Thursday, January 25, 2007

Failure of the market

Seriously - the absence of a strong replacement for Fafblog (and, indeed, the fact that they were able to maintain themselves as the "world's only source for Fafblog" - I mean, shouldn't another source for Fafblog, perhaps outsourced to India or to those Warquest mining camps in China and other low-wage labor areas of the world brought us Fafblog, but even more freely?) seriously suggests that the market isn't all-knowing, all-seeing as Thomas Friedman makes it out to be.

I miss Fafblog. Rarely have I laughed harder than at the tragi-comedic stylings there, tackling the absurdities of our current politics dead on. And being able to laugh at them, well, that helped me be able to think about them as less insurmountable, as less formidable, and as something that I could actually do something about offline.

Sitting on my desk chair on a Sunday afternoon.
Listening to the three of them debate.
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you've got to choose
Every way you look at this you lose.

Where have you gone, Medium Lobster,
Our nation turns it's lonely eyes to you.
What's that you say, Mr. Fafnir.
Giblets has left and gone away,
Hey hey hey.
May the road always rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rains fall soft upon your fields
And until your blog again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

They are and will be missed. Godspeed to the author of Fafblog.

Netroots primary addendum

And as a bonus, however great he is currently being on Iraq, the results would very likely stick it to Captain Cave-in.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A real national netroots primary

An offhand post title and an odd claim by Senator Clinton really got me thinking this evening. There really should be an honest to goodness Netroots Primary. Not just a straw poll. Something with a real day. Advertising. Campaigning. An outcome and perhaps some accompanying positive consequences.

I posted my thoughts on this over at DKos and include them here as well. Should ever the odd commenter make their way over here, I'd love to hear what you think about it.

From DKos comment

Perhaps I've missed a diary on this, but seriously, how about a real netroots primary? Something coordinated across many multiple netroots sites. One could set it up so there would be a real consequence to the primary too (perhaps in coordination with ActBlue's new presidential campaign funds). People could cast a tiered vote (where they indicate ranked choices). Each vote costs say a $1 (some/most of which is used to defray costs). The winner of the primary (determined by eliminating sequentially those with the fewest vote totals) gets the remaining proceeds. Or no money but the winner gets two weeks free ads at participating sites. Or a front page write up of their positive qualities. Or a full-page ad in the NYTimes, the Washington Post, Time, and/or Newsweek. Lots of possibilities beyond those. The obvious barrier is the security of the vote. However, there are so many good reasons to at least consider it:

  1. Quality candidates will pay attention to it and respond accordingly - thus we will have an opportunity to help shape and hone their message. Good for us as we get politicians more attuned to what we want and good for them because they'll get potentially useful feedback that won't be coming from a bunch of media consultants telling them to buy lots of commercial time so they can get their fat cut of the buy.
  2. The netroots could have a go at really making a difference pre-New Hampshire - framing the debate, establishing the front-runners. It would be like a preliminary National Primary.
  3. With a little support from technologically-minded members, one could set it up as an early trial run for real internet voting something that will soon be upon us. And anyone who set up a prototype of a real, working, secure system would have a real inside track for big contracts down the road.
  4. The free media aspect of things could potentially help a Democratic candidate get tons and tons of airtime and coverage (and potentially early volunteers and donations as well).
Obviously, the coordination of such a primary would be an incredible challenge so perhaps one might have to think a bit smaller than one would like this time around. But a real national, netroots primary seems like an idea whose time has come.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Zombie bad public policy

Really? Do we have to do this again? President Bush couldn't push his incredibly flawed ideas for Social Security destruction through the last Congress which he pretty much controlled and at least had a majority in.

Now, Democrats have control and we're talking about Bush reforming social security
? Again?

Let's review.

1) The President and the Republican Party don't want to reform or save social security. They want to hamstring it, reduce its effectiveness, even end it.

2) The state of social security is not really a problem. Of the fiscal problems we have facing this nation, it's way down there. First, there's the annual budget deficit, the size of which is vastly underestimated because of the SOCIAL SECURITY SURPLUS. That's right: SOCIAL SECURITY RIGHT NOW IS RUNNING $100 BILLION+ IN THE BLACK. THE ANNUAL BUDGET DEFICIT IS RUNNING $400 BILLION+ IN THE RED. Now, pundits and Democrats overly eager to get their name in the paper: which one is a problem now. Which one will be a bigger problem in the future if not fixed? Go ahead... we'll wait....

3) Part of the reason the country turned on President Bush was his attempt to take away their social security. Even before they turned on him because of Katrina and the continuing debacle in Iraq, he was losing people because of his completely dishonest doublespeaking attempt to cut benefits, raise taxes, and siphon off money to Wall Street.

Look, Josh Marshall (and his every increasing legion of loyal readers and staff) have dealt quite well with this. Democrats should stay the hell away unless they can come up with a plan the President would veto and the Republicans would vote against so they could say Republicans hate Social Security. Otherwise, EVERY SINGLE TIME someone brings this up Democrats should say, this isn't really a problem. We're handing out tax cuts to the wealthy and mortgaging our future, we're spending like crazy on a completely unnecessary and extremely poorly executed war. These are our problems. Anyone who works on Social Security Reform before these problems are solved is insane.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Joe (is) Dirt

Or hopefully his presidential candidacy will be if he keeps selling the consumer down the road - his political instincts certainly aren't any better than the movie referenced above. Seriously, this is what he's spending his time on? Confound it man, as if there's nothing else important going on. Sheesh.

One thing you can say for sure - when big time corporations pay for Joe Biden, they get results. One must wonder what he charges - 30 pieces of silver ... adjusted for inflation ... okay, that blew up my calculator - bet that can buy a lot of 30 second spots. Fat lot of good that's going to do him.

And clearly, when you buy Joe Biden, he stays bought so he's got that going for him.

Anyway, given his repeated craven cavein to big business interests (That's it - he's now officially (cue trumpets) .... CAP-TAIN ... CAVE...IN.) Anyway, given his performance last time he ran for president and plus his little Electric Biden-loo in South Carolina (a pander to the right, a pander to the left, and cling to the spotlight you love best). As I said below, the arc of Captain Cavein's presidential campaign is short and bends toward irrelevancy.

Great Opportunity

The previous post reminded of perhaps the greatest Daily Show clip of all times. Great opportunity:

So many great lines there. And delivered impeccably to boot.

AASIF MANDVI: Oh, absolutely, Jon. It's not often that an entire region is given this kind of chance. Every day the outdoor markets and cafes explode in anticipation. We're like children on Christmas morning. From what I'm told. It's very exciting.

STEWART: Really? The violence and the instability doesn't color that view?

MANDVI: No, no--not at all. As one gentleman told me while standing in the smouldering remains of what was once his village: "you can't get hummus without mashing some chick peas." (ed. Brilliant)

: Really? Because when I see the news, Aasif, people are really ... they seem angry; people are screaming angrily.

MANDVI: Well what did you expect? As Secretary Rice said, we're going through some birth pangs here. And you know how people tend to scream and say things they don't mean when they're in labor. Nonsense like, "how could you do this to me?" Or, "Death to America." And then, once the baby arrives, all is forgiven. What we're going through is exactly like that. I mean, we all understand it in exactly those terms. (Ed. This is spit-take funny, especially the delivery of the two birth pang lines.)

STEWART: Aasif I'm--forgive me for asking this, but-- [Sound of bomb exploding] Are--are you okay?

MANDVI: (Shaking head dismissively) Oh yeah, I'm fine. That was just an improvised explosive opportunity. I believe it was filled with what sounded like the flying shards of a better tomorrow. I can't wait to see what will rise from the ashes. (Crosses fingers) I hope it's a parliament. (Ed. brilliantly parodies the talking points).

STEWART: There's no resentment there that these changes that are being brought were perhaps foisted upon the region?

MANDVI: No, no not at all. Over the years, we've grown accustomed to thinking of ourselves as you think of us--tiny abstract drops in an oilfield of possibility. Whether redrawing our borders without regard for ethnicity or religion, or experimenting with unfamiliar forms of governance. We always welcome a chance to test the latest theories of your political scientists.

STEWART: That's an incredible way to look at a terrible situation.

MANDVI: Well, I'm sure it's not different from the way your nation views the events of September 11th: tough day; great opportunity.

STEWART: I don't think we, I don't think we really look at it like that.

MANDVI: Oh? Well. I guess not everyone knows how to respond when opportunity knocks their house down. Jon?

Hilarious as it may be (and it definitely is hilarious), the clip ends, though, incorrectly. There was, in fact, a whole group of people that looked at September 11th as "Tough day, great opportunity." And they've taken that opportunity to play out their vastly foolish middle east war fantasy to the hilt. And they're about to turn the dial to 11.

The writers and stars of the Daily Show truly are the Fools of old: telling the truth through barbed jests in ways that illuminate the vanity and error of the true fools wearing the crowns. Comedy and tragedy inextricably intertwined - to weep or to laugh, not a choice but two sides of the same coin these days.

Oh, sweet Jeebus - teh Stupid, it burns!

The President's grip on reality grows ever more tenuous, asymptotically approaching zero (or, perhaps his grip on the completely inane and absurd growing ever more tight). Now, he's projecting his completely clueless disappointment about the lack of gratitude from Iraqis (noted as early as last August in the New York Times, original Dowd and linked column behind the select wall) onto the American people as a whole:

"I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean, the people understand that we've endured great sacrifice to help them. That's the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq."

The Daily Show and their crack senior mideast bureau chief, Aasif Mandvi, hit this one out of the park back then and it holds up remarkably well. My favorite bits:

After all, the United States invaded Iraq to help the Iraqi people, no other reason. In fact, what you called Operation Iraqi Freedom, the people here called Operation Doing Us A Solid.

Well, he just want's a little thoughtfulness, that's all, John. It's not like the President thought that the U.S. would be greeted as liberators or handed flowers. I mean, he's not retarded. (crosstalk) But you know a note. A gesture. My sources in Washington say: the president gets up every day and walks to the mailbox and asks "Any Cards?" But always .... nothing. There's an iraqi word for that kind of ingratitude, John. Chutzpah.

Ladies and Gentlemen, George Bush, the Charlie Brown of the American Presidency. (A little help from the internets to update the graphic for those of us who are, shall we say, Photoshop-impaired?)

Joe-Joe: Who do you want to be today? (Joementum II: Electric Biden-loo

Seriously, I'm beginning to develop a deep-seated suspicion about guys named Joe. As if Joe Biden has any remaining standing to criticize South Carolina for anything after he intimated that Delaware would have been a slave state if they only had Tom-Tom.

Man, it must take some utter lack of self-awareness, humility, morality, ethics, and sense of right and wrong to speak in front of the NAACP in a ceremony honoring one of the truly great Americans, no human beings, of all time after yucking it up with the Rotary Club.

A real presidential candidate would have taken the Rotary Club opportunity to tell the business community of South Carolina that those who continue to support the symbols of the Confederacy remain on the wrong side of the arc of the moral universe. A craven pol would have pandered to racists and then shown up a few weeks later to pretend that it never happened in front of the historical victims of the people he was pandering to. Is there an word for chutzpah that is totally evil?

Joe Biden for President: The arc of his candidacy is short and bends toward irrelevancy.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

2007 is the new 1984.

Two chestnuts from tonight's speech.

1) Sending more troops (and keeping more troops there) will lead to them coming home sooner.
"If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home."
Or we could just cut out the middle man and bring them home now. That would be sooner, no?

2) Winning won't look like winning.
Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved.
Yep, it's going to look a whole lot of "success that hasn't happened yet".


Anyone care to take a shot at why 21500? It's not as if the planners at the Pentagon pulled out their slide rules and their abacuses and in a flurry determined that the reason we were failing in Iraq was because we were precisely 21500 troops short. Why not 22000? Or 21, 137 for pete sake? Maybe it was just George's way of once again saying, "Heh, heh. You thought you knew what I was gonna do. But I decided for an extra 1500 troops, a whopping 1% more. Now who's the stupid one?" (Hint: still you, George).

I didn't think they could make the surge anymore ridiculous than suggesting that 20000 troops was going to help us find the pony amidst the steaming pile of dung that they've turned Iraq into. Yet they did.

I sure hope the magic number of troops wasn't 21542. That would be teh suck.

And the call for sacrifice was a nice touch. How about something more practical - how about a call for increased enlistment in the armed services? That's right, I'm looking at you Jonah Goldberg.

The trouble with Joe Klein

Isaac Chotiner (among others like Booman and Atrios) nicely captures the problem with Joe Klein (much akin to the similar problem Democrats that spend too much time saying what Democrats should do rather than just doing.)

Namely, the likes of Klein and Zengerle among others is spend far too much time criticizing the style of people they purport to agree with, perhaps out of ego, perhaps out of naïveté, perhaps out of self-interested turf defense (I'll let them decide) rather than using the incredible platform they have to actually do something about the real problems we face and the idiots that are causing them.

Whenever I think of the Joes (Klein, Lieberman, Scarborough, Piscopo), I can't but wonder what has happened to a solid, hardworking name like Joe such that whenever I hear it, it is all to frequently associated with someone that quickly brings the movie Say Anything to mind because of Lili Taylor's oh-so-haunting rendition of Joe Lies.

President Bush's Priorities

Not exactly in the right place.

Amount of time afforded the casket of a former commander-in-chief, whose staff formed the entire backbone of your administration:
"a brief one-minute visit" (which others have suggested was as short as 7 seconds if you can imagine that).
Amount of time afforded elementary school students reading aloud during the very most important moments of your presidency:
the longest five minutes in American history.

In fact, in honor of these priorities, I propose them as units of time along side the classic Friedman Unit or F.U. (e.g., around 6 months) and the Khalilzad (a couple of months, more commonly two months)

Ford: 1) A brief moment of approximately 7 seconds or less. 2) The amount of time necessary to give the bare minimum of an appearance of caring. Usage: I heard Jonah Goldberg passed away today after his brain exploded when he was drafted to go to Iraq due to the Surge VII: The Tsunami®, new and improved with selective service. I felt sympathy for a Ford but then was overwhelmed by the combined onslaught of irony and schadenfreude.

peegee: (see also p.g., or sometimes as peeg, short for a pet goat): 1) a unit of time approximately five to seven minutes in length. Usage: I'll be there in a peegee - I just have to finish this blog post. 2) the amount of time it takes one to remove one's head from one's a**. Varies widely depending on the size of the a** involved and the depth with which the head has been planted. Usage: I used to spend time worrying about the consequences of withdrawal but after a peeg I realized that they paled in comparison to the vast and wanton destruction that invading and remaining in Iraq has wrought and continues to work upon Iraq, the United States, and the Middle East as a whole. Note: for the Poor Man Institute, this peeg might be on the order of a Ford or shorter. For Jason Zengerle, one suspects it might be on the order of years. For people born on third base with a silver head up their a**, a peeg may well asymptotically approach infinity.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Rick Santorum is the leader of America's Enemies

Sometime's the posts practically write themselves.

I'm not sure if you caught it but it's official.

Rick Santorum is the leader of America's Enemies.

You knew that, you say. But, now everyone from the most progressive to the most conservative are unified in holding this truth to be self-evident, with the National Review trumpeting it here, announcing that he's the new director of America's Enemies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center

Time to put on my journamalism cap on and take a look at the press announcement

"As a United States Senator, Rick Santorum was a champion of ... radical Islamic fascism, .... religious persecution..." said EPPC President Ed Whelan.
That is a doozy. (Worthy of the MRC's best work, no?).
"In these perilous and uncertain times, I believe it is critical that we ... confront America," said Mr. Santorum. "Without a clear definition and precise understanding ... we cannot fight ... our own citizens .... . It is my hope that the America's Enemies program at EPPC will help .... our ... enemies....""
There you have it. Rick Santorum telling it like it is for once - of course, one must read between the lines of his announcement a bit. But everyone knows that America's Enemies always speak in code to their operatives in their public pronouncements, even perhaps through blinking.

(I think I sense a nearly legitimate Google bomb, no?)

So there you have it: Rick Santorum, leader of America's Enemies. Wait, if he's the leader of America's enemies, doesn't that make Rick Santorum, Public Enemy #1? Just saying.

Incidentally, the best little piece of schadenfreude amidst the disappointment that Senator Santorum was able to find gainful employment was the tagline at the very bottom of Rick Santorum's reprinted article over at EPPC from the November 8th article in Crisis.

Defining the Enemy
By Rick Santorum
Crisis Magazine
Publication Date: November 8, 2006

-- Rick Santorum is a United States senator from Pennsylvania and chairman of the Senate Republican Conference
Mmm, schadenenfreudelicious.

Or from another publication there
Knowing Our Enemies
Our leaders shrink from confronting the threat that faces our nation.
By Rick Santorum
National Review Online
Publication Date: December 12, 2006
-- Rick Santorum is the outgoing (emphasis added) junior Republican senator from Pennsylvania.
D***, straight baby!

The relationship between the Bush Administration and competence

It seems that many many many people have at this point noted the complete and utter lack of competence of our current Presidential administration.

Frequently, this has taken the form of challenging people to name one thing, any single instance in which we might trust this administration to demonstrate competence (or tell the truth or be forthcoming with information to name a few).

I thought we could all use a simpler competition. So how about an analogy contest:

The Bush administration is to competence as:

(and here are some to get you started, the first two are from the post below)

a) Black holes are to light (no competence can escape the White House's event horizon)
b) the 1980's Seattle Supersonics were to passing
c) i is to whole numbers (not in overlapping sets)
d) Heat Miser is to Snow Miser (on the same dimension but opposite ends)
e) Dennis Miller is to humor
f) Bush is to Washington (presidentiality in Georges)
g) Astral to Material (not in the same plane of reality)

Knock yeselves out all ye who enter here.

Black holes

A friend disputed the comparison to the Seattle Supersonics. Some data: (minimum 300 games played taking out point guard Gary Payton and Jack Sikma):


A/T Ratio
Michael Cage
490 13597
7.64 8.11

Danny Vranes
395 9035
5.95 4.39

Shawn Kemp
544 15859
15.87 9.51

Derrick Mckey
446 13957
13.85 5.15

Tom Chambers
393 13210
20.43 6.56

Dale Ellis
324 11886
24.62 4.50

Xavier Mcdaniel
408 13786
20.68 6.96

Fred Brown
311 6332
11.40 1.52


Those guys couldn't pass gas after a bowl of 5-alarm chili.

The Davies' Cup - An Update to Now that I have your attention...

I see Josh Marshall beat me to the test I proposed to Joe Klein yesterday although Marshall's post was not in response to Mr. Klein's prattlings but to the general reason why we shouldn't trust this administration's judgment. At all. On anything. But especially the "surge" or as both Brad and Josh document today, the underwhelming ripple.

Really, I just wanted to illustrate the ease of accessibility for the innumerable massive catastrophucks compared to the lack of any real ability to quickly produce any evidence of measurable success of any kind on any issue by this administration.

It adds a level of complexity to the well-traveled challenge regularly produced by Brad Delong in his quest to highlight the vast incompetencies of this administration (I was going to say comprehensively catalog, but I'm not sure even Google's servers would be up to the storage capacity required for that) - a competition originally proposed by Daniel Davies.

I find myself with a few spare minutes and make the mistake of reading Thomas Friedman again. His conclusion after a long, dull and witless ramble about the introduction of "democracy" to Iraq (just what the Gulf region needs, more puppet states) reads "If [it is] done right, the Middle East will never be the same. If done wrong, the world will never be the same". There's not much you can say to that except "shut up you silly man". But it does inspire in me the desire for a competition; can anyone, particularly the rather more Bush-friendly recent arrivals to the board, give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics:

  1. It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration
  2. It was significant enough in scale that I'd have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it)
  3. It wasn't in some important way completely fucked up during the execution.
We're nearly to the fourth anniversary of the Davies' Cup and no one has won the competition and stepped forward to claim their prize. Or, perhaps more aptly, we all have lost. Every one of us. Repeatedly. And we continue to do so (exhibit A: the regular reposting of the challenge over at DeLong's place).

As an aside, this really says something about the level of competence of this administration. That is, basic principles of observation, measurement, statistics, and probability suggest that even at extremely low levels of competence, random chance features of the environment should produce an example of competence at some point, especially as the number of opportunities increase. Thus, one must conclude that the Bush administration is completely and utterly incompetent with extreme levels of confidence, p < 1/google.

To put it another way, the mean level of incompetence is so extreme in this administration that there exists no set of chance events that can provide a competent outcome - not even a 1 in a google shot of all the various incompetencies somehow magically canceling themselves out to produce something competent. Indeed, this administration's mean level of performance is to competence as black holes are to light (or perhaps even more extreme .... as Seattle Supersonics players of the 1980's or Kevin McHale for those of you with an East Coast bias, were to basketballs). The crushing forces of the heretofore unknown levels of incompetency are too powerful for any possible example of competence to escape once it crosses the event horizon at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Now that I have your attention: An open letter to Joe Klein

I've posted this response to Joe Klein's post criticizing liberals (SURPRISE, SURPRISE)for their criticism of his criticism of their criticism of the president (got that?) because the Time Swampland comments are moderated by the author - can't imagine why?)

Mr. Klein. Technically, you're quite incorrect: what liberals (not illiberals) and progressives (not reactionaries) dislike is when you in the most dishonest and intellectually lazy way possible set up straw men identical to those used by Republicans e.g., "the left wing tendency to assume every U.S. military action abroad is criminal" This is somewhere in between an egregious exaggeration and an outright lie. You know this isn't true for any member of the left wing of American politics of any note whatsoever. And to suggest that people on the left don't go to bed every day praying to God almighty for a miracle in Iraq for our country and our troops defending her is nothing short of slander.

So, your challenge is easy, I sincerely hope, wish, and pray that Baghdad and every where else in Iraq finds peace, now, tomorrow, soon, eventually, any time at all in the foreseeable future.

But, while I do wish that, neither am I a fool. I can meet your challenge and also know that every moment we allow Mr. Bush, Mr. McCain, and Mr. Lieberman their way on this war is a moment that makes the problem worse not better. You say it's not so, I'm sure.

So I have a challenge for you. Name one significant and lasting success that this adminstration has had in Iraq - or, I'll make it easy - in any realm whatsoever - that more than one third of Americans would be proud of. Go ahead. Take your time.

Anything. Maybe one or two things that you're stretching to something close to meaningful in the manner of a clueless student increasing the margins, making the font larger, and adding in some adverbs to meet the requirement? Let's assume you've come up with something. Now, just for giggles, , take a moment and think of all the things that this administration and their allies have FUBARed.

See the difference?

And yet, you continue to spend far more of your time attacking the style of this administration's critics (whom you repeatedly claim to agree with amidst all the criticism), however, right they may, rather than attacking the substance of this administration's repeated and colossal blunders that are costing the United States dearly in terms of opportunity, money, status, moral standing, and lives. I ask you, sir, who then is naïve?

If you are truly outraged at the President's behavior and opposed to overpowering arrogance and stupidity that led to this disaster, you might do something about it using your international megaphone.

We use words like liberal, progressive, left. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something, of a life spent fighting for justice, equality, freedom, dignity. You use them as an insult. Luckily, we have both the time and the inclination to defend ourselves from a hack who pretends to ride under the banner of the very values that we defend, deriding and belittling them while simultaneously questioning the manner in which we fight for them. We would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, we suggest you pick up a pen, and take a stand for what's right and good rather than whine about people not doing right. Sheesh.