Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Last Call

Two things, tonight.

Rep. Jack Murtha is reportedly still in the ICU and in pretty bad shape tonight, and

In Illinois, it looks like Rep. Mark Kirk will be the GOP candidate for Obama's Senate seat.  The Democratic primary is somewhat closer, but it's looking like Alexi Giannoulias is winning with about 2/3rds of the vote counted.

We'll see how both of those stories turn out tomorrow.

A Room With A Moose Lady

And not much else, as the Rumpies remind us that Starburst Fest '10 is sinking like an anvil at a boat show.
That hefty speaking fee, reportedly $100k, convinced our Sarah that the Tea Party Convention was a much more worthwhile organization with which to align herself.  Well, luckily she apparently got half that fee up front cause the rest of it’s looking a little shaky these days.

Even FauxNews is admitting the Convention is in trouble.
The first National Tea Party Convention is slated for the end of this week, but several big names and events have cancelled after questions rose about the high fees to attend and the treasure chest where the money will end up.
Over the past few weeks, several sponsors, speakers and volunteers have backed out of the convention, scheduled Feb. 4-6 at Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., after learning that the convention organizer, Tea Party Nation, is a for-profit company. Some activists and outsiders alike are questioning the motives of Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips.
Not our Sarah though!
Oh, you betcha I’m going to be there,” Palin told Fox News. “I’m going to speak there because there are people traveling from many miles away to hear what that tea party movement is all about.”
And besides, how else am I gonna get the rest of my dough, goshdarnit!!
Well, there's always SarahPAC buying more of her book... or her magazine...or her fuzzy moose slippers...or her wolf-hunting helicopter playset...or her Fisher-Price family complete with Action Progressive Blogger Blocking Todd.

Oh sure, you laugh now.  Give it a year.  Action figures.

Blown Up In Your Faces

Richard Cohen's craptastic column today complaining of Obama's utter failure on terrorism and pleading for a police state to keep us safe looks particularly moronic in light of this news:
CNN's Barbara Starr, moments ago:
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab ... has been talking to investigators since last week.  According to this law enforcement official, he has been providing what is called useful, current and actionable intelligence.
Politico Breaking News email, moments ago:
The “underwear bomber” has begun cooperating with FBI counterterrorism agents and has provided “useful, current” intelligence, a law enforcement source told POLITICO. The source said: "It started last week, and has continued for several days. ... We have been following up. The intelligence is not stale."
Same applies to David Frum who voiced basically the same idiocy yesterday:
And from the national security perspective of the right, the policy is equally bizarre. If you want to build a federal case against an accused terrorist, you have to follow federal criminal rules from the beginning: that's why the Obama justice department read a Miranda warning to the underwear bomber. But following federal criminal rules means closing our ears to valuable information. As soon as the underwear bomber got his Miranda warning, he stopped talking.
Except Frum, as usual, has no idea what he's talking about.  There's a shocker.

Cashing Out

The pro-health care reform and the anti-health care reform groups have drastically scaled back TV ads since Scott Brown won.
One month ago, interest groups on both sides of the health care debate spent more than $1 million per day on television ads, with more than 390,000 ads airing in all of 2009 through today. Now, that spending has dropped off to just "barely" $1 million per week, said Evan Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis group.

Tracey said there was $210 million spent on health care ads in all of 2009 through January. Most of that was in the summer and fall of 2009, and only $12 million was spent in January.

The ads that remain on the air are just a trickle nationally - with a handful of AARP and Conservatives for Patients Rights commercials airing during national cable shows - and the in-state spending targeting specific senators and representatives has dried up, Tracey said.

"This is definitely a big drop. Everybody is catching their breath at the very least," he said.
Both sides may be taking a breather...or it could very well be that both sides are convinced that the battle's already over now and that ads aren't going to make a difference.  I can understand the anti-HCR forces taking five, but seeing the pro-side pack it in when we're "on the two-yard line" or whatever is pretty depressing.

Don't give up the fight, however.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Think

Admiral Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs head, today voiced his opinion on DADT.
Mullen said that the Joint Chiefs of Staff "have reviewed the fundamental premises behind 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and "understand perfectly the president's desire to see the law repealed."

He also said it was his "personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do."

"No matter how I look at this issue," Mullen said, "I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."

Late Update: Mullen just tweeted: "Stand by what I said: Allowing homosexuals to serve openly is the right thing to do. Comes down to integrity."
Good for him.  The response from our top military brass?  "Comes down to integrity."

The conservative response?  I pick Max Boot for this little kickball team.
One of the adaptations the military has made is to allow women into most billets but not into tight-knit combat formations — nuclear submarine crews or infantry squads. They live in close quarters and often-unpleasant conditions where privacy is nonexistent and trust and esprit de corps are all-important. I remember discussing the issue last year with a Special Forces team deployed in the field and was struck by the unanimity of opinion against lifting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The special operators were horrified at the thought of gays in their ranks. This may be rank prejudice, and perhaps the result of ignorance, since there are already probably some gays in their midst. But the attitude still exists and higher authority can tamper with the policy only at the risk of causing a drop in morale.

Special Forces is one of the areas in which women are still not allowed to serve even though most jobs in the military have been opened to them. Why not simply extend to gays the same policy applied to women? That is, let gays serve openly in most billets but not in a few combat designations. It seems like a reasonable compromise.
The response from the kickball team? "Special Forces, our most deadly and most well-trained troops in the field, are homophobic misogynist assholes who are vulnerable to cooties from women and gays, so we need to protect them."

Right then.  Soldier on.

First Approximation Mentat Stuff

Given the following data:

1) The GOP talking point that Obama and the Democrats are responsible for a majority of the $12 trillion in national debt,
Hensarling: You are soon to submit a new budget, Mr. President. Will that new budget, like your old budget, triple the national debt and continue to take us down the path of increasing the cost of government to almost 25 percent of our economy? That’s the question, Mr. President.
2) The Village talking point that the national debt is now the single greatest threat to our national security,
First of all the budget ... and these deficits.. Deficits, red ink as far as the eye can see! Even if you can achieve your very optimistic goal,s and that is to bring down some of these deficits by 2015, they go back up again by 2019 and 2020! beyond the level that is considered sustainable. Larry Summers, long before he was in the Obama White House has said,"how long can the world's greatest borrower remain the world's greatest power?"

Have we reached a point where our deficits have become a national security issue?
3) The Kroog pointing out the Obama administration's projections on unemployment in 2011 will still be 9% or more:
So what’s the response to this dismal, family-destroying prospect? A brief, small additional stimulus, followed by a spending freeze. In essence, the administration is accepting mass unemployment as just one of those things we have to live with.

Now, we all know that this mainly reflects political constraints; this isn’t an Obama-bashing post. But think about how sick our political system is, if this is the best we can do. Nobody — not the Fed, not the administration, not Congress, is willing to do anything to create jobs despite dire projections.
4) And this Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll on Republicans:
"Should Barack Obama be impeached, or not?" Yes 39%, No 32%, Not Sure 29%.
...my inner Thufir Hawat is telling me that 18 months from now is going to be looking a lot like October '98- March '99.

Just sayin'.

Pull No Punches

BooMan waves goodbye to Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Screwed), who according to a new PPP poll is now losing by a massive 23 points to Republican John Boozman.
She tried to be 'moderate' or 'centrist' by seeking in a very public way to water down health care reform. In return, she's won a 9% approval rating among Republicans and a 17% approval rating among Independents. We don't know what those numbers would look like in the alternative universe where she was supportive of a public option, but they couldn't be much worse. She got no bang out of her approach with the people you might predict would be pleased with it. Instead, she alienated her base. Just 51% of Democrats approve of the job she's doing, and that is why she has no chance of winning reelection.

I think it is safe to say that prior to the health care debate Sen. Lincoln was a fairly popular low-profile senator. After the death of Teddy Kennedy produced a game of musical committee chairs, she was lucky to land in the chair of the Agriculture Committee. In that position, she is poised to do a lot of good for Arkansan farmers and businesses. Her reelection should be a no-brainer. But she did the absolute worst thing. She told everyone that the health care bill was too liberal and then she voted for it. Stupid, stupid, stupid
No complaints here and frankly I'm not sorry to see her go.  Her entire career has been serving the interests of Wal-Mart at the expense of the Dems, and when she got caught between Wal-Mart and her party, she choose poorly.

The problem with middle-of-the-road centrism is eventually you're going to get run over.  Blanche Lincoln is about to find this out the hard way.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Over at Balloon Juice, Doug asks:
I think it’s fair to ask, and I don’t mean this in a snarky way: is the Taliban this crazy? If one made an honest, detailed comparison between the beliefs of Republican rank-and-file and the beliefs of Taliban rank-and-file, what conclusions would one reach? This is a serious question.
Serious answer:  The Taliban are in fact ready to sacrifice themselves in order to defeat their enemies and to impose power.  Republicans are a lot smarter...they're willing to sacrifice anyone else but themselves in order to defeat their enemies and impose power.

Congressman Murtha Hospitalized

19-term Pennsylvania Dem Rep. John Murtha is in intensive care in serious condition at this hour.
A spokesman for the lawmaker, who has served in Congress since 1974, said Murtha underwent an operation last week to remove his gallbladder, and the new hospitalization is related.

“Complications did arise from the surgery and he is currently at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington,” a suburb outside Washington, spokesman Matthew Mazonkey said.
More on this as it develops. (h/t NBC)

Lifestyles Of The Conservative And Stupid

Today's must-read is Double G tearing Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute a new asshole.  O'Hanlon basically says that our 18-year old kids in the military will never understand being gay, so because there's always going to be immature teenagers in the military, we'll always need DADT.  Double G takes a sledgehammer to this, but it's his final point that is his strongest:
Finally, what does Michael O'Hanlon know about the military, and why is he -- of all people -- being held out as some sort of expert on these matters?  He's never been anywhere near the military.  He specializes in establishing himself as a "testosterone-laden tough guy" by cheerleading for wars and urging that we send other people off to fight them -- all from the safety and comfort of his Brookings office.  Several months ago, over 100 retired Generals and Admirals -- people who, unlike O'Hanlon, actually understand the military first-hand  -- called for a repeal of DADT so that gay people can serve openly.  Why would anyone believe that someone like Mike O'Hanlon, who relentlessly waves his pom-poms for war while ensuring he never fights them, has anything worthwhile to say on the topic of the military's ability to successfully integrate openly gay service members?
And that goes for the entire Village pundit class over the last nine years or so.  Why does anyone believe these neo-con rah-rah idiots have any credibility on the military at all, on any subject involving the U.S Military, period?  O'Hanlon doesn't.  The top brass guys I'm much more likely to believe.

Secondly, O'Hanlon's major premise is in itself obscene:  Men charged with the safety of our nation, issue weapons and training in order to be able to take an enemy's life in combat, are too immature to be able to handle having a gay comrade in arms around.  Are you kidding me?

People who are sanctioned to kill in the name of the United States are in fact not mature enough to handle homosexuality?  That's idiotic on its face.  O'Hanlon should be laughed off the national stage for that.

Yet he's a Serious Village Pundit.   My God.  More than anything else, we need a better pundit class.

Moose Versus Rahm

Sarah Palin is calling for Rahm Emmanuel's head because he used the word "retarded." Via the Rumpies:
The Obama Administration’s Chief of Staff scolded participants, calling them, “F—-ing retarded,” according to several participants, as reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Just as we’d be appalled if any public figure of Rahm’s stature ever used the “N-word” or other such inappropriate language, Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities – and the people who love them – is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking.
Now, Zandardad has made a living working with the developmentally disabled, and I've written before on the mendacity of Sarah Palin using Trig Palin's disabilities to make a political statement.  This is no different, frankly.  Comparing "retarded" to the N-word is and demanding Rahmbo's job because of it is so baldly political that it slides all the way into shrill and cynical territory.

You know, kind of like using your toddler as a political prop.  It rings hollow.

[UPDATE 12:16 PM]  Rahmbo however has apologized to the head of the Special Olympics for the remark.  Meanwhile, we've filled our Useful Idiots quota as the Firebaggers are siding with Moose Lady. To be fair, they've been calling for Rahm to be canned for some time now, and even I have my doubts about the guy.

If you're going to fire him, make sure it's a better reason than "Because Sarah Palin was mad."  Double talking health care reform to death?  Sure.  To validate Sarah Palin's use of her son as a human shield?  No.

The Paramount Civil Liberty

Richard Cohen is off and running in the 2010 Village Idiot Stupid Phrase Of The Year Contest with his column in the Washington post this morning.
KSM, Abdulmutallab and other accused terrorists should be tried. But these two are not Americans, and they are accused of terrorism, tantamount to an act of war -- a virtual Pearl Harbor, in KSM's case. A military tribunal would fit them fine. If it is good enough for your average GI accused of murder or some such thing, it ought to be good enough for a foreign national with mass murder on his mind.

No doubt George Bush soiled America's image abroad with what looked liked vigilante justice and Dick Cheney's hearty endorsement of ugly interrogation measures. But more is at stake here than America's image abroad -- namely the security and peace of mind of Americans in America. Bush stands condemned by the facts for Sept. 11 -- his watch, his responsibility -- and in all likelihood he bent over backward to ensure that nothing like those attacks would happen again.

The Obama administration, on the other hand, seems to have bent over backward to prove to the world it is not the Bush administration and will, almost no matter what, ensure that everyone gets the benefit of American civil liberties. But the paramount civil liberty is a sense of security and this, sad to say, has eroded under Barack Obama. Repeatedly, the administration has shown poor judgment. Abdulmutallab's silence is a scream that something is wrong. 
I'm sorry, I didn't know John Yoo was ghostwriting these days.  I don't even know where to start with this GOP talking point blather, but let's begin with that premise that the "paramount civil liberty is a sense of security."  Really?  I don't think our Founding Fathers would have agreed with that.  Franklin famously said "Those who would trade a little liberty for a little security deserve neither."

And it's the paramount part I have the issue with.  "sense of security" is more important than freedom, equality, respect, justice, and due process?  That's not the formula for a democracy, that's the basis of the police state in all of its dark glory.  I don't honestly believe I'm reading this.

If you accept that security is the paramount civil liberty, then you are a fascist, pure and simple.  You believe that all the others take a back seat to being secure, whether it is actual security or not.  It's madness, plain and simple.

This column is a scream that something is wrong with our Village media and badly wrong at that.  When your work starts to look like a World Net Daily diatribe on how Obama is destroying the entire country, it's time to hang it up, Cohen.

Foreclosing On A Dream, Part 2

The Foreclosure crisis isn't over, folks.  It's just beginning.
The share of borrowers who are falling seriously behind on loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration jumped by more than a third in the past year, foreshadowing a crush of foreclosures that could further buffet an agency vital to the housing market's recovery.

About 9.1 percent of FHA borrowers had missed at least three payments as of December, up from 6.5 percent a year ago, the agency's figures show.

Although the FHA's default rate has been climbing for months and eating into the agency's cash, the latest figures show that the FHA's woes are getting worse even as the housing market shows signs of improvement. The problems are rooted in FHA mortgages made in 2007 and 2008. Those loans are now maturing into their worst years because failures most often occur two to three years after a mortgage is made.

If the trend continues and the FHA's cash reserves are exhausted, the federal government would automatically use taxpayer money to cover the losses -- a first for the agency, which has always used the fees it charges borrowers to pay for its losses.

As these loans from 2007 and 2008 go bad and clear off of the FHA's books, agency officials said, losses are expected to taper off, aided by the housing market's anticipated recovery and an influx of more creditworthy borrowers, who have flocked to the FHA's home-buying program in the past year.

Agency officials said they have cracked down on poorly performing lenders and announced higher qualifying fees for borrowers. On Monday, the agency projected that the fees should generate $5.8 billion in fiscal 2011, up from $2 billion this year. That would fatten the FHA's cash cushion, used to cover unexpected losses. 
The problem is the people who get foreclosed on are screwed, and there will be millions of them.  It may be better for the FHA's books, but the taxpayer is still going to be picking up the tab for this mess eventually, either through another government agency or another bailout, not to mention the million who will lose their homes not exactly being a positive effect on the overall economy right now.

And it'll get a whole lot worse from here.

Budget Buster, Part 2

GOP Rep. Paul Ryan has put his money where his mouth is and has come up with an alternative budget for 2011.  Steve M. argues that this is a huge opportunity for the Dems if they bring Ryan's budget up for a debate and a floor vote.
Well, I see that Republicans have given Democrats an opportunity to being rectifying this imbalance -- an opportunity they almost certainly won't take advantage of. GOP congressman Paul Ryan, widely regarded (across party lines) as the Republicans' Mr. Wizard on budget matters, has published a budget proposal. And the Congressional Budget Office says it wipes out long-term debt (PDF)

Ah, but, as Ezra Klein notes, not withouta fair amount of pain:
To move us to surpluses, Ryan's budget proposes reforms that are nothing short of violent. Medicare is privatized. Seniors get a voucher to buy private insurance, and the voucher's growth is far slower than the expected growth of health-care costs. Medicaid is also privatized. The employer tax exclusion is fully eliminated, replaced by a tax credit that grows more slowly than medical costs. And beyond health care, Social Security moves to a system of private accounts

... The proposal would shift risk from the federal government to seniors themselves. The money seniors would get to buy their own policies would grow more slowly than their health-care costs, and more slowly than their expected Medicare benefits, which means that they'd need to either cut back on how comprehensive their insurance is or how much health-care they purchase. Exacerbating the situation -- and this is important -- Medicare currently pays providers less and works more efficiently than private insurers, so seniors trying to purchase a plan equivalent to Medicare would pay more for it on the private market.
I want this budget to be up for consideration in Congress -- this year. If Republicans won't put their money where their mouth is by sponsoring this as a bill, I think a number of Democrats should do it for them -- making it abundantly clear that it's the Republican budget and they don't actually support it. I think, by whatever parliamentary means necessary, this bill should be cleared for committee and floor votes.

Do it while debating the Democratic budget. Call it an exercise in true democracy -- the majority party is opening up full debate on the minority's proposals. That's what Republicans say the American people want, right? Despite the results of the 2008 elections, Republicans say the public doesn't want Democratic control in Washington -- right? So here it is -- sharing of power. We're debating your budget, Republicans.

Your Medicare-eviscerating, Social Security-privatizing budget.
Agreed.  Let's put Republicans on the record as for or against "I Got Mine, Screw You, The Budget Proposal."  Let's debate it.  Let the Republican get up in front of America's seniors and say "We're kicking you our of Medicare and giving you a voucher.  Go buy your own insurance.  P.S. It's going to be worse than what you have now."  Do that.

Then point out that's the Republican plan for everything.  "Here's a voucher, local government.  Go buy your police force and your water works.  Here's a voucher, state government.  Go buy your education system and social services and your bridges.  We're not helping you run them anymore.  Privatize them."

Disaster Capitalism.  Break a government system, then demand it be scrapped and privatized, where only cost matters, not service.  And that frees up more federal money for wars (also privatized).  Won't that be great?

So yes.  Let's have America see what the Republican solution to the problem is, punching seniors right in the checkbook as the largest generation of Americans ever get ready to retire.

Moose Lady's Feeling Randy, Part 2

BooMan weighs in on Sarah Palin endorsing Rand Paul.
I know a lot of liberals who are attracted to elements of Paulism. They like his positions on our imperialism and the War on Drugs, to choose just two examples. But I know John McCain doesn't agree. In fact, almost no Republicans agree. Yet, Palin endorsed Rand Paul over the establishment candidate.

To be honest, I don't think Palin has a clue what kind of beast she is messing with. It was Bill Kristol and his friends who convinced McCain to pick Palin in the first place. Kristol's whole universe is built around our empire. He must be pretty miffed to see Palin turn into a Paulist. I find the whole thing amusing. But it's also somewhat dangerous. Ron Paul is right about a few things but he and his followers and basically insane. It will do no one any good if they start winning elections. 
And that does a very good job of summing up how I feel.  I do like the fact that somebody sees that the end of the American Empire is necessary for us to be able to get this country back together financially.  But the rest of Paulism is crazy, it's the belief that absolutely no good whatsoever can ever come from the state or from government.  It also doesn't help that the guy's named after Ayn Rand and wants to basically run the country like The Fountainhead.  You thought Grover Norquist hated government?  No, he just wants to use it to preserve his own power.  Paulism really does want to destroy it across the board.

I certainly don't want this guy representing me in Congress for the next six years, where he can do some actual damage.  This year proved how much havoc a single Senator can wreak.

But if there's an uneducated electorate out there, it's the state of Kentucky.  And Rand Paul just might be able to pull one over on the Bluegrass State.

StupidiNews, Groundhog Day Edition

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