Sunday, July 31, 2011

Digby nailing the larger cultural-political issues in the wake of the right wing kabuki dance

As the debt-ceiling kabuki dance comes to an end, and with the Republican-libertarian ethos, if one can call such cruelty an ethos, reaching a new crescendo, with even greater musical heights to come, Digby offers several thoughts that I am most in tune with.

Please read this post and this post. And this post, too...

I was talking on Friday evening after our synagogue services with a young liberal fellow, who was ecstatic about how the Republicans were supposedly fighting each other over the plan put forward by John Boehner, the putative House Speaker. "Obama's winning because the Republicans are fighting among themselves," he smiled and said. I said, and I paraphrase liberally, "You need to stop watching television for news. The plans being floated are plans where the Republicans win on all counts. Obama's done the work for them, and they are going to agree to one of those plans--and Obama is destroying the last of the New Deal along the way."

He was making a face of confusion, and may even have said, "Huh?" So, I repeated it, with an emphasis that this was a kabuki dance with Obama behind the scenes leading the dance, all to make the Simpson-Bowles proposal last year look like the far reach of "liberal," which it decidedly is not. I said, "You need to get out of the political gossip perspective, and look at the policy and policies. Outside of the who's up, who's down which is short term, Obama is putting himself in a position of being attacked in 2012 in a way that dilutes any message of what makes Democrats different from Republicans."

I could tell, he still didn't get it. I said to myself, It's hopeless when a very smart, liberal minded guy is caught in the grip of Chris Matthews' worldview. There is simply not enough Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher to go around--but one thing is clear: We really need to stop watching cable political talk shows, including MSNBC. I watch snippets or read a partial transcript from time to time, courtesy of bloggers. I do so only to stay abreast of the nonsense and gossip-talk to be able to engage people, but that's it.

All we do when we watch those shows with any intensity and closeness is develop the same illusions that "insiders" often have, which is an inability to see a trend, or understand a march of folly. And for the viewer, the illusion becomes delusional because the viewer is not at a swank cocktail party with these foolish leaders and insiders. The viewer is not well-off economically for the most part, nor does the viewer have the connections to protect the well-being of the viewer's children. The viewer is on the outside looking in, an outside increasingly cold and where the viewer's clothes are increasingly frayed and thinned.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Jon Stewart's latest and greatest...

Here is Jon Stewart's meditation on the way in which FoxNews held the Christian fundamentalist mass murderer to a different standard than a Muslim mass murderer, and how that double standard relates to the generally poisonous discourse emanating from FoxNews against something the media operation calls "liberals"--all the while complaining that something called "conservatives" or "Americans" are the real victims.

Note the montages he uses which show how FoxNews propaganda works, with their use of generalized, declarative sentences, and promotion of endless books that attack "liberals."

I often find, when I speak with people who claim to hate "liberals," that their definition of a "liberal" is less about public policy than something that the particular people happen to hate in different particulars. If one shows people who hate "liberals" that a "conservative" holds the same view as a "liberal" on the subject they are hopped up about, the response they give is often, to take one example, "McCain's not really a 'conservative'."

The underlying structure is "liberal=bad, conservative=good." That sort of formulation wears deep into our electorate, when repeated ad nauseum over a period of years. It is a noteworthy point when we analyze the substance of the discourse in our nation at this moment in our nation's history.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A couple of on-line articles of note in Jewish Review of Books

From the Jewish Review of Books, here is a wonderfully enlightening article regarding a controversy I did not know about, but those more learned in Jewish philosophical disputes probably would say is merely an introduction.

I love Moses' grandson's music, by the way...

And here is a nice review of a new book about Hammerin' Hank Greenberg.

Outstanding biographical essay about Harrison Gray Otis

Left-labor historian Mike Davis has written an outstanding biographical essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books on the legendary, notorious and often odious Harrison Gray Otis, who truly was the founding force of the Los Angeles Times. Davis brings us color and depth to Otis' life that leaves us definitely wanting more.

As with Henry Cabot Lodge, himself a devotee of JQA, Otis started out as pro-African-American with abolitionist tendencies, owing to his fighting for the Union ("North") in the US Civil War.

I'd love to see Davis be able to translate this essay into a book length biography...

So has Al Gore been right for the past week?

Whenever it's colder than normal, I have to endure local right wingers I know who say, "See, Gore's wrong. There's no global warming." I then have to say, "Folks, it's climate change, and it's the changes that are worth understanding over a longer time than day to day in a local area." They then smile in that way which says, "Too complicated. I win. You lose."

Now that it's been extremely hot in the Mid-West and Eastern seaboard, we don't hear those people saying, "You know, Al Gore must be right. There is global warming."

Crooks & Liars noticed this, too...

It might be amusing, but not so to the families and friends of the people who have died during this heat wave.

Related point to note with our right-wing friends: Notice how the early right-wing speculation on the terrorist attacks in Norway turned out to be pathetically wrong, too.

Still, what happened in Norway yesterday is beyond tragic and beyond outrageous in its cruelty and violence. Human beings are not making much of an argument for uplift...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Good, not great summary of Amazon sales tax issue

See Kevin Drum in his morning post.

Drum fails to mention shipping costs. When we buy online, we, not Amazon.com, pay for shipping, usually at least $2.99, mostly $3.99. To be exempt from shipping costs, we have to buy more than $25 at Amazon.com directly, not one of the used or new book or product dealers that hook onto Amazon's site. This discussion over whether to tax online retailers cannot get to the heart of things without talking about online retailers' shipping costs that are already passed onto the customer. This is not the end of the argument, however, but the beginning, and it can still lead us back to taxing Amazon purchases at least in-state.

In discussing shipping costs, we should begin by noting that brick and mortar retailers have to pay for at least some shipping before they put the products on their shelves--and presumably that is included in the price we pay. The physical store retailers, however, tend to get good shipping prices because they buy in bulk, but they pay up front for shipping, and have to hope to sell it in a reasonable time since there are less obvious (to us customers) costs of warehousing. Still, Amazon has those costs too, but can rationalize shipping/warehouse costs because they can have a facilities warehouse and send products directly to a customer's home, whereas brick and mortars have to have products housed where we shop, or at a regional facility.

Next, let's remember that we are arguing over expanding the scope of a regressive tax, i.e. sales tax, charged to customers. But I think it is wrong for us who receive products or services delivered to our home not to be subject to a sales tax simply because it is purchased through the medium of the Internet. When pizza is delivered to our home, we pay a premium and a sales tax. I don't see why we don't pay our State's sales tax if Amazon delivers to us a book from within the State in which we reside.

One or more commenters at Drum's site brings up other good aspects to shopping at Amazon, not least of which is the "Search Inside" mechanism and Customer Review sections. Still, one is a mere software code and the other is regular folks contributing book reviews for no pay. On the other hand, if we lose most of our brick and mortar bookstores, we miss true browsing. Amazon and others have not figured out how to help me find something I was NOT looking for when I enter their sites the way I find things I was not looking for when physically browsing in a brick and mortar bookstore...That should count for something in not disadvantaging brick and mortars by making them charge a sales tax, but not online retailers.

Overall, as much as I detest sales taxes, I see them as necessary to having decent state and local government services. So I philosophically favor a sales tax for intra-State purchases on line, even if it costs me.

Still, practically speaking, in CA, I'd rather lower all sales taxes and then apply them to online retailers as well, raise the top marginal income tax rate, institute an oil extraction tax that all other oil producing States have, and start a split-roll property tax where businesses pay market rates for property taxes. That would do people better than simply taxing online retailers along with brick and mortar retailers.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

MJ Rosenberg nails it on the latest p.r. offensive from Likudniks

Read it here. Kudos to the Los Angeles Times for publishing Rosenberg's article. Man, is the fur gonna fly on that one!

Don't pat yourself on the back, Tim Cavanaugh...

Over at Reason.com, Tim Cavanaugh posts some cool photos of the lack of cars and other motor vehicles on the Los Angeles Freeways this weekend (Link fixed) after Carmageddon.

Too bad Cavanaugh wrongly makes it sound like (1) the government people were just being stupid government bureaucrats in not knowing that people would heed a clear warning, and (2) media people were overhyping for no apparent reason other than being stupid.

Sorry, Tim. Lots of folks knew this weekend would likely be like the 1984 Olympics, where people in Los Angeles simply went away for the week to ten days, or did their best to just stay home and not get on the freeways.

Let's start with this July 13, 2011 article in the Los Angeles Times where even liberal "statist" councilman Bill Rosendahl says he is hoping that the weekend will be like...the 1984 Olympics lack of traffic (Like Cavanaugh slightly hedging his bet at the end of an earlier article). And noted cultural liberal, economic semi-liberal councilman Zev Yaroslavsky wisely says the reason the word "Carmageddon" was used was to get people's attention in a marketing sorta way.

Here is an article from Friday's July 15, 2011 CBS website where the article expressly notes the publicity side of the "hype" to help people again get the word out to avoid the freeways, including using Hollywood stars to make clever one liners on Twitter to get the word out.

Of course, a few months ago, the officials knew they had to get the word out, and that unlike the 1984 Olympics, there was no momentous event other than "We're gonna close a particularly congested stretch of the 405 freeway to do some construction work over a weekend in the middle of the summer." So, they did what responsible adults do--they issued warnings, and they said, if we don't change our habits for the weekend when the repair is done, there'll be a traffic jam that is the mother of all traffic jams. And the officials made sure they had fire, police and hospital personnel prepared for a bad-case scenario.

DJ Waldie put it nicely in this article published on the KCET (Public Television) website that it was "reassuring" the officials prepared for the worst, particularly with fire and police services. I also found another article reassuring, about how doctors at westside hospitals were going to "bunk in" at west-side hospitals to avoid being delayed by potential traffic. Good for them! And let's note the last paragraph of the article about the doctors at the hospitals:

Dire warnings have been shown to work during the 1984 Summer Olympics and a 1987 visit by Pope John Paul II. The city braced for the worst, but traffic flowed freely because people avoided driving.

So people heeded the message--again.

But Cavanaugh's post has that tone of "I'm so cool and counterintuitive, unlike those dense public officials and media types. It's what makes me...a libertarian!"

Now maybe Tim and his friends could find some officials who sounded like they knew there was only catastrophe coming, but I think a lot of folks recognized the 1984 Olympics scenario was more likely, especially as we got closer to the event. Still, it looks like there was at least one out of towner--Hitler--who did not know that traffic might be much lighter this now passing weekend. But, seriously, it was harder than I thought to find other credulous writers worried about Carmageddon, like this article at the Santa Monica Free Press, or the somewhat credulous writer at Forbes.com (See here).

In short, our officials gave out ample warnings, and then prepared for the worst. Again, though, people heeded the warnings--and again, good for the officials to have prepared to protect public safety in case people did not heed the warnings.

All of this only looks like a waste of weekend government and public safety resources to those who think like adolescents ("It'll never happen!" "I can drive with a few drinks in me--I'll be careful!").*

* As for whether a new single car lane at that stretch of the 405 freeway is really necessary, I actually agree with Cavanaugh it is not our best use of transportation funds. Where Cavanaugh and I part is I would like far more publicly funded mass transit. Oh well. So it goes...

A libertarian talks about the pain of unemployment

Megan McArdle of The Atlantic is not someone to whom I normally link with any positive comment. However, this post of hers (sent by an unemployed relative) reveals a human side to her that she really had not shown with any depth before. Perhaps if she applied her personal experience to how unskilled and semi-skilled workers felt about FDR putting them to work in the 1930s, she might bother to check the true (and much lower) unemployment rates that counted those workers, and realize the New Deal was far more successful than she ever thought it was...

Oops. A week after the above linked post appears, she has returned (link fixed) to tax credits to employers and assuming the New Deal didn't work. I think she realized the implications of the first post was going to affect which cocktail parties in DC and NY she was going to be invited to...

As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a (person) to understand something when his (or her) job depends on not understanding it."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Poor Michelle Bachmann Doesn't Hang Out With Enough Jews...

I normally feel sympathy for politicians when they mispronounce words as sometimes the link between brain and mouth can get messed up when speaking alot. Still, there is something studied about Michelle Bachmann's mispronunciation of the word "chutzpah."

I must say I was surprised because Congresswoman Bachmann worked as an IRS lawyer in her younger days, and it is likely that she worked alongside at least some Jews or others in the office who orally said a few times or more, "He's claiming THAT as a deduction?!? What chutzpah!" :-) And then I learned that, as a late teen in 1974, she worked for a summer on a kibbutz in Israel! Wow, that's more than I ever did in that regard...

Still, I had an opposite experience in my early twenties. In the summer of 1980, I worked as a Jungle Cruise guide at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. (Oy, 1980 feels like yesterday, but my teen daughter tells me it's ancient times.) The script we were given to use as "guides" was often pronounced by the non-Jewish supervisors as a "spiel" ("speel")--when the traditional pronunciation was "shpiel." In my youth, I corrected them, and they were surprised, but not really very happy to have a young person correct them on a word they and their fellow managers were all pronouncing their way...I wonder if after years of the Jewish Michael Eisner at the helm of the entire Disney corporation, the managers learned to use the more proper Yiddish inflection of that term?

Still, I would rather us not dwell more than a day on the topic, but it is...fun. The only Americans who should take some heed from this moment, however, are those American Jews who have been so happy with Bachmann's hawkish views about Israel. To them, the mispronunciation ought to be a reminder that when she and other Christian fundamentalists say their hawkish stuff about Israel, they are often not talking to "us"--but to fellow Christian fundamentalists. See this article from historian Rick Perlstein, for example.

For the rest of us Americans, it should only be a fleeting "pass the popcorn" moment.

But, if someone more sympathetic to Bachmann's political views asks, "How could she have known? That's not fair to her!" allow me two examples in response: Here for a link to a 1967(!) comedy skit from Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball where the song they sang is called "Chutzpah." See also this blog post from some years ago which talks about the use of the word in federal decisions, including a major decision involving the FCC decency rules at the US Supreme Court.

Per the blog post, Scalia is the one who used the word in the decision, and for those who don't know, Scalia grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, and has had many close friends throughout his life who are Jewish. The difference between Scalia and Bachmann in terms of their respective personalities and cultural defaults is perhaps exemplified in this moment...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Greg Sargent on LSD?

Read this post from Greg Sargent where he thinks Obama has made a good case to the liberals that we need deficit reduction first.

Done? Good. Now, here is my response:

Greg Sargent is as wrong as the president. The public, if we read the specifics in overall polling data, supports exactly what Jared Bernstein, Paul Krugman and so many others want: Stop spending on silly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Raise the income tax and capital gains taxes on those making more than $250K a year (at least to Clinton levels for goodness sakes!). Don’t touch Social Security. Don’t touch Medicare or Medicaid. And let Medicare and Medicaid negotiate directly as a bloc with Big Pharma.

And let’s put people to work re-building and building infrastructure.

Greg Sargent fails Political Science 101 because people don’t vote out incumbents who spend more money than the revenue that comes in. They vote out incumbents who don’t do anything to help lower unemployment.

The beauty of what so-called "liberals" want is that it is not only sound public policy; the public also endorses it.

Obama is being stubborn, ignorant and politically tone deaf, a trifecta of a losing candidate. His only way to victory is if the Republicans nominate someone like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry or one of the other creepy candidates.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op. 48

I heard this on the satellite radio tonight, and it was love at first listening.

I now provide it for the rest of us...courtesy of YouTube.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ah, just read it in today's Los Angeles Times!

The LA Times is truly interesting today:

First up, there are two great reviews of new non-fiction in the Los Angeles Times Book Review section:

One is on Babe Zaharias, the greatest American woman athlete we barely know, but should know more about, as Mike Downey rightly says.

The other is about the rise and growth of government built and sponsored highways in the 20th Century. It sounds like this book is a great companion to Jane Holtz Kay's amazing and jarring "Asphalt Nation."

Then, please read the fun article about the rise and fall of drive-in film theaters. I am not sure what my children would make of such an article as they did not experience the sensation of being at a drive-in, either as children or teens. It may seem like a description of being in a stagecoach in the late-19th Century.

Finally, a most intriguing obituary about Anne LaBastille, an outdoors feminist woman who deserves more coverage than even the wonderfully written obituary provided her. In fact, I'd say she deserves a movie about her life and times...Or maybe it's about two young society women in the early 20th Century American West, as in this review at Slate.com...

BONUS POINT: And did I say Doonesbury was masterful today? No? Well, read it.

Debt ceiling fetishes...

The kabuki dance over whether Republicans will really force the issue of the US defaulting on bond payments for the first time in our constitutional history is rather annoying to me. Republican leaders have supposedly told the business leaders they pal with it is a kabuki dance, so why do we have this breathless pretense going on about a crisis?

The argument that Jack Balkin has raised, which is the 14th Amendment provision concerning public debt will allow Obama to override Congress to protect the public debt from being repudiated, is interesting, but not quite persuasive to me. Courts are best advised to steer clear of that sort of argument as it initially strikes me as more of a "political question" that Courts should refrain from opining as a matter of law.

Right now, I find it more intriguing, from a policy perspective, for Congress and the President to declare that the debt ceiling is akin to the filibuster or a fetish like those who pine for the gold standard--and therefore should be abolished. Would we really be having this silly argument at all with Republicans if there was no debt ceiling? This blog post from EconoSpeak first raised the issue in April of this year, and the argument advanced is more persuasive to me than wading into the legislative history of the 14th Amendment on what was previously an arcane, academic question (and yes, pun intended for Reconstruction-era Congressman Wade!). Slate.com also raised this point, as did David Frum's website (Frum has certainly become rather fascinating, hasn't he?). Again, abolishing the debt ceiling is fairly persuasive to my sensibility.

Finally, let's remember how the US Supreme Court, in 1983, suddenly found the "legislative veto" unconstitutional. We've learned to live without it, even though I wondered why the Court acted the way it did. I understood the heart-wrenching story of Mr. Chadha, who the INS decided not to deport after a full hearing, only to have Congress overrule the agency. The Court intervened to protect Mr. Chadha. But to do so, the Court thought it needed to declare the legislative veto null and void...Yet, after the decision, which affected over 250 laws where there had been a legislative veto included with those laws, the Constitution and our society survived...

If the debt ceiling is declared unconstitutional, we'll survive or not survive as a nation for reasons that have little if anything to do with the debt ceiling, which was enacted in the general hysteria of America's involvement in World War I. The question is how we govern ourselves and what policies we follow in the particular, not these doomsday mechanisms we (well, more often right-wingers) like to create, such as filibusters, gold standards, balanced budget amendments and the like.

Again, this is all a kabuki dance right now, and we'll see whether we get anywhere. After the dance is completed, or if there really is a crisis, we should simply declare the debt ceiling a relic to be tossed aside and repeal it once and for all.

ADDENDUM: My goodness, even The Economist, a reliable guide to defending the privileged economic elite, has noticed, during this debt ceiling "debate," that Republican politics has become a defining example of madness.

Sympathy for the Devils...or Have All the Saints Sinned?

Two reviews in the NY Times to juxtapose:

Bill Keller nicely summarizes a book on the Popes throughout history, and how they are well..it's sorta complicated, largely a worldly pattern of misfeasance and definitely fallibility.

Meanwhile, reviewer Kevin Boyle makes hay out of the once mighty oak that Clarence Darrow seemed to be. I was struck by the glibness of this line in the review, that "In some of his biggest cases Darrow bought the testimony he needed."

Huh? That would be a pretty big revelation, yet the review contains no evidence for the sweeping conclusion, other than the McNamara case for which Darrow was acquitted.

Also, it is obvious that Boyle is not a trial lawyer, or else he would understand that being persuasive is not simply theater. Boyle further seems to think that a lawyer should not represent another person if he thinks the person is either civilly liable (like the negligent boat captain) or the other did murder someone. I'd call that quaint, but far better minds since antiquity, and especially among our nation's Founders, would find Boyle worse than naive and lacking in perspective as to how societies actually work. They would understand quite clearly that criminal attorneys who represent ardent criminals or even people like Casey Anthony (the latest sensation for those who follow lurid murder cases) are rather heroic, for they put prosecutors to the test--which is a good thing lest prosecutors become all powerful and eventually corrupt. That prosecutors have often poisoned the well through media with lies about the defendant and have themselves suborned perjury from witnesses (often "jailhouse informants") is well known and well documented in a way that I should not be required to do on this Sunday morning...:-)

It is also remarkable that Boyle sees it as corrupt for Darrow to have received $65,000 from the family of Leopold & Loeb to defend the horrible, murderous brothers who so luridly captured people's imaginations nearly a century ago. What, Darrow was supposed to defend people for free, even when they had the money to pay him?

I wish someone else, even Alan Dershowitz, had written the review of the Darrow books. I am definitely intrigued to learn about the evidence that Darrow suborned perjury from witnesses or bribed jurors. If he did, that would be a deep disappointment to learn. Darrow remains, however, a fascinating and compelling figure in the annals of lawyering and the law. I guess I'll have to check at least the Farrell bio on Darrow, won't I?

Compelling article from Eric Alterman on One State and Two State Solutions...

I admit I've somehow missed clicking onto Eric Alterman in awhile, and reading this article on the one-state-two-state solutions regarding Israel and Palestinians, I am reminded why I should read him again.

Alterman nails it regarding the Israeli leadership intransigence in this very important time for Israel, and how the Arabs really are trying to get over their insanity regarding the sliver of land known as Israel.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Middle Class Fall; Elite Class Fail

This is yet another article that should awaken people in the Village known as DC, but somehow does not.

First identification of Barack Obama as new Hoover...

I was thinking this morning, when did we first hear that Barack Obama could be the new Hoover, not new FDR?

I realized it was early in Obama's tenure as president with this now prescient article from historical novelist, Kevin Baker, in the July 2009 Harper's Magazine.

But wait, there was an even earlier recognition of Obama as Hoover, in a blog called rense.com in March 2009, just sixty days into Obama's presidency. Bruce Marshall, you could be the winner!

There are others now sounding the trumpets that Obama is the new Hoover, including Walter Russell Mead (who says at least Hoover didn't get us involved in five wars at once...) and a delightful historian who goes by the blogging moniker, Historiann.

Heck, even Rush Limbaugh (!) can't resist calling Obama "Hoover", and Pat Buchanan, too. Talk about the perfect combination of irony and cynicism--and note both help themselves to re-enforcing the lie that Obama is a Muslim. It's really breathtaking how the propagandists work. Limbaugh and Buchanan get exactly what they want for their Galtian overlords in terms of Obama's policies--beggaring the middle class while exulting the corporate executive class--and then call Obama "Hoover" as if their policies they endorse were really all that different.

"Heads I win, tails you lose" is their real philosophy here...though it's really, Heads They Win, Tail We Lose.

My new metaphor for Obama's re-election campaign is Obama is asking his base voters, who wanted a new New Deal: "Can you give me two tens for a five?"

Too bad we won't impeach him, at least for his violations of laws regarding war and peace. Too bad we don't see someone of some stature run in a primary against him. Too bad...

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Obama keeps making me look for the third party candidate in 2012...

I can hear my Dad wailing at me next year, "If you vote for a third party candidate, the Republicans will win the presidency--and they'll undermine Social Security and Medicare."

Well, the Grand Bargain is coming in the summer of 2011 and Obama is...undermining Social Security and Medicare.

First, there was the payroll tax cut that Obama enthusiastically signed last year. I did not understand that policy change at all. If Social Security and Medicare are in such revenue trouble in the future, why would anyone say cut the revenue--unless they want to further undermine these systems?

Second, and sadly, Obama has long looked through the wrong end of the telescope in saying that Social Security and Medicare are a "problem" with solutions being to cut benefits, make the programs means-tested instead of universal, or raising age triggers, etc.

As I will never tire of saying, there is nothing wrong with Social Security. There is, however, something wrong with the structure of our economy and our crumbling infrastructure--along with our Second Gilded Age and the mal-distribution of wealth that undermines economic growth.

There is also nothing wrong with Medicare that can't be fixed by at least allowing Medicare to negotiate with Big Pharma, and expanding the public option so that those younger than 65 may partake of the efficiencies and benefits of Medicare. If Medicare is not limited to taking care of the most expensive population in terms of health insurance, it may spread its risks and costs around much more effectively than private insurers are doing (since we know Medicare does a better job, year over year, with lower administrative costs and cost control while still covering that expensive population).

Mr. President, if you cut your Grand Bargain with the Republicans in the Village known as DC, you are continuing your Herbert Hoover-ite dream to destroy the last vestiges of the American safety net.

I am now considering a vote for a third party at this point even if the Republicans nominate the nutcase Bachmann...And as to Obama's violation of the Constitution in his actions in Libya, I now support the convening of impeachment hearings against Obama and Biden.

I welcome pro-Obamans to tell me why we should not be outraged at Obama for undermining the last social safety nets and acting worse than Bush Jr. in arrogantly overriding mainstream constitutional law in matters of war and peace, and starting yet more wars that drain our economic security. Shutting up because the Republicans are worse is simply inviting worse policy making from Obama and the Democratic Party leadership.

ADDENDUM: 7/7/11 at 8:30 p.m. PT: Looks like Greenwald agrees with me about Obama, and Krugman, too...Neither say we should vote for a third party, though I think Greenwald is ready for impeachment over Libya...

Oh, and catch the George Carlin bit at the end of Greenwald's column. Lots of curse words, but really, it captures my frustration at the elite opinion in this nation. That "elite fail," as Atrios noted this morning, is what really makes me sad.

ADDENDUM: 7/7/11 at 8:50 p.m. PT: My God, even former Bush Jr. and solid Republican David Frum understands what is happening here with Obama.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Article to read on the 9/11 terror attack, the Saudis...and the Bush administration's cover up?

This new article from Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan in the latest Vanity Fair is interesting reading. I haven't completed my read of the article and probably won't for a day or two. I think there is something to their point about the Saudi government intelligence agencies, bin Laden and the way in which the Bush administration's close relationship with the Saudis led to policy failures, and potentially a post-9/11 events cover up.

Score one for Michael Moore, who raised this as a possibility in his Fahrenheit 911 film...

Unraveling the propaganda from the reality in the housing bubble

Dean Baker, one of the few economists who is not enthralled with Friedmanite or Hayekian dogma, does a good job of explaining once again that the housing bubble was driven by the top guys on Wall Street--and that the Community Reinvestment Act of 1978 did not cause the great crisis. Baker also takes on the nonsense that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac drove the bubble when in fact they were late to the bubble party. See also this CBO report on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and start with the chart at page 6 that is designated Figure 1-1.

Still, there are some things Dean did not speak about that makes his explanation less than 100% of the reality. In 2005, just as the bubble was finally being seen as something that would eventually burst, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae decided, in the face of threats from Republicans, and more friendly prodding from Democrats, to take on and insure the bundles of secured mortgages that were previously outside their realm because they had been deemed too risky or too large. The Republican Congress and the Bush Administration in 2003 and 2004 had touted private home ownership (remember the Ownership Society?) and laws were passed to further loosen the markets. The Bushies and Republicans wanted to replace Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae as they saw it as irrelevant in a growing private housing market, which led the Democratic Party members to defend the two entities as the Democratic Party leaders were awash in the entities' big campaign contributions. The Democratic Party Congressmen, with so much in contributions, simply said there was nothing wrong with the two institutions and took a what-me-worry view of the bubble-- though there was plenty of bi-partisanship fingerprints on the growing debacle...* And let's not forget that Republicans targeted Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at least in part because they were giving more to Democratic Party candidates and incumbents than Republicans...

*By the way, this is what makes me nervous about Democrats saying the same thing about Medicare, when in fact there is some reason to worry if there is no investment inside the US and we don't make anything as workers anymore inside the US. Doing nothing and saying Republicans want to kill Medicare is not really helpful because, while Republicans (and often Obama) do want to kill Medicare, neither Dems nor Reeps want to do anything about improving the economic fortunes of most Americans--which would do far more to strengthen Medicare, and even Social Security.

Finally, let's understand that Bush Jr.'s 2003 proposal to re-organize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did not want to change the implicit guaranty of the two organizations (see the next to last paragraph of the article). The administration just wanted to have more direct control in the Treasury, even though, as noted above, the Treasury Department under Bush Jr. was promoting the expansion of precisely the type of toxic mortgages that fed the bubble. And let's understand the Kabuki dance in Congress where reform in 2005 did not occur because of an amendment that was not really all that significant and where the Republicans chose not to bring the legislation to the floor.

This is all part of the Property Party (the Democratic and Republican wings) activities that have so undermined the economic health of our nation. George Will's article in the July 1, 2011 Washington Post, which is what Dean Baker was critiquing, is just so much partisan nonsense from a propagandist of the highest order. Will does not want people to understand what happened. He just wants people to blame the Democratic Party...

(Edited and fixing a couple of links)