Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It is what it is

Sully: So Liz Is Afraid Of Rachel 
But will use Sean as a propaganda vehicle. Like father like daughter. Cowardice is always the flip-side of bullies.
Atrios: Huckaboom
I think one of the most interesting moments of the presidential primary season came when the online Right and plenty of elite conservative commentators had a collective freakout about the possibility of Huckabee as their candidate. How exactly that squares with the Palin worship I don't quite understand, but keep that in mind as we watch the unfolding conservative movement crackup..
 No More Mister Nice Blog
Let the Witch Hunts Begin!

via digby:
To me, now more than ever, the conservative movement must purge itself of those in its “leadership” who are not worthy of the cause they claim to champion. Over the past year I have begun to suspect that David Keene, the head of the American Conservative Union and the Chairman of CPAC (the largest annual gathering of conservatives) may fit into this category.
This is starting to look like a repeat of the early chapters of Thomas Franks' What's the Matter With Kansas. That's the part where the rank and file Conservatives--the secretaries and the holy rollers--stopped taking marching orders from the upper class, corporatist, Republicans and took over the party from underneath. That was good for the Republican Party for a while since it gave them an energized base. But since party identification has fallen to its lowest level ever, and they are splitting off between social conservatives and small government conservatives its not clear that this will still be a winning strategy nationally. In fact, its not going to be until the social conservatives free themselves of the corporatists and reach out sucessfully to hispanics and blacks, or the corporatists free themselves of the social conservatives and reach out sucessfully to everyone else. As long as they are locked in a struggle to control the same base its like watching two alligators clawing at each other as they spiral down to a watery death. Yay.

John Cole: Makes Sense To Me 
Not seeing a problem here:
President Obama is working systematically to marginalize the most powerful forces behind the Republican Party, setting loose top White House officials to undermine conservatives in the media, business and lobbying worlds. With a series of private meetings and public taunts, the White House has targeted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest-spending pro-business lobbying group in the country; Rush Limbaugh, the country’s most-listened-to conservative commentator; and now, with a new volley of combative rhetoric in recent days, the insurance industry, Wall Street executives and Fox News. President Obama is working systematically to marginalize the most powerful forces behind the Republican Party, setting loose top White House officials to undermine conservatives in the media, business and lobbying worlds.
Considering Rush Limbaugh and the lunatics at Fox are unstable and dishonest and an actual threat to the country, and the Wall Street execs almost brought down the world economy, the only thing I can say about this strategy is “MORE OF THIS, PLEASE.” Even if it gives Jake Tapper and company the vapors.
John Cole: Fred Hiatt’s Nuts 
Today’s guest voice is Bill Donohue of the Catholic League:
There are many ways cultural nihilists are busy trying to sabotage America these days: multiculturalism is used as a club to beat down Western civilization in the classroom; sexual libertines seek to upend the cultural order by attacking religion; artists use their artistic freedoms to mock Christianity; Hollywood relentlessly insults people of faith; activist left-wing legal groups try to scrub society free of the public expression of religion; elements in the Democratic party demonstrate an animus against Catholicism; and secular-minded malcontents within Catholicism and Protestantism seek to sabotage their religion from the inside.
Donohue works his way through the usual enemies list- radical gays, Jesse Jackson, secularist, Hollywood jews, Democrats, etc.
I’m too lazy to go through Donohue’s list of appalling behavior, as it is too long and ugly to recount it all, but most recently he was heard comparing Obama to David Duke. There really is no one too crazy or vile to get an op-ed printed at the Washington Post.
Benen: ONE IN FIVE....
Perhaps the most striking result in the Washington Post/ABC News poll released yesterday had to do with the relative size of the parties: "Only 20 percent of adults identify themselves as Republicans, little changed in recent months, but still the lowest single number in Post-ABC polls since 1983."
Newt Gingrich was asked about the number, and blasted the poll. ABC News polling director Gary Langer had a compelling response.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had some pretty harsh criticism of our latest poll today, charging in a radio interview that it was "deliberately rigged." He's entitled, of course, to his opinion. But not to a distortion of the facts.
What's his gripe? Gingrich made the comment on our Salt Lake City affiliate, KSL-AM, when asked about our finding that only 20 percent of Americans now identify themselves as Republicans, the fewest since September 1983 in ABC News/Washington Post polls. His reply:
"Well, it tells me first of all that the poll's almost certainly wrong. It's fundamentally different from Rasmussen. It's fundamentally different from Zogby. It's fundamentally different from Gallup. It's a typical Washington Post effort to slant the world in favor of liberal Democrats."
We've heard it before, from both sides: Democrats jump on data they don't like, Republicans do the same. The reality is that this poll, as all our work, was produced independently and with great care, including the highest possible methodological standards. And contrary to Gingrich, it happens to be in accord with most other recent good-quality surveys measuring political partisanship.
And that's really the key here. The latest CBS News poll found 22% identify themselves as Republicans. The latest AP poll found 21%. Ipsos/McClatchy put the number at 19%. Gallup had the highest total for the GOP, at 27%, but the Pew Forum study had it at 23%, while NBC/WSJ found 18%.
Average those together, and we find about 21% of the public are self-identified Republicans. What did the Post/ABC find? 20%.
Are there poll outliers that deserve skepticism? Absolutely, but this doesn't appear to be one of them.
Gingrich may not like the results, but that doesn't make them wrong, and it certainly doesn't make the poll "slanted" or "deliberately rigged." There's no conspiracy necessary: the Republican brand is suffering badly, and it yet to recover from the Bush/Cheney era.
 YglesiasUFO Conspiracy Theories More Popular Than Congressional GOP 
The numbers on the public option in the new WaPo/ABC poll got all the press yesterday, but there’s other interesting stuff. For example, just 19 percent of the country trusts congressional Republicans to make good decisions:

Confidence in Obama is not sky-high, but confidence in the opposition is rock-bottom. By way of contrast, 37 percent of the population believes the US government has had secret contact with extra-terrestrials.
Meyerson (WaPost): Who's afraid of the free market?
As everybody knows, the two biggest battles on Capitol Hill -- reforming health care and regulating Wall Street -- have unleashed massive campaigns from the enemies of free markets.
The Obama administration and congressional liberals, right? Guess again.
It's health insurers and big banks that are fighting against having their products displayed on open markets, where buyers might be able to find better (and more comprehensible) deals, or are resisting reforms that would open those markets to more competition. Neither the health-care industry nor Wall Street banking is a notably competitive sector these days. Indeed, both are becoming less competitive. And they want to keep things that way.
In more than 30 states, five or fewer health insurance companies control three-quarters of the market (in Alabama, one company controls 90 percent). And mergers among health insurers are at an all-time high this year, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. Worse yet, more and more businesses are declining to offer health insurance to employees (60 percent offered benefits this year, down from 69 percent in 2000 and 63 percent last year, according to an annual Kaiser Family Foundation study). Increasingly, individuals will have to shop for insurance in markets that are steadily less competitive.
President Obama and congressional liberals believe that one way to help Americans get the best deal for health coverage is to establish insurance exchanges where consumers can compare plans online. They further believe that merely establishing an exchange in an oligopolistic market isn't enough; the way to ensure true competition is to create a public option concerned less with preserving an industry-wide profit margin than with offering Americans a better deal.
Over the past two weeks, one major poll after another has shown that the public supports the public option by a wide margin. Does that mean that three out of five Americans, Barack Obama and most congressional Democrats are really closet socialists? Probably not. It means that they support consumer choice, informed shopping and genuine competition in the health-care sector. The leading opponent of which is our health insurance industry, which does just fine without them.
A similar dynamic characterizes congressional efforts to regulate Wall Street. Last week the House Financial Services Committee took up the question of regulating derivatives. It crafted a bill that would enable the five banks with 95 percent of all U.S.-bank derivative holdings (J.P. Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup) to keep much of their business off the exchange the Obama administration proposed establishing so that investors buying derivatives could compare the prices and risks of the offerings and regulators could know when these deals threatened to topple the economy (as they did last year). By keeping these products off an exchange, the banks can (and do) collect considerable fees every time they sell such offerings -- fees that would decline if deals closed on a competitive exchange.
These fees contribute heftily to the mammoth quarterly profits that Goldman and J.P. Morgan announced this month. It's not as if banks are profiting from deals that are jump-starting the real economy, after all. They're not raking in dough from funding the next Google or Apple: A report from the National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers forecast venture capital investments this year at $15 billion to $20 billion, down from $30 billion in each of the past two years.
So whence their profits? Partly, they're a consequence of the increasing concentration of finance. The profitable big banks -- chiefly, J.P. Morgan and Goldman -- "are able to charge more for all kinds of services because companies need banks and investment banks now, and there are fewer strong ones to help them," Douglas Elliott of the Brookings Institution recently told the New York Times. David Viniar, Goldman's chief financial officer, recently admitted as much. "The best environment for Goldman Sachs is very, very strong global economic growth, and that's not what we're in right now," he said last week. "But you know, our market shares have improved, and I think we're getting a bigger share of a smaller pie."
They want to keep it that way. Which is why the banks have lobbied so hard to keep many derivative trades off a public exchange.
So who's for competition and open exchanges? Who's for markets, instead of opaque products sold behind closed doors? Not big business, at least in the health-care and finance sectors. They've got few competitors and sell products for which consumers can't easily discern if they're paying a fair price. Why muck with that?
The market champions here are the president, liberals in Congress and the American public. Advocates for socialism? More like advocates for shoppers.
In his new column yesterday, National Review's Rich Lowry slams President Obama for investing too much time in condemning his predecessor. There are a few problems with the argument.
Republicans needn't trouble themselves to nominate a presidential candidate in 2012. No matter what, Pres. Barack Obama will be running against George W. Bush.
Bush will be Obama's eternal foil. At this rate, when Obama writes his post-presidential memoir, it will be titled: An Audacious Presidency, or How I Saved America from That Bastard Bush. His presidential library will have a special fright-house wing devoted to Bush's misrule. He will mutter in his senescence about 43, like the Ancient Mariner about his albatross.
Obama clearly wants Bush to be the Hoover to his FDR. Since his predecessor left office with 34 percent job approval, Obama understandably feels moved to scorn and berate him. But Obama's perpetual campaign against Bush is graceless, whiny, and tin-eared. Must the leader of the free world -- if Obama still accepts that quaint formulation -- always reach for the convenient excuse?
To bolster his case about Obama's constant, graceless whining about Bush, Lowry pointed to exactly zero examples. The column didn't include a single instance of the president blaming his predecessor for anything -- not even one quote showing Obama "scorning" or "berating" George W. Bush. Lowry added that President Obama "impugns his immediate predecessor with classless regularity," and backed that up with absolutely nothing.
If these cheap and ugly attacks were so common, shouldn't Lowry point to one or two to make his case? Something?
The reason, I suspect, that Lowry levies the charge with evidence is that there is none. Lowry has it backwards -- Obama has shown considerable restraint about blaming the previous administration for the crises and fiascos it left for the nation to overcome.
Last night, for example, the president delivered a couple of partisan, campaign-style speeches at DNC receptions in New York. The combined total of references to "Bush," "my predecessor," the "previous administration," etc. was zero. Obama talked about the challenges we're all dealing with, but even in partisan speeches to partisan audiences, he didn't mention the failed recent president at all. Obama made an oblique reference to "what was waiting for us when we began this presidency," but if Lowry thinks that constitutes graceless, classless scorn, his rhetorical standards need reevaluation.
Lowry referenced the president's get-a-mop speech in San Francisco last week, when Obama mentioned efforts to clean up "somebody else's mess," but again, this is indirect, circuitous rhetoric. To hear Lowry tell it, the president can barely go a day without using George W. Bush as some kind of pinata. This has no basis in reality.
I'm of the opinion that President Obama doesn't blame Bush nearly enough. Bush really is a Hoover for modern times. Nearly every single problem this administration has faced, and continues to face, stems from Bush's failures, incompetence, and mismanagement. The moment President Obama was sworn in, he had to deal with an economy in free fall, soaring unemployment, a collapsing U.S. auto industry, a health care system in crisis, a housing crisis, a looming global warming catastrophe, two costly wars, an enormous budget deficit, a $10 trillion debt, a pessimistic electorate, a Guantanamo fiasco, and a global landscape in which the United States had lost much of its global prestige.
And even under these circumstances, Obama bites his lip, refrains from blaming Bush, and rolls up his sleeves to clean up the mess(es) he inherited. Lowry has it backwards.

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