Archive for February, 2009

A Shoe For Samira Jassim

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

For the past couple of years, the number of suicide bombings in Iraq that have been carried out by women has increased. In the Canberra Times, Woman Set Up Rapes To ‘Recruit” 80 Suicide Bombers tells the story of Samira Jassim. Covered also by the BBC in Iraq’s ‘female bomber recruiter’, Jassim was detained by Iraqi authorities in January. According to BBC

In an apparent video confession, the middle-aged woman described how she identified potential bombers, helped supply them with explosives and led them to their targets.

She also explained, in a separate interview with the Associated Press, how insurgents used rape as a tool, with the “shamed” women persuaded to redeem themselves through suicide attacks.

And

Insurgents use female bombers because they can hide explosives under their robes and are less likely to be searched by male guards at security checkpoints.

Both articles state that such claims are impossible to verify. However, according to the Canberra Times

…Jassim has given unusual first-hand descriptions of the possible workings behind last year’s spike in attacks by female bombers.

The United States should stop worrying whether having females in underwear interrogate prisoners is torture and, instead, redouble efforts to rid the world of flagitious scum. It’s too bad that Muntadhir al-Zaidi could not see the depth of responsibility that Iraqis have for their own country.

8 in 10? Really?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

In yesterday’s Washington Post, ahead of President Obama’s address, there was Obama Gets High Marks for 1st Month.

Large majorities of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll support his $787 billion economic stimulus package and the recently unveiled $75 billion plan to stem mortgage foreclosures. Nearly seven in 10 poll respondents said Obama is delivering on his pledge to bring needed change to Washington, and about eight in 10 said he is meeting or exceeding their expectations.

What stood out for me was the 8 in 10 figure. Since slightly more than half the electorate voted for Obama, this suggest that more than half of those that voted against Obama say he meets or exceeds their expectation. Maybe those expectations aren’t very high? What have we after a month?

  • A “stimulus package” that is more of a down payment on democratic priorities than temporary, and targeted to administer a jolt to the economy and jobs. A 1,000 page package that was provided a scant eleven hours ahead of the vote. Scare tactics to whip up the populace.
  • A crucial mistake of permitting Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to run with the stimulus package. If this mistake continues, I think the Republicans will be back in power sooner than most people think.
  • More definitions of bipartisanship than there are for the Bush Doctrine.
  • A census power grab that would make Dick Cheney blush.
  • Hot and cold running tax cheats.
  • Immediate set-aside of ethics reforms to permit lobbyists to come aboard.
  • A major report from Geithner that was about as pointed as a nerf football. The stock market voted quickly on this one.

All of which leads me to wonder whether the 8 in 10 figure was a real sample. I mean, I’d expect an 8 in 10 figure form, say

  • The ladies on The View (would have been 10 in 10 except for Elizabeth Hasselbeck).
  • A will.i.am album release party.
  • The 8 people arrested in connection with Michael Phelps’ baking class at University of South Carolina.

Cars of the Rich and Famous

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

As I begin writing this, President Obama is on the big screen.

It’s not about helping banks, it’s about helping people.

In today’s Washington Post, there was an “In The Loop” article about Obama’s auto industry task force, the light-hearted takeaway being that maybe Detroit will find it difficult to get a fair shake from the task force because, ahem, few of the members, or their top aides, own cars from the Big Three. Here are the alarming details, along with my take

  • Co-chair Timothy F. Geithner (“whose grandfather worked for Ford”) drives an Acura TSX. Come on Tim, you are a master of the universe, you can do better than a bottom-of-the-line Acura, especially given the money you have saved in taxes over the past several years.
  • National Economic Council Director Lawrence H. Summers drives a 1995 Mazda Protege. Disgraceful. I guess Harvard does not pay their President much money.
  • OMB Director Peter Orszag drives a 2008 Honda and a 2004 Volvo. Zzzzzz.
  • EPA Chief Lisa Jackson drives a Prius. Mad props. Practicing what she preaches.
  • Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner and Steven Chu don’t have any cars. Worrisome, if you ask me. Practically un-American.
  • No car information was available for Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood or Head of Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer.

And then the top aides.

  • Staff Director of the White House Economic Recovery Advisory Board Austan Goolsbee drives a 2004 Toyota Highlander. This better be the 4-wheel drive version. Nothing ticks me off like purchasers of SUVs that cheap-out and buy the 2-wheel drive versions.
  • Chief of Staff to LaHood, Joan DeBoer drives a 2008 Lexus. Finally. A rich person that isn’t slumming it.
  • Deputy Director of the White House Office of Climate Change Heather Zichal drives a Volvo. Another democrat, another Volvo. What are the odds?
  • Treasury Counsel Gene Sperling drives a 2003 Lincoln. A Lincoln? No wonder he is serving in the Obama administration. Maybe a friend of Detroit?
  • Senior Advisor at the Labor Department Edward B. Montgomery drives a Harley Davidson. No word on whether Edward is a member of HAMC.
  • Senior Counsel at EPA Lisa Heinzerling drives a 1998 Suburu. Time for a new Suby, Lisa!
  • Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Diana Farrell does not own a car. But her husband drives a 1985 Peugeot. Psychiatric counseling is in order. When I think of something that is 24 years old, and French, it’s not a Peugeot.
  • Senior advisor to Chu, Dan Utech drives a 2003 Mini Cooper. Nice. I hope it is a Mini Cooper S.
  • Senior advisor to the Commerce Department Rick Wade owns a 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier. Time to stimulate the economy, Rick, and maybe help out Detroit.
  • Biden Chief Economist Jared Bernstein drives a 2005 Honda Odyssey. Strange, but I always thought Jared was a man’s name.

You Go Girl!

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

In today’s Washington Post, Clinton’s Candor Abroad Draws Mixed Reviews tells of “Hillary Rodham Clinton’s blunt and unadorned style of diplomacy”. According to the article, this style

has been evident throughout her first trip as secretary of state the past week in Asia. She questioned the efficacy of sanctions against the repressive junta in Burma, spoke openly about a possible succession crisis in North Korea and admitted that she expected to make little progress on human rights in China.

And

To a certain extent, these comments crossed taboo lines in international diplomacy. U.S. officials generally do not say their sanctions have failed, or speculate about the future government of another country, or suggest that a carefully watched human rights dialogue is largely a farce.

Clinton’s willingness to speak frankly — combined with an extensive effort to get beyond ministerial meetings in order to hold town hall meetings and conduct local television interviews in the countries she visits — suggests she will put a distinctive personal stamp on the Obama administration’s foreign policy. What is emerging is something less rigid, less cautious and more open.

Before her meetings in Beijing, for instance, Clinton said she would raise human rights issues with Chinese officials, “but we pretty much know what they’re going to say.”

I don’t much care for go-along-to-get-along diplomats that mean no offense and accomplish nothing but a full dance card. So Clinton’s style is exactly the kind of diplomacy that has been lacking. A dose of honesty, similar to that provided by former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, and that provided by Hilary Clinton now as Secretary of State, is just what the doctor ordered.

The article focuses especially on Clinton’s remarks on China.

In foreign policy circles, Clinton’s remarks on human rights have stirred consternation that she is giving up possible leverage with China before any dialogue has begun. Others say that she is inviting criticism from Capitol Hill and human rights groups that undermines her ability as a diplomat.

And later

James Mann, a Johns Hopkins University scholar who wrote a history of U.S.-China relations, viewed Clinton’s remarks as part of a further downgrading of the importance of human rights in American policy toward China over the years.

And the article ends with this

“Bill Clinton told the leader of China he was on ‘the wrong side of history,’ ” Mann noted. “Now, Hillary seems to be giving them the reverse message: that China is on the right side of history.”

This seems like a bit of a downer. But earlier in the article, there is this

“I think she clearly feels it’s necessary to induce realism and perspective to expectations and performance, and to tell the Chinese that Obama knows that we all need to work together, so she is determined not to let less centrally vital issues handicap that,” said Chris Nelson, who writes an influential newsletter on Asian policy.

This seems to be about the right balance, though certainly the human rights groups would disagree strongly. I hope Hilary Clintons continues to call ’em as she sees ’em.

Human Terrain Systems

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

For several years now, the US Army has been embedding small “Human Terrain Teams” at the brigade/regiment level. Each Human Terrain Team comprises two anthropologists and three military personnel. According to the Wikipedia article on Human Terrain System (HTS)

[the team] includes a team leader who advises the commander and represents the population at unit planning, a research manager, a cultural anthropolgist/sociologist who conducts ethnographic/social science research, another social scientist who conducts research and runs focus groups with the locals, and an analyst/debreifer from coalition elements. The teams are fully integrated into unit staffs, providing advice on how to interact productively with the local population and represent the “human terrain” in planning, preparation, execution and assessment of operations.

Not surprisingly, anthropologists are aghast. For example, according to the Wikipedia article

HTS is controversial amongst professional anthropologists, many of whom perceive it as an attempt to “weaponize” anthropology.

The American Anthropological Association has published a statement opposing the Human Terrain System.  They denounced the program in October 2007, concerned it could lead to compromise of ethics, disgrace to anthropology as an academic discipline, and the endangerment of research subjects. Some academics denounce the program as “mercenary anthropology” that exploits social science for political gain, fearing HTS could cause all anthropologists to be viewed as intelligence-gatherers for the US military.

Well, we surely wouldn’t want to use knowledge to our advantage during international struggles, would we?  And this knowledge couldn’t be used in ways to actually reduce the likelihood that innocent civilians are killed or injured, could it? This may be proof, if any were needed, that anthropology is not, in fact, science (or at least nothing like a pure science). Practitioners of science would never object to pragmatic application.

In the first week of this year, Paula Loyd died of injuries suffered in Afghanistan at the hands of Abdul Salam while serving on a Human Terrain Team. The circumstances of her injuries, and the immediate aftermath, have led to an interesting, but little publicized, debate.

According to the Boston Globe’s Anthropologist’s war death reverberates

Paula Loyd, a Wellesley-educated researcher, began interviewing villagers about the price of cooking fuel – a key indicator of whether insurgents had hijacked supply lines.

As part of a new military program that uses social scientists to improve the troops’ understanding of the local population, Loyd began interviewing a gregarious stranger who approached her with a jug of cooking fuel in his hands. He talked for 15 minutes, thanking her profusely in English. But just as her guards motioned it was time to leave, he lit his jug on fire and engulfed the 36-year-old Loyd in flames.

Minutes later, her fellow researcher shot and killed the man, adding a violent coda to a case that has already increased debate about the worsening conditions in Afghanistan and the military’s attempt to use social science to cure insurgency.

The “fellow researcher” is Don Michael Ayala of New Orleans. According to reports, after setting Ms. Loyd on fire, Salam ran about 50 years toward Ayala, a contractor. Salam was subdued by Ayala using plastic restraints. A short time later, another member of the team approached Ayala and reported the nature and extent of Ms. Loyd’s injuries. Ayala then shot Salam in the head. Ayala has pleaded guilty to second degree murder. He is scheduled for sentencing on May 8th in federal court in Alexandria Virginia.

One line of debate takes up the extent to which Salam’s treatment of Loyd reflects Afghan men’s treatment of women, generally. Was Loyd being treated the way other women in Afghanistan are treated, or was she treated the way any member of an occupying force would be treated? For thoughtful discussion from an anthropologists point of view, see Max Forte’s Open Anthropology. Look for posts tagged with “Paula Loyd”. However, this article in the Seoul Times describes Loyd’s experience as

a fate that all too often befalls Afghani women who show signs of independence—an insult to many Afghani males.

So there is at least some question as to the true motivation of Salam and the lessons pertaining to Afghan society that one may draw from the attack.

One recurring theme in Forte’s blog is that if you think that Salam received sufficient due process and paid for his actions, the same would be true if you switched Salam with Loyd. Loyd was the occupying force, after all. If you find this of interest, please see Forte’s extensive writing.

This leads to another line of debate, which addresses the question of which character most adequately serves as a metaphor for the entire Afghanistan War.

  • Is it an enraged Salam, who lashes out, perhaps at a moment of insanity, at the occupier?
  • Is it Loyd, who represents naivete and the lost opportunity to connect with Afghan civilians?
  • Or is it Ayala, who administers sure and swift justice against enemies of the United States?

Which is it?

Ayala and Loyd

Ayala and Loyd

GTMO Narrative Meets Reality

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

In today’s Washington Post, there is a letter to the editor from Helen Schietinger of Washington.

Regarding the Feb. 16 front-page story “4 Cases Illustrate Guantanamo Quandaries”:

The most glaring Guantanamo quandary involves President Obama’s not immediately putting an end to the abuses by U.S. personnel that led to worldwide outrage about the prison in the first place. According to defense lawyers visiting the base, nothing is different about treatment of prisoners under the new administration, and the weeks are going by.

For example, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Mohammed Khan Tumani, who was detained seven years ago at age 17 and has been cleared for release, is being kept in solitary confinement. Because he recently attempted suicide and appears to have deteriorated mentally, the CCR has requested an emergency psychiatric evaluation and an improvement in his conditions of detention, but the government has not responded. Other prisoners report that he bangs his head against the wall and smears his cell with excrement.

Instead of appointing human rights investigators or the International Committee of the Red Cross or the Justice Department to investigate prison conditions, President Obama assigned Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, head of the agency responsible for the alleged abuses, to see what’s happening and report to him in 30 days.

What do you suppose that report, due next week, will say about the treatment of prisoners? And what will the president do then? Where’s the change, Mr. President?

I wonder if Ms. Schietinger’s pique is bumping against a reality. By calling for “immediately putting an end to the abuses by U.S. personnel that led to worldwide outrage…” she suggests that the detainees at GTMO are subject to constant abuses even today. This is the left’s narrative of GTMO. I suspect, but cannot prove, that the conditions of GTMO are actually quite good. From the perspective of food, TV, exercise, cleanliness, worship, medical care, and freedom from gang and sexual violence, I suspect that GTMO is actually one of the best incarceration facilities in the world.

Does it dawn on Ms. Schietinger that maybe the reason why Obama has not put an immediate end to horrible, terrible abuses is that, in fact, there are no horrible, terrible abuses? Yes, it is true that the detainees are still detained. Yes, detainees have not been charged as though they were in violation of criminal statute. But, after all, the article that motivated Ms. Schietinger to write spoke of quandaries. Maybe there really are such things as quandaries.

Are Quandaries Real?

Are Quandaries Real?

An Assault on Propriety

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

The Washington Post recently ran a series of three articles in the sports section that examine possible reasons why the University of Maryland men’s basketball team has struggled more in the six years after it won the national championship (in 2002) than any other champion in the past 18 years. The focal point of the series is coach Gary Williams.

The second article in the series describes “independent travel teams that are sponsored by major shoe companies”.  According to the article, athletes ranging in age from 8 to 17 years old participate in these leagues.  This second article suggests that Williams does not reach out to the summer league teams, and their “coaches”, in the manner necessary to land the premier players.

In the passages that follow, “AAU” stands for Amateur Athletic Union. The AAU used to sponsor summer leagues years ago, and for this reason, summer leagues today are still referred to as “AAU”. However, the use of “AAU”, as acknowledged in the Post articles, is a bit of a misnomer. The summer league teams of today “face no oversight from any national governing body and are free to behave almost any way they see fit”.

According to the Post

For years, college coaches have hired AAU coaches as assistants in attempts to attract players from that AAU program. Plus, AAU coaches have been paid to speak at camps affiliated with the college coaches. But in recent years, a few dozen elite AAU coaches have engaged in a variety of more creative practices to make money in exchange for access to their players, according to several prominent college and AAU coaches across the country.

And

Some summer league coaches also charge college coaches — sometimes hundreds of dollars — for copies of “scouting reports” that are often little more than lists of players’ names. What’s more, one elite AAU coach has suggested that he will create a 1-900 telephone number so he can make money when college coaches call him about recruits.

According to the article, the most prominent local summer league team is the D.C. Assault. It is interesting that children as young as 8 years old are members of D.C. Assault, while, in 1997, Washington’s NBA team changed its name from the Bullets to the Wizards because owner Abe Pollin felt that the name Bullets had acquired violent overtones.

When asked to characterize his relationship with D.C. Assault, [University of Maryland coach Gary] Williams said: “Whatever. We like to get really good players, without a doubt. I would like to get players from D.C. Assault. . . . D.C. Assault is a nationally known program. People from all over the country don’t go to high school, they go to D.C. Assault to recruit players.”

It appears Williams could have established a recruiting pipeline to D.C. Assault in the spring of 2005. Williams had a coaching opening, and a former player and coach for D.C. Assault, Dalonte Hill, then an assistant at Charlotte, was looking for a new job.

Hill maintained a strong relationship with Malone and D.C. Assault’s players, most notably Michael Beasley, a top-rated high school sophomore whom Hill had known for years.

Hill was very interested in Maryland’s opening, and a former associate talked to Williams about the possibility. But Williams hired Michael Adams, who had played under him at Boston College. Hill was never interviewed; Williams said he could not afford him.

A year later, Hill was hired at Kansas State, reportedly for $420,000 a year, to work under Coach Bob Huggins, who acknowledged later that he knew Beasley would follow Hill. Beasley signed with Kansas State, led the nation in rebounding and was third in scoring, and was picked second overall in the 2008 NBA draft.

Asked whether Beasley would have followed him to Maryland, Hill said: “There was a great chance. I was involved with a lot of kids at the time and I know they had a lot of interest in Maryland. I just don’t understand why they didn’t go. . . . It astonishes me.”

Maybe I’m an old fuddy-duddy, but these summer leagues seem to be a bit shady. I don’t blame Gary Williams at all for refusing to play this game. I hope the Washington Post will follow up this series, focused as it is on Gary Williams and Maryland, with an expose of the summer leagues.

By the way, Hill got a nice salary bump at Kansas State. According to the “king of the D.C. Assault empire” Curtis Malone

Hill was making only $60,000 in Charlotte at the time he was interested in Maryland and suggested it would not have taken nearly a half-million dollars to hire him.

You mean it costs less to live in suburban Washington DC than in Manhattan, Kansas? Riiiiight.

According to the K-State biography of Dalonte Hill

Hill has also played a major role in helping Kansas State land some of the country’s best recruiting classes, including the nation’s top-rated class by Scout.com and Rivals.com in 2006, which included No. 1 recruit Michael Beasley and No. 6 recruit Bill Walker.

No mention on the website of Hill’s prior relationship with Beasley through D.C. Assault. An editorial oversight, I suppose. This article on Rivals.com states

Michael Beasley made Kansas State basketball relevant for the first time in more than a decade last season, and his presence put a few extra dollars in the pocket of the man responsible for luring him to Manhattan, Kan.

That would be Wildcats assistant Dalonte Hill, Beasley’s former AAU coach in the Washington, D.C., area. Hill, entering his sixth season as a college assistant, will make more money for the 2008-09 season than the entire three-man staffs at Ohio State, Washington State and Wisconsin and only $5,000 less than the staff at Texas, a survey done by Rivals.com shows.

K-State released Hill’s contract in May. The school paid him $400,000 in 2007-08, and it will pay him $420,000 a year – $150,000 in base salary and $270,000 in “additional compensation,” defined as “television, radio, internet, promotional and other services” – for the next four years. He is entering his third year at K-State.

Who knows? In a few years, Hill might be paid more than the executives of companies that receive TARP bailouts.

15 Minutes and 15 Years

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

According to Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, Roland Burris (D-P2P) continues

…to acknowledge gaps in his testimony to a state House panel investigating former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Senate Democrats beginning a preliminary ethics inquiry into his conduct.

Burris today said he had tried to raise money for the embattled Blagojevich in the run-up to his appointment by the governor to the Senate seat vacated by President Obama — the latest in a series of revelations that raised serious questions about whether he had been entirely truthful in his sworn testimony before an Illinois state House committee weighing whether to impeach Blagojevich for allegations that he sought to sell the Senate seat.

Originally Burris said he had contact with only one Blagojevich associate — Lon Monk — but over the weekend he acknowledged that he had had several conversations with the governor’s brother, who inquired about the possibility of Burris raising money for Blagojevich acheter propranolol.

The string of revelations has prompted Senate Democrats to scramble to stop the bleeding in a situation that has already caused the party — both in the state and nationally — considerable embarrassment.

For more details about Burris’ extensive financial support of Blagojevich, refer to this post.

Burris, your 15 minutes is up. Blago, your 15 years is about to start.

15 and 15

15 and 15

Wake Up!

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Shortly after the inauguration, Bill Moyers Journal had two African-American women as guests on his show, Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Patricia Williams of Princeton University and Columbia University, respectively.

Now ordinarily I don’t spend much time watching Bill Moyers Journal. Actually, I should say that I don’t spend much time watching Bill Moyers Journal seriously. It is usually quite entertaining listening to a bunch of leftists pontificating and huffing and puffing.

But this particular section of the program stuck with me

BILL MOYERS: Obama himself once said he was trying to raise himself as a black man in America and, quote, “Beyond the given of my appearance, no one around seemed to know exactly what that meant.” Have you given any thought as to why he chose to be African American instead than bi-racial?

PATRICIA WILLIAMS: The word “choice” is probably a little bit overstated because I don’t think that anyone really chooses when you are apparently-”

BILL MOYERS: Right.

PATRICIA WILLIAMS: -dark skinned. And at the same time, I do think that the question of African American manhood is a very freighted cultural identity. And I don’t think it’s just somebody with his background that struggles with that. I have a 16-year-old son who was struggling to understand what growing up as an African American man means. I wouldn’t separate it from the general struggle of what it means to be, to appear to the world, in a particular way that, to which people assign, you know, extra cool or a particular way of dressing or a particular way of speaking. And I think it’s quite complicated for anybody.

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, there seems to be some evidence in the first autobiography, “Dreams From My Father”, where he suggests that part of that choice has to do with angling towards being his dad, that that absent parent gave him something to which he was trying to aspire, that he’d heard lots of stories about what an enormous personality and an important man his father was. So I think part of the choice of blackness had to do with him trying to come into being like Barack, Sr.

But the real symbol that we see every moment is his choice of Michelle Obama. And in many ways, Michelle Robinson, who becomes Michelle Obama, is representative of a very particular choice on the part of Barack, that as a multi-racial, Harvard Law educated, African American man, those of us in the black community get what the choices for dating and marriage were for Barack.

And he chose a woman as tall as him, as smart as him, and black from a distance. She’s a woman who is not someone who could have ever opted out of blackness. And here he is rearing two African American daughters, on the South Side of Chicago, with a smart, tall, fabulous black wife. And it, you know, it helps me forgive a lot of policy ills for Barack when I see Michelle, only in the sense that there is for me a sense, at a core level that he sees me, that he sees my daughter, who’s seven years old, that whatever our disagreements are, there is a fundamental goodwill around his sense of the humanity of African American women. And that is, I think, a very empowering connection back with African American voters.

Then, this past weekend, on CSPAN2’s Book TV, I saw David Brooks interviewing Gwen Ifill about her new book The Break-Through: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. Paraphrasing a little bit, David Brooks observed that Barrack Obama and Deval Patrick faced some of the same challenges, “most notably, were they black enough”. Ms. Ifill said that it is “always an infuriating question that keeps coming up, always from black audiences, black folks…”. She goes on to say that the question is really “are you down with the cause?” and “who are you going to represent if I put you in there?” and “are you selling out to these other people or are you going to be speaking for me?”.

And then this

For a lot of African Americans, the best thing that Barrack Obama had going for him was Michelle Obama, especially among black women. Well he married a black woman. But he didn’t have to marry a black woman. That must mean something.

Wow. If I hear one more person saying that Michelle Obama sealed the deal for them, I might possibly conclude that Obama picked Michelle to further his political career rather than, say, because he found her to be the love of his life.

I think that maybe a lot of white people that voted for Barrack Obama are hoping that his election will make these kinds of conversations much less common in the future. Though I didn’t vote for Obama, I can say that it is certainly my hope that we have heard the last of questions such as “are they black enough”.

And for all the “black audiences”, “black folks”, and “black women”, I hope that they take some of their stimulus rebate and purchase a copy of Spike Lee’s “School Daze“.

Wake Up!

Wake Up!

Let Me Get This Straight

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Blue dog Democrat, and former Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints quarterback, Heath Shuler (D-NC) observes that, while Obama has made the effort to hear his concerns on the stimulus package, the same was not true of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. According to Shuler

I truly feel that’s where maybe House leadership and Senate leadership have really failed.

Politoco blogger Glenn Thrush reports this email response from Jim Manley, spokesman for Harry Reid.

Let me get this straight – this is coming from a guy who threw more than twice as many interceptions than touchdowns?

Maybe someone should tell congressman Shuler that under the leadership of President Obama we have put together a bipartisan bill that will create or save 3 to 4 million jobs, and that we have been more than willing to work with our republican friends. We have accepted some of their ideas and will continue to do so. But not at the expense of creating jobs, investing in our future of helping the middle class. He can stand on a stage if he wants, but senate democrats are busy trying to pass legislation that will provide essential investments designed to create and save jobs.

Shuler was one of the eleven Democrats that joined all House Republicans in a bipartisan vote against the House’s stimulus plan. Good going, Heath. But this FireDogLake blog story provides a different spin on the whole thing by suggesting

[Shuler] was “encouraged” by the White House (whch Robert Gibbs would not deny).  It looks like Rahm Emanuel, who is in charge of managing the White House’s relationship with the press, is himself pursuing a strategy to make Reid and Pelosi look as weak as possible and once again has his hand up Shuler’s dress.

So, if this is to be believed, and I’m not sure that it is, we are to conclude that Shuler, and maybe other House Democrats that voted against the stimulus, served as proxy for the White House in a struggle against Pelosi and Reid? And that Manley’s cheap shot against Shuler is, really, Reid’s way of pushing back against Obama and the White House?

If there is anything to this, this is going to be good. Time for a trip to the snack bar.