Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Forget the Great Depression

The Great Panic of 1873 is the 'true' model for the present financial crisis.

Making Lemonade out of Lemons

Israeli boy collects Qassam rocket shrapnel.

Obama Metrocards

Already available! (Yet another reason to use public transit.)

7 Dumbest Eco-Unfriendly Products of 2008

Think frat boy meets James Inhofe. Including the gas-powered party blender.

Not Just a Token Republican

If Mitch McConnell et al. make good on their threats to hold up (or, in their own formulation, need plenty of time to "review") Obama's stimulus package, the President-elect's out-of-the-blue selection of Ray Lahood as Transportation Secretary may end up looking very shrewd... as long as Lahood (proving he's not just a token Republican) can help Obama put a bipartisan spin on a massive wave of spending for transportation projects.

P.S. I have a little "token bipartisanship" story I've been meaning to share. In 2004 I was working for the Kerry campaign in Berlin, New Hampshire when a burly, tattooed trucker marched into the campaign office and announced that he didn't much like Kerry, but he would never vote for Bush because of "that bastard" Norm Mineta, who as Transportation Secretary had pissed off some truckers by lowering the limit for consecutive hours on the road (or something like that). I didn't have the heart to tell him that Mineta was, of course, the token Democrat in Bush's cabinet. Moral of the story? If Obama does anything wrong, insist that it's actually a transportation issue and therefore it's all Ray Lahood's fault, and oh yeah, he's a Republican.

Some Predictions for 2009...

Courtesy of Intrade:

1 GM to announce a merger with another major auto manufacturer - 35%
2 More than US$25 billion to be injected into the big 3 auto-makers - 60%
3 Caroline Kennedy to replace Hillary Clinton in the US Senate - 53%
4 Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp to be closed in 2009 - 84%
5 The US in Recession in 2009 - 85%
6 An air strike against Iran before end of 2009 - 21%
7 US unemployment rate at or above 8% in December 2009 - 50%
8 Robert Mugabe to depart as President of Zimbabwe in 2009 - 50%
9 Slumdog Millionaire to win Academy Award for Best Picture - 52%

Chosen Writers of the Chosen People

The international media has decided that Israel has three and only three writers whose political opinions are worth a damn.

War on Christmas

I just came across this Leonard Peikoff essay (originally published in 1998 in Capitalism Magazine), "Christmas Should Be More Commercial." Peikoff, a giftedly loony disciple of Ayn Rand, pronounces that: "It is time to take the Christ out of Christmas, and turn the holiday into a guiltlessly egoistic, pro-reason, this-worldly, commercial celebration." Over to you, Bill O'Reilly!

Government Of the Lobbyists, By the Lobbyists, and For the Lobbyists

The Sacramento Bee has an op-ed about the "volunteer aides" who have become regulars at Sacramento City Hall. At first I thought they were talking about something like this. In fact these people are basically lobbyists who have business before the city, making "volunteer aide" a misnomer that is almost surreal, as is the fact that the new mayor (former basketball star Kevin Johnson) has "set aside" room on the third floor of City Hall "for official city staff and Johnson-designated volunteers to work side by side."

In Defense of Women's Magazines

Women's magazines "regularly break news" and have "created whole categories of news," according to Sheila Weller. Many people know that women's magazines published some of the classic exposes of the muckraking era, as well as important literary fiction... but there is an impression that (for all sorts of reasons -- including the fact that female journalists became less ghettoized and could publish outside women's magazines) this has largely ceased to be true. But as Weller points out, the old muckraking spirit has not died off completely and magazines primarily targeted at women continue to have a social and political impact. I suspect that women's magazines, which continue to be relatively healthy compared to the rest of the print media, may undertake more political reporting as traditional political media venues either die off or become increasingly frivolous and disinterested in long-form investigative pieces.

King of the Carols

ABC News had a good piece a week or two ago about one of the richest music moguls you've probably never heard of: Chip Davis of Mannheim Steamroller. Watch the whole thing. America has no shortage of frightening sub-cultures, but just in terms of opacity to the outside world, fans of Mannheim Steamroller can give these people and these people a run for their money.

Soon To Be Running on Continuous Loop on Fox News

Voter fraud in Ohio. Or are the wingers too busy examining Obama's birth certificate to care anymore?

P.S. Isn't "Conn. Man" a juicy double entendre?

We Don't "Do" Self-Criticism

Co-authors disinvited from local TV talk show when the station news director found out their book is actually critical (god forbid) of how news is presented on TV. Thus we have our book rec of the day.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Newberry Medal Losing Its Way?

Some believe the venerable children's book award is increasingly out of touch with its audience. I suspect that in the long run Harry Potter's star will fade and the 'elitist taste' of the guardians of the Newberry flame will be vindicated.

The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs


Loving Your Enemies

Peter Singer's remembrance of one of his most tenacious antagonists, the late disability rights activist Harriet McBryde Johnson, evokes a powerful exemplar of the 'culture of civility' that we have been hearing so much about lately.

Don't Jump to Conclusions About Minnesota

The New York Times correctly points out that it would be completely wrong to conclude from the lengthy, complex, and still undecided Minnesota Senate race recount that Minnesota's election laws are somehow at fault... in fact they are the some of the best laws in the country, and except for a few small episodes (e.g. the 'misplaced' 150 ballots) the recount has been transparent, fair, and accurate. Just because it walks like Florida and talks like Florida doesn't mean it's Florida.

Dan Rather Having the Last Laugh?

His $70 million lawsuit may damage Bush's legacy-burnishing project.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Why didn't Laura Bush make the 'most admired' list?

Miscegenation Laws and the Making of Race in America


Dog Poop DNA Database: Wave of the Future?


Revival of Tunisian Jewish Community Pegged to Bizarre Alcohol-Soaked Memorial Service?


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Budding Left-Wing Conspiracy Theory...

... involving the plane-crash death of GOP operative Michael Connell.

Don't Tase Me, Bro

Another "incident." Own Taser stock? Advice: sell.

Why Stimulus Money Should Go To Cities, Not States


Defending Elizabeth Alexander

Coates tries his best. Given the virulence of some of the criticism you'd think the position of inauguration poet was auctioned off like Obama's senate seat. My own two cents is that unlike George Packer, I see inauguration poetry (occasional poetry in general) not as the Victorians did, not as an exercise in grandeur, not as a higher form of journalism, not as creating a permanent, exalted, definitive record for people who weren't there as well as a souvenir for those who were (today we have photojournalism), so I'm not the least bit perturbed that Elizabeth Alexander is no Tennyson or Frost. The truth is that not even Tennyson or Frost could possibly do justice to the extraordinary fact that America will be inaugurating a black President... so obviously this view of occasional poetry misses the point.

Having Elizabeth Alexander or any other poet appear at one of the most-watched events in recent history is an opportunity to bring attention to an often-overlooked art form. Why do we have poet laureates? For the same reason -- to give poetry a little boost, to emphasize in some small way that poetry still matters, or should matter, in our public life -- and NOT because anyone will remember their occasion-marking odes.

Elizabeth Alexander will do great and her nasty critics will be eating crow.

Something Else For Israel and Its Neighbors to Fight About

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a remarkable and powerful document but it is still a product of its time and place -- thus gay rights, disability rights, and the environment are conspicuously absent... France and the Netherlands have proposed a remedy, but don't expect it to get very far. Speaking for homophobes across the world, the "Syrian representative read out a statement drafted by the opposition, arguing that the declaration would result in more sex crimes against children." No wonder Rick Warren likes Syria so much!

Radical Rump GOP: Backing Itself Into A Corner

George Voinovich, one of the few Republican senators to vote for the auto bailout, may be enjoying a sigh of relief about Bush suddenly becoming Detroit's guardian angel but he shouldn't really be feeling too good about the fact that the Republican party has probably destroyed its viability in the Rust Belt for the next ten years. (Voinovich will be retiring soon - will the GOP be able to hold his seat?) And what about Michigander and bailout supporter Saul Anuzis's candidacy for RNC Chair? (Or Ken Blackwell?) The GOP has put one of its most attractive candidates in an impossible position.

Two-party politics is a game of contrasts, and it seems to me that Obama's various triangulation efforts make a lot of sense when you look at the mayhem that ideology and intolerance are currently wreaking on the GOP.

Assassination of Theo Van Gogh: From Social Drama to Cultural Trauma


Brian Billick and Karl Malden, Separated at Birth!


I've Never Seen So Many Curse Words In A Discussion of the Electric Slide


Diagnosing California's Dysfunction

Kevin Drum basically attributes the California state government's utter dysfunctionality wholly to a law requiring two-thirds approval of the Legislature to pass a budget. I don't think anybody would dispute that this is not a good law. But 14 other states require more than a majority vote to pass a budget, including some (Arkansas and Oklahoma) that requires a 3/4 vote, so clearly there are some other factors at play.

No More Douchebag

Gawker makes a new year's resolution. Wallraff is pleased.

Hanging Together

I remain skeptical that Obama's volunteer army will persist into the future as anything more than a glorified facebook group, but here is an interesting example of something that has emerged from a group of Obama supporters in my area who decided post-election to hold regular meetings and work on green energy issues.

A Stitch In Time

UAW urges Big Three to build smaller cars... in 1949.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Frontiers in Tort Law

Australian lawyers are given the ability to serve notices on Facebook. (Why not?) Via Sullivan.

Couldn't Be Bothered

Apparently Caroline's not that big on voting. (You might ask, does this really matter? No, but in the absence of other qualifications, a voting record, etc., what else is there to discuss?)

Her apparent lack of interest in Democratic primaries is also interesting in light of this: her refusal to say if she would support the Democratic nominee for NYC mayor in 2009.

Illustrated History of Mail Order Shopping


Bailout Mory's!

A facebook group for supporters of a bailout for the troubled Yale eating club.

The Structure of (Revisionist) Scientific Revolutions

The impending 150th anniversary of "On the Origin of Species" can only mean one thing: the resurfacing of the Darwin-Wallace controversy.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Part of Infrastructure Package - A Bowling Lane for the 21st Century?

Bowling industry groups generously offer to refurbish White House bowling lane...

What Do Winston Churchill and Denis Leary Have in Common?

Jeff Goldberg unveils his much-anticipated list of top philo-semites.

Consumer Reports Cell Phone Service Survey (Say That Five Times Fast!)

I guess I should switch to Verizon...

Thomas the Crapper

Does Joe the Plumber know that his favorite plumbing book is a fake?

Pollan on Vilsack

At Slate. "You know look, if I missed something, he didn’t use the word 'food' in his comments this morning." Unfortunately, I don't think you missed anything. But on the other hand he was biotech governor of the year!

Glass Houses

The Likud party releases a statement calling the Kadima list "a tired and boring collection of recycled failures with no vision, who have already proven that they cannot run the country."

Two points: 1) Benjamin Netanyahu is not a candidate of change, no matter how much he pretends to be. 2) 80% of the Kadima list is made up of former Likud MKs, so if it's just a bunch of recycled failures...

20th Anniversary of Lockerbie

A useful reminder to those who speak of being 'awakened' by 9/11... if you were awakened by 9/11, you needed to not have your head up your ass for the last forty years.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

There is something truly wonderful about a New England snowstorm: pedestrians once again rule the streets, and there's a remarkable spirit of cooperation and cohesion as neighbors help dig each other's cars out of the snow and parents set up phone trees to notify other parents of school closures... and of course the pleasure of being inside a warm and cozy place, perhaps by a fire, as the wind-whipped snow zigs and zags about, what Emerson called being "enclosed in a tumultuous privacy of storm."

Translating 'Dreidel' Into Chinese

"Jewish luminosity festival gyroscope," or something to that effect.


If Ted Kennedy were to die tomorrow (God forbid), how would that affect Caroline's senatorial prospects? (As John Judis says, the Kennedy dynasty is fundamentally different from other political dynasties in that to some extent the American people feel like they "owe the Kennedy family something for their service" -- a feeling that obviously would be enhanced by any further Kennedy tragedy.) As I've said before, I don't believe the heretofore rather reserved Caroline would have thrown herself into the spotlight as she's done if her uncle were not in very dire condition indeed.

Something else that Caroline has going for her is the fact that no matter what one feels about her, nobody would argue that she is interested in enriching herself through high office. This tends to be true for most American political dynasts (because they generally have plenty of money already, but also because it is easier to picture them as products of a noble and hereditary ideal of public service, rather than of blind ambition or greed), but especially for the Kennedy clan. At the current juncture of Blago/Madoff media saturation, a candidate of extreme personal wealth (e.g. Bloomberg - has he been mentioned for Hillary's replacement?) or a noble pedigree forged in blood, or both, becomes a very attractive candidate.

Bollywood Looks to Make Drama Out of Mumbai Tragedy

No such thing as "too soon" for Bollywood!

The Amazing Bill Belichick

Perhaps his finest season of coaching ever, and the Pats might not even reach the playoffs. (One cannot help but wonder if all the hardship this season -- not just losing Brady! 14 players on season-ending injured reserve since training camp -- is in some way bad karma from spygate... of course the same could be said of the Pats devastating Super Bowl loss to the Giants back in February.) Love or hate the Patriots, you wouldn't be a football fan if a part of you weren't rooting for the Patriots to overcome all the tremendous obstacles they've faced this season and win the Super Bowl championship that eluded them last February after compiling a perfect regular-season record.

And make no mistake: the TV ratings for a Giants-Pats rematch would be like nothing ever seen before (begging the question, what company in the current downturn could afford the ads?)

Is Steven Chu BFF With BP?

Mother Jones reports. Clearly Chu is not afraid of a little controversy! I wonder if Robert Reich still have the same qualms about the Berkeley Lab's biofuels partnership with BP -- Chu's baby -- that Reich expressed back in 2007?

Thank Goodness

Finally, a good excuse to avoid the crowds and security hassle and $1000 per night hotel rooms and crappy poetry and just skip the inauguration.

Apres Le Deluge

Greg Anrig of TPM rounds up the top dozen conservative insights of 2008.

Is Our Children Learning?

Bad writing:

A Sacramento Superior Court judge has indicated she will block a plan that would have made California the first state to require all California eighth-graders to be tested in algebra.

I should hope that California would be the first state to require California eighth-graders to be tested in algebra. We certainly wouldn't want Kentucky or Massachusetts trying to test our teenagers! (Or testing our journalists' writing skills.)

Rhymes With "Light Rash"...

Aren't ya glad Palin's not Veep, so that stuff like this is only a curiosity on page B21 rather than front page top of the fold?

Like Clockwork

The Madoff scandal has sent the pajama-wearing anti-semites into a tizzy. ADL has a round-up here, focusing -- perhaps unfairly, and certainly unscientifically -- on comments on newspaper websites and online discussion forums. (It hardly needs to be said, but be prepared for misspellings, bad grammar, and -- unintentionally? -- humorous user names like "Adolf" and "Billy Whitebread American.")

Another Recession Casualty

Mory's, the (somewhat) beloved and scrupulously old-fashioned Yale eating club where for several generations the Yale Political Union has been conducting a massive bacteriological study by having members drink from trough-like giant cups filled with mystery beverage, is closing down for the winter and mulling its uncertain future. Mory's was in trouble even before the recession hit, so this is a sad eventuality but hardly unexpected.

One has to wonder if there will be any secret societies going out of business as well. There would be something slightly poetic about the Skull & Bones endowment imploding during the earth-shatteringly awful presidential tenure of its most famous alumnus, George W. Bush.

Geeking Out for Hanukkah

Nextbook rates menorah iphone apps.

Bill Frist Gets Room in Capitol Named After Him?

Surely an auspicious sign for Frist's presidential prospects in 2012.

Blago & Kipling

Michelle Cottle is picturing Blago as Nag and Patrick Fitzgerald as Rikki Tikki Tavi... maybe I'm just less literary, but Blago's "fight, fight, fight!" bravado rather reminded me of John McCain's nomination acceptance speech in St. Paul...

Technological Change and the Rise of Corporate Mass Media


New Nickname for Bernard Madoff

"The putz who stole Hanukkah." (Also check out the LA Jewish Journal's new blog about the Madoff scandal fallout, called "Swindler's List.")

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Strange Bedfellows: A Mickey Kaus - Al Sharpton Political Alliance?

Ambinder reports that Al Sharpton has apparently come out against card-check.

Robert Moses Would Have A Heart Attack...

... if he were to see New York's streets now, thanks to Commissioner of Transportation Janet Sadik-Khan and the deft consulting of Danish guru of pedestrianism Jan Gehl. Money quote: "For decades, it was almost inconceivable that any American city would requisition turf from motorized vehicles and turn it over to people who would use it for such low-speed, inefficient activities as strolling or sitting around." (And who knew that Robert Moses didn't drive?)

Blago Fallout

Connecticut looks into changing its law about how to fill a midterm vacancy of a US Senate seat.


Ambinder has a great post about the probable foci of power in the Obama White House, pointing out that the bigger the federal government becomes, the more important the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Office of Public Liaison will become.

More Republicans Than Democrats Use Twitter?

In Washington, apparently.

Biggest Non-Surprise of the Year

Stop the presses: Obama is Time's Man of the Year.

Digitize This Book!


It's About Time

English PEN launches inquiry into reforming British libel laws. (Of course some say that "reform" in this context completely misses the point.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Did Rosie's prime-time flop pave the way for Leno - or did it complicate the Leno deal?

Upping the Ante

Canada pledges almost $3 billion in aid for the auto industry, but only if Washington ponies up first.

Horrorism: Naming Contemporary Violence


Giving in to Peer Pressure

Daniel Pipes's journal, Middle East Quarterly, has finally given in to peer review: "This journal finds itself part of a growing community of specialists not hostile to the United States and its allies. As other journals and organizations have joined our ranks, they increased the circle of those with professional and expert knowledge of the Middle East and created a larger pool of reviewers to engage in a constructive process of refereeing. These developments encourage us and lead to the announcement that, as of this first issue of our sixteenth year, the Middle East Quarterly is a peer-reviewed journal." Well, all I can say is welcome to the reality-based community. Sort of.

True Cost of Driving


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cutting Through the Terminology

Yglesias rolls his eyes at Tyler Cowen's half-hearted attempt to be jargon-free.

Green Subplots

Israeli elections always have their fair share of interesting subplots lurking behind the headline battle between the major parties. One of the interesting storylines this year is the presence of three "green" parties, all of which have just come on the scene in the last few years... Green Movement, Green Party, and Green Leaf Party. Got it? If there's any problem more intractable than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it's trying to remember the revolving cast of Israeli political parties and what they all stand for.

One of the candidates on the Green Movement list is American-born Gershon Baskin, the co-founder (with Hanna Siniora) of the Israeli-Palestinian Center for Research and Information, a small but very well-respected think-tank working in the areas of peace, security and coexistence. (At the age of 24, Baskin petitioned then-prime minister Menachem Begin to appoint him in charge of Jewish-Arab relations and after 14 months of lobbying, he was appointed the first civil servant in Israeli history responsible for Jewish-Arab relations.) Another candidate on the list is an American-born Israeli businessman, environmental and human rights activist who happens to be the brother-in-law of Sarah Silverman (the comedian). And speaking of comedy, the Green Leaf Party, often lumped in with the other green parties even though its platform is mainly about decriminalizing soft drugs, is led by leading Israeli comedian Gil Kopatch.

So: are all these choices an embarrassment of riches or just an embarrassment?

Friday, December 12, 2008


Who's dumber: Rod Blagojevich or Plaxico Burress?

Colossal Fossil

Canada replaces U.S. as "single worst" country in obstructing progress on climate negotiations.

Portraits From the Evangelical Ivy League


Union Triumph in Chicago

Even the workers themselves were surprised by the success of their civil disobedience... on a related note, I was at a conference last week where UE organizer Ashaki Binta was one of the speakers and she did a masterful job of discussing how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which celebrated its 60th birthday on Dec. 10, had influenced and been incorporated into the union's organizing work... I was practically in tears at the way she described (here I betray, perhaps, my elitist prejudices) blue-collar workers making this profound but abstract document relevant to their lives. Way to go, UE!

Most Wanted Eco-Criminals

Daily Green fingers the perps... amazingly Bush didn't make the list.

The Answer is a Definite Maybe

So now the Bush administration wants to use TARP funds for an auto bailout, but do they have the authority to use TARP for that purpose?, asks David Kurtz of TPM. (Did Bush issue a TARP signing statement?)

Mistaken Identity

Supposed Chinese 'classical poem' turns out to be a brothel ad.

Incoming Presidents Need Not Apply

White House says no to the Obamas' request to move into Blair House in early January so that the Obama daughters can start school on January 5. In Helene Cooper's dry assessment: "it remained unclear who on the Bushes' guest list outranked the incoming President."

David Corn Jumps On "Rehabilitate Spitzer!" Bandwagon

Here. I guess one good thing about the economic mess is that you actually can rehabilitate people like Larry Summers because, hey, who can afford right now to be petty, hold grudges, or indulge in identity politics? But rehabbing Spitzer might be taking this a bit far.

Richard Cizik Ousted From National Association of Evangelicals

Alas, this was only a matter of time. Cizik is basically a closet-case liberal and listening to him on Fresh Air recently it was pretty obvious that he voted for Obama... and he even said that he was "coming around" on gay marriage. I couldn't believe what I was hearing and apparently neither could Dobson et al. Frankly they don't deserve him.

If I were Nancy Pelosi or Howard Dean, I would hire Cizik in an instant to work on evangelical outreach for the Democratic Party. Some TNR comments here on what it all means for the future of 'creation care.'

Journalism Sabermetrics

From Todd Purdum's obit of fellow NYT reporter Robin Toner:

And in a craft in which small errors are commonplace and bigger mistakes a regular occupational hazard, Ms. Toner devised a meticulous personal method for checking and re-checking names, dates, facts and figures in her own raw copy, a step few reporters take. As a result: only half a dozen published corrections over the years, on more than 1,900 articles with her byline.

One correction per 317 articles sounds pretty good to me, but I really have no idea. Is it good? Is it extremely good? Hall of Fame good? How well can you compare these things across newspapers, eras, different reporting beats?

Also: what does "devised a personal method for checking and re-checking" mean? Personal method? What are the different methods of checking names in your story, other than the obvious? Some kind of ingenious artifical-intelligence computer program? Hiring a personal assistant to do it?

Thanks But No Thanks

Disgraced Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld is apparently ready for his comeback, but are the American people ready for it?

Blagojevich One Year From Now


Blogging in Cuba

Marc Cooper on the Castro regime's attempts to nip blogging in the bud. I guess it's testimonial to the power of blogging that the authorities are treating Yoani Sanchez like a radical dissident when she doesn't even blog about politics... and in fact doesn't even really blog (she sends her dispatches from the island out by email to a network of foreign friends who in turn translate her writing into several languages and maintain her popular blog, which has a worldwide audience). But the fact that she has an audience, a network of international friends, above all a charismatic power with words and access to a powerful medium of organization and dissent; these things make her a dangerous and marked woman.

Useful Perspective On BlagoGate...


Burg & Sharansky

In the debate about Avrum Burg's book over at TPM Cafe, Daniel Levy (who seems to be the only commentator who's actually read Burg's book) says Burg could be the kind of moral and intellectual stimulus (as well as source of credibility) to progressive Zionism that Natan Sharansky has been to neoconservatism:

The intellectual discourse promoted by Sharansky and others had practical policy implications and they were an unmitigated disaster; the intellectual counter-insurgency which must be launched, and of which Burg should be a part, will also of course produce our own policy ideas, and they will provide us, all of us--American, Arab, and Israeli alike--with a far brighter future.

It's an interesting point of contrast since Sharansky and Avigdor Lieberman, coming from a Russian immigrant community that generally speaking had no direct experience of the Shoah, have come to define the sort of perverse Holocaust-clinging to which Burg (whose family came directly from the crucible of death, in Germany) objects so vehemently.

Going All Post-Partisan On Us

Adam Baer, who really dislikes Jimmy Fallon, thinks NBC has drunk the post-partisan koolaid with its new late-night lineup. Does it even need to be said that these sorts of triangulations usually fail?

Harvey Milk - The Jewish Angle

He embodied the non-Jewish Jew (just like Trotsky)...

Supporting the Big Three by Wearing the Big Three?


Melting Man


Crazy Like A Fox, or Just Crazy?

With their spiking of the auto bailout, has the GOP essentially written off winning the Rust Belt states for the next decade? (Perhaps it's just a belated acknowledgment of something that has been brewing for a while and is now an undeniable reality: the GOP is essentially a regional party. And their bailout stance is in accordance with that fact.) Seems to me if they were going to 'stand on principle' and kill a bailout plan, they'd have been much better off killing TARP.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Turkey Made Famous by Palin Sold On Ebay



What is Blago's wife's role in all this? (She hasn't been arrested but is prominent in the FBI affidavit charging her husband.) Her family's connections are the foundation on which his political career was built and she appears to have guided him every step of the way. If she stands by her man, will she be taken down with him? If she is as closely involved with his shenanigans as it seems, does she have any alternative?

Insane in the Membrane

Josh Marshall thinks Blago has a pretty credible insanity defense.

Use Hamas Prisoners as Human Shields?

So suggests Israeli MK Gilad Erdan, who has also recommended supported boosting ties between Israel and evangelical Christians and revoking the citizenship of Arab citizens of Israel deemed "disloyal to the state." This is the sort of ingenuity in public policy that we can look forward to when Bibi is back in charge!

With Music and Justice For All


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Inching Closer to A Full Picture of the 111th Congress

Fascinating (albeit not particularly good for Democrats) election results in Louisiana, where a Vietnamese-American Republican has defeated seemingly indestructible William Jefferson in a heavily Democratic, heavily African-American district (again proving that black people aren't dummies - they didn't buy the Jew-baiting against Steve Cohen, and they realized it was time for Jefferson to go), and third parties played a significant role in the 4th CD with the Republican just edging out the Democrat (but without a majority of votes cast).

Between Bobby Jindal and Joseph Cao, Louisiana seems to be the place right now for non-WASP Republican politicians. (Also you can add Lebanese-American Rep. Charles Boustany, as Cokie Roberts pointed out on This Week with George S.)

The Gonzo Tapes


Much Ado...

Not one, not two, not three, but four advisory committees have been established to help choose retiring Yale football coach Jack Siedlecki's replacement. (Siedlecki decided to retire after a mediocre season and a humiliating shutout loss to Harvard in the season-ending Game.) Is this not excessive and slightly ridiculous? I think there is real distinction in having a terrible football team (Dartmouth went 0-10 this season -- more power to them!) - it sends a message that "we have our priorities in order." If you have a good football team, people will inevitably wonder about the lowering of admissions standards for athletes and so forth. And for what? A few extra alumni dollars? IMSO (in my snobbish opinion) anyone who gives or doesn't give to his alma mater based on the record of the football team should be taken out to the woodshed -- and no self-respecting school should solicit donations from such imbeciles.

Yale should actively seek out the absolute worst coach possible and do everything it can to lose as many football games as possible. I mean, really, who are they kidding?

Don't Tell Rahm

I'm not sophisticated enough to do a screen-capture but on the Forward's website there's an article headlined "Obama’s New Foreign Policy Team Looks Toward Syria" and right next to it is a large picture of Jimmy Carter, the subject of an unrelated story. I'm guessing that if he knew about this, Rahm Emanuel would not be happy.

In the unrelated story, about Carter's new Middle East book, Carter relates that he was going to title the book "Yes We Can" until his wife advised him otherwise. Again, I don't think Rahm would have approved of that.

Here I Break News On This Blog For the First Time

Well, I'm not sure I've ever broken news on this blog before... but I am going to report with some certainty that Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrion will soon be named to a top post in the Obama administration, probably as HUD Secretary. Carrion was on the phone most of the day Friday with the transition team working out the details, and it's now pretty much a done deal.

UPDATE: White House Office of Urban Policy, not HUD.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Passing the Torch

The Caroline Kennedy NY Senate rumors suggest to me strongly that Ted is really not doing well and wants to pass the torch to another Kennedy sooner rather than later.

Green Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Is it just a fad like the rodeo bar mitzvah or the Barbie bat mitzvah, or something more lasting and substantive? (I wonder what my fellow New Havener and bar mitzvah expert Mark Oppenheimer makes of this.)

Jeff Goldberg Shows Again That...

... those who would have you believe he's nothing more than an apologist for the Israeli right are totally off-base, though some will say criticism of the Hebron settler riots (Meretz USA has a good summary of events here) 'doesn't count' because these are 'too easy targets' of criticism. No criticism of Israel is ever extreme enough for some people!

I do think it's important for the non-Jewish world to exercise restraint in its response ("this is a tiny fraction of the Israeli public," that sort of thing). What these Jewish extremists want more than anything is to give fodder to Jew-haters and Israel-haters, and set in motion a clash of civilizations to which the extremists can gleefully respond "Look how much the goyim hate us! Ignore world opinion and stick to your own kind!" In this they resemble the most extreme Islamists, while in other respects they may be more benign. So the question is: how do we denounce and isolate these murderous, brainwashed, rampaging terrorists without playing into and in some sense justifying their Manichean view of the world? Of course part of the answer is that Jews, and in particular Zionists, must step up to the plate and say unequivocally (as Goldberg does) that "these people, the Hebron settlers, are a threat to Israel and to Zionism," which they are -- perhaps (and perhaps not) a far more serious threat than Hamas's rockets or even Iran.

Maybe the one good outcome of these terrible pogroms is that they have the potential of dividing the Likud and putting a checkpoint in Bibi's comeback route.

Worst Marriage Proposal Ever?

Call me a callous bastard, but I find myself just a bit skeptical of this epic sob story.

How Bill Clinton "Values" Huma

I liked this Ambinder quote about Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin: "She is also a Muslim who speaks fluent Arabic --her mother runs a university in Saudi Arabia -- and brings that perspective on a complex part of the world to HRC's sphere. it's not uncommon to see Huma on Bill Clinton's important trips to the region, because he too values her in that way." [my italics]

Values her in that way? As opposed to valuing her, um, some other way?

Confronting the New New Terrorism

Kalašnikov AK-47
Originally uploaded by SeaFargo
USA Today has a story today about police departments in US cities running simulations of the Mumbai attacks, beefing up security around hotels and other soft targets, prepping for simultaneous attacks at different locations. My only question is, why the hell haven't they done this already?!

Rendell's Big Booboo

What's particularly bad about Ed "Off-Mic" Rendell's Napolitano gaffe, apart from being 'merely' stupid and offensive, is that single women are essentially the Democratic Party's base... imagine a high-profile Republican trashing Christian evangelicals in a moment of 'candor,' or don't imagine and just recall this.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Who Will Succeed Qaddafi?

Probably his son Saif (who apparently stated recently in an AP interview that he aims to bring about a federal style government by September, with a "constitution, democracy, elections, like any other country" - an erratic and implausible statement that suggests the apple doesn't fall far from the tree), but like everything else in the Middle East it's far from a sure thing. And don't hold your breath: having ruled for 40 years, and still only 66, Qaddafi only has to hang on a few more years to be crowned the 20th century's longest serving dictator. Do dictators think about such records? I don't see why not.

Good For Dodd

Connecticut senior senator asks Big Three execs about mass transit manufacturing opportunities.

The American Darwin

Bernard Darwin, that is. The greatest American golf writer in history has been inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame. About time.

Can Gold Be Green?

The Ecologist calls the gold mining industry "dirty" and "dodgy"... per unit of output the world's most environmentally destructive industry?

Mary Beth Maxwell for Labor Secretary?

Sounds like an excellent progressive, pro-labor, pro-diversity (she would be the first openly gay cabinet member) pick. And after all, it's only a matter of time before a HuffPost blogger gets in there!

Lamest Blogs on the Internet (As Opposed to Some Other Place Where There Are Blogs?)

Here. (Hat tip to Shenanigans.)

Hillary and Tweety

Ambinder says he might need a non-aggression pact...

No Taxation AND No Representation?

A proposal... (hat tip to Sullivan).

UPDATE: Kos has a better suggestion...

Piracy Riposte

Good comeback from the Israeli UN ambassador regarding Libya's complaint to the Security Council about Israeli "piracy" when a Libyan cargo ship was intercepted by Israeli authorities on its way to Gaza:

Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, invited to speak at the council meeting even though her country is not a member, rejected Libya's accusations, especially the piracy contention, and in turn charged Tripoli with provocation.

She said that since Libya does not recognize the state of Israel in light of its treatment of Palestinians, the interception was justified on grounds of national security.

Hard to argue with that! What is of real concern here is that it will be much more difficult for the international community to address the pressing issue of piracy around the Horn of Africa if the definition of "piracy" becomes politicized and loses any meaning.

Obama's First Presidential Trip Overseas

This story about Obama visiting Indonesia sounds fishy to me... mainly because of this: "[Leary] said Obama told donors to 'imagine if on January 20, 2009 a guy named Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in on the US Capitol steps as the President of the United States, what that would say to the world, especially the Muslim world, about our nation.'" Plenty of people have said this sort of thing about Obama's candidacy, but has he ever said it about himself? Seems to me he scrupulously avoided rhetoric like this... but maybe not in private? Besides, what exactly is the meaning or utility of something Obama said two years ago to a handful of donors?

Eat This View, White House Edition

White House
Originally uploaded by HarshLight
The "Food Not Lawns" movement has designs on the White House... (a corollary to the Michael Pollan for SecAg campaign)?

Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Who Will Replace Tim Geithner at the New York Fed?

Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer? While Fischer seems perfectly intelligent, competent, and ethical (and he was the thesis adviser to Ben Bernanke, so presumably they'd have a good working relationship), it would be a bit unusual to have the former head of a foreign central bank in a top government position dealing with Wall Street, no? (He was born in Northern Rhodesia and spent most of his life outside the US... is he a US citizen? Not clear from his wikipedia bio... he had to be naturalized in Israel before taking office there...) It would certainly send the anti-semites into a tizzy!

Bye Bye Windfall Profits Tax

Speaking of Photoshopping... all mention of this (crappy) idea has been removed from Obama transition change.gov website.

Photoshop Disasters

A blog devoted to giant hands, retractable thumbs, extendable arms...

Israel's Botched Computerized Election

Can Israel's Labor Party do anything right?

9-Year-Old Writes Dating Book

Straight out of a Woody Allen flick... wouldn't buying this book be nothing more than a spectacular act of self-pity?

Shoot An Iraqi

Book rec of the day. Whence the title? "When his brother was killed at a U.S. checkpoint in 2005, [Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal] decided to use his art to confront those in the comfort zone with the realities of life in a conflict zone. Thus the creation and staging of 'Domestic Tension,' an unsettling interactive performance piece: for one month, Bilal lived alone in a prison cell-sized room in the line of fire of a remote-controlled paintball gun and a camera that connected him to internet viewers around the world. Visitors to the gallery and a virtual audience that grew by the thousands could shoot at him 24 hours a day."

Monday, December 01, 2008

What, Do You Want A Medal?

Kevin Drum proves he's an expert at recession dating (and no, this has nothing to do with personal ads for unemployed singles).

Not A Great Time to Visit Venice...

Highest tide in 20 years (61 inches) plus strong winds pushing the sea into the city... this may be the death knell for the massively expensive and ostensibly ineffective Moses Project, the Venetian version of the Big Dig...

Environmental Defense Fund = Shills for Industry?

Daughter of EDF founder accuses group of pushing false solutions to climate change.

New York Times Covering Up Ukrainian 'Genocide?'

Some anti-MSMers seems to think so. There are some interesting questions tied up in the debate over political recognition of the Ukrainian famine, such as how it might affect Ukrainian accession to NATO and US-Russia relations, etc etc., but I also just find it interesting and depressing that there's actually a word in Ukrainian for "murder by hunger."

You'll Probably Find Out Yourself Soon Enough...

The lament of a recently laid-off journalist...