Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Last Call

The Obama administration doesn't want you to know which banks are getting your tax dollars. There's a shocker.
The Federal Reserve asked a judge to delay enforcement of her decision requiring the central bank to identify companies in its emergency lending programs.

Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan said on Aug. 24 that the Fed had until Aug. 31 to disclose daily reports on borrowing by banks and other financial institutions. The central bank wants Preska to stay her order, made in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, until the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York can act on an appeal that the Fed said it intends to file.

The Fed and U.S. banks would suffer irreparable harm if details of the loan programs were made public, according to the central bank’s senior counsel, Yvonne Mizusawa.

The Clearing House Association LLC, an industry-owned group in New York that processes payments between banks, filed a declaration that accompanied the request for a stay.

“There are numerous examples of financially sound institutions collapsing or suffering further financial deterioration from the loss of public confidence,” Norman Nelson, vice president and general counsel for the group, said in the document.

Well gosh, that's because the banks are overestimating their loans by a trillion dollars or so and more than a hundred banks are in such bad shape that if it wasn't for accounting tricks and forbearance by the government, they'd effectively be insolvent. Just Monday we heard evidence that another 150-200 banks could fail before it's all over. A total of 81 banks have failed so far this year.

So yes, I think we deserve to know the truth about America's banks, since we effectively now own them as taxpayers, yes?

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

BooMan notes that ten more Senators will be retiring in 2010, and that the Senate's makeup is changing dramatically. He asks:
The next session of Congress will probably see 10-12% turnover in the Senate. As things stand today, twenty-four senators first took their oath of office in 2007 or later. Two of the twenty-four (Burris and Kaufman) are retiring. But if we add the 10-12 new members that will enter the chamber in 2011 to the twenty-two relatively new members sworn in since 2007, we get about a third of the senate being made up of members who joined after the GOP's meltdown in 2006.

Some may wonder how the partisan makeup of the chamber will change. But regardless of whether the Dems hold, lose, or increase their numbers, we know that it will have a lot of new blood. If all the incumbents are reelected, the Senate will still only have 54 members who voted on the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq (including 15 of the 23 that voted against it).

The big question is: what does it mean to have such a large turnover for the culture of the Senate? These new members won their seats in a horribly polarized environment. They won their seats with the assistance of a newly assertive grassroots (on the Democratic side) or on the platform of Bush dead-enderism and the Politics of Palin. Cross-aisle cooperation in the Senate is at an all-time low. Is there even a place for Teddy Kennedy's style of deal-making anymore?

And the answer to that question is "Of course not." Deal-making is not in the vocabulary of the Republicans who will be left after 2010. You have to look no further than the current few months of the 111th Congress to see what the GOP version of "negotiation with Democrats" is for Senators like Mike Enzi, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, John McCain, John Ensign, and John Cornyn.

No wonder Mel Martinez is getting out now and Arlen Specter switched parties. Deal-making supposes there's people amenable to deals. Clearly this generation of Senate Republicans only see the Democrats as the enemy.

Bad Faith Arguments

GOP Sen. Mike Enzi, one of the Republicans in the Senate Finance Committee in charge of "negotiating" health care reform legislation, had his own town hall meeting back in his home state of Wyoming, where he cheerfully admitted to his constituents that his job was to in fact completely derail any and all health care reform.
Mike Enzi, one of three Republicans ostensibly negotiating health care reform as part of the Senate's "Gang of Six," told a Wyoming town hall crowd that he had no plans to compromise with Democrats and was merely trying to extract concessions.

"It's not where I get them to compromise, it's what I get them to leave out," Enzi said Monday, according to the Billings Gazette.

Enzi found himself under attack at the town hall simply for sitting in the same room as the three Finance Committee Democrats. Republicans in the crowd called for him to exit the talks. He assured conservatives that his presence was delaying health care reform.

"If I hadn't been involved in this process as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care," he said.

"Someone has to be at the table asking questions," Enzi said. "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu."

So, one of the three Senators on the Republican side in charge of hammering out legislation is telling his constituents that only his presence has stopped actual health care reform from becoming law.

For months now I have been saying this. Republicans will never allow health care reform to pass if the Democrats can take credit for a good bill. Now, if it's a lousy bill filled with billions for the insurance companies, well the Republicans are more than happy to let the Dems take all the credit in the world.

But the God's honest truth is that the Republicans want to kill this dead. Democrats need to stop pretending otherwise.

Wingnuts Are Classy

Classy like Andrew Breitbart.
Early this morning, news broke that Sen. Ted Kennedy had passed away after serving in the U.S. Senate for nearly 50 years. Soon after, conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart began a sustained assault on Kennedy’s memory, tweeting “Rest in Chappaquiddick.”

Over the course of the next three hours, Breitbart unapologetically attacked Kennedy, calling him a “villain,” “a big ass motherf@#$er,” a “duplicitous bastard” and a “prick.” “I’ll shut my mouth for Carter. That’s just politics. Kennedy was a special pile of human excrement,” wrote Breitbart in one tweet.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is merely Day One of the festivities.

Four Out Of Five Americans Want A Public Option

From MyDD:

A new survey commissioned by the AARP asks respondents to what degree they support or oppose "[s]tarting a new federal health insurance plan that individuals could purchase if they can't afford private plans offered to them" -- a public option, in other words. The results are interesting, though not necessarily surprising to those who have been closely following the debate.

All: 79 percent favor/18 percent oppose
Democrats: 89 percent favor/8 percent oppose
Republicans: 61 percent favor/33 percent oppose
Independents: 80 percent favor/16 percent oppose
Not only does a public option enjoy strong support (AARP finds 37 percent strongly supporting such a choice), it enjoys broad support -- a finding based not only in this new survey but also in SurveyUSA polling released last week.
Those numbers are staggering. Even a majority of Republicans want the public option when defined in this manner. This should be a no-brainer, guys.

The issue of course is when public option is defined fairly as in the poll above and in the SurveyUSA poll last week (I talked about that 77% approval number here) Americans overwhelmingly want a public option. When it is defined the way Republicans see it, as a government takeover of your heath care plan (which the plan is not) of course people don't like it. It's like asking people "Do you like children?" and then asking them "Do you want a money sink of a parasite that you have to care for and pay for over the next eighteen years?" and then saying the results of the second question proves America's views on the first.

The problem of course is that the GOP and the Village (and the insurance corporations behind them) have everything to gain from defining the public option as the worst possible thing on Earth. The GOP is winning the message war.

Rick Perlstein Called It Yesterday

Perlstein, yesterday:
The Republican old bulls will say they're honoring EMK's memory by voting against cloture for what they'll say is a failed bill that he would never have happened had he been alive and kicking. And any bill that comes out of committee they'll say was a failed bill that never would have happened had he been alive and kicking. That's how they roll.
El Rushbo, today:
Limbaugh says he is "uncomfortable" talking about Kennedy's politics, calls health care bill "insult to his memory"
For the next several weeks we will be reminded that only Republicans are allowed to define what liberal Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy would have wanted in his health care bill. Naturally, the Republicans will say the bill's not good enough, no matter what the bill is.

Perlstein called it to laser accuracy. As goes El Rushbo, goes the GOP.

Here endeth the lesson.

Quote Of The Week

Aimai over at No More Mister Nice Blog weighs in on Republicans and Ted Kennedy:
Its not that Republicans don't use death, and death(s) to score political points or create policy. Jesus Christ, anyone? Not a Republican death per se, but certainly a recurring image in the pageant of right wing martyr funerals. Religious anti abortion rights activists routinely use the imagery of death and the fetus to compel policy changes they favor. Fred Phelps and his family routinely picket other people's funerals to make their political/religious points. And, of course, 9/11 was the greatest political funeral orgy in American History since Pearl Harbor. And the party that ran with the most necrophilic and abusive use of those deaths was, IIRC, tagged with an R. And they are still mourning their loss of the use rights to those deaths. A right which, apparently, goes with control of the Presidency.
Aimai is right on the money. Wingers are obsessed with death. Causing it to "enemies", fear of it to "loved ones", everything they seemingly do is driven by a morbid fascination with death. After all, "dead or alive" is the ultimate expression of the Wingnut binary worldview, and the Wingers do love categorizing everyone into deserving one of the two states.

The Anti-Ted Kennedy Pushback Begins

And we're already seeing the GOP plan on exploiting Ted Kennedy's death to stop health care reform in action.
While Americans should honor the legacy of the Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Republicans won't allow healthcare reform to proceed in the late senator's honor, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said Wednesday.

"Certainly people honor Sen. Ted Kennedy for all of his work," Hensarling, a top House Republican, said during an appearance on CNBC. "But at the end of the day, this is a democracy, and I think the voice of the people have been heard quite loudly in the month of August."

Putting Kennedy's name on the legislation is a reasonable tribute. But the Republicans are choosing to view Kennedy's death as a reason to delay or kill reform. If any bill passes, you see, it's only because the Democrats are crudely using Kennedy's death for political purposes. Therefore, no health care reform bill can be allowed to pass.

Should one actually get through, it's only because Kennedy died, not because America wants it. The GOP wants America to hate Ted Kennedy, hate this bill, and hate the Democrats.

Talk about using a death for political purposes. The GOP wants to use Kennedy's passing as prima facie evidence that no health care reform should be allowed to pass.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

The Japanese clearly have better pizza technology than we do here. (Via Gizmodo.)

A Smart Power Breakthrough, But At What Cost?

The UK's Guardian newspaper is reporting that a major Obama foreign policy breakthrough in getting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks back underway is imminent. The price: a much tougher U.S. stance against Iran.
Barack Obama is close to brokering an Israeli-Palestinian deal that will allow him to announce a resumption of the long-stalled Middle East peace talks before the end of next month, according to US, Israeli, Palestinian and European officials.

Key to bringing Israel on board is a promise by the US to adopt a much tougher line with Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons programme. The US, along with Britain and France, is planning to push the United Nations security council to expand sanctions to include Iran's oil and gas industry, a move that could cripple its economy.

In return, the Israeli government will be expected to agree to a partial freeze on the construction of settlements in the Middle East. In the words of one official close to the negotiations: "The message is: Iran is an existential threat to Israel; settlements are not."

Details of the breakthrough deal will be hammered out tomorrow in London, where the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is due to hold talks with the US special envoy, George Mitchell. Netanyahu met Gordon Brown today in Downing Street, where the two discussed both settlements and the Iranian nuclear programme.

Although the negotiations are being held in private, they have reached such an advanced stage that both France and Russia have approached the US offering to host a peace conference.

Obama has pencilled in the announcement of his breakthrough for either a meeting of world leaders at the UN general assembly in New York in the week beginning 23 September or the G20 summit in Pittsburgh on 24-25 September.

The president, who plans to make his announcement flanked by Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas – plus the leaders of as many Arab states as he can muster – hopes that a final peace agreement can be negotiated within two years, a timetable viewed as unrealistic by Middle East analysts.

It's that "much tougher line" with Iran that is the problem. That could mean all kinds of things, but most certainly the minimum will be the President announcing next month that one one hand, a peace deal is back on the table, and on the other, major new sanctions will be leveled against Iran.

Hell, I can see Obama announcing both at the UN world leaders' meeting next month. We're about to find out what kind of true cost having Hillary as SecState is going to be from this. It's good that the Middle East peace initiative is moving forwards, but it looks like the path goes steamrolling right over Tehran.

Israel got something for this deal. Something big. Keep an eye on this story.

The GOP Domestic Agenda

WaPo's Steven Pearlstein runs the numbers on Michael Steele's "GOP Patient's Rights Plan" announcement yesterday and comes up with the number zero, as in the number of domestic programs the GOP plan will allow for besides Medicare in 2035.
The plan came to light as a result of an op-ed piece this week in The Washington Post in which the party chairman committed the GOP to spending an ever-increasing share of the federal budget, and the national income, on Medicare. When combined with other Republican promises -- to balance the budget, protect defense spending and never, ever raise anyone's taxes -- the inescapable inference is that the government would run out of money for every other domestic program sometime around 2035.

Steele's stunning announcement brings the conservative strategy of "starving the beast" to a new level. Under the guise of protecting the elderly, Republicans hope to realize their dream of eliminating half a dozen Cabinet agencies, firing tens of thousands of government workers and ending government regulation as we know it.

Steele's op-ed was the latest salvo in his party's campaign to defeat President Obama's health-care reform effort at all costs and build public support for a Republican alternative that remains, to this day, a closely held secret. The new Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights, however, hints at the outlines of the GOP domestic strategy.

Steele promised that under the Republican health plan, runaway Medicare spending would continue unabated. Not only would that mean no cuts in benefits, but it would ensure that reimbursement rates to doctors, hospitals and drugmakers would continue to rise faster than inflation, regardless of how much they earn or how unnecessary or wasteful the services they provide. Any effort to contain future spending growth, Republicans now believe, is nothing more than a "raid" on Medicare, the government-run health plan that Republicans were against before they were for it.

The country's top Republican official also vowed to cut off all federal funding for research to determine what are the most effective treatments for heart disease, cancer, diabetes and even that new scourge, restless leg syndrome. Left unclear was whether he prefers to have such research done by the pharmaceutical and medical-device industries, but one suspects that is the case.

On the issue of end-of-life care, Steele was uncompromising: In a Republican world, no government funds could be used to pay doctors to provide information about living wills, hospices or palliative care, whether seniors and their families ask for it or not.

"Government programs that seem benign at first can become anything but," Steele explained in articulating the new philosophy. Once back in power, look for Republicans to apply the same approach to issues such as flu vaccinations, disaster relief and air traffic control.

War and Medicare. Everything else, let the private sector handle. And no, I don't believe Pearlstein is being hyperbolic here. Pledging zero cuts for Medicare and zero tax increases means other things will have to be eliminated eventually, period. It's simple mathematics.

But that's Republican math for you.

Sanford On The Clock

CNN is reporting that South Carolina state Republican lawmakers who met with embattled Gov. Mark Sanford asked him to resign outright, and were rebuffed.
Rep. Nathan Ballentine — a Sanford ally in the legislature — and Rep. Gerry Simrill met with Sanford in the South Carolina state House for about 40 minutes and warned him that unless he steps down, House Republicans are likely to impeach him.

“Barring some swing of momentum in his favor, I told him the writing is on the wall,” Ballentine told CNN. “I thought there could be a change in scenery and he could put an end to it all, but if he doesn’t, members of the House will take things into their hands.”

House Republicans are meeting this weekend in Myrtle Beach for their annual caucus retreat, and the impeachment matter is likely to dominate the agenda, according to those planning to attend.

Sanford has come under a new round of scrutiny after investigations into his travel expenses revealed that he spent thousands of dollars on business and first class airline tickets for overseas flights, and used state aircraft for personal and political travel. Those probes were prompted by Sanford’s disclosure in June that he had an affair with an Argentine woman.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee told CNN there are enough votes on the committee to send an impeachment motion to the floor of the House when the legislative session begins in January.

“I would be surprised if impeachment articles weren’t being drafted by someone,” said Rep. Jim Harrison, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

But Ballentine said the governor rejected the idea of resigning instead of facing impeachment — even with the message coming from a friend.

“I think he wants people to sit back take a deep breath and see what other information is out there,” Ballentine said.

Folks, when your own party is publicly telling you to resign for the good of the state and the party ahead of impeachment articles that will be drafted by, well, your own party, you're done. It's not a question of "if" Sanford will leave office anymore, but how he will: under his own choice, or by force.

I just don't see how he can make it to January under another four months of pressure. I'm expecting some sort of deal to be brokered before then. That's the logical thing to do.

Then again, logic and Mark Sanford clearly are at odds.

[UPDATE 10:47 AM] The State newspaper is reporting SC's GOP Lt. Governor Andre Bauer is going to call for Sanford's resignation today, with the promise that Bauer will not run in 2010 for the Governor's mansion in 2010 if Sanford resigns now.

Bauer is the first constitutional officer to join a growing chorus of lawmakers pushing for Sanford to resign, including a majority of Republican state senators.

Today’s announcement, according to a source close to Bauer, is intended to send a message to State House leadership that Sanford needs to step down and Bauer won’t stand in the way. Some lawmakers have been hesitant to push for Sanford’s resignation because it would give Bauer an unfair advantage in the 2010 race, as he would be running for governor as an incumbent.

Bauer plans to send a letter to Sanford today to ask him to resign. The House Republican Caucus will discuss whether to impeach Sanford this weekend at its Myrtle Beach retreat.

If Bauer becomes governor to serve out the balance of Sanford’s term, he would make job creation and education his priorities, said a source close to Bauer.

Sanford's days are most certainly numbered at this point. He will be made an offer he cannot refuse. If he doesn't take the deal, it'll be taken for him. The last thing the state GOP wants is an ugly, Blagogate-style impeachment disaster that will hurt the party in 2010.

The Worst Is Yet To Come

Moving on to other business before the country today, ABC News is reporting that the full, unredacted version of the CIA IG's report reveals that at least three detainees were killed by interrogators.
The blacked-out portions hide the Inspector General's findings on the circumstances that led to the deaths of at least three of the detainees in the CIA's program, the official said. Two of the men reportedly died in CIA in Iraq and the third died in Afghanistan.

The Inspector General's findings about a fourth death involving a prisoner in Afghanistan were made public in the report. A CIA contract employee was convicted of assault in that case and is now in prison.

Nice. So at least three more detainees died in CIA custody thanks in part to these "interrogation techniques" in an effort to get intel. Dead men don't talk very much, unfortunately. How does torturing detainees to death save American lives, exactly?

Oh, but it gets worse.

Also hidden from public scrutiny, according to the official, was the discovery by the CIA Inspector General that the CIA could not adequately account for several of the 100 al Qaeda suspects who were part of the detainee program that the CIA maintained had been well administered.

The official said "a few just got lost and the CIA does to know what happened to them."

Other detainees, said the official, were transferred to other countries and their whereabouts are still unknown. In other cases, "incomplete records" were to blame for the failure to account for the detainees' status after leaving the program.

Rendition to nowhere indeed. But of course we can't house these suspects, try them and detain them in maximum security prisons in the United States because they might get loose.

So glad that the Bush program to send them to other countries (that Obama is continuing, by the way) hasn't resulted in escaped terror suspects or anything.

Good lord. No wonder the Republicans wanted this kept secret.

Ted Kennedy: Morning Reaction

I do feel somewhat guilty about yesterday's post on Kennedy before his death, wondering what the political fallout of his death would be on health care reform, and how the right would react to it with indifference, if not hostility.

Of course, that guilt vanished after reading Malkinvania's reaction.
The U.S. Senator from Massachusetts succumbed to brain cancer at the age of 77 tonight. Put aside your ideological differences for an appropriate moment and mark this passing with solemnity.

There is a time and place for political analysis and criticism. Not now.

Yes, there will be a nauseating excess of MSM hagiographies and lionizations — and crass calls to pass the health care takeover to memorialize his death.

That’s no excuse to demonstrate the same lack of restraint in the other direction. Not now.

Yeah, no time for criticism. Sure. Nice restraint there, honey. Ed Driscoll makes the same attacks over at Pajamas, Patterico can't find a single nice thing to say about the man, Robert Stacy McCain goes straight for Chappaquiddick and Ann Althouse warns of exactly the attack I called yesterday, that no matter what actually happens, Wingnuts will say Kennedy's death is being used for political gain by Obama.

Wingnuts. Still as classy as ever. But there isn't a person alive who should be surprised by this, given the virulent reaction by the right to Kennedy receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom earlier this month.

It should be even less surprising given Rush Limbaugh's comments in March:

On his radio show Friday, Rush Limbaugh suggested that Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) would be dead by the time health care reform legislation passes. "Before it's all over, it'll be called the Ted Kennedy memorial health care bill," the talk show host says.
It was the right who made Ted Kennedy's illness and subsequent death a political issue first. Just keep that in mind as the attacks keep rolling in. Remember what I said yesterday:
Hell, why not go for the full Five Dragons Wingnut Special platter and start in with the rumors that Obama had Kennedy killed in order to force Republicans to pass health care legislation? I wonder how long it'll take before that little gem makes it to El Rushbo/Glennsanity.
Given the circumstances, before the end of the week. Possibly before the end of the day.


Breaking: Senator Ted Kennedy Passes

America has lost one of its great statesmen overnight.
Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, the patriarch of the first family of Democratic politics, died late Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. He was 77.

"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," a family statement said. "We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice."

Kennedy, nicknamed "Ted," was the younger brother of slain President John F. Kennedy and New York Sen. Robert Kennedy, who was gunned down while seeking the White House in 1968. However, his own presidential aspirations were hobbled by the controversy around a 1969 auto accident that left a young woman dead, and a 1980 primary challenge to then-President Jimmy Carter that ended in defeat.

But while the White House eluded his grasp, the longtime Massachusetts senator was considered one of the most effective legislators of the past few decades. Kennedy, who became known as the "Lion of the Senate," played major roles in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, and was an outspoken liberal standard-bearer during a conservative-dominated era from the 1980s to the early 2000s.

"Senator Ted Kennedy's legacy in the United States Senate is comparable and consistent with the legacy of his entire family for generations," Kennedy's biographer, Ted Sorensen, said.

The politics and the aftermath can and will wait. The last great liberal Lion of the Senate is gone, and the world he leaves behind is a smaller, more mundane place.

May you reunite with your brothers, Ted. They've missed you. Your work is finally done, but never finished. Now, it's time for the rest of us.

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