Monday, December 26, 2011

Last Call

The Washington Post engages in serious mountain-creation from the Solyndra "scandal" molehill in a piece that accuses the administration of playing politics with the issue of solar power and green job creation, declaring the entire green jobs initiative "a political liability".  There's only one problem with this latest "Obama is doomed!" narrative, and that's the fact that Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu put the issue to rest weeks ago with his testimony before Congress.

The reality here is that the Washington Post has been especially bad at trying to make Solyndra into a massive, administration-breaking scandal when it at best was the continuation of a Bush-era program that made bad choices.

Also, when a green energy investment causes a international war of choice like Iraq, wake me up.  Until then, if we're criminalizing bankruptcy, well, let's not go there.

Pulling Some Weeds

One of my favorite comedies in recent years is Showtime's Weeds, the adventures of a recently-widowed California housewife and her family who turns to selling pot in order to make ends meet, and it turns out she's pretty good at it (and so are her two sons and brother-in-law).  But in California and other states as 2012 rolls around, the notion of the neighborhood pot dealer isn't far-fetched, and as MoJo's Tony D'Souza explains the recession has a lot of people you wouldn't expect looking at the "growth" industry.

For some time, I'd been hearing stories from my sources in the interstate marijuana racket about law-abiding "civilians" turning to the game because of the recession, and so, armed with introductions, I hit the road to meet some of these unlikely criminals face to face. That's how, on a hot evening in June, I found myself in Dan's Northern California kitchen.

Dan isn't his real name. Nor are any of the names in this story, for obvious reasons. But his situation is a familiar, harsh reality for many Americans, as I learned while doing research for my recent novel on this subject. Dan is in his early 40s, a slim, soft-spoken former short-haul trucker who once owned all the toys: a used Mercedes, snowmobiles, Jet Skis. When they were both employed, he and his wife—a retail manager—easily cleared $100,000 a year. "We ate out breakfast, lunch, and dinner," Dan, now a minimum-wage laborer, tells me with folded arms. "That's the way life was for 17 years."

Today, Dan's toys are gone, sold to support an underwater mortgage. His wife, who kept her job, left him three years ago, driving away in the Mercedes. "She didn't like the fact that I sat at home and she was going to work," he tells me. "There were no jobs. I filled out a thing for the city, and 400 people were there for one opening—a garbage truck driver."

Dan goes on to say he played by the rules all his life, and he ended up so far underwater it wasn't funny as a result.  A friend got him into the growhouse business, and now Dan's head is above water...for now.  There are several other stories in the article, all about suburban white folk who get into the game and make enough money to keep them in it.

It's a bit on the depressing side, especially when you realize pretty early that these folks are all in the game because they are indeed upstanding suburban white people, making them all but anonymous in the criminal world.  They're supposed to not be suspected, and it works.

And yet with one party in politics doing everything they can to all but encourage this behavior -- because this demimonde black market economy is basically what the entrepreneurial class up in Washington wants out of work Americans to engage in -- who can blame Dan and others like him?  Leverage what you have to make a living.  It's the American Way, we're told.

You do what you have to in order to put food on the table.

Like A Blimp, He's Full Of Hot Air, Part 3

The NY Times finally gets around to taking down Ron Paul, something that should have been done years ago.

But a look at the trajectory of Mr. Paul’s career shows that he and his closest political allies either wittingly or unwittingly courted disaffected white voters with extreme views as they sought to forge a movement from the nether region of American politics, where the far right and the far left sometimes converge.

In May, Mr. Paul reiterated in an interview with Chris Matthews of MSNBC that he would not have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing segregation. He said that he supported its intent, but that parts of it violated his longstanding belief that government should not dictate how property owners behave. He has been featured in videos of the John Birch Society, which campaigned against the Civil Rights Act, warning, for instance, that the United Nations threatens American sovereignty.

In the mid-1990s, between his two stints as a Texas congressman, Mr. Paul produced a newsletter called The Ron Paul Survival Report, which only months before the Oklahoma City bombings encouraged militias to seek out and expel federal agents in their midst. That edition was titled “Why Militias Scare the Striped Pants Off Big Government.”

An earlier edition of another newsletter he produced, The Ron Paul Political Report, concluded that the need for citizens to arm themselves was only natural, given carjackings by “urban youth who play whites like pianos.” The report, with no byline but written in the first person, said: “I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self-defense. For the animals are coming.” 

As Dave Weigel points out, this is not news.  Ron Paul has been taking support from white supremacists and various and sundry other assclowns for years now, and mobilizing them as the base of the "new libertarianism" has been the key for a very, very long time.

The most detailed description of the strategy came in an essay Rothbard wrote for the January 1992 Rothbard-Rockwell Report, titled "Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement." Lamenting that mainstream intellectuals and opinion leaders were too invested in the status quo to be brought around to a libertarian view, Rothbard pointed to David Duke and Joseph McCarthy as models for an "Outreach to the Rednecks," which would fashion a broad libertarian/paleoconservative coalition by targeting the disaffected working and middle classes. (Duke, a former Klansman, was discussed in strikingly similar terms in a 1990 Ron Paul Political Report.) These groups could be mobilized to oppose an expansive state, Rothbard posited, by exposing an "unholy alliance of 'corporate liberal' Big Business and media elites, who, through big government, have privileged and caused to rise up a parasitic Underclass, who, among them all, are looting and oppressing the bulk of the middle and working classes in America."

Ding ding ding!  If that sounds like that's exactly what the FOX-ified media and the GOP has been doing ever since Barack Obama burst onto the national political scene as a primary candidate, then congratulations, you've figured out the Republican path to "victory" in 2010 and 2012.  Rothbard's ideas have been turned into the Tea Party of today in direct response to President Obama some 20 years later.

The real question is not "How did Ron Paul get a pass on this" but "How did the entire GOP get a pass on this?"  No matter who the candidate is for the Republicans in 2012, the GOP strategy is corning the white vote through racism, pure and simple.  Ron Paul is too overt for it to work.  Romney on the other hand, well he might be able to sell it.

But either way, it's all the GOP has left, and they're going for broke.  And it's vitally important that we recognize that the Rothbard/Paul/Rockwell "50 State Southern Strategy" is now in full force.

StupidiNews! Purple Heart Edition

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — A decorated Army soldier recovering from injuries suffered in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan has been shot at his homecoming party, and family members say he's paralyzed and in critical condition.

Christopher Sullivan, 22, was shot late Friday while trying to break up a fight between his brother and another man at a San Bernardino, California, residence.

"My son didn't deserve this. He served his country," his mother, Suzanne Sullivan, told the San Bernardino Sun newspaper.

Suzanne Sullivan said her son suffered two gunshot wounds to his back, which shattered his spine. Family members told the newspaper that the shooting late Friday left Sullivan paralyzed and in critical condition.

Over football. Because of a few idiots, a soldier who managed to survive life-threatening injuries will never walk again.  Because one man chose to pull a gun, this man may die after coming home to his family.  Over freaking football.

Police said Sullivan's brother and a partygoer got into an argument over football. When Sullivan moved to intervene, the man pulled a gun and opened fire.

Family Shot After Christmas Celebration

After receiving a 911 call with nobody on the other end, the city of Grapevine, Texas sent officers to check out the house in a relatively quiet neighborhood.  They found seven people, all shot and killed in the apartment.  USA Today reports the killers are suspected to be among the dead.

Right now, little is known about the victims.  They are all believed to be related, and nothing offhand to suggest they aren't like any other family.  It seems unusual that there aren't a lot of neighbors who can confirm the sound of gunshots.  In the end it doesn't change the tragedy, but it does seem strange that so many gunshots wouldn't have sparked called from neighbors or witnesses.

There will surely be a lot of follow-up on this, I will likely wait until a lot more is sorted out before running it here.  In the meantime, I'll go hug a few folks and be grateful I still have my loved ones around me.

The Disunited States Of America

Over at the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne argues (correctly, I believe) that the GOP Clown Car Cavalcade's central tenet is to run for head of a government they insist cannot work, a Disunited States of America in a very real sense, freed from oversight, responsibility, and oversight from Washington, shades of Goldwater's 1964 run.  What it does is leave President Obama as the classic conservative in the race, fighting to defend the advances in social welfare and the safety net made over the last three generations.

The GOP is engaged in a wholesale effort to redefine the government help that Americans take for granted as an effort to create a radically new, statist society. Consider Romney’s claim in his Bedford speech: “President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes. In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing — the government.”

Obama believes no such thing. If he did, why are so many continuing to make bundles on Wall Street? As my colleagues Greg Sargent and Paul Krugman have been insisting, Romney is saying things about the president that are flatly, grossly and shamefully untrue. But Romney’s sleight of hand is revealing: Republicans are increasingly inclined to argue that any redistribution (and Social Security, Medicare, student loans, veterans benefits and food stamps are all redistributive) is but a step down the road to some radically egalitarian dystopia.

Obama will thus be the conservative in 2012, in the truest sense of that word. He is the candidate defending the modestly redistributive and regulatory government the country has relied on since the New Deal, and that neither Ronald Reagan nor George W. Bush dismantled. The rhetoric of the 2012 Republicans suggests they want to go far beyond where Reagan or Bush ever went. And here’s the irony: By raising the stakes of 2012 so high, Republicans will be playing into Obama’s hands. The GOP might well win a referendum on the state of the economy. But if this is instead a larger-scale referendum on whether government should be “inconsequential,” Republicans will find the consequences to be very disappointing.

Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann all join Perry in calling for the wholesale elimination of government Cabinet departments.  And as Dionne points out, Romney has now joined the group of Republicans who are running to dismantle as much of the federal government as possible, to leave us in an era where the states and cities fight amongst themselves for the favor of the "job creators" in a race to the bottom, each location offering more incentives than the last at greater and greater expense of their least wealthy constituents.

If you believe that states should be engaging in Hunger Games style combat and brutal competition not to create new jobs, but to strip them from other states in order to "win", then the GOP is your party in 2012.

If you believe that America is in this together, and that there's a role for government in a federal system, then yes, President Obama seems to be the only one keen on going that particular route.

Who's Running Pyongyang?

With the death of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, the power brokers inside the country are least the ones that North Korea wants us to see.

North Korean television Sunday showed power-behind-the-throne Jang Song-thaek in the uniform of a general in a sign of his growing sway after the death of Kim Jong-il, and Japan's prime minister said the region faced a new phase with Kim's demise.

Footage that North Korean television said was shot on Saturday showed Jang on the frontrow of top military officers who accompanied Kim Jong-un, the youngest son of Kim Jong-il and his anointed successor, paying their respects before Kim's body.

The choreography around Kim's death is one of the secretive North's few, opaque clues to the emerging configuration of power in this poor and isolated state that has rattled neighbors with nuclear tests and military brinkmanship.

A Seoul official familiar with North Korea affairs said it was the first time Jang has been shown on state television in a military uniform. His appearance suggested that Jang has secured a key role in the North's powerful military, which has pledged its allegiance to Kim Jong-un.

So what do we know about Jang?  He's married to Kim Jong-il's younger sister, making him Kim the younger's uncle. He's been rumored to be the guy running the show since Kim's stroke in 2008, and this latest appearance seems to be removing the "rumored" part and emerging as regent behind the throne, as he's managed to work his way up in the ranks of the inner circle of power.  A lot of analysts are hanging their hat on Jang being the man right now, which makes me wonder if it's really true.

Everyone is officially keen on Kim the younger being in charge however.  I don't buy it for a second, but we'll soon see how much power Jang actually wields.


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