I'm headed over to WPBT to tape another edition of "Issues" with the fabulous Helen Ferre. One of the subjects we'll be covering will be the Marlins stadium giveaway, which is also the subject of my column at SFT this week. Here 'tis.
Benjamin Netanyahu is in the final stages of putting together Israel's next government, which will be opposed to a two-state solution. Most importantly, the new prime minister and his Likud Party are firmly against a Palestinian state. The Labor Party, which will be part of the governing coalition and which has been identified with the two-state solution for the past two decades, did not insist that Likud support that policy as a condition for joining the government. Its leader, Ehud Barak, merely asked for and got a vague statement saying that Israel was committed to promoting regional peace. Avigdor Lieberman, who heads Yisrael Beiteinu, the other major party in the ruling coalition, is not likely to push to give the Palestinians a viable state of their own. His main concern is "transferring" the Palestinians out of Israel so that it can be an almost purely Jewish state.
So Israel will continue expanding its settlements in the West Bank. In fact, the Israeli press is reporting that Netanyahu and Lieberman agreed in their negotiations to form a government that Israel would build 3,000 housing units in an area between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim (a huge settlement bloc) known as E-1. Once that is accomplished, Israel will have effectively cut the West Bank in half, making it almost impossible to create a viable Palestinian state. This deal was supposed to be secret, because the United States is opposed to Israel building in the E-1 area.
The Palestinians, of course, will remain locked up in Gaza and a handful of enclaves on the West Bank. In essence, Netanyahu and his two key ministers -- Ehud Barak (Defense) and Avigdor Lieberman (Foreign Affairs) -- are committed to creating a Greater Israel, which will cover all of the territory that was once Mandate Palestine. ...
The author's conclusion is even more tragic:
The Obama administration will surely try to push Netanyahu to change his thinking about a two-state solution and work to give the Palestinians a real state of their own. The Israel lobby, however, will adamantly defend Israel's right to do whatever it wants in the Occupied Territories and make it impossible for the president to put significant pressure on Israel. Netanyahu, like all Israeli leaders, understands this basic fact of life. He knows that he will just have to say a few nice words about the "peace process" and blame the whole thing on the Palestinians, who he believes are a bunch of terrorists anyway, and he will be pretty much free to do whatever he wants in Gaza and the West Bank.
It seems clear to me and to many smart people I know that this story does not have a happy ending. Indeed, it looks like a disastrous ending. Greater Israel cannot be a democratic state, because there will soon be -- if there aren't already -- more Palestinians between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea than there are Israeli Jews. So, if you give each person one vote, Israel becomes Palestine. That is not going to happen anytime soon, if ever, which leaves two possible outcomes: apartheid and expelling the Palestinians -- and there are more than 5 million of them -- from Greater Israel. Talk about repulsive options. It is worth remembering that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that if there is no two-state solution, Israel will end up in a South Africa-like situation and that will mean the end of the Jewish state. In effect, he is saying that Israel is turning itself into an apartheid state.
...I would appreciate it greatly if Israel's American backers would explain what I am missing here.
Spoiler alert: it doesn't appear to be an escalation, but we're not leaving, either. In short, there's going to be more money (60 percent more), 4,000 more troops on top of the 17,000 fresh combat troops greenlighted earlier, and more training for a much larger Afghan Army. But this, I think, is the key point, from the WaPo:
Obama plans to announce a "simple, clear, concise goal -- to disrupt, dismantle and eventually destroy al-Qaeda in Pakistan," said the official, one of three authorized to anonymously discuss the strategy.
That's "Pakistan..." with a "P." The president is speaking now.
Under the Republican plan, the top marginal tax rate would be slashed from 35 to 25 percent, facilitating a dramatic transfer of wealth up the economic scale. Anyone making more than a $100,000 would pay the top rate; those under would pay 10 percent.
"Two nights ago, the president said, 'We haven't seen a budget yet out of Republicans.' Well, it's just not true, because here it is, Mr. President," said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), waving a blue document in the air.
Surprise! BTW the document Boner ... I mean Boehner ... was waving around? It contained no numbers, no details, no nothing. Eric Cantor skipped out on most of the press conference. I guess he had to catch up on his Britney Spears, thus taking yet another one for the team. Or maybe, just maybe, he no likey:
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) objected to an abbreviated alternative budget "blueprint" released today -- but were told by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) they needed to back the plan, according to several Republican sources.
... Ryan, the ranking Republican on the budget committee, plans to introduce a detailed substitute amendment for the Democrats' spending plan next Tuesday or Wednesday -- and still intends to do so.
But he and Cantor were reportedly told by Boehner and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) they needed to move more quickly to counter Democrats' charge they were becoming the "Party of No," according to House GOP staffers.
“In his egocentric rush to get on camera, Mike Pence threw the rest of the Conference under the bus, specifically Paul Ryan, whose staff has been working night and day for weeks to develop a substantive budget plan," said a GOP aide heavily involved in budget strategy.
"I hope his camera time was gratifying enough to justify erasing the weeks of hard work by dozens of Republicans to put forth serious ideas," the person added.
And what was Robert Gibbs' assessment of the "blueprint"?
"It took me several minutes to read it," he quipped, saying Obama was "absolutely" disappointed it didn't include more details.
"I think the 'party of no' has become the party of no new ideas," he added.
This past Sunday, Barney Frank told "Face the Nation" that the now notorious AIG bonuses amounted to a shake-down:
... “I think there was an element, frankly, with some — not all of them — of almost extortion, where they said, 'We know what you need to know and we will quit if you don’t bribe us,'” Frank said.
And he said the government should use its leverage as the majority stakeholder in the new AIU... to sue the bastards. Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, the European unit of the former AIG, the ones whose bad bets were largely responsible for bringing down the firm, say that demands that they give the bonuses back amount to ... blackmail!
AIG Financial Products unit head Gerald Pasciucco told a staff meeting for UK and Paris employees on Monday that he thought a demand for repayments was to a certain extent "blackmail," said a London-based recipient of one of the retention bonuses from the bailed-out insurer.
"The vast majority of people in London have made the decision that the request is pretty offensive," the employee said. "It effectively constitutes blackmail whether it is criminal or not. There is no moral reason to give it back."
No? Hm... Moreover:
After the meeting, a compliance officer for the Banque AIG unit in London went so far as to ask UK authorities from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) to probe whether demands to return the payments could be considered extortion, according to emails obtained by Reuters.
Spoiler alert: SOCA said there's no legal impediment to giving back the cash. Back in the U.S., guess whose side the radical right is taking? Little Green Footballs: you first!
And now to a theoretically more serious right wing source (but only theoretically) on the Steny Hoyer statement this week that if AIGers return the money voluntarily, the 90 percent tax may not be necessary. Replied Mark Hemingway at NRO's The Corner:
Ah, such brilliant logic at play here — extortion is always a bit more elegant than theft. Hoyer might as well be saying that if they voluntarily pay the protection money, Congress won't have to take a baseball bat to the store and take it for themselves.
Meanwhile again, this morning on Morning Joe, Mika's dad, Dr. Brzezinski, who last month predicted riots if unemployment and outrage over excessive wealth continue to rise in this country, made his own modest proposal: rather than barricading themselves inside their mansions or quitting via the New York Times, perhaps some of the mega-rich who have skimmed hundreds of billions of dollars off this country by creating absolutely nothing, except highly leveraged bets and personal wealth, should give something back without having it dragged out of them by Congress. What a thought.
No Youtube on Dr. Brzezinski yet, but his warning last month was almost identical to what he said today. Here it is:
With Obama having traveled to Capitol Hill today to try and sell his omnibus budget, we're witnessing a singular spectacle in American politics. Namely, the same legislators who brought you $1.3 trillion in deficits, who greenlighted any and everything George W. Bush asked for, without a whiff of debate, and who raced to bail out the banks to the tune of $700 million last September, when the Bushies were still in charge ... now, these same people, Democrat and Republican, are demanding caution, incrementalism, and only a little bit of change, from the new president.
What's that all about?
Voiced daily by the cast of the increasingly unwatchable "Morning Joe," the new Incrementalism goes something like this: things are so bad, and the last administration blew it so badly, the only prudent course is to do, not nothing, but very, very little. They want President Obama to "just do the economy." But what does that mean? It means just do tax cuts for the well-to-do and leave the nettlesome stuff, like healthcare, energy and climate change, alone. They want him to stop being so flashy -- get off the TV and stop talking so darned much, especially to Jay Leno (too many viewers, who don't understand policy the way a cable chat show host does!) They worry that he's "overexposed," which is another way of saying they envy his popularity, and have therefore become full-time haters. They want him to "slow it down," do less, do it less ambitiously, and for gods sakes do it later. That, they say, is the "fiscally responsible" thing to do. Of course, these are the same people who couldn't invade Iraq fast enough, at any cost, because we "couldn't afford to wait for a smoking gun to become a mushroom cloud..." who never saw a war supplemental they didn't like, and who over the last eight years have happily raked in more pork than a fat guy at a barbecue stand.
Evan Bayh has become the Democratic face of the Incrementalists (while Kent Conrad apparently is the muscle,) and he is certainly congenial enough -- sort of a Mr. Rogers with better hair. But Bayh's approach is to insist that he and his "Moderate Coalition" fully intend to help pass Obama's agenda ... only very, very slowly...
Here's the real deal. Conservative Democrats and frustrated Republicans alike know that the fundamental truth of presidential elections is that the euphoria they create doesnt' last long. The really ambitious presidents, the ones who want to do more than just redecorate the Oval Office, push their biggest agenda items through in the first 8-10 months, while they have maximum "political capital." (Dubya actually trumpeted his supposed "capital" after winning a second term, which is about 3 years and two months longer than 8-10 months... he isn't a very smart man...) Bill Clinton made the mistake of putting less central, more radioactive issues, like gays in the military, up front, draining his election capital almost immediately. Surely Obama, who knows his history, knows that what big things he doesn't get done before October, he probably won't get done at all.
So here's my question: will Obama give in to the Incrementalists and settle for a so-so presidency, or will he go big, as Chris Matthews has been not-so-subtly telegraphing he'd like to see him do?
My vote is go big, Barack. Otherwise, you wind up Millard Filmore.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have enough on their plates just pleasing Rush Limbaugh every day. The last thing they want is Dick Cheney running around without his shock collar on... From The Hill, word that Congressional GOPers feel they'd have a better shot at reinventing the party without the Man from Hopeless (hat tip to ThinkProgress):
Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) said, “He became so unpopular while he was in the White House that it would probably be better for us politically if he wouldn’t be so public...But he has the right to speak out since he’s a private citizen.”
Another House Republican lawmaker who requested anonymity said he wasn’t surprised that Cheney has strongly criticized Obama early in his term, but argued that it’s not helping the GOP cause.
The legislator said Cheney, whose approval ratings were lower than President Bush’s during the last Congress, didn’t think through the political implications of going after Obama.
Cheney did “House Republicans no favors,” the lawmaker said, adding, “I could never understand him anyway."
Cheney responded to requests for comment with the following statement: "GRRRRRRRRR...."
I have to admit that I've been scratching my heads about Air America hiring Montel Williams as their first (finally) solo black talk radio host (after how many years?) I mean, with the Black Eagle, Bev Smith and other decades-long black talk radio veterans out there, it does seem a bit "corporate hackish" to hire a TV guy, just because of his name. Then again, this is the same Air America that hired mostly stand up comedians as its first round of talk hosts, and put the very talented Sam Sedar in the second chair to radio clueless, though quite humorous, Janeane Garafolo (along with firing Randi Rhodes for not being sufficiently loyal to the Clintons.)
Honestly, having watched the "Montel Williams Show" here and there, I had no idea he was even a liberal, let alone a talk radio guy! And not to hate, but my initial reaction, and the ones after that, has been "huh???"
So when I came across this winger post about the whole Montel thing, I was intrigued. Said the "Radio Equalizer":
Apparently hoping to succeed where Jerry Springer failed, fellow TV trashmeister / celebrity huckster Montel Williams is giving liberal talk radio a try. And despite his lack of experience in the medium, Air America Radio has jumped at the chance to give him a show.
No, not that part. That's the winger talking points. I mean this:
How did Montel gain street cred with the lefty set? It appears to have originated with a widely-disseminated conspiracy theory that his sleazy TV trashfest was cancelled as a result of a political rant delivered during a Fox and Friends appearance just over a year ago. From the DailyKos smear site, January 2008:
For just over three minutes on Saturday morning, TV talk show host Montel Williams owned the hosts of Fox and Friends. A former Marine and Naval officer, Montel lectured the stunned hosts on the stupidity of spending air time on the death of Heath Ledger, rather than covering the war in Iraq. It was a spectacle rarely seen on live cable television, as Montel exposed and condemned both tabloid "news" shows and much of American culture for what they have each become: shallow and greedy.
Three minutes into this awkward segment on Fox, one host cut off Montel in order to go to a commercial. Montel did not return after the break. Four days later, after 17 years as a television host, Montel lost his job.
"Smear site?" Dude, you sound like Bill O'Reilly ... moving on... the video of said "owning," which I admit I knew nothing about, follows:
Was that enough to get Montel a show? Or do I just need to sign on with his agent?
Don't call it a bailout: Marlins to get a practically free, publily financed stadium ... to have
My friend Tony Romano got arrested. Other than that, not much stood in the way of final approval by the Miami-Dade Commission of a $634 million baseball stadium (in a recession no less) for which the fan-free Florida Marlins will pay just $120 million minus the cost overruns the taxpayers of Miami-Dade will probably get stuck with ... oh, and they're gonna need to borrow about $35 million of their share ... from you. Hope that makes you feel less alone, AIG execs! From the Miami Herald:
The vote was 9-4.
Voting in favor of the stadium were Commissioners Dennis Moss, Bruno Barreiro, Audrey Edmonson, Natacha Seijas, Javier Souto, Barbara Jordan, Dorrin Rolle, Jose ''Pepe'' Diaz and Rebeca Sosa.
In the minority: Commissioners Carlos Gimenez, Sally Heyman, Katy Sorenson and Joe Martinez. Sorenson argued forcefully against spending public money for a private enterprise, saying trying to make changes to better the deal was like putting ``lipstick on a fish.''
Meanwhile, county manager George Burgess is wildly optimistic about hotel tax revenues which after all, are going to provide $300 million of the funding ... hey, stop that laughing! ... for the fabulous new venture, provided all those Canadians, Venezuelans and Brits come back for some sun and fun ... (gulp) ... like, in a hurry... So there it is. The AIG guys have to give back their fast cash, but the Lorias got you guys to buy them a new ballpark. Some people just have it...
Needed a break from blogging, so I took Monday off. And while I was away? 18 of the AIG ... er ... AIU ... bad job bonuses decided to give them back:
It had been a brutal week inside AIG Financial Products. News that the firm had doled out more than $165 million in retention payments over the past week had angered the country and sent lawmakers into fits of rage. American International Group's president, Edward M. Liddy, had asked that the unit's employees consider returning some, if not all, of the money. New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo had subpoenaed AIG for a list of Financial Products employees and how much money each had received.
Now, the firm's chief operating officer, Gerry Pasciucco, had set a 5 p.m. Monday deadline for staffers to indicate whether they planned to return their retention payments, and if so, what percentage. His e-mail included what appeared to be a tacit ultimatum from Cuomo.
"We have received assurances from Attorney General Cuomo that no names will be released by his office before he completes a security review which is expected to take at least a week," Pasciucco wrote."To the extent that we meet certain participation targets, it is not expected that the names would be released at all."
Yesterday afternoon, 18 of the 25 most senior Financial Products executives had agreed to return their retention payments, amounting to more than $50 million thus far. Company officials expect more employees to follow suit.
"They are doing the right thing," Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters, adding that he now saw no need to reveal the names.
Future Governor Cuomo, I presume?
Meanwhile, over in the ireelevant old guy wing of the Senate, the "other" Arizona Senator (the one who isn't on a quixotic jihad against earmarks...) is looking to save those AIGsters who don't give back the bonuses, from that nasty 90 percent tax bracket:
4:13 PM ET: Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the Republican whip, wants the Senate to delay -- at least for a week -- a vote on the House's bill to tax recipients of AIG bonuses, Reuters is reporting.
Analysts are attributing this afternoon's late Wall Street surge to Kyl's statement.
The vaguely Obama-unfriendly Politico breaks out the pitchforks on the president's offhand remark on Leno, likening his bowling skills to "the Special Olympics or something." Politico even goes for the trifecta, dredging up a one-off Obama remark about Nancy Reagan, and adding this:
Aside from the regrettable appearance of a president even implicitly poking fun at the disabled, Obama’s comments came on the same day that he had appeared with California First Lady Maria Shriver, an early supporter whose mother founded the games.
Well call in the impeachment managers already. Was it an unfortunate slip in an otherwise successful appearance? Yes. Will Republicans milk the hell out of it, probably by trotting out Sarah Palin and her special needs child allllll day tomorrow? Certainly. Is this the most important thing we could be talking about as the financial world collapses? Hardly. Team Obama has pulled back on the remark, the president will likely issue a more formal apology tomorrow, and maybe, someday, that will be the end of it. But don't hold your breath.
Meanwhile, the Huffpo floats a poll that until it's spammed by the redstate crowd, is about evensies on whether readers give a care.
On his way back to Washington on Air Force One, Obama called the chairman of the Special Olympics, Tim Shriver, to say he was sorry — even before the taped program aired late Thursday night.
"He expressed his disappointment and he apologized in a way that was very moving. He expressed that he did not intend to humiliate this population," Shriver said Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America." Obama, Shriver said, wants to have some Special Olympic athletes visit the White House to bowl or play basketball.
... Shriver is the son of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver and nephew of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose endorsement early in the Democratic primaries was critical to Obama winning his party's nomination.
While the American International Group comes under fire from Congress over executive bonuses, it is quietly fighting the federal government for the return of $306 million in tax payments, some related to deals that were conducted through offshore tax havens.
A.I.G. sued the government last month in a bid to force it to return the payments, which stemmed in large part from its use of aggressive tax deals, some involving entities controlled by the company’s financial products unit in the Cayman Islands, Ireland, the Dutch Antilles and other offshore havens.
A.I.G. is effectively suing its majority owner, the government, which has an 80 percent stake and has poured nearly $200 billion into the insurer in a bid to avert its collapse and avoid troubling the global financial markets. The company is in effect asking for even more money, in the form of tax refunds. The suit also suggests that A.I.G. is spending taxpayer money to pursue its case, something it is legally entitled to do. Its initial claim was denied by the Internal Revenue Service last year.
A quickly assembled House bill was approved 328 to 93. It struck hard at Wall Street's compensation system, which has come under fire because of the $165 million in bonuses distributed last week by American International Group to executives of the troubled unit that helped lead the insurance giant to the brink of collapse. Under the legislation, those who received bonuses of more than $125,000 would surrender 90 percent of their payments to a special income tax.
But the bill's reach would extend to bonuses paid to tens of thousands of employees at the nation's nine largest institutions that have received at least $5 billion in assistance under the $700 billion financial rescue package Congress approved last year. The measure also applies to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage giants the federal government took over in September.
Half the GOP House crossed over to vote for the bill ... after they voted against it... And now, the bankers respond!
Although leading Democrats thought the bill's chances were threatened when House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) condemned it, about half of the GOP House members backed the measure. The lopsided House tally sent shock waves across the financial sector. Officials predicted dire results, saying the brightest talent could flee institutions that remain wobbly as the firms themselves leave the rescue program prematurely.
"It will have a chilling effect on participation in any government recovery effort," warned Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs for the Financial Services Roundtable, an industry group. "It harms middle management and the rank-and-file sales force, thereby weakening the very firms we are working to strengthen."
Lawmakers said they are aware of the potential consequences, but are unfazed. "Frankly, bonuses for what?" said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), a co-sponsor of the Senate bill. "They have to engage in more financially prudent behavior."
"We're all going to lose on this thing," said an executive at a large bank that took federal aid. He and other bankers expressed shock at the rapid progress of legislation that could impose large pay cuts on thousands of worker, and dismay that the industry is at the mercy of an angry Congress.
... While most American workers are compensated primarily by a fixed annual salary or through regular commission payments, people who work in the capital markets receive the majority of their annual income in a lump-sum payment based on their performance, the success of their unit and company profits. Paying bonuses allows firms to tie employee compensation to performance in a given year, something management experts have long regarded as a good practice. But some experts believe that tying bonuses to short-term results encourages employees to take risks with long-term consequences.
Exactly. And how was that end of year performance at AIG looking last year?
Jamie Foxx says he dreamt up the tooootally original concept for his video for the deep, inspirational and complex anthem, "Blame it on the alcohol" ... wait for it ... at President Barack Obama's inauguration. Seriously. Being around so many other celebrities inspired his creativity.
... But shouldn't we as citizens be just as upset when public money is essentially SHOVELED VIA WHEELBARROW INTO THE OUTSTRETCHED ARMS OF A WEALTHY BASEBALL TEAM OWNER whose team consistently ranks as one of the worst attended in Baseball?
So ... the Marlins stadium passed the Miami City Commission today, with Michelle Spence Jones providing the swing vote, after wrangling a bunch of concessions, including having the Marlins start a bunch of baseball academies and give $500,000 to local charities. There was also an intense lobbying effort aimed at the black community that involved the Marlins contracting with the Miami Chamber of Commerce and the NAACP to promise ... that ... the stadium ... in Little Havana ... will employ ... lots of black people ... but without actually using the words "black people..." ??? I confuse! The "no" votes were Marc Sarnoff, who has correctly pointed out to anyone who would listen that a $634 million stadium that the Marlins will control after they put in just $120 million unless the owner, Jeff Loria dies, sells the team, quits the business, or just flushes his puny share of the funding down the toilet, leaving the taxpayers holding the bag for all the inevitable overages ... okay that last part was hyperbole ... and Tomas Regalado. Joe Sanchez, Angel Gonzalez and the aforementioned Ms. Spence-Jones voted "yeah!"
Should this be an election issue? You bet. Will it? We'll see.
The next round of voting starts Monday at the County commission, which must also approve the deal for it to go forward.
CUOMO: WELL FIRST MARIA YOU NEED TO SEE THE CONTRACTS TO UNDERSTAND THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THE PAYMENTS. AND I UNDERSTAND THAT THEY HAD A CONTRACT AND THAT'S WHAT AIG SAID. THAT'S CONSTRUCTIVE BUT THAT'S NOT DETERMINATIVE, RIGHT, YOU CAN HAVE A CONTRACT AND THEN YOU CAN SAY, BY THE WAY AFTER YOU SIGN THE CONTRACT THE COMPANY BASICALLY WENT BANKRUPT. IF IT WASN'T FOR THE GOVERNMENT COMING IN IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BANKRUPT; THE CONTRACT WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN WORTH THE PAPER IT WAS WRITTEN ON.
Tim Geithner hasn't had a single good day since becoming Treasury Secretary. He's faced multiple theoretical votes of "no confidence," from Congress, from the financial media (a/k/a Wall Street's public relations A-team) and from the general press. He's looking more and more like the administration fall guy in the AIG bonus mess, as defensive Senators point the finger at the White House for stripping bonus caps out of the stimulus bill (AIG's hapless new president is now seeking to get back at least half the money.) And it doesn't help that the guy just looks goofy, has no eyebrows, and doesn't explain himself very well. Unfortunate, since apparently he's a very smart man.
So the question is: does Team Obama have to throw him overboard in order to regain control of the message? Firing someone is usually a good way to send a strong message, but of course, if they were to show him the door, Republicans will pounce on the president for having nominated him in the first place. A nasty dilemma...
The NYT reports, in an amazing feat of understatement, that Israel has an "image problem":
JERUSALEM — Israel, whose founding idea was branded as racism by the United NationsGeneral Assembly in 1975 and which faced an Arab boycott for decades, is no stranger to isolation. But in the weeks since its Gaza war, and as it prepares to inaugurate a hawkish right-wing government, it is facing its worst diplomatic crisis in two decades.
Relations with Turkey, an important Muslim ally, have suffered severely. A group of top international judges and human rights investigators recently called for an inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza. “Israel Apartheid Week” drew participants in 54 cities around the world this month, twice the number of last year, according to its organizers. And even in the American Jewish community, albeit in its liberal wing, there is a chill.
On the question of what to do about it, the article reports that Israel's foreign ministry has been given $2 million to launch an international "rebranding campaign," including sending friendly faced artists and cultural groups abroad. How nice. But then there's this:
Of course, for Israel’s critics, including those who firmly support the existence of a Jewish state, the problem is not one of image but of policy. They point to four decades of occupation, the settling of half a million Israeli Jews on land captured in 1967, the economic strangling of Gaza for the past few years and the society’s growing indifference toward the creation of a Palestinian state as reasons Israel has lost favor abroad, and they say that no amount of image buffing will change that.
The issue of a Palestinian state is central to Israel’s reputation abroad, because so many governments and international organizations favor its establishment in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. And while the departing government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert negotiated for such a state, the incoming one of Benjamin Netanyahu says that item is not on its immediate agenda.
Javier Solana, foreign policy chief for the European Union, said in Brussels on Monday that the group would reconsider its relationship with Israel if it did not remain committed to establishing a Palestinian state.
Moreover, Mr. Netanyahu is expected to appoint Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, as his foreign minister. This alone has Israelis and their allies in Europe and the United States worried because of Mr. Lieberman’s views of Israeli Arabs that some have called racist.
What on earth is wrong with Netanyahu? Oh, that's right. It's this:
Netanyahu, like Feiglin, supports a continuation of the occupation and both are adherents of the one-state solution - a "Jewish," occupying and racist state in which two types of people live: Jews, superior, and Arabs, inferior. Neither have any real intention of changing the current state of affairs. Feiglin speaks about a Jewish state, racial purity, and Netanyahu indeed does not dare to utter such things, but the non-solution he proposes - like anyone who opposes a complete end of the occupation - will continue to bolster the status quo, which means a Jewish state, ostensibly, with a huge Arab population living a dog's life.
Michael Steele's crazy train: who is Trevor Francis
The latest drama from the three-ring circus that is Michael Steele's RNC, per Politico, the announcement of Steele's new communications director, Trevor Francis, drew a collective "who is Trevor Francis???" from D.C. insiders. To whit:
“I don’t know who he is,” one senior comm staffer told us. Four more senior staffers agreed — staffers who, mind you, will be working with Francis daily.
Now, he does have experience — he worked at the RNC during Haley Barbour’s reign, when Jim Dyke was working there, and he comes from the world of Burson-Marsteller, and before that he worked for Commerce Sec Don Evans. As one of the above four staffers told us, “I doubt reporters know him, and if people know him, they knew him from five years ago — he’s been out of the game since then.” Another staffer scoffed that he hoped he wouldn’t have to do a search to find political reporters’ e-mails on Day One.
This is not a good sign, despite his “12 years’ experience,” as one site boasts.
Dyke, now a consultant, is working with Steele, and the consensus is that Francis was chosen because, as one former Francis colleague put it: “Jim can control him.” Dyke laughed that off and told Shenan: “Like bananas control monkeys. Or do monkeys control bananas?”
Someone familiar with Francis declared coolly, “Trevor is in over his head” and added, “In this kind of atmosphere, they need a big shot.”
Yet another staffer reacted, “Can the RNC just stoooooooooop?!” The GOP-er familiar with Francis wondered aloud: “It’s like Michael Steele is a Democrat trying to do everything possible to screw us.”
Or maybe his plan is to make Republicans absolutely "bananans" -- another middle aged hip-hop version of "off the chain..." See? There is method to Steele's madness...
From the New York Review of books comes a chilling account of U.S. torture of terror suspects, gleaned from interviews with the arbiter of whether or not war crimes have taken place in a given conflict: the International Committee of the Red Cross. A clip from their interviews with "high value detainee" Abu Zubaydah:
Two black wooden boxes were brought into the room outside my cell. One was tall, slightly higher than me and narrow. Measuring perhaps in area [3 1/2 by 2 1/2 feet by 6 1/2 feet high]. The other was shorter, perhaps only [3 1/2 feet] in height. I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck, they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room. I was also repeatedly slapped in the face....
I was then put into the tall black box for what I think was about one and a half to two hours. The box was totally black on the inside as well as the outside.... They put a cloth or cover over the outside of the box to cut out the light and restrict my air supply. It was difficult to breathe. When I was let out of the box I saw that one of the walls of the room had been covered with plywood sheeting. From now on it was against this wall that I was then smashed with the towel around my neck. I think that the plywood was put there to provide some absorption of the impact of my body. The interrogators realized that smashing me against the hard wall would probably quickly result in physical injury.
Read the whole thing here. The major scoop of this leaked report was done not by a journalist, but by a journalism professor at Berkley:
Mark Danner has scooped the NY Times, the Washington Post and other papers by publishing in the current New York Review of Books an essay quoting long excerpts of a leaked International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report on "high-value" prisoners held in CIA black site prisons. The interviews took prior to their release in late 2006, and the report itself is dated February 2007, and likely was sent originally to then CIA Acting General Counsel, John Rizzo.
The prisoners interviewed by ICRC personnel included Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Walid Bin Attash, and eleven others, all of whom, the ICRC concluded, were submitted to torture.
As the poster at Axis of Logic points out, this is no bedtime reading.
Related: a British author says Zubaydah might not be the terror mastermind the Bush administration made him out to be. Meanwhile, it turns out that Zubaydah's rendition (initially to Thailand) was timed tantalizingly close to the Justice Department torture memos written by Jay Bybee and John Yoo.
AIG’s new management team last year proposed that its employees give up their “retention” bonuses, or at least reduce them. The response from the 370 or so employees set to rake in $450 million in bonuses through 2010?
Take a hike.
“We suggested that early on, but there are people who feel this money was due them,” a source close to the company told The Hill.
It apparently didn’t matter that taxpayers have provided $170 billion and counting to bail out AIG. “Quants,” the people who put together the computer-programmed algorithms behind the complicated hedges and trades that brought down the company, pushed back hard against any notion they should sacrifice their bonuses, the source said.
If that doesn’t warm the hearts of taxpayers and lawmakers alike, maybe this will: Many of those receiving bonuses already have made enough money not to have to work again.
Not all of the workers in AIG’s financial products division were taking home million-dollar bonuses. But according to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the division’s top recipient got $6.4 million, while the top 10 bonuses totaled $42 million. Seventy-three people received bonuses of $1 million or more, according to Cuomo, who subpoenaed the company for information.
It’s terrible; it’s disheartening,” the source said.
Okay, maybe not so long on the charm... And who gives a crap about the "quants?" The beleaguered company believes AIG’s quants, who created the complicated credit swap defaults that got much of Wall Street into the financial crisis, are the only ones who can unwind them. If they leave, it could make today’s crisis worse.
What? There are no smart, unemployed people left in New York? It gets worse:
AIG’s previous management signed contracts providing $450 million in bonuses to the financial division. On Friday, $165 million went out the door, and another $230 billion is set to be paid in 2010.
Where is the Bastille when we need it? Hey, at least they've convinced Ruth Marcus.
On Rachel's show last night, Chuck Hagel slammed Dick Cheney's accusations about the Obama administration as "ridiculous," and paddled his Republican Party for its conduct over the previous eight years.
RACHEL: What do you make of Vice President Dick Cheney's allegation that President Obama has made the U.S. less safe? He's been rather bellicose about that recently.
HAGEL: Well, that's ridiculous. It has no merit on fact, or by any measurement. Come on, this guy hasn't even been in office two months!
The mess that the Bush Administration left the Obama Administration....I'm a Republican! We ran up more than a third of the nation's national debt under a Republican President and a Republican Congress six out of the last eight years. We got America into two wars. We've done great damage to our economy, to our force structure, to our standing in the world. And for a Vice President who participated in that, who LED in that, to come on and say that this new administration has really put America in danger is just folly.
Now, maybe in four years that will be the case. I don't know, we'll see. But to say that now makes no sense and I'm sorry the Vice President said that.
How do you not love this guy? He also discussed the new threats from Russia, which appears to be preparing to see our missile shields in their backyard, and raise it some bombers in ours.
'Skinny Bitch' Watch: Laura Ingraham fires back (again)
Having played the party of the snarky, asthmatic yearbook editor to Megan McCain's popular cheerleader, Laura Ingraham took her outrage to a new level yesterday, issuing an angry email outburst called "Useful idiot-watch," aimed at all those evil jerks who hated on her skinny bitchery. Hat tip to ThinkProgress:
The left’s indignation in this instance is manufactured and totally phony. If any off-the-cuff remark about a woman’s size was condemnable, then where was the outrage when President Obama made a passing reference to Jessica Simpson’s “weight battle” during his Super Bowl interview with Matt Lauer? And of course they look the other way when obvious personal attacks are levied against conservatives. Remember when Al Franken was the toast of all media for his book “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot”? Last month The View’s Joy Behar called him a “fat guy”; and when I was a guest on The View a few years back she ridiculed Ann Coulter and me as “peroxide” blondes on Fox. I laughed it off. If you can’t stand the heat…get out of the punditry business.
High school translation:
LAURA: (wheeze) "Like ... they called my boyfriend fat, so screw 'em! He's not fat because he eats too much, it's genetic! Miss Stupid Face is fat 'cause she's stupid...! Cheerleaders are stupid...! You're all stupid...!
Don't ever let anyone tell you that gay men can't be tough guys. Exhibit A: Barney Mutha-f**n Frank. Last night on Rachel Maddow's show, he reminded us that the original $80 billion AIG bailout happened last September, when the Federal Reserve, under the selfsame Hank Paulsen, without consulting Congress, showed AIG the money. And he made the further point that now that the U.S. owns 80 percent of the company, having forked over still more money, we don't have to ask them to give back the incompetence rewarding bonuses, we can just tell them to. Watch:
The Republican lawmaker's harsh comments came during an interview Monday with Cedar Rapids, Iowa, radio station WMT. They echo remarks he has made in the past about corporate executives and public apologies, but went further in suggesting suicide.
"I suggest, you know, obviously, maybe they ought to be removed," Grassley said. "But I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they'd follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I'm sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide.
"And in the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide before they make any apology."
Grassley's spokesman later "clarified" his statement to mean that he wants only rhetorical death to AIG execs. I think this guy might be the most interesting Twitterer going! Follow the Chuckster here.
Not to be outdone, the folks at Faux News suggest "exemplary hangings" in Times Square for AIG execs, and boiling them in oil...
Meanwhile the AIG fallout will mean new regulations (finally). And New York A.G. Andrew Cuomo has issued subpoenas, probing whether AIG made the bonus contracts without even knowing whether the company would have the money to pay them.
As for the bonuses, Cuomo said, "Our information is the checks were sent out on Friday."
They eventually found the money ... in all of our wallets...
Snap poll: who would most winger guys rather date: Boney Laura or curvy Megan?
I'm not a huge fan of the McCain clan (particularly after John McCain's conduct of the 2008 campaign,) but I have to say Megan McCain, for all her Valley girlisms and relationshiop TMI, she comes across as a far more reasonable, thoughtful and likeable Snidely Whiplash radio termagant (and resident "bodysnarker") Laura Ingraham. Advice to Laura (and her fellow winger anorexics): shut up and have a hamburger. Don't hate on Megan because she's cuter than you.
Meanwhile, in other radio news: Don Imus has announced he is battling prostate cancer. Again, not a fan, but godspeed to him.
The AIG story has been percolating all weekend, and while I haven't watched my TiVo of "60 Minutes" yet, and I'm not overly conversant with it, apparently Ben Bernanke is PISSED! Well, take a number, brother. My only real thoughts on the subject are that I thought the Bushies didn't like Europeans! Apparently they liked them enough to shovel tens of billions of money to European banks via AIG. And guess who else got money? Our old friends (and Treasury/Fed revolving door company) Goldman Sachs:
(Politico) In all, AIG disclosed payments of $105.3 billion between September and December 2008. And some of the biggest recipients were European banks. Societe Generale, based in France, was the top foreign recipient at $11.9 billion, Deutsche Bank of Germany got $11.8 billion and Barclays, based in England, was paid $8.5 billion.
Here in the U.S., Goldman Sachs received $12.9 billion. Edward Liddy, the government-installed CEO of AIG, sat on the board of directors of Goldman Sachs until he joined AIG.
He took the position while President George W. Bush's Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson — who until joining the administration had served as Goldman's chairman and CEO — arranged the insurance company's initial government bailout.
Back to the bonuses. Larry Summers and AIG execs said they had to pay them by contract, even though they went to the same London unit that the company blames for its financial collapse, and even though the federal government is in the process, right now, of trying to get Detroit to bust its contracts with American labor.
Meek's campaign says: when you think Kendrick, think Barack.
If he (and many other Black pols) had gotten his way, Hillary Clinton would have been the Democratic nominee for president in 2008. But politics is about the future, not the past, and Kendrick Meek's future has a whooooole lotta Barack in it.
Meek, who I hear plans to raise $25 million or more for his Senate run, already has Obama's deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand, who parked in South Florida for the final stretch of the campaign, on the payroll. Combine that with the Clinton fundraising machine in Miami and beyond (including Timbaland neighbor Chris Korge,) and longtime union friends like SEIU (who surprise! have endorsed him already) and Meek just might pull off that $25 mil and run away with the primary (recent polling here and here). But this campaign solicitation with Hildebrand's name on it might make some die-hard Obamaniacs chuckle:
I was fortunate to spend the final weeks of Barack Obama's campaign in Florida. The experience is one I won't forget -- the inspiration I felt from voters there was unique. My time in the state also gave me the chance to meet great leaders who worked tirelessly to help elect our President.
One leader in particular stood out, and that is Congressman Kendrick Meek. [Emphasis added] He inspired me. His commitment and dedication to helping Barack Obama win the presidency made a real difference. I owe a debt of gratitude to Kendrick for all that he did to help win those 27 critical electoral votes.
The Florida victory was long overdue -- you all know it better than I do. The results of the November 4 elections give Floridians the chance to capitalize on the momentum it provided. So when Kendrick decided to run for the U.S. Senate and make the bold move to get out there early, I asked myself, "Where do I sign up?" ...
... and can they afford my fee!? (spoiler alert: "yes they can.") Okay, maybe that's too cynical. Politics, after all, is the art of the possible, and its possible that Obama supporters no longer care who supported whom during the primary. In fact, most people probably don't. And by Obamatizing his campaign, Kendrick hopes to capitalize on the excitement of the 2008 campaign, particularly among black voters, which is smart. He's also hitting up Obama donors early, the better to raise that $25 mil. Smart times two. And he's going big early to get his name recognition up. Smart move number three.
Still, the idea that Meek was the bestest of all the pro-Obama leaders will likely come as a surprise to Robert Wexler, who was the first politician to endorse Obama in Florida, or to State Sen. Fredrica Wilson (now running for Meek's House seat) who worked tirelessly for Obama dating back to 2007, when she pointedly asked me in August of that year during an interview, how any Black elected official could fail to support an intelligent, qualified candidate like Obama; or to State Sen. Dan Gelber, Meek's main primary opponent at the moment (unless Pam Iorio or Ron Klein get in,) who also endorsed Obama during the primary, and whose campaign manager, Steve Schale, ran the Florida for Obama campaign, or to Manny Diaz or Miami Gardens Mayor Shirly Gibson or all the other pols who stumped for Obama for like, ever.
Then again, it's possible that nobody remembers or cares about any of that stuff, either.
It's on. After watching MSNBC intermittantly throughout the day, and seeing not one word ... not one... about the Cramer v. Jon Stewart beat-down that the network had been hyping mercilessly before Cramer got served, I and many other folks wondered, wha happen? Having worked for NBC News a few years ago, from around Chandra Levy to the summer before the 2004 election, I can tell you that while it isn't Fox News, GE/NBC is a corporation, CNBC is a division of that corporation, and while many of us love MSNBC's evening programming, at the end of the day, GE/NBC acts the way any corporation does -- in its own interest.
Anyhoo, when I saw that the Cramer/Stewart showdown didn't make Morning Joe, or the afternoon news, or "Hardball," (except for a passing reference to Cramer by Joan Walsh at the end, which elicited little more than a groan from Chris...) or "Countdown" (I admit I only watched the first few minutes of Maddow, and apparently she did talk about it...,) and zilcho on CNBC's programming today (except for the incresingly sexy Donny Deutsch), I figured the word must have come down from corporate HQ: no need totalk about this. It isnt' good for the "family." I mean, for not a single clip of the exchange to appear, even on "Morning Joe?" Come on. We're loyal viewers, not idiots.
And wouldn't you know it? TV Newser apparently confirms it:
A TVNewser tipster tells us MSNBC producers were asked not to incorporate the Jim Cramer/Jon Stewart interview into their shows today. In fact, the only time it came up on MSNBC was during the White House briefing, when a member of the press corps asked Press Secretary Robert Gibbs if Pres. Obama watched. Gibbs wasn't sure if the president had, but Gibbs did. "I enjoyed it thoroughly," the Press Secretary said.
So I'm reading the TVNewser post for the first time.
Frankly, the guy who posted this, the site's Associate Editor, Steve Krakauer ("SteveK"), is well known around the industry as being entirely in Fox's pocket.
His "MSNBC producers have been told" not to mention this, is, frankly, bullshit.
Have a look at his posts on this otherwise successfully neutral site: they are Fox News and Fox Business Channel press release rewrites, and anonymous criticisms from "industry sources" of people at CNN and MSNBC.
And the big finish:
... So, did Stewart do a good job? Obviously. Did we get ordered not to run it? Nope. Was stirring up rumors about a ban in the interest of a Foxophilic blogger with the credibility of a bush league Drudge? You bet.
Keith, Keith, Keith ... bubbie... I think you're protesting a little too much! And playing the Fox card? Questionable, brother. I'm not saying I know for sure, I'm just sayin' ...
UPDATE: More Keith 'splanation. Read it and see if you buy in. Most dubious:
... we do in fact give weight to stories based on how much they are covered by the older newscasts and organizations. In other words, if it's going to be on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, etc., that brings it down a notch in our evaluation of its worthiness in our show. Our show is primarily about trying to give airtime to stories that are not on ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fox.
Really? You mean like Octomom, or the Santelli flap, or the Limbaugh nonsense, all of which is being thoroughly slogged through, like, everywhere, and still manages to get on MSNBC? Really? And in addition:
I'm not going to spend part of a show, for fear of having to spend part of every show, explaining why I gate-kept on a particular story.
Except that ya ahre, Blanche. Ya ahre explaining why you gate-kept... I love K.O., but this time, I'm not buying it.
Cramer: Passing into the dustbin of cable history? Soon to have a new show on Air America after a couple of years doing pharmaceutical commercials? Or just a guy in search of a little love...?
After taking his ass-whupping like a man ... well, okay, like a really meek man ... Jim Cramer's problems just mount and mount, kind of like a bear market for derivatives! Not even the TOTAL STEWART BLACK-OUT on MSNBC today, ALL DAY, including Matthews, Olbermann and Maddow (can't you just see the memo from Jeff Immelt? "We will not be discussing the Daily Show incident on this network. Period." UPDATE: blackout confirmed by TVNewser....) could spare Cramer from the bad news:
The CEO of his webco, The Street.com, quit ... the company's stock price is down to about two candy bars a share ... and his "Mad Money" ratings have been down ever since Stewart first took him on. Not cute.
Meanwhile, per TVNewser, it seems the only one not participating in the Soviet style information black-out (WE DON'T MENTION IT, THEREFORE IT DIDN'T HAPPEN...) was Cramer himself, who had this to say at the top of tonight's "Mad":
Before we get started, I want to say something about -- about what happened yesterday. A lot of people are talking about what happened. I want to be very clear...that although I was clearly outside of my safety zone, I have the utmost respect for this person. And for the work that they do, no matter how uncomfortable it was to be on. So I want you to take a look at this clip from yesterday of Cramer versus Stewart.
Oh, wait ... he then played a clip from his appearance earlier yesterday on Martha Stewart's show. Oh, the hilarity! ... I stand corrected. Blackout was total, comrades. Das vidanya.
Mas: Can't get enough? Watch Jim Cramer get OWNED by Jon Stewart again, as if for the first time, here.
BOSTON -- Nearly half of Boston youths believe pop singer Rihanna was responsible for an incident of alleged domestic abuse that left her bloodied and bruised, according to a survey conducted by the Public Health Commission.
Surveyors polled 200 city youths, ranging in age from 12 to 19, and asked their feelings about the incident, in which singer Chris Brown is accused of striking girlfriend Rihanna several times following an argument. The survey found that 46 percent of youths believe Rihanna is responsible for provoking the alleged assault. Additionally, 52 percent said Rihanna and Brown share responsibility for the incident, despite the fact that Rihanna had been beaten badly enough to require hospital treatment.
Believe it or not, there are still some Republicans out there who, like the old southerners who have never quite accepted the Confederates' capitulation at Appomattox, similarly can't accept an election that happened more than three months ago. And of course, they're right here in "Flawrida!" First up: a floor fight in the State Senate yesterday between a black South Florida legislator and a crazy lady from Brandon who can't accept that Barack Obama is president. From the Palm Beach Post politics blog:
Democrats and Republicans got into a heated verbal brawl ... over a public campaign finance bill in the Senate Transportation and Economic Development Committee. Some GOP senators railed against President Barack Obama’s reversal about taking public money to finance his campaign, just stopping short of calling the president a liar and refusing to refer to him as “president,” instead calling him “Sen. Obama” or “Candidate Obama.”
Democratic Sens. Chris Smith and Tony Hill grew fidgety as the anti-Obama rhetoric escalated but spilled over after Republican Ronda Storms refused to let the matter drop.
“I understand that some are uncomfortable with Candidate Obama’s faiilure to keep his word and those of us who did not support him calling attention to that,” Storms, R-Brandon, said. “I can completely understand they don’t want to talk about the messiah having a flaw but the messiah has a flaw.”
That pushed Smith, who previously tried to limit discussion on the proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 566) by asking for a vote, over the edge.
Smith said he was concerned that the debate was about federal campaign laws and not the state laws included in the bill.
“Don’t pi** on me and tell me it’s raining. I know what you were doing and I called you on it,” said Smith, whose district includes part of Palm Beach County.
Smith got a reprimand from the committee chairman for his trouble. Storms? Not so much. And Storms is not alone. The Florida Democratic Party chairwoman, Karen Thurman, is out with a statement slamming Storms and adding this:
Today, Congressman Bill Posey from Melbourne drafted legislation designed to fan the rumors on the extreme fringe of the Republican Party questioning President Obama's citizenship. These rumors are completely false, but they just won't give up. Congressman Posey should be focused on creating jobs and jumpstarting the economy, but it seems he's only obsessed with pandering to the right wing.
Floridians need our leaders to be focused on how to crate more jobs, expand healthcare and fix the economy, not pander to fringe elements. Florida Democrats fighting against these smears and working to elect leaders that will work for all of us.
The Posey funhouse legislation, as described by Politico, is yet another birtherfringe attempt to swat at Barack Obama's repeatedly proved American citizenship. The bill, "amend(s) the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require the principal campaign committee of a candidate for election to the office of President to include with the committee’s statement of organization a copy of the candidate’s birth certificate, together with such other documentation as may be necessary to establish that the candidate meets the qualifications for eligibility to the Office of President under the Constitution." But as Politico points out, even had the bill been law in 2008, that wouldn't have been enough to satisfy the right wing wackos questioning Obama's nationality. (Spoiler alert: it's a racial thing!)
Anyhoo, Kudos to Chris Smith, who's one hell of a nice guy, and rightfully stood up for reason (and not peeing on people.)
Meanwhile the NYT Opinionator blog picks up the back and forth Twittering between Joe Scarborough and the "elites" who don't get that the real point is that Cramer is sad because fellow Democrats are "turning on him..." Whatever, Joe.
The whole thing came together when they decided to reconcile shortly after the attack. Sources tell us music producer Polow Da Don convinced both Chris and Rihanna to get in the studio and record a love song stat, stressing that timing was important because the heightened emotions would translate powerfully into the music.
Both Rihanna and Chris agreed and snuck in a couple of "late night" sessions that we're told were "very, very emotional ... the feeling in the room was pure love." Clearly, love hurts.
The song had been written for Rihanna before "the incident," but the producer felt it was even better-er now.
Meanwhile, can we next expect a new single from "Bebe Brown" and his ex? Yeah, the gospel singer has been booked for domestic violence, too.
Why am I not surprised that the NBC News family has closed ranks around CNBC host Jim Cramer, who got absolutely owned by Jon Stewart last night on "The Daily Show?" Cramer's weak defense of himself and his network, and his inability to credibly answer the question: who exactly does CNBC serve? The traders or the public? (spoiler alert: it's the traders...) has surely shredded his star power. But by refusing to even acknowledge the interview took place, including on "Morning Joe," which had no problem hyping the interview before it happened, and on the programming that's taken place after 9:00, (not to mention the "Daily Show"-scrubbed CNBC and MSNBC home pages) NBC isn't exactly looking like a cauldron of courage this morning, either. At the end of the day, at least Cramer had the guts to go on with Stewart and take his lumps.
Where to begin ... If I'm Jim Cramer, I'm asking Tucker Carlson what it's like the day after Jon Stewart renders your show ridiculous and you wind up unemployed. Comedy Central hasn't posted the video yet Finally posts the video. BTW their site has slowed to a crawl... Wall Street hackers anyone??? Here it is
I can't wait to see what MSNBC does with this tomorrow. They can hardly ignore it, but CNBC is the sister station... And may I add, is it a good thing, or a really embarrassing thing for journalism that Jon Stewart is the best interviewer in the game?
Cramer thinks having a few extra spotlights on him are great. Just wait until he wakes up Friday morning, shuffles off to the bathroom, and sees Octomom staring back at him in the mirror.
He doesn't get it. When Rick Santelli bowed out of his appearance on The Daily Show -- leaving the show with little to do but go on its rant against CNBC's biggest blunders -- he knew what was coming. The hero worship would end once Stewart exposed Santelli's speculative underbelly.
Cramer doesn't seem to realize he's RSVP'ing to his own crucifixion.
(From earlier in the day Thursday. And still true 'round midnight...)
In the Michael Steele flameout, a peek under the curtain
A passage from the Politico top story (until they switch to the Cramer beat-down by Jon Stewart) offers a glimpse into the hall of mirrors that is the right wing of the Republican Party. As we all now know, Steele stepped in it again, this time in a GQ interview in which he seemed to express disturbingly tolerant, mildly pro-life views on abortion (and gays). Well, the abortion comments are sending the religious right into full-on revolt, according to Politico. Among the complaints:
"Michael Steele has just walked away from the Reaganesque position of strong moral clarity on abortion to personify why the Republican Party continues to be in a 'free fall',” said another activist, Jenn Giroux, the executive director of the conservative group Women Influencing the Nation. “It is amazing that he cannot see and learn from the fact that Sarah Palin's position on abortion and her unapologetic defense of every conceived child drew crowds by the thousands on that issue alone.”
Hm. So Sarah P's special needs baby, and the fact that her having him demonstrates her pro-lifeyness, is the real reason wingers are so ga-ga about Sarah? It really is all about abortion in the end? That would certainly explain why the wingerati are even gung ho (no pun intended...) on her preggers teenage daughter (who isn't marrying her "f-in redneck" baby daddy anymore, now that ma ain't gonna be vahce president...) And speaking of Bristol, you've got to love this:
The story first emerged in the tabloid Star magazine, which quoted Mr Johnston’s sister Mercedes saying that Ms Palin and her mother were to blame for the break-up. The couple had been due to marry this summer.
“Levi tries to see Tripp every single day, but Bristol makes it nearly impossible,” Mercedes Johnston is quoted as saying.
“She tells him he can’t take the baby to our house because she doesn’t want him around ‘white trash’. The worst part, Ms Johnston tells the magazine, is that Governor Palin supports her daughter’s treatment of Mr Johnston.
Ms Palin said in a statement issued through her mother’s political action committee that she was devastated by the report in Star. “Unfortunately, my family has seen many people say and do things to ‘cash in’ on the Palin name. Sometimes that greed clouds good judgment and the truth.”
Jesus, his sister's name is Mercedes? Yeah. That IS ghetto...
Filed under: "never, ever jump onto the hood of someone's car". Check out the opening sentence of the Sun Sentinel story:
Fearful that he had rear-ended drug dealers in a "duded out" 1966 Cadillac DeVille with whitewall tires, Abdelaziz Bilal Hamze didn't stop, his attorney told jurors Wednesday.
Duded out??? Who wrote this story, Michael Steele? We continue...
The Cadillac's owner, Sandra Hall, 44, was dragged two miles to her death after confronting Hamze at a stop light, jumping spread-eagled onto the hood of his minivan and clutching the windshield wipers as he drove away.
It gets worse: (the descriptions, I mean...)
Hamze, a native of Lebanon, acted out of "absolute fear and self-defense," Jeffrey Voluck said. "They've got him surrounded like a crazy mob. Fearing that eventually they will break the windows and drag him out of the car and either beat him unmercifully or kill him, he takes off."
Hall,"a big woman," and her boyfriend, Michael Hall, "a big, scary guy with dreadlocks," intimidated Hamze, a quiet, diminutive young man, Voluck said.
Holden, the prosecutor, conceded Hall was upset, screaming and cursing. While pursuing Hamze through a residential neighborhood, Holden said, Hall called 911 to report the hit-and-run and told the operator: "I'm gonna kill that s-- of a b----."
But once faced with Hall clinging to the hood of his minivan, Hamze drove, swerving "as if to get the lady ... off the van," Holden said.
"The van kept going, folks," Holden told jurors. "The van never stopped, it kept going."
"Fear of a giant black woman who with one other person forms a "crazy mob." It's a defense...
TALLAHASSEE -- The act of bestiality is a step closer to becoming illegal in Florida now that a Senate agriculture committee voted to slap a third-degree felony charge on anyone who has sex with animals.
Florida is one of only 16 states that still permit bestiality -- a fact that animal-rights activist and Sen. Nan Rich learned to her horror three years ago when a Panhandle man was suspected of accidentally asphyxiating a family goat that he held by the collar during a sex act.
... Rich's legislation would target only those who derived or helped others derive ''sexual gratification'' from an animal, specifying that conventional dog-judging contests and animal-husbandry practices are permissible.
That last provision tripped up Miami Democratic Sen. Larcenia Bullard.
''People are taking these animals as their husbands? What's husbandry?'' she asked. Some senators stifled their laughter as Sen. Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican, explained that husbandry is raising and caring for animals. Bullard didn't get it.
''So that maybe was the reason the lady was so upset about that monkey?'' Bullard asked, referring to a Connecticut case where a woman's suburban chimpanzee went mad and was shot.
Okay, so Michael Steele is pro choice now? His GQ interview might be the nail in the RNC leadership coffin for Steele, who might want to reconsider the priesthood. Per ThinkP:
GQ: Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?
STEELE: Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice. […]
GQ: Are you saying you don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade?
STEELE: I think Roe v. Wade—as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter.
GQ: Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?
STEELE: The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.
Huh? Wha??? And wait til Boss Limbaugh and company get a load of this:
On whether homosexuality is a choice: "Oh, no. I don't think I've ever really subscribed to that view, that you can turn it on and off like a water tap. Um, you know, I think that there's a whole lot that goes into the makeup of an individual that, uh, you just can't simply say, oh, like, 'Tomorrow morning I'm gonna stop being gay.' It's like saying, 'Tomorrow morning I'm gonna stop being black.'"
Can this guy possibly survive another week? Signs point to maybe not... and he might want to take out a restraining order against one Katon Dawson...
UPDATE: Surprise! After taking incoming fire since Hardball and other media outed the GQ interview yesterday, Steele has now reversed himself on abortion ... per Politico:
Steele said in a statement through an RNC spokesman:
I am pro-life, always have been, always will be.
I tried to present why I am pro life while recognizing that my mother had a "choice" before deciding to put me up for adoption. I thank her every day for supporting life. The strength of the pro life movement lies in choosing life and sharing the wisdom of that choice with those who face difficult circumstances. They did that for my mother and I am here today because they did. In my view Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided and should be repealed. I realize that there are good people in our party who disagree with me on this issue.
But the Republican Party is and will continue to be the party of life. I support our platform and its call for a Human Life Amendment. It is important that we stand up for the defenseless and that we continue to work to change the hearts and minds of our fellow countrymen so that we can welcome all children and protect them under the law.
Steele has also been reaching out to anti-abortion leaders to damp down the controversy, a source said.
For your viewing pleasure: the Chris Matthews Ari smackdown
Ari Fleischer (who apprently really is a douchebag, Jon Stewart!) and a charter member of the hilarious Bush Legacy Project, defends the Bush years, and declares it "shameful" to place 9/11 within the Bush years, when clearly he wasn't president until immediately afterward. Enjoy!
BTW the one thing Matthews didn't do, was point out to Ari that 1) the recession that Bush "inherited" began in the second quarter of 2001 -- after I'm pretty sure he was president. And the so-called "record job creation" Ari touted during Bush's term, which he said were the best EVER! ... were actually the third worst job creation numbers of all the presidents dating back to Harry Truman. Only Bush's father and Gerald Ford saw fewer jobs created on their watch. Payrolls expanded by about 3 million during Bush's two terms, or about 375,000 per year, which puts him DEAD LAST in the per year number versus all the presidents since Harry gave 'em hell. Here are the totals:
Truman - 8.4 million Eisenhower - 3.5 JFK - 3.6 LBJ - 11.9 Nixon - 9.4 Carter - 10.5 Reagan - 16.0 Bush I - 2.5 Clinton - 23.1 Dubya - 3.0
Separation of powers: is the Obama administration pulling a Bushie?
The Obama administration helped secure the passage of the $400 billion omnibus bill (which the president will sign today,) in a most creative way: by promising not to enforce parts of it. From the Miami Herald today:
Facing strong opposition from lawmakers with large Cuban-American constituencies, the Obama administration pledged -- in writing -- that changes to U.S.-Cuba policy tucked into the giant 2009 spending bill will have no teeth.
The promise worked: Lawmakers Tuesday night approved the $410 billion spending bill, which included the controversial provisions that make travel and trade to Cuba easier by cutting off the funding for enforcement of restrictions.
It cleared the Senate by a voice vote, after senators voted 62 to 35 to end debate.
In a quest to secure two of the votes from senators who had vowed to block the entire budget bill, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner assured Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Bob Menendez of New Jersey that the government would interpret the new law so strictly that it will be ineffective.
What? Can he do that? A newly balsy Congress (with Bush and his spy gear safely out of town,) says no:
Geithner's letter to the two senators persuaded them to change their votes and approve the spending package. Rep. José E. Serrano, the New York Democrat who wrote the Cuba amendments in the bill, warned that the law is not subject to ''creative interpretation'' and vowed ``a showdown.''
''The Treasury Department is going to try [to find loopholes], and the [House] appropriations committee will have to remind them who Congress is,'' Serrano told The Miami Herald. ``Treasury will be in violation of the law. There will be a showdown. The bigger issue will not be Congressman Serrano. It will be that they are behaving just like the Bush administration did.''
Technically speaking ... uh ... yeah.
The budget bill, which already passed the House, creates a general travel license for Americans who want to travel to Cuba to cut agricultural and medical sales deals with the communist government. It also lets Cuba pay for goods on arrival -- instead of before the products leave U.S. ports -- and removes funding for enforcement of family travel restrictions enacted by former President George W. Bush.
Geithner wrote that the agricultural travel license would be limited to ''only a narrow class of businesses,'' which would have to report back on their trips. By law, he said, Cuba would still have to pay up front.
Left intact in the bill, which expires in October, is a measure that suspends enforcement of rules that say Cuban Americans can only visit immediate relatives once every three years. Travel to the island would still be illegal, but the department wouldn't be allowed to spend money trying to catch anyone doing it.
This strikes me as no way to run the executive branch, at least not if you care about the separation of powers. If the administration opposes the Cuba provisions in the bill, President Obama ought to veto it. Otherwise, pandering to the Castro derangement syndrome that exists in part of our Congress just strikes me as wrong. Either sign the bill, and enforce it, or veto it. Doesn't seem to be much ambiguity there.
The Herald has Geithner's letters to the Senators (Nelson letter here).
Meanwhile, the view from Steve Clemons' room in Miami, where he's hanging out this week was pretty good. And his findings not all that surprising:
I have been discussing US-Cuba relations with quite a number of Cuban-Americans who live here. I have been telling them about the work that Senator Richard Lugar and his Latin America senior policy advisor Carl Meacham have recently done.
A couple of big surprises. Most want the embargo to end and are indifferent to the political issues that have kept a failed embargo in place for so long.
Secondly, many want to be entrepreneurs in a restarted US-Cuba relationship.
The other nice surprise is that when I put the issue of a relaxation of travel for Cuban-Americans to move back and forth from the US to Cuba, about half of them have the same reaction I do. Why should we create "categories of Americans"? They think we should not be excluding other Americans when legislating about relaxation of travel.
So why is Team Obama still pandering to the Cuba lobby?
Hat tip to Youzentoube. From last week on SFGATE, but still a classic:
I see you out there. I know you're lurking, seething, sending me angry letters, posting nasty comments in anonymous forums across the Interweb, not merely enraged that I and millions like me dare to support President Obama's massive overhaul of the enormously flawed American idea, but that I also dare to see him as exactly the finest and most intelligent and, yes, even integrity-filled progressive visionary we could possibly hope for at a time like this.
You are fuming in disbelief. How can I not see it? How can the vast majority of the country not see it? How is it that no one but you and a few manic fringe writers seem to notice that President Obama is either A) a thinly veiled socialist commie instigator hell-bent on destroying America from the inside out, or B) nothing more than a cleverly disguised corporate-loving Bush clone because, oh my God, haven't you seen his policy on H1Bs and faith-based initiatives and his nefarious plan to take over the banks and, um, something else you can't quite remember right now but you're sure is really, really damning?
You are slamming your fists on your keyboard. Why doesn't the world get it? That it's all just the same old cronies rearranging the same old powermad furniture, a giant shell game Decepticon robot evil nightmare?
Oh, you poor dear. What utter, crushing frustration you must feel. Especially since the other side, the conservative side -- maybe it was your side? -- had its grand shot at running the show. It ran every sour idea, pushed every extreme right-wing economic scenario, wasted trillions on a failed war, spit on gays and kowtowed to the fundamentalists and shoved the country so far to the right we fell off Ted Haggard's massage table.
And alas, "unmitigated disaster" doesn't even begin to cover what happened next.
Newt Gingrich is running for president in 2012. How do I know? The "other fat one" has waded into the GOP vacuum created, most recently, by the unmanliness of Michael Steele. Now, Newt is attempting to demonstrate that one can stand up against Rush Limbaugh -- even dare to question his role as the leader of the Republican Party, and live to tell about it. We'll see how that works out. He even used the opportunity, on NBC no less, to take a shot at Chris Matthews:
"Rush Limbaugh is in the long run an interesting radio personality," Gingrich said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"The fact is he has a large audience, the audience believes him, the audience calls their members, the audience has an affect. He's not the leader of the Republican party," he said.
"That's like saying, 'Does Chris Matthews help or hurt the Democratic party?'"
As if. Matthews, on a given day, sounds like everything from a Democrat to a Reaganite. Calling him a leader of any Democrat is like saying Shep Smith should replace Michael Steele. (Newt then went on to answer the question of whether he wants to run in 2012 with something on the order of "not particularly." But of course not...
Claire McCaskill is brilliant. She's funny, direct, and takes no nonsense. On Friday, she called out the Republican leadership and other Senators who were screaming bloody murder about non-existent earmarks in the economic recovery bill, while bellying up to the bar for prodigious quantities of earmarks in the omnibus spending bill. Today, she wiped the floor with Richard Shelby and Senate Republicans on earmarks yet again. Watch:
McCaskill then threw in a smart jab at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for its hypocritical deands for a secret ballog on union organizing, while it has exactly the opposite view on secret ballots for decertifying a union (Transcript). The exchange:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Another issue that's going to come up before the end of this year -- and we only have a couple of minutes left -- Mr. Donohue, you're going to spend about $10 million, I've read, to try to defeat this Employee Free Choice Act, which would give union -- unions the ability to organize at a plant if they could a majority of the people at the plant to sign up.
And, Senator McCaskill, let me bring you in on this. Is there anything you can say, you believe, right now, that'll convince Mr. Donohue to back off that? And do you have the votes to get this done this year?
MCCASKILL: I'm not sure that we have the votes, and I have no hope of backing Mr. Donohue off. I would say that I think it would be fair that we have a secret ballot for decertification of unions. Right now, businesses can go with a card check.
There is no secret ballot to get rid of a union, but there is a requirement of -- of that for people to be able to organize. And to me, that seems unfair. Let's -- let's -- what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Let's put people on a level playing field and have both businesses have to have a secret ballot to decertify. Until they do that, I'm not sure they've got a lot of room to complaint.
And she said it with a smile. Love her! And BTW she and Bayh looked and sounded great together. Could be a ticket in eight years assuming Biden retires after two terms as veep...
The undertaker: Richard Shelby tries to provoke a run on Citibank
Richard Shelby proved that he is far too crazy to be in the United States Senate, when this morning on "This Week," he suggested a surprising fix to the banking crisis: close down Citigroup and other major banks. Writes George Stephanopoulos:
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, said today on "This Week" that the government should let trouble banks fail.
"I don't want to nationalize them, I think we need to close them," Shelby told me this morning. "Close them down, get them out of business. If they're dead, they ought to be buried," he said. "We bury the small banks; we've got to bury some big ones and send a strong message to the market. And I believe that people will start investing [again] in banks."
Shelby didn't explain, nor was he asked, by the way, how pulling a Lehman Brothers on potentially dozens of megabanks would inspire investors to re-enter the markets, nor did he explain the particular free market principle behind having the federal government come in with the padlocks and shut down a private bank. George did ask Shelby if he had a particular hit list in mind:
I asked Sen. Shelby if he was referring specifically to Citigroup, the struggling bank that has received about $45 billion in taxpayer money.
"Well whatever. Citi's always been a problem child," said Shelby, who has long opposed giving federal TARP money to struggling banks.
But Thomas Donohue, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, disagreed. "It's not practical to talk about closing a bank that is integrated throughout the whole global economy," he said. "It is practical to talk about buying some of those assets away from those banks and holding them in an institution that would have both public and private money."
Question: is it responsible, in the middle of a recession, for a United States Senator to suggest killing off major banks, by name? If there is a run on Citi, or a major sell-off, on Monday, would Shelby be to blame?
Could this guy be more embarrassing? The New York Times spins a tale of near failure, turned into very close to success:
For decades, top Republican officials have looked at Mr. Steele and seen the promise of minority votes. He was recruited in the 1980s by Lee Atwater, a strategist who was the first of many excited by the charismatic, black Roman Catholic.
Outside politics, Mr. Steele struggled. He tried the priesthood but left as a novice. Later he practiced law for seven years in Washington (after passing the Pennsylvania state bar, he said), then started a consulting firm that made so little money that he almost lost his home.
But in the weak Maryland Republican Party, in a state that is 30 percent black, Mr. Steele was an instant hero. (The moment she saw him, said Joyce Terhes, the former state party chairwoman, she knew he was a keeper.) He zoomed from volunteer to state chairman to running mate in a race for governor.
Before the 2002 election, The Baltimore Sun published an editorial saying that because of his lack of experience, Mr. Steele brought “little to the team but the color of his skin,” outraging him and his supporters.
When Mr. Steele became lieutenant governor, he found himself among the highest-ranking black Republicans in the country, instantly embraced by President George W. Bush and his allies. Speaking to black groups, he was often the only Republican in the room, and in some Republican gatherings, the only African-American.
More than other black Republicans, “he has this unique capacity to connect with black audiences in a pretty soulful way,” said the talk show host Tavis Smiley. When Mr. Steele ran for the Senate in 2006, Russell Simmons, the hip-hop music executive and a Democrat, went to Maryland to endorse him.
Running in an unpopular year and state for Republicans, Mr. Steele tried to shed ties to his party. He called the “R” in Republican a “scarlet letter” and omitted his affiliation from advertisements: instead he talked about his love for puppies, his mother and the music of Frank Sinatra. On Election Day, campaign workers passed out sample ballots that listed him as a Democrat.
And that's the guy they chose as chairman...
Meanwhile, the Steele hip-hop fiasco continues to provide comedy gold (hat tip to Matt Ortega)
And don't forget the original "U Down wit GOP?" (Sorry, SNL, I thought of it first...)
For more wincing at Michael Steele's antics, check out:
It's not easy watching a black guy stumble around in the dark, but really, I'm trying.
And they wonder why most black people (well, those with an ounce of dignity, anyway...) wouldn't be caught anywhere near the GOP. Hat tip to SmirkingChimp, whose post of an article by Max Blumenthal also points out that Russell Simmons is, or was, a Steele supporter (he supported him during the 2006 Senate campaign, too.) Blumenthal takes us down memory lane:
The first African American elected to the position, Steele triumphed over a candidate who once belonged to a whites-only country club, and another who had distributed a CD that included the song, "Barack, the Magic Negro." Days after taking over the party's moribund infrastructure, Steele promised an "off the hook" PR campaign to apply conservative principles to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings"--offering the GOP a much-needed image makeover for the dawning of the age of Obama.
Meanwhile, Steele's mea culpa probably pretty much dooms him as a credible spokesman for the GOP, and:
... given Limbaugh's well-documented history of racial controversy, and Steele's position as the Republican Party's first African American chairman, his apology is more significant than Gingrey's. Limbaugh has, for example, mocked Obama as a "Halfrican-American" who should "become white;" he has called for a "posthumous Medal of Honor" for the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr., James Earl Ray, and told an African American caller, "Take that bone out of your nose and call me back." Steele's "off the hook" PR campaign is now off the rails. Within days, he has gone from being "da man" to just another "Dittohead."
Update: as reported on Rachel Maddow's show tonight, Steele's got other problems to worry about.
In the days leading up to President Obama's inauguration, U.S. law enforcement agencies huddled regularly in an effort to minimize any possible security risk to an event that promised record crowds for the country's first black president. But one agenda item led authorities to a target close to home: the ranks of the U.S. Capitol Police.
An FBI investigation that included taped surveillance had placed two off-duty veteran Capitol Police officers in the company of individuals whose racial views and capacity for violence were under scrutiny. Although the recorded discussion did not center on Obama, federal law enforcement officials wanted to ensure that the officers were not on duty covering the Capitol, where the president took the oath of office, according to two sources involved in the matter.
The FBI alerted Capitol Police officials, but some federal officials grew concerned when no immediate action was taken, according to the sources. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan voiced his frustration to then-Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, according to a senior federal official with knowledge of the incident. Chertoff, a former federal appeals court judge, told officials that if the Capitol Police did not act, he was prepared to take the issue to members of Congress overseeing the inauguration, the senior federal official said.
"Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. . . . But there are codes of conduct that are necessary for law enforcement and people in positions of public trust," said one senior federal official with knowledge of the episode. Common sense dictated, the official added, that the swearing-in of the nation's first black president was not a time to take chances.
... Officials have said that a principal concern was the possibility of hate crimes spurred by racial prejudice, leading them to focus investigative attention before the inauguration on any number of domestic groups with white supremacist views.
The Capitol Police suspended the two officers with pay on Jan. 19, the eve of the inauguration ceremony, pending an internal inquiry into an allegation that they associated with felons in violation of department policy, according to a senior law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the personnel matter. The official said the action was taken as soon as officials received the FBI's file and was not precipitated by Chertoff..
Yeesh... So who were they associated with?
The suspended officers have no known criminal record, a senior law enforcement official said, and colleagues said the men are well regarded within the force. The officers rose to the attention of federal law enforcement partly because of their long association with a Southern Maryland motorcycle club, the Tribes. The group is a rough-hewn band of bike enthusiasts founded more than 30 years ago by corrections officers and other law enforcement officials.
The club came under law enforcement scrutiny earlier this decade, and in January 2004, a former member, John Beal, pleaded guilty to gun and drug charges after an undercover investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Capitol Police are barred from associating with felons, a policy shared by other law enforcement agencies.
Looks like Tribes website is here. The pics are ... um ... very bikery? On the up-side, they have participated in Toys for Tots ...
While we were in D.C. we were told that there were literally hundreds of hate groups being monitored by the Secret Service, FBI and Homeland Security during the inaugural. The primary brought out many of the crazies (including at those infamous Palinite rallies) but the inauguration surely brought out even more.
Meanwhile, over at Politico: the birthers are starting to really annoy people ... and by people, I mean judges...
As bad as it gets (but not as bad as December or January)
The new jobless rate: 8.1 percent, is bad. The February figure: 651,000 jobs lost, is worse. But it turns out that December and January made that figure look like a walk in the park. The closing two months of George W. Bush's disastrous presidency saw the highest job losses since just after World War II:
The economy has lost 4.4 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007, with more than half coming in the last four months. Read full report.
Payrolls fell by 655,000 in January and by 681,000 in December, revised down by 161,000 from previous estimates.
The job losses in December were the biggest monthly decline in jobs since October 1949, when half a million steelworkers went on strike for higher pay.
Note, righties, when the recession began: December 2007. Bush time. Meanwhile, the figures for February are brutal:
The unemployment rate continued to trend upward in February for adult men (8.1 percent), adult women (6.7 percent), whites (7.3 percent), blacks (13.4 percent), and Hispanics (10.9 percent). The jobless rate for teen-agers was little changed at 21.6 percent. The unemployment rate for Asians was 6.9 percent in February, not seasonally adjusted.
And the losses occurred across every conceivable sector of the economy, with the exception of healthcare (up 27%):
Employment in professional and business services fell by 180,000 in February. The temporary help industry lost 78,000 jobs over the month. Since December 2007, temporary help employment has declined by 686,000, or 27 percent. In February, job declines also occurred in services to buildings and dwellings (-17,000), architectural and engineering services (-16,000), and business support services (-12,000).
Widespread job losses continued in manufacturing in February (-168,000). The majority of the decline occurred in durable goods industries (-132,000), with the largest decreases in fabricated metal products (-28,000) and machinery (-25,000). Employment in nondurable goods manufacturing declined by 36,000 over the month.
The construction industry lost 104,000 jobs in February. Employment in the industry has fallen by 1.1 million since peaking in January 2007. Two-fifths of that decline occurred over the last 4 months. Employment fell sharply in both the residential and nonresidential components of the industry in February.
Employment in truck transportation declined by 33,000 in February; the industry has lost 138,000 jobs since the start of the recession in December 2007. Nearly two-thirds of the decline (-88,000) occurred over the last 4 months. The information industry continued to lose jobs (-15,000). Over the last 4 months, employment in the industry has decreased by 76,000, with about two-fifths of the decline occur- ring in publishing.
The conventional wisdom would suggest that it is, despite his apparent kiss and make up routine with Rihanna in Miami Beach. The problem? The details. And they're leaking fast... from TSG, we get the LAPD search warrant application, seeking Rihanna's cell phone records. According to the affidavit, the argument began when Rihanna picked up Chris' cellphone and saw a text message from "a woman Brown had a previous sexual relationship with." During the argument, Brown pulled the car over, reached over her and tried to push her out of the car. When her seat belt prevented him from pushing her out, the warrant app says:
"he took his right hand and shoved her head against the passenger window of the vehicle causing an approximate one inch raised circular contusion. [Rihanna] turned to face Brown and he punched her in the left eye with his right hand. He then drove away int he vehicle and continued to punch her in the face with his right hand while steering the vehicle with his left hand. The assault caused [Rihanna's] mouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her cloting and the interior of the vehicle."
Not good. According to TSG, it gets worse:
He then allegedly punched her repeatedly and warned, "I'm going to beat the shit out of you when we get home! You wait and see!" Bloodied, Rihanna reportedly then called her assistant Jennifer Rosales and left a message asking the aide to call police. Brown responded, the affidavit notes, by saying, "You just did the stupidest thing ever! Now I'm really going to kill you!" ... Brown was charged today with assault and making a criminal threat, both felonies... [Emphasis added]
That's actually a mild version of the continued assault, which you can read in excruciating detail here. According to the police, Chris basically beat Rihanna all the way home, put her in a head lock, and even bit her. The tail end of the assault, or at least Rihanna's cries for help, were noticed by a neighbor, who called 911.
Worse still, the app states that Chris contacted Rihanna's assistant on the night of the assault, wanting to know if his battered girlfriend had given police his name (consciousness of guilt, anyone?) Later, he texted the assistant saying he was sorry and "was going to get help." (Consciousness of P.R., anyone???)
If all of this is true and accurate, Chris Brown is going to have one hell of a time rehabilitating his image, no matter how much time he and "Ri-Ri" spend at Diddy's crib. I suppose he could use a number of defenses: temporary insanity? Extreme intoxication? He does have a good lawyer (Mark Geragos), and word on the street is that Rihanna may not want to testify against him. And TMZ reports:
... it seems Brown wants to avoid a trial at all costs because the picture of Rihanna taken one day after the incident -- which has not been seen anywhere publicly -- is unbelievable.
During the proceeding, Brown signed a waiver of presence, allowing his lawyer to act on his behalf -- meaning he won't have to show up to any minor court proceedings before April 6th.
and further proof they're back together:
The judge asked Rihanna's attorney Donald Etra if there was a "no-contact order" in place, to which Etra replied, "Miss Fenty [Rihanna] does not request such an order."
The pain without gain keeps coming for the GOP, and this time, it's coming to Florida, home of the fat one with the golden microphone...From Jen O'Malley Dillon, the new executive director of the DNC:
If you're anything like me, then you've had the urge to talk back to a right-wing talk radio host more than a few times. Now you can.
Rush Limbaugh has made waves lately about his desire to see President Obama fail. And he's unapologetic, even though Americans voted in November for the very kind of change the President is bringing to Washington. As even Limbaugh must know, if the President fails, America fails.
Incredibly, Republican leaders have yet to condemn Limbaugh for his destructive comments. In fact, Republicans like Congressman Eric Cantor, a leader in the House, have adopted the Limbaugh strategy, telling the Washington Post recently that their strategy on the President's jobs plan was "just saying no."
The only Republican leader to challenge Limbaugh -- the chairman of the Republican National Committee -- even called Rush to apologize just a few days later.
But we have no apologies for Rush, just a message. We need you to come up with a slogan, in ten words or less, that we'll put on a billboard where he can't miss it -- in his hometown of West Palm Beach, Florida.
Meanwhile, a Dem party source points out that Florida Republican Party chair Jim Greer was a big supporter of Steele's going into the RNC leadership showdown (he also strongly opposed the whole "Barack the magic negro" thing...) So does Greer feel good about his guy having to bend over and grab the ankles, as Rush would say? Who can tell... Perhaps it's time to ask Mr. Greer whose side he's on: the side of "failure"/Rush, or the side of the American people...
If you'd like to suggest a slogan for the billboard, go here.
Michael Steele's first 30 days as RNC chair have been an unmitigated disaster. But I suspect that there would be grumbling about him as "head of the party" whether he's referenced one armed midgets or not. Steele is not the fire breathing right winger that the "base" wants him to be, and he comes to the job with little proof that he has the organizational skills to fix the party's other problem: a lack of infrastructure outside a handful of southern and western states.
In an e-mail to fellow RNC members obtained by The Hill, Dr. Ada Fisher, North Carolina's national committeewoman, said Steele is "eroding confidence" in the GOP and that members of his transition team should encourage him to step aside. Fisher added Steele's personal e-mail address to the e-mail.
Oh and before you even go there, Ms. Fisher is black...
UPDATE: Dr. Fisher appeared on Rachel Maddow's show tonight. Here's the video courtesy of "the Youtubes":
It's one of those wonders of nature that Karl Rove is still walking around among us, a free man. The guy who was instrumental in everything from election theft and phony voter fraud searches to political prosecutions to outing a CIA agent, who got five shots at getting his grand jury testimony right (in the Plame affair) and STILL managed to avoid the leg irons, and who was in the room during probably every criminal activity that took place in the Bush White House for eight years, has gotten a deal -- yes, a DEAL -- in order to comply, at long last, with a Congressional subpoena. (Harriet Miers got one too. At issue: the U.S. attorney firings.)
A lesser warlock would be in the jail under the Senate building by now...
Conservative direct mail guru Richard Viguerie spells out the bottom line for the GOP and its many, many problems:
"The 'Rushification' of the GOP is the natural and inevitable result of the fact that those who are supposed to provide leadership -- Republican elected officials and party officers -- are doing little to bring the party back," said Viguerie, Chairman of ConservativeHQ.com. "Nature abhors a vacuum, and there is no vacuum in nature as empty as the leadership of the Republican Party today."
Ouch. And the air head currently standing at the mouth of the vacuum is none other than our good friend Michael Steele, who is quickly turning out to be almost as golden for Democrats as El Rushbo himself. Steele has quickly gone from the Great Brown Hope of the GOP (oh, sorry, that was Bobby Jindal...) the Great Black Hope of the GOP, to a national punch line (even Morning Joe got at him on Wednesday.) And Politico reports that besides providing endless hilarious sound bites for the ankle biters online, such as myself, and on late night TV, Steele isn't even getting his organization together. So much for the logic in making him RNC chair just because he's not white ...
I actually caught the Rush Limbaugh dressing down of Michael Steele on the radio today. And given the GOP's sorry track record on trying (ever so briefly) to stand up to the right's $400 million radio bully, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that within about a New York minute of Rush's smackdown, the Notorious RNC would punk out. To refresh: here's Michael Steele Saturday night, trying to man up:
And here's Rush Limbaugh slapping him down like a skinny puppy:
Mr. Steele called Mr. Limbaugh after the radio host belittled Mr. Steele on his show, questioning his authority and saying the new Republican leader was off “to a shaky start.”
... Mr. Steele told Politico on Monday that he had called Mr. Limbaugh to apologize.
“My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Mr. Steele told The Politico. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”
Democrats reacted with glee to the exchange. “Michael Steele has denounced himself for renouncing Rush,” said Paul Begala, an ally of Mr. Emanuel and one of the Democrats presenting Mr. Limbaugh as the face of the G.O.P. “Can anyone seriously argue now that Rush is not the unchallenged leader of the Republican Party?”
Um ... no. But that's not the best part. For that, let's go to Politico:
“I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t what I was thinking,” Steele said. "It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of people … want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he’s not."
“I’m not going to engage these guys and sit back and provide them the popcorn for a fight between me and Rush Limbaugh,” Steele added. “No such thing is going to happen. … I wasn’t trying to slam him or anything.”
Michael ... do you understand the words that are coming out of your mouth?
Want to feel even more uncomfortable for Michael Steele? Check out the ReidBlog Michael Steele page!
UPDATE: Best response to the Great Steele Capitulation, from Andrew Sullivan:
Comrade Steele dutifully apologizes to the Great Leader and offer his regrets to his fellow comrades in the movement. Re-education camp will follow shortly.This climb-down marks the end of establishment Republican resistance to the Poujadist pontificator. It's Rush's party now. So why shouldn't he run for president in 2012? Make Palin his veep - and be done with it.
It's official. After September 11, 2001, George W. Bush was crowned Julius Caesar by his Justice Department. Proof? The current J.D. released two memos issued by the Bush Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and seven previously undisclosed opinions, all of which had been sought by civil libertarians including the ACLU. The subject? What John Yoo and company believed that the president could do, not on some foreign "battlefield" of the "war on terror," but here in America. From NBC:
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department on Monday released a long-secret legal document from 2001 in which the Bush administration claimed the military could search and seize terror suspects in the United States without warrants.
The legal memo was written about a month after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. It says constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure would not apply to terror suspects in the U.S., as long as the president or another high official authorized the action.
The memos can be found and read online here. The titles alone are frightening:
A sample of the truly frightening contents, from a June 27, 2002 memo signed by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Yoo:
Section 4001 of Title 18 states:
(a) No citizen shall be improsoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an Act of Congres.
However, according to the Bush Office of Legal Counsel,
"...the President's authority to detain enemy combatants, including U.S. citizens, is based on his constitutional authority as Commander in Chief. We conclude that Section 4001(a) does not, and constitutionally could not, interfere with that authority."
Another memo showed that, within two weeks of Sept. 11, the administration was contemplating ways to use wiretaps without getting warrants.
The author of the search and seizure memo, John Yoo, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
In that memo, Yoo wrote that the president could treat terrorist suspects in the United States like an invading foreign army. For instance, he said, the military would not have to get a warrant to storm a building to prevent terrorists from detonating a bomb.
Yoo also suggested that the government could put new restrictions on the press and speech, without spelling out what those might be.
"First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully," Yoo wrote, adding later: "The current campaign against terrorism may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically."
On their way out the door, Alberto Gonzales' follow-ons in the Justice Department issued memos of their own, trying to disavow the earlier memos (two of the disavowals are included in today's release) saying they should not be relied on, and that they were a "product of an extraordinary -- indeed, we hope, a unique -- period in the history of the Nation: the immediate aftermath of the attacks of 9/11."
But some of the memos were written later -- much later. The memo on detaining U.S. citizens without trial or warrants was written in June of 2002. Interestingly enough, the later memos came during a time when the Bush administration was contemplating going to war against Iraq. And Michael Issikoff just reminded us on "the Rachel Maddow show" that Steve Bradbury, the OLC chief who spearheaded the disavowal memos, was himself under investigation for the issuance of the clearly un-American, unconstitutional legal opinions.
In other torture news, the CIA finally announced the actual number of interrogation tapes (read torture tapes) were destroyed by the agency to prevent investigations into torture at Gitmo. The answer? 92. Natch.
American Conservative: how talk radio wrecks the right
Rush Limbaugh: defender of the wealth
Rush Limbaugh may be the focus of many right wingers' nocturnal fantasies and emissions, but some paleocons are going their own way. GOP whip Eric Cantor took a giant step away from El Rushbo on "This Week" this week (well, maybe not a giant one, and I give him 48 hours tops, before he's on the air with Rush groveling and taking it all back. Actually, make that 24...) Democrats gleefully trumpet Rush as the new leader of the conservative movement (sorry, Newt.) But the American Conservative magazine, for one, is not amused by the "carny barkers" who dominate the medium that Limbaugh built:
With reasons for gratitude duly noted, are there some downsides to conservative talk radio? Taking the conservative project as a whole—limited government, fiscal prudence, equality under law, personal liberty, patriotism, realism abroad—has talk radio helped or hurt? All those good things are plainly off the table for the next four years at least, a prospect that conservatives can only view with anguish. Did the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Savages, and Ingrahams lead us to this sorry state of affairs?
They surely did. At the very least, by yoking themselves to the clueless George W. Bush and his free-spending administration, they helped create the great debt bubble that has now burst so spectacularly. The big names, too, were all uncritical of the decade-long (at least) efforts to “build democracy” in no-account nations with politically primitive populations. Sean Hannity called the Iraq War a “massive success,” and in January 2008 deemed the U.S. economy “phenomenal.”
Much as their blind loyalty discredited the Right, perhaps the worst effect of Limbaugh et al. has been their draining away of political energy from what might have been a much more worthwhile project: the fostering of a middlebrow conservatism. There is nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. It’s energizing and fun. What’s wrong is the impression fixed in the minds of too many Americans that conservatism is always lowbrow, an impression our enemies gleefully reinforce when the opportunity arises. Thus a liberal like E.J. Dionne can write, “The cause of Edmund Burke, Leo Strauss, Robert Nisbet and William F. Buckley Jr. is now in the hands of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity. … Reason has been overwhelmed by propaganda, ideas by slogans.” Talk radio has contributed mightily to this development.
It does so by routinely descending into the ad hominem—Feminazis instead of feminism—and catering to reflex rather than thought. Where once conservatism had been about individualism, talk radio now rallies the mob. “Revolt against the masses?” asked Jeffrey Hart. “Limbaugh is the masses.”
And I doubt they'll be taking that back. And John Derbyshire, the Brit conservative who wrote the piece, points out an important fact:
There is a lowbrow liberalism, too, but the Left hasn’t learned how to market it. Consider again the failure of liberals at the talk-radio format, with the bankruptcy of Air America always put forward as an example. Yet in fact liberals are very successful at talk radio. They are just no good at the lowbrow sort. The “Rush Limbaugh Show” may be first in those current Talkers magazine rankings, but second and third are National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” with 13 million weekly listeners each. It is easy to mock the studied gentility, affectless voices, and reflexive liberalism of NPR, but these are very successful radio programs.
Rush has around 14 million listeners. Not a huge difference there. And he leaves off the notably highbrow Thom Hartmann, who made Talkers top ten in their latest power rankings.
Related: if you listened to Mike McConnell at all this weekend (and why would you?) you heard his full throated defense of the big banks, and their use of taxpayer dollars. Said McConnell: "I presume that they know more about their business than I do, and that they know how to run their businesses better than the government," so no one should complain when Northern Trust takes TARP money and then throws a party. Huh??? If they know what they're doing, then ... um ... why do they need to be bailed out?
If you’re baffled why the G.O.P. would thrust Jindal into prime time, the answer is desperation. Eager to update its image without changing its antediluvian (or antebellum) substance, the party is trying to lock down its white country-club blowhards. The only other nonwhite face on tap, alas, is the unguided missile Michael Steele, its new national chairman. Steele has of late been busy promising to revive his party with an “off-the-hook” hip-hop P.R. campaign, presumably with the perennially tan House leader John Boehner leading the posse.
At least the G.O.P.’s newfound racial sensitivity saved it from choosing the white Southern governor often bracketed with Jindal as a rising “star,” Mark Sanford of South Carolina. That would have been an even bigger fiasco, for Sanford is from the same state as Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the junior high school student who sat in Michelle Obama’s box on Tuesday night and whose impassioned letter to Congress was quoted by the president.
In her plea, the teenager begged for aid to her substandard rural school. Without basic tools, she poignantly wrote, she and her peers cannot “prove to the world” that they too might succeed at becoming “lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president.”
What such G.O.P. “stars” as Sanford and Jindal have in common, besides their callous neo-Hoover ideology, are their phony efforts to portray themselves as populist heroes. Their role model is W., that brush-clearing “rancher” by way of Andover, Yale and Harvard. Listening to Jindal talk Tuesday night about his immigrant father’s inability to pay for an obstetrician, you’d never guess that at the time his father was an engineer and his mother an L.S.U. doctoral candidate in nuclear physics. Sanford’s first political ad in 2002 told of how growing up on his “family’s farm” taught him “about hard work and responsibility.” That “farm,” the Charlotte Observer reported, was a historic plantation appraised at $1.5 million in the early 1980s. From that hardscrabble background, he struggled on to an internship at Goldman Sachs.
Read the whole thing. It's more than worth it, and contains some sober warnings for President Obama, too.
More proof that as they become more irrelevant, right wingers are also becoming angrier, and scarier. Case in point: over at RedState, which used to be home to the less extreme wingers (compared with the truly sick people at Free Republic or LGF, or this crazy lady, for example,) they're saying things like this (and not getting banned):
At a press conference announcing the arrests, Holder also suggested that re-instituting a U.S. ban on the sale of assault weapons would help reduce the bloodshed in Mexico, where last year 6,000 people were killed in drug-related violence.
U.S. officials have a responsibility to make sure Mexican police “are not fighting substantial numbers of weapons, or fighting against AK-47’s or other similar kinds of weapons that have been flowing to Mexico,” Holder said.
This man and the rest of the un-American and anti-American people in power need to be legally stopped in their tracks before they incite an armed insurrection that will get thousands upon thousands of Americans jailed and/or killed.
Before WHO incites an "armed insurrection?" You??? Right wingers have shrunk in number in this country, but increased in rage and disconnectedness from either reason or reality. They are already on record supporting totalitarian "solutions" like domestic spying, pre-emptive war, mass deportation and torture. Now, they want unrestricted access to assault weapons and are threatening "armed insurrection?" These people are just plain scary... and dangerous.
A new study suggests that the redder the state, the bluer the online entertainment preferences.
Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.
...The biggest consumer, Utah, averaged 5.47 adult content subscriptions per 1000 home broadband users; Montana bought the least with 1.92 per 1000. "The differences here are not so stark," Edelman says.
Number 10 on the list was West Virginia at 2.94 subscriptions per 1000, while number 41, Michigan, averaged 2.32.
Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year's presidential election – Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama.
Of all the people on Fox News, I've always suspected that Shep Smith is the one guy who purses his lips and only pretends to drink the Kool-Aid. Whether it's his exasperated response to Hurricane Katrina, or his actually coherent news take, Smith really doesn't belong on that channel. The latest Shep: ThinkProgress catches him sounding like a pro-Constitution American on the subject of holding people indefinitely without charges -- something the Bush administration made de regeur for the Republican Party (though some righties managed to figure out out that it was a bad idea.)
SMITH: He has been held in a military prison for more than five years — not Chris Wallace — this next person. And he wasn’t ever charged. Think about that. I mean just think about it fundamentally. You are held for five years in prison, and you’re never charged! Oh well it was an al-Qaeda suspect, suspected al-Qaeda operative. Who cares who it is?! You don’t get to — this is America; you do not get to hold people for five years without — actually, you do. But he’s getting its day in court now.
Way to go, Shep. For more on the charging of America's last (we hope) enemy combatant, Saleh al-Marri, click here. The indictment itself, which was filed in Illinois, can be found here.