Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Last Call

Yggy as usual has a great point: cable news has an inordinate impact on Washington DC, but not the country as a whole.  People don't watch cable news much compared to say, American Idol, Chuck or Lost.
But the reason it’s hard for political pros in DC to grasp this is that people in Washington are constantly watching cable news. It’s really weird. Obviously there’s no way to make this happen, but I think our politics would get a lot healthier if you could simply prevent anyone from watching it during working hours. People would find out that total ignorance of what’s on TV would leave them about as in touch with their constituents are they are right now since nobody watches cable news. By contrast, outlets that really are influential in terms of determining what people know—things like local broadcast TV news—are never watched by DC political professionals because you can’t see them without living in the local area.
The problem is the national media acts as a force multiplier for cable news stories, and that in turn acts as a multiplier for other news outlets.  The Villagers think this is what America wants to hear, because it's what the Villagers hear all day.

The Village decides what's news, but the Villagers are always scouting the cable networks for what news is.  Feed the Village, feed America.  FOX News has definitely figured that out.

The Massa story is a prime example.  My mom wouldn't know Eric Massa from Erik Estrada.  But he got wall-to-wall coverage today because the Village thinks he's what matters.  I seriously doubt America really could give a damn about him compared to paying the bills, keeping the kids in school and working their job.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

El Rushbo's threatening to leave the US if HCR passes?
LIMBAUGH: My guess in even in Canada and even in the UK, doctors have opted out. And once they’ve opted, they can’t see anybody Medicare, Medicaid, or what will become the exchanges. They have to have a clientele of private patients that will pay them a retainer and it’ll be a very small practice. I don’t know if that’s been outlawed in the Senate bill. I don’t know. I’ll just tell you this, if this passes and it’s five years from now and all that stuff gets implemented — I am leaving the country. I’ll go to Costa Rica.
Well don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.

Pass.  The Damn.  Bill.

Cutting A Hole In The Safety Net

When Republicans say they want to "reform Social Security" it means they want to cut benefits as much as possible so that the rich don't have to fund America's growing retiree flood of Boomers.  Republicans, to their credit, know full well the financial disaster is coming.
The percentage of American workers with virtually no retirement savings grew for the third straight year, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The percentage of workers who said they have less than $10,000 in savings grew to 43% in 2010, from 39% in 2009, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute's annual Retirement Confidence Survey. That excludes the value of primary homes and defined-benefit pension plans.

Workers who said they had less than $1,000 jumped to 27%, from 20% in 2009.

Confidence in ability to save enough for a comfortable retirement hovered at 16% of respondents, the second lowest point in the 20-year history of the survey. 
Only one in six believe they will have enough money to retire.  $10k won't get your average retiree through one year, let alone another 20.   Think of how many companies have stopped 401k matching in order to save money.  Think of how many people have simply stopped contributing to their 401k period.

Republicans know that there are going to be some angry people here pretty soon in the Social Security shell game.   And they want the Democrats to have be the ones to make the cuts.  Republicans never will when they are in power:  The Bush years were proof of that.

Then again, it's not like Democrats are going to make those cuts either, but "bipartisan entitlement reform" clearly means "Democrats need to make the cuts, get thrown out of office, and the the GOP takes over."

And A Massa Mom's Barbecue, Part 3

Other shoe dropping, aisle 5.
Former representative. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) has been under investigation for allegations that he groped multiple male staffers working in his office, according to three sources familiar with the probe.

The allegations surrounding the former lawmaker date back at least a year, and involve "a pattern of behavior and physical harassment," according to one source. The new claims of alleged groping contradict statements by Massa, who resigned his office on Monday after it became public that he was the subject of a House ethics committee investigation for possible harassment.

Massa had said that the allegations were limited to his use of "salty language" with his staff. He apologized for making some inappropriate comments and argued he was being unfairly vilified.

Days later, Massa accused the White House and Democratic congressional leaders of trying to oust him from office to improve their chances of passing health-care reform legislation -- a charge that the House majority leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), called "absurd."
Massa could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and no one answered the phone at his home in New York or his campaign office. Staff at his former congressional offices declined to relay messages to him and said they did not know how to reach him.

According to two sources familiar with the probe, Massa's former deputy chief of staff Ron Hikel provided the information about the staffers' allegations to the House ethics committee three weeks ago. Hikel had earlier sought advice from Hoyer's office about brewing internal complaints, the sources said, and had been urged to report the allegations to the committee.

Hikel, reached at his home Tuesday, declined to comment on the ethics investigation. 
OK, and we've now gone from weird to just plain creepy abuse of power.  Goes to show you, this isn't always limited to Republicans either.

Honestly, what is it about the trappings of power that make people do crazy crap like this?  Harassment is harassment, it's all about the power trip and abusing it.  I'm not sad to see this guy resign, regardless of the party he's in. 

District Of Equality, Part 2

Today marked the first day that same-sex couples in Washington D.C. could marry.
Sinjoyla Townsend and Angelisa Young said they had waited years to marry. They were first in line last week to apply for a marriage license at Washington's marriage bureau.

"You are my friend, my partner, my love," Young, 47, told Townsend, 41. "I will love you today, tomorrow and forever."

After the wedding, those present cheered as the two women embraced and cried. They have been together for 12 years and have children, according to biographical information released by the Human Rights Campaign and D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality.

The new law survived a Supreme Court challenge. The measure went into effect last week, but couples had to hold off until Tuesday because of the district's three-day waiting period.
Good for D.C. Equality rolls on, piece by piece. Eventually it will become available for everyone, despite the bigots out there.

Crist Waxes Poetic

Wax on.  Wax off.

"Getting your back waxed" is the new "I have a wide stance".

Short Sale Of The Century

The Obama administration's newest effort to try to stem the foreclosure tide of the millions of American homeowners who owe more than their house is worth?  Government assisted short selling.
This latest program, which will allow owners to sell for less than they owe and will give them a little cash to speed them on their way, is one of the administration’s most aggressive attempts to grapple with a problem that has defied solutions.

More than five million households are behind on their mortgages and risk foreclosure. The government’s $75 billion mortgage modification plan has helped only a small slice of them. Consumer advocates, economists and even some banking industry representatives say much more needs to be done.

For the administration, there is also the concern that millions of foreclosures could delay or even reverse the economy’s tentative recovery — the last thing it wants in an election year.

Taking effect on April 5, the program could encourage hundreds of thousands of delinquent borrowers who have not been rescued by the loan modification program to shed their houses through a process known as a short sale, in which property is sold for less than the balance of the mortgage. Lenders will be compelled to accept that arrangement, forgiving the difference between the market price of the property and what they are owed.

“We want to streamline and standardize the short sale process to make it much easier on the borrower and much easier on the lender,” said Seth Wheeler, a Treasury senior adviser.
It's a damn good idea on paper.  Congress refuses to play ball on cramdown or forgiveness, so let the executive branch handle it through Treasury.  But let's be honest here, there are five million homes facing foreclosure and millions more underwater.  This program won't be nearly enough.

The government's willing to give you $1,000 each for up to two home loans, plus $1,500 for relocating.  That's a decent chunk of cash there for five million homeowners, but if you figure the bank has to eat $50,000 on each short sale, and multiply that by five million...that's a quarter of a trillion bucks right there.  Somehow I don't think the banks are going to go for too many short sales where they forgive Americans for this.

Still, it's better than nothing.  Not by much (a thousand bucks on a $200,000 mortgage?  Really?) but it is better than nothing.

One To Go, All To Keep

Hotline On-Call has done their own whip count in the House and finds that Nancy Pelosi is literally one vote shy of the 216 she needs right now to get the Senate bill through the House...and that's before Bark Stupak makes good on his threat.
A reminder of where we stand now: Health care legislation passed by a 220-215 margin on Nov. 7. Since then, Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Robert Wexler (D-FL) and Eric Massa (D-NY) have resigned. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) passed away. Of that group, Abercrombie, Wexler and Murtha voted in favor. Massa voted against. Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-LA), who voted for the bill, has said he will vote against.

That means Pelosi has lost 4 votes, bringing her to 216. Because there are only 431 members of the House, thanks to the vacancies, Pelosi needs exactly that number to pass reform. Arcuri's decision today brings the number of yes votes down to 215 -- one below the number needed to pass.

Enter Stupak, who claims to have a dozen total votes against the bill if abortion language remains the same. For each member Stupak has convinced to switch their vote, Dems will need to convince another "no" voter to vote yes the second time around.
So now the arm twisting begins, and Pelosi starts out at -1.  Stupak claims he has 12 more no votes in his pocket, but lately he's made noises like he's coming around.  Steve Benen:
Stupak, of course, is threatening to kill the legislation over indirect, circuitous funding of abortion, and claims to lead a bloc of a dozen House Dems who oppose abortion rights. Last week, taking his threats seriously, Democratic leaders began engaging Stupak in earnest, trying to find a way to resolve the impasse.
As of late yesterday, things were looking up.
[Stupak] said he expects to resume talks with House leaders this week in a quest for wording that would impose no new limits on abortion rights but also would not allow use of federal money for the procedure.
"I'm more optimistic than I was a week ago," Stupak told The Associated Press between meetings with constituents in his northern Michigan district, including a crowded town hall gathering where opinions on health care and the abortion issue were plentiful and varied.
There's a certain oddity to the dispute. Generally, when there's a disagreement like this, we see two sides that want to go in different directions, trying to find some areas of common ground. In this case, both sides claim to want the same thing: maintain the status quo as it relates to abortion funding.
And that could be enough to keep Stupak from blowing a hole in this and being vilified by his own party over this, not to mention the fact that he's already being targeted by women's health groups.  Clearly being compared to Republican neanderthals on women's health issues is taking a toll on Stupak.

But that still leaves Pelosi one short with a week to go before the deadline.

Caveat Emptor

Wingers are jumping on this poll that says the US has lost international standing under Obama.
A majority of Americans say the United States is less respected in the world than it was two years ago and think President Obama and other Democrats fall short of Republicans on the issue of national security, a new poll finds.

The Democracy Corps-Third Way survey released Monday finds that by a 10-point margin -- 51 percent to 41 percent -- Americans think the standing of the U.S. dropped during the first 13 months of Mr. Obama's presidency.

"This is surprising, given the global acclaim and Nobel peace prize that flowed to the new president after he took office," said pollsters for the liberal-leaning organizations. 
Please note the wording there.   "Americans think the standing of the U.S. dropped..."  What a ridiculous poll.  If you want to know how the US is perceived internationally by non-Americans, why are you asking Americans?

Why not actually ask people in other countries?

Oh, and it's a Third Way poll...natch.  Gee, if you wanted to give the Wingers an "even the liberal Third Way says..." moment to attack Obama, there you go.

[UPDATE 11:57 AM]  Betty Cracker helpfully answers my question.
As it turns out, Gallup released a poll last month that actually did gauge non-American perceptions of American leadership and presents data from 2006-2009:


So yes, international citizens have a MUCH higher opinion of Obama than Bush.

Dad! Send Lawyers, Bums, And Funny!

The attack on DoJ lawyers as traitors to country and the Constitution for defending accused terrorists is arguably one of the most awful things I've seen the Wingers do here this year...but not as bad as the Village idiots passing this horrific theory off as anything but laughable.  Double G:
By publishing a book that clearly and unapologetically defends the Bush torture regime, Marc Thiessen catapulted himself from obscure, low-level Bush speechwriter into regular Washington Post columnist, joining fellow torture defenders Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol.  Today, Thiessen's column defends the Liz-Cheney/Kristol smear campaign against DOJ lawyers and says this:
Yet Attorney General Eric Holder hired former al-Qaeda lawyers to serve in the Justice Department and resisted providing Congress this basic information. . . . Some defenders say al-Qaeda lawyers are simply following a great American tradition, in which everyone gets a lawyer and their day in court. Not so, says Andy McCarthy . . . . The habeas lawyers were not doing their constitutional duty to defend unpopular criminal defendants. They were using the federal courts as a tool to undermine our military's ability to keep dangerous enemy combatants off the battlefield in a time of war.
So any lawyer who represents accused Terrorists and argues that the Government is violating constitutional limitations in its Terrorism policies is -- all together now -- an "al Qaeda lawyer" (even if those detainees were innocent, as most were).  Worse, these "al Qaeda lawyers" -- which includes large numbers of long-time members of the U.S. military -- are "undermining our military's" efforts to keep us safe.  That sounds like treason to me.  It's great to see the leading newspaper in the nation's capital serving as the primary amplifying force for this McCarthyite smear campaign.  Does it get any more reckless and repugnant -- or primitive and stunted --  than that?  Does The Post have any standards at all?
Yes.  They have a standard to rehabilitate the Bush administration and destroy the Obama one.  It amazes me where Obama is decried as a lawless despot that must be opposed and removed, that the people who want to do say that defending a man accused of a crime is in itself a criminal act, and not just any criminal act, but treason itself.

Who is the tyrant making the mockery of our legal system here again?

Dennis The Menace

Dennis Kucinich may be the guy that drives the knife in on health care reform because it's not progressive enough.  TPM's Brian Beutler:
But one of the House's leading progressives says he's unlikely to be swayed. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) voted against the House health care bill. And his office confirmed to me today that he remains opposed to the Senate bill.

Last week, there were some signs that Kucinich might be persuadable. At a White House meeting Thursday, President Obama apprised Kucinich of a measure in the Senate health care bill--authored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)--that allow individual states to create single payer systems several years down the line. Kucinich was said to be interested in the provision.

Apparently not interested enough.

A couple important caveats: 1). There hasn't been a whip count yet, so members might still be jockeying for leverage, and leadership hasn't had to draw out their big guns yet. 2). In a vote this close, and this important, everything will likely be fluid until the last moment.

But there is some chance, however small, that Kucinich will cast the deciding vote. And for the time being, he's saying he'd rather be the Ralph Nader of reform, instead of its kingmaker. 
Indeed, Kucinich went on Countdown last night with guest host Lawrence O'Donnell and made it painfully clear there was no way in hell he was voting for the measure.

I can respect Kucinich's stand.  But it's this or nothing.  At some point you have to ask yourself if doing absolutely nothing, the status quo that the Republicans will be glad to see continue, is better than this bill.  If Kucinich really thinks the answer is yes, then he's not being true to his principles at all.  Jon Chait:
Without a doubt, Obama’s proposals would leave the health care system far short of what most progressives, myself included, would design in the absence of political constraints. But also without a doubt, it would lift the system far above the status quo that is the only near-term alternative. Here it is, the most dramatic improvement in social justice in at least four decades fighting for its life in the home stretch, and the left can barely be roused to fight for it. The somnolence is far from universal, but on the left there is at least as much passion against health care reform as for it. One of many considerations the vulnerable Democratic moderates who hold reform’s fate in their hands must balance is, in return for the limitless rage of the right, will they get any credit from the left for backing this reform?
Just remember that when the Wingers try to make a hero out of Dennis here.  They hate him and always will...but he's a Useful Idiot to them.

The Count Of Charlie Crist, Oh! Part 12

Charlie Crist is pretty much done as a Republican, folks.
A new survey of Florida Republicans by Public Policy Polling (D) has some awful news for Gov. Charlie Crist, the GOP moderate who is in a tough primary for Senate against the more conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.

The poll will be released tomorrow, but so far PPP has put out a sneak preview. GOP primary voters were asked which of the following they would like to see doing a year from now: Governor, Senate, or out of office entirely. The answer: Governor 19%, Senate 14%, and out of office 56%. PPP's Tom Jensen writes: "If there is any path to his winning office in Florida again- and there may not be- it's as something other than a Republican."
It's that running as "something other than a Republican" part that presents the challenge.  How does he do it?  Will Florida Dems hang Kendrick Meek out to dry in order to have Crist run for the Donks?  Can they even still do so at this point under Florida law?  Would Crist win as a Democrat over Rubio?

Will Crist run as an independent?  Would it split the Meek vote and unite the Republicans behind Rubio, or would it split the Rubio vote and get the Dems united behind Kendrick Meek?

Or will Crist merely stick with his doomed Republican candidacy where any incumbent moderate Republican is reviled and Crist himself will be driven out of the party one way or another anyway?

I'm wondering what Crist is thinking.  Ideally I'd like to see Rubio and Crist slag each other to the point where Meek wins.  But at this point, it's up to Crist, not Meek.

Nostalgia For The Bad Old Days

Over at the NY Times, Stanley Fish asks if you miss George W. Bush yet.
Well it’s a bit more than a year now and signs of Bush’s rehabilitation are beginning to pop up. One is literally a sign, a billboard that appeared recently on I-35 in Minnesota. Occupying the right side (from the viewer’s viewpoint) is a picture of Bush smiling genially and waving his hand in a friendly gesture. Occupying the left side is a simple and direct question: “Miss me yet?” The image is all over the Internet, hundreds of millions of hits, and unscientific Web-based polls indicate that more do miss him than don’t.


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