Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 8:23 pm

Why Scott Brown really won …

Filed under: I want my money back.,Voting — Lex @ 8:23 pm
Tags: , ,

… and why Democrats ought not be feeling completely comfortable about November despite their health-care win, from economist and political scientist Thomas Ferguson at UMass Boston:

A major storm is indeed blowing up. Whether this ultimately builds into a Level 5 hurricane like Katrina is not clear. But its winds are already beyond any normal gale.

Quite like a hurricane, this tempest has a clear dual structure. Our study suggests that in the eye of the storm – the old Democratic base – an ominous, unnatural calm is settling in that displaces the near-millenarian enthusiasm of 2008. We have seen how the surge in overall voter turnout in the 2010 Senate race disguised a drop in turnout in lower income towns that previously voted heavily Democratic. Recalling one more time the problems with inferences from aggregate data, we think it is safe to conclude that our data are consistent with the claim put forward by the Democratic campaign’s chief pollster, that Obama administration’s unwillingness to face down the banks and slowness in dealing with the recession have demoralized and outraged the party’s electoral base. The disconnect between these disaffected Democrats and the administration and party leaders looks to be deep.

What’s driving the trend? Not just the economy in general, but something a little more specific — and I haven’t seen this observation anywhere else:

Our statistical tests indicate that declines in housing values operated independently to depress the Democratic vote share. We think it is unlikely that the housing variable is merely a proxy for some other unmeasured factor, such as income. Instead, we suspect that our result drives to the heart of the “Tea Party” phenomenon. Put simply, our data are consistent with the notion that a good part of the swing toward Scott Brown came from voters who were not only frightened by high unemployment – their own, or their neighbors’ – but who also suffered large losses in wealth from the collapse of the housing bubble. For most Americans, their greatest economic asset is their house. We thus suspect that the housing collapse is also likely associated with major declines, or potential declines, in retirement incomes. Particularly for older voters, this has to be very alarming.

And how are people reacting?

But we are dubious that such [racist/anti-Semitic] groups are the heart of the Tea Party phenomenon, at least right now. They have been out in force since at least the waning days of the 2008 campaign, when their apocalyptic rhetoric eventually provoked Senator John McCain to repudiate them in public. That they should exfoliate on the scale of the Tea Party this late strikes us as implausible.

It seems more likely that the citizens rallying under the Tea Party banner are pretty much what they say they are. They are ordinary Americans hammered by the almost Biblical series of economic plagues that for most began in the fall of 2008, when the decision to let Lehman Brothers go bankrupt turned a looming economic crisis into a world historical disaster. They have been driven to the breaking point by watching their jobs and retirement savings melt away as banks hit them with steeply rising fees on their credit and debit cards while paying next to nothing on what is left of their cash holdings.

While few likely understand what Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson did with AIG, TARP, the FDIC guarantees, and the other largess they showered on the big banks, these ordinary Americans see clearly that government moved with the speed of light to rescue Wall Street. They also understand the message that the President’s decision to promote Geithner and retain Bernanke sent to Wall Street – and what it heralds for issues important to them, such as consumer finance. Looking at years of sub- or unemployment, their exasperation only increases when they hear the President or his economic advisor Lawrence Summers proclaim that the recession is ending and defend the right of bank managements to pay themselves gigantic bonuses barely a year after their institutions were rescued by taxpayers’
money.

Given the absurdity of the notion that Republicans are going to do anything to hold the banksters accountable — indeed, all available evidence strongly suggests otherwise — why are Democrats in such trouble?

You’ll love this: It’s because of the liberal media:

… democratic enlightenment and exploration of policy alternatives are hardly the principal concern
of contemporary corporate media. But all of them, especially Fox News and the network of right wing talk
radio commentators, trumpet conservative economic appeals.

At a time when real disposable per capita income minus government transfer payments (or “take home pay minus government assistance”) has sunk to its lowest levels since the giant recession of the early 1970s, most major television and radio networks continue to trumpet both efficient markets and the imagined evils of Keynesian, countercyclical programs. With only modest exceptions, so does the money-driven world of think tanks, the rest of the press, and the government itself.

We are thus driven to conclude that the sometimes wild assertions and arguments advanced by Tea Partiers largely reflect the poverty of economic and political analysis in the establishment media. Indeed, the U.S. case bears an unsettling similarity to the situation in many parts of the parts of the Middle East. Political establishments and governments refuse to countenance critical discussion of social and economic problems. They marginalize alternative views, while beating the drums unceasingly for orthodoxy. When a crisis hits, however, no one believes them.

So when the MSM doesn’t do the reporting necessary to reflect reality accurately — for whatever reason – you get the kind of crazy we have in the Tea Party once you filter out the fringe racism and anti-Semitism:

So disaffected citizens set to work with the only tools they have – bits and snatches of traditional economic and political thinking – to analyze their predicament on their own. It should not be surprising that such efforts often end up being hard to tell apart from Alice in Wonderland or even Goya’s Black Paintings.

And that’s what we have today: America is being devoured.

Goya: "Saturn Devouring His Son"

From Goya's "Black Paintings": "Saturn Devouring His Son"

Saturday, February 20, 2010 3:08 pm

Memo to U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 3:08 pm
Tags: , ,

You seem to think that Joe Stack’s flying an airplane into an IRS office in Austin was “understandable” because people don’t like to pay taxes. Tell you what else they don’t like, jackass: giving tax money to your rich friends on Wall Street. And yet somehow, incredibly, no American has flown a small plane into one of the office towers of lower Manhattan in protest.

Joe Stack had, it appears, both serious mental issues and a long string of bad luck. But what he did was terrorism, plain and simple, and it needs to be called out as such. Both a lot of conservatives and some ostensibly objective journalists who ought to know better like to say that “both sides have their lunatics,” but the fact is that only one side’s lunatics are killing people right now, and it ain’t the left.

Friday, January 22, 2010 1:44 am

Odds and ends for 1/21

Does Rielle Hunter know?: Former presidential candidate John Edwards finally admits that he is the father of a former campaign staffer’s daughter. I would say “Stop the presses!” except that the presses stopped on this one a long time ago.

One last party before the walls come down: Morgan Stanley has earmarked 62% of revenues for employee compensation. Not earnings, revenues. Which is good if you’re an employee, because there were no earnings; the company posted an annual loss for the first time in its 74-year history. Goldman Sachs will be paying its employees a comparatively modest 36% of annual revenue, although that amounts to 121% of earnings. Question: What do the (non-employee) stockholders think of this?

What part of “all” did you not understand?: Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is asking committee chairman Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., to hold Federal Reserve Bank of New York officials in contempt for turning over only some, but not all, subpoenaed documents relating to the AIG bailout. Zero Hedge, which has been on this subject for close to a year, helpfully offers some other questions Issa could raise.

Why do teabagger leaders hate America?: Tea Party leader arrested on first-degree rape charge; search turns up stolen Army grenade launcher; YouTube video features him planning to be a “domestic terrorist.”

Remind me again who’s not being bipartisan enough?: I happen to think the proposed commission is a horrible idea, if not unconstitutional, but still: Congressional Republicans have demonstrated repeatedly that they cannot take “yes” for an answer. Jackasses.

So. Um. Troops to Haiti — why, exactly?: Two possibilities, neither flattering.

OK, maybe the Mayans were right: Quoth DougJ at Balloon Juice, “With unlimited corporate money fueling crazed Nixon-style anger, things are going to get very, very ugly.”

I sort of want to know what exactly Spencer is talking about and I sort of don’t.

Finally, the people who know what they’re talking about get a turn: Obama pushes a Paul Volcker-backed plan to limit the size of banks, so as to eliminate the possibility of “too big to fail.” The idea here is to reduce the taxpayer’s exposure to any privately incurred risk in the financial industry. And that’s a good idea. (Know who else thinks so? Mark Zandi, the guy who advised McCain’s presidential campaign on economics.)

Purse v. policy-making: The pants-wetters want the Khalid Sheikh Muhammad trial not to be held in civilian court. Congressional Republicans are plotting to get some moron Dems to go along with them on barring funding for it. Now, why is it that the existing appropriation is in such a condition that that approach is even possible? And who would know enough about the appropriations process to have made this possible to begin with? Hint: it ain’t anyone with an R after his name.

As Alannis said, this could get messy: Sen.-elect Scott Brown got a lot of support from teabaggers, and he very quickly and publicly blew them off. We know how Rush reacts to that treatment. Let’s see how the teabaggers do.

And people wonder why I think Christianists and Islamists are essentially the same species.

Ethnic profiling won’t help: “An additional concern, [a Senate Intelligence Committee report] says, ‘is a group of nearly 10 non-Yemeni Americans who traveled to Yemen, converted to Islam, became fundamentalists, and married Yemeni women so they could remain in the country.’ One U.S. official, it reports, described them as ‘blond-haired, blue-eyed types’ who ‘fit a profile of Americans whom al-Qaeda has sought to recruit over the past several years.’”

Related: More pants-wetting. C’mon, America, man/woman up, will ya?

And even more pants-wetting, called out by Digby: “Everyone seems to forget that a year ago, Obama only had 58 votes in the Senate and everyone was in a state of near hysteria over his massive institutional power and soaring mandate. Now he has 59 and he’s suddenly impotent.”

As we turn more security operations in Afghanistan over to that country, we need to beware of residual problems.

AWOL pirate: Well, skull of pirate. Skull of total butt-kicking 14th century German pirate Klaus Störtebeker, who — and I must admit this even though I’m from North Carolina — makes Blackbeard look like Richard Simmons. Reward.

Awwww: Shiba Inu puppycam!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 10:20 pm

Odds and ends for 1/20

Guantanamo homicides update: Col. Michael Bumgarner, the officer at the center of Scott Horton’s article in Harper’s about the “suicides” of three Guantanamo detainees on the night of June 9, 2006, issues a non-denial denial, including denying ever knowing the same witness whose Army Commendation Medal certificate he had signed less than three weeks before the deaths. If that’s the best he can do to cover something up, he’d better get a lawyer.

And speaking of homicides, a memo to the president: Inviting Rick Warren to pray around your inaugural, misguided as it was, is one thing. But attending an event sponsored by the Christofascist anticonstitutionalists The Family is just ridiculous. And sitting down to eat At. A. Freakin’. PRAYER BREAKFAST with a guy who is trying to legislate homicide (a fact that the article in the Ugandan paper, whose Web site claims it offers “truth every day,” conveniently forgot to mention)? Completely, flatly, absolutely unacceptable.

What you don’t know can hurt you: Did you know that the EPA has not banned asbestos despite its clear causal relationship to lung cancer? Did you know that it can’t? I didn’t. But apparently the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act makes it impossible. Fortunately, some changes to the law — which endangers the health of not only consumers and chemical workers but also the medical personnel who treat the latter — are in the works.

Things you should know about Afghanistan: Bribery is 23% of GDP, and the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says that about three-fourths of its investigations involve at least one Westerner.

Things you should know about banks, courtesy of David Stockman, once Ronald Reagan’s budget director: “The baleful reality is that the big banks, the freakish offspring of the Fed’s easy money, are dangerous institutions, deeply embedded in a bull market culture of entitlement and greed. This is why the Obama tax is welcome: its underlying policy message is that big banking must get smaller because it does too little that is useful, productive or efficient.”

Things you should know about the fault line that caused the Haiti earthquake, particularly if you live in the Dominican Republic: “It is important that the world takes [Purdue seismologist Eric] Calais’ warning about the Septentrional Fault, with a great deal of Urgency. The fault, which runs through the Northern Dominican Republic is due for a quake even larger than that which occurred in Haiti. The Dominican Republic should learn all that it can from Haiti’s experience, as they are proverbially walking down a geological hallway with a large kick me sign affixed to their back.” With very cool, very scary maps.

Professionals face the threat of the amateur: This article focuses specifically on certain types of musicians, but it makes clear that the boundary delineating amateur from professional is growing thinner and grayer in a wide range of areas (including my former bidness, journalism). This tension has been manifest since the medieval rise of craft guilds and informs today everything from blogging to labor law.

And bloggers are killing journalism: Jeffrey Birnbaum, a journalist who has done more to expose the malignant effect of lobbyists on Congress than perhaps any other, is leaving journalism to become a lobbyist. This is not unlike the Mafia luring away the nation’s best FBI agent. Actually, it’s worse: Lobbyists are a bigger plague on society than the Mafia in terms of dollar value of the damage they cause, and there were already far fewer journalists of Birnbaum’s caliber and expertise than there are FBI agents. Sigh.

Opposition to gay marriage faces the threat of the McCains: Sen. John McCain’s wife Cindy has joined the “NoH8″ campaign in California to repeal Prop 8, which banned gay marriage. (Their daughter Meghan joined last summer.) Good for her.

Interesting poll results you probably haven’t seen on TV: By a 3-2 margin, people who voted for Obama in 2008 AND who voted for Republican Scott Brown in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts oppose the current health-care bill — not because it goes too far, but because it doesn’t go far enough.

Marrying insight and brevity, Brad at Sadly, No! sums up the meaning of Tuesday’s election: “People will support you if they see that you’re making their lives better. If you don’t do that, then they’ll get [angry] and vote for whatever else is around. And guess what? ‘Whatever else is around’ is, sadly, the [expletive] GOP.”

And after Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing corporate contributions to politicians, the U.S. will look like Italy: Italian lawmakers have preliminarily approved a bill that would retroactively limit the length of criminal trials, which would have the entirely incidental and coincidental (I’m sure) effect of making pending corruption and tax fraud charges against prime minister Silvio Berluscone just … go away.

Great moments in editing, via my friend Alex Johnson at MSNBC.

And, finally, the Quote of the Day, from Jon Walker — it’s long, so I put it at the end:

Let me put this as simply as possible. Democrats control everything in Washington right now [except SCOTUS, but for legislative purposes, yeah -- Lex]. They control the White House. They have huge margins in the House and in the Senate. Democrats have larger margins in both chambers than any party has had for decades. They have zero excuses for failing to deliver. Americans will not find some nonsense about having only 59 Senate seats as an acceptable excuse for failing to accomplish anything. If Democrats think they can win in 2010 by running against Republican obstructionism, they will lose badly.

Not only will Democrats lose badly if they adopt this strategy, but they will be laughed at. Republicans never had 59 Senate seats, and that did not stop them from passing the legislation they wanted. Trying to explain to the American people how, despite controlling everything, Democrats cannot do anything, because a mean minority of 41 Republican senators won’t let them, is a message that will go over like a lead balloon. If you try to use that excuse, people will think elected Democrats are liars, wimps, idiots, or an ineffectual combination of all three.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 10:05 pm

The Massachusetts Senate election, thoughts on:

(in no particular order)

  • If you’re a lousy candidate, you deserve to lose.
  • If you run a lousy campaign, you deserve to lose.
  • If you adopt an entitlement mentality toward elective office, you really deserve to lose.
  • It’s OK to pose nude for a magazine if you’re a Republican male.
  • I’m still trying to find in the Constitution where it says that 41 votes constitutes a Senate majority.
  • The banksters just got another ally in Congress. Like they were running out.
  • Health-care reform may or may not be dead. But, as Jon Stewart pointed out, if the Democrats want to pass it, they’re first going to have to go to the school nurse and get their testicles unglued from their thigh. (Stewart actually said “again,” but they haven’t done it since 1965.)
  • If health-care reform really is dead for another generation, then so, over that generation, will be hundreds of thousands of Americans who didn’t have to be. But y’all over at Fox News just party on, yo, cuz I know that’s how you roll.

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