Sunday, May 31, 2009

In fairness to these particular cro-magnons...

Watertiger finds a comment from the "cro-magnons at Red State" with the headline "Killing Tiller was the ethical thing to do". The argument is exactly what one would expect: abortion = murder, therefore his death will prevent more murders.

Now Watertiger probably threw up in her mouth when she (I'm pretty sure it's a she) read this great conservative thinker compare Tiller's assassin to Rosa Parks, but that really is a logical analogy within the "pro-life" worldview. I would rather the implications of that worldview be out in the open for everyone to be revolted by than hidden behind milquetoast hand-wringing Ross Douthat bullshit.


I know this sounds dreadfully shrill, and that the U.S. government has done lots of nasty things, etc., but there hasn't been nearly the "owning up" to what is going on here that there should have been:

There are, admittedly, people currently in U.S. custody who can't be prosecuted for past crimes because the Bush administration made such a mess of things — detaining them without counsel or trial, torturing them, and so forth. Under a just system of laws, they would have to be released even if they are a likely threat, but Barack Obama doesn't believe in the principle of law enough to do that. Instead, he intends to construct a "system" or "legal regime" in which preventative detention becomes a standard for people who can't be tried but who are suspected of being a threat some time in the future — in effect, a "legal regime" of "precrime" where people are imprisoned for crimes they haven't committed yet.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jeffrey Rosen can suck it

Obama nominates Sonia Sotomayor to Supreme Court. This is of course a great moment for liberals, women, hispanics, and anyone who likes to see The New Republic get embarrassed.

The confirmation hearings should be fun. Get to watch the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee as they come up with as many ways as they can to accuse her of deciding cases based on her womanly feelings.

Scott Lemieux just posted this video of Pamela Karlan, whom he was holding out hope for. I can see why!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

No longer pro-America?

I remember when it used to bother the wingnuts when Middle Eastern countries would defy the wishes of the U.S. president:

Blowing off a U.S. President is not an easy thing for an Israeli government to do. The Netanyahu government deserves credit for doing just that, so far.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nickname history

Some folks hate the nickname "K-Rod" for Francisco Rodriguez. It sounds pretty corny to me too. It's a relic of the "first initial, hyphen, first syllable of surname" format that started really going viral in the early '00s.

Of course, "K" is not Francisco's first initial. But the reason it was used instead of "F" is not just because he K's a lot of batters. It's because when he came up there was already an F-Rod. Felix Rodriguez was a dominating setup man and later closer for the San Francisco Giants. I'm sure if it hadn't been for him Frankie would be F-Rod.

Maybe Simon et al would find that just as annoying, but I wouldn't want this important historical context to go un-added.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Steve Phillips doesn't know what he's talking about

I can't believe the Mets ever let this clown run the team:

If the Mets don't make the playoffs, I firmly believe they need to reconfigure the core of this team. While Beltran does have talent, I just don't see him as a winning player. Even after my comments on Sunday night, Beltran let a fly ball drop in between himself and Angel Pagan in the Dodger game. I see him putting up numbers but not making plays to win games. I would take Torii Hunter, Grady Sizemore, Curtis Granderson, and Nate McLouth over Beltran, and use the financial difference to improve the team in other ways. Beltran isn't a $17 million dollar a year player. He just doesn't have the kind of impact for that kind of money.

Hey Steve-o, if I were responsible for the Mo Vaughn signing I would keep my mouth shut about the ephemeral "winning" quality that Carlos Beltran supposedly lacks. And if the Mets don't win, your solution is to get rid of the best players? Think for a minute about how stupid that makes you.

h/t Amazin' Avenue

Hysterical Cheney-fluffing from Mittens

The Romney-tron 2012 is not programmed for shame:

Vice President Cheney has been the target of every media [sic], from mainstream to comic. But he spoke today as before without regard to the politics but with abiding respect for the truth. Barack Obama is still hanging on to the campaign trail. He said that the last thing he thinks about when he goes to sleep at night is keeping America safe. That's a big difference with Vice President Cheney—when it came to protecting Americans, he never went to sleep.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When video game metaphors go wrong

The Daily News has a decidedly unflattering piece on Eliot Spitzer. Newly released records confirm that when former governor Spitzer was being investigated for the Troopergate scandal, he wasn't at all happy about it. Towards the end he's quoted calling the Inspector General "one more little Pac-Man participating in this fishing expedition."

Now, the investigator-as-fisherman metaphor is tried and true and probably goes back millenia, because it makes sense. It suggests that what the investigator is looking for (i.e. incriminating evidence) will be difficult to find, and that even if he is able to produce any at all, it will only have been thanks to his strenuous effort and dumb luck, rather than because such evidence was abundant.

But investigator-as-Pac-Man? To me that sounds like a guilty man who knows he's been caught. Does Pac-Man have speculate as to the existence or whereabouts of white dots? Does Pac-Man have to blackmail a green dot into passing itself off as a white dot so he can get points for it? No. Pac-Man is completely surrounded by the white dots he craves. He can run free in any direction and stuff himself with dots until he runs out of real estate, then hang a left and gobble up some more. It's just a question of route optimization. He's not on some fool's errand for some "alleged" dots that he's only looking for because he wants to embarrass Eliot Spitzer.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

InstaKaus worries about U.S. Attorney politicization

Kaus P.S.s:

Will Obama rescue John Edwards by replacing the U.S. Attorney who is investigating him? ... If he does, will Josh Marshall kick up a fuss about it? ... [Thanks to alert reader R.H. ... See also Insta]

When you hold your nose and see also "Insta" you get an excerpt from the same story and the rhetorical question:

If Republicans were doing this, would it be a scandal?

Of course, what's actually being done is... very little. Nothing, in fact. Not only has the U.S. attorney in question not been fired, to protect John Edwards or for any other reason, but the only reason to think he will be soon is because U.S. attorneys are frequently replaced when a new administration takes over. In fact the story notes that by historical standards Obama has been taking his sweet time replacing the Bush-appointed USAs, including this guy Holding who continues to investigate two high profile Democrats.

The News Observer ran with the headline "Democrats fix sights on GOP prosecutor" without any actual evidence that they are doing so (i.e. singling out this particular USA for removal). They mention that junior senator Kay Hagan has been tasked with finding a replacement for Holding, and imply that she has Democratic sympathies, but there's literally nothing connecting any part of the U.S. Attorney process to the investigations of John Edwards or former governor Mike Easley.

Don't get me wrong, if an analogous situation arose in which it became clear that the Obama administration were axing U.S. attorneys for prosecuting Democrats or not prosecuting Republicans, as the Bush administration did, that would be very bad. It's just that as far as we know it hasn't, um, happened yet.

Annals of improbable claims

No way was Karen Hughes "very vocal in the internal debate [about torture]," nor did she openly worry "about how that would make us look in the eyes of the world." I just don't buy it. Sorry. Her eyes would go all spirally when she was flacking for W. Unless she can produce a memo like Philip Zelikow I will remain unable to imagine her speaking truth to power back in the salad days of the GWOT.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Obama disposes of Huntsman threat

Jon Huntsman, who as the rare more-or-less-sane Republican was seen as a potentially formidable 2012 challenger, will resign as governor of Utah and become Obama's ambassador to China.

In light of this, I'm wondering what the GOP ticket in 2012 is going to look like. My prediction: Crazy and extremely unlikely to win.


Friday, May 15, 2009

From the Daily Show to the WH Briefing Room

The absurdity of Obama's positions on the torture photos (He wants to conceal them because their publication might endanger the troops) and Don't Ask Don't Tell (He's okay with qualified Arabic translators getting fired because they're openly gay) hadn't struck me until Jon Stewart and his British sidekick did this bit on it last night:

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Then today, Robert Gibbs gets the following line of questioning at the daily briefing:

Q: Well, the President says that releasing the detainee photos poses a danger to our troops, but doesn’t dismissing otherwise qualified soldiers also pose a danger? Is it a question of degree?

MR. GIBBS: No, no. What I talked about in terms of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was the President—the President, as you know, supports changing that because he strongly believes that it does not serve our national interest. He agrees with former members of the Joint Chiefs in that determination.

But unlike photos, the only durable solution to “don’t ask, don’t tell” is through a legislative process, and the President is working with Congress and members of the Joint Chiefs to ensure that that happens.

Q: But couldn’t he in the meantime put a moratorium on these discharges until that can be accomplished?

MR. GIBBS: But again, the President has determined that that’s not—that’s not the way to seek any sort of lasting or durable solution to the public policy problem that we have.

Q: Then how would you respond to the criticism, though, that dismissing a qualified linguist endangers the troops?

MR. GIBBS: I think I would respond by saying that the President has long believed that the policy doesn’t serve our national interest.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Get over yourself

Behold as Marc Ambinder takes the White House Correspondents dinner, and his own role as its interpreter, more seriously than you can possibly imagine:

I thought the rest of Sykes' routine was quite funny and well thought-out, a mixture of her own modern Carlin-esque form and enough insider references to show us that she did her homework and took her assignment seriously.

Recapitulating all of this is necessary because the post-mortems inevitably become part of our partisan heritage.

Outrageous liberal journalists chose an outrageous liberal who shared their views and who CLEARLY LAUGHED at her libelous joke about Rush Limbaugh... and see, see, see the President smirking? See how coarse Obama has made our political culture? Etc. Etc.

I cringed at least once during each of these short paragraphs, and it's a long post. The patting Wanda Sykes on the head for "doing her homework" was, for me, the most eye-popping.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Mets beat Phillies for their 4th straight

Having found the Mets' season more than a little frustrating to this point, I enjoyed seeing our best hitters tee off on poor old Jamie Moyer. It did get a little close at the end there after the Jayson Werth (I learned via Twitter that the chant I couldn't quite identify on TV but saw was making Reyes laugh was "Jay-son Worth-less") two-run home run, but Frankie shut the door like he's supposed to.

As nice as it is to be back above .500, the state of the rotation is still such that I'm actually looking forward to the return of Tim Redding. That's something I never wanted to write.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mayor Bloomberg on bongos

If this doesn't scare Weiner out of the race, I don't know what will.


Greinke looking like Pedro in his prime

Orel Hershiser makes a comparison that had occured to me, looking at Zack Greinke's early season line:

6-0, 45.0 IP, 2 ER, 8 BB, 54 K, 0 HR, 0.40 ERA

Pretty exciting. I had been a big believer when he first came up at an extremely young age. Then he became mentally ill and, possibly as a result, awful. Having come back from that, his 2008 was quite good but still not good enough to suggest he'd suddenly become untouchable. Yet that is what seems to have happened.

Gonna make Atrios's head explode

The opening to the New York Times article on $33.9 billion being necessary to keep Bank of America solvent:

Executives sparred with the government over the amount, which is higher than executives believed the bank needed. But J. Steele Alphin, the bank’s chief administrative officer, said Bank of America would have plenty of options to raise the capital on its own before it would have to convert any of taxpayer money into common stock, a move that would effectively increase the government’s holdings in the troubled bank.

We’re not happy about it because it’s still a big number,” Mr. Alphin said. “We think it should be a bit less at the end of the day.”

This idea that the government is forcing capital down the throats of the bankers is totally nuts. The financial institutions these people are running are bankrupt. However, they are pretending otherwise because bankruptcy involves wiping out common shareholders and replacing management (whose stock and options would also be made worthless).

That even the New York Times, whose coverage rarely dabbles in pro-banker spin, includes the quote from the poor widdle bank who has to accept $34 billion in capital (for which the government will probably pay an above-market price) I can only attribute to CNBC's dominance of business media.

The government is funneling huge amounts of money into these institutions, but their executives, stockholders and bondholders want it/us to do it without getting ownership of the banks in return. This is obviously an unreasonable request! Of course they're going to make it. They have a fiduciary duty to do so, in fact. But we, and certainly the New York Times, are not supposed to take it so seriously, and/or feel badly for them.

Monday, May 04, 2009

WaPo op-ed page continues strong support for CO2 emissions

If there's one point of view that has gone underrepresented in the opinion pages of the Washington Post, it is not that global warming is a bunch of hooey. A few short months after George Will's brazenly dishonest column to that effect generated so much "buzz", Robert J. Samuelson demands to know: What does Obama have against fossil fuels, anyway?

Considering the brutal recession, you'd expect the Obama administration to be obsessed with creating jobs. And so it is, say the president and his supporters. The trouble is that there's one glaring exception to their claims: the oil and natural gas industries. The administration is biased against them -- a bias that makes no sense on either economic or energy grounds.

What is the evidence that Obama harbors an irrational hatred of oil and gas? Samuelson's case rests on three main points:

1. "Contrary to popular wisdom, the United States still has huge oil and natural gas resources."
2. The oil and gas industry employs many more people than the solar and wind industries.
3. Obama favors raising fuel efficiency standards, and his Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, "canceled 77 leases in Utah because they were too close to national parks."

Taking #3 first, because it's the only one that has anything to do with Obama: It probably sounds like I'm misrepresenting what must be a much longer, more ominous bill of particulars. If you don't want to go see for yourself I can only assure you this is not the case. Samuelson more or less admits himself that there's not much there:

Any one of these [i.e. the Utah lease cancellations or raised fuel efficiency standards] alone might seem a reasonable review of inherited policies, and it's true that Salazar has maintained a regular schedule of oil and gas leases. Still, the anti-oil bias seems unmistakable.

Ah, yes. Even though fuel efficiency standards have been going up for years, and the Interior Department has always existed solely to do things like keep oil & gas companies away from national parks, you should still see such efforts as part of a personal crusade of Obama's.


Encouraging more U.S. production would also aid economic recovery, because the promise of "green jobs" is wildly exaggerated. Consider: In 2008, the oil and gas industries employed 1.8 million people. Jobs in the solar and wind industries are reckoned (by their trade associations) to be 35,000 and 85,000, respectively. Now do the arithmetic: A 5 percent rise in oil jobs (90,000) approaches a doubling for wind and solar (120,000). Modest movements, up or down, in oil will swamp "green" jobs.

It's true that the oil & gas industry is vastly bigger than the solar and wind industries, but Samuelson's so-called "arithmetic" is shameless sleight of hand. He's trying to take the true fact that the oil & gas industry is bigger and make it look like the inherently more job-creating energy source, with greater sensitivity to "[m]odest movements, up or down." But all he's done is assume a completely fictitious scenario in which the United States has been offered a coupon for a 5% employment increase in the energy industry of our choice. Since no such deal is on the table, all he's proven is that the oil & gas industry currently employs many more people, which was a given.

And getting to his first point last:

"Huge oil and natural gas resources"? No. Our oil and gas reserves are not huge in any meaningful sense. We're #14 in proved reserves with about 22 billion barrels. Samuelson argues that this number is really much larger once you include optimistic projections for our "unconventional" prospects, that might be accessible at some point, if finding and development costs were no object. By sufficiently relaxing the definition of reserves for the U.S. (only), Samuelson takes us from a paltry 22 billion barrels to 800 billion barrels or "triple Saudi Arabia's proven reserves." Not bad for a paragraph's work.

Of course, even assuming we're sitting on much more oil and gas than we realize, the claim that Obama is "undermining" the oil industry's efforts to produce more oil is very hard to square with the fact that oil companies are cutting back on exploration all by themselves:

April 24 (Bloomberg) -- The number of oil and natural gas rigs operating in the U.S. fell to the lowest since March 2003 this week as natural gas prices dropped, according to data published by Baker Hughes Inc.

Rigs exploring for or producing oil or gas declined by 20, or 2.1 percent, to 955, the fewest since March 21, 2003, Baker Hughes said today on its Web site. The rig count has fallen 52 percent from 1,992 on Nov. 7.

To put a fine point on it, oil & gas companies could be drilling and producing at a faster rate than they are today. Because of commodity price declines, they (the companies) are, probably correctly, deeming fewer projects to be economical and canceling or shutting them down accordingly. Yet here is how Samuelson closes:

Improved production techniques (example: drilling in deeper waters) have increased America's recoverable oil and natural gas. The resistance to tapping these resources is mostly political. To many environmentalists, expanding fossil fuel production is a cardinal sin. The Obama administration often echoes this reflexive hostility. The resulting policies aim more to satisfy popular prejudice -- through photo ops and sound bites -- than national needs.

Maybe the most bizarre thing about this piece is that Samuelson never once confronts the issue of global warming head on. Instead, he feigns bafflement at all the "hostility" towards fossil fuel production, as if it could only be motivated by religious ("cardinal sin") rather than scientific dictates. And rather than explicitly denying that there's any reason to replace fossil fuels with "clean" (his quotation marks) fuels, he weasels out by pretending that Obama thinks we burn oil mostly for electricity:

The president is lauded as a great educator; in this case, he provided much miseducation. He implied that there's a choice between promoting renewables and relying on oil. Actually, the two are mostly disconnected. Wind and solar mainly produce electricity. Most of our oil goes for transportation (cars, trucks, planes); almost none -- about 1.5 percent -- generates electricity. Expanding wind and solar won't displace much oil; someday, electric cars may change this.

So there might be electric cars someday? Pretty visionary. But why, Robert? Why would we ever want to stop refining and burning crude oil? We've got plenty of the stuff!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

One of the better Mets posts ever

I'm stealing one of the graphics, but if you're a Mets fan you owe it to yourself to read the whole thing.

Friday, May 01, 2009

It's true. That is offensive!

So John Boehner, bless his heart, decides to have whipped up a Bush/Cheney '04 style "Isn't Obama clearly an Islamic terrorist?" video, and I suppose what else is there really for him to do at this point.

But towards the end, after it has delivered the shocking news that Obama doesn't want you to hear and cued the ominous orchestral music, reminiscent of the final scene in "The Usual Suspects," it runs a montage where, in between images of the Hugo Chavez handshake and a burning American flag, is a picture of Obama with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Just sitting with them around a conference table, as if at a meeting of some sort.

Nydia Velazquez, the chairwoman of the CHC and my representative, called the video "a completely inappropriate message for the leader of the minority party to send to the American people." Rep. Raul Grijalva went ahead and called it "racist," which I think is a super-uncontroversial claim.

Boehner's office responded that the criticism was "beyond silly." When I read that, and I hadn't seen the video, I wondered if maybe there was some context that made it less offensive than it sounded. But no. It's really pretty bad: