Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Last Call

Not that's there's anything wrong with that, of course.
Ken Mehlman, the erstwhile chairman of the Republican National Committee and campaign manager for George W. Bush's 2004 reelection effort, has come out of the closet as gay in a column published in The Atlantic.
Mehlman came out in a column by Mark Ambinder on the website of The Atlantic, after the blogger who outed former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) and onetime Virginia congressman Ed Schrock revealed that Ambinder was to publish the story. Blogger Michael Rogers was the subject of the documentary "Outrage," a film about outing gays in government who have used their positions of power to advocate against gay issues, which aired earlier this year on HBO.
Mehlman, 44, spearheaded the Bush re-election campaign. The campaign used aggressively anti-gay tactics, including the mailing of a flyer in some states which suggested liberals would allow gay marriage and ban the Bible. Some believe Bush’s support for anti-gay marriage measures carried him to victory, particularly in Ohio, which had a gay marriage measure on the ballot.
According to the Atlantic's Ambinder, "Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview. He agreed to answer a reporter's questions, he said, because, now in private life, he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would be asked about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California's ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8."
You know, except the part where as a closeted gay Republican Ken Mehlman led the GOP in several anti-gay initiatives including DOMA.

The 2004 Republican Party platform denounced prejudice and trumpeted equality, despite the party's political positioning on gay issues. It said, "Ronald Reagan believed that people were basically good, and had the right to be free. He believed that bigotry and prejudice were the worst thing a person could be guilty of," and included a bolded section titled, "Ensuring Equal Opportunities," leading with the sentence, "Our nation is a land of opportunity for all, and our communities must represent the idea of equality for every citizen."

Such equality and freedom from prejudice didn't apply to gay Americans. The 2004 platform continued, "We believe that neither federal nor state judges nor bureaucrats should force states to recognize other living arrangements as equivalent to marriage."

The party's position continued, "After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence, and millenia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization, the union of a man and a woman in marriage."

Asshole.  Not like the GOP has changed much.  I wonder what Howie at DWT has to say about all this, he's the one keeping tabs on anti-gay Republicans in serious sexuality denial.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Greg Sargent is a pretty smart guy, but why is he wasting time pretending that there's any other faction in the GOP on foreign policy other than the "Cheney-ites" in the GOP at all?

Oh wait, my bad, there's Ron Paul.

One guy does not a faction make, either.

On the other hand, Greg's 100% right when he says there is a faction of Blue Dog Dems running against Obama/Pelosi now and it's getting bigger.  You know, the Republicans would have cut these Blue Dogs off at the knees.

Forecast For Trouble

Nate Silver celebrates his new digs over at the NY Times with his Senate Forecast, and the numbers aren't good for the Dems.
The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight forecasting model. The Democrats now have an approximately 20 percent chance of losing 10 or more seats in the Senate, according to the model, which would cost them control of the chamber unless Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, who is running for the Senate as an independent, both wins his race and decides to caucus with them.
In addition, there is an 11 percent chance that Democrats will lose a total of nine seats, which would leave them with 50 votes, making  them vulnerable to a defection to the Republican Party by a centrist like  Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut or Ben Nelson of Nebraska. On average, over the model’s 100,000 simulation runs, the Democrats are projected to lose a net of six and a half Senate seats, which would leave them with  52 or  53 senators. (Even though the G.O.P. primary in Alaska remains too close to call, that outcome is unlikely to alter the model.)
Even worse for the Dems, there's about a 12% chance of a 51-49 split which with Lieberman, Ben Nelson, and Charlie Crist in the mix could give the GOP control as well.  By my math, there's a 43% chance of real trouble for the Democrats in the Senate under Nate's model.

Not good at all...or is it?

That still leaves a much better 53% chance the Dems will solidly control the Senate and if you take Ben Nelson out of the equation as a 100% Dem, 65%.

I'd take two out of three odds on the Dems keeping the Senate, frankly.  So would the Dems.

Still Not Playing With A Full Deck

Jim Cramer lord.  The man puts the "blithering" in blithering idiot.  Here's how he plans to fix the housing collapse:
“With the right push from the president of the United States, virtually all the negatives we're fretting about today could partially be fixed,” said Cramer. “The president has enough firepower to blast aside the obstacles standing in the way of higher stock prices ... and a stronger economy. We just don't know if he has the will or the inclination.”

Cramer said it’s hard to imagine Obama acknowledging the stock market, let alone embracing it. But the “Mad Money” host thinks the president, who campaigned on “change,” has the power to turn the markets around.

Take disappointing July existing-home sales, for example. What an impact Obama could have made if he had said he’d do everything in his power to increase the demand for housing and tried to convince the American people that, with lower home prices and interest rates, it’s a good idea to buy a house right now, Cramer said. Obama also could have told the country that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke saw this coming and is keeping mortgage rates low to sop up the excess housing stock.
Excuse for thinking that Cramer's plan consists of "Obama needs to clap harder and everything will be fine!"

Jim, let me explain something to you.

Obama saying "it's a great time to buy a house!" isn't going to fix the 9.5% unemployment rate.  It's not going to make the bank magically lend to people. It's not going to solve the fact that Joe and Jane have been trying to sell their house for 2 years now and can't find a buyer at the price they need to charge to end up not losing tens of thousands of dollars in equity (or maybe hundreds of thousands.)

It's not going to fix the fundamental problem we have with the housing market, which is IT HAS COLLAPSED COMPLETELY.

Jesus.  Not to mention if Obama did do that, the Republicans would yell SOCIALIST GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION and attack him anyway.

Really?  Obama needs to tell people to go buy houses?  With what money, genius?

Sew The Wind, Reap The Whirlwind

Islamophobia is all in your head, America.
The New York Police Department has confirmed to TPM that a cab driver in Manhttan was allegedly stabbed by a passenger who asked if the cabbie was Muslim, and says the incident is being treated as a hate crime. The suspect has been charged with attempted murder and other crimes.
According to Detective Marc Nell, at 6:12 pm last night, the driver picked up Michael Enright, 21, of Brewster, NY, at the intersection of 24th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. The cab proceeded to drive north, and Enright asked the driver, who Nell identified as a 43-year-old Asian male, if he was Muslim. After the driver responded that he was, Enright allegedly stabbed him repeatedly with a Leatherman tool, according to police.
"[Enright] stabbed the driver in the throat, right arm, left forearm, right thumb and upper lip," Nell said.
According to police, the driver called 911, and stopped the cab on 3rd Avenue between 40th and 41st streets, managing to lock Enright inside until police arrived. 
All in your head.

Waiting now for the screeching wingers to say that Enright here was a liberal working for George Soros, because as we all know, Islamophobia is a myth created by the Left.

Meanwhile, is the President really a Christian?

Digby has more on why these crazy Leftist Saul Alinsky minions had to provoke people by admitting to being Muslim.

[UPDATE] And it's Politico's Ben Smith with the story that Enright "works for a pro-Park51 group" while kind of failing to mention that the guy was part of a group that was filming US military exercises in Afghanistan...and that he was a volunteer, not an employee.

But it doesn't matter, it was all a publicity stunt by ACORN to smear Real Americans, right?

Home, Home I'm Deranged Part 9

Yet more bad housing news, this time in new home sales hitting their lowest rate...

New U.S. single-family home sales unexpectedly fell in July to set their slowest pace on record while prices were the lowest in more than 6-1/2 years, government data showed on Wednesday.

The Commerce Department said sales dropped 12.4 percent to a 276,000 unit annual rate, the lowest since the series started in 1963, from a downwardly revised 315,000 units in June.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales unchanged at a 330,000 unit pace last month. 

"What we are seeing is the downside of government intervention. It had fanned expectations of a market bottom when in fact, it created a false bottom," said Tom Porcelli, a senior economist at RBC Capital Markets in New York. "We expect home sales to stay at this remarkably low range with remarkably high unemployment. There is also little demand for lending." 
Little demand for lending with mortgage rates also at record lows?  Over 12 months supply of housing on the market?  And now new homes hitting the lowest rate ever recorded?

This isn't a housing depression.  It's a complete meltdown.

Islamophobia Is All In Your Head, Apparently

Salon's Alex Pareene has finally had enough of Jonah Goldberg's idiocy on the Park51 project.

Jonah Goldberg, whose columns are apparently published in grown-up newspapers for consumption by literate adults, uses today's to expand on a theme that he first toyed with at The Corner last week: Liberals are the real intolerant ones because they make up "Islamophobia" and accuse Real Americans of it.
Here's the lede:

Here's a thought: The 70% of Americans who oppose what amounts to an Islamic Niketown two blocks from ground zero are the real victims of a climate of hate, and anti-Muslim backlash is mostly a myth.
First: "an Islamic Niketown"? What ... what does that mean? Will there be shoes for sale? Are Americans objecting to the commercialization of the sacred ground near but not adjacent or particularly related to the former site of the World Trade Center, where a complex of commercial office building are currently being constructed? Couldn't Goldberg, who is Jewish and from New York, have come up with an analogy that actually helped explain to his readers what he is talking about?

The data backing up Goldberg's thesis? FBI hate crime statistics. That's it. There were only 481 hate crimes against Muslims in 2001, "the year a bunch of Muslim terrorists murdered 3,000 Americans in the name of Islam on Sept. 11," Jonah helpfully reminds us. ("Now, that was a hate crime," he adds, because he is a truly execrable columnist.)
Ahh, the old "If you point out bigotry, you're the bigot!" excuse.  Gosh, it's been a whole couple of hours since I've seen that one dragged out.

If more than half of Americans want to deny American Muslims their constitutional rights, and somehow that isn't Islamophobia, then what is it, exactly?  A misunderstanding of the Constitution?  A hidden clause in the text in really, really tiny print?  A mulligan?  What?

I just don't get it.  I really don't.  I understand the human capacity for self-delusion and justification is nearly infinite, but really?  Goldberg is this stupid?

Pension Tension In Illinois

While a lot has been made of the country's largest state employee pension fund (CALPERS) in California possibly going under and causing massive damage to the economy (especially when the Governator is raiding it to try to balance the state's budget), let's not forget there are plenty of other states out there with multi-billion dollar employee pension funds that are in no small amount of trouble.  One of them is Illinois.
Two few months ago we disclosed how the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) was doing all it can to become the next AIG. In addition to, or maybe precisely due to, its deplorable fundamental condition, which can be summarized as being 61% underfunded on its  $33.7 billion in assets, with a performance record of down $4.4 billion in 2009 and 5% in 2008, the fund, courtesy of a detailed analysis by Alexandra Harris of the Medill Journalism school at Northwestern, was found to be on its way to trying to become a veritable self-made TBTF: as was described then, "TRS is largely on the risky side of the contracts, selling and writing OTC derivatives, including credit default swaps, insurance-like contracts that guarantee payment in the event of a default." In other words, TRS was selling substantial amounts of derivatives, which held the fund's other assets as hostage in case the collateral calls started coming in, as should the market broadly decline, the value of the downside derivatives would "increase" and the seller (in this case TRS) would need to pledge ever more collateral against these wrong way bets.

That's right, folks:  Too Big To Fail isn't just for banks anymore!  If you've got tens of billions now riding on the Big Casino (especially in the President's home state!) and you lose, the expectation is that the Government will cover your losses.  After all, Obama can't afford politically to leave some 300,000 plus teachers in the state high and dry with no retirement funds in his own backyard, yes?

The problem is that all those Big Casino bets are about to go bad along with the rest of the economy.

Alas, at this point it is too late: for TRS, and likely for many, many other comparable pension funds, which had hoped that the Fed would by now inflate the economy, and fix their massively incorrect investment exposure, the jig may be up. As liquidations have already commenced, the fund is beyond the point where it can "extend and pretend", and absent the market staging a dramatic rally, government bonds plunging, and risk spreads on CDS collapsing, the fund is likely doomed to a slow at first, then ever faster death. Then one day, Goldman's risk officers will call the TRS back office, and advise them that due to its "suddenly riskier profile" established in no small part courtesy of Goldman's investment allocation advice, the collateral requirements have gone up by 50%. The next step is either Maiden Lane 4... or not. For the sake of the 355,000 full-time, part-time and substitute public school teachers and administrators working outside the city of Chicago, we hope that the TRS has now been inducted into the hall of the Too Big To Fail, as otherwise roughly $34 billion in (underfunded) pensions are about to disappear.

And the thing to remember is that Illinois isn't alone. A lot of there states out there along with other pension funds are in the same boat, hoping to have hit the TBTF jackpot by now.  When, not if, the market tanks, these funds are going to be left high and dry and millions of employees counting on those pensions along with them.

And it's going to get really ugly.  Fast.

More Primary Impetus, The Morning After

Outside of the too close to call contest in Alaska, Johnny Volcano McCain cruised to victory in his primary in Arizona...
With 11% of precincts reporting, McCain leads by 59%-30%, and has been projected as the winner by the Associated Press.

As we noted this morning, McCain was heavily favored to win going into today. To his credit, McCain recognized early on that there was a restive environment among the GOP base, shifted to the right, and refocused himself to not lose that crowd to the anti-illegal immigration champion Hayworth -- and he also outspent Hayworth by a ratio of about 10-1.
...and Democrat Kendrick Meek got the primary win to face Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist...
With 38% of precincts reporting, Meek is leading Greene 55-32. Also-ran former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre has 6% of the vote. Meek is now set to take the stage in a general election fight where, essentially, two men are vying for the Democratic vote -- Meek and Gov. Charlie Crist, who has run hard for Democratic support since abandoning the GOP primary against Marco Rubio. 
...but the other major story is the Florida GOP primary for governor, and the Tea Party has collected another head.
Only in America: $50 million dollars of his personal fortune later, Rick Scott is the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Florida, the AP projects. Though Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum spoke moments ago and did not concede, with 90% of precincts reporting, Scott leads McCollum 47-43, and the AP and CNN have called the race.
...but Rick Scott may be the Hoffman Effect story of 2010.
The mainstream Republican party had a reason to fear Scott. He carries with him the baggage of the $1.7 billion in federal fines leveled against his company, Columbia HCA, for Medicare fraud. Plus he's extremely conservative, which could be a tough sell in a general election fight.

But in the end, all the establishment's horses and all of its men couldn't put McCollum together again. His campaign -- never all that exciting in the best of circumstances -- simply couldn't raise the support needed to push McCollum past Scott's big money and conservative message.

Now, after a brutal primary, the GOP has a nominee that not a whole lot of general election voters are fond of. The TPM Poll Average for the general election fight shows Democratic nominee Alex Sink leading Scott 34.7-27.8. 
So can a Medicare fraudster trying to buy a Governor's seat win in a state like Florida?  We'll find out.

Has Moose Lady Hoffmaned Alaska?

The major surprise in last night's primaries is that Sarah Palin may indeed have the star power in her own home state to bring down fellow Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and like 2008's general Senate election in the state, this one's going to go down to absentee ballots in an election where nearly everyone was expecting Murkowski to win solidly.
Unofficial returns as of this morning -- with 84.2 percent of precincts reporting -- showed Miller leading with 45,188 votes to Murkowski's 42,633 votes. That's Miller 51.5%-Murkowski 48.6%. What's more, the votes outstanding are from rural areas and 8,400 so-far-unreturned absentee ballots, so the final result won't be known for at least a week and might be undetermined until Sept. 8.
Whichever Republican wins, conventional wisdom takes a hit. As we reported, broad consensus both in Washington and Alaska was that Murkowski would win by a wide margin. If the senator pulls it off, it will be very close. There were few public polls, and they all showed Murkowski in the lead.
We took a look at several internal polls as well, which also showed her besting Miller. But Miller's folks sounded very confident this week in an interview with TPM. He had the backing of former Gov. Sarah Palin, conservative groups and the tea party.
The Anchorage Daily News reports this morning that Miller credited Palin last night.
If Murkowski had won easily despite Sarah Palin, it would have basically been the end of the line for Palin's popularity after a number of her endorsed candidates went down in flames along with her own favorability numbers.  But this situation (as much as it galls me to say it) gives her a massive boost:  Palin has all but singlehandedly removed Lisa Murkowski from office and that means she's very much back in the game.

Despite being personally unpopular, she has all but driven out a Republican incumbent Senator.

Things just got real interesting.

[UPDATE] Per Steve M. in the comments, the Daily Beast drops the other snowshoe:
The ongoing battle for who won the Republican primary in the Alaska Senate race will come down to the absentee ballots, but in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, a source within the Murkowski campaign says they know of one possible legal option to pursue a third-party run. If Murkowski is not victorious when the absentee ballots are counted and decides to wage an Independent party bid, they might consider using this option, which the source wouldn't describe, but did confirm they were seriously looking at.

"We are going to take a look at them and see whether the option is there or not, but it's a decision she (Murkowski) has to make," the Murkowski camp source said. "There is an option I know of."
Oh my.  A Murkowski independent bid might actually give Alaska two Democratic Senators...and oh yes, Miller hasn't officially won yet, either.  I wouldn't quite pop those corks yet, Palinistas.


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