Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Last Call

I think this ad may get some attention.

Think the House Republicans who voted for the GOP plan to kill Medicare and replace it with coupons are scared yet of the voters in 2012?  They should be.

Twenty-eight percent of U.S. registered voters say most members of Congress deserve re-election, tying the low point in the trend set last year, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll.

You know, tying last year, when the party in control of the House lost 63 seats.  Voters are just as angry with Republicans now and it's only been five months...

It's gonna be a long two years for Republicans.

Fish, Meet Barrel And Shotgun

Somehow I missed this in last week's Blogger explosion, but Tbogg caught it.

Matt Taibbi vs. Megan McArdle on Goldman Sachs.  In the words of the immortal Bill Cosby, "Let the beatings...BEGIN!"

Gettin' All Mavericky

Senate bill to remove oil subsidies from the top five energy giants failed to pass a GOP filibuster.  That's not news.  This part is (and of course it's the last graph:)

[Mary] Landrieu [of Louisiana], Mark Begich of Alaska and Ben Nelson of Nebraska were the Democrats who cast "no" votes. Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe were the only Republicans to vote to take up the measure.

I can understand Landrieu and Begich, being from oil-tastic red states. I can understand The Ladies From Maine using a freebie to polish their moderate cred (what's left of it.)  But Ben Nelson?  He's just being a dick. We never had a 60 vote majority, not when one of them was Nelson.

Who Let The Jerks Out To Play?

Is it the spring weather?  Or just my imagination?  It seems jerks and people with an undeserved sense of entitlement have come out in great numbers lately.  Here is an example:

From the Detroit Free Press:
A man who won $2 million on a Michigan lottery show has told a TV station that he still uses food stamps.

Leroy Fick of Bay County admitted he still swipes the electronic card at stores, nearly a year after winning a jackpot on "Make Me Rich!" He told WNEM-TV in Saginaw that more than half the prize went to taxes.

Poor guy.  He only cleared a million dollars, and takes advantage of money intended for people in need.  Why is he still able to draw these benefits?  Who dropped the ball on this one?  Please tell me this is an oversight and not true policy.  I need to go watch some kittens and clear myself of the ickiness.

Stickin' It To The Poor Part II

WASHINGTON -- Many states shortchange the jobless by distributing unemployment benefits on debit cards loaded with obnoxious fees, according to a new study by the National Consumer Law Center.

Of the 40 states that have switched from paper checks to prepaid debit cards, 22 states' cards charge ATM fees, 24 charge balance inquiry fees, and 28 charge inactivity fees. The cards in Arkansas, Idaho, Nebraska, Ohio, and Oregon come with overdraft fees ranging from $10 to $20.
And in Connecticut, Iowa, Rhode Island, and Tennessee, cardholders "must pay for every ATM inquiry or pay a denied transaction fee if they request cash when their balance is insufficient," the study says.
Tennessee is found to be the worst offender.  When asked for a comment, a representative for the Tennessee Department of Workforce Development said he didn't think that statement was fair.  However, he failed to explain how the charges and stupidity of this program is fair for the people who need help the most.  After vague references to this "probably" being less expensive than cashing a paper check, there was nothing else to say.  Except, you know, neener neener we'll get you no matter what.

Stickin' It To The Poor Part I

CNN has a brief and very informative article explaining the differences between the rich and the poor.  I rarely trust statistics, but I trust CNN for the most part.  You can read stats on the rich, and disparity between the two classes.  I found the stats on the poor the most interesting, and am including them below:

The Poor:

– The poorest 20 percent of Americans get 3.4 percent of the country's income.

– The portion of wealth for the poor has consistently declined: In 1999, the number was 3.6 percent. In 1989, it was 3.8 percent. In 1979, 4.1 percent.

– You are in the poorest 20 percent if you make less than $20,453 in your household.

– Some 43.6 million Americans live in poverty. That is the record high for the 51 years the U.S. has recorded poverty data.

– The number of Americans in poverty jumped 9.5 percent in 2009 alone (the most recent year for which we have data).

– Overall, 14.3 percent of Americans live in poverty.

– You are in poverty, if you have a family of four and total income is under $22,314. For an individual, the poverty line is $11,136.

Poor us.  Or is that Poor US?

Nuked Gingrich, Part 2

And it gets even worse for Newtie after the events of Sunday and Monday.  Yesterday the Gingrich campaign completely came unglued as Newt went after that "notorious gotcha show", Meet The Press.  It's gotten so bad that even Republicans are now acting like he just died, starting with House GOP leader Eric Cantor.

Cantor went so far as to hint Gingrich may have ended his nascent campaign entirely.

"I think that many have said now he's finished," Cantor said. "I haven't had a chance to really dissect what in the world he's thinking ... so I probably would reserve judgment on that."

Paul Ryan, the architect of the House GOP budget, lit into Gingrich as well. "With allies like that, who needs the left?" he told radio host Laura Ingraham on Monday.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, considered one of the party's most important endorsements because of her state's early primary, held nothing back in an interview with CNN on Tuesday.

"What he said was absolutely unfortunate," Haley said. "Here you've got Representative Ryan trying to bring common sense to this world of insanity, and Newt absolutely cut him off at the knees."

Dick Armey, who had a legendarily tempestuous relationship with Gingrich when they were in the House leadership together and is now a Tea Party organizer, told Politico that Newt was "confused and conflicted" on policy.

"We always say: Newt always has so many great ideas," Armey said. "Well yeah, but then he shifts between them at such a rate it's pretty hard to track it let alone keep up with it." 

At this point I'm fairly sure that Gingrich's 2012 campaign has set some sort of record for fastest flameout, except that he had no lofty heights to burn down through to reach to surly bonds of earth, more like he stuck his head up out of his hole and hit himself with a giant cartoon mallet.

In all seriousness however if there was any doubt that Gingrich was done before yesterday, the absolute disemboweling he got from the right pretty much seals the deal.

Meanwhile, Democrats are more than happy to have the GOP plan to kill Medicare as the new litmus test for all the 2012 candidates, not just Newtie.

Conservatives are already openly dreading seeing Gingrich's remarks pop up in Democratic messaging as they head into an election cycle likely centered on the Republican budget.

"I think every one of these Republican candidates running for the House is going to have a Democratic opponent who's going to run an ad that you can write today," columnist Charles Krauthammer told FOX News. "It's going to start: 'Even the conservative Newt Gingrich, the former leader of the Republicans in the House, says it's 'radical,' it's 'social engineering.'"

And this explains why Republicans are treating Newt like he's dog poop on a Manolo Blahnik at a wedding reception.  They want him gone as fast as possible to get the GOP Medicare disaster out of the news cycle, and that's not going to be possible as long as he runs.  Of course, the Dems are going to do everything they can to keep America's attention on the fact that 96% of Republicans voted to end Medicare and replace it with a coupon, too.

This should be good.

Goldman Sach-ed Us

Matt Taibbi's piece on Goldman Sachs and the financial crisis is your morning reading.  A taste:

Goldman's chief financial officer then and now, a fellow named David Viniar, wrote a letter in February 2004, commending the SEC for its efforts to develop "a regulatory framework that will contribute to the safety and soundness of financial institutions and markets by aligning regulatory capital requirements more closely with well-developed internal risk-management practices." Translation: Thanks for letting us ignore all those pesky regulations while we turn the staid underwriting business into a Charlie Sheen house party.

Goldman and the other banks argued that they didn't need government supervision for a very simple reason: Rooting out corruption and fraud was in their own self-interest. In the event of financial wrongdoing, they insisted, they would do their civic duty and protect the markets. But in late 2006, well before many of the other players on Wall Street realized what was going on, the top dogs at Goldman — including the aforementioned Viniar — started to fear they were sitting on a time bomb of billions in toxic assets. Yet instead of sounding the alarm, the very first thing Goldman did was tell no one. And the second thing it did was figure out a way to make money on the knowledge by screwing its own clients. So not only did Goldman throw a full-blown "bite me" on its own self-righteous horseshit about "internal risk management," it more or less instantly sped way beyond inaction straight into craven manipulation.

"This is the dog that didn't bark," says Eliot Spitzer, who tangled with Goldman during his years as New York's attorney general. "Their whole political argument for a decade was 'Leave us alone, trust us to regulate ourselves.' They not only abdicated that responsibility, they affirmatively traded against the entire market."

They knew the financial crisis was coming, because their own actions assured it would happen.  And knowing it was coming, they then proceeded to bet massive amounts of money that the housing market would collapse into a massive depression.  For this, they were rewarded tens of billions of dollars, and given hundreds of billions more in government credit to make more bets to earn even more money to "pay back the Treasury department."  It was a win for GS.  It was a win for the Treasury department.  And when Obama saw what he had inherited, he realized he had no choice but to keep playing or watch the country snap back into depression.

But somebody's got to pay for all this mess.  Guess who?  Go look in the mirror if you want a hint.

Win Ben Stein's Misogyny

I suppose the choice was obvious, but if you have an international economist like Dominique Strauss-Kahn who has been accused of rape (and there's the preponderance of evidence against DSK) and you were taking bets on who would write the inevitable "It's the victim's fault!" article, of course the answer would be Ben Stein in the American Spectator.

It's filled with sheer genius like this:

In life, events tend to follow patterns. People who commit crimes tend to be criminals, for example. Can anyone tell me any economists who have been convicted of violent sex crimes?

Oh and it gets better. 

People accuse other people of crimes all of the time. What do we know about the complainant besides that she is a hotel maid? I love and admire hotel maids. They have incredibly hard jobs and they do them uncomplainingly. I am sure she is a fine woman. On the other hand, I have had hotel maids that were complete lunatics, stealing airline tickets from me, stealing money from me, throwing away important papers, stealing medications from me. How do we know that this woman's word was good enough to put Mr. Strauss-Kahn straight into a horrific jail? Putting a man in Riker's is serious business. Maybe more than a few minutes of investigation is merited before it's done.

And better.

I don't know Mr. Strauss-Kahn. I have never laid eyes on him in person. He may well, in the future, be found guilty of atrocious conduct towards the complainant and maybe towards others. But, so far, he's innocent, and he's being treated shamefully. If he's found guilty, there will be plenty of time to criticize him and imprison him. But nothing has been proved yet except that the way this case has been handled so far is an embarrassment to this country.

You know what DSK is being treated like?  Like a person who has been accused of committing a heinous crime.   What does he want, an achievement badge?  If anything we should be proud that regardless of your status that if you are accused of a crime and there's enough evidence to back the accusation (and according to the NYPD there is) that the police act.

The best part here is that Stein admits he doesn't know DSK from Adam, so why is he singling the economist out for being treated too harshly?  Just because he's an economist doesn't mean he's incapable of being a criminal. 

What's an embarrassment to this country is all the folks we let get away with things because they have power and status...see Wall Street.  DSK deserves and will get his day in court, and so will his accuser.  That's more than I can say for the millions of Americans who got screwed in the financial crisis.


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