Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Mmmmm… Stew

Package of Bart's Stew Pack

Delicious, nutritious, and respectful of the unborn.

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Facts Are Fun(gible)

I just watched Obama’s first official State of the Union address. I thought he did a pretty good job, but it certainly wasn’t as memorable as some of his speeches in the past. I also thought it demonstrated his continued move to the political center, which doesn’t particularly thrill me.

Tom ForemanBut this post isn’t about Obama, or the speech, really. It’s about CNN, and my pal Tom Foreman, whom I’ve written about before, as I’m sure you’ll recall. (Sure, I’m sure.)

Wolf Blitzer told us that CNN’s great and powerful political team was going to be fact checking Obama’s speech. First he cut to Ali Velshi to discuss Obama’s claims about how many jobs have been created or saved by the stimulus, and Velshi was very clear from the outset: we don’t know.

Next Wolf introduced Foreman, who was posted at one of CNN’s touchscreen monitors (which I believe they still refer to as “magic”). Foreman’s monitor was filled by a form containing four checkboxes:

  • True
  • Somewhat True
  • Somewhat False
  • False

Foreman introduced video of this section of the address:

Let me repeat: we cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95% of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college. As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas, and food, and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. And we haven’t raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime.

We cut back to Foreman, ready for the truth, and he, putting a big X in the “True” box, said something to the effect of “Surprisingly, that’s true.” I was shocked. Even with the “surprisingly” or the “believe it or not” or whatever word or phrase Foreman used, he put that X in the True box. Wow.

Then he pointed out that some folks would argue that giving tax credits to people who make so little that they don’t actually pay taxes shouldn’t really count as tax cuts, and that some might say that a one-time reduction in taxes isn’t exactly a tax cut per se. Then he added an X to the “Somewhat False” box.

He marked two of the four boxes in response to one question. So CNN’s crack fact checking team has determined that Obama’s statement regarding tax cuts is both true and somewhat false.

That’s not fact checking. It’s pointing out that people with different opinions are going to come to different conclusions. Why bother calling it “fact checking” if you’re just going to tell us that?

No wonder I never watch CNN anymore.

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A Tale of Two Joes

Joe the Plumber and Joe the Immigration Attorney

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A Specter is Haunting Washington

Arlen SpecterI’m a little concerned about this business of Arlen Specter switching over to the Democratic party.

It’s clear why he’s jumping ship — he’s openly admitted it: the Republicans have moved far enough to the right that he can’t expect their support in a primary campaign, so he’d never make it to the general election (which he’d have a decent shot of winning) if he sought the Republican nomination.

And Obama and the Democrats are agreeing to this (and most likely telling him they’ll support him over any other Democratic candidates) because it means that he’ll be a little more cooperative with them over the next year, leading up to the election. They figure a Specter in the hand is worth two potential real progressives in the bush. (How’s that for a shredded maxim?)

Personally, I have my doubts about whether it’s worth it. Sure, if Specter was going to try to get his old party’s nomination, he’d have to take a giant step to the right, and that would mean the Democrats would get just about no cooperation from him over the next year, “independent record” or not. I think he knows that that wouldn’t be enough to convince the party base to keep him. He could pull a Lieberman and declare himself an independent. He may have been one of the three most moderate Republicans in the Senate, but that was still pretty far to the right of your average Democrat. Is this deal going to change any of his votes in the next year?

It seems to me he’s getting a lot more out of this deal than the rest of us are.

And there’s more to it than that. Let’s not forget that this is about Pennsyltucky, a place I’m personally not so quick to trust. Think about some of the people who currently represent the state:

Congressman Joe Sleestak, 7th District — that’s him with his son, Joe Jr.

Congressman Chaka Fattah, 2nd District

If you don’t see what I’m getting at, maybe this will help:

That’s right — I think Pennsyltucky may be the Land of the Lost. And if that’s the case, it’s unwise to make deals with any politicians from there. When he goes home on a routine campaign expedition, what are the odds that he’ll be eaten by a dinosaur? Hell, the whole state could be swept off to some distant time and place at any moment. What’s the DCCC supposed to do if that happens?

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A Cunning Plan

I’ve got a plan — a cunning plan.

I’m going to rob a bank.

I’m going to buy a gun on the black market and take it to a big, busy bank. I’m going to shoot the place up a bit and maybe take some hostages, just to show them I’m serious. And I’m going to get a lot of money. Cash money.

Is this a dangerous plan? Yeah, I suppose it is. Is it illegal? Don’t be so quick to answer. Wait until you hear what I’m going to do with all that money.

First off, I’m going to pay off a bunch of old credit card debt. That will free up the banks to loan that money to small businesses.

I’m going to take the rest of the money and spend it like there’s no tomorrow. I’ll walk into a store and just say, “Give me one of everything.” It won’t even matter what they sell. And I’ll give a bunch of money to someone else and tell them to do the same thing: just buy lots of stuff.

I bet the owner of that store is going to end up hiring one or two new employees after that.

Sure, I’ll have broken the law.

But results matter, right?

You can’t prosecute me if I help out the economy. I’m just serving my country.

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Well, Well, Wells Fargo

Ed Schultz“Big” Ed Schultz (personally, I prefer to call anyone with that moniker “Eddie Baby”), on his shiny new show on MSNBC, just welcomed Senator Chris Dodd (D – Troubled Assets) to kvell about the fact that Wells Fargo, a bank that received about 25 billion in bailout bucks, has announced a record quarterly profit of $3 billion.

Now, I don’t claim to be any sort of phynancial expert. When I hear the name of that bank, I think of that awful song we had to sing back in elementary school chorus… that song that harked back to a more innocent day in the life of capitalism:

O-ho the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street,
Oh please let it be for me!
It could be curtains!
Or dishes!
Or a double boiler!
Or it could be
Somethin’ special
Just for meeeeeeee!

Wells Fargo logoAnyway, I’m not sure the bank’s profits are something to celebrate. Sure, I suppose it’s better than seeing them lose money. But what did Wells Fargo do with their share of the TARP funds?

For one thing, they bought Wachovia. (I’m going to miss that name. It always made me think of the axiom, “What do big banking corporations do? They Wachovia.”) We all know what happens when one bank buys another. This is from a November article in the Charlotte Observer, the paper in Wachovia’s erstwhile home town:

The San Francisco-based bank has started to lay out where it will get $5 billion in annual cost cuts, about 10 percent of combined expenses. High-level plans have been drafted for key businesses, and Wells is working to impose its own lending policies, according to a Wells presentation this week.

Wells is likely to cut jobs in Charlotte but hasn’t provided specifics. It signaled this week, however, that it will pare areas such as corporate and investment banking. For Wachovia employees, long in the driver’s seat during their bank’s decades of acquisitions, it’s an unfamiliar position – following another bank’s procedures for implementing a merger.

While much is still to be determined, Wells has roughly fleshed out where it plans to get its $5 billion in savings. About $3 billion will come from cuts in overlapping businesses such as general banking and investment banking. Another $1.4 billion will come from reductions in duplicative corporate functions, including jobs and expenses such as marketing and director fees. About $0.6 billion would come from office and branch closures and other cuts.

Yippee! Cost cutting! Job cutting!

And then there’s this piece from today’s Seattle Times:

The earnings news does not clearly signal a recovery of the banking sector. Even Wells risks projecting too much optimism — it hasn’t really absorbed the financial death star that is Wachovia. At that former banking giant, a great institution run into the ground on subprime gambles, most of the huge layoffs have yet to fall in its very vulnerable headquarters city of Charlotte. Crosstown rival Bank of America faces continued weakness across the board, especially from its misbegotten merger with Merrill Lynch (Marry in haste, repent at leisure). Wells is trumpeting its big mortgage share gain from Wachovia, but it will be interesting to see how it manages Wachovia’s troubles. (And Wells is a TARP recipient, $25 billion of your money).


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Bachmann in Overdrive

Michele BachmannYou’ve just got to love Representative Michele Bachmann from Minnesota. She’s easily one of the most entertaining members of Congress I can think of. Remember when, right before the election she suggested that Obama is “un-American,” then denied saying it a day or two later?

Crooks and Liars has some video of Bachmann questioning Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner today. They note her insistence that the two of them renounce any support of a “global currency,” which wasn’t difficult for either of them to do, since neither has ever expressed any support for the idea.

We know where she’s coming from, of course. A global currency is a big step along the path to a single global government, and a world government is a sure sign that we’re in the End of Days. Electing the anti-christ to the presidency isn’t helping, either.

But I thought her other big question was even more telling. She asked both men:

What provision in the Constitution could you point to to give authority to the Treasury for the extraordinary actions that have been taken?

They both tell her that they’re authorized to do what they’re doing because Congress passed legislation telling them to do it, and that doesn’t seem to satisfy her. Maybe she thinks that everything the government can do is spelled out in the Constitution — that every law we’ve got was written into the original document, so Geithner and Bernanke should have been able to recite the precise article and section that includes the bailout of AIG.

I think she needs to have a look at Article 1, Section 1, which should be pretty easy to locate:

All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Seems pretty straightforward to me.

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Bush Compromised

President Bush has never been big on compromise. Whenever he spoke of bipartisanship, it always seemed to mean that Democrats should give him exactly what he demanded. But this week he described what I’d consider to be a very big compromise he made, and it seems he didn’t even realize it.

In his farewell address a few nights ago, he made the following statements to explain the idea (or at least what he currently claims to be the idea) behind his invasion of Iraq:

Bush smilingAs we address these challenges — and others we cannot foresee tonight — America must maintain our moral clarity. I’ve often spoken to you about good and evil, and this has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two of them there can be no compromise. Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere. Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right. This nation must continue to speak out for justice and truth. We must always be willing to act in their defense — and to advance the cause of peace.

In her column in today’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd commented on that statement:

It’s astonishing that, as banks continue to fail and Americans continue to lose jobs and homes, W. was obtuse enough to go on TV and give a canned ode to can-do-ism. “Good and evil are present in this world,” he reiterated, “and between the two of them there can be no compromise.”

He gives the good-and-evil view of things a bad name. Good and evil are not like the Redskins and the Cowboys. Good and evil intermingle in the same breath, let alone the same society. A moral analysis cannot be a simplistic analysis.

But I think she missed the most obvious irony in what Bush said. Look at the three sentences in the middle of Bush’s paragraph:

But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two of them there can be no compromise.

Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere.

Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right.

All three sentences involve absolutes: no compromise, wrong every time, everywhere, eternally right. There’s no wiggle room in any of those sentences.

The concept that freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right is an ideology. Bush tends to use the word “ideology” in a pejorative sense, but it really just means a system of beliefs. Bush believes in spreading freedom. That’s part of his ideology.

He sought to advance that ideology by invading Iraq. And of course when you go to war, people get killed, including civilians. That’s certainly the case with the war in Iraq. Innocents were killed in Bush’s effort to advance his ideology of spreading freedom.

So in doing something that he views as “eternally right,” (that is, good) he had to do something he views as “wrong every time, everywhere” (evil).

It seems to me that that’s a compromise between good and evil — something he claims can’t exist.

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Obama Cabinet Appointments Continue

Obama and Optimus Prime
Today, President-elect Barack Obama announced that he has chosen Optimus Prime to fill the new position of “Car Czar” in his cabinet.

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Napolitano: From CB to DHS

Janet Napolitano and Johnette Napolitano

And you thought Al Franken had an unusual career path. He went from comic to comedy writer, satirist, left-wing radio personality, and perhaps to the Senate.

But Napolitano has now gone from “alternative” radio sweetheart (rumor has it Michael Stipe himself came up with the name “Concrete Blonde”. I wonder if he thought up the spelling of her name, too.) to Governor of Arizona, and now she’s on the verge of becoming Secretary of Homeland Security. And it looks like she’s keeping busy, too. Her MySpace blog indicates that she’ll be working with John Trudell on his next album starting after Christmas. I hope she can squeeze it in before she has to go to DC for her confirmation hearings.

Congratulations, Janet/Johnette!

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