Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Last Call

I'm glad to see that five months and change in, El Rushbo believes Obama will earn a second term.

Remember, Rush Doesn't Like Al Franken Too Much

So it's no surprise that the man that wrote Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot is now having his election being compared to Ahmedinejad's recount by....A Big Fat Idiot.

Expect the poor, poor Republicans to continue to claim the mean black man is keeping them down.

Al Versus Norm, Part 1242

It's over. Minnesota's Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that Al Franken is the winner.

The courts finds that "Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled under Minn. Stat. § 204C.40 (2008) to receive the certificate of election as United States Senator from the State of Minnesota." This means that when Franken is ultimately seated, the Democrats will have 60 seats and be able to beat any Republican filibuster if they stay completely united (though good luck with that, obviously.)

It's been seven and a half months since Election Day, and five and a half months since the seat went vacant after Coleman's term expired -- but the state's process of recounts and litigation is now over, barring the unlikely event of a higher authority stepping in and forcing them to do more. Franken has won by 312 votes, out of roughly 2.9 million -- a difference of 0.011%.

The big question now is what comes next. Will Coleman concede, or will he take another path -- as national GOP leaders like Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) have urged -- and take this to federal courts, where he might try to get an injunction against Franken receiving a certificate of election? And if Franken does get his certificate, will the Senate GOP attempt to filibuster its acceptance?

Given the stakes of health care and cap and trade, you'd better believe that the GOP won't let this die however. It may be over, but I seriously doubt it's over over. Will Franken be seated? That's up to Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. As recently as Sunday, Pawlenty strongly hinted that he would do whatever the courts decided, meaning that unless Coleman files a federal case, the pressure to seat Franken will be overwhelming.

What will Norm do now?

[UPDATE 3:30 PM] Several press conferences this afternoon, Gov. Pawlenty, Franken, and Coleman will all be giving pressers here in the next couple hours. Over at Hullabaloo, D-Day seems to have the come to the same conclusion I have:
Tim Pawlenty has said all along that he would certify the winner of the election if the Minnesota Supreme Court told him to do so. They have now told him. But all along he gave himself an out, that he would certify it as long as another court didn't tell him to stop pending another appeal. Coleman could proceed to the federal courts at this point, and national Republicans have been happy to bankroll him on that fruitless quest and keep Al Franken out of the Senate as long as possible. It's a good investment for them. Also, Senate Republicans could actually filibuster Franken's entry into the Senate, even with a signed certificate.

I'm skeptical that this will conclude so smoothly from here.
The additional penalty to Coleman and the GOP is almost nil at this point, and the Democrats have a lot more to lose right now. As D-Day says, it's a good investment for the Republicans.

I've personally said all along the Roberts Court was looking for a case to make some serious judicial activism over, and Coleman's federal appeal would most certainly be a blockbuster in bench legislation should they agree to take it up. I'm fully expecting Coleman to take it to the next level, for Pawlenty to slime his way out of signing Franken's certificate, and for Al Franken to twiddle his thumbs long enough to miss being a yes vote for health care and climate change legislation.

This situation has "go for broke" written all over it. We know Coleman won't rule out a Federal appeal, he's said as much. If I'm a Republican, I'm thinking "Why not? What do we have to lose?"

[UPDATE 4:13 PM] Against all odds, Norm Coleman has in fact conceded to Franken, putting this to a definitive end.

Senator Al Franken is official. I was wrong about Coleman. In the end he did the right thing. Shame it only took him seven months to do it.

Your Sins Caused The Economic Meltdown

No, really. That's the theory, and Oklahoma Republicans want a resolution stating that it's all Obama's fault.
Recently, Rush Limbaugh explained (if it were not already obvious) how Obama economic policies were the cause of Republican Gov. Mark Sanford’s affair with a beautiful Argentinian woman. But what caused the economic problems that caused the stimulus package that aroused Gov. Sanford? Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern has finally answered that question: our sins. Kern has drafted a resolution that puts the current economic crisis squarely on the backs of libertines and godless people who have produced a moral crisis. This includes Obama’s refusal to “uphold the long held tradition of past presidents in recognition of our National Day of Prayer.”

You may recall Kern from his viral video ranting about gays, here. Now, she has gone macro economic in showing how free sex can destroy the free market. It is like the lost chapter of Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Of course, one must remember that, like his successor Kern, Smith held forth on both moral and economic theories with his publication The Theory of Moral Sentiments. [Richard Posner's Economics and Reason doesn't count and proved far less exciting than its title].

In the resolution below, Kern’s resolution declares in pertinent part:

WHEREAS, we believe our economic woes are consequences of our greater national
moral crisis; and
WHEREAS, this nation has become a world leader in promoting abortion,
pornography, same sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse, and many other forms of debauchery; and
WHEREAS, alarmed that the Government of the United States of America is forsaking the rich Christian heritage upon which this nation was built; and
WHEREAS, grieved that the Office of the president of these United States has refused to uphold the long held tradition of past presidents in giving recognition to our National Day of Prayer; and
WHEREAS, deeply disturbed that the Office of the president of these United States
disregards the biblical admonitions to live clean and pure lives by proclaiming an entire month to an immoral behavior;

It appears that divorce is “a form of debauchery.”

Of course, one has to ignore that fact that the crisis began under President George Bush who was a favorite of the religious right. Obviously, there was a bit of anticipatory economic damnation. Ironically, in a recent article in the Washington Post, it was disclosed how both Sen. Jon Ensign and Sanford frequented a little known house on Capitol Hill dedicated to prayer and specifically the National Prayer Day.

I would think God/Goddess/Allah/Flying Spaghetti Monster/Ceiling Cat would actually be more angry at people who did things in Their name that were clearly hypocritical and full of bullshit, but who am I to intepret the will of your average deity?

In The End, She's Still A Republican, Folks

Which is the major problem with Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.
Snowe, R-Maine, said she's working with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to establish that kind of a framework in the bill expected to emerge next month from the Senate Finance Committee.

In an Associated Press interview in Portland, Snowe said it would be unfair to include a government-run health insurance option that would take effect immediately.

"If you establish a public option at the forefront that goes head-to-head and competes with the private health insurance market ... the public option will have significant price advantages," she said.
Now, understand that the esteemed Senator from Maine considers a competitive public option health insurance plan that would compete with private plans and have the buying power of the government behind it allowing it to offer health care coverage at a lower cost to the American people to be a serious problem.

This is because Olympia Snowe is a Republican. She understands very clearly what passing a plan like this would do to her party, which is crush the holy hell out of it for the next generation or so. Ergo, she is resorting to telling the truth. It would indeed give the public option a significant price advantage, which is indeed the entire point of the public option.

Republicans don't want you to have that option. Period. It would be wonderful for the country. It would be a political disaster for Republicans. Ergo, you can't have a public option on health insurance.

Thus endeth the lesson.

The Specter Of Deflation

For quite some time now I've been saying that the short term problem stemming from the financial crisis and the real estate collapse is deflation and not inflation. Massive amounts of wealth disappearing from stock markets and home prices is a massive deflationary pressure. Here in America, Helicopter Ben is printing money and selling US Treasury debt by the boatload, increasing the money supply and combating the trillions lost in deflationary wealth loss.

In Europe however, the problem is the opposite.

Prices in the 16-nation zone fell 0.1% in the past year, Eurostat said. The inflation rate had been 0% in May.

Inflation in the eurozone has been dragged down by lower energy and food prices, and by falling demand for goods from companies and households.

The European Central Bank's target rate for inflation is just below 2%.

Some analysts fear that this is the start of a period of deflation for the eurozone.

Deflation is considered damaging to an economy as consumers tend to delay making purchases until prices fall further. Without consumer spending to stimulate growth, economic output falls.

"There are plenty of reasons to believe that the annual decline of 0.1% in June is just the beginning of a downward trend," said Daniele Antonucci from Capital Economics.

"At this stage, we expect negative inflation rates for the next six months or so. With factory gate prices falling, wage growth likely to slow sharply and a big amount of spare capacity in the economy, core inflation will decelerate considerably."

This is terrible news, really. Deflation is far worse for an economy than inflation, and people tend to foget that strictly from a GDP standpoint, the Eurozone economy is the world's largest, bigger than even the United States.

That means the shape of the global economy will not be dictated by the pace of America's recovery, but by the pace of the Eurozone's recovery. And right now, it's looking like the Eurozone is headed straight down the tubes into multiple quarters of deflation. This will only serve to delay any real recovery in the global economy. The worst part is the European Central Bank's head, Jean-Claude Trichet, refuses to take any steps to fight deflation because he's too worried about inflation.

In other words, any improvement in the U.S. economy will be more than offset by the Eurozone's deflationary spiral.

You've Got To Be Kidding Me

Bye, Mark.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is admitting more encounters with his Argentine mistress than he previously has disclosed.

In a lengthy, emotional interview with The Associated Press, the governor described seven meetings with the woman, including their first in 2001. Sanford says there have been five over a 12-month period, including two multi-night stays with her in New York.

It was the first disclosure of any get-togethers with her in the United States and contradicted a public confession last week during which he admitted to a total of four encounters in the past year.

No way he stays after this. What little goodwill the guy had was entirely based on his "heartfelt confession" which now turns out to have been another lie of omission. He's going to get the hook soon.

Beat The Clock

Five states, including California, are facing government shutdowns at midnight tonight unless emergency budget measures are passed.
The last time Indiana missed its deadline for passing a budget and had to shut down the government was during the Civil War.

But on Monday, as lawmakers raced to hammer out an agreement over school funding, state agencies began preparing 31,000 workers to be temporarily out of a job. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has warned residents that most of the state's services -- including its parks, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and state-regulated casinos -- would be shuttered unless a budget is passed today.

Indiana is one of five states -- along with Arizona, California, Mississippi and Pennsylvania -- bracing for possible shutdowns this week as time runs out for lawmakers to close billion-dollar gaps in their fiscal 2010 budgets.

Of the 46 states whose fiscal year ends today, 32 did not have budgets passed and approved by their governors as of Monday afternoon, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Although the majority of those are expected to pass eleventh-hour budgets, the fiscal futures of a handful remain uncertain, said Todd Haggerty, an NCSL research analyst.

"It's a lot of states that are coming down to the wire," Haggerty said. "It's far more than we've seen in the past, and it's because of the state of the economy."

Since 2002, only five states have been forced to shut down their governments. Some of the closures were brief: In 2007, Michigan's doors were closed for four hours before lawmakers passed emergency measures that bought them time to close a $1.75-billion deficit.

"What's different now is that the recession has eroded tax revenues across the country," Haggerty said. Collectively, he said, states are wrestling with budget deficits totaling $121 billion.

In California, state finance officials will begin issuing IOUs on Thursday if lawmakers and the governor cannot agree on a way to close a $24-billion shortfall. The IOUs would go to local governments, vendors, taxpayers and college students receiving state financial aid. California has issued such IOUs only one other time -- in 1992 -- since the Great Depression.

In Arizona, which has never missed its constitutional budget deadline, officials are battling over how to resolve a $3-billion gap.
Almost all of the other states have budget shortfalls either this fiscal year or next as well. This battle will be played out across the country as Republicans cry "cut taxes and cut spending!" and Democrats yell "We must preserve government services!" Something will have to give, and it's only a matter of how many people are hurt, not if.

Castling The King Four Games Ahead

The state of Arizona is looking at the health care chessboard and is castling its king early, putting a ballot initiative on the vote for 2010 that will exempt the state's citizens from any federal health care mandates.
Voters in Arizona will decide next year whether residents will be subject to mandates in the pending health care reform that President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are promoting.

At least five other states – Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming – have considered proposals to take pre-emptive action against the pending federal mandates, but those proposals have either not made it out of committee, failed to get enough votes from one side of the legislature, or are still being crafted.

Only the Arizona Legislature introduced an initiative (HCR2014), which if passed, would amend the state constitution to codify that no resident would be required to participate in any public health care option. Arizonans will vote on the initiative in November 2010.

“HCR2014 is proactive and will protect patients’ fundamental rights,” Arizona State Rep. Nancy Barto, a Republican, said in a statement. “We are a front-line battle state to stop the momentum of this powerful government takeover of your health care decisions. Health care by lobbyists thwarts your rights and can be stopped here.”

The main issue is the core of the Obama health plan – a government run or “public option” – to compete with private health insurers. Some state lawmakers fear such legislation would force residents to buy into the public plan.

“The eyes of the nation will be on Arizona next year to see what happens,” Christie Herrera, director of the Health and Human Services Taskforce with the American Legislative Exchange Council, told CNSNews.com. “If this succeeds in Arizona, other states will take notice and push harder.”
No, never mind the fact that 1) there's no health care plan yet, 2) there's no public option yet, 3) there's no mandate that you have to have health care yet. Arizona is already up to step 5, which is a voter referendum picking a state's rights battle over an issue that doesn't exist yet.

Never mind that Arizona's huge retirement community already means a much higher than normal percentage of the population is already on government-run health care...it's called Medicare. Clearly Arizona Republicans are gearing this up as one of those Tenth Amendment Versus Obama The Tyrant battles that are all the rage in Wingnutland recently, despite the fact that the whole thing is silly beyond belief. It's the equivalent of agreeing to a series of chess matches with an opponent, and then immediately stating that in game 4 at some point you're going to castle queenside, even though the first three games haven't even started yet.

But the point here is of course to frame the argument that Obama's public option is nothing more than health care tyranny. It's the same idea behind "Obama's going to take our guns away, buy guns now!" mentality that has kept gun stores out of stock since November. By framing everything as the people versus the Tyrant Obama, concentrating on the so far nonexistant mandate issue instead of affordable health care for all Americans issue, the Republicans are changing the debate from health care for all versus cost, to mandates versus freedom and liberty.

It's classic wingnut fare, change the terms of the battle from the big issue to "Is Obama the anti-christ or just pure evil?" It all goes back to the truly mean, violent, apocalyptic streak behind all these protests and whatnot, the people in this country who see Barack Obama as the Enemy of America, people so threatened by a black man as President that they see him as an existential threat to America's very continued daily operation, a threat somehow so dire that it must be excised like cancer.

Indeed, there's a whole cottage industry of wingnut fantasy involving fighting the evil tyranny of a liberal administration. They love the idea. It turns them on. It didn't matter to them that Bush really was a tyrant, only that they think Obama is one.

Watch. This one will pick up momentum as the health care debate rages on.

[UPDATE 12:10 PM] And let's not forget that this just keeps devolving into "Us vs. Them" and there are people that are perfectly happy to view America in that way.

Judicial Activism On The Way?

Slate's Rich Hasen argues that the campaign finance decision not handed down yesterday by the Supremes is by far the most important, especially since the court is taking the extremely rare step of rehearing the case in September and greatly expanding the scope of the argument well beyond the original case.

In a Supreme Court term that has had its share of surprises, the court saved one of the biggest for last. Rather than publish an opinion at the end of the term as expected in an obscure campaign finance case, Citizens United v. FEC, the court issued a rare order for reargument of the case in September (before the usual start of the term). At that point, the court will consider whether to overrule its two previous decisions that in 1990 and 2003 upheld limits on corporate spending in federal elections.

Given the dynamics of the court, there is a great chance the justices will use the opportunity to overrule limits on how much money corporations can spend supporting candidates—whether or not Judge Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed in time to hear the case in September. In the Voting Rights Act case the court considered last week, the court ducked the constitutional question in favor of narrow statutory interpretation. In contrast, in Citizens United, the court is likely to address the constitutional questions head-on, and the outcome likely will not be good for supporters of reasonable campaign-finance regulation.

The case itself, Citizens United vs. FEC, was supposed to be about whether or not a documentary slamming Hillary Clinton produced during the 2008 campaign was a documentary or if it constituted a film-length campaign ad, subject to provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws. By instead rehearing the case and expanding the scope of the decision, it's clear to Hagan that the Supreme Court is planning to overturn Mc-Cain-Feingold as unconstitutional and that they plan to do it before the 2010 campaign season gets underway.

My personal feelings are that Obama's financial juggernaut in 2008 was the straw that broke the camel's back, rendering the need for McCain-Feingold a moot point. Why have the laws when you can skip public financing and bury your opponent with private cash? If anything, Obama's fundraising prowess showed the need to have these laws eliminated and allowing all sides virtually unlimited campaign financing. Nobody expects either party to use public financing in the presidential race in 2012...ergo why put the handcuffs on it?

I don't agree with it, but I have to admit that Rich Hagan sees this coming a mile away. It's judicial activism at its finest, the Supreme Court almost certainly plans to legislate from the bench here. Conservatives will no doubt scream to high heaven about such use of the unaccountable Judiciary in making our laws, yes?

Sanford And Stunned

The calls for SC Republican Gov. Mark Sanford to resign are getting significantly more serious as they are coming now from his own party.
Three more Republicans in the South Carolina state legislature spoke out against Mark Sanford on Monday and said the best thing for the governor to do in the wake of last week’s scandal is resign.

At a local Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Cherokee County, GOP House members Lanny Littlejohn, Dennis Moss and Steve Moss each told the audience that Sanford has lost the credibility to steer the state’s economy through the final 18 months of his term following revelations of an extramarital affair.

Reached by phone, each legislator confirmed their comments at the breakfast. All argued that Sanford has simply become too much of a distraction for the state and can no longer devote his full attention to the troubled economy. South Carolina has the third highest unemployment rate in the nation.

“When business leaders start moving to South Carolina, they want to see somebody they can have confidence in,” Littlejohn told CNN. “If you lie to your family and you lie to your friends, you lie to anyone.”

As a matter of fact, the pressure to resign just got turned on full blast on Monday.
South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said Monday he would be open to a scenario in which he would assume the governorship but not run for the state's top office in 2010 if Governor Mark Sanford decides to resign in the coming weeks.

Bauer said that arrangement would help tamp down some of the political jockeying among other Republicans who are likely to run for governor next year as they decide how to respond to revelations about Sanford's extramarital affair. Other candidates include state Attorney General Henry McMaster, Rep. Gresham Barrett and state Rep. Nikki Haley.

"We are at an impasse now because it's all about 2010 and the next governor's race, and I don't see anyone being an adult," Bauer told CNN in an exclusive interview.

Bauer is one of several Republicans plotting a run for governor, but his rivals worry that a Sanford resignation – which would elevate Bauer to the governorship – might give Bauer an advantage in next year's governor's race because he would be running as an incumbent. Sanford is term limited and is not allowed to run for re-election in 2010.

He said he had discussed the idea of not running in 2010 with GOP leaders in the Senate, many of whom are staunch opponents of Sanford.

"What it would do is it would get the politics out of it," Bauer said. "The people that are so concerned for their own political future about running for governor, would no longer be worried if I came in and became governor, because I would just say. 'You know what? This is bigger than politics. I will go and lead in for the next 18 months and not run for re-election.'"

If your own party is openly discussing a deal where the new pecking order after your resignation is being set, you are political toast. Mark Sanford is being given an out. I suspect his own party is making it clear that if he does not accept this out, he will be impeached. That's the implied threat. You notice Democrats in South Carolina aren't saying a thing, they are staying well out of the way and letting the SC GOP eat itself, that's very, very smart on their part. I suspect that Sanford will resign, and will resign soon. Nobody in the SC GOP is coming to his defense at this point. Newspapers are calling for him to step down, state lawmakers from his own party are calling for him to step down, the Lt. Gov. of his own party is offering to not run for the job in 2010 if he steps down...folks, decisions are being made and Mark Sanford is not involved in them. He's out of options. He'll be stepping down, possibly before the end of the week.

It's time to go, Mark. Game's over. I'm not in the "advice to GOP" game, but at this point I'd have to say "Salvage what dignity you have and take the deal."

Politico's Jon Martin on the other hand says that Sanford won't resign, and that Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer is just trying to earn points, especially since Sanford is telling his supporters that "God's plan" is to have Sanford finish his term.

We'll see. My money's on Sanford being forced out.


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