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Showing posts from February, 2009

Listening to how China speaks to the United States ...

... is a good indication of the subtle change in Sino-American relations that is resulting from our increasing indebtedness. Listen : China and the U.S. resumed military-to-military consultations Friday after a five-month suspension over American arms sales to Taiwan, but a top Chinese officer warned the exchanges remain in a "difficult period." China froze military exchanges in October to register its anger over a $6.5 billion U.S. arms sale to Taiwan that included advanced weaponry such as Patriot missiles and Apache attack helicopters. China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan is part of its territory, complained that the sale interfered with its internal affairs. Contacts resumed with talks led by David Sedney, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense, and Maj. Gen. Qian Lihua, the Chinese Defense Ministry's head of foreign affairs. Qian was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying that contacts would remain tenuous unless the U.S. removes remaining ob

President Obama declares war on lobbyists ... with an army of ... lobbyists

First--to our liberal friends --the good news, via CBS : (AP) President Barack Obama challenged the nation's vested interests to a legislative duel Saturday, saying he will fight to change health care, energy and education in dramatic ways that will upset the status quo. "The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long," Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio and video address. "But I don't. I work for the American people." He said his ambitious budget plan, unveiled Thursday, will help millions of Americans, but only if Congress overcomes resistance from deep-pocket lobbies. "I know these steps won't sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they're gearing up for a fight," Mr. Obama said, using tough-guy language reminiscent of his predecessor, George W. Bush. "My message to them is this:

Quick Thoughts : Obama's Iraq Speech

I thought it was excellent. He was very specific, and hit all the right notes especially in framing our role vis a vis the Iraqis, at least in the context of the reality that we are there, like it or not. Obviously the Iraqis have suffered greatly. But in the last analysis it is also true that an immense amount of American blood and treasure was expended for what ultimately is giving Iraq the opportunity to secure for itself a stable lasting constitutional democracy. Whether one supported or opposed the war, this fact is immutable. Ironically, a war opponent like Obama has far more credibility making firm note of this to the Iraqis than would any of the warmongering interventionists who initiated the Iraq invasion and prolonged our occupation. I hope the President sticks to his specifics and doesn't get swept into any transient dilatory mire as the deadlines approach. (Dana Garrett echoes this and other sentiments in his own well-balanced review of Obama's address). Si

BREAKING! Oldest "Keep off the grass!" sign found...

... next to 1.5 million-year-old human footprint .

Because Waldo (who remains anonymous for pretty good reasons) can read...

... and apparently many evangelical Christianists cannot. Or simply prefer to lie. First, the anonymity thing. We've had a variety of discussions on this topic around the Delaware blogosphere, and the upshot is that a lot of our most valued bloggers (kavips, pandora, liberalgeek, etc.) chose to use internet handles , while others (Tyler Nixon, Matt Matthews, Dana Garrett, John Feroce) do not. But there is general agreement here that outing an anonymous or pseudononymous blogger is, as BrianShields pointed out: Outing someone’s pen name in a blogosphere argument is the equivalent of calling an African American the N word in a verbal argument. Unfortunately, I'm not as refined as Brian, so I will actually use the N-word. Adam Fogle of the Palmetto Scoop has found himself, apparently once too often, the subject of Waldo's wit, and is running around South Carolina's blogosphere shouting, Nigger, nigger, nigger at Waldo and other bloggers who use pen names. Her

Maybe we could have the IAEA inspect to insure that nuclear materials have not been diverted for nefarious use...

... inside the United States. Since the Energy Department claims to have lost track of several hundred thousand pounds of such material. From NTI : WASHINGTON -- A number of U.S. institutions with licenses to hold nuclear material reported to the Energy Department in 2004 that the amount of material they held was less than agency records indicated. But rather than investigating the discrepancies, Energy officials wrote off significant quantities of nuclear material from the department's inventory records. That's just one of the findings of a report released yesterday by Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman that concluded "the department cannot properly account for and effectively manage its nuclear materials maintained by domestic licensees and may be unable to detect lost or stolen material." Auditors found that Energy could not accurately account for the quantities and locations of nuclear material at 15 out of 40, or 37 percent, of facilities r

And Congress is your friend, until it isn't....

All of a sudden, Democratic congressional leaders can't quite square promises of an Iraq withdrawal by August 2010 that leaves more troops (50,000 plus) there than we will have in Afghanistan: From WaPo : President Obama has invited members of Congress to the White House for a meeting later this afternoon to discuss his plans for drawing down troops in Iraq -- a plan that has already drawn stiff criticism from his Democratic allies. After Speaker Nancy Pelosi complained that the level of troops -- 50,000 -- who would remain in Iraq is too high, other senior Democrats voiced similar concerns on Thursday. Among Democratic leaders, only Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois is defending the new Obama plan, which will take three months longer than he promised and still leave a significant force structure on the ground. "I'm happy to listen to the secretary of defense and the president, but when they talk about 50,000, that's a little higher number than I had anticipated,&quo

Taping back together the Constitution requires too much deliberation to start immediately... (2)

The Bush--I mean, the Obama--administration goes to court to preserve telecom immunity. From The Raw Story : The Obama Justice Department continues to stand behind a Bush era law meant to prevent lawsuits against telecommunications companies accused of illegally sharing private customer information with intelligence agencies. In a brief filed late Wednesday obtained by Raw Story, the Department of Justice provided its views to Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, after the San Francisco federal judge questioned the constitutionality of the wide-sweeping law and whether it gives the U.S. Attorney General too much power in deciding whether a company is immune from lawsuits after it has shared information with federal agents. The law was specifically designed to protect companies who participated in government wiretapping programs from legal claims and is one that President Obama supported as a senator when it was approved by Congress last year. "Electronic communication ser

Reducing the State budget deficit: eight suggestions

Just thinking about this issue like Governor Markell asked everybody to do. I haven't costed them out, but the least significant would save several millions of dollars: 1. Eliminate the Secretary of Homeland Security position and fold its security responsibilities into the State Police and its disaster responsibilities into DEMA. There is not the slightest bit of evidence that the proliferation of staffs and offices has made us one whit safer or improved interagency coordination. 2. Eliminate the DSTP. Jack promised to do this, anyway. 3. Commute the sentences of non-violent, non-dealing drug offenders, and follow up by decriminalizing at least personal marijuana use. 4. Increase the mandatory replacement age for school buses by three years. 5. Close the Delaware Psychiatric Center and pay the cost to send our patients to the comparable institutions in Pennsylvania, Maryland, or New Jersey. 6. Program EZ Pass on Rt 1 to charge vehicles registered out of state a 15% s

Speaking of Regulating Harmful Conduct, Let's Not Forget Wilful Negligence

Once again, the environmentally-monstrous, union-propped, corporate sockpuppet (currently Valero) Delaware City oil refinery is belching "excess" poisons into Delaware's environment for the umpteenth time in recent memory. At what point is enough enough?? I hope Governor Markell begins to look at permanently "sunsetting" all state permits for this antiquated pollution-belching nightmare, smack in the middle of the northern half of Delaware. When it was foisted on a sleepy part of lower New Castle County by J. Paul Getty circa 1953, things were different. Now 1000's of families and individuals live and work within close range of this site. The potential and real harms to these communities and Delaware's environment have gone on far too long. Clearly the string of corporate owners of the Delaware City refinery are simply not (and have never been) interested in even bare minimum emissions compliance. This is a clear-cut case where profits are maxim

Once again, actions speak louder than campaign rhetoric...

... or even rhetoric in front of both houses of the US Congress, when the President reassures the American public that we do not torture. Yeah, and neither did the Bush administration. Two stories. First: William Fisher : While human rights and legal advocacy groups applauded President Barack Obama's decision to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay within a year, many immediately raised another thorny question: "What about Bagram?" The answer came as a shock. In a brief filing in federal court last week, lawyers from Obama's Department of Justice said they would adopt the same position taken by the George W. Bush administration – that detainees held at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan have no right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts. The U.S. government is holding more than 600 prisoners at Bagram. Some claim they are victims of "extraordinary rendition" by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), while many more say they have bee

Senator Robert Byrd (!?) challenges centralization of power in the Exeuctive Branch...

From Politico via h/t Real World Libertarian : In a letter to Obama on Wednesday, Byrd complained about Obama’s decision to create White House offices on health reform, urban affairs policy, and energy and climate change. Byrd said such positions “can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances. At the worst, White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials.” 

 While it's rare for Byrd to criticize a president in his own party, Byrd is a stern constitutional scholar who has always stood up for the legislative branch in its role in checking the power of the White House. Byrd no longer holds the powerful Appropriations chairmanship, so his criticism does not carry as much weight these days. Byrd repeatedly clashed with the Bush administration over executive power, and it appears that he's not limiting his criticism to Republican administrations. Byrd also wants Obama to

Being a lesbian in Hawaii: a narrative too important not to steal

I stole this from Waldo , and you can click through for the earlier sources. It is the narrative of a lesbian attempting to testify before the State legislature for same-sex marriage: You know, it gets really tiresome to be called diseased and a pedophile and a rapist and an abomination and a threat to America three dozen times in one day. It infuriates me to hear that yes, heterosexuals have special rights (at least they admitted it finally!) and that is how it should be because The Big Book of Bronze Age Fairy Tales says so. To hear little old ladies screaming that they would rather see their grandchildren commit suicide than "be part of that disgusting, filthy, evil lifestyle", isn't even remotely amusing anymore. Even better is to, due to the concussion headache beginning to blind me, forget to take off my little green and gold "equality" sticker on the way out of the building, and be followed to the bus stop by a bunch of red shirts with signs. Three 6&#

Time for Rational Regulation of Credit Card Lending Practices

Government has a necessary and legitimate role in regulating and preventing trade practices that are deceptive and/or predatory. I believe this includes unsecured credit lending to consumers. Senator Robert Menendez has introduced Senate Bill 392 - Credit Card Reform Act of 2009. Senator Menendez is a Democrat, and one of the type I would have reason to dismiss out-of-hand, were I driven by rank partisanship. But I am not and I believe we should all take a close look at Senator Menendez's proposals and, from what I see of them, offer our support (necessarily sidelining the narrow interests of Delaware, vis a vis our resident credit card heavyweights). Kudos to Senator Menendez for taking action in this arena. Some of its provisions : Creates Opt-In for Underage Consumers Requires credit card issuers to receive “opt in” approval from young consumers under age 21 before they mail credit card solicitations to these consumers. Prohibits Unilateral Changes in Credit Card Agreeme

O.M.G. - Part 3

Obama Budget Projects $1.75 TRILLION Deficit WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama is sending Congress a budget Thursday that projects the government's deficit for this year will soar to $1.75 trillion... A senior administration official told The Associated Press that Obama's $3 trillion-plus spending blueprint also asks Congress to raise taxes on the wealthy in 2011 and cut Medicare costs to provide health care for the uninsured. The new budget also plans for additional financial bailouts of up to $750 billion , a senior administration official told NBC News. But the White House believes that as the economy improves it will get roughly $500 billion back, so the expected cost to taxpayers is $250 billion. The deficit is expected to remain around $1 trillion for the next two years before starting to decline to $533 billion in 2013, according to budget projections. Obama also will ask for an additional $75 billion to cover the costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through Septem

Here's a thought... let's just eliminate something for once....

...after 9/11, in response to a terrorist threat from a flexible, decentralized, tactically innovative Al Qaeda, the United State responded by creating the largest, most wasteful, lethargic bureaucracy in American history. Must have had to be there for it to make sense. Now, the incoming DHS chief is promising a thorough review : WASHINGTON (AFP) – New US Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano told lawmakers on Wednesday she had launched a sweeping review of her department, under pressure to reform amid allegations of mismanagement. Napolitano told the House of Representatives? Homeland Security Committee she had initiated policy reviews in eight areas and would soon report to President Barack Obama about the future of the body, which some have said should be dissolved. Napolitano said she was "kicking the tires," looking at policies afresh. "It will not be one of those two-year study jobs," she promised lawmakers. The Department of Homeland Security was set

Combatus interruptus: the Iraq withdrawal that won't be a withdrawal

... because we'll still have 50,000 troops on the ground engaging in combat operations: Just one day after reports came out regarding the Obama Administration’s 19 month withdrawal plan from Iraq, the Pentagon was detailing the enormous number of troops that would remain on the ground after Obama ostensibly fulfills his promise to remove all combat troops, and all the combat they’ll be engaging in. After the “pullout,” as many as 50,000 troops will remain on the ground, and despite being touted as a withdrawal of combat troops, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell conceded that some would continue to “conduct combat operations,” and Iraq would still be considered a war zone. The rest would be what he described as “enablers.” For perspective, 50,000 troops would be more than we're going to have fighting in Afghanistan even after the surge....

Brian Tierney on bankers these days

I like the Michael Smerconish Show, and frankly suspect anybody who doesn't. This morning he interviewed Brian Tierney, the managing partner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News (who put up $10m of his own money to keep the papers local). The interview, which you can hear as a podcast here , is interesting for a number of reasons. The most interesting is when Tierney talks about banks. The Daily News saw profits drop from $51m to $36m last year, but still turned a profit. The corporation filed for Chapter 11 to restructure its debt. Tierney discusses the representatives from Citigroup and other banks riding down to Philly in their limos to make demands and give him advise that he has to take because they are covenanted creditors, for whose consultations he must pay $300k per month. Tierney points out the incredible irony of bankers who are on the public dole, and whose stocks have tanked by 90-96% of last year's value coming in to give business advice to a set of

This is why it's so difficult to trust the government to investigate itself....

... when the Center for Constitutional Rights points out that the internal miliatry investigation of potential abuses at Gitmo was, essentially, a sham: A leading human rights organization charges that, contrary to recent U.S. government reports that found prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, being treated humanely, they are in fact "deteriorating at a rapid rate" due to "harsh conditions that continue to this day, despite a few cosmetic changes to their routines." The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released a report [.pdf] on the current conditions in Camps 5, 6, and Echo following a press conference convened late last week by Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, the vice chief of naval operations. In his own report on conditions at Guantanamo, delivered to the White House, Walsh determined that conditions at the base meet the standards of the Geneva Conventions. CCR's report, "Conditions of Confinement at Guantanamo: Still in Violation of the Law," dis

About last night....

... and trying to digest President Obama's un-SOTU address to Congress. Here are my initial reactions, for what it's worth: 1) The speech as performance: I honestly did not think it was among his best. Obama impressed me tremendously on the campaign trail, but this one left me a bit flat emotionally. I think that's because as President he felt obligated to touch some bases that he doesn't feel particularly passionate about. I know he was trying for FDR or even Reagan, but it just didn't seem to connect as well as he usually does.... At that, it was better than any speech but one (right after 9/11) that Dubya gave in eight years, and better than a lot of Bubba's early efforts. 2) The issues within the speech: not surprisingly, little focus on foreign affairs, but I didn't really expect one. The real question is whether the three themes of education, health care, and energy will actually be the touchstones of his administration or disappear like Whip

A good sign from the administration on weapons acquisition...

... is the appointment of Harvard Professor Ashton Carter as the Pentagon's chief weapons purchaser, as a counterbalance to Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn. From Stars & Stripes : President Barack Obama has nominated Harvard professor Ashton Carter, a leading authority on arms control and a longtime academic, to serve as the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, the White House announced Monday. The choice of Carter to run the office that oversees hundreds of billions of dollars for new weapons and research — and is the focus of intense lobbying by defense firms, retired generals, and members of Congress — sparked concern within the defense industry and parts of the Pentagon bureaucracy when it was first rumored last month, the Boston Globe reported in its Tuesday editions. But that may be exactly what Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wanted, the Globe noted. Unlike most of his predecessors, Carter has no professional ties to America’s arms makers or manufacturing ind

Robert Reich, like Paul Krugman, is neither an historian nor an expert in foreign affairs...

... which explains his bizarre take on getting out of the recession. In a piece actually criticizing President Obama for promising to cut the deficit, Reich gives us his full take on borrowing your way to prosperity: We're in a deepening recession, in case you hadn't noticed. The biggest challenge is to ramp up aggregate demand. Yes, we have to borrow lots from the Chinese and Japanese to do this, and, yes, it's costly in terms of additional interest payments to them. But there's no choice. In fact, if the slump gets worse -- and I have every reason to fear it will because that's the direction we're heading in as fast as you can imagine -- we'll probably have to have a second stimulus. And if the second isn't enough, a third. And so on. FDR's biggest mistake was doing too little until World War II. (No one should interpret this as a recommendation for more military spending -- I'm just saying Obama will probably have to think and do much bigge

Yes, there are hunting weapons designed for small people--including children...

I learned to shoot with one in the Boy Scouts at age eleven. Now, of course, it has become a major political issue in light of the recent killing of a pregnant woman, allegedly by her 11-year-old stepson-to-be. From Alphecca : Advocacy groups often make themselves look ridiculous by going to extremes in what they criticize. PETA is a perfect example. The Brady Bunch is another. What has the Brady Bunch (with the help of ABC News) pissing their collective pants right now is that some firearm manufacturers offer smaller versions of their rifles and shotguns. Let me set the stage. There was a tragic story of an 11-year-old boy killing his father’s girlfriend last week. Understand that this post is not intended to make light of that. What I AM ridiculing is the reaction by Paul Helmke of the Brady Bunch upon learning that the boy used a youth-sized shotgun he’d gotten as a Christmas gift. From ABC News: “To specifically market a gun designed for a kid is outrageous,” said Paul Helm

Another reason we shouldn't be doing nation-building ...

... is that we're apparently not very good at it. From Reuters : SANG-I-KHEL, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The United States' decision to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan will mean little to the people of northern Sang-i-Khel village whose fight is not against Taliban insurgents but against hunger. Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered 17,000 additional U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan to tackle an intensifying insurgency across the south and east of the country. Yet in the relatively peaceful north, Afghans face a different struggle. Severe drought and soaring food prices have left hundreds of thousands of people facing a daily battle to survive the winter. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says some 280,000 Afghans in the north of the country are suffering from the drought, the worst in a decade, and are unable to meet their basic food needs. But the US, curiously enough, is sending most of its aid to the parts of the country where people are

One of those curiosities of life in the power elite...

... is that you never know when, like our new Homeland Security Czar, you may have to come face to face with your old policy positions: As governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano was no fan of the Real ID program that sets federal standards for state-issued driver's licenses which will be required in the future to board airplanes. Now that she is Homeland Security secretary and overseeing the department that governs the contentious law, Miss Napolitano says she wants to examine "realistic options" with the officials who must put the program into action - the nation's governors. Specifically, Miss Napolitano said she is looking at Washington state's modified version of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative program. The Pacific state issues security-enhanced driver's licenses that are accepted for crossing into the state from Canada. In addition to Arizona, more than a dozen states have passed legislation prohibiting the implementation of the Real ID progr

Two kick-butt economic posts that point out all the things Paul Krugman, Mark Zandi, and Timothy Geithner aren't talking about

The first is from Scientific American publisher Jeffrey Sachs [h/t Kids Prefer Cheese ]: "Most important, we should stop panicking. One of the reasons we got into this mess was the Fed’s exaggerated fear in 2002 and 2003 that the U.S. was following Japan into a decade of stagnation caused by deflation (falling prices). To avoid a deflation the Fed created a bubble. Now the bubble has burst, and we’ve ended up with the deflation we feared! Panics end badly, even panics of policy; more moderate policies will be safer in the medium term. There is little reason to fear a decade of stagnation, much less a depression. The U.S. economy is technologically dynamic and highly flexible. The world economy has tremendous growth potential if we don’t end up in financial and trade conflict, and if the central banks ensure adequate liquidity to avoid panicky runs on banks, businesses and sovereign borrowers. We should understand that the Great Depression itself resulted from a horrendous run o

Mat Marshall is getting a tatoo...

... or, at least he will be if he loses his argument with me over at Down With Absolutes . Mat wants proof in a naturalistic sense that god exists, and--not to put too fine a point on it--he wants it by or before March 7. Apparently the apocalypse occurs the next day and he doesn't want to miss the Rapture. If you satisfy him that god exists, he gets the tatoo of your choice in the location of your choice. So many of my good friends and readers here are confirmed atheists and agnostics that I thought you might have some fun reading (or even commenting upon) my attempts to get Mat decorated... All good fun, but worth thinking about.

Does Anyone Else Find It Truly Bizarre...

...that with Barack Obama's signature barely dry on the largest single deficit spending measure in world history that he now proclaims he will "halve" the federal deficit in 4 years? Economist Jeffrey Miron from that right-wing, conservative, wingnut talking points bastion Harvard University said he suspects the proposal to halve the $1.3 trillion deficit is "wildly optimistic." (To say the least, Professor Miron. Obama-Reid-Pelosi are just getting warmed up with their forcible statist redistribution of economic resources in America). I guess for those of the twisted ideology that can justify almost-instantaneously escalating deficit spending beyond what almost any human being can even conceive, to then spin right around and state the intention of "halving" this very same deficit probably seems rational and believable. Nevertheless, no need to let reality get in the way of phony media posturing and staged dog-and-pony events posing as real acti

From Our Continuing Series : "They're Baaaaack...."

"Too big to fail" corporate crack whore AIG is back for more. (The first $150,000,000,000.00 the American taxpayers gave it wasn't enough apparently). Gosh, who could have ever predicted that the federal government's "money for nothing, stimulus for free" bonanza of the last 6 months would result in these bloated corporate junkies (the lucky ones who were "allowed" to survive) coming back for more. I suppose the taxpayers can just "absorb" AIG's $60BN expected loss. Obama's mortgage "plan" has us "absorbing" up to $200BN in losses each for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Why stop anywhere? Wait...Is that Barack I see riding in on a stimulunicorn? AIG seeking more U.S. funding, sources say CNBC reports company expected to report $60 billion loss, largest ever updated 3:18 p.m. ET, Mon., Feb. 23, 2009 AIG is in discussions with the government about securing additional funds so it can keep operating after ne

Because Hillary Clinton is many things, but stupid ain't one of them...

Human rights groups couldn't wait to give the new Secretary of State a boatload of criticism over her down-playing of human-rights issues with China: WaPo : BEIJING, Feb. 20 -- Human rights violations by China cannot block the possibility of significant cooperation between Washington and Beijing on the global economic crisis, climate change and security threats such as North Korea's nuclear program, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday. "We pretty much know what they are going to say" on human rights issues such as greater freedoms for Tibet, Clinton told reporters traveling with her on a tour of Asia. "We have to continue to press them. But our pressing on those issues can't interfere" with dialogue on other crucial topics. Clinton's remarks elicited sharp condemnation from Amnesty International, which has urged her to move human rights near the top of the U.S.-China agenda. The organization accused Clinton of saying "that