Friday, January 21, 2011

Last Call

Keith Olbermann has apparently just quit MSNBC.

The liberal host of of MSNBC's Countdown has quit after tonight's broadcast.

“Good night, and good luck,” Keith Olbermann said for the last time on the cable news network.

The phrase is one he borrowed from the late veteran radio and television journalist Edward R. Murrow.

MSNBC released a short statement, saying that the two parties had not apparently reached agreement on Olbermann's contact.

"MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract," the statement said.

It continued, "The last broadcast of 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors."

The fact this happened mere days after the FCC approved the Comcast/NBC Universal merger?  One hell of a coincidence there, folks.  One that stinks to high heaven.

Holy crap.  I don't even know what to say.  It's a Last Call, indeed.  Talk about a Friday Night News Dump.

Good night and good luck to you too, Keith.

[UPDATECNN confirms this, here's the clip from Keith himself.  As IronBrow flags in the comments, Keith says right off the bat in this clip that he was "told this would be his last show".  Doesn't seem like he quit to me.

[UPDATE 2DougJ points out it's the same day former NBC Universal owner GE's CEO becomes President Obama's new economy pointman.

Moving at the speed of business.

[UPDATE 3]  The NY Times:

NBC executives said the move had nothing to do with the impending takeover of NBC Universal by Comcast.

Sure it didn't.  Guy had two years left on his contract too.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 59

Well, MERS-y mercy me.

The chief executive of the privately-held Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, or MERS, is planning to leave the company and an announcement could come within days, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company has been under fire by Congress and state officials for its role in the mortgage-document crisis. The firm's board of directors has met in recent days to address the fate of the company and its chief executive, R.K. Arnold, the people said.

Arnold and other MERS executives didn't respond to requests for comment. A MERS spokeswoman Friday declined comment. Arnold, a former U.S. Army Ranger, has served as the CEO and president of Merscorp Inc., the parent company of MERS, since 1998 and has been with the company since its inception 15 years ago, according to a corporate biography.

I've mentioned MERS before:  it's the company the banks set up in order to process mortgages electronically.  If the CEO is leaving, there's something big and rotten about to go down and soon.

Keep an eye on this story.  MERS is the heart of Foreclosuregate's electronic three-card monte setup.

Deleterious Dupes Demand Dupnik Dumping

Via Wonkette, I see the Tea Party wants to "retire" Pima County Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik as soon as possible.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has never lost an election, but that was before his remarks assigning blame for the deadly Tucson, Ariz., shooting to political "vitriol" and calling Arizona "a mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

Now it's Sheriff Dupnik who finds himself on the public-opinion hot seat. A group opposed to illegal immigration has begun an effort to recall the sheriff in a special election. Meanwhile, a Pima County tea party group is planning on holding a "Dump Dupnik" rally next week outside his office.

"I haven't been a fan of Dupnik's for a long time, but this really was the straw that broke the camel's back," said Tom Rompel, co-owner of Black Weapons Armory in Tucson. "He's law enforcement. We expect 'the facts, ma'am,' not his opinion. He leans far left, always has, and frankly, people have had enough."

You know, what strikes me most about this is that this effort to rid themselves of this troublesome person not on the Tea Party approved politician list is the fact that these are the same folks screaming that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and El Rushbo have every right to free speech to say whatever they want about their political opponents, and that we can't criminalize rhetoric.

These are the same folks who in turn now want to recall Sheriff Dupnik for exercising that same right, and are demanding a special election to vote him out of office now, before his term is up, for the crime of...expressing his opinion.

Funny how that works.  For that offense, he must be recalled from office.  You know, I honestly don't know why any Democrat is allowed to hold office under this logic.  Shouldn't the Tea Party be trying to force recalls for as many Democrats as they can at all levels of government if the bar for recall is "disagree with the Tea Party"?

So Complex It Takes A Kid To Explain It

Eighth-grader William Arnuk explains why high frequency trading sucks and is ripping you off.

Kid gets an A as far as I'm concerned.   I may be a technocrat but I also believe in a level playing field, and this certainly the hell isn't level.

You Can Bet The Bankruptcy On It

No matter what Serious Villagers decide the states should do about their massive budget crises (and it's gotten so bad now that the words "state bankruptcy legislation" are being thrown around in the Senate now) there's one thing for sure:  state and local employees have to be made to pay for it.

House Republicans, and Senators from both parties, have taken an interest in the issue, with nudging from bankruptcy lawyers and a former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, who could be a Republican presidential candidate. It would be difficult to get a bill through Congress, not only because of the constitutional questions and the complexities of bankruptcy law, but also because of fears that even talk of such a law could make the states’ problems worse.

Lawmakers might decide to stop short of a full-blown bankruptcy proposal and establish instead some sort of oversight panel for distressed states, akin to the Municipal Assistance Corporation, which helped New York City during its fiscal crisis of 1975.

Still, discussions about something as far-reaching as bankruptcy could give governors and others more leverage in bargaining with unionized public workers.

“They are readying a massive assault on us,” said Charles M. Loveless, legislative director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We’re taking this very seriously.”

Mr. Loveless said he was meeting with potential allies on Capitol Hill, making the point that certain states might indeed have financial problems, but public employees and their benefits were not the cause. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report on Thursday warning against a tendency to confuse the states’ immediate budget gaps with their long-term structural deficits.

“States have adequate tools and means to meet their obligations,” the report stated. 

The reality is that state employees are not the cause of budget woes, but they are politically the easiest cuts for Republicans to make.  Republicans talk about multi-year pension obligations as if they are the same thing as single-year budget items and equate the cost, saying "Hey, states are on the hook for billions of fat government pensions, we need to eliminate them to cover our budget gaps."  The single year cost of these pensions is of course far lower.

But hey, these guys vote Dem anyway.  Screw them, right?

Just Say No... No It's Not Working

Whether you agree with it the "war on drugs" or not, there is no question we are losing.  Jails are overcrowded and the public has been thoroughly educated, and still there has not been a major win for law enforcement in the war on drugs.  You can go to any street corner and buy your basics, and get away with it for a good long while before it becomes a problem.  Now there is new discussion about lightening the load on jails, as well as giving non-violent drug offenders a second chance. 

Don't think this is the right answer?  Don't think legalizing or vastly decriminalizing marijuana is a good solution to prevent overcrowding and unnecessary criminal records?  Okay, groovy.  Then tell me your solution, because the one thing we should all be able to agree on is that the current method isn't working.  At all, not for any party involved.  Cities reap fines and law enforcement has built an industry on minor drug offenses.

"The question is: Where is the breaking point where you're saving money to the point that it may seriously impact public safety?"

 I think drawing a line at non-violent and marijuana-only offenders make sense, and it's not like we'll be releasing murderers.  Unless the jails go bankrupt, which is sort of the point above.  Admitting the current system isn't sustainable is a good starting point for creative solutions.

The Worst Thing I've Heard All Year Part IV

(CNN) -- A 14-year-old South Carolina boy used the rifle his father bought him as a birthday present to shoot the man to death, along with a great-aunt, and critically wound his grandmother, police said Tuesday.

This is devastating, and it's made even more complex because it's hard to be angry at someone so young, no matter how despicable the actions.  Authorities investigated and so far have not found a trigger or pattern of behavior.  If any details come to light, I'll follow up on them.

Cutting Everything Is Serious Business

Democrats are at least taking the threat of the GOP shutting down the government over killing funding for heath care reform seriously.

Democratic lawmakers tell The Huffington Post that they increasingly expect Republicans to try and freeze funding for the health care law. Such an attempt would face the same institutional hurdles as a straight repeal vote: a non-compliant Senate and a president wielding a veto pen. But whereas the repeal bill's death would mean -- in practical political terms -- absolutely nothing, the inability to pass an appropriations bill could have far-reaching effects.

"They are potentially setting up a situation where they will bring government, all of government, to a screeching halt," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said Wednesday. "Not because of the debt ceiling. This is beyond the debt ceiling ... If they think they are going to have the end game of their appropriations bills be that they drive health care reform into an early grave ... they are literally setting up a full stop for almost everything we will possibly do this year."

"I am real concerned," Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) said. "We do operate on yearly budgets that could exact great harm if they are dedicated to that proposition. You still have to work with the Senate. So what happens when you reach that kind of impasse? We have this gridlock ... There is no doubt in my mind that the Republican leadership ... has already charted a course. They are very disciplined and very good at what they do."

"This is only the beginning," Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said. "I'm also fearful that they are going to try and eviscerate the legislation by denying it funding [and] by harassing the administration."

"I'm very concerned," Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said. "There are a lot of things that need funding in order to be implemented ... Here is the point: these guys are serious. Give them credit. They said what they were going to do with repeal and now they are doing it ... There is no ambiguity here and anyone who doesn't see [defunding] as a deadly serious effort on the part of GOP leadership is naive." 

It's pretty clear that Democrats are expecting the GOP to shut the government down.  The question is what do they plan to do about it in return?  It's one thing to be gravely concerned, but do they plan to fight back or give in to the Republicans?  What I'm not seeing in this Sam Stein article is a vow to stand up to the Republicans and make them pay a dear political price for shutting down a government that's already on the edge of financial chaos.

There's some hope at least for Dems with a spine.

"Hopefully that will not happen," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told a gathering of new media reporters and political bloggers on Wednesday. "But we will just see how irresponsible they are ... they say they are going to hold back funding on everything. I don't know what they get at by that. But I think we would have to discreetly respond. This is what withholding funding ... would mean to you." 

That's the right track, but they need to be putting out this message now, not wait for March.  Make it clear that this is what the GOP plans to take away from Americans and pound them with it.

They're Called Revolutions Because They'll Roll Right Over You

Somehow, the fact that the Tea Party class of GOP House freshmen are actually serious about wanting Orange Julius to follow through on that whole "cut spending" thing is actually news to Orange Julius.

Rank and file Republicans aren't happy with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). They think the GOP should take a hatchet to the federal budget now, to make good on their pledge to slash spending by $100 billion "this year." And their displeasure is spilling out into the open.

"Despite the added challenge of being four months into the current fiscal year, we still must keep our $100 billion pledge to the American people," reads a draft of a letter to Boehner, obtained by TPM, being circulated by the Republican Study Committee. "These $100 billion in cuts to non-security discretionary spending not only ensure that we keep our word to the American people; they represent a credible down payment on the fiscally responsible measures that will be needed to get the nation's finances back on track."

The problem, as Boehner and Ryan have explained, is that they won't even get a whack at the budget until March, when the government's current spending authority expires. By then it will only be six months until the end of the fiscal year in September, and they're having a hard time squeezing a year's worth of promised cuts through a half-year window.

Boehner's office hasn't yet received and isn't commenting on the letter, but says that the final spending levels will be worked out in the legislative process.

Members want leadership to force the issue, though. When the current "continuing resolution" expires, they say, Republicans should adopt a new version that slashes at least $100 billion all at once.

Please do this, Tea Party faithful.

Please make Orange Julius get up in front of America in March and say "We're immediately cutting $100 billion in funding for education and health care and public safety" and use phrases like "indefinite furlough" and "completely cut off" and "eliminate benefit."

Do this in range of news cameras.  A lot.  Then say you're going to cut taxes for the rich some more.

By all means, hold Orange Julius's feet to the fire on this one.  Let's see what the guys who want to wipe out thousands of more jobs have for specifics and make these kind of massive cuts permanent over the next ten years by cutting $2.5 trillion in social spending.

The Republican Study Committee has quite a laundry list in mind. These folks actually map out cutting $2.5 trillion from the budget without touching Social Security, Medicare, or even a single penny of Pentagon spending.

To get there, these Republicans would go after plenty of familiar targets: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Arts, Amtrak, and U.S. Agency for International Development. But given that the U.S. just doesn't spend that much on any of this, the Republican Study Committee has to dig much deeper, going after transportation and infrastructure projects, energy research, aid to states, legal assistance for low-income families, family planning funds, and assistance to American businesses seeking to export their products overseas.

(Even this doesn't come close to $2.5 trillion over 10 years. The RSC makes up the difference by playing some budget games. Brian Beutler explained, "Like most major spending cut proposals, this one's not entirely rigorous. It relies principally on an aspirational spending cap -- specifically, limiting non-defense appropriations totals to their 2006 levels without adjusting for inflation. In other words, it punts the question of what to cut to future Congresses, which could just as easily bust the cap.")

All of these cuts are necessary, the Republican Study Committee believes, because large deficits call for broad sacrifices. This is, of course, the same Republican Study Committee that demanded massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, without paying for them, all of which was financed by larger deficits.

I want to see Republican after Republican on my TV saying  "Well, we'll have to pay for these tax cuts for the wealthy by skipping pothole repair and bridge building for the next decade, canceling science funding that will provide the jobs of tomorrow, eliminating passenger train service, shutting down PBS and NPR, mothballing the Smithsonian,  firing thousands of people at the federal level and then an order of magnitude more among the 50 states, and that's just for starters."

By all means, Tea Party.  Conduct your "revolution" and let's see what the American public thinks.

A Noun, A Verb, And The Word "Unconstitutional"

Utah's new Tea Party Republican Sen. Mike Lee has pretty much decided that as a federal lawmaker his job is to get rid of as many federal laws as possible and leave everything to the states...including disaster relief, food safety, and help for the poor as he revealed to Utah Public Radio's Doug Fabrizio.

LEE: The listener identifies an issue with flood and disaster relief—should that be a federal prerogative or is that a state power? I think a compelling point can be made that’s one thing that states historically have focused on…and I think that’s one area where we ought to focus—one of many areas where we ought to focus — on getting that power back to the states, keeping that money in the states to begin with.
FABRIZIO: But could Louisiana, for example, have dealt with Katrina? That would have absolutely broken the bank. Should the federal government, in an ideal way, should the federal government have been involved in that at all?
LEE: Well, look, they were, and I generally make a practice of not unnecessarily and futility going back a few years and saying we shouldn’t have done that because the fact is that we did. But looking forward…states will prepare differently if they understand that it’s their responsibility rather than that of the federal government.

Yeah, next hurricane or flood or earthquake or mudslide or wildfire...well you're on your own, states.  General Welfare Clause?  What's that?  Never heard of it.  I'm sure GOP governors are really happy to hear next time there's a disaster in their state that Mike Lee expects them to pay for it.  Rick Perry of Texas, Rick Scott in Florida, Chris Christie in New Jersey...sure they'd be thrilled to know if another Hurricane Katrina hit their state, Mike Lee wouldn't lift a finger to help.

What, you didn't set aside billions at the state level to clean up after a category 5 hurricane?  That's your fault.  Better cut social programs and set aside that money for the next disaster.  Take care of yourselves, you lazy states!

But hey, Lee figures states need to handle food safety and poverty programs too.

QUESTION: Are you saying that if the government would have stayed out of it, the country could have worked out the issues that are being dealt with by these programs, like poverty, like food safety…?
LEE: I’ve never said that isn’t the role of government. What I’ve said is it’s not necessarily the role of the federal government. I think it’s important to ask the question, not just “should government do this? What is the proper role of government?” But “which government are you talking about?”
QUESTION: You said the framers intended state lawmakers deal with that, not the federal law?
LEE: Absolutely.

It should be concerning that as a federal lawmaker, Mike Lee is basically saying the federal government he's a part of is unconstitutional. If he thinks "providing for the general welfare" of Americans means that disaster, poverty and food safety is unconstitutional, what would the actual federal government be allowed to do in Mike Lee's world?

Can't regulate business.  Can't protect Americans.  Can't help them in times of need.  What's left, war?

Don't answer that.


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