Friday, July 17, 2009

Last Call

Obama's Wednesday night prime time presser isn't much of a news event in an of itself, but the fact it was announced first via the official White House Twitter account does qualify as notable.
If you were a so-called "follower" of the Obama administration on Twitter, here's the message you would have gotten from the White House tweeter, dubbed quite simply "Tweetie", last hour:

whitehouse: You heard it here first: Primetime presidential news conference at the White House, Wed. 7/22 @ 9PM EDT

It's just the latest sign of an administration primed and ready to take advantage of every opportunity to connect with the public --
How nice of NBC's First Read to be so gracious!
...and to circumvent traditional media.
...or not.
Obama was a different kind of candidate -- not just because he was young and not just because he was a biracial Hawaiian, who spent part of his youth in Indonesia, admitted to using drugs in his youth and could toss a Jay-Z reference ("brush ya shoulders off") into a campaign speech with ease.

One of the most important things that set Obama's candidacy apart from all the others and that helped him break fundraising records, turn red states blue and ultimately, win the nation's highest office was his use of the Internet. His campaign harnessed the Web to mobilize, to organize, to make his supporters feel empowered and informed and a part of something. And he used it to raise small amounts of money from those uber-engaged fans. Twitter is just the latest incarnation of that effort to reach out and connect.
Well, okay, that's actually pretty fair of you...
As of 5:15 pm Friday, some 714,125 people were following the White House on Twitter. (Note: The White House has just 284,933 "fans" on Facebook. And John McCain has passed a million followers on Twitters.)
That tap tap of typing fingers you hear is the sound of thousands more people rushing to join, among them the journalists from old media -- and new -- who must now follow yet another "news" source.
...but the Village is not bitter about it!

"After all, John McCain's tweets are delightful and whimsical little slivers of bonhomie, 140 characters or less of donuts and barbecue and a predilection for bombing foreign countries. White House tweets are, dude. We don't want to have to pay attention to tweets as a possible actual journalistic outlet of information, you know. That takes all the fun out of it."

Now taking bets on just how fast the Village hit story on Twitter not being cool anymore pops up. Also taking bets on which technologically impaired Republican mocks the White House Twitter account with spelling that would make your average 12-year-old go "What the hell are they trying to say?" Also taking bets on if FOX is actually going to bother covering Wednesday night's presser or if they're just going to dump it off on FOX News again.

[UPDATE 11:55 PM] Greg Sargent notes that ABC's Political Punch crew is also joining in on the concern trolling on behalf of the Steno Pool.
Julie Mason, Washington Examiner reporter and at-large White House Correspondents' Association board member-elect, says the announcing a major news event via the niche-medium bothers her.

"If the administration wants to have a twitter conference, then Twitter is the way to go. For a press conference? Notify the press," Mason said.

UPDATE: Exactly two hours after the @whitehouse twitter post, the White House sent out an official email announcing the press conference to the White House Press Corps.

Why, one might actually think the White House did that on purpose. One might even think the White House has a bit of a problem with the Village.

Wonder why that would be.

And That's The Way It Is

Walter Cronkite, a news legend who inspired and influenced three generations of journalists (and at least one former mass comm major who ended up a fifth-string political blogger) has passed away at the age of 92.
News sources reported shortly after 8 pm on Friday that legendary television anchorman Walter Cronkite had died at the age of 92.

CBS correspondent emeritus Mike Wallace issued a statement saying. simply, “We were proud to work with him — for him — we loved him.”

“It is impossible to imagine CBS News, journalism or indeed America without Walter Cronkite,” Sean McManus, the president of CBS News, stated. “More than just the best and most trusted anchor in history, he guided America through our crises, tragedies and also our victories and greatest moments.”

Cronkite became gravely ill a month ago, but his executive assistant insisted at the time that reports of his illness had been “grossly exaggerated” and that he was recovering at home. A week later, however, members of his family acknowledged that Cronkhite, who had been suffering for years from cerebrovascular disease, was “not expected to recuperate” and was close to death.

It's hard to overstate the impact the man had on journalism, from his days as a war reporter in WWII through the iconic, chaotic events of the 60's into the Vietnam War and Oil Crisis of the 70's, Walter Cronkite was the man America got their news from for decades.

Some of my earliest news memories were of Cronkite covering the Iran Hostage Crisis when I was 5, updating the total of days that Americans were held there, and asking Zandardad where Iran was. Pops introduced me to a Encyclopedia Britannica world atlas, and showed me all the far-away places on the planet, so very distant from my sleepy little western North Carolina hometown.

Nowadays, well, we have blogs and iPhones and broadband internet and real-time tweet updates. Information, the last great commodity, is no longer controlled by the few and yet control over that information is far more coveted and desired. Telling the good information from the bad it seems is a full time job, even for fifth-string political bloggers who still entertain the silly idea of being a pale fraction of a man like Walter Cronkite.

We're all news consumers these days, instead of people who tuned in to see the way the world was every night for a good twenty years. A great man has passed, the world a little darker for it. Find your own light to counter it. Ask questions about your "news".

Be an informed, discriminating news consumer. Go check out some of those sidebar links in the blogroll, ones you haven't been to before. Learn something.

Then question it.

Helpful Advice For Republicans On Twitter

Once again:
Obama speech on healthCareReform Absolutely nothing new Waste of time saying we are going to get that done Baucus and I know that But doRITE
For our Republican friends in the audience, please remember that when you post stuff on the internet, people other than Republicans can see it.

Also, should anyone here work for Twitter and be a Republican supporter, please disable all the Congressional GOP Twitter accounts for the party's own protection.

Thank you.

A Glass Half Full Kind Of Guy

Steve Benen notes that after the Village Centrists crapped all over Obamacare this afternoon, the President is keeping a smile on his face and projecting confidence.

He noted, for example, the "unprecedented progress" we've seen thus far. That's a fair point -- we've never been this close to achieving the reform Americans have been waiting for over the last several decades. Obama also emphasized that reform can and will be deficit-neutral, and that reform isn't really an option with an untenable status quo.

"I realize that the last few miles of any race are the hardest to run," the president said. But, perhaps referencing the unfounded fears of the six "centrist" senators who want to bring the process to a halt, Obama added, "Now is not the time to slow down. And now is certainly not the time to lose heart."

The president went on to say, "[T]hose who are betting against this happening this year are badly mistaken. We are going to get this done. We will reform health care. It will happen -- this year. I am absolutely convinced of that."

Well, that makes one of us.

Yeah, after the last 24 hours, I can see why there would be serious doubts. The last guy in this job tended to suffer from delusions of adequacy.

Still, he is the President. He has staked all his political capital on getting a real health care reform plan through. He faces daunting odds...then again, he's faced worse odds back on the road to the White House, too.

Not going to count him out completely yet on health care.

Shocking, I Tell You

I never would have possibly hazarded a guess that my own Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican Minority Leader, would in fact put out a press release the day after the Sotomayor hearings to say that he cannot in good conscience vote for her confirmation and make a huge production number out of it.
A senior aide today told the Associated Press that McConnell plans to announce his opposition to her confirmation on Monday.

McConnell’s aide reportedly said that Sotomayor’s “statements show an alarming lack of respect for the notion of equal justice, and that he’s worried she’d let her sympathies and prejudices interfere with her decisions as a justice.”

Update: McConnell has sent out a statement including excerpts of his remarks he’ll deliver about Sotomayor on Monday. Here’s one:

Judge Sotomayor’s record of written statements suggest an alarming lack of respect for the notion of equal justice, and therefore, in my view, an insufficient willingness to abide by the judicial oath. This is particularly important when considering someone for the Supreme Court since, if she were confirmed, there would be no higher court to deter or prevent her from injecting into the law the various disconcerting principles that recur throughout her public statements. For that reason, I will oppose her nomination.

The rest of his remarks are here.

Hell, I figured he would put the press release out before her hearings. Apparently Republicans are pleading they need several months to carefully decide on the fate of health care reform when presented with draft legislation, but it only takes about 24 hours to decide you hate an Obama Supreme Court nominee. Not like that decision will have long lasting repercussions or anything that requires careful deliberation.

How does that work, exactly?

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Is CNN really, really doing a serious article on people who believe the Apollo 11 moon landings were faked for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission?
It captivated millions of people around the world for eight days in the summer of 1969. It brought glory to the embattled U.S. space program and inspired beliefs that anything was possible.

It's arguably the greatest technological feat of the 20th century.

And to some, it was all a lie.

Jesus, and you wonder why the Birther stupidity won't die.

C'mon. Even the Mythbusters killed this one.

Science! It works, bitches.

What Can You Do For Brown?

Mike Allen of Politico drops a nuke on the Village conservatives, and ships it via FedEx.
The American Conservative Union asked FedEx for a check for $2 million to $3 million in return for the group’s support in a bitter legislative dispute, then the group’s chairman flipped and sided with UPS after FedEx refused to pay.

For the $2 million plus, ACU offered a range of services that included: “Producing op-eds and articles written by ACU’s Chairman David Keene and/or other members of the ACU’s board of directors. (Note that Mr. Keene writes a weekly column that appears in The Hill.)”

The conservative group’s remarkable demand — black-and-white proof of the longtime Washington practice known as “pay for play” — was contained in a private letter to FedEx , which was provided to POLITICO.

The letter exposes the practice by some political interest groups of taking stands not for reasons of pure principle, as their members and supporters might assume, but also in part because a sponsor is paying big money.

In the three-page letter asking for money on June 30, the conservative group backed FedEx. After FedEx says it rejected the offer, Keene signed onto a two-page July 15 letter backing UPS. Keene did not return a message left on his cell phone.

Maury Lane, FedEx’s director of corporate communications, said: “Clearly, the ACU shopped their beliefs and UPS bought.”

Are you kidding me? The Village is built on think tanks charging "consulting fees" and media outlet influence peddling and pay for play deals like this. It has been for decades. Mike Allen just caught a cockroach under a glass when he turned on the lights. It's the other couple thousand roaches that are still hiding in the walls we should worry about.

Still, my opinion of Politico has gone up a couple notches from "Village's Internet outpost for Obama hit pieces" to "The conservative version of HuffPo" which isn't all that bad. Double kudos to FedEx for telling the ACU to go to hell. Still, the real question is how many other think tank groups out there are playing this game, liberal, conservative, glibertarian, or what have you. The Village is the Village, and despite the groups like ACU being the ones selling the influence, they then turn to the Villagers to get out their message, and the Villagers are the ones who comply. One has to wonder how deep this rabbit hole goes. Ask yourself that next time when that op-ed from the think tank fellow pops up in your news feed.

In the meantime, what can I do for brown? Not use them, apparently. I'll be delivering my own message...with my wallet.

Birther Of A Nation

David Weigel at the Washington Independent has an excellent article documenting the most recent insanity of the Birther movement. It's getting bigger, and it's getting worse:(emphasis mine):
The urban legend has become too pervasive for Republicans to avoid. In February, Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) introduced a much-mocked bill that would require presidential campaigns to provide “a copy of the candidate’s birth certificate.” While Posey initially said that he disbelieved conspiracy theories about the president’s birth, he told the host of an Internet radio show that he’d discussed the possibility of Obama being removed from office over “the eligibility issue” with “high-ranking members of our Judiciary Committee.” As of July 15, nine fellow Republican members of Congress were backing the bill. While Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) has said that he supports the bill because he didn’t know whether Obama was a citizen, other sponsors say that they weighed in to pour cold water on the conspiracy theories.

“It’s a good idea,” said John Donnelly, a spokesman for Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who became one of the bill’s co-sponsors this month. “If candidates provided that information to the Federal Election Commission you wouldn’t have all this hullaballoo. You don’t want to needlessly expose presidents to crazy conspiracy theories.

Are you kidding me? Republicans have signed onto a crazy conspiracy theory to protect the President from...crazy conspiracy theories? You might as well sponsor a bill to have candidates for federal office sign a pledge that they have never beaten their spouses, or never smoked a joint, or never murdered anyone.

What has always bothered me the most about this birther stupidity is how transparently racist it is as a ploy to get Obama disqualified as President. This brings me back to the Five D's theory of what wingers like to do to their opponents:

  • Declare the criteria you don't like about Group X that makes them different.
  • Divide the people into Us Versus Them.
  • Demonize the other group as the Enemy.
  • Dehumanize them by classifying their actions as something horrific.
  • Destroy them with the people cheering you on.
The birther movement represents a coordinated effort to single out our nation's first African-American president for the honor of this treatment, and it's being done by people who despise the idea of a black man in the White House so much that they have lost the ability to produce rational thoughts. It's some sort of mass hysteria, a snapping point that has led to an inability to deal with the truth of where America is in 2009.

Ahh, but it gets worse.
At the state level, “birther” conspiracy theorists have made headway in getting Republican lawmakers interested in legislation like Posey’s. At least four Republican members of Missouri’s state legislature have looked into introducing a similar bill. State Sen. Randy Brogdon (R-Okla.) who is running for governor of Oklahoma in 2010, said that he’d co-sponsor birth certificate legislation if it made it out of the state senate and would “definitely” sign the bill if he won the governorship.

“You bet I’d sign it,” said Brodgon. “I know I’d have no problem showing my birth certificate.”

The Republicans who appear to be willing to listen to “birthers,” even to debunk them, have to walk a tightrope. In April, freshman Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) held a town hall meeting at her old high school in Cheyenne, Wyo., and got a question about the president’s citizenship. Lummis challenged the skeptic to “please send” evidence that the president was not a natural-born citizen. “I’m not questioning your concern,” Lummis said. “I am questioning whether there is credible evidence.” In early July, a small group of “birthers” walked the halls of Congress handing “grand jury presentments” over to the confused front desk assistants of members of Congress; the activists rushed online to report the latest member who had been “handed” the information. After “birthers” provided some of their papers to Michael Schwartz, the chief of staff to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), they rushed online to report that Schwartz had been won over to the cause and was about to get in touch with Orly Taitz, a California lawyer who has filed several unsuccessful challenges to the president’s citizenship.

“It is possible to mistake politeness for agreement,” Schwartz told TWI, “and I make every effort to be polite.” He did have a “brief conversation with Dr. Taitz,” but challenged the way online “birthers” had hyped their contact with Coburn’s office. “An observer would not report it quite like this,” said Schwartz.

I've already mentioned Orly Taitz, Queen of the Birthers before. The woman's madness is a thing of exquisite and frightening beauty, like the play of sunlight off the custom paint job on a $200,000 sportscar bearing down on you with a raging drunk behind the wheel.

She's friggin' nuts. She's also represents the endemic problem with the GOP: they just can't quit her or the millions of slavering GOP zerglings she represents.

Taitz’s lawsuits and the pressure of conservative talkers like Limbaugh have made it increasingly difficult for Republicans to avoid the “birthers.” On June 16, after Limbaugh joked about the president’s citizenship, WorldNetDaily editor-in-chief Joseph Farah appeared on the Web-based Recharge Radio to thank the host for spreading the “birther” message. “What that did is beyond Rush’s impact,” said Farah. “It also gives other talk show hosts license to talk about this issue … Rush is kind of the standard of talk show hosts. A lot of people emulate what he does. He crossed the Rubicon on that show, and I’m very proud of him for doing it.”

Farah’s instincts have been borne out by conservative media. This week, Taitz represented Maj. Stefan F. Cook, a reservist who volunteered for duty in Afghanistan, then demanded to be released from the commitment unless the president proved that he was a U.S. citizen. “I did not volunteer with the intent of becoming a conscientious objector,” Cook told TWI in an email. On Wednesday Cook’s deployment was cancelled, and a spokesman for Centcom took issue with Taitz’s claim, made in a WorldNetDaily story, that this decision verified conspiracy theories about the president’s birth. Later that night, Sean Hannity cited the story on his Fox News show and used Taitz’s version of the facts, not Centcom’s.

“Major Cook and his lawyer expressed joy at this outcome,” said Hannity. “And they took it as an admission on the part of the military that the president is not in fact a legitimate citizen by birth.”

And that lawsuit was tossed this morning by the way. But as I've said, this keeps getting worse. The effort to demonize and dehumanize Obama is gaining steam, exposure, and power. This is not something to ignore in the hopes it will go away. It's an effort to play up the worst fears and most base racial prejudices that America suffers from socially, all in an effort to focus on one man as The Enemy.

When, I wonder, will somebody decide to take it to the destroy stage? When will somebody take this call of "Will nobody rid me of this troublesome President?" and take it seriously? How will the GOP ever recover should anything horrific indeed come to pass? You would think they would be the first to squash this kind of behavior. But all they do is encourage it. They find it useful. It's not just playing with fire, it's playing with fire in a thermite factory next to an orphanage and a kitten farm.

Worst job in America? Obama's Secret Service detail. Those men and women deserve a round in any bar in the planet should nothing blessedly happen to the man. Pray I'm wrong. Pray this stupidity dies out, and America says "enough of this crap."

I don't think it will until we get to the logical endpoint of this chaotic insanity.

Slam On The Brakes

Not only did Max Baucus's little deal last night fall through on a Senate agreement on Obamacare, the Senate Sensible Centrists are now telling Obama that his health care plan is not getting done on time...and implying that it's probably not getting done, period.
A bipartisan group of centrist and conservative senators sent a letter to the Democratic and Republican leaders on Friday urging delay in consideration of health care reform.

The letter, obtained by the Huffington Post, was drafted by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and is also signed by Democratic Reps. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.). Independent Joe Lieberman (Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats, signed on, as did Maine Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins -- moderates heavily courted by President Obama.

The organized effort to slow down the process is a blow to the reform effort. Obama has pushed hard for a final vote before the August recess, arguing that delaying until September could slow momentum and risk missing a historic opportunity.

The letter, sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stresses that while the senators still want health care reform done this year, they don't feel comfortable voting for it until they've had more time to study its costs and benefits.

First of all, "still getting it done this year" is code for "Oh, we're going to be too busy with the budget in September and then campaign season through 2010. So sorry about that." I warned last week that the Newsweek piece on Eric Holder's investigation was a warning: that the price of Obama not putting a leash on Eric Holder's possible investigation was going to be a fatal delay of Obamacare, and lo and behold, here we are having the Sensible Centrists say we're moving too fast, potentially scuttling the entire plan.

It's entirely possible that the usual suspects would have done this anyway, Holder's investigation or not. But it became painfully clear that Obama's failure to condemn Holder this week was tacit approval of allowing him to go forward, and surprise...Obamacare is now paying the price. Too much of a coincidence there if you ask me.

We come not to praise Caesar...

Redistribution Of The Truth

CNBC's Mark Koba lets us know what those Dirty F'ckin Hippies are up to this week.
Democrats in the House have rolled out an ambitious $1 trillion plan to fund healthcare reform that forces businesses and wealthier Americans to pick up the costs with higher taxes.

But while the House bill proposes revenues for healthcare, some analysts say the real goal could be to re-distribute income for an ailing economy.

"The tax increase will put the tax code to pre-Reagan days," says Chris Dolan, a professor of political science at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania.

"On the whole, what the bill is trying to do is move the tax code back some 33 years when it was higher," says Dolan. "It's tax increases under the guise of healthcare reform to help the economy."

Umm, hate to tell you this fellas, but...

...hasn't the income already been redistributed since the Reagan years to the tune of the wealthiest 1% of Americans now taking more than twice the share of the total wealth of the country since 1980? One would think the other 99% of us would be, you know, pissed off.

Just sayin'.

Well Gosh, We Know They Can Afford It

Tyler over at Zero Hedge is reporting the Wonder Twins, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase, are bailing out CIT Group.

Frist thing that went though my mind: the immortal words of Christopher Lloyd as Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, "You see, I bought the Red Car to dismantle it."

...CNBC has the story now.
CIT Group is in talks with JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs Group for short-term financing of $2 billion to $3 billion as the lender looks for ways to avoid a potential bankruptcy, a source close to the company told Reuters.

CIT is still in talks with bondholders for a debt-to-equity swap, the source said.

One potential scenario before CIT is also a sale of some assets to raise capital, the source said.

And speaking of reasons to hate Goldman Sachs...

Even Taibbi was impressed by teh haet.

State Of Disaster

The June state unemployment figures are out, and they're pretty damned scary. Michigan's unemployment rose to 15.2% in June. If we're going by that same roughly six point above the national average, that would put Michigan's U-6 at 22.5%, which is a hideous number. It's probably closer to 25% at this in five Michiganders, possibly as high as one in four, are unemployed, underemployed, or just out of the job market, and that's terrible, terrible news.

Four other states are above 12%, nine more and D.C. are above 10%, putting the U-6 numbers roughly somewhere from 17.5 to 20% for a healthy chunk of the country. Not good when that many people are out of a job.

It'll get worse, of course. We've got a lot of work to do, and the states need to stop screwing around on approving stimulus projects.

Epic Splitting The Difference On Card Check Win

The Employee Free Choice Act has been languishing for a couple months now, all but abandoned in the wake of the push for health care reform and climate change legislation. However, it looks like the bill has gone into the shop and has emerged anew...minus the card check part.

A half-dozen senators friendly to labor have decided to drop a central provision of a bill that would have made it easier to organize workers.

The so-called card-check provision — which senators decided to scrap to help secure a filibuster-proof 60 votes — would have required employers to recognize a union as soon as a majority of workers signed cards saying they wanted a union. Currently, employers can insist on a secret-ballot election, a higher hurdle for unions.

The abandonment of card check was another example of the power of moderate Democrats to constrain their party’s more liberal legislative efforts. Though the Democrats have a 60-40 vote advantage in the Senate, and President Obama supports the measure, several moderate Democrats opposed the card-check provision as undemocratic.

In its place, several Senate and labor officials said, the revised bill would require shorter unionization campaigns and faster elections.

While disappointed with the failure of card check, union leaders argued this would still be an important victory because it would give companies less time to press workers to vote against unionizing.

Some business leaders hailed the dropping of card check, while others called the move a partial triumph because the bill still contained provisions they oppose.

The card-check provision was so central to the legislation that it was known as “the card-check bill.” Labor had called the bill its No. 1 objective, and both labor and business deployed their largest, most expensive lobbying campaigns ever in the battle over it.
So, here's the question: without card check, is the bill even still worth passing (or would it be equivalent to health care reform with no public option?) Democrats are now claiming that the measure will be able to pass the Senate without card check in it, which is better than nothing. There are still positive union-building measure in the bill other than card check, but it was card check that made actually creating unions easier, as people could vote to form unions blindly without having to worry about being publicly targeted by managment for a pro-union vote.

Pro-management forces and Republicans locked onto the "secret ballot" process of card check as inherently undemocratic and borderline illegal, saying it violated basic principles of democracy. That's a ridiculous argument of course, but it became an easy out for the "Sensible Centrist" ConservaDem crowd to ditch the bill and still remain loyal to their corporate masters, which is exactly what happened. Arlen Specter, Blanche Lincoln, and Tim Kaine all folded on the bill and it became painfully clear Dems would never get the 60 votes needed to break a guaranteed filibuster.

But all of a sudden with this new card check-free card check bill, that easy out is no longer available. It has all the other union reforms that Democratic leaders and the President want in the bill, it just doesn't have card check in it. It was never card check that corporate America really opposed, it was the measures designed to make unions stronger and easier to form. Card check just became the talking point, the code name for "Boy are those unions corrupt and terrible and horrible!"

The anti-union folks put so much emphasis on card check as the issue that was preventing the EFCA from passing, that with card check removed, they don't have a real argument for opposing it now. The ConservaDems absolutely are without an escape hatch on this one. It remains to be seen how it will be reconciled with the House version (which does have card check in it) but by splitting the difference, the Republicans now have a lot more to lose here than the Democrats do. It's a pretty good piece of political jujitsu to get something rather than nothing, and I'm actually not surprised at all to see Chuck Schumer, Arlen Specter and Sherrod Brown in on this deal.

It bodes very well to see the new version of this bill to become law soon, much better than the all but permanent limbo it was in just a few months ago.

EPIC WIN. Well, potentially.

Equality Of Taxation

Matt Yglesias has a good point based on this:

When considering the alleged plight of the very rich groaning under the socialist yoke of Charlie Rangel’s tax proposals, it’s worth keeping in mind that the super-rich’s share of the overall income pie is been skyrocketing:


The reasons behind this trend are complicated. But one natural response to it would be to raise taxes on the very rich and use the tax revenue to finance public services. Under that scenario, everyone winds up better off than they were 25 years ago. Absent stepped-up taxation on the rich, changes in the structure of pre-tax income in the United States ensure that many—if not most—Americans see little actual gain from economic growth.

If you notice there, the wealthiest 10% of Americans account for roughly 50% of the country's entire income, and the wealthiest 1% account for just shy of 25% by themselves.

The point Yggy is trying to make here is that we kind of have to tax the wealthy. It's the only place we can really put new taxes, because that's really the only place where we've seen actual economic growth over the last ten years or so. That's just good fiscal policy, frankly. "A rising tide lifts all boats" but if you can't afford a boat in the first place, you just drown when the tide comes in. Yggy concludes:

This is worth noting because outside the health care context, many morally admirable policies such as liberal immigration laws and openness to trade have the impact of both boosting overall economic growth and also exacerbating domestic income inequality. They’re also very good for poor people in the third world who want to have jobs in which they do stuff in exchange for money. Responding to growing inequality with ramped-up taxation and ramped-up social services makes these kind of policies more sustainable and serves the general interests of mankind.
Also, let's face it, it's not like we can really tax the middle class too much more to begin with. Most of us are strapped. If you're going to have that kind of income inequality, then you're going to have to change your tax revenue picture too.

It's also very telling to see just how much Bush's tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afganistan contributed to the financial disaster we have today.

Moon Shot

Via Sadly, No! we learn Chuck Krauthammer wants Obama to spend money we don't have to go to the moon so we can claim all the good spots for building moonbases for our big moon lasers for totally showing space just who is the goddamn boss around here.

America's manned space program is in shambles. Fourteen months from today, for the first time since 1962, the United States will be incapable not just of sending a man to the moon but of sending anyone into Earth orbit. We'll be totally grounded. We'll have to beg a ride from the Russians or perhaps even the Chinese.

So what, you say? Don't we have problems here on Earth? Oh, please. Poverty and disease and social ills will always be with us. If we'd waited for them to be rectified before venturing out, we'd still be living in caves.

Yes, we have a financial crisis. No one's asking for a crash Manhattan Project. All we need is sufficient funding from the hundreds of billions being showered from Washington -- "stimulus" monies that, unlike Eisenhower's interstate highway system or Kennedy's Apollo program, will leave behind not a trace on our country or our consciousness -- to build Constellation and get us back to Earth orbit and the moon a half-century after the original landing.

And while I agree that we do need a space program, let's be intellectually honest about the whole "America's military dominion over space" thing here, Chuck. Honesty is lot better than this blather:

Why do it? It's not for practicality. We didn't go to the moon to spin off cooling suits and freeze-dried fruit. Any technological return is a bonus, not a reason. We go for the wonder and glory of it. Or, to put it less grandly, for its immense possibilities. We choose to do such things, said JFK, "not because they are easy, but because they are hard." And when you do such magnificently hard things -- send sailing a Ferdinand Magellan or a Neil Armstrong -- you open new human possibility in ways utterly unpredictable.

The greatest example? Who could have predicted that the moon voyages would create the most potent impetus to -- and symbol of -- environmental consciousness here on Earth: Earthrise, the now iconic Blue Planet photograph brought back by Apollo 8?

Please. Just admit you want to leverage the moon's military applications towards kicking China's and Russia's ass, just like everything else the neocons want to leverage all our resources towards, and be done with it. That's what this is really all about, Fricking Huge Moon Lasers manned by WOLVEREEEEEEENS.


A Preview Of Obama's Education Policy

Here are some highlights of Obama's keynote speech in front of the NAACP's 100th anniversary convention last night. The world needs to see a lot more of this passionate Obama.

Going back over the transcript of Obama's NAACP speech from last night, I was taken however at the central theme of his speech. He did mention race of course, but it really wasn't the central theme of what he was talking about. He did mention the economy, health care, and climate change. But by far he spent the most time and made the most passionate case yet for improving on the third leg of his domestic agenda, education:
You know what I'm talking about. There's a reason the story of the civil rights movement was written in our schools. There's a reason Thurgood Marshall took up the cause of Linda Brown. There's a reason the Little Rock Nine defied a governor and a mob. It's because there is no stronger weapon against inequality and no better path to opportunity than an education that can unlock a child's God-given potential.

Yet, more than a half century after Brown v. Board of Education, the dream of a world-class education is still being deferred all across this country. African-American students are lagging behind white classmates in reading and math - an achievement gap that is growing in states that once led the way on civil rights. Over half of all African-American students are dropping out of school in some places. There are overcrowded classrooms, crumbling schools, and corridors of shame in America filled with poor children - black, brown, and white alike.

The state of our schools is not an African-American problem; it's an American problem. And if Al Sharpton, Mike Bloomberg, and Newt Gingrich can agree that we need to solve it, then all of us can agree on that. All of us can agree that we need to offer every child in this country the best education the world has to offer from the cradle through a career.

That is our responsibility as the United States of America. And we, all of us in government, are working to do our part by not only offering more resources, but demanding more reform.

When it comes to higher education, we are making college and advanced training more affordable, and strengthening community colleges that are a gateway to so many with an initiative that will prepare students not only to earn a degree but find a job when they graduate; an initiative that will help us meet the goal I have set of leading the world in college degrees by 2020.

We are creating a Race to the Top Fund that will reward states and public school districts that adopt 21st century standards and assessments. And we are creating incentives for states to promote excellent teachers and replace bad ones - because the job of a teacher is too important for us to accept anything but the best.

We should also explore innovative approaches being pursued here in New York City; innovations like Bard High School Early College and Medgar Evers College Preparatory School that are challenging students to complete high school and earn a free associate's degree or college credit in just four years.

And we should raise the bar when it comes to early learning programs. Today, some early learning programs are excellent. Some are mediocre. And some are wasting what studies show are - by far - a child's most formative years.

That's why I have issued a challenge to America's governors: if you match the success of states like Pennsylvania and develop an effective model for early learning; if you focus reform on standards and results in early learning programs; if you demonstrate how you will prepare the lowest income children to meet the highest standards of success - you can compete for an Early Learning Challenge Grant that will help prepare all our children to enter kindergarten ready to learn.

So, these are some of the laws we are passing. These are some of the policies we are enacting. These are some of the ways we are doing our part in government to overcome the inequities, injustices, and barriers that exist in our country.

But all these innovative programs and expanded opportunities will not, in and of themselves, make a difference if each of us, as parents and as community leaders, fail to do our part by encouraging excellence in our children. Government programs alone won't get our children to the Promised Land. We need a new mindset, a new set of attitudes - because one of the most durable and destructive legacies of discrimination is the way that we have internalized a sense of limitation; how so many in our community have come to expect so little of ourselves.

We have to say to our children, Yes, if you're African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that someone in a wealthy suburb does not. But that's not a reason to get bad grades, that's not a reason to cut class, that's not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school. No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands - and don't you forget that.

To parents, we can't tell our kids to do well in school and fail to support them when they get home. For our kids to excel, we must accept our own responsibilities. That means putting away the Xbox and putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour. It means attending those parent-teacher conferences, reading to our kids, and helping them with their homework.

And it means we need to be there for our neighbor's son or daughter, and return to the day when we parents let each other know if we saw a child acting up. That's the meaning of community. That's how we can reclaim the strength, the determination, the hopefulness that helped us come as far as we already have.

It also means pushing our kids to set their sights higher. They might think they've got a pretty good jump shot or a pretty good flow, but our kids can't all aspire to be the next LeBron or Lil Wayne. I want them aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers. I want them aspiring to be a Supreme Court Justice. I want them aspiring to be President of the United States.

And frankly, this was the best speech I've seen him give as President (despite mentioning Lil Wayne, so many better rappers he could have mentioned there, damn!) He used to give speeches like this on the campaign trail (I remember his stump speech one cool October night in Cincy) and people believed in what he had to say because he so clearly did himself.

But the speech itself was the first time I can remember since becoming President that he has talked at length about the importance of education as a whole, and he sees it as the keystone to the bridge over the gap of inequality, injustice, ignorance, and poverty. He's right, of course. Education is the single biggest factor in overall success and the great equalizer in the universe. But it's the policies I noticed the most, leading the world in college degrees by 2020, the Race to the Top program, Pennsylvania's early childhood development program (something Zandardad could tell you all about, I should have him guest post on ECD programs one of these days) and the Learning Challenge Grants program. Personally, I'd like to see our multitasking President give us more details on these programs, especially on the 2020 college degree initiative.

I can see why he would be giving his education agenda short shrift right now with health care reform and climate change bills on the front burner, but I honestly think the President can earn skeptics back by pushing education, something a lot of people do agree that the government should be providing (Yes, I know, my home schooling readers are now yelling at the monitor but we both agree that education is the most important thing we can do for children, yes?)

The point is, seeing Obama so passionate about a subject near a dear to many of us is a good thing, and one I believe will benefit the President and the country. It was good to see this side of Obama and good to see him talk about other things besides just health care reform and the economy.

More of that multitasking, please...and let's see more of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, too.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Are Susan Roesgan's comments on the teabaggery back in April (calling the tea parties "anti-CNN since this is highly promoted by the right-wing, conservative network Fox") the only possible reason CNN decided not to renew her contract?

Whole lot of folks on the right seem to think so. It might have been unprofessional to actually speak truth to power like that, but are we really disputing that FOX really is a right-wing, conservative network and that it did promote the tea parties nationally, going so far as to send several of its network personalities to various events on April 15th? Perhaps we should apply the same journalistic integrity standards to, say, FOX morning host Brian Kilmeade's recent antics.

Just saying, guys.

Kroog Versus Goldman Sachs

Paul Krugman may be somewhat more polite than Matt Taibbi when it comes to, well, everything, but the two men pull few punches when it comes to Goldman Sachs's record-breaking $3.44 billion quarterly profits, how they got that much money, and what the company plans to do with it.
The American economy remains in dire straits, with one worker in six unemployed or underemployed. Yet Goldman Sachs just reported record quarterly profits — and it’s preparing to hand out huge bonuses, comparable to what it was paying before the crisis. What does this contrast tell us?

First, it tells us that Goldman is very good at what it does. Unfortunately, what it does is bad for America.

Second, it shows that Wall Street’s bad habits — above all, the system of compensation that helped cause the financial crisis — have not gone away.

Third, it shows that by rescuing the financial system without reforming it, Washington has done nothing to protect us from a new crisis, and, in fact, has made another crisis more likely.
And he's dead right on all three points. What goods has the company produced? What innovations has it given to the market? What has it provided to America other than the nagging feeling we've all been had?

Let’s start by talking about how Goldman makes money.

Over the past generation — ever since the banking deregulation of the Reagan years — the U.S. economy has been “financialized.” The business of moving money around, of slicing, dicing and repackaging financial claims, has soared in importance compared with the actual production of useful stuff. The sector officially labeled “securities, commodity contracts and investments” has grown especially fast, from only 0.3 percent of G.D.P. in the late 1970s to 1.7 percent of G.D.P. in 2007.

Such growth would be fine if financialization really delivered on its promises — if financial firms made money by directing capital to its most productive uses, by developing innovative ways to spread and reduce risk. But can anyone, at this point, make those claims with a straight face? Financial firms, we now know, directed vast quantities of capital into the construction of unsellable houses and empty shopping malls. They increased risk rather than reducing it, and concentrated risk rather than spreading it. In effect, the industry was selling dangerous patent medicine to gullible consumers.

Goldman’s role in the financialization of America was similar to that of other players, except for one thing: Goldman didn’t believe its own hype. Other banks invested heavily in the same toxic waste they were selling to the public at large. Goldman, famously, made a lot of money selling securities backed by subprime mortgages — then made a lot more money by selling mortgage-backed securities short, just before their value crashed. All of this was perfectly legal, but the net effect was that Goldman made profits by playing the rest of us for suckers.

And Wall Streeters have every incentive to keep playing that kind of game.

The huge bonuses Goldman will soon hand out show that financial-industry highfliers are still operating under a system of heads they win, tails other people lose. If you’re a banker, and you generate big short-term profits, you get lavishly rewarded — and you don’t have to give the money back if and when those profits turn out to have been a mirage. You have every reason, then, to steer investors into taking risks they don’t understand.

And the events of the past year have skewed those incentives even more, by putting taxpayers as well as investors on the hook if things go wrong.

All of Wall Street works that way. Goldman Sachs just had the least shame about it. As such, it made the most money off of us. Wall Street has every incentive to keep playing that game, and the Obama administration has every incentive to perpetuate it. Despite some evidence that the White House is finally getting tough with banks and the infinite bailout money spigot is off, all you have to do is look at Goldman Sachs and its "business as usual" mentality to see that nothing has really changed.

It's unfortunate. It means down the road, we'll be right back into financial crisis mode. When the next crisis hits, it'll finish us.

Calling Out Your Racist Uncle

Via Big Orange TV, the combination of President Obama's speech at the NAACP's 100th anniversary convention and the Sotomayor confirmation hearings turning into all but a done deal was just too much for Pat Buchanan to keep his more...base check last night on the Rachel Maddow Show:

Rachel discusses the two events and brings in Pat and his truly bizarre anti-Sotomayor column in Human Events from earlier this week at about the 5 minute mark. His attacks on Sotomayor's intelligence and his opinion of her being nothing more than a product of affirmative action ("Affirmative Action is a way to increase diversity by discriminating against white males" Buchanan says at one point) get odious enough that even Rachel gets fed up with his bullshit and utterly calls him out on it about halfway in. Heaping mounds of uncomfortable arguments ensue for another seven minutes or so.

By the time we get to the end of the segment, Rachel is trying with Jedi Master-like patience to calm Pat down before he talks himself out of a TV pundit career for good.

She's a better human being than I am, that's for damn sure. The irony is that while Buchanan's Human Event column opens with this prescient warning:
Should GOP senators treat Sonia Sotomayor as contemptuously as Democrats treated Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito, they should expect Hispanic hostility for a generation.
...Buchanan himself shows nothing but complete and utter contempt for the woman on national TV.

As BooMan opined on Wednesday:
Isn't it time we all get really serious about convincing MSNBC that Pat Buchanan is unacceptably racist?
I don't think that's going to be much of a problem anymore, frankly.

[UPDATE 8:47 AM] Speaking of BooMan, he has a hell of a piece up this morning on affirmative action, Sonia Sotomayor, and growing up in Princeton. Read it.


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