Saturday, December 06, 2008

William Ayers spins back

By Creature

"Symbolic acts of extreme vandalism." True, illegal, maybe necessary, ultimately fruitless, and, all the while, five words sure to make Pat Buchanan's head explode. Awesome.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Other nations and security

By Carol Gee

Since September's growing awareness that the planet was in financial trouble, it has become more and more clear that human beings are connected to each other. As global financial sectors cascaded downwards in value, all of us came to understand the reality* of globalization and interdependence. And as we watched terrorists attack Mumbai, India, we were reminded of our own vulnerability as the drama played out in real time or video clips broadcast over and over. We in the U.S. had a few 9/11 flashbacks. People in the United Kingdom and Spain probably flashed back to their own terrorism experiences.
In another era it would have taken people weeks, months or years to understand the gravity of the fiscal and national security situations. Fiber optics and satellites changed the way we perceive earth's realities, however, both in speed and in actuality of form. The past few months' meltdown and terror news got into our heads and our guts very rapidly as we watched TV, read the papers and surfed the Internet. Not long after that, it also got into our mailboxes as the consequences of the financial meltdown got more close and personal. And it entered our phones as friends and relatives learned of their losses in India.

We have no idea what it was actually like to the players on this global stage. But we got a lot of hints. In our guts, we pick up on clear signs of fear, anxiety, panic, anger, and confusion. The resultant clouded thinking was apparent in both the fiscal and security realms. And that still goes on to this day. We can see it all play out as our government and other governments try to get on top of their various crises. For Germany it meant fiscal hunkering down, for Canada it meant Parliament going home until the end of January. For India it meant dealing with their old Pakistani enemies without going nuclear. For the United States it has meant a leadership vacuum that has a lot of worried people watching it play out.

As with all crises, things eventually calm down. Crisis theory tells us that is usually about six weeks. Failure to exercise appropriate leadership happens when people in authority are still overly anxious and confused, or when they completely zone out. Successful leaders either get on top of their emotions and more rational thinking takes over, or they turn it over to someone who can exercise rational decision making. And in all Democracies the decisions must be taken under the rule of law.

India, Germany, Pakistan,* Canada# and the United States are all forms of democracy* at one level or another. Post-colonial India's long-standing democratic government is relatively weak as contrasted with the strength of their technology sector. Post-war Germany is a democracy fused from East and West Germany as well an an integral part of the emerging European Union. Pakistan is a brand new democracy born out of a military strong-man, a recent assassination, privation, tribalism and lawyer protest marches. Canada's parlimentary democracy emerged from British colonialism, and still struggles to keep its ethnic cohorts together and exercise power under Great Britain's Queen's Governor General. And, finally, the United States' constitutional and electoral processes dictate presidential lame-duck-dom for almost three months following the elections.

Yes, it always comes back to leadership within and between whatever forms the democratic governments take. We can only watch as foreign and domestic leaders react to the demands of the crises and of their own laws. It is messy and convoluted and frustrating to the citizens of all the nations mentioned. But the alternative is even messier. Leaders employ guns and bombs, threats, lies, rigidity and stubbornness, piracy, financial anarchy and partisanship. Those tactics or automatic reactions come out of real or perceived crisis, of failed dogma, of greed and contempt for the rule of law. Each gets in the way of leaders managing the crises. We are all left to chill and watch it play out, keeping our own feelings of fear, anxiety and helplessness under control.

What else helps? India must remain cooperative within the world community who stands ready to provide help and support. For example the U.S. diplomatic and national security initiatives appear to be working at the moment. Germany's Angela Merkel might regain rationality and a sense of the benefits of interdependence. Pakistan, with a few successes, may grow to see itself as more a part of the solution to terrorism than a willing safe haven for terrorists. Canada will sort out its leadership challenges, celebrate the holidays and take a breather. And we in the United States, through rational thinking and faith in the democratic process, messy as it is, will get through this recession and presidential transition. We must support our President-elect's leadership within the rule of law. And we must as a nation eventually hold the leaders who have not been rational officials operating within the rule of law accountable. We must stand back and be wise, trust the process and just chill. Have some eggnog, save some money, put up mistletoe, turn off the TV, and let your Senator or Congressperson know it would be OK to be decent and generous to blue collar as well as white collar American workers. Mark January 20th, 2009 on your calendars. We have 44 more days of this; then the grownups get to be in charge again.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are betmo* and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Friday, December 05, 2008

The Reaction in Review (Dec. 5, 2008)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:


By J. Thomas Duffy: "Top Ten Cloves: Ways NFL will tweak the rules in wake of Plaxico Burress shooting" -- Duffy lets go with another of his rib-tickling specials, this time on the bizarre story of football player Plaxico Burress.

By Mustang Bobby: "Brooks: Don't know much about education" -- Working in the education field himself, Bobby debunks columnist David Brooks views,
posting about the current needs for educational reform and writing a great tribute to teachers.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Angela Merkel: 'Germany's Herbert Hoover'" -- "Germany is facing the biggest economic challenge since World War II," and not handling it well.


By LindaBeth: "Bailouts and the corporate form" -- Lots of good questions, good facts and info, and good indignation, contrasting the auto makers' plight vs. that of the financial sector.

By Carl: "Another day older and deeper in debt" -- With a good bit of introspection, Carl reflects on his previous year with a very fine piece of writing that drew some supportive comments.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Charting a new course in U. S. foreign policy" -- This is a fascinating bit of news, an announcement that all current politically appointed ambassadors must vacate their posts by January 20.

By Libby Spencer: "Signs of change in the court" -- Hopeful post regarding the actual possibility of one good judge standing up against the government's warrentless wiretap program.

By Capt. Fogg: "Penny for your thoughts" -- Regarding flawed and outrageous airport security measures, "It's entirely possible that it could happen to you if some of the biometric devices being tested to read your thoughts and intentions are adopted."


By Carol Gee: "The truth is still coming out" -- This post exposes this week's RECESSION announcement, Bush's remake of history, the Detroit Three, Charlie Rangle's wrangles and other leadership foibles.

By Capt.Fogg: "The McCarthy Code" -- Fogg chronicles the LA Times' Neal Gabler's analysis of the ideological lineage of today's current prominent Republican leaders.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "With Rice at the U.N., Obama may take tough line on genocide" -- Her nomination, Michael says in his good analysis, "signals that the president-elect is serious not just about working with the U.N. but about confronting genocide.

By Carl: "An emotional choice" -- An interesting exploration of Hillary Clinton's reasoning in accepting the Secretary of State appointment from President-elect Obama.

By Creature: "A rebalancing of America's national security portfolio" -- This tight little post evaluates President-elect Obama's national security team using some useful insights.

Bonus: Feature stories on the Canadian parliamentary crisis, along with lots of interesting comment threads --

By Grace:

By Michael J.W. Stickings:

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Top Ten Cloves: Ways NFL will tweak rules in wake of Plaxico Burress shooting

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: Giants suspend Super Bowl hero Plaxico Burress

10. Everytime announcers say "It's a real duel here today," game stops so they can have a "real duel."

9. NFL.Com soon to offer official team handguns, with your team's logo on the handle!

8. Draw Plays -- everyone clears out and it's a shootout between the quarterback and middle linebacker

7. Extra 5 yards tacked onto crack-back blocking penalty if offending player is carrying a concealed weapon.

6. Field goal records broken all day long, as now will be conducted with football-shooting cannon.

5. Halftime shows? ... What else other than skeet shooting?

4. Burress's shooting kicks off new trend -- instead of doing end zone dance after scoring touchdowns, players shoot themselves in leg.

3. QBs who have a "rifle for an arm" can now carry rifles, holding defense at bay while they complete pass.

2. Defensive backs can pistol-whip wide receivers, but only within the first 5 yards from the line of scrimmage.

1. Offenses that run the "Shotgun Offense" can use real, loaded shotguns.


Bonus Pistol Plaxico Riffs

Newsday: Cops seek to question Plaxico Burress about shooting

NBC Sports: Police investigating cover-up in Burress case; Teammates Pierce, Bradshaw may be involved in nightclub shooting

New York Times: Police Again Take Issue With N.F.L. in Shooting

Bonus Bonus NFL Riffs

Developing Story! Tancredo: Shut Down Super Bowl; Says Two Black Coaches "Amounts To Segregation"... Appeals To NFL Commissioner To Make Big Game "Color-Blind"; Biden Weighs In, Backs Coaches

Flutie Sends "Cease-and-Desist" Letter To Media Over 'Hail Mary' References Regarding Surge ... Diminutive QB Longtime Copyright Holder; "It Still Feeds My Family"; Says Open To Negotiate On Usage

Top Ten Cloves: Ways To Tell Your Next Door Neighbor May Be Conducting Illegal Dogfights

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Another great sucking sound

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Not the sound of jobs leaving but of jobs evaporating:

The economy shed 533,000 jobs in November, according to a government report Friday - bringing the year's total job losses to 1.9 million.

November had the largest monthly job loss total since December 1974.

"This is a dismal jobs report," said Keith Hall, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at a congressional hearing. "There's very little in this report that's positive. This is maybe one of the worst jobs reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics (founded in 1884) has ever produced."

The just-under 1.9 million jobs lost in the current recession, which began in December 2007, surpasses the 1.6 million jobs lost in the 2001 recession.

It's also the sound of the Bush presidency as it winds down. The economic situation isn't entirely his fault, but he sure is going out on an exceedingly low note.

For more on the jobs report, see Joe Gandelman over at TMV.

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Brooks: Don't know much about education

By Mustang Bobby

David Brooks has an uncanny way of taking a complex issue and boiling it down to an either/or situation. That may be what they teach in Punditry 101, but when he's writing about public education and who Barack Obama should choose for the Secretary of Education, it's a lesson that is a waste of time.

As in many other areas, the biggest education debates are happening within the Democratic Party. On the one hand, there are the reformers like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, who support merit pay for good teachers, charter schools and tough accountability standards. On the other hand, there are the teachers’ unions and the members of the Ed School establishment, who emphasize greater funding, smaller class sizes and superficial reforms.

If it were that simple, then the problems would have been solved years ago and we wouldn't be having this conversation. However, what he thinks he can cram into his column and the choices he offers are superficial at best and don't even begin to scratch the surface.

Take, for example, the issue of merit pay. It makes sense on the surface; after all, good sales people are rewarded with bonuses for doing a good job, as is anyone who gets a tip, like a waiter or a cab driver. But doing it for teachers has a lot of factors that go into determining whether or not they're a "good teacher." What is the standard for judging them? High test scores on standardized tests? What does that prove other than the teacher is good at getting students to learn things by rote? That's not teaching, it's drilling, and if the students have no idea what and why they're learning, they're no better than where they were before. Second, teachers don't teach in a vacuum; there's the support mechanism of the school itself and the staff as well as the parents and the central administration. Why is merit pay only going to the teacher when everyone else -- including the students -- had a hand in the education process? (On the other hand, students can submarine a good teacher for no other reason than they're ornery kids and would like nothing better than to take out a teacher they don't happen to like that week. I've seen that happen more than once.)

Mr. Brooks tosses in the teachers' unions as if they are still a powerful force in dictating to the local school boards and have the ability to hold them hostage to their outrageous demands for decent salaries and working conditions for teachers and support staff. I'm sure there are a lot of teachers in the public schools -- especially here in Florida -- who wish that it was true. Teachers here are forbidden by law from striking, so what clout do they have other than making their case? Teachers are not required to be union members to do their job, so the cudgel that Mr. Brooks and many conservatives think the NEA holds over public education is more like a Whiffle bat. And yet the unions do serve a purpose, which is to remind the public that teachers don't "have it easy," with summers off and done with work at 2:30. Would that that was true. First, most teachers don't get paid for the summer, or if they do, it's pro-rated over the ten months, and I have yet to meet a good teacher who didn't put in 12 hours a day during the school year whether it's in the classroom, at home grading papers and writing lesson plans, attending after-school events, meeting parents, and generally keeping the peace in a sea of hyperactivity that would exhaust anyone in an hour. And all of it for a starting salary, even with advanced degrees, that would be the same as a file clerk in a small business.

I've been around education all my life. I've taught at levels from middle school to college, and now that I work in education administration, I can tell just by being around someone whether or not they have spent any time in the classroom. Mr. Brooks clearly has never spent a day in the trenches, and I challenge him to spend a week at the public school of his choice, be it the finest one in the country or the most decrepit in the poorest city in the country. He will learn two things very quickly: first, it doesn't really matter who the Secretary of Education is because all education is local, and second, the dedication of the teachers who come to school early and stay late is the same fiery passion for the job whether you're at New Trier in Winnetka, Illinois or Liberty City in Miami. We work for the kids. So knock off the unfunded mandates like No Child Left Behind and the useless boondoggles, give us the tools (and the proper environment), and let us do our job.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Angela Merkel: "Germany's Herbert Hoover"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

If you're interested in German politics, as I am, check out this post by Clay Risen at TNR's The Plank. It seems that Chancellor Merkel has responded to the economic crisis rather poorly, and her poll numbers are collapsing as a result:

What a difference three months can make. Of all Europe's leaders, no one has suffered from the economic crisis quite as much as Merkel, because no one has mishandled the crisis quite as badly as Merkel. Germany is facing its biggest economic challenge since World War II -- the Bundesbank is predicting GDP to shrink by at least, 0.8 percent in 2009; many think that's overly optimistic -- and economists, politicians, media and the public across the spectrum are calling for tax cuts and stimulus spending of the sort being rolled out in France and other EU states.

"Instead of working with Sarkozy and others on an EU-wide economic response," she's pulling a Jimmy Carter and pushing "personal belt-tightening," hardly a popular position to take. Also, "[o]n a variety of political issues, where once Germany could be expected to assert a multilateral leadership role, she has chosen a meandering unilateral path instead: Allowing vast exceptions for German industry on climate regulations, refusing to take a strong stand against Russia, and dragging her feet on Iranian sanctions."

It's never a good sign to be compared to Herbert Hoover, but "the hapless Social Democrats," her chief rivals, have yet to take advantage of the situation." However, unless she changes her ways, she may very well end up suffering Hoover's political fate.

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Whence come the horsemen?

By Greg Prince

Once in a while you stumble across a headline that's so OMFH jawdropping you just don't know what to think. Michael has a category here for certain social indicators: "Signs of the Apocalypse." He's approaching number sixty.

Far be it that I should infringe upon his gig, but today I saw a headline that hits me that way.

Consider the following from the MinnPost:

UnitedHealth to sell insurance policies that insure individuals against becoming uninsurable

This links to the following at The New York Times:

UnitedHealth to Insure the Right to Insurance

I'll be damned, but I was sure The Onion wasn't on my RSS feed.

Mind you, I don't fault United Health here -- they have evaluated the current market conditions and found a niche they think they can make a buck in. Fine, that's what successful business do. But the fact that there's a niche here to begin with, the fact that there is sufficient fear and uncertainty to make this a viable product, speaks volumes of the need for health care reform in the US.

Obama/Daschle? Are you paying attention?


A SOTA it is. And it's #60. -- MJWS

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Prop 8: The Musical

By LindaBeth

From Funny or Die, and needs no comment:

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

See my previous post critiquing the idea that marriage has been one way "since the dawn of time."

(Cross-posted to
Smart Like Me.)

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Bailouts and the corporate form

By LindaBeth

Some things have really been bothering me about the auto bailout talk vis-a-vis the financial sector bailout, and especially the recent
Citigroup bailout.

First, I agree with Rachel Maddow that something seems off when the (white collar) financial sector can get a quick bailout with few strings attached with no blame placed on employees and CEOs compensation structure (or any suggestion that it be revamped to take the federal funds), but in the case of the auto manufacturing (blue collar) sector, the quick blame is placed on the unionized workers, with their outrageous expectation for health care and decent wages. These worker "demands" are unreasonably passed on to consumers in the form of higher vehicle prices, according to conservatives like Cal Thomas, and that's the real reason US car manufacturer's cannot compete. Meanwhile, CEOs still rake in overly inflated incomes, benefits, stock options, and other perks instead of lowering vehicle prices so as to not "pass on" health care costs to the consumer. Be sure to check out this excellent analysis of the cost-per-employee figures being used to blame union labor.

Class warfare, indeed. I don't mind criticizing compensation structure, but how is unionized labor being blamed for the failure of the auto industry? What about the auto CEOs? And finance CEOs compensation is irrelevant to their bailout? This is akin to blaming welfare to the poor for the economic strain on the middle class, while the average compensation for an S & P 500 CEO in 2007 is projected to have been $14.2 million; in 2006 the average Fortune 500 CEO received $10.8 million, which is 364 times the average worker. In 2007, the Ford CEO's total compensation was $21,670,674, and GM's CEO's was $14,415,914. The average of auto worker's wages (not the pay of the average worker, but the average of workers' pay) is $20.53/hour, or $42,702/year--just below the median income. And it's the unions' fault?

Second, why is the troubled banks seen as economically "necessary" and an industry with $1.1 direct workers (in 2005) and several million related workers is not? Auto manufacturing, like the manufacturing sector of time past, has been a way for lower-skilled, less educated workers to have jobs with security, with decent wages, and health care. Sure, they can get new jobs, but what will these new jobs look like? In our deindustrialized economy, when these jobs go, they aren't going to be replaced with like jobs. The loss of these jobs will undoubtedly create new economic hardships for a slew of families. When we start talking about "necessary" industries, I want to ask, Economically necessary for who, and why?

Third, and this is really what's been getting me, I am absolutely floored that when corporations are coming to the government for help in a state of desperation and vulnerability, that we are not adequately using this leverage to make demands for corporate change. We have the position of power here. These CEOs don't want their companies to go down--think of their company stock and stock options that would become valueless! Why aren't we using it to get the regulations and accountability we've desired of them?

I just used the excellent film The Corporation (watch it in installments here) in my sociology classes this week in doing the Politics and the Economy chapter, so after watching it again -- 3 times this week -- it's been invading my thoughts. Underlying the definition of the modern corporation is that it's only legal obligation is to the shareholders, and that under a ridiculous usage of the 14th Amendment, the corporation itself is a person, meaning that no actual human being is held responsible for the actions of the corporation. This was not always so. Originally, corporations existed for the purpose of the public good. Now, they do not have any commitment to the community or tho their employees; they are legally required to act in the best interests of their shareholders in the pursuit of short-term profit (which, not surprisingly, is tied to a huge chunk of CEOs' compensation). Corporations and their activities are not held accountable to the democratic process, which is supposed to keep institutional power in check. Well, until now. To me, our economic crisis ought to be an opportunity to evaluate the way we do business (literally) in the United States, and to make steps that will hold corporations ultimately accountable to the interests of the public good (environmental, social welfare, whatever), not the interests of pure profit.

(Cross-posted to Speak Truth to Power.)

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The Prorogation of Parliament by the Coward Stephen Harper

By Grace

This morning, Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Governor General
Michaëlle Jean to ask for a prorogation of Parliament. It was granted.

As I said in a previous post, this is the most selfish and cowardly option that Harper could have pursued. Rather than face the impending confidence motion, he's delaying it by suspending all Parliamentary business. In the face of an economic recession, when swift action is needed and there's work to be done, he's ground everything to a halt -- all for the sake of staying in power.

What he's also done is alienate Quebec voters. Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe called Harper's attacks on his party
the "worst attacks against Quebecers since the Meech Lake Accord" by repeatedly using the term "separatists" (the majority of Quebec's federal seats were won by the BQ).

The New Democratic Party has vowed to oust Harper at the next possible opportunity. Will the coalition still hold together when the House sits again? It's possible. Anything can happen in a month and a half; as with the last week, the electorate will have to wait and see. If the House falls immediately, we may go to another election -- and see another two months of non-activity in government.

In the meantime, Canadians can probably expect to be bombarded with more Conservative anti-coalition and anti-Liberal ads over the next month to dissuade voters from accepting a Tory alternative. More scaremongering. More divisive rhetoric. Happy holidays, brought to you by the Conservative Party of Canada.

Despite all the talk about the opposition parties doing something "undemocratic" (which was untrue to begin with), Harper has done something even more so by disallowing elected Members of Parliament from governing the country for the next seven weeks. It's outright hypocrisy, but, after so many years, I suppose it's just his style.

Am I furious? Absolutely.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's title may include "Right" and "Honourable," but today he's proven that he's neither.

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Bare Naked Politics: The ongoing situation in Canada

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I just wanted to mention that The Guardian asked me to write an article, for it's Comment is Free section, on the turbulent political situation here in Canada (which I initially wrote about here). It was published this morning. You can find it here:

A very Canadian coup.

(Grace has also written about the situation here and here.)

And the situation keeps changing. As I indicate in my Guardian article, Prime Minister Harper, seeking to avoid a no-confidence vote (which he would lose, opening the door either to another election (we just had one less than two months ago) or to the Liberal-NDP coalition being asked to form a government), was probably going to ask the governor general (who is our head of state) to prorogue (that is, end the current session of) Parliament.

Well, he did so this morning, and she granted his request -- meaning that there will be no no-confidence vote until, at the earliest, Parliament resumes sitting late next month. The government may then lose a no-confidence vote on the Throne Speech or the budget, but, in the meantime, both sides (and the Conservatives even more so because they have more money) will campaign aggressively to woo public opinion.

The key for the Conservatives, who are in government, will be to convince Canadians that they are in fact serious about dealing with the economic and financial crisis (and that they therefore ought to remain in power), as well as to seek to break apart the coalition, or at least to undermine support for it by arguing, as they have been already, that it only has a majority of seats in the House of Commons with the support of the separatist Bloc Québécois, a party that, according to Harper today, does not work for the interests of Canada as a whole (even though, I must add, BQ MPs were democratically elected and, whatever their views on sovereignty, represent Canadians in the House -- they, as much as the other MPs, have a mandate, and their votes count just as much).

The key for the Liberals and the New Democrats, as well as for the Bloq (which has signed on to support their coalition into 2010), will be to remain united, not to mention determined, through what promises to be a bitter and contentious campaign for public support over the next month and a half or so. It would look bad for them to split apart or back down now, but I have little to no confidence in Liberal leader Stéphane Dion's ability to keep them united and determined. He pales in comparison to Harper, a vastly more talented politician, and, as he has proven yet again this week, he is simply unable to get his message across effectively. I worry that he will be overwhelmed and that the coalition will fracture.

I hesitate to call the governor general, Michaëlle Jean, a coward, but her decision, I think, was a poor one. Either she should have dissolved Parliament and called an election, or she should have given the coalition, which holds a majority of the seats in the House, the chance to govern. Instead, in granting Harper's request, she has gone along with what the Conservatives want, parliamentary democracy be damned, and given them the upper hand in terms of the campaign to come. Basically, she has saved Harper's sorry bacon, evidently putting his interests before the interests of the country.

It is a sad day for Canada.

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Another day older and deeper in debt

By Carl

It really does feel like toting sixteen tons, this past year.

My thanks to Katrina for noting that, indeed, today is my birthday. I got the greatest birthday present I could have imagined... well, almost but it was very close... precisely a month ago:

So thank you all for that.

It's been an odd year, to put it very mildly: skin cancer, plastic surgery, a crazed mother, MRSA, an economic collapse, an election, and 2009 has already thrown down its marker to try to top this past year.

It's not going to be pretty, not for all of us, not for the world, and not for me personally. That's not to say all news is bad, of course. We did elect Barack Obama, which tells me people across the country are waking up after the Bush years and realizing we just threw a party we could neither afford nor could keep away from the punch bowl. Now comes the hangover, but in hangovers can come some good, like making a note not to do that again.

And we won't. For a while. I hope the next time we do something this stupid, I will have shuffled off the mortal coil. It seems pretty certain that will be the case. I recall growing up with stories of the Depression, so the generation after mine probably skipped those stories and now they'll have their own to tell their children and grandchildren. Figure at least a half century before we allow human avarice to overcome our sense of mortality.

Most news, good or bad, is an illusion. As the saying goes, it's never as good or bad as it seems. In all good news, there are the seeds of its own demise, likewise in bad news the seeds of new hope. All births result in death. All deaths, in births.

Forgive me. I'm a bit melancholy at the moment, but as I face a few facts -- I have more days behind me than in front, we have for the first time elected a president who is younger than me -- I'm struck by how lingering and looming my mortality is, and how little I truly have accomplished.

I've not finished writing a book yet...started a dozen or so and even have one outlined to completion, but never finished one. I've not run for public office to truly try to help people who need it. I could, but I won't because I have too many skeletons.

I feel underappreciated.

Not by you guys, no way. Not even by the trolls who fester and pop up every so often here and in other places online. My "family" here is wonderful, and I love you all for that.

I feel underappreciated by myself. At my very core is this interior monologue that's saying to me "you can do better, so why won't you?"

Indeed, why not? To quote RFK: "Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?"

I dream the dream. I ask the question. Yet I find myself lacking the strength to carry out the answer.

Funny thing about it is, I'm a hypercompetitive person. I was the kid on the other team you never wanted to play against, because I would find a way to beat you for my team's sake. I was the goalie who could lose his mask and glove and risk breaking his wrist to catch a puck, or the quarterback who limped out on a bad knee or broken toe, all of which I've done and all of which I'm paying the price for now. So why not for me?

Enough introspection. Where's my fucking cake???

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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The destructiveness and historical dishonesty of Newt Gingrich

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Michelle Goldberg, author of the fantastic Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, had a must-read guest post at TNR's The Plank yesterday on Newt Gingrich's latest contribution to the far right's seemingly endless culture war in support of "religious fundamentalism and sacralized nationalism."

It involves "Gingrich hawking a full-length documentary called Rediscovering God in America," an ugly assault on liberalism and secularism that rewrites American history, turning America into a theocracy at its foundation -- as well as Gingrich's association with a rather contemptible propagandist:

"There is no attack on American culture more destructive and more historically dishonest than the relentless effort to drive God out of America's public square," Gingrich says in a trailer for the documentary on his website. Among the program's talking heads is David Barton, a former math teacher and Texas fundamentalist who has fashioned a career as a prominent revisionist historian, reinterpreting the American past along theocratic lines. Barton started out on the fringe -- in the early '90s, he was a speaker at white supremacist Christian Identity conferences -- but in the modern GOP, he's hardly an extremist. Indeed, in 2004, the RNC hired Barton to give get-out-the-vote speeches to groups of clergy nationwide. What's surprising is not that Gingrich would associate with Barton, whose work he's been praising for years. What's surprising is that, at a time of serious collapse on the right, Gingrich is hitching his bid for renewed relevance to the most exhausted culture war tropes.

Yes, Gingrich wants back in, but he's cavorting with extremists and bigots and otherwise positioning himself on the far right of the increasingly right-wing Republican Party. He has a reputation, much of it self-spun, for being "an innovator" and an ideas man, but his ideas are as crazy as he is: What exactly is "gay and secular fascism"? And how exactly is it, whatever it is, trying to "impose its will on the rest of us"? Is he being forced to his knees by jackbooted sodomites?)

Goldberg concludes: "[W]ith the defeat of Republican moderates rendering the rump GOP more right-wing than ever, [Gingrich] apparently sees a path to power in challenging Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee for leadership of the Elmer Gantry wing of his beaten party. Maybe he's clueless about the future of Republicanism, but if he's right about it, it's hard to see what kind of future Republicanism has."

Whatever the case, given the current state of the GOP, he's perfect for it.

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Minnesota Senate Recount -- update 5

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The more or less official tally has Coleman up by 316 (an increase of 101 since the start of the recount), but Franken's lead lawyer announced Wednesday afternoon that his candidate is actually in the lead by 22. How so? TPM's Eric Kleefeld explains:

The Franken camp's methodology involves taking down the opinions of the local election officials regarding the challenged ballots, and assuming that all the challenges will result in those local officials being upheld by the state canvassing board. As such, we are dependent on the Franken camp being complete and accurate in their homework, and also on their underlying assumption proving to be correct.

And how about those "mystery votes" in Minneapolis, 133 votes that have just disappeared (to the detriment of Franken)?

Quite the controversy-laden drama, this recount.

(For our previous updates on the recount, see here.)

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Charting a new course in U.S. foreign policy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Libby flagged this earlier -- concluding that she "can't think of a better way for Obama to signal that our foreign policy is about to undergo a complete turnaround" -- and I agree that it's a hugely significant development:

The incoming Obama administration has notified all politically-appointed ambassadors that they must vacate their posts as of Jan. 20, the day President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office, a State Department official said.

The clean slate will open up prime opportunities for the president-elect to reward political supporters with posts in London, Paris, Tokyo and the like. The notice to diplomatic posts was issued this week.

Political ambassadors sometimes are permitted to stay on briefly during a new administration, but the sweeping nature of the directive suggests that Obama has little interest in retaining any of Bush's ambassadorial appointees.

Most ambassadors, of course, are foreign service officers, but often the posts involving the most important bilateral relations (such as with Great Britain, Japan and India) or desirable locales (such as the Bahamas) are given to close friends and well-heeled contributors of the president.

But is it really just a move to "reward political supporters"? I suspect there's more to it. Obama wants nothing of Bush's political ambassadors because he wants nothing of Bush's foreign policy generally (Gates at the Pentagon aside). And Libby's right. For all the talk of continuity and the cautious centrism of Obama's top-level appointees, change is coming.

What this bold move shows is that Obama is serious about restoring America's standing in the world, about re-engaging with the international community, and about charting a new course in U.S. foreign policy. And there is no time to waste.

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Signs of change in the court

By Libby Spencer

One thing I learned in all the years I worked at the law firm, rarely is a decision really final in the court. There's almost always a way to challenge an unwanted result and bless EFF for remembering that and continuing the fight against telecom immunity. They've been pressing the issue on rather complicated grounds and apparently the judge agrees that their arguments have merit.

Judge Walker has long seemed keen to reach a point where he can rule on the legality of the surveillance program -- something the government would hate.

He seemed to take most issue with the portion of the immunity provision that let the attorney general tell a judge to dismiss a case because there was no surveillance. That, Walker indicated, was unprecedented and alluded that the provision could be used to hide shenanigans.

At FDL, looseheadprop sums up my reaction to this pretty well.

So, folks, let me stand and applaud the power of one. One man who is not shirking his responsibility. One man who is not doing the lazy thing, the easy thing or the expedient thing. I don't know how he will eventually rule, and the outcome may disappoint me. But in this instance, I think I will be satisfied that the decision was actually reached on its merits. That's been too rare in recent years.

Yes. Yes it has been all too rare and one can hope this signals a return to renewed respect for the rule of law.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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The gloves are off in Ottawa: the fight between the Conservative government and the opposition parties continues

By Grace

Michael and I have been following the
political brouhaha in the Canadian federal government over the last few days. Since then, the fight in Ottawa over the impending confidence motion and possible coalition has intensified into an all-out war of words.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his fellow Conservative Members of Parliament have derided the coalition as "undemocratic",
"illegitimate" and stated that the opposition would place the future of Canada in the hands of separatists. He's also accused them of being "un-Canadian" by stating that "[the three coalition leaders, Stephane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe] had to be photographed without [the Canadian flag] because … a member of their coalition does not even believe in this country," (the CBC states that this was untrue- "[the photographs] clearly showed at least two Canadian flags behind the three leaders, as well as a painting of the Fathers of Confederation.").

In the House of Commons, Stephane Dion countered that, "every member in this House has received a mandate from the Canadian people to deliver a government that will face the economic crisis. The prime minister failed. The prime minister doesn’t have the support of this House."

The Tories are determined to paint this as an "illegitimate" power grab by the opposition. The fact of the matter is that the parties took this action because, even with a minority government, and even in the face of an economic crisis, rather than trying to address national problems by producing an economic stimulus package, Harper and his Cabinet decided to govern as though they had a majority and push through bills that heavily reflected their own ideology without discussion or compromise (the now-defunct fiscal update bill also included the elimination "pay equity", which ensures that men and women receive equal pay for equal work. This in addition to the contentious removal of public subsidies for political parties). Such actions by the Tories could and should be construed as undemocratic.

The Conservatives have begun airing radio and television ads to disparage the opposition plan, something usually done during an election. The party has also stated that they will use every legal venue to stop this motion from coming forward and some have speculated that this may even include proroguing the House.

Proroguing the House would, like dissolving Parliament, require the permission of the Governor General. This would prevent the coalition from tabling the non-confidence motion, but would come at a greater cost to the Canadian public: it would suspend all Parliamentary business until January 2009. In a time of economic crisis, coalition or no, the electorate expects the federal government to get the work done to help fix the problem - it's their duty. It feels fundamentally wrong to go to such an extreme measure to avoid the vote. Governor Generals have traditionally complied with a request to prorogue the House, but it's unprecedented to be asked to do so so soon after an election.

It's a rare state for Harper to be seen in - the Conservative leader has always been so collected and calculated, and now his actions seem more desperate and panicked. The Prime Minister will appear on television tonight at 7 p.m. to address the nation. It mirrors a similar move made in 2005 by then-Prime Minister Paul Martin - also in the face of a confidence motion. The address was roundly criticized at the time for having the sole purpose of trying save the Liberal government from defeat; Harper himself called it a "sad spectacle". Funny how these things come full circle, isn't it?

Post-address - Harper didn't say anything he hasn't already said before. Same key words: "undemocratic", "backroom deals with separatists", etc. It was infuriating to hear him say that the members of the coalition were working "without your say, without your consent and without your vote." All of those Members of Parliaments involved were duly elected by their constituents, just as he was. Also: the Bloc Quebecois are not part of the formal coalition, but have merely agreed to support it on all matters of confidence for the next 18 months.

In various interviews conducted by the CBC, Quebec residents have indicated that the Conservatives' repeated use of the term "separatists" to refer to the Bloc Quebecois are seen as "scare-mongering" and divisive. This tactic may have backfired and the Tories may have burned their bridges in that province for it.

Once again, the Prime Minister stated that he would use all legal means to prevent the confidence motion (he used the term "protect our democracy"). He
has also scheduled an economic summit with provincial leaders on January 16, fueling concerns that he may indeed ask the Governor General to prorogue Parliament.

A request for prorogation would be proof of where Harper's priorities actually lie: clinging to power. And if it is indeed used to postpone the confidence motion, thereby leaving Parliament in this same state of unresolved disarray over the next month while Canadians and the economy suffer, it's all the more cowardly.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet with Governor General
Michaëlle Jean tomorrow morning at 9:30 EST.

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It's about time

By Mustang Bobby

A poll in Miami-Dade County among Cuban-Americans indicates a marked change in attitude about the embargo and diplomatic relations with Cuba.

The poll, conducted by Florida International University's Institute for Public Opinion Research and funded by the Brookings Institution and the Cuba Study Group, indicates that 55 percent of those polled favor discontinuing the trade embargo imposed in 1962. Sixty-five percent favor reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

''The poll has an extraordinary historical importance,'' said Guarione Díaz, president of the Cuban American National Council, a nonpartisan advocacy group in Miami.

The results, particularly as they relate to the embargo, reflect ''the fact that the Cuban Americans who were born in the United States or left after 1980 do not have the same vision as those who came in the 60s,'' Díaz said.

Ninoska Pérez, director of the conservative Cuban Liberty Council, dismissed the results.

''I am tired of these polls that mean nothing,'' she said. ''The point is that three Congress members who support the embargo were elected by an overwhelming majority of the people. The reelection of these Congress members tells me that this sample is not a majority. I don't believe this poll.''

The embargo question has been consistent since FIU began conducting the poll in 1991. Beginning in 1997, the trend showed a gradual decrease of support for maintaining the embargo. But this year's poll is the first to show a majority in favor of lifting it. In 2007, 42 percent of those polled were in favor of ending the trade ban.

''It's a significant jump,'' said Hugh Gladwin, director of the Institute for Public Opinion Research at FIU.

''I'd give two explanations. The first one is that there's been this continuing demographic change. The other factor is the election of Obama. There's a process of change. People see the handwriting on the wall,'' he added.

I've been around long enough to have seen the embargo in place from the beginning in 1962 -- I was ten -- and I have never understood the reasoning behind it, then and now. When I moved to Miami in 1971 to go to college and then again thirty years later, I asked some Cuban friends to explain why the embargo, which by then was clearly not having the desired effect, still had their unshakable support. The answer boiled down to "It's a Cuban thing; you wouldn't understand."

Okay, well, then don't expect me to be sympathetic to a policy that seems both pointless and harmful, and not to the intended targets. There is no doubt that the Castro brothers are thugs and dictators, but all the embargo did was give them an excuse for prolonging their "struggle," and we couldn't have handed them a better gift of legitimizing their regime if we had delivered it to them with candy and a stripper. The tightening of the travel and financial restrictions by the current Bush administration did nothing to Fidel and Raul, but it imposed more misery and family separation on the exile community here in Miami. And yet every time someone mentions loosening the restraints and dealing with a dictatorship on the same level we deal with all the other non-democratic governments around the world, including Vietnam, where over 58,000 Americans lost their lives (and a country that now sells us tennis shoes) and China, which basically holds the mortgage on our financial system, we hear the knee-jerk responses like those of Ms. Pérez, who shuts her eyes, sticks her fingers in her ears, and basically says that she doesn't believe the polls.

While I may not understand the Cuban thing, one thing that's clear to me is that unlike Vietnam and China, the Cuban embargo is based not on practical policy but on a personal vendetta that is deeply felt by every exile who blames Fidel Castro personally for their plight and everything else that goes wrong in their life. The car won't start or the hot water heater leaks? Fidel did it. The dog crapped on the carpet? Again, Fidel. It's as if in 1959 Castro himself marched into their home in Pinar del Rio, parked his ass on the couch, put his combat boots on the coffee table, ground out his cigar in the family portrait, and told everyone to get out and leave the keys to the Desoto by the door.

And I know any number of people in the exile community who are prepared for their own version of the Rapture: As soon as word comes that Fidel and Raul have shuffled off this khaki coil they will be on the first plane back to Havana, property deeds and house keys in hand, ready to resume their life as if they've been off on a vacation. They carry on about how they are dreaming of a "free Cuba," as if the previous regime of Batista was a model of Jeffersonian democracy. This, more than any economic or political logic, is the mindset that keeps the embargo in place, refusing to acknowledge the possibility that if we had flooded Cuba with McDonald's, Wal-Mart, and -- most importantly -- a chain of NAPA auto parts stores, the Cuban revolution's dictatorial and Soviet-style elements would have been deeply challenged by the time we started shipping them Ford Pintos in 1972. Capitalism may have its flaws, but it is undeniably human nature to try to make a buck, and it's awfully hard to chant revolutionary slogans when you're listening to the Beatles on an iPod.

Perhaps with a new administration in Washington -- the eleventh since Castro came to power -- will come some enlightenment about the embargo. And while there will be an uproar from some on Calle Ocho if the restrictions are loosened, you can be pretty sure that some of the first in line for the first flights back will be those who protested the loudest. But then, it's a Cuban thing; you wouldn't understand.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Worse than anticipated

By Carl

There are some eye-opening tidbits in the latest private sector jobs report:

NEW YORK ( -- The U.S. economy shed a quarter-million private-sector jobs in November, according to a payroll processor's report that was worse than economists expected.

Non-farm private employment fell by 250,000 jobs from the previous month on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the ADP National Employment Report.

The report was expected to show a decline of 200,000 jobs in November, according to a consensus of economist projections compiled by

The goods-producing sector lost 158,000 jobs last month, its 24th consecutive month of decline, according to the report. This includes 118,000 positions in manufacturing and 44,000 construction jobs.

The service industry shed 92,000 jobs, its second month of losses since the ADP reports began tracking employment in 2002.

So you can see, this recession has been a long time coming and very slow to develop, like a really really bad flu. And it will take a long time to work its way through the system.

It's very unusual for a jobs report to be 25% understated from predictions, in either direction. These folks usually have a pretty good idea what's going on in the marketplace. My suspicion is a lot of business-owners just tossed the keys on the bank manager's desk and said, "Here, you deal with this."

It's not a whole lot different walking away from a business than it is walking away from a house, to be sure.

Note too that for seven years, the service sector has added jobs every month except one (have to look that up), until last month. And keep in mind that this is just ahead of the Christmas season, when retailers normally hire both temps and permanent workers. The fourth quarter is when retailers justify their 2009 budgets.

This report differs from the "official" jobs report, because it ignores government jobs. When Bush expanded the Department of Homeland Security, in effect, he created a mask for the really horrendous employment numbers of the manufacturing sector of private industry, banking heavily on the snapshot reporting of not only the network news organizations, but of the business channels as well.

After all, when was the last time you heard Brian or Katie or Charlie say anything more than "The jobs report came out today and the unemployment rate is..."?

Possibly someone on CNBC (forget FOX Business News) will invite a contrarian on to discuss the numbers who will point out that private sector hiring is lagging. Maybe. And that's usually in the middle of the day when everyone is watching the ticker.

So when someone tells you this recession is a product of the sub-prime meltdown and the credit crisis, keep this article in mind. This thing has been a long time coming and is developing very slowly, and will take a long time to work its way through the belly of the beast.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Penny for your thoughts

By Capt. Fogg

You arrive in the airport terminal a bit frazzled by the traffic jams, congestion in the parking lot, the escalators; you keep looking at your watch because it's getting close to boarding time and you have that long security line ahead where you have to take off your belt and shoes and have your toiletries examined. You've begun to sweat, your heart is pounding. Quickly you look at the Departures screen to see if maybe you've lucked out and your flight is ten minutes late: WHAT? did I just see that? did the screen say "I'm going to blow up the plane" for a microsecond? Before you can finish asking yourself whether you've broken under the stress of modern air travel, two men in black suits and sunglasses grab your arms and lead you away into a little room. . . .

No, I'm not dabbling in sci-fi here. It's entirely possible that it could happen to you if some of the biometric devices being tested to read your thoughts and intentions are adopted. It's not enough to know whether you're carrying a dangerous nail clipper or an ounce too much of Johnson's baby shampoo anymore. They want to know your intentions and they think they can do it.

Several Israeli-based technology companies are developing detection systems that pick up signs of emotional strain, a psychological red flag that a passenger may intend to commit an act of terror,

says CNN.

One firm, WeCU (pronounced "We See You") Technologies, employs a combination of infra-red technology, remote sensors and imagers, and flashing of subliminal images, such as a photo of Osama bin Laden. Developers say the combination of these technologies can detect a person's reaction to certain stimuli by reading body temperature, heart rate and respiration, signals a terrorist unwittingly emits before he plans to commit an attack.

If the machine can tell the difference between the fear of losing your job if you're late for a meeting, fear of mind reading machines themselves; fear about any number of things including airplanes, I would be amazed, even though we do live in an age of amazing technology. Will the Mercedes dealer install these things to determine if you're really able to buy or are just kicking tires?

Technology gets smaller and cheaper at a predictable rate. I'm absolutely positive that within a few years it will be available for under $100 and be as small as a wristwatch or hearing aid or at least small enough to fit in your wife's purse. So don't rely on those Ray-Bans to keep her unaware of just how fascinating that mini-skirt in front of you is. She'll know.

(Cross-posted from
Human Voices.)

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Murkowski pushes back on possible Palin Senate run

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I meant to post on this yesterday...

It seems that Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski doesn't much care for Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. In response to the possibility that Palin will run against her in the Republican Senate primary in 2010, Murkowski had this to say:

I can guarantee it would be a very tough election... If she wants to be president, I don't think the way to the presidency is a short stop in the United States Senate.

Said one Democratic pollster, a Murkowski-Palin contest "would be a titanic struggle."

For more, see Libby over at The Impolitic.

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More Bush?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Jeb in the Senate?

Are Americans doomed to repeat their mistakes of the past? Will Florida do it for them?

(Oh, right, Jeb's the smart one. Well, that's not saying much, is it? Besides, a smarter Bush would be all that more dangerous.)

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Chambliss wins in Georgia, Coleman maintains lead in Minnesota

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I've been busy this evening writing an article that I hope will soon be published -- more on that if and when -- but I just thought I'd post quickly on the Senate races in Georgia and Minnesota.

Georgia: The run-off was held on Tuesday (today until about 45 minutes ago), and Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss defeated Democratic challenger Jim Martin. And it wasn't close. With 99 percent reporting, Chambliss is up 57 to 43. (He won the initial vote last month 50 to 47 -- or, rather, just under 50 to 47. Why the expanded win? Republicans came out en masse for Chambliss, with the likes of Sarah Palin stumping for him, and it may be that they just wanted it more than the Democrats did. Of course, it could also be that incumbents tend to do well in run-offs. And, of course, Georgia is still a solidly Republican state.)

Minnesota: The recount continues... Democratic challenger Al Franken picked up 37 votes in Ramsey County today, when 171 votes were found to have been uncounted "due to a combined machine malfunction and human error," according to the Star Tribune. Still, with 93 percent of votes recounted (and with more than 6,000 ballots challenged), Republican incumbent Norm Coleman leads by 303. (The Franken camp claims Coleman's lead is just 50.) According to Eric Kleefeld at TPM Election Central, the momentum may be swinging back to Coleman. However, Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight says that his "statistical models," which recently projected Franken the eventual winner, "now show Norm Coleman as the favorite to retain his senate seat, although with a high degree of uncertainty and without accounting the effects of potential rejected absentee ballots."

For my previous updates on the Minnesota recount, see here, here, and here. For all our posts on Minnesota, see here.

With the Republican win in Georgia, the Democrats won't make it to 60 seats in the Senate. But as I and many others have pointed out, though, 60 is something of an artificial threshold (given the obsession with the filibuster). Very few votes in the Senate are strict party-line, and the Democrats should be able to pull over one or two, or more, Republicans on any given vote. But, then, the Democrats will also lose votes. Even with 60 senators, they would hardly be guaranteed of having a filibuster-proof majority on any given vote. The point is, whether it's 58 or 59, the Democrats will have a huge majority in the Senate. If they, and Obama, are able to reach out across the aisle to the few moderate Republicans left, they should be able to get stuff done (not least because there's a huge Democratic majority in the House as well).

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The truth is still coming out

By Carol Gee

It is not a pretty picture as the Bush administration transitions out. In an interesting turn of events our current president (OCP) has taken to a bit of introspection. Do not hold your breath for miraculous self-awareness, however. Mr. Bush said, in a series of interviews filled with Freudian slips, that all the bad stuff just cannot be his fault. In The Washington Post, for example:

In the interview with ABC's Charles Gibson, Bush also admitted to errors and regrets in several key areas. He said he wished "the intelligence had been different" on Iraq but declined to speculate on whether he still would have decided to go to war. "That is a do-over that I can't do," he said.

Perpetual denial has been another hallmark of the current administration. Think Progress (12/1/08) headlined, "For Nearly A Year After Recession Started, Bush White House Insisted That 'We're Not In A Recession'."# This most recent instance of avoiding the truth had rather large consequences, an almost 700-point drop in the stock market on Monday. To quote:

Earlier today, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) announced that “the U.S. has been in a recession since December 2007, making official what most Americans have already believed about the state of the economy.” The group, which the White House has previously pointed to as the determinative body for declaring a recession, said in a statement that the “decline in economic activity” after Dec. ‘07 “was large enough to qualify as a recession.”

White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto commented on the news “without ever actually using the word ‘recession.’” Instead, Fratto released a statement saying the White House was focused on what they “can do for the economy right now.”

It’s not surprising that Fratto would avoid the word “recession.” Though economic analysts and experts were predicting in late 2007 and early 2008 that the U.S. economy was likely to face a recession, Fratto declared on Jan. 8, 2008, “I don’t know of anyone predicting a recession.”

Democratic leaders and lawmakers are being forced to deal with the truth. The economic meltdown persists and ever-widening ripples affect state and local circumstances. President-elect Obama is doing his part, and Congress will be getting back to work on it this week. Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was to meet with Governors association leaders to discuss their states' needs that could be included in any possible stimulus package. The ideas include transportation and infrastructure projects that are ready to go, and help with Medicaid shortfalls. The President- and Vice-President-elect are set to meet with the Governors' representatives today, Tuesday. If everything worked perfectly, such a multi billion dollar economic stimulus bill would land on President-elect Obama's desk the day he takes office. Congressional Quarterly Politics has the details.

What should Congress do about the ailing auto industry? The auto executives' last appearances before Congressional committees presented a very discouraging picture of lagging behind, staying in denial, and succumbing to greed. Committee members were not impressed and told them to come back with something reflecting a more realistic picture. Tuesday is the due date for the Big Three car makers to present their separate plans to Congress in order to receive financial aid. To quote the Politico article:

Detroit’s Big Three take center stage in Congress this week, with Democrats working to stave off bankruptcy but insisting that any government loans will be callable if a company fails to live up to the restructuring plans due Tuesday. . . . But with new unemployment numbers due Friday, the immediate priority for Democrats is keeping the companies afloat through the first quarter of 2009 and thereby buying time for the new Obama administration to get its feet on the ground and address the situation.

. . . This week’s hearings — beginning Wednesday at the Senate Banking Committee and then Friday before the House Financial Services Committee — are pivotal given the political landscape. And even if the leadership opts to press ahead with an aid package, it could become entwined with other demands by states for aid to help with food banks and health care for the poor.

Monday’s official confirmation that the nation is in recession punctuated bad economic reports for manufacturing and construction — followed by a nearly 680-point drop in the stock market.

It does not look very good for Charley Rangel. The truth of the matter is not yet known. Because he is facing an enlarging Ethics Committee investigation for several alleged instances of wrong-doing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces pressure to replace Rangel (D-NY) as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The investigation could be settled before the end of the 110th Congress on January 3, but it is not a sure thing. Tuesday's Politico story by John Bresnahan explores Rangel's concerted challenge of the truthfulness of The New York Times, which recently exposed new potential ethics problems for Rangel. And Republicans, of course, are all over those problems.

Democrats also face their own internal divisions in Congress. Politico has a good analysis of how that the differences might play out. To quote:

With nearly complete control of Washington for the first time in three decades, Democrats are entering a treacherous power zone in which many of their priorities could easily be undone by the geographic, demographic and ideological factions that compete for supremacy within the party.

Unless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can whip their caucuses into unity, numerous fault lines will be revealed: Southern Democrats vs. Northern liberals on labor law; California greens vs. Rust Belt Democrats on global warming; socialized medicine adherents vs. go-slow health care reformers; anti-war liberals vs. cautious centrists on national security. And don’t forget the anti-bailout crowd vs. the powerful Michigan Democrats in both chambers when it comes to money for Detroit.

Republicans insist they will fight for their issues when they can, but they also might simply take a front-row seat to see if Democrats implode.

The truth is coming out. OCP will not change, nor will his legacy. The economic crisis will not improve very much between now and January 20. And by then, most of the money in the bailout bill will have been spent by Henry Paulson. There will be none available to help states and local governments. That must wait for a new Congress and a new president. Truthfully, the auto makers could also be forced to wait. Speaker Pelosi, rightfully, must wait for her Ethics Committee members to decide what is the truth of Rangel's troubles. And both Senate and House leaders will have to accept the truth of how weak or strong are their law-making majorities. It will be very interesting to watch it all play out.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo"* and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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