Thursday, December 30, 2010

My own Rosie the Riveter

The face of a generation of women who served at the homefront in World War II.

Geraldine Hoff Doyle, who was believed to be the unwitting model for the “We Can Do It!” poster of a woman flexing her biceps in a factory during World War II — an image that later became a symbol for the American feminist movement — died on Sunday in Lansing, Mich. She was 86.

The cause was complications of arthritis, said her daughter Stephanie Gregg.

Mrs. Doyle was unaware of the poster’s existence until 1982, when, while thumbing through a magazine, she saw a photograph of it and recognized herself. Her daughter said that the face on the poster was her mother’s, but that the muscles were not.

“She didn’t have big, muscular arms,” Mrs. Gregg said. “She was 5-foot-10 and very slender. She was a glamour girl. The arched eyebrows, the beautiful lips, the shape of the face — that’s her.”

In 1942, when she was 17, Geraldine Hoff took a job as a metal presser at a factory near her home in Inkster, Mich., near Detroit, to aid the war effort, Mrs. Gregg said. One day, a United Press photographer came in to shoot images of working women.

My mom worked at the Rayovac plant during the war. She then married a garrulous Airborne vet, raised five kids successfully, and supported a husband up the corporate ladder, including multiple moves.

She passed away last night.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

While I was out

Apologies for the lack of posting lately. It's been a trying time for my family as we deal with a medical emergency. Frankly, not much in the mood to post as the great issues of our day leave me, "meh."

Even yesterday, I was unable to work up the energy to provide a "Blue Monday" entry, and for that I apologize deeply.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jon Stewart is not a journalist

Perhaps because Weekly Standard typists believe that Fox News is a legitimate news outlet, it is easy to understand that John McCormack would think that a comedian on "Comedy Central" has abrogated his duties as a "journalist."

While Stewart’s show that day may have been a triumph of advocacy, it was a failure of journalism. He gave time to four 9/11 responders who all suffered from various diseases and were advocates for the bill, but he didn't really try to understand why Republicans objected to the bill or why the Democratic leadership waited until now to bring it up for a vote. “This is insane,” was all Stewart had to say about Republican opposition.

Actually, I don't fault Stewart for not bringing Coburn on for journalist reasons, but rather for passing up the chance for comedy gold.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I personally repealed DADT

Blogolicious line of the day:

If all you’ve learned from the repeal of DADT is to take hostages and to chain yourself to a fence, can I also recommend gags?
Read the whole thing.

And, yes, putting Lieberman in charge of the legislation was a brilliant stroke. By breaking up the three musketeers on this issue, he made McCain and Lindsey Graham look even more foolish.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"It didn't seem so bad to me"

The fact that anyone thought Haley Barbour, aka, Boss Hogg, was "electable" in the first place demonstrates just how far through the time warp we done slipped.


A beef in my heart

Don Van Vliet, RIP.

Mr. Van Vliet’s life story is caked with half-believable tales, some of which he himself spread in Dadaist, elliptical interviews. He claimed he had never read a book and had never been to school, and answered questions with riddles. “We see the moon, don’t we?” he asked in a 1969 interview. “So it’s our eye. Animals see us, don’t they? So we’re their animals.”

The facts, or those most often stated, are that he was born on Jan. 15, 1941, in Glendale, Calif., as Don Vliet. (He added the “Van” in 1965.) His father, Glen, drove a bakery truck.

Don demonstrated artistic talent before the age of 10, especially in sculpture, and at 13 was offered a scholarship to study sculpture in Europe, but his parents forbade him. Concurrently, they moved to the Mojave Desert town of Lancaster, where one of Don’s high school friends was Frank Zappa.

His adopted vocal style came partly from Howlin’ Wolf: a deep, rough-riding moan turned up into swooped falsettos at the end of lines, pinched and bellowing and sounding as if it caused pain.

“When it comes to capturing the feeling of archaic, Delta-style blues,” Robert Palmer of The New York Times wrote in 1982, “he is the only white performer who really gets it right.”

He enrolled at Antelope Valley Junior College to study art in 1959 but dropped out after one semester. By the early 1960s he had started spending time in Cucamonga, Calif., in Zappa’s studio. The two men worked on what was perhaps the first rock opera (still unperformed and unpublished), “I Was a Teenage Maltshop,” and built sets and wrote some of the script for a film to be titled “Captain Beefheart vs. the Grunt People.”

The origins of Mr. Van Vliet’s stage name are unclear, but he told interviewers later in life that he used it because he had “a beef in my heart against this society.”

Too young.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Blue Monday, Peter Green edition

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Coen brothers Christmas movie

A feel-g00d story from the Coens. This, I gotta see.

“It is formal in the sense that it is a straightforward presentation,” Joel said. “We weren’t trying to tune it up stylistically. When we were thinking about how to shoot the scene, the default position was more pretty, more classical.”

There are some Coenesque touches amid the western classicism. Rooster and Mattie encounter a mountain man who has been roaming the hills for a long time, perhaps too long, and seems overly fond of the bear rug he wears as a coat and costume. And given that Rooster is in the habit of getting his man, usually with the assistance of a bullet, there’s a measure of retributive violence. But then again, no one is fed into a wood chipper as in “Fargo.”

“The book is quite violent, but the level of violence was a consideration for us in a way that it has not been in the past,” Ethan said, in part because the PG-13 rating will open up the movie for audiences beyond their fan base. “Some level of violence had to be in there to demonstrate the implacability of what Hattie is up against at a very young age, but compared to what you see on HBO it’s quite tame.”

Scott Rudin, who produced the film, said that its formal, reverent approach to the western, a place where quests are undertaken and adventures are had, is on the screen everywhere you look.

“I don’t think that Ethan and Joel did this movie because they felt that they wanted to reinvent the western or remake another film,” he said. “The patois of the characters, the love of language that permeates the whole film, makes it very much of a piece with their other films, but it is the least ironic in many regards.”

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Blue Monday, Albert King edition

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Visualizing slavery

This map, created by the United States Coast Survey following the 1860 census vividly illustrated just how much the South's economy depended on slave labor.


Health care abortion sideshow

Men who want control over a woman's body.

Mr. Pitts was chosen last week as the chairman of the subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over private health insurance, Medicaid and much of Medicare, as well as the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.

In urging Republican leaders to choose Mr. Pitts, the National Right to Life Committee said he had “made the protection of the sanctity of innocent human life the cornerstone of his service in the House.”

Representative Lois Capps, a California Democrat and an advocate of abortion rights, described Mr. Pitts as “one of the most anti-choice members” of the House. Given the midterm election results, Ms. Capps predicted that the new Congress would be “extremely hostile to a woman’s right to choose.”

Laurie Rubiner, vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Mr. Pitts was “as anti-choice as a member of Congress can be.”

House Republicans will have difficulty enacting their agenda, since Mr. Obama and a substantial number of senators support abortion rights. But the Republicans may ultimately be able to tighten restrictions in some areas.

Like most Republicans in Congress, Mr. Pitts said he wanted to repeal the health care law, which was passed by Congress on party-line votes without Republican support.

Short of that goal, Mr. Pitts said he was determined to ban federal subsidy payments to any health insurance plans that include coverage of abortion — a benefit now offered by many private health plans.

Under the new law, the federal government is expected to spend more than $450 billion in subsidies to help low- and middle-income people buy insurance from 2014 to 2019.

Pitts was the Republican sponsor of the Stupak admendment, and the way abortion coverage is handled in the health care bill is already intended to be ridiculous and, I fear, humiliating.

Under the new law, health insurance plans are generally allowed to cover abortion. If they cover the procedure, they cannot use federal money to pay for it. People who enroll in such plans have to write two premium checks, one for abortion coverage and one for everything else, and insurers must keep the money in separate accounts.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Because what we need is a speech in Maine

Somerby and his crew of chuckling/gasping "analysts" have been a must read these past few days.

Krugman is the liberal world’s most valuable player—has been so for a very long time. But this morning, he grouses in the following way, sounding like Rachel and KO:

KRUGMAN (12/10/10): Which brings me back to Mr. Obama’s press conference, where—showing much more passion than he seems able to muster against Republicans—he denounced purists on the left, who supposedly refuse to accept compromises in the national interest.

Well, concerns about the tax deal reflect realism, not purism: Mr. Obama is setting up another hostage situation a year down the road. And given that fact, the last thing we need is the kind of self-indulgent behavior he showed by lashing out at progressives who he feels aren’t giving him enough credit.

The point is that by seeming angrier at worried supporters than he is at the hostage-takers, Mr. Obama is already signaling weakness, giving Republicans every reason to believe that they can extract another ransom.

Professor! Like Achilles, beat back your great anger!

Boo-hoo-hooing like Rachel and KO, Krugman complains about the way Obama denounced liberal purists this week. (Liberal purists like Krugman himself, as he notes early on.) Was Obama’s behavior “self-indulgent?” That’s certainly possible. But did Obama denounce his own splendid tribe more harshly than he denounced The Other? This claim is grossly self-indulgent—although, since Tuesday, this claim has been made all over the liberal web.

Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Obama denounced us, his own supporters, more harshly than he denounced The Other! But please note: As we see from that passage from Krugman, Obama repeatedly denounced the GOP as “hostage-takers” during his press conference—hostage-takers who were fully prepared to do real harm to the hostages.

By normal standards, this was extremely harsh presidential rhetoric. Was it worse when Obama dared to “denounce” some of us wonderful liberals as “purists?” Actually no, it really wasn’t—unless we have become so self-indulgent that we’ve lost the capacity to reason. Unless we’ve become so thoroughly tribal that we can’t even hear the insults aimed at the other tribe.

(Within the thoroughly tribal mind, such insults get processed as “facts.”)

On the web, many liberals have been self-indulgent this week, crying about Obama’s insults; we’ve displayed our sensitive tribal mindsets all through this peculiar week. But since Krugman is our team’s most valuable player, it would be quite bad for progressive interests if he ended up the same way. Professor Krugman, beat back your great anger! Professor! Step back from that ledge!

That said: We’ve been amazed, all this week, by the way many liberals have reasoned. Are we so tribal that we can’t even notice the simplest facts? Let’s review three bone-simple concepts, concepts which have been widely ignored all during this overwrought week:

Majority doesn’t rule any more: In appropriate contexts, every liberal knows to complain about the new logic of the Senate, in which a majority doesn’t rule—in which it takes sixty votes to get a measure passed. Despite this, aggrieved liberals have complained all week long about the way Obama failed to act when he had those “big majorities.” Here was Rachel Maddow, one of the dumbest players in American public life:

MADDOW (12/7/10): The president today also turned withering fire on liberals, on the Democratic base, for expecting too much—turned that withering fire on liberals for expecting too much from a White House that for another hot minute has big Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Maddow was training liberals to be resentful—and to be stupid. (Imagine! The president turned withering fire on us!) One statement here was perfectly accurate: At present, Obama does have “big Democratic majorities” in both the House and the Senate. But so what? At present, majority doesn’t rule in the Senate! Maddow, who endlessly plays the fool, still can’t—or won’t—process this fact.

A Democratic super-majority isn’t a liberal super-majority: For a few brief shining moments, Obama did have a 60-seat Democratic super-majority (although you had to count Lieberman). But that resulted from a political miracle—and that Democratic super-majority wasn’t a liberal super-majority. At present, the small states tend to be very red; for that reason, it’s impossible to elect sixty Dems to the Senate without including a bunch of people who come from beet-red states. Two examples: That Democratic super-majority included Senators Lincoln and Pryor; they hail from Arkansas, a state which favored McCain by twenty points in 2008, when Obama was still well-liked. Here’s a basic fact of life: Democratic senators from red states aren’t going to toe the progressive line. If professional “liberals” still can’t grasp this fact, why shouldn’t such nitwits resign?

Elections really do matter: Guess what? Democrats and liberals got beaten with sticks in last month’s elections! Anyone but a tribal ninny would understand what this means: When Democrats get beaten so badly, it’s harder to persuade Republican senators, or Democrats from red states, to adopt progressive positions. But many of our tribal liberals seem to have no sense of this fact. To Maddow, Obama still has, for “another hot minute,” “big Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate!”

Go ahead! In a rational frame of mind, ask yourself why that wholly irrelevant fact is still supposed to matter.

And I thought "facts" have a liberal bias. No, we should just primary the fucker.

Somerby continues.

Can our liberal team reason at all? Relentlessly, Maddow seems to represent the soul of our tribal cluelessness. Just consider this clueless response to poor Goolsbee, who was forced to be polite:

GOOLSBEE: In this case, no matter what you say, Rachel, the fact is, no one expected that in this environment where we’re facing in January the possibility that John Boehner was simply going to come forward and pass these out of the House and get only the Republican things, nobody thought that the president was going to get two or two and a half times as much as for his priorities as those high-income tax cuts. So, I think it’s a little unfair to criticize him so vehemently on that.

MADDOW: Well, I don’t—I don’t think anybody is criticizing the things that the president was able to get. I think the criticism is that he wasn’t able to get more than that. And that the Republicans got so much of what they wanted!

As she continued, Maddow referred again to the irrelevant fact that “there are still 58 Democrats in the Senate.” As we’ve noted, it takes 60 votes—and guess what? Last weekend, the Senate tried to terminate the Bush tax cuts for people who are truly rich—for income above a million dollars.

It gets worse, as she never seems to ask why eliminating tax breaks for the richest Americans -- an obvious political winner according to the polls -- wasn't taken up by the Democratically controlled Congress before the midterms, as opposed to after a knee-cracking midterm for Democrats.

Like Chronos, we liberals eat our young (presidents). We do it time and time again.

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While entitled Yankee fans await a decision by one Lee, let's listen to another.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

House prerogatives

You hear a lot of complaints about being "left out of the negotiations" and the House "having a voice," but you don't hear much about the long-term unemployed. "Purity?" I think not. "Ego" seems the more likely motivator, as it so often is.

But more importantly, what is their Plan B? Because it seems to me that they aren't going to get a better deal when Boehner is second in succession to the Oval Office, and it also seems to me, in the face of nearly 10 percent unemployment -- most of whom are more likely to vote for Democrats -- Republicans won't blink first.

UPDATE: spelling

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

"So it's even"

Horse trading and pragmatic solutions

The GOP thinks they got a pony. Instead, Obama and Biden read their opponents well, recognizing that visions of estate tax sugarplums and an extended tax cut for the GOP's biggest donors would make McConnell and his leadership misty-eyed and allow Obama to get the biggest part of the stimulus he wanted. This is fascinating.

The administration’s original wish list included the 13 months of extended federal unemployment compensation for people out of jobs for a long time and the extended tax credits for the working poor, college students and lower-income families with children. But the White House was pessimistic that Republicans would go along with the tax credits for lower-income people.

Indeed, the Republicans’ resistance to Mr. Obama’s signature tax cut — the “Making Work Pay” payroll tax reduction that was part of his original 2009 economic stimulus package — forced the administration team to look for an alternative.

The late-hour substitute on Sunday was the proposal for a reduction of two percentage points in employees’ 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax for 2011. A payroll-tax holiday has been an idea on Mr. Obama’s table for months, but he and Congressional Democrats always pushed it aside, given concerns that voters, especially older people, would see it as taking revenues that are supposed to pay for Social Security benefits.

But pushing the idea all along was Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and his counselor Gene Sperling, a former top economic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton. Last Friday, the report that the unemployment rate had inched up to 9.8 percent gave new impetus to the administration’s push — and to Mr. Biden’s talks with Mr. McConnell.

By Sunday night, the two sides had agreed to a two-year extension of all the Bush tax rates in return for the unemployment aid and a payroll-tax holiday. The final negotiations came down to Republicans’ demand for a generous new estate-tax formulation — and the White House’s insistence on extending the package of tax breaks for low- and middle-income students, workers and families with children.

Those tax breaks came to be called “the refundables” because eligible taxpayers would get a tax refund check for any amount that exceeded their actual income-tax liability. Republicans generally oppose refundable tax credits, considering it, in effect, welfare spending. But they saw the talks as a golden opportunity to win an estate-tax agreement that had eluded them even when they controlled Congress and the White House.

On Monday morning, Mr. Biden met with Mr. Obama in the Oval Office before the president left for a day trip to Winston-Salem, N.C., to speak about education. Mr. Obama told him to give Mr. McConnell an ultimatum.

“My strong instinct is that we make the deal if we can,” the president said. But, he added, to accept Republicans’ estate tax break “would be too heavy a lift.”

Mr. Biden returned to his West Wing office and called Mr. McConnell.

“We will not do the estate tax without the other stuff,” he told him, according to officials. “There’s just no deal without the refundables. Won’t do it.”

Mr. McConnell did not call Mr. Biden back with an answer until 5 p.m., after consulting with other Republicans. “We have the deal,” Mr. McConnell said.

And, fortunately for Obama, preening Republicans are a little slow on the uptake.

And, loathe as I am to admit it, I think Sullivan is right on this one. Obama was elected as a pragmatist who was willing to take on hard issues. He's done it with health care. He's thinking about Iraq and Afghanistan in strategic terms (as opposed to a "legacy" of freedom reigning). He's doing it with the recession.


Over you

Only John could have gotten Jesus Christ to agree to play bass.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Double reverse Stockholm Syndrome

One of the advantages of having too much work is that it is difficult for me to knee-jerkingly react to things throughout the day. It allows me to ruminate before I bloviate...and that's a good thing.

Anyway, it has been alternatively depressing and amusing to watch the anger and see the declarations of liberals Who. Will. Never. Vote. For. That. Man. Again. I mean, check out the comments here. I've seen teenage girls react more calmly to being disinvited from the mean girls' table at the cafeteria. I too was...unsurprised... by the announcement of "the deal" last night. But as smarter observers have pointed out throughout the afternoon, rather than Obama being held hostage and cozying up to his captors, Republicans may have been held hostage to their devotion to preserving the wealth of the rich.

Blinded by estate tax sugarplums, the GOP gave Obama something he -- and the country -- desperately needs: more stimulus for the economy. Now, yes, this is not the greatest form of that -- frankly, I don't know what the rich will do with their $700 billion, but it won't go to repairing crumbling bridges or ya know, hiring anyone -- but it is something that the GOP would otherwise refuse to give Obama. They want the economy to limp along for two more years. They want him to fail. But, like Pavlov's dogs, with the prospect of getting a tax break for the Koch brothers the GOP's drool got in the way of their obstructionism.

And for those who would have preferred Obama "stand and fight" and refuse to accept such a deal, please contact Chuck Schummer, Joe Lieberman, that dick from Nebraska, and the other Democratic senators who opposed letting the cut expire for their key constituents on Wall Street. The House bill restoring the cuts for the "middle class" and letting them expire for the wealthiest did not have the votes to overcome the threat of a filibuster in the Senate.

Oh, and ask someone who has been unemployed for more than a year what they think about the restoration of unemployment benefits.

So, now. Let's fix the tax code to make some dent in the wealth disparity in this country. A clever enough plan will surely fool the Republicans -- they may be brilliant when it comes to political bullying, but math ain't their strong suit.

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Elizabeth Edwards

This is Roy's territory, but Ann Althouse's reaction to the news that Elizabeth Edwards has suspended treatment for cancer is illuminating. For some people, it really is all about them, or rather, it is all about their grievances.

Elizabeth Edwards, despite her illness and the treatment she received from her husband, has been a shining light in progressive politics. Her voice will be sorely missed.


Monday, December 06, 2010

They own us, and they used our money to make the purchase

Well, this is basically moot, but I was struck by a couple of stories the past two days. Yesterday, Gretchen Morgenson could barely conceal her rage.

HOW the truth shines through when you shed a little light on a subject.

Such is the message from the massive document drop the Federal Reserve made last week. The Dodd-Frank law forced the Fed to disclose the recipients of $3.3 trillion from emergency lending programs put in place during the crisis days of 2008, so the taxpayers who paid for those rescue efforts now know whom they were helping.

Not that we should expect to receive any thank-you notes from these institutions for rescuing them from themselves.

Still, it’s good to know who got what at the bailout banquet. This helps us understand how expensive it is to live in a nation where big, politically interconnected financial institutions are not allowed to fail — even after they mess up in the most catastrophic of ways.

The Fed data showed that the biggest recipient of taxpayer assistance was, naturally, Citigroup. It was followed closely by Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America. Goldman Sachs was also a large beneficiary during the darkest moments of 2008.

Remember that the Wall Street firms were imperiled by their excessive use of borrowed money, which generated huge paydays when the cost of those funds was cheap and the values of the assets they were buying were rising at a steady clip. After the bubble burst and financing evaporated, the firms were able to tap into a lending program created by the Fed in mid-March 2008 after Bear Stearns collapsed. It was called the Primary Dealer Credit Facility.

The program allowed firms to borrow at low interest rates — ranging from 3.25 percent when the program began to 0.5 percent when the last loan was made in May 2009. The firms had to post various securities as collateral when they borrowed, and some of those securities were risky indeed.


All of the emergency lending data released by the Fed are highly revealing, but why weren’t they made public much earlier? That’s a question that Walker F. Todd, a research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, is asking.

Mr. Todd, a former assistant general counsel and research officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said details about the Fed’s vast and various programs should have been available before the Dodd-Frank regulatory reform law was even written.

“The Fed’s current set of powers and the shape of the Dodd-Frank bill over all might have looked quite different if this information had been made public during the debate on the bill,” he said. “Had these tables been out there, I think Congress would have either said no to emergency lending authority or if you get it, it’s going to be a much lower number — half a trillion dollars in the aggregate.”

Better late with the data than never, of course. And the release of these figures just ahead of Friday’s grim employment data — the jobless rate rose to 9.8 percent in November — makes them even more compelling. Clearly, the federal government was much more willing to deliver mountains of money to big banks that made big mistakes than it was to lend a financial hand to rank-and-file Americans struggling through foreclosures.

Federal officials have always argued that plowing money into errant banks and trading shops was the best way to rescue the economy, but to Edward J. Kane, professor of economics at Boston College, details of the Fed’s largess are reminiscent of a famous Winston Churchill quotation.

“Never have so few owed so much to so many, and given them so small a return,” Mr. Kane said. “We see, for example, how little these institutions have given back to troubled homeowners whose houses are threatened with foreclosure.”


From Sept. 15 through the end of that month, borrowings averaged around $100 billion a day. The interest rate charged on those loans was 2.25 percent.

Given that markets were frozen at that time, and given the dubious quality of some of the collateral posted to the Fed to back the loans, an interest rate of 10 percent would be a reasonable benchmark for measuring the size of this subsidy.

On the one hand, Citigroup, Barclays, Morgan Stanley, Goldman and the others paid roughly $75 million in interest over that September fortnight. Had the Fed charged 10 percent, the firms would have paid about $325 million. For just those firms, over only that period, that’s a $250 million subsidy.

And today...well, the juxtaposition is striking, to say the least.

Worried that lawmakers will allow taxes to rise for the wealthiest Americans beginning next year, financial firms are discussing whether to move up their bonus payouts from next year to this month.

At stake is a portion of the hefty annual payouts that are a familiar part of the compensation culture on Wall Street, as well as a juicy target of popular anger. If Congress does not extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the highest income levels, a typical worker who earns a $1 million bonus would pay $40,000 to $50,000 more in taxes next year than this year, depending on base salary.

Goldman Sachs is one of the companies discussing how to time bonus season, according to three people who have been briefed on the discussions. Pay consultants who work with major Wall Street companies say that just about every other large bank has also considered such a move in recent weeks.

The banksters are worried about unseemly they say.

With tax politics in Washington unpredictable, bank executives have spent months sketching out several options for their bonus plans, including the possibility of an earlier payout. Lawmakers have been trading accusations across a partisan divide, but after this weekend, it appears likely that a compromise will extend the tax cuts for all income levels.

Even so, the banks’ discussions about bonus timing underscore how focused the industry is on protecting every dollar of pay.


The top five Wall Street firms have put aside nearly $90 billion for total pay this year, and they are expected to raise that amount using their end of year earnings. That would make this year one of the best ever for bank pay.

So, let's be honest. Populist rage aside, that $250 million subsidy the banks received through artificially low rates is chump change.

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"We're exceptional when we do exceptional things"

More of this, please.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Repeal amendment

The latest in conservative intellectual movements is the Repeal Amendment. Dahlia Lithwick explains why it is a really stupid idea, a fetish for states' rights, and puts the lie to claims by conservatives that they want to "preserve" the constitution. It turns out, they only want to "preserve" the bits they think they like.

But she also bemoans the fact that liberals are silent on this subject.

Yet what we have heard in response to the Repeal Amendment from liberals is near-total radio silence. And it's not because liberals are eager to see a return to the conditions that led to Jim Crow or the Civil War. We just seem to have forgotten how to talk about the Constitution as if it's ours, too. After years of failing to respond to Reagan-era cries of "liberal judicial activism," and failing to push back against the singular perfection of originalism, it's as if we've ceded the entire document to conservatives—as well as the fight over its history and meaning.

Her point is well taken. Liberals allow these crack pot ideas to fester below the surface without any push back, then they become talking points of the new House majority whip. The Wall Street Journal talks it up favorably, and FoxNews swoons with giddiness. Next thing you know it becomes a real issue rather than the ravings of anti-fourteenth amendment civil war reenacters.

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Can't lose what you never had

Or so the old timer committee seems to think when it comes to Marvin Miller. I'm sure Pat Gillick is a nice guy, but no one...has a greater impact on the game than Miller.

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Blue Monday, Chuck Berry edition

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Lessons from the 1940s

Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's general counsel and the co-author of the report on the repeal of DADT, has a coincidental but striking personal relationship to the issue.

His uncle, Robert B. Johnson, was not only one of the Tuskegee Airmen, but was also a participant in what is known as the Freeman Field Mutiny in 1945, when a group of the airmen were arrested for entering an all-white officers’ club at Freeman Field in Indiana. The airmen were imprisoned for 10 days until the Army chief of staff, Gen. George C. Marshall, intervened. Three years later, President Harry S. Truman integrated the military by executive order.

Although Mr. Johnson says that discrimination based on race and sexual orientation are different — sexual orientation, he maintains, is “not a self-identifier” — he has found similarities in the way the armed forces reacted in both cases to the prospect of change. The study Mr. Johnson wrote with Gen. Carter F. Ham found that, over all, 70 percent of the troops surveyed said the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” would have little effect, but about 60 percent of Marines predicted a negative impact.

The opposition to integrating the armed forces in the 1940s, Mr. Johnson said, was as high as 80 percent. “The lesson to be drawn from that,” he said, “is that very often the predictions about what is going to happen overestimate the negative consequences and underestimate the military’s ability to adapt.”

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Yeah, that's all there is


What he's made of

Paul Krugman is shrill.

It’s hard to escape the impression that Republicans have taken Mr. Obama’s measure — that they’re calling his bluff in the belief that he can be counted on to fold. And it’s also hard to escape the impression that they’re right.

The real question is what Mr. Obama and his inner circle are thinking. Do they really believe, after all this time, that gestures of appeasement to the G.O.P. will elicit a good-faith response?

What’s even more puzzling is the apparent indifference of the Obama team to the effect of such gestures on their supporters. One would have expected a candidate who rode the enthusiasm of activists to an upset victory in the Democratic primary to realize that this enthusiasm was an important asset. Instead, however, Mr. Obama almost seems as if he’s trying, systematically, to disappoint his once-fervent supporters, to convince the people who put him where he is that they made an embarrassing mistake.

Whatever is going on inside the White House, from the outside it looks like moral collapse — a complete failure of purpose and loss of direction.

No one has shown more faith in Obama's mastery of three-dimensional chess than I, but I have never been so dispirited than I was upon hearing of his decision to implement a federal pay freeze (nothing like freezing the pay of SEC "watchdogs" already looking to get their ticket stamped for a lucrative career on Wall Street). Never mind the futility of the gesture, giving concessions to Republicans after two years of evidence that they will not respond in kind -- on the contrary, that they'll take such a concession as a sign of proof of weakness -- is like watching the victim of domestic abuse inviting the tormentor back home.

Conciliatory gestures are not going to help him with Republicans in Congress and they won't help him with so-called Independents. If he isn't willing to stake out what he believes in, than the next two years are going to be long, slow, and depressing. He may not win many battles with a Republican House and a dysfunctional Senate -- victories that may not be remotely possible against a unified opposition intent on destroying him -- but he could at least try to look like he'd prefer not to give an excellent impression of a doormat.

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

If Truman had conducted a poll...

Perhaps the U.S. Armed Services would still be segregated.

But what most astounds me about these exchanges is McCain's seeming cluelessness and incredulousness that the U.S. military establishment is, Constitutionally, civilian led.

And, oh by the way, McCain never "led" troops. He was a flyboy, and a pretty shitty one at that.

But, yes he was tortured as a POW so he remains President McCain.


America's hat

The Wikileaks' "cablegate" is like the gift that keeps on giving. Those damned Canadians, we learn, have "a chip on their shoulder."

“The degree of comfort with which Canadian broadcast entities, including those financed by Canadian tax dollars, twist current events to feed longstanding negative images of the U.S. — and the extent to which the Canadian public seems willing to indulge in the feast — is noteworthy as an indication of the kind of insidious negative popular stereotyping we are increasingly up against in Canada,” the cable said.

A trove of diplomatic cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of publications, disclose a perception by American diplomats that Canadians “always carry a chip on their shoulder” in part because of a feeling that their country “is condemned to always play ‘Robin’ to the U.S. ‘Batman.’ ”

And this whole "Batman and Robin" theme seems to be a common one among our diplomats.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Our long nightmare of "undertainty" is over

Republicans are back to controlling all three branches of government, along with the NFL commissioner's office, no doubt.

The twelve stitches the president received over the weekend are probably the first of many. He hasn't learned that when negotiating with Republicans, basketball isn't the right sport on which to train.

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Tax cuts for the rich are only a start

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