Saturday, March 14, 2009

All the News ... 3-14-08

TPM Headline:Franken Team's Closing Argument: Coleman's Case Has Failed

dday on The Democrats We Have
For too long we've heard from Democratic leaders that we just need Democrats, any Democrats, to gain back the majority from Republicans, or we just need a Democrat, any Democrat, in the White House, or we just need a filibuster-proof majority of Democrats, any Democrats, and everything will fall into place. This has always been a ploy to get grassroots financial support, and we are seeing the essential bankruptcy of that ploy today.

When President Obama submitted a budget that predicted passage of a revenue-raising climate change bill, hopes rose that Congress could successfully rein in carbon emissions this year.

But a cap-and-trade climate bill is almost certain to be filibustered by Republicans -- and in a letter delivered to the Senate Budget Committee yesterday, eight Democratic senators joined 25 Republicans to defend the GOP's right to set a 60-vote margin for passing emissions limits.

"We oppose using the budget process to expedite passage of climate legislation," the senators, including eight centrist Democrats, wrote in their missive.

... .... ....

I've been reading G.Calvin Mackenzie and Robert Weisbrot's The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s, and what jumped out at me is that, while John Kennedy and Barack Obama shared a lot of the same profile at the beginning of their Presidencies - both were cautious centrists who were wary of the left flank of their parties - in Kennedy's case what ultimately led to the eventual policy successes (most of them carried out under Lyndon Johnson) was the strength and ingenuity of the leaders in Congress, who were skilled enough and bold enough to push these changes through. I don't see that kind of urgency in today's Congress. They are perfectly content on the poll-driven margins to fulfill the John Kerry 2004 agenda - stem cell research, SCHIP, half-measures on energy, etc. I don't mean to denigrate these accomplishments. But actually, I do. We have too many problems that have gone unsolved for too long, and it seems like the political muscles among liberals in Congress have completely atrophied. And these hornets have been allowed in the nest, these corporate whores who exist as moles inside the caucus to make sure all this hope and change doesn't hold a hope of changing anything.

Under normal circumstances, these would be debates we could have and struggles we could play out for a year or so. But the string has run out. The time has all but passed. And yet the same elites predominate. If there's an excess of fear out there right now, at least part of it stems from the feeling that these elected men and women are either unable or, more likely, unwilling, to ever do what's necessary, not for prosperity, but for survival.

Think Progress: MSNBC producers told ‘not to incorporate’ Cramer’s Daily Show interview into their programming.
  • Alejandro Says:

    I don’t think they planned on Cramer being that eviscerated.

    It was that devastating.

    It was that discrediting to NBC (GE).

  • Cramer dodges any mention of Jon Stewart interview
    CNBC's Jim Cramer refused to mention his interview with Jon Stewart on Friday's edition of Mad Money.

    "A lot of people are talking about what happened," Cramer explained. "I want to be very clear. Be very clear that although I was clearly outside of my safety zone, I have the utmost respect for this person and for the work that they do, no matter -- no matter how uncomfortable it was to be on. So I want you to take a look at this clip from yesterday of Cramer versus Stewart," he announced.

    Mad Money then cut to video tape from Cramer's appearance on Martha Stewart's show. Cramer never mentioned or showed any clips of his appearance on The Daily Show.
Maybe you're already sick of reading about Jon Stewart's posterizing of CNBC's Jim Cramer -- but in case you're not, Matt Yglesias makes a point that deserves echoing:

It’s worth thinking a bit about the General Electric Corporations news media properties more generally. They hired Phil Donahue, and then fired him when he had the highest ratings on the network because they didn’t like that he was against invading Iraq. . . . [Keith Olbermann's popularity] prompted a huge freakout from their big news stars like Tom Brokaw about how it was injuring their credibility to appear on a network that’s cobranded with a network that features a liberal. Meanwhile, at their other cobranded network, CNBC, they have on air a bunch of frauds. . . . And when someone points the fraud out, the whole GE team circles the wagons to defend Jim Cramer and CNBC. Liberals? That wrecks their credibility. Liars and frauds? That’s great. Go peacock!

As Yglesias concludes pessimistically, "Jon Stewart satirizing it doesn’t really change anything." But I suppose it's helpful example if you're looking to prove to someone how in the so-called liberal media, the best job security lies in saying what rich people want to hear.

Sullivan: The Cavalry Has Arrived?

Geithner was on Charlie Rose earlier this week, Larry Summers just gave a talk at Brookings, and Ben Bernanke is scheduled to appear on 60 Minutes this Sunday, his first TV interview:

Fed chairmen generally don’t grant on-the-record interviews, aiming to avoid settings that could confuse or unsettle markets. Of course, Mr. Bernanke delivers speeches regularly (with audience questions often carried on live TV) and testifies frequently before Congress. Last month, he took questions from reporters for the first time in a public setting in an appearance at the National Press Club. In addition, over the years select quotes from interviews with Mr. Bernanke (that were otherwise off-the-record) have occasionally appeared in news outlets.

After weeks of near silence, it's good to see America's top economic officials describing what's ailing the economy and how they plan to fix it.

Tom Ricks:

The way forward in Afghanistan

Sarah Chayes, one of the more courageous people out there, has laid out a good comprehensive plan for what we should do in Afghanistan. I have a few quibbles -- for example, I don't think the Kabul government ever enjoyed a monopoly on the use of force in the country -- but overall, this is a very impressive document, certainly more thoughtful than anything else I've seen. Funny how people always bellyache about "the interagency," and then one person living in a mud compound in Kandahar produces a cross-government plan.

(Hat tip to one a smart officer in Kandahar on this.)

The story of Iraq as the story of the American presence
Phil Bennett, one of the more astute newspaper editors I've ever met, has a good piece in this coming Sunday's Washington Post about how for Americans, the story of Iraq has become the story of the American presence. He notes that in my new book and others, Iraqis play a very minor role. As readers of's book discussion know, I think his observation is correct.

Tommy R. Franks watch

General Franks may have been even worse a wartime commander than I thought. Readers of my book Fiasco know that I think he got the war in Iraq off on the wrong foot in 2003, believing the war was over when the enemy capital fell. I've just started reading Seth Jones's book on the war in Afghanistan, In the Graveyard of Empires, which someone told me is going to be the Fiasco of that war. I was struck by this observation by Jones that the invasion of Afghanistan also was botched:

Instead of defeating al Qa'ida and the Taliban in 2001, the U.S.-led Coalition merely pushed the core leadership of al Qa'ida and the Taliban out of Afghanistan and into Pakistan. This outcome was not inevitable."

More to come.

TPM headline: Reports: Obama Looking At Opening Channel To Ayatollah Khamenei

TPM: U.S. Drops Use of "Enemy Combatant"

Announcement just out from the Justice Department:

In a filing today with the federal District Court for the District of Columbia, the Department of Justice submitted a new standard for the government's authority to hold detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. The definition does not rely on the President's authority as Commander-in-Chief independent of Congress's specific authorization. It draws on the international laws of war to inform the statutory authority conferred by Congress. It provides that individuals who supported al Qaeda or the Taliban are detainable only if the support was substantial. And it does not employ the phrase "enemy combatant."

Benen sees A STEP UP IN DRUG CZARS....

It was encouraging to hear that President Obama would lower the role "drug czar," downgrading the position from cabinet rank. It's even more encouraging to learn more about Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, the president's choice for the job. Andrew Marantz described the Kerlikowske nomination as "a victory ... for common sense."

Both as a candidate and as president, Obama has repeatedly pledged allegiance to "what works." And most analysts agree that, since its inception in the 1970s, the drug war has not worked. Research suggests that programs like DARE yield almost no benefits, while the medicinal use of marijuana yields many. Anti-drug propaganda has done little or nothing to curb domestic drug abuse, while the international drug trade continues to wreak havoc in key U.S. allies like Afghanistan and Mexico. Meanwhile, the Office of National Drug Control Policy soldiers on, as expensive and ineffective as ever.

If Kerlikowske's record is any indication, he is just the man to clean up this mess. From a personal standpoint, he has experience with the issue: A son from a previous marriage has a history of arrests, some of them drug-related. (This could lead to some awkward questions at his confirmation hearing.) Professionally, his record of lowering crime rates gives him instant credibility. [...]

Kerlikowske is no get-tough-on-drugs zealot. When asked to help design a new police station as police chief in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Kerlikowske recommended making room for a library instead of a jail.

Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marantz he's "cautiously optimistic." Kerlikowske is "likely to be the best drug czar we've seen," he said. "But that's not saying much."

It's not necessarily a high-profile, front-burner issue, but if you're looking for areas in which the Obama administration will offer a clear break with the Bush administration, keep an eye on the new team's emphasis on drug treatment over incarceration, state experimentation on decriminalization, and alternative drug courts.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Repuglicans on Parade 3-13-09

The first item isn't on Repuglicans, but so what?
Gibbs on Stewart/Kramer. Video by JedL

Aravosis: Minority of GOP voters have favorable view of Republican congressional leaders
Maybe they'd be happier with Senator Limbaugh:
Some striking numbers buried in a new Rasmussen Poll show that GOP Congressional leaders are viewed favorably only by a minority.

A minority of Republican voters, that is.

Just 35% of GOP voters have a favorable rating of GOP House leader John Boehner. Only 40% of Republicans view Senate leader Mitch McConnell favorably.

What’s more, these findings are the work of Rasmussen, who critics have accused of tilting their polling to the right.
Most interesting, a majority of Dems view Pelosi and Reid positively.

I wonder why no one likes repuglicans. digby says it's about Principles
I'm pretty sure everyone gets this, but in case you don't, the reason that Governors Rick Perry and Mark Sanford are "refusing" to take the stimulus money is because they are running for president. They are making the bet that the economy will either be very bad, in which case they can run against Obama's socialistic policies which ruined the country --- or that the economy will be off the table as an issue and it won't make any difference. (I would guess they are thinking the first is the most likely.)And since their state legislatures will override their "principled" opposition, they know that they won't actually be responsible for denying people unemployment benefits in the worst recession since the great depression. That's what passes for integrity among Republicans.

Of course, they aren't exactly the first to play this sort of game, are they? The Democrats were faced with a similar dilemma in 2002. The presidential hopeful club had to decide whether to support the Iraq war or risk being called unpatriotic and a "captive of the anti-war left" if they didn't. They all voted for it and none of them made it to the White House. Their calculation was wrong on every level, not the least of which is that it was a cynical, political move that cost many lives. That's something they'll have to live with.

It was obvious at the time that the principled vote was also the smart vote: there was no way any Democrat would win in 2004 if the war was going well --- and if it wasn't, having voted for it was not exactly going to be a selling point. That turned out to be true in both 2004 and 2008. The guy who won was the guy who spoke out against the war at the time. The principled move was also the smart move.

The principled position in this case is for the conservatives to admit that this crisis requires government intervention, but that's obviously not on the menu. But these Republican Governors are being saved from such a dilemma by their legislatures, which don't have the luxury at the moment of taking a cynical political position that will result in actual harm to their constituents. If the economy improves by the next presidential election, it's going to be Morning in America redux and they won't have a chance anyway. They have to bet on failure and this is the only way they can really demonstrate in 2012 that they wouldn't have made the "mistakes" Obama is making is by taking an insane position now and pretending that would have made the difference. I don't know if it will work, even if things are still bad in 2012. But it's probably the only thing they've got since their ideology is so bankrupt they literally can't run on anything real.

Think Progress: McCain Objects To Interior Nominee Because He Once Compared Ronald Reagan To George W. Bush
During a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) threatened to oppose President Obama’s pick deputy secretary of Interior, David Hayes, over comments that Hayes had made about former President Ronald Reagan in a 2006 report for the Progressive Policy Institute. “I will be considering seriously whether I can support your nomination or not,” said McCain.

At the hearing, McCain read aloud from Hayes’ article:

“The conservative political agenda in the West is grounded in hoary stereotypes about the region and its people” and that “out of this conservative world view emerges the stereotypical Western man (and it is unquestionably a ‘he’)—a rugged, gun-toting individualist who fiercely guards every man’s right to drill, mine, log, or do whatever he damn well pleases on the land” and that “Like Ronald Reagan before him, President Bush has embraced the Western stereotype to the point of adopting some of its affectations—the boots, brush-clearing, and get-the-government-off-our-backs bravado.”

Though McCain did not defend Bush, he said that Hayes’ reference to Reagan was “highly offensive.” “You had to throw Reagan in there?” asked McCain after Hayes said he regretted the “overly florid” prose of the article.

McCain has long revered Reagan, even callling himself a “a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution.” But Will Bunch, who recently wrote a book debunking myths about Reagan, notes that “Reagan and much more so Bush really were urban cowboys with a strange obsession for brush clearing that seemed to evaporate the same hour their presidencies expired.” Bunch calls McCain’s threat against Hayes’ nomination both “chilling” and “anti-speech.”


  • Steve Benen:
    I've seen some compelling commentary of late about reconsidering the Senate's "advice and consent" powers, because the confirmation process for deputies and assistant deputies has become rather ridiculous. John McCain seems to be helping this argument along nicely, doesn't he?

    In this case, a long-time Senate veteran is raising questions about a president's nominee to be deputy secretary of Interior because, three years ago, the nominee said something kinda sorta intemperate about Ronald Reagan.

    Even McCain must realize how terribly silly this is.

  • Matthew Yglesias: Brian Beutler reminds us that despite John McCain hissy fit, it’s quite true that Ronald Reagan’s environmental record was bad.

Yglesias: WINEP Says F-22 Deployment Could Facilitate War With Iran

It’s like the sum of all wingnuts:

A report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said that if talks fail to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear program, forward deployment of the F-22 could neutralize the threat. “Only the F-22 can survive in airspace defended by increasingly capable surface-to-air missiles,” said retired Lt. Gen. Mike Dunn, Air Force Association president. […] “Forward deployment of the F-22 could restore the credibility of the military option by indicating that it remains alive,” the report said.

I keep waiting for someone to make the case that war with Iran would be stimulative.

Think Progress: Rep. Bachmann Claims To Have Taken No-Pork Pledge, But Actually Requested $3 Million In Earmarks In 2008

On Fox Business yesterday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) joined the long parade of members of Congress who rail against earmarks while requesting their own. But Bachmann took her hypocrisy a step further, claiming that she has signed an anti-pork pledge:

CLAMAN: How about a no-pork bill? Will that ever be a reality?

BACHMANN: I think it is possible. I took a pledge in my own district. I have not taken earmarks in the last three years that I have been in Congress because the system is so corrupt. It’s possible to make that pledge.

In fact, according to Legistorm, Bachmann has requested 7 earmarks in Fiscal Year 2008 costing tax payers a total of $3,767,600. Some examples:

- $94,000 for Sheriffs Youth Program of MN
- $335,000 for Equipment Acquisition for Northland Medical Center
- $803,000 for Replacement Small Buses, St. Cloud Metro Bus

As MSNBC’s David Shuster noted, Bachmann indeed signed the Club for Growth’s ‘No Earmark’ pledge back in 2008. While she clearly broke this pledge, Bachmann’s name is curiously absent from the list of lawmakers making the same pledge for 2009.

  • As Steve Benen says, While hypocrisy among Republican lawmakers on earmarks is amusing, it's especially funny when Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) does it.

Steve Benen: And finally, remember Sen. David Vitter's (R-La.) airport tantrum? Apparently, the incident is now the subject of a Transportation Security Administration preliminary investigation. I, for one, can't wait for the security-camera footage to go public.

Francification?!? March 12: GOP in Exile: Rachel Maddow explains why Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH, is now firmly against President Obama's budget.

South Carolina may use stimulus after all March 12: Rachel Maddow explains why South Carolina may actually be using the stimulus money for stimulus purposes after all.

Those Wacky Wingnuts 3-13-09

Yglesias asks:
Does Congress Want to Tackle America’s Problems?
When I read stories about Democrats signing letters urging the leadership not to pass cap & trade through budget reconciliation, or whining that Clinton-era tax rates will wreck the economy, or preemptively caving on permit auction, then it’s hard to escape the conclusion that it’s not the administration doing something wrong is that the key members of congress just fundamentally agree with George W. Bush and Mitch McConnell that it doesn’t matter if people die of treatable illness or if the planet ceases to support human life. It’s not, after all, as if any great mystery over how you move legislation that you think is important. Fifty is a smaller number than 60, and it’s easier to get smaller numbers of votes that bigger ones. If these guys have some genius alternative plan of preventing atmospheric carbon from reaching deadly levels, I’m all ears—but if they’re convincing then, again, I would want that plan to pass with a minimum of procedural hurdles. But it seems to me they don’t have any such plan, they just want to keep letting our problems get worse and worse indefinitely, but they don’t have the guts to admit it.
  • TPM: Eight Dem Senators Defend the Right to Filibuster Climate Change
    When President Obama submitted a budget that predicted passage of a revenue-raising climate change bill, hopes rose that Congress could successfully rein in carbon emissions this year.

    But a cap-and-trade climate bill is almost certain to be filibustered by Republicans -- and in a letter delivered to the Senate Budget Committee yesterday, eight Democratic senators joined 25 Republicans to defend the GOP's right to set a 60-vote margin for passing emissions limits.

    "We oppose using the budget process to expedite passage of climate legislation," the senators, including eight centrist Democrats, wrote in their missive.

    Using the procedure of budget reconciliation, which would allow a climate change measure to become law with 50 votes while preventing filibusters, "would circumvent normal Senate practice and would be inconsistent with the administration's goals of bipartisanship, cooperation, and openness," the 33 senators wrote.


    Democrats' reluctance to take advantage of their procedural arsenal to pass climate change and health care this year doesn't mean that both pieces of legislation would necessarily fall to filibusters. But it does mean that Republicans will have significantly more opportunities to insert pro-business provisions into these pivotal bills.

    Late Update: The eight Democratic senators who signed on to the letter are Robert Byrd (WV), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Ben Nelson (NE), Evan Bayh (IN), Mark Pryor (AR), Bob Casey (PA), Carl Levin (MI), and Mary Landrieu (LA).

    *Late Late Update: Baucus has not ruled out reconciliation entirely. As he told the Kaiser Family Foundation last week, "I am doing whatever I can to avoid reconciliation [on health care] and don't take it off the table totally, because it is a backup.

A failing grade you can believe in

So the rightwing media thought they'd figured out the perfect way to attack Obama: promote a Wall Street Journal survey of economists in which President Obama received a failing grade.

The usual suspects at Fox were all to eager to please their Republican masters, but even CNN and MSNBC joined in pimping the story.


The thing is, these weren't a group of randomly selected economists -- these are a group of conservatives, the overwhelming majority of whom backed John McCain's economic policies in the presidential campaign. Moreover, they aren't too bright: half of them thought the recession ended seven months ago!

Check out these numbers from the WSJ archives of previous surveys:

  • February 2008: 76% of the economists surveyed by the WSJ said they supported either McCain or Romney on economic policy over Obama or Clinton
  • May 2008: 75% of these economists said they preferred McCain's fiscal policy to Obama's
  • August 2008: 49% said the recession had already ended, and 50% believed the economy would be the same or better by election day.
  • September 2008: 66% said they opposed any new stimulus plan
  • December 2008: the economists predicted the unemployment rate would peak at 8.4%. It's already at 8.1% and rising.

In short, this was a survey of the same bloody idiots who got us into the mess President Obama is now trying to extract us from.

Thank god they don't approve of the job he's doing! Their disapproval is a badge of freaking honor!

One of the right's more disgusting habits is exploiting violent tragedies for ideological gain. After the shootings at Virginia Tech, Newt Gingrich blamed liberals' "situation ethics" for the tragedy. After the shootings in Arvada, Colo., the Family Research Council blamed the "secular media" for the rampage. After Columbine, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay took to the floor to blame public school science classes for teaching young people that "they are nothing but glorified apes who are evolutionized [sic] out of some primordial soup." Just 48 hours after 9/11, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell blamed liberals for "helping this happen."

And on Tuesday, a man named Michael McLendon shot and killed 10 people in Alabama before turning the gun on himself. It's unclear what, if anything, led to the rampage, but on Fox News yesterday, Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly tossed around an idea on the subject.

BECK: But as I'm listening to [the description of McLendon]. I'm thinking about the American people that feel disenfranchised right now. That feel like nobody's hearing their voice. The government isn't hearing their voice. Even if you call, they don't listen to you on both sides. If you're a conservative, you're called a racist. You want to starve children.


BECK: Yada yada yada. And every time they do speak out, they're shut down by political correctness. How do you not have those people turn into that guy?

O'REILLY: Well, look, nobody, even if they're frustrated, is going to hurt another human being unless they're mentally ill. I think.

BECK: I think pushed to the wall, you don't think people get pushed to the wall?

O'Reilly said he didn't buy it. Let's pause to appreciate how extraordinary it is to see Bill O'Reilly serve as the voice of reason.

As for Beck, just how deranged must one be to think 'political correctness" pushed a madman to go on a shooting rampage and kill 10 people? For that matter, just how far gone does a cable network have to be to give a nut like Beck a platform to broadcast lunacy?

DougJ Mainstreaming birtherism

This important piece of legislation was just introduced in the House:

H.R. 1503. A bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require the principal campaign committee of a candidate for election to the office of President to include with the committee’s statement of organization a copy of the candidate’s birth certificate, together with such other documentation as may be necessary to establish that the candidate meets the qualifications for eligibility to the Office of President under the Constitution; to the Committee on House Administration.

The big birther question is this: who will be the first “serious journalist” to embrace birtherism? The obvious candidates are Michael Barone and Fred Barnes, but don’t be shocked if it’s someone with more clout.

digby discovers The Phelps Effect
So the Vice President has declared that there will be no money spent on swimming pools in the stimulus. (Sigh. Again with the braindead validation of wingnut propaganda ... oy vey.)

I wondered aloud why swimming pools were being targeted since they were infrastructure projects, community building and good for kids and Mr Digby speculated that "it's the Phelps effect --- they probably think swimming pools are a gateway drug."

It makes as much sense as anything else.

Fanfare For the Common Man

Jon Stewart made a lot of people happy last night.

In heartfelt thanks, I offer Fanfare For the Common Man (embed video not allowed).




But the msm today is broadly trying to isolate what happened, or even defend Cramer. Like this weatherman (h/t sgw):

Beltway Follies 3-13-09 " ... unlike anything else ever seen on television."

Maybe, just maybe, John Stewart gave permission for political/beltway journalists and pundits to become brave and begin to serve our country in their intended role. If they fail to take advantage of this opening, after such a singular moment, then they will richly deserve to decline and fail.

QOTD, Steve Benen
Watching the evisceration, I couldn't help but wonder why it takes a comedian on Comedy Central to do the kind of interview the non-fake news shows ought to be doing. When the media establishment marvels at Jon Stewart's popularity, they tend to think it's his humor. It's not. It's because he calls "bullsh*t" when most major media players won't. He did so last night, and it made for important viewing.

QOTD, Sudbay: Jon Stewart asks questions that no one else asked. The business media was to the economic crisis as the DC media was to the Iraq War and other Bush lies. He has a line to Cramer "you all know what's going on." That line captures the essence of much of the corporate media.

QOTD, Sullivan: There is a cloying familiarity among many cable show hosts and television personalities. We all have to get along, even though some of us may believe that others of us are very much part of the problem, rather than the solution. And what Stewart has done is rip off that little band-aid of faux solidarity for a modicum of ethical and moral accountability.

UPDATE: Swampland commenter Paul Dirks:
From the scold :
Today, everyone -- including media stars everywhere -- is going to take Stewart's side and all join in the easy mockery of Cramer and CNBC, as though what Stewart is saying is so self-evidently true and what Cramer/CNBC did is so self-evidently wrong. But there's absolutely nothing about Cramer that is unique when it comes to our press corps. The behavior that Jon Stewart so expertly dissected last night is exactly what our press corps in general does -- and, when compelled to do so, they say so and are proud of it.
Look! An earmark!!!!!!
Nothing to see here folks.........

Ackroyd Journalism: So we're at the point that a comedian has to take a break from fart sounds and funny faces to dish out some journalism. Because otherwise, there isn't any? Journalism, that is.
    In 2004, Jon Stewart appeared on CNN's "Crossfire," and explained that the show was "hurting America." He wasn't kidding. The brutal appearance exposed the show as something of a farce; CNN's executives ended up agreeing with Stewart; and three months later, CNN announced that "Crossfire" was finished.

    With that history in mind, CNBC should feel awfully nervous right now.

    After a week of back and forth, Stewart had Jim Cramer on "The Daily Show" last night and not only destroyed the "Mad Money" host, but more importantly, exposed CNBC as an embarrassment. By the time the brutal interview was over, one thing was clear: the network has no clothes.

    If you watched the aired program last night, you missed most of the discussion, which had to be edited down. Fortunately, the whole thing, start to finish, is online. Here's Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. (Note: some of the language is not safe for work -- profanities were not "bleeped.")

    Cramer seemed anxious to avoid getting skewered. Before the interview, he was lowering the temperature, making self-deprecating jokes, and talking about how he patterned his own show after Stewart's. On the "Daily Show," Cramer continued to try being nice, telling Stewart what a "fan" he is. He even agreed with Stewart on the whole Santelli rant.

    But that didn't stop Stewart from saying what needed to be said. It was like watching a trained prosecutor destroy a fumbling defendant on the stand.

    Jon Stewart hammered Jim Cramer and his network, CNBC, in their anticipated face-off on "The Daily Show," repeatedly chastising the "Mad Money" host for putting entertainment above journalism.

    "I understand that you want to make finance entertaining, but it's not a ... game," Stewart told Cramer, adding in an expletive during the show's Thursday taping. The episode was scheduled to air at 11 p.m. EDT on Comedy Central.

    Cramer apparently went on the show to make nice and end the "feud." Stewart apparently had him on the show to expose how ridiculous and irresponsible CNBC is as a network. The result wasn't pretty, but as Alex Koppelman noted, it was "a riveting half-hour, something almost completely unlike anything else ever seen on television."

    Watching the evisceration, I couldn't help but wonder why it takes a comedian on Comedy Central to do the kind of interview the non-fake news shows ought to be doing. When the media establishment marvels at Jon Stewart's popularity, they tend to think it's his humor. It's not. It's because he calls "bullsh*t" when most major media players won't. He did so last night, and it made for important viewing.

    Go watch.

  • Joe Sudbay (DC) This is the interview everyone is talking about and it's even getting big coverage in the traditional media: Reuters, The New York Times and the Associated Press titles its piece, "Stewart hammers Cramer on `The Daily Show.'"

    Jon Stewart asks questions that no one else asked. The business media was to the economic crisis as the DC media was to the Iraq War and other Bush lies. He has a line to Cramer "you all know what's going on." That line captures the essence of much of the corporate media.
  • Sully on To Catch A Predator.
    I watched the Daily Show with growing shock last night. Did you expect that? I expected a jolly and ultimately congenial discussion, after some banter. What Cramer walked into was an ambush of anger. He crumbled from the beginning. From then on, with the almost cruel broadcasting of his earlier glorifying of financial high-jinks, you almost had to look away. This was, in my view, a real cultural moment. It was a storming of the Bastille. It was, as Fallows notes, journalism.

    Stewart - that little comic with the Droopy voice for Lieberman - is actually becoming an accidental activist. Why he matters, is why South Park matters. He, like Matt and Trey, do not leave aside their own profession from scrutiny: they have the actual balls to take it on. There is a cloying familiarity among many cable show hosts and television personalities. We all have to get along, even though some of us may believe that others of us are very much part of the problem, rather than the solution. And what Stewart has done is rip off that little band-aid of faux solidarity for a modicum of ethical and moral accountability.

    Now, I know Jim Cramer a little. The reason he crumbled last night, I think, is because deep down, he knows Stewart's right. He isn't that television clown all the way down. And deeper down, he knows it's not all a game - not now they've run off with grandpa's retirement money.

    It's not enough any more, guys, to make fantastic errors and then to carry on authoritatively as if nothing just happened. You will be called on it. In some ways, the blogosphere is to MSM punditry what Stewart is to Cramer: an insistent and vulgar demand for some responsibility, some moral and ethical accountabilty for previous decisions and pronouncements.

    Braver, please. And louder.

  • Fallows - It's true: Jon Stewart has become Edward R. Murrow.
    Through karmic guidance, I sprang awake at the exact moment Jon Stewart was beginning his merciless demolition of interview with Jim Cramer of CNBC's "Mad Money."

    Yes, it is cliched to praise Stewart as the "true" voice of news; and, yes, it is too pinata-like to join the smacking of CNBC. If you want to feel sorry for me, CNBC = 25% of the English-language TV news offerings available in China, the others being CNN, BBC, and the Chinese government's own CCTV-9.

    But I found this -- the Stewart/Cramer slaughter -- incredible. Although, improbably, I share a journalistic background with Cramer*, I thought Stewart, without excessive showboating, did the journalistic sensibility proud.

    Just before leaving China -- ie, two days ago -- I saw with my wife the pirate-video version of Frost/Nixon, showing how difficult it is in real time to ask the kind of questions Stewart did. I know, Frost was dealing with a former president. Still, it couldn't have been easy to do what Stewart just did. Seeing this interview justified the three-day trip in itself.

Swampland commenter choska Says:

At the Washington Post Howard Kurtz does his best to minimize the damage to his profession:
Interesting that Kurtz pulled out the quote from Cramer who claimed that CNBC was only reporting what the CEOs said, even though they knew they were lying.
THIS IS EXACTLY the same defense that reporters like Kurtz and the rest of the MSM including Time use to justify how they covered up for the Bush administration: they were lying to us but we were just reporting what they said.
CNBC is FAR from the only "journalism" outlet that has traded their integrity for access. Every Sunday, on every show, the reporters don't ask truly tough questions because they know they have to keep getting access in order to keep their jobs.
Tim Russert's true genius was his realization that he could ask inconsequential "gotcha" questions that made him look tough while enabling his interviewees to completely avoid dealing with tough issues.
And it never ends. This weekend John King has Cheney on to listen to him spin lies. It is a mortal lock that King won't ask a substantial or well research question.

There are serious reasons to believe that Cheney committed war crimes by running an "executive execution" squad out of his office. He's never answered what role he played in manipulating the energy markets.
But we'll get no answers on this on Sunday from King. He'll merely introduce Cheney, ask a few non-serious question in an oh-so-serious voice, and Cheney will proceed to spin more lies will be spun into the American consciousness.
The stunning thing is that King, the rest of the "journalists" at CNN, and everyone watching will know that Cheney is lying and that King is simply allowing him to do it. And no one will care.
And Howie Kurtz will applaud.

Already pushing the corporate media, here's Swampland Commenter sgwhiteinfla taking on Michael Scherer: It took me a minute to figure out that he was talking about Joe Scarborough when he said "tell doucheborough". Scherer you should aspire to conduct the kind of interview that Jon Stewart gave Jim Cramer last night. And I am not talking about just with Republicans either. Journalists in this country need to grow back their damn back bone and figure out that what the people want is tough questions of public officials not some kind of softballs or repetition of talking points. Here is the deal, Eric Cantor would probably want to talk to you a lot more than he would want to go on The Daily Show. What does that say about the level of YOUR work? If life were fair Jon Stewart would be the host of Meet The Press. Because its not he will continue to be on Comedy Central eviscerating people on the few occasions when they make the unfortunate choice to go on his show and the rest of the "Serious People" will continue to get mainstream media types to be their personal mouth pieces. Something is seriously wrong with that picture.

Via the ever restrained Matthew Yglesias: No, Fuck You
Ladies and gentlemen, the nation’s top journalism school:

But the push for modernization has also raised the ire of some professors, particularly those closely tied to Columbia’s crown jewel, RW1. “Fuck new media,” the coordinator of the RW1 program, Ari Goldman, said to his RW1 students on their first day of class, according to one student. Goldman, a former Times reporter and sixteen-year veteran RW1 professor, described new-media training as “playing with toys,” according to another student, and characterized the digital movement as “an experimentation in gadgetry.”

This is like saying that writing books is an experiment in playing with printing presses.

  • Commenter Steve LaBonne ) Says:

    Them newfangled horseless carriages will never catch on. Now, let’s get back to Buggy Repair 101.

digby Long Term Leadership

Here's a blast from the past:

October 15, 1992
Get Angry, Bush

Rush H. Limbaugh, a syndicated radio and television talk show host, is author of "The Way Things Ought to Be."

The most important thing President Bush must reveal in tonight's Presidential debate is anger. Make no mistake -- his Democratic opponent richly deserves it.

In addition to being disingenuous, Bill Clinton is Robo-Candidate, a walking, talking public policy manual. Friends, you could see his programming at work Sunday night. Step 1: Pause 2.6 seconds while the requisite issue is installed in the brain. Step 2: Grimace to provide the illusion that human thought is occurring. (Bite lip if emotion is necessary.) Step 3: Play back Sincere Policy Answer 5b. This is a candidate, folks, whose most effective weapon is to stupefy voters.

And -- though it boggles the mind -- the strategy appears to be working. How else can you explain, in this era of virulent distrust of government, that the candidate ahead in the polls is the one most infatuated with making government bigger and more intrusive and more expensive? Obviously, no one is thinking about what the man actually says.

As Ross "I'm All Ears" Perot provided comic relief, George Bush went about giving a rock solid performance in St. Louis. You won't find this assessment anywhere else, friends, but the fact is: Mr. Bush told the truth. What he said was correct. He spoke with assurance and he was composed. These observations are unassailable -- go back and watch the tape.

The key to these debates, however, is television ability, pure and simple. President Bush needs to cut through the noise so that his strong message will connect with the public. To do this, he must marshal his passion, his energy, his conviction, his confidence. And he must do so in such a way that it forces Governor Clinton off his formulated answers, allowing the public to take a true measure of the man.

The starting point must be the economy. Granted, this is a tough economy, but the President should not be defensive about his optimistic message, which is absolutely correct. I am weary, as he should be, of his opponents sneeringly characterizing him as "out of touch" because he dares to portray the American economy as the strongest in the world.

It is.

Inflation has been whipped, inventories are lean, interest rates have been wrestled to 20-year lows. Housing starts, retail and car sales have been posting gains. Although politically tempting, Mr. Bush must not, as Mr. Clinton has, pander to the electorate's current masochistic desire for tales of economic pain, misery and woe. The President's upbeat reckoning is, in fact, an honest one.

When Bill Clinton says we are in the worst economic period in 50 years, the President has a right to be angry. The worst economic period in the last 50 years was under Jimmy Carter, which led to the 1981-82 recession, a recession more punishing than the current one.

Indeed, let Mr. Bush press Mr. Clinton to do the math on his "Putting Government First" economic plan, which will devastate American business. And when the Governor says, "We don't need any more trickle-down economics," the President must pointedly ask why the Democratic Party always runs against prosperity.

When Mr. Clinton links the President with McCarthyism, Mr. Bush can again be furious. The double standard here amazes me. Conservatives in every area of life -- Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, for example -- have been crucified for past statements and activities, real or imagined. Yet examine the record and judgment of a liberal Democrat (say, a vaguely explained trip to Moscow when Moscow was literally enemy territory) and you are denounced for using sleaze and dirty tricks.

This, to quote a great leader, must not stand.
Lest anyone think that was just the blowhard mouthing off on the pages of National Review, it was actually in the New York Times. The establishment has been validating him and his tired, shopworn schtick for a long, long time. I don't know why it's even controversial that he would be considered the leader of the GOP at this point. Everything he says now is what he said then and every day in between. He is the Republican Party and has been for a very, very long time.

Via Heather at C&L, as much fun as it was to watch Matthews cut Fleischer off at the knees the other day, it is important to remember his history as a court sycophant:

As Jon noted at Perrspectives back in 2007 Chris Matthews: Bush White House "Good Guys" Won't Silence Me:

But what we do know is that Chris Matthews likes George W. Bush and the "good guys" of his White House - a lot. They may be, Matthews now suggests, thugs and criminals, but they are thugs and criminals you want to drink a beer with all the same:

"I thought in listening to the president, I was listening to one of the great neoconservative minds. We were given a rare opportunity to hear the real philosophy of this administration with regard to the war in Iraq." (August 9, 2007)

"I like him. Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs, maybe on the left." (November 28, 2005)

"Sometimes it glimmers with this man, our president, that kind of sunny nobility." (October 25, 2005)

"We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical." (May 1, 2003)

"For example, George Allen is a lot like George Bush. He's friendly. He's a jock in a way. He's happy go lucky. He's a good guy to hang out with, kicks back." (May 24, 2006)

"They're very adept politically, this White House. And whatever you think of Karl Rove, he is good and he is tough." (October 29, 2004)

"Tony [Snow] has no regrets, nor do any of us for being his friend. Good guy, he has been, he is, and he will be." (September 4, 2007)

"And as we sign off today, it was the last day on the job for White House press secretary, the very likable, the very good guy, Tony Snow." (September 17, 2007)

"Tom DeLay, you are not in this buisness for the money. You live modestly. You commute back and forth from Washington to Houston, Texas. Why? What drives you every day?" (January 24, 2006)

"We'll be right back with House Majority Leader John Boehner. You can see this man's greatness." (March 6, 2006)

"And Republican Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico - a good guy, by the way - intends to retire from the Senate when his term ends next year." (October 3, 2007)

"I think you beat a good guy [Jim Talent]. I looked at all the Republican candidates running for election in tough elections. I thought he was probably the best of them." To Missouri Senator-elect Claire McCaskill, (November 28, 2006)

"Mike DeWine, a good guy." (February 9, 2007)

"Chris Shays, actually a good guy, we'll see how he deals with this thing." (August 28, 2006)

SGW finds the Post and Times A Day Late And A Dollar Short:

The New York Times and the Washington Post finally decided to take an in depth look into allegations that the pro Israel lobby was integral in derailing Chas Freeman's appointment to chair the NIC. Glenzilla wasn't impressed with their previous efforts at the task.

"... ... Yet reporters agreed to keep AIPAC's "private" involvement a secret by allowing them to do everything "on background," and -- far worse -- then allowed what they knew to be the false impression to be created that AIPAC had no involvement in the campaign. Instead of the truth, what we have is AIPAC insinuating (through Mark Mazzetti's article) and Fred Hiatt outright stating that Freeman's accusations of AIPAC's involvement are false and deranged -- all because journalists concealed AIPAC's involvement by agreeing to keep it all off the record and therefore pretending it didn't exist. ..."

You really should read the whole thing as it deals with something that irks the hell out of me too, and thats journalist's handing out anonymity by the truck load these days and effectively just becoming outlets for talking points and spin instead of doing actual reporting. There used to be a time when to go "off record" a person actually had to have pertinent reasons to do so. Now basically all they have to do is say they don't want their name attached to their words and journalists, always looking for a scoop, grant them anonymous status and then uncritically report the things they are told. Its turning into a form of free adverstising for political players and its further destroying the already shaky credibility of the mainstream media.

C&L's Amato: CBS's Chip Reid - "Democrats Raising Their Ugly Heads"

Tell us how you really feel? Chip Reid was questioning Robert Gibbs during a presser today about how far transparency will go in the administration and as he switched topics to health care, he characterized Kent Conrad's worries about health care spending like this....

Reid: Democrats also raising their ugly heads, but ahh, on the hill. Kent Conrad, actually he's a very handsome man"

There was a time when PBS and NPR could be relied upon for honest, fact-based reporting. But in recent years they have adopted RW frames on pretty much every political or policy story. Case in point, scarecrow's PBS Distorts Omnibus Spending Bill, Repeats GOP Nonsense on Earmarks

If you watched recent tv news coverage of the passage of the Omnibus spending bill, you would learn that this "massive" bill was "loaded with pork" -- a monument to irresponsible, wasteful spending. That was tonight's message from "reporting" on PBS's News Hour and Judy Woodruff's interview with Norm Ornstein from AEI. But it was false.

Kwami Holman started by quoting the usual pillars of fiscal responsibility -- all Republicans -- on how the bill was stuffed with 9,000 earmarks. Woodruff then interviewed Ornstein with questions apparently meant to tease out how outrageous the earmark process was. Except Norm didn't say that.

Woodruff never asked "was this really a serious problem in this Bill?" Ironically, Ornstein's actual answers all added up to "no" and "this issue is grossly overstated." Instead we learned the following:

1. An "earmark" is not inherently bad. It's just one way for Congress to direct how federal dollars are spent. In an earmark, Congress says, "spend $$ for this particular project, i.e., this specific highway."

2. If there's no earmark, no money is saved; instead Congress allocates money to an agency or department for the general purpose ("highways"), and the agency/department determines how and to whom to allocate the funds.

3. Ornstein suggests there's no inherent reason for Congress to do one or the other, as long as we have transparency, no corruption behind the scenes, and an opportunity for review before Congress makes its final decision. Competitive bidding can occur either way.

4. Ornstein did not allege there there were any such problems in this bill. He added that only a "few" earmarks have such problems, and he wasn't talking about any earmarks in this bill.

5. Congress has already improved both transparency and the opportunity for review, though Congress and Obama have suggested more, such as posting proponents' earmarks in advance on their website and involving the executive in screening proposals before passage.

We also know the total amount of "earmarks" in this bill added up to less than 3 percent of the total spending, counting those (about 40 percent) requested by Republicans and the previous Bush Administration.

So despite the fact that the "earmark problem" was given wide play on all networks, including an opportunity for McCain, Pence and even Obama to grandstand about wasteful spending/pork/earmarks, they were not a serious problem in the Omnibus Bill.

In the meantime, you probably haven't heard, because the media generally chose not to tell us, that the bill contains significant increased funding for items that had long been underfunded by the Bush Administration. You can think of this as both worthwhile public spending and economic stimulus. Here's a sampling (increases from Bush budget) from the House Report:

-- $938 million more for the National Institute of Health, to help fund 10,600 new research grants;

-- $125 million more to provide community health centers for 470,000 ininsured folks;

-- $75 million more to states to expand health coverage;

-- $26 million more to fund insurance pools for uninsured high risk

-- $33 million more for training nurses and other health professionals;

-- $27 million more for small, rural hospitals to serve 775,000 in underserved communities.

That's just a few of the items from one of nine areas of funding. Other lists are here.

No one is suggesting the bill is perfect, or that it contains all the right priorities and nothing else. But Pelosi's House deserves some credit for redirecting federal spending away from Bush era distortions and along lines that needed more funding, and it's sad that Obama thinks he has to apologize for signing it.

Update from Media Matters: CBS' reporting is even worse. That would be Chip Reid's ugly reporting

All the News 3-13-09

Dissenting Democrats March 12: Rachel Re: There really is a huge Democratic majority in the House and Senate. Why is then now some of them are dissenting, now that they are actually in position to fix stuff?

I don't know if I have ever seen a more effective interview in my life.
Stewart tells Cramer what CNBC should have been doing all along

Sometimes listening to Jon Stewart is like what you'd imagine it would be like to listen to a great journalism professor...except you're laughing so hard you've fallen out of your chair.

In tonight's interview, Stewart makes the case for what CNBC should have been doing over the past few years: actual business reporting, instead of acting like they were an entertainment channel for the stock market.

Here's part 3 of the unedited and uncensored interview (warning: there's an F-bomb or two!). You can also view part 1 and part 2 of the interview on DKTV.

  • Tim F. Cramer On Stewart
    My immediate reaction is that the whole experience is painful to watch. It would be great if someone could explain to me why Jim Cramer did not stay home.

    Jon Stewart in brief: people like Jim Cramer sell stock trading as a clever game, knowing full well that small investors like his viewers will get creamed if they follow his manic trade-every-day advice. His network works like a cheap PR firm for the major criminals of the mortgage investment bubble and bears all the more guilt because most people in it saw through the happy bullshit they sold to the rubes.

    Cramer responds: Every time I met one of my good friend CEOs he told me everything was fine! Now that a truck-squashed rattlesnake can tell who the criminals are I make useless noises of disapproval on my show. What else could I do?

    Cramer must follow some obscure school of rhetoric where that even counts as a response. Want to know if a firm is in trouble? Interview the CEO! There’s no way that the down to earth guy who the board would f*cking lynch if he told the press anything other than happy nonsense would lie to you.

    By the way, Cramer’s pathetic performance emphasizes an important weakness of celebrity journalism. It is not a coincidence that CNBC reporters do crappy journalism and worship access to the top names. If Jim Cramer did his job as a journalist then celebrixecutivess like Vikram Pandit would stop talking to him. Believe it or not this explains a shocking range of journalism’s symptoms. Why do reporters grant anonymity to the most inane and innocuous statements? Why does lying to reporters never seem to have a consequence? Why Judith Miller?

    The answer is that reporters want important people to keep taking their calls. For a reason that escapes me, people who are paid to understand politics all seem to think that “access” to people with a PR staff will get them some special insight when the only difference between speaking to them anonymously and asking their spokesperson is that the person can lie and most people will never know. Naturally the public would know if you called him on it, but then he wouldn’t take your calls anymore. Catch 22!

    Somewhere on the internets (late. lazy.) there is a passage where Seymour Hersh explains his strategy for breaking original stories. First he gets to know ordinary people who work in insteresting places. Occasionally one of them passes on something interesting. He calls other ordinary people to follow it up. After a while he has a complete story and calls the important people involved, but surprisingly they often don’t want to talk to him. In the end Hersh and people like him (off the top of my head, Murray Waas, Charlie Savage, Scott Horton and a few others) don’t get to pass on gossipy baloney directly from the source. Instead they have to settle for a real story and an on-the-record semi-non-denial from someone’s spokesman.

    I can see how that would sound crazy and disingenuous to Cramer and the guys at CNBC.

  • John Cole sees Business As Usual

    While Citi analysts are downgrading stocks based on information from right-wing astroturf campaigns, Citi executives found a way to make a quick buck:

    Four Citigroup Inc. executives who bought the bank’s stock last week generated a $2.2 million paper profit within nine days, regulatory filings show.

    The executives, including director Roberto Hernandez, benefited as the company’s stock climbed 47 percent from March 10 through yesterday’s close of markets, after Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit said in a memo that the bank is having the best quarter since 2007. Their buying spree was the first by bank insiders since Jan. 14, filings show.


    I’m sure it is just a coincidence they bought a bunch of their own stock before they released a positive earnings report that caused their stock price to jump from 1.05 to 1.67.

    Pure coincidence.

Dirty bomb plot thwarted March 12: A man in Maine was allegedly building a dirty bomb, that could have been used on Inauguration Day, before he was shot dead by his wife. Is the country losing sight of the threat from homegrown terrorists? Rachel Maddow is joined by Bangor Daily News bureau chief Walter Griffin, and author Joe Cirincione.

Suzie at C&L: Hospital CEO With A Heart Finds An Unusual Way to Avoid Layoffs

What a great, heartwarming story. Paul Levy, the guy who runs Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, called a meeting of his staff to present a proposal and ask for their support:

He looked out into a sea of people and recognized faces: technicians, secretaries, administrators, therapists, nurses, the people who are the heart and soul of any hospital. People who knew that Beth Israel had hired about a quarter of its 8,000 staff over the last six years and that the chances that they could all keep their jobs and benefits in an economy in freefall ranged between slim and none.

"I want to run an idea by you that I think is important, and I'd like to get your reaction to it," Levy began. "I'd like to do what we can to protect the lower-wage earners - the transporters, the housekeepers, the food service people. A lot of these people work really hard, and I don't want to put an additional burden on them.

"Now, if we protect these workers, it means the rest of us will have to make a bigger sacrifice," he continued. "It means that others will have to give up more of their salary or benefits."

He had barely gotten the words out of his mouth when Sherman Auditorium erupted in applause. Thunderous, heartfelt, sustained applause.

Paul Levy stood there and felt the sheer power of it all rush over him, like a wave. His eyes welled and his throat tightened so much that he didn't think he could go on.

When the applause subsided, he did go on, telling the workers at Beth Israel, the people who make a hospital go, that he wanted their ideas.

The lump had barely left his throat when Paul Levy started getting e-mails.

The consensus was that the workers don't want anyone to get laid off and are willing to give up pay and benefits to make sure no one does. A nurse said her floor voted unanimously to forgo a 3 percent raise. A guy in finance who got laid off from his last job at a hospital in Rhode Island suggested working one less day a week. Another nurse said she was willing to give up some vacation and sick time. A respiratory therapist suggested eliminating bonuses.

"I'm getting about a hundred messages per hour," Levy said yesterday, shaking his head.

Paul Levy is onto something. People are worried about the next paycheck, because they're only a few paychecks away from not being able to pay the mortgage or the rent.

But a lot of them realize that everybody's in the same boat and that their boat doesn't rise because someone else's sinks.

Paul Levy is trying something revolutionary, radical, maybe even impossible: He is trying to convince the people who work for him that the E in CEO can sometimes stand for empathy.

New York Times Headlines

Investors See a Glimmer and Shares Soar Worldwide

Investors found financial news not as bad as feared, galvanizing worldwide stock exchanges, but few experts are willing to call an end to the bear market.

China ‘Worried’ About Safety of U.S. Treasuries

China, the biggest holder of U.S. government debt, expressed concern about the safety of those assets.

New York Times Editorial: While Everyone Fiddles

The world economy has plunged into what is likely to be the most brutal recession since the 1930s, yet policy makers in Europe and Japan seem to believe there are more important things for them to do than to try to dig the world, including themselves, out.

When Lawrence Summers, President Obama’s top economic adviser, urged countries to increase public spending to boost global demand, Luxembourg’s finance minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, representing the European Union, responded that the prescription was “not to our liking.”

At a meeting this week ahead of an April summit of the world’s largest economies, finance ministers from the European Union declared that they have already done enough to add to domestic demand. In Frankfurt, Axel Weber, the chief of the German central bank added, “We have reached our limits.” Japan’s government is quieter but nearly as resistant.

The United States, which has approved two stimulus packages, plans to spend about 4.8 percent of its gross domestic product by 2010. China is planning to spend nearly 6 percent of its G.D.P. on stimulus programs over the next two years, according to the International Monetary Fund. These numbers are still too small. Yet Europe and Japan are lagging further behind. Germany ’s fiscal boost will amount to just 3.5 percent of its G.D.P. France plans to spend 1.4 percent spread over the next two years, and Britain 1.3 percent. Japan expects to spend 2.2 percent of its G.D.P.

Japan, which struggled with a recession throughout the 1990s, is constrained by a weak government and an enormous pile of debt. Europe, by contrast, has room to spend. But the bigger European countries that share the euro as their currency worry that running big budget deficits will undermine investors’ faith in their economies over the long term and weaken the currency.

Given the current calamity, these concerns seem woefully misguided.

With consumer spending and business investment collapsing around the world, wealthy countries are pretty much the only ones left with the capacity to increase demand to mitigate the economic slump. The price of inaction is getting higher by the day. The World Bank is now forecasting that the global economy will contract this year for the first time since World War II.

What makes this especially puzzling is that the economic data out of Europe and Japan are horrendous. ...
... ...
Cole: The Business Roundtable
Not sure if any of you caught it, but ... President Obama was speaking to the Business Rountable. The prepared speech was stuff I had heard before, including some from his speech to Congress a couple weeks ago, with some reiteration of certain points (no one will have their taxes increased in the short term, etc.). Afterwards, there was a Q and A session, and it seemed to be a very cordial meeting. I have no idea of the political leanings of the Business Roundtable, whether they are considered conservative or arch-conservative (I’m going to rule out liberal right off the bat), but they seemed to be very eager to work with the President’s team and seemed to suggest they have already been working closely with the team.

*** Update ***

Video here. (1 hour)

Kurtz: Got To Do What We Got to Do Obama directly confronts the "Obama-too-busy" meme (as chronicled by our Matt Cooper) in his speech this afternoon to the Business Roundtable:

Krugman on Practical Pelosi While the House minority leader is living in an alternative universe, the Speaker is making sense. Maybe this country can be saved after all.

  • The comments under this Krugman blog are a hoot and informative to boot. Here's one:
    Another good indication is the OMB is giving budget guidance to the Air Force to put the air refueling tanker boondoggle off for 5 years and forget about a new heavy bomber.

    Is there rational thinking going on in the office of the president? Seems so.

    — ilsm

Chris in Paris: Afghanistan sends student journalist to prison for 20 years
Now that Bush is gone and the US is getting deeper into Afghanistan, Obama needs to intervene with this disgraceful decision. By ignoring this case, the US is condoning this decision. The Independent:
Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, the student journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy in Afghanistan, has been told he will spend the next 20 years in jail after the country's highest court ruled against him – without even hearing his defence.

The 23-year-old, brought to worldwide attention after an Independent campaign, was praying that Afghanistan's top judges would quash his conviction for lack of evidence, or because he was tried in secret and convicted without a defence lawyer. Instead, almost 18 months after he was arrested for allegedly circulating an article about women's rights, any hope of justice and due process evaporated amid gross irregularities, allegations of corruption and coercion at the Supreme Court. Justices issued their decision in secret, without letting Mr Kambaksh's lawyer submit so much as a word in his defence.

Cheney's Assassins

Charlie Cook: Missing: Seller's Remorse

It's not uncommon for companies, from time to time, to reposition a product. Occasionally, a company might even change direction, completely reorienting its focus and line of brands. Such a marked shift might indicate that the market for a given product has aged, that the long-term prospects for that segment look unfavorable, or perhaps that a more profitable market has been identified. Usually, these attempted transformations are conscious and very deliberate.

All of this background brings us, of course, to a consideration of the Republican Party's badly damaged brand. Over the past decade, or perhaps generation, the GOP has repositioned its product. However, the results of the last two elections -- the loss of more than a dozen U.S. Senate seats and more than 50 House seats, seven governorships, and several hundred state legislative seats -- suggest that the repositioning was ill-conceived.

Twenty years ago, the foundation of the Republican Party firmly supported several pillars. The GOP was steadfastly anti-communist and stood for a strong national defense. It was for keeping budgets balanced, the size of government under control, and taxes low. It staunchly favored law and order, and took more-conservative positions than the Democrats on social and cultural issues. Although the Republican Party represented all of these things, none was so singly important as to crowd out the others. When in power, the Republicans weren't extremely effective in pursuing all of their goals, but these were their principles.

Time altered that agenda somewhat. The Iron Curtain fell, and the threat of communism diminished. Democrats learned that siding with the American Civil Liberties Union on issue after issue paid few political dividends, and they repositioned themselves to be less susceptible to charges of coddling criminals.

Over time, Republicans became a party of only two pillars. The GOP didn't simply adopt a more conservative agenda on social and cultural issues. Rather, it took fiercely conservative stands on them and strongly emphasized religious values. Second, it became the party that demands tax cuts, come hell or high water, with little regard for the size of deficits. The Holy Grail became cutting taxes, which became the end goal, not just part of a broader fiscal policy. The impact of cutting taxes no longer mattered.

The consequences of this new direction have been stark for the Republican Party. Vehement GOP opposition to many forms of embryonic-stem-cell research and the party's handling of the Terri Schiavo case appeared so extreme to so many moderates that it was no longer Democrats who seemed radical. It was Republicans.

During the past eight years of a Republican presidency, with the GOP controlling at least one chamber of Congress for three-quarters of that time, the federal debt doubled to $10 trillion and the deficit, which basically had been wiped out under President Clinton, soared.

Meanwhile, the number of voters identifying themselves as centrists and conservatives did not drop. But the Republican Party became viewed as extreme. Token Republican efforts to reach out to the African-American community were seen as just that. And many in the GOP seemed to go out of their way to demagogue on immigration and alienate Latino voters, the fastest-growing part of the electorate. And finally, although President Reagan essentially pulled an entire generation of young voters into the GOP, George W. Bush and rest of the party's current leadership have chased the present generation of young Americans into the open arms of President-elect Obama and his Democratic Party.

One might think that with all of the extra time on their hands Republicans would spend some of it thinking about what their inadvertent or misguided repositioning has reaped. Certainly, there are brilliant Republican strategists who are painfully aware of what has happened -- and predicted it. But from most Republican leaders we are hearing shopworn shibboleths like, "We lost because we weren't conservative enough." If that mind-set prevails, the only way for Republicans to regain real power will be to wait until Democrats completely implode and to hope that Republicans can win at that point simply because they aren't Democrats.