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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saturday Night At The Movies

A special midnight double feature for Halloween!

By Dennis Hartley

Part 1: Art is a strange hotel

Bill and Andy’s excellent adventure: Chelsea on the Rocks

Since 1883, the Hotel Chelsea in New York City has been considered to be the center of the universe by bohemian culture vultures. It has been the hostelry of choice for the holiest of hipster saints over the years, housing just about anybody who was anybody in the upper echelons of poets, writers, playwrights, artists, actors, directors, musicians and free thinkers over the past century. Some checked in whenever they were in town, and some lived as residents for years on end. Some checked out forever within its walls (most notably Dylan Thomas and Sid Vicious). Of course, not every single resident was a luminary, but chances always were that they were someone who had a story or two to tell. Abel Ferrara, a director who has been known to spin a sordid New York tale or two (China Girl , Bad Lieutenant, King of New York, The Funeral) has attempted to paint a portrait of the hotel with his new documentary, Chelsea on the Rocks-with mixed results.

Blending interviews with current residents with archival footage and docu-drama vignettes, Ferrara tackles this potentially intriguing subject matter in frustrating fits and starts. He never decides whether he wants to offer up a contextualized history, an impressionistic study, or simply a series of “So tell me your favorite Chelsea anecdote” stories (ranging from genuinely funny or harrowing to banal and/or incomprehensible).

The most fascinating parts of the film to me were the relatively brief bits of archival footage. For instance, a fleeting 15 or 20 second clip of Andy Warhol and William Burroughs sharing a little repast in one of the hotel’s rooms vibes much more of the essence of what the Chelsea was “about” in its heyday than (for the sake of argument) a seemingly endless present-day segment with director Milos Forman holding court and swapping memories with Ferrara in the lobby, during which neither manages to say anything of much interest to anyone but each other. There is a lack of judicious editing in the film, and therein lies its fatal flaw. Ferrara has an annoying habit of jabbering on in the background while his interviewees are speaking, to the point where it starts to feel too “inside” and exclusionary to the viewer. This is exacerbated by the fact that no present-day interviewees are identified. While some of them were easy for me to spot (Robert Crumb, Ethan Hawke, Dennis Hopper and the aforementioned Milos Forman) the majority of them were otherwise obscure (perhaps I’d recognize them from their work, if I at least had a name). You get the impression that the director made this film for himself and his circle of peers, and it’s a case of “Well, if you aren’t part of the New York art scene and have to ask who these people are, then you obviously aren’t hip enough for the room.” He lures you into the lobby, but alas, can’t convince you to check in for the night.

Part Deux:

Creepy Lodgers and Seedy Inns: The 10 Worst Places to Check In at the Movies

Where the wild things are.

“People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.” So states a character in the 1932 classic, Grand Hotel. Obviously, he never stayed in any of the caravansaries on tonight’s top ten list, where the bad experiences go a bit beyond iffy room service or a fly in the soup. So on this spooky Halloween evening, I triple dog dare you to check in to any of these flops! Per usual, I present them in no particular ranking order. Um, enjoy your stay.

The film: Barton Fink
Where not to stay: The Hotel Earle

This is one of two films on my list involving blocked writers and eerie hotels (I’ll entertain anyone’s theory on why they seem to go hand-in-hand). The Coen brothers bring their usual sense of gleeful cruelty and ironic detachment into play in this story (set in the early 1940s) of a New York playwright with “integrity” (John Turturro) who wrestles with his conscience after reluctantly accepting an offer from a Hollywood studio to transplant himself to L.A. and grind out screenplays for soulless formula films. Thanks to some odd goings-on at his hotel, that soon becomes the very least of his problems. The film is a very close cousin to The Day of the Locust, although perhaps slightly less grotesque and more darkly funny. John Goodman and Judy Davis are also on hand, and in top form.

The film: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Where not to stay: The Mint Hotel

Okay, so the hotel in this one isn’t so bad. It’s the behavior going on in one of the rooms:

When I came to, the general back-alley ambience of the suite was so rotten, so incredibly foul. How long had I been lying there? All these signs of violence. What had happened? There was evidence in this room of excessive consumption of almost every type of drug known to civilized man since 1544 AD... These were not the hoof prints of your average God-fearing junkie. It was too savage. Too aggressive.

Terry Gilliam’s manic, audience-polarizing adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s classic blend of gonzo journalism and hilariously debauched, anarchic invention may be too savage and aggressive for some, but it’s one of those films I am compelled to revisit on an annual basis. Johnny Depp’s turn as Thompson’s alter-ego, Raoul Duke, is one for the ages. My favorite line: “You’d better pray to God there’s some Thorazine in that bag.”

The film: Key Largo
Where not to stay: The Largo Hotel

Humphrey Bogart gives a smashing performance as a WW2 vet who drops by a Florida hotel to pay his respects to its proprietors- the widow (Lauren Bacall) and father (Lionel Barrymore) of one of the men who had served under his command. Initially just “passing through”, he is waylaid by a convergence of two angry tempests: an approaching hurricane and the appearance of Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson). Rocco is a notorious gangster, who, along with his henchmen, takes the hotel residents hostage while they ride out the storm. It’s interesting to see Bogie play a gangster’s victim for a change (in one of his earlier starring vehicles, The Petrified Forest, and later on in one of his final films, The Desperate Hours, he essentially played the Edward G. Robinson character). The entire cast is spectacular. Along with The Maltese Falcon and The Asphalt Jungle, it’s one of John Huston’s finest contributions to the classic noir cycle.

The film: The Lodger
Where not to stay: Mrs. Bunting’s Lodging House

Mrs. Bunting is a pleasant landlady and all, but we’re not so sure about her latest boarder. There’s a possibility that he is “The Avenger”, a brutal serial killer who is stalking London. Ivor Novello plays the gentleman in question, an intense, brooding fellow with a vaguely menacing demeanor. Is he or isn’t he? No worries, I’m not going to spoil it for you! This suspense thriller has been remade umpteen times over the last eight decades, but IMHO none of them can touch Hitchcock’s 1927 silent for atmosphere and mood. Novello later reprised the role of the mysterious lodger in Maurice Elvey’s 1932 version.

The film: Motel Hell
Where not to stay: Motel Hello

OK, all together now (you know the words!): “It takes all kinds of critters…to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters!” Rory Calhoun gives a sly performance as the cheerfully psychotic Vincent Smith, proprietor of the Motel Hello (oh my, there seems to be an electrical short in the neon “O”. Bzzzt!). Funny thing is, no one ever seems to check in (no one certainly ever checks out). Vincent and his oddball sister (Nancy Parsons) prefer to concentrate on the, ah, family’s “world-famous” smoked meat business. Despite the exploitative horror trappings, Kevin Conner’s black comedy (scripted by brothers Steven-Charles and Robert Jaffe) is a surprisingly smart genre spoof and actually quite well-made. The finale, involving a swashbuckling duel with chainsaws, is pure twisted genius.

The film: Mystery Train
Where not to stay: The Arcade Hotel

Elvis’ ghost shakes, rattles and rolls (literally and figuratively) all throughout Jim Jarmusch’s culture clash dramedy/love letter to the “Memphis Sound”. In his typically droll and deadpan manner, Jarmusch constructs a series of episodic vignettes that loosely intersect at a seedy hotel. You’ve gotta love any movie that features Screamin’ Jay Hawkins as a night clerk. Also be on the lookout for music legends Rufus Thomas and Joe Strummer, and you will hear the mellifluous voice of Tom Waits on the radio (undoubtedly a call back to his DJ character in Jarmusch’s previous film, Down by Law).

The film: The Night of the Iguana
Where not to stay: The Hotel Costa Verde

Director John Huston and co-writer Anthony Veiller adapted this sordid, blackly comic soaper from Tennessee Williams’ twisty stage play about a defrocked, self-loathing minister (Richard Burton) who has expatriated himself to Mexico, where he has become a part-time tour guide and a full-time alcoholic. One day he really goes off the deep end, and shanghais a busload of Baptist college teachers to an isolated, rundown hotel run by an “old friend” (Ava Gardner). Throw in a sexually precocious teenager (Sue Lyon, recycling her Lolita persona) and an itinerant female grifter with a deceptively prim and proper exterior (Deborah Kerr), and stir. Most of the Williams archetypes are present and accounted for: dipsomaniacs, nymphets, repressed lesbians and neurotics of every stripe. The bloodletting is mostly verbal, but mortally wounding all the same. Burton and Kerr are great, as always. I think this is my favorite Ava Gardner performance; she’s earthy, sexy, heartbreaking, intimidating, and endearingly girlish-all at once (“I wanna COKE!”).

The film: The Night Porter
Where not to stay: The Hotel zur Oper

Disturbing, repulsive, yet compelling, Liliana Cavani’s film brilliantly uses a depiction of sadomasochism and sexual politics as an allusion to the horrors of Hitler's Germany. Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling are broodingly decadent as a former SS officer and a concentration camp survivor, respectively, who become entwined in a twisted, doomed relationship years after WW2. You’d have to search high and low to find two braver performances than Bogarde and Rampling give here. I think the film has been unfairly maligned and misunderstood over the years; frequently getting lumped together with exploitative Nazi kitsch like Ilsa - She Wolf of the SS or Salon Kitty. That’s a real shame.

The film: Psycho
Where not to stay: Bates Motel

Bad, bad Norman. Such a disappointment to his mother. “MOTHERRRR!!!” Poor, poor Janet Leigh. No sooner had she recovered from her bad motel experience in Touch Of Evil than she found herself checking in to the Bates and having a late dinner in a dimly lit office, surrounded by Norman’s creepy taxidermy collection. And this is only the warm up to what director Alfred Hitchcock has in store for her later that evening. This brilliant shocker from the Master has spawned so many imitations, I long ago lost count. Anthony Perkins sets the bar pretty high for all future movie psycho killers. Anyone for a shower?

The film: The Shining
Where not to stay: The Overlook Hotel

Stephen King hates Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his sprawling novel. Fuck him-that’s his personal problem. I think this is the greatest horror film ever made. Period. Jack Nicholson discovers that all work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Jack Nicholson discovers that all work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Jack Nicholson discovers that all work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Jack Nicholson discovers that all work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Jack Nicholson discovers…oh. Sorry. Uh, never mind…

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Previous posts with related themes:

The Docu-Horror Picture Show: Top 10 shockumentaries

All come, all ye Pagans: DVDs for All-Hallows Eve

Political Malpractice Insurance

by digby

I guess the Democrats have decided that the more than 700,000 poor schnooks who ran out of unemployment benefits since September have suffered enough and they are going to pass the badly needed extension over the objections of the Republican Scrooges next week. One assumes that the Republicans will not be able to muster enough votes to filibuster this particular bill, but you never know. (Of course, one might have assumed that for the last month, which raises the question as to why the Democrats let these people go without any income for a month while the GOP played with their acorns.)

I can't imagine why the Dems didn't make a huge, stinking deal out of this Republican obstructionism, and illustrate in living color for the American people what these cruel, petty ploys do to real people, but I guess they don't want to upset the Republicans. After all, they wouldn't want to be uncivil.

Begging For Pitchforks Part XXII

by digby

I guess they figure, rightly, that they are above the law and beyond shame so take what they can get:

One hundred percent of credit cards offered online by the leading bank card issuers still include practices that will be outlawed once legislation passed in May takes effect next year, according to a report released this week by the Pew Health Group’s Safe Credit Cards Project.

The report, “Still Waiting: Unfair or Deceptive Credit Card Practices Continue as Americans Wait for New Reforms to Take Effect,” also found that advertised credit card interest rates rose by an average of 20 percent in the first two quarters of 2009, even as banks’ cost of lending declined.

Some of the most harmful practices have grown more widespread, Shelley A. Hearne, managing director of the Pew Health Group, which oversees the project, said in a statement.

“Not one of the bank cards reviewed would meet the legal requirements outlined in the Credit CARD Act, which is bad news for consumers,” she said.

Researchers examined all consumer credit cards offered online by the largest 12 issuers in America, which control more than 90 percent of outstanding credit card debt nationwide. The report also reviewed cards issued by the largest credit unions.

Among the key findings: 99.7 percent of bank cards allowed issuers to increase interest rates on outstanding balances, and 90 percent of bank cards had penalty rate increases with the vast majority imposed by “hair triggers” of one or two late payments in a year.


“It seems that a credit card issuer could gain a distinct competitive advantage by the early implementation of the provisions of the CARD Act. But that is not being done,” Hardekopf said.

Are we still shocked?

"Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder's equity -- myself especially -- are in a state of shocked disbelief," said Greenspan.

They don't need or want to compete and they don't care about the health of the system itself. Why should they? They know they can get away with this and that their customers can't afford to be without credit and function in society. And they know they will be bailed out if they fail. I would say they are very much acting in their own self-interest and are protecting shareholder's equity just fine. It's the consumer's who are getting screwed and who cares about them?

For Fox Sake

by digby

In the Battle of Fox News, General Jon Stewart is William Tecumseh Sherman:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
For Fox Sake!
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

I think Stewart got to the nub of the process. The Right Wing Noise Machine of the past 20 years has always laundered its dirt through foreign papers and Drudge, which would then filter into the mainstream press. But in the fast paced internet era they can't waste the time, so they simply launder it through Beck, to the Fox "news" people, then into the mainstream press. It's a much more efficient operation.

I think Obama was smart to pick the fight. It at least raises questions that will force the mainstream press to take a breath before they jump in. It won't stop them entirely, of course, but it might slow them down a little bit. This is probably the best we can hope for.

Update: Speaking of FOX, I just watched Beck going on about how the liberals hate the nasty corporations but the government which they love is actually in the hands of those same nasty corporations.

It's always interesting to see how the populist right squares that circle. That strikes me a pretty smart. He may be a total loon, but there's a certain emotional logic in what he says.

Total Body Workout

by digby

"It hurts"

I just can't understand why a people which insists that it reveres freedom are standing for this. The evidence suggests that they actually prefer to be subjects.

Teabaggers, what say you? Do you think that government authorities calmly electrocuting citizens at their discretion is freedom?

h/t to mm

Drop Out

by digby

So it looks like the teabaggers have bagged their first RINO and are headed for a big victory. Far be from me to speculate about why, but sometimes you just have to say "life is short."

And she was clearly feeling intimidated. When you call the cops on right wing reporters you are obviously having some trouble dealing with the heat Remember this?

The campaign of Dede Scozzafava, the moderate Republican candidate who is in a three-way race with a Democrat and a Conservative Party candidate in the NY-23 special election, called the police on a Weekly Standard reporter for asking her too many questions.

The Standard's John McCormack reported that he asked Scozzafava repeated questions about her support for the Employee Free Choice Act, her positions on health care, taxes and abortion.

After a staffer got in between him and the candidate, he followed her to the parking lot and kept trying to ask questions.

Then things got interesting:

After she got into her car, I went to my car and fired up my laptop to report the evening's events.

Minutes later a police car drove into the parking lot with its lights flashing. Officer Grolman informed me that she was called because "there was a little bit of an uncomfortable situation" and then took down my name, date of birth, and address.

"Maybe we do things a little differently here, but you know, persistence in that area, you scared the candidate a little bit," Officer Grolman told me.

Maybe she's just very sensitive, but I would guess that having every event turn into a spitting, screaming townhall freakshow can probably make you a bit paranoid.

Seriously, it appears that the teabaggers are gaining steam. And lest we think they are just a funny joke, it would probably pay to recall instances in history when radical, paranoid right wingers got legitimate political power. The joke can easily turn into a nightmare.


Friday, October 30, 2009


by digby

Dick Cheney had a severe cognitive impairment during his time in office:

Notes from former Vice President Dick Cheney's interview with the FBI about the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's covert CIA identity were finally released on Friday afternoon after a lengthy legal battle...

Here's a non-comprehensive list of 22 things Dick Cheney claimed he couldn't recall about the Plame case, in the order they appear in the FBI's notes.

To think he ran the country with a memory like that. How could he find his way to work every morning?

For the full story, go to the expert. She's got it all.

They Really Do Think We're Stupid

by digby

Ron Brownstein is just full of Village wisdom today on Hardball. First he says that the American people are probably going to give Obama a lot more room on Afghanistan to occupy the country indefinitely than anyone thinks, even though the outcome is most likely to turn out to only stave off something worse happening. This is because of 9/11, although he doesn't really spell out why, other than apparently believing Americans are still hooked on that shallow bullhorn nonsense from Bush.

(Matthews, meanwhile insists that the choice is to either beat the Taliban or get out. What that really means here on planet Earth, of course, is that the choice is between endless violent military occupation and getting out. Tweety hasn't wrapped his mind around the fact that the United States military services are not actually Jedi Knights.)

It was a predictable insider take on serious matters. But Brownstein's comments on health care were what really got me:

Brownstein: If Harry Reid did not make an effort for a significant public plan, the left forever would have said, "you never tried." And now it becomes an empirical question, if there are 60 votes for an opt-out version, it'll be there. If there aren't, 60votes for the opt-out version, you've got to move on.

Matthews: I think he's won the affection of my colleague Ed Shultz already. Shultz is very much a public option guy and I think he considers him his champion right now.

Brownstein: And I think that's kind of the reverse of Cronkite I suppose. "If you have Ed Shultz, you have America."

Matthews (with wonderment): Yeah ...

Brownstein: The fact is that the left would never have forgiven Reid and the Democrats if they had not made an attempt, and now the onus is really back on the left. Can they deliver 60 votes? Can they pressure some of those moderate Democrats? In the end, probably not, but they have to make the try first.

And then the Meet The Press braintrust David Gregory offered this bizarre non-sequitor:

Gregory: One important piece of this is to get a public option do they have to cover fewer people do they have to drop taxes and can they do less? Can they do less?

Uhm, ok Stretch. Whatever.

First, Ed Shultz may be a sort of version of what the village thinks of as "America" (look for Matthews to start saying that, which isn't an altogether bad thing) but I doubt seriously he's going to be happy if Reid fails to get 60 and then asks for an E for Effort. I know they think that all Real Americans are morons, but Shultz isn't quite that dumb. He may not be willing to blame Obama, but he'll be pissed.

Brownstein seems to think that all this public option stuff is some sort of a bid for attention and that we're just thrilled to have been invited to the party at all. It seems to elude him that the Democrats did recently win a big election and the vast majority of the party (not to mention a solid majority of the public) wants a public option. It's not some fringy teabag thing.

But what I love is that "the left" now has to deliver the moderate wing of the party. Really? The last I heard that was the White House and the leadership's job. We on "the left" don't actually have the capacity to deliver anything but the liberals and progressives. And that hasn't exactly been easy. Reid and Obama have to figure out how to deliver a bill with the PO. Counting on "the left" to be happy with a jolly, good try is serious wishful thinking. The left is ready to have a full blown meltdown if the leadership has played them for Charlie Browns on this one.

The Democrats have to make a decision: do they believe their job is to reform the health care system to the benefit of the American people or protect the health care industry? To my way of thinking the reform bills are already healthcare industrial complex protection plans, within which the public option is only a possible way to keep the door open for further reform. It's very small potatoes as it is and slightly embarrassing to have to be fighting for at all. To pretend that this complicated mishmash without even that is the best they can do with a huge majority and a President who ran on the issue should be more than slightly embarrassing to them.

By the way, the CBO now says that the public plan premiums will end up being more expensive, but they don't tell you why: they assume that the private plans will find ways to evade the intention of the law and deny coverage to sick people. And why not? They are for-profit entities who are required to maximize their shareholder value however they can. They've literally got to make a buck. Essentially, the CBO has baked into their numbers the idea that you can't trust the health industry to cover everyone because they make money by taking your payments and not paying claims.

Marissa McNee wrote in by email:

  • anybody afraid of that "government take-over of health care" ought to be a hell of a lot more afraid of private insurance.
  • Because the non-partisan CBO just basically told us all that the private insurers will keep their premiums lower by being better at standing between you and your doctor.

Ben Nelson really believes that what's good for Wellpoint CEOs is good for America and if a few sick people have to suffer a little bit, it's the patriotic thing to do to save the free market system in healthcare. But I don't think most Americans agree with that.

And I certainly don't think "the left" agrees with that nor will they be appeased because Harry Reid gave one good press conference and brought the public option to the floor. I know it's all about scoring points with these villagers, but out here in the hinterlands it's about something much more vital than that. Life and death vital.

Update: Lawrence O'Donnell on Olbermann leads with a story that the CBO numbers are "devastating" and "shocking" for reform and implies that it's not worth doing because of it. But then he's been saying the public option is a loser for months, so he has a big stake in seeing it fail.

Anthony Weiner indicates that this is all fallout from the failure of Medicare +5 and seems to be positioning that failure as a big disappointment to the liberals so they can go into the conference having already compromised.

Wendell Potter says that they need to open the PO to more people so they have a better pool, which indicates either better subsidies or Wyden style choices. (Maybe that was what Stretch was mumbling about?)

Perhaps this is where the liberals are going. Let's hope they're going somewhere.

Wingnut Revisionists

by digby

From Blue Texan:

Reagan not only had the nerve to be photographed with the dead. He announced it in a radio address.

In a few hours I’ll undertake one of the saddest journeys of my Presidency. I’ll be going to Andrews Air Force Base to meet one of our Air Force planes bringing home 16 Americans who died this week in the terrorist attack on the United States Embassy in Beirut.

And you'll notice that he even brought Nancy with him.

This is idiotic. Presidents often greeted the dead soldiers until Bush senior was shown on a split screen yukking it up while coffins were shown coming in at Dover. Then the whole thing became a political calculation. Clinton was photographed at Dover greeting the coffins of civilians killed in terrorist attacks and accidents rather than military. (Of course he didn't have any soldiers killed in combat during his term.) Bush didn't bother to go at all and they banned all photography of the returning coffins during his term purely for political reasons. They didn't want the citizens seeing how many dead bodies there were.

Any discussion that there's something untoward in the President greeting dead soldiers is wingnut revisionist crap. Kings and leaders have been doing this since time began. It's a sign of respect for the fallen and they do it publicly as gesture on behalf of the people . That these so-called patriots think there's now something wrong with that tells you everything you need to know about their sincerity

Why do they hate the troops so much?

Opting Optics

by digby

John Harwood interviewed Ben Nelson's hair earlier today and it said that it believed that no bill would pass with a public option that "destabilized the insurance industry," and then repeated that it believed there would be an "opt-in" clause of some sort.

Harwood: You'd agree that unless a comprehensive health care bill would pass that it would cripple his presidency.

Nelson's hair: Well, I don't know that we should conclude that some form of health care reform won't pass. I believe that some form of health care will pass.

Harwood: What in your mind are stoppers, things that, knowing this place, things that either because you oppose them or other senators oppose them, simply can 't be in the final product to have it pass?

Nelson's hair: Well, it's very difficult to see how that CLASS Act that was in the HELP committe bill would make it [that's long term care provisions] I think also any kind of public option that would undermine or destabilize the private insurance that 200 million Americans have, I don't see that that would make it. But some version such as an opt-in, for the states with a state option, that could very well be in.

Harwood then interviewed Jeff Zelaney of the NY Times, who pointed out (as Harwood failed to do) that Nelson is a former Insurance Company executive and therefore has something of an agenda. And then he said this:

The White House right now is sort of leaving these moderate Democrats alone a little bit at least that's what they're saying. They're not having them into the White House for public meetings because that's not helpful. That's not helpful to Blanche Lincoln at home in Arkansas to be seen coming into the White House for meetings with President Obama. So right now, they're trying to give them a little bit of space and hope that they sign on to this opt-in public option.
Maybe Zelaney misspoke there. But I am still suspicious that there might be a play to make opt-in the reasonable alternative to opt-out. It just keeps cropping up in all kinds of places, often from White House reporters. It's worth keeping an eye on anyway.

Harwood thinks that Nelson will stick with them on cloture and I haven't heard otherwise. (and if Harwood asked him he didn't say, the putz.) But he certainly keeps dangling himself out there as a vote for opt-in, so if this thing really comes down to the wire I could see it happening. Again, I don't think the village media have clue about just how different the two things are. It's just bumper sticker slogans to them.

Claude Rains, Please Go To The White Courtesy Phone

by digby

So an ethics investigation about defense contractors and members of the defense sub-committee was accidentally leaked today. Norah O'Donnell asked Lisa Myers what it was all about:

This is a very serious matter Norah. What you have going on here, you have a pattern of members of this sub-committee steering multi-million dollar earmarks to clients of this lobbying groups and clients of the lobbying group reciprocating the favor by steering lots of campaign money to the members of congress.

Is that illegal? If it is then somebody needs to inform all members of congress and every lobbyist on K-Street because I don't think they've heard about it.


by digby

Another killing. But this time, the court said the use of the taser was "disproportionate." Apparently the man had done absolutely nothing wrong, presented no danger, had made no threats. The officers merely thought he might be mentally ill. And he screamed in agony when they shot him full of electricity five times in two minutes before he finally complied. (Of course, by "complying" I mean dying.) Therefore, they said they shouldn't be held liable for killing him.

This is the logic that pervades the taser argument: The taser isn't harmful so we shouldn't be held responsible for killing people with them.

Actually this court decision is a step in the right direction. They at least held that there should be some probable cause before you kill someone with a taser. It isn't much but it's better than the idea that these deaths are "accidental" or caused by the police custody disease called "excited delirium." At least they acknowledged that police can't electrocute and kill citizens for no reason whatsoever.

Maybe someday we'll even reach a point where courts will acknowledge that cops aren't allowed to kill anyone for any reason but self-defense and that electro-torturing people into compliance is excessive force. It's hard to believe it isn't obvious that allowing police to commonly and reflexively use this level of pain, no matter how transient, is an authoritarian method worthy of the worst dystopian nightmare, but since huge numbers of people in this country seem to think the screams and terror they cause are really, really funny I guess you can't really blame the cops for assuming it's perfectly acceptable. The killings though, that might just be a step too far even for the jokesters. Maybe.

h/t to SM

Accept The Pain

by digby

Greider on the scolds:

The deficit hawks are flapping their wings and making a terrible squawk about the government's gusher of red ink. Good grief, a federal deficit of $1.4 trillion! What will become of us?

The gloom chorus includes GOP heavies and right-wing frothers, the editors of the Washington Post and other pinch-penny establishment journals, Blue Dog Democrats and even some of Barack Obama's own advisers. Never mind the bloody mess we're in, they insist. People should hunker down and accept their pain. Suffering is good for the soul.

This nonsense, grounded in ignorance and discredited nineteenth-century bromides, is a recipe for continuing the economy's downward spiral and could prove poisonous for the country. The hawks claim self-righteous rectitude in their warnings, but their real intent is to stymie the very spending programs that can deliver economic recovery and relief to battered citizens. Whining about deficits is a way to halt promising talk about another substantial stimulus package, one that should be focused more concretely on job creation. That will require more deficit financing, for sure; but at a time when unemployment hovers near 10 percent and foreclosures are in hemorrhage, more is needed.

Now that GDP has blipped up a tiny bit, expect these guys to start their song and dance in earnest. Ans yet, as Greider writes, there is every reason to believe that much more is going to be needed. But as far as these true believers are concerned, the crisis has past, now it's time to bleed the patient.


Thursday, October 29, 2009



By digby

In case you were wondering whether the Republicans have a strategy to expand their coalition, this will give you a clue:

For the past week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office has been looking for a Republican co-sponsor for an utterly non-controversial resolution honoring the legacy and role of Hispanic media.

None came, his office confirms. On Tuesday, Reid introduced and passed a resolution designating October 25 through October 31, 2009, the "National Hispanic Media Week" in honor of the Latino Media of America. The Nevada Democrat was joined by Sens. Robert Menendez (New Jersey), Mark Udall (Colorado) and Kirsten Gillibrand (New York) -- all of whom are Democrats.

The resolution was your typical no-thrills, superficial fare that often takes up Senate business. Just last month, for instance, North Carolina's Republican and Democratic senators (Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, respectively) introduced a resolution congratulating "the High Point Furniture Market on the occasion of its 100th Anniversary as a leader in home furnishing" (a thrilling legislative breakthrough)

They're very busy:

Three Republican lawmakers on Monday introduced a resolution honoring participants in the Sept. 12 "tea party" protests in Washington D.C.

House Republican Conference chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), Republican Study Committee chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) sponsored the measure, which has attracted 75 co-sponsors, whom are all Republican.

The Stories Of The Dead

by digby

Bayh, Bayh, Bayh

by digby

Evan Bayh is being a typically insufferable DLC jackass and is making noises about joining the Republican filibuster. He's saying that he has to be consistent and can't vote to cut the filibuster if he plans to vote against the bill, which is balderdash. Maybe he thinks he'll be rewarded with the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Contrarian Crank award, but his constituents wouldn't like it much: the PCCC and Research 2000 conducted a poll:

PUBLIC OPTION: Indiana voters favor a public option 52% to 42%. Independents favor it 59% to 33%.

2010 GENERAL ELECTION: If Bayh joined Republicans in filibustering a public option, 35% of Independents would be less likely to vote for him, 13% more likely. (Nearly 3 to 1). Among Democrats, 51% to 7% (Over 7 to 1).

2010 PRIMARY: If Evan Bayh voted to filibuster a public option, 54% of Democratic voters would be less likely to vote for him in a primary. Only 6% would be more likely. (9 to 1)

INSURANCE COMPANIES: Indiana voters don’t trust insurance companies. 77% believe they put profit above the health of patients – only 11% believe they put patients’ health first. (7 to 1). 52% of voters think Bayh’s $1.5 million in campaign contributions from health and insurance interests hurt his judgment on health care – 29% say they don't hurt his judgment.

BONUS: New research about Bayh's history of voting for cloture and against the underlying bill.

Family Feud

by digby

So Palin is hitting back at Levi Johnston in the press for saying that she refers to little Trig as retarded.

We have purposefully ignored the mean spirited, malicious and untrue attacks on our family. We, like many, are appalled at the inflammatory statements being made or implied. Trig is our 'blessed little angel' who knows it and is lovingly called that every day of his life. Even the thought that anyone would refer to Trig by any disparaging name is sickening and sad. CBS should be ashamed for continually providing a forum to propagate lies.

Notice she doesn't exactly deny it. Just because he's called their blessed little angel doesn't mean they also don't refer to him as retarded. In fact, it seems perfectly believable to me that they would without realizing that it's no longer considered acceptable.

But what's really notable about her comments is the last sentence. She's right. It is irresponsible to provide a forum to propagate lies. Imagine if there existed a whole network that gave liars their own shows where they could lie every single night and even organize political activists based upon them. I certainly think that would be shameful.

Is This Thing On?

by digby

I felt like my head was going to explode when I read this:

Moments ago, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) took to the chamber floor with a strange claim about the urgency surrounding legislation to extend unemployment insurance.

“The benefits haven’t run out yet,” Kyl said. “We’re going to pass this before the benefits run out.”

It’s tough to decipher exactly what he means. Roughly 400,000 folks exhausted their federal unemployment benefits in September, with another 200,000 projected to do the same by the end of October, according to a recent study by the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group. By the end of the year, NELP estimates that 1.3 million Americans will have exhausted their benefits unless Congress steps in with an extension. Each day the Senate dallies, another 7,000 people go off the rolls.

I guess Kyl thinks these lazy bastards should just tap into their trust funds. isn't that what everyone does?

And in case anyone doubts that the Republicans are holding a gun to the heads of the unemployed purely for political purposes, put them away:

Kyl claimed that Democrats are to blame for stalling legislation to extend unemployment benefits because party leaders are resisting consideration of several unrelated GOP amendments.

“We could have been done with this bill 24 hours ago,” Kyl said. “We didn’t ask for the delay.”

Right. If the Democrats want to help these unemployed people all they have to do is pass a bunch of bills declaring ACORN a communist organization and bashing immigrants and they can have it. They only have themselves to blame if the people suffer.

And then we have the words of the man fighting for Joe Lieberman's old position as the most sanctimonious, fatuous blowhard in the House of Lords:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the slow pace of the Senate is a blessing of design, shielding the country from de Tocqueville’s feared “tyranny of the majority.”

“Unlimited debate. Unlimited amendment,” Alexander said. “There’s no need for the United States Senate if we don’t have that. … This is the body that protects the minority view.”

Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!

yes, it's an inspiring thing to see "the minority" literally take the food out of people's mouths and then brag about it. Makes you proud to be an American.

Earlier in the day, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) offered his own theory about why some lawmakers seem content to crawl toward passage of the unemployment benefits extension: they’ve simply been sheltered from the crisis.

“Not very many of our colleagues really know any unemployed workers,” Brown said. “We don’t spend our time with people who are really suffering.”

Hey, Kyl's manservant brought him a tepid cup of coffee this morning. Don't ever say he doesn't know about suffering.

I wish I knew why the Democrats weren't making a big deal out of this. I know they are dealing with health care, but they aren't going to get any Republicans on board, so there's no need to play nice nice and this issue illustrates the painful results of the Party of No strategy perfectly. If they are afraid of the ACORN stuff then they need to get a grip. Nobody even really knows what ACORN is, but hundreds of thousands of people are suffering due to no fault of their own. There are no jobs. These Republicans are playing Russian Roulette with their lives and the public should know about it. It's a perfect depiction of everything disgusting about the conservative philosophy.

Bubbly Spartans

by digby

Atrios writes about a discussion of economic bubbles here at the conference. I had heard before that some economists believe that bubbles are necessary to a mature, dynamic economy, (adding, "you didn't see bubbles in the Soviet Union, do you?")but I didn't know who they were: The Oracle himself, Alan "irrational exuberence" Greenspan Naturally, he didn't worry about the effect of popping bubbles on "the parasites." After all, they aren't productive like hedge fund managers so they deserve to lose everything.

One of the speakers here, Suzanne Berger from MIT, made a very interesting case that even if we want more bubbles, we aren't likely to get anything very impressive in the future because the kind of industrial innovation that used to be undertaken by private industry, such as Bell Labs, are so atrophied from the past couple of decades of short term financial pressure that they just don't exist anymore. Therefore, it falls to the government to filo the gap --- which isn't a problem as long as the innovation has something to do with killing people or supplying an army.

In fact, we have the vast amount of federal welfare for educated white guys -- defense spending --- to thank for a rather large amount of the growth we have in the economy generally. Too bad Americans are mostly a bunch of overweight, mall shopping TV watchers or we'd have a future as the Sparta of the 21ast century. Our economy is gearing itself up to focus almost exclusively on war making. Support the surge, support the workers?

Terrorist Fist Bump

by digby

From the beginning of the GWOT, I have wondered when the whole "black muslim," Nation of Islam, prison gangs would become conflated with Islamic terrorism in the minds of racist Americans. During the campaign, the wingnuts certainly had no problem believing that Obama is a Muslim, because they simply think that all people of color are threatening and Islam is just an identification for dark enemy. The New Yorker cover and Jeremiah Wright controversies skirted around the issue a bit, but it never really got any traction.

I'm guessing this is going to give the racist wingnuts a major thrill up their legs:

After a 2-year investigation, FBI agents descended on a Dearborn warehouse Wednesday hoping to capture the suspected head of an Islamic fundamentalist group.

The scene quickly turned chaotic, however, in a shootout that caused agents to gun down Luqman Ameen Abdullah, 53, leader of the Masjid Al-Haqq mosque in Detroit. Abdullah is accused in a federal complaint of heading a Sunni Muslim group with the mission of establishing a separate Islamic nation within the United States.

Eleven other men were criminally charged in the raids, which also occurred in Detroit.

Abdullah, known to some as Christopher Thomas, died after firing on officers during the raid, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. An FBI dog also was fatally wounded.

The suspects "are members of a group that is alleged to have engaged in violent activity over a period of many years and known to be armed," a joint statement from the Detroit FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office said.


Abdullah, 53, of Detroit stayed true to his word Wednesday as armed FBI agents raided a Dearborn warehouse at Michigan Avenue and Miller. Four other suspects surrendered without incident. Authorities said Abdullah refused to surrender, opened fire and then died in a shootout in which an FBI dog also was killed.

"We're not any fake terrorists, we're the real terrorists," Abdullah once boasted to an undercover informant, according to the affidavit.

But this is the real kicker:

Federal officials said Abdullah was the leader of a group that calls itself "Ummah, a group of mostly African-American converts to Islam, which seeks to establish a separate Sharia-law governed state within the United States."

"The Ummah is ruled by Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, who is serving a state sentence ... for the murder of two police officers in Georgia."

Brown came to prominence in the 1960s as a leader of the Black Panther Party.

Read the whole thing, although by the time this is done I suspect you will know more about these guys than you ever cared to. It's quite a story. And it's going to feed the paranoid ravings of the toxic asylum that calls itself the right in all the predictable ways.

TARP On Steroids

by digby

I am attending the Making it In America conference and heard a bit of news that's pretty depressing. Apparently, this new bill to allegedly end the "too big to fail" actually institutionalizes it. I shouldn't be surprised but I keep clinging to hope that the Democrats aren't going to whiff on this issue. Not gah happen.

Here's Mike Elk writing from the conference:

After leading the dramatic three day Showdown in Chicago at the American Bankers Association (ABA) Convention in Chicago, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will head to the House Financial Service Committee today to testify against proposed reform legislation that actually gives the banks more power. In a twist of irony, he literally sit down the table from American Bankers Association Ed Yingling as he testifies against the banksters.

After weakening current law on derivatives., the committee has once again weakened law in the banker's favor. The drafted legislation concerning banks "too big to fail" which would actually lead to more bailouts over the long run.

In an advance copy of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka's prepared testimony that I obtained, Trumka will tesify that:

The discussion draft appears to take the most problematic and unpopular aspects of the TARP and makes them the model for permanent legislation.

Essentially the legislation would weaken regulation and lead to the conditions in which the American people would be forced to bail out the banks again. As Trumka testifies:

The discussion draft would appear to give power to the Federal Reserve to preempt a wide range of rules regulating the capital markets - power which could be used to gut investor and consumer protections.

Trumka goes onto explain in vivid details how the Federal Reserve with its lack of accountability has traditionally acted in the interests of the banks:

The Federal Reserve currently is the regulator for bank holding companies. In that capacity, it was responsible throughout the period of the bubble for regulating the parent companies of the nation's largest banks. While regulatory authority rests in the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve in Washington, routine responsibility for regulatory oversight has been delegated by the Board of Governors to the regional Federal Reserve Banks. The Federal Reserve System's regulatory expertise resides in these regional banks.

The problem is that these regional Federal Reserve Banks are actually controlled by their member banks - the very banks whose holding companies the Fed regulates. The member banks control the selection of the majority of the regional bank boards, and the boards pick the regional bank president, who are effectively the CEO's of the regulatory staff...

Giving the Federal Reserve with its current governance control over which financial institutions are bailed out in a crisis is effectively giving the banks the ability to raid the Treasury for their own benefit.

Trumka explains how the proposed legislation would incredibly give the big banks more of an incentive to take risky bets in order to drive out their competition:

read on ...

Evidently, it's been decided that accountability means giving more power to the unelected bankers that run the federal reserve just in case the plebes get a little bit too big for their britches.

I keep asking people what the motive is for all this. Is it shock doctrine, greed, fear, political strategy, slave mentality ... what? What is the real reason that, at every step of the way, the government has not just enabled the Masters of the Universe, but actively, openly protected and promoted them? I have concluded that we are dealing with a similar dynamic as that which led to the Iraq war --- everybody's got a different reason for doing the wrong thing. And I'm pretty sure that the end result will be just as good.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Booby Prize

by digby

I'm on the road and only have time for some quick takes, but I notice that Tweety is flogging the abortion and health care issue and I continue to think that access is likely going to end up being restricted even more by health care reform. It would be quite a bitter, ironic pill for some of the most ardent advocates for reform --- and some of the people who need it the most.

The argument seems to be that since money is fungible, any insurance company that has anything at all to do with government can't pay for abortions under the Hyde Amendment. Under these proposed exchanges, that could mean pretty much all of them. There was a ton of blather about "conscience" clauses and the like during the committee hearings and I feel fairly confident that this will be an issue they throw to the conservatives. Nothing like beating up the wimmin folk to make those people happy.

First Fineman, Now Friedman?

by digby

What's with this odd sanity that has overcome certain members of the punditocrisy? Tom Friedman writes:

It is crunch time on Afghanistan, so here’s my vote: We need to be thinking about how to reduce our footprint and our goals there in a responsible way, not dig in deeper. We simply do not have the Afghan partners, the NATO allies, the domestic support, the financial resources or the national interests to justify an enlarged and prolonged nation-building effort in Afghanistan.

I base this conclusion on three principles. First, when I think back on all the moments of progress in that part of the world — all the times when a key player in the Middle East actually did something that put a smile on my face — all of them have one thing in common: America had nothing to do with it.

This from the guy who used to drive around New York with "Battle Hymn of the Republic" sung by the Morman Tabernacle choir blaring on his car radio? Wow.

He does toss in that we need to" get Iraq right," so he's not all the way there. But he's come a long way just by admitting that we won't get anywhere by running around putting our guns in the locals' mouths and telling them to "suck on this." It's progress.

Oh Boo Hoo Hoo

by digby

The liberal media did not succeed in one way: It was able to give the election to Barack Obama, a man with dangerous and radical ideas. However, despite the media's disdain, Palin persevered and remains one of the most important figures in the Republican Party. Because she speaks for Main Street America on issues from energy to health care, her star will only continue to rise.

Matthew Continetti has written a touch, revealing look at how the bias or habits of liberals in the media led them to assault a political figure who shared neither their values nor background. Whether you like Sarah Palin or not, this well-researched and meticulous volume strips the bark off influential players in journalism."
-Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff and senior advisor to President George W. Bush

"A compelling account of journalistic malpractice on a grand scale. Those called out in the book should not be allowed to forget what they did."
-Brit Hume, senior political analyst, Fox News

"What set off the media feeding frenzy over Sarah Palin's place on the 2008 Republican presidential ticket? Was there something wrong with Palin? Or something wrong with the media? In The Persecution of Sarah Palin, Matthew Continetti finds the answer-and exposes the media's worst excesses."
-Byron York, chief political correspondent, The Washington Examiner

"If every member of the anti-Palin media was simply forced to read and understand just the first page of this book, what is left of journalism in this country would be greatly improved. If every voter had done so prior to the election, we might have a different president right now."
-John Ziegler, creator of the film Media Malpractice

"During the 2008 campaign the 'mainstream media' wrote a narrative about Sarah Palin that had very little to do with the facts. Now Matthew Continetti, who told us the truth about the Republican machine in The K Street Gang, tells us the truth about how Palin was chosen by John McCain and how so many in the press set out to destroy her."
-Michael Barone, resident fellow, American Enterprise Institute; coauthor, The Almanac of American Politics

I can't help but recall this post.

PR Whizzes

by digby


Any kind of government-run health insurance program would lead to higher costs for employers, corporate executives representing a big-business group said Wednesday.

The Business Roundtable, an alliance of corporate CEOs, criticized the public option in a conference call with reporters as congressional Democratic leaders intensified their push to include a government plan in their healthcare reform bills.

We’re here to voice our strong opposition,” said John Castellani, the president of the Roundtable.

Who cares what they think?

Seriously, this is why the moment for health care has to be now. These greedy jackasses are at their lowest level of power in decades, nobody trusts them, and at any other time our Galt drenched villagers would be bowing and scraping like Buckingham palace courtiers.

Right now, they are about as irrelevant as they've ever been after nearly wrecking the world and having not the slightest bit of humility about it, (although they are still plenty relevant.) But this is about the best we can hope for.

Equal Time

by digby

Equality California sent this to me. Any of you who live here and have some time today can pitch in if you're so inclined:

We're going to win marriage back, together. And we're going to do it by talking to people about marriage one-on-one. Because we know that to change hearts and minds, we need to do the hard work of knocking on doors - it's those personal conversations that work.

Sign up today to call Maine and Washington voters near you. Victories in these two states are crucial for victory in California, and we have an opportunity and responsibility to support these critical fights.

So join your local Team Win - there are opportunities to get involved across the state.

  • If you aren't near one of our field offices or would rather not join a local team, become an Equality Advocate. Sign up and we'll give you the tools you need to record support for marriage- either by knocking on doors in your neighborhood or talking to people you already know.

Showdown In Chicago

by digby

I have been remiss in failing to write about the protests that have been going on for the past three days at the yearly meeting of the American Bankers Association. The nation has been covering it and it's quite inspiring:

On Tuesday morning, in Chicago, the unions came to town. It was the final day of the rolling protest dubbed The Showdown in Chicago, a confrontation with the American Bankers Association, whose members had gathered for their annual meeting. With a crowd estimated at 5,000, it was without a doubt the largest demonstration against Wall Street's ravages since the economy crashed a year ago.

From the desperate manufacturing sector came members of the Sheet Metal Workers and the Machinists and the Steelworkers. From the collapsed housing market came the Carpenters and the Painters and the Insulators. There were laid off workers from shuttered factories – Republic Doors and Windows, whose battle over severance pay was captured in Michael Moore's new film, Capitalism: A Love Story, and Quad City Die Casting, whose hundred employees all lost their jobs with far less fanfare last month. Pulling up the rear, a large contingent of garment workers from Hart Marx, suit makers to the president, who successfully fought off a shutdown threatened by creditor Wells Fargo, saving some 3,500 jobs. And, of course, a vast purple army from the Service Employees Union, SEIU.

When I wrote about Capitalism: A Love Story, I was hopeful that liberals would see it and recognize the necessity of properly defining this problem or we'll end up being blamed for it. The teabaggers are certainly working hard to do just that.

This protest was hardly covered. (But then it didn't have an entire news network flogging it relentlessly.) But it happened:

Check out all the blog posts and the slide show. It's a start.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More Memories

by digby

Instaputz takes us on a little trip to the past, to the days when The New Republic (under Peter Beinert)endorsed Joe Lieberman for president:

"It may take years, or even decades, for Democrats to relearn the lessons we thought, naively, they had learned for good under Clinton. But one day, Joe Lieberman's warnings in this campaign will look prophetic. And the principles he has espoused will once again guide the Democratic Party. It will be the work of this magazine, to whatever small degree possible, to hasten that day."

Heckuva job.

Old, Gay, Die

by digby

I don't know if they can get any lower. After lying all year about Death Panels, these horrible people have the utter gall to write this:

Yesterday, the Family Research Council (FRC) put out a statement objecting to the Obama administration’s pledge to “establish the nation’s first national resource center” to assist communities providing services to elderly LGBT communities. The statement from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted that there are now “as many as 1.5 to 4 million LGBT individuals are age 60 and older.” Nevertheless, FRC is arguing that there aren’t many LGBT senior citizens because “homosexual conduct” makes them die early:

In reality, HHS has no idea how many LGBT seniors exist. No one does! The movement is only a few decades old, and people who are 80- or 90-years-old didn’t grow up in a culture where it was acceptable to identify with this lifestyle.

Of course, the real tragedy here–apart from the unnecessary spending–is that, given the risks of homosexual conduct, few of these people are likely to live long enough to become senior citizens! Yet once again, the Obama administration is rushing to reward a lifestyle that poses one of the greatest public health risks in America. If this is how HHS prioritizes, imagine what it could do with a trillion dollar health care overhaul!

Hell is too good for them.

Lackey's, Sell-outs and Shills

by digby

With all the din today about Holy Joe and the latest sturm and drang on the public option, you may not have heard that Politico dragged out the Big News that Alan Grayson called a K Street lobbyist a "K Street whore" a month ago on a radio show. He's apologized for it:

“I offer my sincere apology to Linda Robertson, an adviser to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke," Grayson said Tuesday in a statement. "I did not intend to use a term that is often, and correctly, seen as disrespectful of women."

“This characterization of Ms. Robertson, made during a radio interview last month in the context of the debate over whether the Federal Reserve should be independently audited, was inappropriate, and I apologize," he added.
The National Organization for Women had asked for that apology, asking whether he would have used that term to describe a man --- to which I would absolutely assume "yes." It's a metaphor that is commonly used to describe lobbyists of either sex, for obvious reasons. However, it's a mistake to ever call a woman a whore, due to the obvious sexual connotations, and apologizing is the right thing to do.

It's also a very dangerous to call out a well-loved member of the village and a Democratic favorite with ties to both big money and the White House, even if she served as one of Enron's top lobbyists during the period when they were pimping their deregulatory Ponzi scheme all over Washington. Love means never having to say you're sorry. (Or was that "money means never having to say you're sorry?")

(It is also a bit of a mystery as to how Red State and Politico got this story a month after it happened. One hates to think that someone would leak a story about oneself to right wingers in order to garner sympathy and hurt a critic, but it wouldn't be the first time.)

The problem here is that Grayson makes a lot of people uncomfortable. The right hates him for obvious reasons. He is willing to call them out on their own terms and they just aren't used to that. But let's face it, he also makes the Democratic establishment nervous. He indicts them when he indicts the system of legalized bribery and inside job thievery that takes place among the ruling class of both parties. Many others are just made socially uncomfortable by someone who says impolitic things. (I don't call the Democrats the "don't make trouble" party for nothing.)They all have reason to be out for his head.

I totally understand that average people and even the National Organization for Women would be offended by the use of the word. But any politician who is calling for the smelling salts over this is nothing but a phony --- they all know that lobbyists are selling themselves to the highest bidder for huge amounts of money and they also know that people who lobbied for Enron would not be seen as the most trustworthy people to have in the Federal Reserve if the public knew about it. Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse. (And I don't mean in any sexual way, I assure you.) They don't want to have to defend that so they jump on Grayson's use of a common metaphor to attack him and shut him up on the subject.

Fine, he left himself open by using the word and he has apologized. But let's not lose sight of what it is he was saying: Ben Bernanke is being advised on public relations by an Enron lobbyist. Seriously.

As for Grayson's bomb throwing, back bench style, I say more power to him. It's where political change happens, not from above with a White House giving pretty speeches about comity and changing the tone. You have to have people out there who are willing to go right at the sacred cows and take on the entrenched interests. So far, Grayson is pretty much alone and it makes him vulnerable. But like Jackie Robinson, he has to have a thick skin and ignore the insults and just keep playing. He won't be alone for long.

Howie has more on the flap.

*** I think people should read this piece about the rise of Gingrich. He was a malevolent figure whose political philosophy nearly destroyed this country. But he changed the course of history, and dominated American politics for more than a decade by being brash enough to go at the power structure --- and winning. His is a classic case of someone moving the Overton Window.

Consider this excerpt from a 1989 Vanity Fair article:
He was scorned by detractors for some of his wackier notions --which ranged from the off-the-wall (plans for statehood in outer space) to potential political dynamite (he once proposed abolishing Social Security and replacing it with mandatory I.R.A.'s).

In 1989, it was considered completely off the wall to propose replacing Social Security with mandatory IRAs. Within a few years Republicans were running with that on the platform; George W. Bush proposed exactly that and damn near made it happen.

Imagine what might happen if there was someone willing to do that for good instead of evil.


by digby

The Pardon:

Bygones will be bygones -- at least when the future of the Senate is at stake. Yesterday, Democrats decided not to boil Joe Lieberman in oil after all.

Mr. Lieberman's colleagues are still seething about his support for John McCain and his more heretical defense of President Bush -- and many were intent on postelection retribution. But they ended up voting 42-13 for rapprochement. The Connecticut independent will not be stripped of his most powerful committee chair but rather of his post on the Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection Subcommittee. This is punishment via feather duster.

At a press conference, Mr. Lieberman singled out an "appeal by President-elect Obama himself" as the main reason he's staying put. It was a shrewd move by Mr. Obama. Democrats picked up six Senate seats this year, with Minnesota, Georgia and Alaska still undecided. If they prevail in all three, they will have the 60-vote majority needed to quash any GOP filibusters -- but only provided that Mr. Lieberman continues to vote with his former party.

As with his sit-down with John McCain on Monday, Mr. Obama is obviously trying to assemble the votes he needs to beat Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on domestic priorities such as labor, health care and climate change. The Internet left and other liberal activists are in full meltdown because a bete noire was not sent to the guillotine. Even so, Lieberman alive is of more use to the new President than Lieberman banished.

Never say Joe doesn't get any love. From the Weekly Standard:

Joementum 2012?

Is he the greatest senator ever? He fought for victory in Iraq, he's fighting for victory in Afghanistan, and he's fighting to save us all from Obamacare. Who needs Olympia Snowe when you've got Joementum?

Posted by Michael Goldfarb on October 27, 2009 02:45 PM | Permalink


by digby

About a year ago I participated in an interesting discussion about which good policies are also good politics. In fact, the discussion ended up being about how to advance good policies that always advance good politics. In other words, how do you package policies in such a way that they end up empowering liberalism and the long term health of the progressive movement.
(The conservatives were very good at this, and have even institutionalized some of it with "paygo" and the like.)

In this interest essay, Andrew Sullivan makes the case (ruefully) that the opt-out may just be one of those policies. In fact he calls it "lethal" to conservatism and "Chicago style-politics" although he lets Obama off the hook. Food for thought.


by digby

Ah, it was so predictable:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told reporters today that he would in fact filibuster any health care bill he doesn't agree with--and right now, he doesn't agree with the proposal making its way through the Senate.

"I told Senator Reid that I'm strongly inclined--i haven't totally decided, but I'm strongly inclined--to vote to proceed to the health care debate, even though I don't support the bill that he's bringing together because it's important that we start the debate on health care reform because I want to vote for health care reform this year. But I also told him that if the bill remains what it is now, I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage. Therefore I will try to stop the passage of the bill."


Lieberman is saying that he's pretty much OK with letting senators offer amendments--try to change the legislation, move it in any direction they deem necessary. But when that process is all over, and Harry Reid wants to hold an up or down vote on the final product, Lieberman's saying he'll join that filibuster, if he's not happy with the finished product. Point blank.

I kept hearing in private conversations that everyone was sure that good old Lieb wouldn't join the filibuster. No way, no how. After all "he's with us on everything but the war." But it always seemed absurd to me to trust good old Lieb since he's become a bitter, angry, resentful, creepy, arch conservative, vengeful old fuck (which isn't all that different than he always was, but he used to be a little bit constricted by his religious image.)

I've also heard speculation that good old Lieb made a deal when he kept his seniority and committee chairmanships that he wouldn't join Republican filibusters. I guess that's not true --- or people in high places aren't holding him to it.

There are a whole lot of possibilities here. This could be Senate kabuki, it could be the White House working with Joe, it could just be Joe hogging the spotlight as usual. But whatever it is, there's nothing he loves more than stepping up at a moment when the momentum is running the right way --- and pulling it up short. It's his specialty.

The day Al Gore picked Lieberman as his running mate, I was devastated. This was why. In fact, his not becoming Vice President in 2000 was the only silver lining in that whole ugly mess of an election.