Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Last Call

Former GOP House Majority Leader Tom "The Hammer" DeLay just got nailed.

A Texas jury on Wednesday convicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on charges of illegally funneling corporate money to help elect GOP candidates to the Texas Legislature.

DeLay was found guilty of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering, court bailiff Gilbert Soto said. He was accused of funneling $190,000 to help elect Republicans to the state House and Senate in 2002.

At the outset of the trial, DeLay predicted the jury would clear him, and he remained unrepentant after learning the verdict, calling it "a miscarriage of justice."

"I still maintain that I am innocent," DeLay told reporters. "The criminalization of politics undermines our very system. I'm very disappointed."

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said the verdict showed no one was above the law.
"This case is a message from the citizens of the state of Texas that the public officials they elect to represent them must do so honestly and ethically, and if not they'll be held accountable," Lehmberg said.

DeLay's sentencing was set for December 20, and he faces a possible maximum prison term of 99 years on the money laundering charge and 20 years on the conspiracy charge.

Having said that, raise your hand if you think DeLay will ever serve a single day in prison.  If you do, please disabuse yourself of such dangerous naivete right now.

He'll remain out on appeal, and of course an appeal will take a very, very long time.  And the next time we get a Republican in the White House, DeLay's free as a bird.

Congress protects their own.  And even if DeLay should magically face a single day of justice, by setting the stage for Orange Julius and friends, he's made incalculable damage to our country and our economy possible.

Any way you look at it, DeLay comes out far, far ahead.

The State Of Death Panels

We were told over and over again that the horrors of Obamacare would leave people dying in the streets as bureaucrats would decide who lives and who dies.  The reality of states taking over Medicaid plans and outsourcing them to private insurers is that the insurers do the same thing now, only with the goal of maximizing a profit from it.  Case in point:

One of the most destructive practices of private health insurance companies is the practice of denying care to customers for frivolous reasons. Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services started including denial rates on its information section about health insurance companies on, in an effort to inform the public about this practice by the industry.

It was this practice of frivolous denials that ended up costing Jacksonville, Florida woman Alisa Wilson her life. For months, Wilson, her family, and the surrounding community had been pleading with her HMO to approve coverage for a liver transplant. Although Wilson was enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program, she was not guaranteed care because she was “forced to join a private plan as part of a Gov. Jeb Bush-era experimental overhaul of the program,” meaning she had to deal with a private, for-profit insurance company to get her care, not a government agency accountable to the public.

Bush’s overhaul made “Florida the first state to allow private companies, not the state, to decide the scope and extent of services to the elderly, the disabled and the poor, half of them children,” the New York Times reported in 2005, as the move was being considered. “[N]o one is proposing changes as far-reaching and fundamental as” Bush, the Times noted.

After “scores of e-mails and…the help of a Florida state legislator,” the HMO, Sunshine State Health, finally gave in and approved coverage for Wilson two weeks ago. Yet her health was too severe for surgery by then. On Friday evening, Wilson passed away.

And the fact of the matter is in nearly all states, some or most Medicaid plans are administered by for-profit private insurers as managed care plans.  The bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor on Medicaid aren't government, they're unaccountable private insurance companies.  A large part of health care reform is to hold these companies accountable when they administer Medicare and Medicaid, but of course they've talked millions of Americans into "repeal tyrannical Obamacare!" and whatnot.

Unless you have the money to pay for health care when insurance companies deny it, you already have faceless drones deciding who lives and who dies for money.  They're called "claims approvers".

There's a reason why some states want out of Medicaid:  so they can funnel patients to insurance companies, and not have any federal accountability to go along with those federal dollars.

Twenty-Nine Villagers Worse Than David Brooks

And yes, Salon manages to find that many.

Think of the War Room Hack 30 as an all-star team -- or a rogues gallery. These are the most predictable, banal, intellectually dishonest and all-around hacky newspaper columnists, cable news shouting heads and political opinion-mongers working today. We compiled the list by reading blogs and Op-Ed sections and watching 24-hour cable news channels for about a decade, and then listing about 200 people who rarely fail to annoy us. We cut the list down to 30 people whose continued employment most baffles us, and then we ranked them in order of shamelessness.

Your top 5?  Marty Perez, Dean Broder ("Blogggggggerrrrrrr HOOOOOOOOUSE!"), Thomas Friedman's Mustache That Can Type, Mark "D.R.E.A.M.:  Drudge Rules Everything Around Me" Halperin, and your Village Idiot Of The Year?

Richard Cohen.  Who has been a WaPo columnist nearly as long as I have been alive. Alex Pareene:

I sometimes ask myself, who is the intended audience of a Richard Cohen column? Who reads a Richard Cohen column and thinks to himself, "Yes, I agree with this"? I don't write "thinks to herself" because I cannot fathom the existence of a woman who'd respond approvingly to this defense of Clarence Thomas' vocal appreciation of large breasts. I think Ginni herself would say it does Justice Thomas no favors to have the support of this guy. And what does Cohen leave out of his defense of Thomas? That he was accused of creating a hostile work environment himself, for making inappropriate comments to a 23-year-old editorial aide in the late-1990s.

There's no subject on which Richard Cohen is not completely inessential. The looming debt crisis? Caused by kids today and their tattoos and hippety-hop music! The financial collapse? Did you know that Richard Cohen went to high school with Ruth Madoff? 'Cause that's all he's got.

Richard Cohen is the worst hack in the country.

Really, really hard to argue with stuff like this:

"First, let me state my credentials: I am a funny guy. This is well known in certain circles, which is why, even back in elementary school, I was sometimes asked by the teacher to "say something funny" -- as if the deed could be done on demand. This, anyway, is my standing for stating that Stephen Colbert was not funny at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner."

And he gets actual spendable legal tender for that.  Awesome.

Epic The Plural Of "Moose" Is "North Korean Allies" Fail

Oliver Willis finds this little gem from Palin talking on Glenn Beck's radio show today, where she's asked what President Palin would do handling the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula. She promptly responds in some quasi-English word soup run-on sentence:

PALIN:  "Well North Korea...this is stemming from, I think, a greater problem when we're all sitting around asking "Oh no, what are we gonna do?" and we're not having a lot of faith that the White House is gonna come out with a strong enough policy to um, sanction what is is North Korea is gonna do, so this speaks to a bigger picture that scares me in terms of our national security policies, but obviously, gotta stand by our North Korean allies, we're bound to by treaty..."
HOST: "South Korea."

PALIN: "...and we're also bound by prudence to stand by our South Korean allies and to uh, remind North Korea that we're not gonna reward bad behavior and we're not gonna walk away, and um, we need to press China to increase pressure on North Korea."

Yeah, North Korea, South Korea, Obama, Osama, it's an easy mistake to make and LEAVE BRISTOL PALIN'S MOM ALOOOOOOOOONE!

And even without that ludicrous mistake, what she said is exactly what Obama is doing:  pushing China to talk to North Korea, and to call for real sanctions against the regime there.  To her credit, at least she's not directly advocating bombing Pyongyang (yet) but really?  President Palin would get confused, blather stuff for 30 seconds and then remember what she read was told Obama was doing enlisting China's aid to mutual benefit?

I wouldn't vote this woman to be President of the Sarah Palin Fan Club.


Manufacturing A Loss

Laura Conaway at Maddowblog has a point:  Why should the GOP lift a finger to help the unemployed when they will be rewarded at the polls when nothing improves?

The Federal Reserve predicts the jobless rate will stay above 9 percent for all of next year and above 8 percent for 2012. That's bad news in general for Americans, and maybe very bad news for one President Barack Obama. Ezra Klein suggests unemployment rate might be the only number that really matters.

Americans appear to favor government spending to stimulate job growth. Republican lawmakers, not so much -- and why should they? If you want to make President Obama a one-termer, as incoming House Speaker John Boehner certainly does, keep more people out of work.

And that's a massive problem.  Republicans not only know that you know they'll gain from blocking any and every effort to help unemployment, but they don't care that you know.  And they don't care that you know because you don't care that they gain if unemployment remains high:  it's all Obama's fault.

So yes, if there's a message from the 2010 election, it's that the voters reward irrational actors.  GOP's counting on you doing it, or at least getting so disgusted with the system that you no longer care to participate in it, which is perfectly fine with them.

Chalk up yet another who understands the GOP Plan.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 43

Chris Hayes and Matt Taibbi talk Foreclosuregate.

A pretty effective rundown of where we are so far and what's going on.  Taibbi's Rolling Stone article this month on Foreclosuregate is here.

Quote Of The Day

Barack Obama:

"I don't think about Sarah Palin."

Oh but she thinks about you.

Austrian Powers: International Men Of Misanthropy

CNBC knucklehead John Carney declares "We may all be Austrians now" but as usual, he misses the point.

The strongest critique of the Austrian theory of business cycles has always been that it makes businessmen out to be a bit foolish. Why are they always getting tricked by the low interest rates of central banks into making unsustainable investments? Wouldn’t a smart businessman take advantage of low rates to make investments that could withstand inevitable rate raises?

There are lots of possible responses to this. The Austrian economists have offered plenty, including the fact that low interest rates create a kind of calculational chaos that makes if very hard to figure out which projects are sustainable and which are too risky. 

One of the favored responses, however, has just been that businessmen did not understand the business cycle very well. After all, Austrian economics has long been regarded as outside the realm of mainstream economics. Many MBA’s probably have nothing but a vague sense of the Austrian business cycle theory. So the reason businesses didn’t anticipate and respond to the boom-bust cycle is that they didn’t know much about it. Their errors were based in ignorance. 

A conspiracy theorist might point out that this ignorance served the purposes of central bankers very well. It made it possible for central bankers to use interest rates to manipulate the economy. They could lower interest rates and count on businessmen to respond as they expected—by starting and expanding business lines. 

This brings me around to my point today. I think that we may have entered a new era. 

We may all be Austrians now. 

Here's the problem with applying a strictly Austrian theory to the last decade:  the Austrian theory assumes business leaders are foolish and don't understand the boom-bust cycle, absolutely.  It assumes then that boom-bust are caused by overexpansion, mergers and acquisitions that end up going sour, and new products that don't pan out ("malinvestment") triggered by the boom part of the cycle that eventually leads to the bust part.

Why the Austrian theory doesn't apply is that on the contrary, the folks who made out like bandits hedging their bets towards a Greenspan housing bubble collapse knew exactly what they were doing anticipating the chaos.  The banks certainly were counting on it, and they were counting on the collapse being so large and systemic that the government would save their asses.  They hedged their bets, and literally bet on the house of cards falling apart in the derivatives and counter-insurance markets.  It wasn't ignorance at all, but purposeful chaos brought on by the increasingly leveraged derivatives roulette wheel.

The other big component of Austrian theory is that anything central banker related is automatically bad.  But again, it was the big banks playing the counter-insurance Big Casino games with AIG and Fannie and Freddie that caused the problem.  They bet on bust, and bust is what happened.  We've seen just how hollow a lot of these outfits are in the integrity department with the Foreclosuregate scandal.  They literally never expected to get caught playing on the dark side of the shadow economy.

Austrian economics breaks down when the corporate actors behave in a manner that causes the bust on purpose in order to force central banker intervention, enriching the businesses in spite of their malinvestment...malinvestment designed to lose badly enough to force the Fed's hand.

Now, to be fair, straight Keynesian economics again assumes rational actors in the business community as well, but the central bank in this case is more the economic cop and not the bad guy here.  So it's a bit more applicable, but not by much.  The Fed is still the cop, but there's nothing it can really do.  Interest rates are already nil.  What else can the Fed do?  The buyer of last resort is buying whatever it can, creating fiat money to do it with.  That's a economics solution to a legal problem.  Shooting money at the banks won't make them invest.

We're out into a whole new ballgame here that's neither Austrian nor Keynesian, but just plain old fraud.  So what's the answer?  Well, if the corporate actors are no longer rational, then Austrian theory goes out the window.  At the same time, Keynesian applications (what we're seeing now) seem to be working, but we're seeing a huge glut of cash at the top, especially with businesses raking in record profits.  The Keynsian money we're throwing into the system is not being translated into additional jobs or investment at all.  It's not malinvestment, it's no investment.

That leaves us pushing on a couple billion feet of string.  It's not an economics issue, it's a malfeasance issue.  And until we make the people responsible pay for it, classic macroeconomics won't apply.  The game is simply too rigged now.

What we need is a national holistic solution.  And with the 112th Congress...well, good luck with that.

We've Got Ko-real Problems Here

I didn't think wingnuts could be this violently stupid, but then again we are talking about wingnuts here.  On FOX yesterday Imperial Hubris author and ex-CIA Bin Laden tracker Michael Schurer, who has had some pretty good insights on our failed Warren Terrah in the past, went nuts and openly asked why we hadn't attacked North Korea yet.

Host Brian Kilmeade begins by asking, "Michael, first off, what message did North Korea send, and what message can we send back as the chief ally to South Korea, this morning after they sent fire into that island last night?"

"I think the message they sent was they don't believe we're going to defend the South Koreans to any great extent," explains Scheuer. "The message we should have sent when they sank that North Korean boat or South Korean boat several months ago was we should have destroyed as much of North Korean Navy as we could immediately. I also suspect that we should have destroyed, had been ready to hit them again this morning because now the media and the politicians will talk their way out of defending South Korea and let the North Koreans get away with another act of war."

"So, the heck with what China thinks? Just go take them out because we are assigned...we are an assigned defender of South Korea?" queries Kilmeade.

Scheuer continues, "We need to act as what we are. We are a superpower, we have interests of our own and the North Koreans can do without a navy for a while. They can rebuild it. Instead of spending money on nuclear stuff, they can build new boats."

"Yeah, let their people starve," adds Kilmeade.

Echoing the attack North Korea sentiment today, conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds wrote, "If they start anything, I say nuke ‘em. And not with just a few bombs. They’ve caused enough trouble — and it would be a useful lesson for Iran, too. We can’t afford another Korean war, but hey, we’re already dismantling warheads. . . ."

Yeah, great idea guys.  We can't afford another Korean War, but let's have one anyway.  Let's turn a stupid attention stunt from the Norks into World War III.  Let's kill millions in a nuclear war instead.  Just when I think the idiots on the right had to be satisfied with the lasting damage they have done to our economy and our country, along comes Schurer and the Instapundit to drop us into a deeper circle in Hell.

Take your pick of the lesson here:  Conservatives my ass, that's not very fiscally responsible starting a third war, how can anyone take these guys seriously on foreign policy, do you believe there's a difference now between Obama and the right, what would President McCain/Palin do, yadda yadda.

It's enough to make a grown man weep.


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