Friday, September 18, 2009

Last Call

It's worth noting that the "Father of Neoconservatism" and Bill Kristol's father Irving Kristol passed away today at age 89.

Kristol was the husband of critic-historian Gertrude Himmelfarb and father of neoconservative editor and commentator William Kristol, an editor of The Weekly Standard.

A Trotskyist in the 1930s, Kristol would soon sour on socialism, break from liberalism after the rise of the New Left in the 1960s and in the 1970s commit the unthinkable — support the Republican Party, once as "foreign to me as attending a Catholic Mass."

He was a New York intellectual who left home, first politically, then physically, moving to Washington in 1988. He was a liberal "mugged by reality," his turn to the right joined by countless others, including such future GOP Cabinet officials as Jeane Kirkpatrick and William Bennett and another neoconservative founder, Norman Podhoretz.

"The influence of Irving Kristol's ideas has been one of the most important factors in reshaping the American climate of opinion over the past 40 years," Podhoretz said.

He was a flagship in the network of think tanks, media outlets and corporations that helped make conservatism a reigning ideology for at least two decades, the "vast right-wing conspiracy" that Hillary Rodham Clinton would claim was out to get her husband.

"More than anyone alive, perhaps, Irving Kristol can take the credit for reversing the direction of American political culture," liberal commentator Eric Alterman wrote in 1999.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a longtime admirer and former President George W. Bush, whose administration was heavily populated by neoconservatives, awarded Kristol a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002, praising him as "a wide-ranging thinker whose writings have helped transform America's political landscape."

Of course I fundamentally disagree with basically everything the man stood for, but Irving Kristol's influence on the Republican Party and in turn the neocon movement that he helped to shape over the last two decades cannot be underestimated. Certainly from Poppy Bush through George W. Bush, Kristol's ideas defined the Republican Party and the foreign policies of both parties.

Having said that, it will take decades to undo the damage of the direct application of Kristol's ideals by the last three Presidents, and yes that includes Clinton. Obama's policies certainly aren't free of Kristol's influence either, but at least the reversal against them has begun.

Low -Hanging Fruit Reaches New Lows

From Steve Benen:
This week, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) announced that he's ordered all state agencies to "stop all state funding" of ACORN. That wasn't exactly a bold decision -- ACORN doesn't get any state funding in Minnesota. Pawlenty was "stopping" something that never "started," almost certainly to score a few cheap points with right-wing activists.

A potential rival to Pawlenty for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has decided to do the exact same thing.
Nice. Also, both governors are stopping volcano monitoring in their states before any volcanoes can form.

Good News Out Of The FCC

As FCC head Julius Genachowski is making Net Neutrality his first major issue as Chairman.
Genachowski will discuss the rules Monday during a keynote speech at The Brookings Institute. He isn't expected to drill into many details but the proposal will be for an additional guideline that network operators can't discriminate, or act as gatekeepers, of Web content. That proposal will be reviewed across platforms, including wireless networks which have come under scrutiny for allegations of blocking competing voice services offered by carriers.

The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because details of the new regulations haven't been officially announced.

It would be the first bold move by Genachowski, who served as President Obama's technology advisor during the campaign and transition. The rule could upset wireless, telecom and cable operators who have fought against regulations that would give them less control over traffic that runs on their networks. They argue that they need to maintain flexibility to manage traffic to ensure some applications don't take up too much bandwidth and make Web access slower for some users.

But the rule, which is expected to come in the form of a fifth principal to existing guidelines for network operators, would clearly spell out that carriers can't discriminate what applications run on their networks, according to a source. The agency is expected to review what traffic management is reasonable and what practices are discriminatory. The principals are guidelines set forth by the agency, which some public interest groups have sought to codify so that they would clearly be enforceable by the agency.

Good, and something long overdue. We'll see the details that Genachowski will propose in a few days, and if he's coming down as solidly on the side of Net Neutrality as it appears he is, that's nothing but good news for internet users and not have your internet company possibly block sites or charge you extra on top of your internet access bill just to say, get to a competitor's site.

Imagine AT&T charging you extra every time you accessed your Verizon bill online, or Time Warner Cable charging you more for going to FOX News instead of CNN. If Genachowski is serious about ending this practice, then we're all far better off.

Tehran Calling, Redux

HuffPo's Shirin Sadeghi covers today's major anti-regime protests in Iran.
Today a long time tradition of the Islamic Republic of Iran was transformed into nationwide mass protests against the government.

Qods Day (or Jerusalem Day) is an annual event in the Islamic Republic, ostensibly held in honor of the suffering of the Palestinians but whose other major theme is anti-Israel rhetoric.

Despite having banned all public demonstrations by an opposition movement that has suffered disappearances, prison abuse, gang rapes in state institutions, and all manner of threats, the government had no choice today but to convene Qods Day, and the people had no choice but to take this chance and make their voices heard once again.

They took the government's cue for Qods Day participation as a legal loophole for once again brimming the streets of Iran.

But ironically for a government that has invested so much in its pro-Palestinian position, the Iranian public seems to have said today that they could care less about that issue.

"Not Gaza, not Lebanon. I die only for Iran," protesters have reportedly chanted in significant numbers across Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz and other major cities across Iran today.

An image going around the Internet shows a protester holding a poster of the iconic Palestinian caricature Handala wearing a long green scarf with the words "Palestine is right here."

The message is clear, if unsympathetic: we Iranians have our own problems to solve.

Iranian anger has not died down. They are still protesting peaceably for real change, and getting that change will be difficult. The people of Iran are willing to risk it. We must make sure our response in helping them does not target these Iranians instead of the real culprits here.


State unemployment numbers are out for August, and they continue to be dismal. Five states now have nominal unemployment rates of 12% or higher, meaning working U-6 numbers of over 20% unemployed/underemployed. Michigan is at 15.2%, meaning that U-6 number there is closing in on 25%.
Michigan led the nation in unemployment, with a rate of 15.2%, while Nevada was next at 13.2% and Rhode Island was third at 12.8%. California and Oregon were tied for the fourth spot, each with unemployment at 12.2%.

"The losses tend to be heavy in states that have a high concentration of manufacturing jobs or were hit hard by the housing bust," said Mark Vitner, economist at Wachovia.

In August, 27 states and the District of Columbia recorded month-over-month unemployment rate increases, while 16 states posted a decrease in unemployment and seven saw rates hold steady.

The total number of nonfarm jobs fell in 42 states and the District of Columbia, while 8 states saw an increase.

The state-by-state unemployment report for August came after the government reported earlier this month that American employers cut 216,000 jobs in August, sending the nationwide unemployment rate to 9.7% from 9.4% in July.

14 states and D.C. now have double digit unemployment. Eight more states are at the 9.0% mark. There will be no recovery without consumer spending, there will be no consumer spending without housing market stabilization, there will be no housing market stabilization without the job market recovering, there will be no job recovery until consumer spending picks up.

Negative spirals suck.

You Cannot Stop The Bachmanniac, You Can Only Hope To Contain Her

Turns out privately, House Republicans Eric Cantor and John Boehner are both a tad worried about Our Gal Shelly.
The Politico reports that House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) are worried about the potential damage to the party's reputation from a certain back-bencher: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).

This paragraph is buried deep within their latest piece on Boehner's efforts to keep up with the GOP base:

Sources say they [Boehner and Cantor] have been especially wary of the possible damage inflicted on the party's reputation by bomb-throwing Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who last fall called for an investigation into whether members of Congress are "pro-America or anti-America."
It's almost like she's everything bad about the GOP rolled into one highly visible stereotypical train wreck. I'd weep for the GOP leadership's plight, but they created this monster.

Helpful Associated Press Is Helpful

The AP has decided that since liberals are simply crying racism too much to make them comfortable, that the claims themselves have no meaning, and therefore nobody is in fact racist because really, everyone is.
Everybody's racist, it seems.

Republican Rep. Joe Wilson? Racist, because he shouted "You lie!" at the first black president. Health care protesters, affirmative action supporters? Racist. And Barack Obama? He's the "Racist in Chief," wrote a leader of the recent conservative protest in Washington.

But if everybody's racist, is anyone?

Story continues below ↓
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The word is being sprayed in all directions, creating a hall of mirrors that is draining the scarlet R of its meaning and its power, turning it into more of a spitball than a stigma.

"It gets to the point where we don't have a word that we use to call people racist who actually are," said John McWhorter, who studies race and language at the conservative Manhattan Institute.

"The more abstract and the more abusive we get in the way we use the words, then the harder it is to talk about what we originally meant by those terms," he said.

What the word once meant — and still does in Webster's dictionary — is someone who believes in the inherent superiority of a particular race or is prejudiced against others.

I choose to respond through prior precedent.
On Fox & Friends today, Glenn Beck called Obama "a racist" during a discussion of how the president handled the arrest of Henry Louis Gates.

"This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture," Beck said. "I don't know what it is."
The AP is apparently deeply confused about what actually qualifies as racism, so much so that they are directly buying the winger argument that anyone who points out that the wingers believe the President hates white people and that America should reconsider bus segregation are themselves the real racists.

The real argument of course is "Well now, you wouldn't be so uncomfortable with these statements if you hadn't gone and forced us to make them when you elected a negro President, you stupid libs."

It's simply too obvious to grasp, apparently. The hatred of Obama's "otherness" actually transcends racism to include hating him for a variety of other prejudicial and bigoted reasons. It's so much worse than racism it's frightening, it's delirium on a scale of millions. But it's not just racism...that would be wholly underestimating the hate.

Also, what Digby said.

[UPDATE 12:52 PM] And David Brooks continues the Village assault on the Left, blaming them for all this.

What we’re seeing is the latest iteration of that populist tendency and the militant progressive reaction to it. We now have a populist news media that exaggerates the importance of the Van Jones and Acorn stories to prove the elites are decadent and un-American, and we have a progressive news media that exaggerates stories like the Joe Wilson shout and the opposition to the Obama schools speech to show that small-town folks are dumb wackos.

“One could argue that this country is on the verge of a crisis of legitimacy,” the economic blogger Arnold Kling writes. “The progressive elite is starting to dismiss rural white America as illegitimate, and vice versa.”

It’s not race. It’s another type of conflict, equally deep and old.
Yes David, it's America Versus The Stupid.

Another Snowe Job In The Works?

Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe is once again bemoaning the Republican Party that has changed underneath her, as TPMDC reports.
"I've always been a Republican for the traditional principles that have been associated with the Republican party since I became a Republican, when I registered to vote. And that is limited government, individual opportunities, fiscal responsibility, and a strong national defense. So I think those principles have always been a part of the Republican party heritage. And I believe that I reflect those views and I haven't changed as a Republican. I think more that my party has changed.

So what's Snowe's game here? Is she playing the Republicans by threatening to pull an Arlen Specter, or is she playing the Democrats reminding them just how important being the 60th vote is? It may all be a moot point since Massachusetts is moving to allow Gov. Deval Patrick to name a replacement for Ted Kennedy, and I'm betting very strongly that the events in the Bay State have put a clock on the game of Deal or No Deal she's playing with Obama. If that 60th Democratic vote to break a filibuster is appointed before Snowe gets her deal, the game's over.

So, naturally, she's getting hers. She saw the deal that Arlen Specter got, and she's making her play. Can't blame her.

The question is how much damage will a deal to get Snowe on board do to Obamacare? How much will the Democrats give up for one vote?

The Kroog Versus Baucuscare

Paul Krugman dissects the Baucus Plan and ponders where the health-care reform fight goes from here, and the question of "Is any reform better than no reform?" The answer is clearly no in the Kroog's opinion (emphasis mine):
So something along the general lines of the Baucus plan might be acceptable. But details matter. And the bad news is that the plan, as it stands, is inadequate or badly conceived in three major ways.

First, it bungles the so-called “employer mandate.” Most reform plans include a provision requiring that large employers either provide their workers with health coverage or pay into a fund that would help workers who don’t get insurance through their job buy coverage on their own. Mr. Baucus, however, gets too clever, trying to tie each employer’s fees to the subsidies its own employees end up getting.

That’s a terrible idea. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, it would make companies reluctant to hire workers from lower-income families — and it would also create a bureaucratic nightmare. This provision has to go and be replaced with a simple pay-or-play rule.

Second, the plan is too stingy when it comes to financial aid. Lower-middle-class families, in particular, would end up paying much more in premiums than they do under the Massachusetts plan, suggesting that for many people insurance would not, in fact, be affordable. Fixing this means spending more than Mr. Baucus proposes.

Third, the plan doesn’t create real competition in the insurance market. The right way to create competition is to offer a public option, a government-run insurance plan individuals can buy into as an alternative to private insurance. The Baucus plan instead proposes a fake alternative, nonprofit insurance cooperatives — and it places so many restrictions on these cooperatives that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, they “seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country.”

The insurance industry, of course, loves the Baucus plan. Need we say more?

So this plan has to change. What matters now is the direction in which it changes.

It would be disastrous if health care goes the way of the economic stimulus plan, earlier this year. As you may recall, that plan — which was clearly too weak even as originally proposed — was made even weaker to win the support of three Republican senators. If the same thing happens to health reform, progressives should and will walk away.

That of course is the worst-case scenario for progressives, Democrats, and Americans in general. The Baucus plan is pure garbage, an example of the worst parts of the various proposals floated by both Democrats and Republicans, combined into one giant multi-trillion dollar hand job for the health insurance industry. It's unacceptable as is to both sides, as progressive Democrats see right through the plan, and Republicans want no plan whatsoever. It will have to change. Krugman's question -- which direction the change will go -- is the central argument right now.

One will lead to a better bill, acceptable to progressives and good for the country. The other will lead to a disaster of a bill that will either never pass, or if it does, will be repealed when Republicans are thrust back into power vowing to rid the country of the horrible legislation.

The choice seems obvious to me. But there are too many Democrats who seem to think that there's another way: making a bill so weak that Republicans will vote for it too, giving both sides political cover.

Unfortunately, political cover doesn't pay the health care bills.

The Most Unlikely Of Public Option Advocates

Republicans do love their populism at times (it goes back to the victim card they love to play whenever threatened) but there's a very unlikely champion of the populism angle of the public option on the Winger side this week: Bill-O!
Bill O’Reilly actually told a Heritage Foundation scholar who was fear-mongering government-backed health care that he favors a public option:

NINA OWCHARENKO: Well, it has massive new federal regulation. So you don’t necessarily need a public option if the federal government is going to control and regulate the type of health insurance that Americans can buy.

O’REILLY: But you know, I want that, Ms. Owcharenko. I want that. I want, not for personally for me, but for working Americans, to have a option, that if they don’t like their health insurance, if it’s too expensive, they can’t afford it, if the government can cobble together a cheaper insurance policy that gives the same benefits, I see that as a plus for the folks.

Amazing. O'Reilly makes a great argument for the public option as something working class Americans need in these economic times, an affordable insurance plan that Americans can choose if they want to make the switch...something public that anyone can join, and something that's an option. Amazing how that works.

Why the change of heart, Bill-O? Could it be that those polls showing three-quarters of Americans, both conservative and liberal, find exactly what O'Reilly described to be as something the federal government SHOULD be doing? It's a fair bet that a lot of those Americans who want a public option are O'Reilly Factor viewers, and aren't buying the whole "Government health care is evil" line because they know plenty of people who are on Medicare, Medicaid, or get care through the VA.

Welcome to the fight, sir. We could have used you six months ago.


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