Saturday, August 8, 2009

Last Call

Yet another reason to fight climate change: it poses a national security threat.
The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.

Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.

Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response.
If you want to know where and why the next world wars will be set off, it will be over resources like potable water and arable land, not oil.
Much of the public and political debate on global warming has focused on finding substitutes for fossil fuels, reducing emissions that contribute to greenhouse gases and furthering negotiations toward an international climate treaty — not potential security challenges.

But a growing number of policy makers say that the world’s rising temperatures, surging seas and melting glaciers are a direct threat to the national interest. If the United States does not lead the world in reducing fossil-fuel consumption and thus emissions of global warming gases, proponents of this view say, a series of global environmental, social, political and possibly military crises loom that the nation will urgently have to address.

This argument could prove a fulcrum for debate in the Senate next month when it takes up climate and energy legislation passed in June by the House.

Lawmakers leading the debate before Congress are only now beginning to make the national security argument for approving the legislation.
Making the national security argument for climate change legislation should have been the first practical argument made to both lawmakers and the public. It's something neither side, progressive or conservative, Democrat or Republican, can afford to ignore. Climate change legislation, real legislation that allows the US to truly lead on the issue, is one of the best ways we can prevent the terrorist attacks and wars of tomorrow.

We need to hear more of the climate change argument couched in the language of the interest of worldwide political stability. I'm all for preventing costly and stupid multi-trillion dollar wars in the future while saving the planet, dig?

The Abyss Stares Back At Frum

(Via Yggy) Feeling a tad guilty about witnessing the behavior of his fellow travelers, David Frum discovers logic:
What would it mean to “win” the healthcare fight?

For some, the answer is obvious: beat back the president’s proposals, defeat the House bill, stand back and wait for 1994 to repeat itself.

The problem is that if we do that… we’ll still have the present healthcare system. Meaning that we’ll have (1) flat-lining wages, (2) exploding Medicaid and Medicare costs and thus immense pressure for future tax increases, (3) small businesses and self-employed individuals priced out of the insurance market, and (4) a lot of uninsured or underinsured people imposing costs on hospitals and local governments.

Of course, for a large percentage of the Republican Party, conservatives in general and the Pretty Hate Machine, that's all perfectly fine.

The lesson of 1994 is that a small group of hyper-partisan ideologues could hijack the media, the Republican Party, and Washington. Gingrich and others showed the way, and it took another 14 years to break their hold on them. They lost in 2008.

The lesson of 2008 that the Republicans have chosen to draw is that these partisans were not partisan enough. Frum seems shocked that the forces he's thrown his lot in with have doubled down on the crazy, and surprised that they have no interest in improving health care.

It'a always been about power to them.

[UPDATE 6:44 PM] Via BooMan, the inmates are running the asylum now.

On the other side of the aisle, Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) questioned the authenticity of President Barack Obama's birth certificate and referred to a White House "enemies list" at a meeting in Tulsa.

"This is a scary time in Washington," he said. "It's a very frightening time. I see Barack Obama is creating an enemies list of people who oppose this miserable healthcare plan. I think that's frightening. That's from a guy that can't even show a long-form birth certificate. I think we all ought to be prepared to fight that."
Never mind the fact the "enemies list" is another mutant lie, but how long before somebody takes Rep. Sullivan's offer literally?

For well over a decade the conservative fringe has been out there, fed on hatred and half-truths and outright lies. The Republicans, sensing the coming wilderness, has removed the shackles from this beast of their own creation.

Now it runs free. People like Frum helped create it, helped nurture it, tolerated it, guided it, because it was politically convenient to have such an easily motivated group of die hards. Now that beast is out of control. It has broken away. It is now calling the shots.

And only now does David Frum question the wisdom of betting the conservatives' political future on it. Look on thy works, ye Frummy, and despair.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Another day, another Obama death threat.
The Secret Service may investigate a fax sent to a Democratic lawmaker that depicts President Barack Obama as the Joker and warns of “death to all Marxists.”

The black-and-white fax portrays Obama in makeup similar to that worn by actor Heath Ledger in his portrayal of the Joker in last summer’s “The Dark Knight.”

On Obama’s forehead is a communist hammer-and-sickle insignia, and beneath the image is the text: “Death to All Marxists! Foreign and Domestic!”

Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) received the fax and passed it along to U.S. Capitol Police.

The Secret Service investigates threats made against the president. Ed Donovan, of Secret Service Public Affairs, said that the fax was “potentially an investigative intelligence matter.”
It's almost like the massive increase on threats made on Obama's life are a direct result of all the nasty personal attacks on the President made by our friends in the Pretty Hate Machine.

A machine that the Right is now rapidly losing control over.

How long will it take before somebody really, really gets hurt?

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Steve Benen asks:
It must be challenging to be a political writer trying to parody conservative arguments. Prominent Republicans, who are either stark raving mad or pretending to be, are speaking publicly about "government-encouraged euthanasia" and "death panels." How does a satirist exaggerate for effect when the right-wing has gone mad?

Well, reducing neocon foreign policy to "Send in Giant Dr. Manhattan!" is always good for a laugh.

Having said that, merely sticking with the facts about the Town Hall Blitzers provides a surprising amount of comedy gold these days.

Go figure.

Timmy Wants More

Via Raw Story, Timmy wants more money.

Nope, that really just about sums it up.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner formally requested that Congress raise the $12.1 trillion statutory debt limit on Friday, saying that it could be breached as early as mid-October.
Congress raised the limit from $9.1 trillion to $10.6 trillion in July 2008 when Fannie and Freddie melted down, which was raised to $11.3 trillion in October 2008 after the bank bailout, and raised to the current $12.1 trillion for the stimulus package.

Now Timmy says we need "more".

As expensive as fixing these mistakes have been, why is Timmy making the same ones? More importantly, why is Obama letting Timmy make the same mistakes? Most importantly, why are we letting Obama to allow Timmy to fail to allow real reform to the financial system?

Goldman Sachs vs. Taibbi?

Over at Taibblog, Matt Taibbi is as surprised as anyone that Goldman Sachs apparently is considering taking their disenchantment with Taibbi's reporting to an entirely new level.
A well-connected source tells us that Goldman Sachs has weighed suing journalist Matt Taibbi because of his recent criticisms of the bank, most notably his lengthy piece in Rolling Stone, “Inside The Great American Bubble Machine.”

via SOURCE: Goldman Discussed Suing Taibbi.

This is via Business Insider. Apparently Goldman has weighed suing me for… well, I’m not exactly sure what the grounds would be. Being annoying? Covering finance without a nice enough tie?

I seriously doubt they would do something like this, but if they actually have considered such a step, that says a lot about their mentality.
Oh it says to me that Taibbi just might actually be one of the few financial journalists out there doing his job, instead of being a paid mouthpiece. If you haven't read Taibbi's Rolling Stone piece on Goldman Sachs, do yourself a favor. You'll see why the company just might be a little miffed at him.

Of course there's this, this, and this too.

And people wonder why I'm so pessimistic about the economy. It will always be run by assholes at the expense of people like you and me.

A Textbook Case Of Disaster

Via Memeorandum, Ahnold's budget axe means California schools may not be able to purchase new textbooks until 2016.
The state budget that closed a $24-billion gap last month dramatically reduced state spending for textbooks. The state Board of Education won't approve new books for kindergarten through eighth grade until January 2016 at the earliest, and districts have postponed approvals of new high school books as well. A state requirement that districts purchase books within two years of adoption has been waived until 2013.

Additionally, state funding previously earmarked solely for textbooks -- nearly $334 million this year -- can now be spent by school districts for other needs over the next four years, providing flexibility that educators say is essential at a time of severe budget reductions.

But the state's top educator fears these moves put students at a competitive disadvantage.

"We need modern, state-of-the-art textbooks, not outdated, antiquated textbooks," said state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. "It could be close to a generation before we see new textbooks."

Others say the decision by the state to postpone textbook adoption and by districts to put off purchases is understandable, although far from ideal.

"There is no really good decision," said David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Assn., which represents 340,000 teachers and other school employees.

"For now this is a good thing, to help preserve some programs and certainly preserve some jobs. It's certainly not something we want to continue -- eventually, we have to get new textbooks."
I don't know about an entire generation, but it's very possible that the same textbooks being used in California's eight grade classrooms today will be the same ones kids born this year will be using when they reach that age. There's a cheery thought, yes? Hopefully advanced in digital and internet technology will help fill the gap, but schools still need textbooks to teach. California parents will of course be called on to help supplement information, apparently.

Twenty-year old textbooks will certainly help California attract new businesses, new jobs, and new tax revenue sources through a knowledgeable population, yes?

Then again the way the economy is going, companies looking to relocate or expand will simply need to look for the state with the best sweetheart deal...or increasingly, another country entirely.

Asking The Wrong Question

David Leonhardt at the NY Times wonders if Helicopter Ben and Timmy have turned the economy around.
What if in the end they got it right?

What if, amid all their missteps and all the harsh criticism, the people in charge of battling the worst financial crisis since the Great DepressionBen Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Henry Paulson and the rest — basically succeeded?

It is clearly too soon to know for sure. But the evidence is now pointing pretty strongly in one direction: history books may conclude that the financial crisis of 2008 turned out to be far less bad than it could have been and that Washington deserved much of the credit.

The Labor Department announced Friday that the economy lost fewer jobs in July than in any month since before Lehman Brothers collapsed last fall. Credit markets no longer look anything like they did after Lehman’s collapse and are in considerably better shape than just a few months ago. Stocks are up almost 50 percent from their March low. “It’s over,” the economists at Barclays Capital declared Friday, referring to the Great Recession.

The news has been good enough that the Obama administration spent Friday trumpeting its record. More telling, however, is the fact that even Nouriel Roubini, the prophetically pessimistic economist who saw the crisis coming (and doesn’t think the recession has yet ended), is now praising policy makers. He recently urged that Mr. Bernanke be reappointed as Federal Reserve chairman, saying he helped avert a “near depression that seemed highly likely after the financial collapse last fall.”
It's the wrong question to be asking, of course. It's not "Did Team Obama Featuring Hank Paulson get it right?" so much as the real question:

"How much time have they bought us before the next crisis?"

Yes, the solution that was arrived at, pumping massive amounts of cash into the system, the banks, and the hedge funds, did prevent a systemic crisis in 2008 and early 2009. But the fundamental issues that created the crisis still exist. It's going to take years for all this to work through the system, and our consumer-driven economy is going to be limping along for a very long time. Housing and commercial real estate will continue to be major problems, and along with it unemployment. The trillions we're on the hook for should things continue to go bad will eventually bust the economy.

Sometime soon, we'll arrive at another point like last September.

The things that could prevent another systemic crisis are not being done. Real reform in the financial sector is not taking place. Instead, the Fed has simply shifted the liability to banks not deemed Too Big To Fail and to the taxpayer. A total of 72 banks have gone under in 7 months in 2009. Many, many more will follow as the fundamental problems that affected larger banks and were swept under the rug spread to commercial real estate and prime mortgage markets, affecting smaller banks that don't have the political clout on Capitol Hill.

Fannie and Freddie are still losing billions of dollars. Our financial system only still exists because it continues to be propped up by dollars created through Helicopter Ben's Magic Printing Press. They did what they had to do in order for America and the world to survive.

But in the end, all they have really done is kick the can down the road. We don't know how far that can has gone, maybe six months, maybe years, but eventually we will be in the same situation we were in back in 2008...only much, much worse.

Banks and hedge funds have gone back to the same three-card monte games they were playing before the crash. Everyone's excited that the stock index numbers are all going up. We're re-inflating the same Bush Boom Bubble from 2003-2007. Everyone is convinced glory is just around the corner.

It's not. This bubble too will burst, and I think it will erupt sooner rather than later. The growth patterns predicted by the Dow and S&P 500 are simply unsustainable given the fact we're still losing hundreds of thousands of jobs. People don't have houses to use as ATMs anymore and consumers are cutting back on spending across the board, trying desperately to get out of debt. That same debt fueled the growth we saw in the first part of this decade. It's used up, gone, kaput. Time to pay the piper.

Jobs will continue to disappear. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic will not create real economic growth. We're heading into multi-year doldrums at best. At worst, the bottom falls out again.

We have been saved from systemic collapse. But at what future cost?

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Ezra Klein asks "Is This Health-Care Reform's Worst Idea Yet?"
The Senate Finance Committee does not want to propose an employer mandate to promote health-care coverage. But it doesn't want to let employers entirely off the hook, either. So it has come up with one of the worst ideas in recent memory: A so-called "free rider" tax. Under the proposal, employers with more than 50 workers would have to pay the subsidy costs for low-income workers who seek coverage in the Health Insurance Exchanges. But they wouldn't have to pay a dime for higher-income workers who did the same.

You can pretty much see where this is going: workers from low-income families become more expensive than workers from high-income families. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explains, "Employers would have strong incentives to tilt hiring toward people who have a spouse with a good income (or have health coverage through a family member), teenagers whose parents make a decent living, and people without children (since the eligibility limit for the subsidies in the new health insurance exchanges will increase with family size). Low-income women with children in one-earner families would be particularly disadvantaged."

I'd have to agree with Ezra.

Not only would large companies have strong incentives to hire single people with no children to avoid having to pay subsidies, I would think that companies would start having to legally have HR policies in place to have hiring managers ask questions like this before hiring someone as a matter of legal policy, particularly publicly traded companies.

You could then make the very strong case that if a large corporation did not have such a hiring policy in place saying if two candidates are otherwise equal, the job must go to the person that would incur the least amount of subsidies under this law, the company shareholders could conceivably file a class-action suit saying the corporation should in fact do that, else they would be negligent in their duties to shareholders.

Needless to say, the profit motive alone would be enough to motivate corporations to do this, not to mention motivate smaller businesses to keep staffs at no more than exactly 49 people to avoid the problem altogether.

Also, if you have to slash headcount in the department you manage and your employees include a single mother with 4 kids, under that provision whose position would you eliminate first? I can think of all kinds of situations where this would become a serious problem.

Having to miss work to take a child to a doctor's appointment in the morning would become a termination offense, especially in right-to-work states where companies can fire workers for any reason and there's no unions.

The more children you have, the less desirable you are as an employee. They would in fact become liabilities to job seekers. What a great country that would be.

It's Just Unfortunate, You Know

NRO's Jim Garaghty has determined that it's just a darn shame that those crazy liberals see racism against the President everywhere.
I can't help but wonder how many Americans voted for Obama thinking that with an African-American president, the nation would put its bimonthly national racial controversies behind it and focus on other matters that transcended the color line. And now we find ourselves in a circumstance where, if not every criticism of the president is automatically denounced as racism, a significant percentage of them are. Keep in mind there's plenty of legitimate criticism to be made of things such as Joker posters or protesters who try to exercise the heckler's veto; but there is a knee-jerk reflex to label anything inconvenient as racially motivated.
For you see, in the world Jim Garaghty inhabits, pointing out efforts by conservatives to use "reverse racism" as a wedge issue against the President and Sonia Sotomayor time and time and time again simply encourages more of these unfortunate attacks.

In other words, if the dirty f'ckin hippies would just stop considering the racist attacks against the President to be racist, why it would magically stop being an issue because there would be no racist attacks against the President, see?

It's only racist if people consider them to be. Conservatives clearly don't, after all. Why are liberals ruining it for them, the bastards?

In Which Zandar Finally Notices He Made HuffPo, Kinda

Yeah, I have to pay attention more to my trackbacks I suppose.

HuffPo's Peter Daou took me to task for my "boots on the ground" post back on Tuesday, and I um...kinda had no clue he did that until I checked my logs for the week. (Turns out he did it on July 29 too, and he agreed with me then.)

Ahem. Anyway, I advocated Obama going into campaign mode to get the message out on health care reform. Peter Daou disagreed, and gave five reasons why this wasn't a campaign-style moment:

1. The media and punditocracy have a different agenda.
2. Obama's much-talked about online 'army' of 13 million people doesn't exist.
3. Republicans and conservatives have far less to lose.
4. Inside baseball is less effective when you're on the inside.
5. The netroots, excited and energized by the prospect of an Obama presidency, are disillusioned.

Numbers 1 and 2 I agree with completely. The Village is behind the GOP, and the Obama campaign machine can only do so much now that they are in the White House.

Number 3 is incorrect for the reasons I gave in the post. Both sides have a lot to lose here. Failure to pass health care reform will cost the Democrats dearly in the short term. However, passage of a real health care reform bill that works would crush the Republicans for what, 20, 30 years? I believe the Republicans are fighting harder because they actually have a lot more to lose. Progressive Democrats could use a robust health care reform bill as a linchpin to fundamentally remake the government away from the Reagan/Bush model that has driven the federal government since 1980. Republicans see this as an existential, fundamental battle here. They are willing to put everything, and I mean everything on the line They have gone all in with their chips here. Losing is absolutely not an option for them.

Number 4 goes back to point 1 more than anything. Inside baseball takes two to play, the politicos and the Village. If the Village wants to score the game their way due to point 1, there's little to be done, short of irritating the hell out of them by, say, calling on HuffPo's Nico Pitney at a press conference.

Number 5, on Tuesday, I would have agreed with Daou. Today, I think that disillusionment is beginning to turn into anger at seeing what the other side is still quite capable of. I have my critiques of Obama's policies, but the last two days especially has reminded me exactly why I voted for him in the first place.

However, Daou is correct when he says that:
As Democrats fight for a signature issue, a serious strategic blunder has left them scrambling to catch up with their opponents. The White House should have laid out clear, unwavering objectives, a solid plan, rather than leave the health debate to meander through Congress. That vacuum has enabled the proponents of the status quo to marshal their forces.

Perhaps resorting to campaign tactics will turn the tide, I certainly hope so, but it bears acknowledging that the landscape has changed.

It has changed, and become an uphill battle most certainly.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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