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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We are all Jezebels now

by digby

Gay rights activist Evan Hurst attended a Reverend Lou Engle revival meeting and lived to tell the tale. Holy moly. Apparently, everyone, including other Christians, are "Jezebels" and the whole country is subject to God's law subject to the good Reverend's interpretation:

“Voting is not just a political act! It is not just a choice that you make. It’s not some kind of decision. I’m shouting it. The Bible says that God gave Adam the responsibility to govern! From the beginning, man was given the government of the earth! Romans 13 says all government is derived from God’s government. It’s all delegated authority, and that those governors are to rule in such a way, in the fear of the Lord, Psalms chapter 2. So, if all government comes from God, then THE GOVERNMENT WE HAVE IN AMERICA IS FROM GOD! So, who is the government? Not Barack Obama! It’s a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Therefore, when you vote for those who shed innocent blood, you are making a governmental decision under the government of God! You are actually in the rebellion of Psalms 2! You will actually be held accountable for how you govern! We have to tremble in the voting booth. We should tremble in voting booths! You don’t choose a person because you feel good about him, or he feels like maybe he’s going to change the world, YOU VOTE ON THEIR STAND ON THE FOUNDATIONS OF BIBLICAL TRUTH! Because if you don’t, you’re actually handing the keys to people who have anti-Christ spirits! You are actually giving authority to someone who is in rebellion to God! … There is a higher government than the governments of men. We are a citizenship of heaven, and that citizenship of heaven influences everything we do, every decision in our lives. I want to stand before the Lord and say ‘When you gave me the government in America, I did what you wanted me to do.’ Because if I don’t, then we’ll hear those same words of Psalms 2, Therefore you kings be warned, Tremble you judges of the earth. Who are the kings?”

I think that might be what Tom Coburn was hinting at during today's Kagan hearing.

Read on if you dare.The followers were all swaying back and forth repeating simple phrases while Engle babbled on warning the "kings."

The revivals are happening all over the country. And they are filled with young, suburbanites. Yikes.

Happy Days Are Here Again

by digby

It's all good. Susie found reason to celebrate!

Great news! Doesn't this make you feel better?

The 6.8 million Americans out of work for 27 weeks or longer -- a record 46 percent of all the unemployed -- are providing U.S. companies with an eager, skilled and cheap labor pool. This is allowing businesses to retool their workforces, boosting efficiency and profits following the deepest recession since the 1930s, and contributing to a 61 percent rise in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index since March 2009.

“Companies are getting higher-productivity employees for the same or lower wage rate they were paying a marginal employee,” said James Paulsen, who helps oversee about $375 billion as chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management in Minneapolis. “Not only are employees higher skilled, you have a better skill match. You have a more productive and more adaptive labor force.”

Falling wage pressures will help keep inflation low, contributing to lower Treasury-bond yields, according to Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina. He forecasts 10-year Treasuries will yield about 3.1 percent in the third quarter, compared with 4 percent in April.

High skilled workers are taking low wage jobs, just like Sharron Angle said they should. (Not enough of them, of course. All those scofflaws still on UI need to start picking cotton.) And it's working out just wonderfully for business, which means it's god's work.

But let's not get carries away and think that because workers are getting screwed and inflation and interest rates are low there is no reason why we shouldn't panic about future deficits and cut the safety net immediately. Why that should be true I don't know, but a very smart Phd at the Fed told me not to worry my pretty little head about it cuz I'm too stoopid, so I won't.

Right now, we should all have a great big party to celebrate the fact that we are becoming competitive with other countries(otherwise known as falling wages and living standards.) Huzzah. Happy days are here again.

Gosh I sure do hope those Chinese workers are getting big raises because somebody's going to have to start buying all that crap from Walmart.

PS: They do sort of belatedly admit that there might be a teensy bit of a problem if you have a large and growing permanent underclass. It's so unpleasant walking over the beggers.

But hey, no need to rain on the parade with all that downer talk. It's very good news is that the middle class is dwindling and income inequality is growing.

Is this a great country or what?

The MOUs Sacrificed, So Should You

by digby

Thinking about the developing conservative meme about giving the unemployed "tough love" and forcing them to go back to entry level jobs that don't exist, I couldn't help but remember some of the arguments we heard not long ago when it was suggested that the taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook for the Master's of the Universe's million dollar bonuses:


"A lynch mob is expanding: the peasants with their pitchforks surrounding the corporate headquarters of AIG, demanding heads. Death threats are pouring in. All of this being ginned up by the Obama administration... This $500,000 limit on executive pay -- let me tell you why it won't work. New York City will die. New York City needs a whole bunch of people being paid a whole lot of money, so they can tax their butts off, so that the city can maintain its stupid streets, potholes, and welfare state. Without the super wealthy in New York, it's over. ... This -- it's just a populist ruse. It's just designed to people go, 'Yeah, yeah!'"

That's right. Everybody knows that you can stimulate the economy much better by having one wealthy investment banker buy treasury bonds or rare pieces of art than a thousand lowly laid off insurance salesman or police officers spending it on groceries and gasoline. That's just basic wingnut economics 101.

How about this one:

"The pay scale for Wall Street is different (than) the pay scale for America," explained the chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable in an ABC News interview this month. "So these numbers look large, but the market value for these executives -- there's a very small talent pool of individuals that have the education, experience and knowledge to operate a global, international services firm in this day and age. I don't think the issue is a dollar amount. It's being paid what you're worth. Would you be willing to work for less than what you think you're worth?"

If I were a very special person such as that, well, of course not. It's only the "small people" who need tough love in these troubled times.

These bankers and wall street wizards are the very backbone of our economy, working harder than any of the rest of us for the good of the nation and so they deserve to make in five minutes what people surviving on unemployment get in a week. One could never ask such superior people to take a pay cut or start over by taking a minimum wage job.

Indeed, even asking them to forgo their million dollar bonuses after nearly destroying the global economy was a ridiculous idea and luckily, like the proposed limits on executive pay, they were quietly shelved. It's one thing to tell someone who's getting by on 300.00 a week to suck it up. It's quite another to force the true victims of this economy to suffer.

As saintly AIG executive Jake DeSantis plaintively wailed detailed in the NY Times:

After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.

This poor man suffered greatly. (It's much worse psychologically to lose millions than it is to lose some measly 401k that couldn't even pay for a gourmet hotdog in the Hamptons):

The profitability of the businesses with which I was associated clearly supported my compensation. I never received any pay resulting from the credit default swaps that are now losing so much money. I did, however, like many others here, lose a significant portion of my life savings in the form of deferred compensation invested in the capital of A.I.G.-F.P. because of those losses. In this way I have personally suffered from this controversial activity — directly as well as indirectly with the rest of the taxpayers.

Breaks your heart, doesn't it? How could anyone have asked such victims to suffer even more by asking them not to take their hard earned bonuses?

As most of us have done nothing wrong, guilt is not a motivation to surrender our earnings. We have worked 12 long months under these contracts and now deserve to be paid as promised. None of us should be cheated of our payments any more than a plumber should be cheated after he has fixed the pipes but a careless electrician causes a fire that burns down the house.

Well ... they were actually like employees of a housing contractor that burned down the whole town because they cut corners who then held up the residents for big bucks to clean up all the toxic waste. But whatever, there was no denying just how unfair it was to complain about these bonuses when these guys were such hard workers who had made such sacrifices:

So what am I to do? There’s no easy answer. I know that because of hard work I have benefited more than most during the economic boom and have saved enough that my family is unlikely to suffer devastating losses during the current bust. Some might argue that members of my profession have been overpaid, and I wouldn’t disagree.


On March 16 I received a payment from A.I.G. amounting to $742,006.40, after taxes.

He said he was going to donate that full amount to charity as a political protest --- yet another high-minded sacrifice.

The least the lazy unemployed can do is follow this noble person's example and give up their 300 dollars a week in benefits. We all have to pitch in.

Common Ground

by digby

I just want to give another shout out to the helpful Democratic strategists who think it's just a terrific idea to encourage forced pregnancy advocates to run for office as Democrats:

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced this weekend that Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) will soon introduce legislation that would bar Congress from using taxpayer money to support abortions or abortion coverage.

The legislation would extend the so-called "Hyde amendment," which in its current form only applies to Health and Human Services (mainly Medicaid) funds allocated in the department's annual appropriations bill; the issue came up again during the healthcare reform debate when an amendment by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joseph Pitts (R-Penn.) to apply the Hyde language to the bill passed the House but not the Senate.

"I believe this must be the next objective for pro-life America," Boehner said, speaking Saturday at the 40th annual National Right to Life Convention in Pittsburgh, Penn. "It's clear from the health care debate that the American people don't want their tax dollars paying for abortion, and a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives agrees."

No, it's clear from the health care debate that the Catholic Bishops are an adjunct of the Republican party and that anti-choice Democrats are idiots.

This is a huge problem and it's not going away. The Religion Industrial Complex has made huge strides in infiltrating the Democratic party, with the help of a bunch of "pragmatists" who insisted that if only they could neutralize these "icky" women's issues we could pass our economic and foreign policy agenda easily. How's that working out for us?

Blue America Chat With Raul Grijalva

by digby

10:30 PDT at Crooks and Liars

From Howie:

When Arizona's accidental governor signed SB 1070 into law in April, Digby, John and I put up a new Blue America page, One America, dedicated to helping Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) fight back against Know Nothings and teabaggers in his state. Yesterday Congressman Grijalva met with Presidnet Obama at the White House to comprehensive discuss immigration and we invited him to join us for a chat ...

This year, because of his forthright stand against SB 1070, the GOP has targeted Rep. Grijalva and they and their front groups have been pouring a great deal of money into the election. This is anything but a safe seat. Although Pima and Santa Cruz counties went for Obama in 2008, Pinal, Maricopa, Yuma and La Paz counties all voted Republican. Rep. Grijalva has been popular in the district but the Republicans have their divisive engine on overdrive. Our guy doesn't whore himself out to lobbyists and corporate PACs. Digby, John and I want to ask you to consider joining us in doing what you can to retain a true tribune for ordinary working American families. That's why Raúl Grijalva is the only Member of Congress aside from Alan Grayson with his own personal Blue America page! Today marks the first of a monthly series Crooks and Liars will host with Congressman Grijalva.

Join us at 10:30.


by digby

I'm so glad someone finally pointed this out. I'm even more glad it was Jon Stewart:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Of course, it was completely different when they blamed Clinton because everything actually was his fault. Bush, on the other hand, is a victim of left wingers who hate America. That goes without saying.

Who Are These People?

by digby

Not all Democrats are alike, obviously. There are corporate Democrats and populist Democrats and ACLU Democrats and pro-military Democrats and many other permutations of Democrats. In fact, the party is so disparate that it's often philosophically incoherent. But there are such things as defining issues --- things so intrinsic to the shared values of a political party that being on the other side is an act of fundamental betrayal.

If a congressperson find finds him or herself voting against extending unemployment insurance during a severe economic crisis then I think they have hit a wall and should ask themselves (and their constituents should ask them) on what basis can they possibly define themselves as Democrats. In fact, I can't see on what basis they even call themselves human beings.

Here's the list of Democrats who voted "No" yesterday, via Howie:

John Adler (D-NJ)- still on autopilot
Brian Baird (D-WA)- willing to thumb his nose at voters since he's retiring
Melissa Bean (D-IL)- the Chamber of Commerce's go-to person inside the Democratic caucus
Marion Berry (Blue Dog-AR)
Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL)
Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS)
Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN)
Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN)
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (Blue Dog-SD)
Baron Hill (Blue Dog-IN)
Frank Kratovil (Blue Dog-MD)
Betsy Markey (Blue Dog-CO)
Jim Marshall (Blue Dog-GA)
Walt Minnick (Blue Dog-ID)- only Democrat, in a manner of speaking, endorsed by both the U.S. Chamber and the Tea Party
Glenn Nye (Blue Dog-VA)- still on autopilot like Adler
Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC)

I honestly can't see why I should care if any of these people keep their seats any more than I should care about your average teabagging wingnut Republican.

And it's not an excuse to say that their own district's unemployment rate is low. There are times when every representative must look beyond the parochial concerns of their own constituents and represent their party and the nation as a whole. This is one of them.

Update: There were, by the way, Blue Dogs in conservative districts who voted for the extension. There were even some Republicans.

Update II: Someone should ask these so-called Democrats if they agree with this outrageousness from the reprehensible piece of work who calls herself Marie Antoinette .... er, Sharron Angle (via Sargent):

What has happened is the system of entitlement has caused us to have a spoilage with our ability to go out and get a job...There are some jobs out there that are available. Because they have to enter at a lower grade and they cannot keep their unemployment, they have to make a choice now.

We're making them make a choice between unemployment benefits and going back to work and working up through the ranks of that job and actually building up a good wage again...

What we need to do is make that unemployment benefit go down, not just completely remove the safety net from them while they go out and go to work.

Her soul mate Rand Paul said the same thing the other day. I'm guessing Frank Luntz did some focus groups and found that this was their best argument for their scumbag policy.

Greg Sargent comments that the Dems caricature the Republicans as heartless on unemployment but Angle is offering what she thinks is a serious prescription. I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. It perfectly illustrates not only their heartlessness, but their rank elitism and utter ignorance about the way people actually live. According the Angle and Rand Paul, the quack millionaire, these unemployed need a little "tough love" and must be willing to completely start over and pick strawberries or work as dishwashers, regardless of their experience, education or age. And if they lose everything they have worked for, well that's the breaks. It's patently obvious that they don't give a damn about the individual pain they are prescribing so blithely and that they also have no idea what such prescriptions will do to the American economy as a whole.

In case you were wondering, the highest weekly benefit in Nevada is 362.00 a week.

Fin-Reg End Game

by digby

So, it looks like they've managed appease the Republican presidents and Fin-Reg may finish up. (Maybe not though ... It's razor thin.)
Kevin Drum helpfully supplies the overview:

[H]ere's a brief rundown of what we'll get out of it:

* Companies selling mortage-backed securities will be required to retain a portion of the risk on their own books. The originate-to-distribute model, where dealers bundled up loans and immediately turned around and sold off the whole package, created a system where bundlers had no incentive to make sure the underlying loans were any good. This provision helps rein this in.
* Commercial banks will face restrictions on the amount of proprietary trading they can do. This is the so-called Volcker Rule, and although it was watered down in conference (banks can still trade up to 3% of their capital for their own accounts) it's still a pretty good safety valve for the banking industry.
* A Consumer Finance Protection Agency will be set up within the Federal Reserve. I was initially opposed to housing the CFPA at the Fed, but I came around to the idea based on the argument that this will allow the CFPA to offer higher salaries and attract better talent. This is a significant win, and Elizabeth Warren says she's pretty happy with it.
* Derivatives trading will largely be forced onto public exchanges. Certain standard derivatives will still be offered over-the-counter, which is too bad, but more complex instruments like credit default swaps will be made considerably safer by this rule.
* Dick Durbin's interchange regulation for debit cards was adopted. This doesn't affect the safety and soundness of the banking system, but it's a good step forward for transparency and consumer protection.
* Capital requirements for large banks will be increased. Together with the Basel III requirements currently under negotiation, this is a key step toward making the entire financial system safer and less leveraged.
* Other changes that are good, though watered down from where they ought to be, include ratings agency reform, resolution authority, systemic risk regulation, and SEC authority over hedge funds.

This doesn't go as far as it should. There should be greater constraints on leverage. The prop trading and derivatives trading regs were weakened more than they should have been. Some critics think the big banks should have been forcibly broken up.

Still, even in its weakened state, the bill is stronger than it was a few months ago and it will go a long way toward reducing the size and profitability of the banking sector — which is why the banking industry is fighting it tooth and nail.

I'm not sure about that last part, although it may be so in this case. The Big Money Boyz have every reason to portray any kind of regulation as a catastrophic assault on their very existence even if they are quite satisfied with the results. The money they spend in chump change and it's worth every penny to make the politicians scared to go far enough to really bite. It's part of the kabuki.

But it appears these regs are an improvement over the status and may well set the stage for more if the economy stays bad. And it's a big political hammer with which to hit these crazed Republicans over the head this fall, so it's worth doing on that basis alone.

We'll see though. Every egomaniacal Senator is now a king so anything could happen.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Money Isn't Real

by digby

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution has written a piece that will blow your mind and challenge the way you think about our economic situation:
[M]uch of the world's elite understand exactly what they're doing: i.e., use the economic catastrophe they themselves created as a pretext to kill the welfare state they've despised for 65 years. Nonetheless, a significant chunk of them actually believe they're doing the right thing for everyone.

How is this possible? The best explanation I've seen appears in a 1994 book by John Ralston Saul called The Doubter's Companion. It's a kind of dictionary—the whole book is just him defining and discussing a bunch of words. And one thing he defines is "debt, unsustainable levels of." Everything you need to understand about our current attempt to obliterate ourselves can be found within it. His most important point is that money is not real. Yet somehow we've decided it's a great idea to stop feeding real food to real people and cease educating real children in order to demonstrate fealty to an abstract concept.

My favorite parts are these, but you should go below the fold and read the whole thing:

A nation cannot make debts sustainable by cutting costs. Cuts may produce marginal savings, but savings are not cash flow. This is another example of the alchemist’s temptation...

Civilizations which become obsessed by sustaining unsustainable debt-loads have forgotten the basic nature of money. Money is not real. It is a conscious agreement on measuring abstract value. Unhealthy societies often become mesmerized by money and treat it as if it were something concrete. The effect is to destroy the currency’s practical value.

Read on here. It is so outside the range of mainstream belief that it takes a couple of readings to actually grok what he's saying. But it had a familiar ring to it as well and I realized that I had read something along these lines just recently, from James Galbraith. It's technical rather than philosophical, but the effects are the same. Naturally the Very Serious People were appalled.

Regardless of whether you are prepared to accept these premises, one thing does become clear when you read Jonathan's post. "Money" is more real to our ruling class than are human beings. Same as it ever was?

McEntee Gives 'Em Hell

by digby

Gerald McEntee's keynote address at the AFSCME convention in Boston was a real barn burner. This excerpt is particularly tart:

I've been awfully impressed with the rhetoric coming from our union brothers and sisters lately. While all the villagers bob and weave and run from the hard truths they seem to have found their voices. It's natural that they would in a time of great stress on working people, but I'm not sure I would have always assumed they had it in them. It's good to see --- and very necessary.

"We can't leave it to the politicians. Too many of them think that what's good for corporate America is good for working people and that is bullshit."

It's Just How They Roll

by digby

This account from a former Republican candidate about the machinations by the establishment GOP to destroy his campaign is fascinating. It's not like we didn't know, but it's always interesting to see it confirmed:

This is a tale of democracy, of meeting a lot of honest, hard working Americans and small business owners, and of funny experiences, but it's also a tale of deceit, corruption, and buy offs. It's also an admission of my own mistakes.

The Convention
Let's fast forward to the weeks just before the Republican Party of Wisconsin convention, which was held May 22. I am still receiving hundreds of inquiries from business people all over the state wondering how the convention endorsed a candidate who had just announced less than a week before, and that is another reason I share this with you.

While I was busy shaking hands and greeting people around the state, Ron Johnson's team was readying its bag of dirty tricks, starting with hiring away my direct-mail vendor, who told my manager: "Financially, I stand to make a lot more from Johnson." (Here was my first mistake; not insisting that my manager follow through on my request to have my vendors sign non-compete contracts.)

The next dirty trick came in the form Johnson's team trying to hire away my staff while at the convention with job offers that just might come with above-market compensation, backed by rumors that Johnson committed to spend $8 million of his own money.

Then there was the chaos during the balloting, which is critical to understanding this tale.

Read on.

This sounds like a very nice,conservative fellow who is laboring under the delusion that the Republican party is sincere. He apparently didn't know about such recent historical luminaries as Richard Nixon, Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed or Grover Norquist. It's quite a gap in his education.(There are other gaps as well --- he also thinks that he needs to save the United States from going the way of Russia.)

I'm sure the party establishment finds him to be adorably naive.

h/t to howie
The Little People Need To Adjust

by digby

Pitching in for Ed Shultz (as he is all week) the Nation's Chris Hayes initiated a rather extraordinary conversation about unemployment with Jonathan Alter. He began with this amazing intro:

HAYES: Welcome back. There was a debilitating disease that suddenly began affecting one in ten adults in this country. We would expect a pretty strong response, right? I mean, if one house on every block, ten percent of employees in every workplace were sick with the same thing all of a sudden, people would demand a response. Every dog catcher, mayor and legislator in this country would be getting hammered with the same question. What are you doing to stop it? If one in ten people in this country were infected with the disease, the response would be swift and massive. The government would marshal all available resources to cure the sick and stop the spread. I mean, remember the swine flu panic?

There would be tanks on the street. It would be like a sci-fi movie. Well, we do have an epidemic. And it‘s called unemployment. One in ten able-body American adults whose wants work is out of work. There is just one job for every six people who are out of work. And this is an epidemic. So, where is the emergency response? Republicans want to make the unemployment epidemic about personal responsibility. Pull yourself up from your boot straps up. They don‘t want the jobs that are available. Well, no doctor would tell a sick person getting well was just a matter of will.

I think he made his position fairly clear there and framed the issue in appropriately catastrophic terms. What came next is one of the most revealing example of Villager conventional wisdom I've seen in quite some time:


HAYES: Jonathan, I really have to say it does feel like there is just a stunning lack of urgency around jobs and unemployment in Washington. Do you think that‘s a fair assessment?

ALTER: I think it is. You know, the Congress tried to do something recently to jump start employment and it was on the back pages of the paper. It was kinds of a non-story. Part of it is that we‘re no longer panicked the way we were 18 months ago when Obama came in. [what do you mean "we" white man?]

Remember, Chris, at the time Barack Obama was sworn into office, we were losing 740,000 jobs a month. And if we had stayed on that pace, we would have been in another great depression with 20 percent plus unemployment by the end of 2009. So a big part of the story I tell in “The Promise” is how they averted this.

It was a really dramatic story that we didn‘t have a depression. When something doesn‘t happen, you don‘t get a lot of, you know, credit for it, and then the pressure‘s off when the crisis passes. And I do think that we‘ve gotten too used to 9.7, 10 percent unemployment. We‘re now kind of taking it for granted as something normal when we should be, as you indicate, you know, treating it as a terribly pressing problem

Yes, we certainly could have worse unemployment and it's good that we don't. But where he gets the idea that "the country" as opposed to DC elites are "taking it for granted" is beyond me. The country is apoplectic --- apparently the Village hasn't noticed. Hayes acknowledges that things could have been worse, but presses on:

HAYES: Yes. That‘s exactly the point. I mean, I feel like I agree obviously. I mean, when you look at that job, that sort of famous job chart that shows, you know, the Bush administration, the Obama administration, you know, we clearly, the bleeding has been stopped, the patient is under hemorrhaging.

But I feel like, what‘s happening is there is a kind of normalization that‘s going around, sort of very subtly rhetorically on both sides and this comes to the White House I think, as well that we‘re going to just have to kind of accustom ourselves to levels of unemployment that in a historical perspective or totally, totally anomalies and unacceptable.

ALTER: Well, you know, they‘re right. We are going to have to accustom ourselves to some higher than, you know, old normal percentage of unemployment. You know, I don‘t know whether it‘s seven percent, six percent, whatever. We could have an argument about that. But clearly 9.7 percent is not tolerable. And you know, clearly we‘re not having enough of the national conversation about it. I mean, even when there is relatively good news like a neutral CBO estimate that the stimulus, the recovery act added between 2.5 and 3.5 million new jobs, most of them in the private sector contrary to their right wing blather on talk radio, these are not census jobs, they‘re not public sector jobs. But it‘s not enough.

Yes, 9.7% is intolerable --- but let's look at the bright side again.

Robert Gibbs couldn't have done a better job of pimping the administration's accomplishments and avoiding the issue --- which is that nobody seems to give a damn that we have 10% unemployment and this economy is still in the shit after two years of misery. Indeed, Alter is saying we should be a lot more grateful it isn't worse which isn't exactly responsive.

After pimping the administration (and, therefore, his book) again, he did have some advice on what we need to do: get the liberals to stop being obstructionists and agree to waive the prevailing wage laws.

So, we‘re adding about 250,000 jobs a month. We‘re losing roughly 750,000 when Obama came in. It‘s still going to be a while before we can really chip away. But what I want is the government and the White House to be focused on cutting through red tape, maybe even pushing back against at some conventional liberalism in order to expand the number of jobs. For instance, there‘s something called the Davis-Bacon Act. It‘s a sacred cow for organized labor, right? It requires that the prevailing wages should be paid. The highest wage in any area be paid on government contracts. Well, that means there are a lot fewer people that you can employ. So the whole idea of getting let‘s say, green jobs of people who are getting houses, that‘s barely gotten off the ground yet. And they need to accelerate it and cut through the bureaucracy.

Seriously, he said this. Hayes was obviously taken aback:

HAYES: But John, do you really think Davis, that you can lay that at the feet of Davis Bacon and...

ALTER: Yes. A lot of it is Davis Bacon. To tell you the truth, Chris, you know, there are hard truths about liberalism that we have to face if we‘re going to move forward. Do I want them to get rid of Davis Bacon? No, but they could do waivers, they could do creative things. Go to the Congress and do some things if you‘re really going to focus on jobs. When Franklin Roosevelt established the CCC in his first year in office, they were paying $1 a day. Organized labor was enraged by this.

HAYES: Riiight ... OK.

ALTER: So, you do, you do have to make some compromises in order to get more people to work and you have to do some direct hiring. WPA style hiring which is very out of fashion in this government.

HAYES: Thank you, Jonathan. I‘m in the orthodox pro Davis Bacon camp.

Keep in mind that Alter is an elite liberal villager with strong ties to the administration. And he not only wants to lay the problem at the feet of "liberal orthodoxy" which is insane, but he's completely delusional about the congress's ability to pass any jobs legislation that costs money --- after all, they can't even extend unemployment benefits. On what planet does there exist the slightest possibility of passing a direct jobs program with or without David Bacon? And why in the world would we want to pay people less money when the whole point is to stimulate the economy? We don't want to spoil them?

I don't know if he's doing some light Heritage Foundation Report reading before he goes to bed at night but I'd guess, considering his professional and social circle, that this is reflective of the conversations that are being held among liberal Villagers, some of whom may very well be in the congress and the White House. This dry abstraction, and the idea that we just have to "adjust" to a permanently higher unemployment rate is just offensive. I wonder if Alter would be so sanguine about such a thing if he were among those who found themselves suddenly among the permanent underclass? (Not that he would --- this sort of thing doesn't happen to hard working, productive people such as he ...)

And good for Hayes for saying at the end that he still believes in Davis Bacon. The look on his face was priceless --- he kept it together nicely but was clearly gobsmacked by Alter's bizarre outburst. Who wouldn't be? It's so reflexively and anachronistically thirdway/DLC that if I closed my eyes, I could see Joe Klein blathering exactly the same garbage on Meet the Press circa 1992. That this kind of hippie punching is still so automatic among the elites explains a lot about why we are so very, very screwed. They just can't seem to help themselves, even if it makes no earthly sense at all.

Confidence Building

by digby

So consumer confidence is way down and the market tanked on the news. I don't suppose it might have anything to do with the fact that nearly every elite gasbag in the world is blathering on endlessly that the sky is falling because of the potential, maybe, could be future deficits and telling everyone they are going to have to sacrifice for decades and pull in their belts for years to come? Nah, couldn't be that.

And nothing builds consumer confidence like month after month of 10% unemployment and housing foreclosures. The lazy, drug addicted unemployed are obviously very upbeat and those who are working feel incredible freedom and opportunity in that environment because lord knows that while working people may not be able to leave jobs or start new businesses or get a raise in this environment there's no reason to be gloomy.

It can't be that the rubes see an economy that is moribund at best and a dysfunctional government that is telling them constantly that they are going to have "accept" high unemployment and "pitch in" to fix an economy that was destroyed by wealthy gamblers --- and assume they are well and truly screwed for the foreseeable future.

Cheer up people. The wealthy "producers" are doing fine and that's all you should worry your pretty little heads about. Snap out of it!

Update: Republicans once again block unemployment extension. DOW tanks further. Nothing to see here folks. Everything's just fine.

Family Values

by digby

According to Sharon Angle, God wants fathers to rape their daughters. Or at least he wants daughters to bear their fathers' children. That's what they call family values in her neck of the woods:

MANDERS: Is there any reason at all for an abortion?

ANGLE: Not in my book.

MANDERS: So, in other words, rape and incest would not be something?

ANGLE: You know, I’m a Christian, and I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives and that he can intercede in all kinds of situations and we need to have a little faith in many things.

The truth is that she is being more consistent than most allegedly "pro-life" people. If you genuinely think that abortion is murder then you can't justify "killing" the blastocyst or fetus just because of the way it was conceived.

On the other hand, Angle seems to see conception by rape and incest as something God purposefully directed and so the results of which are something the birthing vessel must embrace. That's a very disturbing point of view no matter where you come out on the issue.

Harry Reid, on the other hand, must be thanking the Good Lord every night for "interceding" and providing him with Sharon Angle as an opponent. He must feel that God definitely intends for him to win re-election.

Beauregard Sessions says "Free At last, free at last, thank God almighty the corporations are free at last!"

by digby

No really. Citizens United is just like Brown vs Board of Education because it went back to the first constitutional principles which were, evidently, that slaves and corporations should be equal under the law. Or something. I can't believe you people don't see that.
"[Marshall] was right on Brown v. Board of Education. It's akin in my view to the Citizen's United case. The court sat down and we went back to first principles--What does the Constitution say? Everybody should be equal protection of the laws," Sessions told me after a Senate vote last night.

"Is it treating people equally to say you can go to this school because of the color of your skin and you can't?" Sessions asked rhetorically. "We've now honestly concluded and fairly concluded that it violates the equal protection clause."

How is that like Citizens United? "I think this Court, when they said 'Wait a minute! If you're talking about a precedent that says the government can deny the right to publish pamphlets, then we've got get rid of this one outlier case Austin -- 100 years of precedent -- and go back to what the Constitution [says].' I don't think that's activism."


Monday, June 28, 2010

Destroying Themselves For A Generation

by digby

Looks like Marco Rubio had better start carrying his papers:

Florida Republican leaders have begun crafting anti-illegal-immigrant legislation modeled after an Arizona law that has incited widespread protests and fueled national and international debate over U.S. immigration policies.

Under the proposed bill, police would have broad power under state law to ask suspects for proof of legal residency, said Rep. William Snyder, a Republican from Stuart who plans to introduce the legislation in November.

"We have significant components from the Arizona bill that I plan to incorporate," he said. "We have the beginnings of it."

The effort, which would be filed for consideration during the March legislative session, is already drawing broad support within the GOP.

In an election year shaped by anti-incumbency sentiment, majority leaders in the Florida Senate and House said a new approach is needed to address the federal government's failure to temper illegal immigration.

The effort has the backing of both leading Republican gubernatorial candidates — businessman Rick Scott and Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Lest you suspect this is nothing but a raw political ploy to gin up racial resentment and get their hate filled neanderthals out to the polls, think again. It's actually a humanitarian exercise:

Snyder, a former police officer, said the proposed legislation is needed to protect undocumented immigrants, who are vulnerable to abusive employers and violent criminals.

"This is a human right issue," he said. "They don't enjoy the same rights and privileges that you and I do. The solution is to enforce the laws that currently exist and to discourage people from coming here to 'find a better life' when in fact they just come here and are victimized."

This is very much like the unctuous faux paternalism of the anti-abortion crowd who try to portray themselves as protectors of women when they deny them their agency. It's cute but unconvincing.

I asked Alan Grayson about Florida and immigration earlier today on his Blue America chat and he said this:

It Will Destroy the Republican Party for a Generation.

The Republicans are down to three Latinos in Congress, all from South Florida. As soon as they show their true colors, they'll be down to zero.

Take a look at what happened to voter registration by party in California, after the Republicans started race-baiting there.

Carly and Meg are having a hell of a time walking back their primary campaign race baiting here in California.It's still a mine field for Republicans.

Grayson's words point to an irony and a sort of progressive achievement. Lyndon Johnson famously said that the Democrats would lose the south for a generation when they passed civil right legislation. Now, 45 years later, the Republicans are in danger of losing for a generation because they are still using the same politics of racial resentment. They refused to evolve and so the country changed around them.

"Blacks Don't Own Martin Luther King"

by digby

Oh, and "too many" have gotten lazy and distorted Martin Luther King's ideas.

Yep that's Beck, the most idiotic man in the media. Well almost. Wingnuts everywhere are having a hard time understanding what's wrong with that comment:

@DanFosterNRO offensive b/c Beck wrong 2 say blacks think that or b/c blacks DO own MLK?

I guess it just doesn't occur to these people that any discussions of "owning" an African American civil rights icon are, by definition, offensive. To then derisively tell blacks that they don't own him and then in the next breath say they have gotten "lazy" and distorted his ideas is so obviously outrageous that I have to think they are being purposefully obtuse. This isn't political incorrectness, it's just plain old crude stupidity.

Please listen to the whole thing. It's unintentionally hilarious in the places that aren't hideously offensive.

Grayson Live Chat At C&L

by digby

5pm. Join Us.


by digby

Rand Paul is holding one of those famous moneybombs popularized by his father during the presidential race. Guess what? Doesn't look as though Daddy's donors think Junior is all that --- and his teabagging followers seem to have deserted him:

Republican Rand Paul's Internet fundraising appears to be off to slow start for his general election campaign.

Paul, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Jim Bunning, had banked about $70,000 by late afternoon on Monday in a one-day online fundraiser.

That's a pittance compared with the more than $1 million he banked in a series of Web-based fundraisers during the GOP primary. The largest of the three, held last August, netted more than $400,000.

High Tech Lynching Of A Dead Man

by digby

I missed the Kagan hearings this morning, but from what I'm gathering it was pretty much a high tech lynching of Justice Thurgood Marshall. Seriously. Evidently, he was one of those "activist" judges (and a community organizer too, I'm sure)and I think we all know what he was agitating for, don't we?

Meanwhile, she is an "out of the mainstream" elitist, weirdo (lesbian, NY Jew) who worked for a you-know-what and liked it. Ever since Beauregard Sessions ascended to the ranking Republican position on the Judiciary Committee whatever uhm ... subtlety the Republican strategy once had has evaporated into crude dogwhistling.

They really have been reduced to nothing but a walking wingnut id. That's all there is.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today just overturned 70 years worth of gun control precedent. Nothing activist about that, no sirree.

Uncivilized behavior

by digby

Keeping us safe from the dangerous anarchists:

Peaceful G20 protest at Queen & Spadina from Meghann Millard on Vimeo.

The sound at the end is tasers, I believe.

h/t to C&L
Your Daily Crazy --- What's Rand Up To Now?

by digby

Barefoot and Progressive went to a Christian Homeschool Educators of Kentucky conference where Rand Paul was featured and took questions. (This group's objective is to "protect children from mental physical, emotional, and sexual abuse by secular humanists in a socialist society or governmental system," btw.)

Anyway, all the allegedly rational libertarians throughout the land must be thrilled to see their standard bearer pass on a question about how old the earth is, among other things:

In answering the question about immigration, you'll notice that he didn't set forth his brilliant plan to put a super-duper, Dr Evilelectrified underground fence along the border. He did quote Milton Friedman saying that you can't have open borders and a welfare state --- which he describes as schools and hospitals. I didn't actually realize that schools and hospitals were considered welfare state institutions, but evidently public education and laws that require hospitals to treat the sick are tantamount to welfare as we know it (or socialism.) The Christian Homeschoolers agree, I'm sure, thus finally explaining the otherwise inexplicable alliance between the social conservatives and the libertarians.

Be sure to click through for a fascinating look at some of the materials from the "CHEK" conference.

Are Mama Grizzlies Going Extinct?

by digby

Not really. But their population isn't growing either. In fact, they have a problem. They're becoming outnumbered by that frightening predator, the Dirty Hippie:

Via Wolcott:

Daily Kos: Sarah Palin is an appealing figure to female evangelicals. Is this a rising demo, or is the "mamma grizzly" appeal a media creation?

Ruy Teixeira: Mama grizzlies seem likely to be just the latest in a long line of media-fueled electoral chimeras for the Republicans. The reality is that female evangelicals are not much of a growth constituency. And white evangelical protestants overall are roughly stable as a proportion of the population. They are no larger at this point than unmarried women—who are a growth constituency—as a proportion of eligible voters.

The growth action on the religious front is among unaffiliated or secular voters, who are the fastest-growing "religious" group in the United States. From 1944 to 2004 the percentage of adults reporting no religious affiliation almost tripled, rising from 5 percent to 14 percent. Projections indicate that by 2024 somewhere between 20-25 percent of adults will be unaffiliated.

This trend, combined with growth among non-Christian faiths and race-ethnic trends, will ensure that in very short order we will no longer be a white Christian nation. Even today, only about 55 percent of adults are white Christians. By 2024 that figure will be down to 45 percent. That means that by the 2016 election (or 2020 at the outside) the United States will cease to be a white Christian nation. Looking even farther down the road, by 2040 white Christians will be only around 35 percent of the population and conservative white Christians (a critical part of the GOP base) only about a third of that—a minority within a minority.

These developments will put increased pressure on the GOP to moderate its socially conservative stance. That stance may appeal strongly to a key segment of their base, but that segment will shrink substantially over time as religious diversity increases. A more moderate approach would have some chance of appealing to this diversity rather than leaving the field wide open for the Democrats. But of course Sarah Palin and her mama grizzlies takes the GOP in precisely the opposite direction

h/t to sleon
Peace Party

by digby

If any of you have been over the Daily Kos or many other progressive blogs recently you know that today is the day of Alan Grayson's Peace Party --- a fundraiser to help Grayson keep his seat in this fall's election:

On JUNE 28, 1919, the United States put an end to a world war, after less than two years of fighting. In 1945, the United States ended another world war, after less than four years of fighting. But in 2010, we are embroiled in two wars, after almost nine years of fighting.

When will it end? When Blackwater and Halliburton say so? When we’re all broke?

It’s time that someone spoke out for peace.

Indeed. And it's not surprising that the person speaking out for peace today is none other than the progressive congressman from Florida. I don't know about you, but I am convinced that it takes political fighters to keep us out of war, and there's no smarter or more effective fighter in the Democratic Party than Alan Grayson.

Who else says things like this?

"Imagine if we had decided after 9/11 to wean ourselves off oil and other carbon-based fuels. We'd be almost ten years into that project by now.

"Imagine if George W. Bush had somehow been able to summon the moral strength of Mahatma Gandhi, Helen Keller, or Martin Luther King Jr, and committed the American people to the pursuit of a common goal of a transformed society, a society which meets our own human needs rather than declaring "war" on an emotion, or, as John Quincy Adams put it, going "abroad, in search of monsters to destroy".


"Imagine that we chose not to enslave ourselves to a massive military state whose stated goal is "stability" in countries that never have been "stable", and never will be."

Blue America was the first Netroots PAC to endorse Grayson when he decided to run. None of the Very Serious People in politics thought he could win in what was a Republican district but we don't base our endorsements solely on electability, so that wasn't relevant. We felt he had a good chance and we knew that if he won, he would be an articulate and passionate advocate for our values. He has exceeded our expectations, to say the least.

One of the reasons Grayson can be so outspoken is that he takes no special interest money from businesses his committees oversee and so depends on small donations more than other politicians. So far, the netroots have come through for him, giving him an independent funding base and allowing him to operate with much more freedom than the average representative. Today, he's asking for your help again. If you can spare a few bucks, now's the time.

The world is full of supposedly indispensable men and women, virtually none of whom are actually indispensable. Grayson, in my view, is the exception. The progressive movement needs this man in congress, serving as an example of intelligent, aggressive, principled progressivism and hopefully building up a paradigm for others to follow.

Please donate to Grayson's campaign and help keep the progressive movement's most powerful spokesman in office for another term.


by digby

I said the "D" word in a conversation with my husband yesterday. Krugman says it today. It's out there.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Late Night Chortle

by digby

Jamie Kilstein on Rick Warren, Ted Haggard,gay rights and more:

Word Salad Swimming in Oil

by digby

She can barely catch a breath she's speaking so quickly:

Via Bob Cesca
"...I think Obama is kind of flirting with also, some government overreach. We are a rule of laws, not a rule of presidential fiats that I think President Obama would rather have sometimes, it seems."

Honestly, who would actually pay money to hear this incomprehensible, babbling moron pretend to speak?

Virtually Speaking Sunday

by digby

On Blogtalk radio:

Call-in Number: (646) 200-3440
Upcoming Show: 6/27/2010 5:00 PM
Host Name: Virtually Speaking
Show Name:
Virtually Speaking Sundays: Digby and Avedon Carol

You all know li'l ole me. And:

Avedon Carol's Sideshow has been snarking, and providing ripping good political analysis for as long as there has been a blogosphere. Mockery and thoughtful analysis will be featured.

I have loved The Sideshow from my earliest days of blogging. But I've never spoken to Avedon in person before, so this is going to be a real treat. She's one of the very sharpest and most fearless bloggers around.

If you're a Second Life type, you can join us here. 8pm edt, 5pm pdt

Populist Protests From The Left

by digby

People keep asking where "the left" is and why they don't take to the streets in light of these neo-liberal policies wreaking havoc on working people everywhere. Where is the populist uprising from the left and why there isn't more direct confrontation of the corporatist mindset. It's a good question, but you have to wonder why we never cite these regular protests and why we don't bother to comment on the tactics that are used against them. Are we on the American left really not part of this? Do we philosophically disagree with the critique, even now, after everything that's been revealed during this economic crisis? Are these people wrong?

Now, I understand that these folks have gotten the reputation for being thuggish and destructive, largely based on the Seattle protests over a decade ago. But it's quite clear by now that this is a phony image, conjured up by the authorities to justify their police state tactics against the protesters:

They call it the Miami Model.

But it could be called the Genoa model, the Pittsburgh model and, after this weekend, the Toronto model.

It refers to police tactics used in Miami seven years ago, during the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit, and, more importantly, the protests erupting on the streets outside.

Manny Diaz, Miami’s then-mayor, called the police methods exemplary — a model to be followed by homeland security when confronting protesters.

Human rights groups including Amnesty International called it a model of police brutality and intimidation.

Protesters were beaten with tear gas, sticks, rubber bullets . . . You can watch police stun cowering protesters with Tasers on YouTube. Last year, the city agreed it had trampled citizens’ right to free speech by forcing marchers back from planned protests and settled out of court with Amnesty International.

What is the Miami Model?

I called Naomi Archer to find out. She is an indigenous rights worker from North Carolina who happened to be giving a lecture on the Miami Model yesterday at the U.S. Social Forum — the G20 for community activists.

Archer, who was in Miami as a liaison between protesters and police, has a 40-box checklist to identify the Model. Here are the main themes.

• Information warfare. This starts weeks before the event. Protesters are criminalized and dehumanized, and described as dangerous “anarchists” and “terrorists” the city needs to defend against.

“Often, a faux cache is found,” says Archer. “They are usually ordinary objects, like bike inner tubes, camping equipment, but the police make them out to look threatening. It lays the groundwork for police to be violent and it means there’s a reduced accountability of law enforcement.”

• Intimidation. Police start random searches of perceived protesters before any large rallies. They are asked where they are staying, why they are walking around. Police raid organizer’s homes or meeting places, “usually just before the summit, so there’s maximum chaos organizers have to deal with,” says Archer.

“All this is meant to dissuade participants. The best way to make sure you don’t have a critical mass of people taking over the streets like in Seattle is to reduce the numbers at the outset.”

This is usually made possible by last-minute city regulations, curtailing the right to protest. In Miami, the city commission passed a temporary ordinance forbidding groups of more than seven to congregate for more than 30 minutes without a permit.

• “They threw rocks.” That’s the line police use after tear-gassing or beating protesters most times, Archer says. Urine and human feces are variations on the theme. But it’s always the protesters who triggered the violence. A popular police tactic is called “kettling.” Officers on bike or horses herd protesters into an enclosed space, so they can’t leave without trying to break through the police line. Take the bait; you provoke a beating or arrest. And of course, there are the famous agent provocateurs, outted publicly two years ago in Montebello. Police officers dressed up like militant protesters to protect the peaceful crowd, they say; Archer says it’s to instigate trouble.

In Montebello, one of the three cops dressed in black was holding a rock.

I suppose you could say that this is all self-justifying bs, until you consider this important fact:

More than 270 people were arrested in Miami during the summit seven years ago . How many were convicted, in the end? I called the American Civil Liberties Union to find out.

“None,” said lawyer Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, who was the president of the Miami chapter back then.

Odd, don't you think?

So, are these G20 protesters part of the left, or not? And, if not, why not? With the G20 this week-end pretty much guaranteeing us a lost decade as a best case scenario, we all now have an obvious personal, direct stake in opposing these global elites and the policies they are imposing. You'd think that mainstream American liberals would at least take an interest in what these people are doing.

Unfortunately, it appears the protest impulse is actually fading rather than growing so the inattention of the liberal left and the strongarm tactics of the police may have succeeded in taming this leftist movement already. They're now talking about "e-protests" which is pretty much waving a white flag.

BTW, for those of you who follow the modern police state "non-lethal" technology story, you'll be glad to know that the G8 and G20 protesters continue to serve as lab rats:

A judge said controversial sound cannons can be used by police during the G20 summit, but with restrictions.

The ruling today means the voice function of the devices is OK to use, but only at lower decibels; protesters say the devices can damage hearing permanently.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said his officers will abide by the court's ruling.

Before today's ruling police had said they would only use them as megaphones to broadcast pre-recorded voice messages to crowded demonstrations.

Also this morning Blair defended a law passed by the Ontario government to give police special detention powers during the G-8 and G-20 summits.

The regulation gives police the power to arrest anyone coming within five yards of the security fences erected around the summit site in Toronto if they refuse to identify themselves.

Blair said the regulation was passed under the Ontario Public Works Protection Act that dates back to 1939, and was simply extended to the G-20 security perimeter for one week.

Update: Ian Welsh on the G20

Leon Panetta: We must invade every country in the world to prevent Al Qaeda from having a safe haven

by digby

I'm with Atrios. WTF is Panetta going on about?

In an EXCLUSIVE interview on “This Week,” CIA Director Leon Panetta explained what winning in Afghanistan would look like.

“Winning in Afghanistan is having a country that is stable enough to ensure that there is no safehaven for Al Qaeda or for a militant Taliban that welcomes Al Qaeda,” Panetta told host Jake Tapper. “That’s really the measure of success for the United States.”

“Our purpose, our whole mission there, is to make sure that Al Qaeda never finds another safehaven from which to attack this country. That’s the fundamental goal of why the United States is there,” he said. “And the measure of success for us is: do you have an Afghanistan that is stable enough to make sure that never happens.”

That is completely meaningless. So, if Afghanistan is "stable" that means that Al Qaeda can't find a safe haven from which to attack the US? Huh? What about Pakistan? Yo0u know, the place from where Al Qaeda actually is planning attacks right now. Or Yemen? Or how about Britain, the home of the shoe bomber? And why, exactly, does it take a "safe haven" to plan a terrorist attack anyway? Do they get cut rates on box cutters?

Ayeyayay. This is worse than I thought. They can't even come up with a vaguely believable rationale for Afghanistan at this point --- that reasoning makes the "he might someday get a weapon of mass destruction" argument look air tight by comparison.

Making Their Move

by digby

The insanity continues:

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - G-20 countries are on the verge of reaching an agreement on common goals for deficit and debt reduction, a European regulator said late Saturday.

"The fact that the G-20 probably will be ready to accept some targets for deficit reductions and debt reduction is very encouraging," European Commission President Jose Barroso told reporters. "I am encouraged by fact that there is a convergence about setting these minimum requirements on deficit and debt reduction. We expect it to be approved tomorrow."

Barroso said the European Commission supports Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's proposal to have advanced economies of the G-20 member countries cut their deficits in half by 2013. He also expressed support for Harper's proposal to have countries stabilize their government debt to Gross Domestic Product ratios, by putting them on a downward path, by 2016.

If you read Krugman, you know that this is simply batshit insane. Get ready for more recession, a lost decade or something worse. Apparently all we "small people" need to be taught a lesson in responsible fiscal management and we're going to get it by sacrificing the dreams and futures of millions of people. I feel "cleansed" of my sins already.

The good news is that the US is the one country that doesn't seem to be quite on the page:

G-20 observers contend that the U.S. may be the largest obstacle to reaching a common consensus on deficit and debt reduction. President Barack Obama warned fellow G-20 leaders in a letter last week not to withdraw fiscal stimulus and hurt a burgeoning recovery.

Huzzah. After blathering on about Grand Bargains and Deficit Panels for a year and half, the administration has finally figured out that thy might just be screwing themselves (much less the people) by putting deficit reduction on the table at a time of economic hardship.

Well, sort of:

However, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner disputed assertions that the U.S. is seeking a different fiscal direction for G-20 countries.

"If you look at the rest of the major economies you see more in common than different," Geithner told reporters on Saturday.

He added that the U.S. announced measured path for deficit reduction over the next three years is actually more forceful that Germany.

"If you look at the announced measured path of deficit reduction for the US for the next three years relative to what the leaders are considering are appropriate for Germany.

"Look at the announced measured path of deficit reduction for the United States of America over the next three years relative to what the leaders of Germany are considering appropriate for Germany," Geithner said. "And if you look at those together, you'll see ours is much steeper, appropriately so."

Awesome. And if we keep looking I'm sure we'll find those WMD in Iraq too.

Update: More from Krugman on the Invisible Bond Vigilantes

In the short run they are cowards, in the long run we're all dead

by digby


[T]he attempt to shift the discussion away from the short run is not, as often portrayed, an act of vision of courage. On the contrary, it’s an act of cowardice, an attempt to evade responsibility for a disastrous state of affairs that we could fix, but choose not to.

Keynes had it right:

But this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.

Not just economists, but politicians too. It's hard to do what has to be done to spare the pain that average people are going to endure. It requires a lot of explaining and persuasion and actually fighting the reactionary forces of the right and the Big Money Boyz at the top rather than trying to appease them. Much easier for these wealthy privileged leaders to call for the people to "sacrifice" rather than risk their own positions by doing what's right. But I hate to tell them --- in the long run they'll all be dead too.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saturday Night At The Movies

Goin’ mobile: Top 10 Road Movies

By Dennis Hartley

There’s something about summer and the wanderlust for road trips (well, if you can afford the gas these days). Tonight I thought I would celebrate the fact that we are one week into the season (although you wouldn’t know it from the schizoid weather here as of late in the Pacific Northwest) by sharing my picks for the Top 10 road movies. As per usual, I present my list in alphabetical (not ranked) order. So fill ‘er up and check the oil!

The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert -“That’s just what this country needs…a cock, on a rock, in a frock.” Terence Stamp heads an exemplary cast as an aging transsexual who leads a pair of young drag performers (Guy Pearce and Hugo Weaving) on a Road Tour from Hell through the Australian outback as they head for an engagement at a rundown casino. A wicked delight from start to finish, with enough theatrical bathos, pathos and gaudy costumes to hold you for decades. I daresay writer-director Stephan Elliott’s salty dialog outdoes Red Dwarf for inspired and creative putdowns (well…nearly-that’s a pretty high bar to surpass). It also gets my vote for the most hilarious punch line for a fight scene since the “guns or knives” set-to in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid . And I’ll leave you with this thought: “No.More.Fucking.ABBA!”

Five Easy Pieces-“You see THIS sign?!” Thanks to sharp direction from Bob Rafaelson, a memorable screenplay by Carole Eastman (billed in the credits as Adrien Joyce) and an outstanding, iconic performance by Jack Nicholson, this remains (along with Vanishing Point) one of the defining road movies of the 1970s. Nicholson was born to play the protagonist in this character study about a disillusioned, classically-trained pianist from a moneyed family, working at soulless blue-collar jobs and teetering on the edge of an existential meltdown. Karen Black gives one of her better performances as his long-suffering girlfriend. The late great DP Laszlo Kovacs makes good use of the verdant, rain-soaked Pacific Northwest milieu. Oh-and remember where to hold the chicken salad.

Genevieve-A truly marvelous entry from Britain’s golden age of screen comedies, this gentle and good-natured 1953 film centers around the mild travails of an endearing young couple (Dinah Sheridan and John Gregson) as they join their bachelor friend (Kenneth Moore) and his latest flame (Kay Kendall) on their annual road trip together from London to Brighton as part of an antique car rally. After the two men have a bit of a verbal spat in Brighton, they decide to convert the return trip to London into a “friendly” race, with a 100 pound wager to be awarded to whoever is the first to reach and cross Westminster Bridge. Colorful, drolly amusing and thoroughly engaging throughout, especially thanks to Sheridan and Gregson’s fabulous screen chemistry, which I would rank on a par with William Powell and Myrna Loy’s Nick and Norah. Oh, in case you were wondering-“Genevieve” is the name of the couple’s antique car! Director Henry Cornelius’ next project was I Am a Camera , the 1955 film that was reincarnated as the musical Cabaret.

Get On the Bus-Fortified by a talented ensemble of actors and a sharply perceptive screenplay by Reggie Rock Bythewood that keeps the prosthelytzing to a minimum (for a change) and delivers characters who actually talk to (as opposed to at) each other, this uncharacteristically restrained Spike Lee joint from 1996 is one of the iconoclastic (and more often than not, bombastic) director’s most underappreciated efforts. Set against the backdrop of the Million Man March in Washington D.C. in 1995, the episodic narrative follows a group of African-American men (from all stages of life and social strata) who take a cross-country bus trip to participate. As you might glean, considering that most of the action takes place within the claustrophobic confines of the bus, it is a talkfest; and at times you may feel you are stuck in the middle of a 2-hour men’s encounter group session, but the heartfelt performances win the day. This was a truly independent film; it was privately funded by 15 African-American men (including well-known actors who were not in the cast). Consequently, Lee’s film takes a brutally honest look at the types of issues that send Hollywood green-lighters fleeing: racism, misogyny, homophobia, self-worth, parental responsibility, and (most notably) social and political apathy. Get on!

Lost in America-Perhaps arguably, this 1985 gem, released at the height of Reaganomics, can now be viewed in hindsight as the definitive satirical smackdown of the then burgeoning Yuppie cosmology that shaped the Decade of Greed. Director/co-writer Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty portray a 30-something, upwardly mobile couple who decide to quit their high-paying jobs, liquidate their assets, buy a Winnebago, and go the Kerouac route in order to “find themselves”; they’ll “touch Indians” (with a “nest egg” of $145,000 at their disposal). Actually, Brooks’ character fancies their new elective lifestyle choice to be closer in spirit to the protagonists in Easy Rider (except that Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper didn’t hit the road in an RV that featured a microwave with a built-in browning element for making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich). Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, the “egg” is soon off the table, and they now find themselves on the receiving end of “trickle down”, to Brooks’ chagrin. Like all of Brooks’ best movies, it is at once painfully funny and so very, very painful to watch.

Motorama-If David Lynch had directed The Wizard of Oz, it might resemble this twisty, blackly comic 1991 road movie/Orphic journey that nearly defies description. It’s the story of a rather odd 10-year old boy (Jordan Michael Christopher) who flees his feuding parents to hit the road in search of his version of the American Dream-to win the grand prize in a gas station-sponsored scratch card game called “Motorama”. As he zips through fictional states with in-jokey names like South Lyndon, Bergen, Tristana and Essex, he has increasingly bizarre and absurd encounters with a veritable “who’s who” of cult filmdom, including John Diehl, John Nance, Susan Tyrell, Michael J. Pollard, Mary Woronov, Meatloaf and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. What I find particularly amusing is that none of the adults seem to question why a 10 year old (who curses like a sailor and sports a curious bit of stubble by film’s end) is driving a Mustang on a solo cross-country trip. Not for all tastes-definitely not one for the kids (especially since the venerable parental admonishment of “You’ll poke your eye out!” becomes fully realized). Director Barry Shils has only made one other film, the 1995 doc, Wigstock - The Movie.

Pow Wow Highway-A Native American road movie from 1989 that eschews stereotypes and tells its story with an unusual blend of social and magical realism. Gary Farmer (who greatly resembles the young Jonathan Winters) plays Philbert, a hulking Cheyenne with a gentle soul who wolfs down cheeseburgers and chocolate malts with the countenance of a beatific Buddah. He has decided that it is time to “become a warrior” and leave the res on a vision quest to “gather power”. After choosing a “war pony” for his journey (a rusted-out beater that he trades for with a bag of weed), he sets off, only to be waylaid by his childhood friend (A. Martinez) an A.I.M. activist who needs a lift to Santa Fe to bail out his sister, framed by the Feds on a possession beef. Funny, poignant, uplifting and richly rewarding. Director Jonathan Wacks and screenwriters Janey Heaney and Jean Stawarz deserve kudos for keeping it real. Look for cameos from Wes Studi and Graham Greene.

Road to Utopia-Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour made seven entertaining films together in “The Road to…” series, but this one has always been my favorite (Road to Morocco runs a close second). Bob and Bing play a pair of vaudevillians who accidently stumble onto a coveted map that pinpoints the location of a hidden gold mine, and end up “on the road” to Alaska (via boat and dogsled, actually). As they make their way from Skagway to Dawson City, they are hounded by a variety of pursuers who want to get their mittens on the map. Much hilarity, song and dance ensues. The film has a bit of a slow start, but once it gets going, it is pound for pound the funniest of the series. There are so many great gags and one-liners; the scene where Hope cozies up to a (real) bear (thinking that it’s Lamour) and whispers sweet nothings into its ear is priceless, and I still cackle at the sight of Bob and Bing pulling a big lazy dog around on a dogsled. The filmmakers up the ante on the usual barrage of “fourth wall” breaches by throwing in “pop-up” appearances in the corner of the screen by Robert Benchley, who makes wry commentaries on the film (the prototype for Mystery Science Theater 3000?).

Sideways -Not unlike the fine wines coveted by one of its main protagonists, this 2004 dramedy from director/co-writer Alexander Payne (Election , About Schmidt) is destined to become richer and more fully appreciated over time (and repeated viewings, as I have discovered). Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church really shine as a divorced, unpublished writer and a soon-to-be-married, middling TV actor (respectively), two middle-aged pals who embark on a road trip through California’s wine country. For the writer, it’s to be a leisurely cruise through the lovely environs, teaching his friend how to appreciate the aesthetic pleasures of the grape, and its subtle variances from vineyard to vineyard. For his less refined pal, it’s one last shot at a boning and grogging fest before he ties the knot. When the two hook up with Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen, things get interesting (cue the midlife meltdowns). Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor picked up a deserved Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar (based on Rex Pickett’s novel). One scene in particular, where Giamatti and Madsen essentially bare their souls to one another, thinly veiled in metaphorical descriptions of how each character defines the chief attributes of their favorite wines, should be held up in every screenwriting class as an example of resonant dialogue that approaches poetry. BTW-there was a 2009 Japanese remake (!)

Vanishing Point-I don’t know if anyone has ever done a graph to see if there was a sudden spike in sales for Dodge Challengers in 1971, but it would not surprise me, since every car nut I have ever encountered who likes to throw around phrases like “cherry” or “big block” usually gets a dreamy, faraway look in their eyes when I mention this cult classic, directed by Richard C. Sarafian. Best described as an existential car chase movie, it’s the type of totally blown antihero odyssey that could only have been made in the wake of Easy Rider, which is an obvious influence. Barry Newman stars as Kowalski (there’s never a mention of a first name), a car delivery driver who is assigned to get a Dodge Challenger from Colorado to San Francisco. When someone wagers him that he can’t make the trip in less than 15 hours, he accepts the challenge. Naturally, someone in a muscle car pushing 100 mph across several states is going to eventually get the attention of law enforcement types-and the chase is on. Not much of a plot, but curiously riveting nonetheless (it’s also curious that 3 people worked on such a minimal screenplay). Episodic; one memorable vignette involves a hippie chick riding around the desert on a chopper a la Lady Godiva, to the strains of Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” (riveting!). Cleavon Little plays Supersoul-a blind radio DJ who becomes Kowalski’s guardian angel and provides a sort of Greek Chorus. The enigmatic ending still mystifies.