Monday, August 16, 2010

Last Call

And while the Village Media is absolutely giddy with the whole Cordoba House idiocy, I'd like to leave you with some much needed perspective:

The most destructive floods in Pakistan's recorded history have affected an estimated 62,000 square miles (160,000 square kilometers) of land — about a fifth of the already poor country. Around 20 million people have had their lives disrupted, and 1,500 have been killed.

The scale of the disaster has overwhelmed authorities and led to fears of social unrest, especially given the weak and unpopular government. Hundreds of thousands are living in makeshift camps or by the side of the road, soaking up monsoon rains and surviving on handouts. Many have brought their valuable livestock with them.

The disruption in food supplies is causing price increases across the country.

Hundreds of people Monday blocked a major highway with stones and garbage near the hard-hit Sukkur area in Sindh, complaining of the slow dispersal of aid. They said government officials only handed out food when media were present.

"They are throwing packets of food to us like we are dogs," said protester Kalu Mangiani. "They are making people fight for these packets."

There are more important things out there than this moronic opposition to a religious building, like say two million people homeless, some being forced to live like feral animals and millions more literally wiped out by floods in a country where political instability was already bordering on governmental a country with nuclear weapons.

And yet the biggest story right now is "is it appropriate to build something near where 3,000 people died".

Sometimes I have to blog so I don't put my fist through things in sheer frustration.

El Foldo Grande

Given Harry Reid's spectacular collapse this afternoon on Cordoba House, Steve M extrapolates where the story goes from here (answer:  Harry Reid just ran up the white flag.)
Republicans and conservative activists have made no secret of the fact that they want the issue to have legs, but that gets trickier when politicians return to Washington to actually govern. One option Republicans will have to pressure Democrats on the issue will be to force Democrats to vote on the question of whether they support the cultural center and mosque.

... With the assent of the House parliamentarian, they could introduce a motion to recommit a piece of Democratic legislation, arguing that it should include language urging that the mosque be blocked. Separately, any member can introduce a privileged resolution forcing all members to take a position on the issue. The obvious goal would be to create fodder for negative advertising ahead of the November midterms....
I guarantee you this is coming.  As Steve predicted, the Dems completely folded on this and the GOP will attack on this for as long as they can continue to scapegoat Muslims...i.e. forever.
The only question is how long the GOP can drag this out before the leadership capitulates. I say bring the damn Congress back into special session, capitulate now, and get it over with, just to stop the bleeding. In this political climate, the GOP can win quickly or win slowly. There is no other possibility.
In the end, when the Dems fold, there never is.

And the Dems wonder why there's an enthusiasm gap.

A Little Deductive Reasoning

OK class, here's tonight's homework:  given that GOP Rep. Darrel Issa will do anything to attack President Obama and given the Rupert Murdoch will do anything to make GOP fringe stories into reality, what happens should the GOP get control of the House this fall?
Darrell Issa is out with a report this morning claiming that the Obama Administration has engaged in an unprecedented amount of illegal propaganda.

The charge is almost undoubtedly true: As the report drily catalogues, virtually every 20th Century administration, particularly in wartime, skirted the limits on propaganda. The first administration fully in the new media age produces a far, far larger volume of media than any of its predecessors, and Issa argues that some of it crosses the line.

One puzzling footnote: Issa's report includes the claim, floated on the right but never substantiated, that Justice Department blogger Tracy Russo posted anonymous comments to conservative blogs. If she did, that could qualify as propaganda. (Though perhaps its single least effectual form. Anonymous blog comments!)
If you said "a massive coordinated Village effort to get Obama to resign through trying to impeach him on everything in the last 19 months", then you'd be unfortunately correct.

If you think the GOP will pull a Pelosi and "take impeachment off the table" then I'm not sure what else I can say to convince you what's coming should the GOP predictions of taking the House come true.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Just a reminder that Rupert Murdoch pretty much runs the media discourse in America by pushing the craziest stuff he can find from the fringe and making it mainstream.
  • Dec. 8, 2009: The Times publishes a lengthy front-page look at the Cordoba project. “We want to push back against the extremists,” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the lead organizer, is quoted as saying. Two Jewish leaders and two city officials, including the mayor’s office, say they support the idea, as does the mother of a man killed on 9/11. An FBI spokesman says the imam has worked with the bureau. Besides a few third-tier right-wing blogs, including Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs site, no one much notices the Times story. 
  • Dec. 21, 2009: Conservative media personality Laura Ingraham interviews Abdul Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan, while guest-hosting “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox. In hindsight, the segment is remarkable for its cordiality. “I can’t find many people who really have a problem with it,” Ingraham says of the Cordoba project, adding at the end of the interview, “I like what you’re trying to do.” 
  •  (This segment also includes onscreen the first use that we’ve seen of the misnomer “ground zero mosque.”) After the segment — and despite the front-page Times story — there were no news articles on the mosque for five and a half months, according to a search of the Nexis newspaper archive. 
  • May 6, 2010: After a unanimous vote by a New York City community board committee to approve the project, the AP runs a story. It quotes relatives of 9/11 victims (called by the reporter), who offer differing opinions. The New York Post, meanwhile, runs a story under the inaccurate headline, “Panel Approves ‘WTC’ Mosque.” Geller is less subtle, titling her post that day, “Monster Mosque Pushes Ahead in Shadow of World Trade Center Islamic Death and Destruction.” She writes on her Atlas Shrugs blog, “This is Islamic domination and expansionism. The location is no accident. Just as Al-Aqsa was built on top of the Temple in Jerusalem.” (To get an idea of where Geller is coming from, she once suggested that Malcolm X was Obama’s real father. Seriously.)
This was a total non-story until Rupert Murdoch turned this into the Ground Zero Victory Mosque and decided that the Republican party now had to declare total war on Islam in America in order to get Republicans to the polls.

You have to admire the man's singular gift for manipulating this country.  He's turned the fringe position of Pam Geller's frothing anti-Islam paranoia into a position that 70% of Americans now support.

There's no way America gets out of this unscathed, you know.

What Digby Said

The Village is so close...

Howard Fineman almost has a moment of clarity:

If we had any sense, the fall elections would be about just one thing: the economy. But we do not have any sense. We are facing what Wall Street would call the “triple witching hour.” Republicans have their finger on three social-demographic hot buttons. The first is illegal immigration (in proposing a review of the 14th Amendment), and the second is Islam in America (in objecting to the mosque at ground zero). They won’t be able to avoid pushing the third, race, even if they wanted to, given that the two leading congressional Democrats facing ethics charges are African-American.
Uh, Howard. It's the same button

...and yet so very, very far.

Hey, Let's Walk Right Into This Jet Intake

Harry Reid can be a truly idiotic individual.  Greg Sargent has Reid's statement:
The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else. If the Republicans are being sincere, they would help us pass this long overdue bill to help the first responders whose health and livelihoods have been devastated because of their bravery on 911, rather than continuing to block this much-needed legislation.
Jesus wept.  Allah too, for that matter.

Raise your hand if you think this will stop Sharron Angle and the GOP from attacking Harry Reid on national security issues or if you think this will get the GOP to stop blocking the 9/11 first responders assistance bill.

I have certain experiments in subliminal techniques I need to conduct on susceptible individuals.  Greg concludes:
Literally seconds after Reid's statement hit the wire, Republicans blasted out a press release mocking the Dem disarray on this issue with this tagline: "Great moments in August Democratic Messaging." This just makes the Dems look weak, unorganized, cowardly, and unwilling to take a stand for principles they plainly believe in.
Well Greg, that's because in Harry Reid's case all of that is true.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Mistermix asks:
Julian Assange is now officially a columnist for a Swedish Newspaper, part of the effort to get Wikileaks some safe harbor under Sweden’s laws protecting journalists. Does this mean that the bitching from “real journalists” will end now, or do we have to wait until his mom sews his “real journalist” merit badge onto his sash? And will Aftonbladet will have to use journalism warning labels on editions that contain an Assange column?
No, I'm sure plenty of Village types will keep calling for his assassination.  The larger question is why Assange didn't make the list of History's Greatest Monsters As Determined By Wingers, but then I remember they did limit the choices to just Americans for this one.  I remember when Jimmy Carter stole the sun and held the world hostage for months without light and heat, the bastard.

No doubt a global list will soon be coming so that we have some justification to point to when we inevitably reach the tipping point in the Village propaganda biltz and choose to invade Sweden rather than have Assange loose to post things on the net and possibly kill all of us.

How, I'm not sure, but we can't take the risk, clearly.

The Kroog Versus His Obscenity Filter

Paul Krugman works to avoid blowing a gasket at T-bills.
I was sorely tempted to break the NYT rules on obscenity when I fired up my notebook this morning and saw the 10-year bond yield: 2.59 percent. We’re now almost back to the Oh-God-we’re-all-gonna-die yields at the height of the financial crisis.

Those invisible bond vigilantes are really cunning, is all I can say.
2.59% means that people are buying treasuries like crazy because everyone's expecting the Fed to turn on the Magic Printing Press.  In the last week or so the yield has dropped like a rock, meaning that people are not only expecting that Magic Printing Press to get booted up, they are expecting the Fed to have no other choice but to use it.

September 2010 = September 2008 again?

Don't be surprised.  Hey, it's not like the financial people were wrong or anything.
As 2010 began, there was nearly unanimous agreement in financial circles on at least one thing: Interest rates were sure to rise during the year. 
Yep.  Those Wall Street casts, man, they are effin smart.

Exciting New Horizons In Obama Derangement Syndrome

ODS, now packaged for the corporate boardroom, courtesy of Newsweek's Jon Alter.
President Obama and the business community have been at odds for months. But in July the chairman and cofounder of the Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest private-equity firms, amped up the rhetoric. Stephen Schwarzman—the leading John McCain supporter in a firm that, in 2008, gave more money to Obama—was addressing board members of a nonprofit organization when he let loose. “It’s a war,” Schwarzman said of the struggle with the administration over increasing taxes on private-equity firms. “It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.
Attendees at the board meeting (who provided details on condition that they and the organization not be identified) were shocked. “War? Hitler? Poland? A little over the top for a proposal to make hedge-fund managers pay their fair share in taxes,” one attendee says about the comments. Neither Blackstone nor the White House would discuss Schwarzman’s statement, which came in the wake of strong, but less stinging, criticism this summer of the administration from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.
You know as many times as Obama apparently keeps annexing the Sudetenland like that, you'd think people would get tired of bringing it up. Not only that but the people in that region must be exhausted getting annexed all the damn time.

Sadly, Godwin's Law applies to politics as well as internet comment threads.  Really Important Business People apparently turn into brainless internet trolls the second they are threatened with paying more taxes.  Being CEO of a private equity firm doesn't require any sort of comparative 20th Century history classes, either.

Well Now Here's Your Problem

Time's Mark Halperin keeps searching the Republican party for a shred of decency when the Republican party will do whatever it takes to win (emphasis mine)
Say what you will about the wisdom of Obama's policies overall, but his belated commentary on religious freedoms clearly was not done for political gain. Quite the contrary. the President knew that he and his party would almost certainly pay a political price for taking a stand, especially this close to the election, and with few prominent leaders, other than New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on the White House's side. The reaction since the President spoke has been vitriolic and unvarying from leading voices on the right, painting Obama as weak, naive, out of touch and obtuse (not to mention flip-flopping, after his confusing follow-up comments Saturday suggested to some that he might be hedging his position).
Yes, Republicans, you can take advantage of this heated circumstance, backed by the families of the 9/11 victims, in their most emotional return to the public stage since 2001.
But please don't do it. There are a handful of good reasons to oppose allowing the Islamic center to be built so close to Ground Zero, particularly the family opposition and the availability of other, less raw locations. But what is happening now — the misinformation about the center and its supporters; the open declarations of war on Islam on talk radio, the Internet and other forums; the painful divisions propelled by all the overheated rhetoric — is not worth whatever political gain your party might achieve.
It isn't clear how the battle over the proposed center should or will end. But two things are profoundly clear: Republicans have a strong chance to win the midterm elections without picking a fight over President Obama's measured words. And a national political fight conducted on the terms we have seen in the past few days will lead to a chain reaction at home and abroad that will have one winner — the very extreme and violent jihadists we all can claim as our true enemy.
Somewhere, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and Ed Gillespie are laughing their asses off at this despite the fact that Halperin is completely correct and makes a laudable effort here to tamp down the insanity.

To which I have to respond to Mark by saying "Have you been paying attention to the two decades even one iota?"  At what point has the Republican party refrained from playing as dirty as possible in order to destroy utterly a Democratic politician and Obama in particular?

It's like handing a pyromaniac a flamethrower and a lighter and a note saying "now play nice" -- written on flashpaper.  I don't know if Halperin's trying to be all noble centrist here or if he's just a little woozy from some sort of recent concussion, but the odds of the GOP going full-bore anti-Islam between now and November is as close to a sure bet in the history of American politics as it gets.

Then again if you know something's a sure bet in politics, might as well try to score points off of it.  Looks like Halperin's pretty comfortable betting on the blackjack table when there's nothing but aces and face cards left in the shuffle.

I Got A Bad Feeling About This

The good news:  George Lucas is bringing the Star Wars movies to Blu-ray about a year from now.

Earlier today at Star Wars Celebration V, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox announced something fanboys have been wanting to hear for what feels like a millennium: the beloved Star Wars saga will be finally coming to the realms of high definition Blu-ray.

A bit of a wait is still in your future as the set isn’t marked for release until the fall of 2011, but the wait sounds like it will be worth it. The Blu-enhanced Star Wars box set will consist of all six films, bathed in the highest possible visual and audio formats. Also included will be a wealth of special features including documentaries, unseen footage from the Lucasfilm archives, retrospectives, interviews, and rare behind-the-scenes moments.

While speaking about the exciting announcement, the creator himself George Lucas said “Blu-ray is the absolute best way to experience Star Wars at home – in pristine high definition. The films have never looked or sounded better.”
 The bad news:  George Lucas is bringing the Star Wars movies to Blu-ray about a year from now.
It’s unclear at the moment if the only available set being released next fall will be the above-mentioned six-film package, or if all movies will be offered individually as well. It’s obvious that the individual films and separate trilogies will likely get a Blu-ray release at some point, but a little more waiting may be involved there.
Would you pay a six-film Lucas box set price to get Star Wars, Empire, and Jedi in Blu-ray if it meant you had to take the Jar-Jar movies?

Yeah, I didn't think so either.

Where We Go From Here

CalcRisk figures the real fun in the economy starts next Monday with the July existing home sales report:

  • The existing home sales report will show that sales collapsed in July (this is showing up in all the regional reports).

  • The existing home months-of-supply will jump to double digits.

  • House prices are probably falling again, although this might not show up in the repeat sales indexes until September or October (this data is released with a lag).

  • On August 27th, the second estimate of Q2 GDP will be released. This will probably show a significant downward revision from the preliminary estimate of 2.4% annualized growth. The downward revision is due to lower construction spending than the BEA initially estimated, less contribution from inventory adjustments, and the June surge in exports.

  • The unemployment rate will probably start ticking up again soon (or the participation rate will fall further).

  • In other words, between now and Labor Day, the numbers aren't going to be good and for all intents and purposes they are going to be strong indications we're heading for the second leg of this depression.  The ECRI has climbed up above the -10% mark to -9.8% last Friday, but the damage has already been done.  The spiral shows no signs of being broken, and the results are going to be catastrophic down the road.


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