Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Last Call

The Senate is having final debate on Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination at this hour.
President Obama's first nominee to the nation's highest court was hailed by Democrats as a fair and impartial jurist who represents the ideals of equal opportunity, while Republicans warned she would be a judicial activist for liberal positions.

"This is a nominee who has had more experience on the federal court than any nominee to the Supreme Court in decades," noted Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that approved Sotomayor's nomination after a four-day hearing. "She's a restrained, experienced and thoughtful judge who has shown no bias in her rulings. ... Her record as a judge has been one of rendering decisions impartially and neutrally."

However, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, called Sotomayor's testimony to the panel vague and misleading regarding her judicial philosophy and intent. He said a close reading of her past speeches showed a leaning toward judicial activism that was "contrary to the underpinnings of the American justice system."

"Do they believe that the Constitution can be made to say what one wants it to say?" Sessions asked.

"Regretfully I was not able to support her nomination in committee, nor will I support her nomination in the full Senate," he said.

However, six Republican senators have announced their intention to support Sotomayor, making confirmation by the Democratic-controlled Senate a virtual certainty.

A confirmation vote is expected by Thursday. Legal sources say a White House swearing-in ceremony could happen as early as Friday.

I don't think the GOP's treatment of Sotomayor will be forgotten at the election booth in 2010, either. Nor should it. It might be something that will haunt the party for a long, long time. Exactly what did they gain by opposing her nomination on account they believed she was a racist? She's going to be sworn in. They've lost votes in the Latino community for sure, and they'll suffer the wrath of the fanatics in the base for not opposing her hard enough.

What was the upside there, guys? I don't see one.

Epic Hole Management Fail

Apparently America's favorite mass e-mailer is willing to take his lumps like a man for calling Skip Gates a "jungle monkey" to the Boston Globe, and then getting suspended for it.

...Or not.
Justin Barrett, the Boston police officer suspended from the force for his e-mail likening Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., to a “banana-eating jungle monkey,’’ has filed a lawsuit against the Police Department, police commissioner, and mayor, saying the city violated his civil and due process rights.

The 18-page lawsuit accuses the three parties of “conspiring to intentionally inflict emotional distress and conspiring to intentionally interfere with the property rights, due process rights, and civil rights of the plaintiff.’’
First rule of hole management is when in said hole, stop digging. But no, apparently suspending an officer for racist comments is a violation of the civil rights of the guy making the racist comments.
According to the lawsuit, the mayor and commissioner’s actions caused Barrett pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, posttraumatic stress, sleeplessness, indignities and embarrassment, degradation, injury to reputation, and restrictions on personal freedom.

Barrett, on the police force for two years, requested that they be enjoined from decreasing, terminating, or withholding any wages. He also asked for money damages to compensate for the emotional and physical pain he suffered, attorney’s fees, and punitive damages.

The suit also contends that Davis and Menino’s treatment of the officer is “disproportionate to the allegations against Officer Barrett given he has not had any meaningful opportunity to prepare any defense to the allegations based on [their] statements.’’

Barrett had no prior disciplinary history; and no investigation has begun for his termination, but Davis said at a press conference last Thursday that a hearing would be scheduled within the next 10 days.

Well, let's hope that somebody's at least read the Boston PD employee handbook. Somehow I see Officer Barrett losing this case in a rather total manner. However, if he's going to sue, let him have his day in court. He's trying to become a hero of the reverse racism movement, but I just don't see too many people willing to defend a guy publicly who sent out a mass e-mail to a newspaper with such impressively hateful vitriol in it. He wants us to pity the guy who got suspended and faces disciplinary hearings for writing a Freeper screed and then sending it to everyone he knew...and the media, too.

When he's lost everything because of it and he becomes no longer useful to the Pretty Hate Machine, they'll pretend he doesn't exist, or pillory him along with the rest of them. I almost pity the guy.



Life In The Village

CNN's Gloria Borger:
The effort on Capitol Hill has been serious. I hate to sound like Pollyanna, but members of Congress are actually doing some real work. Some policy differences may never get resolved because they are too ideological; others are regional, and that's tough, too. But they're working at it, for hours on end, behind closed doors. No cameras, no grandstanding.

One of those working the hardest, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, was derided at a town hall recently on the matter of his own health insurance. So here's the fellow who is spending every waking hour trying to get a bipartisan measure that can pass the Senate -- and be fair to Iowans -- and he goes home and gets an earful.

What a load of Iowa hog crap.

The only work Chuck Grassley has done is to assure the Senate Finance Committee wasn't going to pass a health care bill before recess, and to work to strip out anything remotely resembling real reform. His own party has cut his legs out from under him, and hell, let's be honest here, he's working hard to help kill the hell out of this legislation.

But able Villager Gloria Borger is there to defend Grassley's role in working to get health care for America. Sure he's working hard...for the status quo.

And so is Gloria.

GOP Backs Down On Cash For Clunkers

Despite tough talk from Maverick McCain, the GOP is trading in its rhetoric on opposing Cash For Clunkers as the popularity of the program, the House's quick passage of a $2 trillion expansion, and the looming recess has neatly trapped them inside a clunker of a strategy.
The Senate will okay new funding for the "cash for clunkers" program before leaving this week for the August recess, Senate leaders from each party predicted Tuesday, clearing the way for the surprisingly popular program to continue uninterrupted.

"We'll pass cash for clunkers….before we leave here," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

"In the end, we know where the numbers are," acknowledged the third-ranking Senate Republican, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, a critic of the program who said now he expects all Democrats and several Republicans to vote for additional funding.

The predictions marked a turnaround from earlier in the week when opposition from both parties suggested quick passage was unlikely. But prospects changed as car makers and auto dealers, thrilled by suddenly crowded showrooms, pressed lawmakers to continue the funding.

Looks like the GOP has learned when to pick a fight after all, and this one was a loser across the board for them. Still, the Republicans may try to tack on amendments, effectively killing the program as legislation would have to wait a month before the House could reconcile any changes.

Question is does the GOP really, really want to spend a month explaining to constituents why they're killing the one part of the stimulus plan that's working beyond a shadow of a doubt? McCain might and DeMint might, but too many Republicans are going to vote for the thing as is.

Nope, they've wrecked this car, now they have to drive it.

[UPDATE 9:07 PM] ...But Glenn Beck says Cash For Clunkers will steal your soul!

The Return Of The Surge

Bloomberg is reporting that Obama's advisors say we need just a few more troops in Afghanistan. Only about 225,000 more, that is.
President Barack Obama and top U.S. military commanders are under pressure from senators and civilian advisers to double the size of Afghan security forces, a commitment that would cost billions of dollars.

In private letters and face-to-face meetings, these supporters of mounting a stronger effort against the Taliban seek to boost the Afghan National Army and police to at least 400,000 personnel from the current 175,000.

“Any further postponement” of a decision to support a surge in Afghan forces will hamper U.S. efforts to quell an insurgency in its eighth year, Senators Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, wrote to the White House in a July 21 letter obtained by Bloomberg News.

General Stanley McChrystal, the new U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, will recommend a speedier expansion of Afghan forces beyond current targets in an assessment he will give Defense Secretary Robert Gates and North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen by Aug. 14, according to a military official familiar with the review.

And that large snapping sound is the trap closing around President Obama. More than double our troops in Afghanistan? Exactly how are we going to do that? With what troops, what materiel, what money? We're wiped out as it is in the troops department. We've already got National Guard deployed over there. Where are we going to get another 225,000 troops from?


Also, how did I know Joe F'ckin Lieberman was behind this? Look folks, unless we immediately withdraw from Iraq and go straight to Kabul from Baghdad, it's not happening. If Obama does this, I don't honestly know what to think. Yeah, we're going to have to train more Afghans but we'll nee more Americans in country to do so.

We need to get out of that hellhole, not double down.

[UPDATE 7:42 PM] It's been pointed out to me that the article does mention that the 225,000 additional troops would naturally NOT be all American, but trained Afghan forces primarily. (They sure as hell won't be NATO.)

That's nice. So we pick up with the Iraq strategy, circa 2005, meaning we'll be in Kabul for, oh, another six years. As Afghans stand up, we'll stand down, etc.


Blackwater: When It Rains, It Pours

Call them Blackwater, call them Xe, I call them screwed if these allegations are true.
A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."

In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting "illegal" or "unlawful" weapons into the country on Prince's private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.
Needless to say, if that's anywhere close to the truth, this just turned into nineteen different kinds of badness for us in Iraq.

It gets worse. The affidavits, filed last night as part of a civil case against Blackwater by Iraqis seeking war crime restitution, clearly spell out Erik Prince as a James Bond villain.
The former employee, identified in the court documents as "John Doe #2," is a former member of Blackwater's management team, according to a source close to the case. Doe #2 alleges in a sworn declaration that, based on information provided to him by former colleagues, "it appears that Mr. Prince and his employees murdered, or had murdered, one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information, to the federal authorities about the ongoing criminal conduct." John Doe #2 says he worked at Blackwater for four years; his identity is concealed in the sworn declaration because he "fear[s] violence against me in retaliation for submitting this Declaration." He also alleges, "On several occasions after my departure from Mr. Prince's employ, Mr. Prince's management has personally threatened me with death and violence."
Nice guy, Erik Prince. We've got allegations of weapons smuggling, war profiteering, extortion, murder, and we set him loose in Iraq for years.
Doe #2 expands on the issue of unconventional weapons, alleging Prince "made available to his employees in Iraq various weapons not authorized by the United States contracting authorities, such as hand grenades and hand grenade launchers. Mr. Prince's employees repeatedly used this illegal weaponry in Iraq, unnecessarily killing scores of innocent Iraqis." Specifically, he alleges that Prince "obtained illegal ammunition from an American company called LeMas. This company sold ammunition designed to explode after penetrating within the human body. Mr. Prince's employees repeatedly used this illegal ammunition in Iraq to inflict maximum damage on Iraqis."
And hey, war crimes too!

If even a fraction of this stuff is true, Erik Prince needs to be put in a very small room for a very, very long time. He certainly deserves his day in court, but these allegations have to be investigated throughly, and the implications are truly monstrous.

Read the whole article if you can stand it. And remind yourself who got us into Iraq and who hired Blackwater/Xe in the first place.

[UPDATE 5:14 PM] More background on Prince, Blackwater, and the nearly endless atrocities in Iraq from Steve Hynd at Newshoggers.
And if all the statements contain is true, it's still only the tip of the iceberg.

General Petraeus "lost" over 170,000 weapons in Iraq. His close aide, Lt. Col. Lavonda Selph pled guilty to accepting bribes in connection with another gun smuggling operation. At around the same time, his subordinate Col. Theodore Westhusing was found dead in Iraq, apparently a suicide. A note found by him said he could not support "support a [mission] that leads to corruption, human rights abuses and liars," and that he didn't know who to trust among his superiors any more.

As Steve wonders, how far up the chain did knowledge of Blackwater's alleged actions go? Who knew what and when?

We're going to be sorting through Iraq for years.

The Price Of Freedom

Apparently all it takes to get some hostages freed from North Korea (let's be honest, they were hostages) is for the Big Dog to show up and tell a few jokes, so that he can be completely debased in the North Korean news.
North Korean President Kim Jong Il has pardoned and ordered the release of two U.S. journalists, state-run news agency KCNA said Wednesday.

The announcement came after former U.S. President Bill Clinton met with top North Korean officials in Pyongyang to appeal for the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who had been arrested while reporting from the border between North Korea and China.

"Clinton expressed words of sincere apology to Kim Jong Il for the hostile acts committed by the two American journalists against the DPRK after illegally intruding into it," the news agency reported. "Clinton courteously conveyed to Kim Jong Il an earnest request of the U.S. government to leniently pardon them and send them back home from a humanitarian point of view.

"The meetings had candid and in-depth discussions on the pending issues between the DPRK and the U.S. in a sincere atmosphere and reached a consensus of views on seeking a negotiated settlement of them."

The report said Clinton then conveyed a message from President Obama "expressing profound thanks for this and reflecting views on ways of improving the relations between the two countries."

So Clinton looks like a hero to America, Kim Jong-Il looks like a hero to his people, and the hostages are freed to go home. I suppose in the big picture view it's a damn good thing to see those journalists of ours home. Maybe now North Korea will return to those six party talks.

...probably not, but hey. Next time, Big Dog should bring some Bojangles.

Still, diplomacy! It works.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

It's Helen Thomas's birthday today.

(Oh yeah, and that Obama guy is 48 today. Supposedly. If you know, believe that reality thing.)

The Naming Names Approach To Mortgage Adjustment

McClatchy reports on...surprise!...banks behaving badly when it comes to modifying mortgages. The Obama administration has decided that maybe a little public humiliation will motivate lenders given taxpayer money to lend with to actually freakin' lend it.
The Obama administration on Tuesday offered the first of what will become monthly reports on mortgage modifications, including a name-and-shame approach that'll allow the public to see which banks are and aren't working to help keep struggling Americans in their homes.

The first report, covering more than 30 lenders, found a dismal performance to date from two banks — Bank of America and Wells Fargo — that have received large sums of taxpayers' bailout money. The report is likely to produce more pressure on these two institutions because the rescue money spent on them was expected to encourage greater lending and more loan modifications.

In a conference call, Assistant Treasury Secretary Michael Barr said that servicers who collect monthly mortgage payments on behalf of banks and investors who hold pools of mortgages had modified 230,000 distressed mortgages since mid-February. The administration wants large mortgage servicers to modify 500,000 troubled home loans by Nov. 1.

Not even halfway to that goal with just 90 days to go. The real problem is the big megabanks like Wells Fargo and BoA have no intention of speeding things up.

Publishing the first of its monthly reports on the performances of individual lenders and servicers, the Treasury Department found that Bank of America serviced 796,467 mortgages that were thought to be at least 60 days late on payments and potentially eligible for lower monthly rates.

The bank, however, extended modification offers to just 99,649 homeowners, or about 13 percent of those eligible, the Treasury report said, and it began trial loan modifications with only about 4 percent, or 27,985 borrowers.

Wells Fargo led the banking sector's voluntary loan-modification program during the Bush administration's efforts. Yet Tuesday's Treasury report didn't show Wells Fargo in a favorable light, finding that while the bank serviced 329,085 mortgages that were 60 days late, it extended offers to only 38,673 homeowners, or about 12 percent of those eligible, and started trial modifications with another 20,219 loans, about 6 percent of eligible.

Banks have the money to give out millions in bonuses and make billions in quarterly profits, but they don't have the resources to help mortgageholders modify their loans to keep them in their homes. That's quite interesting. Banks would rather drag this out in bankruptcy court than help people keep their homes. Banks are playing game theory: If individual banks modify individual mortgage rates, they're locked in to that lower rate and lose money long term. If they drag the process out however, there's a chance they can foreclose now and then sell another adjustable rate mortgage on the same house in a couple of years, getting the banks more money short term especially should the housing market turn around.

The banks in other words are waiting for the courts to clear the decks of the destitute so they can get back to manufacturing another housing bubble over the next decade. For that they need new blood to see new mortgage products to, and for that they need the old suckers over the last decade or so to get kicked out of their homes. The banks are betting another housing bubble is coming when the credit crunch logjam breaks and the housing market finally stabilizes. They're trying to stall until the board resets.

So they can begin all over again. Short term profits. Gotta make those bonuses, you know.

Using Your Opponents' Momentum Against Them

Earlier today I contemplated where Team Obama's "boots on the ground" were in the health care town halls for Democrats. Sam Stein over at HuffPo reports that the Democrats instead may be giving the anti-health care reform crazies the rope they need to hang themselves with.
But sources tell Huffington Post that Tuesday's video is the harbinger of a much larger effort to change the tide on health care reform.

As detailed by White House officials and aides at allied groups, the goal going into the August recess is not to be intimidated by the angry protesters laying siege to town hall meetings or the information pushed by unfriendly websites, but rather to turn that anger and material into a rallying point for proponents of reform.

"Health insurance reform is an issue that lends itself to fear-mongering and distortion, so when we see those tactics, we are going to respond to them," Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, explained via email to the Huffington Post. "The President has been very clear that he wants to build on and strengthen the health care system we have, bring security and stability to people who have insurance today and access to quality affordable care to those who don't. Those who resist reform are standing up for a status quo that works great for the insurance industry, but not so well for the American people."

Another Democratic operative who is helping to spearhead the push was more succinct: "They [the anti-Obama crowds] don't care about health care. They care about destroying the president."

The obvious comparison -- one DNC aides are actively pushing -- is to the crowds that came to define rallies for Sen. John McCain, (R-Arizona) and Sarah Palin during the late stages of the 2008 presidential campaign. Those audiences, which openly questioned Obama's patriotism and citizenship, may have riled up the conservative base. But they also turned off moderate voters.

Which actually makes a lot of sense. They're simply waiting for the teabaggers to cross the line, and to get it on tape. As Steve Benen points out, they may have already lost that battle.
Consider the instantly-infamous video taken over the weekend, when right-wing activists -- one carrying a sign with Nazi "SS" lettering -- tried to intimidate Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D) at an event in Texas. Who's the sympathetic figure in that video? If the typical American watches the clip, who would he/she want to associate with?

For several weeks, Democratic officials have hoped the public would come to see opponents of health care reform as crazy. Now that the August fights are underway, the right is helping the Democratic message ... by acting crazy.

It's an interesting plan. Let them beat up themselves. We've already seen the lengths that these people will go to in the Obama Derangement Sydrome department. Let them show up on YouTube and the local news with their teabagger signs calling Obama a fascist and a Nazi and other horrible things. If people see their own neighbors doing this, maybe they'll finally understand just how out of control this is.

It's a cunning plan, but a potentially dangerous one.

Quagmire Of The Vanities

More than six years later, we're still having the Village tell us that it's just too early to leave Iraq.
So what should the U.S. do? President Obama has already said he plans to remove all combat troops by August 2010, with a remaining force of 35,000 to 50,000 "support troops" in place until the end of 2011. There is pressure to pull out all the troops on a faster schedule, but there is also talk of slowing the timetable for the removal of combat troops.

The U.S. needs to decide what outcome it is willing to live with in Iraq. It's likely that if the U.S. withdraws all of its troops on schedule, the strategic balance will dramatically shift in favor of the Shiites, and they will press for full control over the state. This, in turn, will probably goad the Sunnis and Kurds back to war, likely ending in a brutal Shiite victory and the establishment of an authoritarian state.

If the U.S. wants to avert this scenario, it will need to create real incentives for Maliki and the Shiites to offer a fair deal that transfers real political power to the Sunnis and Kurds by the 2011 deadline, and then it needs to help them enforce it over time. This would require that those 50,000 "support troops" remain in Iraq until the new political institutions are firmly established, something most experts believe will take an additional five to 10 years.

One of the most robust findings in the civil war literature is the importance of active peacekeepers in helping to implement compromise settlements. Between 1940 and 2002, if peacekeepers were present on the ground, settlements were implemented and civil wars ended. If peacekeepers were not present, they were not.

Peace in Iraq is possible. But the U.S. shouldn't fool itself into believing that it can get peace and stability in Iraq without committing significant military and nonmilitary resources to Iraq well beyond 2011.
Screw Friedman Units, now we're into how many years if not decades we'll have to stay in Iraq, as if that will make the Iraqis love us more.

At some point we have to decide if Iraq is ever going to be a free country without the U.S. military propping it up. We have to decide to bring our men and women home. We have to decide if we can continue to afford trillions more on this country when we need that money now. We could of had health care reform several times over if we hadn't invaded Iraq. We have to leave. If they're not ready now, another decade won't make a difference. They'll try to kill each other anyway because the Iraqi government is totally dependent on us now as it is.

Our continued presence will not change the outcome, in other words. At some point we have to decide to take care of America's problems first and not Iraq's.

That point needs to be now. I honestly thought this discussion was largely over in Iraq. Our withdrawal is more or less assured.

How wrong I was, it seems.

Clearing His Conscience

After declaring that the President hates white people last week, Glennsanity has realized how much blood would be on his hands should anything happen and came out yesterday with a plea of non-violence.
Beck started by noting that his viewers should watch elected officials "like a hawk," so that policymakers can "feel your burning gaze."

"But here's the thing I'm concerned about," Beck said. "Your interaction with them needs to be respectful, polite, forceful, and peaceful. I've been warning Congress for a couple of years, and the time has come and passed for them to be able to learn from this. I've been telling them, 'You have to listen to the people,' or they'll be in real big trouble. Well, now let me give the warning to you. If anybody thinks it would be a good idea to turn violent, think again. It would be destroy the republic. I feel it with everything in me."

Beck said the electorate is, from his perspective, "starting to wake up," but "one lunatic, like Timothy McVeigh, could ruin everything that everyone has worked so hard for." As Beck put it, a McVeigh-like lunatic would become a p.r. problem, exploited by politicians and the media, making it harder for those who share his worldview.

"There is no excuse for violence," the host said. Only a "crazy person" picks up a gun to register political protest. He concluded, "If you ever hear someone talking about, or thinking about, turning violent, it is your patriotic duty to stop them. The only way to save our republic is to remain peaceful. Forceful, but peaceful."

And while Beck is right here and deserves credit for doing the responsible thing, it doesn't excuse the fever-bright insanity that has shown up on his TV and radio shows.

One right thing doesn't begin to excuse the multitude of wrongs. But whatever helps Glennsanity sleep at night. He's dumped gallon after gallon of gasoline on the bonfire, and now he's letting us know that playing with fire is bad as a public service message to assuage his guilt. It doesn't put the fire out.

But if even Glennsanity can see that this whole thing has gotten out of control and feels the need to apologize for his own hatemongering, and to try to tamp down any violence, then isn't that a tacit admission that Glenn has gone just a bit over the line?

If you're really worried about violence there Glenn, then stop winding up the Pretty Hate Machine every night.

Controlling The Script

TPMDC's Brian Beutler gets to the heart of the GOP recess town hall health care ambush plan:
It's hard to know how many member town halls will be (or have been) similarly disrupted, but that's only one of the goals of the protesters. Another goal is to create a narrative in the media about the organic rise of a populist anti-reform backlash; and the jury's still out on whether that effort will succeed.
I honestly think how this is portrayed by the Village is much more important than the actual astroturfing itself. Right now the GOP only needs to organize maybe 10,000 people, you figure 100 protesters times 100 town halls over a month long period. That's a tiny fraction of the total American voting population, but that 10,000 is enough to look like tens of millions if the Village is willing to play it that way.

If the Village is willing to run with the whole "grass roots protest against government health care" story as the truth, then Obamacare is indeed dead. So far, the NY Times seems to be going with the astroturfing.
The Texas protest against Mr. Doggett was coordinated by Heather Liggett, who has worked with the local Republican Party, as well as the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, to organize antitax “tea party” demonstrations.

When a member of her group saw a newspaper advertisement about Mr. Doggett’s event, Mrs. Liggett posted it on her Web site, she said, and the word spread “like a domino effect” through her network. She estimated that 450 people showed up.

Mrs. Liggett said she was also in touch with conservative voters around the country who were helping organize similar events. “Whether it’s Arlen Specter or Claire McCaskill or Lloyd Doggett, they are showing up in force,” she said, referring to the Democratic senator from Missouri.

Mr. Doggett said he had been ambushed while trying to hold “neighborhood office hours” at a Randalls grocery store, where he usually gets questions about veterans’ benefits or listens to constituents’ advice on how to fix the budget deficit.

“If you look at the YouTube video, you can barely see in the edge of that a beautiful marble tombstone with my name on it,” he said. “People that worked so hard to get their signs in full-color did not come to dialogue. They came to be destructive.” Video of protesters confronting Mr. Specter and Ms. Sebelius in Philadelphia was also quickly posted to YouTube.

Mr. Doggett said: “This is not a grass-roots effort. This is a very coordinated effort where the local Republican Party, the local conservative meet-up groups sent people to my event.

Some protesters blocked his car, then followed him to another event.

The effort to flood events held by Democratic lawmakers appears to be part of a concerted strategy that began earlier in the spring at the behest of conservative, libertarian and antitax groups.

One group, called Right Principles, which sent protesters to an event in May held by Representative Jim Himes, a freshman Democrat from Connecticut, has distributed a memorandum laying out strategies to “pack the hall” and pummel lawmakers with questions.
For the Village, this is almost even-handed stuff. It's much less of the actual protests than how they are covered that matters. Note the Wingers are trying to pass these off as spontaneous events that just magically happened because America hates the Democrats so much.

But we'll see how it goes. So far, the Village doesn't appear to be buying the grassroots thing.

For now, anyway.

Epic Reverse Psychology Fail

When one is trying to make their bank seemingly contrite and humble and not appearing to be profiting off the taxpayer, one should probably not get caught asking their employees with fat bonus cash to lay off the high profile purchases.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein told employees to avoid making high profile purchases, the New York Post said, citing sources.

Blankfein, who first asked employees to avoid large purchases late last year, has stepped up his campaign in recent weeks, a source told the paper.

"This is a sensitive time for us, and (Blankfein) wants to make sure that we're not being seen living high on the hog," the paper quoted an anonymous Goldman executive as saying.

One, it makes you look like a complete asshole. Two, it still doesn't hide the fact that you guys are on track for your best bonus year ever, no matter what you buy or don't buy with the money, while the average American hasn't had a raise in three years (much less a bonus). Three, it makes you look like a complete asshole.

In the future, try, you know, not handing out millions in bonuses after demanding billions in taxpayer cash. Jagoffs.


Driving Those Clunkers

Not a very overwhelming effort to get Cash For Clunkers through the Senate so far by Harry Reid.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday put a bill to extend the popular "cash for clunkers" program on the chamber's legislative calendar for consideration, hopefully within the next few days.

But Reid's press secretary, Jim Manley, said Democrats were still seeking a needed agreement with Republicans to proceed on the legislation passed last week by the House of Representatives.

Once again, Harry Reid is unable to count to 60 even on no-brainer legislation. What's more, the GOP wants to kill the one part of the stimulus that works. And even if this Rasmussen poll is accurate the program worked.
Fifty-four percent (54%) of Americans oppose any further funding for the federal “cash for clunkers” program which encourages the owners of older cars to trade them in for newer, more fuel-efficient ones.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 33% of adults think Congress should authorize additional funding to keep the program going now that the original $950 million allocated for it has run out. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.

These numbers are virtually identical to the findings in mid-June just after Congress first approved the plan when 35% favored it while 54% were opposed.

That still means even with Rasmussen's numbers, the program still was an overwhelming success. 35% of Americans who think it's a good idea still translates into tens of millions of Americans, only 250,000 or so who ran the program out of money in a month. Another 2 months worth seems like a no brainer, especially for all the Republicans worried about these "small business owners" coming out on the short end of the stick. Suddenly though, this is a program that the GOP despises. The numbers are basically identical to the ones before the program started, and it still blew through all its money in a month. That means there's still quite a demand for it.

I guess the GOP doesn't care very much about these small business owners after all if it means they might be more amenable to the Democrats with this program to boost their sales. Still, I'm betting this program gets its money. The GOP needs to be careful opposing this one.

Then again, the Democrats just as badly need to pass this.

Local Teabagger Bites Man Story

Here in Cincy, Democratic Rep. Steve Driehaus got ambushed by the teabaggers at his town hall meeting yesterday in West Price Hill.
Hundreds of supporters and critics of a proposed health-care reform plan swarmed an Avondale church Monday evening, nearly drowning out a discussion of the issue led by U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus.

Driehaus, the Democrat from West Price Hill, was heckled on several occasions by those opposed to the reform plans proposed by Democrats and President Barack Obama. Organizers at one point refused to let more people into First Unitarian Church on Linton Street for the forum organized by the Women’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati.

They eventually moved the event to a bigger room and opened an overflow area with a “one out, one in” policy to manage the crowd.

One member of the Woman’s City Club said she had been fielding calls all week about the event but still didn’t expect such a large turnout.

That still left several dozen people outside and short tempers inside.

“Tell the truth!” one onlooker shouted as Driehaus explained the various bills before Congress. “Oh, give me a break!” another one shouted.

“I know some people would like a single-payer system and some would like no change at all,” Driehaus said. “I get that.”

Driehaus said he was glad that the House adjourned this week without passing a bill, but said Congress would take up reform again upon returning to Washington this fall.

“We have the most expensive health-care system in the world,” he said. “We’ve got the best medical system in the world, if you can afford to pay for it.”
Fielding calls all week about the event...I wonder from who? Somebody was certainly prepared to lay into Driehaus yesterday, and made sure they were able to strike. Driehaus won pretty comfortably here in OH-1 last year (the district includes the western three-fourths of Cincy out to the Indiana state line) but West Price Hill is pretty much the reddest part of Cincy proper, working class Catholic, white, and very conservative. Still, all indications are this was pretty well organized and the GOP had no trouble recruiting folks to harass Driehaus.

As I said earlier, Team Obama isn't getting boots on the ground right now, or if they do, they're getting shouted down or worked by the Village refs.

So, if you want health care reform, it's time for YOU to make a difference. Find out when your Representative is having a town hall meeting on the issues. Go out there and make some noise...especially in Republican districts. Here in KY-4 I may just have to drop by Geoff Davis's office and see what he's planning...

Playing With The Queen Of Birthers

"...knowing it ain't really smart. The joker ain't the only fool, who'll do anything for you."
--Juice Newton, Queen of Hearts

Here's Orly talking to David Shuster. She's only got about 42, 45 cards in her deck at most, frankly...but the more she gets on national TV, the more the Birthers win. Of course, the Village knows that. I just hope they get tired of her foolishness before anyone gets hurt.

Oh, and keep in mind this is the person in the movement with the best organizational skills, social skills, and charisma.

I didn't know "crackpot" was one of the suits in a deck of cards, but there you go.


Meh. Every Queen needs a King.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Josh Marshall considers the health care town hall ambushes by the teabagger crowds and asks:
Folks can whine on endlessly about outfits like Freedom Works putting these rackets together. But if the president's plan has any public support they should be able to get supporters to these events too, right? Not to pull the Black Shirt routine but to provide some public demonstration that there's real public support for making reform a reality.

If there is.

So that's the question. Where's the other team?

If they're waiting until after the Senate recesses on Friday, then they're ceding an entire week to the goon squads here. They were ready to go as early as this weekend and will continue to attack for the next four weeks. It's a very good question and very indicative of the problem Obama has had in the last six weeks: for the centerpiece of his administration's policy initiatives, he's sure not acting like he wants this very much.

The GOP on the other hand is treating this fight as what it is: an existential battle. They know that if robust health care reform passes, they are beyond toast. Democrats will run the show for a generation. They are pulling out all the stops on the attacks and the pressure. To use a crappy sports metaphor, they want the win more.

Team Obama has gotten hamstrung here in the last three days. Multiple Democrats have been jumped at appearances. The GOP telegraphed the plan well in advance. So far it's looking like the Dems don't have much of a "boots on the ground" response. I am hoping this changes and fast.

The best organized grassroots political machine ever conceived rolled over the landscape last fall. Where is it now?

Also see Greg Sargent's response to Josh's question:

But OFA’s activities, and those of the Democratic Party in general, are suddenly are much more important, now that there appears to be a very deliberate right-wing effort under way to create the impression of populist opposition to reform. It’s yet another reminder that health care is the ultimate test of whether Obama’s vaunted campaign operation can drive Obama’s legislative agenda and achieve real results.

Will Obama’s much-vaunted campaign operation be outworked by the Tea Baggers?

So far? They absolutely have been.

[UPDATE 10:42 AM] From commenter Paul:
That can quickly reverse though, if he takes a few of the following steps: 1) Lambaste the party of no for being obstructionist and expose their BS over needing "time" and "fiscal conservatism", he needs to make it clear what each side stands for. 2) Come out with a major speech, the press is not willing to focus on the unsexy details (last press conference only about a 3rd of questions were on healthcare reform). 3) In that speech, and continuously for the next 4 weeks, set down benchmarks for what the bill MUST include (public option, cost controls, subsidies, employer/universal mandate, penalties for not participating, best practices testing, etc). He needs to define what is in front of Americans so that those of us fighting for reform have something to point to when the empty talking points of the GOP come up. 4)Deploy more resources against Dems standing in the way of reform simply to get more $, that will be under the radar but he needs to pull out a few more sticks against those in his own party while also reminding them what voters will be thinking about in 2010 (hint, it won't be the deficit).
Very solid advice, especially points #2 and #3 there. A major speech on health care is a definite must, it must be sooner rather than later, and it has to lay down the points that local Dems will need to combat these ambushes.

Number 4 there isn't such a bad idea either.

Timmy Blows His Stack

I can understand Timmy The Invisible Boy wanting to keep a low profile right now with all the news concerning the Fed getting ripped off by banks in securities sales, but he's not doing himself any favors with this blow up at the FDIC's Sheila Bair over a turf fight...turf that Timmy owns 95% of anyway.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner blasted top U.S. financial regulators in an expletive-laced critique last Friday as frustration grows over the Obama administration's faltering plan to overhaul U.S. financial regulation.
Mr. Geithner, without singling out officials, raised concerns about regulators who questioned the wisdom of giving the Federal Reserve more power to oversee the financial system. Ms. Schapiro and Ms. Bair, among others, have argued that more authority should be shared among a council of regulators..

The government's proposal would empower the government to take over and break up large financial companies, merge two bank regulators, and toughen oversight of mortgages, among other things.

Administration officials say they aren't worried about the overhaul's prospects, adding that there is consensus on key aspects, including the regulating of over-the-counter derivatives. Treasury officials say they expected a big debate over the complex legislation. The first piece, which addresses executive pay, passed the House Friday.

"The industry is already back to their pre-meltdown bonuses," said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. "We need to make sure we don't slip back to risky behavior where the institutions have all the upside and the taxpayers have all the downside, which is why we need regulatory reform."

Neal Wolin, Treasury's deputy secretary, said Mr. Geithner told regulators "they have the prerogative to express their views, but he wanted to make sure that, since everyone had agreed on the importance of achieving reform this year, everyone stayed focused on that goal."
That goal of course making sure that the FDIC and SEC aren't stepping on Timmy's crank with their regulatory boots. Why, if the FDIC and SEC had more power, they actually might try to conduct oversight of banks, and we can't have that. Regulators will be testifying on Capitol Hill about the proposals, and it could get catty. However, the President's proposal is in Timmy's favor, and that means Sheila Bair will have to back off and sit down.
The initiative comes as criticism spreads of President Barack Obama’s proposal to give the Fed powers to oversee systemic financial risks. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last week told regulatory chiefs -- including Sheila Bair, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairman who opposes making the Fed the sole systemic-risk agency -- they should stop attempts to campaign against the administration’s revamp of rules for the industry, a person familiar with the matter said.

“We are prioritizing and expanding” the examination process to “assess key operations, risks and risk management activities of large institutions,” Tarullo said in prepared remarks for today’s hearing. “This program will be distinct from the activities of on-site examination teams so as to provide an independent supervisory perspective.”

Seems the boss-man has Timmy's back on this more or less.

The usual suspects have more on Timmy's temper-tantrum. Yves Smith:

Obama seems unable to recognize he has pinned the fate of his presidency on two people, Geithner and Summers, who are part of the problem. The stillborn PPIP was a terrible idea. Paulson had two efforts on variants of the "buy toxic assets" idea and failed. The stress tests were a farce. The Potemkin reform plan puts more regulatory authority in the Fed, which was far and away, of all the regulators, least interested in supervision.
Tyler Durden:
On a more serious note, this begs the question: is the SecTsy finally losing it and why? Or, in a Machiavellian ploy of sinister brilliance, did Larry Summers orchestrate all of this by turning off CNBC access at the U.S. Treasury, in hopes of creating a brief but deadly Western standoff between his adversaries (all of them)? If nothing else, it would explain the cable station's increasingly declining viewership.
Moe Tkacik:
(Tim Geithner shouldn't be the one to point fingers here, though. His own fixes have been a direct continuation of the those of the Bush administration).
Personally, I think giving the Fed even more power is a horrendous idea. Look what they've done (or failed to do) with their existing power so far, after all. But the real problem is Geithner and Treasury. It's been a multi-trillion dollar shell game so far, and any time Geithner gets called on it, he doesn't respond well. Yeah, the guy's under a lot of pressure, far more than any SecTreas needs to be. But too bad, he took the job knowing damn well what it meant.

I've said that Timmy has been the wrong guy since the get-go. Seems like I'm not the only one anymore who may believe that.


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