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Thursday, February 26, 2009
Unprecedented: Government Does Something Profoundly Sensible!
In a budget announcement today, word has it that President Obama will ask Congress to raise taxes on the rich and cut Medicare costs – and thus profits to insurance and drug companies, among others – to help provide health care for the uninsured. Redistribute wealth and care for those in need? Amazing. More later.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Still Watching in Afghanistan
With the Obama administration evidently inclined, still and all, toward escalation in Afghanistan, we hope someone sends them a new study of public opinion in seven Muslim nations and the Palestinian territories showing a widespread backlash to U.S. efforts to fight terrorism with an expanded military presence. The report by the University of Maryland's Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) finds large majorities in Islamic countries rejecting terrorism but supporting key goals of Al Qaeda – most notably, expelling American forces out of those countries. Steven Kull, director of PIPA's WorldPublicOpinion.org., says the backlash represents "a conundrum" for American policy makers that needs to be addressed. Because polling took place before Obama's election, he adds, there is a possibility "things could change." For now, the Islamic world is "still watching." We are, too.
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The Unkindest Cut Among Quite A Few, All Admittedly Well-Deserved
The reviews have not been kind to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and his rebuttal of President Obama's speech. His cringe-worthy performance has been called sing-songy, amateurish, awkward, laughable, "a disaster...a form of nihilism" by the usually low-key David Brooks, and my personal favorite, "not exactly terrific" by Nina Easton, of Fox News yet. Still, comparisons to the stunningly weird Kenneth the page on NBC's "30" Rock seem extreme. Captain Kangaroo, perhaps, or Mister Rogers, or Pee Wee Herman, but Jindal was nowhere as entertaining as Kenneth. Jeez. Between Michael Steele and now this, we can't wait to see what the once-upon-a-time party of ideas comes up with next.
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Only The 14 Of You Out There Who Remain Ambivalent About The Incessant Place of Cell Phones In Our Lives Need Read This
A fine, witty poem today from NPR's "Writer's Almanac" with Garrison Keillor, who can be way too precious but also spot-on, about missing the days "when people who were talking to themselves/ might actually have been talking to God/ or an angel./ You respected people like that..."
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Taking Charge of Our Future, But Listening To Our Past
Obama's speech last night was, as we have gladly, improbably come to expect of our president, elegant, thoughtful, and pitch-perfect in its mix of toughness with optimism. Duly noting the economic crisis engulfing us, he said the "day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.” We cannot question Obama's speaking skills. But we can ask him to sharpen his much-praised listening skills when it comes to the brewing disaster that is Afghanistan. Despite mounting evidence that military might will not solve the problems there, Obama seems intent on escalation. As John Feffer asks in his CD piece here , "Why is the new Listener-in-Chief... so unable to hear the word "quagmire?"
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Yay Naomi!
The Canadian Globe & Mail is reporting : Naomi Klein has won the inaugural Warwick Prize for Writing. Klein won for her much-praised lefty tome The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Picador). Chair judge China Mieville called it "a brilliant, provocative, outstandingly written investigation into some of the great outrages of our time. It has started many debates, and will start many more..."
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No More Torture
In a necessary step toward rectifying the abuses of the past, two key senators plan to move ahead with a commission to investigate torture during the Bush administration. Sens. Pat Leahy of Vermont and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island of the Senate Judiciary Committee say they will soon begin examining as-yet-undisclosed evidence on past interrogations that, says Whitehouse, "is going to be big." "We have this American government, which has an architecture and a shape and a system that drives it and constrains it and that keeps it honest. And what happened is that the Bush administration figured out a lot of ways to tunnel through the walls and sneak over the fences. So now we need to go back and say, 'We have got to plant those walls deeper so you can not tunnel under them'...The ultimate goal in this is to protect and enhance American democracy."
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They Still Totally Rule, Even If – So What? – It's On Their Own Planet
In a cool act of synchronicity, both Hell-No-We-Won't-Go brothers, former Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota and sort-of Senator Roland Burris of Chicago, acted out today in the bizarre fashion we have come to expect from two guys who both seem a few beans short of a burrito. And they wonder why Americans don't take their politicians seriously anymore.
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On The Road to Recovery. Oh, Except For That Elephant-In-The-Room-Sized "Only If"
In a masterful turn at the ever-evolving art of spin, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Tuesday there is "a reasonable prospect" the recession will end this year and 2010 "will be a year of recovery" – if, that is, the Administration, Congress and Federal Reserve can get financial markets to do roughly what they're supposed to do, which to date, despite billions of bailout dollars, they've failed to do. Exhibiting a relative if still modest level of candor, Bernanke conceded that “downside risks probably outweigh those on the upside” and that the Fed's forecast is clouded by “considerable uncertainty.” Damn straight. And they wonder why so many of us remain skeptical about their honesty and competence. Given all that's come before, in the words of Rich Hughes of Portfolio Management Consultants in L.A., "We haven't seen...(what) you'd want to see before you'd get thoroughly enthused."
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Gramps Would See Idiots and Greed, Greed, Greed
We love the no-nonsense interview with the white-haired granddaughter of the guy who founded Bank of America – as Bank of Italy because existing banks wouldn't lend to immigrants – who asks the pertinent question of current goings-on, "What kind of idiots are running that bank?" Virginia Hammerness says her grandfather A.P. Giannini, who started the bank in San Francisco in 1904, would have been appalled at the B of A's recent purchase of a near-bankrupt, obscene-bonus-paying Merrill Lynch. He once turned down a $1.7 million bonus, saying the bank should help its customers instead, and after the 1906 earthquake gave out loans from a wooden plank set up on the street with a handshake as collateral. Every loan, he said, was repaid. Masters of greed, take note.
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