Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Charts of the Year

This is a great idea from Ezra Klein, and Jared Bernstein's chart and explination made it even cooler:
"Corporate profits have not only recovered their post-recession highs, they’ve surpassed it. And compensation as a share of the economy is far lower. The image of the above figure should be viewed as a big, scary dragon of sorts."
 The Washington Post sucks, and doesn't let you imbed images, click through to see why his chart is so awesome.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Joe Buck Disgusting Act of the Week: Politifact

If you read this blog, you're aware that the conservative game plan for the last __ years involves constantly lying about everything and depending on the media to not call them out, and report the story in a he said she said, you decide fashion. So when CNN and other news organizations started citing this service called Politifact I thought it was hilarious they treated it as this crazy new technology, rather than "doing their jobs".

The inherent problem with Politifact was going to be as follows: Conservatives lie constantly about fucking everything. If a fact checking service was going to do it's job, it was going to call out conservatives a lot more than it would with anyone else... opening themselves up to the charge of liberal bias. And since the charge of liberal bias is apparently so strong that shielding yourself from this label is actually more important than doing your job for most media organizations, this was always going to be an issue.

So while it was nice that people were pretending to care about accuracy... there was always this looming problem when Politifact would have to decide between doing their jobs or getting to sit at the cool kids table with all the other worthless news organizations.

And now, perfectly in line with everything wrong with our media, we get this logic: (TPM)
Here’s a long, sad story about how Democrats’ basically true claim that House Republicans voted to end Medicare ended up with PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year award.

Back in April, House Republicans passed a budget that included a plan to phase out Medicare over several years and build in its place a subsidized, private insurance marketplace for seniors.
Democrats called this a vote to “end Medicare.”

You can quibble. It wasn’t a vote to end Medicare — BLAM! — all at once. But under the GOP plan, within a couple decades, the current health retirement program for old people would be gone and in its place would be an entirely different one. It would just, by political design, have the same name: Medicare.
Ignoring policy in favor of process, and with an eye toward political balance, PolitiFact rated this basically true Democratic claim “Pants on Fire.”

Liberals, economists, health policy experts, and yours truly objected strongly to PolitiFact’s conclusion. But instead of rethinking their conclusion, the PolitiFact turned the opprobrium into a badge of honor: The claim itself became a candidate for PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” contest; Paul Ryan — the House GOP budget chairman who authored the plan — engaged in a modest ballot stuffing campaign; and the Democrats’ true “lie” came in third place, just behind the GOP claim that the stimulus created zero jobs, and Sen. Jon Kyl’s claim that abortion services are “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.”
In a way I'm actually glad this happened, because sometimes it takes an example this stupid to bring the amount of lying to the forefront. Of course that won't be what happens, the conclusion will be that Paul Ryan is a reasonable man who simply wants to fix medicare, and shame on those crazy hippies for saying otherwise.

The fact free discourse lives on, now with it's very own "fact checking institutions" to help ensure that no one has the slightest clue about what's going on.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Bold New Plan To Get Rid Of Medicare

And this one comes with the backing of a "liberal" senator! David Dayen:
In a surprise move, Paul Ryan found a Democratic partner to propose a new Medicare plan that does not fully privatize it, but instead keeps fee-for-service Medicare as an option alongside a premium support plan. This is the same proposal that the front-running Republican Presidential candidates have made.
From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Its sponsors say the proposal would avoid shifting health costs to beneficiaries, but that’s not so.   It would replace Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage with a flat payment that beneficiaries would use to help them purchase either private health insurance or traditional Medicare.  It also would limit the growth in spending per beneficiary to the growth of gross domestic product (GDP) plus one percentage point (presumably on a per capita basis).  But health care costs have risen faster than that for several decades and, as Chairman Ryan acknowledged at a December 15 briefing, if that faster rate continues, the amount of the government’s premium support payment to beneficiaries would be cut back — with more of the costs of coverage shifted to beneficiaries — unless Congress intervened and made offsetting cuts elsewhere within Medicare.

Specifically, Ryan-Wyden would give Congress a period of time in which it could cut provider payment rates or make other changes to limit the rate of growth of Medicare spending before the premium support payments were automatically cut.  But Congress would not be — indeed, could not be — “required to intervene.”  And, Congress could well fall short of mustering the requisite majorities to enact alternative cuts — including 60 votes in the Senate — in the face of likely opposition by providers and other health-industry interest groups.

Many media accounts portrayed this part of the plan incorrectly (due to a confusing sentence in the proposal document that the sponsors issued yesterday), reporting that beneficiary premium support payments would be shielded — rather than cut — if health care costs rise faster than the target.

Ryan and Wyden also claim that their proposal guarantees that traditional Medicare “will always be offered as a viable and robust choice.”  Unfortunately, that’s not the case either.   Under a premium support system, traditional Medicare very likely would attract a less healthy pool of enrollees, while private plans would attract healthier enrollees (as occurs today with Medicare and Medicare Advantage).  Although the proposal calls for “risk adjusting” payments to health plans — that is, adjusting them to reflect the average health status of their enrollees — the risk adjustment process is highly imperfect and captures only part of the differences in costs across plans that result from differences in the health of enrollees.

Inadequate risk adjustment would mean that traditional Medicare was only partially compensated for its higher-cost enrollees, which would force Medicare to raise beneficiary premiums to make up the difference.  The higher premiums would lead more of Medicare’s healthier enrollees to abandon it for private plans, very possibly setting off a spiral of rising premium costs and falling enrollment.  Over time, traditional Medicare could well cease to be financially viable and could unravel — not because it was less efficient than the private plans but because it was competing on an unlevel playing field in which private plans captured the healthier beneficiaries and, thus, incurred lower costs.  The fact that Ryan-Wyden would allow private plans to tailor their benefit packages to attract healthier beneficiaries and deter sicker ones only makes this outcome more likely.
So yeah, this is a really horrible idea.

And it's hilariously insane politically, because the one chance the democrats seemed to have of a victory this November was running on the fact that all the Republicans voted for Paul Ryan's plan to destroy medicare.

Before any of this, I actually kind of liked Ron Wyden, because he was fairly liberal and had some interesting policy ideas. No one can no for sure what motivated him to do this, but my best guess it's another case of Egoism running rampant in the Senate.

Let's be clear about the stakes of this decision: Wyden is teaming up with the person who wants to end medicare to propose something that would weaken medicare at best. Additionally, he is fucking over every single person in his party by making their reelection chances that much harder.

Why would he do this? Well Dayen hints that this a retaliation against Obama for dropping his idea out of the health care bill, which seems about right considering the pettiness and entitlement we often see in the Senate. The other option is that he's an attention whore, and considering all TV invites and good press the DC media gives any democrat who wants to cut medicare/start stupid wars, I could see this being an option too.

At the end of the day, his actions are what's most important, and they merit him a strong primary challenge. The fact that I haven't seen that option even mentioned tells you just about all you need to know about the shittiness of the democratic party.

Friday, December 16, 2011

War, What is It Good For?

Juan Cole, listing the cost of the Iraq war:
Moreover, the American public still for the most part has no idea what the United States did to that country, and until we Americans take responsibility for the harm we do others with our perpetual wars, we can never recover from our war sickness, which drives us to resort to violence in international affairs in a way no other democracy routinely does.

Population of Iraq: 30 million.

Number of Iraqis killed in attacks in November 2011: 187

Average monthly civilian deaths in Afghanistan War, first half of 2011: 243

Percentage of Iraqis who lived in slum conditions in 2000: 17

Percentage of Iraqis who live in slum conditions in 2011: 50

Number of the 30 million Iraqis living below the poverty line: 7 million.

Number of Iraqis who died of violence 2003-2011: 150,000 to 400,000.

Orphans in Iraq: 4.5 million.

Orphans living in the streets: 600,000.

Number of women, mainly widows, who are primary breadwinners in family: 2 million.

Iraqi refugees displaced by the American war to Syria: 1 million

Internally displaced [pdf] persons in Iraq: 1.3 million

Proportion of displaced persons who have returned home since 2008: 1/8

Rank of Iraq on Corruption Index among 182 countries: 175
No words.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Train of Thought Lounge: The Roots

Final exams are occurring so posting will be light for the next few days.

Enjoy your Thursday while a new team of assholes tries to destroy the only good healthcare system we have.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Trolling, a New Campaign Tactic

I'm not posting this for any other reason than that I find it really funny:
Who inspires you to give?

This holiday season, we’re giving you a chance to have a little fun at the expense of a Republican in your life by letting them know they inspired you to make a donation to the Obama campaign.

Simply enter their name and email address below. Then, we’ll send them a message letting them know they inspired you to donate.

Thank you for supporting this campaign, and happy holidays.
Really want to fire up your GOP friends? Buy them a gift from the 2012 store. I recommend the birther mugs — they get the message across pretty well.
So the article talks about this as an opportunity to list build with Republicans, which I guess kinda/sorta/doesn't really make sense. I'd prefer to laugh at the fact that their campaign is dedicating resources to something that doesn't seem to have a more worthwhile purpose than trolling Republican friends of Obama supporters.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Doing It Wrong

Not that I thought the scum of the earth bigots at the Westboro Baptist Church were a bunch of rocket scientists, but I didn't think it was that difficult to be consistant in your prejudice:

(Look at her shirt)

Monday, December 12, 2011

For A Political Advantage to Be Named Later...

Yet another example of the Obama Administration choosing pointless political posturing over a meaningful policy change that would make a difference in people's lives:
The Obama administration stunned women’s health advocates and abortion opponents alike Wednesday by rejecting a request to let anyone of any age buy the controversial morning-after pill Plan B directly off drugstore and supermarket shelves.

For what the Food and Drug Administration thinks is the first time, the Department of Health and Human Services overruled the agency, vetoing the FDA’s decision to make the contraceptive available without any restrictions. Revealing a rare public split, FDA Administrator Margaret A. Hamburg said her conclusion that the drug could be used safely by women of all ages was nullified by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
There is absolutely no excuse for this. Fucking appalling.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Accusations of Anti-Semitism Is All They Know

With the Israeli Lobby, charges of anti-antisemitism are the feature, not the bug:
The former spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is shopping a 3,000-word trove of opposition research against bloggers critical of Israel to friendly neoconservative journalists.

I’ve obtained an email sent by Josh Block to a private listserv called The Freedom Community, in which he throws around accusations of anti-Semitism against liberal bloggers and calls on other list members to “echo” and “amplify” his assault and “use the below [research] to attack the bad guys.”
Block sent out his email following publication of an article by Politico’s Ben Smith Wednesday about writers at the Democratic-affiliated Center for American Progress and Media Matters who enunciate a more progressive take on the Israel-Palestine conflict than is usually found in Washington. Block was quoted in the story accusing CAP columnist Eric Alterman of writing “borderline anti-Semitic stuff,” a charge Alterman (who is himself Jewish) dismissed as “ludicrous.”

Block’s email to The Freedom Community list arrived under the subject line “Important piece to echo and the research to do it….” – a reference to the Politico story. He wasted no time throwing around more accusations of anti-Semitism.

“This kind of anti-Israel sentiment is so fringe it’s support by CAP is outrageous, but at least it is out in the open now — as is their goal – clearly applauded by revolting allies like the pro-HAMAS and anti-Zionist/One State Solution advocate Ali Abunumiah and those who accuse pro-Israel Americans of having ‘dual loyalties’ or being ‘Israel-Firsters’ – to shape the minds of future generations of Democrats,” Block writes. “These are the words of anti-Semites, not Democratic political players.”
The responses to Josh Block's assholeness here and here from the people he smeared are really great.

None of this is surprising, but it's always important to point out the disgusting tactics AIPAC will use to smear anyone critical Israel's amoral and counterproductive foreign policy.

Own Your Incompetence

Long time readers of the blog will know this stuff really pisses me off:
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney made a surprising assertion on MSNBC Wednesday, saying that in early 2009, as Barack Obama was taking office, there weren't any major economists who understood just how bad the recession was.

The problem is that the evidence doesn't support his claim.
"There was not a single mainstream, Wall Street, academic economist who knew at the time, in January of 2009, just how deep the economic hole was that we were in," Carney told Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough on Wednesday's program.
Yeah, uh... bullshit!
In reality, though, well-respected analysts and economists from all corners were sounding alarms about the state of the economy -- in early 2009, and even before.

Numerous experts warned that the stimulus bill wouldn't go far enough to address the nation's economic woes as it was making its way through Congress in the early days of Obama's presidency. They cautioned that the economy was pointed toward higher unemployment and weak or nonexistent growth -- conditions that have indeed come to characterize Obama's first term in office.

For example, Douglas Elmendorf, director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, testified before the House Budget Committee on on January 27, 2009, that without immediate action, the economy would sag below its potential by nearly 7 percent for the next two years, and that unemployment would exceed 9 percent by early 2010 -- something that actually happened four months later, in May 2009.

Describing this projected gap between potential and actual economic output, Elmendorf called it the largest shortfall "in terms of both length and depth ... since the Depression of the 1930s."

That same month, Paul Krugman, a left-leaning economist and Nobel laureate, wrote in a New York Times column that Obama's plan to jump-start the economy was "nowhere near big enough," arguing that it was "unlikely to close more than half of the looming output gap" at a time when the country was experiencing "the most dangerous economic crisis since the Great Depression."

But Krugman wasn't the only economist to draw a Great Depression comparison. Martin Feldstein, Harvard professor and former economic adviser to Ronald Reagan, wrote in January 2009 that "this recession is likely to last longer and be more damaging than any since the depression of the 1930's."

And James Galbraith, a left-leaning economist and former executive director of the Joint Economic Committee said, "there are many good reasons to think" that America is in "a true financial crisis of the type in the 1930s." Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics warned at the time that "the economy appears headed toward its worst downturn since the Great Depression."

Dean Baker, a left-leaning economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, issued a warning similar to Krugman's in January 2009, writing in the Guardian that "[t]his downturn is so severe that [the stimulus bill] may not be sufficient to offset even half of its impact."
And a January 2009 survey of more than 100 economists, conducted by the National Association for Business Economics, found that that business conditions overall were the worst in the survey's 27-year history. At the time,78 percent of the economists said they expected GDP to keep falling.

Strongly-worded warnings about the economy were pouring in even before January 2009, in fact. Nine months earlier, in April 2008, left-leaning economist Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia professor and Nobel laureate, told CNBC that the recession was "going to be one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression." And as early as 2006, the economist and New York University professor Nouriel Roubini -- famous for his perennially bearish outlook, but also regarded by many as a prescient forecaster -- was predicting a recession, triggered by a softening housing market, that would be "much nastier, deeper and more protracted than the 2001 recession."

"There were a lot of us who were saying that the stimulus was nowhere near large enough at the time," Baker told The Huffington Post when reached for comment on Wednesday. "The fact that it was going to be considerably more severe than the Obama administration was predicting at the time -- there were a number of us who were quite explicit about that."
There were plenty of people who saw this coming, just not the fuck ups you hired. You hired people from the same school of thought (and in some cases, the exact same people!) that pushed through the deregulation of the financial sector that destroyed our economy in 2008. Ten years later, they were still making horrible decisions. Who could have imagined that?

Plently of people saw this coming, and knew you weren't doing enough. You just chose to hire people who were more concerned with the perils of the government "doing too much", rather than doing everything humanly possible to turn the economy around.

That was solely your fuck up, and the fault of your administration. Own it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

He Doesn't Even Know What He's Bitching About

JP Morgan Chase CEO, Obama buddy and unspeakable asshole Jaime Dimon said something pretty awesome yesterday, continuing the "rich people whining" theme of this week's posting:
Next time you read an article about the behavior response to marginal tax rates on high income earners, I would urge you to refer back to JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon's fine whine that "most of us wage earners are paying 39.6 percent in taxes and add in another 12 percent in New York state and city taxes and we're paying 50 percent of our income in taxes."
What makes that so incredible? Matt Yglasias:
The thing about this is that the actual top marginal income tax rate is 35 percent. The entire debate in congress over taxes is that President Obama wants to restore the top marginal rate to the level that Dimon thinks it already is. Meanwhile, Dimon doesn't even know what tax rate he pays. Just saying.
Jaime Dimon, while crying about paying too much in taxes... DOESN'T EVEN FUCKING KNOW WHAT TAX RATE HE'S PAYING.

This is pure speculation, but do you want to guess why he doesn't know? I'll say it's because he's so fucking rich that the difference between paying 35% and 39% makes absolutely ZERO difference to him in any sort of tangible way. Which is, of course, the whole point of progressive taxation, and forcing people like Jaime Dimon to pay a higher tax rate. You seriously can't make this shit up.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Rich and Powerful Need Love Too!

As my understanding of politics and power has evolved over the years, one thing that has really stunned me is how even the richest most powerful elites we have need more than their power and vast riches. They often need to be loved, or at least thanked for all the great work they think they're doing by being rich or powerful. I had always gone under the assumption that if you're a really powerful senator, or a really rich hedgefund manager, why would you give the slightest fuck about mean things said about you... but the evidence keeps piling up that they do.

And let's be clear, this is a good thing, because it opens up a point of leverage on these elites that I didn't think previously existed. There have been a lot of examples of this recently, (some involving a campaign at work so I don't want to get into it here, but shoot me an email or ask offline if you're curious), and I've been absolutely fascinated by these stories.

A perfect example from the other day about a rich hedge fund manager:
Last week, Cooperman circulated an “open letter” to President Obama that accused him of a ”divisive, polarizing tone” that risks further inflaming an “already incendiary environment.” The letter was a sensation on Wall Street, so Andrew Ross Sorkin interviewed Cooperman to find out what exactly ticked him off badly enough to inspire him to write it:
“What pushed me over the fence was the president’s dialogue over the debt ceiling,” Mr. Cooperman said, explaining that just when it seemed like a compromise was near, President Obama went on national television and pressed harder on “millionaires and billionaires,” a phrase that has stuck in the craw of many of the elite.
For example, Mr. Cooperman zeroed in on what he described as the president’s belittling remarks about taxing the wealthy: “If you are a wealthy C.E.O. or hedge fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they have ever been. They are lower than they have been since the 1950s. And they can afford it,” the president said back in June. “You can still ride on your corporate jet. You’re just going to have to pay a little more.”...
Mr. Cooperman acknowledges that, in the debt ceiling debate this summer, it was as much the fault of Republicans and House Speaker John Boehner’s inability to gain support for a compromise as it was the Democrats that a deal did not get done. And Mr. Cooperman accepts that taxes are indeed at record lows.
But he says the president could do a better job of pressing for higher taxes on the rich without “the sense that we’re bad people.”
As Greg Sargent points out in the post, the most staggering thing about this is that he agrees with Obama on the fundamentals. He accepts that taxes are at record lows, and that the Republicans are also at fault for the debt ceiling nonesense. But this billionaire's feelings are so hurt because Barack Obama said the most milk toast possible line tweaking the rich for not paying enough taxes. It's not like Obama was breaking out some Che Guevara or even FDR style class warfare, he merely pointed out (in the tamest terms possible) facts that this billionaire largely agrees with, and yet what he said made him mad enough to write a angry letter to other rich people about it.

Being rich and powerful may seem great, but apparently it just isn't what it's cracked up to be unless someone is also telling you how awesome you are.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to Lie To the 99%

Frank Luntz is a GOP language guru who makes his living lying about Republican policies and phrasing them in a way that sane people won't find them revolting. He now has a memo on how to discuss issues that have come up due to the emergence of the Occupy movement. Let's take a look at what concepts Luntz felt rich assholes might not be able to figure out on their own. Credit to Yahoo news for transcribing Luntz' thoughts on each one:
1. Don't say 'capitalism.'
"I'm trying to get that word removed and we're replacing it with either 'economic freedom' or 'free market,' " Luntz said. "The public . . . still prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral. And if we're seen as defenders of quote, Wall Street, end quote, we've got a problem."
The honesty of this one is telling, and also a sign that in the long run, the occupy movement is winning.
2. Don't say that the government 'taxes the rich.' Instead, tell them that the government 'takes from the rich.'
"If you talk about raising taxes on the rich," the public responds favorably, Luntz cautioned. But  "if you talk about government taking the money from hardworking Americans, the public says no. Taxing, the public will say yes."
This is the first of what you will begin to see is a pattern with Luntz. When something is stated factually, and extremely popular, don't just change the wording, but change the entire meaning of the sentence, then it becomes unpopular!
3. Republicans should forget about winning the battle over the 'middle class.' Call them 'hardworking taxpayers.'

"They cannot win if the fight is on hardworking taxpayers. We can say we defend the 'middle class' and the public will say, I'm not sure about that. But defending 'hardworking taxpayers' and Republicans have the advantage."
It's always funny when he admits something is just completely lost for republicans. In this case, it's the third rail issue of "talking about the middle class".

4. Don't talk about 'jobs.' Talk about 'careers.'
"Everyone in this room talks about 'jobs,'" Luntz said. "Watch this."
He then asked everyone to raise their hand if they want a "job." Few hands went up. Then he asked who wants a "career." Almost every hand was raised.
"So why are we talking about jobs?"
Answer: Because when lots of people don't have jobs, whether or not they're going to have a career at said imaginary job isn't exactly their biggest concern at the moment.
5. Don't say 'government spending.' Call it 'waste.'
"It's not about 'government spending.' It's about 'waste.' That's what makes people angry."
He's right, it's not about government spending, because people actually like a decent number of things the government does. But if we lie and say that all government spending is waste, then they don't like it! See what he did there? The key was lying.
6. Don't ever say you're willing to 'compromise.'
"If you talk about 'compromise,' they'll say you're selling out. Your side doesn't want you to 'compromise.' What you use in that to replace it with is 'cooperation.' It means the same thing. But cooperation means you stick to your principles but still get the job done. Compromise says that you're selling out those principles."
Given the last 2 years of the Republican party I'm not really sure why he bothered to include this one.
7. The three most important words you can say to an Occupier: 'I get it.' 
"First off, here are three words for you all: 'I get it.' . . . 'I get that you're angry. I get that you've seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system."
Then, he instructed, offer Republican solutions to the problem.
Shorter Luntz: Say "I get it". Then explain to them why you don't get it.
8. Out: 'Entrepreneur.' In: 'Job creator.'

Use the phrases "small business owners" and "job creators" instead of "entrepreneurs" and "innovators."
I don't even understand the difference here, other than the need to add job to every republican initiative for the sake of doing it.
9. Don't ever ask anyone to 'sacrifice.'
"There isn't an American today in November of 2011 who doesn't think they've already sacrificed. If you tell them you want them to 'sacrifice,' they're going to be be pretty angry at you. You talk about how 'we're all in this together.' We either succeed together or we fail together."
So Frank Luntz has better awareness on this issue than Barack Obama. Awesome.
10. Always blame Washington.
Tell them, "You shouldn't be occupying Wall Street, you should be occupying Washington. You should occupy the White House because it's the policies over the past few years that have created this problem."
Back to the "lying" theme we've seen repeated several times.
Don't say 'bonus!'
Luntz advised that if they give their employees an income boost during the holiday season, they should never refer to it as a "bonus."

"If you give out a bonus at a time of financial hardship, you're going to make people angry. It's 'pay for performance.'"
The best part of this list, is you can see a room full of the 1% in suits furiously taking notes at Luntz' shocking suggestions.
Guy #1:"So if you give out a bonus at a time of financial hardship, you're going to make people angry."
Guy #2: "Wow, I'm so glad we came to this, how else would we have figured that out???"

The idea that Luntz gets paid ungodly sums of money to tell rich people how to lie to non-rich people pretty much says all you need to know about the state of the world in 2011.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Joe Buck Disgusting Act of the Week: Governor Sam Brownback and Ruth Marcus

This happened a week or so ago so I know I'm late to the party, but let's look at a brief recap:
Emma Sullivan, of course, is the Kansas teenager who went on a field trip to the state capitol, listened to some remarks from Governor Sam Brownback, and tweeted:
Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.
The governor's staff went ballistic, Sullivan's school principal demanded she apologize, the governor and the principal eventually backed down, Sullivan became an internet hero for a few minutes, and Ruth Marcus was appalled. "If you were my daughter," she wrote in the Washington Post, "you’d be writing that letter apologizing to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback for the smartalecky, potty-mouthed tweet you wrote after meeting with him on a school field trip."
So as someone who writes a blog that calls politicians mean names I felt obliged to take time and thank Emma Sullivan for her contribution.

If Sam Brownback doesn't like being told he blows, maybe he should suck less?

And if Ruth Marcus has thinks it was a good use of her Washington Post column to bash this girl and her family, maybe she should suck less as well?

Maybe Ruth Marcus could have written a column about the fact that Sam Brownback has made a career out of demonizing gay people? Between that and few mean words, I'll tell you which one I think is a hell of a lot more offensive.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's Possible to Do the Right Thing

Despite popular belief, it is possible to be a politician and not whore yourself to banking industry:
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said today that she has filed suit against five major US banks for allegations related to mortgage fraud and unlawful property seizures. Coakley said she will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. today to detail the suit against Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citi, and Ally Financial.
I know that the president of the United States faces more political pressure than attorney generals from Massachusetts, New York or Delaware, but there is nothing stopping him from directing Eric Holder to look into these practices nationally. More importantly, he most certainly does not need use his political power to force a settlement that lets the banks of the hook.

I'm not saying any of this stuff is easy or without cost, I just think any excuses made for Obama on this front are particularly week. He has the power to investigate the banks, he has used his power to shield them from scrutiny instead.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupying Throughout History

A really interesting take from David Dayen:
While occupying a public park or other physical space would appear to be a novel escalation of national discontent, it has actually accompanied other eras of frustration and rage throughout history. Unemployed Americans marched on Washington after the Panic of 1893, forming what was termed Coxey’s Army after Jacob Coxey, the leader of the protest. The Bonus Marchers did the same, seeking their World War I bonuses, and they occupied parts of Washington before getting booted by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. In 1968, the Poor People’s Campaign pledged to camp out in Washington, using actual sharecropper’s domiciles to build a shanty-town called “Resurrection City,” in a bid to achieve better economic outcomes. We will never know the potential success of this event, because Martin Luther King Jr., one of the lead organizers, was shot just before the start of the occupation, and the campaign never regained momentum. The Flint sit-down strike was a non-Washington example of occupations, an event most mirrored by the 2008 takeover of the Republic Windows and Doors building by the workers. And that brings us to the point that there are RECENT antecedents to Occupy Wall Street – the bank accountability campaign, actual protests on Wall Street in 2009 and 2010, the anti-foreclosure direct action movement, and so on.

The point is that there’s nothing particularly new about the premise of occupation. There’s also nothing new about the response – these have historically always caused a reaction by the authorities that led to arrests, beatings, and dismantling of the occupation sites. But in no case did that temper or end the movements which led to the occupations themselves. The common thread underlying these occupations is that they have come at a time of profound economic dislocation, and they heralded a new era of reforms aimed at ameliorating the situation. Coxey’s Army and the protests of the turn of the century occurred hand-in-hand with the Progressive Era; the Bonus Marchers and Flint sit-down strike happened during the Depression; the Poor People’s Campaign adjoined both the civil rights movement and the Great Society reforms. This always happens, in other words. And those occupations never defined the movements they inspired. The movements always multiplied and innovated and went beyond sitting down for rights.

It’s undeniable that this current occupation movement has shown that the right to assembly is under threat, and if you cannot assure this basic right, good luck with the economic agenda that undergirds the occupations. But that’s been true to a degree throughout history. People have been beaten, attacked, assailed, and physically removed for speaking out against injustice, for exercising the basic right to protest. This has arguably become more militarized in recent years, but the dynamic has always been there.

And so has the results. Occupation movements have always existed parallel to a larger movement that did eventually secure a series of rights and protections for the disenfranchised. John Heilemann has this cockamamie story about how Occupy Wall Street will bring us back to 1968, because for everyone in the traditional media, it’s always 1968. But a survey of the historical record shows that the more likely scenario is that this inspires a mass movement that leads to progressive reform, as it always has. The pendulum is swinging back from a time of Gilded Age stratification. This is a familiar theme and you’d think people with any sense of history would be aware of it.

This is also why I am disinclined to offer helpful hints to the Occupy protesters, or a game plan on how they should go about achieving or even determining their goals. The movement energy around occupations has always sustained itself and built a reform agenda. Mother Jones was a Coxey marcher. It’s endemic to a movement like this that it draws the activists most focused on progress and provides a space for them to figure out how to get there. Nobody on the sidelines has any better insight. So the best option is to just shut up and watch history take flight again.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Caps Fire Boudreau

As someone who was a Caps fan long before Ovie, sellout streaks and rocking the red, thank you to Bruce Boudreau. The excitement he brought to the caps over the last couple years has been an incredible thing to behold, somesomething that didn't just "happen" because we lucked out and got one of the most exciting players in the game. It was his system and style that brought us there and created that atmosphere. While a change was probably needed, that doesn't dimish the job he did, or the fanbase and expectations he left behind.

Thanks for the memories, Bruce.

Friday, November 25, 2011

At Least Paul Wolfowitz Had A Terrible Thanksgiving

Also, Jeremy Scahill is an American hero. From his twitter feed:
Just randomly ran into Paul Wolfowitz. Told him what I think of him. The words "war" & "criminal" were involved.

Wolfowitz tried to keep walking. A family member of his started screaming at me & cursing, called me a "coward."

I told Wolfowitz he belongs in prison, not asking questions at GOP debates.
It's true, he should be in prison, not asking questions at GOP debates. I had similar thoughts during the debate!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taking Us Back To The 19th Century

Newt Gingrich has awesome plans for this country:
Speaking at Harvard (to remind us that he's a historian, no doubt) on Friday, Newt Gingrich not only called child labor laws "truly stupid," he did so as his answer to a question about income inequality. His answer had several prongs. First, use student labor to bust unions in schools:
"You say to somebody, you shouldn't go to work before you're what, 14, 16 years of age, fine. You're totally poor. You're in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I've tried for years to have a very simple model," he said. "Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they'd begin the process of rising."
"The process of rising" = Firing janitors so that kids can become janitor, which will help with their learning, because they're also janitors for the school, which is clearly a position of respect or something. Newt manages to take some pieces of libertarian thought (ownership breeds betters stewardship) and conservative ideas (Unionized janitors that have it too good!)and combines them into a nonsensical justification for getting rid of child labor laws. This is probably a good time to point people to the quote my dad sent me of Krugman saying that Gingrich is a "stupid man's idea of what a smart man sounds like".

Are we going to be lucky enough that reporters/other candidates don't reach into their constantly expanding Newt opposition research file during tonight's debate? I would really love to see him twist in the wind for a few more weeks, even if it's just for comedic value.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Not a moment too soon:
Capitol Hill sources say that barring a highly unexpected, last minute development, Super Committee co-chairs Jeb Hensarling and Patty Murray will issue a statement on Monday acknowledging the panel’s failure.
The development comes one day before the panel’s drop dead date to submit a plan, and three days before the debt limit law requires them to report legislation to the full Congress. Failure will lock into place deep, across the board cuts to defense and security programs, a two percent cut to Medicare providers, and cuts to other domestic programs. Those spending reductions will kick in on January 1, 2013, unless Congress acts to change the law, or passes more targeted budget cuts and thus agrees to eliminate the automatic penalty.

Those cuts, along with the looming expiration of the Bush tax cuts, promise to be major flashpoints for the 2012 campaign, and lock in a tough legislative food fight over cutting spending and raising taxes.
Putting aside the hilariousness of releasing a statement of failure, it's great news that this dangerous waste of time is coming to an end. The infighting of an austerity commission in the middle of a horrific economic downturn should make for a nice "fiddling while Rome burns" moment for future historians to highlight when explaining our downfall.

Prediction: In the next few years, there will be a new austerity commission, which will be cheered by all the important people for trying to tackle the important issues of our time: cutting social security and medicare.

As Ari Berman brilliantly described, these things don't happen out of thin air, and the same group of people trying to cut social security will be at it again on with new excuses in a few years time.

And if you want your mind to truly be blown, think about the people that probably saved us from a Democratic president signing cuts to medicare and social security into law:
  • Grover Norquist, whose idiotic no tax pledge prevents Republicans from signing onto a deal even if it is wildly in their favor
  • Eric Cantor, for going nuclear on the initial round of "grand bargain negotiations" and leaking his notes to the press.
My head hurts.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Rule of Law

Whoa, this is exciting. David Dayen:
A grand jury in Nevada yesterday indicted two title officers, Gary Trafford and Gerri Sheppard, on 606 counts of robo-signing between 2005 and 2008, a scheme that resulted in the fraudulent filing of tens of thousands of other documents with the Clark County register of deeds. This has the potential to be a groundbreaking case; it’s the first I can think of which actually indicts a robo-signer on criminal charges for fraud. And by going after the title officers, the Attorney General of Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto, appears to be laying out a strategy to go up the chain and hollow out the entire industry and their illegal document fraud.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the two defendants were employed by Lender Processing Services, the leading foreclosure document processing company in the country, and one under a near-constant state of controversy over the past few years of the foreclosure crisis. In the indictment, Trafford and Sheppard are accused of directing fraudulent notarization and filing of foreclosure documents. This included having their employees forge Trafford and Sheppard’s names on the documents, typically Notices of Default, and then having them notarized. So in addition to a robo-signing scheme, where the notaries and affiants have no underlying knowledge of the documents, this was a forgery scheme. And banks filed these fraudulent documents with the country register of deeds, in violation of existing statutes under Nevada law. These are category C and D felonies, in addition to gross misdemeanors. One woman who worked with Trafford and Sheppard says she signed 25,000 Notices of Default this way.

Understand what was going on. In the interest of speed – and certainly not accuracy – Trafford and Sheppard had other people sign their name on legal documents, notarize them (attesting that the signature was legitimate and the content of which they had no knowledge was legitimate as well), and file them with the register. These are the documents that would be used to kick people out of their homes in Clark County, Nevada, where as many people have been foreclosed upon as anywhere in the country.
Prosecuting mortgage fraud, holy crap!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Glorious Super Deal That Never Was

As atrios says, the fact that people in the White House were dumb enough to think the politics of a huge austerity deal would be good is more troubling than almost anything else:
For most of this year, the White House has thought that the surest path to President Obama’s reelection was to strike a big deficit deal with Republicans, or at least be seen trying to strike a big deficit deal with Republicans. The debt-ceiling debacle proved it wrong. The White House was unable to reach an agreement, and the sorry sight of its ineffectual efforts led it to sink in the polls. Since then, it has moved toward a more confrontational stance with the GOP, and has seen its poll numbers tick up slightly. So White House officials do not consider a supercommittee deal crucial to their chances. Perhaps that’s for the best, as the Democrats on the supercommittee think it would be harder to secure Republican support for a deal if the White House were more involved.
It's hard to conceive how they thought that would be smart politically. I know I rant about this a lot, but it really was incredibly stupid, and that needs to be pointed out.

Even if you think talking about the deficit is smart, it really hammers home that many people in the administration have simply no clue about the political climate we live in. Facts don't matter. Actually doing something to show you "care about the deficit" doesn't matter. Republicans don't care about the deficit in the slightest, yet they run on it every year. Why does it work? Because the one party has realized that the press isn't doing their job and are taking advantage.

Does this mean our side should lie like they do? Of course not. But it does mean that we should spend less time worrying about showing we're serious about the deficit, showing we're strong on national security/illegal immigration, arbitrary figures for the cost of policies (stimulus/healthcare) and so on. They're gonna say you're a gay Muslim Mexican loving tax and spend democrat no matter what you do. You might as well focus on getting the policy right. There are no bonus points for fawning David Brooks columns.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sometimes Good Things Do Happen to Extremely Privileged People

Having snapped up budding journalistic talents Luke Russert, Meghan McCain and Jenna Bush, NBC News continued their their hiring spree of America's best and brightest: (via Glenn Greenwald)
NBC announced Monday that it has hired Chelsea Clinton to become a full-time special correspondent for NBC News.

Chelsea Clinton will be a special correspondent for NBC News.

The appointment was immediate. Ms. Clinton will begin work on stories that NBC expects to use as part of its “Making a Difference” series, which runs on “NBC Nightly News,” said Steve Capus, president of NBC News. 
As ridiculous as this is, it isn't at all surprising. What is somewhat surprising is how candid NBC News was about their decision making process:
Mr. Capus said an intermediary contacted him in July with word that “she was kicking around what she wanted to do next.”

Mr. Capus said he had met with Ms. Clinton and had a long conversation that began with a simple question. “I asked her: ‘What are you interested in doing?’ ”

Ms. Clinton told him, he said, that during her mother’s campaign for president in 2008, she had been moved by stories of people making personal contributions.

“What we talked about was if she were to come on board that’s the kind of thing she would be interested in doing. We knew she wasn’t going to do the lead story. But having somebody who was going to do really captivating feature assignments for the ‘Making a Difference’ franchise really kind of synced up,” Mr. Capus said.

Those feature reports, which have become popular on NBC’s evening newscast — and which may be added to NBC’s new prime-time newsmagazine program, “Rock Center With Brian Williams” — spotlight people who are making volunteer commitments to improve the lives of others in their community.

Mr. Capus said Ms. Clinton had said to him, “That’s the kind of thing, if this were to happen, that I would really like to do.” He added, “It’s not about Chelsea Clinton saying, ‘Here I am; I want to be a TV star.’ ” 
He's right, this isn't about her saying "I want to be a TV star". It's Steve Capus, the president of NBC news saying "Hey, you have a famous last name, I will find a way to put you on TV despite a complete lack of TV or journalism experience".

And hey, maybe she'll be smarter than Luke Russert (BREAKING: She will be), but that really doesn't matter. It's more the idea that the head of NBC news is bragging about seeking her out and asking "what she is interesting in doing" the way a team approaches a sought after free agent. But that's been the life of the rich and privileged in this country, it just isn't usually this obvious.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Man, the GOP race is going to strange places:
Two new national polls of the Republican primary race show very different results in the horserace, but do agree on one thing: Newt Gingrich is rocketing upwards.

The new CNN poll, among Republican respondents: Romney 24%, Gingrich 22%, Cain 14%, Perry 12%, Paul 8%, Bachmann 6%, Huntsman 3%, and Santorum 3%. In CNN’s previous poll from a month ago, Romney had 26%, Cain 25%, Perry 13%, and all others in single digits (including Gingrich at 8%).

And the new numbers from Public Policy Polling (D): Gingrich 28%, Cain 25%, Romney 18%, Perry 6%, Bachmann 5%, Paul 5%, Huntsman 3%, Santorum 1%, and Johnson 1%.
So this will last about 2 weeks, until right wingers realize he made an ad with Nancy Pelosi talking about climate change, or the second anyone anywhere reads this:
After going to the doctor for a mysterious tingling in her hand, [Marianne Gingrich] was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Early in May 1999, she went out to Ohio for her mother’s birthday. A day and a half went by and Newt didn’t return her calls, which was strange. They always talked every day, often ten times a day, so she was frantic by the time he called to say he needed to talk to her.

“About what?”

He wanted to talk in person, he said.

“I said, ‘No, we need to talk now.’ “

He went quiet.

“There’s somebody else, isn’t there?”

She kind of guessed it, of course. Women usually do. But did she know the woman was in her apartment, eating off her plates, sleeping in her bed?

She called a minister they both trusted. He came over to the house the next day and worked with them the whole weekend, but Gingrich just kept saying she was a Jaguar and all he wanted was a Chevrolet. “‘I can’t handle a Jaguar right now.’ He said that many times. ‘All I want is a Chevrolet.’ “

He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused.

He’d just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he’d given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values.

The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, “How do you give that speech and do what you’re doing?”

“It doesn’t matter what I do,” he answered. “People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.”
In seriousness, what this tells me is that there are a large chunk of GOP voters who despise Romney and are searching for anyone (and if Newt Gingrich is leading, we mean ANYONE) to stop him from getting the nomination.

This would all be funnier if we weren't another economic downturn away from one of these asshats being president.

Friday, November 11, 2011

6 Things Obama Could Do to Improve The Economy

It's a slideshow, so it's hard to quote, but it's interesting stuff, and it's a reminder that the presidency isn't totally powerless when crazy people control one house of congress.

Worth a read.

#7: Don't oppose a financial transactions tax. Mitch McConnell isn't forcing them to do this, it's just a really, really stupid policy position.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


It's an odd feeling, but a massive slate of victories for progressives last night:
Democrats romped, as expected, in Kentucky, where Gov. Steve Beshear won a second term, and Dems carried all statewide races except agriculture commissioner (a Republican hold). The reverse was true in Mississippi, where GOP Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant was handily elected governor and Republicans retained every statewide post except attorney general (won by incumbent Jim Hood).

The good guys also won big on the three major ballot measures up last night: Ohio Issue 2 (repealing a bill that limited collective bargaining rights for public employees), Maine Question 1 (restoring same-day voter registration), and Mississippi Initiative 26 (turning back an amendment that would have defined personhood at the moment of fertilization). Not one of these three votes was even close, and the Ohio result in particular is a monstrous black eye for GOP Gov. John Kasich.

Democrats also held on to a crucial state Senate seat in Iowa, where Liz Mathis cruised to a double-digit win, ensuring the narrowly-divided chamber remains in Dem control. And two Republican state legislators were recalled: Sen. Russell Pearce in Arizona (who lost to fellow Republican Jerry Lewis), and Rep. Paul Scott in Michigan. (A special election will be held to replace Scott sometime next year.) In the OR-01 special primaries, Suzanne Bonamici cleaned up for the Dems and Rob Cornilles did the same for the GOP, as expected. They will face off on Jan. 31, 2012 for ex-Rep. David Wu's former seat.

The one big black mark appears to be the Virginia state Senate, where Democrats look to have lost two net seats to drop the chamber into a 20-20 deadlock. Though GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling would presumably break ties, some commentators are suggesting that a power-sharing agreement might be necessary.

Much of the talk will be how the Obama campaign responds to this result, and who honestly knows. After the 2010 elections, they thought that the country wanted a president who was friendlier to big business and Wall Street, and it's hard to see how that could have been a more colossal failure. In the last few month's the Administration seems to be at least publicly acknowledging that people care about not having jobs, so he's talking about those issues more, and he's flirting with using his executive power to do a few things, but who knows.

You'd think that this election would make the White House less squeamish around populist issues, but then again this is a president who thought getting further in bed with Wall Street was a good political strategy as recently as a year ago.

The most important message in these elections (particularly Ohio) is the warning shot other governors looking to attempt the same in other states. We will fight back, and the people are on our side.

R.I.P. Heavy D

Damn, gone far too soon.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The War on Voting

An under reported story in the past year has the GOP's "keep in the vote" efforts in many states:
Today residents of Mississippi will decide whether voters must produce a government-issued ID in order to cast a ballot and voters in Maine will choose whether to keep or overturn a new law banning election day voter registration, which had previously been on the books since 1973.

These votes occur amidst the backdrop of an unprecedented, Republican-led war on voting. Since the 2010 election, at least a dozen states controlled by Republicans have approved new obstacles to voting—mandating government-issued IDs, curtailing early voting, restricting voter registration, disenfranchising ex-felons. Five million voters could be negatively impacted by the new laws, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which found that “these new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities”—in other words, those most likely to vote for Democrats.

A key component of the GOP’s campaign has been orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which receives substantial funding from the Koch brothers. ALEC drafted mock photo ID legislation after the 2008 election and in five states that passed ID laws in the past year—Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin—the measures were sponsored by legislators who are members of ALEC.
It is rather absurd that while democrats in the house were too chicken shit to attempt legislating during the last 6 months of their term, Republicans make their majorities count, with long term, structural reforms that make it easier for Republicans to remain in power. Unions usually campagin against me? Eliminate collective bargaining! Too many of "those people" voting? Institute laws that depress voter turnout!

Say what you will about today's Republican party, but they are committed to the cause.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Outsourced Blogging

Worlds are kind of collapsing right now, so blogging may be lighter this week. However, I'll try always give you some sort of content, even if it isn't the vulgar poorly worded class warfare you've come to expect.

I thought this Sam Seder interview with Chris Hayes was really good. Also, if you're not listening to Sam Seder's podcast, or watching Chris Hayes's new show, fix that immediately. TV and podcasts that interview smart people and make you smarter! What a concept!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sexual Harassment? Ehhh, Who Cares?

I made the point on twitter the other day that while allegations of sexual harassment may seem like a bad thing for you or I, neither one of us is voting in the Republican primary. I feel like folks on our side do this in attempting to understand the Republican party on a regular basis, and the Republican nomination is no different. In order for Cain's sexual harassment allegations to hurt him politically, they need to change the mind of people who have already decided/or are seriously considering voting for Hermain Cain for President of the United States. That is why I'm not at all surprised by this polling data:
Herman Cain entered the worst week of his presidential campaign at the top of most national polls. And for all the missteps and seething allegations of past misconduct, he is ending the week where he started—at the top.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Friday morning found the former corporate executive locked in a statistical dead heat with Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican nomination, Mr. Romney with 24% and Mr. Cain with 23%. The poll was taken between Monday and Thursday, just as the wave of news stories broke about allegations that Mr. Cain sexual harassed at least two women in the late 1990s while working as a restaurant lobbyist in Washington, charges that Mr. Cain denies.

The findings mirror a number of polls taken over the last month, that have shown Mr. Cain essentially locked in a tie nationally with the former Massachusetts governor. Mr. Cain’s support was up seven points from last month’s ABC News poll. A Rasmussen poll out Thursday found that 26% of likely GOP primary voters supported Mr. Cain while 23% supported Mr. Romney.

The survey found that a solid majority of Republican or Republican-leaning independents were unruffled by the allegations. Nearly seven out of 10 said the controversy would have no impact on their support for Mr. Cain, while just under a quarter said it would make them less likely to support him. Nearly six out of 10 said the allegations were not a serious matter.

That said, Mr. Cain is far from in the clear. Should the controversy continue to balloon, the pollsters warned,  “Cain’s support could be at risk,” as nearly four in 10 likely GOP voters saw the charges as serious. (Just under a quarter of Cain supporters polled regarded the charges as serious.)
It's hard to predict a group of which you're not a member (I thought Michelle Bachman could win!), and this scandal could be enough of a black eye that it dents his support based on competence issues alone. However, it is worth pointing out that 60% of Republican voters DON'T SEE ACCUSATIONS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT AS SERIOUS!!!

Holy crap!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Eleven Dimensional Medicare Cutting Chess

The Democrats on the super committee are so hell bent on cutting medicare it's frightening: (TPM, via Digby)
“As I have thought about it…under the Affordable Health Care Act we provide subsidies for people who have really chronic illnesses and people who have limited incomes so they can afford health care insurance in the private sector,” Bowles told the panel during an exchange with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). “And that didn’t exist before the Affordable Health Care Act. That means that people 65, 66, 67 will still be able to get health care insurance. So as I think about it I could support raising the health care age for Medicare since we have other coverage available under the Affordable Health Care Act.”

In private budget negotiations earlier this year with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), President Obama entertained the same idea — a slow increase in the Medicare retirement age — provided Boehner find votes for over $1 trillion in new revenues. The discussions quickly fell apart.

The proposal infuriates progressives, and other defenders of single-payer Medicare, who note that the proposal is regressive — hitting elderly minorities and poor people who have lower life expectancies hardest — and shifts costs on to seniors, states, employers, and other federal programs. And it doesn’t save much money.
Ok, so it's not just that Kerry is proposing benefit cuts to medicare, but the argument he is using is particularly maddening. His logic: because of Obama's health care bill (you know, the one that very well may not exist after 2012), we should begin to dismantle Medicare, the only thing resembling a good health care system that we have in this country.

This is bringing back all of my angry health care bill emotions, so bare with me for a minute. During the negotiations, there was a step by step argument that supporters of the bill used to ridicule the complaints of those that were seriously concerned that it didn't address the fundamental problem in our health care system (which to many of us, is the lack of genuine competition to private health insurance).

First we were told that expanding medicare and single payer were great, just not feasible, and that a shitty public option that couldn't even be tied to medicare rates was the best we could do. With hopes that it might be improved later, many people reluctantly accepted this compromise, and figured that strengthening the stranglehold that private insurance has over our system is worth it, as long as something resembling genuine competition could happen in the future (this made sense to me at the time? What the fuck was I thinking?)

We all know how this ended, with Lieberman killing a medicare buy in, and the Obama administration having negotiated away the public option early in the summer while falsely claiming it didn't have the votes to make it in the final bill. So we ended up with a bill that further regulates our shitty private system, while fundamentally cementing it's place in our health care system, with no expansion of medicare or a public option in sight. A lot of people begrudgingly excepted this, thinking this was the best our system could do, and that at least 30 million more people would have access to health insurance who didn't have it before.

But let's be clear about one thing: Never, ever during the endless year that we debated health care, did anyone make the argument that the shit sandwich the were proposing was just as good as medicare, which is exactly what John Kerry is saying. He's proposing we dismantle the closest thing we have to a good health care system in this country, and using Obama's far from good (and may not even be attempted) health care bill as the justification.

And think of the payoff! Now that we've spent 2 years parroting right wing proposals to hurt the economy... DEFICITS ARE FINALLY OFF THE TABLE!

Why are the off the table? Because we said so! Is there even a table? Maybe. Is there anything stopping us or the Republicans from trying to destroy medicare and social security further? Well, no, but you see, they're off the table now, and that means something!

It's also fairly ironic that two years after getting our hearts broken by Douche Lieberman's refusal to vote for the medicare buy in, the Democrats are now proposing a reveres medicare buy in, where shitty private insurance replaces your ability to get medicare.

Everyone who questioned the administration's embrace of austerity has to admit that going from proposals to expand our nation's only successful health care program to proposals that severely weaken it in only 2 years' time is damn impressive! Heckuva job guys!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fearing Democracy

The prime minister of Greece is attempting to put the latest austerity package from the IMF/EU/ECB up for a national referendum vote.

He is now facing a no confidence vote.

Austerity is so awesome, what is everyone afraid of?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

General Strike!

Insanely busy, and had a pretty incredible last couple of days. In the meantime, keep your eyes out for this tomorrow:
OAKLAND -- From schools and downtown stores to the nation's fifth busiest port, Oakland is bracing for Wednesday's citywide general strike, a hastily planned and ambitious action called by Occupy protesters a day after police forcibly removed their City Hall encampment last week.

Occupy Oakland has since returned to Frank Ogawa Plaza, but the leaderless group is still asking workers and students in the city to take the day off to come downtown and protest economic inequality and corporate greed.

Major goals will be protesting at banks or corporations that refuse to shut down for the day, then marching in the evening to the Port of Oakland to try to shut down the night shift.

Some employees and businesses downtown, where the core activities are scheduled, intend to participate, while others plan to carry on as normal - hoping there won't be a resumption of last week's violent clashes between protesters and police.
General strike = HUGE fucking deal. Occupy Oakland's call is bold as hell. Best wishes to everyone in the bay area!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Leave Bank of America ALOOOOOOOOOONEE!

Let's all take a moment to stop and thank Bank of America for how awesome they are. Jason Linkins:
I'm sure you remember where you were when you heard that Bank Of America announced that after receiving taxpayer bailouts, it was going to institute a $5 monthly fee for the privilege of using your debit card. "Well, that's exactly why I saved Bank Of America in 2008," you probably said, because you are a Good American. "I look forward to my new negative-interest checking account," you probably added.
Well, apparently you Good Americans are in short supply, because according to Bloomberg News this morning, BofA Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan has been inundated by a bunch of Negative Nancies, and the experience has left him feeling "incensed."
Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan said he's "incensed" by public criticism of his company and is pushing back by reminding local leaders of its contributions to their economies. Moynihan, 52, told employees in a global town hall meeting last week from the firm's Charlotte, North Carolina, headquarters that the "place to win the battle" over the bank's battered public image is at the state and municipal level.
"I, like you, get a little incensed when you think about how much good all of you do, whether it's volunteer hours, charitable giving we do, serving clients and customers well," Moynihan said during the Oct. 18 gathering. To the bank's critics, he said, "You ought to think a little about that before you start yelling at us."
Right! Did any of these complainers even "think" before they started "yelling" at Bank of America? Actually, as Bloomberg goes on to report, they may have spent some time contemplating the fact that "Bank of America ranked lowest in a 24-bank survey of small business customer satisfaction from J.D. Power and Associates this month," or that "Bank of America was named the country's second-worst company by after BP Plc, the firm blamed for the worst U.S. offshore oil spill."

Why was Consumerist so hard on Bank Of America? Well, perhaps after doing a little bit of thinking, they realized, "Oh, hey, we've published tons of pieces attesting to Bank Of America's awfulness! Like the time the bank got an address wrong and foreclosed on the wrong home. Or the time they made mortgage payment demands from someone who wasn't their customer. Or the time they threatened a customer with foreclosure if he didn't make a prompt payment of $0.00. I mean, I could go on and on.
As Dan suggested in the comments a few weeks back, let's make a deal. We tell Brian Moynihan and all the other masters of the universe what great people they are praise their contributions to our society, and we get to nationalize BoA and sell it off in smaller pieces to people who aren't corrupt assholes. Deal?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Herman Cain Goes Next Level

I don't want to start prematurely declaring winners for the greatest political ad of the cycle contest, but this might be the strongest entry we've ever had in the "major party, legitimate chance of winning candidate" category. I'm not exactly who the desired audience is for this ad, but I do know that it's spectacular.

For all you Tim and Eric fans out there, check out how Herman Cain's expression does a reverse baseball man at the end of the ad.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Troops Coming Home/ Contractors Cashing In

Bringing home our troops from Iraq is obviously a welcome development, and is the "official" end to the dumbest war in the history of the world.* Spencer Ackerman on the new phase for Iraq:
President Obama announced on Friday that all 41,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq will return home by December 31. “That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end,” he said. Don’t believe him.

Now: it’s a big deal that all U.S. troops are coming home. For much of the year, the military, fearful of Iranian influence, has sought a residual presence in Iraq of several thousand troops. But arduous negotiations with the Iraqi government about keeping a residual force stalled over the Iraqis’ reluctance to provide them with legal immunity.

But the fact is America’s military efforts in Iraq aren’t coming to an end. They are instead entering a new phase. On January 1, 2012, the State Department will command a hired army of about 5,500 security contractors, all to protect the largest U.S. diplomatic presence anywhere overseas.
So our troops will come home, and we're replacing them with contractors (admittely less of them) who are known to act crazier and behave far worse than US soldiers. With no oversight.

Regardless of this fact, it is still nice to see our service members coming home, and a sort of full circle for Obama, who's opposition to this idiotic war kick started his political career and carried him to the presidency.

*I know there were probably dumber wars, but this was really, really dumb.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Austerity-Industrial Complex

Wonder why most politicians in DC have spent the last couple years obsessing over a fake problem? Ari Berman has a great article on the coordinated network that makes this happen:
The event spotlighted a central paradox in American politics over the past two years: how, in the midst of a massive unemployment crisis—when it’s painfully obvious that not enough jobs are being created and the public overwhelmingly wants policy-makers to focus on creating them—did the deficit emerge as the most pressing issue in the country? And why, when the global evidence clearly indicates that austerity measures will raise unemployment and hinder, not accelerate, growth, do advocates of austerity retain such distinction today?

An explanation can be found in the prominence of an influential and aggressive austerity class—an allegedly centrist coalition of politicians, wonks and pundits who are considered indisputably wise custodians of US economic policy. These “very serious people,” as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wryly dubs them, have achieved what University of California, Berkeley, economist Brad DeLong calls “intellectual hegemony over the course of the debate in Washington, from 2009 until today.”

Its members include Wall Street titans like Pete Peterson and Robert Rubin; deficit-hawk groups like the CRFB, the Concord Coalition, the Hamilton Project, the Committee for Economic Development, Third Way and the Bipartisan Policy Center; budget wonks like Peter Orszag, Alice Rivlin, David Walker and Douglas Holtz-Eakin; red state Democrats in Congress like Mark Warner and Kent Conrad, the bipartisan “Gang of Six” and what’s left of the Blue Dog Coalition; influential pundits like Tom Friedman and David Brooks of the New York Times, Niall Ferguson and the Washington Post editorial page; and a parade of blue ribbon commissions, most notably Bowles-Simpson, whose members formed the all-star team of the austerity class.

The austerity class testifies frequently before Congress, is quoted constantly in the media by sympathetic journalists and influences policy-makers and elites at the highest levels of power. They manufacture a center-right consensus by determining the parameters of acceptable debate and policy priorities, deciding who is and is not considered a respectable voice on fiscal matters. The “balanced” solutions they advocate are often wildly out of step with public opinion and reputable economic policy, yet their influence endures, thanks to an abundance of money, the ear of the media, the anti-Keynesian bias of supply-side economics and a political system consistently skewed to favor Wall Street over Main Street.

Taken together, the various strands of the austerity class form a reinforcing web that is difficult to break. Its think tanks and wonks produce a relentless stream of disturbing statistics warning of skyrocketing debt and looming bankruptcy, which in turn is trumpeted by politicians and the press and internalized by the public. Thus forms what Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent calls a Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop, wherein the hypothetical possibility of a US debt crisis somewhere in the future takes precedence over the very real jobs crisis now.
Go read the whole thing, it's really an incredible look at this complex network and how it effects our politics.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Emotional Millionaire Bankers: "Mean Words Hurt Worse Than Actual Regulation"

Banking executives: They have more money than anyone you know will have in their lifetimes, yet have the emotional sensibilities of a 5 year old.
After the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent a recent email urging supporters to sign a petition backing the wave of Occupy Wall Street protests, phones at the party committee started ringing.

Banking executives personally called the offices of DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and DCCC Finance Chairman Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) last week demanding answers, three financial services lobbyists told POLITICO.

“They were livid,” said one Democratic lobbyist with banking clients.

The execs asked the lawmakers: “What are you doing? Do you even understand some of the things that they’ve called for?” said another lobbyist with financial services clients who is a former Democratic Senate aide.
. . .
“Most Wall Street guys, they feel like they’re going to be burned in effigy,” said Anthony Scaramucci, managing partner of SkyBridge Capital, who gave to Obama in 2008 but is now fundraising for Mitt Romney. Some moderate donors, who have given to both parties, “fled from Obama in his support of the Wall Street protests,” he said.
. . .
“You can’t have it both ways,” said one in-house financial services lobbyist. “It just makes it harder for people who are Democrats in New York, Boston, Chicago to on the one hand be demogagued and then be asked ‘Hey, you can get your picture with the president for $30,000.’ It doesn’t square.”
And the rhetoric strikes a nerve.

“In some ways, I think this is worse than [Dodd-Frank] because it is more symbolic,” said a Democratic financial services lobbyist. “People from Wall Street can deal with regulation, they deal with it all the time … I think it’s just the bashing that sort of drives them crazy.”
Apparently being an extremely wealthy elite isn't enough, you also need be praised by other elites for all of the great work that you're not doing. This just makes me think that Occupy Wall Street, SEIU (and others') have it right in their tactics. If the CEO of Bank Of America or Goldman Sachs go about his day for 10 minutes without being reminded that he's an asshole who has cause the suffering of millions, we aren't doing our job.