Jim Downey's picture

Time for a little political sacrilege.

In spite of how it might seem sometimes, I'm politically independent - I tend to support specific policies (and to a very limited degree individuals), not this or that party.

And one thing I have long objected to has been the existence of an 'American Royalty' within our political system. Here in Missouri we just got rid of one Republican governor who is the son of a long-term US Congresscritter. On the Democratic side, the Carnahan family has held or currently holds several important political offices.

Nationally, it's even worse. Look at the Bush family, and the debacle of having W rise to power almost solely on the power of his father & family. Al Gore is the son of a Senator. The Clintons have long operated as a family unit, sharing power and position.

And then there are the Kennedys.

Jim Downey's picture

Confession Time: Have a Brew! edition.

OK, everyone on the planet should know by now that the president is having a sit-down summit tomorrow, to have a beer with Cambridge police Sgt. Jim Crowley and Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

But what you may not have heard was what kinds of beer each of the three men has already ordered.

In a stunning development revealed on NPR this afternoon, it was disclosed that President Obama will be having a Bud Light. (Lite? Gods, I don't drink that crap - why should I know how to spell it??)

I must admit, I thought the man had more taste than that. Oh well. Though I'm sure the GOP would get behind it, I can't really say it is grounds for impeachment.

But it made me wonder - if you were going to have a beer with the prez, what would *you* choose? C'mon, fess up!

I'd go with a local DC microbrew, if I could get a good rec from someone who lived there. Nice creamy dark ale. But if I had to pick a 'national' beer, I'd go with the New Belgium 1554.

What's yours?

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

De facto dictatorship, part II.

Following up to the March revelation that the Bush Administration had concluded that it had the legal authority to effectively suspend civil liberties, comes a piece in the New York Times about how they almost used that authority in 2002:

Bush Weighed Using Military in Arrests

WASHINGTON — Top Bush administration officials in 2002 debated testing the Constitution by sending American troops into the suburbs of Buffalo to arrest a group of men suspected of plotting with Al Qaeda, according to former administration officials.

Some of the advisers to President George W. Bush, including Vice President Dick Cheney, argued that a president had the power to use the military on domestic soil to sweep up the terrorism suspects, who came to be known as the Lackawanna Six, and declare them enemy combatants.

Jim Downey's picture

Spin, spin, spin.

Got an email from a friend this morning. It was short, almost despairing:

I agree with David Brooks. He makes sense. Is this some alternate reality I've fallen into and can't get up?

My friend was talking about this column from Brooks last week:

Cheney Lost to Bush

President Obama and Dick Cheney conspired on Thursday to propagate a myth. The myth is that we lived through an eight-year period of Bush-Cheney anti-terror policy and now we have entered a very different period called the Obama-Biden anti-terror policy. As both Obama and Cheney understand, this is a completely bogus distortion of history.

Jim Downey's picture

Out of the mouth of . . .

. . . well, certainly not a babe (in either sense of the term):

Biden says avoid planes, subways; puts out clarifying statement

Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not recommend taking any commercial flight or riding in a subway car “at this point” because swine flu virus can spread “in confined places.” A little more than one hour later, Biden rushed out a statement backing off.

“I would tell members of my family — and I have — I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now,” Biden said on NBC’s “Today” show.. “It’s not that it’s going to Mexico. It’s [that] you’re in a confined aircraft. When one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft. That’s me. …

“So, from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation. If you’re out in the middle of a field when someone sneezes, that’s one thing. If you’re in a closed aircraft or closed container or closed car or closed classroom, it’s a different thing.”

Jim Downey's picture

That well is poisoned - don't drink from it.

This is what I was afraid would happen.

And it makes me, well, worried. Very worried.

Prompted by 9/11, we watched the fairly rapid curtailment of civil liberties during the Bush administration (though supported & enabled entirely too much by Democrats in Congress). The Patriot Act. The expansion of FISA. Warrantless wiretapping by the NSA. Legal opinions which effectively gave the president dictatorial powers, and which allowed for torture of terrorism suspects.

Jim Downey's picture

It's that time again,

for another happy-happy Monday morning post about the economy! Yay! Everyone gather around, and let Uncle Jim tell you a story...

"We're screwed."

Did you like my story? Oh, you want details? If you insist.

No, I'm not going to talk about the Dow being down below 7,000 for the first time this century (it's at 6,900 as I write). Nor about the news this morning of AIG's additional $61.7 billion loss last quarter. Those are just symptoms.

Jim Downey's picture

As the Rude One so aptly puts it... an excellent (and fairly tame, by his standards) piece today:

In other words, the Obama administration, in both of these decisions, is saying that it's time to stop fucking with the Constitution. Whether it's the individual rights of women or the habeas corpus rights of prisoners, the law professor in the President knows that "liberty and justice for all" is an actual pledge.

Check it out.

Jim Downey

Paul Fidalgo's picture

Local Wingnut Tells it Like it Is

I have a nominee for Most Stereotypically Ignorant Right Wing Op-ed! It's from Donna Greco writing in Louisiana's Daily Advertiser.

We open with the weirdly binary and George Will-esque, "we're a republic not a democracy" canard, and then strap yourselves in for some crazy!

The goodies are now being dispensed by the party with the "D" behind their names. They are in charge and will remain in charge because they have successfully corralled the media, the academy, entrenched federal bureaucrats, graduates of government schools, unions, welfare recipients, illegal aliens, the godless, the clueless, and the "America is a bad country" crowd into a herd ever ready to stampede those who would dare disagree.

Truly, cohesion and unity of message has always been a defining trait of liberals and Democrats. All these awful subgroups she mentions are always singing in unison, marching in lockstep. Never disagreeing on anything. Unlike those independent-minded Republicans. There's more!

Paul Fidalgo's picture

Does it Matter if Ted Kaufman is an Atheist?

I'm not sure what to make of the completely-unconfirmed-yet-fascinating possibility that arose today that Ted Kaufman, the newly appointed U.S. Senator from Delaware, might be an atheist. (Props to Trina at for beating me to the story...she is quick!) The germ of this idea comes from a New York Times article today in which Kaufman refers to his "way of thinking" as "humanistic."

Characteristically overblowing the word's implication, as is their wont, Gawker sounded the we-might-have-an-atheist-in-our-midst alarm. As has been noted, if Sen. Kaufman is an atheist, and he confirms it, he would be the highest-ranking avowed atheist in American political history. But I wonder if such a confirmation would really do anything to advance atheists in the political realm, rather than simply serve as a brief oddity.

Jim Downey's picture

Taking a break.

No, not from blogging. Rather, from visiting some of my usual gun forums - the upcoming inauguration has caused a resurgence of hatin' on "LIEBRALS and DEMONCRATS", and I just don't have the stomach for it right now. As I said in a diary I posted on dKos a month ago:

I have given up participation in some gun forums for being told that I cannot be a gun owner and still be a liberal. Seriously, sometimes it is impossible to get other gun owners to understand that this issue does not need to be one which breaks down according to party alignment (and isn't good for gun rights if it does). Even my family and some of my gun-owning friends have a hard time wrapping their head around it. The most common refrain is that no "true" gun owner can possibly be a liberal, or vote for a Democrat.

Paul Fidalgo's picture

New Hampshire Paper: Scrap the Inaugural Prayer

The Concord Monitor comes out against Rick Warren at Barack Obama's inauguration. . .but not only does the Monitor oppose Warren because of his anti-gay views, the paper (once named by Time Magazine as one of America's best newspapers) comes to the conclusion that inaugural prayers ought to be done away with entirely:

Do we need an inaugural prayer? Somehow, in a country that has become more and more diverse, a country that includes not only Protestants, but also Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and nonbelievers, the tradition seems an anachronism that future presidents would do well to scrap.

Formal prayers by Christian ministers have been associated with presidential inaugurations from the get-go, but they're surely no requirement. And while you might assume such prayers would be of the tepid, generic, non-denominational variety, a quick look back at recent overtly religious invocations will surely give many Americans, regardless of their personal religious affiliations, pause.

Paul Fidalgo's picture

A One-Two Punch of Anti-Atheist Ignorance

This morning brings with it two examples of really bad arguments against Michael Newdow's suit to un-God-ify the presidential inauguration. I'll deal with the weaker of the two first, by Dan McDowell who writes a Boston College Democrats column for I consider it weaker because the piece is peppered with such phrases as "come on" and "what is this?", which I suppose are meant to be informal and familiar, but really only make the author seem, well, twelve.

McDowell doesn't seem to really know where he stands on the issue, as he insists:

I am a strong supporter of the separation of church and state. It is to the benefit of both that the institutions do not get mixed up with one another.

And then tells us (emphasis mine):

Going after the word God appearing anywhere in the public sphere, including our government, is ridiculous.

Paul Fidalgo's picture

Obama is Religious, Therefore Atheists Are Probably Wrong

Law professor Paul Campos op-eds in the Rocky Mountain News on the subject of the very real dilemma for progressive atheists: reconciling support for Barack Obama's politics with his overt religiousness.

Campos has apparently come across some folks bandying about the possible insincerity of Obama's religious professions, and it seems to be bothering Campos:

Since it's obviously absurd to claim that people like Obama lack the necessary intelligence to grasp these truths that are so self-evident to the fundamentalist atheist, our fundamentalist friend is left with a couple of options.

First, he can claim that the otherwise intelligent person has been, as it were, brainwashed by his upbringing, his education, his psychological quirks (this latter explanation is especially popular among those who see religious belief as a form of unconscious wish-fulfillment) or some other ideological factor that remains impervious to what fundamentalist atheists likes to call "reason."

[. . .]

The alternative is to assume that obviously intelligent people who profess religious belief are lying. This belief is reflected in the assertion, repeated several times in the responses to my blog post, that surveys showing atheists to be a small minority of the population are inaccurate, because lots of people who are "really" atheists - like, apparently, Barack Obama - lie about it.

Paul Fidalgo's picture


The LA Times totally misses the point of the Freedom from Religion Foundation's attempt to stop Colorado governor Bill Ritter's proclamation of a day of prayer. The editorial asserts that the controversy centers, in part, around whether the specific prayer to be given would amount to an endorsement of a specific religion or of some right-wing policy supported by the "hysterical" (their word) James Dobson's Focus on the Family.

But the verse in question is not the problem. The problem (obviously, or so one would think) is that the very act of a prayer assumes the existence of--and gives acquiescence to--an omnipotent super-being. That may not be an official endorsement of a religion, but it is most certainly a tacit endorsement of religion itself.

Jim Downey's picture

Talk about a breath of fresh air...

From landing on the moon, to sequencing the human genome, to inventing the Internet, America has been the first to cross that new frontier because we had leaders who paved the way: leaders like President Kennedy, who inspired us to push the boundaries of the known world and achieve the impossible; leaders who not only invested in our scientists, but who respected the integrity of the scientific process.

Because the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources – it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States – and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work.

That's President-elect Obama, in his weekly radio address this morning, announcing his top science advisors.

Compare that to the mindset we've put up with from the Bush administration, the latest round of which was announced yesterday:

Jim Downey's picture

Your share: $24,000.

Forget what I said two weeks ago - we're now up to $7.7 Trillion:

Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government is prepared to provide more than $7.76 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers after guaranteeing $306 billion of Citigroup Inc. debt yesterday. The pledges, amounting to half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, are intended to rescue the financial system after the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.

The unprecedented pledge of funds includes $3.18 trillion already tapped by financial institutions in the biggest response to an economic emergency since the New Deal of the 1930s, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The commitment dwarfs the plan approved by lawmakers, the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Federal Reserve lending last week was 1,900 times the weekly average for the three years before the crisis.

That comes out to something like $24,000 from every man, woman, and child in the country.

Jim Downey's picture

Wait, did I say "trillions?"

Why, yes I did!

OK, this is basically S&L Crisis, Part II: Revenge of the Greedoids. You, and me, and every other US taxpayer are now on the hook for trillions of dollars of bailout money. Why? Deregulation and unwise real estate lending.

That was Sept. 7. And someone in the comments called me on it, saying that I was grossly overstating the case.


$2 Trillion

Total Fed lending topped $2 trillion for the first time last week and has risen by 140 percent, or $1.172 trillion, in the seven weeks since Fed governors relaxed the collateral standards on Sept. 14. The difference includes a $788 billion increase in loans to banks through the Fed and $474 billion in other lending, mostly through the central bank's purchase of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds.

Jim Downey's picture

"The place where optimism most flourishes is the lunatic asylum."

That quote from Havelock Ellis somewhat captures my mood this morning. The Onion's take on the election results captures another aspect of how I feel: we had to see things descend to the point where we were ready to make a significant change.

I am too old, too cynical, (and this morning too hungover), to think that the election of Barack Obama means that everything is going to be perfect in the coming months and years. Nor do I believe that our politicians will be able to completely resist the urge to return to type and put their own power above the needs of the nation. The mindset of "screw the other guy" is just too entrenched.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

It All Makes Perfect Sense Now

Some folks are just plain crazy. Case in point: David Caldarola, author of an op-ed piece in the Chicago Daily Herald claims that the election is a religious war, between "the faithful" and the dreaded, nasty, soulless, baby-eating atheists.

And here all along I thought that this Presidential election was between John McCain and Barack Obama. Silly me!

[link] Liberalism is socialism-Communism-Marxism; all of which require atheism.


This is not an election between Obama and McCain. It's between atheists and the faithful.

So, according to David "Batshit Insane" Caldarola, this is how it works: Liberalism = socialism = communism = marxism = atheism. Obama is a liberal, therefore, ipso facto, Q.E.D., Barack Obama is an atheist bent on world domination, who wants to distribute your wealth to puppy grinding facilities all over North America.

It's all so very simple - when you're crazy.

Holey frakkin' Christ crackers. I'm no Einstein, but I will be so glad to have this election over with, and finally have a President whose IQ is higher than mine. That would be a nice change.

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