Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Last Call

I thought it was actually a very good speech.  Highlights:
From some on the right, I expect we'll hear a different argument – that if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts for wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, and maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away. The problem is, that's what we did for eight years. That's what helped lead us into this crisis. It's what helped lead to these deficits. And we cannot do it again.

Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time to try something new. Let's invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let's meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent us here. Let's try common sense.

To do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust – deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we must take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; and to give our people the government they deserve.
(More after the jump...)

Repealin' Appealin'

The Axeman says Obama will call on Congress to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell tonight, and to allow gays to serve in the military.
President Obama will ask Congress Wednesday night to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bars gays and lesbians from openly serving in, White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod told CNN.
The request will be included in the president's State of the Union address, Axelrod said.

The issue has been a source of contention for heavy hitters on both sides of the issue, who are lining up for a fight.

In a message to Pentagon leadership, Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it's time to repeal the law.

"As a nation built on the principal of equality, we should recognize and welcome change that will build a stronger more cohesive military," said Shalikashvili. His letter was sent out Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, who supports repealing the policy.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, flatly disagreed with the idea of ending it.

"When it comes to 'don't ask don't tell,' frankly, I think it's worked very well. And we just ought to leave it alone," he said to reporters Wednesday morning.
No Bonehead, it's not working well.  It's not working well at all.  You know who allows openly gay members to serve in the military?  Canada, Britain, Ireland, Germany, Australia, and Israel, not to mention dozens of other countries.  They have yet to implode or to have their military go berserk.  (I mean c'mon, the Israelis do it.  Being gay?  Doesn't get you out of military service there, no sir.)

It's about damn time, too.  Good for Obama.  You back the man on what he's doing that you agree with, and this is just basic human decency.  (Just like Bush, right?)

Advice On Advice

Bob Cesca comes out with a pretty well-reasoned argument about how progressives can win the public over by changing the framing and picking smart battles in a Washington that is still dominated by a political reality.  Change the reality, win the battle.
Yes, to repeat: the president isn't flawless. He clearly could be more progressive on a number of fronts. But as a movement, we could be more effective with how we get him to do that. Here's how.

1) Modulating our loudness. If we're always yelling, then we're easier to ignore. Oh, it's just the left and their screeching again. But if we remain proactive, if we give credit where credit is due and pick our battles, then, when we have to get loud, we get noticed. Rachel Maddow is a good example of modulating her tone. When it comes to the administration, she's always been fair and reasonable, yet tough when necessary. So when she has to yell, it really, really resonates. Her exchange with Jared Bernstein is a perfect example. I think it's safe to say that the White House took very seriously her segment with Bernstein about the spending freeze. Why? Modulation. Dynamics. Fairness.

2) Smart accountability. We have to avoid using right-wing frames and accidentally engaging in arguments that can be borrowed by political enemies. Teaming up with someone like Norquist only elevates Norquist and diminishes us. A similar argument was used by the Obama campaign when arguing against a series of town hall debates with John McCain. Obama had everything to lose and McCain had everything to gain. Do we really want to lend our credibility to Norquist and the teabaggers? Do we really want to send the mixed message that it's okay to join up with someone who wants to drown government, while also trying to convince voters that government can be a force for good?

3) Winning the debate on the ground. How do we make America more progressive (moving the Overton Window)? By changing minds. Yelling at the president won't change the fact that a considerably large chunk of the American electorate is moderate and independent. The Democrats need the middle in order to win because the left simply isn't large enough. But if we systematically and deliberately change minds -- if we're disciplined about taking the longview approach and convincing voters that progressivism is the best way to govern, then we will eventually force politicians to move leftward as the electorate does.

Until then, we need to accept (albeit begrudgingly) the political reality that the president will occasionally have to do things that appeal to the middle in order to get other things done. And some of those things will be progressive. I hasten to note that we don't have to merrily accept all of it (see item #1 above), we should simply keep this reality in mind before we kneejerk ourselves into a spastic mess. You might not like what the president is doing in Afghanistan, and you should continue to make your case against it. But don't take it as a betrayal. Perhaps winning support by being aggressive in Afghanistan will buy the president some votes on a more progressive bill elsewhere.
Now, all of these are great ideas.  So naturally, he's getting pummeled in the comments over at HuffPo because there are things that Obama hasn't done yet that he could of if he had the political will to do so (the repeal of DADT comes to mind.)

It doesn't change the fact that Bob has a point.  The Useful Idiots aren't helping.

Epic Secret Agent Man Fail

This guy, Stan Dai?  One of James O' Keefe's "wiretapping experts".  Watched a little too much 24 there, eh?

They never really had a chance:
The FBI account of the attack reads like a bad script from an episode of the A-team. To me it seems pretty clear that having successfully bamboozled the minimum wage employees of Acorn, the O'Keefe four were rather full of themselves. They don't appear to have considered the fact that the security procedures in place at GSA run facilities are explicitly designed to resist espionage attempts by the KGB, GRU or any other world-class intelligence agency.

We are obviously going to be seeing a lot of RNC attempts to downplay the significance of this episode. I expect to see it being described as a lark, a prank, a bad joke gone wrong. But there really shouldn't be any doubt that the perpetrators understood they were performing a criminal act.
And I'm willing to bet other people knew it was a criminal act too before they tried it.  How deep does this little disgusting rabbit hole go there, The Party Of Law And Order That Is The GOP?


Now How Much Would You Pay To See Moose Lady Talk?

Via the Rumpies, the answer is increasingly that the number is "negative five hundred forty-nine dollars."
Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips likely assumed that scoring a dinner speech by the former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate would guarantee a huge turnout for his National Tea Party Convention, scheduled to start Feb. 4 at Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Hotel. But according to Tea Party insiders, the tickets for the Palin banquet aren't selling—and some conservative activists who have already paid to attend are now demanding refunds. With the controversial event shaping up to be a potential flop, some Tea Partiers are urging Palin to cancel her speech to avoid a humiliating public relations disaster.

The problems began after news broke that Phillips intended to profit from the convention—which costs $549 a person for access to both the conference and Palin’s banquet, or $349 for a ticket to the dinner alone. With one prominent conservative blogger charging that the event seemed "scammy," several key sponsors yanked their support, including the National Precinct Alliance, the American Liberty Alliance, American Majority, and the Federation for American Immigration Reform. As the rash of bad press continued, this week Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), announced that she’s considering pulling out as a convention speaker. And some Tea Party activists think Palin should join her. According to internal convention planning documents obtained by Mother Jones, Palin will be paid $115,000 to address the attendees—as they dine on steak or lobster. To some Tea Partiers, this lavish affair sounds suspiciously like an exclusive GOP fundraiser and a betrayal of their grassroots movement. (In mid-January, Palin told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly that she will not profit from her appearance at the convention, suggesting she would donate her speaking fee to Republican candidates. But she has not provided any details on that, and a Palin spokesperson did not respond to requests for clarification.)
Last Moose Fan in the room, turn out the lights on the way out.  $549 to hear Sarah Palin talk is something even Teabaggers think is pretty damn stupid.

On Your Best Behavior

Cause we have guests, you see.
House GOP leaders are urging fellow Republicans to control their tempers and avoid any repeat performances of Joe Wilson’s “you lie” outburst at tonight’s State of the Union speech.

House Republican leaders warned rank and file Republican members in a private meeting this morning to show the President “respect” during tonight’s speech, two sources familiar with the meeting tell me.

House GOP leader John Boehner, minority whip Eric Cantor, and leading House conservative Mike Pence all stood up and delivered that message to the closed-door House GOP caucus meeting today.

“All of them talked about how the President is a guest,” one senior House GOP aide who was there tells me.
And every single one of them is aware of how Joe Wilson is a Goddamn American Hero among the teabagger set and raised a million bucks for his campaign because of his outburst.

And every single one of them is thinking "You know, it's probably worth it anyway..."

It's So Shiny

Apple iPad.  It's shiiiiiiny.

So very shiny. (And it starts at $499.)


The whole James O'Keefe/illegal wiretap on Sen. Mary Landrieu's office story is getting far more interesting.  It seems Andrew Breitbart of Big Journalism, the website that "broke" the faked ACORN story, isn't exactly denying he had some sort of financial arrangement with James O'Keefe to publish any dirt he dug up as an exclusive in an interview with Hugh Hewitt yesterday.
AB: ... So when he puts a story out there, it's on the Brietbart sites, the Big sites, that he can tell people what transpired. So...

HH: Do you pay him for that?

AB: Yes.

HH: And are you free to tell me how much you pay him?

AB: I'll...perhaps at another date, but he's paid a fair salary.

HH: Is he is an employee?

AB: I'm not sure that's technically the thing, but yes, he's paid for his life rights. And he's, you know, he's still...we reserve the right to say yes or no to any of the stories that he puts up on our site as we do to any other contributor who comes to the site.
Interesting.  And it seems James O'Keefe's cohorts knew each other...three of the four of them, including Keefe, founded conservative college alternative newspapers.

Gosh, it's almost like there's a rather decent-sized little effort here to attack Democrats through internet gotcha journalism.

Dear America:

"It's all Obama's fault.  If he would just do what the GOP wants him to do and cut spending in a recession thus driving us into a depression where Republicans can win a landslide victory in 2010, everything would be fine.  It's what the American people want."

--Mitch McConnell, CNN

Bonus Verbatim Stupid:  "At a time of trillion-dollar deficits, the administration should direct unspent stimulus funds to pay down our debts right now, rather than have money spent out on questionable projects nine years down the road."

Yes, because the real problem right now with people not being able to pay their bills, their mortgages, their car payments and their health insurance premiums is clearly the deficit and not "I haven't gotten a raise since Dan Rather was on CBS."


HTML Mencken at Sadly, No! has a classic David Brooks takedown in today's must-read.
Today David Brooks offers the most dishonest, morally-degenerate column I have read in, maybe, years. Srsly. Brooks is so worried about class-based left populism that he’s willing to concede culturally-reactionary rightwing populism “equally” sucks just so he can give the appearance of even-handedly condemning the supposed excess of all populist movements, whose anger and sincerity scare professional gasbags for whom politics is a game. Then he fakey-fakely positions himself as, at the same time, anti-elitist — more bullshit even-handedness — so he can pretend his take is, yes, sensible, centrist, reasonable, disinterested etc. etc. barf. and not what it actually is: an inky-lubed handjob for the wealthy criminal class.

Politics, some believe, is the organization of hatreds.
David Brooks is among that “some,” but he has his Mr. Pop Sociology hat on here, so he speaks from disinterest and objectivity and.. right.
The people who try to divide society on the basis of ethnicity we call racists. The people who try to divide it on the basis of religion we call sectarians. The people who try to divide it on the basis of social class we call either populists or elitists.
Yeah, though racists are more specifically people who say things like… well, like what David Brooks said about Haiti. But that’s neither here nor there; my point is Brooks’s strategery, his affect, and for what ultimate purpose. The first co-opts a liberal point; the second does as well, but is a more subtle (doesn’t immediately ring as phony) “evidence against interest” item than the first, coming from a conservative. Then there’s the third item; ding ding ding; here’s the real “tell”: those who even see class differences are the moral equivalents of racists. And to actively oppose the interests of the opposite class? Hitlerian, presumably.

So, to be Hitlerian: The interest of the wealthy is in opposition to (or, if you like, exploitation of) that of most of the non-wealthy. The lower classes have to pursue their interests explicitly, by raising hell. In contrast, the wealthy interest is pursued “structurally” — or, implicitly in the everyday culture. Because the wealthy have the power, duh. From Brooks’s point of view, this fact can’t be stated without a huge political cost — there’s no way to not appear mean-spirited. There is no equivalence in reality, so Brooks’s solution is to throw the whole class war out as an irrational fraud, based not on poor people’s alleged envy (as per the usual wingnut rationale) but on bigotry. Talk about gall.
Do read the whole thing. The whole comparison Brooks manages is vile, even by Bobo standards.  Up id down, black is white, and populism is bad, while corporate profits are the only thing that matters while your average American is barely scraping by.

Unlike NY Times columnists.

[UPDATE 11:17 AMWhat an amazing coincidence.  Brooks' fellow NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman is also chastising both Democrats and pretending to chastise Republicans for picking on our poor, precious rich people by giving into the "political sugar high" of populism and uses it as a platform to attack Obama and push the GOP talking points.

Roubini At Davos

Nouriel Roubini is at the Davos World Economic Forum meeting this week, and in a Bloomberg interview he gives a dire warning about the future of the Euro and the Eurozone, particularly Spain and Greece.
“Down the line, not this year or two years from now, we could have a breakup of the monetary union,” Roubini said in a Bloomberg Radio interview from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. “It’s a rising risk.”

Roubini’s concern contrasts with the view of European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet who said it’s “absurd” to imagine that the 16-nation euro area could splinter. Speculation of a breakup has mounted in financial markets as Greece struggles to cut the continent’s biggest budget deficit and countries from Spain to Ireland face rising debt burdens.

“The euro zone could drift essentially with a bifurcation, with a strong center and a weaker periphery and eventually some countries might exit the monetary union,” said Roubini, who predicted the recent financial crisis a year before it began. “This is the very first test” of the single currency bloc.

Economies including Spain and Greece are threatened by fiscal imbalances and declining competitiveness, Roubini said. Membership in the euro means they can no longer devalue the currency to export their way out of recession, he said.
And that means they crash and burn.  The question is whether or not they crash and burn forcefully enough to take the EU down with it.
Roubini said for all the focus on Greece, Spain may eventually pose a bigger threat to the euro zone because it’s the region’s fourth-largest economy and has higher unemployment and weaker banks. Spain’s jobless rate is more than 19 percent, almost twice the EU average.

“If Greece goes under that’s a problem for the euro zone,” he said. “If Spain goes under it’s a disaster.” 
The basic problems that created the global recession have yet to be addressed.  The symptoms were treated with more money, but the root causes remain.  And hey, Japan's still in trouble too.
After Standard & Poor’s yesterday lowered its sovereign credit rating outlook on Japan, Roubini said he was “worried” about the world’s second-largest economy as its debt mounts, deflation returns and population ages. While it can currently finance itself thanks to domestic savers, at some point they may “flee the yen,” pushing up borrowing costs and crippling the economy, he said.
That's right, Japan's credit rating is now in trouble. The U.S. may be better at hiding the problem, but the rest of the world is hurting badly.  The world has a long way to go to get out of this mess, and the next decade is going to be painful.

Paying For It All

At least one state's voters have the courage to close a budget gap by increasing taxes, and that's Oregon.
Oregon voters delivered historic approval Tuesday for a pair of tax increases after a campaign that assured Oregonians they could protect schools and other programs by requiring wealthy individuals and big corporations to pay more.

With 91 percent of the votes counted, Measures 66 and 67 each were passing with 54 percent and 53 percent approval.

Measure 66 raises income taxes on the top 3 percent of filers and Measure 67 boosts business taxes. Both tax increases were approved by the 2009 Legislature but forced to the ballot by opponents’ signature drive.

Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt called the results “a win for Oregon kids,” whose schools will not face the 5 percent cut in state spending they would otherwise have confronted. The Gladstone Democrat acknowledged that Tuesday’s vote broke from Oregonians’ history of rejecting general tax-raising measures, which were similarly promoted as ways to preserve vital services.

The core difference was these measures were crafted to hit the bank accounts of only the most well-off individuals and the deepest pocketed big corporations — not all Oregonians and businesses across-the-board, as past tax measures have proposed.

“These are asking people who are doing well — even in this economy — to pay a little bit more,” Hunt said. “I think that’s what made the difference.”
And that of course makes sense.  Hey imagine that, making the people gaining more in this economy pay more to help balance the budget.

I wonder when the "boycott Oregon" movement will start from the Wingers and the state explodes into abject and instant poverty.


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