Monday, April 26, 2010

Last Call

Once again another sitting Republican state lawmaker is directly attacking the President with over-the-top rhetoric.
"I believe that Barack Obama is God's punishment on us today," Rep. Leo Berman of Texas' 6th district told the audience at a Glenn Beck appearance in Tyler, Texas. Berman added, "But in 2012, we are going to make Obama a one-term president."

Berman, whose comments were first reported on by the Tyler Morning Telegraph, appeared alongside a number of other prominent Texas conservatives at the Oil Palace arena on Saturday night, including Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Perry "described Beck as a national leader of a powerful group sending a message to the current administration and Congress about Washington, DC, how to control spending and Americans taking their country back," the Morning Telegraph reported.

"I consider myself proud to be in that army," Perry said.

Rep. Berman has built a track record of controversial comments. Last year, activists launched a now-defunct Web site,, after Berman told a Chinese-American lawyer to "kiss his ass" and "go home," presumably to China.

In 2007, Berman delivered what one blogger called a "hate-filled speech" in which he claimed that "illegal immigrants were bringing Polio, the plague, leprosy, tuberculosis, malaria, Chagas Disease and Dengue Fever to the United States in alarming numbers," the Capitol Annex reported.
God's punishment.  Because in the wingnut world, no Democrat can ever be elected unless God hates America and is punishing us.   And yet, ignorant, inflammatory stupidity like this all but assures Berman's re-election is a shoo-in, while the governor of the state describes himself as a member of an "army" against the current administration.

Republicans:  as classy as they come.

Bully Pulpit

Dennis Kneale.  Still an idiot.
Will someone please rein in our relentlessly hectoring President? Barrack Hussein Obama has taken his gift for inspirational oratory—one of the traits that got him elected—and turned it into something darker and more insidious.

Bam is a bully. Bad enough that he bashes Wall Street, but this President has gone farther than any in modern history in putting the wrong kind of “bully” back into what Teddy Roosevelt had called the bully pulpit.

Obama’s latest broadside came over the weekend, when he vehemently criticized the state of Arizona and its (Republican) governor for passing a tough new law on illegal immigration.

The President called the measure “misguided” and all but labeled it un-American. He even ordered the Department of Justice, before the ink on this bill-signing has even dried, to examine the civil-rights “implications” of the new law. Seems like the courts and rights groups could handle that once any problem actually emerges.

Can you remember any other modern President, wagging a finger from on high, so directly and bitterly criticizing a new law passed by any state?

This is hubris at best and ignorance of the Constitution at worst. The U.S. was founded in part on the precept of states’ rights as an important counterweight to a rapacious federal government. Thus a President must step softly here, questioning gently but avoiding rancor and browbeating.
To recap, Constitutional expert Kneale here thinks the Tenth amendment gives Arizona the right to violate Amendments 4 through 9, as well as pretty big chunks of 13, 14, and 15.  Arizona cops can pull people over because they might be in the country illegally -- in fact under the law they are required to pull over anyone they might have a reasonable suspicion about -- and Obama is the bully for saying this might be wrong.

You know, Dennis Kneale was, up until now, the equivalent of a jar of really hot picante sauce:  you put up with it and in the end you get a mildly annoyed asshole. But this guy has really crossed the line into Winger/Tenther/Teabagger territory, and CNBC really ought to be looking for a new Media and Technology Editor, because it's pretty clear that this guy is out of his mind and is ignorant to the point of incompetence.

Of all the stupid arguments I've read that defend Arizona's horrible law, the Tenth Amendment is the worst I think I've ever seen.  Under that logic, I should still be a slave.  Mean old Lincoln shouldn't have been able to tell the Confederacy they they couldn't keep slaves, you know.  That made him a bully.

And that makes Dennis Kneale a complete fool.

Shame About His Meteoric Fall In The Polls

No, not Barack Obama.  NJ GOP Gov. Chris Christie.  He's been in office all of three months and his approval rating has plummeted to 33%.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been in office for just three months, and a new eyewitness news poll shows voters are not giving him any kind of a honeymoon as he presses for budget cuts.

Only 33% of New Jersey residents approve the job Christie is doing as governor.

Nearly twice the number, 63% disapprove.

The telephone poll by SurveyUSA has a margin of error of plus or minus 4%.

Out of all the things Governor Christie wants to do and needs to do while he is in charge of the state, making friends is not on the top of his list.

"I could care less," said Governor Christie.

Since day one the governor has said he was elected to fix New Jersey, and that means making tough and at times painful decisions.

"I'm not in this to win a popularity contest. I don't care about polls, what's up, what's down, who they polled, how they do it," explained Governor Christie.
Gosh, doesn't this mean by Tea Party logic that Christie is "arrogantly believing himself above the will of the people"?  Doesn't this mean he's "painfully out of touch with voters"?  Doesn't this mean "We have to make him pay for it at the voting booth"?  I mean after all, the Wingers have been saying that about Obama for over a year now, and Christie was proof that the voters are ready to replace Democrats who "don't listen" with Republicans who do.

Well guess what New Jersey Republicans?  You've got a Governor who "could care less" about polls.  Boy, the Tea Party's really going to get this guy!  Time to tend that tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants, right?

I'm sure we'll see the Tea Party protests any day now in the Garden State, because after all the majority of the American people are Tea Party faithful, right?  And they would not tolerate such disdain for the American people from either party, correct?

You know, because the Tea Party guys are independent and not the GOP?

Sure you'll see those protests.  Any time now...

Gaming Out The Financial Reform Vote

Although the most likely scenario is that the test vote today is filibustered and there's another week or two of negotiations before the bill gets a second shot, Brian Beutler of TPM plays out the five other scenarios that could happen in today's Senate test vote for Wall Street reform:
The GOP blinks: The fact of the matter is that, if a deal really is imminent, there's no harm in putting legislation on the floor and amending it when the compromise is reached. And for that reason, some Republicans don't really see the point of taking a politically toxic vote just to make a symbolic point. For that reason, it's possible that one or more of them will decide to break from the party. Most Republicans at the center of this debate--Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Banking Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)--say they think all 41 members will stand together, thus sustaining the filibuster. But somebody could blink. One leading candidate: Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). She's sounded most amenable to working with Democrats. She supports tight regulation of derivatives, and with the Dem bill trending in the direction of stiff new rules governing the trading of those products, she could bite.

The Dems blink: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could choose to delay the vote. Frankly, this isn't very likely: Dems are actually somewhat eager for the GOP to go on the record blocking debate on reining in Wall Street. But if Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd appeals to him--if a deal with Shelby is at hand, say--he could back off for a day or two.

A Dem Spoiler: If tonight's supermajority test vote fails 59-41 on a party-line vote, with all Dems on one side and all Republicans on the other, Democratw will be able to draw a stark contrast between themselves and the GOP. What would muddy that contrast significantly, though, is if there's a lurking spoiler on the Democrats' side of the aisle. If Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) or another conservative Democrat decides to side with the GOP tonight, be prepared to hear a lot from the GOP about "bipartisan opposition" to the Democrats bill.

They reach a deal: As of this morning, Shelby has said a deal before tonight's vote is unlikely. But you never know! If a breakthrough happens, Republicans could drop their filibuster, or Democrats could move the vote back, and the legislative process will proceed smoothly.

The GOP drops out: Reid's decision to force a vote is nothing if not a power play. And Republicans are nothing if not petulant. If they're looking for an excuse to drop out of negotiations, or take them in a painstakingly slow direction, they could throw a hissy fit over the vote, and throw the legislative process into complete disarray. They're not threatening to do that by any means. In fact Shelby, Corker, and McConnell have all said they'll deal with the vote, while talks with Democrats continue in the background--the vote, they say, won't poison the well. But this is the GOP. They've practically made a habit of drawing out negotiations over major legislation until the last moment, then finding some excuse for backing out. So let's not rule that out.
Of the five remaining scenarios, #5 is by far the most likely, followed by #3.  In fact I think #5 there is almost as likely as today's GOP filibuster and delay play.  In fact combine the two: Most likely is that the vote fails 59-41, the Dems attack the GOP as in the pocket of Wall Street, and the GOP pulls out and says that the entire bill has to go back to the beginning, and that there will be no reform otherwise.

It depends on if Corker or Snowe crack.  But having that happen without the ConservaDems bailing, especially Evan Bayh, will simply not happen.  No, I forsee the GOP making a complete fingerpaint on Grandma's new tablecloth mess of things here tonight.  Word is they will offer their own bill and use that to delay the Democrats as long as possible, perhaps long enough to make sure that nothing passes, or else they will pick up their ball and go home, because that's all they are capable of as a party anymore.

Watch.  I was never convinced that this was going to pass, and I'm even more skeptical now.  Obama may be the man, but...he needs a Republican to vote to break the filibuster.  And as long as that doesn't happen, the GOP tyranny of the minority will continue.

If the Republicans win here, Obama's agenda is dead.

[UPDATE] Surprise!  Ben Nelson just stabbed the Dems in the back and voted to filibuster and the GOP is already claiming "bipartisan opposition to this partisan bill".   It's option #3 in the list there.  Good call, TPM crew.

Now the GOP will most likely pick up their ball and go home, declaring the bill dead unless completely rewritten.  And Ben Nelson's vote now makes it very difficult to hit the GOP on blocking this, unless they're willing to go after Nelson too.

My God, Democrats are stupid.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Rasmussen's poll over the weekend shows 60% of Americans agree with Arizona's new police state, but 58% are concerned over civil rights violations all the same.

That means mathematically there that there's a number of people out there in both groups:  people who know that the law means cops are going to harass and arrest innocent people, but think it's a good idea anyway.

Meanwhile, I'm betting a large number of people in both groups think Obama's raised their taxes will take their guns away, because he might be a fascist.

God, sometimes I think we completely deserve what we're going to get as a country.  I really, really do.

An Exercise In Black And White Thinking

Over at Alternet, Tim Wise asks a brilliant question:  how would Americans, the Village media, and conservatives feel if the people saying and doing what the Tea Party are doing were black, and protesting a white Republican President?

Would they still be considered patriots, dissenting bravely?
Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protesters — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.
And Wise has a definite point.  There's no way the reverse of this would be allowed.  FOX would be filled with people screaming that Somebody Do Something About This Angry Black Mob.  Clips of Watts in 1968, Compton in 1992, Detroit in 1967, would be played non-stop on the news.  It would be nothing but fear, a fear that would be followed by calls for a military crackdown on "these people".
To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.
There's no doubt in my mind that people would be killed, blood would flow, and that the National Guard would be deployed against Americans.  There are people in this country that have the right to protest because they are Americans.

And there are people in this country who despite being Americans, do not possess that right.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Tami Luhby at CNN Money asks:
How long should we help the unemployed?
States have extended benefits in some cases up to 99 weeks...but there's still millions and millions of long-term unemployed out there who still don't have a job, can't move because they can't sell their house in this market, and are stuck having to try to change career paths in the middle of this nightmare.

Meanwhile states are simply running out of money to fund unemployment, so it's a moot point anyway with Republicans saying "enough is enough."  A million long-term unemployed will exhaust their benefits this year alone and millions more in 2011.  That's not going to exactly help the economy.  People like M.K. Reed are going to end up with nothing.
For M.K. Reed, the $265 weekly check allowed her to pay the mortgage and utilities in her Jefferson, Ga., mobile home. Reed, single and turning 60 in the fall, lost her job in the real estate industry two years ago.

Since then, she has applied to hundreds of positions in the public and private sectors and just got certified as a phlebotomy technician, hoping a job drawing blood will land her a spot in the healthier medical industry. Reed has been trying to sell her house so she can move to a state with a better economy, but she's had no takers.

Despite her efforts, she's had only four interviews and no offers. Her jobless benefits ran out last week.

Now desperate and out of savings, she's putting her mother's and grandmother's furniture, china and silverware on eBay, which she thinks is worth $10,000. She'll be lucky if she clears $1,000, she said. After that, she doesn't know what she'll do.

"I'm just trying to sell everything I've got to hang on here," said Reed.
And she's still got five years until Social Security kicks in at the minimum.  She's one of the ones who's most likely going to have to move in with family while still trying to sell the house.  I know plenty of folks in the same boat.  Heck, I had to move back home in 2002.

This recession, there's going to be millions more like her.

Your Papers, Please, Phoenix and Flagstaff, Part 5

Earlier in this series of posts I said that Arizona's draconian immigration law would be overturned the minute some rich white couple was arrested and harassed.  Digby reminds us that there's a good chance that the harassment part of whites in Arizona who will protest this law is going to happen (think cops and white civil rights protesters in the South in the 60's) and that Arizona's hardest cops like infamous Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio are going to be doing it in order to intimidate anyone to keep people from criticizing them.
The MCSO (Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office) uses physical intimidation against anyone they see as a critic. They’ve parked unmarked cars across the street from the home of the State Attorney General (Terry Goddard). Maricopa County residents have paid tens of millions in lawsuit settlements because of use of force in Arpaio’s lockup (a tent city, inmates forced to wear pink underwear-- not kidding).

Item: Last year Arpaio and County Attorney Andy Thomas filed a civil RICO lawsuit against all the Maricopa County Supervisors, four of the state Judges for the Maricopa County jurisdiction, plus various county employees, supposedly over corruption in building a new courthouse office building in Phoenix. (Dropped 2 weeks ago, Thomas resigned and is running for state AG.) Not one shred of evidence was ever offered. Item: County Supervisor Don Stapley was arrested in the county parking structure in Phoenix and booked, because they filed charges against him related to non-disclosure of financial transactions on disclosure forms.
And these guys will soon get free reign to go after anyone they have a reasonable suspicion of being an illegal...or any under suspicion of helping them.  What's coming in Arizona later this year is going to be shocking to many Americans.  Of course there are Arizona cops in on the bill.  As far as outfits like the MCSO go, it's open season.

The only good news is that the law will go into effect in August or September, right in time for the heart of campaign season.  If Obama and lawmakers don't act by then on immigration, then they won't get a chance to until the lame duck session in November/December after the election.  By then it may be too late.  But news of mass arrests and deportations in Arizona just in time for Labor Day may at least have the saving grace of mobilizing the Democratic base.

But odds are we're going to see something truly nasty in the fall.

Miners Get A Major Farewell

President Obama's eulogy for the lost coal miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine yesterday afternoon was extremely moving and worth taking a look at if you missed it.

When most Americans think "killed on the job" the occupations most of us think about are firefighter or cop or construction worker.

Not in West Virginia.

They deserve better.  We passed the MINER Act in 2006 and to his credit Bush did sign it into law.  But when Democrats wanted to improve the act in 2008 with tougher safety regulations, it died in the Senate due to Republican filibuster threat.  They said the 2006 act was more than enough to prevent mine disasters like Sago, where 12 miners died.

Instead we got an even worse disaster that killed 29.  If the Senate Republicans hadn't sided with the energy industry, perhaps those 29 miners would still be alive today.

The Party of No stuff has real world consequences, folks.  And sometimes those consequences are deadly.

Greek Fire, Part 11

The Greek Fire continues to burn as talks over the weekend did not resolve the bailout problem.  The Germans want strict debt reduction for Greece before they'll hand over their part of the bailout, and there's no way Greece can really avoid taking on more debt.  Needless to say, this morning Greek bonds collapsed.
Greek bonds tumbled, pushing yields to the highest since at least 1998, on speculation Germany may refuse to guarantee an early release of bailout funds.

The yield premium investors demand to hold the nation’s 10- year bonds rather than German bunds climbed to more than 600 basis points after the Financial Times cited German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble as saying Greece must firm up plans for deficit reductions in 2011 and 2012, and not just for this year, to qualify for aid. Citigroup Inc. said a reorganization of the debt or need for extra support looks “unavoidable.”

“The market is increasingly nervous the funding will not be in place before the next payments are due,” said Nick Stamenkovic, a fixed-income strategist in Edinburgh at RIA Capital Markets Ltd., a broker for banks and investors. “Germany is playing hardball and until we see the money on the table investors will demand a higher premium to hold the debt.”

The 10-year Greek bond yield jumped 78 basis points to 9.58 percent as of 11:30 a.m. in London. The 6.25 percent security due in June 2020 slid 4.34, or 43.40 euros per 1,000-euro ($1,333) face amount, to 78.86. The two-year yield jumped 300 basis points to 13.96 percent, after soaring the most on record to 14.66 percent.

Greece’s fiscal crisis dominated weekend meetings in Washington of finance ministers and central bankers from around the world after the nation said on April 23 it wanted as much as 45 billion euros of financial support that was made available by its European neighbors and the International Monetary Fund. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF’s managing director, said talks will end “in time to meet Greece’s needs.”
Germany doesn't want to end up holding the bag on Greek debt, which they know they will should Greece borrow more money and Greek politicians refuse to clean up their act.  Politically they can't: it would lead to mass riots across the country.  Six years ago the country hosted the Summer Olympics.  Now it's bankrupt.

The IMF better hurry up, at this rate the bailout's going to need a bailout.  At best the bailout has to be decided on before the end of next week, or Greece will certainly miss its May payment.  That clock is starting to run out fast.  Such a default would be devastating to the Euro.  But a bailout will be devastating to Germany, because they'd be the ones forking over the money.  The Germans aren't stupid.  They know they're being put on the block to cover a loan for Greece that means in all certainty that they won't be getting paid back.

And investors want a ridiculous rate of return before they'll invest now too.  The spread at one point today was over 600 basis points, which means the difference between a 10-year German bond and a Greek bond is more than 6%, that means a German bond is going for about a 3% yield...and a Greek one is going for well over 9%.  With Germany wanting guarantees itself, the bond market is imploding.  Germany wants to see that kind of return too, after all.  They're likely to see much, much less.

The Greek Fire spreads.


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