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Friday, September 11, 2009

The CNBC Echo-Chamber

Is CNBC turning into a group-think nightmare? You get a group of deliberately like-minded people together and, sooner or later, they start talking jibberish, or worse, right?

Today's sample:

The usually sane and calm Maria Bartiromo, 11: 53 a.m.: "What's wrong with a boom and bust economy?"
Larry Kudlow (rejoinder): "Great stuff, Maria"

This was after being treated to Steve Moore of the WSJ crying aloud about deficits, then 'rejoicing' that the Dems would have to raise taxes, asserting that not a single Republican in the House would vote for tax increases.

Party of responsibility?

It's like Nero fiddling while Rome burned. I'm not kidding. They - all the panelists - were laughing.

Same for Pat Buchanan. He can stop whining about what the Reagan Revolution did to American politics, when he is ready to break the 'no new taxes' taboo and, actually suggest that, for the Republic, Republicans might consider new taxes.

The Emergence of Effete Conservative Snobs


Andrew Sullivan starts a post, "Conservatism vs. the GOP", linking to a whiny post by Bruce Bartlett. Isn't that a quintessential sign for our times?

Even if the effete conservative intellectuals don't want to face it, the bare news is that "conservatism" is not a governing philosophy. It's not much more than a mob, a political axis that exists for the sake of those in it.

For years, liberal intellectuals were made fun of by the Right, for pointing out that Stalinism wasn't communism. That was a point too fine for their political opponents.

So, as was pointed out here before Tanenhaus wrote his book, American conservatives look like 60s radicals, today, making some fine point about ideals, idols, and the idyllic.

Even if the effete conservative intellectuals don't want to face it, the bare news is that "conservatism" is not a governing philosophy, despite even the pretenses of the "neo-conservatives". It's not much more than a mob, a political axis that exists for the sake of those in it.

The fact that the mob is intellectually dishonest, opportunistically inconsistent, and oftentimes morally vacant ought not to come as a surprise to readers of, I don't know, Conservatives Without Conscience?

These new snobs should just leave the party, either start their own or join the Democrats (afterall, enough of the Dem Senators are captured by special interests that they can't even vote to stop foreclosures during a crisis!).

"War" = Good Politics for the Right

Behind the rhetoric of "evil empire" (aka self-described intolerance), Reagan and Thatcher were both fully on-board with the cold war status quo.

We still haven't paid off the enormous sums that Reagan spent chasing faulty intelligence about the Soviets' imminent collapse, yet AS's readers are fretting over health care costs.

Let's have the GOP suggest ways to raise the taxes to pay off all of the last three Republican Presidents' collective debts, and then we'll worry about Democratic 'entitlements', deal?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Foreclosures Continue Apace

Senators or others who had kicked the can down the road on foreclosures face the grim reality that foreclosures continue apace, as reported by RealtyTrac today. And while the Treasury Secretary seemed to find some importance in the pace peaking, that hardly seems relevant to policy options that even Dems set aside.

Analyst Meridith Whitney tells CNBC this morning that home prices are headed still lower, with high probability... I suspect the flow of foreclosed properties to the market will be managed to avoid anything precipitous, but the supply of homes ought to at least keep a lid on prices, if it doesn't push them down further, in the regions most affected, including the national political-lynchpins, like Florida.

Arianna writes:

It's hard to hear stories like these and not be outraged that, as a country, we have given trillions of dollars to save banks like Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo that are now turning around and refusing to modify mortgages, so that at least people with children can stay in their homes.

It's important to remember that many of the people losing their homes now are not people with crazy sub-prime mortgages or who took out massive loans they couldn't afford. They are hard working, middle class Americans who have lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet.

It's equally important to remember that these are the same banks that used bailout money -- our money -- to hire lobbyists to kill legislation in the Senate this spring that would have saved over a million-and-a-half people from losing their homes.

It's really astonishing that the collective suffering caused by Wall Street excesses has not generated more political pressure.

14,000 Americans will lose their health coverage today

....representative Joe Wilson, R-SC, is a ... footnote.

Every 1% rise in health costs above whatever a company can achieve in productivity gains puts countless more workers at risk, for under-insurance or no-insurance, from their nanny-corporation.


This blog will try to ignore Joe Wilson, just as it does Ann Coulter, admitted sensationalist, in all things. But this write-up is hilarious.

Rightwing Radicalization Goes Supreme

Justices Roberts and Alito seem ready to pound down a century-old American belief, a belief that companies should more or less stay out of political campaigning.

They sound like tools, casting about for legal grounds to subvert what is a settled, collective wisdom on the matter, that the political process isn't served well, by deep-pocketed companies that create cynicism about government among regular-way 'citizens'.

Some conservatism. Alito seems confidently unaware of the risks to the Republic, a Republic increasingly wealth-polarized, of opening up the government to further sale. These are not the conservatives of doubt or caution. They are courtroom radicals, tied up, obviously, in reconciling abstractions about free speech for man-made creations, like corporations.

Their questions suggest almost laughable, childish views about what shareholders can do to hold managements accountable. At least Scalia sounds partly tongue-in-cheek, as he taunts council with statistics on sole-proprietorships, as a way to pretend that the Teddy Roosevelt era of big trusts is bygone.

The Baucus Plan

Bob Cesca has a rip-up.

If his 'proposal' is an example of the current state of the debate, then the idea that there will be a bill out of the Senate Finance Committee within a week is a danger, not a relief.

Fees? Does he honestly think that those won't just get passed on to the policy holders? You'd expect to see that kind of thing as a GOP amendment, not a Democratic proposal.

An excise tax on $8,000+ plans? That's an interesting idea, but how much money is that worth? Is that meant to be a dedicated tax or what?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Heathcare Hash


The GOP passed out a huge boon to the drug companies. The Dems will pass out a huge boon to the health-insurance industry, by the end of the day.

Along the way, a lot of ill people are going to get care, they would not have otherwise.

But, my head is not behind the current approach of more private, for-profit insurance as a comprehensive solution to the system's ills.

There will be a reckoning, on these both, perhaps even in my lifetime. (And I rather resent Obama for sort-of telling 'his progressive friends' they might be dreaming too big). We lost a lot of time with the sad, aborted HMO end-run. How much do we have left?

At least, if there is going to be 'concession money' or legislation for malpractice-reform studies or trials, then there ought to be money for public-private ventures to amplify the better ways to deliver health care, including bold alternatives to the 'nanny corporation'.


Last, if he wants ideas, here's one.

Amplify the so-called 'public option' with an extension of the Federal plan for dental, the one that Senators' access.

Anyone citizen who wants to can sign up or substitute it for the company plan (using money their company would contribute to a private plan). It's a way to start small, head in the right direction, prove to a skeptical and confused electorate that change can work, and address a critical need, for the uninsured and the under-insured. It's easy to sell, and it's not as expensive as the whole enchilada. What's more, the government isn't in the fining and collection business and the justice department isn't chasing down flunking health insurers, who live in court as much as the real estate lobby, for ... messing up on 'the rules'.

Speech Qua Speech


Will it do all that was hoped?

Maybe some.

Here's a test: name three to five critical points about the bill. Can you?

Don't laugh. Remember how far Bush got with his "an Iraq that can govern itself and sustain itself and defend itself"? 12 words. (!) Don't forget, also, that the target audience is people who think Medicare existed since the time of George Washington.

Did he raise the bar on the competition?

He did well enough, getting impassioned, without getting self-righteous (even as much as FDR). He could have said that those not batting down the mis-information are actually supporting false-witness. Now, that might have raised the bar more than 'call them out'. Afterall, this is not a miscellaneous product ad campaign, but the lives of citizens in the rub.

Otherwise, galvanizing is a good word, for much of it.

Given that listeners will likely feel the galvanizing parts, based on how many already favor some type of reform or even universal care, I'm not sure people will understand why exactly there is nothing enacted yet and what they need to do. Reagan used to ask people to help him, to go over the heads of the Washington establishment to get his agenda through.

Obama could have done more to establish his credibility. He's a young President. Afterall, he belongs to the party that brought Medicare and Social Security and much else besides, and he could tap into that and say, in effect, 'trust me' and do not listen to the crazy notions that you will lose your coverage, your doctor, or your options.

Real Violence in Iran Ongoing, Under Ayatollah Generalissimo Khamenei


Real violence continues in Iran.

  • The war of words is amounting to nothing more than that, as the hardliners clearly have the upper hand in all elements of the struggle. Full arrest of the most popular political opposition is close or at hand and the State careens toward nuclear confrontation with the West, just as the Ayatollah Generalissimo so obviously wants...
  • Students at University are ... having their lives ruined for ... protesting.
  • The detestable cycle of intimidation, in service of the Big Lie, continues, as journalists are made the enemy of the state, rounded up and intimidated into ... service of the Big Lie.
  • The show trials go on, a necessity for the judicial tyranny that is modern day Iran. They purge - that's what they know. The foreign service will lose some 40 people who voiced sympathy for protests, protesters, and protesting.
  • Allegations of torture, death (some now confirmed) and rape in prison have been made by serious people, who were, of course, immediately arrested and all their documents, reportedly seized.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Impatient on Healthcare


It seems to me that quite a few are impatient on healthcare and impatient with the White House.

Legislative change of this size isn't likely to come via a back-room deal and isn't going to happen in the space of four or eight weeks. It alarms me that Alexrod thinks this is the "ninth inning".

If one had to guess, it would be 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Afterall, 'health' is a fairly 'technical sale', so there has to be time spent for the details to get known and widely disseminated, and so forth.


I like the idea of Joe Biden talking about the plan details, ahead of the President.

Bush did well with Cheney testing the waters with various messages and so forth, before he stepped in.

It's a clever way to protect the Legislator in Chief and fine-tune the approach, before the big guns are called out.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Today's Young Conservatives

Young, fact-free, party tenting for Beck and Hannity:

Why does George Will hate the troops?

...and I want to be the first indirectly to question his patriotism.

I mean honestly, expect to be done unto, as you do unto others. It's not as though we don't remember the Bush era, just because of an election last fall.

Preserving an Important Distinction

AS writes, "Now [torture] is legitimate according to Charles Krauthammer ... if it saves merely one life."

Actually, the standard is somewhat different. CK's example, from which this is drawn, supports torture on the mere possibility of saving a life, not on actually saving a life.

To me, this is a subtle, epistemological distinction that has non-trivial moral implications.

Compromise on Health Care: I am the 'middle'


One problem with the Dem 'negotiating' position is that they are not proposing their own compromises.

I have one, for the intractable Senator Grassley, finance committee.

Not only do we 'ship jobs overseas', but we force workers to face foreign, low-wage competition, so that companies do not want to pay benefits, at home, like health care, for American-based workers (why should they, if they can hire someone overseas who doesn't require it?).

To compromise, we can pay for the social net that global competition erases by levying a 'competitiveness tax' on low-cost countries. In most cases, the wages in these countries are so low that the process of 'globalization' will continue apace, despite even a medium-sized tax.

If the good Senator doesn't 'get that', perhaps we can help him along by eliminating the tariffs that protect his good state ... ? I mean, it's hard to entact such taxes; but, hey, in today's America, it's fashionable on the right to ignore the facts, so they may not even care or notice.

Health Care in Civilized Countries

Here's a thought for Senator Joe Lieberman and his staffers: the U.K. enacted health care reform circa 1948, creating the NHS, in a financial mode that has more or less stood the test of time (i.e. the consumer tastes of the nation).

Reforms, according to my quick scan, were discussed as early as 1942 (Beveridge Report).

So, tell me, was Britain a wealthy country, at the end of the war? Did they choose to wait, until days of surplus or plenty to do what made sense to them?

King George's Executioner


After Cheney's latest FOX appearance on the weekend, it should be clear that Dick Cheney might well seem like Saddam Hussein at his trial, denying the authority of the judge and calling on witnesses to show him their National ID card.

He's a beacon to young conservatives, don't you think?

They can dust-up their resumes, with him as an example: "Position Wanted: Job so senior one can make no mistakes, but only have 'regrets' (usually paid for by others)."