June 2009

You’d think at this point that when a pundit felt the compulsion to call Paul Krugman “shrill,” that pundit would pause as the word made its initial journey from diaphragm to mouth, and think long about aborting the mission before full-blown enunciation.

Why?  Because, in relation to just about every major issue that Krugman has supposedly been “shrill, shrill, shrill” about (the Iraq War, Bush’s tax cuts, the housing bubble, the general fucked-uppedness of the Bush administration, etc.), he has looked overly timid in retrospect.  Cautious to a fault.

But then, as President Bush reminded us in his usual eloquence: “Ours is a society where things are like instant, so therefore, history almost is like so far back it doesn’t count.”  Enter, Andrew Stuttaford:

There are indeed reasonable grounds for believing that man is having/could have a significant impact on the climate (just as there are reasonable grounds to suspect that man’s impact on the climate may be reduced to insignificance by countervailing natural factors). But for those inclined to believe in a hoax, shrill, hysterical language such as Krugman’s is only like [sic] to reinforce their suspicions…

For what offense is Krugman once again being bemoaned as strident, uncivil and overly impassioned – that is, in what way will Krugman’s words eventually appear calm, measured and complacent in hindsight?

A handful of these no votes came from representatives who considered the [Waxman-Markley] bill too weak, but most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhouse gases. And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet. […]

Still, is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn’t it politics as usual?

Yes, it is — and that’s why it’s unforgivable.

Do you remember the days when Bush administration officials claimed that terrorism posed an “existential threat” to America, a threat in whose face normal rules no longer applied? That was hyperbole — but the existential threat from climate change is all too real.

Yet the deniers are choosing, willfully, to ignore that threat, placing future generations of Americans in grave danger, simply because it’s in their political interest to pretend that there’s nothing to worry about. If that’s not betrayal, I don’t know what is. 

What this tells me, based on Krugman’s Law of Shrillness and Accuracy, is that we are all fucked. Proper fucked? Yes, Tommy, proper fucked.

Given that The Toot’s clarion call for primary challenges for those Dems that opposed the public option in health care legislation has already yielded results (if you ignore chronology, actual level of influence and several other key factors), and given that it’s one of the few tools available to those that want to push feckless incumbents, consider this another such call: Dems that screw up global warming legislation should face serious primary challenges come hunting season.

Whatever you want to call them – if “traitor” is too strong a word for a politician that values campaign contributions more than the welfare of the planet and its billions of inhabitants – they need to be replaced. 

(links via the Jameson Family Jamboree)


When God is in the mood for a morning shrill, God heads for the mountains of Bush beer cracks the pages of the K’thrugmanomicon.  The brilliance of the shrill burns even The Almighty’s eyes.  Or whatever it is Shakira’s Ass uses to read with:

The question now is whether we will nonetheless fail to get [health care reform], because a handful of Democratic senators are still determined to party like it’s 1993.

And yes, I mean Democratic senators. The Republicans, with a few possible exceptions, have decided to do all they can to make the Obama administration a failure. Their role in the health care debate is purely that of spoilers who keep shouting the old slogans — Government-run health care! Socialism! Europe! — hoping that someone still cares.

The polls suggest that hardly anyone does. Voters, it seems, strongly favor a universal guarantee of coverage, and they mostly accept the idea that higher taxes may be needed to achieve that guarantee. What’s more, they overwhelmingly favor precisely the feature of Democratic plans that Republicans denounce most fiercely as “socialized medicine” — the creation of a public health insurance option that competes with private insurers. […]

Yet it remains all too possible that health care reform will fail, as it has so many times before.

I’m not that worried about the issue of costs. Yes, the Congressional Budget Office’s preliminary cost estimates for Senate plans were higher than expected, and caused considerable consternation last week. But the fundamental fact is that we can afford universal health insurance — even those high estimates were less than the $1.8 trillion cost of the Bush tax cuts. Furthermore, Democratic leaders know that they have to pass a health care bill for the sake of their own survival. One way or another, the numbers will be brought in line.

The real risk is that health care reform will be undermined by “centrist” Democratic senators who either prevent the passage of a bill or insist on watering down key elements of reform. I use scare quotes around “centrist,” by the way, because if the center means the position held by most Americans, the self-proclaimed centrists are in fact way out in right field.

What the balking Democrats seem most determined to do is to kill the public option, either by eliminating it or by carrying out a bait-and-switch, replacing a true public option with something meaningless. For the record, neither regional health cooperatives nor state-level public plans, both of which have been proposed as alternatives, would have the financial stability and bargaining power needed to bring down health care costs. [extra shrill added]

I don’t think I’m being too Dirty a Fucking Hippie to point out that there are some Democratic Senators out there that could use them some primary challenges.  If this is the best that the “centrist” Democrats can do, then let’s get some Democrats that can do better.  If we can’t get Feingoldian progressives in every state, at least we can get moderate candidates that at least recognize that the vast majority of Americans want this kind of public option – they want what the governments in such economic powerhouses as Mexico, Poland, Peru and Costa Rica have managed to provide their populations.

And a note about costs: Sometimes, my fellow Americans, we really suck. 

A few trillion (more actually) to kill a bunch of foreigners in a couple of wars that have yielded almost nothing but instability and suffering?  It would be unpatriotic to bring up the price tag. 

A couple of trillion in tax cuts for the insanely wealth heir and heiress set?  Opposing them would be class warfare.

$1.8 trillion to cover American citizens who (frequently) must choose between food and medicine, their kids welfare and medical treatment, life and death…?  

Well, that is a lot of money.  Government needs to be more fiscally responsible.  Let’s not get carried away.  Looks like socialism to me.  Just think of the deficits. Does David Broder think the bill is bi-partisany enough?

According to Ralph Peters, the Iranian regime decided to rig the election not out of domestic Iranian concerns, not because of internal power struggles, not because of fear of a ref0rm-minded and mobilized voting population but because…Obama gave a speech that was too conciliatory.  Seriously.

Our president’s public flagellation of America only emboldened the junta in Tehran — leaving Iran’s power brokers more defiant, determined and dismissive than they’ve been in years. […]

Our president’s speechwriters made the same mistake no end of diplomats and pundits made before them: They didn’t pause to consider the enemy’s viewpoint. Like Obama himself, they didn’t bother trying to understand the mullahs’ logic for acting as they do.

But Peters understands their logic perfectly: everything they do is a reaction to the words of US politicians and diplomats, not to mention liberals – or conservatives if God has graced us with their presence in positions of power.  It’s all about us. Every time.

But the point really isn’t whom the voters chose. It’s that Iran’s entrenched interests read Obama’s meant-to-be-conciliatory remarks as a confession of weakness, a signal that the United States is at the end of its strategic rope.

The result was that the mullahs and state corporatists no longer saw a need to play pretend. Bush worried them. Obama doesn’t. They judged, correctly, that Washington wouldn’t so much as issue a tough-minded statement in response to this mockery of an election. And they were right.

Ah, yes, they feared the Bush administration’s penchant for “tough-minded statements” – the Piranha Brothers of demarche if you will – but now they are free to go about their business, safe in the knowledge that the President of the United States won’t say mean things about them. 

Oddly enough (or not given it’s a Ralph Peters column) the next passage seems to contradict the previous:

Well, consider the view from Tehran (or from Qom, Iran’s religious capital): Improved relations with the United States would rob the religious junta of the justification for much of what it does, from looting the country in the name of righteousness to pursuing nuclear weapons.

The rulers in Tehran need us as an enemy (along with Israel). A demonized foe is essential to their grip on power.

So it’s preferable to act confrontational with a regime that needs you to act confrontational for domestic reasons, but if you don’t come out all guns-and-bluster you’re a chump playing right into their hands? 

Palin/Peters 2012.

And because no Ralph Peters piece would be complete without a dash of colonial condescension tossed in the direction of the benighted wogs:

Mousavi mayhave won the most votes: Incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad probably didn’t receive the landslide majority announced two hours after the polls closed — in a country that’s barely progressed beyond the abacus. We’ll never know the real tally of ballots. [emphasis added]

So the country that’s got the neocons in such a tizzy because it is supposedly on the verge of devel0ping a massive arsenal of nuclear weapons, and the missile technology that can deliver them far and wide, is, in truth, incapable of technological advancement much past the abacus?

Kind of reminds me of the certainty on the part of many of the pro-war set that the slightly more advanced IEDs in Iraq were imports because Iraq – with all its engineers and scientists (whose WMD prowess we were told to fear) – couldn’t build those complex machines on their own.   Of course, in that case, the technological powerhouse that Iraq needed for IED production was Iran.  It all makes perfect sense.

Shorter Jonah Goldumbass:

By refusing to thrust himself into the spotlight which would hurt the cause of the Iranians protesting the election, Obama is making it all about himself.  Plus, he’s hurting the cause of the Iranian protesters.

Bonus Goldbraindead from the same column:

Labor unions are essential for the growth of democracy and therefore Obama and the Democrats should support their efforts everywhere. Except in the United States.

National.  Embarassment.

Old Gregg is back like cooked crack, baby.  The results are what you expect:

Gregg Easterbrook’s review of Robert Wright’s “The Evolution of God” (Bookshelf, June 8) says that “Paul, by contrast [to Christ], actively wished to start a cross-borders, proselytizing system of belief.” Amazing! Did neither the book’s author nor its reviewer consult the Bible? After all, the Bible describes the unfolding plan in great detail.

Even Sunday schoolers know Jesus’s final words on earth in the Great Commission, “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, ESV). They also know about his personal conversion of Paul. In Acts 9:15, Jesus says of Paul, “. . . he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the gentiles [non-Jews] and kings and the children of Israel.”

The Old Testament, throughout, points to “a righteous God and a Savior” for “all the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 45:22, 23). Jesus further reveals, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

Perhaps Mr. Wright shall pen many anthropologic theories, and Mr. Easterbrook many nonfiction reviews, before the end arrives. Meanwhile, for those interested in the facts on the outreach of grace through faith, please consult a Bible.

Dave Reed
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

He’s right; I checked.  (In fairness, Wright may have been referring to “Historical Jesus“, the Jewish apocolyptic preacher who came to Earth to save historians from their sins.)  That Old Gregg’s research method continues to center on not doing any research and knowing nothing is, in itself, not surprising.  That a man who has spent the better part of a decade scolding physicists for not proving Jesus (or something – trying to make sense of this makes me feel queasy) can’t be bothered to crack the Bible is sort of ironic, if you ignore the previous sentence, and if you are trying to pad out a blog post you are writing on this subject, and/or if your name is Alanis Morissette.  Most importantly, this proves conclusively my theory that what we think of as “the Universe” is really just a rather over-broad comic novel called “Jackass of All Trades”, wherein hilariously inept polymath Gregg Easterbrook – “the DiVinci of incompetence” – rises to the heights of the journalistic and public policy professions, only to be stopped by a deadly asteroid.

In happier news, the world just got less stupid.  Brookings will now have to skip the middleman and hire Vox Day directly.


You know exactly who you are.

Half the time Obama considers himself kind of lucky to be following George W. Bush’s opening act: it was such a profoundly colossal disaster of an administration on so many levels that all Obama has to do is not wreck the economy, start a catastrophic war of choice on false pretenses, let a treasured American city drown AND try to gut social security all at once and he should coast to re-election by landslide. 

Seriously, if there’s one thing Pappy Bush can thank his no-good sociopathic son for its making Bush the Elder look like a half-way decent President in comparison.  And sparking fond memories of the prior Bush presidency was no easy task.  It took a special kind of overachiever of a fuck up.

But when Obama’s not chuckling about the ease of looking better than Bush, he’s lacing together a string of curses, that would make a liberal blogger blush, at the fact that Bush left him with such a cocked-up pile of gordian knot-tied crises to deal with from day 1 (or immediately after election night if you’re using the Malkin Calendar). 

But at least Bush was friendly and his aides didn’t deface any of the White House keyboards, so it’s kind of a wash in terms of the hardships W faced after the Clinton transition.

Obama’s highly anticipated speech to the Middle East is a perfect example of this thanks/thanks-for-nothing dichotomy.  First, have fun with Bush’s legacy Mr. President:

When President Obama delivers his address to the Middle East on Thursday from Cairo, he will face the legacy of names like Haditha, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, places that have become more symbol than geography over nearly a decade of perhaps the most traumatic chapter in America’s relationship with the Muslim world.

Yeah, that, and he has some splainin’ to do with the massive armies still malingering about in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the latter increasingly on the receiving end of our “liberation and freedom” from above – known, colloquially, as being bombed the shit out of.  It sounds more grateful in the original Arabic/PashtoUrdu.

On the other hand, Obama will inherit a decent sized benefit of the doubt and be greeted by a population willing to at least listen with an open-ish mind if Barack can just continue not being George W. Bush incarnate.  Which I think he can handle.

More than any other president in a generation, Obama enjoys a reservoir of goodwill in the region. His father was Muslim. His outreach in an interview with an Arabic satellite channel, a speech to Turkey’s parliament and an address to Iranians on the Persian New Year have inclined many to listen. Just as important, he is not George W. Bush.

As to the particulars of the speech, it’s a mixed bag.  Peter Daou is right to criticize Obama for not addressing the Bush civil-liberties hangover head-on, and for taking a cautious approach when discussing human rights (especially women’s rights).  On the other hand, cutting back on the lecturing tone was kind of a priority (hypocrisy doesn’t sell well – must be an Arab thing).

Also, he did make a loud declaration against torture and in support of closing Gitmo, and the applause from those lines was robust.  Those are lines that no major Republican Party figure could even support, let alone utter. The emphasis on Islam’s connection to American culture and society was also a positive – if humdrum – theme.  

But then, that just gets back to the low bar Bush set: closing Gitmo and ceasing torture (while maintaining indefinite detention and other civil liberties violations) is a marked improvement.  Focusing on Islam’s valued place in America counts as fresh outreach.  Hell, wingnuttia is so piss-pants frightened of Islam that merely saying thank you in Arabic is proofof secret fluency and hidden dhimmitude, so Obama can run laps around them with a simple smile and bow handshake.

And yet, after all, these are just words, even if Obama can make them sound prettier than Bush – also, coherent and part of the English language.  Muslims, like Americans, will only be moved by rhetoric for so long.  But it’s not a bad start. 

Now pardon me while I go practice my ululating.

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