Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Last Call Plus

Stupid insomnia.

Oh, and I called this one back months ago (I underestimated the time it would take badly however) but it's going to happen: Norm Coleman says he will appeal his loss to the US Supreme Court if need be.

It's pretty simple. Even if Coleman does nothing but stall Al Franken for another three months, Franken will miss some vital votes (and already has), giving the GOP more of a chance to obstruct Obama's agenda.

And it's possible that the decision SCOTUS makes could have lasting effects as a precedent in vote counting and vote eligibility law for decades. Should that favor the GOP in any way, Coleman has done his job.

Last Call

Pretty decent press conference.

Chuck Todd's asinine question about "Why aren't you asking Americans to sacrifice?" was the bell-ringer. Obama nailed it by saying exactly what I was thinking he should say, that people getting laid off by the thousands and taking furloughs in order to keep their fellow employees working already are sacrificing. Not to mention Americans losing their homes, cars, livelihoods...hey Chuck, the President doesn't have to ask America to sacrifice. Americans are being made to sacrifice by the thousands, you idiot.

If Obama had a worst moment, it was taking the question from the Univision reporter about the border patrol surge. Mexico's in real danger right now and tensions are high. Obama danced around the issue and the question of additional US military troops on the border.

Still, a decent presser. Most of the other questions were pretty stupid stuff, AIG, the budget, etc...but no mention of Iraq or Afghanistan, but a crazy question about limiting tax deductions on charitable donations? How the hell is that even relevant when we're fighting two wars?

Obama 1, Village 0, I guess.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Somebody explain this to me:
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said Monday that using budget reconciliation to obviate the need for 60-vote supermajorities “would be a mess.” Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) said doing so would “sour” relations in the Senate. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said the White House risks turning legislation into a “purely partisan exercise.”

And a senior Republican Senate aide said the GOP could respond to such a move by going “nuclear” — essentially shutting down the Senate through the use of parliamentary maneuvers such as forcing the reading of bills and amendments and prohibiting committees from meeting for more than a few hours at a time.
Screw them. Make them have to do it.

Remember Harry Reid's "Pajama Party" to try to stop Bush on Iraq funding? Let's see some of that from the GOP, then when it doesn't work, Malkinvania can call them spineless.


Obama takes to his second press conference in two months tonight, this time to pitch the budget. Doug at Balloon Juice reminds us of the major difference between an Obama presser and a Bush presser:
Sucking up to George W. Bush—and maybe even getting your own nickname—elevated a reporter’s status in 2003. Trying to knock Obama off his game now elevates a reporter’s status. It really is that simple.
So watch for that tonight.

Specter Ghosts Out On EFCA

Arlen Specter, the only GOP senator to actually vote FOR the EFCA in 2007, has decided he's giving in to the wingnut minority.
Today on the Senate floor, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced his intention to vote against cloture on the Employee Free Choice Act. Specter was the only Republican to vote for cloture when the measure was last considered in 2007. During his announcement, Specter noted his previous support for EFCA, but suggested that the current condition of the economy makes “this a particularly bad time to enact employee’s choice legislation”:

SPECTER: The problem of the recession make this a particularly bad time to enact employees choice legislation. … I am announcing my decision now because I have consulted with a very large number of interested parties on both sides and I have made up my mind. Knowing that I will not support cloture on this bill, Senators may choose to move on and amend the [National Labor Relations Act], as I have suggested, or otherwise.

Additionally, Specter suggested that he did not want to bear the political cost of being the “decisive vote” in favor of EFCA.
So for now, the EFCA is pretty much dead unless Obama can do some more arm-twisting and explaining like he did on the stimulus. Without Al Franken seated and without Specter's vote, the Dems would only have 58 votes, not enough to stop the GOP filibuster.

Obama will fight back, and I think he'll have a pretty good case to present to the American people for strengthening unions when the unemployment rate hits double digits nationally later this year and people are wondering what recourse they have against the Wall Street titans who caused this mess.

Specter's gone in 2010 however. He's traded in getting his ass kicked in the primary for getting his ass kicked in the heart of Steeltown USA in the general election.

I Need A New Nickname For Geithner Apparently

Atrios helpfully suggests The Green Lantern.

After all, it really is just a matter of willpower for this man to create metric craptons of green whatever -he-wants out of thin air. He's just giving it to the banks.

In fact, our entire economy is pretty much based entirely on that notion, actually.

Boy is that a bummer, and such disrespect to the GL Corps too...

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Josh Marshall asks:
Going on three months into a new Democratic administration. Isn't about time for some Republican members of Congress to start hinting about the violent overthrow of the federal government?
Where you been, Josh? That's old news. Heck, it's on your site, bro.


Eye Of The Pollster

Much is being made by the wingers about this Zogby poll that shows Obama's approval rating falling to the 50% mark. They're lining up to declare Obama's term over after two months.

Only one problem for the wingers, who are already celebrating "the end of Obama's mandate". FiveThirtyEight.com's Nate Silver kills any credibility the Zogby internet poll has.
Let me qualify this a bit: Zogby International conducts two types of polls. One type are conventional telephone polls. Zogby's telephone polls, while prone to somewhat wild fluctuations and subject to their share of erratic results (such as predicting a 13-point win for Barack Obama in the California primary; Obama lost by 9 points), are actually not terrible, and did fairly well on November 4th.

Zogby, however, also conducts Internet-based polls. These polls are conducted among users who volunteer to participate in them, first by signing up at the Zogby website (you can do so yourself here) and then by responding to an e-mail solicitation. These Internet polls, to the extent they rely on voluntary participation, violate the most basic precept of survey research, which is that of the random sample. And as you might infer, they obtain absolutely terrible results.
Messing with Nate Silver on poll numbers is like going up against Kroog on economics or the Sadly, No! crew on snark: you're going to lose.
All told, between 48 contests that he's surveyed over the past two election cycles, Zogby's Internet polls have been off by an average of 7.6 points. This is an extreme outlier with respect to absolutely anyone else in the polling community.

These Internet polls, simply put, are not scientific and should not be published by any legitimate news organization, at least not without an asterisk the size of an Alex Rodriguez steroidal syringe. But I'll bet you that Matt Drudge already has the siren cued up by now.
So the wingers are desperately clinging to the one badly erroneous outlier poll that's so far off the mark with its dubious methods that it only ends up proving just how silly they all are on a regular basis.

But it sells copy, doesn't it? And so the Village Idiots chuckle and pat us rubes on the head.

A General Revolt

Steve Clemons rips into Obama on the Geithner plan and everything else as he details the broad opposition to it (emphasis mine)
Regrettably, the Obama administration seems to be fumbling the ball on an economic policy course that restores confidence in the American economy on both the optics level and also on a substantive front that reorganizes the "social contract" and design of the real economy in the U.S.

Obama, in his 'loyalty' to his current economic team and the mistakes they are making is the antithesis of Abraham Lincoln. Obama may have tried to mimic Lincoln's "team of rivals" approach to politics -- but he needs to read the chapters on the number of generals Lincoln fired during the Civil War to finally get things moved forward.

Obama may need to fire a number of his economic generals who have been trying to restore Wall Street to what it once was -- not boldly and critically reorganize the financial sector in a way that the dysfunctional behavior that characterized its bubble success is dismantled and reshaped.

Civil society should not wait quietly while Obama's team continues to fumble -- and while its key economic policy chiefs play "point the finger" at their colleagues behind the scenes. It's time for serious discussion about what needs to be done. . .and we need better benchmarks than we have for applauding, critiquing, and simply measuring the policy steps the administration is taking.

Now, normally this would be another "Village Stupidity" or "Already Failed Obama Administration" tagged example of unfair criticism towards a President who has been in office for a mere two months, trying to fix a decade of economic disaster that has erupted like a volcano on the last President's watch.

A month ago I would have scoffed at Steve Clemons for drinking the Sensible Centrist Village Kool-Aid.

The problem now is that the criticism is pretty much warranted at this point. Obama's made his choice to go with Geithner and his plan. Getting rid of him now is more or less a non-starter, Obama has committed to his people and the course he's on. Presidents have to make those kinds of decisions.

But there is hope. That hope now at this point is that the plan somehow makes Plan N politically feasible, either through a combination of the plan creating enough political legerdemain to bamboozle Congress into accepting it or it flunks so badly it leaves Obama and Congress no choice. Building on the news the FDIC and the White House were setting up just such a manuever for banks, there is a glimmer of hope in the fact that Geithner is asking for the ability to take over and unwind "too big to fail" non-bank companies like AIG. These two articles give me a lot of hope that Plan N is still in the cards as the fallback option. Obama and Geithner both understand this.

My frustration comes from the belief that Plan N should be the first option (or at least the current one) and not the last. The President has been convinced to try this public-private partnership plan before Plan N. It's his call, not mine.

It's entirely possible that Obama may enact both plans simultaneously. As Bon the Geek reminded me this morning, "Yeah, it's disappointing. But then also there may be something we don't know."

Mainly I guess I'm frustrated to see the political process this broken to the point where Plan N just can't be implemented...and make no mistake, Plan N comes with its own pitfalls and hazards.

[UPDATE] Yves Smith isn't buying the Geithner wind-down/Plan N manuever at all.

Given the lack of any mention of a special resolution regime, or intent to develop one, the point of this bill is NOT, appearances to the contrary, to be able to put more firms into receivership. It is to get broader authority to bail them out.
Atrios is with Yves on this one. Me? It's definitely the Occam's razor solution given Geithner's history. I can't discount this is just another back door for more bailouts should we get to the Plan N stage. I want to have hope. Hope will not fix this problem.

Nobel Gesture

Add Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz to the heaping pile of people smarter than I am who think Timmy's Obama's plan to help the economy is a complete cornholing of the the taxpayer.
"Quite frankly, this amounts to robbery of the American people. I don't think it's going to work because I think there'll be a lot of anger about putting the losses so much on the shoulder of the American taxpayer."

Even if the plan clears banks of massive toxic debt, worries about the economic outlook mean banks could still be unwilling to make fresh loans, while the prospect of a higher tax burden to pay for various government stimulus plans could further undermine U.S. consumers, he said.

Meanwhile, signs are pointing to a lower opening on Wall Street this morning as the guys in the corner offices realize they may have not quite fooled everyone in America with this little plan here.

What Wall Street Wants, Wall Street Gets

Expanding on what I was talking about yesterday,
Wall Street knows the government needs them to cover this bailout.
...we have today's front pager in the WSJ, where reporter Monica Langley tosses the Obama administration a couple of Scooby Snacks for being so helpful to the people actually in charge of the country.
The Obama administration, after months of criticizing Wall Street, has been scrambling to woo top bankers and financiers to back its latest bailout plan.

In recent days, in spite of public furor over huge bonuses paid at American International Group Inc., the administration has concluded that it needs the private sector to play a central role in fixing the economy. So over the weekend, the White House worked to tone down its Wall Street bashing and to win support from top bankers for the bailout plan announced Monday, which will rely on public-private investments to soak up toxic assets.

But weeks of searing criticism by politicians and the public had left bankers leery of working with the government. After brainstorming about what to do about that problem, the White House resolved to try to take control of the debate, according to several administration officials. In weekend television appearances, President Barack Obama and other administration officials tempered their criticisms of the financial sector.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his colleagues worked the phones to try to line up support on Wall Street for the plan announced Monday. They told executives they don't favor using the tax code to retroactively penalize specific individuals who had received bonuses, according to people familiar with the calls. They asked officials to sign on "in pencil, not ink," and to "validate" or "express support" for the plan, these people say.

You can practically slip and fall due to the puddle of condescension on the floor. "How reassuring that this Obama fellow and his man Geithner have finally seen the light. We expected this all along, of course. He has no choice. Wall Street runs America and always will. Presidents come and go." The article ends with this warning:
Bankers were shell-shocked, especially when Congress moved to heavily tax bonuses. When administration officials began calling them to talk about the next phase of the bailout, the bankers turned the tables. They used the calls to lobby against the antibonus legislation, Wall Street executives say. Several big firms called Treasury and White House officials to urge a more reasonable approach, both sides say. The banks' message: If you want our help to get credit flowing again to consumers and businesses, stop the rush to penalize our bonuses.
And so, the President and the Senate are quietly sitting on the AIG bonus tax bill with no real intention of making it law. The banksters know they're still holding all the cards: if they don't want to lend, the economy crumbles.

Obama has been shown the error of his ways. The fat cats on Wall Street are back in charge, the stock market has rallied 22% off its lows, mortgage lenders are cashing in on the new refi boom that Helicopter Ben Bernanke has created and the banksters have a shiny new plan to make billions off of taxpayer dollars while the banks get free money as a result. Those who fail to heed the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them, only making them much, much larger.

Obama's decided to save the economy, alright. Just not the one you and I inhabit.

Change we can believe in. It's time to stop picking on Timmy.

It's time to start holding Timmy's boss accountable.


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