Tuesday Reads: Dreaming a Life; Obama and Putin; NSA and Snowden

coffee shop bike

Good Morning!!

I’m going to begin with an article I came across yesterday while reading the Guardian. It’s about a story from 2006 that I remembered and sometimes think about–a woman whose skeletonized body was found in her apartment three years after she died.

On 25 January 2006, officials from a north London housing association repossessing a bedsit in Wood Green owing to rent arrears made a grim discovery. Lying on the sofa was the skeleton of a 38-year-old woman who had been dead for almost three years. In a corner of the room the television set was still on, tuned to BBC1, and a small pile of unopened Christmas presents lay on the floor. Washing up was heaped in the kitchen sink and a mountain of post lay behind the front door. Food in the refrigerator was marked with 2003 expiry dates. The dead woman’s body was so badly decomposed it could only be identified by comparing dental records with an old holiday photograph of her smiling. Her name was revealed to be Joyce Carol Vincent.

Joyce Carol Vincent

Joyce Carol Vincent

How could such a thing happen? So often we hear sad stories like this and never get any answers to our questions. In this case, filmmaker Carol Morley decided to find out who Joyce Carol Vincent was, and she has made a documentary about her quest called Dreams of a Life. She writes:

In a city such as London, home to 8 million people, how could someone’s absence go unnoticed for so long? Who was Joyce Vincent? What was she like? How could she have been forgotten?

News of Joyce’s death quickly made it into the global media, which registered shock at the lack of community spirit in the UK. The story ran on in the British press, but still no photograph of Joyce appeared and little personal information.

Soon Joyce dropped out of the news. I watched as people discussed her in internet chatrooms, wondering if she was an urban myth, or talking about her as though she never mattered, calling her a couch potato, and posting comments such as: “What’s really sad is no one noticed she was missing – must have been one miserable bitch.” And then even that kind of commentary vanished.

But I couldn’t let go. I didn’t want her to be forgotten. I decided I must make a film about her.

She began by placing advertisements in newspapers asking anyone who knew Joyce to come forward. It turned out that Joyce had lots of friends over the years. She had been engaged to be married before she died, and she had also spent some time in a battered women’s shelter.  Eventually, Morley was able to talk to many people who had known Joyce. She describes her journey in the Guardian article. It’s an amazing story, and I hope you’ll go read the whole thing.

Follow me below the fold for some news and opinion…

Read the rest of this entry »


Thursday Reads: Villagers Turn On Obama, Texas Tornadoes, West TX Investigations, and Boston Bombing News

tea6

Good Morning!!

It’s beginning to look like Obama’s second term is pretty much over before it begins. We’re facing years of Republican scandalmongering and “investigations” of a president who won’t fight back or even fight for his own favored legislation or judicial and government appointments.

What is Obama actually doing every day? Does he spend the time he isn’t fund-raising or doing meaningless public appearances deciding which “extremist” to drone strike next? Because he certainly doesn’t seem to be governing.

Maybe I’m wrong. Who knows. All I know is that the Villagers are finished with him. We got the news yesterday from Politico’s top gossip mavens Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen in one of their trademark “Behind the Curtain” posts: D.C. turns on Obama.

The town is turning on President Obama — and this is very bad news for this White House.
Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama — and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now. Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.

Buy-in from all three D.C. stakeholders is an essential ingredient for a good old-fashioned Washington pile-on — so get ready for bad stories and public scolding to pile up.

Really? if powerful Democrats weren’t “big fans” of Obama, why did they work their asses off to hand him the nomination in 2008 when they could just as easily have chosen Hillary Clinton?

Of course the “establishment Democrats” that Vandehei and Allen choose to quote in their piece are hardly current insiders, as Charles Pierce pointed out:

Not to minimize the inherent political savvy of Chris Lehane, one anonymous former Obama aide, one anonymous “longtime Washingtonian,” or Vernon Jordan — who, I admit, I’d thought had long gone off to peddle influence in the Beyond — but I think they’re pretty much camouflage here for the fiery tantrum summoned up by the authors.

(And, not for nothing, but “longtime Washingtonian” may well be the beau ideal of TBOTP sourcing. They should make it the company motto. And the two presiding geniuses are going to be shocked one morning when they look in the mirror and see Sally Quinn staring back at them.)

Nevertheless, the Villagers certainly pay more attention to Vandehei and Allen’s pontifications than Pierce’s. Here’s a little more of their venom:

Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.

This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system. “It feel like they don’t know what they’re here to do,” a former senior Obama administration official said. “When there’s no narrative, stuff like this consumes you.”

Even Greg Sargent acknowledges that Politico probably speaks for the DC establishment, particularly the corporate media.

Read the rest of this entry »


Thursday Reads: Banks Reopen in Cyprus; An End to “Too Big to Fail” Banks (?); Vagina-Phobia; and Much More

Banks reopen in Cyprus and media jostle to get the best view - posted by Joe Parkinson (@JoeWSJ)

Banks reopen in Cyprus and media jostle to get the best view – posted by Joe Parkinson (@JoeWSJ)

Good Morning!!

The banks have opened in Cyprus with controls on how much depositors can withdraw.

Joe Weisenthal posted updates at his Business Insider blog:

At 6:00 AM ET, banks in Cyprus reopened their doors for the first time since March 16.

Wall Street Journal’s Joe Parkinson reports that only eight people are being allowed in at a time at one Bank of Cyprus branch.

However, the crowds have been orderly.

Everyone is wondering whether there will be a huge run on the banks.

So far? Not yet.

This is likely due to a set of capital controls that have been imposed on the banks.  Specifically, Cypriot depositors cannot withdraw more than 300 euros per day from any one bank.  Also, checks cannot be cashed.

These controls will be in place for seven days.

See more Twitter updates and photos at the link. International Business Times has some details about the capital controls that are supposed to prevent bank runs. In addition to the withdrawal limit, depositors can’t cash checks unless they come from another country.

In the meantime, non-cash payments or money transfers are banned unless they are related to a number of conditions.

These conditions include commercial transactions, payroll, living expenses and tuition fees.

If commercials transactions are less than €5,000, there are no restrictions, but payments above this amount and up to €200,000 will be subject to a 24-hour decision making process, in order to determine whether the liquidity of the bank would be able to incur such a withdrawal.

Transfers for paying employees will also still be allowed but relevant documents would have to be presented in order to prove the money is being used to pay staff.

Transactions on credit or debit cards are also capped at €5,000 euros per month.

According to the Wall Street Journal, some large depositors seemingly had advance knowledge of what was going to happen in Cyprus and moved their money out of the country weeks before the crisis.

The chairman of the Committee for Institutions in the Cypriot Parliament, Deputy Dimitris Syllouris, said he had submitted a letter to the Central Bank of Cyprus demanding an investigation into account holders who moved large sums of cash out of the country in the weeks ahead of Cyprus’s chaotic bailout talks…

He said he had received information about individuals and businesses moving money out of Cyprus weeks ahead of the bailout deal—a move that wouldn’t be illegal but could imply that some depositors had warning that negotiations for a bailout could, for the first time in the financial crisis that has rattled the euro zone, take a cut out of regular bank deposits.

Asked whether his suspicions focused on one specific group of depositors, he said “politicians, all sorts of people, and bankers themselves are no better.”

That figures…

Outflows from Cyprus were increasing from moderate levels from January until March 15, the officials said. Last week—especially after March 19, when the Cypriot Parliament rejected the first bailout deal that would have imposed a one-time levy on large deposits—the outflows under the central bank’s exemptions went up significantly, they said.

Several hundred million euros, but less than a billion euros, left the country despite the bank closures, according to one official.

At Bloomberg, Clive Crook says Cyprus’ Plan B is Still a Disaster.

The new deal has removed the craziest part of the agreement reached March 16 — the plan to default on deposit insurance. Let’s not dwell any further on that insanity. But the new plan still has features that, seen in any other context, would surely arouse surprise.

For instance, the so-called troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund wanted to be sure that the new debt Cyprus is about to take on will be sustainable — meaning, presumably, that Cyprus will be able to repay it. Yet, by writing down high- value deposits, the revised plan will also cause a sudden contraction of the Cypriot banking system, and thus of the whole Cypriot economy, which depends on banking to an unusual degree.

He concludes that,

Bailout fatigue says: “The Cypriots got themselves into this mess, and they should get themselves out. We’ll lend them a bit more, but only if we’re sure they’ll pay us back.” Cyprus didn’t get itself into this mess. It joined the euro system in 2008 with low public debt and a clean bill of health from EU governments (back then, not a word was said about shady Russians). Its banks are in trouble not because they accepted too many overseas deposits but because they bought too many Greek bonds — an investment sanctified by international banking rules (which called such investments riskless) that was destroyed by the EU’s ham-fisted resolution of Greece’s threatened default.

Europe’s sense of “we’re all in this together” seems to have evaporated entirely. Now one has to ask not merely what the euro is for, but what the EU itself is for.

Back in the U.S.A.,

too-big-to-fail

Simon Johnson has an interesting post at the NYT’ “Explaining the Science of Everyday Life” blog: The Debate on Bank Size Is Over.

While bank lobbyists and some commentators are suddenly taken with the idea that an active debate is under way about whether to limit bank size in the United States, they are wrong. The debate is over; the decision to cap the size of the largest banks has been made. All that remains is to work out the details.

To grasp the new reality, think about the Cyprus debacle this month, the Senate budget resolution last week and Ben Bernanke’s revelation that — on too big to fail — “I agree with Elizabeth Warren 100 percent that it’s a real problem.”

Policy is rarely changed by ideas alone and, in isolation, even stunning events can sometimes have surprisingly little effect. What really moves the needle in terms of consensus among policy makers and the broader public opinion is when events combine with a new understanding of how the world works. Thanks to Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio; Senator Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, and many other people who have worked hard over the last four years, we are ready to understand what finally defeated the argument that bank size does not matter: Cyprus.

I can’t briefly summarize the gist of Johnson’s piece, so if you’re following this story, please read the whole thing. Could he really be right about limits on “to big to fail or prosecute banks.” I sure hope so!

In other news,

Read the rest of this entry »


Thursday Reads: Fiscal Cliff Crashes into Debt Ceiling, Villagers Blame Old People….And Other News

cat.rain

Good Morning!!

The storm has moved into New England, but it’s mostly rain up here–very hard, windy, noisy rain. I’m very grateful it isn’t snow, but I feel for all the people down south of me who are getting hit harder. Take care, everyone!!

Yesterday Tim Geithner announced that the U.S. will hit the debt ceiling on December 31. He sent a letter (pdf) (also posted on the Treasury Department website)to Harry Reid with cc’s to other Congresscritters informing them that the Treasury can fiddle around and keep things going for at the most two months before the U.S. defaults on its debts for the first time in history.

Meanwhile, no negotiations on the “fiscal cliff” took place yesterday. John Boehner appears to have abdicated all responsibility and has announced that it’s up the the Senate to act; but Senators are in no hurry to rush back to Washington DC and clean up the House Republicans’ mess.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday urged the Senate to pass its version of legislation to avert the “fiscal cliff,” in a sign that congressional efforts to avoid a budget crisis are coming back to life days ahead of the year-end deadline.

In a statement issued by Boehner and his top lieutenants, the Republican leadership team said “the Senate must act first” to revive efforts to avert the $600 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts due to be triggered on Jan. 1.

They promised that the House would weigh whatever legislation the Senate produced.

What are we paying these incompetent idiots for anyway? But of course no one is talking about cutting Congresspeople’s salaries–the pressure is all on Social Security recipients. Yesterday, Ruth Markus wrote a column in support of cutting benefits because seniors and disabled people (including disabled veterans) are getting too much money (the average SS check is $1,200 per month). She thinks everyone should gratefully embrace the Chained CPI.

Here’s how the CPI works. When taxes are being calculated, brackets, standard deductions, personal exemptions and the like are ratcheted up with inflation, protecting taxpayers from being forced to pay higher taxes for what is essentially the same amount of income they had previously.

Benefits — everything from Social Security to veterans’ benefits to federal pensions — are similarly adjusted upward to protect beneficiaries’ buying power from being relentlessly eroded.

Such indexing makes eminent sense. The difficulty — and the money-saving opportunity — arises because, in the view of most economists, the current method of calculating changes in the CPI overstates the inflation rate.

It fails to account for what economists call upper-level substitution bias, and what my mother would call plain common sense: If the price rises for a certain commodity in the basket of goods used to measure inflation, consumers will choose a cheaper alternative. In my house, when the price of beef soars, we substitute chicken.

The CPI doesn’t and, as a result, taxpayers are undercharged and beneficiaries are overpaid — a lot. The overestimate is small — less than 0.3 percentage points annually but, much like compound interest, it adds up over time.

What Marcus doesn’t seem to understand is that when your income is that low, beef and chicken are are both too expensive and you substitute peanut butter and dried beans. Except that peanut butter prices have skyrocketed–what’s the next step down, cat food?

Two economists responded to Markus. Dean Baker at the CEPR: Ruth Marcus Is Outraged by Overly Generous Social Security Checks.

Well, who can blame her? After all, we have tens of millions of seniors living high on Social Security checks averaging a bit over $1,200 a month at a time when folks like the CEOs in the Campaign to Fix the Debt are supposed to subsist on paychecks that typically come to $10 million to $20 million a year.

Anyhow, her main trick for cutting benefits is to adopt the chained consumer price index as the basis for the annual cost of living adjustment. This would have the effect of reducing benefits by 0.3 percentage points for each year of retirement. This means a beneficiary would see a 3 percent cut in benefits after 10 years, a 6 percent cut after 20 years and a 9 percent cut after 30 years. This is real money. Since Social Security is more than half the income for almost 70 percent of retirees and more than 90 percent of the income for 40 percent of retirees, the hit to the affected population would be considerably larger than the hit to the top 2 percent from ending the Bush era tax cuts.

But Marcus insists this cut must be done first and foremost in the name of accuracy, since the chained CPI is supposed to provide a better measure of the cost of living. She notes but quickly dismisses the evidence from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) consumer price index for the elderly (CPI-E), which shows that the rate of inflation seen by the elderly is somewhat higher than the overall rate of inflation.

Read Baker’s upteenth explanation of why the Chained CPI doesn’t accurately reflect spending for seniors at the link. He argues for continuing development of a CPI that takes into account that seniors spend greater proportions of their income on health care and basic necessities that can’t necessarily be replaced with cheaper substitutes.

Next, Jared Bernstein says he’s “convinced the Chained CPI is coming” and it is a benefit cut. He agrees with Baker that an elderly CPI would be a good thing, but says that Markus’ argument we should cut benefits now and deal with the injustices later makes no sense.

…as Dean notes, it would make a lot of sense to invest in a chained-weighted CPI that accounts for the notably different buying patterns of the elderly. Ruth Marcus critiques this point today but for reasons that don’t make sense to me. For example, she criticizes an elderly price index that would more heavily weight health care spending because “the burden of higher health costs falls unevenly among the elderly. Average costs are skewed upward by a minority who face very high out-of-pocket expenses…”

But a) all the commonly used price indexes use average costs and are thus “skewed” up and down when the underlying distribution is uneven, and b) there’s little question that the ‘old’ elderly—the ones most hurt by the switch to the chain-weighted measure—face high out-of-pocket medical costs.

Marcus goes on to endorse, as do we at CBPP, [immediately switching to the Chained CPI but protecting "vulnerable people from the impact"] and this is clearly the administration’s view as well—in fact, they’ve built in offsetting benefits to the poor, old elderly into their plan. That’s very important and salutary and one reason why I nervously support the switch.

But I’m more concerned than Ruth appears to be with the possibility that the current politics get us the chained CPI without the necessary protections.

It certainly looks like President Obama will go down in history as the Democrat who cut the New Deal off at the knees unless he suddenly realizes his legacy matters to him. Remember way back when Social Security was “off the table” because it doesn’t contribute to the deficit? Oh wait–that was only two weeks ago.

Read the rest of this entry »


Brace Yourselves: This Is a Campaign About Race Now

dog whistle

It has been an ugly campaign so far, but I have a feeling it’s about to get a lot uglier. Mitt Romney gave an interview to USA Today yesterday. The article is mostly focused on Romney’s complaints about Obama’s supposedly negative campaign against him and how he intends to fight back.

Naturally Romney included another dog whistle (or as Charles Pierce more appropriately calls them, “obvious racial air-raid sirens”).

“There are plenty of weaknesses that I have, and I acknowledge that,” Romney says. “But the attacks that have come have been so misguided, have been so far off target, have been so dishonest, that they surprised me. I thought they might go after me on things that were accurate that I’ve done wrong, instead of absurd things.”

He ticks off the examples he has in mind. “The Harry Reid attack, ‘Oh, he hasn’t paid taxes in 10 years.’ Ridiculous,” he says of an allegation that the Democratic Senate majority leader attributed to an unnamed friend. “The attack about how Romney’s responsible for this woman who died … and the vice president’s comments about ‘chains.’ Really? The White House just keeps stepping lower and lower and lower, and the people of America know this is an important election and they deserve better than they’ve seen.”

As if the small percentage of his income that Romney pays in taxes and the multiple tax havens he uses to keep his taxes low aren’t issues. But here comes the “obvious air raid siren.” Actually, it’s a twofer. The interviewer asks Romney about the utterly false claims he has been making that Obama “gutted” the welfare work requirement and about his recent “joke” about Obama’s birth certificate.

Romney defends the welfare ads as accurate, accusing Obama of offering state waivers as a political calculation designed to “shore up his base” for the election. He denies he was trying to stoke discredited questions about Obama’s birthplace when he said at a Detroit rally Friday that no one had ever asked him for his Michigan birth certificate.

“I understand some people don’t think we should ever joke,” Romney says, saying he was just being “human” and “spontaneous.” He argues that his attacks have been based on policy while Obama has attacked him on more personal fronts. The president’s team has tried “to minimize me as an individual, to make me a bad person, an unacceptable person,” he says.

Obama’s “base” presumably being poor black welfare recipients? And we’re supposed to believe that Romney couldn’t talk about being born and raised in Michigan without also talking about his birth certificate? Please. This is the kind of crap we’re going to be hearing from now on unless polls demonstrate it isn’t working. It’s jarring to it coming from the nominee himself instead of the VP candidate or a surrogate, but Romney clearly has no shame at all.

I know most of you have already seen this, but I’m going to post Chris Matthews’ rant about Romney’s race baiting from today’s Morning Joe show.

Matthews is absolutely right on, but notice how the rest of the talking heads patronize him and minimize the reality of what the Romney campaign is doing. Here’s what Pierce had to say about it:

If you can tear yourself away from the attempts of the hosts to tut-tut-my-good-man the whole thing to death — and poor Tom Brokaw, who freaking covered the civil-rights movement and knows good and well which party latched on to the wrong side of those events and rode them to glory, looks as though he might have a stroke — listen carefully to what Matthews says. He links the birther joke to the welfare commercials, which any thinking analyst would do, since they came hard, one upon the other, and since that was the only hymn in the modern Republican hymnal Romney had not yet sung to the approval of the choir — he’d warmed up on the melody when he was ripping up Rick Perry on the issue of immigration — his campaign was bound to get around to it eventually. Priebus dismisses the birther comment as “an attempt at levity,” and chides Matthews for failing to have a sense of humor….
“We’ve gotten to a point in politics where any moment of levity is frowned upon by guys like you…It’s a moment of levity. Everybody gets it.”

Somehow, the truthless welfare commercials, which are the really deafening sirens in the current moment, disappeared from the dialogue and never come up again. There was yet another blow-up later when Priebus smirked about the president’s alleged “European” policies, and Matthews went up the wall again, calling what Priebus said “insane,” while Mika Brzezinski suggested that everyone “work on tone.” She has her work cut out for her down here, I’ll tell you that.

Pierce thinks Matthews will be “disciplined” for his outburst. I not so sure. Matthews has been talking about the race baiting for awhile now. But most of the corporate media outlets are not going to deal with the race issue in an honest and up-front way. They’re even having trouble calling Romney out on his bald-faced lies.


Can Romney Embrace Ryan While Distancing Himself from the Ryan Budget?

No, he can’t.

This morning, shortly after Romney’s announcement of Paul Ryan as his pick for VP, CNN obtained a copy of of a list of media talking points for surrogates, designed by the Romney campaign to distance their candidate from Ryan’s plans for draconian changes to Medicare and cuts to other popular social programs that help the middle class, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. Here are some examples:

Is Romney “adopting the Paul Ryan plan?”

Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget, and as president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance.

So there are differences between Romney and Ryan?

Of course they aren’t going to have the same view on every issue. But they both share the view that this election is a choice about two fundamentally different paths for this country. President Obama has taken America down a path of debt and decline. Romney and Ryan believe in a path for America that leads to more jobs, less debt and smaller government. So, while you might find an issue or two where they might not agree, they are in complete agreement on the direction that they want to lead America.

On Medicare:

Do you worry that Paul Ryan’s controversial Medicare plan will hurt the campaign with independents?

- No. President Obama is the one who should be worried, because he has cut $700 BILLION from Medicare to pay for Obamacare, and put in place a panel of Washington bureaucrats to make decisions about what kind of care seniors will receive under Medicare. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have a bipartisan plan to strengthen Medicare by giving future seniors the choice between traditional Medicare and a variety of private plans. They are committed to ensuring that Medicare remains strong, not just for today’s seniors, but for tomorrow’s seniors as well.

Actually, Ryan’s budget plan retains all of the medicare cuts that are included in Obamacare.

Of course the talking points provide no specifics about these supposed differences in the two men’s policies. I think we have to assume that since Romney’s goal so far has been to scrupulously avoid talking about specific policies, he is going to be stuck with defending the Ryan plan. And he should be forced to defend it again and again and again.

Why? Because Romney has explicitly endorsed Ryan’s plan in public on multiple occasions. Think Progress has identified five occasions on which Romney enthusiastically praised the Ryan plan:

1. “Very supportive.”“I’m very supportive of the Ryan budget plan. It’s a bold and exciting effort on his part and on the part of the Republicans and it’s very much consistent with what I put out earlier. I think it’s amazing that we have a president who three and a half years in still hasn’t put a proposal out that deals with entitlements. This president’s dealing with entitlement reform — excuse me — this budget deals with entitlement reform, tax policy, which as you know is very similar to the one that I put out and efforts to reign in excessive spending. I applaud it. It’s an excellent piece of work and very much needed.”

2.”The right tone.” Romney told Talking Points Memo, “He is setting the right tone for finally getting spending and entitlements under control. …Anyone who has read my book knows that we are on the same page.’”

3. “Marvelous.” “I think it’d be marvelous if the Senate were to pick up Paul Ryan’s budget and to adopt it and pass it along to the president,” Romney once professed while in Wisconsin.

4. “An important step.” “I spent a good deal of time with Congressman Ryan. When his plan came out, I applauded it, as an important step. … We’re going to have to make changes like the ones Paul Ryan proposed.”

5. “The same page.” In March, on a local Wisconsin radio show called the Vicki McKenna Show, Romney told the host “Paul Ryan and I have been working together over some months to talk about our mutual plans and we’re on the same page.”

In addition, Romney super-surrogate John Sununu

said on a call with reporters, “Mitt Romney supports what Paul Ryan did. He endorsed what Paul Ryan did. Mitt Romney had his own package of entitlement reform, which Paul Ryan has praised. They both meshed together.”

There is no way Romney can be permitted to etch-a-sketch all that away.

Furthermore, I think we can assume that, if elected, Romney would give Ryan carte blanche in dealings with Congress and fiscal matters. As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney only put in about two years before he got bored with governing and turned over his duties to his staff so he could start running for president.

Romney isn’t interested in policy. He’s a CEO, accustomed to giving orders, delegating tasks, and expecting admiration and obeisance from his underlings. Ryan’s already good at sucking up; he was named “biggest brown-noser” by his high school graduating class, after all. Ryan would be Romney’s Cheney–praising his gaffe-prone boss while doing things his (Ryan’s) own way.

The Nation’s John Nichols, who is from Wisconsin and has followed Ryan’s career closely, agrees.

The hyper-ambitious political careerist—who has spent his entire adult life as a Congressional aide, think-tank hanger-on and House member—is looking for a road up. And he is sly enough to recognize that, like Dick Cheney with George Bush, he could be more than just a vice president in the administration of so bumbling a character as Romney.

Ryan figured Romney out months ago.

The two men bonded during the Wisconsin presidential primary campaign in late March and early April. They got on so well that Ryan was playing April Fool’s Day jokes on the Republican front-runner—giving Romney a rousing introduction before the candidate came from behind a curtain to find the room where he had expected to be greeted by a crowd of supporters was empty.

Romney loves those frat boy stunts. Ryan would be the perfect sidekick for him. But we can’t let it happen. Ryan’s plan is a complete fraud. Now the Obama campaign has the opportunity to expose Ryan for what he is: a fake and a “hypocritical big spender” who, as John Nichols points out, has never yet lifted a finger to actually cut government spending during his decade in Congress.

I’ll let Charlie Pierce summarize Ryan’s fakery:

He’s a garden-variety supply-side faker. His alleged economic “wonkery” consists of a B.A. in economics from Miami of Ohio — which he would not have been able to achieve without my generosity in helping him out with the Social Security survivor’s benefits that got him through high school after his father kicked. (You’re welcome, zombie-eyed granny-starver. Think nothing of it. Really.) Whereupon he went to work in Washington for a variety of conservative congresscritters and think-tanks, thinking unremarkable thoughts for fairly unremarkable people. Once in Congress, however, he has been transformed into an intellectual giant despite the fact that, every time he comes up with another “budget,” actual economists get a look at it and determine, yet again, that between “What We Should Do” and “Great Things That Will Happen When We Do” is a wilderness of dreamy nonsense, wishful thinking, and an asterisk the size of Lake Huron.

This is the man whose plan Willard Mitt Romney has now signed onto. If Romney wants to “distance” himself from Ryan’s plan, then he’s going to have to start getting very specific about what their differences are. In choosing Ryan as his running mate, Romney has made this a campaign about “entitlements.” He can no longer focus on just attacking Obama and making vague promises.

I say bring it on! Look what happened to George W. Bush when he tried to privatize Social Security. Romney can no longer focus on just attacking Obama for failing to get us out of the worse economic crisis since the Great Depression. Romney is going to have to own the Ryan budget and Ryan’s plans to decimate the social safety net–or he’ll have to explain exactly where he disagrees with Ryan and why.


Saturday Reads: Romney Succumbs to Radical Right on VP Pick

The 2012 Republican presidential ticket joyfully waving goodbye to Medicare and Social Security

Good Morning!

It’s been a long strange night. I wasn’t feeling that great yesterday, so I went to bed early. At 12:30AM, my phone rang. It was Dakinikat with the stunning news that Mitt Romney has chosen the man Charlie Pierce calls “the zombie-eyed granny starver from Wisconsin” as his nominee for Vice President. Let’s get Pierce’s reaction:

Leave it to Willard Romney, international man of principle, to get himself bullied into being bold and independent.

Make no mistake. In his decision to make Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Wisconsin, his running mate, Romney finally surrendered the tattered remnants of his soul not only to the extreme base of his party, but also to extremist economic policies, and to an extremist view of the country he seeks to lead. This is unimaginable to those of us who lived under Romney’s barely perceptible stewardship of the Commonwealth (God save it!). If he’d even hinted that he agreed with a fraction of a smidgen of a portion of the policies on which Ryan has built his career, Romney would have been hanging from the Sacred Cod by the middle of 2005. And it’s hard not to notice that the way the decision got leaked — in the dead of a Friday night, with the Olympics still going on, after two weeks in which Romney and his campaign had demonstrated all the political skills of a handball — fairly dripped with flopsweat….

Which is not to say this isn’t a shrewd move. In one great swoop, he has recaptured a good portion of the elite political media, which has been crushing on Ryan’s “courage” to take on the “tough choices” — none of which, it should be pointed out, likely will affect Ryan, who’s already got himself an education out of the social safety net he now intends to shred, and certainly will never affect the haircut at the top of the ticket, or his great-grandchildren, for all that — and the coverage of the pick in the middle of the night last night showed that many of our finer chattering heads are already practicing tying the stem of the cherry with their tongues in preparation for covering the new Republican ticket.

In just a little more than two weeks, this ticket will be announced in Florida of all places–the home of millions of Medicare recipients. Yesterday, Romney was complaining about a Democratic superpac ad that implied that his (Romney’s) actions at Bain Capital led to the death of an unemployed man’s wife. Today, Romney signs onto the goal of throwing America’s grandparents into the streets and letting them figure out how to survive with no social safety net.

More reactions:

Fox News: Romney picks Rep. Ryan as running mate, plans to make official at Va. rally.

LA Times: Romney’s VP pick is Paul Ryan, sources say

Washington Post: Romney picks Paul Ryan as running mate

Politico: Paul Ryan veep prospects split GOP.

CNN: Paul Ryan, top GOP voice on fiscal matters.

Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker: LOOKS LIKE RYAN: MITT’S PICK. Lizza posted a lengthy profile of Ryan a few days ago: FUSSBUDGET: How Paul Ryan captured the G.O.P.

Well, at least Romney’s tax returns are off the front pages for the moment. The official announcement comes at 9AM. Please add your own reactions and news links in the comments.