Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Heed the Mighty Billmon...

Billmon speaks you listen...

He has managed to coalesce and give voice to a gnawing fear that has been growing in base of my spine for several weeks now as the conservative movement's quest for a one-party state has started to look like it's going to come up short, and in fact take one in the chones for its troubles.

"We don't need to hark back to the unfortunate history of a certain Central European country in the 1930s to understand how poisonous this kind of political myth making can become. Powerful elements of the Republican Party and the conservative "movement" aren't just preparing themselves to go into opposition, they're preparing themselves to dispute the legitimacy of an Obama presidency -- in ways that could, if taken to extreme, lead to another Oklahoma City."
His interpretation of events is frighteningly plausible.

Already we have been seeing during the course of the summer and into the fall, the desperate talent search by movement conservatives for a new internal enemy, like a reality show; "American Traitor" where contestants line up to see who would be the best victim for the "stabbed in the back" myth making.

Thanks Billmon... you can just rock me to sleep, now...

mojo sends

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fact Check?

Someone tell me... when did FactCheck.org get in the tank for the Republicans?

News item in the barely readable Newsweek chortling with glee over FactCheck's latest salvo against the Obama campaign, to wit:
"In a TV ad and in speeches, Obama is making bogus claims that McCain plans to cut $880 billion from Medicare spending and to reduce benefits.

A TV spot says McCain's plan requires "cuts in benefits, eligibility or both."
Obama said in a speech that McCain plans "cuts" that would force seniors to "pay more for your drugs, receive fewer services, and get lower quality care."

These claims are false, and based on a single newspaper report that says no such thing. McCain's policy director states unequivocally that no benefit cuts are envisioned."
Except for the fact that senior policy people for the campaign have been saying just that for a couple of weeks now, as reported in the Wall Street Journal:
"John McCain would pay for his health plan with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid, a top aide said, in a move that independent analysts estimate could result in cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years to the government programs.
In the months since Sen. McCain introduced his health plan, statements made by his campaign have implied that the new tax credits he is proposing to help Americans buy health insurance would be paid for with other tax increases.

But Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Sen. McCain's senior policy adviser, said Sunday that the campaign has always planned to fund the tax credits, in part, with savings from Medicare and Medicaid. Those government health-care programs serve seniors, poor families and the disabled. Medicare spending for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 is estimated at $457.5 billion.
If on were to believe this, it appears as if Obama might actually understating the damage that McCain is planning to unleash on American seniors' health care.

And you have to read the FactCheck article carefully to find the dishonest there. The only proof they offer of the deceit of the Obama ad is that it ultimately comes from a paper written by progressives at the Center for American Progress, without ever delving into what the paper said.

FactCheck then, quite treacherously, carries water for McCain by claiming that the $1.3 trillion would not be in cuts, but merely "what would need to be produced to make the plan revenue neutral."


In fact, had the FactCheck folks bothered to actually review the CAP report and their research, they would have found a very cogent argument based not on just a single WSJ report, but on state by state health care statistics, the McCain campaign's own statements over the summer and basic math.

The FactCheck answer? There won't be cuts, they'll find 1.3 trillion dollars in waste and fraud.

But even though this was ostensibly all about the Obama ad and the so-called reality of the McCaim plan, that still didn't stop FactCheck's Brooks Jackson from taking partisan parting shots at Obama's health plan, claiming -- without offers of proof or explanation -- that they were all very skeptical of Obama's ability to provide his plan as promised.

mojo sends

Saturday, October 18, 2008

How To Confront Mormons About Proposition 8

The LDS church has pulled out the stops in support of Proposition 8. It now looks like the initiative may actually pass, and that would be saddening, because the validity of its amendment to the state constitution will probably be challenged successfully, and then we'll have to sit through yet more rounds of right-wing whining about activist judges.

It's important that pro-marriage forces really get mobilized in opposition to Proposition 8. It will be a lot simpler for everyone, including the churches actually, if this initiative is defeated. I bring this up because, if you're like me, then you probably know someone who knows someone who's a Mormon, and that means there's a good chance you've been swept into a wider discussion with one of the many Brothers and Sisters who've been sent out to engage the public in support of Proposition 8.

Recently, I had the opportunity to shred one of these benighted sods pretty mercilessly in email, and he stopped communicating with me all of a sudden. But I'm not letting go of him just yet. Check out the message I just sent him below, and please bookmark it for when you find yourself in your own discussion with one of these people, and they use this rather common talking point they keep spreading. This line of reasoning is very powerful, and if enough of us use it when the opportunity arises, we may just manage to turn this situation into an opportunity to do some good.

I wrote:
For whatever reason, you haven't responded to my previous message on this topic. I understand we're all busy and engaging in a democratic discourse with your fellow citizens doesn't directly contribute to the family income statement, but there was one point in the discussion that I'm really, REALLY motivated to get sorted out, because I think it's the most important thing we talked about.
[...] more importantly, what happens when a gay couple want to be married in the temple? The temple, in our belief, is the most sacred of places, and the whole ceremony is about the creation, and men and women. So, is that bigotry, or 2000+ year old doctrine? [...]
[...] The California Supreme Court did not rewrite church doctrine with its decision. It can't do that. Just because gays and lesbians have a right to obtain marriage certificates from county clerks just like straight couples, it does not mean that they now have a right to profane your temple. [...]
I'm very interested to hear your response to this. If what I wrote immediately after this seemed too harsh, the please know you have my sympathies. It's never feels very good to be exposed as a fraud.

[I wrote:]
See? This is another one of those right wing lies that your church is spreading-- that *you* are helping your church to spread.

Do you feel good about helping your church to spread lies, [brother]? Is that one of the ways that following the LDS church has improved your life? By giving you an excuse to spread convenient lies?
I think, by now, you've had plenty of opportunity to find out the truth, and it must be making you feel uncomfortable, I know.

Here you've been trying to help your church in an outreach operation of obvious apparent importance to many of your Elders, Bishops and Presidents, and now you come to find out they're using you to spread a lie. They know full well that the California Supreme Court has not done anything that puts LDS doctrine at risk of interference by the state. They know more than full well that Proposition 8 will not provide any further protection of LDS doctrine not already afforded by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the myriad religious freedom laws and regulations that depend from it. Yet, here they are spreading the lie that if Proposition 8 doesn't pass, then your temple will be as good as profaned, it's only a matter of time.

And here *YOU* are repeating this lie to your friends and family, your Brothers and Sisters in the LDS church, your fellow citizens whom you meet when you go out to proselytize for Proposition 8. I'm going to assume that you either didn't know or didn't think about how you might be participating in this deception before you started, but I don't cut the High Social Dominance Oriented leaders of your church any such slack. Nor should you, [brother]. Nor should you.

Finally, I'd like to ask you two questions, and I really hope you'll favor me with the time it takes to give me thoughtful answers.

1) Now that you know there is no threat to the sanctity of your temple posed by the recent California Supreme Court decision recognizing the right of gays and lesbians to marry, and you know that Proposition 8 will not (moreover, CANNOT) provide any further protection of the sanctity of your temple, will you stop trying to spread fear and uncertainty about it by posing questions to people like the one I quoted from you above?

2) Now that you know how your church leaders are lying to you, and abusing your trust and faith to manipulate you into spreading their lies for them, what do you plan to do about it?
I'll be interested to see if this gets no response from him either. Fortunately, the guy is my brother-in-law's best friend from high school, and my brother-in-law is against Proposition 8 already. I don't think he's going to be able to weasel out of this bind he's gotten himself into.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Attack Of The Zombie Newspapers

The Washington Post continues to underwhelm.
The End Of American Capitalism?
By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 10, 2008; A01

The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression is claiming another casualty: American-style capitalism.
No, you idiot. That's not the death rattle of American-style capitalism you're hearing. That sound is the last dying gasp of Reaganomics.
Since the 1930s, U.S. banks were the flagships of American economic might, and emulation by other nations of the fiercely free-market financial system in the United States was expected and encouraged. But the market turmoil that is draining the nation's wealth and has upended Wall Street now threatens to put the banks at the heart of the U.S. financial system at least partly in the hands of the government.
[emphasis mine] It remains to be seen whether Comrade Paulson will even have the stones to seize the means of credit production away from the bourgeoisie, much less go so far as to come out solidly as a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.
The Bush administration is considering a partial nationalization of some banks, buying up a portion of their shares to shore them up and restore confidence as part of the $700 billion government bailout. The notion of government ownership in the financial sector, even as a minority stakeholder, goes against what market purists say they see as the foundation of the American system.
See what I mean? All those idiots who studied the Reaganomicon too closely and allowed it to warp their perceptions of reality so badly are finally getting eaten by the Old Ones they worshipped in the fiery doom they've been told all along to expect.
Yet the administration may feel it has no choice. Credit, the lifeblood of capitalism, ceased to flow. An economy based on the free market cannot function that way.

The government's about-face goes beyond the banking industry. It is reasserting itself in the lives of citizens in ways that were unthinkable in the era of market-knows-best thinking. With the recent takeovers of major lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the bailout of AIG, the U.S. government is now effectively responsible for providing home mortgages and life insurance to tens of millions of Americans. Many economists are asking whether it remains a free market if the government is so deeply enmeshed in the financial system.
Ia! Ia! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!
Given that the United States has held itself up as a global economic model, the change could shift the balance of how governments around the globe conduct free enterprise. Over the past three decades, the United States led the crusade to persuade much of the world, especially developing countries, to lift the heavy hand of government from finance and industry.

But the hands-off brand of capitalism in the United States is now being blamed for the easy credit that sickened the housing market and allowed a freewheeling Wall Street to create a pool of toxic investments that has infected the global financial system. Heavy intervention by the government, critics say, is further robbing Washington of the moral authority to spread the gospel of laissez-faire capitalism.
Here follows what would have been the body of a decent article if it hadn't been preceded by all this nonsense.
The government could launch a targeted program in which it takes a minority stake in troubled banks, or a broader program aimed at the larger banking system. In either case, however, the move could be seen as evidence that Washington remains a slave to Wall Street. The plan, for instance, may not compel participating firms to give their chief executives the salary haircuts that some in Congress intended. But if the plan didn't work, the government might have to take bigger stakes.

"People around the world once admired us for our economy, and we told them if you wanted to be like us, here's what you have to do -- hand over power to the market," said Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist at Columbia University. "The point now is that no one has respect for that kind of model anymore given this crisis. And of course it raises questions about our credibility. Everyone feels they are suffering now because of us."

In Seoul, many see American excess as a warning. At the same time, anger is mounting over the global spillover effect of the U.S. crisis. The Korean currency, the won, has fallen sharply in recent days as corporations there struggle to find dollars in the heat of a global credit crunch.

"Derivatives and hedge funds are like casino gambling," said South Korean Finance Minister Kang Man-soo. "A lot of Koreans are asking, how can the United States be so weak?"

Other than a few fringe heads of state and quixotic headlines, no one is talking about the death of capitalism. The embrace of free-market theories, particularly in Asia, has helped lift hundreds of millions out of poverty in recent decades. But resentment is growing over America's brand of capitalism, which in contrast to, say, Germany's, spurns regulations and venerates risk.

In South Korea, rising criticism that the government is sticking too close to the U.S. model has roused opposition to privatizing the massive, state-owned Korea Development Bank. South Korea is among those countries that have benefited the most from adopting free-market principles, emerging from the ashes of the Korean War to become one of the world's biggest economies. It has distinguished itself from North Korea, an impoverished country hobbled by an outdated communist system and authoritarian leadership.

But the repercussions of crisis that began in the United States are global. In Britain, where Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher joined with President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s to herald capitalism's promise, the government this week moved to partly nationalize the ailing banking system. Across the English Channel, European leaders who are no strangers to regulation are piling on Washington for gradually pulling the government watchdogs off the world's largest financial sector. Led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, they are calling for broad new international codes to impose scrutiny on global finance.

To some degree, those calls are even being echoed by the International Monetary Fund, an institution charged with the promotion of free markets overseas and that preached that less government was good government during the economic crises in Asia and Latin America in the 1990s. Now, it is talking about the need for regulation and oversight.

"Obviously the crisis comes from an important regulatory and supervisory failure in advanced countries . . . and a failure in market discipline mechanisms," Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF's managing director, said yesterday before the fund's annual meeting in Washington.

In a slideshow presentation, Strauss-Kahn illustrated the global impact of the financial crisis. Countries in Africa, including many of those with some of the lowest levels of market and financial integration and openness, are now set to weather the crisis with the least amount of turbulence.

Shortly afterward, World Bank President Robert Zoellick was questioned by reporters about the "confusion" in the developing world over whether to continue embracing the free-market model. He replied, "I think people have been confused not only in developing countries, but in developed countries, by these shocking events."

In much of the developing world, financial systems still remain far more governed by the state, despite pressure from the United States for those countries to shift power to the private sector and create freer financial markets. They may stay that way for some time.

China had been resisting calls from Washington and Wall Street to introduce a broad range of exotic investments, including many of the once-red-hot derivatives now being blamed for magnifying the crisis in the West. In recent weeks, Beijing has made that position more clear, saying it would not permit an expansion of complex financial instruments.

With the U.S. government's current push toward intervention and the soul-searching over the role of deregulation in the crisis, the stage appears to be at least temporarily set for a more restrained model of free enterprise, particularly in financial markets.
The final graf is darkly amusing.
"If you look around the world, China is doing pretty good right now, and the U.S. isn't," said C. Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "You may see a push back from globalization in the financial markets."
China is a bubble waiting to pop, too. But you wouldn't know that from reading The Washington Post.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Quote of the Day -- Sarah Vowell

When talking about the propensity of GOP assrags, gasbags and assorted hangers on to drape themselves in the political theater that has become the tragedy of 9/11 when they visit New York, then run off to flyover country to complain about "unAmerican" those liberal elite latte drinkin' city folk are back east, she had this to say:

"I just feel like if New York was American enough for Al Qaeda, it should be American enough for them."

Sarah Vowell, author on The Daily Show Oct. 7, 2008.

mojo sends

Friday, October 03, 2008

I think you're going to need a bigger boat.

The fellows at FiveThirtyEight have been cruising around the battleground states, checking out the ground operations of the campaigns to get some grasp of the state of the ground game to complement their polling anaylsis, (which is excellent). Apparently, despite their stringent attempts to be fair and impartial, the McCain people decided to lock them out from visiting their field offices. They are less than impressed with the McCain ground game right now:
Up to this point, we’ve been giving McCain's ground campaign a lot of benefit of the doubt. We can’t stop convincing ourselves that there must – must – be a warehouse full of 1,000 McCain volunteers somewhere in a national, central location just dialing away. This can’t be all they’re doing. Because even in a place like Colorado Springs, McCain’s ground campaign is getting blown away by the Obama efforts. It doesn't mean Obama will win Colorado Springs, but it means Obama's campaign will not look itself in the mirror afterward and ask, "what more could we have done?"

You could take every McCain volunteer we’ve seen doing actual work in the entire trip, over six states, and it would add up to the same as Obama’s single Thornton, CO office. Or his single Durango, CO office. These ground campaigns bear no relationship to each other.

Here on out, our skepticism is going to be higher. We truly respect organizers on both sides, because it is grindingly hard work for minimal pay. It’s powered by a belief in doing what’s right. We do not quote them or get them in trouble. Moreover, we truly respect direct action by volunteers – who do exist on the McCain side, just as a tiny, tiny fraction of the Obama side – but if the attitude continues on this unhelpful and obstructive turn, we’re going to spend less time making excuses for what we observe. Less benefit of the doubt. Show us real work and we'll cover it. We want to.

The FiveThirtyEigtht guys are mostly focused on the Presidential races in this post, but I think it's worth pointing out that door to door campaigning and volunteer phonebanking have significant impact on downticket races. Couple this with the registration gaps that are popping up, and if I'm a GOP political functionary, I might seriously consider booking that flight to a country with weak extradition laws.

P.S. All the usual caveats about voter fraud apply.