Saturday, December 12, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
That clang you hear is their tin ears banging together.
I haven't run into that one as part of the stereotypical view of Jews, and it seems to me that at least its more favorable--if no more accurate--than the more common canards thrown around by anti-Semites and the insensitive. Coming from a couple of political leaders, though, it's mighty dumb!
At least one source ascribes the thought to Ben Franklin, who while a wise man, was not Jewish. (My office is about a block from Old South Meetinghouse, which was across the street from where Ben was born, and in which he was christened that very day in 1706.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The case has sent shivers through the Bay State's real estate and banking communities, and has had ripples nationwide. (Some federal bankruptcy judges have made similar, and even more favorable, decisions that kept homeowners from losing their properties to foreclosure.)
The problem arises out of the razzle-dazzle of the housing bubble, where mortgages were sliced and diced, packaged, sold and re-sold. In the process, such old-fashioned concepts as ownership (not to mention honest dealing) were conveniently ignored. Now that the chickens have come home to roost, the people who thought to profit from the financial manipulations that led to the bubble are weeping, wailing and gnashing their teeth.
Interestingly, the story linked to above focuses on the difficulties the judge's ruling poses to re-selling, rehabilitating and recycling properties already foreclosed on for new use. That may well be the immediate effect, but upstream the decision will reduce the number of foreclosures and, likely, to increase lenders' willingness to restructure loans.
Hmm, now why wouldn't he want to go to a state that gave him the smallest percentage of the vote of any of the states last year?
Is that really what they want to say? Maybe not. My first answer to the question was, "Guess I better buy a hoodie and a ski mask."
Monday, October 12, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I am not sure Washington fully understands just how much the Taliban-led insurgency is increasingly an insurrection against the behavior of the Karzai government — not against the religion or civilization of its international partners. And too many Afghan people now blame us for installing and maintaining this government.
Friday, October 09, 2009
As Jim Farley said of an earlier Democratic President, "We love him for the enemies he has made."
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Friday, October 02, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan--something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and over get--that would compete with private health insurance plans?
Those in favor: 65%
And, those figures have not changed much since July, and even in June (when the "debate" was just getting underway), were not all that different.
So, maybe the confusion is over why the media is saying that support for a public option has weakened, and over why "Medicare for all" is not on the table.
Oh, and maybe people are also wondering why the MSM is not reporting the feelings of the American people.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Years ago, my brother suggested that we control the size of the magazines in guns: no law-abiding citizen needs more than 4 bullets. And the comedian Chris Rock has a great routine about how we should make the cost of bullets prohibitive.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
“There is so much talk of primarying Chuck Grassley now,” a well-known conservative, Bill Salier, said on an Iowa radio show. The senator’s seniority means “absolutely bupkis if what you do with that power is work with Max Baucus to try to advance socialized medicine.”
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
It's not that Republicans are bad guys. This is just the bet they've made. They're going to put their chips on movement in the 35 seats in the House that have been traditionally Republican districts and trying to take them back.OK, troops, you have your marching orders.
If they take them back, this the end of the road for what Barack and I are trying to do. This is their one shot. If they don't break the back of our effort in this upcoming election, you're going to see the things we said we're for happen.
(By the way, I love that he uses the President's first name. He's done it before so I don't think the White House has been all over him to always say "the President." It's great to see the person in the Oval Office be humanized, even just a little bit.)
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Astoundingly--at least I think it will astound anyone who has read at all about the history of the House and Senate--this has become a partisan issue. Wilson has said he won't apologize to the House, in the well of the House, as is traditional when a member transgresses the customs of the body. Apparently, the Republican leadership thinks it can win points by approving of his boorishness.
Then again, why should we be surprised?
It will be interesting to see if any Republicans break ranks on this one, taking the decorum of the body to be more important than partisanship.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
While the month of August clearly knocked the White House back on its heels, as Congressional town hall-style meeting exposed Americans' unease with an overhaul, the uproar does not seem to have greatly altered public opinion or substantially weakened Democrats' resolve.Funny, that's not what we've been hearing for the last month.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if Labor had not first existed. Labor is superior to capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
The President's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said that the Right's attack on the speech was part of "the silly season." Mild ridicule isn't going to work with these people and, more important, it isn't going to work with the mainstream media, which follows the false grail of "balance," and acts as conduits and enablers for Fox and its allies.
It's time for Mr. Obama and his people to take on the dissemblers on the Right, to call them out for the liars and hypocrites that they are, and to drive a wedge between the wingnuts and the "respectable" members of the Republican Party for whom politics is only about power and not at all about what is good for the country.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
involves additional troops to create something that does not now exist there — a reasonably noncorrupt Afghan state that will serve its people and partner with America in keeping Afghanistan free of drug lords, warlords, the Taliban and Al Qaeda. His plan calls for clearing areas of Taliban control, holding those areas and then building effective local, district and provincial governments — along with a bigger army, real courts, police and public services.
Our policy makers do not understand that the very presence of our forces in the Pashtun areas is the problem. The more troops we put in, the greater the opposition. We do not mitigate the opposition by increasing troop levels, but rather we increase the opposition and prove to the Pashtuns that the Taliban are correct.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
They are saying on television that it is the end of Camelot, that never again will the Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport be the center of a major news event. Very likely, that is true--that this is the final act of the Kennedy family as the closest thing that we have had to royalty. Yet I prefer to think of the things that the family has done: the civil rights, immigration, labor and healthcare legislation that they were instrumental in bringing to reality, the Special Olympics, and above all the spirit of citizenship, service and friendliness that characterized, and still characterizes them.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
For all those whose cares have been our
concern, the work goes on, the cause endures,
the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.
I never really thought the cancer would get him. He was Ted Kennedy, after all, and it was merely cancer. I guess larger than life wasn't large enough in the end.
Perhaps other nations think of legislators the way we revere some few of our senators, but it seems unlikely. Ted Kennedy walked in the shoes of Webster, Clay and Calhoun and perhaps a few others; Hubert Humphrey comes to my mind. He did things for people--ordinary people. (I was tempted to write, "people very different from himself," but from what I know of him--and I never met the man--I don't think he saw himself as different from the rest of us.) He was great in his accomplishments and great in his heart. He started from a privileged background, but had many obstacles to overcome, some of his own making, to become the giant we think of today.
We'll miss you, Ted.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
President Hamid Karzai seems poised to declare an overwhelming victory in Afghanistan’s hotly contested presidential election, even as allegations of fraud by his main opponent threaten to undermine the credibility of the vote.Apparently, they imported vote-counters from Iran.
The president’s finance minister, Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, claimed Monday that Mr. Karzai had garnered 68 percent of ballots in Thursday’s election, quoting figures from election officials that he said had been provided to the cabinet.Such a showing would make a second round of voting unnecessary.
How dumb do they think we are? How dumb do they think the Afghan people--that is, the ones who haven't written off the government entirely--are?
Just yesterday we heard reports that the western military commanders in Afghanistan are preparing to ask for more troops. As regular readers will recall, this page has long supported the Afghan war as necessary or at least justified. But in the end, as everyone recognizes, the Taliban and their terrorist allies (which allies are the reason we are in this, and the only justification for putting American and other NATO troops in among the warring parties) can only be defeated by the Afghans. If the Afghan people do not reject the Taliban, the country will only be a graveyard for foreign troops.
And it should go without saying that the only way that the people of Afghanistan will back the central government is if it presents something worth supporting. That means, as a first step. making serious inroads on corruption, cronyism and incompetence.
Apparently, there is no appetite for serious reform in the Afghan government. It's time for the US to tell Karzai (whom I welcomed early in his term) some home truths: that if he and those around him are not going to get on the stick and put the welfare of the nation above their own fortunes, the US will leave him and his cronies to their just desserts. As a first step in that lesson, no more troops until government improves.
Update: According to AP, fragmentary official returns give Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah (the former foreign minister) about 40% each. Returns are to be reported over the next few days.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
Why no prosecutions? Because the interrogators were following interpretations of the law that were binding on them.
I thought we settled this issue at Nuremburg: it is no defense to say that you followed a lawful order.
And none of the Justice Department memos required the interrogators to torture; they merely offered a fig leaf for practices that the Agency voluntarily carried out.
The President was closer to the mark--although still wrong--when he said, “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”
This was a political decision, taken to avoid prolonging the deep divide between those who believe that what the United States does is, per se, right and those who believe that if we aspire to lead the world, we Americans must show that we really are better than our adversaries.
The Bush Administration subverted the Constitution and traduced our legal traditions. Expiation for the nation's sins is not necessary just to cleanse our consciences, but to help us regain our moral ascendancy over those who have declared themselves our mortal enemies. This, in abjuring prosecution for crimes against humanity, Mr. Obama is not merely wrong morally, he is making a serious political mistake as well. The President should have listened to Dean Acheson.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
As in so many of our problems, the essential question is whether we have the will, not the means. We may not be able to eliminate piracy, but we can surely reduce it to a manageable annoyance if we exercise the will to do so. For instance, one idea that's been bruited about is to go in and clean out the pirate havens on the Somali coast. But whenever that is brought up, someone is sure to murmur, "Blackhawk Down." While the deaths of 18 American soldiers in
Fortunately, we can probably curb pirates around the Horn of Africa without having to go ashore. Here are a few approaches:
It's not just business: Stop permitting shipping companies and insurers (or anyone else) to pay ransom for ships and crews. The problem goes beyond the individuals and the ships involved. Misplaced feelings of sympathy, and the desire for corporate profit, only make things worse. If shipping companies, their agents or insurers pay ransom, provide that the ships in question will be forfeited and sold, with cargo, in a prize court. Shippers and insurers will try to find third-party fronts so that they can keep paying ransoms--it's cheaper and easier than resisting--so efforts will have to be made to keep them from getting away with that.
Convoys: Convoys worked in both World Wars and they would work off Somalia. True, they would be inconvenient, as ships would have to wait for the convoy to assemble and then travel at the speed of the slowest vessel. On the other hand, given the nature of the threat and today's military technology, escorts could offer almost complete protection. Fortunately, convoys through the seas off
Guards on Shipboard: We should have squads of Marines and/or sailors on board vessels traveling through the threatened areas. Think of 12 to 15 men (and possibly women) armed with a couple of machine guns, some shoulder-fired missiles and assault rifles. Pirates have threatened merchant ships with automatic rifles and RPGs. I think it's safe to say that a TOW missile would do a lot more damage to a pirate skiff than an RPG can do to a 15,000 ton ship. A recent story said that 20,000 ships pass by the Horn of Africa each year. That is a large number, but it comes down to around 55 per day. A few battalions of Marines, stationed on Amphibious Assault Ships, could rotate squad-sized units on and off ships passing through the lower end of the Red Sea, off the Horn of Africa and the southern border of Somalia. Not all ships passing through would have to be given armed guards for them to be a powerful deterrent. This kind of duty, by the way, is exactly what marines have been doing for hundreds of years. It's a lot more in the Marine tradition than slogging through Fallujah or Tora Bora. Other nations that have naval vessels patrolling of Somalia should be asked to contribute to the guard force. (I am resolutely against private armed forces on ships. If there are any core government functions, law enforcement and national defense are among them. Privatization has an even worse record in those areas than in others.)
Broaden the Military Response: The Amphibious Support Ships mentioned above can dominate a large area. They carry helicopters, Harrier aircraft and small seacraft. Unfortunately, the latter have been landing craft, which are relatively slow. For anti-pirate patrols these need to be replaced with fast, maneuverable boats that can match, or even outrun and out maneuver pirate craft. Some of the larger commercially-available RIBs can probably be outfitted with machine guns and in any event can carry sailors or Marines armed with the kind of light weapons that the pirates have. Better would be the kind of high-speed patrol boats that the Coast Guard employs.
Prosecute the Pirates: Pirates captured by US forces should be prosecuted in US courts here in the United States. The prospect of long prison terms in the States would be another strong deterrent to turning pirate, even though the food in our penitentiaries is probably more plentiful and of better quality than what a lot of the pirates are now getting. The French are already prosecuting pirates that they have captured.Many authorities have pointed out that the real solution to piracy off the Somali coast lies in creating a working state in Somalia. True. But that could take decades. The steps that I have outlined can be taken the next few months, some in just a few weeks. They would be relatively inexpensive (by the standards of military operations), require relatively few resources (though now than we have dedicated now), and would as a side benefit provide valuable experience for the kind of small-unit actions that our military is likely to see a lot more of in the next few years.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
What does this mean? That Republicans are not only bad for the nation, they threaten human existence! Take that, Newt Gingrich.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The passage in question, from Scott Turow's Ordinary Heroes (a book I recommend highly, despite the howler) was:
"The C rations are terrible," she said. "They are the best thing the American Army brought with them." She actually hugged her green pack of Luckys to her breast. "In Vichy, the women were banned from buying cigarettes altogether. Martin says that is why I had no choice but to join the resistance." She laughed at herself.The key to this is that the action takes place in October 1944. But Lucky Strikes had lost their green packaging in 1942. All Americans who had reached maturity by WWII knew that, because one of the most famous advertising campaigns of the time was, "Lucky Strike Green Has Gone to War!" By 1944, any cigarettes in a green Lucky Strike pack had long since gone stale.