Ben Buchwalter

Friday Brain Dump

There is A LOT to talk about this week! Let’s start with…… Obama! (who else?)

  • Fresh off successfully passing of the economic stimulus bill – Obama’s first Presidential priority, Obama has started to focus on foreign affairs. This week, Obama visited Canada and promised to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan. I am not sure how I feel about this. Sometimes I wonder if a progressive must advocate for one war (Afghanistan) in order to oppose another (Iraq) with legitimacy. Obama will likely feel some resistence from more liberal congressmen and senators about this decision. I wonder if it’s a mistake to deliberately engage in something as messy as Afghanistan. Clearly, the primary objective of the Obama Presidency is to turn the economy around. If he does this, Obama will be re-elected. If he does not, Obama will write another book in four years. Presidents are often forced to engage in foreign affairs to the detriment of their pet objectives. But why do it willingly? Hopefully we can walk (fix the economy) and chew gum (fix the world) at the same time.
  • Senator Patrick Leahy’s call for a truth commission to investigate the wrongdoings of the Bush Presidency seems to be gaining traction. I was initially skeptical of this idea. Why spend time and effort looking backwards when we have so many important things to do? But I think I’m coming around. I am legitimately disturbed by the Bush administration’s tacit approval of torture and general abuse of the Presidency. Holding him accountable and those who help devise the scheme could restore respect to the Presidency and improve American credibility worldwide.
  • It looks like Kathleen Sebelius – the popular Democratic Governor of Kansas – is the top choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the position intended for Tom Daschle. Though I like Sebelius, this is a mistake. In fact, it’s a mistake because I like Sebelius. She was a huge favorite to win the Senate seat being vacated by Sam Brownback in 2010. Kansans love her strong moderate record in the conservative-leaning state. Sticking her at HHS could secure the Kansas seat for another Republican wacko. This dilemma leads Chris Bowers to ask, “Are Cabinet Positions Better than Statewide Office?” The answer seems to be yes.
  • The New York Post is run by idiots. That’s not any sort of new or original conclusion, I just thought it should be said. The ultra-conservative paper’s first response to the racist cartoon it ran this week was to condemn civil rights leaders like Al Sharpton for grandstanding and seeking attention on this issue. Classy. The paper’s second response was to issue this non apology. Whether or not the cartoon was intended to be racist, its incredibly stupid and offensive and requires a genuine apology.
  • Check out this map! Cool idea for regional high speed train lines. Via Rachel Maddow’s twitter page.
  • Matt Cooper says the Democrats picked crappy replacements in IL, NY, and DE. Bennet in Colorado is alright, though. I said this once too!
  • As you all know, this weekend is the Oscars. I am very excited, as this is by far my favorite award show. And I like award shows. Nate Silver has predicted the winners based on his highly successful method for predicting the 2008 election. Also, the Times’ David Carr has predicted winners. Both call Slumdog Millionaire the clear winner. While it was a good movie, it wasn’t as great as Milk. You heard it here, Milk will win best picture. Best Actor is the hardest category. Penn or Rourke? Though Sean Penn was probably better, I’m going to say Rourke. Everyone loves a comeback. Also, Danny Boyle (Director), Winslett (Actress), Ledger (Sup actor), and Cruz (Sup actress). On other categories, Benj Button and Slumdog will nearly sweep. Dark Knight for sound categories.

Buchwalter OUT!

Friday Brain Dump
Administration officials in and out, peace or further instability in Rwanda, and possible nationalization. All trumped by Twitter.
  • Last night Judd Gregg (R NH), Obama’s second choice for Commerce Secretary withdrew his name from consideration. Even though this should make Gregg look like a collassal idiot, he is being hailed as a conservative hero for refusing to help a liberal president save the economy and govern effectively. Kos has an idea for Gregg’s replacement: “nominate a fu*king Democrat.” Greg Sargent: “don’t hire someone for a job who voted to abolish that job.” TPM: Reed Hundt.
  • Rwanda and the DRC are collaborating against a Hutu group that fled to the Congo after the 1994 genocide to escape persecution from the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front that now controls the government. On the surface, these governments are working together to combat the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR). But some have suspicions about the real motives behind Rwanda’s sudden receptiveness to an alliance with the Congo. Could Rwanda be vying for a stake in the mineral-rich region of eastern Congo? 
  • The final stimulus package is expected to be approved by the House today. Approved with 8 Republican votes?! Holy Lucifer! This means that of the 219 Republicans in Congress (Senate and House), only 11 – or 5% – support the stimulus package. Does this represent the Republican Party? NO! In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, 28% of Republicans (more than five times the Congressional GOP) support the $800 Billion package. I’d call that out of touch. 
  • Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske will become the nation’s Drug Czar. Ezra Klein says that he is “better than the old drug czar, worse than no drug czar.” Kerlikowske is “a progressive law enforcement type whose primary reputation is as a proponent of gun control and civil liberties.” 
  • Experts are starting to support nationalizing the banks? Reality or pipe dream? 
  • Tweet. I am swept up by twitter. See my twitter feed here. There are also some very informative peeps on twitter. And idiots like Karl Rove

Happy Valentines Day.

Friday Brain Dump

The economy sinks, the GOP rebounds, and a prolific liberal falls ill.

  • Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, one of the Supreme Court’s most consistent liberal voices, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this week. Ginsburg was appointed to the bench in 1993 by Bill Clinton. This raises questions about whether Ms. Bader-Ginsburg will step down sooner than anyone thought. If she does, Obama will get his first chance to nominate a Justice and maintain the Court’s ideological balance. Matt Cooper discusses options. Clearly, Obama will face pressure to nominate a woman. I like the suggestion of Sonia Sotomayer, who would be the Court’s first Hispanic judge. At the very least, this would perpetuate connections between Obama and The West Wing
  • Last month, nearly 600,000 people lost their jobs. Unemployment is now 7.6%. Has someone told Senate Republicans? If have a paying job, you should probably leave it for an unpaid internship.
  • Speaking of the economy, lets pass a stimulus bill. Barack Obama delivered an empassioned speech last night asking Senators to pass a friggin bill. He’s right, this is not a game. While people continue to lose jobs (see above), Republicans are running out the clock to make Democrats look like fools by supporting a stalled stimulus bill. Yes, its not perfect. But the GOP is trying to make it not perfect…er. Right now its looking like a version around $800 Billion will pass after revisions from Senators Collins and Nelson. Now the Goldilocks dilemma.
  • Michael Steele, the newly elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee, has asked for the resignations of a large number of RNC staffers. It’s easier to be in the opposition than the ruling party. For that reason, I think we’ll see Republicans become more popular in the next two years. But also, Steele is not your typical Republican. Democrats should be afraid
  • Elections in Israel in only 4 days and the two leading parties are all tied up. I have not been paying close attention, but lets hope that Kadima pulls this out.
  • A former Batman might run for Governor of New Mexico.

Happy weekend.

Friday Brain Dump

A scandal ends, GOP basing continues, and a new Republican will be elevated to their party’s highest position today. This is an exciting Friday.

  • Rod Blagojevich, the country’s favorite asshat Governor, was impeached by a vote of 59-0 yesterday. Without a doubt my favorite Blago quote: “I did a lot of things that were mostly right.” Stunning appeal to keep his job.
  • The big debate in the blogosphere this week has been about the economic stimulus package that passed with no Republican votes. Some say that this is a big defeat for Obama. Some say it will bite the GOP in the heiny. Some, myself included, have said that it is a great strategic move for Republicans but a boon to bipartisanship. I think Kos has the best commentary on bipartisanship: “there is nothing inherently good about ‘bipartisanship’. The only thing that matters is whether a solution is good or not.”
  • The Republican National Committe will vote on its new leader today. The leading candidates are the current RNC head, Mike Duncan, and Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele. On the first vote, no one received a majority. I tend to like Steele because he has consistently chastized the Republican Party for not paying enough attention to Black voters. Either way, its good for the GOP that former Tennessee Governor Chip Saltsman, the man who released a CD to friends with a song titled “Barack, the Magic Negro” to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon” is no longer in the running. UPDATE: Duncan and Steele tied on second ballot. Still, neither has a majority.
  • Superbowl this weekend! I’ve been hesitantly going for the Cardinals because I still have not forgiven the Steelers for beating the Seahawks in 2006. But MoJo makes a pretty good argument for why progressives should support the Steelers. 

Have a good weekend.

Friday Brain Dump

Just wanted to highlight some things I’ve been thinking about.

  • Laurent Nkunda, the leader of the Tutsi rebel army in the Democratic Republic of Congo was arrested last night on the Rwanda-Conto boarder. Nkunda’s stated mission was to protect Tutsis in the region from Hutus who fled from persecution after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Though Nkunda has only leveraged control of a few villages in the months of his campaign against the Congolese government, he has spread terror and threatened an already unstable relationship between Rwanda and the Congo. There were even rumors that Nkunda was working with the Rwandan government, a thought that, if true, would throw the region into chaos. Hopefully, the arrest of Nkunda will ease those tensions and restore the peace process in this post-conflict region.
  • Caroline Kennedy drops bid for Hillary’s seat citing tax problems and a housekeeper malfunction. I really haven’t tuned in to the Kennedy saga. But now that it’s over, it all seems weak. And I am not thrilled about Kristen Gillenbrand (a moderate), Governor Patterson’s choice to fill Clinton’s seat. New York State does not necessarily need to elevate a moderate in order to win reelection in 2010. The state is as liberal as they come, so it deserves representatives who match that progressive spirit. (More on the new senators from NY, IL, and DE later this weekend.
  • The media decries the dearth of partisanship among Obama staff and officials. Omg and wtf. Then again, the blogosphere is basking in the change. So if liberal crazies are happy, it would follow that conservative wingnuts wouldn’t be.
  • I wanted to point out an op-ed by Muammar Quaddafi, the leader of Lybia, calling for a one-state solution in the mid-east under the name of Isratine. He’s got some pretty powerful and realistic ideas that call for sacrifices on both sides of the conflict, which is the only way we’ll get anywhere in the peace process.
  • The Maverick (McCain) is back? I guess its easy to have principles when no one is looking to you for leadership. (snap!)

Happy Friday.

Friday Brain Dump

I don’t have much to say about much, so I’ll say a little about much. General thought for this week: hearing Obama’s cabinet choices calling torture torture and confirming that science is real highlights the perverse deviance of the opposite opinions.

  • Obama Attorney General choice Eric Holder unequivocally declares that “waterboarding is torture.” Also that “no one is above the law,” even the President and DOJ officials apparently. That’s change we can… you know. BarbinMD of Daily Kos and Todd Beeton of MyDD for more. CIA, on the other hand, still likes torture. 
  • In an interview with the Washington Post, Obama says that he will work to reform Social Security and Medicaid, the long-lasting but endangered loves of the Democratic Party. 
  • I really think that Obama is going to engage in talks with Hamas. He says he will form a team to deal with the Gaza situation on day one and that discussions can’t “be solved in isolation. And we’ve got to be active in all these areas in order for us to be successful in any of these areas.”
  • It looks like the GOP is going to challenge some of Obama’s cabinet picks. Really? At the end of the day, these picks are going to pass. It turns out that no one cares that Geithner screwed up his taxes, the benefits of Holder outweigh his lack of judgment in pardons a decade ago, and Daschle is, well, I don’t really understand what their problem is with him. I’m not saying I’m against solid debate, but hullabaloo for the sake of hullabaloo is tiresome. And we’ve got other things to focus on.
  • I’m getting excited for the innagural address. Did you know it’s during the day? Lamesauce. Hello Obama! Peeps gots to work!
  • Stimulus plan bigger than many expected. Way to go Obams. Rep Bohner (lol) says OMG