Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Last Call

Ever wonder why despite all the really important benefits in health care reform are falling on deaf ears, and why Republicans are able to get away with proposing reform ideas that are already in the existing legislation?

It's possible that there might be a concerted public relations effort to kill the law.  Greg Sargent:

Why are Democrats on the defensive over health reform? This statistic, buried in today's big New York Times piece on that very topic, is striking and deserves some more attention:
Opponents of the legislation, including independent groups, have spent $108 million since March to advertise against it, according to Evan L. Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks advertising.
That is six times more than supporters have spent, including $5.1 million by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the new law, Mr. Tracey said.
So $100 million in ads tarring health reform have run since Obama signed the bill into law in March. And many ads on health care contain multiple falsehoods and distortions. Is this entirely to blame for making health reform a political liability for many Dems? No, of course not. Though majorities have steadily said they like individual provisions, the overall law was unpopular in the lead-up to passage. Dems have not done what they needed to do to change the public's mind at the rate they had hoped to.
But even if the massive post-passage ad campaign against the law is only part of the story, it's nonetheless significant. Clearly, those heavily invested in returning the majority to the GOP recognized that a concerted campaign to tar this major Dem achievement -- after it had been enshrined into law -- had to be a central feature of their strategy. It seems likely that this massive ad onslaught may have been one key factor in preventing public opinion from turning around quickly enough.

$100 million just on ads trashing "Obamacare", all bought and paid for and ran after the bill was signed into law, all run to benefit Republicans throughout the year and leading up to the election.

The best free speech money can buy, folks...and a Congress to go along with it.

You're A Hard Hobbit To Break

Considering income derived from shooting the Lord of the Rings trilogy represents, oh, the entire last decade of New Zealand's tourism industry, you can excuse the country for making arrangements that Peter Jackson shoots his two upcoming Hobbit films there as well.

A short-lived union boycott prompted Warner Bros. representatives to travel to New Zealand this week to review the studio's decision to shoot Peter Jackson's two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy in New Zealand.

Fearing the loss of the project worth an estimated $500 million and damage to the reputation of New Zealand's fledgling film industry, Prime Minister John Key stepped in, negotiating a deal to keep the project that was announced late on Wednesday.

"An agreement has been reached between the New Zealand government and Warner Bros. that will enable the two Hobbit movies to be directed by Sir Peter Jackson to be made in New Zealand," Key told a news conference.

Jackson's adaptation of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" was shot in his home country of New Zealand and garnered major international publicity for New Zealand. Warner Bros. sold nearly $3 billion worth of tickets at the box office, and the filmmaker and his team won 11 Academy Awards in 2003, including best film.

Economists said the loss of "The Hobbit" could cost New Zealand up to $1.5 billion and the danger of losing the film brought thousands of protestors into the streets in the past week.

New Zealanders.  Very pleasant, and not stupid.  And they say cottage industries are dead.  Reminds me of the spat Britain's MI-5 had with the James Bond franchise shooting in and around their HQ and the British government said "You have a budget for MI-5 because the James Bond franchise has brought England a hell of a lot of money, so you will do this or the Exchequer will become quite cross with you."  (If I recall, the movie was Die Another Day.)

Needless to say, they allowed it.  Hell, the NZ PM got involved with this Hobbit fracas.  One point five billion bucks at stake for the country, you'd better believe it.

Point / Counterpoint

You have a choice on Tuesday.

GOP House leader John Boehner, today:

"This is not a time for compromise, and I can tell you that we will not compromise on our principles," Boehner said during an appearance on conservative Sean Hannity's radio show.

"I love Judd Gregg, but maybe he doesn't get it," Boehner said Wednesday in a rebuke to Gregg, the top Republican on budget issues in the Senate who's set to retire at the end of his term in January. "We're going to do everything — and I mean everything we can do — to kill it, stop it, slow it down, whatever we can."

"To the extent the president wants to work with us, in terms of our goals," the Ohio Republican explained, "we'd welcome his involvement."

President Obama, today:  (PS, Way to go, Oliver!)

"But I don’t go into the next two years assuming that there’s just going to be gridlock. We’re going to keep on working to make sure that we can get as much done as possible because folks are hurting out there. What they’re looking for is help on jobs, help on keeping their homes, help on sending their kids to college. And if I can find ways for us to work with Republicans to advance those issues, then that’s going to be my priority."

Based on those statements, going forward which one of those two do you think should be charge of the country?  Which one sounds like they are working for the American people, and which one wants to work to increase their own political power?

Which one of those should voters reward on Tuesday?

Why There's Real Hope For The Dems

The bottom line on Nate Silver's latest House model (where the GOP gains 52 seats and takes the House easily) is not that the Republicans are assured of taking the House, but that there's a pretty good chance that the polls are off a bit.  Even a 2 point change in the polls favoring one party or the other from Nate's current data makes a huge difference.  To whit, his chart:

If the polling data is underestimating the Democrats this year even by just 2 points, Nate's model says they keep the House...barely. Likewise, if the data is underestimating the Republicans by just 2 points, they gain 65 House seats.

Five points either way gives 75 seats for the Republicans in the red direction, but blue-wise it would cut the Dem losses to just 22 seats.

Such a five point underestimation happened in 1988, according to Nate. The Dems did much better than anticipated, but Bush Sr. still won the Presidency.

It's all about turnout now. Two points could mean dozens of house seats and control of the House. Make sure you vote, folks.

Boom, Headshot, Part 4

Here's another video for you of a man being removed from a campaign event.

So what was this man's crime?  Being a known Democrat at a public event for GOP Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia.

One man attending was John Taylor, a member of the Louisa County Democratic Committee and a backer of Rick Waugh, Cantor's Democratic opponent. Taylor and two others were asked to leave the coffee shop. County police then subdued Taylor, as can be seen in a video shot by his son with his cell phone.

Events like these raise questions about the decorum of the man who would be in such a powerful position on Capitol Hill. Violence at campaign stops, regardless of who may be at fault, is not something commonplace in Virginia politics.

If Cantor says he will meet and debate voters, he should have the nerve to do so. He should not hide behind his party's gatekeepers and a rural police department.

The coffee shop owner asked all Democrats to leave his establishment before Cantor showed up, and the assembled identified Taylor as a member of the County Democratic Committee.   Taylor and his son were asked to leave.  Taylor refused.  You saw the result.  But since in America in 2010 we have to assume that any Democrat at a Republican campaign appearance is a danger, they have to be forcibly restrained and removed whenever they are identified.

Was the coffee shop owner within his rights to kick Taylor out?  Yes.  Was it the right thing to do in a society that holds free speech sacred?

You tell me. Matt Osborne has a brilliant post at C&L on this whole mess.

[UPDATEDigby wins the Internets.

What do you do with people like this? They just spent the last year and a half disrupting Townhall meetings like a bunch of crazed jackals. (They're still doing it.) Yet if anyone (even the press) asks unpleasant questions or holds a sign they disapprove of at one of their political events, they either have them restrained by private security or arrested by the police. And that's if their supporters don't assault them first and then demand an apology from the protester.

This goes way beyond hypocrisy. This is a group of people who truly believe that constitutional protections only apply to them --- in their minds, the founders wrote it to protect good conservative Christian people from the traitors who would challenge their supremacy. 

The rest of us have rights subject to approval of the Tea-ranny of the Majority.  

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 32

So it seems after roaring forward full steam, Foreclosuregate has drifted off the front pages a bit.  The banks appear to be in a holding pattern and the media of course is covering next week's election.  But what about the banks?  Why aren't the banks urinating themselves to the point of dehydration right now?

Chris Whalen asks that question over at Tyler Durden's place and the answer he comes up with is our old friend counterparty insurance.

That's right.

The banks are betting on the housing market to collapse again...and this time it's the mortgage underwriters who will need to be bailed out, AIG-style. TD:

Chris Whalen's latest Institutional Risk Analytics is a must read letter as it highlights yet another aspect of foreclosure fraud, one which finds various analogues in the way the MBS originating banks took advantage of AIG, knowing full well it was stuffed to the gills with worthless pieces of paper and taking out enough insurance on it to require a federal bailout when mark to fraud failed and mark to market finally worked for a very short period of time.

Now, it seems, it is the mortgage insurers turn: "So today the MIs are still operating, though they are not providing insurance because they can't. Observers in the operational trenches tell The IRA that virtually no MI claims are being paid - even if the claim is legitimate. The MIs are very undercapitalized and still bleeding heavily. But they get continued business because the GSEs demand MI on high LTV loans. Lenders are forced to use the MIs and consumers are made to pay the premium.  Thus the auditors of the GSE continue to respect the cover from the MIs, even though the entire industry is arguably insolvent."

The question is how many CDS have Goldman et al purchased in bulk in anticipation of the imminent wholesale MI Event of Default, which will force Geithner to once again use the Mutual Assured Destruction wildcard and force taxpayers to bail out those holding MI insurance, especially if the originators and servicers end up being one and the same...

In other words, if the banks have bet enough on the mortgage insurance guys to go under, it's AIG all over again when the underwriters have to default and somebody has to pay up.  That somebody of course will be the taxpayer, and we get yet another scenario where the real threat of a systemic cascade failure leads to TARP 2: Economic Boogaloo.

It'll be awesome.  And by awesome, I mean the Old Testament usage where things got destroyed and turned to salt and eaten by locusts.

Any Portugal In A Storm

Portugal may be the next domino to fall after Greece and Ireland as Lisbon's government is on the verge of flying apart over austerity budget numbers.

The minority government of Portugal has failed to gain opposition support for its proposed austerity budget.

It is unclear whether the right-wing opposition will actually block the budget or merely abstain from voting.

A failure to pass the budget could plunge the country back into the debt crisis it had seemingly escaped since the summer.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates threatened to quit if the budget fails, while the finance minister ruled out more talks.

The opposition Social Democrats oppose tax rises planned by the governing Socialists, preferring spending cuts.

They've got a week to get it done, and if there's no budget by next Wednesday, boom goes the dynamite.  It could be the longa soneca for the country's economy and will certainly raise the stakes on the Euro debt crisis. Keep an eye on this one, folks.  I have a bad feeling about this.

Boom, Headshot, Part 3

And the circle is complete.

Tim Profitt -- the former Rand Paul volunteer who stomped on the head of a MoveOn activist -- told told local CBS station WKYT that he wants an apology from the woman he stomped and that she started the whole thing.

"I don't think it's that big of a deal," Profitt said. "I would like for her to apologize to me to be honest with you."

"She's a professional at what she does," Profitt added, "and I think when all the facts come out, I think people will see that she was the one that initiated the whole thing."

Profitt also blamed the incident on his back pain. Footage shows that Profitt stomped down on Lauren Valle's head, neck and shoulder while she was being restrained by another man with her shoulder on the street and her head on the curb.

It's all her fault for having an opinion.  The bitch had it coming to her, clearly.

Jesus wept.

[UPDATE]  Scott Lemieux over at Lawyers, Guns & Money has a great round up of Winger apologists for Tim Profitt, including good ol' Col. Mustard:

The people around Paul had no way of knowing that this person intended only to present an "award."  Some of their actions may have been unwarranted and possibly criminal, such as the person who pushed her down with his foot, but make no mistake about it, this was a deliberate provocation intended to create a scene.   

Right.  Being a liberal she could of had an invisible lightsaber under her wig, so the only rational response was to kick her ass, says the law professor.

The White House Jobs Job

David Leonhardt at the NY Times argues that in reality, none of Obama's legislative successes matter to voters because the country lost some 3 million jobs during his first year in office.  The country may have gained some half a million jobs this year total, but that still leaves 7.5 million jobs to go to get back to 2007, and nothing else matters to voters.

So what happened?

Recoveries from financial crises tend to be long and slow. The European debt crisis, which began early this year and sent stocks around the world falling, seems to have taken away the American economy’s slim margin for error. By May, hiring by companies had slowed.

Stimulus spending was starting to slow, too. And White House political aides were looking at polls showing voters were worried about deficits and spending. Put it all together, and the aggressive policy response of 2008 and 2009 faded.

In December 2009, the House passed a second stimulus bill, totaling $154 billion. But it languished. By the time the Senate took it up in February, a special Senate election in Massachusetts had cost the Democrats their filibuster-proof majority. The bill that the Senate eventually passed, and that became law, was only one-tenth as large as the House version.

At the Fed, meanwhile, some officials were warning — incorrectly, it’s now clear — that the economy could be at risk of growing too quickly and setting off inflation. Yet Mr. Obama let two Fed seats sit vacant for months, rather than fill them with economists who could have lent more balance. Only recently has the Fed started trying to lift growth again.

White House officials respond to these criticisms by pointing out that they helped break the back of the worst financial crisis in 80 years and that Republicans opposed nearly every tax cut or spending increase Democrats proposed. That’s all true. But I keep coming back to the fact that this administration is full of people who knew that financial crises tended to produce weak recoveries — and that the typical policy mistake was being too timid.

“We’re just not going to make that mistake,” Timothy Geithner, the incoming Treasury secretary, told me, as Mr. Obama was preparing to take office. “We’re not going to do that. We’ll keep at it until it’s done, whatever it takes.”

Mr. Obama and his team may yet succeed at doing that. But for reasons both beyond and within their control, it will take longer than they hoped or expected. And longer than voters hoped or expected. 

The stimulus package was too small.  It didn't work, it was fated not to work, and Republicans seized upon it not working:  that was the plan all along.  It stopped our descent, but left us in deep in the hole.  It was literally a worst of both worlds situation:  a major deficit expense that in the eyes of many Americans failed.  I said 18 months ago that it wasn't going to work, that it was not targeted correctly, and that it contained tax cuts that weren't stimulative enough.

A complete payroll tax holiday instead of a smaller payroll tax credit, more funding to states to preserve state employee jobs, more infrastructure projects to take advantage of the glut in construction workers left unemployed from the housing bubble, larger workfare programs, all of those could have made a real difference instead of being half-assed and would have put money back into the retail end of the economy, stimulated demand, and saved jobs.  If that meant capital gains and estate tax cuts to get conservatives on board to pass it, then great.

Of course, it wasn't going to happen.  As I predicted then, the plan was to give Obama just enough stimulus to hang himself with, and now the Republicans are poised to make big gains.  When they lock up Congress for another two years and the economy falls off a cliff, they'll blame Obama too.  A Pyhrric victory...but a victory nonetheless.

And that's all that matters, apparently.  By not seeing the obvious trap then, the Dems face the mob now.  And that failure indeed rests on the shoulders of one Barack Obama.

Boom, Headshot, Part 2

Headstomp guy says he had to use his foot to push down activist Lauren Valle because back pain prevented him from bending over.

No really, that's his story.  But that's not the interesting part.

The former Rand Paul volunteer who stomped on the head of a prone MoveOn activist tells a local CBS affiliate he would've never put his foot on the victim at all if it wasn't for his bad back.

According to WKYT, "[Tim] Profitt explained that he used his foot to try and keep her down because he can't bend over because of back problems. He also says police were alerted to watch her before Paul arrived because people in the crown recognized her as someone who may try and pull a stunt."

So there may be something to her claims that assaulting her was premeditated.

Valle said the attackers had identified her well in advance of the assault.

"They identified me as a MoveOn worker, and as someone they knew from prior campaign events," she said. "And so, about five minutes before Rand Paul showed up, they motioned to each other to start taking photographs of me." She added that they formed a "blockade" behind her.

"It was premeditated," she continued. "As soon as Rand Paul's car showed up they started to move in front of me."

Regardless, this is going to be the focus of the last week of the campaign.  We'll see what effect this has on Tuesday's results.

StupidiNews Focus: The Neo-Hoover Era Begins

Republicans, already measuring the drapes in various House committee chair offices, are promising to cut $100 billion in spending as their first act when the government is the buyer of last resort in our floundering economy.

U.S. House Republicans plan to try to slash $100 billion from the federal budget as early as January if they wrest power from Democrats in this year’s midterm elections, setting up possible early showdowns with President Barack Obama on taxes and spending.

A Republican House takeover would thrust new committee heads, such as Representative Dave Camp on the Ways and Means panel, into the spotlight within weeks -- or days -- of seizing their gavels in early January. They would confront quick political tests that could alienate independent voters and Tea Party activists alike, analysts said.

“The major issues are going to be fiscal, and fiscal issues are always contentious,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California.

Carrying out spending cuts that Republicans have pledged to seek -- which would amount to 21 percent of the government’s so-called discretionary money pot -- could prove politically difficult. Reducing funds for programs such as college loans for low-income students or medical research at the National Institutes of Health is harder than promising to do that on the campaign trail.

Republicans “will quickly find out that across-the-board cuts have political repercussions,” Pitney said.  

Of course, all of this depends one whether or not the Republicans decide to shut down the government later next month by sinking the lame duck session.  No matter what happens on Tuesday, the Bush tax cuts expire in January, and I'm betting that the Republicans will simply run out the clock unless they get a permanent (and budget busting) extension of them for the top 5% of Americans.  They'll then declare that they have to make up the difference by cutting spending from popular programs, and that's going to have serious consequences.  Remember, the Republicans have no intention of working with the Democrats.  At all.

There's going to be nothing but gridlock because that's the goal.  If you think putting the Republicans back in power will equal a more moderate and less "extreme" federal government, well, don't say I didn't warn you.


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