Monday, October 12, 2009

Last Call

Gosh, you mean there's a backlash against multiculturalism in this country and whites are moving out of urban areas and into gated communities since it became clear that the Republicans were failing and Democrats were on the rise?

Didn't see that coming. Nope.
Traveling some 27,000 miles, African-American journalist Rich Benjamin roamed the United States from 2007 to 2009 exploring a major demographic shift that's attracting remarkably little attention — the flight of white residents from cities and integrated suburbs into cloistered, racially homogeneous enclaves. Tidy communities such as St. George, Utah and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho — places Benjamin calls Whitopias — have grown at triple the rate of America's cities in recent years, raising troubling questions about the country's multiracial cohesion. The Stanford literature PhD chronicled his adventure in a new book, Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America, and spoke with TIME about what he found.
Here's what the Wingers will be screaming about tomorrow:
What is the danger Whitopias pose to America as a whole?

You can call me old-fashioned, but I'm an integrationist. A democracy can't function at its optimum unless all members are integrated as full members.

A community full of like-minded people tends to enforce their own view of the world and closes off opposing viewpoints. You can go to parties in New York City where the liberal smugness is intolerable, because they're only hearing liberal viewpoints. On the Whitopian conservative side, it's spinning out of control. Look at the teabagger movement, where people are concerned their taxes are going to be wasted on minorities and illegal immigrants. Same with the movement that says Obama is not a citizen.
Poor Rich Benjamin. He has no idea what's about to happen to him for speaking truth to power. Ask Charisse Carney-Nunes about the Winger revenge squads.

Then again, maybe Rich Benjamin is fully aware of what's going to happen. If so, he's going to need some help, folks.

El Rushbo, Glennsanity and Malkinvania will direct their frothing minions to swamp Harvard with e-mails and phone calls demanding Benjamin's job and his head. He will be called a racist. He will be called much worse. I expect this TIME article to spawn some pretty serious hate here as Rich Benjamin becomes the new Skip Gates/Jeremiah Wright/Al Sharpton/Whatever Black Man the Wingers are hating as an Obama proxy this week.

It won't take long. I'm preempting the Winger meltdown here tonight, but before the end of the week, Rich Benjamin here will be a target.

Maybe in more than just the figurative sense, too.

So When Will Conservatives Invade India?

After all, they're foreign, they outnumber us, and they're all brainwashed into working for Barack Obama.

Clearly I expect Generals Beck and Limbaugh to lead the first charge.

Says Who, Exactly?

Your Liberal AP: Still unabashedly liberal, except when they are not.
"If you've got an effective unemployment rate of 17 percent and if this goes on for any length of time, a year or more, then everyone's cushion will run out," said Republican consultant Rich Galen. "There are going to be serious implications, culturally and politically."

Galen said it's understandable that Republicans would use the state of the economy to pound Obama and Democrats who control Congress. Still, "it's not something we should either make fun of, be amused by or play politics with," he said.

Republicans already see a "jobless recovery." In a letter to Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House GOP leaders asked, "Where are the jobs?"

Firing back, White House chief economic adviser Lawrence Summers defended the administration's efforts on the jobs front and wrote to the Republican leaders that Obama was "committed to not repeating the fiscal mistakes of the last eight years." House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Monday said stimulus spending and other Democratic initiatives "are the wrong approach."

To recap, Republicans are confident that people being out of work is good for the Republican Party, according to Republicans.

This is newsworthy, mysteriously. The correct assumption is that this would be bad for incumbents, of which John Boehner is one here in nearby West Chester, Ohio. This of course has not occurred to the Republicans, nor has it apparently occurred to the terribly Republican-hating, Lieberal-loving AP.

What Digby Said

Really folks? People are upset over John Harwood, the Snidely Whiplash/Gargamel of the Villagers? He says a White House source said something that will probably upset the Left, and half the Left immediately takes the bait and gets upset. The White House has totally disavowed something that anyone with one iota of common sense would go "This is John Harwood being a toolbag again, ignore him."
It's possible that a White House official did say it; I certainly wouldn't put it past them. But I would guess that there's an equal chance that if he or she did, it's because the official watches Harwood saying it on TV every other week and was currying favor with him. After all, there is no villager more contemptuous of the left than John Harwood.
And yet here we go down the log flume ride again, ignoring the signs that say "You WILL get wet, you MAY get soaked" and wondering why we're covered in that water stuff again.

Played like a piano, guys.

Two For The Road

Apparently the Village believes that the political discourse is best expressed by President McCain...
Since the president took office, McCain has been on "Meet the Press" twice (July 12 and March 29), "Face the Nation" three times (August 30, April 26, and February 8), "This Week" three times (September 27, August 23, and May 10), and "Fox News Sunday" three times (July 2, March 8, and January 25). His appearance on "State of the Union" today will be his third visit since February (October 11, August 2, and February 15).

Not bad for a senator in the minority, who isn't in the party leadership, who has no role in any important negotiations, and who has offered no significant pieces of legislation.

...and Secretary of State Liz Cheney.
Liz Cheney made something of a splash in her debut as a Fox News panelist yesterday. After being introduced on Fox News Sunday by Chris Wallace as a "former State Department official, daughter of the former vice president, and first-time panelist," Cheney had an, um, interesting take on President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize.

"The president himself understands he didn't earn this prize," Cheney said. "And I think, therefore, the notion that, as the White House has said, he would go to Oslo to accept the prize would just sort of add to the farce."

To recap, the guy that lost the election has been on the Sunday shows more than a dozen times in nine months, and being the daughter of the former VP is enough to qualify you for expert TV pundit status.

The Village seems to think you desperately want to hear what these two have to say about America's political discourse. Exactly why I have no clue, but they think you want to anyway.

Godwin's Law Enforcement Scanner

Erick Erickson: Still a jagoff.
Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of conservative web site, today compared Linda Douglass, the spokeswoman for the White House Health Reform Office, to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

"Linda Douglass really is the Joseph Goebbels of the White House Health Care shop," Erickson tweeted this afternoon. He echoed the sentiment on RedState's homepage, wondering if Douglass "likes" being the Goebbels of the Health Reform Office.

And the great thing is this clown keeps getting invited on TV.

Wingnuts can do anything and the Village will never punish them. This reinforces the notion that this behavior is acceptable, when it's not.

Jail Bait

TPMMuckraker's Justin Eliott takes a look at the town of Hardin, Montana: a small town with a big unemployment problem and an even bigger empty federal prison.

With the unraveling of the deal for the shadowy American Private Police Force to take over and populate an empty jail in Hardin, Montana, it's pretty clear that the small city got played by an ex-con and his (supposed) private security firm.

But an investigation by TPMmuckraker into how Hardin ended up with the 92,000 square foot facility in the first place suggests that, long before "low-level card shark" Michael Hilton ever came to town, Hardin officials had already been taken for a ride by a far more powerful set of players: a well-organized consortium of private companies headquartered around the country, which specializes in pitching speculative and risky prison projects to local governments desperate for jobs.

The projects have generated multi-million dollar profits for the companies involved, but often haven't created the anticipated payoff for the communities, and have left a string of failed or failing prisons in their wake.

"They look for an impoverished town that's desperate," says Frank Smith of the Private Corrections Institute, a Florida-based group that opposes prison privatization. "They come in looking very impressive, saying, 'We'll make money rain from the skies.' In fact, they don't care whether it works or not."

In other words, this:

Do read the whole article however, it's pretty fascinating.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

If President Obama had turned down the Nobel Prize, the Wingers would still be attacking him too, you know.

Just sayin'.

And Wingers Said In 'Murica Land, Let My Tenthers Go

While I've seen this argument before, Marketwatch's Brett Arends reiterates with the new public option opt-out plan circulating that if the Red States want out, just let 'em go, they're a net drain on the economy.
Look at the numbers. New Jersey got back just 61 cents for every dollar it paid in federal taxes. Connecticut: 69 cents. Illinois: 75 cents. New York: 79 cents. Massachusetts: 82 cents. In other words, being a member of the union is costing these states billions in lost money.

Meanwhile Mississippi gets back $2 in federal spending for every dollar it pays in federal taxes. Alaska: $1.84. Louisiana: $1.78. North Dakota gets $1.68, Alabama $1.66, Tennessee $1.27, Idaho $1.21 and Arizona $1.19.

Red staters always like to accuse blue states of high taxes. But if they are right, one of the principal reasons blue staters are paying higher taxes is to staters.

Blue America paid these extra taxes because, on the whole, they have higher incomes, so they pay higher federal income taxes. (Note: The Tax Foundation analysis normalized the budget to assume no deficit, assuming, reasonably, that the future taxes to pay for the deficits would come from same people paying the current taxes.)

If you compare the states that went for John Kerry in 2004 with the states that voted for George Bush, a clear pattern emerges. Based on Tax Foundation numbers, Blue America paid somewhere in the vicinity of $800 per person in extra taxes to support Red America. No kidding: $800 for every man, woman and child.

The party of fiscal responsibility, indeed. New Jersey should tap Mississippi on the shoulder and say "Hey pal, I'd like my damn money back." If anyone should be complaining about paying for other people's health care, it's the blue states, not the red.

But then again, the argument was never about money, but race, class, and power.

Like Father, Like Son

BooMan takes a look at the KY Senate race for Jim Bunning's seat in 2010 and Republican candidate Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul.
Take a look at any number of House roll calls and you'll notice something a bit odd. Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul are very frequently listed as voting with the opposition, even though they are ideologically on the far wings of their respective parties. Kucinich is unlikely to vote for any defense spending, no matter which party crafted the bill, but he takes any number of idiosyncratic stands against his own party. Ron Paul is unlikely to vote for any exercise of federal government power, and he doesn't care if it is the Republicans who are pushing that power.

In the House, these tendencies mean next to nothing. But the Senate works by unanimous consent. And a Senator Kucinich or a Senator Ron Paul (using the same strategies) would be the least likely members to grant their consent. If Rand Paul is like his father, he'd probably become the most obstructive senator in the history of that body. A single senator, by repeatedly refusing to grant their consent to proceed to the next order of business, can dramatically reduce how much work gets done in the Senate in any given year. When a senator refuses their consent, it takes sixty votes to override their objection, and it takes a couple of days before the Senate is allowed to vote for the override. This is what is colloquially referred to as a Hold (which need not be secret). When a senator objects to a nomination, for example, they signal this by telling the Majority Leader that they will refuse to give their consent for a vote on their confirmation. The reason this so often results in killing off a nomination is that it costs a couple of valuable legislative days to overcome their objection, and with dozens of nominees, only the most urgent are worth the effort.

In other words, Rand Paul would effectively shut down the government from 2011-2017, and we'd have my current home of Kentucky to thank for it. And that's perfectly acceptable to a lot of folks around here.

Revenge Of The 1.9 Million Invisible Teabaggers

Wingnutism is apparently like existentialism, only with additional layers of stupid.

Right-wingers are being encouraged to descend upon "liberal" media outlets in their hometowns on October 17, and protest all the unfair coverage. It's part of Operation: Can You Hear us Now, and it's a continuation of the Tea Party and heath care mini-mob madness, as activists follow the lead of their "American heroes" Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

Reading about the plans, this part made me chuckle [emphasis added]:

Be peaceful, respectful, but let them HEAR you and SEE you. Remember, they are hard of hearing and their eyesight isn’t what it used to be the last 8 years prior. They accidentally missed 2 million people protesting in D.C. in one of the biggest protests in US History.

And this:

Maybe we cannot repeat an assembly of 2 million mad-as-hell taxpaying patriots in one place, but surely those who longed to go and couldn’t would love to be a part of Operation "Can You Hear Us Now?"

Boy, irony doesn't get much thicker than this, does it? Right-wingers are going to protest "liberal" media outlets for being unfair and unprofessional. For being blind to the truth! And how do `wingers know the news orgs aren't fair? Because they "missed" the anti-Obama rally where "2 million" people were protesting in D.C.

Yeah, that makes sense. You see, there really were two million people there. What? You weren't there? Then you're part of the LIBERAL MEDIA EMPIRE that covered up the story of the year!

There were two million people there because the Wingers believe there were two million people there, and anyone else is part of the con. Who are you going to trust, the media or your lying eyes?

The cool part is they already have an excuse for explaining away the not two million people attacking local LIBERAL MEDIA outlets...the media's covering it up, you see.

ARM-ed And Dangerous

Via Atrios, comes this report from Housing Wire on adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs):
The market can also expect heavy losses among Option adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), a product that allowed negative amortization by letting borrowers choose to pay only the minimum monthly payment. Fitch Ratings expects significant payment shocks over the next several years as a wave of Option-ARMs recast from the minimum amount to a fully amortizing principle and interest payment. These recasts are expected to drive substantial losses among the Option-ARM sector.
In other words, most of the rest of the losses will be coming from ARMs as they adjust and put payments out of reach for millions of Americans. The resulting squeeze will lower prices as foreclosed ARM homes are taken back by the banks, leading to more problems with the rest of the housing market.

The housing market isn't coming back anytime soon.

The Shiny Object Strategy

Betty Cracker over at Rumproast makes this catch from Bill Maher from Friday's Real Time on winning the health care debate:

Bottom line: Hey Obama, repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Suddenly, health care will no longer be the issue for the Wingers. They'll drop opposition to the public option and go straight for stopping THE GHEY. While they're busy with that, pass Obamacare.

And frankly, it's brilliant. Betty games it out:
The teabag demo is already prejudiced against LGBT equality and will eagerly pounce on any moves toward advancing it. But there’s no real corporate motivation to massively fund an effort to stymie LGBT equality initiatives. As Maher points out, a well-timed repeal of DADT could suck all the oxygen out of the anti-health reform movement by giving the lemmings who underpin it a shinier object on which to focus. And it’s the right thing to do into the bargain.
It's win-win-win for Obama, America, and civil rights. I say swing for the fences. The Wingers will drown in their own rabid froth.

That's change I can sure as hell believe in.

The Insurance Empire Strikes Back

The insurance industry lobby is attacking the Baucus Bill according to a breathless article by WaPo's Ceci Connelly, saying it will force insurance companies to add thousands of dollars in premiums per year for all Americans. TNR's Jon Cohn on the other hand smells a rat.
The 26-page paper, which you can read here, examines how four key elements of health reform will affect private premiums. The four elements are the absence of a strong individual mandate, the excise tax on high-cost insurance plans, the chain reaction effect of Medicare cuts, and taxes on various sectors in the health care industry.

But this accounting leaves out some pretty big things, starting with the subsidies that would help people buy insurance. The report itself makes that clear, right up front on page E-6:

The overall impact of these provisions will be to increase the cost of private health insurance coverage for individuals, families, and businesses. The net impact of these increases on households would include the impact of these increases and the new subsidies provided under the bill.

Now, the subsidies are not available to everybody, since they phase out with income and are only available through the insurance exchanges. As a result, people with higher incomes really would face higher premiums--if, again, the rest of the report is right. But there's more fishiness here, most clearly in the section about the excise tax on high-value insurance plans.

As you may recall, the idea of the excise tax is to end the tax subsidy for more expensive plans. The hope is that, once this subsidy is gone, employers and their employees will react by shopping around for cheaper plans--and that the resulting cost pressure will reduce health care spending overall, leading to lower prices down the line. Most economists seem to think this will be the case. So does the Congressional Budget Office, as best as I can tell. (They don't make pronouncements on how reform will affect private premiums, but they do believe it will lower health care spending overall.)

PriceWaterhouseCoopers acknowledges all of this. But they decide that, for the sake of illustration, they're going to pretend that the tax will have no effect except to raise prices. Once again, you don't have to take my word for it. The report says this explicitly, on page 6:

We have estimated the potential impact of the tax on premiums. Although we expect employers to respond to the tax by restructuring their benefits to avoid it, we demonstrate the impact assuming it is applied.

And the list of strange assumptions goes on. Plenty of experts, including the CBO, don't think health care providers will simply charge private insurers more to make up for declining revenue from Medicare. The experts could all be wrong, but PriceWaterhouseCoopers doesn't even acknowledge this belief let alone explain why it might be wrong. Indeed, nowhere in the document does the firm reveal its methods, which is interesting since--unlike CBO or even, say, a private outfit like Lewin--PriceWaterhouseCoopers is not particularly known for this sort of modeling.

Cohn goes on to say that the insurance company is really complaining the most about lack of a solid, enforceable mandate for all Americans to have insurance, and that they don't want to be the bad guys here. It has merit, but I'm not buying it.

I say "too late." Why is the insurance industry attacking now? The public option. It was dead a month ago, they thought. Now? Now it's looking more and more likely that the Dems will muscle it through. That's got the insurance lobby scared, period. The insurance industry will never accept a public option, mandates or no mandates. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves.

This isn't a move to try to negotiate. This is a move to try to destroy, plain and simple.

[UPDATE 8:58 AM] Doug J at Balloon Juice notes the WaPo article and makes this observation:

The article is by Ceci Connelly, who was at the center of the health care salon debacle.

There’s a pretty strong prima facie case for pay-to-play here.

Gotta agree. It's from the insurance company lobby, guys. It's going to say what they want it to say.

Common sense dictates it's not exactly bias-free, dig?

I'd Buy That For A Dollar

More and more countries are diversifying away from the U.S. dollar in currency reserves, and that spells nothing but bad news for an already weak greenback.
Central banks flush with record reserves are increasingly snubbing dollars in favor of euros and yen, further pressuring the greenback after its biggest two- quarter rout in almost two decades.

Policy makers boosted foreign currency holdings by $413 billion last quarter, the most since at least 2003, to $7.3 trillion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Nations reporting currency breakdowns put 63 percent of the new cash into euros and yen in April, May and June, the latest Barclays Capital data show. That’s the highest percentage in any quarter with more than an $80 billion increase.

World leaders are acting on threats to dump the dollar while the Obama administration shows a willingness to tolerate a weaker currency in an effort to boost exports and the economy as long as it doesn’t drive away the nation’s creditors. The diversification signals that the currency won’t rebound anytime soon after losing 10.3 percent on a trade-weighted basis the past six months, the biggest drop since 1991.

“Global central banks are getting more serious about diversification, whereas in the past they used to just talk about it,” said Steven Englander, a former Federal Reserve researcher who is now the chief U.S. currency strategist at Barclays in New York. “It looks like they are really backing away from the dollar.”

Let's stop and run that back. The dollar has lost more than 10% of its value worldwide in just six months. There's no sign of a recovery in the dollar, either. If anything, the dollar's weakness is driving investors into commodities like gold and oil.

Saying that the Obama administration is willing to tolerate dollar weakness to boost exports is complete garbage. The US is a mass importer, having a huge trade imbalance. We still import nearly everything in the finished goods department because we've gutted our manufacturing capability and ceded it to Asia. A ten percent hit to the dolor every six months will help with the trade imbalance, but it will do so by sharply lowering America's standard of living.

StupidiNews, Columbus Day Edition

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