Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Payroll Tax Cut Extension

Credit where credit's due. Obama and the Dems faced the Republicans down, got a big win, made them look like chumps, and demonstrated a bit of stones for a change.

Heck, look at this:
Reid and Sen. Chuck Schumer reached out to the White House early in the standoff to convey their view: They can win without giving an inch. The White House agreed, giving way to a no-compromise strategy championed internally by senior adviser David Plouffe, who, like the president, was in a fighting mood, according to multiple sources.

Their thinking, according to White House and congressional aides: Obama and Senate Democrats already negotiated through McConnell. They made concessions. Eighty-nine senators, in a rare moment of overwhelming bipartisanship, approved the deal. And the public, according to polls, was on their side. Case closed.

“We were resolved to hold the line on this from the moment the speaker’s office indicated they were going to cave to the pressures from the fringe element of their caucus,” said a Senate Democratic aide. “We felt we had such a resounding vote in the Senate that they were going to be trapped. It was going to be impossible for the Senate Republicans to walk away from it. They were doomed to be divided because of that.”
I don't even think that the Senate unanimity had much to do with it. The Republicans have been more than successful without it in the past. The simple truth here is that fighting for legislation that is publicly popular works. Yes, you need to be smart and canny about how you do it, and I was impressed by the full-court press the White House executed to get this thing passed. The lesson's still clear. With any luck at all, they'll remember that going forward into 2012.

This is a bit bittersweet, though. You can't help but wonder about how different the world would be if the White House had been willing to do this from the beginning.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

So Time Magazine's Person of the Year is "The Protester"

Yep. See it for yourself. Well, at least it's not Zuckerberg again. Or Paul Ryan, which was apparently a serious possibility.

Sure, it's logical enough. The Arab Spring changed the middle east, the Occupiers changed the American discourse on wealth, and a lot of expectations about the utility of protest were upended. The biggest thing that seemed to jump out of these protests is that having a dedicated structure and organization almost seems like a liability; if there are no faces, there's no way to muck about and find ways to discredit them.

That's the whole "Anonymous" lesson that people keep on forgetting. The whole reason they were able to take on the Church of Scientology was because their structure made it damned hard for the CoS to try to respond. The Occupiers picked this up from Anonymous—witness all the Anonymous masks at the protests—and that's helped them remain relevant. There's been attempts to try to discredit them by attacking their "leaders", but it just doesn't stick. The only thing that's come even close to working is just straight-up violence.

The violence is the part that Time doesn't talk about, by the by. One of the odder bits in the piece was the claim that Occupiers didn't stand to get "beat up or shot" like their middle-eastern counterparts. The "shot" part, I'll grant, though I'd wager that that has more to do with the general peaceability of occupiers than anything else, but stating that they haven't been beaten is just ludicrous. They have. Often. Quite savagely at times, and that's not even getting into just how bad pepper-spraying really is. Were the Time editors unaware of this? Or did they just not really care, since it was their countrymen doing the spraying and beating?

Still, I think that they've missed the real story here. The real story is about the tension between the public and the elites. That's what the 99% vs. 1% thing is really about: it's not about wealth, per se, but about a relatively small elite that call the shots without even pausing to consider the wishes or interests of the rest of the population. As Lawrence Lessig pointed out on The Daily Show last night, that 1% thing is a bit misleading: it's actually only about 0.05% of the public that have access to lawmakers—that really have any say at all.

And the elites are fighting back. Nevermind the cops being sent to beat up protesters. Look at Europe. Look at what's happened in Italy and Greece. Look at the appointed economic "experts" that have been brought in to supposedly "fix" things by gutting the public service and social services. They're taking money from the 99% to pay off debts owed to the 1%. They won't even consider anything that might increase aggregate demand by putting money in the hands of the vast majority of people who would really use it. They believe in price stability over all else, and are willing to drive unemployment into the ground in order to do it, even though all the pressures right now are DEFLATIONARY pressures. And they weren't even elected. They were imposed.

Look what's going on with this supposed deal to save the Euro. As Paul Krugman, Felix Salmon, and loads of others keep on pointing out, this whole thing is profoundly misguided. They're pretending that a balance-of-trade problem is somehow a sovereign debt problem. Countries like Ireland and Spain weren't awash in sovereign debt before the crisis. Quite the opposite.  Yet instead of solving the real problem, the Eurozone is going to put straightjackets on member governments attempting enact counter-cyclical policies and get their economies back on track.  Unemployment in every Euro country whose name doesn't end in "many" will keep going up, social spending will keep going down, and the lives of the 99% will become more and more nightmarish.

What are people supposed to do in that case? They have no access, because access costs money. They have no votes; Italy, Greece, and the new move towards fiscal unity prove that policy is now imposed from above, instead of elected from below. They have no say. The elites are calling the shots, despite the elites' bungling incompetence being proven over, and over, and over, and OVER again throughout the last half-decade.

They find themselves with only two choices: take to the streets, or take to the hills. They're choosing the former. Good on 'em. But I don't think we should ever, ever forget that in this cold war between the public and the elites, they can always decide to choose the latter.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You're Killing Your Grandchildren, You Idiots

So Arctic methane's being released faster than anybody had expected, thanks to the melting of polar ice. Methane's an even worse greenhouse gas than CO2, by an order of magnitude, and it was responsible for at least one big extinction event in history: the Permian-Triassic extinction event.

You hear that word? "Extinction"? It means "everybody's dead". Not just you, but your kids, and your grandkids, and every other generation that would have come of that. It means that your life was pointless, because everything you did, and everything you made, is wiped out, along with everybody else who might have remembered you.

But go ahead and keep on babbling about "hoaxes" so that you can keep driving that sweet SUV. I'm sure your progeny will understand. Or, well, would have understood.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

This is How Bad It's Gotten

Watch this video. Right now.

This is what America has sunk to.

No, let me amend that. America has always treated its minorities this way when they get "out of line". The police have been defending their own privilege using overly violent means for years.

This is something different. This was a cold, calculating, pointless assault on these protesters. There was no move to arrest or detain, and certainly none of the violent resistance that pepper spray is supposed to be used to deter. This doesn't fit any sane rules of engagement for police, and yet the officer didn't even do this furtively, afraid of being caught. He calmly walked up and used a burning, blinding chemical weapon on these kids' faces.

What's worse is that they aren't even defending their own privilege. Cops aren't wealthy. They aren't powerful...not really. They sure as hell aren't part of the 1% of wealthy Americans that are at the center of this, nor will any of them ever be part of that group.  Their own pensions are being raided to pay for the bailouts; their own children are facing a lifetime of un- and underemployment. Their own family members are out of work, and may never find work again.  They're defending the privilege of a tiny mob that they will never, ever belong to: a mob that created the intolerable future that America now faces.

Yet here we are, with a police officer betraying everything his badge and his country stands for, in order to protect people who neither acknowledge nor appreciate it. People who are, frankly, being utter douchebags about the whole thing.

Edit: One of the protester chants sums it up pretty well. They shout, repeatedly: "Who do you serve? Who do you protect?"

Good question. In fact, it's the only question that matters.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Congratulations, Mayor Bloomberg!

No, really. We should give the guy a hand. He's given the order for the cops to clear Zucotti in the middle of the night, and he's accomplished a lot of things in doing so!

-He's confirming every negative thing that Occupy has ever said about the attitudes and behavior of the ultra wealthy elite that he belongs to;

-He's going to radicalize absolutely everybody who has come anywhere near that park by sending in riot cops with batons and pepper spray, meaning that a lot of potentially-reasonable people are now going to be both furiously angry and rigidly defiant; and

-He's going to make sure that the clearout is a big story, by preventing the media from sending helicopters overhead to show what's going on, and by (allegedly) having his officers take the press credentials away from people. Not that that'll stop people from seeing what's going on: there's a nice live feed going on right here on UStream, and everybody in that park is going to be furiously recording every minute action of the police. What it will do, though, is give the media the opportunity to talk about its absolute favorite subject: itself.

As I type this, they're saying that the people in the kitchen are being tear gassed. TEAR GASSED. How the hell can you justify that? What kind of idiot would write rules of engagement that even considered that?

I'm not sure. I do know what kind of idiot gives the order though. So take a bow, Bloomberg. You just made yourself a parkful of martyrs.

Edit: And now there's video out of them roughing up protestors. And here's video of them using tear gas.

Friday, October 28, 2011

OWS: "Screw the Pundits". Good on 'em.

One of the best parts about the "Occupy" movement? The fact that it baffles and enrages television and print pundits. Not all are as incoherent as, say, Canada's Andrew Coyne, who thinks that poor people should shut up because they have microwaves and color televisions(!), but it's pretty universal.

As Dalia Lithwick points out in Slate, that may be part of the point:

I feel it’s time to explain something: Occupy Wall Street may not have laid out all of its demands in a perfectly cogent one-sentence bumper sticker for you, Mr. Pundit, but it knows precisely what it doesn’t want. It doesn’t want you.
What the movement clearly doesn’t want is to have to explain itself through corporate television. To which I answer, Hallelujah. You can’t talk down to a movement that won’t talk back to you...

...Occupy Wall Street is not a movement without a message. It’s a movement that has wisely shunned the one-note, pre-chewed, simple-minded messaging required for cable television as it now exists. It’s a movement that feels no need to explain anything to the powers that be, although it is deftly changing the way we explain ourselves to one another.

Think, for just a moment, about the irony. We are the most media-saturated 24-hour-cable-soaked culture in the world, and yet around the country, on Facebook and at protests, people are holding up cardboard signs, the way protesters in ancient Sumeria might have done when demonstrating against a rise in the price of figs. And why is that? Because they very wisely don’t trust television cameras and microphones to get it right anymore. Because a media constructed around the illusion of false equivalencies, screaming pundits, and manufactured crises fails to capture who we are and what we value.
They don't necessarily trust the Internet, either, though they surely trust it more than they trust the cable networks. Is it really any wonder, though? Television news is basically rich people talking to rich people about rich people's problems. Someone like Andrew Coyne doesn't have the foggiest idea how the 99% live, or what their issues are. It's an academic, abstract issue to him, which is almost certainly why he fell back to "what are they complaining about? Color televisions, people! COLOR!" These people want simple solutions to the problem of poverty because isn't their problem. They just want it to go away and stop bothering them with the minimum amount of hassle. 

People might have been willing to go along with that when the Great and the Good were benefiting their lives. Those days are over. The 99% are now of the opinion that they've been scammed by the pundits and their cronies, and they're PISSED. That's the message. What they're planning on doing about it isn't quite certain yet. But that's the message.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Krugman's Take on OWS: "Panicked Plutocrats"

The Brooks twaddle I just mentioned makes a bit more sense when you read Paul Krugman's piece about "Panicked Plutocrats".

It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America’s direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.
Okay, fine, that last link was my addition. Times columnists aren't technically allowed to take shots at each other, though everybody knows that Krugman spends a fair bit of time tearing apart Brooks' arguments, even if he can't actually name the man. Only fair to fill in the gap on his behalf.

The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is...

...What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.

So who’s really being un-American here? Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard. No, the real extremists here are America’s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth.
And now we've reached the point where people like David Brooks are so terrified on behalf of their tiny sliver of plutocrats that they're already throwing the words "anti-Semitic" around.  The man must be absolutely shitting himself at the thought of what OWS represents.

David Brooks Went From Zero to "OWS are Anti-Semites" in Four Paragraphs

This has to be a new record.

Sure, the piece itself is ridiculous nonsense. He bandies about that raising the income taxes on people making "between 1 and 10 million" would only cut 1% of the national debt, completely ignoring that it's the national deficit that matters, that salaried income aren't their only (or even principal) source of wealth, or that extreme concentration might mean that people making more than ten million might be part of the problem. It certainly doesn't help that he's sourcing some right-wing think tank instead of a reputable source, either, nor that he won't acknowledge just how concentrated wealth is.

There's also a great wealth of bullshit about how dividing up the country is "self-limiting", when the whole point of the OWS movement is that the country is already divided.  But, hey, never mind that,the whole point of his sort is to make the rest of us identify more with this wealthy "sliver" (in his words) than with each other.

But, accusing them of anti-semitism? That's a new low.

Take the Occupy Wall Street movement. This uprising was sparked by the magazine Adbusters, previously best known for the 2004 essay, “Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?” — an investigative report that identified some of the most influential Jews in America and their nefarious grip on policy.
 Wow. Brooks is actually arguing that the only thing that Adbusters is known for is this seven-year-old article about supposedly "nefarious Jews", and therefore is not only anti-semitic but has rendered OWS anti-semitic as well.  This despite the fact that Adbusters has been around for decades, and is hardly the only or principal reason why OWS started.

Never mind that this is insulting and quite possibly libelous. Is it really a good idea to try to discredit a movement decrying wealth concentration by calling it anti-semitic? Doesn't that sorta internalize the absurd notion that Jewish people are all wealthy bankers and movie moguls and whatnot, instead of just being, well, Americans? The vast, vast majority of Jewish-Americans are part of the 99%, just like anybody else; so why the hell is Brooks trying to build up this notion of a connection between extreme wealth and Judaism? It is poisonous and destructive. Why on earth would he DO that?

Well, okay, we all know why. He wanted to get a cheap shot in, and didn't think of the connotations or the consequences. He didn't realize that this is about to absolutely enrage pretty much every Jewish-American who is tired of these stereotypes, along with any who would resent being so cynically exploited.

(It's also going to do nothing to affect OWS. If anything it'll embolden them: this is such an obvious and pathetic cheap shot that it could hardly do otherwise.)

I'm sure he'll get away with it. Those who truck in stereotypes and myth to defend the interests of that "sliver" get enough cover to get by. But it's a useful lesson for any of you who think that Brooks is some sort of "moderate". He isn't. He may not give a shit about social issues...but when it comes to defending the interests of his precious sliver against the interests of the rest of the world, he will say ANYTHING. No matter how odious.

Edit: The Jewish magazine Tablet has much the same take.  And I missed the lovely bit where Brooks said that OWS has nothing to say about "wage stagnation or polarization". That's pretty comical, considering that's the entire damned point of the exercise.

As Dean Baker reminds us, he's little more than "the bard of the 1%". He's just there to make them feel better about themselves, which is probably why his hateful little scrawling attempts to call OWS "ineffective" and "milquetoast". It's wishful thinking by the bucketload.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

"Occupy Wall Street"

I had thought it would fizzle out. It hasn't. It's getting bigger, it's getting more coherent, and it's finding a winning narrative with this "we are the 99%" line.

Mainstream media ignore it at their peril. This could be bigger than the tea party.

Edit: People keep asking "what do they want?"

Isn't it obvious? They want want Lincoln talked about: they want "government of the people, by the people, for the people".  They know that isn't the case. Not all of them can articulate it, but they all know somewhere that the American government—and, in fact, pretty much all modern governments—act at the behest of corporations. These corporations are given the same rights as actual citizens, and carry outsized weight due to their enormous economic power...and as they are generally owned by a tiny minority of people, they provide an outsized voice to that tiny minority.

That's why there's all this talk about the "99%" and the "1%". The 99% have no real voice. The only voices that are listened to are those of the corps, and the corps are overwhelmingly owned by that tiny minority. Even if members that tiny minority wanted to help the rest, they can't, because the corporations that act on their behalf are (somehow) legally obligated to fight anything and anybody that threatens the income of that minority.

(That's what corporations are for, after all. They make money. That's it.)

People get that this situation cannot continue. They get that this isn't working properly. They aren't yet quite sure why, or how to get out of it, but they KNOW that things are broken. They're looking for someone to fix it. If someone doesn't, they'll do it themselves.

Re-Edit: The truly bizarre part is that even people on Wall Street know that the current system is broken.  They don't like being blamed, true, but they know the problem. The issue is that the people with actual power and influence won't believe it for ideological reasons.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The ISI and the Kabul Attacks

Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency communicated with Afghan insurgents who attacked the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in central Kabul last week and appear to have provided them with equipment, according to U.S. military officers and former officials.

Communications gear used by the insurgents "implicated" the directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, Pakistan's spy service, a senior U.S. military official said Thursday. The equipment was found in a 14-story building under construction that the attackers used to lay siege to the embassy compound for 19 hours on Sept. 13, according to the official, who would not describe the equipment recovered.Bruce Riedel, a former White House advisor on Pakistan and a retired senior CIA official, said administration officials told him that "very firm intelligence" linked the Pakistani spy agency to the embassy attack, which killed at least nine Afghans.

"There are [communications] intercepts and the attackers were in cellphone contact back to Pakistan," he said.

In a dramatic appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged that the insurgents had received "ISI support" not only for the attack on America's most prominent diplomatic and military symbols in the Afghan capital, but also for a massive truck bomb assault this month on a U.S. combat outpost in Wardak province west of Kabul that wounded 77 U.S. soldiers.

Pakistan's government angrily denied any involvement. But Mullen's comments are the most direct, and most explosive, accusations by a senior U.S. official of direct complicity by Pakistan's chief intelligence agency in attacks on American facilities and military personnel.
Not any sort of surprise that they would deny it. Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have been strained for a while, and this is likely to seal their fate.

It's almost certainly true, though, and it's difficult to say what it'll mean. Pakistan's a nuclear power, so any sort of direct action is impossible even if it weren't a bad idea, but the United States will have to do something to make it clear that the ISI cannot be allowed to continue supporting this sort of action.

What's likely, then, is that the American government will take this as a go-ahead for continued drone attacks in Pakistan on the Haqqani network that was behind this attack.  It keeps Americans out of harm's way, and they're insulated from Pakistani objections by the fact that the ISI is partially responsible for this in the first place. It won't solve the problem, but it's the only plausible action that presents itself.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Orwell on Unemployment

From Wigan Pier:
But there is no doubt about the deadening, debilitating effect of unemployment upon everybody, married or single, and upon men more than upon women. The best intellects will not stand up against it. Once or twice it has happened to me to meet unemployed men of genuine literary ability; there are others whom I haven’t met but whose work I occasionally see in the magazines. Now and again, at long intervals, these men will produce an article or a short story which is quite obviously better than most of the stuff that gets whooped up by the blurb-reviewers. Why, then, do they make so little use of their talents? They have all the leisure in the world; why don’t they sit down and write books? Because to write books you need not only comfort and solitude—and solitude is never easy to obtain in a working class home—you also need peace of mind. You can’t settle to anything, you can’t command the spirit of hope in which everything has got to be created, with that dull evil cloud of unemployment hanging over you.
Welcome to America's future, ladies and gentlemen. The longer this nonsense lasts, the worse it gets. And with the choice of a Democratic president that—according to Suskind's latest—doesn't understand the central importance of aggregate demand on the economy vs. a Republican opposition that devoutly wishes that the long-term unemployed would just crawl into a hole and die quietly, it's likely to be getting worse for a good long time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Krauthammer's Tiger Rock

All these years, and Charles Krauthammer is still insisting that the lack of a second AQ attack proved that the War on Terror worked.

Of course, you could just as plausibly argue for the release of Alice Cooper's Dragontown  as the reason why there was no second attack.

What's really funny is that he's pretending that two "hot wars" in the War on Terror didn't cost a truckload of money because it was only a little more than a trillion dollars. Apparently a fair percentage of THE YEARLY DOMESTIC PRODUCT OF THE UNITED STATES isn't a big deal to him.

"Entitlements" are a big deal to him. Of course. They usually are to wealthy apologists for the ultra-rich, especially ones like Krauthammer that haven't the faintest clue how any of this works, and are just mouthing the words they're told to say by their handlers and sponsors. Social Security and Medicare, unlike the botched conflicts that he advocates and apologizes for, actually help people. Krauthammer wouldn't know what "helping people" was like if you gave him diagrams.

It isn't as bad as the spectacle of a Bush-admin neoconservative trying to take credit for the Arab Spring, like Michael Gerson. That goes beyond wrong to simply nauseating. But it still shows us exactly why America is in the fix it is: because people like this are given newspaper columns, fame, and power... instead of people with ideas, insights, track records and a positive outlook.

One of the lessons of the last decade is really simple: never trust neoconservatives. They cannot govern countries, they cannot fight wars, they cannot budget responsibly, and they cannot be trusted to provide advice about anything.   Mock them, deride them, and dismiss them if you want...just never, ever trust them. Their ideas are poison and their doctrines corrupt.

They were wrong. They were ALWAYS wrong. They always will be.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

So. It's the 9/11/2001 Anniversary. It's really bad now. There's still hope.

Ten years.  It's been ten years since Osama Bin Laden's people attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Ten years since the United States discovered that it was vulnerable. I don't think America has gotten over that, not really. As was constantly pointed out at the time, America hadn't had a real attack on mainland soil since the Civil War. Nobody knew what to expect. Nobody knew how they'd react. They found out.  It was shock, horror, dread, and confusion. There was also a bit of disbelief.  Everybody—including myself—felt like it was something out of a movie. It wasn't real. Things like that don't happen for real.

Ten years since America went slightly mad. No, really. How else can you explain the "War on Terror"? It was always a bad idea. It was always somewhat incoherent. It's pretty much over now, and the consensus is that it was never properly thought out or worked that well.  Attacking Afghanistan robbed Al Qaeda of their home base, but botching the occupation gave Al Qaeda's Taliban allies renewed strength, and the relationship between Pakistan and the Taliban was a big issue for years; quite rightly, as it turns out, since Osama was hiding out in Pakistan. It wasn't until the War on Terror ended that 9/11's chief architect was found and killed. If anything repudiates it, that would.  Well, anything except IRAQ.

It's been ten years since a group of mad delusional idiots that call themselves "neoconservatives"—a group that's always been obsessed with Iraq—seized control of the levers of American foreign and defense policy, and proceded to drive it into the ground. Almost all the goodwill that America received after the attack was burned away by these fools and their obsession with Iraqi conquest. Almost all the advantages gained in bloody Afghanistan combat were bled away by the Iraq misadventure, and pretty much every ally of note that helped America in Afghanistan walked away in shock and disgust. Almost all of America's credibility as an international voice, as an exemplar, and as a friend to democracy ended thanks to the neoconservatives' Iraq adventure.

The worst thing about it isn't even the invasion, not really. The worst part was the botched occupation. America treated its Iraqi subjects terribly, inflicting the worst sort of horrible right-wing bullshit on them at the hands of the worst sort of Republican apparatchiks. One need only read Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City to see just how badly the "Green Zone" was run, and how ruinous the Republicans have been.

And, yes, it's been ten years since the foundations were set for the current economic crisis. Sure, the regulatory changes that opened the door for the excesses of Wall Street were made back in the 1990s. But absent all this adventurism, America's fiscal situation would be very, very different, and the Republicans wouldn't have been able to wave the flag in order to silence critics of their broken, oligarchic economic policy. Hell, Bush would have probably have been kicked out of the White House in short order. What a better world it would be.

He should have been kicked out. All this happened on HIS watch. There's more than enough evidence that the ideological fervor of his administration helped blind them to the threat posed by Al Qaeda. Republicans are very good, though, at making people think that they're good at both economics and security when they're utterly terrible at anything but punishing the poor and striking macho poses.  They didn't deserve it, but they got it anyway.

So, ten years later, how is America? America is broke. America is dispirited. America's workers are unemployed, underemployed, or massively overworked. America had to win its "war" only by giving up the idea that it's a "war" at all. America's poor leadership and deluded right-wing economists helped drag down the entire world, to the point of threatening the very existence of the European project.  America's corporations and a tiny ultra-rich minority are doing quite nicely, but nobody else is; America's sinking into the sort of inequality and oligarchy that's normally associated with third-world dictatorships.

Worst of all, ten years later, America's governing plutocrats still won't even pay all of the medical bills of the brave men and women that risked their lives helping people to survive this horrible attack.

Yet there is hope. This has been a terrible decade,  but there is still hope. I still remember how people drew together after the attack. I remember people lining up to give blood to any survivors. I remember the strong national resolve to keep going, and to show that people would not be intimidated by extremist thugs, no matter how they dress. I still remember the times when Americans came together—most recently back in 2008—to say that they wanted a better country. I remember how people bust their asses to try to improve their life and station, and still believe in the American dream of prosperity despite every single piece of evidence in the world telling them otherwise.

Americans should remember that the solution to the current malaise isn't difficult.  Despite the anti-worker rhetoric, it isn't about Americans being lazy or stupid or unskilled. The current recession and stagnation is just the side-effect of a lack of aggregate demand. That's it. It's eminently fixable, too. If Americans come together to rebuild and and improve the infrastructure that lies at the foundation of their economy; if they help their friends, relatives, and neighbours that are currently unemployed; and if they realize that AMERICAN CITIZENS ARE THE JOB-CREATORS, not the plutocrats that have been mismanaging their money, they can bring their country back.

It'll mean that some Americans will need to set aside certain assumptions. "Conservative" doesn't mean "prudent". A government's finances are not that of a household. "Belt-tightening" is not the way to fix an economy. "Stimulus" doesn't mean bank bailouts. You should identify with your fellow citizens, instead of the wealthy plutocrats that are sucking the country dry and sending the wealth offshore. Privacy and civil rights aren't negotiable, no matter how many times someone says the word "War". And, for the love of God, everybody needs to remember that Republican ideologues are terrible at governing and always will be. 

If that can happen, though, then America can move forward. Americans can look back on this horrible past decade as a cautionary tale, and teach their children the lessons they need to learn so that it never, ever happens again. EVER.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Chait's Comedy Gold

So, yeah, Jonathan Chait wrote a howler in the New York Times, where he brought the rank rightish apologias of the National ReviewNew Republic to the Times. It's a typical Chaitesque piece where he talks about how horrible the "Left" is and how they're all delusional and about how everybody that "mattered" thought that Obama's stimulus was huuuuge.

(Yep. That's right. To Chait, Paul Krugman doesn't matter.) The funniest bit, though, comes later. It isn't the bit where he studiously ignores everything that Bush succeeded in pushing through Congress to focus on Social Security, the one bit where he didn't. It wasn't even the bit where he treated Colin Freakin' Powell as some sort of nonpartisan barometer of opinion, when he was one of Bush's Cabinet members. No, the funniest bit has to be the part where he says "In the position of choosing between the agenda he came into office hoping to enact and the short-term imperative of economic rescue, he picked the former."

You may ask "When the hell did he do that? He didn't succeed in winning any Republicans over for health care, and every other significant bit of his agenda either didn't pass or was so watered down as to be unrecognizable." And that's just it: he doesn't say. He did mention cap-and-trade and financial reform, but both are examples that liberals are right about this: his "capital banking" was absolutely useless and unnecessary, because it didn't buy him a damned thing when it came to the point when he started trying to actually pass his agenda. Never mind the Republicans; even his own party members treated him like a supplicant, instead of the leader of their party and the damned President of the United States.

Bush was never, ever treated that way by Republicans, even when they disagreed with him. They weren't that dumb. Tthey knew very well that Bush's people would PUNISH them if they fell out of line. DINOs never had to worry about that. Why would they? The only people that Obama ever punished were the very progressives that Chait so thoroughly and utterly despises.  So the DINOs stomped all over this "agenda", again and again and again, with progressives getting more and more convinced that Obama was either powerless or a closet Republican. Progressives feel that they've been had. Progressives know that they've been had.

It's funny, yes, but it's also somewhat sad.  This isn't the only misrepresentation of progressives' criticism. The whole article is absolutely littered with them. It's a stack of strawmen built so high that satellites may crash into the top layer. Yet I can't help but think that these cartoonish versions of progressives are how Chait actually views us. Everything he writes just reconfirms it, including his submission to the biggest newspaper in America.

I wonder whether it's even his fault. When Washington is so thoroughly, utterly hostile to progressives, when it's a town so thoroughly dominated by the Republicans and their conservative-movement owners, how could he possibly resist it? He probably never even meets progressives. I suspect that, at this point, he just knows us from the stereotypes that he inherits from the Republicans and DINOs around him.

So we get articles like this, where he knocks down strawmen and hopes that nobody notices. It'd be funny...if it weren't so sad.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Happy Labor Day

With any luck, more people will be able to call themselves laborers by this time next year.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kristof Asks "Did We Drop the Ball on Unemployment"?


Maybe if you'd been addressing it as often as your fellow columnist Paul Krugman has, instead of talking about almost every other issue under the sun, people would get the severity of the situation. No such luck.

This has been another "simple answer to stupid questions."

(Edit: And, no, admitting you're "an offender" for asking the wrong question at a Twitter thing doesn't cut it. You've been offensive on this issue for a long, long time.) 

Stay Safe, East Coasters

It looks like Irene got downgraded to a tropical storm, but it's still no joke.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rebels in Tripoli's Central Square

From Al Jazeera:

Euphoric Libyan rebels have moved into the centre of the capital, Tripoli, as Muammar Gaddafi's defenders melted away and thousands of jubilant civilians rushed out of their homes to cheer the long convoys of pickup trucks packed with fighters shooting in the air.

The rebels' surprising and speedy leap forward, after six months of largely deadlocked civil war, was packed into just a few dramatic hours. By nightfall on Sunday, they had advanced more than 32km to Tripoli.

Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera's correspondent, said from the Green Square: "There's a party in the Libyan capital tonight. The people are in charge of the city. They've decided the square is now called Martyr's Square, the original name. They're shouting 'we're free' and shooting at a poster of Gaddafi."

Green Square had been the site of night rallies by Gaddafi supporters throughout the uprising.

Earlier, the rebel leadership said on Sunday that Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam, was arrested in a tourist village in western Tripoli. There was no word on the whereabouts of Gaddafi himself.

US President Barak Obama said Gaddafi must "acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all".

In a statement issued from Martha's Vineyard, where he's vacationing, Obama said: "The future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people." He promised to work in close coordination with the rebels and said the US will "continue to insist that the basic rights of the Libyan people are respected."

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, confirmed Seif al-Islam had been detained and said the ICC would speak to the rebel National Transitional Council about his transfer to the Hague.

Seif al-Islam, his father and Libya's intelligence chief were indicted earlier this year for allegedly ordering, planning and participating in illegal attacks on civilians in the early days of the violent crackdown on anti-regime protesters.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi's eldest son, Mohammed, surrendered to rebel forces and spoke to Al Jazeera shortly afterwards.

In the interview, he took an apologetic tone and said it was a lack of wisdom that caused the revolution and crisis in Libya.

"I've never been a government or security official, however I can tell you the absence of wisdom and foresight is what brought us to here today. Our differences could have been solved easily," he said.

As he spoke though, his house was attacked and shot at and the interview ended with the sound of gunfire.

"I'm being attacked right now," he said. "This is gunfire inside my house, they're inside my house. There is no God but Allah - no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger."

However, the head of the National Transitional Council later told Al Jazeera that Mohammed was not hurt.

"Neither Mohamed Muammar Gaddafi nor any one of his family was harmed," Mustafa Abdel Jalil said. "He will remain in his house, and I guarantee his safety."

There were no confirmed reports about the fate or whereabouts of other members of the Gaddafi family...

...The rebels said they had entered the Green Square near the compound of Gaddafi where his supporters gathered nightly throughout the uprising to rally for their leader of more than 40 years.

Our correspondent said the rebels met little resistance as they moved from the western outskirts into the capital in a dramatic turning of the tides in the six-month-old Libyan civil war.

"Hundreds are on the street, and most of them are armed. Most of these are fighters who came down from the mountains in western areas of Libya. They entered the capital a few hours ago and with the opposition inside the capital, have managed to liberate the city from the government's control," our correspondent said.

"Everyone we have been talking to in Libya say that they want to Gaddafi and his son to pay for their action and for what they accuse them as crimes against humanity.

"People are worried about sleeper cells but cleaning up operations are underway to make sure there are no snipers in the buildings nearby.

"For the people here, Tripoli has fallen and they are in control ... and this is what they have been telling us: 'For years we could not speak, prevented from any sort of freedom whatsoever’.

"People are confident that the government has fallen and they are in control."
Stunning, stunning news.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Google Plus's "Nymwars"

I'm not on Google Plus, for reasons that should be quickly obvious: I use a pseudonym here, I'm very open about using a pseudonym here, and I have no interest in having my blog suspended or worse because of how Google wants to manage their new social networking thing.

But what I'm reading about these "nymwars" is very alarming, because I'm suspecting more and more that it's going to affect Blogger. If it does, then I'll just change the pseudonym to "Demosthenes Jones" or "Demosthenes Smith" or something of the like. I shouldn't have to, though. Pseudonymity is vital.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ehrenreich: "On Turning Poverty into an American Crime"

Barbara Ehrenreich updates Nickled and Dimed for 2011. It's horrifying.

You want to know what America really is? It's stuffing poor people into small apartments like sardines because they can't afford their own space. It's suicide help lines swamped with calls, and suicide rates spiking with those who couldn't be helped. It's people selling raccoon carcasses on the side of the road because it's the only source of food for people in the area. (The guy selling them recommends "marinating them in vinegar and spices") It's people killing squirrels for meat in places where they can't even afford the raccoons.

America is injured workers that can't go on disability because disability insists on an MRI they can't afford. It's people on food stamps only because welfare is now impossible to get, post-Clinton. It's TANF recipients being fingerprinted and interrogated as to the parentage of their children by hostile social workers.

As Ehrenreich said, though, America is mostly about criminalizing the destitute and impoverished, hating and blaming them for their own misery. That hatred motivates the constant suspicions of drug use in low-wage employment. That hatred motivates a legal system that drags ordained ministers out of shelters for the crime of being homeless. That hatred gets homeless activists arrested for feeding "indigents", and pushes places like Phoenix, Arizona to try to use zoning laws to stop churches from serving breakfasts to the desperate.

America is, yes, also about debtor's prisons. It's not called that, of course. But if you can't pay a fine, or if your creditor leans on a judge to get you declared "in contempt of court"? Off you go to jail. If you're a minority, you might not even have to wait until you're in debt, either; your communities have their public funding cut at the same time as law enforcement is redoubled:

In what has become a familiar pattern, the government defunds services that might help the poor while ramping up law enforcement. Shut down public housing, then make it a crime to be homeless. Generate no public-sector jobs, then penalize people for falling into debt. The experience of the poor, and especially poor people of color, comes to resemble that of a rat in a cage scrambling to avoid erratically administered electric shocks. And if you should try to escape this nightmare reality into a brief, drug-induced high, it’s “gotcha” all over again, because that of course is illegal too.

One result is our staggering level of incarceration, the highest in the world. Today, exactly the same number of Americans -- 2.3 million -- reside in prison as in public housing. And what public housing remains has become ever more prison-like, with random police sweeps and, in a growing number of cities, proposed drug tests for residents. The safety net, or what remains of it, has been transformed into a dragnet.
Worst of all, as Ehrenreich points out, is that many states are making prisoners pay for their own incarceration, shifting the burden of a broken justice system onto its desperate victims.

Meanwhile, America's richest 1% are wealthier and more powerful than they've ever been in the history of the Republic, and thanks to Citizen's United, they're going to make damned sure that the only voice that voters hear is theirs.

That's your America. Unless you damned well DO something about it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Most American's Can't Afford a $1000 Emergency (Plus Bonus Buffet)

From CNNMoney:

When the unexpected strikes, most Americans aren't prepared to pay for it.

A majority, or 64%, of Americans don't have enough cash on hand to handle a $1,000 emergency expense, according to a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, released on Wednesday.

Only 36% said they would tap their rainy day funds for an emergency. The rest of the 2,700 people polled said that they would have to go to other extremes to cover an unexpected expense, such as borrowing money or taking out a cash advance on a credit card.

"It's alarming," said Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the Washington, DC-based non-profit. "For consumers who live paycheck to paycheck -- having spent tomorrow's money -- an unplanned expense can truly put them in financial distress," she noted.

That's the case for Allyson Curtis, 35. "I think about it every day," she said.

Curtis was unemployed for only three months last year, but in that time she accumulated $5,000 in credit card debt that she's now struggling to pay down. In the case of an emergency, Curtis said she would likely postpone other payments and pile on additional debt.

She is already putting off $450 in dental work and a car inspection due to a crack in her windshield, which will cost $300 to replace, she said.
Budgeting for an emergency fund

Many respondents, 17%, said they would borrow money from friends or family. Another 17% said they would neglect other financial obligations -- like a credit card bill or mortgage payment -- in order to free up some funds.

Alternatively, 12% of the respondents said they would have to sell or pawn some assets to come up with $1,000 and 9% said they would need to take out a loan. Another 9% said they would get a cash advance from a credit card, according to the NFCC.

Cunningham finds that particularly troubling. Neglecting other debt obligations -- or worse piling on more debt -- "really exacerbates the problem," she said.

An earlier study by the same organization found that 30% of Americans have zero dollars in non-retirement savings. A separate study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 50% of Americans would struggle to come up with $2,000 in a pinch.
So people are a minor emergency away from financial doom. Good to know.

But, hey, at least the richest people are happy, right? Well, no. Warren Buffett wrote a big ol' piece in the Times talking about how he thinks the current situation is nonsense as well.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent...

...I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.
Many, yes. The problem is that the ones who aren't decent—like, say, the arch-conservative Koch brothers, the Coors family, and Scaife—are expending a ton of time, effort, and money into supporting a whole system of bullshit "free market" think tanks, institutes, media outlets, and other organizations that exist solely to screw the middle class and apologize for their billionaire backers.

Warren, if you want things to change, stop writing Op-Eds and start underwriting groups that counter the destructive influence of your far-right counterparts. Start making sure that progressives have the same sort of influence and reach that conservatives do. Start ensuring that Grover freakin' Norquist isn't the only voice that matters in Washington.

Talk is cheap. You have loads of money, and this is all ABOUT money. You can afford more. So do something about it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


So the Republicans have made their picks, and not surprisingly, they're all nutbar right-wingers:

For the House, it's Jeb Hensarling, Dave Camp, and Fred Upton. For the Senate, it's Jon Kyl, Rob Portman, and Pat Toomey.

So how nutty are they? Well, Toomey wants to privatize social security, Henserling called Social Security "a cruel ponzi scheme", Camp wants higher taxes on the poor, and Portman wants to get rid of the Department of Education.

Yep. Jon Kyl is the "not intended to be a factual statement" guy, too.

Meanwhile, Reid's sent in John Kerry, Patty Murray, and Max "DINO" Baucus. All of whom are more than willing to carve up "entitlements" that they have no personal need for or familiarity with.

So, yeah, America's fucked. I just wish it had a President. That'd be nice, wouldn't it?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Niall Ferguson Blames Global Uprising On....Wait For It...

...GREEDY POORS! That's right, it's all the fault of those damned poors and their "entitlements".

What all the Indignant have in common is the refusal to address squarely the problem that nearly all Western countries face. That problem is that the welfare systems that evolved in the mid-20th century are unaffordable under the demographic and economic circumstances of the 21st century. The financial crisis has merely exacerbated what was already a severe structural crisis of public finance, boosting deficits while slowing growth.
No, asshat, that's not the problem.

The problem is that a miniscule minority of nouveau-robber-barons control such a gigantic portion of the world's wealth that it's destabilizing the entire system. It's what's screwing up the economy—since you can't have a functional economy without people who actually spend money instead of hoarding it—and it's those screwed-up economies that are responsible for the deficits that you're whinging about.

But, then again, whose interests do you think he's advocating? Money is speech, after all.

Perry for President

So, that's what's happening. A low-rent Dubya imitator that can't even get abstinence-only education right is going to make a grab for the big-boy chair.

Well, here he is, in all his glory, explaining his "mommy problem":

Watch live video from texastribune on

Monday, August 08, 2011

London's on Fire

Guardian has the liveblog about the riots here.

Edit: Here's a good quote from MSNBC about why this is happening.

LONDON -- As political and social protests grip the Middle East, are growing in Europe and a riot exploded in north London this weekend, here's a sad truth, expressed by a Londoner when asked by a television reporter: Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?

"Yes," said the young man. "You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you?"

The TV reporter from Britain's ITV had no response. So the young man pressed his advantage. "Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you."

Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere.

The truth is that discontent has been simmering among Britain's urban poor for years, and few have paid attention. Social activists say one out of two children in Tottenham live in poverty. It's one of the poorest areas of Britain. Britain's worst riots in decades took place here in 1985. A policeman was hacked to death. After these riots, the same young man pointed out, "They built us a swimming pool."
Hello? America?


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

No Such Thing As "Independents"

I'm no great fan of TNR. I always try to give credit where it's due, though and TNR hosted a very good piece by Ruy Teixeira, worth quoting in full.

The debt ceiling deal has been struck and the score looks to be in the neighborhood of Republicans: a zillion, Democrats: zero. It is perhaps the inevitable outcome of a process in which Obama treated GOP default-threatening tactics as legitimate and accepted the GOP framework that cutting debt, not creating jobs, was the country’s central problem. As a result, we have a deal that severely undercuts Democratic policy priorities and cuts government spending just as the economic recovery is showing signs of tanking. Just how, exactly, did it come to this? The most plausible explanation is that Obama and his political advisors are convinced that striking a bipartisan compromise on debt reduction is the way to the hearts of America’s political independents, who famously abandoned the Democrats in 2010.

Following this logic, Obama’s actions—treating the Republicans’ extraordinary threat not as an illegitimate bargaining tactic but as an opportunity—begin to make a measure of sense. Since independents are supposedly fixated on a bipartisan compromise to reduce spending and cut the debt, Obama would use the leverage provided by the Republicans’ threat, in a judo-like fashion, to enlist both parties in a grand bargain to restore long-run fiscal health. As a result, independents would reward Obama for being, in that tired phrase, “the adult in the room” who stood up for their fiscal priorities.

But it hasn’t worked out that way. As Obama has talked endlessly about a “balanced” approach to getting the country’s fiscal house in order, the economy has continued to stagger and that support from independents is nowhere in sight. Pew data show his approval rating among independents down 16 points in the last few months to an abysmal 36 percent. As for Obama’s re-elect numbers, they have also tumbled, with just 31 percent of independents now saying they would vote to re-elect him, compared to 39 percent for a generic Republican.

To understand how very unlikely it is that Obama’s long sought-after deal is going to magically turn around his numbers, we must visit one of the most robust but amazingly underappreciated findings in American political science: independents are not independent. That is, the overwhelming majority of Americans who say there are “independent” lean toward one party or the other. Call them IINOs (Independents In Name Only). IINOs who say they lean toward the Republicans think and vote just like regular Republicans. IINOs who say they lean toward the Democrats think and vote just like regular Democrats.

Right now, according to Pew data, IINOs are 68 percent of independents, split 36/32 between Republican-leaners and Democratic–leaners, respectively. That leaves less than a third of independents who might really qualify as independent. This figure, in turn, translates into just 13 to 14 percent of adults, and inevitably a lower percentage of actual voters, since pure independents have notoriously low turnout. In 2008, according to the University of Michigan National Election Study, pure independents were only 7 percent of voters.
Only SEVEN PERCENT. That's what the Dems are obsessing over. Kee-rist.

So how’s the debt deal going to go over with these different flavors of independents? Well, Democratic IINOs and pure independents both are concerned about the job situation over the deficit by a margin of two to one, according to Pew data. In fact, the only part of the “independent” pool that actually thinks the deficit is more important than the job situation are Republican IINOs, who right now give Obama a 15 percent approval rating, the same as regular Republicans. Good luck winning that group over.

But maybe pure independents only say they’re concerned with the economy when their real passion is bipartisan compromises on the debt, and so they’ll ignore the bad jobs situation and turn out in droves for Obama. That’s not likely to happen either. As John Sides has pointed out, voting preferences among pure independents are more influenced, not less, by the state of the economy.

These are the facts, but politicians, and Obama especially, seem to have a hard time grasping them. Perhaps that’s because independents are the Rorschach test of U.S. politics—you see in them what your beliefs and preferences incline you to see. Obama and his team want to see teeming hordes of voters who are above the partisan allure of party, untroubled by the bad economy (or, at least, not planning to vote on that basis), and pining for a Washington where the parties, darn it, just work together. So that’s what they see.

The administration’s chimerical search for the independents of their dreams has not served the country, nor the president, well. Obama has stumbled ever further into a political heart of darkness, hemmed in on all sides by radical GOP views on government and governance. And he can’t expect independents to bail him out.
No, he can't. It's amazing that someone as sharp as Plouffe would think that, but I suspect it might be because Obama did a damned good job of scooping up progressives during the primaries, and didn't yet have to match his rhetoric with action. Now America's got two and a half years of his Administration behind it, and progressives are pissed, as they have every right to be. Plouffe's assuming that he has them on-side, and I don't think he necessarily does, even if you have a crazy like Bachmann on the Republican side.

I'm still a bit baffled by all this. There's no goddamned way that you're going to see a lot of people who are both highly informed and completely without opinion or ideology. That doesn't happen. You might get IINOs, but highly-informed swing voters are only marginally less rare (and mythical) than unicorns. Teixeira's right: low-info voters are going to vote based on the economy, considering how crappy the economy is, and aren't going to give a shit about who's being more "reasonable".

I still believe Obama will win, if only because the Republican candidate is likely to be an absolute disaster that even turns off IINOs. It's still going to be closer than it has any right to be—and they'll still take the wrong lesson from it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Neither New Taxes Nor Pentagon Cuts

So says Kos, and I buy it.

So Reid says the super committee must have new revenues.
Reid says the tea party's influence on the process has been "unfair to the American people." "The American people are not impressed by the no new revenue...because the richest of the rich have contributed nothing...the burden [in the deal] is on the middle-class." Says the Bush tax cuts did not help the economy. But says we do need to cut spending, and says the Super Congress will force action, and that the Super Congress must include revenue. "We need a fair approach to this committee." "The only way we can arrive at a fair arrangement for the American people is to have equal sharing." He says revenue must match spending cuts (which I think is an absolute minimum standard). "It has to be equal. There has to be spending cuts...and revenue that matches that."
Boehner and McConnell say it won't. Limbaugh and Norquist won't let them.

So then what? Automatic cuts to discretionary spending and the defense budget.

But the GOP won't fret over those defense cuts. Because all they have to do is pass separate legislation refunding the Pentagon and Senate Dems (either too scared or too compromised) will cave on that and what will Obama do? Veto spending "for the troops"?
Not much to add to that. This arrangement would work if Dems had the stones to follow through on their threats. They don't. They NEVER do. So Republicans need not fear.

Monday, August 01, 2011

It's Over

Yep, it's over. And by "over", I mean the likelihood of any sort of real American recovery.

Remember, kids: extortion works wonders against Democrats. They fold like a cheap shirt. They might babble about how it makes them stronger in future fights...but it's horseshit and always has been. They said the same thing about John Roberts, for God's sake, and look at what happened: America ended up with a 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court where Antonin Scalia calls the shots.

In any case, I'd suggest looking up butler schools. The only people that are going to see prosperity are the wealthiest families. Might as well try to make a living off of them, since it's going to be damned near impossible to make a living doing anything else.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Might Scuttle Deal

If you don't like the idea of government spending getting cut to the bone, just so that rich people can continue to have the lowest taxes in generations, these are the people you need to contact. They're the House's Congressional Progressive Caucus, and they're saying that they aren't going to accept this gigantic hillock of bullshit lying down.

These are the people you talk to if you want to prevent the Republicans from getting away with threatening to murder an economy to protect the richest people in the world.

"A nearly complete capitulation to the hostage-taking demands of Republican extremists."

So says The Times about the new deal. Krugman's more straightforward, saying "the President Surrenders". Which he a scared coward, huddling in a pool of slow-cooling urine.

Well, looks like Al Qaeda had the right of it after all. The United States does negotiation with those threatening its destruction. Not only does it negotiate, it fucking surrenders without a shot.

The Republicans are emboldened, progressives are betrayed, the economy is fucked, and the people are too. What a pathetic, ridiculous spectacle.

Edit: Just for some laffs:

Q Mr. President, thank you. How do these negotiations affect negotiations or talks with Republicans about raising the debt limit? Because it would seem that they have a significant amount of leverage over the White House now, going in. Was there ever any attempt by the White House to include raising the debt limit as a part of this package?

THE PRESIDENT: When you say it would seem they’ll have a significant amount of leverage over the White House, what do you mean?

Q Just in the sense that they’ll say essentially we’re not going to raise the — we’re not going to agree to it unless the White House is able to or willing to agree to significant spending cuts across the board that probably go deeper and further than what you’re willing to do. I mean, what leverage would you have –

THE PRESIDENT: Look, here’s my expectation — and I’ll take John Boehner at his word — that nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse, that that would not be a good thing to happen. And so I think that there will be significant discussions about the debt limit vote. That’s something that nobody ever likes to vote on. But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he’s going to have responsibilities to govern. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.
Mr. President, sir?

You're a credulous idiot.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Silver Lining on the Small Screen

He isn't going to get listened to...but it's nice to see Paul Krugman basically take command this morning on This Week and lay out exactly what's going on. When I saw the panel included Will, Norquist, and Stephanopolous, I expected a right-wing pile-on, but Krugman ran that table like a boss. He used to be a bit shy and intimidated by these things, but he kicked ass.

No wonder he got hate mail.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Krugman, Chait, and "Centrist" Idiots

Well, this is a surprise. First, Chait:

The failure to understand the crisis we were entering was widely shared among centrist types...

...The political assumptions here turned out to be badly wrong. The main problem is that the Republican Party does not actually care very much about the deficit. It cares about, in order: Low taxes for high-income earners; reducing social spending, especially for the poor; protecting the defense budget; and low deficits. The Obama administration and many Democrats actually do care about the deficit and are willing to sacrifice their priorities in order to achieve it, a desire that was on full display during the health care reform debate. Republicans care about deficit reduction only to the extent that it can be undertaken without impeding upon other, higher priorities. Primarily "deficit reduction" is a framing device for their opposition to social spending, as opposed to a genuine belief that revenue and outlays ought to bear some relationship to each other.
Yeah, no shit. The rest of us, especially the "left" that your mag loves taking cheap shots at, have been yelling this from the rooftops for the past decade and a half, and definitely since the Crisis.

Willing to admit that the "shrill" set have a point yet?

Meanwhile, here's Krugman:

Jonathan Chait has an excellent piece documenting the way in which what he calls the establishment, and I call Very Serious People, misjudged the way the debt ceiling thing would play out... also showed awesome political naivete. As Chait says, the first thing you need to understand is that modern Republicans don’t care about deficits. They only pretend to care when they believe that deficit hawkery can be used to dismantle social programs; as soon as the conversation turns to taxes, or anything else that would require them and their friends to make even the smallest sacrifice, deficits don’t matter at all.

I can’t help but notice that Chait’s list of chumps is basically the same as the list of people who puffed up Paul Ryan and gave him an award for fiscal responsibility. Enough said.

What’s really awesome here is the blindness. Anyone reading the newspapers with an open mind had a pretty good idea of what would happen in the debt fight; only Washington insiders managed to fool themselves.

But they’re Very Serious.
Yep. Krugman's been calling this one for ages, and he's being borne out. (As is usually the case on these things.)

The best (worst) part is that I suspect that the "centrists" will remember this right up until the moment when the opportunity once again arises to punch a hippy and get some "centrist" cred.

(Well, no. The best part is that Chait wrote a piece last year that showed that there are absolutely no negative electoral consequences to progressive voting.)

Chronic Child Hunger in America

Yep! America has now hit the point where there are children in Boston who can't get enough to eat! First world country? Look at this:
Doctors at a major Boston hospital report they are seeing more hungry and dangerously thin young children in the emergency room than at any time in more than a decade of surveying families.

Many families are unable to afford enough healthy food to feed their children, say the Boston Medical Center doctors. The resulting chronic hunger threatens to leave scores of infants and toddlers with lasting learning and developmental problems.

Before the economy soured in 2007, 12 percent of youngsters age 3 and under whose families were randomly surveyed in the hospital’s emergency department were significantly underweight. In 2010, that percentage jumped to 18 percent, and the tide does not appear to be abating, said Dr. Megan Sandel, an associate professor of pediatrics and public health at BMC.

“Food is costing more, and dollars don’t stretch as far,’’ Sandel said. “It’s hard to maintain a diet that is healthy.’’

The emergency room survey found a similarly striking increase in the percentage of families with children who reported they did not have enough food each month, from 18 percent in 2007 to 28 percent in 2010.

Pediatricians at hospitals in four other cities - Baltimore; Little Rock, Ark.; Minneapolis; and Philadelphia - also reported increases in the ranks of malnourished, hungry youngsters in their emergency rooms since 2008. But Boston’s increases were more dramatic, said Sandel, a lead investigator with Children’s HealthWatch, a network of researchers who track children’s health. Researchers said higher housing and heating costs in Massachusetts probably exacerbated the state’s surge.

BMC has also seen a 58 percent increase, from 24 in 2005 to 38 in 2010, in the number of severely underweight babies under the age of 1 who were referred by family physicians to its Grow Clinic, where doctors provide intensive nutritional, medical, and other services to boost babies’ growth. Such malnourishment is similar to what is more typically seen in developing countries, Sandel said.

Among the children treated at the clinic last year was Jordan Turner-Goode, who at age 1 weighed just 19 pounds, while the average child that age is more than 24 pounds.
That's right! A 58% increase in the number of severely underweight babies! BABIES!

Meanwhile, at this very moment, someone on Wall St. is buying a new iPad for his kids. Not that the kids really need it. They just don't want the kids to look bad when they go back to their private school in the fall.

Hey, gotta spend that last big bonus check on something. They've already bought Washington—so why not splurge on some Appleware?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dean Baker Endorses Ron Paul's "Surprising Lucid Solution" for Debt Crisis

I'll have to admit that the whole thing is bizarrely elegant. Here's Baker.

Representative Ron Paul has hit upon a remarkably creative way to deal with the impasse over the debt ceiling: have the Federal Reserve Board destroy the $1.6 trillion in government bonds it now holds. While at first blush this idea may seem crazy, on more careful thought it is actually a very reasonable way to deal with the crisis. Furthermore, it provides a way to have lasting savings to the budget.

The basic story is that the Fed has bought roughly $1.6 trillion in government bonds through its various quantitative easing programs over the last two and a half years. This money is part of the $14.3 trillion debt that is subject to the debt ceiling. However, the Fed is an agency of the government. Its assets are in fact assets of the government. Each year, the Fed refunds the interest earned on its assets in excess of the money needed to cover its operating expenses. Last year the Fed refunded almost $80 billion to the Treasury. In this sense, the bonds held by the Fed are literally money that the government owes to itself.

Unlike the debt held by Social Security, the debt held by the Fed is not tied to any specific obligations. The bonds held by the Fed are assets of the Fed. It has no obligations that it must use these assets to meet. There is no one who loses their retirement income if the Fed doesn’t have its bonds. In fact, there is no direct loss of income to anyone associated with the Fed’s destruction of its bonds. This means that if Congress told the Fed to burn the bonds, it would in effect just be destroying a liability that the government had to itself, but it would still reduce the debt subject to the debt ceiling by $1.6 trillion. This would buy the country considerable breathing room before the debt ceiling had to be raised again. President Obama and the Republican congressional leadership could have close to two years to talk about potential spending cuts or tax increases. Maybe they could even talk a little about jobs.

In addition, there’s a second reason why Representative Paul’s plan is such a good idea. As it stands now, the Fed plans to sell off its bond holdings over the next few years. This means that the interest paid on these bonds would go to banks, corporations, pension funds, and individual investors who purchase them from the Fed. In this case, the interest payments would be a burden to the Treasury since the Fed would no longer be collecting (and refunding) the interest...

...In short, Representative Paul has produced a very creative plan that has two enormously helpful outcomes. The first one is that the destruction of the Fed’s $1.6 trillion in bond holdings immediately gives us plenty of borrowing capacity under the current debt ceiling. The second benefit is that it will substantially reduce the government’s interest burden over the coming decades. This is a proposal that deserves serious consideration, even from people who may not like its source.

He's not wrong. Neither of them are wrong. It makes perfect sense and I can't fault the reasoning. Sure, the Fed would take a bit of a bath on this. So what? They're still the best equipped organization in America to do so. It wipes out a lot of debt in one go, and it means that there won't be the Mega Catfood Commission wiping out old people's Medicare and Social Security, at least not anytime soon.

In fact, it's such a logical solution that I'm really, really wondering why the hell nobody else has advocated it.

Edit: Noah Smith thinks that it could lead to "hyperinflation", as it would signify the end of Fed independence. Maybe. But I'm a bit skeptical about that. Inflation, yes, but "hyperinflation"? 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Norway Attacker's "Manifesto Against Muslims"

From Huffpo. (The Canadian one this time; the piece was in the Canadian Press. You can find it by going through the Oslo page on Huffpo.)

The man blamed for attacks on Norway's government headquarters and a youth retreat that left at least 93 dead said he was motivated by a desire to bring about a revolution in Norwegian society, his lawyer said Sunday.

A manifesto published online — which police are poring over and said was posted the day of the attack — ranted against Muslim immigration to Europe and vowed revenge on "indigenous Europeans," whom he accused of betraying their heritage. It added that they would be punished for their "treasonous acts."

Police have not confirmed that their 32-year-old Norwegian suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, wrote the document, but his lawyer referred to it and said Breivik had been working on it for years.

The treatise detailed plans to acquire firearms and explosives, and even appeared to describe a test explosion: "BOOM! The detonation was successful!!!" It ends with a note dated 12:51 p.m. on July 22: "I believe this will be my last entry."
 Everybody and his dog was presuming that this was an Islamist thing. Then, when that was ruled out, everybody was presuming that this was just a random crazy. It wasn't that, either. The man is responsible for his own actions, but we cannot ignore the elephant in the room: he's motivated by the same sort of reactionary xenophobic fervor that so much of the American right is.

Here's some elaboration from the Statesman:

A 1,500-page manifesto, posted on the Web hours before the attacks, included a day-by-day diary of months of planning for the attacks, and the author claimed to be part of a small group that intends to "seize political and military control of Western European countries and implement a cultural conservative political agenda."

He predicted a conflagration that would kill or injure more than 1 million "Marxists/multiculturalists" and added: "The time for dialogue is over. We gave peace a chance. The time for armed resistance has come."

The manifesto was signed Andrew Berwick, an Anglicized version of his name. A former U.S. government official briefed on the case said investigators believed the manifesto was Breivik's work.

The manifesto, titled "2083: A European Declaration of Independence," claims to explain "what your government, the academia and the media are hiding from you" and warns against "appeasement and anti-European thinking."

Breivik also was thought to have posted a video Friday calling for Christian conservatives in Europe to rise up violently as a modern-day version of the Crusades-era Knights Templar to save Europe from Islamic totalitarianism. In its closing moments, the video depicts Breivik in a military uniform, holding assault weapons.
What bothers me—other than the fact that ninety innocent people are dead, mind—is that I doubt the wingnuts will stop to reconsider. They'll probably just point to the guy having played that "Modern Warfare" shooting game and say that this is all video games' fault.

I do hope that everybody else remembers, though. I hope that people remember that the xenophobic hate infesting places like the Murdoch Press and the right-wing blogs can foment violence just as easily as theocratic Islam. I hope that people are at least skeptical when engaging those sources in the future.

Freedom of expression is the most important freedom of them all—but the consequences of expression are not limited to expression in Arabic.

Edit: Oh, and he had ties to the good ol' English Defence League.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fox News: Big Phone Hackers?

Big "allegedly" there, of course, but just look at what "The Anomaly" wrote on DailyKos. It's a story about Dan Cooper, a former Fox executive who let out a bunch of confidential information about Fox News' head honcho, Roger Ailes. He did it off the record, but Ailes found out anyway.

Cooper says that Ailes discovered he was the source by gaining access to his phone records through Fox's “brain room”.
Cooper claims that his talent agent, Richard Leibner, told him he had received a call from Ailes, who identified Cooper as a source, and insisted that Leibner drop him as a client--or any client reels Leibner sent Fox would pile up in a corner and gather dust. Cooper continued:  “I made the connections. Ailes knew I had given Brock the interview. Certainly Brock didn’t tell him. Of course. Fox News had gotten Brock’s telephone records from the phone company, and my phone number was on the list. Deep in the bowels of 1211 Avenue of the Americas, News Corporation’s New York headquarters, was what Roger called the Brain Room. Most people thought it was simply the research department of Fox News. But unlike virtually everybody else, because I had to design and build the Brain Room, I knew it also housed a counterintelligence and black ops office. So accessing phone records was easy pie.”
In a Rolling Stone piece, Tim Dickenson corroborates Cooper's account of a “black-ops” room deep within Fox HQ:
Befitting his siege mentality, Ailes also housed his newsroom in a bunker. Reporters and producers at Fox News work in a vast, windowless expanse below street level, a gloomy space lined with video-editing suites along one wall and an endless cube farm along the other. In a separate facility on the same  subterranean floor, Ailes created an in-house research unit – known at Fox News as the “brain room” – that requires special security clearance to gain access. “The brain room is where Willie Horton comes from,” says Cooper, who  helped design its specs. “It’s where the evil resides.”

If that sounds paranoid, consider the man Ailes brought in to run the brain room: Scott Ehrlich, a top lieutenant from his political-­consulting firm.  Ehrlich – referred to by some as “Baby Rush” – had taken over the lead on Big Tobacco’s campaign to crush health care reform when Ailes signed on with CNBC. According to documents obtained by Rolling Stone, Ehrlich gravitated to the dark side: In a strategy labeled “Underground Attack,” he advised the tobacco giants to “hit hard” at key lawmakers “through their soft  underbelly” by quietly influencing local media – a tactic that would help the firms “stay under the radar of the national news media.”
I don't know if this will get any traction. This isn't the Guardian, it's Kos. But this "bunker" is definitely worth investigating. It may well be that News Corps' tactics were only a UK thing...

...but I sure as hell wouldn't bet money on it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

So Warren Won't Be Leading the Consumer Protection Agency

So sez the Post, quoting a source in the White House.

Well, of course she won't be. She might be effective. And Lord knows we can't have that. The little people are cattle. You don't protect them. What are you, some sort of commie?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dow Jones CEO Bails Thanks to Murdoch Hacking Scandal

Well, I wasn't expecting this. Sure, it seems like everybody in the UK is resigning in disgrace in light of the hacking scandal, but I'd expected that it would stay on that side of the Atlantic.

Apparently not.
Dow Jones & Co. Chief Executive Les Hinton resigned late Friday, as the top executive at News Corp.'s financial publishing unit sought to contain the damage from the company's British tabloid scandal, which began while he oversaw the company's U.K. newspaper operations.

Mr. Hinton said that he was "ignorant of what apparently happened" at the company's tabloid newspapers earlier in the decade. He characterized his lack of knowledge as "irrelevant" and said it was "proper" for him to step down.

Mr. Hinton's announcement came hours after Rebekah Brooks, the embattled chief executive of News International, News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper unit, resigned. She acknowledged the reputation of the company was "at risk."

The resignations were part of an aggressive new damage-control campaign by the media company, which also publishes The Wall Street Journal.
It's not enough. It's not remotely close to enough. Murdoch and his underlings knew damned well what was going on. They're under investigation for hacking 9-11 victims, for God's sake. This isn't the sort of thing that gets blown off with a full-page apology in a newspaper and a few strategic resignations. This is serious. The truth must out.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

South Sudan Gains Their Freedom and Independence

I know I've been a bit negative here over the last while. There's good reason for that.But South Sudan finally getting their independence? After all this time, all the bloodshed, all the tears, and all the trials? There's nothing bad to say about that.

The country is going to need investment, aid, and support, and it is going to face immense trials. That doesn't matter.  It was necessary, it was a long time coming, and it'll help things in the long run.

It's a glorious day.

Kevin Drum Tears a Strip

Kevin Drum is pissed. After the latest dismal job report—followed by the latest Krugman skewering—he has clearly had enough.

We are ruled by charlatans and cowards. Our economy is in the tank, we know what to do about it, and we're just not going to do it. The charlatans prefer instead to stand by and let people suffer because that's politically useful, while the cowards let them get away with it because it's politically risky to fight back. Ugh indeed.
The truly sad thing is that it's more politically risky not to fight back. David Plouffe aside, unemployment is going to have a massive effect on people's voting habits. They aren't going to give a tinker's damn about deficits or debts if the employment situation doesn't improve.

Hell, the only reason they care about either debts or deficits at all now is because a large part of the public has been convinced that cutting the deficit will help the job situation. It won't. Even the terrible economists grant that it won't. It still doesn't matter. If people are still lacking jobs, they'll "toss the bums out" no matter how solvent the government is. The politically wise move is not to give in.

Good luck convincing Washington Dems of that, though. They'll keep on following that deficit drumbeat right off the cliff, with Obama at their head. Some nutter like Bachmann will get the reins. Then the fun will TRULY begin.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mark Fiore Blows One

So, uh, Mark? I know you're probably proud of that little cartoon you made—though I hope no kiddies see it, since that's apparently an issue—but you ARE aware that Kagan and Sotomayor and two other justices signed on with Scalia's opinion, right?

If you're going to go after Scalia for shitty decisions, you have loads of better choices than the one that crossed party and ideological lines.

Edit: Oh, and a columbine reference? REALLY? Mark Halperin just called, and he said "dick move, bro."