Psalm 109

D59ACC36-D5C3-4864-B028-A8556449D512.jpgObama’s more bitter opponents have come up with yet another “clever” way of calling for his assassination. You’ve probably heard this part already, but bear with me. What’s this Psalm 109:8 business?

May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.

The clever part (wink, wink) are the next verses:

May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.

Lovely stuff, isn’t it? It’s gotten plenty of criticism, and rightly so, but there’s a bit of irony here as well, in that the clever boots that came up with this bit of nastiness apparently didn’t bother to read the whole chapter. The psalms are conventionally attributed to David, the great-great-something or other of Jesus, among others. While there’s little or no historical evidence that David ever lived, or that if he did that he wrote any of the psalms, it’s a safe bet that anyone wearing that shirt over there believes it literally.

Here’s the thing. This particular psalm is not only attributed to David, it’s attributed to King David—that is, David after he became the second king (after Saul) of Israel. So let’s go back to the beginning of Psalm 109, King David speaking:

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, for wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues.

With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer. They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship.

These are the wicked and deceitful men who would kill the King (or perhaps just wear T-shirts slyly proposing the deed). Later in the psalm, David concludes:

Help me, O Lord my God; save me in accordance with your love. Let them know that it is your hand, that you, O Lord, have done it. They may curse, but you will bless; when they attack they will be put to shame, but your servant will rejoice. My accusers will be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak.

With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng I will praise him. For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him.

I needn’t belabor the irony here; condemned out of their own mouths…

(Thanks to Father Marc for pointing this out.)

Meg Whitman: fun with numbers

George Skelton in the LA Times. I heard Whitman’s obviously bogus ad the other day and didn’t get around to doing the arithmetic. This is going to be a depressing campaign.

Meg Whitman’s radio whoppers

… Neither major party has a lock on truthfulness. I’ve written about false advertising by Republicans and Democrats alike for years.

Now, in the very first series of radio ads in the 2010 gubernatorial race, comes blatant baloney from billionaire political novice Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of EBay who is running for the Republican nomination.

“Did you know,” Whitman asks radio listeners, “that in the last 10 years, state spending has gone up 80%?”

Well, no, I did not know that. So I did some checking.

“They’re completely wrong when they say that,” replied state Finance Director Mike Genest, a conservative former budget consultant for Senate Republicans.

It doesn’t take much digging to learn that general fund spending “in the last 10 years” has risen just 27%, according to finance department data. Adjusted for inflation and population growth, spending actually has decreased by 16.6%. …

The enduring Republican victory

David Kaiser. Please read the whole thing.

The enduring Republican victory

… Something even more striking is happening with regard to health care. Everyone seems to understand that we spend too much on it and can’t afford to go on at this rate. But Republicans and lobbyists seem very close to having killed the public option because it would be a cheaper form of health care. What we need, we cannot have. The broader problem is obvious. Cheaper health care means that many people will make less money out of health care—especially insurance companies and drug manufacturers. I have not heard even one participant in this debate suggest that there is something immoral about profiteering on medical care. Instead, the papers are filled with stories of the ways in which lobbyists are trying to make sure that a new bill will mean no less, and perhaps more, money for health care interests.

I am concerned by all this because I think that both the political future and that of the Obama Administration depend on facing these issues squarely. A health insurance “reform” that costs even more money will eventually have huge political costs for Democrats. Endless deficits with no end in sight will pose the same problem, and the collapse of yet another Wall Street bubble could easily return the Republicans to power. We cannot solve these problems without removing some of these taboos. The press, which consistently gives the most space to the shrillest voices on the right, has been no help either. The Administration has shown the courage to defy the conventional wisdom on several foreign policy issues, including missile defense and Iran, without apparently incurring political costs. Let us hope that it finds the courage to do the same on the far more critical domestic front.

Send the Marines (to the White House)

Saving the country from the scourge that is Obama:

Obama Risks a Domestic Military ‘Intervention’
Tuesday, September 29, 2009 10:35 AM
By: John L. Perry

There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.

America isn’t the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn’t mean it wont.

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.

Military intervention is what Obama’s exponentially accelerating agenda for “fundamental change” toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.

Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem. Just don’t shrug and say, “We can always worry about that later.”

In the 2008 election, that was the wistful, self-indulgent, indifferent reliance on abnegation of personal responsibility that has sunk the nation into this morass.

Update: per TPM, NewsMax has removed the original post. The full text is available.

Polling on health insurance reform

Via Josh Marshall, a New Your Times/CBS News poll just out.

“Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan — something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get — that would compete with private health insurance plans?”

Favor 65%
Oppose 26%

That’s a net 13% swing in favor in the last three weeks.

There are 26 pages of questions; have a look.

Job-killing legislation

I suppose that this is almost too obvious to point out. Almost.

Representative John Kline Argues for Government Waste

The NYT felt the need to present at length the unanswered complaints from Representative John Kline about a bill eliminating federal subsidies for private lenders in the college student loan program. The article concludes with Mr. Kline calling the bill “job-killing legislation.”

Of course legislation that eliminates waste will kill some jobs. Suppose we had 10,000 government bureaucrats who did absolutely nothing but pass sheets of paper back and forth among themselves. If Congress passed a bill eliminating these jobs, then it would be job-killing legislation. However, this would generally be seen as good for the economy since it would free up these resources for productive uses. The same logic applies to waste in the financial sector supported by government subsidies. The NYT should have made this point.

—Dean Baker

This of course is the converse of the argument made for stimulus spending: if we’re going to spend tax money to create jobs, let’s try to make sure that the jobs produce something that we need.

Glenn the Peasant

Matt Taibbi, entertaining as usual, on Glenn Beck and his ilk.

The peasant mentality lives on in America

… This is not a simple rhetorical accomplishment. It requires serious mental gymnastics to describe the Obama administration — particularly the Obama administration of recent weeks, which has given away billions to Wall Street and bent over backwards to avoid nationalization and pursue a policy that preserves the private for-profit status of the bailed-out banks — as a militaristic dictatorship of anti-wealth, anti-private property forces. You have to somehow explain the Geithner/Paulson decisions to hand over trillions of taxpayer dollars to the rich bankers as the formal policy expression of progressive rage against the rich. Not easy. …

… After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That’s why even people like Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over. Beck pointedly compared the AIG protesters to Bolsheviks: “[The Communists] basically said ‘Eat the rich, they did this to you, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” He then said the AIG and G20 protesters were identical: “It’s a different style, but the sentiments are exactly the same: Find ‘em, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” Beck has an audience that’s been trained that the rich are not appropriate targets for anger, unless of course they’re Hollywood liberals, or George Soros, or in some other way linked to some acceptable class of villain, to liberals, immigrants, atheists, etc. — Ted Turner, say, married to Jane Fonda.

But actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish… can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff. And bound to get weirder, I imagine, as this crisis gets worse and more complicated.

Prevent defense

This is DougJ at Balloon Juice quoting Colin Powell’s former chief-of-staff Larry Wilkerson. There’s more where this interview fragment came from.

Kook leader

Well, to keep it brief, I think the problem is that this is a national security issue, and there are so many more challenging issues — as one official put it to me the other day — on which the President has already shown some ankle, whether it’s about talking to Iran or whether it’s his rather pronounced silence vis-à-vis North Korea, or whether it’s something as minuscule as lifting some travel restrictions on Cuban Americans for Cuba. They don’t believe they can show another square centimeter of ankle on national security, because the Republicans will eat their lunch, and every time I’m told this I die laughing. I say, your guys are captured by the Sith Lord, Dick Cheney, you’re captured by Rush Limbaugh, whose real radio audience is about 2.2 million, and whose employer, Clear Channel, lost $3.7 billion in the second quarter of this year. I said, when are you gonna wake up? These are kooks. And Cheney is the kook leader. But [Nancy] Pelosi and [Harry] Reid are such feckless leaders they haven’t got any spine. We have no leadership in the legislative branch on either side of the aisle.

Enough with the Nazis

Thus The Mudflats, whose father was a WW2 POW. Here’s the end.

… I remember as a child I was not allowed to watch Hogan’s Heroes. It wasn’t a joke in my house. There was nothing funny about prisoner of war camps. There were no handsome well-fed prisoners with secret tunnels under their bunks, and pirate radio equipment who always managed to play their captors for the fool. There were frightened, emaciated young men whose minds and bodies were broken an ocean away from home, who were shot on fences , and who ate cats, and watched their friends die. There was nothing to laugh about. Those were Nazis.

I am tired of people comparing Obama to Hitler. I am tired of seeing signs with swastikas and nazi symbols at health care rallies. I am tired of people saying that a health care plan designed to uplift millions of Americans to give them dignity, and choice and the ability to care for their families, is like Naziism. I am tired of Rush Limbaugh.

As time passes, and as the greatest generation becomes a memory, passing into history one soul at a time, it is up to the generations that follow them to keep “Hitler” and “Nazi” out of the clutches of those who would make them political buzzwords for people they don’t like, or policies they don’t understand. Those words remind us of the worst that people can be. There is nothing horrible about Germans in particular that caused them to do these things. This is humanity’s dark potential, and something that we all need to remember, whether we were there or not, or whether our family was affected or not, because this is what people can do to each other. To strip those words of their power and meaning in order to create political fear for self-gain is inexcusable and needs to be confronted and refuted whenever it arises, by all of us, whether we support the current health care bill and the current president or not.

Continuous (bloody) revolution

Well before Mao’s “continuous revolution“, Thomas Jefferson suggested that revolutions should be, if not continuous, at least fairly regular.

God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. …

And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

This was in November of 1787 (the year the US Constitution was drafted), in the aftermath of Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts, while Jefferson was serving as ambassador to France. (Ironically, twenty years later Jefferson was in his second term as President, and not really looking for a rebellion.)

That’s all by way of historical context for this photo from one of the town-hall protests this last week:


Perhaps there’s a more benign interpretation of the sign than a call for the assassination of Barack Obama, but it’s not springing to mind.

Where’s the passion?

Paul Krugman invokes Yeats today at the end of a column on the town-hall mobs.

… But right now Mr. Obama’s backers seem to lack all conviction, perhaps because the prosaic reality of his administration isn’t living up to their dreams of transformation. Meanwhile, the angry right is filled with a passionate intensity.

And if Mr. Obama can’t recapture some of the passion of 2008, can’t inspire his supporters to stand up and be heard, health care reform may well fail.

Mr Krugman (and Mr Obama and his crew) would do well to look to another text, Revelation 3:16.

So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.

Passion begets passion. Harry Reid and Max Baucus do not.

The Specter of Losing an Election

About a week ago, Nate Silver posted an interesting piece on Arlen Specter’s recent voting behavior. Here’s the most interesting graph:


The key events on the timeline were the Quinnipiac poll, which shows Specter losing badly to a right-wing Republican challenger, Specter’s subsequent switch to the Democratic Party, and finally the prospect of a primary challenge from the left.

First, it’s apparent that Specter’s votes are driven overwhelmingly by a desire to be reelected. My sense is that Specter is a likely winner in the general election against either potential opponent, so his strategy is to focus entirely on the primary.

A commenter writes:

Well, at least Specter is responsive to the voters. That’s more than can be said for senators like Max Baucus, who seems to be working solely for the insurance companies. Baucus, unfortunately, has 5 more years before having to worry about re-election so he can continue rolling in the favors from big insurance to get his friends positions as healthcare lobbyists, popular will be damned.

I don’t think that the comparison is necessarily apt. Baucus is a long ways from his election, and voters have short memories, so who’s to say what he’ll do in 2–3 years? And if we assume that Baucus is as driven by the desire for reelection as Specter, then, given his situation, his best strategy might well be to ensure a steady supply of campaign funds, rather than worry too much about a challenge from the left in Montana.

You can’t win a Senate, or even a House, election without a big pot of money, and without getting through a primary (well, Lieberman only needed the former, but his case is exceptional). And the more competitive a seat is, the more a senator or house member is motivated to be “flexible” in their voting, to ensure a steady stream of cash or primary voters, as needed.

What a system.

The problem with federalism

James Surowiecki: Fifty ways to kill recovery

If you came up with a list of obstacles to economic recovery in this country, it would include all the usual suspects—our still weak banking system, falling house prices, overindebted consumers, cautious companies. But here are fifty culprits you might not have thought of: the states. Federalism, often described as one of the great strengths of the American system, has become a serious impediment to reversing the downturn.

The tension between state and national interests isn’t new: it dates back to clashes in the early Republic over programs for “internal improvements.” Of course, the federal government is far bigger than it once was, and yet in the past two decades we’ve delegated more authority, not less, to the states. The logic of this was clear: people who are closer to a problem often know better how to deal with it. But matters of a truly interstate nature, like the power grid, can’t be dealt with on a state-by-state basis. And fiscal policy is undermined if the federal government is doing one thing and the states are doing another. It’s a global economy. It would be helpful to have a genuinely national government.

What if the Uighurs were Christian rather than Muslim?

Glenn Greenwald wonders.

What if the Uighurs were Christian rather than Muslim?

According to The New York Times this morning, violent clashes between Chinese government forces and Muslim Uighurs — that country’s long-oppressed minority — have left at least 140 people dead and close to 1,000 injured.  This incident in Western China highlights an important fact about America’s “War on Terror.”

Just imagine if the Uighurs were a Christian — rather than Muslim — minority, battling against the tyrannical Communist regime in Beijing, resisting various types of persecution, and demanding religious freedom.  They would be lionized by America’s Right, as similar Christian minorities, oppressed by tyrannical regimes, automatically are.  Episodes like these — where a declared Tyranny like China violently acts against citizens with whom we empathize — are ones about which, in general, the American political class loves to sermonize.

But the Uighurs are Muslim, not Christian, and hostility towards them thus easily outweighs the opportunity they present to undermine the Chinese Government. …

DeLong to Krugman to Reich

The great thing about procrastinating is that, much more often than not, somebody else does it for you. Better than you can.

Better than I can, anyway.

Who Are You and What Have You Done with the Paul Krugman I Used to Know?

I would have thought it impossible for Krugman to cite Robert Reich completely approvingly, without even a trace of snark. Yet, lo and behold, it has happened:

Read Robert Reich: Just read. He’s right.

Robert Reich:

Robert Reich’s Blog: “What Can I Do?”: Someone recently approached me at the cheese counter of a local supermarket, asking “what can I do?” At first I thought the person was seeking advice about a choice of cheese. But I soon realized the question was larger than that. It was: what can I do about the way things are going in Washington?

People who voted for Barack Obama tend to fall into one of two camps: Trusters, who believe he’s a good man with the right values and he’s doing everything he can; and cynics, who have become disillusioned with his bailouts of Wall Street, flimsy proposals for taming the Street, willingness to give away 85 percent of cap-and-trade pollution permits, seeming reversals on eavesdropping and torture, and squishiness on a public option for health care.

In my view, both positions are wrong. A new president — even one as talented and well-motivated as Obama — can’t get a thing done in Washington unless the public is actively behind him. As FDR said in the reelection campaign of 1936 when a lady insisted that if she were to vote for him he must commit to a long list of objectives, “Ma’am, I want to do those things, but you must make me.”

We must make Obama do the right things. Email, write, and phone the White House. Do the same with your members of Congress. Round up others to do so. Also: Find friends and family members in red states who agree with you, and get them fired up to do the same. For example, if you happen to have a good friend or family member in Montana, you might ask him or her to write Max Baucus and tell him they want a public option included in any healthcare bill.

My memory reaches back to September 18, 1787:

Mrs. Powell: “Well, doctor, what have we got?”

Benjamin Franklin: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”