07/22/2014 archive

Ineffective and Gutless

Right-wing obstruction could have been fought: An ineffective and gutless presidency’s legacy is failure

Thomas Frank, Salon

Sunday, Jul 20, 2014 07:00 AM EST

(A)ll presidential museums are exercises in getting their subject off the hook, and for Obama loyalists looking back at his years in office, the need for blame evasion will be acute. Why, the visitors to his library will wonder, did the president do so little about rising inequality, the subject on which he gave so many rousing speeches? Why did he do nothing, or next to nothing, about the crazy high price of a college education, the Great Good Thing that he has said, time and again, determines our personal as well as national success? Why didn’t he propose a proper healthcare program instead of the confusing jumble we got? Why not a proper stimulus package? Why didn’t he break up the banks? Or the agribusiness giants, for that matter?

Well, duh, his museum will answer: he couldn’t do any of those things because of the crazy right-wingers running wild in the land. He couldn’t reason with them-their brains don’t work like ours! He couldn’t defeat them at the polls-they’d gerrymandered so many states that they couldn’t be dislodged! What can a high-minded man of principle do when confronted with such a vast span of bigotry and close-mindedness? The answer toward which the Obama museum will steer the visitor is: Nothing.

In point of fact, there were plenty of things Obama’s Democrats could have done that might have put the right out of business once and for all-for example, by responding more aggressively to the Great Recession or by pounding relentlessly on the theme of middle-class economic distress. Acknowledging this possibility, however, has always been difficult for consensus-minded Democrats, and I suspect that in the official recounting of the Obama era, this troublesome possibility will disappear entirely. Instead, the terrifying Right-Wing Other will be cast in bronze at twice life-size, and made the excuse for the Administration’s every last failure of nerve, imagination and foresight. Demonizing the right will also allow the Obama legacy team to present his two electoral victories as ends in themselves, since they kept the White House out of the monster’s grasp-heroic triumphs that were truly worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. (Which will be dusted off and prominently displayed.)

But bipartisanship as an ideal must also be kept sacred, of course. And so, after visitors to the Obama Library have passed through the Gallery of Drones and the Big Data Command Center, they will be ushered into a maze-like exhibit designed to represent the president’s long, lonely, and ultimately fruitless search for consensus. The Labyrinth of the Grand Bargain, it might be called, and it will teach how the president bravely put the fundamental achievements of his party-Social Security and Medicare-on the bargaining table in exchange for higher taxes and a smaller deficit. This will be described not as a sellout of liberal principle but as a sacred quest for the Holy Grail of Washington: a bipartisan coming-together on “entitlement reform,” which every responsible D.C. professional knows to be the correct way forward.

What will the Obama library have to say about the people who recognized correctly that it was time for “Change” and who showed up at his routine campaign appearances in 2008 by the hundreds of thousands?

It will be a tricky problem. On the up side, those days before his first term began were undoubtedly Obama’s best ones. Mentioning them, however, will remind the visitor of the next stage in his true believers’ political evolution: Disillusionment. Not because their hero failed to win the Grand Bargain, but because he wanted to get it in the first place-because he seemed to believe that shoring up the D.C. consensus was the rightful object of all political idealism. The movement, in other words, won’t fit easily into the standard legacy narrative. Yet it can’t simply be deleted from the snapshot.

Perhaps there will be an architectural solution for this problem. For example, the Obama museum’s designers could make the exhibit on the movement into a kind of blind alley that physically reminds visitors of the basic doctrine of the Democratic Party’s leadership faction: that liberals have nowhere else to go.

My own preference would be to let that disillusionment run, to let it guide the entire design of the Obama museum. Disillusionment is, after all, a far more representative emotion of our times than Beltway satisfaction over the stability of some imaginary “center.” So why not memorialize it? My suggestion to the designers of the complex: That the Obama Presidential Library be designed as a kind of cenotaph, a mausoleum of hope.

Person Of Paradox

By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire

July 22, 2014

(O)n the issue of the economy, and the people who wrecked it and then sold off the pieces, and then, by and large, got away clean, there were some things the president could have done, and didn’t do, that lead me to believe that, on this issue, Frank is more right than he is wrong. For example, there was no reason to involve Bob Rubin in the transition team, much less to staff the Treasury Department with Rubin-esque clones. Hell, Tim Geithner didn’t have to be Treasury Secretary. There was nothing stopping the president in 2008 from appointing a tough assistant U.S. Attorney to be an assistant secretary of the Treasury tasked with vigorously investigating the causes of the economic meltdown, and whatever crimes were involved therein. The Republicans would have raised hell, but they were going to do that anyway. It’s hard to see a Democratic Congress defunding the Treasury Department, but I admit there’s no telling what mischief Max Baucus might have concocted. The president faced unprecedented opposition employing unprecedented tactics. However, “looking forward, not back” on many issues was a conscious governing strategy.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Ted Rall: You Know Your Country Sucks When You Look Wistfully Back at Stalin

You can tell a lot about the state of a country by comparing the state of its public and private infrastructure.[..]

The World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. 25th in the world in infrastructure, behind Oman, Saudi Arabia and Barbados.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Josef Stalin, of all people, showed how infrastructure could be prioritized over private property. The dictator approved every extravagance – and why not? Obama signs off on every luxury the military can dream up.

Determined that his new Moscow Metro be a “palace of the people” for the Soviet capital’s subway commuters, Stalin ordered that no expense be spared to create a system that was not only fast and efficient, but beautiful. “In stark contrast to the gray city above,” The Times wrote as late as 1988, “the bustling, graffiti-less Metro is a subterranean sanctuary adorned with crystal chandeliers, marble floors and skillfully crafted mosaics and frescoes fit for a czar’s palace.” With good reason: First, Stalin had chandeliers ripped out of the czar’s old palaces and moved underground; for future stations he had even more stunning ones designed from scratch using radically innovative techniques.

The Moscow Metro remains a showcase of what socialism could do at its best: prioritize the people and thus improve their daily lives.

Then there’s us.

Nathan Schneider: From Ellsberg to Snowden – From Risks to Hacks

Sharing the stage today with a video feed of Edward Snowden, Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg noted that the new generation of whistleblowers has improved his reputation. Government officials and others seeking to discredit Snowden and Chelsea Manning have claimed Ellsberg’s historic leak as more legitimate than, and somehow different in kind from, the leaks of the new generation. Ellsberg of course rejected such claims as ridiculous and intentionally misleading. He emphasized the similarities, and also cited all sorts of ways in which the recent leaks have been even more daring than his.

In the course of their conversation, however, differences between the two figures did emerge, and maybe those differences say something about the rest of us.

Dean Baker: US takes draconian position on Argentine debt

Court decision is likely to undermine faith in the integrity of US judicial and financial system

In the flurry of rulings ending the Supreme Court’s latest term, an item that got relatively little notice was its decision not to review a case on Argentina’s government debt. This refusal let stand a lower court decision that makes the United States an extreme outlier in dealing with Argentina and potentially other troubled debtor nations.

The dispute has its origins in the decision of the Argentine government to default on its debt in December 2001. At the time, the government was struggling under an International Monetary Fund austerity program. Argentina’s economy had already shrunk 10 percent from its 1998 level – a much sharper falloff than the United States experienced after the 2008 financial crisis. Argentina’s unemployment rate was at 20 percent and rising. Still, the IMF was demanding further budget cuts as a condition for lending the money needed to keep paying its debt. [..]

In a world where the United States’ economy is no longer the largest or even close to it, we are not going to be able to write the rules for our own convenience. If countries like Argentina cannot count on being treated fairly in U.S. courts, they will simply take their business elsewhere. The loss will be ours, not theirs. The U.S. will again pay a high price for allowing well-connected people in the financial sector to set policy.

Robert Parry: Kerry’s Latest Reckless Rush to Judgment

Secretary of State John Kerry boasts that as a former prosecutor he knows he has a strong case against the eastern Ukrainian rebels and their backers in Russia in pinning last Thursday’s shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on them, even without the benefit of a formal investigation. [..]

If you were, say, a U.S. intelligence analyst sifting through the evidence and finding that some leads went off in a different direction, toward the Ukrainian army, for instance, you might hold back on your conclusions knowing that crossing senior officials who had already pronounced the verdict could be devastating to your career. It would make a lot more sense to just deep-six any contrary evidence.

Indeed, one of the lessons from the disastrous Iraq War was the danger of enforced “group think” inside Official Washington. Once senior officials have made clear how they want an assessment to come out, mid-level officials scramble to make the bosses happy.

If Kerry had cared about finding the truth about this tragedy that claimed the lives of 298 people, he would have simply noted that the investigation was just beginning and that it would be wrong to speculate based on the few scraps of information available. Instead he couldn’t resist establishing a narrative that has – in the eyes of the world – made Russian President Vladimir Putin the guilty party.

Eugene RobinsonL The Downside of Giving Weapons

The bodies and debris that rained from the Ukrainian sky offer a cautionary lesson about the danger of giving heavy weapons to non-state actors. I hope the hawks who wanted President Obama to ship anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian rebels are paying attention.

By now there is little doubt that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, with 298 people on board, was blasted out of the sky Thursday by a Russian-made SA-11 missile fired from eastern Ukraine. U.S. officials say they have solid evidence that Russia supplied such arms to the separatist rebels who control that part of the country.

It is unclear whether the missile was fired by rebels who had been trained to operate the complex SA-11 system or by Russian military advisers. This seems to me a distinction without a difference. Whoever pulled the trigger, Russia must bear responsibility-and be held accountable.The bodies and debris that rained from the Ukrainian sky offer a cautionary lesson about the danger of giving heavy weapons to non-state actors. I hope the hawks who wanted President Obama to ship anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian rebels are paying attention.

By now there is little doubt that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, with 298 people on board, was blasted out of the sky Thursday by a Russian-made SA-11 missile fired from eastern Ukraine. U.S. officials say they have solid evidence that Russia supplied such arms to the separatist rebels who control that part of the country.

It is unclear whether the missile was fired by rebels who had been trained to operate the complex SA-11 system or by Russian military advisers. This seems to me a distinction without a difference. Whoever pulled the trigger, Russia must bear responsibility-and be held accountable.

The Breakfast Club 7-22-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History

Le Tour 2014: Stage 16, Carcassonne / Bagnères-de-Luchon

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Enjoy your rest day?  I sure did.  So Stage 15 was a big disappointment for Jack Bauer who led for most of the way only to be caught out by Alexander Kristoff in a classic sprint finish.  Almost forgotten by the english speaking media (Bauer is from New Zealand) is Martin Elmiger who was the second half of the 2 rider breakaway that nearly led from start to finish.

On the stage it was Kristoff, Heinrich Haussler, and Peter Sagan who led a group of 69 riders that shared the lead time including almost everyone of note and about 99 riders were within a minute at the finish.  The last rider, Cheng Ji, the only rider from the People’s republic of China finished in a group of 17 riders a mere 12:20 behind.

In the General Classification there is therefore not much change, Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (4:37), Romain Bardet (4:50), Thibaut Pinot (5:06), Tejay Van Garderen (5:49), Jean-Christophe Péraud (6:08), Bauke Mollema (8:33), and Leopold Konig (9:32).  Everybody else is more than 10 minutes behind.  For Points it is Peter Sagan (402), Bryan Coquard (226), Alexander Kristoff (217), Marcel Kittel (177), Mark Renshaw (153), André Greipel (143), Vincenzo Nibali (134), and Greg Van Avermaet (115).  Everyone else is 28 points behind.  There were no points awarded in the Climbing contest so it is Joaquim Rodriguez and Rafal Majka tied at 88 with Vincenzo Nibali at 86.  Everyone else is 37 points behind.  In the Team competition it is AG2R, Belkin (12:42), Sky (38:32), Astana (46:10), Movistar (47:44), and BMC (51:01).  Everyone else is over 1 hour behind.  In Youth it is Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot (:16),  Michal Kwiatkowski (14:34), and Tom Dumoulin (47:46).  Everyone else is over an hour behind.

Today’s 148 mile stage is the start of the Pyrenees and has 2 Category 4s, 1 Category 2, 1 Category 3, and 1 Beyond Category climb.  It is also the longest stage.

Distance Name Length Category
Km 25.0 Côte de Fanjeaux 2.4 km @ 4.9% 4
Km 71.5 Côte de Pamiers 2.5 km @ 5.4% 4
Km 155.0 Col de Portet-d’Aspet (1 069 m) 5.4 km @ 6.9% 2
Km 176.5 Col des Ares 6 km @ 5.2% 3
Km 216.0 Port de Balès (1 755 m) 11.7 km @ 7.7% H

The big climb is Port de Balès which is not only long but has 2 very steep sections with over 10% gradient.  The Sprint Checkpoint is after the 2 Category 4s and it’s just as well because we won’t be seeing the sprinters for the rest of the day I’m thinking though the finish is on a steep descent.

So we could see some crashes as people attempt to make up time in the final 20 km though we’ll more likely see riders drop out under the load.  There have been 10 withdrawls since Fabian Cancellara- Andrew Ralansky, David Del La Cruz Melgarejo, Alexander Porsev, Janier Alexis Acevedo Calle, Arthur Vichot, Daniel Navarro Garcia, Dries Devenyns, Rafael Valls, Rui Alberto Costa, and Simon Yates.

On This Day In History July 22

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 22 is the 203rd day of the year (204th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 162 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1933, Wiley Post becomes the first person to fly solo around the world traveling 15,596 miles in 7 days, 18 hours and 45 minutes.

Like many pilots at the time, Post disliked the fact that the speed record for flying around the world was not held by a fixed-wing aircraft, but by the Graf Zeppelin, piloted by Hugo Eckener in 1929 with a time of 21 days. On June 23, 1931, Post and his navigator, Harold Gatty, left Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York in the Winnie Mae with a flight plan that would take them around the world, stopping at Harbour Grace, Flintshire, Hanover twice, Berlin, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Blagoveshchensk, Khabarovsk, Nome where his airscrew had to be repaired, Fairbanks where the airscrew was replaced, Edmonton, and Cleveland before returning to Roosevelt Field. They arrived back on July 1, after traveling 15,474 miles in the record time of 8 days and 15 hours and 51 minutes. The reception they received rivaled Lindbergh’s everywhere they went. They had lunch at the White House on July 6, rode in a ticker-tape parade the next day in New York City, and were honored at a banquet given by the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce of America at the Hotel Astor. After the flight, Post acquired the Winnie Mae from F.C. Hall, and he and Gatty published an account of their journey titled, Around the World in Eight Days, with an introduction by Will Rogers.

His Lockheed Vega aircraft, the Winnie Mae is on display at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, and his pressure suit is being prepared for display at the same location. On August 15, 1935, Post and American  humorist Will Rogers were killed when Post’s aircraft crashed on takeoff from a lagoon near Point Barrow, in Alaska.

TDS/TCR (The Table)


Buzz Cut

Desk Pistachios

This week’s guests and the real news below.