Friday, February 27

Rahm Emanuel as The Gatekeeper

There is a much-talked about piece in the New Yorker about White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. It is very good. However, it would be difficult to write anything about Rahm that wasn't entertaining. The man is - if nothing else - intense. You should read the entire piece and learn about the man behind the President. A few of my favorite parts:
Unlike recent chiefs of staff from the Bush and Clinton eras, who tended to be relatively quiet inside players, Emanuel is a former congressional leader, a Democratic Party power, and one of the more colorful Beltway celebrities. He is a political John McEnroe, known for both his mercurial temperament and his tactical brilliance. In the same conversation, he can be wonkish and thoughtful, blunt and profane. (When Emanuel was a teen-ager, he lost half of his right middle finger, after cutting it on a meat slicer—an accident, Obama once joked, that “rendered him practically mute.”) And, like McEnroe, Emanuel seems to employ his volcanic moments for effect, intimidating opponents and referees alike but never quite losing himself in the midst of battle.
And this part demonstrates his well-known intensity:
The stimulus bill was essentially held hostage to the whims of Collins, Snowe, and Specter, but if Al Franken, the apparent winner of the disputed Minnesota Senate race, had been seated in Washington, and if Ted Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, had been regularly available to vote, the White House would have needed only one Republican to pass the measure. “No disrespect to Paul Krugman,” Emanuel went on, “but has he figured out how to seat the Minnesota senator?” (Franken’s victory is the subject of an ongoing court challenge by his opponent, Norm Coleman, which the national Republican Party has been happy to help finance.) “Write a fucking column on how to seat the son of a bitch. I would be fascinated with that column. O.K.?” Emanuel stood up theatrically and gestured toward his seat with open palms. “Anytime they want, they can have it,” he said of those who are critical of his legislative strategies. “I give them my chair.”
This guy is awesome. Normally, I am annoyed by people who use drama and theatrics, but Rahm gets important things done. Also, he is so entertaining...when you are not on the other end of his tirade.

Thursday, February 26

Wednesday, February 25

Gov. Jindal Makes Rachel Maddow Speechless

This is a clip of the immediate reactions of Rachel, Keith Olbermann, and Chris Matthews regarding the Republican response of President Obama's SOTU.

Saturday, February 21

President Obama Touts Stimulus Success

The full text of the President's Weekly Address here. And here is my favorite part:

Because of what we did, 95 percent of all working families will get a tax cut -- in keeping with a promise I made on the campaign. And I'm pleased to announce that this morning, the Treasury Department began directing employers to reduce the amount of taxes withheld from paychecks -- meaning that by April 1st, a typical family will begin taking home at least $65 more every month. Never before in our history has a tax cut taken effect faster or gone to so many hardworking Americans.

Look at the President bragging! That's alright, though. He earned it. The weird thing is there are a few Republicans out there bragging about the plan too. The plan they voted against. I guess they assume their constituents are stupid. It's funny because Republicans are always talking about how important tax cuts are; yet they voted "no" on a bill with huge tax cuts! Clueless.

SWJ: Kilcullen's Senate Testimony

Dave Kilcullen's testimony on Afghanistan is compelling. I feel like I understand better the complications and nuisances of the strategy involved in the area. It is worth a full read but here is a small portion regarding our long term options:

We need to do four things – what we might call “essential strategic tasks” – to succeed in Afghanistan. We need to prevent the re-emergence of an Al Qaeda sanctuary that could lead to another 9/11. We need to protect Afghanistan from a range of security threats including the Taliban insurgency, terrorism, narcotics, misrule and corruption. We need to build sustainable and accountable state institutions (at the central, provincial and local level) and a resilient civil society. Then we can begin a phased hand-off to Afghan institutions that can survive without permanent international assistance. We might summarize this approach as “Prevent, Protect, Build, Hand-Off”. Let’s call it “Option A”.


Is there an alternative? Some have recently argued for “Option B”, where we would focus solely on the Prevent task, putting Protect, Build and Hand-Off on hold. We would conduct counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda, while doing the minimum development and population protection needed to enable those operations, and shelving long-term nation-building aspirations. After all, we might say, we went into Afghanistan to defeat Al Qa’ida, not to build a model state in the Hindu Kush.
The problem with Option A is that we may not be able to afford it. The trouble with Option B is much simpler: it just won’t work.

And on the Pakistan part of the equation:

The critical problem is that Pakistan has so far been both unable to control its own territory and population, and unwilling to accept international assistance on the scale, or of the type, needed to do so. Meanwhile we have tended to focus what little attention we give to the region on Afghanistan, a problem that is far easier to understand although extremely difficult to address.
Because of Pakistan’s size (173 million people) and military capacity (a defense establishment that includes 100 nuclear weapons and a well-equipped army larger than that of the United States) the notion that we could or should force an unwilling Pakistan to do our bidding is both unrealistic and extremely risky

I wonder if this testimony was the reason for President Obama to commit 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

h/t to Rachel Maddow for the link on Twitter

Sunday, February 15

LA Times: Don't Miss A Credit Card Payment

We taxpayers bailed out the banks so they could stay in business. What do we get for that? Credit card fee hikes. How's that for gratitude?

By ratcheting up the pressure on customers, major banks -- some of which have received billions of dollars in bailout cash from taxpayers -- are making it likely that a growing percentage will be forced to either default on their obligations or seek bankruptcy protection.
Last week, letters arrived at the homes of Citibank cardholders throughout California warning that their rates could rise to 29.99% if they miss a single payment -- even for cards with low-low-low introductory rates.
Citi customers have the right to decline any such rate hike. But if they do, their account will be closed as soon as the card expires. And that's one of the more generous conditions offered by a leading bank.
Other lenders say cardholders who don't want higher rates can close their accounts immediately and pay off the outstanding balance.

Your welcome??

Friday, February 13

What Happens When You Drive Through A Rainbow?

The search is over. The end of a rainbow has been conclusively found, but there was a conspicuous absence of a pot of gold. It seems an unlikely coincidence that this missing pot is revealed on the day that Congress approves the roughly $800 billion stimulus package.
Fortunately, given the unexpected loss of the pot of gold, the Democrats quickly add $5 billion for California (where the end of the rainbow was found) to keep the rainbow and any attending Leprechauns employed. However, some question the value of this trickle down rainbow economy while others insist that this is simply another radical version of Keynesian economics.
There are also indications that the California Leprechauns were former clients “Bernie” Madoff, which may explain the loss of treasure and disappearance of the little investors.

Thursday, February 12

NYT Op-Ed: The Stump Theory

Gail Collins writes a great op-ed piece about how being "old is in". Time for us to readjust.

My own personal theory is that we’re witnessing a defense mechanism triggered by the current economic unpleasantness.
Since it appears that nobody is ever going to be able to afford to retire, we’re moving into an era in which having your car fixed or your tonsils removed by a 75-year-old will need to seem normal. Meanwhile, young people are going to have to stay in school and keep their heads down since their elders have no intention of creating any job openings in the near future. So it’s better if we readjust our thinking and start regarding everybody as 20 years younger than the calendar suggests. Then you will feel much better when the 80-year-old postman delivers your mail and it includes a request for money from your 38-year-old offspring doing post-post-post-doctoral work at Ohio State.

Tuesday, February 10

Ricky Gervais Pens Open Letter To President Obama

Ricky Gervais is a great comic talent. I used to watch his show "Extras" which was a hidden gem, in my opinion. Check out the rest of his blog here.

An open letter to Barack Obama.
Dear Mr President, Firstly, congratulations on your historic win. I have never been so behind a candidate for what must be considered the boss of the world. You seem to be a man of grace and integrity, who would never shirk responsibility in any way. I'll get to the point.
As I'm sure you are aware, one of your flock has strayed. A Miss Paris Hilton, who is, I believe, a resident of Beverley Hills, is in England doing a reality game show for ITV2 called Paris Hilton's British Best Friend. Fine. I have no problem with that. I don't have to watch. But now it has come to my attention that she has bought a house in North London a few miles from me, and is out and about ingratiating herself with the Great British public. Mr President. We are not stupid. This is clearly a retaliatory strike for Posh Spice moving to LA. I know it, and you know it, so let's cut the "it's a free country" nonsense and come to some agreement.
I propose an exchange. This is how it would work. We call them both and tell them that we've found a giant "paparazzi nest", in New York say. (half way home for both of them already) At first they may be confused that they'd never heard of such a thing before, but the thought of that many photographers in one place will be irresistible. Once we get them there, while they are having their photos taken (we will have hire a few guys with cameras to make it look good) we will swap their limos around. It's fool proof.
This is a covert operation of which Mr Gordon Brown knows nothing. (I've got him working on finding a synthetic fur for The Queen's guards' bearskin hats.) Have your people call my people. They may have to call a few times as my people are useless to be honest.
Thank you,
Ricky Gervais

Sunday, February 8

Moody's Chart

According to this chart by people who know what they are talking about, tax cuts suck and spending rules. But, we already knew that from Bush's trillion dollar tax cut program. Just have to look around to see those results.

For every $1 spent on food stamps, $1.73 comes back to the economy. Sooooo, why did that get cut from the Senate's version of the stimulus bill? Seriously..what was the reason?

Saturday, February 7

Rachel Maddow Explains Economic Stimulus

Video clip titled "Reality Check" from The Rachel Maddow Show on February 5, 2009

The economy is in crisis because people aren‘t buying enough stuff. There is supply, right? People make stuff that is to be sold and then there‘s demand. Demand is buying.
Right now, there‘s not enough buying. So, what they teach you in the very easiest semester of the very easiest economics class, because it‘s really easy to understand even if you are a total dunderhead about more completed macroeconomics stuff, what they teach is that the government can turn around an economic crisis that‘s caused by not enough demand—by making demand. Stimulating demand, they call it—economic stimulus.
It is reality check time here. Economic stimulus, most efficiently, is government spending. The most purely stimulative spending would probably be just to give envelopes full of cash to the poorest people in the country. Statistically, they‘d be the most likely to spend it.
In the absence of a political reality, that would make something like that possible, an almost ideal strategy is government spending, say, on infrastructure of which the American Society of Civil Engineers just said we could use $2.2 trillion worth. It‘s good jobs that can‘t be outsourced, immediately, that have the long-term benefit of dragging our country into the 21st century in terms of our ability to compete economically with the rest of the world.

Thursday, February 5

President Obama's WaPo Op-Ed

President Barack Obama has an op-ed piece in The Washington Post today.

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.
I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.
Every day, our economy gets sicker -- and the time for a remedy that puts Americans back to work, jump-starts our economy and invests in lasting growth is now.

The President said much of the same yesterday. It was in a tone that, frankly, I would like to have seen a week earlier when the Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against a quick economic stimulus package for political bravado. I have a hard time believing that their constituents are against government spending on infrastructure when many of them are without power during a basic winter storm. Or, that they are against government spending on green technology and rebuilding bridges when so many people are without a job. The Republicans in Congress are performing fantastic political theater at the worst time. Hopefully, our senators will come together this week and put a stop to it. 626,000 people filed unemployment claims last week. Enough is enough.

Read the whole piece here.

Tuesday, February 3

Esquire: Best Cheap Booze

Esquire provides a list of five bottles of decent liquor under $15. Share and enjoy!

Monday, February 2

Rep. Barney Frank On ABC's "This Week"

Barney Frank was great yesterday with Sen. Jim DeMint. Here is the transcript. A highlight:

FRANK: Spending can be stimulus. I don't understand what you think stimulus is.
DEMINT: But this is the largest spending bill in history, and we're trying to call it a stimulus when it's just doing the things that...
FRANK: Well, let me tell you what I think is the largest...
DEMINT: ... you wanted to do anyway.
FRANK: The largest spending bill in history is going to turn out to be the war in Iraq. And one of the things, if we're going to talk about spending, I don't -- I have a problem when we leave out that extraordinarily expensive, damaging war in Iraq, which has caused much more harm than good, in my judgment.
And I don't understand why, from some of my conservative friends, building a road, building a school, helping somebody get health care, that's -- that's wasteful spending, but that war in Iraq, which is going to cost us over $1 trillion before we're through -- yes, I wish we hadn't have done that. We'd have been in a lot better shape fiscally.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is a whole another show, so I'm going to...
FRANK: That's the problem. The problem is that we look at spending and say, "Oh, don't spend on highways. Don't spend on health care. But let's build Cold War weapons to defeat the Soviet Union when we don't need them. Let's have hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars going to the military without a check." Unless everything's on the table, then you're going to have a disproportionate hit in some places.