Learning from History to Reform Wall Street

Via The White House

The President explains that while he continues to focus on jobs, it is also profoundly important to address the problems that created this economic mess in the first place. He commends the House of Representatives for passing reforms to our financial system, including a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, and blasts Republican Leaders and financial industry lobbyists for their joint "pep rally" to defeat it.

Obama in Oslo


President Obama's Nobel prize acceptance speech is receiving ample praise back home in the states. But first, one of the key portions of the speech is this (slightly edited down) six-graph stretch:

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war..[I]t will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there's nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing naïve -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower.

But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions -- not just treaties and declarations -- that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms....We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.
That is some pretty powerful prose. The ever-more-readable Kathleen Parker opened her Washington Post column today (just inches away from always-whiny Charles Krauthammer) with these lines:
After Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize speech, anyone still questioning whether he is really a Christian, rather than a Muslim aligned with fanaticism, needs to seek therapy forthwith.

Anyone still unconvinced that Obama is really an American committed to his nation's values, rather than an impostor who doesn't pledge allegiance to his critics' satisfaction, should probably surrender to the asylum.

Obama's speech, an artful balance of realism and idealism, was both a Judeo-Christian epistle, conceding the moral necessity of war, and a meditation on American exceptionalism. He was, in other words, the unapologetic president of the United States and not some errant global villager seeking affirmation.

The speech was a signal moment in the evolution and maturation of Obama from ambivalent aspirant to reluctant leader.
Slate's Kaplan was also impressed, and situated the speech in the broader context of Reinhold Neibuhr's political philosophies:
Rising to the occasion, he managed to redeem himself at a low point in his popularity by reminding Americans of what is best about themselves.

Read in its entirety, Obama's speech seems a faithful reflection of another theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, who, during World War II and the Cold War that followed, sought to reconcile the principles of Christianity with the imperatives of national defense...

Obama's speech doesn't mention Niebuhr, but back in April 2007, early on in the presidential campaign, David Brooks asked Obama whether he'd ever read Niebuhr. The candidate replied, "I love him, he's one of my favorite philosophers." Asked what he took away from Niebuhr, Obama answered, "I take away the compelling idea that there's serious evil in the world"; that "we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate these things, but we shouldn't use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction"; that "we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naive idealism to bitter realism."

The Nobel lecture that Obama delivered today is a fuller elaboration of the same ideas.
Hanging like a shadow over the speech, of course, is Obama's recent decision to send an addition 34,000 troops to Afghanistan. Cynics would say Obama's Oslo address was little more than justification for the ironic juxtaposition of that decision with his choice for the award itself.

Obama is aware of the tension. In his toasting remarks later in the day, Obama echoed the familiar refrain about the irony that the award's namesake was an inventor of dynamite and yet promoter of peace. And he also said this:
...I would like to thank the committee once again for the extraordinary confidence that they placed in me and this great honor that I have received tonight. As I indicated before, no one was more surprised than me. (Laughter.) And I have to say that when the chairman spoke introducing me, I told him afterwards that I thought it was an excellent speech and that I was almost convinced that I deserved it. (Laughter and applause.)
Obama knows that he won the award prospectively--for the promise of what he will do, not what he has done thus far. Earning it over the long term is going to be tougher than accepting it, that's for sure. And the process of delivering on that promise begins in Afghanistan.

Grayson To Cheney: 'STFU'

On MSNBC's "Hardball" Wednesday night, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) had a succinct response to Dick Cheney for the former vice president's recent comments on President Obama: STFU.

"On the Internet there's an acronym that's used to apply to situations like this: STFU. I don't think I can say that on the air, but I think you know what that means."

Ron vs Ron Over Ron

Via John Cole

I think if Ron Reagan was in the same room as that idiot scumbag Ron Christie, he would have punched him in the damned neck for trying to bring up his dad.

You really have to watch that clip. And just as an aside, Dick Cheney is a toxic piece of filth whose poison still infects this nation. I wish he would just drop off the face of the earth, and he can take that punk Ron Christie with him. Christie is now whining because Obama doesn’t say he loves America enough. Although if you listen to Cheney’s breathing on that Fox interview, he is not going to be around here long.

Just Can't Help Himself, Can He?

From the December 8 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

Limbaugh: "The black frame of mind is terrible" and "Tiger Woods' choice of females not helping 'em out"


Limbaugh's "colorblind" history of racially charged comments

Limbaugh: Because of Great Society, War on Poverty programs, black fathers "found it necessary not to stay home"

CNN reports Limbaugh dropped from Rams bid, cites his "comments in years past about race"

Obama: We’re Fixing Economy “Without Help Of An Opposition Party”

Via Greg Sargent

One interesting moment during Obama’s big speech on jobs, which just finished:

The President, who has kept up at least the pretense of hoping that bipartisanship on health care is still possible, declared it dead and buried when it comes to fixing the economy, even as he laid the blame for the whole crisis squarely in the GOP’s lap:

So, in the weeks and months that followed, we undertook a series of difficult steps to prevent that outcome. And we were forced to take those steps largely without the help of an opposition party which, unfortunately, after having presided over the decision-making that led to the crisis, decided to hand it over to others to solve.

Despite this sharply partisan charge, Obama nonetheless concluded on another call for bipartisanship:

And the question we’ll have to answer now is if we are going to learn from our past, or if — even in the aftermath of disaster — we are going to repeat it. As the alarm bells fade, and the din of Washington rises, as the forces of the status quo marshal their resources, we can be sure that answering this question will be a fight to the finish. But I have every hope and expectation that we can rise to this moment, that we can transcend the failures of the past, that we can once again take responsibility for our future.

In political terms, it represents a gamble that if the economy turns around, the White House and Dems will be able to argue that they cleaned up the GOP mess entirely on their own, and that the GOP was never even part of the conversation about how to make things better.

Full speech here.

Former Missouri House Speaker (R) Beats Up, Chokes Mistress During Sex

Via Wonkette

In an incident in which the perpetrator should have considered that he would become a household name on Wonkette before going through with it, former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton is facing assault charges for allegedly beating the shit out of his mistress while having sex. His ladyfriend had not uttered the “safe word,” probably because Jetton was beating her unconscious.

The Scott County court clerk confirms a felony complaint has been filed against former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton for an incident that allegedly took place Nov. 15 in Sikeston, Mo. [...]

The complaint alleges Jetton “recklessly caused serious physical injury to ——- by hitting her on the head, and choking her resulting in unconsciousness and the loss of the function of part of her body.”

UPDATE, 3:50: The affidavit attached to the probably cause statement alleges Jetton went to the home of the victim Nov. 15, where he and the victim drank wine and watched a football game. The victim claims Jetton hit her on the face and choked her, leaving bruises that the police department photographed.

The affidavit claims the assault occurred during the night and into the morning of Nov. 16. It says Jetton and the victim agreed on a “safe word” “to use as a stop word during intercourse.”

The “safe word” is hard to utter when you’re being CHOKED TO DEATH.

Rod Jetton is married divorced-ish (SEE UPDATE) with three children and attends Methodist church regularly. He is affiliated with the Republican Party. He is a Real American, the end.

UPDATE: First the boring correction: Jetton and his wife agreed to a divorce settlement earlier this year, although it’s unclear if that’s been finalized. We don’t know why they got this divorce, but probably because Rod Jetton likes to beat people unconscious during sex.

But the big news: the password was “green balloons.” As in, “You should have said green balloons,” which is a direct quote from Rod Jetton.

“Green balloons” is common street slang for “ha ha you are unconscious and cannot say this term right now.”

[Kansas City Star]

Ad Nauseum

Via Maddow

Entire "I Guess I'm a Racist" Video Here

The GOP's Newest Fake Controversy

Via Melinda Warner

This morning on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid commented that the current efforts to derail health care reform are similar to the type of obstructionism used to stop slavery over a century ago. The simple, historical analogy - that did not place blame on anyone - struck a nerve.

Unsurprisingly, prominent members of the GOP as well as conservatives from the blogosphere have jumped all over the comparison in the most blatant publicity grab we've seen from them in, well, hours.

Sen. Reid's comments were offensive to Sen. Coburn, felt irresponsible to Sen. Thune, and struck Sen. Chambliss as desperate. RNC Chairman Michael Steele said:

"Having made this disgraceful statement on the floor of the United States Senate, Mr. Reid should immediately apologize on the Senate floor to his colleagues, to his constituents, and to the American people...If he is going to stand by these statements, the Democrats must immediately reconsider his fitness to lead them."

Where was all this outrage with Rep. Michele Bachmann likened health care reform to slavery?

Right-wing blogger and Republican talking point machine Michelle Malkin tweeted:

Where to begin?

The various ideologies of the two major American political parties have changed greatly over the years. While the "Republican" party was, in fact, the party of Lincoln, it has since lost the mission of Lincoln. For it has been the Republican Party who has fought against ensuring basic rights for the LGBT community - to the extent of disgracing the memory of a murdered teen in front of his mother - the party who has continually attempted to prevent women from taking control of what happens to their bodies, the party who tries to defund programs that help Americans get back on their feet, and the party who can't see individuals behind one's ethnicity and religion.

The Republican Party has also, very recently, been guilty of using a false slavery smear tactic to attack President Obama.

It isn't the Democrats who are being desperate here - it's the Republicans.

As Steve Benen pointed out: "Republicans may not like being on the wrong side of history -- though, at this point, you'd think they'd be used to it..." Apparently not.

To support the claim that Republicans were actually the architects of civil rights, conservatives often point out that a “higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats supported the civil-rights bill.” But this ignores the “distinct split between Northern and Southern politicians” on the issue. When this is taken into account, the facts show that “in both the North and the South, Democrats supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act at a higher rate than the Republicans.”
(June 1, 1999) in the Washington Times, R.D. Davis, a member of the black leadership network Project 21 and a writer and radio talk show host in Huntsville, Ala., commented that, "History tends to unilaterally and falsely depict Republicans as racists when Southern Democrats truly deserved this title." In defense of his argument he cites the voting record of Democrats and Republicans on the 1964 Civil Rights Act. On this monumental piece of legislation, Republicans supported the bill 27-6 in the Senate (82%) and 138-34 in the House (80%) while Democrats supported the bill 46-21 in the Senate (69%) and 152-96 in the House (61%). On the surface it would indeed appear that the Republicans, and not the Democrats as commonly assumed, were the champions of civil rights in the 1960s.

However, a slightly more careful analysis of the Civil Rights Act voting record shows a distinct split between Northern and Southern politicians. Among the southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia), Senate Democrats voted 1-21 against the bill (5%) while Republicans voted 0-1 (0%). In the House, southern Democrats voted 7-87 (7%) while southern Republicans voted 0-10 (0%). Among the remaining states, Democrats voted 145-9 in favor of the bill (94%) while Republicans voted 138-24 for the bill (85%). In both the North and the South, Democrats supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act at a higher rate than the Republicans.

In Single Appearance, Cantor Can’t Come Up With A ‘Big Idea’ On Job Creation, and Denies Climate Science

Via Wonkroom

Today, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) appeared at the Economist’s World in 2010 conference (attended by ThinkProgress), where he took exception to NBC’s David Gregory characterizing Republicans as “not really a party of ideas, because they don’t want to be.” Cantor claimed that it’s actually the media’s fault that no one hears about Republican ideas, because “it’s not as sexy of a story to cover our ideas right not.” But when the Economist’s Daniel Franklin gave Cantor an opportunity to present his big idea for job creation, Cantor couldn’t come through:

FRANKLIN: What is the big idea? “Jobs” is not an idea.

CANTOR: The big idea is to get, to get, to produce an environment where we can have job creation again. And see, that’s where the Obama administration’s agenda so clearly disadvantages the Democrats in this upcoming election in eleven months and advantages us.

Watch it:

If Cantor’s goal is “to produce an environment where we can have job creation again,” shouldn’t he have supported the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e the economic stimulus), which has boosted GDP growth and lending to small businesses, while cutting taxes for workers, thereby boosting demand? And shouldn’t he be supporting further efforts in Congress to craft a jobs bill that emphasizes infrastructure spending and lending to small businesses?

Instead, Cantor has put forth a “no-cost jobs plan” that Andrew Leonard rightly called a “magic pony jobs plan.” “Cut regulations. Freeze spending. Cut taxes. No new taxes. That’s the plan,” Leonard wrote.

Later in the discussion, Cantor replied to a question about the U.S.’s role at the climate change conference in Copenhagen by saying, “I think from the larger sense the question of climate change comes down to, if there’s been any constant in human history it’s been climate change, and the real question is the severity of that and the involvement of humans in all of that.” Watch it:

Former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart responded, “I wouldn’t have predicted last year that scientific doubters would still have this strong a voice.”

"Could anything be more cowardly and contemptible?"

Palin's Pals
Sarah Palin's brand of populism is dangerous and deceptive.

By Christopher Hitchens

The Worst Health Care Issue Spot, Ever: "I Guess I'm a Racist"

Via Gawker

Any video emailed to you with the words "oh christ" as the only context with which to view it is worth a look. This did not disappoint. Via Andrew Sullivan, presenting the worst issue-ad I've seen in a long time.

This is the worst thing telling me what's racist and what isn't since Crash. It's that bad:

A few thoughts come to mind:

1. No, you're racist because you fear/hate/assume/stereotype/pigeonhole [insert various ethnicity]. Also, because you're an ignoramus.

2. Really? People think the people opposed to Obama's health care plan are racists? No. If they're opposed to Obama because they're racist, that's one thing. Those people exist! And they're probably opposed to all of his policies, not just health care. People are most likely opposed to Obama's health care plan because there's some provision in it they disagree with, or because it trends in a direction they don't feel like having our government go.

3. If you hate Obama because he's black, then yes, you're a racist. And you should flush your face into another universe. Also, the use of multiple minorities in this video is especially disingenuous, as if to imply that people from other ethnicities can't be racist, because they're from other ethnic backgrounds! Which is something only someone who hasn't spent any time around other ethnic groups would be ignorant enough to imply or stupid enough to take as true.

4. Do the people who made this understand the concept of projecting? Really: this red herring is dead and it smells like ass, or more appropriately, horseshit. Has the opposition of Obama's health care plan developed a persecution complex about being racist? There's a reason it's a complex. If you're so concerned about being a racist, you should probably do things to prevent being perceived as a racist. And the people stupid enough to perceive you as a racist for something that patently doesn't make you one are stupid, so why listen to them?

5. Forgetting the fact that the first guy looks curious like George W. Bush, or that whole "I guess I'm a racist" thing. The lede is buried, or as Andrew Sullivan puts it, the ad is most effective by sneaking the real propaganda at the end:

Conflating wider worries about the intensity of vaguely articulated loathing of Obama as racially tinged with specific worries about health insurance reform is, however, a useful piece of sophism. But really: a total government take-over of the healthcare system? For a reform where almost every newly insured person will get coverage under a private insurance company and get prescription drugs from private drug companies and get treated in non-government-run hospitals? Sigh.

Lying liars are not only liars about what racists they are, but about what they're racist about, too. People suck. Or as I emailed back: for fuck's sake.

Wonkette: All Of These People Are Racist

It was also featured on Rachel Maddow Monday night: http://is.gd/5fHlF

Improving Unemployment Numbers Make Political Case for Jobs Bill Stronger, Not Weaker

Via Nate Silver

Paul Krugman is worried that the today's relatively good employment situation report -- just 11,000 jobs were lost, and the unemployment rate (which is calculated from a different set of data) dipped nominally from 10.2 to 10.0 percent -- may deter Congressional action on a jobs bill that might push that number down further.

Perhaps Paul is right -- no one has a keener sense of the ways in which political factors have become endogenous parts of the economic equation. But the Democrats would be silly if they failed to take action on a jobs bill. The economy, needless to say, is a long ways from full employment and will continue to be so for a very long time -- a bill that reduced unemployment by, say, 1.0 percent for a period of 18 months would not encounter diminishing returns. Indeed, since most of the improvement in the numbers seems to have come because employers have stopped firing people, but have not actually begun to hire new staff in great numbers, job-creation incentives would work somewhat at the other end of the candle.

Nor, certainly, ought the employment numbers to weaken the political case for jobs bill. You can look at the politics of job creation in essentially two ways: either there is a roughly linear relationship between the unemployment numbers and the number of seats that Democrats will retain in the Congress, or there are some sort of threshold effects. If the former, then the case is not changed at all. A bill that would create 2 million new jobs and save 13 seats in the Congress will still create 2 million new jobs and save 13 seats, regardless of the starting point.

In the latter case, the outcomes are more binary: the Democrats' job creation efforts will either tend to be branded as a "success" or a "failure", and their performance at the midterms will follow accordingly. But if there is more organic momentum in the jobs market, that makes it less likely that the Democrats pass a "successful" jobs creation bill but fail to get credit for it. For example, suppose that a jobs bill reduces unemployment by 1 percent relative to the status quo. If the status quo unemployment figure were headed upward to 10.8 percent, this would only get things down to 9.8 percent -- and the Democrats' policies would probably be branded as a failure. But suppose instead that status quo unemployment is headed downward to 9.3 percent by next summer. Now the jobs bill would get things down to 8.3 percent, and they'd come out looking pretty good. With more of a wind at their backs, then, the Democrats will have the same reward but with perhaps considerably less risk.

Plus, there are the intangible benefits to pushing a jobs bill forward: Republicans will either have to help the Democrats get the jobs numbers down and give Obama a "bipartisan" victory, or they'll oppose the bill and risk looking like out-of-touch hypocrites. It's not like they'll be eager to say that the economy is actually recovering and therefore does not need a jobs bill, which would tacitly acknowledge the success of the Democrats' original stimulus. In contrast to the politics of health care, where the Democrats are damned if they do and damned if they don't, something the opposite is true on the jobs program. (Unless the White House and the Congress really screw up the strategizing -- a possibility we would be foolish to neglect.)

Meanwhile, it would help to get the Democratic base excited. If the base is weighing, say, health care reform without a public option, a decent financial regulation package, and the various stimulus efforts passed by the Congress this spring on the one hand, versus Afghanistan, Bernanke/Geithner, and inaction in areas like gay rights and climate change on the other, it could very easily be the presence or absence of a jobs bill that tips the balance in terms of enthusiasm.

On Track From Depression to Job Growth

Via Cesca

While we aren't quite feeling it yet, it's entirely possible that this month or next month will show jobs growth.


It's no easy feat to go from 700,000 job losses per month to job growth within a year. Adding the balance of the TARP funds to a jobs package might supercharge the process even more.