Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Last Call



The Mask Slips Again

And a Republican accidentally tells the truth again.
Why should an African-American vote Republican?

“You really don’t have a reason to, to be honest — we haven’t done a very good job of really giving you one. True? True,” Republican National Chairman Michael Steele told 200 DePaul University students Tuesday night. […]

“For the last 40-plus years we had a ‘Southern Strategy’ that alienated many minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the South. Well, guess what happened in 1992, folks, ‘Bubba’ went back home to the Democratic Party and voted for Bill Clinton.”
Hey Mike?  You're right, of course...but the kicker is that the party you lead reaffirms that nearly every single day, and it's never been so bloody obvious before Barack Obama ended up in the White House.

Appreciate the candor, however.   Now, how about fixing it?

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

If Politico's Mike Allen really is this administration's Bob Woodward-level go-to guy, then someone really, really needs to have a talk with Dan Pfeiffer and the White House communications shop and explain to them the meaning of "Village" as a pejorative term describing the DC press corps.

Mike Allen?  Really?

What A Revolting Development

Earlier today I speculated that the GOP is bailing on blocking Wall Street reform because of the optics.  Indeed, one of the most interesting finding in this week's Gallup poll on banking regulation is depending on what you call it, support for it varies:
Support for Banking and Wall Street Reform
If you call it Wall Street reform, the favorability margin goes up significantly. That mean perception is playing a big role in whether or not a bill gets passed.  The TPMDC crew looked into the sudden switch in the last 24 hours and came away with this confirmation of that theory (emphasis mine):
Within 48 hours, the Republican line on financial regulatory reform went from "filibuster" to "we're very close to a deal." Why the shift? Republicans and Democrats will offer up spin all day, chalking up the progress to their own doggedness, but in the end it comes down to a simple reality. Key Republicans, sincere about passing new rules for Wall Street, but intimidated by the notion of blocking financial regulatory reform, let it be known to their leadership that, at some point, they would side with Democrats to break a filibuster. Maybe not on round one, or even round two. But eventually.

"Folks on our side of the aisle want a bill," Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) told me and a few other reporters Monday night. "I know that. I just [had a] discussion with some of our leadership on the floor. You know, we want a bill."

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) made it equally clear: if top-level negotiations broke down, she and other members would find a solution. "I think it's important to continue between the two principals on the committee, because that's where it's likely to happen," Snowe told reporters yesterday afternoon. "But if not then we'll take things as they come. We'll take the next step."

This afternoon, entering a Republican caucus meeting, the Republican Deputy Whip John Thune candidly acknowledged that the politics just aren't playing out for the GOP, and that members don't want to take a tough vote against regulating Wall Street.

"I think it's a difference between perception and fact, because the facts are very different than the perception," Thune told TPMDC and two other reporters. "I think the Democrats believe that they can get political advantage by painting the Republicans as protecting Wall Street.... The perception right now is what's driving this."
And again, the optics have to be incredibly dismal for the GOP on this for them to so openly admit it, to the point of throwing Mitch McConnell under the bus so completely.  They've all but signaled fold on this one.  Not even the Republicans want to block Wall Street reform with Goldman Sachs in the news time and time again.

Can you blame them?  The Democrats are looking like they've won yet another round.

The Money Pitt

I have to admit, if you're looking for a place to find out where the next stupid Village meme is going to pop up, the Daily Beast is usually ahead of the curve on that.  Today's contestant is Harvey Pitt, who is playing the newest Village tune, "Concern Trolling The SEC."
Reduced to bare essentials, the SEC alleged a garden variety securities fraud, but for the elements listed above. It claims Goldman sold synthetic securities but didn’t disclose the package was structured by an investor intending to short it, and affirmatively misrepresented who structured it. If the SEC prevails, it might reassert its position as a player in the current financial regulatory scene. But the lawsuit carries big stakes if the SEC loses—among other things, this case will influence the reputations of both Chairman Mary Schapiro, and Enforcement Division chief, Rob Khuzami.

The problem with litigation is losing. But even if the SEC prevails, its reward may prove ephemeral. After all, there aren’t any widows or orphans in the immediate vicinity of the central transaction, and even victory could be tarnished by questions about its potential motivations regarding the manner and timing of the SEC’s decision to sue. Is that worth the potential risk? The question answers itself.

To recap, Pitt argues that after the SEC under Bush did nothing and a massive financial meltdown then occured that threw the country into the worst recession in decades, that if the SEC actually tries to exercise regulatory power over a bank, they might damage their reputation.

So they should of course just leave Goldman Sachs alone before, what, anything unfortunate might happen?

Let's also keep in mind that Harvey Pitt was SEC chairman under Dubya from 2001-2003.  We're actually watching the former head of a regulatory agency tell the SEC that after arguably the agency's largest regulatory failure that its reputation might take some damage if it dares to go after one of the financial firms on Wall Street that it's supposed to regulate.

That's comedy gold, that is.  What was Pitt actually thinking his job was as SEC chairman, to be the banks' friend?  To make sure that banks didn't need regulation at all?

That worked out well, didn't it?

What John Cole Said

The investigation into Marco Rubio's use of GOP issued credit cards is mostly worthless due to just how bad Charlie Crist is doing, but John Cole's right:
Again, there is simply no greater achievement in the modern conservative movement than becoming a martyr. Accused by the OBAMA IRS and the “lamestream media” of wrongdoing? They’ll rally around him even if it turns out he was using the card to pay for gay sex with aborted fetuses in a bondage-themed club.

He doesn’t have to explain anything- all he has to do is deny it and play the victim, and let the “principled conservatives” in the wingnut wurlitzer and the blogosphere do the rest. I’m not going to do it, but someone else can listen to Rush and the others today, and I guarantee they will come out swinging at the accusers and rallying around Rubio. National Review will have ten pieces up by noon lamenting the politicization of the IRS. Mark my words.
I'll play out the rest of this scenario:  GOP senators will call for a probe into the IRS going after Republicans, declare this to be the most corrupt administration ever, and FOX News will bring us the requisite Chyron "Obama's IRS Army Coming For You?" with requisite Cavuto Mark.

As a matter of fact, given the IRS angle of this story and the Tea Party hatred of anything gubmint, expect more physical attacks on IRS agents and buildings and Republicans seriously intoning that this is all Obama's fault, that lowering taxes will in fact keep Tea Party Patriots from harming those evil Revenuers and that massive tax cuts will in fact save lives.

The Village will completely buy that bullshit too.  I reserve the right to the Youtube of George Will and David Brooks on This Week arguing if Obama should triangulate like Clinton and completely abandon his agenda in order to prevent tinfoil lunatics on the right from hurting anyone, and if it's alright to consider impeaching Obama if he doesn't because he's putting government workers in harm's way with his policies.

You laugh.  Give it six weeks.

Smile, You're On Lower Merion School District Camera! Part 2

An update on this story from last week of a school district who apparently took 50,000+ pictures of students using the webcams on the student-issued laptops.  The school's defense?  Rather typical, in fact.
Blake Robbins should have known better.

So says the official who ran the Lower Merion School District's controversial computer security system when it snapped Robbins' picture in his home and led to his invasion-of-privacy suit against the district.

Even in his own home, the Harriton High School sophomore had "no legitimate expectation of privacy" from the camera on his school-issued laptop, information systems coordinator Carol Cafiero contended in a court filing on Tuesday.

Cafiero - who is on paid leave while the district investigates the laptop controversy - claimed Robbins lost any legal protection from the Web-camera security system when he took a school laptop home without permission.

Robbins had previously broken "at least two" school computers and did not pay the insurance fee required to get permission to take home the Apple MacBook that later snapped his pictures, Cafiero's attorney, Charles Mandracchia, wrote in the filing.

"When you're in the home, you should have a legitimate expectation of privacy," Mandracchia said in an interview. "But if you're taking something without permission, how can you cry foul when you shouldn't have it anyway?"
You have "no legitimate expectation of privacy" as far as technology goes in 2010 as a high school student?  I see this case going up a little higher than just Philadelphia, frankly.  But in all respects, that's a terrible legal defense.  He voided his right to privacy by having the school issued laptop without paying the insurance fee to take the laptop home?  Why didn't the school simply contact Robbins and have him return the laptop?  Certainly if the pictures the security webcam software showed the location and user of the laptop as Blake Robbins, why didn't the school simply ask Robbins to return it, rather than continuing to violate his privacy?

Naah, let's keep taking pictures of the kid.  That's fair, right?

Short term, the school district's screwed on this one.  But long term, this is just the precedent-setting kind of stupidity that the Roberts-Alito-Thomas-Scalia bloc would love to sink their fangs into and declare a sweeping judgment that nobody has a reasonable expectation of electronic privacy in America anymore.

Calling Tom Carper Out

Despite how bad the optics are on Wall Street reform for the GOP right now, Democratic Sen. Tom Carper quickly wants Obama to fold his hand.
Democrats should drop areas of disagreement with Republicans from their Wall Street reform bill in order to move forward, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) suggested Wednesday.

Carper, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said that he thinks a bipartisan deal can be reached on financial regulatory reform legislation, and argued it should be done by dropping the most contentious areas of the bill.

"At the end of the day…we agree on about 80 percent of the stuff here," Carper said during an appearance on Fox News. "I think what we need to do is focus on the 80 percent on which we agree and set aside the 20 percent for another day."

Among those provisions creating friction is a $50 billion, industry-funded pool of money to help wind down financial institutions if they begin to fail. Republicans have derided this provision as a pool for endless bailouts, though they've also maintained other objections to the legislation.
Carper's signaling surrender on that "industry funded pool" because he's the Senator from Delaware, home to a great many financial institutions incorporated in the state for its industry-friendly laws.  Like it or not, if there's a Democrat who will vote this bill down as is, it's going to be Carper, not Nelson or Lincoln or Bayh.

In other words, seeing Carper basically repeat Mitch's talking points from yesterday that he wants to see a deal done is a pretty clear indication he wants that provision dropped, and dropped now.  We'll see how Chris Dodd and the White House respond.


That whole little revolution in Kyrgyzstan from a couple weeks back isn't exactly over.  Seems the interim government still doesn't quite have a firm hold on the government, and the rest of the country appears to be devolving into riots and a possible looming civil war. McClatchy:
Unrest is spiraling in Kyrgyzstan, and growing ethnic strife is threatening the tenuous grip of the interim government that seized power in a bloody street revolt 10 days ago.

Days of rioting around the capital, Bishkek, have left several people dead and scores injured. Mobs of impoverished Kyrgyz have targeted businesses and land owned by other ethnic minorities, particularly Russians, for seizure.

In the country's volatile and ethnically diverse south, which was the home base of deposed President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, outright insurrection by pro-Bakiyev loyalists appears under way.

On Monday, Faizulla Rakhmanov, the governor of Jalalabad, a southern stronghold of the former president, told a rally of 1,000 supporters that they would soon move against the interim government in Bishkek. "We will restore Bakiyev's rule," he said. "Bakiyev...will come back."

Bakiyev fled Kyrgyzstan last Friday and resigned his presidency after intensive international mediation. On Monday, he reportedly left his temporary exile in neighboring Kazakhstan for an undisclosed destination.

The chief of staff of the interim government, Edil Baisalov, told the Russian Interfax agency Tuesday that Bakiyev could return to Kyrgyzstan "only in the capacity of a prisoner," charged with the deaths of at least 85 people killed by riot police during the April 7 uprising in Bishkek.
It was bad before, but it seems that things are starting to get much more serious now.  I'll be keeping an eye on this one.

Do I Hear Four Chickens, Madam?

Well, at least a Republican is actually offering a solution to health care costs in lieu of the current law.  It's a completely asinine suggestion, but there you go.  Steve Benen:
Sue Lowden (R), the leading Republican Senate candidate in Nevada, recently articulated her vision of how the American health care system should work. At a local candidate forum, Lowden, a former state senator and chair of the Nevada Republican Party, encouraged Nevadans to "go ahead and barter with your doctor." It would, she insisted, "get get prices down in a hurry."

I assumed that Lowden misspoke, and meant to say "bargain," not "barter," though the notion of bargaining with medical professionals is itself foolish. But she couldn't have meant "barter," since that's ridiculous.

I stand corrected. Lowden appeared on a Nevada news program earlier this week, and doubled down on her notion of a more effective system.

"I'm telling you that this works," the Republican candidate explained. "You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say, 'I'll paint your house.' I mean, that's the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I'm not backing down from that system."
To recap, the solution to lower health care costs and insurance costs from the woman that the GOP is backing to replace Harry Reid in the Senate is to trade livestock and/or odd jobs for a doctor's bill.  I take back the statement that the Republicans are the party of no ideas.  They are the party of completely stupid ideas.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking cattle rustling and knocking over a Home Depot for a backpack power paint sprayer may be the new extremes people go to in order to avoid medical bankruptcy in Reno.

Obvious Bonus Leno joke:  How many cats do you need for a CAT scan?  However Greg Sargent wins the intertoobs this morning with "Chickens For Checkups".

Yet Another Mitch Switch

While I blew a bit of a gasket over Obama's trial balloon last weekend to weaken the financial reform bill, it seems that the predictable GOP response of "It's a start, now you will meet the rest of our demands completely, THEN we'll talk" isn't going over well with the public at all.  In fact, it's going badly enough for the Republicans that even Mitch McConnell is eagerly talking about a forthcoming deal:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell struck a markedly different tone on financial regulatory reform today, suggesting an agreement could be struck with Democrats sooner rather than later. And Democrats have taken notice.

"We believe the process to achieve [a bipartisan bill] has now been reconstituted," McConnell told reporters after the Republicans' weekly caucus meeting this afternoon. "We are all confident that this can be fixed... Senator Shelby [the Republicans' chief financial reform negotiator] believes that there's been a very serious effort to re-engage."
Seems the optics on this are really, really bad for the GOP here...bad enough to make Mitch here do a total 180 from Friday's "Send it back to the drawing board" rhetoric.  It's not helping that Goldman Sachs is acting like a bunch of petulant jagoffs that seemed truly shocked that any politician would dare to lay a glove on them, and the effort to tie Goldman Sachs to the Democrats as a donor is just bringing up the number of Republicans who got donations from the firm too, and pointing out how it was the Democrats on the SEC's commission that voted to bring the suit and the Republicans who said no, defending the firm.

The internal numbers that the Republicans are getting off this must be shockingly bad for Mitch McConnell to talk about a close deal at hand now in less than 36 hours after saying that entire bill had to be scrapped.

Democrats still plan to bring this bill to the floor this week, so we'll see how this goes.  Obama may have blinked first, but it's the GOP who laid their cards face down on the table as a result.

Achieving Full Extension

Via Balloon Juice, this chart should depress the hell out of you:

The percentage of the unemployed in this country that are long term is now over 40% and rising, 44% as of last month.  Before this it hasn't gone above 25% or so, and that was in 1983 at the height of the Reagan recession.  We were down around 10% thanks to Clinton, but we never really recovered from the 9/11 recession during Dubya's term, hovering around 17% or so, and because of that when this bunker buster hit, we shot up to 40%+.

It's going to take a decade to get back under 20%.  And that's if we don't hit a double dip here in the next couple of years, which I still think is very likely.

By the way, states like Ohio have a 26 week limit on regular unemployment, but 99 weeks with the current extension law.  A whole lot of people in Ohio went into limbo over St. Patricks' Day weekend and again over Easter weekend because the Republicans blocked unemployment extensions in March and again in April.  Probably explains why Democrats are doing a tad better in Ohio than they were earlier this year.


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