Here is another reason why Republican-friendly, Republican-leaning, and straight-out Republican corporations are not served by the current Tea Party ascendency. Government does have a purpose, does need a tax base, or else common good tasks like maintaining roads and other infrastructure cannot be performed. If corporations such as the ones mentioned in the James Kelleher, Reuters article quoted below were smart, they’d put their political capital to work throwing out the Tea Party wing of the GOP.
Companies like Whirlpool and Caterpillar are making costly additions to their otherwise sinewy supply chains to compensate for aging U.S. roads that are too potholed and congested for “just in time” delivery.
Some opt to keep more trucks and inventory on the road. Others are leasing huge “just in case” warehouses and guarded parking lots on the edges of big cities. All that activity raises costs, which are expected to increase even more if roads are allowed to deteriorate further and an improving economy boosts traffic.
Whirlpool, for instance, has set up a network of secure drop lots outside Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. A washing machine that used to go from regional distribution center to local distribution center to customer in one day now sits overnight in a parking lot.
It “adds an extra day of lead time, which means extra inventory,” said Whirlpool Corp logistics chief Michelle VanderMeer.
Then there are the parking lots and the guards. “That’s real physical infrastructure and security that we have to pay for,” she said. “We’d rather be investing our money elsewhere,” she added, declining to estimate Whirlpool’s expenses.
Overall, U.S. companies face billions of dollars in costs due to the limitations of the creaking, overcrowded transportation network, which earned a D+ grade in the most recent report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute estimates that road congestion alone costs shippers $27 billion a year – and that is only the value of wasted driver time and extra fuel.
Outside Chicago, Panasonic Corp, Ingram Micro and Owens & Minor have all leased spaces in recent years to help take congestion-related variability out of their supply chains
for instance, do you think the mouth-breathers in Congress are going to raise the gas tax anytime soon? What kind of odds would you give? A million to one? or a billion to one?
Manufacturers are lobbying Congress to approve new repair funds next year, with low expectations. The Highway Trust Fund, which finances road and bridge repairs, narrowly avoided insolvency this summer when lawmakers approved funding through May.
The current gas tax which funds repairs raises $40 billion annually and has not been raised in two decades. There is little appetite in Washington, D.C to raise the gas tax to bring in the $170 billion the Federal Highway Administration estimates is needed annually to improve roads.
So if you do the math, every year, we have a $120,000,000,000 budget shortfall for roads and bridges. Every year! Even if you discount the $170 Billion number by a bit, because everyone wants a bigger budget, there still is a huge gap between actual money and required money. How long can this go on before the problem gets so bad we turn the corner into a Mad Max type society? But hey, ISIS is an existential threat, so by all means, piss our tax money on the sands of the Middle East instead of on the roads of Iowa and Illinois…
Surprising nobody, Ted Cruz and the Tea Party Republicans have their own version of history, a version where Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon were the same kind of obstructionist asshole as Ted Cruz. Of course, that isn’t factual, but since when have the 6,000 year old Earthers required facts to get in the way of narrative?
Jeffrey Toobin hangs out with Senator Cruz a bit:
Cruz’s ascendancy reflects the dilemma of the modern Republican Party, because his popularity within the Party is based largely on an act that was reviled in the broader national community. Last fall, Cruz’s strident opposition to Obamacare led in a significant way to the shutdown of the federal government. “It was not a productive enterprise,” John McCain told me. “We needed sixty-seven votes in the Senate to stop Obamacare, and we didn’t have it. It was a fool’s errand, and it hurt the Republican Party and it hurt my state. I think Ted has learned his lesson.” But Cruz has learned no such lesson. As he travels the country, he has hardened his positions, delighting the base of his party but moving farther from the positions of most Americans on most issues. He denies the existence of man-made climate change, opposes comprehensive immigration reform, rejects marriage equality, and, of course, demands the repeal of “every blessed word of Obamacare.” (Cruz gets his own health-care coverage from Goldman Sachs, where his wife is a vice-president.) Cruz has not formally entered the 2016 Presidential race, but he is taking all the customary steps for a prospective candidacy. He has set up political-action committees to raise money, travelled to early primary states, like Iowa and New Hampshire, and campaigned for Republican candidates all over the country. His message, in substance, is that on the issues a Cruz Presidency would be roughly identical to a Sarah Palin Presidency.
Still, Cruz’s historical narrative of Presidential politics is both self-serving and questionable on its own terms. Conveniently, he begins his story after the debacle of Barry Goldwater, a conservative purist whom Cruz somewhat resembles. Nixon ran as a healer and governed, by contemporary standards, as a moderate, opening up relations with China, signing into law measures banning sex discrimination, expanding the use of affirmative action, establishing the Environmental Protection Agency, and signing the Clean Air Act. Reagan’s record as governor of California included support for tax increases, gun control, and abortion rights, so he sometimes appeared less conservative than his modern reputation suggests. George W. Bush won (if he won) as a self-advertised “compassionate conservative.” So, at this point, Cruz’s concerted attempt to establish himself as the most extreme conservative in the race for the Republican nomination has not evoked much fear in Democrats. “We all hope he runs,” one Democratic senator told me. “He’s their Mondale.” (Running against Reagan as an unalloyed liberal in 1984, Walter Mondale lost every state but his native Minnesota.)
I also hope Ted Cruz continues running for President, as I anticipate being amused that the Tea Bagger Birthers will find ways to twist pretzel logic so they can support a Natural Born ‘Murican who wasn’t actually born in the US. Even the most ardent Birthers never claimed Obama’s mother wasn’t American, just that Obama wasn’t really born in Hawaii. Ted Cruz’s mother may have been born in Delaware1 but Ted Cruz was born in Alberta, Canada. It says so right on his birth certificate! The U.S. hasn’t invaded and annexed Alberta, yet.
As Jeffrey Toobin puts it:
Rafael Cruz fled Batista’s Cuba for Texas in 1957 after aligning himself with the anti-Batista movement. He returned to Cuba for just a month, in 1959, and became convinced that Fidel Castro was even worse than his predecessor, so he settled in the United States for good. He majored in mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, and met and married Eleanor Darragh, who was born and raised in Delaware. (Rafael had two daughters from a previous marriage.) Rafael and Eleanor started an oil-services company after moving to Calgary, in Alberta, Canada, where Rafael Edward Cruz was born, in 1970. (Ted’s birth in Canada, with dual American and Canadian citizenship, has raised the question of whether he is a “native born” citizen and thus eligible, under the Constitution, to be President. The answer is not completely clear, but it seems likely that the Constitution does not bar a Cruz Presidency. Recently, Ted Cruz formally gave up his Canadian citizenship.)
The most amusing headline we read the day after Eric Cantor (Smug R) lost his primary to the Tea Bagger, and Ayn Randian acolyte, David Brat, was this one. Poor, poor Boeing, lost one of their sugar daddies…
Boeing Co. (BA) fell the most in two months as U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat in a primary election threatens congressional reauthorization of low-cost lending that benefits the world’s largest planemaker.
Keeping alive the Export-Import Bank will be an “even more high-profile/challenging fight,” Chris Krueger, a senior policy analyst for Guggenheim Securities LLC, said today by e-mail. Boeing was the “biggest loser” besides Cantor in the Virginia Republican’s surprise loss yesterday, Krueger wrote.
Ex-Im arranges financing that helps foreign airlines buy jets, a service that Boeing said last month would support $10 billion of 2014 sales. As Congress debates reauthorization, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas is being promoted as a possible Cantor successor. He has said the U.S. should “exit the Ex-Im.”
So what exactly is the Export-Import Bank? The Wikipedia entry:
The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) is the official export credit agency of the United States federal government. It was established in 1934 by an executive order, and made an independent agency in the Executive branch by Congress in 1945, for the purposes of financing and insuring foreign purchases of United States goods for customers unable or unwilling to accept credit risk. The mission of the Bank is to create and sustain U.S. jobs by financing sales of U.S. exports to international buyers. The Bank is chartered as a government corporation by the Congress of the United States; it was last chartered for a three-year term in 2012 which will expire in September 2014. Its Charter spells out the Bank’s authorities and limitations. Among them is the principle that Ex-Im Bank does not compete with private sector lenders, but rather provides financing for transactions that would otherwise not take place because commercial lenders are either unable or unwilling to accept the political or commercial risks inherent in the deal.
Corporate welfare, in other words. Propping up the bottom line of the military-industrial complex, and other crony capital chores. Sure, after World War 2, the bank was perhaps justifiable, the Marshall Plan and all that. But in today’s economy? Why does Boeing, GE, Halliburton or ExxonMobil need special low-interest loans subsidized by US taxpayers, loans that are not available to the rest of the business world? Especially when so much of what the bank subsidizes is bad for the planet.
The bank’s environmental policy is a disappointment because it would allow an increase in spending on coal and other technologies harmful to the environment, said Steve Kretzmann, who runs Washington-based Oil Change International, which seeks to curb government aid to fossil-fuel companies.
“It makes a mockery of the Obama administration’s supposed commitment to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies,” Kretzmann said in an interview.
The project in Papua New Guinea led by Irving, Texas-based Exxon has become a particular point of contention.
The pipeline’s construction will destroy pristine tropical forests, PacificEnvironment’s Norlen said in a submission to the lender in September.
Exxon “is the most profitable corporation on the planet,” Kretzmann said. “This is the last place that taxpayer support should be going.”
President Barack Obama’s goals of boosting U.S. exports and combating climate change are colliding as the U.S. Export-Import Bank expands financing for oil, gas, mining and power-plant projects.
Bank-supported ventures approved in the year ended Sept. 30 will emit an estimated 17.9 million metric tons of carbon annually, more than triple the previous year and the most since the lender started releasing data in 2001, according to its annual reports. Among companies aided were General Electric Co. and Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state-owned oil business.
“Ex-Im is on a fossil-fuel binge,” said Doug Norlen, policy director at PacificEnvironment, an environmental advocacy group in San Francisco.
You Can’t Bribe No one
We’re not alone in wondering why in our current economic climate, this corporate welfare bank continues to exist.
For instance, from those hippies at Forbes:
Nothing brings out the well-tailored lobbyists in Washington quite like a threat to corporate welfare. With the Export-Import Bank’s legal authorization set to run out this year, the Chamber of Commerce recently led a Big Business march on Capitol Hill to protect what is known as Boeing’s Bank. Over the last eight decades ExIm has provided over a half trillion dollars in credit, mostly to corporate titans. Congress should close the Bank.
ExIm was created in 1934 to underwrite trade with the Soviet Union. The agency piously claims not to provide subsidies since it charges fees and interest, but it exists only to offer business a better credit deal than is available in the marketplace. The Bank uses its ability to borrow at government rates to provide loans, loan guarantees, working capital guarantees, and loan insurance.
The result is a bad deal for the rest of us. For instance, ExIm is not free, as claimed. Recently made self-financing, the agency has returned $1.6 billion to the Treasury since 2008. However, economists Jason Delisle and Christopher Papagianis warned that the Bank’s “profits are almost surely an accounting illusion” because “the government’s official accounting rules effectively force budget analysts to understate the cost of loan programs like those managed by the Ex-Im Bank.”
In particular, the price of market risk is not included, even though doing so, explained the Congressional Budget Office, would provide “a more comprehensive measure of federal costs.” Delisle and Papagianis figured ExIm’s real price to exceed $200 million annually. Indeed, both the Government Accountability Office and ExIm Inspector General raised questions about the accuracy of the agency’s risk modeling.
Federal Reserve economist John H. Boyd took another approach, explaining: “For an economic profit—that is, a real benefit to taxpayers—Eximbank’s income must exceed its recorded expenses plus its owners’ opportunity cost, a payment to taxpayers for investing their funds in this agency rather than somewhere else.” If ExIm was private, he added, “one must suspect that its owners would have pulled out long ago in favor of a truly profitable enterprise.” He figured the Bank’s real cost averaged around $200 million a year in the late 1970s but had increased to between $521 million and $653 million by 1980. Given the recent explosion in Bank lending the corresponding expense today could be much higher.
Tax breaks are sacrosanct, responsible budgets be damned…
The next time a Republican even comes near climbing aboard the deficit cross, you have permission to laugh in their face. The party of paying for things has proposed $310 billion in permanent, unpaid for tax provisions today.
The party of austerity for children, veterans, the elderly, and the sick claimed they were only cutting people off in order to be “Responsible with the Deficit”. This is the same deficit that they told us didn’t matter when they were in charge, but after they fled responsibility in the wake of the 2008 crash as a Democratic President took office to clean up their mess, suddenly the deficit was all Republicans could think about. So sorry about your starving baby, but the DEFICIT.
The DEFICIT is the number one priority, they somberly and relentlessly intoned any time they got near a microphone.
And yet today, Republicans proposed tax provisions without offsets that Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) points out would add “a combined $310 billion to the deficit,” which “represents more than half of the entire federal deficit this year.”
First, Judge Sandra Watts was stopped while trying to vote because the name on her photo ID, the same one she had used for voter registration and identification for 52 years, did not exactly match her name on the official voter rolls.
A few days later, state Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat who became a national celebrity after her filibuster over a new abortion law, had the same problem in early voting. So did her likely Republican opponent in next year’s governor’s race, Attorney General Greg Abbott.
They were all able to vote after signing affidavits attesting that they were who they claimed to be. But not Jim Wright, a former speaker of the House in Washington, whose expired driver’s license meant he could not vote until he went home and dug a certified copy of his birth certificate out of a box.
On Tuesday, Texas unveiled its tough new voter ID law, the only state to do so this year, and the rollout was sometimes rocky. But interviews with opponents and supporters of the new law, which required voters for the first time to produce a state-approved form of photo identification to vote, suggest that in many parts of the state, the law’s first day went better than critics had expected.
Isn’t it amazing that one of the major political parties in the US would rather have less people vote than do the hard work to convince citizens the political ideas of that party are worth supporting? Or change the doctrines of the political party to comply with the wishes of the voters? The Republicans have spent billions of think-tank dollars figuring out how to disenfranchise as many people as possible instead of taking a chance on democracy. What does that say about the popularity of Republican doctrines?
And in Texas, this was a relatively minor election with low turnout; most participants were experienced, committed voters, not the casual voters who turn out in presidential and gubernatorial contests. Just wait until there are lines stretched around the block…
The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Texas, which opposed the new law, said that it was concerned more about voters who do not have the proper documentation at all, and might stay away from the polls altogether as a result.
“We have always felt there was anywhere from 500,000 to 800,000 voters who would not be able to present the proper identification,” Linda Krefting, the group’s president, said. “The concern we have is that all this flap in the news may have discouraged people from turning out at the polls.”
Voter ID laws and other statutes that cut back on early voting or make it more difficult to register have proliferated in states dominated by Republicans since the party’s wave of governor and statehouse victories in 2010.
Proponents say they are needed to curtail voter fraud. Opponents point out that such fraud is extremely rare and say the laws actually target groups that have proven less likely to have the state-mandated identification: the poor, students, African-Americans and Hispanics, all of whom tend to vote more Democratic.
Under the new Texas law, the list of acceptable identification includes a driver’s license, a passport, a military ID and a concealed gun permit, but not a student photo ID. Voters who showed up at the polls with no acceptable IDs were allowed to cast provisional ballots. Voters whose names were “significantly similar” on their IDs and the official voter rolls could sign an affidavit, which involved checking a box next to their name, then were allowed to vote normally.
The truth of the matter is that Bob Woodward has been a Republican partisan for many, many years, and only fools or the misinformed thought otherwise. Someone long ago called him a Stenographer To Power, and that epithet has stuck in my mind whenever I hear Woodward talk, or get tricked into reading some blather he’s written. Remember when Woodward said: “They trashed the place, and it wasn’t their place.”
A few articles I’ve read about Bob Woodward this week:
“Woodward at war,” was the headline Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei attached to their February 27 article playing up Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s claim that a senior White House official had threatened him over email regarding Woodward’s reporting on the origins of the budget sequestration. The Politico report on Woodward’s “major-league brushback” caught fire in the press and prompted allegations of White House intimidation. However, the email chain — which Politico published the following morning — shows that the claims of threats and intimidation by the White House are, at best, wildly overblown, and that Politico helped hype a bogus allegation by Woodward absent the full context.
The original February 27 Politico piece featured a short clip of Allen and VandeHei’s “hourlong interview” with Woodward “around the Georgetown dining room table where so many generations of Washington’s powerful have spilled their secrets.” In that clip, Woodward reads from an email he received from a top White House official, later revealed to be economic advisor Gene Sperling. As Woodward puts it, Sperling did “something that I think it is important for people to understand. He says, you know, ‘I think you will regret staking out that claim,'” referring to Woodward’s assertion that the president was “moving the goal posts” in negotiations to avert sequestration.
During the Clinton years, “liberal” Woodward often took direct aim at the Democratic president, as well as Vice President Al Gore, labeling him ‘Solicitor-in-Chief,’ a move which conservatives cheered. Years later, when news broke that newly elected president Barack Obama had selected Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State, Woodward lamented that “She never goes away, she and her husband.”
At the same time Woodward was being granted extraordinary access to the Bush White House and to Bush himself in order to write his war-themed books, Woodward helped delay the Plame whodunit. He did it by failing, for two years, to reveal that a senior Bush administration official had told him that former ambassador Joe Wilson’s wife, Plame, worked at the CIA.
Worse, prior to his shocking revelation, Woodward had made the media rounds minimizing the scandal as “laughable,” “an accident,” “nothing to it” and denigrating Fitzgerald as “disgraceful” and “junkyard dog,” never once noting mentioning he’d been on the receiving end of a leak about Plame.
This doesn’t even scratch the surface. But read the rest if you have the inclination.
Thank You For Voting
and a wee bit of sequester history from Ezra Klein
I don’t agree with my colleague Bob Woodward, who says the Obama administration is “moving the goalposts” when they insist on a sequester replacement that includes revenues. I remember talking to both members of the Obama administration and the Republican leadership in 2011, and everyone was perfectly clear that Democrats were going to pursue tax increases in any sequester replacement, and Republicans were going to oppose tax increases in any sequester replacement. What no one knew was who would win.
The sequester was a punt. The point was to give both sides a face-saving way to raise the debt ceiling even though the tax issue was stopping them from agreeing to a deficit deal. The hope was that sometime between the day the sequester was signed into law (Aug. 2, 2011) and the day it was set to go into effect (Jan. 1, 2013), something would…change. There were two candidates to drive that change.
The first and least likely was the supercommittee. If they came to a deal that both sides accepted, they could replace the sequester. They failed.
The second was the 2012 election. If Republicans won, then that would pretty much settle it: No tax increases. If President Obama won, then that, too, would pretty much settle it: The American people would’ve voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes. The American people voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes. In fact, they went even further than that. They also voted for a Senate that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes. And then they voted for a House that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes, though due to the quirks of congressional districts, they didn’t get one.
Alex Parene gets to the meat of the Woodward-Gate: Woodward seems to think that if the President does something, it isn’t illegal. Quite a change from 1972, no?
Speaking of kinds of madness, Woodward’s actual position here is insane. As Dave Weigel points out, “some budget document” is a law, passed by Congress and signed by the president. Woodward is saying, why won’t the president just ignore the law, because he is the commander in chief, and laws should not apply to him. That is a really interesting perspective, from a man who is famous for his reporting on the extralegal activities of a guy who is considered a very bad president!
Also, that George W. Bush analogy is amazing. It would have been a good thing for him to invade and occupy Iraq without congressional approval? Say what you will about George W. Bush, at least he was really, really devoted to invading Iraq. (And yes the Reagan line, lol.)
There is nothing less important about “the sequester” than the question of whose idea it originally was. So, naturally, that is the question that much of the political press is obsessed with, to the exclusion of almost everything else. Republicans have been making the slightly incoherent argument that a) the sequester, which is a bad thing, is entirely Obama’s fault, b) Obama is exaggerating how bad the sequester will be, and c) the sequester, which is Obama’s fault, is preferable to not having the sequester. Woodward has lately been fixated on Obama’s responsibility for the idea of the sequester, but at this point, the important question is who will be responsible if it actually happens. On that question, Woodward, and others, have taken the position that it will be Obama’s fault because he has failed to “show leadership.” But laws come from Congress. The president signs or vetoes them. Republicans in the House are unwilling and unable to repeal the law Congress passed creating the sequester. All Obama can do is ask them to pass such a law, and to make the case to the public that they should pass such a law. And Obama has been doing those things, a lot.
Woodward’s second point — “moving the goalposts” — has been torn to shreds like a hunk of meat tossed into the lion cage. Brian Beutler points out that the law didn’t call for spending cuts to be put into place, it called for “deficit reduction.” David Corn adds that Boehner himself conceded the possibility, however remote, that sequestration could be replaced with some mix of higher revenue and lower spending. Dave Weigel points out that Woodward’s own book says the same thing. There’s nothing left at all to the point Woodward is trying to argue here.
To understand where Woodward is coming from, you need to recall his book on the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations. That book was notable because it concluded that Obama was responsible for blowing up the big deal to reduce the deficit by spooking John Boehner and mishandling the negotiations. Woodward’s interpretive line here runs in contrast to every other account of the episode, which shows Obama was always ready to offer highly generous terms to Boehner, but Boehner simply concluded his party’s base, represented by Eric Cantor, would not accept higher revenue in any form.
What Woodward is saying here is that the failure to strike a deal is Obama’s fault by definition. There is no set of imaginable facts that would cause Woodward to conclude that Congress bears responsibility for an agreement. It’s a truly bizarre way of thinking, but also a common one, combining elements of BipartisanThink and the Cult of the Presidency. Fellow venerable reporter Ron Fournier has been insisting that Obama ought to somehow mind-control Republicans into accepting higher revenue. “His aides and allies will ask, ‘Exactly what can he do to get the GOP to deal?,’” writes Fournier, “That is a question best put to the president, a skilled and well-meaning leader elected to answer the toughest questions.”
Hypnosis! Jedi mind tricks! Whatever! Fournier’s job is to demand that Obama do something that flies in the face of everything we know about the ideological makeup of the Republican Party and the nature of free will, not to explain how it could happen. David Gregory, among others, heartily endorses Fournier’s argument.
Woodward’s strange way of understanding this issue survives because it is something that he and certain people need to believe, for professional and ideological reasons.
To reconcile Woodward’s journalistic reputation with the weird pettiness of his current role, one has to grasp the distinction between his abilities as a reporter and his abilities as an analyst. Woodward was, and remains, an elite gatherer of facts. But anybody who has seen him commit acts of political commentary on television has witnessed a painful spectacle. As an analyst, Woodward is a particular kind of awful — a Georgetown Wise Man reliably and almost invariably mouthing the conventional wisdom of the Washington Establishment.
His more recent books often compile interesting facts, but how Woodward chooses to package those facts has come to represent a barometric measure of a figure’s standing within the establishment. His 1994 account of Bill Clinton’s major budget bill, which in retrospect was a major success, told a story of chaos and indecision. He wrote a fulsome love letter to Alan Greenspan, “Maestro,” at the peak of the Fed chairman’s almost comic prestige. In 2003, when George W. Bush was still a decisive and indispensable war leader, Woodward wrote a heroic treatment of the Iraq War. After Bush’s reputation had collapsed, Woodward packaged essentially the same facts into a devastating indictment.
Woodward’s book on the 2011 debt negotiations was notable for arguing that Obama scotched a potential deficit deal. The central argument has since been debunked by no less a figure than Eric Cantor, who admitted to Ryan Lizza that he killed the deal.
The real rap on Woodward isn’t that he makes things up. It’s that he takes what powerful people tell him at face value; that his accounts are shaped by who coöperates with him and who doesn’t; and that they lack context, critical awareness, and, ultimately, historic meaning. In a 1996 essay for the New York Review of Books, Joan Didion wrote that “measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent” from Woodward’s post-Watergate books, which are notable mainly for “a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured.”
Woodward’s 2000 book on Alan Greenspan, “Maestro,” which was clearly based on extensive access to the Fed chairman, is a good example of what Didion was talking about. As an inside account of what Greenspan said and did and thought, it was a useful primer, and, as with all of Woodward’s books, it included some arresting, if largely irrelevant, narrative details, such as one in which the great man, disturbed by his wife, Andrea Mitchell’s, desire for a canine companion, asks one of his colleagues, the chairman of the Philadelphia Fed, “Well, how do you tell your wife you don’t want a dog?” But as a guide to the impact of Greenspan’s policies, or the real significance of his rise to a godlike status, “Maestro” wasn’t much help at all. Less than a year after it was published, the stock-market bubble that Greenspan had helped to inflate burst, and the country was plunged into a recession.
So in other words, Obama said in November 2011 exactly what he said for the next year, and exactly what he is saying today! Those goal posts are now looking more and more stationary, aren’t they? The notion that the supercommittee was the only place where revenues could be discussed is so wrong that it really makes me wonder how intelligent Bob Woodward is. It was understood in November 2011 that Congress still had 13 months to come up with something until the January 2013 deadline. And Obama has wanted revenues that entire time. Sheesh.
Investigative journalist Bob Woodward announced Thursday that he’s received credible information from an anonymous source confirming that Woodward hasn’t been a relevant force in American journalism in 40 years. “Though I cannot divulge his name, I can tell you that he’s an extremely reliable, high-level government source, and thus far everything he’s told me about how I’m no longer a salient or even particularly respected journalistic figure completely checks out,” Woodward told reporters, describing a late-night parking garage rendezvous in which the Washington Post editor was purportedly told to “follow the writing.” “My source assured me that once I read my careless reporting on the Iraq war, my exaggerated interviews, and my exploitative and inaccurate account of the recent sequestration situation, it would be abundantly clear that my influence in the field has substantially waned since Watergate. And he’s right. It’s all true.” Woodward then accidentally revealed that his source’s name was White House Communications Director Daniel Pfeiffer, which prompted the journalist to murmur, “Goddamnit, Bob, you’ve really lost it,” under his breath.
But listening to the reliable defenders of the wealthy, you’d think that Ms. Warren was the second coming of Leon Trotsky. George Will declared that she has a “collectivist agenda,” that she believes that “individualism is a chimera.” And Rush Limbaugh called her “a parasite who hates her host. Willing to destroy the host while she sucks the life out of it.”
What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.
Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.
This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.
So who’s really being un-American here? Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard. No, the real extremists here are America’s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth.
Franks was speaking with blogger Mike Stark about civility and the public discourse. Unprompted, the congressman started reflecting on the African-American community, and his belief that African Americans may have been better off under slavery than in a legal system that allows legal abortions.
“[I]n this country, we had slavery for God knows how long. And now we look back on it and we say ‘How brave were they? What was the matter with them? You know, I can’t believe, you know, four million slaves. This is incredible.’ And we’re right, we’re right. We should look back on that with criticism. It is a crushing mark on America’s soul.
“And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery.”
Franks added that he can sometimes say things that are “intemperate,” but added, “I don’t want to hide from the truth.”
Yeah, well, Congressman, your facts are erroneous, and you are a embarrassment to your party, and state, and country. Wonder what the racial composition of Arizona’s second district is? Seems like there would be some black voters in Phoenix suburbs, no?
Discussing civility and outrageous language, Franks wandered into a tangent in which he wound up declaring that “far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery.” Where, exactly, did he get that idea? Because, as he also explained, “half of all black children are aborted.” (The Centers for Disease Control, which compiles abortion statistics, actually estimates that 33 percent of pregnancies end in abortion for black women.)
Abortion-rights opponents like to compare abortion and slavery; the Dred Scott vs. Sandford case is often seen on the right as the 19th century equivalent of Roe v. Wade. Still, the comments caught the attention of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“To compare the horrors and inhumane treatment of millions of African Americans during slavery as a better way of life for African Americans today is beyond repulsive,” said Stephanie Young, a DCCC spokeswoman. “In 2010, during the 2nd year of our first African American president, it is astonishing that a thought such as this would come to mind, let alone be shared. The next time Congressman Franks wants to make assumptions about what policies are ‘best’ for the African American community, he should keep them to himself.”
I’ve been laughing at this for hours. Some stupid Republicans, with their lack of clear thinking, cost themselves a spot on a Republican central committee. Apparently, jumping parties in a primary is actually illegal in Ohio, but its one of those laws that are difficult to prosecute.
Remember way back in 2008, during the big primary, when Rush Limbaugh was telling Republican voters in Ohio and Texas to switch to a Democratic registration just so they could vote for Hillary and screw up the primary? People listened and obeyed, and now it looks like it could be coming back to haunt them:
Victoria Robertson has been an avowed Republican for decades, working tirelessly for conservative candidates and causes.
That is until a typo by a pollworker changed her party affiliation, elections officials say. Now she can’t even run for re-election to the GOP central committee.
“You’re a Democrat as we speak until the primary, and that cannot be changed until you get the right box checked,” Butler County Board of Elections Chairman Tom Ellis told her at a board meeting Wednesday, Feb. 24 — the deadline to certify the May primary ballot.
…Robertson was one of seven candidates for Republican central committee who were disqualified for pulling Democratic ballots in the 2008 primary. She was the only one to contest it, officials said.
Now let me pretend I am a lawyer making some closing arguments. In these closing arguments I want to present all the facts again. Here they are in nice bullet point form:
Butler County, Ohio has a population of 332,000
Butler County is a very red county, voting for McCain over Obama in 2008 by 61%-38%
In 2008 Butler County made national attention when people proudly proclaimed their obedience to Rush stating that they did exactly what he asked for.
In 2010, the next election cycle, 7 Republicans have been disqualified from running for voting Democratic in the 2008 primary
In 2010 0 Democrats have had this problem.
Coincidence? Sure, it could be, and unicorns could also roam the earth.
iPad About « The New Adventures of Stephen Fry – I have always thought Hans Christian Andersen should have written a companion piece to the Emperor’s New Clothes, in which everyone points at the Emperor shouting, in a Nelson from the Simpson’s voice, “Ha ha! He’s naked.” And then a lone child pipes up, ‘No. He’s actually wearing a really fine suit of clothes.” And they all clap hands to their foreheads as they realise they have been duped into something worse than the confidence trick, they have fallen for what E. M. Forster called the lack of confidence trick. How much easier it is to distrust, to doubt, to fold the arms and say “Not impressed”. I’m not advocating dumb gullibility, but it is has always amused me that those who instinctively dislike Apple for being apparently cool, trendy, design fixated and so on are the ones who are actually so damned cool and so damned sensitive to stylistic nuance that they can’t bear to celebrate or recognise obvious class, beauty and desire.
Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com – Justice Alito's conduct and the Court's credibility – There's a reason that Supreme Court Justices — along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff — never applaud or otherwise express any reaction at a State of the Union address. It's vital — both as a matter of perception and reality — that those institutions remain apolitical, separate and detached from partisan wars. The Court's pronouncements on (and resolutions of) the most inflammatory and passionate political disputes retain legitimacy only if they possess a credible claim to being objectively grounded in law and the Constitution, not political considerations. The Court's credibility in this regard has — justifiably — declined substantially over the past decade, beginning with Bush v. Gore (where 5 conservative Justices issued a ruling ensuring the election of a Republican President), followed by countless 5-4 decisions in which conservative Justices rule in a way that promotes GOP political beliefs, while the more "liberal" Justices do to the reverse
Yet another Republican family values freaky-deac(on).
One of Ensign’s roommates, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, was described by Hampton as being particularly vocal about the importance of cash contributions to “make these folks whole.” Coburn denies this, although he won’t say exactly what advice he gave to his erring colleague. Coburn told Roll Call that he talked to Ensign as a “physician and as an ordained deacon” and that he will therefore have the right to keep mum even if he’s dragged into court or a Senate committee hearing.
This makes me sort of hope that some kind of investigation takes place just so Coburn, who’s an obstetrician, can explain how exactly doctor-patient confidentiality figures into this.
We hardly need to point out that Ensign was one of the people who demanded that President Bill Clinton resign over the Lewinsky affair, that he votes against financing for education and contraception services to combat teenage pregnancy and that he supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In the world of politics, hypocrisy is a hard market to corner, but lately the Republicans have been making a Microsoft-like effort to do it.
Both of the Hamptons lost their jobs, and Doug was shuttled off to a Las Vegas-based airline, run by a friend of Ensign’s, where he is now vice president of government affairs. Unappeased, he hired a lawyer to demand that Ensign make financial amends for “evil and completely unjustifiable acts by one of our country’s top leaders.” He also tried to leak the story of the affair to Fox News, apparently under the theory that out of all the media, Fox would be most excited by the opportunity to humiliate a powerful conservative Republican senator.
Also, the payoff was a very precise number of dollars: $96,000, or as The Washington Monthly puts it:
$96,000 is a lot of money. Interestingly, it is precisely the amount you can give as a gift without having to report it to the IRS, multiplied by eight: one gift of $12,000 from each parent to Ensign’s lover, her husband, and two of their children. I wonder what the IRS will make of that? I certainly hope that neither of the parents has made use of their children’s money, or done anything else to suggest that this was all one big gift split up to avoid paying gift tax, or (more likely) having to report the gift. It’s bad enough asking your parents to cough up $96,000 to cover up your indiscretions; asking them to violate the tax code and risk prison is a whole lot worse.
A few interesting links collected July 6th through July 7th:
Sarah Palin Speaks to ABC News – ABC News – Palin said there is a difference between the White House and what she has experienced in Alaska. If she were in the White House, she said, the “department of law” would protect her from baseless ethical allegations.
“I think on a national level, your department of law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we’ve been charged with and automatically throw them out,” she said.
There is no “Department of Law” at the White House.
Where in the World Are the Federal Trade Commissioners? | Mother Jones – Since President George W. Bush appointed Kovacic to a Republican slot in 2006, he has averaged nearly 100 days of foreign travel a year. So far in 2009, he has been abroad for more than 60 days. (He spent the end of June in Taiwan, Rome, and London, and celebrated July 4th in China at a conference on competition law.)
All this jetting about appears somewhat out of sync with the commission’s largely domestic role. The FTC’s wide-ranging mandate includes everything from enforcing used car sales regulations to ensuring that clothing manufacturers properly instruct consumers whether or not to put their shirts in the dryer. It runs the “do not call” registry to keep telemarketers at bay and cracks down on bogus weight loss cures. The agency also shares responsibility with the Justice Department for overseeing mergers and acquisitions of big companies and enforcing antitrust laws.
These are real, untouched advertisements from the good old days. It doesn’t matter if it’s lovely ladies or adorable clowns, somehow these old-time ad wizards found ways to traumatize us while pedaling everyday products.”
Some of these I’ve seen before, but some were new-to-me
A few interesting links collected June 23rd through June 24th:
Governor Sanford’s Disturbingly Adult E-Mails – "As naughty erotic missives go, Mark Sanford’s exchanges with “Maria” read like what your passionless 11th grade English teacher wrote in his half-completed novel. At some point, the lovers have an hours-long coffee where they talk about Thoreau while it rains outside. "
"I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curve of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of the night’s light – but hey, that would be going into sexual details"
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews – "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. One of these involves a dog-like robot humping the leg of the heroine. Such are the meager joys. If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.
The plot is incomprehensible. The dialog of the Autobots, Deceptibots and Otherbots is meaningless word flap. Their accents are Brooklyese, British and hip-hop, as befits a race from the distant stars. Their appearance looks like junkyard throw-up. They are dumb as a rock. They share the film with human characters who are much more interesting, and that is very faint praise indeed.
Daley's Nephew Brings More Questions of Clout – Chicagoist – "The city pays the most per square foot for a branch library in Chinatown — more even than it pays for downtown office space.
The city has three leases with landlords who are clients of the insurance brokerage run by the mayor's brother, Cook County Commissioner John Daley.
Two of the city's landlords have hired the law firm of Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) — in one case to win a cut in their real estate taxes on property leased to the city."
A few interesting links collected April 9th through April 12th:
Technic News » Can the Statusphere Save Journalism? – Recently, I enjoyed a refreshing and invigorating dinner with Walt Mossberg. While we casually discussed our most current endeavors and experiences, the discussion shifted to deep conversation about the future of journalism in the era of socialized media with one simple question, “are newspapers worth saving?”
photo by swanksalot
Gapers Block : Mechanics : Chicago Politics – The Erosion of Daley and the Coward Defense – The excuse we always hear (off the record of course) from Aldermen, community groups, think tanks, and the rest, is that taking on the Mayor is just too darn scary. He’s too powerful. But what makes him powerful, like all bullies, is the constant refusal of anybody to stand up to him. And of course, it isn’t fear: its convenience. That whole “…but he’s our sonofabitch” mentality. We saw how well that worked with Augusto Pinochet and Saddam Hussein.
A few interesting links collected March 28th through March 29th:
The Washington Independent » After the Laughter, Grim GOP Numbers – While reporters hooted at the comically simplistic charts and lack of details in the House Republican leadership’s budget plan, the green eyeshade types at Citizen’s for Tax Justice crunched the numbers (PDF). They conclude that a quarter of all households, most of them poor, would pay more taxes under the GOP plan, while the richest one percent would pay $100,000 less.
TidBITS Media Creation: iMovie ’09 8.0.1 Update Brings More than Just Bug Fixes – “I understand that Apple isn’t creating its products for writers, and it can (and does) change features whenever it wants. The updates here are great for iMovie users. But since the development teams must keep internal lists of what’s changed anyway, is it really so hard to spend an hour and turn those into useful release notes?”
Amen to that. Maybe make a preference toggled in Software Update: terse details as the default, but have the ability to set a preference and get more detailed release notes. Please Apple, it shouldn’t be so difficult to say what’s new.
Mady Comfort – Biography – Mady (or Mattie) Comfort was a jazz and lounge singer, dancer, and model. She was married to bassist Joe Comfort, who worked with Lionel Hampton and Nat King Cole, and who played on many of the Frank Sinatra/Nelson Riddle Capitol recordings. Gene Santoro, in his biography of Charlie Mingus (Myself When I Am Real), says that she was also a girlfriend of Duke Ellington, and that she is the “Satin Doll” about whom Ellington, Strayhorn, and Mercer wrote the song “Satin Doll.”