Sunday, January 30, 2011

Last Call

Years of right-wing scapegoating American Muslims as the enemy would never have any harmful effects, they tell me.

Roger Stockham, a 63-year-old Army veteran from California who was reportedly angry at the U.S. government, was arrested by police in Michigan and charged with allegedly threatening to blow up a Mosque in Dearborn.

Dearborn police allegedly found Stockham inside his vehicle outside the Islamic Center of America with a load of M-80s in his trunk and other explosives, the Detroit News reported.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Counsel on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), told the newspaper that police told him the suspect was drinking in a Detroit bar on Monday and threatened to do harm to a mosque in Dearborn. An employee at the bar followed the man outside and wrote down his license plate, which he reported to police, Walid told the newspaper.

The 63-year-old grandfather is charged with one count of a false report or threat of terrorism and one count of possession of bombs with unlawful intent, according to the newspaper.

"He's very dangerous," Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad told the Free Press. "We took his threat to be very serious."

But we don't have a right-wing anti-Muslim, anti-minority domestic terror problem in the US.  Anyone who says otherwise is an enemy of the state, and we have "Second Amendment remedies" for those types of problems...

So they tell me.

[UPDATESteve M. says the story here is a lot more complex (it often is) but still this guy was running around free for quite some time despite having been treated for mental problems on and off for nearly three decades.

Don't Make Us Hurt The Hostage

Republicans agree on two things:  one, that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be a economic catastrophe for the country...and two, in order to prevent that catastrophe, Obama better give Republicans 100% of their demands, or else.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says it's not a threat.

Even as he admitted that not raising the debt ceiling would mean a "financial disaster" for the US and the world, the Speaker said Sunday that Democrats must agree to big spending cuts before the GOP-controlled House will support the Obama administration's spending plans.

"I know you're not threatening to default, but do you agree with administration officials and other economists that defaulting on the full faith and credit of the United States would be a financial disaster?" Fox News' Chris Wallace asked Boehner.

"That would be a financial disaster," the Speaker agreed. "Not only for our country, but for the worldwide economy. Remember, the American people on election day said we want to cut spending and we want to create jobs. You can't create jobs if you default on the federal debt."

"Listen, there has been a spending spree going on in Washington the last couple of years that is beyond control," he added. "And the president is going to ask us to increase the debt limit, he's going have to be willing to cut up the credit cards. We've got to work together by listening to the American people, and reducing these obligations that we have."

"So, defaulting on the full faith and credit is unacceptable to you?" Wallace pressed.

"I don't think it's a question that is even on the table," Boehner replied.

Sure, it's "not on the table".  But the President has to give Boehner exactly what he wants or he'll destroy our economy.   "It would be a shame if anything happened to your recovery there, Mr. President."   The self-fulfilling prophecy of doom that Republicans keep promising will come to pass if the House fails to raise the debt limit.

Boehner knows he can ask for everything he wants, from Social Security cuts to the full repeal of Obamacare to drastic reductions in anything he wants to get rid of.  They'd hate to let the country default, but...well, let's just say earlier I was convinced that the powers that be would never let the Republicans wreck the financial markets.

Now?  Now I'm not so sure.

Pay That Tiger!

The Cincinnati Bengals, like most pro sports franchises and their corresponding cities, are finding out the sweetheart franchise deals of the last two decades are very much over

Commissioners in the county that includes Cincinnati say the county can't afford the $43 million the Cincinnati Bengals want for repairs and upgrades at their football stadium over the next decade.

The Cincinnati Enquirer obtained the plan through a public records request. It says the Bengals want four times the amount Hamilton County expected to spend. The county owns the stadium and must pay for improvements under the lease terms.

The team says the total includes $8 million for a new scoreboard within two years. Most of the money would be for maintenance and improvements to keep the decade-old Paul Brown Stadium from deteriorating like the one before it.

And the relatively new Paul Brown stadium is quite nice, but Hamilton County doesn't have $4.3 million a year to fork over to the Bengals.  Not anymore.  Not without raising revenues.  And no lawmaker in the Midwest will win re-election on raising taxes, fees, or levies a dime here in the Tea Party Teens.  They'd get run out of town on a rail.

Cincy is no different.  So the question is, who's going to pay for the stadium, and what happens if the city doesn't give the Bengals what they are looking for?  After all, who's going to build a new stadium to attract a football franchise thee days?  Who would be allowed to?

A lot of cities and a lot of franchises are going to be hurting over the next decade.  It really wouldn't surprise me at all if at least one of the big four pro sport leagues, the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL went under before 2020.

It's the NFL that will face the next major contract test after next week's big game if there's no agreement by March 3, there may not even be a 2011-2012 season. 

A lot of cities are going to want to seriously redo their sports franchise deals over the next several years, and I foresee a number of teams folding altogether.  The nexus of sports, economics, and politics is going to be a messy one for dozens of major US cities.

Stuck In The Pyramid-dle With You

President Obama is in a no-win situation.  Notice that when Iran's Green revolution happened last year, Obama took heavy flak for not coming out forcefully enough for regime change.  The opposite has happened in Egypt. Now Republicans are lighting Obama up for "destabilizing a secular ally and handing it over to Islamist terrorists."

The concern is that both Israel and Saudi Arabia want to see Mubarak stay right where he is, and both countries have made it clear to the United States that neither one will allow Islamists to gain power in Cairo.  Better the dictator you know than the Muslim Brotherhood fanatics you don't.  They are worried about their own countries, Israel because of yet another front on its seemingly endless war with everyone in the neighborhood and its Sinai Peninsula border with Egypt, and Saudi Arabia doesn't want anyone to start calling for King Abdullah's removal either.

So, on the one hand, Obama has been going all out this weekend urging Mubarak to listen to protesters and heed their calls for his removal, and warning him not to use the military to crack down.  (The Egyptian military seems to be spending the weekend going "meh" anyway and hasn't seemed to have picked a side yet.)  On the other hand, Israel and Saudi Arabia and the oil emirates want this Mubarak noise over and the country back under some sort of stability yesterday, and they clearly expect Obama to make this happen or else.

Thing is, it's not up to Obama.  It's not up to Israel or Saudi Arabia, either.  We'll see.  Egypt has shut down Al Jazeera in the country, so getting information out may become more and more of a problem.

Who's In Charge Here, Anyway?

Frank Rich figures the Tea Party rump of the GOP is having a grand old time driving the station wagon through every plate glass window they can find.

Obama must be laughing about how the party that spent a year hammering him for focusing on health care over jobs is now committing the same supposed sin. And one can only imagine his astonishment on Tuesday night, when the G.O.P. respondents to his speech each played Jimmy Carter to his Reagan by offering a grim double-feature of malaise and American decline. Hardly had the president extolled record corporate profits and a soaring stock market in his selectively rosy spin on the economy, than Ryan, who has the television manner of a solicitous funeral home director, was darkly warning that America could be the next Greece. Bachmann channeled Glenn Beck to argue that we are living in a nascent police state where government “tells us which light bulbs to buy” (G.E.’s, presumably).

The most revealing moment in either Republican response, though, came from Ryan, who, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, implicitly threatened another government shutdown, or catastrophic fiscal meltdown, if the House majority doesn’t get its way. “The president is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit,” he said with distaste, referring to the vote required possibly as soon as March to allow the Treasury to keep paying its bills. Should the House majority hold that vote hostage to its vision of the budget, it will throw the markets into turmoil and upend our still-embryonic recovery.

It tells you all you need to know about Ryan’s tilt to the right that, for all his professed disapproval of increasing the debt limit during an Obama administration, he voted to do so twice himself during the gushing deficits of the Bush years. Funny he didn’t mention that Tuesday night. It tells you all you need to know about the G.O.P.’s overall tilt to the right that not just the Tea Party is making barely veiled threats to play dangerous political games with the debt limit. Mitch McConnell and Cantor did so last weekend, as have a plethora of potential 2012 presidential candidates, from Tim Pawlenty to Gingrich. The Bachmann-Beck-Palin tail is now firmly wagging the Republican dog.

Like virtually every other week since the shellacking, the State of the Union week was another salutary one for Obama. But the state of the union itself could yet be in the hands of radicals whose eagerness to see the president fail is outstripped only by their zeal to make an ideological point, even if it forces America into default. 

But let's face it, we're seeing those same 20% of the country that is the Tea Party manhandling the other 80%, not just the dwindling Republican center.  2010's primaries made clear what happens if the base doesn't think you're crazy enough, so yes, Michele Bachmann continues to speak of coming revolution and Paul Ryan warns of imminent disaster, and it simply hasn't occurred to them that the Tea Party will be the cause of both.

They have no choice but to ride this crazy train off the rails.  The problem is when it happens and the GOP shuts the government down, it'll blow a hole in the economy wide enough to sink all of us...and it's no guarantee it'll get rid of the Tea Party either.
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