Friday, August 27, 2010

Last Call

Just how big should the "exclusion zone" be that supposedly should prevent the Park51 project from being built?  Of all the outfits to actually ask people that question, it's the friggin' Daily Caller and the results are both hysterical and pathetically sad.

So how many “steps away,” exactly, would a mosque need to be to avoid controversy?
It’s just not that simple, said Robert Spencer, author and editor of the website Jihad Watch, adding that it would be impossible to pin down an exact appropriate location for an Islamic center in the neighborhood.
The proximity to Ground Zero is just one component of a wide range of factors that ought to be considered, he said. These include “the historical connections of the new site to 9/11 and the buildings in the surrounding area.” Also, the site would need to be “as far away as would be necessary to take away the symbolic value that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Kahn have alluded to in saying that this mosque is intended to make a statement about 9/11.” With that in mind, he said, any answer with just a specific distance that did not provide for the other elements would be incomplete.
“I’m not going to give you an address. There is no way I could possibly do that or anybody could do that,” he replied when asked during a phone interview. “…You’re trying to trap me and I know it. You want to play the game? I know how to play this game. I’ve been doing this for many years, alright? I’ve talked to lots of reporters, I know the games you play. I ain’t playing. You’re trying to get me to give you an address and say ‘oh, if it’s one block over or one building over then it’s okay with Spencer, but one building over here, no then it’s a triumphal mosque.’ Well I’m not playing.”

Could it be because the argument is complete crap there, Rob, and that once you say "it's too close" then all of America has to qualify as too close, or your argument is exposed for the arbitrary hypocritical bull that it is when you actually do pin down a location?

Because without the veneer of "it's too close to Ground Zero" the actual problem is that you don't like Muslims, yes?

Baby Bust

The US birth rate numbers are looking rather low these days, here in the middle of the depression.
The U.S. birth rate has dropped for the second year in a row, and experts think the wrenching recession led many people to put off having children. The 2009 birth rate also set a record: lowest in a century.

Births fell 2.7 percent last year even as the population grew, numbers released Friday by the National Center for Health Statistics show.

"It's a good-sized decline for one year. Every month is showing a decline from the year before," said Stephanie Ventura, the demographer who oversaw the report. 

The birth rate, which takes into account changes in the population, fell to 13.5 births for every 1,000 people last year. That's down from 14.3 in 2007 and way down from 30 in 1909, when it was common for people to have big families. 

"It doesn't matter how you look at it—fertility has declined," Ventura said. 
Two observations:
1)  Kids are expensive.

2)  Cue the winger outrage that clearly this proves abortions are going to destroy America and must be outlawed now in 3...2...1...

Down In A Hole

Feeling so small...
How many House seats will the Republicans gain in 2010? To answer this question, we have run 1,000 simulations of the 2010 House elections. The simulations are based on information from past elections going back to 1946. Our methodology replicates that for our ultimately successful forecast of the 2006 midterm. Two weeks before Election Day in 2006, we posted a prediction that the Democrats would gain 32 seats and recapture the House majority. The Democrats gained 30 seats in 2006. Our current forecast for 2010 shows that the Republicans are likely to regain the House majority.

Our preliminary 2010 forecast will appear (with other forecasts by political scientists) in the October issue of PS: Political Science. By our reckoning, the most likely scenario is a Republican majority in the neighborhood of 229 seats versus 206 for the Democrats for a 50-seat loss for the Democrats. Taking into account the uncertainty in our model, the Republicans have a 79% chance of winning the House.
Good thing Dems backed down on jobs bills, additional stimulus, Wall Street reform, national immigration reform and climate legislation to accede to Republican demands in the name of bipartisan progress, because the voters sure are going to reward them for it...and what does that mean for America in 2011 with the GOP plan for "going forwards" and fixing the economy?
If President Barack Obama needed any more incentive to go all out for Democrats this fall, here it is: Republicans are planning a wave of committee investigations targeting the White House and Democratic allies if they win back the majority.

Everything from the microscopic — the New Black Panther party — to the massive –- think bailouts — is on the GOP to-do list, according to a half-dozen Republican aides interviewed by POLITICO. 
Won't this be fun?  Remember folks, Clinton tacked hard to the right, gave the GOP everything they wanted, repealed Glass-Steagall and balanced the budget during one of the biggest peacetime economic booms in American history.

The GOP responded by impeaching him anyway.

Imagine what they're going to do to Obama with a 10% unemployment rate. 

Meanwhile In Pakistan

...It's still hell on earth.
Fresh flooding has sent a million people fleeing from their homes in the south in the past 48 hours, the United Nations said. 
The death toll from the floods, triggered by unusually heavy monsoon downpours over the upper Indus basin a month ago, was expected to rise significantly as more bodies were found while many people were missing, a disaster authority spokeswoman said.
Floodwaters are beginning to recede across most of the country as the water flows downstream, but high tides in the Arabian Sea meant they still posed a threat to towns in Sindh province such as Thatta, 70 km (45 miles) east of Karachi.
"Concern continues to be the south," U.N. spokeswoman Stacey Winston told a news conference. "In the last 48 hours nearly one million people have been displaced."
The U.N. earlier said the floods had forced about six million people from their homes.
Millions of people now homeless in a flood-ravaged country and more water coming in some parts, in a place where government is barely holding on...a government with nukes and a serious domestic terrorism problem.  This disaster has been going on for weeks now with no real end in sight.

This will come back to haunt us.  Guaranteed.

Look For The Union Moose

The fight between Sarah Palin and AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka is getting really interesting, but I think Moose Lady might have bitten off more than she can chew. Palin's certainly picking a fight:

To my hardworking, patriotic brothers and sisters in the labor movement: you don't have to put up with the scare tactics and the big government agenda of the union bosses. There is a different home for you: the commonsense conservative movement. It cares about the same things you and I care about: a government that doesn't spend beyond its means, an economy focused on creating good jobs with good wages, and a leadership that is proud of America's achievements and doesn't go around apologizing to everyone for who we are. 

But after spending most of, oh, the last two years demonizing union employees, I doubt many are going to fall for it.  Trumka's response is classic:

Sarah Palin?

She used to have a job, your governor.... You knew her.... Or thought you did.... I know I thought I did. She seemed like a decent person, an outdoorswoman. Her husband's a steelworker. She seemed to take some OK stands for working families.

And then things got weird. After she tied herself to John McCain and they lost, she blew off Alaska. I guess she figured she'd trade up...shoot for a national stage. Alaska was too far from the FOX TV spotlight.

I bet most of you, on a clear day, can see her hypocrisy from your house.

I think Sarah Palin quit so she wouldn't have to be accountable... so she wouldn't have a record that could be scrutinized...

Instead, she's hanging out on cable TV, almost a parody of herself, coming out with conspiracy theories about Obama and his "death panels...." Talking about "the real America." Talking about building schools in "our neighboring country of Afghanistan." Writing speech notes to herself on her hands.
And he's not backing down from her, either.  It's good to remember that standing up to Palin's endless teenage tweet garbage and Facebook rants is actually the correct thing to do instead of slinking away from her, hoping she'll leave you alone.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

This is rich.
Nevadans would like a do-over.

Two-thirds of voters who say they back Sharron Angle wish another Republican had won the nomination, according to a poll for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and 8NewsNow that shows deep dissatisfaction with both the Tea Party pick and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.

Nearly eight of 10 voters who remain undecided or who don't like Angle or Reid say they, too, would have preferred if the staunch conservative hadn't won the June 8 primary over her more moderate foes. And 58 percent of such nonaligned voters say they wish Reid hadn't won the Democratic nomination, suggesting a majority of Nevadans are unhappy with their choices.

Oh well, nobody ever accused Republican primary voters of being anything other than angry.  You know, like "attentive to issues of their candidate".

The Kentucky Waltz

Over at Down With Tyranny, Howie has an pretty thorough run-down of the House race in my own backyard: KY-4 and Republican Geoff Davis vs Democrat John Waltz.
In primary after primary, Republican incumbents have found themselves in real peril from an angry group of right-leaning voters who resent the budget-busting policies that helped bring the economy to its knees. There is a growing divide between the Mitch McConnell machine and the grassroots movement that lifted Rand Paul to notoriety. What will happen when the choice moves to the general election? Can a left-leaning candidate that shares the fundamental frustrations and fiscal concerns of the Tea Party carry more appeal than a follower of Mitch McConnell?

This is a real possibility in a place like Kentucky where the voters typically choose Democrats for state office, but lean Republican in federal elections. The state is not as red as it may initially appear and populism is a winning message in a state that fell in love with the Clintons.

Enter John Waltz, a progressive-minded, populist, blue-collar Democrat running a stronger than expected campaign against one of the least accomplished McConnell loyalists in Congress, Geoff Davis. Waltz's policy positions are progressive, and his style and populist message are ones that Kentucky Tea Partiers could almost certainly learn to appreciate.

Waltz served in the Navy in Iraq and Afghanistan and when he returned home from the wars, he suffered serious health problems and went to Geoff Davis for help. “I figured he was a veteran and a Congressman and he would help me. I was wrong,” Waltz says. As a veteran advocate, Davis brought him to fundraisers and used him as a prop to talk about taking care of America’s heroes, yet he did nothing to actually help. Waltz worked with other veterans as well and had the same experience. Waltz says he is telling his story to show that if Davis can’t even bother to find the time to help disabled veterans, we know what he’s going to do when you give his office a call.

Instead of just giving up, John decided to challenge the powerful northern Kentucky incumbent. With no money and no political experience, Waltz’s biggest asset has been tenacity. He outraised Geoff Davis in the most recent fundraising reports filed with the FEC and he did it the hard way. Waltz raised slightly more than Davis in small donations from more than 400 people. Davis on the other hand collected 98% of his money from big PAC checks. Only 8 people actually donated to Davis’ campaign, a point that Waltz makes with zeal.
Howie's logic is that John Waltz can turn the Kentucky Tea Party anger against Mitch McConnell and incumbents in general against Davis, and that Waltz can ride that wave to the House.  He's an Iraq vet and his story of deciding to run against Davis when Davis was refusing to do anything to help Iraq/Afghanistan vets is a strongly moving tale.  He talks a solid budgetary game and is actually preaching fiscal responsibility, and his issue page is definitely stuff I agree with:  health care, jobs, reducing foreign debt to improve the jobs picture (smart guy, this Waltz) and green energy.

Will anti-incumbent anger at Davis be enough to give Waltz a win?  Howie thinks so.
Davis ran afoul of the Tea Party movement early on. The Kentucky Club for Growth publicly took him to task for ridiculing and dismissing those that were fighting back against the fiscal mess created by Republicans. An excerpt from the group’s website:
“In the interview, Davis calls the ideas of the Tea Parties, that bailouts and reckless spending is bad and the expansion of liberty is good, as "Pie in the Sky," then proceeds to criticize the Club for Growth, saying as David Adams transcribes:

"A lot of conservative groups like Club for Growth and others unfortunately spend all their time going after Republicans. As I've shared, it would be nice if they tried to defeat a liberal now and then."

Mr. Davis, just because someone has an "R" next to their name doesn't mean that that person is voting to uphold conservative principles.”

Davis has been backtracking ever since and attempting to reach out to Tea Party voters. It is not an easy sell for a three-term incumbent who has proved more of a machine politician than a reformer. Especially one who insulted the Club for Growth by saying they were wasting their money attacking elected “RINO” Republicans. Davis dodges questions about whether Obama has a legitimate birth certificate, possibly because he himself was born in Quebec Canada.
Davis really is a terrible politician and Northern Kentucky deserves better.  I've given my own reasons why I'm supporting John Waltz for the House as well.  I think Waltz has a legitimate shot.

Those Poor Put-Upon White Conservative Republicans

Won't anyone in America stand up for them?  Charles Krauthammer dares to dream!
That's a polite way of saying: clinging to bigotry. And promiscuous charges of bigotry are precisely how our current rulers and their vast media auxiliary react to an obstreperous citizenry that insists on incorrect thinking.
-- Resistance to the vast expansion of government power, intrusiveness and debt, as represented by the Tea Party movement? Why, racist resentment toward a black president.
-- Disgust and alarm with the federal government's unwillingness to curb illegal immigration, as crystallized in the Arizona law? Nativism.
-- Opposition to the most radical redefinition of marriage in human history, as expressed in Proposition 8 in California? Homophobia.
-- Opposition to a 15-story Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero? Islamophobia.
Now we know why the country has become "ungovernable," last year's excuse for the Democrats' failure of governance: Who can possibly govern a nation of racist, nativist, homophobic Islamophobes? 
Well, it would be a little different if the racist, nativist, homophobic Islamophobes didn't have the filibuster, frankly.

I like how Krauthammer describes those who hold the wingnut positions that define blacks as "lazy welfare queens", Latinos as "drug-smuggling killers", gays as "morally destructive deviants" and Muslims as "America-hating terrorists" as all being victims of a giant misunderstanding, a product of "incorrect thinking", as if Obama is personally leading the thought police to round up those of us who consider blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims as less than real Americans or even less than human.

It's just "incorrect thinking".  Free speech!  Free speech!

Here's some free speech for you:  Krauthammer's a mendacious, mean-spirited hack who is looking for someone to project all his considerable anger on, and this week he's decided on "liberals" in general.

Krauthammer has his right to his opinion, I have my right to agree or disagree with it, that's how it works.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

The 2nd quarter GDP revision is in at 1.6%, a downward revision but...better than expected! (of course).
U.S. economic growth slowed more sharply than initially thought in the second quarter, held back by the largest increase in imports in 26 years, a government report showed on Friday.

Gross domestic product expanded at a 1.6 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said, instead of the 2.4 percent pace it had estimated last month.

However, the reading was a touch better than market expectations. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast GDP, which measures total goods and services output within U.S. borders, revised down to a 1.4 percent growth rate. The economy grew at a 3.7 percent pace in the first three months of the year.
Pretty good racket, this "better than expected" thing.

The Kroog Versus Jackson Hole

Paul Krugman previews this morning's GDP revision and Helicopter Ben's speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  We're not in a recovery, he says, but something much worse.

The important question is whether growth is fast enough to bring down sky-high unemployment. We need about 2.5 percent growth just to keep unemployment from rising, and much faster growth to bring it significantly down. Yet growth is currently running somewhere between 1 and 2 percent, with a good chance that it will slow even further in the months ahead. Will the economy actually enter a double dip, with G.D.P. shrinking? Who cares? If unemployment rises for the rest of this year, which seems likely, it won’t matter whether the G.D.P. numbers are slightly positive or slightly negative. 

The reality is that GDP for last quarter was somewhere around the 1% mark if that much.  This quarter will almost certainly find us in the hole and back into functional recession territory, and this time there's little to do to get out.

So what should officials be doing, aside from telling the truth about the economy?

The Fed has a number of options. It can buy more long-term and private debt; it can push down long-term interest rates by announcing its intention to keep short-term rates low; it can raise its medium-term target for inflation, making it less attractive for businesses to simply sit on their cash. Nobody can be sure how well these measures would work, but it’s better to try something that might not work than to make excuses while workers suffer.

The administration has less freedom of action, since it can’t get legislation past the Republican blockade. But it still has options. It can revamp its deeply unsuccessful attempt to aid troubled homeowners. It can use Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored lenders, to engineer mortgage refinancing that puts money in the hands of American families — yes, Republicans will howl, but they’re doing that anyway. It can finally get serious about confronting China over its currency manipulation: how many times do the Chinese have to promise to change their policies, then renege, before the administration decides that it’s time to act?

Which of these options should policy makers pursue? If I had my way, all of them.

I know what some players both at the Fed and in the administration will say: they’ll warn about the risks of doing anything unconventional. But we’ve already seen the consequences of playing it safe, and waiting for recovery to happen all by itself: it’s landed us in what looks increasingly like a permanent state of stagnation and high unemployment. It’s time to admit that what we have now isn’t a recovery, and do whatever we can to change that situation. 

The question is what will Obama do about it?  What can he do?  It's really up to the Fed now, and it's only a matter of time before they're forced by the collapse in confidence to pull the QE 2 trigger.


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