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Conservative Women’s Group Cites Small Petrodictatorship as Ideal Form of Government

Monday, February 09, 2009

By Matthew Yglesias
Think Progress

Jeff Madrick from the Economic Policy Institute has written a book called The Case for Big Government which is dedicated to explaining how an active and capable state sector is a necessary precondition for economic growth. David Kusnets gave it a positive review in The New York Times Book Review. Donna Wiesner Keese, from the Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative anti-feminist group, objected:
Madrick’s statement, quoted by the reviewer, that “there really is no example of small government among rich nations,” is unsupported nonsense. Think Dubai, free and rich.
As Rick Hertzberg says this is a bit of a bizarre counterexample:
I mean no disrespect to the 240,000 citizens of Dubai (its other 1.2 million residents are imported workers, hundreds of thousands of whom live in “collective labor accommodations”), but is this the best Mrs. Keene can do? Not even a “nation” but a province of the United Arab Emirates, specializing in real-estate and financial-services bubbledom?

Again, no disrespect, but the UAE’s role vis-à-vis the non-oil-extracting rich nations falls somewhere between that of a welfare recipient and that of an extortionist. Or—speaking of “independent women”—a bit like the role of Alaska within the United States.
There’s also the question of why you would describe Dubai as “free.” Or, rather, I understand perfectly well why she describes it as “free” — it’s a straightforward consequence of the right-wing’s sick obsession with reducing the level of taxes rich people need to pay as the prime virtue of politics. For from being free, Dubai is ruled by a dictator, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, dignified with royal title in virtue of the fact that he inherited his political power from relatives rather than seizing it of his own accord. The State Department certainly doesn’t seem to think that his subjects, or those of the other UAE component emirates, are all that free...(Click for remainder).


An About-Face on Gay Troops

By Owen West
The New York Times

GENERALS are scolded for preparing to fight “the last war,” but if President Obama intends to keep his promise to allow gays to serve openly in the military, he would do well to study President Bill Clinton’s attempt of 16 years ago.

The Clinton argument, based largely on protecting the civil rights of gay troops, was systematically dissected by senior officers and legislators, who focused on how the presence of homosexuals could affect combat readiness. Generals circulated videos made by conservative groups depicting “gay agendas.” Senators brought television crews into cramped berthings. Congress reached a bizarre compromise: a law rendering homosexuality incompatible with military service, but allowing gays to serve under a closet-friendly “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The lesson for President Obama is that this fight is not about rights, but about combat readiness. This is a propitious moment for seeking change: a nation at war needs all its most talented troops. Last year the principal architects of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” former Gen. Colin Powell and former Senator Sam Nunn, said it was time to “review” the policy.

That’s a polite way of saying they’ve changed their minds. So have many of us who wore the uniform in 1993 and supported a policy that forced some of our fellow troops to live a lie and rejected thousands who told the truth.

There are other aspects of history that may be helpful as well. The armed forces initially resisted President Harry Truman’s 1948 order to integrate the ranks. But the Korean War forced trials by fire — in fact, the units with the highest casualty rates in Korea integrated the swiftest — and the Pentagon ultimately acknowledged that recruiting from across America’s socio-economic spectrum produced the best force. After that, the military swiftly set the standard for race relations....(Click for remainder).


Ann Coulter Under Investigation For Voter Fraud

By Huffington Post

The New York Daily News reports that Ann Coulter is under investigation by the Connecticut Elections Enforcement Commission for allegedly voting in that state while registered to vote in New York City.
Officials are responding to a formal complaint filed by blogger Dan Borchers. "For over 10 years, Ann Coulter has gotten away with illegal, immoral and unethical behavior, ranging from plagiarism to defamation, perjury to voter fraud," claims the conservative Borchers. Coulter declined to comment, but in the past has branded Borchers a stalker. He says the FBI has determined he poses no threat.
Coulter was investigated and cleared of wrongdoing in 2006 for allegedly violating Florida's voter registration laws by voting in the wrong precinct.

Brad Friedman of reports that Coulter was never actually cleared but rather that the case was dropped by the Florida Election Commission after deciding that the two-year statute of limitations had run out....(Click for remainder).


Gallup Data Follow-Up: A Center-Right Nation No More

By Paul Rosenberg
Open Left

This is a followup to my diary last weekend, "Gallup Data Says: A Center-Right Nation No More". Since it seems that Barack Obama and the DC Democratic establishment have completely forgotten what happened last November, I'll just remind them: they won. And I I'll start off with this visually reminder of the party ID shift over the last 6 years that fueled that victory:

Now, the main point of this diary is to add in what was left out of the first installment, an examination of the shifts that includes state populations. Fun and games on the flip.

We begin with this table of partisan shifts by census region, with states unweighted by population. This is the only table carried over from last weekend. It's useful primarily because the Senate is unweighted by population, and as a point of comparison.

(Click for remainder).


Gallup Data Follow-Up: A Center-Right Nation No More

By Paul Rosenberg
Open Left

This is a followup to my diary last weekend, "Gallup Data Says: A Center-Right Nation No More". Since it seems that Barack Obama and the DC Democratic establishment have completely forgotten what happened last November, I'll just remind them: they won. And I I'll start off with this visually reminder of the party ID shift over the last 6 years that fueled that victory:

Now, the main point of this diary is to add in what was left out of the first installment, an examination of the shifts that includes state populations. Fun and games on the flip.

We begin with this table of partisan shifts by census region, with states unweighted by population. This is the only table carried over from last weekend. It's useful primarily because the Senate is unweighted by population, and as a point of comparison.

(Click for remainder).


Obama Isn't Who I Didn't Think He Was. But He Might Be.

By John V. Santore
Huffington Post

Recently, I've been forced to deal with my own rank hypocrisy concerning the Obama administration. I find myself flying off the handle in all directions, attacking the new team in Washington one minute and defending it the next, praising its critics and then assaulting them for being unreasonable and expecting too much, too soon. The end result is that I'm far more confused about the future of Barack Obama's presidency than I was with Bush's. When George was in office, it was clear that things were bad and going to get worse. It was simply matter of holding on for dear life until the wretched, dark days were over. But with Obama, I find myself hopefully disappointed, waiting for Barack to prove to me that he isn't the man I didn't think he was during the campaign, but now think he might be (maybe).

Today provided a perfect forum for the muddled analysis that such a frame of mind produces. Frank Rich, who I believe to be the most eyes-wide-open political commentator around, had this to say about the Tom Daschle fiasco:
In reality, Daschle's tax shortfall, an apparently honest mistake, was only a red flag for the larger syndrome that much of Washington still doesn't get. It was the source, not the amount, of his unreported income that did him in. The car and driver advertised his post-Senate immersion in the greedy bipartisan culture of entitlement and crony capitalism that both helped create our economic meltdown (on Wall Street) and failed to police it (in Washington). Daschle might well have been the best choice to lead health-care reform. But his honorable public record was instantly vaporized by tales of his cozy, lucrative relationships with the very companies he'd have to adjudicate as health czar.
(Click for remainder).


Stimulus, Yes; Bank Bailout II, No

By Robert Kuttner
Huffington Post

You can say one thing for Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. She is performing the service of giving bipartisanship a bad name.

Maine's current $6.1 billion budget has a revenue shortfall of $830 million, and Maine is facing the same kinds of layoffs and program cuts as other states. But Collins thinks it's clever to cut from the recovery package by some $40 billion in desperately needed to aid the states, in order to....what? In order to show that "moderates" can force the Obama administration to bend? I hope the lady's phone is ringing off the hook from bewildered constituents.

One also hopes that the House, where there is no filibuster rule, will push back, big time. Progressive strategists are talking about forcing Republicans to engage in an old-fashioned filibuster, with cots on the Senate floor, in order to shame so-called moderate Republicans like Collins into allowing the final conference bill to come to a vote. That would be salutary. But whatever the ultimate size of the stimulus bill that reaches President Obama's desk, it is likely to be only the first installment. I will bet that Congress will have to enact additional spending legislation as the economy seeks deeper into recession.

While the compromise bill has too many concessions to tax cutters in both parties, at least the administration has the basic concept about right. The bill is clearly not just meant as a one-shot, but a down payment on more adequate social outlay and 21st century infrastructure. As the recession deepens, if Obama does his job he will mobilize public opinion and isolate Republicans who would rather sink the economy than give a Democratic president legislative success. The current recovery bill is a good first step....(Click for remainder).


Republicans Cut Childrens' Food

By Martin Weiss
OpEd News

Among the stimulus monies Republicans cut for We, the People, is one that reveals the difference between Republicans and Democrats.

They insisted on cutting 98 million dollars from school nutrition.

Many of our children get nothing to eat all day, except for school nutrition. Their parents are working two and three part-time low-wage jobs to pay rent and utilities and are long gone when kids go off to school. Their parents have literally no money for luxuries like breakfast, lunch and dinner.

But that doesn't affect Republicans who are paid over a hundred thousand dollars a year and have 100% government-paid health care courtesy of We, the People. Republicans have decided that our childrens' food is "pork". Democratic, Liberal social programs.

Even though Republicans cut more from Exxon's taxes than the total cost of childrens' food. It's not relevant. 98 Million dollars would, perhaps, in Republicans' opinion, be better spent on Halliburton or KBR. Certainly war is more deserving of public funds than our own children. God knows, if we spent money on education, we might have another sixties on our hands, with the birth of environmentalism, Science and Civil Rights, and "alternative" life-styles from the rum-soaked GOP hierarchy. God Forbid....(Click for remainder).


The Destructive Center

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?

A proud centrist. For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished.

Even if the original Obama plan — around $800 billion in stimulus, with a substantial fraction of that total given over to ineffective tax cuts — had been enacted, it wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will amount to $2.9 trillion over the next three years.

Yet the centrists did their best to make the plan weaker and worse.

One of the best features of the original plan was aid to cash-strapped state governments, which would have provided a quick boost to the economy while preserving essential services. But the centrists insisted on a $40 billion cut in that spending....(Click for remainder).


Nelson, Collins Slash Education Funding in Stimulus While Touting Stimulus’ Boost to Education

By Matthew Yglesias
Think Progress

I’m really shocked by the extent to which the architects of the Senate cuts to the recovery package aren’t being made to offer any kind of justification for their actions. And in the absence of pressure, they certainly aren’t doing it of their own accord. I wanted to see, for example, what Ben Nelson (D-NE) had to say for himself, and what he had to say was this, with his partner in crime Susan Collins (R-ME) chiming in:
“This bipartisan agreement delivers the help millions of Americans need in this time of economic turmoil,” said Senator Nelson. “It fuels two powerful engines: major tax cuts for the middle class, and targeted investments in American infrastructure and job growth. It also pares back $110 billion of spending that didn’t belong in the bill. We’ve trimmed the fat, fried the bacon, and milked the sacred cows. What remains will fund education, an energy Smart Grid, tax credits for homebuyers and other critical infrastructure.”

“This deal represents a victory for the American people,” said Senator Collins. “We came together to tackle the most immediate problem facing the nation. This package cuts $110 billion in unnecessary expenditures. These are not minor adjustments, but major changes. It contains robust spending on infrastructure to create jobs, $87 billion in assistance for states, and assistance to schools, especially for special education and Pell grants. This bill is not perfect, but it represents a bipartisan, effective and targeted approach to the crisis facing our country.”
(Click for remainder).


Beijing fights drought as wheat fears rise

By Jamil Anderlini
The Financial Times

China has resorted to artificial rainmaking and is diverting water from its two largest rivers to alleviate a drought the government is calling the worst in half a century.

More than 4.4m people and 2.2m cattle face shortages of drinking water across at least eight provinces which contain about half the country’s wheat growing areas, the ministry of water resources said on Sunday.

Weather-control officials across the country fired artillery shells and rockets filled with rainmaking chemicals over the weekend while military aircraft were used to seed clouds across northern and central provinces.

The same technology was used to create rain and to clear pollution over Beijing in the weeks preceding last summer’s Olympics.

Water from the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers is being diverted for farm irrigation to battle the drought which began in November and threatens the livelihood of 13.5m people, state media reported.

The ministry of finance said it would accelerate the disbursement of Rmb86.7bn ($12.7bn, €9.8bn, £8.6bn) of annual subsidies for farmers to ensure grain production and support rural incomes.

The government declared a national drought emergency late last week.

Hu Jintao, the president, and Wen Jiabao, the prime minister, ordered a full mobilisation of state resources to ensure a good summer harvest....(Click for remainder).


Edging towards a depression

By Faiz Shakir
Think Progress

The current recession that the United States economy finds itself in is, by far, dramatically worse than the recessions of 1990-91 and 2001. How much worse? The economy has lost 3.6 million jobs in the last 13 months. The Gavel compares these numbers to the two most recent recessions:

(Click for original).


Does Ann Coulter Have Opposable Thumbs?

By Helen Philpot
Margaret and Helen

Margaret, you are the only person for whom I would do this. Reading Ann Coulter’s book is like chewing aspirin without water. I just finished another chapter and I am sitting here wondering if anyone has actually seen Ann using complex tools like a ball point pen or say… I don’t know… a toaster? After reading the 4th chapter of her book I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she actually doesn’t even have opposable thumbs. I could be wrong, but it is hard to believe that the person who wrote this book is also capable of fine motor skills.

You might have to read these next lines more than once. It is very difficult trying to summarize the logic being used by Coulter in this chapter titled: Witless Witnesses to History. Try typing that 10 times with no opposable thumbs and a size 17 foot in your mouth! I can only assume she was under deadline and needed to fill some pages.

According to Coulter, some Republicans are idiots because they write books calling other Republicans idiots. Now Margaret, help me out here. Ann is calling some Republicans idiots for writing books where they say nasty things about other Republicans, but in this chapter alone Ann trashes about a dozen Republicans for doing this. So doesn’t that make Ann an idiot a dozen times over? I hope you can follow that because I read the whole chapter and I am still confused.

Now if the chapter was written by say - a sloth - then I might understand. But this book is written by a #1 New York Times Bestselling Author. It says so right there on the jacket cover above the picture of Ann. Come to think of it, Ann is not only hiding her feet in that picture, she is also hiding her thumbs. I wonder…

Basically the chapter is making the case that the media loves it when Republicans turn on one another but tends to ignore it when a Democrat turns on a Democrat. I guess Ann never turned on the TV or opened a newspaper during the 100-year war otherwise known as the Clinton-Obama primary elections. Of course turning on a TV and opening a newspaper is more difficult when you don’t have opposable thumbs....(Click for remainder).


U.S. consumers missing more debt payments

Um, duh!

By Helen Chernikoff
Reuters via CNBC

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumers are falling further behind on their debt payments even as both borrowers and lenders struggle to keep the debt burden from getting even heavier in the face of a worsening recession and employment picture, a credit bureau executive told Reuters.

Dann Adams, president of U.S. Information Systems for Equifax Inc , said consumers are missing payments on mortgages, credit cards and auto loans, prompting lenders to further scrutinize borrowers' profiles for signs they should clamp down on credit.

"Lines of credit are being very closely monitored," said Adams, whose clients include banks struggling to prevent more bad debt from piling onto their balance sheets.

Banks are, for example, warily watching their credit card portfolios in anticipation that consumers whose home values are plunging will turn to credit cards as their home equity lines of credit are cut or canceled.

They are also preemptively culling inactive cards, seeing them as a potential liability: "If the consumer gets in trouble with someone else they'll start using the bank's card, and the bank doesn't want them to do that," he said.

Customers whose credit scores are on a downward trend are finding themselves on the receiving end of more aggressive action to limit or cut off credit.

And more lenders are requesting an Equifax product called "bankruptcy scores" that expresses the probability that an individual will be bankrupt over the next one to two years, Adams said.

But Adams is careful to note that this is "a supply-demand contraction." Consumers are likewise saving more, and growing leery of new debt....(Click for remainder).


This Nation Needs a Fighter in the White House, not a Gabber and Glad-Hander

By Dave Lindorff
After Downing Street

If the disaster of the so-called "stimulus" bill just passed by the Senate doesn't convince President Obama and his advisers that the strategy of "bipartisanship" that he has been espousing is a political suicide, nothing will.

The Republican Party, with the willing help of conservative Democrats like Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Democratic turncoats like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), has forced Obama to agree to a joke of a stimulus package that is nearly half composed of tax breaks which will do nothing to bolster the economy (since most of the money will end up either paying down credit card debt or buying Chinese and Sri Lankan imports) and that is stripped of $40 billion to help struggling state and local governments.

Fresh from its rout in November, the GOP is, in fact, openly trying to sabotage Obama's economic stimulus plan, because the last thing Republicans want to see is an economy on the upturn in 2010 or 2012.

Meanwhile, Obama, who had the chance to add 2-4 Democratic senators to the Senate by naming Republicans to his cabinet or to other key administration positions, and having Democratic governors replace them with progressive Democrats, has wasted several opportunities. When he did name a Republican senator from a state with a Democratic governor--Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, named to be Commerce Dept. Secretary--he instead cut a pathetic deal to have the state's Democratic governor name another Republican Senator to replace Judd. Almost as bad, in New York, when he named Sen. Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State, he allowed New York's Democratic governor, David Patterson, to name a conservative Democrat to replace her.

What is this guy trying to do? Obama is from Chicago, a town where politics is a blood sport, and where as a young politician, he played that game with brass knuckles himself. Now he's trying to be everybody's best friend?

The result is he's being steamrollered.

So what should he do? Tell conservative Democrats in Congress that if they want any of their pet bills or projects passed in the next four years, they will pass a stimulus bill as he wants it written, with limited tax breaks and with all the money he proposed for states and localities. Republicans, meanwhile, should be told bluntly that if they vote against the measure once it is reconciled in a House-Senate conference, they get shorted on stimulus money in their districts. Let them explain it to their constituents.

Hard ball.

That's how Republicans have played for the past eight years, and how they've turned Congressional Democrats into a quivering mass of gelatinous goop.

Obama won a landslide electoral victory and a big popular vote majority. It wasn't his promise to be bi-partisan that gave him that win. It was his promise to be a real leader....(Click for remainder).



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