Friday, April 16, 2010

Last Call

There's a reason why taking some conservatives seriously is a silly idea.  The show "Glee" dared to make a Sarah Palin joke.  This immediately set off Breitbart and his purity crusaders to attack the show.  John Nolte at Big Hollywood goes insane:
"Glee" is millions of dollars of sound and fury aimed squarely at your children. And as we can now see, the creators are all about getting between you and your kids with their political and social agendas. They know Palin is a growing political force and nothing's off the table when it comes to marginalizing her -- even at the expense of their own show's entertainment value -- even at the expense of audience share.
Yes, because until the second the show made a Sarah Palin joke, it was just a TV show.  Since it made a Sarah Palin joke, it's now another horrible example of media brainwashing people.

Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh can say whatever he wants about Democrats on his entertainment show on a daily basis, and that's free speech.  Limbaugh however would never try to marginalize the President and of course he would never, ever stoop to a level that could be described as "nothing is off the table."

These guys are such incredible assholes.

Colorado Springs (A Leak), Part 2

I talked about the financial woes facing Colorado Springs back in February and the nearly delighted response from the Tea Party that the city would have to lay off hundreds, drastically cut services, and turn the tourist town into a ghost town.

Two months later, the situation has only gotten worse as Colorado Springs is being held up as a model...a model of what the Tea Party wants to do to the rest of the country.  The crusade to turn Colorado Springs into Galt's Gulch is being led by city councilman Sean Paige and author Douglas Bruce, who California-fied the Colorado tax code:  No tax increase, no matter how small, can be approved by municipalities without a full vote, and that includes Colorado Springs.  The results are a disaster.
While cities across the US are struggling with diminished tax receipts and the ugly task of paring budgets, the situation is already much worse here in Colorado Springs. Or better, depending on your point of view.  Because there are people here, Mr Paige among them, who think that the drying up of city coffers, while painful for a few, offers a broader opportunity. It's time to get public servants out of public services. It is not unimportant that this town is home to Douglas Bruce, the gnarly hero of the small government movement here and author of Tabor – the taxpayer's bill of rights that was written into law in Colorado and many of its municipalities more than a decade ago. It cripples public finances by forcing politicians to seek popular approval each and every time they want to expand taxes. It also includes a mechanism whereby they must return money to taxpayers if ever they start to run to big a budget surplus. 
Mr Paige strides into the throng of Tea Party protestors to hand out flyers for a "Freedom Festival" he is planning for next month that will bring together small-government advocates from across the region. He contends that it is the perfect time for the city to get out of running things like parks, pools and community centres – he believes the private sector, charities and churches will do it better for less money. 

This is what some are already calling the "Grand Experiment" of Colorado Springs, which is expected to face a revenue shortfall this year of about $28m (£18m) or 10 per cent of its whole budget, brought about in part by the recession and also by the strangulating effects of the Tabor laws. But if this experiment is to be embraced and pursued, then the question arises: how far should it be taken? 

It is not just about lights and lawns. Buses no longer run at weekends or at night; services at community centres have been drastically reduced; at least two of the city's six pools will be closed. The police department's two helicopters have been pawned off on eBay. In the new spirit of volunteerism, taxi drivers must double up as amateur cops watching for crooks while traditional police patrols are trimmed. 

"We are engaged in an experiment here whether we like it or not," says David Munger, a consultant and lobbyist who is on a committee examining a possible sale of the municipal hospital to raise cash. "It seems we are trying to find out how little government is enough government." 
(More after the jump...)

Friday Night StupidiNews Dump

Wrapping up the week that was...

Former Blackwater president Gary Jackson and other company officials have been indicted on federal weapons charges stemming in part from a raid that uncovered 22 unaccounted AK-47s two years ago.

That "politically motivated assault" on a GOP fundraiser and her boyfriend last week in New Orleans and blamed on "Anti-Palin radicals" was in fact not politically motivated.

Now that Marco Rubio is up by 20 plus points on Charlie Crist, it's finally safe enough for Mitt Romney to endorse Rubio.

Ex-LAPD Police Chief Daryl Gates, famous for the Rodney King era of the department, dead at age 83.

General Electric lost enough money last year that its tax bill for 2009 is $0.

US contractors training Afghanistan security troops brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight".

And of course, the comedy stylings of one Barack Obama.

Smile, You're On Lower Merion School District Camera!

These guys?  Scumbags.
The Lower Merion School District today acknowledged that investigators reviewing its controversial laptop tracking program have recovered "a substantial number of webcam photos" and that they expect to soon start notifying parents whose children were photographed.

Responding to a motion filed Thursday as part of a lawsuit brought by the family of a Harriton High School sophomore, School Board President David Ebby said the district's lawyers have proposed enlisting Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Rueter to supervise a system by which parents are to be notified and allowed to view the photos.

"We hope to start that process shortly," Ebby said in a statement addressed to parents and guardians and posted on the district's website. "During that process the privacy of all students will be strongly protected."

Ebby's comments came a day after a lawyer for Harriton sophomore Blake Robbins filed a motion in federal court asserting that the system had secretly captured "thousands of images of webcam pictures and screen shots," including photos of students, the Web sites they visited and excerpts of their online chats.

School officials have thus far declined to say how many students were photographed by the system, which was instituted in September 2008 to locate missing or stolen laptops. The district has commissioned an internal investigation and promises to release its results within a few weeks.
Internal investigation?  That's hysterical.  I can understand "Nothing you do on a school laptop should ever be considered private" but apparently the webcam software on the laptops was used to regularly photograph people without their knowledge or consent even if they weren't using the laptop at the time.

That's criminally out of bounds.  Who in their right mind thought doing this with the webcam software would ever be considered a good idea?  How many other schools...or even workplaces...are instituting the same technology on laptops?  Are they abusing it as well?

That's pretty creepy.  It also points out if anyone believes privacy still exists in America in 2010, you're sadly mistaken.

All That Glitters Is Not Goldman Sachs

The SEC lowered the boom on the financial giant this morning, charging them with securities fraud.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc was charged with fraud on Friday by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in the structuring and marketing of a debt product tied to subprime mortgages.

The SEC alleged that Goldman structured and marketed a synthetic collateralized debt obligation that hinged on the performance of subprime residential mortgage-backed securities, and which cost investors more than $1 billion.

It alleged that Goldman did not tell investors "vital information" about the CDO, called ABACUS. This included that a major hedge fund, Paulson & Co, was involved in choosing which securities would be part of the portfolio, and had taken a short position against the CDO in a bet its value would fall.

According to the SEC complaint, Paulson & Co paid Goldman $15 million to structure the CDO, which closed on April 26, 2007. Little more than nine months later, 99 percent of the portfolio had been downgraded, the SEC said.

The SEC said Goldman Vice President Fabrice Tourre was principally responsible for creating ABACUS. It also charged him with fraud.
Needless to say, GS stocks are down sharply today.  And while Goldman Sachs is the most egregious of the big financial firms that played the roulette wheel with trillions in taxpayer-backed dollars, it's not the only company that deserves fraud charged leveled against it.

More of this, please.  If it's good enough for Bernie Madoff, it's good enough for these jokers.

The Kroog Versus Mitch Mc...Frank Luntz

Paul Krugman is the latest to take Mitch McConnell out back behind the woodshed and beat Frank Luntz's talking points on financial reform out of him.
So proposed reform legislation gives regulators “resolution authority,” which basically means giving them the ability to deal with the likes of Lehman in much the same way that the F.D.I.C. deals with conventional banks. Who could object to that?

Well, Mr. McConnell is trying. His talking points come straight out of a memo Frank Luntz, the Republican political consultant, circulated in January on how to oppose financial reform. “Frankly,” wrote Mr. Luntz, “the single best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the Big Bank Bailout.” And Mr. McConnell is following those stage directions.

It’s a truly shameless performance: Mr. McConnell is pretending to stand up for taxpayers against Wall Street while in fact doing just the opposite. In recent weeks, he and other Republican leaders have held meetings with Wall Street executives and lobbyists, in which the G.O.P. and the financial industry have sought to coordinate their political strategy.

And let me assure you, Wall Street isn’t lobbying to prevent future bank bailouts. If anything, it’s trying to ensure that there will be more bailouts. By depriving regulators of the tools they need to seize failing financial firms, financial lobbyists increase the chances that when the next crisis strikes, taxpayers will end up paying a ransom to stockholders and executives as the price of avoiding collapse.

Even more important, however, the financial industry wants to avoid serious regulation; it wants to be left free to engage in the same behavior that created this crisis. It’s worth remembering that between the 1930s and the 1980s, there weren’t any really big financial bailouts, because strong regulation kept most banks out of trouble. It was only with Reagan-era deregulation that big bank disasters re-emerged. In fact, relative to the size of the economy, the taxpayer costs of the savings and loan disaster, which unfolded in the Reagan years, were much higher than anything likely to happen under President Obama.

To understand what’s really at stake right now, watch the looming fight over derivatives, the complex financial instruments Warren Buffett famously described as “financial weapons of mass destruction.” The Obama administration wants tighter regulation of derivatives, while Republicans are opposed. And that tells you everything you need to know.
Indeed.  You know, Mitch McConnell is my Senator, and he's not listening to me or the thousands of other Kentuckians who want to see banks more tightly regulated so that they can't wreck our economy again, and Mitch...well he just doesn't listen to the people, you see.

Plus, Mitch has a terrible argument.  Once again, the Republicans are warning the Dems that Obamacare will destroy them in November, while the same Republicans are lining up to defend the banks that we spent two trillion plus on bailing out.

It's not the Democrats who are in trouble here, but please Republicans, go ahead and defend Goldman Sachs and AIG.

It Depends On What Your Definition Of The Word "Fight" Is

Greg Sargent digs for the real story and gets close as he takes a look behind the White House's strong pushback on CBS's story that Solicitor General Elena Kagan is a lesbian.  It shouldn't matter of course, but the GOP will absolutely filibuster her as Obama's next Supreme Court pick if that is true.  But that's actually not the real story here:
Just to catch you up, inexplicably published a piece by Ben Domenech (who was hired by The Washington Post and then fired after his extensive plagiarism was revealed) claiming that a key segment of the Dem base would be pleased if Obama appointed the “first openly gay justice.” This echoed an ongoing whisper campaign on the right about Kagan.

CBS initially refused to pull the piece, which prompted a scorched earth response from the White House that Howard Kurtz wrote up this morning:
CBS initially refused to pull the posting, prompting Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director who is working with the administration on the high court vacancy, to say: “The fact that they’ve chosen to become enablers of people posting lies on their site tells us where the journalistic standards of CBS are in 2010.”
She said the network was giving a platform to a blogger “with a history of plagiarism” who was “applying old stereotypes to single women with successful careers.”…
A White House spokesman, Ben LaBolt, said he complained to CBS because the column “made false charges.”
CBS unquestionably deserved to take a hit for this. But what’s more interesting than CBS’s role is the White House’s aggressive response. People who follow the ins and outs of nomination battles closely are interpreting it as a sign that Kagan has a very good shot at being picked. As one of these people put it to me this morning, this is the most hard-hitting pushback by the White House to misinformation being spread about any nominee.
Which means the odds of Elena Kagan actually being President Obama's pick as a Supreme Court nominee just became all but certain.   The White House went white-hot on the attack this morning, and that absolutely has to mean that Kagan is Obama's choice for the high court.  To move this hard, this fast on killing this rumor (once again, Kagan's sexual preference should not matter, but politically the GOP will crucify her for it and they can filibuster her) means that the White House has just invested a lot of political clout in somebody who, up until now, may be the nominee to the Supreme Court.

Sargent is correct when he says that you can basically remove the qualifier now.  Clearly Kagan is Obama's choice.  And as I've pointed out before, there are compelling arguments on the left against Kagan.

It remains on the table however that the White House has tipped their hand in defending Kagan so vigorously and vociferously.  Is she a good choice?  Greenwald makes a very strong argument that Obama could do better.  But that's actually not the real story here either.

The real story is that the White House said from beginning that they did not want a nasty fight, and wanted an easy confirmation process with an obviously qualified nominee (of which Kagan is).  And yet, the White House has now absolutely signaled a fight for Kagan even before she is presumably going to be announced as Obama's pick.

If the White House is fighting this hard for Kagan, why are they not in fact picking a more obviously more liberal nominee and taking the same level of fight to the GOP?

That's the story.  The White House leaned towards Kagan to avoid a fight.  But within hours of the CBS story on Kagan, the White House went full-bore in her defense.

Which mean the White House said "screw you" to progressives.  Again.  Here's hoping that Kagan's not the nominee and that Obama surprises us all.

I wouldn't count on it however.

Vector Of A Lie

Obama is not a Muslim.  He was not born in Kenya.  He did not cancel the National Day of Prayer.  Here's the reality, despite the chain e-mail that's been going around:
A federal judge in Wisconsin ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional Thursday, saying the day amounts to a call for religious action.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic.

"In fact, it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual's decision whether and when to pray," Crabb wrote.

Congress established the day in 1952 and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison-based group of atheists and agnostics, filed a lawsuit against the federal government in 2008 arguing the day violated the separation of church and state.

President Barack Obama's administration has countered that the statute simply acknowledges the role of religion in the United States. Obama issued a proclamation last year but did not hold public events with religious leaders as former President George W. Bush had done.

Crabb wrote that her ruling shouldn't be considered a bar to any prayer days until all appeals are exhausted. U.S. Justice Department attorneys who represented the federal government in the case were reviewing the ruling Thursday afternoon, agency spokesman Charles Miller said. He declined further comment.

Obama spokesman Matt Lehrich said in an e-mail to The Associated Press the president still plans to issue a proclamation for the next prayer day.

"As he did last year, President Obama intends to recognize a National Day of Prayer," Lehrich said.
Here's my question:  If you think President Obama is dragging us kicking and screaming towards "socialism" and you decry his "unprecedented government interference" in the lives of ordinary Americans, shouldn't you be against the government telling you which day is okay to pray to whatever God/Goddess/Deity/Pantheon/Whatever you want to?

Isn't that interference?  It's been that way for almost 60 years now.  It's worth a revolution (some would argue an armed and violent one) against the government because the government wants people to buy health insurance, but a government-designated National Day of Prayer is perfectly fine?

I don't understand wingers sometimes.  They just don't make sense.

How To Lose Without Really Trying

Doug Schoen and Patrick Caddell, a pair of Democratic pollsters from the Clinton Triangulation School (Schoen is a regular FOX News guest) is warning that Obama and the Dems must tack hard to the right in order to save themselves from a "November Bloodbath".
The swing voters, who are key to the fate of the Democratic Party, care most about three things: reigniting the economy, reducing the deficit and creating jobs.

These voters are outraged by the seeming indifference of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats, who they believe wasted a year on health-care reform. These voters will not tolerate more diversion from their pressing economic concerns. They view the Obama administration as working systematically to protect the interests of public-sector employees and organized labor -- by offering specific benefits such as pension protection and tax reductions at the expense of all taxpayers.

Democrats must understand that voters will not accept seeing their tax dollars used to pay for higher wages and better benefits for public-sector employees when they themselves are getting higher taxes and lower wages.

Winning over swing voters will require a bold, new focus from the president and his party. They must adopt an agenda aimed at reducing the debt, with an emphasis on tax cuts, while implementing carefully crafted initiatives to stimulate and encourage job creation. This is the agenda that largely motivated the Clinton administration from 1995 through 2000 and that led to a balanced budget and welfare reform. It promoted a modest degree of social welfare spending. This agenda is enormously popular with the electorate and could eventually turn around Democratic fortunes.

Democrats can avoid the electoral bloodbath we predicted before passage of the health-care bill, but in one way: through a bold commitment to fiscal discipline and targeted fiscal stimulus of the private sector and entrepreneurship.
In other words, Schoen and Caddell are saying that the 18% of Americans who are the hard core conservative Tea Party will certainly vote for the Democrats rather than the Republicans if the Dems simply pretend to be the Republicans.

Really?  Because if you believe that, you really are as stupid as these two think you are.  Let's get something straight:  the Tea Party voters are Republicans.  They despise, loathe, and vilify the Democrats every chance they get.   They call Obama a Socialist even when he's not, they yell and scream that he has raised taxes when he's lowered them, and a healthy chunk of them don't even believe he's legally President because they're not sure if he's a U.S. citizen.

What on God's green Earth makes anyone believe for a microsecond that in 2010 with such virulent anti-incumbent fervor out there that incumbent Democrats can convince these voters to not throw them out of office?  What exactly can they do to make hard core Republican supporters vote for the Democrats?

It's idiocy at its core here.  Not only are the Tea Party voters never going to vote for the Democrat, they are not "mainstream swing voters" any stretch of the imagination.  What Schoen and Caddell are trying to do is get the Dems to run as Republicans and scrap Obama's which case they get voted out of office anyway.  Does nobody recall 1996?  It took the Dems a decade after tacking back to the right after 1994 to get the House back, and that was done how?

By running as Democrats.

It's a lesson the Democrats of 2010 need to continue to apply now instead of surrendering to the Tea Party fringe.

Steve King Of Wishful Thinking

Once again we have another example of a sitting member of Congress advocating direct attacks on the White House.  And once again, the man advocating that position is GOP Rep. Steve King.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) declared at an event hosted by Americans For Tax Reform that members of the Obama administration would fail the United States citizenship test, due to their lack of belief in a capitalist economy.

"Even though there would be some people in the White House that would fail this test, if you look at the naturalization flash cards, if you want to become a naturalized American citizen...[the flashcard] will ask, 'What is the economic system of the United States?' Flip that flash card around, it says free enterprise, capitalist," said King, CNSNews reports.

"I am not convinced that people in the White House understand it, let alone believe it, given some of the activities that we have seen," King said.
Look, at what point does somebody just tell Steve King to resign if he doesn't want to be part of the "socialist government" that has apparently taken over every aspect of our lives (at least inside his head they have.)  This kind of irresponsible idiocy from a Congressman is inexcusable.

I'd like to see Steve King and his staff take the current naturalization test.  I'd like to see how'd they fare.  Considering King's demonstrated lack of knowledge of United States law and history, I'm thinking he might very well be the first person to fail the test.

Show me the part in the Constitution where the duties of the Congress include "Going to Tea Party rallies to attack the President as un-American."  This guy is an embarrassment and a joke.

Hanni-Tea In Cincinna-Tea

The big political story here in the Queen City today:  FOX News apparently wasn't real happy with Sean Hannity's decision to do his show live from the Cincy Tea Party rally yesterday, and pulled the plug on the broadcast when it became clear that the broadcast was part of the rally itself, meaning ol' Sean was using his FOX show to raise money for the Cincy Tea Party.
Fox News Executive Vice President of Programming Bill Shine issued a statement to the media Thursday evening saying Fox had decided to call Hannity back to New York to do the show because officials believed the Tea Party was using Hannity to make a profit at the event.

“Fox News never agreed to allow the Cincinnati Tea Party organizer to use Sean Hannity’s television program to profit from broadcasting his show from the event,” Shine said. “When senior executives in New York were made aware of this, we changed our plans for tonight’s show.”

Criticism that the Tea Party and Hannity were trying to make a profit from the event began bouncing around on blogs, including the media blog Media Matters, about two days prior to Thursday’s rally at the University of Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Bank Arena.

“Unequivocally, from our standpoint, this is wrong,” Kevin Smith, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, told Media Matters. “For a news organization to charge people for access, then take that money and roll it over to a political action group that they cover quite a bit ... There is a clear conflict of interest here.”

Cincinnati Tea Party officials said the idea that they would make money on the event is false.

“The Left drove that story, Fox capitulated to it and left,” said Chris Littleton, a Cincinnati Tea Party spokesman. He criticized Fox for not coming to Tea Party if it had concerns.

Littleton said in a statement late Thursday that the group had been unable to verify the statement from Fox News.

Hannity’s show spent about $100,000 to come to Cincinnati, Littleton said.

Several people in the audience shouted “refund!”
No, there's no conflict in interest in a news show (BIG air quotes there) going on the road, headlining at a political event, and then charging money at the gate.  Myself, I saw Hannity's "Conservative Power|" book tour bus getting off at the same exit I normally do on the way home from work last night, and that was about 6:30 PM.

This more or less proves two things:  One, Hannity's not a news show, he's a talk show host at best.  Two, Hannity clearly saw nothing wrong with coming here and being part of a political rally where money was charged for entrance.  Not only is Hannity clearly advocating the Tea Party groups, he's raising money for them in his capacity as a FOX News host.  What, was the Cincy Tea Party going to give the money back?

And before the usual suspects show up, imagine Rachel Maddow went to San Francisco to do her show live in front of an audience at an ACORN fundraising event.  Every single one of the people saying "Well that's unfair to Hannity and that's censorship!" would be throwing a screaming fit that Maddow was helping ACORN...and you'd be right in that case.

Look, not even FOX News execs could square this one away.  That's how egregious this one was.  They made the right call.

Unless we're totally dropping the "Fair and Balanced, We Report, You Decide" bullshit altogether and they've changed their slogan to "The Tea Party Network, Obama Is A Kenyan."


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