Friday, December 4, 2009

Last Call

Glenn Beck's movie/show/simulcast...thing?

Not doin' so hot.
Anyone who had just sat through the "Christmas Sweater" show, though, might have identified better with the man's original impulse. But in the theater where I watched the program, on the top floor of a high-end shopping mall near the D.C.-Maryland border, there weren't that many viewers to see it all go down. Beck simulcast his little pageant from a packed house in lower Manhattan, but 15 minutes before showtime in D.C., there were only 10 people in the audience with me. The crowd didn't grow much by the end of the night, either. The theater told me they sold fewer than 30 tickets, at $20 a pop. (That turned out to be the rule rather than the exception, according to anecdotal reports of small crowds all over.)
Mr. Working Class Populist America is charging $20 a piece for his timeshare sales pitch, or new self-help book, or new breakfast cereal or whatever.  I'm not sure who's more inane, Beck for such an obviously cynical fleecing of his base, or Beck's base for simply being Beck's base.

Yes, he really does think you're that stupid, America.  He's counting on it.

More Helpful Hints For Racist Jagoffs

Dear Jagoff Mayor From Tennessee:

Stop using Facebook for your racist tirades.  Other people can see them, and then they know you said it.  Even if your Facebook account is private, your friends are still going to rat you out to the press if you are an elected official.

Also, the guy's name is Wiseman.  Irony.



(More advice and a rant after the jump...)

Zandar's Other Thought Of The Day

It's a good thing Sarah Palin is here to protect us from junk science like climate change and evolution and Obama's birth certificate.

Science is hard.  Being wrong about science is easy!

We've Found Our Scapegoat, Sir

Because raising the specter that President Obama might be in danger from right-wing whackjobs is not something the Wingers want to see raised from the Salahis crashing the Obama state dinner last week, they need to find some other person to hang this on and see thrown under the bus.

They've found their scapegoat in this as Doug at Balloon Juice points out:  White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers.  Who is black.
In recent years, social secretaries had always quashed their own public profiles, demurred from seeking the limelight, in service to their position and in deference to the first lady. Indeed, the names of the most recent social secretaries -- Cathy Fenton, Lea Berman and Amy Zantzinger probably ring no bells outside of Washington circles. Those who have more prominent profiles such as Ann Stock, who worked in the Clinton administration and now at the Kennedy Center, and Letitia Baldridge of the Kennedy years, waited until their post-White House years to step into the spotlight.
No one with a clipboard and walkie-talkie was standing sentry at the southeast gate when the Salahis arrived, identifying themselves as guests, according to the White House. Such velvet-rope vigilance is common everywhere from third-tier nightclubs to Seventh Avenue fashion shows and celebrity-drenched parties. And there's the matter of former White House staffer Cathy Hargraves, who predated the Obamas as in-house guest-list guru and abruptly quit in June, according to Newsweek, because she had been stripped of much of her responsibility by Rogers.

There was a new social sheriff in town and, for better or worse, she was one like no other.

The 50-year-old Rogers arrived in Washington this year to great fanfare, no small amount of it of her own making. She entered the East Wing in a whirlwind of media exposure. She was featured in the glossy pages of Vogue -- beating the first lady's appearance in the fashion bible by a month. For a profile in WSJ, the Wall Street Journal's slick magazine, stylists outfitted Rogers in luxury fashions from Prada and Jil Sander and she posed in the first lady's garden tossing a flirtatious smile over her shoulder.

Early in her tenure, Rogers made a trip to New York City during February's fashion week. She sat in the front row of runway shows such as Donna Karan and smiled for the flock of photographers who descended on the striking Obama gatekeeper with her pixie cut, stylish wardrobe and high-altitude heels. She dabbled in a world of hipsters and art scene know-it-alls in her attempt to bring a contemporary gleam to the White House. And she seemed to thrive on all the attention. She has come across as a big-picture manager, not one focused on details.
So the WaPo makes her look like a cross between Glenn Close's character in The Devil Wears Prada and your typical "uppity woman of color" stereotype.

God I hate the Village.  I really do.

The Tale Of The Brave Loan Arranger

If you want to know why the government's mortgage loan modification program is failing miserably, NY Times reporter Floyd Norris lets you know that, well, people are still broke and the government sucks but of course it's not the bank's never is.
In Washington, there are suspicions that banks simply are not trying, that they do not really want to make modifications. There is talk of shaming them into action. Tempers may run hot when bankers meet with Treasury officials on Monday and then testify before a Congressional committee on Tuesday.
Listening in on calls to the Jacksonville center gave me a perspective on what was going on.

The Chase representatives appeared eager to approve modifications, and were prepared to believe anything people said about their income. Modifications went to those who came up with the right income number, neither too high to qualify nor too low to be likely to meet the modified payments.

I listened to one call from a woman who sounded as if her world were collapsing. She and her husband operated a business, which seemed to be teetering near collapse, and its finances were intertwined with theirs. They were behind in payments on their mortgage.

Under the administration’s mortgage modification program, the new payment, including escrow payments for taxes and insurance, is to be 31 percent of the borrower’s gross monthly income. The woman first said their income was $6,000 a month, the amount they had taken out of the business when times were good.

That number, it turned out, was too high to qualify for a modification. When told that, the woman said she thought that for at least the next couple of months, they might be able to take only $2,000. That number was too low. She got no modification that day. Had she come up with a number somewhere in between, she might have qualified.
(More after the jump...)

Let Six Months Of Complaining Begin

And here's your 2010 World Cup draw:

Complaining about the BCS or the NCAA men's basketball tourney was brutal? Naah. Folks have no idea.  A really good chance for the United States to advance out of Group C along with England, but somebody's going to be heartbroken in Group A there, Mexico, France, or home team South Africa.

Should Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Spain or Germany fail to advance, it will probably start a war somewhere.  The most fun Group to watch is going to be Group E.  Big Orange, the Dennies, Japan and the always upset-minded Cameroon should make for some good times.

The fun starts in June, so you have some time to make your bets still.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

So, today's hot stocks:

A discount store chain, a job website, and a temp agency.  Wall Street's bettin' big today on these after that jobs report.

Just sayin'.

Gold, Guns, God, And Goofy Galties

Digby passes along the latest Teabagger missive making the rounds on Teh Intertoobs:
And, with this Administration's mantra of things 'being too big to
fail,' Obama and his minions will try to sell the public on the
notion that since America is too big to fail, the only salvation is
to give up our financial system and its currency and move to a new
world order under a global government with a global currency.

At that point, we can permanently kiss our liberties good-bye.

You think it can't happen? Well, did you ever think that this nation
could run up an extra 2 trillion dollars in debt in one year? Since
January of this year, Obama's policies have resulted in an extra 1.8
trillion dollars of debt.
(More Teabaggin' after the jump...)

Not Glad I Metcha, Aetna

Sam Stein continues his excellent reporting on the major players in health care reform with this story on insurance giant Aetna forcing some 600,000 insured to drop coverage to "preserve profits":
Health insurance giant Aetna is planning to force up to 650,000 clients to drop their coverage next year as it seeks to raise additional revenue to meet profit expectations.

In a third-quarter earnings conference call in late October, officials at Aetna announced that in an effort to improve on a less-than-anticipated profit margin in 2009, they would be raising prices on their consumers in 2010. The insurance giant predicted that the company would subsequently lose between 300,000 and 350,000 members next year from its national account as well as another 300,000 from smaller group accounts.

"The pricing we put in place for 2009 turned out to not really be what we needed to achieve the results and margins that we had historically been delivering," said chairman and CEO Ron Williams. "We view 2010 as a repositioning year, a year that does not fully reflect the earnings potential of our business. Our pricing actions should have a noticeable effect beginning in the first quarter of 2010, with additional financial impact realized during the remaining three quarters of the year."

Aetna's decision to downsize the number of clients in favor of higher premiums is, as one industry analyst told American Medical News, a "pretty candid" admission. It also reflects the major concerns offered by health care reform proponents and supporters of a public option for insurance coverage, who insist that the private health insurance industry is too consumed with the bottom line. A government-run plan would operate solely off its members' premiums.
The bottom line of our health care system being a free market system, insurers are in business to make profits, not to pay for health care.  Once you introduce profit motive into health care, as I've said before, you already have the nightmare scenario health care opponents are fearmongering about.  Rationing, death panels, bureaucrats making health decisions for you...that's already being done by health insurance companies like Aetna.

A public option that provides basic health guarantees with a system like Canada's where you can get additional private insurance is the best way to go, and it's a system that tens of millions of Americans already have:  it's called Medicare.

Why can't we do that all of America?

Boehner's Invisible Plan

John Boehner should really just stop digging that hole he's in.
Washington Democrats continue to rely on more spending, more taxes and more government as the answer to every problem. Maybe that's because it's all they know. A whopping 90 percent of the Obama administration Cabinet's professional experience is in working for the government. This represents by far the least private-sector experience of any presidential Cabinet going back more than 100 years. As a former small businessman, I know what it takes to meet a payroll and a bottom line. America's entrepreneurs are being left behind by out-of-touch Washington Democrats' wrong-headed policies.

That's why Republicans have offered common-sense solutions to break down barriers to economic growth and help small businesses create jobs, starting with a recovery plan that would have helped create twice the jobs at half the cost, and a budget that would impose strict caps to limit federal spending. Instead of the national energy tax, Republicans would implement an ''all of the above'' strategy to create jobs, lower energy prices and clean up our environment.

In stark contrast to Washington Democrats' government takeover, Republicans have proposed the only health care bill that would lower premiums, cut the deficit and consistently reduce federal spending on health care over the next two decades.

President Obama may be willing to offer families asking, ''Where are the jobs?'' a shoulder to cry on, but only Republicans are providing answers and a responsible blueprint for action.
For reference, here's the Boehner blueprint:

This has been the Boehner Republican Blueprint To Create Jobs.

[UPDATE 5:47 PM]  As Steve Benen reminds us, the GOP record on the economy has been 100% failure since January.
The GOP said the stimulus package would fail to create jobs. We now know the Republicans were wrong.
The GOP said the recovery efforts would fail to generate economic growth. We now know the Republicans were wrong.

The GOP said the stimulus "failed." We now know the Republicans were wrong.

The GOP said the government should cancel unspent recovery funds. We now know the Republicans were wrong.

The GOP said tax cuts are more effective at stimulating the economy than government spending. We now know the Republicans were wrong.

Every step of the way, facing an economic catastrophe, Republicans claimed to know the best way forward. And every step of the way, they were pointed in the wrong direction. The strength of the recovery remains to be seen, but the only reason we're even able to talk about the possibility of a recovery is that Republicans had no control over the levers of power when decisions were made at the height of the crisis. America has been through a lot this decade, but the country can take some solace in the fact that when the economy was on the brink of wholesale collapse, Republicans were in the minority.
No matter what you have to say about Obama's economic team (and I'll be the first to admit I have my problems with Obama's economic guys) the Republicans would have been a full order of magnitude worse.

In Which Zandar Shoots Climategate

It would be nice if the people saying "THIS PROVES GLOBAL WARMING IS A HOAX!" understood climate science, any science, or in fact were capable of understanding much of anything to begin with.  Even Fox is jumping on the bandwagon, but Media Matters puts it to bed
Several scientists have stated that the word "trick" is being misinterpreted. Contrary to Kilmeade's claim, the email does not use the word "trickery"; rather, it states, "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline." The (UK) Guardian reported in a November 20 article that Bob Ward, director of policy and communications at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said of Phil Jones' email: "It does look incriminating on the surface, but there are lots of single sentences that taken out of context can appear incriminating. ... You can't tell what they are talking about. Scientists say 'trick' not just to mean deception. They mean it as a clever way of doing something -- a short cut can be a trick." RealClimate also explained that "the 'trick' is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term 'trick' to refer to ... 'a good way to deal with a problem', rather than something that is 'secret', and so there is nothing problematic in this at all."

(Much, much more after the jump...)

Goodman Brooks Approves Of Presidents Who Think

How reassuring at least some in the Village find the Vulcan in the White House to be...eminently logical.
The advantage of the Obama governing style is that his argument-based organization is a learning organization. Amid the torrent of memos and evidence and dispute, the Obama administration is able to adjust and respond more quickly than, say, the Bush administration ever did.
The disadvantage is the tendency to bureaucratize the war. Armed conflict is about morale, motivation, honor, fear and breaking the enemy’s will. The danger is that Obama’s analytic mode will neglect the intangibles that are the essence of the fight. It will fail to inspire and comfort. Soldiers and Marines don’t have the luxury of adopting President Obama’s calibrated stance since they are being asked to potentially sacrifice everything.

Barring a scientific breakthrough, we can’t merge Obama’s analysis with George Bush’s passion. But we should still be glad that he is governing the way he is. I loved covering the Obama campaign. But amid problems like Afghanistan and health care, it simply wouldn’t do to give gauzy speeches about the meaning of the word hope. It is in Obama’s nature to lead a government by symposium. Embrace the complexity. Learn to live with the dispassion.
Eight years of passion over reason basically wrecked the economy, got us into two wars, and ruined our world standing and pissed off a couple billion people.  At least Brooks is coming over to see the reason in, well, reason itself.  Imagine that, a pragmatic leader at a time where America needs leadership.   Funny how that works out.

Or would you prefer President Angry being one heart attack away from President Moose Lady?

Unleash Joe Biden, Afghanistan Edition

Sam Stein's piece on Joe Biden is worth a read.  Biden lost the battle on the escalation, but he won the war on withdrawal from Afghanistan.
On the most fundamental matter at stake in the recent debate over the war in Afghanistan, Vice President Joseph Biden ultimately lost.
Weeks before President Barack Obama officially announced that 30,000 additional troops would be heading to a war in its eighth year, Biden was casting doubt on the wisdom of just such a move. Pointing out that the ratio of U.S. expenditures in Afghanistan compared to Pakistan is 30 to 1 -- despite the overwhelming presence of al Qaeda and nuclear weapons in the latter country -- he asked, quite simply, whether further escalation made "strategic sense".

The president decided that it did. And as a result, questions have surfaced about Biden's standing within the administration.

But White House aides say that despite being overruled on the troop-strength issue, the vice president scored some victories. He was able extract a specific date to begin troop withdrawals. He is also considered partly responsible for the new plan's focus on fighting al Qaeda rather than nation-building. And by openly challenging the wisdom of military command, aides say, Biden effectively cleared the way for other administration officials to weigh in with concerns of their own.

When the president finally phoned Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry (a surge skeptic himself) to announce he had settled on 30,000 more troops, Biden was literally and figuratively right there next to him. And it was Biden who was out defending the policy the next day on the network morning shows.
It's starting to turn out that Biden's choice as Veep really was to keep Obama honest on his foreign policy decisions...and to counter Hillary's hawkishness.  Glad to see Joe won the greater battle.  For now, at least.


The November job numbers are out and they are actually better than expected:  Unemployment is down to 10% even and only 11K jobs were lost for the month.  The bad news:  Again, we need to be positive 200K a month or so to start making a dent.  Holiday hiring is making a difference at least for one month, and more of that stimulus is starting to kick in.

Not seeing the turnaround yet however.  The U-6 is still at 17.2%.  Got a long way to go to get out of this hole.

[UPDATE 9:23 AM] Pete Abel at the Moderate Voice has a good point:  last month Canada posted a job gain and still has lower unemployment than the US, despite their "socialist health care program." 
Now … don’t get me wrong. I am not a raging fan of so-called “socialism” — I still prefer capitalism, thank you very much — nor am I suggesting Canada is better than the U.S., nor do I think it’s fair to draw a comparison on two month’s worth of employment data. But what might be fair to conclude is that a country like Canada, with a sizable investment in social programs, can still generate jobs and expand its economy. In other words, responsible expansion of social programs in the U.S. does not have to be the end of our country as we know it, no matter how much the fire-breathing right-wingers might want us to think so.
Canada's failure to explode despite the Wingers' predictions only continues to stress how silly the Wingers are...and how badly we need a health care reform plan as good or better than Canada's.

The Kroog Versus Sensible Centrism

Paul Krugman warns the "fiscal conservative Dems" like Ben Nelson and friends that not passing a health care reform bill now will basically ensure that health care costs will spiral out of control until the system breaks.
Some background: Long-term fiscal projections for the United States paint a grim picture. Unless there are major policy changes, expenditure will consistently grow faster than revenue, eventually leading to a debt crisis.
What’s behind these projections? An aging population, which will raise the cost of Social Security, is part of the story. But the main driver of future deficits is the ever-rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid. If health care costs rise in the future as they have in the past, fiscal catastrophe awaits.

You might think, given this picture, that extending coverage to those who would otherwise be uninsured would exacerbate the problem. But you’d be wrong, for two reasons.

First, the uninsured in America are, on average, relatively young and healthy; covering them wouldn’t raise overall health care costs very much.

Second, the proposed health care reform links the expansion of coverage to serious cost-control measures for Medicare. Think of it as a grand bargain: coverage for (almost) everyone, tied to an effort to ensure that health care dollars are well spent.

Are we talking about real savings, or just window dressing? Well, the health care economists I respect are seriously impressed by the cost-control measures in the Senate bill, which include efforts to improve incentives for cost-effective care, the use of medical research to guide doctors toward treatments that actually work, and more. This is “the best effort anyone has made,” says Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A letter signed by 23 prominent health care experts — including Mark McClellan, who headed Medicare under the Bush administration — declares that the bill’s cost-control measures “will reduce long-term deficits.”

The fact that we’re seeing the first really serious attempt to control health care costs as part of a bill that tries to cover the uninsured seems to confirm what would-be reformers have been saying for years: The path to cost control runs through universality. We can only tackle out-of-control costs as part of a deal that also provides Americans with the security of guaranteed health care.
And Krugman is right.  If you're a fiscal conservative centrist in the Senate, you have to realize that scuttling this bill will ensure that nothing will be done to improve costs, and that they will in fact crush the entire system quickly.  Republicans could have enacted their plan, instead they all through spending a trillion dollars more on Medicare's prescription drug benefit rather than controlling costs would be a great idea.  After all, Ben Nelson voted for it, as did Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.  (To his credit, Evan F'ckin Bayh did not, but surprise!  Max Baucus did along with Nelson and nine other Dems.  John Kerry and Joe F'ckin Lieberman famously skipped that vote.)

Still, many of the same folks who have issues with saving on health care costs now had no problem giving away a trillion dollars plus in 2003.  Might want to think about that come 2010, guys.

Sister Sarah Runs For Queen

Queen of the Birthers, that is. Here's what she said chatting with talk radio host Rusty Humphries. (via Rumproast)
"I think the public rightfully is still making it an issue. I don't have a problem with that. I don't know if I would have to bother to make it an issue, because I think that members of the electorate still want answers," she replied.
"Do you think it's a fair question to be looking at?" Humphries persisted.

"I think it's a fair question, just like I think past association and past voting records -- all of that is fair game," Palin said. "The McCain-Palin campaign didn't do a good enough job in that area."

McCain's campaign counsel has said the campaign did look into the birth certificate question and, like every other serious examination, dismissed it.

Palin suggested that the questions were fair play because of "the weird conspiracy theory freaky thing that people talk about that Trig isn't my real son -- 'You need to produce his birth certificate, you need to prove that he's your kid,' which we have done."

"Maybe we can reverse that," she said, returning to Obama's birth certificate, describing the type of thinking involved with a word that isn't clear in the audio.
So while the McCain campaign dismissed the Birther nonsense, Sarah thought it was fair game.  Her Facebook post late last night "clarified" her position:

Stupid Conspiracies: Voters have every right to ask candidates for information if they so choose. I’ve pointed out that it was seemingly fair game during the 2008 election for many on the left to badger my doctor and lawyer for proof that Trig is in fact my child. Conspiracy-minded reporters and voters had a right to ask… which they have repeatedly. But at no point – not during the campaign, and not during recent interviews – have I asked the president to produce his birth certificate or suggested that he was not born in the United States.

How cute.  It's not Sarah who thinks Obama is The Kenyan Usurper Prime, but it's all those people out there who have a right to ask repeatedly about Obama being a U.S. citizen (except not asking about Trig, she has his birth certificate you see, so that's been put to rest).

Will nobody out there do their patriotic duty to protect Trig and ask all those Birther questions for Moose Lady?  Inquiring minds want to know.  After all, dozens of Democratic Members of Congress have gone on record questioning Trig's parentage, so Democrats are just as crazy as Birthers...

Only...Democrats aren't questioning Trig's birth certificate.  (Sully is, but he's just British and odd.)  Nice try though.


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