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« Liberal Outrage: February 2009 | Main | Liberal Outrage: April 2009 »

Liberal Outrage

We're an IMF trouble country

I know i link to Glenn Greenwald a lot. But this one is well worth reading.

Some samples (initial quotes from an IMF official):

I still recall the shock I felt at a meeting in Russia's dingy Ministry of Finance, where I finally realized how a handful of young oligarchs were bringing Russia's economy to ruin in the pursuit of their own selfish interests, despite the supposed brilliance of Anatoly Chubais, Russia's economic czar at the time...

The parallels between U.S. policymaking and what we see in emerging markets are clearest in how we've mishandled the banking crisis. We delude ourselves that our banks face liquidity problems, rather than deeper solvency problems, and we try to fix it all on the cheap just like any run-of-the-mill emerging market economy would try to do. And after years of lecturing Asian and Latin American leaders about the importance of consistency and transparency in sorting out financial crises, we fail on both counts

...
In the twilight of my career, when I am hopefully wiser than before, I have come to regret how the IMF and the U.S. Treasury all too often lectured leaders in emerging markets on how to "get their house in order" -- without the slightest thought that the United States might fare no better when facing a major economic crisis. . .
...

And this is from Greenwald:

Isn't that exactly what is now happening here? When I first heard Chuck Todd questioning Obama at Tuesday's Press Conference about why Obama wasn't demanding "sacrifice" from ordinary Americans -- as though the massive loss of jobs, homes, retirement security and financial opportunities isn't sufficient "sacrifice" -- I mistakenly attributed Todd's question to the standard vapid ignorance and insularity of our media stars. I assumed that Todd was just mimicking a question he heard about 9/11 and decided to repeat it seven years later without realizing what a complete nonsequitur it is when applied to the financial crisis.

But there was actually a more pernicious aspect to his question. He was basically demanding of Obama: shouldn't you be telling those dirty masses that they can't have health care and education improvements and that they're also going to have to give up their Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits (while Citibank and BoA use taxpayer money to buy up distressed assets that they will then sell at a huge profit, also to the taxpayer under the Geithner plan)?

Related: how Geithner's bailout plan circumvents Congress.


By fnord12 | March 27, 2009, 5:26 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Talkin' bout a revolution

Crazy Michelle Bachmann, who came very close to getting unseated in 2008 by Elwyn Tinklenberg when Bachmann made comments calling Obama anti-american.


By fnord12 | March 27, 2009, 12:43 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Not Howard Dean, though.

Not everyone on the left is complacent. First, take a look at this web-only Times article that notes that the Obama administration is using the idea of a public health care plan only as means to get more minor concessions out of insurance companies, instead of that being the real end goal. (And ask yourself why that, the only item of real substance to come out of the Max Baucus interview, wound up on the cutting room floor of the print edition). Then see Howard Dean's response. Go and sign his petition.

On the argument that insurance companies shouldn't have to compete against the government, allow me to channel Dean Baker. We constantly hear about how private industry is so much more efficient than the government. If that's the case, shouldn't the private insurance companies have absolutely no problem dealing with the inefficient bureaucracies in a government-run insurance company? What are they in such a panic about?


By fnord12 | March 26, 2009, 9:58 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Complacent

I was just thinking about this, but of course someone has already said it better (and over a month ago). Now that there is a Democrat in the White House again, the left is doing a very poor job of representing itself.


By fnord12 | March 26, 2009, 12:53 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Our Press Corps

They're bored and they're mad they didn't get called on.


By fnord12 | March 25, 2009, 3:06 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Whiney

No. What happened is: your company nearly went out of business because of bad decisions you and your co-workers made, and the government had to rescue you because your decisions were so catastrophic and reckless that you would have taken the entire world economy along with you into the sewer. That's why you shouldn't get a bonus.


By fnord12 | March 25, 2009, 3:03 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Good

Foghorn Leghorn Arlen Specter has definitively come out and said that he is not going to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act. To this I say "good". Specter is called a moderate republican. This means that whenever anything bad surfaced during the Bush years, Specter would come out and say "Oh, my goodness we will have to investigate that!" and then never did anything.

But he's got a reputation as a moderate. So the labor unions were talking about backing him if he would vote for EFCA, which he hinted that he might do in the past (in fact, he voted to not filibuster EFCA once in the past). So now he's faced with a primary challenge from the right in 2010, also because he voted for the Stimulus package. And there was a lot of talk of him switching parties so he wouldn't have to deal with the primary challenge. Which i was not looking forward to because i would rather see a real democrat than a republican who sometimes kind of talks like he's a democrat on some issues.

But now Specter, typically, has dropped his support of EFCA after all. So now we don't have to worry about him switching parties, and either he can go out in flames in the primaries and the democrat has an easy fight against a real right wing wacko in a state that is becoming more and more blue, or at least we get a good fight between a democrat supported by the labor unions and Specter who has strong support from neither the right or the left.

Update: I'm falling into the trap. This isn't even about voting for EFCA. It's about voting to support a phony filibuster against EFCA. Labor friendly dems have enough votes to pass the bill. They just don't have enough votes to break a filibuster.


By fnord12 | March 24, 2009, 4:13 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Obama floundering

Guest post on Naked Capitalism. Read the whole thing, but here's the summary:

#1 Success of Geithner's Plan: in my view, Barack Obama's fortunes depend in the main on Geithner's Public-Private Partnership Plan. If this plan is unsuccessful, Obama is sunk. The plan has merits, but many deficiencies as well.

#2 Efficacy of Economic Stimulus: I have said often that Obama's stimulus will not be sufficient given the state of the economy. Recently revised budget projections from the Congressional Budget Office confirm this -- the budget deficit, therefore, will be significantly worse than originally projected. Nevertheless, the Japanese experience in the 1990s demonstrates that even a depressionary economy can experience brief respites from economic turmoil. This could be Obama's saving grace.

#3 Ability to connect with disenfranchised: Populist sentiment is running high because people have finally realized that the last quarter-century or more has seen a massive divergence of economic fortune between the wealthy and everyone else. In essence, while credit was flowing and asset prices rose, ordinary Americans appeared to prosper along with the wealthy. However, now that credit revulsion has replaced easy money, it is plain to all that standards of living will decrease. President Obama would be wise to use his inner Bill Clinton and demonstrate he can "feel your pain" or he risks being perceived as aloof.

#4 Will in setting political agenda: The Republican party was in tatters after the 2008 election, giving Barack Obama a free hand. In my view, Obama has grossly miscalculated politically on numerous occasions. This has cost him political capital. Whether he can reassert his agenda now -- with Democrats in Congress responding to populist sentiment out of self-preservation and the Republican party newly reinvigorated -- remains to be seen.


By fnord12 | March 24, 2009, 12:27 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Through the looking glass

Glenn Greenwald:

The controversy of the AIG bonuses -- which, strictly as a quantitative matter, is rather trivial in the scheme of things -- illustrates how warped our political discourse is. Here is the hierarchy of positions regarding executive compensation limits back in February:

  • Chris Dodd -- advocated full-scale, no-exceptions limits on executive compensation for bailed-out companies
  • Obama administration -- supported limits but advocated exceptions for already-existing employment contracts
  • GOP leaders -- opposed all executive compensation limits as Socialist tyranny

Yet everything is exactly backwards in this controversy. The Obama administration has been trying to blame Dodd for the carve-out that allowed the AIG bonus payments, a carve-out that came into being because Geithner/Summers demanded it and because they opposed the limits Dodd wanted as too onerous. And now, the GOP -- which opposed limits of any kind -- wants to blame the Obama administration and Dodd because the limits weren't stringent enough to stop the AIG bonus payments. And the media is playing along perfectly, having clearly decided that the person who led the way in fighting for absolute compensation limits -- Dodd -- is the real villain responsible for the AIG bonuses.

The fact that the misinformation and confusion about who supported what can happen is exactly why it is possible for things like this to happen in the first place. There can be no accountability when as a society we have no memory about why things are happening. And really, that's just the way everyone likes it.


By fnord12 | March 19, 2009, 12:56 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



End of Suburbia

My favorite peak-oil prophet gets some mainstream write-up in the business press:

The downturn has accomplished what a generation of designers and planners could not: it has turned back the tide of suburban sprawl. In the wake of the foreclosure crisis many new subdivisions are left half built and more established suburbs face abandonment. Cul-de-sac neighborhoods once filled with the sound of backyard barbecues and playing children are falling silent. Communities like Elk Grove, Calif., and Windy Ridge, N.C., are slowly turning into ghost towns with overgrown lawns, vacant strip malls and squatters camping in empty homes. In Cleveland alone, one of every 13 houses is now vacant, according to an article published Sunday in The New York Times magazine.

The demand for suburban homes may never recover, given the long-term prospects of energy costs for commuting and heating, and the prohibitive inefficiencies of low-density construction. The whole suburban idea was founded on disposable spending and the promise of cheap gas. Without them, it may wither. A study by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech predicts that by 2025 there will be as many as 22 million unwanted large-lot homes in suburban areas.

The suburb has been a costly experiment. Thirty-five percent of the nation's wealth has been invested in building a drivable suburban landscape, according to Christopher Leinberger, an urban planning professor at the University of Michigan and visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. James Howard Kunstler, author of "The Geography of Nowhere," has been saying for years that we can no longer afford suburbs. "If Americans think they've been grifted by Goldman Sachs and Bernie Madoff, wait until they find out what a swindle the so-called 'American Dream' of suburban life turns out to be," he wrote on his blog this week.


By fnord12 | March 13, 2009, 5:47 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



China wonders aloud if we can repay our debts

Mostly posturing, but maybe not entirely...


By fnord12 | March 13, 2009, 2:50 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Don't Let the River Crab Harmonize You!

Puns. This is why i'm always laughing at parts in chinese movies that don't seem funny in the subtitles. That and the subtitles lie to you.

Since its first unheralded appearance in January on a Chinese Web page, the grass-mud horse has become nothing less than a phenomenon.

A YouTube children's song about the beast has drawn nearly 1.4 million viewers. A grass-mud horse cartoon has logged a quarter million more views. A nature documentary on its habits attracted 180,000 more. Stores are selling grass-mud horse dolls. Chinese intellectuals are writing treatises on the grass-mud horse's social importance. The story of the grass-mud horse's struggle against the evil river crab has spread far and wide across the Chinese online community.

Not bad for a mythical creature whose name, in Chinese, sounds very much like an especially vile obscenity. Which is precisely the point.

The grass-mud horse is an example of something that, in China's authoritarian system, passes as subversive behavior. Conceived as an impish protest against censorship, the foul-named little horse has not merely made government censors look ridiculous, although it has surely done that.

It has also raised real questions about China's ability to stanch the flow of information over the Internet -- a project on which the Chinese government already has expended untold riches, and written countless software algorithms to weed deviant thought from the world's largest cyber-community.

Link

Here's a translation of the lyrics i found online:

There is a herd of Grass Mud Horses*
In the wild and beautiful Ma Le Desert**
They are lively and intelligent
They are fun-loving and nimble
They live freely in the Ma Le Desert
They are courageous, tenacious, and overcome the difficult environment

Oh lying down Grass Mud Horse
Oh running wild Grass Mud Horse
They defeated river crabs*** in order to protect their grass land
River crabs forever disappeared from Ma Le Desert


*Sounds similar to "fuck your mom"
**Sounds similar to "your mom's cunt"
**Sounds similar to "harmony" which is what Chinese bloggers say when their site has been censored - it's been harmonized. It's in reference to President Hu Jintao's repeated calls for creating a "harmonious society".

By min | March 12, 2009, 12:45 PM | Liberal Outrage & Music | Comments (0)| Link



Ummmm... good?

Howard Fineman (title: Newsweek's senior Washington Correspondent and columnist, senior editor and deputy Washington Bureau Chief), quoted at Whiskey Fire:

Luckily for Obama, the public still likes and trusts him, at least judging by the latest polls, including NEWSWEEK's. But, in ways both large and small, what's left of the American establishment is taking his measure and, with surprising swiftness, they are finding him lacking...
...
If the establishment still has power, it is a three-sided force, churning from inside the Beltway, from Manhattan-based media and from what remains of corporate America.

As Whiskey Fire says:

The column is an accumulation of gibberish about how The Elite are having qualms about Obama, and that such qualms place him in the incredibly precarious political position of being left with no real support except for that of the majority of Americans.

Glenn Greenwald also comments on Fineman's article:

In Newsweek today, Howard Fineman has one of the flimsiest and most inane -- yet highly revealing -- columns in some time. Fineman announces that while Barack Obama may be popular among most Americans, "the American establishment' -- who Fineman believes, like most journalists, he speaks for and serves -- "is taking his measure and, with surprising swiftness, they are finding him lacking." As David Sirota notes, Fineman offers no evidence for his announcement of what "the establishment" thinks and never even bothers to identify what this "establishment" is which is rebelling against Obama, other than to say that "it is a three-sided force, churning from inside the Beltway, from Manhattan-based media and from what remains of corporate America."

Even if Fineman were right that this unseen "three-sided establishment" is becoming disenchanted with Obama, who should care? Or, more to the point, who should consider that to be a negative reflection on Obama? What has this "three-sided establishment" done that is remotely positive? What have they been right about? What disaster haven't they cheered on and enabled?



By fnord12 | March 11, 2009, 1:17 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



A fun game for you

Please find examples of the "symbol[s] of lawmakers' free-spending ways and penchant for back-home pet projects" claimed in this article on the spending bill passed today. I expected to at least hear about Mormon crickets and volcano monitoring, but instead we get nothing but increasing police spending and battling crystal meth usage.


By fnord12 | March 10, 2009, 10:04 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3)| Link



So much for that

A few days ago, Glenn Greenwald wrote:

Anyone who doubts that there has been a substantial -- and very positive -- change in the rules for discussing American policy towards Israel should consider two recent episodes: (1) the last three New York Times columns by Roger Cohen; and (2) the very strong pushback from a diverse range of sources against the neoconservative lynch mob trying, in typical fashion, to smear and destroy Charles Freeman due to his critical (in all senses of the word) views of American policy towards Israel. One positive aspect of the wreckage left by the Bush presidency is that many of the most sacred Beltway pieties stand exposed as intolerable failures, prominently including our self-destructively blind enabling of virtually all Israeli actions.

Today, Charles Freeman withdrew his nomination.

Vaguely related: VT Senator Pat Leahy compares the Palestinians to the Irish.


By fnord12 | March 10, 2009, 5:33 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Unemployment Numbers

This was written on Feb 11th, before today's new, worse numbers came out.

For anyone that still has a job, percentage unemployment numbers mask the misery and potential for unrest felt by those who have lost a job and are nearing the ends of their financial (and other) ropes. Percentage comparisons with employment in the great depression (25% vs now "7.6%") seem to indicate we have a huge distance to cover if we are to approach the misery experienced in the great depression.

But a vastly more interesting and important comparison is of actual total human beings without jobs or who are severely underemployed. The number of people affected at the peak of the depression was 13.5 million unemployed vs today's official number of 11.6 million. Eleven million six hundred thousand human beings unemployed is within a dangerously short distance of the worst number the Great Depression ever printed - and the calculations then were much more conservative than they are today.

Since the 90's, 'discouraged workers', or those had given up looking for a job because there were no jobs to be had, were redefined by the Clinton administration so as to be counted only if they had been 'discouraged' for less than a year. This time qualification defined away the bulk of the discouraged workers. Adding them back into the total unemployed, actual unemployment in order to make a fair "apples to apples" comparison, as estimated by the SGS-Alternate Unemployment Measure, brings us to 17.9% in January!



By fnord12 | March 6, 2009, 3:08 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Whoosawhaaa?!

So two of Obama's nominees are being held up by a procedural tactic by Republicans who are getting revenge for perceived slights that were made against Bush appointees during their nomination process (never mind that these are economic advisers and we're in the middle of a depression). So Bloomberg has a relatively dry, straightforward article on the subject, and then suddenly:

Their stalled nominations serve as another reminder that Obama may find it difficult to live up to his campaign promise of changing the partisan culture in Washington.

How is this Obama's fault? Shouldn't the paragraph have read:

Their stalled nominations serve as another reminder that Republicans refuse to reciprocate on Obama's offer to change the partisan culture in Washington.

Updated: Josh Marshall has a take on the Obama administration nominees in which the Republican obstruction is just a small piece in a complicated puzzle.


By fnord12 | March 6, 2009, 10:37 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



Guilt & Swindle

I read an early version of this story on TPM a few weeks ago, but it was presented there like it was only a quasi-official operation. This makes it seem much more legitimate.

Dead people are the newest frontier in debt collecting, and one of the healthiest parts of the industry. Those who dun the living say that people are so scared and so broke it is difficult to get them to cough up even token payments.

Collecting from the dead, however, is expanding. Improved database technology is making it easier to discover when estates are opened in the country's 3,000 probate courts, giving collectors an opportunity to file timely claims. But if there is no formal estate and thus nothing to file against, the human touch comes into play.


By fnord12 | March 5, 2009, 9:39 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Someone has to do it

A TPM reader:


During the campaign, McCain hammered away on earmarks as if it were the end-all, be-all of reform. Obama basically humored him, but pointed out that there were much more important things. Now that Obama won, McCain is blasting Obama for not keeping McCain's campaign promises.


By fnord12 | March 5, 2009, 9:37 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Menendez blocks Obama science appointees based on Cuba policy

TPM:

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a strong supporter of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, is launching a full-on battle this week to remove several provisions from the 2009 government spending bill that would open a small crack in the slammed door of relations with Havana.

Menendez fired a broadside at the Obama administration yesterday for backing a provision buried in the $410 billion spending bill, which must become law by next week in order to keep the government running. The New Jersey senator, a Cuban-American, objects to language in the bill that would allow Cuban-Americans to visit relatives on the island once a year and end limits on the sale of American food and medicines in Cuba.

Polls suggest that the majority of Cuban-Americans side with the administration, rather than Menendez -- an influential poll of the community, conducted in Florida every year since 1991, found in December that 55% of Cuban-Americans supported lifting the embargo against Havana.

...
But the nominees Menendez has chosen to hold are pivotal presidential allies in the push to regulate carbon emissions -- and Menendez has been admirably outspoken about the need to act on climate change. Was holding up Holdren, a longtime critic of Bush-era science policy, the best way to start a reasoned dialogue on Cuba policy?

Usually the wack-job politicians are from red states where we don't have much influence over them, but i'm embarrassed to say that this is one of ours.

Let him know his Cold War era Cuban policy is not acceptable to New Jerseyans, especially (?) when it's holding up progress on climate change .


By fnord12 | March 3, 2009, 12:23 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



Understand how taxes work, people.

I guess a lot of the hostility towards paying taxes comes from ignorance about how the tax rates work. I think Republicans do a good job of exploiting that ignorance. But here's a case of a reporter causing confusion all on her own.



By fnord12 | March 3, 2009, 12:16 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0)| Link



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