Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Spartan Ethic Redux, Take Two

In case you haven't encountered it yet, there's an unpleasant graphic that was emailed around from a staffperson to the Tennessee GOP chair / state senator for Gallatin, Diane Black. One Sherri Goforth was responsible for the distribution.

Nashville is Talking
has probably the choices initial responses.
I spoke with Sherri Goforth minutes ago to confirm she sent this email. She confirmed she had sent it and also said she had received a letter of reprimand from her superiors but said she will stay on the job.

When I asked her if she understood the controversial nature of the photo, Goforth would only say she felt very bad about accidentally sending it to the wrong list. When I gave her a second chance to address the controversial nature of the email, she again repeated that she only felt bad about sending it to the wrong list of people.

“I went on the wrong email and I inadvertently hit the wrong button,” Goforth told NIT. “I’m very sick about it, and it’s one of those things I can’t change or take back.”

Note the total indifference to - or perhaps celebration of - the impropriety of the image inherent in Ms. Goforth's non-apology. Note also the fault she perceives: it wasn't that she sent an offensive, racist image - it was that she sent an offensive, racist image to the wrong distribution list, delivering it to hypersensitive people without a sense of humour who obviously don't get the joke instead of the GOP in-crowd who'd think the image hilarious.

One more thing struck me reading through the noise on this incident. One of the comments at Nashville is Talking included this gem from a commenter calling itself Slimey:
First of all, this is not racism. Racism is the belief that one race is superior over another. This is plain and simple being stupid. Please people, stop calling this racism. Grow up! How many of you laugh during Blazin Saddles? Yet it’s full of racial innuendos and language. I don’t oppose the guy cause he’s black, it’s because he’s a socialist liberal.

Deconstructing for Slimey:

First off, the image. "OOH! A SPOOK! Visible only by the whites of its eyes (as opposed to the whites of the skins of the previous 43 MEN in the progression), here to rape your women / steal your stuff / take over your government." NEWSFLASH: that's what racism looks like.

Second, the "socialist liberal" bit. The US has moved quite far to the right on the political scale in global terms, so it all depends on one's position. To a Fascist, everything looks Socialist.

H/T Shakesville, BBWW et al.

Monday, June 15, 2009


... with the Moussawi voting bloc in Iran, against what the press that's interested in reporting on the election is calling a coup by Ahmadinejad in the elections there.

Pity about the US MSM. Today's leading story from TBO, for comparison, is here. I'm all for local news as a rule - but leading with a local story today is just irresponsible.

MB at BBWW has links to an interesting theory of the events here: well worth reading.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On Right-Wing Violence

Yet another shooting spree makes the news: this time in DC, at the Holocaust Museum. It should surprise no-one that the suspected shooter is identified as someone who thinks the Holocaust was a good thing.

and Washington Monthly both have posts on this latest event. In the latter, Steve Benen states:
There are key differences between violent right-wing radicals and mainstream Americans who happen to be conservative.

I have to take issue with his statement. The mainstream of US conservatism may not be ready to run out and create the kind of mayhem reported of late, but the tone of the rhetoric that has predominated conservative spheres of late has at least been of apologist tones for such incidents if not overtly supportive of such attacks. There has been no-one in the group Benen presumes to exist who has denounced the violence in any believable fashion, called for an end to such assaults on such targets or taken any truly meaningful action to end the cycle. The closest we have heard to date is the sort of "horrifically regrettable necessity" language used by the far right to subliminally defend a "by any means necessary" approach to achieving their goals.

If "mainstream Americans who happen to be conservative" expect to maintain any respectability in the wake of the Tiller murder and today, they need to be more obvious in their distancing themselves - in deed as well as in speech - from the advocates of the recent violence. Without such steps, the acquiescing silence of such individuals will only reinforce the fringe's impression that their actions are condoned, and will encourage more such lunatics to indulge in similar violent episodes.

The Inmates Take Charge Of The Asylum

Musing on this post by Mustang Bobby over at Bark Bark Woof Woof brought me to this realisation.

It's becoming more apparent to me that today's GOP as an organisation is little more than a collection of extreme rightwing crazies with a veneer of passable politics over the mess. It's a bit like finding the "priceless antique table" you bought is really a paper-thin layer of mahogany glued over termite-ridden pine planks.

We all thought that ShrubCo was an aberration, a convenient ignoramus to cover the party machinery underneath. But the more recent actions indicate that the Bush presidency may have been more symptomatic than was previously apparent. The flurry of recent stories of recent GOP stupidity is far more telling than the worst of Shrub's candid comments - it spotlights a wilfully ignorant, cantankerous, consciously obstructive organisation totally unwilling to examine even its own counterproductive methods in its scramble back up to the top. I'm wondering whether the more recent efforts, more reminiscent of scorched-earth combat tactics than any real attempt at governance, is the work of a group with no interest in the national welfare at all or simply that of a group too collectively stupid to care.

No matter what the cause for the misbehaviour of the party, however, it is clear that any attempt to gloss over this bad behaviour doesn't adhere all that well. McCain was persuaded to select perhaps the least competent candidate for running mate not a year ago. The RNC chair, Steele, even with his gaffes presents a more articulate, informed image than the voices drowning him out. And even the voices of relative sanity within the GOP (Powell et al) are sidelined by the noisiest of the loons.

Fifteen years ago, Gingrich and his Congressional allies presented at least an intelligent front to the populace behind which to hatch their schemes. The cracks through to the rotten substance beneath were beginning, but far more difficult to penetrate. Today the equation is nearly reversed: the damage below the surface is readily apparent and popping up in ever more debates, and the attempts to find some respectable platform or spokesperson to make the nutsery seem rational are failing on an increasingly spectacular scale.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Shorter Richard Posner

If Obama moves the Democrats further to the Left, then Republicans can return to Conservatism and stop playing Militant-Xtian-Fascists.

H/T Andrew Sullivan.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Quote of the Day

Gee, I wonder what the (overwhelmingly Republican) surviving GM dealerships think about this?

From the comments on Steve Benen's delicious takedown of the wingnuts' calls to boycott General Motors.

Honourable mentions:
They're failures themselves, and failure is the only outcome they know how to produce.[1]

New Republican motto: If it's working, stop it![2]

1 - also from the boycott article comments
2 - from comments on Steve's shrewd take on the Republican insistence that, since the economy isn't collapsing as fast as it used to, things are going well enough to call off the recovery.

Perspective Fail

Heard this morning on Bay News 9 (and paraphrased here because I don't TiVo):
dealerships may have a reprieve.

Host Erica Riggins describing the lawsuit to halt the Chrysler-Fiat deal as apparently good for Bay Area dealerships. The lawsuit is jeopardising the agreement between Chrysler and Fiat which was put together to save what's left of the weakest of the Big Three's business in the US: pension funds are ticked that they're not getting what they perceive as their fair shake and want the entire agreement renegotiated. Fiat has said they'll bow out by the end of this week if the agreement cannot be finalised, and the current push to the Supreme Court could push settling the debate past that window. Apparently to BN9 losing the entirety of Chrysler to legal wrangling is a good thing, though, since it means local Chrysler dealerships will remain open (at least for a couple more weeks).
It's a lot of money, but it's in line with private summer camps.

A summer camp counselor for Hillsborough County describing the county's new (far higher) tuition rates for summer camp. Someone really needs to teach this genius the difference between public service and private luxury.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Democrat Pagan Party*

I suppose after years of the radical Left calling out the Republicans as God's Own Party - a moniker they have earned after decades of pandering to the Religious Right - it was inevitable. Former speaker Gingrich has branded any but God-fearing Republicans enemies of the United Christian States.

The headline for this post is not Gingrich's own. But the sentiment certainly is.

The sounds coming from the GOP - particularly the segment of the GOP still appealing to the XtianFundie set - are not new. We heard them in every philosophical debate that came to blows: the Christianity/Judaism split, the Catholic/Orthodox split, the Russian Orthodox on watching the fall of first Constantinople and then Kiev, the Cathars, the Papal Schism, the Reformation,... the list goes on. One of the reasons the Enlightenment was so powerful was that it ended the wars of the Reformation with the insistence that individual conscience was a private matter not worth warring over. It may not have stopped the Irish quite so quickly, but it certainly drowned the flames of religious conflict in Europe rather thoroughly.

Part of the Right's tactical playbook is Othering the opposition. If they can make otherwise reasonable policy proposals appear to be put forward by forces unlike the Good Americans they claim to represent, those proposals can be more easily dismissed. National health care? It's a wishy-washy quiche-eating European thing, not something a good red-blooded American would want. Environmental protection policies? They're a scam foisted on us by tree-huggers and foreign agents all out to destroy the US economy. Civil rights? They're a means for illegal immigrants and social deviants to overthrow American society. Every issue the Right sees comes complete in their eyes with an Other foisting it on the US.

Now Gingrich has given voice to a position the Xtian Right put forward some months back: Liberalism is not only UnAmerican, but UnChristian as well. The "Rediscovering God in America" tour is the means to the message.
I am not a citizen of the world. I am a citizen of the United States because only in the United States does citizenship start with our creator. [...] I think this is one of the most critical moments in American history. We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism.

The only thing that saves Gingrich's bloviating from outright insanity is that, for many of the XtianFundie sects, only their particular flavor of Xtianity is "true," which conveniently disavows all of the mainstream Christian churches and effectively creates the impression of oppressed minority. But in holding that, these same sects relinquish any claim to spiritual community with the rest, and cannot claim "oppression of Christians" when those other denominations face adversity. Those not admitted by the Xtians in good times cannot be counted as in the fold in bad times.

Calling up paganism, however, as the demon for the new age, is simply preposterous. Paganism may be more visible today than fifty years ago, but most pagans are peaceful, live-and-let-live types disinterested in converting the planet, and resisting only the missionary zeal of the Xtians and not Xtianity itself. An organised pagan opposition to the other major faiths on the planet is a fantasy.

On the other hand, for a political philosophy that demands an organised intentional opponent, GOP-Xtianity is running out of forces to fight. Catholicism as an evil on a Protestant Earth went out the door ages ago, and Kennedy's election only nailed that coffin shut. The Eastern faiths - Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and the others - never presented much threat, as the early Asian American communities kept to themselves, and newer immigrants are as likely to be Christian as anything else. Shinto got spanked in World War II. Opposition to Judaism became nearly unspeakable after Nazi Germany. And Islam, long a favourite whipping boy of Christianity, has proved a poor choice of evils, as the resistance to US policies abroad have grown due to the prior [mal]administration's denunciation of Islam in the same breath as terrorism (as if the two were interchangeable), and as domestic flavours of Islam have proven to be far more mild-mannered than is necessary to brand them the Ultimate Evil. Even the no-faith-at-all Socialist label is failing to stick to the GOP's opponents as the ideals of a moderately socialist state become less unacceptable in the current economic climate.

So as the Xtian-Fundie subset of RightWingnuttia sets its sights on long-dead Druids or some other Great New Satan, the language it uses to incite the following shows just how its base has shrunk and how outdated its propaganda has become.

* H/T ThinkProgress and Washington Monthly, and to WM commenter Norwood Woman for the title.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

General Motors Car(nage)

The news from Detroit gets more confusing every day.

General Motors, now in bankruptcy and restructuring, seems to be following the least sensible strategy for its orphaned components.

First in line is Saab. Without Swedish assistance, the company looks to end its automaking days and concentrate on other revenue streams. Say g'bye to the 9-3 - not that the last few versions, little more than Opel Vectras in party frocks, were all that marvelous.

Then there's Hummer. Rumour has it a Chinese business is buying the uber-SUV maker.

Next comes Opel. A joint Canadian-Russian consortium is buying out the European arm of the company.

One would think that the same group that's buying Opel would get a shot at Saturn, since the latest models indicate that Saturn is becoming to the US market what Vauxhall has evolved into for the UK: a domestic rebranding of the Opel product line. The Aura and Astra both are basically Opel product, and the indications pre-restructuring were that Saturn would essentially be "Opel US" in the near future. Instead, however, GM is selling Saturn to Penske. How Penske expects to continue new model development without input from Magna and Sberbank - the new Opel owners - one cannot guess.

I can well understand GM shedding brands that have either lost their natural market (Oldsmobile, for instance), or which are finally admitting death-by-neglect (Pontiac). And somebody had to take on Hummer, which after the last gas-price spike is probably one of GM's least attractive properties either for GM itself or for any entity willing to take it off GM's hands. But the whole fragmentation of the one truly viable carmaking segment of the enterprise - Opel/Vauxhall/Saturn - just doesn't make sense to the casual observer, unless the goal is to punish those subdivisions for being better at making money than Chevrolet, Pontiac and Buick.

Whatever comes of restructuring, the survival of GM and the makes it's spinning off should at least be interesting to watch.

Klein on Healthcare

Ezra Klein brings us this interesting thought on the costs of (private) healthcare in the US:

The mechanism here is simple enough. As the report says, "Since health insurance premiums are growing more rapidly than total compensation in percentage terms, an increasing share of total compensation that a worker receives goes to cover health insurance premiums."

But workers don't see it that way. That slumping line isn't normally called wages-minus-health-premiums. It's called wages. And most workers think stagnant wages mean their employer is paying them less. They don't know that the main reason for stagnant wages is that their wage increases are going to pay for their health insurance premiums. If they did -- if they realized that compensation is pretty much a zero-sum endeavor and their employers don't so much buy them health insurance as garnish their wages to pay for their health insurance -- you'd probably see a lot more general anger at rising health care costs.

The graph is illuminating in that very few studies of the last twenty years or so have factored in the costs of employer-sponsored health insurance in the compensation totals in this way: too many have focused on the direct wage component. By incorporating the expenditure on healthcare in the total compensation calculation, the study highlights both how US payrolls are at once over- and under- valued: overvalued in that total compensation has increased substantially over the observed period which makes a good case for the expense of the US worker, undervalued in that so much of the compensation is being consumed by the healthcare system.

I for one doubt strongly that anyone now making $50,000 thinks that his/her healthcare should cost $15,000 of that annually, nor would anyone making $35,000 be sanguine knowing roughly half again his/her salary goes toward healthcare, yet this is (roughly) the cost of those programmes camouflaged by the employer's contribution to the system. If the analysis is at all accurate then the trend needs to be stopped before healthcare costs equal the wage component of the compensation pie.

This is an arithmetic that merits far greater attention - particularly as the healthcare debate continues in the Capital.

H/T Andrew Sullivan.

Gotta Love Those Activist Judges

South Carolina's state supreme court is holding Gov. Sanford's feet to the fire and making him take the stimulus funds he swore he would refuse.
The state’s top court ruled unanimously Thursday that Gov. Mark Sanford must apply for the disputed $700 million in federal stimulus money.

The S.C. Supreme Court also took the rare step of issuing a writ of mandamus, which orders the governor to apply for the money.

Chief Justice Jean Toal and three of the four other justices — Donald Beatty, John Kittredge and John Waller — said a state law passed last month requires Sanford to apply for the money and doesn’t conflict with the federal law providing the stimulus funds.

“Under the constitution and laws of this State, the General Assembly is the sole entity with the power to appropriate funds, including federal funds,” the four justices wrote. “Therefore, the General Assembly has the authority to mandate that the Governor apply for federal funds which it has appropriated.”

In a separate concurring opinion, Justice Costa Pleicones said state lawmakers complied with an amendment of the federal law — proposed by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn in response to Sanford’s refusal to accept the money — by adopting a concurrent resolution accepting the funds and passing a law designating how the money will be spent.

I do not understand how Sanford can sleep at night refusing dollars targeted for education, when his own state's system is in such disrepair according even to students like Casey Edwards (a plaintiff in the recent case) that it merited a documentary on the terrible conditions.

And since this is a South Carolina court, and presumably the product of GOP appointments, it'll be interesting to see how the RWNM tries to spin the decision.

H/T ThinkProgress - who have a similarly scathing take.

Quiet Music for a Sleepy Saturday

Quote of Two Days Ago The Day

"Those people are different."

- a nurse in a Fresno hospital telling a patient why other patients' visitors were allowed where she was but her (same sex) partner was not.

Pam Spaulding has the horror story over at Pandagon. Well worth reading.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Yes, this is yet another Cunarder I've boarded in my time.

The QE2 is retired now, and lying in Dubai as a hotel and attraction similar to the Queen Mary. The Age posted an article last fall when she arrived. The two photos are of her arrival in Dubai, and sitting a few months later in port minus her orange "CUNARD" titles below her bridge.

No word yet from the press on how her new life is going so far; however, other stories from Dubai haven't been particularly rosy. Nakheel, her new owners, are apparently adamant that the ship will be retained and converted (the Times has an interesting PDF of the proposed alterations), but so far progress appears minimal.

Best wishes to a grand old lady.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Isn't It Too Cold For That?

Dateline Augusta, Maine.

A topless coffee shop, the Grand View (I'm still chuckling over that) in Vassalboro (just outside Augusta, the state capital) burned on the night of 2 June.

The daring business was unpopular with its neighbors, but apparently did a brisk business with clientele from the capital and surrounding communities. It was not insured.

In today's Kennebec Journal is a report that the investigation has confirmed that the fire was deliberately set. It also highlights some very interesting timing:
The fire came just four-and-a-half hours after [Grand View owner Donald] Crabtree had finished a meeting Tuesday night with the Vassalboro Planning Board.

Crabtree outlined proposals to extend the shop's hours of operations to 1 a.m., expand the parking lot for employees and have its wait staff dancing to the music of a disc jockey. Crabtree had wanted to expand the business into a strip club, but he had scaled back those plans Tuesday night to avoid needing a new permit.

The timing of the fire has left Crabtree with troubling questions.

"What gets me is, why now? Why not when we opened? Why is the time now? I don't know," Crabtree said.

I'm at once surprised that straight-laced Maine would allow such a business anywhere (with the possible exception of Old Orchard Beach) and disturbed that anyone would think that burning down a business would solve the perceived problem.

And I'm stunned that anywhere in Maine is temperate enough for topless anything.

H/T Petulant at Shakesville.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Labour Intensive

MSNBC's Morning Joe had quite the moment on camera today with Andrew Sorkin's challenge: "Name a successful unionized company. Think. You're going to go to [commercial] break before you come up with one. And that's the problem." Naturally, the panel couldn't come up with one. 'Cuz dem yoonyuns are wot's wrong wif Ahmurrcan bidness these days - it just goes without saying, right?

Maybe not.

Steve Benen and Jamison Foser took turns shredding their arguments, each with a particularly sharp cut to deliver:

Now, my first response was to wonder whether the folks behind the cameras, filming the media personalities, are union members. And the employees who installed and operate the on-set lights. And the folks who built the "Morning Joe" set.

But perhaps those unions don't count, since Brzezinski and others are specifically interested in unionized companies that "work" and are "successful."

GE is one of the world's largest companies; in 2006, its revenues were greater than the gross domestic products of 80 percent of UN nations. The company made more than $18 billion in 2008 -- again, billion with a b, and again, those are profits, not revenue. All that despite (or, perhaps, because of) the fact that 13 different unions represent GE workers.

Oh, and GE owns NBC-Universal, which owns MSNBC, which pays Joe Scarborough a handsome salary (and the unionized workers who help get his show on the air considerably less.)

Foser goes on, in addition, to point out a nasty little labor dispute between the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA and NBC as a possible reason for the morning crew's absentmindedness. Apparently the union and the network have been trying since September to negotiate renewal of a contract that expired two months ago, apparently without progress, and the union's become unhappy enough with NBC's efforts to start picketing.

I do hope that Scarborough isn't expecting his mic, or lighting, or any other of a thousand union-labor-supplied production items to work all that well on tomorrow's show.

On Why We Need To Fund Education, Part Two

ThinkProgress has this little gem up for consideration:
Yesterday on the House floor, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) launched into a nonsensical tirade against legislation aimed at addressing global warming by reducing carbon emissions. Akin demonstrated his lack of understanding of climate issues by erroneously celebrating the seasonal change from winter to spring as “good climate change” and confused “weather” with “climate.” He dismissed the threat of global warming as a “comedy” and wondered who would “want to put politicians in charge of the weather anyways.”

Who, indeed, if they know this much little about the subject.

Owning the Hatred

There are a lot of discussions out there about Scott Roeder, the man held in the murder of Dr. Tiller. Hilzoy, Friedersdorf, Balkin, MB and others bring up many good points about how to deal with a non-Muslim, domestic, Caucasian terrorist. Whether we deal with this incident within the sphere of the GWoT or as a matter of conventional criminal proceedings has become, thanks to the broad definitions applied to the former approach, a valid question.

My primary concern is less how to handle Roeder than how to handle those with whom he associated.

There is considerable evidence that Roeder was affiliated with at least one fairly militant fringe group with anti-choice sympathies (among other Conservatist positions). There is also some evidence that these groups did not entirely share Roeder's perspective, and may well have been less extreme as a whole. While they clearly were not active participants in Sunday's tragedy, they are clearly implicated as influences on Roeder's state of mind if not his precise actions.

Assuming the GWoT methodologies are appropriate, these groups with whom Roeder associated are implicated as condoning or supporting terrorism on US soil. They provided him with inflammatory literature, support - however conditional - for his views, and a forum for his extremism.

Naturally, the less-unhinged among the groups will instantly disavow Roeder and the worst of the militancy of their own group as outside the main of their organisations. That does not excuse them for failing to rein in Roeder and the others, failing to report Roeder to the authorities, or any of a hundred other steps they could have taken to prevent Tiller's murder. And those claims are already refuted by the leadership of larger organisations such as Operation Rescue - who, while denouncing the killing itself, are actively advocating nearly anything short of that to shut down clinics like the one where Dr. Tiller practised.

To those of us for whom the GWoT is an abomination of illegal, inhuman sadism, our chief difficulties have always been at once the Othering of the assailants and the perceived immediacy of the threat. Prior to September 11, 2001 there was only one successful attack by Muslim terrorists on US soil, and there have been none since, so regardless for the reasoning for such the potential of that threat is substantially reduced. Conversely, attacks on one segment of the US population by another, or on one organisation by members of another, are multiple: post-Katrina New Orleans is a prime example - and so is the murder of a physician in a church on a Sunday during worship. Consider that in each of the cases the community of victims goes far beyond the individuals directly impacted: the entire African American community of Louisiana has been effectively traumatised by the experience of New Orleans, and Dr. Tiller's entire parish was present to witness his killing and are equally affected. And in the cases of domestic activity in these cases, it is nearly impossible to Other the assailants: they look like Middle America, and the only thing differentiating them from the rest of the populace is their willingness - even eagerness - to use violence to achieve their ends.

Illustrating how the GWoT has been misused against innocent US citizens has been ineffective to date: the rage to vengeance of the early Noughties swept aside any arguments against the Great Misadventure. But these new events are hitting far closer to home: the mass killing of "liberals" at a Unitarian church, and now the "execution" of a physician at his church during Sunday services are beginning to resonate as beyond defensible to the point that GWoT-scale response may be justified.

This is how the scope of the GWoT broadens, and why it is dangerous to declare war on an intangible. I am not fond of the anti-choice movement in the least; but the fact that we can lump the violent fringe of the anti-choice community in the same "terrorist" bundle with the aparently intended targets of the GWoT shows just how dangerous the GWoT is both in concept and in execution. Tiller's murderer deserves the most thorough investigation, the most able prosecution - but also the most able defense; and the organisations that aided and abetted the party responsible for Tiller's death deserve careful scrutiny and sharp criticism, but no more than that if we even pretend to cherish the freedom of speech and assembly outlined in the Constitution. On the other hand, without a clearer illustration of just how excessive the GWoT is by definition, it may be instructive for those who advocate it to experience its application closer to home.

Of course there are threats to the peace and security of the US, both at home and abroad: these are the reasons we have law enforcement, intelligence agencies, alliances and treaties, Interpol and a host of other resources available to us. Those resources ought to be exhausted first. Failing to do so leaves us with the very real possibility that any one of us could be branded with the "threat to the Republic" language the GWoT employs and treated the same as GWoT detainees now in custody. We're supposed to be better than that.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Governator Develops Davisemia

In 2003, when California governor Gray Davis was ousted in the now-infamous recall, the chief argument for his ouster was his inability to manage energy pricing and availability which led to massive state budget deficits. Arnold Schwarzenegger, campaigning on a vague anti-tax platform, won the largest share of the votes for Davis' replacement.

The initial drive for the recall was the horrendous California state budget forecast Davis published in 2002, following years of energy fluctuations nearly bankrupting the state.
On December 18, 2002, just over a month after being reelected, Davis announced that California would face a record budget deficit possibly as high as $35 billion, a forecast $13.7 billion higher than one a month earlier. The number was finally estimated to be $38.2 billion, more than all 49 other states' deficits combined. Already suffering from low approval ratings, Davis's numbers hit historic lows in April 2003 with 24% approval and 65% disapproval according to the California Field Poll. Davis was almost universally disliked by both Republicans and Democrats in the state and a recall push was high. - Wikipedia

We now know that much of the energy crisis of 2000-02 that afflicted California was the direct result of Enron and other providers abusing the quasi-deregulated energy market in California, and that Davis was their sucker in Sacramento. That knowledge, however, came too late to offset the appearance of mismanagement, and following an ugly campaign in 2002 it made Davis an all-too-vulnerable target for the anti-tax GOP machinery.

Six years later, Davis' replacement is learning the hard way that budget numbers like Davis' aren't necessarily the consequence of poor management:
In a special election on May 19, voters rejected a batch of measures on increasing taxes, borrowing funds and reapportioning state money that were designed to close a multibillion-dollar budget gap. The cuts Mr. Schwarzenegger has proposed to make up the difference, if enacted by the Legislature, would turn California into a place that in some ways would be unrecognizable in modern America: poor children would have no health insurance, prisoners would be released by the thousands and state parks would be closed.


Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, is threatening to eliminate the Healthy Family Program, the state’s health insurance program that covers over 900,000 children and is financed with state and federal money, as well as the state’s main welfare program, known as Cal-Works, which provides temporary financial assistance to poor families and a caregiver for the severely disabled.

The $1 billion in cuts to programs for the poor would be met with $680 million in new cuts to education and a 5 percent salary reduction for state employees, many of whom are already enduring furloughs.

These proposals, as well as those that would make cuts to state parks, the prison system and other state agencies, are winding their way through Sacramento now, where they will be voted on by committees and eventually the full Legislature.

Some of the proposed cuts are clearly saber rattling on the governor’s part, but there is a nervous acceptance among lawmakers, advocates for the poor and outside budget experts that the state is out of money and time.


The Democratic-controlled Legislature has been uncharacteristically silent on most of the cuts, most likely because lawmakers know that tax increases are not politically palatable, that huge cuts in some form are in the offing no matter what, and that any program they wish to spare will quite likely have advocates among their ranks.

California recovered from the energy market shenanigans and the dot-bomb only to be hit by the financial crisis and skyrocketing foreclosure rates. The situation has become bad enough that voters there are revisiting Proposition 13, the provision passed three decades ago that locks property tax rates in at purchase and prohibits increases.

So less than six years after ascending over the corpse of Davis's career, Schwarzenegger is facing the same dire budget figures that tipped the scales against his predecessor.

And Now For Something Completely Different...

I never would have thought of doing this to Julie Andrews.

H/T Andrew Sullivan.

Borrow And Spend Hangover

The New York Times has it right with this one: depressed asset values and reduced income are hitting domestic consumption hard in a trend that may be far more than just tightening our belts for the short term. - particularly when it comes to transportation. The graph (click to embiggen) shows the drastic drop in new car volumes and the median age of vehicles on the road over the last decade.
Baby boomers, the biggest group in the car market, are beginning to enter retirement, a stage of life when people typically buy fewer cars. Home values are down sharply, making consumers feel less wealthy, and also cutting off a handy source of money from home-equity loans for new cars.


Lifestyles have changed, too. As many people move back to cities from suburbs, they are swapping three-car garages for a single parking space. Public transit use is up.


Donald Grimes, an economist at the University of Michigan, is forecasting the lowest sales for the driving-age population this year since 1970.

From 1970 to 2001, there were 0.76 vehicles sold per driver in the United States. Now that figure has dropped to 0.4 vehicles per driver, and he does not see much of a rebound in coming years.

Coming just hours before the GM bankruptcy announcement, and hot on the heels of the Chrysler-Fiat agreement, this analysis is obviously worrying. What makes it worse is that we're looking at the last major domestic industry still producing tangible product for consumption. Were textiles and housewares still made in the US there might be a little more hope of producing our way out of the current mess; as it is, the best hope we may have had is falling flat because it has depended on the availability of capital - capital now denied the economy through a combination of consumer retrenchment and financial institution overcaution.

Quote of the Day

[T]he fact that lives are at stake is not enough to justify giving up on democracy. And be clear: when you think that when you lose out in a political debate in which lives are at stake, that makes it OK to kill people to get your way, you have given up on democracy.

Hilzoy, taking on the anti-choice voices that claim killing doctors is justified because it saves [the] lives [of all the aborted foetuses].

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

"Our Most Effective Rhetoric And Actions"

That's what Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, is looking to preserve in the wake of the Tiller murder: the ability to "peacefully protest" abortion providers. Terry fears that, following Dr. Tiller's shooting in his Church yesterday that the authorities will seek to curtail anti-abortion protest efforts.

Hilzoy looks into those so-called peaceful protests. She found a chilling example in a Rolling Stone review of (also from Operation Rescue) Troy Newman's campaign against Dr. Tiller - which targeted not only the MD but his entire staff and any service enterprise even loosely associated with the clinic. This includes mass protests at homes, shopping and entertainment venues, mass mailings to entire neighborhoods, mailings and protests at spouses' places of employment, harassment of businesses that clinic staff frequented, and other reprehensible tactics.

From Rolling Stone:
Operation Rescue's smear campaign against [clinic administrative assistant Sara] Phares is part of a new strategy to shut down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting. Banned by law from blockading clinics as it did in its early days, Operation Rescue has taken its offensive to the front lawns and mailboxes of clinic workers. In Wichita, members of the group rummage through employees' garbage in search of incriminating information. They tail them around town as they run errands. They picket clinic staffers at restaurants while they're inside having dinner and castigate them while they're standing in line at Starbucks. Operation Rescue is also visiting companies that do business with the clinic and threatening them with a boycott if they don't sever their ties with the facility. This is America's new abortion war, and the objective, in military terms, is to cut off the supply lines to abortion clinics and demoralize their troops.

Troy Newman, the head of Operation Rescue, calls it the Year of Rebuke -- and if it works in Wichita, he plans to unleash the campaign of intimidation on abortion clinics all across the country. "I want these employees to realize that their lives have changed," he says. "As long as they're embedded in the abortion industry receiving blood money, they can't live a normal life. They just can't."

If you read the whole story, you can find out how Newman threatened the Tillers' dry cleaner and a cab company that sometimes took patients to and from the clinic:
Newman then tells him, in the most courteous tone imaginable, that he might see a few people outside the company holding signs. Just to let everybody know what he's participating in. "It's not personal," Newman says gently.

They also go through employees' trash, and offer rewards for incriminating information. They stop children on sidewalks and tell them their neighbors kill little babies.

The point made is very clear: organisations like Operation Rescue employ the sort of aggressive, intimidating tactics that their opponents are (to put it mildly) reluctant to use against them. Those methods are met with charges "religious discrimination," "harassment," "assault" and other inflammatory descriptors by the anti-choice league when used against them. Yet somehow they are "legitimate, peaceful protest" methods when used by the anti-choice groups to intimidate and harass anyone working for, or doing business with, an abortion provider.

If anyone thinks this is acceptable, imagine taking these tactics and applying them to the treatment of, say, a religious minority or ethnic group. Suddenly the offensiveness of these activities becomes more apparent. And once the offensiveness of the methods is made apparent, it becomes clear that there is no justification for them. The claims of the anti-choice groups that they are saving lives ring hollow when it becomes clear how many lives they are destroying in the process.

H/T Bark Bark Woof Woof.