Monday, May 23, 2011

Last Call

I don't know what's scarier, Zogby polling being wrong enough to have Herman Cain and Chris Christie in the lead for the GOP 2012 nomination, or Zgby polling being accurate and Hermain Cain and Chris Christie actually being the guys in the lead.

Former CEO of Godfather's Pizza and Atlanta radio talk show host Herman Cain is the most popular choice of Republican primary voters in the race for the 2012 presidential nomination.

Nineteen percent of GOP primary voters would like to see Cain run against President Barack Obama, according to a Zogby poll released Monday.

Cain has held executive positions at Coca Cola and Pillsbury, and served as the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City, but has never been elected to public office. He ran for Georgia's open Senate seat in 2004, but lost in the primary.

Cain's current campaign slogan, according to his website, is "Let's get REAL."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie came in second, with 16 percent, and Mitt Romney took third place, with eleven percent.

Among all voters, no one in a list of 13 possible Republican candidates beats Obama. The president leads Cain by 46 percent to 38 percent and is ahead of Romney by 45 percent to 40 percent. Christie does best in a match-up with Obama, trailing 45 percent to 44 percent.

While Obama leads all 13 Republican candidates, only 42 percent of voters said he deserves re-election.

Which is amazing.  It doesn't matter which nutball is running, the guy with the 9% unemployment is still winning.

Don We Now Our Takei Apparel

George Takei volunteers some help for those in the Volunteer State who may be uncomfortable with the word "gay".  Like, the state legislature, for instance.

Glad we could help.

Sir Scott Bravely Ran Away

Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts should be the perfect vote for the GOP Medicare-destroying plan.  If the voters in a high-tax blue state want to reduce government spending, and that Scott Brown's election means they have a mandate to get that done, then Scott Brown should be leading the way on this issue in selling this plan to the fiscally-minded independents and Reagan Democrats that put him in office, yes?

Yeah, right.

GOP Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) said Monday he won't support Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget when it comes up for a vote in the Senate.

Brown, a centrist who is running for reelection in 2012, said that Ryan's plan helped jumpstart a necessary debate, but that its Medicare reforms go too far.

"While I applaud Ryan for getting the conversation started, I cannot support his specific plan — and therefore will vote 'no' on his budget," he wrote in a Politico op-ed.

"Our country is on an unsustainable fiscal path," he added. "But I do not think it requires us to change Medicare as we know it. We can work inside of Medicare to make it more solvent."

Brown follows centrist GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), who announced last month she will not vote for the plan.

The "Sensible Centrist" Republicans in the Senate are running away from this Medicare-killer and Social Security-wrecker as fast as their press releases and op-eds and sound bites can carry them.  And that tells you everything you need to know about how well the plan will work.  The new Beltway wisdom on the GOP plan is that it's a disaster as John Cole notes.

No one could have predicted that 4 trillion in tax cuts for the rich while gutting Medicare and doing nothing to balance the budget would have been unpopular with the public. It’s a mystery!

DougJ is right. Thank you, Bobo! Thank you, Joe Klein! Thank you, Sully! Thank each and every one of the innumerate villager class who fluffed the Ryan plan and goaded the Republicans into believing their own bullshit.

I'll second that.

The Kroog Versus The European Central Bank

Paul Krugman points out that if austerity is economic answer to America's problems, austerity involving massive government spending cuts to social programs in a time of high unemployment, austerity involving cutting taxes on corporations to stimulate business activity and hiring, then the austerity being imposed upon Europe right now should be restoring economic confidence across the Eurozone.

The reality is that austerity measures being put into practice there are grinding the economy to a halt.

Nobody bought into the doctrine of expansionary austerity more thoroughly than Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank, or E.C.B. Under his leadership the bank began preaching austerity as a universal economic elixir that should be imposed immediately everywhere, including in countries like Britain and the United States that still have high unemployment and aren’t facing any pressure from the financial markets.

But as I said, the confidence fairy hasn’t shown up. Europe’s troubled debtor nations are, as we should have expected, suffering further economic decline thanks to those austerity programs, and confidence is plunging instead of rising. It’s now clear that Greece, Ireland and Portugal can’t and won’t repay their debts in full, although Spain might manage to tough it out. 

Realistically, then, Europe needs to prepare for some kind of debt reduction, involving a combination of aid from stronger economies and “haircuts” imposed on private creditors, who will have to accept less than full repayment. Realism, however, appears to be in short supply

Remember, this is the exact economic prescription that the Republicans, especially the "serious fiscal hawks", want us to swallow.  And yet these European countries are closer than ever to defaulting on their debt.  We hear the same thing must be imposed here immediately, that we're "broke" and that we can't afford the social safety net anymore, that we are just scant inches away from a Greek-style debt crisis and that Weimar Germany and Zimbabwe style hyperinflation is looming for an America where it will soon be cheaper to burn money than fuel. 

We're next, they say.  Cut trillions from government spending, they say.  Give that money instead to the job creators, the wealthiest among us and the corporations they run, so that only then will the power of the markets create millions of jobs, and only then will American consumer rise again as the engine of prosperity.

So how's that working out for Europe?

On one side, Germany is taking a hard line against anything resembling aid to its troubled neighbors, even though one important motivation for the current rescue program was an attempt to shield German banks from losses.

On the other side, the E.C.B. is acting as if it is determined to provoke a financial crisis. It has started to raise interest rates despite the terrible state of many European economies. And E.C.B. officials have been warning against any form of debt relief — in fact, last week one member of the governing council suggested that even a mild restructuring of Greek bonds would cause the E.C.B. to stop accepting those bonds as collateral for loans to Greek banks. This amounted to a declaration that if Greece seeks debt relief, the E.C.B. will pull the plug on the Greek banking system, which is crucially dependent on those loans.

If Greek banks collapse, that might well force Greece out of the euro area — and it’s all too easy to see how it could start financial dominoes falling across much of Europe. So what is the E.C.B. thinking?

Why, they are thinking exactly what Republicans here are thinking, that we have to raise interest rates, that we have to stop the specter of hyperinflation, that we have to reduce government at a time when the government is the economic engine of last resort, in order to force the economy to magically work on the principles of supply-side economics.

And yet even here in the United States, corporations continue to have record quarters in nominal and percentage terms.  Corporations are flush with trillions in King Cash.  Are they creating jobs with it?  Of course not.  Because wages are stagnate and the government is forbidden to stimulate demand, nobody is stepping up to buy new goods and services, so why should corporations plow money into the US market?

Instead they are investing in China and India's consumer markets, including creating jobs overseas to support these markets and their growing consumer base of billions.  Wage pressure there is getting bad enough that companies are starting to move manufacturing jobs back to the US because it's cheaper to pay US workers with our stagnant wages.

In other words, we're becoming a third world manufacturing country.  That's what Republicans are thinking.  And they like the sound of that.

A Sharp Idea Goes Flat, Deserves A Measure Of Rest

It seems Google Music has hit a sour note. was brutal with its review, and the worst thing is I think they were trying to be kind in places. It seems that the controls are weak, the privacy issues are enormous, and the "legally obtained" music doesn't play smoothly or without proprietary measures.  I have yet to use the service, but according to the blasting review, Amazon's service has it beat all the way.

This could be a blessing in disguise for Google.  If they fail, the chances they will be subpoenaed for digital copyright lawsuits would be nil, and they can continue to dominate in other areas.  Storage for digital music will always be tricky, and the shortsighted record companies may have killed their golden goose before it ever had a chance to grow.

Dark Tower Despair

There's a rumor that the Dark Tower series may not be making it to the big screen.

So I'll just come right out and say it.  Make the movie already or stop freaking teasing me.  I have waited for this for years, when I first saw Clint Eastwood crossing the desert in my mind's eye, chasing his fate.  I knew one day this epic series would become a movie.  So please, for the love of all that is holy, do it already.  The and you by God better get it right is silent but a hovering presence nonetheless.

I don't believe everything happens for a reason, but I think some things do.  With haunted cars and alternate universes, Stephen King made himself a household name.  He says he always thought this was the story he was meant to tell.  I agree.  I wonder if fate ensured his fame before releasing one of the most amazing adventures ever.  In my opinion (one that is shared with countless others) this is on par with a true classic.  In a century nobody will remember The Tommyknockers and Christine will be a parody.  A haunted car will be such a historic notion that one of my childhood favorites will be likened to the inventions of Edgar Allen Poe.  If anything is going to resound with readers across generations, it will be the journey of Roland.  For those of us who knew the good stuff when we saw it, please follow through and bring this to life.  Do it for King, who isn't getting any younger and deserves to see his masterpiece bloom.  A man whose imagination was light years ahead of movie special effects, King should see one of his books carry accurately over to film.  His fans are waiting, and we are growing impatient.

And you by God better get it right.

Twisted Sister City

It's an ill wind that blows no good.

Joplin, MO was hit by a tornado yesterday.  The hospital is destroyed, the school has been damaged, and hundreds of homes were erased by the tornado.  A whopper even by tornado alley standards, the full extent of the damage has not been examined because dark soon followed.  What I saw looked like a bomb had leveled the town.  Cars were sat on other cars.  Bark was stripped from trees.  Precious memories and heirlooms were lost forever.  Joplin will never be quite the same, and this will go down in regional history.

I was at work when it hit, and watched a chain of ambulances and volunteers race to help.  Some dear friends and their newborn child were safe.  Their pets were not so lucky, and their entire apartment building is gone.  Clothing and food will be in short supply, as will hope and luck.  The hardest part of getting a body count (at least 24 but surely higher) is that night fell before rescuers could begin to dig through for injured.

It's been a hell of a year so far.  Any donations to the tip jar this week will be hand delivered by yours truly to some folks who really could use the help.

(Ed's Note:  Zandar here.  As of this morning the death toll in Joplin is up to 89.   Both Bon and myself have friends in Joplin, and we're hoping they are all okay, but the destruction there is pretty awful.  2011 has been an ugly year for weather-related disasters in the US, and it's only May.  And yes, do drop what you can in the Tip Jar over on the side if you can help out.)

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

It's notable that when Glenn Greenwald is absolutely capable of penning a perfectly rational, well-argued, and fact-supported piece involving Barack Obama's policies, in this case dealing with something as complex and subtle as the President's foreign policy involving Israel...when it suits Double G, that is.  But as you can see, even when Greenwald agrees with the President's actions, they are never quite good enough to satisfy his critics on the left.

What made this last week significant is that it underscores how politically difficult such an undertaking is for any American President: precisely because of the obsessive, relentless Israel Lobby that Walt and Mearsheimer invented in their conspiratorial, bigoted heads.  If even the tiniest step provokes the backlash that we saw this week, imagine the domestic political upheaval which a true effort would engender.  The New Yorker's Hendrick Hertzberg put it this way:

The President wants to make peace and presumably knows that it won't happen without a huge and politically brutal American effort. Such an effort would probably provoke the Israel lobby (a better name for which would be the Likud lobby) into an all-out fight against his reĆ«lection. 
Andrew Sullivan added:  "To achieve this, he has to face down the apocalyptic Christianist right, the entire FNC-RNC media machine, a sizable chunk of his party's financial base, and the US Congress."

And once again, Greenwald is correct here.  I've said as much myself since the President's Middle East speech last week.  Any US President is going to have a hell of a time making any changes at all to our Israel policy, period...and he bemoans the difficulty and near epic futility of such a Sisyphean task.  Which makes the very next line in the article filled with irony of such density that it threatens to become a black hole:

It's far from clear that Obama's commitment to this outcome is genuine.

And people wonder why Obama has such a hard time with Israel, when this is largely the level of "support" he gets on actually speaking truth to power on the subject from his own side.  And Greenwald is ironically light-years ahead of some members of the President's own party, which is the far larger issue.
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