Archive for January, 2011

Andrew Breitbart indulging in the Big Crazy

In addition to his original Big Hollywood site, conservative “watchdog” Andrew Breitbart is trying to cover the waterfront by launching Big Government, Big Journalism and now Big Peace, to cover foreign policy and national security issues. Currently at Big Peace, columnist Ben Barrack explains how the uprising in Egypt is actually part of a secret conspiracy among Barack Obama, the Muslim Brotherhood and Bill Ayers to bring about the restoration of the Turkish caliphate.

And you probably think I’m kidding.

(h/t Conors Friedersdorf at Daily Dish)

– Jay Bookman

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Acceptance of evolution a marker in political/cultural tribal disputes

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, a Republican congressman from Savannah, deserves credit for venturing into “unfriendly territory” on Bill Maher’s HBO show. In the show taped live Friday night, Kingston and the host got into a debate about evolution. Kingston denied the existence of evolution

“I don’t believe that a creature crawled out of the sea and became a human being one day,” Kingston says. Of course, nobody else does either — the process was a little more complicated than that. At one point, Kingston turns to fellow conservative Will Cain, of National Review, asking for a little support. Cain declines, explaining that he accepts evolution.

Last month, Gallup released its latest numbers on the debate, showing how little things have “evolved” on that front over the last three decades. There’s movement in the data, but not a lot of movement.


Gallup also breaks down the numbers by political affiliation, religious conviction and level. Personally, I was surprised to see that 22 …

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Mubarak’s ouster looks more and more likely; but what then?

As of this morning, I don’t think the Mubarak regime lasts out the week.

The protests continue, with major demonstrations apparently scheduled for Tuesday. The army does not seem inclined to act violently against its own people. The police and security apparatus, while still loyal to Mubarak, behaves as if it anticipates a change at the top and is not willing to stick its own neck out too far on his behalf. And perhaps most importantly, the spell that fear once cast over the Egyptian people has been broken.

All of that could be wrong, of course. It is possible, if not likely, that the whole uprising could be broken in a matter of hours by a brutal crackdown. But we’ve reached a point when such a reaction, if it was coming, would have come by now. It hasn’t, and you have to suspect the Egyptian people recognize that fact as well.

If you read between the lines, you see evidence that the Obama administration may have reached a similar conclusion. Secretary of State Hillary …

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The narcissism of the neo-cons, Egypt edition

“It seems that a democratic revolution is sweeping the Middle East — spurred, I am sure, by American and allied actions in Iraq. (Our chattering classes will never admit this.)
– Jay Nordlinger, National Review

At last count, at least 50 Egyptians have been killed, more than a thousand injured and probably thousands arrested and imprisoned under what must be extremely frightening conditions. They have made those sacrifices and taken those risks for reasons that are very much their own, reasons born out of decades, centuries, even millenia of cruel repression and corruption.

To claim that they are instead taking such risks because they were inspired by the U.S. invasion of Iraq nine years ago is to attempt to rob them of credit for their own bravery. It is an act of theft by people who sit thousands of miles away in perfect safety, trying to boost their own self-regard by wrapping themselves in the courage of others.

– Jay Bookman

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On a Friday eve, a tribute to ‘those come-what-may places’

Here’s a beautiful version of a hauntingly beautiful song to send us into the weekend. The wistful words and music were written by Billy Strayhorn, who manages an uncanny melding of lyrical and musical phrases. The fact that most of it was written when Strayhorn was just 16 is, well, crazy.

It is performed here by Johnny Hartman, with John Coltrane on saxophone and McCoy Tyner on piano, a combination of talent impossible to match. If I ever drew up a personal Top Ten list of favorite recordings*, this one would be on it. It comes off a 1963 album recorded by Hartman and Coltrane that some experts call the greatest album ever made. The fact that it was recorded in a single day, with most songs laid down in a single take, still astounds, particularly in an era when musicians are often treated as a producer’s plaything.

Sink into “Lush Life,” and let it sink into you.

* (I started thinking about it, and my personal nominations to round out the Top Five jazz cuts would be

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In Egypt, protesters take to the streets in numbers, forcing the issue

Tens of thousands of people have been marching through the streets of Cairo, defying the state security apparatus. AP reports that Mohamed ElBaradei, who returned home to take part in the protests, had been assaulted with a water cannon when he tried to march and has since been placed under house arrest. The protest has spread to other Egyptian cities as well.

I just heard a reporter on Al Jazeera English suggest that when the people of Egypt wake up tomorrow morning, they will wake up in an entirely different country. And here in Washington, Vice President Biden has been quoted as saying that Hosni Mubarak is not a dictator and should not step down, which helps no one.

Sometimes, it’s better just to shut your mouth and say nothing.

Here’s an eyewitness account from Alexandria, from the Guardian in London:

“After prayers, the protesters came out of a mosque and started shouting slogans. They were saying “peaceful, peaceful” and raising their hands. They were immediately …

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Mere presence of a gay group enough to make some conservatives flee

Conservative opposition to gay rights is certainly nothing new. In the minds of many on the right, a call for equal rights for gay Americans gets translated into an appeal for “special rights” that ought to be rejected, and it’s been that way since the days of Anita Bryant and before.

But I’m honestly dismayed and surprised to learn just how deep that antipathy still runs.

Earlier this year, organizers of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference agreed to open its doors to GOProud,  a group of gay Republicans billing itself as a conservative alternative to the Log Cabin Republicans. The CPAC event is a highlight of the conservative political year, with thousands of activists from around the country traveling to Washington to meet and network.

GOProud is not exactly loud and proud. The group’s home page contains not a word about gay rights. Click on “About GOProud,” and there’s still no mention of a single gay-rights issue. Instead, you read that “GOProud is …

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Adding schools to Atlanta mayoral duties a short-sighted solution

If you want something done, assign it to someone who’s already busy.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is certainly busy. When he’s not snowed under by the challenge of reforming a major city bureaucracy, he’s up in Washington trying to arrange federal funding for the Port of Savannah, or he’s over at the state Capitol lobbying legislators as the metro region’s top liaison with Georgia’s Republican leadership.

He’s become a human Swiss army knife — everyone has a job for him.

Most recently, of course, there’s talk of dumping the problems of the Atlanta public school system onto his plate as well, an idea that Reed himself appears to be contemplating.

I’m not at all sure that’s wise.

Yes, the Atlanta school board has become dysfunctional; yes, the district’s cheating scandal has given the entire city a black eye and called into question the integrity of district leadership. But are those problems due to some defect in the district’s governing structure that might be cured by …

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A $1.5 trillion deficit ought to be cause for compromise

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit for fiscal 2011 will hit $1.5 trillion, or almost 10 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. While the estimate is considerably higher than earlier CBO estimates, it’s also not a surprise. The estimates jumped after Congress and President Obama agreed late last year to extend the Bush tax cuts and continue paying extended unemployment benefits, in some cases for as long as 99 weeks.

Source: CBO/Jay Bookman

Source: CBO/Jay Bookman

By law, the CBO is also required to try to look 10 years into the future in order to give policymakers some guidance about the longer-term impact of their decisions. The chart to the right, for example, documents the CBO projection of what the deficit — as a share of gross domestic product — will do between now and 2020.

At first glance, it doesn’t look so bad. Note the sudden improvement in fiscal 2013 and 2014, with the deficit as a share of GDP dropping by more than two-thirds. However, that improvement …

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House GOP pushing to refocus illegal immigration enforcement

While deportations of illegal immigrants are at record highs, the Los Angeles Times reports that the Obama administration has moved away from high-profile workplace raids in favor of an approach that targets criminals among the illegal immigrant population as well as those doing the hiring:

Broad sweeps fill limited jail and court docket space the Obama administration wants to reserve for more hardened criminals, officials said. Each deportation costs the federal government about $12,500, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Kumar Kibble told lawmakers Wednesday.

Instead, targeting employers is part of an effort by the administration to thwart illegal immigration by reducing the demand for illegal jobs, which draws hundreds of thousands across the border each year to look for work.

“There is a laser-like focus on holding employers accountable. In the final analysis, they are the ones supplying the jobs. It is the greatest use of the resources,” Kibble …

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