Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Googles and free speech

I suppose I should be shocked and disturbed that three people in Mountain View, CA make these kinds of momentous decisions.

In late 2006, for example, Wong and her colleagues debated what to do about a series of videos that insulted the king of Thailand, where a lêse-majesté law makes criticisms of the king a criminal offense. Wong recalls hearing from an employee in Asia that the Thai government had announced that it was blocking access to YouTube for anyone with a Thai I.P. address. Soon after, a Thai government official sent Wong a list of the U.R.L.’s of 20 offensive videos that he demanded Google remove as a condition of unblocking the site. Some of the videos were sexually explicit or involved hate speech and thus clearly violated the YouTube terms of service. Some ridiculed the king — by depicting him with his feet on his head, for example — and were clearly illegal under Thai law but not U.S. law. And others — criticizing the Thai lêse-majesté law itself — weren’t illegal in Thailand but offended the government.

After an extensive debate with McLaughlin and Walker, Wong concluded that since the lêse-majesté law had broad democratic support in Thailand, it would be better to remove the videos that obviously violated Thai law while refusing to remove the videos that offended the government but didn’t seem to be illegal. All three told me they were reassured by the fact that Google could accommodate the Thai government by blocking just the videos that were clearly illegal in Thailand (and blocking those for Thai users only), leaving them free to exercise their independent judgment about videos closer to the line. The Thai government was apparently able to live with this solution.
But we are talking about videos.


What to do?

Krugman channels John Maynard Keynes.

"We have magneto trouble," said John Maynard Keynes at the start of the Great Depression: most of the economic engine was in good shape, but a crucial component, the financial system, wasn't working. He also said this: "We have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle, having blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the working of which we do not understand." Both statements are as true now as they were then.

Labels: ,

Rightward ho!

This is the new smiling face of the GOP?

The record is still evolving, like the rest of him. But social conservatives like what they have heard about the public and private Jindal: his steadfast opposition to abortion without exceptions; his disapproval of embryonic stem cell research; his and his wife Supriya's decision in 1997 to enter into a Louisiana covenant marriage that prohibits no-fault divorce in the state; and his decision in June to sign into law the Louisiana Science Education Act, a bill heartily supported by creationists that permits public school teachers to educate students about both the theory of "scientific design" and criticisms of Darwinian evolutionary concepts.
It's going to be a long, strange four years.

Labels: ,

The Lou Dobbs era

Another episode of what Atrios says.

I'm so old I can remember when Dou covered business. Maybe if he'd spend the last few years covering the Wall Street menace instead of the brown menace things could've been different.

Labels: ,

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tis the season

What is wrong with people?

A Wal-Mart employee in suburban New York died after he was trampled by a crush of shoppers who tore down the front doors and thronged into the store early Friday morning, turning the annual rite of post-Thanksgiving bargain hunting into a Hobbesian frenzy.

At 4:55 a.m., just five minutes before the doors were set to open, a crowd of 2,000 anxious shoppers started pushing, shoving and piling against the locked sliding glass doors of the Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., Nassau County police said. The shoppers broke the doors off their hinges and surged in, toppling a 34-year-old temporary employee, Jdimypai Damour, 34, of Jamaica, Queens, who had been waiting with other workers in the store’s entryway.

People did not stop to help the employee as he lay on the ground, and they pushed against other Wal-Mart workers who were trying to aid Mr. Damour. The crowd kept running into the store even after the police arrived, jostling and pushing officers who were trying to perform CPR, the police said.

“They were like a stampede,” said Nassau Det. Lt. Michael Fleming. “Hundreds of people walked past him, over him or around him.”

I just keep finding more and more reasons to love my fellow man.

Labels: ,


I turned to my dog this afternoon and asked her, "Why did canines choose to tie their fortunes with human beings in the first place?"

She had no answer.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Inaugural address Thursday

John Kennedy, January 20, 1961:

Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"—a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

Labels: ,

The campaign in photos

Remarkable collection of Obama campaign photos at the Globe's site.

AND JUST TO ADD, "The Big Picture," the site at which these photos are collected is a truly cool thing.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Freezed agents

Inneresting times. Paul Volker meets with MLB's owners to scare em about the Financial End Times one week. A week later and it seems the free agent market ain't what it once was.

A review of baseball’s transaction history since 2001 showed that the only period featuring fewer signings in the first 12 days of open bidding than this year came in the 2002-3 off-season, when Jesse Orosco was the only free agent who had signed. Each of the last five free-agent off-seasons included at least six signings by this stage, led by the 2006 bonanza when Alfonso Soriano, Juan Pierre, Nomar Garciaparra, Gary Matthews Jr., Aramis Ramírez and Frank Thomas signed before Thanksgiving.

There is a similarly attractive group of free agents available this year — C. C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Manny Ramírez and Francisco Rodríguez, for starters — but teams seem to be proceeding cautiously and dispensing fewer offers than in years past.

Some baseball executives have suggested that many teams, unsure of how long it will take for the economy to rebound, are reluctant to offer expensive multiyear deals.

It is unclear how well baseball is insulated from the country’s economic troubles, but it is clear that people in the sport are concerned. Commissioner Bud Selig invited the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker, to speak to owners and executives last week. The Boston Red Sox, for the first time in 14 years, froze their regular-season ticket prices.



As careful readers of this blogathon may remember, making hot button culture war issues a priority early in the administration is not something I espouse, since I remember my history. Nevertheless, repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Clinton's ridiculous compromise that almost derailed his administration before the paint was even dry, continues to bubble about in the background. So, I was wondering, what does the retention of Robert Gates as SecDef do to make it happen?


Things I didn't know Wednesday

Thanks to Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio, I now know that the classic blues tune, "Sweet Home Chicago," comes from Sam Montgomery's "Where the Sweet Old Oranges Grow."

Labels: ,

Summers time

In many of the photos from Monday's press conference, Larry Summers' head looms large behind Obama. David Leonhardt, though mindful of his faults, writes glowingly of Summers and the role he appears to be taking in the Obama administration.

A few weeks ago, I called a well-known economist with a question about the financial crisis. “I hope the only reason you’re calling me,” he said, “is that you couldn’t reach Larry.”

And this is encouraging.

INEQUALITY Mr. Summers has spent much of his career tweaking fellow liberals with arguments he considers unpleasant truths — on the dangers of budget deficits, the benefits of capitalism and other subjects. But he seems to have decided that conservative orthodoxies have become a vastly bigger threat to good economic policy than liberal ones. His favorite argument today is one that instead drives some conservatives nuts.

It goes like this: To undo the rise in income inequality since the late ’70s, every household in the top 1 percent of the distribution, which makes $1.7 million on average, would need to write a check for $800,000. This money could then be pooled and used to send out a $10,000 check to every household in the bottom 80 percent of the distribution, those making less than $120,000. Only then would the country be as economically equal as it was three decades ago.

The lack of middle-class income growth during that span is “the defining issue of our time,” Mr. Summers has said, in a tacit admission that liberals were ahead of him on this issue. He is likely to be front and center in Mr. Obama’s push to reduce taxes on the middle class and create good jobs. Mr. Summers may also push the administration to work with foreign governments to crack down on tax shelters.


Irrelevance watch

No, not George W. Bush. The "new kind of political reporting" site, Politico.

Then again, it could be worse. Politico, for instance, should be lucky enough to hire reporters who actually know how to use Google. If Erika Lovley had even bothered to looked at the wiki entry for her major piece of "evidence" of growing scientific doubt about global climate change, she'd have discovered that the "31,000 scientists" on the laughable Oregon Petition included "Perry Mason," "Geri Halliwell," and someone by the name of "Redwine, Ph.D." For the sheer fun of it, I just might sign the petition and stuff it in the late afternoon mail, thus blending my skeptical voice with fellow Alaskans "Edward M. Dokoozian" (a "Certified Safety Professional"), "Monte D. Mabry" (a staff geologist for ConocoPhillips), and dozens of other folks whose existence on the internet consists, so far as I'm able to tell, entirely of having "signed" the petition....


Food and the economy

It's encouraging that policy makers are beginning to think beyond how many more trillions they can give to the financial industry, and instead focus on how assistance to people really hurting can help the economy. Starting with food stamps.

Fueled by rising unemployment and food prices, the number of Americans on food stamps is poised to exceed 30 million for the first time this month, surpassing the historic high set in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.

The figures will put the spotlight on hunger when Congress begins deliberations on a new economic stimulus package, said legislators and anti-hunger advocates, predicting that any stimulus bill will include a boost in food stamp benefits. Advocates are also optimistic that President-elect Barack Obama, who made campaign promises to end childhood hunger and whose mother once briefly received food stamps, will make the issue a priority next year.

"We soon will have the most food stamps recipients in the history of our country," said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, a D.C.-based anti-hunger policy organization. "If the economic forecasts come true, we're likely to see the most hunger that we've seen since the 1981 recession and maybe since the 1960s, when these programs were established."


Analysts attribute the jump primarily to rising unemployment, which hit 6.5 percent in October and is predicted to increase to 8 percent by the end of 2009, but rising food costs are also a factor. Although prices have fallen from the levels of this past spring, they remain high. In October, the consumer price index for food and beverages had jumped 6.1 percent over last year. Staples such as eggs and bread rose even faster.

For low-income families, who spend a higher percentage of their monthly budget on food, that rise has been particularly painful. Food stamp benefits are adjusted for inflation only once a year, and as of September, the maximum benefit fell $64 a month short of the cost of the thriftiest, USDA-established diet for a family of four. The annual adjustment in October of 8.5 percent largely brought the benefit in line with food costs again, but the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan policy group, estimates that if current inflation persists, by December benefits will again fail to match the cost of the thrifty food plan.

"At a time when we have more people turning to the food stamp program, it is less and less able to meet their basic food needs," said Stacy Dean, the research center's director of food assistance policy.


To tackle the problem, supportive lawmakers are pressing to include a temporary bump in food stamp benefits in the next stimulus package. Similar proposals failed to pass twice this year, but there appears to be broad support now for an increase of 10 to 20 percent, advocates and lawmakers said.

Economists say an increase in food stamp benefits would help the economy overall by concentrating relief on those most likely to spend the money quickly, pumping dollars into an economy desperate for demand. According to Mark Zandi, chief economist of the rating agency Moody's, every $1 spent on food stamp benefits generates $1.73 of economic activity, more than extending unemployment benefits or offering state fiscal relief.

"Congress has been focusing on the impact on the financial markets," said Dean at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "We want them to focus on the supermarkets and help 30 million people."

And Hilzoy has more on how giving to your local food bank does more than simply increase your personal supply of favorable karma.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Good news from Cassandra


Another day, another stimulus package for mortgage lenders. At this point, shouldn't that money go to the states to fund unemployment benefits and other federal mandates that may soon put a few states -- especially those whose main employers are U.S. auto makers -- in bankruptcy themselves?


"Palin being Palin"

I share these sentiments as well: Thank you Gov. Palin!

As Thanksgiving approaches, a conservative PAC plans to spend nearly a quarter of a million dollars airing a nationwide ad thanking Sarah Palin — for being Sarah Palin. The Our Country Deserves Better PAC, hot on the heels of its cross-country “Stop Obama” bus tour, unveiled on Monday two versions of an ad organizers said would start airing Tuesday in Alaska and nationwide for the rest of the week.


The Beets of Wrath

Maybe this is nothing like the Great Depression. Our financial crisis is far more complex and financial systems are far more globally interconnected.

Tell that to the 40,000 who showed up to pick root vegetables left in the field after harvest in Colorado.

As many as 40,000 people seeking free vegetables descended like locusts on a family farm north of Denver on Saturday, making off with as much as 300 tons of potatoes, onions, beets, leeks and carrots. Joe and Chris Miller extended an invitation to hungry Colorado residents to harvest what remained in the fields of Miller Farms, but only expected 5,000 takers. “At one point, we did have to turn people away in part because we weren’t sure that there would be anything left in the fields and in part because we were so overwhelmed,” the Millers wrote on the farm’s Web site Monday.

The free harvest, intended as a “thank you” to the community, was scheduled for two days, but the Millers canceled the second because “the fields are clean,” Joe Miller told NPR’s “All Things Considered” on Monday. He said farm personnel “still had to turn people away Sunday that just kept coming out,” despite having gone through 80,000 produce bags the day before.

“Overwhelmed is putting it mildly,” Chris Miller told the Denver Post. “People obviously need food.”

Well, maybe "wrath" is not yet quite the word.

“Everybody is so depressed about the economy,” Greeley resident Sandra Justice told the Post. “This was a pure party. Everybody having a a great time getting something for free.” Justice and her family hauled off 10 bags of vegetables, the Post reported.

As many as 11,000 cars backed up two miles on the roads to the farm, just east of Longmont, and families that arrived without proper harvesting equipment used “nothing more than their bare hands and a few utensils — mostly dried-up carrots” to glean leftover root vegetables buried in the 600-acre farm’s soil, the Greeley Tribune reported.


Obama's economic team: what have they learned

Via Dean Baker, this NYT editorial asks some interesting questions.


Meet the Mets

Never mind the sheer financial and civic insanity of the whole thing, do the New York Metropolitans, coming off yet another epic fail of a season, really want to open their new stadium with the Citi brand?


Monday, November 24, 2008

Working themselves over

I have heard of working the refs. In this case it seems it's the refs working the refs.

Hopefully Bob Somerby will stop obsessing about how we liberals failed to strike back in support of Al Gore eight years ago and focus on this. Because if guys like Tapper and Helperin are leading the way, you can bet the press will try to "atone" for the "sins" they committed during this election.

To hear Halperin tell it, you'd think they tried to cut down the tire swing, not ride it.

Labels: ,

Real progressive government

This is absolutely hilarious.

Republicans are keeping a close eye on whom Obama picks — and doesn’t pick.

"Leader Boehner obviously hopes and expects that the president-elect will keep his promise to include Republicans in his Cabinet,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner. “Obama has pledged to govern in a bipartisan way, and we have pledged to work with him when he does."

Moving on...

Back in the Reality-based world, Jane Hamsher hears the chorus of "the Netroots" and asks, What were you expecting?

His isn't the administration I'd pick, but the proof will be in what he actually does. If for instance he sets up a panel to take on torture, opens up intelligence files and lets the public know how this horrible, malignant policy came to pass, it will go a long way towards assuring people that a choice like Brennan for CIA chief isn't just "business as usual."

Look, for people who convinced themselves that Obama was the second coming of Saul Alinsky -- wake up. He never was. He may, however, be the most progressive person we could have possibly hoped to elect as President of the United States.

Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to help keep the obstructionists off his back and push him to fulfill his campaign promises to end the war, pass health care legislation and the Employee Free Choice Act, clean up the environment, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, repair our infrastructure, create good jobs and restore the middle class.

That's what he promised us, and while I'm obviously not wild about the dearth of progressives in his administration (while anti-choicers like Hagel and Lugar are evidently a-okay), I'm less concerned with who he chooses to implement his policies than with his ability to ultimately do so.

Glenn Greenwald, who links to Jane's post, agrees, noting that a government that actually works may be the very definition of a "Progressive" administration. Any disappointment, according to Greenwald, is due to the Rorschak Test that was Obama for many people, on the Left and the Right.

So many progressives were misled about what Obama is and what he believes. But it wasn't Obama who misled them. It was their own desires, their eagerness to see what they wanted to see rather than what reality offered.

That, for me, explained the almost inexplicable complaint from the Right that after 21 months of campaigning, we still didn't "know" who (or, by implication, what) Obama "is." So many people held Obama up as a mirror to their own wishes and desires. It wasn't surprising that his attackers, too, looked at those mirrors, not the candidate himself.

Labels: , ,

Blue Monday, Freddie King edition

Brain dead

House Minority leader John Boehner in response to Obama's call for a possible $700 billion stimulus package the President-elect wants sitting on his desk on Jan. 20.

"Democrats can't seem to stop trying to outbid each other — with the taxpayers' money," House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement. "We're in tough economic times. Folks are hurting. But the American people know that more Washington spending isn't the answer."

Wow. Perhaps he'd support printing buttons that read, "Whip Deflation Now," or WDN.

Labels: ,

And you became an alternative new source because why?

Sweet Jesus, make it stop.



Saxby Chambliss, the slime trail that accused Max Cleland of being unpatriotic, is at it again.

Throw some dollars to Jim Martin if you can.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

I only text my sister and Barack*

Does Barack Obama read this blog?

But it may be time for him and his still forming team to ignore the "-elect" and start taking control. While he is very good at providing reassurance, it may take some real arm twisting to get Congress and the Treasury to start doing something. Anything.

Why, yes he must!

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama signaled on Saturday that he would pursue a far more ambitious plan of spending and tax cuts than anything he outlined on the campaign trail, setting the tone for a recovery effort that could absorb and define much of his term.

In the Democrats’ weekly radio address, Mr. Obama said he would direct his economic team to craft a two-year stimulus plan with the goal of saving or creating 2.5 million jobs. He said it would be “a plan big enough to meet the challenges we face.”

Mr. Obama said he hoped to sign the stimulus package into law soon after taking office on Jan. 20. He is already coordinating efforts with Democratic leaders in Congress, who have said they will begin work next month.

Seriously, this is the first time that light at the end of tunnel may not be the oncoming 18 wheeler.


Labels: ,

Saturday, November 22, 2008

No end to the war

The Drug War, that is, unless Eric Holder, Obama's pick for AG, has changed his views on drug sentencing.

Barack Obama's selection of Eric Holder as his attorney general is a very discouraging sign for anyone who hoped the new administration would de-escalate the war on drugs. As Dave Weigel noted earlier today, Holder pushed for stiffer marijuana penalties when he was the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and the details are strikingly at odds not only with Obama's signals regarding marijuana but with his opposition to long sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. According to a December 1996 report in The Washington Times excerpted at TalkLeft, Holder wanted "minimum sentences of 18 months for first-time convicted drug dealers, 36 months for the second time and 72 months for every conviction thereafter." He also wanted to "make the penalty for distribution and possession with intent to distribute marijuana a felony, punishable with up to a five-year sentence." The D.C. Council made the latter Holder-endorsed change in 2000. Holder thought New York City's irrational, unjust crackdown on pot smokers was a fine idea and worth emulating, saying "we have too long taken the view that what we would term to be minor crimes are not important." His rhetoric on the seriousness of marijuana offenses was indistinguishable from that of the most zealous Republican drug warrior:

The truth of the matter is that marijuana is a significant problem for the city....Crack cocaine still drives most of the violence in this city, but marijuana violence is increasing. We need to nip it in the bud.

And as Ta-Nihisi Coates writes, the "controversy" Senators will look at during the nomination process will be Holder's role in the Marc Rich pardon and not a mention about the absurdity of our non-violent drug laws.

Labels: ,

Friday, November 21, 2008

Loathing Lieberman

I couldn't even make it halfway through the seven minute video. Sweet Jehovah he's a tool. His whining voice, his presumptuousness, his preening, and then he says...

I want to help make him the kind of president our country so urgently needs...

and I want to reach out, grab him by the throat, and squeeze.


Sect'y of State Clinton

I would never have expected it, but it appears it might happen. Says Joe Klein,

The Clinton selection is historically luscious: it directly mirrors Abraham Lincoln's choice of William H. Seward as his Secretary of State. Seward was a U.S. Senator from New York and the favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination in 1860. There was a great deal of skepticism when the inexperienced and little known legislator from Illinois beat Seward for the nomination and then invited him into the Cabinet, but Seward soon came to appreciate, and later adore, Lincoln's skills as President. I expect something similar to happen with Hillary Clinton, the ultimate good soldier and team player in the Senate--and a potentially powerful voice overseas (although I do hope that the assorted Clintonian carnival acts--from the former President's skeevy friends to court jesters like Lanny Davis--will be either muzzled or sent packing entirely).

Amen to that.

And I have to say that this surely puts the lie to those who think HRC is driven by pure, unbridled ambition. She's going from being a leader in the Senate to a much more subservient role, albeit one that is highly visible and powerful.

The times just keep getting more and more interesting.

UPDATE: A'course Matthews just can't stop reviling HRC. That confirms it for me, that this isn't about her political ambitions because Matthews is a dope.


Story of "O"

The Times' Steven Heller talks with the designer who put the "O" in Change.

Labels: ,


Since it cost a lot to win, and even more to lose...


Somali pirates and merchant ships: a primer

This is amazingly simple and remarkably helpful.

Labels: ,

The media's war on workers

Seeing the Big Three CEOs fly into Washington on separate private planes gets my dander up, too. But the media is still trying to paint union wages as the real villain here and it's not only wrong, it's wildly inaccurate. It's also a great example of why our policies are often so fucked up -- they're often the result of journalism that's too lazy to get past the ongoing mythology.

Labels: ,

Bleak Friday

There's an awful lot of shrillness going 'round today.

Floyd Norris:

This week Citigroup’s already depressed shares have lost half their value, and shares of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are down 30 percent.

Those declines have come despite reassuring comments from Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., who told National Public Radio a week ago that people were no longer worried about the possibility of a major bank failure. “I’ve got to tell you,” he said. “I think our major institutions have been stabilized. I believe that very strongly.”

The Standard & Poor’s index of 500 stocks fell by more than 6 percent on two consecutive days, Wednesday and Thursday, something that had not happened since July 20 and 21, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, when panic was brought on by collapsing commodity prices. Such prices have fallen rapidly this week as well, as evidence mounted of a world recession. The index is now at its lowest level in 11 years.

By resigning from the Senate before the current session began and allowing it to appear that a sense of drift could prevail until he is inaugurated, Mr. Obama may have missed an opportunity to exert leadership.

The renewed sell-off in the stock market this week has been stunning, with some of the worst declines coming in the financial stocks and the shares of retailers. The credit markets are again shaky, with junk bond yields soaring.

In retrospect, the decision to let Lehman Brothers fail had devastating consequences, and not just to the financial system. Shares of some major retailers — for which the season now beginning is critical — have lost nearly three-quarters of their value since that mid-September decision.

There is fear of a wave of corporate bankruptcies that will strain banks’ balance sheets and make them even more hesitant to make the loans that could keep struggling companies alive.

A stimulus package is needed quickly, said Gerald Holtham, a British economist and hedge fund manager, but for it to be effective a way will have to be found to revive credit markets, and to assure that tax cuts have an economic impact greater than would come from simply enabling overleveraged consumers to pay down their credit card balances.
Paul Krugman:

There is, however, another and more disturbing parallel between 2008 and 1932 — namely, the emergence of a power vacuum at the height of the crisis. The interregnum of 1932-1933, the long stretch between the election and the actual transfer of power, was disastrous for the U.S. economy, at least in part because the outgoing administration had no credibility, the incoming administration had no authority and the ideological chasm between the two sides was too great to allow concerted action. And the same thing is happening now.

It’s true that the interregnum will be shorter this time: F.D.R. wasn’t inaugurated until March; Barack Obama will move into the White House on Jan. 20. But crises move faster these days.

How much can go wrong in the two months before Mr. Obama takes the oath of office? The answer, unfortunately, is: a lot. Consider how much darker the economic picture has grown since the failure of Lehman Brothers, which took place just over two months ago. And the pace of deterioration seems to be accelerating.

Most obviously, we’re in the midst of the worst stock market crash since the Great Depression: the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index has now fallen more than 50 percent from its peak. Other indicators are arguably even more disturbing: unemployment claims are surging, manufacturing production is plunging, interest rates on corporate bonds — which reflect investor fears of default — are soaring, which will almost surely lead to a sharp fall in business spending. The prospects for the economy look much grimmer now than they did as little as a week or two ago.

Yet economic policy, rather than responding to the threat, seems to have gone on vacation. In particular, panic has returned to the credit markets, yet no new rescue plan is in sight. On the contrary, Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, has announced that he won’t even go back to Congress for the second half of the $700 billion already approved for financial bailouts. And financial aid for the beleaguered auto industry is being stalled by a political standoff.

Dean Baker

This is important. We know how to keep the economy from collapsing. We didn't have this information 80 years ago. The secret is to spend money, lots of it.

CEPR just circulated a letter that garnered 375 economists' signatures arguing for a stimulus between $300 billion and $450 billion. This might be too small given all the bad news that we are seeing. We may need to spend $500 billion or $600 billion a year to get the economy back on its feet, possibly more. The key point is that we can get the economy back on its feet; we just have to spend the money to do it.

The stock market is driven by fear and greed. Today fear dominates. That should not be our concern. We must force the politicians to do what is necessary to get the economy moving. They must spend lots of money.

I sympathize with President-elect Obama's desire for an orderly and undramatic transition, which so far has been impressive. I realize he doesn't want to act in concert with an administration that has been inept in its handling of the economy or with a Treasury Secty who didn't anticipate the collapse of the housing bubble or the fragility of our financial system and still seems like a deer in the headlights. And yes, there's only "one president at a time."

But it may be time for him and his still forming team to ignore the "-elect" and start taking control. While he is very good at providing reassurance, it may take some real arm twisting to get Congress and the Treasury to start doing something. Anything.

Otherwise he may not have much of an economy to fix when he does move in to the White House.

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Fuck you, you pinhead"

Nate Silver glimpses into the heart and soul of a rightwing attack dog and it's not pretty.

Watching the Right's reaction to the last two elections makes it very clear that they simply don't understand what has happened to them. It's like they have serious flatulence and can't understand why people keep moving away.


A change is gonna come

And change we can believe in, too, though only by a five vote margin. Having a majority has consequences and having Waxman leading Energy and Commerce should help move a progressive agenda through Congress more seamlessly.

Meanwhile, for the minority...

In his remarks to the Republicans, Mr. Boehner said two straight elections with significant losses had provided Republicans with an opportunity to get themselves back on track if they come up with innovative approaches, promote reform and strike the right tone in expressing their opposition to a government controlled by Democrats.

“In recent years Americans lost faith in us, stopped believing we are what we claim to be,” Mr. Boehner told his colleagues. “There are various views on why. Some blame President Bush. Others blame Congressional Republicans and our own actions during our 12 years in the majority. While there are many views on why Americans lost their faith, we’re unanimous on one thing: it’s time to win it back.”

The House Republican caucus has so far balked at a chance to meet with Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the former House Democratic strategist who has been named the new White House chief of staff. Mr. Emanuel, who has been reaching out to Congressional Republicans since his selection as chief of staff, is set to meet on Thursday with some Senate Republican leaders and individually with some House Republicans.
A new tone, indeed.


Not a good sign

Bush is eager to sign a jobless benefits extension.


A series of unfortunate coincidences

Ok, I haven't laid out a newspaper since I edited my high school's, but I gotta believe the folks who lay out the print edition of The New York Times would have noticed that they were putting the continuation of a story headlined Study Finds Teenagers' Inernet Socializing Isn't Such a Bad Thing next to Arguments in Case Involving Net and Suicide.


The Ridiculous Doctrine

Yes, it's no secret why the conservatives are screaming about the "Fairness Doctrine" despite no indications that Democrats are even remotely interested in it. The idea the Liburols are trying to shut up Rush is a great way of whipping up the base (i.e., maintaining The Addict's Arbitron numbers), along the lines of Sarah Palin and "he pals around with terrerists!"


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Holy Joe

Sorry for the paucity of posts lately, but I've been in a series of conference rooms the past few days discussing...

Anyhoo, I'm sure, Dear Reader, you've been waiting impatiently for my take on the Lieberman lallapalooza (or lap dance, depending on your point of view). Truth is, I pretty much figured out how it was going to go when Dean announced the other day that Obama had asked Senate Dems to show mercy.

Nate Silver looks at it from a couple of angles, one positive and one nefarious, but I mainly see this: Obama is a pragmatic and canny politician and would, at the end of the day, prefer to hold his enemies and (in Lieberman's case) his enemies' tools as close as he can. While punishing Lieberman would have held more satisfaction, it wouldn't have advanced Obama's issues. Iraq -- Lieberman's main difference with Obama and Dems generally -- is an argument that has moved well beyond their differences and Lieberman won't have a Bush to support anymore. Iran may still cause tension and I have no doubt Lieberman will be on the Sunday Morning Idiot Shows at the first provocation to denounce his fellow Dems for appeasing Ahmadinejad. But on important domestic issues, the differences are not so great and Lieberman adds another reliable vote.

But the main thing is, I think Obama's public call for forgiveness was a good way to give cover to Dems who might look weak in not punishing the asshole for asshole while maintaining an even more forbidable coalition.

Or maybe I'm just willing to contradict myself at my master's bidding.

Yep. That must be it. Sigh.


Pulling their beards

The election's had at least one more positive outcome. It seems to have pissed off al Qaeda.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A series of tubes

I'm not willing to give Alaskans a pass overall, but at least they squeaked by on this one. A recount is likely, I suppose, but in the meantime...

for Ted:


Monday, November 17, 2008

Bring back the streetcar!

Steve Goldman has more thoughts on the Big Three bailout, this time with historical perspective. He concludes,

If the money to be given to the Detroit Dinosaurs serves the triple purpose of (1) not titling the economy into depression by keeping a million or two workers in their jobs, (2) helps the Dinosaurs evolve into companies that serve not only the individual automobile owner but also serves the common good, and (3) indirectly amounts to a subsidy of public transit, as proposed by Robert Goodman, I say let the thing be done. But for goshsakes, let the strings be chains, gaudy, heavy, and unbreakable. With the price of gas dropping, we don’t need recidivism back into giant SUVs, and we sure as hell don’t need more AIG-style junkets. Paraphrasing Patrick Henry: Give us trains or give us GM’s death.
As an aside, it is surely no coincidence that people, like Goldman, who are good analysts of baseball are becoming ever more important voices in the lefty blogosphere. I think this is because of the fundamental nature of arguing about baseball, which requires 1.) a historical perspective -- you can't argue about who the best shortstop is if you know nothing that preceded the 1996 Yankees; 2) an appreciation for how statistics can illuminate rather than obfuscate -- TV analysts focus, for instance on RBIs, bloggers on BP know this is illusory; and, 3) the capability for passionate yet reasoned argument. Add to that their reality-based outlook and you've got a pretty good recipe for insightful political commentary.

Labels: ,

Deep thought

Walking the dog in the forest yesterday, we heard a tree fall.


Blue Monday, Otis Rush edition

All Your Love.

Bonus Interlocking NY cowboy hat.

Labels: ,

Obama on the U.S. auto industry

Watching 60 Minutes last night was a weird experience. A competent president?

Anyway, Obama's comments on aid to the U.S. auto industry showed an accurate assessment of the state of affairs and a sensible, if temporary, solution.

Dean Baker makes the case as well.

Obama's comments on energy policy were also spot on, and, of course, much relief that he's confirmed his attitude on Guantanamo Bay and the use of torture.

No telling what the next two and four years will bring, but already there's much cause for optimism.


Rather-gate revisited

It seems to me that this was the moment the Rightwing news machine wave of sound crested and crashed.

Some of the documents unearthed by his investigation include notes taken at the time by Linda Mason, a vice president of CBS News. According to her notes, one potential panel member, Warren Rudman, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, was deemed a less-than-ideal candidate over fears by some that he would not “mollify the right.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Thornburgh, who served as attorney general for both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, was named a panelist by CBS, but only after a CBS lobbyist “did some other testing,” in which she was told, according to Ms. Mason’s notes, “T comes back with high marks from G.O.P.

Another memorandum turned over to Mr. Rather’s lawyers by CBS was a long typed list of conservative commentators apparently receiving some preliminary consideration as panel members, including Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan. At the bottom of that list, someone had scribbled “Roger Ailes,” the founder of Fox News.

Asked about the assembly of the panel in a sworn deposition, Andrew Heyward, the former president of CBS News, acknowledged that he had wanted at least one member to sit well with conservatives: “CBS News, fairly or unfairly, had a reputation for liberal bias,” and “the harshest scrutiny was obviously going to come from the right.”

Other documents, meanwhile, suggest that Ms. Mason, who reported to Mr. Heyward, was getting updates from panel investigators on some of their findings, at a point when CBS News was telling outsiders that the network was staying out of the investigation.

I expect the Rightwing Outrage Tsunami to emerge again, particularly with a Barack al-Hussein Obama in the White House, but the Rather v CBS trial should provide some useful blueprints as to how the refs allow themselves to get worked.

And then there's the ridiculous Deborah Howell.

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The self-absorption administration

From Ron's Suskind's apparent stream of conscious observations on the transition.

Not every president gets an era. Bush 41 didn’t. Reagan did, F.D.R. certainly did and L.B.J. did, too, by virtue of having presided during havoc. Clinton yearns for his eight years to be called an era but knows he fell short, and often says that a president needs to have governed during crisis to be considered great. Or at least consequential. Much like Lyndon Johnson’s, George W. Bush’s tenure was the drama of a president devoured by titanic events — forces that overwhelmed best-laid plans and even the soundest of intentions, and magnified errors.
"The best-laid plans?" And what, pray tell, were those?

And is he implying Democrats are still the party of acid?

Of course, the roots took hold in Iowa and spread state to state. And now, the day before Election Day, Team Obama was running though fields of tall grass, city to city, in the final day of a kind of electoral mystery tour.
But Suskind's overall conclusion on the failed presidency of George W. Bush is a sound one: for Bush it was always just about him.

Labels: , ,

The emerging Democratic majority

Not on the teevee so much.

Guest lineup for the Sunday TV news shows:


ABC's ''This Week'' -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif.


CBS' ''Face the Nation'' -- Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.; Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La.; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.


NBC's ''Meet the Press'' -- Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.; Shelby; T. Boone Pickens, chairman of the energy investment fund BP Capital.


CNN's ''Late Edition'' -- Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez; Reps. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Ted Turner, CNN founder and author of a new memoir.


''Fox News Sunday'' -- Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.; Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn.; former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, R-Md.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Another blog that couldn't handle the truth

FireJoeMorgan bids adieu.

Perhaps the future holds another project for us on which to waste massive amounts of time. For now, we will leave the site and the archives up as a testament to the fact that if you work hard enough, and blow off enough social occasions, and stare at the internet enough, and get nerdy enough, and repeatedly ignore entreaties from your friends and loved ones to please God stop blogging about Bill Plaschke and get out of the house it's a beautiful day!, then you, too, can...have a blog.

Again, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you. And as Joe Morgan himself might say:

"I really haven't seen them play...slidepiece...Dave Concepcion."
As they say on the internets, "Oh noes!"

Labels: ,

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sarkozy's brilliant argument

If this doesn't put a rancid bow on the Bush administration, not sure what could.

Charles Bremner writes in the Times of London about an account that emerged yesterday about a conversation between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, when Sarkozy was in Moscow in August to broker a ceasefire in Georgia.

"With Russian tanks only 30 miles from Tbilisi on August 12, Mr Sarkozy told Mr Putin that the world would not accept the overthrow of Georgia's Government. . . . [T]he Russian seemed unconcerned by international reaction. 'I am going to hang [Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili by the balls,' Mr Putin declared.

"Mr Sarkozy thought he had misheard. 'Hang him?' -- he asked. 'Why not?' Mr Putin replied. 'The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein.'

"Mr Sarkozy . . . tried to reason with him: 'Yes but do you want to end up like Bush?' Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: 'Ah -- you have scored a point there.' "

I guess you could say George W. Bush saved Saakashvili's balls.


Fixing foreclosures

Now this makes eminently good sense. FDIC chief Sheila Blair understood the contours of the disaster sooner than anyone else in the Federal Government and she's shown more creativity than most.

The FDIC said its plan would cost the government about $24.4 billion, which could be paid from the TARP. Most of the money from an initial disbursement in that program has been injected as capital into banks.

FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair, who spent weeks unsuccessfully lobbying Bush administration officials for the plan, issued the proposal two days after Paulson publicly dismissed the idea.

Leading Democratic lawmakers have rallied behind Bair, a Republican, and have even pushed for her to have a place in Democratic president-elect Barack Obama's administration.

Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, said on Wednesday that he hopes Paulson works with Bair to get the program up and running as soon as possible to address the worst housing crash since the Great Depression.

The FDIC pushed forward with its plan, posting it on the agency's Web site on Friday morning (

"Although foreclosures are costly to lenders, borrowers and communities, the pace of loan modifications continues to be extremely slow," the FDIC said. "It is imperative to provide incentives to achieve a sufficient scale in loan modifications to stem the reductions in housing prices and rising foreclosures."

The FDIC, which insures most U.S. bank deposits, said it plans to overcome the problem of reaching borrowers, which has dogged previous efforts, by offering mortgage servicers $1,000 to cover expenses for each loan modified. It said the plan could modify about 2.2 million mortgage loans and promised to share up to 50 percent of losses incurred if a borrower defaults on a loan that has been restructured.


The Stove is getting Hot

The "running of the free agents," as Alex Belth so nicely puts it, begins tonight, so things should get innerestin'.

But before those festivities even begin, the Nick Swisher (or, Swish Nicker, as Steve Goldman prefers) deal looks very good for the Yankees. I've been following his career since he first made his appearance in Moneyball (he was the A's first pick in 2002, 16th overall followed by Cole Hamels at 17...ain't baseball grand?). Good patience and power, good defense, flexibility, and youth -- characteristics the Yankees haven't had at first base since before Don Mattingly's back started acting up. Importantly, he gives the Yankees leverage with agent extraordinaire, Scott Boras, who handles Mark Teixeira, the big free agent bat out there this year. They can tell Boras that they have a fine, fine first baseman now -- seems to have worked with this guy -- even as Boras will be desperate to keep the Yankees' checkbook in the mix. Anyone remember the Beltran Yankee discount? With Teixeira at first and Swisher able to play an excellent first and corner outfield positions, the Yankees would have the depth they've lacked since the 1990s run.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

As for pitching, the word is* that the Yankees are ready to offer CC Ryder Sabathia $140/150 million over five/six years, hoping to blow everyone else out of the water. Other pitchers out there for the taking that have been mentioned as possible Yankee targets are A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe. While Burnett had a great year in '08, he's prone to injuries and Lowe is both old and a groundball pitcher -- not the ideal guy for a team with marginal defense.

* Unlike those supposedly coming from the Obama transition team, I'm more prone to believe baseball rumors.

Labels: ,

No drama Obama

For the record, this humble blog continues to avoid the temptation to speculate on any Cabinet consideration rumors. I saw no evidence during the campaign that Obama launches "trial balloons" in order to come to decisions. I can't believe he'd start now. In fact, I expect that the daily rumor mill (H. Clinton for State!) is the result of the absence of leaks from his transition team.

And the idea that names are being floated to heal party divisions is patently absurd.


Cosmic Debris

Is that a Sears poncho?


Any opportunity to drive them further down the Insane Highway

If the Fairness Doctrine is something the Right is so terrified of despite Obama's stated opposition to it and a general disinterestedness in it by Democrats, maybe it's something we should consider more seriously!


Calling the mullahs' bluff

Not the least frustrating aspect of the last eight years has been the Bush/Cheney foreign policy which made our "enemies" stronger simply by dint of their being labeled "enemies." Tim Fernholz notes that, even with the prospect of a President Obama, the Iranian leadership's bluff may very well have been called.

Labels: ,

New York Times-ey

This is such a rich stew of fabulousness, and though I wish they'd fleshed out the Sports pages a little more ("Old Yankee Stadium not to be torn down, instead used as Hooverville" I might have suggested), but this is great:

Mets Purchased by 10,000-Strong Local Citizen Cooperative

Yankees still courting Saudi Arabian buyer

By Wilfred Sasoon, no less.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

The "McCain aide" outs himself


It was among the juicier post-election recriminations: Fox News Channel quoted an unnamed McCain campaign figure as saying that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent.

Who would say such a thing? On Monday the answer popped up on a blog and popped out of the mouth of David Shuster, an MSNBC anchor. “Turns out it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who has come forward today to identify himself as the source of the leaks,” Mr. Shuster said.

Trouble is, Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes.

And the claim of credit for the Africa anecdote is just the latest ruse by Eisenstadt, who turns out to be a very elaborate hoax that has been going on for months. MSNBC, which quickly corrected the mistake, has plenty of company in being taken in by an Eisenstadt hoax, including The New Republic and The Los Angeles Times.

Now a pair of obscure filmmakers say they created Martin Eisenstadt to help them pitch a TV show based on the character. But under the circumstances, why should anyone believe a word they say?

“That’s a really good question,” one of the two, Eitan Gorlin, said with a laugh.

Turns out, "Martin Eisenstadt" was the source of the rumor that Samuel Wurzelbacher had ties to one of the Keating Five S&L crooks. At least I didn't get fooled.

Here's the blog
of "the last Republican,"


Ticket prices in The Nation vs. The Universe

The Red Sox:

The Boston Red Sox froze their ticket prices at already-high 2008 levels Wednesday, a clear reflection of the worsening economic crisis.

“We are hearing from fans and seeing for ourselves that these are uncertain, at best, and perilous, at worst, economic conditions,” Larry Lucchino, the Red Sox’ chief executive, said in a telephone interview.

The team had raised prices on some tickets at Fenway Park every season since 1995, settling on the current range for general-admission tickets of $12 for upper bleachers to $125 for field boxes. The team, with 469 consecutive home sellouts, drew three million fans last season, a home attendance record. Lucchino said that the team could have raised ticket prices this season but that its analysis of focus group research, fan feedback and the economy led to the freeze.

According to Team Marketing Report, the Red Sox’ average ticket price of $48.80 was the highest in baseball.

“This is not based on an assessment of a reduction in demand,” he said. “We have thousands of people who pay to be on our waiting list. This is an assessment that this was the right thing to do for the people of Red Sox Nation who have been loyal and committed fans to us.”

Meanwhile, the Yankees are hoping the corporate fat cats who they have been relying on in recent years -- and will do so even more as they move into their high tech house that Giuliani and Bloomberg built -- keep on coming through for them. So far, not so much.


Lieberman watch

Last night, watching Evan Bayh on Rachel Maddow's show, he kinda sorta had me convinced.

This morning, Steve Benan provides a useful correction.

This, in other words, would be a conditional chairmanship. There are at least two main problems with this approach.

First, it extends Lieberman a benefit of the doubt that he clearly hasn't earned. What makes Bayh, or anyone else, think Lieberman will suddenly start acting sensibly, especially after what we've seen of him over the last two years?

And second, I wonder what happens if, in six months, Lieberman starts launching partisan witch hunts against the Obama White House, and Senate Dems decide it's time to take Lieberman's gavel away. How's that going to look? An independent senator starts asking pesky questions of a Democratic president and White House allies decide to sack the one doing the asking?

The rumor swirling around Westchester, NY Republican circles is that fellow Westchester resident, Hillary Clinton, is going to lead all kinds of investigations into Obama's campaign financing. Why they believe that, I have no idea. After all, what would she gain? Revenge for not helping her unload her campaign debt?

Lieberman, on the other hand, has all kinds of incentive (ego, bitterness, anger at the party, etc.), and his perch on Homeland Security gives him incredible latitude.

Strip him of the chairmanship, but let him stay in the caucus and keep his seniority. If that generous compromise pisses him off and he leaves, fine, but I suspect he will stay and will begin focusing on his own reelection. If he wants to snipe at Obama and his fellow Dems -- again -- fine, as long as he doesn't have much power to launch witch hunts. Such sniping will get him on the Sunday Morning Idiot Shows. It won't help him get reelected.

And Bayh's fear that Lieberman would retire and CT Gov. Rell would then appoint a Republican just shows Bayh doesn't know Holy Joe very well.

UPDATE: And yes, Rachel Maddow is worthy of worship.


TARP, or, Paulson's Dead Parrot Sketch

I was taken totally by surprise yesterday when Treasury Sect'y Paulson announced the abandonment of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Surprised, not be the announcement that he wasn't going that route, but rather, surprised that TARP was still among his plans to stave off Great Depression II. And surprised that "the Markets" were surprised that the U.S. was not going to dump shitty liabilities on taxpayers rather than purchasing equity in the lenders. I had assumed that when Barney Frank and others had blown their respective noses on the napkin Paulson and Bernanke had used to write the TARP plan over a weekend last September, that that particular plan was dead.

Stupid me, I didn't realise that it was just "resting."

Dean Baker wonders
, "where's the derision?"


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mitch Mitchell

Only 61.

Mitch Mitchell was nearly as integral to the Experience as Hendrix himself. He "fused" jazz and rock drumming styles in a way that was totally distinctive in 1967, and his devotion to Hendrix's memory and spirit after the guitarist's death was legendary.

Rest in peace, Mitch. You always seemed like a genuinely nice guy.

Labels: , ,


That word seems to be the new black this season. It's the euphemism many companies are using these days instead of "right-sized" which replaced "down-sized" which replaced "lay-off" (which, like 'lay-away,' had a certain optimism to it) which replaced "fired."

And it's the term being used in the debate over what last Tuesday's results mean for the future of the two parties.

Nate Silver looks at the history of "realignments," and finds the whole thing "silly." And he's right.

What ultimately distinguishes the elections that are considered to have been realignments is the efficacy of the governance of the rising party, rather than the force with which said party took office. Ronald Reagan and FDR, famously, had coattails -- but so did Warren G. Harding, who brought the Republicans a net gain of 123 (!) seats in the House in 1920. One might likewise have been tempted to consider the combination of the Democrats' landslide in the 1974 midterms and Jimmy Carter's ascendancy in 1976 a 'realignment'. Reagan and FDR, however, were effective Presidents, whereas Carter and Harding were not, quickly managing to relinquish most of what they had gained. Barack Obama, perhaps, may be the first President since Reagan in 1980 to have an opportunity to realign the country; whether or not he'll do so is another matter.


Can the majority marry the minority? Cause they sure enjoy screwing them.

Steven Goldman very eloquently demolishes the illogic of the Yes on Prop8 vote and anti-gay marriage generally. To put it briefly, it's called the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

UPDATE: Helps to actually have a hyperlink.

Labels: ,

Caribou Barbie

I think I speak for millions when I say, please, go the fuck away.


Intelligence replacements

Speculation about whether Pres.-elect Obama needs to send bipartisan messages by retaining certain Bush administration appointees -- or make a clean break -- while interesting, is not something I feel equipped to speculate on. He should keep the people he thinks are doing a good job and with whom he feels comfortable and get rid of those he doesn't and isn't.

But I will say this, keeping Tenet on in 2001 made us no less vulnerable. So if McConnell and Hayden aren't on the same page with Obama regarding the CIA's use of torture and NSA's use of domestic wiretaps then he should be given the boot. If that's seen as "politicizing" the offices (a concern rarely mentioned during the Clinton/Bush transition), then so be it.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wingnuts across the globe!

Is it me, or is there something about the Communist Party of St. Petersburg (and isn't that an oxymoron) that reminds one of The Corner?


A poorer country

After 14 years, and especially the past eight, the Republican party has left not only the nation's finances in poverty, but its political discourse as well.


Whistling past Dixie

I've never agreed with Tom Schaller's contention that Democrats should simply ignore the southern states. If nothing else, Dean's and Obama's inclusive state strategy forced the Republicans to defend typically safe seats, like Chambliss' and McConnell's, and forced the McCain campaign to deploy resources in areas Republican presidential candidates hadn't for some time.

Further, the Obama's efforts in the coastal southern states recognized a changing demographic in those states that paint them less reliably red.

But as Adam Nossiter writes in the Times this morning, last Tuesday's results proved that the deepest and whitest south is no longer politically relevant on the national stage, and underscored that the Republican party is a regional one, confined to a handful of states in the south and the Appalachias.

VERNON, Ala. — Fear of the politician with the unusual name and look did not end with last Tuesday’s vote in this rural red swatch where buck heads and rifles hang on the wall. This corner of the Deep South still resonates with negative feelings about the race of President-elect Barack Obama.

What may have ended on Election Day, though, is the centrality of the South to national politics. By voting so emphatically for Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama — supporting him in some areas in even greater numbers than they did President Bush — voters from Texas to South Carolina and Kentucky may have marginalized their region for some time to come, political experts say.

The region’s absence from Mr. Obama’s winning formula means it “is becoming distinctly less important,” said Wayne Parent, a political scientist at Louisiana State University. “The South has moved from being the center of the political universe to being an outside player in presidential politics.”

One reason for that is that the South is no longer a solid voting bloc. Along the Atlantic Coast, parts of the “suburban South,” notably Virginia and North Carolina, made history last week in breaking from their Confederate past and supporting Mr. Obama. Those states have experienced an influx of better educated and more prosperous voters in recent years, pointing them in a different political direction than states farther west, like Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and Appalachian sections of Kentucky and Tennessee.

Southern counties that voted more heavily Republican this year than in 2004 tended to be poorer, less educated and whiter, a statistical analysis by The New York Times shows. Mr. Obama won in only 44 counties in the Appalachian belt, a stretch of 410 counties that runs from New York to Mississippi. Many of those counties, rural and isolated, have been less exposed to the diversity, educational achievement and economic progress experienced by more prosperous areas.

The increased turnout in the South’s so-called Black Belt, or old plantation-country counties, was visible in the results, but it generally could not make up for the solid white support for Mr. McCain. Alabama, for example, experienced a heavy black turnout and voted slightly more Democratic than in 2004, but the state over all gave 60 percent of its vote to Mr. McCain. (Arkansas, however, doubled the margin of victory it gave to the Republican over 2004.)

Less than a third of Southern whites voted for Mr. Obama, compared with 43 percent of whites nationally. By leaving the mainstream so decisively, the Deep South and Appalachia will no longer be able to dictate that winning Democrats have Southern accents or adhere to conservative policies on issues like welfare and tax policy, experts say.

And this election did one other thing: it put the lie to the notion that somehow racism in the south is a thing of the past -- the "New South." It's been bracing, throughout this campaign, the read nakedly racist quotes from people willing to give reporters their names.

Don Dollar, the administrative assistant at City Hall, said bitterly that anyone not upset with Mr. Obama’s victory should seek religious forgiveness.

“This is a community that’s supposed to be filled with a bunch of Christian folks,” he said. “If they’re not disappointed, they need to be at the altar.”
If the GOP wants to be the party of that guy, they can have him.

UPDATED to fix a point.

Labels: ,

Nothin' to add

All the good blog posts have already been written today.

UPDATE: One more. That's it. No excuse not to actually performs my employer.


Tuesday's just as bad: Miriam Makeba edition

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's the unions' fault

The Obama recession

It's already begun!

"The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen," Limbaugh told his radio audience of 15 million to 20 million on Thursday. "Stocks are dying, which is a precursor of things to come. This is an Obama recession. Might turn into a depression."
Via Roy.

I've worried in recent days about what role this humble blog should play in a Peoples' Republic of Obama regime. An optimistic skeptic? A pessimistic supporter? Or just an observer of the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy, which seems oddly restoked by last Tuesday's election results after so many years of power?

Labels: ,


Exactly right.

"If you wield a congressional oversight gavel, and your buddy's in the White House, you might just conduct exactly zero investigations into presidential wrongdoing," says Brian Beutler. "But when the election comes, and your other buddy loses to a guy you don't really like, you might think about becoming a real pest to the new administration."

Dump him, Harry.


The gaffe machine

I was continually amazed by this as well.

Authenticity and access, that's what the campaign press corps craves.

Election scribes claim they long for candidates who venture off-script and are confident enough to reveal themselves on the campaign trail, to say what they really think instead of hiding behind consultant-approved sound bites. (The press, we're told, hates phonies.)

And, of course, the press prizes access to candidates in hopes of uncovering that authenticity, in hopes of tapping the candidate's true personality. The two -- authenticity and access -- are the cornerstones of the press' campaign pursuit.

So when Sen. Joe Biden was tapped as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, it should have been a press dream, right? Biden immediately swung open his doors to the press. And as he's done for years, he showed no hesitation in flashing signs of a caution-be-damned approach on the campaign trail. Forever comfortable in his own skin and representing something of a throwback to the era of garrulous Irish-Catholic pols who loved the art of conversation, Biden seemed to revel in his off-the-cuffs moments with voters and reporters.

And yes, sometimes that meant Biden became tongue-tied and made gaffes and had to walk back comments. But for reporters, Biden's approach sure seemed better than covering the type of play-it-safe candidates they regularly complain about. (I'm picturing Mitt Romney ... )

If anything, grateful reporters should have rewarded Biden's wide-open style (not to mention his generous access), right?

Wrong. Throughout the fall campaign, the press relentlessly painted Biden as a buffoon and a goof. Rather than reward Biden for being open and honest with voters, the press punished him for weeks on end.

Labels: ,

Not your grandfather's Great Depression

As President-elect Barack Obama goes to visit his future home-office today, where calls for real fiscal stimulus seem to be confined to AIG and not consumers, Robert Reich gives us Keynes 101.

And Krugman writes it was FDR's timidity, not New Deal policies, that prolonged the Great Depression.

Speaking of which, yesterday the Times ran a homage to Galbraith's The Great Crash of 1929 which, like "Dark Side of the Moon," is still on the charts.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Nationalize this

Barney Frank is on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" today. When asked, with Dem's stunning gains this week, what industry would they nationalize first, replied, "The Alaskan Tourist Board."


Friday, November 07, 2008

The poetry of anguish

Yes, yes, the election of Barack Obama gives us great hope. More importantly it gives us comedy gold.

Although many conservatives did not appear to realize what an enormous opportunity had been handed to us, they nevertheless accepted the news of Obama’s victory with a stoicism that should make us all proud. “Obama is NOT the Anti-Christ,” wrote Flopping Aces, reassuringly. “The Anti-Christ has an actual plan and millions of years of experience to call upon. Obama the President can claim NONE of these qualities.” Sultan Knish exuded a Zen-like calm as he anticipated the next four years. “Today I unpacked my winter clothes in preparation for a long winter, and a long winter is coming if not of the thermometer, then of the soul,” Sultan wrote with soaring poetic imagery, if not of the anger, then of the sorrow. “A man that represents not simply an opposing view but the view of those who oppose America and all it stands for, will sit in the Oval Office. Worse still he did not get there through a democratic election but through fraud, voter intimidation and every dirty trick culminating in a campaign that had little in common with conventional American politics and a great deal in common with the cults of personality cultivated by totalitarian dictators.” Atlas Shrugs waxed poetic, too, transforming herself into a Jewish, orthographically challenged e.e. cummings: “he says he is a democrat. i think he does so to hide that he is a committed marxist leninist who intends to impose a marxist dictatorhip upon this country, which advancig the interests of islam. he will attempt to either impose or import sharia, and sharia financing into this country. he is not my president. i do not accept him we have no deals, mr. obama and i, as he has vitiated them by a fundamental and far reaching fraud. he has evil designes and intents upon me and mine, upon thee and me.”

They are so eloquent in defeat and batshit craziness.



Holy Joe, Joe!

"Senator Lieberman's preference is to stay in the caucus, but he's going to keep all his options open. McConnell has reached out to him and at this stage his position is he wants to remain in the caucus but losing the chairmanship is unacceptable."

I think much of what Lieberman did over the last year was inexcusable. But magnanimity in victory is always a virtue. So I don't think it's necessary to expel him from the caucus. And perhaps there are some perks of seniority he could be allowed to keep. But allowing him to keep his chairmanship is simply unacceptable. It's a position the Democrats hold because of the joint efforts of Democrats across the country pulling together to support Democratic policies and ideals and elect Democratic candidates. For Lieberman to enjoy the fruits of that labor after working so hard to stymie that effort would be unconscionable.

I don't really care much about the caucus numbers at this point seeing as how Dems have a strong majority but aren't likely to make it filibuster-proof this cycle. But, frankly, I would really enjoy watching Lieberman sniff and take his ball and join the minority party.

We seem to like our Senators of the Democratic flavor here in Conn. So watching Lieberman (R-CT) run during an Obama reelection campaign would be sweet and satisfying.


Priorities to be avoided

I understand the basic fairness of this issue, and I fervently hope this is something an Obama administration can take on in the future, but I find myself strongly disagreeing with Greenwald on this one:

That's what repeal of Section 3 of DOMA would enable -- treating opposite-sex and same-sex couples exactly equally. That's all it would do; it would not re-define "marriage."

Given Obama and Biden's clearly expressed stance, it's a bit difficult -- at least for a rational person -- to argue that these issues are politically radioactive and that Democrats would lose power if they went near them. And, as indicated with the link above, majorities favor civil unions and the equal granting of rights to same-sex couples. Thus, those who come and slothfully repeat what they hear from their TV -- "oh, this would kill the Democrats politically if they did this" -- without citing a single piece of evidence are making claims that have no empirical support and are negated by the evidence that is available. It's not 1994 any longer.

Greenwald, I believe, is naive if he thinks the politics of this is not hard. Yes, the tide of civil union equality and same-sex marriage is undeniably heading in the right direction even with the crushing reversals in several states this week, most notably in California. And no, this isn't 1994 anymore. But for Obama to take this up as an issue early on in his administration might make this 1993. That's when the Clinton administration decided to take on in the first few months of taking power the issue of gays in the military. Not only did that make an already distrustful brass distrust Clinton even more, it gave social conservatives something to wrest themselves from the depressed slumber they'd been in through the 1992 election.

Look, the world -- and the global economy -- are, almost literally, in flames right now. DOMA is a disgrace, but I'd like to see Obama and the Democratic Congress get some stuff done that helps all Americans before heading down a path towards reigniting a culture war tactic that would be leapt upon by Obama's opponents and GOP obstructionists.

Because, trust me, whether majorities of Americans believe in the basic fairness of civil unions or not, before you could say "Barack Hussein Obama," this would be whipped up into an issue that was pleasingly absent from this election season, the specter of the gay married terrorist.

I think this puts it well:

The passage of Proposition 8 and the gay marriage bans in Arizona and Florida was a dark cloud on an otherwise joyous week. The idea that the legal and moral rights of some our citizens were stripped away by bigotry is, to borrow from the fundamentalist playbook, an abomination. But as The Very Rev. Scott Richardson, Dean of the St. Paul Cathedral in San Diego, an ardent opponent of Proposition 8 who holds out hope the ban will eventually be reversed, told me yesterday, "As sad as I am about Prop. 8, the perspective I have, the whole world is impacted by the presidential election. Our whole world is different now. The gay pride issue, the equal rights issue is really important. But I want to keep it in some perspective around the other issues addressed on Tuesday."

Fortunately, but not surprisingly, I think the Obama administration has other plans with which to lead early next year.

Labels: ,

Weblog Commenting by Site Meter