Friday, June 19, 2009

Last Call

State unemployment figures are out, and they continue to be horrendous. Twelve states and the District of Columbia are in double digit unemployment. The country continues to suffer greatly under the Bush economic mess.

Michigan, at 14.1%, at this rate almost certainly has a U-6 figure well above 20%, if not approaching 25%. California, at 11.5%, represents a massive hole in our economy right now. Things are bad. I think we're in for at least another 12 months of grim numbers before things improve.

Once we hit 10% unemployment in July or so, look out. the second wave of housing foreclosures will only accelerate the spiral. We could hit 12.5% before it bottoms out, and the U-6 number in the country will exceed 20% for sure.

One in five Americans will be unemployed or underemployed before things start improving in 2010. And the improvement will take a very, very long time.

Change We Can Pay Lip Service To

AJ Strata, June 3rd:
Until the right focuses and gets serious, until they can recognize our President’s good decisions without question or caveat, they have no standing with America. No credibility. They need to get themselves out of the fevered swamps if they want to make a difference.
Good advice. Try heeding it. AJ Strata, June 19:
The liberal economic experiment using the government to stimulate job creation is an utter and complete failure. Obama and the Dems may have inherited a problem, but their answers to the problem were all wrong. And that realization will come to hit the American public as this unemployment debacle runs through out the summer of 2009. It is not a matter of ‘if’, only ‘when’.
Got that? Four months since the stimulus bill was signed into law, Obama hasn't fixed the economy yet, and apparently 5 months into office is enough to determine that Obama has already failed. Never mind that most of the stimulus funds will go into effect in fiscal's too late, Obama should resign. WORST PRESIDENT EVER!

AJ's not suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome, however. Nope.

Not him.

Tehran Calling, Day 8

Via the Washington Note, Steve Clemons runs the political calculus of where Iran goes from here.
As of yesterday the options facing the country were well summarised by Simon Tisdall and Ellie Rose in The Guardian:
1 - Happy ending

To widespread surprise, the hardline Guardian Council conducts a thorough recount of votes, as ordered by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and decides, amid much embarrassment, that there should be a new election. Mir Hossein Mousavi wins. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accepts defeat. Pro-democracy demonstrators celebrate triumph of "green revolution". New government responds positively to US invitation to "unclench fist" and open talks on nuclear issue.

2 - Damp squib

The partial recount ordered by the Supreme Leader concludes Ahmadinejad won a clear victory, although by a narrower margin. Despite lingering suspicions of foul play, the opposition is forced to accept the verdict amid a continuing nationwide crackdown on dissent and warnings that further disorder will be dealt with harshly. Ahmadinejad, in bad odour with the Supreme Leader for provoking demonstrators, moderates his line on policy issues. Mousavi vows to fight again.

3 - Confrontation

The Guardian Council's partial vote recount and investigation into electoral fraud are rejected by the opposition. Demonstrations spread and intensify, with ever greater numbers of Iranians taking to the streets calling for the resignation of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. Security forces respond with increasing force, arresting thousands and closing down media coverage, texting networks, websites and Twitter. Purge of reformist leaders, intellectuals, students and journalists continues. Leaderless demos gradually peter out, leaving resentment. Ahmadinejad steps up anti-western rhetoric. Resumed protests at a later date considered highly likely.

4 - A second revolution

An insider cabal of senior clerical and establishment conservatives challenges Khamenei and forces his resignation after a vote in the Assembly of Experts. Former president Hashemi Rafsanjani is elected in his stead and orders an investigation into the actions of Ahmadinejad and other senior members of the regime. Hardliners rally round the president while reformists demand new elections. Amid growing instability, Iran's unique Islamic/secular system of governance appears in danger of collapse".

As of Mr. Khameneni's speech today it seems that (1) above is no longer an option. For everything that Mousavi has publically announced option (2) also seems unlikely.

Unfortunately for everything I know, it now seems its either (3) or (4).

By the way, two nights ago I went out to see a few things ... as the general crowds spread into their homes militia style Mousavi supporters were out on the streets 'Basiji hunting'.

Their resolve is no less than these thugs -- they after hunting them down. They use their phones, their childhood friends, their intimate knowledge of their districts and neighbours to plan their attacks -- they're organised and they're supported by their community so they have little fear. They create the havoc they're after, ambush the thugs, use their Cocktail Molotovs, disperse and re-assemble elsewhere and then start again - and the door of every house is open to them as safe harbour -- they're community-connected.

The Basiji's are not.

Option 3 there, a bloody crackdown, I still believe is the outcome the neocons and warhawks want to see the most. It makes it so much easier to sell the Iraq line: additional UN resolutions, followed by dire warnings of nuclear destruction of Israel, followed by a hasty AUMF, followed by another war. Only this time, the very real possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran's suspected nuclear sites would be a catalyst and accelerant to the conflagration.

Option 4 is possible, not cannot be sustained because of the "nature abhors a vacuum" principle of power. Something would have to give, and that something is "Who the Iranian military decides to go with". Either one could lead right back to Option 3, and there's even another possiblity here: the Iranian military decides to hell with Ahmedinejad, Mousavi, the Assembly of Experts and the whole bloody power structure and pull a real honest-to-Allah military coup, ala' Pakistan.

At this point, "we have no play to make" as the intel boys would say.

We have to wait and see what happens.

Tell Them What They've Won, Zandar

Congratulations, Recording Industry Artists of America! You've convinced a jury that downloading music off the internet is one of the most expensive and dangerous crimes in history!
A federal jury Thursday found a 32-year-old Minnesota woman guilty of illegally downloading music from the Internet and fined her $80,000 each -- a total of $1.9 million -- for 24 songs.

Jammie Thomas-Rasset's case was the first such copyright infringement case to go to trial in the United States, her attorney said.

Attorney Joe Sibley said that his client was shocked at the fine, noting that the price tag on the songs she downloaded was 99 cents.

She plans to appeal, he said.

Cara Duckworth, a spokeswoman for the Recording Industry Association of America, said the association was "pleased that the jury agreed with the evidence and found the defendant liable."

So, you've basically destroyed an American family and whatever goodwill you had left among rational people, declaring that stealing music is worthy of an eight million percent damage markup over the value of the actual item. You guys must be hell on CD shoplifters then.

I honestly hope in the appeal, there's a countersuit for emotional distress on the part of Thomas-Rasset. I hope she bankrupts you guys.

Let's See Your Cards, Kim

The U.S. is preparing to call North Korea's hand in a major way.
The U.S. military is planning to intercept a flagged North Korean ship suspected of proliferating weapons material in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution passed last Friday, FOX News has learned.

The USS John McCain, a navy destroyer, will intercept the ship Kang Nam as soon as it leaves the vicinity off the coast of China, according to a senior U.S. defense official. The order to inderdict has not been given yet, but the ship is getting into position.

The ship left a port in North Korea Wednesday and appears to be heading toward Singapore, according to a senior U.S. military source. The vessel, which the military has been tracking since its departure, could be carrying weaponry, missile parts or nuclear materials, a violation of U.N. Resolution 1874, which put sanctions in place against Pyongyang.

The irony of a naval destroyer named the U.S.S. John McCain possibly restarting the Korean War has a piquant, bittersweet flavor with a woody overtone. Still, I guess we're going to see what North Korea does this weekend in response. We've battened down the hatches in Hawaii in anticipation, in fact of Iran wasn't falling apart right now, this would be all over the news.

Kim Jong-Il has threatened all kinds of badness and flying monkeys and ninjas on dinosaurs if the international community tries to enforce this whole "seizing ships with suspected nuclear material aboard" thing.

We'll see what happens.

Green Tie Day At The Capitol

The House just passed Mike Pence's resolution condemning the crackdown in Iran, 405-1.

Yes, the one person in the House voting against it was indeed Ron Paul.
Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas libertarian, cast the sole opposing vote because he said it wasn't the House's place to judge "events thousands of miles away about which we know very little."
Bless his little crazy ass Libertarian heart.

So now what, guys? Green Jell-O in the Capitol cafeteria? That'll help. Maybe you should paint the Capitol dome green. But it's nice to know that President Mike Pence is in charge of the Serious Washington Response.

The Plan Is Official

The "Where's Obama's real birth certificate?!?!?" bill in Congress has gained more House Republican co-sponsors.
Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), who has introduced a bill that would require future presidential candidates to provide proof of U.S. citizenship, has collected four more co-sponsors — Reps. John R. Carter, John Culberson and Randy Neugebauer, all Republicans from Texas, and Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.). Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) became the first co-sponsor last month.

Via WorldNetDaily’s Andrea Shea King, who transcribes a stunning interview Posey gave her on her Internet radio show. Posey, who referred to the story as the “eligibility dilemma” and said King brought it to his attention, outright accused the president of hiding something: “The only people that I know who are afraid to take drug tests are the people who use drugs.” He also admitted speaking with “high-ranking members of our judiciary committee” about the chances of Obama “being removed from office,” but said there was “zero chance” of success there.

I sound like a broken record, but it's worth repeating: The GOP Plan Is To Destroy Obama. If the media and the GOP can bamboozle millions of Americans into thinking Saddam Hussein caused 9/11, they are counting on the same ignorance, racism, and hatred to delegitimize and dehumanize the current occupant of the White House.

He's not a real American. The onus is on him to prove he's one of us, say the Birthers. They will not stop until he is destroyed, politically, figuratively, or literally.

Behind everyone asking if our President is even a citizen, is a dark force asking "Will anyone rid us of this meddlesome Obama?" People are listening to that shrill dog whistle, people like Orly Taitz.

There’s a term some use for people like Taitz, and she doesn’t like it. It’s “birther”—or, if you want to be really mean, “birfer.” (The controversy was born on the Internet, so naturally the Internet gave it a goofy name.) While rumors about Obama’s background and citizenship simmered throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, after Election Day, those rumors coalesced into a near-religion for a group of true believers. To Taitz and the unknown number of people who agree with her, Barack Obama isn’t president and probably wasn’t even born in the U.S. Taitz, a Laguna Niguel dentist with a law degree from an online academy, has been awarded a few creative variations on the birther term: “The Queen Bee of Birferstan” is probably the best.

“That’s demeaning,” Taitz says. “I don’t call anybody names.”

This isn’t quite true. She calls Obama a “usurper” and an “arrogant jerk from Africa and Indonesia.” She called a judge an “idiot.” And she calls anyone who stands in her way an “Obama thug.” Taitz has built a sizable following on her blog; in the comments for each post at, you can read a few more names for people whom Taitz doesn’t like: “traitors,” “Muslims,” “terrorists.”

The destruction of our President has become a cottage industry on the extreme right, the same folks who think that abortion doctors and Holocaust Museum security guards are fair game in a shooting war. Look at Scott Roeder. Look at James Von Brunn. Ask yourself why your elected Representatives in Congress are wasting America's time with this nonsense. There's a sick plan at work here. The Birthers are working to dehumanize and destroy Barack Obama, just like white supremacists and holocaust deniers have to African-Americans and Jews.

To millions of Americans, and to some of our own elected national officials, the President of the United States of America is The Enemy. If you create a climate of mistrust and hatred vile enough, somebody will step into American history's most infamous club.

And now, we have Republicans in the House joining these people in their crusade.

Think about that.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Once again, I cannot get over the conclusion that Republicans/Wingnuts/neocons really, really, really want a bloody Iranian crackdown. It's war porn for them. They get off on this stuff. They want another war, and they want Obama to take a position that assures it will happen. Obama has already said that the violence against the dissenting protesters is wrong and disturbing, but until he goes on teevee and announces Ahmedinejad is Cyborg Hitler On A Velociraptor, it won't slake their bloodlust.

And let's be honest here: these guys want war with Iran. Period. They want Israel and the U.S. to bomb the crap out of these guys. no matter what happens, we're going to hear for the rest of Obama's term how his failure to bomb Iran and kill hundreds of thousands directly caused the failure of Magical Democracy Power in Tehran. If Mousavi does end up taking over, they'll demand that he proves to the world that he's not hiding a nuclear program, and that if he doesn't do everything we want, we flatten the guy and all his buddies.

Most of all, they want Obama to be the force to precipitate a war with Iran here, so that they can simultaneously blame him for setting the Iranians off, blame him for not supporting the protesters earlier, and blame him for not sending in Giant Dr. Manhattan to stop it.

Unreasonable Doubt

I almost missed this in all the Iran and Obamacare news. The Supreme Court yesterday in a 5-4 ruling sent down a devastating ruling stating that prisoners have no right to DNA evidence that may prove them innocent.
Prisoners have no constitutional right to DNA testing that might prove their innocence, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a 5-to-4 decision.

The court divided along familiar ideological lines, with the majority emphasizing that 46 states already have laws that allow at least some prisoners to gain access to DNA evidence.

“To suddenly constitutionalize this area,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority, “would short-circuit what looks to be a prompt and considered legislative response.”

The case before the court concerned Alaska, which has no DNA testing law. Prosecutors there have conceded that such testing could categorically establish the guilt or innocence of William G. Osborne, who was convicted in 1994 of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a prostitute in Anchorage.

In a dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said the Constitution’s due process clause required allowing Mr. Osborne to have access to DNA evidence in his case.

“For reasons the state has been unable or unwilling to articulate,” Justice Stevens wrote, “it refuses to allow Osborne to test the evidence at his own expense and to thereby ascertain the truth once and for all.”
The Roberts court rolls on. More than anything else George W. Bush did over the last eight years, his appointment of John Roberts and Samuel Alito will cause lasting damage for generations. But here's the best part:
States would incur significant costs, Justice Alito added, were prisoners “given a never-before-recognized constitutional right to rummage through the state’s genetic-evidence locker.” And even the most sophisticated DNA testing, he said, “often fails to provide absolute proof of anything.
And yet, people are convicted on it...and exonerated on it. We can't have people demanding DNA evidence of crimes, it'll cost too much.

We'll just spend the money incarcerating them for decades instead. That's much cheaper!

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Digby asks:
I've been skimming some comment sections around the wingnutosphere on the health care debate and I'm noticing a lot of talk about how illegal aliens are causing the health care crisis and the best way to fix it is to deport them all. Is this just some kind of conventional wisdom or is it a talk radio campaign?
The two biggest threats in the Wingnut lizard brain to the GOP are "Obama passes Obamacare" and "Obama passes shamnesty for illegals." This will get Obama and the Democrats millions of votes in the future, especially since the GOP is busy demonizing Hispanic-Americans and anyone who ever got sick, leading to a permanent Democratic majority.

They wake in a cold sweat at 2:35 AM over this.

Anything that demonizes Obamacare and immigrants at the same time? They will cling to that like poop to a wool blanket.

See GOP Plan, The.

Deeds, Not Words

You'll excuse me if I laugh out loud at this proclimation from the FDIC's Sheila Bair.
Ending the idea that large financial institutions are “too big to fail” is a top priority under the Obama administration’s regulatory reform proposal, said Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Clearly, there has been moral hazard and lack of market discipline fed by the 'too big to fail' doctrine, and this in turn has been fed by the lack of resolution mechanism that really works for very large financial organizations and this has been a central focus of ours,” Bair said in an interview on CNBC.

President Barack Obama's sweeping plan to reform financial regulation, which was unveiled on Wednesday, included a proposal to make the FDIC the resolution authority responsible for unwinding troubled financial firms.

Well then, why the hell are you giving these banks trillions of dollars that they'll never pay back, guys? You do realize the only way to end "too big to fail" is to break up the banks that are too big to fail, yes?

Start swinging that axe then. Otherwise, you have nothing I want to hear, madam.

Blue Dog Days Of Summer

Tennessee Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper says we really should just go along with the Daschle plan for health care reform, abandon the public plan, and avoid a reconciliation fight, the argument is reconciliation in the Senate will get us a bad reform plan, or one subject to sunset rules that will be used to kill the program when Republicans eventually get back in power.

Reconciliation is just what the trillion dollars of vested interests who want to kill health care reform are hoping for. That's because they know something that few people in Washington have figured out: the Senate's very restrictive reconciliation rules will prevent a true health care reform bill from passing.

Has anyone here actually looked at the reconciliation process and the Byrd rule? Every committee would have to report a bill that reduced the deficit by $1 billion in five years. It would have to be deficit-neutral each year after that. It couldn't include "extraneous" material -- like all the vitally important changes to our health care delivery system. Or, if we couldn't find the savings, our grand health care reform achievement would have to sunset.

In short, health care reform under reconciliation wouldn't be health care reform at all. It would be a deficit reduction bill relating to health care. Or a reform package with an expiration date.

And hey, you know me, I think deficit reduction is great. But this is about passing a robust health care reform bill. One that provides every American with low-cost, high-quality health insurance. One that focuses on prevention. One that keeps people healthy. One that gives them choices. One that modernizes our delivery system. And one that lowers cost. After all, the out-of-control cost of health care is bankrupting the American people.

Something major happened yesterday. Democrats and Republicans, working together, unveiled a bipartisan comprehensive health care reform plan. Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and Howard Baker did what Congress is failing to do. They met all of President Obama's goals, and they fully financed their proposal.

Here's the problem: Jim Cooper (and the entire Blue Dog caucus for that matter) is more worried about being bipartisan and reducing the deficit than he is having actual health care reform, and once again there's no mention of a public option.

With no public option, the health care industry wins. There will be no reform whatsoever. The Blue Dogs are trying to argue that 76% of America is wrong and that it'll never pass.

Which is exactly what they want. It won't be Republicans that kill health care reform. It's spineless Democrats like Jim Cooper. Needless to say, the Wingers are backing the Blue Dogs all the way on this.

And it's looking more and more like the Blue Dogs are going to win.

Keep that in mind in 2010.

My God, His Hair Sweater Can Deflect Bullets

This guy here?

This guy is Ohio's current Lt. Governor, Lee Fisher. He's currently running as a Democrat for Senator to fill Republican Sen. George Voinovich's seat when Voinovich retires. The person running against him in the Democratic primary in 2010 is current Ohio Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner.

I'm thinking (unable to think, stunned for 1d4 rounds after failing my will save) that Jennifer Brunner should, you know, win that primary next year.

Just saying.

Meddlesome Americans

Krauthammer and the neocons continue to complain that Obama hasn't backed the revolution enough in Iran.
Moreover, this incipient revolution is no longer about the election. Obama totally misses the point. The election allowed the political space and provided the spark for the eruption of anti-regime fervor that has been simmering for years and awaiting its moment. But people aren't dying in the street because they want a recount of hanging chads in suburban Isfahan. They want to bring down the tyrannical, misogynist, corrupt theocracy that has imposed itself with the very baton-wielding goons that today attack the demonstrators.

This started out about election fraud. But like all revolutions, it has far outgrown its origins. What's at stake now is the very legitimacy of this regime -- and the future of the entire Middle East.

This revolution will end either as a Tiananmen (a hot Tiananmen with massive and bloody repression or a cold Tiananmen with a finer mix of brutality and co-optation) or as a true revolution that brings down the Islamic Republic.

The latter is improbable but, for the first time in 30 years, not impossible. Imagine the repercussions. It would mark a decisive blow to Islamist radicalism, of which Iran today is not just standard-bearer and model, but financier and arms supplier. It would do to Islamism what the collapse of the Soviet Union did to communism -- leave it forever spent and discredited.

What the neocons don't understand is the basic history of American meddling in Iran which led to the mullahs taking over in the first place. We most certainly backed the revolution in 1953, in which we installed Shah Pahlavi up until the Iranian revolution of 1979 removed him.
The report chronicled gruesome details of the events in 1953: how, by spending a meager sum of $1 million, the CIA "stirred up considerable unrest in Iran, giving Iranians a clear choice between instability and supporting the shah"; how it brought "the largest mobs" into the street; how it "began disseminating 'gray propaganda' passing out anti-Mossadegh cartoons in the streets and planting unflattering articles in local press"; how the CIA's "Iranian operatives pretending to be Communists threatened Muslim leaders with 'savage punishment if they opposed Mossadegh'"; how the "house of at least one prominent Muslim was bombed by CIA agents posing as Communists"; how the CIA tried to "orchestrate a call for a holy war against Communism"; how on August 19 "a journalist who was one of the agency's most important Iranian agents led a crowd toward Parliament, inciting people to set fire to the offices of a newspaper owned by Dr. Mossadegh's foreign minister"; how American agents swung "security forces to the side of the demonstrators"; how the shah's disbanded "Imperial Guard seized trucks and drove through the street"; how by "10:15 there were pro-shah truckloads of military personnel at all main squares"; how the "pro-shah speakers went on the air, broadcasting the coups' success and reading royal decrees"; how at the US embassy, "CIA officers were elated, and Mr. Roosevelt got General Zahedi out of hiding" and found him a tank that "drove him to the radio station, where he spoke to the nation"; and, finally, how "Dr. Mossadegh and other government officials were rounded up, while officers supporting General Zahedi placed 'unknown supports of TP-Ajax' in command of all units of Tehran garrison."
What the neocons still don't get (and this goes for liberal hawks too, Biden and Hillary's inner Rumsfeld is showing) is that America's popularity in Iran is totally shot after 8 years of Bush, and would still be shot even without Bush thanks to nearly 60 years of bad blood. They don't trust us, precisely because when we meddled in Iran in the past we traded one dictator for another, then that dictator was removed in bloody chaos. Sound familiar? Ask the Iraqis.

Obama's current plan is just what the situation calls for. Should the crackdown come, what then? Do we invade Iran? How would Obama going on world TV and giving his best Cowboy Up Bush speech prevent a bloody crackdown right now?

The Iranian regime falls after a bloody revolution? Then what? What replaces it? If there is "another Tiananmen" then exactly what are we supposed to do about it, send in Giant Dr. Manhattan?

Why is the neocon plan always:

Step 1) Regime change!
Step 2) ????
Step 3) Profit!

That era is over, folks. The adults are now in charge and the teenagers are bitching and moaning that the President just isn't listening to them. There's a reason for that.

[UPDATE] Paul Wolfowitz is telling Obama he needs to back to protesters too. What goes for Krauthammer goes triple for that asshole.

[UPDATE 2] TNR's Michael Crowley:

For more than a year conservatives have ridiculed the alleged belief that Obama's special rhetorical powers can do anything, including parting the waters. Now they're all clamoring for him to change the course of Iranian history by leveraging what Paul Wolfowitz calls "his enormous political prestige." In other words, by giving a fancy speech.
Reagan would have gone to the Muslim world and made a stirring speech about freedom!

...wait, what do you mean Obama did that already and the neocons hated it?


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