Thursday, December 3, 2009

Last Call

Behold Jim Pethokoukis, a man who has to blame Obama for causing the recession and jump in unemployment in the past by claiming the problem is legislation he may or may not get passed in the future.
So Corporate America is about to enter 2010 – an election year – with the fate of the ambitious Obama agenda uncertain. Maybe the only thing for sure is that whatever job-creation package the White House and congressional Democrats eventually gin up, it will likely be a $300 billion or so combo of more transportation spending, more aid to cash-strapped state and local governments and some sort of hiring tax credit.
(And that gets at another critical flaw with the jobs summit. As any of the executives could tell Obama, brainstorming sessions are often the tool-of-choice of the highly ineffective manager. Such confabs are frequently used to give team members the illusion that they are contributing to the idea generation process. In fact, the manager has already made his decision. And that is, more or less, the case with Obama. At the very least, don’t expect any CEO suggestions of lowering personal, corporate or investment tax rates to get even a whiff of consideration from the White House.)

Of course, Obama could pivot and revamp healthcare reform into a more incremental, targeted bill that might actually pass with decent margins in both houses. And while cap-and-trade is gasping for air, a deficit-neutral carbon tax (offsetting payroll taxes) might actually pull in significant Republican support. Maybe even a fat payroll or corporate tax cut.
So, Obama shouldn't even bother to talk to CEOs, he just needs to shut the hell up and give them those fat tax cuts so...what, exactly, Jim?  Cutting corporate taxes sure as hell isn't going to create jobs, not when those cuts will go to profits and bonuses for execs.  Wages have remained stagnant in this country for 30 years.  The middle class is dying, there's no demand to support expansion in hiring because of wage stagnation and American consumers being tapped out on credit and equity, and your big plan is more corporate tax cuts?

Idiot.  What company is going to take tax cuts and spend it on raises for the rank and file?  How will cutting taxes create anything but fat profits for shareholders and workers getting shafted?

We have tax cuts we can't pay for now.  At least job spending would contribute to the economy and actually create demand...and jobs.

But I do agree with Jimbo here on one issue:  Obama certainly can remove a lot of unknowns from the equation by getting his bill passed by his own damn party.

Letting The Grownups Sit At The Kids Table

Politico's Michael Calderone is all upset that blog news outfits like HuffPo and now TPM are getting White House press pool credentials.   I say old bean, who let the bloggers into the pool?  Marcy Wheeler is merciless in her critique as she notes Calderone interviews NY Times reporter Peter Baker, who is just...concerned....
While at the WaPo, Baker frequently partnered on stories with both Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, now at the Politico giving blowjobs to Cheney. In fact, Baker covered the White House during the entire period of the discovery of JimmyJeffGannonGuckert, but he is not known to have complained about covering the White House with a gay whore working for a partisan outlet (though to be fair, GannonGuckert never contributed to the press pool). Before working at the WaPo, Baker worked for the Moonie Times, which lost $40 million last year to provide a mouthpiece for a far-right cult leader.

As far as I can tell, Baker has never won a Polk Award — though Josh Marshall has.

Also, as far as I can tell, Baker has also never complained that Fox News participates in the White House pool, in spite of the fact that it, like Fred Hiatt’s editorial page, produces “pieces with strongly argued points of view.” Nor has he complained that it, like the Politico and the Moonie Times, is owned by right-wing big money.’

Nevertheless, Baker is very worried about his credibility if he has to rely on pool reports from the HuffPo and TPM.
And quite frankly, it goes to show you just how far blog news outlets have come.

Hey, I mean Les Kinsolving at WorldNetDaily gets press credentials, you know.

That "Poll Asked" Look

Attention Congressional douchebags:  America wants a public option.
Here are some of the results of the telephone survey of 2,999 households called from November 9-17 as part of the Thomson Reuters PULSE Healthcare Survey:

* Believe in public option: 59.9 percent yes, 40.1 percent no.

* 86 percent of Democrats support the public option versus 57 percent of Independents and 33 percent of Republicans.

* Quality of healthcare will be better 12 months from now: 35 percent strongly disagree. 11.6 percent strongly agree. 29.9 percent put themselves in the middle.

* Believe the amount of money spent on healthcare will be less 12 months from now: 52 percent strongly disagree, 13 percent strongly agree.

* 23 percent believe it will be easier for people to receive the care they need a year from now.
The nationally representative survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 percent.
They also want you to make it work.  By the way, if you're worried about 2010 as a Member of Congress, please pay close attention to the fifty-seven percent of independents who want a public option.  One of those people is me.  Thank you.

Pass the damn bill.  Make it robust.  Appreciate it.

The Great 2010 Voter Black Out

Nate Silver goes inside the numbers and pulls up a very disturbing trend:  where much has been made this week of the "enthusiasm gap" between Republicans and Democrats who plan to vote in 2010, when you look at black voters, the gap is significantly worse.
The racial demographics, however, are perhaps even more striking. Whereas 68 percent of white voters told Research 2000 they were definitely or probably planning to vote in 2010, just 33 percent of black voters did. Although whites have almost always turned out at greater rates than blacks, the racial gap has never been nearly that large, and indeed was at its smallest-ever levels in 2008 with Barack Obama on the ballot.

The highest turnout gap since 1978 -- 13.0 points -- came in 1994, an inauspicious year for Democrats, when 50.1 percent of white adults turned out versus 37.1 percent of blacks. The smallest gap came last year -- 64.8 percent of whites voted versus 60.8 percent of African-Americans.

It's commonly assumed that the race gap tends to be larger in midterm years and smaller in Presidential elections -- but there's not actually that much evidence that this is the case. Since 1978, the gap has been 9.4 percent on average in midterm elections and 9.0 percent in Presidential elections.
In other words, the worst the gap between Black and White voters has been 13.4% in 1994...not a good year for the Donks.  It was the lowest: just 4 points, in 2008...a phenomenal year electorally for the Dems.

That Daily Kos poll from the weekend shows the gap to be thirty-five points.  I'm betting given decades of data on this, the Kos poll is just too small a sample and that's why the numbers are hideous.  If they were true, if only 33% of blacks plan to vote in 2010, that would be an unmitigated disaster for the Dems, as in the Republicans would not only take the House back, but they'd put in current Dem numbers for the margin they would have.   They'd actually win the Senate, too.  It would be a bloodbath of biblical proportions, something like a 120 seat flip in the House and 20 in the Senate.

I just don't see that happening.

You know, unless health care reform fails again....or worse, the bill that does pass is a disaster without a public option, but has mandates with fines and no subsidies.  That of course would get the Dems drummed out of Washington for a generation.

But they're not that stupid up there in Washington, are they?

Helicopter Ben Misses His Flight

With Bernie Sanders breaking the ice on revoking Helicopter Ben's pilot license (not to mention his license to print craploads of money) it seems the GOP now wants to take a couple swings at the pinata as well.  D-Day's got the goods:
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity because of his work behind the scenes on the Bernanke confirmation, told me that two separate sources assured him that the Republican hold would be made public after today’s hearing. One staffer said that two Republicans would place the hold, while the other said it would just be one. The source said that the trans-partisan nature of opposition to Bernanke, with a conservative Republican and a socialist independent uniting to block the appointment, shows the intensity of the feelings on the issue. “It’s great to see everyone come together – Democrats, Republicans, progressives and libertarians, against this Federal Reserve, which is not federal, and not a reserve, just a group printing money and giving it to their buddies,” the source said.
While most people think that the multiple holds would delay the process, it’s unclear whether or not it would succeed. Dodd would probably have the discretion to roll over the hold in committee, though he may be reluctant to do so, experts in Senate procedure said. Harry Reid could also seek cloture on the motion to proceed on Bernanke’s nomination on the floor, which would require 60 votes.

At the very least, this delay and the publicity surrounding bipartisan opposition to Bernanke would bring attention to the issue of the Federal Reserve and the desire for transparency, like the movement to audit the Fed. That provision has already passed in the large financial reform bill in the House Financial Services Committee, and Barney Frank said yesterday that he didn’t expect any changes to the bill as it passed the House, citing the public anger over the issue of transparency. There is language on Fed audits in the draft financial reform bill written by Sen. Dodd, which also strips the Fed of some of its power, but it is not the same as Bernie Sanders’ audit the Fed bill, which has as many as 30 cosponsors.

The source, who has been working on the Federal Reserve issue for five years, marveled at how the issue has gained so much new attention during the financial crisis. “Up until last year, nobody knew what the Fed was. Ron Paul got 5 co-sponsors on his audit bill when he first introduced it, and now we have 300.”
And even I think the Audit The Fed/Dump Bernanke movement is a worthy one.  There's literally trillions at stake here, and it's turned into a huge mess.  There's no transparency on the biggest of the "Too Big To Fail" banks...the Fed itself.

Anything that puts Bernie Sanders on the same side as the Teabaggers is probably worth looking at very closely, and for once I agree.

[UPDATE 3:05 PM]  That Republican hold has been revealed as none other than Kentucky's very own Jim Bunning, and he's promising more Republicans will join him.

Now things are getting interesting.

[UPDATE 4:12 PM]   And Bernanke's great idea is to get rid of Medicare and Social Security.  No, really.
"Well, Senator, I was about to address entitlements," Bernanke replied. "I think you can't tackle the problem in the medium term without doing something about getting entitlements under control and reducing the costs, particularly of health care."
Bernanke reminded Congress that it has the power to repeal Social Security and Medicare.

"It's only mandatory until Congress says it's not mandatory. And we have no option but to address those costs at some point or else we will have an unsustainable situation," said Bernanke.
Yeah, I'm sure that will go over well.

Mittster's Unwanted Advice

Mitt Romney takes to USA Today to give Obama his advice for fixing the economy.  Among the proposals in his ten-point plan are all the high points of the GOP Hooverville 2.0 special (Building A Better Depression For Millions Of Peons Like You And Me).  They include:
  1. Cancel the stimulus!
  2. Tax cuts for businesses!
  3. Cut social programs!
  4. Kill climate change legislation!
  5. Kill card check!
  6. Make the Bush tax cuts on the rich permanent!
  7. Freeze all non-military spending!
  8. Kill financial regulation!
  9. Expand free trade!
  10. and most importantly... Kill the public option!
So, we must show the world we're serious about fiscal cutting taxes.  We can pay for these tax cuts on the rich by cutting entitlements on the middle class to the point where we can pay for our vitally needed tax cuts on the rich.

Now, can you imagine where the unemployment in this country would be with a spending freeze, no stimulus, tax cuts, and massive spending cuts in social programs under a GOP president?

Yeah, thought so.

Bank On It

Felix Salmon:
We’re at a fork in the road right now. People who were comfortable with seven- and eight-figure salaries a couple of years ago have a natural tendency to want to return to the status quo ante; the rest of us see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring executive pay down to the kind of levels which normal human beings can relate to. Given that the pay levels of old clearly did no good and colorably did a great deal of harm, that doesn’t sound like an unreasonable request. But there aren’t any mechanisms in place to make it happen, and when the likes of Kenneth Feinberg try to impose some kind of sense and order, the immediate reaction is to try to wriggle out from under his oversight.
So the plutocrats, it seems are going to win. They had a nasty couple of years, by plutocrat standards, and in a handful of companies operating under de facto state control they don’t quite have the free rein they would ideally like. But the system as a whole hasn’t changed, and those who thought that it might can’t quite believe how naive they were.
And people wonder why Democrats aren't planning to vote in 2010.

Yes, Democrats in Congress and the one in the White House, I am looking at you.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Karl Rove is not only admitting that he likes Obama's Afghanistan strategy better, but that Bush's strategy failed to win Afghanistan.

How magnanimous of him.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Bob Cesca wonders:
I wonder if the conservadems realize that by forcing Reid and the healthcare leadership to entertain and perhaps accept such an awful compromise that they're risking failure for the entire reform effort and consequently endangering the congressional majorities. I simply don't see the House progressives supporting triggered whatevers. Just a bad, bad idea.
Oh that's been the entire plan all along, Bob.  You think Evan F'ckin Bayh gives a purple reflective damn if the Dems are in charge or not?  He's a Bayh.  Same goes for Joe F'ckin Lieberman.  You think these guys are going to do anything to jeopardize their fat lobbying contracts, board appointments for their spouses, think tank grants and lucrative private sector jobs once they get off The Hill?  Not me.

You honestly think these guys are going to put the unwashed, non-Beltway masses in their states in front of Wellpoint or BCBS or Roche or AstraZeneca?  Not me.  Will it effect them if they are minority party Senators?  Not in the least.

The Assault On Science, Part 2

As I mentioned on Sunday, the whole point of the Winger whining on "Climategate" is not to debunk global climate change as a hoax, but to discredit modern science as a whole, and to bully the scientific community into doing only the science that the Wingers approve of.  This ranges from ignoring anything that might hurt corporate profits all the way up to science itself being heretic and bereft of any morality and use.  Scientists are overwhelmingly not Republicans, after all...and it's time the Teabaggers brought them in line, you see.

Enter Daniel Henninger at...surprise!...the Wall Street Journal. (emphasis mine)
Surely there must have been serious men and women in the hard sciences who at some point worried that their colleagues in the global warming movement were putting at risk the credibility of everyone in science. The nature of that risk has been twofold: First, that the claims of the climate scientists might buckle beneath the weight of their breathtaking complexity. Second, that the crudeness of modern politics, once in motion, would trample the traditions and culture of science to achieve its own policy goals. With the scandal at the East Anglia Climate Research Unit, both have happened at once.
I don't think most scientists appreciate what has hit them. This isn't only about the credibility of global warming. For years, global warming and its advocates have been the public face of hard science. Most people could not name three other subjects they would associate with the work of serious scientists. This was it. The public was told repeatedly that something called "the scientific community" had affirmed the science beneath this inquiry. A Nobel Prize was bestowed (on a politician).
(More after the jump...)

The Washington Job

Steve Benen processes the White House "jobs summit" today and comes up with the problem.  It's not even Clinton's famous "It's the economy, stupid!" like he used in 1992,  it's "It's the unemployment, stupid!"
I looked up the transcript of that '92 debate, and Dean's description is spot-on. The specific question was, "How has the national debt personally affected each of your lives. And if it hasn't, how can you honestly find a cure for the economic problems of the common people if you have no experience in what's ailing them?"
Bush started talking about interest rates, and then transitioned to talking about his grandchildren. He eventually said, "I'm not sure I get it. Help me with the question and I'll try to answer it."

The moderator intervened: "I think she means more the recession, the economic problems today the country faces rather than the deficit."

The clarification mattered -- because the question didn't really make sense. The voter wanted to know if the candidates could relate to families suffering through tough times, but she asked how "the national debt personally affected" their lives.

Eighteen years later, the White House wants to create jobs, but it's afraid of increased deficits and debt. This, like the '92 debate question, is a mistake. The debt isn't the problem; unemployment is.

As Speaker Pelosi explained last week, "We're never going to decrease the deficit until we create jobs, bring revenue into the Treasury, stimulate the economy so we have growth. We have to shed any weakness that anybody may have about not wanting to be confrontational on this subject for fear that we'd be labeled not sensitive to the deficit.... The American people have an anger about the growth of the deficit because they're not getting anything for it."

The assumption is that voters will be impressed if policymakers bring down the deficit by a fraction of a percent against GDP. They'll be far more impressed with those who get America working again.
If Obama and his economic team can't or won't see the forest for the trees, the trees are going to fall on quite a few Dems in 2010 and 2012.  The debt isn't the problem.  The tens of millions of Americans out of work and tens of millions more who haven't seen a raise in years and seen their health care premiums explode are most certainly the real problem.
Have a summit to fix that.

If It's Thursday...

New jobless claims down 5K to 457K, continuing claims up slightly to 5.47 million.  The real news is that Americans continue to work harder for less pay:
U.S. non-farm productivity was slightly less robust than previously thought in the third quarter as workers earned more money and output rose at a slower pace, government data showed on Thursday.

The Labor Department said non-farm productivity rose at an 8.1 percent annual rate, still the quickest pace since the third quarter of 2003, rather than the 9.5 percent rate predicted last month.

Productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, grew at a 6.9 percent pace in the April-June period. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast growth in third quarter productivity being revised down to 8.5 percent.

Total non-farm output in the third quarter grew at a 2.9 percent pace, rather than 4 percent, the department said. Output dropped at a 1.1 percent rate in the previous period.

Aggressive cost cutting by businesses has pushed productivity sharply higher over the past months. That, combined with a surge in profits during the quarter, has convinced analysts that companies may start hiring and help the economy's recovery.
Why, after squeezing out record productivity gains, would you hire more people?  Why would you expand in an economy like this knowing your competition will be cutting costs?  Why would you hire more people knowing that you're not paying the people you have enough to keep them loyal?  Why not just cut more benefits and expect workers to work harder when there's a real unemployment rate approaching 18%?  You're in an employer's market.  What are your employees going to do, quit and get a job when there's a record six applicants out there for every position?

You can't expand without increased demand.  And the American consumer is far past being tapped out to pay for stuff.  There's no point in hiring more people if there's no increase in demand, that's basic economics.  It would be a good corporate citizen thing to do, but then again cutting wages, hours and benefits by record amounts doesn't exactly make me think there's going to be much of that generosity going around when it's all about profit profit profit.

What recovery?  This nasty little death spiral is a neat trap, is it not?  Lower wages means lower demand.  Lower demand means more cost-cutting.  More cost-cutting means lower wages.  And around we go...

The GOP Plan Lives

I've been saying for months now that the GOP Plan is to kill health care reform and destroy Obama.  It turns out our old friend Judd "Sure I'll be your Commerce Guy NOT!" Gregg literally has...The GOP Plan.  Written down
"We, the minority party, must use the tools we have under Senate rules to insist on a full, complete and fully informed debate on the health care legislation - as well as all legislation - coming before the Senate," Gregg wrote in a letter to Republican colleagues yesterday. "As laid out in the attached document, we have certain rights before measures are considered on the floor as well as certain rights during the actual consideration of measures. Every Republican senator should be familiar with the scope of these rights, which serve to protect our ability to speak on behalf of the millions of Americans who depend on us to be their voice during this historic debate."

Gregg says Republicans should be prepared to filibuster every motion, "with the exception of Conference Reports and Budget Resolutions, most such motions are fully debatable and 60 votes for cloture is needed to cut off extended debate."

And Republicans, he says, should be prepared to gum up even the most standard operating procedures in the Senate. "[The] Senate operates on a presumptive quorum of 51 senators and quorum calls are routinely dispensed with by unanimous consent. If UC is not granted to dispose of a routine quorum call, then the roll must continue to be called. If a quorum is not present, the only motions the leadership may make are to adjourn, to recess under a previous order, or time-consuming motions to establish a quorum that include requesting, requiring, and then arresting Senators to compel their presence in the Senate chamber."
Filibuster every bill.  Force a quorum for every piece of Senate business. Paralyze the Senate all the time, every time.  Delay. Obstruct.  Blockade.  Bring Washington to a grinding halt.

This is the GOP Plan for America:  To stop our lawmaking process cold because they don't like being in the minority.  Despite the people's will that threw them out of office, they invoke the same will of the people to say that America wants them to stop the elected majority through every means possible, every time, all the time.

It's disgusting bullying.  But what do you expect from the fanatics in the GOP?

Set In Stone

CBS News reporter Chip Reid is reporting that the President's July 2011 withdrawal deadline isn't one of those nebulous health care reform or climate change legislation deadlines that get ignored, this one's real.
During the Senate Armed Services hearing today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was pressed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. on whether the July 2011 date for beginning to withdrawal troops is "locked in."

Gates seemed to suggest there was some flexibility, that "it was a clear statement of his strong intent" and that "the president always has the freedom to re-evaluate his decisions." After the hearing Graham said he took that to mean the date is "not locked in" and will depend on conditions on the ground.

It was a point of contention at the White House briefing today – I asked White House spokesman Robert Gibbs if senators were incorrect calling the date a "target."

After the briefing, Gibbs went to the president for clarification. Gibbs then called me to his office to relate what the president said. The president told him it IS locked in – there is no flexibility. Troops WILL start coming home in July 2011. Period. It's etched in stone. Gibbs said he even had the chisel.
Oh reaaaaaally.  That's nice to know.

Now how about that Dec. 31 deadline for HCR in the Senate there, Mr. President?  There's a deadline I can believe in.

You Can't Spell Village Without V-I-L-E

So, remember Sen. Al Franken's amendment to the military budget bill that would have allowed rape victims to actually take military contractors to court?  You know, the one that was voted against by 30 male Republicans?  Well, it turns out that the Republicans don't much appreciate being portrayed as the misogynist bastards that they are after a couple of months, and they've gotten Politico's Manu Raju to pen this little gem putting all the blame guessed it...that mean ol' Al Franken for making the GOP look bad: (emphasis mine)
Republican senators feel burned by Al Franken — and not by his old jokes.

The Republicans are steamed at Franken because partisans on the left are using a measure he sponsored to paint them as rapist sympathizers — and because Franken isn’t doing much to stop them.

“Trying to tap into the natural sympathy that we have for this victim of this rape —and use that as a justification to frankly misrepresent and embarrass his colleagues, I don’t think it’s a very constructive thing,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in an interview.

“I think it’s going to make a lot of senators leery and start looking at things he’s doing earlier on, because I don’t think it got appropriate attention ahead of time.”

In a chamber where relationship-building is seen as critical, some GOP senators question whether Franken’s handling of the amendment could damage his ability to work across the aisle. Soon after Tennessee GOP Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander co-wrote an op-ed in a local newspaper defending their votes against the Franken measure, the Minnesota Democrat confronted each senator separately to dispute their column — and grew particularly angry in a tense exchange with Corker.

People familiar with the Corker exchange say it was heated and ended abruptly — a sharp departure from the norm on the usually clubby Senate floor.
You see, this is what we call a warning shot piece:  the Village is letting Al Franken know that he'd better shut the hell up, sit the hell down, and that he should never, ever embarrass his Senate colleagues again in that matter with an amendment like that, or else he's going to find his stay in the upper chamber very, very unpleasant.

Welcome to the NFL, rookie.  Know your role and shut your mouth.

For his part, I hope Al Franken can resist this obvious pressure and tells the august body to go expletive itself with a chainsaw, and that if a Senator cannot stand up for basic human decency, that Congress is a morally bankrupt pile of useless assholes.

I mean, Congress is a morally bankrupt pile of useless assholes, but it'll never change as long as stupidity like this Politico hatchet job goes on.  Not to mention Senators thinking protecting military contractor companies is more important that the rule of law.  It's not Al Franken making these jagoffs look bad, it's the fact that these guys are on record as being misogynist assholes.

[UPDATE 8:52 AM] Thers murders people over this, and deservedly so.
Because only wacky bloggers think rape victims deserve legal redress. And only sewer drains like the Politico think the only issue to report here is just who exactly is being properly bipartisany. Is this the time to debate 'oo raped 'oo, I ax ya!

Hack The Planet

Sen. Barbara Boxer actually is considering looking into the "Climategate" e-mails...but she's calling for a criminal probe into the hackers who stole these e-mails, not the scientists themselves.
The e-mails, from scientists at the University of East Anglia, were obtained through hacking. The messages showed the director of the university's Climate Research Unit discussing ways to strengthen the unit's case for global warming. Climate change skeptics have seized on the e-mails, arguing that they demonstrate manipulation in environmental science.

Boxer said her committee may hold hearings into the matter as its top Republican, Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), has asked for, but that a criminal probe would be part of any such hearings.

"We may well have a hearing on this, we may not. We may have a briefing for senators, we may not," Boxer said. "Part of our looking at this will be looking at a criminal activity which could have well been coordinated.

"This is a crime," Boxer said.
Clever.  Maybe too clever, but then again the Wingers never did care about rule of law when it comes to making science look bad.


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