Sunday, June 20, 2010

Last Call

BooMan has an excellent point here on the Next Firebagging:  the investment in OFA to get out the minority vote for midterm 2010 elections is going to certainly cause some friction.
The next intraparty controversy is going to be over the Democrats' decision to spend $50 million getting out the vote of those whose only vote ever was for Barack Obama in 2008. This is not what Rahm Emanuel would do. It is what David Plouffe is doing. Organizing for America, the grassroots, progressive wing of the Democratic National Committee, is getting all the love and attention they could want, and we should be ecstatic. But don't expect any love or approval from the white blogosphere, who will interpret this as an abandonment of traditional progressive groups.

This will unite the James Carville wing of the party with Jane Hamsher wing. 
Obama won in 2008 by empowering both the under-represented margins and convincing the middle to vote against the Republicans.  This is a smart move because any midterm election is always, always, always about turnout, turnout, turnout.  Getting even more of the people who voted for the first time for Obama to turn out for the Democrats again in 2010 is the way the Dems will maintain power.  Going after traditional midterm voters only is a losing proposition.  You need to motivate your side to go out and vote when they wouldn't ordinarily do so.

The cries of doom and gloom over this are already rising.
"I have zero confidence that they're heading in the right direction here," says one longtime Democratic organizer who didn't want to be quoted by name criticizing his party's major midterm election initiative. Added another: "I think they're going to come in for a very rude awakening. It's going to be brutal."

If that turns out to be the case, the doubters say, Democrats will wake up the morning of Nov. 3 wishing they had spent that $50 million on more traditional methods, like television ads, for reaching their base and persuading independents.
Of course the people running the party machinery think this is going to be bad.  Of course they think the only way to win is to tell progressives to screw off and accept it.  Yes, it's risky.  But the alternative is to play the GOP's game.

And that's a guaranteed loser.

The Circle Is Complete

Remember the first day of the spill when the estimates were like, 1,000 barrels a day and BP was silent?  That's because BP's own internal documents were throwing around numbers like 100,000 barrels of oil per day.
The document appears to estimate the highest potential flow of oil if key components of the well fail. The document does not indicate that the 100,000 barrels per day is BP's estimate of the actual amount flowing from the ruptured Gulf of Mexico well.

The document states, "If BOP (blowout preventer) and wellhead are removed and if we have incorrectly modeled the restrictions -- the rate could be as high as ~ 100,000 barrels per day up the casing or 55,000 barrels per day up the annulus (low probability worst cases)"

"This document raises very troubling questions about what BP knew and when they knew it," Markey said in a statement.

"It is clear that, from the beginning, BP has not been straightforward with the government or the American people about the true size of this spill. Now the families living and working in the Gulf are suffering from their incompetence," he added.
Gosh, key component failure like a catastrophic wellhead explosion where the blowout preventer does nothing?  To give you an idea, if this thing really is spewing that much oil into the Gulf, then we've already seen close to a quarter-billion gallons of oil spill into the Gulf, a number more than twenty times worse than Exxon Valdez.

The talk of what we need to do in the Gulf right now is not "How do we save the 2010 tourist season?" but "How do we deal with the permanent loss of Gulf Coast industries?"  Fishing, tourism, support for those workers, that's all gone, folks.  This is a game-ender for these states and their economies.  They are going to need a lot of government help, ironically, just to survive.  They are going to need entirely new industries down there to support people.

In short, they are going to need progressive solutions in red states.  The irony is almost as heartbreaking as the tragic demise of the Gulf and millions of people in the area are going to suffer.  We're going to see poverty in this region like nobody has seen in decades.

$20 billion will only be a drop in the bucket, too.  Not even sure $50 billion will cover it.  Not all the damage and claims and lost jobs.  Parts of the country will be in an economic depression because of this.  The only question in my mind is "Will this be enough to knock the entire country into a depression?"

Increasingly I'm leaning towards that answer being yes.

Carrier On My Wayward Son

Now this is an interesting bit of news from Zero Hedge.
Arabic newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi reports that 12 American warships, among which one aircraft carrier, as well as one Israeli corvette, and possibly a submarine, have crossed the Suez Canal on their way to the Red Sea. Concurrently, thousands of Egyptian soldiers were deployed along the canal to protect the ships. The passage disrupted traffic into the manmade canal for the "longest time in years." The immediate destination of the fleet is unknown. According to Global Security, two other carriers are already deployed in the region, with the CVN-73 Washington in the western Pacific as of May 26, and the CVN-69 Eisenhower supporting operation Enduring Freedom as of May 22. It is unclear at first read what the third carrier group may be, but if this news, which was also confirmed by the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, is correct, then the Debka report about a surge in aircraft activity in the Persian Gulf is well on its way to being confirmed. There has been no update on the three Israeli nuclear-armed subs that are believed to be operating off the coast of Iran currently. 
A third US carrier group in the Red Sea is not something that you just hide.  It's a freakin' carrier group. The question is what are we doing with it.
We have submitted a query to Hillary Clinton for confirmation, in advance of her meeting with Israel defense minister Ehud Barak, who flew in to the US on Saturday for meetings with the former first lady, as well as Robert Gates and Chairman of the JCS Mike Mullen. And yes, the Joint Chiefs of Staff don't really get involved in high level "diplomacy" all that often.

Update: it appears the Aircraft Carrier crossing the Suez is almost certainly CVN-75 Harry Truman, which until recently was in the Mediterranean according to Stratfor. According to Wikipedia, "the super carrier can accommodate approximately 80 aircraft." For some more curious information on the Truman, click here.
If the carrier is the Truman, then things are about to get interesting in a bad way out in Af-Pak, and don't think Iran hasn't noticed either.

World Cupdate

Group F action kicked off with Slovakia and Paraguay.  The South Americans have dominated this tournament as a whole so far and those wins have come at the expense of European squads for the most part, but a pair of 1-1 draws in the opener have left this group wide open.  Paraguay's modified 1-2-3-4 wedge with Lucas Ramon Barrios at the tip of the spear for the Albirroja versus the Repre's 1-3-2-4 with Jan Kozak at the front made for a solid match, but it was Paraguay's Vera who scored first at 27' off a brilliant assist from Barrios.  The Slovaks just didn't have any answers in the first half, and in the second they held off Paraguay's pressure and created a few opportunities, but it wasn't enough.  Eventually Cristian Riveros was able to get behind Slovakia's defense and put home the exclamation point at 86', and Paraguay won the match easily 2-0 as they controlled that game for all 90 minutes and took 5 solid shots to Slovakia's one in a workman-like match.

That meant Italy needed the win here against New Zealand to keep up with Paraguay.  Of the big six European squads, Italy, Germany, France, England, Spain, and the Netherlands, only the Dutch are playing well with two solid wins.  Still, the Azzurri opened strong with a 2-4-4 attack lead by Gilardino and Iaquinta, and the All-Whites played a defensive 1-5-4 formation with Shane Smeltz at point.  But an early free kick for New Zealand turned into a stunner as Smeltz melted behind the Italian D (somehow avoiding an offsides flag) and popped one in the back of the net at 7', and suddenly the defending 2006 World Cup champs were in serious danger of being sent home by New Zealand.  Italy poured on the pressure to equalize and that turned into a penalty kick by Iaquinta and a goal at 29'.  The second half was just sheer willpower by the All-Whites as despite Italy dominating in every offensive stat, they refused to give in to the Italian attack.  New Zealand had 2 shots to over a dozen for the Azzurri, and Italy had 14 corners to none for New Zealand, but in the end the only stat that mattered was one goal to one goal in one of the best matches of the Cup.

That brought us to Brazil versus Ivory Coast, and the Canarinhos were ready to make sure that nothing like New Zealand's draw happened as they struck out hard and early on a 2-4-4 attack formation with Robinho and Luis Fabiano up front, while Ivory Coast floated back on a 1-2-3-4 with 2 wide plan and their star, Didier Drogba, looking to be a hero again at point.  However, unlike the New Zealand game, the first half was slow and subdued, the only action coming when Fabiano boomed one in at 25'.  Ivory Coast and Drogba did go on the counter a number of times, picking up a number of brilliant crosses that gave him some solid shots, but the Brazilian defense was up to the job.  The second half, Brazil showed why they are the most feared team in the sport right now and they shifted into Samba King style, ripping the Elephants open with a second Fabiano goal at 50' and Kaka finding Elano at 62', and suddenly this match was over.  Drogba did get his goal at 79' on sheer willpower, but it was far too little and too late, and Brazil rolled to win 3-1, but not before Kaka picked up a red card on a really terrible call.  That may give Portugal a slight hope next week, but not by much.

In off-field news, both England and France are facing various player mutinies as there's a very good chance that neither team may advance to the round of 16.  With Italy, Spain, and Germany shocked in the first two matches as well, Europe's best hope remains the Dutch...and nobody expected to see Slovenia, the Swiss, and possibly even Serbia in the hunt too.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Israel goes for the "we're totally reasonable!" card by relaxing some of the most arbitrary item bans in Gaza.
The new policy is a response to mounting calls to ease Israel's four-year siege on the impoverished enclave after Israeli forces killed nine activists during a May 31 raid on a flotilla of aid ships attempting to run the blockade.

"The Israeli government has today taken additional steps to further enable the flow of civilian goods to the civilian population of the Gaza Strip," said government spokesman Mark Regev.

"From now on, there is a green light approval for all goods to enter Gaza except for military items and materials that can strengthen Hamas's military machine," he said.

The decision was formally announced following a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair, who has been spearheading discussions on easing the closures.

"The practical effect of this should change radically the flow of goods and material into Gaza," Blair said in a statement.

Israel will soon publish a list of banned items including "only weapons, material used in combat and problematic dual-use items. All goods not on the list will be allowed into Gaza," the government said in a statement.

It will also allow for the "expanded entry of dual-use building materiel" for projects authorised by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority with "international oversight."
Make no mistake, this is vitally needed in Gaza, but the arbitrary banning of civilian goods like newspapers and chickens were just that:  arbitrary punishment for Palestinians living in Gaza in order to get them to turn on Hamas.  It took a couple of years, but the Palestinians finally made it backfire on Israel with the world's attention drawn to the list of items that Israel would not allow in.

It doesn't hurt them at all to allow any of these items in now, and that was the plan all along.  Now Israel is "reasonable" and merciful.  And they'll play that angle for as long as they can continue to collectively punish Gaza.

Both the good cop and the bad cop are Israel.

Shakedown, Breakdown, You're Busted

The "Obama Shakedown" meme continues this weekend courtesy of Daily Beast's Reihan Salam as he lays out the case that poor BP was victimized by the White House.
After taking a serious beating in the press for weeks over its handling of Deepwater Horizon, the Obama administration must be breathing a sigh of relief. In its desperate scramble to appear effective in combating the oil spill, the White House extracted extraordinary concessions from BP.

The most despised multinational working in the United States agreed to pay $20 billion over four years into a fund defined to benefit Gulf residents impacted by the spill. Some have characterized this as a shrewd decision on the part of BP CEO Tony Hayward to contain the damage to BP’s reputation. Yet BP has received no assurances on future legal liability and it remains, quite appropriately, on the hook for environmental damages. The Justice Department has already threatened to prosecute BP, and a refusal to play ball on BP’s part would almost certainly have led to an even more aggressive campaign of public vilification, at the very least.

On closer inspection, this doesn’t look like much of a negotiation. Rather, it looks like what one would colloquially refer to as a “shakedown,” in which a stronger party, ignoring the conventions of a good-faith negotiation, all but forces a weaker party to bend to its will. But now that Rep. Joe Barton has, in fact, called the White House agreement a shakedown, he has, despite backtracking and apologizing, taken the political heat off of the president. Somewhere, Rahm Emanuel is smiling.
One of the hallmarks of a true winger is despite the admission that BP is arguably the most despised corporation on Earth right now, the impetus to find a way to attack Obama is still the most irresistible force in their lives. Understand that getting this money set aside to help the American people cannot be seen as a victory to folks like Salam, as Obama is an implacable, unforgivable evil and he can never be allowed a victory in any arena.

Hence, the constant harping that Obama hasn't accepted enough help, hasn't plugged the damn hole, hasn't kicked anyone's ass, and now that complaint is "he's shaking down BP."

Salam even goes on to admit he belives Bush would have done the same thing because the "political returns would have been too great to resist."

Odd.  That's the same reason explaining why Salam is attacking Obama.  Funny how that works...

Happy Father's Day

To all the dads out there, including my father and grandfather, as well as my two brothers.

Thanks, Pop, for more than you know.

Austerity Hysteria Redux

Digby reviews the austerity hysteria in this weekend's WaPo.  The Villagehas the deficit as the Beltway's number one priority right now (emphasis mine):
If Congress doesn't provide additional stimulus spending, economists inside and outside the administration warn that the nation risks a prolonged period of high unemployment or, more frightening, a descent back into recession. But a competing threat -- the exploding federal budget deficit -- seems to be resonating more powerfully in Congress and among voters.

Whether or not Obama's directive to spend more now and tackle the deficit later -- which he laid out in a letter to Congressional leaders Saturday -- is the right economic medicine, some lawmakers say it sounds like political doublespeak outside the Beltway. Polls show most people don't think Obama's first stimulus package worked, and they are sending mixed signals about whether Washington should spend more on jobs or start minding the national debt
This is a flat-out lie.
The only recent poll that gives the slightest hint of support for the Post's thesis is the USA Today / Gallup poll from late May (not even their newest). Participants were asked "How serious a threat to the future well-being of the United States do you consider each of the following." For "federal government debt", 40% said extremely serious, 39% very serious, and 15% somewhat serious. For "unemployment", 33% said extremely serious, 50% said very serious, and 15% said somewhat serious. If you use only the "extremely serious" numbers, you get 7% more for the debt. Greg Marx at CJR makes the case that this poll, nevermind its headline, should not be read as some sort of overwhelming evidence of a shifted public view.

And in fact a newer Gallup poll, from a week ago, asking "What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?" finds the economy and jobs on top. "Economy in general" gets 28%, "Unemployment/Jobs" gets 21%, and "Federal budget deficit" gets 7%.
Wisely, Digby makes the connection between the deficit as Public Enemy #1 and the run up to the war in Iraq where Saddam Hussein was the foe that had to be stopped.
I think we've developed another reason why the press runs with this sort of thing. It's the Very Serious People syndrome, in which the media are reluctant to challenge the "experts" who insist that we believe them or believe our lying eyes. I don't know if it's because they are afraid of losing access or if they are just lazy and choose to rely on these people for their analysis rather than challenge the prevailing CW. Either way, it's happening again and the consequences are just as dire. And it's journalistic malpractice.
She's right, but that's only part of it.  Poor people don't own newspaper empires.  Rich people who don't want to pay more taxes and want to see massive social spending cuts so that there will be more tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy do.

We're seeing it again.  Call it the "run up to the spending war" if you want to.  But it's coming.  And the Neo-Hooverites are about to throw this economy into a dead depression.

Don't Drill, Baby, Don't Drill

The Dems are finally making their move on legislation addressing offshore drilling safety.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) plans to unveil legislation next week that would overhaul federal oversight of offshore oil-and-gas drilling and impose new safety standards.

Bingaman is readying the bill ahead of plans by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to bring wide-ranging energy legislation to the floor as soon as July.

Bingaman spokesman Bill Wicker declined Friday to provide details about Bingaman’s bill, but suggested it will be expansive. “It will address all the things which are in the scope of our committee's jurisdiction,” Wicker said.

He said it would be released some time ahead of a Thursday hearing that will explore several pieces of legislation in response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Various lawmakers are exploring plans that would require stronger blowout prevention safeguards, improve response to spills and ensure that Interior Department regulators maintain an arm's-length relationship with oil company officials.
This all seems like completely basic stuff here.  The real question is how much pushback the Republicans and oil-friendly Gulf Coast Dems will provide against the legislation.  It won't pass the Senate 100-0 any more than it will pass the House 435-0.  You can bet the Republicans are going to pile on against this in order to protect their oil company clients, and call the measure a job killer.

The even bigger issue is "Is Bingaman's bill part of a larger compromise on climate and energy legislation?"  In other words, are oversight and drilling restrictions in this bill being watered down in order to try to earn additional support for Reid's larger energy initiative?  It wouldn't surprise me at all if this were the case.

In other words, is wimping out on tough offshore drilling regulations the price Harry Reind has to pay to get climate legislation passed?  That's what I want to know.
Related Posts with Thumbnails