SocraticGadfly: 10/24/10 - 10/31/10

October 30, 2010

Anne Applebaum -180 degrees wrong on Jon Stewart

Actually, it's more that, in a recent opining for the Washington Post, talking about Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity, she's 180 degrees wrong about liberalism:
It’s bad enough that the only way to drum up enthusiasm for a “Rally to Restore Sanity” is to make it into a television comedian’s joke. But it’s far worse that the “moderates” in attendance will have been bused in by Arianna Huffington and organized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. This is how words, and then ideas, vanish from our political lexicon: Whatever connotations it once had, the word “moderate” has now come to mean “liberal” or even “left-wing” in American politics.
OK, I read her as saying that "moderates" are "closet liberals." The reality is that most "liberals" are really "subversive moderates."

October 29, 2010

Obama does NOT rule out raising retirement age

President Obama's recent confab with liberal bloggers shows that he's still leaving the door open to the Catfood Commission on Social Security change.

Here's the comment from Obama on Social Security:
We are awaiting a report from the deficit commission, or deficit reduction commission, so I have been adamant about not prejudging their work until we get it. ... But I’ve said in the past, I’ll say here now, it doesn’t strike me that a steep hike in the retirement age is in fact the best way to fix Social Security.

Note the weasel word of "steep." And, notice that, he didn't even rule out a "steep hike." He just said he didn't think that was "the best way to fix Social Security.

And, of course, note the word "fix." Which implies Social Security is broken, or is becoming so.

All Obama had to do was say: "I don't think Social Security is broken, It may need minor to moderate changes, but I think we can accomplish those without changing the retirement age."

Obama completes his sellout

Can we say now that he's both worse and, at least relative to the times, more conservative (forget "neoliberal") than Jimmy Carter?

President Obama's recent confab with liberal bloggers (Kos has moved more leftward, I guess), underscores this in exquisite, excruciating detail.

Here's the telling quotes from Obama, with commentary.

1. On FDR, the Depression, and the Great Recession:
This notion that somehow I could have gone and made the case around the country for a far bigger stimulus because of the magnitude of the crisis, well, we understood the magnitude of the crisis. We didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.

How many ways is this wrong? One, FDR didn't wait six months, as I **KNOW** Obama has heard of the 100 Days Congress. I wish one of FDR's grandkids, if available, would kick Obama in the intellectual nuts. Two, everybody knew the depth of the problem in 1933; no selling was needed and even a fair chunk of Republicans voted along.

In turn, you never threatened to use reconciliation to pass whatever stimulus you could if most Republicans were going to resist and the New England "moderates" were going to dither. Read on ...

Meanwhile, on the stimulus size and vote:
I mean, if folks think that we could have gotten Ben Nelson, Arlen Specter and Susan Collins to vote for additional stimulus beyond the $700 billion that we got, then I would just suggest you weren’t in the meetings.

You didn't mention in your blogger interview that your administration mistakenly set a sub-$1 trillion size for the stimulus because you DIDN'T "understand the magnitude of the crisis." And, you took longer than FDR did for passing more limited help.

If I'm going to compare you to past Democratic presidents, you're now also at risk of being more whiny than Clinton.

2. Mistruths on mortgages:
But the truth of the matter is, is that this is a incredibly powerful tool. You’ve got a Consumer Finance Protection Agency that that can save consumers billions of dollars -- is already saving folks billions of dollars just by having it passed. Already you’re starting to see negotiations in terms of how mortgage folks operate, in terms of how credit card companies operate.

WHERE are we seeing changes in mortgages, especially when you're on record opposing a national foreclosure? As for credit card changes, the money made from the "old system" is being repackaged. Money like that is fungible; you could have at least made it more difficult to move.

Obama earlier said:
I don’t think I’m happy with millions of foreclosures or millions of houses being underwater. This is -- this was both a powerful symptom as well as a cause of the economic crisis that we’re in. So we’ve got to do as much as we can to stabilize the housing market.

Stabilize on whose terms? A national foreclosure moratorium would bring back to the table the issue of Banksters' pay, the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and more.

3. "Poor Obama" vs. the LGBT community:
I don’t begrudge the LGBT community pushing, but the flip side of it is that this notion somehow that this administration has been a source of disappointment to the LGBT community, as opposed to a stalwart ally of the LGBT community, I think is wrong.

Sure. Sure it is. See "Bill Clinton" and "whiny" above.

4. Obama the neolib refuses to rule out retirement age changes, in response to a question to that end:
We are awaiting a report from the deficit commission, or deficit reduction commission, so I have been adamant about not prejudging their work until we get it. ... But I’ve said in the past, I’ll say here now, it doesn’t strike me that a steep hike in the retirement age is in fact the best way to fix Social Security.

Note the weasel word of "steep."

5. Obama sings the 12th verse of Kumbaya:
I don’t go into the next two years assuming that there’s just going to be gridlock. We’re going to keep on working to make sure that we can get as much done as possible because folks are hurting out there. What they’re looking for is help on jobs, help on keeping their homes, help on sending their kids to college. And if I can find ways for us to work with Republicans to advance those issues, then that’s going to be my priority.

Note that bipartisanship is a **priority.**

October 27, 2010

Is 'framing' part of the midterm elections battle?

Incumbent Members of Congress are most endangered, it seems, in areas not so bad off.

Maybe, as the story notes, many of the worst-hit areas are high-minority urban districts that aren't switching parties anyway.

Or, the election is in part about perceptions. Of course, if that's the case, I expect mainstream liberal pundits to trot out George Lakoff any minute now to talk about "framing."

Roll out that third-party barrel

Third-party backers, boosters and touters, don't lose all hope. There's more of us out there than currently reflected at the ballot box — but, there's a problem or two with that, explained below.
(A) plurality (43%) of Likely U.S. Voters believes that neither Democrats nor Republicans in Congress are the party of the American people, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Nearly as many see a need for a new third party. ...

(And) 38% think Republicans and Democrats are so much alike that an entirely new party is needed to represent the American people. Fifty percent (50%) say a new third party is not needed. hirty-eight percent (38%) also think it is at least somewhat likely that a third party candidate will be elected president of the United States within the next 10 years, with 11% who say it is Very Likely. Fifty-eight percent (58%) say the election of a third party president is unlikely, but that includes just 13% who say it’s Not At All Likely.

That said, where are you people right now?

That's one reason I take this poll with a grain of salt. And, no, it can't be that if there's no third-party option available, many of these people are staying at home. Rasmussen said this is from a (self-identified, admittedly) sample of very likely voters. Do you vote selectively, you people? I'm curious.

Next question - if you think neither major party represents the people, do you think we need another major party further right, further left, or something entirely new.

Since more Republicans than Democrats in the poll (remember, though, it's GOP-leaning Rasmussen) agreed with the above sentiments, I'm guessing that more third-party yearners want to go further right. If pressed in detail, they'd probably want a more organized Tea Party, separate from the GOP. Given that nearly half of Republican voters feel this way, it's a good bet this is a kind of circular firing squad poll.

Further proof?
Of course, 72% of Republican voters continue to believe that GOP members of Congress have lost touch with the party base throughout the nation over the past several years. By contrast, 61% of Democratic voters think their representatives in Congress have done a good job of representing Democratic values over the past several years.

And, that's why establishmentarian Democrats of the Blue Dog variety are stupid as Forrest Gump to keep tacking right. It's a sucker's bid against a party that could partially implode if Democrats just had some individual and party discipline.

Sad note is that 61 percent of Democrats feel this way. Also, Rasmussen doesn't identify what these people said Democratic values were.

October 26, 2010

Obama likes Teapot Tommy Friedman, Bobo David Brooks

Shock me that two of the NYT's mushiest, most inept, Peter-principle-promoting columnists are among Obama's favorite pundits:
Obama does reserve a certain respect for opinion writers such as Tom Friedman and David Brooks of The New York Times, Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, E. J. Dionne of The Washington Post, and Joe Klein of Time. "My impression is that he reads a lot of columnists," says Brooks, "and therefore he sort of cares about what they say."

Dionne, as Greenwald notes, is an often-platitudinous liberal, who rarely will challenge the administration. Joe Klein? If he can't even understand the difference between domestic and foreign intelligence gathering, that says it all. Seib? The more rightwing-ish side of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment incarnate.

And, contrary to a commenter, I don't doubt it at all. Teapot Tommy is exactly the type of neolib whose thinking comports with The One's. Brooks' kinder, gentler rational bobos are the type of conservatives Obama thinks exists to engage in bipartisanship with him.

Oh, PROOF that GQ is onto something with Gibbs' comments? Bobo Brooks and Teapot Tommy were two of the columnists The One invited to his pre-inaugural pseudointellectual confabs.

Can David Brooks get any stupider?

Let me rephrase that. Can he get any more transparently dishonest as an adjunct Republican Party flak?

Readers here know that, from the left, I'm certainly no defender of Obama or the Democratic Party. But, the number of lies in Brooks' latest column is so great I'm not even going to bother counting.

Turkey rightfully thumbs nose at US, EU control attempts

Ed Cohen, overall the NYT's best columnist on foreign affairs, points out just how well Turkey is doing by ignoring American and European Union control attempts.

At some point, Kemalists and Muslim political parties alike may decide EU membership isn't worth the hoops. Turkey would qualify, now, on both economic structure and civil liberties, but, it's the "they're not really us" hoops that still stand.

Cohen didn't note how Obama really hasn't diverged much from Bush in this area of foreign policy, sadly. It was mainly Congressional GOP numbnuts who exploded in wrath after the Gaza flotilla incident, but, Ankara had been getting a certain degree of benign neglect from the White House before that.

Given all the Turkic "-stans" in Central Asia, that's stupid.

October 24, 2010

What Amnesty and Gang Green have in common

They both pass out crap tchotchke gimmes that are probably made in countries that undercut their mission.

Years ago, Sierra got in Dutch with many of its memberrs when queried about a backpack gimme for membership renewers when it wouldn't identify its country of origin and said, in essence, "trust us."

Amnesty? It sends a presumably made-in-China tchotchke pen every few months to try to solicit contributions. That said, I can't prove it's made in China because I can't find a single country of origin identifier on it, which is suspicious enough.

John Burns - bastard, warmonger

And, so too are Reporters without Borders and Amnesty International

Under the guise of a personality portrait, neocon-beloved NYT war reporter John Burns does a hack job on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

No surprise there, in a sense. As Glenn Greenwald points out, Burns has long been a cultivator of access with generals and other Serious People who "know" we must fight the "Forever War" that fellow neocon-beloved Dexter Filkens touted.

Burns, you're also a bastard for trying to blame Pvt. Bradley Manning's arrest entirely on Assange, without mentioning how Wired magazine, despite its denials, used a quasi-freelancer to throw him under the bus.

Amnesty International? Reporters without Borders? Why, Burns touts them as agreeing with him:
Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders have joined the Pentagon in criticizing the organization for risking people’s lives by publishing war logs identifying Afghans working for the Americans or acting as informers.

I don't know if either organization has changed its tune since the Brass Hat Shop admitted that Wikileaks' postings on Afghanistan endangered no informants that it knows of. Probably not. After all, challenging the "good" Americans just wouldn't be right.

So, Amnesty, between this and that cheap, presumably made-in-China tchotchke pen you send me every few months? Forget about more money from me.

Is Scratch-N-Sniff political junk mail around the corner?

Well, Carl Paladino already trotted out something along those lines in the GOP gubernatorial primary in New York, and it may have worked.

Specifically, using garbage-related odors may have triggered disgust among recipients. And, scientific research has shown this can increase xenophobia, among other things.

So, it will be Republicans who continue down this line, at least with that particular odor.

But, to "go positive," marketers have known for years that an odor like cinnamon can get people to buy more. That's part of why the bakery area is near the front door of your friendly local supermarket.

So, could cinnamon-scented junk mail get you to "buy" that candidate? Could the same candidate do both good cop and bad cop, or good copy and bad copy, junk mail?

How you get the aromas to not only be embedded, but to last long enough, I don't know. But, don't doubt that this is going to get more research.

You first, Teapot Tommy Friedman

In his latest bit of inanity, Thomas Friedman says that American workers, in the future, will all have to add "extra" to their jobs to avoid being replaced by foreigners.

So, you first, Teapot Tommy. I'd love to have your job outsourced.

Beyond that, Teapot Tommy claims that, as more and more Boomers get older and need health care assistance, Americans will have to add "extra" to these jobs.

Really? Pandahugger Tommy, China's going to have an even steeper age curve than us quite soon. None of them are coming over here for that reason; there will be plenty of elderly Chinese. (Besides, although illegal immigration does come from overseas, amending legal immigration statues would set off a Congressional firestorm.) Oh, and they're not likely coming from Mexico; its birthrate isn't much higher than ours.

The rest of the column has mixtures of the same vapidness and triteness.

Liu who?

Pandahuggers take note.

Here's how the depth and breadth of Chinese Internet censorship has keep most of its citizens from learning about the newest Nobel Peace Price winner. Once again, it's #pandahuggersfail on China.

Booting the Blue Dogs is only half the battle

Ari Berman ofThe Nation, opining in the NYT, exhorts and pleads with Democratic leaders to boot the Blue Dogs, especially cockroaches like Health Shuler.

Of course, The Nation, which will surely endorse neolibs like Obama himself again in 2012 rather than the Green candidate for president, don't have a lot of room to talk.

Seriously, after it's Obama apologetics issue of late this summer, I expect The Nation will NEVER venture beyond endorsing the Democratic candidate for president. Not even to a nonendorsement of anybody, let alone endorsing a third-party candidate.

So, yeah, Ari, I agree with you as far as you go. Next time, write an op-ed, whether in the NYT or The Nation, calling for Democrats to boot all the neoliberals, too.

Juan Williams, NPR "token"?

The missing part of the Juan Williams story, perhaps?

Did NPR keep him on so long because he's black, and it has limited ethnic diversity? Quite possibly. When NPR makes Faux News look semi-colorblind, it's sad.

Not surprising, though. Behind the stereotype of NPR listeners/PBS viewers as West Coast/Madison, Wisc./New England-based Volvo-drinking, latte-drinking white liberals, there's a certain amount of generalization truth.

Part of it is what it is.

Part of it is bad marketing by the two public entities as to their own programming that might be of interest to minorities.

Part of it is hiring issues.

Maybe NPR will learn and grow.

Coast Guard - lying for BP?

Is the Coast Guard lying, or just clueless, on Gulf Oil? It's something, because there's plenty of it still there from the BP disaster.

I'd have to say a mix of both. Since various aspects of Team Obama were in BP's pocket soon after the Deepwater Horizon blowout, elements of lying, even by the Coast Guard, can't be overlooked.

And, assuming that Team Obama is still in the background, that's another reason to assume lying, not just ignorance.

Really? NPR has "viewers"?

It's obvious most the wingnuts bloviating over NPR's firing of Juan Williams, to the point of calling NPR stations and saying they are "viewers" who are going to stop contributing, are full of crap. Even more so than normal.

But, you know what?

The wingnuts don't care about accuracy and facts. They just care about "winning."

Unfortunately, Preznit Kumbaya Doofus doesn't, or refuses to, get that.

Will all the BushCo tax cuts expire?

It's possible that, after the election, gridlock and anger will be even worse, and so nothing will be done in the lame-duck Congressional session, including on the BushCo tax cuts.

If it's at the price of the middle-class tax cuts expiring that tax cuts for the rich go by the boards, too, fine. Of course, given Team Obama's politically tin ear, this won't be exploited as it should be, or could be:
While the newly elected Congress does not convene until January, Republicans could gain four Senate seats right away due to vacancies that will be filled this year. But that might not be enough to get what many Republicans really want: long-term extension of all the Bush-era lower tax rates.

"Why would you settle for a half a loaf?" an industry lobbyist said of Republicans' potential strategy.

It's clear from that quote it's ripe for the exploiting. Will Preznit Kumbaya do so, or will he still be trying to find "cooperation"?

Hey, Obama - what about the Chamber's US donors?

The U.S. Chamber has plenty of problems with U.S. donors without Preznit Kumbaya invoking the specter of Chinese money buying influence. Dow Chemical buying lobbying to try to prevent tighter rules on chemical facilities, for example.

So why doesn't Team Obama discuss THAT? Probably because, as the one wing of the bipartisan duopoly, it gets its "fair share" of campaign cash from many of these companies. Remember, Obama opted out of public financing of his presidential campaign, with a bigger share of his cash than John McCain's coming from Wall Street.

In light of that, here's another big Chamber donor. Prudential Financial gave $2 million to the Chamber last year to fund its lobbying effort against elements of the financial regulation bill in Congress. Considering the watered-down final result, it was probably worth it for Pru. And, with Obama's rhetoric gone by the boards, it will probably be worth it for him in 2012, too. Other major bankster donors include (shock) Goldman Sachs and AIG. Both of them, directly or indirectly "made whole" by Little Timmy Geithner in the TARP bailout, and sheltered, in Goldman's case, in the financial reform bill, will also probably be $uitably grateful to Obama in 2012.

And Congressional Democrats did nothing to push significant campaign finance reform of legislative elections.