Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Last Call

The great thing about the Tea Party is they're simply not shy about stating the fact that they honestly believe that rule of law should only apply to everyone but themselves.  This makes them patriots following the true intent of the Founding Fathers, or something...hence the preoccupation with simply getting rid of the parts of the Constitution they think are unconstitutional.

Incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is part of a class of Republicans who say they want to change the country fundamentally -- and to that end, Cantor isn't dismissing a plan by legislators in his home state of Virgina to blow up the Constitutional system and replace it with one that would give state governments veto power over federal laws.

For several weeks now, conservative legal circles have been buzzing with Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell's plan to amend the Constitution so that a 2/3 vote of the states could overturn overturn any federal law passed by the Congress and signed by the President. Howell first floated the idea in a September Wall Street Journal op-ed he co-wrote with Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett.

"At present, the only way for states to contest a federal law or regulation is to bring a constitutional challenge in federal court or seek an amendment to the Constitution," the pair wrote. "A state repeal power provides a targeted way to reverse particular congressional acts and administrative regulations without relying on federal judges or permanently amending the text of the Constitution to correct a specific abuse."

The pair say the plan is a response to the federal overreach created by "two 'progressive' constitutional amendments adopted in 1913" -- the 16th Amendment creating a federal income tax and the 17th Amendment allowing for the direct election of U.S. Senators, which were previously appointed by state legislatures.

Undoing both those amendments has been a key tenet of tea party rhetoric for a while now. 

To recap, these jokers want to give final real ultimate super ultra omega veto power to state legislatures in a Tea-ranny of the Majority situation, so they can just whip up enough of an angry mob to get rid of anything they don't like, federal legislative, judicial, and executive be damned.

Of course, the logical endpoint of all this is that state voters be allowed to recall the entire state legislature in case that they do not agree with the will of the people, right?

And the point isn't to get this passed into the Constitution, the point is to create a completely unattainable goal and use it as a tool to rally the base whenever conservatives suffer defeat.  Time and time again conservatives say they want to completely rewrite the Constitution the way "the Founding Fathers" intended to be and complain bitterly that the rest of the country thinks this is a stupid, naked power grab.

It's how politics works.  This too will become a useless talking point and a litmus test.

But The Catfood Commission Came Back, The Very Next Day

The Catfood Commission came back, we thought it was a goner, oh the Catfood Commission came back, it just wouldn't stay awaaaaaaay...

The leaders of President Obama's debt commission said Tuesday that they would delay a vote on final recommendations until Friday.

The vote was originally scheduled for Wednesday.

The commission's co-chairmen, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, said they would still release the panel's report on Wednesday so the members can review it. It will be an amended version of a plan Bowles and Simpson put out three weeks ago.

And the vote, which should have been tomorrow (so it would not collect 14 votes and therefore not get a vote in Congress whatsoever and the whole thing would just die screaming) is now set for Friday.  And I'm betting it will be delayed again and again until the requisite 14 votes for killing social spending to pay for tax cuts for the rich can be garnered.

Won't that be fun?

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 44

As expected, Foreclosuregate is killing home sales across the country as banks, mortgage lenders, homeowners, and courts have no idea how to proceed when the validity of the paperwork of millions of mortgages is now potentially suspect.  The result is a steep decrease in foreclosed home sales.

Big banks are having trouble restarting the foreclosure process after this fall's "robo-signing" scandal, and the once booming market for foreclosed homes has been hit hard as a result.

According to ForeclosureRadar, the number of properties coming to auction in hard-hit western states -- Arizona, California and Nevada -- has dropped more than 30%.

In San Diego, according to broker Scott Cheng of Cheng Realty, who puts investors together with foreclosed properties, the number of auctions scheduled has fallen from 500 a day, to 300. "That part of my business has dried up," Cheng said. "A lot of my investors have stopped looking."

Cheng used to be able to find about three or four suitable homes a month for investors looking for a bargain. Now, he hasn't done one of these deals since August.

"The ones who are really upset are the investors, who buy on the courthouse steps," said Kevin Berman, a broker with Bankers Realty Services in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "There used to be sometimes 700 sales a day. Now there are like, seven."

We know that when buyers aren't buying a product and that the supply is too great, prices must go down until the buyers will start buying again.  But what happens when there are millions of homes on the market that cannot be sold at any price because of the legal concerns of paperwork and questions about who owns the note?

That's a recipe for complete disaster, a breakdown of the market in question.  And considering the real estate market in this country is worth trillions, you have to assume that the outcome of this mess will affect everything else.

Here there be dragons, folks.  Strap in.

I Apologize For Not Giving You Everything You Wanted When You Lost

President Obama, negotiating from a position of strength:

President Barack Obama told GOP leaders behind closed doors Tuesday that he had failed to reach across party lines enough during his first two years in office, a senior administration official told CNN.

He promised to do a better job of bipartisan outreach in the days ahead, the official added.

"The president said he had to do better, and the president is ready to do his part," the official said.

No mention in the article whether or not Orange Julius actually used the words "Kneel before Zod, son of Soetoro!" 

At this point I'm done wondering if this is a clever eleven-dimensional chess move that will make the GOP overplay their hand, and I'm on to wondering just how much we'll fondly look back at the damage Obama will do to the country by signing off on the Republican agenda for everything over the next two years as "the good times" before he's replaced by a Republican in 2012 and the real cornholing begins.

I honestly have to ask if everybody on Earth is aware of the GOP Plan to destroy Obama at all costs except for Obama himself.

Exciting New Horizons In Obama Derangement Syndrome

Hey there House Republicans!  You know, when you get tired of directly referring to President Obama as Hitler, you can go for the "our side is waging war on him just like Patton, Bradley and Eisenhower!" roundabout approach here like Rep. Joe Barton as he campaigns to be chair of the House Energy and Commerce committee.  He's got a slide show full of awesome to prove it, too.

Then comes the money slide, titled: "What's in Store for the Obama Administration," with photos of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Generals Omar Bradley and George Patton in uniform.

"Speaker Boehner is our Dwight Eisenhower in the battle against the Obama Administration. Majority Leader Cantor is our Omar Bradley. I want to be George Patton - put anything in my scope and I will shoot it." 

Bonus points for that particular reference there, Joey Bag Of Crazy.  No word on if elected San Dimas High School Football Captain chairman he'll put in an arcade version of Castle Wolfenstein in the committee room where you get to put You Know Who in your scope and shoot it.

The Properties Of Crazy

Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips apparently wants to bring America back to the days of the Founding Fathers.  You know, when only property holders were allowed to vote.

PHILLIPS: The Founding Fathers originally said, they put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn’t you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you’re not a property owner, you know, I’m sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners.

It certainly seems like Phillips is advocating mass disenfranchisement to me.  Sure, let's disenfranchise the voting rights of the least wealthy, and those who live in urban centers where property values are at a premium and larger numbers of people rent rather than own.  Gosh, I can't imagine a single reason why a Republican would want to take the right to vote away from primarily poorer people and urban city dwellers other than you know, they tend to vote Democratic.

By Phillips's logic, let's restrict the vote only to those making $1 million or more a year.  Don't they have more of a "vested interest" in America than the rest of us, quite literally?

This kind of thing is so transparent that it should be criminal (indeed, such voter "tests" are no longer legal) but that's the kind of "democracy" the Tea Party believes in...one strictly limited to the "right" people.

Houses Of Pain

Case-Shiller numbers for September are out, and they show the beginnings of the Foreclosuregate price drop.

The prices of single-family homes in 20 major cities fell a non-seasonally adjusted 0.7% in September, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday by Standard & Poor's. Prices have moved up 0.6% in the past year, down from 1.7% in August. This is the fourth consecutive month where annual growth rates moderated from the prior month's pace, confirming a "clear deceleration in home price returns," S&P said. Home prices decreased in 18 of the 20 metropolitan areas tracked by Case-Shiller in September compared with August.

Not good.  Again, these are September numbers, which is the relative crest of the hill.  Anything after this is bound to be pretty gruesome.  More on this at The Great Redoubt.

The Million Dollar Question

Conservative Democrats in the Senate want to draw the line against tax cuts for the "wealthy" but they want to extend the definition of wealthy to be solely the 300,000 plus American households earning $1 million a year rather than the six million or so folks earning $250,000 or more a year.  Jon Cohn investigates the numbers:

OK, so what would the fiscal impact of this switch be?

When this idea first surfaced a few weeks ago, I put that question to researchers at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Using very rough, preliminary numbers, they concluded that the ten-year cost of extending tax cuts for incomes below $250,000 was $3.2 trillion and that the cost of extending cuts for incomes less than $1 million was $3.6 trillion. In other words, the higher threshold would cost an additional $400 billion over ten years.

That's a lot of money, particularly at a time when, in theory, we're trying to come up with ways of improving the government's long-term finances. Then again, it's also better than extending all of the tax cuts permanently, which would cost the government roughly an additional $400 billion over the next ten years.

Keep in mind that everyone would get the tax cuts on that first $250,000 a year anyway, but the higher plan would eliminate some $400 billion in revenue over ten years.  As Ezra Klein points out, Dems would effectively be extending $3.6 trillion of the $4 trillion Bush tax cuts...90% of them.

If that's the ultimate agreement we see on the Bush tax cuts, it'll be worth taking a moment to appreciate how far Democrats have backslid on this issue since BIll Clinton. Clinton, of course, raised taxes in the face of large deficits. The Obama campaign, by contrast, swore not to raise taxes on any family making less than $250,000, and Democrats might now effectively raise that to $1,000,000. In setting up the expectation that taxes can't go up for anyone but millionaires, Democrats take most of them off the table. And given that Republicans have no interest in taxes, either, that basically removes them as a tool of fiscal policy going forward.

Which is exactly what the Republicans want to do:  California-ize the federal budget where any increase in taxes is automatically eliminated.  Republicans are quite serious about eliminating all other options but cutting government spending on non-military programs...in fact they're quite serious about eliminating all other federal government period other than military spending.

And they're doing it with the help of the Democrats.

Korean-ing Off The Rails, Part 2

Will somebody please figure out what North Korea wants and convince them to stop acting like three-year-olds?

North Korea warned Tuesday that the continuing military drills by the United States and South Korea could lead to "all-out war any time."

The firmly-worded message was published by North Korea's state-run KCNA news service.

"If the U.S. and the south Korean war-like forces fire even a shell into the inviolable land and territorial waters of the DPRK, they will have to pay dearly for this," the news service report said. The DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's formal name -- the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

This comes after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak warned Monday that North Korea would face severe consequences if it launched another military attack across its southern border.

"If the North commits any additional provocations against the South, we will make sure that it pays a dear price without fail," Lee said in a nationally televised address. North Korea stepped up its threats recently on its southern rival, as well as the United States, warning that military activities must not infringe on what the communist nation considers its territory.

The crisis is top priority for Seoul.

Someone's going to get hurt here if this keeps up, and frankly it's getting more than a little ridiculous.  I'm not sure what Hillary is doing right now about this (I admit, the State Department kind of has their hands full this week and all) but it's pretty clear North Korea wants something.

It would be nice if they told us what it really is.

Midnight At The Oasis

Unemployment checks for 800,000 Americans run out at midnight tonight.  Another 1.2 million lose benefits at the end of next month.  Republicans have successfully blocked extending benefits to those out of work for 26 to 99 weeks and completely destroyed any chance of benefits after 99 weeks, saying every dime of it must be paid for in federal spending cuts elsewhere (unlike, say, tax cuts for the wealthy that the Republicans want extended.)

The real problem is that these federal programs are helping cash-strapped states out, and the states have no extra money.  As it is they're borrowing from the feds for unemployment for the first 26 weeks.

State unemployment agencies are very concerned about the impending end to these extended jobless payments, which they say people depend on to cover their rent and buy food.

"It's a critical safety net program," said Nancy Dunphy, New York State's deputy commissioner of labor for employment security. "This is the worst time of year to be running out of benefits."

Federal jobless payments, which last up to 73 weeks, kick in after the state-funded 26 weeks of coverage expire. These federal benefits are divided into four tiers of emergency unemployment compensation, which last between six and 20 weeks, followed by up to five months of extended benefits. The jobless must apply each time they move into a new tier.

Unemployed Americans who've just exhausted their state benefits are already blocked from entering the federal system in most states. They would have had to file their initial federal claim by this past weekend.

Those already in a federal emergency benefits system will not be able to move to the next tier after this coming weekend. However, they can continue to collect the benefits available in their current level. So those who just entered a tier could continue receiving benefits for awhile, but those who are near the end of their tier will see payments dry up sooner.

This is going to continue to be a problem, and will only get worse as the Republicans take over in January.  Unless a major extension can be worked out soon, millions of Americans are going to be facing a very long winter.

In Other News We Knew, Seymour Hersh Was Right

Raw Story is reporting that the WikiLeaks cables seem to support Seymour Hersh's reporting from 2006 that Israel believed Iran was only a year or two away from a functional nuclear weapon and that regime change in Tehran was necessary.  The cable in question involved Undersecretary Nicholas Burns from the State Department and Israeli Mossad head Meir Dagan.

The classified diplomatic cable outlining the meeting is part of a large cache of documents leaked to the whistleblower website Wikileaks, and released to the public on Sunday via several international newspapers, including The Guardian and The New York Times.

Dagan began the meeting by thanking the US for its support of Israel, as well as for a recent $30 billion aid package.

The Mossad chief then conceded that US analysis of Iran's alleged nuclear capabilities differed from Israel's, but remarked that such differences were essentially irrelevant and that if need be Israel would take action alone.

"The threat is obvious, even if we have a different timetable," he said. "If we want to postpone their acquisition of a nuclear capability, then we have to invest time and effort ourselves."

Philip Giraldi, a former counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer and the Central Intelligence Agency, who served for eighteen years in Turkey, believes Dagan's comment that Israel will have to "invest time and effort ourselves” in dealing with Iran was, in essence, a veiled threat.

"It is essentially setting up a situation in which the threat of Israel acting alone becomes a wedge issue to force the US to do something so that it will be able to manage the situation rather than respond to Israeli initiatives," Giraldi told Raw Story on Sunday. "It pushes Washington into planning a military strike to force the Israelis to stand down on their own plans."

The differences between how each nation viewed the Iranian nuclear program were not discussed by either the US or Israeli officials in the cable.

R. Nicholas Burns, the U.S. envoy at the meeting -- who is now the Sultan of Oman Professor of the Practice of International Relations at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government – did not respond to requests for comment.

The Israeli embassy also did not respond to request for comment.

Again, anyone who was paying attention to Hersh's reporting in the New Yorker knew Israel was angling for getting the US to take care of their Iran regime change problem for them.  This isn't new information.  But the cables do solidly back up Hersh's story.  Israel was basically telling Bush that if we didn't act, Israel would.  The approach to destabilize Iran described in the cable is what our eventual plan came to be.

According to Hersh, in late 2007, "Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country's religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran's suspected nuclear-weapons program."

This is precisely the approach Dagan and Burns discussed at August 2007 meeting, as described in the leaked cable.

And it looks like this strategy was discussed in this cable between Burns and Dagan.  If anything, this cable strongly suggests more Americans should have been listening to Seymour Hersh.  He knew exactly what he was talking about.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Last Call

Assange's next WikiLeaks target is supposedly a major US bank.

In an interview with Forbes, Julian Assange says his next target will be an American bank.

"It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume," he said. "For this, there's only one similar example. It's like the Enron emails."

"It could take down a bank or two," he said.

Errm, Julian, bro...these guys have basically screwed the American public out of trillions and have essentially gotten away with it.  What are you sitting on that's so nasty?  CEOs calling each other jerks?  Helicopter Ben getting smashed out of his mind with the Goldman boys? 

Unless it's Jamie Dimon buying dozens of massive Dodge Ram trucks just to extract the Hemi engine blocks so he can lift them by helicopter and try to drop them on cardboard boxes full of shelter kittens for points, it's not going to matter much.   I'd like to see these cards.

The First Net Neutrailty Nuke Is Lobbed

To everyone who said "We should let the free market take care of net neutrality issues" then I hope you don't have Comcast as your internet provider.

Level 3 Communications, an Internet networking company that recently signed a deal to deliver movies to Netflix customers, said Monday that Comcast has effectively set up a tollbooth around its broadband Internet network.

Comcast demanded a “recurring fee” from Level 3 “to transmit Internet online movies and other content to Comcast’s customers who request such content,” Thomas Stortz, the chief legal officer for Level 3, said in a statement Monday afternoon, seemingly alluding to the Netflix service. The action “threatens the open Internet,” Mr. Stortz added.

Comcast did not immediately respond to the company’s claims. A spokesman for Netflix declined to comment.

Worst case scenario, expect basically every other ISP to follow suit here pretty quickly as internet providers, net backbone companies, and content providers start charging each other fees for everything...and guess who these fees will be passed along to?

Unless we regulate and enforce an open internet, it will be taken from us.  The war has been on, but now the WMDs are loose.  This has the potential to get ugly, fast.

Birther Society Nonsense

The Supreme Court just ruined some birther's day.

The justices without comment Monday rejected a challenge from Charles Kerchner Jr., a Pennsylvania man who sought a trial in federal court forcing the president to produce documents regarding his birth and citizenship.

Kerchner's attorney, Mario Apuzzo, had argued in a petition with the Supreme Court that Obama did not fit the definition of a "natural-born citizen" required for the nation's highest office, as defined by Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution.

That clause states, "No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States."

Kerchner, a retired military officer who describes himself on his website as a "genetic genealogy pioneer," argues the framers of the 1789 document intended a "natural-born" citizen to mean someone born in the U.S. to parents who were both American citizens.

The high court and other courts had dismissed earlier, unrelated lawsuits from individuals questioning Obama's citizenship. State birth certificate records show he was born August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. His mother is a native of Kansas; his father was born in Kenya, which at the time was a British colony.

The argument is of course Obama is a British citizen and therefore ineligible for the office of President, to which the Supreme Court said "You sir, are a douchebag" and went and had lunch.  I'm sure Kerchner's next move will be to have the Founding Fathers exhumed and their ghosts summoned forth so that they can settle the question of intent once and for all (at taxpayer expense).

The Birthers will never, ever go away.  We need to institute some sort of public punishment when these suits are dismissed, preferably involving dropping these idiots off in Kenya with a map and a canteen and wishing them the best of luck.

Obama's Brain Freeze

Not sure I understand the politics behind this move.

President Obama on Monday will call for a two-year freeze in the wages of federal employees.

The freeze, which would save $60 billion over 10 years, would make a small dent in the nation's debt problem. The accumulated deficits are currently forecast to exceed $9 trillion over the next decade.

If this is designed to make the Republicans like him, that's not happening.  If this is some sort of bargaining tool for getting various vital bills through the lame duck session, again, I don't see how this is going to help.  The CNN article ominously makes this sound like some sort of reflexive Centrist Dalek junk.

According to the administration, the two-year pay freeze would save $2 billion for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 and $28 billion over the next five years.

The freeze would not apply to military personnel, but would apply to all civilian federal employees, including those in various alternative pay plans and those working at the Department of Defense.

Federal workers shouldn't feel singled out: The White House says more tough choices are on the way.

So again, what is Obama getting from the Republicans for suggesting and agreeing with one of their own talking points other than having the Republicans ignore it completely at best and attack Obama for doing it at worst?   From a macroeconomic standpoint, freezing federal worker pay is anti-stimulus.  It's low hanging fruit I guess, but I'm still not seeing why Obama's announcing this now.

Other than he's moving towards the center just for the hell of it, which is entirely possible.  But Greg Sargent points out that Obama's already losing the fight on this:

Indeed, in a statement just now, Eric Cantor, the number two in the House GOP leadership, seized on the news as proof that Republicans, not Obama, are setting the governing agenda. Cantor said he was "encouraged" by Obama's proposal, noting that House Republicans had already "offered the very same spending-cut proposal on the floor of the House." Cantor continued:
"We are pleased that President Obama appears ready to join our efforts. As the recent election made clear, Americans are fed up with a government that spends too much, borrows too much and grows too much."
In other words, Republicans simply pointing to this latest move as proof that Obama agrees with their interpretation of the elections and in response is now willing to follow their script.

So again, what does Obama get out of this eleven-dimensional chess match other than yet another wedgie from the GOP?

The Old Man Is Off His Meds

Dear The Village:  Can we stop taking John McCain seriously now?

John McCain has a plan for North Korea. To deal with the impudent northern half of the Korean Peninsula, McCain suggested yesterday that it might be time to dig into the Bush administration playbook for the Middle East, circa 2003. On CNN's State Of The Union, McCain called for "regime change" in Pyongyang as soon as possible -- though he didn't say how exactly anyone would go about it.

One option appears to be off the table in McCain's mind, a military strike like the one America used the last time "regime change" was bandied about by high-profile Republicans.

"I think it's time we talked about regime change in North Korea," McCain told CNN's Candy Crowley, "and I do not mean military action, but I do believe that this is a very unstable regime."

To recap, the McCain plan for North Korea:

  1. Get tough with Pyongyang.
  2. ???
  3. Regime change!

I mean honestly, he's not even worth having on the Sunday shows for unintentional comedy value anymore.  He's just a sad old man.

More Of A Small Hissing Sound Than A Bang

TPM's Megan Carpentier comes up with five things you need to know about Cablepalooza and really none of it is shocking if you've been paying any attention to various milblogs over the last couple of years. (Diplomats are socially agreed upon gossipy spies.  Also, the sun is hot.)  But three of the 5 items involve Iran.

First, heavily Shi'a Iran is not exactly liked by its Sunni neighbors and wanted Obama to deal with Iran's nuclear program using military force.

The Saudis, the Bahrainis and even Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak were all similarly inclined, as has been widely reported -- El Pais reported that Mubarak's hatred for Iran was called "visceral" and the New York Times reported the existence of cables referring to the Saudi king's "frequent exhortations" to engage in military action against Iran. The Bahrainis, too, are said to be keen to see Iran's nuclear program halted, and King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa is said to have blamed problems in Iraq and Afghanistan on the Iranian government -- and both Kuwaiti and Yemeni officials reportedly told U.S. diplomats similar things about Iranian involvement in fomenting dissent in their own countries.

Secondly, Iran apparently got missiles from North Korea (who got them from Russia) and finally Iran used Red Crescent to move spies into Lebanon.  The thing is none of this is really new stuff here.  Shi'a and Sunni Muslims really, really don't like each other, and Iran is roughly 90% Shi'a.  Also, North Korea doesn't play fair and neither does Iran...well no kidding.

So far I'm not really impressed by this batch of leaks.

I'm At WMOOSE In Cincinnati

Guess who's back?  Back again?

Sarah Palin will bring her national book-signing tour to suburban Cincinnati Friday, with a stop at the Harper’s Point Kroger store.

It’s the next-to-last stop on a three-week tour that that included some early 2012 presidential primary and caucus states, such as Iowa and South Carolina, fueling speculation that the former Alaska governor is gearing up for a presidential campaign.

Palin will start signing her new book, “America By Heart,” at 11 a.m.; and the store will begin passing out wristbands for the signing at 8 a.m. Details on the signing can be found here. 

No word on whether or not she'll sign your gun stock, cuts of game meat, or small child.  Also, totally not a sign of running in 2012 by poking around a grocery store in the blood-red parts of Ohio either.

The Kroog Versus The Pain In Spain

Paul Krugman argues that the 2010 Eurozone crisis is all cape and no horns so far in the real bullfight:  Spain's overdue economic goring that could take out everything.

Why is Spain in so much trouble? In a word, it’s the euro.

Spain was among the most enthusiastic adopters of the euro back in 1999, when the currency was introduced. And for a while things seemed to go swimmingly: European funds poured into Spain, powering private-sector spending, and the Spanish economy experienced rapid growth.

Through the good years, by the way, the Spanish government appeared to be a model of both fiscal and financial responsibility: unlike Greece, it ran budget surpluses, and unlike Ireland, it tried hard (though with only partial success) to regulate its banks. At the end of 2007 Spain’s public debt, as a share of the economy, was only about half as high as Germany’s, and even now its banks are in nowhere near as bad shape as Ireland’s.

But problems were developing under the surface. During the boom, prices and wages rose more rapidly in Spain than in the rest of Europe, helping to feed a large trade deficit. And when the bubble burst, Spanish industry was left with costs that made it uncompetitive with other nations.

Now what? If Spain still had its own currency, like the United States — or like Britain, which shares some of the same characteristics — it could have let that currency fall, making its industry competitive again. But with Spain on the euro, that option isn’t available. Instead, Spain must achieve “internal devaluation”: it must cut wages and prices until its costs are back in line with its neighbors. 

In other words, Spain doesn't have any good options right now.  It doesn't even have any bad options right now like we do here in the US.  It only has terrible options.  That's the difference between Spain and the UK, which does have its own currency and can make central bank adjustments.  Spain doesn't have that ability short of an ugly structural unemployment path that keeps high numbers of Spaniards out of work.

We'll see how it goes.  But Spain is the big one.  If it goes under, Europe is toast.

So What's The Progressive Answer To The Catfood Commission?

Glad you asked.  We've seen the conservative plans and the Catfood Commission.  What do liberals want to do to fix our problems?  Not one but two plans will be unveiled over the next two days.

On Monday, the progressive policy organizations Demos, the Economic Policy Institute and the Century Foundation will unveil a liberal blueprint. Their report says that unlike the centrist plans, this version “stabilizes debt as a share of the economy without demanding draconian cuts to national investments or to vital safety net programs.” It would, however, leave the debt at a higher level as a share of the economy than the centrist plans.

On Tuesday, a separate coalition of liberal groups, economists and labor leaders — the Citizens’ Commission on Jobs, Deficits and America’s Economic Future — will release a similar outline.

Both plans are comparable to one recently proposed by Representative Jan Schakowsky, a liberal Democrat from Illinois who is a member of the Bowles-Simpson commission. Ms. Schakowsky opposed the chairmen’s draft as too hard on the middle class. 

There are a number of points to the plans:

  • Cuts wouldn't start until 2015, with near-term stimulus in 2012 and increased spending in infrastructure to directly attack unemployment.
  • Deeper military spending cuts after 2015.
  • Long-term savings from health care reform, including the public option to lower costs.
  • Raise the cap on Social Security taxable income to 90%.
  • Closing tax loopholes, a new surcharge on incomes above $1 million, cap and trade and a gas tax, and taxing financial transactions.
It wouldn't lower the deficit as quickly of course, but it would begin to do so by a combination of lower military spending and higher taxes.  It also accomplishes all this without Social Security benefit cuts too, but the gas tax is troubling.  Still, all the plans so far have called for raising the federal gas tax, so it's not like that won't happen.

I'm not excited about the plan (public option is nice however) but it's better than what we've seen so far.  Too bad the plan has zero chance.

Any Portugal In A Storm, Part 2

Roubini says Portugal should make a bailout deal now while the mechanism is in place, and the costs of doing so are lower than waiting to drag out the process out of pride.

Roubini, a professor of economics at New York University who predicted the financial crisis, told daily paper Diario Economico it is "increasingly likely" Portugal will require international assistance.

He said in an interview published Monday there are ample funds to shore up Portugal, one of the euro zone's smaller countries which contributes less than 2 percent to the 16-nation bloc's gross domestic product.

Roubini said Portugal is approaching "a critical point" due to it high debt load and weak growth.

All those Greek and Irish protestations and assurances that everything was fine ended up being pointless.  Portugal is clearly next on the list and moving to get ahead of the bond traders can get the country a better deal now rather than dragging it out and causing chaos.

Of course, Portugal won't do that.  They'll deny needing a bailout right up until the point they take it anyway.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Last Call

The 2012 field may have just gotten a bit more crowded.

John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday he's "considering" a run.
"Yes, I am considering it," Bolton told conservative radio show host Aaron Klein's on WABC in New York. "If I did run, and I haven't made a decision, I have never run for office one way or the other, so it would be a pretty big decision to do it."

Bolton, who serves as a Fox News commentator, said he's concerned that the national discourse does not include talk of foreign policy.

"I'm very concerned about the direction of national security policy," Bolton said. "I'm concerned that we hardly talk about it at national-level debates in the mainstream media."

That's because we have much larger national problems right now with our economy.  Perhaps Bolton's Mustache will handle the domestic policy.  To his credit, Bolton can find Iraq and Iran on a world map, but he would have to be immediately considered to be the candidate most likely to get us into a third war with Iran within milliseconds after taking office.

I would have to wonder if any of the WikiLeaks cables have anything to do with Bolton.  Certainly at least some of the documents would have to involve our one-time UN Ambassador.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

White House on TSA patdowns

"Our goal must to be maximize protection and security and minimize inconvenience and invasiveness.  It's not an easy task."

White House on WikiLeaks diplomatic cable leaks:

"These cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders, and when the substance of private conversations is printed on the front pages of newspapers across the world, it can deeply impact not only U.S. foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world."

Our privacy doesn't matter so much so you shouldn't expect it.  White House's privacy?  How dare anyone disrespect that?

Wheelin', Dealin', and Leakin'

The NY Times has launched its WikiLeaks "Cablegate" story, and there's quite a bit of international silliness going on that reads more like high school than high diplomacy.  It's the kind of stuff you'd expect:  the US throwing its weight around with Germany on human rights, various strongmen dictators acting like spoiled brats, an odd friendship between Russia's Putin and Italy's Berlusconi, Syria selling weapons to Hezbollah, China trying to hack everybody, corruption in Afghanistan's government, and this little piece of well-timed face-palmage:

Gaming out an eventual collapse of North Korea: American and South Korean officials have discussed the prospects for a unified Korea, should the North’s economic troubles and political transition lead the state to implode. The South Koreans even considered commercial inducements to China, according to the American ambassador to Seoul. She told Washington in February that South Korean officials believe that the right business deals would “help salve” China’s “concerns about living with a reunified Korea” that is in a “benign alliance” with the United States. 

Hey, there's even stuff in there about pre-revolution Tehran in '79 and Noriega before the US invasion of Panama in '89.  Best part so far that needs to end up in a James Bond film:

In a 2006 account, a wide-eyed American diplomat describes the lavish wedding of a well-connected couple in Dagestan, in Russia’s Caucasus, where one guest is the strongman who runs the war-ravaged Russian republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.

The diplomat tells of drunken guests throwing $100 bills at child dancers, and nighttime water-scooter jaunts on the Caspian Sea.

“The dancers probably picked upwards of USD 5000 off the cobblestones,” the diplomat wrote. The host later tells him that Ramzan Kadyrov “had brought the happy couple ‘a five-kilo lump of gold’ as his wedding present.” 

Beats an envelope of cash and a bread machine.

Turning The Other Cheek

So glad we could show as a country that we are above the attempted barbarism of Islamic extremism by not resorting to petty revenge and recriminating violence, and that the terrorists have failed to win because we refuse to give into their escalating spiral of fear and anger.

Oh wait.  What the hell am I talking about.  Of course we're a bunch of violent idiots.

Arson caused a fire at an Islamic center on Sunday that was the occasional place of worship for a Somali-born teen who two days ago was arrested on charges of plotting a terror attack in Portland, authorities said.

Carla Pusateri, a fire prevention officer for the Corvallis Fire Department, said the fire at the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center was set early Sunday morning. She says "quite a bit of evidence" was left at the scene, which led her to believe the fire was intentionally set.

No injuries have been reported.

The Islamic center was frequented by Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 19-year-old held on charges of plotting to carry out a terror attack at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland on Friday.

Yosof Wanly, imam at the center, said 80 percent of the center's office was burned, but the worship areas were untouched.

Wanly said he has been advised by friends to take his family out of their home, and is debating whether to do so.

I know, I know, it's all an AQ plot to make us look like a bunch of frothing, rabid nutjobs because nobody would ever plan to take out their anger on the entire Muslim community in Oregon or elsewhere in the US, right?  They torched the center on purpose, it was a George Soros false flag operation to hurt the Tea Party, yadda yadda.

God this stuff makes my head hurt.

A Stimulating Debate

The CBO's latest numbers on the stimulus are out, and the fact it is worked:

ABC News reports that the Congressional Budget Office this week released its latest report on the effects of the Recovery Act and found that it “raised the GDP, lowered unemployment, and increased the number of people with jobs.” According to the report, CBO estimates that the Recovery Act’s policies in the third quarter of the calendar year 2010 had the following effects (emphasis added):
– They raised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.4 percent and 4.1 percent,
– Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.8 percentage points and 2.0 percentage points,
– Increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.6 million, and,
– Increased the number of full-time-equivalent jobs by 2.0 million to 5.2 million compared with what would have occurred otherwise (see Table 1). (Increases in FTE jobs include shifts from part-time to full-time work or overtime and are thus generally larger than increases in the number of employed workers).
But I know, I know, CBO numbers don't count unless there's a Republican in the White House because it might produce figures that don't support the Republican narrative of reality.  The reality is however that the stimulus is wearing off and winding down as we head into 2011, and the GOP is more than happy to make sure nothing further is done and to blame Obama once the economy gets worse next year (as it most certainly will.)

They're counting on you buying the argument that we can't have any additional water to put out the fire now because it might hurt crops later.

Shop Till The Numbers Drop

Preliminary Black Friday spending numbers are in, and they're virtually no improvement over last year.

Preliminary reports of Black Friday sales are starting to come in. The verdict so far: The crowds were bigger and people walked away with arms full of goodies, but shoppers spent only modestly more this year.

With shoppers scooping up discounted items, total sales rose a slight 0.3% over last year to $10.7 billion, while customer traffic increased 2.2%, according to ShopperTrak, which records sales and customer traffic at more than 70,000 stores and malls.

That's about the same annual sales increase in Black Friday sales as stores saw in 2009.

Stores may have cannibalized some Black Friday sales by prodding shoppers with doorbuster-like deals weeks in advance, said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.

Indeed, in the first two weeks of November, sales were up 6.1% and 6.2%, according to ShopperTrak.
"Retailers were very conscious of driving traffic early in November, and in doing so some might have thinned Black Friday spending a bit," Martin said in a statement.

So monthly numbers were up, especially for the first two weeks of November.  But Black Friday numbers went nowhere.  People are expecting great deals outside of the day after Thanksgiving, and retailers are providing them, extending deals to early November and even Thanksgiving Day itself.  Those numbers aren't very encouraging.  What it means is that there's heavy pressure on retailers to lower prices because people aren't buying otherwise, and that shoppers are expecting retailers to discount further.

Not a good sign for economic recovery.

Correlation Does Not Equal Causation

Texas House Republican Lamar Smith takes to the Washington Post to argue that because Democrats didn't quite capture the same level of the Latino vote as they did in 2006 and 2008, that Latinos are now solidly in the R column come election time.

What about the much-trumpeted victories of Reid, Boxer, Gov.-elect Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)? Their Republican opponents lost not because they underperformed among Hispanic voters but because they underperformed among white voters. National exit polls reported by CNN indicated that Republican U.S. House candidates received 60 percent of the white vote overall. But Fiorina and Angle won only 52 percent of the white vote, Ken Buck in Colorado won only 51 percent and California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman won only 50 percent of the white vote. Had each received 60 percent of the white vote, they all would have won.

There was a story in the 2010 midterms that many in the media missed. Dalmia found that "one of the hugely under-reported stories of this election is that Republicans fielded far more minority candidates than Democrats - and they won by touting a restrictionist agenda, proof positive that skin color - and even immigration status - are not always correlated with [illegal] immigration views."

Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, one of the most trusted commentators on Spanish-language television, concluded that "the United States moved to the right, and Latino politicians did so too - among them, a new generation of Hispanic Republicans who support policies that are essentially opposed to the undocumented immigrants in this country." 

And yes, Latino voters did slide towards the right in 2010, along with nearly every other group, by a few percentage points.  But not even Jennifer Rubin is buying Rep. Smith's theory.

But we should add a couple of caveats. First, Smith notes that Gov. Jan Brewer got 28 percent of the vote, a good result, he suggests, since in 2006 the GOP candidate got 26 percent. Umm … I don’t think barely exceeding the vote totals for 2006, a wipe-out year for the Republicans, should be the goal for the GOP. (Moreover, the percentage of voters who are Hispanic has been increasing in each election, so Republicans will need to do better with each election if they are to retain that share of the general electorate.) And while Rick Perry got 38 percent of the Hispanic vote, he got 55 percent of the overall electorate, suggesting that a huge gap still remains in the GOP’s appeal to Hispanics.

Second, Smith ignores the real issues: tone, rhetoric, and position on legal immigration. Marco Rubio believes in border control, but his life story is built around the immigrant experience, and he eschews inflammatory language that has plagued Republicans like Tom Tancredo. As Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell pointed out to me a few years ago, if the Republicans want to continue to make progress among Hispanic voters, they need to object to the “illegal” part, not the “immigration” part, of the equation.

Now both Smith and Rubin declare that the small rightward slide has to be a product of Republican policies on immigration.  What hasn't occurred to either one of them is that Occam's Razor suggests the far more likely causation for the rightward shift is that some Latino voters that backed the Dems in 2006 and especially 2008 stayed home in 2010 and did not vote at all because the Democrats failed to deliver on comprehensive national immigration legislation.

The Democrats did deliver on a number of things over the last two years.  But even I freely admit Obama over-promised and underperformed, and even then it was the Senate that became the graveyard of so much legislation that got through the House, shepherded by the wildly effective Nancy Pelosi.  She did her job.  She passed legislation in the House.  Literally hundreds of House bills will die in the Senate in six weeks.  Maybe a handful of them will be passed in lame duck.

But Pelosi failed to get immigration reform even through the House during the 111th Congress.  Rep Luis Gutierrez's bill was dead by July, and the DREAM Act that would give immigrants a path to citizenship by serving our country in the military is being tied up by Republicans.  The DREAM Act does have a shot and passing it would go a long way towards reversing the slide of Latino voters to the Republican party, which is exactly why it's being tied up by Republicans.

They know that if they can kill it in the lame duck, it will never pass with a Republican-controlled House.  Democrats are asking Latino voters to take the long view to stick with them, but it's increasingly difficult to do that when Republicans at the state level are making things worse for Latinos in the absence of a national immigration bill...oh, and there's the economy where Latino and African-American minorities in general are facing far higher unemployment rates than the national average.  Surely that is contributing to the slide towards the GOP as well.

Unless the Dems can deliver on the DREAM Act in the lame duck, Smith is right that the slide will continue towards the Republicans, despite not actually naming the reason why.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

If Obama does not constantly mention his Christianity and chooses to stay above the pernicious rumors about his faith, nearly 1 in 5 Americans choose to believe he is a Muslim

These are the unanswered, possibly unanswerable, questions in a new report released today based on surveys analyzing the mid-term elections by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Brookings Institution.

Religion was not a major factor in the economics-dominated vote but views on God, faith, politics, moral issues in the public square and on Islam still have significant impact. And for President Obama, the results track a potentially troubling faith-gap between him and most Americans, a "religion dilemma," the report says.

Most Americans (51%) say President Obama has religious beliefs somewhat or very different than their own while 40% say their views are somewhat or very similar, according to the American Values Survey of 1,494 Americans by the PRRI.

If he does mention his strong Christian faith, he is attacked for being arrogant because a "real Christian" has "no need" to proclaim his faith to others, or people simply don't believe him.

Obama has been dogged by criticism about his faith since he took office. A poll released in late August showed that a growing number of Americans — one in five, up from one in ten in March — say he is a Muslim.

When asked if he prays himself, the president said: "I do. Every night."

He also says that he reads the Bible, and, asked to explain why so many Americans deny that he is a Christian, blamed the internet.

"Well, you know, the Internet has a powerful effect these days, and so, the way rumors can take on a life of their own ends up being very powerful," he said.

Millions of our friends and neighbors will hate Obama no matter what he does.  I honestly don't understand how he copes with it, and I'm a large African-American man who has seen more than his fair share of irrational hatred growing up in North Carolina.  When before has our President ever, every had his faith so openly questioned as being the enemy?  Even our first Catholic President, John F Kennedy, was able to put aside criticisms of his faith.

People keep telling me Obama's race has nothing to do with it.  And no offense, but every person I've heard that from happens to be white.

Irish Eyes Are Crying, Part 9

Meanwhile, Ireland's got a few problems with that whole austerity thing leading to national riots.

After a week that brought Ireland a pledge of a $114 billion international rescue package and the toughest austerity program of any country in Europe, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to Dublin’s streets on Saturday to protest wide cuts in the country’s welfare programs and in public-sector jobs.

The protests centered on a milelong march along the banks of the River Liffey in central Dublin to the General Post Office building on O’Connell Street, the site of the battle between Irish republican rebels and British troops in the Easter Uprising in 1916 — an iconic event that many in Ireland regard as the tipping point in Ireland’s long struggle for independence.

The choice of venue for the protests by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, coordinating the march through the city, reflected the mood of anger, dismay and recrimination in the wake of the economic shocks of the past 10 days. Those shocks have been the culmination of two years in which the economy has shrunk by about 15 percent, faster than any other European economy.

Before that, Ireland enjoyed more than a decade of unprecedented prosperity, so the rescue package being worked out by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union and the austerity program the Dublin government has been forced to adopt to secure the bailout loans have come as a deep jolt.

Among other things, the austerity package will involve the loss of about 25,000 public-sector jobs, equivalent to 10 percent of the government work force, as well as a four-year, $20 billion program of tax increases and spending cuts like sharp reductions in state pensions and the minimum wage. One Dublin newspaper, the Irish Independent, estimated that the cost of the measures for a typical middle-class family earning $67,000 a year would be about $5,800 a year. 

Again, this is the kind of pain that the Village centrist say we must go through in order to "regain our country".  The problem is this Irish bailout is literally jacking up taxes and killing social spending in order to save the country's bankers.   Remember, it wasn't public debt that was Ireland's problem, it was debt created by the Irish banks to fund their own version of Big Casino.

Before the bank bust, Ireland had little public debt. But with taxpayers suddenly on the hook for gigantic bank losses, even as revenues plunged, the nation’s creditworthiness was put in doubt. So Ireland tried to reassure the markets with a harsh program of spending cuts.

Step back for a minute and think about that. These debts were incurred, not to pay for public programs, but by private wheeler-dealers seeking nothing but their own profit. Yet ordinary Irish citizens are now bearing the burden of those debts.

Or to be more accurate, they’re bearing a burden much larger than the debt — because those spending cuts have caused a severe recession so that in addition to taking on the banks’ debts, the Irish are suffering from plunging incomes and high unemployment.

But there is no alternative, say the serious people: all of this is necessary to restore confidence. 

No wonder Irish are taking to the streets, some 50,000 in Dublin alone.  Their entire economy was screwed over to support the bankers, and the Irish taxpayer is being put on the hook to pay for it.  So not only do they have a recession thanks to the banks exploding, they now have to pay for the banks' mistakes on top of everything else.

Yeah, I'd be pissed too.  And remember...our own political class is expecting us to do the same thing.

Korean-ning Off The Rails

So while we were busy over here with mock bombs, TSA groping, basketball injuries and iPads, certainly Korea has found a way to calm down after last week's artillery incident, right?  The business of Asia is business, and my friend Asariel has his own econ blog, The Great Redoubt taking a hard numbers look at the world of finance and politics from a practical perspective.  So is it business as usual over there this weekend?


Well, at least there's some good news. North Korea apparently expressed regret for the civilian deaths. In this regard, a spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea released a statement on Friday.
The recent military provocation by the puppet group is a product of the deliberate and premeditated plot hatched by it to save its smear confrontational campaign from total bankruptcy, tarnish the daily rising might of the DPRK, scuttle the efforts for improving the north-south relations and tide over the domestic and international isolation and crisis, it points out, and says: 
The group perpetrated the recent provocation prompted by a sinister calculation that in case the DPRK did not make any reaction it would take it as "a tacit recognition" of the illegal "northern limit line" and make it a fait accompli and in case the DPRK took a military counter-action, it would use it as a pretext for kicking up anti-DPRK smear campaign.
I give up. Watch for the Asian markets to tank on Monday.

Yeah.  Agreed.  This is thirteen flavors of bad right here folks, and with Asia and Europe all going haywire (like myself, Asariel believes all eyes should be on Portugal next) it's not going to be good for us over here.  Not to mention as Asariel reminds me "The Korean War never officially ended."

StupidiNews Focus: A Tree-Mendous Effort

We're already hearing how "Obama got lucky again" stopping last night's attempted car bomb at a tree lighting ceremony in Oregon.  Luck had nothing to do with it.  The FBI had this guy cold and the public was never in danger.  Procedure triumphed here.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, was arrested on suspicion of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He is a resident of Corvallis, Oregon, and a student at Oregon State University, according to the FBI.

Mohamud was arrested by the FBI and Portland Police Bureau after he attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van that was parked near the tree-lighting ceremony in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Justice Department said in a written statement. However, "the materials were not explosive," said Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd, who called the device a "mock bomb."

"The threat was very real. Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale," said Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. "At the same time, I want to reassure the people of this community that, at every turn, we denied him the ability to actually carry out the attack."

The arrest was the culmination of a long-term undercover operation during which Mohamud had been monitored closely as his alleged bomb plot developed, the Justice Department said. Officials said the public was never in danger from the device.

Law enforcement worked here.  The FBI should be commended for doing its job admirably and gathering overwhelming undercover evidence at every step of the way.  Hopefully this guy will go away for a very, very long time and this will send a message that yes, we know we're onto people who would harm Americans this way.  I have zero sympathy for these terrorist bastards or their agenda, but the point here is that our existing law enforcement procedures worked perfectly here.

That's something we should all be proud of.  Government worked to protect us as it should.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Last Call

President Obama now officially has a Big Fat Alan Simpson Needs To Go problem on his hands.

The co-chair of President Barack Obama's bipartisan deficit commission lashed out at seniors Wednesday because they are unhappy with his ideas for reducing the deficit by cutting Social Security benefits while reducing corporate taxes.

"I've never had any nastier mail or [been in a] more difficult position in my life," Simpson told Jeremy Pelzer at the Casper Star-Tribune. "Just vicious. People I've known, relatives [saying], 'You son of a bitch. How could you do this?'"

The draft report released by Simpson along with co-Chair Erskine Bowles proposed raising the retirement age to 69 by 2070. Additionally, 90 percent of Social Security income would be taxable, as opposed to 82.5 percent as is currently projected.

Critics of the proposal have dubbed the group the "catfood commission" because seniors who see their benefits cut would have to reduce their expenses or find additional sources of income.

"We had the greatest generation," Simpson said. "I think this is the greediest generation."

Whether or not he's right is one thing.  Having him say this in earshot of a reporter is quite another.  Oh, but it gets worse.

Referring to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow as "that," the commission co-chair blamed political polarization for the attacks on him.

"You don't want to listen to the right and the left -- the extremes," he said. "You don't want to listen to Keith Olbermann and Rush Babe [Limbaugh] and Rachel Minnow [sic] or whatever that is, and Glenn Beck. They're entertainers. They couldn't govern their way out of a paper sack -- from the right or the left. But they get paid a lot of money from you and advertisers -- thirty, fifty million a year -- to work you over and get you juiced up with emotion, fear, guilt, and racism. Emotion, fear, guilt, and racism."

Awesome.  He's really blaming the press for actually telling people what he recommended in his own publicly released report.   Furthermore, he's actually upset because he doesn't understand why any rational American would be angry about a plan that cuts Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid benefits in order to lower the tax rate for the richest Americans.  That's something in Alan Simpson's worldview that we should be glad to accept, that it's the natural order of things for us peons, and why can't we just acknowledge that?

"Let them eat cake" is one thing.  This is far more sinister in its implications.  And yet Simpson here represents the prevailing Village Serious Centrist viewpoint: Rachel Maddow and Rush Limbaugh are exactly the same (except Maddow is a fish/inanimate object).  They are extremists outside the worldview of Simpson, as is anyone who isn't a Beltway insider.  Only the Serious Village People in the middle can "govern" and by govern that means make the little people suffer, because that's what the powerful are supposed to do to the small.  If you're poor to the point where you actually need Social Security "handouts", then you're "greedy" and that's your damn fault.  What good are you to Simpson?

Spoken like a man who really, really despises your average American like only a rich and powerful former Senator can.

And yet the larger problem is that President Obama is the one who asked Simpson to help craft this plan. He might want to do something about that.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Me, this morning:

I don't think Palin is completely unqualified to be President because she makes mistakes.  The last perfect person got nailed to a cross two millenia ago, they tell me.   I think she's completely unqualified to be President because she's the kind of person who takes a day of reflection and gratitude and instead turns it into a national hissy fit like the spoiled brat she is.  This is the kind of behavior you expect from Veruca Salt, not the next President.  It is always, always, always about Sarah Palin.  The country does not revolve around her stupid, petty, paranoid insecurities, but you'd be hard pressed to say so when millions believe the sun emerges from her ass every morning.

Sully, this afternoon:

This may be a smart-ass retort; it may be useful inoculation against a potentially damaging gaffe; it may even be a well-researched blog-post, but what it isn't is anything approaching the kind of character we expect in a president. A simple respect for the office she seeks would not reflect itself in these increasingly callow, sarcastic, cheap jibes at a sitting president. But sadly, like so many now purporting to represent conservatism, there is, behind the faux awe before the constitution, a contempt for the restraint and dignity a polity's institutions require from its leaders.

Glad I wasn't the only one who noticed.  Sarah Palin has no conceivable chance in 2012, nor should she.  She is simply too mean.

Assholes And Elbows, Gentlemen

I remember shooting hoops with my dad and brothers in the driveway after Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma's house most years.  President Obama has a similar tradition, only somebody played for keeps this time out.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the President received a dozen stitches after getting hit with an errant elbow during a Friday morning basketball game with White House aide Reggie Love and some unidentified family members at the Fort McNair military base in Washington.

A senior administration official said the cut was not caused by Love, a former player for Duke University who serves as the President's personal assistant, but the official was still checking for more details on who caused the accident.

"After being inadvertently hit with an opposing player's elbow in the lip while playing basketball with friends and family, the President received 12 stitches today administered by the White House Medical Unit," said Gibbs. "They were done in the doctor's office located on the ground floor of the White House."

Clinton jogged, Bush biked, Obama plays hoops.  Hope the guy's alright.  Whoever did throw that elbow has to be pretty mortified, at any rate.  Glad the President is alright.

I've seen worse accidents around my family.  Then again, my hoops games never made national news, either.

Carnivale Of Blood

Rio de Janerio is under siege as criminal gangs are running amok in the favelas, and the Brazilian military has been called in the help contain the violence.

At least 25 people have died and 192 have been detained or arrested since the violence broke out Sunday as a response by drug gangs to an increased police presence in the crime-ridden slums, police said. Criminals have burned more than 96 vehicles.

Three police officers have been injured, according state military police.

About 800 soldiers have been dispatched to the city to protect the perimeter of the areas occupied by police, the state-run Agencia Brasil reported. The military will control all entry points into some slums, the news agency said, citing Roberto Sa, a state security official.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reiterated his support Thursday for state and local officials' efforts, saying he had spoken with the governor of Rio de Janeiro state, Sergio Cabral. The city and the state have the same name.

"I told Sergio Cabral that whatever help he needs from the federal government so people will live in peace in this country, we will give him," Lula said. "Rio de Janeiro can rest assured that we will support the governor and the residents of the state."

Kind of an ugly situation down there.  Hopefully nobody else will get hurt, but I doubt that will be the case.

High Level Interational Diplomacy Is Disturbingly Like Survivor

And WikiLeaks just voted everyone off the island.

The United States has briefed Britain, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Israel ahead of the expected new release of classified U.S. documents, WikiLeaks said on Thursday, citing local press reports.

The whistle-blowing website said by Twitter that American diplomats briefed government officials of its six allies in advance of the release expected in the next few days.

The next release is expected to include thousands of diplomatic cables reporting corruption allegations against politicians in Russia, Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations, sources familiar with the State Department cables held by WikiLeaks told Reuters on Wednesday.

The allegations are major enough to cause serious embarrassment for foreign governments, the sources said.

Some governments appear to be bracing for the impact of the revelations.

According to the London-based daily al-Hayat, the WikiLeaks release includes documents that show Turkey has helped al-Qaeda in Iraq -- and that the United States has supported the PKK, a Kurdish rebel organization that has been waging a separatist war against Turkey since 1984, the Washington Post reported.

The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv warned the Israeli foreign ministry that some of the cables could concern U.S.-Israel relations, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported, citing a senior Israeli official.

I'd be laughing my ass off if we weren't about 35 seconds away from Korean War II: Judgment Day. I really hope there's not any terrible stuff about China or either Korea in this pile of bad, or things could get even worse. Also, half of Europe's governments are facing austerity/bailout revolts anyway. This won't help.

The Turkey thing is somewhat problematic, however.

The Moose Who Stole Thanksgiving

Via Rumproast, I see that not even Thanksgiving is safe from Sarah Palin's desperate attempts to win the news cycle at all costs, and that the only thing you need to know is that the media is unremittingly evil should it ever reveal that she is less than a goddess.  She takes to Facebook to perform the Turkey Day political equivalent of your Aunt Edna getting smashed on a box of wine at the family dinner and then declaring that none of you ever really loved her anyway.

If the media had bothered to actually listen to all of my remarks on Glenn Beck’s radio show, they would have noticed that I refer to South Korea as our ally throughout, that I corrected myself seconds after my slip-of-the-tongue, and that I made it abundantly clear that pressure should be put on China to restrict energy exports to the North Korean regime. The media could even have done due diligence and checked my previous statements on the subject, which have always been consistent, and in fact even ahead of the curve. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story? (And for that matter, why not just make up stories out of thin air – like the totally false hard news story which has run for three days now reporting that I lobbied the producers of “Dancing with the Stars” to cast a former Senate candidate on their show. That lie is further clear proof that the media completely makes things up without doing even rudimentary fact-checking.)

And actually the media makes up stuff all the time.  You know, like President Obama is a Kenyan Muslim or he has a secret army of millions or that he's indoctrinating our schoolchildren.  And yet, President Obama finds a way to run the damn country instead of going on Facebook on Thanksgiving and screaming how he's a victim, and that life is unfair, and that the nation's first African-American President is being held to a higher standard and that all you people suck.

Instead, President Obama continues with his job of being President of the United States, which is a much more difficult job than Governor of Alaska (Sarah Palin couldn't handle because it was hard and stuff and book tours are a lot more fun.)

Everybody makes gaffes.  Ask Joe Biden.  It's how you respond to them that counts, and Sarah Palin only seems to be worried about petty recriminations and looking to blame everybody but herself.  Bob Cesca continues to say it best:  Palin is nothing more than a tween girl on the internet who thinks life is a giant high school popularity contest.

I don't think Palin is completely unqualified to be President because she makes mistakes.  The last perfect person got nailed to a cross two millenia ago, they tell me.   I think she's completely unqualified to be President because she's the kind of person who takes a day of reflection and gratitude and instead turns it into a national hissy fit like the spoiled brat she is.  This is the kind of behavior you expect from Veruca Salt, not the next President.  It is always, always, always about Sarah Palin.  The country does not revolve around her stupid, petty, paranoid insecurities, but you'd be hard pressed to say so when millions believe the sun emerges from her ass every morning.

That's the real problem, the adoring throng who enable her by accepting this nonsense as something Presidential, something that our daughters and sisters and mothers should emulate, that we should somehow reward her for dumping gravy on the table because somebody hurt her goddamn feelings.  America deserves far, far better.

So to you, I say this: In your own words, madam...

Man up.

Act like an adult, you blithering twit.  Life is unfair.  We all have problems much larger than yours, with your generous earnings from FOX and The Learning Channel and your book publisher and your speaking tours and your celebrity appearances.  You are blessed with money, popularity, a large and loving family and you have taken the opportunity John McCain gave you and you have turned yourself into a household name with your efforts and seized the advantages you created.  That is the American way.

It is also the American way to show some gratitude on a day where millions of us Americans who don't have any of that are thankful for what little they do have.  Learn to appreciate what you do have in your life now because I assure you that wheel of fate turns in ways we can never predict and you never know for sure where you will be tomorrow, let alone two years from now.  Savor your blessings.

Because hubris is an unholy bitch, and she will take everything from you when you least expect it, so be thankful on Thanksgiving.

Way to completely miss the point of the holiday.  What an excellent example you set for America.

Not.  Presidential my ass.

Call The Village Police, We Have An Actual Discussion On Our Hands

Chris Hayes filled in for Lawrence O'Donnell on the Last Word on Wednesday night, and opened with a panel discussion of Obama's relationship with the business community that completely broke all Village rules:

It had no fake Democrats pretending to be Republicans, no former Clinton White House staffers pushing sixty, and most of all nobody saying Obama hadn't been bipartisan enough.  In fact, what Ari Berman, Roger Hodge, and Adam Greene spent a good 15 minutes on was something I had yet to seen broached on cable news:  what the hell is Obama thinking when America's corporations are raking in record profits and he's still on bended knee while big business is accusing him of killing their bottom line?  Watch:

Hodge is definitely a Firebagger, but he's balanced out by the progressive PCCC activist Greene, and Berman is in the middle.  But all three men made excellent points at times and Chris Hayes asked some very good questions.  More importantly, they had an adult discussion without the name-dropping, chest-beating, and groupthink common to any other panel I've seen this year.

They all mentioned however that Obama had to take a stand on tax cuts for the middle class and to go after John Boehner to force two votes, one on middle class tax cuts, one on tax cuts for the wealthy.  If Obama didn't, he was done in the eyes of all these guys and much of his base.  Hodge replied that he didn't think Obama was going to do it and that he was bereft of hope on the issue.  Even Greene admitted that he thought Obama's obnoxious habit of being bi-partisan all the bloody time was going to get him killed by the GOP.

I'd have to agree.  We'll see what happens next week with tax cuts and unemployment benefits extensions in the lame duck.

StupidiNews, Black Friday Edition!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Last Call

One last thing to be thankful for, via Digby:

Elizabeth Warren was the first senior Obama administration official to recognize the potentially incendiary impact of a bill that would have made it significantly easier for mortgage companies to foreclose on homes, and her subsequent warnings played a crucial role in persuading the President to veto the measure, according to freshly released documents and people familiar with the deliberations.

Yeah, that's right:  Elizabeth Warren persuaded the President to pocket veto the MERS Get Out Of Jail Free Bill.

It's going to be ugly for her now.  The banks know she has to go or they are in real trouble.  Expect to see continued brutal GOP opposition against anything she suggests regarding protecting the American people from the banks.

More Stuff To Be Thankful For

While you're watching the Lions and Cowboys get slapped around later this afternoon, some more perspective courtesy Barry Ritholtz.

Eighty-five percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2009, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households (14.7 percent) were food insecure at least some time during the year.

Something to consider on this holiday when we give thanks for what we have.  As the holiday season kicks into high gear, please consider helping those less fortunate than yourself:
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. ~ Winston Churchill

Indeed. If you happen to have any leftover canned goods you didn't open up or anything you can donate to a food bank this weekend, this is the time to do it. One in seven of us need help setting the table this year. Odds are very, very good someone you know is in that particular boat.

Help out if you can.  There but for the grace of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and all that.  Americans stick together when things get bad.  Be thankful for that.

Today In Village Idiocy

Dean Broder has declared that Sen. Lisa Murkowski's write-in victory in Alaska means America wants bipartisan everything, which is about the most single inane thing one could possibly draw from her win.

The demographics required that Murkowski seek support from Democrats and independents, as well as Republicans. But she said their expectations did not differ from group to group. "I think what they are looking for is the same thing that any Alaskan is looking for: Represent our state. Work together with people that have opposing viewpoints to build good policy that allows our state and our nation to go in a positive direction.

"I think that's what voters are looking for. I don't think that most are looking for somebody that is going to follow the litmus test of one party or another, and never deviate from it. I think they want us to think, and I think they want us to work cooperatively together. So, that's my pledge to all Alaskans, regardless of whether you are the most conservative Republican or the most liberal Democrat, I'm going to try to find a way that we can find common ground to help the state and to help our country."

Want to know what the election was about? That's an authoritative answer

And as usual, Broder doesn't know a damned thing. What the Alaska election was about was that a unique electorate who felt betrayed by Governor Half-Term liked Lisa Murkowski, and they realized that the best way to keep Joe Miller and his unique brand of earmark hating crazy out of the Senate was to put her back into office.

What the election means is that Lisa Murkowski knew Alaska far, far better than Sarah Palin did and Murkowski bet that she could win on a coalition of people who didn't want Joe Miller to be their Senator.  There's not really anything applicable to the other 49 states here, much less being the lesson of the entire 2010 election.  It was all about Alaska telling their former Governor and Joe Miller to go to straight to hell.

Broder is a senile old goofball, or he'd realize that Murkowski's platitudes were just that.  No, Lisa Murkowski saw an opportunity to stick it to her rival, to get her Senate seat back, and to continue on the gravy train.  Enlightened self-interest, with enough abject horror at the thought of Sen. Joe Miller that she was able to pull it out.

That's it.  No grand unifying lesson here...other than Sarah Palin's dismal favorability ratings are well earned.
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