Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Barack's Conversations with Dimitry, Jindahl Spanked

Dimitry Medvedev
Dana Millbank

"If you buy a car from Chrysler or General Motors, you will be able to get your car serviced and repaired, just like always," - Barack Obama

"The dirty little secret of conservative talk radio is that the average age of listeners is 67 and rising... What's more, it's the Internet that is the fast-growing and arguably more powerful political medium -- and it is the province of the young and liberal. The only sensible market view of conservative talk is that it will contract and be reduced, in the coming years, to a much more rarefied format." - Michael Wolff

President Barack Obama is in Europe for the G20 conference, with speculation on how well he will be received. His stimulus plan has come under a lot of criticism, notably from Germany and the Czech Republic, but everyone is keeping their fingers crossed that it will work, or else the whole world's economy will be dragged down with us. Of course, last time he went to Europe, he drew large crowds, so it may be that he will get a warmer reception from regular people than from the politicians.

TMP reports: "A new ABC/Washington Post poll finds the public agreeing with the Obama administration that it has inherited the problems it has to deal with. Only 26% of Americans think the Obama administration deserves blame for the current economic problems, compared to 80% who blame banks and businesses, 70% who blame the Bush administration, and 72% who blame consumers. President Obama's approval rating remains high at 66%, with 60% approval on the economy specifically." 

One of the more important meetings will be with Dimitry Medvedev, the President of the Russian Federation, who is now being let out on his own, but maybe hard-wired so that Putin can see and hear everything... They will be talking about renewing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which ends this coming December. This from Medvedev's Washington Post opinion editorial: "I believe that removing such obstacles to good relations would be beneficial to our countries -- essentially removing "toxic assets" to make good a negative balance sheet -- and beneficial to the world.

This will require joint efforts. The exchange of letters between myself and President Obama this year showed mutual readiness to build mature bilateral relations in a pragmatic and businesslike manner. For that we have a "road map" -- the Strategic Framework Declaration our countries signed in Sochi in 2008. It is essential that the positive ideas in that declaration be brought to life. We are ready for that."

The Russians are trying to gain the primacy they had under Communist control, want to be considered a major player in the world's political chess game. They have established economic ties with India, China, Iran, Brazil, Venezuela, and Cuba, to name a few. They also are trying to do what we like to do, put military air bases in friendly countries, Cuba included. It seems like a modern version of The Great Game...

Elizabeth Warren has been appointed as overseer on the bailout and TARP funds, finding out where it all goes. She had problems with Hank Paulson because he didn't keep track of where it went, just out to his friends... Now this report from Politico's Glenn Thrush: "Elizabeth Warren, the law professor appointed as Congress's oversight czar on bank bailouts, blasted the Treasury Department -- saying new legislation might be needed to give the House and Senate more access to details of the $700 billion rescue program.

Warren, testifying before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday morning, said keeping Congress in the loop isn't a "priority" of Secretary Tim Geithner -- and suggested a possible "next step" would be to pass legislation that would "require [Treasury] to consult" with her.
Warren, who was sharply critical of Geithner's predecessor Hank Paulson for allegedly underestimating public exposure to bank losses, said he office has "substantial questions about AIG, TALF... how many acronyms can we do here?"

"While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a 'magnetic levitation' line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring.' "  - Bobby Jindahl

Ahhhh, how can we forget Bobby Jindal's denunciations of federal spending to monitor volcanoes? It was the speech that wasn't, put egg on the face of the GOP, and solidified opinion that they had become irrelevant in today's political dialogue. He is now attracting some serious critcism from a Republican Senator -- namely Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, whose state has been recently disrupted by a series of eruptions from Mount Redoubt.

Politico reports: "Recently there were some comments made about federal spending for volcano monitoring being wasteful," Murkowski said from the Senate floor, without naming Jindal directly. "I can assure you that monitoring volcanoes is critically important to the nation and especially to my home state of Alaska."

The massive eruptions from Mount Redoubt were serious enough to cancel all airport service in and out of Anchorage for several hours -- even though the city is about 100 miles away from the volcano. Memo to Bobby Jindal: "Volcano monitoring" in some parts of the country is not all that dissimilar from "hurricane monitoring" on the Gulf Coast." This may develop into a Deathmatch, with or without claymation figures to stand in for the real people.

By the way, I predict that the octo-mom will have been able to pay for her house by stripping and working as a fetish prostitute...

Late night jokes:

"The Republicans released their budget counter-proposal this week. It plans to address the deficit, global warming, healthcare, energy, massive tax cuts for the rich. I'm not kidding. Also, there are no numbers in this budget. It's a budget plan without any math in it. You know, Obama should have saved that Special Olympics joke for these retards." --Bill Maher

"Unemployment is at record levels. Of course, no one is buying anything. Consumer spending is at a standstill. The Octomom switched to a generic brand of semen." --Bill Maher

"People are pissed off. Did you hear this? This is not a joke. Melissa Etheridge says she will not pay taxes in California until they legalize gay marriage. Let's see. A high-profile liberal who won't pay taxes. Sounds like someone who wants to be in the Obama Cabinet!" --Bill Maher

"North Korea is planning to launch what they're calling a rocket, but what the rest of the world calls a missile. And Hillary had to warn Kim Jong Il today, 'do not fire your missile.' Is it me, or is this a running theme in her life? --Bill Maher

"Looking back at his presidential run this week, John McCain said that he got a lot of votes because of Sarah Palin. And weirdly enough, that's the same thing President Obama said." --Jimmy Fallon

"President Obama said yesterday that he believes that Osama bin Laden is plotting new attacks against the United States. Obama came up with this theory when he picked up any newspaper from the last eight years." --Jimmy Fallon

"President Obama said this week that things will get worse before they get better. That's something you never hear before the election. 'Let me tell you, if I'm elected it's going to get a lot worse.'" --Jay Leno

"President Obama has announced a task force to review the tax codes. He's concerned there are too many loopholes and too many people manipulating the system to avoid paying taxes. And that's just in his administration." --Jay Leno

"The postmaster general of the United States said that the post office lost $2.8 billion last year. Here's the worst part, do you know where it got lost? In the mail." --Jay Leno

"In an unusual move for a sitting secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was given Planned Parenthood's highest award. In her speech, she revealed her number one recommended method of birth control: Pantsuits." --Jay Leno

"Today at the White House, President Obama met with the CEOs of all the major U.S. banks. A lot of these big bonus guys. The CEOs looked around the White House and said, 'You live in this dump?'." --Jay Leno

"I want to say welcome back to Matt Lauer, our good friend from the 'Today' show. He's back at work. He got injured on Long Island riding his bicycle. He almost hit a deer. He said he was going down the road, saw the deer, and the deer froze. Said the deer had that 'Nancy Pelosi-in-the-headlights' look.'" --Jay Leno

"President Obama gave the first official online town hall meeting over the internet. Apparently, there must have been an online mix-up, because two guys from 'Dateline: Predator' showed up with a six pack of Mike's hard lemonade." --Jay Leno

Monday, March 30, 2009

President Good Wrench, Beck, and bin Laden...

Paul Krugman
E J Dionne
Robert Sauelson

"It's like a game of 52-card pickup and all of the cards are still in the air." -David Winston, a Republican pollster

"I have a few responses to those points. They are 1) Bullshit; 2) bullshit; 3) bullshit, plus of course; 4) bullshit. Lastly, there is 5) Boo-Fucking-Hoo. You dog. - Matt Taibbi

The Obama administration didn't like the plans that GM and Chrysler submitted to them, and announced today that they were giving them another chance to submit a restructuring plan more to their liking. Chrysler has 30 days to find a partner to merge with or it gets no more help at all. A quick response from the Political Animal: "First of all, the most high-profile fallout is that GM CEO Rick Wagoner was forced out. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm described Wagoner, who was with GM for 31 years, as a "sacrificial lamb." He admittedly was at the helm when American automakers failed to adjust over the last decade, making SUVs and losing market share to Toyota and Honda. The company has lost $82 billion over the past 4 years.

And obviously, bailouts of any kind are unpopular at this point, and must be met with major concessions. However, one must be struck by the dichotomy of the President and bank CEOs making nice-nice on Friday, and forcing Wagoner out today. As Atrios put it, "apparently the real economy is less important than the paper one."

Some folks are claiming that the banks were not treated so heavy-handed. But, as TPM points out: "Citi does not have the same CEO it did at the start of the crisis. And the government installed a new CEO at AIG after the initial bailout. Another rejoinder might be that the automakers' plight is of a much more longstanding vintage than that of the finance barons, though I suspect, as we learn more, we'll be revisiting those assumptions. And even after getting substantial government aid, I think Wagoner's the first auto industry CEO to get the boot. So perhaps we should be asking why it is that something like this hasn't happened sooner... All that said, though, after that meeting of the major bank CEOs at the White House last week, it's hard for me not to think that, for all that has happened, their clout in Washington is just on a scale where they are accepted as peers of the realm. And simply immune to certain sorts of treatment.

The White House may believe that anger over the initial auto bailout, and bailouts in general, force them to be tough. And certainly the government should not throw good money after bad if there's no hope of viability. But with millions of jobs at stake, certainly a good bit of people are going to notice that the auto industry is being forced into concessions that practically no bank has had to make."

This morning's NY Times has a colorful piece on Glenn Beck: "In an interview, Mr. Beck, who recently rewatched the 1976 film “Network,” said he identified with the character of Howard Beale, the unhinged TV news anchorman who declares on the air that he is “mad as hell.”

“I think that’s the way people feel,” Mr. Beck said. “That’s the way I feel.” In part because of Mr. Beck, Fox News — long identified as the favored channel for conservatives and Republican leaders — is enjoying a resurgence just two months into Mr. Obama’s term. While always top-rated among cable news channels, Fox’s ratings slipped during the long Democratic primary season last year. Now it is back on firm footing as the presumptive network of the opposition, with more than 1.2 million viewers watching at any given time, about twice as many as CNN or MSNBC."

I haven't watched him on the tube yet, guess I'll have to check him out. I tried listening to him on the AM radio, but found him to be a ranting lightweight, though better than Michael Savage. My radio actually starts foaming out the dial when Michael is on the air... I was surprised to find that I actually preferred Bill O'Reilly over Glenn. I had been hoping to find some good local political talk shows when I moved to Colorado Springs, but what I found was too far to the right, and it gets tiring listening to the same three points made over and over and over again. But Fox is trying and succeeding in boosting its ratings. By providing an emotional catharsis with Glenn Beck, it may be helping diffuse the right wing anger, frustration, and sudden feelings of impotence, a public service to us all...

Well, George Bush spent the last year in office actually looking for Osama bin Laden, which began the Predator program of flying drones into Pakistan, and the hiring of British commandos who could sneak into places our own military could not, to sending out various assassination squads from different clandestine sources. What did it accomplish? According to CQ Politics Spytalk: "All the evidence suggests Elvis Presley is more alive today than Osama bin Laden. But tell that to the CIA and all the other misconceptualizers of the War on Terror," scoffs intelligence expert Angelo M. Cordevilla, in the March issue of The American Spectator.

"Seven years after Osama bin Laden's last verifiable appearance among the living, there is more evidence for Elvis's presence among us than for his," Cordevilla continues.

"Hence there is reason to ask whether the paradigm of Osama bin Laden as terrorism's deus ex machina and of al Qaeda as the prototype of terrorism may be an artifact of our Best and Brightest's imagination, and whether investment in this paradigm has kept our national security establishment from thinking seriously about our troubles' sources."

Cordevilla argues that the lack of verified Bin Laden sightings in recent years, plus expert audio and visual analyses of tapes attributed to him since, strongly suggests that the author of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks is dead. "
Which may explain why George Bush is resting comfortably in a Dallas neighborhood and not holed up at the ranch in Crawford...

Here are some vintage late night jokes on the bailout:

"'The Washington Post' reporting that senior executives at AIG whose decisions caused the companies to collapse are long gone and that these bonuses that everybody's complaining about are actually being paid to people who are trying to fix the problem. Okay, here's my thing. Fix the problem, then you get the bonus." --Jay Leno

"In his speech yesterday, President Barack Obama lashed out about these excessive bonuses. He said the trouble at AIG was caused by recklessness and excessive greed. But here's the problem. The AIG executives thought it was a compliment. They went, 'Oh, thanks, wow.'" --Jay Leno

"The Republicans are on board in this, too. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley told AIG executives -- this is what he actually said -- he said they should either quit or commit suicide. But I think that's plain wrong. I mean, why give them the option of quitting?" --Jay Leno

"I like Grassley's idea, but here's my question: where was Congress when everything was falling apart, you know? They're supposed to be looking out for us. Here's a better idea. How about AIG and Congress making a giant suicide pact?" --Jay Leno

"The federal government agreed on Sunday to provide an additional $30 billion to AIG. According to AIG, $15 billion will be used to build the world's biggest toilet, down which the other $15 billion will be flushed." --Seth Meyers

"Do you know what AIG stands for? Adventures in Greed." --Jay Leno

"Now it turns out AIG gave $35 billion of our money to bail out Europeans. See this is how a global economy works. Our hard-earned tax dollars are used to bail out German banks for making bad investments in American companies that shut down because the Japanese owners moved the whole thing to India, China and Mexico." --Jay Leno

"In a stunning announcement, Citigroup showed a profit and had its best quarter since 2007. They made $8 billion in profit. That just goes to show you, you give a company $45 billion in government bailout money, and they'll show you how to turn it into $8 billion. See this is capitalism!" -- Jay Leno

"Astronomers say they have discovered enormous black holes 5 billion light years from Earth that is sucking up everything in their path. They named the black holes 'AIG-1' and 'AIG-2.'" -- Jay Leno

"Citigroup, who received a huge bailout from the government, owns the naming rights to the New York Mets' new stadium. It is currently called Citi Field, but because of Barack Obama's crackdown on the Federal bailout money, Citigroup will legally have to change the name of the stadium to Money Grubbing Bastards Field." --Jay Leno

"The Federal Reserve chairman said today that the $700 billion bailout of the banks is not going to be enough money. When did the Federal Reserve become like a car mechanic, you know? 'Yeah, we can get the economy running for maybe $700 billion, but there's no guarantee it's not gonna stall out on you.' Well, now, the government has given AIG $30 billion more. We gave them $165 billion. Now we're giving them $30 billion. You know what AIG stands for? 'And it's gone!'" --Jay Leno

"In real estate news, the octo-mom just bought a home here in Southern California for $565,000. How is she paying for this? She's got 14 kids, no job and no credit. Who financed this deal, A.I.G.?" --Jay Leno

"Couple of days ago in New Jersey, there were UFO sightings. Believe me, it's not an invasion. The aliens are actually here because they want some of that Federal bailout money." --David Letterman

"A plan to bail out the Big Three automakers stalled in Congress today. Yeah. As a result, Congress plans to buy a better-built Japanese bailout plan." --Conan O'Brien

"President Obama, getting very tough now, has imposed a $500,000 salary cap for executives getting federal bailout money. And, listen to this: Now on weekends, they can only play miniature golf. No more 18 holes." --Jay Leno

"How about this for nerve? This is unbelievable. The porn industry is now asking for a $5 billion federal bailout. The porn industry. Talk about a stimulus package." --Jay Leno


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Free Markets vs Responsible Markets

There's a good article in the Christian Science Monitor that lists a few words we commonly use in reference towards Muslims, and the different meanings of the words in the context how they hear them. For example: "Jihadi." The jihad is an internal struggle first, a process of improving one's spiritual self-discipline and getting closer to God. 

The lesser jihad is external, validating "just war" when necessary. By calling the groups we are fighting "jihadis," we confirm their own – and the worldwide Muslim public's – perception that they are religious. They are not. They are terrorists, hirabists, who consistently violate the most fundamental teachings of the Holy Koran and mainstream Islamic scholars and imams."

We pick up a word and use it without considering the cultural contexts in how its used, nor do we bother to ask. Phrases ricochet from the media faster than we can digest. Sometimes we ignore what we don't want to hear.

Another example is the phrase "free market." According to devotees of Arthur Laffer, a free market is one that is deregulated and free to act as if it were an animal in Nature. My own view is one where I can freely invest my money and trust that the market will behave as it should. This means that there is regulation to keep that market in its defined place, and oversight and enforcement to keep it real and honest. Of course I like my definition better, I feel that it's more responsible, and I also feel that the right wing interpretation leads to greed, corruption, and market manipulation...

While I surely hope that Geithner's ideas will fix things, it seems more like putting on band aids instead of restructuring a broken system. It may be a long time before we can fully trust the financial industry again. With the out of control nature of Wall Street, that may never happen because another major scandal will be waiting down the road...

Politico reports that Paul Krugman will be on the cover of next week's Newsweek magazine, along with a story on his views that Barack Obama is actually doing too little to help stabilize the economy: “There is little doubt that Krugman—Nobel laureate and Princeton professor—has be come the voice of the loyal opposition. What is striking about this development is that Obama’s most thoughtful critic is taking on the president from the left at a time when, as Jonathan Alter notes, so many others are reflexively arguing that the administration is trying too much too soon.

"A devoted liberal, Krugman hungers for what he calls ‘a new New Deal,’ and he prides himself on his status as an outsider. (He is as much of an outsider as a Nobel laureate from Princeton with a column in the Times can be.) Is Krugman right? Is the Obama administration too beholden to Wall Street and to the status quo, trying to save a system that is beyond salvation? Does Obama have—despite the brayings of the right—too much faith in the markets at a time when prudence suggests that they cannot rescue themselves? We do not know yet, and will not for a while to come. But as Evan—hardly a rabble-rousing lefty—writes, a lot of people have a ‘creeping feeling’ that the Cassandra from Princeton may just be right. After all, the original Cassandra was.”
I hope there will be copies left when I get paid on the 1st...

Dick Cheney Quotes:

10) "Except for the occasional heart attack, I never felt better." –June 4, 2003

9) "I had other priorities in the sixties than military service." –on his five draft deferments, April 5, 1989

8) "There are a lot of lessons we want to learn out of this process in terms of what works. I think we are in fact on our way to getting on top of the whole Katrina exercise." --Sept. 10, 2005

7) "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy." –April 30, 2001

6) "My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators." --March 16, 2003

5) "We know he's been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." --March 16, 2003

4) "In Iraq, a ruthless dictator cultivated weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. He gave support to terrorists, had an established relationship with al Qaeda, and his regime is no more." –Nov. 7, 2003

3) "I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." -- on the Iraq insurgency, June 20, 2005

2) "Oh, yeah. He is. Big time.'' --agreeing with then-candidate George W. Bush, who was overheard at a campaign rally saying, "There's Adam Clymer, major league a**hole from The New York Times," Sept. 4, 2000

1) "Go f*ck yourself." --to Sen. Patrick Leahy, during an angry exchange on the Senate floor about profiteering by Halliburton, June 25, 2004

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Kiss Kiss

Kathleen Parker

"And really now in Washington, I’m a foreign correspondent in enemy lines. And I try to keep everyone back here in Minnesota know exactly the nefarious activities that are taking place in Washington."   - Michele Bachmann

"I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing..."   - Michele again

Before going on about the latest gossip over  our divine Michele and Sarah, TPM was kind enough to print out some of the questions Michael Steele and the RNC sent out to its donor list. It's plain to see that they don't require answers, just that you get riled up enough to write that check: "Of course, the wording a survey uses can have some influence on the results. Consider how the RNC worded some of their more notable questions. (thanks to readers GB and CR for the tip)

* A recent national poll reported that nearly 25% of Americans want the government to pass more socialism. Do you agree or disagree?

* Which do you believe creates more jobs for the American economy: Government Programs and Spending or The American Free Enterprise System?

* Should Republicans unite to block new federal government bureaucracy and red tape that will crush future economic growth?

* Should we do everything we can to block Democrats who are trying to shut down conservative talk radio with the so-called "fairness doctrine"?

* Should we resist Barack Obama's proposal to spend billions of federal taxpayer dollars to pay "volunteers" who perform his chosen tasks?

* Should bureaucrats in Washington, DC be in charge of making your health care choices instead of you and your doctor?

* Do you think U.S. troops should have to serve under United Nations' commanders?
These are actual questions from the survey, not paraphrases intended to make the RNC appear silly." I'm seriously considering withdrawing my registration as a Republican. I may register as a separate party, just like I put in my dinner reservations: Grumpy Old Man, Party of One...

I've come to the conclusion that belief in right wing political theories is a form of mental illness. Unfortunately, after the fall of the Bush administration, there are a lot of disturbed people out walking the streets and halls of Congress. As the Obama administration reverses the destructive policies the right wingers have implemented, they are growing more
 bitter, angry, and it could lead to an expression of violence, most probably an assassination attack on the President himself.

A good example is Michele Bachmann, who considers herself a Fundamentalist Christian Republican. God told her to run for Congress. This past Wednesday, she appeared on Sean Hannity's radio show, and sharply reiterated her calls for revolution in America, warning against the imminent dangers of tyranny under Barack Obama. TPM reports: "We are headed down the lane of economic Marxism," said Bachmann. "More quickly, Sean, than anyone could have possibly imagined. It's difficult for us to even keep up with it day to day."

And then came this:

"At this point the American people - it's like Thomas Jefferson said, a revolution every now and then is a good thing. We are at the point, Sean, of revolution. And by that, what I mean, an orderly revolution -- where the people of this country wake up get up and make a decision that this is not going to happen on their watch. It won't be our children and grandchildren that are in debt. It is we who are in debt, we who will be bankrupting this country, inside of ten years, if we don't get a grip. And we can't let the Democrats achieve their ends any longer.
"If Tim Geithner is successful under President Obama, and they move us to an international currency," Bachmann warned, "Then we have no hope of standing on our own as a sovereign nation with our own economic system. It's over. We can't do that." She has misunderstood a statement from the Chinese, who were considering shoring up their currency reserves in other forms of currency instead of just the dollar. She thought it meant that we were engineering a plan away from the dollar and advancing some form of common international currency, which is the ultimate plan for the lizard people to rule the earth with one government and one currency...

Bachmann also declared: "Economics works equally in any country. Where freedom is tried, the people rejoice. But where tyranny is enforced upon the people, as Barack Obama is doing, the people suffer and mourn."

So, in response, the Minnesota Democratic Party said: "Michele Bachmann must have missed the memo: The revolution already happened. The old way of doing business -- her way of doing business -- lost.

"We face the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. To overcome that crisis, Americans must come together, set our differences aside, and get to work. There is plenty of room for thoughtful, respectful debate and criticism. There is no room for hatred or for demonizing those with whom you disagree. Calling one's colleagues 'enemies' and oneself a 'foreign correspondent' is not only a roadblock to results, it is the exact spirit and tone that the American people so overwhelmingly rejected."

The Political Animal's take on all of this: "Now, Bachmann simply isn't well. Were she not an elected member of the U.S. Congress, she'd probably be shouting conspiracy theories and holding cardboard signs on some sidewalk somewhere. But what I find especially interesting is that her paranoid delusions are so detached from obvious truths. If Bachmann wanted to complain that a 39.6% top rate was the epitome of Marxism, she'd be just another conservative. But she's convinced herself that the Obama administration will "move us to an international currency," due entirely to her breathtaking stupidity.

My fear, at this point, is that lunacy from deranged politicians and their media allies is going to end up getting someone hurt. Republican officials believe they should emulate the insurgency tactics of the Taliban. They see themselves as "freedom fighters" taking on the "slide toward socialism." They want a "revolution" because Americans "can't let" Democrats succeed in taking away "our very freedom."

This is obviously madness, not from some right-wing blog, but from elected federal officials. But I worry it's more than that. Incendiary rhetoric like this leads strange people to do strange things."

And up in Alaska, things are getting interesting again. Our poor Sarah is getting dumped on again. Forget about her family of high school drop outs and single unwed mothers. She never really had a good relationship with Alaskan Republicans, they thought of her as a Socialist for giving money back to the citizens from a one time energy rebate. She got along better with Democrats, was thought to be a moderate, until she began campaigning with John McCain and all of a sudden became the darling of the right wing.

Her Attorney General had to resign because he had given illegal advice to the Palin family and staff when he told them they didn't have to respond to the subpoenas they received during Troopergate. Her new pick is a former head of the local NRA, and is seen as a character and gun nut rather than as someone who is interested in upholding the law (Hey, I own guns but I'm not obsessed by them). This interesting story is from an Alaskan blog called Mudflats: "Mr. Ross is easily identified by Anchorage residents as the owner of the red Hummer with the vanity plates that say “W A R”. The “War Hummer” as it is known, is usually found following immediately behind speeding ambulances.

A friend of mine broke the news to me this afternoon. “Did you hear who Palin appointed?” I could tell by the tenor of her voice that the answer was not good. “Wayne Anthony Ross!” (I’ve deleted the expletive that was found between Wayne and Anthony) The first millionth of a second I was thinking this had to be a joke.

She could not possibly choose an attorney who defended one of the members of The Corrupt Bastards’ Club while she tries to cultivate her image as an anti-corruption governor! But yes, he was the defense lawyer for former Rep. Vic Kohring, now incarcerated in sunny California.
She could not possibly choose the attorney who defended the guy charged with assault for throwing buckets of water on anti-Iraq war protesters on the highway! But yes, she did.
She cannot possibly think it’s wise to choose someone who is anti-subsistence and further alienate Alaska Natives and rural residents! Apparently, she does.

Ross was the co-chair of Palin’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign."

She was scheduled to meet with legislators to talk about what to do or not to do about the stimulus money. The meeting never happened because she was not there. So, instead of apologizing to her fellow Republicans, the The Governor’s office released an official press release which began: March 26, 2009, Anchorage, Alaska - Governor Sarah Palin was scheduled to participate telephonically in a meeting with legislative leadership today when legislative leaders cancelled the meeting to host their own press conference.

If you’re thinking that sounds nothing like what happened, you’re not the only one. Senate President Gary Stevens (R) had this to say: “That is absolutely false, absolutely false,” Stevens said emphatically. “I am sorry that the governor has put this out … To say that we cancelled the meeting to have a press conference is absolutely not true. Someone should be brought to task on that.”

My last story also comes from the Mudflats blog. Sarah has had 11 ethic code violations filed against her since she's been in office. The latest one begins here: "It all began when Governor Sarah Palin lowered the start flag at this year’s Iron Dog Snowmachine race. More than 30 teams race 1971 miles from Big Lake to Nome tracing the northern Iditarod route on “snowmobiles,” as those outside Alaska call them.

Last year’s champions? None other than Alaska’s “first dude” Todd Palin and his teammate Scott Davis as the famous Team #22. Everyone knows that. John McCain even talked about it on the campaign trail!

Palin’s sponsor? Arctic Cat - a brand of snowmachine and related gear. Arctic Cat really wanted to sponsor team Davis-Palin this year. For obvious reasons that go above and beyond Todd’s defending champion status, they knew that “Team Palin” was getting lots of attention from Alaskans, and the national media. All eyes would be on that bright green Arctic Cat logo. Turns out there was even a photo shoot and article in Sports Illustrated this year focusing on the “first dude.” That’s some nice exposure; exposure that was worth $5000 for Arctic Cat to get permission to “brand” Todd Palin and his team.

But, as anyone who has taken time to consider “conflict of interest” or anyone who has read the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act (like, hopefully, our governor) knows, there’s a line that can’t be crossed. If the governor’s family benefits directly from a private sponsor, (like getting a $5000 check from them) and the governor shows up to take an official role at an official event, representing all Alaskans, it’s a big fat no-no to show up plastered like a billboard with the official “gear” and giant flaming logo of the company that’s been paying you money."

Late night jokes:

"I have a plan to end the war in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Here's what we do. We bring all our soldiers home. We send in our investment bankers. They'll screw up the place in six months. Six months!" --Jay Leno

"President Obama is everywhere, isn't he? I mean, last week, he was on our show. Sunday night, he was on '60 Minutes.' Tuesday night, he held a prime time press conference. And last night, he was on 'Lost,' trying to sell his economic plan to the people on the island.'" --Jay Leno

"President Obama held an online town hall meeting today, the first time a president has ever done that. This would allow anyone online to participate, unless, of course, you have AOL. Then you're screwed." --Jay Leno

"Anyway, he took questions from Internet users. It was interesting. Only three people wanted to know about the economy, only two people asked about Iraq, but 17,000 asked about his 'BFF.'" --Jay Leno

"There was one embarrassing moment. Someone online said to the President, 'I'd like to meet with you sometime and tell you some of my ideas.' It was Joe Biden." --Jay Leno

"A construction worker from Queens, New York, used Bernard Madoff's prison number to play the lottery and won. The guy won $1,500. Bernard Madoff, of course, is in prison for luring money from rich people in a giant scam that promised to make them richer. But don't confuse him with the state lottery, which lures money away from poor people in a giant scam that promises to make them richer." --Jay Leno

"President Obama has made his prediction for the Final Four. He made his prediction today. The only ones left standing after next week will be Citigroup, Chase, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley." --Jay Leno

"The economy is so bad, I watched 'Iron Chef' the other night. You know what the secret ingredient was? Government cheese." --Jay Leno

"The economy is so bad, on 'Sesame Street,' they won't even talk about letters 'A,' 'I,' or 'G' anymore." --Jay Leno

"Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is writing a book about his role in the Bush administration during the economic crisis. It's weird, the book starts on Chapter 11. That's odd." --Jimmy Fallon

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hillary in Mexico, Barack's War, the Right Wing Budget?

Paul Krugman
Michael Kinsley
Eugene Robinson

"Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade," - Hillary Clinton

So awhile ago I predicted that we would have to invade Mexico and annex it to the US. Hillary just visited Mexico, so I guess we're going to have to wait awhile, at least until Janet Napolitano and Eric Holder make their run to the border...

Here is a short assessment of her visit from an LA Times editorial: "In her role as diplomat in chief, Clinton clarified that the Obama administration does not hold the position that our next-door neighbor is about to collapse into chaos. Clinton is right that the Mexican state and civil society remain strong, and certainly Mexico is able to send the army into any municipalityto calm the drug violence, as it has done recently in Ciudad Juarez. But in scores of towns, the civil government and local police are not able to confront the traffickers without the help of the army. The drug cartels have killed thousands and control many more through threats, bribes and taxes. No matter what you call it, that's a problem that both countries must resolve together, as the violence is seeping across the border. "

The Bush administration just threw cash their way instead of fixing the underlying problems. Hillary is offering helicopters, too. A Texas blog, Grits for Breakfast, offers this analysis: "Black Hawk helicopters, for example, will not solve what's essentially an economic and political corruption problem in Mexico, but that's what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered them on her first trip down there this week. In many border cities, it's police officers helping smuggle the drugs. Who are you going to use the Black Hawks on, the local police station in Juarez?

Here's a prediction for you: Within the next ten years these helicopters will be used to suppress indigenous uprisings in Mexico's southern states, but they won't put a noticeable dent into drug trafficking. Why would Clinton and Obama want to put themselves in a position of being responsible for that entirely predictable result? Bad idea."
We can't solve Mexico's long tradition of police and military corruption, and I'm not sure what they plan on doing to stop the cartel's movements in the USA; probably more border cops focusing on college kids trying to cross back over from Spring Break... It will be interesting when our drug policies are finally confronted, what dialogue might then occur, hand in hand with Jim Webb's prison reform study proposal...

This morning Barack Obama unveiled his plan for Afghanistan. People are now calling it his war, as if he started it. Jon Soltz, founder of VoteVets.org, has this to say: "For those of us who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was extremely important that the new president get the situation in Afghanistan right. Not just for America's security, but for those troops still in Afghanistan, and those heading to Afghanistan to put their lives on the line in the war. With today's announcement, President Obama has shown that he "gets it." 

There's a lot to like about the plan. But, there are three key things I'm particularly focused on, that represent a stark departure from the previous administration. They show that this president not only has reasonable goals in the region, but a good idea of what it will take to get there.

Point One: The Military Can't Do It All

The president said today, "To advance security, opportunity, and justice - not just in Kabul, but from the bottom up in the provinces - we need agricultural specialists and educators; engineers and lawyers.... These investments relieve the burden on our troops. They contribute directly to security. They make the American people safer. And they save us an enormous amount of money in the long run - because it is far cheaper to train a policeman to secure their village or to help a farmer seed a crop, than it is to send our troops to fight tour after tour of duty with no transition to Afghan responsibility."

This is key, and something that was lacking in the region for a long time. Those hardline radicals who want to take control thrive on poverty and misery of the people. The single best thing we can do to ensure that the Afghan people aren't so destitute and broken that they're tempted to join these radicals, is to send civilian training and humanitarian aid.

Point Two: Though it's the "War in Afghanistan," we need to treat it like a region

President Obama understands to get the support of the Pakistani people, which will make it easier to get the help we need from the Pakistani government, it takes carrots. And his plan focuses squarely on that. His support for legislation sponsored by Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar that authorizes $1.5 billion in direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years, along with another bill that creates opportunity zones in the border region will go a long way towards getting the cooperation we need to really focus in on al Qaeda, and close in on them from the Pakistani and Afghan sides of the border region.

Point Three: There is a tighter focus, open to reaching out to some of the enemy

Maybe most importantly, this president has given up the pipe dream of setting up a European-style democracy in Afghanistan, and instead has refocused our goals on a more urgent mission - protecting America and the world from terrorism.

We've finally left fantasy-land, where America can simply go somewhere, topple a government, and western-style democracies will pop up and thrive. Afghanistan is a very different beast. And, while the president committed to helping build out infrastructure for the Afghan people, and improve the lives of the Pakistani people, he's not letting dreams of a grand new western democracy get in the way of more practical and tighter goals - namely, fighting al Qaeda and taking the region away as a home base for the terror network, forever.

Now, will everything go exactly according to plan? Of course not. Nor is this going to be quick. But with the points above, and the rest that the President laid out, those of us who served finally have confidence that this President gets it, and will keep us on the right course - the reasonable and practical course. That's something we veterans have been waiting for.

It's sad, really, the state our Congressional Republicans have been reduced to, a gibbering pack of cards. TPM reports on their latest effort to mimic Democratic strategy: "Stung by their stereotyping as the "party of no," House Republicans eagerly promoted the unveiling of their alternative to President Obama's budget today -- but when they finished speaking, reporters had one big question: Where's the actual budget? You know, the numbers that show deficit projections and discretionary spending?

There certainly was no hard budgetary data in the attractively designed 18-page packet that the House GOP handed out today, its blue cover emblazoned with an ambitious title: "The Republican Road to Recovery." When Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) was asked what his goal for deficit reduction would be -- President Obama aims to halve the nation's spending imbalance within five years -- Boehner responded simply: "To do better [than Obama]."

Glenn Thrush from Politico adds fuel to the fire: “In his egocentric rush to get on camera, Mike Pence threw the rest of the Conference under the bus, specifically Paul Ryan, whose staff has been working night and day for weeks to develop a substantive budget plan," said a GOP aide heavily involved in budget strategy.

"I hope his camera time was gratifying enough to justify erasing the weeks of hard work by dozens of Republicans to put forth serious ideas," the person added.

"It's categorically untrue," said Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd. "Cantor as well as Ryan and the rest of the leadership have been part of this process for weeks. They not only signed off on it, but their staffs helped edit it."

Cantor and Ryan were reportedly "embarrassed" by the document -- believing it was better to absorb a week of hits from Democrats than to be slammed for failing to produce a thoughtful and detailed alternative. The goal, aides say, was to make Obama's team eat their words by producing a "killer" alternative with far less spending and greater tax cuts." I'm so depressed, I have to finish this and go make myself another cup of coffee... or maybe go out and score some Columbian crank or Mexican heroin...

Late night jokes:

"You can tell it's tourism season in Iraq because today an American had to duck a pair of flip-flops." --David Letterman

"But I was thinking about this. If you want to take a trip, a vacation, to some place where they've got sniper fire, dangerous streets, a lot of goat-based food, and random violence, just come to New York City." --David Letterman

"People were mad that the President preempted 'American Idol.' I mean, halfway into the news conference, fans called in and tried to vote him off." --Jay Leno

"How many watched the President's news conference last night? He got a little testy there, you know. When he was asked why he waited three days to speak out against the AIG bonuses, President Obama said he likes to know what he's talking about before he speaks. So, yet another reversal of the Bush policies." --Jay Leno

"President Obama also announced a major faith-based program. His budget." --Jay Leno

"President Obama held his second primetime press conference last night. He said we're seeing definite signs of progress and that a better day will come. And then he stopped and said, 'Sorry, we're talking about the Knicks, right?'" --Jimmy Fallon

"Many people are complaining, though, that Obama is becoming too scripted. Last night, he was having an intimate moment with Michelle, and she said, 'Wait, are you reading the teleprompter?'" --Jimmy Fallon

"Did you hear about this? Nickelodeon's asking all children to unplug electronic devices for one minute on Earth Day to teach the importance of respecting the environment. I think it's a great idea, unless the kids are visiting their grandmother in a nursing home. Then that one minute is pretty rough. 'SpongeBob killed Nana. What happened?'" --Jimmy Fallon

"In Saudi Arabia, radical clerics want to ban all women from appearing on television. This is really bad news for fans of the hit comedy, 'How I Met Your Mullah.'" --Jimmy Fallon

"Today was the first day of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's two-day trip. She spent the day with President Felipe Calderon discussing the drug violence that's been spilling over from Mexico into the United States, and then flew to Cancun to look for Bill. He's been missing." --Jimmy Kimmel

David Letterman's Top Ten Signs You Work For a Bad Company

10. Workday begins with a pledge of loyalty to Kim Jong Il.
9. If you haven't used your sick days, they infect you with tuberculosis.
8. They claim an excellent rating from the "Better Bidness Bureau."
7. Only office perk is the free oxygen.
6. Instead of raises, everyone is given raisins.
5. CEO recently advised employees to fake their deaths and move to Costa Rica.
4. Blew $40 billion in government bailout funds on a state-of-the-art taco bar.
3. You spend a lot of time opening for Deep Purple (sorry, that's a sign you work for the band         Bad Company).
2. Corporate logo is a handcuffed executive being put in a police cruiser.
1. Company gave George W. Bush $7 million for his memoirs

Thursday, March 26, 2009

China Upping the Ante, the Genius of Michael Steele

Roger Cohen
David Ignatius
Alice Rivlin

"If I do something, there's a reason for it." - Michael Steele

One day, I'm a genius. One day, I'm a bum. You know, every day there's a new winner and a new loser." - Barack Obama

UPI reports: "China is expanding its military capabilities at high speed, and no one knows what they are going to do with them, a new Pentagon report warned.
The U.S. Department of Defense issued the report, "Military Power of the People's Republic of China," Wednesday. It said that China's "armed forces continue to develop and field disruptive military technologies," with nuclear, space and cyber warfare all mentioned. The Pentagon said such developments were upsetting the military balance in Asia. The report added, "Much uncertainty surrounds China's future course, particularly regarding how its expanding military power might be used."

China took exception and told the United States to "drop the Cold War thinking."

It looks like the Post Office will soon be delivering mail only five days per week, supposedly netting a savings of $3.5 billion per year. In a hearing before Congress, the Postmaster General presented his case, saying that they lost $2.8 billion last year. Oh, and they will keep raising the price of stamps... I used to buy stamps by the roll of 100, buy now I buy them by the sheet of 25. Of course, the art of letter writing has died, they mostly deliver bills, magazines, and junk mail.

There was a short article that a top of the line F-22 Raptor fighter jet had crashed yesterday near Edwards Air Force base. This is a tragedy, but my first thought was, boy, I sure hope they hadn't let John McCain fly again...

The White House sent out an e-mail to all members at the Pentagon, that we no longer would use the term Global War on Terror. Personally, I love the phrase, it has such an ominous ring to it, in a Darth Vaderish way... Responding to reporters questions about it, the Pentagon spokesman said "Well, I don't think there's anything in that term that identifies any particular faith or ethnicity. I mean, there are terrorists of all faiths, of all colors, of all races and ethnicities. And so perhaps a better -- another way to refer to it would be, you know, a campaign against extremists who wish to do us harm." That's right, it's all about us...

Politico has reported on my new favorite public figurehead, the RNC's own Michael Steele. Just think of the unintentionally funny conversation that would happen if we locked him in a room with Sarah Palin: "Michael Steele just did an interview on CNN. And in addition to speculating about a possible future run for president, he seemed to say that his blow-up with Rush Limbaugh was actually a strategic decision to see, or rather smoke out, who would stand up and criticize him if he did something really stupid.

I guess he got his answer: a lot of people."

And this from Politico's Shenanigans blog: "Tuesday night was the National Republican Congressional Committee’s big donor dinner at the National Building Museum, with the GOP headliner, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

And next to Jindal sat a big, empty seat. With a nameplate.

Whose seat could that be? Why, it was reserved for RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

RNC staffers were overheard at the dinner saying they didn’t understand the error; they thought it was on his schedule.

But an RNC official disagreed with that notion and told Shenanigans: “[Steele] spoke at the Business Summit during the day and was not scheduled to attend the dinner.” If true, then why the heck was he — the big GOP fundraising man — not scheduled to go to a big donor dinner?
As one scoffed, “Maybe he’s embarrassed he only raised $1M instead of the $5M Mike Duncan was going to write.” And the hits just keeeeep on coming ...."

Continuing in that interview with CNN, Mr Steele answered whether he had thought of running for President in 2012: "God has a way of revealing stuff to you, and making it real for you, through others. And if that's part of the plan, it'll be the plan... If I run it'll be because that's where God wants me to be at that time." So, of God wants you to be embarrassed by being kicked out of RNC Chair, and perhaps land behind bars because of the current criminal investigation against you, that will really be where God wants you to be? What have you done to offend such a jealous God?

The White House asked people for questions to ask Barack Obama at an upcoming town Hall style meeting. 92,000 people responded by asking questions about decriminalizing marijuana and taxing it...

Finally, Politico reported on The Big Question that must be going through everyone's minds: "Is Arnold Schwarzenegger going to run for the Senate? Yesterday, the California Republican said, "I'm not running for anything." Asked if that meant he is ruling out a race against Sen. Barbara Boxer, Schwarzenegger added, "When I say I'm not running for anything, that's exactly what I mean ... until you change the Constitution."

Late night jokes:

"Hey, you hear about this? Very strange incident at JFK Airport in New York City today. An AIG executive going through security had to empty out all his pockets. You know what fell out? Senator Chris Dodd." --Jay Leno

"On '60 Minutes' the other night, if you saw the interview, reporter Steve Croft asked President Obama how he could laugh with all the financial trouble going on. And the President said it's necessary to have a measure of 'gallows humor to get you through the day.' You know why Obama likes gallows humor? It works much better for him than bowling humor." --Jay Leno

"The country of China is going to be doing a Broadway style play based on Karl Marx's book on communism. A play based on communism. You know, that's where capitalism has been replaced by the government taking over control of all private industries. Or as we call in this country, 'a stimulus package.'"--Jay Leno

"Hey, congratulations to Japan for winning the World Baseball Classic right here in Dodger Stadium. Yeah, they beat Korea 5-3, which is perfect. You have the Japanese playing the Koreans in a city full of Mexicans to determine who's best at America's pastime. I think Lou Dobbs' head is going to explode when he hears this." --Jay Leno

"Voters in Iowa are already receiving phone calls about whether or not they approve of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. They're instructed to press one for 'yes' and two for 'you betcha!'" --Jimmy Fallon

"Mexico's government just offered a $2 million bounty on its top drug lords, which is different from what we do here in America. We give our biggest criminals bonuses." --Jimmy Fallon

"President Obama held a big press conference earlier tonight. He's on TV a lot these days. The only way Obama could get more TV time is if he had eight babies." --Craig Ferguson

"Let's not forget the AIG company. The AIG stands for 'ain't I greedy?' No, they changed the name of the company today to 'AIU' Oh! Okay then. Everything's forgiven.' AIU for 'ain't I unethical?' There you are." --Craig Ferguson

"Shouldn't they change their name to something that will throw people off because they love it? Like, they could change their name to 'Puppies and Moonbeams Inc.' or something." --Craig Ferguson

"AIG changing their name is like Hitler changing his name and hoping people won't notice." --Craig Ferguson

"Obama also repeated his support for Treasury Secretary Geithner, who unveiled his plan yesterday for the government to buy up the so-called toxic assets from troubled banks and sell them to China, which will then make them into children's toys, and should solve the problem entirely." --Jimmy Kimmel

"Michelle Obama -- and I think this is a lovely idea -- she's going to put a garden in the White House, out there where the Rose Garden is. A very nice idea. And she's out there digging it up. She found three of Dick Cheney's hunting buddies." --David Letterman

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Benjamin Netanyahu, Mirek Topolanek are now Household Names...

Kathleen Parker
Evan Bayh, Tom Carper, Blanche Lincoln

The more moderate Labor Party has voted to join in forming an Israeli government behind Benjamin Netanyahu. It's hoped that this will temper the right wing wacko faction, which Mr Netanyahu is a leading proponent, and help towards solving the Palestinian problem.

The BBC reports: "He said his previously-stated intention to shore up the Palestinian economy would not be a substitute for peace talks. "Peace: It's not the last goal. It's a common and enduring goal for all Israelis and all Israeli governments - mine included.

"This means I will negotiate with the Palestinian Authority for peace," he said.

"I think that the Palestinians should understand that they have in our government a partner for peace, for security and for rapid economic development of the Palestinian economy," he added.
But Mr Netanyahu gave no hint of whether or not he would support the creation of an independent Palestinian state."  
It's looking like some kind of Palestinian state will be the only solution, one that has been over 60 years in the making. Economically, it could only become a win/win situation that also could break down hostilities. I wonder, if Israelis and Arabs no longer hate each other, what prejudice will move in to take its place?

The seed that Barack Obama planted by giving Iran greetings during the Persian New Year is already producing fruit. The BBC reports: "The political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, has credited US President Barack Obama with using a "new language" for the Middle East.
Speaking to an Italian newspaper Mr Meshaal also said that an official opening to his Palestinian Islamist movement was only "a matter of time". The interview was published three days after President Obama called for a "new beginning" in relations with Iran."

Pretty incredible, isn't it?

What if the President of the United States was coming to visit your country and suddenly, you don't have a government? That was the present the Czech Republic gave its Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek. Then, Mr Topolanek, who is also the head of the European Union, lashed out at Mr Obama and his stimulus plan, saying that it was the road to hell... The weird part is that the Czech Republic is actually pretty solvent, one of the more stable Eastern European countries, so the collapse of his government is taken as an attack on his right wing wacko political views. Think of Mr Topolanek as the Tom Tancredo of Europe... The EU had given him the title of President as an experiment, to see how well a former Soviet satellite leader could guide all of Europe. Guess that honor won't be repeated anytime soon.

From the BBC: "Analysts in Prague said that Mr. Topolanek was eager to show Europe that he was still politically relevant despite the collapse of the government. They noted that his railing against interventionism was consistent with the liberal economic ideology of his center-right Civic Democratic party.

In recent months, he has sparred with opposition Social Democrats over their calls for increased spending during the economic downturn. While Mr. Obama in recent weeks has pleaded with European partners to stimulate the economy, countries like the Czech Republic, which endured decades of Communism, are deeply suspicious of state intervention."

Here's a quick, snarky analysis on what can happen next: "In the short term: nothing." 

"But should anyone outside the country care? Well, the former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain once dismissed Czechoslovakia as a "small country about which we know nothing". The Czech Republic is even smaller than Czechoslovakia, but it is rather important at the moment. What happens in Prague could have far-reaching consequences beyond Czech borders."

The BBC's European editor, Mark Mardell, blogged his take on the situation:

"When the US president turns up for the EU summit in Prague whose hand will he shake? The Czech government, which holds the presidency of the European Council, has fallen. As I write it is uncertain what will happen next.

It seems it is now up to the profoundly Eurosceptic President Vaclav Klaus to appoint a new caretaker government. Parties opposed to the Lisbon Treaty are gleeful - they feel it is unlikely he will put anyone in place who would get the treaty through the senate.

Governments have fallen before during a presidency, so will it make any difference? It may make a difference to complex negotiations over subjects like the Working Time Directive if the ministers who chair the meeting change: it would be quite a job getting on top of the brief. Equally, if there was a big crisis involving the EU, it wouldn't be clear who was in charge. I expect President Sarkozy is standing by the phone awaiting the call."

Late night jokes:

"Beautiful day in New York City today. In fact, it was so nice, the AIG executives were counting their bonuses in the park."--David Letterman

"Maybe you noticed this already. If I seem in a bad mood tonight it's because CBS just declared me a toxic asset."--David Letterman

"Finally, a good day on Wall Street. Stock market went up 500 points today. Very exciting. Went up so high, even CNBC's Jim Cramer made money. Wow!" --Jay Leno

"After Barack Obama was on the show Thursday, I got a phone call from Joe Biden going, 'Wow, what was it like to talk to the President?'" --Jay Leno

"The Obama Administration today unveiled their plan to deal with the so-called toxic assets. Those are those mortgage-backed securities all the financial institutions are holding. Apparently, the plan is to flood the banks with money, make them as liquid as possible, and then sort of soak up all these bad loans and take them away. See, they got this idea from watching those 'ShamWow' commercials." --Jay Leno

"It turns out the bonus money that AIG got was actually $218 million and not the $165 million that was originally reported. AIG said they misplaced $53 million in bonuses. And today, Senator Chris Dodd said, 'You mean that wasn't a campaign contribution?'" --Jay Leno

"Congress is now investigating the special treatment that 'Senator Dodge,' as we're calling him now, received from Countrywide Mortgage for a couple of mortgages. Senator Dodd has contended he didn't know he was getting special rates on the mortgages. And, really, to be fair, how would the Senate chairman of the banking committee have any idea what the normal lending rate would be? He would have no idea!" --Jay Leno

"President Obama has filled out his NCAA tournament bracket. He picked 14 of the Sweet 16 right. That's pretty good. That's better than he did with his cabinet positions." --Jay Leno

"Former President George W. Bush is now writing a book about the 12 toughest decisions that he had to make as president. He said each decision had three options -- rock, paper and scissors." --Jay Leno

"This week eight tourists became the first Westerners to vacation in Iraq on an officially sanctioned tour. They're taking spring break in Iraq, which is kind of like spring break in Florida. Half get bombed. The other half get stoned." --Jay Leno

"In a move that will cost 300 Americans their jobs, the Federal government announced it will no longer buy American-made condoms made in Alabama. We're now going to buy cheaper condoms made in China. Does that make any sense? If Chinese condoms are so good, why are there over one billion Chinese people?" --Jay Leno

"Did you see this on '60 Minutes' last night? Michelle Obama is planting a vegetable garden on the White House lawn. You know the economy's bad when the Obamas are afraid of running out of food." --Jimmy Fallon

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Geithner DOA at Congress? Napolitano's Fight Club

George Will
Eugene Robinson

"Quite frankly, this amounts to robbery of the American people. I don't think it's going to work because I think there'll be a lot of anger about putting the losses so much on the shoulder of the American taxpayer." - Joseph Stiglitz

"Desperate times call for desperate measures, if anyone can convince investors to buy a worthless piece of paper, it's Bernie Madoff." - Rahm Emanuel

More economic hearings in Congress. I used to have baseball games on in the background when I was puttering about the house, now its CSPAN. The Treasury's plan for toxic assets came under fire, and what Tim Geithner hopes to accomplish. Eugene Robinson, in his column for the Washington Post, says that: "He does have a vision, though. He sees, eventually, a reformed financial system in which the "too big to fail" behemoths such as AIG or Citigroup are required to run their businesses in a more conservative fashion. He sees better regulation and more transparency, so that hedge funds are not so opaque and the derivatives markets are not left unsupervised to run amok.

The goal that Geithner describes sounds like an improved system but not one that is fundamentally different from the system we have now. If populism is resurgent in the land, it doesn't get past Geithner's desk. Wall Street should be toasting the guy -- but with beer, not champagne."
 These are not the sweeping changes I'd like to see, to take the predatory practices out of the markets, but it does take some baby steps. Geithner is coming under fire for not being as inspiring as Barack Obama when he presents his case. He is more the geek who works best left alone in the background, and everyone picks on him when he has to make public speeches.

In order to prevent another A.I.G. mess, both the Treasury and the Fed want more powers for emergencies. "In his opening statement, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke made the case for legislation--soon to be introduced by the administration on the hill--that would create guidelines and authority for the government to take non-bank financial institutions (like, say, Lehman Bros. and AIG) into conservatorship or receivership." Josh Marshall at TPM has this comment: "Fed Chair Bernanke has now added his support for new legislation giving the Treasury the power of take over failing major non-bank financial institutions and a set of tools, short of outright takeover, for limiting the risk they pose to the rest of the economy. What's interesting in this discussion is that the advocates -- Bernanke and Geithner -- appear to be saying explicitly that had these powers existed last fall the Treasury could have and should have taken over AIG, rather than keeping it on life support and paying out all its obligations at full dollar value." The conspiricy people see this as part of a larger plan to take over and dominate the markets, then the world after Moloch breaks through the dimensional barrier, no longer ruled out of London...while others wonder if it will be powers used wisely. Doesn't this feel like a comic book, with one party looking to have more superpowers? Here, Tim, let this spider bite you...

TPM also breaks down the story to show that Goldman Sachs is not being entirely upfront when they say they are paying back the TARP funds next month because there is too much federal oversight. In reality they benefitted from:

TARP funds: $10 billion plus
AIG securities lending unit: $4.6 billion
Maiden Lane III: $5.8 billion
AIG collateral: $2.5 billion

Total: $22.9 billion plus

Speaking of world domination, Homeland Security, the organization with the Nazi sounding name created by George Bush, has announced plans to help Mexico fight the druglords. "The goal is to disrupt the illegal flow of guns and money into Mexico, while blocking narcotics traffic — and the associated violence — into the United States.

The White House said the effort will include $700 million to help Mexican law enforcement and judicial systems to battle drug cartels under the Merida Initiative, a partnership involving the United States, Mexico and several nations in Central America and the Caribbean. The program aims to provide training, equipment and intelligence to fight drug trafficking, transnational crime and money laundering." Like I said before, the next step after that will be to take over their country, because we don't need no stinking badges to do it... The $700 million is used to combat the billions we already send across the border buying illegal drugs. Some gets laundered here when the gangs go to gun shows at state fair grounds in the South and buy illegal weapons from good old boys with Federal Arms Importation licenses. I know, because my younger brother had one and it was shocking at some of the ordinance he could get, including governments dumping guns from their outdated arsenals.

Soon we will see our own jet fighters bombing the tunnels that go under the border, just Like Israel does to Gaza... if you want to draw any parallels...

Late night jokes:

"We had quite a night last night. We had the president, Barack Obama, on the show. I tell you, the security was unbelievable last night. We had several of those German Shepherds, you know those bomb-sniffing dogs? And I tell you, once they got near the NBC prime-time lineup, they went crazy. Just went nuts." --Jay Leno

"People made a big deal out of the fact this is the first time a sitting president has done a late-night show. We tried to have other presidents on, but President Bush went to bed every night at 9:00. And President Clinton always seemed to have other late-night plans." --Jay Leno

"Senator Chris Dodd -- or 'Chris Dodge,' as they're calling him now -- after first denying it, now admits he's the one who eliminated the provision in the stimulus package that outlawed excessive bonuses. And coincidentally, he just happened to receive $280,000 from AIG in campaign contributions. What are the odds of that? Man, that's like putting Chris Brown in charge of the battered women's shelter." --Jay Leno

"You know, we own AIG, right? We own 80% of it. And because of all of the outrage over these bonuses, armed guards now have to be placed outside the AIG offices. You know what that means? Not only are we paying the AIG executive bonuses, we are now paying to protect the executives from us. Does that make any sense to anybody?" --Jay Leno

"Now they're talking about selling their office building in Manhattan to raise money. Oh, yeah, this is a great time to get involved in real estate. They'd lose another billion dollars. You know, I have a better idea. Put all the employees inside, put bars on the window, call it a jail and just lock the place up." --Jay Leno

"Today is the first day of spring. Yeah, or, as Al Gore calls it, global warming." --Jay Leno

"President Obama is very busy these days. He was just invited to his 30-year high school reunion in Hawaii. I heard they tracked him down on Facebook. They find you everywhere." --Jimmy Fallon

"America is pissed at the notorious AIG. Right? Somehow, these guys are the most hated people in America. They're getting death threats. I saw one AIG guy today, he was hiding behind the Octomom." --Bill Maher

"The House passed a bill where there's a tax now of 90% on the bonuses that these people get. So, half the Republicans voted against this. They said this is exactly the kind of punitive taxation that's going to drive good people out of the fraud business." --Bill Maher

"We spilled 25,000 barrels of oil into the Strait of Hormuz, by Iraq. And a U.S. Navy server ship collided with a submarine. Who else, but us, could invade the Middle East and lose oil? It's like robbing a bank and leaving your wallet." --Bill Maher

"There's a new bin Laden tape where he calls for the destruction of Somalia. That's right. Forget destroying America, that job is done." --Bill Maher

"You saw what happened in San Diego yesterday? There were these two drug dealers the cops were chasing on the freeway, and they started to throw all the money out the window. The cops were not suspicious -- they thought it was Obama's motorcade." --Bill Maher

"The president was in town this week. He spoke at the L.A. County fairgrounds. I tell you, he's still got it. People were sleeping outside all night. They were homeless, but that's not the point. They love him." --Bill Maher

Monday, March 23, 2009

Economy Going Up, But Tea Party Is Still Planned

Paul Krugman
E J Dionne

“We can’t govern out of anger, we don’t want to cut off our nose to spite our face.” - Barack Obama

That damned Obama! His handling of the economic crisis is supposed to fail! People are supposed to be calling for the head of Alfredo Garcia, er, Tim Geithner! We're not supposed to have progress, it just makes the Republicans look even more foolish!

So, this report from the NY Timeswhom we know can't be trusted: "When the Obama administration outlined its plans to stabilize the banking system last month, leery investors panned the proposal as being short on substance and sent stock markets into a tailspin. But investors seemed to be warming to the plan’s finer points.

Stocks in New York soared in early trading as the government provided more details of its plan to create a public-private partnership to buy up troubled mortgage-related assets from big banks. Shares of banking giants like Bank of America and Citigroup, which could participate, bounded ahead by double digits."

A quick analysis from the American Prospect has this to say on the Fed's plan unveiled this morning: "Geithner said he sees a large problem of risk aversion right now; this plan is designed to create incentives for people to take risks and purchase these troubled assets. But make no mistake, private investors have some skin in the game -- though not as much as the government -- and will see their equity stakes wiped out in the case of a loss. But because most of these legacy assets are based on the mortgage markets, you have to see the plan as kind of a complicated bank shot. The government is betting that these assets are undervalued, both because the recession has driven down values more than the actual popping of the housing bubble, and because the new housing policy package, in stemming foreclosures and backstopping home values, will lead to gains in that sector, as will the forecast and much-hoped for return of economic growth in the fall of 2009. That is why Treasury is in particular encouraging long-term investors to participate in this program -- buying a pool of mortgages now could prove quite lucrative for taxpayers and investors down the road. Of course, if Krugman is right, and the bad assets continue losing value over time, then this is going to be a very expensive failure, but also the kind of failure that could create the political incentives for the kind of insolvent bank seizure he advocates." I've seen other critiques, both for and against his plan, which is a very conservative approach and is not tackling the regulation issues. Only time will tell if it works better than bankruptcy or other more sever forms. Personally, I'd like to see Phil Gramm tarred and feathered and dragged by his thumbs across five states...

To counter balance the recent uptick on Wall Street, local conservatives are trying to create another anti-Obama budget Tea Party. 
From the Gazette: "Had enough of multi-hundred-billion-dollar bailouts to pay for bonuses to losers who have brought your country to the brink of financial ruin? Tired of fraudulent stimulus programs that promise "jobs" but deliver only pork? Tired of the corporate-jet crowd taking your money so they won't feel their own failures in the least? Tired of having these obligations thrust upon you and your dependents, while worrying about merely keeping a job, finding a job, or making it through your next furlough? If so, join one of the 1,000-plus peaceful tax day tea parties scheduled for April 15." Fun and games will ensue, if you buy enough tea bags to make it worthwhile. The last time they did this in Denver, our own Michelle Malkin was photographed being chummy with some guy who had a swastika... I sure will show up, with my camera in ready, for some good, old fashioned American family fascist traditions in the making... Maybe Michelle will do some face painting for all of the future fuhrers and fuhrettes...

Another look at the tea parties comes courtesy of the Political Animal: "Let's call the "tea party" and "going Galt" nonsense what it is: unprincipled partisan hackery. If these were truly principled protests, they'd have been around all through the Bush and Republican-controlled Congress years, too.

Quite right. It's no doubt inconvenient for this crowd, but a Republican Congress and Republican White House worked together to increase the debt by $5 trillion, expand the size of government, increase spending, increase the tax burden on the middle class, and expand the powers of the executive to undermine civil liberties. The some people attending "Tea Parties" not only cheered these GOP policymakers on, but voted to keep them in office as long as possible. (Indeed, many condemned those who disagreed, accusing liberals of "treason" for failing to support elected leaders during a crisis.)

Literally just two months into a Democratic administration, far-right activists are now holding public protests? They're mad about deficits and a loss of "liberty"?

I almost feel sorry for the folks who get conned into believing this nonsense."

Some vintage late night jokes about the news media:

"Boy there's a lot of changes in the nightly newscast. Tom Brokaw stepping down. Dan Rather stepping down. Soon the most trusted man in television could wind up being Geraldo Rivera." --Jay Leno

"As you know, Bill O'Reilly is being accused of sexual harassment from a female producer on his show. She claims they had phone sex and he claims, no he is just a victim of vast right hand conspiracy." --Jay Leno

"A female producer at Fox News has filed a sexual harassment suit against Bill O-O-O'Reilly. She claims he repeatedly talked to her about phone sex, threesomes and masturbation. The last straw was when he asked her if her breasts were fair and balanced." --Jay Leno

"There's a lot of controversy surrounding the authenticity of this memos shown on '60 Minutes' concerning President Bush and his service in the National Guard. If there's one thing you don't want to see, it's a president who didn't really win the election being brought down by phony documents." —Jay Leno

"We begin tonight with a simple, indisputable fact: as a young man, President George W. Bush benefited from family connections to get a place in the Texas Air National Guard, thus avoiding service in Vietnam. As you would guess, this has led to calls for the resignation of Dan Rather." --Jon Stewart

"Earlier this week, '60 Minutes' featured documents that they say proved President Bush did not fulfill his requirements for National Guard service. Well, now there's talk that the documents are forged. Well, of course, President Bush is stunned. He said, 'You mean I did show up for duty?" —Jay Leno

"Fox News announced they have phony documents also, but then they realized 'Oh, it's just our regular script."' —Jay Leno

"The election is in full-swing. Republicans have taken out round-the-clock ads promoting George Bush. Don't we already have that? It's called Fox News." —Craig Kilborn

"After five weeks of drug rehab, Rush went back to doing his radio show. He told his audience just because he was doing something that was contradictory to what he was telling other people to do, that doesn't mean he was a hypocrite. I thought that was the definition! He told his radio audience that he never lied to the public, he lied to himself. And today Bill Clinton went 'This guy's good.'" —Jay Leno

"After a week of speculation in the press, Rush Limbaugh admitted that he is addicted to pain killers and I'm sorry to say, hoagies. Limbaugh blames his addiction on a botched back operation and lesbians." —Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update"

"Today, Rush Limbaugh said he can't talk about the prescription drug scandal he's involved in because he said I don't yet know what I'm dealing with. Hey, didn't stop him from talking about black quarterbacks." —Jay Leno

"Big news on CNN, a search has uncovered illegal biochemical agents, toxins and other dangerous substances. Not in Iraq, in Rush Limbaugh's medicine cabinet." —Jay Leno

"Pretty ironic, that the only Republican with a prescription drug plan is Rush Limbaugh. Actually today Rush said he would have no comment on his drug problem until he could figure out a way to blame it on the Clintons." —Jay Leno

"The Bush administration announced that it is starting its own news channel in Iraq so they can deliver the administration's point of view without any interference. Not surprisingly they are gonna call it the Fox News Network." —Conan O'Brien

"A couple of hours ago, President Bush arrived back in the United States after a controversial trip to England. The president said he was looking forward to seeing his loved ones. Of course he was talking about the reporters at Fox News." —Conan O'Brien

"The French ambassador to the U.S. has written an angry letter alleging that the U.S. is engaging in a disinformation campaign of false stories. So, I guess they get the New York Times over there too." —Jay Leno

"More looting in Iraq today and that’s just by Fox News. A TV engineer for Fox News has been charged with trying to smuggle stolen Iraqi paintings into the U.S. No wonder they got so much good video of all those people looting, they were right there with them. Well, let's just hope his jury is 'fair and balanced' as Fox News." —Jay Leno

"CBS news anchor Dan Rather has interviewed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. When asked what it was like to talk to a crazy man, Saddam said, 'It's not so bad.'" —Conan O'Brien

"You know the saddest thing about that interview with Saddam Hussein? He actually came off more normal than Michael Jackson and Robert Blake." —Jay Leno, on Dan Rather's "60 Minutes" interview with Saddam Hussein