2008 11 26
Cool it?

Josh Marshall tells those of us wringing our hands over some of his (potential) appointees to cool it. Appointees implement policies; they don’t set them.

Maybe Josh can forgive us for taking Obama at his word:

One of the great economic minds of our times, Larry [Summers] has the global reputation for being able to get to the heart of the most complex and novel policy challenges. With respect to both, our current financial crisis and other pressing economic issues of our time, his thinking, writing, and speaking have set the terms of the debate. I am glad he will be by my side, playing the critical role of coordinating my administration’s economic policy in the White House and I will rely heavily on his advice as to navigate the unchartered waters of this crisis.

Obama tells us that Larry Summers, who argued that regulating financial derivatives markets would “cast[ ] a shadow of regulatory uncertainty over an otherwise thriving market,” will be a guiding force. Why shouldn’t we believe that?

Howls of outrage (9)

2008 11 06
Early choices

I have been dismayed for a while now that Robert Rubin seems to be Obama’s top economics advisor. I am somewhat calmed by the fact that Jared Berstein also advises Obama, but I have no idea how much of his ear Bernstein has.  Moreover, this talk about Larry Summers getting the nod for Treasury secretary suggests that Obama is inclined to go with the Rubin camp over the Berstein camp. Of course, we can always hope that Obama is in fact going to deviate from the 1990s Rubin/Summers line, and that Rubin and Summers will now simply be his tools to get it done. But the time for Obama-inspired hope is over. We don’t need hope anymore, we need action.

I have similar reservations about Rahm Emanuel. I’ll admit that I have no idea what, if any, influence Emanuel’s ideas will have on Obama, but I think we can assume he’ll have some (maybe a lot). And this worries me. I’m worried that Emanuel’s apparent close connections with the wealthy and well-connected, as well as his penchant for conservative, pro-/ not-too-anti-war candidates in 2006, will infect what many of us hoped would be a strong will toward getting out of Iraq and moving the country in a more progressive direction. True, Emanuel “helped guide the Democrats to wins in 2006,” as Matt Yglesias reminds us. But at what cost? Many said at the time that the 2006 mid-terms were given to the feckless Dems by virtue of the populace’s hatred of Bush’s endless war policy. Yet this account of Emanuel’s role in the 2006 mid-terms describes him doing his level best to ensure that the Dems who won were of the pro-war, Blue Dog persuasion.

Look, I’m prepared to get the shaft from Obama. I really am. But for a guy who won the primary in part because of his opposition to the Iraq war, and who won the general election in part because of a financial crisis, it is really unbelievable that two architects of conditions that created the crisis are his lead advisor and potential Treasury Secretary, and that his first choice for chief of staff is a guy who ensured that Obama’s (hypothetical) progessive, anti-war agenda will be harder to get through the Dem controlled House than it had to be.

I guess what I’m sayin’–a la Rachel Maddow’s favorite teevee segment–is: Please!, talk me down!

Howls of outrage (13)

2008 11 05
Coverage of Election Day 2008

The Newseum has a fun feature called Today’s Front Pages, the front pages of newspapers from around the US and the world. As of my posting this at 3 AM Eastern time Nov 5, it hasn’t yet ticked over to showing the Nov 5 papers, but maybe it will have by the time you read this. Here’s the link if you’re reading this after Nov 5 2008.

Right now the NYT home page has a tall all-caps OBAMA as its lone topline, then a smaller subhead below. I like this presentation best of the newspaper pages I’ve seen so far.

Another site that should have good stuff tomorrow: The Big Picture, the Boston Globe’s blog of giant-size photos.

Howls of outrage (3)

2008 08 09
Recently read: “The Dark Side”

Jane Mayer. The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals

After the scandal of Abu Grieb, the Bush administration insisted that the torture and abuse of detainees had been the work of a few bad apples. But of course the abuse was only a manifestation of a much deeper rot, for which top officials bore primary responsibility. I’ve sometimes had the impression of similar excuse-making in the attitudes of even some of the fiercest critics of the Bush administration, in the claim that the Bush administration represents a radical and unprecedented break with the past. It strikes me as naive to depict the Bush administration as a few bad apples, in an otherwise upright tradition legal and ethical conduct. On the contrary, the Bush administration seems to me part of a larger moral and legal rot that is systemic, and has unfortunately deep roots in American political culture (alongside much more admirable tendencies and traditions).

Jane Meyer’s new book The Dark Side has helped me to reflect on, and to a certain extent, modify, these assumptions. Mayer is familiar with the Church Committee, and with past American abuses of power. She doesn’t base her argument for a significant break with the past on what the Bush administration has done so much as on the legal arguments that the administration has advanced, most often in secrecy, to defend and support its policies. Much of this is new, and its long-term consequences are likely to be wretched.

A great deal of the action in Mayer’s book is, for this reason, legal. The new legal doctrines advanced by David Addington, Cheney’s legal counsel for the period covered by the book, and John Yoo, among others, were fiercely resisted by other lawyers in the administration. Meyer meticulously details the legal arguments and maneuvers used by various parties to this debate against the background of events in the so-called War on Terror.

Mayer book is, as far as I can tell, balanced, careful, and accurate, while rarely engaging in the pointless he-said/she-said style of reporting that so many journalists use to avoid the implications of their reporting. When an official lies, she points it out, clearly and unequivocally. A book like this is difficult to ignore, if you care at all about moral and legal issues surrounding torture and the Bush administration’s policies. If even a quarter of the book is accurate, the United States would only need to be a country serious about following its own laws for hundreds of people, from the President on down, to be put on trial for torture and other serious crimes.

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2008 03 10
Spitzer commentary in a nutshell

Holy shit!!!

Howls of outrage (14)

2008 02 05

Can you believe that there was a time when people felt obliged to make this point about John McCain?

(And what the hell was up with my conceding anything about personal integrity? I take it back, of course.)

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2007 06 10

A while back I predicted in the comments section of another blog that Rudy Giuliani would only embarrass himself by running for president. I said it was a complete mystery to me why he was bothering, since a lackluster performance that only drew attention to his many faults wouldn’t even put him in a good position to get picked by someone else for the VP slot. In the meantime, of course, I have been proven utterly wrong. He may well not win – indeed, for what it’s worth, which isn’t much apparently, I still think he won’t win – but his showing has been perfectly respectable. Perfectly respectable, I mean, in the sense that some polls even put him out in first place. His actual views, of course, strike me as mostly either or both idiotic or alarming, depending on what he’s talking about.

All of this shows, yet again, that I can’t make political predictions for shit. Every time I think that people just couldn’t be stupid enough to fall for something they do.

Howls of outrage (3)

2007 05 17
Wolfowitz, straight to the remainder bin

This email from Amazon just plunked into my inbox:

Dear Amazon.com Customer,

We’ve noticed that customers who have expressed interest in “The Best and the Brightest” by David Halberstam have also ordered “Paul D. Wolfowitz: Visionary Intellectual, Policymaker, and Strategist” by Lewis D. Solomon. For this reason, you might like to know that Lewis D. Solomon’s “Paul D. Wolfowitz: Visionary Intellectual, Policymaker, and Strategist” will be released on May 30, 2007. You can pre-order your copy by following the link below.

Which is funny. Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest” eviscerated a generation of the American foreign policy establishment, drawing special attention (as the title suggests) to the brash intellectual self-confidence of many of the men who led the U.S. in the morass of the Vietnam war. So putting the two books together is distinctly unflattering to Wolfowitz. The fact that the books have been put together by some algorithm makes it especially funny, in a sort of wisdom-of-the-crowds way. And the juxtaposition would be disheartening for Solomon, who appears (from skimming the Amazon page) to have real respect for Wolfowitz.

Pity Solomon, even as you question his judgment. It is not – really not – a great time to be having an already badly out of date book coming out about Wolfowitz. I don’t think many people will be buying it to understand the workings of the mind of the current president of the World Bank. Not for long they won’t.

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2007 02 28

Poor guy never gets a break.

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2007 01 16
We Have an Opportunity to Deal a Serious Blow to Democracy

Here’s a video of an “early draft” of Bush’s speech. Parts too cutesy, parts of it very sad.

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2005 05 31
Bush and the Amnesty Report

I see that Bush apparently doesn’t think much of the recent Amnesty Report blasting his administration for Guantanamo, etc. etc. etc. Not too long ago, Timothy Burke wrote a very nice post on a relatively neglected aspect of the larger debate about torture and abuse. It’s unfortunate that Bush doesn’t understand the main point Burke makes there.

Update: Ah, and if there’s anything to this, then it’s an even greater shame that Bush doesn’t get Burke’s point.

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2005 02 24
Lamest Bushism ever

They’ve really outdone themselves with this one. What the hell is wrong with saying what Bush said?

Howls of outrage (2)

2005 02 08
Uniquely American

On Feb. 4, 2005, President Bush was in Omaha, Nebraska participating in “a conversation on strengthening social security,” during which there was an amazing exchange:

THE PRESIDENT: Good. Okay, Mary, tell us about yourself.

MS. MORNIN: Okay, I’m a divorced, single mother with three grown, adult children. I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters.

THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. First of all, you’ve got the hardest job in America, being a single mom.

MS. MORNIN: Thank you. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: You and I are baby boomers.

MS. MORNIN: Yes, and I am concerned about — that the system stays the same for me.

[Interlude of President airily trying to explain that SS will stay the same after he dismantles it.]

THE PRESIDENT: And so thank you for asking that. You don’t have to worry.

MS. MORNIN: That’s good, because I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute.

THE PRESIDENT: You work three jobs?

MS. MORNIN: Three jobs, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Uniquely American, isn’t it? I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)

MS. MORNIN: Not much. Not much.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, hopefully, this will help you get you sleep to know that when we talk about Social Security, nothing changes.

MS. MORNIN: Okay, thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: That’s great.

So working three jobs to support oneself and one’s “mentally challenged” son is a “fantastic,” “uniquely American” achievement? You know what else President Bush has called “uniquely American”? Let’s see, there’s Harley Davidsons, and, oh yeah, the threat posed by Saddam Hussein:

I say uniquely American issue because I truly believe that now that the war has changed, now that we’re a battlefield, this man poses a much graver threat than anybody could have possibly imagined. Other countries, of course, bear the same risk. But there’s no doubt his hatred is mainly directed at us. There’s no doubt he can’t stand us. After all, this is a guy that tried to kill my dad at one time.

The existence of working poor in this country is what we get when our president sees a defanged dictator as a uniquely American threat, and sees a woman working three jobs–who is, as she puts it, “unfortunately” near retirement–as a uniquely American achievment.

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2005 01 27
What about Poland makes Bush lie?

I have a t-shirt that says, in big red letters on the front: “Bush Lies”. Because I’m now living in Arlington, VA, those who notice it usually approve. But I wear it other places, too, and I am sometimes asked to defend the shirt’s thesis.

I mention this because one year ago today, on my birthday, Bush said one of the lies that makes my list. Here’s the list I typically give. Add your own in the comments section–that is, if you’re not sick and tired of talking about the moron.

1. “[B]y far the vast majority of my tax cuts go to the bottom end of the spectrum.” (Said during 2000 campaign.) Not true, as demonstrated here, and here.

2. [This one might be my favorite, because it’s soooo brazen in the face of the truth:] Bush WH press conference, March 6, 2003:

He’s a master at deception. He has no intention of disarming — otherwise, we would have known. There’s a lot of talk about inspectors. It really would have taken a handful of inspectors to determine whether he was disarming — they could have showed up at a parking lot and he could have brought his weapons and destroyed them. That’s not what he chose to do.

Here’s what was really going on:

yesterday Iraq, reluctantly, agreed to the destruction of four of its outlawed al-Samoud 2 missiles. At a military base just outside Baghdad, bulldozers were brought in to crush the missiles under supervision of the UN.

A potential timetable to destroy the remaining 100-plus al-Samoud 2 missiles was also discussed with the UN. Around 50 of the missiles are with Iraqi forces scattered around the country and will have to be brought in to be destroyed…

And what chief weapons inspector Hans Blix called “a very significant piece of real disarmament”, the US called “propaganda wrapped in a lie inside a falsehood”, and the UK called “a cynical attempt to divide the Security Council.” I can’t wait to see how that one turns out.

3. Bush, to Polish journalist, May 29, 2003:

We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They’re illegal. They’re against the United Nations resolutions, and we’ve so far discovered two. And we’ll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong, we found them.

Of course, they had no reason to think that was true, and good reason to think it was false. They certainly had no reason to state it as true. (Recall that Cheney was still claiming, in January of 2004, that those mobile labs were “conclusive evidence, if you will, that he did, in fact, have programs for weapons of mass destruction.”

4. Bush, in WH press conference with Polish President, January 27, 2004:

I was hoping the United Nations would enforce its resolutions, one of many. And then we went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution — 1441 — unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in.

5. Who knows if Bush himself knew about this, but I don’t really care. My fifth lie is the the lie the Bush Administration told Congress to get its Medicare prescription drug benefit passed. They said that it would cost $400 billion over 10 years, when in fact it was expected to cost $500 billion to $600 billion. But, not only did they lie about the cost, they threatened to fire the Medicare actuary who wanted to tell Congress about the true costs before they voted on it.

We might also add, in connection, the Administration’s production and distribution of “fake news broadcasts”. The GAO–our government’s official watchdog–has rebuked Bush’s Department of Health and Human Services and Office of National Drug Control Policy for disseminating “fake news” segments designed to convince voters of their policies. The Administration has also just come under fire for paying so-called ‘independent’ commentator Armstrong Williams $241,000 to defend No Child Left Behind in his syndicated columns and radio show. Bush now says that, “we didn’t know about this in the White House.” That’s curious, given Bush Press Secretary, Scott McClellan’s response to inquiries about the matter with: “There are also questions about whether or not this commentator should have been disclosing this information publicly.”

6. And now I’ll add his claim that Social Security faces a crisis and is “flat bust, bankrupt”. Of course, that’s not even close to true either.

Well, that’s good for now. Of course there are others. But I said my gift to myself today was an abiding sense of abiding self-satisfaction from having worked so hard on my dissertation. So I’m off.

Howls of outrage (6)

2005 01 24

There was a time when Slate’s “Bushisms” feature was funny. They almost all seem lame now – many very lame. About as lame as today’s.

Howls of outrage (2)