Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Last Call

As Greg Sargent points out, the Dems have not only completely lost the stimulus argument, but the deficit and even the role of government argument as well...because they never fought back.

In case you need further evidence that the Dem decision to effectively endorse the right’s austerity/cut-cut-cut frame is only harming themselves, check out the internals of the new Bloomberg poll. They show that the public broadly agrees with Republican arguments about the deficit, spending cuts and what it takes to rebuild the “confidence” required for an economic rebound.

The key numbers:

* Fifty-five percent of Americans think that spending cuts and tax cuts will give businesses more confidence to hire. Only 17 percent think government should spend more to stimulate the economy, and only another 17 percent think we should maintain current spending levels.

* Sixty-five percent say that a major reason for the economy remaining in the toilet is because the large federal deficit makes the economy “unstable.

* Fifty-two percent think a major reason for our economic doldrums is that “uncertainty” created by government regulations and taxes is harming hiring.

* Only 35 percent think a major reason for the economic doldrums is that spending cuts hurts jobs.

In other words, the public broadly believes in what Paul Krugman refers to as the “confidence fairy,” i.e., the notion that deficit cutting is an important component in restoring confidence, a notion that even the White House has endorsed. It also agrees with the GOP’s argument that excessive regulation and taxes create “uncertainty.” 

So the public now overwhelmingly believes the GOP's line on the economy:  that government spending has destroyed the economy, that government oversight is killing jobs, and that the federal government itself is responsible for the continued economic recession.

It's possible to take that Bloomberg poll with a grain of salt, especially based on the wording of the poll's questions.  But there are some bright spots for the Dems too.  The number one reason for unemployment according to the poll is US jobs going overseas, something the Dems have been screaming about for some time now.  And by a 49-40 margin, people are more frightened of the GOP getting control of the White House and Congress and cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Madicaid than they are of Democrats being in power and continuing spending.

However, the poll was split 45-46 on the GOP debt ceiling hostage situation an Republicans "holding out" for spending cuts...which is odd, because 71% of Americans believe a debt default would be either a serious problem (52%) or a catastrophe (19%) for the economy.   44% would blame Republicans, 41% Obama if that happened.

The one thing the Dems have going for them for sure is Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.  If they give that up, then they're done in 2012.  I don't know all of the Democrats in Washington get that the Republicans are sinking the economy in order to roll back the New Deal, but there you are.  The good news?  Some of them do:

In a Capitol press conference Wednesday, the Senate's top Democrats argued that Republicans don't want to pass measures like a temporary payroll tax holiday for employers because they'll improve President Obama's re-election chances.

"Our Republican colleagues in the House and Senate are driven by putting one man out of work: President Obama," said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL).

The harshest denunciation came from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-IL), the man who crafted the Dems' new "jobs first" message.

"We are also open to hiring incentives, perhaps in the form of a payroll tax cut for employers that was floated by the administration.... [T]hat might not be our first choice, that shows how willing we are to work with the Republicans to create jobs. It's pro-business, it's a tax cut, and many Republicans have been for it in the past. But now all of a sudden they're coming out against it," Schumer said.
Dems had better join the economic messaging war, or 2012 is going to be a disaster.  On the other hand, we know what happens to Dems who speak out, and you can bet that is weighing on the minds of the "distinguished" men and women in Congress.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 20

Negotiating with Republicans:  Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota is doing it wrong.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said the goal of slicing more than $2 trillion from the federal budget by 2021 falls far short of the savings needed to stabilize borrowing, reenergize the economy and avert the threat of a debt crisis.

“A $2 trillion package sounds big, but I think most serious observers would tell you that it takes a package of at least $4 trillion to fundamentally change the trajectory we’re on,” Conrad told reporters. “In the context of our debt, which is nearly $15 trillion and is headed for $25 trillion, $2 trillion over 10 years does not do the job.”

To recap, the Dems' point man in the Senate on the debt ceiling is saying giving away $2 trillion in spending cuts is too small.   He wants at least $4 trillion in spending cuts over the next ten years, which will basically guarantee anyone not making six figures is going to be screwed.  As Steve Benen asks, if Conrad and the Senate Democrats' official position is that they want $4 trillion in cuts, what do the Republicans want?  They've already doubled back on business payroll tax cuts.  The answer of course is Social Security cuts.  What about the White House?  Who knows?

It's pretty grim here, folks.  And the best part is when the economy stalls into a long-term recession, Republicans will blame the Dems for not cutting enough spending.  Why the Dems are falling for this idiocy, I'll never understand.

Stan Collender tries to make sense of it all:

Given that a debt ceiling increase is even more politically toxic than the [2010 continuing budget resolution], it’s likely that anything Boehner might agree to while playing golf with the president or Cantor agrees to as part of the Biden-led summit won’t be acceptable to large numbers of the House GOP caucus.

The same is true on the other side of the aisle because it’s not clear that an administration-negotiated deal will be acceptable to all Democrats.

This is especially the case now because the president’s Osama bin Laden bump in the polls is over and his approval rating again is hovering between 46 percent and 49 percent.

In addition, it’s becoming increasingly obvious to many that the almost guaranteed opposition by a substantial number of Republicans to a debt ceiling increase means that no bill can pass the House without substantial Democratic support. That math will prevent the president from agreeing to the type of budget agreement the GOP says it must have.

On top of everything else, there are strong indications that, contrary to initial statements by some on Capitol Hill, Wall Street will react negatively and that what so far has been limited pressure on Members of Congress to raise the debt ceiling will be substantially different in the not-too-distant future.

Which is what I've been saying for months now.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

The story of Jose Antonio Vargas is both amazing and depressing.  Here's a guy who won a Pulitzer for his reporting at the Washington Post, and today he reveals in the NY Times that he's an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines.

His story is heartbreaking and is required reading.

My greater concern is which Republican in Congress/2012 Clown Car will be the first to demand President Obama have him immediately arrested and deported and the Washington Post fined and stripped of the Pulitzer, and how the national debate Vargas hopes to kindle with his support of the DREAM Act will consist entirely of "Democrats are soft on illegals" despite Republicans blocking all federal immigration legislation in the same way "Democrats are soft on terrorism" after President Obama, you know, gave the order to get OBL.

Considering any mention of immigrants in 2011 causes Republicans to go into hysterical fits of screaming and completely lying about as much as possible in order to racially scapegoat Latinos in order to earn points with hard right voters while the Obama administration is deporting record numbers and is still being accused of being too soft on immigration, I'm pretty sure Vargas is just as screwed as our "national immigration debate" is.

So when this all devolves into "Should the Washington Post editors be executed as traitors for hiring Vargas or merely imprisoned for life" sometime in the next few days, don't say you didn't know it was coming.

Geek-O-Rama: Firefox 5 Release

Firefox 5 is out this week, and if you've been using FF 4 like I have for some time now, you're not going to notice much of a difference from the most recent version of 4 at all.  There are some nice improvements however as Mozilla cranks up the dev cycle war against Google and its Chrome browser.

Given the faster release schedule for Firefox, we didn’t expect the number of new significant features would match the number unveiled when Firefox 3.6 upgraded to Firefox 4.0, and this proved to be the case.

Apart from more than 1,000 bug fixes, Mozilla has added support for Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) animations (another method of animating web content besides using JavaScript) and moved the do-not-track header preference to make it easier to find. Do-not-track is a privacy feature giving better control over online behavioural tracking.

Mozilla also says there is improved canvas, JavaScript memory and networking performance. Canvas is part of the HTML5 standard giving users the ability to script rendering of bitmaps and 2D shapes dynamically.

We did register the increase in JavaScript performance, and we also checked the claimed memory performance which did show Firefox 5 using less memory and threads to operate.

On the security front, Mozilla has stopped WebGL content from loading cross-domain textures because it is a security risk – if a user was viewing secure content in one tab and there were other website tabs open, scripts loaded in the other tabs from other websites might be able to read information in the secure tab.

That's the good news.  The bad news?  FF is still badly lagging behind Chrome 12, Opera 11 and IE 9 as far as Javascript speed is concerned, and it's still very, very noticeable.  (Still beats the pants off of Safari, eww).

I still prefer FF, but I find Chrome and IE9 are importing many of the features I like about the Mozilla browser and with better stability (Chrome especially).  Mozilla has its work cut out for it down the road, but FF 6 and even FF 7 are scheduled to be out before the end of the year.  We'll see.

A Modern Day Joan Of Dark

Your must-read piece of the day?  Five words for you:  Matt Taibbi on Michele Bachmann.

Bachmann's entire political career has followed this exact same pattern of God-speaks-directly-to-me fundamentalism mixed with pathological, relentless, conscienceless lying. She's not a liar in the traditional way of politicians, who tend to lie dully, usefully and (they hope) believably, often with the aim of courting competing demographics at the same time. That's not what Bachmann's thing is. Bachmann lies because she can't help it, because it's a built-in component of both her genetics and her ideology. She is at once the most entertaining and the most dangerous kind of liar, a turbocharged cross between a born bullshit artist and a religious fanatic, for whom lying to the infidel is a kind of holy duty.

And he's right.  But his bigger message is that Bachmann is a serious threat as the GOP nominee...or at least Obama's re-election campaign wants you to think she is, and Taibbi's glad to run with that theory.

Snickering readers in New York or Los Angeles might be tempted by all of this to conclude that Bachmann is uniquely crazy. But in fact, such tales by Bachmann work precisely because there are a great many people in America just like Bachmann, people who believe that God tells them what condiments to put on their hamburgers, who can't tell the difference between Soviet Communism and a Stafford loan, but can certainly tell the difference between being mocked and being taken seriously. When you laugh at Michele Bachmann for going on MSNBC and blurting out that the moon is made of red communist cheese, these people don't learn that she is wrong. What they learn is that you're a dick, that they hate you more than ever, and that they're even more determined now to support anyone who promises not to laugh at their own visions and fantasies.

Do read the whole thing.  Taibbi does have Bachmann pegged, better than anyone I've read.

Terry Pratchett Draws Fire For Supporting BBC Documentary

LONDON – Writer Terry Pratchett said Tuesday that watching a man being helped to die had reaffirmed his support for assisted suicide, while anti-euthanasia groups criticized the televised death as propaganda that could encourage copycat suicides.
The suicide, filmed for a BBC documentary, has reopened debate on Britain's decades-old law against helping another person end their life.
Anti-euthanasia groups have come out against the documentary, even trying to bluff the BBC into justifying the documentary by requesting the government  "to carry out an urgent investigation into the way that assisted suicide has been covered by the BBC and its link to English suicide rates."  The BBC said they were presenting facts and giving people the right to make up their own minds about the issue.  They did not apologize for presenting those facts.  Good for them.

Despite what some may think, we're not mindless idiots who are doomed to be controlled by a TV screen.  JWhile both sides have some legitimate points to make, what is so wrong with allowing a person to decide their own destiny?  If someone is opposed to ending their life in the face of agony without relief, let them exercise their option to choose for themselves.  However, allow those who feel differently the same right to decide how they will live, and die.  

Wisconsin Methodist Pastor On Church Trial

In some parts of the U.S., Methodist pastors have been marrying same-sex couples or conducting blessing ceremonies for same-sex unions for years with little fanfare and no backlash from the denomination. Calls to overturn the rule have become increasingly vocal in recent weeks, ratcheting up the pressure for the Methodist church to join other mainline Protestant denominations that have become more accepting of openly gay leaders.
While trials of pastors who conduct same-gender ceremonies have only occurred once every several years, the threat is indeed real: The Rev. Amy DeLong of Osceola in western Wisconsin faces a three-day trial starting Tuesday on two charges: violating a church prohibition on the ordination of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" and marrying a lesbian couple.
She said she told her supervisors years ago that she was in a lesbian relationship and felt comforted by the support and caring she received in response.

I think her assessment has changed now.  There are denominations for a reason, so people can choose a doctrine that matches what their heart says is true, and that supports them spiritually.  I'm not saying any one church should change, but it seems stupid to me to condemn and isolate based on this.  How else are those a church considers sinners to know God if they aren't allowed past the doors? If churches did not allow those who fall short of perfection to work for them, you're looking at a mighty short payroll.  What are the Methodists really trying to say here?  What it sounds like to me is that they will turn a blind eye and show convenient acceptance as long as they are allowed an occasional public sacrifice.

Your Political Cartoon Of The Moment

From the Lexington Herald-Leader's Joel Pett:

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Only 2 of the 51 Miss USA Pageant contestants this year said they definitively believed in evolution.  Two out of fifty-one.  That's less than 4%.

One of them won, Miss California, Alyssa Campanella.  So, there's that at least.  Yes, objectfication of women in our society continues to be a serious problem but...two out of 51?  Damn.

Bigger In Texas

Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry is still kicking around a run for President, but his supporters say he'll win based on Texas's record of job creation in a bad economy.  But if I were Rick Perry, I'd be running as far away from my "job creation" record as possible.  TP has the goods:

Additionally, Texas has by far the largest number of employees working at or below the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour in 2010) compared to any state, according to a BLS report. In 2010, about 550,000 Texans were working at or below minimum wage, or about 9.5 percent of all workers paid by the hour in the state. Texas tied with Mississippi for the greatest percentage of minimum wage workers…From 2007 to 2010, the number of minimum wage workers in Texas rose from 221,000 to 550,000, an increase of nearly 150 percent.

That's Rick Perry's legacy right now:  Texas has one of the lowest median wages in the country, tied for highest percentage of minimum wage workers, and flat out blows the rest of the country away with more than a half a million minimum wage jobs.  These are the jobs that Rick Perry's economic boom created:  people earning less than $15,000 a year and expected to support a family on it.

Now Rick Perry wants to bring that to the rest of the country.  Texas has about as many minimum wage workers as Wyoming has people.  In fact, in the last four years, Perry has more than doubled the minimum wage jobs in the state, far and away the majority of new jobs in the "Texas job boom" are people making $7.25 an hour.

I still say Perry's going nowhere.


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