Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bumiller - Google Search

Bumiller, as told to Bob Somerby

Consequences

Justices Step Closer to Repeal of Evidence Ruling: "Better police work, Professor Walker said, was a consequence of the exclusionary rule rather than a reason to do away with it."

The Right, with a Supreme Court majority are working to repeal the rights of everyone (except business corporations, natch) under law.

I took notice, because the reasoning put forth by Justice Scalia seemed to me to echo the reasoning of Milton Friedman, in his libertarian critique of the New Deal.

Because institutional reform -- in this case, a rule that excludes evidence gathered by means of police misconduct -- has resulted in improved, routine performance -- the rule should be repealed, the institution trashed.

Friedman thought almost the whole of the New Deal should be repealed. We are living with the consequences of banking deregulation.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hullabaloo

digby at Hullabaloo: Julia from Sisyphus Shrugged has discovered an interesting pattern in the media that may just explain some of the attitude we've ben seeing (via email):
"Between Politico's whining about Obama not answering his question during a press room visit, then when Jonathan Martin was mocked for being a whiner Ana Marie Cox announced that Obama's visit was a big evil plan to make some reporter 'look like an asshole,' Chuck Todd's pressroom-as-Gitmo, the Times' remarkably blunt warning that if he didn't go to their dinner parties the villagers were going to shank him:
A new president's first foray into the social scene in the capital can be heavy with symbolism, a hint of how the first couple plan to engage with unofficial Washington. Failing to do so could mean missing an opportunity to meet the press, make bipartisan overtures and advance the White House political agenda, as other presidents have discovered...

"The Carters made the vow that they would never get tangled up in Georgetown dinner parties, and indeed they did not," said Diana McLellan, the author and onetime Washington gossip columnist. "They alienated their base, and it created a huge dislike of Carter. It was catastrophic."


... and (non-churchgoer) Sally Quinn's demand that he attend the church her friends go to. this looks a lot less like ideology and more like Broder/Roberts-style "this is our place" hydrant marking.

Obviously they'd like their "centrism" validated by someone the country actually has some respect for (in a country with sane politics, how tight you are with Rush Limbaugh probably wouldn't be a big resume builder), but I suspect for most of them a few nicknames and some basketball would do just as well.


That makes sense. Obama doesn't come from a proper blue blood family and isn't a Republican, either of which would be sufficient for a lovely honeymoon. He's got some serious work to do to prove to the village tabbies that he's worthy of them. After all, they represent Real Americans..."


I hope digby will forgive me from re-producing the whole thing. I want to be able to find it later. It really is a remarkable and damning observation.

The War of the Economists

This should really be worrisome. Right and Left are taking home the same lesson from the criticisms DeLong and Krugman have made against the Chicago Boys trashing logic in their eagerness to destroy everything.

Will Wilkinson | Cato | The War of the Economists:
"what doesn’t arise in my mind is a sense that some of these guys really know what they’re talking about while some of them are idiots. What arises in my mind is the strong suspicion that economic theory, as it is practiced and taught at the world’s leading institutions, is so far from consensus on certain fundamental questions that it is basically useless for adjudicating many profoundly important debates about economic policy. One implication of this is that it is wrong to extend to economists who advise policymakers, or become policymakes themselves, the respect we rightly extend to the practitioners of mature sciences. There is a reason extremely smart economists are out there playing reputation games instead of trying to settle the matter by doing better science. The reason is that, on the questions that are provoking intramural trashtalk, there is no science."

I don't know if there's "science", but there's actually some pretty good theory and well-digested, well-interpreted historical experience. [Wilkinson actually has had several posts subsequent to the one above -- interesting stuff].

Neil Sinhababu | The American Prospect:
"So I'm just Joe Philosophy Professor watching Krugman & DeLong vs. the Chicago Schoolmen about whether we need fiscal stimulus, with Nobel Prize winning economists* on either side. And I'm thinking: How many fields are there in which a big practical question pops up and the Nobel-level guys are on opposite sides yelling at each other?

It's not that there isn't disagreement in other scientific areas, but the level of disagreement we're looking at here is something really different. They aren't dickering over some minor proposal or detail. They're talking about whether or not we should dump nearly a trillion dollars' worth of stimulus money into the economy. And it isn't a question that should be sitting at the far cutting edge of research, like how many dimensions your string theory needs to have. The raison d'etre of the discipline is to deal with stuff like this."


Again, some of these Chicago boys are just polluting the discourse with utter, indefensible nonsense. And, all these intelligent folks can get out of it is that is some kind of catty playground spat, and further evidence that economics has nothing useful to tell us about the biggest crisis in the global political economy in 70 years.

This is a really dangerous consequence of what the Chicago Schoolmen are doing. It would be like a faction of the American Medical Association declaring, in the midst of global epidemic that vaccines or antibiotics are useless or contra-indicated.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's Time

Thomas Franks: "It's Time to Give Voters the Liberalism They Want"

Indeed, it would seem to be.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Moral of the Story

All Of Bush’s Mistakes Are Obama’s Fault: "The moral of this story is not the danger for Obama going forward with his Gitmo decommissioning, the moral is that when venal, shallow, small men are given unfettered power and authority, they do incompetent, stupid, and evil things.

And only in America would they never have to pay a price for that."

The Story is this one:
Freed by the U.S., Saudi Becomes a Qaeda Chief - NYTimes.com:
"BEIRUT, Lebanon — The emergence of a former Guant√°namo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

His status was announced in an Internet statement by the militant group and was confirmed by an American counterterrorism official.

“They’re one and the same guy,” said the official, who insisted on anonymity because he was discussing an intelligence analysis. “He returned to Saudi Arabia in 2007, but his movements to Yemen remain unclear.”

The development came as Republican legislators criticized the plan to close the Guant√°namo Bay, Cuba, detention camp in the absence of any measures for dealing with current detainees. But it also helps explain why the new administration wants to move cautiously, taking time to work out a plan to cope with the complications. "

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hullabaloo

dday at Hullabaloo: "Dance Completed"

I'm really a lousy blogger, but I want to leave myself a note about what's been going on around Obama's stimulus proposal.

Awhile back, I wrote that, come January with large Democratic majorities in Congress and the closest thing to a liberal Democratic President since Truman coming into office, the world would seem a very different place.

Obama got elected by expanding the Democratic coalition to include secular, suburban moderates in larger numbers -- a transfer of voters and politicians from the Republican coalition to the Democrats, that has the effect of adding weight to the moderate-conservative mode of the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party, though, is a two-mode Party, with the Progressives and liberals by far the more committed on policy issues, while the moderate-conservatives tend to be technocrats at best and corrupt toadies to the Plutocracy at worst.

At least since 1980, governance has been in the hands of "bi-partisan" coalitions, which crossed Party lines, to add conservative Democrats to the Republican ranks whenever it counted. The Republican Party, from Nixon thru G.H.W. Bush, was a coalition of conservatives and reactionary radicals (aka nutcases), with the conservatives taking the lead. "Bipartisanship" actually helped the Republican conservatives govern, because the conservatives were better able to forge nominally technocratic compromise with Democrats, who regarded the Republican reactionaries as untrustworthy fools.

But, beginning in the second Clinton term, the Republican reactionaries finally gained the upper hand, and in Bush's post 9-11 governance, the Republican reactionaries had a full grip on power. The result, predictably, has been disastrous. The predictability of this disaster was one of the reasons for this blog: I wanted to monitor the coming lesson in "policy has consequences", enacted as political theatre.

That Perfect Storm did not come, as I thought it might, in the form of an archetypal scandal like Watergate (although Katrina came close). It came in the form of a series of wave elections, in 2006 and 2008 (and, probably continuing even into 2010, as things look now), which have carried the Democratic Party into political dominance and presumptive majority status.

Obama's broadened coalition, and the Republican's shrunken and disspirited one, enact that change.

Now, comes the problem of working out a modus operandi for governing. The nominally Democratic Congress of 2007-2008 did not really govern much; the Republican rump used the filibuster and the President's potential veto to frustrate all but the most popular actions.

But, with 59 Democratic Senators and a Democratic President, those weapons of obstruction are gone as obstructions to governance. And, the question is, who will lead? And, how?

Will Democratic moderates, the technocrats last in power in the Clinton years, combined with the enlarged moderate Democratic mode in Congress, form a leadership cadre? And, if so, will they lead by "bipartisan compromise" with Republicans, or reluctant acquiescence of the Democratic progressives and liberals?

The liberals and progressives are deathly afraid that Obama will be too timid, too moderate, too respectful of Republican conservative sensitivities, and too Reaganesque in repulsive ways. And, also hopeful.

Because of the Clinton legacy, the moderates and centrists in the Democratic have both the advantage of technocratic expertise -- they know how to govern in the sense of knowing where the levers of power are, and how to wield them effectively. But, because of the long bitter history of "bipartisanship" and "triangulation" (within the Democratic coalition) under Republican domination, the Democratic progressives are untrusting of the leadership of the centrists. Steny Hoyer and Harry Reid, the majority leaders in Congress have few genuine admirers on the Democratic Left, nor do some figures emerging in the Obama Administration.

But, it is also hard to know who, on the Democratic Left can really lead in governing.

And, of course, part of the task, is de-fanging, de-clawing, and neutering the Republican rump in Congress, as well as dampening down, or dismantling the Republican Wurlitzer in the Media.

So, it will be interesting how this process of political chemistry will be stage-managed by Obama. The evolution of the stimulus package, as it makes its way thru Congress, will be a first attempt to find ways for the Democrats to work together to govern.

It is an interesting dance, and, so far, Obama seems to be playing it pretty well. De-legitimizing the tax-cut mantra of 30 years of Republican rule will be a particularly interesting task. The corresponding emergence of Democratic progressive proposals from the newish baby infrastructure of left-liberal activism will also be interesting.

We live in hope.

Calculated Risk: Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle Suspends Dividend

Calculated Risk quotes Roubini while reporting that "The FHLB system has $1.25 trillion of debt, making it the largest U.S. borrower after the federal government." Here's Roubini:
"A system that usually provides a lending stock of about $150 billion has forked out loans amounting to over $750 billion in the last year with very little oversight of such staggering lending. The risk that this stealth bailout of many insolvent mortgage lenders will end up costing massive amounts of public money is now rising."


I think someone needs to do some accounting for just how large, in total, the bank bailout has been.

So many pieces of the bank bailout seem to have been accomplished in the dark, that I feel like I don't have a good guess, even, as to the extent of the transfer of wealth involved.

Fannie and Freddie were taken into receivership and commissioned to buy up crap.

The FHLB system was, first, used to prop up Countrywide and the rest, but, evidently, was thrown into the breach to an even larger extent in the last year.

The Treasury proposed to buy up toxic crap, but ended up buying preferred stock with its $350 billion. The Federal Reserve, on its own nickel, though, ended up executing the original $700 billion TARP plan, and bought up that toxic crap.

Then, there was the AIG bailout. The $300 billion guarantee given to Citibank, which seemed to pass under the radar pretty quickly. The special tax break given to Wells Fargo to take on Wachovia -- no reliable word on how many billion that was.

And, of course the FDIC has been taking hits.

I'm probably leaving something major out.

I think one should be able to acknowledge that drastic, massive action was necessary to preserve the financial system, without having to go along with these huge transfers from taxpayer to the predatory class.

The banks could have been nationalized, and the losses imposed on bank stockholders, and when their pockets gave out, on bank bondholders, bless their hearts. Bankruptcy and the criminal law could have been employed to see that Angelo Mozilo and his ilk paid something, rather than walking away with parting gifts.

What has been done here is almost as unconscionable as the $3 trillion wasted on Iraq and Afganistan. And, yet, the Washington Post writes about how we cannot afford Social Security and Medicare.

There's something America cannot afford, and what we cannot afford is the elite that thinks this is any way to run a country.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

CNN to Air Timely Documentary and Discussion About U.S. Economic Challenges

CNN to Air I.O.U.S.A. One Nation. Under Stress. In Debt.

Billionaire Pete Peterson explains why Social Security is going to destroy this country, while doing his best to destroy this country.

The Right just wants to wreck everything, all day long. Destroy. Wreck. Dishonor. And, then congratulate themselves about being responsible truth-tellers.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Sensible Center

The Washington Monthly: "The not-so-subtle goal, it seems, is to present a liberal agenda as the obvious, consensus approach on which everyone can agree."

Friday, January 2, 2009

They'll Be Back

Will the Republicans eventually stage a comeback? Yes, of course.

Of course. At the moment, they are positioning themselves as angry populists in the white Southern tradition.

The Democrats are a two mode Party: one group of Progressives and liberals, who don't seem to be able to get a grip on power, and a second group of pro-business centrists, who became ascendant in the recent election, as a small, but significant slice of suburban Republicans fled their increasingly deranged and theocratic Party.

My sense is that leadership in the Democratic Party is in the hands of the centrists, which seems truly unfortunate, because they do not seem to "get it". This is a group that got rolled over and over, in opposition to the most incompetent and stupid Administration in 70 years! I don't think most of them have a clue about how to play the game, in policy or politics.

The right-wing Republicans may seem like their own worst enemies after losing power decisively, but I suspect that, for a handful of big-money Republicans, this was deliberate -- they did not want to win, because they want the Democrats saddled with cleanup. Too many voters have only about six months of political memory, and care more about the price of gas than anything else in politics. Obama will soon be to blame for the poor economic performance of the country, in their pea brains, just as Obama will be blamed as Iraq falls apart upon American withdrawal, and so on.

The Republicans pretty much succeeded in turning the Judiciary into a partisan and right-wing bastion, and their life-time appointments to the Federal bench are young. The corporate Right-wing controls the Media, which is run quite cleverly to favor their interests. The Blago affair is just a demo of their power to create non-scandals to dog a Democratic Administration.

I'd like to think that the brand of home-grown Fascism that the Republican Party is preparing to offer the country, after they obstruct and undermine the "progressive" Obama Administration to death, will prove too repulsive to a majority, that the Rush Limbaughs and Lou Dobbs will not find a new and growing audience during the struggles ahead.

Democrats may muddle through, aided by a continuing generational shift within the Congress, the Party and its electorate. Obama shows every evidence of the political mastery that Harry Reid, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton lack. That's certainly where my hopes lie.

I am not gleeful about the corner the Republicans have retreated to, because I'm not all that confident that the country won't choose fascism, if pressed by continued economic stress and failure, or terrorism, riots or assassination. The Bush Administration has prepared the political precedents and legal ground, the Media propaganda machine is in place and well-oiled, the Judiciary is stocked with the Right people.

The Republicans, as they are today, are the alternative. And, it's a scary alternative.