Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Off the cliff

Marshall: Idaho GOP: Can We Secede?
The Idaho GOP just came out with a new platform. Main planks? Idaho should withhold taxes from the federal government, take away people's right to vote for senators and nullify all federal laws Idahoans don't like.
Barbara Morrill (DK): Can gay people be citizens of the United States?

Can gay people be citizens of the United States? According to Virginia's Attorney General, apparently not:

In March, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) told the state’s colleges and universities to rescind policies that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, arguing that schools have no legal authority to adopt such statements. On Friday, Cuccinelli appeared at Boys State, where a high school student asked him, “How is that not a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment?” Cuccinelli responded by suggesting that the amendment was not designed to protect gay men and women:

“State universities are not free to create any specially protected classes other than those dictated by the General Assembly,” Cuccinelli said. “Your question is, why is that not a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. Frankly, the category of sexual orientation would never have been contemplated by the people who wrote and voted for and passed the 14th Amendment,” he said.

Here's what those people wrote, voted for and passed:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

All persons ... no mention of excluding those you didn't like or thought were "icky." It's pretty damn clear.

Marshall: Lucy
Susan Collins (R-ME) pulls back support for Finance Reform bill.
Marshall: Too True

TPM Reader RW on Feingold and the Lucys ...

Coincidence that [Collins] plays Lucy hours after Feingold declares he won't vote for financial reform? I think not. We can only hold their feet to the fire when we are united. A very selfish act from Russ, who totally misread the situation and what would happen? What are the odds that we will have the tougher bill Feingold wants in the next Congress? Exactly zero. This is real politics, not third-grade Model U.N. Feingold's decision makes it more likely we will face another meltdown because we won't have this majority next time around.
Chris in Paris (AmBlog): RBS warns customers of 'cliff-edge' in banking and economy

From my perspective, it's hard to argue against this warning. Besides shifting the banking problems to the taxpayers, little has changed.

The credit team at RBS in London are getting very bearish and warning clients to "get ready for the cliff-edge," where prices of stocks and commodities will "collapse."

RBS credit chief Andrew Roberts said the edge is just around the corner for the European banking industry and the economies of Europe and the US.

"Surely risks associated with us being wrong are low, i.e. rates stay where they are," Roberts wrote in a research note.

"But risks associated with us being right are 10 percent returns in (10-year US Treasurys) and at the same time that equities/commodities will collapse far beyond what even some equity bears anticipate."

As a result Roberts is advising investors to get into maximum long-duration bonds in safe-haven markets.
Chris in Paris (AmBlog): Report: Some governments may not be able to withstand another banking crash

As necessary as the bank bailouts were, maintaining the exclusive lifestyle of bankers was hardly necessary. If anything, propping up those least in need was rewarding bad behavior setting up this potentially difficult next phase of the economic cycle. In the case of the US, Obama has differed little from the Bush administration in its handling of the banks. Giving the banks a free ride by pushing out global regulation is indeed owned by Obama and the rest of the G20 leaders who failed badly on this issue, again. The Independent:

The BIS has previously said that the ultimate calamity - payments systems freezing and cash machines running out of money - was only narrowly avoided when the US investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008. A deeper economic slump was averted by nationalising other banks and making loans amounting to $10trn (£6,620bn).

But the BIS report implies that governments may not be able to repeat such a bailout in the event of a second crisis, which some commentators fear could be triggered by another economic shock.

Despite the warnings, the G20 nations significantly eased the pressure on banks this week by delaying the introduction of tougher rules on the amount of capital they must hold to deal with potential crises. The new regulations were planned for the end of this year but are not now due until 2012. Countries will also be given far more leeway inhow the rules must be applied. Critics say this amounts to a watering down of the reforms needed to stave off the sort of disaster the BIS fears.

The BIS also warned that the "fragility" of public and private balance sheets in the UK,France, Germany, Spain and the US "severely limits the scope for fiscal policy intervention if another bailout is needed". It added: "The side effects of the financial and macro-economic supportmeasures, combined with the unresolved vulnerabilities of the financial sector,threaten to short-circuit the recovery; the reforms necessary to improve the resilience of the financial system [have] yet to be completed.
John Cole: And While the Rest of the World Pursues Austerity Measures

You have this:

Leverage is back on Wall Street—and this time it’s the bankers who have it.

Firms are adding jobs for the first time in two years, rebuilding businesses cut during the financial crisis and offering guaranteed payouts to lure top bankers. In New York, 6,800 financial-industry positions were added from the end of February through May, the largest three-month increase since 2008, according to the New York State Department of Labor.

Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. are among banks that are hiring to replenish their ranks, while Nomura Holdings Inc. and Jefferies Group Inc. have been recruiting talent from larger firms in a bid to increase their standing on Wall Street.

I think it is time to break out the foam fingers again, everyone! USA! USA!

And while everyone else is in the poor house, and the banksters are writing themselves fat checks, I think it is time to revisit this gem:

We are Wall Street. It’s our job to make money. Whether it’s a commodity, stock, bond, or some hypothetical piece of fake paper, it doesn’t matter. We would trade baseball cards if it were profitable. I didn’t hear America complaining when the market was roaring to 14,000 and everyone’s 401k doubled every 3 years. Just like gambling, its not a problem until you lose. I’ve never heard of anyone going to Gamblers Anonymous because they won too much in Vegas.

Well now the market crapped out, & even though it has come back somewhat, the government and the average Joes are still looking for a scapegoat. God knows there has to be one for everything. Well, here we are.

Go ahead and continue to take us down, but you’re only going to hurt yourselves. What’s going to happen when we can’t find jobs on the Street anymore? Guess what: We’re going to take yours. We get up at 5am & work till 10pm or later. We’re used to not getting up to pee when we have a position. We don’t take an hour or more for a lunch break. We don’t demand a union. We don’t retire at 50 with a pension. We eat what we kill, and when the only thing left to eat is on your dinner plates, we’ll eat that.

For years teachers and other unionized labor have had us fooled. We were too busy working to notice. Do you really think that we are incapable of teaching 3rd graders and doing landscaping? We’re going to take your cushy jobs with tenure and 4 months off a year and whine just like you that we are so-o-o-o underpaid for building the youth of America. Say goodbye to your overtime and double time and a half. I’ll be hitting grounders to the high school baseball team for $5k extra a summer, thank you very much.

What exactly do we have to do to make these assholes go Galt?

The added irony in all this is that financial regulation will now probably die with Robert Byrd, with an assist from Russ Feingold, who has a sad. Because the next financial regulation bill, after Democrats lose a bunch of seats in the House and Senate because the blue dogs have torpedoed all job growth bills and the public is sick of Democratic dithering, well, that will be so much more progressive.


House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) chatted yesterday with the Scaife-owned Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and apparently felt pretty good about himself.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, the Ohio Republican with his eye on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's gavel, said the tide is turning the GOP's way.

"The American people have written off the Democrats," Boehner said Monday in an interview with Tribune-Review editors and reporters. "They're willing to look at us again."

Well, "writing off" Dems seems more than a little excessive. More Americans consider themselves Democrats than Republicans; more Americans have a favorable opinion of Democrats than Republicans; more Americans trust Democrats to handle the biggest issues of the day than Republicans; and if one excludes Rasmussen, the generic congressional ballot looks pretty competitive for Democrats, too.

Boehner said the protests are emblematic of deep voter anger against Washington's leaders.

"They're snuffing out the America that I grew up in," Boehner said. "Right now, we've got more Americans engaged in their government than at any time in our history. There's a political rebellion brewing, and I don't think we've seen anything like it since 1776."

For a lawmaker who intends to be Speaker of the House, this is pretty irresponsible language. "Snuffing out"? Seriously?

The health care law passed in March "pushed most Americans over the edge," Boehner said.

Well, no, not really. Public attitudes towards the health care law have improved in recent months, and opposition has fallen. The Affordable Care Act may have pushing most Republican members of Congress over the edge, but not "most Americans."

Boehner proceeded to threaten to repeal health care reform, voiced his opposition to Wall Street reform, defended offshore coastal oil drilling and said Obama overreacted to the BP spill crisis, and voiced support for increasing the Social Security retirement age to 70 for people who have at least 20 years until retirement -- in order to get enough money to pay for the wars in the Middle East.

Quite an interview, to be sure.

mistermix: Taibbi on Logan

The whole thing is spot-on, here’s a taste:

As to this whole “unspoken agreement” business: the reason Lara Logan thinks this is because she’s like pretty much every other “reputable” journalist in this country, in that she suffers from a profound confusion about who she’s supposed to be working for. I know this from my years covering presidential campaigns, where the same dynamic applies. Hey, assholes: you do not work for the people you’re covering! Jesus, is this concept that fucking hard? On the campaign trail, I watch reporters nod solemnly as they hear about the hundreds of millions of dollars candidates X and Y and Z collect from the likes of Citigroup and Raytheon and Archer Daniels Midland, and it blows my mind that they never seem to connect the dots and grasp where all that money is going. The answer, you idiots, is that it’s buying advertising! People like George Bush, John McCain, Barack Obama, and General McChrystal for that matter, they can afford to buy their own P.R. — and they do, in ways both honest and dishonest, visible and invisible.

They don’t need your help, and you’re giving it to them anyway, because you just want to be part of the club so so badly. Disgustingly, that’s really what it comes down to. Most of these reporters just want to be inside the ropeline so badly, they want to be able to say they had that beer with Hillary Clinton in a bowling alley in Scranton or whatever, that it colors their whole worldview. God forbid some important person think you’re not playing for the right team!

This is via a tweet and re-tweet from a couple of local reporters who aren’t interested in being a part of some slimy little club, unlike Ms Logan.
Neiwert (C&L): 'Over the Cliff,' the WaPo's centrists, and the fallacy of the middle


John's already pointed out the recent inclusion of our book, Over the Cliff: How Obama's Election Drove the American Right Insane in a summer roundup of political books titled "Flame-throwing political books from the right and the left".

Naturally, we're grateful for the attention from the post. Books editor Stephen Levingston, who wrote the piece, was also kind enough to invite us to contribute an op-ed in support of the book, "10 fictitious Tea Party beliefs", a little while back. (Notably, Levingston also contributed one of the more notable nuggets of information we included in the book last year when examining the correlation of racist attitudes to anti-health-care activism.)

But I was frankly taken aback by the way it was all framed, notably this:

Yes, it could be a long, hot summer. But when does a swat from the left cancel out a snipe from the right? When do we reach a state of political imbecility where only the noise exists -- and all thought and reason have drained away? You judge. Here are the titles.

We're grateful that ours was the first title that followed. And the list included some other interesting contributions to the debate, including Markos Moulitsas' forthcoming American Taliban. But I was even more struck by the right-wing titles to which, apparently, we were being held up as the right-wing equivalent of the "flame-throwing" season:

THE BLUEPRINT: Obama's Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency

THE NEXT AMERICAN CIVIL WAR: The Populist Revolt Against the Liberal Elite

THE POST-AMERICAN PRESIDENCY: The Obama Administration's War on America

TO SAVE AMERICA: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine

THE MANCHURIAN PRESIDENT: Barack Obama's Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists

Excuse me, am I imagining things, or is the serious, factual, fully documented and completely transparent effort that we put into this book being equated, journalistically speaking, with a pile of conspiracist lunacy?

Maybe it's just me, but the entire right-wing list seems actually to prove the point of our title: these people are nuts, plain and simple.

They not only push beliefs that are provably untrue, they are clearly indulging in the kind of insurrectionist extremism that ultimately produces the kind of violent acts Over the Cliff details in abundance.

Instead of hand-wringing about whether both sides are just getting too extreme, it might be worth pointing out that it's actually only one side of the debate that's throwing flames and engaging in real extremism -- and the other side is being painted as extreme for simply pointing out that fact.

I don't know if this kind of false equivalency is actually Levingston's sentiments or just those of his editors, but it has become an all-too-common feature of the WaPo's approach to news: treat people who tell lies and people who tell the truth as merely opposing sides of an opinionated debate.

It's the fake culture of centrism that exists in newsrooms around the country. It's a product of a classic logical fallacy that is commonly adopted by journalists eager to escape accusations of "liberal media bias" -- namely, the argumentum ad temperantium:

a logical fallacy which asserts that any given compromise between two positions must be correct.

An individual demonstrating the false compromise fallacy implies that the positions being considered represent extremes of a continuum of opinions, and that such extremes are always wrong, and the middle ground is always correct. This is not always the case. Sometimes only X or Y is acceptable, with no middle ground possible. Additionally, the middle ground fallacy allows any position to be invalidated, even those that have been reached by previous applications of the same method; all one must do is present yet another, radically opposed position, and the middle-ground compromise will be forced closer to that position. In politics, this is part of the basis behind Overton Window Theory.

The ultimate expression of the fallacy is the following scenario: Person A claims that 2 plus 2 equals 4. Person B claims that 2 plus 2 equals 6. Person C, being a devoted centrist, concludes that 2 plus 2 must therefore equal 5.

Of course, sometimes debates occur in genuine gray areas where the facts and conclusions are murky and complex. But sometimes -- indeed, more often than not -- the actual facts can be gathered and appropriately assessed. That's what journalists, in fact, are supposed to do.

It would be good if sometimes WaPo editors remembered that sometimes, 2 plus 2 does not really equal 5.

Greg Sargent: Don't write off Karl Rove's group just yet!

The other day, American Crossroads, the much-ballyhooed right-wing group that counts Karl Rove among its top advisers, revealed that it had raised a whopping $200 in its first fundraising sweep. Understandably, this prompted a bit of mockery among Dems, since the group had vowed to raise untold millions to sway the midterms.

But Rove's group is now up with a new ad attacking Harry Reid that seems pretty hard hitting, and raises at least the possibility that Rove's group could be a factor. The ad seizes on Reid's recent gaffe on the Senate floor, in which he said that the news that 36,000 jobs had been lost was "really good":

The group says it's spending $120,000 to air the spot in Nevada -- the only state it's spending money in, at least for now. I'm not sure how this squares with the earlier news that it only raised $200, but I've got a call into the group, and if I get an answer, I'll update you.

Either way, it looks like it's premature to write off Rove's group as a factor, and it is now trying to raise millions of dollars from business interests to influence the outcome of the midterms. The specter of Rove makes it more imperative for Dems to pass legislation already to bring some transparency to corporate spending on our elections.

UPDATE, 11:26 a.m.: As readers remind me, Rove's group raised over $1 million to get started, so they have cash on hand for ad buys. While their fundraising has been anemic since then, it's perhaps premature to write them off.

UPDATE, 12:04 p.m.: A Dem aide responds:

"This is the number one reason Republicans oppose the bipartisan DISCLOSE Act -- they wouldn't be able to have a secret corporate slush fund to run attack ads against people fighting to reform Washington. This is also a very good reason why the Senate should act fast and pass this bill."

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