Archive for July, 2009

Gone fishin’

The blog will return Monday, Aug. 3. Until then …

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Here’s some long-distance travelin’ music for ya’ll

For time immemorial, mankind has found something cleansing and redemptive in rivers. Well, far be it from me to break that tradition.

This is my official checking-out-to-go-on-vacation music, folks. For the next week, I’ll be floating and white-water rafting through the high desert canyons of the Deschutes River in Oregon ….

deschutes

No Internet, no cell phones, no guides.  Just a group of good friends, some beautiful scenery, great fishing for very large and feisty native rainbow and, oh yes,  a cooler or two filled with cold beer. Somebody oughtta write a book about it.

Oh wait. Someone did.

Take me to the river.

Drop me in the water.

See ya’ll in August.

Continue reading Here’s some long-distance travelin’ music for ya’ll »

Graham protests GOP retreat into irrelevance, to little avail

After announcing his intention to vote in favor of the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court — the only Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee to take that step — Sen. Lindsey Graham took a lot of heat from conservatives angry that he had broken party ranks.

In an interview with Politico, Graham defended his decision and returned fire at his critics on the right:

“If we chase this attitude … that you have to say ‘no’ to every Democratic proposal, you can’t help the president ever, you can’t ever reach across the aisle, then I don’t want to be part of the movement because it’s a dead-end movement,” Graham said.

“I have no desire to be up here in an irrelevant status. I’m smart enough to know that this country doesn’t have a problem with conservatives. It has a problem with blind ideology. And those who are ideological-driven to a fault are never going to be able to take this party back into relevancy.”

That isn’t the view …

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Obama and the Henry Gates incident

We’ve got two separate questions at work in the Henry Louis Gates incident, which in this late-July news vacuum seems to getting more attention that it deserves.

Question One:

Gates has always struck me as a very intelligent, rational person. If I was “breaking into” my own home, and if I had ID to prove it was my own home, as Gates did, I could see getting a little upset if the responding cop treated me like a criminal. If I was a black man in that same situation in a neighborhood such as Cambridge, I could see that trigger getting a little shorter.

However, if I was the cop in that identical situation? I can’t promise I would have reacted differently either. Absent evidence of the interaction between the professor and the officer, we do not know and cannot know who was most at fault. Even if we had sound and videotape, I’m sure opinions would vary.

So who was right? Who knows.

Now, the second question: Should the president have ventured into the matter?

No. He should have …

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U.S. missiles may have gotten bin Laden’s son

Good news, if true, from The Washington Post:

The second-oldest son of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was apparently killed in a U.S. missile strike inside Pakistan this year, U.S. counterterrorism officials said Thursday.

Saad bin Laden, 27, an al-Qaeda member who has been linked to terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia, is believed to have been among the victims of a series of strikes by unmanned CIA Predator aircraft in the past few months, the officials said. If confirmed, he would be the closest relative to bin Laden killed by U.S. forces since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

“There are some indications that he may be dead, but it’s not 100 percent certain,” said a Washington-based counterterrorism official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitive nature of CIA operations along the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier. He declined to say precisely when and where the strike occurred.

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Those knee-slappers from North Korea are at it again

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have great teams of comedy writers. In fact, I never realized how many writers it takes to do those shows until I saw them all trot out on stage a while back at some awards ceremony. It looked like a fraternity reunion up there.

But really, they’re all a bunch of hacks compared to the comedy writers for North Korea.  Those guys have established a character for North Korea as a Stalinist, 1950s-era totalitarian state out of touch with the times and the world, and they have it DOWN.

This week, they’re taking on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, critiquing her for “vulgar remarks” that prove “she is by no means intelligent.”

“We cannot but regard Mrs. Clinton as a funny lady as she likes to utter such rhetoric, unaware of the elementary etiquette in the international community. Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping,” a Foreign Ministry official said, putting Samantha Bee and John Oliver to …

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A little bit of truth-telling from inside Washington

Conor Friedersdorf, a young conservative writer of considerable talent, posts from Washington on The Atlantic’s blog and commits the serious sin of candid truth-telling:

…. There is this idea among movement conservatives—especially the rank-and-file—that Washington DC journalism is populated by a lot of disingenuous, careerist sellouts. These elites write to enrich themselves, to inflate their sense of self-importance, and to garner social capital, invariably measured by invitations to the dread “Georgetown cocktail party.” Thus they are unconcerned with truth, intellectual honesty, or the actual interests of anyone outside the New York to DC corridor.

This narrative is largely true! Anyone who pays close attention to DC journalism can easily spot intellectually dishonest hacks writing stuff they don’t actually believe, whether to advance their careers or to further a political agenda by the most cynical means imaginable. A blogger could write five posts a day …

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Democrats’ ‘tribal loyalty’ to be tested on health care

Democrats as a rule aren’t very good at the political loyalty thing, certainly not as good as the Republicans are.

Often that’s a good thing. The refusal of George Bush to rein in the excesses of the Republican-controlled Congress, and the refusal of the Republican Congress to do the same with Bush, in the end did long-term damage to both the country and the party.

On the other hand, party discipline does help a lot when you’re trying to get things done. If the Republicans had 60 votes in the Senate and a healthy margin in the House, as the Democrats now do, you can bet they’d be pushing through their preferred programs with a lot more dispatch and efficiency than Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have managed so far.

For that reason, Republicans have been pretty foolish to talk openly of their desire to halt health-care reform as a way to “break” the Obama presidency and make it his Waterloo, as Sen. Jim Demint said the other day. GOP Chairman Michael Steele and Newt …

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A lot of people ought to facing prison for this

Wow.

Once again the “nobody saw this coming” meme gets exposed as, well, a fraud. This is from an investigative series by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. And pay attention to some of the numbers involved, to the scale of this thing, just in this one local area:

The Herald-Tribune investigation found that mortgage fraud ran rampant all over Florida. The newspaper looked for just one kind of fraud — illegal property flipping — and found $10 billion in suspicious deals this decade.

Lawmakers passed a law in 2007 making mortgage fraud a crime in Florida for the first time, and state officials created mortgage task forces and opened a hot line to gather complaints.

But even now, two years into a recession brought on by real estate speculation and fraud, state and local law enforcement is doing almost nothing to prosecute past fraud or prevent future fraud….

In November 2005, when the real estate market in Florida had just begun to slow, the state’s top law enforcement agency …

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Why a sudden shift in earned income to the already well-paid?

According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the percentage of total wages and salaries paid to top executives rose from roughly 28 percent of the national total in 2002 to 33 percent in 2007, just five years later. (The figure excludes non-salary compensation, such as incentive stock options, which would tilt the ground even further.)

Now, that’s a pretty remarkable shift of earning power over a very short time, and as the Journal points out, it has serious implications for Social Security. That wage shift toward the already well-paid puts more of the nation’s paycheck out of reach of the payroll tax, which isn’t collected on salary and wages above the legal ceiling, which this year is $106,800. (In effect, the payroll tax operates as a surtax on the income of the working and middle classes, with much of the income of upper earners exempt.)

Because of that shift toward high earners, an additional $1 trillion in annual salary is now out of reach of the payroll tax, meaning the …

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