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Thursday, December 30, 2010

New GOP Congressmen Arrive in Washington Prepared to say "No" to everything sensible

...and get paid for it.

(This has got to put Tim Geithner's Treasury on the wrong footing, since they were willing to cave on Freddie and Fannie, right?)

That's Senator Joe Manchin in the back, shaking their hands on arrival.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A gay marine taught my 'son' everything he needed to know...

Worth the read and to clip for the file/record.

Retired Marine Lt. Col. Tom Brannon works for the U.S. Navy as a military contractor in Ridgecrest, Calif. (link)

Friday, December 24, 2010

For those far from home and with responsibilities that cannot rest...

Merry Christmas and the joys of the season...

Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan, 2006

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Signposts of American bankruptcy

You know, back in the olden days, it was a disaster if the Federal budget wasn't balanced by the Executive.

As late as the Reagan era, the worst program, in the eyes of Conservatives, so-called "welfare" or Aid to Families with Dependent Children, was maybe a $25 billion program, in today's dollars.

Since Bush-41, we throw around hundreds of billions in unpaid for tax cuts, annually, unrelated to economic stimulus or exigency. Probably 90% of the Iraq war was funded with unpaid-for "supplemental appropriations". It's now widely recognized that the Bush-era tax cuts didn't pay for themselves.

Tonight, Lawrence O'Donnell asks in relation to Bush-44's taxes, "Was it worth it?", to do so, as if it were a temporary thing.

I mention it, but it doesn't matter. My sense is the fix is in in Washington: cut the social programs rather than raise taxes on the super-wealthy and impose a regressive gas tax to pay for the failed years.

I'm ready to be told, "That's the best deal we can get." Why bother voting one party or the other, on policy substance?

At the end, Senate passes START

Does anyone know what is in this treaty, except that it is "good"? A communications triumph.

For the Gay Republican in Your Life...?

military or otherwise...

Quote of the Day

"Judging by the urgency and the 'willingness' to face votes in the lame duck, Democrats should lose more elections."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Americans will pay more for cleanup than replacement cost of tower

The Senate voted $4.3 billion to cover health costs and compensation.

Pop Quiz: You have a Republican EPA Administrator, a Republican President, and a Republican Mayor telling you that the mound is safe. Do you run away?

Of course you do.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Invisible Progress is Hard to See

On the most recent strategy review for the Af-Pak quagmire, if one dares to use that word for it:

"Strategic patience seems to require strategic denial."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On the Eve of Christmas, Nation Awaits Do Nothings They Voted for in November

"We are looking forward to getting back to doing nothing", said John Boehner, the Ohio Republican who will "lead" the House in two years of quietude and long weekends for Representatives at home, in their districts, 'conferring with constituents' about how not to do anything.

"You remember all the taxpayer time and money spent investigating Bill Clinton's Christmas list? It will be just like that", said Eric Cantor, noisy whip from the gay-hate state of Virginia.

Cutting the department of education, a GOP-Tea election throw-away line/promise, may prove hard:

Boehner's tears aren't hard to read. After analyzing hundreds of psychological experiments and sociological studies of weeping, hundreds of accounts of crying in different cultures and different historical periods, thousands of tearful moments in film and fiction and art, I have come to see that, like the mother of the bride, many of us weep because we are overwhelmed by contradictions. -link

"We hope to stage some votes on Iran and healthcare", said the leader. "With a little luck, we can get back to the good old days of the do-nothing 109th. History shows that we'd prefer to filibuster everything, but we feel doing nothing is easier for the American people."

Senate Allows Executive & Military to Certify an End to DADT at some, unkown future date


In the last days of the mangled lame duck of the 111th, the Senate voted today, in two votes, cloture on the motion to concur and to adopt the House concurring resolution, to give the authority to the President, SecDef, and JCS Chairman to "certify" that a repeal of DADT would be timely and effective.

No time limit exists for when the Executive can present a certification.

No changes were made to the UCMJ, leaving in place the legal framework that existed prior to DADT (10 U.S.C. 654) that led to so-called "witch hunts" of gay and lesbian servicemembers and potential for dishonorable conduct discharges, if 'certification' doesn't occur (and perhaps even if it does).

With luck, the courts will review the existing cases on appeal, to shore-up the perimeter.

The Bill was managed as an historic stand alone, after its incorporation in the failed NDAA for FY 2011.

These changes take place in heavy times. In separate news, ISAF identified today a U.S. Marine killed in Afghanistan earlier this year, as well as an ISAF servicemember killed today. For 2010, total US casualities in Af-Pak "war" includes 361 IED deaths out of nearly 500 year-to-date.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bush-44 to Nation

Everyone gets everything they want, we call it "compromise", and we charge-it-up to the next generation.

This shows that the two parties can 'work together'.

Bush-44 and the Mortgage Markets

Oh, well, this could put Freddie and Fannie on the slide to oblivion, no?

Moody's signals that U.S. debt watch will go "negative" with the Bush-44 "compromise".

Tweet of the Day

The newest face of the Democratic Party in Washington:

"Manchin supports DADT repeal, but will vote against it until world peace is achieved."

From wonk room.



Charles Krauthammer invents a new context for belittling liberals, calling them "infantile" for not accepting the moral proposition that we should borrow money to give to the very, very wealthiest, if we are going to extend income to the unemployed.

But look at his math.

He declares, "the package will add as much as 1 percent to GDP and lower the unemployment rate by about 1.5 percentage points".

Yet, he reckons that package size that Bush-44 got is bigger than $814 billion. $814 billion is 5.5% of GDP.

Got that? Stimulus package of 5.5% of GDP gets you 1% GDP growth ...

The State of the Union

Gays bigotry. Frank Rich pens a piece on the takedown at and of the Smithsonian that meets or exceeds Andrew Sullivan's knack for words.

Elsewhere, this week, organized gay hate groups, smarting from their designation as such by the SPLC, tipped their hat at an upcoming "start debating, stop hating" campaign to fight the challenge.

I have this to observe, in the big picture, about their manufactured meme on the "loss of religious freedom", due to the 'gay agenda'.

Women have achieved places of power and have been given all the legal rights of men in society. This is not scriptural, in Christianity, on so-called 'conservative exegesis'.

So, have we seen the end of society or the loss of "religious freedom" because of it? No.

It is only the small size of the gay population that makes bigotry supportable, in 2010.

The Most Expensive Unemployment Insurance Bill Ever


As Obama moves forward with making "Bush-44" the law of the land on Monday, it is worth noting that this bill is perhaps the most expensive unemployment insurance bill in the history of the Republic, if not the world.

If the crux of having to sign this politically self-defeating and economically irresponsible bill is, in Obama-logic, so that there is not a "catastrophe" among the unemployed, then no matter how you add-up the cost of this bill, it is truly the most expensive "save" executed on behalf of the unemployed ever done... Probably over $85,000/person in ill-advised excess of what is needed, as astounding figure, if you think the program will serve 2 million, maybe $25,300, if you think it might serve 6.7 million, still a fantastic number.

With Obama and a half-dozen or so Senate Democrats soon to be "Bush-44" in tax law, the Democrats give away any pretense of all that they did under pay-go and making sure things were paid for.

But, it is even worse.


The President's compromise appears not to address the long-term unemployed, those with 99 or more weeks already, with no new program in which to qualify.

Where are all these people going to go?

Hoovervilles. You think I kid? Yet, some 'catastrophe' has been avoided, we've been told...

Maximum potential benefit remains unchanged, no matter what your state's unemployment level in 13 months. With no new maximum, 4 million people will "max out". That would roughly double the U.S. homeless population.

It should be noted that Jim Webb of Virginia is quoted in the NYT calling it "the ultimate stimulus plan". No comment.

For the record, Andrew Sullivan, of no party, clique, or cult, calls "what Obama got" "staggering".

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mr. President

For eight hours, yesterday, Bernie Sanders was the President of the United States.

Why? As Andrew Sullivan likes to say, he was the only responsible person in the room.

The rest of 'em were off in some beltway sideshow.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lies of Chris Matthews, Friday Version

He says there is a "massive" stimulus.

First, it's not massive, whatever it is.

The payroll tax reduction is solely on the individual side. The employer portion is not affected. Therefore, no "incentive to hire". Most companies look at hiring a person based on a longer view than just a one-year, temporary change in marginal cost. Not all, including temp jobs and low wage jobs, but most.

Again, the purpose of accelerated depreciation, often a staple of IMF-type "packages", is to help companies who don't have cash or financing available to them. Corporations have ample cash, right now. If you want them to spend it, threaten the cash!

New equipment is a double-edged sword during slack demand, at least. In the short run, higher productivity might lead to fewer jobs. It depends. It didn't lead to a huge amount of hiring, when Bush-43 tried it.

DADT Repeal - Not Dead Yet

The new, stand alone bill was introduced and read twice, the first steps in Senate to considering the measure.

The Responsible Thing and Bush-44's Tax "Compromise"

The responsible thing is not to compromise with the unreasonable and the irresponsible.

The responsible thing is to demand and, yes, to force the unreasonable and the irresponsible compromise.

The GOP's compromise? They get tax cuts for the wealthy if they pay for them.

Why does Clinton think that deal is 'not out there'?

Bernie Sanders: The American People Can Free the Hostage!

Bernie Sanders takes the floor.

My god, there IS still a liberal lion in the Senate.

They all haven't sold their soul for the job!

No Crisis Should Remain Unexploited


It appears that the GOP have found their cause in the unemployment crisis.

What do you call someone who uses your own needs against you, to get you to compromise your integrity or your ideals?

Are the unemployed fair-game in America? Are these people really the 'structurally unemployed', such as in other countries? No.

Bob Dole once told his colleagues, in the mid 90s, "We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of the unemployed." Apparently, the Reagan Devolution continued after him, and now we are forced - forced - to give handouts that a majority of Americans oppose to those in the best place to sacrifice, the nation's most wealthy, just so that we don't have to be inhumane to those who have no work, through the fault of fraud and malfeasance on Wall Street.

Andrew Sullivan smokes the dope on "jump start the economy"

Andrew thinks there is a "knock out" blow, here, to "K-thug".

I could write a long set of reasons why, in addition to the stuff Krugman-sensei has already written on "jump starting" as a silly metaphor. I could laugh that the second Bush-43 tax cuts were designed to "jump start" his election, in all likelihood, because they already had fed their base quite well at the expense of the public weal, by that time.

But, what Andrew displays is not unique to him. It is the triumph of hope over reason.

The Japanese kept "jump starting" throughout the entire 90s. Recovery was always just one year away, when the "adjustments" would be complete. They are now the Italy of the East.

But, hey, tax cuts for everyone! Yahoo! There will be growth in the spring! Warning: UI extension ends in 13 months (someone elephant looking was reading the research...).

More Money for the Big Banks?

Americans have paid down $40 billion in credit card debt in 2010, through October, the latest figures available. We'll probably end the year around $45 billion or so.

Indeed, the immediate purpose of accelerated depreciation - a favorite of the standard IMF-type packages, too - is to make the cash needed to buy something less. But companies are flush with cash, right now, so that's not the problem, is it?
By comparison, the "stimulus" in the pipeline is for $120 billion from the reaid of the social security dedicated tax ("payroll tax"). With jacked-up rates on consumer credit, no reason that a huge chunk of that isn't rationally going to go to pay down debt, too.

So, taken together, we're talking less than $75 billion in "stimulus". That's not going to be enough to bring down the employment rate to exciting levels or to induce companies to go on an extraordinary equipment buying spree, accelerated depreciation notwithstanding.

Indeed, the immediate purpose of accelerated depreciation - a favorite of the standard IMF-type packages, too - is to make the cash needed to buy something less. But companies are once-in-a-liftetime flush with cash, right now, so that's not the problem, is it?

Joe Manchin's Epic Fail

The freshman Senator, Joe Manchin, needs a footnote in history.

In one of his first significant votes in the Senate, he voted down the Defense Authorization Bill yesterday.

In doing so, he voted against
-His President
-His Vice President
-His entire party in the Senate - every single one of them
-The military brass, especially including the SecDef, the JC Chairman and Vice-Chairman.
-A clear majority of the nation and a clear majority of the troops on active duty

He did not abstain. He voted "nay", although his vote alone would not have been success or failure (that belongs to the GOP, who have abused the Senate rules, roundly).

It's clear the Senate chambers cannot contain Joe Manchin's ego and self-importance.

"Payroll Tax Holiday"


Can you believe the euphemism embodied in the phrase being circulated?

It's like saying, "Oh, aren't you all interested in a defecation Holiday!" Buy yourself puppies!

Taking a phrase from Geraldine Ferraro, "let me just say":

Let me just say, you don't pay your social security taxes, you probably won't get all those benefits you thought you were going to get.

Anyone else not want to jump into that sidewalk chalk-painting?

Obama is King

I can't believe the drone from the beltway insiders that Senator Obama is untouchable: can't be primaried and can't be challenged.

And I don't even 'blame Obama', at least to this degree: he did what every beltway insider probably recommended and what every President since Carter has done, including Jed Bartlett: punt.

And so what about that?

Well, it's doubly frustrating, because the Democrats have been working right along (pay-go, etc.) to the point where they had a growing tracking record in support of a "brand" that they were far more credible than the GOP, including on punts and on 'interventions' (GM bailout, Mexico bailout, etc.).

I know Larry Summers probably thinks of it as just laying down a bunt, but I know a punt when I see one.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Quote of the Day

"We're wondering when Obama will change his registration. Apparently, it is easier to serve the American public and to bear the weight of governance, if you adopt GOP positions, wholesale."

By the way, $3.5 million exemption from the estate tax?

Do the math on the astounding rise in that level since Bush started in on that in 2000, when it was $675,000. I'd bet it has gone up faster than inflation or wage growth by an order of magnitude.

I calculate an 18% compound annual rate of increase in the exemption.

Instead, why don't we just index the year-to-year exemption to the GDP growth rate, so we don't end up with another tax-law-farce-in-law?

If we took an annual growth rate in the range of 4% to 7%, then we'd get an exemption level between $1,000,000 and $1,300,000.

What was lost in the Obama-Summers-Geithner-Biden rush compromise

If we can't make sacrifices during hard times, make the hard choices, when there is urgency (clear impetus) and the tradeoffs are in high relief, when are we going to make them?

During good times?

Obama gave away his and his political party's credibility to face off against the GOP.

Therefore, the debate will shift to who in the Republican party can take up the "true" mantle of responsibility. And it doesn't even have to be true. It just has to be perceived to be authentic. Perhaps some governor who has a track-record cutting, cutting, cutting.

That person, if they emerge, will beat Obama and win the Presidency.

Lost in Washington

I can't help but think that Barack Obama is lost in Washington.

Yesterday, he said that the Republicans are going to have to make a case over the next two years why tax cuts over $250K weren't an ill-advised addition to the deficit.


I think that it is equally likely that the pressure is going to be on you, Mr. President, about the status of your own "permanent" middle class tax cut.

And, what's more, you are going to bring the house down on that yourself, through your own debt commission...

Last, you, Mr. President, are going to be the first Democrat who cuts social security program. First, with your willingness to accept a bogus stimulus by putting a "holiday" on the revenue stream dedicated to social security. Then, by forcing Americans to work longer and get less.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Negotiator

Uh, not for nothing, but shouldn't fear tactics have been used, against, uh, Republicans, for threatening to 'take hostages'? Or, even those six Senate Democrats who held out?

Not to defend a bogus and forced compromise?

Just sayin'. Is there an officer on deck?

The Estate Tax Goes Up in 2011

GOP has a losing hand on that. (So do various Senate Democrats...)


"Payroll Taxes"

It's telling that some people are using the language "payroll tax", instead of the more descriptive "social security taxes", which amount to nothing more, economically, than a forced savings program, really. Certainly not "big government".

They don't want to actually reveal they just agreed in principle that it is now okay to ruin the actuarial balance of the program, in favor of alleged cyclical stimulus. (There is no guarantee that the vast majority of the money won't be going to help people pay down debt or to help their landlords pay down debt).

I mean, for years, it has been okay to recklessly spend the temporary social security surpluses. Now, it's actually okay to just ignore that there is meant to be a dedicated stream of income at all.

Quote of the Day III

David Axlerod: "Some men see things the way they are and say, 'Word'. That's me."

Who's in charge around here?

What Obama's piqued-ness at his press conference reveals - and a press conference is hardly the first, best way to make yourself look "Presidential", to assert 'The Presidential Voice' - is that they think they've done an exceptional job running the government.

In some ways they have. They've been very good on appointments, with little scandal, but also at the cost of time. They've done an exceptional amount, while also running two hot war zones, something truly great.

But, the truth is that a generic Democratic candidate would have enjoyed large majorities in the House and Senate in 2008. Therefore, things like healthcare reform may not be so much attributable to the unique skills of Obama. Hillary or even Biden probably could have gotten the same.

What he was elected to do qua Obama was to bring a refreshing responsibility to governance, in a clear departure, a clean break from the ways of Bush-43, to offer audacity of perspective and to continue to inspire people to a new way forward.

Have they delivered on that? Is that too much to ask, even during hard times?

Quote for the Day II


"Democratic donors must be wondering what are the other issues with 80% public support on which they intend to 'compromise' in 2011 and 2012. Social security? Medicare? Food stamps? Disability? Certainly some must be wondering what kind of harbinger that is for tighter issues, like immigration reform."

Quote of the Day

"As regards the Obama self-compromise on fiscal matters, four short years since the Democrats took over the House, ending the contract on America, and we are all GOP again.

And, there is more of that, on the way."

If insanity is the definition of doing the same thing over again and expecting that it will be okay this time, we're insane all over again, as of yesterday.

After all, isn't it true that Obama-Geithner did the Washington insider thing on taxes: punt?

Obama-Geithner to Sanctimonious Left: Okay to Raid Social Security Trust Fund

Thought for the day is that we have moved, in the space of just 10 years, from a Democratic Presidential candidate who wanted to put social security into a "lock box" to an actual Democratic President and his Treasury Secretary who are willing actually to raid the same social security funds for "stimulus".

There are other choices. With the multiplier on tax cuts probably zero, because consumers are paying down debt as fast as they can, almost all of the other choices look better.

And, given choices, I don't think the public would like to be told that they have to work longer, now, too, because of Wall Street's malfeasance, while we pass out an incredibly generous estate tax and tax cuts for the highest earners.

No one actually put the question to them that way. What we heard, after the midterms, is that "Obama didn't get the message". What? That we have to raid social security, in order to have economic stimulus? Pft.

And, it's even worse, because Obama-Geithner have opened up a serious rift with the Democratic caucus on the Hill, right at the time when he arguably needs solidarity, as the GOP tries to buy-off and pick-off Senators to get their agenda items done in the next two years.

Why Team Obama Weren't Ready from Day One


Ezra Klein explains how the GOP had the correct assessment, while blowing smoke about "uncertainty" at everyone (perhaps especially Tim Geithner, who I judge to be susceptible to these things, ever since his bizarrely conciliatory comments at his confirmation hearings).

By far the thing they were most concerned about was the estate tax. (Once you realize this, you understand that the President had significant leverage over both the GOP and his own party, even going into the next session).

Without having any sources or knowing anything about the behind the scenes, I would have agreed with this assessment, a priori:

Let's start with the Republicans. For one thing, the things they wanted were things they really, really wanted. A number of sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations have fingered the estate tax as the major player in the size of the deal. "Republicans were extremely eager to get benefits for the top tenth of a percent of Americans," says one senior administration official.

It was the estate tax, in this telling, that secured Republican support for, among other things, the two-year extension of the refundable tax credits and the payroll tax cut. Republicans believe that the two-year extension of the estate tax at Lincoln-Kyl levels will turn into a permanent extension of the estate tax at Lincoln-Kyl levels. So they attached much more importance to it than the price tag might suggest.

And it went beyond the estate tax: Conservatives saw the extension of the tax cuts as an important pivot point in American politics -- full stop.

So, they had the leverage they needed, with the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More Tax Cut Facts - Food for Progressives?

Payroll tax cuts are a "get" for progressives? Who knew. When the Social Security Trustee's report comes out next year, with an actuarial gap wider than ever, I'll check back with those who think it's a win-win for progressives.

In the meantime, with consumers paying down debt like mad, I'm supposed to believe that a payroll tax cut is going to create upwards of 750,000 jobs in the next year?

Day 2: Obama Gets Tough

Mr. President, the time to get all "fired up" over what is going on is *before* you make a compromise. Perhaps, for as long as you need to bring opponents to heel, especially if you have public opinion at your back. What's more, it's not necessary to "win" all the votes you need, i.e. even if you don't have the votes and know it.


Because today you or your communications advisers or your strategy team have you looking defensive. If you had said the same things you said today, just four weeks ago or made a case right in the heartland for 9 million unemployed during a Thanksgiving national address to the nation, you'd be looking like a champion, today, even as you compromise.

Might be past time to review the model, the model of starting with going easy, seeking "reasonable" partners and end with getting fired up or tough looking. Might be past time to review the strategy of being part of the negotiations, instead of standing over them at least as much.

Revisit the entire assumption that to get early support or even end support, one can't start with fire or confrontation.

In other words, have a look at Ronald Reagan...

Team Obama: Unprepared for Harsh Realities of Gridlock?

It's true if their answer to being "held hostage" is to capitulate.

If the American people voted for gridlock, you can't change that, can you?

The Political Price of Creating Human Misery

Marvel, if you will, at this statement from the President:

"I'm not willing to see 2 million Americans who stand to lose their unemployment insurance at the end of this month be put in a situation where they might lose their home or their car or suffer some additional economic catastrophe." -link

How has it come to pass, in modern times, that a threat to create human misery of this magnitude has political currency in American politics, enough that it can be used to as a bargaining chip for a compromise?

when people ask for more "fight", it is to reject wholesale this frame of the debate, to stir up public opinion with persuasion, with public diplomacy, to make it harder for opponents to bluff and more likely for them to feel the need to back off, no?
Why the "I", there? Does the President believe that the GOP "earned" a mandate to create this kind of misery, based on their mid-term election success?

Last, consider the timing. It implies that America cannot make hard choices during hard times. In order to deal with hard times, we have to 'compromise', we have to pass out $140 in income and estate tax-breaks-cum-debt-spending, over 24 months, in order to get maybe $80 billion in unemployment compensation, over 13 months. (Figures are my own guesstimates, but should be in the ballpark).

So, when people ask for more "fight", it is to reject wholesale this frame of the debate, to stir up public opinion with persuasion, with public diplomacy, to make it harder for opponents to bluff and more likely for them to feel the need to back off, no?

Obama's Ridiculous Political-Economic Gamble


If the President thinks he just bought the election by putting jobs first and making sure that the recovery will give him "good times" in which to campaign, he might want to check that with his not-so-crack-liberal economic team:

The AFL-CIO reminded readers in a statement ... that "some 150,000 new jobs a month are needed just to keep pace with the growth in the labor force, and a stunning 11 million jobs must be generated to return to pre-recession employment levels."

There will not be an era of good feeling in 2012, in all likelihood. Even the housing market overhang will not likely be lifted, as millions of bankruptcies and the ever climbing standards to get home financing from Fannie and Freddie shut people out of the housing markets, for years (refinance or sale/purchase).

The Obama Compromise Model

Late afternoon press conferences to reneg on a major campaign promise?

All the impassioned leadership of saying, "I completely disagree with this." This is the high rhetoric that is appropriate for major, defining moments of a Presidency? Of national economic emergency? For millions of people without jobs? Of letting down the core of his base?

He avoids public confrontation, getting drawn into a 'war of words'. This saves time and, in some cases, saps the strength of the opposition.

But, in seeking compromise before confrontation, he appears to everyone to lack leadership skills. He negates his dual-role as a leader of ideas and an decided of when to compromise.

Moreover, it's now clear that he's not working well through the Senate, if someone there is going to be the tip of the spear. Harry Reid is conferring after the President makes a public statement. (In contrast, the GOP have had success rotating Senators who 'take the lead' on various issues, so that no one person can be vilified, like Reid/Pelosi have been).

Anyway, it's not worth watching the next two years. It's going to be like watching the last two quarters of a game in which your favorite team is simply outmatched.

Santa Brings Gift to GOP Early This Christmas

It is Obama.

I just read his full statement.

What, in this compromise, will the GOP not like, Mr. President?

I think they're passing the Champagne.

  • The largest inter-generational wealth transfer in the history of the republic goes on at even lower estate tax rates than Bush-era (thanks Tim Geithner, for that?).
  • They don't have to face-up to having an unpopular opinion with the public, w/r/t taxes on the wealthy.
  • In two years, they get to run on "no tax increase", ensuring continual "renewal" of their inanity, no political reckoning of it. That makes a mockery of "temporary" as a concession.
  • The Democrats become complicit in cut-tax-and-spend, losing the chance to build a fiscal brand name of their own.
I'd say, game, set and match to the GOP. All they had to do was threaten to take the economy into the tubes ... and the President's judgement is that calling a bluff on that kind of overreach would have been a "symbolic fight"?

I'm not even saying that votes in the Congress would have changed, with a prolonged "fight".

What I am saying is that the Democratic Party didn't "win" the political optics of making a compromise, did they?

Monday, December 6, 2010

13 months or 24 months

Apparently, the rate of job growth is going to be so unexpectedly fantastic next year, that the job-seekers who are relying on unemployment won't need to after 13 months.

But, BUT ... (wait for it)

... the stability and security of the recovery is going to need 24 months of income tax cuts.

Somehow, both of those can't be true, can they?

Do you have any idea how fast the economy needs to get growing to even have a 7% unemployment rate by this time next year? C'mon, guys! (Geithner?)

The Crux of the Compromise


The crux of this compromise is that everyone can have everything they want, basically, and we can "afford" it, so long as we pretend it is "temporary".

In other words, nothing has changed, even if you thought you voted for that, since trickle down days or the 80s, the non-sacrifice days of Bush-43.

We're still the "exceptional" Americans, who can do everything.

Obama's Coming "Conversation with the American People"

He apparently thinks he's going to get a pass for extending the cuts, with perfunctory outrage, when it comes time to "make difficult decisions".

We're supposed to believe he's responsible or credible, after he makes himself complicit in the GOP's fiscal nonsense and economic stimulus nonsequiturs? He's got an explanation for that?

If we're in an emergency situation, then why are we dealing with tax cut rhetoric in the lame duck? How are tax cuts of this sort sufficient to the emergency?

They don't understand that they are almost guaranteed to never get it to all add up, rhetorically.

But, hey, don't listen to me, I'm the "professional left". I could get it wrong.

Why Chris Matthews is Wrong

Why wouldn't the GOP take the blame, feel the heat, as it were, not the President?

Isn't it the mission of "winning" in politics to see your ideas win in that way, too?

The President is NOT going to get "points" for being "responsible" if he doesn't go out there and sell, sell, sell himself as the responsible one in the room. As long as he cuts-taxes-and-spends in the fashion of the GOP, he gives too much ground, if he doesn't win the political fight, in terms of public opinion.

The way I look at it, they had a chance in a lifetime to take the whip-handle on the GOP's brand, to expose their overplayed hand; but they blew it with a quick-fire deal, however well conceived.

Obama Blinks

Uh, I'm not the "professional left".

Is it an absolute problem that Obama extended the income tax cuts, temporarily, for economic reasons?

No, not fully. [An estate tax at 35% with a $5 exclusion is pretty eye-popping, however...100% of all capital purchases written off - equipment spending is already near an all time high, so is that really going to be stimulated or, more importantly, add domestic jobs?]

If all you are perceived to stand for is compromise, than sooner or later people don't think you stand for anything.
What is the problem is that he never took his case to the American people. There was no support for the GOP's position in the election results, yet the Democrats didn't pressure them. Instead, they staged votes, which is easier and also a focal point, but not leadership. He should have taken them to task for it. Doing so is NOT "cheap political points".

If all you are perceived to stand for is compromise, than sooner or later people don't think you stand for anything.

Unlike Reagan, Team Obama have yet to master the art of standing for something, yet being "Presidential", when it comes time to compromise or showdown.

For instance, if there are critical issues facing the nation - and they are, with millions scheduled to lose their unemployment benefits, the economic recovery dicey, and credit for housing under continual "new standards" assault from Freddie and Fannie - why didn't he address the nation? A press conference in Winston-Salem? Seriously, guys?

They have no sense of the moment. Little clear-cut vision of their role as Executive, as bully-pulpit-in-chief. Little idea how to manage expectations within their own party.

What's more, following his post-election admission that they rushed through things because of urgency and didn't take the time for 'public diplomacy', what's his excuse now? India? Lisbon? Afghanistan? This has been on the table since his campaign promise. Besides that, they are trying to do too much, still, so "the politics" of these weighty issues isn't being handled fully, in terms of the communications effort required, to support any change.

So, like George Soros, I'll just watch him muddle through, because it's clear that they still don't have their legs.

Today's Headlines from Prop8 Hearing

There is going to be so much written on this, by those better than I, I'll just offer my take:


"Alliance Defense Fund failed to enjoin California AG, Sinks Suit on Appeal"


"Olson to Appellate Court: Prop8 fails constitutional challenge on any and all standards for review."

"Strategery" of Court Procedure

Arthur Leonard: part 1, part 2 See also David Cruz on standing.

Ari Waldman part 2

For the record: Scotusblog on LGBT Movement Lawyers

Two parts on this part 1, part 2, from Mary Fisher.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Prop 8 This Week - Finale or Allegro ma no troppo?

All below the cut. Long and academic-ish.

Looking at the amicus curiae of the Robbie P. George brain trust in prep for this week’s oral contest on marriage for gays in California, one observes they continue to hold the view of rival goods, rather than the more intuitive and obvious complementary goods.

They argue that there is no value neutral marriage policy (even if their quoted assertion from Michael Sandel is easily falsifiable, because the government could have other, normative grounds to bar polygyny). Who would disagree, except perhaps those who believe that the only common good that is served by ‘marriage policy’, within reason, is to facilitate private, individual goods?

They suggest there are legitimate moral purposes for a discriminatory marriage policy, but they analogize to goods that are not obviously in conflict, such as the relationship of business partners compared to personal friendships. Elsewhere, in contrast, they suggest that the purpose for a retained prejudice against gay couples is to be found in the perceived conflict of goods, i.e. down the road the perceived social linkages or norms may be lost (a consequence both in dispute and not in evidence at trial and one that could be, nevertheless, easily addressed by propagating the appropriate ethic, rather than denying or hypothesizing that so much is impossible).

They suggest that one can’t reason from a ‘fundamental right’ to marriage to gay marriage, because the concept of fundamental right is contingent on the purposes of marriage. A contingent fundamental right is hardly intuitive, because what we would think of as grounding the word “fundamental” is what we should use to judge whether restricted purposes are legitimate. Thus, we might well consider fundamental expression of innate sexuality and associated partnership, as seen by evidence and testimony in court and so obviously related to “flourishing” and “human good”, as not quite in the same category as their choice example, an artist seeking contingent self-expression through antisemitic art, who nevertheless gets defunded.

Indeed, they fail to meet the burden that the court should choose to impose on them. If they purport that there are legitimate moral purposes for discriminatory policy, it should have been proven at trial that these purposes can win the form of rationality, going beyond mere animus, reference to tradition, or belief in revealed truths. The trial record is pretty bare on this.

What’s more, it is closer to the time when the Supreme Court Justices ought to formally realize that, in finally removing “criminalization” as a penalty, they ought not to simply replace it with other forms of sad and uninspired penalties, that are often as damaging to the human spirit, even if they are not as physically threatening. This is the spirit of Romer, I think. If the court has the prescience to see the obvious complementarity of goods, we do not lose the past, we gain the future.

Their answer to these problems is not to delve into them much, but to provide a formalism: whatever the postulated legitimate and inevitable moral purposes of discriminatory marriage policy are, the court(s) should not assess them, because such purposes are only for the people to decide. (They confuse the legislature with the people, in citing Gregg v Georgia, p. 13, raising the vexing issue of judging the ‘legislative intent’ of a plebiscite and other issues besides.)

But, this is no answer, really.

If the moral purposes of the law are all left to a non-deliberative plebiscite, that makes a mockery of their statement about the majesty of the law, “instituted to preserve justice and secure the conditions under which individuals or communities can thrive or flourish” (p. 4), because a plebiscite could make a horse a Senator and more besides.

Even in that potential chaos, a court would still have to weigh competing and conflicting moral claims of the plebiscite, e.g. we want to live with equal protection and we want to discriminate against a minority (gays). To settle that question, with weighty matters at hand, a court would have to weigh consequential harms, look at the case in hand, examine the aptness of the discrimination in meeting the governmental interest, to see whether it rested on sheer animus or on supportable, evidential linkages. The trial court did that, in spades. The plaintiffs must and should win on appeal.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Major Iraq & Afghanistan Vet Group Comes Out for Repeal of DADT

They've done it. They've kept faith with their gay and lesbian colleagues, against an often derelict class of seniors.

IAVA Joins Top Military Leaders in Supporting Repeal of DADT