Saturday, July 11, 2009

This & That

Ezra Klein: What's the Stimulus Doing?

Keeping in mind that a lot of the money hasn't been spent yet, we can say one thing the stimulus is doing: closing state budget deficits. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says that the $140 billion or so dedicated to state spending "is enough to close, on average, roughly 30-40 percent of state budget shortfalls." You want a graph?

You can't handle a graph.

Okay, maybe you can:


As Matthew Yglesias writes, this sort of thing is important. "Certainly conservatives don’t seem like the kind of folks who’d deny that steep tax hikes amidst a recession will make things [worse]. But tax hikes are, obviously, one way to plug a hole in state budgets. And sharp state spending cuts have the same pro-cyclical impact." Beyond that, state services are important in a countercyclical sense: Many more children need health-care coverage when adult unemployment hits double digits. If states have to pull back on S-CHIP as the recession worsens, it's real trouble.

It's also worth saying that this money will help preserve a lot of jobs at the state level. This was an element of the plan that never got enough attention for my tastes: Preserving jobs is really important. More important, arguably, than creating new ones. First, it's cheaper to preserve a job than to create one. Second, it's more effective. The evidence we have suggests that a worker who is laid off from one job frequently finds that his or her next position is at a lower wage, with less responsibility. And the worker is frequently not as productive, at least for a while, because the learning curve at a new position can be steep.

Now, the full stimulus was almost $800 billion, and this is only $140 billion. You can't judge the effectiveness of the whole simply from this part. But this is a key part. And if we're looking to do a second stimulus, a significant infusion of aid to the states would be a good place to start. It would be good policy right now to basically erase state budget shortfalls, and even allow states to increase the service spending, given that it's more necessary than ever.

SusanG (DK): Obama: The economy's "back from the brink." Really.

After a week of international traveling and summits, President Obama took to the airwaves in his weekly address this morning to tout the economic recovery.

In a little over one hundred days, this Recovery Act has worked as intended. It has already extended unemployment insurance and health insurance to those who have lost their jobs in this recession. It has delivered $43 billion in tax relief to American working families and businesses. Without the help the Recovery Act has provided to struggling states, its estimated that state deficits would be nearly twice as large as they are now, resulting in tens of thousands of additional layoffs – layoffs that would affect police officers, teachers, and firefighters.

Claiming that the Recovery Act was designed not work in four months, but over a period of two years, the President took direct aim at critics from both the right and the left:

Now, I realize that when we passed this Recovery Act, there were those who felt that doing nothing was somehow an answer. Today, some of those same critics are already judging the effort a failure although they have yet to offer a plausible alternative. Others believed that the recovery plan should have been even larger, and are already calling for a second recovery plan.

Returning to his recurrent theme of building a "new foundation," Obama pointed to the need to have a serious revamping of the economy as we move ahead, and he lauded moves toward creating new jobs in the energy sector and emphasizing funding in education. Most importantly (and relevantly, for this past week) is the need for reforming health care--and most significantly for tea leaf readers, he insisted on pushing the public option:

One such choice would be a public option that would make health care more affordable through competition that keeps the insurance companies honest.

He finished off with his usual stirring rhetoric, taking a look at our past, tying it to the realities of the present and pointing to the challenges of the future:

I said when I took office that it would take many months to move our economy from recession to recovery and ultimately to prosperity. We are not there yet, and I continue to believe that even one American out of work is one too many. But we are moving in the right direction. We are cleaning up the wreckage of this storm. And we are laying a firmer, stronger foundation so that we may better weather whatever future storms may come. This year has been and will continue to be a year of rescuing our economy from disaster.

But just as important will be the work of rebuilding a long term engine for economic growth. It won’t be easy, and there will continue to be those who argue that we have to put off hard decisions that we have already deferred for far too long. But earlier generations of Americans didn’t build this great country by fearing the future and shrinking our dreams.

The full address can be found ... on the White House website.


How are Dems going to pay for health care? Here's a thought.

House Democrats agreed yesterday to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for a sweeping expansion of the nation's health-care system, proposing a surtax on the highest earners that could send the top federal tax rate toward 45 percent.

Beginning in 2011, the plan would target all income over $350,000 a year for families and $280,000 a year for individuals, Democratic sources said. The surtax would start at 1 percent, rise to around 1.5 percent for families earning more than $500,000, then step up again, to around 3 percent, for families earning more than $1 million, Democrats said.

That would raise about $550 billion over the next decade, Democrats said -- about half the cost of reforms that are expected to cost about $1 trillion.

Middle-class taxes would be unaffected. And while the wealthiest earners would see an increase, Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-Pa.) emphasized that the resulting policy would be in a position to significantly lower the insurance premiums the rich are currently paying.

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, described the surtax as the "best way" to raise money for the reform package. The NYT added that the proposal signaled "a broader unwillingness by Ms. Pelosi and her caucus to compromise on what they see as crucially needed improvements to the system, including the creation of a government-run insurance plan that would compete against private insurers."

What's more, the decision to pursue the surtax as a funding solution will allow the House Democratic leadership to move forward with their plan to unveil a completed bill as early as Monday. Stay tuned.

  • Atrios adds
    Soak The Rich

    With this small tax bump for the relatively wealthy being proposed, look forward to the following bad press coverage:

    Confusion between total and marginal tax rates.

    Confusion between small business revenue and small business profits.

    Stories about how in some places $350,000 isn't all that wealth.

John (at Eschaton): Blast From The Past

I found this NYT article from the 2000 campaign last year when I was looking for information about McCain's at the time non-existent energy policy, and I like to revist it from time to time.

Gov. George W. Bush outlined a wide-ranging energy plan today that called for more domestic fuel production, better relations with foreign oil suppliers and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling, all of which he framed as potential remedies for rising oil and gas prices.

Mr. Bush said the plan, which also included incentives for developing alternative energy sources and clean-burning fuels, reflected his determination to limit the country's vulnerability to the international oil market and to avert escalating prices and energy shortages.


"They have had seven and a half years to develop a sound energy policy," Mr. Bush said. "They have had every chance to avoid the situation that confronts us today. And now they have nothing but excuses, bad ideas and -- as the clock runs out -- one last ploy."
I think of it every time that brilliant policy wonk Newt Gingrich chants about drilling. It's just one of many policy areas where the Republican party refuses to engage on any substantive level.

Dougj: Palin comparison

One of the things I understand least about the media’s reaction to Sarah Palin is the need to see her as a symbol of something. Here’s Douthat (from a recent, much-maligned column):

If Palin were exactly what her critics believe she is — the distillation of every right-wing pathology, from anti-intellectualism to apocalyptic Christianity — then she wouldn’t be a terribly interesting figure.

I’m as anti-Sarah Palin as anyone this side of Andrew Sullivan, but it would never occur to me to see her as the distillation of anything in particular. I believe—and I think the record shows—that she is a vindictive, power-hungry idiot. So maybe she’s the distillation of vindictive power-hungry idiocy. But that’s it.

I think this is wrong too (from Judith Warner):

The idea that women with a “major education” think they’re better than everyone else, have a great sense of entitlement, feel they deserve special treatment, and are too out of touch with the lives of “normal” women to have a legitimate point of view, is a 21st-century version of the long-held belief that education makes women uppity and leads them to forget their rightful place. It’s precisely the kind of thinking that has fueled Sarah Palin’s unlikely — and continued — ability to pass herself off as the consummately “real” American woman. (And it is what has made it possible for her supporters to discredit other women’s criticism of her as elitist cat fighting.)


This is why Palin — in her down-home aw-shucks posturing — is the 21st-century face of the backlash against women’s progress.

Palin certainly has the “I don’t need no book learnin’ shtick” down, but it’s hard for me to see how the shtick has been aimed particularly at women. She spent a lot of time attacking Obama as elitist, but there was also the idea that she was some kind of counterpart to Hillary Clinton (who has just as elite an eduction as Obama) and that she would appeal to voters who thought that sexism had deprived Hillary Clinton of a shot at the presidency. How does that make her the “face of backlash against women’s progress”?

In the end, all the discussion of Palin’s role in the gender wars or culture wars or whatever it is that we’re supposedly fighting is just a distraction from the simple truth that she is woefully ill-prepared for national office. It really is that simple.

DemfromCT (DK): Your Abbreviated Pundit Round-up

Saturday slumming... with the pundits.

Carl Cannon:

In the 2008 election, we took sides, straight and simple, particularly with regard to the vice presidential race. I don't know that we played a decisive role in that campaign, and I'm not saying the better side lost. What I am saying is that we simply didn't hold Joe Biden to the same standard as Sarah Palin, and for me, the real loser in this sordid tale is my chosen profession.

Carl, the standard is: are you qualified? The rest is detail. Where the media fell down is in not keeping that front and center at all times, and building her up where she never should have been. CNN exit poll:

Gail Collins:

The reason the Republicans lost so many Senate seats last November is now becoming clear. No one had any time to think about the campaign. They were too busy worrying about Senator John Ensign’s sex life.

Daniel Gross:

I am not an economist. Still, I am confident in saying that, just as it was absurd to talk about an Obama bear market in March, it's much too soon to be condemning the stimulus package.

Bob Herbert:

The crisis staring America in its face and threatening to bring it to its knees is unemployment. Joblessness. Why it is taking so long — seemingly forever — for our government officials to recognize the scope of this crisis and confront it directly is beyond me.

Robert Reich:

Unfortunately, V-shapers are looking back at the wrong recessions. Focus on those that started with the bursting of a giant speculative bubble and you see slow recoveries. The reason is asset values at bottom are so low that investor confidence returns only gradually.

That's where the more sober U-shapers come in. They predict a more gradual recovery, as investors slowly tiptoe back into the market.

Personally, I don't buy into either camp. In a recession this deep, recovery doesn't depend on investors. It depends on consumers who, after all, are 70 percent of the U.S. economy. And this time consumers got really whacked. Until consumers start spending again, you can forget any recovery, V or U shaped.


Coming after the recent Beltway debate over coordination between Huffington Post’s senior news editor, Nico Pitney, and the White House over a question about Iran at a recent presidential news conference as well as President Obama’s decision to call on another Huffington Post reporter at his first White House press conference, the choice of Froomkin to oversee reporters as Washington bureau chief seemed to solidify the site’s identity as a progressive voice heavily invested in Obama’s success.

But is it really?

A Health Care Saturday

Rep. Keith Ellison does good in this video, and in Congress.
SGW: More Like "Yellow" Dogs
Ed Schultz just proved my point this evening when he challenged two Blue Dog Democrats in the House on whether or not they support a strong public option. As soon as he pressed them on the issue both of them folded up like cheat tents.

Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the leadership of the House should take a look at this video and realize that these clowns will NEVER vote against health care reform when it comes up for a vote. They are cowards and this is one time that it works in our favor!

TNR's Jonathan Cohn has a nice scoop, which offers good news to those of us who want to see a public option included in health care reform.

According to a pair of Capitol Hill sources, preliminary estimates from the Congressional Budget Office suggest that a strong public option -- the kind that the House of Representatives is putting in its reform bill -- should net somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 billion in savings over ten years.

The sources cautioned that these were only the preliminary estimates, based on previous discussions -- that CBO had not yet issued final scoring on language in the actual bill. But the sources felt the final estimate would likely be close.

One of the biggest concerns for policymakers is making the reform package affordable. If a CBO score shows a public option creating $150 billion in savings over 10 years, it's a very big deal, and will be hard for even Blue Dogs to overlook.

Indeed, word of this comes just as Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), a member of the Blue Dog Caucus, announced that she'll support a public option as part of reform. Sanchez told MSNBC this morning, "I am one of those people who believes that we should be required to have a public option because it will bring the costs of health care down."

Here's hoping she isn't the last "centrist" Democrat to come to this conclusion.

Ezra Klein: The CBO Tells People to Calm Down About the Public Plan

Jon Cohn reports that preliminary Congressional Budget Office estimates suggest that a "strong" public insurance option would save $150 billion over 10 years. His sources think the CBO will find the same thing when they score the House health-care reform bill. If so, that would be good news for supporters of the public-insurance option.

It's important to remember, though, that this really is preliminary. As I understand it, this is an expected score of the public option on its own. The final score will go up or down depending on the interactions between the public option and other elements of the final bill. If the Health Insurance Exchange is open to only the uninsured and small businesses, for instance, then fewer people will have access to the public option, and so there will be less savings. Conversely, if the exchange is large, and dominated by the public option, then CBO might decide to put all dollars spent in the exchange on the federal budget. That could increase the "cost" of health-care reform by trillions of dollars, making it look like the public insurance option is expensive, even as it's actually saving $150 billion. Thus does budgetary accounting rule our world.

If the $150 billion estimate is accurate, however, it's interesting proof of another point: the public insurance option is not the End of Days for private health insurers nor eternal salvation for consumers. Saving $150 billion over 10 years is saving $15 billion a year. On Wednesday, the hospitals voluntarily agreed to provide $155 billion in savings from reduced Medicare reimbursements. No one thought that a particularly big deal. It was probably a good thing, but it wasn't proof of final success or ultimate failure for health-care reform.

So too with the public plan. Conservatives saying that a policy that will save $15 billion a year will end American health care -- or, as Rep. Paul Broun would have it, "kill people" -- have jumped off the deep end. Liberals who have invested all their hopes in the public plan might also be a bit disappointed. The CBO score seems to imply the likeliest of all possible outcomes: The addition of a public insurance option is a good, but modest, change to the health-care system.

It's been a tricky week for health care in the Senate, with disputes over funding, filibusters, and whether Republicans are even worth engaging in negotiation. At least there's the House, where reform has been progressing fairly smoothly lately.

It's a shame that progress hit a pothole yesterday.

The plan was for House leaders to release a real, live draft of reform legislation last night or today. That schedule has been temporarily scrapped, in light of new concerns from a wide variety of Democratic factions.

On Wednesday and Thursday, House Democrats of every stripe filled the speaker's mailbox with a torrent of missives to make their case for what they do and don't want in the legislation -- all while tax-writers struggled to agree on ways to pay for it.

* Forty members of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition -- representing just enough votes to kill a party-line vote -- articulated their "strong reservations about the process and direction" of an early preview of the bill offered by chairmen of the Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor and Ways and Means committees.

* A pair of junior members of the House garnered 60-plus signatures on a letter siding with prescription-drug makers and President Obama and against the call of Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to reinstate some price controls.

* A group of 22 wayward New Democrats expressed their hope that government-sponsored health coverage would piggyback on Medicare's pre-existing network, despite earlier opposition to the idea from caucus leaders.

* And finally, a mix of 20 rural and Western Democrats made their case for why the bill should fix inequities in the reimbursement rates Medicare pays to health care providers in "low-cost, high-quality" states.

Of particular interest are the concerns of the conservative Blue Dogs, because their numbers are strong enough to derail the overall effort. Their demands include, but are not limited to, significant changes to the employer mandate and, predictably, more outreach to Republicans.

Democratic leaders suggested these factions' concerns can and will be addressed, and will cause only a brief delay. Indeed, they said we can expect the rollout of the completed draft legislation as early as Monday, with an August deadline still in sight.

We'll see.


Rep. Paul Broun, a right-wing Republican from Georgia, spoke from the House floor this afternoon, to explore his opposition to a public option in health care reform. He concluded that a public plan would kill Americans.

"...and that's exactly what's going on in Canada and Great Britain today. They don't have the appreciation of life, as we do in our society, evidently. And, um. Dr. Roe, a lot of people are gonna die, this program of 'government option' is being touted as being this panacea, the savior of allowing people to have quality health care at an affordable price -- is gonna kill people."

There are bad arguments, there are blisteringly bad arguments, and then there's the nonsense Paul Broun spews.

In addition to the obvious problem of comparing reform efforts in the U.S. to creating a Canadian/UK system -- that's obviously not what's being proposed -- the argument itself is ridiculous. As the Media Matters Action Network explained, "Besides absurdly stating that the public option will 'kill people,' Rep. Broun's ham-handed transition between the health care systems of Canada, the UK, and the US is mind-boggling because those countries' systems are not a model for US health care reform. And in addition to being wrong about their health care delivery systems, Rep. Broun apparently isn't aware that Canada and Great Britain both enjoy a lower infant mortality rate and longer life expectancy that the United States."

If Broun's name sounds familiar, he is perhaps best known for telling reporters late last year that he feared that President Obama might establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship on Americans. He added at the time that Obama, of course, reminds him of Hitler.

Two weeks ago, Broun also insisted that global warming is "hoax," and cited a made-up statistic about the cost of ACES.

Peggy Noonan wrote this morning that we're in an era in which the nation needs "conservative leaders who know how to think" and a Republican Party that is "serious, as serious as the age, because that is what a grown-up, responsible party -- a party that deserves to lead -- would do."

She wasn't talking about Broun specifically, but it'd be great if he took this to heart anyway.


Most of the time, mainstream politicians from both parties are reluctant to publicly criticize programs like Medicare. It's a popular mainstay of American society, providing health care to retirees.

It was interesting, then, to hear Rep. Roy Blunt (R) of Missouri suggest yesterday that Medicare never should have been created in the first place.

"[Y]ou could certainly argue that government should have never have gotten in the health care business, and that might have been the best argument of all, to figure out how people could have had more access to a competitive marketplace.

"Government did get into the health care business in a big way in 1965 with Medicare, and later with Medicaid, and government already distorts the marketplace."

Blunt went on to argue that he'd like to see "people have many more options," just so long as those options are limited to unregulated private insurance companies.

It's a reminder of how the status quo can trip up GOP leaders. The current system already has the government playing a role in making health care available to the elderly, military personnel and veterans, the poor, and low-income children. None of these developments have ushered in the collapse of capitalism or a dystopian bureaucratic nightmare for consumers. It puts Republicans in the position of having to explain why it's fine for the government to play a health care role in some contexts but not others.

Or, conversely, as Blunt demonstrates, it puts them in a position of having to argue that even Medicare was the wrong way to go.

And who's Roy Blunt? He's not only the leading Republican candidate for the Senate next year, he's also the man leading the Houses Republican caucus' "Health Care Task Force."

Fetishizing Strength

Washington's secretive religious power sect

July 10: C Street is a house in Washington D.C. run by a secretive religious group called "The Family." What kinds of secrets lie in the house? Rachel Maddow is joined by Harper's Bazaar contributing editor Jeff Sharlet.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Our Failed Media

Kevin Drum: Good Stories Gone Bad

On Thursday USA Today published a piece saying that February's stimulus money has "gone overwhelmingly to places that supported President Obama in last year's presidential election." Matt Yglesias comments:

The insinuation of the piece is that the stimulus bill’s funding streams are being artfully manipulated or something to disproportionately direct resources toward Obama-loving constituencies....[But] the secret to the riddle seems to be that areas that benefit from federal spending formulae tend to support the Democrats. Not as a result of short-term fluctuations in voting patterns or federal spending levels, but as a structural element of American politics.

Actually, that's not quite right. It's weirder than that. I just got around to reading the piece, and aside from the factual statement in the lead, it doesn't insinuate that the money is being unfairly distributed. In fact, every single paragraph after the lead quotes people saying that there's nothing dubious going on and the money is just being distributed by formula. The piece doesn't quote a single person, not even Sarah Palin, suggesting that there's any monkey business going on here.

But if there's no hanky panky, why bother publishing the story in the first place? My guess: it's the old problem of reporters not being willing to spike a story when it doesn't pan out. Brad Heath spent a bunch of time analyzing stimulus spending, but when everyone he called told him there was nothing amiss he just hated the idea of spending all that time and not getting anything out of it. So he wrote it up anyway, ending up with a nonsensical piece that basically rebuts its own reason for existing. Dumb.

Wingnuts: no proper sense of inadequacy Edition

John (at Eschaton) : Plotting Wingnuts
I've sometimes wondered about the best way to plot wingnuts in n-dimensional trait space. It's not trivial, because many characteristics are correlated to varying degrees, and the subjectivity of it all makes it hard. However, I think this simple example isn't far off from reality.

Dishonesty and stupidity are pretty much independent, and I think I plotted these particular wingnuts fairly. Glenn Beck is a deeply stupid person, but comes across as earnestly crazy. Bill O'Reilly, on the other hand, is just very cynical and dishonest, but not really stupid, just ignorant. Sean Hannity, of course, is both stupid and dishonest.

I think if you plotted wingnuts in the 3-dimensions of ignorance, dishonesty, and stupidity, the surface would be roughly a π/2 wedge about the origin.

Greg Sargent
* Marc Ambinder has a juicy bit of campaign history: Turns out the McCain campaign carefully scripted Sarah Palin’s attack on Obama for “palling around with terrorists,” which would seem to give the lie to McCain’s supposed unwillingness to take the low road.
  • Sully: The Architect Of The Latest Meltdown

    Matt Steinglass wants to focus on McCain, not Palin:

    John McCain is unqualified to be Commander-in-Chief. McCain is a guy of rather mediocre intellect, little curiosity, and very poor and impulsive decision-making skills. He’s vain and headstrong, and he easily turns opposition over matters of policy or politics into personal vendettas. He became a political commodity in 1973 because he embodied the right-wing working-class value of patriotism under duress at a moment when patriotism and the white working class felt under attack for their complicity in a disastrous foreign war. And he was seized upon by a desperate Republican Party in political free-fall; in the thick of Watergate, the Nixon administration launched him as a political celebrity. He then parlayed that notoriety into a political career a few years down the road. He certainly has a substantial amount of charm and an instinct for playing the press, and he’s hardly the dumbest guy in the Senate. But he is not a responsible or serious person. And to a great degree, when he met Sarah Palin, he probably felt he was looking at a younger version of himself. Which is to say that the “rot” in the GOP, the eagerness to substitute celebrity and resentful pseudo-patriotic gibberish for real political discussion, goes back a lot longer than 8 years.
Josh Marshall: That Should Go Over Well
The latest GOP angle on attacking Obama's health care reform effort. Say we never should have founded Medicare.
Kurtz: A Classic Case of Overshare
David Brooks describes how an unnamed GOP senator fondled Brooks' well-rounded thigh.
Kurtz (TPM): Reader Deep Thought

TPM Reader BD:

Remember how during the 2008 campaign a lot of people suggested that Obama could prove to be an excellent role model for African-American men who have often been deemed less than responsible as husbands and fathers? Wouldn't it be great if white Evangelical Republican men could come up with a role model like that too?
Josh Marshall: Terra of Sarah

I never fail to be amazed and amused that many right-wingers and Palinatics genuinely believe that everyone who thinks Palin is a grifter or a clown is actually afraid of her. As in when Bill Kristol recently wrote that Palin's critics "tend not only to dislike and disdain Palin, they also want to bury her chances now as a presidential possibility. What are they so scared of?"

We get emails from readers saying in essence, yes, yes, make fun of this august woman. But you know it's only because you know if you don't stop her now she'll be president in four years!

I will admit that for a day or two after her speech to the Republican National Convention last year, I was worried that the press's then-infatuation with this clown might help John McCain claw his way to the presidency. (Remember, our Muckraker reporter Kate Klonick had been on the Sarah scandal beat for a couple months in advance of her elevation. So we knew who we were dealing with.)

Kristol's a smart guy. Is he really so far down his own rabbit hole that he thinks anyone is worried about Palin becoming president? If I were a Republican I could see being very worried that she'd keep going on TV and doing further damage to the Republican brand just by acting like such a freak. But at this point, beside the people who have signed on to the Sarah Cult, I have the sense that the reaction most people have to this doofus's latest shenanigans is not fear but entertainment.

Does anyone disagree?

For those wishing more Palin entertainment, here's a former VA GOP Party Chair,, on Fox this afternoon claiming that the press was out to take Palin down because of her rock solid homespun values.

  • Cole: Nooners Unloads

    The reaction to this will be fun to watch:

    “The elites hate her.” The elites made her. It was the elites of the party, the McCain campaign and the conservative media that picked her and pushed her. The base barely knew who she was. It was the elites, from party operatives to public intellectuals, who advanced her and attacked those who said she lacked heft. She is a complete elite confection. She might as well have been a bonbon.

    “She makes the Republican Party look inclusive.” She makes the party look stupid, a party of the easily manipulated.

    “She shows our ingenuous interest in all classes.” She shows your cynicism.

    “Now she can prepare herself for higher office by studying up, reading in, boning up on the issues.” Mrs. Palin’s supporters have been ordering her to spend the next two years reflecting and pondering. But she is a ponder-free zone. She can memorize the names of the presidents of Pakistan, but she is not going to be able to know how to think about Pakistan. Why do her supporters not see this? Maybe they think “not thoughtful” is a working-class trope!

    “The media did her in.” Her lack of any appropriate modesty did her in. Actually, it’s arguable that membership in the self-esteem generation harmed her. For 30 years the self-esteem movement told the young they’re perfect in every way. It’s yielding something new in history: an entire generation with no proper sense of inadequacy.

    Just walk on by, Peggy. Walk on by.

  • Sully: The Poison Pill, Ctd

    A reader writes:

    It has really hit home for me now just how much the Republican Party has lost its mind. Especially after the latest soap opera.

    During the months that have passed since John McCain “tapped” Sarah Palin to be his running mate, I’ve had more and more trouble reconciling the obsessive adoration of Palin by so many in the GOP, including a lot of my relatives, (some of whom are very smart and successful people) with the obvious dangers of having someone like her as president. The bizarre behavior. The vapid thinking. How do they not recoil at the smug way in which she wears her ignorance like a badge of honor? It’s just amazing to me how every word out of her mouth is taken as gospel, and when she can’t even answer a softball question without struggling to form a semblance of coherent opinion, they set off against the liberal media.

    Never mind the implications of her “word salad” responses. It’s quite sad actually, especially for me to see how my own family has changed. There’s been this kind of de-evolution from a thinking, reasoned, disinterested opinion, into an irrational, crusading, narrow banded thinking process that has really made me step away from the words Republican and Conservative as labels that apply to me.

    Oh well, I'm perfectly cool in the land of Independence.

Marshall: Feel the Hate

Has Krauthammer been driven off the deep by his hatred of Obama. Jacob Heilbrunn peruses the evidence.


Rep. Paul Broun, a right-wing Republican from Georgia, spoke from the House floor this afternoon, to explore his opposition to a public option in health care reform. He concluded that a public plan would kill Americans.

"...and that's exactly what's going on in Canada and Great Britain today. They don't have the appreciation of life, as we do in our society, evidently. And, um. Dr. Roe, a lot of people are gonna die, this program of 'government option' is being touted as being this panacea, the savior of allowing people to have quality health care at an affordable price -- is gonna kill people."

There are bad arguments, there are blisteringly bad arguments, and then there's the nonsense Paul Broun spews.

In addition to the obvious problem of comparing reform efforts in the U.S. to creating a Canadian/UK system -- that's obviously not what's being proposed -- the argument itself is ridiculous. As the Media Matters Action Network explained, "Besides absurdly stating that the public option will 'kill people,' Rep. Broun's ham-handed transition between the health care systems of Canada, the UK, and the US is mind-boggling because those countries' systems are not a model for US health care reform. And in addition to being wrong about their health care delivery systems, Rep. Broun apparently isn't aware that Canada and Great Britain both enjoy a lower infant mortality rate and longer life expectancy that the United States."

If Broun's name sounds familiar, he is perhaps best known for telling reporters late last year that he feared that President Obama might establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship on Americans. He added at the time that Obama, of course, reminds him of Hitler.

Two weeks ago, Broun also insisted that global warming is "hoax," and cited a made-up statistic about the cost of ACES.

Peggy Noonan wrote this morning that we're in an era in which the nation needs "conservative leaders who know how to think" and a Republican Party that is "serious, as serious as the age, because that is what a grown-up, responsible party -- a party that deserves to lead -- would do."

She wasn't talking about Broun specifically, but it'd be great if he took this to heart anyway.

Yglesias: Roy Blunt Wishes There Were No Medicare

It’s often frustrating to argue with conservatives who won’t admit that the logic of their position is that popular, uncontroversial, and long-established government programs never should have been created. So House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) did us all a favor yesterday by going on the radio and opining that we never should have started Medicare and Medicaid:

HOST MIKE FERGUSON: What is the proper role of government, and what are the potential impacts of the direction that we’re going right now?

BLUNT: Well, you could certainly argue that government should have never have gotten in the health care business, and that might have been the best argument of all, to figure out how people could have had more access to a competitive marketplace.

Government did get into the health care business in a big way in 1965 with Medicare, and later with Medicaid, and government already distorts the marketplace.

For the record, Medicare and Medicaid were passed at the exact same, both as part of the Social Security Act of 1965. And it’s crucial to understand that Medicare, in particular, didn’t just come about because of some random bleeding heart impulse. The reason there was political muscle to get Medicare passed even though it wasn’t possible to move to a true universal system is that private health insurers wanted nothing to do with the senior citizen client base. Insurance takes advantage of risk-pooling and risk-aversion to offer people security at a price that’s both profitable and attractive. When the whole pool is bad risks, as senior citizens are, there’s no real business opportunity.

Think Progress: GOP Rep. Introduces Bill To Deny U.S. Funding For Nobel Winning IPCC Because Of Its ‘Junk Science’
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) this week introduced a bill purporting to “save taxpayers $12.5 million this year and millions more in the future by prohibiting the United States from contributing to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is fraught with waste and is engaged in dubious science.” In a press release, Luetkemeyer explained his move:

We all know that the UN is incompetent when it comes to spending money, and that is why American taxpayers should not be forking over millions more to one of its organizations that not only is in need of significant reform but is engaged in dubious scientific quests. Folks in Missouri and across the country are tired of this never ending government spending spree, and my goal is to deliver some of our people’s hard-earned money back into their pocketbooks instead of spending it on international junk science.

Far from “junk science,” the IPCC is generally regarded as the world’s top authority on issues of global warming and climate change. The U.S. National Resource Council has praised the IPCC, calling its conclusions “accurate.” The Royal Meteorological Society referred to the IPCC as “the world’s best climate scientists.” In fact, the Nobel Committee seems to think so too, awarding the panel in 2007 with the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change.”

Stating his case, Luetkemeyer said that “more than 700 international scientists” signed onto a Senate GOP report questioning that global warming is man-made and said that number is more than “the number of UN scientists, 52, who authored a report claiming that human emissions of carbon dioxide are responsible” for climate change. (One of these “700 scientists” has no college degree and another doubt’s Darwin’s theory of evolution.)

Yet, the IPCC’s most recent report, which found that global climate change is “very likely” to have a human cause, was reviewed by more than 2,500 experts and was written by more than 800 contributing authors and 450 lead authors.

To bolster his argument, Luetkemeyer claimed that the EPA (in its entirety apparently) says the world is actually cooling. No, the “EPA” doesn’t say the world is cooling. Luetkemeyer is referring to EPA economist (i.e. not a scientist) Alan Carlin’s assertion in an allegedly “suppressed” document that “global temperatures have declined for 11 years.” In fact, the last decade will likely be the hottest on record. And while annual global temperatures have both fallen and risen in the last 11 years, climate scientists have identified long-term warming trends spanning decades to indicate that the earth is warming, not just the last 11 years.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina raised a few eyebrows this week comparing the United States in 2009 to pre-WWII Germany. Paul Krugman noted today how common this rhetoric really is -- and has been.

Sen. Jim DeMint says that America under Obama is like Germany before World War II. Republican women in Maryland say that Obama is like Hitler. Hitler comparisons are apparently rife at tea parties. What's gotten into the GOP?

Nothing. This has been going on all along. Back in 2002 Sen. Charles Grassley -- reputedly a moderate -- compared the think tank Citizens for Tax Justice to Hitler, because it claimed that 40 percent of the first Bush tax cut would go to the richest 1 percent of the population. (The actual number, according to the authoritative Tax Policy Center: 42 percent.)

The point is that extremist rhetoric on the right -- even the allegedly moderate right -- has been the norm for many years. The only difference now is that news organizations aren't as diffident about reporting it.

Krugman is, of course, correct. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) once compared those who accept the science on global warming to the Third Reich. Assorted right-wing activists have compared Al Gore to Hitler.

At times it seems as if the right has no other historical comparisons from which to draw upon. Grover Norquist has said the estate tax is the moral equivalent of the Nazi Holocaust. Bill O'Reilly has made so many comparisons between his political opponents and Nazis, it's hard to even know where to start. Don't even get me started on Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg.

A few years ago, conservative blogger John Hinderaker wrote, "I, personally, would like to see a moratorium on all references to Hitler, the Third Reich, Nazism and the Holocaust in the context of domestic political debate. Such a rule would have no perceptible effect on conservative discourse, but it would render the left virtually mute."

Regrettably, he had the political dynamic backwards.

Wingnut Implosion: SHRAPNEL!!! Edition

QOTD, Harpers Bazaar contributing editor Jeff Sharlet in the second Maddow video on the C-Street RW secret "christian society:
You're Chosen by God for leadership, and the normal rules don't apply.
Josh Marshall: GOP Senator: Obama the New Hitler
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) says the US under Obama is like Germany under the Nazis.
Josh Marshall: Anatomical Controversy?

Now that Sen. Coburn (R-OK) has said he will not answer any questions about his conversations with Sen. Ensign (R-NV) because he was acting as his physician (and spiritual counselor), TPM Reader DE reminds us that Dr. Coburn is an OB/Gyn.

A deeper scandal than we'd ever imagined?

Josh Marshall: Wow, This May Rival Sanford
We've known for a while that Sen. Ensign (R-NV) gave a 'severance' payment of at least $25,000 to his ex-mistress and her husband. Now it turns out it was $96,000. But it gets better. Ensign's lawyer is pointing out that he didn't pay any money -- his parents paid them off.

Ensign scandal snowballs July 9: Sen. John Ensign, R-NV, admitted today that his parents gave his mistress, Cindy Hampton, and her family $96,000, before the affair became public. Was Ensign trying use campaign funds for hush money? Rachel Maddow is joined by Las Vegas Sun columnist John Ralston, who interviewed Cindy Hampton's husband Doug.
Josh Marshall: Demolition Derby

From TPM Reader TO ...

I had a quick thought about the new Ensign revelations that I found amusing.

So first there was John Ensign with his affair. Shortly thereafter, Mark Sanford steps up to take the spotlight with his affair (and did he ever take the spotlight, with comments about true love and tragic love stories) Now John Ensign counters with some extra added financial impropriety to spice up his indiscretion.

I can't wait to see what Sanford does next to one up Ensign.

sgwhiteinfla says this about the following video:
You have GOT to watch this clip from the Rachel Maddow show about this creepy group known as "The Family" which several of the big time religous right, Republican Congressmen (including recently exposed adulterers John Ensign and Mark Sanford)are members of. I think calling it a cult would be an insult to cults.

If this is true then what they believe in has absolutely NOTHING to do with Christianity. What kind of sick bastard thinks that even if one of those pricks were a pedophile rapist that they were still good people because they were "chosen". This just screams for an investigation or at the very least for the story to go viral. People need to know just what kind of reprehensible perverters of religion they are voting for. I swear I don't know if I was more dismayed or sickened by this story. Please pass it on!

Kurtz (TPM): Coburn: Philandering Senators Don't Tear Families Apart--Media Do

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) lashed out at reporters on Capitol Hill who were asking him questions about his role in the Ensign affair:

You've got two families that are back together and you guys are going to help tear them apart. What do you think their kids think about what you're writing right now? You're helping tear two families apart that are back together. You need to quit. It's all manipulation.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told his colleagues yesterday, "Don't let the Republicans filibuster us into failure. We want to succeed, and to succeed, we need to stick together."

It sounds like a pretty simple, common sense concept. The electorate has given Democrats a chance to govern, and expect them to deliver. Members of the caucus "may vote against final passage on a bill," Durbin said, but like-minded colleagues should at least reject the idea of "allowing the filibuster to stop the whole Senate." He concluded, "We ought to control our own agenda."

Some "centrist" Dems don't see it that way.

Evan Bayh, a moderate from Indiana, said he would not be inclined to vote to cut off a filibuster on a bill if he opposed the substance of the underlying measure, and he predicted his colleagues would feel the same way.

"Most senators aren't sheep," he said. "They don't just go blindly along without thinking about things, and I don't think we want them to do that."

It's hard to overstate how absurd this is. If legislation Bayh doesn't like comes to the floor, he can vote against it. Before that, he can offer amendments, give speeches, and encourage others to agree with him. Senators, as he noted, aren't sheep. Some bills may enjoy the party's support, but not everyone in the party will see the issue the same way.

But that's not what Bayh is arguing here. He's saying he's inclined to help the failed, discredited minority block the Senate from even giving bills a vote in the first place. It's not enough for Bayh to vote with Republicans on key issues, he wants to help the GOP ensure there is no vote.

I'm reminded once again of remarks by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who noted last week that senators in the Democratic caucus should feel free to vote for or against any bill, but being a member of the caucus should, at a minimum, mean opposition to Republican obstructionism: "I think the strategy should be that every Democrat, no matter whether or not they ultimately end up voting for the final bill, is to say we are going to vote together to stop a Republican filibuster."

The bottom line is, Bayh is arguing that he may occasionally want to help members of the other party abuse procedural tactics to block the agenda of his own party. "No" isn't enough for him. "No vote" is.

hilzoy: Cloture Votes

Yesterday, Sen. Durbin said this about Senate Democrats and the filibuster:

"If they will stick with us on the procedural votes, we at least know that we can move forward," he said of his Democratic colleagues. "They may vote against final passage on a bill, they may vote with Republicans on an amendment. That's entirely their right to do. But this idea of allowing the filibuster to stop the whole Senate. ... We ought to control our own agenda."

Ed Kilgore adds:

"Yesterday's statement by Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin defining party discipline not in terms of support for the "public option" or cap-and-trade or any other substantive position, but in terms of unity on cloture votes, was potentially very significant if it represents the beginning of a serious and sustained effort. It serves as a reminder that 60 votes are not in fact required to enact legislation in the Senate, and that supporting cloture is not in fact the same as supporting passage of a given bill. Inversely, a vote against cloture is (except in the rare circumstances of a rushed Senate bill) a vote to do nothing--to obstruct any and all legislation in favor of the status quo. And unless I am missing something, no senator has ever been defeated for re-election solely on the basis of voting for cloture on a bill they intend ultimately to oppose.

Insisting on these forgotten facts day in and day out could have an effect, if only to undermine the sixty-votes-myth and force wavering Democratic senators to explain why heterodox views require them to obstruct any action on major challenges facing the country, as though their constituents pay any real attention to procedural votes (news flash: they don't). That should be a given. The harder question is whether the next step should be to impose real sanctions on senators who rebel on cloture votes. My personal feeling is that supporting a filibuster against your own party and your own party's president should be treated as a serious and rare measure on major issues of conscience where the sacrifice of some of the prerogatives of seniority are a small price to pay. So maybe that price really should be paid. But at a minimum, the practice of thinking of cloture votes as identical to substantive votes, and tolerating defections on the former as just the same as the latter, needs to come to an end. There is no sixty-Senate-vote requirement for the enactment of regular legislation in the Constitution or in the Senate rules. We don't need lockstep Democratic unity on policy initiatives. We just need unity on the simple matter of allowing the Senate to vote."

I agree completely. It's one thing to vote against something, and quite another to vote against the proposition that a majority should be able to determine whether or not it passes in the Senate. There are rare occasions when I could see doing that. (I would have filibustered the Iraq war, for instance.) But voting to sustain a filibuster ought to be very serious, and wholly different from simply not supporting a bill.

Democrats ought at least to be able to insist that their members should not obstruct the agenda that the party as a whole has embraced. Absent some very compelling reason, voting to sustain a filibuster on any important piece of Democratic legislation ought to be seen not just as a way of not supporting a bill, but as undermining both the Democratic Party and the Senate as a body. And it should be punished. When Senators vote to sustain a filibuster of a bill that's a Democratic priority, they should absolutely lose seniority.

I, for one, will certainly be taking names, and remembering them when Democrats who filibuster their own party run for reelection. We should not allow it to become routine that 60 votes are required to pass anything of substance in the Senate. With sixty votes in the Senate, we have the power to prevent it.

Not Your Grandfather's Wingnuts

TPM Headline:

Minnesota GOP Writes Big Check To Al Franken

The Minnesota Republican Party wrote and sent Democratic Sen. Al Franken's campaign a check for almost $96,000 after a court ordered it pay part of his legal fees.

Think Progress: Arizona state senator argues for uranium mining by claiming the Earth is ‘6,000 years’ old.

On June 25, the Arizona Senate’s Retirement and Rural Development Committee discussed the prospects for uranium mining in the state. During the hearing, State Senator Sylvia Allen (R), the vice chairman of the committee, argued in favor of mining by saying that the earth “has been here 6,000 years, long before anybody had environmental laws, and somehow it hasn’t been done away with.” “We need to get the uranium here in Arizona, so this state can get the money from it,” argued Allen. Watch it:

Phil Plait of BadAstronomy notes that the irony of Allen’s claim “is that she’s talking about uranium mining, and it’s through the radioactive decay of uranium that we know the Earth is billions of years old.”

TPM: Steve King: I Opposed "Yet Another Bill" To Commemorate Slavery, In Order To Protect Judeo-Christian Heritage
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has released a statement explaining why he opposed a House measure to erect a plaque in the Capitol Visitors Center, recognizing the history of slave labor in the construction of the Capitol. King was the only one to vote "No," and it passed by a 399-1 margin.

King says that he "opposed yet another bill to erect another monument to slavery," because Democrats had used it as a bargaining chip with Republicans who wanted to secure the depiction of the words "In God We Trust" in the Visitors Center -- that America's Judeo-Christian heritage was being held hostage:

Think Progress: Inhofe defends calling Franken a ‘clown’: ‘He kind of looked like a clown when I was talking to him.’
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) extended a nasty welcome to his newest Senate colleague, Al Franken, last week, telling the Tulsa World, “I’ll tell you what a lot of people are thinking, and that is it looks like things are going to be over and we are going to get the clown from Minnesota. … I don’t know the guy, but…for a living he is a clown.” Inhofe is now rushing to defend himself, pointing out that he and Franken “physically embraced” when they ran into each other on Tuesday. However, he still insists that Franken is a “clown”:

On Tuesday, Inhofe again insisted his comments last week were not meant to be derogatory.

He said the “clown comment” did come up during the chance meeting.

“But believe me, he knew. He kind of looked like a clown when I was talking to him,” Inhofe said.

Asked by Bill Press to respond to Inhofe last week, Franken simply replied, “I don’t know how Sen. Inhofe regards clowns, but it might be an incredible compliment.”

Republicans in their own way July 8: A Las Vegas newspaper published a copy of a letter reportedly written by Sen. John Ensign, R-NV, to his mistress. Elsewhere in the Republican Party, Sarah Palin's waning public support is causing some Republican candidates to look elsewhere for support. Rachel Maddow breaks down the GOP's latest issues with New York Times columnist Frank Rich.
Think Progress: Palin’s resignation has ‘boosted her a bit among Republicans.’

A new USA Today/Gallup poll has found that “Sarah Palin’s bombshell that she is resigning as Alaska governor actually has boosted her a bit among Republicans.” According to the poll, “two-thirds of Republicans want Palin…to be ‘a major national political figure‘ in the future” while three-quarters of Democrats “hope she won’t be.” Seventy-two percent of Republicans surveyed said they are “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to vote for her if she runs for president:


Sargent: Key Reason Palin Gave For Quitting May Be False

One of the chief reasons Sarah Palin has given for resigning as Governor of Alaska is that her state’s taxpayers are being forced to spend money defending her government against ethics complaints that would otherwise fund teachers, cops, and road repair.

But in response to our questions, a spokesperson for the Alaska governor’s office just gave us new information that casts serious doubt on this assertion. The revelation makes the resignation episode even stranger, and raises fresh questions about the real reasons for her abrupt departure.

During her resignation speech last week, Palin presented herself as a heroic defender of the taxpayer. She said that money being spent on government lawyers to defend against these “frivolous ethics violations” could be “going to things that are very important, like troopers and roads and teachers and fish research.” Palin repeated exactly the same point this week.

But David Murrow, a spokesperson for the Governor, said in an interview that much of this money was budgeted to the lawyers in advance and would have gone to them anyway, even if state lawyers hadn’t been defending against these ethics complaints.

In response to our questions, the Governor’s office provided us with a detailed breakdown of the millions Palin has claimed has gone to defending against ethics complaints. It does list roughly $1.9 million in expenditures.

But Murrow, the spokesperson, acknowledged to our reporter, Amanda Erickson, that this total was arrived at by adding up attorney hours spent on fending off complaints — based on the fixed salaries of lawyers in the governor’s office and the Department of Law. The money would have gone to the lawyers no matter what they were doing. The complaints are “just distracting them from other duties,” Murrow said.

In other words, while these lawyers might have been free to do other legal work for the state, the ethics complaints have apparently not had the real world impact Palin has claimed, and didn’t drain money away from cops, teachers, roads and other things.

Similarly, TPM reports that there are only three ethics complaints outstanding against the Palin administration in any case — which, combined with the above, casts serious doubts on one of her chief stated reasons for quitting.

Murrow has not responded to folllow-up questions asking him to explain how this squares with Palin’s claims. We’ll update you if he does.

  • John Cole on Greg Sargent's “scoop”:

    Scoop was in quotes o’ sarcasm, because it is not necessarily a scoop catching Sarah Palin lying. Every sentence our of her mouth is a verifiable lie, an exaggeration, or wrong. In order to catch Sarah Palin lying, all you need to do is record anything that comes out of her mouth. This is, after all, the candidate who lied about the Bridge to Nowhere for months after it was proven she was full of it.

    I suppose it is nice to have this documented for Sullivan’s list, but it is hardly a big find. Of course she was lying.

    That is what she does.

  • Sully adds: It Has Nothing To Do With Legal Expenses

    Like we didn't know that already. First Palin lied by talking about millions of legal expenses incurred by the state; now she's lying by pretending that the salaries of state lawyers wouldn't be paid anyway; and she lied about the major lawsuit costs, which she initiated. At some point, the real reason for her abrupt departure will emerge. But not after the usual avalanche of disprovable lies that she routinely provides.

    On the reporting front, I'm doing what I can to prod MSM journalists to actually do their jobs. But they refused all last fall and it's uphill work now. It may require a real news organization, like TMZ or the Daily Show. If Palin were a Democrat, the Drudge Report would have cracked this open last September. So we wait.

  • Josh Marshall: Not a Vote of Support

    Sarah Palin, says David Frum, "quit to cash in. Her admirers can excuse anything, but to the much larger audience of non-admirers, Palin will look a lot like those CEOs who wrecked their banks and the national economy while accepting huge bonuses for themselves personally. John McCain's slogan in 2008 was "Country First." Palin's in 2012? "I seen my opportunities, and I took 'em."

    I said when this first came down the pike that it seemed far the most likely conclusion, since the bow-out was so obviously rushed, that Palin was resigning ahead of some big scandal coming down the pike. But I confess that now I'm not so certain of my initial judgment.

    Palin of course has tons of scandals. But if a game changer was on the way, one she had to drop out of sight so quickly for, I think we'd have heard something about it by now. And she's hardly dropped out of sight. Not that I'm counting out the possibility by any means. I'm just not so sure.

    Maybe it really was just that she suddenly got tired of the accountability thing. Or couldn't wait the eighteen months left on her contract to start shoveling up the dollars.

    As I think a number of others have said, I've always thought Palin's character was essentially that of a grifter. And when these folks blow out of town after a con has run its course, it's usually a pretty hasty exit.

    So maybe it all makes sense.

  • Think Progress: Palin: My whining is different than Hillary Clinton’s.
    Since announcing that she would resign as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin (R) has been blaming her decision on the “mainstream media” and political operatives who accused her of “all sorts of frivolous ethics violations.” Ironically, Palin last year criticized Hillary Clinton for complaining about being put under “a sharper microscope,” saying that when there is “any kind of perceived whine” coming from a “woman candidate,” she thinks, “Man that doesn’t do us any good.” Time’s Jay Newton-Small asked Palin about this contradiction in a new interview. Palin replied that she’s totally different than Clinton because the accusations she’s facing are way worse:

    What I said was, it doesn’t do her or anybody else any good to whine about the criticism. And that’s why I’m trying to make it clear that the criticism, I invite that. But freedom of speech and that invitation to constructively criticize a public servant is a lot different than the allowance to lie, to continually falsely accuse a public servant when they have proven over and over again that they have not done what the accuser is saying they did. It doesn’t cost them a dime to continue to accuse. That’s a whole different situation. But that’s why when I talk about the political potshots that I take or my family takes, we can handle that. I can handle that. I expect it. But there has to be opportunity provided for truth to get out there, and truth isn’t getting out there when the political game that’s being played right now is going to continue, and it is.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dodgy Debts Redux

The following video of a 2008 John Bird and John Fortune sketch has very best, and by far the funniest, explanation for the current financial crisis. The following article by dday shows that the more things change . . .

dday: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Morgan Stanley has this amazing plan to take a bunch of toxic crap, call it a different name, put a bow on it and sell as a magic moneymaking product. Innovative!

Morgan Stanley plans to repackage a downgraded collateralized debt obligation backed by leveraged loans into new securities with AAA ratings in the first transaction of its kind, said two people familiar with the sale.

Morgan Stanley is selling $87.1 million of securities that it expects to receive top AAA ratings and $42.9 million of notes graded Baa2, the second-lowest investment grade by Moody’s Investors Service, according to marketing documents obtained by Bloomberg News. The bonds were created from Greywolf CLO I Ltd., a CDO arranged in January 2007 by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and managed by Greywolf Capital Management LP, an investment firm based in Purchase, New York.

Two years after the credit markets began to seize up, costing the world’s biggest financial institutions $1.47 trillion in writedowns and losses, banks are again taking so- called structured finance securities and turning them into new debt investments with top credit ratings. While the Morgan Stanley deal is the first to involve CDOs of loans, banks have been doing the same with commercial mortgage-backed securities in recent weeks.

A lot of banks and insurers “cannot buy anything but AAA,” said Sylvain Raynes, a principal at R&R Consulting in New York and co-author of “Elements of Structured Finance,” which is due to be published in November by Oxford University Press. “You’re manufacturing AAA out of not AAA, therefore allowing those people who have AAA written on their forehead to buy.”

That last paragraph is my favorite part - investors cannot buy anything but AAA, so we'll call a bunch of garbage AAA and sell it to them! Genius! And if you're still wondering why that federal buy-up of toxic assets has amounted to nothing, I guess it's because enough customers have been found for this "New and Improved Shitt With Two T's."

It says in the article that Goldman Sachs is preparing a similar sale. Matt Taibbi, you have the floor.