Tuesday, July 27, 2010

When Krugmans Attack:

There are a number of such climate cowards, but let me single out one in particular: Senator John McCain.

There was a time when Mr. McCain was considered a friend of the environment. Back in 2003 he burnished his maverick image by co-sponsoring legislation that would have created a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions. He reaffirmed support for such a system during his presidential campaign, and things might look very different now if he had continued to back climate action once his opponent was in the White House. But he didn’t — and it’s hard to see his switch as anything other than the act of a man willing to sacrifice his principles, and humanity’s future, for the sake of a few years added to his political career.
(Italics mine, to highlight the act that Krugman will probably not be invited to the barbecue this year.)

Friday, June 04, 2010

I can't figure out how to embed it here, but check out the video (here) attached to this article, describing the catch-22 confronting innocent prisoners facing the parole board: only by admitting guilt do they have any realistic chance of gaining parole, but that same admission of guilt will destroy any possibility of future exoneration (in that prosecutors can and will use the prisoner's parole testimony against them). Wild -- and devastating -- stuff.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I've been saying this for a while, but in the wake of my brilliantly correct predictions in the two of yesterday's races that I cared enough about to predict (Sestak beating Specter and the Dems holding PA-12), I figured I should write this down and publish it, so that I may claim credit for it come November 3: the economy will continue to rebound (albeit slowly), the Tea Partiers will fade, and the Dems will maintain control of both chambers.


  • Currently (including Critz): 255-177 Dems
  • November 3: 235-200 Dems

  • Currently: 59-41 Dems
  • November 3: 55-45 Dems

Republicans will pick up seats across the board, but they won't come anywhere close to retaking either the House or the Senate. Mark my words.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sometimes bad people do good things. Kudos, Wal-Mart.

(It's also a pretty amusing example of corporate oneupsmanship. Yesterday, Target announced "a $2.3 million program to create pantries in schools that can be used to teach children about good nutrition at the same time they are fed." That's an admirable idea, and they deserve some [relatively smaller] kudos of their own, but could they have picked a worse time to announce it than the day before their biggest competitor announces a plan to spend $2 billion? I don't think they could have.)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

This is uncomfortable to think about (on any number of levels):

The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in them, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday.
(Let's just hope they don't try to do it on U.S. soil...)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My top five recommendations from borders.com right now:

  • American Conspiracies: Lies, Lies, and More Dirty Lies That the Government Tells Us by Jesse Ventura
  • Lies the Government Told You: Myth, Power, and Deception in American History by Andrew Napolitano
  • Courage and Consequences: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight by Karl Rove
  • No Apology: The Case for American Greatness by Mitt Romney
  • Defining Conservatism: The Principles That Will Bring Our Country Back by Jonathan Krohn (this kid)
They know me so well! (Seriously, Borders: what the fuck?)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dark times for cap and trade:

Today, the concept is in wide disrepute, with opponents effectively branding it “cap and tax,” and Tea Party followers using it as a symbol of much of what they say is wrong with Washington.
Two thoughts:
  • 1. Dear Tea Party followers: I know irony is not your strong suit, but I really wish you could stop decrying earmarks the stimulus the bailouts health care reform cap and trade as "a symbol of what's wrong with Washington" long enough to appreciate how blatantly you are being used.
  • 2. Want to make something that's not scary sound scary? Add the word "tax" to it! Doesn't matter how nonsensical it is; it always works! Watch:
    Not scary: "Cap and trade"
    Scary: Cap and tax

    Not scary: "Medicare"
    Scary: Meditax

    Not scary: "Magazine"
    Scary: Taxazine

    Not scary: "Bird"
    Scary: Taxbird

Monday, March 22, 2010

I'm willing to accept that these folks are not a representative sample of the opposition to the healthcare bill, but I think it's also pretty clear that there are more of them out there than intelligent Republicans would like to admit.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

God, these people.

As the House engaged in initial parliamentary maneuvering, hundreds of anti-reform protesters gathered on the south side of the Capitol between the building and the House office buildings across Independence Avenue, chanting and jeering Democrats and applauding House Republicans who egged them on.

“Nancy Pelosi you will burn in hell for this,” one woman intoned repeatedly through a bullhorn as members of the crowd rang bells, blew a bugle, waved a varied assortment of flags and chanted “Kill the bill.”

After racial slurs and other derogatory terms were hurled at Democrats by protesters on Saturday, numerous Democrats walked en masse from the House office buildings to the Capitol, running a gantlet of jeering and booing demonstrators. One was heard calling Representative Barney Frank, the openly gay Democrat from Massachusetts, a slur generally uttered against gays.
Emphasis mine. Do you think they go home at night and congratulate themselves for having contributed to public policy? How are Republicans not humiliated by these people?
“It is almost like the Salem witch trials,” Mr. Frank said. “The health bill has become their witch. It is a supernatural force and you get hysteria. There is an anger obviously that goes beyond anything connected to the bill.” Mr. Frank said he thinks the name-calling will backfire.

“I don’t think this is the way you win over the American people,” he said. “I think the average American says ‘No, I don’t like this anger, this bigotry.'"
Barney is so wise.

Do Republicans realize how ridiculous they sound when they rail against the healthcare bill on the floor of the House by using the phrases "Cornhusker Kickback," "Louisiana Purchase," "Gator Aid," and so forth, as if those were actual things? I don't think they do.

(Also, Chris Smith just helpfully explained that abortion is about "the exploitation of women." Good to know!)

Monday, March 08, 2010

Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann on reconciliation:

Neither party has been shy about using this process to avoid dilatory tactics in the Senate; Republicans have in fact been more willing to do so than Democrats.

The history is clear: While the use of reconciliation in this case — amending a bill that has already passed the Senate via cloture — is new, it is compatible with the law, Senate rules and the framers’ intent.
Boom, bitches.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm not generally a big Keith Olbermann fan (he veers into polemicism a bit too often for my taste), but I happened to see a fair-sized chunk of Countdown today (in between periods of the Canada/Russia game, for the most part), and the man was on fire.* There are two things in particular for which I must laud him:

Thing One
For showing, in its entirety, this absolutely magnificent Anthony Weiner meltdown ("Every single Republican I have ever met in my entire life is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry!") on the floor of the House:

Thing Two
For this genuinely moving essay about his father's failing health:

Kudos, Keith.

* - Unlike some people.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nick Kristof goes satire-mode to imagine what life might be like if the news industry were more like the healthcare industry:

By the way, columns such as this one about health care reform are out-of-network. Your insurance plan fully covers columns about many important topics, such as nephrology and Gregorian chant. But politics, health care, international affairs and anything that I might actually write about are all out-of-network.
Quite well done, overall (and significantly more entertaining than the last time I thought Nick Kristof was going satire-mode).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I was recently struggling to remember the wording of Nick Thune's awesome "two birds with one stone" bit, and found the Internet to be utterly unhelpful. Accordingly, in the theme of my Daily Show post from a few weeks ago, I've tracked down the video and transcribed it here, in order to help The Googles. Grateful kudos to Comedy Central, for posting it online, and to Nick Thune, for performing it.

Nick Thune - Two Birds

Do you guys think birds ever say, "Hey, I know this sounds crazy, but hear me out. Tomorrow, I'm going to try and kill two people with one stone."

Like, the guy who actually wrote that saying, "killing two birds with one stone."

When in history was there an abundance of birds and a shortage of stones? Like, when was some guy just like, "Oh, you know what, guys? Can you just use one from now on? No, no... well, actually, we're trying to conserve rocks, but thanks for questioning the authority. You know what, though? Try and get two with that one. Yeah, there's a shitload of birds. I appreciate it. You know what? Remember that, and tell everyone, forever."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Unemployment: it's the new "employment"!

Every downturn pushes some people out of the middle class before the economy resumes expanding. Most recover. Many prosper. But some economists worry that this time could be different. An unusual constellation of forces — some embedded in the modern-day economy, others unique to this wrenching recession — might make it especially difficult for those out of work to find their way back to their middle-class lives.

Labor experts say the economy needs 100,000 new jobs a month just to absorb entrants to the labor force. With more than 15 million people officially jobless, even a vigorous recovery is likely to leave an enormous number out of work for years.
Why won't Barack Obama apologize for personally ruining the economy?

(It could be worse, though: I could have linked to this article, instead.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I'm no expert, but I did take a few comparative religion classes in college, and I'm pretty sure that people who believe in karma have a word for this:

Alleging a plot to tamper with phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O'Keefe, 25, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group's credibility.
Or, as Wonkette put it:
The same pasty biotch who did Andrew Breitbart’s bidding to entrap ACORN in some minor prank that would get Congress to immediately revoke its entire funding… which was completely successful… has been arrested by the FBI for TRYING TO WIRETAP A SENATOR’S OFFICE. Cannot wait to hear the conservative spin on this one. (Perhaps he is really a liberal? Let’s just call him a “liberal” from now on...)

I've seen this commercial several times, and it never fails to make me want to donate money. Way to be, Feeding America.

The song is Never Let Go, by Tom Waits.

The fire-breathing response to Citizens United from the authors of the bill that it decimated:

Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, called it "a terrible mistake." Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, said in a television interview on CNN that he was "disappointed."
Whoa, whoa, whoa, Senator McCain! You're "disappointed"? Cool your jets, man! Back away from the ledge!

Okay, perhaps that's a little bit unfair. It's just a throwaway quote at the tail-end of a newspaper article; I'm sure it doesn't accurately reflect the full dismay with which he read the decision. Let's just head over to his website and check the language in the press release he issued (given his famous temper, I'm sure it's spectacular).

Let's see here... well, that's odd. It seems to be missing. It should be right here between "Senators encourage state attorney generals [sic] to expand investigation of Senate health care bill" and "Statement by John McCain regarding the sanctity of marriage." Surely a man like John McCain -- a man of legendary temper; a man on record with his disdain for "activist judges"; a man whom the venerable New York Times has described [incorrectly] as "a champion of public financing of campaign [sic] throughout his career"* -- surely such a man would at least issue a press release addressing the biggest Supreme Court decision on his "signature" issue in almost two decades. Hell, he made the time to issue a release reassuring his mouth-breathing constituents that he still hates The Gays! But nothing on Citizens United?

Color me shocked.

* - Except when he just ignores campaign finance law completely.

This is pretty wild:

[Inventor] Jim McCormick promised his ADE-651 wand could identify anything, including bombs, simply by waving it around with the right RFID card inside. Yeah, totally fake, and now he's in prison. Too bad Iraq already spent $85 million on them.
Worth a quick read. (Kind of blows our little "Jesus-themed gunsight" scandal right out of the water, doesn't it?)

The closing line of Justice Stevens's 90-page meisterwerk of a dissent in Citizens United (warning: very large PDF at that link; dissent starts at page 88):

While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.
Boom, majority! Consider yo' asses bons motted!

My kingdom for some marginal-cost-benefit analysis!

President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs, and for increases no greater than inflation after that, an initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit, administration officials said Monday.

The freeze would cover the agencies and programs for which Congress allocates specific budgets each year, including air traffic control, farm subsidies, education, nutrition and national parks.

But it would exempt security-related budgets for the Pentagon, foreign aid, the Veterans Administration and homeland security, as well as the entitlement programs that make up the biggest and fastest-growing part of the federal budget: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
I completely understand the deficit-reduction focus. But reducing the deficit by freezing spending on education, Head Start, the food stamp program, the EPA, renewable energy research, and whatever else falls under the very broad ambit of "the agencies and programs for which Congress allocates specific budgets each year" is absolutely insane.

Check out TrueMajority's federal-budget pie chart:

Which of those things could most afford to give up a few billion dollars per year?

And which of those things are being frozen?

Altogether, the freezes Obama's talking about will result in a ten-year savings to the deficit of about $250 billion. Nothing to sneeze at, surely, but keep in mind that the overall deficit for that same ten-year period is projected at around $9 trillion, meaning that we're talking about a savings of just about three percent. And at what cost?

We're going to freeze spending on the programs that can actually make the most out of a moderate budget increase (imagine what Head Start could do with an extra few billion dollars), but not freeze spending on the programs that can afford to be frozen (programs that can literally afford to spend half a billion dollars on Jesus-themed gunsights).

That's going a full step beyond the ol' "treating a gaping head wound by putting a Band-Aid on your forehead" analogy; we're treating a gaping head wound by putting a Band-Aid on our elbow.

Update: I love it when Nobel laureates say the same thing that I said, only with better words and more righteous indignation ("It’s appalling on every level").

Who'd have thunk that a bunch of alarmingly unintelligent people whose factions "vary by relative embrace of anarchy" would be unable to pull off the coordination required to organize a nationwide convention?

The convention’s difficulties highlight the fractiousness of the Tea Party groups, and the considerable suspicions among their members of anything that suggests the establishment.

The convention, to be held in Nashville in early February, made a splash by attracting big-name politicians. (Former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech.) But some groups have criticized the cost — $549 per ticket and a $9.95 fee, plus hotel and airfare — as out of reach for the average tea partier. And they have balked at Ms. Palin’s speaking fee, which news reports have put at $100,000, a figure that organizers will not confirm or deny.
Wherefore art thou, Joe the Plumber?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

There's a good piece from Ruth Marcus in today's Post about the internal inconsistencies of the Citizens United opinion.

[T]he majority flung about dark warnings of "censorship" and "banned" speech as if upholding the existing rules would leave corporations and labor unions with no voice in the political process. Untrue. Under federal election law before the Supreme Court demolished it, corporations and labor unions were free to say whatever they wanted about political candidates whenever they wanted to say it. They simply were not permitted to use unlimited general treasury funds to do so. Instead, they were required to use money raised by their political action committees from employees and members. This is hardly banning speech.
I remember consoling myself when Roberts was confirmed that "at least he's intellectually honest." Marcus makes a pretty compelling case that I was wrong about that.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sad news from the Paper of Record:

After trying a paid access service for several years, the [New York Times] moved to free access to its content. But it's apparently time to go back to the future for the NYT, as the company announced it will develop a system that will charge frequent readers of its online content.
I actually don't really begrudge them that decision, and I'll happily pay whatever they end up charging (within reason, I suppose) -- as I paid for TimesSelect several years ago. Still, it's sad to see: in the long run, I don't think the paywall model works out best for anyone.

(Relatedly: there was a good Bloggingheads a few months ago about the future of online journalism, with Reason's Matt Welch and the Kennedy School's Alex Jones. Worth a watch.)

"Hey, Mike. Don't you have a ton of work to do?"
"I do indeed."
"So why'd you just spend 20 minutes Photoshopping an Obama-Signal?"
"Well because of this article, obviously."
"Also because I have very poor time-management skills."
"Right. And why is it projected over San Diego?"
"That was the nicest cloudy picture I could find."
"Doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?"
"Well it's an Obama-Signal. I'm not sure what you expected."
"Fair point. This conceit is fun, this 'imaginary-conversation-as-a-blog-post.'"
"I know, right?"
"We should try this again sometime."
"No doubt."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

This is just plain depressing:

Sweeping aside a century-old understanding and overruling two important precedents, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.
The Times' Jeff Zeleny points out (in a what might be called "a heroic understatement") that, "At first blush, Republican candidates would seem to benefit from this change in how political campaigns are conducted in America." Well observed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The United States government has a $660 million contract with a company that manufactures gunsights engraved with shorthand references to the Bible. I can see nothing creepy or unconstitutional about that at all.

Update: Someone at the Washington Post listens to Marketplace, too!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever endorsed a musical artist on this blog, but I've been loving this guy recently. His first album, "Soon It Will Be Cold Enough," is terrific. Phenomenal. Stupendous, even. (The whole thing can be streamed for free here; the song "Anthem" is my favorite, but really the whole thing is great). His new album, "Safe in the Steep Cliffs," came out today. I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but I'm hoping that a few of my several million readers will like him enough to buy his album, and I can therefore feel good about supporting a 22-year-old (!) with a mighty gift for FruityLoops.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Not a terribly interesting story, but this picture is awesome:

Caption: An A. P. Moeller-Maersk vessel in the port of Algeciras, Spain. A tenth of the world's container ships are estimated to be idle.
Completely Unexplained: Where is that dude going?

So excited about this:

(CNN) – Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum confirmed to his supporters Friday what pundits have been speculating for months - the conservative Republican is actively considering a run for president in 2012. In an e-mail and letter to supporters of his Political Action Committee, America’s Foundation, Santorum writes, "After talking it over with my wife Karen and our kids – I am considering putting my name in for the 2012 presidential race."
Palin/Santorum 2012: the thinking-Republican's ticket. They may as well go ahead and start planning their transition now. (I cannot wait until Glenn Beck is our Secretary of State.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

I seriously cannot understand how this video only has 100,000 views.

Makes a fellow want to go see In the Heights. (Here's another bit of Lin-Manuel Miranda, if you're not convinced.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Here's an idea worth applauding:

The A.F.L.-C.I.O., the main umbrella group for the nation’s labor unions, announced on Thursday that it was joining with the National Labor College and the Princeton Review to create an online college for the federation’s 11.5 million members and their families.
The tentatively-named "College for Working Families" will charge community college rates -- $100-$150 per credit, versus $500-$600 per credit at most brick-and-mortar[-board] [ha!] schools -- in an effort to "expand job opportunities for [AFL-CIO] members by providing education and retraining in a way that’s affordable and accessible." Way to be, AFL-CIO.

Fun fact: the college will be partly run by a subsidiary of the Princeton Review called Penn Foster, which first provided correspondence courses to coal miners in 1890 (!).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Now, watch this Jenga."

That's one of my favorite Daily Show lines of all time, and one that I've quoted with a fair amount of regularity. But I was discussing it with my brother the other day and realized that couldn't remember who had said it. My first instinct was Ed Helms, but then I thought maybe it was Steve Carell (and my brother was pretty sure I'd told him in the past that it was Stephen Colbert). So I did a quick Google search for "Now watch this Jenga," and was startled -- nay, shocked -- to discover that there was a grand total of one reference to that line on the entire Internet. And it's in some bizarre comic strip from 2004; unless you remembered that specific Daily Show episode, you wouldn't even know it was a quote. So now I'm flummoxed. Was I inventing the whole thing? I'd been quoting it for years; perhaps it'd morphed in my head? Thank God for the folks at Comedy Central.

I tracked down the classic Bush quote on which the Daily Show quip was based.

His business out of the way, Bush barely paused for breath before saying, "Thank you. Now watch this drive."
Date of the quote: August 4, 2002.*

So I clicked over to the Daily Show archives, and skipped to the show from August 5, 2002 (which, by some mercy, exists online). Lo and behold: the line does exist, it was Ed Helms, and it's just as hilarious as I remember it.

So anyway, there you go. I am providing this post as a public service. The next time someone Googles, "Now watch this Jenga," they won't have to start doubting their memory. You're welcome, world.

* - I even found an article about the Daily Show from the Toronto Globe & Mail that mentions the Daily Show's use of that particular Bush quote, and quotes Jon Stewart, "That was the best clip we've ever gotten of [Bush]." And even that article didn't contain a reference to "Now watch this Jenga."

Monday, January 11, 2010

I had cause to revisit the Pomegranate Phone this afternoon, and appreciated anew just how awesome it is. As I've said before: that is web design at its very finest.

(Be sure to click "Release Date" in the upper-right-hand corner once you've finished playing with the rest of the phone's features. Very nicely done, Nova Scotia.)

Two thoughts that I saved-as-drafts a year or so ago but never got around to posting:

  • I'm currently watching (and enjoying) Ken Burns's "Civil War," but I thought I should stop long enough to point out that it should actually have been called "[How George McClellan Tried to Lose the] Civil War." That would have been a more accurate title. Because that dude was spectacularly bad at being a general.
  • "Playing politics" is almost always a tediously stupid thing to accuse a professional politician of, but its tedious stupidity rises to new heights in the case of people who accuse Arlen Specter of "playing politics" because he chose to switch parties. Of course he's playing politics. That's like cheering for Michael Phelps as he swims the length of the pool in one direction, but then immediately beginning to boo him once he makes the turn and heads back the way he came.

Mark Halperin and John Heilemann are really, really fond of the Edwardseses:

Edwards aides, Mr. Heilemann and Mr. Halperin write, felt that their boss had become increasingly megalomaniacal and narcissistic over the years, and that while the aides had sympathy for Mrs. Edwards’s struggle with cancer, they regarded her as a badgering, often irrational presence on the campaign. "The nearly universal assessment among them," Mr. Halperin and Mr. Heilemann write of the Edwards aides, "was that there was no one on the national stage for whom the disparity between public image and private reality was vaster or more disturbing. What the world saw in Elizabeth: a valiant, determined, heroic everywoman. What the Edwards insiders saw: an abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending crazywoman."
Emphasis added, because, I mean... good heavens.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Wonkette makes me laugh:

"Osama bin Laden’s whole goddamn strategy has always been to draw the United States into a direct confrontation with Al Qaeda on as many fronts as possible. Our crack team of analysts have determined that he has been successful in this pursuit over the past decade. Because it’s been so easy. And it’s just getting easier! At this point a Mexican or Filipino can throw an orange through a storefront screen anywhere in the United States and it will be labeled muslin terror because some other Mexican in “Yemen” maybe e-mailed him at some point and was probably in Al Qaeda and we will have to bomb Jordan and Syria and Lebanon and Turkey, to save airplanes."

Jesus H. Christ:

Senate Majority Leader Reid apologized today for a comment during the presidential campaign in which he praised then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., as politically attractive because he was a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” The comment was reported in “Game Change,” a new book about the 2008 campaign by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. In a statement, the Nevada senator said, “I deeply regret such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans for my improper comments.” After Reid's statement, Obama said he accepted Reid's apology and praised his “passionate leadership" on issues of social justice.
Added Obama, "Plus, I like him because he doesn't sound too Mormony."

(Quoting CongressDaily, which is behind a paywall.)

Friday, January 08, 2010

Interesting point:

And given that nearly a quarter of mortgages are underwater, and that 10 percent of mortgages are delinquent, White, of the University of Arizona, is surprised that more people haven’t walked. He thinks the desire to avoid shame is a factor, as are overblown fears of harm to credit ratings. Probably, mortgagees also labor under a delusion that their homes will quickly return to value. White has argued that the government should stop perpetuating default “scare stories” and, indeed, should encourage borrowers to default when it’s in their economic interest. This would correct a prevailing imbalance: homeowners operate under a “powerful moral constraint” while lenders are busily trying to maximize profits.
Oh, yeah: I'm back, baby!