiglitz has warned for years that pro-market zeal would cause a global financial meltdown very much like the one that gripped the world last year. In the early '90s, as a member of Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers, Stiglitz argued (unsuccessfully) against opening up capital flows too rapidly to developing countries, saying those markets weren't ready to handle "hot money" from Wall Street. Later in the decade, he spoke out (without results) against repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, which regulated financial institutions and separated commercial from investment banking. Since at least 1990, Stiglitz has talked about the risks of securitizing mortgages, questioning whether markets and authorities would grow careless "about the importance of screening loan applicants." Malaysian economist Andrew Sheng says, "I think Stiglitz is the nearest thing there is to Keynes in this crisis."

. . .

Stiglitz's defenders say one possible explanation for his outsider status in Washington is his ongoing rivalry with Summers. While they are both devotees of Keynes, Summers often has supported deregulation of financial markets—or at least he did before last year—while Stiglitz has made a career of mistrusting markets. Since the early '90s, when Summers was a senior Treasury official and Stiglitz was on the Council of Economic Advisers, the two have engaged in fierce policy debates. The first fight was over the Clinton admin-is-tration's efforts to pry open emerging financial markets, such as South Korea's. Stiglitz argued there wasn't good evidence that liberalizing poorly regulated Third World markets would make any one more prosperous; Summers wanted them open to U.S. firms.

The differences between them grew bitter in the late 1990s, when Stiglitz was chief economist for the World Bank and took issue with the way Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and Summers, who was then deputy secretary, were handling the Asian "contagion" financial collapse. After World Bank president James Wolfensohn declined to reappoint him in 1999, Stiglitz became convinced that Summers was behind the slight. Summers denies this, and maintains that no rivalry exists between them. Summers's deputy Jason Furman says that Summers now "talks to [Stiglitz] a lot." "A lot" is an exaggeration, Stiglitz responds. "We've talked one or two times," he says.

. . .

Today, settled as a professor at Columbia, Stiglitz occasionally finds himself welcomed in the nation's capital, though usually at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, to testify before Congress. While he had no great desire to go back into government, friends say he was deeply disappointed when an offer didn't come from Obama last fall. Not surprisingly, Stiglitz believes his old rival was behind it, though Summers denies this.
As readers of this site know, my biggest worry about Obama's presidency remains his economic advisers and their handling of the banking crisis. Obama had a choice about whose ideas would bring us out of this economic crisis, and he chose to trust those who've repeatedly been wrong about these issues in the past.

There's always the increasingly small chance that they figure things out this time around, but when you have access to the people who've been right all along, I still can't understand why you'd bet your political capital on the fuck ups.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Weekend Reading

Read Matti Taibbi's feature on Goldman Sachs "The Great American Bubble Machine".

I can't recommend it higher, so I won't even quote it. Just do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

Keep in mind this was before the news of Goldman's absurd quarterly profits, which he writes about here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Douche Caucus Angered that Other Senators are Doing Their Jobs

Calling all attention whores:

Six key Senate Centrists--Ben Nelson (D-NE), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Ron Wyden (D-OR)--are asking Democratic and Republican leaders to slow down the pace of health care reform efforts.

"[I]n the view of [CBO Director Doug Elmendorf's] statement, there is much heavy lifting ahead," reads a letter the group signed today. "We look forward to working with you to develop legislation that is vital to the well-being of the American people and urge you to resist timelines which prevent us from achieving the best results."

According to Huffington Post's Ryan Grim, who first obtained the letter, "The organized effort to slow down the process is a blow to the reform effort." And, indeed, there letter exemplifies a growing sense among centrists and health reform skeptics that the pace of reform should be slowed down. But it's also a restatement of very publicly held views. Earlier today, Nelson himself appeared on CNN and suggested congressional health care leaders should not to move too quickly.
Just like the way Nelson, Snowe and Specter held up the stimulus to be seen as kingmakers who get meetings at the white house, none of these six actually care about working on the bill, as much as how they look while tinkering with it.

The good news is that unlike what the article states, these six senators aren't "key" at all. In fact, since the Democrats can pass health care reform with 51 votes through reconciliation, they can (and should) be told to go fuck themselves.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Saying What You Actually Mean

While even the most vile statements can be disguised in fancy rhetoric, sometimes you get quotes that unintentionally reveal someone's true beliefs.

Abe Foxman of the Anti Defamation League on Obama's Approach to Israel/Palestine: (Via Tpm)
"I continue to sense that the administration is putting too much weight on solving the conflict."
And that's the sentiment of the Israeli lobby in a nutshell. You rarely here it articulated in those terms, but that is most definitely their position.

... and the winner is...

The People's Liberation Army! There are almost lethal doses of irony in giving that name to your military, and then immediately sending them around to subjugate the fuck out of your neighbors in a colonial exercise that would impress even the blackened heart of the most dedicated colonial oppressor. Here some paramilitary police march pass two Uighurs after the recent riots in Xinjiang:

Don't our Uighur friends look delighted to have been thus liberated? I guess if we use the Limbaugh school of thought it's perfectly fine to do this to them, though- if they so much as voice a complaint about getting arbitrarily executed by the government they simultaneously justify future oppression.

I'm sure there are other militaries with outstandingly ironic names- anyone aware of any?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Israel Being Israel, Part 2

To continue from a post JJ made a few weeks ago, we have this wonderful piece of news:

JERUSALEM — Israeli combat soldiers have
acknowledged that they forced
Palestinian civilians to serve as human shields,
needlessly killed unarmed Gazans and improperly
used white phosphorus shells to burn down
buildings as part of Israel's three-week military
offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter.
Gee I sure am glad we keep giving Israel weapons and encouraging the government to use them! It's also still a mystery as to how Palestinians could possibly have come to dislike Israel.

Oh, on the other hand the IDF swears that these soldiers (and Palestinian and international witnesses to such acts) are totally making it up:

The Israel Defense Forces dismissed the report.

In April, the IDF announced it had concluded five
high-level investigations, including one into the
use of phosphorus to burn down buildings, and
cleared itself.
Hahaha it cleared itself, well that surely must be the end of that chapter! The IDF only takes second place for 'most ironically-named military,' however, after another one I'll reveal soon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Quick Thought about the Surtax

The primary Republican argument against the surtax is that people making over $200,000 drive the economy by owning small businesses. Taxing these people cuts into their ability to expand (or even tread water), and thus keeps the economy from growing.

No doubt that's true. In part. Full reliance on that generalization would ignore two important aspects of the situation: the first is the number of rich Americans who do not own small businesses, or own small businesses for tax reasons; the second is that government spending is responsible for major parts of the American economy. Indeed, at least some part of that spending is better (ie, representing purer pursuits with more long-term and potentially widely useful goals) than what Americans tend to spend their money on.

The debate can be summarized as "Surtax on the rich" vs. "Big government taxing small business owners." But the real question isn't which is better or worse in the abstract. It's which is more efficient? And wouldn't that be empirically assessable? There should exist determinable numbers that could give us a strong sense of where we stand, and I haven't seen them referenced anywhere.

Two key questions for which I want detailed answers:

1. How many small business owners make over $200,000, and at least approximately how much do they contribute to the economy? estimates that only 2% of small business owners make over $171,551 (the cutoff for the second highest tax bracket). But that isn't enough: what percentage of that 2% are simply more successful than average, and what percentage are just extremely wealthy Americans trying to write off big purchases as business expenses?

2. How efficient are our tax dollars? The government is enormously complex, but all but a tiny percentage of its money is transparently published.

Once we know that, the process is simple:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Arlen Specter's Stupidity Knows No Bounds

After playing the staff of another party switching jackass in softball, I checked my phone to see this message from Arlen Specter on Twitter:

Is this the record of a "true Democrat," @JoeSestak?
You read that correctly. Things get even worse when you click through to the linked article:

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter's campaign on Thursday seized upon U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak's voting record prior to his election in Congress three years ago, saying Sestak didn't pull the lever during 23 general elections between 1973 and 2002.

Sestak's campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. We'll add comment as soon as we get it.

Sestak has been on the attack for weeks, casting Specter as a "flight risk" since his defection to the Democratic Party in April. Sestak has argued that he is the only "true Democrat" in the race for the party's nomination for U.S. Senate.

Specter has sought to respond to that by arguing that Sestak wasn't even a registered Democrat until 2006, when he ran for office for the first time. Sestak has told the AP that he registered as an independent during his career in the Navy because he didn't think it was appropriate to be affiliated with a political party.

“Congressman Sestak is a flagrant hypocrite in challenging my being a real Democrat when he did not register as a Democrat until 2006 just in time to run for Congress," Specter said in a statement. "His lame excuse for avoiding party affiliation, because he was in the service, is undercut by his documented disinterest in the political process."

The man who thought that coming out strongly against the Employee Free Choice Act would save his ass with the Republicans might have made an even dumber political move.

Where do you even start with something like this?

I guess you could begin by questioning why Specter is attacking his opponent with something that will immediately bring up his own biggest weakness. I can't fathom what braintrust decided to push the "Lifelong Republican calls Democratic isn't enough of a Democrat" line of attack, but I'm sure glad the aren't working for my candidate.

But besides violating the general rule of thumb that "Hypocrites shouldn't call other people hypocrites", his attacks on Sestak's "lame excuse" are pretty amazing. Chris Bowers:

Of course, Sestak was an Admiral on active duty until only a couple months before February 2006. So, what Arlen Specter is really doing here is criticizing Sestak for not being partisan enough during his time as an Admiral.

Lots of officers, including Colin Powell, do not register with a political party when they are still in the military. The basic idea is that you don't want to politicize the military leadership.

Would Arlen Specter rather that all Admirals and Generals state their political preference for the whole county to see? I'm sure that wouldn't cause any problems at all.

Now, I am a partisan, and I argue that more Democrats should be active partisans. However, it also strikes me as Honduran-ly obvious that high ranking military personnel should most definitely not be partisans while they are still in the service.

Further, to call a veteran a "hypocrite" for only becoming a partisan after he left the service is to deny all veterans the right to fully participate in American political life. Once you leave the service, you should be allowed to become as much of a partisan as you want, free from charges of "hypocrisy" simply because you served your country in a non-partisan way.
I'll add something else that Bowers didn't mention. Regardless of the fact that Sestak was in the military, should Specter really be bringing up how people voted in past elections? Does he realize that most Democrats would gladly take Sestak's record over someone who voted Republican, endorsed Republicans and WAS AN ELECTED REPUBLICAN SENATOR for each of those 23 elections? Is this really the conversation he wants to be having?

The fact that he responded so strangely shows that:
a) He's nervous.
b) He's not very good at this.

Frankly, why should he be good at this? He's a Republican politician running in a Democratic Primary!

With Sestak as a serious challenger and Specter incoherently flailing around, this race keeps looking better and better for the (actual) Democrats.

No More Excuses, Which Side Are You On?

More strong words from Harry Reid and Dick Durbin:

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said Tuesday that he and Senate Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) will be asking the 60-member Democratic caucus to “stick together” on procedural votes that would allow the chamber to begin or end debate on legislation. Sixty votes are needed to close debate, or invoke cloture, on a measure and avoid a filibuster.

The message to Democrats, Durbin said, is: “Don’t let the Republicans filibuster us into failure. We want to succeed, and to succeed we need to stick together.”

Both parties have always put a premium on unity when it comes to procedural votes. The difference in the 111th Congress is that a unified Democratic Conference doesn’t necessarily need Republican support to succeed.

With 60 caucus members, Senate Democratic leaders are now under increased pressure to deliver big legislative wins on health care and climate change, largely because Republicans theoretically can no longer use the filibuster rules to prevent Democrats from passing major pieces of the agenda.

This puts the focus directly on the Douche Caucus, who now face a very clear choice between allowing votes to take place or joining with the Republicans to actively obstruct the Democratic agenda. As you might expect, Douche Caucus Chair Evan Bayh seems to have picked his side:
“Most Senators vote their conscience and they do what they think is right. They didn’t come here to be told what to do by somebody else,” moderate Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.) said.
Yep, Evan "the corporate whore" Bayh doesn't listen to anyone before he votes. It's just his conscience that tells him to sell out Indiana's middle class at every chance he gets. But he's not the only one. Several other Douches have expressed concerns about allowing their own party to govern:

For example, Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.) said she would “be supportive of many Democratic priorities” and is “absolutely committed to help the Democratic leadership and the president get health care reform that our people can depend on.” However, she flatly refused to rule out filibustering any bill, including health care and climate change legislation.

“I’m going to keep an open mind, but I am not committing to any procedural straitjackets one way or another,” she said.

Similarly, Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) said he has often been loath to block legislation or executive branch nominees, but reserves the right to filibuster if he determines it’s warranted.

“I’m not a closed mind on cloture, but if it’s an abuse of procedure, if it’s somebody trying to put a poison pill into a bill, or if it’s something that would be pre-emptive of Nebraska law, or something that rises to extraordinary circumstances, then I’ve always reserved the right to vote against cloture,” Nelson said.

I love the gulf between the dire legislation that they describe and the bills that are actually being considered. "A poison pill", "abuse of procedure", "extraordinary circumstances". Because these are words that come to mind when a Senator is forced to decide whether or not it's worth fucking over their constituents in order to appease whatever corporate lobby currently needs appeasing.

The good news about having 60 votes in the senate is that there are no more excuses, and no more places to hide. If the Douche Caucus decides to join the Republicans in filibustering the Democratic agenda, that's their call. They've just shown us that they don't need any Democratic party resources the next time they're up for re-election. And if Harry Reid isn't willing to stand up to the Democrats who are obstructing the agenda that they were elected pursue, then we know we'll need new leadership as well.

It's time for the Senate Democrats to answer the age old question: "Which side are you on?"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Self Hating Jews"

You get the feeling someone will be apologizing fairly shortly: (Via Matt Yglesias)
Netanyahu appears to be suffering from confusion and paranoia. He is convinced that the media are after him, that his aides are leaking information against him and that the American administration wants him out of office. Two months after his visit to Washington, he is still finding it difficult to communication normally with the White House. To appreciate the depth of his paranoia, it is enough to hear how he refers to Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, Obama’s senior aides: as “self-hating Jews.”
Not having the US 1000% behind whatever crazy adventure Israel wants to try this week might be driving Netanyahu a bit insane.

Oh yeah, and stopping you from building homes on other peoples' land isn't "ethnic cleansing".

Ugh. Make it stop.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Progressive Block in Action

Waking up and reading this news made me wonder if I was still dreaming: (Via Open left)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday ordered Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes on a massive health care reform bill.

Reid, whose leadership is considered crucial if President Barack Obama is to deliver on his promise of enacting health care reform this year, offered the directive to Baucus through an intermediary after consulting with Senate Democratic leaders during Tuesday morning’s regularly scheduled leadership meeting. Baucus was meeting with Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) Tuesday afternoon to relay the information.

According to Democratic sources, Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes; Reid told Baucus it wasn’t worth securing the support of Grassley and at best a few additional Republicans.

Reid's epiphany that gaining two votes is less important than keeping 15 may not seem like a big deal, but it is. So far he has done a horrific job of keeping type of caucus disipline, and laying down the law with Baucus is a great first step.

As if it couldn't get any better, you get this news from the house side of the equation:

After sparking progressive outrage, and sending the White House into damage control mode, a chastened Rahm Emanuel appeared before House Democrats yesterday to reassure them that the administration stands foursquare behind a public option.

At the meeting, House liberals warned Emanuel that he couldn't count on them to vote for a bill that contains a triggered public option. "We have compromised enough, and we are not going to compromise on any kind of trigger game," Woolsey apparently told Emanuel. "People clapped all over the place. We mean it, and not just progressives."

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said Emanuel assured him that "he doesn't stand by [the] trigger."

But all may not be forgiven and forgotten. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, said the Chief of Staff ""made a hell of a mistake. He made a hell of a mistake and he knows it."

While it's too early to get excited, this is essentially the realization of Chris Bowers' progressive block strategy. It's the best way to get our goals accomplished, and simply phenomenal that it's actually being used.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Train of Thought Lounge: Die Wacht am Rhein v. La Marseillaise

No lesson here. Just watched Casablanca recently, and this scene, not the smaller tragedy between Bogart and Bergman, always brings me to tears.

It's funny how blatantly propagandist the film is (in this scene and elsewhere), and how much that strangely improves it. That its creators felt it would have an effect on the feelings of those who could make a difference in the war makes it so much more real for a viewer more than sixty five years later.

This will be better if you know the characters and can appreciate the turning point in the plot that this scene represents. But just imagine being an exile from an occupied country. And remember, this was filmed in 1942:

She Never Stops

Today's Palin idiocy:
“I think on a national level, your department of law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we’ve been charged with and automatically throw them out,” she said
At what point will people stop speculating about her future and focus on the storyline that a complete fucking moron nearly became Vice President of the United States?

Shouldn't we all just breathe a sigh of relief rather than giving a hell about what this nutjob does next?

(And just to be clear I'm only talking about real news organizations that should be covering real news. The Daily Show should probably open a Bureau in Wasilla to make sure they don't miss anything.)

Robert McNamara, ex Secretary of Defense, Dies

And with him, in some sense, the Vietnam War.

For perhaps, as Errol Morris remarks on Twitter, "McNamara was not the chief architect of the Vietnam War; the chief architect was Lyndon Johnson." But it wouldn't be a stretch to say that McNamara is the most deserving subject of Bob Dylan's Masters of War, and even less of a stretch to say that his were the hands that shaped the specific course of the war.

Indeed, it may be that Morris simply got too close. His brilliant film Fog of War humanizes – if such a thing is possible – the reality of the decisions that lead to a pointless, failed war. For better or worse, Morris does it by letting McNamara enumerate in his own words the lessons he learned during his term as Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson.

Regardless of whether McNamara was the most directly responsible for that horror that haunted the 1960s, his death crystallizes a hard truth about our own times: I would take McNamara in a second over the warmongers of today. I'm sorry to see him go. The man was deeply rational, in such stark contrast to the mere ideology of the Bush era that it's breathtaking. You could say that McNamara's title, Secretary of Defense, fit him; when Donald Rumsfeld held the post, he might be better have been called Secretary of War.

That McNamara's death coincides with the Obama military's first push into Afghanistan is an opportunity to look back at how that paradigmatically rational Defense Secretary behaved. In doing his job well, he saved the lives of half the world. Yet how gravely, even backed with all the strength of intelligence and peaceful intentions, such an apparently rational man making apparently rational choices could lead the country awry.

And so, I leave you with McNamara himself, as presented by Errol Morris. There can be no better obituary than that. Truly, I cannot recommend this film more highly:

Rest in Peace, Robert McNamara.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Obama Can't Stop (Or Won't Stop) Progressive Attack Ads Targeting the Douche Caucus

As the battle for health care reform heats up, progressive groups have smartly started to turn their firepower against their real opposition, the douche caucus. The subject came up on a conference call with President Obama this weekend:

President Obama, strategizing yesterday with congressional leaders about health-care reform, complained that liberal advocacy groups ought to drop their attacks on Democratic lawmakers and devote their energy to promoting passage of comprehensive legislation.

In a pre-holiday call with half a dozen top House and Senate Democrats, Obama expressed his concern over advertisements and online campaigns targeting moderate Democrats, whom they criticize for not being fully devoted to "true" health-care reform.

"We shouldn't be focusing resources on each other," Obama opined in the call, according to three sources who participated in or listened to the conversation. "We ought to be focused on winning this debate."

Specifically, Obama said he is hoping left-leaning organizations that worked on his behalf in the presidential campaign will now rally support for "advancing legislation" that fulfills his goal of expanding coverage, controlling rising costs and modernizing the health system.

The easy response to Obama's point is that it's not "winning the debate" if the final bill doesn't include a strong public option. But unlike the other times in recent memory when Obama has attempted to pressure the left wing of his party to fall into line, I don't quite buy this. Like Ezra Klein says, if he really wanted to stop the attacks, he would have reached out to these organizations privately, rather than in a conference call that would leak to the press. Also, Obama has otherwise repeatedly signaled that he wants a public option, so this seems more like him using the ads as a rhetorical tool, rather than actually disagreeing with their tactics.

And if he actually wants a public option, he shouldn't disagree with their tactics because... well... they work! Just ask once staunch public option opponent turned supporter Kay Hagan who flipped her vote as a result of this type of pressure. The good news is it seems like no one is listening to Obama's call to stop the ad blitz:

The PCCC , who cosponsored the ads attacking Mary Landrieu on health care reform with DFA and MoveOn, say that they will continue their efforts on the heels of a Washington Post article indicating that President Obama wanted such ads to stop.

Stephanie Taylor, PCCC co-founder says: "Just for the record, PCCC will not stop running ads. In fact, we will be increasing our media buy for the PCCC "We WantThePublicOption" ad this coming week."

Adam Green, Change Congress CEO, a group that also has ads running against Landrieu in DC., says: "Change Congress will continue running ads targeting senators who oppose the public option while taking millions in campaign contributions from the health and insurance industries."

Earlier today Charles Chamberlain of DFA said that they will not stop their efforts, either.

Good. Whether it was legitimate concern of Obama's or not, it needs to be ignored. Threatening a politician's job security is often the only thing they understand, and no one needs to feel that pressure more than Hagan, Specter, Feinstein and the rest of the Douche Caucus.

Friday, July 3, 2009


Apologies for the absence, by the way. In the meantime, check out this blog:


Oh god, her again:

Former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has anounced [sic] she will resign as governor of Alaska on 26 July and not run for re-election.

Mrs Palin's term of office was due to end in 2010.

There has been speculation that Mrs Palin, who is very popular with the Republican Party base, might make a bid for the White House in 2012.

Surprise! But wait for it...

"I'm taking my fight for what's right in a new direction...

Once I decided not to run for re-election, I also felt that to embrace the conventional Lame Duck status in this particular climate would just be another dose of politics as usual, something I campaigned against and will always oppose," she said.

Ah yes, that makes total sense. Obviously, there's no point to politics if you aren't trying to get elected again. Why should she wait until THE LAW mandates her term's end, when she could skip out on all that hard work it takes to run a state NOW? In fact, I'm sure we all have responsibilities during the next year. Why don't we all just up and take our fight for what's right in a new direction? I'm just sure that there's something more important for us to do than whatever we initially committed to.

As for the chance that she'll run for prez in 2012, my stance remains unchanged: bring it. Who doesn't want a repeat of the Sarah Palin Show? Particularly now that she's demonstrated such hilarious disregard for actual governance.

At the same time... when is she going to just shut up and leave us alone?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Yep, Michael Steele is Still Insane

I was gonna do some sort of game to see if you could see which was the resistnet rant and which was the RNC chair's statement... but 90% of Resistnet is written in a "CAPSLOCK SENTANCE FRAGMENT" dialect, so it didn't quite work. Regardless, here are the words of the RNC Chairman:
MS: Well, you know, I think you raise a very important and frightening concern here, and that is the Democrats have spent the last six to eight years building in place an infrastructure to allow them to basically hijack elections at their whim. They started by focusing on targeting secretary of state races around the country. They’ve got a majority of those. And now when you have an ACORN situation flare up, what do you have, the secretary of state going well, there’s no problem here. I don’t understand why everybody’s all upset. Well, yeah, you’re part of a growing process that basically land locks these elections in such a way that they basically walk out of the election with the votes that they need. And the activity by groups like ACORN goes unnoticed. What I’ve started to do is focus our counsel, focus our legal opportunities around the country on exactly those behaviors, and we’re putting in place a strategy now to be competitive, shall we say, when it comes to protecting the rights of voters out there, and the process itself, protecting our candidates so we don’t have more Norm Coleman situations where votes are counted one way in one part of the state, and counted another way in another part, or they have activities by groups like an ACORN, or individuals like George Soros through their funding, to help them augment the taking of these elections.
In fairness to Steele I took this from a transcript, so he didn't have a chance to use capslock.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Leiberman "Moving Forward" Past his Support of the Public Option

Once again a big thank you to Harry Reid and Barack Obama for keeping this guy relevant:
U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman has a bipartisan group of senators ready to help pass health care reform — minus a government-run insurance plan.

During a New Haven stop to support overall reform, Connecticut’s independent fourth-term senator gave his strongest statement to date opposing Democrats’ and President Obama’s call for a “public option” health care plan.
I'd say I told you so, but it's not like I (or anyone else in the netroots) made some sort of bold prediction. No, I'm pretty sure anyone halfway paying attention could tell that Joe Lieberman was a self serving jackass and see this type of thing coming. It's just unfortunate that those with the power to make these decisions 8 months ago didn't see it that way:

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."

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.

While they deserve most of the blame for this mess, we can't overlook the fact that a diary titled "Lieberman vote IS the change we need, not its repudiation" was Rec listed on the same day that Lieberman was voted back into the party.

Everybody makes mistakes. But the Democratic party takes this stuff to new heights. It might be the most frustrating part of politics: Watching (for the most part) otherwise very smart people repeatedly fail to learn from their mistakes.

And then there were 60...

Eight months later:
Republican Norm Coleman has conceded to Democrat Al Franken in the Minnesota Senate race, ending one of the longest Senate races in American history and clearing the way for Democrats to hold a 60-seat supermajority in the Senate.

Coleman’s concession, given from the front of his St. Paul home, came just a few hours after the Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously ruled Franken the winner of last November’s Senate race. In a 5-0 decision, the court upheld a three-judge panel’s April 14 ruling that Franken defeated Coleman in the race by 312 votes out of 2.9 million cast. The 32-page opinion was remarkably decisive, picking apart and rejecting one Coleman legal claim after another.

In its final line of the ruling, the state Supreme Court said Franken is “entitled” under Minnesota law to “receive the certificate election as United States senator from the state of Minnesota.” Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the certification today, clearing the way for Franken to be sworn in early next week when the Senate returns from its weeklong recess.
And as Kos so eloquently put it after the ruling:
Psst, Harry? You've got 60 Dems
No more excuses.
If the Democratic party excels at one thing, it's perpetually minimizing the power they have to enact their own agenda. While the Republicans forced their unpopular legislative goals through with minimal majorities, the Democratic party seems content with perpetually moving the goalposts rather than actually attempting to get anything done.

First we needed the house and the senate.

Then we needed the Presidency.

Then Mitch McConnell was able to magically change the constitution in a way that forces a 60 vote threshold on nearly every bill.

Those days are over. We have the 60 votes to break the filibuster to pass major legislation. It's no longer about the Republicans. It's about Harry Reid, Barack Obama and their willingness to pressure the douche caucus to stop fucking up major legislation.

Time to get to work. No excuses.