Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Are we having fun yet?!"

No. No we are not.

If you haven't seen the two seasons of Party Down, go do that right now instead of reading stupid words on the internet.

The Other Side is Nothing But Crazy People

Darksyde at dailykos does something that needs to happen every 24 hours:

Let me see if I have this straight: in the last few days members of the GOP have savagely screwed the unemployed, protected the bankstas, trashed Thurgood Marshall, implied rape and incest is part of God's plan, defended BP, threatened to either end social security or screw over 20 million plus people who have paid into the system for at least 20 years by making them wait until age 70 to see their benefits, and screwed homeless veterans with children. That about it, or is there more?

The Republican party is a joke, and is doing offensive/extremely unpopular things just about constantly. We try to point out the most absurd stuff on this site, but it really makes you wonder how conservative messages continue to dominate almost every media narrative.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but there's really no excuse for not making every news cycle about Republicans defending slavery/that day's idiotic statement. The opposition party is 90% full of crazy people, and they're not going to stop saying things that are objectionable to non-crazy people. The fact that this hasn't been turned into a larger advantage is kind of stunning.

This is Hard Work, Let's All Stop Trying

"We've tried nothing and we're all out of ideas"

One of my favorite Douche Caucus habits is when they take a principled stance against doing their job:
Graham said that Democrats and Obama can't do anything to bring him back into the fold on either issue until after the elections, adding that it's "foolish" to try for comprehensive plans on either issue.

Obama made big promises today, working with members of Congress to repeat what he's said for months: that a broad climate/energy measure is necessary. But Graham is doubtful: "I don't think any serious observer thinks that this Congress is going to enact comprehensive energy and climate policy and immigration between now and November."

Graham added that if Obama tries to pass a cap and trade system without GOP support, that would lead to "failure for decades."

"They're not doing a good service to both issues, and both issues are important," Graham told reporters when asked about the president's dual efforts by TPMDC. "If you bring comprehensive immigration reform to the floor in this environment it will fail. It will fail miserably, and nobody will touch it for a decade and what you see in Arizona is going to happen throughout the country."
Shorter Lindsay Graham: I cares so much about these issues that we should stop trying to do anything about them because someone will get their feelings hurt people might find out I'm gay ...uggghh let's just all give up, this job is way too hard.

I really, really hate him.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sensible Liberals in the Obama Era

Tom Tomorrow doesn't disappoint:

And as someone pointed out on twitter, be sure to read the comments, which couldn't do a better job of proving Tom's point.

Monday, June 28, 2010

10 Years Isn't Enough War

One the worst Senators in the world continues to live up to her reputation:
A senior Senate Democrat on foreign policy issues said on Sunday that the president's pledged July 2011 timeline for a troop drawdown in Afghanistan was malleable to the requests of military command.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cali.), whose hawkish grounding has angered progressive in the past, likely facilitated that anger again, when she told "Fox News Sunday" that if General David Petraeus asked for more troops next summer, he should be granted them.

"I would say give it to him, absolutely," said the California Democrat. "Now, let's talk about the deadline. This is a transition point toward the beginning of a withdrawal or a drawdown as Petraeus said in his transcript before the Armed Services [Committee]. And I think he has flexibility realistically. Ten years is a long time to fight a war, particularly with what happened before the 10 years. And so we need to understand that [we have] to get the military trained, get the government online, secure and stabilize, and I think do away with the drugs to a great extent, because the drugs are now fueling the Taliban."
. . .
It's a position that will only fuel suspicion that Congress lacks the political will to actually stick to the timeline for withdrawal (by, say, using the power of the purse to affect it). Indeed, Feinstein seemed to fully cede legislative influence over the course of the war when she granted during the Fox News interview that the United States should "put all of our eggs in the Petraeus basket at this stage."
You gotta love firm, attainable goals like forming and training a military, creating a stable government, and doing away with the drug trade. And with Senators like Diane Feinstein deciding that they don't want to do their job in overseeing the operations, I can't imagine why anyone is worried that the 2011 timeline isn't going according to schedule.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Michael Steele Photoshops: Part 2

Check here for Part 1 in case you missed it.

Part 2's photoshops are all from 6.54, and are, well brilliant:

The way Steele's expression matches the Joker, Madoff and Nixon is eerie.

Thanks to 6.54 and everyone who participated, and may there be many more years of Michael Steele to keep these photoshops in the rotation!

John Wall

Last night it actually happened. Still haven't wrapped my mind around this...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Stupidity of Hero Worship

Right now on dailykos, the top diary on their recommended list is titled "Obama is no wuss! Obama is the man!!!" and is filled with pictures of Barack and Michelle Obama looking awesome.

If people wake up in a few years with unemployment still at 10% and the biggest accomplishment of the decade was stopping a Democratic president from cutting social security, I think I know why.

It's nothing against Obama, it could be anyone.

It's just that deifying and blindly defending someone because they have a D next to their name/they're really awesome!11!/saved our country from McCain/followed the worst president in US history isn't particularly effective way of getting them to support a progressive agenda.

Michael Steele Photoshops: Part 1

The long awaited Michael Steele Photoshops!

I had these for a while, and since I had been so late delivering them, I was actually waiting some amazing Michael Steele quote/news to launch the results. Unfortunately for us, someone seems to have finally convinced him him to stop talking to the media, but at least we have these photoshops to hold dear until he resigns in disgrace over something even more absurd than the lesbian bondage club scandal.

The first was my submission, a tribute to Steele's short lived blog on the RNC website:

I think that's gonna make an appearance on just about everything we post about Michael Steele from now on.

He's Jaypop's entry, which takes two of the intern pictures to their logical conclusion:

He looks thrilled, and you really can't blame him.

Nimsofa sends this awesome take on the intern group shot:

Nimsofa gets bonus points for including the Michael Steele look alike muppet. That should set the stage nicely for a contest of politicians that also look like muppets/animals/inanimate objects.

Thanks to Jaypop and Nimsofa for their submissions and putting up with my lateness in posting the results.

Come back tomorrow for part 2 of the results where 6.54 takes Michael Steele through history with an amazing collection of photoshops. You don't want to miss it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chain Of Command

"Chain of command, Detective"

In a Rolling Stone magazine article, McChrystal didn't criticize Obama himself but called the period last fall when the president was deciding whether to approve more troops "painful" and said Obama appeared ready to hand him an "unsellable" position.

McChrystal also said he was "betrayed" by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner in Afghanistan. He accused Eikenberry of raising doubts about Karzai only to give himself cover in case the U.S. effort failed. "Now, if we fail, they can say 'I told you so,'" McChrystal told the magazine. And he was quoted mocking Vice President Joe Biden.

If not insubordination, the remarks — as well as even sharper commentary about Obama and his White House from several in McChrystal's inner circle — were at least an indirect and extraordinary challenge and one that consumed Washington on Tuesday. The capital hasn't seen a similar public contretemps between a president and a top wartime commander since Harry Truman stripped Gen. Douglas MacArthur of his command more than a half-century ago after disagreements over Korean War strategy.

Notably, neither McChrystal nor his team questioned the accuracy of the story or the quotes in it. McChrystal issued an apology.
McChrystal needs to be fired immediately, and hopefully that's what happens during his Wednesday morning meeting with the President.

There's simply no excuse for McChrystal's behavior in a Civilian controlled government, and if he isn't gone by the end of the day, it will be a massive failure for the Obama administration, and possibly the worst mistake of his presidency.

Update: Obama delivered, big time. Chris Bowers:
I disagree with our continued presence in Afghanistan, but it is laudable that President Obama emphasized how keeping McChrystal on as commander threatened civilian control of the military. If Generals can use the media obsequiousness to dictate military policy, and then stay on as commanders after denigrating virtually the entire civilian leadership of the military, then we would be at an extremely dangerous moment for our democracy.
I still think escalating the war in Afghanistan was a colossal mistake that may doom his presidency, but immense credit for making the right decision, and making it clear why he made that call.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Humble Teabaggers

At least they're level headed:
In doing so, the Florida Tea Partiers become just the latest to sound the alarm about what they see as the increasing co-optation of a grassroots movement by political insiders. "We have a very successful movement, similar to the Civil Rights movement, or women's suffrage. And we have a political entity that's trying to take advantage of that," one of the plaintiffs, Everett Wilkinson, told TPMmuckraker in an interview. "They're trying to take that success and momentum and hijack it for their own political and/or personal needs."
I don't really remember civil rights groups suing each other to acquire the most profitable name for their groups, but maybe that's me.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Idiocy of the "Deficit Hawks"

Ezra Nails It:
Unemployment may be at 9.7%, but the Senate is moving on

Or, at the least, they care about the deficit more. By a vote of 52 to 45, the Senate rejected a jobs package that would've extended unemployment insurance, offered some tax breaks to individuals and businesses, kept doctors in the Medicare program and more. "$77 billion or more of this is not paid for," said Sen. Ben Nelson, "and that translates into deficit spending and adding to the debt, and the American people are right: We've got to stop doing that."

No, sir, they're wrong, and we don't. It's hard to say this loudly enough, but it really doesn't make sense to offset stimulus spending, at least in the short term. The point of the money is to get the economy moving faster, to give people cash to spend. This isn't like health-care reform, where you're purchasing something and you should pay for it. When you're trying to expand the economy, you need to use debt to put more money into it than would otherwise be there. If you're just moving a dollar from one purpose to another, you may be using that dollar better, but you're not expanding the total amount of demand in the economy by very much. You're just moving it around. It would be like bailing water from a boat, but throwing it into another part of the boat.

There'll come a time when we need to start reducing the deficit. If we can get the economy back into gear, that time might even be soon. But for now, increasing the size of the deficit isn't some nasty side effect of stimulus spending. It is, quite literally, the point of the enterprise.

But Nelson isn't the only one throwing up some odd rationalizations for his vote. Other politicians, as Arthur Delaney explains, have decided that unemployment insurance is just "too much of an allure" for people. It keeps them from going back to work. In theory, you could imagine unemployment benefits so lavish such that that would happen. But in America, benefits are 36 percent of the worker's average previous wage. Imagine living on one-third of your income. That sound "alluring" to you?

Unemployment is at 9.7 percent right now. It's extraordinarily high. And it's extraordinarily high because not enough jobs are being created to absorb all the workers who got laid off during the recession. Killing their unemployment benefits wouldn't magically make more jobs appear. It would just make those people poorer, and because they'd be poorer, they'd have less to spend, and because unemployment is geographically concentrated, that would mean the economy in areas with lots of unemployed workers would tank further and thus it would take longer for it to create jobs.
The big debate now is whether or not we should be spending money to create jobs, or if we should be focus on cutting the deficit. Krugman gets into a bit of the details:
What’s the economic logic behind the government’s moves? The answer, as far as I can tell, is that there isn’t any. Press German officials to explain why they need to impose austerity on a depressed economy, and you get rationales that don’t add up. Point this out, and they come up with different rationales, which also don’t add up. Arguing with German deficit hawks feels more than a bit like arguing with U.S. Iraq hawks back in 2002: They know what they want to do, and every time you refute one argument, they just come up with another.

Here’s roughly how the typical conversation goes (this is based both on my own experience and that of other American economists):

German hawk: “We must cut deficits immediately, because we have to deal with the fiscal burden of an aging population.”

Ugly American: “But that doesn’t make sense. Even if you manage to save 80 billion euros — which you won’t, because the budget cuts will hurt your economy and reduce revenues — the interest payments on that much debt would be less than a tenth of a percent of your G.D.P. So the austerity you’re pursuing will threaten economic recovery while doing next to nothing to improve your long-run budget position.”

German hawk: “I won’t try to argue the arithmetic. You have to take into account the market reaction.”

Ugly American: “But how do you know how the market will react? And anyway, why should the market be moved by policies that have almost no impact on the long-run fiscal position?”

German hawk: “You just don’t understand our situation.”

The key point is that while the advocates of austerity pose as hardheaded realists, doing what has to be done, they can’t and won’t justify their stance with actual numbers — because the numbers do not, in fact, support their position. Nor can they claim that markets are demanding austerity. On the contrary, the German government remains able to borrow at rock-bottom interest rates.

So the real motivations for their obsession with austerity lie somewhere else.

In America, many self-described deficit hawks are hypocrites, pure and simple: They’re eager to slash benefits for those in need, but their concerns about red ink vanish when it comes to tax breaks for the wealthy. Thus, Senator Ben Nelson, who sanctimoniously declared that we can’t afford $77 billion in aid to the unemployed, was instrumental in passing the first Bush tax cut, which cost a cool $1.3 trillion.
It's also worth pointing out that the people behind cutting the deficit are the exact same people who have been wrong about the economy for the past 30 years, where as those arguing for job creation are the same people who have been largely right in predicting this economic crisis.

As of now it's looking like all the important people are listening to the same geniuses whose ideas destroyed the economy.

If people keep listening to them, it's not hard to figure out what happens.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

That Other Lama: The Panchen Lama

Although the Dalai Lama clearly blows up his spot internationally, you may have heard of another lama who occasionally makes it into the news: the second highest lama in the Tibetan hierarchy, the Panchen Lama. He’s been in the news a lot more recently, and he will definitely be an important figure in years to come, so this seems like as good a time as any to go into a bit more depth than I have in the past.

The Panchen Lamas have played second fiddle to the Dalai Lamas for centuries, but they still play a huge role in Tibetan affairs and have also often held a strong regional power base at Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet. Crucially, they play a very important role in the selection of Dalai Lamas.

The 10th Panchen Lama, born in 1938, saw Tibet through some tumultuous years. He stayed in the country after the Dalai Lama left for India, and for a time courted the Chinese government, even going so far as to accept a seat on the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. After a number of years spent acquiescing to their demands and attempting to legitimize their rule, however, he had a dramatic reversal. He penned what is known as the “70,000 Character Petition,” a lengthy rebuke of Chinese rule that is the most thorough trashing of Beijing to have emerged from a member of the Chinese government. Mao referred to it as a “a poisoned arrow shot at the Party.” At first he was merely thrown out of the government, but that soon led to an imprisonment that ended up lasting almost twenty years.

After his release in the 80’s he resumed his role inside Tibet, and ended up being one of the only voices in support of Tibetans inside the government when the Tibetan protests of the late 80’s began. Arjia Rinpoche recounts this story, featuring a cameo by a younger Hu Jintao:
The cadres arranged for a viewing at the Panchen Lama’s residence of videotapes taken during the demonstrations that would prove the Chinese were blameless. There was lots of footage of the monks shouting and demonstrating in the streets, but no coverage at all of how, exactly, the police were handling the Tibetans. When it was over, the lights came on and the Panchen Lama looked around the room. He said, “That’s it? That’s all? Where are the police in all this?”

And then he got really mad. You should understand that the Panchen Lama could be very imposing
when it suited him. He cast a big shadow. So he walked over to the guy who was operating the video and grabbed him by the collar and yanked him up to his feet and yelled at him. It must have been about midnight. The Panchen Lama said, “OK, let’s go!” and herded us out to the cars waiting outside. “Get into the cars!” he ordered. “All of you!” Off we went to Tibet Provincial Headquarters—just five or ten minutes away—which was also the private residence of Tibet Provincial Party Chief, Hu Jintao.

The Panchen Lama knocked on Hu Jintao’s front door. All of us Tibetans were a little proud at that moment. It was such an unusual feeling to watch a high-ranking member of the Party being bullied by a Tibetan!

Hu actually came to the door in his pajamas. Personally, the Panchen Lama and Hu were friends at that time, so when Hu saw him, he called him “Great Master” or something like that and was very shocked and asked what in the world had happened. The Panchen Lama said, “Do you trust me or not? If you don’t trust me, I can go back to Beijing. I can leave tonight! If you don’t want me to investigate, then you report back to the Central Government!”

The Panchen Lama— I’ve never seen someone so brave. The next thing I knew, everybody was making
phone calls. The Panchen Lama was calling Beijing. Hu Jintao was calling his police. A little later, a Chinese guy came to Hu’s residence and produced a tape and gave it to the Panchen Lama. This version of the demonstrations was entirely different. This time, we could see Chinese police all along the rooftop of the Jokhang. Then the monks came crowding down the street. The police started yelling very bad things down at the monks, and then we saw the police open fire on the monks.

After seeing this version, the Panchen Lama confronted the police, “Why would you start shooting the people? You are supposed to represent and protect the people.” The Panchen Lama could be fearless.

He died in 1989, setting the stage for a struggle between the Chinese government and the Tibetan leadership in exile. Traditionally the Dalai Lama had played a key role in choosing new Panchen Lamas, and vice versa. Beijing clearly decided that they didn’t want to put up with another Panchen Lama along the lines of the last one, and saw an opportunity to legitimize their own future Dalai Lama somewhere down the line. The Dalai Lama announced the name of the boy that he, with the help of senior lamas still inside Tibet, had chosen- but within three days the Chinese had disappeared the boy. He remains missing today.

To justify installing their own candidate, Beijing cited a historical precedent in which a name had been drawn from a golden urn to select a lama, and then proceeded to throw a faux-religious event while they rigged the name drawing. Again from Arjia Rinpoche, who describes arriving in Lhasa for the farce:
The terminal was swarming with armed Chinese soldiers. As you know, Gonggar Airport is sixty miles south of Lhasa. Along the way, from the terminal to the Lhasa hotel—on both sides of the road, about fifteen feet apart—there stood armed soldiers! All the way to Lhasa! And that kind of intensity never let up. After we checked into the hotel, we were called together and told:

“You will not leave the premises of the hotel. You will not ask friends or associates to come into the hotel to visit. You will be prepared to leave for the ceremony without prior warning. During the ceremony, if any of you act up or do bad things, there will be no excuses and the punishment will be severe.”

About midnight, or maybe one in the morning, we were once again called together. “Time to leave!” they said, and by two in the morning, we left the Lhasa hotel. We boarded a bus. The distance couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes. This time the PLA were on both sides of the road the entire way, shoulder-to-shoulder—faceless men with helmets, face masks and big guns and shields. The Chinese were doing everything they could to make it feel like a major historical moment.

We entered the Jokhang. The main temple room was already full of witnesses saying prayers: high lamas, local representatives, important monks—I don’t know how long they had been there. The ceilings are very high inside the Jokhang and it’s very dark, even with thousands of butter lamps flickering. But as my eyes became used to the darkness, I realized that around the perimeter of the main temple there were plain-clothed police—every corner—shoulder to shoulder.

My group was escorted up to the main altar. Directly in front of the main altar, in the position of honor, sat the highest-ranking communists from Beijing. There was a big table between them and the altar. On that table sat the Golden Urn. Perpendicular to the right end of the table was another group of lesser officials. We religious leaders were ushered to the left end of the table and seated, facing the lesser officials across the way.

The nominee’s names had been typed on paper—except for the Dalai Lama’s choice of course. The altar attendants (they weren’t the regular altar monks) glued the papers to the ivory sticks, pulled tight-fitting gold silk covers down over the sticks, and replaced them into the urn. Bumi Rinpoche, who was the president of the Buddhist Association of TAR, was asked to come forward and select a stick. He did as he was told, then handed it to the head official who, after inspecting it, handed it over to the official next to him, and so on, over to the next representative from Beijing.

The event was televised. Later, when we saw the video on TV, we could easily see that the stick that was chosen was a little longer the others. Obviously, this raised everyone’s suspicions. Not that we weren’t already suspicious...

And what do you know; turns out the boy chosen by the urn just happened to be the son of two Communist Party cadres! The event soon faded from the news, except for occasional requests from the Tibetan exiles and Western human rights organizations that the Chinese free the true Panchen Lama. The Chinese-picked candidate has become known as the Panchen Zuma, or “fake Panchen,” by Tibetans. For much of the time since then he hasn’t had much to say, given that he was just a few years old during the ceremony. As he has arrived at adulthood recently, however, he has been paraded around a few times by Beijing. After the earthquake in Qinghai he was brought in for prayers, and a few weeks ago he was given a seat on the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress- the very same position from which his predecessor attempted to secure better treatment for his homeland.

With his increased visibility have come a larger number of rebuttals to his position. B. Raman from Eurasia Review puts it very well:
[The Chinese-picked Panchen Lama] does not stay in Tibet. Nor does he go to any Tibetan school. His Buddhist teachers are Beijing-based and chosen by the Party and the Government. However, once a year during the vacation in Beijing he is taken to Lhasa and nearby places by the Chinese authorities who organize religious interactions between him and selected Tibetans in order to give him a public exposure and give the impression of his playing an increasingly active role as a religious leader responsible for providing spiritual guidance to the Tibetan Buddhists and for supervising the maintenance of the religious places in Tibet.

However, the Chinese take two precautions while organizing the spiritual tours for him. Firstly, his visits are confined to the Tibet Autonomous Region. They avoid taking him to other Tibetan-inhabited areas lest by doing so they unwittingly strengthen the Dalai Lama’s claim for a Greater Tibet. The Chinese project their Panchen Lama as the religious leader of only the Tibetans of the Tibet Autonomous Region and not of all Tibetans, wherever they may be residing. Secondly, they avoid any pronouncements of a political nature during his organized tours. Since they deny any political hat for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, they do not want to create in their Panchen Lama a religious leader with a political role.

Beijing foresees an endgame in which they pull the strings of a compliant Panchen Zuma and thus get a justification to name their own Dalai Zuma. Without a universally-recognized Dalai Lama causing trouble for them, they reckon, the Tibet issue will completely disappear. Clearly there are a number of holes in that logic. The Dalai Lama himself knows what they’re doing, and has been making the argument that his successor will be born in India, or Nepal, or America, or really anywhere outside of Chinese jurisdiction. Also, continued Tibetan agitation for human rights and civil liberties will obviously continue, living Dalai Lama or not. Finally, the story of Tibetan collaborators with Beijing is one fraught with defections- indeed, even the man chosen by Beijing to tutor the young Panchen Zuma, Arjia Rinpoche, eventually denounced the government and escaped from China into exile. If Beijing wants the Panchen Zuma to become a legitimate figure in the eyes of his people they need to let him out of his cage more often, but doing so greatly increases the risk that he will choose the same path chosen by almost every other high-profile Tibetan figure since the occupation began: resistance.

Republicans Never Disappoint

Just when you think that you've seen it all:

The Republican party never fails to amaze me.

When Harry Reid was a lock to lose his election, they nominated a crazy person that will allow him to coast to victory. When they had a chance to cruise to a senate seat in Kentucky, they nominated someone who doesn't believe in the Civil Rights Act.

And now, when the country is becoming frustrated (rightfully so) with President Obama's handling of the spill, they apologize to BP's CEO because they thought Obama was too tough on them.

So thank you Joe Barton for reminding America that no matter how much Democrats may suck, the Republican party is nothing but crazy people who care more about the profits of a multinational corporation than the well-being of someone who lost their job because of the disaster that corporation created.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Spill Keeps On Spilling

Since it seems like Obama reversed his offshore drilling position to end the "age old debate" of whether or not you should preemptively cave to Republicans, I'm not too surprised they missed a few things:
An in-depth review by McClatchy Newspapers reveals how Obama reached that initial decision to expand offshore drilling - and why he failed to get information that might have led him instead to delay or oppose it and perhaps even raise questions about the deepwater drilling that was already under way.

Obama did roll back some of the offshore drilling that the George W. Bush administration had approved on Bush's last day in office. However, Obama never challenged the Bush era's fundamental faith in the oil industry or its ability to clean up a massive spill. Instead, he embraced expanded offshore drilling, in part to win Republican support for broader legislation to curb climate change.

"He deserved to be more skeptical," said Stephen Hess, a veteran of four White Houses back to the Eisenhower administration and an expert on how presidents do their job.

"They hadn't thought through the various ramifications. They should have, obviously. But it didn't seem obvious at the time."

"Not well thought through," said Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska marine scientist. "If they had really done their job, they would have understood there was high risk here."

Indeed, Obama and his team overlooked some important points as they prepared to give the green light to more offshore oil drilling. Expanding the drilling was something he'd promised to do during his campaign, when gas prices topped $4 a gallon, and it was a lure he planned to use to win Republican votes for legislation aimed at curbing climate change.

Among their oversights:

-Obama thought that funneling information through White House "czars" such as energy and environment adviser Carol Browner would get him all the data he needed.

-He failed to drill into the government bureaucracy to test that information. He didn't, for example, ask about the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, which had prepared a report in 2000 on the dangers of deepwater drilling that proved to be eerily predictive of what happened in the Gulf. The MMS regulates offshore drilling.

-He never talked to the Coast Guard about its 2002 oil-spill drill in the Gulf or to the man who ran it, Adm. Thad Allen, who later would oversee the response to the Deepwater Horizon spill.

-He didn't reach out to outside experts, such as the National Academy of Engineering, to question claims that deepwater drilling technology was dependable.

Top Obama administration officials say that they did an exhaustive job marshaling information for more than a year, and that the president asked what he needed to ask when it arrived at his desk. Anyone, they said, would grow complacent about the safety of offshore drilling after decades without a major spill.

"It's really important to understand you have decades of nothing going wrong," said one senior administration official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity as a matter of White House policy.

"The last time you saw a spill of this magnitude in the Gulf, it was off the coast of Mexico in 1979," a second senior administration official said. "If something doesn't happen since 1979, you begin to take your eye off of that thing."
You gotta love how "nobody could have predicted" is just a standard response at this point no matter the issue. There may have been decades without a spill, but there have also been lots of people talking about the dangers of this stuff for years, it's just that no one listened to them.

That's why it's hard to have sympathy for the administration when you hear "woe is me, now we have the greatest environmental crisis in history too" type rhetoric. Well, if you hadn't given a speech a few days before the spill saying that anyone who doesn't think offshore drilling has a place in the future is a fucking idiot, than maybe you would have some higher ground to stand on.

When the response is filled with screw ups, instead of continually talking about how BP are good faith partners (something that about 0% of the population believes), you could use this moment to talk about renewable energy, and how the lack of a plan proves we need to end offshore drilling permanently.

Instead you get good speeches like last nights' falling on deaf ears because there are still daily reports coming from the gulf about BP's incompetent response, and how plenty of people still aren't sure who is calling the shots.

There's always the standard Obama era glass half full "hoping that the Administration learns from this" or "hoping this leads to tougher regulations", but the scale of the damage here is frankly far too serious for any of that to matter.

It's pretty fucking depressing, and there's really no getting around that.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Attention Guys in Costumes: Gather Your Armies!

We've been following the crappiest/most awesome political ads that the 2010 cycle has to offer. Our latest entry won't disappoint: (Via kos)

So there's no threat of horse shooting, but this one might be more insane. Straight out of a Glenn Beck novel, he's sitting down talking to the founding fathers talking about how paying taxes to your elected government is spying on yourself. My favorite part is when he talks about how insignificant their grievances with the British were (TEA!!!) in comparison to the problems that today's conservatives face with a democratically elected government.

Not only are the teabaggers helping the Democrats electorally, but they are also producing some of the greatest unintentional comedy the world has ever seen. Keep at it guys!

Friday, June 11, 2010

South Africa 2010

For those following the world cup, check out friend of the blog Jon Winet's site Goal 2010 throughout the tournaments for updates.

"We Waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed"

Speaking of the Geneva Conventions, when the former President of the United States feels comfortable spouting off about violating them, something is clearly wrong:
Former President George W. Bush answers questions during his visit with the Economic Club of Grand Rapids on Wednesday. GRAND RAPIDS -- Former President George W. Bush was by turns affable, relaxed -- and deadly serious in his local appearance Wednesday.

"Yeah, we water-boarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," Bush said of the terrorist who master-minded the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. He said that event shaped his presidency and convinced him the nation was in a war against terror.

"I'd do it again to save lives."
Someone should probably checking into this, although that would mean looking backwards, which can't be done because Obama said it could lead to the break up of the United States or something.

It Isn't About Security

Saying that Israeli blockade of Gaza isn't about security isn't news, but it is news that Israel officially acknowledges this:
JERUSALEM — As Israel ordered a slight easing of its blockade of the Gaza Strip Wednesday, McClatchy obtained an Israeli government document that describes the blockade not as a security measure but as "economic warfare" against the Islamist group Hamas, which rules the Palestinian territory.

Israel imposed severe restrictions on Gaza in June 2007, after Hamas won elections and took control of the coastal enclave after winning elections there the previous year, and the government has long said that the aim of the blockade is to stem the flow of weapons to militants in Gaza.

Last week, after Israeli commandos killed nine volunteers on a Turkish-organized Gaza aid flotilla, Israel again said its aim was to stop the flow of terrorist arms into Gaza.

However, in response to a lawsuit by Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, the Israeli government explained the blockade as an exercise of the right of economic warfare.

"A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using 'economic warfare,'" the government said.

McClatchy obtained the government's written statement from Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, which sued the government for information about the blockade. The Israeli high court upheld the suit, and the government delivered its statement earlier this year.

Sari Bashi, the director of Gisha, said the documents prove that Israel isn't imposing its blockade for its stated reasons, but rather as collective punishment for the Palestinian population of Gaza. Gisha focuses on Palestinian rights.
It's collective punishment, which is illegal thanks to the Geneva Conventions, and if it wasn't Israel doing this, that might mean something.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Real Talk for the White House

Jane Hamsher had the best response to yesterday's bullshit:
Labor is not your bitch, and their money isn’t yours to direct. They’re supposed to take what, another six years of black eyes from Blanche Lincoln just because you say so? If their $8 million buys derivatives legislation and limits the damage that the Masters of the Universe can do to the world economy in the future, it’s not only a bargain, it also means that a bunch of nurses and janitors have done more to rein in the banks than you and your entire pack of servile, visionless Wall Street lackeys has done since you took office.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Preparing for Round 10

Getting ready to give it another try:
The Tibetan Task Force on Sino-Tibetan dialogue process began a two-day meeting here this morning.

Tibetan Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche is presiding over the meeting attended by Task Force members, which include His Holiness the Dalai Lama's special envoy Kasur Lodi Gyari and envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen.

This is the 22nd meeting of the Task Force and the second one after talks between Dharamsala and Beijing resumed in January this year, after almost fifteen months' standoff. The last meeting was held in March this year.

The body comprising of Tibetan ministers, Dalai Lama's envoys and government officials was formed in 1999 to assist the process of dialogue with the Chinese government.
People trying to read the tea leaves have been encouraged by a few more signs of a possible shift in policy from Beijing:
When asked about the Tibetan issue, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying said, “The door for talks is always open, it has been open for years – for decades, and there are difficulties and there [is] sincerity from the Chinese side to continue the dialogue.”

“Tibet is a very remote region and it is important for Tibet to find its unique way of making economic progress, and at the same time preserve its culture and traditions. It’s a difficult process,” she said.

After the lecture, Fu was met briefly by Mr Penpa Tsering, the Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, who attended the lecture session at the NUPI with Mrs. Chungdak Koren from the Norwegian Tibet Committee.

When asked for his comment about the lecture and his meeting with Fu, Mr. Penpa Tsering said: “She seemed to be sincere and if what she said is meant with the right spirit, it could be a possible positive shift in the Chinese authorities' approach to continue the dialogue for a negotiated settlement of the Tibet issue.”

In his comment to VOT, the Tibetan speaker remarked that that Fu Ying had sounded genuine and considerate in her comments on Tibet issue. He also said that the Chinese vice foreign minister even refrained from either denouncing the Dalai Lama or calling him a separatist.
Could be a good sign, could just be more meaningless words from a government which has been entirely disingenuous in the past. At the very least we should hear about when the next round will begin some time soon.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

White House Declares War On Labor

Senator John Boozman, get used to hearing it.

I know I'm often mad when I write on this blog, but reading this from Ben Smith of Politico honestly made me want to throw my computer through the television and go to bed:
A senior White House official just called me with a very pointed message for the administration's sometime allies in organized labor, who invested heavily in beating Blanche Lincoln, Obama's candidate, in Arkanas.

"Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members' money down the toiled on a pointless exercise," the official said. "If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November."
While Labor "flushed away" money by supporting challenging someone who opposed their agenda, the Obama Administration was wisely spending the Democratic National Committee's resources to nominate an unelectable Republican.

As the AFL CIO said in a statement a few minutes ago, organized labor exists to support the interests of their members, not for the benefit the Democratic party or the Obama Administration. The next time they stick up for our issues will be the first, so if Obama's concerned that we aren't clapping loud enough when you give us the excise tax, eliminate the public option and don't push the Employee Free Choice Act, I don't know what to say.

Eddie Vale of the AFL-CIO is last night's real winner with this brilliant response the the White House:
"We are not an arm of the White House or the DNC or a political party," said AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale. "We work on issues. And if we feel like someone is standing up for working families, we support them, and if they don't, we won't support it. In the past, people would have assumed that was talk, but now we have backed that up with action."

"Is the lesson they are taking out of tonight that they can go after labor and anonymously trash us and we will put our tail in between our legs and slink home? That ain't happening," Vale added.

Driving home the point that the White House was cravenly hiding behind the cloak of anonymity in their attacks, the AFL-CIO spokesman signed off the conversation with the following: "My name is Eddie Vale of the AFL-CIO and I'm proud to fight for working families and I don't hide behind anonymous quotes."
So, Senior White House Official who was so courageous that they anonymously fires off a gloating email to multiple journalists, from the bottom of my heart: Fuck off.

Have fun with Blanche Lincoln, Arlen Specter, Joe Lieberman and Douche bags you've seem to enjoy coddling. The age old question in the Labor movement is "which side are you on" and if we've learned nothing else tonight, you've made it pretty clear where you stand.

This Just In: "Blanche Lincoln Sucks" to Remain Valid Post Tag Through Upcoming Years

Looking on the bright side, is all.

Bill Halter Day

It's election day in Arkansas, where Train Action candidate Bill Halter faces Blanche Lincoln in a runoff.

If you have a few minutes, you can phonebank from this site to ensure Blnache Lincoln is booted from the senate, and to give the Democrats a chance to win the seat in the fall.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fucking Morons

Ezra Klein flagged this passage about the Administration's response to the spill: (via atrios)
Obama has also called in some of the many scientists on the federal payroll, led by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Chu at one point pushed the unusual idea of using gamma rays to peer into the blowout preventer to determine if its valves were closed, a technique he experimented with in graduate school while studying radioactive decay.

The suggestion at first elicited snickering and "Incredible Hulk" jokes. Then they tried it, and it worked. "They weren't hot on his ideas," a senior White House official said of BP's initial reaction to Chu's suggestions. "Now they are.
Two thoughts went through my mind when I saw this. One, I was thrilled to hear about Chu's involvement. I had heard various mentions of this, but I'm glad to hear they really did bring in a team of geniuses to come up with solutions to the problem.

The second thing to go through my head was blinding rage at the thought of these assholes from BP snickering at his suggestions. Sweet Jesus, these people are so arrogant that they're laughing off a Nobel Prize winner's attempts to contain THEIR FUCKING MESS. How Obama wasn't personally on Capitol hill whipping votes to eliminate the cap on their damages after this meeting is beyond me.

Friday, June 4, 2010

"Caramel-Colored Mousse"

Haley Barbour, the man who previously mocked the severity of the spill that's hitting the coastline of his state, is back at it again:
Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Director Trudy Fisher said samples of what was apparently the same oil slick, taken when it was farther south of the barrier islands, were “nontoxic.” Fisher said water and weather had helped all the volatile chemicals in the oil evaporate. Barbour described the oil as “weathered, emulsified, caramel-colored mousse, like the food mousse.” “Once it gets to this stage, it’s not poisonous,” Barbour said. “But if a small animal got coated enough with it, it could smother it. But if you got enough toothpaste on you, you couldn’t breathe.” Barbour said he spoke with a member of President Barack Obama’s staff on Air Force One while he was on the island, after telling the administration in an early-morning conference call that oil had come ashore in Mississippi.

Haley Barbour might be the biggest asshole on the face of the earth.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Good Side of Unconscionable Destruction

Thanks CNN, heckva job:

Under the headline “When the Search for ‘Balance’ Goes Too Far,” Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen notes:

Gawker ran a copy of an email sent by CNN's Gary Hewing yesterday, looking for ideas about covering the "good side" of the BP oil spill disaster. In fact, the summary line of the CNN message specifically said, "The Good Side of the Oil Spill."

Summary: The Good Side of the Oil Spill

Name: Gary Hewing (CNN)

Category: Biotech and Healthcare

Media Outlet: CNN

Deadline: 04:00 PM EST - 2 June

Query: Looking for pitches: The Good Side of the Oil Spill - if there is any.

Stupidity beyond belief.

Shot in the Head, Four Times

A U.S. citizen who lived in Turkey is among the nine people killed when Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish aid ship heading for the Gaza Strip, officials said today. The victim was identified as Furkan Dogan, 19, a Turkish-American. A forensic report said he was shot at close range, with four bullets in his head and one in his chest, according to the Anatolian news agency.
Just a reminder that if Iran/Syria/Just about any country but Israel had shot an American citizen in the head four times, we would on the verge of declaring war right now.

Israel's attack on the flotilla was so over the top aggressive/stupid/reckless that it might be beyond AIPAC's power to neutralize the response. A really remarkable feat when you think about it, but if your entire foreign policy is based upon doing whatever the fuck you want at all times with zero consequences, I guess this type of thing isn't unexpected.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Holder to Launch Criminal Investigation of BP

This is a positive development:
NEW ORLEANS — BP's stock plummeted and took much of the market down with it Tuesday as the federal government announced criminal and civil investigations into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. BP engineers, meanwhile, tried to recover from a failed attempt to stop the gusher with an effort that will initially make the leak worse.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who was visiting the Gulf to survey the fragile coastline and meet with state and federal prosecutors, would not say who might be targeted in the probes into the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

"We will closely examine the actions of those involved in the spill. If we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be extremely forceful in our response," Holder said in New Orleans.
I'm not particularly optimistic that BP will feel it (corprations this big and powerful hardly ever do), but it's a step in the right direction. Marcy Wheeler had a great catch in Holder's statement:
While it is not news that DOJ is conducting an investigation of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Eric Holder’s speech in New Orleans about the spill reiterated that DOJ is doing so. I’m most interested in the particular emphasis Holder placed on the 11 men who died in the explosion.

There is one thing I will not let be forgotten in this incident: In addition to the extensive costs being borne by our environment and by communities along the Gulf Coast, the initial explosion and fire also took the lives of 11 rig workers. Eleven innocent lives lost. As we examine the causes of the explosion and subsequent spill, I want to assure the American people that we will not forget the price those workers paid.

True, Holder focused primarily on civil liability and named statutes that focus on fines. But he also said that Department attorneys were reviewing “other traditional criminal statutes” with regard to the accident, which might include things like negligent homicide (bmaz described negligent and reckless homicide, as well as other relevant statutes, in this post). (This would be particularly useful, IMO, as an HJC hearing last week made it clear that there were some limits to the support BP can be made to pay the families of those who died.)

Mind you, as always with this Administration, I’m not holding my breath. But given the mounting evidence that BP was using a negligent well design and proceeded with attempts to close the well in spite of signs of looming disaster, I do hope DOJ gives due consideration to the deaths that such corporate negligence may have caused. Treating those 11 deaths with the seriousness it deserves may well be the only thing that might teach BP a lesson here.

That would be huge, and let's hope it's the route he takes. More importantly you'd have to assume this is a sign that the administration will actually take tough stance with BP, rather than the "boot on their neck" bullshit that they've been saying for some time now.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Boarding Boats and Killing People, From a Legal Perspective

Some preliminary analysis from this dude:
A word on the legal position, which is very plain. To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal. It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of illegal warfare.

Because the incident took place on the high seas does not mean however that international law is the only applicable law. The Law of the Sea is quite plain that, when an incident takes place
on a ship on the high seas (outside anybody's territorial waters) the applicable law is that of the flag state of the ship on which the incident occurred. In legal terms, the Turkish ship was Turkish territory.

There are therefore two clear legal possibilities.

Possibility one is that the Israeli commandos were acting on behalf of the government of Israel in killing the activists on the ships. In that case Israel is in a position of war with Turkey, and the act falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime.

Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorised Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.

In brief, if Israel and Turkey are not at war, then it is Turkish law which is applicable to what happened on the ship. It is for Turkey, not Israel, to carry out any inquiry or investigation into events and to initiate any prosecutions. Israel is obliged to hand over indicted personnel for prosecution.
Hopefully Turkey presses on this one.

The Good, The Ugly, and The Uglier

Reactions to the Flotilla attack are starting to come in. For one of the few highlights we've got the reliably sane Stephen Walt:
My first question when I heard the news was: "What could Israel's leaders have been thinking?" How could they possibly believe that a deadly assault against a humanitarian mission in international waters would play to their advantage? Israel's government and its hard-line supporters frequently complain about alleged efforts to "delegitimize" the country, but actions like this are the real reason Israel's standing around the world has plummeted to such low levels.

The Washington Post editorial makes some of the obvious statements, but only after a bewildering stupid opening:
The Isreali commandos who landed on the deck of the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara off the coast of the Gaza Strip early Monday were totally unprepared for what they encountered: dozens of militants who swarmed around them with knives and iron bars. The result was a bloody battle in which at least nine passengers were killed -- and a diplomatic debacle for the government of Binyamin Netanyahu... We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla -- a motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian cause, Israeli Arab leaders and Turkish Islamic activists.

Dozens of militants, ahahahahahahahahaha. If you ever try to stop people from illegally boarding your boat, you're a militant! Also, apparently WaPo has no sympathy for the motives of the flotilla organizers, motives like "delivering aid to Gaza" and "trying to draw attention to how badly Israel is fucking Gaza." Those are some pretty unsavory motives there! Finally, check out the headline and of this Haaretz piece:
Straight into the trap
The troops slid from helicopters into a violent crowd, which attacked them with sticks; It's no wonder they opened fire in self-defense.

IT ISN'T SELF DEFENSE IF YOU'RE THE ONE BELLIGERENTLY TRYING TO COMMANDEER A BOAT. It also isn't any sort of reasonable self defense if, during the course of your boat-commandeering activities, you use automatic weapons on people attacking you with "sticks." Jesus.

"I would like my life back."

The 4.5 million dollars a year you make as BP's CEO isn't enough to stop the pain: (via atrios)
(CNN) -- BP's CEO said Sunday he's sorry for the largest oil spill in U.S. history and the "massive disruption" it has caused the Gulf Coast, telling reporters the company hopes to corral most of the crude offshore.

"The first thing to say is I'm sorry," Tony Hayward said when asked what he would tell people in Louisiana, where heavy oil has already reached parts of the state's southeastern marshes.

"We're sorry for the massive disruption it's caused their lives. There's no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back."
Your Life?

This may not be the message you're getting from the Administration that thinks you're a well meaning partner in this cleanup and doing the best you can, but from the bottom of my heart:


That is all.