Hey, What’s the Rush?

by matttbastard

Nearly 600, 000 American jobs were lost in the month of December, the largest single month loss since 1974.  These latest figures bring the total number of jobs shed in the last 3 months to 1.8 million.  As a result, the US unemployment rate is now pushing 8%.

Chris Isidore of CNNMoney.com puts those numbers into proper context:

As bad as the unemployment rate was, it only tells part of the story for people struggling to find jobs. Friday’s report also showed that 2.6 million people have now been out of work for more than six months, the most long-term unemployed since 1983.

And that number only counts those still looking for work. The so-called underemployment rate, which includes those who have stopped looking for work and people working only part-time that want full-time positions, climbed to 13.9% from 13.5% in December. That is the highest rate for this measure since the Labor Department first started tracking it in 1994.

Absolutely “devastating”, as President Obama just observed during a news conference introducing his new emergency economic advisory board.

Yet, as Ali Frick at Think Progress acidly points out, “Republicans are stonewalling action to help the economy recover. Even as millions of Americans are losing their jobs, conservative Senators insist that there’s no rush to help them.”

Watch it:

Transcript:

LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We do not need any more news conferences. What we need is getting more than 16 people in a room. We need to slow down, take a timeout, and get it right.

ROGER WICKER (R-MS): As Thomas Jefferson reminded Americans in his day — and I quote — “Delay is preferable to error.” Let’s not rush into doing this the wrong way.

JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV): So we need to act much more responsibly than this bill acts. It’s still time. There is no hurry.

TOM COBURN (R-OK): There’s no reason for us to hurry up, number one. There’s no reason for us not to look at every area of this bill and make sure the [American] people know about it.

Paul Krugman doesn’t mince words in his column today:

Over the last two weeks, what should have been a deadly serious debate about how to save an economy in desperate straits turned, instead, into hackneyed political theater, with Republicans spouting all the old clichés about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts.

It’s as if the dismal economic failure of the last eight years never happened — yet Democrats have, incredibly, been on the defensive. Even if a major stimulus bill does pass the Senate, there’s a real risk that important parts of the original plan, especially aid to state and local governments, will have been emasculated.

Somehow, Washington has lost any sense of what’s at stake — of the reality that we may well be falling into an economic abyss, and that if we do, it will be very hard to get out again.

[…]

Would the Obama economic plan, if enacted, ensure that America won’t have its own lost decade? Not necessarily: a number of economists, myself included, think the plan falls short and should be substantially bigger. But the Obama plan would certainly improve our odds. And that’s why the efforts of Republicans to make the plan smaller and less effective — to turn it into little more than another round of Bush-style tax cuts — are so destructive.

As Obama put it in a speech to Democratic lawmakers last night (h/t Steve Benen), “[Y]ou get the argument, ‘Well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill.’ What do you think a stimulus is? That’s the whole point. No, seriously. That’s the point.”

Watch it:

Benen further notes that “The Politico‘s Jonathan Martin said that the president’s urgent tone was “reminiscent of the final days of the campaign.” It was actually more than just reminiscent — at one point, Obama literally asked lawmakers, “Fired up?” They shouted back, “Ready to go!“”

So, let’s go.  Now.

Take action: Contact your senator and demand they cease with the tiresome, frivolous political theatrics and pass this recovery package intact (not a watered-down goddamn bullshit “moderate” compromise version) ASAP.

Go.

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‘Magic Negro’ Cost/Benefit Analysis

by matttbastard

The other day, Howard Weaver sent out the following precient (if pithy) observation via tweet:

Politico sure seems to be ground zero for inside-the-beltway conventional wisdom.

Mhm, someone got a fresh new pair of cute Captain Obvious underpants for Christmas.

Regardless, I shudder to think what they’re spiking the cocktails with in Georgetown if the following Politico headline represents the “conventional wisdom” on the RNC’s recent racial follies:

‘Magic Negro’ flap might help Saltsman

Ok, yeah if by “help” one means “further paint the GOP into a demographically narrow corner,” then, sure–go Team Saltsman!

The big tent collapses under the collective weight of the stupid.

Josh Marshall brings the snark:

Wholly unable to confirm this, but I’m told the talk is now that Mike Duncan may have to perform in black face at the upcoming RNC meeting to remain a credible candidate for the job.

If one is to believe that the RNC officials quoted by Andy Barr are being sincere (and not simply taking the lead of Saltsman’s former boss by spinning like out of control centrifuges) The Party of Lincoln is now officially The Party of Jolson–which sure is a great way to reintroduce the tarnished GOP brand going into 2009: adopting what amounts to the I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-The-Southern-Strategy! Strategy. Of course, some of these doe-eyed grassroots bigots are likely the same strategic savants who thought George Allen was the *ahem* white knight best prepared to save the party from Bush’s long shadow in 2008. So, I suppose one shouldn’t be too surprised they would also consider this year’s ‘Macaca’ to be much ado about nothing.

Related: Adam Serwer schools various wingnuts  on what David Ehrenstein did and didn’t say in his now-infamous LA Times op-ed that served as inspiration for Shanklin’s “satirical” song.

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The RNC’s Vaudeville Routine

by matttbastard

Recognizing that the best defense is a good (straw-filled) offense, embattled RNC candidate Chip Saltsman fires back in time-honoured Republican fashion:

Liberal Democrats and their allies in the media didn’t utter a word about David Ehrenstein’s irresponsible column in the Los Angeles Times last March. But now, of course, they’re shocked and appalled by its parody on ‘The Rush Limbaugh Show,’ ” Saltsman said in a statement, referring to the op-ed article that reportedly inspired the song lyrics.

“I firmly believe that we must welcome all Americans into our party and that the road to Republican resurgence begins with unity, not division. But I know that our party leaders should stand up against the media’s double standards and refuse to pander to their desire for scandal,” Saltsman added.

Also, a big fat friendly ‘fuck you’ to former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell for cravenly putting party before principle:

“Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-elect Obama being the first African American elected president,” Blackwell, who is black, said in a statement.

“I don’t think any of the concerns that have been expressed in the media about any of the other candidates for RNC chairman should disqualify them,” he said. “When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people.”

You know, it’s sad when Newt fucking Gingrich not only gets it better than Blackwell, but shows more courage (or, more accurately, pragmatic political awareness) by actually, y’know, speaking out, instead of offering tepid apologetics.

Apparently some folks are shitting bricks at the thought of getting Condi-Riced by the Free Republic set.

Regardless, all this is was likely just broad political Kabuki on the part of the aforementioned players: the RNC quietly launches a race-based attack on the President-elect, (white) party leaders act appropriately shocked! and simply appalled! in order to appease the chattering class, and the token black guy grants absolution to a defiant Saltsman (who subsequently gets to whip two favourite GOP hobbyhorses, Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Media).

Bottom line: after all the theatrics that have taken place over the past 24+ hours, everybody is once again talking about “Barack the Magic Negro”.

Update: Kevin is a lot more succinct than yours truly. ;-)

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Feigned Disbelief and Political Theatre

by matttbastard

Steve Hildebrand responds to critics in an interview with Greg Sargent:

“I don’t regret any of it,” Hildebrand told me when I asked him a few minutes ago by phone whether he regretted the tone of his piece, which many found condescending and finger-wagging.

“My intent was exactly what I wrote,” Hildebrand said, adding that the criticism had “surprised” him.

Hildebrand also confirmed that the Obama team had had no hand in writing or approving the piece. “This was not collaborated with anybody in the Obama camp,” he said, and a source close to the transition confirms this.

Perhaps Marc Ambinder and Ezra Klein are correct, and this was all just a Machiavellian attempt on the part of the Obama team (does anyone really buy Hildebrand’s hard-to-swallow contention that he called an audible with this play?) to shift the Overton Window via political theatre. Sure would be nice to finally see imperative policy endeavors like withdrawal from Iraq, health care reform, and climate change firmly established as mainstream pursuits in the US public interest, rather than planks in a narrow communist socialist Marxist anti-American ‘liberal’ platform.

Still, even if this is, in Klein’s words, “a calculated messaging strategy,” I don’t believe Hildebrand should expect much online backup from the (unnamed) angry “left-wing” boo-bears unwittingly cast as foils in his Kabuki production if and when he makes a behind-the-scenes play for the (operational) DNC chair.

And maybe that was also taken into careful consideration.

h/t Ta-Nehisi Coates

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John McCain: “Be Respectful”

by matttbastard

I would like to sign up for Khaled Hosseni’s newsletter:

I prefer to discuss politics through my novels, but I am truly dismayed these days. Twice last week alone, speakers at McCain-Palin rallies have referred to Sen. Barack Obama, with unveiled scorn, as Barack Hussein Obama.

Never mind that this evokes — and brazenly tries to resurrect — the unsavory, cruel days of our past that we thought we had left behind. Never mind that such jeers are deeply offensive to millions of peaceful, law-abiding Muslim Americans who must bear the unveiled charge, made by some supporters of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, that Obama’s middle name makes him someone to distrust — and, judging by some of the crowd reactions at these rallies, someone to persecute or even kill. As a secular Muslim, I too was offended. Obama’s middle name differs from my last name by only two vowels. Does the McCain-Palin campaign view me as a pariah too? Do McCain and Palin think there’s something wrong with my name?

But never mind any of that.

The real affront is the lack of firm response from either McCain or Palin. Neither has had the moral courage, when taking the stage, to grasp the microphone, turn to the presenter and, right then and there, denounce the use of Obama’s middle name as an insult. Instead, they have simply delivered their stump speeches, lacing into Obama as if nothing out-of-bounds had just happened. The McCain-Palin ticket has given toxic speeches accusing Obama of being a friend of terrorists, then released short, meek repudiations of some of the rough stuff, including McCain’s call Friday to “be respectful.” Back in February, the Arizona senator apologized for the “disparaging remarks” from a talk-radio host who sneered repeatedly about “Barack Hussein Obama” before a McCain rally. “We will have a respectful debate,” McCain insisted afterward. But pretending to douse flames that you are busy fanning does not qualify as straight talk.

[…]

They may not have been able to hear the slurs at the rallies, but surely they have had ample time since to get on camera and warn that this sort of ugliness has no place in an election season. But they have not. Simply calling Obama “a decent person” is not enough.

DJ rewind:

The McCain-Palin ticket has given toxic speeches accusing Obama of being a friend of terrorists, then released short, meek repudiations of some of the rough stuff, including McCain’s call Friday to “be respectful.”

[…]

[P]retending to douse flames that you are busy fanning does not qualify as straight talk.

[…]

Simply calling Obama “a decent person” is not enough.

In other words: fuck that “credit where credit is due” bullshit. There’s a damn good reason why John McCain’s (largely mythical) “honour” has evaporated quicker than your 401k and his reputation is now mired in negative equity.

Glenn Greenwald breaks it down:

The mass accusations of “terrorist” and “Arab traitor” against Obama didn’t just get randomly blurted out by a few hard-core, isolated ideologues. Rather, that is exactly the message being spewed systematically from McCain and Palin themselves (“pallin’ around with terrorists”), their parade of ads, and the coordinated efforts of opinion-leaders on the Right. Even veteran campaign reporters for whom Balance is a religion have been acknowledging that the McCain/Palin rallies are unique in their mass-crowd vitriol and intense rage.

One half-hearted, insincere attempt by McCain to restore some of the lost moral capital with his original base (a divestment that, according to Jamison Foser, has been greatly exaggerated) should not be immediately rewarded with a plate of cookies and a pat on his balding pate.

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An Unparalleled Legacy

by matttbastard

Hey, Defeatocrats: it’s your war now.

President George W. Bush will signal next week that he will pull no more troops out of Iraq while he is president, once his troop surge ends in the summer.

His senior Iraq commander General David Petraeus will use his testimony to congress on Tuesday and Wednesday to argue for continuing political support for the tactics of the surge strategy even after a planned drawdown of troops.

US military chiefs have already committed to reduce the American combat presence in Iraq from 20 to 15 brigades by September. But in what administration officials say is a bid to bind the hands of his successor, Mr Bush will make clear that he will go no further to placate his critics.

“It looks like it will be that far and no further,” said a Pentagon official.

“Any further reductions will have to be made by the next president.”

With all three presidential candidates sitting on committees that will hear from Petraeus, how much you wanna bet that the Kabuki performances are especially melodramatic this time ’round? Yep, nothing like a good old fashioned dog and pony show to liven up a lull in the primary horse race. Speaking of award-worthy performances, it appears that General Colin Powell David Petraeus (and his 4 star credibility) will once again be playing the role of proxy for some decidedly less less-than-honest brokers:

Mr Bush’s determination to stand firm was reinforced by a report from Frederick Kagan, the architect of the surge strategy, sent to officials a week ago, which states: “The surge and the change in strategy have transformed security in Iraq”.

Mr Kagan warns that a reduction in combat forces below 15 battalions could endanger American objectives.

He said: “The drawdown that is already planned accepts considerable risk and will make the task of moving forward more complicated and harder and little bit slower. “I wouldn’t be comfortable pulling a single soldier out because we pay an exponential price for every brigade that comes out.”

And what are these vital “objectives” that would be “endangered” by troop reductions?

Michael O’Hanlon, a Brookings expert who supports Hillary Clinton, said Mr Bush has his eye on the judgment of history. “There’s obviously a focus that comes from being in the last year of a presidency,” he said.

It’s inconceivable he could be a successful president if his central foreign policy project failed, especially because it was his choice to wage the war when he did and it was his administration’s mistakes that set us on such a bad path.

“If we get to some reasonable outcome in Iraq, that’s not going to make him a great president but if we fail, it’s very likely he will be seen as a poor president.”

I’ve always admired Dubya’s keen sense of priorities.

(Oh, and not to toot my own horn, but I called all this last July. Sometimes I really, really hate being right.)

Related: Tom Engelhardt on why Petraeus’ testimony is guaranteed to be “delusional”; advance testimony from OG Iraq war critics William Odom and Nir Rosen (more on Rosen from Jon Schwarz).

h/t War in Context

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Liberal Heresy

by matttbastard

Via Greg Sargent:

dnA speak, you listen:

Lord I really don’t like Ronald Reagan. And despite how much I hate the Clintons right now, Bill was a better president than Reagan, by a long fucking shot.

With that said, I dunno if I’d go so far as to single out Obama as a “Lieberdem”, as Natasha Chart does. Now, as Noam Scheiber notes, despite utilizing narcotic, substance-free transformational rhetoric about hope and change that can intoxicate even a perpetual cynic like yours truly, “rather than tacking left, the Obama campaign went straight up the middle, where a much larger universe of potential voters awaited.” And it is a matter of record that Joe Lieberman mentored Obama in the Senate.

ZOMG, d’ya know what this means?! Obama, a proud member of the not-even-remotely-Progressive modern Democratic Party, is just another pro-establishment pol! Please, no earth-shattering revelations about wet water or Popes wearing funny hats; I don’t think my delicate constitution could take any more.

Still, the DLC-Dem charge seems ironic coming from a self-professed “spiteful” Clinton supporter. Um, so, let me see if I’m following: Chart, who claims to have always “disliked Democrats who tore down the Democratic brand, trashed progressives, and praised Republicans”, is standing up to the establishment by supporting a Triangulating perennial DLC favourite/defender (who counts Newt Gingrich as a fan club member) whose husband endorsed Joe Lieberman in ’06 and, during his tenure as both Governor of Arkansas and POTUS, essentially wrote the book on kissing GOP ass (when politically expedient) and eating your own (again, when politically expedient) in order to stake a claim on the mushy middle. All “out of spite”.

*blinks*

Shit, show me a viable Donkey candidate in this election cycle who isn’t a “Lieberdem.” And don’t say “John Edwards”, whose voting record belies his recent populist re-branding as Huey-Long-in-wingtips. Hopefully somebody somewhere is drafting a wide-ranging eulogy for common sense and intellectual consistency during this primary season–to say nothing of bullshit detectors.

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