Thursday, February 12, 2009

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

I'm not sure whether the big drop in bank stocks was a function of general nervousness (bad) or sinking realization that bank shareholders are not going to have a good year (not-so-bad). But it does seem pretty clear that the central psychological response to the first three weeks of the Obama administration is alternating between a sense that we have to do something immediately and a deeper sense that we have to get it right. With a crisis as complex as the economic meltdown and a world as fluid as it is in the Middle East, this is going to mean a bumpy ride. Overall, it seems to me a good thing that the process so far has allowed for a great deal of debate and scrutiny and skepticism. . . .

The reason his approval remains high, I suspect, is that Americans just elected him and feel he deserves a chance. I agree with them, and urge a little patience. This is a mighty big hole we're in. And he's a president, not a messiah.

One big difference between governors and congressmen is that governors are out there on the front lines, dealing with the real everyday needs of their citizens. Whereas members of Congress can afford to retreat into ideology, governors have no such luxury.

Which brings us to Charlie Crist, the popular Republican governor of Florida, who today may well be known nationwide for two things: (a) the deepest tan since George Hamilton, and (b) the man-hug that he shared on Tuesday with President Obama.

Crist epitomizes the gap that separates Republican governors (who are trying desperately to safeguard the welfare of their citizens), and Republican members of Congress (who are opposing the Obama stimulus package that would help the governors safeguard the welfare of their citizens). Many of the Republican governors face huge budget deficits, thanks to the recession; they would welcome the infusion of federal money, which would allow them to keep paying (among others) the teachers and the firefighters and the unemployment checks of the jobless.


I actually think 2009 in Iraq is gonna be a lot tougher than 2008, for three reasons:

* Elections in Iraq tend to be destabilizing, and there are three scheduled for this year, with national elections at the end of the year.

* At the same time, large numbers of American troops, who have been keeping a lid on things, probably will be withdrawn. General Odierno says . . . that he thinks things will get dicey at the end of his year and the beginning of next year, when we start pulling out of less secure areas, having already left the more secure ones.

* Finally, none of the basic questions facing Iraq have been resolved. Oil revenue is just the most prominent. As Odierno says, the surge created a breathing space, and some Iraqi leaders used that space to move backward.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy insisted in firm and passionate terms that a comprehensive investigation be launched into the conduct of the Bush administration, saying anything less would prevent the country from moving forward.

Speaking at a forum at Georgetown University, the Vermont Democrat suggested the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission to uncover the "misdeeds" of the past eight years.

"Many Americans feel we need to get to the bottom of what went wrong," said Leahy. "I agree. We need to be able to read the page before we turn the page."

The court papers describe horrific treatment in secret prisons. Mr. Mohamed claimed that during his detention in Morocco, "he was routinely beaten, suffering broken bones and, on occasion, loss of consciousness. His clothes were cut off with a scalpel and the same scalpel was then used to make incisions on his body, including his penis. A hot stinging liquid was then poured into open wounds on his penis where he had been cut. He was frequently threatened with rape, electrocution and death."

Evil twin, nemesis, archenemy—whatever the term, every great protagonist has one. Superman had Bizarro, his alternate-universe self. Spock from Star Trek had the shady, goateed "mirror" Spock. Super Mario has the cackling Wario.

And Barack Obama has Michael Steele.


Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested that he was open to allowing the media to photograph the flag-draped coffins of fallen soldiers as their bodies and remains are returned to the United States.

"If the needs of the families can be met and the privacy concerns can be addressed, the more honor we can accord these fallen heroes, the better," Mr. Gates told reporters.

He said he was ordering a review of the military policy that bars photographers from taking pictures of the return of the coffins, most of which are coming from Iraq and Afghanistan and go through Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. He also set a "short deadline" for a decision. The military has said the policy is meant to protect the privacy of the families of the dead soldiers and maintain dignity. But skeptics, who include some families as well as opponents of the war in Iraq, say that the bodies in the returning coffins are not publicly identified, so privacy is not an issue, and that barring photographers is a political maneuver meant to sanitize the war.

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