SocraticGadfly: 12/20/09 - 12/27/09

December 26, 2009

Obama is Reagan?

Noting that U.S. President Barack Obama tends to confuse, even confound, both political ideologues and pragmatists alike, Ross Douthat says he actually shows tendencies similar to Ronald Reagan. However, he says, that when either Reagan, or Ted Kennedy, told partisans they wouldn't get a better deal than a political compromise the one or other of them had worked out, they were believed, and Obama wasn't.

Perhaps that's because neither of them made such flat promises. Or else because Teddy and Ronnie were smoother liars.

Our man in Afghanistan backstabs again

Unfortunately, the New York Times officially editorializes that we have no choice but to work with Hamid Karzai.

Wrong, wrong and wrong. We have plenty of choice. It's just that The One has opted not to make the smart and right choice.

December 25, 2009

Rafsanjani caught in middle in Iran

Near the end of his column on the most recent Iranian protests, Juan Cole notes that Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani deplores the tough governmental crackdown on those protests, but at the same time, things the protests are moving too quickly. How much longer can he straddle the middle, especially if the protests keep up their energy?

No trusting the Fed

David Sirota notes that the Federal Reserve has $400 million a year it distributes around the country for "economic research" and rightly says that we probably shouldn't trust the Fed any more than Bush-Cheney claims about Iraqi smoking guns and mushroom clouds should have been trusted.

December 24, 2009

Rahm Emanuel, meet Bill Daley

Is there something in the water supply that makes Chicago Democratic politicians try to make the party bend over for Blue Dogs? Judging by Bill Daley's new column in the Post, I am at a loss for other explanation.

Parker says that the defection to the GOP by Alabama Rep. Parker Griffith is a sign that Democrats are dangerously close to shutting down their "big tent." Where does this nonsense, and the "more" that follows it in the column, come from?

Broderism hits a new low

In his latest effort to be the press punditry "dean of bipartisanship," David Broder possibly writes one of his stupidest columns ever.

He claims that partisanship, in the Senate, and even from the White House, cut both ways on the health care bill.
(E)ven those Republicans who were initially inclined to (act in a bipartisan fashion) were turned away by the White House and the Senate Democratic leaders, who never lifted their sights much beyond the Democratic ranks.

Now, in some counterfactual universe, this might be true.

But, in our actual, reality-based world, Max Baucus, for example, continued to work with Senate Finance Republicans long after Jim DeMint called on fellow GOPers to make the bill Obama's "Waterloo."

True, you can scapegoat Harry Reid for passing out massive pork. That said, now that Nebraska's governor has thrown Ben Nelson under the bus, maybe some of that pork will come off the bill again in conference.

What will NOT happen in conference is another of Broder's delusional Broderisms:
It would help a lot if (Obama) reached out personally to those few Republicans who might still want to improve the bill rather than sink it.

I mean, the NYT op-ed page ain't the greatest, but it looks like a Mensa of political analysis compared to stuff like this, let alone house editorials and Gail Collins' oversight vs. that of Fred Hiatt.

Christmas in US less and less for Christians

Self-identified Christians, according to Gallup, are now down to just 78 percent of adults. Related to that, religious belief is losing its importance for a greater number of Americans.

Is the Obama sellout worth it on healthcare?

The latest "yes" voice goes to Salon's Gene Lyons:
Imperfections notwithstanding, once universal coverage is established in principle, there'll be no going back.

Perhaps true, but the current bill really only establishes semi-universal coverage, and does little to control costs. So, at some point, Lyons might have to address the issue of just what level of coverage, for what price, people are getting.

Bomb Iran to stop nuke program???

Yes, as dumb as that may sound, and as questionable as the degree of fear behind the idea may seem, one Alan J. Kuperman, director of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Program at the University of Texas, wants the Peace Prize Prez to do exactly that.

Even more crazily, he claims it will actually work, or work well enough.

Talk about a devil's brew of living up to a Texas macho stereotype and kind of giving non-proliferation a bad name!

December 23, 2009

Obama: I got 95 percent on health bill

That's exactly what President Barack Obama told Jim Lehrer of PBS. So, I guess the pre-election AND post-election talk about the public option wasn't something he (or Rahm Emanuel) really wanted then, right?

You can fool some of the Obamiacs all of the time, and all of the Obamiacs some of the time...

Green news from Denmark and LA

Could going really, really green — with federal tax policy and other things — really help U.S. employment as much as President Barack Obama claims? Tom Friedman says yes, while noting we can't afford not to do more of what Denmark is doing.

Meanwhile, the L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez has a rhetorical question for U2's The Edge: What is greener, building five eco-mansions, or not building them in the first place?

Sadly, Gang Green is ready to come the The Edge's rescue, too, as the local Sierra Club supports his "vision."

Does Craigslist abet criminality?

Especially in places where the housing bubble grew the most and imploded the loudest, buyers now getting foreclosed are doing "foreclosure stripping sales." Fixtures, appliances, trees, even ... if it's moveable, it's being offered for sale.

A lot of people are advertising the goods on Craigslist.

Of course, the story goes on to note that in Phoenix, this has led the FBI to be a regular visitor to the Phoenix Craigslist pages.

Here's Craigs' BS self-defense:
(Craigslist does not vet the postings created by its users, and a spokeswoman, Susan MacTavish Best, said the site had not been contacted by law officials about ads for stripped merchandise. “One wonders how one would know the provenance of each fixture and appliance,” she wrote in an e-mail message.)

Uhh, by doing a background check on a suspicious ad? Monitoring ads for suspiciousness? Rejecting suspicious ads?

Yet another dark side of the Brave New World of New Media, eh?
I hope, really hope, that the feds go after Craigs itself, and not just individual homeowners. Considering it has gotten off the legal hook so far on running racist home-for-sale ads, it would be a bit of poetic justice.

Another reason for banks not to foreclose?

Especially in places where the housing bubble grew the most and imploded the loudest, buyers now getting foreclosed are doing "foreclosure stripping sales." Fixtures, appliances, trees, even ... if it's moveable, it's being offered for sale.

A lot of people are advertising the goods on Craigslist.

Of course, the story goes on to note that in Phoenix, this has led the FBI to be a regular visitor to the Phoenix Craigslist pages.

I hope, really hope, that the feds go after Craigs itself, and not just individual homeowners. Considering it has gotten off the legal hook so far on running racist home-for-sale ads, it would be a bit of poetic justice.

Toyota continues self-inflicted black eyes

Just when you think the car company smart enough to work its way to No. 1 seller in the world couldn't get any dumber about either actual safety issues on its vehicles or public relations perceptions thereunto, it proves people like me wrong.

For at least this car company, the "Japanese way" is looking more and more like the General Motors or Ford way.

Sticking accelerators? Check, on more vehicle types than previously announced, and with different, new causes than previously announced.

A former lawyer of your own company suing you? Check.

Numerous confidential, non-disclosure lawsuit settlements? Check.

Reselling lemon cars? Check.

Read the full story; Toyota comes of as pretty slimy. You might rethink a Toyota buying decision in the future.

Disclosure: I own a Corolla. Love it. It's old enough to be from before most of the problems Toyota has tried to hide.

And, that gets to the root of the problem. Toyota has, perhaps, grown too fast for its own good, and hence, a lot of its recent safety shortcuts.

December 22, 2009

Chinese bubble popping? Pakistani coup?

Those are two of Newsweek's Top 10 projections for 2010. And, they and about all the others on the list make sense... with the exception of the American surge in Afghanistan working. Not. Gonna. Happen.

As far as the other examples on the list, second-most-unlikely is major changes in U.S.-Cuba relations should Fidel Castro die. Raul will still be in control down there, and, until more older Cuban-Americans die, there will Florida voters to pander to.

Most likely? I would say the Pakistani coup. Which is yet more reason not to put more U.S. troops in Afghanistan!

Health insurance companies love Obama

The no-public-option, no-Medicare-expansion health care bill is getting a lot of Wall Street love today.

Which, as Greenwald notes, will surely be loved, in turn by President Barack Obama and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel when it goes to collecting campaign donations in 2012.

Remember that if you're forced to buy insurance that gets more expensive every year.

Eff you, Obama. And, as Glenn notes, the same to Steve Benen and many other butt-kiss bloggers.

Obama's Yemeni attacks a big failure?

It sure sounds like it. Not killing the actual targeted person (why no Predator drone instead of cruise missiles), looking inept, inflaming Yemeni tensions and more -- that's pretty much a failure.

Our peace prize prez strikes again

Glenn Greenwald notes the irony, or worse, of firing civilian-killing cruise missiles (not even Predators) at alleged/suspeected Yememi al-Qaida sites, getting further in bed with Israel and more.

Besides, we didn't even kill the primary target.

That's our content-free president!

December 21, 2009

Obama to push for drug reimportation?

White House Chief of Staff David Axelrod says yes. One part of me says "call me when it happens." Another part acknowledges that selling reimportation down the river was necessary to get any help from Big Pharma on the health care bill.

But, Team Obama will want to court, and court, and court Big Pharma. So, any "push," if it does happen, won't come until 2013 or later, assuming The One gets re-elected.

Actually, it will happen when Big Pharma freezes over. In pre-neolib days, some Dem would have had the idea of treating drug companies like regulated utilities. Those days are long gone.

The only sign of hope? From the days of Grover Cleveland until Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic Party, at least at the national level, was similarly in the tank for the rich. And, that changed.

The three wings of Democrats?

Michael Lind has a good breakdown of the Democratic Party's three main ideological groupings, and says that just as the GOP has kept neocons, the religious right and libertarians, the Dems can do the same.

Well, whether the GOP can permanently keep all parts of groups 2 and 3 together is questionable, Michael. A number of libertarianish GOPers, or independents, saw enough they liked in Obama last year, for example.

And, parties change all the time. That said, if Obama had pretended to be less of a New Dealer type a year ago (I consider myself with a foot there and in the Green camp, and the Democratic Party as a whole too much a neolib sellout to want to be a Democrat) more of this unity might be in place.

Not so fast on carbon offsets, Al Gore

Bernd Heinrich notes that Kyoto provided offsets for planting trees, but non for preserving them. And, Copenhagen didn't address that.

So, as he starkly puts it, would-be self-professed environmentalists have incentives to clear-cut forests and then replace them with monocrop trees, but not to preserve anything.

The content-free presidency of Barack Obama

Over at Huff Post, Drew Westin sums up Obama well: laissez faire leadership style, no attachment to principle, and the perception that he's a sellout to Wall Street. What's more, Westin says he's a centrist, not a hard-core left-winger, and he agrees, at least in fair degree, with all of the above points.

But, these things were all visible months before the election, some of them a full year in advance. If you conscientiously chose to vote for him anyway, because you can't or won't do a Green or Socialist vote, well, OK. But, too many people smart enough to know better let themselves be bamboozled all along.

December 20, 2009

Team Obama ready to let AIG off the hook?

Eliot Spitzer et al are right that the country should be mad about what could be the latest and worst Obama Administration giveaway to Wall Street - selling the federal stake in AIG without combing through its e-mails.

Obama's health care flip flops

Now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has Ben Nelson's magic 60th vote corraled, at least for now, let's take President Barack Obama to task further for this weak tea.

First, David Sirota reminds us once again, not just of his flip flop on drug reimportation from Canada, but his White House staff telling progressives to STFU when they reacted.

Calling that same class of people "insane" during this last week, as WH Chief of Staff David Axelrod did, is guaranteed to stir up more trouble.