Friday, April 29, 2011


I've been angered by the Trump sideshow and the press' fawning relationship with that fraud. But like Paul Waldman, it wasn't until I'd watched Baratunde Thurston eloquently explain the rage and hurt Trump's demand for the president's papers caused in him, did I understand just how much this ripped the scab off a wound that hasn't healed, and probably can't.

And if you read the comments that follow the video on YouTube...well...Bull Connor lives.


Here I come

Seems especially appropriate this week.


The nadir for the Kaplan Institute?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The carnival barker

Obama's right, the guy's a sideshow, but I have no problem with him being the GOP's main event.

I would like to see the media press him to show his tax he'd promised.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sideshows and carnival barkers

"If we just make stuff and pretend that facts are not facts," is as much an indictment of the men and women in that room as it is of his political opposition.

And Fallows is right (and Obama addresses this towards the end of his remarks:

Here we have a wonderful real-world test: if "actual knowledge" mattered, the number of people who thought Obama was foreign-born would approach zero by next week -- with exceptions for illiterates, the mentally disabled, paranoid schizophrenics, etc. My guess is that the figures will barely change.

Labels: , ,

Unemployed reality

David Leonhardt is shrill.

One question more than any than other is crying out for an answer: Why has Mr. Bernanke decided to accept widespread unemployment for years on end, even though he believes he has the power to reduce it?

The Fed’s own forecasts suggest that the unemployment rate won’t fall below 5 percent for perhaps another five or six years. Mr. Bernanke believes the Fed “retains considerable power” to reduce unemployment faster, despite the fact that its benchmark interest rate is zero, as he’s said before. Yet he has been hesitant to use that power.

He is in a tough spot, to be fair. Several other voting members of the Fed’s monetary policy committee — and some prominent members of Congress — oppose aggressive action, because they worry it will set off inflation. But these critics always worry about inflation. They have been wrong again and again over the last two years. More important, they don’t have enough power to keep Mr. Bernanke from pursuing the policy he thinks is best.

So the Fed’s decision to permit high unemployment for an extended period rests on his shoulders.

As he has explained many times, the Fed has alternatives. It could announce that it would keep its benchmark rate at zero for a few years, which would probably hold down long-term rates. It could say that it was comfortable with higher inflation for a limited period of time, given how low inflation has been since 2007 and how high unemployment is. Above all, Mr. Bernanke could make clear that he considers years of widespread unemployment to be unacceptable.

He has not done so, and he has yet to offer a satisfying rationale.

Instead, he has said that more aggressive action brings risks. And it does. Low interest rates have the potential to spark inflation, by enticing millions of households and businesses to borrow money and causing the economy to overheat. Higher inflation could, among other things, increase borrowing rates for the United States government and worsen the deficit.

But it’s worth keeping in mind that just about every decision involves some risk. Simply stating that more aggressive action brings risks is not a good argument against that option.

He goes on in shrill fashion.

Labels: ,

Monday, April 25, 2011

Privatizing the poor and vulnerable

A bright spot in Detroit is closed by order of a governor's appointee. Michigan is playing out as the fertile testing ground for conservative plans to take away the civil rights of the "dysfunctional."

Labels: , ,

The anti-bobblehead

Although this article is pretty substance free, I am looking forward to Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the new head of the DNC.

In less than two weeks, Ms. Wasserman Schultz — mother, wife, Girl Scout leader, legislator, fund-raiser and House vote counter — will add another job to her monumentally orchestrated life. She will become the first woman elected to lead the Democratic National Committee, a role that requires grit, exaltation and inspiration. At 44, she will be the youngest committee leader in decades.

As the country races toward the 2012 presidential election, it will be her task to rally Democrats to give money and time, swatting away Republican barbs and defending President Obama at every turn. It is a job she is well prepared to handle, having served years on the House’s Democratic campaign committee.

Later that morning, in a nearby deli, Ms. Wasserman Schultz, now wearing a businesslike gray suit and pumps, said, “The timing is right for a retail politician.”

But the symbolism of her selection is not lost on her.

“It’s a big deal, a very big deal,” said Ms. Wasserman Schultz, whose toughness was admired by her colleagues even before she grappled with breast cancer in 2007. “My generation is significantly unrepresented in terms of public policy and decision making. As a woman today, it’s very different living through raising children and balancing work and family. It’s an opportunity to reach out to so many families. And women who work outside the family can say Democrats get it.”

Labels: ,

Blue Monday, Big Mama Thornton edition

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Swapping his constituents

I know the financial industry owns Congress. But rarely does one see the triumph of self-interest and ideology over the interest of his constituents.

Jefferson County, Alabama purchased derivatives to pay for their $3.1 billion (!) sewer system. Now that those derivatives have gone kerplooyey, it may be the largest municipality to declare bankruptcy.

Though the county no longer has to pay fees to JPMorgan — the bank agreed to void the swaps as part of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission — its bond debt for the sewers now totals almost $4 billion. The Birmingham News described Jefferson County as a “poster child” for all that can go wrong when municipalities start playing with unregulated derivatives peddled by Wall Street sharpies.

Has Spencer Bachus, as the local congressman, decried this debacle? Of course — what local congressman wouldn’t? In a letter last year to Mary Schapiro, the chairwoman of the S.E.C., he said that the county’s financing schemes “magnified the inherent risks of the municipal finance market.” (He also blamed, among other things, “serious corruption,” of which there was plenty, including secret payments by JPMorgan to people who could influence the county commissioners.)

Bachus is not just your garden variety local congressman, though. As chairman of the Financial Services Committee, he is uniquely positioned to help make sure that similar disasters never happen again — not just in Jefferson County but anywhere. After all, the new Dodd-Frank financial reform law will, at long last, regulate derivatives. And the implementation of that law is being overseen by Bachus and his committee.

Among its many provisions related to derivatives — all designed to lessen their systemic risk — is a series of rules that would make it close to impossible for the likes of JPMorgan to pawn risky derivatives off on municipalities. Dodd-Frank requires sellers of derivatives to take a near-fiduciary interest in the well-being of a municipality.

You would think Bachus would want these regulations in place as quickly as possible, given the pain his constituents are suffering. Yet, last week, along with a handful of other House Republican bigwigs, he introduced legislation that would do just the opposite: It would delay derivative regulation until January 2013.

It is hard not to see this move as an act of hostility toward any derivative regulation. After all, by 2013 a presidential election will have taken place, and if the Republicans take the White House and the Senate, one can expect that the next step would be to roll back derivative regulation entirely. Even if it is just about delay, rather than outright obstruction, that means the Republicans are asking for two more years during which the industry will add trillions of dollars worth of “financial weapons of mass destruction” (to use Warren Buffett’s famous description) to the $466.8 trillion of unregulated derivatives already in existence. How can this possibly be good?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A serious man

We all know that Paul Ryan is serious and brave when it comes to reducing our ruinous deficits.


Last week, in his speech on deficit reduction, Mr. Obama said he wanted to beef up the board’s cost-cutting powers in unspecified ways should the growth of Medicare spending exceed certain goals. Supporters say the board will be able to make tough decisions because it will be largely insulated from legislative politics.

Lawmakers do not agree. Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee, called it “a rationing board” and said Congress should not “delegate Medicare decision-making to 15 people appointed by the president.” He said Mr. Obama’s proposal would allow the board to “impose more price controls and more limitations on providers, which will end up cutting services to seniors.”

That from a man who wants to eliminate Medicare altogether in favor of vouchers. Vouchers pegged to the rate of inflation, not pegged to the rising cost of healthcare, of which his "bold, serious" budget will do nothing to slow. Wasteful and unnecessary tests and medical devices are driving up those costs, but when given the opportunity to support a mechanism to identify waste, Paul Ryan, serious man, opposes it because it may put "limitations on providers."

Of course, Ryan is not alone in his beholdenness to medical device makers and big pharma.

“Why have legislators?” asked Representative Pete Stark of California, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health.

In some ways, Mr. Stark said, expanding the power of the board could be as bad as giving vouchers to Medicare beneficiaries to buy private insurance. “In theory at least, you could set the vouchers at an adequate level,” he said. “But, in its effort to limit the growth of Medicare spending, the board is likely to set inadequate payment rates for health care providers, which could endanger patient care.”



Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Standard and poor

James Fallows has been great lately, first by accurately describing "the serious and brave Paul Ryan." And now, on the S&P decision to downgrade U.S. treasuries.

1) To repeat Clive Crook's point, S&P knows nothing more about U.S. budget prospects than you or I do. They're saying they have an opinion on the state of Congressional-White house dealings on the budget. Fine. Go on a talk show or start a blog.

For those of you interested, the S&P decided that the U.S. government is in danger of defaulting on its own bonds. Forgetting, apparently, that the U.S. government prints its own money.


Monday, April 18, 2011

A same-grifter marriage

Oh, this is sweet.

As the Abramoff scandal broke both Reed and Norquist had some close calls, but now they are back on top. Ralph continues to run the Christian grifter scam and present himself as a “gatekeeper” for the votes of these “born again” folks who Ralph plays like they were born yesterday. Ralph is holding debates for Republican Confederate Party candidates and organizing the rubes in early primary states. Ralph has been building his con into a package to sell to the highest bidder and it looks like he has found his mark in a grifter from the big city.

Word leaked out over the weekend that Donald Trump has interviewed Ralph Reed for the job as his campaign manager as the hair piece plans a run for the White House. It is a grifter match made in the bowels of hell—and almost perfect in its contempt for voters and America.

And Reed is already fluffing the Donald. In an statement to Christian Broadcast Network, Reed said:

“There is a nascent and growing curiosity in the faith community about Trump. Evangelicals will like his pro-life and pro-marriage stances, combined with his business record and high-wattage celebrity all but guarantee he will get a close look from social conservatives as well as other Republican primary voters.”

Sounds like Reed is already helping Trump run the hustle.

Labels: , ,

Blue Monday, Van Morrison edition

Open up the window and let me breathe.

Labels: , ,

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Songs are just really interesting things to do with air"

And then they came for me and the brand name MBA


I do believe K-thug is approving of Mr. Obama's recent speech.

Labels: ,

Libertarians discuss history and morality

Commenters at Hit & Run "discuss" Lincoln's many crimes and the fact that freeing a few slaves in a few states just wasn't worth the 600,000 that the president personally killed by "declaring war."

Smell the liberty!

Via Edroso, of course.

And of course, Lincoln neither started the war (unless you believe that by getting elected he was forcing South Carolina's hand), nor declared it since declaring war would have given legitimacy to the Confederacy as a government.


It's impossible to make it today

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A sharply different vision of America

A powerful, and powerfully political speech.

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

One vision has been championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party's presidential candidates. It's a plan that aims to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years, and one that addresses the challenge of Medicare and Medicaid in the years after that.

Those are both worthy goals for us to achieve. But the way this plan achieves those goals would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we've known throughout most of our history.

A 70% cut to clean energy. A 25% cut in education. A 30% cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year. That's what they're proposing. These aren't the kind of cuts you make when you're trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget. These aren't the kind of cuts that Republicans and Democrats on the Fiscal Commission proposed. These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can't afford the America we believe in. And they paint a vision of our future that's deeply pessimistic.

It's a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can't afford to fix them. If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can't afford to send them. Go to China and you'll see businesses opening research labs and solar facilities. South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science. Brazil is investing billions in new infrastructure and can run half their cars not on high-priced gasoline, but biofuels. And yet, we are presented with a vision that says the United States of America - the greatest nation on Earth - can't afford any of this.

It's a vision that says America can't afford to keep the promise we've made to care for our seniors. It says that ten years from now, if you're a 65 year old who's eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn't worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck - you're on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone's grandparents who wouldn't be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down's syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we'd be telling to fend for themselves.

Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can't afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can't afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about it. In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that's who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that's paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? That's not right, and it's not going to happen as long as I'm President.

The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. As Ronald Reagan's own budget director said, there's nothing "serious" or "courageous" about this plan. There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. There's nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don't have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know.

The America I know is generous and compassionate; a land of opportunity and optimism. We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the country we want and the future we share. We are the nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI bill and saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare. We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives.

This is who we are. This is the America I know. We don't have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our country. To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I'm President, we won't.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Republicans and treason in defense of slavery

On the 150th anniversary of the shelling of Fort Sumter, Jamelle Bouie isn't surprised that a new CNN poll shows that majorities in the party of Lincoln sympathize more with the Confederates than the Union and don't believe slavery was the cause of the war.

From voters to elected officials, the Republican Party is dominated by white Southerners, particularly those from the Deep South. What's more, and for incredibly obvious reasons, white Southerners are most likely to sympathize with the Confederacy and its decision to secede from the Union. When considered together, it's no real surprise to learn that Republicans are most likely to disagree with the notion that slavery drove the Southern states to split from the North.

Relatedly, a little while ago, I took a some heat for praising Haley Barbour's willingness to state -- unambiguously -- that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War. After all, why should Barbour be praised for stating the plain truth? Well, if this survey is any indication, you have your answer. Not only does Barbour work within a party that denies the truth of the historical consensus but he relies on an electorate that is hostile to things as basic and (mostly) uncontroversial as interracial marriage. With this in mind, it's not exactly the soft bigotry of low expectations to commend Barbour for challenging the historical conceits of his fellow travelers.

Labels: ,

Monday, April 11, 2011

Something is happening here and you don't know what it is, do you Ms. Dowd?

I was going to post over the weekend on the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist's decision, during a week in which the House GOP was holding, literally, millions of women's lives hostage over a few billion more in spending cuts, to use her column to accuse Dylan of "selling out" to repression in China. But I sighed and took my "yard waste" to the local dump instead.

In hindsight, that seems like a good decision, since James Fallows and his correspondents who actually know something about China and Bob Dylan, are corrosive.

>>Check out the Beijing set list - he played A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall and Ballad of a Thin Man - those tunes are as "subversive" as anything he has written, and frankly, better tunes than his "protest" songs (The Times They Are A Changing).

What does Maureen Dowd want from Dylan exactly, and what evidence does she have that he altered his set list? He doesn't speak at concerts, the set list changes daily, and again, Gonna Change My Way of Thinking which opened both China shows, and Desolation Row from Shanghai are more thumb-in-your eye than Blowin in the Wind.

Dylan closed both China shows with Like A Rolling Stone (as he does all his shows). If the Chinese were really intent on shutting Dylan down, wouldn't they have crossed out that tune from the set list?

Gonna Change My Way of Thinking, from Slow Train Coming, opens with this lyric:

Gonna change my way of thinking
Make myself a different set of rules
Gonna change my way of thinking
Make myself a different set of rules
Gonna put my good foot forward
And stop being influenced by fools

So much oppression
Can't keep track of it no more
So much oppression
Can't keep track of it no more

It's from Dylan's so called "born again" phase, but do you think the Chinese were hip to that lyric? Something is happening here, and you don't know what it is, do you Maureen Dowd?<<
And, no, I don't link to Dowd. Sorry, but you'll have to pay for the "privilege," assuming you've maxed out your page views.

To add to the fun, I've been to many, many Dylan shows in recent years. I recall very few times that he's performed anything from A Slow Train Coming.

Labels: ,

Blue Monday, Grateful Dead edition

Friday, April 08, 2011

It's not about the money

Typically, when someone says that the obvious response is, "then it must be about the money."

In this case, it's really true. It's not about the money, it's about the GOP's hostility to women's health.

The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and Rep. Jim Jordan, head of the Republican Study Committee, just held a conference call in which Jordan said the fight is all about abortion. “The country's broke. The vast majority of Americans, whether they're pro-life or not, don't want their tax dollars being spent to take the life of unborn children,” Jordan said. When asked about how no federal funds go to paying for abortions – Planned Parenthood carefully segregates the funds – Jordan scoffed: “Come on. Money is fungible, and for them to make that claim – it's just common sense that money is fungible. We think that tax payers understand this and they don't want their money to be used in this manner.”

Speaker Boehner said this morning that “almost all of the policy issues have been dealt with and there is no agreement on the spending limit.” But Jordan's remarks would seem to contradict this claim. The Republican Study Committee represents 175 of the most conservative Republicans – a giant bloc without whom Boehner cannot pass anything.

Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told reporters this afternoon that after House and Senate negotiators came to an agreement on $38 billion in cuts, Boehner brought up this rider. “[At] midnight last night it was down to one issue: Title X. They made a proposal to us and we said, 'That's unacceptable,'” Durbin said. “And then they spent the rest of the night -- instead of saying, ‘Ok, can we re-approach that' – saying, ‘Ok, let's reopen the conversation on the numbers.' You know that is maddening. At some point this has to come to a close.”

Durbin said the Senate is digging in its heels at $38 billion. The fact that Boehner asked for more money would hint that abortion isn't really the sticking point, but Democratic aides say the issue isn't money. “If it were a matter for a couple more billion in cuts in exchange for them dropping Title X, don't you think we would've done that by now?” an aide said.

For those dear readers wondering how heinous Title X must be that Republicans would risk shutting down the federal government to get its stain removed from federal statutes, well...

The Title X Family Planning program ["Population Research and Voluntary Family Planning Programs" (Public Law 91-572)], was enacted in 1970 as Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. The Title X program is designed to provide access to contraceptive services, supplies and information to all who want and need them. By law, priority is given to persons from low-income families.

The GOP is the party of the sick and twisted. And misogyny. Don't forget that.

Labels: , ,


'Cause I could use some warm weather, and we all could use some Janis.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Brokedown Palace

Transforming the health care system = screwing seniors and the disabled

The only thing "bold" about Paul Ryan's "plan" is the type size of the fawning headlines:

House Republican aides said the budget blueprint to be issued by the chairman of the Budget Committee, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, would slice more than $5 trillion from projected federal spending in the coming decade. Health care accounts for much of the savings.

But while saving large sums for the federal government, the proposals on Medicaid and Medicare could shift some costs to beneficiaries and to the states.

Under the proposal, Medicaid would be transformed into a block grant, with a lump sum of federal money given to the states to care for low-income people. States would be given more discretion over use of the money than they have under the current federal-state partnership.

As Ezra Klein notes, it's not as if the states have these brilliant plans to fundamentally lower health care costs -- innovations that the iron fist of the federal government has prevented them from putting in place.

Medicaid is cheap. Too cheap, as many health care providers simply won't accept Medicaid patients because the reimbursement isn't worth it.

I suppose it would be too much to ask for Democrats -- in particular the president -- to point out that this does nothing to solve long term deficits other than to put more of the responsibility for addressing it on the backs of those least able to do so.


Weblog Commenting by Site Meter