Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why Obama Admin. must cut US media giants down to size

With rare exceptions, the US network news channels tell their viewers next to NOTHING about the outside world except if something cataclysmic happens.

If you live in the US, turn on the TV. Witness something unusual. At this moment, the mainstream US media -- even CNN -- is giving Americans a rare glimpse of life in the outside world. It's reporting on the terror attacks in Mumbai.

Except for a day like today, for the rest of the year, Americans live in a sealed bubble-world.

Tragically, the US media can't even do its job right on the home front. Greenwald Bogged Wednesday: "a major reason why the Bush administration was able to break numerous laws in general, and subject detainees to illegal torture specifically, is because the media immediately mimicked the Orwellian methods adopted by the administration to speak about and obfuscate these matters. "

Unless Obama takes on the media giants, cutting them down to size, nothing substantial will really have changed for the better in the US by the time his term is done. If they don't change, neither America nor the world will be safe.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Auto excutives put safety first

The heads of companies that obstructed laws mandating air bags, seat belts, and other car safety features have arrived in DC to ask the federal government to bail out their companies.

It seems each of the three automaker executives flew to the DC meeting from Detroit by his own private jet. Why? CNN reports:
When contacted by CNN, the three auto companies defended the CEOs' travel as standard procedure.

Like many other major corporations, all three have policies requiring their CEOs to travel in private jets for safety reasons.
Safety? Since when were private jets safer than commercial jets? What a load of BS.

Does Senate vote on Leiberman portend that the Obama Administration won't be real change?

Greenwald blogs on the vote:
Senate Democrats believe it's important to reward someone with a powerful Chairmanship who has been a vehement supporter of George Bush, the war in Iraq, the full panoply of anti-constitutional abuses, and an amplifier of the most toxic right-wing toxic points. At the same time, they consider it a good thing to scorn their supporters on what they consider to be "the Left."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fannie and Freddie not to blame for housing bubble

Krugman calls the Republican sponsored myth that the financial crisis was due to Fannie and Freddie Mac "utterly false." He notes what has been clear for some time:
Fannie/Freddie did some bad things, and did, it turns out, get to some extent into subprime. But thanks to the accounting scandals, they were actually withdrawing from the market during the height of the housing bubble — the vast majority of the loans now going bad came from the private sector.

Yet it’s now clear that the phony account of the crisis — that it’s all due to Fannie, Freddie, and nasty liberals forcing poor Angelo Mozilo to make loans to Those People — is setting in as Republican orthodoxy, part of what you have to believe to be a respectable member of the party.

To what extent will the US news media alow this patently false account of the crisis to be disseminated unchallenged, as just "the other side's" view of the matter?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Changing the Democratic Party

Greenwald blogs that the Obama revolution must become a revolution in the Democratic Party -- or nothing will change:

The Democrats of 2002 and 2007 are the same Democrats of today. It was inevitable that, sooner or later, they would force everyone to remember that. It looks like they're going to do it sooner, and in some perverse way, they deserve thanks for that.

It can't be emphasized enough that the election last week was but the first step to changing things meaningfully. None of that is likely to matter much unless as much energy and effort is now devoted to changing the Democratic Party as was just expended to remove the right-wing from power.

Public pressure must be brought to bear on the Democrats to change the way they govern. I find Greenwald's argument compelling.

Economist: US-Mexico border wall

The Economist explains that there are various practical drawbacks to building a Wall along the US - Mexico border are evident once you examine the situation:

The fence is undoubtedly changing patterns of illegal immigration. But is it staunching the flow? The Border Patrol points to the fact that they are catching fewer people. Yet this is a very imperfect measure, rather like estimating the number of fish in the sea from those hauled up in fishermen’s nets. The figures do not count those who make it, and they double-count people who keep trying. Remittances to Mexico (see chart above) provide a better picture. These were rising until recently, largely because immigrants began to send more money through formal channels. Now they are falling, but not by much.

For more than ten years, Wayne Cornelius of the University of California at San Diego has been surveying people in high-emigration areas of Mexico. He finds that fewer than half of all would-be illegal immigrants are apprehended on any given trip, and virtually all get through eventually. Mexicans keep trying even though they know the border has become more dangerous. In an unpublished study, Mr Cornelius reports that more than 30% of Oaxacans who plan to steal across the border know somebody who has died trying.

There is a more obvious reason for the recent slowdown in illegal immigration. Construction and landscaping jobs, a common source of employment for Latino immigrants both legal and illegal, have disappeared as the housing market has collapsed. In the past year the Hispanic unemployment rate has risen from 5.4% to 8.0%. Among Hispanics aged 16 to 19 the rate is 22.8%. This deters would-be workers from crossing the border and curtails the ability of people already in America to pay for their relatives to make the trip.

Even if tougher border enforcement has slowed the movement of people, this is not quite the good news it seems. Until recently Mexicans crossed back and forth across the border as work and family demanded. Many years ago Mr Walker’s ranch employed a couple of “wetbacks” (the term was not so derogatory as it is today) who would work half a year each, returning to their families in the off-season.

These days, says Ms Rubio-Goldsmith, migration is not circular but linear. If people come they tend to stay, because the cost and difficulty of crossing the border have increased so steeply. They are more likely to bring their families: in the Sonoran desert, says Mr Johnston, about a quarter of the immigrants are women and children. As immigrants put down deep roots in America, villages in Oaxaca that once lacked young men are becoming utterly depopulated. The border fence may be deterring illegal immigration, but it is not reducing the number of illegal immigrants. It is also annoying people.

Paradoxically, the wall is encouraging Mexicans to settle down in the US, as opposed to making trips back and forth on a casual basis.
Texans hate the wall, Arizonian residents -- many of whom are themselves new to the region -- tend to favor it:

Texans’ sanguine attitude is also a matter of demography. When the last census was taken, in 2000, Arizona, California and Texas were all between one-quarter and one-third Hispanic. But their border regions look utterly different. Arizona, which is currently America’s fastest-growing state, has experienced a wave of white immigrants—the Midwestern “snowbirds”—who have little experience of Latino culture. Its four border counties were 34% Hispanic in 2000. California’s two border counties, which are thick with retirees and military families, were just 28% Hispanic. Texas’s border counties, by contrast, were 85% Hispanic.

Margaret Dorsey, an anthropologist from the University of Pennsylvania who studies Texas’s Lower Rio Grande Valley, says many local families can trace their roots to the mid-18th-century Spanish land-grant programme. Border Texans often speak fluent Spanish and have family and friends on the other side of the river. Students commute from Mexico to the university in El Paso, crossing in a special line that allows them to make it to class on time. They even pay instate tuition rates.

Many of the people who favor the wall are relatively new to the region. It is probably the case that these US migrants to Arizona have fewer historic family connections to the Southwest of the United States than the Mexicans they want to keep out.

Arizonians aren't completely happy either, however, because the wall is killing retail sales along the border:

Roughly three-quarters of people who cross legally from Mexico into Arizona do so in order to shop. As a result, streets close to the fence have become emporiums for things that are more expensive or harder to come by on the other side. That means handbags and children’s clothes on the American side, pharmaceuticals and beer on the Mexican side. . . . American towns depend a lot more on Mexican shoppers than the other way around.

Jaime Fontes, the city manager of Nogales, Arizona, reckons Mexican visitors account for roughly 65% of all retail sales in his city. As border officers become more finicky about documents and more zealous in searching vehicles, he worries trade will suffer. Local businessmen say it already has. Chang Lee, who runs a clothes shop just north of the border, explains in fluent Spanglish that Mexicans are spending “too mucho time” waiting to cross, which leaves too little time for shopping. They come running into his shop, clutching fistfuls of bills and begging him to sell them something before they have to return. He estimates that trade has fallen 20-30% in the past year.

In Douglas, the number of vehicle passengers crossing during the first half of this year averaged 321,000 a month—down from 708,000 a month in the first half of 2002. There are more pedestrians, but pedestrians do not buy as much. Manufacturing firms that have set up maquilas in Mexico are suffering too. Two years ago a group of economists calculated that delays at the Tijuana border were costing San Diego County and Baja California more than $4 billion each year.

The wall going up today won't stop the flow of Mexicans across the border, though it might encourage them to stay for good. It seems that if the US wants to stop Mexican immigrants from arriving, it needs to follow the example of East Germany more closely:
A truly impregnable border, of the kind that Mr McCain is demanding, would involve two layers of fencing 2,000 miles long, with a large no-man’s land in the middle and plenty of watchtowers. The fence would have to look as it does near San Diego, or as it used to in Berlin. This would involve virtually rasing several towns.
I suppose the loopiest fact about the wall has got to be this:
. . . building the fence, which has to be done on the American side, means effectively ceding land and the river itself to Mexico. Property-owners hate that idea, and a powerful lobby group against the fence has sprung up in Texas.
What's this? In the driest region of the United States, the government is effectively handing the biggest river over to Mexico? How crazy does it get? What do you suppose Americans ought to call their stupid new wall? I suppose the name ought to reflect the cynicism of the times, and the idiocy of everything that has come to be associated with America's Homeland Security regime. How about "The George W. Bush Freedom Fence"?
Various photos show the Berlin Wall.

Max Baucus: Call to Action on reform of US healthcare

Rep. Max Baucus is now pushing for universal health care coverage -- beyond what Obama wanted (it appears that Obama adopted his more conservative healthcare platform on merely tactical grounds).

Here is his whitepaper proposal.

h/t Krugman.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quote of the day

Can someone tell Palin the election's over?

- Josh Marshall, TPM

Monday, November 10, 2008

Democratic Party Revolution is Real

Remember that Newsweek cover story -- published just two weeks back -- that called America a "center right nation"? Krugman responds to this kind of mainstream media nonsense. He observes on his blog:
But combining [Congressional seats gained in] 2006 and 2008, what we’ve seen is a “Democratic revolution” substantially bigger than the “Republican revolution” of 1994.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Map: US shift away from Republican Party

As the map (via Krugman) shows, the US massively shifted Democratic on Tuesday:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Because he's black

Journalist Greg Palast writes:

The truth is, I'm wary of Barack Obama. His cozy relations with the sub-prime loan sharks who funded his early campaign; his vote, at the behest of his big donor ADM corporation, for the horrific Bush energy bill.

But there's one thing that overshadows policy positions, one thing he cannot change once in office: the color of his skin. . . .

I'm going to say something that I know the Obama campaign will just hate; but that many others are feeling but won't say out loud. We must vote for Barack Obama because he's Black.

For four centuries, our nation has poisoned itself with the corrosive venom of racism. From the slave trade, to our still-segregated schools, to the Bush family stealing the White House by cynically, and sinfully, calling Florida Black voters felons; to the exile of a brilliant science teacher four decades ago.

The time has come to cleanse the wound that will not heal.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Osama pictured with McCain supporter

I took this photo tonight. I thought the McCain supporter pictured next to Osama looked a lot like a certain senator from Illinois.
SPECIAL COVERAGE I live-blogged the spontaneous Obama victory celebration in Washington DC. Experience what it felt like to be among thousands of deliriously happy people gathered outside the White House. Click here.

Previously, I had been blogging about the Obama, McCain and the US election. I wrote about Sarah Palin on this blog even before McCain chose her to be his running mate. The choice was disappointing, and a possibility I had anticipated.

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