Sunday, April 11, 2010

Last Call

And Phil Mickelson takes his third Masters.
The 39-year-old made improbable pars out of the pines on the ninth and 10th holes, birdied the 12th and 13th — the latter after a 205-yard approach from the right pines that may have been the shot of his career — and coasted home from there to card a 67 and win his third Masters by three strokes over Englishman Lee Westwood (71).

“He’s been through a hard time just recently,” Westwood said, “and he deserves a break or two.”

Anthony Kim shot a final-round 65, tied for the best of the day, to finish third, four back, while K.J. Choi and Tiger Woods, playing partners all four days, each shot 69 to tie for fourth.

Mickelson ties Jimmy Demaret, Nick Faldo, Sam Snead and Gary Player with his third green jacket. Only Woods and Arnold Palmer (four apiece) and Jack Nicklaus (six) have more.

Just when it seemed Westwood was Mickelson’s biggest worry, Choi entered the picture with four birdies in his first 10 holes.

Woods bogeyed three of his first fives holes, and despite an eagle 2 on the seventh hole, never seriously threatened.

“As the week went on I played worse,” Woods said. 
At least the golf world has the grace for the headline not to be "Tiger Woods Loses, Ha Ha Ha."


President Lieberman doesn't like our nuke treaty with the Russians, and he's afraid Obama may just have to scrap the whole thing and start over.
Anytime we are working on something with our old Cold War enemy, Russia, cooperatively, it’s a good sign. Anything we can do to reduce the number of nuclear warheads in the world is a positive development. But in my opinion as we reduce the number of nuclear warheads… we have to make darn sure that are nuclear warheads are capable and modern and a lot of them are decades old. So I feel very strongly that I am going to be real hesitant to vote for this treaty unless we have a commitment from the Administration that they are prepared to modernize our nuclear stockpile.
In other words, we can't reduce our nuclear weapons stockpile unless we make more advanced nuclear weapons.  Ergo, President Joe here just can't bring himself to support that Obama guy.

He gets a nice laugh out of it too.  Meanwhile, the questions remains if Obama can find any Republicans at all who will sign off on this treaty, because after all any sort of foreign policy victory for Obama might embolden the guy into thinking he runs the country, and not the Republicans.

And we can't have that.

Greek Fire, Part 10

The fire is spreading.  The EU has pledged $40 billion to Greece should Greece "need" it.

Not only does Greece need it, Greece wants twice that.  Zero Hedge:
It would be logical that the EU/IMF aid for Greece amounts to some 80 billion euros ($107 billion) over the next three years if the mechanism is triggered, a senior finance ministry official said on Sunday.

The senior offical said aid this year would amount to at least 30 billion euros from the euro zone and at least 10 billion from the IMF.

"40 billions for 2010 is part of a bigger amount for the three-year period. A logical amount for the three-year period would be double than 40 billion," the official told reporters.
The EU has now officially set a precedent for bailing out its nation-state members.  It's moral hazard on a multi-national scale now.  As Tyler Durden remarks:
Here is what happens when you green light Moral Hazard - in less than two hours after the videoconference in which the EMU announced €30 billion in aid for Greece, a Greek senior official has already come up and said that they were only kidding about needing just €40 or so billion (with the IMF's 10). The full amount will actually be double that, or €80 billion, for the three year period. Look for Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, and Lithuania to come knocking in the next 45 minutes. 
Greece won the lottery.  Why can't the rest of Europe's ailing friends cash in too?  "Where's our offer?  Aren't we a valuable member of the EU like Greece is?"  Everyone else will now demand their cut this spring too.  Watch.

Greek fire was famous for not being able to be put out.

Sunday Funnies: Here We Go Again Supreme Edition

Poor Fluffy.  Can't score any respect even on his own show.
Gregory: who should be on the Supreme Court?

Leahy: an Ordinary American who knows what it’s like to live on less than $500,000 a year

Gregory: someone outside the monastery?

Leahy: Celibacy leads to bad things greggers

Gregory: like molesting?

Leahy: that Gregorian Chant CD

Gregory: hey

Sessions: we need someone who realizes they are subordinate to the Constitution, Jesus Christ, states rights and who totally lacks empathy

Gregory: will this be a big fight?

Sessions: Obama should nominate someone uncontroversial who doesn’t think judges
know the Constitution best

Gregory: Obama must unite the nation by nominating a Corporation to sit on the court

Leahy: this is an activist court Fluffy - they rewrite the laws to pursue a conservative agenda

Gregory: that’s not what I asked - I asked whether Obama should do whatever Republicans want for the good of the nation

Leahy: well then he might as well nominate the most popular person in America - Hurley from Lost

Gregory: he is adorable

Sessions: the person could be on the court for 50 years - they could have something creepy in their backgrounds

Leahy: creepier than Jeff Sessions?

Gregory: good point
I think Hurley would do a better job than John Roberts, certainly.  Hell, I think Cousin Balki from Perfect Strangers would do a better job.

You know who we need to seriously put on the Supreme Court?  Draw an overworked, underpaid public defender's name out of a hat.  If they check out on background, nominate 'em.  Somebody with coffee stains on their briefcase they got from Office Depot.

That's the person's opinion I would like to see represented on the Supreme Court.  Just...once.

Playing With Fire

Steve M. takes a frank look at the Village treatment of Rand Paul, the Tea Party movement, and wingnuts in general as he analyzes Kate Zernike's piece in the NY Times on the Randy One.
Zernike does note that Rand Paul -- son of Ron Paul -- is being criticized for stands that don't seem quite mainstream, even by contemporary standards. But his opponent in the GOP primary, an establishment Republican named Trey Grayson, is still trailing, and doesn't seem to be getting any traction with the argument that Paul's support for the notion of eliminating three Cabinet departments in D.C. is, in Zernike's words, "too 'weird' for Kentucky." (Hey Kate, the notion of getting rid of Cabinet departments was very, very mainstream in the Reagan years.) Paul's having a little more trouble with the fact he's expressed support in the past for closing Gitmo -- but now he says he wants to keep it open. Smart guy.

Zernike, like so many mainstream journalists, is looking for signs of a mainstream GOP/teabag schism. Good luck with that. Rand Paul's going to win, he's going to keep modifying any troublesome Paulite positions on foreign policy or push them into the background, and he's probably going to win big in November -- for the glaringly obvious reason that he hates what teabaggers and non-teabag Republicans hate, namely Obamaism and "big government." And he's making crowds giddly at the thought of chaos:

Outside a courthouse in Independence, he told a group of about 100 people, mostly Tea Party supporters, that one of his first acts as a senator would be to unite with conservatives and demand that Congress stop work for a week if it could not amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget. "Let's just stop it up," he said, "and let's invite the Tea Party up and let's fill the Mall and let's debate a balanced budget amendment and let them explain why they can't do it."

"Gridlock!" one man cheered.

It's going to be a really unpleasant 2011, folks.
Living here in Kentucky, I have to say that "voting against your own self-interest" has become the state's all-consuming pastime.  The Village move to legitimize Rand Paul and the Tea Party is now in full swing.  Like Steve, I actually don't think there's a schism between the Republicans and the Tea Party at all.  But it sure makes a good excuse to profile how "normal and mainstream" the views of Rand Paul are.

Which is to say, Obama Derangement Syndrome as standard operating procedure.  Give in to your emotions, young Skywalker...

Even more than Clinton, Barack Obama represents everything that Rand Paul supporters in Kentucky are not:  the logical endpoint of anti-government, anti-social program corporatism disguised as populism.  "We can't afford social programs.  Let's cut taxes instead!"  It's the continuation of what I was talking about yesterday:  these are the people convinced that the measly 2.5% of America's total wealth in the hands of the entire bottom 50% of the American people is unconstitutionally high, and that the sin of increasing that through government assistance is worthy of a second American Revolution.

All the while, these are the same people voting to reduce their own meager share even more, surrendering it to the plutocrats.  The most successful thing the right-wing movement in this country has done is convince millions of Americans to destroy their own self-interest and give more to the wealthiest people on the planet.

There's a reason why Rand Paul's major financial support is coming from outside Kentucky, folks.

The Blue And The Gray (Area)

CNN's Roland Martin responds to critics of his takedown of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's Confederate History Month proclamation conveniently omitting slavery by upping the score:  comparing Confederate soldiers to terrorists.
When you make the argument that the South was angry with the North for "invading" its "homeland," Osama bin Laden has said the same about U.S. soldiers being on Arab soil. He has objected to our bases in Saudi Arabia, and that's one of the reasons he has launched his jihad against us. Is there really that much of a difference between him and the Confederates? Same language; same cause; same effect.

If a Confederate soldier was merely doing his job in defending his homeland, honor and heritage, what are we to say about young Muslim radicals who say the exact same thing as their rationale for strapping bombs on their bodies and blowing up cafes and buildings?

If the Sons of Confederate Veterans use as a talking point the vicious manner in which people in the South were treated by the North, doesn't that sound exactly like the Taliban saying they want to kill Americans for the slaughter of innocent people in Afghanistan?

Defenders of the Confederacy say that innocent people were killed in the Civil War; hasn't the same argument been presented by Muslim radicals in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places where the U.S. has tangled with terrorists?

We can't on the one hand justify the actions of Confederates as being their duty as valiant men of the South, and then condemn the Muslim extremists who want to see Americans die a brutal death. These men are held up as honorable by their brethren, so why do Americans see them as different from our homegrown terrorists?
Now, I'll give Roland Martin an uncommon amount of credit.  There are very few people brave enough to do this on the national stage as a media figure.  One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist, the saying goes. 

Is Martin correct?  There are those who will savage Martin by saying that if the Confederacy was 1862's Taliban, then the American Revolution, French Revolution, South African resistance to apartheid, India's colonial revolution from the Raj, and the various South and Central American, Caribbean and African colonial revolutions and eastern European revolutions are all acts of terrorism as well.

History's full of revolutions and resistances to occupations, frankly.  But Martin's more refined point is that the Confederacy wasn't a brave and honorable resistance movement, they were fighting to keep slavery as an economic engine of the Southern economy.  It was couched in all sorts of noble terms and rhetoric, but let's never forget the Civil War was a group of states that banded together militarily to defend slavery, because without it the wealthiest landowners in those states were going to lose a staggering amount of that wealth.  These were the guys who also happened to be in charge of these state governments, so they basically went to war over it.

It wasn't the War of Northern Aggression, it was the War Of Using Colored People As A Natural Resource Rather Than Treating Them As Human Beings.  And that particular war is still being fought in some parts of the country 150 or so years later.

So, were the Confederates the original domestic terrorists?  Martin is correct to point out the similarities in rhetoric and mindset.  Terrorism and a shooting war is a matter of degrees, but at the core Martin is correct.  His conclusion:
Even if you're a relative of one of the 9/11 hijackers, that man was an out-and-out terrorist, and nothing you can say will change that. And if your great-great-great-granddaddy was a Confederate who stood up for Southern ideals, he too was a terrorist.

They are the same.

As a matter of conscience, I will not justify, understand or accept the atrocious view of Muslim terrorists that their actions represent a just war. They are reprehensible, and their actions a sin against humanity.

And I will never, under any circumstances, cast Confederates as heroic figures who should be honored and revered. No -- they were, and forever will be, domestic terrorists.

Keep an eye on the reaction of the right to this one.  It will not be pretty.  But what Martin said needed to be said, and he's a brave man for saying it.

Correlation Does Not Equal Causation

But sometimes the correlations are damned interesting anyway.  This one's making the rounds today from Fourth Branch:
Perhaps more interesting is looking at where federal spending is directed. The red states in the map below are states which received more than $1.00 in federal money for every $1.00 in taxes paid by residents of that state. Blue states are states which received less than $1.00 in federal money for every $1.00 paid by residents of that state in taxes (information from a 2005 study by the Tax Foundation).
Spending by State
If that map looks familiar, perhaps it is because it closely resembles the red and blue state divide from the 2008 presidential election (red states voted for McCain, blue for Obama).
2008 Presidential Election Map
There is a very strong correlation, then, between a state voting for Republicans and receiving more in federal spending than its residents pay to the federal government in taxes (the rust belt and Texas being notable exceptions). In essence, those in blue states are subsidizing those in red states. Both red and blue states appear to be acting politically in opposition to their economic interests. Blue states are voting for candidates who are likely to continue the policies of red state subsidization while red states are voting for candidates who profess a desire to reduce federal spending (and presumably red state subsidization).
In other words, the states that voted for McCain are the ones getting taxpayer money from other states, the exceptions being Texas who pays more in, and the rust belt states, which get a bit more out than $1.00 for every federal tax dollar they pay.  States like North Carolina and Indiana were very close and could have gone either way.  They have been Republican in the past, along with Ohio and Pennsylvania.

For the most part, southern and western states are getting paid for by states like New York, California, and Florida.  Red states come out ahead in federal taxes.  They are a net drain on the economy.

And these are the states complaining the loudest about being taxed too much.

Yet Another President Odubya Moment

Apparently Obama has chosen to enshrine Bush-era warrantless wiretapping as standard operating procedure.  There can be no other logical conclusion from the withdrawal of Dawn Johnsen as head of the DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel.  Marcy Wheeler:
So, it was not Ben Nelson who killed the nomination of Dawn Johnsen, nor was it Arlen Specter or Senate Republicans. No, the sole reason Dawn Johnsen is not leading the OLC is that Barack Obama and his coterie of advisors did not want Dawn Johnsen leading the OLC. The Obama Administration cravenly hung their own nominee out to dry, and the reason is almost certainly that she was not compatible with the Administration’s determination to maintain, if not expand, the Bush/Cheney positions on unbridled executive power, indefinite detention without due process as well as warrantless wiretapping and other Fourth Amendment invasions.
Obama could have made Johnsen as a recess appointment.  He chose not to after 15 months.  That was Obama's choice.  If he was serious about ending torture and warrantless wiretapping, Johnsen would have been appointed.  She was not.  Obama chose not to do so.  It really is that simple.  Glenn Greenwald:
What Johnsen insists must not be done reads like a manual of what Barack Obama ended up doing and continues to do -- from supporting retroactive immunity to terminate FISA litigations to endless assertions of "state secrecy" in order to block courts from adjudicating Bush crimes to suppressing torture photos on the ground that "opennees will empower terrorists" to the overarching Obama dictate that we "simply move on."  Could she have described any more perfectly what Obama would end up doing when she wrote, in March, 2008, what the next President "must not do"?
It is a toss-up to see which is a larger failure so far in this administration:  the failure to fix Bush's legal excesses, or the failure to fix Bush's financial catastrophe.  Both will have far-reaching, long-lasting consequences that will haunt us for decades.  President Obama has done a lot of good as leader of the free world.  But in this respect, he has absolutely failed us as a country.

The Republicans of course would have chosen the same path on warrantless wiretapping and financial regulation.  The difference is we would have gotten virtually none of the accomplishments Obama has done.  It is however a steep, steep price to pay for real benefits to America like health care reform and nuclear reduction.  Serious students of history will be asking if that price was worth it for quite some time to come.

Obama will go down as a conflicted President.  He will go down as one who made accomplishments.  But these decisions will also haunt him.  He will not be remembered as a great President, merely one that came out on the positive side of the balance.

The galling part is after Bush, we needed better.  Obama can do some real good with his Supreme Court nomination here to replace Justice Stevens.  It is possible he let Johnsen go in order to marshal his capital for a truly liberal nominee.  It is possible that's the price he had to pay.  I don't know.  Republicans will attack whomever he nominates and demonize them as an unconscionable liberal ideologue that must be stopped to save humanity.  But he could have appointed Johnsen in recess.  He chose not to.  He chose to cut Johnsen out.  Why was she appointed in the first place?

It is possible that Johnsen had some sort of problem that we aren't aware of.  I don't know the full story.  I'm merely going with Occam's Razor based on the previous decisions Obama has made.  But I will be questioning the cost of this decision in every other action Obama makes now.  Do not make the mistake of forgetting that in the end, Barack Obama is a politician.  He is better than Bush.  He is better than McCain/Palin by an order of magnitude, easily.  That is still a shamefully low standard to meet.  We need better alternatives than "hideous" and "is not hideous".

Unless you think America is perfectly fine with "is not hideous" in its leadership.

[UPDATE 11:32 AM]  Senators like Joe Lieberman are already saying Obama has the opportunity to make the Supreme Court "less liberal".  Take that as you will.
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