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Monday, November 30, 2009


by digby

As the epigram to Chapter Three, "Drill, Baby, Drill," Palin assigns the following remarks to the Hall of Fame hoops coach:
Our land is everything to us... I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember our grandfathers paid for it--with their lives.

Only the quote wasn't by John Wooden. It was written by a Native American activist named John Wooden Legs in an essay entitled "Back on the War Ponies," which appeared in a left-wing anthology, We Are the People: Voices from the Other Side of American History, edited by Nathaniel May, Clint Willis, and James W. Loewen.

Here's the full quote:

Our land is everything to us. It is the only place in the world where Cheyennes talk the Cheyenne language to each other. It is the only place where Cheyennes remember the same things together. I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember our grandfathers paid for it--with their life. My people and the Sioux defeated General Custer at the Little Big Horn.

Oh well. You know know what she meant...

(And at least she didn't mistakenly quote Ward Churchill .)

h/t to bill
The Good Old Days

by digby

This Corner poster (via Rumproast) thinks food stamps are making people lazy:

Today's NYT says that food-stamp usage grows by about 20,000 people per day:

MARTINSVILLE, Ohio — With food stamp use at record highs and climbing every month, a program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children. ... While the numbers have soared during the recession, the path was cleared in better times when the Bush administration led a campaign to erase the program’s stigma, calling food stamps “nutritional aid” instead of welfare, and made it easier to apply

Seems like there ought to be a stigma attached to the use of welfare. A little bit of shame can go a long way toward encouraging people to find jobs. The federal government may think it's doing people a favor by providing them with access to food, but it's doing them a disservice if it also robs them of the motivation necessary to break free from dependency.

One wouldn't think you'd have to make an argument in favor of America being generous enough to make sure that 25% of the children in this country aren't going hungry. You would think the immorality of allowing kids to starve or be publicly shamed due to conditions over which they have absolutely no control would be obvious. But apparently it isn't.

Since common decency obviously isn't even a factor with people who think this way, perhaps someone needs to remind them of the kind of society their preferred feudalism really was --- exceedingly dangerous. How about this, just for the sake of argument?

In places where there are no jobs, rather than being "robbed of the motivation to break free from dependency," people will be highly motivated to rob people like you of your life and property in order to keep their kids from going hungry. And if you publicly shame those kids for things they can't control, they are very likely to grow up hating you and yours with such fervor that they will rob whatever's left of people like you of their life and property.

I would think that providing a little help for people to get through this economic slump without turning them into pariahs is a small price to pay to prevent such an outcome. Call it self-interest.

Shocked, Simply Shocked

by digby

Not since Marcy Wheeler uttered the word blowjob on their show have I seen David Shuster and Tamron Hall more flustered over the comments of a guest than they were today when Congressman Maurice Hinchey suggested that the Bush administration purposefully allowed bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora because of the need to justify the Iraq invasion. (You would have thought he said that Dick Cheney was an evil torturer. Oh wait ...)

Anyway, here are Hall and Shuster reflexively calling for the smelling salts:

Shuster: You think they deliberately let al Qaeda get away right after the 9/11 attacks? You really believe that?

Hinchey: yes I do. There's really no question about that because the leader of our military operation in the United States called back our military. Called them back from going after the head of al Qaeda because there was a sense...

Shuster: Congressman, you can accuse them of malfeasance, you can accuse them of dropping the ball, of having an awful plan. I think that would be justified. But to suggest that they deliberately let Osama bin Laden get away so that they could justify the war in Iraq, that will strike a lot of people as crazy.

Hinchey: I don't think it will strike a lot of people as crazy. I think it will strike a lot of people as being very accurate. And all you have to do is look at the facts of that set of circumstances and you can see that's exactly what happened. When we went in there, when our military went in there, we could have captured them. We could have captured most of the al Qaeda, but we didn't. And we didn't because of the need felt by the previous administration and the need of the previous head of the military, that need to attack Iraq which was completely unjustified...

Hall: Congressman, we are out of time congressman and certainly we would love to have you on to explore this more. As you can imagine, there will be a lot of people talking about the remarks you've just made.Thank you...

Shuster: You know Tamron, you could make a lot of arguments that in fact the net effect of letting Osama bin Laden go, was maybe it did justify the Iraq. But the idea that that was somehow deliberate I think really diminishes whatever argument that Democrats or progressives may have about the conduct of of the Afghan war and the Iraq war.

One simply doesn't accuse such important people of bad motives. That would be very rude and nobody would ever take you seriously again.

Actually, it's not all that far-fetched. If you read the Tora Bora report that was released last week (pdf), it's clear that everyone important in the administration all the way up to Bush was informed that bin Laden was there and that they would need more troops to catch him. And it's also clear that they were held back and at the same time everyone was urging that they put all their attention on Iraq. That much is on the record.

There's no smoking gun that has Bush and Cheney twirling their mustaches saying "I think we should let bin Laden go so we can make Iraq an easier sell," but considering all the strange decisions that were made for reasons that are incomprehensible, it's not beyond the pale to speculate that it was the reason. In fact, it's pretty hard to see why they did what they did otherwise: this is one of history's great villains, they knew where he was and they decided not to do everything they could to capture and kill him despite ample political cover, plenty of warning and unlimited resources. What other motive makes better sense? The absurd notion that they didn't want Karzai to have a country in turmoil as they lamely claimed? Please.

Shuster and Hall show how narrowly the acceptable beltway dialog is defined and give a good clue about how a rightwing hissyfit is generated. Indeed, the right doesn't even have to do anything --- the media are Pavlovian in their response to any suggestion that these people were anything but patriotic, decent public servants, in spite of ample evidence that they most certainly were not. After all, the Bush administration started an illegal war based on lies and endorsed torture, among many other outrageous acts during their eight years in office. Is it really beyond the imagination that that Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld might have consciously made the decision to let bin Laden go for reasons of their own? Why?

I personally don't know if it's true, but considering their track record it certainly isn't completely crazy to think it might be.

Weapons In Their Pants

by digby

I have successfully avoided writing about this "party crasher" story up until now but naturally Tweety has made it impossible not to. He is having a fit, as is half the country apparently, that someone got close enough to the president to shake his hand and as he said, "might have brought in biological or chemical weapons."(Presumably they would have been smuggled in somehow inside an orifice since they were otherwise searched by the secret service before entering.)

Ok, I get that the White House and the Secret Service screwed up. The idea that someone could actually penetrate the security at the White House is disturbing and it shouldn't happen. But really, this hysteria is a bit much. After all, the president does rope lines, fundraisers, plant tours and visits to burger joints all the time and he is in the close presence of strangers:

Did they check that guy for biological weapons in his pants? How about these guys?

This "story" is another example of the social corrosion caused by reality TV and the bubble balloon-boy phenomenon and so I suppose it's worth covering on its own merits. But the idea that people in the White House and Secret Service must be fired because the president could have been killed with a chemical weapon in that woman's sari is over-the-top.

From what I'm seeing today (Isikoff himself is digging into it, right alongside the Washington Post gossip columnist) it may be leading to another Travelgate style witch hunt in which Michelle Obama's staff at the very least is going to have to be sacrificed on the alter of Sally Quinn. I hope that makes everyone feel better. It's been a while.

Update: A former Secret Service agent made the point that they have never assumed that it was impossible for anyone to get close to the president and are well prepared if someone makes a move. Tweety keeps talking about a Clint Eastwood movie about the Secret Service for some reason.

Update II: I don't mean to suggest that the president isn't under unusual threat. But this is getting stupid. They're talking about how this woman could have been wearing an IED.

Update III:

Oh Jesus, now Tweety's delving into "Tiger's Troubles." And I won't even repeat the tabloid speculation that Tweety and his guests are engaging in. Just read TMZ or the Globe.

Meanwhile, may I assume that the world is no longer going to hell in a hand basket?

No, No, No

by digby

Mike Lux reports on Democratic Death Wish 2010 and reveals this egregious little nugget of information:

The quote of the day that has me gnashing my teeth:

White House health reform czar Nancy-Ann DeParle said the president was moving as quickly as possible. She said that the insurance industry cannot be forced to accept people irrespective of preexisting conditions until everyone is required to have insurance, and that the administration does not want such a requirement until the exchanges are up and running.

Insurance companies have been making enormous profits for decades now by hiking prices through the roof and denying care to sick people, and we are going to worry about being fair to them in the transition to a better health care system? When we are going to mandate that people buy insurance, and subsidize them to do so, after the new system is in place? C'mon now. If the insurance companies have to reduce their profit margins for a few years, I don't think we should be shedding any tears for them.

I just can't believe it. All along I had been assuming that the one thing everyone agreed upon was that the rescission and denial of insurance based on pre-existing conditions were the things that the Democrats would have to point to as the immediate benefit of all this sturm and drangover health care this year. It's unfathomable to me that they have decided not to do that.

I guess they think they can just babble a bunch of happy talk and nobody will notice that nothing's going to change for anyone for years even as the Republicans demagogue it on a daily basis. What kind of lunacy is that?

Not Much To Choose From

by digby

They must be so proud:

By a wide margin, Americans consider Rush Limbaugh the nation's most influential conservative voice.

Those are the results of a poll conducted by "60 Minutes" and Vanity Fair magazine and issued Sunday. The radio host was picked by 26 percent of those who responded, followed by Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck at 11 percent. Actual politicians — former Vice President Dick Cheney and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin — were the choice of 10 percent each.

It's true, they are the most influential conservative voices. But if anyone still thinks the Republicans are the party of ideas they probably need to think again.

The fight for dominance in this influential sphere is on, with all the above battling for supremacy. Here's the latest from Beck, via Think Progress:

In recent days, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has indicated that she may be open to a conservative presidential dream ticket in 2012: Palin-Beck (or Beck-Palin). “I can envision a couple of different combinations, if ever I were to be in a position to really even seriously consider running for anything in the future, and I’m not there yet,” Palin told Newsmax. “But Glenn Beck I have great respect for. He’s a hoot.” Fox and Friends plugged the idea yesterday morning and asked Palin whether she would run with Beck. She kept the door open, saying, “I don’t know. We’ll see, we’ll see.”

But just a few hours later on his radio show, Beck shot down the idea, saying he was “absolutely” ruling out a Palin-Beck ticket. He explained that if he had the number two job, Palin would always be “yapping” like they were in “the kitchen”:

BECK: I don’t think things are hoots. I don’t. I don’t think it’s a hoot. I would never use the word hoot, and I respectfully ask that every time my name is brought up she would stop using the word “hoot.” [...]

No, no I’m just saying — Beck-Palin, I’ll consider. But Palin-Beck — can you imagine, can you imagine what an administration with the two of us would be like? What? Come on! She’d be yapping or something, and I’d say, “I’m sorry, why am I hearing your voice? I’m not in the kitchen.”

These people are so confused.

Grand Bargain Redux

by digby

Here's the latest from The Peterson Billionaire Protection Society:

NEW YORK (November 30, 2009) – There is broad support among Democrats, Republicans and Independents for a bipartisan fiscal commission to address America’s growing debt and deficit challenges according to a new poll commissioned by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. The poll also shows that Americans believe dealing with the debt and deficit should be a top priority and that leaders in Washington are not paying enough attention to this issue.

“The bottom line is that the American electorate is way ahead of Washington policymakers—many of whom don’t seem to realize that we can’t spend and borrow our way to prosperity,” said David M. Walker, President & CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. “Tough choices must be made in connection with budget controls, entitlement reforms, spending constraints and revenue increases. A special bipartisan commission is needed to engage the American people in a discussion about comprehensive reforms and to make a range of recommendations for action by the Congress.”

There is growing recognition among policymakers on both sides of the aisle that a bipartisan commission is the best way to address the fiscal crisis. It was recently reported that the Obama Administration is giving serious consideration to establishing a special commission to address America’s large and growing structural deficits and debt burdens.

The commission would consider policy options on budget controls, reforms to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other spending and tax reforms. Unlike the regular process that Congress currently uses to consider legislative proposals, Congress would be required to vote on the recommended package of reforms from the Commission, with limited opportunity to make changes.
I know it's boring to harp on this but as someone who lives in California and has seen the results of hamstringing government into total incoherence with gimmicks like this it is a terrifying prospect. So, I'll (probably foolishly) reprise a piece of a post I wrote last January on this subject after I read E.J. Dionne's column about Obama's plan to enact a "Grand Bargain":

Unfortunately, it would appear that Obama is going to go to China --- or rather, he's going to "reform entitlements," which is the Democratic equivalent. Dionne reports that they've adopted Stephanopoulos' characterization of a Grand Bargain (which just shows that the beltway echo chamber is in full effect.) Obama told the Washington Post today that he's doing this in order to prove to somebody (who I'm not sure) that he is "serious."

Obama To Hold Fiscal Responsibility Summit

President-elect Barack Obama will convene a "fiscal responsibility summit" in February designed to bring together a variety of voices on solving the long term problems with the economy and with a special focus on entitlements, he said during an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors this afternoon.

"We need to send a signal that we are serious," said Obama of the summit.

Those invited to attend will include Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.), ranking minority member Judd Gregg (N.H.), the conservative Democratic Blue Dog coalition and a host of outside groups with ideas on the matter, said the president-elect.

Obama's comments came in a wide-ranging, hour-long interview that came just five days before he will be inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States and become the first African American to hold that title.

Obama said that he has made clear to his advisers that some of the difficult choices--particularly in regards to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare - should be made on his watch. "We've kicked this can down the road and now we are at the end of the road," he said.
Normally another Democratic run bipartisan commission on social security reform wouldn't alarm me so much as annoy me. After all, Clinton was forced by the incoherent "centrist" Bob Kerrey into appointing a social security commission and Bush promised to appoint one after the failure of his attempt to privatize the system. But this time could be different. The scope and complexity of the economic crisis could lead to politicians rushing forward with some bad plans just to appear to be doing something.

I believe that everything about this is a huge mistake. It validates incorrect right wing economic assumptions, incorporates their toxic rhetoric about "entitlements," focuses on the wrong problems and continues the illusion that social security is in peril when it isn't. The mantra of shared sacrifice sounds awfully noble, but it isn't very reassuring to talk about the government going broke at the moment, particularly when the cause of our problems isn't the blood-sucking parasites who depend on government insurance when they can't work, but rather the handiwork of the vastly wealthy who insist on operating without restraint and refuse to contribute their fair share. I would have thought that a bipartisan commission on financial system reform might have at least been on the agenda before social security.

Obama is empowering the Republicans and the Blue Dogs with this fiscal responsibility rhetoric and perhaps he believes they will reward him by acting in good faith. And maybe they will.Or perhaps he thinks he can jiu-jitsu the debate in some very clever way to actually bolster social security and enact universal health care. But it's a big risk. I believe that all this talk about "entitlements" and fiscal responsibility will make it much tougher to sell universal health care and easier to dismantle some of the safety net at a time when many people have just lost a large piece of their retirements, their jobs and their homes. It's very hard for me to understand why they think it's a good time to do this.

I know it's probably right that we give him a chance before we completely go postal about this, but I also know that if this were a Republican saying these things I'd certainly be doing everything in my power to oppose it. But then that's the beauty of the Nixon goes to China gambit, isn't it? It neatly shuts down the most fervent opposition. That's why it's so frightening. He might just get it done
Pete Peterson and the Republicans have brilliantly laid the groundwork for this. And I would bet you anything that they'll even take a short term hit on raising taxes on the wealthy if they can deal a death blow to what they call "entitlements."

Deficit neutral health care reform is supposed to be the sop to the left that makes this possible, by the way. Somehow, I don't think that's going to be convincing.


by digby

What is the lesson here?

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday set aside a lower court's ruling that had ordered the release of photographs showing American soldiers abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The high court's action, which had been expected, occurred after the U.S. Congress recently approved a provision to exempt the photographs from disclosure, a measure that President Barack Obama signed into law.

The justices sent the case back to a U.S. appeals court in New York for further consideration in light of the new law and the recent certification by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that release of the photographs would endanger American soldiers.

After initially agreeing to release the photographs, Obama reversed himself in May, siding with his U.S. military advisers and said disclosure could unleash a violent backlash against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The lesson is that if you don't like a court decision, change the law and have someone "certify" that the older law will endanger troops. Good to know.

Huckabee's Compassion For Violent Criminals

by tristero

As I'm sure all of you know, four police officers were gunned down recently by a maniac in Washington state. The "person of interest," Maurice Clemmons, had his sentence commuted by former Republican presidential candidate Michael Huckabee when he was governor of Arkansas.

Huckabee has a history of spectacularly bad judgment when it comes to violent criminals. From Gail Collins' NY Times 2007 column entitled Who Doesn’t Heart Huckabee?:
Lately, anti-Huckabee conservatives have been suggesting he’s soft on crime. The story involves an Arkansas man, Wayne DuMond, who was accused of kidnapping and raping a high school cheerleader in 1985. While he was free awaiting trial, masked men broke into his home, beat and castrated him. His testicles wound up in a jar of formaldehyde, on display on the desk of the local sheriff. At the trial, he was sentenced to life plus 20 years. When Huckabee became governor, DuMond was still in an apparently hopeless situation, though theoretically eligible for parole. Huckabee championed his cause, and wrote him a congratulatory letter when he was finally released in 1999. Then in 2000 DuMond moved to Kansas City, where he sexually assaulted and murdered a woman who lived near his home.
What Collins didn't mention is that the young girl DuMond raped in Arkansas was a distant cousin of Bill Clinton and that Huckabee worked to release DuMond as a way of currying favor with the extreme right (go here and here, for details). But Collins did have time to sympathize, not with the victims of DuMond's horrific crimes, but with poor, poor Michael Huckabee:
“There’s nothing you can say, but my gosh, it’s the thing you pray never happens,” the clearly tortured Huckabee recently told The National Review. “And it did.” If by some miracle he became the presidential nominee, there would obviously be many opportunities to point out that Michael Dukakis never sent a letter to Willie Horton celebrating his furlough.

Why do the leaders of the religious right keep sidling away from a Baptist minister whose greatest political sin seems to have been showing compassion to a prisoner who appeared to deserve it?
Because as craven and as stupid as religious right leaders are, they're not half as craven and stupid as some NY Times op-ed columnists I could mention, Gail. Plan to write about the current Huckabee-related atrocity? If so, be sure to read Huckabee's incredible "buck-stops-elsewhere" statement carefully distancing himself from any personal culpability:
Should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State. He was recommended for and received a commutation of his original sentence from 1990, this commutation made him parole eligible and he was then paroled by the parole board once they determined he met the conditions at that time. He was arrested later for parole violation and taken back to prison to serve his full term, but prosecutors dropped the charges that would have held him.
Not Huckabee's fault, you see. A series of failures by the government, not, mind you, a then-sitting governor named Michael Huckabee.

And this is a man who is still seriously discussed as a potential future president of the United States.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Or Are They Just Happy To See Him?

by digby

Heather at C&L helps me fulfill my life's work.

Hint: It's about manly salutes in all their permutations. Some even bring a thrill up the leg.

h/t to bb
Whiz Kids

by digby

Larry,Ben and Tim.

They are by all accounts exceedingly brilliant men. So you have to assume it's their ideology that's leading them astray.

National Shame

by digby

There is no shame in individuals having to use food stamps. And there are a hell of a lot of them: shockingly, 25% of children in this country are on them right now. What's shameful is the wealthiest 1% who fight tooth and nail against paying their fair share and Masters of the Universe insisting they are worth billions in compensation despite the fact that the economy is in the gutter for everyone else --- largely because of their past actions. It should be criminal.

Rolling The Dice

by digby

From what I can gather, this climate change pseudo-scandal is going to be with us for a while so if you haven't delved into it in any detail, it's probably a good idea to do so. The number of Inhoffian cretins bellowing on TV about hoaxes is growing by the hour. This article by Brad Plumer seems to be a good place to start.

Meanwhile, here's an example of how the issue is being handled by talking heads on television:

SUZANNE MALVEAUX: What can the president do on this issue, James?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, unfortunately, I hope I'm wrong, but not very much. And I hope that talk radio and the pollution lobby are right that global warming is not a problem, and 940 peer reviewed scientific articles are wrong. That's about all we can hope for, because right now, I have to tell you that the pollution lobby and talk radio is winning this battle. And the will in the United States to do something about this is not what I think it should be, but that's the reality of the political situation, as I see it right now.

MALVEAUX: Ben, does -- is James right? Does the president have any power to move the ball forward here if he goes to this summit?

BEN STEIN, COLUMNIST, "FORTUNE" Well, calling the people who want to keep Americans free to use the kind of energy they want to use the "pollution lobby" is a wild smear, and I'm very surprised to hear someone as good natured and kindly as James say it. But it's not the pollution lobby, it's a lobby for the truth.

The truth is that the global temperature peaked around 1998. It has not gotten any hotter. Instead, it's gotten cooler.

The truth is that there have been periods in the past a thousand years ago, 2,500 years ago, when it's been warmer than it is now, when there was no manmade burning of carbon. The truth is that we do not know the exact interaction between all these events and effects and what they do to weather.

The truth is we cannot predict the weather three days from now. To say we can predict it in 2030 or 2080 begs (ph) the imagination. It's just unbelievable.

The truth is we've now got a lot of data coming out that the scientific community around the side of anthropogenic global warming were cooking the data and were suppressing data to those who are questioning their data. So I think the whole thing of fighting global warming may be based on a false premise. Maybe it isn't, but the fact is we just don't know at this point.

MALVEAUX: What the truth, is too, is that Americans are divided politically over this issue. If you look at the poll, "Washington Post"/ABC News here, among Republicans, 54 percent believe that global warming is really happening, but Democrats, 86 percent believe that it is really -- it is taking place here.

CARVILLE: Look, again, I hope that talk radio and the pollution lobby is right, because I -- but I'm afraid that 950-something peer reviewed scientific articles and almost the entirety of the non-paid-for by people that study this think that climate change is real.

I hope they are wrong for the sake of my children. And it seems as though that they've spent a lot of money and have been very successful here.

MALVEAUX: Well, what do you make of that, Ben? Do you think it's just a lobbying effort?

STEIN: Actually, no, there are huge number of scientists who are questioning that. I mean, you say 950 peer reviewed articles. We now learn that the peers are in a kind of cabal -- not all of them, but some of them are in a kind of cabal to suppress any information that challenges the consensus on global warming and the manmade effects on the climate.

There are many, many scientists not paid for by the energy companies. In fact, the energy companies pretty much have backed off and washed their hands of this. They find they just don't want to question the conventional wisdom on this. This is being done, this questioning about the effects of manmade activity on the climate, is being done just by brave independent souls, and it's just not proved.

MALVEAUX: Well, we could debate whether or not this is real or not, but I covered Bush for eight years, and he said that global warming did not exist, that science didn't back it up. But here's a poll that shows that a lot more people are actually agreeing with the former president.

Three and a half years ago, 76 percent of Republicans believed it was happening. Well, now it's down to 54 percent.

Take a look at the Independents. Eighty-six percent thought it was happening. Now it's down to 71 percent.

Democrats, 92 percent. Now it is down to 86 percent.

Is that not going to make it even harder for the president to convince the rest of the world that we need some sort of global initiative here?


MALVEAUX: Climate change?

CARVILLE: The answer is yes.

MALVEAUX: What does he do?

CARVILLE: The pollution lobby is winning. They have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and they are winning.

MALVEAUX: So what does he do? What does the president do, James?


MALVEAUX: If you could give him some sort of advice, could you advise the president? What does he need to do if he's going to change this and is going to turn it around, or is it hopeless?

CARVILLE: Well, I don't know if it's hopeless. Still, you've got a good majority of the people believing that.

And in the end, scientific truth is going to win out. But right now, you've got to say ExxonMobil was paying tens of thousands of dollars for any "scientist" that would dispute these facts. And over a period of time, this is building up and they are winning.

I don't know why you're not happy about it, Ben.

STEIN: Well, you know, James, with all due respect, I hate to say this because I respect you very much and always love it when I'm on with you, but you just made that up about ExxonMobil. They are not paying tens of thousands of dollars to any scientists...

CARVILLE: Sure they did. They did.

STEIN: ... who will dispute global warming. This is a cabal of global warming -- anthropogenic global scientists who are suppressing anyone questioning them.

It's not the pollution lobby versus the clean air lobby. It's the truth lobby versus those who want to suppress the truth lobby. Look, I don't like pollution either. I don't like those little microparticles that go up in the air and they get in my lungs and they cause cancer. But whether or not -- and I'm all for cleansing the air of as much as possible. But whether or not manmade activity is changing the climate of the Earth, that is very much in dispute, and whether or not we should have giant global policies based on suppressing something which may be a hoax, that's very much up in the air.

CARVILLE: It's very much not very up in the air by the scientific community. But, again, nobody is suppressing it. You're right here saying this, and you all are winning.

The scientific community and the evidence is losing, and that happens. You know? It happens.

He's right. The "skeptics" didn't want to hear Galileo either. Of course, Galileo didn't observe a massive man made phenomenon that would fundamentally alter the way humans live on the planet (if they can live at all.)

For the sake of future generations I hope they're right too. But I can't for the life of me understand why they are so hellbent on taking the risk that they're not. The only thing I can conclude is that they love their gashogs and fighting wars more than they love their own children.

* And notice the tack Malveaux takes. If Americans don't believe it, does that mean it isn't true?

The Man

by digby

He looks like a wiry, weather-beaten cowboy, a coiled spring with a leather face. He talks quietly, in measured phrases. With a neutral accent you can’t quite place, his speech has a comforting cadence. Still, you can almost feel the dynamic tension in his brain as he pauses from time to time to choose his words carefully.

Millions of Americans read that in their Sunday paper's Parade magazine this morning. Oooh baby. Who is that awesome hunk of man?

He is U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, the boss of Central Command. He is responsible for everything that happens—or fails to happen—in an area of operations that spans 20 countries in Southwest and Central Asia, including two where American troops face danger and death every day: Iraq and Afghanistan.

As President Barack Obama recently studied his national-security team’s recommendations on how to prosecute the war in Afghanistan, I spoke with Petraeus at his headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

Thirty-five years ago, I was an Army captain on the faculty at West Point, and Petraeus was a young cadet there. I remember him well. He was soft-spoken, but his eyes betrayed an intense, almost burning, spirit. I asked him why he became a soldier in the first place, and he said, “I lived not far from West Point and became familiar with its people. They had discipline and were dedicated, and I wanted to be just like them.”

Petraeus graduated among the top 5% of his class and chose to join the infantry. He became a paratrooper and a Ranger and was promoted rapidly. The Army sent him to graduate school, and he earned a Ph.D. from Princeton. In 2000, he was promoted to brigadier general. His subsequent rise from one star to four was extraordinarily swift.

Some critics say that Petraeus has always been voraciously ambitious, with his sights set on the highest rank and responsibility, but the general himself said, surprisingly, “Even at West Point I was never committed to a long career in the Army and instead fell in love with it incrementally.” Whatever his thirst for authority, he is now in charge of campaigns whose outcomes will affect America’s security for decades to come.

One can't help but wonder if his "thirst for authority" extends to politics.

The article goes on to outline Petraeus' plans for a decades long commitment in Afghanistan, while sounding ever so reasonable with his "measured phrases" and "comforting cadence." It's quite clear after reading it that Obama should just turn over the running of the wars to this man and concentrate on the female issues Democrats are so interested in. There is nobody so handsomely equipped to run the American Empire as this man. (And he's like totally smart too.)

When you look at the field of Republican presidential candidates out there, it's hard to see anyone who could possibly win. But, as I have said for quite some time, I think this guy possibly could. If nothing else, he could save the Republican Party from teabaggery. It's very hard to see how they could oppose this guy, even if he didn't follow their purity test. As a decorated General, he would be protected by right wing political correctness from the kind of criticism that will dog anyone else who isn't orthodox wingnut, (which will be necessary to win.) He is one of the only people I can see who wouldn't divide the Republicans and could possibly bring in right leaning Independents. (They love the commanding CE0/General types.)

2012 seems too soon and he's so firmly involved in the war planning that if he were to run against Obama he would have to quit because Obama wasn't following his recommendations.(I wonder if that might be playing into Obama's decision making?) How this would all come about I don't know.

All I do know is that when I read that glowing article in Parade over my toast and coffee this morning, I could hear millions of Americans saying, "that guy would make a great president." I'd be very surprised if The Man Called Petraeus couldn't hear that too.

The Socialist Scientists

by digby

As you know from the shocking revelations about the climate crisis hoax, the pointy headed scientists are the last ones to whom anyone should listen because they all have an agenda (unlike the faith based people and corporations who just call it as they see it.) However, it's probably a good idea to keep up with what the nerds are saying just so we know what we need to reject out of hand.

Here's a new one on health care:

A new analysis by a leading MIT economist provides new ammunition for Democrats as the Senate begins formally debating the historic health-reform bill being pushed by President Barack Obama.

The report concludes that under the Senate’s health-reform bill, Americans buying individual coverage will pay less than they do for today's typical individual market coverage, and would be protected from high out-of-pocket costs.


Gruber’s conclusion: “[F]or those facing purchase in the non-group market, the … bill will deliver savings ranging from $200 for singles to $500 for families in today’s dollars – even without subsidies. The savings are much larger for lower income populations that receive premium credits.

“This is in addition to the higher quality benefits that those in the exchange will receive, with actuarial values for low income populations well above what is typical in the non-group market today. It is also in addition to all the other benefits that this legislation will deliver to those consumers – in particular the guarantee, unavailable in most states, that prices would not be raised or the policy revoked if they became ill.”

Now David Broder has talked to every "expert" at the Washington Post (well almost every expert)and got a different answer, so take all this with a grain of salt. Still, it's important to know what the "scientists" are saying. They often have undue influence on decision making.

Fools Rush In

by digby

I've heard a number of people make the point that "rushing" into health care reform is the domestic equivalent of the rush into Iraq and therefore, will have the same disastrous results. It's very clever, but completely absurd. I'll let Andrew Sullivan explain why:

... [U]nlike the Iraq war, health insurance reform was a signature issue in the previous campaign debates - both primary and general - and a clear Obama campaign pledge from the get-go. Unlike the Iraq war, the proposal's long term costs have been inspected closely by the CBO. I know no one who believes that the total final costs over ten years could go from $50 billion to, by some estimates, between $2 trillion and $3 trillion and counting. And I know of no one who thinks the end result will wreck America's international standing.

But yes, more debate and scrutiny. If you really think three decades of failures, a year of campaign debate and a year of legislative wrangling really hasn't aired the issues sufficiently.

I would also add that the health reform effort is not based on lies and misinformation. Everyone knows our system is failing large numbers of people and is costing us more than any other advanced country. The Republicans simply believe that's the best we can do.

Still Happening

by digby

As we begin a week of furious debate about the inevitable escalation and heartsnmindsnationbuilding in Afghanistan, it's more than a little bit depressing to read this article in the New York Times yesterday:
KABUL, Afghanistan — An American military detention camp in Afghanistan is still holding inmates, sometimes for weeks at a time, without access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to human rights researchers and former detainees held at the site on the Bagram Air Base.

The site, known to detainees as the black jail, consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each illuminated by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day. In interviews, former detainees said that their only human contact was at twice-daily interrogation sessions.

“The black jail was the most dangerous and fearful place,” said Hamidullah, a spare-parts dealer in Kandahar who said he was detained there in June. “They don’t let the I.C.R.C. officials or any other civilians see or communicate with the people they keep there. Because I did not know what time it was, I did not know when to pray.”

The jail’s operation highlights a tension between President Obama’s goal to improve detention conditions that had drawn condemnation under the Bush administration and his stated desire to give military commanders leeway to operate. While Mr. Obama signed an order to eliminate so-called black sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency in January, it did not also close this jail, which is run by military Special Operations forces.

Military officials said as recently as this summer that the Afghanistan jail and another like it at the Balad Air Base in Iraq were being used to interrogate high-value detainees. And officials said recently that there were no plans to close the jails.

I don't know if this information also had anything to do with the resignations of Greg Craig and Philip Carter, the two men most associated with Obama's stated policy to end these practices, but you cannot help but wonder.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday Night At The Movies

Stocking Stuffers: Vintage reels for your Xmas creel

By Dennis Hartley

It’s that time of year- for the obligatory Top 10 lists. This week, I thought I would share some of my favorite “back catalog” DVD reissues for 2009, and perhaps give you some gift ideas for the discerning cinema buff on your list (BTW if you do click a movie link from this site and end up making a purchase, you will also be helping your favorite starving bloggers get a little something more than just a lump of coal in their Christmas/Hanukah stockings in these harsh economic times… *cough* … *wink*).

We’ve had a fair amount of “wish list” fulfillment this year, with some rarities making their belated debut on DVD, amongst the inevitable “Definitive Remastering of the Previously Ultimate Restored and Remastered” versions (what’s an obsessive-compulsive/completist to do-buy that new box set, or pay the rent? Oh, the humanity!).

So here are my picks for the top 10 reissues of the year (in no particular ranking order)…

Carny -This noir-ish character study/buddy film/road movie/romantic triangle melodrama is an oddball affair (think Freaks meets Toby Tyler in Nightmare Alley-with an “R” rating) but still one of my favorite films of the 1980s. Set in the seedy milieu of a traveling carnival, it stars the Band’s Robbie Robertson as the carny manager, Gary Busey as his best friend (and dunk tank clown) and Jodie Foster as a teenage runaway who gets caught up in their strange world. The story is raised above its inherent sleaziness by excellent performances. In all of his scenes where he dons the makeup (and persona) of the Insane Insult Clown, Busey is downright possessed; a reminder that at one time, he was one of the most interesting and promising young character actors around (at least up until the unfortunate motorcycle mishap). Director/co-writer Robert Kaylor also showed great promise here, but has quite the enigmatic resume; one film in 1970, one in 1971, Carny in 1980, followed by a non-descript Chad Lowe vehicle in 1989, then *poof*…off the radar. This DVD reissue is part of the Warner Archive Series, which is a maddeningly good news/bad news development for film buffs. Bad news first: These are bare-bones editions with a “homemade” vibe (they are burning them “on demand” based on number of orders placed direct from their website). Also, these are not necessarily restored prints (making the $19.99 list price a bit dubious, IMHO). But the good news is that Warner is claiming to be in the process of utililizing this new product line as an excuse to eventually clean out everything in their vaults previously unavailable on DVD.

Dodes'ka-Den-Previously unavailable on Region 1, this 1970 film by Akira Kurosawa rarely gets mentioned in the same breath as Seven Samurai or Ikiru; nonetheless, it stands out in his oeuvre as one of his most unique and impressionistic efforts. After 27 years (and nearly as many movies) into his career, this marked the first project that the great director shot in color-and it shows. Almost as if he was making up for lost time, Kurosawa saturates the screen in an explosion of every vivid hue imaginable, like an excited kid experimenting with his first 120-count box of Crayolas. Perversely, the subject matter within this episodic tale of life in a Tokyo slum (mental illness, domestic violence, rape, alcoholism, starvation, etc.) is as dark and bleak as its visual palette is bright and colorful. It’s challenging; but if you can give the director the benefit of the doubt and grant him the somewhat leisurely pace of the initial 30 minutes to get acquainted with the characters, your patience will be richly rewarded. The film creeps up on you with its genuine humanity, packing a real (if hard-won) emotional wallop by the devastating denouement. Criterion’s DVD features a lovely transfer and some nice extras.

El Norte - Gregory Nava’s effective portrait of two Guatemalan siblings making their way to the U.S. after their activist father is killed by a government death squad will stay with you long after credits roll. The two leads give naturalistic, completely believable performances as the brother and sister whose desperate optimism never falters, despite fate and circumstance thwarting them at every turn. Don’t expect a Hollywood ending-this 1983 film is not easy to watch but thoroughly enlightening. Claustrophobic viewers are warned: a harrowing scene featuring an encounter with a roving rat colony during an underground border crossing though an abandoned sewer will give you nightmares. Criterion’s sparkling transfer is a world of improvement over the previous PAL editions.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle-One of the best film noirs of the 1970s finally made its belated debut on DVD this year, thanks to Criterion. This vastly underappreciated film from director Peter Yates features one of the last truly great performances from genre icon Robert Mitchum, at his world-weary, sleepy-eyed best as an aging hood. Peter Boyle excels in a low-key performance as a low-rent hit man, and Richard Jordan is superlative as a cynical and manipulative Fed. Steven Keats steals all his scenes as a skuzzy black market gun dealer. Paul Monash adapted his screenplay from the novel by George P. Higgins. A tough and lean slice of American neo-realism enhanced by DP Victor J. Kemper’s gritty, highly atmospheric use of the Boston locales. The print is outstanding.

Gone with the Wind-1939 was a good year for director Victor Fleming. Even if he had been hit by a bus after helming The Wizard of Oz , his rep would have been secured; but he also delivered a little sleeper you may have heard of called Gone With the Wind that very same year. Well, if you want to get technical about it, he sort of inherited the project from director George Cukor, who dropped out over differences with producer David O. Selznick (who in essence was a co-director as well). At any rate, no matter who actually called the shots, the end result is generally considered to be the quintessential American film epic. You likely know the story (based on Margaret Mitchell’s sprawling novel); spoiled, narcissistic Southern diva (Vivien Leigh) has an unrequited love for dashing Confederate war hero (Leslie Howard) who is betrothed to her saintly rival (Olivia deHavilland) and takes at least 2 hours of screen time to realize that she really belongs with the roguish (and equally self-absorbed) Clark Gable. The burning of Atlanta (and other Civil War distractions) provides an occasional sense of release from the smoldering passion and sexual tension (which finally reaches torrid consummation about 3 hours in). That’s a lotta foreplay, but in the meantime you are treated to a visually sumptuous cinematic feast and mythic screen performances by all four leads. While it has its dated flaws (the unfortunate characterizations of African-Americans) it is ahead of its time in one notable respect-it features some very strong and self-sufficient female protagonists. This is one film that transcends its own medium. Warner’s 2009 transfer is breathtaking.

The Hit- Directed by Stephen Frears and written by Peter Prince, this 1984 sleeper marked a comeback of sorts for Terence Stamp, who stars as Willie Parker, a London hood who has “grassed” on his mob cohorts in exchange for immunity. As he is led out of the courtroom following his damning testimony, he is treated to a gruff, spontaneous a cappella rendition of “We’ll Meet Again” by a group of Cockney thugs who look like they were on loan from The Long Good Friday. The oddly serene Willie doesn’t appear a bit fazed. Willie relocates to Spain, where the other shoe eventually drops “one sunny day”. He is abducted by freelancing locals and delivered to a veteran hit man (John Hurt) and his hotheaded young apprentice (Tim Roth). Again, Willie accepts his “situation” with a Zen-like calm (much to the chagrin of his captors). What is going on in Willie’s head? That’s what drives most of the ensuing narrative. As they motor through the scenic Spanish countryside (toward France, where Willie’s former boss awaits for a “reunion”) the trio engages in ever-escalating mind games, taking the story to unexpected places. Well worth rediscovery, especially since it has been given the deluxe Criterion treatment.

Last Picture Show & Nickelodeon-The main reason I was thrilled about Sony’s 2009 Peter Bogdanovich double feature reissue was that it made his 1976 film Nickelodeon available for the first time on Region 1 DVD (not to denigrate the status of what is arguably his crowing achievement, The Last Picture Show, which has already been available as a stand-alone disc for some time now). Nickelodeon is Bogdanovich’s love letter to the silent film era, depicting the trials and tribulations of independent filmmakers, circa 1910. It leans a little heavy on the slapstick at times, but is bolstered by charming performances all around from a great cast that includes Ryan O’Neal, Stella Stevens, Burt Reynolds, John Ritter, and Tatum O’Neal. The film is beautifully photographed by the late great DP, Laszlo Kovacs (who I paid tribute to in this post). Anyone who truly loves the movies will find the closing sequence incredibly moving. The real treat here is the additional inclusion of the director’s cut, in glorious B&W (Bogdanovich’s original plan). Bogdanovich’s commentary track is wry and illuminating.

North by Northwest-One would be hard-pressed to find a more perfect blend of suspense, intrigue, romance, action, comedy and pure visual mastery than Hitchcock’s 1959 masterpiece. Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason and Martin Landau head a great cast in this outstanding “wrong man” thriller (a Hitchcock specialty). Almost every set piece in the film has become iconic (and emulated again and again by Hitchcock wannabes). Although I never tire of the exciting, action-packed Crop Dusting Scene or the Mt. Rushmore Chase Sequence, I’d have to say my hands down favorite is the Dining Car Seduction Scene. Armed solely with Ernest Lehman’s clever innuendo-drenched repartee and their superbly-tuned acting chemistry, Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint engage in the most erotic sex scene ever filmed wherein the participants remain fully clothed AND keep their hands where we can see them at all times (which is why Eli Wallach and Carroll Baker’s loveseat scene in Baby Doll comes in at a close second). Bernard Herrmann’s score ain’t half-bad either (heh). The 50th anniversary restoration by Warner is crystalline, and corrects the color issues that marred the previous DVD issue.

Wings of Desire-I’ve never sat down and tried to compile a Top 10 list of my favorite movies of all time (I’ve just seen too many damn movies…I’d be staring at my computer screen for weeks, if my head didn’t explode first) but I’m pretty sure that Wim Wenders’ 1987 stunner would be a shoo-in. Like 2001 or Koyaanisqatsi, if you try to synopsize this film in a paragraph or two for someone who has never seen it, it’s like describing color to a blind man. I mean, if I told you it’s about a trench coat-wearing angel who hovers over Berlin, monitoring people’s thoughts and taking notes, who spots a beautiful trapeze artist one day and follows her home, wallows around in her deepest longings, watches her undress, then falls in love and decides to chuck the mantle of immortality and become human…well, you’d probably say “Dennis, that sounds like a story about a creepy stalker.” And if I threw in the fact that it also features Peter Falk, playing an enhanced version of himself (he’s uh, an ex-angel), you’d say “OK, where’s the hidden camera? I’m being punk’d, right?” But it’s more than that. It’s about everything, and nothing; the universe and the subconscious…oh, crap…now I’m sounding too pretentious. Just watch it, dammit! Okay, maybe you should rent it first, THEN decide if it’s worth owning. Personally, I own two copies, MGM’s original DVD issue and now the new 2009 Criterion edition, which has a markedly improved transfer and a plethora of great extras.

Z- This 1969 film was a breakthrough for director Costa-Gavras, and a high-watermark for the “radical chic” cinema that flourished at the time. Yves Montand plays a leftist politician who is assassinated after giving a speech at a pro-Peace rally. What at first appears to be an open and shut case of a violent action by an isolated group of right wing extremists unfolds as a suspenseful conspiracy thriller. The story (set in an unspecified Balkan nation, but based on the real-life assassination of a Greek political figure back in 1963) is told from the perspective of two characters-a photojournalist (a young Jacques Perrin, future director of Winged Migration) and an investigating magistrate (Jean-Louis Trintignant). The great Irene Papas is on hand as Montand’s wife. Although the film is more of a static affair than its exalted reputation as a “fast-moving” political thriller may lead you to believe (there’s much more talk than action), it is still essential viewing. It’s a little bit Kafka, a little bit Rashomon , but ultimately a cautionary tale about what happens when corrupt officialdom, unchecked police oppression and partisan-sanctioned extremism get into bed together. Criterion’s new edition has a beautifully restored print.

Covering Your Bases

by digby

From the new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll:

We have added a new feature on our weekly national poll -- a gauge of voter intensity. The question offered to respondents is a simple question about their intentions for 2010:

QUESTION: In the 2010 Congressional elections will you definitely vote, probably vote, not likely vote, or definitely will not vote?

Markos writes:

The results were, to put it mildly, shocking:

Voter Intensity: Definitely + Probably Voting/Not Likely + Not Voting

Republican Voters: 81/14
Independent Voters: 65/23
Democratic Voters: 56/40

Two in five Democratic voters either consider themselves unlikely to vote at this point in time, or have already made the firm decision to remove themselves from the 2010 electorate pool. Indeed, Democrats were three times more likely to say that they will "definitely not vote" in 2010 than are Republicans.

This tracks with other recent polling that shows the Democratic base being very depressed. I suspect there are a lot of reasons for that, but it doesn't portend well in a time of hysterical teabaggery. It's especially dangerous when those who are easily spun about election returns will interpret this as the country making a sharp turn to the right (with the Democrats subsequently trampling each other in the teabag line) instead of a disappointed left, which is not the same thing at all.

The Democrats are very likely to lose seats simply because coat tails almost always fall off in the midterms. But it's very bad news if the election is dominated by talk of rising conservatism, even if the congress is still in Democratic hands. However, if these numbers hold up, something very bad could happen that we don't even want to think about -- this radical rump GOP freakshow could wind up with subpoena power and a Democrat in the White House.

Mike Lux wrote a good piece on this a couple of weeks ago, in which he pointed out that the 1994 election, which was spun as an uprising of the angry white male, was actually no such thing. The angry white males came out to vote in their usual numbers. The problems then were who didn't vote:
I was in the Clinton White House in 1994 after we lost on health care, and these same demographic groups- young people, Latinos, unmarried women -- turned their back on us. I remember seeing the focus groups, and having the reports back from the doorknockers: these hard-pressed voters who had been so excited about Clinton in 1992 felt like he and the Democrats in Congress had let them down, and they had no enthusiasm for coming out to vote.

Managing expectations is a very tough task for Democrats. They almost always make big promises about social and economic justice --- that's what grassroots Democrats care about. And while those things are difficult to deliver right away, I'm astounded by the fact that Democrats don't pay more attention to this problem early in the term and make a concerted effort to deliver some short term results that can give their base reason to hang on to their enthusiasm.

Clinton was pretty good at speaking in several layers of code, but he had terrible problems in 1994, even though he delivered the economic plan he promised. And that's because that economic plan was based on the abstraction of reducing the deficit which is a conservative talking point --- even if not one Republican voted for it. He failed to get health care, of course, and passed NAFTA, another Republican initiative. (There was the retreat on DADT, too.) The base had little reason to believe that any of the things they cared about were priorities.

He personally won reelection two years later, but that was mostly because his rival was a doddering fool and the economy was coming around smartly. But there were no more big initiatives once the Republicans took congress, at least none that mattered to the base. So losing the congress is not something to fool around with unless the kind of political inertia Clinton faced is what you prefer.

Obama will probably get even less slack than Clinton did. The country is in terrible shape, there's a war and the right is far less politically potent (even if they are just as noisy.) I'm not sure using the Clinton playbook is very helpful. And for all their insistence that they are not following it, it would appear that the base, at least, thinks they are..

This could all change if HCR is passed and voters believe it is a good plan. At this point, it's hard to tell what they are going to think of it. (I'm guessing it's going to take a major sell job after it's passed, and who knows if that will work?) Waiting for the benefits to kick in for several years is just nuts.

I personally don't care much if some Blue Dogs lose their seats. I'm sure it will be interpreted by the gasbags as a sign that the Republicans are on the march even though it's far more likely they weren't in stable seats to begin with. But I really do not want to see the Democrats lose control of either house of Congress with nutbags who think Lindsey Graham is a screaming liberal in charge of the Republican Party. Only very, very bad things can come of that.

Update: These may be the single most demoralizing stories for the base of all.

Trusting The Wimmin

by digby

Ellen Goodman has written a good common sense article on the mammography issue. Being one who is not particularly excited to be getting radiated more often than necessary, I found the information in the study welcome, but I understand that people have strong feelings the other way. I think that the most important thing is for women to have access to good doctors with whom they can weigh the risks involved with all tests like these. I trust that women understand their own bodies and are able to make these decisions for themselves when they are armed with all the information.

Causes And Cures

by digby

As deficit reduction fever grips the nation and, as expected, the White House looks to be responding with some sort of blue ribbon panel of poobahs based on the base closing commission concept, it's important to recognize the politics for what they are, (which is the perspective I usually take when discussing the subject.) But there are, obviously important economic policy implications and Krugman pulls both the political and policy string in this short but instructive post and says that the causes of deficits are what matter. When they're created because of irresponsibility or for cynical political purposes ("starve the beast" for example) then they undermine confidence and are dangerous in and of themselves. When they're in response to an emergency, not so much --- depending on if, in the end, America is still America:

Most though not all of our current budget deficit can be viewed as the result of a temporary emergency. Revenue has plunged in the face of the crisis, while there has been an increase in spending largely due to stimulus and bailouts. None of this can be seen as a case of irresponsible policy, nor as a permanent change in policy. It’s more like the financial equivalent of a war — which is why the WWII example is relevant.

So the debt question is what happens when things return to normal: will we be at a level of indebtedness that can’t be handled once the crisis is past?

And the answer is that it depends on the politics. If we have a reasonably responsible government a decade from now, and the bond market believes that we have such a government, the debt burden will be well within the range that can be managed with only modest sacrifice.

OK, that’s a big if. But it’s not a matter of dollars and cents; it’s about whether America is still America.

Some of us obviously believe that many of the bailouts represent "irresponsible" spending, but I think the point is that they were done in response to a real crisis, not one created with the express intent of using it as an excuse to cut hated social programs. Unfortunately, if the fiscal scolds and their compatriots in the White House have their way that may end up being the result anyway --- in which case motives and causes won't matter at all.

And when it comes to deficits, the stimulus and the bailouts and any other causes or reasons are completely irrelevant to Village thinking. They simply think that the people of this country are spoiled and need to suffer.

This is something I wrote on January 11th of this year, before Obama was inaugurated:
In case you were wondering what the spoiled, wealthy celebrity villagers believe Obama should do to pay for his agenda, here it is on CNN this morning:

Gloria Borger: Out of crisis comes opportunity. And they're thinking, as long as we're not paying so much attention to the deficit this year, next year, why not go for it all? Why not do what we want to do on healthcare and energy? Got it done with the understanding that two or three years down the road we're going to have to start paying for this.

Blitzer: But if he wants to deal with the deficit, the national debt, he's got to deal with those entitlements, social security, medicare, medicaid.

Borger: This is the opportunity. This is the opportunity, because everybody understands right now that he won't have the money. So this is what you call a teachable moment here right now for Barack Obama. The American public can't keep these entitlements at these levels.

That's completely incoherent, of course. Universal health care is the very definition of an "entitlement" and will be vociferously opposed on the very grounds that Borger cites: "we don't have the money." (And if the "grand bargain" is that these programs have to be paid for on the backs of social security, I have a feeling it's going to run into some resistance from a large political constituency as well. )

This is why talk of "entitlement reform" at a time of great economic peril is a dangerous thing. The Republicans and wealthy villagers get all excited again at the prospect that they might finally be able to destroy social security and this provides them with a great new excuse to push for it. And in doing that, they scare the hell out of people who are more dependent on those "entitlements" than ever. They make no sense and nobody should ever listen to them.

It's not that deficits don't matter, mind you. But they don't matter more than anything else and they certainly don't matter right now. And by putting "entitlements" on the menu it becomes nearly impossible for Obama to pass health care and makes cuts in social security and medicare the price that must be paid for the Republican sponsored financial meltdown. How convenient.

(I didn't anticipate the cynical scare talk about Medicare, but I should have. It's perfect.)

The deficit mongers among the cognoscenti really do think that most Americans just don't understand the meaning of sacrifice. They are personally immune from such required lessons in suffering, of course, because they have plenty of money, thus proving they are responsible people who already make good decisions.


by digby

What the hell???

U.S. journalist Amy Goodman said she was stopped at a Canadian border crossing south of Vancouver on Wednesday and questioned for 90 minutes by authorities concerned she was coming to Canada to speak against the Olympics.

Goodman says Canadian Border Services Agency officials ultimately allowed her to enter Canada but returned her passport with a document demanding she leave the country within 48 hours.

Goodman, 52, known for her views opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, told CBC News on Thursday that Canadian border agents asked her repeatedly what subjects she would cover at scheduled speaking engagements in Vancouver and Victoria.

'You're saying you're not talking about the Olympics?'—Canadian border agent

Goodman said she told them she planned to speak about the debate over U.S. health care reform and the wars in Asia.

After much questioning, Goodman said the officials finally asked if she would be speaking about the 2010 Olympics.

"He made it clear by saying, 'What about the Olympics?'" said Goodman. "And I said, 'You mean when President Obama went to Copenhagen to push for the Olympics in Chicago?'"

"He said, 'No. I am talking about the Olympics here in 2010.' I said, 'Oh I hadn't thought of that,'" said Goodman.

"He said, 'You're saying you're not talking about the Olympics?'"

"He was clearly incredulous that I wasn't going to be talking about the Olympics. He didn't believe me," Goodman said.

What am I missing here?

Trouble In Wingnut Paradise

by digby

With the Dubai debt crisis on everyone's mind (and nobody knowing if it's going to have serious repercussions) I can't be the only one thinking about the infamous Dubai ports deal which the Bush administration was nearly desperately pushing just four years ago. You'll recall that it was see as some sort of necessary diplomatic initiative and that canceling it would result in a terrible rift with our allies. And he had tons of support:

Editorial support for the deal came from publications including the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Economist and commentators including Tony Snow,[8] Thomas Friedman,[9] Rush Limbaugh,[10] former president Jimmy Carter,[11] John Warner,[12] and Bill O'Reilly.[10]

Why did all these right wingers back the idea that this was an absolutely necessary agreement during a period of extreme anti-Arab paranoia? An email alerted me to this, from Matt Yglesias a while back:

Donna Wiesner Keese, from the Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative anti-feminist group, objected [to the notion that "an active and capable state sector is a necessary precondition for economic growth."]

Madrick’s statement, quoted by the reviewer, that “there really is no example of small government among rich nations,” is unsupported nonsense. Think Dubai, free and rich.

As Rick Hertzberg says this is a bit of a bizarre counterexample:

I mean no disrespect to the 240,000 citizens of Dubai (its other 1.2 million residents are imported workers, hundreds of thousands of whom live in “collective labor accommodations”), but is this the best Mrs. Keene can do? Not even a “nation” but a province of the United Arab Emirates, specializing in real-estate and financial-services bubbledom?

Yeah, I think it is their fantasy of a perfect nation. I recall being startled that one of the Real Housewives of Orange County (guilty pleasure) went on a romantic vacation with her wealthy uber-Republican husband to Dubai, wondering what in the world could possibly be romantic about the place. It is, after all, more ersatz than Vegas, with even less charm --- it's basically a shopping mall with extremely high-end fixtures. But obviously, they loved the place because they thought it was "free and rich," just like them. Of course it was only "free" in the sense that people think buying things with their credit cards is "free" and "rich" in the sense that Bernie Madoff was rich.

As Yglesias explains:

... I understand perfectly well why she describes it as “free” — it’s a straightforward consequence of the right-wing’s sick obsession with reducing the level of taxes rich people need to pay as the prime virtue of politics. For from being free, Dubai is ruled by a dictator, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, dignified with royal title in virtue of the fact that he inherited his political power from relatives rather than seizing it of his own accord. The State Department certainly doesn’t seem to think that his subjects, or those of the other UAE component emirates, are all that free.

Dubai is wingnut paradise.

And I look forward to seeing how they blame liberals for its downfall.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Best Thanksgiving Dinner Guests

by digby


It was a a fetching feast for the out-of-town guests.

Canned turkey with potatoes and carrots; duck and sweet potato dinners, and bagged pheasant meals were included in the spread laid out for about 50 dogs from puppy mills and shelters at DoGone Fun, 1717 S. State, on Thanksgiving Day. The dogs were on a layover in a trip from Missouri to New York in search of new homes.

Twenty of the dogs were rescued from puppy mills and considered unsaleable by their owners. The rest of the group was from a shelter in Joplin, Mo.

Their journey is part of a campaign by Best Friends Animal Society, based in Utah, to eliminate puppy mills that breed dogs under inhumane conditions.

The dogs, all small breeds and mixes, arrived in Chicago by truck. This morning , they'll fly first-class to New York, where there is greater demand for dogs their size.

Pet Airways is providing the flight. Wheeling-based Evanger's Dog & Cat Food Co. donated the chow for their Thanksgiving feast. Other groups, including the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, contributed chewy pigskin chips, dog snacks and toys.

They're publicizing this story because they want to remind people that if they're planning on getting a pup for Christmas they should adopt from shelters or approved breeders instead of buying them from puppy mills, which are cruel and horrible. These little guys hit the lottery, but most aren't so lucky.