Thursday, August 6, 2009

Last Call

BooMan ranks his ten favorite Democrats in the Senate. It's a good list, frankly.

Me, I was more impressed he could actually find ten Democrats with a spine. He's a better man than myself.

And It Turned Into A Town Hall Blitz!

And the man in the back said "Everyone attack!" and it turned into a Town Hall Blitz!

Town Hall Blitz! (drum solo) (emphasis mine:)
Bitter divisions over reforming America's health care system exploded Thursday night in Tampa amid cat calls, jeering and shoving at a town hall meeting.

"Tyranny! Tyranny! Tyranny!" dozens of people shouted as U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor struggled to talk about health insurance reforms under consideration in Washington, D.C.

"There is more consensus than there is disagreement when you get right down to it,'' Castor offered, immediately drowned out by groans and boos.

She pressed on, mostly unheard among the screams from the audience of more than 200.

"Tell the truth! Tell the truth!"

"Read the bill!"

"Forty-million illegals! Forty million illegals!"

The spectacle at the Children's Board in Ybor City sounded more like a wrestling cage match than a panel discussion on national policy, and it was just the latest example of a health care meeting disrupted by livid protesters. Similar scenes are likely to be repeated across the country as lawmakers head back to their home districts for the summer recess.

Thursday's forum/near riot was sponsored by state Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, and the Service Employees International Union, who apparently had hoped to hold something of a pep rally for President Obama's health care reform proposal.

Instead, hundreds of vocal critics turned out, many of them saying they had been spurred on through the Tampa 912 activist group promoted by conservative radio and television personality Glenn Beck. Others had received e-mails from the Hillsborough Republican party that urged people to speak out against the plan and offered talking points to challenge supporters.

But I thought the state Republican parties had nothing to do with these totally spontaneous outpourings of people that were not organized by guys like Glenn Beck.

U.S. Rep. Castor said a strong debate is healthy but suggested that many of the protesters who have shown up at town hall meetings in recent weeks would have staunchly opposed the creation of Medicare and Social Security a few decades ago.

"The insurance industry and … Republican activists are manufacturing a lot of these phony protests,'' said Castor, who has been closely involved in the health care debate and said she won't support any bill lacking a government-run insurance option.

She left before the forum ending, which drew more boos. State Rep. Reed said she encouraged Castor to leave because nobody could hear her any way.

Protesters said there was nothing phony about their strong showing, just a bubbling of grass roots anger.

"It's the backlash to the arrogance of our government that you're seeing here,'' said Brad Grabill of Temple Terrace.

Sure it is, Brad. These are the same hardcore GOP activists that refused to bat an eyelash at Bush's warrantless wiretapping program or Cheney's near violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.

They instead yell "Tyranny! Tyranny! Tyranny!" at the government trying to design an affordable public health care option for all Americans...and notice that Rep. Castor had to leave because the protesters wouldn't let her speak. You have to love the tyranny of the mob.

It won't be long now until they step over that line, folks.

Town Hall Blitz.

[UPDATE 9:48 PM] Josh Marshall has much more at TPM, including this video from the local Tampa FOX affiliate.

And the girl in the corner said "Boy, I'm gonna warn ya!" and it turned into a Town Hall Blitz...

Cash For Clunkers Gets A Refuel

CNN is reporting that the Senate has just approved the House version of the $2 billion Cash For Clunkers refill, 60-37.
The Senate voted Thursday night to extend the "Cash for Clunkers" program with an infusion of $2 billion.

White House aides said earlier that President Obama will quickly sign the bill into law to prevent any interruption to the popular incentive.

The Senate voted 60-37 to approve the measure already passed by the House.

"He's going to want to make sure the funds are in place by this weekend," one senior White House official noted, because of the particularly brisk weekend business the program has sparked.

The program under Obama's economic stimulus package pays people up to $4,500 for trading an older-model vehicle with low fuel efficiency for new vehicles that get better miles per gallon.

The new measure had five Republicans for the bill (Brownback-KS, Collins and Snowe-ME, Bond-MO, and Voinovich-OH) but two Democrats against, Missouri's Claire McCaskill and Nebraska's Ben Nelson. Thanks, guys.

The 3 not voting, Byrd, Kennedy and Barbra Mikulski of Maryland.

Yes, even Evan F'ckin Bayh and Joe F'ckin Lieberman voted for the bill. Max Baucus too. But noooo, I have to put Democrat Stupidity down there thanks to those two.

Not Logical At All

Nate Silver very logically concludes that today's 31 Republican votes in the Senate against Sonia Sotomayor are not in the best interests of expanding the GOP's reach among the Latino community. I logically conclude that falling into an open volcano filled with magma is also not in my best interests as well.
More sophisticated modelling techniques, like logisitic regression, do not reveal any connection between the Hispanic status of a state and the expected vote on Sotomayor. In some formulations, in fact -- for example, if a state's PVI is accounted for but not the ideology of the Senator -- a higher Hispanic population actually turns up as a statistically predicdtor of a vote against Sotomayor.

I suspect that is probably a fluke; among the five Republicans in the states with 20%+ Hispanic populations planning to vote against Sotomayor, Kyl and Ensign are very conservative, Cornyn is in a leadership position in his caucus, and Hutchison may have to bolster her conservative credentials in anticipation of her primary against Rick Perry. John McCain's nay vote is more surprising, and he seems to being a thorn in Obama's side.

Pressure from the NRA, which will "score" a yea vote on Sotomayor as being a vote against gun control, may also be a factor. With the exception of Florida, the states with large Hispanic populations are Western ones that tend to have large numbers of gun owners and where gun rights are certainly an issue with the GOP base. That seems to outweigh any concerns the Republicans might have about alienating Hispanics.

To be clear, I don't think anybody should vote for (or against) Sotomayor because she's Hispanic, nor do I think they should vote for her because their constitutents are. But given that Sotomayor is reasonably popular with the public -- most polls show about 50 percent wanting a vote in favor of confirmation, 30 percent against, and 20 percent indifferent -- I was expecting a few more 'yeas'.
Nate's numbers are pretty shocking, actually. Of the 21 Republicans senators from states with the highest percentages of Hispanic voters, 20 of them voted against Sonia Sotomayor. Only Florida's Mel Martinez (#6 on the list) voted for her of those 21 Republicans...and like Judd Gregg, Kit Bond and George Voinovich (who also voted yea), he's not running for re-election in 2010.

Then again, attributing logical actions to Republicans is bound to end in confusion and failure. After all, many of these same senators not only telegraphed their no votes weeks in advance, but they did it through various displays of both overt bouts of racism and covert dog-whistle politics. When it became clear that Sotomayor was going to breeze through as she did, the party devolved into a mess where the nasty base of the party thought the GOP senators should have been even more racist.

I suppose logically they'll be wondering why they failed to magically take over the Senate in 2010 too.

Director John Hughes Dead at 59

Needless to say, like Bob Cesca, I'm pretty bummed that filmmaker John Hughes has passed away today, apparently from a heart attack.
John Wilden Hughes, Jr., born on Feb. 18, 1950 in Michigan, began as an advertising copywriter in Chicago.

In the last decade, he stepped back from the legacy he created to enjoy time with his family, maintain a functioning farm in northern Illinois and support independent arts. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Nancy, two sons, John and James, and four grandchildren.

Hughes's movies really do read like a list of "children of the 80's" classics: Breakfast Club, Planes, Trains And Automobiles, Uncle Buck, Weird Science, and of course Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He wrote a lot of screenplays for some of my favorite films too: The Great Outdoors, Dutch, the National Lampoon's Vacation movies, and yeah, the guy even wrote Home Alone.

Hell, if you're anywhere close to my age, you still quote these films with your friends...and you still watch them whenever you catch them on TV on Saturday afternoon.

Have a peaceful journey, John Hughes.

Epic Rick Sanchez: Anti-Villager Win

Via TPM, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez stomps the crapcakes out of anti-health care drone Rick Scott.

I've talked about Rick Scott before, he's the scumbag former health conglomerate Columbia/HCA CEO who's the health insurance industry's media point man on killing Obamacare. Back at Columbia/HCA, Scott was a real piece of work.
"Other hospitals were intimidated," recalls John Schilling, who worked for Columbia/HCA in the 1990s. Scott was "like the bully that would come into town and if you didn't sell to him or partner with him, he would open up shop across the street from you and put you out of business."

Not long after joining the company in 1993 as the supervisor of reimbursement for the Fort Myers, Florida, office, Schilling noticed things weren't quite kosher. "They were looking for ways to maximize reimbursement...which ultimately would improve the bottom line."

One way they did this was to fudge the costs on their Medicare expense reports. They were "basically keeping two sets of books," says Schilling. The company would maintain an internal expense report, what it called a "reserve" report, which accurately tallied its expenses. "And then they would have a second report, which...they would file with the government, which was more aggressive." That report would "include inflated costs and expenses they knew weren't allowable or reimbursable. The one they filed with government might claim $5 million and the reserve would claim $4.5." Columbia/HCA would pocket the difference.

You want to know why health care in this country is the most expensive in the world? The practices Rick Scott pioneered became standard operating procedure for the health insurance industry across the board.

And Rick Sanchez just kicked this guy's ass on national TV. Hell yes.


Clearly The Answer Is More Kerning Analysts

Dave Weigel at the Washington Independent has really gone deep into the nasty, scummy, disease-filled trenches of the birther stupidity so you don't have to, and comes up from the sludge with this between his teeth:
A new poll from the Pew Research Center finds that 28 percent of Americans believe that there’s been “too little” coverage of “allegations that President Obama was not born in the United States” — including a plurality, 39 percent, of self-identified Republicans. Only 14 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of independents share that view.

“If anything surprised me, it’s how many people have heard about this,” said Michael Dimock, an associate director at the Pew Research Center. “When we put the question in, we said to ourselves, well, Lou Dobbs has covered it, and it’s been discussed on the Internet. For 80 percent of people to have heard something about this is pretty high.”
Just go ahead and devote 28 percent of FOX News to Obama's latest Kenyan Bahamanian Martian birth certificate, hire Lester Kinsolving as your expert, and go to town on this. Hell, let's be honest, FOX News can get away with the whole 39 percent.

The only additional coverage of Obama's birth certificate "controversy" necessary is to mock it relentlessly.

That's Your Entire Plan, Ray? "Get Him?"

Speaking of our friend Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), who earlier this week said he was canceling any town hall meetings this August because of the death threats his office received, Miller did say he was more than happy to continue to entertain one-on-one meetings with his constituents. In fact, some conservative activists were scheduled to meet Miller in those one-on-one meetings tomorrow.

They decided to bring their friends as TPMDC's Eric Kleefield reports.
As it turns out, however, Miller agreed several days ago to hold a meeting with some conservative activists back home. So now a local Tea Party has been promoting it as a town hall -- which it is not -- and urging people to show up outside:
"A large demonstration is going to be staged outside of his office during the meeting! We want an ENORMOUS turn out! With our "representatives" on recess, we have a golden opportunity to show them what we think!"

"We're treating it like it's any other constituent meeting by the office," Miller spokesperson LuAnn Canipe told TPM. "And then unbeknownst to us, it's also orchestrated to get the protesters there and treat it as a town hall."

Canipe said the meeting is still scheduled for tomorrow: "We're gonna go forward with business as usual. The Congressman often meets with groups he disagrees with. He's going to continue to do that, and we'll see where it goes from here."

Ahh, teabaggers. They just keep on giving.

I wonder what in turn Rep. Miller will recieve from his new friends?

Your ODI Update

Today's Obama Derangement Index is down from last week, Rasmussen has Obama at -6, the average is 53.4, giving us an ODI figure of -9.4, down from last week's -11.9 number.

Things are looking up for the President. We'll see how it goes next week.

Mob Rule

The GOP teabagger mob apparently likes being called a mob. It apparently gives them that warm, tingly high of righteous indignation, as Greg Sargent notes.
Tea Party organizers are circulating an email containing video of the ad the DNC ran yesterday describing the town hall rowdies as a “mob.” The email contains a link to this post over at, the online headquarters of the Tea Party movement:

Time to show them what a REAL grassroots MOB looks like!…

If advocating free speech, peaceful dissent, individual liberty and fiscal responsibility makes us a mob… we’ll take the label.

We’ll be launching a new campaign called “The People’s Mob” here shortly.

Asked for a response, DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan joked: “Admitting you’re a mob is the first step.”

Guess what the second step is. Go on. Guess.

Yeah, this will turn out well.

Sonia Sails Through The Senate

MSNBC is reporting that the Senate easily confirmed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, the vote tally 68-31.
The Democratic-led Senate has voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor, who is now poised to be sworn in as the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. According to NBC News, that event is scheduled for Saturday.

The vote was 68-31 for Sotomayor, President Barack Obama's first high court nominee. She will become the 111th justice and just the third woman to serve.

Senators took the rare step of assembling at their desks on the Senate floor for the historic occasion, rising from their seats to cast their votes.

Ahead of the Thursday afternoon vote, Sotomayor picked up additional GOP support even as more than three-quarters of the Senate's 40 Republicans pledged to vote against her.

"Judge Sotomayor's decisions, while not always the decision I would render, are not outside the legal mainstream and do not indicate an obvious desire to legislate from the bench," said Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio.

"I have confidence that the parties who appear before her will encounter a judge who is committed to recognizing and suppressing any personal bias she may have to reach a decision that is dictated by the rule of law," he said.

Democrats, praising her as a well-qualified judge and a mainstream moderate, had warned Republicans that they could face backlash from Hispanic voters — a growing part of the electorate — if they opposed her.

"Judge Sotomayor should not be chosen to serve on the court because of her Hispanic heritage, but those who oppose her for fear of her unique life experience do no justice to her or our nation. Their names will be listed in our nation's annals of elected officials one step behind America's historic march forward," said Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois ahead of of the historic vote.

All 59 Democrats voted for, the abstention was Ted Kennedy who was unable to attend the vote, Senator Robert Byrd however did. A total of 9 Republicans voted for her as well, including Judd Gregg and George Voinovich. (Funny to see the retiring GOP Senators casting a vote for her, Mel Martinez and Kit Bond, too.) The rest, the untouchable Dick Lugar, Lamar Alexander, both the Senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and good ol' Lindsey Graham rounded out the horrible traitors to La Raza affirmative votes.

[UPDATE 4:10 PM] Nice to see Al Franken getting some props presiding over the Senate for the vote, too...even if he will forever have YouTubes of SNL attached by terribly clever Villagers to any news story he makes.

[UPDATE 4:25 PM] Skippy is still my damn hero.

Food For Thought

Via Memeorandum, another depressing milestone for the US economy:
For the first time, more than 34 million Americans received food stamps, which help poor people buy groceries, government figures said on Thursday, a sign of the longest and one of the deepest recessions since the Great Depression.

Enrollment surged by 2 percent to reach a record 34.4 million people, or one in nine Americans, in May, the latest month for which figures are available.

It was the sixth month in a row that enrollment set a record. Every state recorded a gain in participation from April. Florida had the largest increase at 4.2 percent.

We have tens of millions of people in America who can't afford food, let alone health care. More and more folks, and folks you know, are falling through the cracks. They're not lazy or stupid or living off handouts. They're people who have lost their jobs, are underwater on the house payments, and have nothing left but to fall back on food stamps. Three million more Americans joined the rolls from September 2008 to May 2009.

Millions more will join in the months ahead.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

It's a good thing Obama never really pursued the Fairness Doctrine.

Otherwise, it might interfere with El Rushbo's God-given right to rage against Nancy Pelosi for being "deranged" for saying the mobs attacking health care town halls have swastikas, and then turn around and then compare Obama to Hitler AGAIN and the Democrats to the Nazis, saying Obama was sending out his brownshirts.

Giving folks equal time to rebut statements like that would deprive America, you see.

Max Baucus Returns, Part 3

Yggy calls out Max Baucus for his interminable (and entirely predictable) delaying tactics.
Jon Cohn says he’s “been obsessing over the lack of passion and organization on the left,” though now feeling slightly better. I agree, but it is worth saying that this is almost 100 percent the fault of Max Baucus.

There’s a reason, after all, why the President wanted the process to be much further along at this point. And I think a big part of that reason is that it’d be much easier to get people engaged and mobilized if there was a thing “the health care bill” that people were supposed to be getting engaged and mobilized about. By contrast, those most full of passionate intensity on the other side are basically prepared to oppose reform sight unseen. But without knowing much about what the content of “reform” is or who it is who’s backing “reform” it’s hard to know what to say about it. At the moment, progressives are simultaneously trying to impact the shape of “reform” (reasonable public option, reasonably generous subsidies and minimum benefits packages) while also trying to push for “reform” to win out against the opponents of “reform.” If the various congressional leaders ever work out what “reform” is, then no matter how disappointed folks may be with some aspects of it, I’m pretty sure just about everyone will find themselves pushing for it.

I would have to partially disagree about placing the blame solely at the feet of ol' Mad Max there. If the issue here is lack of specific reform proposals, well, we have plenty of those floating around, too many. But at any point in this grand kabuki festival President Obama could have laid down some specifics. He could have said "I will not sign a bill that does not include X, Y, or Z." He could have said "This plan will have a public option that will cover 97% of America by 2012" or "This plan will include subsidies for families making up to 500% of the poverty line."

Americans want to know what the specifics are so they can figure out how it's going to affect them. Obama has left that 100% up to guys like Max Baucus, and Max Baucus doesn't want specifics, he wants this damn thing to die. If Baucus will not do it, then Obama has to. Period. At some point, Obama has to act like he's in charge of the damn country. Treating Max Baucus as a hostile witness is certainly a start, but the buck still stops in the Big O's office.

Settling Up For Less Than Pennies On The Dollar

Former AIG head Hank Greenberg is settling up with the SEC for $15 million. Compared to the $100 billion the government gave AIG, sure, that's a victory!

Greenberg, 84, and former AIG Chief Financial Officer Howard Smith “directed several different accounting transactions to materially affect AIG’s reported financial results,” the Securities and Exchange Commission said in a lawsuit filed today in federal court in Manhattan. Smith will pay $1.5 million to resolve the suit.

“Corporate leaders cannot avoid the truth and consequences of their companies’ performance by using improper accounting gimmicks and signing off on distorted financial reports,” SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami said in a statement. The accounting deals “presented a false financial picture and allowed AIG to claim success in meeting its performance goals.”

The insurer’s former chairman and chief executive officer has been locked in legal battles since AIG’s board pushed him out in 2005 during a probe by then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer into reinsurance, the business of selling insurance to insurers. The company later restated $3.4 billion in earnings and in 2006 agreed to pay more than $1.6 billion to settle state and SEC claims it misled investors. Greenberg, a former U.S. Army captain and World War II combatant, has called much of the restatement unnecessary.

Nice deal if you can get it. Hank gives up a few mil, and everything's hunky dory with AIG again.
In agreeing to resolve the claims, Greenberg and Smith didn’t admit or deny wrongdoing, the SEC said.

“This settlement brings finality for Hank,” said Jacob Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor now practicing law at Shulman Rogers in Potomac, Maryland. “A settlement means no admission, no denial, and one day of news. When they fight the charges, every event in the case is another storyline.”

And AIG's much larger ripoffs go uninvestigated. After all, the CEO's paid his dues, and of course the Obama administration won't take a deeper look into Eliot Spitzer's AIG reinsurance investigation and how that turned into a pyramid scam that was paid for by you and me, thanks to government generosity.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told lawmakers in March that AIG was an insurance company “attached to a hedge fund that was allowed to build up without any adult supervision.” Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said that no government rescue of a financial company made him “more angry” than AIG because the company “exploited a huge gap in the regulatory system.”
Helicopter Ben and Timmy are mad. Apparently that anger is worth about...$15 million of the $100 billion plus we're owed. You keep on thinking we'll get that money back as the banks restart their shell games with our seed money and build another bubble.

Less than pennies on the dollar. The free market, she works like the magic.

Standing There Just Watching The Uppercut's Incoming Trajectory

At Hullabaloo, Tristero argues that the Dems deserve serious scorn for not anticipating the Great Health Care Town Hall Ambush.
It's as if the eight years of Bush/Cheney, with its lockstep Republican Congressional goons, its relentless intimidation and marginalization of anyone to the left of the John Birch Society, its proactive (and successful) effort to target Democrats for prosecution by hand-picked Attorneys-General - it's as if all of that - and so much more - never happened.

Democratic leadership once again failed to perceive political reality as it is in 21st century America: The Republican Party is dominated by fascists who will do anything, anything at all, to undermine what's left of this country's democracy after the successful Bush/Cheney assault on it. After all, this is a party that used the Department of Homeland Security to hunt down Democrats when they bolted from Texas in order to avoid committing political suicide. After all, this is a party that aggressively opposes the regulation of computerized voting machines, voting machines manufactured by none other than prominent members of their own party.

Shutting down town hall meetings is precisely the kind of tactic these characters love, they spend night and day meticulously planning them, and get well-paid to boot. Shame on Democrats for not seeing these latest Republican riots coming.
I'd have to agree, back on Tuesday I said that :
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?

Tristero however does bring up a much larger point: how could the Dems possibly have been caught flat-footed by this? The GOP has been telegraphing an August assault for weeks, if not months now, and even if somehow the Dems had overlooked that, Tristero's point about the preceding eight years certainly stands. I'll go even further...the Dems absolutely had to know that the 1993-1994 Hillarycare playbook was prima facie evidence that the GOP was willing to do whatever it takes to stop health care again this time around.

And still they stood there and watched the punch incoming, one telegraphed from 15 years ago. it's not like you couldn't have asked Hillary or Bill, clearly they're around. Hell, half the damn Obama administration is Clinton retreads from back then. Leon Panetta, Larry Summers, even Eric Holder...c'mon. Absolutely, without a doubt, you knew the plan was the GOP was going to try to delay this through the August recess and then spend that month sending in the crazies.

One almost has to question the magnitude of the effort of the Democrats behind the push for health care. Obama knew exactly how to campaign and win 12-18 months ago. But the same outfit seemingly has no clue what to do against the GOP here, other than "Hey, look at the crazies!" The Village is happy to report on the story that the GOP wants. They're in control of the news cycle and Team Obama looks downright silly after just a week or so.

If you want health care reform, we have to fight for it. Obama's not doing that.

They Were Just Asking To Get Hard Labor, You See

Via DougJ at Balloon Juice, John Podhoretz is just a really terrible human being, deciding to place the blame for those two captured journalists freed by Bill Clinton's efforts in North Korea on...the two journalists (and Al Gore).
That said, and now that they are out of jeopardy, Ling and Lee deserve to be held accountable, at least in the realm of public opinion, for the unthinkably bad judgment they displayed in their preposterous, vainglorious, and astoundingly naive venture. Possessing some fantasy about presenting an inside look at North Korea on an justifiably unwatched (because unwatchable) cable channel called Current TV, they thought they could sneak undetected into a Gulag state, film some footage with a DV camera, and then sneak back out to the hosannas of the Peabody Award committee. This is something they chose to do and were given license to attempt by their employers, and for which they paid a horrific, far too horrific, a price. That must be the case as well for Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, the co-owners of Current TV, who have doubtless existed in a state of terrible “what have I done” anxiety about this since the arrests.
"One would think," said Zandar as he rubbed the bridge of his nose in consternation, "that attempting to expose the evils of the oppressive North Korean regime and being captured because of it would in fact be applauded by the kind of people whose response to something like this happening to, say, Joe The Plumber, War Correspondent Emeritus, would be calls to turn Pyongyang into a warm crater of radioactive glass."

Seriously. But no, instead it's the Goracle's fault for putting those two young ladies in harm's way. I get to drag out my favorite acronym again: ITEISATDF*. This is pretty mean-spirited, even for the JPod. How dare those two journalists force us to use diplomacy with the Norks!

(*In The End, It's Somehow Always The Democrats' Fault.)

Public Option, Public Opinion

Like most Republicans who want to make sure health care reform dies screaming, Karl Rove has now suddenly discovered that public opinion "matters".
Americans are now seeing the damage that polls and focus groups can inflict on White House decision-making. President Barack Obama is no longer shaping the public dialogue on health-care reform. Instead, he is losing control of his agenda and resorting to rhetorical tricks and evasions.

Every administration has to take into account public opinion. Without doing so, Abraham Lincoln said, little can be achieved. But too much polling doesn’t raise presidential vision. It narrows and pulls it down. Substituting a weekly dose of opinion surveys for thoughtful consideration is causing White House aides to find new scapegoats whenever administration policy initiatives get into trouble.

Which is hysterical, because public opinion and public debate didn't matter a damn bit to Karl Rove or his boss Dubya when it came to Iraq, warrantless wiretapping, SCHIP, stem cell research, the PATRIOT act, FISA, or on virtually any other major public initiative, making Karl Rove actually saying that bolded statement one of the most gobsmacking instances of self-serving garbage ever uttered in history.

For eight years, the Bush administration declared it needed no debate, no public opinion polls, no permission from anybody to lay down the law as dictated by the "plenary executive". The wishes of Congress and the American people were utterly irrelevant as the President has all the authority he needed derived from John Yoo's magical memos. When he wasn't flat out hiding what he was doing, the stuff that was public had no oversight and no check or balance. Congress crumpled like a rag doll.

Now, Karl Rove is not only being transparently hypocritical, he's actually chiding the Obama administration for not taking the unilateral approach and actually listening to people...and complaining that he's not listening to the astroturfed mob unleashed on Democrats this week and warning that taxes are coming.

This coming from the from the guys that brought us a massive tax cut for the wealthy ($1.3 trillion) and then a prescription drug bonanza for Big Pharma ($1.2 trillion), both of which were more expensive than the cost of the health care reform proposals to the national debt. Had no problem passing that, did we? Health care at $900 billion? Intolerable for America.

And it keeps going on and on and on...

The Return Of Bad Bank

Just when you thought Helicopter Ben and his sidekick Foulmouthed Timmy couldn't frak up this economy any more, here comes the WaPo with another trial balloon for putting Fannie and Freddie through the Bad Bank Machine.
The "bad bank" would be a depository for Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's toxic assets. Then, the government could create new companies, if it chose to do so, that would attract private investment in support of mortgage finance.

Options for the "good banks" include consolidating the firms into one government agency, leaving mortgage finance to private banks or maintaining a hybrid model.

The National Economic Council has looked at the "bad bank" option, among many others, in several internal policy papers. Any final decision would come after talks involving the White House, the Treasury, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

A major problem is that the firms own and insure trillions of dollars of existing mortgages. With the economy still in a deep recession, joblessness rising and defaults on home loans expected to continue to go up, there is great uncertainty over the size of future losses at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That, in turn, is likely to drive investors from committing money to the companies.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac existed for years as odd hybrids, created by government to support housing but owned by private shareholders. (They are now majority-owned by the government.) Over the years, the unusual status has fed concerns that the firms exploited their quasi-governmental role to borrow money at very low rates and therefore grow far larger than was sustainable. At the same time, they had a duty to shareholders to maximize profits, leading them to take on bigger risks.

Until the future of the firms is worked out, the Obama administration has been using them to carry out its housing recovery program, including restructuring mortgages to avoid foreclosures.

In addition, the Federal Reserve has bought well over $1 trillion worth of mortgage-related securities and debt from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That further helped to lower interest rates on home loans. The government also has pledged up to $400 billion in direct investments in the firms.

So, the government buys the trillions in toxic assets and craptastic mortgage junk at taxpayer expense...and then what? Hold on to it until the market improves? How long will that take? What price will the taxpayer pay for these assets? I've talked before about the "no right price" solution that makes bad bank untenable: there's no correct price to sell these assets at. If the taxpayer pays too much for the assets in order to free Fannie and Freddie, then they stand to lose money should the housing market continue to tank (and all indications are it will.) If they pay too little for them, it won't cover Fannie and Freddie's further losses and we'll be right back in the soup where we were in October.

The thing is the government just can't make these toxic assets vanish. Rolling them over into a holding company is one solution, but it's a solution that may take decades to make money, and that is if it makes money at all. Meanwhile, the government's on the hook for the liabilities, adding to that $23.7 trillion it's already on the hook for. Without massive reform for the new Fannie and Freddie, they'll fall apart again as the market continues to go south. We've still got a ways to go on the housing market collapse.

All this is doing is sweeping the broken shards of our economy under the rug in a huge pile, and then hoping nobody notices. Somebody's going to have to eat those Fannie/Freddie losses. They are in the trillions of dollars, total. It looks like the loser here is going to be the taxpayer.

Big surprise.

[UPDATE 7:04 PM] Now Fannie Mae execs are saying the mortgage company needs another $10.7 billion to stay afloat. And of course, they'll get it.


Derangement Engagement

Over at TPMDC, Eric Kleefield notes that Democratic Rep. Brad Miller of North Carolina has scrapped any plans for town hall meetings on health care. The reason? At least one direct threat against Miller's life.
"We had no town hall events scheduled for the August recess anyway, but in light of everything that's happened -- we have received a threatening phone call in the D.C. office, there have been calls to the Raleigh office," said Miller communications director LuAnn Canipe, in an interview with TPM. The threatening call in question happened earlier this week.

"The call to the D.C. office was, 'Miller could lose his life over this,'" said Canipe. "Our staffer took it so seriously, he confirmed what the guy was saying. He said, 'Sir is that a threat?' and at that time our staffer was getting the phone number off caller ID and turning it over to the Capitol Police."

They haven't heard anything back from the police yet, but they did get the caller's number. So this could develop into something soon enough.

Stay classy, Wingnuts!

It seems Obama Derangement Syndrome is beginning to mutate into full-blown sociopathic hate. Once again, I have to wonder how long it will take before somebody decides that the government offering a public option is just so unbearably awful that people have to be physically hurt in order to stop it. What the hell is wrong with people? Is defending the right of health insurance companies to screw over Americans really one of those "tree of liberty has to be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants" moments, folks?

Keep making those pre-emptive apologies for future violence and outright denials that you've whipped these nutbars into frenzy mode, guys. I'm sure it'll help you guys feel better when the next violent incident claims lives.

If It's Thursday...

...then the weekly jobless numbers are looking a little better, but still 550,000 new claims this week. Continuing claims however rose to 6.31 million.

Still no real signs of improvement. July monthly figures hit tomorrow morning.

And We're One Years Old!

It's a ZVTS birthday!

(Gotta love Cake Wrecks.)

The blog celebrates its birthday/blogiversary/whatever today, and I'd like to thank you guys for actually reading it. So much The Stupid to fight. No rest for the Zandar.

OK. Resume blog.

George W. Crusader

Via BooMan comes this downright shocking story about Dubya and France's Jacques Chirac back in 2003 as Bush was gathering his "Coalition of the Willing".
Now out of office, Chirac recounts that the American leader appealed to their “common faith” (Christianity) and told him: “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”

This bizarre episode occurred while the White House was assembling its “coalition of the willing” to unleash the Iraq invasion. Chirac says he was boggled by Bush’s call and “wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs.”

After the 2003 call, the puzzled French leader didn’t comply with Bush’s request. Instead, his staff asked Thomas Romer, a theologian at the University of Lausanne, to analyze the weird appeal. Dr. Romer explained that the Old Testament book of Ezekiel contains two chapters (38 and 39) in which God rages against Gog and Magog, sinister and mysterious forces menacing Israel. Jehovah vows to smite them savagely, to “turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws,” and slaughter them ruthlessly. In the New Testament, the mystical book of Revelation envisions Gog and Magog gathering nations for battle, “and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.”

In 2007, Dr. Romer recounted Bush’s strange behavior in Lausanne University’s review, Allez Savoir. A French-language Swiss newspaper, Le Matin Dimanche, printed a sarcastic account titled: “When President George W. Bush Saw the Prophesies of the Bible Coming to Pass.” France’s La Liberte likewise spoofed it under the headline “A Small Scoop on Bush, Chirac, God, Gog and Magog.” But other news media missed the amazing report.

Subsequently, ex-President Chirac confirmed the nutty event in a long interview with French journalist Jean-Claude Maurice, who tells the tale in his new book, Si Vous le Répétez, Je Démentirai (If You Repeat it, I Will Deny), released in March by the publisher Plon.

I've got a couple of observations, frankly. I wonder how many other world leaders Bush talked to in 2001-2003 who have other embarrassing tales to tell about the man. Chirac couldn't have been the only guy Bush gave these types of "we're on a mission from God" speeches to, ya know? I'd like to know what Canada's Jean Chretien, Britain's Tony Blair, Germany's Gerhard Schroeder and Jose Maria Aznar Lopez of Spain really thought of Bush.

Second, did Bush really believe that Iraq was his "Onward, Christian soldiers" moment? I honestly thought he was just smiling and nodding and doing whatever Cheney and Rumsfeld told him to do. But he was apparently dead serious about this having to defeat biblical evil stuff, and it was his personal justification for the invasion of Iraq, or part of it at least. That's borderline insanity, there.

Third, if you though Bush was the only "Doing The Lord's Work" kind of guy in our federal government, you've got another thing coming.

The Family likes to call itself a "Christian Mafia," but it began 74 years ago as an anti-New Deal coalition of businessmen convinced that organized labor was under the sway of Satan. The Great Depression, they believed, was a punishment from God for what they viewed as FDR's socialism. The Family's goal was the "consecration" of America to God, first through the repeal of New Deal reforms, then through the aggressive expansion of American power during the Cold War. They called this a "Worldwide Spiritual Offensive," but in Washington, it amounted to the nation's first fundamentalist lobby. Early participants included Southern Sens. Strom Thurmond, Herman Talmadge and Absalom Willis Robertson -- Pat Robertson's father. Membership lists stored in the Family's archive at the Billy Graham Center at evangelical Wheaton College in Illinois show active participation at any given time over the years by dozens of congressmen.

Today's roll call is just as impressive: Men under the Family's religio-political counsel include, in addition to Ensign, Coburn and Pickering, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham, both R-S.C.; James Inhofe, R-Okla., John Thune, R-S.D., and recent senators and high officials such as John Ashcroft, Ed Meese, Pete Domenici and Don Nickles. Over in the House there's Joe Pitts, R-Penn., Frank Wolf, R-Va., Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., and John R. Carter, R-Texas. Historically, the Family has been strongly Republican, but it includes Democrats, too. There's Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, for instance, a vocal defender of putting the Ten Commandments in public places, and Sen. Mark Pryor, the pro-war Arkansas Democrat responsible for scuttling Obama's labor agenda. Sen. Pryor explained to me the meaning of bipartisanship he'd learned through the Family: "Jesus didn't come to take sides. He came to take over." And by Jesus, the Family means the Family.

One of these guys just ended up President for a while, and we're still paying for it. We're going to be paying for it for a long damn time, too. Bush thought he was battling the End Times. All he ended up doing was ending the U.S. economy.


Related Posts with Thumbnails