Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

I am very disappointed about a number of things: even though the Fox Tea Bagger movement is more popular than the Republicans, nobody has yet put a stake through the GOP's heart.

The Supreme Court appears poised to give corporations the same rights as people. You think things are bad now!

Health Reform is a mess, but apparently the best we can get.

Afghanistan. Oh, Afghanistan.

As usual, Gail Collins sums up the year pretty well.

Despite it all, I believe as strongly as ever that Obama is the right man for the job right now. Bullied Pulpit had a good post last week that explains why.

Happy New Year. Here's hoping 2010 is the start of a long run of outstanding years for you!

The Self-Regulating Food Industry

The GOP's 30-year campaign to "get government off our backs" – because as Saint Ronnie said: "the government IS the problem" – is really starting to pay off.

Let's see, we had the housing bubble, followed by the financial meltdown, followed by the worst recession since the Great Depression. A startling success.

Now we're starting to find out what a government that didn't believe in government let people put in our food. I dare you to read the first five paragraphs of this story, then go have a hamburger at McDonald's.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Worst of 2009

Time to start our list of The Worst of 2009. Pretty quickly I can come up with:

1) Anheuser-Busch, for it's adolescent Bud Lite advertisements, shown during football games, that ask "How can you tailgate without any tail?" and complain about "putting on a condiment". Ha-ha. Get it? Condom-ent. Ha-ha. How did things get so vulgar? Who are they really selling beer to?

2) The pharmaceutical industry, for Viagra/Cialis ads. Obama once said he'd like to be able to enjoy a football game with his daughters without having to explain to them what erectile dysfunction is. Indeed.

3) The banking industry, those "best and brightest" "masters of the universe" whose stupidity and larcenous behavior destroyed the economy. And who are at it again.

4) Fox News, for its fraudulent reporting, including fabricated news film. Goebbels would have been so proud.

5) The pharmaceutical industry, for campaigning against health insurance reform.

6) The Republican Party, for always appealing to worst instincts of the least informed in order to protect the most materially blessed, and for making sure America misses the boat on the emerging energy economy. We'll be buying our windmills from China.

7) The Chicago Bears.

8) Joseph Lieberman. What a tangled psyche.

9) Those television ads for lawyer referral companies, trolling for medical malpractice and personal injury cases, promising "We can get you money!" Talk about your ambulance chasers and bottom feeders! You can make a lot of money in this world if you have no shame.

I don't think Palin, McCain, or Cheney rate an honorable mention. They're just weird. Okay, Cheney is evil, but out of office he's mostly just entertainment. But we gotta have ten, because these lists always have ten.

Who have we missed?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Cheer – Not!

Tom Friedman bemoans America's inability to do anything important.

Maureen Dowd retaliates for being taken off McCain's Christmas card list. Not that what she says isn't true.

Looks like the prison at Guantánamo is going to be operating until at least 2011. Cowardice seems to be the main reason.

Speaking of Guantánamo, don't miss this story about a former prisoner there.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Gail Collins apologizes to John Kerry, and takes back an apology to Joe Lieberman. More about this later.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Usage and Use Are Not Interchangable

Thanks to Suellen for spotting this amusing little review of the reprint edition of Fowler's original A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, a book which holds an honored place in our house.

The writer is a little critical, so at the end of the essay covers his back in a clever way.

Friday, December 11, 2009

When We Were Crazy

I can't tell you how depressing it is to have memories that are half a century old, but here it is:

When he was in high school, my older brother, Ted, was something of a science geek. Between building models of missiles, I remember that he built a Geiger counter and performed an experiment that measured the amount of radioactivity that made its way to Bergenfield, New Jersey, when the Chinese began testing their nuclear bombs (which, as Tom Lehrer pointed out, we called "a nuclear device"). As I recall, and Ted correct me if I'm wrong, the increase in radioactivity was quite measurable.

Imagine that.

The madeleine that set off that memory was this little walk down history lane by Josh Marshall, who reminds me – if I ever knew – that in 1962 alone the U.S. conducted 105 nuclear tests (two every week). And we put some of them on the tips of missiles, one of which veered out of control!

I'll have to hold on to this factoid. Sometime when I get really discouraged about the rate of progress the world is making, when the Fox News morons and Ayn Rand cultists seem to be in the ascendancy, I'll pull that out and feel a little better.

Endnote: In fact-checking this post, I realize it must have been a Russian or American nuclear test Ted was monitoring, since the Chinese didn't start testing until 1964. But I left the story the way it was because 1) memory plays tricks on you, and 2) I like the Tom Lehrer quote so much I just had to leave it in.

And because I love you:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nobel Laureate

I watched Obama's Nobel speech on streaming video this morning. I'm glad I did. It will be criticized by some as "professorial," which it certainly was. You can read the text of it here. But this professor is Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military force in history.

What kept going through my mind was how grateful I am to have this guy representing this country on the world stage. What an improvement.

He was speaking, I think, more to the European audience than an American audience. He provided his rationale for being a Nobel Peace Price laureate at the same time he has ordered American troops into battle. He spoke to his audience as though they were intelligent people who might, after the Iraq War, have their doubts about whether American leadership would generate anything but an endless succession of wars.

I repeat: it treats his audience as intelligent people who can handle thinking about complex ideas.

Compare and contrast:

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Update: The NY Times editorial about the speech is worth a read.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Health Insurance Reform

Where have I been? Well, one morning a couple of weeks ago I was doing my customary morning reading when I noticed I was really, really angry about what I was reading. So I took my blood pressure, and saw a number I'd never seen before.

"This ain't good," thought I.

So I've been working on anger management, which in a world with Republicans in it is a real challenge.

Gail Collins manages to laugh at it all.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to family, friends, and readers!

For the past few days I've been cooking turkeys in preparation for the free Thanksgiving dinner we give at our church. Cooked six turkeys, de-boned seven, and cooked two breasts. It is not my definition of fun. There's not much to cooking a turkey, but that de-boning is a nasty business.

We ask people to call and make a reservation for the dinner, so we have an idea of how many to expect, but we've never turned anybody away for lack of a reservation. This year reservations are at an all-time high, and include at least two families with children. Sadly, the parishioner who made balloon animals for the kids passed away a couple of years ago, and we really have nothing to amuse them. If you want a sure-fire way to delight little kids, learn how to make balloon animals.

Reservations are so high that there's a chance we won't have the room or the food to accommodate them. Keep your fingers crossed.

I have a lot to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I Lied

THIS is my favorite video of all time:

Odds & Ends

The New York Times yesterday posted a good analysis of the debate on medical screening tests here.
This week, the science of medicine bumped up against the foundations of American medical consumerism: that more is better, that saving a life is worth any sacrifice, that health care is a birthright.

Two new recommendations, calling for delaying the start and reducing the frequency of screening for breast and cervical cancer, have been met with anger and confusion from some corners, not to mention a measure of political posturing.

The backers of science-driven medicine, with its dual focus on risks and benefits, have cheered the elevation of data in the setting of standards. But many patients — and organizations of doctors and disease specialists — find themselves unready to accept the counterintuitive notion that more testing can be bad for your health.
And speaking of science, the climate change unbelievers believe they have found evidence, in hacked email messages, of a scientific conspiracy. The story is here.

Frankly, there's nothing reprinted from those emails that leads to any conclusion other than scientists don't fully understand everything, which they're willing to concede. But there are apparently folks who believe they have found incontrovertible evidence that Roosevelt wanted the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor there is a vast international plot, involving nearly every scientist in the field, to scare us out of our Constitutional right to drive a Hummer.

Finally, Greg Marx at Columbia Journalism Review has an appropriate bit on the inside-the-beltway pundits' tendency to miss the point:
As media narratives go, this whole “Barack Obama is a popular individual and a gifted speaker with a compelling personal story, but doesn’t automatically get everything he wants!” thing is getting awfully old, awfully fast.

The theme popped up months ago, when the press began to notice that though America had elected a “change” president, the world was—surprise!—not changing overnight. It cropped up again around the time of the off-year elections, when the media noticed that Obama’s personal appeal is not a magical amulet that can be transferred to unpopular Democrats. And it has framed much of the coverage of Obama’s recently completed trip to Asia.
And Marx cites a Politico article, typical of the genre.
Marx observes,
[I]sn’t it a reporter’s job to explain how the world really works, not just to reinforce lazy notions? It would have been much more interesting—and honest—to frame the story like this: “No big news was made, but we shouldn’t have expected it. As for long-term ramifications, here’s Obama’s plan, and here’s his timeline. What will he have to do in order to accomplish his goals? What are the odds that he will accomplish them? How might this trip pay benefits—or create risks—down the road?”

It is no indictment of Barack Obama that his personal charms did not sway Chinese policy. It’s a minor indictment of the media that they feigned surprise at that outcome.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Anything for a Buck

Chicago Ted said I "don't have the guts" to share this Jon Stewart segment, and offered a dollar if I did.

I think what Ted was referring to is that the clip has some decidedly adult humor on it, and we have a classy joint here, and want to keep it that way.

What Ted failed to take into consideration is that I'm saving up to buy a new camera, and I'll take a buck anywhere I can get one, even if it means abandoning my unimpeachable values.

$1 down, $2,698.95 to go.

P.S. It's funny, but the ads are horrid.

The Breast Brouhaha

Let me say from the outset that I stole that title from Gail Collins' column in the New York Times today. Not that it's so good, I'm just not very inventive this morning. Make sure you read the column. The woman is wise, and makes a very good point about leeches.

I have been nothing short of flabbergasted that for the past three days the lead story on ABC's evening news program has been the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force report about the need – or lack thereof – for annual mammograms by some women. Last night they even had a doctor willing to say – on national television – that this was the beginning of rationed health care. (As though we don't already have rationed health care, and as though he had no economic interest in doing lots and lots of mammograms. Heck, if he can question the motives of the Task Force, we have a right to question his motives, too.)

And I guess that's all I'm going to say about that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different

Probably my favorite video of all time: David Attenborough introduces the lyre bird.


But maybe you'd already seen it. I'll bet you haven't seen this one, though:

For the record, the first video is absolutely legit. The second ... not so much.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bowing and Throwing Up

Today the Washington Times, a Moonie rag in its last days*, ran an op-ed by an "editor emeritus" named Wesley Pruden. Here's enough to give you a sense of the kind of person Wesley Pruden is:
Now we know why Mr. Obama stunned everyone with an earlier similar bow to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, only the bow to the Japanese emperor was far more flamboyant, a sign of a really deep sense of inferiority. He was only practicing his bow in Riyadh. Sometimes rituals are learned with difficulty. It took Bill Clinton months to learn how to return a military salute worthy of a commander in chief; like any draft dodger, he kept poking a thumb in his eye until he finally got it. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, seems right at home now giving a wow of a bow....

... Mr. Obama, unlike his predecessors, likely knows no better, and many of those around him, true children of the grungy '60s, are contemptuous of custom. Cutting America down to size is what attracts them to "hope" for "change." It's no fault of the president that he has no natural instinct or blood impulse for what the America of "the 57 states" is about. He was sired by a Kenyan father, born to a mother attracted to men of the Third World and reared by grandparents in Hawaii, a paradise far from the American mainstream.
And they printed that.

Life Magazine said, when the next picture was published, that Eisenhower was bowing to a little [Third World] Korean girl.

I think it was good of Ike. It's the custom there, and he was being polite.

For this one, though, I make no excuse.

Why is America in such bad shape? Because for the past 30 years it was run into the ground by people like Wesley Pruden, who really think this is important stuff.

* If you haven't been following the Washington Times soap opera over at Talking Points Memo, you've been missing a delicious story.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Comedy Central 2

More than one reader has said the only way they get a chance to watch Jon Stewart is if they find a video here, so below are two priceless pieces involving Fox Network's falsification of information in a story about Michele Bachmann's "Superbowl of Freedom," in an attempt to make it seem successful.

The Obama Administration has pointed out that Fox News is not news, it is a propaganda outlet. It was appalling how many mainstream news people saw this simple statement of fact as an attack on the real press. Don't they see themselves as any different?

They might be right. We have a right to ask these people why it took a comedy show to expose this story.

Sean Hannity Uses Glenn Beck's Protest Footage
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Make sure you stick around for the end of this one:

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Friday, November 06, 2009


From Crooks and Liars:
Michael Bloomberg spent a reported 105 million dollars on his re-election campaign, the same amount Norway donated in 2007 to The World Bank for a health care initiative for the poorest nations.
And from Kevin Drum:
Congress passed something today. Hooray!
Congress gave final approval Thursday for an additional $24 billion to help the jobless and support the housing market as climbing unemployment poses a growing liability for elected officials.

The bill, passed overwhelmingly by the House and headed to President Obama for his signature Friday, extends unemployment nsurance benefits that were due to expire and renews an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, while also expanding it to cover many other home purchases.
And Democrats only had to break three separate filibusters in the Senate to get this passed! The first filibuster was broken by a vote of 87-13, the second by a vote of 85-2, and the third by a vote of 97-1. The fourth and final vote, the one to actually pass the bill, was 98-0. Elapsed time: five weeks for a bill that everyone ended up voting for.

Why? Because even though Republicans were allowed to tack on a tax cut to the bill as the price of getting it passed, they decided to filibuster anyway unless they were also allowed to include an anti-ACORN amendment. Seriously. A bit of ACORN blustering to satisfy the Palin-Beck crowd is the reason they held up a bill designed to help people who are out of work in the deepest recession since World War II. ... That's called taking governing seriously, my friends.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Breath-holding Time

Looking for an image to illustrate this post on Michele Bachmann, I searched Google Images for "crazy". And sure enough, up popped an image of Michele Bachmann! (I am not kidding you! Try it yourself!) But the image included scatological terminology, and since we're a high-class blog we had to leave it alone. So here's a picture of crazy without the scatology:

Today Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, of the 6th Minnesota Congressional District (they must be so proud!), is planning an anti-health reform rally of Tea Baggers at the Capitol Building, after which she will lead them into the hallowed halls of Congress to confront Congressmen and Senators who might be intimidated into voting against health reform. Does this sound like a recipe for disaster? The woman is a loon.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Death of the GOP?

Former Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean says the election campaign in New York State's 23rd Congressional District (upstate) "Destroyed the Republican Party." Dean, who more than anyone deserves credit for the Democratic majorities in the Senate and House, knows something about politics.

The Republican Party in the 23rd District had selected a moderate, Dede Scozzafava, as their standard-bearer. (In the Northeast, there are still Republicans who resist the foaming-at-the-mouth nihilism which typifies their party in the rest of the country.)

But in New York State there's been – for decades – an active Conservative Party. When it first got started, in the 1960s, the Conservative Party was sort of an anti-Vatican II Catholic debating society. Humorous, but of no electoral consequence. (They elected William F. Buckley's brother, James, to the Senate in 1970, but six years later James was gone, and that's been about it.) The Conservative Party nominated a CPA who doesn't live in the district, Doug Hoffman, as their candidate. Predictably, Hoffman is a dingbat – the other day he called Glenn Beck his "mentor". He's New York's very own Michele Bachmann, who endorsed him, by the way. In fact, every wacko and wacko-wannabe in the Republican Party except Newt Gingrich endorsed Hoffman.

Finally, there is the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens. Owens doesn't need to do anything but avoid drooling and he'll be a more attractive candidate than Hoffman.

In the past few days Scozzafava withdrew from the race. Hoffman was pulling away too many votes for her victory scenario to be plausible, so she couldn't get money. For several days, she withheld an endorsement from Hoffman, but facts never make a difference to Fox News: for a day and a half they reported that she did endorse him!

Instead, Scozzafava endorsed the Democrat. Is it any wonder that when you see those polls of which people are most/least knowledgeable about what's happening in the world, Fox watchers always come in last?

So the situation now is that the foamers have got all their eggs in the New York 23rd Congressional Basket, and the election is today.

If Hoffman loses, the moderates will say "Told you so!", but the foamers will blame traitors in their ranks (they call them RINO's). It'll be ugly.

If Hoffman wins, the national Republican Party will take a big lurch to the right, and the foamers will attack the traitors in their ranks. It'll be ugly.

Either way it'll be fun to watch.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Two Must-Sees

You never know what's going on unless you watch Jon Stewart.

After giving The New Yorker a free plug here the other day, I open the latest issue and what do I see as the first article in Talk of the Town, but an exasperatingly stupid essay on why the Obama Administration is wrong to point out that Fox News is not a real news organization. Talk about clueless!

Stewart gets it:

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There's always been a group of people in the Anglican/Episcopal Church who wished they were really Roman Catholics.

(Don't look at me like that. I can't fathom why, either.)

Anyway, the Pope decided to play on their misogyny and homophobia and lure them away.

To which I say, "They are seeking a new church home, and God bless them as they seek that place for their journey."

Stewart has more:

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Friday, October 30, 2009

A Dignified Transfer

It was impossible not to be moved by the Dignified Transfer ceremony Obama attended at Dover Air Force Base a couple of days ago. More pictures are here.

It's hard to say anything about it without sounding trite or partisan. It is interesting that Obama chose to do this at this time, when he is about to announce (according to news reports) that we're going to tough it out in Afghanistan, and can expect more Dignified Transfer ceremonies in the future.

This had to be a sobering experience.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Formula for Success?

The Writer's Almanac did a little profile of the editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, today, that was enlightening:
When Remnick took over in 1998, the magazine was in financial straits. But it's remarkably profitable now, with greater advertising revenue and the highest renewal rate of any subscription magazine in the country. But Remnick said, 'My principle in the magazine -- and I am not being arrogant -- is that I don't lose sleep trying to figure what the reader wants. I don't do surveys. I don't check the mood of the consumers. I do what I want, what interests me and a small group of editors that influences the way of the magazine.'
The principle is, I think, that if the editors find it interesting, the readers will, too.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Thanks to Cappy, a commenter over at Think Progress for his hours of research on this:

F = the 6th letter of the alphabet.

O = the 15th letter of the alphabet. 1 + 5 = 6

X = the 24th letter of the alphabet. 2 + 4 = 6

FOX = the mark of the antichrist!

Suellen and I are in Minneapolis this week visiting family. Sorry for the slow posting.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What Can We Do About Goldman?

Goldman Sachs, one of the companies America went into deep hock to rescue in the last year, has announced it will pay $23 billion in bonuses to its managers. Think about that. We're left holding the sack of stuff they created, good people are out of work all across the country, and these guys are wondering if their Palm Beach house is big enough.

Frank Rich isn't happy about that, quoting Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, who famously calls Goldman Sachs a "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." Rich thinks the reason Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner can't deal with them is because he "marinates in the culture." Rich might be right.

But British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is angry about it:
Ministers are drawing up plans for a tax raid on Britain’s banks worth hundreds of millions of pounds, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

The radical move, being considered as a way of forcing banks to pay a price for the taxpayer-funded bail-out of the financial system, could include a one-off “windfall” tax on profits.
Kevin Drum's approach seems imminently reasonable:
I don't know if a one-off windfall profits tax is the right approach to this, and I don't think it should be motivated by anger in any case. The rescue plan put in place last year was bound to make the banking sector pretty profitable in the short run, so it's hardly a surprise that that's what happened. Nonetheless, there's no reason the industry as a whole shouldn't be expected to help pay for its own rescue one way or another. There's certainly no reason the taxpayers should do it all.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Some people are really, really talented. And every once in a while we get a genius.

Gustavo Dudamel is in the latter category. Dudamel, who is only 28 years old, last week began his tenure as Conductor and Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Lucky Los Angeles.

Here he is conducting the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of his native Venezuela in a performance of Mexican composer Arturo Márquez's Danzón No. 2. I first heard this piece just a few weeks ago, and it is one of the happiest compositions I've heard in years.

If it doesn't grab you by the two-and-a-half-minute mark, you're hopeless. And wow, what a finish.


Impressed? You ain't seen nothin' yet. Check out the same orchestra's handling of Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.

And if that's still not enough, check out their encores.

You're welcome.

Addendum: Here's a good illustration of the difference the conductor can make in a piece. Just listen for a minute or so to this. The players are professional, they're playing all the right notes, and they're playing them at the right time. But something's different (and it isn't just the production values of the video, though that doesn't help). For this conductor, the piece is a chore. For Dudamel, it's a joy.

Netanyahu: Israel's Very Own George W. Bush

There is a condition common to many unsuccessful leaders. This condition makes the person unable to discern the difference between someone who agrees on goals but disagrees on tactics, and someone who disagrees on goals. George W. Bush summed up this attitude perfectly with his challenge to the world: "You're either with us, or you're against us."

In foreign relations, this condition always decreases the chances for success.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has got the condition. Thus, he appoints an Ambassador to the United States who allows his spokesman to announce that American Jews who are not charmed by his ham-fisted, right-wing government are "anti-Israel".

More here.

Still Thinking About Afghanistan

Thanks to Andrew Tobias for pointing to two interesting, unrelated items.

In An Open Letter to President Obama, Middle East specialist William R. Polk gives a five minute course in Afghan history and demographics, and a warning about seeking a military solution. It is well worth the read, even if your inclination is in the other direction.

The second item from Tobias is so off-the-wall it might actually work.

This is a Bo-Go Light. It is a solar-powered flashlight that will give several hours of light with each charge. In parts of the world where there is no electricity, the day ends when the sun goes down. A man named Mark Bent, who founded the company that makes them, established a project called Light Haiti, which aims to provide these flashlights to families in that country, where 85% of the population does not have electricity.

Tobias says Bent sees a possibility in Afghanistan, too:
Ninety percent of Afghans have no electricity and the Number One thing they want, he says, is light at night. What if our troops could clip half a dozen of Bogo Lights to their belts each morning and hand them, personally, to families that need them.

On one side is the solar panel. On the other, in Afghan, could be a message: “Please help us leave your country and get home to our families. We miss them terribly. But we can’t leave until you are more safe. In the meantime, and long after were [sic] gone, we hope this gift from the American people helps light up your life.”

With 50,000 troops handing out half a dozen lights each day it would take just weeks to touch the hearts and minds of millions. And maybe even demonstrate the potential of modern technology, versus the appeal of Seventh Century fundamentalism.

At less than $10 in such quantity, we could cover the whole country for $50 million. Nothing, in the scheme of things.
We are spending $65 billion a year (!) in Afghanistan, and things are moving backward. There's probably some way this could blow up in our face, but couldn't we spend a million on these things and see if it really does make an appreciable difference in people's lives, and whether that makes them better disposed to these foreign troops? It sure beats chewing gum and chocolate. What have we got to lose?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Madness! Madness!*

The Wall Street Journal reported today that:
Major U.S. banks and securities firms are on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year — a record high that shows compensation is rebounding despite regulatory scrutiny of Wall Street's pay culture.
In a post named "Burn It Down and Salt the Earth," Kevin Drum's response was a bull's eye:
I sort of feel like I've run out of things to say about this. There's an insanity here that's almost beyond analysis. Wall Street can spark an economic slowdown that misses destroying the planet and causing a second Great Depression only by a hair's breadth — said hair being an 11th hour emergency infusion of trillions of taxpayer dollars — and then turn around and use those trillions to return to bubble levels of profitability within a year. And they can do it even though the rest of the economy is still suffering through the worst recession since World War II. It's mind boggling.
Amen. Read the whole thing here.

* This is a reference to a line in The Bridge on the River Kwai. Okay, maybe a little obscure.

What a Real VP Looks Like

Newsweek starts off its cover story on Joe Biden with this story about the VP:
Joe Biden had a question. During a long Sunday meeting with President Obama and top national-security advisers on Sept. 13, the VP interjected, "Can I just clarify a factual point? How much will we spend this year on Afghanistan?" Someone provided the figure: $65 billion. "And how much will we spend on Pakistan?" Another figure was supplied: $2.25 billion. "Well, by my calculations that's a 30-to-1 ratio in favor of Afghanistan. So I have a question. Al Qaeda is almost all in Pakistan, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And yet for every dollar we're spending in Pakistan, we're spending $30 in Afghanistan. Does that make strategic sense?" The White House Situation Room fell silent. But the questions had their desired effect: those gathered began putting more thought into Pakistan as the key theater in the region.

Obama is facing a lot of pressure to find some way to bring the Afghanistan war to a successful conclusion. McCain, the proverbial man with a hammer (every problem is a nail), cannot fathom a situation in which the best course of action is anything less than full throttle military action.

Thank goodness we have Obama and Biden thinking about this, instead of McCain and Palin.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bad News from Russia

Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov says Russia will not cooperate with Obama's effort to increase pressure on Iran concerning its nuclear program. This after Obama had canceled an antimissile defense system, which Russia had strongly objected to.

This is clearly a slap in Obama's face, and will be seized upon by the anti-Russians in the American foreign policy establishment as proof that Russia is still an unreliable, dangerous foe, not a potential ally. What's worse, the Russians had to know that would be the result.

The inescapable conclusion is that Russia is more interested in currying a relationship with Iran than with the United States and Western Europe. Well, nobody can say Obama didn't try.

Addendum: The antimissile defense system should have been canceled anyway, so nothing ventured, nothing gained. And at least now we know the Russians are still the Russians.

A Morning Eye-Opener

Looking for something different? Try "The Collider, the Particle (sic) and a Theory About Fate".

Favorite quote: “We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Part of the Problem

Kevin Drum printed a little map yesterday that sheds some light on the problem in Afghanistan.

From Wikipedia: "The Taliban (Pashto: طالبان ṭālibān, meaning 'students'), also Taleban, is a Sunni Islamist, predominantly Pashtun radical religious and political movement...." [My emphasis.]

Here's the map:

The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is called the "Durand Line," and was established by the British in 1893. What were they thinking?

I Wish I'd Said That

Gail Collins on Obama's Nobel Prize:
It was sort of like one of those greeting cards that say: “Thank you for being you.”

Friday, October 09, 2009

Why Do Republicans Hate America?

Here's a statement from the Taliban concerning the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama:

KABUL - The Taliban Friday condemned the decision to award this year's Nobel Peace Prize to U.S. President Barack Obama, saying he had "not taken a single step towards peace in Afghanistan".

"We have seen no change in his strategy for peace. He has done nothing for peace in Afghanistan. He has not taken a single step for peace in Afghanistan or to make this country stable," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.

"We condemn the award of the Noble Peace Prize for Obama," he said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"We condemn the institute's awarding him the peace prize. We condemn this year's peace prize as unjust."
And here's a statement from Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee:

“The real question Americans are asking is, ‘What has President Obama actually accomplished?' It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain – President Obama won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action.”
And here's the response of the Democratic National Committee to both:
"The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists -- the Taliban and Hamas this morning -- in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize," DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse told POLITICO. "Republicans cheered when America failed to land the Olympics and now they are criticizing the President of the United States for receiving the Nobel Peace prize -- an award he did not seek but that is nonetheless an honor in which every American can take great pride -- unless of course you are the Republican Party.

"The 2009 version of the Republican Party has no boundaries, has no shame and has proved that they will put politics above patriotism at every turn. It's no wonder only 20 percent of Americans admit to being Republicans anymore -- it's an embarrassing label to claim," Woodhouse said.
The Republicans sure do make it easy.

Why did Obama get the Nobel Peace Prize?

Diplomacy died under George W. Bush. Obama single-handedly brought it back from the dead. The world appreciates that, even if the Republicans do not.

Addendum: John McCain, who undoubtedly has thrown a temper tantrum about this, "gets it," nevertheless.

Friday, October 02, 2009

A Stupid Self-Indulgence

If you're interested in the kind of photography that I am (portrait photography), and there's no reason you should be, you'd be aware that there is an international community of people who are kind of nuts about off-camera flash. The idea is that if you use a flash other than that little thing that's built into your camera, and can make it work without being attached to your camera, you'll get much better pictures. No red-eye, to start with. More interesting light, for another.

If you're already nodding off, move on to something else. This doesn't get any better.

Another thing you can do with this off-camera flash is modify it in some way. In this silly little video (shot with a Canon 5D Mark II (sigh)], the videographer is illustrating the kind of light you can get by bouncing the flash off something silver, then something white – in this case, off Bounceman's cape, then off Bounceman's shirt.

What he's saying in the third episode is "What you need [is] a little hairlight" (the guys who made this are Belgian). And the principle works when you're photographing people who aren't beautiful models, too, but who'd watch a video like that?

Hey, I warned you go move on to something else. You've got nobody to blame but yourself.

A Diamond Roughed Up

It was surprising to read yesterday that General Stanley McChrystal, Obama's choice for commander of forces in Afghanistan, was arguing publicly with Vice President Biden's suggestion that we scale back those forces and concentrate on eliminating Al Qaeda.

Biden's position on this issue may not be correct, but that's beside the point. If you want to retain the confidence of the President, you give as strong an argument to the Vice President's analysis as you want to in private, but in public you shut up.

Gen. McChrystal should know that.

Today we learn that Obama summoned Gen. McChrystal from London to Copenhagen for a 20-minute consultation aboard Air Force One.

Which do you think you can do in 20 minutes?
  • Review the pluses and minuses of the different strategies being considered in Afghanistan.
  • Tell somebody to shut up.
Just a guess.

Conservative Shock Jocks

David Brooks has been described as the liberals' favorite conservative, and that's true here. Today's column, The Wizard of Beck, is illustrative of why. Brooks today takes on the voice of the Republican Party: the wackos on Faux, though he never mentions Faux by name. He's courageous, but not that courageous.

Of course, if you're a Republican trying to make the case that the GOP is not as wacko as Hannity, Rushbaugh, O'Reilly, and Beck (and there are many more), the first thing you have to do is blame the Democrats for the perception that it is. Thus:
[The shock jocks] still ride the airwaves claiming to speak for millions. They still confuse listeners with voters. And they are aided in this endeavor by their enablers. They are enabled by cynical Democrats, who love to claim that Rush Limbaugh controls the G.O.P.
It's the Democrats' fault.

But then he goes on to say:
The Republican Party is unpopular because it’s more interested in pleasing Rush’s ghosts than actual people. The party is leaderless right now because nobody has the guts to step outside the rigid parameters enforced by the radio jocks and create a new party identity. The party is losing because it has adopted a radio entertainer’s niche-building strategy, while abandoning the politician’s coalition-building strategy.
Gee, I'd say that sounds like Rush Limbaugh controls the GOP.

I'd say that, but I wouldn't want to be an enabler.

Addendum: Was Brooks's column part of a wider conspiracy of non-Faux Republicans to try to take the party back? Within the past few days Sen. Lindsay Graham was taking the same tack.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


You knew it was going to happen eventually. With the Governor of Texas suggesting secession is a reasonable option for his state, it was only a matter of time.

Yesterday a "news" web site very popular with right-wing wacko "Christians", called Newsmax, ran a piece that nearly begged for a military coup:
Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a "family intervention," with some form of limited, shared responsibility?

Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.
When the article began to get some uncomfortable attention, it was removed from the site. But Talking Points Memo has the full text here.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I'm going to try hard to write this post without saying anything snarky about any individual or any publication. It will be a struggle, and I'm not sure I can do it, but here goes:

The New Republic [argh! (struggle) argh!] has a fascinating essay by Richard Posner [argh! (struggle) argh!], whose name will be familiar to some readers, about John Maynard Keynes. Posner [argh! (struggle) argh!] is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals (7th Circuit). Perhaps you will be as surprised as I am by it. The essay is longish, but will reward you with deeper understanding.

A sample:

Until last September, when the banking industry came crashing down and depression loomed for the first time in my lifetime, I had never thought to read The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, despite my interest in economics. I knew that John Maynard Keynes was widely considered the greatest economist of the twentieth century, and I knew of his book's extraordinary reputation. But it was a work of macroeconomics--the study of economy-wide phenomena such as inflation, the business cycle, and economic growth. Law, and hence the economics of law--my academic field--did not figure largely in the regulation of those phenomena. And I had heard that it was a very difficult book, which I assumed meant it was heavily mathematical; and that Keynes was an old-fashioned liberal, who believed in controlling business ups and downs through heavy-handed fiscal policy (taxing, borrowing, spending); and that the book had been refuted by Milton Friedman [HA! Oops, sorry], though he admired Keynes's earlier work on monetarism. I would not have been surprised by, or inclined to challenge, the claim made in 1992 by Gregory Mankiw, a prominent macroeconomist at Harvard, that "after fifty years of additional progress in economic science, The General Theory is an outdated book. . . . We are in a much better position than Keynes was to figure out how the economy works."

We have learned since September that the present generation of economists has not figured out how the economy works. The vast majority of them were blindsided by the housing bubble and the ensuing banking crisis; and misjudged the gravity of the economic downturn that resulted; and were perplexed by the inability of orthodox monetary policy administered by the Federal Reserve to prevent such a steep downturn; and could not agree on what, if anything, the government should do to halt it and put the economy on the road to recovery. By now a majority of economists are in general agreement with the Obama administration's exceedingly Keynesian strategy for digging the economy out of its deep hole. Some say the government is not doing enough and is too cozy with the bankers, and others say that it is doing too much, heedless of long-term consequences. There is no professional consensus on the details of what should be done to arrest the downturn, speed recovery, and prevent (so far as possible) a recurrence. Not having believed that what has happened could happen, the profession had not thought carefully about what should be done if it did happen.

Baffled by the profession's disarray, I decided I had better read The General Theory. Having done so, I have concluded that, despite its antiquity, it is the best guide we have to the crisis.

More War

This isn't fun, thinking about whether we should get more involved in Afghanistan.

The stakes seem pretty high. The Taliban are not nice people. In addition to treating "their own" people badly, they were, after all, the folks who gave Al Qaeda sanctuary before and after the 2001 attacks. If they return to power, we can expect more of the same. As John Kerry said in 2004, Bush took his eye "off the ball" with his Iraq invasion. We didn't finish our business with the Taliban, and now we're paying the price.

And right next door is Pakistan, a country with 50 nuclear weapons, teetering on the edge of anarachy. Right now the Taliban and Al Qaeda use Pakistan as a base to attack Afghanistan. A Taliban-ruled Afghanistan would be a base to attack Pakistan.

Meanwhile, our NATO allies are getting pretty tired of this. Trust in American leadership has been so diminished that the fact the Americans are involved is now good enough reason for some Europeans not to be involved.

What are the consequences of failure? Pretty ugly.

What are the chances of failure? Informed people, even those who support sending additional troops, admit the chance of failure is significant.

Polls are showing that Americans, by and large, want Afghanistan to "go away". They don't want to send more troops, they want American troops home. That's a very understandable position. What does that say about our chances of a sustained operation? And how much of a factor should that be in Obama's decision-making?

What are the alternatives? Pretty ugly. We could pull out entirely. We could maintain a military presence that goes after Al Qaeda and leaves the Taliban alone. Got any other ideas?

In a column that overstates the case, David Brooks wants to go for it. He points to an excellent discussion of the issues in a Stephen Biddle piece in The American Interest magazine. It's reasonably short. Go read it.

Biddle says encouraging things, like "failure is not inevitable." Oh, boy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Health Care Again

Charles Peters at The Washington Monthly identifies four ways health care reform can lead to less expensive, but better, health care:
• Give the government the power to negotiate prices with the drug companies. This could save Medicare a ton of money—the Veterans Administration cut its drug bill in half when given the right to negotiate. The House bill makes this reform, but the Los Angeles Times reported that the White House has made a deal with the drug companies’ chief lobbyist, Billy Tauzin, not to support the reform. According to the New York Times, the White House at first confirmed the deal, but then denied it—sort of. The potential savings of having the government bargain for drug prices are so great that Obama should leave no doubt. He should repudiate the deal. Better to betray Billy Tauzin than to betray the American people.

• Abolish or radically reduce drug advertising. Remember, it was outlawed until relatively recently—and for good reason. Not only does it often obscure dangerous side effects, it encourages people to bug doctors to prescribe drugs either that they don’t need or that are the most expensive of the possible therapies. Representative Jerrold Nadler has offered a bill to take away the tax exemption that is now given to drug advertising. And the FDA is proposing regulations that would require drug ads to disclose side effects in an obvious way instead of rapidly reciting them sotto voce over sunny pictures of people happily enjoying the benefits of the drug.

• Encourage doctors to work in Mayo- and Cleveland-type clinics that have doctors working together, and that pay salaries instead of fees for service. Massachusetts, the only state with experience offering near-universal health care, is now being urged by a high-level commission to abolish fee for service, which encourages physicians to recommend services that pay the highest fee, rather than those that are the most needed by the patient.

• Don’t allow physicians to administer expensive tests in their own offices when that encourages them to order more tests than they ordinarily would. To understand why, consider this anecdote reported by the Washington Post’s Shankar Vedantam: "In August 2005, doctors at Urological Associates, a medical practice on the Iowa-Illinois border, ordered nine CT scans for patients covered by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance. In September that year, they ordered eight. But then the numbers rose steeply. The urologists ordered 35 scans in October, 41 in November and 55 in December. Within seven months they were ordering scans at a rate that had climbed more than 700 percent. The increase came in the months after the urologists bought their own CT scanner."
The practice of medicine is a different animal than it was in the old days.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Scourge of Libertarianism

Want to read a great essay on prolonged adolescence libertarianism? Meet Rinth de Shadley, who is, I believe, a college student.

Let's Not Blame Fox Yet

Here's one to keep our eyes on:
The FBI is investigating the hanging death of a U.S. Census worker near a Kentucky cemetery, and a law enforcement official told The Associated Press the word 'fed" was scrawled on the dead man's chest.

The body of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and occasional teacher, was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky. The Census has suspended door-to-door interviews in rural Clay County, where the body was found, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Investigators are still trying to determine whether the death was a killing or a suicide, and if a killing, whether the motive was related to his government job or to anti-government sentiment.
Doesn't sound good.


Obama has a big decision to make about Afghanistan: throw more troops in and hope the Afghan government cleans up its act enough to turn things around; or ... what?

Kevin Drum has a good synopsis of where things stand right now.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Quoting the Bible

Couldn't resist sharing this:

The sign is not a quote, actually, but a summary of the verses. The full quote is even worse. It's something every card-carrying Taliban could agree with.


This is one of a series of pictures of "The Funniest Protest Signs of 2009" at the Huffington Post.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sailors Take Warning

As I stumbled past the living room door early Saturday morning, I noticed a deep red colored light coming under the blinds. I grabbed my camera and went out the door.

I probably should have put on some trousers, but hey, who besides a dairy farmer is up at that time of day on a Saturday?

Anyway, here's the scene.

The little tower thing on the lower right is a tornado/air raid/terrorist siren. When the world comes to an end, we'll know it before you do.

I applied a little sharpening to the picture, but that's all. And yes, it rained later that day.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is It Racism?

We had a wonderful dinner last night with wonderful friends (Happy Rosh Hashanah, everyone!). As our conversations usually do, we got around to talking about current events, and sharing our own perspectives on what has transpired.

And that gave me the impetus for this post, which I've been thinking about doing for several days, about the animus behind the wild-eyed frothing that is the conservative movement today: the Glenn Becks, the Rush Limbaughs, the pictures of Obama as an African witch doctor. I've found several articles I can recommend that offer different perspectives on the issue. They're all from the NY Times, and that's no accident. Despite the shortcomings of some of its political reporters, the Times is still the best place to look for informed commentary.

A week ago Maureen Dowd kicked off the discussion in the mainstream press with her September 12 NY Times column, the punch lines of which were:
I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race.

I tended to agree with some Obama advisers that Democratic presidents typically have provoked a frothing response from paranoids — from Father Coughlin against F.D.R. to Joe McCarthy against Truman to the John Birchers against J.F.K. and the vast right-wing conspiracy against Bill Clinton.

But [Rep. Joe] Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.
Five days later, David Brooks offered an answering column, No, It's Not About Race. Brooks does not deny that racism is a part of how the foamers express themselves, but sees other historical movements as the motivation.
...I don’t have a machine for peering into the souls of Obama’s critics, so I can’t measure how much racism is in there. But my impression is that race is largely beside the point. There are other, equally important strains in American history that are far more germane to the current conflicts.

For example, for generations schoolchildren studied the long debate between Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians. Hamiltonians stood for urbanism, industrialism and federal power. Jeffersonians were suspicious of urban elites and financial concentration and believed in small-town virtues and limited government. Jefferson advocated “a wise and frugal government” that will keep people from hurting each other, but will otherwise leave them free and “shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”

Jefferson’s philosophy inspired Andrew Jackson, who led a movement of plain people against the cosmopolitan elites. Jackson dismantled the Second Bank of the United States because he feared the fusion of federal and financial power.

This populist tendency continued through the centuries. Sometimes it took right-wing forms, sometimes left-wing ones. Sometimes it was agrarian. Sometimes it was more union-oriented. Often it was extreme, conspiratorial and rude
So two white NY Times columnists disagree. What about the Times' black columnists?

Bob Herbert weighed in yesterday:
Republicans have been openly feeding off of race hatred since the days of Dick Nixon. Today’s conservative activists are carrying that banner proudly. What does anybody think is going on when, as Anderson Cooper pointed out on CNN, one of the leaders of the so-called tea party movement, Mark Williams, refers to the president of the United States as an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug, and a racist in chief.

After all these years of race-baiting and stirring the pot of hatred for political gain, it’s too much to ask the leaders of the Republican Party to step forward and denounce this spreading stain of reprehensible conduct. Republicans are trying to ride that dependable steed of bigotry back to power.
Charles M. Blow is one of the least visible of the regular NY Times columnists, but he always offers a unique perspective. That's probably because his beat is "By the Numbers," examining data from polls, censuses, and elsewhere to see what they say about us. His column goes into detail, but his conclusion is this:
Racism is real. It is very likely an element of some people’s opposition to President Obama, but everyone who wants smaller government is not a racist.

Let’s stop talking about racism as if it’s black or white. There are many shades of gray.
My own thoughts about the issue are not as coherent as any of these folk's.

On the one hand, I take as established historical fact that the modern Republican Party was built on racism. When the Democrats passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Republicans gave the defeated segregationists intellectual cover for their racism (it wasn't racism, you see, it was Brooks' Jacksonian opposition to the big, bad, federal government).

On the other hand, as insufficient as it is for life in the 21st century, the Jeffersonian view of the political world as a conflict between small-town virtues and urban decadence is still a strong descriptor, with adherents who are not just using it as cover for ugly souls. The problem with Brooks' perspective is that the Republicans so mixed the two that you can't neatly pull them apart now. You reap what you sow.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mary Travers

Word has come in the last hour that Mary Travers died of cancer tonight in Connecticut. I've looked for a video that captured the babe-osity that was Mary Travers in the 1960s. This is the closest I could get, even though she's not in it so much.

Peter, Paul, & Mary was a group that held up over the years. I wish they could have stayed together for another couple of decades (i.e., until about 2029).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Stupid Leads, 1-0

Please watch this trailer for a new movie, Creation.
The London Telegraph says:
Creation was developed by BBC Films and the UK Film Council, and stars [Paul] Bettany [as Charles Darwin and his] real-life wife Jennifer Connelly as Darwin's deeply religious wife, Emma. It is based on the book, Annie's Box, by Darwin's great-great-grandson, Randal Keynes, and portrays the naturalist as a family man tormented by the death in 1851 of Annie, his favourite child.
Watch the trailer, because you may never get a chance to see the movie itself.

Distribution rights to the movie have been sold all over the world.

Except in the United States.

In the country that gave you Pulp Fiction, and endless Holloween slasher movies, a movie about Charles Darwin is too controversial. The "Christian" Right hates it, doesn't want you to see it, so nobody wants to touch it.

The campaign to make us stupid has won a great victory.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Public Option

Everybody who reads this knows who Robert Reich is. Here he describes, in less than 3 minutes, what the Public Option is.

Was that so hard? Why has it taken so long?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Olive Branch to My Opponents

It's time to stop the caricatures, and take a fair look at both sides of the health insurance reform issue:

Good News for the Legal Profession

The Ave Maria School of Law, bankrolled by the founder of Domino's Pizza and intended to create little clones of Antonin Scalia, is not doing so well. The Washington Monthly has the story. So far, the comment section is as entertaining as the article.

The GOP At Its Best (Unfortunately)

In case you missed it, the Republicans were disgusting at last night's speech, but Republicans being disgusting is not news. What's news is they're even disgusting the Washington Village people.

All in all, it looks like a debacle for the GOP. John McCain was on Larry King later in the evening, calling on Congressman Wilson to apologize.

It will be interesting to see how the evening plays out over the next few days. It didn't take very long for the Repulsives to come up with their first attempt at deflecting criticism. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham:

I was incredibly disappointed in the tone of [Obama's] speech. At times, I found his tone to be overly combative and believe he behaved in a manner beneath the dignity of the office.
They'll try that for a few days and see if it works.

Update: It doesn't look like it's going to work. Steve Benen has a good wrap-up here. Some outtakes:
When Wilson accused the president of lying, Wilson was, in fact, lying. Even in Congress, facts should matter, and the right-wing Republican wasn't just obnoxious with his idiotic interruption, he was also wrong.

...Joe Scarborough, a former Republican member of Congress, said, "Whoever shouted out that the president was lying is a dumbass." John McCain denounced Wilson's outburst as "totally disrespectful." While right-wing blogs were thrilled, Republican lawmakers have been entirely unwilling to defend Wilson's behavior.

...President Obama couldn't have been more magnanimous last night, highlighting a plan that "incorporates ideas from many people in this room tonight, Democrats and Republicans." He made frequent references to Republican lawmakers and even George W. Bush. Obama even talked up medical malpractice reform. It was in this context that Wilson decided to lash out? As Gail Collins noted this morning, "Let me go out on a limb and say that it is not a good plan to heckle the president of the United States when he's making a speech about replacing acrimony with civility."

...It's striking that Wilson, unable to find any support from his allies, quickly apologized....

But the damage has been done. Indeed, Wilson's outburst is an almost perfect summation of 2009 -- President Obama appears big, Republicans appear small. Democrat show class, Republicans act like children. One side is serious, one side is shrill. The White House says something true, Republicans lash out with falsehoods.