Monday, December 28, 2009

Last Call

That can't be comfortable underwear.

Primed For Failure

Steve Benen makes yet another important point about the sturm und drang concerning this weekend's terror attack and the warning the suspect's father gave U.S. officials.
We're dealing with a situation in which Abdulmutallab's father, justifiably concerned, felt like his son might become dangerous. He didn't have any information about a specific plot, but he wanted the authorities to be aware of the potential problem. U.S. officials added Abdulmutallab's name to a list -- a rather long list.

And therein lies the point. U.S. officials learn about all kinds of potentially dangerous people, all over the globe, every day. Most of these people have never committed an act of terrorism, and never will. A tiny fraction will consider violence, a tiny fraction of them will actually attempt mass murder. It's literally impossible to launch investigations into every one of them. It's not that officials "had real details about an Islamic maniac and did nothing about it"; it's that officials had vague details and lacked the capacity and wherewithal to take immediate action.

There's a lot of information out there, and results like this one are practically unavoidable. Blaming U.S. officials for not leaping to action in response to the father's concerns is a mistake.
It's worth exploring why this is the case, why the TSA doesn't have more funding to process more leads like this.

The answer is simple:  The Republican party.
As Republicans seek to put the blame for the widespread perception of ineptness at the Transportation Security Administration on the Obama administration, Democrats are arguing that Republican legislators bear part of the blame and that they're politically vulnerable on the subject.

Perhaps the largest impediment to change at the agency: South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint has a hold on the appointment of a TSA chief, over his concern that the new administration could allow security screeners to unionize.

Republicans have cast votes against the key TSA funding measure that the 2010 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security contained, which included funding for the TSA, including for explosives detection systems and other aviation security measures. In the June 24 vote in the House, leading Republicans including John Boehner, Pete Hoekstra, Mike Pence and Paul Ryan voted against the bill, amid a procedural dispute over the appropriations process, a Democrat points out. A full 108 Republicans voted against the conference version, including Boehner, Hoekstra, Pence, Michelle Bachmann, Marsha Blackburn, Darrell Issa and Joe Wilson.
Republicans seem to think the TSA having funding is not worth it, and yet they complain the TSA dropped the ball on this issue.  Furthermore, they continue to have the TSA chief's nomination on hold.  Republicans complain incessantly about the government not functioning properly, when they refuse to take any responsibility and in fact actively move to stop it from functioning smoothly so that they can then blame the President when the government agency in question fails in some duty.

Amazing how that works.

Unhappiness Is Feeling Blue

It's pretty telling that CNBC's ranking of "Unhappiest States" includes median income, unemployment rate and state sales tax rate...and 9 of the 10 unhappiest states are blue ones.  The lone red exception:  Indiana.
As it turns out, some of the highest income states are among the unhappiest, according to a recent study by economists Andrew J. Oswald and Stephen Wu, of the University of Warwick and Hamilton College, respectively.

Taking into account both subjective and objective factors such as sunshine, congestion and pollution in a survey of 1.3 million Americans between 2005 and 2008, the researchers determined which states have the happiest – and unhappiest - residents. Among the happiest are Louisiana, Hawaii and Florida.

"Some might be surprised that states in the south with lower income ranked as high as they did," said Wu, economist at Hamilton College. "States with high income rate fairly low on the happiness levels. To some it might seem counterintuitive; it's not just about income levels, but those places might be more crowded, more congested on the roadway, [have] less available land."
Really?  Sunshine?  That doesn't favor Southern states or anything.  And it's really interesting to see CNBC using 2009 unemployment stats on a 2005-2008 study.  Funny how that works.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme broke his finger earlier this month and pretty much saved Coach John Fox's job as a result.

The Specter Of Past Associations

People forget sometimes that Snarlin' Arlen Specter was a Republican up until this spring, and he has a pretty interesting take on what the early GOP response was to President Obama in GOP Senate caucus, which was basically "Oh screw THIS guy."

During his appearance yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) appeared to give out some inside dirt from his days as a Republican -- alleging that the GOP plotted early to stop any bipartisan cooperation with President Obama, and to instead look towards the 2012 election.

"I'd like to pick up on what Sen. DeMint says about the process. I think the process was very bad. But the process was really caused, in large measure, by the refusal of the Republicans to deal in any way," said Specter.

"Sen. DeMint is the author of the famous statement that this is going to be President Obama's 'Waterloo,' that this ought to be used to break the president," said Specter, referring to the political battle over health care. "So that before the ink was dry on the oath of office -- and I know this, because I was in the caucus -- the Republicans were already plotting ways to beat President Obama in 2012."
Yeah, lack of bipartisanship was all the Democrats' fault for being elected, you see.

Be A Winner In The Game Of Life

Gallup's 2009 list of political winners and losers is out, and topping the list is Michelle Obama, Hillary, Sonia Sotomayor, and President Obama.

They were followed by Helicopter Ben, Glennsanity, Moose Lady, San Fran Nan, Harry Reid, The Entire GOP House Contingent, Joe "You Lie!" Wilson, Gov. Mark "Don't Lie For Me, Argentina" Sanford and coming in dead last, those obnoxious White House party crashers.

Interesting factoid:


45% of Republicans thought Hillary was a winner in 2009.  Those guys should get together with the 21% of Democrats who loved them some Moose Lady, and they should trade hugs.

Commence The Mass Urination

Roy Edroso fries himself up a heaping order of Wingnut over at the Village Voice today.
Rightbloggers, for obvious reasons, are less interested in calming fears than in exacerbating them, and proclaim, as is their wont, that the Obama Presidency has failed and that America will only be safe when it has come to an end.

Some merely blocked out Napolitano's repeated distinction that the system worked well after the incident, and read it to mean that letting Abdulmutallab on board with his crotch-bomb was part of the plan.
"WTF?" cried Be John Galt. "The system is SUPPOSED to seat terrorists wearing explosive clothing right next to the fuel tanks???" "What system worked?" said Weasel Zippers. "The only thing that stopped him was the fuse on the bomb malfunctioned..." "If the 'system' had 'worked,'" said Michelle Malkin, "Abdulmutallab would have been barred from the U.S..." "Maybe she's not talking about OUR system at all," said deadenders. Etc.

Debbie Schlussel claimed that Napolitano was "already declaring that Abdulmutallab wasn't involved in any larger terrorist plot," which is a great stretch from Napolitano's "Right now we have no indication that it is part of anything larger, but obviously the investigation continues" -- to which Schlussel actually linked her charge -- but Schlussel isn't running Homeland Security, thank God, and thus had no need to be careful about her wording.

Robert Stacy McCain went further, claiming that Napolitano's cautious statements meant the Administration was planning to play a "Lone Nut Card" to absolve its friends in Al Qaeda. "So far, I've seen no evidence of the 'victim card' being played on behalf of Abdulmutallab," he admitted, "but this Associated Press biographical profile of the suspect portrays him as having had a 'saintly aura' as a student in England. Give the media time, though. Their best spinmeisters are still on holiday."

We guess this alleged media plot to exonerate Abdulmutallab is of a piece with the alleged media plot to exonerate the Fort Hood shooter, who despite the awesome power of the traitor-press remains in custody.
"If the election were being held today in the light of the terrorism on the Delta flight from Amsterdam," said Pajamas Media's Roger L. Simon, "I have little doubt that John McCain -- whatever his deficiencies as a candidate -- would have been elected president, possibly in a landslide." Ah, what might have been, in an alternate universe!
Nothing but fear.  It's Obama's Katrina!  You're all going to die!

Except nobody died.  At some point we have to accept risk and move on.

The Hoffman Effect Rolls On

McClatchy's Ed Fletcher takes us to Placer County, California where the Great Purge of the GOP continues unabated.
In GOP-rich Placer County, the Placer County Republican Central Committee chairman views himself as a brand manager of sorts.

"We need to protect our brand," said Tom Hudson. "We need to stand for something."

Hudson, 42, takes pride in unmasking and ousting people he says are liberals posing as Republicans.

With the elected committee's backing, Hudson has drafted candidates to run against sitting GOP officeholders he views as not conservative enough, orchestrated a controversial endorsement during the primary for the 4th Congressional District seat, and played a role in the decision by two Placer County officeholders to drop their Republican Party membership.

"When you have Republicans that are supporting higher taxes and more fees and more salary for themselves … you have to say, 'What issues do they agree with us on?' " said Hudson.

In recent weeks, a quiet skirmish became much more visible in the county with the second-highest percentage of card-carrying Republicans in the state when two elected leaders – county Supervisor Jim Holmes and Rocklin City Councilman Peter Hill – left the party and reregistered as "decline to state."

Both men said the questioning of their party credentials contributed to their decisions.
They'd rather purify the party than win elections.  That says something about the Republican big tent these days, and what it says is that fanatics are now running the asylum.  More and more of these state-level purge actions are occurring, with the intent that it will eventually force the GOP to change on the national level.  Just imagine, a Republican party full of Bachmanniacs!

[UPDATE 12:17 PM]  Or imagine a GOP full of people like Republican Senate candidate Andy Martin of Illinois, running for a shot at Obama's old seat against primary opponent and current Congressman Mark Kirk:
Andy Martin, a conservative public interest lawyer, put out a spot on local radio in which he pushes a "solid rumor" that fellow Senatorial aspirant, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), "is a homosexual."

"I helped expose many of Barack Obama's lies in 2008," the ad goes. "Today, I am fighting for the facts about Mark Kirk. Illinois Republican leader Jack Roeser says there is a 'solid rumor that Kirk is a homosexual.' Roeser suggests that Kirk is part of a Republican Party homosexual club. Lake County Illinois Republican leader Ray True says Kirk has surrounded himself with homosexuals."

"Mark Kirk should tell Republican voters the truth."
And keep in mind Mark Kirk is a Republican too.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Josh Marshall asks:
I don't think Newt Gingrich necessarily speaks for the GOP these days. But he said over the weekend that he's sure every Republican in 2010 and 2012 will run on a pledge to repeal Health Care Reform. And though he was less definitive, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel said close to the same thing. Now given the relative unpopularity of the bill at this moment (which I strongly suspect will change) and its extreme unpopularity among partisan Republicans, that's not a very surprising statement. What's interesting to me, though, is that Democrats started saying last week that they plan to run on the same platform -- namely, that if you vote for Republicans they'll repeal Health Care Reform.

In a sense, none of this should surprise us. This is pretty much how things should be -- you get the main issue of the day and the different parties vote for and against. But it's pretty seldom that's the case. It's not that common that both parties think the same issue is a winning one for them.

I think Dems can win this issue if they pick out the changes that are overwhelming popular -- bans on denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, etc. But what has to be worrisome from a Democratic standpoint is the issue Gingrich focuses in on here ...
I suspect every Republican running in '10 and again in '12 will run on an absolute pledge to repeal this bill. The bill--most of the bill does not go into effect until '13 or '14, except on the tax increase side; and therefore, I think there won't be any great constituency for it. And I think it'll be a major campaign theme.
How do you develop a constituency for a bill before people have seen it in effect?
Really, Josh?  You don't get the plan here?  You blame every health care related death, every premium dollar spent, every nightmare story, ever insurance company rejection, everything wrong with the system on this bill, and then you say "Unless it is repealed before 2013/2014, it will be far, far worse."

In short, you lie.  It's what Republicans do.  If you haven't noticed, for the last two decades the GOP has set up quite the operation here based on constituency building through abject bullshit.  Now here's the great part:  Republicans are betting they'll win running against this and that you'll want the status quo back by 2012.  Democrats are betting the opposite.

Logically there's no way the Dems can lose on this.  But this is politics, not logic.  So yes, the GOP will be running to repeal this bill, and so will state GOP Republicans, who will run on making sure their state is excluded from all provisions and that they simply ignore the federal laws.  It will succeed in a number of states, I assume.

[UPDATE 1:25 PM] Greg Sargent reminds us that the Teabaggers now have their battle cry for the next several years.
It’s now becoming clear that this could be a major issue for Republicans in 2010: the Tea Party movement, as well as high-profile conservatives, are going to demand that candidates call for a full repeal of the Dem healthcare reform bill, presuming it passes.

Multiple figures on the right are beginning to make this demand explicit.

In an interview with me just now, Max Pappas, the Vice President for Public Policy of Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, said that if the bill passes, politicians should call for a full repeal.

“This has an unusual ability to be repealed, and the public is on that side.” he said. “The Republicans are going to have to prove that they are worthy of their votes.”
Again, this will accompanied by state Teabagger effort to nullify health care reform. The cry of "leave it to the states to determine their own healthcare" when of course state budgets are strapped across the board is exactly what the Teabaggers want:  a helter-skelter patchwork where some states have their own plan, some states have the federal plan, and some states have no plan.  It will effectively doom the federal plan, which is the point.

Profiles In Stupidity

This weekend's failed terror attack has the Wingers screaming that we need to be racially profiling Middle Eastern men.  We've been having this battle for years now.  It didn't work then, and it's not going to magically work now:
Broad-based ethnic profiling is counterproductive for a host of reasons. It creates a false sense of security and causes law enforcement resources to be wasted in chasing the wrong targets. Terrorists come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. John Walker Lindh was white, while Richard Reid was Jamaican and British. As the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights has reported:
Terrorism profiling is a crude substitute for behavior-based enforcement. It violates core American values, including the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. It also hinders anti-terrorism efforts because it alienates people and communities that are critical to the success of the anti-terrorism effort.
Non-specific profiling of certain religions or races amounts to a witch-hunt against a class of people, creating the perception among the larger society that those individuals containing certain suspect features (skin color, foreign-sounding names, foreign-language skills, etc) are to be feared.
Yesterday, two Middle Eastern men were pulled off a flight heading to Phoenix because passengers reported they were engaging in suspicious behavior. The men were speaking in a Middle Eastern language. And on a Detroit-bound flight yesterday, a Nigerian businessman was taken off an airplane because passengers became suspicious that he was lingering in the bathroom for too long. The FBI confirmed that the individual’s behavior was due to a legitimate illness.
Hasn't stopped the Wingers however.  All Muslims are the Enemy to them.

And they wonder why AQ can still recruit.

The Worst Thing Ever

As John Cole reminds us, the worst thing a Democrat can ever do is to be mean to David Broder.
This is almost comical (from a pretty good column by E. J. Dionne):
With Pelosi off the hook, the Washington press corps needed a new goat, and along came Harry Reid. The Senate majority leader, it should be said, sometimes makes it easy for his critics. He can be irascible, and has no qualms about yelling at journalists. (It’s happened to me.) He is not always careful with words. Earlier this month, he at least implied that Republicans were slow on the slavery issue, an odd charge since opposition to slavery was the passion that animated the founding of the GOP. (In those days, most Democrats were, as we might put it now, bad on the slavery issue.)
And, yes, Reid criticized my friend and colleague David Broder. It’s true that Reid was hitting back, since David is not wild about Harry. Nonetheless, I dearly love Broder, as does everyone who has ever worked with him.
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how absurd this is, that the very worst sin a Senate leader can commit is to insult a lazy, senile newspaper columnist.
Even E.J. Dionne serves Broderism.

Nothing will ever improve until the existing Village structure is dismantled.

Chess Versus Crazy Eights

Democrats like Obama play chess.

Republicans like Mary Matalin on the other hand are playing Crazy Eights.
I was there. We inherited a recession from President Clinton and we inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation's history. And President Bush dealt with it. And within a year of his presidency at this comparable time, unemployment was at 5 percent. And we were creating jobs.
And the great thing about it is a grand total of zero people on CNN's Sunday show called her on it.  Republicans are genetically incapable of accepting responsibility for anything, and it's precisely because our "liberal media" won't do a single thing about it.  The entire statement is a lie (even the unemployment part, it was almost 6% then.)  Every sentence in that statement is in fact a lie with the exception of "I was there."  The following sentences clearly cast doubt on the veracity of the first one.

And yet, Mary Matalin is a Serious Washington Insider Pundit.  The entire eight years of Bush's Presidency and the first year of Obama's was in fact all Bill Clinton's fault according to her.

Can we exchange our pundit class this week in the stores?

[UPDATE 9:32 AM] Think Progress has the video:

Everything You Need To Know

...about Minnesota GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposed balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
Mr. Pawlenty's proposal for a federal amendment would include exceptions for war, natural disasters and other emergencies. The U.S. has been at war for most of the past decade.
So under this proposal, Bush still would have run up a multi-triliion dollar tab on the national debt in the Middle East, but we would have no stimulus or health care reform, or Medicare or Social Security for that matter.

It's funny how the GOP wants to work punishing social spending in the Constitution, but has zero problem for a decade of war spending.

Running The Numbers On Terror

Nate Silver reminds us that we do not live in a world of absolutes, just events with extremely low probability.
Over the past decade, according to BTS, there have been 99,320,309 commercial airline departures that either originated or landed within the United States. Dividing by six, we get one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures.

These departures flew a collective 69,415,786,000 miles. That means there has been one terrorist incident per 11,569,297,667 mles flown. This distance is equivalent to 1,459,664 trips around the diameter of the Earth, 24,218 round trips to the Moon, or two round trips to Neptune.

Assuming an average airborne speed of 425 miles per hour, these airplanes were aloft for a total of 163,331,261 hours. Therefore, there has been one terrorist incident per 27,221,877 hours airborne. This can also be expressed as one incident per 1,134,245 days airborne, or one incident per 3,105 years airborne.

There were a total of 674 passengers, not counting crew or the terrorists themselves, on the flights on which these incidents occurred. By contrast, there have been 7,015,630,000 passenger enplanements over the past decade. Therefore, the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.

Indeed...we get lucky every day on a cosmic scale.  We've got a President who is not treating us like idiots for once and warning we're all going to die on airplanes unless we do exactly what he wants.


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