Monday, September 21, 2009

Last Call

The General Accounting Office says that AIG owes the American taxpayer $121 billion.
US insurance giant AIG, partly nationalized a year ago to avert a collapse authorities said would destabilize the global financial system, needs to repay nearly 121 billion dollars in taxpayer aid, an official report said Monday.

The Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said the ultimate success of AIG's restructuring and repayment efforts remains uncertain," in a report on the 700-billion-dollar Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The GAO said that American International Group, which received by far the biggest federal bailout, had shown some progress in its ability to repay the federal assistance.

But that "improvement in the stability of AIG's business depends on the long-term health of the company, market conditions, and continued government support," the report said.

To put that in perspective, $121 billion is roughly the difference between health care reform with the public option (the HELP bill at roughly $1 trillion) and health care reform without the public option (the Baucus bill at roughly $850 billion).

Nice, huh? We apparently can't afford a public option because we bailed out AIG.

Meh, We'll Get To You Eventually There

I'm not a CEO or anything, but I'm thinking refusing to meet a Congressional deadline to submit documents is a bad idea...especially if you're a bank.
Bank of America did not meet a noon deadline on Monday to submit documents and other possible evidence in the Congressional investigation of the bank’s takeover of Merrill Lynch, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said.

The committee’s chairman, Representative Edolphus Towns of New York, is deciding whether to issue a subpoena to force compliance, but first he plans to meet with the bank’s chief strategy and marketing officer, Anne Finucane, on Tuesday.

Mr. Towns indicated that he planned to tell Ms. Finucane that the bank must comply with the request, and if it does not, a subpoena may be forthcoming.
And what, pray tell, do you do should BoA refuse your subpoena there, eh?

Then again, this is the same Congress that was ignred by the Bushies for years. Why should the real people running the country have to answer to Congress, for crissakes?

Zandar's Other Thought Of The Day

For every Charles Johnson who has redeemed himself from the darkness of the abyss of Obama Derangement Syndrome, there must be a Larry Johnson who dives into the abyss to replace him.

(Granted, LJ went off the deep end back in the 2008 primaries and Chuck just now freed himself you know after years of being FreeperLite, but the theory is sound.)

Call it Zandar's Law Of Johnsons.

Bay State Shuffle

The bill allowing Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint an interim Senator to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy could come up for a state Senate vote as early as tomorrow evening.

“We’ll probably take it up tomorrow,” said Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, a Wakefield Republican. “I don’t know that there’s a lot to be gained by continuing to delay just to delay it. That’s not what we’re about. We’re trying to give people time to weigh in. We got the weekend out of it.”

“There comes a point when we’ve done whatever we can,” he added. “We’ll see what happens.”

By a 95-58 vote, House members last week approved the bill. Proponents of the bill argue that a second voice is needed to represent the state in Washington and that Kennedy would have wanted an appointee to push for a health care overhaul, while Republicans charge that Democrats are merely playing partisan politics to increase their majority in Washington.

Republicans, who hold only five of the 40 seats in the Senate chamber, had vowed to delay passage of the bill. Patrick has said he would make an appointment within days, sending the new senator to Washington until a Jan. 19 special election.

In other words, if this does go to a vote tomorrow or Wednesday and to Patrick's desk, we could see an appointment to replace Kennedy as early as this weekend.

All of a sudden it's a race to see which happens first, an appointment to replace Kennedy or the Baucus bill coming up for a vote.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

The smart money's still on health care reform through reconciliation with zero GOP votes.

Congressional Republicans could give a damn about health care reform if it means it benefits Democrats in any way. Of course, that goes for all legislation.

Snowe Job, Part 2

To recap the health care reform adventures of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Centrist Pain In The Ass), she has proposed a trigger on the public option, a week later she proclaimed the public option dead, three days after that she declared the Baucus Bill dead, and now this week she has decided to go back to square one and propose an amendment to the Baucus Bill for triggering a public option.
This amendment establishes a non-profit government corporation through which a ―safety net plan would be provided in any state in which affordable coverage was not available in the Exchange to at least 95% of state residents. An individual would be deemed to have affordable access if either of two conditions is met. First, two or more plans are offered with premiums - the cost of which does not exceed a specified percentage of the individual's adjusted gross income (AGI), after deducting any available tax credit or employer subsidy from the cost of such premium. The percentage contribution shall range from 3 percent of AGI at 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, to 13 percent at 300 percent and above.
Progressives told her to go jump in a lake before, but she's back again now with the same plan she had back three weeks ago.

So exactly why should Democrats go along with this, just so she can throw another tantrum and stomp off in a huff like last time? No thanks. Gutting this bill to make one Republican happy is not worth it. Door's that way, Olympia.

Proceed without the Republicans. They want no part of this legislation. Why give them one?

Epic MacGyver's Beautiful, Beautiful Balloon Win

Somewhere, wherever the world's great scientists end up when they pass on, a bunch of them are having a big party right now thanks to MIT student Oliver Yeh.
Oliver Yeh is the kind of guy who cooks up ideas so kooky, so out-of-this-world, that even his fellow MIT students tend to roll their eyes when they hear them.

But that never stops him.

His latest concept -- to launch a camera into near-space using a weather balloon, a cell phone, hand warmers and a drink cooler -- fell flat when he sent out an e-mail message to dozens of his classmates, asking for help.

Unfazed, Yeh managed to find one friend willing to chip in. And on September 2, the go-it-alone pair floated a balloon-camera high enough into the atmosphere to photograph the curvature of the Earth and the deep black of space, all on a lunch-money budget of $148.

"For me, it was just about not being afraid to do what I love to do," said Yeh, a 20-year-old MIT senior studying computer science and electrical engineering. "Before, people were just kind of like, 'That's a crazy idea; there he goes all over again.' (Yeh once convinced a friend to float the Charles River with him on a raft made of plastic bottles.)

"I didn't have a lot of people who wanted to do it with me, so I'm really glad I stuck it out and succeeded in what I wanted to do."

Scientists, geeks, nerds, techies and gearheads salute you, Ollie. Best use of $148 I can think of in a long, long time.

When the zombie apocalypse comes, I've found my engineer. Hey NASA guys: take notes.


The New School Bully

The Village cool kid clique has a new transfer student this semester, Andrew "I killed ACORN" Breitbart, over from Winger Blogger High. For his next trick, Andy's going to try to make himself class president by promising to put vending machines in the classrooms and getting rid of Obama...or something like that, as Steve and NMMNB points out.
If you do powdered drugs, at a certain point you get a tad antsy -- you get worried that you won't be able to sustain your high. Andrew Breitbart has recently had the profoundly enjoyable experience of unleashing the ACORN videos on the nation and watching them become a moderate-sized scandal (and no, I wouldn't go further than "moderate") -- and now Andy wants more.

So he's saying LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME -- which I strongly suspect he wouldn't be doing (he wouldn't have to) if what he had next were going to have anything resembling the impact of his ACORN stories.

Mike Flynn and John Nolte, writers for Breitbart, wrote yesterday, in a post titled "Pregame Report: The NEA Conference Call,"

Tomorrow at noon ET, explosive new information....

No, really -- LOOK! LOOK! I desperately need the attention!

Is he going to have something? Oh, sure. The huge hint being dropped is that this will be in connection with an earlier story Breitbart broke, about a National Endowment for the Arts conference call in which it seemed that artists were being encouraged to work on the Obama agenda.
Wait...artists? Who the hell cares? This is the big story that will bring the corrupt Obama administration down in flames?
Then again, the focus on artists might be Breitbart's obsession. After all, the ACORN story broke on his new site,, but for a few years he's been running, a site devoted to the alleged suffering of right-wing artistes, and the site has been much mocked and little quoted. (The current teaser is at BH, not BG.) And in today's Washington Times, Breitbart has an op-ed in which he tediously boasts about his brilliant technique for breaking the ACORN story ("Thus was born a multimedia, multiplatform strategy designed to force the reluctant hands of ABC, CBS, NBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post. Videos of five different ACORN offices in five separate cities would be released on five consecutive weekdays..."), and what does he call the piece?

The politicized art behind the ACORN plan

Damn you people! I am Michael Moore! I am Karen Finley! I am making great political art!!!
So he's a transfer art student from Blogger High. That explains it, he's the new emo kid on the block.

In all seriousness, when you're writing stories about your own press, you've jumped the shark. Big time. All we need to do now is watch him crash and burn...especially when the Village figures out Breitbart and the Wingers don't want to rule the Villagers, they want to replace them.

More On Bob Woodward's Leak

It's no coincidence that less than 24 hours after the President went on multiple Sunday shows this weekend to give his Afghanistan overview, that the President is not going to throw more troops at a losing battle, comes this morning's Bob Woodward piece in the WaPo designed to clearly pressure him into doing just that.
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal says emphatically: "Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."

His assessment was sent to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Aug. 30 and is now being reviewed by President Obama and his national security team.

McChrystal concludes the document's five-page Commander's Summary on a note of muted optimism: "While the situation is serious, success is still achievable."

But he repeatedly warns that without more forces and the rapid implementation of a genuine counterinsurgency strategy, defeat is likely. McChrystal describes an Afghan government riddled with corruption and an international force undermined by tactics that alienate civilians.

Here's the problem. Eight years in, we still do not have a realistic strategy for winning in Afghanistan. Hell, we don't even know what winning constitutes there. The Republicans and Democratic hawks just want to toss more troops at the problem until we win. That's actually a worse strategy that what we've been doing, which is "try to make do with what we have, only we don't know what to do."

This Woodward piece is a clear shot from the war hawks to cut the President's legs out from under him on Afghanistan. Indeed, Obama is already being attacked this morning for not having immediately made the decision to send in thousands of more American soldiers (from where, exactly?) based on that Aug. 30 report.

Or at least it may be thousands. It may be hundreds of thousands. We don't know, because McChrystal doesn't specify a number, because we don't have an overall strategy other than "shoot things until we win."

If we're still 12 months away from failure after eight years, then why are we still there?


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