Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Last Call

And now Howard Dean has just folded on Cordoba House.

As David Frum says: "Reid's comment on mosque = Dem retreat. Dean comment = Dem rout." Bill Kristol (via Twitter) suggests that Dean is telegraphing a coming primary challenge to Obama, which strikes me as the first time Kristol has ever suggested Dean's political instincts are more intense than his gaffe-making skills.
Yep, that's about the measure of it. Night folks, you've been great.

Bigots, you've just won the argument, Dems, you just threw Obama under the bus, and I don't see how this could possibly go any better for the Republicans as a campaign issue short of Hillary Clinton using this issue to question Obama's judgment so much that she's leaving the State Department immediately.

Double G:
Certain things are disappointing and surprising even for the most hardened cynics.  Hearing Howard Dean -- the former liberal standard-bearer -- join Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin by saying the following is definitely one of them.

Our political class is hopelessly broken.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

I actually laughed when I read this Noah Pollak column in Politico (natch).
Among the first things the Obama administration did to break from the “unilateral” policies of the Bush administration was to join the United Nations Human Rights Council, which the U.S. shunned when it was formed in 2006. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that “we will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system.” U.N. ambassador Susan Rice declared that we were joining “because we believe that working from within, we can make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights.”

Now, almost a year and a half later, the Council remains as it ever was: a body composed of some of the worst human rights abusers in the world, devoted to attacking Western democracies, demonizing Israel, covering up the abuses of authoritarian regimes, and undermining the pursuit of human rights. The only difference today is that America’s name is being lent to this effort. 
I don't know what's more darkly hysterical, the thought that anyone outside the country actually believes the United States is protecting anyone's human rights when we're happily killing people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, incarcerating millions of people, allowing massive abuses of civil liberties and issuing Presidential assassination orders...

...or the fact that Pollak thinks America should leave the Council because somehow doesn't belong on "a body composed of some of the worst human rights abusers in the world".  We fit in just fine, especially given the last nine years.

That is some truly funny stuff right there.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Imagine if a terrorist drove a trailer full of flammable and potentially explosive materials up to a police station here in America and then set the trailer on fire in order to draw out police officers in the building, and then opened fire on the officers and the station.

It would be instant national news. You would have non-stop cable coverage across the country and internationally of this evil incident. Every aspect of this terrorist's life would be examined for clues as to why. We would of course use his identity, race, and religion to condemn others similar to him. Calls would be made to increase security by concentrating on potential terrorists that matched the profile of the "police station shooter".

Our politicians would waste no time in loudly demanding that people of this terrorist's race, ehtnic background, and religious background denounce this evil man for his actions and to prove to the rest of the country that they were not involved. They would say "We need to round up others like the police station shooter for the sake of safety."

Some would go on television and attack broad swaths of Americans who were the same ethnicity, the same race, or the same religion as the terrorist. it would be a media frenzy, especially this close to an election. People would waste no time in using this to prove that Obama and the Democrats were weak on terrorism and that their efforts to keep America safe had failed.

It's easy to imagine all this happening because it has happened before here in America.

But all of this did happen. It happened yesterday in the town of McKinney, Texas. A terrorist drove a trailer full of flammable material up to the police station, set the trailer on fire in order to draw out the McKinney police, and then opened fire on them with his rifle. The McKinney police returned fire and killed the terrorist. All this happened Tuesday morning.

But you didn't hear about it. If the man had been of Pakistani descent, or a Muslim, or Latino, or African-American, you would have heard about it. But you didn't. It wasn't national news.

And the reason you didn't hear about it is that the man that shot up the McKinney Police station was a white man named Patrick Sharp.

So it's just another "unfortunate incident."

Meanwhile, we continue to take civil liberties away from minorities in this country in the name of public safety.

Think about that.

George Soros And His Dastardly Mind Control Rays

Like any Winger caught crossing the line and pulling a Palin, Dr. Laura says it's somebody else's fault, and that somebody else is always The Left.
"I want to be able to say what's on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry — some special interest group deciding this is a time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates and sponsors," she said.

Schlessinger apologized last week for saying the N-word several times in an on-air conversation with a caller whom she accused of being hypersensitive to racism. She said on her website that she was wrong in using the word for what she said was an attempt to make a philosophical point.

"To imagine that there are people who refuse to accept an apology because they have an agenda and would like me silenced — I'm done with that," she said.

King asked how her freedom of speech was being denied by criticism of her comments, Schlessinger explained "I don't have the right to say what I need to say. My First Amendment rights have been usurped by angry, hateful groups who don't want to debate, they want to eliminate. So, that's why I decided it was time to move on to other venues where I could say my piece and not have to live in fear anymore that sponsors and their families are going to be upset, radio stations are going to be peeps, as I call them, are going to be upset."

After King referenced "This group that was after you, Media Matters." Schlessinger said, "Well, that's their job in life." She then told King that a list of advertisers contacted by Media Matters who distanced themselves from her due to her comments "proves my point."
Right.  You notice of course the one person that Laura Schlessinger doesn't hold accountable in any way shape or form for this Laura Schlessinger.  Can't be her fault.  Wingers are always the victims and never the bad guys.

I'm sure the Liberal Conspiracy made her say the n-word on her own show.  Damn mind control rays!

Greek Fire Becomes Greek Tragedy

Been a while since we checked in on Greece and its austerity measures that were the only way to save the country.  Guess what?  They're not working.
This dire prognosis comes even despite Athens' massive efforts to sort out the country's finances. The government's draconian austerity measures have managed to reduce the country's budget deficit by an almost unbelievable 39.7 percent, after previous governments had squandered tax money and falsified statistics for years. The measures have reduced government spending by a total of 10 percent, 4.5 percent more than the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) had required.

The problem is that the austerity measures have in the meantime affected every aspect of the country's economy. Purchasing power is dropping, consumption is taking a nosedive and the number of bankruptcies and unemployed are on the rise. The country's gross domestic product shrank by 1.5 percent in the second quarter of this year. Tax revenue, desperately needed in order to consolidate the national finances, has dropped off. A mixture of fear, hopelessness and anger is brewing in Greek society.
It gets worse.
There's hardly a worker in the shipbuilding district of Perama who could still manage that. Unemployment in the city hovers between 60 and 70 percent, according to a study conducted by the University of Piraeus. While 77 percent of Greek shipping companies indicate they are satisfied with the quality of work done in Perama, nearly 50 percent still send their ships to be repaired in Turkey, Korea or China. Costs are too high in Greece, they say. The country, they argue, has too much bureaucracy and too many strikes, with labor disputes often delaying delivery times.
...and worse...

The country's unemployment rate makes this trend particularly clear. In 2009, it was 9.5 percent. This year it may rise to 12.1 percent and economists expect it to reach 14.3 percent in 2011. Those, though, are only the official numbers, which were provided by Angel GurrĂ­a, secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Greek trade union association GSEE considers those numbers far too optimistic. It considers 20 percent to be a more likely figure for 2011. This would put the unemployment rate as high as it was in 1960, when hundreds of thousands of Greeks were forced to emigrate. Meanwhile, purchasing power has fallen to its 1984 level, according to the GSEE.
...and worse.
"If you take away my family's bread, I'll take you down -- the government needs to know that," Meletis says. "And don't call us anarchists if that happens! We're heads of our families and we're desperate."

He predicts the situation will only become more heated. "Things are starting to simmer here," he says. "And at some point they're going to explode."
Republicans say if we don't massively cut spending we'll end up like Greece.  The reality is if we do massively cut spending, we really will end up like Greece.

Blown A Gasket

MoDo The Red goes into a classic Jennifer Saunders AbFab bender again, where she actually makes a couple of good points only to see them drowned in some good ol' Obama-bashing.  First, the good news as she rightfully and righteously takes aim at Newtie and the Moose Lady:
Gingrich fancies himself an intellectual, a historian, a deep thinker — the opposite number, you might say, of Sarah Palin.
Yet here is Gingrich attempting to out-Palin Palin on Fox News: “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.” There is no more demagogic analogy than that.
Have any of the screaming critics noticed that there already are two mosques in the same neighborhood — one four blocks away and one 12 blocks away.
Should they be dismantled? And what about the louche liquor stores and strip clubs in the periphery of the sacred ground?
By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for. 
Immediately followed by this:
So look where we are. The progressive Democrat in the White House, the first president of the United States with Muslim roots, has been morally trumped by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, two moderate Republicans who have spoken bravely and lucidly about not demonizing and defaming an entire religion in the name of fighting its radicals.
Criticizing his fellow Republicans, Governor Christie said that while he understood the pain and sorrow of family members who lost loved ones on 9/11, “we cannot paint all of Islam with that brush.”
He charged the president with trying to turn the issue into a political football. But that is not quite right. It already was a political football and the president fumbled it. 
The whole column is a screaming paean to the Temple of the Sensible Centrist, she pines for Dubya, Big Dog, Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Christie here but finds Obama's failings to be equal to that of Gingrich and Palin.  Gotta be fair, gotta attack both sides!  Views differ on Earth being round, etc.

Classic MoDo, classic Village "pox on both their houses", classic "Where is our Serious Centrist leader now?" stuff.  She complains bitterly about the lack of First Amendment defense and then tears into Obama for taking a stand on it, then parses his stand as not good enough.

It's obnoxious.

Well You Knew This Was Coming

More Rand Paul trying to have it both ways, more digging himself into a hole, this time on the Cordoba House project.
Rand Paul -- whose belief in the absolute preeminence of private property rights has put him in hot water before -- appears to be attempting to thread the needle when it comes to the Cordoba House project in lower Manhattan. He says the project is a local issue that should be left to local authorities to handle -- but he also says that the Islamic community center shouldn't be built in the controversial lower Manhattan site.

What's more, he says, if Muslims really want to do right by the 9/11 families who Republicans say are offended by the Cordoba House project, they should do something else with their money besides building a cultural center.
"While this is a local matter that should be decided by the people of New York, Dr. Paul does not support a mosque being built two blocks from Ground Zero," Paul spokesperson Gary Howard told TPMDC. "In Dr. Paul's opinion, the Muslim community would better serve the healing process by making a donation to the memorial fund for the victims of September 11th."
Right.  So the "libertarian small government" Rand Paul says it's up to local Manhattan officials and they've decided it should be built...but then he says that it shouldn't be built and they should give all that money to the 9/11 victims' families.  You can do what you want with your local land use and you have the freedom to worship where you want...unless it's a national controversy because you're Muslim and government should get involved and people in Kentucky should be making the decisions for you.

This is what I don't get about the whole "Well you can but you shouldn't" argument.  You're still telling them they can't build there even though you're insisting they have the right to build there.  That means you're saying they don't have the right to build there now doesn't it?

In Rand's case the hypocrisy is even more extreme, on one hand taking the local libertarian view that the 1st Amendment and local decision-making should be respected and on the other saying that the Constitution means nothing and that the Park 51 people should be compelled to stop by the 99.99% of America that doesn't live anywhere near the site.

In the end, Rand has no idea what he's talking about.

Jersey Offshore

Manufacturing jobs from Jersey going offshore that is, and from the other 49 states too.  WaPo's Harold Meyerson hits upon the most basic of job creation strategies for the Democrats:  make jobs that make things.
The Democrats have a doctrinal problem: They (well, many of them) believe, with good reason, that the government must step in where the private sector fears to tread, boosting consumer demand through stimulus, subsidizing health insurance for millions of Americans who otherwise would go without. But the administration's failure to jolt a structurally dysfunctional economy back to health has discredited the very idea of governmental activism with much of the public, and not just the far right. That leaves the Democrats not as the party of government so much as the party of paralyzed government. That the Republicans are largely responsible for the paralysis isn't a big problem for a minority-status GOP so long as the public has concluded that activism per se is a bad idea.
So how do the Democrats defend and improve their brand? Is there a type of governmental activism that still retains public support -- and actually extricates us from the deepest hole we've been in since the '30s?
There is. If the Democrats focused on boosting manufacturing, with a corollary upgrade to our infrastructure, they'd tap into the only area in which the public wants a more activist government.
Several recent polls have called the Democrats' attention to what should have been obvious to them: That helping America regain its industrial preeminence is one government activity that wins support across the board. One recent survey by Democratic pollster Mark Mellman found 78 percent support for having a "national manufacturing strategy," while 92 percent said they supported infrastructure improvements using only American-made materials. Another survey from Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg found 52 percent of respondents preferred government investment "in the future," while just 42 percent favored the alternative course of large spending cuts.
He's right on both accounts, the Republicans are making government not work on purpose so the Dems get blamed, even if it hurts us economically as a country, and that people take pride in our manufacturing sector.

Or we used to. Republicans have done everything they can to stigmatize government and manufacturing as evil, and they've done it through demonization of union employees.  Republicans have done everything they can to shrink the power of unions.  The success of GM's turnaround is amazing, all done by union employees, but Republicans continue to ignore it.

We need a GM turnaround in our entire manufacturing sector.  Meyerson puts forth this idea:
Democrats have responded to these numbers by throwing together some modest pro-manufacturing legislation, but it's all fairly small beer. A bolder and more effective proposal is that of Intel's legendary former chief executive Andy Grove, which ran in Bloomberg BusinessWeek last month: Tax the products of off-shored labor, and put the proceeds in a fund that can be tapped by American businesses increasing their American hiring. 
It's a solid and simple idea that Republicans will never allow to happen.   The Republicans are at this point effectively stonewalling any legislation and scream like wounded animals any time the Executive or Judicial branches do anything, too.

Government by nihilism is fun, isn't it?

Home, Home I'm Deranged, Part 7

Ezra Klein talks to economist Dean Baker about the housing depression, and Baker reminds us in no way shape or form is our housing disaster over.
How’s the housing market doing right now?
It’s softening big-time. The first-time buyer’s credit was extended, and it did have a big impact in boosting the market. Housing prices rose from the second half of 2009 till the expiration, then the extension of the credit gave a modest boost up until April 30. Then the market just fell out. Most of our data takes six weeks or two months to come back, so we don’t know exactly what the new contracts look like. But sales have dropped through the floor, so my expectation is that prices are falling sharply. We should see declines through 2010 and possibly into 2011.
How would you rate the administration’s housing policy response?
It’s been painful. There’s been no clear thinking about what they were trying to do. There was talk about supporting the market. But what’s the logic in supporting a bubble? There were markets where the bubble has fully deflated and maybe has gone too far. Places like Phoenix and Las Vegas. It would’ve made sense to support those markets. But we didn’t do that. We were indiscriminate with our policies.
Our housing intervention always seemed very small in comparison to our stimulus and financial market interventions. Was that part of the problem?
The amount of money was small, which may have been good because it’s not clear that what you should’ve been trying to do was support house prices. Supporting house prices would’ve taken a lot of money. It would’ve been like agriculture subsidies, but cost more and made less sense.
How much is weakness in the housing market doing to slow the recovery? At this point, is the economy as intertwined with the housing sector as it was a few years ago, or have they been more effectively cleaved from one another?
They’re tied up. The basic story is that the loss of demand in the economy has come first from lost construction, which is largely housing. That’s been about 3 to 3.5 percentage points of GDP. Then we had a bubble in nonresidential real estate, which was another 1 to 1.5 percentage points of GDP. Then on top of that, we had the consumption driven by housing wealth. The administration talks about consumers being pessimistic, but it’s not consumer attitudes that are the problem. It’s their wealth. We’ve lost about $6 trillion in housing wealth, and I expect we will lose more.
Baker's actually more optimistic than I am.  I see housing declining into 2012. But look at that final number there:  $6 trillion in housing wealth got taken out of the economy.  Trillions more will follow. This really is a depression, we're not coming out of this without a fundamental reset, and the really scary part of this horror picture is still yet to come.

I think the next couple of years will be nasty.

A Flood Of Problems

Pakistan's record flooding is getting worse, and as Pakistan's government continues to be completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster affecting 20 million or more, elements of the Pakistani Taliban are stepping in to help where international aid from the west cannot.
A year after Congress passed $7.5 billion in aid to undercut the insurgents by strengthening Pakistan’s governance and economy, the worst floods in decades have destroyed more than $13 billion worth of crops, farms, railroads and towns along the country’s economic spine, Pakistani economists and officials say. Banned groups such as the Taliban and Jamaat ud- Dawa are giving food and tents to uprooted villagers in districts where they have battled police and soldiers.

“If the Pakistan government cannot repair roads and bridges to reconnect its cities, if it cannot put people back into homes and offer them some chance of a livelihood, the government will face its biggest political problem” in renewed radicalization, said Zafar Moin Nasser, director of research at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, in the capital, Islamabad.

The 1,600-kilometer-long (1,000-mile) swath of destruction along the Indus River may cut Pakistan’s economic growth by 2.5 percentage points this year, Finance Secretary Salman Siddique said in a phone interview Aug. 13. As the U.S. is rushing $76 million in emergency relief to Pakistan, it also is re- evaluating the country’s long-term needs, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters Aug. 16.

The government won’t be able to prevent militants from providing relief work and winning public support, said Talat Masood, a political and security consultant in Islamabad. 
And that means potentially tens if not hundreds of thousands of new recruits for radical Islamist groups as international aid falters in this economy and the Pakistani government is paralyzed by inertia.

I think we're badly underestimating the magnitude of this flooding and the long-term effects it will have on the country.  Imagine if Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky were all wiped out due to massive flooding.  Some 40 million Americans in the flood zone for three weeks, and more rain on the way.  The government paralyzed by inaction, and the only people willing to help were extremist militia and anti-government groups that called themselves Christian.  Imagine some of these guys saved your family when the government wouldn't help.  You might see them a little differently, despite the fact that they are willing to bring down the government by force.

That's what is going on in Pakistan right now.  Unless the Pakistani government gets things together immediately, they may not be a Pakistani government.  And we're going to have some serious problems on our hands, and very, very soon.


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