Daily Archive: 11/09/2010

Nov 09 2010

Chocolate Fountains

Matt Bai is a Moron

By 2006 I’d been blogging for about a year and while I did not attend the initial Netroots Nation I well remember the sensation caused by Mark Warner’s Chocolate Fountain.  Indeed, it inspired me to write what I consider one of my very best (and least noticed) pieces ever- My Las Vegas Convention- A Happy Story.

At 6:06 the doors opened on this ballroom that occupied the entire floor.  The view was spectacular, all up and down the Strip.  There were 2 Champagne Fountains and 2 Chocolate Dippers.  There were buffet tables and carving stations.  THERE WAS AN OPEN BAR!  Four of them, it’s a fun club.

So basically there were 20 people there.  And me.  And my sweetheart.  All sweaty and flushed and tired, our credentials flopping around our necks.

Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and company go down the hall?  It was kind of like that, only bigger and longer.  At the end of (no kidding) about a quarter of a mile was the DJ.  We wandered up and said hi and he said- “So is there anything you want to hear?”  I let her pick the song.  It was slow and sappy and we grabbed each other and spun around, alone on acres of dance floor, on top of the world.

The operative part is “2 Champagne Fountains and 2 Chocolate Dippers”.

The moral of that piece I’ll leave you to judge, but you’ll understand I’m not easily impressed.

Mark Warner’s Chocolate Fountain Remorse

By: emptywheel Tuesday November 9, 2010 5:36 am

Once upon a time in 2006, a dirty fucking hippie blogger had an opportunity to ask aspiring presidential candidate Mark Warner a few questions. Mark Warner had just dedicated part of a speech to talking about how Iran was the biggest WMD threat. So with her questions, the dirty fucking hippie blogger asked Mark Warner how, if the NIE had said Iran was years away from having nukes whereas Pakistan and its al Qaeda favoring Generals and unstable government already had nukes, Iran could be the biggest WMD threat. Warner then listed three reasons why Iran was the biggest WMD threat: its support of Hezbollah and Hamas, its nutty president, and its aspirations for hegemony in the Middle East. “But none of those things are WMD,” the blogger said.

Matt Bai, who observed the entire exchange, would later blame the dirty fucking hippie’s questions (which, after all, proved correct on several counts and served mostly to highlight to Warner how blindly he had embraced a popular talking point) for single-handedly driving nice moderate Mark Warner from the presidential race and with him potentially the ability to succeed as a party.

The dirty fucking hippie blogger took from that exchange the following: 1) Mark Warner doesn’t have the analytic ability to understand what threatens this country 2) Matt Bai tends to spout stupid centrist ideology even when reality proves him wrong.



Now, Mark Warner and his friends that maintain the deficit as a bigger threat than a stagnant economy are precisely what we dirty fucking hippie bloggers point to as the problem with the last two years. Because these centrists put their own pet theories ahead of real analysis of what our country needed, the legislation they passed failed to do the job. It’s the economy, stupid, and the economy is still so shitty at least partly because deficit scolds like Mark Warner cut the already too-small stimulus package back when it could do some good.

Which is what Matt Bai fails to understand with his piece trying to refute the theory that Democrats failed because they catered to people like Mark Warner.



What Bai and Warner choose not to understand is that centrism is an ideology even more stubborn than the left or right they love to attack, but an ideology that got us into the mess we’re in now, both fiscally and electorally.

Matt Bai thinks Ronald Wilson Reagan was the bestest President ever.

Nov 09 2010

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Bob Herbert: The Impossible Dream

One of the most frustrating tendencies of mainstream leaders in the United States is their willingness, year after debilitating year, to embrace policies that have no hope of succeeding.

From Lyndon Johnson’s mad pursuit of victory in Vietnam to George W. Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq to today’s delusionary deficit zealots, the tragic lure of the impossible dream seems never to subside.

Ronald Reagan told us he could cut taxes, jack up defense spending and balance the budget – all at the same time. How’d he do? As his biographer Garry Wills tells us, the Gipper “nearly tripled the deficit in his eight years, and never made a realistic proposal for cutting it.”

President Obama is escalating the war in Afghanistan while promising to start bringing our troops home next summer, which is like a heavyweight boxer throwing roundhouse rights while assuring his opponent that he won’t fight quite as hard after the eighth or ninth round.

I don’t know if it’s the drinking water or the rarefied air at the highest reaches of government that makes so many of our leaders go loopy. Whatever it is, we need to put a stop to these self-defeating tendencies. The U.S. is in sad shape, and most of the policy prescriptions being tossed around by the movers and shakers are bad ones.

Peter Daou: On 60 Minutes, President Obama apologizes to America for being a Democrat

The title of this post is intentionally hyperbolic and provocative – I couldn’t think of any other way to express my shock at the things President Obama said to Steve Kroft.

First, some context: I’ve been insistent that the fundamental problem for President Obama and Democratic leaders is a lack of moral authority, a pervasive sense among the electorate that they don’t have the courage of their convictions . . .

The aftermath of the GOP’s midterm triumph perfectly illustrates this problem: Obama is falling over himself seeking compromise with Republicans, ceding to their frames, while Republican leaders say they will stick to their principles and try to destroy his presidency and legacy. Here’s how I put it a couple of days ago: If one side offers “compromise” and the other claims to stand firmly on principle, which one appears more principled to voters?

Astonishingly, in a 60 Minutes piece that just aired, Obama goes one step further. During the course of the entire interview he only once mentions having the courage of one’s convictions. And he attributes it not to himself or Democrats, but to Tom Coburn, a staunch conservative!

Eugene Robinson: Mr. President, some leadership, please

Last week, voters made a powerful statement about leadership: They’d like some, please. So far, there’s no evidence that either President Obama or the top Republicans in Congress were paying the slightest attention.

In his only interview since the GOP rampage, with Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes,” Obama was reasonable, analytical, professorial – but also uninspired and uninspiring. I’m just being honest, if not generous; when Kroft asked whatever happened to Obama’s “mojo,” the president gave the impression that he’s been wondering the same thing.

By uninspired, I mean there was no sense that Obama relishes the high-stakes political battles that are sure to come over the next two years. There was no hint, for example, that he looks forward to the opportunity to put Republicans on the spot about all the unrealistic budget-cutting they say they want to carry out. And by uninspiring, I mean that the president offered no vision of a brighter tomorrow. Instead, he sketched a future not quite as dim as the present.

Nov 09 2010

Again- How’s that austerity thing working out for you?

Background- Ireland is in some ways a model of the current state of the U.S. economy in miniature.  Same Real Estate bubble fueled by the same fraud, 3 big banks now all insolvent but bailed out.  Ireland eagerly embraced an austerity program early on.  How is that working out?

“Morgan Kelly is Professor of Economics at University College Dublin.”

If you thought the bank bailout was bad, wait until the mortgage defaults hit home

Morgan Kelly, The Irish Times

Monday, November 8, 2010

WHEN I wrote in The Irish Times last May showing how the bank guarantee would lead to national insolvency, I did not expect the financial collapse to be anywhere near as swift or as deep as has now occurred. During September, the Irish Republic quietly ceased to exist as an autonomous fiscal entity, and became a ward of the European Central Bank.

It is a testament to the cool and resolute handling of the crisis over the last six months by the Government and Central Bank that markets now put Irish sovereign debt in the same risk group as Ukraine and Pakistan, two notches above the junk level of Argentina, Greece and Venezuela.



With the €55 billion repaid, the possibility of resolving the bank crisis by sharing costs with the bondholders is now water under the bridge. Instead of the unpleasant showdown with the European Central Bank that a bank resolution would have entailed, everyone is a winner. Or everyone who matters, at least.

The German and French banks whose solvency is the overriding concern of the ECB get their money back. Senior Irish policymakers get to roll over and have their tummies tickled by their European overlords and be told what good sports they have been. And best of all, apart from some token departures of executives too old and rich to care less, the senior management of the banks that caused this crisis continue to enjoy their richly earned rewards. The only difficulty is that the Government’s open-ended commitment to cover the bank losses far exceeds the fiscal capacity of the Irish State.



This €70 billion bill for the banks dwarfs the €15 billion in spending cuts now agonised over, and reduces the necessary cuts in Government spending to an exercise in futility. What is the point of rearranging the spending deckchairs, when the iceberg of bank losses is going to sink us anyway?



As a taxpayer, what does a bailout bill of €70 billion mean? It means that every cent of income tax that you pay for the next two to three years will go to repay Anglo’s losses, every cent for the following two years will go on AIB, and every cent for the next year and a half on the others. In other words, the Irish State is insolvent: its liabilities far exceed any realistic means of repaying them.



Banks have been relying on two dams to block the torrent of defaults – house prices and social stigma – but both have started to crumble alarmingly.

People are going to extraordinary lengths – not paying other bills and borrowing heavily from their parents – to meet mortgage repayments, both out of fear of losing their homes and to avoid the stigma of admitting that they are broke. In a society like ours, where a person’s moral worth is judged – by themselves as much as by others – by the car they drive and the house they own, the idea of admitting that you cannot afford your mortgage is unspeakably shameful.

That will change. The perception growing among borrowers is that while they played by the rules, the banks certainly did not, cynically persuading them into mortgages that they had no hope of affording. Facing a choice between obligations to the banks and to their families – mortgage or food – growing numbers are choosing the latter.



The gathering mortgage crisis puts Ireland on the cusp of a social conflict on the scale of the Land War, but with one crucial difference. Whereas the Land War faced tenant farmers against a relative handful of mostly foreign landlords, the looming Mortgage War will pit recent house buyers against the majority of families who feel they worked hard and made sacrifices to pay off their mortgages, or else decided not to buy during the bubble, and who think those with mortgages should be made to pay them off. Any relief to struggling mortgage-holders will come not out of bank profits – there is no longer any such thing – but from the pockets of other taxpayers.



By next year Ireland will have run out of cash, and the terms of a formal bailout will have to be agreed. Our bill will be totted up and presented to us, along with terms for repayment. On these terms hangs our future as a nation. We can only hope that, in return for being such good sports about the whole bondholder business and repaying European banks whose idea of a sound investment was lending billions to Gleeson, Fitzpatrick and Fingleton, the Government can negotiate a low rate of interest.



Ireland faced a painful choice between imposing a resolution on banks that were too big to save or becoming insolvent, and, for whatever reason, chose the latter. Sovereign nations get to make policy choices, and we are no longer a sovereign nation in any meaningful sense of that term.

(h/t dday, Kevin Drum, and Tyler Cowen)

How’s that austerity thing working out for you? by ek hornbeck, 11/8/10

Nov 09 2010

On This Day in History: November 9

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

November 9 is the 313th day of the year (314th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 52 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1872, fire rips through Boston.

The Great Boston Fire was Boston’s largest urban fire and still one of the most costly fire-related property losses in American history. The conflagration began at 7:20 p.m. on November 9, 1872, in the basement of a commercial warehouse at 83-87 Summer Street in Boston, Massachusetts. The fire was finally contained twelve hours later, after it had consumed about 65 acres of Boston’s downtown, 776 buildings, and much of the financial district and caused $73.5 million in damage. At least twenty people are known to have died in the fire.

In the aftermath, the city established an entirely new system of firefighting and prevention. The fire also led to the creation of Boston’s financial district.

The fire began in the basement of a warehouse at the corner of Kingston and Summer streets. At the time, this area of the city contained a mix of residences and light industry. Its buildings and most area roofs were made mainly of wood, allowing the blaze to spread quickly as the wind blew red hot embers from rooftop to rooftop. In addition, as Boston streets were narrow, large flames from one structure could literally leap across them to nearby buildings.

Firefighting units from Maine to New Haven, Connecticut, arrived to help, but efforts to fight the fire were plagued by difficulties. There was not enough water on hand to get the fire under control; the hydrant system did not work well because much of the equipment was not standardized; and even when firefighters got their hands on an adequate supply of water, the height of the buildings and the narrowness of the streets made it difficult to direct the water at the blaze from the optimum angle. Because a local equine epidemic had struck the city fire department’s horses, it was difficult to get the fire engines to the correct locations at the right times. In addition, some of the efforts were counter-productive. Explosions were used to attempt fire breaks, but this high-risk strategy was not executed with enough precision and served only to further spread the fire.

The fire was finally stopped at the doors of Fanueil Hall the following morning, but it had already destroyed much of the downtown area. Boston’s officials realized that their fire-prevention efforts had been ineffective and, in the aftermath of the disaster, began to revise and strengthen all of the city’s fire laws and regulations. An inspection system was instituted and the local fire departments began to coordinate their efforts.

Nov 09 2010

Morning Shinbun Tuesday November 9




Tuesday’s Headlines:

The five most dangerous countries for journalists

USA

Tax Cut Timing Is Proving Problematic for Democrats

Some judges chastise banks over foreclosure paperwork

Europe

Stockholm to investigate US embassy surveillance

Berlin excavation uncovers trove of sculptures confiscated by Nazis

Middle East

Hariri’s moment of truth nears

Israel permits new settlement homes

Asia

After 40,000 years, recognition for Aboriginal people beckons

Refugees flee Burma after poll violence

Africa

Deaths in Western Sahara camp raid

Opposition closes ranks in Côte d’Ivoire run-off vote

Latin America

Haiti tests for cholera in Port-au-Prince

More Americans opt for high-deductible health insurance plans

Rising costs lead to a nearly threefold increase in the number of workers covered by the policies since 2006. Health experts worry about consumers who forgo preventive care.

By Duke Helfand, Los Angeles Times

November 9, 2010


Looking to save money in a weak economy, Americans increasingly are turning to health insurance plans with low premiums and high deductibles – prompting doctors and health experts to worry that consumers may be skipping routine care that could head off serious ailments.

Nationally, the number of workers with individual deductibles of at least $1,000 has nearly tripled over the last four years, reaching about 20 million, according to a recent survey of employers.

Some have pushed their deductibles as high as $10,000, and, to keep medical bills low, are forgoing colonoscopies, blood tests and other preventive procedures.

Nov 09 2010

Prime Time

A good night to nap.  Broadcast premiers.  Keith due back tomorrow.  Greenwald on O’Donnell (maybe).

Damn it Valentine, you never plan ahead, you never take the long view, I mean here it is Monday and I’m already thinking of Wednesday… It is Monday right?

You see? When the left tire mark goes up on the curb and the right tire mark stays flat and even? Well, the ’64 Skylark had a solid rear axle, so when the left tire would go up on the curb, the right tire would tilt out and ride along its edge. But that didn’t happen here. The tire mark stayed flat and even. This car had an independent rear suspension. Now, in the ’60’s, there were only two other cars made in America that had positraction, and independent rear suspension, and enough power to make these marks. One was the Corvette, which could never be confused with the Buick Skylark. The other had the same body length, height, width, weight, wheel base, and wheel track as the ’64 Skylark, and that was the 1963 Pontiac Tempest.

We have to keep out faith in the Republic. The day we stop believing democracy can work is the day we lose it.

Later-

Dave hosts Harrison Ford and Cee Lo Green.  Jon has Rick Perry, Stephen Reza Aslan.  Double Alton, Squash and Sweet Potatos.

Series Premier of Conan on TBS.  He hosts Seth Rogan and Jack White.

BoondocksThank You for Not Snitching

Elaine, you’re a member of this crew. Can you face some unpleasant facts?

No.