Pragmatic Liberalism

Real Problems

Center-Right Versus Center-Left In the Democratic Party

Schoen and his ideological allies have infuriated many in the progressive wing of the party. Schoen’s adversaries argue, with their own polling data to back up their case, that there may be many more self-described American conservatives than liberals, but, when it comes to actual policies, the country is pretty liberal.

The Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) has created a blog, “Center-Right Nation Watch,” to counter those arguing that the country tilts to the right. The organization has also conducted its own analysis of poll data in a paper titled “The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America Is a Myth.”

As Edsall notes it is a little more complex then that, but maybe only in the margins. The Conservative base to some degree – the Sarah Palin rallies – still gets worked up over a few hot button social issues, but we’re a very culturally moderate country in practice – note that during the six years of the Bush administration when Congressional Republicans acted like Bush’s sheep herd they made zero progress on their cultural agenda. Medicare for example, is a  decidedly entrenched liberal program – some on the hard Right might to loathe to admit it, but they know they’d be in tough straights if they had to support their grand parents or parents without Medicare or Social Security. For well over forty years ultra Conservative radio, pundits and other surrogates utterly dominated the public political/cultural discourse – they did manage to turn liberal into a seven letter word for many Americans. Even today, Republicans have their own television network – that still churns out propaganda that would make Stalin smile. So proudly self identifying as liberal – the political philosophy of the founding fathers – is not going to happen over night. It doesn’t appear that a President Obama will make the same missteps make in the first few years of the Clinton presidency as some fear – its a different country now and over hauling health-care doesn’t sound, to most Americans as radical as much as about time. Paul Krugman is probably right about any economic initiatives, the failure not to be bold enough. Digby makes the observation that Democrats might have to camouflage liberal legislation as moderate in the public relations war to get it passed. If Democrats have to pull their own Clear Skies Initiative doublespeak many of us will cringe, but in the long term, a rose is a rose as they say.

If the stock market is any indicator, the reaction has been consistently favorable since Obama announced the selection of Geithner and Summers on November 24. Obama’s expected pick of Gates even won a note of praise from the dyed-in-the-wool conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page: “So far on security, not bad.”

Recognize Gates for what he is –  both a bone thrown to Republican moderates and a smart move in the larger theme of a ‘hit the ground running” transition. I’d love to see retired General Wesley Clarke in that job – he has experience working with our long time NATO allies and because of Kosovo has tons of credibility to bring to talks with moderate Muslims.

Joint Chiefs Chairman ‘Very Positive’ After Meeting With Obama

“Open and serious debate versus ideological certitude will be a great relief to the military leaders,” said retired Maj. Gen. William L. Nash of the Council on Foreign Relations. Senior officers are aware that few in their ranks voiced misgivings over the Iraq war, but they counter that they were not encouraged to do so by the Bush White House or the Pentagon under Donald H. Rumsfeld.

“The joke was that when you leave a meeting, everybody is supposed to drink the Kool-Aid,” Nash said. “In the Bush administration, you had to drink the Kool-Aid before you got to go to the meeting.”

The quipe from Nash is also a good reason to be weary of idelogical purity. Democrats seem to have too many ideas at this point rather then too few and Obama has embraced an extraordinary level of pragmatism, so its unlikely we’ll have this problem for a while.

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Holiday Spirit, Opinion Rooted in Reality and The Unity That Goes Around

Holiday Spirit

‘Black Friday:’ Three dead so far. I’ve read some interesting thoughts about this, but at the end of the day one poor man is dead from being trampled to death. If it was because of over wrought materialism or the compulsion to show love with a new video game console doesn’t matter all that much. Respecting the basic rights of others has always been about reigning in our worse impulses.

Last Gunmen Killed in India, Ending Siege

Indian officials said they now believe that at least 15 gunmen carried out the operation after reaching Mumbai by sea. After an interrogation of one of the attackers, Indian intelligence officials said they suspected that a Pakistani Islamist group, Lashkar-i-Taiba, was responsible. An Indian intelligence document from 2006 obtained by The Washington Post said members of the group had been trained in maritime assault.

Just a reminder that tensions between Indian Hindus and Muslims is not a new phenomenon – for the Cliff Notes Hollywood version rent the Gandhi DVD. There is reason to pause and point out the glaring facts of history because the Chicken-Little crowd is singing another chorus of The End is Near. Every time a Muslim burbs you can count on Jihad Watch to wonder when the world is going to wake up and smell the next caliphate. Two Mumbai gunmen were British, Posted by Robert at November 28, 2008 6:35 AM

Britain, exporter of jihadists. Will this revelation lead to any searching questions about what is being taught in mosques in Britain? Will it lead to any public discussion about immigration and assimilation, or about British values and Sharia? Somehow I doubt it.

Such sweeping condemnations of the 2.2 million British Muslims. There are tensions because of a relatively few, very vocal and hateful Muslims. That is light years away from making Great Britain an “exporter of jihadists”. Imagine that some blogger had written this

Oklahoma, exporter of radical Christian Conservative terrorists like Timothy McVeigh. Will this revelation lead to any searching questions about what is being taught in right-wing Christian churches in the mid-west? Will it lead to any public discussion about preaching hate and that the federal government is tyrannical, or about Republican values and right-wing dogmatism? Somehow I doubt it.

Even opinion pieces have to be rooted in logic. One important point about the Mumbai terror attacks is that the group came from Pakistan. An issue that E.J. Dionne touches on in this look at President-elect Obama’s roaring centrism – something some readers may remember from the nineties, Campaign Memo: “Barack Obama Was Right”

Terrorist Sanctuaries: For years, we have given President Musharraf hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid, while deferring to his cautious judgment on how to take out high-level al Qaeda targets – including, most likely, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Here is the result:

Bin Laden and Zawahiri – two men with direct responsibility for 9/11- remain at large.
Al Qaeda has trained and deployed hundreds of fighters worldwide from its sanctuary in northwest Pakistan.
Afghanistan is far less secure because the Taliban can strike across the border, and then return to safety in Pakistan.

By any measure, this strategy has not worked. Conventional wisdom would have us defer to Musharraf in perpetuity. Barack Obama wants to turn the page. If Musharraf is willing to go after the terrorists and stop the Taliban from using Pakistan as a base of operations, Obama would give him all of the support he needs. But Obama made clear that as President, if he had actionable intelligence about the whereabouts of al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan – and the Pakistanis continued to refuse to act against terrorists known to be behind attacks on American civilians – then he will use highly targeted force to do so.

Pakistan and President Musharraf were VP Cheney’s little fantasy island; no one was allowed to question island shenanigans except Dick “Meet the Press” of Sunday, September 10, 2006, Vice President Cheney,

“President Musharraf has been a great ally. There was, prior to 9/11, a close relationship between the Pakistan intelligence services and the Taliban. Pakistan was one of only three nations that recognized, diplomatically recognized the government of Afghanistan at that particular time. But the fact is Musharraf has put his neck on the line in order to be effective in going after the extremist elements including al-Qaeda and including the Taliban in Pakistan. There have been three attempts on his life, two of those by al-Qaeda over the course of the last three years. This is a man who has demonstrated great courage under very difficult political circumstances and has been a great ally for the United States”.

Musharraf doesn’t even control much of the northen part of his own country.

With Afghainistan in mind and Bin laden and the “war on terror” and the terrorist group in India that trained in Pakistan, and Iraq – otherwise known as Bush’s School for Future Terrorists, and Wall Street and the credit crisis, and that China owns much of the future dollars that Bush used to finance his marvelous presidency, Bush reflects on legacy: ‘I’m leaving with the same set of values’

“I came to Washington with a set of values, and I’m leaving with the same set of values,” Bush told Koch in an interview taped earlier this month that aired on National Public Radio Thursday.

That might be the most deeply honest statement Bush has ever made. Declassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate —Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States“ dated April 2006

* Although we cannot measure the extent of the spread with precision, a large body
of all-source reporting indicates that activists identifying themselves as jihadists,
although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and
geographic dispersion.

* Greater pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim majority
nations would alleviate some of the grievances jihadists exploit. Over time, such
progress, together with sustained, multifaceted programs targeting the
vulnerabilities of the jihadist movement and continued pressure on al-Qa’ida,
could erode support for the jihadists.

* The Iraq conflict has become the —cause celebre“ for jihadists, breeding a deep
resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for
the global jihadist movement
. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves,
and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry
on the fight.

* The jihadists‘ greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution–an
ultra-conservative interpretation of shari‘a-based governance spanning the
Muslim world–is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims.
Exposing the
religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadists‘ propaganda
would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade

It is not the least bit strange that Jihad Watch sees the sharia zealots as a threat and the combined opinion of the  Office of the Director of National Intelligence, The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps intelligence organizations, The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Coast Guard Intelligence, The Defense Intelligence Agency, The Department of Energy, The Department of Homeland Security, The Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), The Federal Bureau of Investigation and The National Security Agency (NSA) among other agencies, see sharia as a weakness.

Adviser Who Insulted Clinton Has Role in Transition

Samantha Power, the Harvard professor who was forced to resign from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign last spring after calling Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton “a monster,” is now advising the president-elect on transition matters relating to the State Department — which Clinton is slated to head.

Gasp, Obama has turned around and rehired someone that insulted Senator Clinton. The same Senator Clinton, who for multiple reasons, including to unify the Democratic party factions, Obama decided to make his Secretary of State. As the Secretary-to-be of our nation’s diplomatic front, it would be a relatively small gesture on Clinton’s part to embrace Power as part of her team. As I recall McCain supporters called Hillary far worse.

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Beware the SOFA and Your Crazy Uncle Victor

Iraq lawmakers approve security pact with U.S.

The pact, which is expected to be formally ratified by Iraq’s three-person Presidency Council, requires U.S. combat troops to leave Iraqi cities, towns and villages by June 30 as the first step toward a total withdrawal by the end of 2011. It also limits U.S. troops’ ability to conduct missions, raids or arrests without Iraqi authority and opens the door to Iraqi courts handling some criminal cases involving American troops.

I let this set for a couple of hours before I wrote anything because it sounds like such good news. Maybe out in 24 months instead of the 36 months the Pentagon had previously said was the minimum( If the U.S. leaves in 24 months we will have been there for a total of eight years). Then there are the inter-Iraq issues. Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr doesn’t have quite the power he once had, but he doesn’t like it and neither do the Kurds. The minority Sunnis are afraid they’ll be left in the lurch as far as security, with the predominantly Shiite in control and U.S. troops out or assigned to the sidelines to let them work things out for themselves. There is no agreement about how Iraqis and Kurds will divide oil revenue; so including the sectarian problems another source of tension. There is a provision that President Obama could cancel the SOFA with notice. Which brings up questions of the legitimacy of the SOFA if it includes the conduct of private U.S. contractors in Iraq, An Agreement Without Agreement

For example, the administration plans to exempt civilian contractors from prosecution under Iraqi laws. Military personnel also enjoy this exemption, but they can be court-martialed. These military tribunals have no jurisdiction over civilian contractors. Indeed, many of them will be immune from prosecution anywhere. Current federal law only subjects contractors working in support of the Defense Department to prosecution in American courts for felonies in Iraq. Yet those working for the CIA or the State Department could be left operating in a “no-law” zone if the president had the power to commit America unilaterally. If that happens, contractors could shoot Iraqi civilians without cause or commit sexual assaults against their fellow contractors without facing prison time. No existing status of forces agreement, including those used in such places as South Korea and Germany, contains anything like this wide-ranging exemption.

Important to remember that this is Bush’s agreement and under it the Iraqi government has legal jurisdiction over U.S. troops under certain circumstances. Sine the agreement covers contractors and has what amounts to a mutual defense agreement, unlike other SOFAs it has strong elements of being a treaty. Treaties require Congressional approval. America has been told for years that Republicans were the great gurus of foreign policy, yet here we have Bush acting like he is on the last few days of spring break and he’s going to throw TVs off the balcony if he feels like it. The SOFA is a break through for Prime Minister Nouri Maliki – a step in the right direction, but it is sloppy and possibly illegal – as of today there is not a complete English copy for anyone to read, even Congress.

One of the intellectual National Reviews intellectual contributors, historian Victor Davis Hanson writes in The Hysterical Style,

Politicians now predict the implosion of the U.S. auto industry. Headlines warn that the entire banking system is on the verge of utter collapse. The all-day/all-night cable news shows and op-ed columnists talk of another Dark Age on the horizon, as each day another corporation lines up for its me-too bailout.

…We are witnessing a new hysterical style, in which the Baby Boomer “me generation” that now runs America jettisons knowledge of the past and daily proclaims that each new development requires both a radical solution and another bogeyman to blame for being mean or unfair to them.

Whiskey Fire digs up Vic being pretty darn hysterical back in 2002. Pangloss Hanson wants us to smile or frown on his que. Since I’m not an intellectual at NR I don’t have those Rightie issued puppet striings, thank you. No, now is not the time to panic or dance in the streets, but pardon the reality based community if we show a little concern. The implosion of the domestic auto industry has been brought to our attention by those guys with the private jets, auto industry executives. Whatever happens they’ll be fine, but the specter of the nation losing a large chunk of its manufacturing sector and millions of jobs with it, might make Hanson yawn, but that exactly the reason you don’t let crazy uncles decide what your priorities should be. Hanson as usual is long on hot air and short on detail. His arrogance keeps him from being bothered to explain how America is not suffering a credit crunch, a sub prime meltdown and if the wrong people are being blamed to point us in the correct direction. A Republican Zeus he simply waves his arm from gold leafed robes and pronounces mealy mouthed judgment – let the rabble rousing masses eat cake. A sometime professor no less, disposes with his supporting arguments or a cohesive opening statement for that matter. Low standards over there at the NR, Hanson fits right in.

Financial industry rescue criticized as double standard

Congressional leaders and the Bush administration have stressed that the industry’s $25 billion must be the automakers’ last word on government help. Yet two of the largest financial institutions are on their second and third serving of government bailout funds; The Treasury had put $25 billion into Citigroup, while privately held AIG has now drawn $150 billion in loans from the government.

“It’s a double standard, basically,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. “Holy cow, AIG gets $150 billion for one insurance company that not only made mistakes but engaged in very dubious practices … and they’re bailed out? I’d love to see what their financial plans are, but I doubt they were even asked for them.”

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Empire State Skyline New York City with a blue tint

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Conservative Pundits Take Shots at Gitmo and Economy – Fire Blanks

Your average Conservative pundit

“Hoist with his own petard” literally means “blown up with his own mine.” More generally, a “petard” is a hat-shaped device which can be be charged with gunpowder.

Republican pundit Michelle Malkin is upset that after seven years, prisoners at Guantanamo Bay – some of them guilty, some innocent are Playing games at Gitmo,

The human rights crowd is right: Life is hard for a Guantanamo Bay detainee. The deprivation is unspeakable. Their brains have not been “stimulated” enough, according to the facility’s “cultural advisor.” Which is why this Thanksgiving, America is drawing up plans to provide the 250 or so suspected jihadists at the “notoriously Spartan” detention camp with basic sustenance including movie nights, art classes, English language lessons, and “Game Boy-like” electronic devices, according to the Miami Herald.

Since 9-11 the U.S. has had an average of 3000 Americans killed a year by other Americans. Those that were convicted were sent to prisons where they were feed three times a day, got some exercise, played games, wrote letters to family, recieved visitors – in other words some covicted murderers of Americans got some basic human rights. Much of the limited activities that are provided prisoners are done because thos activties make life easier for the prison guards – the prisoners are less likely to act up if they think they might lose some privledges – its basic penal system management. many of this basic rights were denied everyone at Guantanamo Bay regardless of whether they were guilty or not guilty. Its her hero george W. Bush who is making these changes. After the Hamdan Supeme Court decision the current Republican president released or transferred about 500 prisoners to other countries. Of the 255 remaining prisoners, the government, i.e. Bush only has plans to try 80. There are certainly some bad people at Gitmo that deserve to be locked up. Why is it so complicated for malkin and like-minded righties to distinquish between innicent, marginally copable, and dangerous – most likely guilty as hell. Nope is the same old righty technique of painting with a broad and shallow brush, freigning irgnorance of the hypocrisy of being pro spreading democracy, yet holding the rule of law in contempt. If the Right thniks Gitmo is just a summer camp, lets see the reality show where a plane load of Conservative pundits check into the Gitmo prison for 6 months.

From the Christian World magazine, Detainee dilemma

The dilemma involving Chinese Muslims imprisoned for seven years at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, highlights the difficulty President-elect Barack Obama will have in following through on his campaign promise to close the controversial naval military prison.

The 17 detainees, who the U.S. government no longer deems as “enemy combatants,” have been cleared for release since 2003, but the dilemma lies in where to send them. These Chinese Muslims, known as Uighurs (pronounced WEE’ gurz), face persecution in their home country, and U.S. officials fear they would be killed if they return to China.

These people are not guilty of anything. Let’s all get red faced mad as hell that while these innocent people are wasting away in Gitmo Summer Camp they play some electronic games or paint a picture. How many petards has Michelle hang herself by at this point – somewhere around 500.

Malkin is also either woefully uninformed about Obama’s views on Gitmo or is intentionally misleading her readers. She writes,

…top legal advisors and supporters of Barack Obama, whose name detainees chanted on election night, are now rethinking the President-elect’s absolutist campaign position on shutting the center down and flooding our mainland courts with every last enemy combatant designee

First, McCain waned to close Guantanamo Bay detainee facility and start military tribunals – Malkin was a McCain supporter. All the way back now to 2007 and Senator Obama’s views on Gitmo, Sunday, June 24, 2007, Obama tells crowd he wants Guantanamo Bay detainee facility closed

“While we’re at it,” he said, “we’re going to close Guantanamo. And we’re going to restore habeas corpus. … We’re going to lead by example ? by not just word but by deed. That’s our vision for the future.”

Habeas corpus is a tenet of the Constitution that protects people from unlawful imprisonment.

The White House said Friday that Bush has made closing the prison in Cuba a priority and that Bush’s top aides are in active discussions about the subject.

Malkin also claims that Obama is suddenly discovering that there are going to be difficulties – difficult to believe considering Obama is a Constitutional scholar, was a U.S. Senator when the Hamden decision came down and a presidential candidate that ran on the issue. Obama’s Guantanamo challenges won’t end with closing prison

But Guter, the former Obama campaign adviser, is skeptical that a Mohammed prosecution is possible and says that allegations of torture would entangle any trial.
“Most of these problems we made ourselves. We could have had enough to convict,” he said. “We didn’t trust our own institutions that had served us all these years. We didn’t trust in our federal courts; we didn’t trust in our Constitution.”
One Obama adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing undecided issues, acknowledged the difficulty of the task ahead.
“There will be complicated choices to be made about individual detainees,” the adviser said. “We all know what the options are. There is nothing new under the sun. They are all going to be looked at.”
And it is clear that reaching solutions will take time.
“Guantanamo will be closed, but these people will be transferred somewhere, and some of them will need to be held for some time,” said Deborah Pearlstein, a national-security-law scholar at Princeton University. “It doesn’t make sense to say this will be resolved on Jan. 20.

One of the reasons as cited in this article from WaPo is that Bush, rather then put these people in a”prisoner of war” camp and following Geneva guidelines, made up out of whole cloth a new unique designation for them. Then subjected them to mistreatment and torture – except for some that he rendered to other countries to be tortured. What use is a pundit that refuses to look at the facts and seems utterly oblivious to her blatant hypocrisy.

Who knows what Republican Grover Norquist is, a little bit pundit, fly in the soup ideologue – he doesn’t seem to have a regular job, surviving on the largess of Republican “think tanks” and donations. He does keep showing up on the TeeVee giving his opinions,

On the whole, the Right still is in denial about what their cockamamie economic theories hath wrought. Grover Norquist claims the economy is failing because Democrats took control of Congress in 2006. The only solutions being offered by the Right are the same solutions they always offer — tax cuts, especially capital gains tax cuts (although whose got capital gains these days?), and of course blaming labor. ( empahsis mine)

The Origins of the Financial Crisis

The rapid rise of lending to subprime borrowers helped inflate the housing price bubble. Before 2000, subprime lending was virtually non-existent, but thereafter it took off exponentially. The sustained rise in house prices, along with new financial innovations, suddenly made subprime borrowers — previously shut out of the mortgage markets — attractive customers for mortgage lenders. Lenders devised innovative Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) — with low “teaser rates,” no down-payments, and some even allowing the borrower to postpone some of the interest due each month and add it to the principle of the loan — which were predicated on the expectation that home prices would continue to rise

[   ]..These new financial innovations thrived in an environment of easy monetary policy by the Federal Reserve and poor regulatory oversight. With interest rates so low and with regulators turning a blind eye, financial institutions borrowed more and more money (i.e. increased their leverage) to finance their purchases of mortgage-related securities. Banks created off-balance sheet affiliated entities such as Structured Investment Vehicles (SIVs) to purchase mortgage-related assets that were not subject to regulatory capital requirements Financial institutions also turned to short-term “collateralized borrowing” like repurchase agreements, so much so that by 2006 investment banks were on average rolling over a quarter of their balance sheet every night.

[  ]…What is especially shocking, though, is how institutions along each link of the securitization chain failed so grossly to perform adequate risk assessment on the mortgage-related assets they held and traded. From the mortgage originator, to the loan servicer, to the mortgage-backed security issuer, to the CDO issuer, to the CDS protection seller, to the credit rating agencies, and to the holders of all those securities, at no point did any institution stop the party or question the little-understood computer risk models, or the blatantly unsustainable deterioration of the loan terms of the underlying mortgages.

During this time the Bush administration still worshipped at the feet of deregulation and trickle down economics. There was no leadership at the top to rein in these practices in or to even sound a warning signal.

Moderate Republicans the Urban Myth

Moderate Republicans the urban myth

Roger Simon, one of the intellectual elite of Conservatism goes in search of a moderate Republican and it ain’t pretty, GOP senator: We haven’t learned

“I don’t think we have learned much from the election in terms of what people want to see,” he says. “We have the same gridlock.”

[  ]…“We need someone who speaks from the center,” he says. “Sarah Palin is not the voice of our party.”

They say that acknowledging that you have a problem is the first major step in overcoming that problem. So much for that old conventional wisdom,

“We have to become much more attuned to the rhetoric and issues that Hispanics care about,” the senator says. “We have to talk about education, family, and moral issues like gay marriage and abortion.”

[   ]…“The Democrats talked about middle-class tax cuts! They weren’t the party of the poor anymore! They weren’t the party of gun control anymore! What did Republicans want? Tax cuts for the rich! And small government,” he says.

Small government — the mantra of the Republican Party ever since Ronald Reagan — will not work anymore, the senator says.

If Republicans would just bring back the concept of government control of the uterus and have armed patrols of every consenting adult’s bedroom that’ll get them back in power. Talk about “family” is Conservative doublespeak for selling the American people on the bizarre idea that Democrats hate families and that some how this “small’ government they have talked about for decades, legislate always happy Stepford-like families. The mental backleaps required to rationalize the dysfunctional and hypocritical idea that Republican can have a small government, but at the same time one that uses government authority to enforce draconian codes of personal behavior for adults takes a pretzel like mind. They still want to be the authoritarians and to be the party of liberty. In science that would be like wanting a substance to be a solid and liquid at the same temperature. Maybe admitting that in general something is wrong is not enough. They have to come to the realization they want to stand for two opposing propositions at the same time. There are a few actual moderate Republicans that can handle some reality, they voted for Obama.

Speaking of families. How about sensible regulation to protect them from the financial disasters created by circumstances and institutions beyond their control, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has issued this report, RECESSION COULD CAUSE LARGE INCREASES IN POVERTY AND PUSH MILLIONS INTO DEEP POVERTY

Like previous recessions, the current downturn is likely to cause significant increases both in the number of Americans who are poor and the number living in “deep poverty,” with incomes below half of the poverty line.  Because this recession is likely to be deep and the government safety net for very poor families who lack jobs has weakened significantly in recent years, increases in deep poverty in this recession are likely to be severe.  There are a series of steps that federal and state policymakers could take to soften the recession’s harshest impacts and limit the extent of the increases in deep poverty, destitution, and homelessness.[1]

Goldman Sachs projects that the unemployment rate will rise to 9 percent by the fourth quarter of 2009 (the firm has increased its forecast for the unemployment rate a couple of times in the last month).  If this holds true and the increase in poverty relative to the increase in unemployment is within the range of the last three recessions, the number of poor Americans will rise by 7.5-10.3 million, the number of poor children will rise by 2.6-3.3 million, and the number of children in deep poverty will climb by 1.5-2.0 million.

Already there are signs that the recession is hitting low-income Americans hard.  Between September 2006 and October 2008, the unemployment rate for workers age 25 and over who lack a high school diploma — a heavily low-income group — increased from 6.3 percent to 10.3 percent.

Hilzoy’s take,

To put this in perspective, the current unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) is 6.5%; it was under 5% at the beginning of this year. It reached 9% one month in 1975, and was over 9% for about a year and a half in 1982-3; otherwise, it has not come near that level since the BLS’ unemployment statistics start, in 1948. In 2007, the poverty level for an individual was $10,590; for a parent and two kids, it was $16,705. People are described as being in “deep poverty” when they make less than half of that amount. The idea that there will be 1.5-2 million kids in families making half the poverty level is horrifying.

Also horrifying will be the inevitable uptick in domestic violence and street crime that goes hand in hand with financial downturns.

Incredible Deniability

Scott Jensen is the one who filmed the scene. He’s local station KTUU’s award winning chief photographer. He told CC from KUDO radio yesterday that Sarah Palin, who was standing next to her personal assistant throughout the entire interview, chose the spot on which she stood for the “turkey slaughter interview” that quickly went viral on the internet, and received wide coverage in the news media. The turkey slaughter was already underway when the governor chose the spot. The photographer pointed out what was going on and asked her if she wanted to move. She said, “No worries.”

Several of her staff were present the entire time while the journalism-major-turned-governor spoke to the people. And then there was the actual footage of her looking at the guy while he was killing the turkeys.

This was pretty much covered on the day it happened in various reports of the horrifying pr debacle. So why bring it up again? Because now, Palin is denying it, and saying she had no idea of what was going on ten feet behind her while she gave the interview, and is basically calling the photographer a liar.

There has been some defense of Palin by both liberal and conservative bloggers. Something along the lines of this is where your food comes from – ugly reality, face up to it – many people that eat meat are disconnected from where it comes from, even one environmentalist saying at least these folks are getting their food locally and so forth. All of which are good points. Yet here Palin goes again displaying an incredible disregard for other’s sensibilities and then lying about it.

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Losing Track of All the Bailouts and An Astute Clown Defines Psychopath

Citigroup Bailout and the Chance to Change US for the Better

So, is this bailout plan justified?

Because of my position as a pastor, readers will know, I don’t express opinions on such political matters.

But I can tell you, I have been chagrined by some of the mentality surrounding the current crisis, which has also seen the devaluation of stocks and mutual funds, on which many retirees and potential employees plan on using in their retirement years.

I have also been saddened to see more than 1.2-billion Americans lose their jobs.

But I also think that the crisis presents the US economy an enormous opportunity to retool itself, beginning within our own thinking about money, finances, and the economy, and do so in ways that we might have found impossible to consider changing just last year.

Mark Daniels also posts the details of the Citigroup bailout plan, but there seems to be some disagreement over the exact details. Yglasias and Krugman aren’t happy about the details we do have,

Mark Thoma has the rundown of informed reactions. A bailout was necessary — but this bailout is an outrage: a lousy deal for the taxpayers, no accountability for management, and just to make things perfect, quite possibly inadequate, so that Citi will be back for more.

This is just an echo of an obvious observation at this point – here we go again saving a corporation that worshiped at the alter of unregulated free market capitalism, but they’re (executive management) not taking the responsibility for their failure. On the the other hand we have as many as 3 million auto industry related jobs that might go down the tubes – because of the decisions made by a small percentage of numskulls at the top of the food chain.

Perrspectives has a related salute to our Master of Business Administration President, The Decline and Fall of the First MBA President

And to be sure, our first MBA President’s business defeats were myriad. But unlike most entrepreneurs, George W. Bush as CEO always had someone to bail him out.

Consider the Bush family connections and all of the luck and good fortune that goes with it. Despites his failures as an oil man, Bush reaped one windfall after another. When Dubya ran afoul of the SEC for his insider trading while at Harken Energy, it was Bush family consigiliere James Baker and his friends at the law firm of Baker Botts who kept him out of legal hot water. And during the 2000 Florida recount, those same connections, and not his competence, made George W. Bush the 43rd president of the United States.

Citigroup,, AIG, The Big 3 auto executives and Bush are all possessed by this remarkable and dnagerous level of narscissism. Their judgement is beyond reproach – they are gurus of the market and the way it should work. Also from Perrspectives this quote from early in Bush’s presidency from the normaly rational Walter Shapiro,

Few Democrats have faced up to the reality that Bush and his fellow Republicans know how to manage the government. Stephen Hess, a scholar of the presidency at the Brookings Institution, says, “This is the best-run White House since Eisenhower”…

…Our first MBA president grasps basic truths about how praise and simple thank-yous help build a cohesive team.

Unfortunately i remember quite a bit of this kind of genuflecting at predections and subsequent observations of Bush’s first few years in office. Bush had assembled the A Team of government management. Taxes would be low, regulation gutted, the economy would boom and we’d all live happily ever after. Who was responsible for the financial crisis?

Much fault can be laid on the high-flying companies and on Alan Greenspan’s Fed which refused to start writing any regulations on the home mortgage market until last December and even then, they were not in place until mid-2008

Well yea, but little Alan was a Bush appointee. Put in place at the Fed because he dispensed the kind of pablum that Bush favored.

The Holier Then Thou Astute Clown. According to mainstream Protestant and Catholic doctrine, a blasphemous clown at that. Those quotes from The right-wing Astute Blogger are in response to this pathetic excuse for a news story at Politico, Obama skips church, heads to gym. of all the things happening in the world this event must have just screamed urgent, must know news flash to Jonathan Martin and Carol E. Lee. Amy Sullivan writes for The New Republic

Around Washington, D.C., it’s considered bad form to point out that Bush doesn’t regularly attend church. “You don’t have to go to church to be a good religious person,” argue his defenders. And they’re right. They have made much political hay, however, over polls that indicate Democratic voters attend church less frequently than Republicans, so even the most brazen feel compelled to offer explanations for Bush’s absence from church membership rolls.

The very fact that the president doesn’t attend church, some leading conservatives insist, is proof of what a good Christian he is. Unlike certain past presidents they could name but won’t–ahem, cough, Bill Clinton–Bush doesn’t feel the need to prove his religiosity. “This president has not made an issue of where he goes to church,” says Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “I find it refreshing that we don’t have a president coming out of church with a large Bible under his arm.”

Just another chapter in the play that never closes – Its OK When A Republican Does It. The logic ( we’ll be generous for now and call it logic) that any president that misses church attendance on occasion is a “PSYCHOPATH” means that Bush is a PSYCHOPATH – the caps are the Astute Bloggers. The National Review wrote about Ronald Reagan and his lackadaisical church attendance,

As president, Reagan did indeed attend church only irregularly, explaining that he disliked the distraction that his presence and security detail always caused. Yet once he left office, he went straight back to attending Bel Air Presbyterian, the church he and Mrs. Reagan had attended before leaving California for Washington.

The more important point, though, is that church attendance was never an index of Reagan’s faith.

So using our new improved “Astute” logic Reagan was a PSYCHOPATH and AMORAL PERSON WITH NOT A SHRED OF INTEGRITY – HIS ATTACHMENT TO HIS BIRTH FAMILY AND TO CHRISTIANITY IS A SHAM. Reagan wasn’t above a little actual paganism since he never really explained away his fascination with astrology. Kevin Phillips who voted for Raygun twice wrote this after reading his diaries,

On the quirky side, the 1988 flap over the Reagans’ interest in astrology gave some church groups pause — the Southern Baptist Convention briefly considered withdrawing the speaking invitation it had extended to him — and it must be said that Reagan’s easy dismissal of the astrology question in these diaries is too brief to be convincing.

Christmas Bells wallpaper

John Twachtman: Connecticut Shore Winter, Oyster Boats, Mouth of the Seine, Mother and Child

Connecticut Shore Winter by John Henry Twachtman (August 4, 1853 – August 8, 1902). Twachtman was a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. Frequently called an impressionist, his style was actually a little more personalized.

Oyster Boats North River circa 1879. A friend and fellow painter Thomas Wilmer Dewing (May 4, 1851 – November 5, 1938) once said of Twachtman’s work,”most modern spirit, too modern, probably, to be fully recognized or appreciated at present; but his place will be recognized in the future.”

Mouth of the Seine ca. 1882. Like many American artists of his generation Twachtman studied and traveled in Europe.

Mother and Child ca. 1893. Reminiscent of American impressionist painter Mary Stevenson Cassatt (May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926).

South-East Autumn wallpaper.

Bush’s Iraq the Gift That Keeps on Giving and How Much is a Good Pundit Worth

Dubya pardons self

Dan Froomkin asks how much of Bush’s “war on terror” was based on less then the optimum amount of truth. As much as we know now, the years ahead, as typified by the latest revelations about some prisoners at Guantanamo Bay will be a trip down a nightmarish rabbit hole, Another Falsehood Exposed

The latest example came yesterday in a federal courtroom in Washington, where a Bush-appointed judge ordered the release of five Algerian men who had been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp for almost seven years.

The president showcased the men in his seminal, bellicose 2002 State of the Union speech as part of a litany of alleged threats — some averted, some not — facing the nation. “Our soldiers, working with the Bosnian government, seized terrorists who were plotting to bomb our embassy,” Bush said at the time.

But once detainees were given the right to challenge their detention, the government dropped the embassy allegation.

This was presumably because there was even less evidence to support it than the remaining charges — which the judge yesterday disclosed consisted of one unsubstantiated allegation by an unnamed source of undetermined credibility.

Besides the obvious injustice, Bush has also done an admirable job in service of the Chicken-Little Brigade. The American people might really need to pay attention to a security warning one day, to be aware of some imminent threat, but have been told the sky is falling so many times they ignore the warning. Its difficult to run a democracy without trust – hopefully that essential ingredient will not be lasting part of the Bush legacy.

More on the Iraq SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement). H/T to War and Piece for this post, Security Agreement Déjà Vu

Citing the false beliefs that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that the United States used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003, one Islamist Shiite lawmaker said that the negotiators had to be sure the Americans would not smuggle wanted people out of Iraq — or sneak in nuclear weapons.

There is some earlier history that might further explain Iraqi skepticism.

[  ]…    The Status of Forces Agreement and the wider Strategic Framework Agreement accompanying it are the latest in a long line of treaties, pacts and agreements negotiated by successive Iraqi governments with powerful western nations dating back to just after the First World War.

Few of these treaties produced terms that satisfied domestic Iraqi nationalists. At least one — in 1948 — ended with riots and the forced resignation of Iraq’s first Shiite prime minister. That fact was unlikely to have been lost on Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s own, Shiite-led, government.

We have collected contemporary reports from The New York Times of some of those previous negotiations. The echoes of today’s headlines are uncanny.

In a treaty signed on Oct. 10, 1922, Britain agreed to prepare the country for independence. But the treaty postponed discussion of exactly how this would happen, and effectively prolonged Britain’s mandate under another form for at least 20 years (a period later reduced). …

President-elect Obama has expressed the general goal of redeploying from Iraq in 16 months. The SOFA says that isn’t likely and the Pentagon has, in alignment with the current SOFA said that it is not going to be possible to leave Iraq in less then 36 months.

And this week Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen — the man President-elect Obama plans to call into the Oval Office as soon as he arrives — wheeled it into place and launched it like a missile aimed at the heart of Obama’s 16-month withdrawal plan for U.S. combat troops in Iraq. It may not sound like much, but believe me, it is. The Chairman simply said, “We have 150,000 troops in Iraq right now. We have lots of bases. We have an awful lot of equipment that’s there. And so we would have to look at all of that tied to, obviously, the conditions that are there, literally the security conditions… Clearly, we’d want to be able to do it safely.” Getting it all out safely, he estimated, would take at least “two to three years.”

Its called a rock and hard place. For whatever reasons, political or humanitarian, no one wants Iraq to flare up another round of sectarian warfare or start a military campaign against the last few brigades waiting to leave. So we’re probably going to be there a while.

How much is a Detroit autoworker really worth? in which Megan McArdle tries to claim that UAW workers really do make $70 an hour when you turn the accounting sheets upside down and squint hard enough. Why McArdle shouldn’t be an accountant, Debunking the myth of the $70-per-hour autoworker.

According to Kristin Dziczek of the Center for Automative Research–who was my primary source for the figures you are about to read–average wages for workers at Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors were just $28 per hour as of 2007. That works out to a little less than $60,000 a year in gross income–hardly outrageous, particularly when you consider the physical demands of automobile assembly work and the skills most workers must acquire over the course of their careers.

I honestly do not mean to pile on, but this reply she left in comments shows that she has more a picture in her head of how the auto industry works then real knowledge. How much is this punditry worth,

UAW workers get paid a hell of a lot more than almost anyone else with their skill level for producing an inferior product, and this is not, long term, a sustainable situation for the company. The magnitude is almost irrelevant, given how long it has been going on.

Working an auto assembly line is hard arduous work and they do not make an “inferior product”. UAW workers assemble a product that was designed by engineers, gutted of much of its quality by the bean counting costs accountants and approved by management. This is a partial list of GM’s executives. Odd how we never hear about their salaries and benefits ( total executive payroll costs to the company and the estimated value of their contributions to company profits – which since GM is basically bankrupt, would be zero as of today), or how top heavy GM is in executives.

General Motors- In 2007, G. Richard Wagoner raked in $14,415,914 in total compensation according to the SEC. According to the AFL-CIO’s calculation method*, this CEO raked in $19,761,874 in total 2007 compensation.

Ford – In 2007, Alan Mulally raked in $21,670,674 in total compensation according to the SEC. According to the AFL-CIO’s calculation method*, this CEO raked in $22,750,385 in total 2007 compensation.

Foreign car companies like Toyota are frequently sited by the anti-union crowd as an example to be followed, Toyota: Auto Industry Race to the Bottom – September 16th, 2008

Toyota’s supplier plants also make extensive use of guest or “trainee” workers – under conditions that in some respects qualify as human trafficking: The workers, most of whom come from China and Vietnam, pay manpower agencies in their home countries as much as $8,000 to $10,000 for a two- or three-year contract.

Toyota’s website touts its commitment to diversity, calling it: “one of our top ten business initiatives, and our goal is to continue to foster best practices in every aspect of our business, including employment, dealers, procurement, communications and advertising, and philanthropy.”

Despite this commitment, Toyota’s foreign workers in Japan are second-class citizens. On arrival the guest workers’ passports are confiscated.  During the first year as “trainees,” they are not covered by Japan’s labor or minimum wage laws. They work alongside Japanese workers, putting in the same long hours, but often earning less than half the minimum wage – as little as $2.76 an hour, or $479 a month. As guest workers, they are required to remain with the same employer – no matter how bad the working conditions – and to live in the company housing assigned to them – even though some are charged twice what their Japanese colleagues pay for comparable accommodations. Any worker who tries to change jobs, or who complains about conditions may be forcibly deported. By the time food, housing, and taxes are deducted, some guest workers end up earning less than $600 for an entire year, according to several advocacy organizations and unions that work with subcontract plant temp and guest workers.

The Neocon Explainer and SOFA

Neocon explainer

Pact, Approved in Iraq, Sets Time for U.S. Pullout

The proposed agreement, which took nearly a year to negotiate with the United States, not only sets a date for American troop withdrawal, but puts new restrictions on American combat operations in Iraq starting Jan. 1 and requires an American military pullback from urban areas by June 30. Those hard dates reflect a significant concession by the departing Bush administration, which had been publicly averse to timetables.

Just a year ago we were all enjoying another round of Democrats are terrorists sympahizers for pushing for a close approximation of what Bush has agreed to. Over the last week the same bloggers and right-wing pundits that were also against time-lines and security agreements, declared victory or SOFA day. U.S. Security Agreements and Iraq

Details of the draft agreements, aspects of which have been negotiated for more than a year, have leaked in recent months. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker, testifying before Congress in April 2008, confirmed two separate accords are on the table. The first is a status-of-forces agreement (, called a SOFA, which would codify legal protections for U.S. military personnel and property in Iraq.

One of the hold ups to the security agreements was that Iran, with whom Iraq now has close arrangements, objected because they wanted to include, pushed through their political allies in Iraq, a provision that would not allow attacks against them to be launched from inside Iraq,

A section of the agreement that Iraqi officials said barred the United States from launching attacks on neighboring countries from Iraq also may have diminished Iranian resistance.

“We sent messages to neighboring countries to say, ‘This is in our interest,’ ” said Mr. Fayyadh, the Shiite lawmaker. “Specifically we spoke to the Iranians and gave them guarantees that ‘no one will use our country to attack you.’ ” There was no immediate reaction from Iran to the vote.

Neocon Fred Kagan was on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show spinning like a rat on speed,

What that timetable is embedded in, is an agreement that is about a strategic partnership between the United States of America and Iraq that is intended to develop over the long term to help us deal with common enemies that we face. And the number one common enemy that we both identify, both Americans and Iraqis, is al Qaeda. And Iraq has been committed to the fight against al Qaeda, remains committed to the fight against al Qaeda.

Kagan is either lying or doesn’t know that Iraq has always been a predominately Shiite nation and al Qaeda, being a Sunni organization would make them natural enemies. AQ never stood a chance of directing Iraq’s government. They took advantage of the ill planned and disastrous post invasion to create a lot of havoc, killing as many Americans as they could when not killing Shiia and non-aligned Sunnis. Fred goes on,

FK: Well, actually, it’s opposed by Iran, not just Iranian-affiliated groups. The Iranian leadership has been pulling out all the stops to get the Iraqis not to do this. The Iranians are desperate for Iraq not to align itself strategically with the United States, and they have been literally trying to bribe everybody they can bribe in Iraq, and running a fantastic information operations campaign in Iraq to make this an unpopular and hard thing to do. And the Iraqi government has done it anyway. And that is actually a great accomplishment for us,

Just plain false as the SOFA reads as of today. Iran got what it wanted, security assurances against a US invasion originating in Iraq. Bush, Fred and the rest of the gang lied us into Iraq under the ridiculous premise that Iraq’s rag-tag military was a security threat to the US, there were WMD – nukes in particular and on going collaboration between Saddam and AQ. There was plenty of evidence at the time these guys were lying their asses off. Now with possibly hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead – you know the people we were saving, thousands of American troops dead, ten of thousands wounded and Fred, Hugh and th Right are declaring everything is great, victory, we won something – who knows what. Certainly not the war against the type of non-state terrorism responsible for 9-11.

al-Qaida with a push from president Obama, moderates in the Middle-East and our allies is probably on its last legs, but not because of Iraq, Intelligence Report Say Farewell To American Supremacy

Despite a more precarious world situation, the report also says al-Qaida’s terrorist franchise could decay “sooner than people think.” It cites its growing unpopularity in the Muslim world, where it kills most of its victims.

“The prospect that al-Qaida will be among the small number of groups able to transcend the generational timeline is not high, given its harsh ideology, unachievable strategic objectives and inability to become a mass movement,” the report states.

The report forecasts a geopolitical rise in non-Arab Muslim states outside of the Middle East, including Turkey and Indonesia, and says Iran could also be a central player in a new world order if it sheds its theocracy.

The monetary costs of occupying Iraq is likely to top $3 trillion, The Iraq War Will Cost Us $3 Trillion, and Much More

Why doesn’t the public understand the staggering scale of our expenditures? In part because the administration talks only about the upfront costs, which are mostly handled by emergency appropriations. (Iraq funding is apparently still an emergency five years after the war began.) These costs, by our calculations, are now running at $12 billion a month — $16 billion if you include Afghanistan. By the time you add in the costs hidden in the defense budget, the money we’ll have to spend to help future veterans, and money to refurbish a military whose equipment and materiel have been greatly depleted, the total tab to the federal government will almost surely exceed $1.5 trillion.

But the costs to our society and economy are far greater. When a young soldier is killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, his or her family will receive a U.S. government check for just $500,000 (combining life insurance with a “death gratuity”) — far less than the typical amount paid by insurance companies for the death of a young person in a car accident. The stark “budgetary cost” of $500,000 is clearly only a fraction of the total cost society pays for the loss of life — and no one can ever really compensate the families. Moreover, disability pay seldom provides adequate compensation for wounded troops or their families. Indeed, in one out of five cases of seriously injured soldiers, someone in their family has to give up a job to take care of them.

But beyond this is the cost to the already sputtering U.S. economy. All told, the bill for the Iraq war is likely to top $3 trillion. And that’s a conservative estimate.

When the Iraq invasion started the population was about 25 million people – since then 2 million have become refugees. We could have bribed every single Iraqi with a million dollars paid out over five years to over throw Saddam and agree to fight against foreign terrorists. All of which may sound ridiculous, but less ridiculous then $3 trillion dollars. The U.S. Gross Domestic Product(GDP) is down, people are losing their homes, unemployment is up, consumer spending and confidence is down and we might not have a domestic auto manufacturing business.

update: Why the U.S. blinked on its troop agreement with Iraq

Officials said U.S. negotiators had failed to understand how the two countries’ political timetables would force the U.S. to make major concessions that relinquish much of the control over U.S. forces in Iraq. They said President Bush gave in to Iraqi demands to avoid leaving the decisions to his successor, Barack Obama.

At times, “President Bush wanted this deal more than the Iraqis did,” said a senior administration official who closely monitored the negotiations.

[  ]…Pentagon officials, however, said the White House made unprecedented concessions. In addition to allowing Iraq to search cargo and mail under some conditions, the deal bars U.S. forces from launching attacks on other countries from Iraqi soil and permits Iraq to prosecute U.S. military contractors, and in some cases perhaps also American troops, under Iraqi law.

Just as the Right is now trying to blame Bush’s economic record on President Obama, they will try and blame the weaknesses in this agreement on him.