Sunday, September 4, 2011

Last Call

MoDo The Red is totally breaking up with her crazy, phantom idealistic mirage of what she wanted President Barack Obama to be, which is probably healthy for her in the long run.  But the breakup itself is anguished enough to almost qualify her for a sliver of empathy...almost.  She pulls out every straw man argument she can find and then sets it on fire as the rant (and ladies and gentlemen, this is a rant) consumes her remaining few scraps of humanity as it's ScheduleGate that finally snaps her mind.

NY Times editors should not let Maureen Dowd pen columns while this effing smashed.

Republicans who are worried about being political props have a point. The president is using the power of the incumbency and a sacred occasion for a political speech.

Obama is still suffering from the Speech Illusion, the idea that he can come down from the mountain, read from a Teleprompter, cast a magic spell with his words and climb back up the mountain, while we scurry around and do what he proclaimed.

The days of spinning illusions in a Greek temple in a football stadium are done. The One is dancing on the edge of one term.

The White House team is flailing — reacting, regrouping, retrenching. It’s repugnant.

After pushing and shoving and caving to get on TV, the president’s advisers immediately began warning that the long-yearned-for jobs speech wasn’t going to be that awe-inspiring.

“The issue isn’t the size or the newness of the ideas,” one said. “It’s less the substance than how he says it, whether he seizes the moment.”

The arc of justice is stuck at the top of a mountain. Maybe Obama was not even the person he was waiting for

He never really loved you, Maureen.  He has an entire country to govern, and despite all the times you watched The Legend of Bagger Vance or The Wiz or hell, even Eddie Murphy in The Distiguished Gentleman,  the entry of Barack Obama to the Oval Office didn't grant magical powers to the office of President of the United States.

There are constraints of the system that President Obama has to operate under, and with the Republicans working as hard as possible to trap him within those constraints and the Village working as hard as possible to create new ones, it's an absolute goddamn miracle that he's managed to accomplish the things he has done.  It's akin to loading a metric ton of Lego bricks into a giant cannon and shooting them straight up into the air with Republicans swooping by on their brooms to melt the bricks with flamethrowers and the Village scatter them with tornado machines only to have the efforts to destroy them be precisely the thing needed to make them all land in a perfect scale replica of Albert Einstein's brain or something.

Then MoDo comes along and kicks the thing apart because she really wanted a model of Shakespeare's Globe theater.  Hence, the breakup as she screeches to declare the end of the Failed Obama Presidency because moving his speech was the Intolerable Mortal Sin of our age.

Jesus wept, we actually do deserve President Bachmann or Perry or Romney, just to finish the country off.  They'll find a way to blame that on Obama too.  "If only he hadn't made me stay home with the crushing ennui of moving his jobs speech to one day later, we'd still have an America..."  Oh, but MoDo is far, far from being alone, just ask Matt Stoller.

No one, not even the president's defenders, expect his coming jobs speech to mean anything. When the president spoke during a recent market swoon, the market dropped another 100 points. Democrats may soon have to confront an uncomfortable truth, and ask whether Obama is a suitable choice at the top of the ticket in 2012. They may then have to ask themselves if there's any way they can push him off the top of the ticket.

That these questions have not yet been asked in any serious way shows how weak the Democratic Party is as a political organization. Yet this political weakness is not inevitable, it can be changed through courage and collective action by a few party insiders smart and principled enough to understand the value of a public debate, and by activists who are courageous enough to face the real legacy of the Obama years.

Obama has ruined the Democratic Party. The 2010 wipeout was an electoral catastrophe so bad you'd have to go back to 1894 to find comparable losses. From 2008 to 2010, according to Gallup, the fastest growing demographic party label was former Democrat. Obama took over the party in 2008 with 36 percent of Americans considering themselves Democrats. Within just two years, that number had dropped to 31 percent, which tied a 22-year low.

It would be amusingly tragic if Kafka were sill around to write this play.  And we're about to get exactly what we deserve.

Explanation Of Our Political Nation

Obey the frog and read:

Mike Lofgren's diatribe about the Republican Party ought to be required reading in all our high schools. It's not only a fine example of a political polemic written in excellent English, it's something everyone needs to internalize. Because Lofgren just retired after a 16-year career as a GOP staffer on the House and Senate budget committees, his criticism carries more weight than it would coming from a Democrat. It's a long piece that will take some time to complete, but it will be well worth the time.

And Lofgren's piece is notable, given the relative amounts of crap spewing out the works normally.  But as Steve M. points out, one Republican realizing the truth does not a revolution make.

Denunciations of the GOP, as I've said in the past, go into the political world's equivalent of a spam filter -- they're not allowed into the mainstream's in-boxes. Oh, sure, Lofgren will probably make the rounds of Rachel and Ed and Larry and Reverend Al on MSNBC, and maybe he'll be invited to address Netroots Nation next year. But other than that, what he says will be quarantined.

What might work someday is a mass defection from the GOP -- fifty or a hundred retired and current politicians, pundits, and staffers announcing in a press conference and a full-page ad that they've had it with the economic brinkmanship, the creationism, the tossing of sand in the gears of government whenever they don't get their way, and the willingness to watch people suffer and the nation crumble until we genuflect before them (all things that Lofgen's essay touches on). Maybe if, say, Colin Powell and Tom Kean and a few other media darlings led a mass, simultaneous resignation from the party, it would be enough of a surprise to cut through the "both sides are to blame" nonsense.

But that will never happen, will it? And so we go on as usual.

I was reminded today that both political parties are the responsibility of the American voter, not just the salvation of the Democrats.  The Republican Party needs to be rehabilitated as well, and on that point Steve is correct.  Nothing much will change until we demand it as an imperative.

There is a spine-crushing amount of work ahead of us to fix America.  But Lofgren's article is at least a start...and I'd be much more empathetic to his concerns if he had spoken them before retiring, for example.

We're Receiving A Broadcast Signal From The Death Star, Sir

So that you didn't have to slog through it, Dick Cheney's interview this morning on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace was everything you expected it to be: enough spin in the FOX echo chamber to pin a blue whale to the side of the wall.

Wallace noted that following Cheney’s interview on NBC’s The Today Show, the network showed a protester holding a sign saying, “Torture Is a Crime: Investigate Cheney.”

“Investigate Cheney,” Cheney repeated with a smile.

I somehow doubt that if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama were speaking they would have taken the shot and then suddenly a person with a sign would have been putting their picture up,” Wallace declared. “Do you think there is a liberal bias in the mainstream media?” Wallace asked.

I think there probably is,” Cheney replied. “But I don’t spend time worry being it. I think that those of us right-thinking conservatives find that there are a lot of outlets out there now in the media, on the Internet that give us ample opportunity for our points of view to get across and heard.”

And yes, the entire interview was an opportunity for Chris Wallace to dispense absolution for Cheney's sins before the Church of the Almighty Talking Point.   Really, Cheney's war crimes and torture weren't anything wrong, and you're not a "right-thinking" American patriot if you believe otherwise.  Only dirty hippies would want to investigate our wonderful former VP, and America is better than that.  Isn't it wonderful to have FOX around to set the record straight, America?

Straight to hell, that is.  On, and Cheney wants to let the Left know you should have gone with Hillary.  I'm sure he has your best interests at heart.

Smoke And Mirrors

Yeah, I'm not exactly thrilled with President Obama rolling back the EPA's tougher smog regulations either, folks.  But there's a difference between constructive criticism of the President's policies, and firebagger nonsense like this.  The President's environmental record is rock solid, and Renee Schoof's piece at McClatchy this weekend is exactly what the anti-Obama left wants...along with Republicans who don't have to lift a finger to attack the President and demoralize the left.  We'll do it ourselves.  After all, President Obama is apparently the worse environmental Chief Executive of our age:

"The White House is siding with corporate polluters over the American people," Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke said in a statement. "The Clean Air Act clearly requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set protective standards against smog — based on science and the law. The White House now has polluted that process with politics."

Really?  Because a prudent observer would have figured out that Republicans made the protecting the environment political years ago, not to mention corporations themselves.  But it's President Obama's fault.  And the NRDC's statement implies that President Obama has eliminated protective standards completely, not kept them as is.  It's almost like they want you to believe that the President has weakened existing standards, which he has not done...but it sure gives the NRDC political ammo to fundraise, doesn't it?  God forbid anyone play politics with the environment.

Oh, but it gets worse in the article.

The retreat on the ozone standard is the latest decision Obama has made that appears to be a capitulation to Republicans, sparking growing disenchantment among his base.

In December, he agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. In April, he reached a deal to avert a government shutdown by agreeing to GOP demands for budget cuts. In early August, he signed a deal to lift the nation's debt ceiling and avoid a credit default, though the agreement doesn't guarantee that spending cuts will be balanced by tax increases, as he had insisted.

And this is a McClatchy news article saying this, not an opinion piece, not a Daily Beast article,  not George Will or MoDo the Red or Bobo in a weekend op-ed dump, not an FDL diarist, not a FOX Nation screamer or a Breitbart hit job...but a regular McClatchy national news article from their DC bureau saying this.  The message is clear:  Boy, why should you bother voting, Democrats?  You should stay home and teach Obama a lesson.  He has disappointed you!  The news says he has, so it must be true!  Behold the liberal media!
And then to top it off there's more firebagging.
"Many MoveOn members are wondering today how they can ever work for President Obama's re-election or make the case for him to their neighbors, when he does something like this after extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich and giving in to tea party demands on the debt deal," said Justin Ruben, the executive director of the liberal advocacy group, which backed Obama in 2008.

Hey, it's like would be happier with a Republican in the White House to focus on.  I wonder if will still back President Obama in 2012.  You'd like to think they would be able to recognize the reasons why the President did what he did, but they have an awfully funny way of showing it.

Here's why the anti-Obama left is ready to stay home:

The 2008 rule put the ozone level at 75 parts per billion. The EPA in January 2010 proposed setting it at 60 to 70 parts per billion, the range recommended by its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. The final rule was never released. The White House Office of Management and Budget had been reviewing it.

And for leaving it at 75 ppb, we're ready to hand the country over to the GOP, who will almost certainly eliminate the 75 ppb limit as too hard on businesses and kill the Clean Air Act completely.  Republicans threatened to wipe out the legislation totally within the first few days of taking over the House...which they did because Democrats stayed home in 2010 in order to "teach President Obama a lesson." When firebaggers do the same in 2012 and Republicans get the votes they need, the lesson they will teach President Obama is "You can't count on us, we're in it for ourselves."

And finally, Matt Osborne reminds us that this President has gone above and beyond on auto industry mileage and emissions standards.

Obama is a transportation progressive. Why should the White House choose to fight costly battles over EPA regulations, tar sands pipelines, or offshore drilling when they can win policy battles that reduce consumption? This is not eleventy-dimensional chess. It is not apologetics. It is solid policy.

One may still save thousands of lives from smog without new EPA regulations, as transportation policy is intimately linked to public health. Less smog from tailpipes means less smog-related illness.

Nor is this a sop to conservative framing. Indeed, the White House has produced a consistently progressive and aggressive transportation reform policy, standing firm behind rule changes that encourage walkable streets and bike lanes.

The administration still wants high speed rail, which would reduce highway and airport congestion and the emissions that come from them.

The “laserlike jobs focus” of the president’s speech this week will include plenty of transportation and infrastructure spending in this line, both vital to reducing emissions. This is a major progressive priority.

But no, Obama failed us, so you should stay home so President Perry scraps all of these green transportation initiatives the last week of January, 2013.  That'll advance the progressive agenda for sure, right?

3-D Takes Leap

LOS ANGELES ( – The worst thing about 3D technology -- other than "Conan the Barbarian" -- is the glasses.

They're clunky, they're uncomfortable, they're (sometimes) unsanitary and people hate 'em. Kind of like "Conan."

But Toshiba has solved that -- for TV viewing, at least.

The company has unveiled a 55-inch, glasses-free 3D television. A camera underneath the screen scans to see how many people -- up to nine -- are watching, and sends out the image.

It hasn't gotten the best of reviews, but it's the beginning of something cool.  Who knows, maybe those lame 3-D movies will get a boost, and we'll be able to enjoy Friday The 13th the way the good Lord intended.

Stimulus Debate Not Over Yet

CNN has recently run an opinion stating why the stimulus worked out for us. I usually defer to Z when it comes to economics, but my common sense and basic knowledge supports what I read here. Also, the author is reasonable about giving the "other side" their fair appreciation. That usually only comes from someone who is confident and open-minded, something that is usually lacking on a topic so heavily debated.  As he points out, this will be a major subject in the upcoming election, so we may as well talk it over.

(CNN) -- As others have, and more will as the presidential election heats up, David Frum went after the Recovery Act on these pages. I'll address his critiques in a moment, but first let's just get this right out there: Though we can never know alternative histories -- in this case, how the economy would have performed absent the stimulus -- the weight of the evidence is that the Recovery Act did what we expected it to do.

It created a few million jobs and shaved a few percentage points off the unemployment rate. But most important, it kept a bad situation from getting a lot worse.

I think that is the most frequent gripe I had. Opponents screeched that because this didn't bring us back to our former glory that the program was a failure. Quite the opposite. I believe turning a death spiral into some sort of stable status is a major victory. That type of hyberbolic stupidity is so upsetting because it snubs hard work and success, and the mentally weak fall for it because the can't see through it.

This type of evidence, which is very common among researchers who have examined the Recovery Act's impact, is clearly inconsistent with Frum's view that the act was a failure.

But in this case, two pictures are worth 2,000 words. The Zandi/Blinder analysis of the stimulus and accompanying measures -- and note that Frum claims there were no accompanying measures -- is called "How the Great Recession Was Brought to an End." The graphs embedded in this article show why.

Definitely read the article and check out the data. Again, if he is wrong I can't spot where. In a simple 1+1=2 manner, you cannot claim failure in the face of improvement. At best, opponents will say there was a better way, and maybe there was. But as the author points out in his closing, what we ended up doing worked pretty darn well.

Frum and others can argue that all of the above haven't made everything all better, but no conceivable monetary or fiscal stimulus could have fully offset the impact of a recession of this magnitude, particularly one with such highly leveraged banks and households at its root.
What they can't say, at least not without ignoring the evidence, is that the Recovery Act failed. It did what we expected it to do, creating jobs, lowering unemployment and preventing recession from morphing into depression. If anything, what the evidence shows is that it ended too soon. And that is why President Obama is, as we speak, crafting a smaller package of targeted jobs measures to build on the success of the Recovery Act.

Partisans thus need to put aside their talking points, absorb this evidence and get those measures to work in the economy as soon as possible.

See If You Can Guess Why This Story Was Spiked In The US

2011's largest international story has been the "Arab Spring" with countries across the Middle East and North Africa throwing off the shackles of their oppressive governments.  Millions have protested across dozens of countries over basic living conditions: food, water, shelter, and security.  Libya's Qadaffi is the latest to fall.

But did you know that similar protests have been going on for months now in Israel?  Massive protests have been going on for the last eight weeks or so across that country, and American news organizations have all but ignored the story. Hundreds of thousands of regular, middle-class Israelis took to the streets to protest the Netanyahu government this weekend in the latest round of demonstrations.

Hundreds of thousands marched Saturday for lower living costs in the largest such rally in Israel's history, bolstering a social change movement and mounting pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take on economic reform.

Protest leaders called it "the moment of truth" for the grassroots movement that has swollen since July from a cluster of student tent-squatters into a countrywide mobilization of Israel's middle class.

"An entire generation wants a future," read one banner as demonstrators flooded the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and cities throughout Israel, shouting "the people demand social justice."

Netanyahu has warned he would not be able to satisfy all the protesters' demands, ranging from tax cuts, to expansion of free education and bigger government housing budgets.

Organizers said over 450,000 people took part in the demonstrations. Police put the number at least 300,000.

Protests on that scale in Israel, with a population of 7.7 million, are usually held over issues of war and peace.

"Tonight is the pinnacle moment of a historic protest," Amir Rochman, 30, an activist from Israel's Green Party said.

"Israel will no longer be the same," Itzik Shmuli, head of the National Student Union and one of the protest leaders said at the rally. "Our new Israel demands real change in the priorities of its government."

But this story has been spiked by our media and completely ignored by conservatives.  After all, when a full six percent of the population protests the government of "America's closest ally in the Middle East" you'd expect some notice.  Here in the US, a fraction of a percent at a rally commands international long as the protestors are a couple thousand Tea Party members.  When the Israeli equivalent of 18.75 million Americans shows up at rallies across the country in Israel to protest the Nethanyahu government and their policies, it's a non-story.

The notion that Benjamin Nethanyahu could possibly be considered in the same category as Hosni Mubarak, Moammar Qaddafi or Bashar Al-Assad is something that the American media won't touch.  Americans must never find out that Israel's middle class is being squeezed dry by the growing costs of the perpetual war machine over there.  We must never find out that there are Israelis that don't want to wipe all Muslims off the map and are willing to protest their own government over the treatment of Palestinians.  Americans must never find out that Israeli corporations are running all aspects of the country and are making the middle-class there pay the bulk of taxes.

Why, we might get ideas or something.  Meanwhile, we can ignore Israel and beg Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to please, please, please, continue not to be free while we "sort this out."

The administration has made it clear to Mr. Abbas that it will veto any request presented to the United Nations Security Council to make a Palestinian state a new member outright. 

Let freedom ring in the Middle East...unless it involves Palestinians or the Israeli middle class, I guess.
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