Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chait's being a dolt

Sorry, but gotta call 'em as I see 'em, and how else to describe this?

Moreover, I happen to think that liberals should be open to Social Security cuts as part of a balanced package of deficit reduction.
WHY? Is this one of those "truth lies in the middle" things?
Social Security isn't the problem; the Bush tax cuts, the recession, and two expensive overseas wars  are the problem. He KNOWS this. He's seen more than enough liberals explain exactly why and how this is the case. But he's ignoring them and taking potshots at them (seriously, read the whole post) in order to prop up Republican shibboleths and relegate seniors to an all-Whiskas diet. 

If that ain't a dolt, what the hell is?

So Apparently Dems Are Worried That They'll Lose the House

More so than they were, that is.

Funny thing how focusing on the deficit and on "bipartisanship" didn't pay any dividends, huh? We now know for a fact that the stimulus wasn't big enough (though most of us knew beforehand). We also always knew that stimulating job growth at all costs was the #1 job of the Democratic Congress, and what they'd be ultimately judged on.

We also knew that the Republicans were going to do whatever they could to block that, because it'd pay off for them. Doesn't matter how crazy they are. It's the Dems that are under the gun, not the Reps, and no amount of impassioned reminders that the Republicans' terrible governance was responsible for this will help.

But the Dems have done practically nothing, thanks principally to the Senate "blue dogs" that they protect so jealously, and time is running out. A whole lot of 'em are probably going to lose their jobs thanks to all this.

Appropriate, that, considering how they haven't given a damn about anybody else's jobs. Except, maybe, bond traders.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Witness The Face of the Teabaggers

Red, bloated, racist as hell and screaming at black men:

My favorite bit is probably around 3:30, when somebody started yelling "Mohammed's a pig". Repeatedly.

Duverger's Law is Dead

Well, so much for the idea that two-party systems produce stable governments. Canada and the UK had already beaten it senseless, but Australia just fired a shotgun round in its temple.

(Or, as was so eloquently and clearly said by the Australian electorate, "mbgffhf and also gghg vvjjv jmmbmbmbff". Words to live by.)

In any case, a lot of this is because the Greens apparently had a breakthrough. So, hey, maybe Nader's old crew should step it up. Looks like America might have the only two-party system left.

Edit: Yes, yes, technically Duverger's is about straight-up FPTP systems, and Australia's lower house uses IRV. Even so. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

You Gotta Be Kidding Me

Hey, Barry? Got a tip for you.

If you take a stand on something, even something controversial, don't take it back a day later. The people who did support you will feel betrayed—for good reason!—while the people who were mad at you will stay mad at you. Everybody else will just think that you're spineless, which is the last thing a Dem needs. 

Bad policy I can understand, especially by now. Bad politics is just shameful. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gibbs Just Keeps Getting Better

Instead of backing off, like a sane man would do, Gibbs is doubling down on this "professional left" crap. Yet he's saying that "he fully expects liberals to vote".

Why, exactly? There's a big enthusiasm gap between liberals and conservatives, and it's only getting worse. Liberals aren't going to be cowed into either silence or support by the whole "vote for us or you'll get the Republicans" line, especially when the White House itself installed a center-right candidate in Arkansas that can't possibly win.

I honestly don't even understand the point of this. Attacking the left isn't going to shut them up. Hasn't before, won't now. It won't endear the government to the right, either; the right ain't gonna vote for you, no matter how many liberals you piss off. The press might say some nice things about you because of how much they despise your typical "DFH", but that fleeting support will be long-gone by the time the election rolls around. They'll be distracted by a new shiny, and the left will still be pissed.

What the hell happened to "no-drama Obama"?

"Why I'm Not Hiring"

So there's a WSJ piece that people are talking about; it's from the POV of one "Michael Fleischer" from Bogen Communications, talking about why he isn't hiring people. Supposedly it's because of health care and benefits and all that horrible stuff that employees need to, you know, live.

Here's the thing, though. If you actually look into Bogen, you find out that there are far better reasons for why Fleischer isn't hiring. Like the stock price absolutely cratering last year. Or the settlement that they reached with a contractor who alleged "multiple causes of action for breach of contract and various torts"; a settlement that came after the contractor had already been awarded a cool $12.5 mil in "compensatory and punitive damages."

It also didn't mention that Mr. Fleischer's own compensation includes a cool half a mil a year in direct compensation and stock options, or that he's getting this money despite the stock price cratering under his watch. Hell, it was delisted from the NASDAQ in 2003. And it's losing money this quarter to boot. It did in 2009, too, if I'm reading this financial report correctly.

The best part, though, is that for all that he's railing against taxes, his company appears to have benefited from the current tax structure. $5.5 million in tax benefits, as a matter of fact, that they can carry forward to reduce tax liabilities against future profits. (Assuming, of course, that they turn a profit.)

So the answer to "why he's not hiring" turns out to be really simple: his company ain't doing so well. It's understandable, and I hope that Bogen pulls out of this intact. But it's sure as hell not the answer that he's pushing, and it's more than a wee bit dishonest to pretend otherwise.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

5-Year TIPS Rates Are Now NEGATIVE

So sayeth the Krug-man:

Look at the lower left-hand corner: the real interest rate on 5-year inflation-protected securities is now negative. In other words, prospects for other investments are so poor that some investors prefer a safe asset that doesn’t quite keep up with inflation.

Yet to maintain employment, we need to sustain spending, one way or another. One way is to have the government take advantage of its low financing costs to spend on useful things; but the deficit peacocks in Congress are blocking that solution. Another is to get real interest rates low enough to get the private sector spending; but that, as we can see, means that the real interest rate on medium-term government debt has to be negative.

The only way you can do that is by having the Fed credibly promise to deliver significant inflation.

Oh, and the invisible bond vigilantes continue their invisible attack: nominal 10-year bonds at 2.71%.
I imagine that they are buying into an asset that doesn't keep up with inflation because they don't expect there to be inflation. And I expect that they'll be right.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gibbs Railing Against "Professional Left"

Just another day:

The White House is simmering with anger at criticism from liberals who say President Obama is more concerned with deal-making than ideological purity.

During an interview with The Hill in his West Wing office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”
Why, yes, those filthy dirty hippies should be drug tested, am I right?

("Right" indeed:)

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

The White House, constantly under fire from expected enemies on the right, has been frustrated by nightly attacks on cable news shows catering to the left, where Obama and top lieutenants like Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel have been excoriated for abandoning the public option in healthcare reform; for not moving faster to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay; and for failing, so far, to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
A Democratic president and his mouthpiece taking shots at their own base in a fashion almost identical to the right. I can almost hear Gottfried's Iago the Parrot yelling "I may have a heart attack and die from the surprise!" as I read that.

In any case, all of those bits cited above are legitimate criticisms of the president's policies; far more than that "president Kucinich" stuff. I expect that that's part of the problem. It's easy to deflect the right's attacks, because they are utterly insane. They're based on ideas that are proven to be completely ludicrous, and aren't being presented in good faith in the first place. Liberals are far more dangerous. They have a point. Plus, I don't think Obama was really thinking about his own theoretical base when he was talking about "no red or blue America" and "teams of rivals" and all that. He, like so many Dems, assumed that the effective spectrum was between them and the right. That he might get criticism from non-conservatives may well have never occurred to him. Especially with all the Obamamania at the time.

So, who's Gibbs angry at?
While visibly frustrated, Gibbs did not specifically name any of the White Houses’s liberal detractors by name.
Oh. It figures that he'd never name any of them. That might get a bit inconvenient. The article mentions the Progressive Change Campaign's Adam Green, but he's just one of many. A lot of progressives are pissed these days.
Gibbs’s tough comments reflect frustration and some bafflement from the White House, which believes it has done a lot for the left.

In just over 18 months in office, Obama has passed healthcare reform, financial regulatory reform and fair-pay legislation for women, among other bills near and dear to liberals.

Obama is also overseeing the end of the Iraq war, with the U.S. on schedule to end its combat operations by the end of this month.

He’s also added diversity to the Supreme Court by nominating two female justices, including the court’s first Hispanic. Yet some liberal groups have criticized his nominees for not being liberal enough...

...The lack of appreciation or recognition for what Obama has accomplished has left Gibbs and others in furious disbelief.

Larry Berman, an expert on the presidency and a political science professor at the University of California-Davis, said he has been surprised that liberals aren’t more cognizant of the pragmatism Obama has had to employ to pass landmark reforms.

“The irony, of course, is that Gibbs’s frustration reflects the fact that the conservative opposition has been so effective at undermining the president’s popular approval,” Berman said.

“And from Gibbs’s perspective, and the White House perspective, they ought to be able to catch a break from people who, in their view, should be grateful and appreciative.”
See, this is what people like Gibbs (and Berman) just don't get. Progressives and liberals do understand that there needs to be a level of pragmatism. They do understand bargaining and negotiation. But as Green said in the article and as a lot of people have said elsewhere (including myself), this administration rolls over for Conservatives without bothering to negotiate. They aim too low to start with, and then trade off everything else worthwhile in exchange for practically nothing. They aren't willing to take a stand, aren't willing to pick issues to attack Republican intransigence on, and (as we see with this story) attack their own side at every opportunity.

The big problem is that progressives believe that the administration and this Congress (principally the Senate) is alternately weak and too willing to be bought-and-paid for by whichever corporation has the biggest pockets. They believe this because Obama and the Congressional Dems have given them every reason to believe it. Whining and moaning in the media won't change that, and won't make it go away. You have to prove to progressives that you have their best interests in mind. You have to show them that you ultimately respect their beliefs and will honor them as your core supporters.

But, instead, progressives get smeared with this nonsense.

Hell with 'em.

Friday, August 06, 2010

You Don't Say

Jonathan Chait on Journolist:

For people like me, the national debate mostly revolves around a liberal-moderate-conservative axis, and more hard-left or even traditional liberal views are fairly marginal. Journolist brought people like me into contact with a lot of those sort of liberals, and my main response was to realize that I'm a lot less liberal than I had thought.
No kidding!

Funny. I read material by—and interact with—people to the left of me all the time. It certainly hasn't made me "realize that I'm a lot less liberal than I had thought". If anything, it makes me recognize that they might have a point.

But, then again, I don't work for Marty Peretz, and I'm not drenched in every B.S. consensus that Washington has to offer. As one of Chait's commenters pointed out:

As the "senior editor" of a biweekly magazine Jonathan Chait presumable understands full well why Eric Alterman is arriving late in writing a story for The Nation. The sentence in Alterman's article that Chait really needs to take to heart is:
-- As a collective we held people's feet to the fire, encouraged excellence, bemoaned administration wimpiness and took numerous opportunities to remind New Republic editors and authors that they work for a reactionary racist lunatic.

A while back in one of these incidents where Chait yet again defends Martin Peretz from criticism Spencer Ackerman reminded us:

-- Everyone who works at TNR knows Marty is a racist.
But, hey, he signs the paychecks. Where You Stand, once again, Depends On Where You Sit. And since Chait sat with all the people who were cheering on Bush's Iraqi Adventure, is it any wonder that he got all uncomfortable when exposed to those disgusting Dirty F**king Hippies?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Best Part About WikiLeaks

Edit: Ugh. When I wrote that piece, I hadn't counted on Thiessen's site being a festival of terrible HTML. Invisible post fixed.

Honestly, the best part about the whole Wikileaks phenomenon is the spectacle of Mark Thiessen saying that America should invade Iceland to kill or capture Julian Assange:

Assange seems to believe, incorrectly, that he is immune to arrest so long as he stays outside the United States. He leads a nomadic existence, operating in countries such as Sweden, Belgium and Iceland, where he believes he enjoys the protection of "beneficial laws." (He recently worked with the Icelandic parliament to pass legislation effectively making the country a haven for WikiLeaks). The United States should make clear that it will not tolerate any country -- and particularly NATO allies such as Belgium and Iceland -- providing safe haven for criminals who put the lives of NATO forces at risk...we do not need permission to apprehend Assange or his co-conspirators anywhere in the world.
So, what, you're going to send the troops into Reykjavic? Do you even know what the charge would be? It's not illegal to publish sensitive information in the United States, after all. There's no Official Secrets Act, Robert Novak isn't in the slammer, and there's no way that you could justify extradition on this.

But it gets better.

Arresting Assange would be a major blow to his organization. But taking him off the streets is not enough; we must also recover the documents he unlawfully possesses and disable the system he has built to illegally disseminate classified information.

This should be done, ideally, through international law enforcement cooperation. But if such cooperation is not forthcoming, the United States can and should act alone. Assange recently boasted that he has created "an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking." I am sure this elicited guffaws at the National Security Agency. The United States has the capability and the authority to monitor his communications and disrupt his operations.
Monitor, perhaps. But how are they going to stop it, exactly? We know that the Wikileaks people are both very paranoid and very, very careful. They'll have distributed this stuff all over the place, and I doubt that any of them know exactly where all of it is. Much of it will almost certainly be in countries that would take a very dim view of the United States attempting to cut off their access to the Internet. And "attempt" is the key word. What is the US supposed to do to, say, keep this stuff from being disseminated on servers in Europe? Are they going to DDOS the ISPs? Are they going to try to hack in there and delete it off the servers? Are they going to send the Green Berets in to blow up the server farms?

Does Thiessen not think that the Wikileaks guys would have thought of that and spread the data out? Does Thiessen even know how the Internet WORKS?

No, Mark, they aren't going to start a war with Europe over Wikileaks. They aren't going to try a DOS attack, or nuke Iceland from space, or any of this other crap. They aren't even going to send a black-bag squad to arrest Assange, either, because it'd instantly become the most important, embarrassing story in the World and just raise questions about why Novak and the Pentagon Papers guy walk free. Stop pretending that this is a Clancy novel.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Prop 8 Overturned

Was there ever any doubt? It was hilariously unconstitutional.

Onward to the Supremes, I guess.

The big question is whether or not it's going to be a campaign issue this fall. My guess is "no". People have bigger things to worry about. Gay marriage is irrelevant when you're underwater and unemployed.