Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nobody Cares About Your Feelings

NEW YORK - On the mental list of slights and outrages that just about every major figure on Wall Street is believed to keep on President Barack Obama, add this one: When he met recently with a group of CEOs at Blair House, there was no representative from any of the six biggest banks in America.

Not one!

"If they don't hate us anymore, why weren't any of us there?" a senior executive at one of the Big Six banks said recently in trying to explain his hostility toward the president.

"It's not so much just this one thing,” he said. “Who cares about one event? It's just the pattern where they tell you things are going to change, that they appreciate what we do, that capital markets are important, but then the actions are different and they continue to want to score political points on us."
"If they don't hate us anymore?"

What a bunch of whiny bitches.

Obama's Federal reserve has been printing them endless money to gamble their way to prosperity, and these people are upset that Obama won't personally whisper nice things in their ear.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stupid States, Smart States

This shit still just baffles me:
Ohio and Wisconsin will not be getting the new intercity rail lines whose construction Washington agreed to fully fund just ten months ago. The November election of Republican governors meant the revocation of state support for projects that would have connected some Midwestern cities to the national rail network for the first time in decades, including along a line between Milwaukee and Madison and another between Cleveland and Cincinnati. These politicians ran successful campaigns partly based on a refusal to subsidize future train operations.

Today, the federal Department of Transportation announced that it would reappropriate the $1.2 billion in funds once meant for Ohio and Wisconsin to thirteen other states, with the large majority heading to California and Florida, which are building the nation’s only true high-speed lines. Wisconsin will be able to keep $14 million, a tiny fraction of its original award, to spend on improving the existing Amtrak Hiawatha service.

California’s High-Speed Rail Authority will receive $624 million in funds, increasing the state’s total take in the national intercity rail program to $3.9 billion. It announced late last month that it would build a 65-mile corridor in the state’s Central Valley for the first phase of what will eventually be a $45 billion network of 220 mph trains connecting San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego. $616 million of the allocations received today will be dedicated specifically to extend that initial line south to Bakersfield. This should relieve the recently popular rhetoric that the project is a “train to nowhere” because its initial construction would terminate in the little-known city of Corcoran; the new expenditures would connect Fresno and Bakersfield, whose metropolitan areas collectively house 1.7 million people, no insignificant sum. That said, future funding from Washington will be necessary to pay for the whole project, even on top of the $10 billion approved for the project by state taxpayers in 2008.

While smaller, Florida’s $342 million grant represents the last piece of federal funding necessary to pay for an 84-mile line planned for the Tampa-Orlando corridor, along which trains traveling at up to 186 mph will run by 2015 if all goes to plan. As long as the proposal is signed off by new Governor Rick Scott — not the world’s biggest rail supporter, but not fully against it either — construction could begin in 2012. The $2.7 billion project now has $2.35 billion in U.S. funds backing it and $280 million in state funds committed.
Congrats to Florida and California on lowing their unemployment rates and getting sweet new high speed rail in the process. Hey Ohio and Wisconsin, try not electing such morons next time.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wishing For Pain

Senate Republicans' "Dr. No" spending hawk warned Sunday that America would experience "apocalyptic pain" with 15-18 percent unemployment and the "middle class destroyed" if it didn't get its fiscal house in order.

"If we don't fix the problems in front of us everybody's going to pay a significant price," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said on "Fox News Sunday."

Coburn warned of the United States ending up like Greece or Ireland if proper austerity measures aren't taken, or like Spain, Italy or Japan, which are in danger of similar financial collapse.

In May, the IMF and EU agreed to extend a $145 billion bailout package to Greece. In November, a $113 billion bailout package was extended to keep Ireland afloat.

"Everyone else in the world that's doing this today is getting punished," he said of runaway spending.
A: Like Alan Simpson, you can tell that Coburn gets his rocks off talking about how much people are going to suffer.

B: The type of austerity that is currently being forced on Ireland, the kind that Tom Coburn is trying for, is the perfect way to reach 15-18% unemployment and destroy the middle class.

He's arguing for policies that will inflict mass suffering by claiming that mass suffering will occur unless we undertake them.

Then again, none of this makes sense because he's not being honest about what he wants to do.

He thinks poor people have it too good, and if the economy hasn't wrought enough damage, he wants to make sure they feel that those with the least feel more pain.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Train of Thought Lounge: Danger Doom

Needed to happen:

No Consequences For Being Wrong

In the world of economics, it seems no amount of fucking up is enough to get people to stop taking your advice. Paul Krugman: (via atrios)
For the fact is that the Obama stimulus — which itself was almost 40 percent tax cuts — was far too cautious to turn the economy around. And that’s not 20-20 hindsight: many economists, myself included, warned from the beginning that the plan was grossly inadequate. Put it this way: A policy under which government employment actually fell, under which government spending on goods and services grew more slowly than during the Bush years, hardly constitutes a test of Keynesian economics.

Now, maybe it wasn’t possible for President Obama to get more in the face of Congressional skepticism about government. But even if that’s true, it only demonstrates the continuing hold of a failed doctrine over our politics.

It’s also worth pointing out that everything the right said about why Obamanomics would fail was wrong. For two years we’ve been warned that government borrowing would send interest rates sky-high; in fact, rates have fluctuated with optimism or pessimism about recovery, but stayed consistently low by historical standards. For two years we’ve been warned that inflation, even hyperinflation, was just around the corner; instead, disinflation has continued, with core inflation — which excludes volatile food and energy prices — now at a half-century low.

The free-market fundamentalists have been as wrong about events abroad as they have about events in America — and suffered equally few consequences. “Ireland,” declared George Osborne in 2006, “stands as a shining example of the art of the possible in long-term economic policymaking.” Whoops. But Mr. Osborne is now Britain’s top economic official.

And in his new position, he’s setting out to emulate the austerity policies Ireland implemented after its bubble burst. After all, conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic spent much of the past year hailing Irish austerity as a resounding success. “The Irish approach worked in 1987-89 — and it’s working now,” declared Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute last June. Whoops, again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Racist Fucks

Starting this month, South Carolina will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War with a series of events that underscore this state’s central role in that titanic, tragic struggle.
. . .
Two of the first events scheduled to mark the anniversary – a privately sponsored secession ball Monday in Charleston and an effort to display the original Ordinance of Secession – show just how divisive the Civil War remains.

The ball, organized by the Confederate Heritage Trust and sponsored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, has been criticized as a celebration of treason and slavery.

“There does appear to be an effort to make this a festive occasion,” said Lonnie Randolph, president of the NAACP’s S.C. Conference, which plans to protest the ball. “It’s more about celebration than history.”

At a subsequent press conference, Randolph was even more critical, saying, "We are not opposed to observances. We are opposed to disrespect. This is nothing more than a celebration of slavery."

The gala’s website says the president of the S.C. Senate, avid Civil War re-enactor Glenn McConnell, plans to attend.

Mark Simpson, the S.C. division commander for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said his organization condemns slavery and respects the NAACP’s right to protest.

“We could look back and say (the Civil War) wasn’t something to celebrate – about 620,000 died in the North and South,” Simpson said. “If you count civilians, you’re up to about a million killed in that war.

“Do we celebrate that? Heavens no,” he said. “War and death is never something to celebrate. But we do celebrate the courage and the integrity of 170 men who signed their signatures to the Article of Secession – the courage of men to do what they think is right.”
Do we celebrate the death and destruction caused by the civil war? Of course not.

We celebrate the courage it took to commit treason for the noble goal of preserving an economic order where white people could get rich from the free labor of black people they were allowed to own. What possible problems could anyone have with that?

Oh yeah, and and I love the article mentioning how "divisive the civil war remains". Really? Among those of us in the brain-having community, it's not divisive, it's pretty fucking clear what fighting for the confederacy meant, and it's not something that anyone should be proud of.

Over at Balloon Juice, there was a response that we know somewhere in China, JN would be proud of:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Evan Bayh: A Jackass Till The End

Evan Bayh is leaving the Senate they way he spent his years there, by skipping his actual job to talk about how awesome he is:
Retiring Sen. Evan Bayh will not return to Washington, D.C., for a key procedural vote on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in order to conduct a “farewell tour” of his state.
Good riddance, asshole.

Agent Zero Forever

While I had come to terms with the inivitibility of a Gilbert Arenas trade, that doesn't mean that it's easy to take.

He was probably my favorite Wizard/Bullet ever, and someone who I thought truly understood the meaning of sports. Lots of people hated him for that, and have for years built this myth that has successfully taken the fun out of these games that we know and love.

He's probably the most interesting person the NBA has produced in the last 20 years, and I sincerely hope the move makes him happy again. Watching this video makes me think it will.

Good luck Gil. If you go on to win a title with the Magic, no one would be happier.

Lindsey Graham Is Too Tired To Work

If you needed another reason to hate the Senate, Lindsey Graham took to the floor last night to complain about how he doesn't have time to do his job because he's too tired. (via dailykos)

In a just world he would lose his job over that clip.

Monday, December 20, 2010

DATD Repealed

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Saturday struck down the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, bringing to a close a 17-year struggle over a policy that forced thousands of Americans from the ranks and caused others to keep secret their sexual orientation.
Kudos to everyone involved, the people organizng to get this repealed were relentless in overcoming the douchebaggery of the Senate.

Susan Collins' back and forth over how she would vote even though she kept publicly touting her support of the repeal was a perfect demonstration of just how broken the Senate is. In the end she was brought into line by another preening asshole by the name of Joe Lieberman, so it just proves you never know who's going to play the role of lead douche for each debate that comes up.

It's a shame that having gay soldiers will make our endless wars gay and less fun (whatever reason John McCain gave for opposing it) but I guess people like that will have stop getting us into so many pointless wars to make it even out.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fox News Makes You Stupid

It's not new information, or shocking, but it's nice to have an academic study back it up:
The University of Maryland study, called "Misinformation and the 2010 Election," looked at "variations in misinformation by exposure to news sources," among other things, and specifically newspapers and news magazines (in print and online), network TV news broadcasts, NPR and PBS, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN.

The study found that daily Fox News viewers, regardless of political party, were "significantly" more likely than non-viewers to erroneously believe that:
  • Most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)
  • Most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)
  • The economy is getting worse (26 points)
  • Most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)
  • The stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)
  • Their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)
  • The auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)
  • When TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)
  • And that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Good Guy Gets In

This is welcome news:
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, who lost his reelection bid last month in a Republican sweep of state offices, is the choice of Elizabeth Warren to lead enforcement operations at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The 51-year-old Democrat has a distinguished academic and political résumé. He took an aggressive stance in a lawsuit against Bank of America Corporation over its acquisition of Merrill Lynch & Company, claiming it misled investors over how well Merrill Lynch was doing financially.
. . .
The class-action lawsuit against Merrill was kindled because the firm paid out $3.6 billion in executive bonuses just before the purchase by Bank of America was completed in January 2009. It was soon announced that Merrill had lost $15 billion in the final quarter of 2008. In an interview about the suit, filed in September 2009, Cordray said, "The Wall Street executives here and the people running these companies, we believe, you know, engaged in greedy, shoddy, self-serving practices."
Anyone willing to take on the banks is a massive addition to this Administration, and it's absolutely no surprise that Elizabeth Warren is responsible.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Person of the... what?

Time somewhat inexplicably today chose Mark Zuckerberg over Julian Assange for person of the year, despite the fact that Assange received more than twenty times the online votes (382,000 to 18,000), and Zuckerberg's main contribution to society (Facebook) did not take place in this year while Assange's (leaks leaks leaks!) most definitely did. I guess there was that tight movie about Zuckerberg this year, but other than that I just can't see the reasoning.

If anything, it is yet another reminder of how Time has fully committed to its new mission as a magazine for children:

TIME Announces New Version Of Magazine Aimed At Adults

Meanwhile, the US Air Force has entirely prohibited its members from accessing any content on sites that posted wikileaks cables, including the New York Times, the Guardian, der Spiegel, El País, and Le Monde. HOLY LIVING CRAP THAT'S CRAZY.

Using the Power of the Presidency

If there's anyone that's been frozen out by this Administration over the last two years, it's CEOs:
WASHINGTON — Hiring is anemic but corporate profits are up, and President Barack Obama is having 20 CEOs over to talk about how to tap that cash to boost jobs.

But don't count on the president to reprise the "fat cat" scolding he gave bankers a year ago. No, this is not a woodshed moment.

For Obama and the business sector, Wednesday's meeting is a wary embrace.

With new tax and trade deals as enticements, Obama is taking yet another step toward the political middle as he moves to confront a still-weak economic recovery and the capital's new political alignment.

Both sides come to Wednesday's session with their respective wishes: Obama wants the private sector to use its record profits to increase employment; executives want the administration to ease regulations they perceive as onerous.

Since the election, Obama has been holding private meetings with individual executives to discuss potential job growth strategies. But the higher-profile meeting Wednesday also serves a larger public relations purpose: It shifts attention from past confrontation to rolled-up-sleeves cooperation.
What exactly does the Administration think having Obama publicly blow these Captains of Industry will accomplish?

Isn't there something more important we could have a "summit" about, you know like our 9.8% unemployment rate or the always rising rate of forclosuses?

What the fuck is wrong with these people?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan"

This is something out of a movie:
WASHINGTON — Richard Holbrooke, a brilliant and feisty U.S. diplomat who wrote part of the Pentagon Papers, was the architect of the 1995 Bosnia peace plan and served as President Barack Obama's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, died Monday, the State Department said. He was 69.
. . .
As Holbrooke was sedated for surgery, his final words were to his Pakistani surgeon, family members said: "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Common Fucking Sense

Why not do things that are smart AND popular?
More than 70 percent of Americans say big bonuses should be banned this year at Wall Street firms that took taxpayer bailouts, a Bloomberg National Poll shows.

An additional one in six favors slapping a 50 percent tax on bonuses exceeding $400,000. Just 7 percent of U.S. adults say bonuses are an appropriate incentive reflecting Wall Street’s return to financial health.

A large majority also want to tax Wall Street profits to reduce the federal budget deficit. A levy on financial services firms is the top choice among more than a dozen deficit-cutting options presented to respondents.

With U.S. unemployment at 9.8 percent, resentment of bonuses and banking profits unites Americans across political, gender, age and income groups. Among Republicans, who generally are skeptical of business regulation, 76 percent support a government ban on big bonuses to bailout recipients, that’s higher than backing among Democrats or independents.
There is no downside.


Not Holding

Apparently. (Via TBD)

And the Caps lost 7-0 to the Rangers. Not good times for DC sports.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Now Larry Summers Wants More Stimulus...

Hey, guess who has advice?
A White House warning to Congressional Democrats today: If you block enactment of President Obama's tax cut deal with Republicans, you might trigger a double-dip recession.

"If they don't pass this bill in the next couple of weeks," said White House economic adviser Larry Summers, "it would materially increase the risk the economy would stall out and we would have a double dip."

Did Summers really mean what he just said, asked reporters?

"It would significantly increase the risk," Summers repeated.
Larry Summers, the man who wouldn't even let Obama see the proposal for a larger stimulus because he didn't think it would be nessicary, is now making threats about something that could very well happen anyway thanks to a decision that he made.

You really can't make this stuff up.

In fairness, if there's anyone who knows destroying an economy... it's Larry Summers.

Dance Break

From Brad at the awesome site Fire Megan McArdle:

That is all.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Train of Thought Lounge–Gareth Emery vs. Markus Schulz–“Not the Same Citadel” (AVB Mashup)

Greetings Friends.  This week’s Lounge selection is dedicated to everyone grinding it out before the holidays.  In particular, I know how hard both the editors and friends of the blog have been working.  I offer this song as a 5 minute sanctuary, where you can let all your worries go.

Just sit back and enjoy the beats, and lounge out. Try not to think about the latest tax deal, or  Fat Albert’s suspension.  And just plain forget about the not-so-sad news of the closing of a local beer institution ( Eds. Note: Lets face it; when was the last time you got your first, second, or even 4th choice of brew there? )

Usually I hate mashups; they are very hard to do well, and most of the time DJ’s take 2 pretty good tracks and then combine them to make utter crap.  Most mash-ups just plain butcher the instrumentals by cutting up the arrangement and adding worthless bass loops and synth pops, while tacking on a completely out-of-place vocal just for the sake of it.

This track is different. It takes Gareth Emery’s moving “Citadel” instrumental and leaves it largely untouched, and gracefully adds only the essential, soft vocals as a compliment to the organization.  Part of what makes the track interesting is the that original source of the vocals - Markus Schulz feat. Jennifer Renee’s “Not the Same”, is actually quite underwhelming. 

Count this one as my December Fight Song:

Sanctimonious Assholes

This section of Obama's remarks deserves mention:
This is the public option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats have been fighting for for a hundred years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn't get that would have affected maybe a couple million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people, and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.

Now, if that's the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let's face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of a preexisting condition. Or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.
Just to be clear, he's saying that people who oppose this deal aren't looking out for the best interests of this country because they'd be opposing the unemployment benefits extension. He somehow says this with a straight face because the 99ers (the long term unemployed) were inexplicably left them out of Obama's awesome tax cut compromise. Tough shit guys! This was the only deal he could get and if you oppose the deal then you're against helping the special group of unemployed people that Obama chose to help, you know, not the group of unemployed people he just told to eat shit.

Everybody got that? Ok, good.

I think the most absurd part of Obama's argument (other than berating progressives about how good they've had it with an Administration that shits on them for sport) is that we're supposed to trust him that he got the best deal.

What part of him signaling his willingness to cave for the last TWO MONTHS could possibly tell us that he wasn't trying his hardest? Or maybe it was his former budget director (and soon to be Citigroup employee) Peter Orzag writing an Op-ED in the New York times advocating for something very close to the deal  THREE MONTHS ago.

It honestly doesn't matter whether this was their plan all along or if they are completely baffled by the foreign and confusing process known as "negotiation".

They really, really, really fucked this up. That's the bottom line.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Great Cave

To nobody's surprise, it happened:
President Obama and congressional Republicans have reached a tentative accord on a far-reaching economic package that would preserve George W. Bush administration tax breaks for families at all income levels for two years, extend emergency jobless benefits through 2011 and cut payroll taxes by 2 percent for every American worker through the end of next year.

The scope of the agreement, announced by the White House late Monday, was far broader than lawmakers in either party had been expecting. The deal would extend a college tuition tax credit and other breaks for middle-class families that were due to expire New Year's Eve. And it would revive the inheritance tax after a year-long lapse, imposing a 35 percent rate on estates worth more than $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples.
Obama embraces conservative position X, berates liberals for not also embracing conservative policiy X. This happens all the time, but the reaction this time feels pretty different:
WASHINGTON -- Despite his protestations at Tuesday's press conference that he had no choice, President Obama's concession to Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy appears to have sent many of his historically most fervent supporters to new levels of despair.

The president's refusal to fight harder against the massive giveaway to people who need it the least has disheartened not only activists, former Obama advisers and members of Congress, but his grassroots.
I was in the car a lot today and was listening to a lot of news coverage, and the liberal backlash was a lead story on most of the main outlets. I gotta say I think it's the first time I can ever remember hearing mainstream media outlets discussing progressives in a positive frame.

It's amazing what standing up for your beliefs will do.

Strange fucking times.

Taxed To Death!!1!

Or like every other meaningless teabagger slogan... not at all the case.

Felix Salmon:

  • Federal taxes are the lowest in 60 years, which gives you a pretty good idea of why America’s long-term debt ratios are a big problem. If the taxes reverted to somewhere near their historical mean, the problem would be solved at a stroke.
  • Income taxes, in particular, both personal and corporate, are low and falling. That trend is not sustainable.
  • Employment taxes, by contrast—the regressive bit of the fiscal structure—are bearing a large and increasing share of the brunt. Any time that somebody starts complaining about how the poor don’t pay income tax, point them to this chart. Income taxes are just one part of the pie, and everybody with a job pays employment taxes.
  • There aren’t any wealth taxes, but the closest thing we’ve got—estate and gift taxes—have shrunk to zero, after contributing a non-negligible amount to the public fisc in earlier decades.
Gotta love that spec of light blue BIG GOVERNMENT *fartz* forcing all those poor corporations to go galt and captain their industries in other countries.

The tax structure in this country is fucking insane, and nothing you hear about it in the media is true.

Monday, December 6, 2010

How About A Free Trade Agreement?

The triangulation continues: (via firedoglake's great coverage of this issue)
The Obama administration has announced that it intends to finalize a new free trade agreement with South Korea (KORUS FTA) in time for the next G-20 summit in November.  Although the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) projects this will have a small positive impact on the U.S. trade balance, and “minimal or negligible “ impact on U.S. employment,  history  shows that such trade deals lead to rapidly growing trade deficits and job loss in the United States.

The Charts below compare USITC’s estimates of the impact of the forthcoming free trade agreement with Korea to EPI’s own calculation. Unlike USITC’s forecast of a small positive impact, EPI’s research shows it will increase the U.S. trade deficit with Korea by about $16.7 billion, and displace about 159,000 American jobs within the first seven years after it takes effect.

In fairness, other than a few weak worded and uncomfortable statements about trade in Ohio during the primary, it was always clear that Obama was fine with continuing our failed NAFTA model trade agreements.

Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch has a good statement on the issue:
The Korea free trade agreement (FTA) did not have to instigate what will now be a nasty political battle. It could have provided the perfect platform to implement President Barack Obama’s promised trade policy reforms to remove the worst job-killing aspects of former President George W. Bush’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)-style deal and rebuild bipartisan support for trade expansion. Within weeks of Obama’s June announcement about moving forward with the Korea deal, 110 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Obama warning that they would oppose the pact in its current form – noting that moving forward with “another job-killing FTA” was “unthinkable” in the current economic climate. They laid out essential reforms needed to the pact’s labor rights, foreign investor offshoring promotion and financial deregulation terms needed for them to support the deal.

Labor unions and consumer and environmental groups also quickly reiterated their calls for the administration to fix the Bush Korea text by removing the worst NAFTA-style terms so that it could become the first in a new era of widely supported trade deals. In September, Obama received a letter signed by more than 550 faith, family farm, environmental, labor, manufacturing, consumer protection and civil society organizations calling for the same core reforms and noting that they could not support the deal in its current form.

The current text includes the extraordinary investor rights that promote offshoring and expose domestic financial, environmental and health laws to attack in foreign tribunals. Signed before the financial crisis, the pact calls for financial services deregulation that is at odds with the lessons we’ve learned from the economic crisis and that may conflict with recent reforms made by both the U.S. and Korea. The pact also explicitly forbids reference to the International Labor Organization’s conventions that establish internationally recognized core labor standards.
Unfortunately the fix that related to cars caused the UAW to betray their union brothers and sisters by supporting the agreement. This is a bad idea for a lot of reasons (detailed here by Marcy Wheeler), but it's unfortuate because it gives the dreaded "liberal cover" for spineless politicians to hide behind.

The silence from others in the Labor movement is deafening. They must come out in opposition to this deal now, and show that you can't just pass another extremely unpopular "free trade" deal without a fight.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Reason For Concern

I'm really not trying to be constantly angry and negative about everything, but Obama's cave on the millionaire tax cuts is a sign about a lot more than this one issue.

He has massive public backing on this, the Republicans are scared of it (Boehner already caved once), it was a campaign promise, and the Senate and House Democrats are willing to fight.

If Obama won't fight on this... it's hard to see him fighting on anything.

And that is obviously pretty worrisome, and doesn't bode well for the next 2 years.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cutting Out The Middle Man

Not satisfied just writing op-eds in defending millionaire tax cuts, former Obama Administration budget director Peter Orzag is going for the real thing:
Citigroup Inc., recovering from its $45 billion bailout in 2008, is in advanced talks to hire former White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Orszag, 41, may take a job in the New York-based firm’s investment-banking division, the people said, declining to be identified because the discussions are private. An announcement may come as early as today, one of the people said.

Orszag, an economist trained at Princeton University and the London School of Economics, helped shape U.S. economic stimulus during the financial crisis and overhaul the health- care system. The youngest member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet, he spent 18 months as White House budget director, stepping down in July.

He has since become a distinguished visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a contributing columnist for the New York Times, writing about health care, budget policy and Social Security. His successor as budget director, Jacob Lew, worked at Citigroup from 2006 to 2009.
White House to Citigroup, Citigroup to the White House, all with billions of dollars of bailouts exchanging hands in between.

You know how that old saying goes: "If you can't pretend you're trying to beat them while actually carrying their water, join them".

Finding New Lows

Democrats in the White House, Senate and House all say they want to extend the Bush Tax cuts, but only for the middle class. How did the house respond?
Using a wily procedural maneuver to tie Republican hands, House Democrats managed to pass, by a vote of 234-188, legislation that will allow the Bush tax cuts benefiting only the wealthiest Americans to expire.

Democrats were not united on the issue. Twenty voted with Republicans to kill the tax cut bill, as they hold out for extending additional cuts to wealthy Americans -- though 3 Republicans, including Reps. Ron Paul (TX) and Walter Jones (NC) voted for the tax cut extensions. However the outcome will (and was designed to) allow Democrats to draw distinctions between themselves and Republicans during the 2012 election cycle.
Wow, that's impressive. They took a played hardball and won. But what about the Senate? They're never willing to take a tough line with Republicans:
Senate Democrats are planning to force a vote on the House's just-passed middle-income tax cut bill and a second package to let the Bush tax cuts expire above a new, $1 million tax bracket, according to a Democratic aide.
Holy shit. So even the Senate is willing to actually make the Republicans take an unpopular vote!

So how does Barack Obama respond? We all hoped that he would use his power as president to advocate for this position, and even though he's refused, it seems to be happening without him. His official response:
The President continues to believe that extending middle class tax cuts is the most important thing we can do for our economy right now and he applauds the House for passing a permanent extension. But, because Republicans have made it clear that they won’t pass a middle class extension without also extending tax cuts for the wealthy, the President has asked Director Lew and Secretary Geithner to work with Congress to find a way forward. Those discussions started just yesterday and are continuing this afternoon. The talks are ongoing and productive, but any reports that we are near a deal in the tax cuts negotiations are inaccurate and premature.

Both the House and Senate(!!!) want to take a hard line and not only will Obama not join the fight, but he's actively working to undermine their efforts.

There's been a debate going on among progressives (discussed in this clip) about whether Obama is a conservative who wants conservative policy passed (and a very good liar), or is just blindingly incompetent at trying to pass the Democratic agenda. It's becoming increasing difficult to believe it's the latter, and that's something we're going to have to come to terms with going forward.

What I do know is that this is a hell of a way to cap off a really fucking depressing week.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Tax On Wall Street

I love it when Republicans accidentally tell the truth:
Yesterday, however, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) undermined the credibility of his party's claims. While speaking on the Senate floor, Alexander said that even though he opposes the proposal, he was "delighted" by Schumer's willingness to target his own constituents for tax increases. "Most of the people whose taxes he's trying to raise live in New York," he said. "I mean, they're not in Tennessee. We're a relatively low income state." Joking that Schumer's plan basically amounts to a "tax earmark," Alexander argued that it would "raise taxes on just a small number of people, most of whom live on Wall Street in New York."
ALEXANDER: I'm delighted to hear the eloquence of the Senator from New York. And as I was listening to him I was reminded that the people — most of the people whose taxes he is trying to raise live in New York. I mean they're not in Tennessee, we're a relatively low income state. So I admire him for his courage on — that's almost a tax earmark, you know, to — to be so specific that we're gonna raise taxes on just a small number of people, most of whom live on Wall Street in New York.
But I thought letting the Bush Tax cuts expire was a tax increase for everyone!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rep. Steve King is a Racist

Usually these guys try to cover it up a bit more than this...
Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who's been one of the most vocal opponents of the Pigford settlement for black farmers, has taken to cable news and the floor of the House to speak against the settlement. King's argument is that the bulk of the Pigford II claims are fraudulent because there are fewer black farmers than claimants -- a flimsy argument when you consider that many African-Americans lost their farms over the past few decades due, in part, to USDA discrimination that denied them loans -- which is the point of the settlement program.

On Monday night, he suggested that President Obama, as a senator, may have been prejudiced to help the black farmers.

"Figure this out, Madame Speaker: We have a very, very urban Senator, Barack Obama, who has decided he's going to run for president, and what does he do?" King said. "He introduces legislation to create a whole new Pigford claim."

He then said the claims -- which stem from discrimination against black farmers in the 1980s and 1990s -- are "slavery reparations."

"We've got to stand up at some point and say, 'We are not gonna pay slavery reparations in the United States Congress,'" he said. "That war's been fought. That was over a century ago. That debt was paid for in blood and it was paid for in the blood of a lot of Yankees, especially. And there's no reparations for the blood that paid for the sin of slavery. No one's filing that claim.
So... yeah.

As Chad Ochocinco said about Colin Cowherd, next time he should just say "I really don't like that black guy".

Triangulation City

When Obama's campaign arm sends an email out telling his supporters to write Op-Eds defending his federal pay freeze, we have reached the destination: (via dday)
A decade of irresponsible spending led to a projected $1.3 trillion deficit that President Obama inherited upon taking office — putting America on an unsustainable fiscal course.

From Day One, this administration’s top focus has been growing the economy and putting Americans back to work — and that will never change.

The economy is growing again, yet all across America families and businesses have been tightening their belts. The President knows their government must do the same.

Yesterday, he announced a proposal to freeze pay for non-military federal employees for two years — a plan that will lead to $60 billion in savings over 10 years. It’s one of many tough choices the President has made to cut costs in the upcoming budget to begin to put our nation’s fiscal house in order. And it follows directly from this administration’s dedication to stretching federal dollars and reining in the long-term deficit.

Now, if you listen to some talk radio hosts or a few of the talking heads on cable news, you’ll hear a very different assessment of our fiscal policies. These voices ignore the irresponsibility of the past while pinning the blame for “reckless spending” solely on this administration. It would make a good fairy tale if it weren’t so dangerously untrue.

But these voices — as loud as they are — are spreading bunk. Cutting costs and spending responsibly has been a cornerstone of this administration’s record. And we need your help to get the truth out there.

Will you take a few minutes and write a letter to the editor today to set the record straight?
I've set the record straight the only way I can, by unsubscribing, and I doubt I'm the only one.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Expiring Unemployment Benefits

While Obama is putting time into important stuff like freezing the wages of federal employees and apologizing to Boehner and McConnell for not being bipartisan enough (no really, that happened), unemployment benefits will expire for 2 million people tonight at midnight.

Call your congressman and let them know the issue is important to you.

Monday, November 29, 2010


We are so fucked.

Anyone want to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2012, cause it's pretty clear Obama isn't interested.

We're all Republicans Now

If you just take their ideas and fight for them yourself, you don't even need to compromise anymore!
The Obama administration announced on Monday an ambitious plan to freeze the salaries of federal employees for two years in an effort to address massive deficits and get a handle on the country's unsustainable fiscal path.
The Administration's own press release is stunning in so many ways:
Because of the irresponsibility of the past decade, the President inherited a $1.3 trillion projected deficit upon taking office and an economic crisis that threatened to put the nation into a second Great Depression.
So we're going to get tough with the people who caused this mess freeze the pay of people who have nothing to with anything and save less than .05% of our national debt.
Now, the economy is growing, and we have gained private sector jobs for the past 10 months. But families and businesses are still hurting, and our top priority is making sure that we are doing everything we can to help boost economic growth and spur job creation.
We're going to grow the economy by making sure people have less money to spend. Got it.
Just as families and businesses around the nation have tightened their belts so must their government. That must be done in a targeted way that focuses our investments in what works and in what will lay the foundation for job creation and economic growth for years to come while cutting back elsewhere in our budget.
And rather than cutting money to the companies that are currently robbing our government blind and easily evading their taxes, we decided to go right at those who deserve these cuts the most, the people who have decided make a career in government service.
This was a decision that was not made lightly. From the doctors and nurses who care for our veterans to the scientists searching for better treatments and cures, the men and women who care for our national parks, and the thousands who make sure that the Social Security check is in the mail and that students get their scholarships, federal workers serve their fellow Americans. They do so often with great sacrifice and motivated by a patriotic love for their country. This freeze is not to punish federal workers or to disrespect the work that they do. It is the first of many actions we will take in the upcoming budget to put our nation on sound fiscal footing – which will ask for some sacrifice from us all.
It's not to punish you, we're just cutting your pay. And not giving a fuck about the people who rob the government daily for amounts exponentially larger than most of your paychecks combined. But it's not about you, we respect you, just not enough to pay you what you're owed.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Obama Administration After Two Years

This (via digby) is probably the most inteligent debate I've ever seen on cable television. Thank you Chris Hayes.

It's long, but watch this clip if you want to understand the challenges we face dealing with the Obama Administration over the next two years.

No, They're Just Crazy

Our political discourse needs far more Matt Taibbi: (via crooks and liars)
Every election year since 2004, Rolling Stone has David Gergen and Peter Hart dissecting the election results, and this year they add Matt Taibbi to the mix. Taibbi (shown in a recent video) says what he thinks about the teabaggers and Gergen is horrified:
Gergen: If it were not for the extra boost of enthusiasm the Tea Party provided, I imagine the Republicans would have won only 40 to 50 seats, instead of the 60-plus they gained. But the Tea Party also makes it harder in the future for Republicans to maintain a coherent party. Matt is right that they will have a large voice in the nomination process in 2012. But one cannot discount that someone could arise, as Reagan did in the past, who can bridge the differences within the party and keep people united.

Taibbi: To me, the main thing about the Tea Party is that they're just crazy. If somebody is able to bridge the gap with those voters, it seems to me they will have to be a little bit crazy too. That's part of the Tea Party's litmus test: "How far will you go?"

Gergen: I flatly reject the idea that Tea Partiers are crazy. They had some eccentric candidates, there's no question about that. But I think they represent a broad swath of the American electorate that elites dismiss to their peril.

Hart: I agree with David. When two out of five people who voted last night say they consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party, we make a huge mistake to suggest that they are some sort of small fringe group and do not represent anybody else.

Taibbi: I'm not saying that they're small or a fringe group.

Gergen: You just think they're all crazy.

Taibbi: I do.

Gergen: So you're arguing, Matt, that 40 percent of those who voted last night are crazy?

Taibbi: I interview these people. They're not basing their positions on the facts — they're completely uninterested in the facts. They're voting completely on what they see and hear on Fox News and afternoon talk radio, and that's enough for them.

Gergen: The great unwashed are uneducated, so therefore their views are really beneath serious conversation?

Taibbi: I'm not saying they're beneath serious conversation. I'm saying that these people vote without acting on the evidence.

Gergen: I find it stunning that the conversation has taken this turn. I disagree with the Tea Party on a number of issues, but it misreads who they are to dismiss them as some kind of uneducated know-nothings who have somehow seized power in the American electorate. It is elitist to its core. We would all be better off if we spent more time listening to each other rather than simply writing them off.

Hart: I agree. The point here is that the Obama administration would be at their own peril to somehow misread this as a fringe, unacceptable group of people. This is a huge portion of the electorate, and they represent a core within the Republican Party.
Yes, they do represent a large portion of the Republican party. And in no way does mean they aren't out of their fucking minds.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

And a present everyone can enjoy, Tom Delay's going to prison!
Jurors deliberated for 19 hours before they came back with guilty verdicts against Mr. DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The verdict was the latest chapter in a long legal battle that forced Mr. DeLay to step down. The trial also opened a window on the world of campaign financing in Washington, as jurors heard testimony about large contributions flowing to Mr. DeLay from corporations seeking to influence him and junkets to posh resorts where the congressman would rub shoulders with lobbyists in return for donations.

Mr. DeLay faces up to life in prison on the money laundering charge. [...] Judge Pat Priest has wide discretion in sentencing the former majority leader, who was known as “The Hammer” for his no-holds-barred style during 20 years in the House of Representatives. Mr. Delay could be sentenced from 2 years to 20 years in prison for the conspiracy count, and from 5 years to 99 years, or life in prison, for the money-laundering count..
Enjoy the holiday!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All Is Not Well In Afghanistan

How the fuck does this happen:
KABUL, Afghanistan — For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.

But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.

“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”

American officials confirmed Monday that they had given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership.
Sweet Jesus.

I'm sorry Obama and Gates didn't include "people realizing we don't have the slightest clue what's going on and robbing us blind" as one of the opportunities our occupation would provide for the people of Afghanistan.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No Hipster Hats

If you havn't heard Kanye West's new album do so, now.

But besides that, this massive write up in Complex magazine about the making of Dark Twisted Fantasy seems to confirm everything crazy and awesome I loved about Kanye, with all kinds of  ridiculous details.
On a late March afternoon, I arrive at Avex Honolulu Studios, the seaside recording studio on Oahu where West tracked 808s and is now block-booking all three session rooms, 24 hours a day, until he decides he's done. He had deliberately concealed the names of the players he'd enlisted, but I can't say I'm totally shocked to find him posted up in the studio's A room with Kid Cudi and the Clipse's Pusha T. Those are his guys, after all. What does elicit a visceral reaction—hard, heavy laughter—is the wall of Kanye Commandments posted on 8.5"x 11" sheets of paper on one side of the studio. They include the obvious—"No Tweeting" and "No Pictures"—and some...well, some less obvious ones, too. Not that "No Hipster Hats" and "Just Shut the Fuck Up Sometimes" aren't rules to live by.

"Just shut the fuck up sometimes" and "no hipster hats" are most certainly rules to live by.

Read the whole article, it's well worth your time.

Needs More Grayson

One of the sadder losses during the 2010 midterms was Allan Grayson. He went to the floor of the house last week to talk about why we don't need more tax cuts for the rich, and the results were fucking awesome. (via digby)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shit Alan Simpson Says

The other day on twitter, Matt Stoller said something pretty dead on about Alan Simpon's "crazy" comments:
Alan Simpson says in normal speak what DC elites say in code. But both are mean and crazy.
I've actually thought this for a while. Simpson's rhetoric may be less refined than others who talk about this issue, but you really do get the feeling that he's saying in public the way a lot of people talk about this stuff in private.

Last week was no different:
The Republican co-chair of the White House's fiscal commission predicted this morning that his controversial recommendations for reducing long-term deficits will have a real opportunity to become enacted next year, when the nation brushes up against its debt ceiling, and newly elected Republicans threaten to send the country into default.

"I can't wait for the blood bath in April," said Alan Simpson at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast roundtable with reporters this morning. "It won't matter whether two of us have signed this or 14 or 18. When debt limit time comes, they're going to look around and say, 'What in the hell do we do now? We've got guys who will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give 'em a piece of meat, real meat, off of this package.' And boy the bloodbath will be extraordinary."
So Alan Simpson is openly wishing for a disaster so that he can force his plan of cutting social security and income redistribution for the wealthy on the American people.

Simpson isn't the only one pushing for these cuts that feels this way, he's the only one stupid enough to say so out loud.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Train Of Thought Lounge: Daft Punk

Even in pieces, this sounds awesome:

How About More Money For The Rich?

Idea __________ was attempted for 10 years and didn't do shit to generate economic growth. Why not try _______ again, I bet it will work this time!

Take it away Mike Pence: (via Jed L at dailykos)
Jim DeMint and I are offering legislation on Capitol Hill today to say, look, let's make all the current tax rates permanent, uh, and then let's start to work from there toward putting in place the kind of policies that'll really get this economy moving again. You know, I think it's fair to say, if the current tax rates were enough to create jobs and generate economic growth we'd have a growing economy. It's not working now. Let's at least give some certainty there and then we'll fight for more tax relief.
That's the type of honesty you don't see everyday from the Republican party!

And I know I've been talking about this constantly, but what makes the shitty Democratic tactics on extending the tax cuts so infuriating. Think of all the different messages you can try:

"We tried them, they don't fucking help the economy"

"Republicans want to give your money to rich people"

"Republicans want to cut _____ so they can give money to rich people"

"The average tax cut for the rich (80,000) is more than most people make in a year"

And on, and on and on...

Baby Steps...

These are good noises:
Steny Hoyer, the number two in the House Dem leadership, told Democrats at a caucus meeting this morning that they would get to vote this year on just extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, a senior Dem aide tells me, signaling support for a confrontational move towards the GOP that liberals have been pushing.

Asked if Democrats would definitely get a chance to hold this vote, the senior aide responded: "Definitely."

Hoyer's declaration comes as Democrats have been debating the way forward on the Bush tax cuts, and another aide tells me that "more than half" of the Dem caucus supports this course of action.

The move indicates that House Dems are growing more resolved to draw a hard line on the Bush tax cuts, forcing Republicans to choose between supporting Obama's tax plan and opposing a tax cut for the middle class. However, the way forward still remains murky. Even if such a measure were to pass in the House, it's unclear whether the Senate will agree to such a vote, and the White House has not endorsed the approach.
This is such a no brainer... you can do it guys!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This American Reich

I guess we shouldn't be surprised, but the man who runs Fox news is no less out of his mind than the teabaggers who pay his bills:
The onetime Republican strategist is a man of strong opinions, in case that wasn’t clear, and he also puts his money where his mouth is. When Juan Williams was fired by National Public Radio for remarks he made on Fox about fearing airplane passengers in Muslim garb, Ailes rushed to award him a three-year, $2 million contract.

“A guy who gets fired and humiliated in the press can lose a lot of confidence,” Ailes says. Calling Williams “a pure liberal,” Ailes says he wanted to compensate the pundit for his losses because he was “mad” and “I didn’t want him to have to call his wife and say we lost money.”

Then he turned his sights on NPR executives.

“They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don’t want any other point of view. They don’t even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive.”  

It’s hardly surprising that Ailes would defend Williams or castigate NPR. But trotting out such Third Reich rhetoric seems, shall we say, disproportionate to the situation. NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher says only that “we will let Mr. Ailes’ words speak for themselves.”  
Well, at least it's not a mystery why offensive rhetoric and lies are tolerated on a daily basis...

Not Everyone Is Suffering

Just a reminder...
NEW YORK, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Wall Street may earn $19 billion in 2010, its fourth-most profitable year, even as regulatory changes and a weakened economy limit its ability to generate profit, New York state's comptroller said.

The comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, also said that while it is too soon to predict bonuses, the average payout may rise because banks are shedding jobs and a smaller pool of people wll be eligible to get bonuses.
All this while the Administration is ready to cave and make sure the super rich get their tax cut.

Why the fuck would you not want to have a big public fight on this issue?

There's part of me that actually thinks the lesson they took from the election was that they were too mean to big business.

Sweet Jesus.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Going Galt With Your Vote

I found this in a compilation of the strange write in votes found in Alaska:


If only more people had woken up and made a point like this, then... well... the recount would have lasted longer?

Worst Human in The World

I'm sure there are lots of terrible people in this Republican congress, but this guy is off to a flying start:
Maryland physician Andy Harris (R) just soundly defeated Frank Kratovil, one of the most endangered Democrats on Capitol Hill going into the November election. And he did it in large part by railing against 'Obamacare' and pledging to repeal Health Care Reform. But when he showed on Capitol Hill today for an orientation for incoming members of Congress and their staffs, he had a different question: Where's my government health care?

According to Glenn Thrush of Politico, Harris created a stir at the orientation meeting by demanding to know why he had to wait a month after he was sworn in in January for his government-subsidized health care to kick in. After responding in a huff, he even asked if there was some way he could buy into the government care in advance, seemingly thinking there might be a government program similar to the so-called 'public option' championed by progressive Democrats in 2009.

According to an unnamed congressional staffer quoted by Thrush, Harris stood up at the meeting "and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care."
There really aren't enough vulgar words in the English language to describe what this guy should do to himself.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Maybe They'll Be Nice This Time!

Everyone plant your head firmly in the sand:
President Barack Obama warned Sunday that Americans did not vote for gridlock in mid-term polls as he called on Republicans to work with him, as he returned to a changed Washington from Asia.

Obama set the stage for a key political week -- including the start of a lame duck session of the old Congress and planned talks with Republican leaders, as he returned aboard Air Force One from a 10-day trip.

"Campaigning is very different than governing," Obama said, nearly two weeks after mid-term elections dealt a severe blow to his Democrats and handed control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans.

"They are still flush with victory, having run a strategy that was all about saying no, but I am very confident that the American people were not issuing a mandate for gridlock."

"My expectation is, when I sit down with (Republican leaders) along with Democratic leaders ... they are not going to want to just obstruct, they are going to want to engage constructively," he said.
Normally I'd say something like "I hope he doesn't actually believe this", but not anymore.

It's been two fucking years. He actually does believe this will work.

We are soooooooooooo fucked.

Defending Israel From The United States

I love it when people accidentally say what they actually believe:
Soon-to-be GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor met on Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- the same day when the actual U.S. Secretary of State met with Netanyahu -- and vowed that he and his GOP colleagues would protect and defend Israeli interests against his own Government.  According to a statement proudly issued by Cantor's own office:

Regarding the midterms, Cantor may have given Netanyahu some reason to stand firm against the American administration.
"Eric stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington," the readout continued. "He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other."
Leave aside the absurdity of believing that Israel needs to be protected from the extremely deferential and devoted Obama administration.  So extraordinary is Cantor's pledge that even the Jewish Telegraph Agency's Ron Kampeas -- himself a reflexive American defender of most things Israel -- was astonished, and wrote:

I can't remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president.  Certainly, in statements on one specific issue or another -- building in Jerusalem, or somesuch -- lawmakers have taken the sides of other nations.  But to have-a-face to face and say, in general, we will take your side against the White House -- that sounds to me extraordinary.
As Kampeas notes, Cantor's office quickly disputed his understanding, but this is hardly the first time Cantor has violated supposedly sacred political conventions in order to side with Israel over his own country.  Last August, Cantor led a GOP delegation to Israel and while in Jerusalem -- which happens to be "foreign soil" -- he condemned his own President and American policy for opposing the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.  Criticizing America while on Dreaded Foreign Soil is supposed to be one of the most extreme taboos in American politics:  Al Gore was bitterly denounced as a borderline-traitor for a 2006 speech in Saudi Arabia criticizing American foreign policy, and Gore at the time was merely a private citizen, not a leading political official.  But American political figures like Cantor feel free to do exactly that -- criticize America on foreign soil -- when it comes to Israel; recall the same thing being done by by Mike Huckabee.
The Obama Administration has been so hard on Israel that Israel has continued to do exactly the same things they've always done, with zero repercussions.

This country's discourse on our relationship with Israel is between Republican and Democrats who both support letting Israel do whatever it wants until the end of time. Of course there are a few people who speak up, but we all know they're actually anti-Semites and we can't take them seriously.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Train of Thought Lounge: Duck Sauce

Thanks to our friend Niko at The Shit Show for pointing this out.

The number of awesome people they got in the video is pretty incredible.

And here's an NPR story on the popularity of the song.

Duck Sauce: Barbara Streisand:

How About Not Preemptively Caving?

I saw peices of these ideas bouncing around the interwebs the other day and I thought they deserved mention.

I know that "I don't deal with what the White House deals with" on a daily basis, but it seems like this stuff wouldn't be terribly difficult to try.

Idea #1: Create a Commission that doesn't suck

Make a "Commission on Unemployment" that looks at how we can reduce the unemployment rate. The same way the Administration stacked the deficit commision with people who want to cut social security, stack this commission with people who are cool with the idea of direct government job creation.

When they come up with a report, you hammer the Republicans for not wanting to reduce the unemployment rate. Over, and over and over again. When they call it socialism, talk about how they don't care about the unemployment rate. When they talk about it being a government takeover of something, talk about how they don't care about the unemployed. You get the idea.

Idea #2: Hardball on the Tax Cuts

Let the Bush Tax cuts all expire. Create New "Obama Tax Cuts" that are only for everyone who makes less than $100,000 dollars a year.

Create a nifty page with one of those Obama style logos where people can see how big their tax cuts would be. Have Democrats go on TV every day for as long as it takes talking about how the Republicans don't want you to get an "Obama Tax Cut".

This really doesn't seem that hard. And I'm also aware that neither one of these things is very likely with the orange one as speaker, but showing the American people what you stand isn't exactly a waste of your time.

Oh yeah, and it beats creating the "Obama Deficit Commission" that proposed cutting social security, raising taxes on the middle class and lowering them for the rich.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

We're All Republicans Now!

More 11 dimensional chess from the a Administration, obviously:
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's top adviser suggested to The Huffington Post late Wednesday that the administration was ready to accept an across-the-board continuation of steep Bush-era tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest taxpayers.

That appears to be the only way, said David Axelrod, that middle-class taxpayers can keep their tax cuts, given the legislative and political realities facing Obama in the aftermath of last week's electoral defeat.

"We have to deal with the world as we find it," Axelrod said during an unusually candid and reflective 90-minute interview in his office, steps away from the Oval Office. "The world of what it takes to get this done."
The Republicans are unapologetically defending tax cuts for the super rich.

You're defending tax cuts for poor and middle class Americans.

This is a clearly a fight you want to run away from.

Well if the Center-Right and Right Agree...

The Chairs of Obama's Catfood commission released their recommendations, and they're just as horrible as everyone predicted they would be. Paul Krugman summed up the commission's findings very well:
So you’re going to tell janitors to work until they’re 70 because lawyers are living longer than ever.

Still, I guess this is what it takes to get compromise, if by compromise you mean something the center-right and the hard right can agree on.
You create a commission stacked with assholes who want to cut Social Security, and stunningly enough the propose cuts to social security.

It's a political albatross for the Democrats and a giant waste of everyone else's time.

The Train of Thought Lounge : ATB - “Remember that Day”

Greetings friends. For those looking forward to the weekend to unwind after a tough political week, I give you some reflective beats from ATB’s Sunset Beach DJ Session. No vocals, just chill vibes and some old school Balearic elements.

Just sit back, close your eyes and think of crashing waves:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ray LaHood is a G

Kind of nuts since he's the only Republican in the Cabinet (or maybe because of that, as DDay suggests), but Ray Lahood knows how to play hardball:
In some post-election hardball between the Obama administration and newly-elected Republicans, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is threatening to take back stimulus funds from states if they do not follow through on proposed rail projects.

CNN obtained copies of letters LaHood sent to incoming Republican governors in Ohio and Wisconsin who have stated their opposition to rail projects already underway in their states. In the letters, LaHood said a rail link between Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati in Ohio, and a high-speed rail connection between Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, are vital to economic growth in both regions.

Lahood wrote that he respects the power of governors to make decisions for their states, but, "There seems to be some confusion about how these high-speed rail dollars can be spent."

To Wisconsin's Gov.-elect Scott Walker, LaHood said that none of the funds can be used for roads or any other projects. He went on to say, "Consequently, unless you change your position, we plan to engage in an orderly transition to wind down Wisconsin's project so that we do not waste taxpayer's money." That letter was delivered on Monday.

A similar letter was sent to Gov.-elect John Kasich in Ohio on Tuesday. In that letter, LaHood mentions the thousands of jobs that would be created with the construction of a rail link between the state's largest cities.

LaHood said he was aware that Kasich had asked President Barack Obama if $400 million dollars from the federal government intended to fund the passenger rail project could instead be used for road construction and freight lines. LaHood wrote, "I wanted to let you know that none of those funds can be used for anything other than our High-Speed Rail Program," and he signaled his intention to take the money back if the project doesn't move forward.
 Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Can Ray "so hood" LaHood be in charge of all the Administration's negotiations from now on?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No Peace Talks, Only Conquest

Israel has never been serious about peace talks of any kind, because they know we'll let them do whatever the hell they want:
Israel has revealed plans to build nearly 1,300 housing units for Jewish settlers in occupied East Jerusalem.

Building settlements is illegal under international law and recent efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have stalled over the issue.

The announcement comes as Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is on an official visit to the US.

Palestinian officials have reportedly described the move as an Israeli attempt to sabotage the talks.

"We thought that Netanyahu was going to the United States to stop settlement activity and restart negotiations, but it is clear to us that he is determined to destroy the talks," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
We have the power to stop this, we just choose not to. Obama initially looked like he was gonna take a hard line with Israel, but has since backed off.

I wish more people would acknowledge the direct link between our unconditional support of Israel and their monstrous actions, because...well... it does exist.

The rest of the world isn't blind to this, it would be nice if our media stopped reporting with it's head in the sand.

Reality On Sanity

Disclaimer: I absolutely love Jon Stewart and I think he's done more to engage young people in politics than every politician of the last 20 years combined.

With that said, Bill Maher could not be more right:

Keith Olbermann is also dead on about this:
"Sticking up for the powerless is not the moral equivalent of sticking up for the powerful."
And Olbermann may come across as a jackass sometimes, but there's a difference between objecting to his style and comparing him to people who have made careers out of defending bigotry, demonizing the poor and advocating endless war.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Preemptively Destroying the CFPB

The lesson the Administration seems to have taken from the midterm elections is that people were clamoring for them to be more owned by the banking industry:
MELISSA BEAN FLOATED AS CFPB HEAD – Buzz on Friday had Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) possibly getting tapped as the first Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head depending on the outcome of her too-close-to-call reelection race, in which Republican Joe Walsh maintained a slight lead as of Sunday afternoon. But a possible Bean nomination is not sitting well with reformers on the left who say the moderate Illinois congresswoman is far too close to the banking industry. Said one administration official: “It’s not clear she would be acceptable to the reformers.
I disagree with that last sentence. It's pretty fucking clear that she would not be acceptable to reformers.

If you had asked me to make a list of the worst people to make head of the CFPB, Melissa Bean would be very close to the top. Jane Hamsher breaks down her record:
That's a fucking shit show.

If the White House nominates Melissa Bean it shows they have absolutely no interest in keeping with the goals of the CFPB, and are 100% captured by the banking industry. The classic Republican tactic is not to destroy the institution, but to put someone in charge that has absolutely no intention of doing the job. Installing Mellisa Bean at the CFPB would do exactly that.