A Tune For Sean Bielat

October 24, 2010

Even though at least Bielat is a major in the Marine Reserve, this still qualifies as a moment of idiocy (though it does give me an excuse to embed this video – wonder if Bielat takes it seriously?).

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Monday Mashup Part One (5/3/10)

May 3, 2010

  • 1) Are you as under-whelmed by the entry of billionaire speculator Jeff Greene into the Florida Senate race as I am?

    As the Murdoch Street Journal tells us here, Greene made a fortune on credit default swaps against the collapsing Florida housing market; also, somewhat astutely I think, Greene had previously donated to the campaign of real Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek (here).

    Oh, and I got a kick out of the Journal highlighting the fact that Meek is supposedly a “high roller” because he has $3.8 million in campaign funds; gee, wouldn’t it have been “fair and balanced,” as it were, if they pointed out that presumptive Repug nominee Marco Rubio raised very nearly that amount in the first quarter alone (here)?

    Also, the fact that Greene has brought on board DLC Dems Joe Trippi and especially Doug Schoen tells you all you need to know about Greene’s allegiances (didn’t Terry McAuliffe try this in Virginia, ultimately helping to elect Repug Bob McDonnell as governor?).

  • 2) Also, I’m glad some news organization somewhere on this planet is calling out Laura Bush for that claim that she was supposedly poisoned in Germany in 2007 (here)…

    We see absolutely no evidence to support (these allegations) at all,” said Christian Ploeger, a spokesman for the Fundus Group that owns the Grand Hotel Heiligendamm in northern Germany where the Bushes stayed for a G8 summit.

    “The food was checked by security staff,” he said.

    “I suspect that this may be just to try and sell more copies of the book.”

    Word to that, yo (and how disgusting is it for her to make a charge like that when, for example, the enemies of our ol’ buddy Vlad Putin routinely seemed to be ingesting exotic chemicals that ultimately killed them – I mean, when they weren’t falling out of buildings to their deaths, that is?).

    Oh, and speaking of the former first couple, just when you thought that only David Broder was concocting the dreaded “Bush bounce” stories, I give you this.

  • 3) Finally, I’m scratching my head over this bit of Old Gray Lady wankery from John Harwood (here)…

    Bush administration officials had multiple arguments for war with Iraq. But to anchor their public case, Paul D. Wolfowitz, the former deputy secretary of defense, once explained, “We settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction.”

    For similar reasons, Republicans accused Mr. Obama and fellow Democrats of perpetuating bank bailouts through their proposal for shutting down failing Wall Street institutions. Though the plan explicitly aimed to prevent bailouts, Republicans seized on potential loopholes in hopes of capitalizing on public resentment.

    Senator Bob Corker questioned fellow Republicans’ arguments, helping shift debate toward issues like Senator Blanche Lincoln’s derivatives spinoff plan.

    But Mr. Obama called that argument “cynical and deceptive,” and Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, publicly questioned its credibility. Senate Republican leaders could not hold rank-and-file members against beginning floor debate, especially as Democrats signaled willingness to compromise on disputed provisions.

    OK, the last paragraph is pretty much rooted in the real world, so I think that’s OK. However, the line about “Democrats…perpetuating bank bailouts through their proposal for shutting down Wall Street institutions” is factually wrong.

    As noted here…

    STEPHANIE DHUE, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Republicans oppose this idea of a bail-out fund, saying it will institutionalize “too big to fail.”

    FRANK: Well, there is no bail-out fund. Your use of the phrase, frankly, ought to make Mitch McConnell happy, because there is no bail-out fund. A bail-out fund suggests that there is money that is going to help an institution.

    DHUE: So we should call it a “dissolution fund”?

    FRANK: Yes, it is — actually, it is a “funeral expenses fund.” And it’s a dissolution fund, which is, in fact, what we do call it.

    A bail-out fund suggests that you take money from the tax-payers and give it to institutions that have screwed up to keep them alive. None of that applies to our fund. In the first place, what it is is money that is raised from financial institutions, not from the tax-payers. Secondly, it can only be spent to help put the institution to death. What we do in this bill, first of all, is to say that unlike the current law, the regulators don’t have to pay — they don’t have to choose between paying all of the debts and none of the debts. They can pay only those debts of an ongoing — of an institution that are necessary to avoid a collapse.

    But there is no bail-out. There is no public money. And more importantly, the institution is dead. Not a penny can be spent until the shareholders lose everything, the CEO is fired, the board of directors is fired, the company is basically dissolved.

    Of course, since Senate Democrats lack the spine of House Democrats, the fund was dropped, as noted here; also, for reasons that utterly escape me, President Obama bought into the wingnut talking point that the fund would be used for bailouts, when, as Barney Frank already pointed out, no such thing would have occurred.

    It should also be noted that the whole “bailout fund” talking point has been echoed everywhere by our corporate media, including former Bushco flak Dana Perino here, who defended the GOP’s actions on financial reform, saying the party was “leading” (as noted here, though, this is one of many topics about which she is not an expert – claims from the prior post include misinformation about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the entire question of whether or not our economy was even in a recession as far as she knew while her boss’s term in office mercifully concluded).

    And just to make sure that Perino’s misinformation is current on financial matters, I give you this also.

    Oh, and one more thing, Harwood – Iraq’s WMD were never found (apparently it is necessary for me to remind you of that).


  • And Another Frank Luntz Talking Point Dies

    April 26, 2010

    Barney Frank and Andrea Mitchell discuss the latest phony Repug claim, this time that the Dem-sponsored bank reform bill is really a bailout bill (more here).


    Tuesday Mashup (3/30/10)

    March 30, 2010

  • 1) I must tell you that I came across something that was utterly hilarious in the Op-Ed section of the Bucks County Courier Times today.

    Editorial Page Editor Guy Petroziello published a letter in which he wrote that the paper could not publish letters in favor of health care reform and thanking U.S. House Rep Patrick Murphy who voted for the law because Petroziello believed that the letters were orchestrated by the Democratic National Committee, and “we cannot publish letters that are part of an organized campaign” (he also pointed out that the paper’s editorial submission policy, as stated in the Op-Ed section, does not allow publishing of thank you notes; he made it sound as if he was making an exception to the policy by publishing any thank-you letters to Murphy at all).

    Which begs the question – is Petroziello actually naïve enough to believe that anti-Murphy letters actually aren’t part of an organized campaign also?

    Check out PA Water Cooler or (especially) BucksRight every so often, Guy. Right-wing social networking is very much alive in this state and can easily lend itself to letter-writing campaigns also. Besides, when you get about a hundred letters all complaining about a “Patrick Murphy/Pelosi/Reid” axis, “Obama-care,” “taking over one-sixth of our economy,” “trillion-dollar tax hike” and (in particular) “tort reform to lower health care costs,” as well as everyone complaining that Patrick Murphy didn’t hold an in-person town hall so the teabaggers could stage their antics, then I definitely do not believe that you are talking an organic phenomenon, however much you may believe to the contrary. And those letters apparently run into no obstacles at all before they are printed.

    Also, in the right-wingnuttia department, J.D. Mullane (in between recycling columns as to whether or not college is “necessary”) opined as follows on the subject of someone at a Burger King who, it is alleged, recently viewed porn on a PC provided at one of their eateries (the company’s defense is that it blocks porn sites and the individual was reading an E-mail attachment, or something)…

    What’s the big deal, when even former Sen. John Edwards has a sex tape – and he could have been president of the United States.

    I’m the last person who is going to defend the lies and stupidity of John Edwards, but as noted here, his mistress Rielle Hunter acknowledged that she created the tape (I don’t know if Edwards ever consented to the recording, for the record, not that it really matters much I suppose). And as nearly as I can tell, the tape traveled in one way or another between Hunter and former Edwards campaign staffer (and tell-all book author) Andrew Young. To my knowledge, Edwards never “had” the tape.

    If you’re going to shamelessly demagogue as you attack Dems, J.D., at least go to the trouble of getting your facts straight.

  • 2) And if that isn’t enough yuks for you, Pantload Media’s Helen Smith tells us here how Jeff Goldstein and others of the right-wing world of bizarro reality should deal with “the Left’s disrespect and lack of empathy.”

    This is what Goldstein said when Ben Domenech, co-founder of the blog Red State, was nailed in 2006 on allegations of plagiarism after Domenech was given a forum for his diatribes at the Washington Post…

    Ben has owned up to his mistakes. He has, as I anticipated he would, taken that most difficult first step to rehabilitating his credibility. Now it’s time for other folks to do the same: Molly Ivins; Larry Tribe; Stephen Ambrose; Dan Rather; Jason Leopold; Joe Biden; Micah Wright; Ward Churchill; Eason Jordan; CNN’s agreement with Saddam’s Iraq; Joe Wilson; Steve Erlanger—we’re looking at you.

    And of course, Goldstein provided no citations for his charges (and as Atrios points out, historian Stephen Ambrose died in 2002).

    I report, you decide.

  • 3) And finally, N. Gregory Mankiw appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times and told us the following (here)…

    When I was chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005, I spoke openly about the need to reform regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I did not know when or how these government-sponsored enterprises would come crashing down, but I thought they posed undue risks for the economy and for taxpayers.

    I was not alone in that judgment. While working on the issue, I consulted privately with an economist who had held a high-ranking position in the Clinton administration. He shared precisely my concerns, as did Alan Greenspan, who was then the Fed chairman.

    I would say that this exchange between Greenspan and Henry Waxman, then head of the House Oversight Committee speaks volumes (deflating Greenspan’s “magical thinking” on the markets).

    Continuing with Mankiw…

    Why was nothing done (about reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)? Many members of Congress were worried less about financial fragility than about expanding access to homeownership. Moreover, lobbyists from these companies assured Congress that there was no real problem, while the sheer complexity of these institutions made it hard for legislators to appreciate the enormity of the risks.

    I recount this story not because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were the main cause of the recent financial crisis — they were only one element — but because it shows the kind of problem we’ll encounter on a larger scale as we reform oversight of the financial system.

    I have to reluctantly point out that Mankiw is correct when he says that he warned of risks to so-called government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs (here, primarily Fannie and Freddie…of course, Mankiw cheered the deficit and offshoring at the same time also, but those are subjects for another day). The problem, as noted in this Wikipedia article about Congressman Barney Frank, is as follows…

    In 2003, while the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, Frank opposed a Bush administration proposal, in response to accounting scandals, for transferring oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from Congress and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to a new agency that would be created within the Treasury Department. The proposal, supported by the head of Fannie Mae, reflected the administration’s belief that Congress “neither has the tools, nor the stature” for adequate oversight. Frank stated, “These two entities…are not facing any kind of financial crisis…. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”[50] Conservative groups criticized Frank for campaign contributions totaling $42,350 between 1989 and 2008. They claim the donations from Fannie and Freddie influenced his support of their lending programs, and say that Frank did not play a strong enough role in reforming the institutions in the years leading up to the Economic crisis of 2008.[51] In 2006 a Fannie Mae representative stated in SEC filings that they “did not participate in large amounts of these non-traditional mortgages in 2004 and 2005.” [52]In response to criticism from conservatives, Frank said, “In 2004, it was Bush who started to push Fannie and Freddie into subprime mortgages, because they were boasting about how they were expanding homeownership for low-income people. And I said at the time, ‘Hey—(a) this is going to jeopardize their profitability, but (b) it’s going to put people in homes they can’t afford, and they’re gonna lose them.’” [10]

    So Bushco, including Mankiw, wanted to further remove Fannie and Freddie from visibility by sticking them in Treasury away from congressional oversight because they were supposedly in trouble, and pushed them towards higher risk home mortgages at the same time to make sure they would be in trouble.

    And here is something else to consider (from Wikipedia)…

    Frank further stated that “during twelve years of Republican rule no reform was adopted regarding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2007, a few months after I became the Chairman, the House passed a strong reform bill; we sought to get the [Bush] administration’s approval to include it in the economic stimulus legislation in January 2008; and finally got it passed and onto President Bush’s desk in July 2008. Moreover, “we were able to adopt it in nineteen months, and we could have done it much quicker if the [Bush] administration had cooperated.”[54]

    Also, I thought this post was amusing, in which Mankiw claimed that people with “good genes” make lots of money and pass their intelligence off to their kids who then get high SAT scores.

    And if they’re really lucky, they get a column in the Sunday Times from which they can create partisan mythology about once or twice a month.


  • A Little Too “Green” For Our Economic Recovery?

    March 26, 2009

    cheech_and_chong_8gam04
    So apparently, President Obama ruled out the possibility of legalizing marijuana as a means of job creation in his online “town hall” meeting earlier today, as noted here.

    “This was a fairly popular question — we want to make sure it was answered. The answer is no. I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy,” he said to laughter and applause from the live East Room audience of union members, teachers, business leaders and others.

    It seems part of the popularity of marijuana questions was fueled by NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which urged people to vote for questions supporting the legalization of cannabis in a posting on its Web site.

    “Rather than rebuff the public’s calls for taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol, the new administration ought to be embracing it,” Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML, said in an e-mail. “According to two recent polls — one by Zogby and a separate California field poll — a majority of west coast voters support regulating cannabis like alcohol. This is not a ‘laughing’ matter.”

    First of all, Zogby polls aren’t really reliable (I’ll defer to Markos Moulitsas of The Daily Kos who can give a much more substantive explanation on this than I could). Second, this would concern me if the Obama Administration were inclined to try and overrule how states such as Oregon regulate the availability of cannabis as a means of medical therapy for cancer patients; this isn’t going to happen because he has already said the federal government won’t interfere (though that didn’t stop “the party of states’ rights” under Bushco from wreaking pointless havoc on this question).

    Third, can you imagine the field day Drudge, Fix Noise and their brethren would have if Obama gave even the slightest hint that he was promoting pot? And I’m not saying that should be the barometer for every decision, but that battle, if Obama ever chooses to fight it (and I don’t think he does), is one for another time and place.

    As I read about Obama’s response and the attendant media dustup, however, it seems that the question of legalizing pot versus decriminalizing it is getting blurred.

    With this is mind, this tells us about a bill introduced by Barney Frank and Ron Paul that would have eliminated federal penalties for the personal use of about 100 grams or less of pot (about 3.5 ounces) that died in the 110th Congress (a good idea, I think – pointless to waste precious law enforcement resources trying to prosecute someone “taking a toke” – as noted here, it would have led to the decriminalization of marijuana as opposed to the legalization, which is where your humble narrator stands on the subject). Also, this story provides background on the whole question of whether pot is a “gateway” to harder drugs, a “chicken versus the egg” conundrum that I don’t think will ever really be solved.

    And in other news involving potentially addictive substances, this bobcat walks into a bar…no, really.

    Update: I thought this was a good clarification.

    Update 3/31/09: I’ve never favored the legalization of drugs, but I have to give Jack Cafferty credit here for holding up our failed drug policies before “the cold light of day” – definitely something to think about.


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