Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Last Call

Yet more Cordoba House stupidity.  Bob Cesca finds this:

Note the first line: "You've got freedom of religion, I understand, but..." I also love the peppy, upbeat chorus with the line "thousands of Americans died in the attack." Classy. And if your perception of 9/11 is so vulnerable that an activity center several blocks away manages to "turn 9/11 into a mockery," you need to consult your doctor about your medication.

...and Greg Sargent flags down this.
Yes, a new CNN poll finds that 68 percent oppose the Islamic center near Ground Zero. But the poll calls it a "mosque," and doesn't ask people if they support government intervention to block it, which is the rub here.

Also: The worse the polling gets on this, the more urgent it becomes for politicians and others to stand up against the mob and support the project. This controversy is a test of whether our public officials have the guts to defend people's rights when it's difficult to do so -- that is, when an organized faction, for transparent political reasons, is trying to make the political cost of doing so too high.
Both men have excellent points, but the simple fact of the matter is the campaign to drum up Islamophobia in America is working terribly well right now, and it's working even better given how this economic recession/depression is fomenting serious xenophobic and racist garbage.

At this point we have winger outfits like the American Family Association open calling for blocking of all new mosques in the US and 49% of Americans want to take out the citizenship clause in the 14th Amendment now. At what point do we say enough is enough?

Time Bandits

PZ Myers shows the proper level of snark that should be paid to this Telegraph story about officials in Mecca wanting to base the world's time on the largest clock tower in the world like some temporal Death Star in Saudi Arabia.
For the past 125 years, the international community has accepted that the start of each day should be measured from the prime meridian, representing 0 degrees longitude, which passes through the Greenwich Observatory.
A standard time by which other clocks were set was needed to organise global travel and communications, but in the Islamic world the idea that it should be centred on a part of London is seen as a colonial anachronism.
As Mohammed al-Arkubi, manager of one of the hotels in the complex, put it: "Putting Mecca time in the face of Greenwich Mean Time. This is the goal." 
Myers keeps it in perspective.
It's an arbitrary standard, get it? Building a giant clock in the desert will not suddenly attract time to line up with it. Although it does sound like a perfectly kitschy and annoying clock, with bright lights that can be seen 18 miles away that will flash and blink in colors to let people know it is time to pray. I suspect they're also trying to standardize the web back to 1995 html, too.
Needless to say, it's almost amusing watching the wingers go apoplectic on a hotel manager like he was bin Laden on a Zombie Tyrannosaurus with a giant Time Vacuum.

Crash Course

Dow went splat, down 265 points.  10-year treasuries now under 2.69% and falling. The response?  Stupid Fed worrying about deflation!
If you weren't worried about deflation, you may be now-thanks to the Federal Reserve's latest move to jumpstart the languid economy.
In fact, some economists think the central bank's implicit concern about falling prices could help bring about the very situation the Fed is trying to avoid.
"This gets to be a gamesmanship situation," says economist A. Gary Schilling. "On the surface, the Fed is reacting to the threat of deflation and a weak economy. Does it have deflationary implications? I think it does because it says the Fed is concerned. They're obviously preparing more and more for it. People say, 'Maybe I ought to prepare for it?'"
Yeah, and the trillions in lost real-estate value and the trillions lost by the big banks have nothing to do with it, it's all the Fed's fault for pointing all this out.

Morons.  Shoot the messenger, sure.  Roubini caused the economic crisis!  Krugman killed the recovery!  My lord.

The Week In Banks That Got Busted

Via Bob Cesca, every now and then the corporate assholes who prey on us get busted.
Wells Fargo & Co. should pay about $203 million to customers who say the bank manipulated debit-card transactions without their knowledge to increase revenue from overdraft fees, a federal judge ruled....Wells Fargo changed the way it treated customers' daily debit transactions and cash withdrawals in December 2001, according to the lawsuit filed in 2007. Transactions with the highest dollar amount posted first, rather than in the order they occurred.
K-Drum figures this is leftover Wachovia stuff. Makes sense, actually.  Oh, and that's illegal, by the way.

So how many other banks are still doing this right now?  And sure, we don't need regulation or oversight, banks are inherently good because you can trust them to be honest, right?

I got five bucks says Megan McArdle pens a column on how unfair this is to Wells Fargo because this would never happen if stupid poor people living direct deposit to direct deposit would stop overdrawing their accounts.

Why There's No Sense Of Emergency

Just because you have a college bachelor's degree doesn't mean you're smart.  It does however mean you're much, much, much less likely to be unemployed right now.  Matt Yglesias:
It seems to me that this chart is the key to understanding today’s political economy:

Virtually every single member of congress, every senator, every Capitol Hill staffer, every White House advisor, every Fed governor, and every major political reporter is a college graduate. What’s more, we have a large amount of social segregation in the United States—college graduates tend to socialize with each other. And among college graduates, there simply isn’t an economic crisis in the United States. 
It seems to me that everyone there other than the reporters get thrown out of office if the knuckle-draggers vote them out.  It's okay, apparently.  They'll land on their feet because they have a college education.  Outside the Beltway Bubble, people are screwed.  Anything less than a degree and you're hurting brutally right now.  If you don't have a high school diploma/GED these days, you're two and a half times as likely to be out of work than a college grad.

And all the people making the decisions have degrees.  If all the people the White House and Congress are talking to are college grads, then yes...9.5% unemployment is no big deal.

Less Than Ground Zero

Adam Serwer on the Ground Zero Mosque stupidity:
I'm sure that the intensity of emotion shared by some of the projects' opponents are sincere. But where they hold Muslims collectively responsible for the actions of a few extremists, they are mistaken, and where their feelings are the result of falsehoods spread by the conservative media, they are misguided, and where they believe the First Amendment does not extend to American Muslims, they are simply wrong.

The reason this became a national controversy is because Republicans see a political advantage in harnessing anti-Muslim sentiment, particularly if that forces Democrats to defend an unpopular minority group. Rauf and Khan are merely collateral damage in a larger political battle in which the rights of Muslims are forfeit as long as Republicans see some political interest in curtailing them or forcing their opponents to defend them. But just as no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people, no Republican ever went broke underestimating the political cowardice of the Democratic Party.

So what we're left with is a largely uncontested notion that any observant Muslim is a potential national-security threat, a view that was once confined to the conspiratorial right-wing fringe but is now, thanks to Republican demagoguery, Democratic cowardice, and mainstream media know-nothingism, an entirely respectable, mainstream view. This isn't just a setback for religious tolerance and individual freedom; it's a setback for the fight against terrorism, which demands that the United States marginalize violent extremists, not embrace their narrative and worldview.
And my question stands:  the one person we have not heard from on this issue is President Obama.  he's the one who could put this to rest.  He has said nothing on this.  Democrats have barely said anything, and even then it's mostly Anthony Weiner and Chuck Schumer punting.

If you will not defend American Muslims as American citizens there Dems, then you are lost.

Iran The Numbers And It's Not Good

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg has a long piece based on a number of interviews with both Washington and Israeli insiders and puts the odds of a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran more likely than not.  He concludes:
Based on months of interviews, I have come to believe that the administration knows it is a near-certainty that Israel will act against Iran soon if nothing or no one else stops the nuclear program; and Obama knows—as his aides, and others in the State and Defense departments made clear to me—that a nuclear-armed Iran is a serious threat to the interests of the United States, which include his dream of a world without nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, I agreed with those, including many Israelis, Arabs—and Iranians—who believe there is no chance that Obama would ever resort to force to stop Iran; I still don’t believe there is a great chance he will take military action in the near future—for one thing, the Pentagon is notably unenthusiastic about the idea. But Obama is clearly seized by the issue. And understanding that perhaps the best way to obviate a military strike on Iran is to make the threat of a strike by the Americans seem real, the Obama administration seems to be purposefully raising the stakes. A few weeks ago, Denis McDonough, the chief of staff of the National Security Council, told me, “What you see in Iran is the intersection of a number of leading priorities of the president, who sees a serious threat to the global nonproliferation regime, a threat of cascading nuclear activities in a volatile region, and a threat to a close friend of the United States, Israel. I think you see the several streams coming together, which accounts for why it is so important to us.”

When I asked Peres what he thought of Netanyahu’s effort to make Israel’s case to the Obama administration, he responded, characteristically, with a parable, one that suggested his country should know its place, and that it was up to the American president, and only the American president, to decide in the end how best to safeguard the future of the West. The story was about his mentor, David Ben-Gurion.

“Shortly after John F. Kennedy was elected president, Ben-Gurion met him at the Waldorf-Astoria” in New York, Peres told me. “After the meeting, Kennedy accompanied Ben-Gurion to the elevator and said, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, I want to tell you, I was elected because of your people, so what can I do for you in return?’ Ben-Gurion was insulted by the question. He said, ‘What you can do is be a great president of the United States. You must understand that to have a great president of the United States is a great event.’”

Peres went on to explain what he saw as Israel’s true interest. “We don’t want to win over the president,” he said. “We want the president to win.” 
In other words, denied under Bush, the Israelis will no longer be denied under Obama and we get back to the Kristol/Krauthammer angle:  Iran's going to get attacked by Israel unless we do it first, and if we do it first we at least get to control how it plays out instead of Tel Aviv.

(More after the jump.)

The Last Word

The final say on the whole "Gibbs hates the professional left" brouhaha goes to Digby as far as I'm concerned.
But what's dangerously myopic about going ballistic as Gibbs did in his statements is that just 10 years ago we had a little event in which only a tiny portion of the base went with a third party bid from the left --- and the consequences were catastrophic. Democrats, of all people, should remember that every vote matters.

It's embarrassing to have David Frum point out the obvious --- that the Republicans fear their base and the Democrats hate theirs, but it has been so since I was a kid --- a long time ago. At some point they are going to realize that their demanding activist base is the way it is and that they need to figure out a way to deal with it rather than rail against it. You cannot browbeat people into loving you and you can't argue them into being enthusiastic. Certainly characterizing them in cartoon terms by saying "they want to eliminate the Pentagon", they are on drugs and --- worst of all --- suggesting they are not part of America --- isn't going to get you there.

On the other hand, if they just want to use them as doormat as a way to appeal to "the center" then they take their chances that their activists won't turn out to volunteer --- or worse. Sometimes all it takes to lose is a quixotic third party bid, 535 disputed votes in Florida and Antonin Scalia. Why would they ask for that kind of trouble? 
Exeunt Digby.

Can we now move on before we get to the "Republican Congress attempts to impeach Obama again this week" stage?

Out Of Sight, Not Out Of The Gulf

MoJo's Julia Whitty has a pretty sobering report on what to expect from the Gulf of Mexico now that the spill is "contained".
Consider that while we've all been fixated on the true spill rate—is it 35,000 barrels a day? 60,000 barrels? More?—those figures are only estimates, and only of the oil. Few people realize that some 40 percent of what spews from the Deepwater Horizon well is methane, the primary component of natural gas—a dangerous greenhouse gas and a toxin to most life. Indeed, methane may hold the answer to the quantity of vented oil. David Valentine, a biogeochemist at the University of California-Santa Barbara, suggested in May in an op-ed in the journal Nature that plumes of dissolved methane could be used to calculate how much oil has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. But BP has blurred the evidence trail—intentionally or otherwise—by treating at least some of the escaping methane with methanol, another toxin, in an effort to prevent a dangerous buildup and possibly even another explosion. Nevertheless, around the spill site, Valentine and his colleagues found clouds of dissolved natural gas at 100,000 times the normal density and at depths of more than 2,500 feet. They also found that little of the gas seemed to be reaching the air. Which is good news for the atmosphere, but probably bad news for the ocean. That's because the methane may also be powering up blooms of microbes that eat methane but use up the oxygen in the water as they do so—causing dead zones where most life cannot survive. The Gulf of Mexico is already home to the second-largest dead zone on Earth; the last thing it needs is another. On the surface above the methane clouds, Valentine and colleagues discovered a mass kill of pyrosomes—free-floating colonies of jellyfish look-alikes that straddle the vertebrate-invertebrate divide, and an important food for sea turtles. It's not yet clear which of many smoking guns killed the pyrosomes. "We'll be working up the story of the relationship between dispersant, oil, gas, and the microbial community for some time to come," says Valentine.

Then there are the drilling fluids contaminating the seafloor near the wellhead. Euphemistically called muds, these heavy fluids are pumped into wells to keep the highly pressurized oil and gas from exploding upward. BP's drilling muds have been pouring out of the wellhead, along with 30,000 barrels added in its failed "top kill" and other efforts to plug the leak. Along with oil, methane, methanol, and Corexit, drilling fluids add their own frightening recipe to the disaster: arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, barite, fluoride, chrome lignosulfonate, vanadium, copper, aluminum, chromium, zinc, radionuclides, and other heavy metals. Relief wells require pumping thousands more barrels of drilling fluid into the reservoir, with all the same risks of explosion attending the original well. The EPA estimates these drilling fluids will pose a threat to the seafloor and surrounding waters for up to 40 years. Plus a recent study finds that oil spills create a whole new pathway for arsenic pollution in the sea. The oil prevents seafloor sediments from bonding with and burying arsenic that naturally occurs in the ocean. This shutdown of the natural filtration system allows arsenic levels to rise from the deep water to the surface, disrupting photosynthesis in phytoplankton, increasing birth defects and triggering behavioral changes in marine life, and killing animals that feed on poisoned prey.

Never before in human history has the vast food web of the ocean—rooted in the dark, and flowering at the surface—come under so many assaults from below, above, and within the water column: marine warfare masquerading as a cleanup.
Do read the whole story.   The cold hard truth is that the Gulf has suffered a toxic, possibly fatal event that will rewrite the entire ecosytem of the area, like taking a crowbar to a stained glass window.  What's left will not be recognizable to most of us.  For the next generation or so the effects of this spill will change the Gulf for good, and it may not survive the damage.  What does emerge will be something totally different.

This is far from over folks.  You and your kids will still be reading about how the Gulf of Mexico is damaged for years to come.

More Primary Impetus, The Morning After

Last night's primaries in Colorado, Connecticut and Minnesota and the Republican Governor runoff in Georgia came down to the wire in many cases, and in the case of the Georgia runoff are still to close to call even as of this morning.

In Colorado, Dem. Sen. Michael Bennet won relatively handily defeating Andrew Romanoff 54-46%  He'll be taking on Tea Party Republican Ken Buck, who won despite a number of high profile miscues caught on tape.  He beat McCain-backed Jane Norton 52-48%.  The GOP gubernatorial primary is still too close to call, less than 4,000 votes separate Dan Maes from Scott McInnis, and both of those candidates have been plagued by ethics problems and thousands of dollars in questionable money.  Democrat John Hickenlooper is feeling pretty good about his chances in November, especially with Tom Tancredo in the race as a third party candidate.

In Connecticut, WWE wrestling exec Linda McMahon bodyslammed her competition to win the Republican primary over her two challengers and will be taking on state AG Richard Blumenthal in November for Chris Dodd's Senate seat, which is just what Blumenthal and Connecticut Dems wanted to see.  In the Governor's primary results, the Dems saw Ned Lamont go down hard to Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy by double digits, and Malloy will face Republican former Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley, who edged out the state's Lt. Got Mike Fedele and businessman Oz Griebel to claim a three way race.

In Minnesota, former Dem. Senator Mark Dayton will take on Republican State Rep. Tom Emmer for Governor,  Dayton is a definitely a progressive candidate from a state long known for them, and Emmer is the quintessential Tea Party man, which means third party centrist Tom Horner is the wild card.

Finally, Georgia's GOP Governor primary runoff is still too close to call, less than 3,000 votes separate Newt Gingrich-backed Nathan Deal from Sarah Palin-backed Karen Handel this morning.

Dems have to be feeling pretty good about last night, Bennet survived in Colorado and Hickenlooper has an easy run thanks to Tancredo splitting the tea party vote in a Hoffman Effect maneuver,  in Connecticut Blumenthal will win big over Linda McMahon, and Dan Malloy should have no problem, and Dayton is a strong progressive candidate running against a tea party extremist in Emmer.

We'll see how this all shakes out.


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