Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Last Call

Obama talks about "turning a page" in Iraq.
President Obama declared that "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended" in his prime-time address Tuesday.

"Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country," he said.

Obama said the winding down of the war in Iraq means it's time for citizens to unite and build a better life for all Americans.

"Our most urgent task is to restore our economy and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work," he said in his nationwide address from the Oval Office.

"... This will be difficult. But in the days to come, it must be our central mission as a people and my central responsibility as president."

The president said ending the war in Iraq is in the United States' best interest and "it is time to turn the page."

Obama said he has spoken with former President George W. Bush about moving forward on Iraq's future.
Hard to turn the page when they are stuck together due to being soaked in blood, man.  Still, Obama's at least not giving in to the Republican demands to "give Bush credit for winning the war".  Bush only deserved credit for starting this unconscionable mess in the first place.

We'll see.  Now, about that economy...

In Which Zandar Wonders What Yglesias Is Smoking

...because it's clearly some primo product, man.
I’m a firm believer in the link between higher levels of immigration and higher average living standards for native-born people. But I recognize that this remains controversial. Something that certainly shouldn’t be controversial is the fairly obvious point that if we allowed more immigrants to come to the United States this would bolster home price values in a clearer and more sustainable way than any kind of crazy patchwork of tax breaks. Right now we have more houses than households, if we had more immigrants we’d have more households. We’d work off the excess inventory more quickly, and be closer to the day when home construction returns as a viable economic sector.
Umm, Matt, I dunnae have a Ph.D. or anything, but even I've got it pegged that the problem isn't "number of people in the country" but "number of households earning a wage that allows for the purchase of a home on mortgage".

The bar to home ownership is price and wage, not number of people in the market.  Unless this plan is somehow limited to "visas that allow people who are wealthy enough to buy houses outright to encourage them to move, live, and work here" into the country, I'm gonna go with that this is pushing on a string.

What we need is more jobs with better-paying wages, not more people inside the US.

Gold Rush, Part 10

Gold's been kicking around the $1,200 mark now for a couple months, but the latest economic numbers have people heading into the yellow stuff and hoping the elevator reaches $1,500 or more.
Investors are accumulating enough bullion to fill Switzerland’s vaults twice over as gold’s most- accurate forecasters say the longest rally in at least nine decades has further to go no matter what the economy holds.

Analysts raised their 2011 forecasts more than for any other precious metal the past two months, predicting a 10th annual advance, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The most widely held option on gold futures traded in New York is for $1,500 an ounce by December, or 18 percent more than the record $1,266.50 reached June 21. Holdings through bullion-backed exchange-traded products are already at more than 2,075 metric tons, within 0.1 percent of the all-time high.

“Either a swift economic recovery or further dismal economic performance should bring new buyers into the market,” said Eugen Weinberg, an analyst at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt who was the most accurate forecaster in the first quarter and expects the metal to rise as high as $1,400 next year. “A stronger economy would create more jewelry demand. If the economy stays weak or gets worse, then investors will be looking for a safe haven.” 
Gold today has bounced up towards $1,250.  I do see that June 21 mark of $1,266.50 falling pretty soon, but again like any bubble gold's got to pop some time.

Doesn't mean it will be soon however.   Gold's been ramping up since 9/11 when it was around $300 an ounce.  It could have a long way to go, or not.  It does mean however that people are getting out of stocks, currencies, and bonds, and that's the important thing.

Darn Good Conway

Not sure if this is the best plan of attack for Jack Conway, touting his credentials as an elected official (in this case this ad about his tenure as a strict law and order drug warrior as Kentucky's AG) given the country's anti-incumbent mood right now and Rand Paul's "outsider cred".

On the other hand, Kentucky is a state where Democrats run as relatively sane Reagan Republicans, and Republicans run as completely insane Ron Paul Libertarians.

Democratic nominee Jack Conway has a new ad in the Kentucky Senate race, touting the support of the state Fraternal Order of Police -- and declaring that he's "darn good" at his job as state Attorney General.

"Jack Conway is the chief law enforcement officer for Kentucky and a darn good one," says Calloway County Sheriff Bill Marcum. Notably, the ad also points to Conway's record in a major drug bust in the state, which nabbed 518 people. As the Conway camp's press release says: "Conway's record stands in stark contrast to that of opponent Rand Paul, who has come under fire for saying illegal drugs aren't a 'real pressing issue' in Kentucky."

Still, sticking Rand Paul on the "Let the states deal with meth labs and leave the Feds out of it" seems to actually be working for Conway.  We'll see.

Bully For You

The human capacity for justification is a truly amazing thing.  Seems Focus on the Family is worried that trying to help schools prevent bullies from harassing students over being gay is of course, turning kids gay.  Or something.
Candi Cushman, an education analyst for the James Dobson-founded group, told The Denver Post this weekend that gay rights advocates have inserted their agenda into anti-bullying efforts, at the expense of Christian values.
"We feel more and more that activists are being deceptive in using anti-bullying rhetoric to introduce their viewpoints, while the viewpoint of Christian students and parents are increasingly belittled," Cushman told the Post.
In an email to TPM, Cushman expanded her argument. "Listing certain categories creates a system ripe for reverse discrimination, sending the message that certain characteristics are more worthy of protection than others," she said.
Cushman's argument has two levels: first, she says anti-bullying efforts wrongly put the focus on the "characteristics of the victim" instead of the "wrong actions of the bullies." Second, she thinks that gay rights activists are using the whole issue to sneak their agenda into the nation's schools.
She denounced the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
"In many cases, these politicized bullying policies are being used as tools to undermine parental rights," she said, "and censor or marginalize students and parents with differing viewpoints."
Look, it's hard enough being a teenager in this completely screwed up America we live in right now.  It was agonizing being different in the 80's and early 90's when I grew up, but I was just the tuba-playing nerdy fat kid who kept blowing the school test curves in science classes.  I was lucky, the school's AD was a good friend of my grandfather's and the soccer and wrestling coach lived a couple doors down from us, so people left me alone.  It's got to be full-scale war these days for anyone who has to deal with homosexuality on top of it all.

Now people are actually saying "Your campaign to stop bullies is really advocating your deviance"?  Really?  Trying to stop bullies is "undermining parental rights"?

What's the alternative?  Saying "Well son, I understand he beat the crap out of you, but really you're interfering with his right not to be around anyone who's gay.  You're making him uncomfortable" or something?  Really?

The advocation of bigotry is one thing.  Doing so and using school bullies as an excuse, giving the implication that some of the reasons they may have to attack students are justified, is entirely something else.  Or do we forget when school bullying over sexuality turns fatal?

Bridge too far, guys.

Enemies Both Foreign And Domestic (Mostly Domestic)

Our old friends the Minutemen are back in the news and they've got a new battle to fight:  American Muslims!
In an e-mail last week, the Minuteman PAC used an attack on Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) to fundraise against his re-election campaign, referring to Carson as an "Islamist" who is "championing Islam, the Ground Zero Mosque and Sharia law in America!"
The release, sent out by political arm of the more-grassroots Minuteman Movement, also accused Carson of being funded by "terror-linked Islamists," and of having ties to Louis Farrakhan, who the release describes as "an extremist black Muslim who spews vile racial hatred and virulent anti-Semitism whenever he gets the chance!" It requests donations to help Minuteman PAC defeat Carson.
Carson, one of two Muslim representatives currently serving in Congress, has come out strongly in support of the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, asking: "Are we a country of laws and principles? Or are we a country who will be moved by the winds of emotion each and every time there are issues that come up to divert us from the true meaning and intent of the founding fathers?"
But the Minuteman PAC has also found a way to tie recent wave of Islamophobia to its raison d'ĂȘtre. One of the "projects" featured on its website is called "Third Jihad Watch," and a post about it describes how "nothing makes the U.S. more vulnerable to another 9-11 attack like open borders."
"The threat of terrorism has no borders," it says. "No one is safeguarded against the deadly threat that terrorism poses around the world."
It's getting tiresome.  I understand the root cause of the unrest in the country is the economy and much of this is misdirected and projected anger coming from those looking for anyone to scapegoat for America's unemployment situation.

But you have to admire the wingers, instead of directing anger at the banks that nearly wrecked out economy playing Big Casino games with trillions is CBOs and derivatives, we're going after Muslims instead.

Now the Minutemen want in on the action and they're going after Andre Carson because, of course, he has to be a terrorist if he's a Muslim.

It's depressing.

Too Little, Too Late

Obama did get around to mentioning another jobs initiative in the coming weeks in his Rose Garden speech yesterday.
"So, as Congress prepares to return to session, my economic team is hard at work in identifying additional measures that could make a difference in both promoting growth and hiring in the short term, and increasing our economy’s competitiveness in the long term. Steps like extending the tax cuts for the middle class that are set to expire this year. Redoubling our investment in clean energy and R&D. Rebuilding more of our infrastructure for the future. Further tax cuts to encourage businesses to put their capital to work creating jobs here in the United States. And I’ll be addressing these proposals in further detail in the days and weeks to come."
I'm sure he'll make a big show of shuffling money around.  He may even be able to scrape up $20 billion or so for some new initiatives before the election.  It's not going to be anywhere near large enough to help.

At this point Obama needs to go for broke with a major brand new stimulus package.  No, it will not get passed.  Let it be on the Republicans for blocking it weeks before an election on the economy.  At this point the House is lost and the Senate is all but gone depending on who you ask.  Exactly what does Obama lose politically by trying to pull out all the stops here?  Conventional wisdom is that he's doomed anyway.

As Booman said, make the election the Obama stimulus package against Republicans doing nothing.  Go down swinging at least.

Limit Break

So how's that massive IMF-backed European bailout of Greece going, anyway?  Surely everything's fine, right?
Back in April, when we discussed the inception of the IMF's then brand new New Arrangement to Borrow (NAB) $500 billion credit facility, we asked rhetorically, "If the IMF believes that over half a trillion in short-term funding is needed imminently, is all hell about to break loose." A month later the question was answered, as Greece lay smoldering in the ashes of insolvency, and the developed world was on the hook for almost a trillion bucks to make sure the tattered eurozone remained in one piece (leading to such grotesque abortions as Ireland, whose cost of debt is approaching 6%, funding Greek debt at 5%). Well, if that was the proverbial canary in the coalmine, today the entire flock just keeled over and died: today the IMF announced it "expanded and enhanced its lending tools to help contain the occurrence of financial crises." As a result, the IMF has as of today extended the duration of its existing Flexible Credit Line (FCL) to two years, concurrently removing the borrowing cap on this facility, which previously stood at 1000 percent of a member’s IMF quota, in essence making the FCL a limitless credit facility, to be used to rescue whomever, at the sole discretion of the IMF's overlords. Additionally, as the FCL has some make believe acceptance criteria (and with countries such as Poland, Columbia, and Mexico having had access to it, these must certainly be sky high), the IMF is introducing a brand new credit facility, the Precautionary Credit Line (PCL), which will be geared for members with "sound policies [which just happen to need an unlimited source of rescue funding] who nevertheless may not meet the FCL’s high qualification requirements." In other words everyone. In yet other words, the IMF as of today, has a limitless facility to bail out anyone in the world, without a maximum bound in how much is lendable. One wonders who would be stupid enough to take advantage of the gullibility of IMF's biggest backers (the US), to borrow an infinite amount of money for any reason whatsoever... And just what all this means for the imminent explosion of the amount of money in circulation...Not to mention the brand new Ben Bernanke smokescreen of having a new justification to print a few trillion dollars when Europe unexpectedly collapses yet again.

Oh.  Well then.  That explains it.   Limitless borrowing from the IMF to prevent any sort of sovereign debt crisis, eh?  Gosh, that's not a huge flashing red alert signal about where Europe is heading or anything.

In The Absence Of A Clear Message...

...misinformation fills the vacuum.
Republicans lead by 51% to 41% among registered voters in Gallup weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The 10-percentage-point lead is the GOP's largest so far this year and is its largest in Gallup's history of tracking the midterm generic ballot for Congress.
2010 Trend: Candidate Preferences in 2010 Congressional Elections, 
Based on Registered Voters
These results are based on aggregated data from registered voters surveyed Aug. 23-29 as part of Gallup Daily tracking. This marks the fifth week in a row in which Republicans have held an advantage over Democrats -- one that has ranged between 3 and 10 points.

The Republican leads of 6, 7, and 10 points this month are all higher than any previous midterm Republican advantage in Gallup's history of tracking the generic ballot, which dates to 1942. Prior to this year, the highest such gap was five points, measured in June 2002 and July 1994. Elections in both of these years resulted in significant Republican gains in House seats.
The stark reality is if voting patterns hold true to these numbers, the House is lost to the Democrats and the Senate is all but gone.  The Dems were up six points just six weeks ago...and then the bottom fell out.  Booman at least has an idea or two.
Rather than looking helpless, the administration should just start making the argument that we have a choice between prolonged high unemployment or another big stimulus package. Make the election a referendum on that choice. 
While he's right, this is the argument that should have been made, oh, six to nine months ago.  Given what I expect to happen economically for the rest of the year, there's really not anything Obama can say that won't be met by voters with an avalanche of complete indifference.

Americans are tired, depressed, and for the most part they're looking elsewhere for a message of hope.  In the absence of a clear message from the Democrats, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and John Boehner have filled the void over the last month.

We see where that has gotten the Democrats in this country:  up against a wall where Obama's critics believe he is the greatest threat to the country ever conceived and that he must be removed, and Obama's supporters really don't give a damn anymore.

Exciting New Horizons In Obama Derangement Syndrome

A new Newsweek magazine poll contains what would be shocking results about what Republicans think about Barack Obama, but by this point I don't think anyone's shocked at the depth and breadth of the pure hatred GOP voters have for the man.

The survey-takers asked:
Thinking about Barack Obama and what he has said about issues like the proposal to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque a few blocks from the World Trade Center site in New York City… Do you think Obama favors the interests of Muslim Americans over other groups of Americans, or do you think he has generally been even-handed?
A clear majority of Republicans, 59 percent, said President Obama favors Muslim interests over everyone else. By contrast, just 9 percent of Democrats felt that way.
Then, questioners asked:
Some people have alleged that Barack Obama sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world. From what you know about Obama, what is your opinion of these allegations?
Shockingly, 52 percent of Republicans answered "definitely true" or "probably true," compared to 27 percent of independent voters and 17 percent of Democrats.
Yeah, that's right:  a majority of Republicans think Obama wants to impose Sharia law around the world.  That's insanity, mass delusion on a staggering scale, and yet among Republicans it is now the majority belief, the definition of mainstream Republicanism.

I can't think of why this is happening save that A) hard-core Republicans will believe anything talk-radio says, and that B) just as I believe "Obama is a Muslim" is a dog-whistle euphemism for race, "Obama supports Sharia law" is a euphemism for reparations and vengeance for America's bloody history of enslavement.

There are millions of folks out there who honestly believe that Obama is trying to destroy the economy and the country out of revenge for slavery.  All this paranoid shuddering, playing the victim card again and again, the belief that Obama is a traitor to America and not even American himself, it all stems from fears that Obama is the agent of vengeance for hundreds of years of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, you name it.

But hey, it's called Obama Derangement Syndrome for a reason.


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