Rachel Maddow Has A Book to Sell!

… Which, needless to say, she explains far more competently in the video than I could hope to. Even better news, for fans of Dr. Maddow: Crown Publishing not only sent me a copy of DRIFT: The Unmooring of American Military Power, I’ve got a signed hardback copy to give away to one of you lucky readers. Haven’t finished reading my copy yet, but so far it’s both brisk and informative — as anyone who’s listened to Maddow would expect.

So, the Contest: I’ll be re-posting this entry tomorrow, for people who go to bed early or don’t read Balloon Juice on the weekends. Then, between 7pm and 8pm EDT, WordPress willing, I’ll put up a post labelled “CONTEST: Rachel Maddow’s Drift”. The writer of Comment #[redacted] on that post wins the book… and the rest of you can place your pre-orders in time for Tuesday’s release.

While this isn’t optimal for BJ’s overseas readers, it’s the least unfair method I can come up with to give as many people as possible a chance at winning. Any suggestions, please leave me a comment below!








Open Thread: “It Was the Shortest Walk I Ever Had”

Kudos to President Obama for choosing an ‘unpredicted’ World Bank nominee that’s got all the right people excited:

… In 2003, [Kim] won a MacArthur genius grant. In 2004, he was named director of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS department, where he ran the “3×5” campaign, which sought to put three million new HIV/AIDS patients in developing countries on antiretroviral drugs by 2005 (it ended up taking till 2007). In 2006, he was on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2009, he became president of Dartmouth College.
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“At some point, you have to decide whether you’re going to keep throwing your body at a problem, which is what I’ve always done,” he told the New York Times. “You realize that one person can’t do that much. So what I want to do is train an army of leaders to engage with the problems of the world, who will believe the possibilities are limitless, that there’s nothing they can’t do.”

Now there’s a quote for our times. (Also too, thanks Kay for keeping us updated on this.)

And while everyone’s taking a moment from discussing Hunger Games to look beyond our borders, in celebration of the wonderous interconnectedness that is the Internets, I’m going to lift Felix Salmon’s excerpted story from Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s TED talk:

From 1967 to ’70, Nigeria fought a war: the Nigeria-Biafra war. And in the middle of that war, I was 14 years old… We were on the Biafran side. And we were down to eating one meal a day, running from place to place, but wherever we could help we did. At a certain point in time, in 1969, things were really bad. We were down to almost nothing in terms of a meal a day. People, children were dying of kwashiorkor. I’m sure some of you who are not so young will remember those pictures. Well, I was in the middle of it. In the midst of all this, my mother fell ill with a stomach ailment for two or three days. We thought she was going to die. My father was not there. He was in the army. So I was the oldest person in the house. My sister fell very ill with malaria. She was three years old and I was 15. And she had such a high fever. We tried everything. It didn’t look like it was going to work.
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Until we heard that 10 kilometers away there was a doctor, who was able … who was giving … looking at people and giving them meds. Now I put my sister on my back, burning, and I walked 10 kilometers with her strapped on my back. It was really hot. I was very hungry. I was scared because I knew her life depended on my getting to this woman. We heard there was a woman doctor who was treating people. I walked 10 kilometers, putting one foot in front of the other. I got there and I saw huge crowds. Almost a thousand people were there, trying to break down the door. She was doing this in a church. How was I going to get in? I had to crawl in between the legs of these people with my sister strapped on my back, find a way to a window. And while they were trying to break down the door, I climbed in through the window, and jumped in. This woman told me it was in the nick of time. By the time we jumped into that hall, she was barely moving. She gave a shot of her chloroquine, what I learned was the chloroquine, then gave her some, it must have been a re-hydration, and some other therapies, and put us in a corner. In about two to three hours, she started to move. And then, they toweled her down because she started sweating, which was a good sign. And then my sister woke up. And about five or six hours later, she said we could go home. I strapped her on my back. I walked the 10 kilometers back and it was the shortest walk I ever had. I was so happy that my sister was alive. Today, she’s 41 years old, a mother of three, and she’s a physician saving other lives.

Yeah, there’s worse predicaments than “I wept because I had no iPad, until I met a man who had no wireless access.”

So, now that I’ve spoiled everyone’s good mood… what’s on the agenda for the weekend?








Faith vs. Reason: Stand Your Ground/Violent Crime Edition

Last night the PBS News Hour program held a roundtable on the Trayvon Martin murder.  Ta-Nehisi Coates was on, as were Reihan Salem and Donna Britt.  So was Dennis Baxley, the Florida state representative who co-authored the Stand Your Ground law under whose cloak George Zimmerman stalked and gunned down the 17 year old Martin.

Baxley said — and appeared to mean — the right things about Martin’s death, that it was a tragedy, and that nothing in the law he helped enact should be interpreted to authorize someone to pursue, confront and shoot another.  But Baxley rejected the notion that the law itself might have contributed to the catastrophe, arguing instead that it is a force for good, a way, in his words, a law intended “to empower law abiding citizens to stop violent things from happening.”

What’s more, said Baxley, the law has done just that:

Since ’05 to 2012 we have seen a reduction in violent crime in Florida.  And what I’ve learned from it is that if you empower to stop bad things from happening they will and they do and they have.

Except, of course, those bad things that happen because people are able to claim that a “feeling” of danger constitutes authorization to use deadly force more or less at will.

But snark aside, what of the claim about crime rates in Florida.

Here, I’ll take a cue from Rachel Maddow, and say that Dennis Baxler is lying. Read more








Symptoms Of A Syndrome

On a day where President Obama spoke about Trayvon Martin’s murder and said the following:

“All of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen,” President Obama said Friday morning following a White House Rose Garden ceremony when asked about the 17-year-old’s death.

The president called the shooting a “tragedy” and says “every aspect” of the case should be investigated. Obama gave his condolences to the slain teenager’s parents and said if he had a son, “he’d look like Trayvon.”

We have this going on at a Rick Santorum event

At a shooting range in Louisiana on Friday, an onlooker encouraged Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum to pretend the target he was firing at was President Barack Obama.

“Santorum is shooting a 1911 Colt,” Politico’s Juana Summers tweeted from the sheriff’s office shooting range in West Monroe. “Range master says ‘Well, it’s not your first rodeo.’ Someone here says ‘pretend its Obama.’”

…and this out of the mouth of Newt Gingrich….

In a radio interview on Thursday, Newt Gingrich returned to one of his favorite recent themes, what he calls the “elite media” and their conspiracy to aid and abet the Obama administration.

In an article at Huffington Post, the former Speaker of the House is quoted as saying to Sandy Rios of the American Family Association that the “elite media” are “in the tank for Obama” and will do everything they can to see him re-elected.

“It is just astonishing to me how pro-Obama they are,” he said, “Do you think you are going to see two pages on Obama’s Muslim friends? Or two pages on the degree to which Obama is consistently apologizing to Islam while attacking the Catholic church?”

…and I just shake my head.  I’m a black male who has survived to the ripe old age of 36 and is not incarcerated.  I’m an exception in this country, it seems.  I live in one of the 24 states that has a law that solely exists to justify the use of deadly force as the ultimate sanction against someone who is merely perceived to be a threat, without evidence, due process, or the right to face your accuser (because hey, you’re effing dead.)  The legislative need to create laws like this is a symptom of a much more awful syndrome, and in every case these laws were passed by “pro-life” Republicans led by the gun lobbyists.

These laws are designed to allow vigilantism, period.  It’s the worst impulse of the whole Glibertarian/Paulite/Somali Pirate anarcho-justice codified into “I get to decide who lives and who dies, and I reserve the right to exercise that impulse at any point.”  We’re all castles stomping around killing each other, and may the best, most heavily armed castle win.  And as far as Republicans are concerned, well that impulse extends to “We’ve decided that having a black President violates our right not to have one, so we’re going to do something about it from the ground up.”

Trayvon Martin’s awful, pointless murder is just a symptom of a much uglier sickness.

[UPDATENewt doubles down.

“What the president said, in a sense, is disgraceful,” Gingrich said on the Hannity Radio show. “It’s not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period. We should all be horrified no matter what the ethnic background.

“Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it didn’t look like him. That’s just nonsense dividing this country up. It is a tragedy this young man was shot. It would have been a tragedy if he had been Puerto Rican or Cuban or if he had been white or if he had been Asian American of if he’d been a Native American. At some point, we ought to talk about being Americans. When things go wrong to an American, it is sad for all Americans. Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.”

Effing. Perfect.








They’ve Always Been Banking On Failure

A lot of rightful facepalming has been made over GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s odiously awful budget proposal adding some 50 million Americans to the ranks of the uninsured and basically handing over trillions to the one percent, but in addition to all that the GOP would end up obliterating Dodd-Frank and leaving us with the same “oversight” we had in 2007 when the financial meltdown came barreling through our lives.  Suzy Khimm over at Ezra Klein’s Kaplan Nerd Farm details the carnage:

The Ryan budget, however, would actually repeal the FDIC’s new resolution authority, arguing that it would have the opposite effect of what’s intended by allowing bank regulators “to access taxpayer dollars in order to bail out the creditors of large, ‘systemically significant’ financial institutions.” By doing so, Ryan says he would “end the regime now enshrined into law that paves the way for future bailouts.”

His blueprint doesn’t go into much further detail to explain why this is the case. But other critics of Dodd-Frank have argued that it could enable the FDIC to take control of failing firms and rely on taxpayer funds to keep the systemically important parts running through a government-run “bridge” financial company. That’s likely why Ryan believes the cost of the new resolution authority could far exceed the Congressional Budget Office’s $26 billion estimate.

While outside analysts across the political spectrum have shared Ryan’s concerns that Dodd-Frank doesn’t do enough to stop Too Big to Fail, their specific worry is often quite different than Ryan’s: they’re worried that bank regulators have too little authority, not too much, to quickly take down failing firms. It’s unclear, for example, how swiftly and forcefully the FDIC would use the new rules to liquidate a highly troubled, systemically important firm.

Repealing that authority as Ryan proposes eliminates a new government channel for intervention, but it wouldn’t explicitly prohibit future bailouts, which could become more likely if systemically risky banks aren’t wound down in an orderly fashion.

Of course they would be, that’s the point.  Banks are profitable now only because they got trillions in mulligans from the Bushies (and FOX News has done a terrific job of lying to the American people, convincing them that President Obama bailed out the banks, not Bush and Hank Paulson, and conflating the Obama stimulus with the Bush bank bailout on purpose.)  Here’s the thing: I know everyone says that Ryan’s budget proposal is just empty posturing that has no effect on the actual budget, but if there’s a GOP Senate to go along with the House in 2013, these proposals will end up on the President’s desk.

Let’s not pretend that the GOP getting into actual power will moderate the Ryan Plan.  This is their plan for America’s future, where the rising tide lifts all yachts and drowns the rest of us who can’t tread water.  And speaking of the Kaplan Nerd Farm, when Ezra Klein says things like this:

Today, the Republican Party is in a different place, and my theory is that it’s because they’ve committed themselves to a set of fiscal priorities — lower taxes, higher defense spending, no entitlement changes for 210 years, and lower deficits — that can only be reconciled through draconian cuts to programs for the poor.

The result is that when Republican politicians stop speaking for themselves and begin speaking for their party, their fiscal proposals have to reflect those priorities, and so they end up cutting deep into programs for the poor, even though that may not be their personal preference. But that is, of course, just speculation.

I have to have a good, long laugh, because the dude has it so backwards it’s actually funny.  Draconian cuts to the poor at the expense to give more to the rich was exactly what the Republican party has been engineering since 1980.  We’re just in the endgame now.  They didn’t “accidentally leave themselves no other choice” any more than any other fanatical group of nutjobs have throughout history.  The cuts have been the point all along, knucklehead.  Like I said, let’s stop pretending that a series of unfortunate and non-preventable accidents led the GOP to this sad fate.  This is deliberate, it has been deliberate, they believe this stuff period, and we have to recognize that first thing.

[UPDATE:]  Oh, and for the folks still convinced that none of this is deliberate and that the Ryan Budget will quietly die in the House because it’s an election year, well that’s not happening either.