Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Last Call

The Banksters bombed in Washington today, but they may get the last laugh after all.
The tension at the first hearing of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission was evident from the outset.

"People are angry," commission Chairman Phil Angelides said. Reports of "record profits and bonuses in the wake of receiving trillions of dollars in government assistance while so many families are struggling to stay afloat has only heightened the sense of confusion," he said.

Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, took the brunt of the questions, especially on his firm's practice of selling mortgage-backed securities and then betting against them.

"I'm just going to be blunt with you," Angelides told him. "It sounds to me a little bit like selling a car with faulty brakes and then buying an insurance policy on the buyer of those cars."

Blankfein replied: "I do think the behavior is improper. We regret the consequence that people have lost money in it." Later, though, he defended the firm's actions as "exercises in risk management."
We regret the consequence that your ass isn't in jail, Lloyd.  But hey, the dog and pony show must go on, while in the back rooms the deals are cut and the rich get richer.

Do you think this administration is going to do anything to the banksters besides give them more of our money?

If you do, I've got some securitized financial instruments I'd like to sell you...

The Real Problem With Haiti

As BooMan points out, the real disaster in Haiti is the fact that while in the case of New Orleans and Katrina, there was still then entire rest of the US that pitched in to help.  Haiti on the other hand doesn't exactly have a prosperous economy.  Not the kind that can rebuild an entire country, basically.

The cost will be astronomical.  And a disaster of this magnitude in the new global economy is only the beginning.

New tag, as I foresee a lot of posts on it:  Haiti.

[UPDATE 8:05 PM] And we have have out first Villager already saying that Obama is now on the hook politically for Haiti, via John Cole.  It should surprise a grand total of zero readers of this blog that the culprit is one Howard Fineman.
Elected in part out of revulsion at the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, Obama now finds himself confronting an even more devastating and complex humanitarian crisis.

And, adding irony upon irony, the racial context of New Orleans is writ large in Port-au-Prince. Katrina cost George W. Bush what little standing he had among moderates in his own party in part because the shocking images of suffering in New Orleans were so racially imbalanced.
To recap, Bush screwed up Katrina, therefore Obama has to work ten times as hard to fix Haiti (which is now our 53rd state next to Iraq and Afghanistan, apparently) or he's worse than Bush because it's proof that Obama doesn't care about black people and the Democrats will pay for it at the polls in November.

Gosh, it's almost like Fineman is buying into El Rushbo's theory that Obama is only helping Haiti to earn racial "credibility."  After all, Limbaugh is America's go-to expert on what African-Americans think about other African-Americans.

I wonder when anybody is going to ask President Harold Ford what Obama should do.

Ahh, Just Screw It

Steve M. opines that maybe...just would be better for the Dems in the long run if Coakley lost, because odds are either Ben Nelson or Joe F'ckin Lieberman are going to screw over the Dems anyway and health care reform will never pass.
Think about it. We already know that a tight Coakley win will be declared a Democratic loss. Coakley will be the 60th vote for health care, but a bill might fail anyway (with the failure blamed on the majority party), or it might pass and continue to be (as it is now) unpopular. And then the other big fights of 2010 will go pretty much the same way: Democrats, on paper, have the numbers to prevail, but the bills will be fought and demagogued and lied about by Republicans and right-wing pundits and bloviators, and by opportunistic Blue Dogs, and the end result will be inaction, weak bills, or some combination of the two. This is what Democrats will have to run on in the midterms.

Now imagine a Brown win. First off, there'll be no chance anymore that the health care bill will die because of the incompetent cat-herding skills of Democratic leaders -- it'll die at the hands of Brown and the GOP's new cloture-proof superminority.

As will everything else on the president's agenda.

Now we'll have a new narrative going into the midterms: Obama vs. the do-nothing Congress. Obama and congressional Democrats vs. the Party of Obstructionism, the Party of No.

Am I crazy to think that just might be an easier narrative for Democrats to win with, or at least to stave off huge losses with?
I have entertained the thought.  But I've arrived at an answer, and that answer is No.  Because then the Republicans will know they can simply block the Dems from doing anything while saying "The Dems can't even get one Republican vote in the Senate."  And the Village will just move the goalposts anyway.

The problem isn't Coakley or Brown.  The problem is how the Dems continued to be allowed to be perceived by the village.  They were feckless wimps when the Republicans ran everything.  They were feckless wimps when they took back the House and Senate.  They are feckless wimps now.  Plus a Coakley loss completely destroys any hope of getting anything decent passed, the Village will see to that.

The Dems are damned by the Village if Coakley wins or Coakley loses.  Ergo, win anyway, keep 60 votes, and get something done.

Just Sayin'

In a day where hundreds of thousand of Haitians may be dead in a catastrophe of nightmarish proportions, it's good to know that Memeorandum has its head on straight as to what's really important:

...whether or not the guy that pushed John McCormack of the Weekly Standard was just some guy, or if President Obama's trained hitman/spymaster Rahm Emmanuel has a hidden assassin on the Coakley staff.

Serious bidness.

Not Even 24 Hours

The usual suspects are already attacking President Obama for his response to the Haiti earthquake, less than 24 hours after it has happened.  El Rushbo:

He's not doing it out of humanity.  He's doing it to boost credibility with "light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country".

My God.  The man lacks even basic human dignity.

[UPDATE 4:24 PM] And Pat Robertson is blaming the earthquake on...the people of Haiti, for throwing off the colonial yoke of the French.


The Count Of Charlie Crist, Oh! Part 7

Marco Rubio, policy wonk:

RUBIO: Well the problem is the people in Washington don’t understand what’s causing it. They think that Presidents and Senators are job creators and they’re not. The job creators are people who have access to money, whether it’s their own or borrowed, who use that money to open up a new business or expand an existing one. And they’re not doing that right now because of the tax chaos and all the regulatory chaos and all of this uncertainty created in Washington DC. Perhaps the most stimulative thing they can do right now is take a two year recess or something. 
Just so I got this straight, Marco Rubio's plan to fix the economy if elected as Senator from Florida is to complain about Congress not doing anything, and then have them take two years off so they can't do anything.

Right.  That will solve everything.  Doing nothing for two years.

The Next Stupidity

Starting to see a pretty nasty trend out of the Wingers that's shaping up to be the new meme.  The latest Q-poll puts the country pretty evenly split on Barack Obama.
American voters are split 45 - 45 percent on whether Barack Obama's first year in office is a success or failure and split 35 - 37 percent on whether the U.S. would be better off if John McCain had won the 2008 election, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released today. As he marks the first anniversary of his inauguration, President Obama's approval has slipped slightly into an even 45 - 45 percent split for the first time.
And that's important to note, the country's pretty much evenly split.  Here's the issue.
By a 47 - 40 percent margin, independent voters rate Obama's first year in office as mainly a failure; 81 percent of Democrats say it's a success and 75 percent of Republicans say it's a failure. Men say failure 50 - 40 percent, while women say success 49 - 40 percent. White voters say failure 54 - 37 percent, while black voters say success 82 - 7 percent.
So, the new attack point:
And they say we are racits? Blacks say success 82 – 7 vs Whites 54 – 37.

Now who is fooling who? Is it unemployment, or entitlements that blacks are looking at? Obama is a success why in their opinion? Jobs, welfare, ACORN, re-distribution, foreign policy, terrorism? Just why in their eyes is he still an 82% success? That is just as rediculus as them voting for him 97 or 98% whatever they did and claiming they did not vote for him because he is black.

Now, I know this is crap.  African-Americans supporting an African-American President of the Democratic Party should be about as shocking as that yellow burning thing showing up in the sky each morning and providing light.  It can't possibly have anything to do with his policies.

But that's racism, because "real Americans"don't think he's done a good job.  Real Americans think Obama has been a failure because he hasn't fixed America's problems yet.  It's all those black people in the tank for Obama that are the problem, see.

Haiti Update

Haiti's Prime Minister has put the death toll of yesterday's quake at "well over a hundred thousand."  To be honest, it's probably a lot more.

President Obama's remarks, in part:
We are just now beginning to learn the extent of the devastation, but the reports and images that we've seen of collapsed hospitals, crumbled homes, and men and women carrying their injured neighbors through the streets are truly heart-wrenching. Indeed, for a country and a people who are no strangers to hardship and suffering, this tragedy seems especially cruel and incomprehensible.

Our thoughts and prayers are also with the many Haitian Americans around our country who do not yet know the fate of their families and loved ones back home. I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated, and aggressive effort to save lives.

The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble, and to deliver the humanitarian relief -- the food, water and medicine -- that Haitians will need in the coming days. In that effort, our government, especially USAID and the Departments of State and Defense are working closely together and with our partners in Haiti, the region, and around the world.
"Cruel and incomprehensible" does seem to cover it quite effectively.

TPM is doing an outstanding job of collecting and collating all the info out of Haiti today.

[UPDATE 1:22 PM]  Because of the complete lack of infrastructure on the island at this point, we are seeing estimates of a total casualty number somewhere between 200,000 and a much as a half a million. There's just no way to reach survivors in time, and we're looking at a worst-case scenario here where relief aid just can't get to people who need it, and Haiti's government has no infrastructure in place to handle a disaster this huge.  Katrina was a drop in the bucket compared to this, and America has agencies and the ability to handle something like that (although we're still struggling with that today.)

Imagine Katrina, only an order of magnitude worse.  In January.

The Daily Beast has compiled a list of ways you can help.  The scope of this is overwhelming.

The Lesson Of The Massachusetts Senate Race

By Newt Gingrich.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested today the Senate race spells troubled for Democrats.

"There are some things we do know about what's going on in Massachusetts - and they are all bad signs for President Obama and his party," he wrote in a newsletter to supporters today. "Even if Brown doesn't win, the election is a negative referendum on Democratic rule in Washington."
Understand what the problem the Democrats have here is.  Republicans like Gingrich are saying "even if you win, you're going to lose."  That's not it, that's the kind of idiocy one truly expects Gingrich to say.

The problem is the number of Democrats who believe him.  "You won the election!  This means you're doomed!"

This is why the Republicans are able to control our national discourse as the minority party in Washington, because the Democrats let them do it.

Here endeth the lesson.

Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

The Dems may actually find a way to scrap health care reform whether or not Martha Coakley is elected next week, as Steve Benen reports.
For the past couple of weeks, the concern among policymakers has been what happens to health care reform is voters in Massachusetts elect a far-right Republican to the Senate. As of yesterday, the concern seems to be whether reform can get done regardless of what happens in the Bay State.
Health care negotiators are facing "a serious problem" in resolving their differences and are not likely to have a final bill until February, according to key House Democrats involved in ongoing talks.
"We've got a problem on both sides of the Capitol. A serious problem," Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday evening.
The difficulty in hashing out an agreement between the two chambers is largely due to there being so many different factions with a stake in the matter, Rangel said. "Normally you're just dealing with the Senate and they talk about 60 votes and you listen to them and cave in, but this is entirely different," he said. "I'm telling you that never has 218 been so important to me in the House."
Another senior House Democrat familiar with negotiations on the bill said no progress has been made this week on any of the key sticking points in the House and Senate bills, despite steady meetings with union leaders and the White House.
"There's no agreement. No deal on anything. Nothing," the lawmaker said.
It's worth noting that it's generally a mistake to overreact to every discouraging quote from individuals involved in health care talks. Sometimes people get frustrated; sometimes they're talking to the media as part of a negotiating strategy; and sometimes folks just blow off steam.

But at this point, it seems the final talks on the final bill really aren't going very well. This process has obviously been messy since, well, the moment it began. Nevertheless, a quick resolution of the House-Senate differences is unlikely, with major hurdles on financing options, anti-trust provisions, and the scope of the exchange.
Not that a Coakley loss would help any at this point, but it's looking like Ben Nelson's looking to bail, and the House is not willing to bend over and accept the Senate bill as is.

It's going to get darker just before it gets pitch black.

A Dose Of Perspecitive In Haiti

I talk about catastrophes and destruction a lot here, it seems.  It is necessary (and altogether too unfortunate) to have Fate remind you of what the words "catastrophe" and "destruction" truly mean as evidenced by Haiti this morning.
The powerful earthquake that rocked Haiti "destroyed" much of Port-au-Prince, the country's first lady reported, as the widespread devastation in the country's teeming capital came into full view Wednesday as dawn broke.

"We talked with the first lady of Haiti last night, at least our consulate general in Miami did," Raymond Joseph, Haitian ambassador to the United States, told CNN's American Morning, referring to Elisabeth Debrosse Delatour.

"And she said that she was all right and the president {Rene Preval] was all right, and most government officials were all right because this thing happened after hours, and most of the government buildings that have collapsed, collapsed after the employees were out."

But "the bad news is that she said most of Port-au-Prince is destroyed, and she's calling for some help in the form of a hospital ship off the coast of Port-au-Prince, just in the same way that the United States had helped us in 2008 after four hurricanes hit Haiti in three weeks."
The words "most of a city destroyed" are meaningless until you've seen the images.  The pictures, if you have not seen them, are heartbreaking. The Red Cross is saying as many as three million Haitians need emergency help immediately.  Newly appointed USAID director Dr. Rajiv Shah has a hell of a welcome to his new position.

The State Department's official blog has info on how you can help.
For those interesting in helping immediately, simply text "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill.

Or you can go online to organizations like the Red Cross and Mercy Corps Mercy Corps to make a contribution to the disaster relief efforts.

The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747. We'll provide more details and opportunities to help as we learn more. To stay up-to-date, follow us on
Good to see the guys up top using the intertoobs to facilitate a rapid response.

Budget Buster

Now the devil's always in the details when it comes to federal budgets, but if this Reuters article is serious, we're in tremendous trouble.
Following a meeting Tuesday evening of House Democratic leaders, House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt said: "The administration has told me they are going to have a very strict and tight budget this year and that there will be provisions made in it to reduce the deficits in the out years. What form that's going to take, I do not know."

The White House "has to write a budget that meets two very different goals," said Tom Kahn, chief of staff of the House Budget Committee. "One is keeping the recovery going, the other is making long-term improvements to the deficit."

White House budget officials last year asked domestic government agencies to prepare two budgets: one reflecting current funding levels and one with a decrease of 5 percent.

One budget expert predicted that Obama's final proposal will fall in that range.

"My understanding is somewhere between zero and minus five," said Stan Collender, who has worked for both the House and Senate budget committees.

One congressional staffer shared Collender's assessment, though others cautioned it remained unclear what the White House would do.

Any spending cuts would probably not apply to the Defense Department or entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Let that sink in. McCain's people were up front saying that we needed a five-year spending freeze in an economy that was grinding to a halt.  I laughed at the Republicans then.  Now some in the Obama administration are seriously entertaining the notion of as much as a 5% across the board cut in domestic spending during a jobless recovery where the recovery part is only an illusion provided by the stimulus program from last February.  Once again, the Obama administration is coming to the table here expecting domestic spending cuts.

Republicans will no doubt demand hundreds of billions, if not trillions more sliced from the budget on top of this.  The result will be catastrophic.  States are already tapped out.  They can't make up the difference in any way.  We're going to see California-style budget butchering across the country for sure.

"We are so very, very screwed" is what immediately comes to mind.  All a 5% cut is going to do is ensure a double-dip recession becomes a full-blown depression, kids.

Look at your paycheck.  Do you really think the problem right now is the federal deficit?

Have A Coakley And A Smile

John Cole over at Balloon Juice is running an ActBlue online fundraiser for Martha Coakley.

Goal Thermometer

Drop a couple bucks in the pot if you can. As he says:
I know people think this seat is a safe Democratic seat, but no seat is safe in special elections because of turnout, and it looks like the better part of the liberal blogosphere has seriously lost the plot at this point, so we better start somewhere. And soon.
I'll keep this up for the rest of the week.

Just a reminder of what's at stake here:


Epic Village Irony Fail

I like Ezra Klein and respect his opinions, but you completely missed the damn point on Jon Stewart's Daily Show interview with Mr. Torture Lawyer, John Yoo.
Last night's showdown between Jon Stewart and John Yoo was a shuddering disappointment. Stewart didn't lay a glove on Yoo. He began by admitting he doesn't understand this stuff, which is sometimes a feint interviewers use before showing that they, or the people who wrote their questions, really do understand this stuff. Not this time.
Yes, it really was disappointing.  Stewart should have gone for the kill here, but he didn't.  That is Jon Stewart's problem.  Where it becomes your problem, Ezra, is about right here:
This outcome was predictable, though. Anyone who watched Stewart's interviews with Amity Shlaes or Betsy McCaughey saw it coming. Stewart's early takedowns came before people understood that this late-night comedian did takedowns. When Stewart appeared on Crossfire, a scolding was the last thing the hosts expected. At this point, though, Stewart's interviews are well known and so too are his political opinions. It's obvious who he'll take down and how. And so his guests come armed to rebut, and they have more experience defending themselves than Stewart has attacking them. At this point, Stewart is doing more harm than good by giving people whom he thinks are liars and frauds a platform on his show.
Nope, still not getting it.  In that case, let me explain it to you:

You, as an employee of the Washington Post newspaper and using your forum provided by that newspaper, are complaining that a late-night comedian is having trouble taking down Village-enabled Bush-era liars in interviews, and strongly implying that it is the job of the comedian to debunk the lies.

PROTIP:  How about laying off Jon Stewart and demanding your employer debunk John Yoo's lies?  Sure would have been helpful say, oh, 2003 or so, wouldn't it?  How about your own employer not give John Yoo a kick-ass book review?  The one guy you did have at the WaPo who took on the Bush torture regime?  Yeah, your bosses fired Froomkined his ass.  How about yelling at your bosses for not giving people who are liars and frauds a platform?  (and this pretty much goes for any Village outlet, not just the WaPo, but damn Ezra, you should really know better.  Have you read your employer's opinion page lately?)

The fact that anyone is complaining about Jon Stewart not hitting hard enough while using a Village perch to do the complaining from?  That's both hysterically funny and depressing as hell at the same time.



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