Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rough Weather Ahead

From Rep. Heath Shuler's (D-NC) district, in a state with unemployment already above the national average:
ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Thousands of people flocked to a western North Carolina job fair this week, backing up traffic on an interstate ramp and more doubling the number of job seekers who came last year.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported Wednesday that about 2,000 people attended the job fair Tuesday to talk to some of the 56 employers who participated. Last year, about 800 people attended.
This morning ABC radio news and AP (above) reported on it. Photos here. Video here.

Read more at Campaign for America's Future ...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

On Building a Progressive Infrastructure

The Firedoglake article below was well received around the web. Johnson argues for the grassroots thinking more long term and getting into the habit of funding a "progressive infrastructure" for promoting a broad public agenda rather than specific issues.

I think the Left should be growing a professional cadre of thinkers and activists. The big focus, however, is still on funding think-tank based activities to array against Heritage, Hudson, AEI and Cato, etc. Even given the success of Obama's online fundraising campaign, don't count on millions flowing to progressive think tanks anytime soon. George Lakoff's Rockridge Institute closed this year from lack of funds.

I sent Dave Johnson a little missive on Blue Century's activities. We'd welcome some think-tank help with creating effective messages. But while others are still talking about what progressives should be doing, by staying grassroots we're already doing it.

Don't just think big. Think small, too.

Blue America: Progressive Infrastructure

By: Dave Johnson Saturday December 13, 2008 11:00 am

Monday, December 29, 2008

“You Have Bad Luck”

It's an article of faith among free-marketeers that Americans are overregulated. But most Americans have forgotten what freedom from regulation really looks like.

The Washington Post details the foot dragging and stonewalling of safety enforcement at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 2001. The Bush administration took a somewhat different view of the agency’s mission.
The agency's first director under Bush, John L. Henshaw, startled career officials by telling them in an early meeting that employers were OSHA's real customers, not the nation's workers. "Everybody was pretty amazed," one of those present recalled. "Our purpose is to ensure employee safety and health. . . . He just looked at things differently."
Read more at Campaign for America's Future ...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Business Week's Top Ten Worst Predictions of 2008

The Worst Predictions About 2008
10. A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win, the title of a book by conservative commentator Shelby Steele, published on Dec. 4, 2007.

Mr. Steele, meet President-elect Barack Obama.

The House that Jack Bought

The Agonist primer on the financial meltdown.

Read it before you hear about in on the Nightly Business Report

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It's Still a Wonderful Life

This year’s election was right out of Frank Capra. An army of Obama volunteers fanned out like Boy Rangers, knocking on doors, making calls and registering voters. At 11 p.m. on Election Night, when networks called the race for Obama, little guys around the world began crying and chanting, “Yes, we did!”

Capra himself couldn’t have done it better.

Read more at Campaign for America's Future ...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"Can't Do Anything Right"

Duncan Black's assessment of Imperious Leader. The occasion?
Bush withdraws pardon of Suffolk real estate scammer

White House issues extraordinary statement saying Bush was reversing his decision to pardon Issac Robert Toussie.
What has George W. Btfsplk touched that hasn't turned to excrement?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Landing a Left Hook

Conservatives are creatures of habit. Once they have a play that works for them, they will run it over and over and over again. One reason they continue to do it successfully is that liberal activists are also creatures of habit - predictable, often less prepared and less disciplined. Liberals are still learning how not to play their adversaries' game, and not to bring a knife to a gun fight.

Read more at Campaign for America's Future ...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Are We Safe Yet?

Vanity Fair has a lengthy piece on the Bush torture regime and its effectiveness. Abu Zubaydah, alleged al Qaida kingpin, was basically "a receptionist" for the terrorist group who passed along recruits, but had no operational knowledge. He was among the first tortured. Others, like Ethiopian named Binyam Mohamed, received similar treatment.
“They seemed to think I was some kind of top al-Qaeda person,” Mohamed said. “How? It was less than six months since I converted to Islam, and before that I was using drugs!” After the Americans’ visit, Mohamed said, he was hung by his wrists for hours on end, so that his feet barely touched the ground. Suspended thus, he said, he was beaten regularly by Pakistani guards. He said he was also threatened with a gun.
By chance, he and "dirty bomber," American Jose Padilla, had flown out of Pakistan on the same flight.
Their ultimate destinations were different: Padilla planned to spend time in Egypt before returning to Chicago. But the fact they were starting their journeys together, says an F.B.I. agent who attended official briefings about the case, convinced American agencies that they shared some joint purpose. “It was simply that—flight coincidence,” he says. “I never saw any evidence that Padilla and Mohamed met.”
So when, under torture, Abu Zubaydah gave up information about a dirty bomb plot, intelligence officials connected Padilla and Mohamed to it.
Convinced that the dirty-bomb plot was real, those interrogating Binyam Mohamed assumed that he must be part of it, and if he could not fill in missing details, he must have been covering up. Agents such as the F.B.I.’s Jack Cloonan, who spent years fighting al-Qaeda before his retirement in 2002, had learned that it had an impressive “quality-control system,” which meant “they looked for people with the right makeup, they did their own due diligence, and they would not pick weak guys”—not, typically, heroin addicts. But no one was listening to these agents.

M.I.5 seems to have shared the C.I.A.’s groupthink. Sources in London say that its agents also assumed that anything Mohamed said to try to defend himself must be a lie. One admission he did make was that he had seen a Web site with instructions on how to make a hydrogen bomb, but he was apparently claiming it was a joke. The intelligence agencies believed this was a smoking gun, notwithstanding Mohamed’s bizarre statement that the instructions included mixing bleach with uranium-238 in a bucket and rotating it around one’s head for 45 minutes. Neither the British nor the Americans thought Mohamed’s claim that the Web site was a joke was credible: his “confession” to reading instructions about building nuclear weapons on the Internet was cited in Mohamed’s Guantánamo charge sheet. Yet it was a joke: such a Web site, with instructions about how to refine bomb-grade uranium with bleach and a bucket, has been doing the rounds on the World Wide Web since at least 1994. In 2005, the conservative columnist Michelle Malkin cited it in her blog as evidence of al-Qaeda’s deadly intentions. She was swiftly disabused by readers, who, unlike the C.I.A. and M.I.5, immediately recognized it as satire.
Would that we could laugh off the entire Bush presidency as satire. And it's not over yet.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Every Time a Bell Rings

A Wall Street executive gets a bonus.

Plus a little toxic waste:
(Fortune) -- Kudos to Credit Suisse. Drowning in red ink, the Swiss bank announced it would pay bonuses to senior investment bankers not with cash but with mortgage-backed securities, high-yield bonds, and other forms of the untradeable junk now clogging the world's banking system.

Reportedly, investment bankers at the firm are steaming mad over the plan, but we think the idea is ingenious. After all, if these toxic securities were good enough for Credit Suisse's customers, they should be good enough for the bankers who cooked them up too. Don't you think?
[h/t Terrance Heath at Campaign for America's Future]

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"The Mouse That Roared" was a satire

This is simply insane (from Bloomberg):
Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which got $10 billion and debt guarantees from the U.S. government in October, expects to pay $14 million in taxes worldwide for 2008 compared with $6 billion in 2007.

The company’s effective income tax rate dropped to 1 percent from 34.1 percent, New York-based Goldman Sachs said today in a statement. The firm reported a $2.3 billion profit for the year after paying $10.9 billion in employee compensation and benefits.

[. . .]

U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat who serves on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said steps by Goldman Sachs and other banks shifting income to countries with lower taxes is cause for concern.

“This problem is larger than Goldman Sachs,” Doggett said. “With the right hand out begging for bailout money, the left is hiding it offshore.”
Remember "government of the people, by the people, for the people"? Me neither.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blue Collars Bad, White Collars Good

How much collateral damage are Senate conservatives willing for America to incur so they can cripple the United Auto Workers? How many lost American jobs are acceptable to resuscitate a failed economic theory?

Read more at Campaign for America's Future ...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

No Mea Culpas

My post this week at Campaign for America's Future got posted on between pieces by Joe Stiglitz and James K. Galbraith: flattering to the point of embarrassing. Both of their post are worth a careful read. Stiglitz wraps up his thumbnail history of the econonomic crisis with this gem:
The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. Looking back at that belief during hearings this fall on Capitol Hill, Alan Greenspan said out loud, “I have found a flaw.” Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right; it was not working.” “Absolutely, precisely,” Greenspan said. The embrace by America—and much of the rest of the world—of this flawed economic philosophy made it inevitable that we would eventually arrive at the place we are today.
Don't expect any mea culpas from the Randians who promoted that philosophy for the last several decades. Many people read Atlas Shrugged in high school. Not all of them grow up.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Who needs national health care anyway?

Losers. Just like the half-million irresponsible deadbeats who suddenly lost their jobs (and health care) last month. As a co-worker says, "Now why should I pay taxes to provide health care for people who don't even pay taxes?"

Why indeed?
Ms. Darling, who was pregnant when her insurance ran out, worked at Archway for eight years, and her father, Franklin J. Phillips, worked there for 24 years.

“When I heard that I was losing my insurance,” she said, “I was scared. I remember that the bill for my son’s delivery in 2005 was about $9,000, and I knew I would never be able to pay that by myself.”

So Ms. Darling asked her midwife to induce labor two days before her health insurance expired.

“I was determined that we were getting this baby out, and it was going to be paid for,” said Ms. Darling, who was interviewed at her home here as she cradled the infant in her arms.

As it turned out, the insurance company denied her claim, leaving Ms. Darling with more than $17,000 in medical bills.
Ah, freedom.