Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Last Call

At least somebody's hiring again.
General Motors is upping production and calling 1,350 of its U.S. and Canadian auto workers back to work due to increased demand for its vehicles.

The company said Tuesday it is raising production by about 60,000 vehicles in the third and fourth quarters, in response to the increased sales that accompanied the government's Cash for Clunkers program.

The increased production will come from added shifts and overtime, GM said. In addition, the company will keep select plants open during weeks that they had previously been forecast to be shut down.

For example, the Orion Township, Mich., plant, which had been scheduled to close for nearly two-years in mid-September, will now remain in operation until just before Thanksgiving.

Those additional hours should increase the paychecks for an about 10,000 GM workers beyond those called back to work.
Good to know.

Beyond The Palin

There's a reason why I want to see Sarah Palin as the GOP candidate in 2012.
A new Marist poll has a mix of good news and bad news for Sarah Palin -- and unmitigated good news for Democrats. On the one hand, she remains a plausible candidate for the GOP nomination in 2012, but in a general election she would lose to President Obama in a landslide.

Among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, the 2012 field stands at Mitt Romney 21%, Sarah Palin 20%, Mike Huckabee 19%, Newt Gingrich 10%, Bobby Jindal 5%, and Tim Pawlenty 1%. But in a general election, it's Obama 56%, Palin 33%.

She'd get crushed in a general election, but Republicans seem bound and determined to run her in 2012. I don't see those numbers getting much better for her in the general, either...

...of course, that could change in 3 years. But I doubt enough to have her make up 23 points...not in the era where 55-45 counts as a landslide.

Taking The Shot

Over at Balloon Juice, Tim F. has a few thoughts.
All these guys need is one martyr to put on their t-shirts and name blogs after. Nobody needs to get shot, although they would love it if someone did. Their intense police state paranoia will be validated enough when a local cop confiscates some bubba’s precious AR-15. Rumors were enough to send several recent crazed shooters over the edge. How many more need just one aggrieved victim of guvmint overreach with a photo and a name?
I'm not sure we're at the explosion point yet, but an incident like Tim describes would certainly put us that much closer to the point where somebody decides they are going to test that old saying about "prying it from my cold, dead hands".

Personally, I'm waiting for somebody on the Democratic side of the aisle to even mention gun control in the wake of the events of the last two days, and THAT will in turn cause some serious problems down the road.

It might even be enough to keep people off the health care lies. Of course, replacing it with "Obama's Gestapo are coming to kill you for having guns" paranoia is not exactly an improvement.

Scaring More Seniors

Jameson Foser calls bull on CBS's "60,000 AARP members quit over Obamacare" story.
Via Darren Hutchinson, Here's how a CBS report about AARP and health care begins: "CBS News has learned that up to 60,000 people have cancelled their AARP membership since July 1st, angered over the group's position on health care."

CBS News "has learned" that "up to" 60,000 people have cancelled AARP memberships? Well, that sounds awfully fishy, doesn't it?

"Up to 60,000 people" could accurately describe 60,000 people, 50,000 people, 30,000 people, or two dozen people. Generally, people use the phrase "up to ____ people" when they want to focus your attention on a large number they don't know is actually true. If CBS actually knew there were 60,000 cancellations, they'd just say "60,000 people," without the "up to" wiggle words.

So, since CBS apparently has no idea how many people have cancelled memberships, how have they "learned" about this? It seems rather obvious that CBS "learned" this not by gaining access to AARP's records, or from an AARP official, but from the American Seniors Association, a right-wing fundraising organization featured in the CBS report. ASA is urging seniors to mail them torn-up AARP membership cards, which ASA will reward with half-off membership.

There's no reason to take ASA's claims about AARP's membership seriously -- they are not in any position to know, and have a clear interest in inflating the number of cancellations. That's almost certainly how CBS News "has learned" about the AARP membership cancellations -- ASA told them. And, since ASA has no idea how many people have actually cancelled AARP memberships, and ASA has a clear motivation for inflating those numbers, CBS had to include the "up to" wiggle words.

In short, that first sentence of the CBS report is a pretty clear indication that you should ignore everything that follows.

Hey look, more astroturfing stupidity. And of course, that hasn't stopped the usual suspects in Wingerland from going off half-cocked and pushing the story as true when, surprise! It's another lie.

Not like any of them understand the words "fact check" anyway.

Robert Novak Dies At Age 78

The former host of CNN's Crossfire and major figure in the Valerie Plame case has passed away today after a battle with cancer.
Novak retired in August 2008 after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

He was a longtime columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and a regular commentator for CNN for 25 years, beginning when the network launched in 1980.

For most of that time, he was a co-host of the political debate program "Crossfire."

In 2003, he found himself at the center of the scandal over the exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, when he published a column revealing her status days after her husband challenged a key Bush administration justification for the invasion of Iraq.

Not to speak ill of the dead, but that Valerie Plame column really was one of the worst examples of Bush-era Village nasty out there. Cheney basically used Novak to wreck our covert operation in Iran in order to get revenge on Plame's husband Joe Wilson, which led to Scooter Libby's conviction as he took the fall for it.

That's damn unfortunate for Bob Novak, I'd never wish anything like brain cancer on anyone, not even Dick Cheney. But Novak's role as Cheney's tool is something he'll be remembered for.

Lies, Damn Lies, And Death Panels

Steve Benen reviews the results of the death panel nonsense and the lies on health care reform.
A Research 2000 poll for Daily Kos, in what I believe is the first national poll on the question, gauged public opinion on this. Respondents were asked whether the reform proposals under consideration would create "death panels" that would dictate medical care based on Americans' "productivity in society." Nearly three-fourths of the public (72%) said no, 11% said yes, and 17% weren't sure. But of greater interest were the partisan numbers.

Democrats and independents rejected the claim in large numbers, but here were the results for self-identified Republicans:

Yes: 26%
No: 43%
Not sure: 31%

There were similar results on related questions. Republicans, unlike Democrats and independents, also believe reform would "require elderly patients to meet with government officials to discuss 'end of life' options including euthanasia," and consider reform to be a government "takeover" of the health care system. Neither claim is true.

On a more comical note, Republicans were also far more likely to believe that Medicare is not a government program than anyone else. While only 7% of Democrats were confused about Medicare, the number of Republicans who believe Medicare isn't a government program was twice as high (14%).

But specifically on the "death panel" confusion, we're in the midst of a national debate in which a clear majority of rank-and-file Republicans either believe "death panels" are a serious proposal or aren't sure.

Republicans are deliberately being given incorrect information, and they're making no effort to challenge it. They don't believe it, and they continue to be duped by the astroturf efforts to elicit exactly this response.
Why would they fight so hard against a reform plan that would help their families? Because they've been lied to so often, they actually think Democrats literally might start killing people.
And they're ready to believe it too. They're shocked that America has rejected the Republican Party, and they're not taking it lying down.

They are taking the lies, however.

The Great Housing Deflation Continues

Housings starts and the Producer Price Index (PPI) were both down in July as the economy's problem continues to be deflation caused by falling housing values.
The Commerce Department said housing starts fell 1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 581,000 units, well below market expectations for 600,000 units. June's housing starts were revised up to 587,000 units from the previously reported 582,000 units.

Multifamily unit starts tumbled 13.3 percent in July. However, groundbreaking for single family homes—the worst-hit part of the housing market, rose 1.7 percent to an annual rate of 490,000 units, the highest since October.

Compared to July last year, housing starts dropped 37.7 percent. New building permits, which give a sense of future home construction, fell 1.8 percent to 560,000 units in July. That compared to analysts' forecasts for 580,000 units. Compared to the same period a year-ago, building permits declined 39.4 percent.

The inventory of total houses under construction fell to record low 609,000 in July, the department said, while the total number of permits authorized but not yet started also hit a record low at 102,300.

That's the important news right there. New housing construction will continue to fall. It has to while the supply of homes on the market continues to be way too high compared to demand.

Meanwhile, deflation has leaked into producer prices.

The longest U.S. recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s has crushed demand and pummeled prices throughout the economy, keeping inflation pressures firmly at bay despite massive official efforts to stimulate growth.

Core producer prices, which exclude food and energy costs, edged 0.1 percent lower in July compared with a forecast for a 0.1 percent rise, and after a 0.5 percent increase in June.

So, we'll see how things work out. Deflationary pressure will continue from falling real estate. Without the stimulus, the deflation in the economy would have been significantly worse.

Senate Dems Locate Spines, Re-Install Them

The Democratic push-back to keep the public option is growing steam and right where it needs to be: in the Senate.
Several leading Democrats voiced concern Monday about an apparent White House shift on health-care reform, objecting to signals from senior administration officials that they would abandon the idea of a government-run insurance plan if it lacked the backing to pass Congress.

In the Senate, where negotiations are now focused, John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.) said that a public option, as the plan has become known, is "a must." Sen. Russell Feingold (Wis.) said that "without a public option, I don't see how we will bring real change to a system that has made good health care a privilege for those who can afford it."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said that the plan will be included in whatever bill is voted on in the House. "There is strong support in the House for a public option," she said, though she did not demand that the administration express support for the idea.

One Democrat predicted that without the provision, the bill could lose as many as 100 votes in the chamber.

President Obama had pushed a nonprofit, government-sponsored insurance plan as an alternative to existing insurance companies, saying that a public program would compete with the industry and help reduce costs. Over the weekend, he minimized the importance of a public option, saying at an event in Colorado on Saturday that it was "just one sliver" of his overall effort to reduce health-care costs and expand coverage.

Two of his top advisers on Sunday reiterated that he is open to alternatives to a government plan, setting off a wave of reports about a White House shift and frustrating senior advisers.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, speaking to reporters returning to Washington from Phoenix, said Obama has not shifted his position, suggesting that the president's support for a public option had never been absolute. "The goals are choice and competition. His preference is a public option. If there are other ideas, he's happy to look at them," Gibbs said. White House officials repeatedly denied that there was any new positioning on the provision, accusing the media of fabricating developments.

Three House committees and one Senate panel have passed versions of health-care legislation that contain a public option.

I can understand the political move, to tie the Republicans (and the Village) up on the public option rather than health care reform itself. It also seems to have re-energized the progressive wing of the party. They're mad as hell, and they need to be.

Needless to say, the White House's trial balloon/surrender/offer has gotten stomped by the folks who have had Obama's back on this all the way. I personally think the public option is essential: without it, the rest of the health care reform measures become nothing more than a massive subsidy for the insurance companies and a mandate to purchase health insurance with no incentive to lower costs.

Finally, that bolded sentence in the article is very important: so far all the versions of the bill passed out of committees have a public option, four of the five. And let's face it: there's not a Republican out there that will vote for any health care reform plan, ever.

Even their own plan.

[UPDATE 8:55 AM] Hey look, Republicans aren't going to vote for a plan with health care co-ops, either.

But in light of signals that a genuine public option is in trouble, the Republican Party that found co-ops reasonable has decided to change course. Now, they're against co-ops, too.

The very basic logic of the public option is this: Most Democrats support a strong public option, most Republicans oppose Democratic health care reform period, so perhaps Democrats can win over a few Republicans if they keep government out of the insurance industry and create a system of privately-held health-care co-operatives instead. Simple right?

Not if the RNC has anything to say about it.

They're out today with a new release, attacking the co-op idea.... As the RNC makes clear, in their eyes, "Public option by any other name is still government-run health care."

Last night, right-wing talk-show host Mark Steyn said on Fox News that co-ops aren't different enough from the public option, adding, "[T]he whole system is in fact a kind of death panel."

So why bother to drop the public option to get Republican support? Let me reiterate: no Republican will vote for a Democratic health care plan. It is because the Democrats can take credit for it, and the Republicans will get savaged in the elections for voting against it. It's possible that a strong plan may force Republicans to vote for it, but the odds of that are near zero.


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