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Says one Democratic operative of Messina: “I hope he’s better at political campaigns than at managing big, important pieces of legislation.”Jim Messina, Obama’s Enforcer, by Ari Berman

As Jim Messina begins his role in Obama’s reelection campaign it’s a perfect time for Berman to share this insider tale so familiar to many of us who watch this from the cat bird seat of Washington, because it gives you a window into just how differently 2012 is likely to be from 2008.

Nothing frosted me more than watching the White House bungle the health care messaging. Ari Berman’s piece in The Nation quotes top Democratic sources, many of whom stay off the record for fear of retribution, revealing the extent of the Democratic disaster.

Jim Messina is the guy who got beat by Sarah Palin’s “death panels” squeal. I was one of the first to give Sarah Palin the credit she earned, though there was criticism too, all the way up and through the midterms, Palin’s ability to seize the midterm moment left the establishment power of both parties stymied, but the damage she did to Democrats on health care was incalculable. Of course, since then Palin’s power has waned, with her blood-libel video after Tucson an embarrassment, while the Tea Party activists continue to be a double-edged machete.

However, Jim Messina’s mistakes led the Democrats into a legislative quagmire and electoral disaster in 2010 that still has Democrats and progressives spitting mad.

Jim Messina is also the guy who bought Andrew Breitbart’s smear tactics, then praised the quick firing of Shirley Sherrod to staffers, which I wrote about here, based on the reporting of Ben Smith at Politico.

From Berman’s piece:

Messina begins the re-election campaign with a significant amount of baggage. As a former chief of staff to Baucus and deputy to Emanuel, Messina has clashed with progressive activists and grassroots Obama supporters both inside and outside Washington over political strategy and on issues like healthcare reform and gay rights, alienating parts of the very constituencies that worked so hard for Obama in 2008 and that the campaign needs to reinspire and activate in 2012. Obama’s fixer has arguably created as many problems as he’s solved. “He is not of the Obama movement,” says one top Democratic strategist in Washington. “There is not a bone in his body that speaks to or comprehends the idea of a movement and that grassroots energy. To me, that’s bothersome.”

[…] Under Messina, Obama ‘12 could more closely resemble the electoral strategy of Baucus or Bill and Hillary Clinton—cautious, controlling, top-down in structure and devoted to small-bore issues that blur differences between the parties—than Obama ‘08, a grassroots effort on a scale modern politics had never seen. “It was a major harbinger to me, when Obama hired him, that we were not going to get ‘change we can believe in,’” says Ken Toole, a former Democratic state senator and public service commissioner in Montana. “Messina has a lot of talents, but he’s extremely conservative in his views on how to do politics. He’s got a tried-and-true triangulation methodology, and that’s never gonna change.” The Democratic National Committee declined to make Messina available for an interview.

To refresh, Messina is the “veal pen” man and was instrumental on muscling the health care bill away from anything progressives wanted and toward the private deal with insurers, particularly PhRMA, that sunk and stunk up the plan. More from Berman:

The administration deputized Messina as the top liaison to the Common Purpose Project. The coveted invite-only, off-the-record Tuesday meetings at the Capitol Hilton became the premier forum where the administration briefed leading progressive groups, including organizations like the AFL-CIO, MoveOn, Planned Parenthood and the Center for American Progress, on its legislative and political strategy. Theoretically, the meetings were supposed to provide a candid back-and-forth between outside groups and administration officials, but Messina tightly controlled the discussions and dictated the terms of debate (Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake memorably dubbed this the “veal pen”). “Common Purpose didn’t make a move without talking to Jim,” says one progressive strategist. During the healthcare fight, Messina used his influence to try to stifle any criticism of Baucus or lobbying by progressive groups that was out of sync with the administration’s agenda, according to Common Purpose participants. “Messina wouldn’t tolerate us trying to lobby to improve the bill,” says Richard Kirsch, former national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now (HCAN), the major coalition of progressive groups backing reform. Kirsch recalled being told by a White House insider that when asked what the administration’s “inside/outside strategy” was for passing healthcare reform, Messina replied, “There is no outside strategy.”

As for the never ending promises to the gay community, Joe Subday says DADT passed “in spite of Messina.” If Joe says this is the truth, it is. Many people won’t be so blunt, because progressive groups don’t want the backlash and to be frozen out.

But if there is one thing that resonates with what I hear constantly it is this sentence from Berman’s piece:

Corporate America no longer regards Obama as an ally, while many donors from 2008 are disillusioned with the administration’s legislative compromises and political timidity.

Couple all of this with progressive disappointment and disgust over the trajectory of Obama’s first term and you’ve got a whole lot of depressed Democrats and progressives as 2012 rolls around and the Republicans get ready to do what they’ve been waiting to do since 2008. Defeat Pres. Obama at all costs.

The most committed wins and 2012 won’t come close to 2008 on the enthusiasm meter for Barack Obama. That’s a factor already baked into the election.

The good news for Messina and the Obama camp is that the Republican field remains unimpressive, with contenders like Gov. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio content to wait until Barack Obama is out of the picture. Though if Messina does for Obama in 2012 what he did for health care this could get ugly for Democrats.

Taylor Marsh is a political analyst, writer and commentator on national politics. A veteran national politics writer, Taylor’s been writing on the web since 1996. She has reported from the White House, been profiled in the Washington Post, The New Republic, and has been seen on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic, as well as on radio across the dial and on satellite, including the BBC. Marsh lives in the Washington, D.C. area. This column is cross posted from her blog.

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Diggins helps Irish stun Lady Vols, 73-59
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Notre Dame guard Brittany Mallory (22) cheers after a teammate scored against Tennessee in the first half of the NCAA women's college basketball tournament regional final, Monday, March 28, 2011, in Dayton, Ohio.
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National Journal has a fantastic interactive map of the White House.

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On today’s edition of Coffee and Markets, Brad Jackson is joined by Francis Cianfrocca to discuss Portugal’s need for a bail out, then Captain Neta Gerri of the Israeli Defense Force talks about the possibility of a new Gaza war, the conflict with the Palestinians, and more.

We’re brought to you as always by BigGovernment and Stephen Clouse and Associates. If you’d like to email us, you can do so at coffee[at] We hope you enjoy the show.

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I had fun doing this quirky interview with Fishbowl DC.

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I had fun doing this quirky interview with Fishbowl DC.

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New York Times
VCU's inside game leaves Purdue on the outside looking in
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From First Four to the Final 16: Virginia Commonwealth RollsNew York Times
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VCU stuns Purdue to score another for Richmond, Va.Chicago Sun-Times – –Chicago Daily Herald
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There’s an interesting piece out by veteran reporter Keith Koffler, who used to be part of the White House press corps while working at Roll Call. In it he beats up the Obama Administration for its systematic and heavy-handed tactic of bullying and intimidating journalists who dare to write critically of Prez Zero:

President Obama’s conference on bullying Thursday was deeply ironic to some in the White House press corps. That’s because every reporter who regularly covers the place knows that President Obama’s staff has a policy – an actual, pre-conceived policy – of bullying.

It’s a tactic that amount to no less than suppression of speech. By the “openness” administration.

The White House bullies reporters to try to ensure favorable coverage. When White House officials, particularly members of the press office, see a story they don’t like, they often call and verbally abuse the reporter who wrote the piece.

In diatribes often peppered with obscenities, they complain of profound injustice, bias, lack of relevance – anything they can think of to get reporters to back off their story.

It’s not just a series of uncontrolled outbursts. It is a planned, methodical, and highly artificial effort to either squash a story or get inside a reporter’s head so they think twice about doing a piece next time that negatively impacts Obama.

That this is an actual policy is evident from the consistency of the practice and its implementation by nearly every member of the White House press office staff. They are all nice, affable people who suddenly switch into an unmarked gear and begin running you over at full speed.

Even more interesting is when Koffler, who’s been around awhile, contrasts the sleazy, disrespectful way Obama treats the press with the way the Clinton and Bush Administrations did.And yet, these people, by and large, still worship The One.

Ah well..I suppose a bit of honesty leads to lack of access and perhaps ultimately the unemployment line, and these people do have families to feed…

Read the whole thing, it’s worth the detour.

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Editor’s note: The following first-person story is a true account of young footballer Dida Alsaffar who is pursuing a career as a professional footballer, hopefully in the Premier League. Later this month he’ll be playing in a trial in front of a…

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Japanese authorities on Saturday were racing to find ways to deliver new backup generators or batteries to a nuclear power reactor whose cooling facilities were crippled by a loss of power caused by the deadly earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on Friday afternoon.

The reactor, owned by Tokyo Electric Power Co., is drawing on battery power that may last only a few hours. Without electricity, the reactor will not be able to pump water to cool its hot reactor core, possibly leading to a meltdown or some other release of radioactive material.

That’s the WashPost at 5:06 PM today.   It doesn’t appear the siting and fail-safe design of this plant was sufficiently thought out, given that Japan is situated along the Ring of Fire, “where large numbers of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.”

Here’s ABC News, which notes in its sub-hed “Nuclear Scientists Warn of ‘Very Serious’ Radioactive Event if Japanese Reactor Not Cooled”:

Radiation levels inside a Japanese nuclear power plant have surged to 1,000 times their normal levels after today’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake knocked out power to a cooling system, and tsunami floods have hampered efforts to get it restored.

Meanwhile, heat-induced pressure built up inside the crippled reactor, prompting widespread evacuations and stoking fears of a potentially catastrophic radioactive event….

Scientists said that even though the reactor had stopped producing energy, its fuel continues to generate heat and needs steady levels of coolant to prevent it from overheating and triggering a dangerous cascade of events.

“You have to continue to supply water. If you don’t, the fuel will start to overheat and could melt,” said Edwin Lyman, a senior staff scientist in the Global Security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington,A meltdown could lead to a breach of the reactor’s steel containment vessel and allow radiation to escape into an outer, concrete containment building, or even into the environment.

“Up to 100 percent of the volatile radioactive Cesium-137 content of the pools could go up in flames and smoke, to blow downwind over large distances,” said Kevin Kamps, a nuclear waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear, which is an advocacy group that opposes nuclear weapons and power.

“Given the large quantity of irradiated nuclear fuel in the pool, the radioactivity release could be worse than the Chernobyl nuclear reactor catastrophe of 25 years ago.”

Japanese officials said radiation has not yet leaked from the plant, but ordered 2,800 people living around the facility to evacuate their homes as a precaution.

Let’s all hope the worst-case scenario doesn’t happen.

It must be said that when the worst-case scenario is unmitigated catastrophe, the greatest possible steps must be taken in advance to ensure it does not happen — and that starts with siting and design.

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Steve Cheney insists that implementing Facebook commenting on outside sites (like TechCrunch) requires people to have one identity on the web:

People yearn to be individuals. They want to be authentic. They have numerous different groups of real-life friends. They stylize conversations. They are emotional and have an innate need to connect on different levels with different people. This is because humans are born with an instinctual desire to understand the broader context of their surroundings and build rapport, a social awareness often called emotional intelligence.

…[F]orcing people to comment – and more broadly speaking to log-on – with one identity puts a massive stranglehold on our very nature. I'm not too worried about FB Comments in isolation, but the writing is on the wall: all of this off-site encroachment of the Facebook graph portends where FB is really going in pushing one identity. And a uniform identity defies us.

(Image: Process of Elimination Map by Ben Greenman)

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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

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Barack Obama’s executive ineptitude is on display at the highesty level of government.
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As the People’s Republic of China (PRC) convenes its National People’s Congress, much attention has been focused on the announcement that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has returned to the long-term trend of double-digit increases in its budget. Where China officially spent 533.5 billion renminbi ($ 81.2 billion) in 2010, it will now officially spend 601.1 billion renminbi ($ 91.5 billion) in 2011.

This 12.7 percent increase is seen as indicative of China’s growing military capabilities, including anti-ship ballistic missiles, new stealth fighters, an expanding submarine fleet, and improved command-and-control capabilities.

Yet in the same budget figures, we see that China is spending even more on internal security and increasing spending on it at a faster clip. The PRC spent 548.6 billion renminbi ($ 83.5 billion) in 2010, and this will be increased to 624.4 billion renminbi ($ 95 billion) in 2011. This constitutes a 13.8 percent increase in expenditures relating to internal security, including “police, state security, armed civil militia, courts and jails.”

Even accounting for the well-founded assumption that expenditures on the PLA are much higher than officially reported, this level of spending on domestic security is ample indication that China’s leadership is at least as concerned with internal threats as with external ones. There are widespread reports of increasing numbers of “mass incidents,” reflecting popular discontent. Moreover, China’s reaction to recent developments in the Middle East—blocking Internet searches on terms such as “Egypt” and “jasmine protests,” and clamping down and harassing foreign press—suggest the same concern about internal stability.

It should be noted that “mass incidents” arise from a range of sources, including protests against corruption, expropriation of land, environmental degradation, and lack of attention to consumer safety. At this point, they do not necessarily reflect a demand for political change so much as a desire for increased accountability by the Chinese Communist Party. But if left unaddressed, they are likely to coalesce. How Beijing addresses these issues in the coming year, beyond increased expenditures on the instruments of control, remains to be seen.

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A.J. HawkI bet Green Bay Packers coach wishes he kept his mouth shut. I bet inside linebacker wishes he would have waited until after the season to sign a new contract. , on the other hand, has to be happier than a pig in shit. Even though McCarthy proclaimed Bishop to be the Packers No. 1 […]

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A couple weeks ago Mike Fast posted two graphs showing the average plate location of each pitcher from 2007-2010 to LHBs and RHBs. I thought it was a very cool idea as it offers some insights into how pitchers attack the zone differently. It is particularly interesting to see the outlier pitchers: Derek Lowe has the lowest (ha) pitches, and Livan Hernandez pitches the farthest away to both left-handed and right-handed batters. And without being presented the data I would never have guessed that Ervin Santana throws the farthest inside to left-handed batters of any pitcher. With most pitchers throwing extremely away to lefties I wanted to see what was going on with Santana.

*As a quick side note, I think that these are the raw values straight from gameday and not Mike’s corrected values (Mike can correct me if I am wrong). But recently both Mike and Max Marchi described park correction systems to the plate locations they developed. Though take slightly different approaches they seem to get similar results, which is reassuring. Also they both come to the conclusion that for most parks on most days the data are probably off by less than an inch or two, also reassuring. But still I think the correction process is an important one, and I hope to give it some thought soon.*

Turning back to Santana, although he occasionally throws a change up he is largely a two-pitch pitcher throwing his fastball 59% of the time and his slider 36% of the time (he stopped throwing a curve in 2007) . This is the case even to left-hand batters, to whom he still throws his change up under 10% of the time and throws his slider over 30% of the time. For a right-handed starter is this is a very high percentage, maybe one of the highest in the league, for slider use to left-handed batters.

I think this is a big part of the reason he throws so far inside to left-handed batters. Sliders have glove-side movement compared to fastballs, so from right-handed pitchers they move away to right-hand batters and in to left-handed batters. Thus from a right-handed pitcher they often end up inside to left-handed batters. Since Santana throws more sliders to left-handed batters than the almost any right-handed pitcher he will tend to throw more inside pitches. And his sliders are even more inside than the average right-handed pitcher’s:
So Santana is throwing sliders to left-handed batters much more than other right-handed batters do and throwing them even farther inside than others do. Most right-handed pitchers throw fastballs and change ups to left-handed batters and when they do they throw them outside. Santana throws his share of fastballs to left-handed batters, but when he does he throws them slightly more inside than average:
When you add up all these parts — fastball not as extremely outside as other RHPs, lots of inside sliders rather than outside change ups — you get Santana’s extreme inside pitches to left-handed batters. But does it work? What are Santana’s numbers against LHBs like?

Santana has averaged a 4.7 FIP against lefties versus a 3.94 FIP against righties — a pretty reasonable platoon split and generally an okay performance against lefties. Also his slider is better against lefties than his change is, getting more whiffs (17% versus 10%), more out-of-zone swings (35% versus 24%), fewer in-zone swings (53% versus 72%), and a lower slugging on balls in play (.583 versus .626). So given what he has to work with it looks like Santana is right to go with his inside slider against LHBs so much over his change. And as a result of this he is the only pitcher whose pitches on average end up on the inside half of the plate to left-handed batters.

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