Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Crooks that Killed Chrsyler

The greedy bastards who took out Chrysler have released a statement explaining their actions. Predictably, the cowards have not stepped forth to show their faces in the light of day, hiding instead behind the unsigned statement:

The group, which does not identify who they are but sources said includes boutique firm Perella Weinberg, hedge fund Stairway Capital and asset manager OppenheimerFund, said they had been “systematically precluded” from engaging in direct negotiations with the government, which they said had been largely done by four large banks that own 70 percent of the $6.9 billion in loans. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley have all agreed to the government’s offer of $2.25 billion, or 33 cents on the dollar, for the loans.
They wanted 60 cents on the dollar for their holdings, and expect that they will be paid in full if Chrsyler slides into bankruptcy.

I hope Congress passes legislation denying them any compensation (perhaps a narrowly tailored 99% tax on these proceeds is in order).

Remember: the American taxpayer is ponying up some $1.3 trillion to rescue the financial sector, and these financial sector crooks are unwilling to sacrifice 27 cents on the dollar.

The Evil That Hedge Funds Do

Chrysler will probably have to file for bankruptcy protection because a group hedge funds refused to go along with a needed restructuring plan that would have reduced the value of their Chrsyler holdings. If this is anything like the situation facing GM and its creditors, then GM and the American working man is in for a very bumpy ride, indeed as General Motors tries to restructure its debt.

This is the what greed does to America. We are daily asked to make sacrifices in the name of the defense of our country and the survival of our employers, but the men who hold the cash, the men who pull the strings would sooner let a great industry crash and burn, jeopardizing the future of our nation, than take a penny less on the dollar than they could otherwise.

(Via Wonkette)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Best. Floor Speech. EVAH!!!!!

Everyone bow before the incomparable awesome of Representative Michelle Bachmann:

Just to summarize: the years leading up to the stock market bubble that set off the Great Depression are a prime example of good, conservative, pro-growth, fiscal and economic policies which were undone when Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Hoot Smalley (sic.) act in 1930 and led America down the path of economic self-destruction.

This woman is... is.... Michelle Bachmann is the modern Republican Party!!!! God bless her ignorant soul!

(Via Stinque)

Rigid Catholicism for thee but not for me.

Mel Gibson, of Passion of the Christ fame, has divorced his wife and is now showing up to events with his new girlfriend.

Well... isn't that special.

GOP death spiral?

If there's one thing William Kristol can be counted on for it's to stare into a TV camera and lie. Even Kristol isn't stupid enough to think that Arlen Specter's defection to the Democratic party is anything less than a disaster for the GOP. Let me repeat that statement, because it's pretty momentous: even Bill Kristol isn't that stupid.

The GOP has a huge problem on its hands right now. Recent polls have shown that only 21% of Americans identify as Republicans, and the party seems to be doing everything in its power to shrink that number even further.

Consider what the GOP stands for and you'll see just how desperate its position really is:

1) Hypocrisy: this is probably the GOP's single greatest weakness right now. While loudly proclaiming itself the party of fiscal reponsibility, the GOP spent the last 8 years racking up an enormous load of debt, and then left Barack Obama with an economy on the verge of global collapse. And instead of offering mea culpas and working with the president to solve the problem it created, the GOP has been taking the path of obstructionism and trying desperately to wash its hands of it. How many times have you heard a GOP commenter insist that "it's Barack Obama's economy now"? But the electorate is not that stupid. You can't fix eight years of economic mismanagement in 100 days, nor does blame for current economic doldrums you created transfer to your successor as easily as GOP operatives would like. It'll be George Bush's economy for some time yet to come.

2) The War: America is stuck in Iraq and in Afghanistan in an awful quagmire of Bush, the GOP and their neoconservative allies' making. The war is draining our country of precious economic resources that could be used to shore up pensions, rescue home owners, save jobs and provide extended unemployment benefits at home. All the while the GOP has been assuring the American people of two self-contradictory propositions: (1) the war has been won and is a great success, and (2) a precipitous withdrawl would be disastrous for the nations we've occupied. In fact, the second proposition is far closer to the truth than the first. What kind of victory can you rightfully claim if it requires an extensive, expensive military occupation into the foreseeable future?

3) Intolerance: for the last 10 years or so the GOP has quite explicitly built its electoral strategy on stoking intolerance a fear of homosexuals. It is a nakedly bigoted play that has lost its currency with the younger generation of voters who are quite comfortable in the company of their gay friends and relatives. After all, the GOP and its defenders in intolerance have never been able to successfully argue the two central claims that drive their attacks on homosexual Americans: (1) that gay rights are "special rights" and (2) that gay marriage undermines heterosexual marriage. Defending these propositions requires a degree of sophistry so absurd, that the true motivation of conservatives is made only more plain by it: crude bigotry.

4) Torture: America is waking up from the daze of 9/11. With no quasi-Orwellian state apparatus hammering the Islamist threat into our heads and bombarding us with "orange level alerts" day in and day out, we are beginning to see what really happened that day. The attacks of September 11 were decidedly not the beginning of an existential struggle between the West, the forces of modernity, and a medieval, retrograde form of Islam. 9/11 was a one-shot deal by a well financed agent of hatred and his pathetic back-hills Islamic militia. The attack was spectacularly successful, true... something out of a movie. But the West was never under any real existential threat after the initial crime. Our military strength, our economic strength, and our democratic traditions guaranteed that Al Qaeda and groups like it would never amount to anything more than a small annoyance to us. And yet we treated and hyped the threat as if we were facing Hitler's vast mechanized armies in 1939. In fact, we were chasing after poorly organized bands of lightly armed desert nomads. The only way we could possibly lose that war was by losing sight of the true enemy, overreacting to the threat it posed and turning the Moslem masses against us. And that's exactly what we did under George W. Bush and the Republicans. We took our eye off of Afghanistan before capturing Osama Bin Ladin, and focused our attention on Saddam Hussein, a traditional, largely secular dictator who had nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11. And then, since we had convinced ourselves that western civilization was struggling for its very existence, we resorted to a systematic program of war crimes to produce a speedy victory. Instead we ended up alienating most of the world (not just the Arab world). And the whole time... in the background... unobserved by a government preoccupied with an ill conceived war... our economy was inching toward disaster.

5) Ideological Rigidity: Rush Limbaugh and his talk radio cohorts have become the de-facto heads of the Republican party, and their brand of conservatism is both psychotic and extreme, and their relentless quest for ideological purity has only shrunken the party's base. They've driven away the moderates and left only a shell of a party that is coextensive with an ignorant, biblical-fundamentalist minority mostly centered around the American South. The GOP snake is swallowing its own tail and it doesn't even realize it.

And that, is pretty much that. There's more that could be said (about health care, for instance, or job security) but it's all pretty much in the same vein and helps the GOP not a whit. The Republicans right now are screwed, and they did it without any help from outside their own ranks. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving bunch of folks.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No one does crazy...

No one does crazy quite like the GOP does crazy. It fits them like a well worn coat. Politico reports:

Dems in power during flu, Bachmann notes

It was only a matter of time before the CDC discovered an outbreak of Michele Bachmann quotes.

Bachmann, speaking on Pajamas TV, noted: "I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."

The 1976 swine flu scare happened on Gerald Ford's watch.

We checked Wikipedia.

Ford was a Republican.

Specter Makes it Official

Arlen Specter has switched parties! I know, I know... I'm the last blogger on Earth to report on this. Still, this is great news. I've had a great deal of respect for Specter since he began criticizing the Bush administration for its expansive view of the power of the executive branch at the height of the controversy of the wireless wiretapping controversy. The Daily Kos is not thrilled about this development, reasoning that Specter's seat was a surefire Democratic pickup in 2010.

In some ways, Specter's switch doesn't give us anything much. As his statement says, he's not switching back on EFCA, he won't be a reliable Democratic vote, and he'll probably duke it out with Lieberman to be the most obnoxious anti-Democratic voice from within the caucus.

On the other hand, he was going to lose his primary and we'd easily pick up the seat against Toomey, giving us a real Democrat in that seat. Doesn't seem like a great deal.

This move is about political survival, and nothing more. Specter's overriding concern is staying in the Senate, and he'll bend whatever conviction is necessary to make that happen. And since it was clear he wasn't going to survive a primary challenge, well, he did what he needed to do. I wouldn't be surprised, if the Dems pick up a good primary challenger to Specter, for the incumbent to suddenly re-find religion on EFCA. It's not as if Specter believes in anything beyond his title and choice parking spot near the Capitol.

I guess there's some truth to that, but in the immediate future, Specter's vote will be key to ensuring that President Obama's agenda moves forward before that time.

The right-wing of the blogosphere is predictably livid, seemingly unaware of the fact that the Republican party is dying a slow, painful death due to a combination of ideological intransigence, economic mis-managment, and unbelievable cynicism that they themselves are contributing to with their knee-jerk reactionary rantings.

I'll close out this post by quoting from my favorite bunch of clueless wingnuts broadcasting from "planet Corner." Contributor Mark Hemingway, comments:

RE: Arlen Specter [Mark Hemingway]

I read that he was switching parties, but I was disappointed to learn he's still a Democrat.

You just go on being dissappointed Specter's "still" a Democrat, Mr. Hemingway. And while you're at it, you might as well get used to a whole lot more dissappointment in the days, weeks and months to come.

My latest

My latest post is up on Stinque. It's a good one, if I may say so myself!

Monday, April 27, 2009

From the horse's mouth (or website, whatever...)

Is this Susan Collins' volcano monitoring fiasco? (Click on the image to enlarge)

(Seeing The Forest)

Oops... did I say that?

GOP Senator Susan Collins strips $800,000,000.00 in funding for pandemic-flu preparedness from Barack Obama's Economic Stimulus package:

One of the most distressing aspects of the reporting in the days leading up to passage of the $700 billion stimuls package was how the media allowed the GOP to determine and dictate just what government spending is "stimulative" and what spending is not.

In fact, injecting money into the economy is, in general, stimulative and one of the best ways to do this is to double your bang-for-buck payoff by spending the money on useful projects... like increased funding to prevent flu-pandemics like the one we are facing today.

So spending money on volcano monitoring is bad, as is spending money preventing flu pandemics. Apparently, the only thing Republicans think it important to protect us from is Saddam Hussein's imaginary WMDs.

(Via The Daily Kos)

The Nuremberg Syllogism

You've got to love the way the Right is trying to escape having to answer for eight years of illegal treatment of prisoners. I call their argument the Nuremberg syllogism, for the similarity it holds with the "I was just following orders" defense made famous at the Nazi war crimes trials. The syllogism goes like this:

Premise: You can’t prosecute a lawyer for simply doing his job and giving an opinion.
Premise: You can’t prosecute torturers who thought what they were doing was legal based on the opinion of the lawyers.
Ergo: You can’t prosecute anyone.

Repeat after me: I was just following orders. I was just following orders. I was just...

When "balance" is a lie

Teen aged acne can be handled in two ways:

a) The problem can be treated with ointments such as Clearasil or prescription medications like Acutane.

b) The problem can be solved through decapitation.

The difference between these two approaches is that one is a sensible way to treat the embarrassing, unsightly condition, whereas the other is insanity.

One would never expect a respectable news organization to treat these two options as "debatable" points of view deserving of equal and balanced consideration. Indeed, to do so would be to write an article more suited to the satirical humor periodical The Onion than a newspaper with serious pretensions to journalism. Indeed, I can imagine a rather humorous piece along those lines in the right hands. I cannot imagine a serious piece along those lines.

So one wonders how on Earth the New York times can maintain that the question remains unsettled as to whether the violent and criminal interrogation technique known as Waterboarding is anything other than a form of torture. Andrew Sullivan quotes the New York Times' Washington Editor Dough Jehl thus:

“I have resisted using torture without qualification or to describe all the techniques. Exactly what constitutes torture continues to be a matter of debate and hasn’t been resolved by a court. This president and this attorney general say waterboarding is torture, but the previous president and attorney general said it is not. On what basis should a newspaper render its own verdict, short of charges being filed or a legal judgment rendered?”
The problem with treating a long since answered question as still open, of course, is that one legitimizes the unjustifiable. The second you add a question mark at the end of the word "war crimes" you affect the culture in such a way that makes those crimes more palatable, more likely, more imaginable. But the crimes themselves are no less horrible. They are no less execrable. They are no less criminal.

What changes is you. You have become a facilitator, just as much a facilitator as the despicable lawyers who wrote sophistic opinions justifying the use of illegal techniques that the Administration wanted to use. Having a mob lawyer approve your crimes beforehand does not make you any less a criminal.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Birth of a Right-wing Meme

Clifford May echoes Marc Thiessen and and a right-wing meme is born: torture is OK when we do it to Muslims because their religion allows them to give up secrets once they have suffered as much pain as they can endure.

I fully expect them to insist, next, that Arabs do not have souls in the conventional sense.

It's difficult to express just how corrupt and immoral the GOP and its defenders have become of late.

Oh, no... RATIONING!!!

Charles Krauthammer thinks he's found the perfect way to put the fear of God into us when it comes to Barack Obama's health plans: write an article in which the word "rationing" is repeated as often as the English language allows. Ten times he warns us that Obama's universal coverage plans will involve rationing:

The hard part is Medicare and Medicaid. In an aging population, how do you keep them from blowing up the budget? There is only one answer: rationing.

Why do you think the stimulus package pours $1.1 billion into medical "comparative effectiveness research"? It is the perfect setup for rationing. Once you establish what is "best practice" for expensive operations, medical tests and aggressive therapies, you've laid the premise for funding some and denying others.

But this is a peculiar definition of "rationing." I'd always thought rationing was supposed to mean denying or postponing needed care based upon fiscal constraints. But for Krauthammer, "rationing" includes such reasonable ideas as focusing health spending on the most effective treatments and avoiding those that are less effective. Why anyone would oppose such a common sense approach to spending (and its common sense not only for health care spending, but for spending in general) I'm not sure. After all, is "comparative effectiveness research" really substantially different from a competitive bidding process, in which the government examins all bids (or in this case drugs) and chooses the one that meets design objectives (cures the disease) for the least amount of money?

Now, I will say that unlike most conservatives, Krauthammer is at least willing to admit that we have health care rationing in this country already. Sadly, the examples he gives of this are ludicrously rare:
Rationing is not quite as alien to America as we think. We already ration kidneys and hearts for transplant according to survivability criteria as well as by queuing.
OK, but what about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance? Why does Krauthammer completely ignore them? I'd say that's a far broader pool of individuals for whom rationing is not just a theoretical issue, people who often do without needed treatments or doctor visits because they simply cannot afford them.

Krauthammer's solution to our nation's health care crisis is, unsurprisingly, an absurd one, hardly worth wating time on. It boils down to... get ready for it: free market economics.
My own preference is for a highly competitive, privatized health insurance system with a government-subsidized transition to portability, breaking the absurd and ruinous link between health insurance and employment.
Krauthammer's solution is really a non-solution. He wants "portable" health insurance, which sounds nice until you realize that he just wants employers to be able to free themselves of the burden of providing health care for their employees. This cost, as Krauthammer notes, has proved ruinous to the U.S. economy by making our manufacturing sector uncompetitive (at least that's what I assume he means when he refers to the costs as ruinous). But why Krauthammer thinks that individuals with no group bargaining power could possibly afford health insurance that a business cannot is a mystery. I guess the magic of the free market will just make things "work out."

As with most conservative approaches to health care, Krauthammer's solution isn't. Personally, my sense is that conservatives want a "free market" solution knowing that once insurance companies are freed of all government constraint and regulation, they'll be able to cherry pick their customers, denying coverage to people with chronic illnesses or who have been shown genetically pre-disposed to expensive conditions, and offering cheap coverage to those who are healthy and likely to remain healthy. At any given time, most people will have cheap health insurance, but a sizable minority will be unable to afford any coverage at all. They will live miserable lives dealing with illnesses they cannot afford to treat, and bankrupting themselves between hospital visits. It's just that this pool of hapless victims will be too small to pose an electoral threat to the GOP. The conservative solution is basically just a heartless social Darwinism.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kiss the ring...

Missed this one yesterday. Another GOP legislator apologizes to Rush Limbaugh:

...Less than a week after calling conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh a mere "entertainer," the apology from Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Ks.) has arrived. Not only did Tiahrt deny any attempt to denigrate Limbaugh, Tiahrt's spokesman called Limbaugh a "great leader."

"The congressman believes Rush is a great leader of the conservative movement in America -- not a party leader responsible for election losses," the spokesman said, according to the Wichita Eagle. "Nothing the congressman said diminished the role Rush has played and continues to play in the conservative movement."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Marc Thiessen is not Insane (Ok, maybe just a little)

You may know George Orwell as the guy who wrote "War is Peace" and "Slavery is Freedom." Of course, Orwell wasn't espousing these absurd opinions, he was merely presenting them as examples of the sort of twisted rhetorical devices that authoritarian regimes use to consolidate and maintain their own power. What's different about the Neoconservatives in the Bush Administration is that when they insisted that "War is Peace" and "Slavery is Freedom," they actually mean it... or at least they want the rest of us to believe it.

One of the best example of Neocon absurdity was probably the moment our war in Iraq shifted from being directed against Saddam Hussein's presumed Weapons of Mass Destruction and focused instead on his Weapons of Mass Destruction Related Program Activities. The phrase was so outlandish it made Bill Clinton's attempt to re-define the word "is" at the height of the Lewinsky scandal seem like a perfectly reasonable philological exercise in comparison.

Another great rhetorical pirouette, which was repeated so many times it's etched in our collective foreheads was the president's simultaneous, categorical, insistence that the U.S. "does not torture," coupled with a steadfast refusal to say whether or not (a) the U.S. has ever water-boarded suspects, or (b) even whether water-boarding constitutes torture.

George Orwell was probably spinning in his grave when the camp commander at the prison facilities on Guantanamo Bay described the suicides of three prisoners as an act of asymmetrical warfare. You have to turn to Monty Python's the Life of Brian, and the Judean People's Front crack suicide squad to find something as absurd as that.

Now, thanks to the depraved meditations of Bush speechwriter Mark Thiessen, we can add another grand piece of rhetorical violence to the Bush legacy. You see, while the rest of the world looks on with horror and shock at the newly released evidence that the torture of captured Al Quaeda suspects was not only sanctioned under the Bush Administration, but was in fact employed with freewheeling abandon, Thiessen wants us to know that in watreboarding a suspect an average of six times a day for thirty days, we are actually doing the man a favor:

Critics claim that enhanced techniques do not produce good intelligence because people will say anything to get the techniques to stop. But the memos note that, "as Abu Zubaydah himself explained with respect to enhanced techniques, 'brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardship." In other words, the terrorists are called by their faith to resist as far as they can -- and once they have done so, they are free to tell everything they know. This is because of their belief that "Islam will ultimately dominate the world and that this victory is inevitable." The job of the interrogator is to safely help the terrorist do his duty to Allah, so he then feels liberated to speak freely.
That's right. Some lilly livered liberals think we're doing ourselves a disservice by torturing prisoners. But Mark Thiessen wants you to know that, quite to the contrary, by subjecting a man to physical and psychological horrors that are outlawed by the Geneva conventions and deplored by all civilized nations (and even our own state department when it is others who do it) we are in fact "freeing" our prisoners to speak openly and tell us all they know (or just make shit up so we'll stop tortuiring them... but really, that's neither here nor there) without fear of divine retribution in the afterlife.

I mean... the masked interrogators who beat prisoners boud in sleeping bags, water-boarded them, forced them to lie naked for days in freezing jail cells, sicked dogs on them occasionally went a little too far, are practically bleeding-heart humanifuckingtarians who probably deserve the Medal of Freedom, if not the Nobel Peace Prize for their selfless endeavors.

Let's all thank Mark Thiessen for reminding us of this important point that is all to easily overlooked in this whole "torture is bad" hysteria.

(This essay is cross-posted to Stinque)

Mickey Kaus doesn't know how to read

Mikey Kaus' latest blog post is really quite peculiar. Slate's conservative blogger responds to a post by Ezra Klein in which Klein lauds Eliot Spitzer for spotting early and working to combat some of the abusive lending practices that helped lead to the current financial meltdown. Here's the passage from Klein's post that Kaus quotes:

Unfortunately, our belief in the importance of equal opportunity and nondiscrimination is too often forgotten when it comes to the debate over whether and how to police the market for home mortgages. In poor and working-class communities across the nation, predatory mortgage lending has become a new scourge. Predatory lending is the practice of imposing inflated interest rates, fees, charges, and other onerous terms on home mortgage loans--not because the imperatives of the market require them, but because the lender has found a way to get away with them. These loans (which are often sold as refinance or home improvement mechanisms) are foisted on borrowers who have no realistic ability to repay them and who face the loss of their hard-won home equity when the all-but-inevitable default and foreclosure occurs. ...[snip]

In these circumstances, government must step in to curb predatory lending and encourage the flow of fairly priced capital to sectors where it is needed and will be well-used. Filling a gap left by federal inaction, state enforcement efforts in this arena have centered on identifying the valid economic criteria considered in mortgage underwriting and compelling lenders to focus on those factors--not on preconceptions, prejudices, or predatory instincts--in determining how to price home mortgage loans. The point is not to protect people from their own bad decisions or, conversely, to guarantee that mortgages be granted to specific persons or groups on specific terms--that would violate the principle of market freedom. The point is to support equal opportunity and to ensure that borrowers are charged rates and fees based upon their status and qualifications as economic actors in the mortgage market, not upon their diminished access or market savvy or their race.

And here's Kaus' peculiar rebuttal:
You make the call ... but I say Klein's easily impressed. What's Spitzer saying here? Is he saying the lenders shouldn't make these loans or that they should make these loans on more favorable terms--in which case the loans would have been even bigger money losers, leading to a bigger meltdown, no? Spitzer invokes the threat of action against "race" discrimination without any sense that official pressure toward affirmative-action style lending would help cause the subsequent mortgage collapse....
Now, call me dense, but how in the world can you assume, as Kaus does, that Spitzer's proposed solutions would have led to an even worse financial meltdown when Spitzer explicitly criticizes martgage lenders who made loans that borrowers could not possibly repay:
"These loans (which are often sold as refinance or home improvement mechanisms) are foisted on borrowers who have no realistic ability to repay them and who face the loss of their hard-won home equity when the all-but-inevitable default and foreclosure occurs."
And when Spitzer demands that lenders make loans that reflect a borrower's ability to repay, rather than his desperation in the face of widespread red-linning:
The point is to support equal opportunity and to ensure that borrowers are charged rates and fees based upon their status and qualifications as economic actors in the mortgage market, not upon their diminished access or market savvy or their race.
I'm at a loss to explain this, other than to say that Kaus is so blinded by opposition to anything that smacks of "affirmative action" that he is unable to digest the actual substance of such a proposal.

Monday, April 20, 2009

In the bag

Sarah Palin and her supporters are now mobilizing against the nomination of Kansas governor Kathleen Sibelius for secretary of Health and Human Services. This can only mean one thing: her nomination is now pretty much assured.

We can move on to other things.


The release by the Obama administration last week of Bush administration memos related to so-called "harsh interrogation techniques" has got the blogosphere in a frenzy. It is amusing, if also depressing, to watch the Right tying itself in knots alternately claiming that the memos are a vindication of the Bush administration's interrogation policies, while insisting that their release damages national security. This peculiar argument rests on the idea that if potential terrorists are aware of the fact that we treat our detainees with kid gloves, they will be emboldened in their actions. The irony, of course, is that this mirrors what are assumed to be Saddam Hussein's motives for not forcefully disclosing the fact that Iraq possessed no chemical weapons: if regional enemies knew this to be the case, his own power and prestige would suffer. The argument is absurd on many levels, not the least of which is that it is pretty clear, from the number of detainees who died in U.S. custody that our interrogrators did not even adhere to the limitations outlined in the memos that have been thus far released. It is very doubtful that potential enemies will be emboldened by anything released thus far.

On the other hand, the benefits of this information release are palpable. A truth commission would probably do more to restore American prestige in the global community, but this release is certainly a good start and a welcome sign of transparency in the face of eight decidedly Orwellian years of double-speak and non-denial denials of the nation's torture policies.

Now, as part of this information release, we have news that one high-value prisoner was waterboarded some 180 times in one month, while another was waterboarded just under half that many times. These are figures that shock the conscience. A single instance of waterboarding is enough to convict an interrogator of torture, but how does one begin to comprehend waterboarding a man an average of six times a day for one whole month? Andrew Sullivan has a very good post on the implications of this new information, especially as it pertains to the propaganda and disinformation campaign that the Bush administration launched surrounding these techniques. Sullivan quotes the following paragraph from a National Review article on the subject by contributor Deroy Murdoch:

U.S. and Pakistani authorities captured KSM on March 1, 2003 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. KSM stayed mum for months, often answering questions with Koranic chants. Interrogators eventually waterboarded him — for just 90 seconds. KSM “didn’t resist,” one CIA veteran said in the August 13 issue of The New Yorker. “He sang right away. He cracked real quick.” Another CIA official told ABC News: “KSM lasted the longest under water-boarding, about a minute and a half, but once he broke, it never had to be used again.”
Clearly the Administration had CIA officials leaking disinformation to the news media, and the news media, of course, reported these lies with little investigation as to their factual basis. There is no way to reconcile "it never had to be used again" with the knowledge we now have that this prisoner was actually waterboarded over one hundred an eighty times.

And it's not like the previous administration's defenders have changed their tune or changed their methods. Consider this compilation of Fox News reaction to the release of these memos:

Pay particular attention to announcer Steve Doocie around minute 00:35 saying: "The stories are that those bad guys spilled some beans that saved some lives." That is supposed to be journalism? Relying, not even unnamed or anonymous sources, but on "stories," or, in other words, rumors? It's nothing short of pathetic; a naked propaganda offensive thinly disguised as journalism.

John Boehner hs no idea what he's talking about

Please hop on over to Crook and Liars and watch the video in the post I link to here. It is part of an interview of House Minority Leader John Boehner by George Stephanopolous. In this segment, Stephanopolous quizzes Boehner on the Republican plan to combat greenhouse gases and global warming.

There are a few things about this clip that are deeply disturbing. The first is Boehner's complete cluelessness on the issue of climate change. It is clear from a few basic error of fact in his responses that he has spent less than fifteen minutes of his life reviewing the science behind global warming.

The first of his stunning errors is the claim that carbon dioxide is not a carcinogen. It's not that he is wrong on this point, it's that the point is completely irrelevant. Global warming has nothing whatsoever to do with carcinogens, and one wonders whether Boehner even knows what a carcinogen is when he begins blathering about it. Carcinogens are substances which are known to cause cancer. Why Boehner thinks that carcinogens are relevant to the global warming debate is a complete mystery.

The second basic error of fact is Boehner's claim that cows release carbon dioxide through their digestive process and this is a major contributor to global warming. In fact, the major greenhouse gas they release is methane. So clearly Boehner is not up on even the most basic climate-change science. Of course, methane released by farming is a huge problem for our planet's climate. Indeed, the warming effect of methane is much worse than that of carbon dioxide. What is odd is that Boehner (along with many climate change apologists) seems to think that because this gas is released by cows, the problem is not ultimately, man made. And yet these cows are raised on farms for meat production. It is very much a man made problem.

Finally, if anything stands out about this interview other than Boehner's abject scientific illiteracy, it is a complete lack of ideas on the GOP's part for dealing with climate change. It is like pulling teeth as Stephanopolous tries to extract a plan of some sort from Boehner, and in the end the best Boehner can do is to promise that a plan is coming.

If there's any question as to why the GOP is largely irrelevant to most Americans under the age of 30, clips like these help provide the answer.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Uh, oh.... James Dobson and Focus on the Family are not going to be happy with this one. Seems God created a whole species of single-sexed lesbiants!!!

Why does God hate family values?

Finally: a conservative budget alternative!

Alan Keyes offers his solution to the country's budget and economic crisis:

I pulled Keyes aside before his speech and asked him what he would do if he were Obama. "If I were in Obama's position, first thing I'd do is show us his birth certificate. That's what I'd do. I'd put to rest the shadow of illegitimacy that hangs over his presidency in the minds of people all over this country."
Bah! And liberals derisively insist that Republicans cynically exploit anger at president Obama's budget proposals without offering any real solutions of their own. Why, there's a perfectly reasonable and detailed solution right there!

Lookin' good, there... lookin' sharp.

The New York Times brings us a story detailing how to look good while commuting on a bicycle. (Hint: it helps to be a model)


My latest post is up on Stinque.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quote of the day:

"With fascism the definition of it is big business and government getting in bed together."

A Fox News reporter explains to viewers that the definition of fascism is "big business and government getting in bed together," a phenomenon that has been completely absent from the American Political landscape until Barack Obama took office.

And here's the video courtesy of the Daily Kos:

How do you take your FAIL?

Do you take it with cream and sugar?

There will be no tea-dumping in the Potomac River -- that's illegal -- but organizers of today's national tea party tax protest found out this morning that so is their plan to dump a million tea bags in Lafayette Square to demonstrate displeasure at government spending and tax policies.

Protesters, using a rented truck to haul the million tea bags, began unloading their cargo at the park this morning but were told by officials that they didn't have proper permits and must move the tea. They complied with the order but are still considering what to do with the load.
Of course, the Teabaggers are not pleased at this unjust intrusion of government into their lives:
The protest organizers were struggling to get the event together. They had originally planned to unload a rented truck filled with a million tea bags into the park, but were stopped by officials because they didn’t have a permit. A woman in charge of the protest announced that the right-wing Competitive Enterprise Institute had generously agreed to display the tea bags at its headquarters a few blocks away. She also said that there were originally supposed to be two stages with events, but the metropolitan police had blocked them from putting a stage on the sidewalk. A woman standing next to me leaned over and said, “That’s big government for you!”
Because obviously, if America were run by a government that was truly of the people and for the people it would be perfectly legal to dump 1,00,000 bags of tea anywhere you jolly please.

In Honor of the Tea Parties

In honor of today's protests:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Fox Modus Operandi

Crooks and Liars brings us this segment of Fox News host Stuart Varney (standing in for Neil Cavuto) "interviews" OpEdNews editor Steve Lesser on the question of the authenticity of the various conservative "tea parties" that are taking place around the country, especially tomorrow, April 15th. I put the word "interviews" in scare quotes because it is, in fact, a real stretch to call the piece an interview. Rather, it was Varney lecturing Lesser and shoting over him every time Lesser tries to get a word in edgewise. A real journalist should interrupt his guests only rarely, and principally to ensure that the guest keeps on topic. Yet Varney jumps in pretty much as soon as Lesser begins explaining his position on any one of the issues that Varney brings up.

Varney's counter-claims, meanwhile are patently absurd. Most striking among them is the insistence that our country's budgetary problems "only became apparent" over the last six weeks or so. Apparently, Varney failed to notice the doubling of the national debt over the last 8 years. I'm also puzzled by Varney's claim that some people are seeing 50% of their income devoured by taxes, as well as his attempt to lay the evisceration of American's retirement savings at the feet of the current administration. If your 401k is worth only half what it was worth last April, it certainly isn't Obama's fault. Indeed, the stock market is now roughly where it was when Obama took office in January. It is still some 6000 points below where it was at its height, two years ago. That 6000 point drop occurred under the Bush administration. And of course, Varney is quite content to lie about Obama's tax plans, insisting that a "vast increase in taxes... will reach down all levels of society" without providing any explanation for just how a tax increase on individuals making over $250,000 a year, coupled with a tax cut for individuals making less than $200,000 will translate into a tax increase on everyone.

All in all, this interview is pretty typical of what Fox News has become of late. Whatever thin pretense to fairness the network may once have maintained (no matter how transparently false) it has surely shed by now.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Another world

A poll on Americans' perceptions of various parts of the country and the world, recently conducted by the Daily Kos, is really pretty stunning in its conclusions. The poll asked participants to rate how they felt about the cities of San Francisco and New York, the country of France and the continent of Europe. The results for Southern Americans are a sad testament to that regions' collective paranoia, its provincialism and its own insecurities. It's not just that Southerners viewed these regions more negatively than all the other demographics who were polled, but that they did so consistently by at least a 10% margin (and sometime much more) over all other groups. To put that in perspective: Southerners had a worse opinion of San Francisco than did Republicans as a whole, and they did so by ten percentage points: 48% to 58%.

Sometimes you get the sense that the American South is another world: poorer, less well educated, less just, and seething with resentments. No doubt the regions' theocratic impulses contribute greatly to this sad state of affairs.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Arnold Kling does not understand the concept of insurance

Arnold Kling reacting to a piece by Ezra Kline writes:

My view of the American health care system is that it hardly rations health care at all. That is why we spend so much more than other countries. I wish we put more responsibility on individuals. Instead, we have this delusion that we cannot possibly afford health care if we pay for it individually, but of course we can afford it if we pay for it collectively.
What's the fallacy in Kling's logic? The fallacy, quite simply, is that Kling does not understand the idea of shared risk. He does not understand the purpose of insurance. He does not understand why the collective might want to pay for services that are rendered, at any given time, only to a subset of that collective.

Medical treatment is expensive, and in many cases, treatments may prove too expensive for any one individual to afford. But accidents and illnesses are also somewhat random in their distribution across a population. Therefore, by creating a risk pool and having all members of that pool pay into it, society can ensure that the unlucky few who are stricken by disease or who are injured in an accident can pay for the medical treatment they need.

The question is not whether a "collective" can afford medical treatments that individuals cannot (this issue has been settled beyond dispute, and it is embarrassing to have to explain a concept so basic and trivial as "insurance" to an economist like Kling) the issue is whether a scheme of private, non-mandatory insurance coverage can do the job more effectively than a public, government-run, single-payer system.

(Note: This piece has been cross-posted to Stinque).

Quote for the day

"I think you might be confusing tyranny with losing."
Comedy Central's Daily Show host John Stewart, commenting on the certifiably insane rantings of the right-wing commentariat, who are portraying the actions of the Obama administration as America's version of Mao's cultural revolution.. but worse... much, much worse. Crooks and liars has the full video.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Justice on the March

The Vermont legislature has just voted to override that state's Republican governor's veto of legislation extending the human right of marriage to gay couples.:

The Legislature voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry. The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. Under Vermont law, two-thirds of each chamber had to vote for override.

The vote came nine years after Vermont adopted its first-in-the-nation civil unions law.

It's now the fourth state to permit same-sex marriage. Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa are the others. Their approval of gay marriage came from the courts.

At the same time, in Nevada, that state's Republican governor reminds us what "family values" means for Republicans and how far they are willing to fight to buttress the institution of marriage by cheating on his wife with two separate women, including a former Playboy bunny:

RENO, Nev. — First lady Dawn Gibbons accuses Gov. Jim Gibbons in divorce papers of having extramarital affairs with a former Playboy magazine model and another woman to whom he sent hundreds of text messages last year. The Republican governor has been untruthful about his "infidelity" with the two women, his estranged wife says in a divorce filing, which was unsealed Monday by a court order in Washoe County Family Court.

The governor has insisted both women were just friends. He filed for divorce last May, citing "incompatibility" with his wife. The couple had been married since 1986.

And, in case you didn't know it, Newt Gingrich, who has been married three times, has just converted to Catholicism, a Christian denomination that strictly prohibits divorce unless you're famous.

A New Venue

Recently I was invited to contribute to the group blog Stinque, and I have accepted. I am blogging under the handle: Serolf Divad. If the volume of posts on this blog seems to have decreased lately it's because I'm also posting there. You can see my latest entry by clicking here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Fragile Peace

Six car bombs went off in Iraq today, killing some 30 people in a coordinated attack aimed at predominantly Shiite population centers near Baghdad.

American and Iraqi officials have attributed a recent spike in attacks to insurgents, militia fighters and criminals seeking to exploit the gradual withdrawal of American soldiers from positions in cities, including Baghdad, before a June deadline set by the new security agreement between the United States and Iraq. Monday’s wave of bombings occurred three days before the April 9 anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government six years ago, a day that evokes wildly divergent emotions among Iraqis. Those who remain loyal to Mr. Hussein’s Baath Party view it as the beginning of a war against occupation. April 7 is the anniversary of the party’s founding in Iraq.
Am I the only one who's surprised by how little attention this event is getting? I think it's far more important and far more ominous than even the death toll would suggest. A coordinated attack involving six different car bombs reveals a level of organization and a breadth to the militant Sunni opposition that could presage seriously violent times ahead for that nation once U.S. troops begin to withdraw.

On a political level, once our inevitable military draw-down begins, a rise in violence is going to be presented by the neo-conservatives as prima-facie evidence that Obama is bungling our policy toward Iraq. In point of fact, though, what it reveals is that Bush's "victory" in that nation is a largely superficial one. How successful can the war truly be said to have been if the stability of the post-war democratic order requires an endless commitment of U.S. military resources and manpower, along with the concomitant cost to the U.S. treasury, to sustain?

What it seems to me is undeniable is that getting out of Iraq is going to be a whole lot more difficult and expensive than we might hope.

Quote for the day

"Everything he's done has been about as far left as you can get."
(Quoted from memory.)

Morning Joe Anchor, Joe Scarborough a (est.) 6:00 am today, commenting on the Obama Administration and the lack of bi-partisanship in Washington.

This morning I went to the gym and, as I usually do, plopped myself down on a running machine in front of a TV showing MSNBC. It was around 6:00 am that Scarborough made the above statement, which I am quoting from memory. The words are probably not exact, but they are close enough for our purposes. If I find a transcript later on I'll correct it.

Sarborough's comment was brought on by a new poll which broke down Barack Obama's approval ratings by party affiliation. It is, of course, a nakedly partisan, patently abusrd claim. It's hardly even worth refuting. One need only point to the tax cuts that were in the initial stimulus package, as well as the fact that the banking and automotive sectors remains private to put the lie to this claim. But the comment is worth noting if for no other reason than that it shows the desperation of those on the Right who are, essentially, watching history happen from the sidelines and gazing with fear, anger and trepidation at an astonishingly popular president who appears to be very ably and deliberately mending the damage that they did to our country over the past eight years. It can't be easy to beat your chest, tear at your hair, wail and moan about what a terrible job Obama is doing, even as the stock market rebounds, the housing sector begins showing new signs of life, and vast sectors of our economy take the necessary steps to regain their footing.

One of the most reassuring signs that Obama is on the right track is when Republicans start saying things like: "The economy will rebound in spite of, not because of the president's policies." And they've been saying that for a while now. Statements like those are an implicit admission of their party's failure and the President's success.

I do believe that four years from now it's not going to be easy to be a Republican. The economy will be on a much surer footing than today. People will regain much of their sense of optimism. Jobs will be plentiful. And the GOP will still be off on the sidelines trying to take credit for it all, despite the fact that they voted unanimously against all of the presiden't major initiatives. "The economy improved depite the Presiden't misguided policies, not because of them" we'll hear the GOP leadership protesting. But their excuses will ring hollow, and a grateful nation will elect our current president to another four years term in office.

That's my prediction from where I'm standing right now, at any rate.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Joke's on you, my friend.

Sometimes an April Fools joke is just... well... inspired.

Such is the case of online retailer Think Geek's April Fool's offering of a Star Wars themed "Tauntaun carcass" sleeping bag. The product description explains:

Use the glowing lightsaber zipper pull on the Tauntaun sleeping bag to illustrate how Han Solo saved Luke Skywalker from certain death in the freezing climate of Hoth by slitting open the belly of a dead Tauntaun and placing Luke inside the stinking (but warm) carcass.
And here's a picture of the sleeping bag in all its glory:

Well, guess what... demand for the fake product was apparently overwhelming, so Think Geek is now in contact with Lucasfilm to see if they can license and market the product! Doh!

It's usually Star Trek fans (Trekkies) whose obsession surpasses all bounds taste, but don't count out the Star Wars geeks just yet!

(p.s. I weep for the 8-year-old whose father forces him to sleep in one of these things. It's gotta be a veritable nightmare factory.)

(Via Crooks and Liars)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Meteoric rise, ignoble end.

Silicon Graphics, a onetime high-flying star of the tech sector with annual revenues in the $4 billion range has been sold for half the price of Citigroup's new Corporate Jet.

A little sanity?

A little sanity injected into our nation's Cuba policy? Oh, please let it be so!

A bipartisan group of senators predicted Tuesday that Congress was ready to pass legislation to allow all Americans to travel to Cuba.

Removing the travel ban would produce a burst of tourism, create thousands of jobs and generate as much as $1.6 billion in business a year, an independent research group said.
Only the Cuban-American lobby and its supporters remain unconvinced:
Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) strongly opposes the measure. He warned that flooding Cuba with tourists and dollars would only sustain the Castro regime.
The Cuban revolution was in 1959. It is now 2009. That's fifty long years that angry Cuban ex-pats have been assuring the nation that restricting the rights of American citizens to travel where they see fit would bring Democracy to Cuba. They've had 50 years to try their experiment and have shown no results. I say it's high time we try something else. You can't bring free elections to Cuba by restricting freedom at home.

Krugman loosens his choke-hold (a bit).

" Whoville they say that the Krugman's small heart grew three sizes that day."

OK, I exaggerate, but it is nice to have Paul Krugman at least acknowledge the political realities that confront the Obama administration as it attempts to put our nation back on the right track:

To be fair: the Obama team really does face huge political obstacles in doing the right thing. Maybe it really can’t be done; as Rahm Emanuel said about me, “[unprintable]."
Unlike Republican critics of the administration's plans and proposals, I do think Paul Krugman's objections are genuine and well founded. However, it's been difficult to stomach his relentless hammering of the Administration; a barrage of criticism that, 'till now, has seemed blissfully unconcerned with the fact that the President's power is not that of an autocrat.

Thank you, Mr. Krugman. You may now return to your regularly scheduled party pooping.