Monday, February 28, 2011

Bush was right.


If only he had stuck to these tactics when dealing with Iraq.

The new survivalists

DePierre v. United States

Ian's just sad that he didn't get hear the sweet Supreme Court case on crack/cocaine today. Check out these links to see what the cases were about--they give the reader's digest version for each.

Regional Cap & Trade Program Improved State Economies

Just sayin.

Supreme Court Visit: Camreta v. Greene

Tomorrow I will watch the oral arguments in the Camreta v. Greene case, which promises to be far more exciting than the cases John got to watch today. Camreta v. Greene has garnered a lot of media attention and marks the first time the Supreme Court has heard a case on the constitutional rights of children in 21 years. The case revolves around a Child Protection Agent and a Police Officer who pulled a 9 year-old girl out of class to ask her questions about possible sexual abuse. The Child Protection Agent held the girl in a room and interrogated her for two hours. Supposedly, the girl kept denying that she was the victim of abuse, but when she saw the school bus arrive to take everyone home she just started saying yes to all of the Agent's questions. The case is very important because it will not only help settle what kinds of rights children possess but also the power of the 4th Amendment.

Fracking Causing Earthquakes?

More problems potentially cause by fracking.


After finishing Democracy by Henry Adams in the late hours of last night, I put down my electronic reader and realized that really not much has changed since 1880 when the book was published. Men fighting over a woman, the woman rejecting both, a jealous sister, and corruption surrounding the whole tale. Sounds like something I would see on a late-night reality TV show.

What interested me the most about the novel was its author. Henry Adams, the grandson of John Quincy Adams and great-grandson of John Adams, anonymously published this novel in the late 1880s and his name was not revealed as the author until his death in the early 1900s. Had I not known he was the author, I would have thought a woman was writing and narrating the story of Mrs. Lee's adventure in Washington D.C. Often there are lines in the story objectifying men and promoting the power of women over men. Adams portrays Madeline Lee as the strongest-willed character in the novel - the men around her are competing for her attention and often look foolish and powerless when they do not get their way. Adams also does a remarkable job portraying relationships between women: jealousy, competition, gossip, camaraderie. The sister relationship between Madeline and Sybil reminded me of my own relationship with my sister: we compete intensely with one another yet are first to defend the other, we understand our different personalities, bicker to no end, but at the end of the day would stay up until the crack of dawn listening, talking, and comforting one another. It came to a great surprise to me when I learned that Adams did not have any sisters, but two brothers, because his grasp on the special relationship between sisters was so accurate.

Adams portrays political power as extremely corrupt with illegal money exchanges, appointing friends to cabinets, and manipulating the political system in order to achieve personal pleasure and goals. Did Adams witness some of this corruption within his own family of politicians, including one of our Founding Fathers? Was America doomed to corruption from the day it was born?

To me, it seems Adams had a heightened knowledge of not only the politics of the United States, but also relationships between men and women -- he understood how powerful, intelligent, and strong-willed women could be years before the US granted suffrage to females. Perhaps he saw how his grandmother influenced his grandfather in politics and was witness to the role of a strong female in a political family.

I really enjoyed reading Democracy and thought it a little amusing that Mrs. Lee chooses to travel to Egypt at the end of the novel in search for a place lacking Democracy. The status of Egypt is one of the few things in the book that has not remained the same in the 130 years after its publication -- and even Egypt's transformation is only at the beginning stages of change as we have witnessed in the past few weeks.

If this book is read in another 130 years will the dynamic of relationships between men and women be the same? Will the interworkings of the American political system still resemble Henry Adams portrayal in Democracy?

Unions and big businesses more alike than different

Although Paul Krugman seems to think that unions are battling big evil business, there are many similarities between unions and big businesses- namely their ability to monopolize a whole sector of work and fix incomes and benefits (compare this to big businesses negotiating to fix prices of goods at an inflated level) and the political power that they have as a result of campaign funding (which is arguably more than the political power of big businesses). This article makes a comparison between union busting and trust busting.

While I was at first skeptical that the government had the right to restrict bargaining between employers and workers I now see the problem with public-sector bargaining. If a company in the private sector allowed the kind of bargaining that happens in the public-sector, they would, in many instances go out of business, but in the public-sector government officials gain political leverage from politically active unions. Unions in the public and private sector are very different because of the incentives of the employer.

New Species of Human claims to have Tiger Blood

More On Unions

Although Bloomberg is writing this article to gain more power for the city, it shows a clear headed response to the issue.

NYT Expose of Fracking Chronicles Health Dangers, Lack of Regulation

Pretty alarming story about the radioactive pollution that fracking injects into our water sources. The article also highlights the inability of regulators to keep up with this fast-growing industry. In other fracking news, Gasland lost for best documentary last night at the Oscars, and the mayor of Dish, Texas left town with his family out of fear that their house's close proximity to fracking operations was making them sick.

GOP reality check: Obama looking tougher to beat in 2012

Proposal for campaign finance reform

Good idea? Constitutional?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

New England Mobster Found Hiding Out in Idaho


Potentially Diastrous Situation on the High Seas


And the Oscar goes to...

83rd Academy Awards-

Best Picture: "The King's Speech"
Best Actor: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"
Best Actress: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
Best Director: Tim Hopper, "The King's Speech"
Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"
Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, "The Fighter" (I called this one, I swear!)

Just Dance

It's remarkable the power technology can have in turning a dictator into an instant dance sensation.

The truth will set you free...unless that means becoming a U.S. citizen

March Madness (and I am not talking about basketball)

If Senate Democrats do no not approve the House Republicans CR by March 4th, our nation may face a government shutdown. But what exactly does it mean for the government to shut down? The government will perform "essential functions only." Effects of the shutdown include the government closing national parks, museums, and increasing furlough days for thousands of federal employees.

A realist in fantasyland?

Realist Stephen Walt waxing eloquent about the regime of Libya one year ago.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Victory for Orangemen

Fun day with my sons watching Syracuse beat the Hoyas.

Here's a thought...

Doesn't take a climate scientist to come to this conclusion. Let's consider the real costs of oil, not just the price at the pump. The calculus will be a lot different.

Jackson Place, the place of lobbyists

Thought I'd share this story with everyone. The building on the left is one of the CEQ buildings; the building to the right is the White House Conference Center.

I have heard that EEOB employees have meetings at Caribou Coffee. That, though, is not to skirt reporting rules but to avoid the arduous process of gaining their visitors access to the complex.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Goldman Sachsonomics

Google title to access full article.

NY teachers union proposes to make it easier to fire bad teachers

Yikes, I knew there had to be more

Saudi Arabia Next?

This article explains some of the reasons why Saudi Arabia could be the next domino to fall in the Middle East. It also talks about some of the problems Abdullah, the King of Saudi Arabia, faces with the revolt in Bahrain. Apparently, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are close allies and King Abdullah is monitoring the siuation closely. If the Bahrainians do overthrow the Government, it is possible, according to the article, that Saudi Arabia would invade Bahrain to reinstate King Hamad. If that were to happen, it would almost certainly force Obama to show his cards.

Quiz: Charlie Sheen or Muammar Qaddafi?

Both went on insane rants this week. Can you tell who said what?

Obama and Inaction in Libya

Leon Wieseltier has a thoughtful, if flawed, piece out about Obama's perceived lack of action in the midst of the revolutions in the Middle East. Now, Wieseltier comes from the Marty Peretz school of thought that has never seen a situation in the Middle East that it didn't want US intervention on, and I think ultimately his argument comes across as reckless in the sheer depth of intervention he seems to be advocating from the Obama Administration. He goes ahead to unequivocally argue that we should, "let NATO planes fly over Tripoli and shoot down any Libyan aircraft that makes war on the Libyan population," which I think is an example of thinking too much with your heart instead of your head. Sure, it might seem the morally courageous thing to do, but doing so also probably turns a bad situation into an outright international crisis when Qaddafi inevitably responds by taking hostage and possibly killing the American citizens who are still trying to get out of the country. Creating a no-fly zone is an idea worth considering (and one that appears will implemented at one point or another), but it's important to think about the repercussions there. I do agree with Wieseltier that there is a certain lack of urgency in the Obama Administration's response (not atypical), particularly with the comments about waiting until Monday to confer in Geneva with our 'allies and partners' to coordinate a response to a situation in which 3 days is practically an eternity in terms of what Qaddafi can do to the opposition (and is doing).

Wieseltier does make some good points that are worth thinking about. He argues is that Obama is making a mistake by erring too much on the side of caution for fear of making the revolutions appear to be an American or Western creation, and that he may be too driven by the desire to be the anti-Bush. "The awful irony is that Obama is more haunted by the history of foreign policy than are many people in the Middle East, who look towards him for support in their genuinely epochal struggle," he writes. We don't know the extent of what the U.S. is doing in the Middle East right now in relation to these revolutions (because a lot of what is being done is probably being done through the CIA and Special-Ops forces), but there does appear to be a certain amount of fecklessness about the American response right now, nothing more than stern words cheerleaded from the sidelines.

And I wonder if perhaps that is in itself just a reflection of the reality of a multi-polar world. We as Americans are used to huffing and puffing and blowing the house down, because post-World War II we truly were the 'leader of the free world.' But every hegemon's star fades eventually, and while we still dictate a tremendous amount of geopolitical power, it might be worth considering that Obama is simply acting within the constraints of the influence his office and his country holds over the situation in the Middle East.

I think, in the end, this is sort of what we signed up for in Obama. After eight years of Bush, the cowboy who acted on gut instincts and only paused to consider the repercussions after the fact (Iraq says hi), what was appealing in Obama was a temperment that aided itself to caution, pragmatism, and planning. Obama is a naturally risk-averse person, every decision carefully weighed, never wanting to over-expose himself and unnecessarily lose leverage. From conducting months-long 'reviews' of war strategy in Afghanistan, to sitting the '09 Iran protests out, to now this relatively quiet response to the revolutions in the Middle East, I think he's more or less acting like we figured he would act. Except that now, in this moment where we all feel like we're at a moment in history where things are changing in a profoundly big way, all of a sudden everyone wants a little more of that feel-good Bush adventurism.

Do federal employees have collective bargaining rights?

No. Should they?

Climate of hate?

Party Affiliation By State

What is surprising to me is the amount of people that say they are moderate. With the current climate of US politics its hard for me to believe that anyone would consider themselves a moderate about anything. On this day, as we are celebrating the two-year anniversary of the Tea Part Caucus, the Gallop poll begs the question: what is the future of our current 2 (or 3) party system? Maybe, in contrast to Ryan's post yesterday, the new party will not come from the left but rather emerge from the middle. It will be a mixture of people who, in this polarizing epoch, cannot see themselves going in either direction. Maybe Sen Lieberman does have a plan after retirement...

Obama Stays Above the Fray on Gov't Shutdown

The Hill seems to think Obama staying out of current budget negotiations is a good idea. I'm not so sure. First, I think it makes him seem like an aloof leader that is avoiding our most complex problems. Second, this aloofness gives Republicans ammo to attack him with. Third, he is failing to follow Bill Clinton's successful gov't shutdown playbook. Bill Clinton won the 1995 budget showdown by rolling (or appearing to roll) up his sleeves and negotiating with Republicans. Obama has yet to do this. What do you guys think? Is "staying above the fray" a good idea for Obama on this issue?

$1/gallon gasoline tax

I know that this opinion would be fiercely opposed by the general U.S. public (and possibly by my distinguished blog colleagues), but I whole-heartedly agree that a $1/gallon gasoline tax as discussed by Thomas Friedman should be implemented (gradual increases of 5 cents per month beginning in 2012). Not only would this money go towards paying off the deficit, but it would also force Americans to rethink their gasoline consumption, thus leading to more use of public transportation, fewer cars on the road, lower CO2 emissions, and a decreased dependency on foreign oil (which is finite and the root of many US problems). This gradual weening off of oil dependency will do the population much better than the sudden increases in price and decrease in availablity we will see in our future if we don't change our consumption practices now. Friedman is on point when he says:

"With one little gasoline tax, we can make ourselves more economically and
strategically secure, help sell more Chevy Volts and free ourselves to
openly push for democratic values in the Middle East without worrying
anymore that it will harm our oil interests."

Our dependency on foreign oil is, well, disgusting. We are sitting back and turning a blind eye to the human rights violations take place every single day: women aren't being treated equally, corruption is everywhere, no one is being properly educated, and dictators are taking advantage of their citizens just because we want these countries to keep providing us with the oil we need to drive our cars to McDonalds drive thrus every day. Let's raise gas prices to levels they ought to be -- it will help reduce the deficit, lower CO2 emissions (with fewer cars on the road), and will reduce our dependency on foreign oil --reduce our need to suck up to countries that are violating basic human rights to their citizens.

I know I'm a tree-hugging liberal hippie so I'm ready to be attacked...

Gadaffi's last line of defense

USA Inc. Red, White and Very Blue

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: "The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults." Let the turnaround begin!

Mary Meeker studied the U.S. as a company with shareholders, a balance sheet, and competetive pressures. As shareholders, all Americans have emotional and financial stakes in the United States and "that stake is at risk." While her letter to tax payers takes no side to specific legislative proposals, Meeker proposes suggestions to make the U.S. operate like a well run business. Meeker believes "the first and most important step in solving a problem is communicating its severity." In her article she outlines inefficiencies of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and stresses the importance of spending on R&D. Meeker concludes that ,"Instead of bickering about which deck chair to throw overboard to lighten the load, Congress should focus on getting USA Inc. growing again. The key to growth, in turn, is higher productivity through investment in technology, infrastructure, and education."

Nancy Pelosi edits her own encomium

Skeleton in Jane Corwin's closet?

Will GOP voters care?

Krugman on Wisconsin

The Hammer on fiscal politics

Shutdown: 1995 v. 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Medicare Advantage gets a reprieve

Average total compensation of a Milwaukee teacher

If What Fox News Says Were Not Enough...

It's sad how little this scandal phases me, I naturally assume that Fox News is up to no go it seems.

Fleeing the State

What do football players and teachers have in common?

Tonight's debate reminded me of an article written by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker. It brings up the impact of teachers' unions on education reform. Gladwell compares teachers to NFL draft picks, illustrating how it is almost impossible to anticipate which will succeed and which will be terrible teachers. As far as we can tell, there is little correlation between expected indicators (such as a master's degree or teacher's certification) and teacher performance. Gladwell suggests that educational reforms should mirror the hiring process of the financial-advice field--instead of raising standards, we should be lowering them, allowing many more applicants and then eliminating them based on their performance. Wages should also be reformed to reflect teachers' statuses. Gladwell's solution could greatly increase the quality of our teachers, but is it feasible? Teachers' unions may prevent such reforms from ever taking place.

Thoughts? I highly suggest you guys read the article--not only an interesting topic but also a pleasure to read (in my opinion).

What did Walker Campaign On?

Spoiler alert: He didn't say anything about taking away collective bargaining rights.

DOMA and Obama

To continue off of John's post (and Maggie and Pat’s comments) about Gay Marriage/DOMA and Obama's seemingly flip flopping stance yesterday, I believe that Obama did not change his opinion to appease voters because as far as I'm concerned the gay/lesbian community would have likely voted for Obama for re-election in 2012 regardless of his stance on gay marriage. He is a supporter of civil unions and at one point believed it was up to the jurisdiction of individual states to determine the legality of gay marriage. Coming from San Francisco, I know that it would take a very strong liberal and pro-gay marriage Presidential candidate to take the vote away from Obama -- and a candidate like this would likely have no chance of election in the majority of the country.

I support his decision and to me, it doesn't matter what his opinion was 5 years ago or 10 years ago or last week because yesterday he publicly decided to stop defending DOMA and this brings us one step closer to equality among straights, gays, and lesbians in the United States and allowing the fair and legal marriage everyone is entitled to.
John's original posted article from the Huffington Post:

Liberals want their own Tea Party

The Chai Latte Party, anyone?

Republicans Ahead?

I know, I know. It is Fox News. Still, I am very interested to see what will happen in the coming weeks in terms of a Government shutdown. I have seen several arguments about why the Democrats will come out on top, but this article (predictably) argues that Republicans will come out ahead. Essentially, Stirewalt argues that things are much different now than they were in 1995. He argues that "A divided-congress, a mild-mannered Republican speaker, a competitive media environment and public concern over debt all add up to a tougher envrionment for Democrats to profit politically from a shutdown." It seems to me that if Obama and the Democrats do not get more vocal and aggressive about why the Government is shutting down, and instead just continue to lie down before the Republicans, the Republicans will have a VERY good shot of coming out ahead politically. On the other hand if Democrats control the message, the Republicans will be blamed. Given recent history though, I just do not see that happening.

Most Conservative Members of Congress

Gaddafi Steals One of the Best Movie Quotes of All Time: "Thanks A Lot Bin Laden"

Along with blaming the conflict in Libya on Osama Bin Laden, Moammar Gaddafi accused young Libyan protesters of drinking hallucingens with their coffee.
That sounds about right.

Goldman Sachs Says GOP Budget Plan Will Hurt Economy

An addition to our debate from last week. Seems like a stronger economic recovery could help the deficit through increased revenue, but House GOP plan could actually slow recovery by cutting spending too quickly.

The End of the New Deal?

Op-ed on the GOP's dismantling of New Deal principles through Congress, state legislatures and the courts. This author, unlike me, still has hope that Obama can usher in a new progressive era leading into his 2012 reelection campaign.

Terror plot in the homeland

Orwell Predicted Big Brother, but nobody said anything about "Little Brother"

Yesterday at the Pentagon, I unwittingly took out my cell phone and snapped a photo of the sign that says "Welcome to the Pentagon". Within seconds I was apprehended by a guard and asked to delete the photo. This is what we have come to! Its at the point now where if I acted fast enough I could have streamed an Image of the interior of the Pentagon over the internet in SECONDS! Generational debates over technology are always spewing from newsrooms, colleges, and the courts, but it is also interesting how, like this article suggests, "little brother" will affect the way people do their jobs.

Chris Christie vs. the Teacher's Unions

Really absorbing profile by Matt Bai of Chris Christie's fight against the teacher's union in New Jersey (subscription possibly required). The biggest thing I took away from it was what a capable politician Christie is. He knows how to craft compelling narratives and I get the sense that he's like Obama in that he can maintain high approval ratings even when people disagree with some of his policies, simply because of his personal appeal.

The prevailing wisdom seems to have been that Christie's star would fade as he actually began to enact the reforms that he had been promising, and that governing in a budget crisis creates tough choices that hurt people and thus would hurt Christie politically. But it seems like the combination of the New Jersey Educational Association being unsavvy political maneuverers who are having trouble adjusting to the changing times, and the rising unpopularity of unions has created an opportunity for Christie to move forward with his agenda with the perfect scapegoat to fight against, and actually come out of it with an even better reputation because he will be able to cast himself as a maverick reformer.

I'm also not convinced that he's not going to run for president in 2012. I know that he has ruled it out, but any politician actually holding elected office always denies thinking about running all the way up to the second that they announce their candidacy because otherwise they look unprofessional and paint a bullseye for their opponents earlier than they need to (for example, Obama also flatly ruled out running in the last presidential cycle several times before announcing his candidacy). In a relatively weak Republican field, Christie could turn his flavor-of-the-moment buzz into a formidable political machine, and in a general election I think he could be a very dangerous opponent for Obama.

Union rhetoric has, of course, been perfect...

Like the articles Peter posted, these articles are making something out of nothing. Just wanted to point out that there are always "scandals" on both sides.

My Iguana is a "Service Animal" Because He Makes Me Feel All Soft and Fuzzy Inside

C'mon America...If this is legit then I want a tiger as my service animal. Nobody messes with a tiger.

Over the Line Rhetoric

There has been a lot of talk about rhetoric since the tragedy in Tuscon, but I think this is a clear example of going over the line (by a public official, nonetheless). Also, speaking of violent rhetoric, check out this craziest of Glenn Beck video (if you have speakers at work.)

SCANDAL: Blogger Prank Calls Gov. Walker Impersonating David Koch

I don't think this is actually that scandalous, but during the conversation there were some questionable things said by the Wisconsin Governor. I basically just think its funny that the Governor fell for it. It also think it is interesting to compare this to some of the "scandals" highlighted by Fox News and right-wing news outlets like "climategate," the ACORN thing, and the supposed Planned Parenthood sting. While MSNBC has been blowing this story up, it has not reached nearly the level that those scandals did.

Rolling Stone Article- Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators

Chris Christie the Charlatan and Paul Ryan the Poser

DCCC hit list

Excuse the eliminationist rhetoric.

DC's new power place

The Anti-Reich

A very different take on the new populism.

America in Decline? Not so Fast

Next Generation of Democratic Leaders?

This article (from the American Prospect, a left-of-center publication) provides a good list of the next generation of Democratic leaders. You may remember that last week we had trouble naming many.