Sunday, July 17, 2011

Last Call

With Elizabeth Warren possibly considering a Senate run in Massachusetts for Scott Brown's seat, the job of heading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is being offered to former Ohio AG Rich Cordray.  However, Republicans are still signaling any nomination for CFPB chief will be blocked.

Obama will formally announce Cordray's nomination to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at an event on Monday.

However, the president's decision to bypass Elizabeth Warren, the bureau's architect whose candidacy has been fiercely opposed by the banking industry, may not signal an easier Senate confirmation fight.

In May, 44 of 47 Senate Republicans sent Obama a letter threatening to block the appointment of any proposed agency chief unless the bureau is reformed to ensure more "accountability and transparency." If the Republicans hold firm, Democrats would lack the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster and win Cordray's confirmation.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Sunday that "the White House still hasn't addressed the concerns raised by Congress."

What my Senator objects to is the fact an agency designed to help consumers in the financial marketplace even exists.  Nor do I expect Cordray's nomination to do anything but languish in the Senate for months, if not years.  Any Obama nominee will be blocked until the Congress finishes out its term in December of next year, that's just fact.  Something may happen during the lame duck session if Obama is re-elected, but I certainly don't expect anything to happen before then, short of a recess appointment.

The GOP isn't interested in government working, you know.

Coming Up Just Short

After a valiant effort, the US Women's National Team took it to extra time in the Women's World Cup final against Japan, but fell short on the penalty kicks, losing 2-2 (1-3 PKO).

Japan had come into the tournament as sentimental favorites, helping rally a nation that had been devastated by a March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear disaster. For the United States, it was more a disappointment -- especially considering that the team twice relinquished leads.

While the U.S. had the most chances during the run of play, the Japanese dominated the penalty-kick phase 3-1 to earn the win. The Americans dug themselves a hole by missing their first three kicks.

"We lost to a great team, we really did," U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo told ESPN, which broadcast the game. "I truly believe that something bigger was pulling for this team."

Americans gathered in bars, living rooms and other places rode an emotional roller coaster, their hopes high on multiple occassions only to be dashed in the end.

Japanese residents were also glued to their televisions, despite the game starting around 4 a.m. local time. In one Tokyo eatery, for instances, scores adorned in the team's colors burst out in joy once their team beat the U.S. squad for the first time in 25 tries.

The shoot-out was mandated only after Japanese midfielder Homare Sawa scored with a few minutes left in extra time, tying the score 2-2. Japan answered a U.S. goal -- also in the overtime period -- when U.S. forward Abby Wambach put her team ahead by heading home a pass from Alex Morgan into the back of the net.

There were many heroes for Japan. One of them was Aya Miyama, who tied up the score with 10 minutes left in regulation by finishing off a scramble in front of the net. Before then, Japan had its back against the wall after Morgan herself scored the game's first goal.

The US blew several chances and allowed Japan back into the game late in regulation and in the second extra period with some sloppy defensive clearing mistakes and some spectacular attacking by the patient Japanese.  Japan never gave up and kept at it, playing arguably the best game of their country's history.

Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach were outstanding and the US should have won, but the Japanese women never lost hope, and more importantly never lost their basic counterattack and capitalize strategy.  The US outshot the Japan team 27-14, but Japan had 6 shots on goal to America's 5, and that was the difference in the game.  The US was wild and overpowering, but both Japanese goals came off bad defensive plays for the Stars & Stripes.

In the penalty kick phase, the US's errant feet cost them the match and the cup.  It's going to be a long time before these ghosts are exorcised, but on the other hand Japan and Homare Sawa played the game of the year to win, and they absolutely deserved to.  Let's not forget that Japan has been through a far more horrendous tragedy than any game on the pitch can make up for...but it helps.

Still, the 2012 London Olympics are the next major challenge for the US, and there's a lot of time to learn from this heartbreaking and humbling loss.  We'll see how they recover.

Cain Unable, Part 2

Herman Cain continues his on-again, off-again Muslim hate on FOX News Sunday.

Show host Chris Wallace asked about the Murfreesboro, TN mosque project Cain took a stand against last week. The planned construction project will build a new home for a Muslim group that's worshiped in the Tennessee town for three decades. But protesters say the group behind the mosque is trying to impose sharia law on America, and they've tied up the project in court for months.

Cain made it clear this morning he stands with the critics.

"Let's go back to the fundamental issue," Cain said. "Islam is both a religion and a set of laws -- Sharia laws. That's the difference between any one of our traditional religions where it's just about religious purposes."

"So, you're saying that any community, if they want to ban a mosque..." Wallace began.

"Yes, they have the right to do that," Cain said. "That's not discriminating based upon their particular religion. There is an aspect of them building that mosque that doesn't get talked about. And the people in the community know what it is and they're talking about it."

To recap, the first amendment does not apply to Islam because it's not a real religion, so America (a country founded in part on the notion of religious freedom) can simply purge the landscape of mosques.  The Constitution only applies where Herman Cain wants it to apply, specifically to protect the tyranny of the majority.  USA! USA! USA!

But don't you dare say Herman Cain hates Islam, because that makes you a racist or something.


If you thought paying $7 for a hot dog at the ballpark was outrageous, you might want to get out the defibrillator.
The Brockton Rox hope to break the Guinness World Record for most expensive dog by serving an $80, half-pound behemoth, covered in decadent toppings you won't even find at some Michelin-starred restaurants. The Massachusetts-based member of the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball will roll out the extravagant frankfurter on July 23 -- National Hot Dog Day.

Thank God the guy from Dillard's didn't grab one of these babies.  He might have been executed.


Mother of four and developmental psychologist Erin Carr-Jordan has videotaped more than 50 playlands from fast food restaurants such as Burger King, Chuck E. Cheese's and McDonald's. Her results are not pretty. She sent samples from one location to a lab, which discovered 13 different pathogens that are able to cause disease in children—coliform, four different kinds of staph, likely meningitis and gonorrhea, and more.
I am aware of the "my precious snowflake" syndrome and I do not believe that is the case here.  The facts are disturbing, and the repeated attempts to clean and regulate this shows there is an honest effort to improve this on her end without any attempt to clean an area visited by hundreds if not thousands of kids.  Kids by nature are filthy little critters no matter how careful parents are.  This is inviting infection at a place that serves food to travelers.  A little suds and spraying could go a long way, that's all I'm saying.

Hacked Off In The UK, Part 2

Looks like another domino in the News Corp chain phone hacking scandal has fallen this morning, as former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks has now been arrested by British police.

The Guardian adds this:

"The MPS has this afternoon, Sunday 17 July, arrested a female in connection with allegations of corruption and phone hacking."

"At approximately 12.00 hrs a 43-year-old woman was arrested by appointment at a London police station by officers from Operation Weeting [phone hacking investigation] together with officers from Operation Elveden [bribing of police officers investigation]. She is currently in custody."

"She was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, contrary to Section1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977 and on suspicion of corruption allegations contrary to Section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906."

"The Operation Weeting team is conducting the new investigation into phone hacking. Operation Elveden is the investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to police. This investigation is being supervised by the IPCC. It would be inappropriate to discuss any further details regarding these cases at this time."

Things are moving fast now, with the obvious assumption being that Brooks will now turn evidence against her former boss, Rupert Murdoch.  If she does, the situation could quickly become untenable for FOX in general.

Could it be that the mighty Rupert Murdoch's media empire is crumbling before our eyes?  It certainly seems like the big fish are ready to talk.  BusinessWeek has this chart (that as of this morning needs updating with Brooks now needing an orange "arrested" circle).

The chart itself is after the jump.

[UPDATE] Scotland Yard chief Sir Paul Stevenson has resigned in the wake of this scandal.  Tomorrow will be very interesting.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 37

The Beltway insiders are signaling this weekend that the GOP is about to fold their hand on the debt ceiling battle.  The LA Times leads off with this piece:

At a closed-door meeting Friday morning, GOP leaders turned to their most trusted budget expert, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, to explain to rank-and-file members what many others have come to understand: A fiscal meltdown could occur if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling.

House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio underscored the point to dispel the notion that failure to allow more borrowing is an option.

"He said if we pass Aug. 2, it would be like 'Star Wars,'" said Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a freshman from Tennessee. "I don't think the people who are railing against raising the debt ceiling fully understand that."

The Washington Post follows up with this:

Key elements for a big deal remain in place. Obama has been clear that he wants one and has started making the case to skeptical factions of his own party that getting the nation’s fiscal house in order is in their best interest. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) also remains committed to an ambitious plan, having told his troops that he didn’t become speaker to do small things. And, perhaps most critically, the markets are demanding it. The credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s says Washington must agree to reduce the debt by $4 trillion over 10 years to avert a downgrade.

“We cannot as a country fail to deal with the debt threat,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), one of the bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators who tried to reach an agreement in recent months. “Every serious economic analysis tells us we’ve reached the danger zone. And just kicking the can down the road? That can’t be. We’re better than that. We’ve got to be better than that.”

And the NY Times finishes the trifecta with this story:

With the Aug. 2 deadline looming, Mr. Obama says a default would have calamitous consequences, jeopardizing the timely payment of Social Security benefits and driving up interest rates for the government and private borrowers alike.

Some Republicans say they do not worry much about being punished by their constituents for playing hardball with their votes on the debt limit and thus pushing the nation to the brink of default. And besides, they doubt that the consequences of a default would be as dire as Mr. Obama and many economists say.

Representative Jeff Landry, a freshman Republican from Louisiana, said, “I don’t believe, if we fail to raise the debt ceiling, that we will default.” Even if the debt ceiling is reached, Mr. Landry said, the government has more than enough revenue coming in each month to pay principal and interest on the debt.

Senator Patrick J. Toomey, a freshman Republican from Pennsylvania, said a delay in raising the debt limit need not cause a default because the Treasury secretary could set priorities in paying government obligations. Many Republicans would give priority to Social Security, Medicare, veterans’ benefits and paychecks for the armed forces. The Obama administration rejects that approach as unworkable. 

All of these stories have the same general framework:  the House GOP leadership is resigned to raising the debt ceiling by coming to a deal with the Dems, but the people standing in the way of that deal are the House Republican freshmen, driven by Tea Party ideology.

In other words, if this blows up in America's face, it's the Republicans' fault.  Specifically, it's the Tea Party's fault.  Not only is the Village love affair with the Tea Party clearly over, but these guys are clearly being set up to take the fall if they blast a hole in the side of our economy and we take on water.

I've long said that the debt ceiling would be raised, period.  Only when Obama became President did it become a problem.  Only when the Tea Party gained power did it become a problem.  The Village is now strongly hinting that the Republicans are responsible for this mess, and that's making the GOP leadership very, very nervous.

So when a deal comes, what will the Tea Party do?  Will we start seeing plans for a third party that splits the Republicans?

One could hope.
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