Monday, April 12, 2010

Last Call

So basically Bill Kristol thinks Elena Kagan would be a great choice for the Supreme Court, so Republicans have to vote against her anyway.

WALLACE: Bill, your thoughts about because there -- it's not only a choice for the president as to whether he wants to pick a more liberal candidate who would create more of a political dust-up. What about for Republicans and their decision as to how much of a fight they want to make of it? Obviously, to some degree, it depends on who the president chooses.
KRISTOL: Not that much, because I think, for example, Kagan would be a very respectable choice. But nonetheless, I think most Republicans would oppose her and, honestly, should oppose her, with respect and with deference to her, you know, impressive academic credentials, because she will be a reliable liberal vote, and I think Republicans should want to have a serious debate on the Constitution.
Three thoughts going through my head here.

One, Bill Kristol is a twit.

Two, Glenn Greenwald's been telling anyone who'll listen than Elena Kagan will not be as reliable a liberal vote as everyone seems to think she will be, and he may be on to something here judging by Kristol's reaction.

Three, if Kristol's right, then Republicans are going to vote against whomever Obama nominates anyway.  Might as well nominate somebody good since you're going to get a fight anyhow (see Ezra Klein).

We'll see.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Jim Cramer asks:
Are we due for a double-dip recession?
Since his answer is "no", and Jim Cramer basically hasn't been right about a single friggin' thing since back in the days of ought six, I'd start panicking riiiiiight

PS, Jim:  The recession's not over in the first place, so really it's less of a double-dip than it is a continuation of the trend downward.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Michael Vick, NFL quarterback, served prison time for contributing to exploitation of dogs, came back to the game, still largely hated by people.  This is justice, as an uppity sports person found out he was not above the law.

Ben Roethlisberger, NFL quarterback, no charges filed for contributing to the exploitation of a human being, still in the game, largely loved by people.  This is also justice, as a beloved role model and community figure escaped harm from those trying to attack him for his fame.

Somebody explain this to me.

I Do Not Believe That Word Means What You Think It Means

In this case, what the wingers believes constitutes "mainstream" as far as the Tea Party goes.  Demographically, they are mainstream.  Socially?  No way in hell.  Tom Schaller at Five Thirty Eight:
Last week, the ongoing debate over what we know about the tea partiers took a new turn, with scores of conservative commentators like The LA Times' Andrew Malcolm and Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds assuring us that a new Gallup poll proves the TPers are not a "fringe" or "racist" group.

But the Gallup results only confirm that tea partiers are "mainstream" in their demographics, when what really matters are their attitudes. Results released Friday of a new multi-state poll of white voters conducted by the University of Washington's Christopher Parker paint a more complicated picture. The survey asked white respondents about their attitudes toward the tea party movement--and their attitudes toward non-whites, immigrants and homosexuals.

The charts contained herein show the disparity between whites who strongly approve and disapprove of the tea party movement. In a few cases -- attitudes toward Latinos, for instance -- the differences were small. But only in a few cases: tea party sympathizers believe blacks are less intelligent, hardworking and trustworthy. They appear to be particularly wary of immigrants. And they don't much care for gays, either. (Although note that two-thirds of them support gays in the military, an issue on which policy has long lagged public sentiment.)

Again, this is a comparison of white attitudes, not differences between whites and non-whites. Which means that avid white tea party sympathizers do not even hold mainstream attitudes among whites. If we included the attitudes of non-whites, the views of white tea party sympathizers would be even more aberrant.
Christopher Parker compared the social beliefs towards African-Americans, Latinos, and homosexuals of two groups, whites who strongly support the Tea Party movement, and whites who strongly oppose it.  The differences are staggering and very informative.  In some cases those differences are minimal, 54% of TP supporters believe Latinos are "hard-working" and 58% of those opposed to the TP believe the same.

But in some cases these social differences are yawning chasms. 59% of TP supporters believe immigrants are taking jobs from American citizens, while only 24% of those opposed to the TP believe that.  Only 36% of TP supporters think gays should be able to adopt, as opposed to 87% of those who are strongly against the Tea Party movement.  As Schaller points out time and again, people who strongly support the Tea Party show a very intolerant, hostile, and cynical view of minorities, gays, and immigrants in this country.

So no, I would not qualify those views as "mainstream".  I'd in fact call them pretty fringe.

Divide And Conquer Tactics

Ezra Klein has the right of this.  The time to launch into immigration reform and to update the DREAM Act is now.  It's a winner for Dems and a loser for the GOP.
As Ron Brownstein frequently points out, Obama won fewer than 40 percent of working-class whites in 2008. Congressional Democrats may well do even worse this year. But it's hard to believe they can do that much worse, or that they can do much to change their standing among this group. It's also not clear that immigration is a big motivator for these voters: The GOP tried to use it in 2006 against the Democrats, and the effort pretty much fell flat on its face.

Actually, it did worse than that: It drove Latino voters toward the Democrats. Obama won 67 percent of Hispanics in 2008 -- a much better showing than Democrat made in 2004. The fear in 2010, however, is that Hispanics won't show up to vote. If Democrats actually pursue immigration reform, their participation becomes likelier. And if Republicans -- or tea partyers, or conservative talk radio -- overreact to the prospect of immigration reform, their participation becomes virtually assured.

That last bit also suggests another reason Democrats might want to see immigration on the agenda: It's got the possibility to tear the Republican coalition apart. Beltway Republicans are very, very concerned about losing Latino voters, and so they try to be careful on the issue. Remember that the last effort at immigration reform came while Bush was in the White House.

But grass-roots conservatives tend to be very, very opposed to immigration reform. Remember that it was conservatives -- led by talk radio -- who killed the immigration reform effort. So what do Republican politicians do when their base goes into anti-immigration overdrive but their consultants beg them to tread carefully? It looks like Harry Reid, for one, would like to find out.
Want to prove that the tea party fanatics run the GOP now?  Reintroduce the DREAM Act.  Start with John McCain.  Watch how many Republicans turn completely on the Latino community at the behest of their most virulent fringe.  Watch as the small business wing and the social purity wing fight each other for dominance.  And keep explaining this is the same bill the Republicans themselves put forth in 2006.

You want to cut off the putative Republican wave in 2010?  You want to close the enthusiasm gap, unite the Dems, get out mid-term voters and knock the GOP on its ass?  You're being handed the answer.  Harry Reid says he has 56 votes for it now.

Start finding the other four.  I bet it happens.  Let's go, Dems.

The Next Litmus Test

As I've said before, Health Care Reform will be the new litmus test for anyone Obama nominates for SCOTUS.  Republicans will be brutal until they get assurances that Obama's Supreme Court pick will be the fifth vote against it.  Michael Barone brings it up again today but adds an argument I find interesting:
Some 14 state attorneys general are trying to raise the issue in court, and pending state laws outlawing mandates could raise the question, as well. Those state laws are obviously invalid under the supremacy clause unless the federal law is unconstitutional. Is it?

I would expect an Obama nominee to decline to answer. But Republicans may not take such a response as meekly as they did when Ginsberg declined to answer dozens of questions back in 1993. They might press harder, as they did in 2009 when they prompted Sotomayor to declare, to the dismay of some liberal law professors, that she would only interpret the Constitution and the law, not make new law. Just raising the health care mandate issue helps Republicans given the great and apparently growing unpopularity of the Democrats' legislation.

Another set of questions could prove embarrassing for Democrats who have lauded Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade for creating a right to privacy that includes contraception and abortion. "How can the freedom to make such choices with your doctor be protected and not freedom to choose a hip replacement or a Caesarean section?" asks former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey in The Wall Street Journal. "Either your body is protected from government interference or it's not."
And that's a hell of an argument in the court of public opinion:  Roe v. Wade means that Obamacare should be struck down.  You're telling me that after all this time, conservatives are defending Roe to argue that health care reform is unconstitutional?  They're willing to give up opposition to Roe (and the contraception precedent in Griswold v Connecticut) just to get rid of this bill?

That's astounding.  Even if you don't buy the legal argument (which I don't) the fact that conservatives are willing to go there is a bit of a gobsmacker.  Opposition to Roe is the basis for modern social conservatism, frankly.  It has been for my entire lifetime, and yet here we have at least one argument for Roe used as a tool to get rid of health care reform.

The priority matrix has clearly shifted here.  Keep an eye on the response to this argument that Roe's precedence means health care reform must be overturned.  It's a specious argument at best (mandating health insurance is not mandating government health care interference any more than mandating car insurance means the government controls what car you buy) but the shift that giving up Roe to stop health care reform shows just how much of a threat this is to conservatives.

Watch the response to this idea closely.

Shooting The Messenger

This Evan Thomas/Eve Conant piece in this week's Newsweek is surely worth a read.  The warning signs are there for those who have been watching our domestic terrorism problem grow.  The Internet's dark side is that technology has made this all the more easier, and that's being multiplied by the merchants of hate on talk radio.
The Internet offers a dark social network for militiamen and real soldiers. A July 2008 FBI intelligence report by the bureau's counterterrorism division warned that white-supremacist leaders were encouraging followers to "infiltrate the military as 'ghost skins' in order to recruit and receive training for the benefit of the extremist movement." (The report said the hate-group leaders were especially interested in planting moles without any documented history with neo-Nazi groups or "overt racist insignia such as tattoos" so they could more easily slip by military recruiters. The FBI identified 203 people with confirmed or claimed military service who were active in ex-tremist groups. On the Web site for white supremacists, a blogger called "shadowman" posted a photo of a U.S. Army enlisted man in camouflage carrying a weapon with the boast "i am a professional killer?.?.?.?a soldier born of war." The Defense Department has long had a "zero tolerance" policy for membership in extremist groups, but last November the Pentagon quietly tightened its regulations governing such activity, a Pentagon official confirmed to newsweek. Not only are service members barred from "active participation" in such groups, they also may not "actively advocate supremacist doctrine, ideology, or causes," according to a copy of the Pentagon regulation.

It is hard to know how much such grim fantasies are stirred by the steady stream of conspiracy theories pushed by talk-radio hosts. Rush Limbaugh talks about the Democrats planning to "kill you" with health-care reform and suggests (agreeing with black Muslim minister Louis Farrakhan, of all people) that it "seems perfectly within the realm of reality" that the H1N1 vaccine was "developed to kill people." Like many talk-show hosts, he uses martial language to rouse the faithful: "The enemy camp is the White House right now," he says. Former Alaska governor turned media star Sarah Palin posted on her Facebook page a list of House Democrats who voted for health-care reform with crosshairs aimed at their home districts, while tweeting to her followers, "Don't Retreat, Instead—RELOAD!" She strongly denied any intent to incite violence. Other conservative talkers insist their foes are preparing violent attacks on them. Glenn Beck of Fox News is the master purveyor of this particular brand of sly paranoia. He suggests that he will be the victim of violence. "I'd better start wearing a [bulletproof] vest" to guard against White House attacks, he says, and warns that the Democrats will sic goons on him to break his kneecaps. Some talk-show hosts see the risk of going too far. Bill O'Reilly, the top-rated talker on Fox News, interviewed Stewart Rhodes of the Oath Keepers in February and treated him coolly. After the interview O'Reilly said to his audience, "We have a system to uphold the Constitution. It is called the judicial branch. The Supreme Court. The Oath Keepers are not the system." Wise words, but it's a sign of disturbing times that O'Reilly felt required to say them.
There's a lot more of this out there, and it's growing daily.  And for the sin of pointing them out,  Newsweek will be called racist, they will be called traitors who weaken our military during a time of war, they will be called all sorts of things.

It doesn't change the fact that these people are out there, stoking the fires.  And they will continue to do so right until they lose control of the beast they unleashed.

The Crusade For Justice

I'm thinking that Connecticut's Catholic bishops would be better served by protesting this measure a tad less.
A bill in Connecticut's legislature that would remove the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases has sparked a fervent response from the state's Roman Catholic bishops, who released a letter to parishioners Saturday imploring them to oppose the measure.

Under current Connecticut law, sexual abuse victims have 30 years past their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit. The proposed change to the law would rescind that statute of limitations.

The proposed change to the law would put "all Church institutions, including your parish, at risk," says the letter, which was signed by Connecticut's three Roman Catholic bishops.

The letter is posted on the Web site of the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference, the public policy and advocacy office of Connecticut's Catholic bishops. It asks parishioners to contact their legislators in opposition of the bill.
I'm thinking why would any church official be actively saying "You know, we don't want these people to be able to have their case heard.  It puts us at risk."  Isn't that exactly why the statue of limitations should be removed?  Why would any religious official say "It's better for this person to not have their claim of sexual abuse by a member of our organization be heard"?

That seems bitterly self-serving and arrogant to me.  It also seems to fly in the face of the God they teach us about.  Maybe it is better to let God judge these men.  It would be better still to make sure this never happens again...and we are still a nation of laws, too.  The former does not invalidate the latter.

We're Steele In This Together, You And I

Michael Steele is warning his critics on the right that he's the indispensable man in the RNC chair right now.
Steele warned the audience that Democrats will try to use his troubles to shift the focus in an election year that looks like it could be a tough road for the majority party. He urged his fellow party members not to let that happen.

"Democrats are looking for those distractions," he said. "And lord knows I've provided a few."

"But Democrats also know they have some explaining to do," he added. "And they'd love nothing more than for us to keep pointing fingers at me and others instead of their radical un-American agenda. And we shouldn't fall for that trap."
And he's right, Democrats are trying to shift gears to Michael Steele.  But Steele is making it so easy to do so. Steele's been fighting for his job since Day One, and he's not exactly been the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to playing politics.  After all, his job is playing politics.

However, I don't see Steele going anywhere.  He's survived this long, they really can't fire him without admitting it was a cynical pandering move to hire him in the first place, and the guy does have charisma.  The RNC is stuck with him, frankly.

But I also believe that will continue to benefit the Democrats more than the Republicans.  After November's elections however, Steele's job security situation may change very rapidly (especially if the Republicans fail to recapture Congress.)

For now, he's Steele the one.

Lookin' To Get Out (Of His Head)

Via the Rumpies, actor Jon Voight has descended into self-parody of his own roles.

Now, the lie goes very deep, and President Obama has been cleverly trained in the Alinsky method and it is very important that every American knows what that is. It is a Socialist/Marxist teaching and with it, little-by-little, he rapes this nation, taking down our defenses and making new language for Islamic extremists.
This will be the first President to ever weaken the United States of America. President Obama uses his aggression and arrogance for his own agenda against the will of the American people, when he should be using his will and aggression against our enemies.
Just back away from the camera slowly there, Jon.  This isn't "24" or "Enemy of the State" or the remake of "The Manchurian Candidate" here, buddy.  But it is pretty disturbing.  You know, eight years ago if this had been an actor saying "Bush uses his aggression and arrogance for his own agenda against the will of the American people" FOX would be the first network calling for that actor's head for attacking the President so publicly.

Nowadays FOX gives actors attacking the President guest spots on their shows.

Greek Fire Would Be Nothing Next To A Japanese Tsunami

While I've written extensively about Greece's bailout, Japan's situation is actually much more precarious.
Public debt is expected to hit 200 percent of GDP in the next year as the government tries to spend its way out of the economic doldrums despite plummeting tax revenues and soaring welfare costs for its ageing population.

Based on fiscal 2010's nominal GDP of 475 trillion yen, Japan's debt is estimated to reach around 950 trillion yen -- or roughly 7.5 million yen per person.

Japan "can't finance" its record trillion-dollar budget passed in March for the coming year as it tries to stimulate its fragile economy, said Hideo Kumano, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

"Japan's revenue is roughly 37 trillion yen and debt is 44 trillion yen in fiscal 2010, " he said. "Its debt to budget ratio is more than 50 percent."

Without issuing more government bonds, Japan "would go bankrupt by 2011", he added.
The question then becomes "When does Japan's bond market go under?"  The good news is Japan has a massive account surplus so the risk of that bond market collapsing is much lower.  The bad news is that means the results will almost certainly be a continued long deflationary spiral instead of a collapse.

But if that collapse does happen, and as Japan's debt-to-GDP ratio rises that possibility grows, then all bets are off.  Keep in mind there are plenty of countries in the economic danger zone right now and they will continue to remain there for some time.  Greece is only the beginning of the secondary effects to 2008's financial meltdown.


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