Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tidbit That May Interest Only Me

Andrew Sullivan has been asking readers to submit their thoughts on which popular song is the most egregiously self-serving song ever, masquerading as a serious "message tune." My submission was Sting's "Russians," off his debut album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles. Offending lyric:

How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer's deadly toy?
There is no monopoly of common sense on either side of the political fence
We share the same biology, regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too.
It was either this or "The Greatest Love of All" by Whitney Houston, but she didn't write that one, and I can't fault her for being an (over) interpreter of someone else's drivel. Sting, however, did write this piece of tripe and he deserves to be skewered for it. And for what it's worth, I'm a huge Sting fan; the masthead of my blog features a Sting lyric.

However, it was Andrew's latest post on this topic that captured my attention the most, since it takes on what to me is a sacred song: John Lennon's "Imagine." Having just been to the Grammy Museum over the Thanksgiving weekend, it hit me like a fist to read one reader's take on the song:
Banal, insipid, sanctimonious and ubiquitous - is any song of this type really more nauseating? The bit when he pityingly muses, "I wonder if you can" is particularly grating. No, John, surely I cannot reach such lofty heights of intellectual vision as you
have attained.

Since the song is a favorite of my wife's, I felt it my duty to defend it. Yes, it was a multi-millionaire's voice uttering the words, "Imagine no possessions." So, only a homeless ascetic has the required credibility to discuss ideas about how the world would be better if there were no possessions? Only an atheist can write, "Imagine there's no heaven?" An anarchist is only one who can write, "Imagine there's no countries?" Well, I was once a vegetarian (a vegan, even) and I can say from experience that I felt much better physically and emotionally when I didn't consume meat, but I decided to opt for convenience over optimal health. Does that make me less credible when I say that vegetarian diets are better than the typical omnivorous human diet? Balderdash! The beauty in the song is not in the messenger who delivers it. It is in the idea that there is a vision for a world far better than the one we have created, and in the challenge for everyone to think about that for themselves and try to create it, in a microcosmic way, for themselves and those around them.

However, the part that may only interest me in Andrew's post was the last line:
Musically, [the song's] sublime. And then you hear David Archuleta's version and you're back to cleaning the puke off your laptop.

The curse of American Idol. As a fan of the show for years, I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. I have not heard a single contestant's version of a single song (except perhaps for Carrie Underwood's version of George Michael's "Praying for Time") that ever came close to the original.

Southern Culture on the Skids

No, I'm not referring to that awful band that was a minor novelty act a couple of decades ago. I'm referring to a post Monday on The Daily Dish that shows "America in One Photo." The first of what I believe will be many follow up posts is here. All of them taken in the South or in Texas. My favorite photo below:

So absolutely offensive to everything I believe. That I have to live next door to people who believe like this doesn't bother me, but it sure does when those people take to proclaiming their beliefs in such an obscene way as this.

If I had to point to one thing that troubled me about Christianity and Christians, it would be the idea that they believe it's their duty to proselytize to and convert the world. Given human nature and their desire to be the best at what they do, it makes for some very assertive and even aggressive tactics to spread "the word." Anyone who's walked the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica on a Friday or Saturday night can appreciate that. No one, including me, faults believers for being passionate about their love for their faith. I love being a Jew. What I would never do, however, is tell anyone that they are on a wrong path to God, which is central to the Christian dogma that it alone is the one true way to spiritual enlightenment. In other words, enjoy and revel in your chosen path; respecting the wishes of others to pursue their own paths would include avoiding "witnessing" for anyone else.

Monday, November 29, 2010

She Who Must Be Stopped

Sarah Palin will destroy America if she is elected to the presidency at any time in her life, assuming her knowledge of the way the world works (or her curiosity about learning more about how the world works) does not improve from its current state. Just a sampling of a few things I've read today:
  • FrumForum watches and live-blogs her TLC reality show (so we don't have to). The notes suggest that the entire show is contrived to portray her as just a regular gal from Alaska and doesn't quite gel to the point of giving her any additional credibility in either the lower 48 or Alaska that she deserves serious consideration in 2012. Her kids have no first-hand experience with any of the things that the show has them doing in the most current episode, and there is a failed attempt "bonding-time" between Dad and eldest son, Track.
  • Palin's Tweet today about the WikiLeaks release of some 250,000 classified State Dept. cables, in which she claims the leak was "treasonous" AND that she was able to prevent excerpts of her book from being leaked (so Obama must be completely incompetent, nyeah nyeah!!!). Well... 1. WikiLeaks is not based in America and its owner is not American, so we couldn't charge him with treason; 2. excerpts of her book were leaked to Gawker, but Palin's attorneys successfully got them to take the excerpts off the website.
My greatest concern about this woman is that she bends the truth to suit her needs, and makes no attempt ever to acknowledge that she is doing so, or to admit mistakes even in the fact of factual evidence that she is flat-out lying. She is without tact, as if being a "mama grizzly" would be a benefit to being president. Well, perhaps, if being president meant that alienating anyone and everyone would be a benefit.

My hope is that the Republican Party as a whole rejects the idea of this woman leading them into the future, or at worst, that those who follow her create a third party to challenge the "blue-bloods" of the party. It would restore my optimistic belief that America really is a nation of people who want what's best for the greatest number of people.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What if?

I keep re-thinking what would have been different had McCain won in 2008. Would he have let GM fail, putting hundreds of thousands out of work? Hardly. Would he have been able, with a Democratically-controlled Congress, to enact more tax cuts for the wealthy? Not on your life. Would he have been successful at creating jobs with the same old Bush policies that got us into this mess? I would likely have been unemployed, renting, and with a massive failure of my good credit, had he been elected.

In my opinion, we would have seen thousands of national guard troops deployed along the Mexican border, massive deportation raids, a deeper deficit, a deeper recession (perhaps a depression), increased war in Iraq, further degradation of the security of Afghanistan, less diplomatic success, air strikes on Iran, the renewed use of torture, an angrier populace, more (Christian) religion in government, even fewer Americans with health-care due to even more massive unemployment, more foreclosures, more bank failures, and a Dow around 5,000.

But, of course, we would have had one less Fox News commentator and one less reality show on TLC. Oh, wait... I guess I'm glad for those two things.

Hey, Tea-Baggers, Dig This!

I started here: The Stimulus Worked.

Bob Cesca too liberal for you? OK, how about this report from Think Progress: CBO: Recovery Act Raised GDP And Lowered Unemployment But Effects Are ‘Expected To Wane’

Hmmm. "Progess" too liberal for you? OK, how about this from ABC's Jake Tapper? CBO: Effects of the Stimulus Spending Are Now 'Diminishing'

Ahhh, more like it, it may have worked before, but now it's starting to wear off. See? Obama's a failure!

Well, we can always go to the source (pdf):
  • They raised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.4 percent and 4.1 percent,
  • Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.8 percentage points and 2.0 percentage points,
  • Increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.6 million, and
  • Increased the number of full-time-equivalent jobs by 2.0 million to 5.2 million compared with what would have occurred otherwise (see Table 1). (Increases in FTE jobs include shifts from part-time to full-time work or overtime and are thus generally larger than increases in the number of employed workers).
Well, the non-partisan CBO is a propaganda arm of the Obama White House, ain't it? Yeah, Obama will admit that when you Tea-Baggers admit Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are the propaganda arm of the Republican Party.

The GOP ran on the fiscal irresponsibility of deficit spending of the Obama White House, completely ignoring the deficit spending of the Bush White House. Completely ignoring the fact that Obama's deficit spending was coupled with real economic growth out of the recession (I will concede that there may not have been much lower we could have gone, but in truth, there was) while Bush took a government budget surplus and squandered it on unfettered plutocracy that did nothing to stimulate American job creation (that is, plenty of jobs were created in India and elsewhere to take advantage of lower labor costs). Completely ignoring the fact that the Obama deficit includes war budgets on Iraq and Afghanistan, while Bush's supplemental war spending conveniently held most costs off-budget.

As Obama has unfortunately retreated from the bold steps he took in the first two years to re-build the economy, the GOP momentum will very likely put Obama on his heels until 2012 with using the federal budget to stimulate job creation. No amount of supply-side tax cuts is going to create jobs; what it would do is let the rich repay themselves for what they perceived they lost under Obama (when it's under Bush that most of them lost wealth).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Today I give thanks for:

My family, who inspire and challenge me every day to be a better man and human being;
God, for constantly revealing the splendor and diversity of the Universe;
My employer, for respecting my talents and giving me chance after chance to add to my successes;
This blog, for being my outlet for self-expression and creativity;
My friends, for accepting me as I am;
The internet, for being an eternal source of information, inspiration, and irritation.

Oh, and THIS...

May all of you have a happy, healthy, and heartwarming Thanksgiving holiday.

Interesting Poll

TPM reports on a PPP poll (pdf) of Republican and Democrat voters in the wake of the 2010 midterms.

It reveals that a solid majority -- 58% -- of Republican voters believe that incoming congressional Republicans who ran against health-care reform in order to win the election should forgo their government health-care benefits when they reach office. Independents say the same thing at a respectable 56% majority. A 46% plurality of Democrats reached the same conclusion.

This has become an issue because incoming freshman Republican Andy Harris of Maryland, who was a very vocal critic of HCR, complained because his government-paid health-care benefits didn't kick in quickly enough.

What do you think? Do you have a problem with anti-HCR congressmen and women taking government health-care benefits after reaching office? Personally, I think they should take the benefits, realize how good the care is under their plan, and then give themselves an enema with their own anti-HCR rhetoric.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Truth About The Tax Cut Compromise

With Republicans headed into a House majority and for total denial of the Obama agenda of rebuilding this economy, it seems likely that a continued middle class tax cut will be all but impossible without compromising with the GOP on temporarily extending the Bush tax cuts.

But just so we're all on the same page about this, we need to see just how wonderful those tax cuts to the wealthiest American individuals and corporations were for our national economy. The New York Times published Thursday a blog piece showing that GDP growth during the Bush years were the slowest since the end of WWII. In an era of massive financial deregulation, outsourcing of American jobs, relocation of corporations overseas, and so-called "free trade," annual GDP growth in the first half of the last decade was a lame 2-2.5%, and in the last five years was even lamer at less than 1%.

Looking more deeply into the chart, growth during the first Clinton term was less than 2.5% during his first term (after inheriting a crappy economy from George HW Bush and Reagan), but grew to over 4% in his second term once his economic reform took hold (as in tax increases, spending cuts and a balanced budget, all foolishly squandered by George W Bush). In fact, the lowest half of the chart is dominated by Republican presidents, from Eisenhower to Nixon to Reagan and both Bushes.

Bush 43's performance on the economy was worse even than Jimmy Carter, who some call the worst president in history.

The myth that Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility is simply crippling America. No party wants America to fail more.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

House GOP Fears Obama BIG TIME

TPM's Josh Marshall has some handy facts related to a Politico story about why the planned summit between House Republicans and President Obama was "postponed."

House GOP leaders claim that Obama "crashed" their caucus retreat last January and ambushed them, catching them unprepared. Really? So, when the president came to their Baltimore retreat on January 29, after the Politico ran a story about it nearly three weeks before and the GOP issued a frickin' press release about it the day after the Politico story expressing gratitude that "the President of the United States has accepted our invitation to meet with the Republican Conference later this month."

Marshall's money quote:
In other words, that's more than two weeks before these House Republicans who must have spent the month in a sensory deprivation chamber were stunned to see
the president's motorcade driving up unannounced to crash their party.

Like Marshall, I'm very angry that the media, which has just as much access to Google as any idiot with a PC, reports this crap like it's really news when it isn't. It's just more fucking lies. Lies to mask the truth that the GOP is scared to death of meeting with Obama because they have nothing substantive to say except, "We're out to get you, Mr. President. Be afraid. Be very afraid." Schoolyard bully shit.

The truth is that they do remember the trouncing Obama served them during that January summit. And no amount of posturing on Mike Pence's part, or John Boehner's part, can alter the fact that the GOP looked like daft pricks.

The president has a long game working very well. At this rate and with nothing to offer except rehashed, failed policies from the Bush era, the GOP will flame out in less than a year, when the reelection campaign will get underway.

Bring on Sarah Palin, please. We Dems need more red moose meat.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The GOP's Big Lie

Sullivan posts a chart on his blog that shows the direction of the national debt under every president since Truman. Note that under both Reagan and Bush II, the debt went up significantly. But during these two terms, Republicans were quite fond of saying, "Deficits Don't Matter." But, of course, as soon as a Democrat files a budget with a deficit, they matter "for our children and grandchildren."

Bruce Bartlett, who basically invented supply-side economics, even repudiates his own concept now, calling for big time tax increases (in the form of a VAT, of course).

But the big lie here is that OBAMA, the juvenile delinquent whose "presidency is graffiti on the walls of American history," created the entire debt himself. Even though he took office during the biggest global economic crisis in nearly 80 years. Even though he inherited two wars. Even though he inherited the TARP program created under Bush. Even though the entire financial sector was deregulated to the point of absurdity while he was still a state senator in Illinois.

No, because Obama signed legislation for health-care reform that was paid for in full and will actually reduce the deficit over time, because he signed legislation that restored rationality to our financial sector and afforded basic protections for consumers, because he signed legislation that provided fiscal stimulus to banks in order to keep them from going under, because he created loan programs to help homeowners with no equity to refinance their mortgages at prevailing, historically low rates (paying standard closing costs, by the way!), because he called for a short-term moratorium on off-shore drilling, because he stupidly pushed for the extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless in our country (about five million people), our entire financial mess is now and has always been Obama's fault. What sane, rational person with a functioning memory (or, at least, an internet connection that allows access to Google) can honestly cop to this assertion? Any takers?

GOP Hypocrisy Watch

TPM has it:

Maryland physician Andy Harris (R) just soundly defeated Frank Kratovil, one of the most endangered Democrats on Capitol Hill going into the November election. And he did it in large part by railing against 'Obamacare' and pledging to repeal Health Care Reform. But when he showed on Capitol Hill today for an orientation for incoming members of Congress and their staffs, he had a different question: Where's my government health care?

According to Glenn Thrush of Politico, Harris created a stir at the orientation meeting by demanding to know why he had to wait a month after he was sworn in in January for his government-subsidized health care to kick in. After responding in a huff, he even asked if there was some way he could buy into the government care in advance, seemingly thinking there might be a government program similar to the so-called 'public option' championed by progressive Democrats in 2009.

Why can't this guy get his own damn private insurance? I mean, this is America! Do we have to subsidize every freeloading illegal alien AND government employee?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Cantor/Bibi Meeting: What They Haven't Told Us

Politico reports on a meeting that took place Wednesday night between future House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Benjamin Netanyahu. This meeting lasted over an hour and took place before Netanyahu's meeting with the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, on Thursday. According to a statement released by Cantor's office, during the meeting Cantor told Netanyahu that the Republican Party would "serve as a check on the [Obama] administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington."

Uh, yeah right. Like that little filibuster thing the Republicans have wielded for the last two years wasn't already a check on unified government?

Israeli sources told Politico that the meeting was "unusual, if not unheard of." Ron Kampeas at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, writes:
I can't remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president. Certainly, in statements on one specific issue or another -- building in Jerusalem, or somesuch -- lawmakers have taken the sides of other nations. But to have-a-face to face and say, in general, we will take your side against the White House -- that sounds to me extraordinary.
Well, I can. Sullivan's take on the January meeting is here:
The man who lost the last election reacts by directly undercutting the victor's foreign policy goals, and does so abroad in the very country Obama is trying to push toward change.

Lieberman, for his part, is effectively telling the Israelis that Obama does not control US foreign policy with respect to Israel, and that he will be prevented by Congress from exerting any pressure.
While it's true that Congress controls the purse-strings of government and can stand in the way of Obama trying to exert financial pressure on Israel, it is not Congress's job to exercise foreign policy decisions or to declare to foreign leaders that they will oppose the President.

But really, what the Cantor/Bibi meeting was about was Cantor urging Netanyahu to stand his ground, to bide his time until the Republicans can re-take the White House. So now, Israel's government is an extension of the GOP, and the spread of GOP insanity (that is to say, a departure from the reality on the ground about the U.S.'s changing role in the world) has penetrated (for now) its chief ally in the Middle East.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

All Republicans Should Follow Rush

Particularly when he talks about diet:
What have I told you about diet and exercise? Exercise is irrelevant. ... "How do you know all this?" One of the reasons I know what I know is that I know liberals, and I know liberals lie, and if Michelle Obama's gonna be out there ripping into "food desserts" and saying, "This is why people are fat," I know it's not true. "Rush, do you really believe that? It's that simple to you, liberals lie?" Yes, it is, folks. Once you learn that, once you come to grips with that, once you accept that, the rest is easy. Very, very simple. Now, my doctor has never told me to restrict any intake of salt, but if he did, I wouldn't. I'd just spend more time in the steam or the sauna sweating it out.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sharia Law Banned in Oklahoma

A ballot measure widely approved in Oklahoma on Nov. 2 amends the state constitution and "forbids courts from considering or using international law [and] forbids courts from using or considering Sharia Law."

The director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has filed suit in federal court, alleging that the new law violates the First Amendment and impairs his family's ability to carry out his will after he dies.

Muneer Awad argues that in his will he directs that his possessions be "divided in accordance with" Islamic law. Therefore, courts in Oklahoma will be allowed to override his express wishes because they're not allowed to consider Sharia in any adjudication.

So, I wondered: what if a Hasidic Jew dies in Oklahoma? If his will expressly states that his estate is to be adminstered in accordance with the teachings of the Torah, is the court forbidden to consider that? What if an Evangelical Christian cites some New Testament gobbledygook in directing his estate's executor? Can a court consider those biblical/Halakhic teachings?

This loan will be struck down as unconstitutional, not only because it is discriminates against a particular religion, but also because the state constitution cannot override the federal constitution. Any international treaties to which the U.S. is a party, which has been ratified by the Senate, is therefore the law of the land as much as if it were written into the Constitution, so it cannot be selectively disobeyed in a state court, as the federal Constitution has supremacy.

Clearly the measure was put on the ballot to get the base out to vote for GOP candidates. Great strategy. If a similar liberal cause can be found that would bring out the progressive faithful, perhaps it should be put on a ballot. Maybe a state measure to prohibit corporations who do business with state or local governments from contributing funds to political campaigns or political action committees? It'd probably pass in California and anywhere there is a concentration of Dems. Who cares if it ever gets enacted? Got the people to the polls right?

The Hero Falls. Ugh.

Olbermann suspended from MSNBC for making contributions to three democratic congressional candidates, a total of $7,200, without prior approval from NBC, a violation of the network's ethics policy. The suspension, per the Huffington Post, is "indefinite."

Meanwhile, over at Fox:
News Corp made multiple undisclosed donations to the Republican Governors Association, totaling at least $1.25 million, in addition to a $1 million contribution to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for its pro-Republican election-year activities. Fox News has helped GOP candidates raise money on the air; Fox News personalities are featured guests at Republican fundraisers; while other Fox News personalities continue to help generate financial support for Republican candidates now, even after the elections.
Olbermann's stupidity at not getting prior approval (or, at the very worst, creating a blind trust or some other vehicle for making political contributions that is not tied to him personally) notwithstanding, the hypocrisy at Fox is staggering.

My, How Things Have Changed

Sarah Palin absolutely did go there about Ronald Reagan. This from Peggy Noonan in the WSJ:

Electable means mature, accomplished, stable—and able to persuade.

Conservatives talked a lot about Ronald Reagan this year, but they have to take him more to heart, because his example here is a guide.All this seemed lost last week on Sarah Palin, who called him, on Fox, "an actor." She was defending her form of policical celebrity—reality show, "Dancing With the Stars," etc. This is how she did it: "Wasn't Ronald Reagan an actor? Wasn't he in 'Bedtime for Bonzo,' Bozo, something? Ronald Reagan was an actor."

Excuse me, but this was ignorant even for Mrs. Palin. Reagan people quietly flipped
their lids, but I'll voice their consternation to make a larger point.


Ronald Reagan was an artist who willed himself into leadership as president of a major American labor union (Screen Actors Guild, seven terms, 1947-59.) He led that union successfully through major upheavals (the Hollywood communist wars, labor-management struggles); discovered and honed his ability to speak persuasively by talking to workers on the line at General Electric for eight years; was elected to and completed two full terms as governor of California; challenged and almost unseated an incumbent president of his own party; and went on to popularize modern conservative political philosophy without the help of a conservative infrastructure. Then he was elected president.

The point is not "He was a great man and you are a nincompoop," though that is true. The point is that Reagan's career is a guide, not only for the tea party but for all in politics. He brought his fully mature, fully seasoned self into politics with him.

Since I've never been a Reagan fan, I'll simply register my two cents by stating that he did do all of these things, but badly. Palin, on the other hand, has done absolutely nothing except brand herself. An artist friend of mine lamented on Facebook not long ago that he was seeing branding as someting everyone did, and that no one just did the work for the sake of the work. Well, in this hyper-communicative and hyper-connected world, it's so easy to slip into oblivion as one of a billion, but it's also much easier to get noticed. Branding has the power to accomplish both. That Sarah Palin uses TV, Facebook, Twitter, and anything else she can get her megalomaniacal hands on should surprise no one.

Still, she has completely fucked up her brand, probably for life, except for those who revere her. As Ross Douthat wrote in Thursday's NYT:
[G]iven the choice between saying the thing that broadens her appeal and the thing that plays best with the narrower group that already loves her, Palin always, always seems choose the latter. Conservative writers have been giving her advice on how to break out of this box for more than two years now (this week it was Kevin Williamson, imagining how she might boost her credibility as a presidential candidate), and I think at a certain point we all just need to stop playing make-believe and acknowledge that she isn’t interested. The politician ... on Fox News on Tuesday, never giving an inch and blaming everything on the media, is the politician Sarah Palin has become, and wants to be, and seems likely to remain.
Douthat's headline refers to her brand of politics as "Palinism." Oh, Brave New World that has such people in it, who can turn complete idiocy into an "ism."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Why I Have Not Thrown Up (Yet)

Last night's election results were predictable: a wave of partisanship and anti-incumbent fever were going to hand the House to the GOP, and the Democratic majority in the Senate would narrow significantly. Governorships would be handed to the GOP, allowing for re-districting to affect state politics for a decade. On top of that, Democrats were able to beat back Tea Party-backed challenges in Delaware, Nevada, and California, and this was largely expected. The political landscape is altered and the balance of power tips to the right, but there's no reason to believe that nothing will get done until 2012. Yet.

For the GOP, their reasons for voting the way they did were, to a large extent, divorced from reality. The problem was, as Michael Kinsley put it, that the voters on both sides wanted either "calorie-free chocolate cake" or "fat-free ice cream," neither of which was actually available. But, at least with the GOP voters, sometimes when you're dealing with irrationality, there isn't much that can be done to stop it except let the results of the insanity play themselves out. We couldn't force the anti-Kenyan Muslim voters to stay home, and we certainly couldn't talk sense into them. We couldn't discuss rational reasons why the solidly middle-class, wage-earning voters (who joined forces with millionaires and billionaires to return to fiscal policies that would only benefit the millionaires and billionaires) had completely failed to recognize that their circumstances had actually improved. So we were left with a tsunami of crazy -- or better, a tornado of insanity that wreaked havoc in some places and left others unscathed -- and now begins the period of clean-up and the fight to return to reality.

I can feel proud that billionaires in California are a little lighter in the wallet and will be staying home instead of assuming positions of power. Jerry Brown may still have the "Governor Moonbeam" persona to live down, but I have never encountered a more rational politician in California than him. That every statewide office was handed to a Democrat, while at the same time voters are allowing a simple majority to pass state budgets, the GOP has effectively been castrated. (One strange mixed message, however, was that voters also required a 2/3 majority to approve the imposition of "fees," so there will need to be some slick maneuvering by the Dems to increase state revenues as needed.)

The chart below provides yet one more reason why the results were so lopsided:

The portion of voters under 30 decreased by more than a third, while seniors (mostly Republican) voted in greater numbers. This is the traditional pattern in mid-terms: younger voters sit out the mid-terms and get more fired up every four years.

So while I'm not ready to hurl at the results, I have grave concerns about the level of obstruction the House will provide. First, I believe that the new committee chairs will begin investigating the Obama healthcare reform plan and look for things on which to indict the Obama presidency, or perhaps impeach the President. To hear Mitch McConnell put it, it is the GOP's top priority to unseat Obama in 2012, so whatever they have to do to create enough noise to tarnish an otherwise stellar reputation will be done. I believe the effort will be well-coordinated, using the FNC propaganda network, the WSJ editorial page, the Limbaugh radio network, and the Palin Facebook page and Twitter feed. It will be relentless, unhinged from the truth, and -- to my chagrin -- unchallenged by anyone in the Serious Media.

If the Democrats are to survive in 2012 -- and I believe they will as the economic recovery continues -- their campaign to communicate their agenda has to start now. Starting with President Obama, work needs to be done to set very clear battle lines while working behind the scenes to forge alliances and make deals. And I think that, eventually, Obama needs to use the media to engage directly with the GOP and show them that he is the President, instead of doing the political rope-a-dope.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Kind of Theocon

Hat tip to Andrew for posting his readers' comments, particularly from this one.
[T]o me, the greater threat to the family and to the integrity and flourishing of this society is an economy (and a political economy) devoted to the interests of the very rich.

I have been to this rodeo before. At the end of the day, what the Republicans really care about is Wall Street; my kind are useful idiots. I wish the GOP had learned the lessons of the catastrophic Bush years, but I see no evidence that they have.
Would that the careful sensitivity of this one social conservative spread like fire among the Republican faithful. But, I sense, the only fire that we'll be seeing in the next two years is the burning down of our democratic ideals in favor of big business, racism, and anti-immigrant bigotry.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Painful Truth

I wouldn't have put it the way Stephen Fry puts it, but this is spot-on:

If women liked sex as much as men, there would be straight cruising areas in the way there are gay cruising areas,’ he said.

‘Women would go and hang around in churchyards thinking, “God, I’ve got to get my ******* rocks off”, or they’d go to Hampstead Heath and meet strangers to shag behind a bush. It doesn’t happen. Why? Because the only women you can have sex with like that wish to be paid for it.’

Fry, who hosts BBC quiz QI, added: ‘I feel sorry for straight men. The only reason women will have sex with them is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want.

‘Of course, a lot of women will deny this and say, “Oh no, but I love sex, I love it!” But do they go around having it the way that gay men do?'

I don't deny that there are exceptions to this generalization. But, no matter how much women deny it, there is always a price straight men must pay for having sex with them. I had a friend long ago who'd figured that he could have had sex with a different $500 hooker every day of his marriage and he would have spent less (and had about 100 times more sex) than he did for his divorce. Says a lot about the man and possibly explains the divorce, but it's no less true.

I would agree with the idea that women have plenty of opportunity to source out sex without having to resort to "cruising" the way gay men do, but in a way, going to a bar or nightclub, or joining an online dating site, is basically the same thing, just a bit cleaner and a bit less public.

A No-Win Situation

Stan Collender laments that TARP was a public relations failure despite its monumental success.
Part of the reason [TARP is viewed as a bad idea] may be that voters think the 8.2 percent is coming out of their rather than the financial institutions' pockets. At least that's what I heard at several focus groups I observed earlier in the year. The participants in the focus groups bristled when they were asked about the profits the government was making on TARP. Rather than be happy about it, they insisted that the banks were repaying the TARP funds and interest with higher fees that customers were being charged rather than by reducing other costs or lowering dividends.

As someone whose employer received TARP money in 2008 and paid it all back with interest, I can say that fees for certain consumer and business accounts did increase here. Those increases were put into place over the past summer, not in 2009 and not 2008, as a response to the Financial Reform Act which restricted the ability of banks to charge overdraft fees that netted them billions a year in revenue.

Interest rates have never been lower for loans, so it's not like customers got gouged with high rates. Interest rates on deposits have also been low, but a lot of that was in response to having to maintain the "net interest margin" between loan rates and deposit rates, which is where a compnay like my employer makes a lot of money. And the last, biggest portion of the TARP payoff came from the sale of stock.

So I agree that it was a failure, but what failed was the banks' and government's work in trying to educate consumers. They did not do enough with the press to get the word out about what was going on with that TARP money, and the press really only wanted to report on the huge bonuses executives were getting. But it's not as if the public would have believed the banks and government anyway, but it was an effort that should have been made.

What would they have wanted to do with that $309 billion? I guess a lot would have wanted direct bailouts of consumers who were losing their homes to foreclosure, or direct investments in small businesses, but neither option would have been practical. The administrative costs alone in keeping track of all of that would have eaten up billions of dollars. Bailing out the banks was the most sensible thing the government could have done. Allowing them to collapse would have been so totally catastrophic to the world economy, the Tea Party would look like a real tea party in comparison to the torches-and-pitchforks chaos that would have ensued otherwise. Think about the end of the excellent David Fincher film Fight Club and you'll get just a hint.

The TARP bailout and the resulting PR nightmare that followed is just a perfect illustration for me at how embedded corporate interests are in our everyday lives. If your bank accounts are with a bank that has failed, FDIC insurance should cover you, but think about what could have happened without TARP and giant banks holding trillions of dollars in deposits had been allowed to fail. FDIC would not have been able to meet the demand. And if banks would have been allowed to fail, do you think that the federal government would have authorized the printing of enough money to meet the demand? Think about the inflationary rocket that would have been. I believe the resulting collapse of the banking sector would have resulted in a global depression. It would not be overy hyperbolic of me to suggest that such a collapse could have precipitated World War III.

But today, we have relative calm in the financial markets, peace in the world for the most part, and relative stability in our everday lives. The only panic seems to be among the right-wing element of our society.