Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 16, 2009

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

* President Obama talks up human rights in China. Nice move.

* Good news: retail sales looked encouraging in October. Bad news: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke believes the recovery will be weak, with lingering unemployment and tight credit.

* IAEA worries about Iran: "The United Nations' nuclear watchdog is concerned that Iran's belated revelation of a new uranium enrichment site may mean it is hiding further nuclear activity, an agency report said on Monday."

* Stunning: "The number of Americans who lack dependable access to adequate food shot up last year to 49 million, the largest number since the government has been keeping track, according to a federal report released Monday that shows particularly steep increases in food scarcity among families with children." Blue Girl has more.

* GM reported a $1.2 billion quarterly loss, which, oddly enough, was good considered good news. Even harder to believe is the fact that GM is now saying it's prepared to pay off federal loans ahead of schedule.

* The U.S. Postal Service implemented a strategy of $10 billion in cost-cutting measures. It still lost $3.8 billion in the 2009 fiscal year.

* After having opposed judicial filibusters for the last eight years, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) announced today he will filibuster Judge David Hamilton's appeals court nomination.

* Figures: "Even as drug makers promise to support Washington's health care overhaul by shaving $8 billion a year off the nation's drug costs after the legislation takes effect, the industry has been raising its prices at the fastest rate in years."

* That's a lot improper payments: "The government paid more than $47 billion in questionable Medicare claims including medical treatment showing little relation to a patient's condition, wasting taxpayer money at a rate nearly three times that of the previous year."

* What's with that new report from the Center on Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)? Igor Volsky had a good item on this.

* There are still some people (see Ignatius, David) worried about inflation. Please ignore them.

* Late last week, former Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

* Nice piece from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) on the inanity of much of the health care debate. (thanks to reader T.D. for the heads-up)

* The perils of being a poor ivy leaguer.

* John McCain now hates the AARP.

* I was very disappointed to see that Anonymous Liberal is taking an extended break from blogging. He's long been one of my favorites.

* I'm going out of my way not to write posts about Sarah Palin today, but it's worth noting that a wide variety of claims from her book have already been thoroughly debunked.

* And finally, the right-wing Tea Party event in southern Virginia, where participants were planning to burn Democratic lawmakers in effigy, is off. "We had to cancel it," an organizer said. "The property owner won't allow us to do it. The media attention was something that he didn't want."

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.

Steve Benen 5:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Comments

too late, mcsame. i quit aarp when they backed bush's unfunded (and horribly fucked-up) medicare part d.

Posted by: mellowjohn on November 16, 2009 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

* Figures: "Even as drug makers promise to support Washington's health care overhaul by shaving $8 billion a year off the nation's drug costs after the legislation takes effect, the industry has been raising its prices at the fastest rate in years." -- Steve Benen

"Figures", indeed :) They need to winch up their figures high enough, to make the 8B "shaving" painless. I see the same principle operating while grocery shopping. "Half price on X!" Um... Yes, half of this week's price. But, looking at last week and the previous one... Maybe 5%, at best.

Posted by: exlibra on November 16, 2009 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK
but it's worth noting that her a wide variety of claims from book have already been thoroughly debunked.

Also worth noting: that someone's a bit of proofreading on blog needs to be done.

Posted by: noncarborundum on November 16, 2009 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Steve,
You've got to proof read these lists one more time before publishing.
I'm a faithful reader & find myself mentally making margin notes for your posts lately.
Help me out a little; I only have 8 brain cells left=)

Posted by: vwmeggs on November 16, 2009 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Good news: retail sales looked encouraging in October."

Cash For Clunkers rides to the rescue, AGAIN.

Posted by: Joe Friday on November 16, 2009 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Re: Sessions filibustering Hamilton's vote: What can be done about protracted, deliberate refusals to let Obama appointees start doing their jobs? The positions need to be filled. There's work that needs doing. Republicans are trying to break the country and civil management of same. We can argue about the definition of patriotism and good actors, but does anybody know if there's a time limit or overriding procedure?

Posted by: SF on November 16, 2009 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

* And finally, the right-wing Tea Party event in southern Virginia, where participants were planning to burn Democratic lawmakers in effigy, is off. "We had to cancel it," an organizer said. "The property owner won't allow us to do it. The media attention was something that he didn't want." -- Steve Benen

That's not the half of it :) From what I've heard (from other, more local, sources) there was a screw-up in organising the whole thing. They were planning on *last minute* publicity for their Bedwetter Party (most arsonists are bedwetters -- start the fire by day, "put it out" at night) -- only enough time for the press and TV to show up and witness. They told a friendly newspaper, that the event was scheduled for the 21st, and that the announcement was to appear on the 20th. Those attending would know when to come, anyway, and there's be no time for the adverse publicity and counter-demonstrations pushed by the lefty blogs and other such. And the paper messed up and announced it a week ahead of time...

Makes one wonder just why some people doubt that the Tea Baggers would make good administrators...

Posted by: exlibra on November 16, 2009 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

BLOWING UP 'GOING GALT'

During an interview with Charlie Rose last Friday, Rose asked Warren Buffett about the RightWing argument that higher federal income taxation of the wealthy inhibits economic growth. Buffett responded:

"I've worked with all kinds of systems of taxation. I've worked with rich people, even in the '50s and the '60s when the top rate was 70% and I've worked with them when the capital gains rate was 39.6%, and not one of them ever said 'It's one o'clock, instead of working this afternoon I think I'll go to the movies because my marginal rate is so high'. If anything, they worked harder."

Oh dear.

Posted by: Joe Friday on November 16, 2009 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Palin says that motherhood is a great preparation for being a politician. Given that the public image of motherhood, as opposed to the reality, is equal parts authoritarianism and self-pity, it would seem to make a terrible preparation. It does fit George Bush though, and Palin herself.

Posted by: ericfree on November 16, 2009 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Steve,

After discovering StraighterLine.com via the Washington Monthly article,
College for $99 Month, I've signed up for their Business Statistics course -- needed as a prerequisite for some of my Masters of Science classes at Central Michigan (CMU confirmed that the credits will transfer). I expect to complete the course in less than 30 days. Three hours of college credit for $99. You can't beat it.

Thanks to Washington Monthly for the heads up!

Posted by: Chris on November 16, 2009 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter version:
Palin - thoroughly debunked.
She's worth at least 3 words, huh Steve?

Posted by: citizen_pain on November 16, 2009 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

I think the average person can feel the negativity of Fox---"we distort, you believe" repeatedly exposed. Millions ultimately believe in the new testament style tenets of taking care of the sick, the infirm, the lesser, by extension, the homeless, further, by extending benefits to the unemployed....
Even the wierdo republicans with whom I work laugh at Fox News distortions.
All of the respected pundits cite the intelligence, thoughtfulness of Obama.
Stay positive about the future.

Posted by: due process on November 16, 2009 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

If Bernanke is sincerely worried about the recovery being weak, lingering unemployment and tight credit -- well, I'm worried about those things too. But the difference between me and him is -- HE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. That's his job, after all, isn't it?

Posted by: Ohio Mom on November 16, 2009 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

"Good news: retail sales looked encouraging in October. Bad news: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke believes the recovery will be weak, with lingering unemployment and tight credit."

Nobody with credit card debt will be buying much this holiday season while they're paying ~30% interest. As limits in the proposed bills in Congress are not retroactive, any meaningful recovery in retail sales will be seriously hampered.

Posted by: bdop4 on November 16, 2009 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

There isn't going to be any meaningful economic recovery while people are paying ~30% interest on credit card debt.

Posted by: bdop4 on November 16, 2009 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it interesting that the Republicans have forgotten how they blocked Clinton's appointees?

Posted by: Patricia Shannon on November 16, 2009 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Max Bluementhal>

Before her nomination, the provincial Palin had traveled outside the country only once and demonstrated little, if any, intellectual curiosity. During the campaign, she was flummoxed when CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric simply asked what magazines she read. Yet the fact that she had such a limited understanding of the world actually recommended her to the Republican base.

The gun-toting, snowmobile-cruising former beauty queen became an instant cultural icon. Little understood by those outside this culture was her religious worldview, cultivated during the 20 years she spent worshipping at the Wasilla Assembly of God, a right-wing Pentecostal church in her hometown north of Anchorage. When I visited the church in October 2008, a pastor from Kenya, Bishop Thomas Muthee, was at the podium comparing Palin to Queen Esther, the biblical queen who used her wiles to intercede for her people. The reference was clear enough: Palin, the former beauty pageant contestant who had chosen Esther as her biblical role model when she first entered politics, would topple America's secular tyrants, leading her people, the true Christians, into the kingdom. As he concluded his sermon, Muthee gesticulated wildly and spoke in tongues, urging parishioners to "come against the spirit of witchcraft as the body of Christ."

Three years earlier, in 2005, Muthee had anointed Palin during a public ceremony at the Wasilla Assembly of God, laying his hand on her forehead while praying to protect her "against all forms of witchcraft." The bishop claimed that he had personally battled a witch in his hometown of Kiambu, Kenya, driving the evildoer from the town and thereby ending an epidemic of crime and licentiousness. The episode was later revealed as a farce by a reporter from Women's eNews who traveled to Kiambu and found the supposed witch, a local healer named Mama Jane, still living happily in her compound. In palling around with Muthee, whom she credited with helping propel her into the governor's mansion by anointing her, Palin revealed herself as an authentic religious zealot. Whatever her flaws might have been, this was what mattered to the movement in 2008 -- and what matters now.

Once Palin was nominated, her sixteen-year-old daughter Bristol (named for Bristol Bay, Alaska) became the subject of ferocious media scrutiny. She had, it turned out, been impregnated by Levi Johnston, a local eighteen-year-old jock who identified himself on his MySpace page as "a f**kin' redneck." To media outsiders, Bristol's out-of-wedlock pregnancy was particularly startling, given Palin's advocacy of abstinence-only education. In the eyes of many liberals, Palin had been revealed as but another family-values hypocrite...

Posted by: due process on November 16, 2009 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

Twitter proof of Sarah Palin's craziness--in her own words:


"Sarah Palin
"An Invitation
"FOX News' Glenn Beck is doing an extraordinary job this week walking America behind the scenes of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and outlining who is actually running the White House. Monday night he asked us to invite one friend to watch; tonight I invite all my friends to watch. -Sarah Palin
August 26 at 8:34am"

Posted by: american nightmare on November 16, 2009 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

Bad news: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke believes the recovery will be weak, with lingering unemployment and tight credit.

If Ben Bernanke's predictions hold true, that's effing GREAT news. More likely we'll see a second HUGE dip with 25% unemployment.

Posted by: Disputo on November 16, 2009 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

John McCain now hates the AARP.

McCain exhorting seniors to tear up their AARP membership cards because the AARP supports the health care bill shows how out of touch he and his party have become. Although the right seems willing to cut off their noses to spite their faces the rest of America will be loath to go along with them.

Posted by: Dennis-SGMM on November 16, 2009 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

My favorite part of the Blumenauer piece is the number of times he uses the word "lies".

Posted by: Ken on November 16, 2009 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

The economy is back to recovery - don't let ultimate pessimists and doomsdayers discourage folks from getting back the spirit that's carried this country for so long.

Posted by: acuvue oasys on November 16, 2009 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, acuvue, I'd love to get the economy back on track with the spirit that carried it so far and so long but my credit cards are all maxed out.

Posted by: inkadu on November 16, 2009 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

A couple of points on the health-spending stories:

1. That year-over-year "tripling" of improper Medicare payments has to do with dramatic changes in accounting rules. Nobody knows whether there was any change at all in the rate at which taxpayer money is wasted.

2. The CMS item boils down to: Under the House bill, Americans will spend more on health care. Specifically, 10% more Americans will have health insurance and the total amount Americans spend on health care will increase 0.8%.

Neither story nearly as dramatic as the reporters tried to make it.

Posted by: Suzii on November 17, 2009 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

The economy is back to recovery - don't let ultimate pessimists and doomsdayers discourage folks from getting back the spirit that's carried this country for so long.

I have plenty of spirit. I also have plenty of experience, a degree, great recommendations and I'm a combat veteran. What I don't have is a job and because I'm sixty one I have a better chance of winning the lottery than of being hired.

The spirit that carried this country for so long was offshored years ago along with the industries that created the well paid jobs that in part fostered that spirit. Instead, we were told by successive administrations to "don't worry - be happy" and that everything would be fine if we just kept borrowing enough money to buy and sell shit that was made in another country. It required neither pessimism nor rocket science to figure out that we'd run out the string on that setup fairly quickly and that when we did there wouldn't be anything to break our fall. Now we get to see how our consumer economy works when the consumers don't have any fucking money.

Posted by: Dennis-SGMM on November 17, 2009 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

Is anyone else at all bothered by the fact that the CIA continues to help finance and support the Pakistani ISI, an intelligence service that created and continues to support the Taliban, a group that continues to kill our soldiers ?

Posted by: rbe1 on November 17, 2009 at 4:45 AM | PERMALINK

Hello. And Bye.

Posted by: evedaferE on March 1, 2011 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK
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