Thursday, September 30, 2010

Last Call

Alan Grayson may have taken a hit for his Taliban Dan ad (and after reading Steve M.'s analysis I do have to agree he went to a Republican level of dirty tricks there and he's paying for it) but he's not backing own from this fight, and has his eyes on a larger target:

I still like the guy. I'm sorry. He just needs to not stoop to Wingnut levels of lying to beat an ass like Daniel Webster. He can beat him fair and square.

Let Them Eat Wrestling Cake

Won't it be fun for working-class Americans to have more GOP Senators in Congress?

Republican Linda McMahon accepted the endorsement of a prominent business interest lobby on Thursday, but her campaign staff abruptly shut down a press conference in which McMahon was asked to explain whether she agreed with all of the organization's positions.

Most notably, McMahon said she believed Congress should consider lowering the federal minimum wage in times of economic distress for small businesses, such as the current recession.

"The minimum wage now in our country, I think we've set that and a lot of people have benefited from it in our country, but I think we ought to review how much it ought to be, and whether or not we ought to have increases in the minimum wage," McMahon said.

McMahon did not directly answer a question about whether she would support having a federal minimum wage at all. The National Federation of Independent Businesses, the lobbying group that endorsed her Thursday morning, opposes increases in the federal minimum wage, and has denounced it as harmful to small business interests. 

Because the real problem in our economy is that the folks who make a couple million a year think that $7.25 an hour is just too much to pay people, and really we should change the law to make it less.  $15,080 a year before taxes is really outrageous.

To recap, the nice lady running for Senate in Connecticut who made lots of money off of fake wrestling believes real working Americans should earn less than the current minimum wage if the economy's bad.

Republicans are awesome.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 4

Things are moving fast on the Ally/JPMorgan mortgage fraud story now.  Sen. Al Franken has joined the fray, sending out a letter to among other people Helicopter Ben insisting that this issue needs to be investigated for possible criminal charges.  ZH:

The biggest financial story which continues to get absolutely no mention on CNBC just got its latest multi-step escalation: Senator Al Franken has just blasted a letter to Tim Geithner, Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Eric Holder, John Walsh, Controller of the Currency, Sheila Bair, and, drumroll, Ben Bernanke, telling the recipients that "each of your agencies has an important role to play in addressing this egregious situation and holding all appropriate actors fully accountable. As such, I respectfully request that you collaborate to conduct a thorough investigation into the alleged misconduct. As part of this investigation, it is crucial that Ally and its employees are held fully accountable for any criminal misconduct."

Since if this pervasive mortgage fraud is more than just alleged, the stink will reach to the very top of places like JP Morgan, Ally, and possibly every single bank that has been in the mortgage origination business, something tells us that Ben Bernanke, whose job is precisely to protect the banks' interests will not rush into any investigation for the duration of FASB's existence. It gets better: "Additionally, all homeowners who may have experienced illegitimate foreclosure sales, those who have been forced to defend against illegitimate foreclosure actions, and those who have been harmed must be identified. These individuals must received proper restitution and compensation, as provided for under the law." And the punchline: "It is critical to confirm that no loans provided through the FHA or in conjunction with the HAMP program were associated with Ally's misconduct." Yes, oddly enough the government is about to lose even more credibility once it is discovered that it worked in collaboration with the biggest mortgage fraud scheme in history.

Somebody in the Village may actually notice that underneath all this smoke there's actual flames, especially with Alan Grayson and Al Franken's names attached to the story.  This one is beginning to accelerate at a rapid pace, folks.

I'll keep an eye on it.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe...

Are in fact Bulk and Skull from the Power Rangers.


Special Sauce, Lettuce, And A Hell Of A Lot Of Cheese

The Wingers are in full Cackle of Rads mode this morning over this WSJ story that McDonald's may drop its crappy "health insurance" program because of "Obamacare regulations".

Only one problem, as Jon Cohn points out.  It's not going to happen, and that's actually a bad thing.

First, the basics: One of the new regulations about to take effect under the Affordable Care Act requires that insurers spend no less than 80 to 85 percent (depending on the kind of insurer) of money on actual patient care, rather than overhead, marketing, or profit. McDonald's isn't happy about that. In a memo it submitted to the Obama Administration last week, the company says that the insurance it provides some 30,000 employees won't meet that standard and that, without some kind of special waiver, they would likely have to drop the policies. It's just the latest in a string of complaints and warnings that the fast food industry has made about what it believes is excessive regulation of employer provided health insurance.

By this morning, both McDonalds and the administration were saying the story is overblown. McDonalds says it has no plans to drop the coverage and that it's been in discussions with the administration over how to make sure it can keep offering the policies. The administration is saying much the same thing--that it's aware of the issue, has been talking to industry representatives, and has already made clear these plans will be exempt from some of the early regulations on insurance.

More important, the administration has yet to finalize the rule about how insurance companies spend their money (or what is known as the "Medical Loss Ratio".) It's entirely possible the administration will phase in the requirement slowly. Most likely, then, McDonald's employees who like these plans will get to keep buying them, at least for the immediate future.

So no, McDonald's is not going to drop its mini-med plans.  The bad news is mini-med plans are horrible and dropping them would force McDonald's to provide real health insurance options.

But is that a good thing? As the Journal story makes clear, the policies in question are so-called mini-med plans with very limited benefits. In the case of McDonald's, according to the Journal, there are two options: Employees who go with the minimum plan pay $14 a week for a policy that won't cover more than $2,000 in medical bills a year. Employees who opt for the "generous" option pay about $32 a week for a policy that maxes out at $10,000.

Stop and run the math on that.  $14 a week for $2000 coverage in a year.  $728 dollars on a minimum wage burger flipper salary to cover $2,000 in medical bills per year, max.  That's not insurance, that's a scam.  paying $1668 a year for $10,000 in coverage isn't much better.  You can eat that up in just one ER visit.  So yes, the Obamacare regs would make these plans invalid.  Odds are good McDonald's will get their waiver.

In the long run, McDonald's employees need policies that protect them in case of serious medical problems. And they need policies they can afford. They'll get those policies thanks to the Affordable Care Act--but not until 2014, because the administration and Congress couldn't come up with enough money to implement the full scheme sooner.

And you can thank the GOP for that.  E.D. Kain has more on those 2014 plans, too.  When they get here.

Rahm Boned: New Blood, Part Do

Rahmbo's out, Pete Rouse is the new White House Chief of Yelling Stalking People In The Shower Hippie Punching Staff.

Two people close to Rahm Emanuel said Thursday he will resign as White House chief of staff on Friday, and will begin his campaign for Chicago mayor by meeting with voters in the city on Monday.

The two people familiar with his plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt Emanuel's announcement, said he will return to Chicago over the weekend and begin touring neighborhoods on Monday.

"He intends to run for mayor," one of the people told The Associated Press.

Both people said they did not know when Emanuel would make an official announcement about his mayoral bid but that he would launch a website with a message to Chicago voters in the near future.

Not going to retire the tag, but a Chief of Staff leaving a month before election day is about as "screw you" as it comes.  I said I wanted him gone and now he is.  Obama said he would go after the midterms, Rahmbo apparently had other ideas.

Funny.  Doesn't feel much like any sort of victory for Obama here.

I'll Take Literature For $500, Alex

Tbogg wins the internets for the day as he defines Andrew Breitbart's warp speed under-the-bus tossing of his former lackey James O' Keefe:

This is the way a bromance ends
This is the way a bromance ends
This is the way a bromance ends
Not with a bang, but a twitter


The Art Of The Deal

Senate GOP:  We won't shut down the government right before the midterms and basically murder ourselves if you'll block Obama's recess appointments so that we can continue to block Obama's appointments indefinitely afterward.  Deal?

Senate Dems:  Sure, that seems fair!

Senate Democrats agreed Wednesday night to a Republican demand to block President Obama from making recess appointments while Congress is out of town campaigning for the midterm elections.

Democratic leaders have agreed to schedule pro-forma sessions of the Senate every week over the next six weeks, a move that will prevent Obama from making emergency appointments, according to Senate sources briefed on the talks.

Democrats agreed earlier in the day to a Republican demand to cut spending levels for government agencies in order to pass a stop-gap spending measure.

Democrats are eager to get back home to defend their record to voters and they couldn’t do that until the spending bill passed.

Under the law, the president can only make a recess appointment if the Senate is adjourned for more than three consecutive days.

By scheduling pro-forma sessions on Mondays and Fridays, lawmakers can take away Obama’s ability to make recess appointments.

You know, a smarter Senate Dem leadership might have said "You know what, you want to shut down the government right before the election?  Go for it."  And sure, the Republicans would have taken all the blame and it would have been a nightmare right before the election.

Dems folded anyway.

Alas, you go to war with the invertebrates you have, not the vertebrates you wish you had.

If It's Thursday...

New jobless claims down 16k to 453k, but as usual last week's number was revised upwards to 458k, meaning it was really only a 5k drop in claims.  Continuing claims up slightly but last week was revised up nearly 100k.  more 99'ers fell off the cliff too.

Still not good news.  Still on track to lose about 75k jobs a month.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 3

More on the whole mortgage foreclosure scam that is falling apart in Florida and across the country from Yves at NakedCap, who has been running this story down for months now and posts this recap of the situation.  Who has the note to the mortgage?  Nobody knows, least of all the banks foreclosing on people anyway.

One of my colleagues had a long conversation with the CEO of a major subprime lender that was later acquired by a larger bank that was a major residential mortgage player. This buddy went through his explanation of why he thought mortgage trusts were in trouble if more people wised up to how they had messed up with making sure they got the note. The former CEO was initially resistant, arguing that they had gotten opinions from top law firms. My contact was very familiar with those opinions, and told him how qualified they were, and did not cover the little problem of not complying with the terms of the pooling and servicing agreement. He also rebutted other objections of the CEO. They guy then laughed nervously and said, “Well, if you’re right, we’re fucked. We never transferred the paper. No one in the industry transferred the paper.”

This creates a lot of problems. If the originator is bankrupt (New Century, IndyMac), the bankruptcy trustee is supposed to approve any assets leaving the BK’d estate. I’m told bankruptcy judges who have been asked were not happy to hear this sort of thing might be taking place, which strongly suggests this activity is going on without the requisite approvals. And who from the BK’d entity can endorse it over? It doesn’t have any more officers or employees. Similarly, a lot of the intermediary entities (the B and C in the A-B-C-D chain earlier) are long dead. How do you obtain their endorsements?

Now you understand why everyone is resorting to fabricated documents and bogus affidavits. There is no simple way to fix this mess. The cure for the mortgage documents puts the loan out of eligibility for the trust. In order to cure, on a current basis, they have to argue that the loan goes retroactively back into the trust. This is the cure that the banks have been unwilling to do, because it is a big problem for the MBS.

The former subprime lender CEO still refused this to consider this a problem: “Oh, Congress will pass a law.” My colleague pointed out that this was a state law matter, Congress had no authority, and even the Supine Court was unlikely to intervene in well settled real estate law. The arguments from the CEO were distressingly familiar, bank industry incumbents seem to resort to the same script: any borrower friendly solution will wreck the economy, the banks will have to get another bailout to get themselves out of this mess.

So here we are back to 2007-8. If you and I make a serious mistake at our jobs, we get fired, and if we make a really serious error, our company could perish. But when bankers screw up, and leave a lot of collateral damage in their wake, they are confident that their sugar daddies in DC will clean up the mess for them.

And the worse is they might even be correct if we let them get away with it this time. 

Since turning mortgages into investments meant all these middlemen, the question of who owned the actual mortgage itself became a complete mystery.  The big mortgage lenders decided that anything that they could have touched, they in fact owned, and started foreclosing as the best way to sweep the mess under the rug.  Because there were so many foreclosures and they had to be processed fast, nobody bothered to check the particulars, or they faked it (literally, faked it).

Judges took their word on it and made the foreclosure happen.  Only now, some two years after the financial meltdown, we're now finding out that a lot of these foreclosures are literal robbery, theft of property by banks that don't own the mortgage.  GMAC/Ally Bank is one, and yesterday JPMorgan Chase also went into "review" of foreclosures.  More banks will follow, and soon.

And do you know which member of Congress has been out front on this?

Alan Grayson.  His Orlando, Florida district is right in the heart of this foreclosure nightmare.

No wonder the Republicans are so eager to destroy him.  He's about to to seriously wreck the banks.

Are The Dems Closing The Enthusiam Gap?

Evidence is increasing that the Democrats are beginning to close the "enthusiasm gap" with motivated Republicans as more Democratic voters are finally beginning to pay attention to the elections in less than five weeks.

Over the past two months Republicans held significant leads in generic ballot polls of likely voters.  Rasmussen Reports had Republicans with a 12 point lead (48%-36%) in their generic ballot poll in the mid-August, and a ten-point lead (48%-38%) in mid-September.  Another CNN poll from one week ago gave Republicans a nine-point lead (54%-45%) among likely voters.  Now those leads seem to be dwindling.  The most recent Rasmussen Reports poll has the Republican lead down to six points (46%-40%).  A poll released today from NBC/Wall Street Journal has the Republican advantage down to just 3 points (46%-43%).  Those numbers are still not good for Democrats, but they certainly look better than the data from two weeks ago.

There are a number of possible reasons behind the shriking enthusiasm gap.  Some believe that voters are just now beginning to pay attention to the midterm elections (since most people busy themselves with other matters of life such as working).  As more poeple begin to pay attention, the theory is that Democrats are gaining voters who previously were tuning out.  Other analysts have suggested that Tea Party candidates and the Republican proposals are scaring Democratic voters to the polls.  For instance, liberals may be disappointed about the loss of the public option, but they certainly do not want to see Republicans repeal the progressive health care reform provisions that were passed.  Finally, the Democratic Party has just recently begun their intensive get-out-the-vote campaigns and activated their organizaitonal machine.  It is possible that these efforts are beginning to bear fruit in the recent polls.

Evidence of this trend is beginning to show up in some individual races, too.  In Minnesota, Democrat Mark Dayton has taken a big lead in the last few weeks precisely because of motivated Democratic voters.

A new Minnesota Public Radio News-Humphrey Institute poll shows Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton with a significant and growing lead over Republican Tom Emmer.

A month ago, the poll showed Dayton and Emmer deadlocked at 34 percent each. But the latest survey shows Dayton with an 11 percentage point lead over Emmer -- 38 to 27 percent.

Independence Party candidate Tom Horner, who had 13 percent a month ago, now has 16 percent according to the new poll.

So what's changed?

"The big story in September is that the Democrats have woken up from their summer slumber," said University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs, who oversaw the poll.

"When you go back to August, you find 57 percent of Democrats who are likely to vote saying that they had only a little or really no interest in voting come November," Jacobs said. "Now we found a substantial 83 percent of Democrats saying they have a great deal or a fair amount of interest in this election."

That 83 percent enthusiasm number for Democrats matches the Republicans', meaning the GOP has lost the edge in election excitement it had enjoyed over Democrats.

If the story on the Republican side has been the rise of the Tea Party, then the story on the Democratic side is the voter who takes the Tea Party threat seriously.   Granted, these are only a couple of examples and while polls are getting better for the Dems in some cases, they are getting worse for them in other individual races.  And the overall numbers still favor the Republicans.

Both sides are trying to get out as many voters as possible.  Whoever wins that battle will get control of Congress in January.

[UPDATEHotline On-Call's Reid Wilson says there's no turnaround, and in fact the Dems are more likely now to lose additional Senate seats in WV, CT, and WI, giving the GOP control of the Senate, too.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Last Call

A final thought on Operation Surprise Boatsecks from Steve M.:

The consensus, here and at Balloon Juice (thanks for the link, Doug), seems to be that there's no limit to what O'Keefe could do with any sort of footage that emerged from this plus a little creative editing. I see that, but ... are we to assume that Boudreau wouldn't obtain her own video? And that she and CNN wouldn't rebut this instantly, if not preemptively (i.e., possibly as soon as she got off the boat, concluding it was a bizarre story about a controversial guy that shouldn't wait to be told)? Isn't this a Shirley Sherrod situation in the making, except with no rebuttal delay?

No, because the validity of the CNN rebuttal would have been instantly called into question by the Wingers, followed by demands that CNN's Abby Boudreau be fired.  Given the Village propensity of "telling both sides of the story" and not wanting to piss off their Wingnut masters, within a week we would have Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, and David Broder columns on why it was at least partially (or mostly) Abby Boudreau's fault, and the Wingnuts would believe what they wanted to believe, that is "There's no way this O'Keefe could would have done what CNN is claiming, it's all a Liberal Media plot!"

O'Keefe would have completely gotten away with it too, except the CNN people clearly suspected a trap and struck first.

Boudreau wasn't the target.  CNN was, and to an extent, the other networks as well.  The kid was trying to bring them down and motivate the Republican base right before Election Day.

The lesson of Shirley Sherrod according to Wingers is that she's still the racist, remember?  They have their own reality.  The only reason anyone on the right is disowning O'Keefe at this point is that he got caught clearly trying to manufacture a story without having actually manufactured it yet.

He got caught.  That is his sin to the Right.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Republican math:

$700 billion for tax cuts for the wealthy that aren't paid for and will balloon the deficit, fiscally responsible no matter what.

$7 billion for health problems for 9/11 first responders, too expensive and we can't afford it.

But there's no difference between the parties.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 2

Early last week I told you how GMAC was halting its foreclosures in several states because of (to put it mildly) possible fraud on the part of GMAC. Now JP Morgan Chase is looking into its foreclosures and things are beginning to get very interesting.

The review could affect at least 56,000 foreclosures. JPMorgan Chase is the third largest mortgage servicer in the nation, with $1.35 trillion in business and a 12.6 percent market share, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.

"It has come to our attention that in some cases employees in our mortgage foreclosure operations may have signed affidavits about loan documents on the basis of file reviews done by other personnel—without the signer personally having reviewed those loan files," says JPMorgan spokesman Tom Kelly.

In the meantime, the company has requested that the courts not enter judgments in pending matters until the review is complete, a process they say should take a couple weeks.

"We believe the accuracy of the factual loan information contained in the affidavits was not affected by whether or not the signer had personal knowledge of the precise details," Kelly adds.

That is leading to a very interesting prediction by the Zero hedge crew:

We predict that within a week, all banks will halt every foreclosure currently in process. Within a month, all foreclosures executed within the past 2-3 years will be retried, and millions of existing home sales will be put in jeopardy.

That would pretty much be the end of the housing market in the US overnight, and quite possibly the catalyst that kicks us into the next disastrous downward phase in the economy, as in meltdown, crisis, yadda yadda and all right before the midterm elections.

For once I'm hoping Tyler's wrong.  Really, really wrong.  Because if he's right, October is going to be a bloodbath.  Putting this one in the Future Stupidity file and I'll check it again before Halloween.

The Six Trillion Dollar Man

I've been using $3 trillion as the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that Bush started as prime examples of why we're in so much financial trouble, and why any Republican in Washington during the Bush years should be laughed at when they say they are for "fiscal responsibility."

The number first popped up from Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz.

Turns out that $3 trillion number is way, way too low, and that's coming from Stiglitz himself.

Joseph Stiglitz, who received the 2000 Nobel Prize for Economics, and Linda Bilmes, a public policy professor at Harvard University, said the number of veterans seeking post-combat medical care and the cost of treating those individuals is about 30 percent higher than they initially estimated. That, combined with increases in the cost of military medical care and the lagging economy, will likely push the true long-term cost of the war over the $4 trillion mark.

"This may be more of a crisis than the Medicare and Social Security problems we have looming," said House Veterans Affairs Chairman Bob Filner, D-Calif. "It rivals both in the potential impact. This is another entitlement we've committed ourselves to, and it could break the bank."

In a conference call with reporters, Bilmes said about 600,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have already sought medical treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and 500,000 have applied for disability benefits. That's about 30 percent higher than initial estimates for care, and could cost the department nearly $1 trillion in costs for  the current wars alone.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the costs Thursday morning. Filner said he'll use the new research to push for a "veterans trust fund" to pay for the long-term costs of war, a proposal he's already pitched to Democratic leaders in the House.

Under his plan, lawmakers would add a 10 to 15 percent surcharge on all appropriations bills, banking billions of dollars for future veterans medical costs. Reaction to the idea so far has been negative, Fliner said, because lawmakers are concerned that such a move would make the costs of war look astronomical.

Well yes, that's because the $4 trillion to $6 trillion total cost of Bush's wars really is astronomical.  Just imagine where we would be if we had that money back.  And we'll continue to pay for the costs of caring for our wounded vets from this war for a long, long time.  Nice to know that Bush left future generations holding the bag on that bill, huh?

And let's not forget the number of Republicans who want us to attack Iran, too.  How many trillions will that cost us?  How many wounded veterans will that conflict produce?  How many families will receive the worst news imaginable?

Makes me ill just thinking about it.  We were such fools.

Vice Squad

How do you know states are hard up for revenue these days?  They are rushing to relax, repeal, and reconfigure state blue laws that ban alcohol sales.

Thanks to new laws, restaurant patrons in Massachusetts can now start ordering cocktails at 10 a.m. on Sundays, instead of noon. In Arizona they can start hitting the bottle at 6 a.m.—four hours earlier than previously allowed.

Fans of the new rules can clink their glasses and toast the recession, which has state and county leaders looking to revise their alcohol sales laws in order to give small businesses in their borders more sales and also increase tax revenue as they face large budget deficits. 

Other law revisions are in the works. City and state politicians in Connecticut and Virginia are leading efforts to modify alcohol laws in their states. 

“I have followed the ebb and flow of blue laws for 30 years, and in my opinion the pattern is that repeal efforts tick upward every time there’s a downturn in the economy,” said David Laband, economics and policy professor at Auburn University, who wrote a book on the laws that restrict alcohol sales on Sundays. 

Virginia is trying to do away with state-controlled liquor stores in favor of selling private licenses.  I'm surprised my home state of North Carolina isn't considering the same.  Still, states are looking for every revenue dollar they can get, and if that means getting rid of blue laws and dry counties, well then, all of a sudden it's time for county and state governments to get their cut of the action.

Same goes for the marijuana legalization battle in California.  The state's Prop 19 would legalize pot and set up a framework for its sale and distribution, and of course collecting taxes on those operations.  Currently Prop 19 has a pretty healthy lead in the polls.

Plenty of states have legalized gambling these days too.  Ohio did in 2008 and new casinos are being built now including downtown casinos in Cleveland and here in Cincy.

Expect more states to follow on collecting revenue from vice.  Gotta raise revenues somehow.

Well Clearly There Are Too Many Museums With Women In Them Already

Republicans would rather block all legislation than have anything President Obama can take credit for, and that even applies to easy legislation like the National Women's History Museum.  GOP senators Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint are leading the charge to block the museum.  Steve Benen:

So, what's the problem? For Coburn, the argument rests in part on the notion that there are other "similar" museums, and this one would likely "duplicate" the institution. As proof, the senator's office pointed to the Quilters Hall of Fame in Indiana. Think about that -- Tom Coburn thinks the National Women's History Museum in the nation's capital is unnecessary in part because of a museum for quilters several hundred miles away. (Dear Tom, women have contributed far more to American life than just quilts. Sincerely, Steve.)

As for DeMint, the religious right told him to intervene.
Abortion politics are also in play: The senators' action came two days after the Concerned Women for America, a conservative group, wrote DeMint asking for a hold. The group's CEO, Penny Nance, wrote in July that the museum would "focus on abortion rights without featuring any of the many contributions of the pro-life movement in America."
Noting the far-right senators' consistent opposition to measures related to women and women's rights, Kate Conway concluded, "The question is not why Senators Coburn and DeMint are blocking this no-brainer of a bill, but rather why we would ever expect a person who has scorned issues like mammograms and recourse for rape victims -- issues so immediate and vital to the well-being of American women -- to think that an institution dedicated to those women would be worthwhile."

But it doesn't matter, because unless Harry Reid now takes Senate time to hold a vote to defeat the block, the museum bill dies.  The Republicans are completely beholden to their special interests, and "unless the contributions of the pro-life movement" are featured in the museum, it'll never happen.

Reid needs to do this, but he's out of time as it is.  Republicans are more than happy to run out the clock and make sure nothing gets done, and that suits them just fine.

Surprise Boatsecks

Just to annoy the peanut gallery.

A conservative activist known for making undercover videos plotted to embarrass a CNN correspondent by recording a meeting on hidden cameras aboard a floating "palace of pleasure" and making sexually suggestive comments, e-mails and a planning document show.

James O'Keefe, best known for hitting the community organizing group ACORN with an undercover video sting, hoped to get CNN Investigative Correspondent Abbie Boudreau onto a boat filled with sexually explicit props and then record the session, those documents show.

The plan apparently was thwarted after Boudreau was warned minutes before it was supposed to happen.

"I never intended to become part of the story," Boudreau said. "But things suddenly took a very strange turn." 

This story would be laughably pathetic if it didn't reveal exactly how wingnuts percieve both the media and women:  as objects to be controlled for political gain.

Rand Paul Runs Like A Kentucky Race Moose

Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi plus Sarah Palin plus Rand Paul equals an eureka moment here in the Bluegrass State.

"We're shaking up the good ol' boys," Palin chortles, to the best applause her aging crowd can muster. She then issues an oft-repeated warning (her speeches are usually a tired succession of half-coherent one-liners dumped on ravenous audiences like chum to sharks) to Republican insiders who underestimated the power of the Tea Party Death Star. "Buck up," she says, "or stay in the truck."

Stay in what truck? I wonder. What the hell does that even mean?

Scanning the thousands of hopped-up faces in the crowd, I am immediately struck by two things. One is that there isn't a single black person here. The other is the truly awesome quantity of medical hardware: Seemingly every third person in the place is sucking oxygen from a tank or propping their giant atrophied glutes on motorized wheelchair-scooters. As Palin launches into her Ronald Reagan impression — "Government's not the solution! Government's the problem!" — the person sitting next to me leans over and explains.

"The scooters are because of Medicare," he whispers helpfully. "They have these commercials down here: 'You won't even have to pay for your scooter! Medicare will pay!' Practically everyone in Kentucky has one."

A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it.

Nobody, and I mean nobody has mastered the art of convincing voters to vote against their own self-interests like the Tea Party.   All these elderly folks here in Bourbon country are convinced of one thing:  they want theirs, and that means taking it away from everyone except them.  When these folks agree we need to cut spending and reform entitlements, that means for everyone else in the country.  The Republicans wouldn't dare touch their government checks.  They'll take stuff away from "them" instead.

Keep thinking that, Kentucky seniors.

In Conway's new ad targeting right-wing ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R), the Democratic campaign reminds voters of Paul's approach to seniors' care: "The real answer to Medicare would be a $2,000 deductible."

Not like Social Security checks will cover that, especially in a state like Kentucky, one of the nation's poorest. But Kentucky Tea Partiers figure that Rand Paul won't really make them pay $2,000 deductible on Medicare. Only "they" will be made to pay.

(More after the jump...)

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Do Serve America

A new CNN-Opinion Research poll (PDF here) shows broad support for allowing gay and lesbian military members to serve openly among a number of groups, including majorities of Republicans, people over the age of 65, conservatives, and even Tea Party supporters.

Overall, an impressive 67%, two-thirds of the country, supports this. 28% are against it with 5% with no opinion.

Here's the breakdown by political bent:

                    Demo-  Indep-  Repub-  Lib-   Mod-   Conser-
             Total  crat   endent  lican   eral   erate  vative
             -----  -----  ------  ------  -----  -----  -------
Favor        67%    80%    69%     51%     80%    78%    52%
Oppose       28%    17%    26%     41%     17%    18%    42%
No opinion   5%     3%     5%      8%      3%     4%     6%

So there's broad support for doing this...except from the Pentagon.  Even 52% of Tea Party supporters favor allowing gay and lesbian members of the military to serve openly.

And yet every single Republican in the Senate opposed it and blocked the measure last week.  Every single one of them, despite a majority of Republican voters being for it.

Not one Republican in the Senate had the courage to say yes.  Nice party you have there, GOP.

He Keeps Saying It

But the wingnuts will never believe him.

With a recent survey showing that only a third of Americans can correctly identify Obama as a Christian, the president gave a personal account of his conversion as an adult and how his public service is part of his faith.
"I am a Christian by choice," Obama began, standing beneath a blazing sun, when asked why he is a Christian.

"I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead," Obama said. "Being my brothers' and sisters' keeper. Treating others as they would treat me. And I think also understanding that, you know, that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility that we all have to have as human beings."

Humans are "sinful" and "flawed" beings that make mistakes and "achieve salvation through the grace of God," the president continued, adding that we also can "see God in other people and do our best to help them find their, you know, their own grace."

"So that's what I strive to do," Obama said. "That's what I pray to do everyday. I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith."

At the same time, Obama emphasized his belief that freedom of religion is "part of the bedrock strength" of the United States.

"This is a country that is still predominantly Christian, but we have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists" and others, he said, adding that "their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own, and that is part of what makes this country what it is."

Now that's about the most open-minded and reasonable definition of Christianity that I've heard in some time and more power to the President for having strong beliefs that he doesn't think should be forced upon all Americans.  Few enough politicians these days think a person's faith is personal.

At the same time, this shouldn't be news.  This should have been laid to rest 2 years ago.  But there are millions of Americans who simply refuse to believe it, and the reality is they're doing so because "Obama is a Muslim" is a epithet they are choosing to use in place of something worse.

And of course, the reason this is news is because the Village won't let the issue of Obama's faith go.

Climate Of Chaos, Part 2

Despite the fact that the entire silly "Climategate scandal" was a huge hoax, debunked time and time and time again, should the GOP get control of the House this fall, they're going to spend your tax dollars investigating it anyway.

While leading scientific bodies conducting multiple independent reviews of the so-called "Climategate" emails have determined that the scientific work and findings of these publicly abused climate scientists are both legitimate and something worth paying attention to, California Rep. Darrell Issa has vowed to make another investigation of "climategate" his top priority if the GOP wins back the House of Representatives and he becomes head of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the Fall.

The scientific findings regarding climate change are extremely broad and all point to the same conclusion (that we are experiencing accelerated global warming due to human activity). This means that even if one piece of the puzzle were off, the picture would still be obvious. Nonetheless, Issa believes that we should spend more government money and research on investigating a fabricated scandal that has already been over-investigated.

"It’s actually unfathomable that the man potentially leading the Oversight and Government Reform Committee would consider an investigation into the personal e-mails of scientists more important than keeping watch over further financial ruin, political corruption, or any number of other issues our country faces," Nikki Gloudeman of and Mother Jones writes.

Doesn't matter to Republicans.  All that matters is finding Obama's Lewinsky moment so they can impeach him for the crime of being a Democrat in the White House.  They're openly admitting that's what they plan to do, that the only honest plan they have is Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Hitting The Jim

SC Republican Sen. Jim DeMint is the king of obstruction, personally placing holds on any legislation he doesn't personally approve of, which from this administration is basically nothing.  Therefore, every single piece of legislation requires 60 votes in the Senate just to get past a DeMint hold and has for the last two years.

And Jim DeMint is proud of that fact.

Sen. Jim DeMint, in an unusual assertion of unilateral power, warned the other 99 senators that for the rest of their legislative session this year, all bills and nominations that are slated for unanimous passage must go through his office for review.

The move by the South Carolina Republican, who has a growing national following among conservative activists, is his most direct challenge yet to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and it's increased speculation that he's gunning for the Kentucky Republican's leadership post.

DeMint has repeatedly denied that he wants to challenge McConnell as Senate Republican leader. However, DeMint has backed numerous conservative outsiders in primaries who've toppled candidates preferred by the Republican establishment.

DeMint defended his action.

"I'm doing the job South Carolinians elected me to do, which is to review each bill carefully before it is passed, not after," DeMint told McClatchy. "Only in Washington is it a radical idea to read a bill and know how much it costs before we agree to pass it. I'm not going to sit by quietly while big spenders try to secretly ram through bills that increase the debt and expand the size of government."

Right.  Meanwhile, Jim DeMint anyway believes the most important person in Washington is Jim DeMint.  Rumors are DeMint is angling for Senate majority leader if the GOP retakes the Senate this year.  Here's a guy who believes his job is to personally say no to everything, and that Congress should do as little as possible in the worst economy in generations.

As long as Republicans have 41 Senators, they can block everything they want to.  Perhaps it's time for those rules to change.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Last Call

Some good news on the stem cell research front after quite a bit of bad news over the last three months.

An appeals court has lifted an injunction imposed by a federal judge, thereby allowing federally-funded embryonic stem-cell research to continue while the Obama administration appeals the judge's original ruling against use of public funds in such research.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed Tuesday to stay the injunction and allow the National Institutes of Health to continue research.

"President Obama made expansion of stem cell research and the pursuit of groundbreaking treatments and cures a top priority when he took office," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement. "We're heartened that the court will allow NIH and their grantees to continue moving forward while the appeal is resolved."

Once again, this is going to eventually be decided by the Supreme Court.   If anything, a Republican governor or AG will sue, or a GOP Congress will simply defund all stem cell research and dare Obama to veto the budget.

That's Bush's real legacy, his Supreme Court picks that lurched court to the edge of rolling back the last 60 years of civil and social rights.  In the case of campaign finance reform, this court has already done incalculable damage to our political system as well.

Gold Rush, Part 15

Gold hit $1,310 an ounce and continues to rise.

Data earlier this session showed U.S. single family home prices dipped in July while the Richmond Fed's composite manufacturing index sank in September.

The dollar hit fresh five-month lows versus the euro after the confidence data, making dollar-priced gold cheaper for European investors. 

Many traders expect the dollar's downtrend to continue on a view that any future quantitative easing, even in a modest form, would probably still be more aggressive than moves by other central banks. 

"The growing realization that ultra loose monetary policies may debase currencies is leading to continuing safe haven demand for gold. Gold is the only currency that cannot be debased and its value is not dependent on the performance of politicians and central bankers," said analysts at GoldCore in a note. 

As the dollar falls, gold will continue to go up along with silver and other commodities.  The exception:  oil.  Oil's value is denominated in dollars, so as the dollar weakens, oil will continue to tread water around the $75 per barrel mark as it has for the last year now.  Oil was at about this same point a year ago if not a tad lower.

Meanwhile, stocks continue to rise as well as the trading algorithms continue to bid up up up and the automated systems follow.

Gold was around $750 an ounce just two years ago.  Five years ago it was at $475.  Food for thought.

The Bad Guys Are Having A Really Good Chuckle

Thanks to our new police state.

"It's an indication you've embezzled these checks," she says the police officer told her. He also told her she appeared nervous. She hadn't before that moment, she says.

She protested when the officer started to walk away with the checks. "That's my money," she remembers saying. The officer's reply? "It's not your money."

At this point she told the officers that she had a good explanation for the checks, but questioned whether she had to tell them.

"The police officer said if you don't tell me, you can tell the D.A."

So she explained that she and her husband had been on vacation, that they'd accumulated some hefty checks, and that she was headed to her bank's headquarters, where she intended to deposit them.

She gave police her husband's cell-phone number - he was at her mother's with their children and missed their call.

Thirty minutes after the police became involved, they decided to let her collect her belongings and board her plane.

"I was shaking," she says. "I was almost in tears."

When she got home, her husband of 20 years, John Parker, a self-employed plastics broker, said the police had called and told him that they'd suspected "a divorce situation" and that Kathy Parker was trying to empty their bank account.

And what prompted this search and seizure of her checks and invasion into her personal life?  Was she marked by the FBI?  Was she under investigation for a possible financial crime?  Did she have a record of fraud?

No.  You see, all this was generated from her crime of going through an airport screening while seeming "nervous".  The woman, Kathy Parker, was flying from Philadelphia to Charlotte.  She works for a bank. 

That was it.  An airport screening led to her being held for embezzling money from her own joint bank account with her husband.

But all of this is okay because she might have been a terrorist, right?  All of us are Kathy Parker.  Expect to be treated as such at the airport.

Winning The Early Battles

In an increasing number of states, unrestricted early voting is changing the face of elections.  People can vote early without having to prove they will be absentee on Election Day in states like Ohio, and here in Cincy people are certainly taking advantage of it.

Here in Ohio, an election period that now stretches over 35 days is one of the few things lifting the spirits of Democrats. Two years ago, the party overwhelmed Republicans in early voting. John McCain received more votes on Election Day, but Barack Obama carried the state, because many Democrats and independents voted early.

“We have more than 30 days to find our supporters, get them out to vote and win this election,” Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio, a Democrat, told a crowd at a weekend rally, where he rolled up in a bus with an early-voting message emblazoned on the side. “Are we going to do it?”

A group of Republican voters filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court in Cincinnati challenging the practice of a few Ohio counties — Democratic-leaning ones — that provide postage-paid envelopes for absentee ballots. Voters in most counties across the state have to provide their own stamp, a disparity they argue created unequal access to vote.

One of the biggest elements of the Democratic Party’s effort to persuade first-time voters from the last presidential race to vote in the midterm election comes through early voting. Organizing for America, the party’s network of Obama supporters, is focusing much of its effort on important Congressional races in states that allow early voting. 

Early voting laws favor Democrats, and the Republicans know it...but they have been unable to shut down the process and turn elections into arenas where retirees and the wealthy have the time to vote on a Tuesday when the rest of us have to work.

That's why there's been such a push to try to de-legitimatize Democratic party GOTV operations.  If the only explanation for Democrats winning is "voter fraud" then Republicans can start making it more difficult for ordinary people to vote.  In many ways they already have.

Many states have passed voter ID laws which do far more for disenfranchising younger, urban voters than protecting the "integrity" of voting.  Republicans know the demographics of the United States are working against them as the years progress and more minority voters make up the population.

At the same time, they are trying to do everything they can to restrict voting to those who can afford the time and money to do so.  It's a good plan if you're a cynical Republican.

And it will make all the difference in battleground states like Ohio.

Carter Hospitalized

Former President Jimmy Carter was taken to a hospital in Cleveland after arriving there by flight.  Not much else is known at this hour, so I'll be following this we find out more.

[UPDATE]  Looks like President Carter is going to be okay, just had a nasty stomach flu.  That's still potentially serious at age 86 however.

Biblical Levels Of Irony

Want a lesson on religious dogma?  Ask an atheist or an agnostic. Turns out in a new survey they scored the highest on knowledge of religions in general, which actually makes a lot of sense.

American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.

"These are people who thought a lot about religion," he said. "They're not indifferent. They care about it."

Atheists and agnostics also tend to be relatively well educated, and the survey found, not surprisingly, that the most knowledgeable people were also the best educated. However, it said that atheists and agnostics also outperformed believers who had a similar level of education.

The groups at the top of the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey were followed, in order, by white evangelical Protestants, white Catholics, white mainline Protestants, people who were unaffiliated with any faith (but not atheist or agnostic), black Protestants and Latino Catholics.

Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists were included in the survey, but their numbers were too small to be broken out as statistically significant groups.

Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University and author of "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- And Doesn't," served as an advisor on the survey. "I think in general the survey confirms what I argued in the book, which is that we know almost nothing about our own religions and even less about the religions of other people," he said.

Faith and knowledge can be two very different things, but I've always subscribed to the notion that they don't have to be.  I understand that's a personal choice that everyone has to make, but then again that makes me something of a libertarian on religion.

My problem is imposing those beliefs, that faith, upon others, effectively replacing knowledge with the tenets of a belief system that you may not believe in or worse, may completely contradict it.

That's when you get into trouble.

Just something to think about.  Remember, we don't all believe the same things...nor should we.

Climate Of Chaos

What do Republicans plan to do should they retake the House?  Start the investigations of President Obama and his policies, of course.

Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner wants to keep the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming alive so it can investigate climate science and police President Barack Obama’s green policies.

The 16-term congressman said he’s well-positioned to take on that leadership role, touting credentials as a former chairman of the Judiciary and Science and Technology committees, where he pried information out of the Clinton administration without ever signing a subpoena.

“I’ve had a reputation of really being a tiger on oversight,” he told POLITICO.

Any decisions on the future of the select committee, where Sensenbrenner is the top Republican opposite Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.), won’t be made until after the midterm elections.

But Sensenbrenner’s remarks foretell a power struggle among top Republicans primed to lead other investigatory committees, namely, Rep. Darrell Issa, the media-hungry Californian who would like to comb through Obama’s policies as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“There’s going to be plenty of oversight to do, and all the committees should be doing oversight, not just Government Reform and Oversight, or whatever it’s going to be called,” Sensenbrenner said. “When I ran for, and was named chairman of, Judiciary, I said I’d have exclusive oversight staff, nothing to do with legislation. With this committee, since it’s not legislative in nature, everybody on the majority side is going to be working on oversight if it’s maintained.”

Republicans at this point are publicly arguing over who will be able to grandstand and lead oversight investigations into the most Obama policies and get on the news the most rather than worry about the problems that are affecting America's economy.  These are the same Republicans who ignored oversight during the Bush years, now lining up to throw as many wrenches into Obama's policies as possible and obstruct, slow down, and roll things back.

Won't that be fun?  Republicans really have America's priorities straight in this economy, huh.

A republican victory in 2010 will make every House Committee and Subcommittee become Obama Derangement Syndrome kangaroo courts.  Count on it.

Unleash Joe Biden, Firebagger Edition

Biden Versus The Firebaggers, and you know what?  I totally agree with the guy.

Liberals need to "buck up" in preparation for November's elections, Vice President Biden said Monday night.

The vice president didn't back off the notion that disillusioned supporters should "stop whining," a sentiment he uttered on Monday in New Hampshire, and which drew heavy criticism from liberals in the party.

"And so those who -- didn't get everything they wanted, it's time to just buck up here, understand that we can make things better, continue to move forward," Biden said during an appearance on MSNBC, "but not yield the playing field to those folks who are against everything that we stand for in terms of the initiatives we put forward."

Biden was asked by MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell, in the debut of the host's new program, "The Last Word," whether he'd like to retract his admonition to liberals to stop complaining.

"There are some on the Democratic base, not the core of it, that are angry because we didn't get every single thing they want," the vice president said.

"They should stop that," Biden explained. "These guys, if they win, the other team, they're going to repeal health care and I I want them to tell me why what we did wasn't an incredibly significant move that's progressive and helping people?"

Finally, somebody in the White House comes out swinging against the lefties who are wanting to dump Obama and stay home and cry because he hasn't fixed anything yet.

I will be the first to admit that Obama has failed on civil liberties.  The Republicans would have done the same.  In the balance of the whole, he's better that the alternative.

The reality is Democrats don't have the luxury of a sane, intelligent Republican party to fall back on should the Democrats come up short in some areas...and they have.  But they have also gotten so much done.  They've gotten things moved forward.  We all know the Republicans will only take things backwards.  They've promised as such.  They've promised to eliminate practically everything Obama has done in the last 20 months.

How will that help things?

So yes.  Somebody has to step up and say "Stop acting like spoiled brats and get the big picture."  Glad Biden has the balls to do it.

The End Of Net Neutrality

It's looking more and more like promises made by Democrats to preserve Net Neutrality and level the playing field among internet content providers has run into big money provided by Google and Verizon.  Now, the same Democrats who promised to keep the internet regulated for all to use are now effectively killing the idea.

Legislative text put forward by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) under the banner of mandating network neutrality would instead prevent the government from requiring broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally.

Waxman, who has vowed that he would support the so-called 'Net Neutrality' policy proposals favored by most Democrats and progressives, has instead put forward an as-yet-unsettled legislative framework that explicitly prohibits the Federal Communications Commission from regulating broadband Internet under Title II of the Communications Act: a caveat key to implementation of what's been called the Internet's First Amendment.

Should the president sign a bill containing Waxman's language, it would effectively kill 'Net Neutrality' efforts and make key parts of a hotly contested proposal by Google and Verizon the law of the land.

While the bill [PDF link], first published by National Journal blog Tech Daily Dose, carries language that speaks of preventing ISPs from "unjustly or unreasonably" discriminating against "lawful traffic," the spirit of the rule is completely undermined by text that follows.

For today's fast-growing wireless networks, largely seen as the future dominant mode of Internet access, it makes a provision allowing for "reasonable network management," but prohibits blocking "lawful Internet websites".

The bottom line is that wireless networks would be exempt from the provisions, and with a $2 million fine for blocking sites or choking traffic, companies could make much more money by charging an extra monthly fee for "premium" wireless access.   Any any traffic that comes from sites critical of the practice, say, bloggers who write about tech companies who limit access, could in turn be limited or eliminated.

Have a bad review of Verizon's newest product on your blog?  Poof, nobody on a Verizon network will ever see it at anything higher than dial up speeds.

Google and Verizon have a deal?  What if you're using a non-Verizon phone to access Google maps?  Good luck with that...and for individual internet users, it'll be impossible to prove.

Gotta love it.  Making money with robbery on the information superhighway.  And it's the Dems leading the way.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Last Call

The hottest year on record through June continues to break records here in September.

Los Angeles hit 113 degrees on Monday making it their hottest temperature ever recorded since records began in 1877.  This also beat the daily record high set in 1963 by seven degrees. 

Temperatures have only been 110 degrees or higher three other times in L.A.

One hundred thirteen degrees.

The hottest temperature ever recorded in LA's history.

And this happened after the autumn equinox, just days away from the month of October.

But let's keep arguing over "you cant prove human involvement in global warming" and refuse to do anything to try to stop it.

Quote Of The Day

Roy Edroso wins again:

I think the libertarian view of how tolerant the free market makes us would be more convincing if it weren't for libertarians.

To be fair, I'd apply that to only professional Village libertarians. The ones I know in person are too reasonable to be so.

The Alan Grayson Project

Alan Grayson's full-on attack mode is beginning to score points.

A Democrat taking the fight to their Tea Party opponent instead of sliding to the right and capitulating is apparently so rare, it's national news. Meanwhile, Grayson's Republican opponent Daniel Webster doesn't want to talk about the fact he would force women to have children conceived in rape or incest by denying them abortions.

I can't imagine why he doesn't want to talk about that, can you?

Oh...and Webster is far from the only Republican running in this election who believes that.

[UPDATE] Digby notes Daniel Webster is making his wife do the talking.

Mrs Webster knows very well that it is a sin to lie so she cleverly accuses Grayson of being untruthful without refuting the irrefutable:

In her statement, Sandy Webster said: "Alan Grayson's latest attack on my husband is shameful. Mr. Grayson seems to have a problem telling the truth and no problem misleading the public. Dan has been an amazing husband and father, and the finest man I have ever known. Mr. Grayson should be ashamed of his nasty smears against my husband."

The Village is having a full blown hissy fit about the ad, although I notice that it seems to be quite a bit less offensive to women than men. I wonder why? 

 Funny how that works out.

Et Tu, Steny?

If I didn't know better, I'd say Steny Hoyer was gunning for Nancy Pelosi's job, but he actually appears to be running for House minority leader.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen may think a vote this week is still possible on extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, but the No. 2 Democrat in the House splashed icy cold water on the idea Sunday.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said on Fox News Sunday that he does not think a vote will happen before members adjourn for the midterm elections, even though Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday it still was possible. Hoyer blamed the Senate for opting to punt the vote to a lame-duck session, telling host Chris Wallace that it would be "a specious act" to hold a vote just for political optics before heading home.

Oh that's never happened in Congress.  Yes, let's not hold a vote that would help the Democrats right before a brutally rough midterm election, especially in the House, right Steny?

I doubt that we will, and let me tell you why. The Senate has refused to move forward on that issue. As you know, we have some 400 bills pending in the Senate, 75 percent of which have gotten 50 Republican votes or more, but they can't move through the Senate, so it would be an specious act.

So yeah, it's all Harry Reid's fault, so let's just not do anything.  I'm sure the voters will reward you for that.

When I say the Democratic message machine is broken, here's Exhibit A, folks.

Building On Sand

Meanwhile, the Israel-Palestinian peace process is over before it has even begun.  BooMan:

The 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement construction sunsetted last night, and the settlers are ready to get to work on a backlog of new homes and structures.

Construction is expected to begin on Tuesday at a number of sites including Shavei Shomron, Adam, Oranit, Sha'arei Tikva, Yakir, Revava, Kokhav Hashahar, Kedumim and Karmei Tzur. A cornerstone is to be laid for a new neighborhood in the southern West Bank settlement of Beit Hagai, with construction set to start soon. After the Sukkot holiday, the Yesha Council of settlements and local West Bank councils are expected to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into approving new construction.
Netanyahu had called for restraint from the settlers, but they did not listen.

The end of the freeze was expected to be marked by a flurry of events, with busloads of Likud activists scheduled to tour different settlements in support of the settlers, and hear stories of the damage incurred by the freeze. At 3 P.M., a cornerstone for a new daycare center was to be laid in Kiryat Netafim, and at 4 P.M. thousands of settlers were expected at a rally in Revava, to be attended by MKs and municipality heads. MK Danny Danon (Likud) said that construction was likely to begin on some 2,000 housing units across the West Bank.
This is all is spite of continued warnings from the Palestinians that they would walk away from negotiations if the settlement freeze was lifted. To make matters worse, Netanyahu has adopted the new talking point that a precondition of peace talks is that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish State, meaning that they give up the right-of-return of refugees before negotiations even begin. By refusing the Palestinians' one precondition at the same time that he imposes his own, he makes it almost impossible for the talks to get going. 

And so the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank will continue.  The Palestinians will walk away from the process.  Netanyahu will throw up his hands and go "Oh well" and rocket attacks and tank assaults will continue.

Meanwhile, our Congress cares more about providing money for Israeli settlements then they do providing money for Americans who have lost their homes and jobs.

They Went There

SNL's Kristen Wing as Christine O'Donnell.

(Not exactly safe for work, either.)

Yeah, He Really Is That Evil

Steve M. flags down a couple stories on NY Republican Carl Paladino (NY-Racist Asshole) and his idea of "family values" with his wife, Cathy.

Cathy Paladino stroked the arm of the couch she was sitting on in her husband's campaign headquarters, first in small circles, then larger ones, as if to assure the couch that both she and it would get through this just fine.

She was talking about her husband's affair, a subject she was ready, if not eager, to address. Since her husband, Carl, won the Republican nomination for governor of New York last week, the only story in the race as compelling as his upset victory has been their personal back story: that her husband not only had an affair, not only fathered a child with that other woman, but also told his wife of 40 years about it all the same week that their 29-year-old son, Patrick, was killed in a car accident. He pulled her aside, Ms. Paladino said, as she was looking for family photographs to bring to the wake.

"He said he was very sorry to cause me pain, the relationship with the mother was over ... and there was a child," she said.

What a guy, that Paladino.  All the empathy of Lord Voldemort's colostomy bag.  Carl made his wife come clean on this story to the NY Post and the NY Times.  So, not only does this schmuck send out racist emails about Obama, he cheated on his wife, confirmed their affair while she was mourning the death of their son, and was then made to relive this not once but twice to two major papers.

I defer to Steve's analysis:

All this makes me squirm. I suspected Carl Paladino was a bad human being. Now I'm sure of it.

This goes way beyond "asshole" territory straight to "the man has no effing soul".   Your Republican candidate for Governor of New York, ladies and gentlemen.

Helicopter Ben's Magic Printing Press Game

Apparently the notion that Helicopter Ben will turn his Magic Printing Press back on at the November 3 Fed meeting is now common knowledge, but apparently people in the know are saying it'll only be half a trillion.

Ben Bernanke doesn't even get out of bed for half a trillion.

About 70 percent of the 67 respondents, which include economists, strategists and fund managers, believe the Fed will begin quantitative easing again.

Of those, 80 percent believe the Fed will start before the end of this year. November is seen as the most likely month for the Fed to restart asset purchases by 38 percent of those who took the survey, but December was a close second with 32 percent.

“The trigger for the resumption of quantitative easing late this year will be an increase in unemployment back into double-digits,” wrote Mark Zandi, of Moody’s Economy.Com. He thinks the Fed will act in December and ultimately purchase an additional $1 trillion in assets.

The Zero Hedge boys think that number is going to be significantly more than Zandy's $1 trillion guess. I'd go with them if I had to.  What makes me think November rather than December?  Oh, maybe because Japan's third largest consumer lender is filing for bankruptcy today, and as I flagged down last week, the Anglo Irish bank is on the verge of El Foldo.

That humming sound is the Magic Printing Press warming up.  Big time.

A Pair Of President Odubya Failures On Civil Liberties

Two stories this morning should send up massive alarms as the Obama administration continues its dismal Bushian record on civil liberties and terrorism.

First, the Obama administration wants to expand its National Security Letter system to acquire wiretaps on the internet by compelling internet service providers to comply as easily as it can obtain them by forcing phone companies to do the same.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.

The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.

James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet policy group, said the proposal had “huge implications” and challenged “fundamental elements of the Internet revolution” — including its decentralized design.

“They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet,” he said. “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.” 

The second item involves banks and money transfers and is nearly as pervasive in its depth:  requiring every single international money transfer, no matter how small, to be reported to the Feds.

The Obama administration wants to require U.S. banks to report all electronic money transfers into and out of the country, a dramatic expansion in efforts to counter terrorist financing and money laundering.

Officials say the information would help them spot the sort of transfers that helped finance the al-Qaeda hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They say the expanded financial data would allow anti-terrorist agencies to better understand normal money-flow patterns so they can spot abnormal activity.

Financial institutions are now required to report to the Treasury Department transactions in excess of $10,000 and others they deem suspicious. The new rule would require banks to disclose even the smallest transfers. 

The vast, vast majority of people who will be caught up in these two policies will be ordinary Americans with no terrorist connections whatsoever.  Considering the failure of the Obama administration to stop massive abuse of national security letters to compel phone wiretaps, nobody in the country should feel confident that they can trust the executive branch with this level of additional power.

The Obama administration essentially wants to make the entire internet available to wiretap capability, meaning encrypted internet communications would become effectively useless.  The Obama administration could simply demand anyone's internet communications, encryption free, if they so choose to, for no other reason than they say so.

In the same way, the vast majority of people who transfer money internationally are just people sending money home to their families in places like Mexico, India, Central America, South America and Europe.  Every single one of those transfers would be recorded under this new policy, and all it would do is be used to harass immigrants and working Americans.  Can you imagine what Republicans would do with this ability?

This is the one area where Obama told us he would be better than McCain, better than Bush, and better than Hillary Clinton.  Apparently that was a lie on all three accounts, and this is the one area where Obama is truly worse than Bush.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Last Call

Preparations for a changing of the guard in North Korea may be underway.

Like everything in this country, the move is shrouded in mystery. But the people are already being groomed for a phased transition, supporting the widespread belief that the leader, Kim Jong-il, will use Tuesday's Workers' party assembly to signal he has chosen his youngest son to succeed him. One Pyongyang student says there is already a song dedicated to the heir apparent.

"We were told at university that Kim Jong-un is very intelligent, that he has a military background, and that he is very young," added the young woman, who asked to remain anonymous.

Many others seem to know his name, even though there is a reluctance to discuss the matter – at least with foreigners.

His father's gradual rise was equally well-veiled for many years, sealed only at the party's 1980 gathering: its last until this year. This meeting could last anywhere between three days and almost three weeks, to judge from previous events.

Seoul-based Yonhap news agency has also reported that the North may be preparing a record military parade, citing South Korean government sources. As many as 10,000 soldiers may march alongside missiles and armoured vehicles to mark the party's assembly or its 65th anniversary next month.

An opportunity for real diplomacy with Pyongyang?  Let's hope so.  Kim Jong-un is younger than I am, and as Premier of North Korea, well, who knows?  There would have to be tremendous pressure from the hard-liners in the country to continue to bluster but...well, there's always a chance that the son is not the father. 

We'll see how this works out.  Hillary Clinton and the State Department just cleared their calendars, I'm thinking.
Related Posts with Thumbnails