Saturday, March 21, 2009

Must Reads

Paul Krugman: Despair over financial policy

The Rude Pundit: Sarah Palin to Alaska's Poor and Special Needs Kids: "Suck It, You Dirty 'Tards"

David Neiwert: Pelosi outrages wingnuts with cold truth: Immigration raids are "un-American"

Glenn Greenwald: The virtues of public anger and the need for more

Armadillo Joe recommends:

Matt Taibbi: The Big Takeover

Jeffrey Sachs: Capitalism and Moral Sentiments

John Perr: Red State Socialism and the Politics of the Stimulus

President Obama's Weekly Address - March 21, 2009

A Budget Equal to the Task Before Us

Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama's Tonight Show Appearance - UPDATED

I watched President Obama's Tonight Show appearance with Jay Leno last night and I think he did a pretty good job. Reaching out to a television audience that isn't fixated to 24 hour cable news chatter and most likely not addicted to MSNBC or CNN, President Obama did a great job explaining the AIG bailout mess in clear, succinct, layman's terms for everyone to understand.

His one gaffe came toward the end of the interview when Leno asked him about his bowling skills. As he said that he'd been practicing and he bowled a 129, Leno sarcastically congratulated the President and amid the laughter and applause, Obama responded, "It's like the Special Olympics or something."

I had watched Countdown with Keith Olbermann previously and Olbermann had mentioned this possibly cringe inducing gaffe, but when watching the Leno interview, I have to admit that had I not been listening for it, I probably would have missed it as it was said in the middle of laughter and applause. Let's get one thing straight: the audience did not laugh at Obama's "joke" as some news articles suggest. They were already laughing and applauding at Leno making fun of the President's latest bowling score when he blurted out the unfortunate line. Here is the video.

Now there is yet more outrage from the right wing "teabaggers" about this line. All I had to do was go to Fox News online to see it as the headline on the main page. But let's break it down.

There is no excuse for what President Obama said. It was a dumb thing to say, and the President should be held to a higher standard. But if we're honest with ourselves, I think almost everyone has used some form of wording to imply mental or physical handicap in such a way. "Retard" (pronounced ree-tard) has been used forever until it became politically incorrect, but I occasionally still hear some older people and comedians use it. I remember using it in the playground as a kid and all through high school. It was another version of "dumbass" as far as I was concerned until you peel away what it really implies. "Duh" evolved from the same place when you exaggerate its pronunciation. And EVERYONE uses "duh."

Ultimately, Obama's "Special Olympics" comment wasn't said in a malicious way and he was making fun of himself, so yes, the faux outrage is a bit much. I mean it wasn't as if he was flailing his arms about making fun of people afflicted with Parkinson's disease or anything.

Bill Burton: “The president made an off-hand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics,” White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said. “He thinks the Special Olympics is a wonderful program that gives an opportunity for people with disabilities from around the world.”
If we're honest with ourselves, in an unguarded moment, anyone could have said it.

UPDATE (3/21/09 10am): President Obama apologized before anyone knew about it.

Even before the taped program aired, Obama had already issued an apology.

On Air Force One, Obama called the chairman of the Special Olympics, Tim Shriver, and apologized.

"He expressed his disappointment and he apologized in a way that I think was very moving. He expressed that he did not intend to humiliate this population," Shriver said Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

...The White House said Friday Obama realizes his quip was a "thoughtless joke."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the president believes that the Special Olympics are "a triumph of the human spirit."

Gibbs added that Obama "understands that they deserve a lot better than the thoughtless joke that he made last night."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Geithner Requested AIG Bonus Loophole

According to CNN's Ali Velshi, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was responsible for adding the AIG bonus loophole.

...Geithner told CNN Thursday his department asked Sen. Chris Dodd to include a loophole in the stimulus bill that allowed bailed-out insurance giant American International Group to keep its bonuses.
If this is true, then Geithner should resign. Yes, we'll hear about it for the next week how yet another one of Obama's appointments was a screw up, but this one was over the top, especially in light of the fact that everyone was trying to throw Senator Chris Dodd under the bus for approving something administration officials at the Treasury Department requested. That's the Bush way of doing things (ie. George "Slam Dunk Medal of Freedom" Tenet) and it shouldn't be tolerated if we're to have any faith in what President Obama has to say in the future.

Cramer Just Won't Give Up

Jim Cramer spoke out against his Jon Stewart interview on the Today show.

I think it was a naive and misleading thing to attack the media. We weren’t behind this. CNBC, in particular, has been out front on this. … I think there are people who bear so much more responsibility [than the media] that it’s just wrong-headed: the politicians, the regulators, the SEC, the lenders, the investment banks. … It’s just a naive focus, it really is Meredith.

My question to Cramer is: why didn't you say any of this when you were on Stewart's show? By the way, during that interview, Jon Stewart did say that there were a few good journalists at CNBC and included David Faber, or don't you remember because of the drubbing you were in the midst of?

Cramer's comment of taking the "high road" when he said he would try to do better sticks in my craw when the following day on his show, he did this. So much for the high road OR actually trying to do better. Sorry, Jim. This defense was weak.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Natasha Richardson Dies at 45

EW: Natasha Richardson, the versatile actress known for her nuanced performances on stage, television, and film, has died. She had suffered a traumatic brain injury in a skiing accident in Canada on Monday, March 16, and was later transported to New York, where she passed away at age 45. In a statement, Richardson's husband, Liam Neeson, and their family said, "Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha. They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time."

AIG Bonuses? Don't Look at Dodd - UPDATED

Over the past few days, I've heard from multiple sources that Senator Chris Dodd fought to retain the retention bonuses for executives in the AIG contract. I thought that a bit strange and then I heard it again on Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night. But according to Marc Ambinder, Dodd is not to blame.

...Dodd is being blamed for OK-ing a proviso in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act guaranteeing previously sanctioned employment contracts. He faces intense political pressure because of his long-standing friendship with bankers and lenders, which has made him a key player in the negotiations between financial institutions and the government. In a statement yesterday, Dodd called on AIG executives to voluntarily refuse their bonuses. The truth is that the codicil was added in conference by mutual agreement of House and Senate Democrats and the White House.

Why would they agree to this? As Ambinder explains, then and now, they had no intention of nationalizing the banks, wanted to work with the banks and were afraid of the backlash if the perception was that the government could step in and abolish employee contracts at will.

...In conference -- Dodd was not a conferee -- the following clause was added to reconcile differences between the Senate and House bills:

iii) The prohibition required under clause (i) shall not be construed to prohibit any bonus payment required to be paid pursuant to a written employment contract executed on or before February 11, 2009, as such valid employment contracts are determined by the Secretary or the designee of the Secretary.

Dodd, the chair of the banking committee, agreed to this language because most all of the stakeholders - including the administration - wanted it. But the original bill passed by the Senate contains Dodd's compensation limits without the carve out the exemption for bonuses. So there is no evidence that Dodd bowed to pressure from his contributors or that he was the author, the force of nature, behind it.Why the rush to blame Dodd? Apparently he has the lowest approval of any incumbent and his seat may be up for grabs. I would be very interested in knowing where the "blame Dodd" story originated, and wouldn't be the least bit surprised if it's a Republican red herring to try and gain a Senate seat in 2010. Good luck with that in the blue northeast.

There are plenty of places to look for fuck ups, but solely putting it on Dodd's shoulders isn't entirely fair.

(H/T Ambinder)

UPDATE (3/19/09 5:20pm): Glenn Greenwald: The dishonest "Blame Dodd" scheme from Treasury officials

There is a major push underway -- engineered by Obama's Treasury officials, enabled by a mindless media, and amplified by the right-wing press -- to blame Chris Dodd for the AIG bonus payments. That would be perfectly fine if it were true. But it's completely false, and the scheme to heap the blame on him for the AIG bonus payments is based on demonstrable falsehoods. (Continue reading using link above.)

Limbaugh's Hard-Core Support: A Few Dead-Enders

Cross posted by Fraulein

This validates what I've been saying for ages. The way much of our national media report on Rush Limbaugh, you'd think he speaks for a significant proportion of Americans. Then you see a poll like this one from CBS News, and it turns out that the number who have really drunk the Limbaugh kool-aid --the true dead-enders--is not so huge.

We can take our country back from these people. I really believe that. There just are not as many of them as you might think.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Grassley Get His Harakiri On!

Holy shit.

Reuters: Senator Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, made the comments [regarding AIG executive bonuses] Monday in an interview with a radio station in his home state of Iowa.

"The first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them (is) if they'd follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I'm sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide," Grassley said.

"And in the case of the Japanese," he added, "they usually commit suicide before they make any apology."

Glenn Beck: The New Freak Show

Have you ever gone to a freak show? You pay your two bucks, the barker punches your stamp, and you get to walk around this smelly, dimly lit makeshift tent that will be gone is a few days and look at the "oddities." The freaks of society under one roof so you can get your gawk on.

Freak shows have been around forever. The Elephant Man, Chang & Eng the Siamese Twins, Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy, and now we have the newest freak on the Fox block: Glenn Beck, the Cowardly Crying Doomsdayer.

Watch this clip and witness the horror. This freak of nature! GLENN BECK! The Cowardly, Crying Doomsdayer!

Now maybe I shouldn't have, but when I saw this freak I didn't gasp or cover my face in fear. I laughed. How sad is that? Am I the only one who laughed? I doubt it. I laughed because of the contradiction of his message. Beck goes on his new show at Fox and calls one of his segments the "War Room," creating a fictional hellish future as his viewers watch, mouth agape, for the purpose of stirring them into a Doomsday panic. He blames "your leaders and the special interests and the media," while at the same time promoting this "You Are Not Alone" special claiming that if "you pull away the curtain, there isn't anybody there. It's just a few people pushing the buttons." The same people that are pushing the buttons for Glenn Beck's show, perhaps?

Beck has started The 912 Project. I took a quick gander at the website and here was the first line I read: "The 9-12 Project is designed to bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001." Because nothing says we should live in fear like the day after 9/11. I stopped reading before sacrificing any more brain cells.

This Nostra-dumb-ass is creating worst case scenarios on his show and freaking people out while simultaneously trying to get though his crying jag special by telling his audience they need to take back the world, remember "we surround them - you are not alone"... but don't forget to be afraid!

To be fair, Beck's explanation is that he is obviously trying to capture the feeling of the nation's citizens coming together as one after 9/11 (when Bush's approval ratings were through the roof). I would venture to say that he is recreating the feeling of fear on 9/12 due to his doomsday rhetoric and not this feeling of solidarity, but that's just me.

You should read his 9 Principles here. As far as his 12 Values, all you have to do is look at some of the commenters to see how quickly those values evaporate when dealing with someone who doesn't espouse their views.

While I believe Beck's current ratings are tantamount to staring at a freakish car accident with limbs and heads laying in the street, and that it's a hideous sight that you can't look away from, I also think that you wind up getting desensitized to the crazy and it'll get old quickly. After all, there's something weird going on when people on your own network are making fun of you, as shown by this Shepard Smith video.

So while Beck is the new and strange little oddity in the freak show that's drawing a crowd, soon it'll die down and people will say, "Oh, look. Beck's crying... again. Let's go take a look at the lady born with no arms that eats with her feet!" You've seen one self-immolation, you've seen 'em all.

ADDING... For added fun, take a look at Stephen Colbert's parody, The Doom Bunker.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Music Break! Dave Brubeck

Blue Rondo a la Turk

Monday, March 16, 2009

John "Twitter" McCain

Is it just me, or does John McCain's doublespeak give you whiplash too?

Here's the septuagenarian using that new fangled Twitter thingy.

Here's what he said during his campaign in favor of the bailout.

September 17, 2008: "I didn’t want to do that. And I don’t think anybody I know wanted to do that. But there are literally millions of people whose retirement, whose investment, whose insurance were at risk here. They were going to have their lives destroyed because of the greed and excess and corruption."
That's what we call in old 2004 parlance, a "flip-flop."

But wait! There's more! It looks like McCain was against it before he was for it before he was against it.

September 16, 2008: "No, I do not believe that the American taxpayer should be on the hook for AIG and I’m glad that the Secretary Paulson has apparently taken the same line."
I guess that's a "flip-flop-flip!" ...My neck hurts. I'm going to have to "follow" Twittter McCain and watch the hijinks ensue.

(H/T Think Progress)

Fair and Balanced - UPDATED

Another example of Fox's "fair and balanced" reporting. The wingnut reach is far and wide.

This afternoon, Fox News’s Martha MacCallum introduced a segment highlighting Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Christina Romer’s claim yesterday that the “fundamentals of the economy are sound.” “After weeks of economic doom and gloom, the Obama administration is now singing a slightly different tune,” MacCallum said.

She then played clips of Romer and other administration officials making seemingly positive comments about the current state of the economy. One of the clips was of Vice President Biden saying, “The fundamentals of the economy are strong!” After the segment, MacCallum said, “All right, well the mantra for the weekend is clear, looking at what was said over the course of the shows on Sunday.”

Was this another Biden gaffe? No. It was Fox News using footage from September of 2008 when Biden was quoting John McCain on the campaign trail. What a bunch of immoral, lying douchebags.

Here's the clip:

Here's the Biden clip from September 2008:

Keep it up! Go Republicans!

(H/T Think Progress)

UPDATE (3/18/09 2pm): Fox News apologizes.

Ron Silver Dies at 62

NY Times: Ron Silver, a versatile actor and independent-minded political activist who played Henry Kissinger, Alan Dershowitz and Angelo Dundee on the screen and supported Bill Clinton, Rudolph W. Giuliani and George W. Bush on the stump, died at home in Manhattan on Sunday. He was 62.

The cause was esophageal cancer, which was diagnosed two years ago, said his brother Mitchell.

...Mr. Silver was busy as a nonperformer as well. An activist most frequently allied with left-wing issues, he was president of Actors’ Equity, the stage actors union, for most of the 1990s, and he was a co-founder of the Creative Coalition, a group that advocates for First Amendment rights, public education and arts support. He campaigned for Bill Clinton for president.

“I’m an actor by calling but an activist by inclination,” he said in a 1994 interview.

Still, he had contrary impulses, and he paid attention to them. He was an advocate for President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” defense plan, and he supported Mr. Giuliani’s campaign for mayor of New York in 1994. In 2004, he made headlines when he was a featured speaker at the Republican National Convention in Manhattan, supporting the nomination of President George W. Bush for a second term, largely because of his stance against Islamic terrorism. He supported Mr. Giuliani for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.


...“Ron’s politics, as far as I know, were not shared by anyone he knew, except for the people he knew because of his politics,” Mitchell Silver said. He paused and added: “He told me that he did vote for Barack Obama in the end.”

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Douchebag of the Week: Ari Fleischer

Yes, Bush apologist Ari Fleischer was the early front runner and far and away outdid himself in the Douchebag arena this week.

Here are a few stink nuggets from just one interview:

"...I also think Barack Obama should say thank you every day that he inherited a world without Saddam Hussein in it. "

(Fleischer repeated this laughable line at least four times during the interview.)

"I remind people that the tax cuts led to a record-breaking 55 months of economic growth and job creation. We‘ve never in this country had 55 straight months of job creation. We had that under President Bush before the bank failures of September."

(48 of those months were recovering the lost jobs of your administration's mild recession - the rest of those jobs have been lost with the current recession.)

"... the one thing people are going to remember the most is that [George W. Bush] kept us safe. We have not been attacked against since September 11."

(What about the anthrax attacks, Ari?)

"But after September 11, having been hit once, how could we take a chance that Saddam might not strike again?"

(Saddam never struck the first time, Ari. That was Osama bin Laden. Where is he? What's that old saying? "Wanted Dead or Alive"?)

Douchebag of the Week: Ari Fleischer

GOP Budget Message: "Homina Homina Homina"

Eric "The Squirrel" Cantor appeared on Meet The Press today to poo-poo Poresident Obama's budget while bringing up the fictional train from Disneyland to Las Vegas again, but he did say that the GOP was going to offer an alternative budget proposal.

MR. GREGORY: Are you going to vote for the president's budget?

REP. CANTOR: Listen, the budget process, as you know, David, is one that has just begun on Capitol Hill. There is a lot of, I think, reticence to embrace his budget on both sides of the aisle. This budget, frankly, doesn't have the focus that we need right now in this economy. The focus should be, job one, fixing this banking system and trying to get jobs created again.

MR. GREGORY: Right. But the, but the budget says there's $750 billion to help capitalize the banks. You, you have not offered a figure on what you think is necessary to do that, other than saying you got to do something to get private capital in.

REP. CANTOR: David, David, the Republicans will have a plan.

Meanwhile in Bensonhurst, Mitch "The Fish" McConnell was doing his best Ralph Kramden impersonation on This Week with George Snuffleupagus.

George Stephanopoulos repeatedly pressed McConnell for a comprehensive Republican alternative budget. Each time, McConnell simply attacked Obama’s plan. He said that he and his colleagues would be offering amendments to “reframe” what the Democrats have proposed, but don’t plan on offering a comprehensive plan:

McCONNELL: [W]e are going to offer a number of amendments to the Democratic proposal. […]

STEPHANOPOULOS: But shouldn’t you have a comprehensive approach that lays out the trade-offs? If you just have rifle-shot amendments, you don’t have to make all the trade-offs that you have to make in an overall budget.

McCONNELL: Well, we’re just sort of getting down in the weeds here about procedure. Through the amendment process, we would absolutely reformulate the Democratic plan. Whether you have a comprehensive approach or whether you offer an amendment is something a parliamentarian can debate.

So what's the plan? Come up with an alternative, comprehensive plan to show you really want to play ball, or weaken the Democratic plan with crap ass amendments? Enjoy the wilderness, boys.

Market Down? Blame Obama - Market Up? Credit Bush

No... seriously.

Huff Po: Former White House spokesperson Dana Perino said on Sunday that the Bush administration, while presiding over the start of the current recession, nevertheless deserved some credit for the modest uptick that Wall Street experienced this past week.

Appearing on CSPAN's Washington Journal, the last of Bush's press secretaries said it was "not a secret" that the current economic mess started under her boss's watch. But, she cautioned, the public had yet to realize the full extent to which the past president's policies "alleviat[ed] the downturn."

..."You were just speaking earlier about the possibility that since we had a little bit of a better week on Wall Street does that spell a turnaround?" Perino said. "Can all the credit go specifically to President Obama? Well, I would say no. We will just have to take a while to let all of this settle down and let the policies that our administration and the new administration are trying to put in place have a chance to work."


...Cheney agrees that Obama did indeed came into power amid very difficult economic circumstances.

But Cheney says he doesn't think the Bush administration can be blamed for creating the economic woes. Cheney says it's a global financial problem.

So is it an "Obama recession" or not? They can't claim that Obama's policies are sinking the economy if the Bush policies haven't been realized to their full extent.

And the Bush Legacy Project continues...