Monday, January 17, 2011

Last Call

TBogg makes a very good point on Palin's meltdown last week:

This is the law on unintended consequences. Sarah Palin’s campaign map becomes a road-map for her downfall. Hanging it around her neck provided a clearer path for Republicans out of the wilderness.


And he's right:  With Palin taking herself out of the serious running for President months before she could do any serious or lasting damage to anyone other than Sarah Palin, the Republicans just got the second chance they needed to get their stuff together and make a serious run at beating Barack Obama in 2012 without her anywhere in the picture.

Having said that, 21 months is an eternity in politics.  John McCain was largely dismissed in February 2007 as having been all but eliminated from serious contention by fellow Republicans.  By July of that year his campaign was largely thought to be over as his staff was mostly dismissed and his campaign was in shambles.

But by the time the actual primaries rolled around, McCain was back in business and went on to win the nomination.

Point is, don't count Palin out.  Because she's the only one that could really still completely wreck the GOP's chances in 2012 all be her lonesome.  If she mounts a stealth campaign and chooses to run anyway with intent of the brass ring or forcing her name as VP, she just might sink the ship anyway.

Or worse.  I'm still convinced her narcissism will not let her go quietly into the night and that the real battle is coming.

Reflecting On Dr. King's Message

Some 50 plus years after Dr. King's role began in the Civil Rights movement, I keep coming back to Candidate Obama's speech in Philadelphia in March 2008 as the parallel to that struggle today.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

Decades after the struggle of the man whose birthday we celebrate today, we are reminded that his work has come very far indeed...and it only stresses how brutal the last mile of the journey will continue to be, one made only by hard-fought inches.

But it will be won.

The Big Winner At The Golden Globes Last Night

Forget the movies and TV shows and little statuettes, host Ricky Gervais walked away with a huge collection of heads as he skewered Hollywood.

This guy's HBO specials and HBO animated cartoon were all hysterical, but this is the guy's Stephen Colbert moment, and Hollywood is pissed.

Good for him.

Take It To The Limit

The big story on the Sunday news shows was both Democrats and Republicans proclaiming the debt ceiling must be raised (as I have been calmly saying all along.)

Threatening not to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling -- the amount of debt the country is legally allowed to issue -- is "like playing with fire," Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"If we didn't renew the debt ceiling ... We might permanently threaten confidence of the credit markets in the dollar, which could create a recession worse than the one we have now or even a depression," he said.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn also predicted a dire outcome if lawmakers were unable to reach an agreement to put the country's fiscal house in order.

"If in fact the bond vigilantes come after the government bonds in the next two to three years, we will have such bigger pain than not raising the debt ceiling," Coburn said on the same television program.

The Obama administration is under pressure to put a cap on spending to curb its $1.3 trillion budget deficit.

Coburn said he thought he would vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling only if there was a specific amount of spending cuts on the table.

However, Coburn said he believed the administration and lawmakers could reach an agreement before the U.S. hits the debt ceiling.

Now anything that has both Tom Coburn and Chuck Schumer on the same side is going to pass easily.  The only question is how much the Republicans will be able to demand in spending cuts and other legislative issues before the debt clock goes boom and takes our economy with it.

So yeah, this is going to be another hostage situation like the Bush Tax cuts expiring, although that had a hard deadline of December 31, the debt ceiling is a bit more nebulous.  Still, I fully expect the Republicans to push for as much as they can possibly get in the next six weeks, up to and including repealing health care reform, before they'll agree to letting this happen.

How much with Obama and the Democrats give in?  We're about to find out.

The Best Thing I've Heard All Year: Part I

We see this story on news, hear it on the radio and at the water cooler.  We've heard it so many times that we tune it out.  But we so rarely get to hear it with a good ending, that I'm going to tell it here anyway:

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- Police found a missing Georgia girl Sunday and arrested her alleged kidnapper.
Fabiola Morales, 13, was located at a residence in Jasper, Alabama, the Columbus, Georgia, Police Department said.
She was with Luis Garcia, 18, who had a previous kidnapping warrant, according to police.

That she was with a man who had a previous kidnapping warrant at 18 tells me there was nothing good in store for this little girl.  She wasn't "stolen" by a caring relative or even a lovingly unhinged parent.  She was kidnapped by a criminal, and there was nothing but pain and fear ahead of her.  Thanks to some good work done by police, she will get to come home and have a second chance at a normal life.  

New tag: BTIHAY (Best Thing I Heard All Year)

A Bite Out Of The Apple

All the details haven't broken, but Steve Jobs has asked to take a medical leave of absence.

"At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health. I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company," Jobs says in the letter.

What does this mean for Apple?  Not much change, likely.   Jobs isn't a spring chicken and any responsible company would have a long string of options for this type of event.  And let's face it, when a company defines your life, you are never out of the loop.  I wish him the best, and hope this leave is temporary.

Feeding The Globe

The Fed is doing what it can to fight deflation here in the states, but the result across the world is rising food prices in developing nations, and the political instability that goes with it.

Overheating emerging markets, in China in particular, pose the biggest threat to the market and political situation in 2011 according to Philippe Gijsels, head of research at BNP Paribas Fortis Global Markets.

 “These economies are clearly overheating and governments are putting measures in place to slow them down to fight inflationary pressure. More than anything else, food inflation is a problem," Gijsels told

"In countries were 70 percent to 80 percent and sometimes more of a family's budget goes to food, explosive price rises risk to destabilize these societies. Remember the old saying: 'hunger starves civilizations,’” he added.

“We believe that some of these governments will be quite aggressive in their inflation fight. And we do not even want to think about the consequences if this year were to have a disappointing monsoon,” Gijsels said.
He is worried that everyone is so bullish on China’s ability to engineer a soft landing

“There is almost no emerging market bear to be found. And that in itself is already scary," Gijsels said.

Emerging markets in developing countries are heating up so fast that they threaten to overwhelm the world commodity market for staples like rice, wheat, corn and soybeans.  Population growth and loss of arable land and potable water is leading to food shortages across the globe.

We're only seeing the bleeding edge of this in places like Tunisia and Algeria.  It will get worse as time progresses.  Global population is approaching 6.9 billion this month and will pass 7 billion this year, and a major chunk of that population growth is in emerging markets.

It's an unfortunate reminder that America isn't in this alone out there in the challenges that face the planet.  We're already seeing the effects of shortages and futures skyrocketing in developed countries like France.

2011 is not going to be pretty as the next global crisis works its way through the system.

Talk To The Hand

Via Memeorandum, I find it ironic that on the day America celebrates one of the greatest civil rights leaders in our collective history, a man who taught the world the value of civil discourse and paid the ultimate price for it as a result, that we read Don Surber saying civil discourse can go to hell in one of the nuttiest winger rants I've read since the election.

It's astonishingly funny, leading to a number of similar rants from the right this morning.

But it is very instructive.  We have heard the phrase "the politics of grievance" used in a number of contexts over the years, but never has it fit better than with the modern Tea Party movement.

They say they are representative of an overwhelming American majority, and yet simultaneously they say they have been victimized for decades (Surber himself points to Bush v. Gore as a watershed moment in the shackling of conservatives, you know where Bush won and became President for eight years.)

They demand an adult conversation about the problems facing America, and then when given a voice they use it to proclaim how their rights have been trampled by "socialism" and that they have no intention of listening to what the other side has to say.  (Surber sums that up expertly by saying "Bite me."  A lot.) 

It's this dichotomy of rah-rah nationalism of the majority and the aggrieved stance of the victim that would stagger anyone trying to make logical sense of the movement, and yet it's treated as tautology by the media, politicians, and the Tea Party themselves.

Surber is correct when he says that the Tea Party right does not want civil discourse in any form, because if we took the injected politics of grievance out of the words he has to say, we'd be laughing at him.

Repeal And Replace Without The Replace

GOP leaders have been calling to "repeal and replace Obamacare" for nearly a year now, and over the weekend they revealed they still have absolutely nothing to replace the PPACA with.

On Fox News Sunday today, conservative Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol could offer only the vaguest of promises about the replacement. When Fox News contributor Juan Williams challenged Kristol to explain “what are you going to replace it with?”, Kristol told Williams not to worry, because there would be hearings in a few months and Republicans would probably come up with something by then.

We'll have hearings!  That's the plan.

I don't suppose it's occurred to anyone that the reason that the GOP doesn't have a real plan is that they have no real chance at repealing the law, and that they're just wasting people's time.

House Republicans have termed their strategy "repeal and replace." But according to GOP House leaders, senior aides and conservative health policy specialists, Republicans have not distilled their ideas into a coherent plan. 

There's a shocker.  I've said before that if the Republicans have a plan that will extend coverage to the tens of millions of Americans with no health insurance and can do it better than the current plan passed last year, then by all means, let's see it.  If it's a better plan, then bring it up for a debate and let's help America.

But somehow I don't think we'll ever see this "plan".

StupidiNews, Martin Luther King Day Edition!

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