Thursday, August 19, 2010

Last Call

Recently the WSJ's Brett Arends laid out "Ten Reasons To Be Cautious" in the stock market, noting:
Could Wall Street be about to crash again?
This week's bone-rattlers may be making you wonder.
I don't make predictions. That's a sucker's game. And I'm certainly not doing so now.
But way too many people are way too complacent this summer. Here are 10 reasons to watch out.
He goes on to list a pretty fair list of reasons why you should be worried that stocks are going to be hurting very soon including subjects I've been talking about:  consumer debt load, wage and price deflation, the real unemployment figures, and most importantly the continuing housing depression.  I didn't think to mention Arends's article because I figured it was the WSJ hedging its bets.

Then I see that Jim "the housing crisis will end in July 2009" Cramer is completely discounting the article, which tells me everything you need to know about the next six months in stocks.

Things are going to get really, really ugly, folks.  Count on it.

What Will Bunch Said

Author Will Bunch absolutely understands the GOP War On The Other that I keep talking about.
America, we are in for the bumpy political ride of a lifetime. It will take enormous courage for defenders of two centuries of religious freedom and tolerance toward both religious and economic refugees to stand firm in the face of the kind of raw public anger and emotion that have caused backbone-impaired politicians like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or supposed progressive stalwart Howard Dean to wither in mere days. Our determined minority may be barely clinging to our cherished traditions -- as best expressed by President George Washington in 1790 when he wrote "the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens" -- in the face of this onslaught for the next few years.
Let's face it: This country has long had its Know-Nothings and its Birchers and its McCarthyites, but it never had gizmos like Fox News or Sarah Palin's Twitter feed to fuel toxic ideas so far so fast. It's time we admit these seemingly disconnected battles over "anchor babies, mosques, and a black man in the Oval Office are all part of the same war against "the Other," and that we are in the fight of a lifetime.  
Absolutely read the whole article.

We are indeed in the fight of a lifetime.  The goal here isn't to get rid of Obama or to spread fear about Muslims or to scapegoat Latinos or bash on gays.  Those are methods, not goals.

The goal of the modern Republican party is to roll back 80 years of classic liberalism.  It is nothing short of the repeal of the New Deal and everything that came after it, from Brown vs Board of Education to Roe vs Wade to the Civil Rights Act to Title IX to everything Obama signed into law.  Roll back Social Security, Medicare, welfare, social services, education...roll back the government itself and leave everything to the free market and the Divine Right of Wealth:

If you're wealthy, you've earned it, you deserve it, and you're a good person.  If you're not, it's because you're lazy.  Work harder, pray harder, and shut the hell up.

We face a wealth imbalance in this country that exceeds the height of the Gilded Age, and it's still not enough for our corporate masters.  Nothing short of the end of the federal government will satisfy them, and hundreds of millions of serfs who exist only to drain wealth from must be sacrificed for more.

That's where we're heading.  Bunch gets this, thank God.

The Shock Doctrine Special

Naomi Klein's excellent book Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism is something of required reading for today's American consumer and has been for a couple of years now.  Crisis precipitates change.  The problem then is manipulating a crisis to precipitate a particular change that you want, and we've seen how this can be abused time and time again to continue to consolidate power in the hands of the few, hence the phrase "disaster capitalism".

Case in point:  the massive state budget shortfalls of 2010 and 2011 absolutely count as a crisis.  The "disaster capitalism" solution of course is to sell off as much of the state's assets to the private sector in order to raise money.  Henry Blodget:
What assets?
Assets like roads, bridges, state parks, public transportation systems, and universities.
If New Jersey were to sell the New Jersey Turnpike, for example, it would immediately raise tens of billions of dollars, which would radically improve the state's financial health. And a private road operator might do a better job of running the turnpike than the state can.
Is that a crazy, wacko, radical idea?
In the case of roads, transportation, and other infrastructure, no. There's actually plenty of precedent for it.  And there's no reason other than convention why city bus and subways systems are publicly run and interstate systems, including airlines, are private.
In the case of universities and state parks?  Well, there, the idea is a lot more radical.
Ahh, but we're talking much more radical here, much more than parks and universities.   Remember Blackwater?  Triple Canopy?  Other private military contractors?  Privately operated school districts?  Police and firefighters?

There's a lot of privatization out there possibly.  And all of them run at a profit, not with the public's interest in mind.

What will states sell in order to balance their budgets?

We're about to find out.

Sympathy For The Devil After All

At least one major Muslim GOP donor is coming out to question why the GOP is openly attacking Islam.
I don't know if I'll be a Republican a year from now," says Seeme Hasan, who chairs the Hasan Family Foundation in Colorado, and has close ties to the Republican party leadership. Hasan's frustration with the GOP was evident, and not just over their public opposition to the construction of a Muslim cultural center in lower Manhattan. "Every time a Muslim person becomes famous, they are viciously attacked," Hasan said.

"The past few years in the Republican party has been constant humiliation for Muslims," Hasan told TPM in an interview yesterday evening.
This I can understand.  She has every right to question the GOP's treatment of American Muslims.  But I have no sympathy for the second part of her argument.
Hasan continues to support the Republican party, including the GOP's Senate nominee from Colorado, Ken Buck, who also opposes the Cordoba project.

Interestingly, though, Hasan says at this point, Republican politicians have little choice but to join the GOP in opposing Cordoba House, and she understands that.

"I would tell him to go ahead and be against it. I did not support it when the top people started this. I did not support that," Hasan said. "Newt and Sarah Palin and all the others made it so the rest of the Republicans have no choice."
Vote Republican anyway, they're Islamophobes but they can't help themselves, they have no choice.  "He beats me officer but he's family and I love him."  Easy to be pretty angry at Hasan in this case.

But then Hasan makes an excellent point:
Though she called into question whether or not she'll remain in the Republican party, Hasan said that in any case it will be difficult, if not impossible, for her to be as supportive of the GOP's presidential nominee in 2012 as she was of George W. Bush in 2000. She says she has only one reason to suspect she'll put a great deal of effort into defeating Barack Obama: His policies are perhaps more anti-Muslim, Hasan says, as Bush's were. "It's like my son says, he's been more hawkish than Dick Cheney."
You mean the Obama continuation of Bush/Cheney's war policy and expanding it greatly in the Af-Pak region is causing blowback among American Muslims to the point where it's driving them into the arms of an abusive relationship with Islamophobic Republicans?

Hoocudddanode?  Sympathy for the Devil after all.

On the other hand, the alternative to Obama is people like Roy Blunt, who has no problems running on a virulent anti-Muslim campaign for Missouri's Senate seat.

Sympathy for the Devil indeed.  After all, when 48% of Americans say that First Amendment rights don't apply to Muslims, including 14% who say there should be no mosques in the United States period, it's hard to resist peer pressure.

And one-third of Americans think being a Muslim should prevent you from running for President.  But contributing a million bucks to a political party that wants to deny you all rights as an American is a great idea.

The Enthusiasm Gap Explained

Everything you need to know about the Dem "enthusiasm gap" in 2010.  First, Sen. Al Franken's response to the Park 51/Cordoba House project:
Franken said conservative opposition to the mosque is “one of the most disgraceful things that I’ve heard.”

“I don’t know how many of you have been to New York, but if a building is two blocks away from anything, you can’t see it. It’s a community center. They’re going to have a gym. They’re going to have point guards. Muslim point guards,” Franken said, to laughter and applause.

“They (Republicans) do this every two years. They try to find a wedge issue, and they try to work it.”

Compare that with Howard Dean's "clarification":

"My argument is simple. This Center may be intended as a bridge or a healing gesture but it will not be perceived that way unless a dialogue with a real attempt to understand each other happens. That means the builders have to be willing to go beyond what is their right and be willing to talk about feelings whether the feelings are "justified" or not. No doubt the Republic will survive if this center is built on its current site or not. But I think this is a missed opportunity to try to have an open discussion about why this is a big deal because it is a big deal to a lot of Americans who are not just right wing politicians pushing the hate button again. I think those people need to be heard respectfully whether they are right or whether they are wrong."

Now consider that a great many Dems are rushing to take Howard Dean's position, and you have your answer.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

From Balloon Juice:

America has always had Republican presidents, and they always win wars.

You don't believe me? You're not one of them, are you?

Snark aside, screw you, Johnny Volcano.

More Austerity Hysteria, California Style Edition

Despite the fact that paying state employees wages is actually one of the most direct methods to get state government money back into the private sector as stimulus (as state employees need to buy groceries, clothes, computers, cars and houses too), The Governator is taking that money out of the state economy.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said 150,000 government workers must begin taking time off without pay starting Aug. 20 following a court ruling lifting an injunction temporarily blocking the furloughs.

The California Supreme Court, saying it would review the governor’s plan, stayed decisions by lower courts that had halted the furloughs. Schwarzenegger directed state workers to take three unpaid days off each month to save cash. The high court set a Sept. 8 hearing on a challenge to the order.
Three days a month furlough is so much nicer sounding than "15% pay cut effective immdiately."  State employees patronize private sector businesses too.  Only now, not as much.  I fail to see how this does anything other than to cause suffering.

It's certainly not going to help California's economy.

Case In Point

The modern Republican Party and in particular the Tea Party movement is defined not by what it is, but who is not allowed to participate.  It is now and has been for years about the Dehumanization of the Other.  If you want to know why the number of people in America who think Obama must be a Muslim has increased to nearly one in five, you have to look at how Obama is characterized and how Muslims are characterized.

But the real key is how one defines a Christian in America in 2010.  The Tea Party has a very, very narrowly definition of Christian, and to them it's often phrased as "true Christian" or "real Christian", which is of course strictly fundamentalist.  While the poll showed that almost 20% think Obama is Muslim, only 34% of Americans consider Obama a Christian, and the plurality of Americans, more than 40%, are simply not sure.

Only one in three of us believe Obama when he says he is a Christian.  Think about that.  Here's your typical winger response from Macranger:
“Personally committed to his own Christian faith”. Just because one is in a bagel shop doesn’t make him a bagel. I’ve stated repeatedly that it’s impossible to be a Christian, a true Christian, and support abortion in any flavor. Obama supports it full heartedly. In fact he made funding for it even easier. One could not be a “Christian” and sit adoringly under the teaching of Jeremiah Wright, a professor not of Christianity, but of a hybrid cult.

No, the reason more people have doubts today and believe that he is in fact a “closet” muslim is not from “folks spreading rumors”, but from his own words and actions. 
And from Steve Gilbert:
Exactly what evidence does the Associated Press have that Mr. Obama is a Christian? Is it because he calls himself one? Mr. Obama also claims to be a moderate. He also denies that he is a socialist.
The first and only church Mr. Obama ever attended with any regularity was Reverend Wright’s ‘church,’ which is a very peculiar brand of Christianity at best. In fact, it is some weird Afro-centric mish-mash of ‘Black Liberation Theology’ that has more to do with racism and Marxism than Christianity.
And of course ever since the campaign ended Mr. Obama has avoided attended any religious service like a vampire avoids the cross.
Personally, we don’t think Mr. Obama believes in any particular religion. He appears to be his own god, and that seems to be good enough for him.

It's starting to dawn on you then on what this is all about, isn't it?  Obama can't be a Christian because only Tea Party Real Americans are Christian.  The issue isn't "Is the public misinformed and believe Obama is a Muslim?" but "Why does an overwhelming majority of Americans refuse to classify Obama as a Christian?"

There's a simple answer, and maybe it's so simple it's being overlooked on purpose.  If you want to know why Obama's Christianity is being attacked and what it really means, ask yourself what else is different about Obama than our preceding 43 presidents.  Hint:  it's not that he's the first president to deal with a bad economy, as the Washington Post poll article seems to think is the excuse.

The first step to dehumanizing a person or group is to focus on why they are different from you.  And the Republicans have been doing that for years now.  When you hear "I'm not sure if Obama's a Christian" or "Obama's a Muslim" it's "He's not like me, he's the Other."

John Hinderaker at Power Line sums up this warped view of Obama:
We're not sure who he is, exactly, but he certainly isn't one of us.
And then it's okay to hate him.

If It's Thursday...

...then I've got bad news.  Jobless claims have spiked back up to the 500k mark.  Continuing claims stable at 4.48 million, but we're definitely going the wrong way here.

Of course, I've been saying more pain was ahead now for the second half of 2010 and unfortunately it looks like I'm right.

Flip Mode Squad

I talked about the possibility of this happening back last month given Charlie Crist's independent bid for Senate in Florida, but if the Republicans get close enough in the Senate and the Dems only have 49 seats, what will Crist and Lieberman do?  Yggy runs the simulation:
It occurred to me today that there’s at least some chance that in January of 2011 the US Senate will have 49 Democrats, Joe Lieberman, Charlie Crist, and 49 Republicans. Which is to say that Lieberman & Crist could form a two-man caucus, hold the balance of power, and drive organization of the Senate. Crist could leapfrog seniority and chair a committee. And if it looked like that might happen, mightn’t it make sense for Northeastern moderate Republicans (Snowe, Collins, Brown, Castle) and Southern moderate Democrats (Landrieu, Pryor, Hagan) to join their rebellion against the two party system? After all, Duverger’s Law predicts that we should only have two parties in any given place but it might make sense for those to be different parties in the different regions. 
It's possible.  A new "Gang of Ten" or whatever would end up completely controlling the Senate.  Crist and Lieberman, especially, would end up controlling everything.  Whoever made them the best deal would get control of the Senate.  It would be a madhouse...and nothing would get passed, period.

That would suit the Republicans just fine, I'm thinking.

Ground Zero Was An Excuse

No one could have guessed that Republican attacks on the Park51/Cordoba House project and Democratic cowardice especially from New York's delegation on defending the 1st Amendment would lead to mosque projects coming under attack elsewhere in New York as the state descends upon an unpopular minority.
A church may be a church, and a temple a temple, but through the prism of emotion that still grips many New Yorkers almost a decade after 9/11, a mosque can apparently represent a lot of things.
In the last few months, Muslim groups have encountered unexpectedly intense opposition to their plans for opening mosques in Lower Manhattan, in Brooklyn and most recently in an empty convent on Staten Island.
Some opponents have cited traffic and parking concerns. But the objections have focused overwhelmingly on more intangible and volatile issues: fear of terrorism, distrust of Islam and a linkage of the two in opponents’ minds.
“Wouldn’t you agree that every terrorist, past and present, has come out of a mosque?” asked one woman who stood up Wednesday night during a civic association meeting on Staten Island to address representatives of a group that wants to convert a Roman Catholic convent into a mosque in the Midland Beach neighborhood. 
Oh wait...this was happening in June, months before the "Ground Zero Mosque" became a national issue.

Wait, you mean there's been an organized campaign to attack the first Amendment rights of American Muslims for months now, and Ground Zero had nothing to do with it whatsoever?

Oh but wait again:  it's not just New York.  There's been an organized campaign to stop the construction of places of worship for Muslims in this country for months now.
Two weeks later, the New York Times and the Associated Press are catching up with The Upshot's reporting on the growing opposition to mosques around the country. Mosques in small communities in Tennessee, California and Wisconsin — far from the emotionally loaded Ground Zero site — are facing protests from community members who contend that the Muslim houses of worship serve as training grounds for jihadists.

Both stories highlight a recent two-year study by Duke University and the University of North Carolina, which found that mosques and other community organizations like Muslim bookstores help prevent radicalization among American Muslims.
So the Republicans have successfully packaged anti-Muslim hatred as "too close to Ground Zero" and now it's perfectly acceptable to oppose mosques anywhere in the country.  Hey, is Tennessee too close to Lower Manhattan?  It's a "9/11 victory mosque" right?  They only build them in "places they have conquered" right?  They're all "terrorists" right?
"Everywhere there's a mosque, there's a tension now," Ahmed told The Upshot two weeks ago, citing his year of field research visiting 100 mosques around the country.

That tension doesn't seem likely to let up any time soon. On Friday, about a dozen protesters confronted worshipers at a mosque in Bridgeport, Conn., yelling at them with a bullhorn: "Murderers!" and "Jesus hates Muslims."
Sorry Bridgeport Muslims, you're too close to Ground Zero.  Sorry Muslims in Tennessee, Wisconsin and California, you're too close to Ground Zero.

Sorry American Muslims, the First Amendment just doesn't apply to you.  Apparently after 9/11 the Constitution was changed and nobody told you.

Cordoba House was an excuse.  The reality is that Republicans have been playing the anti-Muslim card since 2008 in order to gain political power.  It didn't work in November 2008.  But November 2010, well...apparently you can never have enough minority group scapegoats to blame for the economy.

And the Republican party is more than happy to pile on the hate while the Democrats cower.  If you don't see where this is going -- one in five Americans now believe Obama is a Muslim and that's up since he was inaugurated -- then you're willfully being blind.

And that's just what the GOP wants.


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