Friday, February 27, 2009

NATO's "Master Narrative" for Afghanistan

I haven't been paying much attention to "Wikileaks", but, apparently, they have released NATO's Master Narrative for Afghanistan. The file was on the Pentagon(!) server, and the password was easily guessed. It can be downloaded from the Wikilinks site.

I haven't read it yet, more when I do, but I can't decide whether the best part is that there is such a document, or that a file created by the Pentagon was so easily cracked. By the Wiki people, no less.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Steve Paikin: Class Act

As seen here, ripping up Whatzisname for playing the censor.

Paikin is the host of what is, quite probably, Canada's most respected current affairs show, The Agenda. I've seen it (episodes are on their website), and though it isn't flashy, it's excellent. It also has a tendency to book controversial guests: one of them, Kathy Shaidle, is a notorious anti-Muslim agitator online. I saw the episode, and she wasn't very good, and her writings aren't very good either.

But, since she's also very much anti-Liberal, this didn't suit Whatzisname one bit. So, well, I'll let Steve tell it:

It was with a considerable amount of surprise that I received an email from Warren, the public affairs consultant and Liberal Party operative, the day our program was set to air.

Warren has been a guest on The Agenda several times, and, in fact, had been a guest with Kathy Shaidle on The Agenda in 2007.

Warren told me that he planned to blog about our “outrageous decision” to “give Kathy Shaidle a platform, and for provincial tax dollars to indirectly fund same.”

He asked whether we had any comment to make and whether Kathy was being paid to appear (she wasn’t).

Warren then included in his private email to me a lengthy list of things Kathy had said about other ethnic groups, mainly Muslims.

Here's what he sent, alleging Shaidle had said or written all of these things...

[here follows a laundry list of valid-but-irrelevant complaints]

I told Warren that if he was looking for an official comment from the program, it should come from our communications department or our executive producer, so I forwarded Warren’s email to Dan.

Later that same day, I received another email from Warren informing me that he was emailing the Minister of Education to ask her to pressure us to “unbook” Kathy Shaidle, and that if we didn’t, there would be significant consequences for TVO and The Agenda. He did, indeed, email the Minister.

Well, now we’ve got a different story, right? Now, it’s no longer a story about the appropriateness of our choosing Kathy to appear on the program. Now it’s a story about a well known Liberal Party operative threatening us (with what? We didn’t know) unless we did what he said.

That’s a very different story and as a result, we naturally refused to “unbook” Kathy. We do not take our marching orders on whom to put on or take off our television program from anyone, but most assuredly, not from partisan political operatives with personal grudges (Warren’s tangle with Kathy, I’ve learned, goes back awhile).

So if Warren’s ultimate goal was to deprive Kathy of a “platform,” his approach failed spectacularly.

Throughout the course of the day, Warren and I emailed back and forth a few times. Much to my surprise, I found my private emails to him quoted on his blog. I found that to be a violation of etiquette and surprising for someone who, I would imagine, understands the value of private conversation.

The show went ahead. Kathy Shaidle didn’t insult Muslims – or anyone else. Some viewers have suggested she appeared angry and defensive but she was not the ogre Warren demanded we take off the public’s airwaves.

After the program, I emailed Warren once again, offering to talk to him at his convenience about the day’s events. He declined, saying “the damage has been done.” What that damage was, he didn’t say.

At this point, I was unclear as to whether my efforts to communicate with Warren were really about resolving a difference of opinion, or simply providing content for his blog.
No doubt.

I've been doing this for a while. My numbers aren't as high as they were, but I've never really cared that much about that. Read it or don't. I certainly don't pull Kinsella's numbers. But even if I did want to pull those kind of numbers, there's no way that I'd pull a stunt like this to get them. Not only does this hurt his credibility, but it damages the credibility of the man he works for, and the sense of entitlement in his "I'M GONNA EMAIL THE MINISTER!!" tirade reinforces every negative stereotype about the Liberal party and its apparatchiks that Canadians have of them. It makes them look worse than Republicans; more like the bloated patronage-ridden power brokers that drag down the Japanese LDP.

It's every reason they got their asses kicked all in one idiotic package. And, as an added bonus, it'll have ticked off a key public media figure in Canada, which is the LAST thing the Liberals need. They have little pull online, especially compared to their Conservative and NDP counterparts, and the press is predominantly Conservative-leaning in Canada. They need people like Paikin, and he'll be thoroughly alienated after this.

One can only hope that somebody dressed this guy down thoroughly. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Republicans and Demmycrats

So Barack Obama talked about helping a country in need, and how he was going to help, just like a good Democrat.

Meanwhile, Bobby Jindal lied his ass off about Katrina to serve his political ends. Just like a good Republican.

(In case you're wondering, it's that weird story he gave about how government was the problem during Katrina--no, really--because he saw how some people with boats were forbidden from helping. Problem is, he was nowhere near where he said he was at the time. He was in Baton Rouge. And the guy he says was there with him? Dead.

Besides that, though, it takes one hell of a set of blinders to think that the problem with Katrina was bureaucrats. Uh, no, Governor, it was your party's cronyism and incompetence. As usual, Republicans take their own complete inability to run a government and blame everybody else
Stay classy, Grand Old Party.

As for Obama? It really was a good speech. The education stuff was really powerful, and his call for all Americans to consider at least one year of post-secondary schooling or training provided a cutting edge to all that "national sacrifice" stuff we've been hearing.

I'm not happy about the comments about social security. He seems to be trying to play both sides by holding out the promise of social security privatization to Republicans and their various private-sector paymasters while assuring Dems and retirees that their pensions are safe from cutbacks. But most of the rest was good, if sombre.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mr. President, Stay the Hell Away From Social Security

No, really, trying to cut SS would be the worst idea ever.

Not only would the AARP carve you up, your base walk out, your Democratic allies lose their minds and the press reframe your entire presidency as you vs. "the left", the Republicans would just get in "give us an inch" mode and start agitating for medicare cuts, too, since that's the one that might actually face sustainability problems.

Besides, would you really try selling the idea that people should be saving privately? NOW? Everybody is thanking their lucky stars that Bush didn't get his "reforms" through--boomers would be facing the prospect of Meow Mix as a dietary staple--and you want to dig up THAT festering corpse?

You're finding it harder and harder to avoid [i]nationalizing the banks[/i], I somehow don't think that's going to inspire people's confidence in private-sector retirement solutions!

(And if you just cut without ANY other option, say goodbye to your Democratic Congressional allies, because they'll either ignore you or lose their jobs. Or both.)

You're smarter than this, Mr. President. Don't let axe-grinding economists throw you off.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Fanatical, Irrational Minority

That's what the ever lovin' nobelprizewinningeconomist Paul Krugman is calling the California Republicans, who are filibustering the state budget bill and sending the state into crisis. The state of California is broke. It can't pay people. It can't give out tax refunds. It can't even borrow money, since its credit has gotten so bad.

But it can't raise taxes, either, or really do much of anything, because of State Republicans.

The roots of California’s inability to address its budget woes are statutory and political. The state, unlike most others, requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature to pass budgets and tax increases. And its process for creating voter initiatives hamstrings the budget process by directing money for some programs while depriving others of cash.

In a Legislature dominated by Democrats, some of whom lean far to the left, leaders have been unable to gather enough support from Republican lawmakers, who tend on average to be more conservative than the majority of California’s Republican voters and have unequivocally opposed all tax increases.

And then there is Governor Schwarzenegger, whose budget woes far outweigh those of his predecessor, Gray Davis, whom he drummed from office in a 2003 recall that stemmed from the state’s fiscal problems at the time. The governor has failed to muster votes among lawmakers in his own party, whom he often opposes on ideological grounds, resulting in more scorn from Democrats.

Furthermore, Republican leaders in the Senate and the Assembly who have agreed to get on board with a plan have been unable to persuade a few key lawmakers to join them. The package needs at least three Republican votes in each house, to join with the 51 Democrats in the Assembly and the 24 Democrats in the Senate.

For months Republicans have vowed not to raise taxes, which in California means no increase in either the sales, gas or personal income tax.

“It is a dramatic time,” said Darrell Steinberg, the State Senate’s president pro tempore. “The solvency of the state is on the line. It is really quite a system where the fate of the state rests upon the shoulders of a couple of members of a minority party. The system frankly needs to be changed.”

In the meantime, drivers are met with “closed” signs at Department of Motor Vehicles offices two days a month, environmental programs are left unattended, piles of dirt mark where highway lanes are to be built to ease the state’s infamous traffic congestion, school systems mull layoffs and counties prepare to sue the state for nonpayment of bills.
Yep. They can't do anything, because of the combination of those damned ballot initiatives and that 2/3rds threshold. A single Republican broccoli farmer's intransigence over taxes is holding up the work of the entire state. People are losing their jobs because of this. The state might shut down because of this. THAT is the face of the modern Republican party. They'll let the rest of us all burn to save a few bucks on the firemen.

Meanwhile, the usual idiots in Washington still fetishize bipartisanship- despite people far smarter and more knowledgeable than them explaining that it's bunkum.

But even if it weren't, even if the historical trends weren't clear, the fact is inescapable that this bunch aren't worth working with.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Quick Tip for Michael Gerson

Aside from everything else you screwed up, Michael, inflationary pressures are the LAST thing you should be worried about right now.

The economy stands in serious danger of high deflation. Deflation is an absolute disaster for an economy. Inflationary pressures are a good thing.

Sometimes He's Awesome

Obama on bipartisanship via Bob Herbert:

When I asked him if there was any reason to believe that the G.O.P. had made a good-faith effort at bipartisanship, given the fact that only three Republicans voted for the stimulus plan in the Senate and none in the House, he said he did not want to question the motives or sincerity of those who opposed the plan.

But he made a point of adding, “Now, I have to say that given that they were running the show for a pretty long time prior to me getting there, and that their theory was tested pretty thoroughly and it’s landed us in the situation where we’ve got over a trillion-dollars’ worth of debt and the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, I think I have a better argument in terms of economic thinking.”

He also made it clear that he won’t let his desire for bipartisanship undermine important initiatives. “I’m an eternal optimist,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I’m a sap.”
Bolding mine. Whatta great line.

And on the economy in general?

But beyond his specific policies (and whether one supports them or not), Mr. Obama is emerging as the very model of the type of person one would want in high public office. He is intelligent, mature, thoughtful, calm in the face of crises and, if the nation is lucky, maybe even wise.

When asked about the sharp drop in the stock markets after Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner announced an expanded bank bailout plan last week, Mr. Obama replied:

“I am not planning based on a one-day market reaction. In fact, you can argue that a lot of the problems we’re in have to do with everybody planning based on one-day market reactions, or three-month market reactions, and as a consequence nobody was taking the long view.

“My job is to help the country take the long view — to make sure that not only are we getting out of this immediate fix, but we’re not repeating the same cycle of bubble and bust over and over again; that we’re not having the same energy conversation 30 years from now that we had 30 years ago; that we’re not talking about the state of our schools in the exact same ways we were talking about them in the 1980s; and that at some point we say, ‘You know what? If we’re spending more money per-capita on health care than any nation on earth, then you’d think everybody would have coverage and we would see lower costs for average consumers, and we’d have better outcomes.’
I've said it for a little while, but what I like about Obama is that he learns. Bipartisanship isn't necessarily the best choice? Fine, keep it as a guidepost but do what's necessary. Economy goes south right before you become president, and it looks like it might be a long-term issue? Fine, take a long-term view. Health care isn't working? Fine, improve it.

There are a lot of things that concern me about this administration--the constant references to "entitlement reform" bother me as much as they do digby--but unlike his predecessor, he gets the message. Nice change.

Wait a Second...

Did Frederick Kagan seriously talk about "Iraqi bitching" on C-Span?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gregg's Out

The reason: he's a Republican, and they simply aren't willing to be sensible about the economy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fifteen Seats For the Party That Demands "Loyalty Oaths"

That's what the Israeli electorate gave Avigdor Lieberman yesterday. Link's to Ezra Klein, who says this:

We can now say with some certainty that the Gaza assault swift strengthened the extreme right in both Israel and Palestine. In Israel, the center-right lost to a coalition of the far-right and the extreme-right. Avigdor Lieberman's rise was perhaps the clearest example of this: Lieberman advocates loyalty oaths for Israeli Arabs (those who refuse would be stripped of their citizenship) and execution for any Arab Knesset member -- that is to say, Israeli-Arab members of the Israeli parliament -- who meet with Hamas. And don't take it from me. Marty Peretz -- Marty Peretz! -- writes that Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu ("Israel is our Home") is "a neo-fascist list headed by a Russian immigrant and certified gangster, Avigdor Lieberman, who is the Israeli equivalent of Jorg Haider of Austria (now dead) and Jean-Marie LePen." Yisrael Beiteinu is now the third largest party in the country, ahead of the once dominant Labor, and is likely to be the second most powerful member of the governing coalition.

Meanwhile, in the Occupied Territories, Hamas's popularity has soared. About half of the Palestinians said Hamas won the Gaza war, while less than 10 per cent said Israel had triumphed. More troubling, a snap election would, according to the survey, hand Hamas a win of 28.6 percent of the vote, up from 19.3 percent last April. This would put it ahead of the rival Fatah party, which has seen its support plummet from 34 percent last April to 27.9 percent. And Hamas's lead is even larger in the West Bank -- which Fatah formerly controlled -- than in Gaza. Meanwhile, the changes within Hamas are predictable too: The hardliners have been empowered, and those who saw their post-election mission as bringing some level of normalcy to the lives of Palestinians have lost power to those who believe revolutionary struggle is the only path forward. And thus the violent extremists feed off, and strengthn, one another.
The best part is summary execution for Arab Knesset members who meet with Hamas, presumably for any reason whatsoever. Sounds reasonable.

I imagine this is probably not what Olmert had in mind. But it was probably inevitable: Klein is absolutely right that this sort of conflict only strengthens the hand of violent extremists. Well, they're strengthened. Democratically, too.

Consensus on TARP pt. 2:

The wrong rival won, Mr. President, and then went on to let down the "team."

Next time, listen to the brilliant guys that won you an election against the odds, instead of the guy who was at the table where this whole mess was started.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Well, the Senate Passed the Stimulus Bill

Billions of dollars of compromise for three damned votes.

Funny how that works. When the Republicans are at the helm, the Dems compromise. When the Dems are at the helm...the Dems compromise.

In any case, here's hoping that Pelosi prevails on reconciliation. Hopefully she got out from under that double-decker that Rahm parked on top of her.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Newfound Buddies?

I said that the WH Press Corps were the "newfound buddies of the Republicans" in the last post. I may have been wrong: it's not THAT newfound. Here's ThinkProgress:

As Media Matters has documented, during the Bush administration, the media consistently allowed conservatives to dominate their shows, booking them as guests far more often than progressives. The rationale was that Republicans were “in power.”

It appears that old habits die hard. Even though President Obama and his team are in control of the executive branch and Democrats are in the majority in Congress, the cable networks are still turning more often to Republicans and allowing them to set the agenda on major issues, most recently on the debate over the economic recovery package.

On Sunday, conservatives began an all-out assault on President Obama’s economic recovery plan, with House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) both announcing that they would vote against the plan as it stood. Despite Obama’s efforts at good faith outreach, congressional conservatives have continued to attack the stimulus plan with a series of false and disingenuous arguments.

The media have been aiding their efforts. In a new analysis, ThinkProgress has found that the five cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business and CNBC — have hosted more Republican lawmakers to discuss the plan than Democrats by a 2 to 1 ratio this week.

In total, from 6 AM on Monday to 4 PM on Wednesday, the networks have hosted Republican lawmakers 51 times and Democratic lawmakers only 26 times. Surprisingly, Fox News came the closest to offering balance, hosting 8 Republicans and 6 Democrats. CNN had only two Democrats compared to 7 Republicans.

The drastically imbalanced coverage isn’t the first time that the news networks have effectively supported attacks on the recovery plans. As ThinkProgress reported on Monday, the cable networks, the Sunday shows and the network newscasts promoted a controversial CBO non-report 81 times before the actual CBO analysis of the stimulus plan was released.
I didn't transfer over the very nice chart they have, it would have broken the table here, but I urge you to check it out. The Republicans are clearly engaged in a full-court-press here, and the Dems (as usual) seem not to understand what they're dealing with.

Again, let's be clear. They want America to fail. They want to shake the country apart and build a new one from the pieces, since the only way they're ever going to get the change they want now is if they convince people that the Dems made things worse. They want things to get worse; far more than the Dems ever did under Bush. And, naturally, they'll make it worse still if they get back into power, since it was their institutional insanity that put America in this position in the first place.

That's the fight. Nothing less. That the media doesn't get it is their problem.

Quote of the Quote of the Day

Gettin' Meta.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman::
The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge.
Sums it up nicely. We've seen how far the Republican are willing to go to tear down the country around them in the service of the very people who put America into this mess. That the next step would be something just a bit more [i]drastic[/i] than Keynesian stimulus seems to elude them, focused as they are on protecting their ideology and what it apologizes for.

But there's a bit Tristero didn't quote:
So what should Mr. Obama do? Count me among those who think that the president made a big mistake in his initial approach, that his attempts to transcend partisanship ended up empowering politicians who take their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh. What matters now, however, is what he does next.

It’s time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive. Above all, he must not shy away from pointing out that those who stand in the way of his plan, in the name of a discredited economic philosophy, are putting the nation’s future at risk. The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge.
Remember how I said "the nuclear option looms large here"? I meant it. The parliamentary points of privilege of a bunch of dishonest bastards are not worth a collapsing economy.

If the Republican continue to be obstinate, take their ball away. And if their newfound buddies in the WH press corps start yelling, tell them you were willing to entertain good ideas, not a repackage of the ideological drivel that put America in this position to begin with.

Let us be very clear. This was their fault. Their attitude of "wealth can do no wrong". Their worship of deregulation of all sectors, especially the financial sector, which led Gramm to create the bizarre, unholy credit default swap market that ruined the banking sector. Their simultaneous ineptitude at governance and cynical manipulation of politics. Their hatred of the workers who actually do things, as opposed to making increasingly complicated leveraged bets that even they don't fully understand. And their tendency to blame people whose dreams were cynically exploited by the people they really work for: the monied and powerful.

(The very people who are getting richer and richer as these other poor saps get more and more desperate.)

Hell, they couldn't even keep America safe.

No, they deserve no quarter and little tolerance. Certainly not tolerance for a kabuki-theatre "filibuster". If they won't act in good faith, to hell with 'em.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Prez in the Post

Barack Obama went to bat for the stimulus package in the Post today.

Makes sense. The GOP has been flooding the airwaves with nonsense, and Obama has both the ability and experience to be able to counter this sort of thing directly.

One bit really made me sit up, though. He said, in response to the Republicans, that "I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change."

So, yeah. We just got "I won" in long-form in the Post. I'm sure Republicans will be losing their mind at the thought that the guy they thought was a stealth Republican turned out to be a muscular progressive—for the most part—who isn't willing to put up with their BS, but here we are. And he's deflecting the Republicans' arguments for "bipartisanship" quite well in the piece. Take this bit:
By now, it's clear to everyone that we have inherited an economic crisis as deep and dire as any since the days of the Great Depression. Millions of jobs that Americans relied on just a year ago are gone; millions more of the nest eggs families worked so hard to build have vanished. People everywhere are worried about what tomorrow will bring.

What Americans expect from Washington is action that matches the urgency they feel in their daily lives -- action that's swift, bold and wise enough for us to climb out of this crisis.

Because each day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That's why I feel such a sense of urgency about the recovery plan before Congress. With it, we will create or save more than 3 million jobs over the next two years, provide immediate tax relief to 95 percent of American workers, ignite spending by businesses and consumers alike, and take steps to strengthen our country for years to come.

This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending -- it's a strategy for America's long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education. And it's a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability, so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent.

He's setting the groundwork for an argument that the Republicans are being obstructive. That helps him keep up the sense of momentum on the plan, and that's the most important job he has: he needs to take those Republicans "standing athwart history saying 'NO'" and just push them aside, like some kind of executive sumo wrestler. That's what the people WANT him to do. That's what he was elected to do. And though Harry Reid is a quivering jello-mold of a leader, that's what he probably wants to do too.

The "nuclear option" looms large here.

Further on:

Every day, our economy gets sicker -- and the time for a remedy that puts Americans back to work, jump-starts our economy and invests in lasting growth is now.

Now is the time to protect health insurance for the more than 8 million Americans at risk of losing their coverage and to computerize the health-care records of every American within five years, saving billions of dollars and countless lives in the process.

Now is the time to save billions by making 2 million homes and 75 percent of federal buildings more energy-efficient, and to double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy within three years.

Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans.

And now is the time to create the jobs that remake America for the 21st century by rebuilding aging roads, bridges and levees; designing a smart electrical grid; and connecting every corner of the country to the information superhighway.

These are the actions Americans expect us to take without delay. They're patient enough to know that our economic recovery will be measured in years, not months. But they have no patience for the same old partisan gridlock that stands in the way of action while our economy continues to slide.

THIS, THIS is amazing stuff. He's leveraged that "Now is the time" stuff that did so damned much good in the primaries and general to get things done.

All the excitement of his campaign, all of that sense of history and purpose and unity, all of it is bound up in the phrases he drilled into people's heads over and over and over again. People complained that "they didn't mean anything"; now they do. It's pretty much inevitable that readers (who aren't doctrinaire Republicans) are going to see this and make that association with positive progress, and they're going to come down on any filibuster like a ton of bricks.

So we have a choice to make. We can once again let Washington's bad habits stand in the way of progress. Or we can pull together and say that in America, our destiny isn't written for us but by us. We can place good ideas ahead of old ideological battles, and a sense of purpose above the same narrow partisanship. We can act boldly to turn crisis into opportunity and, together, write the next great chapter in our history and meet the test of our time.
..and that's the judo flip that makes the Republicans look like the nasty partisans, not the Dems. It's almost bizarre seeing it. I'm so used to Republicans making this sort of play that when a Dem does it I almost feel a bit confused. It's strange having a Democrat in the White House, but it's shocking having a Dem in the White House who plays the game at the Republicans' level.

But that's the thing about Obama, isn't it? He's still new enough to Washington that he doesn't seem to quite "get" the things that everybody else "gets". He doesn't buy into the Republican interpretation of everything, doesn't think that the country is "center-right", doesn't do whatever his handlers tells him, and doesn't spend all his time triangulating between his own party and those who consider that party their enemies. But that doesn't mean he's a bad politician. He's an excellent politician, one of the most gifted liberal politicians I've ever seen.

No wonder the Republicans look so desperate.

Edit: That said, Gibbs needs to work on his press-handling. He's getting torn up here.