Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A GOP completely out of touch,...

This is how, even in states like Oklahoma, the GOP is losing the votes of an entire generation, and probably two.

OK GOP Sen. James Inhofe knows there's no global warming because Oklahoma just had a spring snowstorm.

Josh has the video.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

Turning off the spicket

The WSJ reports today,
It was unclear what legal options the government can pursue to stop the bonus payments. Monday afternoon, a White House official said the Treasury Department will use a planned $30 billion infusion into AIG to compel the company to repay the bonuses promised to employees of its financial-products group, which is responsible for selling the exotic financial instruments that brought the company to near-collapse.

The infusion, announced March 2, won't be finalized until the company and the Treasury work up repayment options, the official said. The bonuses to the financial-products division were "found to be completely unacceptable given that AIG is already surviving on taxpayer funds," the official said.

Liquidate AIG already

The outrage du jour this weekend and spilling into today is the bonuses AIG is giving their executives who gambled with the entire Western banking system and lost. TPM has been all over the story and the President weighted in this morning.

This story and the AIG bailout has gotten beyond absurd. I previously explained the big issue involved with AIG necessitating the bailout -- in short, the banking system of the entire Western world is infected with their credit default swaps which are the only things keeping many mega banks solvent.

But enough is enough. The American taxpayers own 80% of AIG and with the exception of the financial services sector, AIG remains a very profitable and lucrative company. So it's time to cut the head off AIG management by firing Liddy and the rest of executive management, and liquidate. Sell off all profitable sectors to create a fund to backstop the credit default swaps upon which the international banking system is dependent. This fund will clearly have to be supported by the Treasury but that is already the case. Tell the EU that banks on their side of the Atlantic are going to be thrown overboard unless the EU participates in the backstop -- after all, AIG is bankrupt and their CDS are worthless.

Enough is enough.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gov Palin hops back on the Gravy Train.

Palin's Back to Lovin' Her Some Earmarks,
After spending sigificant time and airspace bashing the earmark process as the running mate of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin requested an unspecified number of earmarks in the omnibus spending bill, Jonathan Stein and David Corn report at Mother Jones.

One hundred earmarks worth $144 million are headed for Alaska, Taxpayers for Common Sense says. That works out to $209.71 per state resident -- more money, per capita, than any other state.

"We have drastically, drastically reduced our earmark request since I came into office," Palin told ABC News' Charles Gibson last year after he pointed out that Alaska received $231 per person in earmarks in 2008.

"The abuse of earmarks, it's un-American, it's undemocratic, and it's not going to be accepted in a McCain-Palin administration," she said. "Earmark abuse will stop."
In fairness to Gov Palin, $209/per person is less than the previous $231. So, strictly speaking, they have reduced their requests for pork.

Sad news

It seems that Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston, the putative father of Bristol's baby, have decided to call it quits.

The couple, pictured here during happier times, were a part of what long-time McCain staffers affectionately referred to as the "Wasilla Hillbillies".

Only last year, we were all promised these two crazy kids would be wed in November. Unfortunately, McCain/Palin lost the election and with that loss went the wedding plans.

Bristol, now 18, like her mother is an outspoken advocate for abstinence only sex education. It's rumored that Levi is reconsidering his position on the subject.

Jim Cramer on the Daily Show

Jon Stewart's interview with CNBC's Jim Kramer was amazing.

What does it say about the state of modern journalism that only comedian Jon Stewart of Comedy Central is willing to call out the charlatans of CNBC.

You have to watch this.

(Note: Part 2 has now been added. Due to heavy server load you may have some problems viewing the video. Just try later.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ross Douthat moves to the New York Times

I'm pleasantly stunned to learn that The Atlantic's Ross Douthat is moving to the New York Times to replace Bill Kristol as a conservative voice on their OP/ED page.

Ross and Reihan Salam co-authored "Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream"which by all accounts is the smartest book written about Republican politics in a generation.

The not yet 30 year-old knows what a modern GOP should look like, and must look like, if it is to survive as a national party and the NYT could not have made a better choice.

Kristol's short tenor at The Times was a disaster from his very first column resulting in the first of 4 corrections The Times was obligated to publish over 12 months due to Kristol's habit of making up facts to support his views. Kristol also had a habit of writing about political matters in which he was personally involved without disclosing his interest, much in the mold of George Will. But Kristol is no George Will and while making up facts might be SOP at the American Prospect, not so much at The New York Times.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Daily show takes on CNBC

Too many people confuse the stock market with the economy, and the folks at CNBC are especially bad at this. They are also especially bad at the advice they dole out, but that's another matter.

Another priceless moment from the Daily Show.

The GOP goes urban

ViaTa-Nehisi Coates,

Cheney ordered to testify under oath

This will be very interesting. After 9-11 Cheney's Secret Service detail had a habit of arresting protesters who got too close to the Veep or said anything to him.

Here is an article from the Rocky Mountain News (RIP) from 2006 telling the story of Steve Howard (and John Blair who's crime was having a protest sign near a Cheney event).

On June 16, 2006, Steve was walking his 7 year old son to a camp at Beaver Creek CO when he discovered the Veep was present shaking hands and greeting admirers at an AEI forum. Steve walked over to the crowd, shook hands with Cheney and told him, "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible." He then walked away unmolested until he was arrested 10 minutes later by the Secret Service and the local police for "assaulting" Dick Cheney and hauled off to the county jail. He was released later that day and within a few weeks, the charges were dropped for obvious reasons.

Steve filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Secret Service agents involved and Cheney as Veep. Depositions taken in the lawsuit of the agents involved have apparently been ugly, with the agents turning on each other and accusing their colleagues of unethical and perhaps illegal activity in the arrest of Howard. The NYTs has details here. The Times has also posted some witness depo transcripts here and here.

Cheney, who is represented by the DoJ, has successfully resisted giving a deposition in the case, but no more. The NYTs reports today that Cheney has now been compelled by a Federal District Court judge to give a video taped deposition in the case, under oath. I'm sure the DoJ will appeal the ruling, but it's hard to imagine that the plaintiff would not have a right to the testimony of a party to a law suit.

Sounds like it's past time to settle this lawsuit which makes me wonder if one or more of the parties are just being unreasonable.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

David Frum's turn to take on Limbaugh

The GOP Jesse Jackson?

Frum get's it right,
Here’s the duel that Obama and Limbaugh are jointly arranging:

On the one side, the president of the United States: soft-spoken and conciliatory, never angry, always invoking the recession and its victims. This president invokes the language of “responsibility,” and in his own life seems to epitomize that ideal: He is physically honed and disciplined, his worst vice an occasional cigarette. He is at the same time an apparently devoted husband and father. Unsurprisingly, women voters trust and admire him.

And for the leader of the Republicans? A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as “losers.” With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence – exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we’re cooperating! Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush’s every rancorous word – we’ll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time.

Rush knows what he is doing. The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant. The better conservatives succeed, the more we become a broad national governing coalition, the more Rush will be sidelined.

But do the rest of us understand what we are doing to ourselves by accepting this leadership? Rush is to the Republicanism of the 2000s what Jesse Jackson was to the Democratic party in the 1980s.
Frum see's Rush as an important part of the GOP coalition, but someone who cannot be the public face of the party.

Too late David.

What I'm most astounded by is what tremendously bad politics this is for the GOP.

Rush Limbaugh is not a popular figure with the American public (his popularity hangs at about 25% making him less popular than Jeremiah Wright) and those who do worship him are dying at an alarming rate. It's obvious what's in this for Rush -- he's getting even more rich -- but what's in this for the GOP? Nothing that I can see. When the GOP runs Washington Rush becomes irrelevant. With the GOP on the outs, Rush cashes in. Rush's base would sooner die than vote for a Democrat, much less a black Democrat. And those voters the GOP does need to win over are more and more alienated everytime Rush wins one of these very public squabbles.

In other words, Rush is laughing all the way to the bank and the GOP continues to shot itself every night on the news.

And in case you were wondering, the Frum lynch mob has already started forming. Frum's been on double-secret probation for some time, and it's likely he will soon have to move to Paris.

The real fight behind Ominibus Spending bill

As almost nothing to do with the pork in the bill, and everything to do with Obama forcing a Government shut-down with a veto.

As you've no doubt heard by now, The $410 Billion Omnibus Spending bill to fund domestic spending for the current fiscal year is "choked full of Pork". Actually, about 2% of the bill are earmarks, 40% of which belong to Republicans including Mitch McConnell's $75 million and Sen Lisa Mukowski's $128M for her oil rich Alaska.

This bill was negotiated between the Dems and Republicans last year -- when it should have been passed -- and held over to this year to avoid a veto from President Bush.

If the bill doesn't pass this week, the Federal Government will shutdown after mid-night Friday night.

Don't get me wrong, I think the pork in the bill stinks and would have voted with Sen McCaskill on McCain's amendment to strip all the pork from the bill.

But those Republicans covered in bacon grease really don't care about the pork.

Republicans want Obama to set the precedent of shutting down the Government in a spending dispute to give them cover to do the same over every single spending bill of his administration.

The White House is of course on to them and has no interest in shutting down the Government over last year's spending bill.

This time next week no one will be talking about this bill.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Warren Buffett sees the big picture

Warren Buffett's annual letter (pdf) to Berkshire Hathaway's shareholders is worth a read in these uncertain times,
In poker terms, the Treasury and the Fed have gone “all in.” Economic medicine that was previously meted out by the cupful has recently been dispensed by the barrel. These once-unthinkable dosages will almost certainly bring on unwelcome aftereffects. Their precise nature is anyone’s guess, though one likely consequence is an onslaught of inflation. Moreover, major industries have become dependent on Federal assistance, and they will be followed by cities and states bearing mind-boggling requests. Weaning these entities from the public teat will be a political challenge. They won’t leave willingly.

Whatever the downsides may be, strong and immediate action by government was essential last year if the financial system was to avoid a total breakdown. Had one occurred, the consequences for every area of our economy would have been cataclysmic. Like it or not, the inhabitants of Wall Street, Main Street and the various Side Streets of America were all in the same boat.

Amid this bad news, however, never forget that our country has faced far worse travails in the past. In the 20th Century alone, we dealt with two great wars (one of which we initially appeared to be losing); a dozen or so panics and recessions; virulent inflation that led to a 21 1? 2% prime rate in 1980; and the Great Depression of the 1930s, when unemployment ranged between 15% and 25% for many years. America has had no shortage of challenges.

Without fail, however, we’ve overcome them. In the face of those obstacles – and many others – the real standard of living for Americans improved nearly seven-fold during the 1900s, while the Dow Jones Industrials rose from 66 to 11,497. Compare the record of this period with the dozens of centuries during which humans secured only tiny gains, if any, in how they lived. Though the path has not been smooth, our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time. It has unleashed human potential as no other system has, and it will continue to do so. America’s best days lie ahead.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Steele apoligizes to Rush

and acknowledges Rush's leadership role in the GOP.

Via Mike Allen,
“My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele said in a telephone interview. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”

“I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t what I was thinking,” Steele said. "It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of people … want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he’s not."

“I’m not going to engage these guys and sit back and provide them the popcorn for a fight between me and Rush Limbaugh,” Steele added. “No such thing is going to happen. … I wasn’t trying to slam him or anything.”
Presumably, Rush will announce tomorrow if Steele can stay on or must step aside.

Limbaugh says Steele should quit

In a Politico interview over the weekend, RNC chair Michael Steele dismissed Limbaugh as an "entertainer" whose show is "incendiary" and "ugly".

Needless to say, This didn't sit well the man who actually calls the dance for the GOP. Rush responded suggesting Steele should quit as RNC chair and going further suggested Steele would not be able to raise the money needed to rebuild the party until he saw things as Rush and his followers do.

Greg Sargent has the details.

Holding executives responsible

Matt Yglesias want's a pound of cash from AIG executives and he makes a good point,
The whole idea of the insurance industry is that if I buy insurance from you, you pay off the claims. Absent ability to pay claims, there’s no business there at all. It’s just fraud. Whether or not it meets the legal standard for fraud, I couldn’t say. But in ordinary language sense, it’s a fraud—you’re selling a service you have no capacity to deliver. And AIG executives made a bunch of money engaged in it. Felix Salmon says: “I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Hank Greenberg was still a billionaire, even as the policies his company wrote have cost the average American household some $1,600. It’s time for his wealth to be confiscated: it might be only a drop in the bucket compared to AIG’s total losses, but it would feel very right.”

I don’t think it would just feel right, it would be right. Thus far, there’s been an extraordinary aversion to actually punishing any of the people responsible. It’s true that most of them are less rich than they once were, but they’re still far richer than most people. And it shouldn’t be that wrecking your company and wrecking the world economy is a good way to become richer than most people.
This new found aversion we seemed to have with accountability and responsibility is just bizarre. A handful or people have literally looted the Western economy and we seem obsessed not only with refusing to hold them accountable, but with also keeping them in place.


The wages of deregulation is AIG

Joe Nocera had an excellent column this weekend explaining the AIG meltdown in plain language.

As you may or may not know, the once AAA rated AIG (an insurance company, by the way) went all in on credit default swaps to insure mortgage-backed securities to the tune of $450 billion none of which was capitalized. And to add insult to injury, everyone knew AIG was taking on these obligations with no capital to back them up, including the regulators.

So why not let AIG fail? Because the banking system of the entire Western World (a real WTF moment) is infected with these mortgage-backed securities insured by AIG.

If AIG failed, $450 billion mortgage-backed securities would suddenly be uninsured. These securities being insured for full value is the only thing giving them any value at all right now. Major banks across Europe and the US would be insolvent if their mortgage-backed securities had to be valued as uninsured.

So, the US Treasury (which is of course the US taxpayer) is literally the dutch boy with his finger stuck in the dike.