Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Fireside Chat for February 26th, 2011 (VIDEO)

The President discusses the examples he’s seen across the country of how we can win the future, urging Congress to heed these examples in the budget -- to tighten our belts without eliminating investments in innovation, education and infrastructure.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Jon Stewart's (latest) Interview with Austan Goolsbee (VIDEO)

With Fort McHenry's continuing Goolsebee Coverage.

There doesn't seem to be an unedited version of this Interview. (You might notice a heavy edit near the beginning of the segment).

Also, was it just me, was Jon a wee more skeptical in this interview than in previous ones. Things are looking up, Jon...just so you know.

And did Jon put the deficit on Obama?? What was that???

Where Rachel Maddow kicks the crap out of Politifact (because she had to) (VIDEO)


I tend to really like Politifact and tend to not like Rachel so much (even though she's an ideological colleague). But watching this segment where Rachel was right and Politifact was wrong, wrong, wrong was horrifying:

The Politifact stuff begins about 6:20 in the video.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Methinks John Nichols is just getting warmed up, and serious trouble may lay ahead for Scott Walker (AUDIO)

Because he's pissed off...and curious.

Yesterday, John Nichols of the Nation Magazine dropped a phone call to the Randi Rhodes show to talk about how Scott Walker may have committed a serious ethics violation in a State that has, in his words, the "toughest ethics Laws in the country":


Here's the opening bit from Mr. Nichols Nation piece that was mentioned:

When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker discussed strategies to lay off state employees for political purposes, to coordinate supposedly “independent” political expenditures to aid legislatures who support his budget repair bill and to place agent provocateurs on the streets of Madison in order to disrupt peaceful demonstrations, he committed what the former attorney general of Wisconsin says could turn out to be serious ethics, election law and labor violations.

While much of the attention to the “prank” call that the governor took from a blogger who identified himself as billionaire David Koch [1] has focused on the bizarre, at times comic, character of the discussion between a blogger posing [2] as a powerful political player on the right and a governor whose budget repaid bill has sparked mass demonstrations in Wisconsin communities and a national outcry, the state’s former chief law-enforcement officer described the governor’s statements as “deeply troubling” and suggested that they would require inquiry and investigation by watchdog agencies.

“There clearly are potential ethics violations, and there are potential election-law violations and there are a lot of what look to me like labor-law violations,” said Peg Lautenschlager [3], a Democrat who served as Wisconsin’s attorney general after serving for many years as a US Attorney. “I think that the ethics violations are something the [state] Government Accountability Board should look into because they are considerable. He is on tape talking with someone who he thinks is the funder of an independent political action committee to purchase advertising to benefit Republican legislators who are nervous about taking votes on legislation he sees as critical to his political success.”

Lautenschlager, a former legislator who has known Walker for many years and who has worked with many of the unions involved in the current dispute, says: “One of the things I find most problematic in all of this is the governor’s casual talk about using outside troublemakers to stir up trouble on the streets, and the fact that he only dismissed the idea because it might cause a political problem for him.”

You can find the rest here. (It's not behind a paywall, but don't be surprised if they ask you for your Email and zip code).

I've got to say, reading the piece, Nichols didn't write much more than was in the interview. Sometimes, you listen to a journalist on the TeeVee or the Radio, and hear about what they're working on, and you go in expecting a universe's worth of difference between what he or she wrote, and what they said...

...and there wasn't a universe's worth of difference.

That being said, one gets the distinct feeling that Mr. Nichols is just getting warmed up.

The original Faux David Koch call is here:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Remember this the next time you hear some Republican bellyaching about why government should be run more like a business..."

Former Clinton Administration Economist, and currently University of California Professor, Brad DeLong, spotted this bit of Steve Pearlstein (of the Washington Post) wisdom:

Back when I was working at Inc. magazine in the mid-1980s, we loved nothing better when approaching a public-sector issue than to ask how the private sector would handle it. Faced with the situation in Wisconsin, we would have called up Tom Peters or Peter Drucker and posed the example of a new chief executive brought in by the shareholders (i.e., the voters) to rescue a company suffering from operating losses (budget deficit) and declining sales (jobs). Invariably, they would have recommended sitting down with employees, explaining the short-and long-term economic challenges and working with them to improve productivity and product quality in a way that benefits both shareholders and employees.

Now compare that with how Wisconsin's new chief executive handled the situation: Impose an across-the-board pay cut and tell employees neither they nor their representative will ever again have a say in how things will be run or get a pay raise in excess of inflation. A great way to start things off with the staff, don't you think? Remember that the next time you hear some Republican bellyaching at the Rotary lunch about why government should be run more like a business...

"To prepare the full range of options..." (VIDEO)

This is not the President saying it's "go" time, rather it's the President saying "I'm trying to determine whether or not it's "go" time".

When it comes to turning to Mercenaries from Chad, and using Air Power on demonstrators, I hope the Colonel's memory hasn't failed him.  There's are things America can do about that...and it can involve the user of cruise missiles.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Okay, now a D.C. Court has upheld HCR. You know what that means?

...absolutely nothing.

Still goin' to the Supreme Court, where Anthony Kennedy (and probably Anthony Kennedy alone will decide its fate).

Still the decision by Gladys Kessler was welcome news.

Why I still have very mixed-to-bad feelings about Michelle Rhee.

For every article about Michelle Rhee that I save in Evernote that's positive, there's at least one that's negative. In my gut, for me personally, I think she's a little too fascinated with herself.  (A chronic case of Ed Schultz disease, and in this case it's not a TV Show that's gone to her head, but a whole movie).

I think one of the points in this Slate piece summarized this doubt nicely:

The fact that Rhee is a hard-working Ivy League graduate makes the elite press respect her as one of their own. And Rhee's flair for the dramatic makes her irresistible. In his well-written and highly favorable biography, The Bee Eater, Richard Whitmire recounts that as a teacher in Baltimore, Rhee grabbed the attention of her students one day when she swatted a bee flying around the classroom and promptly swallowed it. As a chancellor, Rhee once told a film crew, "I'm going to fire somebody in a little while. Do you want to see that?"

If she's not careful (and Michelle Rhee often isn't), she can come off as..."Hey, if we just treat these brown kids rougher, they'll do better with less money!"

Why?  Because you say so?

I don't think Teacher's Unions are to blame for what's happening in Education.  I think it boils down to what usually ails progress in America, our fellow Americans.

We still keep falling for this bull@#$% about a free lunch.  We demand first class Government, with Third World Tax Rates.  We want the best, as long as we don't have to pay for it...ever.  We want to do things on the cheap, and are somehow shocked (shocked I tell you) that the kiddies grades and test scores are suffering.

Only we are that myopic, and Michelle Rhee didn't help.

At the same time, I think that Michelle Rhee's right about the problems we face.  I do think its too hard to fire problem Teachers.  I personally don't have problem with merit-based pay, but if we're going to do that, we really need to start paying Teachers like Doctors or Lawyers (Public Universities do it at the collegiate level).  And the notion of a Teacher spending even a fraction of their own meager pay to cover for supplies or books is obscene.

Still, I thought this paragraph really encapsulated my doubts about her, or at the very least, the rhetoric that blasts Teacher's Unions:

Most education researchers, though, recognize that Rhee's simple vision of heroic teachers saving American education is a fantasy, and that her dramatic, often authoritarian, style is ill-suited for education. If the ability to fire bad teachers and pay great teachers more were the key missing ingredient in education reform, why haven't charter schools, 88% of which are nonunionized and have that flexibility, lit the education world on fire? Why did the nation's most comprehensive study of charter schools, conducted by Stanford University researchers and sponsored by pro-charter foundations, conclude that charters outperformed regular public schools only 17 percent of the time, and actually did significantly worse 37 percent of the time? Why don't Southern states, which have weak teachers' unions, or none at all, outperform other parts of the country?

Someone might want to tell the Republicans that the "apology tour" never happened

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post took a moment (or more than a moment) to go over the "Apology Tour" meme the right is circulating. His conclusion?:

The claim that Obama repeatedly has apologized for the United States is not borne out by the facts, especially if his full quotes are viewed in context.

Obama often was trying to draw a rhetorical distinction between his policies and that of President Bush, a common practice when the presidency changes parties. The shift in policies, in fact, might have been more dramatic from Clinton to Bush than from Bush to Obama, given how Obama has largely maintained Bush's approach to fighting terrorism.

In other cases, Obama's quotes have been selectively trimmed for political purposes. Or they were not much different than sentiments expressed by Bush or his secretary of state. Republicans may certainly disagree with Obama's handling of foreign policy or particular policies he has pursued, but they should not invent a storyline that does not appear to exist.

Note to GOP speechwriters and campaign ad makers: The apology tour never happened.

Four Pinocchios

Four Pinocchios...the equivalent of Pants-On-Fire from Polifact??

"Screw Us and We Multiply"

David Weigel has a collection of 11 Anti-Tea Party/Anti-Koch Brothers signs at his site.  They're pretty damn good.  My favorite is of the Union Thug in pink.  The site is available here.

John-of-Orange is counting on you being stoopid. Do your country a favor. Don't be.

Okay. This from Reuters:

Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner said on Tuesday that his chamber would be willing to pass a short-term, spending-cut bill to avoid a shutdown of the U.S. government.

And if you stuck to that, you'd say "yay" no Government shut-down.  The man who blends in with the furniture has compromised!  Boehner,you're my hero!

Which is why you really need to read Newspaper stories to the end. Because in the very next paragraph it kinda spoils things:

In a statement, Boehner said if the Democratic-led Senate refuses to vote on the spending-cut bill passed by the House on Saturday, the Republican-controlled House "will pass a short-term bill to keep the government running -- one that also cuts spending."

The House-passed bill would fund the government through September 30, but with $61 billion in spending cuts that Democrats denounce as excessive.


Does anyone remember my posting from last week where John-of-Orange said:

House Speaker John Boehner today ruled out a short term extension of current levels of government funding, raising the prospect of a government shutdown.

The House tonight or tomorrow is expected to pass funding for the government through the rest of the year. But both chambers of Congress are out next week for President's Day recess. The current funding expires March 4th. Which means that in the five days Congress is back the week after next, the Senate must pass it's version the continuing resolution (CR) -- they're unlikely to accept the House bill as it's written with more than $100 billion in cuts -- and kick it back to the House. Then, if the House doesn't accept the Senate version, a compromise must be wrought and passed by both chambers. In the world of budgets, achieving this in five days is a lightening speed unlikely to be achieved. Democrats had been counting on a temporary extension of current funding while a deal is negotiated for the rest of the year, but Boehner's refusal today to give the process any more time forces Dems, and some Senate Republicans, to either accept deeper cuts than they'd like or face a government shutdown.

Wait-wait-wait. Lemme get this straight.

Last week, John-of-Orange says we won't accept a continuing resolution, so you're going to have to accept our budget with cuts Democrats (the majority in the Senate) don't like.

Only now, John-of-Orange is saying Fine! Fine! You win, we'll go ahead and pass a continuing resolution...with a but of cuts Democrats (the majority in the Senate) don't like.

I may not have gone to Law School or anything, but I'm pretty sure this isn't a compromise.

And now, Scott Walker stands (just about) alone...

Via Talking Points Memo. First Mitch Daniels of Indiana (whose Dems have also left the state), now Rick Scott of Flordia have decided that letting the Unions be is a pretty good idea.

And by the way, the Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader (a Republican, duh) has said he's not going along with Walker's end-around budget trick to force his Union Busting bill through.

Walker's running out of friends.

Bondad: Consumer Confidence is up, but there's reason to be a little careful.

There's some good news about Consumer Confidence, but Bonddad sounds a cautious note at the end:

The number is still pretty low by historical standards, so I'd be cautious to read too much into this move. In addition, with gas prices going up (and today's price spike) I think this number will come under strong downward pressure in the near future.

So, are the Republicans already overreaching?

Ezra asked this question this morning. Allow me to paraphrase if only slightly:

[In the case of Wisconsin], Republicans have chosen a hardline and are refusing significant compromise, even at the risk of terrible consequences. Will the public turn on them for overreach? Applaud their strength and conviction? Or not really care one way or the other, at least by the time the next election rolls around?

Truth is, we don't have an answer to this question, and won't until November of 2012. But there's a new national poll from the USA Today on the Wisconsin situation...and let me put it this way, that ain't applause Governor Walker's hearing:

The public strongly opposes laws taking away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions as a way to ease state financial troubles, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.

The poll found that 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to one being considered in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who would favor such a law.

Again, that's a national poll.

Ezra Klein: Unions, the counterbalance to Corporate Power

From Wisconsin is about power, not money:

America's various governmental entities are looking for ways to avoid defaulting on their debt - or at least defaulting on their debt to the powerful. That addendum is important, because one of the strategies that's emerging is to default on debt to the less powerful, the people who don't have the power to wreck our economy.

This is a crucial fact about the economy, and one often underplayed by economists: power matters. It's worth more, in many cases, than money. And that's what's really at issue in Wisconsin. It's why Gov. Scott Walker is uninterested in taking concessions from the unions on wages and benefits if they don't come alongside concessions on collective bargaining. What he wants isn't a change in the balance of payments. It's a change in the balance of power.

The deal Wisconsin made with its state employees was simple: Accept lower wages than you could get in the private sector now in return for better pensions and health-care benefits when you retire. Now Walker wants to renege on that deal.

Rather than stiff the banks, in other words, he wants to stiff the teachers - but the crucial twist he's added, the one that's sent tens of thousands of workers into the streets, is that he wants to make sure they can't fight back once he does it.

The reason you can't stiff bondholders is that they can make a state or country regret reneging on the deals they've made. They can increase borrowing costs far into the future, slowing economic growth and, through the resulting economic pain, throwing politicians out of office. That gives them power. An ordinary teacher does not have access to such artillery. Unless, of course, she's part of a union.

Unions - through collective bargaining, strikes and other means - give workers power. They make reneging on contracts with their members painful. They also make negotiations less lopsided.

They're not perfect, of course. They sometimes negotiate bad deals, or misbehave, or hand good money over to bad people, or put their short-term interests ahead of the public's long-term interests. But then, so do corporations and politicians.

But their power matters for more than just debt repayment. For all their faults, unions tend to see their constituents as not just their own members, but the "working class," broadly defined. That's why you'll find labor's fingerprints on everything from the two-day weekend to Medicare to the Civil Rights Act of 1965 - none of which require you to flash a union card before you can benefit from them. They act -- quite self-consciously -- as a counterbalance to corporate power.

There's more to this column of course, and I encourage you to go and read it, but this was the meat of the idea, in my mind.