Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Spanish Civil War Photos Found

You might recall a feature story I wrote last year on Hayward resident Nate Thornton who is one of the last living American veterans of the Spanish Civil War.

Read the article here.

The New York Times last week ran a story and slideshow of rediscovered photographs from the three year war that captured the imagination of anti-fascists across the world and some historians labeled the dress rehearsal for World War II.

I interviewed Thornton and his wife last October just as the economy was beginning to suffer wholesale damage. His commitment to the socialist revolution is still strong after over 60 years and possibly quite prescient.
I know that socialism is going to be the '-ism' of the future, he says, I don't know when it will happen, not in my time, I'm sure of that. Once this thing is all done, the capitalists are going to have to go to work with a pick and shovel like the rest of us. That's what they don't like. That's what they don't want. The system is breaking down.
There's a cadre of former titans of industry like Dick Fuld, Angelo Mozilo, John Thain and maybe Kenneth Lewis looking for jobs at the quarry.

Sotomayor Is A Bitch; TNR's Rosen Is An A-Hole

If President Obama waits until the end of summer to nominate a Supreme Court justice for retiring David Souter then Sonia Sotomayor's candidacy will certainly wilt in the muggy D.C. heat. Especially, if journalists like The New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen conjure up hack jobs with the specter of nepotism hover over his work.

Salon's Glenn Greenwald reported yesterday the controversial article published Monday may contain of wild web of deception. Let's break it down: Rosen's brother-in-law is the deputy solicitor general to the Supreme Court. The current and yet-to-be-tested solicitor general is Elena Kagan--another possible nominee on Obama's short list. What won't Rosen do to get sissy's husband a promotion?

The image of impropriety would not be so stark if the article did not tweak the nose of political insiders, journalists and feminists with quotes which appeared vengeful and childish name-calling. A high-powered judicial version of Sotomayor is "dumb", "a girl" and a "dumb, smelly girl" all at once.

Rebecca Traister, writing in Salon, illustrated some of Rosen's inherent sexual biases, namely as she points out, the same criticisms strong female figures like Martha Stewart and Hillary Clinton invariably receive. They are bossy, moody, profane and just plain bitches. You know, the same qualities male CEOs receive as a strange compliment.

As to what happens to Rosen? The New Republic advertised his articles on the possible Supreme Court nominees as being part of an on-going series. How about we stop at one. It would be one thing if Rosen disclosed his familial connections to the inner-workings of the court, but he didn't and proceeded to unleash a whisper campaign that may torpedo Sotomayor's chances of being the first Latino on the bench. As the Talking Points Memo mentions (along with a video clip from the Late Show), when an obscure appellate judge becomes part of Letterman's monologue, there is no way she can withstand what lies before her and the sheer months until, if you can imagine, the real spotlight shines upon her.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Will The Real James Jones Come Forward

President Obama's "Team of Rivals" propaganda did more to fatten book sales of Dolores Goodwin Kearn's book of the same title than provide any real rivalry among cabinet members (the book can also put you to sleep.)

I mention this because two mainstream articles, one by Time's Joe Klein and a feature by Robert Dreyfuss in Rolling Stone show two different portrayals of one of Obama's notable "rivals", National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones.

The Rolling Stone piece reads like a rehashing of four month administration talking points set along the "rivals" theory of governance. The article says Obama does not have much of a relationship with the general but has spent the past two years gaining familiarity with him on the campaign trail. Jones, a supporter of Obama and frequent critic of the war, is described along the lines of how the Administration would have you believe him to be behind closed doors. According to a Time opinion piece last week, Jones is anything but a go-getter and Type-A personality in meetings.
There is some concern, however, about National Security Adviser James Jones, who is still adjusting to civilian life after a brilliant career in the military. "Obama has appointed all these high-powered envoys like [Richard] Holbrooke and [George] Mitchell, but we don't know who's going to really be in charge of setting the foreign policy priorities," says a prominent foreign policy realist who admires Jones. "That should be Jim's job. But he's throwing off a sense of uncertainty." Several sources say Jones seems to attend meetings rather than lead them. "He needs to drive the agenda," the foreign policy expert adds.
The appointment of old Democratic hands like Mitchell and Holbrooke to Middle East hot spots way back in February may signal Obama had already viewed Jones as overwhelmed by the position. Are there foreign policy problems bigger than Israel/Palestine and Iraq/Afghanistan?

Rolling Stone may primarily be a music and culture magazine but it does churn out insightful public affairs pieces from time to time. This is not one. It gives the appearance of sloppy journalism or worse by its shocking mimicking of the party line, the feel of propaganda.

Other than that, what can I say? There's a pretty good story about the porn industry's top actress in this week's issue.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Sotomayor Is The Perfect Choice

It just has to be 2nd Circuit Appellate Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Not only would she be the second woman on the court, but the first Hispanic in U.S. history. If you believe the Latino vote swung the last election towards President Obama (I don't), then this milestone would be a significant thank you.

Sotomayor, who is known as the judge who ended the ruinous 1994 Major League Baseball strike, is quite attractive other than demography. If Obama is hoping for uncontentious confirmation hearings, the 54-year-old Puerto Rican might placate Republicans. She is fairly moderate and was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the U.S. District Court in New York.

Of course, these things look easy on paper. If chosen by Obama, Sotomayor's entire life will be examined. Every single piece of writing from college term papers to her decision on the second circuit will be examined for clues to her "real" judicial compass while hoping she does not share a peculiarly common trait amongst Obama nominees of not paying her taxes.

Salon lays down the skinny on other possible selections in an article posted shortly after election day that includes the other possible woman, Elena Kagan. The Daily Kos also has a quick thumbnail on Sotomayor.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Souter Leaves The Court

Innocently enough, the Supreme Court press corps simply put two and two together. Justice David Souter was the only jurist not to have hired law clerks for the court's next session. The Associated Press story speculating on its meaning seemed harmless enough. Souter has been known to the last to select from the nation's top law grads and is notoriously an odd duck in D.C. circles. Harmless, right? Apparently not.

It is the culture of the Supreme Court to operate within riddles--a bit of intellectual playfulness, yet this one was too simple to crack. The 69-year-old thumb in the eye to conservatives across the country will be President Obama's first attempt at molding the court.

It is true the judge President George H.W. Bush appointed to the court only to later realize he was something of a closet lefty will not change the make up of the Supreme Court other than restart the clock on another liberal member. It will show just how much the president's popularity will translate in an always testy confirmation process.

In the last three days, conservatives have clearly witnessed the destruction due to eight years of George W. Bush. Long-time Republican Arlen Specter left the party citing the difficulty of moderates to win under the GOP brand and now the power of Obama's victory last November has grown lasting fruit--a fresh choice on the court.

Who will be the next Supreme Court justice. Let the rumor mill gain full should begin with Sonia Sotomayor.

Swine Flu: The Media's Last Fearful Hurrah

When it comes to the financial livelihood of Wall Street it's better to not stir the pot, they say; yet when the MSM needs to rile up a good old Andromeda Strain narrative, they sure can whip up fears. And we thought scaring the public was a dastardly thing only George W. Bush would do.

"Containment is no longer a feasible option," is how the New York Times ominously quoted the deputy director of the World Health Organization. It is similar to the maxim attached to Michael Jordan, "you cannot stop him, you can only hope to contain him," isn't it? The analogy at this point would be apt if the dreaded swine flu was indeed a pandemic colored with gruesome details and escalating fatalities, but it is not, as of yet. Then why the constant drumbeat of fear about a harsh strain of Influenza that lacks flesh-eating parasites or blackened corpses and has debilitated one foreign nation disproportionately to to the rest of the planet? Folks, this may be the media's last hurrah when it comes to controlling the populace through fear.

The swine flu is serious stuff. It is not the story of front page hysteria and the facts do not bear the fear running rampant in every ER and doctors office across the land. When the dead bodies of old media lay rotting in the hot sun, this sort of sensationalism designed to control Americans will cease to exist, at least, in its present form. Here are the reasons why the blogosphere would not pursue this story:
  • At this time, the vast majority of the cases have been in Mexico.
  • The death toll is insignificant.
  • There has been little indication that the government would not be able to protect the health of Americans.
  • While the strain can be deadly, the imminent risk of death has not been suffiencently communicated.
Under the rubric and collective thought of bloggers and journalists freed from the grasp of their corporate parents, this story would not register on the front page. In addition, you will begin to notice that most stories, like this one today, are actually articles covering the fear media corporations stoked so cleverly in communities across the country. The future of journalism is healthy, the future of billion dollar media titans is over along with the control they once represented. That's the distinction many fail to see.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter Leaves Party In Disarray

Arlen Specter, you scoundrel! How could you?

That rumble in Washington today was the ground more than shifting under the GOP, but sidewalks buckling and children being swallowed by the Earth. Sen. Specter is leaving the Republican party for hopefully greener senatorial pastures on the left. To begin, nothing comes as a surprise in D.C. Speculation of Specter switching parties had been rumored more as a highly implausible last ditch effort to retain his precarious seat in the Senate, but never seriously contemplated one bit. Its execution was swift, calculated and so shocking that Republican ire has yet to materialize commensurate with the blow Specter dealt. The venerable National Review, as of 5:30 p.m. pacific time today, has very little analysis of the news except for a rambling, seemingly hurting post from David Freddoso.

It's true, Democrats inherit a moderate conservative who, if he wins the nomination and defeats his Republican challenger, will not reflect the views of a majority of blue state Pennsylvanians. His filibuster-proof 60th vote is compelling, though. (Salon's Glenn Greenwald has a good explaination of what Specter's move means) President Obama supports Specter's move and Senate Leader Harry Reid restored his 29-year seniority in the Senate. Ostensibly, Specter will caucus with Democrats when that 60th vote is needed at all times for such support. It will also allow Specter, who had Hodgkin's disease and has indicated he wants to remain in the Senate to push through health care legislation, to honestly vote with Democrats on any end-of-the-year legislation the Administration says it will offer.

Assuredly, Specter's move rattles what it means to be a Republican legislator post-George W. Bush. To his credit, Specter was unequivocal about his intention to switch party affiliation. The polls said he could not beat the anti-tax crusader Pat Toomey in the GOP primary so he went to the other side. What it means in the long run is either the party has a crude, long-term plan to rid itself of any ideology other than the far right or the party is in the process of true disintegration. Specter's move shows that a Republican of any other persuasion but Christian, far right and anti-abortion can retain or win a seat. How can a far right, anti-tax maven like Toomey possibly win a general election in Pennsylvania? He can't and the same dilemma will follow Republicans across the country until the party can figure out what it can in Obama's America, but that seems a bit away judging by some of their comments.

Rush Limbaugh waved off Specter's move by insisting he should take Sen. John McCain with him. You remember McCain, right? He was the party's choice for president just five months ago and the GOP mouthpiece wants him out. He also insinuated deposing Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback because he voted today for his own state's nominee for secretary of health and human services. If Republicans don't want a dyed-in-the-wool righty like Brownback who exactly do they want?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Perry, Texas Secessionists Follow Slippery Slope Of Treason

We can laugh at the apparent absurdity of those gosh darn Texas secessionists, but such talk certainly smack of treasonous behavior. Not now or for decades, but under history's long reach the actors of discontent in the future could latch upon this ridiculous talk to further boost their cause. The Serbs used a 700-year-old losing battle against Kosovo to justify war a decade ago and Christian-Muslim strife is de rigeuer for any cleric or politician in the Middle East.

A new poll of dubious value from the Daily Kos and Research 2000 shows many Texans--especially Republicans--are quite torn over the possibility of leaving the union if President Obama does not quit taxing them (or, should we accurately say, start actually taxing people more of their earnings.)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (why does he look like Josh Brolin in W.?) and the party at large as gone too far in painting a very dangerous dichotomy between Obama's so-called "socialist" tendencies (the RNC wants Democrats to rename the party Socialist Democrat) and open rebellion. Under the great tradition of revolt under repressive taxation, you could applaud Republicans for fighting the same noble challenge the Founding Fathers waged against King George. One problem, the entire argument is Rovian; politically-bent and unnecessarily divisive. This isn't saying you're neighbor's wife is a bad person, this is saying she sleeps with the mailman and the pool boy without any evidence. This talk is Texas is the folly of home wreckers.

Did Perry know what sort of firestorm he would create? He may have not prepared such a remark in advance. What he did is whip up non-sensical colonial tendencies based upon nothing, whatsoever. Are liberals and elites merely brushing off their valid concerns? Not even. The basis for all this subterfuge is simply the party lost to an African American man who is now in charge of cleaning up a colossal mess created by a family of white elite Americans. Secession is not a concept to be thrown around lightly. The state should be embarrassed for uttering such language in public and its leaders censured. Secession is treason. The bloodiest war in American history was fought because of this procedure and the Confederate flag stands not for a glorified Southern culture, but for those who attempted to fracture this union.

John Stewart said it best last week to Fox's Sean Hannity:
I think you might be confusing tyranny with losing. And I feel for you because I've been there. A few times, in fact one of them was a bit of a nail biter. But see, when the guy that you disagree with gets elected, he's probably going to do things you disagree with. He could cut taxes on the wealthy, remove government's oversight capability, invade a country that you thought should not be invaded. That's not tyranny. That's democracy. See, now you're in the minority. It's supposed to taste like a shit taco.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Obama Angles For GOP's Small Town Folksy Imagery

What happens when Kansas figures out "what's the matter" with itself? Conservative columnist David Brooks sees the end of the GOP's dominance on small town issues that use to be soaked in flimsy, folksy concepts of decades past.

Brooks' column today in the New York Times seems to be pushing conservatives to press the panic button; President Obama is becoming a cultural Republican!
America once had a responsible economic culture, Obama argued. People used to save their pennies to buy their dream houses. Banks used to lend by “traditional standards.” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac used to stick to their “traditional mandate.” Companies like A.I.G. used to limit themselves to the “traditional insurance business.”
Brooks sees the gambit as possibly "the greatest train robbery in American politics." Maybe it would be. Something akin to President Clinton ending welfare "as we know it." The reality is, Obama's outreach to the fiscal "values" and hard-work ethos of traditional America is actually a case of Democrats appealing to an important base that should have been in their column since Ronald Reagan snatched it from liberals nearly 30 years ago.

One of the basic tenets of this blog to draw out the distinctions made in Thomas Frank's seminal book, "What's the Matter with Kansas?" The book famously theorizes conservative working class Americans do not vote with their economic interests in mind when they vote for Republicans. Along the way, the Three G's--Gays, Guns and God--appeal to their morality and clouds their decision-making.

When Brooks says, "If Republicans aren’t nervous, they should be" he isn't kidding. The Republican is dangerously close to becoming merely a regional Southern entity characterized by extreme religious right wingers. The issues of small town values is just about the only notable issue they possess unless the U.S. decides to fight a war against China over the issue of abortion. And I doubt that will happen. Although China does have too many people.

It was already unclear how, in an era when Americans have kitchen table problems to worry about rather than the standard social red herrings typically used by conservatives, the GOP can be able to formulate a plan to revive its brand image. I don't normally give advice to conservatives, but heed Brooks' words. You cannot allow Democrats to be the party of financial order and small town fiscal responsibility. Don't ask me how to stop it, though. How do you stop a runaway avalanche? You don't.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pulitzer's Honor Neglected Child; Small Town Writer

If you have not read the Pulitzer Prize-winning feature article by Lane DeGregory of the St. Petersburg Times, grab a tissue and spare about 20 minutes to feel what good writing is all about.

Click here to read the series about a 7-year-old girl who was neglected to the point, the author calls her "a feral child"; a modern day Mowgli from the Jungle Book. It's a story about neglect in 21st century America, but surprisingly, not only of the child, but the entire family.

Also, in the name of the underdog's mystique. Congratulations to The Post-Star's Mark Maloney for winning the Pulitzer for editorial writing. The newspaper located in Glen Falls, NY has circulation of only 34,000. Maloney beat entries from the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune--the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox of journalism--to win the prize.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pope Benedict Is Getting Horny Again!


The Belgian Assembly apparently does more than toss down a few Stella Artois' between sessions. Today they chastised Pope Benedict XVI and his remarks that condoms do more spread infection of HIV/AIDS. The Vatican shot back in a terse "how dare thee!" criticize the Pope. Various medical groups such as The Lancet called the stance "dangerous and irresponsible" along with France and Germany.

Just a week after Easter, Pope Benedict XVI is trying to control the AIDS epidemic in Africa with the church's doctrine of abstinence. While the Pope's brand of Christianity is flourishing in third-world countries, the exclusion of condoms in this fight continues to erode the support of Catholics in the United States and Europe and is the most vexing doctrine that forces followers and non-followers, alike, to shake their heads in disbelief. It's easy to mock the hypocrisy of a man who took a sacred vow of celibacy and thinks he has the moral credibility to opine on sex.

If you are to sensibly blend Catholicism and the realities of 21st century life, you must see the use of condoms to stem the spread of not only AIDS but other debilitating sexual-transmitted diseases in a lesser of two evils approach. Most would not even call its use much of a sin, but a laudable practice. But this pope talks more about condoms than the exorbitant number of Trojan condom commercials aired after 10 p.m. on the Spike Network.

In 2005, Pope Benedict said, "It is of great concern that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability, is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraception mentality."

Last month, on a pilgrimage to Africa, he said the use of condoms accelerated the problem of HIV/AIDS on the continent. "You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem."

Here's the irony: the guy who doesn't even have sex thinks they are great, yet the rest of us who do think they are not? Answer that, padre.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Prophets Of Doom? Meet The Regents Of Reality

Salon's Andrew Leonard lays out who he calls the "Cassandras" and Chicken Little's of economic punditry. Read it here. Whether the piece is meant as a jab at the perceived bottoming out of the economy or an homage; one thing is clear from Paul Krugman to Nouriel Roubini (and I might offer Robert Reich) these are the voices that have consistently shifted overexuberance to the side of caution and reason.

Start with Leonard's assessment of Krugman: "Without missing a beat, Paul Krugman went from being George Bush's most passionate and prominent critic to fulfilling the exact same role for Barack Obama."

This is either a criticism of Krugman's across-the-board disgust with any president or he posits the Nobel Prize laureate feels he can sell papers writing from the side of the minority. It's actually neither, but an inkling shared by this blog that the good ol' boys in Manhattan run the Treasury not matter what party is in power.

The consistent opinion of most of these men says the bailouts are not big enough, but the political solution must take into account the same Americans angry about taxpayer-funded bonuses and a poor economy. With both sides taken into account, all the Obama Administration can muster is what we have received. The hope and the prayer that it is just barely enough to get the country barely above water.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pelosi Calls For Commission to Investigate Wall Street Tricks

With an eye towards quelling the populist anger roiling across the nation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today called for the creation of a commission to root out the causes of Wall Street's meltdown patterned after an obscure Depression-era committee.

In San Francisco to speak about her book encouraging the rise of women in society at a gathering for the Commonwealth Club of California, Pelosi said Americans are angry with the economy and bonuses given to AIG and said at least 75 percent want an investigation into the missteps that led to this recession.

"That's what we would do with this commission, is to make sure it does not happen again." she said.

Pelosi spoke with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner this morning about the plan to emulate the Pecora Commission created in 1932. That commission named after the Deputy District Attorney of New York County Ferdinand Pecora followed two failures and benefited by Franklin Roosevelt's election. The commission's findings led to the Securities Act of 1933 and the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission,itself, alleged to have been lax in regulating Wall Street with Bernard Madoff's infamous Ponzi scheme being the poster boy for this age of decadence.

“Some people can tell you one piece of it. Others can tell you another piece of it. It's really hard to know. Do you understand it?” Pelosi asked rhetorically, “We need a clearer understanding of how we got here.”

Pelosi is not the first politician to allude to the Pecora Commission in recent weeks. Sen. Byron Dorgan called for a new iteration of the committee along with reinstituting the Glass-Steagall Act whi9ch separated commercial and investment banking. Many believe its repeal in 1999 was the impetus for banks and investment firms like Citigroup and Travelers to merge and allow the subprime credit markets to run rampant. A New York Times editorial last month also called for a Pecora-like commission to be created.

Earlier in the day, appearing on the local Fox affiliate KTVU, Pelosi characterized an upswing of “Tea Party” tax protests as window dressing for elite conservative interests in lower taxes calling them “Astroturf”, as a manufactured antonym for “grassroots”.

The Speaker drew upon her personal biography to encourage woman to continue to rise to more positions of power. Her book, Know Your Power: A Message to American Daughters urges woman to get involved in all aspects of community service. Pelosi, herself, is the daughter of the Baltimore establishment and said she found politics both exciting and distasteful. “It taught me I didn't want to be a part of it,” she said.

While raising five children with husband Paul Pelosi, who incidentally spent the speech doting over their newest grandchildren, she slowly became immersed in Bay Area politics with her big break occurring in 1976 when she secured Maryland for a youthful Jerry Brown in the Democratic presidential primaries. Pelosi joked, though, the then-Governor of California had a problem with saying, “thank you.”

Despite no longer being in office and playing to the liberal San Francisco audience, Pelosi also had a few jabs for former President Bush. While saying she “absolutely loves” working with President Obama, she said “having a great intellect saves a lot of time.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

DHS Says Rightwing Extremism On The Rise

Popular culture often joked or feared for the safety of an American black president. With a weak economy and a capable Commander-in-Chief most of those urban myths have fallen to the wayside, yet quips from Chris Rock have given way to a rise in rightwing extremism attributed in part to white anger over various issues, including the race of the president according to an unclassified report issued by the Department of Homeland Defense.

Click here to read the .PDF from the DHS

The report released last Friday says the same factors that gave rise to extremism in the early 1990s and leading to the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal building are present today.

Rightwing militia groups are stoking the furor of possible recruits by highlighting their perceive loss of white power personified in the election of Barack Obama along with standard recruiting points such as the rise in immigrants taking jobs, the poor economy and proposed gun control laws.

Most shocking is the likelihood that these groups will recruit veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for their valued military experience. The report alludes to the existence of "lone wolves" and small terrorist cells that could be fortified by this group who may be further marginalized by their difficulties returning to their civilian lives.

Many worry the next terrorist attack may not be foreign-based, but domestic and likely originating from the narc0-blood bath occurring on the U.S.-Mexico border. Instead, this report brings to mind the diversity of discontent in the United States contains a fringe element likely in Western states that is keen on "overthrow" and if the economy continues to sour, this group will become even more agitated. Angry enough to make Timothy McVeigh look like an amateur.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wall Street Gets Richer; Americans Still Losing Jobs

Way too many journalists are jumping on the economic recovery bandwagon especially when the Dow's 25 percent rise the past month does little to make life easier for you and me.

While some point to Wells Fargo's surprisingly healthy first quarter (Noriel Roubini said Wells Fargo was one of the weaker banks last month in Time. What happened?) as proof the recession has bottomed out, unemployment is still 8.5 percent and likely rising at the same clip. A chipper AP story reports the first week of April had the lowest amount of new jobless claims in months. I'm not sure how much an indicator one good week in the middle of 40 does for the unemployed. This New York Times piece speculates how the strong Dow could be covering up significant problems in the overall economy.

The underlining message in nearly every story, except a very cautiously optimistic article in the Boston Globe today, is that the financial sector is doing well and depending on your politics, the benefits will never "trickle down" to the pocket books of struggling Americans. It's true that short and long-term interest rates are unbelievably low, but how will it translate into more construction of homes? The inventory of already built new homes is high and recently foreclosed homes are even higher. This may be where Wells Fargo's announced $190 billion in new loan applications are emanating. Once the glut of inventory begins to deplete in relation to low interest rates where will this segment of the economy look like?

The job of Wall Street is to keep things positive; to eradicated jitters and to keep the wheels of finance rolling. It really has nothing to do with the problems Americans are dealing with everyday, at least, in the short term. It's likely over a half million more workers will get a pink slip this month. Add to this the previous 5 million and you have quite a segment of the population scrimping and saving and not purchasing goods and services. Don't tell Americans the economy is picking up while they sit and wait for a new job.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Hey Larry, Wanna Get Away?

Protesters unfurled a banner asking President Obama's top economic aide Lawrence Summers to "We want our $$$$ back". The gruff-speaking Summers looked uncomfortable as a woman called him "toxic waste" today at the Washington Economic Club Undoubtedly, the man lustily booing the protesters was a banker.


Feinstein: No Assault Weapons Ban Yet

Sen. Dianne Feinstein told "60 Minutes", "The National Rifle Association essentially has a stranglehold on the Congress." And with that don't look for a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban she authored in the early 1990s anytime soon.

In interview to be aired this Sunday, Feinstein believes there is no time for gun control legislation but would considered it later. Such comments come less than a month after four Oakland police officers were gunned down by a parolee with an AK-47. President Bush allowed the initial ban to expire in 2004 while Democrats made significant electoral inroads in the once-bleeding red Western states like Montana and South Dakota by not focusing on gun control.

While the congressional calendar may be chock full with health care reform, the economy and two overseas wars, Democrats don't want to mess with a once troublesome issue that has been significantly neutralized. It's no surprise President Obama breezed through the primaries and general election without dealing with either gun control or abortion rights--two issues Republicans once hammered more liberal-leaning candidates with.

Can Democrats live with legislators who seemingly ignore the continual rise in gun use in our society? It seems like anything else in these trying economic times, our priorities are more fixated on maintaining full employment and keeping the bill collector at bay rather than focusing on complex and controversial social issues better suited to be argued in better times (i.e. when we have nothing better to worry about).

Pelosi Says Health Care Is Top Priority

E.J. Dionne's column in today's Washington Post sheds a quite divergent view of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. It should be noted Dionne is somewhat liberal and the skewed perception of Pelosi as someone moving the country towards so-called "San Francisco liberalism" is purely a right-wing talking point. Nonetheless, the profile illuminates a possible Congressional road map for the rest of the year.

Pelosi told Dionne, "'The priority, of course, is to pass health care,' Pelosi said without blinking." The American Prospect's Ezra Klein notes in his blog this is the first indication Pelosi sees health care reform as a top priority over cap-and-trade.
To my knowledge, Pelosi hasn't said that before. More to the point, she's not signaled it. At a recent Maria Leavey breakfast, she implied just the opposite, and many folks I've spoken to on the Hill have suggested that her priority was energy rather than health care.
To reverse that specific perception, Pelosi seemed to be giving Dionne a lesson on Congressional parliamentary procedure by saying she could muster 51 votes on health care under the rules of "reconciliation" where committees receive technical instructions on where and how funding will be budgeted. In effect, it's a promise that health care will be legislated but without specifics. Under the procedure a bill only needs a simple majority, whereas, a bill without reconciliation needs a more problematic 60 votes in the Senate. Pelosi also referred to the diversity of the party that also has the support of some coal-producing states. She showed Dionne a statue of a coal miner in her office given to her by a West Virginia congressman.

Dionne also mentions the recent relaxing of Republican attacks against Pelosi. With President Obama's post-election popularity too strong to spar with, Republicans targeted Pelosi without abandon. An article in Politico from last November said the tactic has failed every time it has been utilized, "It didn’t work in 2006, and it’s not working this year, yet many Republicans continue to use Pelosi power as the ultimate threat to American governance."

Presumably, with a bit less than 100 days of the Obama presidency to work with, Republicans are turning their criticism towards the White House. Karl Rove ironically believes Obama is more divisive than President Bush in today's Wall Street Journal.

Despite the constant attacks on her leadership, Pelosi has proven to be a speaker unfazed thus far. Whether Pelosi can help the President push through Democratic-themed legislation like health care reform is unclear, but it shows that it takes more pieces of the puzzle to assemble than one might think.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Must See TV: Economist Explains The Criminality Of The Collapse

If you weren't watching PBS this past week, then you wouldn't know a leading economist leveled some of the most provocative and insightful views yet about the coziness of the bankers with our government and how it continues even in the face of angry Americans losing jobs and money from coast-to-coast.

William K. Black, a professor of economics at the University of Missouri, was also a thorn in the side of the Keating Five in the early 90s. Black told Bill Moyers the credit rating services colluded with banks to unleash high yield, but potential toxic loans to flourish with relatively little government oversight by the Bush Administration. The evidence that rating services like the once-venerable Moody's slapped dubious AAA ratings on so-called pooled "liars loans" where the borrowers information was never verified has been well-known. Black said it was in both the borrowers and mortgage broker interest to inflate their earnings and credit history.


Black's allegations point directly to the problem many people had with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's appointment last December. He is simply doing the bank's bidding within the Obama Administration. The Goldman Sachs cabal of Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers were involved with the company with as much a stake in the proliferation of subprime mortgages than any other institution, yet Federal bailout money was funneled back to Goldman Sachs and Geithner's plan to purchase toxic loans at a premium was cheered by Wall Street. I wonder why?

At one point during the interview Moyers asked if the Treasury was engaging in a cover-up to which Black said, "Absolutely."
They are scared to death. All right? They're scared to death of a collapse. They're afraid that if they admit the truth, that many of the large banks are insolvent. They think Americans are a bunch of cowards, and that we'll run screaming to the exits. And we won't rely on deposit insurance. And, by the way, you can rely on deposit insurance. And it's foolishness. All right? Now, it may be worse than that. You can impute more cynical motives. But I think they are sincerely just panicked about, 'We just can't let the big banks fail.' That's wrong.
Black also maintains if the banks are, indeed, not insolvent why do they need up to $2 trillion in bailout money?

To a banker the inclination to stem the amount of panic in the Market is clear. You don't make or maintain your wealth with a jittery Dow. To those who believe in transparency and justice for the bank's fraudulent behavior, the cover-up is beginning to be worse than the original crime since unemployment continues to rise at a clip of 650,000 jobs a month and the $700 billion allotted to jar open the credit markets have been essentially wasted.

In another interview this week Black sounded even more ominous about this crisis and the diagnosis made by the Treasury when he said it could paralyze the Obama presidency. "It will be the greatest looting of the American people in our history and it will destroy the Obama presidency if it continues." And we've seen the presidential hand-tying one bad policy can have on an Administration with Bush's war in Iraq.

The populist anger that continues to rise is partly a function of the inability to face the fact the same bankers who created this crisis in the name of sheer greed continue to flourish because they have gamed both sides for their financial benefit. At a time when the civic attitude of millions of Americans was at its highest in decades with the election of Barack Obama, no soon has the corruption of Washington totally squashed it.

Will Obama Attend Easter Mass? Bush, Saint Reagan Never Had Time

The managing editor at Fox News makes a good observation about the lack of news regarding President Obama's Easter Sunday plans. Which church is he going to attend? I don't really care as much as attempt to point out our two seemingly most pious recent presidents--Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush rarely attended Sunday services.

The Fox News blog posting recounts Reagan's lame excuse his presence would put undue stress on the congregation. Good try. Presidents Carter and Clinton regularly attend. Bush, who attempted to make us believe his election was manna from Heaven and consulted on foreign policy with Jesus rather than his more experienced father, hardly ever set foot in church despite being a born again Christian. In fact, he believed himself so religious that he did not need to attend. I'll try using that line with my grandmother this weekend.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Social Media Is Taking The Power Of The Press From Grip Of The Elites

Your innocuous tweet counts as "publishing." A simple text message reminding your wife to buy a gallon of milk also is publishing, as is the e-mail to your boss, according to social media expert John Blossom. In small portions, these forms of communication are quite tame, but when multiplied a billion times over a day, they will change the ways we live and think while threatening to upend how the news is delivered and consumed.

The most fascinating idea in Blossom's book Content Nation is the belief the the rise of social media and user-generated web sites are, in fact, not a new development, but actually a return to the genuine roots of human interaction.....Read the rest of this article at the Commonwealth Club blog at

Netanyahu Talks Tough For The Israelis; Obama Will Proceed With Caution

You can only judge the return of Benjamin Netanyahu to the office of Israeli Prime Minister and tough-talk regarding Iranian nuclear production as nothing more than bluster. It's no surprise the right wing Netanyahu would slide Israel towards a more hawkish view of its Middle Eastern neighbors. It's quite predictable, inf fact, for the right to diminish any work towards amicable piece with the Palestinians just as it is nearing fruition. In some ways it's a game played by both side to perpetuate conflict. Almost as if their mutual business is conflict just as not finding a cure for Cancer fattens Big Pharma's bottom line.

If you believe Iran is really the psychotically deranged nuclear power-to-be, Netanyahu's statements saying he would attack Iran if the U.S. does not succeed in stripping its capabilities is stark. The assertion, though, flies in the face of standard diplomatic strategy. It is not Iran's desire to actually possess a legion of nuclear warheads as much as it is their view the capability to one day attain them will protect them from U.S. invasion and boost their place in the hierarchy of the Middle East. Israel must care for their own safety, but Netanyahu is being disingenuous by deploying the standard anti-Iranian spiel by recounting President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's various threats against the state of Israel.

If you need to see where the bluster ends and where realpolitiks begins, read closely at Netanyahu's candid belief that the Iranian economy is in such disrepair that sanctions would work nicely in persuading Iran to drop their nuclear ambitions. Netanyahu's rhetoric is dangerous if you believe Israeli jets bombing Iranian targets could ignite a massive Middle East war where nobody would likely arise victorious. Netanyahu only makes it harder for the new American president to engage Iran like never before. A modicum of peace in the Middle East will be difficult even without a right wing bully spouting off to his constituents in Tel Aviv.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Spanish Judge About To Gore Gonzalez, 5 other Bush Aides

Say goodbye to freshly made paella, Alberto Gonzalez. Ah, those wonderful baquettes in Paris. Forget about whiffing their warm, yeasty delight, David Addington. John Yoo, you like torture; so say goodbye to the medieval spectacle of a Spanish bullfighting because the globally defender of human rights, Spanish magistrate Balthazar Garzon, is going to indict you soon.

In addition to the trio, San Francisco Curcuit of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee, the man Gen. Tommy Franks once derided as the "f--king stupidiest guy on the face of the earth", Douglas Feith and current Chevron lawyer William Haynes III were named in a complaint issued for review to the Spanish court. The Spanish believe they have jurisdiction because five Spaniards were allegedly tortured in Guantanamo. All five were thrown out of court because their torture led to inadmissible evidence.

It's been the LFR stance for two years, President Bush, Dick Cheney and/or their minions would one day face legal jeopardy for their deeds the best eight years with the likelihood, the infamous Spanish judge would be its starting point and one former U.S. official's plight could be instructive.

Former Secretary of State and Bush cohort Henry Kissinger has lived the past 30 years under the shadow of international indictments stemming from his actions with the CIA in South America known as Operation Condor. It is de rigueur for Kissinger to inquire about the possibility of incarceration before travelling abroad. This is likely to be the lasting effect of possible Spanish indictments against the six former Bush aides. Although liberals would salivate at the possibility, there is simply no situation where an American president would allow an international court to nab current or former government officials for merely the sake of precedent, but the implication of impropriety is better than nothing.

President Bush wouldn't care if he couldn't climb the Alps in Switzerland or ride his mountain bike under the Champs de Elysses. He was probably going to the let his passport expire anyway.

Turnabout: Now It's The Liberals Aiming To Conquer The Nation?

If you write and follow politics for awhile, you'll notice both sides utilize the same tricks no matter how ridiculous they might be. Take for example a opinion piece in the right-wing Washington Times.

Andrew Breitbart used the same criticism against liberals that the left levied against the conservatives for the last eight years regarding the veracity of their beliefs, specifically in this article, online comments crafted by lefties on conservative web sites.

Uninvited Democratic activists are on a mission to demoralize the enemy - us. They want to ensure that Barack Obama is not subject to the same coordinated, facts-be-damned, multimedia takedown they employed over eight long years to destroy the presidency - and the humanity - of George W. Bush.

Political leftists play for keeps. They are willing to lie, perform deceptive acts in a coordinated fashion and do so in a wicked way - all in the pursuit of victory. Moral relativism is alive and well in the land of Hope and Change and its Web-savvy youth brigade expresses its "idealism" in a most cynical fashion.

The ends justify the means for them - now more than ever
It is a appalling and downright disingenuous to say President Bush was somehow torpedoed by left wing generated falsehoods when it was the dissemination of the truth which thwarted even more damage to the country than what eventually occurred. Liberals did not create the fact that WMD did not exist in Iraq, or that torture techniques were co-opted by the Administration or that the war in Iraq was about the military-industrial complex taking part in war profiteering.

On the contrary, "politics for keeps" mixed with deception and fear are all hallmarks of Karl Rove and have been reported on this web site for nearly five years. Pieces such as these give pause to the notion the Republican Party can rebound and for the good of the nation contribute new ideas to the conversation. We need a healthy opposition party in times like these, when many are feeling more desperation by the state of our economic affairs. For godsake, even listing the litany of Bush-era offenses makes me feel out of touch with our current situation. If only conservatives could realize they lost the election and now make a contribution instead of impeding progress with silly accusations.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

U.S., Russia Push 'Reset'; Cold War Distrust Remains

While most of the industrialized world prepares to fix the world's economy next week in London, an important geopolitical sideshow will be taking place when the U.S. and Russia discuss an old Cold War sticking point.

With the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) due to expire this December, old diplomatic ploys and negotiations are returning to the table while both sides have retained suspicions of each other's intentions. Back in 1982, President Reagan presented the then-Soviet Union with an offer to reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons pointed at each other. The beginnings of the START suffered many starts and stops during the 1980s. The treaty was not signed until 1991.

The Bush Administration's announcement late last year to install weapons interceptors in Poland and radar capabilities in the Czech Republic -- two former members of the Iron Curtain -- is reminiscent of an earlier tactic engineered in 1983 when Reagan announced plans for a Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), also known as "Star Wars". The Soviets perceived it as a threat, even though the plan's feasibility and cost was widely questioned. The presence of SDI and, in hindsight, last-ditch efforts by the dying Soviet empire to show strength were a few of the reasons the agreement took nine years to ratify...

Read the rest of this article at the Commonwealth Club blog. Click here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Obama Angles To Allow Potheads To Chill

The parallels between the first 100 days of the Roosevelt presidency and that of Obama's have been much commented upon, with Roosevelt's first days being used as a yardstick for legislative achievement or at least activity. Now a new link between the two eras has begun to emerge: the decriminalization of marijuana.

In 1933, after Roosevelt enacted a steady stream of legislation to secure the nation's economy that would last generations, he repealed the 18th Amendment allowing for the sale of alcohol. While it was long a Democratic desire to do so, the practical reason was to generate tax receipts from the sale of liquor and expand various programs to put people back to work. It seems times have not changed much in 76 years.

Former San Francisco Supervisor and current State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano says the flailing California economy could receive a $1 billion boost by taxing the sale of marijuana. The legislation is currently in Sacramento. According to a Time article, the estimated $14 billion in sales of the drug would nearly double the state's next largest cash-crop -- milk and cream.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also signaled that the government is beginning to soften its decades-old stance against marijuana when he said that federal raids against California cannabis clubs would cease (such dispensaries are legal in the state) and states would be allowed to make their own laws on the subject.

As populist anger continues to bubble over regarding the economy, a steady stream of huge unemployment figures and the current scandal of corporate bonuses paid with taxpayer money, The Nation's Alexander Cockburn thinks making pot legal might calm the citizenry the way making alcohol legal was intended to cool pre-Great Depression America.
Ending Prohibition was functional to social control. If people head for the bars, they'd be less likely to man the barricades, calling for real change. As FDR's popularity soared, so Obama's popularity has soared for dope smokers, among them those whom the herb is the best and cheapest line of defense against pain.
The Internet has cultivated a large following of cogent pleas for decriminalization easily outnumbered by thousands of hokey ideas and conspiracy theories. The functionality of hemp seems to be quite popular on many of these sites. One unlikely voice in the crowd is noted travel author Rick Steves, who recently visited the Commonwealth Club of California to discuss not marijuana, but his film on Iran.

In a interview this week with Salon, the author gave his views on the elitism of many of our laws regarding pot.

The fact is, the marijuana law in the U.S. is a big lie. It's racist and classist. White rich people can smoke marijuana with impunity and poor black people get a record, can't get education, can't get a loan, and all of sudden go into a life of desperation and become hardened criminals. Why? Because we've got a racist law based on lies about marijuana.

It is unlikely a full repeal of many of these marijuana laws would occur under Obama -- the nation and the relative strength of many moderate Democrats and the Republican party would make it difficult even under the guise of increased tax revenue. What the attorney general's announcement indicates is a willingness to look away similar to what law enforcement already does when there are bigger problems than a high schooler smoking pot during fifth period.

This article is featured at The Commonwealth Club of California blog.

Monday, March 23, 2009

S.F. Chronicle Again Lays Down Racial Overtones In Oakland Killings

Here's a cautionary tale of what could happen if metropolitan areas begin losing newspapers and the pulse of the community is lost from reporters:

Four Oakland police officers were killed this weekend by a parolee fearful of returning to prison. The story is tragic and points to real policies debates that need to be confronted, namely, overturning President Bush's repeal of the mid-90s assault rifle ban, but what happens when the Bay Area's pre-eminent daily shows a complete unawareness of the nuances of the story as it relates to the community?

All the Bay Area papers led with screaming front pages stories of the Friday slayings, but the cross-bay San Francisco Chronicle showed both an elitist and ignorantly slanted reporting of the story. Here's the lede Saturday from the triumvirate of Jaxon Van Derbeken, Demian Bulwa and Carolyn Jones:
Three Oakland police sergeants were shot and killed and a fourth officer was critically wounded Saturday in a pair of related incidents that together rank among the deadliest attacks on law enforcement in California history.
How did the inclusion of the imagery of an "attack" find its way into the lede without an editor asking for a rewrite? Is the new-look Chronicle attempting to color its coverage with more of a tabloid edge these days or are they oblivious to the racial overtones and inherent animosity between the law enforcement in Oakland and blacks and other minorities? The imagery of attacking the powers that be conjures up terrorist us-against-them propaganda. The terrorists "attacked" the World Trade Center. The "blacks" attacked the police department. The coverage of BART policeman Johannes Mehserle on a black man at the Oakland Fruitvale station was never describe as an attack by anyone. (Also, read the Chronicle's simplistic, downright dopey editorial from today.)

If these Chronicle staff writers knew the beat and actually covered the communities words like "attack" would not have been written. The prevailing attitude on the streets is obvious sorrow for the men in uniform who perished, yet underneath that feeling is the notion the police have taken out more of "them" than they have taken from the police. This mistrust is teeming through the city of Oakland and will likely get worse. The theory going around is that the rage on the police department's side will be taken out on the poor blacks in Oakland.

This is not the first time the Chronicle has shown a pro-law enforcement bent. An LFR posting from Jan. 5 of this year illustrated the differences between their coverage of the Oscar Grant BART shooting and the Oakland Tribune. The same reporter on this weekend's story, Demian Bulwa, showed either a lack of understanding regarding Oakland or simply was too lazy to get any other side of the story other than the Police department's

Similarly, the Oakland Tribune again published a solid, down-the-center story Saturday which did not evoke either side in a just-the-facts style. This, too, may not have been a function of knowing their backyard, but with such an explosive story playing it down the middle is the smartest journalistic course of action.

Many in the newspaper industry lament the day when a large American city will not have a daily newspaper on its streets, but what happens when reporters on any platform, whether on paper or on the Internet fail to actually report?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Feel The Noise: Washington Is Miscalculating Americans' Fury

David Kurtz at thinks the comments made by Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod are symptoms of tone deafness on the administration's part. Emanuel called the AIG scandal a "big distraction" and Axelrod added the American people "are thinking about their own jobs."

The entire Beltway has its ears clogged with ear wax on this one. The Treasury was well aware of the bonuses. They were then caught flat-footed when their existance became known and appeared impotent in their unwillingness to get the money back. If the anger was not palpable enough, they seemed to go along with AIG CEO Edward Liddy's offer of returning half of the bonuses while feigning a sob story to Congress that he feared for his employees safety. The president seems weak and Congress looks strident in passing a bill that will tax AIG bonuses at 90 percent. One congressman even flippantly added, "we figure state and local taxes would take the rest."

Axelrod is correct. Americans are worrying about their jobs, but their capacity to think is far larger than the White House believes. This scandal is unique in recent American political history. A story that sweeps across every possible demographic--an oddity--an issue every American is vociferously angered about and knowledgeable, too. But, here's the weirdest theory I've heard in a long time from the intern at Salon's War Room blog. The Obama people are setting us to wow us.

Those kinds of comments may, on their face, seem like a misstep politically. It’s worth noting, however, that nobody plays rope-a-dope as well as President Obama and his people. It would be just like them to let outrage build, allow themselves to be portrayed as feckless and ineffectual, and then roll out a plan that capitalizes on public outrage, gets their priorities through Congress and leaves the president stronger than he was at the start of this whole thing. That's no guarantee, but they've pulled it off before.

The author, Gabriel Winant, is apparently tone deaf, too. Likely swilling overpriced cocktails in a trendy South of Market San Francisco bar with pierced hipsters and wide-eyed, young cub reporters. This issue is not the appropriate time to be playing Machiavellian politics and I doubt Obama's inner circle has a plan at this late stage to miraculously fix the problem or change the subject.

Americans are really angry and part of the rage may not be the relatively paltry $165 million going to undeserving financial analysts but because these sort of shenanigans were promised by Presidnet Obama to be a thing of the past.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AIG CEO: Give Them Half

I use to know a little kid who realized bargaining from a position of power had its advantages. She would start by asking for four scoops of ice cream--a totally unacceptable proposition--while knowing she would settle for just two. It worked. Is that what the CEO of AIG is trying to pull with Congress?

Edward Liddy testified before Congress and said he has encouraged those who received over $100,000 bonuses to return half of the windfall to the company. Robert Scheer sheds more light on the executive who also led AIG on a $440,000 company excursion last year.

AIG believes American are up in arms because they believe the failed executives received too much money, but deserved a little something for running the company and the U.S. Treasury into the ground. Just when you thought the AIG debacle could get worse, the captains of American finance, with their heads in piles of $100 bills find a new low.

The New York Times article insinuates Liddy's offer is being looked at favorably by Congress, wait until tomorrow when their constituents flood their phone systems and email servers with a constant litany of anger for this new middle way.

Americans do not trust Congress as far as they can collectively throw them to handle each of these bailouts. Recouping half of something when none was deserved is not acceptable. Over 400 shameful employees of AIG split $165 million in bonuses after accepted nearly $150 billion in taxpayer supported bailout money. We see at it as it is: the rich getting richer by making us poorer. This time, though, we're wise to them.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Americans Are Getting Angrier; Will They Take It out On Obama?

Here's something a bit worrisome: It is now apparent President Obama failed the first test of his decision-making abilities when he appointed Timothy Geithner to the Treasury. Worse, it was the one cabinet position that needed to sufficiently filled for the times we live. Shockingly, the administration has backed dubious bank-friendly policies and incoherent explanations from Geithner about what he intends to do with the banks. Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz has a fine article in The Nation this week that illustrates the Treasury Department's apprehension to make the tough decisions.

Robert Reich says get rid of him before more damage is done, although he recommends Paul Volcker, whose monetary policies were the reason for the 1981-82 recession--the original worst recession since the Great Depression?

It is possible that we will look back at the administration's feeble attempts to dissuade AIG not to pay up to $165 million in bonuses to the very people who torched the company and the economy as the beginning of populist anger that can be easily co-opted by the Republican party. Most likely, the immense pressure the White House and Congress can apply will force AIG to find some sort of escape clause allowing them to recoup the bonuses, but the damage has been done. While the former president signed off executive orders with impunity, even possibly trashing the Constitution in the process, this president cannot stop an insolvent insurance company masquerading as a hedge fund from doing the wrong thing. This is not the sort of change in Washington Obama vowed to bring.

Although Obama currently garners the support of about two-thirds of opinion polls, it's hard not to see the likelihood of Congressional losses in 2010 and here the seed may have been sown. History has shown the havoc that can be caused with a restless, underemployed electorate. Mix in, an incredibly weak minority party waiting for the perfect campaign theme and you have the recipe for a reawakened Republican party.

By the fall, the poor economy can fairly be viewed as "owned" by Obama's policies and populist anger is something that can easily be molded to your own means. All Republicans would have to do in mid-term elections is point to the perception no one in administration seems to know how to fix the problem, so they just throw "taxpayer" money at it. The Republicans don't even have to be particularly dirty to make the point, either.

Rep. Mitch McConnell makes a cogent point in the Times, "The government has been heavily involved in A.I.G. for some months now. It’s shocking that they would — the administration would come to us now and act surprised about these contracts. Why didn’t they ask the question two weeks ago, before they gave them $30 billion?” An editorial in today's Wall Street Journal also makes this point and rightly points the finger at politicians, too.

If the public continues to see the economy grow worse in tandem with these easily recognizable abuses by the financial sector, it is likely conservatives will make positive gains next year while the image of Obama as the "chosen one" is greatly diminished.