Late Night Drifts

Snowdrifts in a shopping center parking lot South of Boston

I thought I put up a little news for your late night reading pleasure.

I hope all you East Coast folks have finished shoveling your driveways and sidewalks. The drifts in my driveway are almost as high as my car roof, and my sidewalk is just a narrow strip cutting through waist-high snow. When will it end?

You’ve probably heard by now that President Obama has announced his choice for Press Secretary. Jay Carney, formerly of Time Magazine and for the past two years Joe Biden’s communications director, got the nod to replace Robert Gibbs. Frankly, I always thought Carney was a Republican. Oh wait–that makes him perfect for Obama. Also, Carney is married to ABC news correspondent Claire Shipman–isn’t that a bit of a conflict?

Jay Carney and Claire Shipman

Anyway, a few bloggers have been dishing about Carney’s past history.

At FDL, David Dayen reminisced about a Yearly Kos panel that Carney was on in 2007, and also linked to this anecdote by Jay Rosen

Jay Carney is Time magazine’s Washington bureau chief. Andrew Golis interviewed him too, on the sidewalk outside the party that Time threw on Friday night to promote its political blog, Swampland. (I read Swampland and I was there: good party.) “The blogosphere’s critique of the mainstream media has been overwhelmingly healthy and it’s made the mainstream media pay a lot of attention to details it should have been paying attention to,” he said, echoing Scherer and Fournier.

He then added something unintentionally revealing of how political journalists got themselves into the very trouble that’s forcing at least some of them to look inward. “Karen Tumulty and I— we’re not advocates, we’re not columnists.” (Tumulty, a contributor to Swampland, is Time’s national political correspondent.) “It’s our responsibility not to be labeled left or right.”

Is it now?

“That is just so wrong,” said a commenter (Lee) at Swampland, who had watched the interview. “Your job is to tell the truth.” (Regardless of how it gets you categorized.)

He sounds perfect for our post-partisan POTUS.

Read the rest of this entry »


Live Blog: SOTU 2011

Just how bad will it be? Document the atrocities as you watch and/or listen to the State of the Union Address tonight. I don’t know how much of it I can stand to watch–I may check in and out.

The one thing that has me slightly interested is watching Boehner’s reactions. Will he burst into tears? That would be fun. You can watch the live stream of C-span’s coverage of the SOTU here, beginning at 8PM.

At least someone talked some sense into our Reagan-adoring President. He’s decided not to call for cuts in Social Security and Medicare–not that that will stop him from approving them. But it must have dawned on him that he might need at least a few middle class and elderly votes to get reelection next year.

But there is plenty of stupid in the speech according to multiple advance reports. Remember the dopey “nonsecurity” spending freeze Obama proposed awhile back? Well he still wants a freeze, only now he’s going to make it for five years instead of just three. {sigh….}

At Open Left, Paul Rosenberg reacts:

He may not be ready to gut Social Security just yet, but he has definitively jettisoned 70 years of economic history. Government no longer steps in to spend money when consumer demand fails. Instead, government works hard to make matters even worse. With state and local budgets once again being cut across the country, there will clearly be net decreases in government spending as far as the eye can see. Herbert Hoover would be so proud!

[….]

Why has 70 years of macro-economic history and understanding been tossed out the window, in favor of returning to the darkness of pre-macro ignorance? This is a variant of the question that Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman have been asking in anguish for many moons now. Why has a rage to punish the poor, and even the middle class completely taken over and displaced the commonsense interest in preserving the basic stability of the economy through as quick a recovery as possible?

I don’t know….because he’s stupid? Or maybe just evil? Whatever the reason, we’re headed for more hard times.

At FDL, David Dayen writes about The Triumph of Austerity and the Abandoning of the Unemployed

An economy with 9.4% topline unemployment is sick. This is not a time to deal with a sick patient by planning a regimen for diet and exercise five years from now. The patient needs immediate help, and he’s not even going to hear soothing words to that effect from anyone in the political class, let alone get the medicine needed.

In the process, this pre-emptive bow to the austerity hysterics, at least in the short term, may be good for poll numbers but terrible for the long-term economy.

Let’s face it. This man couldn’t care less about Americans being out of work, losing their homes, and falling into poverty.

What can we do to make this bearable? Let’s look for little bits of humor and/or surreality. If you have ideas for drinking games, feel free to propose them (I don’t drink, but don’t mind a contact high).

Once the speech is over, there could be some laughs in the Republican responses. Crazy-ass Ayn Rand fan Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) is giving the official response. MSNBC has a preview. Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, one of the people to blame for the horrendous Obama presidency, has a few things to say about Ryan.

Ryan is an Ayn Rand-quoting zealot, one of the Republican Party’s self-styled “Young Guns.” He’s spent his adult life inside the Beltway, on the political right, with no experience in the world of business, labor, the executive branch or the private sector. Incubated in a right-wing think tank, writing speeches for Jack Kemp and William Bennett, he was elected to Congress at age 28. Ryan became the most loyal of loyal foot soldiers in the Congress presided over by Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert, a fact Ryan now glosses over as he describes those Congresses as “corrupt.”

Ryan has been dubbed a Republican “thinker” by national reporters desperate to find someone they can praise in a party that was extreme before the Tea Partyers came to town. But, in fact, his rhetoric is a barely varnished echo of the ravings of Glenn Beck. He accuses Obama of a “treacherous plan,” saying that Democrats have a “hardcore-left agenda,” and claims that Democrats are steering the country “very far left, very fast” – a direction he describes as “completely antithetical to what this country is about.”

This sort of rhetoric, once scorned as sophomoric at best, is now common currency on the Republican right. While Ryan will be careful to avoid such language in the GOP response to the State of the Union, he’ll reveal his ideological zealotry in the policies he will propose.

Most of those policies will come from Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a budget manifesto published last year that The Post’s Ezra Klein aptly described as “nothing short of violent.”

Yep, the guy’s a complete wingnut, but van den Heuval is also permanently discredited as a representative of liberal thought.

And that’s not all, CNN will broadcast an alternative Tea Party response to the SOTU by Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota).

{hysterical laughter}

Paul Ryan may be a wingnut, but Bachmann is truly insane. Surely her speech will be good for a few laughs even in these dark times. According to CNN’s Political Ticker,

Her themes tonight will be “making sure Congress is not spending more than its taking in,” “no tax increases” and the importance of “acting within the bounds of the Constitution.”

Hmmm…I never knew that Congress actually handled money.

Greg Sargent provides CNN’s rationalizations for airing Bachmann’s speech.

CNN, which is taking some criticism from both sides for agreeing to air Michele Bachmann’s response to Obama’s speech tonight, sends over a statement justifying the move:

“The Tea Party has become a major force in American politics and within the Republican Party. Hearing the Tea Party’s perspective on the State of the Union is something we believe CNN’s viewers will be interested in hearing and we are happy to include this perspective as one of many in tonight’s coverage.”

Hmmm…I was going to suggest that maybe CNN’s decision to air her speech just might be driven by a desire to curry favor with the Tea Party. This statement doesn’t do much to suggest otherwise.

The Tea Party is now one of two major opposition parties in our three-party system. Who knew?

If only we had smarter politicians and a less embarrassing media! Oh well…let’s make the most of it. I look forward to reading your reactions.


Catfood Commission Chairmen to Postpone Vote on Recommendations

Via David Dayen at FDL, Alan Simpson are seemingly on the verge of wimping out on their draconian austerity recommendations for fear they can’t get 14 votes for their efforts to turn old people out into the streets.

Dayen writes:

For most of the week, you could see the wheels coming off of the Catfood Commission. First we heard that “they may surprise us,” but then there was this moving of the goalposts. Despite the fact that 14 of the 18 panel members had to agree to secure any recommendations which would go to Congress for a vote, now insiders were saying that a majority vote would show a signal of support.

But it’s clear that Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson can’t even get that. They canceled a planned public meeting today in favor of more private negotiation. And reports emerged that the panel was simply deeply divided on the issues.

Dayen seems to think the whole plan to slash the social safety net is going down the tubes. I hope so. He ends with this:

The entire thing was an embarrassing display from two self-admiring cretins who wanted to use an economic crisis as a pretense to destroy the social safety net. Whatever they come up with will still represent a threat on that front, especially with a Republican House and who knows what in the White House, but this failure will damage the credibility for catfood. And progressive reports which show deficit reduction without touching the safety net are gaining in prominence.

“Who knows what in the White House” That’s a good one.

Truthout has information from one of the most liberal members of the Commission:

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., says that as of this morning she had not been shown the latest proposal of the White House deficit commission, even as she says it is being “shopped around” by its co-chairs in an effort to get the support of a simple majority of its 18 members—not the support of 14 members as was its original goal.

Schakowsky confirmed this shift in an interview with OurFuture.org after giving a private briefing to members of the Tuesday Group, a meeting of progressive organization leaders convened by the Campaign for America’s Future.

Schakowsky has even proposed her own recommendations for reducing the deficit:

The Schakowsky Plan could reduce the deficit by $427.75 billion by 2015, without burdening the middle class. This would surpass the projection of the President’s target of $250 billion — an amount that the Commission’s plan would not even achieve.

Schakowsky’s plan also calls for:

•Raising taxes on the highest incomes.
•Modifying Social Security without changing benefits paid out.
•A $200 billion two-year stimulus investment, creating jobs and providing economic growth.
•Cutting farm subsidies and the Pentagon budget by more than $100 billion (both of which are also being proposed by the Commission, though Schakowsky goes further by cutting unnecessary weapons systems, reducing troop levels and other measures).
•Imposing taxes on corporations that out-source jobs and saving $132 billion from limiting or closing tax breaks on corporations.
•Letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire.
•Treating capitol gains and dividends as regular income, which could generate another $150 billion.
•Removing the caps on payroll taxes for employers and lifting the threshold above $106,000 for employees, and imposing a ‘legacy tax’ above the cap.
•And, most impressively, Schakowsky proposes a Public Option for health insurance, which would lower healthcare costs and allow the government to negotiate drug prices with the PHARMA industry to lower costs, like it does for the V.A. Drug costs could become a fraction of the amount that seniors now pay. Tellingly, both Bowles and Simpson acknowledge a Public Option may be necessary if costs don’t go down, so perhaps a P.O. could finally be on the way? There is certainly no indication health care costs will decrease in 2011.

In addition, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican, says he’s not voting for the plan.

“It’s tough to ask anybody to support something that they just got, that’s this big,” Ryan said in an interview. The panel needs agreement from 14 of its 18 members to forward a plan to Congress.

“I don’t think there’s 14, and I don’t think I’ll be one of those 14,” Ryan said.

He said panel co-chairman Alan Simpson, a Republican former Wyoming senator, gave him an “oral Cliff notes” version of the plan today. Ryan said it didn’t include major changes from the panel leaders’ earlier draft proposal. Members will receive the plan in writing tomorrow, he said.

How soon can we send Alan “310 million tits” Simpson and Erskine “Sourpuss” Bowles packing? If I never have to see either of their disagreeable faces again, I’ll be very happy.

UPDATE: The Catfood Commission has postponed the vote until Friday.