Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Last Call

And one more reason tonight to get out of Afghanistan: we've basically been funding the Taliban through the Karzai government for the last eight years.

On October 29, 2001, while the Taliban's rule over Afghanistan was under assault, the regime's ambassador in Islamabad gave a chaotic press conference in front of several dozen reporters sitting on the grass. On the Taliban diplomat's right sat his interpreter, Ahmad Rateb Popal, a man with an imposing presence. Like the ambassador, Popal wore a black turban, and he had a huge bushy beard. He had a black patch over his right eye socket, a prosthetic left arm and a deformed right hand, the result of injuries from an explosives mishap during an old operation against the Soviets in Kabul.

But Popal was more than just a former mujahedeen. In 1988, a year before the Soviets fled Afghanistan, Popal had been charged in the United States with conspiring to import more than a kilo of heroin. Court records show he was released from prison in 1997.

Flash forward to 2009, and Afghanistan is ruled by Popal's cousin President Hamid Karzai. Popal has cut his huge beard down to a neatly trimmed one and has become an immensely wealthy businessman, along with his brother Rashid Popal, who in a separate case pleaded guilty to a heroin charge in 1996 in Brooklyn. The Popal brothers control the huge Watan Group in Afghanistan, a consortium engaged in telecommunications, logistics and, most important, security. Watan Risk Management, the Popals' private military arm, is one of the few dozen private security companies in Afghanistan. One of Watan's enterprises, key to the war effort, is protecting convoys of Afghan trucks heading from Kabul to Kandahar, carrying American supplies.

Welcome to the wartime contracting bazaar in Afghanistan. It is a virtual carnival of improbable characters and shady connections, with former CIA officials and ex-military officers joining hands with former Taliban and mujahedeen to collect US government funds in the name of the war effort.

In this grotesque carnival, the US military's contractors are forced to pay suspected insurgents to protect American supply routes. It is an accepted fact of the military logistics operation in Afghanistan that the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. And it is a deadly irony, because these funds add up to a huge amount of money for the Taliban. "It's a big part of their income," one of the top Afghan government security officials told The Nation in an interview. In fact, US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon's logistics contracts--hundreds of millions of dollars--consists of payments to insurgents.

In turn, this money basically goes straight to the Taliban and funds the effort for the Taliban to in turn attack us, perpetuating the war ad infinitum, and the money trail goes right through America's neo-con right as well as the war hawks on the left. Do read the entire Aram Roston article over at the Nation when you get the chance.

It's far, far past time for us to be rid of Afghanistan. I'm hoping tonight's developments in the White House signal that the President is ready to withdraw.

I Think I'll Go With None Of The Above

The Afghanistan news today was that in his meeting with his war council, the President was going to consider one of four options:

1) Giving Gen. McChrystal all 40 K troops.
2) Giving him 34 K troops and having NATO make up the rest of the balance.
3) Giving him 15 K troops and performing security duties, and not a full counterinsurgency operation.
4) Giving him 7-8K troops to train the Afghan army and police only.

Reader Paul W. just flagged this breaking story tonight (thanks!) that Obama has in fact decided on none of those options.
President Barack Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, pushing instead for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

That push follows strong reservations about a possible troop buildup expressed by the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, according to a second top administration official. In strongly worded classified cables to Washington, Eikenberry said he had misgivings about sending in new troops while there are still so many questions about the leadership of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

It sounds to me like Obama wants out of Afghanistan, and wants his team to come up with a withdrawal timetable. If this is accurate, this is huge, huge, huge news.

Earlier this evening listening to NPR, I was struck by the fact that all four of the decisions represented a troop increase, and was considering what I was going to write about it. I was going to lead off with Obama's Afghanistan choices tomorrow, but this just got all kinds of surprising, and in a good way. It looks like Obama's decision may have been prompted by this story from earlier this evening in the WaPo:

The U.S. ambassador in Kabul sent two classified cables to Washington in the last week expressing deep concerns about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that has fueled the Taliban's rise, said senior U.S. officials.

Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry's memos were sent in the days leading up to a critical meeting Wednesday between President Obama and his national security team to consider several options prepared by military planners for how to proceed in Afghanistan. The proposals, which mark the last stage of a months-long strategy review, call for between 10,000 and 40,000 more troops and a far broader American involvement of the war.

It's entirely possible that the Karzai election disaster, combined with the war's increasing unpopularity and soul-searching today over the events at Fort Hood may have finally gotten through to the President that we need to get out of Afghanistan.

Maybe, just maybe, that's what this all means. I hope and pray it is so.

Gone Baby Gone

Lou Dobbs is out at CNN, he announced today.
Lou Dobbs, the longtime CNN anchor whose anti-immigration views have made him a TV lightning rod, said Wednesday that he is leaving the cable news channel effective immediately.

Sitting before an image of an American flag on his television set, he said “some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN and to engage in constructive problem solving as well as to contribute positively to the great understanding of the issues of our day.”

“I’m considering a number of options and directions,” Mr. Dobbs added. A transcript of his remarks is available here.

Jonathan Klein, the president of CNN/U.S. said in a statement that “Lou has now decided to carry the banner of advocacy journalism elsewhere.”

“All of us will miss his appetite for big ideas, the megawatt smile and larger than life presence he brought to our newsroom,” Mr. Klein said.
It's telling that my first thought was "So when does he start at FOX News?"

He'll fit in just fine over there.

[UPDATE 9:10 PM] Making the rounds tonight I see everyone else is basically betting good money he'll be on FOX News soon as well, but some seem to think Dobbs may be aspiring to political office.

Flying The Unfriendly Skies

Thank you for flying Obama Derangement Syndrome airlines. Your captain today is GOP State Sen. Dave Schultheis of Colorado Springs. He loves to fly, and it shows.
Colorado State Sen. Dave Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs) posted a tweet yesterday that called for a derailing of President Obama's agenda in a rather bold way. The blog Colorado Pols caught the statement from Schultheis's account.

"Don't for a second, think Obama wants what is best for U.S. He is flying the U.S. Plane right into the ground at full speed. Let's Roll," the tweet reads.

"Let's roll" were the final words of Todd Beamer, a passenger aboard United Airlines Flight 93, one of the four flights hijacked on September 11 and the only one to crash before reaching its intended target. The flight was diverted to Washington, D.C. after it was hijacked, but crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers tried to thwart the hijackers.

Is there a bulletin board post over at the RNC cafeteria that announced a contest for the most offensive Twitter reference to the President as a terrorist or something? I mean do you get a $50 gift card to Outback Steakhouse or something if you win?

Honestly, this is starting to get frigging ridiculous.

How To Succeed At Business Without Really Trying

Bush All-Stars Condi Rice and Stephen Hadley are teaming up to form a foreign policy consulting firm in California.
Two top Bush administration officials whose reputations for strategic acumen were badly damaged by the disasters of the Bush years may be about to market their expertise to private-sector clients.

In September, the RiceHadley Group LLC was registered as a business in California, under a San Francisco address. According to a source, the venture is to be a "strategic consulting" firm, headed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, and will be launched imminently.

Neither Rice nor Hadley responded to TPMmuckraker's requests for comment.

Oh yes, I forsee millions of people lined up to pay for the same awesome foreign policy advice that Condi Rice and Stephen Hadley provided to George W. Bush.

That's like a meta-national corporation hiring Cobra Commander for financial advice like this:

...wait, that actually explains everything about the Fed.

In all seriousness, if you're a Democrat, a Republican, or a business professional of any sort, are you really going to pay good money to hire Bush's foreign policy team for advice?

I didn't think so.

A Primer On Our Afghanistan Situation

It works like this. Given the following:

1) Republicans are attacking President Obama because he hasn't made a decision on Afghanistan yet.

2) Republicans will attack President Obama's decision on Afghanistan no matter what it is.

...then why should President Obama rush his decision?

President McCain Shoots His Mouth Off

John McCain was here in Kentucky at the University of Louisville for the GOP's annual "We Love Mitch McConnell" event, where he once again decided that the opposite of whatever Obama does is the right thing to do, making all of us aware once again why the guy lost.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican and former presidential candidate, called last week's shooting at Fort Hood "an act of terror" during a speech at the University of Louisville Wednesday morning.

He called for swift disclosure of questionable behavior at military bases. Twelve soldiers and one civilian were killed in a shooting rampage at the Texas base last week, and the suspect, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was shot and wounded.

"This may sound a little harsh, but I think we ought to make sure that political correctness never impedes national security," McCain said at U of L, where he was speaking at an event honoring U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "There were signs this individual had some very disturbing behavior patterns that should have been alerted to the proper authorities."

McCain, who gave an 11-minute address about Veterans Day, took questions from the audience of about 2,000. He told the crowd that President Barack Obama needs to make his decision about the military strategy in Afghanistan soon and criticized Democrats for not being more transparent with their negotiations over the health care overhaul bill, which the U.S. House sent to the Senate over the weekend.

So yes, based on the ironclad facts of Hasan's motive which President McCain knows, let's have a pogrom where we go after Muslims in the military.

That's a great idea. The funny thing is that if McCain was President, he would be saying the exact thing Obama would be saying: that we need all the facts before we jump to conclusions and that there are soldiers of all faiths and creeds that serve this country to the utmost of their capacity on a daily basis in order to keep us safe.

But hey, let's just attack Obama.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

While I can certainly understand Sens. Jeff Sessions, Kent Conrad, and Mark Warner (and especially understand Joe F'ckin Lieberman and Evan F'ckin Bayh) all basically holding the debt ceiling hostage unless they get major Medicare and Social Security cuts, my question is what the hell DiFi is doing hitching her wagon to these idiots.
Cuts in Social Security and Medicare will not only ripple through the economy in the form of reduced spending, they'll also ripple through younger generations, who will fill the gap lost by the cutting of government benefits with money out of their own pockets to help their elderly relatives make ends meet and get the treatment they need.

Feinstein is embracing Hooverism, putting Democratic gains at risk, and threatening to make our economic crisis permanent. Of course, in doing so she's merely going with the flow in both DC and Sacramento, so it's not like she's some kind of outlier.

Still, this kind of insane policymaking has to be stopped. Pelosi should call Feinstein's bluff. Anyone here who thinks Feinstein would actually enable a debt default, please raise your hands. Didn't think so. Pelosi already got rolled once this month by a block of regressive Democrats willing to risk future elections in order to roll back rights and screw the poor and the middle class. She shouldn't let it happen again.

I don't get it. Handing over Social Security and Medicare funding over to an independent council who will make massive cuts will only have every Republican in America falling in love with Socialist health care all over again, and they'll ride that right back to the top. It's not only stupid from a political perspective, it's stupid from an economic one as well.

What the hell is she thinking?

Another Village Axiom Fails To Be Disproven

There's a reason the old saw that states "There is no punishment for Republicans lying, only reward" is an old saw. CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand unintentionally reinforces the rule as she tries to dissect the Bachmanniac.
In many ways, Michele Bachmann is the ideal political creature of the Tea Party era. Her path to power doesn't lie in moving up the GOP leadership ladder, but in ignoring it entirely, drawing her power more from cable TV hits than committee assignments.

And that power is growing: A University of Minnesota study released in August found she had already doubled her media appearances from the previous year. In 2008, when she was running for re-election, Bachmann hit the airwaves every 16.6 days, Minnesota researchers said. In 2009, that frequency had nearly doubled, to once every 9.1 days.

Nearly all of those appearances made news, featuring a supremely confident and combative Bachmann.

"If you look at FDR, LBJ, and Barack Obama, this is really the final leap to socialism," she said in March on CNN contributor Bill Bennett's national radio show. "The Democrats are about to institutionalize cartels -- that's what they're very good at -- they're trying to consolidate power, so we need to do everything we can to thwart them at every turn to make sure that they aren't able to, for all time, secure a power base that for all time can never be defeated."

In other words, the more loopy and batshit crazy the lie she tells about Obama and the Democrats, the more often she gets to go on TV to tell her loopy, batshit crazy lies. There's something fundamentally wrong with this, or in any sane universe there would in fact be something fundamentally wrong with it and Bachmann would be relegated to the tinfoil hat fringe along with the rest of the Teabaggers.

But no, she's being actively rewarded by the Village for calling this administration the "final leap to socialism" and other crazy things. The rest of the piece goes on to be quite the hagiography for the woman who basically equated Americorps to Hitler Youth re-education camps and the 2010 Census to Japanese internment during WWII.

And why shouldn't the Village reward her? She's good for ratings. The news business ain't in the business of news, folks. Never was. But it sure does love to reward Republican lunatics.

Sister Sarah Is Coming To Town

She'll be promoting her new book as part of her "Going Rogue" tour at the Joseph-Beth Booksellers up on Madison Road on Nov. 20 from noon to three.

I just may have to take that Friday off. I wonder if I can get her to sign my moose.


Calling Cincy's Democratic Rep. Steve Driehaus: destiny is knocking on righting health care inaccuracies, my friend. Steve's been taking a lot of heat on voting for the Stupak Amendment, but he did at least vote for the Pelosi bill as a result. See if you can straighten out Sister Sarah on the whole death panel nonsense, yes?

Packing It In

AIG CEO Robert Benmosche is reportedly considering quitting as AIG's head because of all the pesky government control stuff.

My response to this:

1) You took the job. Nobody forced you to do so at gunpoint, and you knew exactly what the government expected you to do.

2) You don't get to pay people bonuses when you still owe the taxpayers hundreds of billions. Sorry. That applies to all your employees. By all accounts you guys should be on the streets looking for jobs like the other 10 million plus Americans. I want my share of the hundreds of billions of dollars back. Also, see #1.

3) Your salary cap is still $500,000. Try to find a way to live on that. Hundreds of millions of us do every year. It's more than I make, and I'm betting a lot of smart and unemployed executives would be lining up for a crack at your job there, pal...and hey, as CEO you're still getting $10.5 million for your troubles.

4) Finally, you're still employed in this economy as a Wall Street asshole. That alone should be worth something.

No sympathy at all. None.

[UPDATE 1:35 PM] Yves Smith at nakedcap gets to the unfortunate root of the problem:
I cannot believe the intransigence here. If this had occurred in, say, the Johnson or Nixon administrations, someone from the officialdom would have read Benmosche the riot act a long time ago, pointing out he knew exactly what he was getting into and how it was far from prudent to cross someone much bigger than you are. But no one in Team Obama has any balls, Benmosche knows it, and is playing this for all it is worth.
Amen to that.

Cause And Defect

When you call for blanket persecution of Muslims in the U.S. military because of the Fort Hood shooting, you get blowback.
Alexios Marakis, a Greek Orthodox priest visiting the U.S., got lost in Tampa and tried to stop and ask directions from Marine reservist Jasen D. Bruce. But instead of offering help, “Bruce struck the priest on the head with a tire iron.” The reservist believed Marakis, who spoke limited English, was an Arab terrorist. Bruce chased the priest for three blocks, “and even called 911 to say that an Arabic man tried to rob him.” According to a news release:

“During the chase, the suspect called 911 and claimed an Arabic male attempted to rob him and he was going to take him into custody,” a Tampa Police Department news release states. “When officers arrived, the suspect claimed the man was a terrorist.”

Police arrested Bruce for “aggravated battery with a deadly weapon” and are investigating whether he committed a hate crime.

A. Tire. Iron.

This is America, people. We are better than this.

A Job For The Senate

Steve Benen notes that Harry Reid is talking a new jobs bill, but one can only imagine how the GOP and the ConservaDems will try to stop it.
For that matter, it's not clear how much Reid emphasized the idea yesterday -- The Hill ran a fairly lengthy report, but I haven't seen similar reporting from the other outlets. If there was a concerted push about a major new employment initiative, it seems likely there'd be more attention focused on this.

That said, I can only hope this talk continues. We'll no doubt hear talk of a "second" stimulus -- or "third," if you count Bush's useless package from early 2008 -- but the demand for a jobs bill should be obvious. The recovery efforts from earlier this year rescued the economy from a depression, and helped bring some stability to an economy on the brink. Given the severity of the economic downturn policymakers inherited, a bold, ambitious jobs bill can make a huge difference -- the stimulus got us out of the ditch, a new effort can get us going in the right direction again.

The politics, of course, will be painful. Center-right Democrats say they want a focus on the employment picture. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.) said last week, "Three things ought to be the top priority: jobs, jobs and jobs." Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) added, "[J]obs should be our top priority and we shouldn't do anything that detracts from that."

But what will they, and others like them, say if/when a new jobs bill (cue scary music) requires federal investment? Will conservatives, once again, say that deficit reduction should take precedence over additional economic recovery efforts?

No doubt the GOP will say the only jobs bill they can support will be corporate tax cuts. I'm sure those will turn into new jobs instead of higher corporate profits and bonuses, just like they did with Bush's tax cuts.

Then again with the populist streak going through the GOP right now, it's going to be damn hard for a lot of folks to vote against a jobs bill. We'll see what happens with it. Lord knows the Dems need to do something at this point...and part of that something needs to be reining in the Fed.

Blood Makes The Grass Grow

It's amazing that some people have apparently never seen women's college soccer before. There was a reason my school's women's soccer team motto was "Blood makes the grass grow." It's lacrosse without the pads, folks. It's very physical. Acting like it's not is just silly.

Concern Trolling For Hillary

Conservatives like Tony Blankley are being super helpful by suggesting that Dems should dump the Already Failed Obama Presidency and run Hillary instead!

Only God knows what will happen to America in the next year and a half (and he hasn't told me), but it is not implausible that by 2012, the Democratic Party will see Hillary Clinton's nomination as its best chance for keeping the White House.

Of course, if the economy comes booming back, unemployment is cut in half and there are no foreign policy disasters, President Barack Obama surely will get an unopposed nomination and probably his re-election. But if current estimates are right, that unemployment still may be close to double digits at the end of next year -- and particularly if foreign affairs go badly -- Hillary just might be the one.

It seems odd that a failed foreign policy might be the basis for a president's secretary of state to replace him on the presidential ticket, but it is beginning to set up that way.

Of course, as secretary of state, Hillary cannot plausibly be assigned any responsibility for a bad economy and high unemployment. Nor, perhaps ironically, would her fingerprints be on a stunningly unpopular health care plan that increases the national debt by trillions, increases the cost of health care premiums for the middle class and increases taxes on the middle class while also reducing the benefits to the middle class.

Nor, curiously, is she likely to be seen as responsible for the Obama administration's foreign policy. It has been reported repeatedly in major newspapers that she is one of the most marginalized secretaries of state in modern times. The White House has made little effort to disabuse the press and the public of that view. She was not even included in the president's Moscow summit. She is seen as the good soldier and team player with little voice in policy.

Of course should the Democrats be that unpopular in 2012 that Obama would be replaced by Hillary, it would mean that the Dems would be getting the crap stomped out of them anyway is the unsaid part of Blankley's little helpful theory here. But the seeds of doubt must be planted now you see. The PUMAs and Palinocrats are going to be even more useful to the GOP in 2012 than they were in 2008, and it's time to set them against the President...

Deal Of The Century

Jon Cohn points out that you only have to follow the numbers on the Pelosi health care bill to see why Big Pharma is backing it.
Critics have complained that a drug industry got a sweetheart deal when it struck a bargain with the White House and Senate Finance Committee over health care reform.

There’s new reason to think those critics were right.

It comes from an October forecast by IMS Health, a respected global research and consulting firm. The report, which IMS distributed to clients and which a source provided, projects that the drug industry will see average annual growth of 3.5 percent between 2008 and 2013.

Back in March, IMS had projected no growth at all during that same five-year stretch. In fact, it projected the drug business would actually contract slightly--with negative annual growth of 0.01 percent.

What changed? A major factor, according to IMS, was the emerging details of health care reform.

Health reform, as currently envisioned, wouldn’t merely bring coverage to the uninsured. It would also fill in the “donut hole” in Medicare Part D--the gap in coverage that leaves beneficiaries with serious health problems paying for hundred if not thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket prescription costs.

In addition, because it will take several years to close the donut hole, reform relies on voluntary discounts from the pharmaceutical industry to make drugs more affordable in the intervening years. But those discounts would apply only to name-brand drugs, not generics.

Put it all together, and you have more demand for name-brand drugs. As a result, IMS believes, pharmaceutical companies would be able to raise their prices--enough to boost revenue significantly: "If this bill is implemented," the report concludes on page 138, "an increase in prices on new drugs can be expected."

In other words, since the subsidies to close the Medicare Part D donut hole are only good on brand-name drugs and not cheaper generics, it's the Bush Part D subsidy all over again.

Shoveling money to Big Pharma is what it takes to get any sort of reform. Nice.

Never Mind The Large Hadron Collider, Here Comes The Higgs Boson

With the universe on one side possibly trying to stop the evil of the Higgs boson particle and science on the other, the fateful showdown to see what the Large Hadron Collider can do is coming ever closer.
The collider made headlines last week when a bird apparently dropped a "bit of baguette" into the accelerator, making the machine shut down. The incident was similar in effect to a standard power cut, said spokeswoman Katie Yurkewicz. Had the machine been going, there would have been no damage, but beams would have been stopped until the machine could be cooled back down to operating temperatures, she said.

As it begins to run at full energy, greater than any machine of its kind, the LHC will help scientists explore important questions about the universe. The ambitious project also has attracted its share of doubters.

Some alarmists expressed fear last year that the accelerator could produce a black hole that might swallow the universe -- a theory that LHC physicists, including Myers, dismiss as science fiction.

Another fringe theory holds that the LHC will never function properly because it is under "influence from the future," according to physicists Holger Bech Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya. They suggest in recent papers that no supercolliders that could produce the Higgs boson, an as-yet-unseen particle that would help answer fundamental questions about matter in the universe, will work because something in the future stops them.

This also explains the "negative miracle" of Congress canceling the Superconducting Supercollider project in Texas in 1993, Nielsen wrote in a paper on, a site where math and science scholars post academic papers.

"One could even almost say that we have a model for God," one who "hates the Higgs particles," Nielsen wrote.

The Higgs boson is out there, man. And it's hungry to be free.

Then again if the universe does self-correct to prevent Higgs bosons from being formed, you would think the universe would be doing a better job of it. Then again, maybe when this thing gets switched on, the universe will do a better job of "preventing" it, kinda like the way nuclear explosions prevent living.

Or maybe it's just taunting us. I wonder what would happen if you had a Schrodinger's Cat experiment with a cat named Higgs Boson...

Senate Leader Ben Nelson Weighs In

As he reminds us he has no intention of even allowing a vote on a health reform bill with a public option and without abortion restrictions.
"Well, first of all, it has more than a robust public option, it's got a totally government-run plan, the costs are extraordinary associated with it, it increases taxes in a way that will not pass in the Senate and I could go on and on and on," Nelson said in an interview that is part of ABC News' Subway Series with Jonathan Karl.

"Faced with a decision about whether or not to move a bill that is bad, I won't vote to move it," he added. "For sure."

The $1.1 trillion price tag on the House bill, Nelson said, is "absolutely" too high.

Nelson's vote is critical to getting a bill passed because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs 60 votes before the Senate can even begin debating the bill. With all 40 Republicans currently opposed to it, Reid needs the votes of all 60 Democrats.

There is one thing about the House bill, however, that Nelson does like: the strict ban on any abortion coverage by insurance plans bought with government subsidies. Unless the Senate bill includes a similar provision, Nelson said, he'll vote against it.

Now that Joe F'ckin Lieberman has opened the door, expect the rest of the ConservaDems to hold the bill hostage as well as the GOP Senators from Maine.

So nice of Nebraska to make the decisions for California, Texas, New York and Illinois...and all women across the country.

The Mirror Universe Has A Blog

And I'm getting increasingly convinced that it's the Daily Beast website. There's good stuff there most days, but this week not only can you read Amy Siskind's Palinocrat manifesto on why Obama is a misogynist bastard (and Betty Cracker's takedown of her PUMA nonsense is a classic mainly because it's so easy that Cookie Monster can do it) but you can check out Conor Friedersdorf's truly weird mumbled apology for the GOP's racism problem:
In the more familiar narrative, the Republican Party is cast on the wrong side of racial issues. The reputation isn’t entirely undeserved: luminaries William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater wrongly opposed key civil rights advances, for example. And even loyalists who defend Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy can hardly abide his racist remarks about blacks and Jews.

Today’s GOP is much improved, Confederate flag loving politicos notwithstanding. Say what you will about George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Sarah Palin, but none are on the wrong side of America’s historic racial divide—just as your typical high-ranking Republican official, asked what he thinks about race, now reflexively invokes Martin Luther King’s ideal of color blindness.

That’s progress!

To his credit, Dick Cheney hates everyone equally, so it's not racism. And Bush and Palin aren't overt racists. But let's talk about the current leadership of the GOP, and let's talk about the fact that in 2009, all the GOP Senators are white.
I’d bet dollars to Freedom Fries that racial bigotry in America is now correlated with age, education level and region far more closely than political affiliation. Every so often, however, somewhere in America, a local GOP official or rank-and-file Republican disseminates an image of Barack Obama with a bone through his nose, or a drawing of a watermelon patch on the White House lawn, or most recently, a fried-chicken eating POTUS on a poster with a subhead denouncing miscegenation.
So racism doesn't correlate to party affiliation except for the numerous examples of the Republican Party officials who have demonstrated racism. Right.
What gives? How should the Republican Party deal with these situations? Probably your answer depends on whether you believe that the GOP is substantially racist, or that these incidents are anomalies—the lamentable behavior of an anachronistic subset of the party.
I'm gonna go with the former, considering you can count the number of GOP minorities in Congress on one hand...and let's face it, it's not like the GOP is nice to Latinos or Asians either.
Among the many Republicans I’ve known and with whom I’ve interacted, racism is very much the exception. Granted, I’ve lived only in few coastal American cities. Beyond them, I don’t know what the average Republican is like (or the average Democrat, for that matter).
Try growing up as an adopted black kid in western NC in the late 70's and you have a different take on the matter of what is institutionalized across the mindset of a culture.


Failure To Launch

Yesterday's complete acquittal of former Bear Stearns fund managers Matthew Tannin and Ralp Cioffi came as a bit of a shock, but one juror said after the verdict was delivered that the Government's fraud case against the two men was so pathetic that she says she would in fact choose to invest with the two men if she could.
The panel of eight women and four men who spent the past month hearing testimony in the case took only nine hours to find them not guilty on all six counts. During interviews after the verdict yesterday, several jurors said the government failed to prove the defendants defrauded investors who lost $1.6 billion in the two hedge funds run by the men -- both of which were mostly made up of subprime mortgage-backed securities.

The funds collapsed in 2007, as did Bear Stearns itself less than a year later. The defendants, according to juror Serphaine Stimpson, were made “scapegoats for Wall Street.”

Cioffi, 53, the portfolio manager for the two funds, and Tannin, 48, their chief operating officer, went on trial Oct. 13 in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, on charges of conspiracy, securities and wire fraud. Each faced as many as 20 years in prison if convicted.

Their two funds failed when prices for collateralized debt obligations linked to home loans fell amid rising late payments by borrowers with poor credit or heavy debt. Bear Stearns was purchased the next year by New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. The government alleged Cioffi and Tannin continued to seek investors in their funds after they learned they were financially unsound.

Stimpson said she came into the trial thinking both Cioffi and Tannin were guilty of the fraud, insider-trading and conspiracy charges. She said she began to have second thoughts as the testimony progressed and defense lawyers “tore the government witnesses apart.”

This is a pretty big blow against both the Bush and Obama DoJ. The two men were charged with fraud in June 2008 by Mukasey and the Bushies, and Holder and the Obamacons couldn't finish the job.

Fraud's pretty simple: either they had the intent to mislead investors, or they didn't. The government simply could not prove their case on that matter, and the two accused walked. If anything, these two guys did everything they could to try to save their collapsing fund.

Aram Hong, a juror from Woodside, Queens, said the exchanges between Cioffi and Tannin shown to the jury proved to her that the two men were working “24-7” to save the funds in the months before they collapsed. She noted a defense exhibit that showed the fund managers were working at 4 a.m.

“If this was really a fraud case, they wouldn’t have worked that hard,” said Hong, 27, a food and beverage director at the Iroquois Hotel in midtown Manhattan, adding that she would invest with the two men if she had the money.

Hong said another e-mail showed the defendants looking at all the components of the market, not just the negative. She said they “took the time to compare and consider all elements.”

The real guilty parties are the government agencies who failed to apply sufficient oversight to the subprime market, and then colluded with the banks to bail them out with our money. Chris Dodd's bill to take that regulatory power away from those who screwed up is a definite start, but there's simply no way it will even get out of the Senate Banking Committee, let alone be signed by Obama.

The only question I have is when the next bubble will pop and drive us into a double-dip recession.

StupidiNews, Veteran's Day Edition

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