Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Last Call

I will say that having Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz lead the DNC is a major step up from Tim Kaine.  Kaine is running for Senate in 2012.  She is leaps and bounds better than Kaine and is a fighter.

The congresswoman is beloved by the Democratic rank and file for her aggressive, outspoken advocacy for liberal points of view. She’s frequently deployed as a surrogate, particularly to groups of women and Jewish voters.

“Since she was first elected to Congress in 2004, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has emerged as one of the most outspoken leaders in the Democratic Party,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said in a statement.

“A strong voice for ordinary people who didn’t cause the recession but are too often asked to pay the price, Wasserman Schultz will be a great advocate for President Obama and for Democrats across the country who are fighting to grow the economy and create jobs for middle-class families.”

Democratic consultant Karen Finney, a former DNC communications director, called Wasserman Schultz “a fantastic choice.”

Having said that, A) a mildly drunken hobo in a clown suit is a major step up from Blue Dog Kaine, and B) Schultz is still very much a member of the Evan Bayh/John Kerry corporate wing of the Dems.  She's pro-choice and pro-social issues, and has been a fairly reliable vote for Obama, but she's also made no bones about saying that a Blue Dog is better than a Republican, and that's not always true.

Still, as I said, she's a fighter.  And damn, it's good to see a woman get this post.

And I will take a fighter over that inanimate carbon rod that is Tim Kaine any day.

New tag:  Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more from her.

Gold Rush, Part 21

Another new nominal record high for the yellow stuff.

The price of gold hit a record high above $1,450 an ounce in trading here Tuesday as the 'safe haven' metal won support from geopolitical unrest and surging global inflation, traders said.

Gold reached $1,450.65 an ounce at 1515 GMT on the London Bullion Market, beating the previous record of $1,447.82 set on March 24.

It stood at $1,448.65 an ounce at about 1630 GMT, while sister metal silver struck a 31-year peak of $39.09 an ounce in the wake of gold's rally.

Precious metals have been winning support as unrest in the Middle East and north Africa "shows no signs of abating with the civil war in Libya escalating and already negative situations in... Syria, Yemen and Bahrain deteriorating further," said SEB Commodity Research analyst Bjarne Schieldrop.

"Increasing global inflation pressures provide additional support for gold."

Chaos is expensive, folks.

Three Reasons Why There Won't Be A Shutdown

Seeing a lot of news stories fly around this afternoon that a shutdown on Friday is all but inevitable

Boehner and the GOP have floated a stopgap spending measure, which includes deep cuts, to buy Congress another week to negotiate -- but Democrats and the White House have rejected that plan.

A spokesman for Reid told reporters during a Senate vote that Boehner moved the goalposts in Tuesday's White House meeting. Republicans are now positing $40 billion in cuts as a possible target for a deal -- up a few billion from the range of cuts that had marked the negotiations for about two weeks. Democrats are not accepting that figure.

"They're saying they won't agree to anything unless they get 218 Republican votes," Reid told reporters at his weekly press availability after returning from the White House.

Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel flatly denied this charge.

I don't buy it.  There are three reasons why:

1)  The corporate Powers That Be don't like it.  If there's any single constant in the political universe right now, it's that the GOP will always serve their corporate masters.  A government shutdown on indeterminate length would create major uncertainty in the markets.  The markets don't like this.  The big corporations like their status quo, and they like their corporate subsidies.  Throw a shutdown into the revenue stream and we start having to worry about when people who do government work get paid.  The big multi-nationals feeding at the government trough aren't going to be too keen on that.

2)  The Democrats have folded every poker hand so far.  President Obama says no more extensions, but it hasn't stopped the Dems from folding on tens of billions of cuts so far.  Every time the Dems offer cuts, the GOP takes it, but it forces another confrontation down the line.  So far, the GOP has gotten the Democrats to give in every time, for shorter and shorter continuing resolutions and more and more cuts in programs.  What makes this time any different?  The Republicans are winning and the more cunning ones know it.  Why shut down the government when you get what you want from the mere threat of shutdown?

3)  The Republicans want to avoid stuff like this:

House Republicans huddled late Monday and, according to a GOP aide, gave the speaker an ovation when he informed them that he was advising the House Administration Committee to begin preparing for a possible shutdown. That process includes alerting lawmakers and senior staff about which employees would not report to work if no agreement is reached.

Republicans know they only keep winning as long as they can keep the Tea Party nutjobs in check.  If they refuse to play ball and force a shutdown, proudly proclaiming that they are the ones behind it, then it's 1995 all over again and the GOP knows it.

The question is now if Orange Julius an company have miscalculated and lost control of Teabaggenstein's Monster.  If that's the case and the GOP has pushed things too far, too quickly, then there could be a shutdown as early as this weekend.  Hey, nobody said the Republicans know when to cut their losses.  A smart Boehner would have taken the Senate Dems deal.

But if he has lost control of this far right, then he's screwed.  Ask Newtie how that turned out.

This Week In Village Idiocy

Larry Kudlow, natch.

Did the big March jobs report put Pres. Obama back on the road to reelection? If so, he can thank the GOP, whose tax cuts saved him from himself.

You could hear cheering all the way from the West Wing when the Labor Department showed a 216,000 gain in nonfarm payrolls, the biggest number in quite some time. Plus, the unemployment rate continued its decline to 8.8 percent. Not so long ago it was nearly 10 percent.

Corporate payrolls have now increased by 478,000 for the first three months of the year. Over the past three months, the average payroll gain has been 159,000, which is more than twice the monthly gain in 2010. If payrolls stay on track, that would mean nearly 2 million jobs created in 2011. 

So sure, the White House must be very happy. In fact, everybody should be happy at an improving jobs picture. 

But here’s the sublime irony. The wake-up in job creation is a function of Republican policy. After all, for two years the Obama Democrats spent themselves into oblivion, with over $1 trillion of so-called big-government stimulus. Didn’t work. By the end of last year, that failed stimulus wore off, and it was replaced by Republican tax cuts.

Umm, no you idiot.  The Bush tax cuts continued being the Bush tax cuts.  Those didn't change at all.  And Obama lowered payroll taxes too.  If the GOP is solely responsible for the last three months of job creation because of their tax cuts, why did the financial crisis happen?

Christ, what a joke.

This Week's WTH

Recently, I posted an article about a man who was going almost twice the speed limit, and the couple was outraged that a responsible police officer made them wait for an ambulance.  When the father became belligerent, he was detained.

It appears a judge sees it their way, at least for the Coughlins of New Hampshire.  My jaw dropped when I read this article explaining that their judge believes the wife being in labor justified the husband going 102 in a 55 MPH zone.  This is a different case than the one above, but the details are similar. Which prompts me to wonder, was he high? 

Where is the regard for public safety?  What about the wife's safety?  Would a woman in labor survive an accident at that speed, or the infant?  There was a logical alternative, the same one the Denver officers insisted on: an ambulance.  They are trained to drive at high speeds, and traffic knows to yield to them.  The law and public safety come first, especially knowing there was a lawful option.  A judge should know better.

Who Do You Think You Are?

I missed it, but I will be fixing that mistake.

(CNN) -- Forget the "NCISs," the "CSIs" and even "SVU." The most suspenseful hour on television is "Who Do You Think You Are?" And it doesn't rely on bullets, blood or a Bieber cameo to deliver thrills.
For those who haven't seen the show -- and hang your head in shame if you haven't -- this Friday-night NBC reality series follows celebrities as they discover their roots with the help of family members, genealogists and historians.

So what do you find out?  You can read the article above to see, but the results are cool and occasionally touching.  I'm just happy to see something different on television.  If any of you saw it, what did you think?

Shutdown Countdown, Part 14

Republicans aren't going to shut the government down on Friday.  The wall street titans that own them will not allow them to do so.  The only question is what form the last minute deal will take.  The GOP has a plan on the table for a one week measure that will cost $12 billion in cuts.  Expect it to happen.

Brian Beutler:

The purpose is simple. If negotiations over a six-month spending package don't yield an agreement in the next day or two, the Congress will be armed with the proper protocols for operating during shutdown. But the House of Representatives will also pass a politically tough temporary funding package -- with cuts too deep for many Democrats to accept -- and leave the question of a shutdown in their hand. If the Senate can pass it, and the President signs it, it buys congressional leaders and the White House another week to hash out a longer plan -- but at the cost of steep, steep cuts. On an annualized basis, it would amount to well over half a trillion dollars.

Both the White House and the Senate Democrats have indicated that their patience with short term measures has run out. Indeed, Republicans have publicly insisted they oppose further stopgaps, suggesting this is a strong-arm negotiating tactic. If they stick to their guns and let this measure fail, House Republicans will lay the shutdown at their feet. Democratic leaders have yet to respond to this development.

Why should Republicans shut down the government when all they have to do is make a "give us this or else" demand that the Democrats agree to, every time?

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Part 22

The news out of Fukushima Daiichi continues to get worse.

Japanese utility and government authorities suffered fresh setbacks Tuesday with the detection of radiation in a fish and news that water gushing from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific had radiation levels more than millions of times above the regulatory limit.

Readings from samples taken Saturday in the concrete pit outside the turbine building of the plant's No. 2 reactor -- one of six at the crisis-plagued plant -- had radiation 7.5 million times the legal limits, said an official with the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant. Newer findings, from Tuesday afternoon, showed a slight drop to 5 million times the norm.

The utility company also noted Tuesday that the radiation levels diminished sharply a few dozen meters from the leak, consistent with their assessment that the spill might have a minimal effect on sealife. But even in these spots, radiation levels remained several hundred-thousand times the legal limit.

The entire issued underlined that getting a grip on how to minimize the amount of radiation in the Pacific Ocean is the new, primary battlefront in the weeks-long crisis at the nuclear plant.

And it's a battle that is being lost.  Radioactive cesium-137 has a half-life measured in decades.  Japan's problems are going to continue for a very long time.

Is This The Real Life, Is This Just Fantasy?

Rep. Paul Ryan's Magical Dreamer Budget(tm) is a towering work of fiction.  It might even win some sort of award.  Here's what it's going to do, folks!

Our budget, which we call The Path to Prosperity, is very different. For starters, it cuts $6.2 trillion in spending from the president's budget over the next 10 years, reduces the debt as a percentage of the economy, and puts the nation on a path to actually pay off our national debt. Our proposal brings federal spending to below 20% of gross domestic product (GDP), consistent with the postwar average, and reduces deficits by $4.4 trillion.

A study just released by the Heritage Center for Data Analysis projects that The Path to Prosperity will help create nearly one million new private-sector jobs next year, bring the unemployment rate down to 4% by 2015, and result in 2.5 million additional private-sector jobs in the last year of the decade. It spurs economic growth, with $1.5 trillion in additional real GDP over the decade. According to Heritage's analysis, it would result in $1.1 trillion in higher wages and an average of $1,000 in additional family income each year.

Plus it's clinically proven to stop the gum disease gingivitis and will increase crop yields by 14%.

The man is on crack.  In four years Ryan expects to have created 8 million jobs we've lost, and then enough to push our unemployment rate back down to better than it was under Bush or Clinton, to boost stagnant middle class wages by $1,000 a year, to get our economy growing at China (purported) levels and to do all this by making massive cuts to Medicaid and privatizing Medicare.

Here's what would really happen:  corporate profits would continue to skyrocket at the 25%+ a year rate we're seeing now, which would be plowed back into massive bonus checks and stock earnings for the richest Americans.  Those $1.1 trillion in additional wage growth each year?  Something like $1 trillion would go to the top of the top.  The average American would see next to nothing.

Ryan would get rid of green energy subsidies as "corporate welfare", but keep oil company subsidies.  He'd get rid of Fannie and Freddie, but has no idea what would replace it and the millions of mortgages it holds.

And yes, he would make all these trillions in cuts over 10 years in order to cut the tax rate on the rich from 36% to 25%.

That's really the goal of Ryan's plan, to "create" trillions by cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans by a third.  You thought Obama was a "wealth distributionist"?  Republicans want to give trillions to the wealthy and make the rest of us pay for it through spending cuts, and they think you're too stupid to notice.  They assure us if we give the rich more money, they'll create jobs.

They will.  They'll just do it on Wall Street and overseas.

Amazing.  So how much will the Democrats capitulate on this?

[UPDATE]  Steve M. speaks for a lot of Americans who would get screwed by this plan after 2022 by saying "Well thanks, Paul."

The nerve of this little elitist. My wife and I are in our early fifties -- fairly close to retirement, yet still young enough, under Ryan's plan, to be thrown on the tender mercies of the free market for our health care when we're old -- and I just want to know what he thinks people in our situation do. Does he think we just sit around blissfully ignoring the passing of time until about about, oh, 64 or so, and then make our plans for how we're going to survive retirement in a couple of hours one evening? Does he think we don't worry about this, and strategize for it, years and even decades before retirement is imminent? 

What he thinks, old friend, is that you're expendable and half of folks your age will vote for the Republicans anyway just because they believe Ryan isn't talking about taking away Medicare from them, he means he'll take Medicare away from "those people who can't afford health care anyway".


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