September 24, 2011

#Douthat and an immoral death penalty argument

Ross Douthat has gotten even stupider than David Brooks or Teapot Tommy Friedman and that's hard to believe. He says we should be glad we have the death penalty; otherwise, Troy Davis wouldn't have gotten all his appeals. NO, seriously:
After all, in a world without the death penalty, Davis probably wouldn’t have been retried or exonerated. His appeals would still have been denied, he would have spent the rest of his life in prison, and far fewer people would have known or cared about his fate.
 And it gets worse:
Simply throwing up our hands and eliminating executions entirely, by contrast, could prove to be a form of moral evasion — a way to console ourselves with the knowledge that no innocents are ever executed, even as more pervasive abuses go unchecked.
If Douthat is a "conservative intellectual," it shows how shallow that pool is. The rest of the column gets even worse.

Beyond my thoughts, a libertarian columnist, Thomas Lucente has a good take. He includes noting how elected prosecutors and judges will, for political reasons, have a pro-death penalty bias.

An HP takeover? Would Dell buy? Is Yahoo? Would AOL?

The Yahoo rumors were fueled by a leaked email from former CEO Jerry Yang. But, to me, a sale of Hewlett-Packard, with possible spinoff of part of it, makes just as much sense.

It's clear that HP is caught between two stools, and along with all the other disfunctionality of its board, it is in the middle of that being trapped between different visions.

It hired Apotheker, I guess, on the idea that he would make it into more of a business services company, but didn't like how he was doing that. I think it's viable either continuing to go down that road, or going back down the road of personal products, including bringing back the tablets, but not both.

Rather than a self-orchestrated split, a takeover by another company, with one of the two halves being "spun off," makes sense.

Dell has been behind the curve recently, with somewhat bland performance. Adding HP, and primarily to enter the tablet market, then selling other parts of the country, would make sense.

On the business side, I think an Oracle- or Sun-type company would value it less.

Now, back to Yahoo.

Microsoft is only buying it on terms more draconian than before. AOL/Huffington Post would be an intriguing suitor; integrating Yahoo's search with its stable of serf writers could be a smart business move. It would be a way of attempting to do an end run, or run at, Google's pre-eminence in news (or quasi-news) content.

Rick Perry's bad political week continues

First, Florida wingnuts are showing him no love; Pizza Man Cain won the state's straw poll. And, it wasn't even close:
Cain received 37% of the vote. Perry, who made by far the most extensive effort, was a distant second with 15%.  He barely edged out Mitt Romney, who did not compete here, at 14%.  He was followed by Rick Santorum, 11%; Ron Paul, 10%; Newt Gingrich, 8% and Jon Huntsman, 2%.
That said, we all (except Paultards) know these straw polls mean little; if they actually had value, Ron Paul would have been nominated three years ago.

But, they are a good "Finger in the wind" for activists' weather vane. And, basically, Floridians really, really aren't turned on by him.

Cain? As the story notes, some people settled on him as the "bearing a message" person, concentrating their votes. So, what this really means is that there's still no front-runner among the wingnuts. And, though the wingnuts don't have the "anointing" power they think they do, party leaders will note two things:
1. Perry ain't got it;
2. Romney did OK for not competing at all.

The point is, not who won, but that a message was being sent to Perry. A big one.

Second? Activists and leaders alike will also note new rumblings from New Jersey out of the Chris Christie camp. With Indiana's Mitch Daniels saying he'd like another face in the race, Christie could come on strong. He can skip Iowa and focus on New Hampshire, where he'll play better anyway, and concentrate on Romney.

Perry? If Christie jumps in, Tricky Ricky is dead meat. And, even Nate Silver can write a clunker once in a while, as he does in still touting Perry. That's further underscored by the fact that Perry actively campaigned to try to win the poll.

Sidebar: Perry and Cain are about in the middle of the pack in telling political whoppers. Sidebar 2: It's a two-person race so far on GOP endorsements, but Perry slippage, or a Christie run, could change that.

September 23, 2011

Another Obama neolib fail at the SEC

Obama's pick to run the Securities and Exchange Commission seems to have come close to obstruction of justice in the Bernie Madoff case:
After Bernard L. Madoff’s giant Ponzi scheme was revealed, the Securities and Exchange Commission went to great lengths to make sure that none of its employees working on the case posed a conflict of interest, barring anyone who had accepted gifts or attended a Madoff wedding. 
But as a new report made clear on Tuesday, one top official received a pass: David M. Becker, the S.E.C.’s general counsel, who went on to recommend how the scheme’s victims would be compensated, despite his family’s $2 million inheritance from a Madoff account.
Mr. Becker’s actions were referred by H. David Kotz, the inspector general of the S.E.C., to the Justice Department, on the advice of the Office of Government Ethics, which oversees the ethics of the executive branch of government.
The report by Mr. Kotz provides fresh details about the weakness of the agency’s ethics office and reveals that none of its commissioners, except for Mary L. Schapiro, its chairwoman, had been advised of Mr. Becker’s conflict.
It says Ms. Schapiro agreed with a decision to keep Mr. Becker from testifying before Congress, where he would have disclosed his financial interest in the Madoff account.
This is simply not acceptable. And, it's not unique, certainly not to Mary Schapiro.

Columbia Journalism Review has even more background. This all gives a certain degree of credibility to Ron Suskind's new book. Either Obama is incompetent for listening to others' advice in his financial oversight picks, or we're gathering yet more evidence that he personally is that much in bed with Wall Street. Take your pick.

And, folks, let's be honest. A fair amount of this didn't start with Obama.

But, it didn't start with Bush, either.

Predatory lending, if not necessarily in the venue of subprime loans? It got a bit of start under H.W. Bush and accelerated under Clinton. An overview of the background is here.

Both parties do it. They have for years. And until you stop voting for Democrats as well as Republicans, they'll still do it. Certainly, at a minimum, until we have national public financing of Congressional elections.

Teh Bush-Obama presidency

First, it was in part a chance to upload the new image I Photoshopped, I'll admit. That said: The story is nearly a month old, but this piece is still worth a read, showing how  how much Obama has continued Bush policies, used old Bush or Clinton neolib retreads in office while kicking others aside, etc.

Speaking of, I'll have another couple of posts about that coming up.

Wingnuts, real world agree: GOP debate, Perry sucked

First, there's the booing of the gay solider. Anybody with a conscience, including perhaps one GOP Congresswoman, agrees that was just ridiculous.

Then there was the debate itself. Wingnuts agree it sucked, too. Erick Erickson thinks Herman Cain won and Jon Huntsman did well! Whoa, Erick, don't sprain your brain slouching toward non-wingnuttery. The Weekly Standard also slouches toward non-wingnuttery, reprinting a GOPer email that says, "We all sounded like crazy people."

And, it agrees that Rick Perry sucked:
But no front-runner in a presidential field has ever, we imagine, had as weak a showing as Rick Perry. It was close to a disqualifying two hours for him.http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/278127/my-quick-take-rich-lowry
No surprise to those of us who know that he's coasted with weak opposition in general elections, and that in the last primarily, a light-on-experience, light-on-brains Debra Medina actually skewered him a few times.

Per many others, I think the moment where Perry tried to nail Romney as a flip-flopper and wound up making George W. Bush sound intelligent was the key:



Even Faux's soft bigotry of low Perry expectations was underwhelmed.

Oh, and Perry told another lie related to the Gardasil vaccine.

I'm disappointed that nobody hammered Perry more on illegal immigration; I guess the new study of how it's been the only true part of the "Texas miracle" didn't get out in time. Or else, non-nutbars actually aren't so different on illegal immigration from him.

Michelle Bachmann, who had the most to gain from a Perry meltdown? Per this story, via Ed Brayton, she appears to be toast. It's still a two-person race, with wingnuts not liking Romney and Perry becoming ever more clear to non-Texans as being a nut, but not a true tea party nut.

Weekly Standard is still pushing for Chris Christie, it's getting that bad. And, the time isn't that urgent yet. Christie would be smart to avoid Iowa, anyway, and get a late-starting campaign focused on New Hampshire and Romney.

Oh, doorknob, #DavidBrooks is writing about the NCAA

Just when you thought David Brooks couldn't get more vapid and vacuous, he does. It's Bobo-esque, of course, in that it's just as firmly grounded in the 1950s as are his fictional suburbanites.

I have to quote this whole long string of stupidity to illustrate his use of straw men, too:
There were two sides to the amateur ideal. On the one hand, it was meant to serve as a restraint on some of the more brutal forces of the day. Social Darwinism was in full flower, with its emphasis on ruthless competition and survival of the fittest. Capitalism was rough and raw. The amateur ideal was a restraining code that emphasized fair play and honor. It held that those blessed with special gifts have a special responsibility to hue to a chivalric code. The idea was to make sport a part of the nation’s moral education.
On the other hand, the amateur code was elitist. It was designed to separate the affluent sports from the working-class sports, to create a refined arena that only the well-bred and well-born could enter.
Today’s left-leaning historians generally excoriate the amateur ideal for its snobbery and the hypocrisy it engendered. The movie “Chariots of Fire” popularized their critique. In the film, the upholders of the amateur ideal are snobbish, anti-Semitic reactionaries. The heroes are unabashedly commercial and practical. Modern and free-thinking, they pay people so they can win.
Thus did the left-wing critique welcome the corporate domination of sport.
Yeah, right, on that last graph.

First, left-leaning historians of sport (which aren't all left-leaning historians) find a variety of faults with amateurism of nearly a century ago. Second, the heroes are not "unabashedly commercial."

Third, WTF on calling "Chariots" a left-wing movie? I've always seen it 110 percent the opposite, as a gauzy conservative Christian paean to idealism.

And, speaking of paeans, Brooks offers a sweet wet kiss to the NCAA of today after that.

And, doesn't even understand the capitalism he claims to support.

He offers a "practical" objection to paying college athletes:
How exactly would you pay them? Would the stars get millions while the rest get hardly nothing? Would you pay the wrestling team, or any of the female athletes? Only 7 percent of Division I athletic programs make money, according to the N.C.A.A.; where would the salary dollars come from?
You would do exactly that, and they'd learn the capitalism you so tout, you freaking moron. That's why, in the (current official) pro ranks, we have baseball, basketball and football galore, but no wrestling, little female sports and such. Or, separate money-earning sports away from college. If wrestling, etc., don't make that much money, the programs can be cut back.

And, of course, Brooks doesn't realize how he kneecaps his own political beliefs, because he's still dreaming of "Boboes in college."

September 22, 2011

VA appears to cave on religious suit

The Veterans Administration and various religious organizations have settled a lawsuit against the VA by the various groups.

Here's why I see a "cave" of sorts.
Some of these actions include no banning or interfering with prayers or recitations at committal services; agreeing to not edit or control the content of private religious speech and expression by speakers at special ceremonies or events at the cemetery; and agreeing not to ban religious speech or words such as "God" or "Jesus" in condolence cards or similar documents given by some of the groups that filed the suit.
There's no mention on any restriction of sending those condolence cards only to religious families.

That ties in with the fact that the VA said it was already doing many of the things complained against it in the lawsuit.

Now, if it was restricting religious people from religious activity at funerals of religious people, that's different. But, it looks like a cave, from what I know of the background, and religious groups have now been given the right to proselytize non-religious families. Here's more background, which the AP doesn't tell you.

#RickPerrysTexasMiracle: illegal immigration

Yep, that's it! As I've said before about why homebuilder Bob Perry's generous donations to Texas Gov. Rick Perry being part of why Rick likes illegal immigration so much, we ....

Now seem to have some clear evidence to that end, on the jobs issue. Some VERY clear evidence.
Of jobs created in Texas since 2007, 81 percent were taken by newly arrived immigrant workers (legal and illegal).
In terms of numbers, between the second quarter of 2007, right before the recession began, and the second quarter of 2011, total employment in Texas increased by 279,000. Of this, 225,000 jobs went to immigrants (legal and illegal) who arrived in the United States in 2007 or later.
Of newly arrived immigrants who took a job in Texas, 93 percent were not U.S. citizens. Thus government data show that more than three-fourths of net job growth in Texas were taken by newly arrived non-citizens (legal and illegal).  ...
And, what percentage of those are illegal?
Of newly arrived immigrants who took jobs in Texas since 2007, we estimate that 50 percent (113,000) were illegal immigrants. Thus, about 40 percent of all the job growth in Texas since 2007 went to newly arrived illegal immigrants and 40 percent went to newly arrived legal immigrants.
There you go. Half of new jobs in Texas went to illegal immigrants. And those are NOT just "stoop" jobs like picking onions in the Valley. They're jobs that used to pay money, like home construction work. That's you, Bob Perry.

But, it's even more than that. The study says that immigrants, including illegals, took jobs across the economy and that many have at least some college education.

And, lest Perry defenders (either Perry) claim illegals are some sort of Reagan "trickle-up stimulus," nope. The reality:
Some may argue that it was because so many immigrants arrived in Texas that there was job growth in the state. But if immigration does stimulate job growth for natives, the numbers in Texas would be expected to look very different. The unemployment rate and the employment rate show a dramatic deterioration in the Texas for the native-born that was similar to the rest of the country.
 In other words, throw out illegal immigration, and there's no "miracle" at all.

Will other GOP candidates have this info in time for the debate tonight? Speaking of, David Frum suggests this line for Mitt Romney:

At the same time, a certain wing of progressives, whether Democrats, Greens, Socialists or others, who want to largely turn a blind eye to illegal immigration need to rethink that idea. Unfortunately, I can't find the article in The Nation from about five years ago when it did that, and rightly got flamed.
“The numbers show, Governor, that your economic policy was great at creating jobs – for Mexico.”
 Couldn't have said it better myself.

#StlCards re-sign Berkman; Pujols meaning?

The AP reports that the St. Louis Cardinals have announced they have re-signed OF/1B Lance Berkman. And per the story, everybody is wondering: Does this make it more, or less likely they re-sign Albert Pujols?

I would say the tea leaves haven't steeped enough to tell; let's wait until the offseason.

But, not to offer no comment.

I'd say it makes it easier to take a pass on The Machine IF that's the team's choice. Note this comment from John Mozeliak:
Mozeliak said Berkman's contract left the Cardinals flexibility to get a deal done with Pujols.
"Getting into payroll and where we're going to be, I know that's a hot topic for you gentleman, but it's not real relevant at the moment," Mozeliak said. "A lot of factors go into that and where we see that going will really depend on how things trend this offseason."
However, Pujols is making it harder to "pass." He's got his BA back above .300 and is just three  two RBIs short of 100. He's already got "his" 30 HRs, putting him on pace to continue his streak of .300/30/100 years. Except for a 99-run season in 2007, he would have the same streak in runs scored. And, at the same time, Berkman says he's comfortable with one-year contracts:
"I'm at a point in my career where I'm OK going one year at a time," Berkman said. "I don't know how much longer I want to play or that I'll be able to play at a high level.
Translation, if not obvious: Don't lean too much on him.

I think the Cards have to offer a minimum of six years, not counting options, and one year, at least, that's better than that of Alex Rodriguez  if they want to re-sign Pujols Getting Berkman relatively cheaply, even if just a one-year deal, and inking a relatively cheap two-year extension with Chris Carpenter makes that possible, while letting them take a longer look at the middle infield (and NO, re-signing Furcal is not it).

Six years, $160M plus two mutual option years, with second year, say, at a flat $30M? Would Pujols do that? I'd say 50-50, at least. Will Mo offer that? Certainly not to start, and I'd say less than 50-50 as a final offer.

Meanwhile, back to Mo's comments. Was he sending any other message to Pujols, like "it's OK to negotiate in midseason" or ... "we're ready to deal, are you" ...  or "this should be a signal as to our 'numbers' " ... or anything else?

John Whitmire: Not a real Democrat

Not even by the often-loose standards of what one is, in Texas.

Now, because James Byrd Jr. killer Russell Lawrence Brewer ordered a humongous last meal, then didn't eat it before his execution, Whitmire's getting the "last meal" tradition ... er ... killed, pun intended.

And, as for people who found other requests offensive? Well, maybe that's the point. The offensiveness of the death penalty and how it's inflicted today.

Rick Perry hypocrites out on Social Security

Trying to win, or not lose too many of, GOP oldster votes in Florida, Rick Perry now thinks Social Security is NOT a Ponzi scheme. We know that because he wants to "fix" it, and you don't fix something if you think it's past repair, which a Ponzi scheme of course is.

So, less than a month after saying Mark Miner of his own campaign didn't speak for him on repudiating Perry's own book, now he's singing the same tune. In Florida, at least.

Elsewhere? It's still a Ponzi scheme until further notice. Or, until Perry sees that his Sunshine State hypocrisy didn't fly; then, it's a Ponzi scheme there too.

Obama takes Palestine hypocrisy to UN

Dear Leader tells Palestinian leaders that only direct negotiations will get a Palestinian state. He tells the res of the world that, too. He "forgets" to tell them that both his administration and the Bush administration colluded with the government of Israel to torpedo those negotiations time after time.

The Al-Jazeera papers showed us that, and many a leader of a developing nation has read about them.

Speaking of, Team Obama has yet to respond in public to Prince Turki's op-ed in the NYT last week, with all of its implications. Wonder what the private White House take has been?

And, what if Mahmoud Abbas, stymied at the Security Council, goes to the General Assembly? There's simply no way the U.S. can bribe that many countries to vote no. And, if it gets "half-ghetto" status there, that doesn't preclude the Palestinian Authority from re-applying to the Security Council time after time. Abbas has already said that.

Meanwhile, Abbas has agreed to not ask for an immediate vote. The carrot puppet-string of $450M in U.S. aid, or withdrawal of it, was a persuader.

First, Abbas should have known, given that Team Obama threatened that before as part of disrupting negotiations, that this threat would come again.

Second, per his column, if that was official Saudi talking points, surely Prince Turki could round up $450M in loose change from under Saudi seat cushions. Why doesn't Abbas ask?

Or hell, why doesn't Hamas ask? If the Middle East applecart needs upsetting ...

And, with Israel possibly already gearing up for a new crackdown, its current leaders can't be trusted, anyway. Well, certainly not its current leaders. And not totally its former leaders, as former PM Ehud Olmert is given moralizing space in the NYT. He gets to lament that we're all at this pass, while also opposing the UN route Abbas is taking, and not talking about how past negotiations under HIS government as well as Netanyahu's were sabotaged by the Israelis and the U.S. (And they were. The al Jazeera papers tell us that, too.)

And, with the Abbas cave-in, does that show how incompetent he is? Or, as Time hinted a week ago, is he being a stooge for Israel and the U.S.? He's agreed to a delay for action by the Security Council ... but for how long? And, can this even be settled? Has Abbas talked to the Saudis?

Two economies - the evidence mounts; why the Fed is limited

Last week, Salon had a story on the "hourglass economy." Here's the takeaway:
It's not hard to understand what is happening here. The middle class, squeezed by globalization and advances in technology, is sinking backward, while the rich benefit disproportionately from gains in trade and excessively accommodative tax policy.
More on this below.

This week, that's reflected in an AP story about a selected boom in the housing market, focusing on, of all places, Detroit.

Well, not quite Detroit. Selected rich suburbs of Detroit. Per an AP story, talking about a housing recovery, but only for houses for the rich:
The (rich-others) divide is also making credit a perk of the rich. Mortgage rates are the lowest in decades. But what good are absurdly cheap rates if you can’t get a mortgage? The banks aren’t granting credit to anyone “who even has a smudge on their application,” says Jonathan Miller, founder of real estate consulting firm Miller Samuel. Applications for new mortgages languish at 10-year lows.
I applaud Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's actions yesterday, while noting, in light of this, a caveat he has made himself.

Bernanke has in the past consistently been cautious on where to trod, and said that Congress needs to take more action. While his Fed predecessor bears plenty of blame for the crisis we're in, and he does a bit himself, Bernanke is right. Ultimately, the Fed can only do so much outside of a political solution.

Whether Obama's tinkering at the edges "jobs program" or whatever, real, deep political action is needed to produce a "fix that works," i.e., a fix that produces a stable long-term recovery.

Preznit Kumbaya squandered two years believing you could negotiate with today's GOP. Educated progressive voters squandered three years believing he was something that he's not, i.e., more than a neoliberal. And, pseudo-progressive pundits would still have us believe it's all the GOP's fault.

It's not. Contra the Salon pull quote, Preznit Kumbaya is trumpeting "free trade deals" as part of his jobs package. He ignores that many of the jobs created will be low-wage sweatshop jobs likely worse in both pay and working conditions than the jobs the deal wipes out. But yet, the likes of Andrew Leonard can assume that it's only the GOP who doesn't care that we have a Gini index like that of the Philippines.

Reality?
1 "More people going to college" is not a fix. (Nor is the claim that Obama's massively increased non-loan aid to students. He's tweaked that, and not a lot more.)
2. "Free trade deals" certainly aren't a fix.
3. For immediate stimulus, a "jobs deal" that doesn't include direct hiring of blue/gray collars by the federal government is not a fix.
4. Promoting "green energy" while ignoring free trade undercutting it, too, is not a fix.

September 21, 2011

Another Gnu Atheist, another untrue "growth" claim

It's getting kind of tiresome, reading Gnu Atheists (whether explicitly self-identifed as such or not) who claim there's an "atheist growth explosion" in this U.S. When there's not.

The latest? Some B-ranker named Greg Paul at the Washington Post freelance forum, who wayyyy gets it wrong. Atheism is not growing. Period. That said, looking at the author's Wiki page, which I will not link, he seems disposed to overblown claims. The author doesn't explicitly call himself a "Gnu" there, but it wouldn't surprise me. In the column, he also repeats the Gnu canard that atheism, or "democratic atheism," as he notes (trying to cut Stalin and Mao out of the loop) are morally superior to theism. Since we don't have that long a time frame for democratic atheism, there's not much of the "scientific proof" that he claims, first. He also distorts information from Gallup polls, ignores the part in the Harris polls that undercuts him and more.


For someone who touts science in the same breath with "democratic atheism," he's got a lot of chutzpah.

Reality? As I've blogged before, the comprehensive 2008 ARIS survey does show a strong growth in the "irreligious," but they include people "spiritual but not religious," Christians tired of organized denominations, neopagans, New Agers and many others who either believe in one or more gods, or if technically atheist (some New Agers and Buddhists fit there) nonetheless have anti-naturalistic metaphysical beliefs.

Joan Walsh - a good take on the new Suskind book



I put a link, and a snippet of her comment, on my "Obama the incompetent" post, but Salon editor Joan Walsh long take on Ron Suskind's new book is a generally good one, despite being a mild Obamiac herself.

Beyond Obama himself, and his Reaganesque work habits (with a more fractious Cabinet) that Mojo Dowd has reported, Walsh raises an interesting idea -- is Obama blinded by his heritage? Not his ethnic heritage (but more on that later), rather his Ivy League "meritocratic" heritage. Here's the graf:
If we take Obama's answer a step beyond where Suskind leaves it, if we examine Obama's story, and look at the "American exceptionalism" that made his presidency possible, I think it also explains his worldview, and his priorities: Obama believes he is the creation of a fundamentally sound American meritocracy, which is often but not always distorted by race; where a kid whose father came from Kenya and whose mother came from Kansas, mostly raised by his grandparents in Hawaii, could get the opportunity, despite his race and his funny name, to rise and just keep rising -- Punahou Prep, Columbia University, Harvard Law School. Is this a great country, or what? It helps explain how an administration made up of Ivy League standouts, "the best and the brightest," to use David Halberstam's chilling phrase about JFK's team, updated for the 21st century, could wind up in an economic quagmire to rival the one Kennedy's men created in Vietnam.
Emphasis at the end is mine. And, yes, it does explain that. JFK's best and brightest thought they "knew better" on foreign policy, and didn't talk to people in the field. Obama's best and brightest, though, DID talk to people in the field. Sadly, they limited their "field" to Wall Street. And, whether because he felt like he was still a junior member of the Establishment, or he's that inexperienced as an executive manager, or he's that incompetent, or that Kumbaya, or whatever, he let Geithner et al run on.

The better analogy is LBJ feeling "stuck" with JFK's team. Not knowing the full deal of the Cuban Missile Crisis, ie, not knowing that Kennedy agreed to removing our Thor missiles from Turkey and Italy, he thought Kennedy was a foreign policy genius that he wasn't.

That said, Walsh's take on the book is also about the psyche of Obama besides that.

Here's one takeway, which says a lot about Dear Leader:
Suskind frequently stops mid-narrative to grapple with the central question of his book: Was the problem mainly with Obama's staff, which can be corrected by a staff shakeup, and with the president's early inexperienced leadership, which can be ameliorated by experience? Or is there something missing in Obama himself, in his vision and values, that led to the lack of bold action to solve the nation's biggest problems?
 "You need to ask yourself why you want to do this. What are you hoping to uniquely accomplish, Barack?"
Answer? It's about the legacy:

Obama answers:

"The world will see us differently. Millions of kids across this country will see themselves differently."
That's of little help to a black America that gets shortchanged in schools, where the president won't push for more serious reforms, that gets shortchanged by unequal justice, and more.

The one downer is that Walsh believes the last week or two of Obama's faux populism is the real thing. Soon, we'll have a "new Obama," like a "new Nixon."

GOP vs Bernanke gets ugly ... over next to nothing

Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve plan a timid, and likely limitedly effectual, effort to further stimulate lending by addressing longer-term interest rates.

Bernanke and the non-callous/nutbar Gang of Three inside the Fed rightly justifies it:
“Growth remains slow. Recent indicators point to continuing weakness in overall labor market conditions and the unemployment rate remains elevated,” the Fed said in a statement that listed its reasons for worry about the anemic condition of the American economy. “Household spending has been increasing at only a modest pace in recent months.”
Before we get to the GOP, let's look at the Gang of Three, namely Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Charles Plosser, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia; and Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Fisher is an attention-craver, as Texans know. He's probably pimping to be Rick Perry's Secretary of the Treasury. Plosser and Kocherlakota are U of Chicago alums; nuff said.

That said, let's look at the GOP letter to the Fed.
1. It claims the Fed hasn't articulated goals; a lie.
2. It claims quantitative easing hasn't worked; a lie. (It would have worked better with additional other effort by Obama, including running over the GOP more, but that's another story.
3. It claims potential harms from further Fed action. Versus further GOP nonaction?

We're at the point where "The Fed" is now a dogwhistle for wingnuts, like "socialism," "birth certificate," etc.

But, back to the NYT link at top. By itself, this move probably will be of limited effectiveness. And, that leads to the issue of how much the Obama "jobs bill" will do. And, how serious he is about real tax reform behind the "Buffett Rule," especially if/when his Wall Street masters get antsy.

That makes it clearer yet that this is GOP politics. As it won't likely have a big bump, there's little downside. Remember, this is the same GOP that has created two Fed vacancies by refusing to approve largely neoliberal Obama nominees.

The real problem? We have two economies, more and more. Per an AP story, talking about a housing recovery, but only for houses for the rich:
The (rich-others) divide is also making credit a perk of the rich. Mortgage rates are the lowest in decades. But what good are absurdly cheap rates if you can’t get a mortgage? The banks aren’t granting credit to anyone “who even has a smudge on their application,” says Jonathan Miller, founder of real estate consulting firm Miller Samuel. Applications for new mortgages languish at 10-year lows.
Bernanke has in the past consistently been cautious on where to trod, and said that Congress needs to take more action. While his Fed predecessor bears plenty of blame for the crisis we're in, and he does a bit himself, Bernanke is right. Ultimately, the Fed can only do so much outside of a political solution.

There is an interesting twist to all of this, on the potentially more serious side. Yahoo says the Fed move could hurt large insurers. Of course, many of them have had underfunded their obligations for a decade and more. Another example what too little regulation from the feds combined with too many guarantees produces. That's especially true on things like annuities, which are being marketed too much.

So, let's outsource FIRE industry CEOs.

At the same time, Bill Clinton makes a good point. As long as interest rates are near zero, we shouldn't worry quite so much about the deficit.

A crook and a neocon give us oil advice

Just do the opposite of what they say. Bud McFarlane, a crook, and James Woolsey, a neocon crook in spirit, give us their opinion on how to deal with foreign oil needs. The fact that they're touting ethanol shows how clueless both they and the NYT are. They're also too dumb to realize that Obama's new CAFE standards bill specifically (and sadly) had a Mack truck-sized loophole for flex fuel vehicles. Does nobody at the NYT op-ed desk fact-check guest columns? Reading through the whole thing, I see it as an indictment of the MSM as much as of McFarlane and Woolsey, to be honest. Once again, most MSM "injuries" of the past 15 years have been self-inflicted.

September 20, 2011

Dean pulls rug out from under Obamacare

Remember that McKinsey study this summer that said Obamacare had a number of "Issues"? Remember how the White House and national DEeocratis pooh-poohed this?

Well, Howard Dean says the study's the real poop. He says a lot of smaller businesses will likely drop private health plans when Obamacare fully goes into effect and the cost could be trillions of dollars.


Well, not so many progressives mentioned this, but I did. Many noted lack of tough regulation, but not so many noted lack of cost controls.

Because, whether it's the current system of private pay, Obamacare, or even government single-payer, NO "fix" to our health care system is going to have major long-term effects without major, major, major cost controls. And, "my" Greens and other third parties of the left need to face that just as much as the Dems and GOP.

I don't want the government paying for national health care that's more than 13 percent of the budget any more than I want anybody else doing that.

Saudis warn us on Palestine - they've done so before

I'm reading a great new book, The Oil Kings, about how the Shah of Iran and King Faisal (then his brothers, after his assassination) worked to leverage oil demand vis-a-vis both the U.S. as a nation and western petroleum companies.

It got me to thinking again about Prince Turki's op-ed in the NYT a week or so ago.

Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal recently penned a mildly worded but strongly voiced op-ed in the New York Times saying the U.S. needs to support Palestinian statehood at the U.N. rather than "risk losing the little credibility it has in the Arab world."

If that's not a shot across the bow, this should be:
Moreover, Saudi Arabia would no longer be able to cooperate with America in the same way it historically has. With most of the Arab world in upheaval, the “special relationship” between Saudi Arabia and the United States would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for the Palestinian people. 

Saudi leaders would be forced by domestic and regional pressures to adopt a far more independent and assertive foreign policy. Like our recent military support for Bahrain’s monarchy, which America opposed, Saudi Arabia would pursue other policies at odds with those of the United States, including opposing the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq and refusing to open an embassy there despite American pressure to do so.

 That's a big, big threat there. In Iraq, that would mean the Anbar Awakening would re-awaken; Shi'a-Sunni warfare would start over. That's especially true if "opposing Maliki" meant the Saudis (through appropriate third-party funneling) actually started providing money, arms or both to an Anbar Re-Awakening. The U.S. would either be hamstrung or else forced to keep more troops there. And, Iran would surely up its support for Moqtada al-Sadr, who would probably push Maliki to fight back harder, or else would himself disavow the Maliki government.

And, in an ongoing recession, if we do start to recover, any would-be Saudi help on oil supplies could go by the boards. Turki doesn't mention that, but ... does he have to?

And, Turki didn't write this column alone. This is the public expression, in some way, shape or form, of what Riyadh has privately told the Obama Administration through diplomatic channels in the past few weeks.

Beyond that, the Obama threat that negotiations are "the only way"? First, the Al-Jazeera Papers show the U.S. colluded with Israel in sabotaging negotiations. Second, the Palestinians know from that and other things that, as when facing Republicans, Obama has no balls facing Netanyahu.

So: Will Dear Leader listen to Prince Turki, or will he listen to Zionists and semi-Zionists in the U.S. instead?

If he has an ounce of brains, he'll listen to the Saudis. And that brings me back to The Oil Kings.

The Saudis have warned us before, on other Middle East events, and we didn't listen.

They warned us weeks before the Yom Kippur War -- a war in which their own troops fought! -- that it was coming down the pike. And we, especially Henry Kissinger, who comes off as not just devious but hugely incompetent in this book, didn't listen. They warned us about other, lesser events in the Middle East after that, and we usually didn't listen, at least not totally.

That said, with young Israelis of the middle class, especially the information class, self-propagandizing against Palestinians, it's going to be a long, long slog for statehood.

Gnu Athests are also guilty of "motivated reasoning"

Motivated reasoning, or, as I call it, "pulling a Chris Mooney," after Chris Mooney, who popularized studies of the psychology, is reasoning that is designed to strengthen "in-tribe" support for a certain idea.

Christian Righters have long made a "tarring the lot" claim that Hitler, Stalin, Mao and others, like Cambodian mass murderer Pol Pot were all atheists.

Well, Al Stefanelli, who I am taking as a Gnu, shows motivated reasoning isn't restricted to theists. He claims that neither Hitler, nor Stalin, nor Pol Pot were atheists. I tackle, in response to his posting his column link on Google-Plus (the Examiner page won't allow comments) on how this is just wrong, on Stalin.

The typical Gnu-type atheist claims that because Stalin went to an Orthodox seminary, that means he can't be an atheist. Stefanelli adds the claim that because Stalin "revitalized" the Russian Orthodox Church as part of developing patriotism during The Great Patriotic War (WWII), Stalin couldn't be an atheist. Well, WRONG!

I'll explain why, below the fold, as well as tackling another case of motivated reasoning by a more famous atheist who's gotten other things wrong.


#RickPerrysTexasMiracle: Is Granholm right?

Yes and no.

The issue at hand? The former Michigan governor, talking about how Rick Perry created jobs in Texas, and how it would be nice to have him get the GOP presidential nod.

She's right on the former, wrong on the latter, possibly.

Anybody who's not an ears-plugged Republican knows the truth about Tricky Ricky's Texas miracle. He took a shitload of Obama stimulus money and later lied about that. He spent much of it on the "public sector," i.e., government jobs, including and especially for school teachers, and later lied about that. The pre-recessionary/non-federally-aided jobs he's "created" have been low wage, often without health insurance, which he simply hasn't talked about.

So, it sounds great, from a Democratic point, that he'd get the nod, right?

Wrong.

So far, plenty of independent voters have shown themselves amenable to such lies. And, as Granholm's own "beacon," Dear Leader, has shown, those allegedly insightful independents were amenable to lies three years ago, too.

Such voters like their liars both bold and smooth, expertly packaged and branded. Obama knew that three years ago. Tricky Ricky knows that, too. But, last year here in Texas, an underfunded, underpublicized Deborah Medina wasn't a very strong carrier of the tea party banner in the GOP primary. Tricky Ricky's election luck will probably run out next year before the GOP convention.

And, Jennifer Granholm should be grateful on behalf of America. Even this Green-voting Obama-dismisser knows that.

September 19, 2011

Not only did Obama NOT "close Gitmo"

Dear Leader now wants to open a far larger prison at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. You know what that also means, don't you? He has no plans for the U.S. tot totally leave there.

So, Obamiacs? Stop passing around that fake, and out-of-date, website about "what Obama's done." If there's no room for comments there, I'll rip your fucking head off on your blog, on Facebook, on Google-Plus or wherever.

The man's a warmonger. Deal with it.

#RalphNader, political whore, hits new low

I say that NOT as a Democrat. Regular readers here know I tout the Green Party. I voted for official Green Party presidential candidates David (corrected, per comments; why did I think Larry?) Cobb in 2004 and Cynthia McKinney in 2008. I did not vote for the faux Green candidate Ralph Nader either time, who, knowing he couldn't win a Green convenniot nomination took his ball and went home.

And, now, for Jeff St. Clair and other left-libs of the past who have bought the line that Nader had to run because the official Green Party was too soft on Democrats, the truth is out. Nader wants to challenge Obama in the primaries.

Part of me likes this idea, since a Russ Feingold, or Feingold type, is taking a pass on that.

Part of me sees the same political whoredom that had him running in 2000 (I didn't vote for Prez at all that year) even while still holding Big Oil stocks, as leaked out late in the campaign.

This statement underscores that:
Nader warns that without an intraparty challenge the liberal agenda “will be muted and ignored,” the one-man primary will kill voter enthusiasm and voters won’t get a chance to reflect on the real differences that divide the Democratic and Republican parties.
Wrong. Plenty of us work to tout progressive third-party options, options you have no interest in helping build.

Meanwhile, the Washington Times whores the story line just because it's anti-Democratic:
The group’s call has been endorsed by more than 45 other liberal leaders. They want to recruit six candidates who bring expertise ranging from poverty to the military.
This paragraph is without having identified the "group's" actual name, its membership, a website if it has one (if it doesn't, this is a real cock-and-bull story), etc.

Hell, for all we know, Nader got 45 staffers at Public Citizen and bused them, with himself, to the Washington Times office. And, no I wouldn't put that past him at this point.

Add to it that the WT mentions neither the Green Party nor the Socialist Party, and the circle is squared.

Of course, the WT whores after Moonie money anyway, so two whores deserve one another.

More proof that two whores are in collusion? Beyond a letter, there's nothing to the Nader move. Nothing.

Unfortunately, true third party supporters do NOT now deserve the frustration of trying to explain how "Green" Ralph Nader could do this.

Oh, and a sidebar? I wonder how Counterpunch's Jeff St. Clair and others who said Ralph "had to" run an independent campaign in 2004, at least, because the official Green Party was too soft on Democrats, are going to treat this?

Texas GOP loses on Congress seats, wastes state money

First, a federal appellate court heard information last week about how the GOP's Congressional redistricting plan might violate the Voting Rights Act.

Now, the Department of Justice has weighed in with exactly that concern. Gee, who the fuck this side of a GOP wingnut couldn't see that coming down the pike? Even if it passes the DC Court of Appeals, the court in San Antonio that held the hearing could still nix the map.

So, the wingnuts did this after passing an austerity budget for the state, with many of them knowing a court battle would ensue, the state would spend money on it, and lose, and then have to spend more money redoing redistricting.

That's Texas of today for you. Still waiting for Tricky Rick Perry to comment one way or the other.

September 18, 2011

MSM, Village bloggers hate 3rd parties

I am talking about real third parties, not fake ones like Americans Elect or whatever.

And, it's not just the mainstream media, it's DC Village type bloggers too.

News/politics bloggers claim they represent something new, but, on third parties, in general they don't. Nope, nope, nope.

This blog post at Washington Monthly illustrates this to a "T." It talks about how Villager pundit Chuck Todd and others are predicting "the rise of a third party" if Rick Perry gets the GOP nod. And the blogger, Jonathan Bernstein, repeats the claim.

Excuuuuuuse me?Third  parties aren't about to emerge, they're already here. They're called Greens and Libertarians and other things. Oh, and most non-Villager political bloggers treat third parties the same way. That's why I laugh at the Jay Rosens of the world and others who talk abut this new world blogging has brought.