Friday, August 21, 2009

The Lesson Of The Village

Doug at Balloon Juice analyzes the whole Marc Ambinder/Marcy Wheeler situation (Ambinder basically pleads stupid to the fact he was going with the Village flow on the Tom Ridge story at the time and Wheeler slices him to ribbons for it) and opines:
But for me, the most important take away, is that we live in a world where journalists get ahead more by clinging to the right-center conventional wisdom than by actually finding out the truth. It’s quite literally better, careerwise, to be wrong all the time.
And quite frankly he's right. For the most part the Villagers who were dead wrong about the Bushies and the ongoing flood of post-Dubya-as-President revelations are the same ones still calling the shots today: Brooks, Broder, Dowd, Kristol, Friedman, David Gregory, all of FOX News, etc. Those who were right are gone from the center of power: Froomkin being the most obvious example, but the flood of bloggers and voices on the left who were more than correct about the last 6 years are nothing more than curiosities. The Village power structure is completely intact despite these trusted journalists being nothing more than the Bush White House's steno pool. Claiming incompetence like Ambinder did is just doubly bad, as it was painfully obvious to any objective observer at the time that Bush was using the terror alert levels to scare voters into voting Republican. Either Ambinder is a stooge or incompetent...and yet he's still a respected journalist.

Too many of these "respected journalists" are still in positions of power. Too many of the people who told the truth over the last several years are not. What's the point of a free press at all then?

Walking Softly, But No Big Stick

Via BooMan, progressives have had enough with Harry Reid, and want to make it clear that Republicans should not be allowed to filibuster Obamacare if the Dems have 60 votes in the Senate.
Now liberal activists say it is time to instill some party discipline so that Democrats can take full advantage of the power they have controlling 60 Senate seats. They have gone so far as to suggest that centrists should be threatened with lack of financial support from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

"There ought to be real pressure in terms of making it clear to people what is expected,” said Robert Borosage, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future. “They are not going to get support from DSCC if they’re not going to be loyal on basic procedural votes to give the president an up-or-down vote on his plan.

“Inside and outside the Senate, real pressure needs to be put on folks to let them know that supporting the Republican minority’s right to block something is a lot different from opposing the program [on a final vote]," Borosage added, noting that it is Reid’s job to put this pressure on party renegades.

Liberal activists say centrists should be allowed to vote their conscience on final passage. Cloture votes, first to call up contentious legislation and then to end debate, require 60 votes; final passage only requires a simple majority.

A Democratic leadership aide, however, said that it is too soon to say how Reid will handle a final vote on healthcare reform.

The aide noted that Democratic leaders do not know whether they will be able to coax a handful of Republicans to support a healthcare reform bill, which would make it unnecessary to pressure centrists to vote to quash a GOP filibuster.

“We cannot and will not be able to determine how we will proceed until we know whether we are able to do so with Republican cooperation,” said the aide.
Two issues here: it's possible that some Republicans will not vote for the filibuster. However, it shouldn't be an issue at this point: Dems have 60 votes, period. All filibusters should be broken and all votes on the floor of the Senate should be simple majority votes.

Lack of that is all on Harry Reid. It's his job. The only people that can force a 60 vote majority on legislation are Democrats.

Kroog Versus Obama

Paul Krugman reminds the universe that progressives elected Obama (specifically they won him the primary over Hillary) and that they are expecting him to actually go through on those campaign promises he made.
A backlash in the progressive base — which pushed President Obama over the top in the Democratic primary and played a major role in his general election victory — has been building for months. The fight over the public option involves real policy substance, but it’s also a proxy for broader questions about the president’s priorities and overall approach.

The idea of letting individuals buy insurance from a government-run plan was introduced in 2007 by Jacob Hacker of Yale, was picked up by John Edwards during the Democratic primary, and became part of the original Obama health care plan.

One purpose of the public option is to save money. Experience with Medicare suggests that a government-run plan would have lower costs than private insurers; in addition, it would introduce more competition and keep premiums down.

And let’s be clear: the supposed alternative, nonprofit co-ops, is a sham. That’s not just my opinion; it’s what the market says: stocks of health insurance companies soared on news that the Gang of Six senators trying to negotiate a bipartisan approach to health reform were dropping the public plan. Clearly, investors believe that co-ops would offer little real competition to private insurers.
Of course the trial balloon on the public option was going to get shot all to hell. But there are plenty of other issues on which Obama needs to be paying more attention other than health care:

Meanwhile, on such fraught questions as torture and indefinite detention, the president has dismayed progressives with his reluctance to challenge or change Bush administration policy.

And then there’s the matter of the banks.

I don’t know if administration officials realize just how much damage they’ve done themselves with their kid-gloves treatment of the financial industry, just how badly the spectacle of government supported institutions paying giant bonuses is playing. But I’ve had many conversations with people who voted for Mr. Obama, yet dismiss the stimulus as a total waste of money. When I press them, it turns out that they’re really angry about the bailouts rather than the stimulus — but that’s a distinction lost on most voters.

So there’s a growing sense among progressives that they have, as my colleague Frank Rich suggests, been punked. And that’s why the mixed signals on the public option created such an uproar.
I've rung up Obama on both civil liberties and his craptastic financial team since December. I personally believe that both issues are still massive, massive problems for the country right now. But folks like me aren't going to just vanish now that Obama has won. There's real work to be done and tough choices to be made. I may be just one voice, but I'm not the only one by far.

Back To Work

And we resume our regular schedule around here.

Moving on.

Building A Foundation On Sand

While there have been improvements at the low end of the residential real estate market as foreclosed homes are being repurchased at, well, basement prices, the entire rest of the housing market is still in a deep depression.
By virtually every measure, the new single-family home market remains in a fairly deep slump:
  • Sales of new homes are down 72 percent from their 2005 peak, while existing ones are off 24 percent from their peak a year later.
  • As a percentage of total sales, new homes are well off their historical average of roughly of 12.5 percent and the 16-percent average share of the 2005-2006 boom period. In 2008, market share was down to 10 percent and is running under 8 percent so far this year.
  • Inventory, which peaked at 14-3-months of supply in January, is down to 7.9 percent, but still far from the 5.9-percent level of December 2006, right as the market was turning lower.
  • Housing starts overall are down 71-percent from 2005

“Most builders aren’t putting shovels in the dirt, nor are they going to anytime soon,” says Howard.

“Who knows if we’re at the bottom," adds David Tschetter, CEO of Fort Collins-based Colorado Custom Homes, whose houses average about $500,000. “We been trying to dump inventory.”

Tschetter says he’ll be lucky to build six to ten homes this year, versus a couple dozen in the boom years of 2005-2006.

With numbers like those, virtually every trade group related to real estate and housing are pushing for an expansion of the government’s existing homebuyer’s tax credit, which is now limited to first-time buyers of primary residences and a maximum of $8,000.

As I've said before, even if the number of new housing starts were zero, we still have years worth of a supply of unsold homes on the market, especially in the middle and high end range. The housing depression will continue to shape the economy for several years to come, and homebuilders are going to be in dire trouble throughout all of it. It's going to be a long time before Americans need more new homes, and the more homebuilders put on the market, the longer it will take for the market to recover.

Foreclosures and unemployment will continue to flood the market with unsold homes. We're nowhere near the bottom.

[UPDATE 3:16 PM] Existing home sales experienced a record percentage jump in July. There's a lot of pressure to believe that this is a V-shaped recovery. It's not: it's the only section of the residential real estate market to see a real gain.

A Suddenly Convenient Argument

The Bachmanniac is making a very familiar argument against Obamacare.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who is a a staunch champion of the religious right and an opponent of President Obama on all things under the sun, has a new line against the Democrats on health care: Keep the government off my body!

Bachmann appeared on Sean Hannity's radio show on Tuesday, and check out what she said, at the 5:35 mark.

"That's why people need to continue to go to the town halls, continue to melt the phone lines of their liberal members of Congress," said Bachmann, "and let them know, under no certain circumstances will I give the government control over my body and my health care decisions."

Well then, I'll let Planned Parenthood, NOW, and women's rights groups know that Republicans lick Bachmann have magically gotten onto the pro-choice bandwagon. I'm sure that'll be news to them, but that seems a pretty clear argument and a rather unequivocal statement to me.

It's worth repeating that there's nothing in any of the health care bills before Congress that qualifies even remotely as a forced government takeover of American's health choices, but then again logic, honesty or integrity aren't exactly your average Wingnut's strong points.


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