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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

 
Free Speech For Dummy

by digby

Why am I not surprised that the alleged libertarian Rand Paul is just a tad uhm ... incoherent?

PAUL: I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It wouldn’t be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.


Think Progress goes on to note all the praise Paul has been receiving from libertarians and liberals alike for his courageous support for constitution principles. And they also note how many of those constitutional principles he has ignored. What explains this?

How shall I put this delicately? The man isn't playing with a full deck. He's not the sharpest tool in the shed. He's a few tacos short of a fiesta platter. His jogging trail doesn't go all the way round the lake...He's an idiot. The fact that we have to count on him to be the guardian of the constitution in the US Senate says everything you need to know about the state of civil liberties in this country.


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Oldies but goodies

by digby

Again, you wonder who the Republicans think they're going to persuade to vote for them. They had something good going with the Seniors when they became the protectors of the pensions and health care against the weird foreign socialist who was trying to pull the plug on granny. With their quixotic crusades in place like Arizona against people who look like they might be Hispanic, it was their only possible growing demographic. And they decided to abandon that plan and go for the wrecking ball.

Big mistake:

"Obama's overall approval rating among independents and Democrats is virtually unchanged since late April, but among Republicans it is up 12 points, to 27 percent," Holland says. "That 27 percent sounds pretty anemic, but it's Obama's highest approval rating among Republicans in over two years."

The same pattern holds among age groups. "Bin Laden's death has not made much difference in Obama's approval rating among people under the age of 65, but among senior citizens, positive views of his track record are up nine points, to 51 percent," Holland adds.


This cohort knows very well how much they depend on social welfare programs to survive. They think their children and grandkids are going to need them as well so they want them to survive intact. And they've also been around long enough to know which Party it is that has been trying to kill the programs off since the day they were passed. (Hint: not the Party that passed them.)


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And the sun didn't come up after all

by digby

Good God:

Nearly two years since the recession officially ended, home sale prices in major U.S. cities dropped to their lowest level since the bubble burst in 2006, according to fresh data released on Tuesday. The report confirms that the housing market's "double dip" is at hand, and many economists say prices will continue to decline through the rest of this year.

Home values dropped from February to March in 18 of the 20 cities tracked by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index, which is widely considered the leading gauge of the housing market's health. Washington D.C. was the only city in the index that showed year-over-year improvement since March 2010.

The nationwide home price index fell by 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2011 and March marks the eighth straight month of decline. Twelve cities fell to their lowest levels since the 2006 crash, with Minneapolis experiencing the steepest year-over-year decline: Area prices were 10 percent lower than March last year.


One person concludes that the people who want to buy houses can't and the ones who can won't because they don't want to be stuck with a losing investment. This is a big problem. But the good news is that the government didn't take any real action on the housing crisis so at least there isn't any moral hazard lurking out there to sap the good characters of the silly masses.

If it weren't for the fact that the Republicans are so batshit insane that they think this terrible economic environment means it's a good time to fulfill their dream of finally being able to throw old people in the streets, this would be a real problem for the president as well. Morning in America doesn't seem to be arriving on schedule.


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Halflife

by digby

I wish I could explain why nobody seems to care about this anymore, but I can't. Even though I do, I find that I'm not writing about it even though I read whatever I can get my hands on. There must be some psychological resistance to facing up to it.

Anyway:

Radioactive soil in pockets of areas near Japan's crippled nuclear plant have reached the same level as Chernobyl, where a "dead zone" remains 25 years after the reactor in the former Soviet Union exploded.

Soil samples in areas outside the 20-kilometer (12 miles) exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant measured more than 1.48 million becquerels a square meter, the standard used for evacuating residents after the Chernobyl accident, Tomio Kawata, a fellow at the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, said in a research report published May 24 and given to the government.

Radiation from the plant has spread over 600 square kilometers (230 square miles), according to the report. The extent of contamination shows the government must move fast to avoid the same future for the area around Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant as Chernobyl, scientists said. Technology has improved since the 1980s, meaning soil can be decontaminated with chemicals or by planting crops to absorb radioactive materials, allowing residents to return.


Would you believe that? I'm guessing that nobody with kids orwho hopes to have kids is going to live there. In fact, it will probably be inhabited, if it is, only by the elderly.

God, what a horror. I thought about it this week-end when I was on the central coast of California, one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world:



It's true that California needs power. But we have a lot of sunlight and if Germany can do it, so can we. it's time to get rid of them.

BTW: If you're a Californian, check out this guy. And throw him some change if you have it.

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The Demographic Giant

by digby

Sam Stein has written a blockbuster story about the recently released data on the faster than expected growing hispanic population and its political implications. There's a lot to digest, so it's worth reading in full. But I would note just one little thing:

"When you talk about Democratic secret weapon -- it isn't so much a secret because everyone sees it coming -- but this is the year it could come," said Carlos Odio, Deputy Director for the Latino Vote Program during Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. "No one ever expects the flood to happen, but there is so much room for growth. If Democrats and progressives really played this, it could be a huge weapon. The census reinforces that."

Hector Barajas remains acutely aware of the weapon. As a Spanish media spokesman for both George W. Bush's 2004 presidential campaign and John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign as well as communications director for the California Republican Party, he has watched the evolving relationship between the GOP and the Latino population from a front row sear. His post in California has particularly presented challenges, with the bulging Hispanic community forcing statewide candidates into a sharp political pull between demographic realities and conservative political pressures.

Recently, he's been making the rounds to various Republican Party entities, urging them to readjust the rhetoric and appreciate the trends, noting Obama's failure to deliver on key promises to the Hispanic community creates an opening.


I don't think that will work very well considering the extreme hostility the GOP shows toward Hispanics generally. But it is a problem that the administration has adopted some harsh punitive measures, surpassing even the Bush administration, apparently in the vain hope that Republicans will see they are serious and "meet them halfway." This demo isn't dumb.


I would suggest that if the Democrats want a halfway decent turnout, the next time they seek one of their symbolic liberal victories in exchange for delivering for the corporate overlords, they should probably pass the DREAM Act.


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The Best Political Team on Television

by digby

This morning I watched CNN spend at least 15 minutes interviewing Andrew Breitbart about a congressman's penis after which they interviewed legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin about the interview.

Yesterday the main story was this:

JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Candy and good evening tonight from one of America's historic treasurers, the Gettysburg National Military Park. It's a fitting place to spend any Memorial Day and on this national holiday, well a heavy rush of presidential politics.

The Sarah Palin mystery tour rolled into town just a short time ago, but no public events yet and we don't know when she will appear because her aides simply won't tell us. But as she made her way here, her stops included Ft. McHenry (ph), Star Spangled Banner (INAUDIBLE) and as she traveled she is being more than a little cagey on the subject of whether this is just a rolling civics lesson or a 2012 campaign preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: You know I believe that there are many more out there who have much more to add and competition breeds success. I would hope that there is going to be vigorous debates and a lot of (INAUDIBLE) competition (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Also this day, President Obama leads the traditional wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery then announces another major change in his national security team. With America fighting three wars, we'll explore whether the new War Council signals a new approach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm announcing my choice for the successors today because it's essential that this transition be seamless and that we stay focused on the urgent national security challenges before us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But, first up, like it or not, she's back. Sarah Palin is on a bus tour that mixes landmarks of America's past and battlegrounds of her political presence. New Hampshire and Iowa in the days ahead, for example, but on this day George Washington's Mt. Vern, the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and here at the turning point of the Civil War. Some of you I know are already rolling your eyes.

I've been getting e-mails and tweets all day. There is no question Governor Palin is a master of media manipulation. But spend a little time in this little town and you'll also get a taste of the Palin factor. Look at these pictures we can show you right now. Families waiting for hours some of them eight or nine hours, 100-degree heat almost here to get a glimpse at the biggest remaining wild card in the 2012 presidential race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON CORRADO, LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK: I think she brings a perspective that is a little bit closer to home for most average Americans. I don't think that she seems to have lost touch with what most people are concerned about right now. I think some of the candidates are not able to connect as well as she can.

JEANNE TULL, SELMA, TENNESSEE: I like her. I would just like to see her. I think a lot of her. I have a lot of respect for her. I have a lot of respect for her Christian values and her convictions. She seems like a family person and I like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Governor Palin likes to call us the lame stream media and her organization refuses to give us a schedule of her planned route or stops. So it makes it a little fun, or frustrating to cover her depending on your perspective. I call it fun. She did of course allow a FOX News crew and host to travel in her entourage and that begs one of the big questions about all this.

Has she privately assured FOX she is not running and that this is just about self-promotion or does the network have a different standard for Governor Palin than it put in place for its other candidate contributors like Newt Gingrich or Mike Huckabee. Let's dissect her message and her motives with three veterans of Republican politics.

CNN contributor Erick Erickson is the editor of the influential conservative site RedState.com. Susan Molinari is a former Republican congresswoman from New York and John Brabender is a top Republican campaign strategist who knows this state of Pennsylvania in particular quite well.

Palin and Breitbart understand something about the political press that others do not --- they are driven by tabloid values. Give them some juicy gossip and they are as happy as can be.

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Total recall

by digby

Chris Bowers reports:

All six recall petitions against Republican state Senators in have now been found sufficient by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB). In addition to the three petitions the GAB approved last week against Dan Kapanke, Randy Hopper, and Luther Olsen, this morning they approved the petitions against Sheila Harsdorf,Robert Cowles, and Alberta Darling.

Further, the GAB has delayed the determination of sufficiency or insufficiency on the three recall petitions filed against Democratic state Senators, due to the stronger challenges filed against those petitions:

In an announcement sure to shake up the drive to recall politicians from both parties, the Government Accountability Board said Friday that its members would not be able to consider the recall petitions of three Democrats when they meet on Tuesday.

This might push the recall elections against Democrats back a week to July 19, push all recall elections to that date, or possibly prevent any recall elections against Democrats from taking place.



Blue America has a page set up if you want to help. If you think NY-26 was a bellwether, it will be an earthquake if those Republicans lose their seats.

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Good Cop/Bad Cop

by digby

Well this is about the most depressing way to start off the morning I can imagine. Greg Sargent reports:
There’s no way around it: Republicans have won the political war over the debt ceiling. The House is set to vote today on a proposal for a debt ceiling hike without any spending cuts attached. It will be rejected — the GOP is unified against it, and even some Democrats will vote No. This is the “clean” vote Dems originally sought, but it’s now clear that Dems think it’s politically impossible not to accede to the GOP demand for deep cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.And so, with the Biden-led deficit negotiations set to resume this week, Mitch McConnell has now begun insisting that big Medicare cuts will be necessary in exchange for GOP support for the debt ceiling hike. Thanks to their willingness to draw a hard line at the outset, Republicans now appear poised to win big concessions in exchange for supporting something that they and everyone else have already said is inevitable.
Well yeah. I go back to my first post on this issue back in January:

Cantor just said that they will have to raise the debt ceiling. He said it out loud and on the record. Therefore, we now know that any capitulation made by the President and the Democrats in the negotiations will be made because they wanted to make them. There can be no doubt about that.
There's a lot of interesting chatter this morning about all of this, but this one, by Stan Collender in Roll Call is most intriguing. He says that just because the Republicans get their wish for a failure of a clean vote, it does not necessarily follow that they would vote for a "dirty" one either. He feels this vote is entirely a kabuki dance that's necessary (because of the polls saying people don't want to raise the debt ceiling) for the Republicans to record a "no" vote no matter what's in it.

So basically, the Democrats are sacrificing their position so that Republicans can be comfortable voting to raise the ceiling with spending cuts in a couple of months. If Collander is right, the Democrats are even stupider than usual. It's a twisted good cop/bad cop scene where the Republican base applauds its leaders for being tough guys and the Democratic base hand theirs a hankie and commiserates with their powerlessness. (And then the leadership goes out and has a cup of coffee and a donut, or in more common parlance -- Tipnronnie have a drink together.)

Collander does allude to an end game that seems to be making its way into the beltway ether:

Many Members publicly insist that a big “no” vote on a clean bill will have little to no effect on financial markets. But here’s another dirty little secret: There is a growing suspicion that, like what happened the day after the House rejected the Troubled Asset Relief Program in September 2008 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by almost 7 percent, such a vote could quickly change market perceptions of the situation and have a substantial negative effect on interest rates and equity prices.

It’s even possible that’s part of the plan. Former Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said last week that it is going to be difficult to get Members of Congress to agree to increase the debt ceiling without some kind of “turbulence” in the bond market. A big “no” vote on a debt ceiling increase bill could easily accelerate that type of disturbance in the financial force. Indeed, it might be what’s needed to precipitate it and the leadership may be counting on that happening.It’s even possible that’s part of the plan. Former Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said last week that it is going to be difficult to get Members of Congress to agree to increase the debt ceiling without some kind of “turbulence” in the bond market. A big “no” vote on a debt ceiling increase bill could easily accelerate that type of disturbance in the financial force. Indeed, it might be what’s needed to precipitate it and the leadership may be counting on that happening.

I don't know what kind of sick nihilism makes a scenario like that remotely possible, but again, I don't believe it. We are talking about Big Money here and there are a lot of things that aren't working right in this country right now, but the greed mechanism isn't one of them. I don't believe "the markets" are going along with that plan. And I don't think even the Republicans are going to take that kind of risk going into an election year.

But if these people are actually planning a financial panic in order to destroy the safety net, can someone explain to me just how it is they can possibly be considered anything but criminals? This isn't a joke. Panics have a way of getting out of hand --- it's not like you can wave a magic wand and it stops. At the very least can we at least admit that every single sentence they've ever uttered about the desperate need for market "confidence" and "uncertainty" was unadulterated rubbish? (If this happens keep an eye on the short sellers because somebody's going to make money on it and you have to assume the people who caused it are among them ...)

The Democrats can turn this clean vote against the Republicans if they want to. The polls may say that the people don't want the debt ceiling raised, but they also don't want the government shut down, Medicare to get privatized and the economy to get worse. If the Democrats have even a modicum of guts they'll relentlessly hammer this vote home for the next two months as a sign of the Republicans' willingness to do anything to destroy Medicare, even destroy the economy. There are several months of negotiations ahead and they could tie this albatross around their necks right along with the dead Ryan plan if they want to. The real question is whether they want to.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

 
Tales from the fringe

by digby

I guess Free Republic has had enough of those Romney Republicans in their midst:
NOTICE: FR DOES NOT AND WILL NOT SUPPORT ABORTIONIST, GAY RIGHTS PUSHING BIG GOVERNMENT STATISTS
vanity | May 26, 2011 | Jim Robinson

Posted on Thu May 26 2011 20:31:29 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time) by Jim Robinson

NOTICE: FR DOES NOT AND WILL NOT SUPPORT ABORTIONIST, GAY RIGHTS PUSHING BIG GOVERNMENT STATISTS FOR PRESIDENT!!

This message is intended for those posters on FR who seem to have missed my prior statements in this regard and insist on advocating for these bastards.

I'd rather shut the place down than be involved in any effort to install abortionist/gay rights pushing RINOS like Romney or Giuliani into the White House!!

Do NOT push this crap on FR. Take your business elsewhere!! And I don't care how long you've been here!!

Sample of the comments:

Jim, it’s your house, we are just guests.

I concur with the host.

No RINO’s...this includes Rudi, Romney, Snowe, Collins, McCain, Murkowski, Graham, Lugar or any other “moderate” like Christie or Huckabee.

Here, here, Jim.


When asked if Free Republic will be closed down if and of those candidates (including Huntsman) is nominated Jim Robinson replies:

If Romney (or any other abortionist/homosexualist/statist RINO) is the Republican candidate, the Republican party has left me. FR will work to get a pro-life, pro-family, pro-liberty conservative Tea Party candidate elected.

97 posted on Thu May 26 2011 21:08:03 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time) by Jim Robinson (Rebellion is brewing!! Impeach the corrupt Marxist bastard!!)

I have to wonder if that isn't what Palin's after. She doesn't want to be president. She saw how much work it is and how you have to give yourself up to the race. But running as the Tea Party candidate would ensure that she is treated like a super-celebrity all the way through the next year. Judging from the comments these people really, really, really love Sarah Palin. They only represent a handful of the American voting public but it should be enough to keep the money coming in for a while.


h/t to strangeapparatus

 
Peeking behind the curtain

by digby

Dday has a great post today featuring Krugman's column today and ex-Biden economic advisor Jared Bernstein's response. He notes a little piece of information in Bernstein's post that sheds some light on our ongoing quest to understand the decision making in the administration over the past few years. I'll just excerpt a small bit here:

1) on a WPA program, Bernstein explicitly says it was the White House, not Republicans, who had no appetite for direct, public job creation during the first term. Bernstein says he made the arguments about public works jobs inside the White House, but he was clearly outvoted. He doesn’t give the arguments made in response, tantalizingly alluding to “interesting” reasons that he will “speak to another day.” But he says very clearly that the reason we did all of this hoops-jumping and nudging in the stimulus package rather than just paying people to work at jobs that needed to be done was a philosophical decision inside the White House. In a sense we already knew this, but it’s important that a former White House insider re-emphasized it.

2) on mortgage modification, Bernstein agrees that this would be a wise course of action. But he adds that there’s a restraint on politicians, presumably also at the White House, about moral hazard, about the “wrong kind of people” getting a mod. He references the Rick Santelli rant, which happened over two years ago, as proof for this difficulty.
I can't wait to hear what the "interesting" reasons for #1 are, but if I had to guess, it probably goes something like this:

Clinton's experience shows what such pressure can do to a president's agenda. Promises of spending on education, public works and a middle-class tax cut fell by the wayside as advisers led by Robert Rubin, who later became Treasury secretary, convinced the new president the best thing he could do for the economy was to show investors his resolve on fiscal discipline.

``You mean to tell me that the success of the economic program and my re-election hinges on the Federal Reserve and a bunch of fucking bond traders?'' Clinton raged at aides, according to journalist Bob Woodward's book, ``The Agenda.'
As for the second piece well ... I guess they really believed that offering help to people destroyed by the greatest case of systemic mortgage fraud and reckless Wall Street gambling in history would send the wrong message to the polloi. They should have known better. We just can't sanction such lack of personal responsibility and moral hazard in our society.

No, what we needed to do was discharge a nuclear powered firehose full of money at the people who perpetrated the fraud and ask them nicely, if they didn't mind, not to do it again. Just as the institutions in question are all Too Big To Fail, these very, very important people are Too Rich To Fuck With.

Read dday's whole piece. It won't make you any more sanguine about how these budget negotiations are going to come out. But it will assure you that you haven't been completely nuts these past two years. It was what we thought it was.


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Twitpic-gate

by digby



Those of you who have lives have probably missed this latest Breitbart atrocity, and lucky for you. It's since been debunked as a standard wingnut hoax, but I think the only person who truly does justice to the idiocy of it is Tbogg, who caught that screen shot above.

I wonder if the best political team on television might have any thoughts about the fact that their official Tea Party commentator, the comely Dana Loesch, is implicated in this hoax?
 
The First Memorial Day

by digby

This op-ed in today's NY Times is a fascinating history of Memorial Day which describes how it came to be after the shocking death toll of the Civil War. I was somewhat aware of the tribal politics surrounding the holiday during the Lost Cause decades, but I had never heard about this:
[F]or the earliest and most remarkable Memorial Day, we must return to where the war began. By the spring of 1865, after a long siege and prolonged bombardment, the beautiful port city of Charleston, S.C., lay in ruin and occupied by Union troops. Among the first soldiers to enter and march up Meeting Street singing liberation songs was the 21st United States Colored Infantry; their commander accepted the city’s official surrender.

Whites had largely abandoned the city, but thousands of blacks, mostly former slaves, had remained, and they conducted a series of commemorations to declare their sense of the meaning of the war.

The largest of these events, forgotten until I had some extraordinary luck in an archive at Harvard, took place on May 1, 1865. During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city’s Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand.

After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

The symbolic power of this Low Country planter aristocracy’s bastion was not lost on the freedpeople, who then, in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged a parade of 10,000 on the track. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, describing “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.”


Fascinating yes?

When I read a story like that I'm always struck again by just how much of American history is African American history --- how intrinsic to every American's national identity it is. Hopefully kids in school are being taught about this nowadays --- I certainly wasn't.


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A Veteran's Story

by digby


 


The woman walks toward the wall.

She presses a fingertip into the shiny, dark stone, traces it down the wall, left to right, left to right, name after carved name, a roster of the dead palpable against her skin...

Zwit knows this stretch of wall as well as he knows his scars, the pink welts that run from below his navel to his right nipple, the sinkhole of puckered skin where he once had ribs.

This is Panel 4W. The names of the eight men who died the night he earned his scars begin close to the bottom, at Line 123.

Robert. Jerry. Charles. Terry. Ronald. Rex. Paul. William.

Over the past four decades, Zwit has dedicated himself to finding their families so he could tell their mothers or fathers, their brothers or sisters or cousins, how they fought, how they died, and that they weren't alone.

He has tracked down relatives of all the men. All except one. William. William Ward. No matter how he searched, every clue went cold.

The woman drops onto a knee. Zwit walks over, kneels down next to her, rests a hand on her shoulder. He feels the rustle of a dormant hope.

"Can I help you find something?" he says.


 
Lazy Memorial Day Weekend Pasta

by tristero

As many of you know, I've taken up cooking in a big way - I enjoy it so much that it's difficult to remember that it has political and cultural implications. With those squarely not in mind (grin), I offer the following recipe for a very simple pasta dish I made up last night and which I think you might like. The recipe is informal: I initially wrote it up for a cooking friend of mine. Anyone with even rudimentary cooking skills should be able to follow it.

It has some interesting techniques, a combo of stuff inspired by Bon Appetit's amazing cacio e pepe and something I saw Giada do on tv - don't laugh, she's a damn good cook. Anyway, have fun and if you're so inclined, post critiques, variations, etc.

Perciatelli with garlic, cherry tomatoes, pecorino, and Parmigiano

30 minutes max start to finish.


Get a box of Perciatelli, which is a thick, round, hollow pasta. The advantage is that it has a long al dente window, so if you're off by a minute or two - a disaster with spaghetti - it doesn't matter.

Dice up some garlic, 2 or 3 cloves (or more), using a microplane, grate about a 1/2 cup pecorino and a 1/2 cup parmigiano (it's not as much as it sounds; use 1/3 cup of each if using a normal grater), and wash a couple of handfuls, say 8 to 10, of ripe cherry tomatoes but don't split them.

Put on some water to boil for the pasta. At the same time, heat a skillet on medium. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and lower the heat so it cooks slowly and doesn't burn. When it starts to brown add the cherry tomatoes, whole. Turn heat up to medium or so. Cook the tomatoes/garlic, stirring occasionally.

Now, the pasta pot should be up to a boil. When it is, add more salt than you can stand (literally, a small handful) to the water and bring up to a boil again.Then toss in about 1/2 a box of the perciatelli (8 oz). Set a timer for 3 minutes below the recommended cook time (ie, if the package says to cook for 11 minutes, set the timer for 8 minutes).

While the pasta cooks, have merry fun squishing the tomatoes open with a spatula. They should literally pop apart from the heat and the pressure (don't we all). Stir tomatoes and juices with garlic, season with lotsa pepper and maybe a little salt (maybe not) and maybe some crushed red pepper.

When the timer goes off, scoop up a cup or so of starchy, salty pasta water and pour about half of it into the pan. Reserve the rest. Turn the heat on the sauce pan up to high. Drain the pasta (don't wash or cool) and drop about 1/2 to 2/3rds into the sauce pan. Or put as much as you like of it into the sauce, so it balances nicely. Add the pecorino and at least a tablespoon of cold butter (straight from fridge). Toss it all together with tongs and get the sauce a'boiling. Keep tossing.

After about 2 to 3 minutes, most of the pasta water should have boiled off.  Check that the pasta is al dente, then take the pan off the heat, add the parmigiano and 1 more tablespoon cold butter. Toss with tongs until butter melts. If the sauce is a bit thick, add a touch more pasta water to loosen it. Don't add too much, though: it should be viscous, not thin.

Serve immediately. You will die happy.

(But if you're still alive, the left-over pasta will make a nice frittata in the morning. Just scramble 1 egg, add the pasta so it gets coated lightly with egg. Fry up with a little oil, salt, pepper, and maybe garlic).

Sunday, May 29, 2011

 
Week-end Read

by digby

If you only have time to read one thing this week-end, this is the piece: How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Fear Factory.


In the fable Ailes tells about his own life, he made a clean break with his dirty political past long before 1996, when he joined forces with Murdoch to launch Fox News. "I quit politics," he has claimed, "because I hated it." But an examination of his career reveals that Ailes has used Fox News to pioneer a new form of political campaign – one that enables the GOP to bypass skeptical reporters and wage an around-the-clock, partisan assault on public opinion. The network, at its core, is a giant soundstage created to mimic the look and feel of a news operation, cleverly camouflaging political propaganda as independent journalism.

The result is one of the most powerful political machines in American history. One that plays a leading role in defining Republican talking points and advancing the agenda of the far right. Fox News tilted the electoral balance to George W. Bush in 2000, prematurely declaring him president in a move that prompted every other network to follow suit. It helped create the Tea Party, transforming it from the butt of late-night jokes into a nationwide insurgency capable of electing U.S. senators. Fox News turbocharged the Republican takeover of the House last fall, and even helped elect former Fox News host John Kasich as the union-busting governor of Ohio – with the help of $1.26 million in campaign contributions from News Corp. And by incubating a host of potential GOP contenders on the Fox News payroll– including Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum – Ailes seems determined to add a fifth presidential notch to his belt in 2012. "Everything Roger wanted to do when he started out in politics, he’s now doing 24/7 with his network," says a former News Corp. executive. "It’s come full circle."

Take it from Rush Limbaugh, a "dear friend" of Ailes. "One man has established a culture for 1,700 people who believe in it, who follow it, who execute it," Limbaugh once declared. "Roger Ailes is not on the air. Roger Ailes does not ever show up on camera. And yet everybody who does is a reflection of him."


This is the most in-depth article I've read on Ailes and it contains quite a bit of information I've never head before. For instance, did you know that he's deathly afraid that gays are trying to kill him? Oh, and Al Qaeda. Too.


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More tasers for everyone!

by digby

You all will recall the Sand Francisco transit officer who "accidentally" executed a citizen when he allegedly grabbed his gun instead of his taser, right? Well, evidently, the transit authority has decided the problem is that there just aren't enough tasers around:

The issue of officers' training and familiarity with Tasers was raised by lawyers for former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter last year for fatally shooting unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale station in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009. Mehserle admitted that he shot and killed Grant after responding to a report of a fight on a train but claimed that he had meant to use his Taser.

Mehserle's lawyers said Mehserle hadn't been properly trained to use a Taser. They said that since Mehserle didn't have his own Taser -- the one he was carrying was borrowed -- he wasn't very familiar the stun guns.

BART staff members stated in their report that Tasers "are an important less-lethal-force option that officers can use when lethal force is not required." BART spokesman Linton Johnson said the transit agency will get the new Tasers before the current fiscal year ends on June 30.

Johnson said BART previously had a voluntary policy under which officers could choose whether to carry Tasers, but now all officers will be required to carry Tasers once they get proper training on the devices.


No word on whether or not they will be trained not to use guns or tasers on people who are handcuffed and in custody as Mehserle's victim was. Somehow, I have a feeling that's not going to be addressed. Tasers, after all, are harmless devices that don't leave any marks so how could there be anything wrong with using them whenever a police officer wants to?


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Pro-life = Pro-torture

by digby

Gosh I'm so glad the culture wars are finally over and we can all relax and finally deal with the important stuff. Kate Sheppard spells out how great it all is:

According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 900 anti-abortion measures have been introduced this year alone in state legislatures across the country. At the federal level, House Republicans have advanced legislation that attempted to redefine the meaning of rape for the purposes or abortion law and sought to whittle down the already-narrow exceptions in which federal funds can be used to pay for the procedure.

The good news is that most of them haven't taken effect yet. The bad news is that this is what we can expect:

So far, only Nebraska's fetal-pain law, which passed in 2010, has taken effect. The others are expected to be implemented next year. But already women have been affected. Thirty-four-year-old Danielle Deaver of Grand Isle, Nebraska, told The Des Moines Register the painful tale of how, at 22 weeks, her water broke prematurely. The fetus, she and her husband learned, wouldn't be able to develop lungs and would die at birth. But because of Nebraska's new law, Deaver's doctor would not perform an abortion. Instead, she had to wait to give birth, then watch for 15 agonizing minutes as her underdeveloped baby slowly slipped away—an experience Deaver described as "torture."




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Smell Test

by digby

Palin pretty much took over the Rolling Thunder tour this morning and said "I love this smell! I love the smell of these emissions!"














She looks cute. Naturally, half the guys who were interviewed said "she can ride my Harley anytime." The women were more impressed about her deep commitment to Veterans.


Fox is covering it obsessively.
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The Blight of the Roundtable

by digby

As I'm watching all the conservatives on Meet the Press this morning (and so far the only one who might not be called one is Chuck Shumer -- the rest are Mitch McConnell, Alex Castellanos, David Brooks, Harold Ford and Ruth Marcus, vacuous Villager of the year) I would think that all elderly people should probably be extremely worried that they will be barred from going to the hospital next week because Medicare has gone belly up.

But we've heard this all before. Thanks to Think Progress tweeting this week-end, I was directed to this post at Health Beat:

You may have seen the headline: “DIRE FORECAST SPARKS NEW MEDICARE DEBATE TRUSTEES' REPORT USED AS FODDER FOR POLITICAL SALVOS BY BOTH SIDES,” but the date may come as a surprise: June 6, 1996.

At the time, the Chicago Tribune warned its readers: “Medicare trustees reported Wednesday that the program's financial outlook is getting worse, touching off a new round of debate over the future of the federal health insurance system for the elderly and disabled. According to the trustees, who give the program a fiscal checkup every year, the fund that pays Medicare hospital bills dipped into the red last year and will go broke in early 2001. That's a year earlier than they predicted in 1995.”

Sound familiar? How about these warnings:

Chicago Tribune July 2, 1969: “The Medicare hospital trust fund faces bankruptcy by 1976 and taxes must either be raised or benefits reduced the senate finance committee was told today.”

Washington Post, April 1, 1986: “The Medicare hospital insurance program faces bankruptcy by 1996, two years earlier than projected last year.”

New York Times, January 20, 1985: In the last few years, when it appeared that the Medicare trust fund would run out of money in 1987-89... But the need seemed less urgent after the Congressional Budget Office issued new estimates last September indicating that the Medicare trust fund would not go bankrupt until 1994.

(Hat tip to Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn who culled eighteen stories from the Tribune, the Washington Post and the New York Times over a period of four decades, each predicting that the Medicare Hospital Insurance Fund was teetering on the brink of disaster.)

But of course Medicare didn’t “run out of money” in 1994, and it won’t go belly-up now, in large part thanks to health care reform legislation. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Affordable Care Act (ACA) raises and saves over $950 billion. (Below, I spell out how the legislation generates those dollars). In the process, as the Medicare Trustees’ Report 2011 points out, the ACA reduces Medicare spending “by 25 percent”—without cutting health benefits, or shifting costs to seniors.

More changes will be needed, but Zorn is relatively optimistic. After citing the many times we have been told that Medicare is careening toward bankruptcy, he recalls the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Zorn acknowledges that “just because officials and politicians have been predicting Medicare's imminent bankruptcy for more than 40 years doesn't mean that one day they won't be right, but, more likely,” he suggests, “we will turn the knobs and twiddle the dials in order to keep the overwhelmingly popular program solvent, but not so solvent that, between five and 12 years from now, another set of politicians won't grimly inform us that it's going under in between five and 12 years.”


The good news is that nobody was watching this vapid, braindead Meet The Press this morning about the immediate deficit catastrophe because I don't think I've ever had the misfortune to see a bigger load of pompous Villager pap and GOP propaganda in one place.

I don't think I've never seen one this bad, seriously:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Sample of the verbal compost:


Gregory: So, Ruth Marcus, what wins here, bold leadership on Medicare and the argument that the Democrats won't do something courageous or the Democrats who say, hey, those guys want to take away my medicare?

Marcus: I regret to inform you that I think it's the latter. And I think when you were asking Senator Mcconnell if medicare was the new third rail of American politics, I think the question was wrong in a sense, because it's the old third rail of American politics.

This play has been run time after time. If you go back and look at the quotes from president Clinton, back when he needed to win re-election, they sound a lot like the quotes from Democrats today about don't let those republicans take away your Medicare. The difference is that the debt is bigger, the deficit is bigger, the gap is bigger, and the situation is more dire. but i think that, sadly, the lesson of New York 26 is Mediscare works.

Gregory: The question, David Brooks, is whether there is going to be a deal before they raise the debt ceiling on medicare and what that looks like. Senator McConnell wouldn't say it, but he's certainly not backing the Ryan plan. he's not going to go to the map. if you don't whip up the vote in the senate, that's not going to the mat. it's letting your members vote. it would be something different than what Ryan is talking about.

Brooks: Right. If you ask Americans, should we cut Medicare to help end and reduce the deficit, 70% say no. So that's pretty strong. That's what happened in New York 26.

I agree with Ruth's analysis on that. So, what do Republicans like Mitch McConnell do? They can do a couple things. one of the things that would be useful is to cut a deal that includes Medicare, to have dramatic fingerprints on a Medicare reduction plan, which would be good for the country.

And by getting the Democrats involved, then that would reduce that as an issue. Then what they have to offer is tax increases on the rich. now, would the Democrats take that up? I'm not sure. and frankly, I don't think it's likely, but that's what the Republicans need. [oy vey...]

I think it's much more likely that we'll have really a fudge deal on the debt ceiling, a deal of a government shutdown problem this year and a very large chance of some sort of fiscal crack-up within the next couple years.

I was up on Wall Street this week. I know more about political risk than they do. They are vastly underestimating the source of political risk here. We could have a major problem, I think, either this summer or the next couple of years, and I'd be worried about investing too much in the market. That's my financial advice.

Marcus: Luckily, the market's closed.

Gregory: Harold, what about the issue of timidity? It's ironic that what Newt Gingrich said out loud on this program about right-wing social engineering and don't do the Ryan plan is what a lot of republicans were saying privately, of course. then here's Bill Clinton giving ammunition to the Republicans by saying to the Democrats, don't be timid here. Don't go to the old, you know, Mediscare tactics. Do something courageous. Is that going to happen?

Ford: I hope. The efforts under way by Joe Biden, by the great vice president, defined some compromise.Oi'm a believer after watching President Clinton in the last few days that perhaps if they get close to a deal, President Obama might ask President Clinton to come back in and convince some of the Democrats that this is the right thing to do. I was most encouraged, though, by McConnell this morning. He backed away from standing so firm and steadfast with Ryan, suggesting strongly that he's ready for a deal, and even listening to Chuck Schumer this morning. He talked with more specificity about where they would go. So, it's obvious we're moving in a direction where Democrats a few weeks ago said no Medicare.
The Village consensus is that Medicare must be cut and that Democrats are using the same old "scare tactics" by telling their constituents that such cuts will affect their lives. (None of the people in that roundtable need to worry about such things themselves, of course. They are all wealthy celebrities who will be just fine.)

Meanwhile, Wall Street doesn't understand what's really happening and doesn't realize that Armageddon is around the corner and will KILL US ALL IN OUR BEDS --- TAKE YOUR MONEY AND RUN! (Presumably, Brooks is "advising" all of his rich friends to buy gold now, just like Glenn Beck.)

These people are demented. Medicare must be slashed and anybody who doesn't agree is a coward and a fool. But we are supposed to believe that the Corporate Parties of America are prepared to bring down the global economy out of a surfeit of fiscal rectitude and the corporate and financial elites who own them are too silly to understand it (unlike the very, very savvy Mr Brooks) and are completely without resources to stop it. This is considered to be a serious position.

Update: Do watch the whole show if you can stomach it. It's all shockingly bad.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

 
Saturday Night At The Movies


SIFFting through cinema, Pt. 2

By Dennis Hartley

The Seattle International Film Festival is in full swing, so over the next several weeks I will be bringing you highlights. Navigating a film festival is no easy task, even for a dedicated buff. SIFF is presenting 441 films over 25 days. That’s great for independently wealthy types, but for those of us who work for a living (*cough*), it’s tough to find the time and energy that it would take to catch 17.6 films a day (yes-I did the math). I do take consolation from my observation that the ratio of less-than-stellar (too many) to quality offerings (too few) at a film festival differs little from any Friday night crapshoot at the multiplex. The trick lies in developing a sixth sense for films most likely to be up your alley (in my case, embracing my OCD and channeling it like a cinematic divining rod.) Hopefully, some of these will be coming soon to a theater near you. So-let’s go SIFFting!
















Another Earth
is a “sci-fi” film mostly in the academic sense; don’t expect to see CGI aliens in 3-D. Orbiting somewhere in proximity of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, its concerns are more metaphysical than astrophysical. And not unlike a Tarkovsky film, it demands your full and undivided attention. Writer-director Mike Cahill’s auspicious narrative feature debut concerns an M.I.T.-bound young woman (co-scripter Brit Marling) who makes a fateful decision to get behind the wheel after a few belts. The resultant tragedy kills two people, and leaves the life of the survivor, a music composer (William Mapother) in shambles. After serving prison time, the guilt-wracked young woman, determined to do penance, ingratiates herself into the widower’s life (he doesn’t realize who she is). Complications ensue. Oh-the “sci-fi” part? On the night of the accident, a duplicate Earth was discovered (doppelgangers!). Assuming “they” discovered “us” (or vice-versa) simultaneously, scientists postulate that synchronicity was broken at that instant. Kind of leaves the door open for second chances-or does it? I’m not telling. See it yourself (it opens in August)-and prepare to have your mind blown.















Bruce Lee, My Brother
looked (on paper, at least) like it could have been this year’s Nowhere Boy; the portrait of a pop culture icon as a young man growing up in a port town, and culminating on the eve of international fame and fortune. I realize that comparing John Lennon and Bruce Lee is sort of like apples and oranges-but I think you catch my drift (everybody has to start somewhere, and all that). Co-directors Manfred Wong (who also wrote the screenplay) and Wai Man Yip based their biopic on the memoir of Lee’s younger brother Robert (although it is interesting to note the disclaimer in the opening credits that disavows any endorsement by or participation with the Bruce Lee estate regarding this project). Not that the film necessarily dishes any dirt. In fact, it’s a relatively tame, by-the-numbers affair, recounting young Lee Jun-fan’s formative years growing up in Hong Kong (he was born in San Francisco, but his acting-troupe parents were not U.S. citizens). For a movie about someone who went on to become one of filmdom’s premier action movie superstars, there’s very little action. Still, it’s slick and entertaining (if short on insight) and leading man Aarif Rahman plays his role with verve.

















Gainsbourg: a Heroic Life
is another biopic that looked intriguing on paper-but I’m sorry to be a party pooper and tell you that it contains scant little to recommend it. So who was Serge Gainsbourg? He was an odd little homunculus who was a so-so painter, questionable poet and inexplicable pop music icon (well, in France). Nonetheless, he apparently had babe magnet kavorka (he bedded Bardot and wedded English supermodel Jane Birkin, with whom he co-created what I consider his Greatest Hit-the leggy and talented Charlotte Gainsbourg). His music career was largely built on the success of one tune-“Je t’aime…moi non plus”, featuring Birkin essentially feigning an orgasm at the denouement, over an organ riff suspiciously similar to “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (surely paving the way for future seduction mix tape staples like “Love to Love You Baby” and “Jungle Fever”). Star Eric Elmosnino bears an uncanny resemblance and chain-smokes Gitanes with conviction, but director Joann Sfar seems more enamored with his own cinematic technique than with his subject; it’s an impressionistic study that barely makes any impression at all. I now can only pray that a Rod McKuen biopic isn’t in the works…












The Trip
is the latest from eclectic British director Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, The Road to Guantanamo). Pared down into feature film length from the 6-episode BBC TV series of the same name, it is essentially a highlight reel of that show-which is not to denigrate it, because it is the most genuinely hilarious comedy I’ve seen in many a moon (genuinely hilarious “comedies” are such a rarity these days). The levity is due in no small part to Winterbottom’s two stars-Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, basically playing themselves in this mashup of My Dinner with Andre and Sideways. Coogan is asked by a British newspaper to take a “restaurant tour” of England’s bucolic Lake District, and review the eateries. He initially plans to take his girlfriend along, but since their relationship is going through a rocky period, he asks his pal, fellow actor Brydon, to accompany him. This simple narrative setup is basically an excuse to sit back and enjoy Coogan and Brydon’s brilliant comic riffing (much of it feels improvised) on everything from relationships to the “proper” way to do Michael Caine impressions. There’s some unexpected poignancy as well-but for the most part, it’s pure comedy gold.













Killing Bono
is a darkly funny, bittersweet and thoroughly engaging rock ‘n’ roll fable from the UK, based on a true story. A cross between Anvil: The Story of Anvil and I Shot Andy Warhol, it revisits familiar territory: the trials and tribulations of the “almost famous”. Dublin-based writer/aspiring rock star Neil McCormick (Ben Barnes) co-founds a band called Yeah! Yeah! with his brother Ivan (Robert Sheehan) right about the same time that their school chum Paul Hewson puts together a quartet who call themselves The Hype. The two outfits engage in a friendly race to see who can get signed to a label first. Eventually, the Hype change their name to U2, Hewson reinvents himself as “Bono” and-well, you know. In the meantime, the McCormick brothers go nowhere fast, as the increasingly embittered and obsessed Neil plays Salieri to Bono’s Mozart. There are likely very few people on the planet who know what it feels like to be Pete Best (aside from Pete Best)-but I suspect that one of the players in this particular drama knows that feeling-and my heart goes out to him (no spoilers!). Nick Hamm directs a wonderful cast, which includes a fine swan song performance from the great Pete Postlethwaite (R.I.P.).

















Trollhunter
is the latest entry in the fake “found footage” genre, and if it ever catches on as a cult phenom, it could very well leave The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield in the dust (if you’re into that sort of thing). Like its predecessors, it features an unremarkable, no-name cast; but then again you don’t really require the services of an Olivier when most of the dialog is along the lines of “Where ARE you!?”, “Jesus Christ, look at the size of that fucking thing!”, “RUN!!!” or the ever popular “AieEEE!”. Seriously, though- what I like about Andre Ovredal’s film (aside from the surprisingly convincing monsters) is the way he cleverly weaves wry commentary on religion and politics into his narrative. The story concerns three Norwegian film students who initially set off to do an expose on illegal bear poaching, but become embroiled with a clandestine government program to rid Norway of some nasty trolls who have been terrorizing the remote areas of the country (you’ll have to suspend your disbelief as to how the government has been able to “cover up” 200 foot tall monsters rampaging about). The “trollhunter” himself is quite a character. And one thing to remember while hunting trolls…leave the Christians at home!



















The Thief of Bagdad: Re-imagined by Shadoe Stevens with the music of E.L.O
. was one of those film-going experiences where about halfway through, I was kicking myself in the ass for not having had the foresight to do a Marley-sized bong hit before leaving the house (I suspect that Mr. Stevens came up with the idea after doing a few Marley-sized bong hits himself). Since the wordy title doubles as a synopsis, all I need add is that this is the 1924 silent version, directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Douglas Fairbanks as the wily thief who steals the heart of a beautiful princess. Stevens (a venerable L.A. radio personality) was at the screening, and recounted several decades of tweaking to find a perfect contemporary soundtrack. So does it work? Well, I’ve never been a huge E.L.O. fan (IMHO Jeff Lynne’s a talented guy who has a tendency to “over-arrange” his songs into a sonic wash), but I’ll be damned if it ain’t a marriage made in heaven between over-produced chamber pop and overwrought silent film histrionics. I’m not sure if it’s headed your way, but in the meantime, you can always amuse yourself with the old standby. You know…watching The Wizard of Oz while listening to Dark Side of the Moon (*exhale*).


D.H.
 
The last poet

By Dennis Hartley















Gil Scott-Heron 1949-2011



Gil Scott-Heron passed away yesterday. He was a true artist in every sense of the word; musician, poet, social observer, provocateur. He was also a man with a troubled, troubled soul. And like a true artist, he bared that soul for all to see. He never tried to cover up the fact that he struggled with drug addiction (which I strongly suspect is what ultimately did him in); in fact as I write this I am listening to my favorite album of his, Pieces of a Man, specifically the song “Home is Where the Hatred Is”, where Scott-Heron confesses:

Home is where I live inside my white powder dreams
Home was once an empty vacuum
that’s filled now with my silent screams
Home is where the needle marks

try to heal my broken heart

And it might not be such a bad idea

if I never, if I never went home again


But the work wasn’t all about myopic self-pity and junkie laments-far from it. He made equally fearless and blunt observances concerning those things that seem perennially fucked up about America’s socio-political milieu (in this respect, he had his work cut out for him). While he could get you righteously riled up with pointed, insightful raps like “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, “B-Movie”, and “Winter in America”, he could also offer beautiful, lyrical messages of hope and healing, like “I Think I’ll Call it Morning”, “Save the Children” and “Lady Day and John Coltrane”. For me personally, his most timeless song (and one that never fails to make me tear up) is the haunting title track from “Pieces of a Man”. Everything about it is so “right”; Scott-Heron’s heartbreaking vocal, Brian Jackson’s transcendent piano arrangement, the great Ron Carter’s sublime stand-up bass work, and of course, the pure poetry of the lyrics. R.I.P.




D.H.--



*technical problems required Dennis to post under my account. -- digby
 
Switch hitters

by digby


Republican office holders don't often switch to the Democratic party anywhere, but it's almost unheard of in recent years in the South. Even more interesting about this one, is the issue that made him switch:

Chalk up another Democratic win this week: Alabama State Rep. Daniel Boman, who entered the legislature as a Republican in November, is switching parties to become a Democrat after he says the GOP went too far in attacking teachers in the state...From the Tuscaloosa News:
Boman, a 36-year-old lawyer from Sulligent, said Wednesday's vote on a bill to change the state's tenure and fair dismissal laws for educators convinced him he was in the wrong party.


Republicans are walking into a minefield with these attacks on teachers. Everyone's had them. many of us are related to them. Most of them, at least in the lower grades, are women. Turning them into the enemy is going to turn many millions of people against their own families.

Once again, I'm struck by how the Republicans have run out of ways to Obfuscate their real agenda. People aren't liking it much once they realize that they have finally met the enemy and apparently it is them.

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Oklahoma Crude

by digby

I have my doubts as to whether the Justice Department will actually pursue the Ensign charges. After all, they already have John Edwards to kick around and it doesn't seem likely that they'll make a habit of this sort of case. Too many glass homes could be broken. But the main reason I doubt it will go anywhere is that it is connected to that freaky religio-political cult The Family and for reasons that have never been adequately explained, that just seems to be an off-limits topic, despite the fact that it is weird beyond weird.

Still, it might just be having an effect on the career of one particularly powerful Republican and I couldn't be happier to see him hobbled. The illusion that he's some sort of fair dealer is very dangerous in a system where Democrats are all too eager to latch on to anyone who can give them cover to go along with the conservative wrecking crew.
Sen. Tom Coburn roundly dismissed the bombshell ethics report involving former Sen. John Ensign's (R-Nev.) sex scandal, which portrayed the Oklahoma Republican as an intermediary trying to negotiate a seven-figure settlement between Ensign and his mistress's husband.
"That's a totally inaccurate characterization of what happened," Coburn said on a taped interview of C-SPAN's "Newsmakers," which is set to air Sunday. "What the story you hear is not an accurate reflection of what happened."

[...]

Coburn and Ensign lived together at a Christian townhouse on Capitol Hill in Feb. 2008 when Doug Hampton — just two months after Ensign’s extramarital affair with his wife Cindy Hampton began — asked Coburn to help bring the relationship to an end. Coburn was unsuccessful in at least two attempts to do so.
[...]
In the C-SPAN interview, Coburn said he simply passed along the message to Ensign. He also said the Ethics Committee has not contacted him since he testified before the panel earlier this year -- and he had no regrets about his role in the episode, saying he would do "exactly" the same thing again.

"We put two families back together with multiple children -- both marriages are stable right now," Coburn said. "I'm proud of what I did and the way I did it. There's nothing unethical about what I did."

Cindy Hampton, however, has recently filed for divorce, the ethics report said, while the Justice Department indicted Doug Hampton for breaking federal lobbying restrictions in the wake of the Ensign scandal.

One of the most bewildering questions in recent years is how Tom Coburn came to be considered some sort of wise man and statesman who can be counted upon for good advice and counsel. President Obama always talking about him as if he were some special GOP sage who had real insights to offer.

This guy:

The Republican Senate candidate in Oklahoma warns of "rampant" lesbianism in some schools in the state in a tape released Monday by his Democratic opponent.

The remark by Republican Tom Coburn drew a skeptical response from state educators.

"I don't believe that," said Keith Ballard, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. He said the group's attorneys "haven't said anything to me about that."

In the tape released by the campaign of Brad Carson, the Democratic candidate, Coburn says a campaign worker from Coalgate told him that "lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that's happened to us?"

Joe McCulley, school superintendent in Coalgate, chuckled when asked about Coburn's remark.

"He knows something I don't know. We have not identified anything like that. We have not had to deal with any issues on that subject - ever," McCulley said.

I know the standards have been drastically lowered, but this person is a full-fledged nut.

.
 
Stale and moldy even though it's new

by digby


I had my problems with Frank Rich, but I really liked the idea behind his Saturday column. He would synthesize the week's political intrigue and activity into a narrative -- a kind of weekly recap of the zeitgeist. A lot of people seem to think that's a worthless exercise, but I would imagine that for those who aren't as in tune with the day to day and don't have a handle on the bigger picture, it can be interesting.

However, I assumed that his successor Joe Nocera would not take that tack and would concentrate on the business beat, which was his area of expertise. And that is certainly a fertile subject. It's also one which a lot of people probably don't follow so it could have brought some analysis to the opinion pages that wasn't being covered. Unfortunately, today's piece indicates that he's going to be another recycler of stale beltway CW instead.
I hadn’t realized until I met him on Tuesday that Paul Ryan had been a protégé of Jack Kemp. But the minute I heard him talking about his late mentor, everything suddenly made sense.[...]“Jack used to talk about the battle of ideas,” Ryan told me. In fact, he lived for those battles.

Ryan clearly views himself as Kemp’s natural successor. At 41, he’s been in Congress most of his adult life, where he has pushed the boundaries of Republican economic orthodoxy, just as Kemp did. He has the same kind of “happy warrior” mentality. (“I’m a walking piñata,” he said with a smile.) And he’s finally latched onto a Big Idea that could reshape the country even more than the Kemp-Roth tax cuts did in 1981 — namely, the Republican budget he masterminded, particularly its radical vision for turning Medicare into, essentially, a do-it-yourself voucher program.

He goes on to talk about Ryan's plans to cut Medicare and how they aren't good plans but that Democrats shouldn't be dismissive of him because it's a Big Idea and he's very bold and we have to do something about Medicare right now. In other words he says the same thing you could expect to hear out of the mouth of any nameless, faceless cable news host at 2 in the afternoon.

And just as with those callow cable hosts, there is no acknowledgement that the health care reforms (passed on a party line vote) were based upon the very ideas Nocera seems to think are Ryan's novel contributions to the "necessary" debate -- the fact that health care costs are eating us alive. Particularly galling is the fact that he doesn't seem to know that the Republicans just rode to victory last November demagoguing that same health care plan, particularly the 500 million dollars in Medicare cuts.

No, instead he's wringing his hands like Cokie Roberts about how irresponsible the Democrats are for failing to take the looming problems of health care costs seriously.

This is the new columnist for the NY Times, not some windbag blogger. And he's spouting the most shallow analysis of the current Medicare debate possible. And, sadly, it's probably going to have an influence on the way the Villagers see it. After all, he's a crackerjack "business reporter." He must know what he's talking about, right?

Instead of reading that stale Village CW (Jack Kemp -- idea man!) read this piece by Nocera's Times colleague:


The Economy Is Wavering. Does Washington Notice?
By DAVID LEONHARDT

The latest economic numbers have not been good. Jobless claims rose last week, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Another report showed that economic growth at the start of the year was no faster than the Commerce Department initially reported — “a real surprise,” said Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics.

Perhaps the most worrisome number was the one Macroeconomic Advisers released on Wednesday. That firm tries to estimate the growth rate of the current quarter in real time, and it now says annualized second-quarter growth is running at only 2.8 percent, up from 1.8 percent in the first quarter. Not so long ago, the firm’s economists thought second-quarter growth would be almost 4 percent.

An economy that is growing this slowly will not add jobs quickly. For the next couple of months, employment growth could slow from about 230,000 recently to something like 150,000 jobs a month, only slightly faster than normal population growth. That is certainly not fast enough to make a big dent in the still huge number of unemployed people.

Are any policy makers paying attention?

Now that would be worth a little analysis and punditry from the business point of view, don't you think?

Update: oops. Nocera is replacing Bob Herbert not Rich.

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