Friday, December 31, 2010


Hi, it's Steve ... just got in and I thought I'd end the year with some kvetching.

So ... how much does the Beltway press love Haley Barbour? Well, check out today's New York Times. First there's this story about Barbour's offer to release Jamie and Gladys Scott, two African-American sisters who are serving a life sentence for an $11 robbery in which no one was hurt, on the condition that Gladys donate a kidney to Jamie, who's now on dialysis -- and there's no mention whatsoever of the likely reason that Barbour is making this offer of (semi-)mercy, namely the bad publicity he recently received when he downplayed civil-rights-era racism in his hometown of Yazoo City, Mississippi.

Then, elsewhere in the paper, there's this, in a story about how the public has reacted to various politicians' reactions to storms and natural disasters:

For all the criticism [Louisiana governor Kathleen] Blanco endured after Hurricane Katrina, Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, became a national star through his handling of his state's problems that year.

Haley Barbour became a what? A star? In what universe?

The answer, of course, is in the insular little universe of establishment political journalists. Out here, in the real world, normal people across the country barely noticed Barbour. But the journos love him, so, like tween girls obsessively following Justin Bieber's Twitter feed, they can't imagine anyone not thinking of him as dreamy, can they?

Argh -- can't wait for this guy to crash and burn in 2012, just because the surprise of the insiders will be so much fun to watch.

And with that, let me wish you a happy new year. And thanks again, Zandar. (Two links in one Crooks & Liars blog roundup? Nice one, Z....)


UPDATE, NEW YEAR'S DAY: I'm sure this won't surprise you, but Bob Herbert is not a Barbour cultist:

... The prison terms were suspended -- not commuted -- on the condition that Gladys donate a kidney to Jamie, who is seriously ill with diabetes and high blood pressure and receives dialysis at least three times a week. Gladys had long expressed a desire to donate a kidney to her sister, but to make that a condition of her release was unnecessary, mean-spirited, inhumane and potentially coercive. It was a low thing to do.

Governor Barbour did not offer any expression of concern for Jamie's health in his statement announcing the sentence suspension.

He said of the sisters: "Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety or rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott's medical condition creates a substantial cost to the state of Mississippi."

By all means, get those medical costs off the books if you can....

And Herbert, in this column, does not fail to mention Barbour's Weekly Standard interview.

Happy New Year, folks.  I'm out for the evening.  Steve will be back along tomorrow, I hope.  Me, getting shellacked sounds like a really good idea, considering what I think 2011 will bring.

If you live in the Peach State, do so while you still can use greenbacks to cover your bar tab instead of pre-1965 gold and silver coins as Georgia GOP State Rep. Bobby Franklin wants:

Pre-1965 silver coins, silver eagles, and gold eagles shall be the exclusive medium which the state shall use to make any payments whatsoever to any person or entity, whether private or governmental. Such coins shall be the exclusive medium which the state shall accept from any person or entity as payment of any obligation to the state including, without limitation, the payment of taxes; provided, however, that such coins and other forms of currency may be used in all other transactions within the state upon mutual consent of the parties of any such transaction.

Do stay safe out there tonight.  It's going to be a bad, bad year for most of us.

So stop me if you've heard this show pitch before:  Republican Governor of New Jersey, wins on a fiscal responsibility platform, turns down rail stimulus to build a tunnel to New York because it's "too expensive", sees a blizzard coming, goes on vacation, Lt. Gov. goes on vacation, leaves the Dems in charge, catches bad press, snipes back, comes home to Trenton, promptly asks for federal money to clear up the snow.

Christie, whose plane from Orlando landed at 5:30 a.m. local time today, signed a letter about six hours later formally requesting a disaster designation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 13 counties. FEMA officials will be in New Jersey on Jan. 3 to begin assessing the damage, Christie said during a press conference in Freehold, which got about two feet (61 centimeters) of snow.

And here's the best bit, who does this clown blame?  The mayors!  The freakin' mayors!

"If someone is snowed into their house, that's not our responsibility," Christie said. 

When asked about mayors who said they were forced to divert their resources to unplowed state roads instead of clearing local roads Christie said, "I know who these mayors are and they should buck up and take responsibility for the fact that they didn't do their job."

"Jersey blizzard, no big freakin' deal, I can go on vacation, boom.  Yeah, hand over that FEMA money, Washington! Stupid mayors, not plowing their roads, I mean it's not like government's responsible for roads!  you guys coulda cleared them!"

Shameless.  Starring a Republican near where you live in 2011.  You'll laugh yourself to death.

Seems former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has run headfirst into the Housing Depression.

As former President George W. Bush's top economic adviser, Paulson played a lead role battling the U.S. housing downturn and deep financial crisis it sparked.

But last week it got personal.

Paulson sold his three-bedroom home in a tony Washington neighborhood last week for close to a third less than his initial asking price and more than $1 million below what he paid for it more than four years ago.

The villa-style home near the official vice president's mansion and the National Cathedral sold for $3.25 million on Dec. 21. Paulson put it on the market for $4.6 million in April, later lowering the asking price to $4.15 million, according to real estate industry records. He paid $4.3 million in August 2006, according to government records.

Bwaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahaha.  Sucks to be you, Hank.

Oh wait.  It sucks to be pretty much the rest of us, too.  Schadenfreude, it does not pay the bills.  but it's good to see a least some karma come around.

The more I look for it, the more I find articles about "what to do about state budget shortfalls?" not including the obvious solution of raising taxes and fees at all, let alone on the wealthy.  Again and again we're told the only solution is painful cuts in vital social programs.  A prime example of this phenomenon is today's Philip Moeller article in US News & World Report covering the subject of the senior safety net.

As the United States slogs its way through a third year of recessionary conditions, the cumulative impact on government support programs for older Americans has become worrisome. Most eyes are on the federal government's massive budget deficits. Safety net programs would be affected by deficit reduction proposals that have been introduced to generally favorable receptions. Whether you call them entitlements or part of a welfare state, the big three — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — must be reined in for meaningful deficit reduction to occur. The battle over these programs has already begun and will intensify when the new Republican majority takes office next year in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Here's point number one:  these programs must be "reined in" or else.  Cuts are coming.  You have to accept that, because tax increases are unfair (especially on America's precious rich people).  You're not lazy like one of them, are you?  Good.  Tighten your belt like a good Christian.  (You are a Christian, right?)

Even as the lines are drawn for the federal deficit-reduction war, the states have become a battleground for resources to fund Medicaid. The states share funding for Medicaid services with Uncle Sam, and have been increasingly hard-pressed to come up with their portion of Medicaid funding. Where Washington can, in effect, print money to pay its share of the tab, states cannot. Their budget deficits are, in many cases, getting worse instead of better.

Along with the Medicaid battle there will be countless skirmishes over continued funding for local support programs for seniors. Such efforts may receive some government funds but also depend on private philanthropy and the work of an extensive network of nonprofit agencies. After three years of flat or reduced contributions and austere operating budgets, this government-volunteer network is stressed and tired. And there is no relief in sight.

Note the clever wording here:  if you feel guilty about America's seniors taking program cuts, then you need to get off your ass and donate to charities.  If you're not willing to put your money where your mouth is, then you clearly don't care about America's seniors.  Don't you dare mention raising taxes, you horrible person.  Don't tread on me!

The concept of tax increases doesn't even enter into the article.

Tax increases don't exist, so you'd better be ready to take your medicine, America.  Your betters demand it.  And the more the Republicans cut taxes for the wealthy, the more you'll have to tighten your belt.  Or don't you work for a living like a Real American?

A Real American who used to understand what shared sacrifice truly meant, anyway.  Now it's just sacrificing for the lords of the manor.

Yesterday's weekly jobless claim numbers were better than expected (although not seasonally adjusted, they were actually pretty dismal.)  But before we declare the job problem over, companies do plan to hire in's just that they plan to hire temp workers.

In a CareerBuilder survey released Wednesday, 34 percent of hiring managers said they'll hire contract or temporary workers next year, up from 30 percent this year and 28 percent in 2009.

Research by The Human Capital Institute indicates that one-third of the U.S. work force is now composed of non-traditional "contract" workers, sometimes referred to as freelancers, free agents, contingent workers or temps.

The institute says the pool of these workers, who often are part-time, is growing at more than twice the rate of the full-time work force.

Throughout the recession and the faltering recovery, temporary help — one measure of ad hoc employment tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — was one of few employment sectors that scored month-to-month job growth.

The trend has been building. From 1990 to 2008, the bureau said in a report, employment in the temporary-help services industry grew from 1.1 million to 2.3 million and came to include a larger share of workers in higher-skill occupations.

And this will only increase.  More and more workers are being hired as temp workers...and never being converted to full-time employees.  They don't get benefits, they have to pay for their own health insurance (and that will continue to be expensive well into 2014) and hell, they don't even get paid holiday or vacations.  And it's not just entry level positions these days, but management as well.

Increasingly, top-level managers and executive teams are being shaken from established bureaucracies, replaced by temporary CEOs and troubleshooters brought in for their expertise in solving specific problems.

Yeah, but those guy tend to get profitable temporary contracts.  The vast majority of temp workers are paid significantly less than full time workers on top of all of that.   You want to know how businesses are going to keep record profits in 2011?  The workers they do hire will be temps.  That will put downward pressure on wages and benefits, and upward pressure on Americans just trying to make ends meet...oh, and you'll be the first to be let go should things go south again, which in 2011 and 2012 they almost certainly will.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Jennifer Rubin has recently moved from Commentary Magazine to the Washington Post, but she really is still a terrible hack.  Her latest outrage is that President Obama dared -- dared mind you! -- to make recess appointments.

On Wednesday, Obama shed any pretense of bipartisanship in making six recess appointments. As were his previous recess appointments, this batch included two individuals whose records are so controversial that they could not obtain confirmation even with 59 Democratic senators. Also included was Stephen Ford, nominated as ambassador to Syria and stymied as a forceful rebuttal to Obama's failed Syrian engagement policy. Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute voiced objection to bypassing the Senate, arguing that: "there were credible reasons why the Senate refused to confirm the several nominees Obama has just now given recess appointments, reasons that warranted full and proper Senate confirmation hearings." He contends that "the striking feature here is that once again, as in the lame duck session, this Congress and the president managed to put off these important matters until after the November elections, which will result in this case in officers serving without the benefit of the legitimacy that comes from Senate confirmation." A senior adviser to a key Republican senator was more succinct: "It is an outrage."

Everything's an outrage that Obama tries to do, you see.   Rubin goes on and on about how these "controversial" nominees were rushed into power by Strongman Obama, our new dictator.  When he made his first recess appointments back in March, Rubin called it "Obama's Thugocracy".  I like how the Cato Institute is the final arbiter of a controversial recess appointment, too.  Obama surely must have been the only President to ever take this horribly fascist step of mak...wait, what?

Both Republican and Democratic presidents have made recess appointments, which circumvents the Senate's authority to confirm nominees, when they could not overcome delays in the Senate. President George W. Bush made more than 170 such appointments in his two-term presidency. President Bill Clinton made nearly 140.

Oh wait.  Surely GOP heroes Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. never would have don....oh, hmm.

The first President Bush made 77 recess appointments over one term, and President Reagan made 243 over two terms.

Obama however is a "thug' when he does it.  Rubin must really dislike, oh, every single President in the history of the country, because they've all made recess appointments.  And surely none of Reagan's or either Bush's recess appointments were ever possibly controversial or anything like thatIt's in the Constitution (which of course wingers so desperately care about).  Right there, Article II, Section 2. 

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

But only Obama is a "thug" when he does it (bonus connotation points for that, by the way.)  It doesn't make Obama a thug at all of course...but it does make Jennifer Rubin a partisan hack. Presidents of both parties have used recess appointments since George Washington, because all 44 of them eventually realized that getting the Senate to do a damn thing other than occasionally remove their collective, collegial heads from their asses is near impossible anyway.

This is borderline "it's a holiday, I'll phone this in" crap even by Rubin's dismal standards. If Obama is guilty of ruining bipartisanship by making "controversial" recess appointments, so is basically every other President of the United States.  Rubin's a pretty good fit at the WaPo's Department of Talking Points.

More on this from Steve Benen.

Laura Conaway over at Maddowblog flags down this story starring everyone's favorite Southern Gentlemen, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

That Jamie and Gladys Scott were still in a Mississippi prison at all shows something's wrong. The two sisters had been given double life sentences for a 1993 armed robbery that may have netted no more than $11 and injured no one. They left behind four small children.

Yesterday Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour announced that he would let the Scott sisters out of jail, suspending their sentences with a condition that managed to make headlines all on its own: Gladys has to give Jamie one of her kidneys. Jamie is suffering from complete kidney failure, and her sister offered one of hers in their application for parole.

Effing really?  A kidney?  And the only reason Barbour's agreeing to this is that keeping Jaime Scott in prison is costing the state far more in medical treatment than it's worth to keep her in jail.

To recap, incarcerating two women for the rest of their lives over $11 was totally worth it to the state, until it started costing the state nearly $200 grand a year in dialysis treatment.  Now?  Not so much.  But to make sure you don't cost taxpayers much more than that, Boss Hogg is looking to make a deal.  Of course, how the Scott sisters ended up in this mess is open to debate.

In 1993, Gladys and Jamie Scott were arrested and charged with leading two men into an ambush in Scott County, according to CNN affiliate WLBT. Court records show the men were robbed by three teenagers who hit them with a shotgun and took their wallets.

According to The Clarion-Ledger, in Jackson, Mississippi, the sisters had pleaded not guilty as accessories but were convicted of armed robbery, while the three accomplices received lesser sentences and since have been released.

All over $11. Best part is while Boss Hogg certainly has enough problems, he thinks he's a hero because he's saving Mississippi taxpayers money.

"Instead of Mississippi taxpayers bearing that, it will be spread over all the taxpayers in the United States," Barbour said. Just as long as he doesn't have to think about it anymore.

Guy's got a heart of gold...heavy, dense, and you could kill someone with it.

It's mildly hysterical to see Republicans who spent the entire post-9/11 Bush era telling us that the President (and Vice-President) needed unprecedented plenary powers in a time of war are now screeching as loudly as possible that when the Chief Executive is a Democrat, they must be overruled by the "will of the people" and the GOP-led  House.

The Republicans' weapon of choice?  The little known and rarely used Congressional Review Act of 1996 which allows the House and Senate to review any Executive Order within 60 days of issuance if the order has a total effect on the budget of more than $100 million.

Wingers are really, really excited about using this to rein in Obama and his "power-mad" fascist socialist dictatorial administration, while uttering nary a peep about the last guy in the Oval Office who issued all kinds of Executive Orders without being challenged by these opportune patriots and temporal champions of freedom.

Only one teeny problem:  the President gets to veto any joint resolution passed by Congress under the CRA. It's nothing but kabuki and TV time to grandstand and attack the President.

But hey, that's what Republicans want to do.  Actually solving the problems of high unemployment, a sputtering economy and a housing depression is for losers.  It's much more fun to jump up and down and scream at Obama instead.

Hey America, it's what you voted for.

Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are finding that transitioning back to the civilian workforce is pretty damned difficult when there's no jobs.

While their nonmilitary contemporaries were launching careers during the nearly 10 years the nation has been at war, troops were repeatedly deployed to desolate war zones. And on their return to civilian life, these veterans are forced to find their way in a bleak economy where the skills they learned at war have little value. 

Some experts say the grim employment landscape confronting veterans challenges the veracity of one of the central recruiting promises of the nation's all-volunteer force: that serving in the military will make them more marketable in civilian life. 

"That [promise] works great in peacetime," said Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense for manpower under President Ronald Reagan who is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. "But that does not work too well in war. . . . If you are in there four years and deployed twice, what kind of skills have you learned other than counterinsurgency?" 

The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans was 10 percent in November, compared with 9.1 percent for non-veterans, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment rates for combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been higher than the overall rate since at least 2005, according to the bureau. 
And it's pretty simple, really.  Employers these days can pick and choose the most qualified candidate for the job, and that usually means somebody with recent experience, not somebody who has spent the last several years out of the job market.

But note that it's not the recession that caused this.  Iraq and Afghanistan vets have been unemployed at a higher rate since 2005, well before the bottom fell out of the job market.  Employers wonder about the mental health history of a returning vet who served three or four tours in the sandbox.

That means the job market, or lack of it, is driving a lot of vets back into active service.  The larger problem is after nine years of war, we're discovering new and heartbreaking costs everywhere.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Hi, Steve M. here; I'm far west of the mess in New York (though it's snowing where I am and the roads are a mess, so karma is catching up with me). I see via Blue Texan that Charlotte Hays of National Review has a bizarre theory about the snow-removal shortcomings in my town:

... The blizzard reveals something basic: Liberals in government want to tell us what to eat, counsel us about how and when to die, and in general attempt to engineer our lives. But when reality knocks, they can't do the basic stuff such as clearing the streets so that newborns don't die in bloody apartment-building lobbies. Mayor Bloomberg may be receiving an unfair amount of criticism for his lackluster performance in coping with Mother Nature, given the almost unprecedented nature of the storm, but the unplowed city streets provide a metaphor for the nanny state: It can order us to do anything, but it can't take care of the basic obligations of government.

I don't get it -- what is Hays's argument? That the plows aren't out because the drivers, or the trucks themselves, are too busy monitoring trans-fat levels in pastries at the deli? Bloomberg has changed city policy on diet and smoking and the transportation mix, but how does that preclude getting the damn streets plowed? Why does focusing on one inevitably prevent the other? What's the connection?

I'd argue that it's the opposite problem: that Bloomberg is crying poverty and deferring the effective delivery of city services even as the #1 industry in his city -- finance -- is making money hand over fist. This is where Bloomberg is no liberal -- he's whinged about the Democrats' (not particularly rough) treatment of Wall Street; he backed the "leave Wall Street aloooone!" Senate candidacy (fortunately abortive) of Harold Ford. City services have been suffering and Bloomberg hasn't demanded that the people who've emerged from the downturn with flying colors pony up more; his deference to his fellow plutocrats makes Obama look like Hugo Chavez.

The problem here is the indifference of a real elitist, born in part of a let-them-eat-cake plutocrat remove from ordinary citizens' concerns and in part from an unwillingness to get services paid for by the people who can pay for them. That ain't liberalism.


AND: It should go without saying that New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who is one of Hays's heroes, is also falling down on the snowplowing job, mostle because he decamped to Disney World just as the snow was about to hit. No one would accuse him of running a nanny state, though like Bloomberg he is exquisitely sensitive to the delicate sensibilities of the rich.

(And now back to Zandar -- I'll be back for real in a couple of days....)

Looks like former national punchline Christine O'Donnell is in a bit of trouble with the Feds about her campaign spending.

Federal officials have begun a criminal investigation of defeated Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell (R) regarding her alleged use of campaign funds for personal expenses.

The Associated Press cited an unnamed source in reporting Wednesday that FBI agents and federal prosecutors have been assigned to the case, which has not yet been referred to a grand jury.

O'Donnell, a Tea Party favorite, pulled off a stunning upset of veteran Rep. Mike Castle (R) in the GOP Senate primary, raking in a state-record $7.3 million-plus fundraising haul.

But the conservative activist was dogged with questions about her alleged disbursement of $20,000 from her campaign account to pay her rent and other personal expenses

 My first question would be "Well, now would the Feds be investigating her if she had won in November?"  Even I would be hard pressed to think that would happen to an elected Senator, Magical-American or not.  Still, it's hard to imagine the cavalcade of failure that is this woman get much worse, short of one of her spells backfiring and releasing a pack of rabid wolverines into a day care.

Joe Miller may be the poster child for Republicans Who Blew It right now, but with the end of 2010 fast approaching, O'Donnell is making her move.

To sum up Tucker Carlson's positions on law and order:

Treating human beings in an inhumane manner, why would we want to prosecute anyone?

"Look you can disagree with what happened, with waterboarding, but it's not like they wrote these memos in order to get rich or help themselves in some way, they wrote these memos believing they would help the country..."

Treating dogs in an inhumane manner?  Kill the ones responsible.

I think, personally, he should have been executed for that.”

Recap:  Bush torture memo guys, not worth prosecuting at all.  Michael Vick?  Death penalty.   Them's family values right there.

Of course now Tucker says he was "exaggerating for effect".
Apparently it's Right Wing Concern Trolling Week here, as Jennifer Rubin becomes the latest maven to scold the left, this time on the subject of Senate filibuster reform.

Those planning on tinkering with Senate rules are well advised to do some serious thinking about the unintended consequences of their desire to give the Senate majority more power. So long as McConnell, 46 other Republicans and a slew of nervous red state Democrats are there, they might want to leave well enough alone. And for those who find wisdom in the Founders' design of the Senate, it would be wise to retain a filibuster rule that, as Todd Gaziano of the Heritage Foundation, succinctly put it, "makes it harder for the politicians that cater to rent-seeking special interests to enact more laws that are generally unconstitutional, fiscally irresponsible and/or undermine our liberty." Well, you can understand why the left would be on the other side in that debate.

This entire line of reasoning baffles me.  Rubin is warning that the Senate actually doing something could have dire consequences, and that leaving an institution with an approval rating only slightly higher than that of the idea of bedbug infestations in a hospital's pre-natal ICU ward "as is" is somehow a good idea. 

To recap, the Senate not doing things is pretty much the crux of the problem.  Rubin seems to think that this should be the status quo, that the only legislation that should be allowed to reach a President's desk is the no-brainer bipartisan stuff, which by definition isn't going to be anything groundbreaking.  Why not campaign to raise the filibuster threshhold to 67 votes again?  Clearly, the higher the threshhold, the better the legislation will be produced, yes?

Just hasn't occured to Rubin here that if Democrats had embraced filibuster reform two years ago, we'd have a much different political climate right now.  Or maybe it has, actually...which is why she's so very eager to warn against the idea, since the past two years have proven to be fruitful legislatively but also very frustrating to a number of liberals.

We'd have gotten the DREAM Act passed, as just one example, depending on the type of filibuster reform considered.  A lot of other things that passed the House but died in the Senate, some hundreds of bills, could have ended up with the President's signature on it instead.

Pretty sure our Founders would of had something to say on the subject of the Senate's default mode being inaction when the country continues to face a major economic crisis.

Honestly, I suggest aluminum shortages may be in our future due to the sheer volume and thickness of the tinfoil hats that must be donned to believe the latest fetid product out of the Obama Derangement Testing Facilities.

The good news is that the right-wing isn't talking about President Obama being a secret Muslim right now. The bad news is that they're now concerned that he's going to use his honorary status as a Crow Tribe Indian to return the United States to Native Americans.

The outrage began after the President announced on December 16 that the U.S. would reverse course and support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. The Declaration was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2007, but the U.S., under President Bush, opposed it. 

"The aspirations it affirms -- including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples -- are ones we must always seek to fulfill," the President said of the Declaration at White House Tribal Nations Conference where he announced the reversal. He went on to describe efforts to improve health care, education, and unemployment rates in tribal areas.

Bonus for the wingers, an all-new (all old) group of people to hate in Native Americans.  Combine the specter of "Oh noes, reparations!" with the fever dreams of  "He's not really one of us", add a layer of "One World UN Gubment!" and stir in a big sticky glob of good ol' racism and you get "Obama is gonna give Manhattan back to them!"

But why stop there?

Last week, the "Director of Issues Analysis" for the Christian conservative American Family Association, Brian Fischer, wrote a blog post claiming that "President Obama wants to give the entire land mass of the United States of America back to the Indians. He wants Indian tribes to be our new overlords."

"Perhaps he figures that, as an adopted Crow Indian, he will be the new chief over this revived Indian empire," Fischer wrote. "But for the other 312 million of us, I think we'll settle for our constitutional 'We the people' form of government, thank you very much."

Ahh yes, Bryan Fischer again, the wingnut gift that keeps on giving.  Whatever Fischer's on, it must be absolutely great stuff.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Leave it to zee Germans to figure out a way to increase airport efficiency in the Warren Terrah age.  Reuters:

German airports should consider "profiling" passengers, a controversial practice used by other countries that risks discriminating passengers according to criteria such as religious and ethnic background.

The chief executive of the Duesseldorf airport, Christoph Blume, said in a German daily newspaper on Tuesday that grouping passengers into different categories of risk could put an end to the ever-growing number of security checks.

"Every new incident leads to further controls and security measures. This results in a race to upgrade equipment that at some point will reach their technological and operating limits," Blume told the Rheinische Post.

"This way (through profiling), control systems could be more effectively employed for the well-being of all participants," he said.

Considering not even the Israelis think profiling is effective (it just shifts the terrorist recruiting to those who don't fit the profile) I have to wonder how this is more "efficient".

Oh, and I'll the let the irony of a German proposing something like this sink in for a bit.

Have a nice day.

Jonah the Whale Goldberg is so very, very concerned with the plight of the gay, forced to fight in Bush's eeeeeeevil wars that Obama is continuing, wanting silly social norms like marriage and family, and living like, well, ordinary Americans.  Where, Jonah demands, is the fabulous?

Two decades ago, the gay left wanted to smash the bourgeois prisons of monogamy, capitalistic enterprise and patriotic values and bask in the warm sun of bohemian "free love." And avant-garde values. In this, they were simply picking up the torch from the straight left of the 1960s and 1970s, who had sought to throw off the sexual hang-ups of their parents' generation along with their gray flannel suits.

As a sexual lifestyle experiment, that failed pretty miserably, the greatest proof being that the affluent and educated children (and grandchildren) of the baby boomers have reembraced bourgeois notions of marriage as an essential part of life. Sadly, it's the have-nots who are now struggling as marriage is increasingly seen as an unaffordable luxury. The irony is that such bourgeois values — monogamy, hard work, etc. — are the best guarantors of success and happiness.

Of course, the lunacy of the bohemian free love shtick should have been obvious from the get-go. When Michael Lerner, a member of the anti- Vietnam War "Seattle Seven," did marry, in 1971, the couple exchanged rings made from the fuselage of a U.S. aircraft downed over Vietnam and cut into a cake inscribed in icing with a Weatherman catchphrase, "Smash Monogamy."

Today Lerner is a (divorced and remarried) somewhat preposterous, prosperous progressive rabbi who officiates at all kinds of marriages — gay and straight; and, like pretty much the entire left, a big supporter of repealing "don't ask, don't tell."

Goldberg has perfected his own special class of self-parody where he sets out to debunk notions that conservatives are bad people by showing that every conceivable evil ever throughout time had to have been invented by liberals, and then backs up like a garbage truck right into the same stereotypical Snidely Whiplash mustache-twirling jackassery that he tries to disprove he's any party to.  This time he manages to do that all in the space of just the title of the article, "As gays become bourgeois."  Talk about economy of douchebaggery.

His superpower is that somehow he's made a career out of this particular brand of douchebag column, where in this case his efforts to prove that conservatives are the open-minded ones leads him to declare that the liberal gay counter-culture movement of the last 25 years sold out to get wedding cakes with two grooms on them and to have the right to fight and die for The Man in some god-forsaken hellhole, so that really the gays are going to sell out the liberals before the liberals sell out the gays, or something.

Which is funny, because most people would call that "Hey, I want to be treated just like every other miserable asshole in this country" which last time I checked was called "equality", a rather open minded concept.  Only Goldberg would apply his cynical "aha, there must be some ulterior motive here, let me get my Sherlock Holmes bubble pipe so that I can blow bubbles here and display my detective skills!" conclusion to something as simple as The Right To Be An Average Miserable American Bastard, but there's a market for that kind of thing in the Village.  The whole thing is basically Goldberg concern-trolling gays, liberals, the military, ABC's sitcom lineup and you.  Did you know liberals like "Dexter"?  They could be next door, you know.

He then ends with "Well, I'm not a bigot, but I think it's sweet that you guys want your little family units and Home Depot gift cards and taking kids to soccer practice" kind of crap in the voice elderly white women in 1965 usually reserved for saying "It's so wonderful that you people can do that now!"

Thus, the circle of self-parody is completed, and Goldberg gets another paycheck, complete with cartoon sound effects.

Our fourth estate needs a wrecking ball.

Profiles in leadership time as New Jersey's GOP Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic Mayor of Newark Cory Booker demonstrate what to do in case a major blizzard hits the Garden State...and what not to do.  Steve Benen:

Following up on an item from yesterday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and his lieutenant governor were told Sunday about the blizzard barreling down on the Garden State. Soon after, they left town at the same time, with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) and her family flying to Mexico, and Christie and his family going to Disney World in Florida.

It left state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) in charge as the acting governor, and by all appearances, he's handling everything fine -- he declared a state of emergency, dispatched road crews, coordinated with state agencies, and activated the National Guard. The response seems to have gone fairly well, and Sweeney lifted the state of emergency this morning.

But there's still the political fallout to consider. Many are questioning why the Christie administration allowed both the governor and lieutenant governor to go on vacation at the same time, despite warnings about the impending storm. Others have noted that the governor isn't bothering to rush home to deal with the situation.

So both the Governor and the Lt. Gov. were told over the weekend that the state was going to get nailed Sunday night by a major snowstorm, and both of them left town as fast as they could for sunny points south of there.  Nice.

So what did Mayor Booker of Newark do in contrast?

Perhaps even more interesting was how Cory Booker spent his day. Booker, the Democratic mayor of Newark and likely gubernatorial candidate in 2013, grabbed a shovel to help seniors and the disabled, delivered diapers to a housebound mother, helped dig out a stuck police car, and tended to a woman in labor who was waiting on an EMS team to arrive.

So the Republicans bolt town and leave the Democrats to do the responsible governing part of the Governor's job when a mess comes barreling down the pike, and they come through admirably.  Meanwhile, Gov. Christie might be back by the end of the week from Disney World and the important things:  gym, tan, laundry.

Hey, governing is freakin' hard.


Brian Beutler reports on the GOP stocking up on health insurance lobbyists in order to find a way to dismantle health care reform.

House Republicans are turning to old friends on K Street to lead their legislative attempts to repeal the new health care law. 

Three recently hired Republican aides -- two set to work in senior positions on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, and one for soon-to-be Speaker John Boehner -- spent the past years lobbying on behalf of insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and other corporate interest groups with a vested interest in weakening or repealing the law.

Two weeks ago, incoming Energy and Commerce chair Fred Upton announced he'd hired Gary Andres to be his staff director. 

"For over two decades, Gary has been a leading voice in Republican policy, always seeking solutions to advance our principles to limit the size and scope of government," Upton said in a statement at the time.
Andres served as Vice Chairman of Public Policy and Research for Dutko Worldwide, where, according to congressional public disclosure forms, he lobbied for insurance giant UnitedHealth Group and for a corporate umbrella organization called the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform.

The coalition's website is now defunct, but you can view an archive of its homepage here and of its membership here

It looks like the GOP may be using these former lobbyists to take a scalpel to the health care reform measure rather than the flamethrower they promised during the campaign season, but the goal of making the law DOA before additional provisions can take effect remains the same.

That's probably not enough to satisfy Tea Party types eager to get in on the "defund and shutdown" action.  House Republicans who don't move fast enough to torch legislation passed in the first two years of Obama's term may not be back in 2013.

Still, I can see why House Republicans are doing this.  They basically want to replace the Obama legislation with their own version of it, and they're going to need surgeons, not demolition men.

Monday, December 27, 2010


I really do wonder why wingers believe "DADT repeal means military personnel exposed to communal showers will immediately sexually molest each other!" is somehow a winning argument.  Take Elaine Donnelly of the Concern Troll Bigot Foundation Center For Military Readiness.

Showers are "huge issue," Donnelly said. "To pretend that throwing up a few shower curtains solves the problem is tantamount, again, to saying, well women should share close quarters with men, we'll throw up a few shower curtains and that will take care of it."

"I don't know about the gyms where you go or most people go, but the gyms that I've seen have a sign inside the door, and the door says inside the women's locker room 'no boys of any age are allowed.' Now there's a reason for that," Donnelley said. "It in no way is a negative reflection on anybody, it is just a sign of respect for modesty in sexual manners."

"Knowingly, you don't expose yourself to somebody who might be sexually attracted to you. Does it happen unknowingly? Sure," Donnelly said. "It's something that again, when you introduce an element of sexuality in an environment that previously did not have that, that is problematic. There will be consequences from that, because people are normal, they're humans, they're sensitive to that."

"It's time to start talking about where we're going now. It's not just a matter of repealing a policy that should have been eliminated a long time ago, it's a matter of where are we going from here," Donnelly said.

Donnelly said her group has seen a jump in support for her organization this year in the lead up to the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"We were able to raise money to do things we haven't done before. We had a full page ad in Roll Call just before the vote in September." They were far outspent by the opposition, Donnelley said. 

One wonders what military personnel have been doing in communal showers before DADT was repealed.  Clearly we'll need some sort of system of inflatable shower protective gear, like swim floats or inner tubes to protect our soliders, sailors, and airmen from showers.  Perhaps we could station armed predator drones inside the showers to pursue overly "friendly" personnel and subdue them, or use sonic crowd control technology in showers to deter violators.

Maybe the Pentagon should invest in some sort of cootie-repelling soap.  I'm sure we can create thousands of jobs in many congressional districts to manufacture that to exacting mil spec standards.

Glad to know that when we send our military into the field, what they really need to worry about is not the guys playing "hide the IED" but the guys playing "drop the soap".

The thing that kills me is people give idiots like this money of their own free will, people who think our troops are going to disintegrate at the mere thought of somebody looking at their ass in the shower.  Oy.

What will Orange Julius slice from the budget to keep his $100 billion spending reduction promise?  Here's a hint:  it's not going to be from defense.

Republicans view their midterm electoral victory as a mandate to cut spending, and cutting $100 billion from a $3 trillion federal budget sounds like a reasonable goal. 

But GOP leaders say they will focus only on non-security discretionary spending, and won't slash funding for defense, Social Security or Medicare. 

That makes their task a lot harder.

Cutting non-security discretionary funds by $100 billion means a 21% annual reduction in the part of the budget that includes funding for education, health and human services and housing and urban development, among other things, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank.

In other words, the sacred cows of domestic Democratic policy. 

Asked which programs will be cut to get to the $100 billion target, Boehner did not offer specifics.

"But I will tell you," he told reporters earlier this month. "We are going to cut spending."

No specifics of course.  That whole 20% across the board axed from social spending isn't going to make the GOP real popular, either. Especially in this economy.  Back in July, Republicans said that cutting Pentagon spending was no longer off the table, or at least Ron Paul thought it was necessary.  Of course, that was never going to happen.

So, in this economy, Republicans see their first order of business as piling on the pain on the American people (and more tax cuts!)  Let's see those specifics, guys.  Who's getting the axe?

My guess is going to be those spending cuts are going to be a lot less than $100 billion, especially for anybody with 2012 aspirations.  Of course, that would explain why most of your 2012 GOP prospective candidates are out of office right now, but all the GOP House will be facing voters again in two years as well.  Somehow I don't think those specifics are ever going to materialize.

Josh Marshall weighs Mississippi GOP Gov. Haley Barbour's Presidential chances in 2012, and wants to know why anyone inside DC thinks anyone outside DC is even remotely considering the guy for anything other than Fastest 2012 Campaign To Crash And Burn.

In the wake of Haley Barbour's Jim Crow face plant last week various commentators are weighing in to take stock of whether it's a bump in the road or the end of his hopes of running for president in 2012.

Back on Planet Earth, though, a different story can be told.

Let's state it flat out. You have to be deeply, securely, and no doubt permanently encased in the DC cocoon ever to have thought that Haley Barbour was a serious presidential candidate. Really, people. Any number of things would have to change to make Barbour a remotely credible presidential candidate -- starting with erasing the image of Boss Hogg from the cultural memory of every American over the age of 30. And that would probably be one of the easier tasks on the list.

On first blush you might say, how is the Governor of Mississippi a creation of the DC cocoon? But the governor gig is just a recent flourish. Barbour made his career -- and a very impressive one on its own terms -- as an establishment Republican political operative and high-powered DC lobbyist. He co-founded one of the most powerful lobbying firms in the city -- now BGR Group, formerly Barbour Griffith & Rogers. And he's brought that high-flying lifestyle -- sometimes literally -- to the governor's mansion in Mississippi, one of the poorest state's in the union. Every elite journalist in DC knows Barbour -- many of them socially and over a long period of time because as you can see from his demeanor glad-handing is a big part of the guy's charm. And the same applies to pretty much everyone else from the city's power grid.

With everyone in Washington knowing him, why shouldn't he run for president? Everybody likes him. He's had a successful career. He's the governor of a state. So why not? What could go wrong?

Personally, Sarah Palin has a better shot than Haley Barbour.  And that's really, really saying something.  Barbour still has a lot of lobbyist/insider cred among the Village, so much so that people are still asking the "does he have a shot?" question seriously.

The answer is an unqualified "No way in hell."  This is Village Fail 101 that anyone is even remotely taking this clown seriously. 

Many of us are grateful to have jobs...but it doesn't mean we like them, either.  Five out of six American workers say they will be looking for a better job in 2011, a major increase from last year's three out of five.

Most employees have sat tight through the recession, not even considering other jobs because so few firms were hiring. For the past few years, the Labor Department's quits rate, which serves as a barometer of workers' ability to change jobs, has hovered near an all-time low.

But after years of increased work and frozen compensation, "a lot of people will be looking because they're disappointed with their current jobs," said Paul Bernard, a veteran executive coach and career management advisor who runs his own firm.

Douglas Matthews, president and chief operating officer for Right Management, a division of Manpower, called the results "a wake-up call to management. ... This finding is more about employee dissatisfaction and discontent than projected turnover," he said.

Despite a disappointing jobs report last month, experts agree that the employment picture will likely improve going forward, although hiring will be slow. 

That's both good and bad news, depending on if employers are looking to add jobs in 2011.  If, as I expect, jobs remain relatively flat and more people are joining the job-seeking market, that will mean a solid bump up in the unemployment rate, most likely above the 10% mark.

I'm still going with housing prices continuing their fall through 2011 as the Foreclosuregate mess continues.  That's going to put a big squeeze on consumers this year, and it's not going to help growth or demand as we could be in for another round of belt-tightening.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Every now and again, fate gives you a second chance.  Even in Washington.

Robin C. Ashton, the woman Attorney General Eric Holder just named to head of the Justice Department's internal ethics office, was reportedly herself a victim of improper politicization during the Bush administration at the hands of Regent University graduate Monica Goodling.

"As a veteran career prosecutor, Robin is uniquely qualified to serve as Counsel for Professional Responsibility, and I am confident she will lead the office with the highest standards of professionalism, integrity and dedication," Holder said in a statement.

You remember Ms. Goodling, yes?

Goodling, you may recall, arrived at DOJ at the start of the Bush administration after working as an opposition researcher for the Republican National Committee. She graduated from Regent University School of Law, the school founded by Pat Robertson, and believed that part of her job was to bring people with conservative and Christian values to the Justice Department, former colleagues said. She admitted to "crossing the line" and running afoul of civil service rules governing hiring decisions.

She thought her job in the DOJ was to purge the office of anyone who might have been a "democrat" or |"liberal", i.e. anyone to the left of Monica Goodling.   Ashton was only one of Goodling's victims.  Holder's decision shows he's serious about restoring the ethics office to actually meaning something, unlike during the Bush years.

We'll see what she can do.

So, on one hand we have Sen. Tom "I block 9/11 first responders from getting health care" Coburn predicting doom unless spending is cut immediately.

Coburn, who said throughout the interview he was not trying to "scare" Americans with his rhetoric on the deficit, was then asked to give his worst-case scenario outlook for the American economy.

"I think you'll see 15 to 18 percent unemployment rate. I think you'll see a 8 to 9 percent decline in GDP. I think you'll see the middle class destroyed," Coburn said.

"The people it will harm the most will be the poorest of the poor," adding that he believed hyper-inflation could contribute to the degradation of the American way of life.

On the other hand, we've got actual inflation numbers showing Coburn wouldn't know what he was talking about if he had a team of rocket scientists explaining things to him, as Steve Benen explains.

Apparently, as Coburn sees it, spending will lead to inflation, which will lead to "apocalyptic pain," especially for lower-income Americans. The solution, then, is to take capital out of the economy by slashing public spending, much of which benefits lower-income Americans, deliberately slowing already-weak economic growth.

I just don't know what planet Coburn is living on. The right-wing Oklahoman, best known for his recent fight against health benefits for 9/11 first responders, may not realize it, but the inflationary threat -- the one that he thinks would lead to 18% unemployment at a 9% drop in GDP -- doesn't exist. When the most recent economic figures were released, showing GDP growth at a severely underwhelming 2.6%, there was scarcely any inflation at all. Indeed, as of a month ago, core inflation was at its lowest levels since officials starting keeping track over a half-century ago.

On the gripping hand, we are seeing major speculative action in commodities right now, particularly basic foodstuffs like sugar and other commodities like oil (not to mention gold and silver). So we are seeing price rises, but they are being caused by market speculation, not demand.  Remember $140+ a barrel oil in 2007?

Same thing appears to be happening again.  There's no fundamental reason for these massive shifts in price.  It's just another Big Casino game being played with taxpayer money and backed by moral hazard.

And Coburn's very quick to blame the taxpayer for causing the problem.  Either way, we're the ones who will have to pay.

Keep an eye on GOP Rep. Joe Walsh from IL-8.  If you're looking for somebody who personifies the Teabagger Paradox perfectly, the suburban business consultant turned politician is your man.

Mr. Walsh, 48, will get about $1.4 million annually to run his operation and plans as many as three district branches. He’ll sleep in his office in Washington, while his family stays here in McHenry. And get this: he’s turned down the usual congressional health care, pension and retirement packages. 

“I don’t think congressmen should get pensions or cushy health care plans,” he said. His wife is not exhilarated with the latter decision; she has a pre-existing medical condition and is now forced to hunt for a plan. 

Mr. Walsh had an initial campaign debt of about $90,000. That soared several fold because of legal bills related to a lengthy recount battle. A New Year’s Eve party at the Lakemoor Banquet Hall will raise money for a congressman-elect happy to take checks from lobbyists and political action committees. 

“If JPMorgan Chase wants to give me money, fine,” he said. 

It’s no surprise that he’s unhappy with the tax deal congressional Republicans cut with President Obama. “We cut taxes, raised spending and contributed to the deficit,” he said. “Republicans should have held out for something better.” 

His legislative goals are repealing Mr. Obama’s health care legislation and seeking major changes in Social Security and Medicare. I asked if reducing the size, scope and power of government is a means to an end or an end in itself. 

“An end in itself,” he said, without pausing. “I think we were sent to D.C. to cut spending and grow the economy. We have to talk about cutting real programs” — and agencies — “like the Department of Energy and Department of Education.” 

One of the first votes he’ll confront is on raising the federal debt ceiling. Many economists warn that voting down an increase would be a mistake, and the House Republican leadership agrees. Mr. Walsh will vote against it. “On principle and policy, the leadership is wrong,” he said. “This is a teachable moment on my part.” 

The Club For Growth guys must have wet dreams about cloning Joe Walsh and replacing as much of Congress as possible with them.   Don't kid yourself about what "major changes" to Medicare and Social Security means, either.  He goes on to say he has no intention of working with Democrats, and that governing through anger is the way to go, saying he's "absolutely" prepared to lose in 2012 if it means he was instrumental in shredding the safety net, blowing up the country's credit rating, and dismantling as many executive branch agencies as possible.

Sure, he gets credit for not taking government health care or pension programs.  But this guy is a fanatic, plain and simple.  He'll take all the corporate lobbying cash he can get his hands on to wreck the lives of the very people who sent him to Washington:  blue state seniors.

After all, anyone who outright says that the middle class has it too good in America is not exactly going to be on the side of working class or fixed income Americans.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Hawaii's new Governor, Democrat Neil Abercrombie, is on a mission.

Neil Abercrombie knew Barack Obama's parents when the future president was born here in 1961, and he has been aggravated by the so-called birther movement, which alleges Obama was not born in the United States and thus should be expelled from office.

Now Abercrombie has an office of his own — he became governor of Hawaii on Dec. 6. — and he intends to do something about it.

What, exactly, is unclear. But in an interview this week at the state Capitol, he left little doubt that torpedoing the conspiracy theorists was a priority.

"What bothers me is that some people who should know better are trying to use this for political reasons," said Abercrombie, 72. "Maybe I'm the only one in the country that could look you right in the eye right now and tell you, 'I was here when that baby was born.' "

One of Abercrombie's aides said the governor is voicing the frustration of many Hawaiians who continue to be troubled by the rumors, which they see as emblematic of the view that Hawaiians are not Americans in the same way as those who live in the continental United States.

Abercrombie's Hawaiian pride may be trumping practical politics. Ample evidence has been produced to discredit the "birther" movement, so in the view of the White House, the Democratic governor's comments are reviving an issue that most people see as resolved.

"Most people see as resolved" not so much, considering the number of people who think President Obama isn't a US citizen has only gone up since he took office.   More power to the good Governor, since there's tens of millions of Americans who will never believe it anyway.

The really annoying part for me is the fact this is taking energy and resources away from the real problems facing our country.

Here's some Yoshida Brothers.

Got about 4 inches of snow here last night, a nice little White Christmas.  I'm gonna play some Fallout: New Vegas.  You all have a nice one whatever you do today, and I'll see you back here a bit later.

Friday, December 24, 2010


One of the big, big showdowns coming in 2011 is the EPA versus the House GOP.  The Environmental Protection Agency says if Congress won't take action on greenhouse gases, then the EPA will.  yesterday it announced plans to deal with power plant carbon emissions, and immediately both House Republicans and energy companies are saying "over our dead bodies."

The EPA announcement, which came as part of a settlement of two 2008 lawsuits, will propose new standards for power plants in July 2011 and for refineries in December 2011, followed by final standards in May 2012 and November 2012, respectively. 

During a telephone briefing for reporters, Gina McCarthy, the EPA's assistant administrator for air and radiation, said she could not spell out how significantly the new rules will reduce the nation's contribution to global warming. 

"You will see measurable reductions," she said. "It's way too early in the game right now to talk about what the standards will look like." 

Power plants account for 35 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions while oil refineries account for 3 percent; combined with an earlier EPA rule targeting cars and light trucks, the agency is poised to regulate sectors accounting for more than 55 percent of the nation's total greenhouse gas emissions. 

According to an analysis by the World Resources Institute, the new rules could deliver about one-third of the carbon cuts the United States has pledged to make by 2020. "By focusing on the largest polluters, EPA can take a big bite out of U.S. emissions," said WRI senior fellow Franz Litz. 

The EPA's McCarthy said the agency would require that existing and new utilities and refineries use only "what technologies are available." It would not set an overall limit on greenhouse gases such as one that was included in the cap-and-trade bill passed by the House in 2009 but that died in the Senate. 

"This is not about a cap-and-trade program," she said. "It is not in any way trying to get into the area where Congress will be establishing law at some point in the future, we hope." 

But Charles T. Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, said in an interview that the proposal was unrealistic and that his industry will urge lawmakers to block the EPA's move. 

"There is no best available technology. The only thing you can do is cut production," Drevna said. "I see bipartisan concern as to where EPA and the administration are attempting to take climate regulation - how they're going to get there and what it's going to do to the economy." 

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who is in line to chair the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee next year, seemed to agree. "The fact is there are serious questions about EPA's decision to move forward with these job-killing regulations that will usurp power from states - violating the principles of federalism that are the backbone of the Clean Air Act," his spokesman Kurt Bardella said in an e-mailed statement.

The move from the Republicans is to simply refuse to appropriate any operating funds the EPA or to get rid of the agency completely rather than to see carbon emissions reduced.  Surely the GOP will make one of the two methods part of its government shutdown hostage plan should the agency go through with the process.

A lot of other pieces are going to be on the table when the Republicans play the shutdown card in March (and yes, I fully expect House Republicans will shut down the government in March unless they get 100% of what they want, no word on whether or not that will include Obama's immediate resignation.)  But count on this being a big part of the whole mess next spring.

(Zandar here.  Well, I'll try not to burn the place down in a Christmas tree fire "accident", but thanks for having me around again Steve.  And thank you guys for reading.)

We start off with news that Vice President Joe Biden believes that national gay marriage is something of an "inevitability".

Vice President Joseph Biden said in a television interview Friday that “there’s an inevitability for a national consensus on gay marriage.”

The vice president, who backs civil unions but not same-sex marriage, weighed in on the issue two days after President Obama acknowledged his position was “evolving.”

“I think the country's evolving,” Biden said in the interview with ABC News. His comments were not the first time he has suggested the country would eventually accept and support gay marriage. Asked in a 2007 appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” if gay marriage was inevitable, Biden replied that “it probably is.”

Evolution and Republican jokes aside, he's right.  Of course the real issue is how long that will take, but it's refreshing to hear that both the President and Vice President believe that DOMA needs to go.  At least I hope that's what Biden is saying, because it really is rather standing in the way of a national gay marriage initiative.

Unfortunately doing something about DOMA from a legislative standpoint is not going to happen while Republicans are in control of anything.  Executive and judicial options still remain, however, particularly the judicial one as California's Prop 8 case winds through the courts on the way to SCOTUS.

Personally I'm convinced there's a fair chunk of conservative Republicans who desperately want a Roe v. Wade style SCOTUS decision permitting same-sex marriage in America to rail against -- and fundraise against -- for the next 30 plus years.  Look how effective and lucrative opposing Roe has been for the wingers over the years.  Hell, I think they'd be secretly delighted.

... Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm

Okay, I hear what you’re saying. "Hey! That's not a kid's gun!" Well, not specifically a kid's gun, but it certainly can be. My 14-year-old son shoots one all the time and maintains a 2-inch group at 20 feet. His hands are smaller than mine, but the M&P features 3 three replaceable grips in small, medium and large. The recoil is low and it's easy to sight. For a large-frame pistol, this is one smooth-shooting firearm that your teenagers will love to shoot. You can pick this one up for under $500, and with the extra grips, it will grow with them into adulthood.

Note: Some states may not allow the 17-round capacity magazines, so check your state and local firearms laws just to make sure before buying. This is a serious gun.

Okay, so those are my kid's picks for Christmas gifts....

--recommendation #5 from Skip Coryell's "Five Best Youth Guns For Christmas,", 12/14/10, recommended by Mike Stollenwerk, gun right columnist at; photo via Smith & Wesson

Wow. Well, with that I'm out of here until January 1, pleased to know that at least some of America's future grown-up patriots will be strapped before they can legally vote, drink, or drive. (Oh, and gun fans can relax even more, because President Obama's nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms wasn't confirmed in the lame duck, so we can assume that he'll never be confirmed. But that's OK because, after the last GOP-controlled Congress subjected this position to Senate approval, in 2006, no ATF head has been approved -- that is, not even George W. Bush's pick. Ah, but I'm sure President Palin won't have this problem, and after sailing through the approval process, ATF Director Ted Nugent will do a bang-up job.)

Where was I? Oh yeah -- have a great Christmas-or-whatever-the-hell-you-celebrate-or-don't-celebrate-or-already-celebrated. Zandar, I believe, will be doing some posting while I'm gone, and maybe Aimai, and maybe I'll even show up once or twice. (And I added Aimai's blog to the blogroll, along with the blog of Frank Chow. Go read.)

Thanks for reading, commenting, linking denouncing me as a hopeless sellout, and everything else you did this year. I'll be back for more before you know it. 'Bye!

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I have to say that this, if true, really surprises me:

Parcel bombs exploded at two embassies in Rome in a coordinated attack Thursday.... Italy’s interior minister said that an initial investigation indicated the bombs might have been the work of anarchists, and an Italian anarchist group claimed responsibility for at least one of the attacks....

I don't want to get into an argument about specific anti-terrorism measures, especially concerning airport security, because arguments over individual measures are irrelevant here -- our "Islamofascism"-denouncing friends on the right essentially argue that we shouldn't be scrutinizing white people in U.S. airports at all, because, as everyone knows, all terrorists are Muslim.

Well, it appears quite possible that these terrorists aren't Muslim -- that, in fact, they're Caucasian. This wasn't an airport attack, but it's terrorism nonetheless. It sounds like the kind of terrorism that Europe and, to some extent, the U.S. had in the 1970s. Why couldn't that happen again here too, if only just once? From the left or the right?

It's fine that we continue to argue about measures. But if our Fox-y, Atlas Shrugging friends on the right think all terrorists are waging jihad, this may be proving them wrong, and we're not violating their privileged status as white people by patting them down.

Kevin K. and Mrs. Polly at Rumproast (here, here, and here) and Zandar (here) have been generating some great Xtranormal videos mocking the Firedoglake/Democratic Underground no-loaf-is-better-than-half crowd -- so I thought I'd try my hand. My video has a holiday theme, though it's also inspired by the comments here, which drove Kevin K. to despair. Enjoy:


I'd be more impressed by this...

The 700 Club, a Christian talk show program hosted by staunch conservative Pat Robertson, is not the place you'd expect to find sympathy for the marijuana-legalization movement. But that's exactly what happened this week when Robertson started talking about the need for more faith-based prison rehabilitation.

"I'm not exactly for the use of drugs, don't get me wrong, but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of pot, that kinda thing it's just, it's costing us a fortune and it's ruining young people," Robertson said. "Young people go into prisons, they go in as youths and come out as hardened criminals. That's not a good thing." ...

... if it weren't obvious to me what Robertson's really up to:

... Calling it getting "smart" on crime, Robertson aired a clip on a recent episode of his 700 Club television show that advocated the viewpoint of drug law reformers who run prison outreach ministries.

A narrator even claimed that religious prison outreach has "saved" millions in public funds by helping to reduce the number of prisoners who return shortly after being released....

This isn't about compassion, or (primarily) about backing way from the drug war because it's been such a failure. It's about providing folks like Rev. Pat and his allies a way to remain relevant -- and a way to make some serious cash.

It's also a way for right-wingers to undermine secularism in America -- after all, don't most liberals support rehab as an alternative to prison for nonviolent drug offenses? Well, wouldn't that make them hypocritical -- and secularist-fascist -- if they oppose drug rehab programs just because the word "Jesus" comes up every so often? Hunh? Hunh?

That's clearly what's implied by the first couple of minutes of this clip:

Note the mention of a group called Right on Crime. Here's the group's Web site -- it's pretty slick, and a lot of big names (Gingrich, Norquist, Meese) show up there. We learn from this story that God-bothering ex-con Chuck Colson is a big supporter of Right on Crime, that Rick Perry's Texas is cited as a model for reform, and that one of the group's fundamental principles is:

An ideal criminal justice system works to reform amenable offenders who will return to society through harnessing the power of families, charities, faith-based groups, and communities.

Up to a point, this could be a good thing, I suppose. Past that point, it's an attempt to bust down the wall of separation between church and state, and an effort by Christian groups to hoover up lucrative rehab dollars.

So don't be too impressed.

If, after Senator Tom Coburn forced significant reductions in the Zadroga bill before he'd deign to allow it to pass, I would have enjoyed it very much if the sick 9/11 first responders who went to D.C. had had the SNL reaction:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Ezra Klein had some theories this morning about why so many bills got passed during the lame duck:

...It was the Republicans. DADT repeal passed because Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Scott Brown voted with the Democrats. The tax deal went through because a host of Republicans voted with the Democrats. Same for START, the food-safety bill and the DoD authorization. If the bill helping 9/11 responders get medical benefits passes, that too will be because of Republican support.

The question is why the Republicans didn't just drag their feet and let things expire and then come back to everything in 2011, when they'll have more allies in the Senate and control of the House? ...

The answer, I think, is that there are plenty of Senate Republicans who aren't too comfortable with the class of conservatives who got elected in 2010. These legislators knew they had to stick with McConnell before the election, as you can't win back the majority by handing the president lots of legislative accomplishments. But now that the election was over, the bills that had piled up were, in many cases, good bills, and if they didn't pass now, it wasn't clear that they'd be able to pass later....

Ezra thinks they wanted sensible legislation to pass, so they felt they had to get that legislation passed now. But has it ever seemed as if Republicans, even the so-called reasonable ones, cared about passing good legislation? Not that I can remember.

Big Tent Democrat sees things quite differently:

...The answer actually is that Republicans took credit for the things that help them politically (tax cuts, stopping the spending bill) and avoided blame for things they do not want to be attributed to them....

The repeal of DADT was obviously not a GOP goal, but its passage over their opposition in a lame duck Congress does not hurt them politically. More importantly, it HELPS Republicans like Scott Brown and Susan Collins who are up for reelection in 2012. The political advantages are mixed here though, as it clearly helps Dems as well as they delivered on an important promise....

In terms of the START treaty, blocking it was a clear loser for the GOP because, in the end, they were going to pass it anyway. better it be passed on the perceived Dems' watch now than on the GOP watch later. Plausible deniability. The political calculus was obvious imo.

I do not know anything about the food safety bill in terms of substance, but I'm pretty sure it did not have any political resonance....

In addition, BTD makes the reasonable point that the tax-cut deal pleases Republicans, as does defeating the omnibus. I'll buy that. It's the rest of it I don't get. Do these Party of No folks suddenly care about food safety, or even START? Couldn't the New England Republicans have gotten brownie points for support DADT repeal without it actually passing? And wouldn't it help Republicans in general to have Democrats, especially the president, look ineffectual and weak?

I see a few possibilities. Maybe the Republicans really do feel that they need to seem like a party capable of governing -- maybe they fear looking too much like the petulant government-shutdown party of Gingrich, because they think that was Gingrich's downfall.

Or maybe the GOP apostates are starting to wonder about the rigid-voting-bloc strategy -- when they were doing this in conjunction with the ordinary wingnuts who run the party, those wingnuts tended to support their reelection bids despite their occasional moderate moves; now, however, any apostasy can get you primaried by the even crazier wingnuts of the tea party movement, so, paradoxically, maybe the best strategy is to embrace centrism and get ready to run independent if necessary. (See: Murkowski, Lisa.)

I think it's a mix of this and Republican satisfaction with some of the deals that were cut -- I agree that they won some big victories. But I'm surprised that they didn't go for total victory. I'm surprised they didn't think they could.


UPDATE, THURSDAY: I was just listening to a recap of how the Zadroga 9/11 bill finally got through Congress, and it occurs to me that, while Republicans did bargain it down, they actually didn't have a game plan when Jon Stewart's pressure campaign got traction. We think they can do what they want at will -- I've certainly thought that for a long time -- but they're so used to a complete lack of pushback that when pushback comes, they're caught a bit flat-footed. If they got a little more public pressure from the outside, you think maybe they'd find it just a tad harder to run roughshod over everyone all the time?