Saturday, December 17, 2011

Making Lemonade

The Des Moines Register has endorsed Mitt Romney in the GOP Iowa caucuses.  The paper opines that Romney has shown sobriety, wisdom and judgment.  Sobriety, well, yes.  Wisdom? Judgment?  Well, maybe judgment when he was governor of Massachusetts and backed the healthcare plan that, as he never gets tired of denying, served as a model for President Obama's.  But the fact that he does keep denying that says much about his character, a factor that the Register ignores.

Making a virtue of hypocrisy, the paper praises Romney's asserted ability to "see the merits of tough issues from something other than a knee-jerk, ideological perspective."  I guess that's one way to describe flip-flopping.

Perhaps more than anything, this endorsement is testimony to how weak the Rebuplican field is, and how far to the netherworld of the Right the party has strayed.  

Saying it all

Heard on NPR:  "The United States invaded Iraq after the 9/11 attacks, which were plotted in Afghanistan."

Friday, December 09, 2011

On the faces of babes

Source: Yahoo

The thing about Scott Brown

A new poll has Scott Brown (R.MA) down 7 points in a match-up with Harvard Professor and Democratic senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren.  Surprising, but it's 11 months before the election so perhaps not all that meaningful.

The thing about Scott Brown is that he's not all that bright.  Listen to him.  Do you sense a deep intelligence, curiosity about the issues that confront us, a quest to solve problems?  If you do, please let me know.  (I met Scott Brown briefly in his Senate office; he did not impress.)

Now, we don't always vote for the smartest candidate.  Some very intelligent people cannot get along with others--they would not be good members of a representative body.  Some geniuses have no sense of reality, of the practical.  And as Sen. Roman Hruska said of Judge Harold Carswell after Nixon nominated him to the Supreme Court,  "there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance?"  Scott Brown may need to rely on that kind of "thinking" if he hopes to get re-elected.


The EPA concludes that fracking pollutes groundwater.  What ought to be shocking, but isn't, is the pushback from the company that operates the gas wells involved in the study, and from the governor of Wyoming, which gets 2/3 of its revenues from the Oil and Gas industry.  What's public health when there's money at stake (and when it isn't your water that's being poisoned)? 

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


Dan Quayle--perhaps the leading current example of "forgotten but not gone"--will endorse Mitt Romney today.  How many votes will that get Mitt?  Quayle's immediate family?  Maybe.

Do you think Mitt asked for this endorsement?  Or did Quayle proffer it out of (a) good will; (b) a sense of civic duty or (c) a pathetic desire to get back in the limelight one more time?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

What I'd like to ask Newt Gingrich

Mr. Gingrich, you are a historian (as we all know).  If you had been in your home state of Georgia in 1861, would you have supported secession, or opposed it?  And if you would have opposed it, would you have gone to the north, as some Southern unionists did, to do so actively?

I don't think this is a "gotcha" question.  It would be interesting to hear the answer and to reflect on what light it would shed on the candidate.

(It's a measure of the intellectual power of the Northern versus the Southern causes that among those from the South who served the Union were Adm. David ("Damn the torpedoes") Farragut and George H. ("The Rock of Chickamauga") Thomas.  The most prominent northerner to serve the South was John C. Pemberton, remembered as the general who surrendered Vicksburg to Grant.)

In case you forgot

Today (December 1) is the first day of meteorological winter.  Cheer up, though:  that means that March 1 is the first day of spring!  And winter is the shortest season of the year.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Politics is the name we give to the things we decide to do together"

For better than thirty years, I've been proud to say that Barney Frank is my congressman.  I'm still proud to say that, but now that he has announced he shall not run next year, I--like many of my Fourth District compatriots--am feeling bereft already.

It's too soon to say who will run for Barney's seat, although there will almost certainly be a gaggle.  It's also as close to certain as it can be that whoever succeeds Barney will never be able to fill his shoes.  If we are fortunate, his successor will follow in his footsteps.

Although known for his outsize personality, his quips and his often abrasive argument for positions he believes in, I suspect that Barney's star will shine brighter after he steps aside and we can observe his work from some distance.  Although deprived of the chance for stardom that the Senate provides some of its less-numerous denizens, Barney's work in the House has been of immense value to his constituents, his fellows, and his country.   The title of this post sums up his approach to government--one that is all too rare today. 

We'll always remember you fondly, Barney.

(For those who might think I am suggesting a close relationship with the congressman by using his first name, let it be known that everyone in the Fourth calls him Barney.  I have been at events where he has been introduced as "Congressman Frank," and I find myself starting to look around the room to see who is being referred to. I'm sure I'm not alone in that.)

Friday, September 30, 2011

The media is the...

The Justice Department's Inspector General, which first reported the story of the alleged $16 muffin (see earlier post) has now blinked and admitted that the hotel where the muffins were served, along with coffee, tea, other pastries and fruit, was right that the cost was a bit under $15 per person, and included rental of the rooms where the conference in question was held.

The correction was picked up by Bloomberg, but how many outlets will give the debunking the same prominence that they gave the original (wrong) story?  

Journalism has never been perfect, and will never be, but it hurts when a theme--or as the media types have taken to calling it, a meme--leads to erroneous stories being given great prominence, while as usual the truth never catches the lie.  (Remember the McDonald's hot coffee case a few years ago?)

Last night Scott Pelley, on CBS, had a pretty good interview with David Barger, the CEO of Jet Blue.  In the course of it, Barger opined that we need to get the deficit down.  Shocking, I know.  Pelley then mentioned that Rebuplicans insist on all cuts and Democrats want cuts and tax increases, to which, Barger said that he thought "a combination" was acceptable.  Pelley then came back with a remark along the lines of "but neither side will compromise."

WAIT A DAMN MINUTE.  Rebuplicans insist on NO tax increases (except maybe on working people by not extending the payroll-tax cut).  Democrats say SOME cuts and SOME tax increases--notably, they have not taken a hard line on what percentage of any deficit reduction should come from one side or the other.  So, one party is not willing to compromise, while the other is.  Why is it so hard for news outlets to say that?

(As regular readers will note, this page does not believe that compromise is a good in and of itself.  We have often opposed compromises and expect to do so again.  But accuracy in reporting does seem to be pretty much an unmixed good.)

Friday, September 23, 2011


Presumably you've heard of the report from the Justice Department's Inspector General about excessive spending for food, travel and entertainment.  If not you certainly will; in these times when government austerity is all the rage, the Rebuplicans are sure to trumpet this as another scandalous example of Democratic excess.

One of the items that has garnered the most attention is the IG's allegation that the Department paid $16 apiece for muffins at the Capital Hilton, in DC.  My first reaction:  I want the recipe!

Whoa.  Maybe the report is wrong.  Hilton International says that the inspectors mis-read its invoices, and AP says that the report--while allocating $4,200 for the muffins--also noted 15 gallons of "complimentary" coffee, 30 gallons of "complimentary" ice tea (should it be "ice tea" or "iced tea?") and 200 pieces of "free" fruit.  Your Eco 101 professor will tell you that there's nothing "complimentary" or "free" in a case like this.  

More significantly, according to the AP the cost per-person for the conference in question was $14.74, exactly 2 cents over what the Department allowed.  

I don't know if Hilton is telling the truth, or if the AP report is accurate, although my own experience with events suggests that paying less than $15 per person at a decent hotel is one hell of a bargain.  In any event, this is a reminder that it's always a good idea to look behind the headlines.  


It's a tough time to be part of the legal profession.  The killing of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia shames us all, and shames a system that could allow the state to kill him.  

The idea that a man could be denied a re-trial or at least a reprieve after seven (of nine) witnesses recant their testimony, and in the absence of physical evidence tying him to the crime, shows a system that exalts the wrong values.  

Yes, I know, the legal system needs finality--that's why we have statutes of limitations.  And the system is just that--a means of making decisions.  Perfection in the results is not guaranteed.  But a mechanism that does not permit credible claims of actual innocence in a murder case to be litigated before a man is killed cannot be called a justice system.  Indeed, it is an injustice system.

We should be better than that.

The wheels of justice grind slowly

Court rules that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is not liable for the attack on the World Trade Center.

The 1993 attack.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fire the job creators!

Suggest that corporations should pay for the benefits they get from doing business in the US, or that the rich should contribute more for the common good, and Rebuplicans will scream that those are the "job creators" and that charging them more will choke off employment.  (Some of us call this the "bribe the rich" theory of economics.)

Well, if those are really are the job creators, they ought to be shown the door.  Face it, the "job creators" are incompetent.  Have you looked at the employment--or unemployment--figures?  What jobs have those people created with their cushy tax rates and special provisions?  Damn few.

If the "job creators" won't do their jobs, fire 'em.  That's the American way!

Tell it like it is.

The release of two Americans snared by Iran while hiking in Iraq is good news, but why has the media accepted the tale that the money paid to free them was "bail?"  It was nothing of the kind.  The two men were ransomed, pure and simple, and those to give Americans the news should say so. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

So this is what it has come to

At this week's Rebuplican debate, Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul (R.Tx) whether a previously-healthy 30-year-old man who chose not to buy health insurance, but who goes into a coma, should be left to die in a hospital emergency room.  After Paul opined that government should not be involved, that "that's what freedom is about, taking your own risks," the audience erupted in cheers and laughter. 

So this is what the GOP has come to.  The crowd at last week's debate cheered mention of the 234 people that Rick Perry has put to death in Texas--never mind that in at least a few of those cases there was serious doubt about guilt, in some about the mental capacity of the condemned and in others still grave doubt of the competence of defense counsel.

I can't help but contrast this new, mean party with the Republicans of the past.  I've written before about Capt. Tom Philip, of the USS Oregon, who cautioned his men at the Battle of Santiago, "Don't cheer, boys, the poor devils are dying."  

I don't  know whether Capt. Philip was  a Republican, although I have read that he was a serious Christian and the nation was overwhelmingly aligned with the GOP in 1898.  Even if the Captain was apolitical, it seems to me that the call to his men, who had just helped decimate the Spanish fleet, embodies part of a conservative but essentially decent spirit that is associated with traditional Republicanism.  And, of course, there was Lincoln, one of the first members of the party, "Let us go forward, now, to bind up the wounds..."

Since the GOP became the party of big business and, later, of nativism, there has always been a strain of inhumanity.  Think of the use of troops to break the railway strike of 1894, the Homestead Massacre and other incidents.  And, let's be honest, those on the left have also been willing, on occasion, to celebrate violence and even death.  There was the Haymarket Bombing, the bombing of the Los Angeles Times, and even Woody Guthrie's banjo, which was inscribed, "This machine kills   fascists."  

Still, it's unsettling to think that the kingmakers of one of our major parties may wear such callousness about their fellow humans as a badge of pride. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

3-Way Deal

Tim, T-Paw, Pawlenty has endorsed Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination.  Romney, in turn, has endorsed Orrin Hatch (R.UT) for re-election.  We understand that cash and future consideration are also involved in the 3-way deal.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where did it go?

Ten years after, it is hard to recall the unity that pervaded the nation--and most of the world--following 9/11.  I remember seeing firefighters in Budapest lined up to honor their colleagues in New York, and to recognize their courage and sacrifice.  In those days it was common to hear that we were all New Yorkers.

Tonight on NBC News, there was a piece in which people were asked how 9/11 had changed their lives.  If you had asked me, in the days following the attack, how the world would change, I should never, ever have said that ten years on we would be beset with partisanship that focuses on trivial issues, or that the national interest would be a minor factor in our leaders' decisions when compared with narrow political advantage.  

After 9/11, one of the mottoes we heard, over and over, was "Never forget."  And yet most of us have forgotten the most important lesson of that awful day.  

Where do we get people like this?

This weekend, the nation is stopping to remember 9/11, those who lost their lives and those who tried to save others on that day.

In the latter category are then-Lt. Heather Penney and Col. Marc Sasseville.  They were the pilots of the two F-16 fighters scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base to intercept Flight 93.  As everyone knows, before the fighters could do that, the passengers and flight crew of that doomed plane fought back against the hijackers and stopped the plan to crash into the Capitol, at the cost of their own lives.  

What few people knew until now is that those two Air Force fighters that were sent to intercept the doomed flight had no ammunition.  No bullets.  No rockets.  No way to bring the airliner down.  Except to crash into the plane.  And that's what they planned to do.  As Penney told The Washington Post, "We wouldn't be shooting it down.  We'd be ramming the aircraft.  I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot."

Where do we get people like this?  People not only willing to chance death in the service of our nation, but who will volunteer to die in its defense.  I mean to take nothing away from the people on Fight 93, but the choice they were given was to die in a horrible crash orchestrated by the hijackers and fighting back, almost certainly at the cost of their lives.  Lt. Penney and Col. Sasseville were engaged in something even more brave:  a willful and willing act of self-sacrifice.

We do not pay our service members enough for that kind of courage.  But they don't do it for the money.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Best HST story ever?

From Maureen Dowd in Wednesday's NYT, writing about an incident witnessed by her brother, Martin, when he was a Senate page:
As a page in 1952, Martin watched on the Capitol steps as my dad, a police detective in charge of Senate security, greeted Harry Truman as "Mr. President."  
"Mike," Truman chided him.  "Call me Harry like you always did." 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Tonight's Speech

Here is the message I sent the President tonight:

As I watched your speech tonight, I asked myself, "Where has this President been for the past two and one-half years?" 

Tonight, you were the President we thought we elected in 2008.

Thank you, but don't stop now.  Keep it up, Mr. President!  Don't look at the polls, don't look at the pundits.  Look at the people for whom you spoke tonight--the unemployed, the dispossessed, the millions who have taken it on the chin for decades.  Speak for them, Mr. President, right up to Election Day, and after.  Be our President, not our campaigner in chief.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


Truth, distilled.

I heard this comment on the BBC's coverage of Libya.  Unfortunately, I was driving at the time and did not catch the name of the man who said it:

"Democracy is like oxygen.  When you have it, you don't enjoy it."

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

'Nuff said

What the President forgot

Back in the 00's, we liberals chortled at supporters of the Bush administration who derided members of the reality-based community.  And we might well still laugh at those on the Right who believe in faith-based answers to problems susceptible to solutions based on actual knowledge.

President Obama is certainly a member of the reality-based community.  As a general rule, that is a good thing in a President.  But Mr. Obama seems to have forgotten that one function of a leader is to change reality.

I had a professor in law school who said, "If you don't like the facts, change the facts."  He did not mean that we should falsify, but that when the situation was still evolving, we should try to influence the course of events in our client's favor.   In many instances, president's can do that, through appointments (including recess appointments), executive orders, the issuance of regulations and simple presidential leadership.  

The president can change the terms of debate.  That is, he (or she) can change perceptions of reality--which in many instances is to change reality itself.  He (or she) can speak to Congress or directly to the people.  If s/he makes an effective case, the voters will tell members of Congress what to do.  And the members ignore such a message at peril to their careers.  

One of the requisites for effective leadership is measured boldness--an appreciation of what the public will accept that proves superior to that of others--in Congress or the punditocracy.  Think of FDR's 50,000 airplanes and the New Deal or JFK's promise that America would reach the moon in 10 years.  No serious person thought that such goals were possible before the presidents expressed them.   Indeed, serious people said that FDR and JFK  were crazy.  And they were right--while FDR said that the United States would produce 50,000 aircraft in  four years, we produced more than that number in 1944 alone.  Kennedy's 10-year time span turned out to be just over eight.  Those were instances of leaders who changed reality.   

To this point, Mr. Obama's leadership has lacked boldness.  He has had a good grasp of what can be achieved--let's not forget health-insurance reform and the Dodd-Frank Act (among other measures) were given little chance.  But many of us have the nagging feeling that the President's grasp has exceeded his reach.  

This week, Mr. Obama will have a chance to show more boldness and more effective leadership in the way that he attacks the problem that threatens a new economic crisis.  It's an opportunity he has to grasp, not just for his presidency, but for the good of the nation.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Obama blinks again

Yesterday, the President formally requested to address a joint session of Congress on September 7th.  Apparently because that would conflict with a televised debate of Rebuplican nonentities, a/k/a the GOP presidential candidates, Speaker Boehner refused.  As far as I can tell, it is unprecedented for Congress to refuse a presidential request for a joint session.  And it's not as if there's nothing important to talk about.

As you have probably heard by now, the President blinked and agreed to talk to Congress on September 8th.  Instead of competing with the Rebuplican debate, he will be opposite the opening night of NFL football.  Just guessing, but the reception he gets from the GOPhers might be rougher than some NFL defensive lines present.  

I think the President made a mistake--not that the timing is a major issue.  Still, if Mr. Obama had asked me, I would have suggested that he go ahead and make his speech on September 7th, and if Congress does not want him in the Capitol that night, he should do it from the Mall out front.  Set up a stage, and lights, and invite the voters.  He's going to be talking over the heads of Congress and to the American people anyway, why not do it openly?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The GOPhers think this is a good thing

The New York Times reports that at least 25 CEOs earned more than their companies paid in federal income taxes last year.  These are not small or obscure companies.  The list includes Boeing, eBay, Verizon, and GE (whose CEO, Jeffrey Imelt, is the chair of President Obama's council on competitiveness).  

Yeah, we know, "Corporations are people, too."  No, they're not.  Verizon may be run by human beings (I know a bit about how that company is managed and one might question that), but to say that it is people is like saying that a huge earthmover or crane is simply the person at the controls.  No.  At some point, size takes over and the organization loses all but the most tenuous connection to the people it employs, its officers, directors and its stockholders; the connection is even more muted because of the differences among those groups.  As one of my professors said, a long time ago, at some point a difference in degree becomes a difference in kind.  

And don't bleat about how high our corporate taxes are and how they discourage American competitiveness.  That's Eco 101, but in the real world things are a lot more complex.  The fact is that the US is still by far the largest economy--and market--in the world.  International corporations need to be here.  Let them pay for the privilege.  Make them pay more for the privilege.  One of the first things we should do is to tighten rules that let companies use slick accounting to keep profits offshore.  

One idea that I have had is to tax companies according to their size.  Small, efficient companies would be taxed at a lower rate than large, inefficient ones.  (And at the same rate as large, efficient ones, although efficiency tends to go down as size goes up.)  The concept--I haven't got beyond concept--would be to give companies a choice:  their tax rates would be set by their return on investment or their gross income, although the tax would be levied only on net income.  Companies could change their election, but only after a period of years.  

I'm not an economist, and can't calculate exactly how all this would all work out.  If there ARE any economists out there, let TONE know and perhaps we can explore the idea.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

More S&P looneyness

Not content with downgrading the United States, S&P has downgraded a number of cities and counties.  

Why?  Because these governmental entities have too much of their money in US Treasury securities.  

Now let me get this straight:  These cities and counties are being penalized for investing in the safest securities in the nation.  So if they had invested in riskier bonds, debentures, stocks, etc., that would have been better?

Does that make sense to anyone?  Except S&P, of course.

(Remember that after S&P downgraded the US, nervous investors fled the markets for...U.S. Treasuries.  And we trust these people to provide guidance to investors?)

Gold bubble

The price of gold is now more than $1800 per ounce.  (That's a troy ounce, which is a little heavier than a conventional ounce.)  

An ounce of gold is a cube about 2/3 of an inch on each side.  More than $1800.

Gold is going to prove to be a bubble.

You heard it here first.

What's different this time

William Black, litigation director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board during the S&L crisis and now a law professor, tells NPR why no one is going to jail as a result of the financial melt-down, and what the regulators' strategy should be.  Listen.

Another boondoggle

Yet another obvious waste of the taxpayers' money.  The New York Times reports that the Justice Department is investigating whether Standard & Poor's improperly rated dozens of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis.

Well, of course they did.  Isn't it obvious?  Indeed, it's been clear for years that S&P and the other big rating firms, Moody's and Fitch, were either totally incompetent, willfully blind in the service of the bottom line or corrupt in certifying as AAA investments that were junk.

So why do we need an investigation?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The greatest line

Wolf Blitzer interviewed President Obama and reminded him that he got his daughters a dog as a present after winning the 2008 election.  What, Blitzer wanted to know, would he get them if he wins reelection next year? 
When I'm reelected, what I'll be getting them is a continuation of Secret Service so that when boys want to start dating them they are going to be surrounded by men with guns.  That's their gift. 
Thanks to TalingPointsMemo for the report.

Why Mitt Romney cannot be elected President

Mitt Romney might well be the strongest Rebuplican nominee against President Obama, at least on paper, but he cannot be elected.  Why? I hear you asking.  In one word--or one name--Seamus.  

You don't remember Seamus (pronounced like the private eye in a Black Mask mystery, shamus)?  He was the Irish Setter that the Mittster tied to the top of the family car before the Romney's drove 600 miles to a vacation in Ontario.  

No one can be elected President who is cruel to dogs.  There are too many dog lovers who vote.  

If Mitt locks the GOP nomination, I, for one, am going to order a whole bunch of bumper stickers that say:


I'll let you know where to order yours when--and if--the time comes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A useful yardstick

Michele ("The Madwoman of Minnesota") Bachmann is touting her success as a small-businesswoman to show that she would be effective at restoring the economy if she should be elected President.

Seems to me that's like saying your experience coaching a pewee football team fits you to replace Bill Belichick.  

Sunday, August 14, 2011

If he debated a post it would be hard to say who won

Rick Perry has joined the contest for the Rebuplican presidential nomination.  Down in Texas, where he's from, they have a saying about people who try to appear bigger than they have any right to be:  "All hat and no cattle."

In Perry's case, it's all hat and no brains.  Listen to him.  The man is dumb as a post.  He makes Michele Bachmann sound like a brain trust.

In his announcement, the governor pledged that if elected he'll spend every day trying to make Washington as inconsequential in our lives as possible.  

How would he do that?

Maybe he'll eliminate FEMA, so that the federal government won't get involved in natural disasters.

Maybe he'll eliminate the FDA, so that the federal government won't certify the safety of drugs before they go on the market.

Maybe he'll eliminate the Department of Agriculture, so that federal inspectors won't check the safety of meat before it reaches our tables.

Maybe he'll cancel the FAA, so that airline schedules won't be regulated and pilots won't have to take orders from federal bureaucrats.

Maybe he'll wipe out the Federal Highway Administration so that we don't have to look at those boring signs, all the same, on interstate highways.  Maybe he'll stop spending our tax dollars on interstate highways.

Surely, he'll cut back on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and assure that each of us can own the assault rifle, shoulder-fired missile and IED of our choice.

We know he'd gut the EPA, because private industry has done such good job at assuring clean water to drink and air to breathe.

He'd certainly try to nail the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, because ordinary citizens don't need protection from predatory lenders or credit-card issuers.

Yes, there are limitless opportunities to pare the federal government, as long as you don't care about the health, welfare and safety of the American people

Back by popular demand

I thought we had pretty well seen the end of TONE, but here we are, back through the demands of our regular readers (both of them) who clamored (very quietly) for its return.

No promises on how long we'll stay, but for now at least, we're back!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Where is the poet to do it justice?

A couple in Florida forecloses on a Bank of American branch after the bank wrongfully tried to foreclose on their home.

To quote Barry Fitzgerald, "Warms the cockles of me heart!"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

That sound you hear is flip-flopping

No, it's not Mitt Romney.  The Mittster does not have a monopoly on flip-flopping among Rebuplicans.  

Turns out T-Paw is a pretty good flipper himself, as Michael Tomasky illustrates.

Build on this

Can Democrats build on Kathy Hochul's upset win in NY-26?  Unless GOPhers manage to backpedal faster than Bobby Orr getting back to meet an odd-man rush, the answer is:  Yes.  Rebuplicans stand to be crushed next year, broken on the wheel of their plan for Medicare--that is, the plan to kill it.

But if Democrats want to build something more lasting than the Rebuplicans did in 2010, they need to win over voters on more than Medicare.  The Times quoted a couple of Republican voters who pulled the lever (well, actually, pushed the button) for Hochul:  "'I have almost always voted the party line,” said Gloria Bolender, a Republican from Clarence who is caring for her 80-year-old mother. “This is the second time in my life I’ve voted against my party.'”   "'Pat Gillick, a Republican from East Amherst, who also cast a ballot for Ms. Hochul, said, “The privatization of Medicare scares me.'”  If Hochul is to be more than a one-term congresswoman, she's going to have to find common ground with people like this.  Constituent service is one way to do that, but in these contentious times, it's likely to be more important to find issues on which there is common ground.  In suburban and exurban conservative districts, suspicion of big banks and Wall Street might be one of them.  Can that be used to get these voters to support reforms such as the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that has been such a lightning-rod for Rebuplicans beholden to those very interests?  Perhaps.  Indeed, the biggest risk for Democrats may be that so many of their own people are in thrall to the same masters.

Just another reason for Democrats to re-discover their roots.

The conventional wisdom: wrong again

Democrat Kathy Hochul has won the special congressional election in NY-26, one of the most conservative upstate districts.  The Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, faded at the end.  Indeed, once again, the conventional wisdom proved wrong:  As late as last week, the MSM was attributing the close race to Davis' presence siphoning off votes from Jane Corwin, the Rebuplican candidate.  Even TalkingPointsMemo bought into this line.   

But When Davis' support melted away, a substantial part of it went to Hochul, as did the undecided.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Best line of the week

Or the month.  Maybe of the year.

Comment on a story about Harold Camping's reaction to finding that he was wrong that Saturday would be the Rapture:

"Oh cheer up Harold. We all make mistakes. Its not the end of the world."

It's all over

Hold the phone.  The Republican race is over.  Herman Cain has officially announced his candidacy for the nomination.  

Maybe true

Tim (the Man Who Vetoed Money for Infrastructure Before the I-35 Bridge Collapse) Pawlenty has announced that he is in the Rebuplican presidential race.  That's a relief to GOPhers  battered by the run for the exits of respected national leaders like Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels and, of course, Donald Trump.  Not to mention the self-inflicted damage incurred by New Gingrich as a result of his sudden brush with honesty last Sunday.  

Pawlenty's announcement--in a web video--is entitled "A Time for Truth," demonstrating that--especially in Rebuplican hands--veracity is an elastic concept.  Think of how Gingrich said that anyone who quoted his comments on Paul Ryan's budget proposal would be spreading a falsehood.  According to Pawlenty, this country is in big trouble.  Some of us would say that's because Obama and the Democrats have had only a couple of years to undo the disaster that was W.  Or we might say that Pawlenty's words are really meant as a preduction of the future:  what would happen if he and his party take over the White House and enshrine ignorance in the Oval Office.

(Note that Pawlenty is running in the Rebuplican presidential race.  That's not the same as the race for the presidency.  As the public learns more and more about what the GOPhers want to do to the nation, the possibility that Mr. Obama will be defeated next year diminishes with each passing day.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dropping like flies

Rebuplican candidates for President are dropping like flies.  First Mike Huckabee.  Then Donald.  Then Newt Gingrich angered the "conservatives" by dissing Paul Ryan's budget.  Now New has been revealed to have owed more than $250,000 to Tiffany's in 2006.  That will help his populist credentials.  (In Newt's defense, clearly he was just trying to help the wealth trickle down.  Oh, and he was presumably spending it on his current wife, not his next one--a welcome change from past behavior.)

Last night, Chris Matthews called Sarah Palin "profoundly stupid." (Usage alert:  isn't that a contradiction in terms?)  Matthews may be revealing his misogyny, because also yesterday Rick Santorum, yet another as-yet-unnanounced Rebuplican candidate for the Oval Office, told an interviewer that John McCain doesn't understand torture.   Yes, he really did.  Talk about profound stupidity.  Say what you may about McCain (and this page has), if anyone in the United States government understands torture, it's him.

Oh, and Michele Bachmann says she may "move up" her decision on whether to run for President.  

Fun times!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How far we've come

There was a time when we actually enforced the antitrust laws.  Indeed, I took antitrust from Donal Turner, who was the chief of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division under LBJ.

Which leads me to ask who in his or her right mind would think that Microsoft should be permitted to purchase Skype--a service that it could (and should, if it wants to be in the business) easily develop on its own.

Friday, May 06, 2011

On code names

Some American Indians have expressed anger (or disgust) over the use of the code name Geronimo for Osama bin Laden.  One one level, the name may have been meant to pay tribute to the wiliness of both the al Qaeda leader and the chief of the Chiricahua Apaches.  But tying the courageous Indian leader who was defending his ancestral lands against invaders to a mass-murdering religious fanatic was, at best, insensitive.

Which brings up one of my pet peeves:  the whole use of code names these days.  I'm thinking particularly of names for military operations--"Iraqi Freedom," "Desert Storm," but the example of Geronimo/bin Laden shows the same confusion.

Code-names are supposed to be CODE.  They are meant to conceal, not reveal.  Historically, the names given to operations had nothing to do with the objective; that was the whole point.  So, the invasion of North Africa was Torch, of Sicily Husky and of Normandy--as we all know--Overlord.  None of the titles had anything to do with the target.  During WWII, the names were picked at random from a long list (sometimes a name was rejected as being perhaps too revealing or perhaps embarrassing if known).

That's the other thing about code-names:  they are not revealed at the time; that would defeat the purpose.  They are held secret until revealing them will not hurt anyone.  

What we have today is clumsy propagandizing meant to evoke heroic warmaking.  Arrogant foolishness.

Will they ever learn?

"Raid Account, Hastily Told, Proves Fluid"

The title of a piece in the NYTimes this morning, recounting the shifting descriptions of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.  The article goes on, "it was a classic collision of a White House desire to promote a stunning national security triumph — and feed a ravenous media — while collecting facts from a chaotic military operation on the other side of the world."  

Now it's become a self-inflicted wound.  Not serious, but wholly unnecessary.

I've never been in the Oval Office or the Situation Room.  I've never dealt with vital issues of national security.  But I don't need that kind of experience to know that talking about the details of an operation like this, especially within the first forty-eight hours, is just plain dumb.    Even in today's world of instantaneous communications, the story is going to change as it's examined.  The chances that the details will look better when re-examined are slight, and if that occurs, the original story will still be the one people remember.

For a White House full of very smart people, this was just stupid.  And it was totally foreseeable, because it happens every time there is a story like this.  Remember, "Brownie, you're doin' a heck of a job?"  

What the administration should have said was:  "United States forces killed Osama bin Laden at a hideout in Pakistan on May 1st.  His body was positively identified.  His remains were treated with respect and in accord with Muslim custom, and  he was buried at sea.  Further details will not be forthcoming at this time."

At a joint news conference with Harry Truman, Winston Churchill told reporters, "I think no comment is a splendid expression.  I am using it again and again.  I got it from Sumner Welles [FDR's trusted aide]."  Mr. Churchill was a wise man.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Joke's on them

In the dear dead days beyond recall--that is, before the announcement that US forces had killed Osama bin Laden--Donald Trump wore a bulls eye at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner.  (For those who have forgotten, it was last Saturday night.)  As you have probably heard, host Seth Meyers (allegedly of another Saturday Night Live, though you couldn't prove it by me) noted that The Donald had announced that he was running for President as a Rebuplican, "which is surprising, because I thought he was running as a joke."

Good line, but grossly unfair to Mr. Trump, because--as we know--the Rebuplican Party is a joke.

But seriously, why haven't you heard any of the commentariat note that the weakness of the Rebuplican presidential field (something that has been mentioned) is directly related to the party's intellectual bankruptcy?  The mix of fallacy, foolishness and outright lies that pass for thought on the Right must be toxic to any serious political debate.  Oh, a few of the Rebuplican leaders--I'm thinking of Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan--can sound sensible when producing a sound bite or a set speech.  But as Paul Krugman has shown in his columns, what passes for reasoning quickly crumbles when challenged by real knowledge and thought that is not constrained by "conservative" cant.  

To make this argument, I ought to be able to show a plausible Rebuplican candidate who is not running, because he or she cannot stomach--or surmount--the bunkum that the party now celebrates.  I cannot do so, but I think that is because the anti-intellectualism of the Right has so hollowed out its intellectual basis that there is nothing left.


Monday, May 02, 2011

Don't cheer, boys

The killing of Osama bin Laden is a signal achievement in the struggle against those who would use terror as a legitimate weapon to impose their narrow, rigid view of the world on others.  It was a necessary step, once he was located.  Had I been the President, I should have ordered it.  

Yet I cannot celebrate the death of any person, even one who has brought so much death and suffering to so many others.  

For a long time, I have admired Capt. Tom Philip, commander of the U.S.S. Oregon at the Battle of Santiago during the Spanish-American War.  As the Spanish ships came out of the harbor, the overwhelmingly superior US fleet engaged them.  When one of the Spanish ships began to blaze, sailors on the Oregon began to shout.  "Don't cheer, boys," Capt. Philip called out.  "The poor devils are dying."  The simple humanity of that statement moves me.  

And so my feeling this morning is, Let's not cheer.  Let us, instead, regret the necessity to take human life in defense of human dignity.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Second coming?

Four years ago, when I started working for Barack Obama, I hoped that he would be the second coming of FDR.  Now I'm afraid that he's turning out to be the second coming of Grover Cleveland. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Marking time

Today is the 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter that started the Civil War.

Saturday, April 9th, was the 144th anniversary of Lee's surrender at Appomattox.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

What Mr. Obama should be doing

This morning on NPR, Cokie Roberts, dependable voice of Conventional Wisdom, said that for President Obama, "it's all about the independents;" according to her, that was the reason that the President dug in his heels over the social-issue riders that the most radical Rebuplicans wanted to stick on the budget deal.  

She may well be right, but that's not a good thing.  In fact, it exposes a central fallacy of Mr. Obama's approach:  He should not be trying to appeal to independents.  He ought to be working at changing their minds so that they become Democrats.

Fighting a rear-guard action to protect the English language

Sign in an overpriced casual men's 
store on Newbury Street in Boston

Thanks for the clarification.  We should never have known.


You will almost certainly read or hear that Japan is marking the one-month anniversary since the country was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.  Even the Voice of America used that locution.

Well, no, the Japanese aren't.  There's no such thing as an anniversary for a period of less than a year.  "Anniversary" comes from annus, Latin for year, and versus, which did not mean "against" as it does now, but "turning."  (There's no 18-month anniversary, either.)

Oh, and 12 months from an event is not the one-year anniversary--a clumsy and ugly phrase that is an outgrowth of the mis-use of anniversary.  It's the first anniversary.  

Read this

John Thompson, the unjustly and illegally convicted man whose $14 million verdict against the New Orleans DA was stolen from him by the reactionaries on the Supreme Court a couple of weeks ago, had an op-ed in yesterday's Times.  He destroys the decision, not in legal but in human terms.  And those are the terms that matter, because in the end the law deals not in abstract principles, but in real life.

Read his article.  Read it even if you have to sign up and pay to get the Times on line.  (As ab aside, why shouldn't we on-line users be prepared to pay the cost of bringing us the news?)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Bad policy, bad politics

The deal that congressional leaders and the White House signed off on last night is bad policy, because the budget cuts on which Democrats caved will hamper economic recovery and hurt the very people that government is supposed to help.

It is bad politics for Democrats, because having signed on they cannot criticize Rebuplicans for hampering recovery, and cannot blame Rebuplicans for reviving the shades of Herbert Hoover.  

And the Rebuplicans can go on, virtually unfettered, with their war on working- and middle-class Americans, women and anyone else who is not in their base.  

Once again, Democrats--including President Obama--have failed to draw a line in the sand.  

The bullies won.  Again.