Monday, August 31, 2009

Can't Get Enough of the Bush Family?

So fucking absurd:

NEW YORK – NBC's "Today" show has hired someone with White House experience as a new correspondent — former first daughter Jenna Hager.

The daughter of former President George W. Bush will contribute stories about once a month on issues like education to television's top-rated morning news show, said Jim Bell, its executive producer.

Hager, a 27-year-old teacher in Baltimore, said she has always wanted to be a teacher and a writer, and has already authored two books. But she was intrigued by the idea of getting into television when Bell contacted her.

Glenn Greenwald rightfully takes the opportunity to sound off:
They should convene a panel for the next Meet the Press with Jenna Bush Hager, Luke Russert, Liz Cheney, Megan McCain and Jonah Goldberg, and they should have Chris Wallace moderate it. They can all bash affirmative action and talk about how vitally important it is that the U.S. remain a Great Meritocracy because it's really unfair for anything other than merit to determine position and employment. They can interview Lisa Murkowski, Evan Bayh, Jeb Bush, Bob Casey, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller, Dan Lipinksi, and Harold Ford, Jr. about personal responsibility and the virtues of self-sufficiency. Bill Kristol, Tucker Carlson and John Podhoretz can provide moving commentary on how America is so special because all that matters is merit, not who you know or where you come from. There's a virtually endless list of politically well-placed guests equally qualified to talk on such matters.
. . .
Just to underscore a very important, related point: all of the above-listed people are examples of America's Great Meritocracy, having achieved what they have solely on the basis of their talent, skill and hard work -- The American Way. By contrast, Sonia Sotomayor -- who grew up in a Puerto Rican family in Bronx housing projects; whose father had a third-grade education, did not speak English and died when she was 9; whose mother worked as a telephone operator and a nurse; and who then became valedictorian of her high school, summa cum laude at Princeton, a graduate of Yale Law School, and ultimately a Supreme Court Justice -- is someone who had a whole litany of unfair advantages handed to her and is the poster child for un-American, merit-less advancement.

I just want to make sure that's clear.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Glenn Beck- "QUESTIONS!"

JJ and I have been occasionally setting aside time to make fun of Glenn Beck for years, but lately the reasons behind the mockery have been changing. It used to be his douche attitude and general worthlessness of his show. Today it's how visibly unhinged he is during so many segments and the ominous foreshadowing of his "surprise" for America that he plans to unveil on 9/12.

Even by the recent standards he's set for maniacal hosting, his obsession with 'QUESTIONS' over the last week has been somewhat unsettling. Did he completely lose his mind over the week-long break FOX forced him to take? Note the... well, I already said 'unhinged' earlier but seriously it's the best word- note the unhinged performance he put on yesterday:

Does that blackboard look like something put together by the star anchor of the most successful cable news company in America, or does it look like something you would see on a street corner made by someone warning about the desperate perils of cat people working with the CIA to steal your pear orchard?

Yep, I'm definitely excited to see what he's been working on for all these months.

The No Accountability Bernanke Era Continues

Earlier this week, lost among the torture and then Kennedy news:

OAK BLUFFS, Mass. – President Barack Obama announced Tuesday he wants to keep Ben Bernanke on as Fed chairman, saying he shepherded America through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

"Ben approached a financial system on the verge of collapse with calm and wisdom; with bold action and out-of-the-box thinking that has helped put the brakes on our economic freefall," said Obama, with Bernanke standing by his side. "Almost none of the decisions he or any of us made have been easy."


In sticking with a Republican for the nation's top banker, the Democratic president was aiming for stability at a time of continuing, though easing, crisis. The move was designed to reassure the U.S. financial sector as well as foreign central banks that the Obama administration isn't changing course on its largely well-received approaches to the financial meltdown and overall monetary policy.

Man, this guy is awesome. Just for the hell of it, I wonder what he was up to before the crash in 2008? Jason Linkins gives us the rundown:

Days before President George W. Bush nominated him to take the reins at the Fed, Bernanke was already fitting his neck for albatrosses, insisting that the housing boom was not a bubble.

"House prices are unlikely to continue rising at current rates," said Bernanke, who served on the Fed board from 2002 until June. However, he added, "a moderate cooling in the housing market, should one occur, would not be inconsistent with the economy continuing to grow at or near its potential next year."

As Stephen Roach points out in today's Financial Times, Bernanke is a big enthusiast of the bubble economy, and that enthusiasm led to our collective undoing:

On this count, he stood with his predecessor - serial bubble-blowing Alan Greenspan - who argued that monetary authorities are best positioned to clean up the mess after the bursting of asset bubbles rather than to pre-empt the damage. As a corollary to this approach, both Mr Bernanke and Mr Greenspan drew the wrong conclusions from post-bubble strategies earlier in this decade put in place after the bursting of the equity bubble in 2000. In retrospect, the Fed's injection of excess liquidity in 2001-2003, which Mr Bernanke endorsed with fervour, played a key role in setting the stage for the lethal mix of property and credit bubbles.
. . .

Back in March of 2007, Bernanke faced the Joint Economic Committee, with a rosy projection on the housing crisis that was a wee bit more focused on the petals than the thorns.

Although the turmoil in the subprime mortgage market has created severe financial problems for many individuals and families, the implications of these developments for the housing market as a whole are less clear. The ongoing tightening of lending standards, although an appropriate market response, will reduce somewhat the effective demand for housing, and foreclosed properties will add to the inventories of unsold homes. At this juncture, however, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained.
. . .

Dean Baker, writing for TPM, said that, "The problem in the current situation was not that the Fed did not have the responsibility to prevent the $8 trillion housing bubble that caused this crisis. The problem was that the Fed either did not see the bubble or somehow did not think there would be serious consequences from its collapse."

Just to be clear, this was not a minor error. It was as bad a mistake as you could possibly make on the job. This is like the cook who leaves the stove on and causes the restaurant to burn down. It's comparable to a nurse administering the wrong medicine, not once or twice but hundreds of times, leaving a lengthy trail of illness and death in his wake. The Fed's performance is like a school bus driver who drunkenly heads into oncoming traffic, causing the death of all of his passengers. In short, this is really serious.
. . .

Bernanke continually attempted to portray Wall Street's collapse as an unforeseeable set of circumstances. This week, at the Jackson Hole symposium, Bernanke's story was that in August of 2008, "there was little to suggest that market participants saw the financial situation as about to take a sharp turn for the worse. For example, although indicators of default risk such as interest rate spreads and quotes on credit default swaps remained well above historical norms, most such measures had declined from earlier peaks, in some cases by substantial amounts."

Seeking Alpha's Paul Amery takes issue:

Although Bernanke is correct to say that in August 2008, counterparty risk levels had not yet breached the March peak reached when Bear Stearns nearly failed (although they did very soon afterwards), it's pretty evident to anyone, looking at this chart, that financial market strains had been on a general uptrend since the beginning of 2007. Indeed, the average credit default swap spread on these dealer banks was 13 times higher in August 2008 than it had been in January 2007.

Has the Fed lent "freely against good collateral"? Hardly. Here's Econbrowser's pictorial representation of the Fed's balance sheet from a few months ago, showing a dramatic shift from holdings concentrated in US Treasuries to a mish-mash of mortgage-backed and asset-backed debt, taken on from Bear Stearns and AIG, on which it has already suffered losses of up to US$5 billion.

Not really the foresight you want from someone tasked with getting us out of this economic crisis. His help covering up AIG's bailout and confusion over the disappearance of 500 billion dollars doesn't exactly fill you with confidence either.

Dean Baker:

Ben Bernanke has moved very effectively in the last year to prevent the collapse of the financial system. However, even in this area there have been serious issues of unnecessary secrecy and failed regulation. (Isn't Goldman Sachs supposed to be a bank holding company now?)

But more importantly, Bernanke is waist deep in responsibility for this mess. Before becoming Fed chairman in January of 2006 he had served on the board of governors since 2002, and had been head of George Bush's council of economic advisers from June of 2005. After Greenspan, there was probably no one else better positioned to combat the bubble.

The attendees of GreenspanFest 2009 may not want to be so rude as to discuss their culpability for this disaster, but that should not prevent the rest of us from raising the topic. It would be an insult to the tens of millions of people who have lost their jobs, their homes and their life savings to see Bernanke reappointed. Failure should have consequences even for central bank chairmen.

At Netroots Nation Dean Baker was asked how he felt about Bernanke's reappointment. He confused the audience by saying his feelings were "mixed" as he proceeded to rattle off a list of Bernanke's failures similar to the one laid out in Linkins' post.

Just when he could sense the moderator was going to ask a follow up, he finished by stating that the only reason his feelings were mixed was that if Bernanke wasn't renominated, he worried that Obama would choose Larry Summers, someone who he feared even more.

Just to recap: Given a choice between someone who's been as consistently wrong as Ben Bernanke and Obama's chief economic advisory Larry Summers, he would pick Bernanke.

We live in scary, scary times.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Days Until 9/12 Wingnut Parade in DC: 16

Last April the world watched on, awestruck, when the dumbest Americans FreedomWorks could find were paraded around town squares across the country. Anyone who has forgotten exactly how nonsensical these protests were can refer back to my post, or this great thread on Laissez’s Fair which features even more hot wingnut action. The main thrust of their protests was that conservatives hadn’t generated enough meaningless white noise lately, so they hastily scribbled out signs protesting against anything conservative pundits had blamed for ruining America that week. The result was a glorious day of tiny protests whose nationwide totals still couldn’t reach the numbers set by liberal anti-war and immigration protests held in just one city over the last few years. The silent majority has awoken, indeed!

In 16 days we’re set to see the second part of this series, which promises to be a doozy. This one is being organized by Free Republic, so it should be even more of a disorganized mess than the last round. They’ve decided to come to DC this time, so naturally we here at the Train of Thought have decided to pitch in and give them a hand in protesting taxes, human rights, black people, Muslims, Kenya, elections, justice, people not being killed by guns, etc.

Things we’re gonna need:

-Fake moustaches
-American flag bandanas
-Misspelled signs raging in support of the machine
-A camera to capture their brilliant thoughts forever
-A video camera for interviews?

What else? Any ideas as to what our signs should say? How do we best troll these people?

Find Some New Friends

I'd frankly rather he stop talking to these people altogether. But from a political standpoint it doesn't exactly make great PR for you to be golfing with "friends" who also happen to be world class tax cheats:

Robert Wolf, the president of UBS Americas, a Swiss-based bank, joined Obama at the elite, and difficult, Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs. Deputy press secretary Bill Burton described the two men as "friends."

According to news reports, Wolf and Obama met late in 2006 as the then-Illinois senator was about to launch his presidential bid. Wolf raised more than $250,000 for Obama's presidential bid, according to a Post report last year.

But Wolf's firm was caught up last year in a Senate probe of financial firms that attempted to shield millions of dollars in offshore accounts from U.S. taxes.

Last August, the Post reported, "The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations completed its report on UBS's role in helping wealthy investors shield money from federal taxes. Bank spokeswoman Rohini Pragasam said the donations were "categorically not connected" to the Senate inquiry. The bank also is under scrutiny by the IRS and the Justice Department."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Train of Thought Field Trip: Obama Lied, Kennedy Died

After seeing the amount of bile Free Republic managed to vomit up when Obama’s grandmother died last year, I was pretty curious about how they’d react to the passing of Senator Kennedy. Sure, tons of Chappaquiddick jokes, but what else? The site index is full of Kennedy threads at the moment, so I sampled from a few different ones. Taxtruth starts out with something that would set the tone for his thread:

Nothing better than hearing about another
dead rat bites the dust.The dirtbag
kennedy owed me money and never paid!
Nice. After hearing that Kennedy was apparently at some point almost signed by the Green Bay Packers, the thread took a surprising turn:

More of a fudge packer fan.
Clever, broken_arrow1- and these guys wonder why they never get any gay votes! Hold on, Renegade is about to chime in:

A Fudge Packer like Barney .
Ha. Oops wait there’s more from JaguarXKE:

Isn’t Barney Frank a “packer?”
Republican leadership really could learn a thing or two about why they never get many votes from minorities of any kind by looking at posts on Free Republic, but come to think of it I guess most Republican politicians are banking on exactly this crowd to keep them in power. Not done yet, Sig Sauer P220 needs to join the pile of freepers going to town on that dead horse:

Doesn’t Bwaney Fwank play with the Packers?
Minor rephrases of that same joke could fill a Field Trip of their own, so let’s move on. MNDude seems to be experiencing great emotional distress from the lack of a right-wing echo chamber to feed off, I hope he made it back to his own TV in time:

arrgh! I’m stuck at the airport and all the TV’s
are on CNN. You can’t believe how many times CNN
has talked about how important passing this health
bill was to Kennedy. Do airports in red-states
play FoxNews, are is it CNN everywhere?
Rapscallion comes up with his own plan to fix health care:

Start by getting the fraud out of Medicare. Then
fix the medical litigation problem. These two
things will cut costs by 40%.
Yeah, sure they will. Now I’ll propose a similarly realistic fix: have doctors wear small hats on Thursdays, and stop giving lollipops to children. These two things will cut costs by 40%. LS worships the predictive powers of Rush Limbaugh:

Rush predicted this a long time ago. All he has
to do is say something just ridiculous, and the
Dems will soon try to do it.
Limbaugh: I think the sun will rise tomorrow morning.
For our final thread, Freepers react to the statement issued by George W. Bush on Kennedy’s death:

Classy. Something that’s in short supply in
today’s world
Huh well yeah I guess Bush managed not to say anything stupid this time-

Gracious and always.
Wait, “as always”? We’re talking about the same guy who pretended to look around the Oval Office for WMDs after failing to find any in Iraq while American bodies were being flown into Dover? Same guy flicking off the camera, calling a reporter a 'major league asshole,' snickering at everything and spending the better part of a decade pretending to be a down-to-Earth Texan? All the things you can call him, always classy isn’t really-

Class, as always, and as it should be.

Hahaha what the hell, Freepers from an alternate universe are back. Luckily Neighbor of the Beast shows up and seems to have kept some part of his sanity intact:

Bush “class” barfalert :(
Well said, well said. Uh, unless he’s barfing because he wanted the Bush statement to be a series of jokes about women drowning and Barney Frank having anal sex, but I’m going to go ahead and just assume/hope that isn’t the case.

Stay classy, Free Republic.

R.I.P. Ted Kennedy

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Movement on Torture Investigations

Glenn Greenwald:

Attorney General Eric Holder today confirmed what has been suspected for many weeks: he has ordered what he calls "a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations." Holder's decision does not amount to the appointment of a Special Prosecutor, since a preliminary review is used, as he emphasized, "to gather information to determine whether there is sufficient predication to warrant a full investigation of a matter." More important, the scope of the "review" is limited at the outset to those who failed to "act in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance" -- meaning only those interrogators and other officials who exceeded the torture limits which John Yoo and Jay Bybee approved. Those who, with good faith, tortured within the limits of the OLC memos will "be protected from legal jeopardy" (the full Holder statement is here).

In theory, Holder's announcement does not foreclose the possibility that DOJ lawyers who authored the torture memos and/or those in the White House who authorized torture will, at some point, be investigated. Strictly speaking, Holder's announced "review" concerns only those in the intelligence community who conducted interrogations. And by extending immunity only to those who both (a) acted "within the scope of the [OLC] legal guidelines" and (b) "acted in good faith," it's theoretically possible that there is some class of persons who could fall outside the scope of immunity even though they technically complied with the OLC memos: i.e. high-level White House officials and/or DOJ lawyers who had reason to believe that the conduct authorized by the memos was illegal, meaning those who wrote or requested those memos with the deliberate intent to obtain cover for what they knew was criminal behavior. In other words, there are those who complied with the memos, but in bad faith, and are thus are outside the bounds of immunity Holder today defined and ineligible for this immunity. But that's just theory.

This seems good if it's a first step towards something more. While Greenwald is rightfully sceptical on what this means in the long run, there's always the hope that the outrage generated by these revelations (as well as by the report released yesterday) will lead to prosecutions of the real villains who wrote these memos.

No clue where this leads, but it seems like any movement on the issue is better than none.

So Dick Cheney Wasn't Telling the Truth?

I for one am shocked:
For months, former Vice President Dick Cheney has said that two documents prepared by the CIA, one from 2004 and the other from 2005, would refute critics of the Bush administration’s torture program. He told Fox’s Sean Hannity in April:

“I haven’t talked about it, but I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country,” Cheney said. “I’ve now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was.”

Those documents were obtained today by The Washington Independent and are available here. Strikingly, they provide little evidence for Cheney’s claims that the “enhanced interrogation” program run by the CIA provided valuable information. In fact, throughout both documents, many passages — though several are incomplete and circumstantial, actually suggest the opposite of Cheney’s contention: that non-abusive techniques actually helped elicit some of the most important information the documents cite in defending the value of the CIA’s interrogations.
And surprisingly enough, after repeating Cheney's claims as a valid counterpoint during the torture "debate", the media seems less inclined to pick up on the "Dick Cheney: Fucking liar about fucking everything" angle of the story:
While Cheney’s original assertions that the docs would prove torture worked garnered reams of stand-alone print and TV coverage, the fact that the docs themselves don’t actually prove Cheney’s claims was either not covered at all, buried deep in stories, or described in highly hedged language.

To its credit, The New York Times stated this conclusion very clearly, saying that the docs, which were released yesterday, “do not refer to any specific interrogation methods and do not assess their effectiveness.” But this came in the 13th paragraph in an article not directly focused on Cheney’s claims.

The Washington Post buried its description of the documents and didn’t even take a stand on whether they backed up Cheney. The Associated Press ran one story featuring Cheney’s repetition of his claim yesterday, with no mention at all of the documents. Another AP story said it was “not clear” whether the docs show torture worked — in its 21st paragraph.

CNN’s story featured paragraph after paragraph of Cheney’s claims and only noted in the second to last graf that it was “unclear” whether the docs proved him right.

Precious few news orgs ran stand alone stories on this. ABC News did one. The Washington Independent did another.

This is all particularly absurd when you think of the shitstorm that Joe Biden caused by harshly critizing Cheney earlier this year. It's nice to know that an angry and dismissive tone (what Biden was accused of) is "not becoming of the Vice President", but constantly lying about everything is.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Not Getting It

Things you don't like to hear:

In case progressives were beginning to feel as if the Obama administration doesn't really care what they think, they can rest assured: the White House hears them loud and clear. It just doesn't like the message.

"I don't understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo," an anonymous senior White House adviser tells the Washington Post. "We've gotten to this point where health care on the left is determined by the breadth of the public option. I don't understand how that has become the measure of whether what we achieve is health-care reform."

77% of the country is apparently the "left of the left"...

Real health care reform one of the major reasons people worked their asses off to elect Obama...

Blood pressure rising...

Friday, August 21, 2009

How the Fuck Did We Get Here?

It's mid August, actual health care reform is on the ropes after the Obama administration said it's willing to deal on the public option. But hold on everyone, Rahm Emanuel has shocking revelation:
“The Republican leadership,” Mr. Emanuel said, “has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama’s health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day.”
Really? The opposition party is actively opposing the president's plans? You didn't see that one coming?

The fact that the administration sees this as new information tells you all you need to know about how poorly they've handled the health care fight. And honestly when you stand back and take a look at the strategy they've used so far, I'm still fairly stunned:
  • Legislative Strategy: Bend over backwards to include the few less insane "moderate"Republicans and corporate whore Democrats at every press conference, meeting or policy session even though their votes aren't needed to pass the bill.
  • Policy Strategy: Don't make any specific demands of the bill, let congress and (therefore powerful chairman/insurance company shills like Max Baucus) wield disproportionate amounts of power to craft the legislation as they see fit.
  • PR Strategy: Whatever you do, DON'T DEMONIZE THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY! This message was coming out of the White House since day one. Who cares that they're extremely unpopular leeches and would oppose any meaningful reform? We want them to be at the table for some reason, rather than being a living case study of why real reform is necessary.
  • PR Strategy that Ruins Policy: Get Big Pharma on board by promising them that we won't change their ability to fleece us on drug costs.
  • Good Strategy: Say that you want everyone to work through the recess to avoid extending the debate and avoid the whole rowdy townhall fiasco.
  • Bad Execution of Good Strategy: Continue to stroke the egos of the Blue Dogs and Douche Caucus members before the recess and refuse to pressure them, even though they are the only ones who want to "slow things down".
  • Smart Step: Townhall Meetings led by Obama.
  • Dumb Step that Nullifies Smart Step: Don't advocate any firm principles at these town halls, muddling the message and essentially encouraging the Douche Caucus to screw with the bill even more.
  • If All Else Fails, Cave Some More: Say you're willing to get drop the public option, even though it's only remaining part of the bill that would lower costs and keep the insurance companies honest.
I'd like to believe the article about the shift in strategy from the White House, but I'm not getting my hopes up. It's just important to realize that we didn't get to this point on health care because of crazy people at townhall meetings. We got here thanks to a crappy strategy, and hopefully the Administration can learn from that going forward.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On a list of things that shouldn't surprise anybody...

...this should figure very prominently. Tom Ridge, chief of Homeland Security during the Bush years, finally owns up to something that was ridiculously obvious at the time:

Ridge charges in a new book that top aides to
then-president George W. Bush pressured him
to raise the "terror alert" level to sway the
November 2004 US election.
That's some serious banana republic-style shit right there.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Barney Frank For The Win

(Via Digby)

The Letter

August 17, 2009

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W. Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius,

We write to you concerning your recent comments about the public option in health insurance reform.

We stand in strong opposition to your statement that the public option is "not the essential element" of comprehensive reform. The opportunity to improve access to healthcare is a onetime opportunity. Americans deserve reform that is real-not smoke and mirrors. We cannot rely solely on the insurance companies' good faith efforts to provide for our constituents. A robust public option is essential, if we are to ensure that all Americans can receive healthcare that is accessible, guaranteed and of high-quality.

To take the public option off the table would be a grave error; passage in the House of Representatives depends upon inclusion of it.

We have attached, for your review, a letter from 60 Members of Congress who are firm in their Position that any legislation that moves forward through both chambers, and into a final proposal for the President's signature, MUST contain a public option.


Raul Grijalva
Congressional Progressive Caucus
Lynn Woolsey
Congressional Progressive Caucus
Barbara Lee
Congressional Black Caucus

The progressive caucus, the last hope of keeping the public option in health care reform.

Rachel Maddow has a good take:

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Commonplace Book of Barack Obama

Some of you may remember that I was able to secure John McCain’s commonplace book last year. While I don’t want to take too much credit for the electoral rout that followed, I think we can all agree that this played a very large role in securing victory for the Obama camp. Today I’m proud to announce that a bizarre sequence of seemingly unrelated events have delivered the commonplace book of Barack Obama into my hands as well.

For anyone who isn’t entirely sure what I’m talking about: a commonplace book is a notebook which is used to record brief notes and ideas that a person intends to use later. H.P. Lovecraft notably kept a commonplace book which was published online two years ago, revealing his plans to write an enormous number of books about elder gods and skeletons and people being pursued by some implacable evil from beyond this universe. Obama’s book gives us some insight into his mindset and plans for the future. Let’s read, shall we?

#61- unspeakable crypt hidden beneath Ghost City (Mombasa?) contains ancient artifact… man reads certificate of live birth… revelation… he goes mad.

#82- life and death in the hands of Blood-Drenched ghouls.. a woman seeks to save her baby- death panels.. consequences…

#99- dark-skinned leader simultaneously embodies both communism and fascism- insane critics go mad and turn into ghosts, spend Eternity howling in an echo chamber outside of three dimensional space

#101- parties- obese geriatric white people- an indescribable drink made of the dehydrated bodies of leaves- horror…

#127- dreadful machine emerges through thick black smoke, replaced with a duplicate of the exact same machine (but produces less poisonous gas?)- unspeakable terror, elder gods of capitalism enter our universe and awaken the Invisible fist of the free market and ruin all civilization

#128- machine-exchange so popular that it breaks all the laws of physics and becomes horrific visage of non-Euclidian geometry- to look upon it is to go insane- perhaps it works too well? Someone dies. Consequences.

#146- a gruesome plight. Man (president? Horrific gargoyle?) orders a burger with monstrous grotesque French condiment, opening a portal into hellish netherworld of pure terror. his critics talk about it forever- or do they grow up? they do not grow up. also one of them is a ghost.

#398- vast majority of people from southern lands tell survey-takers that ridiculous falsehood is true.. ancient general rises from the grave and unleashes terrible army of the undead upon them, marches to the sea- rest of the country is better off for it. surprise ending: turns out that guy actually was from Kenya? really didn’t see that coming…

#407- Acorn drops from tree and instantly turns into unstoppable force of malevolent will. phone calls- voter registrations- death???

#734- voters spend lifetime choosing who to support for president solely based on how willing they would be to have a beer with him. President finally has a beer with some people- they go mad.

#1,299- man envisions impossible dimension of space and time where people aren’t robbed blind every time they go to see a doctor: attempts to convince others that this unspeakable dream is preferable to current system, BUT: crazed lunatics from outside our solar system shout at politicians very loudly and defend the corporations that take all their money. Everyone goes mad, some other things happen, insurance companies end up with too much money to be counted using mortal numerical systems and become appalling eldritch figures made of pure gold. consequences.

As with before, transcribing these from the notebook takes a lot of time. If anyone else has done any drop ‘em in the comments box and we’ll see what happens next.

The Administration Caves, but Progressives Draw a Line in the Sand

While its been hinted at for some time, the Administration made it pretty damn clear this weekend that they're willing to cave on the public option:

WASHINGTON – Bowing to Republican pressure and an uneasy public, President Barack Obama's administration signaled Sunday it is ready to abandon the idea of giving Americans the option of government-run insurance as part of a new health care system.

Facing mounting opposition to the overhaul, administration officials left open the chance for a compromise with Republicans that would include health insurance cooperatives instead of a government-run plan. Such a concession probably would enrage Obama's liberal supporters but could deliver a much-needed victory on a top domestic priority opposed by GOP lawmakers.

. . .

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that government alternative to private health insurance is "not the essential element" of the administration's health care overhaul. The White House would be open to co-ops, she said, a sign that Democrats want a compromise so they can declare a victory.

Way to stand firm guys, cause nothing says victory like an article that leads with the phrase "Bowing to Republican pressure".

On the positive side, there seem to be more claims than ever that progressives in the house have enough "no" votes to block a crappy bill:

WEINER: The President does seem like he's moving away from the public plan, and if he does, he's not going to pass a bill. Because there are just too many people in Washington who believe that the public plan was the only way that you effectively bring some downward pressure on prices, and if he says well we're not going to have that, then I'm not really quite sure what we're dong here.

BECKY QUICK: So you would not vote for a bill that made it through, if it got through...

WEINER: Not only I but I think there's probably a hundred members of the House, who believe for various reasons that you need to have something to bring down prices. Otherwise you're basically, what you're doing, you're keeping the cost arc. . . the CBO agrees with that. You know as it was, I think the public plan had been watered down so much. So if the President thinks he's cutting a deal to get Senate votes, he's probably losing House votes.

This last development puts the White House in an interesting predicament. It all comes down to who they pressure, and if they want to pass a health care bill they're left with two choices:
  1. Pressure on the insurance company owned Dems (Blue Dogs, Senate Douche Caucus) to vote for a good bill with a strong public option.
  2. Pressure the progressives in the house to vote for health care bill that contains either a public option doomed to fail (triggers, no negotiation power) or none at all.
While I'd like to believe otherwise, both Obama and Emanuel's past moves tell us they will pressure progressives to vote in favor or a crappy bill. And unfortunately, there is recent evidence of the progressive caucus folding under administration pressure (the bailout, the war supplemental), probably leaving Obama confident that he can do it again.

I'm as clueless as everyone else on what happens next, but I don't think it's particularly crazy to say that this fight will go a long way in determining the future prospects of Obama's presidency. A reminder on the real lessons of 1994 (Pissing off your supporters before a midterm election) might be in order.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ownage in the Age of Twitter

I'm still holding to the opinion that Twitter is a mostly useless addition to the internet, but this is pretty awesome.

For some quick background: a few months ago during the height of the Iranian protests Pete Hoekstra took it upon himself to compare their uprising with the predicament Republicans found themselves in after the Bush era. Here's his original tweet:

"Iranian twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House."

Hahahahahaha right. Luckily I don't need to tell Hoekstra to go fuck himself, because since then other people have started using the magical power of twitter to tweet some red-hot mockery right at him. The page I linked to up there has a long list, but here are some of the highlights:

mike_bosworth @petehoekstra: I got a sunburn last weekend. Makes me think of Hiroshima.

netw3rk @petehoekstra: Someone walked in on me while I was in the bathroom. Reminded me of Pearl Harbor.

trisloth @petehoekstra: Just got into a snowball fight. Reminded me of the Hundred Years' War

paganmist @petehoekstra: Had to move all my stuff to a new office w/o a corner view. Now i know what the Trail of Tears was like.

A little bit more along these lines and Twitter might just win me over.

Netroots Nation Day 3

Follow along @manwithoutpants on twitter if you're interested to see what doings are transpirin'.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fear Mongering Fail of the Day #2

This time Glenn Beck, who's been spending all of his time ranting about the evils of Obama-led death panels and the socialist plot to marxo-destroy America, is our daily failer. Watch as Jon Stewart shows Beck in action today and several months ago:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Glenn Beck's Operation
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

Ooops! This might be even more embarassing than the Stephen Hawking mixup.

Netroots Nation Day 2

Governor Dean is speaking now, and available to anyone on cspan.

I'll be updating during the Specter/Sestak craziness that occurs at 11 AM. Check back around then to see what happens.

11:03- Just saw specter walk backstage so things should be kicking off soon.

11:06- Good first question: Who are you? Why are you here?

11:09- Lots of polite applause for really weak list of accomplishments. You don't need to do it people! He needs your vote, make him earn it!

11:11- Q: Why we should trust you?
A: Ed Rendell and Joe Biden trust me! Trust me!

11:20- Specter: "I support climate change"

11:29- This is honestly a surreal experience. Friend next to me just said "he's either completely unprepared, or he just doesn't care"

11:31- Still a little shocked at how civil this is. Not expecting anything too crazy, just more groans and boos.

11:38- Sorry for not having more updates, the internet is crazy slow, not a good thing at a blogger conference.

11:41- Getting that same sinking feeling that I got when Hillary Clinton wasn't booed at Take Back America before her presidential run. Ugh.

11:43- Good job everyone. Way to let Specter know he has nothing to fear from the left. Enable Bush for 8 years, then come to our conference and get cheered!

11:52- Sestak has gotten harder questions than Specter. Not sure how that's possible with both of their records and the make up of this conference, but it seems to be what's happening.

11: 55- Sestak saying all the right things, but I figured he'd be using this forum to hammer Specter more.

12:05- Kind of strange asking Sestak and Specter open ended lofty questions about the role of the netroots in politics. I'd rather they use this opportunity to hammer on specifics policy questions and differences between him and Specter.

12:10- Sestak just finished up. Pretty disappointing to be perfectly honest. Hopefully I'll be back later with more updates.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I read Megan McCardle every now and then, almost entirely from clicking through links on much better blogs also housed at the Atlantic. I've never quite been able to articulate why I can't stand her writing until the always awesome Jesse Lee at pandagon did it in the most brutal way possible:
It’s not so much that McArdle is wrong. It’s that she proves herself wrong and then stands on her mountain of stupid wrongness sneering at everyone who’s noticed that she’s gloriously fucking wrong about everything.

Fear Mongering Fail of the Day

From an editorial in Investor's Business Daily:

The controlling of medical costs in countries such as Britain through rationing, and the health consequences thereof are legendary. The stories of people dying on a waiting list or being denied altogether read like a horror movie script.

One year in perfect health gets you one point. Deductions are taken for blindness, for being in a wheelchair and so on. The more points you have, the more your life is considered worth saving, and the likelier you are to get care.

People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.

Right, the British death panels would have selected Hawking for early termination decades ago. Obama probably would have already imported some death panels if it weren't for the endless vigilance of Palin and Limbaugh, two prominent deathers. Hold up though, here comes Hawking:

"I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS," he told us. "I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived."

To summarize: Stephan Hawking is British, death panels aren't out to kill Trig Palin, the health insurance industry won't deactivate the noise machine until its right to haul in absurd profits while denying claims and bankrupting people is secured. The editorial now displays this correction at the top of the page:

Editor's Note: This version corrects the original editorial which implied that physicist Stephen Hawking, a professor at the University of Cambridge, did not live in the UK.

So their main example of the infinite horror of UHC actually ended up endorsing the British system, but instead of taking the whole thing back they just deleted the example and let it run as a completely unsupported statement? It's good to know that the serious minds opposing health care reform really are just well-spoken versions of the people showing up at town halls with signs about Obama killing their grandparents.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Objective is Real Reform, Not "Winning"

Over the last couple of weeks during Obama's meetings with members of the Douche Caucus, several stories leaked out saying that he had assured them that opposed ads being run against them by progressive groups. I didn't write anything about it because like a few others, I assumed he was just bullshitting them to make them feel better and massage their martyr complexes, since if he really wanted to stop the ads, he would have made efforts to do so. Well it looks like I was wrong, those efforts have in fact been made:

The Politico’s Jonathan Martin reported this morning that Rahm Emanuel warned leaders of liberal groups in a private meeting this week that it was time to stop running ads attacking Blue Dog and “centrist” Dems on health care.

I’m told, however, that Emanuel went quite a bit further than this.

Sources at the meeting tell me that Emanuel really teed off on the Dem-versus-Dem attacks, calling them “f–king stupid.” This was a direct attack on some of the attendees in the room, who are running ads against Dems right now.

Tellingly, Rahm raised the specter of a loss on health care, sources at the meeting say — which suggests that the White House may be less certain about victory than officials allow publicly.

“He started out with, `We’re 13 and 0 going into health care,’” one source at the meeting said, meaning that Rahm was touting the White House’s string of pre-health care legislative victories.

I'm not going to rehash for the 500th time why he's wrong, so I'll just say it's "fucking stupid" to think that running ads against the douche caucus is "fucking stupid".

But if nothing else, it's a perfect example of how Rahm operates. He wants to win, and he doesn't care about the costs. And if you don't care about passing a good health care bill or a bad one, it makes it very easy to negotiate deals with your foes.

Make shady behind the scenes deals with insurance companies to get them on board?

Why not? It boosts insurance company profits and their support will help our chances of winning.

Drop the public option in favor of worthless "Co-ops"
that can't actually compete with insurance companies?

Done! If it makes it easier to win the votes of Democrats who are bought and paid for by those same insurance companies, then why not? And who cares that we don't need their votes to pass the bill? If we take out the most meaningful section of the bill we can get 60 votes, and that's a far greater priority than actually crafting a good bill.

With Rahm's genius gameplan, there's no need to worry about any other legislative battles. If you just let the opposition get whatever they want and immediately surrender the most meaningful parts of the bill, you can win every time!



Train of Thought Lounge: Street Sweeper Social Club

Previously mentioned in a Train of Thought Lounge by JN a few months back, this is the group's first single/video.

Street Sweeper Social Club: 100 Little Curses

Friday, August 7, 2009

Doubling Down on Stupid

Over the past few months, congressional Republicans have made it pretty clear that they won't support any real reform to the Health Care System. And regardless of their feelings on any specific bill, they've made it fairly obvious that it's more important to hurt Obama and the Democrats than it is to negotiate in good faith.

The Democrats have a large majority in the House, sixty votes in the Senate, so the Republicans are completely irrelevant, and there is absolutely no reason to deal with them for any reason. Maybe I should have started with that point.

So with the experiences of the last 7 months on their minds, I was rather stunned to read this report from Obama's meeting with the Democratic Senators:

Despite confronting near absolute opposition from the Republican side of the aisle on health care, President Obama and Senate Democrats stressed during a lunch on Tuesday that reform still needed to be done in a bipartisan fashion, a White House aide said.

With nearly the entire Senate Democratic Caucus at the White House for lunch, the president spoke for ten to fifteen minutes on insurance reform. He also insisted, according to an administration aide, that he remained committed to working with the Republican Party to get reform passed.

"I think there was just really a sense about the importance of making progress and getting a bill done," the aide, who was in attendance, said. "And that they are committed to working with Republicans to do it. The president believes that that is important."

It's as if they haven't learned a thing. Unbelievable.

And then there's this:

Aides said there was little talk of co-ops or public options at Tuesday's lunch. The entire meeting lasted about an hour, with all Senate Democrats in attendance -- except for Ted Kennedy (Mass.) and Robert Byrd (W.V.), both suffering from poor health. According to the aide, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke first, for roughly five minutes. After Obama addressed the crowd, a lengthy question and answer session followed. Finishing up the meal with a bit of chocolate cake, Obama offered words of advice for how to handle the upcoming August recess.

"The president urged them to, as they were holding town hall meetings, to make the case pretty clearly about why this is important, why it is important to our economy, why it is important to our fiscal situation as a country and how it would benefit Americans," said the aide. "Both those Americans who are looking for health care and those who have it but would like to see lower costs."

I have another question: Why is this important?

Let me be clear, I'm not asking why actual health care reform is important, I'm asking why whatever "health care reform" mentioned in the paragraph above is important. Unless Barack starts speaking in anything other than vague benchmarks that could be used to describe virtually any bill, he's essentially giving a green light for the Douche Caucus to keep making the bill worse.

There's a serious problem when Max Baucus and Sherrod Brown can go back home and each explain why we need to pass two VERY DIFFERENT visions of what health care reform might look like. Sherrod Brown can explain why we need a strong public option to control costs and keep insurance companies honest while Max Baucus can talk about why we need to "reform" the system in a way that makes the insurance companies richer and more powerful than they ever were before. There can be no compromise between these two visions of health care reform, and that needs to be acknowledged.

Obama needs to realize at the end of the day the American people really don't care if the health care bill is Bipartisan or acceptable to all the parties he's brought to the table.

They care about if it works and if it improves the system.

And depending on whose description of "health care reform" you listen to, the question of whether or not this final product will improve the system remains very much unanswered.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ed Rendell Lies, But Arlen Specter's Record Doesn't

I get the feeling we're gonna see a lot of this over the next 10 months. Ed Rendell:
Pennsylvanians know, and particularly Democrats, know what Arlen Specter has done. On every key gut issue that went to Democratic core values, he was with us.
The funny thing about that quote is that if you look at Specter's actual votes rather than a bullshit rep that he created for himself, then pretty much the exact opposite is true. Kos:

I never realized backing President George Bush over three quarters of the time to be in line with gut Democratic core values. He voted with his party 76% in the 107th Congress, Bush's first, 85% in the 108th, 77% in the 109th, and 70.5%, after Bush's popularity had plummeted, in the 110th.

Apparently, that's all TOTALLY in line with Democratic core values.

One of the few key votes against his party -- voting for EFCA a few years ago -- is now moot, since he betrayed labor with new opposition to card check at the beginning of this Congress. Sure, he was moving right trying to head off the primary challenge by Pat Toomey, but he's still on record against EFCA. (Had Specter reversed himself again on EFCA, his state's powerful labor unions would've likely headed off any primary challenger.)

Oh yeah, and it's good that he's still talking about voting for John McCain and Sarah Palin. That's just what democratic votes are pining away for.

The good news is that against Rendell, Biden and Obama's wishes, Specter will not be allowed to simply douche his way through the primary process. Joe Sestak is officially running, and will provide Pennsylvania voters with the option of voting for actual Democrat in the Democratic primary. You wouldn't think that would be a big deal, so far this race has pretty much thrown common sense out the window.

Just How Good is Brian Orakpo?

I am willing to admit it right here and now: I officially have a man-crush on Brian Orakpo.

The rookie defensive end the Redskins selected 13th overall in this past April's draft seems like exactly the type of player we need at the moment. He reminds me of the type of impact player on defense that LaVar Arrington was before his dip in form, then his ultimate decline. The Redskins plan to use Orakpo as a linebacker/d-end hybrid, dropping him back on most first and second downs and rushing him at the QB on third down. With early reports of him routinely beating experienced veteran and near-perennial Pro Bowler Chris Samuels on drills early during training camp, one has to wonder if he is already that good or if we're reading into things too early to know for sure.

The concern here is this: what if Samuels is just that bad? I've thought for a while now that he was named to his last couple of Pro Bowls on reputation alone and that he really hasn't played to the level he once did for a few seasons. Of course, he's battled multiple injuries and played through them, which I'm sure has affected his abilities, but the simple truth is that he isn't getting any younger and that's what generally happens to old aging football players. At some point, they start sucking.

Ultimately, I feel that the answer lies somewhere in between. Orakpo may be very good and this may not be a total indictment on Samuels, either (ooh, maybe indictment isn't the right word. Sorry, Plaxico). It's just very hard not to get excited for the defense this season after hearing so many positive reports, having him healthy, signed and participating almost from the get-go, and especially after seeing videos like this. Upon seeing it, my roommates bought chains, a tire and a sledgehammer, and I'm not joking.

I admit that the roster is still full of holes and that the 2009 Redskins may be undone in the end by a crappy offensive line. But it's possible that Orakpo could turn out to be one of those X-factor performers that help get the Redskins over the 8-8 hump. I'm very encouraged by what I'm hearing about him, as well as Chris Horton, Albert Haynesworth, and even... (*gulp*) Devin Thomas. I said before that it's going to take people from within the organization stepping up in order for us improve at all. That includes, but is not limited to Jason Campbell. While there is a lot of uncertainty as to whether or not that will actually happen, adding smart, likable guys like Orakpo makes me feel better about our situation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Blackwater... Even More Evil Than You Thought

Even for Blackwater, this is pretty appalling stuff:
A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."

In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting "illegal" or "unlawful" weapons into the country on Prince's private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.
Not that fucked up things can't (and don't) happen in our actual military, but I'm pretty sure there's no better case against mercenaries than simply taking a close look at Blackwater. They are a living example of literally everything that people who oppose the use of mercenaries (like myself) worry about.

And that was before their CEO allegedly killed some guys to keep them quiet. I really didn't see that one coming.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Southern Men Driving the Birther Movement

On Friday night I joked with DCJonesy and J.N. that my usual yelling of "SEGREGATION!!!! YEAH!!!!!!!!!!" any time "Sweet Home Alabama" is played doesn't seem to be catching on as a trend.

And while you can't paint whole regions of the country with a broad brush, stuff like this is simply not acceptable:

Dave Weigel asked some further questions to the pollster, and there seems to be a few problems with Southern Men (actually just white southern men, to be more specific than Neil was in song):
So what proportion of Southern whites doubt that Obama is an American citizen? While Ali did not release the racial breakdowns for the the South, and cautioned that the margin of error in the smaller sample of 720 people would be larger than the national margin of error (2 percent), the proportion of white Southern voters with doubts about their president’s citizenship may be higher than 70 percent. More than 30 percent of the people polled in the South were non-white, and very few of them told pollsters that they had questions about Obama’s citizenship. In order for white voters to drive the South’s “don’t know” number to 30 percent and it’s “born outside the United States” number to 23 percent, as many as three-quarters of Southern whites told pollsters that they didn’t know where Obama was born.

One thing to keep in mind, if only a quarter or a fifth of white Southerners believe Obama was born in the United States, that’s more than voted for him last year in some states. Obama won 14 percent of the white vote in Louisiana, 14 percent in Mississippi, and 10 percent in Alabama.

Those numbers are simply terrifying. Although the birthers can be seen as nuts by any rational observer, it's pretty staggering when you realize that they make up a sizable chunk of the modern day Republican party.