Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Last Call

A final thought on Operation Surprise Boatsecks from Steve M.:

The consensus, here and at Balloon Juice (thanks for the link, Doug), seems to be that there's no limit to what O'Keefe could do with any sort of footage that emerged from this plus a little creative editing. I see that, but ... are we to assume that Boudreau wouldn't obtain her own video? And that she and CNN wouldn't rebut this instantly, if not preemptively (i.e., possibly as soon as she got off the boat, concluding it was a bizarre story about a controversial guy that shouldn't wait to be told)? Isn't this a Shirley Sherrod situation in the making, except with no rebuttal delay?

No, because the validity of the CNN rebuttal would have been instantly called into question by the Wingers, followed by demands that CNN's Abby Boudreau be fired.  Given the Village propensity of "telling both sides of the story" and not wanting to piss off their Wingnut masters, within a week we would have Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, and David Broder columns on why it was at least partially (or mostly) Abby Boudreau's fault, and the Wingnuts would believe what they wanted to believe, that is "There's no way this O'Keefe could would have done what CNN is claiming, it's all a Liberal Media plot!"

O'Keefe would have completely gotten away with it too, except the CNN people clearly suspected a trap and struck first.

Boudreau wasn't the target.  CNN was, and to an extent, the other networks as well.  The kid was trying to bring them down and motivate the Republican base right before Election Day.

The lesson of Shirley Sherrod according to Wingers is that she's still the racist, remember?  They have their own reality.  The only reason anyone on the right is disowning O'Keefe at this point is that he got caught clearly trying to manufacture a story without having actually manufactured it yet.

He got caught.  That is his sin to the Right.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Republican math:

$700 billion for tax cuts for the wealthy that aren't paid for and will balloon the deficit, fiscally responsible no matter what.

$7 billion for health problems for 9/11 first responders, too expensive and we can't afford it.

But there's no difference between the parties.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 2

Early last week I told you how GMAC was halting its foreclosures in several states because of (to put it mildly) possible fraud on the part of GMAC. Now JP Morgan Chase is looking into its foreclosures and things are beginning to get very interesting.

The review could affect at least 56,000 foreclosures. JPMorgan Chase is the third largest mortgage servicer in the nation, with $1.35 trillion in business and a 12.6 percent market share, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.

"It has come to our attention that in some cases employees in our mortgage foreclosure operations may have signed affidavits about loan documents on the basis of file reviews done by other personnel—without the signer personally having reviewed those loan files," says JPMorgan spokesman Tom Kelly.

In the meantime, the company has requested that the courts not enter judgments in pending matters until the review is complete, a process they say should take a couple weeks.

"We believe the accuracy of the factual loan information contained in the affidavits was not affected by whether or not the signer had personal knowledge of the precise details," Kelly adds.

That is leading to a very interesting prediction by the Zero hedge crew:

We predict that within a week, all banks will halt every foreclosure currently in process. Within a month, all foreclosures executed within the past 2-3 years will be retried, and millions of existing home sales will be put in jeopardy.

That would pretty much be the end of the housing market in the US overnight, and quite possibly the catalyst that kicks us into the next disastrous downward phase in the economy, as in meltdown, crisis, yadda yadda and all right before the midterm elections.

For once I'm hoping Tyler's wrong.  Really, really wrong.  Because if he's right, October is going to be a bloodbath.  Putting this one in the Future Stupidity file and I'll check it again before Halloween.

The Six Trillion Dollar Man

I've been using $3 trillion as the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that Bush started as prime examples of why we're in so much financial trouble, and why any Republican in Washington during the Bush years should be laughed at when they say they are for "fiscal responsibility."

The number first popped up from Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz.

Turns out that $3 trillion number is way, way too low, and that's coming from Stiglitz himself.

Joseph Stiglitz, who received the 2000 Nobel Prize for Economics, and Linda Bilmes, a public policy professor at Harvard University, said the number of veterans seeking post-combat medical care and the cost of treating those individuals is about 30 percent higher than they initially estimated. That, combined with increases in the cost of military medical care and the lagging economy, will likely push the true long-term cost of the war over the $4 trillion mark.

"This may be more of a crisis than the Medicare and Social Security problems we have looming," said House Veterans Affairs Chairman Bob Filner, D-Calif. "It rivals both in the potential impact. This is another entitlement we've committed ourselves to, and it could break the bank."

In a conference call with reporters, Bilmes said about 600,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have already sought medical treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and 500,000 have applied for disability benefits. That's about 30 percent higher than initial estimates for care, and could cost the department nearly $1 trillion in costs for  the current wars alone.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the costs Thursday morning. Filner said he'll use the new research to push for a "veterans trust fund" to pay for the long-term costs of war, a proposal he's already pitched to Democratic leaders in the House.

Under his plan, lawmakers would add a 10 to 15 percent surcharge on all appropriations bills, banking billions of dollars for future veterans medical costs. Reaction to the idea so far has been negative, Fliner said, because lawmakers are concerned that such a move would make the costs of war look astronomical.

Well yes, that's because the $4 trillion to $6 trillion total cost of Bush's wars really is astronomical.  Just imagine where we would be if we had that money back.  And we'll continue to pay for the costs of caring for our wounded vets from this war for a long, long time.  Nice to know that Bush left future generations holding the bag on that bill, huh?

And let's not forget the number of Republicans who want us to attack Iran, too.  How many trillions will that cost us?  How many wounded veterans will that conflict produce?  How many families will receive the worst news imaginable?

Makes me ill just thinking about it.  We were such fools.

Vice Squad

How do you know states are hard up for revenue these days?  They are rushing to relax, repeal, and reconfigure state blue laws that ban alcohol sales.

Thanks to new laws, restaurant patrons in Massachusetts can now start ordering cocktails at 10 a.m. on Sundays, instead of noon. In Arizona they can start hitting the bottle at 6 a.m.—four hours earlier than previously allowed.

Fans of the new rules can clink their glasses and toast the recession, which has state and county leaders looking to revise their alcohol sales laws in order to give small businesses in their borders more sales and also increase tax revenue as they face large budget deficits. 

Other law revisions are in the works. City and state politicians in Connecticut and Virginia are leading efforts to modify alcohol laws in their states. 

“I have followed the ebb and flow of blue laws for 30 years, and in my opinion the pattern is that repeal efforts tick upward every time there’s a downturn in the economy,” said David Laband, economics and policy professor at Auburn University, who wrote a book on the laws that restrict alcohol sales on Sundays. 

Virginia is trying to do away with state-controlled liquor stores in favor of selling private licenses.  I'm surprised my home state of North Carolina isn't considering the same.  Still, states are looking for every revenue dollar they can get, and if that means getting rid of blue laws and dry counties, well then, all of a sudden it's time for county and state governments to get their cut of the action.

Same goes for the marijuana legalization battle in California.  The state's Prop 19 would legalize pot and set up a framework for its sale and distribution, and of course collecting taxes on those operations.  Currently Prop 19 has a pretty healthy lead in the polls.

Plenty of states have legalized gambling these days too.  Ohio did in 2008 and new casinos are being built now including downtown casinos in Cleveland and here in Cincy.

Expect more states to follow on collecting revenue from vice.  Gotta raise revenues somehow.

Well Clearly There Are Too Many Museums With Women In Them Already

Republicans would rather block all legislation than have anything President Obama can take credit for, and that even applies to easy legislation like the National Women's History Museum.  GOP senators Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint are leading the charge to block the museum.  Steve Benen:

So, what's the problem? For Coburn, the argument rests in part on the notion that there are other "similar" museums, and this one would likely "duplicate" the institution. As proof, the senator's office pointed to the Quilters Hall of Fame in Indiana. Think about that -- Tom Coburn thinks the National Women's History Museum in the nation's capital is unnecessary in part because of a museum for quilters several hundred miles away. (Dear Tom, women have contributed far more to American life than just quilts. Sincerely, Steve.)

As for DeMint, the religious right told him to intervene.
Abortion politics are also in play: The senators' action came two days after the Concerned Women for America, a conservative group, wrote DeMint asking for a hold. The group's CEO, Penny Nance, wrote in July that the museum would "focus on abortion rights without featuring any of the many contributions of the pro-life movement in America."
Noting the far-right senators' consistent opposition to measures related to women and women's rights, Kate Conway concluded, "The question is not why Senators Coburn and DeMint are blocking this no-brainer of a bill, but rather why we would ever expect a person who has scorned issues like mammograms and recourse for rape victims -- issues so immediate and vital to the well-being of American women -- to think that an institution dedicated to those women would be worthwhile."

But it doesn't matter, because unless Harry Reid now takes Senate time to hold a vote to defeat the block, the museum bill dies.  The Republicans are completely beholden to their special interests, and "unless the contributions of the pro-life movement" are featured in the museum, it'll never happen.

Reid needs to do this, but he's out of time as it is.  Republicans are more than happy to run out the clock and make sure nothing gets done, and that suits them just fine.

Surprise Boatsecks

Just to annoy the peanut gallery.

A conservative activist known for making undercover videos plotted to embarrass a CNN correspondent by recording a meeting on hidden cameras aboard a floating "palace of pleasure" and making sexually suggestive comments, e-mails and a planning document show.

James O'Keefe, best known for hitting the community organizing group ACORN with an undercover video sting, hoped to get CNN Investigative Correspondent Abbie Boudreau onto a boat filled with sexually explicit props and then record the session, those documents show.

The plan apparently was thwarted after Boudreau was warned minutes before it was supposed to happen.

"I never intended to become part of the story," Boudreau said. "But things suddenly took a very strange turn." 

This story would be laughably pathetic if it didn't reveal exactly how wingnuts percieve both the media and women:  as objects to be controlled for political gain.

Rand Paul Runs Like A Kentucky Race Moose

Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi plus Sarah Palin plus Rand Paul equals an eureka moment here in the Bluegrass State.

"We're shaking up the good ol' boys," Palin chortles, to the best applause her aging crowd can muster. She then issues an oft-repeated warning (her speeches are usually a tired succession of half-coherent one-liners dumped on ravenous audiences like chum to sharks) to Republican insiders who underestimated the power of the Tea Party Death Star. "Buck up," she says, "or stay in the truck."

Stay in what truck? I wonder. What the hell does that even mean?

Scanning the thousands of hopped-up faces in the crowd, I am immediately struck by two things. One is that there isn't a single black person here. The other is the truly awesome quantity of medical hardware: Seemingly every third person in the place is sucking oxygen from a tank or propping their giant atrophied glutes on motorized wheelchair-scooters. As Palin launches into her Ronald Reagan impression — "Government's not the solution! Government's the problem!" — the person sitting next to me leans over and explains.

"The scooters are because of Medicare," he whispers helpfully. "They have these commercials down here: 'You won't even have to pay for your scooter! Medicare will pay!' Practically everyone in Kentucky has one."

A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it.

Nobody, and I mean nobody has mastered the art of convincing voters to vote against their own self-interests like the Tea Party.   All these elderly folks here in Bourbon country are convinced of one thing:  they want theirs, and that means taking it away from everyone except them.  When these folks agree we need to cut spending and reform entitlements, that means for everyone else in the country.  The Republicans wouldn't dare touch their government checks.  They'll take stuff away from "them" instead.

Keep thinking that, Kentucky seniors.

In Conway's new ad targeting right-wing ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R), the Democratic campaign reminds voters of Paul's approach to seniors' care: "The real answer to Medicare would be a $2,000 deductible."

Not like Social Security checks will cover that, especially in a state like Kentucky, one of the nation's poorest. But Kentucky Tea Partiers figure that Rand Paul won't really make them pay $2,000 deductible on Medicare. Only "they" will be made to pay.

(More after the jump...)

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Do Serve America

A new CNN-Opinion Research poll (PDF here) shows broad support for allowing gay and lesbian military members to serve openly among a number of groups, including majorities of Republicans, people over the age of 65, conservatives, and even Tea Party supporters.

Overall, an impressive 67%, two-thirds of the country, supports this. 28% are against it with 5% with no opinion.

Here's the breakdown by political bent:

                    Demo-  Indep-  Repub-  Lib-   Mod-   Conser-
             Total  crat   endent  lican   eral   erate  vative
             -----  -----  ------  ------  -----  -----  -------
Favor        67%    80%    69%     51%     80%    78%    52%
Oppose       28%    17%    26%     41%     17%    18%    42%
No opinion   5%     3%     5%      8%      3%     4%     6%

So there's broad support for doing this...except from the Pentagon.  Even 52% of Tea Party supporters favor allowing gay and lesbian members of the military to serve openly.

And yet every single Republican in the Senate opposed it and blocked the measure last week.  Every single one of them, despite a majority of Republican voters being for it.

Not one Republican in the Senate had the courage to say yes.  Nice party you have there, GOP.

He Keeps Saying It

But the wingnuts will never believe him.

With a recent survey showing that only a third of Americans can correctly identify Obama as a Christian, the president gave a personal account of his conversion as an adult and how his public service is part of his faith.
"I am a Christian by choice," Obama began, standing beneath a blazing sun, when asked why he is a Christian.

"I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead," Obama said. "Being my brothers' and sisters' keeper. Treating others as they would treat me. And I think also understanding that, you know, that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility that we all have to have as human beings."

Humans are "sinful" and "flawed" beings that make mistakes and "achieve salvation through the grace of God," the president continued, adding that we also can "see God in other people and do our best to help them find their, you know, their own grace."

"So that's what I strive to do," Obama said. "That's what I pray to do everyday. I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith."

At the same time, Obama emphasized his belief that freedom of religion is "part of the bedrock strength" of the United States.

"This is a country that is still predominantly Christian, but we have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists" and others, he said, adding that "their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own, and that is part of what makes this country what it is."

Now that's about the most open-minded and reasonable definition of Christianity that I've heard in some time and more power to the President for having strong beliefs that he doesn't think should be forced upon all Americans.  Few enough politicians these days think a person's faith is personal.

At the same time, this shouldn't be news.  This should have been laid to rest 2 years ago.  But there are millions of Americans who simply refuse to believe it, and the reality is they're doing so because "Obama is a Muslim" is a epithet they are choosing to use in place of something worse.

And of course, the reason this is news is because the Village won't let the issue of Obama's faith go.

Climate Of Chaos, Part 2

Despite the fact that the entire silly "Climategate scandal" was a huge hoax, debunked time and time and time again, should the GOP get control of the House this fall, they're going to spend your tax dollars investigating it anyway.

While leading scientific bodies conducting multiple independent reviews of the so-called "Climategate" emails have determined that the scientific work and findings of these publicly abused climate scientists are both legitimate and something worth paying attention to, California Rep. Darrell Issa has vowed to make another investigation of "climategate" his top priority if the GOP wins back the House of Representatives and he becomes head of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the Fall.

The scientific findings regarding climate change are extremely broad and all point to the same conclusion (that we are experiencing accelerated global warming due to human activity). This means that even if one piece of the puzzle were off, the picture would still be obvious. Nonetheless, Issa believes that we should spend more government money and research on investigating a fabricated scandal that has already been over-investigated.

"It’s actually unfathomable that the man potentially leading the Oversight and Government Reform Committee would consider an investigation into the personal e-mails of scientists more important than keeping watch over further financial ruin, political corruption, or any number of other issues our country faces," Nikki Gloudeman of and Mother Jones writes.

Doesn't matter to Republicans.  All that matters is finding Obama's Lewinsky moment so they can impeach him for the crime of being a Democrat in the White House.  They're openly admitting that's what they plan to do, that the only honest plan they have is Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Hitting The Jim

SC Republican Sen. Jim DeMint is the king of obstruction, personally placing holds on any legislation he doesn't personally approve of, which from this administration is basically nothing.  Therefore, every single piece of legislation requires 60 votes in the Senate just to get past a DeMint hold and has for the last two years.

And Jim DeMint is proud of that fact.

Sen. Jim DeMint, in an unusual assertion of unilateral power, warned the other 99 senators that for the rest of their legislative session this year, all bills and nominations that are slated for unanimous passage must go through his office for review.

The move by the South Carolina Republican, who has a growing national following among conservative activists, is his most direct challenge yet to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and it's increased speculation that he's gunning for the Kentucky Republican's leadership post.

DeMint has repeatedly denied that he wants to challenge McConnell as Senate Republican leader. However, DeMint has backed numerous conservative outsiders in primaries who've toppled candidates preferred by the Republican establishment.

DeMint defended his action.

"I'm doing the job South Carolinians elected me to do, which is to review each bill carefully before it is passed, not after," DeMint told McClatchy. "Only in Washington is it a radical idea to read a bill and know how much it costs before we agree to pass it. I'm not going to sit by quietly while big spenders try to secretly ram through bills that increase the debt and expand the size of government."

Right.  Meanwhile, Jim DeMint anyway believes the most important person in Washington is Jim DeMint.  Rumors are DeMint is angling for Senate majority leader if the GOP retakes the Senate this year.  Here's a guy who believes his job is to personally say no to everything, and that Congress should do as little as possible in the worst economy in generations.

As long as Republicans have 41 Senators, they can block everything they want to.  Perhaps it's time for those rules to change.


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