Monday, October 26, 2009

Last Call

Apparently, sounding like a foul-mouthed blogger is bad for Congressmen.

Republicans and Democrats slammed Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) for calling Linda Robertson, an adviser to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, a “K Street whore” in a month-old radio interview that circulated on Capitol Hill Monday night.

“There’s no call for that language. No call for it. That’s absurd. If he was standing here now, I’d say that to him,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.)

“He’s out of control,” added Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who is vice chairwoman of the House Republican Conference.

The remarks are the latest to surface in a string of controversial statements by Grayson, who said on the Alex Jones radio show that he believes Robertson, a former Enron lobbyist, is not qualified to pass judgment on intricate financial matters.

It’s clear that his colleagues’ opinion of him has suffered.

“Is this news to you that this guy’s one fry short of a Happy Meal?” asked Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.)

I don't see what the big deal is. Just because one has a conflict of interest between financial lobbyists and the Fed doesn't make you a prostitute, but...well, that doesn't mean there's not a financial arrangement to screw people, ya dig? Think it's less of the insult and more of, well, he was kinda being truthful.

Little disappointed in Anthony Weiner of NY though, he and Grayson really should be on the same side and Blues Brother-ing their way through Congress.

The Village Calls Harry's Bluff

Robert Pear and David Herszenhorn over at the NY Times are calling Harry Reid's opt-out plan out.
“The best way to move forward is to include a public option with the opt-out provision for states,” Mr. Reid, of Nevada, said at a news conference. “I believe that a public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system.

It is not clear that Mr. Reid has the 60 votes he would need just to bring the bill to the Senate floor if it includes the public insurance plan. Senate aides said Monday that Mr. Reid was several votes short of that goal.

And with his latest move, he lost the one Republican who had given the Democratic efforts a hint of bipartisanship, Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, who had supported the Senate Finance Committee’s version of the bill, which did not include a public plan.

“I am deeply disappointed with the majority leader’s decision to include a public option as the focus of the legislation,” Ms. Snowe said in a statement, and she said that Mr. Reid had missed a chance to keep her on board.

“I still believe that a fallback safety net plan, to be triggered and available immediately in states where insurance companies fail to offer plans that meet the standards of affordability, could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate,” Ms. Snowe said.

But Mr. Reid instantly achieved one of his goals, as his decision was acclaimed by liberal organizations like MoveOn, Families USA and Health Care for America Now, a coalition that includes labor unions and civil rights groups.
Ahh, there is nothing quite like the rich, cloying scent of Village disdain for the Dirty F'ckin Hippies. This article is redolent with it. The bi-partisan Sensible Centrists are already declaring the big war on this one for it has offended the Snowe Queen (not that this is a bad thing.)

Expect the next week to be filled with more references of Democrats "ramming through things" than a porn hardware convention. Yay Liberal Media!

Who will the part of Judas Iscariot be played by, the Village wonders out loud. Who among the Lattecrats will stop this madness and betray Obama and become a hero to the Village echo chamber?

[UPDATE 8:30 PM] My, Dick Durbin's unspoken threat isn't very subtle now, is it?
"It's a zero-sum situation," said Durbin, who is in charge of counting votes in the Senate. "If we thought that just putting the trigger in meant that we'd end with 61 votes," he explained, then that's what leadership would have done.

"But there were some [senators] that felt that that just didn't go far enough moving toward a public option," said Durbin, who is himself a backer.

"We have 60 people in the caucus," Reid said. "We'll all hang together and see where we come out."

The question is, is he threatening the Dems to all hang together or else, or is he already pinning the blame on progressives because he knows the ConservaDems are about to kill this?

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Larry Kudlow asks (and yes, that Larry Kudlow, the knucklehead fron CNBC):
Here’s a question: If unemployment is the problem, then why aren’t supply-side tax cuts, along with tougher government budgetary restraints, a possible solution?
Cause it's real simple, Larry. Real, actual businesses (unlike CNBC) are in the profit business, not in the hiring people business. Supply-side tax cuts aren't going to do a damn thing for the consumers who buy products and services that businesses supply. If you think these businesses are going to take those supply-side tax cuts and hire more people with them instead of giving the money to shareholders and corporate officers, then you haven't been paying attention to the way the universe works.

At the same time reducing spending only further cuts back on the demand for products, and it's taking money out of the economy too.

How does taking money out of the economy reduce unemployment, exactly? And let's not forget the combination of tax cuts and spending cuts doesn't exactly solve any deficit problems, either.

Geez man, a first year econ student can figure this out.

The Miseducation Of Harry Reid

Could it possibly be? Could Harry Reid have actually found his spine and showed leadership?
At a presser in the Capitol just now, Harry Reid offered a striking revelation that sharply contradicts much of the conventional wisdom we’ve heard:

He said that the White House supports the public option with the opt out — despite all the reporting we’ve heard to the effect that the White House supposedly prefers the trigger.

Reid said clearly he’s moving forward with a Senate bill with the opt out in it, “with the support of the White House, and Senators Dodd and Baucus.”

Oh really. So, the opt-out is the way forward then?

Make it so. Dare the Tenther GOP governors to say "No thanks, we like uninsured people to remain uninsured."

Let's do this thing. Finally, a Harry Reid post that doesn't have the Democrat Stupidity tag on it. What a delightful change of pace. More from TPM:

Reid said he was "disappointed" the public option had "frightened" Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) but that he hoped she would "come back."

"I spoke to Olympia on Friday...and at this stage she does not like the public option of any kind. And so, we'll have to move forward on this, and there will come a time I hope, where she sees the wisdom of supporting a health care bill," he said.

He also blasted Republicans, saying he can count the moderates in the GOP on "two fingers."

And he told the Snowe Queen to suck a big one. Score!

[UPDATE 3:55 PM] But wait! The GOP wants a bi-partisan bill now! You know, as long at it's completely on the GOP's terms with no public option and sticking all the people with high-risk existing conditions in a pool by themselves assuring that they'd pay more and having the insurance companies call the shots and...

Detroit Rock Bottom

At this point Detroit pretty much qualifies as a 21st Century ghost town.
On the auction block in Detroit: almost 9,000 homes and lots in various states of abandonment and decay from the tidy owner-occupied to the burned-out shell claimed by squatters.

Taken together, the properties seized by tax collectors for arrears and put up for sale last week represented an area the size of New York's Central Park. Total vacant land in Detroit now occupies an area almost the size of Boston, according to a Detroit Free Press estimate.

The tax foreclosure auction by Wayne County authorities also stood as one of the most ambitious one-stop attempts to sell off urban property since the real-estate market collapse.

Despite a minimum bid of $500, less than a fifth of the Detroit land was sold after four days.

So, what does Detroit do at this point? There's a minimum level at which the city stops being a going concern and has to call it. Detroit can't be far...

Time To Check The ODI Again

It's time to check the Obama Derangement Index, i.e. how far off Rasmussen's "approval index" is from reality.

Today's Rasmussen numbers are -12, and the average for today is 55.8%, meaning that we're at an impressive ODI number of -17.8%, which is pretty much a new record.

The King Of Outer Wrongolia

Ross Douthat's totally trying out for that anti-Dan Brown Vatican Strike Team.
Here Catholicism and Anglicanism share two fronts. In Europe, both are weakened players, caught between a secular majority and an expanding Muslim population. In Africa, increasingly the real heart of the Anglican Communion, both are facing an entrenched Islamic presence across a fault line running from Nigeria to Sudan.

Where the European encounter is concerned, Pope Benedict has opted for public confrontation. In a controversial 2006 address in Regensburg, Germany, he explicitly challenged Islam’s compatibility with the Western way of reason — and sparked, as if in vindication of his point, a wave of Muslim riots around the world.

By contrast, the Church of England’s leadership has opted for conciliation (some would say appeasement), with the Archbishop of Canterbury going so far as to speculate about the inevitability of some kind of sharia law in Britain.

There are an awful lot of Anglicans, in England and Africa alike, who would prefer a leader who takes Benedict’s approach to the Islamic challenge. Now they can have one, if they want him.

This could be the real significance of last week’s invitation. What’s being interpreted, for now, as an intra-Christian skirmish may eventually be remembered as the first step toward a united Anglican-Catholic front — not against liberalism or atheism, but against Christianity’s most enduring and impressive foe.
Really? I would think the Pontiff would want to, I don't know, work with the world's billion plus Muslims rather than declare war on them, but I'm sure Ross here is willing to enlist in the fight, yes?

I doubt the NY Times has any Muslim readers, after all...

Doing Too Much, Including Playing Golf

Wait, so now the problem is President Obama is not doing too much, but that he plays golf?
President Barack Obama has only been in office for just over nine months, but he's already hit the links as much as President Bush did in over two years.

CBS' Mark Knoller — an unofficial documentarian and statistician of all things White House-related — wrote on his Twitter feed that, "Today - Obama ties Pres. Bush in the number of rounds of golf played in office: 24.

Took Bush 2 yrs & 10 months."

This news comes on the heels of today's news that Obama played golf with a woman — chief domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes — for the first time since taking office.

OK. Now when Obama manages to take as many vacation days away from the White House as Bush did, let me know.

Taking On Too Big To Fail

CNBC is reporting that Congressional Dems and President Obama are going to make public their new bank failure resolution legislation in the next day or two. A preview:
The key changes in what is known as resolution authority affect compensation of creditors, shareholders and management, as well as the role of the Federal Reserve in handling such too-big-to-fail cases, according to a senior Congressional stiffer.

“This will be a significant shift," said the staffer.

In particular, the government would have more latitude in what compensation creditors and shareholders get in out-of-court settlements, similar to what happened to bondholders in the General Motors and Chrysler Chapter 11 cases.

The Fed would play less a role in handling firms that pose a systemic risk to the economy, giving more authority to a council composed of several regulatory agencies.

“The council is being beefed up to be a policy making [entity}, explained the source, and would define such issues as what constitutes a systemic institution and how it is going to be wound down.

In other words, the new laws say that the government can settle out the banks the way they did GM and Chrysler, forcing banks to agree to terms rather than dictating them to the regulatory agencies. It's a vitally needed step.
The other key change in the bill is meant to give the government enough control that it could essentially dictate and impose terms on creditors, such as defining the return on their investment.

It “could get them to take cuts.” said an industry executive. "It's a cram down, if you will, for bondholders. It's a paradigm shift."

Shareholders, meanwhile, would probably lose virtually everything, as is usually the case in bankruptcy court, and management would be removed.

Sources say the changes are intended to provide greater protection for taxpayers, amid a growing outcry over the costs of bailing out private companies. They also reflect widespread criticism of the Fed’s handling of the financial crisis and its revised role in the new regulatory framework being developed.

Good. It's a start. A long way to go and this stuff needs to be written into law before the next megabank fails, but it's a start.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Nobody will actually win the gubernatorial election in New Jersey next week, it's just that somebody will end up losing it the least.

Yet Another President Odubya Moment

If anyone's consistently been in Obama's face about our failed torture policy, it's been Glenn Greenwald. That makes today's Double G column all the more interesting as he notes the NY Times is finally coming around to note that Obama is continuing these Bush policies (emphasis his):
That's what makes this morning's scathing condemnation of Obama so notable. As suggested by the editorial's headline -- "The Cover-Up Continues" -- the NYT accuses Obama of complicity in shielding Bush war crimes from disclosure and accountability, and worse, details the numerous, radical Bush/Cheney powers embraced by Obama in order to accomplish this. It begins this way:

The Obama administration has clung for so long to the Bush administration’s expansive claims of national security and executive power that it is in danger of turning President George W. Bush’s cover-up of abuses committed in the name of fighting terrorism into President Barack Obama’s cover-up.

We have had recent reminders of this dismaying retreat from Mr. Obama’s passionate campaign promises to make a break with Mr. Bush’s abuses of power, a shift that denies justice to the victims of wayward government policies and shields officials from accountability.

The numerous examples provided by the NYT are all well-known to readers here. Contrary to the central strawman invariably raised by his defenders, none of the complaints is grounded in the objection that Obama "has failed to act quickly enough" to repudiate Bush/Cheney abuses. Let's repeat that: none of the criticisms of Obama from the NYT today -- or from civil libertarians generally -- is grounded in the complaint that he hasn't acted quickly enough. The opposite is true: the complaint is that he has actively and affirmatively embraced those very policies as his own -- the very policies which Democrats and liberals almost unanimously claimed for years they found so offensive and dangerous -- and he has vigorously defended them and repeatedly applied them in numerous circumstances.

And Greenwald continues to be correct, as he has been on this issue since January. As I have said on many occasions, the issue where Obama's policy is Bush policy, especially on the Warren Terrah, is reprehensible and I will call out the President on it. I'm glad to see the Times join the fight, but this is nothing new, folks.

Obama is actively adopting and strengthening Bush's torture policy, period. Welcome to the realization it took you just nine months to find, NY Times.

Well, It's Certainly Broken, Why Can't We Fix It?

Reuters is reporting that the current health care system in this country wastes up to $850 million yearly.
The U.S. healthcare system is just as wasteful as President Barack Obama says it is, and proposed reforms could be paid for by fixing some of the most obvious inefficiencies, preventing mistakes and fighting fraud, according to a Thomson Reuters report released on Monday.

The U.S. healthcare system wastes between $505 billion and $850 billion every year, the report from Robert Kelley, vice president of healthcare analytics at Thomson Reuters, found.

"America's healthcare system is indeed hemorrhaging billions of dollars, and the opportunities to slow the fiscal bleeding are substantial," the report reads.

"The bad news is that an estimated $700 billion is wasted annually. That's one-third of the nation's healthcare bill," Kelley said in a statement.

"The good news is that by attacking waste we can reduce healthcare costs without adversely affecting the quality of care or access to care."

You'd think with all these self-proclaimed conservatives in the country (It's 40% now in the Gallup poll and has been between 36 and 40% now since 1992) that they would be interested in cutting that level of waste and bloat in the system. Alas, they're more interested in protecting insurance industry profits.

You know, Obamacare would more than pay for itself if we just cut say, 20% of this waste out of the system. I don't see why we can't do it. We're losing a full third of our country's entire health care expenditure yearly to stuff we don't get anything for. Why not convert that into a health care system that works?

Double Stupid Probation

Wingers are always good for a laugh as displayed by Laura Ingraham as she goes for the double word score on Obama Derangement Scrabble and spells out S-T-O-O-P-I-D.
Ingraham argued that "a lot of people are saying" that the Obama administration is more "impassioned about" Fox News than "other threats to the United States, whether economic threats or real threats, Islamic jihadists."

Ingraham didn't say who these "people" are who are "saying" this, but apparently, there are "a lot" of them. (When right-wing media personalities appear on mainstream outlets, they do this quite a bit -- they don't want to say crazy things on their own behalf, so they attribute nonsensical ideas to vague and undefined groups of "a lot of people," who do not appear to exist in reality.)

Even Stephanopoulos seemed incredulous about the observation, saying, "You don't believe that they've been softer on Islamic jihadists than they have on Fox News. Come on." Ingraham, dropping the pretense of passing along the thoughts of "a lot of people," insisted she hasn't seen White House officials "talk about other real threats in the same coordinated and sophisticated way as they're going after" Fox News.

John Podesta responded that Ingraham might be right "when the drones start flying over Fox News."

Yeah. Get that, people? Obama is tougher on FOX News than he is terrorists. I don't know who's laughing harder at that idiocy, Obama or the terrorists. Have you ever seen anyone cut themselves playing the victim card before? You have now.

Remember, Obama is the scariest fascist to ever walk the Earth because he thinks FOX might not be fair and balanced. Not even the Village is ready to make that analogy, and that alone should tell you everything you need to know.

And yet, Laura Ingraham will be right back on the Sunday shows again after this because they think you'll want to listen to her opinion.

Oiled Up, Dollar Down

Oil is now hovering at the $80 mark after starting the month around $65 a barrel. Gas prices are up nationwide by about 35 cents a gallon. In many parts of the country, gas prices are more expensive now than they were a year ago.
"The market is cautious about pushing oil prices higher because the demand fundamentals are still weak and the world economy is still fragile," said Ryuichi Sato, an analyst at Mizuho Corporate Bank.

Adding to bearish sentiment, Nigeria's main militant group reinstated a ceasefire on Sunday in the oil-producing Niger Delta to allow for peace talks with the government. Attacks on oil installations by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) have cut output in the major oil exporter for the last three years.

The dollar weakened against a basket of currencies, offering some support for oil. A Chinese report saying Beijing should increase its holdings of euros and yen in its foreign reserves knocked the U.S. currency.

China was again the bright spot for the global economic outlook, following comments by Vice Premier Li Keqiang that the country's economic recovery has consolidated after having performed better than expected. Its strong economic growth was reflected in a 12.5 percent year on year jump in implied oil demand, the sixth rise in a row and first double-digit growth since August 2006.

That doesn't bode well for the recovery. If the dollar continues to weaken and China continues to grow rapidly, oil prices will go up regardless.

Searching For Understanding

...On the Teabagger front. Overlooked this one on Friday.

In a message sent this morning to fellow members of the Tea Party Patriots, who had been discussing movement strategy, Richard A. Correa Sr., who identifies himself as a retired sergeant, wrote:

Civil disobedience is the next logical step.

Correa's email, which was obtained by TPMmuckraker, was sent using a U.S. army address.

The email may in fact have been an effort to tone down the fervor among Tea Partiers. It appears to have been a response to a fellow activist, Carol Dietz, who, in her own email sent to the Tea Party group on Wednesday, had argued that the group needed to become more aggressive in its effort to resist the administration. Dietz compared the Tea Partiers to Jews in Nazi Germany, who, she said, "went like sheep quietly to their slaughter."

If you honestly believe that the current Obama domestic agenda of trying to fix the economy through badly needed oversight, wanting to make health care affordable and actually doing something about immigration, education, and the environment is equivalent to "Brownshirts are coming to put you in work camps" then the Bush administration dismantlement of the Constitution in the name of the almighty plenary executive must of had you in the streets with Molotov cocktails and shotguns, right?

Wait, you want those days back? Look folks, there's nothing wrong with civil disobedience. It works as long as you actually keep it civil. You don't like Obama? You have the right not to like Obama. Vote for the other person in 2012. I have my problems with the guy's policies too, especially on the economic and civil liberties fronts. But the talk of armed and open revolution? Obama as a Nazi fascist? Give me a break.

You're fighting to the last man against...what exactly? More wind turbines? Removing the anti-trust exemption from insurance companies? Highway construction projects? What? What is so godwawful terrible about what Obama is doing that you 100% supported Bush when he did it?

Is Obama continuing some of Bush's policies? Yes. I do not support that. But that's not the problem I see the teabaggers screaming about. It's specifically Obama's policies that will destroy this country, apparently...and none of these fools batted an eyelash when Bush did far worse.

So yes, I guess I just don't get it.

A Newt Dawn In America

Newtie is considering a run for Obama's job in 2012.
Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker and perennial big thinker in the Republican party, said this morning that he will likely run for president in 2012 if he and his wife, Callista, assess the field of candidates in 2011 and feel "a requirement as citizens that we run." His comments came during an interview on C-SPAN's Washington Journal this morning.
Considering Newt is the only major Republican to back actual GOP candidate Dede Scozzafava in NY-23's special election next week (the Winger Nation wants Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman to win in order to teach the NRCC a lesson) I somehow see the reaction from the right to Sunday's statement from Newt being almost universally like this.
Newt my boy, there is absolutely no need for you and Callista to sit down and discuss anything. You have forever destroyed all your chances of getting a majority of conservatives to vote for you after pig-headishly sticking to Dede Scozzafava. That ├╝ber RINO is now a permanent albatross around your neck.

The days of the GOP shoving RINOs onto conservatives are over. Thanks to Obama's radical agenda, the conservative base is now active and organized. RINO candidates will be met with the strongest resistance and those who push them will lose support.
The days of Newt's Contract With America are over. The Great Purge is underway, starting next Tuesday. As Republicans continue to jettison any hope of moderation from the party, it'll only get worse and worse for them nationally, prompting cries of "We must purge MORE!" from the screaming Wingnuts.

I continue to not be worried about these guys into 2010 and 2012, but if you think you're gonna run there Newt, OK. You've earned a StupidiTag.

Finally Taking A Stand

BooMan notes the White House has finally come out with rumor control on the public option.
A rumor is making the rounds that the White House and Senator Reid are pursuing different strategies on the public option. Those rumors are absolutely false.

In his September 9th address to Congress, President Obama made clear that he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition. That continues to be the President's position.

At any point the White House could have said this, but, you know, the Snowe Queen and everything. Go figure. As BooMan says:
It probably was like pulling teeth to get the White House to release that memo. They've been avoiding getting boxed in with religious devotion. But their media outreach guys knew they were taking a beating. Some liberal senators were getting grumpy. And Pelosi needs a little push as she finalizes her whip count for the strongest possible public option. This last bit is probably what tipped the White House in favor of publicly backing Reid. As long as the Senate looks wobbly, it's hard for Pelosi to push her caucus over the top for a robust public option.
Perhaps something will get done now that everyone believes we're on the same page. Important to note however that one news story to the contrary is still able to derail the Dems for days, and it's getting silly.

At some point we have to trust the Dems to do this and that it will work. The Zen of Kroog:

Still, if the Massachusetts experience is any guide, health care reform will have broad public support once it’s in place and the scare stories are proved false. The new health care system will be criticized; people will demand changes and improvements; but only a small minority will want reform reversed.

This thing is going to work.
And we're close...very close.


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