Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 17, 2009

TUESDAY'S MINI-REPORT.... Today's edition of quick hits:

* Have you noticed how fast Congress can move when it wants to? "Senate Democrats will seek to recoup $165 million in bonuses paid to executives of the troubled insurance giant American International Group through a narrowly focused tax, unless the money is returned voluntarily."

* A better-than-expected housing market report helped push the major stock indexes up today.

* The reformist efforts in Iran suffer a setback with Mohammad Khatami's withdrawal from Iran's presidential race.

* Avigdor Lieberman? Israel's next foreign minister?

* Ruth Bader Ginsburg will begin chemotherapy later this month, but does not expect to miss any court sessions. For a 76-year-old cancer patient, Ginsburg is pretty damn tough.

* Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) raised a few eyebrows yesterday when he suggesting some embattled AIG executives should "resign or commit suicide." Today, he emphasized that he was speaking rhetorically.

* GM has plenty of problems, but at least it's not AIG.

* Americans' support for the war in Afghanistan is dropping quickly to all-time lows.

* Speaking of polls, Rasmussen is playing a little fast and loose again, this time with EFCA.

* Pittsburgh Steelers owner Daniel Rooney will be the U.S. ambassador to Ireland.

* David Frum can't believe the nonsense his fellow conservatives are putting on the air at Fox News. I can't say I blame him; if I were conservative, I'd feel embarrassed and frustrated, too.

* Good for David Shuster for pushing back against Fox News' most insulting nonsense.

* Rick Santelli is fine with excessive and unearned bonuses. It's those "losers" who are losing their homes he doesn't like.

* Remember, according to conservatives, MSNBC is supposed to be the liberal network: "Discussing AIG bonuses, MSNBC's Francis says, 'I've heard a lot of backlash from people saying, 'What about Nancy Pelosi's plane?'"

* Quote of the Day: "No one should face financial ruin because of a mishap with a fork and an avocado." (Click the link; it'll make sense.)

* And in honor of St. Patrick's Day, the White House somehow managed to turn the water in the fountains on the north and south lawns green. If I'm not mistaken, that's a White House first.

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.

Steve Benen 5:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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Comments
David Frum can't believe the nonsense his fellow conservatives are putting on the air at Fox News.

David Frum is only annoyed that, in the last few months, it hasn't been working as well as it has for the preceding several years. Its not like the level of nonsense has really changed.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 17, 2009 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

I'd be careful about Frum. He knows the conservative day is over and the pendulum will be swinging leftward for a generation at least. He doesn't want to be trapped baying at the moon for the rest of his career. He's more opportunist than wise man.

Posted by: ebbolles on March 17, 2009 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the doctor knows he is just 'some guy' to the overwhelming majority of people stepping into that hospital for hand surgery.

In fact, after that story, he still is 'some guy'.

Posted by: Crissa on March 17, 2009 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

That avocado story is particularly funny to me since I am looking at the nearly-healed, inch-long slice on my right index finger I sustained two weeks ago preparing some avocado for some sushi.

Posted by: doubtful on March 17, 2009 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Aren't the main culprits of the AIG problems people who worked in London? How do we tax them?

Posted by: Fuzzy on March 17, 2009 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think Khatami's withdrawal is really a setback. Khatami had his heart in the right place, but could never really stand up to the Supreme Leader. His last term as president was somewhat of a disappointment, and his support among reformers is tepid. Mousavi isn't tainted by past non-performance, so he's a pretty good alternative. This avoids the inevitable splitting of the reformist bloc before having to put it back together in time for the elections. I think the reformers will do better if they can get behind a single candidate early. That seems to be happening.

Posted by: fostert on March 17, 2009 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

And in honor of St. Patrick's Day, the White House somehow managed to turn the water in the fountains on the north and south lawns green. If I'm not mistaken, that's a White House first.

Obama may have been born in Hawaii, but he's a true Chicagoan now.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on March 17, 2009 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

That avocado story is particularly funny to me since I am looking at the nearly-healed, inch-long slice on my right index finger I sustained two weeks ago preparing some avocado for some sushi.

Did it come out looking like Obama?

Posted by: Danp on March 17, 2009 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Damn good job on the green fountain water, WH crew. I sure hope the cranks are dumb enough to whine about this. The country needs some levity these days and not just the political kind.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on March 17, 2009 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

"A better-than-expected housing market report helped push the major stock indexes up today."

Too bad it was a faulty and misleading report.

The report was: "New U.S. housing starts unexpectedly rebounded in February, surging 22.2 percent"

However, displaying an increase from one month to the next is an improper manner of comparison because of obvious seasonal factors. The proper manner is comparing year-over-year data to the same month from the previous year.

Additionally, any improvement from the record low levels of the previous month, which was the worst since 1960, does not mean a turnaround in housing has begun. The past 4 months still rank as the worst housing start figures since the data was first collected.

So, instead of "surging 22.2 percent", housing starts were actually DOWN almost 50% in February from February of 2007.

Not to mention that even the month-to-month gain in starts was primarily in multi-family units, so it's not even a reflection of the general housing market.

Posted by: Joe Friday on March 17, 2009 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

The White House fountain is green?

Well, the president's name is O'Bama.

Posted by: Okie on March 17, 2009 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Graassley's 'shock' and apparent horror at a signing statement is the mindboggling story of the day. He knowss that W was signing them merrily for the past eight years to advance legal theories that were patently unConstitutional, right?

The fact that he appears to claim he's worried about whistle-blowers is heart-warming in a really chilling way, like Chuckie acting like the plastic version of the Velveteen Rabbit before he gets his hands on the Henckels. I'd imagine that makes Valerie Plame, and the real April Glaspie, feel much better.

About now, there are two national Republicans with a shred of credibility, and one of them is considering escaping to the Democrats while the other shamelessly exploits Teddy Kennedy's bonhomie.

The question, in the age of steroidal Republican vote suppression in a sainted representative democracy, is simple: should people that don't gag at this kind of putrescent tripe be eligible to vote?

Posted by: april glaspie on March 17, 2009 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Unlike Chuck Grassley, I'm not speaking rhetorically. As a commenter on a different site said a couple of weeks ago, "Time was, people (like the AIG bastards) threw themselves off of buildings when they screwed up this badly. I miss those days."

Posted by: Chup, Bryan, TX on March 17, 2009 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Frum's article is interesting, but the comments left at that site reveal that Beck and Limbaugh speak for many on the right.

Posted by: qwerty on March 17, 2009 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

I second qwerty - The comments section pretty much ignored Frum and used his post as a means of continuing the earth is flat, sky is orange conversation. Do we sound that stupid? Gawd I hope not. Is there no shared universe right and left inhabit. Its like a ven diagram where the two circles of have gone off by themselves.

Posted by: Scott F. on March 17, 2009 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

"Have you noticed how fast Congress can move when it wants to? 'Senate Democrats will seek to recoup $165 million in bonuses paid to executives of the troubled insurance giant American International Group through a narrowly focused tax, unless the money is returned voluntarily'."

The Republicans signing on to a 98% tax rate would indeed be a sight to see.

Posted by: Joe Friday on March 17, 2009 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

There are 2 statements one after another that actually related, the 1st one where Frum is talking about "nonsense", and the 2nd that comes from the "Avocado" article:
"The way we ration health care now -- according to the individual's ability to pay -- is immoral, and if higher taxes are needed to ensure that no one has to choose between health and bankruptcy, I'll pay."
Since the rest of the industrialized world has better (= universal coverage) and *cheaper* per capita healthcare than the US, why does it make sense to say that to end the rationed (= immoral) system we have now, we'll have to pay more? The US *already* pays twice as much per capita (if not more) for worse care than any other advanced nation. Why is it a choice between "health and bankruptcy"? *That's* nonsense. Single payer would be *cheaper* for better care (eg.: Canada, France, Germany, GB, etc.). At present, we've got the worst of both: horribly expensive & rationed, and still not as good.

Posted by: Bruce B on March 17, 2009 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody else think that the White House fountain is green today because Sasha and Malia thought that would be wicked cool?

And it actually is, really. ;)

Posted by: Curmudgeon on March 17, 2009 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Santelli --apparently if you can get swindled by a fast-talking mortgage broker, you deserve whatever happens.

If you can swindle somebody, however, society owes you a debt of gratitude.

Posted by: alan on March 17, 2009 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

Crissa, @17:39,

I, too, was struck by that "some guy" quote in Robinson's avocado article. "Some guy"? Like, who??? Joe the Plumber? And because why? Because *this* doctor would be shoeing horses in Williamsburg?

Had I been Robinson, I would have kept my trap shut (like he did) but I sure as hell would have been worried knowing that such an idiot was coming at me with not just forks, but knives as well. And while I was under anesthesia and helpless, to boot.

Posted by: exlibra on March 17, 2009 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Avigdor Lieberman? Israel's next foreign minister?

On 9/14/01, Rep. Barbara Lee was the only congressperson to vote against Bush. She said, in part, "As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore."

Sorry, Israel, but you have become the evil that that you deplore.

It is a very sad irony that the country founded on the slogan "never again" is repeating the evil of WW2 facism.

Posted by: Cool on March 17, 2009 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Since it's an open thread, I just thought I'd share an extremely cheap way to increase the amount of renewable energy produced in the US:

Potential Development at Existing Federal Facilities (warning, somewhat sizeable - but incredibly readable - pdf behind link)

Just want to get that out there.

Posted by: thrashbluegrass on March 17, 2009 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

PV cell manufacturing capacity and installed PV cell electrical generating capacity doubles in 2008, compared to 2007.

http://www.solardaily.com/reports/Solarbuzz_Reports_World_Solar_PV_Market_Grew_To_5_95_Gigawatts_In_2008_999.html

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on March 17, 2009 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK
Khatami had his heart in the right place, but could never really stand up to the Supreme Leader.

As of anyone else who would be permitted to run for office in Iran could really stand up to the Supreme Leader or the Guardian Council.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 17, 2009 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Americans' support for the war in Afghanistan is dropping quickly to all-time lows.

Support for the Afghan war was basically a foil for those who opposed the war in Iraq after a while, but who did not want to be seen as weak on defense. Now that the Iraq war is winding down and the Afghan War no longer serves the function of such a foil, but is actually being pursued, support is naturally eroding. Obama supported the Afghan war to show that he wasn't against all wars, only stupid wars. Now the Democratic Party will enlighten him to the stupidity of the Afghan War, and he'll develop a fondness for some different, hypothetical, war. Perhaps, after his visit with George Clooney, Obama will start to work on a multinational military effort to relieve Darfur.

American military power helped the indigenous Afghans to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban, but the ongoing collapse of Pakistan (and influx of Saudi money) is providing a nearly endless "surge" of Taliban into Afghanistan. Remembering what the Taliban did when last they conquered and ruled Afghanistan, it is probably worthwhile for the U.S. and NATO to prevent it from happening again, even if the "governance" of the Karzai regime and the infinitely factionalized clans are problematical.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on March 17, 2009 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

If I'm not mistaken, that's a White House first.

What do you expect from president O'Bama?

Posted by: . on March 17, 2009 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Here is a great quote from Bush today in Canada:

He said it will be fun to write and that "it's going to be (about) the 12 toughest decisions I had to make."

"I'm going to put people in my place, so when the history of this administration is written at least there's an authoritarian voice saying exactly what happened," Bush said.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090317/ap_on_re_ca/canada_bush_first_speech

ah, his mangling of the English language once again reveals a deeper truth. What a fuckwit.

Posted by: J on March 17, 2009 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

My house is in foreclosure because I was out of work for six months (single parent). I called Chase Manhatten yesterday and within ten minutes was told my house would be put in forebearance so I could pay what I owe back, with no lawyers fees, and that I will qualify for a flat rate, lower interest loan. They answered the phone asking if I was calling about Obama's home owners plan.
I have never nver never seen government action this quick in my life. They are seriuos about stimulating this economy.

Posted by: maria on March 17, 2009 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Wow! That's really good to hear Maria. Good luck!

Posted by: MissMudd on March 17, 2009 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

Avigdor Lieberman? Israel's next foreign minister?

Someone is surprised that a state founded on racism and racialism (which is always surprising when you hear Jews say that Judaisim is a religion, not a "race") and run by Jews whose policies prove that it is indeed possible for a Jew to be a Nazi, now nominate for foreign minister a Nazi who says he's a Jew???

The sad thing is, the Israelis have now put themselves in the same fix they were in when Nebuchadnezzar came along and destroyed their state, and when the Romans came along and did it in 70 AD - the rest of the civilized world is sick and tired of their b.s.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 17, 2009 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

"authoritarian voice"

Was Shrub ducking shoes at the time? CBC Radio2 said, this morning, that shoes had been sent to the Calgary P.O. to protest his visit. Don't know whether the RCMP received special shoe blocking training in preparation of protecting him at the closed door affair.

And, yes, Maria, that is very good news, indeed.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 17, 2009 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

"Support for the Afghan war was basically a foil for those who opposed the war in Iraq after a while, but who did not want to be seen as weak on defense."

Such interesting mind-reading skills you have there, Matty. You must tell us how you do it.

The rest of your drivel wasn't even worth the time to copy and paste, much less reply to. Tell me: do you purchase your straw by the pound or the ton?

Posted by: PaulB on March 17, 2009 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Rachel Maddow just quoted Steve Benen's description of the meeting at the White House with the far right evango-nuts (my description, not Steve's). "To put this in perspective, imagine George W. Bush aides agreeing to meet with representatives of the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and People for the American Way, to discuss culture war issues."

Steve, it's probably been asked before but when do you find time to sleep between reading and posting?

Posted by: tko on March 17, 2009 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Grassley apologized for his remarks about AIG fraudsters today, saying "I didn't mean to include 'resignation' as an option."

Posted by: bushwahd on March 17, 2009 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Nice shout out from Rachel, Steve!

Posted by: doubtful on March 17, 2009 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

PaulB: Tell me: do you purchase your straw by the pound or the ton?

By the bale: a bale weighs about 110 lbs.

PaulB: Such interesting mind-reading skills you have there, Matty. You must tell us how you do it.

It's a wild guess. Possibly even a troll. I wondered whether anybody would deny it. trex, perhaps, who has an uncanny knack for proving me wrong.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on March 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

Jimmy Obama Carter...

This morning's front page NYT's story carried the paragraphs of the day:

The tangle over bonuses highlighted a broader confusion over who actually controls the insurance conglomerate. The Treasury and the Federal Reserve have both pumped vast amounts of money into the company, but the two agencies have never made it clear which of them is in charge.

Both agencies have insisted that neither of them “owns” A.I.G., or controls its management decisions, even though the federal government owns almost 80 percent of the company. As a result, the Treasury and Fed officials have repeatedly resisted forcing the company to disclose more about how A.I.G. was spending taxpayer money.

Can you say "chickenshit"?
How about: CHICKENSHIT!

The reason why the government won't own up to owning AIG is because Obama is playing it timid.
I can think of two reasons why:

One, he doesn't want the minority party to label him a commie. Too much exposure there. Chuckie Norris is already talking about splintering cells and going rogue...

Two, Wall-Street Timmy wants to help his ruling class buds maintain their positions. That's pretty obvious now isn't it?

And so we get this steady flow of chickenshit day after day after day...

The failure to formally nationalize broken banks and AIG is a failure to make the hard decisions that define leadership. I blame Geitner's boss. Time to get a spine Obama. You are looking mighty weak right now.

Drip. Drip. Drip...

Posted by: koreyel on March 18, 2009 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

I wondered whether anybody would deny it. trex, perhaps, who has an uncanny knack for proving me wrong.

You're being too generous, Matt. You have an uncanny knack for being wrong. I just take the time out of my day to point it out.

Support for the Afghan war was basically a foil for those who opposed the war in Iraq after a while, but who did not want to be seen as weak on defense

I don't think it's so much that the left didn't want to be seen as weak on defense, but most of the commentary on the Afghan situation has been the left speaking to the right, saying something along the lines of: "If you feel the need to have a goddamn war to get your nuts off and feel like real men, the Bush administration has left Afghanistan a mess, and it is something closer to a legitimate endeavor than the freaking illegal catastrophe in Iraq."

The left has essentially been saying: whatever you're going to do in Afghanistan, take it seriously, particularly since you let the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks go free in order to pursue the hegemonic middle-eastern pipe dreams of PNAC and various other neoconservative rats' nests.

What has evolved in Afghanistan is that the political will is eroding across the world to stay there and fight. A large segment of the population is sympathetic to the Taliban, who despite their ignorant, stone-age ways were the first group in a decade to bring stability to most of the country. It doesn't appear that the central government will ever be able to project power because there aren't enough Afghans who believe in it enough to lay their lives on the line, making it necessary for foreigners to try and keep the peace.

Purple fingers are all well and good but without laying your ass on the line your commitment to democracy isn't real. I think the uncomfortable truth for everyone is that the Afghans have their own largely religious and clannish culture that is resistant to westernization and our idea of democracy. And if they don't want it, how can it possibly be forced on them?

Posted by: trex on March 18, 2009 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

THERE SHE GOES AGAIN:

Perino Defends AIG Bonuses: They Are 'Middle Class People' Who 'Are Expecting To Get This Bonus'

On C-Span's Washington Journal on Sunday, Dana Perino defended the bonuses:

And the people who are working there that are middle-class people, are expecting to get this bonus. If they do not get it, maybe they won't be motivated enough to try to help the company turn around and getting the company to turn around and be more profitable is important for all of us.

No doubt about it now. She's DAFT.

LINK

Posted by: Joe Friday on March 18, 2009 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

Be aware of FRUM.

Posted by: Cock on March 18, 2009 at 2:46 AM | PERMALINK

trex: And if they don't want it, how can it possibly be forced on them?

Without the NATO/US will to resist, which as you note is waning, and as Steve Benen noted to stimulate my snark, the Taliban will be forced on them.

trex: You have an uncanny knack for being wrong.

related to my first item about doubling PV cell capacity, here is an item about a new microbe for cellulosic ethanol:

http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/22307/page1/

Earlier I posted about new engines (turbocharged direct injection, now manufactured by several companies, including Audi and GM) that can get the same MPG from ethanol as diesel engines now get.

By the time that Obama runs for re-election, the whole US energy debate will be different, mostly due to trends and processes begun before he was elected -- but which he has promised to build on.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on March 18, 2009 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Without the NATO/US will to resist, which as you note is waning, and as Steve Benen noted to stimulate my snark, the Taliban will be forced on them.

Even the neoconservative Council on Foreign Relations concedes that the Taliban are a popular movement, akin to JAM or Hamas, that are winning people over against foreign occupiers. Last month the Pakistani army signed a truce with the Taliban in the south mostly because that's what the locals wanted.

Your apparent concern for the poor people of Afghanistan is touching, what with your wholesale cheerleading of death and destruction in Iraq for the last five years -- while denying the actual number of dead and wounded.

Over one million dead directly or indirectly as a result of the invasion of Iraq in a country of only 26 million or so. Hundreds of thousands wounded, and a few million more forced to flee the war zone to live in poverty in other countries.

In a similar fashion, you know and I know that you could give a rat's ass about the fate of the Afghanis. The fact that more civilians than Taliban have been killed in the past five years has not elicited so much as a yawn from you. Your only concern is with saving your own ass from scary terrorists, and to that end we have to suffer from your narcissistic fascination with the propaganda-posing-as-analysis that you post about these issues.

It's funny to watch you pretend to care, though. It's like observing someone in an ill-fitting suit acting as if they are completely comfortable.

Posted by: trex on March 18, 2009 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Without the NATO/US will to resist, which as you note is waning, and as Steve Benen noted to stimulate my snark, the Taliban will be forced on them.

And just so we're clear, your "snark" was misplaced. Support for the Afghan conflict isn't waning because leftists don't need it as a fig leaf -- it's waning because the Afghans don't want it anymore, the military commanders don't want it anymore, and the countries involved don't want it anymore. All sides are beginning to see how fruitless it is.

And that sentiment is trickling down to ordinary Americans.

Clearly you aren't interested in a serious defense of the Afghan people on the issue, or you would have addressed the fact that one of the core obstacles to peace is that the very warlords accused by many Afghans of war crimes ended up getting positions in government and running the country, and have continued to be corrupt. The average Afghan is saying that the Taliban, for all their faults, kept the peace.

Posted by: trex on March 18, 2009 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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