Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama +1

I've bellyached a lot over the past weeks about Obama's reneging on his promise to get us out of the legal quagmire Bush put us in with respect to terrorism. He has made use of the "state secrets" defense and has continued to hold other Bush Administration legal opinions. However, Ian reports that in at least one case, the Obama DoJ has actually chosen to try a terror suspect in a court of law instead of detain him indefinitely.

It's a nice gesture. Let's hope there's more where this came from. I've never understood why conservatives talk about approaching terrorism from a law enforcement perspective as if that were a bad thing. Because it is just a crime. A big, obnoxious crime, yes, but a crime nonetheless.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Reasonable Yet Completely Unworkable Solution for Israel and Palestine

The Land of Milk, Honey, and Political Parties recently held its parliamentary elections, which doesn't really decide the prime minister because no one ever gets a majority. Instead, the president (currently the ubiquitous Shimon Peres) gets to decide who gets first crack at putting together a workable coalition. The full results are here, but the major parties will be given seats as follows (there are 120):

- Kadima (center): 27
- Likud (righties): 26
- Yisrael Beiteinu (think Jewish Pat Buchanan): 15
- Labor (lefties): 13
- Shas (Jewish Pat Robertson in party form): 11

Assorted small parties, often single-issue types, make up the balance.

Technically, that means that Kadima leader Tzipi Livni should get first crack at the government. However, the only natural major ally for Kadima is Labor - there are more right-wingers total there than left-wingers and centrists. As a result, Peres is letting Likud chief Binyamin Netanyahu (a former PM - Israeli political power is passed around between approximately six people) form the government. However, Netanyahu will probably bring Kadima into the coalition so he doesn't have to rely on crazy people like the National Union (4 seats).

Anyway, it's probably unlikely that any steps towards peace over there are going to come out of this mess. Before the election, Livni made waves by stating plainly that Israel is going to have to give the Palestinians a state, and that's just the way it is. Netanyahu responded by saying that he'd rather focus on economic development and to hell with a second state. The sad part is, they both have a point. A single state is simply a non-starter with too many people, and the PA is currently nowhere near economically viable as a separate unit.

So here's my idea. It's loosely based on Britain's arrangement with China over Hong Kong. What should happen is this: the PA should submit itself fully to Israeli authority. Israelis would be in charge of policing the West Bank and Gaza and ensuring that nobody blows anything up. In return, Israel should:

- Remove all internal roadblocks in the West Bank and Gaza
- Freeze all Israeli settlement in the West Bank and continue the settlement ban on Gaza
- Remove the economic blockade on Palestinian goods; allow PA residents to trade freely with other states
- Guarantee property rights of Arab residents of the West Bank and Gaza, and issue Arab landowners deeds for their land
- Implement programs encouraging entrepreneurship among Arabs in the WB and Gaza
- Most importantly, guarantee the creation of a Palestinian state on land consisting of 90% of the land area occupied by Israel in 1967 on a set date, say, 20 years from now.

The advantages of this are obvious. Palestinians need economic development to be a viable state, but there's not enough resources to keep things stable and they can't agree on a leadership. And because there's no political stability, there's no economic development. It's clear that Palestinians are in a vicious cycle that they can't get out of on their own - statecraft requires money, and there's no money there because there's no state. What this plan does is give the PA territories the political stability necessary to form a reasonable economy, along with giving them the tools needed to start an economy (property rights and capital). PA nationalists ought to be mollified by the promise - hopefully backed by American administrations - to grant independence to Palestine on a set date, and the PA can improve its governing ability as the economy grows. That way, an end to the occupation is in sight, and that would only encourage the Palestinians to take control of their own affairs. And when the occupation does end, the West Bank and Gaza will have an economy that will leave them able to survive as an independent state.

Of course, nationalists on either side are too strong to allow this plan to occur. Oh well. I think it's a good idea, anyway.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Newspaper Ad, Waffle House Style

Some years ago, a couple of friends and I were driving from Raleigh to Nashville, and we decided to stop for food at a Waffle House in Hickory, NC. At our booth, we were approached by a guy who tells us a nonsense "joke" about Communists and proceeds to rant incoherently for several minutes before pointing us to a website (whose URL I have forgotten) that was equally incoherent.

So when I caught wind of this via Ed Brayton's blog, I immediately thought of that guy.

Seriously, what is that ad trying to say? Can anyone make heads or tails out of it? And the website is full of equally incoherent rantings and ravings. Does virulent anti-gay hate lead to aphasia or something?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Swedish-Made GDP Enlarger

Apparently there's talk going around normally laissez-faire-friendly circles that we should nationalize the banks, kind of like the Swedes did when their financial system was going pear-shaped in the 1990s. (The Wonkette site linked to here contains links to FT articles at the bottom that are a lot more information-friendly.) The advantage here would be that the taxpayers would stop being sugar-daddies and start being shareholders in the banks - meaning that if the banks are managed back to health, we come out okay revenue-wise when we sell the banks back to shareholders in the private sector. (Which kinda means we buy banks from ourselves and sell them back to ourselves when we're done with them. Economics makes no sense.)

Anyway, I don't see this as a particularly bad idea. If we're going to bail out banks, and it seems we've made the decision to do so, we might as well go all-in with it. The half-assed way we've been conducting the bailout hasn't done a damn thing where loosening up credit markets is concerned, and it's far from clear that we'll see that money again if banks get back on their feet.

I still think it would have been best to let one of the investment houses go into bankruptcy proceedings - this would have panicked people a little bit, but it would have settled once and for all what those damn mortgage-backed securities were worth and could have saved us a lot of trouble in the long run. But we're past that point now, and as long as we're involved with this bailout, we might as well do it right.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Musically Challenged Writer Alert

OK, I'm no music expert, but isn't the thesis of this article basically destroyed by recent history? The article claims that music sucks when Democrats are elected, but that ignores the fact that under Clinton (1/20/93-1/20/01), the following happened (and I'm realizing full well that not everyone who reads this is going to like everything on this list):

Dookie, Nimrod, Warning
Throwing Copper, The Distance to Here
Somewhere More Familiar, Fortress
In Utero, that MTV Unplugged album
Vs., Vitalogy
Jar of Flies
August and Everything After, Recovering the Satellites, This Desert Life (I think)
Automatic for the People, Monster
Weezer's blue album

Also assorted awesomeness from Hootie and the Blowfish, Dave Matthews Band, Aerosmith, Blues Traveler, the Cranberries, Rusted Root, Collective Soul, Seven Mary Three, Foo Fighters, Presidents, Everclear... so yeah, music under Clinton definitely sucked. Idiot.

Another Adoption Memo

To: Morons in the state of Kentucky

From: Jeff

Re: Idiocy

Listen. Just because 57% of Arkansans are friggin' idiots doesn't mean you have to be that way too. What, did you think that Arkansas' extending a middle finger to the kids in foster care was such a brilliant idea that you had to copy it? Sure, it takes a jackass to think that kids are better off in orphanages than with loving parents, but it takes some severe stupidity to mimic this idea. I mean, I know you're a state full of people who thought Tubby Smith was an awful coach who needed to be run out of town, but still, I didn't think you were this stupid.

I dunno. Maybe you're not stupid. Maybe you just hate children too. Yeah, that's gotta be it - Kentucky hates kids too, just like Arkansas. That's what you should call this bill - the Fuck You, Kids Act of 2009.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blame the Jews, Volume 663

I suppose, given his proclivities, that I shouldn't be surprised that Hugo Chavez has launched his own little anti-Semitism campaign down in Venezuela.

Chavez' Venezuela wasn't the most free place on the planet in the first place, but ethno-religious hatred and violence was never part of the equation. But it's still true that, as the old adage goes, anti-Semitism is often the first sign of a much darker turn in a country's politics. Expect Venezuela to get worse and worse, kids.

It'll also be interesting to see if the mini-Chavezes in South America follow suit. Evo Morales, already from an oppressed minority, doesn't seem like the hating type, and there are barely any Jews in Bolivia anyway. I don't know much about Correa in Ecuador, but that's worth watching, as is Lugo in Paraguay.

Happy 200th!

Happy birthday to Abe Lincoln and Charles Darwin, who were improbably born on the same day in 1809. Also Cotton Mather and Ehud Barak, who weren't born in 1809.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

No Playoff, And Now This?

Dear college football leaders:

When you have a ridiculously awful rule on the books, you should be thinking about canning it... not strengthening it.


...And Some Good News

Normally I'm suspicious of programs that put your personal information on the Web, and normally I'm suspicious of Google in general, but this seems like a kick-ass idea. I would definitely like to know what I'm doing that makes my power bill so frickin' ridiculous. Sign me up.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Fail at Voting

And to add to the crap sandwich that is Tuesday, February 10, 2009, the Washington Post reports that Obama is doing his best Bush impression when it comes to civil liberties.

I would comment on this, using every nasty word I can think of, but Greenwald sums it up without even using a swear word. From his other piece on the issue:
Countries that are nations of laws rather than of men don't rely on blind faith in the good character of leaders to prevent abuse. They rely on what we call "law" and "accountability" and "checks and balances" to provide those safeguards -- exactly the type that Democrats, when it came to the States Secret privilege, long insisted upon before January 20, 2009.

We've been had, civil libertarians. Obama's proving himself to be a weak-willed power whore, passing off panic and secrecy as policy.

Fuck it, I shoulda voted for Barr. There, I said it. Jacob, cackle all you want.

UPDATE: I know it's old news, but this isn't helping matters.

Tom Daschle: Everyone's Personal Lisa Cuddy

So buried in the Super-Necessary Scamulus is this provision that says the government can tell doctors how to treat patients. Which is quite possibly the only thing worse than our current system, where insurance companies tell doctors how to treat patients.

This day is awesome already.

Timothy F. Geithner - The F Stands For Fail

Timothy Geithner gave a speech today starting at 11 AM. In it he spreads panic and asks for more bailout money. Fun.

Anyway, click here and move to 11 AM on February 10th. What do you notice occurring?


UPDATE: Ben Bernanke started testifying before Congress at 1:00. Check out stocks at that time too.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Italian for "Terri Schiavo"

Hmmm... a government controlled by right-wing religious nuts decides to try to score cheap political points by ham-handedly intervening in a personal tragedy with which the government ought to have no business interfering... must be Italy?

Perhaps Italian MPs have seen too many soccer matches, and think she's faking it in order to draw a penalty kick?

Yer Fake Persecution Watch

Get a load of this video put out by the right-wing nutcases at the misleadingly benignly-named American Family Association. I didn't have time to watch much past the first couple of minutes, but the summary presented at the intro basically says this: "because America doesn't hate gays anymore, they hate Christians." The first part of the show tells us that because kids are told not to bully gays in school, they're anti-Christian.

Anyway, if you have the time, fast-forward to about 10 minutes in - there's a ham-handed pull-on-your-heartstrings bit on children that made me laugh out loud. There's lots of unintentional comedy in there, actually.

Seriously, righties. Get a grip. defines persecution as "a program or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate a people because of their religion, race, or beliefs." Is this happening here to Christians? No. In fact, what you call "the homosexual agenda" is an attempt to get right-wingers to stop trying to "subjugate" people because of their sexuality.

It's also kind of amusing (and a bit disturbing) that they seem to be trying to turn "After the Ball," a book so important and influential that it doesn't have its own Wikipedia page, into the Protocols of the Elders of Gay.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Your WTF Moment of the Day

I'm not usually one to laugh at religious beliefs, but... really?

First off, I'm not sure I understand the problem Christians have with this. Mencken described puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might be happy." This falls into that category. Second, and more importantly, who the hell would wear that shirt in public? Third, taking up Balko's point, they'd probably have to take that shirt off and put an "ex-liar" shirt on right afterwards.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Blogging Malpractice

So it's been a long month, but even so, I'm not sure how this bit of awesomeness slipped through the cracks. I mean, we beat Pat Summitt and Tennessee for the first time since I was a junior there, and I somehow missed it? You may subject me to my e-beating now.

The Coolest Thing You'll Read All Week

First, my heart goes out to all of you who turned off the game last night after three quarters. Tough luck, there. Kinda like those of you who turned off the Boise State-Oklahoma game after OU's interception return (you know who you are).

Anyway, this Balko rant is incredibly full of win. Enjoy.