Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Rush vs. the recession
Here in South Florida (officially the Worst Talk Radio Market in the World...) Clear Channel has blown away three stations, converting the former Love 94 (a terrific smooth jazz station) to a computer-programmed party music station with no deejays, and the "progressive talk" station to an all-syndicated sports station (the market's fifth.) The third blow came last week, when dozens more employees were let go, as the company's FM hip-hop/R&B station was handed over to the New York computers, too. Clear Channel has layed off who knows how many people, maybe more than 100, including sales and programming staff, in South Florida. Across the country, the job loss has been in the thousands.

So you'll forgive me if I consider Clear Channel employee Rush Hudson Limbaugh III a total cretin -- if an unsurprising one -- when he, a resident of real estate-devastated Florida, and Madoff-hit Palm Beach no less, belittles the recession as the little people's problem, as ThinkP reports:

Last night, Rush Limbaugh came to Washington, D.C. to address the President’s Club Dinner, a meeting of wealthy donors and supporters of the Heritage Foundation. The audience included Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), as well as various millionaire trustees of the Heritage Foundation, like Thomas Saunders.

After more or less reprising his radio show routine, Limbaugh went on to brag about his $400 million contract with Clear Channel Communications. As he continued to gloat about his show’s success, Limbaugh mocked the idea that Americans are suffering, noting, “I’ve never had financially a down year” despite the “supposed” recession:

LIMBAUGH: But during all this growth I haven’t lost any audience. I’ve never had financially a down year. There’s supposedly a recession, but we’ve got - what is this May? Back in February we already had 102% of 2008 overbooked for 2009. [applause] So I always believed that if we’re going to have a recession, just don’t participate. [laughter]

(ThinkP also has the audio.) Which leads me to a question. Just what do the Dittoheads need to hear before they figure out that they're storming the Bastille on behalf of Marie Antoinette, and that the Queen is laughing her ass off at how stupid they are?

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posted by JReid @ 12:01 AM  
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
AWMSGNs aside, Americans are becoming more optimistic
A new NYT/CBS News poll has some good news for the country, and as we've come to expect lately, lots of bad news for Republicans:
On optimism:

Americans have grown more optimistic about the economy and the direction of the country in the 11 weeks since President Obama was inaugurated, suggesting that he is enjoying some success in his critical task of rebuilding the nation’s confidence, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

These sometimes turbulent weeks — marked by new initiatives by Mr. Obama, attacks by Republicans and more than a few missteps by the White House — do not appear to have hurt the president. Americans said they approved of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, foreign policy, Iraq and Afghanistan; fully two-thirds said they approved of his overall job performance.

By contrast, just 31 percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of the Republican Party, the lowest in the 25 years the question has been asked in New York Times/CBS News polls.

And it appears, the pollsters say, that Obama's honeymoon has been more durable than that of his recent predecessors.

Still, there are worries out there:

The poll found that 70 percent of respondents were very or somewhat concerned that someone in their household would be out of work and looking for a job in the next 12 months. Forty percent said they had cut spending on luxuries, and 10 percent said they had cut back on necessities; 31 percent said they had cut both.

But:

For all that, the number of people who said they thought the country was headed in the right direction jumped from 15 percent in mid-January, just before Mr. Obama took office, to 39 percent today, while the number who said it was headed in the wrong direction dropped to 53 percent from 79 percent. That is the highest percentage of Americans who said the country was headed in the right direction since 42 percent said so in February 2005, the second month of President George W. Bush’s second term.

The percentage of people who said the economy was getting worse has declined from 54 percent just before Mr. Obama took office to 34 percent today. And 20 percent now think the economy is getting better, compared with 7 percent in mid-January.

“It’s psychology more than anything else,” Arthur Gilman, a Republican from Ridgewood, N.J., said in a follow-up interview to the poll. “President Obama has turned around the negative feeling in this country. He’s given everything an impetus because he’s very upbeat, like Roosevelt was. It’s too soon to tell if the spending stuff works, but some things have improved.”

That last guy, the Republican, is bad, bad news for the GOP.

By the by, who does the public blame for the economic crisis we're in? Sorry, Scarborough:

... The poll found that he shoulders virtually none of the public blame for the economic crisis: 33 percent blame Mr. Bush, 21 percent blame financial institutions, and 11 percent blame Congress.

And whom do voter trust to turn things around? Sorry Glenn Beck. You may want to break out the tissue:

By more than three to one, voters said they trusted Mr. Obama more than they trusted Congressional Republicans to make the right decisions about the economy. And by more than two to one, they said they trusted Mr. Obama to keep the nation safe, typically a Republican strong suit. Nearly one-quarter of Republicans said they trusted Mr. Obama more than Congressional Republicans to make the right decisions about the economy.

“As far as acting like adults and getting things done, the Democrat Party has done better,” said Rachel Beeson, an independent from Wahiawa, Hawaii. “The Republican Party seems to have decided that they are going to turn down anything that comes out of the White House, and nothing will get done that way.”

And that, from a guy who still says "Democrat Party." Meanwhile, GOPers still clinging to the notion that Obama is more polarizing than George Dubya Bush may want to avoid reading this.

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posted by JReid @ 9:12 AM  
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Eric Cantor says: what economic crisis???
Apparently, Eric Cantor thinks we're all just hallucinating this here "economic crisis"...



What a maroon. Meanwhile, over at Roll Call, Cantor responds.

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posted by JReid @ 11:01 AM  
Friday, April 03, 2009
Quick takes: unemployment, detainees, and the Obamas take Paris!
The March unemployment figures are as dire as you thought they'd be: 663,000 jobs lost, unemployment at 8.5 percent. As per usual, Wall Street could care less. Meanwhile:
Google also rose before the bell, although its gains were limited as Techcrunch, the website, reported the company may be in talks to buy Twitter, the microblogging service that has become the latest online craze. Google’s shares picked up 0.8 per cent to $365.45.
If the Googs make Twitter as bug-free as Blogger, we're all in big trouble...

Overseas, President and Michelle Obama get the full red carpet treatment as they arrive to a rapturous welcome in Paris, where the president held a town hall and promised a less arrogant America. Meanwhile, were Michelle O and Carla Bruni Sarkozy wearing the same dress in different colors??? You be the judge:



Meanwhile his G20 summit performance, and the meet-up in general, are getting high marks for producing substantive proposals on the global financial crisis. President Obama and his wife have the global popularity thing nailed down, and Obama even broke up a fight! The Prez had another win: getting France to agree to taking at least one Gitmo detainee. And wingers won't like that Sarko the American, served up what sounds like a dis to the former U.S. president:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said today that his country will accept one prisoner from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay as a way of demonstrating approval of President Obama's decision to close the facility, adding that "it feels really good to work with a U.S. president who wants to change the world."
Even further overseas, Israel's army has banned its soldiers from wearing T-shirts mocking brutality against Palestinians. Reuters reports:

One of the t-shirts has a rifle sight aimed at a pregnant Palestinian with the slogan "1 shot, 2 kills," according to a report last month in the Haaretz newspaper.

A spokesman for the military called the shirts "simply tasteless," and said the armed forces' chief educational officer had instructed commanders to ensure soldiers did not create or wear the items and to discipline those who disobeyed.

Haaretz said soldiers graduating from a snipers' course designed the t-shirts with the gun sight on the pregnant woman and printed them privately. The paper described examples of soldiers in other units printing shirts with their own slogans.

This as some Israelis fear a growing isolation of that country from Europe, and potentially, from the Obama administration. Indeed, when it comes to the creation of a Palestinian state, Israel's new ultra-right wing government is quickly becoming the odd man out, with its new foreign minister, Mr. Lieberman, even pissing off Israel's one sem-friend in the region, Egypt.

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posted by JReid @ 10:22 AM  
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Is this the bottom?
The February employment numbers were grim:
Unemployment rates were higher in February than a year earlier in all 372 metropolitan areas, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S.Department of Labor reported today. Fourteen areas recorded joblessrates of at least 15.0 percent, while 20 areas registered rates below 5.0 percent. The national unemployment rate in February was 8.9 per-cent, not seasonally adjusted, up from 5.2 percent a year earlier. Among the 310 metropolitan areas for which nonfarm payroll data wereavailable, 270 areas recorded over-the-year employment decreases, 37reported gains, and 3 had no change.

...with particularly bad news for California:
El Centro, Calif., recorded the highest unemployment rate, 24.5 per-
cent. The areas with the next highest rates were Merced, Calif.,
19.9 percent; Yuba City, Calif., 18.9 percent; and Elkhart-Goshen,
Ind., 18.0 percent. Among the 14 areas with jobless rates of at
least 15.0 percent, 10 were located in California.

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy shed another 742,000 jobs last month. Still, if you can believe it, things are not all bad:
April 1 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stocks advanced for a second day as sales of existing homes unexpectedly increased and a manufacturing gauge topped economists’ estimates, bolstering optimism that the worst of the recession is over. The dollar strengthened against the euro and oil fell.

D.R. Horton Inc. led gains in 12 of 13 shares in an index of homebuilders as the National Association of Realtors reported a 2.1 percent increase in pending home resales in February. Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. added at least 5.8 percent after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said there are signs that financial markets are recovering.

Of course, we now know for sure that what's good for Wall Street isn't necessarily, or even all that often, good for Main Street, but signs that we may have hit the bottom are out there. Let's hope so, anyway.

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posted by JReid @ 6:08 PM  
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Ode to unhappy people
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.


I think he's talking to you, RedState...:

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posted by JReid @ 9:30 AM  
Sunday, March 08, 2009
McCaskill-Bayh in 2016!
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...

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posted by JReid @ 4:10 PM  
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."
Shelby (and other Confederate GOPers) had the same prescription for Detroit's Big Three automakers: let them go out of business (the better to boost sales among non-union, Japanese and German firms who prefer the congeniality and relative worker impotency of the south.

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?

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posted by JReid @ 3:45 PM  
Friday, March 06, 2009
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.
Ouch.

Meanwhile, the WaPo reports that the recession is crushing America's corporate icons. And the NYT's Economix blog says we're headed back to the era of "Dallas" and jherry curls.

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posted by JReid @ 10:19 AM  
Sunday, March 01, 2009
Frank Rich slams Republican 'neopopulism'
A passage from Rich's latest, brilliant, column:

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.”

Her school is in Dillon, where the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, grew up. The school’s auditorium, now condemned, was the site of Bernanke’s high school graduation. Dillon is now so destitute that Bernanke’s middle-class childhood home was just auctioned off in a foreclosure sale. Unemployment is at 14.2 percent.

Governor Sanford’s response to such hardship — his state over all has the nation’s third-highest unemployment rate — was not merely a threat to turn down federal funds but a trip to Washington to actively lobby against the stimulus bill. He accused the three Republican senators who voted for it of sabotaging “the future of our civilization.” In his mind the future of civilization has little to do with the future of students like Ty’Sheoma Bethea.

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.

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posted by JReid @ 1:09 PM  
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Mining the WaPo: Robin Hood and the budget showdown to come
The House got cold feet on mortgage modifications. The key paragraph in the WaPo story:
Under the provision, a bankruptcy judge would be able to cut the principal on a homeowner's mortgage, lower the interest rate and extend the terms, provisions known as "cramdowns." Judges are already allowed to modify mortgages for vacation or second homes but not for a borrower's primary residence.
In other words, bankruptcy will continue to be rich man's relief, at least for now. This time, Democrats tied to the financial services sector also opposed the change.

Meanwhile, the right is howling about President Obama's budget proposal, which gives real world figures for our debt and deficit for the first time. And yes, it's not looking good. But Republicans will have a hard time running away from the record of the president and Congress who got us here. (Spoiler alert: Both of them are Republican.)

From Dan Froomkin, we get the coming GOP narrative: that Obama is playing Robin Hood:

"You know, there are times where you can afford to redecorate your house and there are times where you need to focus on rebuilding its foundation," Obama said this morning "Today, we have to focus on foundations."

What he didn't mention was that he was also ripping out some of the foundations that were laid by the previous administration.

Obama's budget would dramatically increase taxes on the wealthy, while cutting payments and subsidies to insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, agribusiness and defense contractors -- and mandating a system to charge polluters for their carbon emissions.

It would, in short, reverse the redistribution of wealth that took place during the Bush era. This time, the rich will be subsidizing the poor, not the other way around.

The revenue increases -- supplemented by staggering deficit spending -- would pay for tax cuts for non-wealthy Americans and hugely ambitious plans in the areas of energy, health and education that, as Obama insisted on Tuesday night are necessary to assure the country's long-term prosperity.

And the problem with that would be...? I recall that rich people did pretty well under the Clinton tax rates, which is what we're returning to.

Meanwhile, Bill Kristol, trying to reinvent himself at the WaPo, advises Republicans to try and smother the Obama agenda soon:




Obama's aim is not merely to "revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity." Obama outlined much of this new foundation in the most unabashedly liberal and big-government speech a president has delivered to Congress since Lyndon Baines Johnson. Obama intends to use his big three issues -- energy, health care and education -- to transform the role of the federal government as fundamentally as did the New Deal and the Great Society.

Conservatives and Republicans will disapprove of this effort. They will oppose it. Can they do so effectively? Perhaps -- if they can find reasons to obstruct and delay. They should do their best not to permit Obama to rush his agenda through this year. They can't allow Obama to make of 2009 what Franklin Roosevelt made of 1933 or Johnson of 1965. Slow down the policy train. Insist on a real and lengthy debate. Conservatives can't win politically right now. But they can raise doubts, they can point out other issues that we can't ignore (especially in national security and foreign policy), they can pick other fights -- and they can try in any way possible to break Obama's momentum. Only if this happens will conservatives be able to get a hearing for their (compelling, in my view) arguments against big-government, liberal-nanny-state social engineering -- and for their preferred alternatives.

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posted by JReid @ 5:37 PM  
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Bobby Jindal lays an egg
He looked shell shocked. He spoke in a monotonous, hokey voice, that reminded me of one of those old fashioned "Your body and you" films we were forced to watch in seventh grade. And that accent! I mean, the guy sounded like an Indian Barney Fife! But what was truly lame about Bobby Jindal's response to President Obama's commanding address tonight was the content. In short: there was none.

Jindal invoked Hurricane Katrina (which caused billions of federal dollars to be sucked into his state) to pooh-pooh government spending. He then waxed creepy, referring to an "old saying" about half of Louisiana being "under water" and the other half being "under indictment." Sorry, but even so many years after Katrina, that under water shit's just not funny, man.

He snickered at investments in a new fleet of federal government automobiles that would ostensibly be built in Detroit ... hence creating jobs ... and high speed rail "from Las Vegas to Disneyland," which even if it were true, would also ... wait for it ... create (in this case, infrastructure) jobs.

He told hokey story after hokey story, about his dad, about the wonders of the supermarket, peppering a terrible speech with "Americans can do anything." It sounded like he should end each sentence with "Ma" or "Pa." Truly, this guy is the male Sarah Palin!

He invoked the shop-worn GOP tactic for appealing to ... well I'm not sure who at this point ... by droning on and on about slavery. As if! Barack Obama is already president, dude. Moving on, now!

He claimed Republicans in Congress "went along with" big government spending during the six years they controlled EVERY BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT, instead of allowing his buddies in D.C. to take responsibility. And then he talked about re-asserting personal responsibility. Somebody get me a hammer for my head!

And those eyes! Staring, unmoving, into the camera... I felt hypnotized, and not in a good way...

If that guy is the future of the Republican Party, all I can say is Barack Obama: four more years.

Rachel Maddow's review was priceless: "bah bah bah ... I know I talk for a living, but I'm not sure I'm capable of doing what I get paid to do right now. I'm absolutely stunned."

Yeah, take a number, sister.

Another review (pre-video), from Midwest Voices:

I just wish Jindal's speech contained more substance.

Instead, the governor stuck to the tried-and-true attacks on Democrats as the spend, spend, spend party. That's basically true.

But what's the alternative from the GOP? Exactly how do Jindal and the Republicans want to get America out of its fiscal mess?

Look closely, and Jindal's speech contained little that shows he and his party have a lot of good clues about how to do that.

Yeah, well you should have seen it, brother! Even before Jindall got started, Chris Matthews muttered "Oh God..." (with the mic still hot...) setting up the hilarity to follow.

More Youtube fun. Jindal repeats debunked claims on high speed rail. Watch those eyes and tell me you are not entertained:





UPDATE: ThinkProgress compiles the Jindal pannery (from the Fox News panel, no less) and throws in some choice clips from Jindal Fife's little talk with America (and yes, he did call himself a "what folks in the in-SUR-ance industry call a 'pre-existing condition'...") God help us all...



Meanwhile, The Corner quickly cleans up the email thread. I wonder if Ramesh Ponnuru will get fired for saying this:
I thought his delivery was weak. The content will play well with the party base but seems unlikely to expand it. . . . That said, it is hard for anybody to come out well from responding to a presidential speech to a joint session of Congress.

On the up-side, the Giant Fur Hat Lady, the Hair Tail off the Side Lady and Joe the Plumber's dad thought he was "exemPLARY." I suppose Frank Luntz can't afford to be picky these days...

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posted by JReid @ 11:53 PM  
Afternoon roundup: Steele stupid, Utah common sense, and Sully took a pay cut???
A bit of news for your afternoon enjoyment ... or not...

Michael Steele is at it again. The RNC chair (and officially the dumbest man in America,) has issued a threat to any elected Republican who would dare cooperate with President Obama:

Speaking of Senators Arlen Specter, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, Steele said that the Senators were likely to face primaries as a result of their vote for the stimulus bill.

Then Steele was asked by Fox’s Neil Cavuto: “Will you, as RNC head, recommend no RNC funds being provided to help them?”

Steele confirmed that he would “talk to the state parties about.” When pressed on whether he was open to it, Steele said: “Oh, yes, I`m always open to everything, baby, absolutely.”

This is obviously about throwing red meat to the base, but it’s pretty interesting, because it sets the RNC up to take a hit from the right if he doesn’t follow through with this.

Whatever you say, baby.

Meanwhile, over in the real world, the governor of Utah declares Washington Republicans irrelevant:

The Republican governor of Utah on Monday said his party is blighted by leaders in Congress whose lack of new ideas renders them so "inconsequential" that he doesn't even bother to talk to them.

"I don't even know the congressional leadership," Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. told editors and reporters at The Washington Times, shrugging off questions about top congressional Republicans, including House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "I have not met them. I don't listen or read whatever it is they say because it is inconsequential - completely."

Oops...

And how's this for crazy: hero pilot Chesley "Sully " Sullenberger testified on the Hill today, and had this to say:

The pilot who safely ditched a jetliner in New York's Hudson River said Tuesday that pay and benefit cuts are driving experienced pilots from careers in the cockpit.

US Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger told the House aviation subcommittee that his pay has been cut 40 percent in recent years and his pension has been terminated and replaced with a promise "worth pennies on the dollar" from the federally created Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. These cuts followed a wave of airline bankruptcies after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks compounded by the current recession, he said.

The reduced compensation has placed "pilots and their families in an untenable financial situation," Sullenberger said. "I do not know a single, professional airline pilot who wants his or her children to follow in their footsteps."

And if they'd kneecap Sully...

Meanwhile, the doctors and nurses treating the Travis the chimp victim are so traumatized by what they witnessed, they now need therapy:

Much of Charla Nash's face was chewed off in the horrific attack, requiring a team of surgeons to operate for seven hours to save her life.

Now, those same surgeons along with other doctors and nurses at Stamford Hospital have a group of outside experts available to them for counseling.

"While Stamford Hospital is a level two trauma center, we typically don't see cases of this magnitude," said hospital spokesman Scott Orstad.

"The hospital felt it was possible that this could have an impact on them, and it may not be something they initially realized in the first 24 hours."

Orstad said counseling sessions were first made available to hospital staff in the day's following the tragedy.

The savagery of the attack on Nash, 55, even left seasoned EMTs stunned.

Stamford EMT Bill Ackley said Nash's head injuries "involved her entire face and scalp" and both of her hands were torn apart.

Nash's eyes were injured, but Ackley would not say how extensively. Her hair had been ripped out.

Still want a pet monkey? Oh wait, think again...

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posted by JReid @ 2:40 PM  
Monday, February 23, 2009
The next fight: the Dem spending bill
$410 billion and this:

Apart from spending, the legislation provides Democrats in Congress and Obama an opportunity to reverse Bush-era policy on selected issues.

It loosens restrictions on travel to Cuba, as well as the sale of food and medicine to the communist island-nation.

In another change, the legislation bans Mexican-licensed trucks from operating outside commercial zones along the border with the United States. The Teamsters Union, which supported Obama's election last year, hailed the move.

Here we go...


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posted by JReid @ 11:49 PM  
Friday, February 20, 2009
Randi Rhodes set adrift...
This time, don't look at Ken. From Talkers:
Randi Rhodes Is On Her Own and Nova M Files for Bankruptcy. It comes to light now that the sticking point between Randi Rhodes and Nova M was her belief that her contract included helping her with legal costs which it did not. She is now rumored to be seeking a local radio gig and many believe she’s trying to get back to her old station – WJNO, West Palm Beach. As for Nova M, it was losing a lot of moolah — $100,000 per month. The founders and corporate officers — Sheldon and Anita Drobny — are filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation for the company. Some of Nova M’s other talent — Mike Malloy, Nancy Skinner — continue in syndication as another person involved with Nova M from the beginning, Dr. Mike Newcomb, is reorganizing the network as On Second Thought Radio Network.

The radio business is in a tailspin right now, and Randi has had a lot of legal bills stemming from the lawsuit filed against her by Iraq contractor CACI. It's a big loss for the South Florida talk radio market, which frankly, wasn't that good to begin with. That say, let's all say a prayer for Thom Hartmann (number 10 on the Talkers "Heavy 100" and the number one non-winger show.) If he goes, I'm going to go back to listening to jazz CDs in the car.

Cross-posted at Reidblog.

UPDATE: Per astute reader Kurt, the rumor mill has it that 940 will flip to sports in March:
Though the station isn't confirming it, WINZ-940 will become a Fox Sports radio affiliate in March -- a move that will allow owner Clear Channel to reduce costs. WINZ now airs news, talk shows and live sports, including Heat games. The new lineup will include Fox shows such as Steve Czaban (6-9 a.m.) and Chris Myers (3-7 p.m.), Dan Patrick's syndicated program from 9 a.m. to noon and Jim Rome from noon to 3 p.m.

The good news: Dan Patrick and Jim Rome. The bad news? No more progressive talk in South Florida. And I also hear that more layoffs are likely coming at Clear Channel.

It's a jungle out there, folks!

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posted by JReid @ 3:45 PM  
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Michael Steele: idiocy unleased
Separated at birth: RNC Buffoon in Chief Michael Steele (left)

Fresh off his victories in defining the stimulus bill as "bling bling" and his declaration that "a job is not work," RNC chair Michael Steele has taken yet another step to cement his place as the most embarrassing figure in public life. His latest gambit? The GOP will get an "off the hook" muthaf--in hip-hop makeover. Okay, I added the "muthaf--n" part.
[H]e told The Washington Times:

"There was underlying concerns we had become too regionalized and the party needed to reach beyond our comfort" zones, he said, citing defeats in such states as Virginia and North Carolina. "We need messengers to really capture that region - young, Hispanic, black, a cross section ... We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings."
You know, to get the kids involved... Read the original Steele interview with the Washington Times here. Be warned: there are midgets involved...

Related: The Steele pages


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posted by JReid @ 4:26 PM  
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Home plan incoming
The Obama homeowner plan will be unveiled today. Per the leaks, it's likely to contain substantial help for homeowners in trouble, which is great news for the economy (and the banks that got them there...) Says the WaPo:

President Obama will unveil today a $75 billion foreclosure prevention program, which the administration expects to reach up to 9 million homeowners.

"The plan I'm announcing focuses on rescuing families who have played by the rules and acted responsibly: by refinancing loans for millions of families in traditional mortgages who are underwater or close to it," Obama will say at a speech in Mesa, Ariz., according to an advance text released by the White House.

The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan includes measures to allow homeowners to refinance into loans with cheaper payments, according to a summary of the plan. For example, if a lender agrees to lower a borrower's payment so that it comprises no more than 38 percent of his income, the government would pay to lower the payments further to 31 percent of income. The aim would be to make the payments affordable.

The plan offers incentives for lenders that modify troubled loans, with up to $1,000 for each modification and then another monthly "pay for success" fee as long as the borrower stays current, according to the summary. If the lender reaches an at-risk homeowner before they miss a payment and modifies their loan, the lender would be eligible for another incentive payment.

Homeowners will also be eligible for incentive payments. Those that stay current on their loans could qualify for a "monthly balance reduction payment that goes straight towards reducing the principal balance of the mortgage loan," according to the summary. The homeowner could receive up to $1,000 a year for five years.

The Obama plan does not include provisions to help investors and is focused solely on owner-occupied homes. Officials said the administration is trying to provide enough help to stem foreclosures while not rewarding borrowers who purposefully stop paying. At the same time, Obama's team wanted to risk only as much taxpayer money as absolutely necessary.

The plan "will not rescue the unscrupulous or irresponsible by throwing good taxpayer money after bad loans," Obama will say, according to the text of his speech.

The administration estimates that the plan could stop the slide in home prices by up to $6,000 per home, simply by reducing foreclosures. "The effects of this crisis have also reverberated across the financial markets. When the housing market collapsed, so did the availability of credit on which our economy depends," Obama says in the prepared text. "As that credit has dried up, it has been harder for families to find affordable loans to purchase a car or pay tuition and harder for businesses to secure the capital they need to expand and create jobs."

And from WhiteHouse.gov, some of the fine print in the form of a Frequently Asked Questions thread:

Borrowers Who Are Current on Their Mortgage Are Asking:

  • What help is available for borrowers who stay current on their mortgage payments but have seen their homes decrease in value?

Under the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, eligible borrowers who stay current on their mortgages but have been unable to refinance to lower their interest rates because their homes have decreased in value, may now have the opportunity to refinance into a 30 or 15 year, fixed rate loan. Through the program, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow the refinancing of mortgage loans that they hold in their portfolios or that they placed in mortgage backed securities.

  • I owe more than my property is worth, do I still qualify to refinance under the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan?

Eligible loans will now include those where the new first mortgage (including any refinancing costs) will not exceed 105% of the current market value of the property. For example, if your property is worth $200,000 but you owe $210,000 or less you may qualify. The current value of your property will be determined after you apply to refinance.

  • How do I know if I am eligible?

Complete eligibility details will be announced on March 4th when the program starts. The criteria for eligibility will include having sufficient income to make the new payment and an acceptable mortgage payment history. The program is limited to loans held or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Question: what is the point of helping homeowners who have an acceptable mortgage payment history? Doesn't that mean they aren't behind on their loans? Just asking. More fine print, and a seeming contradiction:

Borrowers Who Are at Risk of Foreclosure Are Asking:

  • What help is available for borrowers who are at risk of foreclosure either because they are behind on their mortgage or are struggling to make the payments?

The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan offers help to borrowers who are already behind on their mortgage payments or who are struggling to keep their loans current. By providing mortgage lenders with financial incentives to modify existing first mortgages, the Treasury hopes to help as many as 3 to 4 million homeowners avoid foreclosure regardless of who owns or services the mortgage.

  • Do I need to be behind on my mortgage payments to be eligible for a modification?

No. Borrowers who are struggling to stay current on their mortgage payments may be eligible if their income is not sufficient to continue to make their mortgage payments and they are at risk of imminent default. This may be due to several factors, such as a loss of income, a significant increase in expenses, or an interest rate that will reset to an unaffordable level.

Hm. I guess I'll just wait for the announce.

UPDATE: President Obama is presenting the plan now. It sounds much better somehow in his speech than it did in the WaPo. The plan is clear and straightforward: refinancing Fannie and Freddie backed mortgages to market value, reducing mortgage payments for those in trouble to one-third of their income, allowing homeowners who are "upside down" on their mortgages to refinance at lower interest rates, and he plans to move forward on allowing bankruptcy judges to reduce mortgage payments so that they reflect the fair market value of homes. Perhaps anticipating GOP objections to that provision, Obama pointed out that "that's already the rule for people who own 2, 3 and 4 houses, so it should also be the rule for people who own just one home."

Great point.


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posted by JReid @ 11:15 AM  
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Obama in Denver for stim signing
The president will sign the economic recovery bill in my former hometown, at one of the best places ever: the Denver Museum of Science. The Denver Post asked ordinary Coloradans what they want President Obama to know. The submissions are heartbreaking, and very real. The realest:

MAX GUEST, 18, DENVER

Unemployed. Formerly a baker.

"I'm curious to know how you are going to incorporate the unemployed into the stimulus. I'm broke as hell right now. I have $10 in my bank account. I've been out of work since October. No one is hiring. I just dropped off 30 applications today."

Make it plain, Max.


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posted by JReid @ 9:02 AM  
Hey, anybody want a suit of armor?
Don't feel bad, Donald, Jacko is in financial trouble too. So much so: he's hawking his Neverland stuff.

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posted by JReid @ 8:58 AM  
Trump Entertainment files for bankruptcy
Uh-oh...

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Casino operator Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, according to court documents, wiped out by the recession and a mountain of debt.

The move was widely expected, coming days after the casino operator's namesake tycoon, Chairman and founder Donald Trump, walked away from the company.

I guess people are sick of gambling. Ivanka is stepping down, too.


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posted by JReid @ 8:44 AM  
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Politico flubs the stim story
Politico reports that our friends the "Do Nothing" Republicans will attempt to turn their economic recovery lemons into lemonade by airing anti-legislation ads in 30 Democratic districts. Fair enough. But then, the online mag commits the cardinal old media sin: writing the narrative, instead of the facts. And usually, the MSM narrative favors the Republican position, whatever it happens to be (remember the "is it spending or stimulus" debate?) Politico's Patrick O'Connor writes:
The party’s campaign arm will start airing radio ads Friday in approximately 30 Democratic districts to argue that the bill violates the lawmakers’ campaign pledge to restore fiscal responsibility to Washington.

Public opinion, though slipping, currently favors President Barack Obama and his package of spending and tax cuts to bolster the retreating economy. So Republicans are making a long-term gamble that opposition to the package will look prescient two years from now if the economy is still struggling.
Slipping? Really? No, not really. Actually, public opinion favoring the economic recovery package is growing. Per Gallup:
Obama Has Upper Hand in Stimulus Fight
Obama’s 67% approval rating on the stimulus is more than twice that of Republicans

PRINCETON, NJ -- The American public gives President Barack Obama a strong 67% approval rating for the way in which he is handling the government's efforts to pass an economic stimulus bill, while the Democrats and, in particular, the Republicans in Congress receive much lower approval ratings of 48% and 31%, respectively.
And more Gallup, which finds today that support for the plan is up among all party groups:
Public support for an $800 billion economic stimulus package has increased to 59% in a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Tuesday night, up from 52% in Gallup polling a week ago, as well as in late January.

Most of the newfound support comes from rank-and-file Democrats, suggesting President Barack Obama's efforts to sell the plan over the past week -- including in his first televised news conference on Monday -- have shored up support within his own party. Last week, Gallup found 70% of Democrats in favor of Congress passing the economic stimulus package, but today that figure is 82%.

Over the same period, support for the stimulus package held steady among independents, with a slight majority in favor of it. The percentage of Republicans favoring the package rose slightly from 24% to 28%, but remains below the 34% support received in early January, before Congress began its formal consideration of the package.

So why is the GOP's "just say no" strategy not working? Let's ask U.S. News & World Report's Robert Schlessinger:
The problem for the GOP is that because they spent eight years repudiating these core principles, they have no credibility now embracing said principles. Without the protection of those principles, the GOP simply looks like it wants to oppose for the sake of opposition at a time when the country is crumbling.
Amen.

Meanwhile, USAT reports that Team Obama has learned valuable lessons from this fight.




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posted by JReid @ 10:55 AM  
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Deal reached on the economic recovery plan (and nobody's happy about it)
From MSNBC:
WASHINGTON - Moving with lightning speed, key lawmakers announced agreement Wednesday on a $789 billion economic stimulus measure designed to create millions of jobs in a nation reeling from recession. President Barack Obama could sign the bill within days.

"The middle ground we've reached creates more jobs than the original Senate bill and costs less than the original House bill," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, one of the participants in an exhausting and frenzied round of bargaining.

The bill includes help for victims of the recession in the form of unemployment benefits, food stamps, health coverage and more, as well as billions for states that face the prospect of making deep cuts in their own programs.

It also preserves Obama's signature tax cut — a break for millions of lower and middle income taxpayers, including those who don't earn enough to pay income taxes.

However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was conspicuously absent from the news conference in which members of the Senate announced the agreement, and it was not clear whether she stayed away out of unhappiness or a scheduling conflict.

Officials had said previously that one of the final issues to be settled was money for school modernization, a priority of Pelosi as well as Obama and one on which they differed with Collins and other moderates whose votes will be essential for final Senate approval.

The WaPo reports on the new D.C. Don Corleone, Susan Collins' ... take:

"I'm particularly pleased that we have produced an agreement that has the top line of $789 billion," she said. "It is a fiscally responsible number that reflects our efforts to truly focus this bill on programs and policies and tax relief that will help turn our economy around, create jobs and provide relief to the families of our country."

Collins, one of three Republican senators whose votes for the bill yesterday gave it a filibuster-proof majority, also said that in the final version, "we were able to increase the amount of infrastructure spending," which she called "the most powerful component in this bill to create jobs." She said the bill contains about $150 billion for infrastructure including transportation, environmental, broadband and other projects.

More than 35 percent of the funding goes for tax relief, Collins said.

And a bit more on what they were fighting over:

Before the House-Senate conference, Democratic negotiators convened a final meeting with Senate centrists who had forced steep cuts in the spending portion of the stimulus plan -- which at one point last week had grown to almost $940 billion in new tax cuts and domestic spending.

Even after the Senate scaled down its version to $838 billion, approved 61-37 yesterday, the centrists continued to demand more reductions. Senate aides said the targets were reducing Obama's "Make Work Pay" tax cut of $500 a year for most individuals and $1,000 a year for most families, paring it down to $400 and $800, respectively.

Other reductions were likely in a $15,000 tax credit for all home purchases in the next year as well as a tax credit for the purchase of new cars, both of which were added to the Senate bill after little debate.

House Democrats have objected to wholesale deletions from their original bill during the Senate debate, but they appeared likely to see some return of aid to states that totaled $79 billion in their plan. The Senate reduced that figure to $39 billion. Senators also zeroed out a fund that would finance school construction, another priority for which House Democrats are pushing to restore funds.

The wrangling may be the reason that not just Pelosi, but also the White House, have withheld the kudos from what just might be a moderate mish-mash bill:

... in a bewildering _ if temporary _ turn of events, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House withheld immediate expressions of support, and the formal meeting of congressional bargainers who will need to ratify the deal was delayed.

At a news conference in the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, flanked by moderate senators of both parties, said agreement had been reached on a compromise that "creates more jobs than the original Senate bill and costs less than the original House bill."

Pelosi had been frustrated going into the conference:

“Usually you go to conference and split the difference between the two houses — that may not be the case here,” Pelosi said. “At these conferences, my experience has been that the White House has a seat at the table — that they weigh in.”

Both Obama and Pelosi are hoping to restore significant stimulus spending eliminated by the Senate, especially $21 billion in school construction and technology grants, $10.3 billion in COBRA insurance and $8.6 billion in new Medicaid coverage for the unemployed.

Personally, I blame Harry Reid, who has given virtual veto power over the bill to Susan Collins.

Wimp.


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posted by JReid @ 4:59 PM  
Bringing out the best, and the worst, in America
The best thing about this country is that even with its faults, the goodness and decency of most people almost always outweighs the nastiness and callowness of the few. When times are toughest, Americans pull together to help each other, and to support our neighbors, whether it's helping to put the shutters up on the block during hurricane season, or crying for the victims of 9/11 from a thousand miles away. I suppose that's actually true of all human beings, American or not, but hey, let me have my gauzy, patriotic moment.

A prime example of the fundamental goodness of people: Ms. Hughes and her son now have a home. From the Huffpo:
If you were paying attention to Obama's stimulus push yesterday it was hard to miss Henrietta Hughes, a woman on the verge of tears who asked the President to help her with an "urgent need": homelessness. After the Florida town hall where Hughes talked to Obama, a local Fort Myers paper says she was offered a home by State Representative Nick Thompson's wife.
More of the story:
The house is in LaBelle, the first home Scere Thompson bought after law school. She told Hughes, “Just give me the opportunity to help you.”
Rep. Thompson, I should point out, is a Republican, Expect the wingers to try and use this act of kindness to prove that government can't solve problems, since the Rep's wife got to Ms. Hughes before President Obama could (ah, look! They're starting already...) They do that, because "conservatives," broadly written, believe that human beings are fundamentally evil. Everything else they believe proceeds from there. But the right can't have it both ways. They can't sneer at charity and simultaneously claim that charity begins at the GOP.

An interview with Ms. Hughes (before the gift) below:





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posted by JReid @ 1:30 PM  
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The Barack and Charlie show
In Fort Myers today: President Obama and Charlie Crist team up

Let me say again, though I think I've said it before, that Charlie Crist is a very, very smart man. And ambitious. He neutralized lingering questions about his sexuality (at least in the press) by marrying a girl. And he didn't just marry any gil -- he married a rich socialite whose public image and net worth can only help his political fortunes.

He ran and won in 2006 as a moderate Republican, and succeeded in winning over a good number of Democrats (he also won 18 percent of the Black vote.)

He has somehow gotten away with flitting off to Europe for a $400,000 junket, having neutralized the story with ... the wedding to a girl...

When McCain ran for president, Charlie backed him instead of Uncle "Loser" Rudy, and even suffered the indignity of getting onstage with Sarah Palin AND shucking for oil derricks off the coast of Miami, all in an attempt to become vice president.

And when that didn't work out, he went back to being a moderate, and most recently stepped out publicly in support of President Obama and the economic stimulus package, becoming the most prominent governor -- and the first prominent Republican in the country, to do so. He did it early, and he did it at the same time El Rushbo and his former candidate, John McCain, were doing everything in their power to play spoiler.

Charlie got his reward today, in the form of a major big-up from the CIC:

I want to start by thanking your governor, Charlie Crist, for joining us today. Governors understand our economic crisis as well as anyone; they're on the front lines dealing with it every day. And Governor Crist shares my conviction that creating jobs and turning this economy around is a mission that transcends party. When the town is burning, we don't check party labels. Everyone needs to grab a hose!

Governor Crist and governors across the country understand that. Mayors across the country understand that. And I think you understand that, too. Which is what I want to talk about today.
Crist's embrace of the stiumulus is good policy and good politics, especially for a guy who may yet run for Senate (against, among others, Kendrick Meek, who press released his "accompanying" of President Obama to Fort Myers "aboard Air Force One" yesterday, but who didn't get much of a photo op out of it, while Crist got to introduce the president), and who already has crossover appeal among Democrats, who sometimes appear to like him better than his own base does. In a state that's trending blue, pissing off a few GOP hardliners probably helps Crist, rather than hurting him, especially since his actions, unlike his silly "drill here, drill now" fakery, will likely result in billions of dollars flowing into the state, while his opponents are only promising to say no, and say it often.

Related: Politico points out the similarities between Obama and Crist.

Also in Politico: Crist says yes, Mel says no. (And wouldn't that contrast be helpful for a would-be GOP Senator running against the tide of Democratic salivating over 60 votes in the Senate... what if the 60th vote could be a guy named Charlie...?)

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Check out the ReidBlog
Charlie Crist thread!


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posted by JReid @ 2:03 PM  
Monday, February 09, 2009
Obama nails it
In his prime time press conference tonight, President Obama laid into the opposition party with a velvet glove, that happened to have a pretty tightly clenched fist beneath it. He chided members of the other ideological party whose opening or final negotiation position is that government should "do nothing" while the economy continues to head off a cliff, saying they are alone in that ideological fixation, while most economists and people of common sense are with him. The bottom line is that something must be done, and that only government has the spending wherewithall to do it. The Republican formulation that if we just stand far back enough from the edge, we won't hear the screams as loudly as the cart carrying our economic future goes over the side.

Obama made a simple, succinct, and forceful case for his economic recovery plan, uttering the world "stimulus" only twice, and seemingly unintentionally. He gave complex, intelligent answers to economic and foreign policy questions, and even one on A-Rod -- a nice change after eight years of dumbass. Okay, sorry, that was partisan of me. Not very Age of Obama... but what is? Calling on Sam Stein of the Huffpo. Nice work if you can get it, Sam...

The president also answered a question that's been vexing me and many other Democrats: who the hell cares about bipartisanship??? His answer: "I didn't do [all of that outreach to Republicans] for a few vote this week. I did it for the long term," and to build good will that he can use for the next four years. Full answer:
You know, when I made a series of overtures to the Republicans, going over to meet with both Republican caucuses, you know, putting three Republicans in my cabinet -- something that is unprecedented -- making sure that they were invited here to the White House to talk about the economic recovery plan, all those were not designed simply to get some short-term votes. They were designed to try to build up some trust over time.
Obama didn't take the bait from Helen Thomas when she asked him if any Middle Eastern countries have nukes (read: Israel) and he wouldn't be pinned down on a timetable for Afghanistan, negotiations with Iran, or whether his administration will allow the media to view the flag draped coffins of our fallen troops. Not quite transparency, but I can live with it.

UPDATE: The Huffpo has the full transcript of the presser. Representative clip:

As I said, the one concern I've got on the stimulus package, in terms of the debate and listening to some of what's been said in Congress, is that there seems to be a set of folks who -- I don't doubt their sincerity -- who just believe that we should do nothing.

Now, if that's their opening position or their closing position in negotiations, then we're probably not going to make much progress, because I don't think that's economically sound and I don't think what -- that's what the American people expect, is for us to stand by and do nothing.

There are others who recognize that we've got to do a significant recovery package, but they're concerned about the mix of what's in there. And if they're sincere about it, then I'm happy to have conversations about this tax cut versus that -- that tax cut or this infrastructure project versus that infrastructure project.

But what I've -- what I've been concerned about is some of the language that's been used suggesting that this is full of pork and this is wasteful government spending, so on and so forth.

First of all, when I hear that from folks who presided over a doubling of the national debt, then, you know, I just want them to not engage in some revisionist history. I inherited the deficit that we have right now and the economic crisis that we have right now.

Number two is that, although there are some programs in there that I think are good policy, some of them aren't job-creators. I think it's perfectly legitimate to say that those programs should be out of this particular recovery package and we can deal with them later.

But when they start characterizing this as pork, without acknowledging that there are no earmarks in this package -- something, again, that was pretty rare over the last eight years -- then you get a feeling that maybe we're playing politics instead of actually trying to solve problems for the American people.

All I can say is, this guy's got extraordinar swag... And no, I'm not fantasizing (sick, twisted wenches...)



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posted by JReid @ 9:26 PM  
Michael Steele: Embarrasment to humanity
Separated at birth: RNC Buffoon in Chief Michael Steele (left)
and Digital Underground's Shock G as "Humpty Hump"


Michael Steele continues to humiliate himself, publicly. Fresh off his ridiculous appearance on "This Week" in which he contended that government and construction jobs aren't jobs, and allegations that he put his sister on the campaign payroll after her business went belly-up, now, he's using street slang to try and trash up the GOP image a bit. From Politico:

Just ran into new RNC Chairman Michael Steele who watched President Obama's town hall in Indiana and wasn't impressed.

The Obama-backed stimulus, he said, "is just a wish list from a lot of people who have been on the sidelines for years.. to get a little bling, bling."

(For the record -- we Nexis-ed "Ed Gillespie" and "bling" and found nothing)

You know how you felt the first time you saw your parents try to dance "cool" ...? Yeah. That's the feeling.

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Flashback:

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posted by JReid @ 6:44 PM  
A centrist disaster
Paul Krugman feels about the same way I do about the Senate "compromise" wrought by newly emboldened "centrist" Mafiosa Susan Collins of Maine. It sucks:

What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?

A proud centrist. For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished.

Even if the original Obama plan — around $800 billion in stimulus, with a substantial fraction of that total given over to ineffective tax cuts — had been enacted, it wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will amount to $2.9 trillion over the next three years.

Yet the centrists did their best to make the plan weaker and worse.

One of the best features of the original plan was aid to cash-strapped state governments, which would have provided a quick boost to the economy while preserving essential services. But the centrists insisted on a $40 billion cut in that spending.

The original plan also included badly needed spending on school construction; $16 billion of that spending was cut. It included aid to the unemployed, especially help in maintaining health care — cut. Food stamps — cut. All in all, more than $80 billion was cut from the plan, with the great bulk of those cuts falling on precisely the measures that would do the most to reduce the depth and pain of this slump.

On the other hand, the centrists were apparently just fine with one of the worst provisions in the Senate bill, a tax credit for home buyers. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research calls this the “flip your house to your brother” provision: it will cost a lot of money while doing nothing to help the economy.

All in all, the centrists’ insistence on comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted will, if reflected in the final bill, lead to substantially lower employment and substantially more suffering.
Krugman blames the Obama administration's seeming obsession with bipartisanship for the worsening of the bill, and I agree. It's time to stop trying to coddle the opposition and start recognizing that there's a reason they are where they are. Giving Susan Collins a veto over the proposal so that she can play Cruella de Ville, demanding that no more money be given to those awful poor people and children, is a hell of a rotten negotiating position for the White House to be in.

Meanwhile, over at Firedoglake, Attaturk places the blame not on centrists, but on southern conservatives, whom he says have managed to be wrong throughout the entirety of American history:
WRONG. ABOUT. EVERY. F***ING. THING. From holding back the economic development of the early nation, to slavery, to the Civil War, to Jim Crow, to Segregation, to the minimum wage, to maximum hours, to workplace safety, to workers compensation, to food safety, to child labor, to isolationism, to the FDIC, to Social Security, to the union movement, to Red Baiting, to woman's suffrage, to anti-intellectualism, to workplace discrimination, to State's Rights, to the Voting Rights Act, to equal pay, to religious fundamentalism, to loving guns more than life itself, to anti-Catholicism, to anti-Semitism, to Vietnam, to the War on Terror, to birth control, to not taxing while really spending, to homophobia, to clean water, to environmentalism, to making the rubble bounce on brown people, to supporting torture, to police abuse, to global warming, to outlawing precious and blessed foreplay between consenting adults, generation after generation, they've been the assholes of the nation.
Damn, he's right!


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posted by JReid @ 3:38 PM  
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Sunday best: Michael Steele says work is not a job
On "This Week" today, the RNC's new, black face, confused the hell out of the rest of us, telling George Stephanopoulos that a job created by the government isn't really a job at all. It's "work," and work is most definitely NOT ... a job ... Confused? Read on:
STEELE: You've got to look at what's going to create sustainable jobs. What this administration is talking about is making work. It is creating work.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's a job.

STEELE: No, it's not a job. A job is something that -- that a business owner creates. It's going to be long term. What he's creating...

STEPHANOPOULOS: So a job doesn't count if it's a government job?

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Hold on. No, let me -- let me -- let me finish. That is a contract. It ends at a certain point, George. You know that. These road projects that we're talking about have an end point.

As a small-business owner, I'm looking to grow my business, expand my business. I want to reach further. I want to be international. I want to be national. It's a whole different perspective on how you create a job versus how you create work. And I'm -- either way, the bottom line is...

STEPHANOPOULOS: I guess I don't really understand that distinction.

STEELE: Well, the difference -- the distinction is this. If a government -- if you've got a government contract that is a fixed period of time, it goes away. The work may go away. That's -- there's no guarantee that that -- that there's going to be more work when you're done in that job.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but we've seen millions and millions of jobs going away in the private sector just in the last year.

STEELE: But they come -- yes, they -- and they come back, though, George. That's the point. When they go -- they've gone away before, and they come back.
Huh? Watch it and see if it makes more sense that way...



Now it appears what Steele was trying to say is that government-created infrastructure jobs, i.e., construction, road and bridge engineering and planning, etc., aren't "real jobs" because they're temporary, unlike the permanent, sustainable jobs created by the private sec...tor ... which just laid off 600,000 people last month... ohhhh.... hmmm.... problemo...

And just in case you think Steele just made that up on the fly, think again. He has said it before, and added that government has never ... EVER ... in the history of mankind... created a job. Seriously.

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posted by JReid @ 6:46 PM  
Friday, February 06, 2009
Obama calls out the Obsructionists
The GOP continues to fiddle while the country burns. Today, Barack Obama continued his "calling out the losers" tour:

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama decried as "inexcusable and irresponsible" the delay of his economic recovery legislation in Congress with an estimated 3.6 million Americans losing their jobs since the recession began.

Obama's remarks were some of his most direct and pointed in support of the massive economic package that the Senate considered Friday and tried to pare down below its $900-billion-plus price tag. Obama acknowledged it was not perfect and pledged to work with lawmakers to refine the measure, which he called "absolutely necessary."

"But broadly speaking, the package is the right size, it is the right scope, and it has the right priorities to create 3 to 4 million jobs, and to do it in a way that lays the groundwork for long-term growth," Obama said at a ceremony in the White House East Room.

The president named an outside economic team of advisers as the nation dealt with more bad news in the unemployment report for January. Employers slashed payrolls by 598,000, the most since the end of 1974, propelling the unemployment rate to 7.6 percent. The rate is the highest since September 1992.

"These numbers demand action. It is inexcusable and irresponsible for any of us to get bogged down in distraction, delay or politics as usual while millions of Americans are being put out of work," Obama said bluntly. "Now is the time for Congress to act."

Meanwhile, the staggering job losses that aren't phasing the GOPers, apparently, continue to bite the hell out of the rest of us.

Most Americans remain confident in Obama, by the way, and most of us want the damned stimulus bill passed, including 70 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans.


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posted by JReid @ 5:07 PM  
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Obama plan will limit executive pay
Score one for the fabulous Claire McCaskill. Obama has adopted her plan (which, to be fair, was first proposed by Bernie Sanders...) From the IHT:
The Obama administration is expected to impose a cap of $500,000 on the compensation of top executives at companies that receive large amounts of federal bailout money, according to people familiar with the plan.

Under new rules to be announced by the Treasury Department as early as Wednesday, executives would also be prohibited from receiving any bonuses above their base pay, except for normal stock dividends.

The new rules would be far tougher than any restrictions imposed during the Bush administration, and they could force executives in the months ahead to accept deep reductions in their current pay.

Executives at companies that have already received money from Treasury Department would not have to make any changes. But analysts and administration officials are bracing for a huge wave of new losses, largely because of the deepening recession, and many companies that have already received federal aid may be seeking more.

The rub:
Under the Treasury's $700 billion rescue program, most companies that have received money so far have been considered "healthy" rather than on the brink of collapse.

But five of the biggest companies that got federal aid – Citigroup, Bank of America and American International Group, General Motors and Chrysler -- were all facing acute problems. And top executives at those companies made far more than $500,000 annually in recent years.

Kenneth Lewis, the chief executive of Bank of America, made more than $20 million in 2007. Of that, $5.75 million was in salary and bonuses.

Vikram Pandit, who became chief executive of Citigroup in December of 2007 and previously held other senior positions at the bank, made $3.1 million.

Richard Wagoner, the chief executive of General Motors, made $14.4 million, much of it in stock, options and other non-cash benefits. He earned a $1.6 million annual salary.

"That is pretty draconian — $500,000 is not a lot of money, particularly if there is no bonus," said James Reda, founder and managing director of James F. Reda & Associates, a compensation consulting firm. "And you know these companies that are in trouble are not going to pay much of an annual dividend."
Not a lot of money? Get over yourselves. If you want tax dollars, no more free lunch. By the way, the plan is $100,000 more generous than what McCaskill or Sanders proposed, which was to cap the salaries of the hat in hand crowd at what the president makes.

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posted by JReid @ 8:54 AM  
Friday, January 30, 2009
The final word on the Bush years
The final quarter of the Bush era was as bad as you thought it was ... almost...
The economy shrank at a 3.8 percent pace at the end of 2008, the worst showing in a quarter-century, as the deepening recession forced consumers and businesses to throttle back spending.

Although the initial result was better than economists expected, the figure is likely to be revised even lower in the months ahead and some believe the economy is contracting in the current quarter at an even faster pace.

The new figure, released Friday by the Commerce Department, showed the economy sinking at a much faster clip in the October-December period than the 0.5 percent decline logged in prior quarter.

Although economists expected an even worse fourth-quarter performance — a staggering 5.4 percent rate of decline — the results were still grim.

Meanwhile, things weren't as bad for some people as for others. Those who did better than the rest of us include...

Bank executives, who handed out about $18 billion in bonuses to themselves, as a reward for screwing up the mortgage market... (President Obama scolded them roundly for it today.)

Exxon Mobile, which posted earth shattering, record profits of $45.2 billion, due to Bushian sky-high oil prices through most of last year. And get this: those profits were DOWN 33%...

And last, and actually, least ... Rudy Giuliani, who's still getting people to listen to him warble, on cable TV, talk radio and on and on, despite having gotten exactly ONE electoral vote during his presidential campaign, and becoming the laughing stock, not just of New York, but of the world, with his scandal-tainted, one state strategy bid for greatness.

Other than that, it's all bad news.


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posted by JReid @ 10:52 AM  
Friday, January 16, 2009
Obama wins one before the swearing in, even
The Senate just says yes to giving Team Obama the second half of the TARP fund. The vote was 52-42, and it's counter-intuitive, but a "no" vote meant yes, give him the dough. (Lieberman Watch Update: Traitor Joe voted, as he should, with the Dems.) Meanwhile, the price tag for the economic stimulus bill tops $825 billion.

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posted by JReid @ 2:02 AM  
Friday, January 09, 2009
The Big News Post: Damn, this economy sucks!
The U.S. economy is shedding jobs like dog hair ... unemployment has hit a 16-year high of 7.2 percent ... with 524,000 jobs lost in December alone (projections put it at 9 percent or more by next year):

The economy lost an astonishing 1.9 million jobs in the past four months alone, an acceleration in layoffs toward the end of a year that brought the biggest drop in employment in more than a half century.

For all of 2008, the economy shed 2.6 million jobs, the largest decline since a 2.75 million drop in 1945.

The December data pointed to a bleak start for 2009 and increased chances the economic downturn could become the longest since the 1930s.

Great Depression? Maybe so. BTW re Obama's stimulus plan: Krugman is not amused.

Why isn’t Mr. Obama trying to do more?

Is the plan being limited by fear of debt? There are dangers associated with large-scale government borrowing — and this week’s C.B.O. report projected a $1.2 trillion deficit for this year. But it would be even more dangerous to fall short in rescuing the economy. The president-elect spoke eloquently and accurately on Thursday about the consequences of failing to act — there’s a real risk that we’ll slide into a prolonged, Japanese-style deflationary trap — but the consequences of failing to act adequately aren’t much better.

Is the plan being limited by a lack of spending opportunities? There are only a limited number of “shovel-ready” public investment projects — that is, projects that can be started quickly enough to help the economy in the near term. But there are other forms of public spending, especially on health care, that could do good while aiding the economy in its hour of need.

Or is the plan being limited by political caution? Press reports last month indicated that Obama aides were anxious to keep the final price tag on the plan below the politically sensitive trillion-dollar mark. There also have been suggestions that the plan’s inclusion of large business tax cuts, which add to its cost but will do little for the economy, is an attempt to win Republican votes in Congress.
Meanwhile, more proof that Bush's $700 billion TARP swindle was just that: a massive giveaway to the country's largest banks, in exchange for nothing. Nothing for mortgage holders, nothing for taxpayers, though they did give bonuses to their CEOs and dividends to their richest investors. Hopefully, Obama will scrap the plan and use the remaining $350 billion to beef up his stimulus plan.

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posted by JReid @ 2:03 PM  
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Merkel makes a funny
Okay, I know it's Christmas, but this one was too good to pass up. A joke from the German Chancellor:
With capitalist Washington forced to buy shares of major banks to stop them going bust after years of loose regulation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in Communist East Germany, was quoted in Focus magazine telling her Cabinet the following joke: "What's the difference between Communism and Capitalism? Answer: The Communists nationalised all the companies first -- and then ruined them."
Any of you folks from out of town...?

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posted by JReid @ 3:28 PM  
Obama's Christmas message
The president-elect delivers a holiday message to the troops, those who are hurting economically this holiday season, and to the rest of country he will soon lead. Watch:



Meanwhile, Obama sports an 82% approval rating for his transition.

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posted by JReid @ 10:48 AM  
Saturday, December 20, 2008
The bonership society
The Bush administration 1.0

The New York Times digs into the housing mess, and finds a Bush in there. A clip:

The president’s first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission promised a “kinder, gentler” agency. The second was pushed out amid industry complaints that he was too aggressive. Under its current leader, the agency failed to police the catastrophic decisions that toppled the investment bank Bear Stearns and contributed to the current crisis, according to a recent inspector general’s report.

As for Mr. Bush’s banking regulators, they once brandished a chain saw over a 9,000-page pile of regulations as they promised to ease burdens on the industry. When states tried to use consumer protection laws to crack down on predatory lending, the comptroller of the currency blocked the effort, asserting that states had no authority over national banks.

The administration won that fight at the Supreme Court. But Roy Cooper, North Carolina’s attorney general, said, “They took 50 sheriffs off the beat at a time when lending was becoming the Wild West.”

The president did push rules aimed at forcing lenders to more clearly explain loan terms. But the White House shelved them in 2004, after industry-friendly members of Congress threatened to block confirmation of his new housing secretary.

In the 2004 election cycle, mortgage bankers and brokers poured nearly $847,000 into Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign, more than triple their contributions in 2000, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The administration did not finalize the new rules until last month.

Among the Republican Party’s top 10 donors in 2004 was Roland Arnall. He founded Ameriquest, then the nation’s largest lender in the subprime market, which focuses on less creditworthy borrowers. In July 2005, the company agreed to set aside $325 million to settle allegations in 30 states that it had preyed on borrowers with hidden fees and ballooning payments. It was an early signal that deceptive lending practices, which would later set off a wave of foreclosures, were widespread.

Andrew H. Card Jr., Mr. Bush’s former chief of staff, said White House aides discussed Ameriquest’s troubles, though not what they might portend for the economy. Mr. Bush had just nominated Mr. Arnall as his ambassador to the Netherlands, and the White House was primarily concerned with making sure he would be confirmed.

“Maybe I was asleep at the switch,” Mr. Card said in an interview.
Ya think??? Sheesh ... It's a long article. Read it from the top, here. I do think the Times puts too much focus on lower income borrowers in this piece, rather than also focusing on all of the middle class buyers who "traded up" to homes they couldn't afford, and those who saw the easy money loans as an opportunity to "flip and grow rich." But the article does lay out the main culprit: a shredding of federal regulations; something the GOP continues to see as the Holy Grail of "governing."

Flashback: Who's to blame for the housing crisis?



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posted by JReid @ 11:17 PM  
Friday, December 12, 2008
Granholm says it all
The governor of Michigan makes it plain:

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) said it was "un-American" for senators to have voted against approving a bailout of troubled automakers last night, saying their vote may cause a recession to become a depression.

"It is unacceptable for this un-American, frankly, behavior of these U.S. senators to cause this country to go from a recession into a depression," Granholm said during a radio interview Friday morning.

Negotiations over an agreement to assist Michigan's Big Three stalled last night in a 52-35 vote on a procedural motion to bring up the package for a vote. Republicans largely opposed the bill after it failed to win concessions from the United Automotive Workers union on wages and benefits.

“It is such an unbelievable stab at workers across the country,” Granholm added. “You give this big bailout to these financial institutions–don’t ask a single question, they can do what they want–and then you lay the blame for the auto industry, which is a victim of this financial meltdown, on the backs of the people who are working on the line.”

Bottom line: there is a party of working men, and a party of capitalists, and the latter's mantra is "low prices, low wages, maximum profits."

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posted by JReid @ 5:41 PM  
When Katrina hit, the Big Three didn't ask the south for a 'detailed recovery plan'
Great points made in this piece by the Detroit Free Press' Tom Walsh.

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posted by JReid @ 5:03 PM  
Gettelfinger names names
The UAW president calls out the Dixie Axis:

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said today that U.S. automobile companies are being put at a disadvantage by government in competing against Volkswagen’s new auto assembly plant in Chattanooga.

The union leader questioned why government leaders in Tennessee are willing to provide assistance to the German-based Volkswagen while the state’s U.S. senators declined to back a federal loan to help the Big Three U.S. car makers.

Mr. Gettelfinger said that trying to equalize UAW pay with what foreign car makers pay in the United States, as urged by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is like comparing apples to oranges. In its home country, Germany provides government-paid health care for Volkswagen workers, and VW is receiving $577.4 million in tax breaks and direct assistance from Tennessee governments to build an automobile plant in Chattanooga.

They use taxpayer dollars to subsidize our competition,” Mr. Gettelfinger said during a news conference. “It doesn’t help our industry.”

The GOP has, officially I think, lost the Great Lakes region for at least a generation. Ohio included. Good luck being the party of the former Confederacy, boys.

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posted by JReid @ 4:50 PM  
Yes to banks, no to working stiffs
ThinkProgress has the list of Senators who said "oh yeah!" to bailing out Wall Street bankers to the tune of $700 billion, but who couldn't find it in their little coal colored hearts to help the American auto industry. Here they are:
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Sen. Kay Hutchison (R-TX)
Sen. John Isakson (R-GA)
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL)
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
There were another 10 Senators who voted for the TARP but were absent for last night's vote on the automakers:
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Sen.Ted Stevens (R-AK)
Sen. John Sununu (R-NH)
Some had better excuses than others for not being around:
iden was tending to transition duties, while Kerry was in Poznan, Poland, participating in U.N. climate change talks. Alexander was home recovering from surgery. Why did these other Senators feel auto workers weren’t as deserving as Wall Street? We’d like to know.
Yeah, me too...

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posted by JReid @ 4:39 PM  
To the rescue: Henry Paulsen and George Bush???
The White House appears ready to step in to prevent General Motors and Chrysler from collapsing on George W. Bush's watch. From the WaPo:
The Bush administration said today it is willing to consider using funds from other sources to provide emergency aid to the nation's Big Three car companies following the Senate's rejection Thursday night of a congressional bailout plan.

The statement from White House spokeswoman Dana Perino marks a shift in tone for the administration, which has so far rejected the idea of using money from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program or other sources under its control to help the auto industry survive. After the collapse of negotiations in Congress, however, the White House said all options are on the table to help keep the automakers in business. GM and Chrysler have said they are in critical need of help, while Ford's position is less dire.

"Under normal economic conditions we would prefer that markets determine the ultimate fate of private firms," the White House statement said. "However, given the current weakened state of the U.S. economy, we will consider other options if necessary -- including use of the TARP program -- to prevent a collapse of

"A precipitous collapse of this industry would have a severe impact on our economy, and it would be irresponsible to further weaken and destabilize our economy at this time," the statement said.

An official at the Treasury Department, which administers the TARP, said separately that the agency was "ready to prevent an imminent failure" of the auto companies, the Reuters wire service reported.

The reason for the urgency: suppliers to GM can't extend credit to the company so it can keep producing cars, so GM will have to ... stop producing cars. And the reason for that? The banks who received hundreds of billions of your tax dollars, refuses to lend the money out, including to the suppliers.

DETROIT -- Cash-starved General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC within weeks will be hit by $9 billion in bills for already-delivered auto parts, a tab they likely can't afford to pay without emergency government assistance.

Parts suppliers, hammered in recent months by a severe downturn in U.S. auto sales, face shortfalls of their own if the auto makers fail to pay.

The impending payments to suppliers, which in GM's case account for nearly half the cash the company had available at the end of the third quarter, present the most immediate threat to the auto makers as they plead for a lifeline from the Bush administration following the defeat of a $14 billion auto loan package late Thursday by the Senate.

Concerns are rising that parts manufacturers now could take steps to tighten payment terms, which would accelerate the cash burn that threatens the viability of the auto makers.

"We need to satisfy suppliers that there is going to be a tomorrow," United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger said Friday at a news conference.

"If suppliers believe they can't operate, what are they going to do? They aren't going to deliver the goods. If they don't deliver the goods, the plants go down," the UAW chief added.

The reality is that many of the suppliers are just as challenged as GM and Chrysler, which have said they need more than $10 billion in government assistance by year's end to avoid collapse. Just as the auto makers rely on their suppliers and the trade credit they provide, parts manufacturers have suppliers of their own.

Meanwhile, in one of those patented "strange bedfellows situations," the UAW is now putting its faith in President Bush, having been failed by a weak Senate majority leader, and a wicked bunch of Dixiecans whose goal, after all, was to crush the UAW.

UPDATE: Dubya has apparently been warned by George Voinovich that if he doesn't act, he'll be known as "George Herbert Hoover Bush," and apparently, the Dark Lord sent the same message to his party ...

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posted by JReid @ 4:28 PM  
Big Three rescue falure meets Asia
Asian markets are down sharply this morning after southern Republicans tank the auto bailout. From CNN Money, proof that Shelby, Corker and McConnell's scheme to tank Detroit in order to
help Japan and Germany didn't quite work that way:

A week of solid gains ended on a sour note for Asian markets Friday as stocks across sectors got hammered after a $14 billion government bailout of the Big Three automakers collapsed in the U.S. Senate.

Regional car makers such as Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co., who depend heavily on the U.S. market, plunged in afternoon trading.

Major global currencies also plunged against the yen as risk-averse investors reversed their short sales of the Japanese currency after Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said the Democratic and Republican Senators failed to reach a compromise on the bailout package, which cleared the House of Representatives Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, GM is seeking advice from bankruptcy counsel.

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posted by JReid @ 8:21 AM  
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Three-time un-American
Left to right: Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and
Richard Shelby (R-Bama.) Are they acting as agents of foreign governments?


The pared down, $14 billion Big Three bailout loan deal, passed the House today, but appears dead in the Senate after talks broke down late tonight, mostly because of the objections of a trio of southern Senators, who had vowed to kill the bill there with a good old fashioned, Old Dixie filibuster, unless the auto workers' union agrees to "bring their members' wages and benefits in line with those of Japanese automakers.' And while you digest the fact of American Senators calling for U.S. workers to bow and scrape for whatever foreign companies have on offer, ask yourself these questions:

Why would three southern Senators want to kill the American automotive industry? Would United States Senators really attempt to crush a crucial part of our homegrown industrial base on behalf of foreign automakers? And if so, shouldn't Richard Shelby of Alabama, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have to register with the attorney general as agents of foreign governments? After all, Japan and Germany heavily subsidize their auto industries, and both countries provide universal healthcare, which is one big reason Toyota, Honda, Volkswagon, et.al have much lower legacy costs than the Big Three. And when these companies earn profits, what they don't pay in federal and payroll taxes, goes right back to their home governments, hence our three Senators are in essence, lobbying on behalf of Tokyo and Berlin.

To backtrack, these three gentlemen, and I use the term very loosely, all-but promised to kill a deal to bail out the Big Three in Washington, even though one of them, McConnell, was key to passing the much bigger bank bailout. The problem? Again, not bailouts, per se. They're for them when it comes to the banks (except Corker, who voted against the Wall Street handout.) The trouble here, is that all three of these guys have major foreign automakers implanted in their states, those automakers having been drawn to places like Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee by billions of dollars in ... you guessed it ... (state) government handouts. Crippling Detroit, even at the cost of millions of American jobs, could only help the Senators' foreign clients out, in no small part by breaking the United Auto Workers union, and preventing it from attempting to unionize southern auto workers, thereby reserving the preferred status conferred on the Toyotas, Hondas and Volkswagons of the world. From the Detroit Free Press:

Alabama is home to plants for Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota. Tennessee is getting a new Volkswagen plant and is home to Nissan’s North American headquarters and other manufacturing facilities.

Georgetown, Ky., in McConnell’s home state, is the site of Toyota’s biggest plant outside Japan.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, a supporter of the auto industry rescue plan, said he’s still waiting for specifics on what the legislation’s critics are demanding.

“I think it’s antiunion. I think that’s the motivation behind it,” said Mike Kennedy, 44, of Warren, a member of UAW Local 961 who works at Chrysler’s Detroit Axle plant on Lynch Road. “They want us to file for bankruptcy so they can walk away from their obligations.”

Kennedy said he’s hearing a lot of anger toward Southern senators among rank-and-file members, likening it to a civil war ready to break out again, North against South.
And then there's the small matter of politics: the UAW is a big booster of Democratic Senate candidates, and who needs that, right boys?

What this crisis has created is the unbelievable spectacle of supposedly loyal Americans, starting with Mssrs. Shelby and Corker, demanding that American auto workers accept whatever wages foreign automakers pay their employees, essentially reducing these United States Senators to bag men for the former Axis powers. In fact, freshman Senator Corker's plan read like a World War II appeasement letter:
Corker's four-point plan requires existing bondholders to accept 30 cents on the dollar to help reduce automakers' debt, and force the car companies and United Auto Workers to bring wages immediately in line with foreign automakers. It also would drop supplemental unemployment payments to workers. He also wants the UAW to agree to take half of the payments they are owed from Detroit's automakers to fund a trust the union would manage beginning in 2010 to pay for retiree health care. In exchange, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC would get up to $14 billion in emergency loans immediately to help them fund their operations. If they didn't get concessions by March 15, they would have to file for bankruptcy.
So what else is Bobby Corker famous for, besides making oodles of money in real estate and beating Harold Ford Jr. in 2006 with the help of that "call me" ad? Luring foreign automakers to his home state, of course, and hating on Detroit:
He grew up in Chattanooga, a city that was repeatedly rejected by U.S. auto makers as a site for new plants. But Volkswagen turned around Chattanooga’s fortunes in July by agreeing to build a $1 billion assembly plant near the city–the German auto maker’s first assembly plant in the U.S. Volkswagen plans to build hundreds of thousands of vehicles there in the next few years, providing 2,000 manufacturing jobs as well as countless more jobs in supply and logistics. So, where the Big Three had let the city down, Volkswagen capped the city’s long-desired industrial revival. As Corker told the Associated Press at the time, the city “will never be the same again.” Volkswagen is building the plant to compete with Toyota Motor, which puts Chattanooga inside the most competitive dynamics in the global auto industry.
McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has made no secret of his eagerness to see the American auto industry say "sayonara" so that the Japanese can keep greasing up non-union Kentucky:

GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell’s not so concerned about the death of the US auto industry because Japanese companies make cars in his state:

“We also have other auto manufacturers who are doing quite well,” McConnell said, naming Toyota’s Georgetown, Ky., operation. “It happens not to be American companies and that is sad. But it’s not like we don’t have success in the auto industry. We do.”

And Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate banking committee, has been equally skeptical of the absolute need to have a strictly "American" automobile industry:

WASHINGTON (Nov. 19) - Sen. Richard Shelby, who represents a state with 134,000 people who help build cars for Asian and European companies, was unpersuaded Tuesday when American auto executives asked Congress for emergency financial aid to stay afloat.

"Are we here in the Senate being asked to facilitate a stronger, more competitive auto manufacturing sector, or to perpetuate a market failure?" Shelby asked at the opening of a standing-room-only hearing on Capitol Hill.

After the hearing, he concluded that it was the latter.

And about those state subsidies, you know, the government money being thrown at an auto industry, only the governments are former Confederate states and the automakers are NOT American? Well ... it's a LOT of money:

Shelby's position is not merely that of a fiscal conservative. His home state has provided millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to lure Honda, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz to build huge plants there. Indeed, some critics believe that without the incentives from Alabama - and similar tax breaks given by a number of other states to a dozen foreign automakers - the Detroit companies would not need a federal bailout.

The foreign-based automakers have received relatively little attention during the debate over the auto bailout bill because they have not asked for money from Con gress. Yet their role is immense: In 2007, for the first time, foreign firms produced a majority of cars sold in the United States. While Detroit's auto industry is shutting plants and slashing union jobs, the foreign-based auto companies have been booming, particularly in the South, with new nonunion plants slated to open in Tennessee and Georgia.

House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who is playing a key role in hammering out a loan deal, said in an interview that some opponents are "completely hypocritical" because they back local tax incentives to lure foreign companies that now pose some of Detroit's stiffest competition. Frank also denounced those members of Congress who oppose the assistance for the Detroit automakers as a matter of fiscal prudence at the same time they fight for agricultural subsidies for their states.

So how much money are we talking?

It is difficult to ascertain the exact amount of tax subsidies provided to the foreign automakers because they are provided by so many localities and in different ways, including property tax breaks and corporate tax abatements. One study found that the total subsidies to foreign automakers exceeded $2 billion.

Alabama paid more up front per job in tax subsidies to the foreign automakers than Detroit is asking per job with the loans, said Cole of the automotive center.

I've heard figures of upwards of $250,000 per job gained. Meanwhile, the GOP is about to preside over the flushing of 3 million jobs and the pensions of 850,000 retirees ... many in swing states. For Shelby, Corker and McConnell, who live in ruby red states, that may not matter. But it will matter to their party, which will be blamed ... make no mistake about it ... if the Big Three, or even just General Motors, vanish under Bush's watch. Believe it.

I say all of this, by the way, as one who is no fan of the "built in obsolescence" crowd that's been running the U.S. auto industry for a generation (and the moron politicians who heaped SUV tax break largesse on them), and as somebody who specifically detests the Ford Motor Company (my three-year-old Expedition having literally exploded in my driveway a couple of years ago, and the company having sniveled out of responsibility for it, and sent me a nice letter about the ignition switch recall the NEXT DAY.) My mother had a Chevy Cavalier when I was growing up that was a piece of shit, too. In fact, all our cars when I was growing up were made by General Motors, and the only one that was worth a plug nickel was my gigantic 1974 Buick Apollo that my mom's best friend gave me for $300 my senior year in high school (in 1986. Hey, you can fit a lot of friends in a Buick Apollo...) I have, on occasion, vowed out loud to never buy another mother-bleeping American car. And yet, at my house, we have one foreign and one domestic -- an Acura and a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. I drive the Jeep. And I must admit, I love the bloody thing. But what's most important is that for all their faults, and I think all of the management should be fired, I believe that whatever Shelby, Corker and McConnell might think, America simply cannot remain an industrial power without a homegrown manufacturing industry, and right now, the auto industry is the biggest manufacuring sector left. If we let it go, even 10 million Honda jobs in Dixie at Wal-Mart wages won't buy us back our economic clout.

I end with a few prophetic words from Patrick J. Buchanan:

In the 1950s, we made all our own toys, clothes, shoes, bikes, furniture, motorcycles, cars, cameras, telephones, TVs, etc. You name it. We made it.

Are we better off now that these things are made by foreigners? Are we better off now that we have ceased to be self-sufficient? Are we better off now that the real wages of our workers and median income of our families no longer grow as they once did? Are we better off now that manufacturing, for the first time in U.S. history, employs fewer workers than government?

We no longer build commercial ships. We have but one airplane company, and it outsources. China produces our computers. And if GM goes Chapter 11, America will soon be out of the auto business.

Our politicians and pundits may not understand what is going on. Historians will have no problem explaining the decline and fall of the Americans.


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posted by JReid @ 10:20 PM  
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Support the Republic workers
The worker sit-in at Chicago's Republic Windows and Doors enters its fifth day, as those facing layoffs demand severance and vacation pay. The problem: the company is out of cash, and its banker Bank of America, won't extend a line of credit, even after BofA received billions in bailout money from taxpayers. From today's Chicago Tribune:
A standoff between workers at Republic Windows & Doors and its owners and bank over the plant's closing stretched into a fifth day after talks produced no agreement despite considerable political pressure and threats of investigations.

The 240 union workers staging a sit-in at the plant on Goose Island in Chicago decided to stay put at least until negotiations between their representatives and company owners and Bank of America continue Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, workers were visited by a parade of politicians, including Gov. Rod Blagojevich and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who voiced their support for the workers while threatening Republic and Bank of America with lost business, legal action and federal inquiry. At City Hall, Chicago aldermen called for hearings on Republic, which had received about $10.4 million in city redevelopment funds as of the end of 2007, according to city documents.

Workers have been occupying the building since its abrupt closing Friday. They are protesting the loss of what they said is vacation and severance pay they've earned and the lack of notice about the closing. The federal WARN Act requires 60-day notice of a plant's closing.

Many said Monday that they appreciated the encouragement and national attention, recognizing that their effort had tapped into concerns about job security in a declining economy.

"I'm not scared because I'm not alone on this," said Raul Flores, 25, who had worked at Republic for eight years. "We're strong and we're going to stay. This gives us the strength to keep going. This is going to be for everyone."

Durbin said he would raise questions in Washington about whether billions of dollars of federal bailout money given to struggling banks is being properly used. Gutierrez urged a federal investigation into the company's failure to make required severance payments.

"The taxpayer dollars going into these big banks are not for dividends, they're not for executive salaries, they're for loans and credit to businesses just like Republic so they can stay in business and so these workers won't be out on the street unemployed," Durbin said.

Bank of America cut its line of credit to Republic, which the company said forced the plant's closing last week. Blagojevich threatened that the state would suspend all business with the bank until the Republic matter was resolved. Aldermen and Cook County officials also proposed suspending business with the bank and withdrawing hundreds of millions of dollars. ...
Of course, the governor has got his own problems, but that's a whole 'nother post...

Republic says its business tanked because of a sharp decline in home building. BofA says Republic needs to "manage its own affairs." Dueling statements were issued yesterday, by the bank, a "don't look at us":
"We agree with the statements of public officials that Republic Windows and Doors should do all it can to honor its obligations to its employees and minimize the impact of failure on those employees.

We are reaching out to the management and ownership of the company to see what they can do to help resolve this issue.

As a creditor of the company, we continue to honor all of our agreements with the company and have provided the maximum amount of funding we can under the terms of our agreement.

By any objective measure, Republic Windows and Doors is unable to operate profitably given the challenges of the current economic climate and its industry. Public statements by management of the company have made this clear.

When a company faces such a dire situation, its lender is not empowered to direct the company's management how to manage its affairs and what obligations should be paid. Such decisions belong to the management and owners of the company.

Bank of America has worked with the company and shared our concerns about the company's situation and its operations for the past several months. It is unfortunate that the company has been unable to reverse its declining circumstances."
And from the company, a timeline:
10/16/08 a- Republic presents plan for "orderly" wind down including ceasing
manufacturing in January 2009. INFORMS BANK OF AMERICA OF POSSIBLE
WARN ACT NOTICE ISSUES AND VACATION PAY.
10/15/08 a- Informed Bank of America that Republic had a 10/24/08R buyer for
the existing Note for ±$3.0M, discount of $1.5M.
10/15/08 a- Offer rejected by Bank of America stating they believed they were
"over" collateralized.
10/15/08 a- Bank of America demands plans for "orderly" wind down Republic.
10/18/08 a- Bank of America rejects plan and demands a shorter wind down
period.
10/27/08 a- Republic responds with a new plan to cease operations January 2009.
10/29/08 a- Bank of America rejects plan.
11/25/08 a- Republic requests permission from Bank of America to issue
vacation pay to all employees.
11/26/08 a- Bank rejects Company request to make vacation pay.
And comments from the workers themselves:
“They want the poor person to stay down,” said Silvia Mazon, 47, a mother of two who worked as an assembler here for 13 years and said she had never before been the sort to march in protests or make a fuss. “We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere until we get what’s fair and what’s ours. They thought they would get rid of us easily, but if we have to be here for Christmas, it doesn’t matter.”

The workers, members of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, said they were owed vacation and severance pay and were not given the 60 days of notice generally required by federal law when companies make layoffs. Lisa Madigan, the attorney general of Illinois, said her office was investigating, and representatives from her office interviewed workers at the plant on Sunday.
And of course, from the president-elect:
At a news conference Sunday, President-elect Barack Obama said the company should follow through on its commitments to its workers.

“The workers who are asking for the benefits and payments that they have earned,” Mr. Obama said, “I think they’re absolutely right and understand that what’s happening to them is reflective of what’s happening across this economy.”
Question: why not designate Bank of America bailout funds to save this business?

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posted by JReid @ 9:26 AM  
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Capital vs. Labor
Thom Hartmann, who's probably the smartest guy in radio, had a great segment on his show today about the natural state of capitalistic socieites, which is to have a very small, but exceedingly powerful, wealthy class, a tiny middle class (shopkeepers, farmers, the "butcher, baker and candlestick maker" who have just a handful, or even one, employee) and a massive class of working poor. He pointed out that during the 19th Century, as during the Middle Ages in Europe and even in ancient societies, some 95 percent of people fell into that last class. Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" was a tale of the tension between a member of the working poor and Ebeneezer Scrooge -- a middle-class, merchant with just one employee: Cratchet.

The point Hartmann was making is that capital will always seek to get labor for the cheapest possible price, and that when the supply of labor is abundant, the cost of labor is just that: cheap. There are only three ways to raise the cost of labor (meaning, wages) and to force a large middle class into being:

1) Dramatically reduce the supply of labor (see the "Black Plague" that killed off 1/3 of the European workforce, and the subsequent Rennaissance);

2) Dramatically increase the supply of wealth (often by expansionism, like when Europe swept across the Americas grabbing land, or when Americans swept across the plains and West in the 18th and 19th centuries); or

3) Tax capital and "spread the wealth around" (the good old progressive tax code.)

The New Deal's most important outcome was to implant and grow a substantial American middle class: something that is not a natural state, since capital's goal is to fatten itself off of the cheapest labor possible. As America's middle class grew, especially during the 1950s, the high wages and great benefits paid by companies like General Motors, and the "jobs for life" offered by American manufacturers like IBM, were a thing of pride for most Americans, and the envy of the world.

But the expansion of the American middle class, including building the kind of buying power that fueled the "kitchen rush" of the '50s, when families bought Frigidaires and televisions and gadgets galore, back when we still made the stuff here at home, is an also why the GOP, the party of capital, hates labor unions so much. Unions do two things that capital hates: they create scarcity of labor, by restricting the time availability of workers, and they raise the cost of labor by negotiating the highest possible wages and best possible benefits for workers. So-called "conservatives" hate that, and usujally to kill it, they call such outrages upon the dignity of rich folks, "socialism."

Hartmann pointed out correctly that from "Reaganomics" onward, the GOP has been engaged in a war against the middle class, on behalf of the "capital class." There was, in fact, nothing new about Reaganomics. It's simply the reassertion of the age-old imperitive of capital,, which seeks to accumulate wealth for a few people, and expand, vastly, the pool of the working poor. And since Americans have recoiled against the idea of importing cheap labor from South and Central America (why do you think Reagan signed on to Amnesty back in the 80s, and don't think for a second that Dubya wanted to revive the idea because he cares about the Latino vote...) the clearest way to expand the cheap labor pool is to bleed the middle class, and suck as many people out of it as possible.

That's the plan. The question is, can Democrats beat it back.

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posted by JReid @ 3:06 PM  
Friday, November 28, 2008
Radio daze
Hat tip to Paul Porter of IndustryEars.com. This article is long, but interesting reading if you, like me, are interested in the future of radio:
Radio’s Revenue Falls Even as Audience Grows
By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD
CAN radio save itself?

Listeners are diverted by iPods and Internet and satellite radio. Companies are loaded with debt. Advertisers are heading to television or the Web — and the advertisers that have continued to advertise on radio, like auto dealers and retailers, are being hit by the economic crisis and pulling back.

And even though the audience for broadcast radio is actually growing, stations cannot seem to increase their revenue.

Radio advertising was down 10 percent last month from October 2007, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau, the 18th consecutive month of declines.

And the third-quarter numbers are dismal. CBS Radio reported a revenue drop of 12 percent. Citadel Broadcasting’s revenue dropped by 10.9 percent. CC Media Holdings, which owns Clear Channel Communications, said radio revenue was down 7 percent. Cox Radio revenue fell 6.2 percent; Emmis Communications’ radio revenue decreased 1.5 percent; and Radio One revenue was down 2 percent.

Problems in the radio industry have been piling up for years, said Marci L. Ryvicker, an analyst at Wachovia Capital Markets. In the 1990s, radio companies consolidated, then began increasing the ad time available. “They started to fight for share, instead of being proactive and thinking of new ways to generate revenue,” Ms. Ryvicker said.

Then, when advertisers decreased their spending around 2001, radio stations were stuck with too much time and too few advertisers. “There was too much inventory out there, and rates kept going down, down, down,” Ms. Ryvicker said.

Recent years have not changed the fortunes of radio. Many companies borrowed money to buy back their stock, leaving them saddled with debt.

And the industries that supported radio advertising — finance, retail and autos — have all been particularly hard-hit by the current economy. Radio advertising declined 8 percent in the second quarter of this year from a year earlier, according to TNS Media Intelligence. That was worse than any other category except newspapers.

From an advertiser’s perspective, the consolidation of radio companies has resulted in sound-alike stations, said Jim Poh, vice president and a director of analytics and media planning at Crispin Porter & Bogusky, which handles radio ads for clients like Burger King and Domino’s.

“The group ownerships in various markets tended to blunt the edges of the formats, so that each of the stations could play across more demographic groups, and that way could share more of the revenue from various advertisers,” Mr. Poh said. “The downfall of that is the medium isn’t as relevant, the stations aren’t as relevant to people as they were.” ...

Read the rest here.
Radio will have to find points of difference if it wants to survive. The killing off of local programming by swarms of syndicated content is one problem. Reliance on so few advertising industries is another. And like the rest of the music industry, radio will have to find a way to play with the online world. It's a challenge, but radio still enjoys two advantages: the morning commute and the evening commute. Putting good, relevant programming on during the drive times will help. But it's time to wake up, if radio intends to survive.

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posted by JReid @ 12:39 PM  
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Blame the blue collar guy
Have you noticed the concerted effort, on talk radio, in the Wall Street Journal, and on the political right, to blame the Big Three auto makers' woes, not on the management whose bloated salaries and bad decisions helped get their industry into the fix their in, but rather on "greedy," unionized workers, who over the years demanded too much pay, and too many health and retirement benefits, all via their evil union, the United Auto Workers? A sample:

Sen. Jim DeMint: “Some auto manufacturers are struggling because of a bad business structure with high unionized labor costs and burdensome federal regulations. Taxpayers did not create these problems and they should not be forced to pay for them.”

Sen. Jon Kyl: “For years they’ve been sick. They have a bad business model. They have contracts negotiated with the United Auto Workers that impose huge costs.The average hourly cost per worker in this country is about $28.48. For these auto makers, it’s $73. And for the Japanese auto companies working here in the United States, it’s $48.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “You know, if you pay the auto workers or the benefits and all of those things, are maybe too high. … We have, like, in America, you sell a car, and you have $2,000 of each car just goes to benefits. So I think that there’s a way of reducing all of that, make them more fiscally responsible.”

And this from right wing CNS News, whose Dan Gainor says a proposed bailout:
... has little to do with saving Detroit and a lot to do with helping out the Democratic Party’s political machine. The chief recipient of this deal isn’t the companies, it’s the union. A bailout of Detroit would secure that the Big Three continue to fail and pay exorbitant sums to thousands of union workers.

The Los Angeles Times says unions funded the Democratic victory to the tune of more than $80 million just this election. The San Francisco Chronicle puts the number a bit higher – $450 million. Either way, they want their payback. They already have two things in mind – eliminating secret ballots in union elections and saving their 139,000 brothers and sisters in the United Auto Workers.
So let me get this straight: it's a bad thing for the American blue collar worker to reach for the highest wages and best benefits he can get, but fine for the CEO of his company to make 400 times his salary? And by the way, these are the same types who advocate ever increasing tax cuts for CEOs, who deserves the break, apparently, while the working screw deserves a pay cut. That's one of the tenets of right wing economic theory: that CEOs should be able to amass huge, tax-free fortunes, and be trusted to "trickle down" the benefits to the slobs who work for them. I suppose Kyl and Gainor and friends would rather see American workers paid more like the workers in "more efficient" countries, like India? As Pat Buchanan put it recently, it used to be a badge of honor in this country that our workers were the best paid, hardest working people in the world. Meanwhile, as ThinkProgress points out:
Financial firms AIG, Merrill Lynch, and Bear Stearns did not have unionized workers but still suffered economic collapses. Frozen credit markets and a spiraling recession were major contributors to Detroit’s current state.
And the financial services firms pay a hell of a lot more than Detroit. The ethos of the Republican right -- that the wealthy should have unlimited earning potential, but average Americans are "greedy" if they want the same thing, and that tax cuts should be weighted always toward the wealthy, who shouldn't be punished, while workers should, at all costs, be prevented from unionizing, and thereby gaining wages and benefits that rightly belong to their betters. No wonder Republicans have lost everyone in this country who isn't dumb enough to cheer for his or her own demise.


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posted by JReid @ 8:03 AM  
Friday, November 07, 2008
Fixing the Bush 'boom'
Barack Obama holds his first news conference as president-elect


Completing his total immolation of the U.S. economy, George W. Bush prepares to leave office, and to leave behind for his successor, the following list of economic challenges:

An undeclared, but very real, recession.

Unemployment at a 14-year high of 6.5 percent and layoffs everywhere you turn. (1.2 million jobs lost so far this year...)

An automobile industry in nuclear meltdown, with General Motors, once America's largest employer, bleeding cash and preparing for more layoffs (although Michigan's governor, Jennifer Granholm, declared herself heartened after meeting with Pres. Elect Obama today.)

A GDP that's rapidly contracting.

A dismal dollar and financial markets mired in bearishness.

So, what to do?

Obama addressed that very subject in his first press conference, as president-elect today:

"We are facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime and we're going to have to act swiftly to resolve it," Obama said, as his team of economic advisers, who include top businessmen and well-regarded former government officials, stood in a line behind him.

Obama was speaking after two days in which Wall Street has plunged around 10 percent. The market, which has fallen because of negative economic news and poor corporate results, recovered a bit on Friday and finished the day nearly 3 percent higher.

The brief news conference in Chicago followed a meeting with his 17-member transition economic advisory board on how to tackle the worst economic crisis confronting the United States since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The economic advisory board includes former Treasury secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, former Labor secretary Robert Reich, former chair of the National Economy Council Laura Tyson, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

SECOND STIMULUS SOON

Obama said he wanted the Democrat-controlled U.S. Congress to pass a second stimulus package as soon as possible to stabilize the economy, which analysts say may be in deep recession by the time he is inaugurated on January 20.

"We are going to need to see a stimulus package passed either before or after the inauguration. I want to see a stimulus package sooner rather than later."

Obama is getting high marks for the confidence and quickness of his response so far. Let's see how things develop.

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posted by JReid @ 6:55 PM  
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Time for McCain to flush 'Joe the plumber'?
So far, the focus groups on CNN and MSNBC and even Fox indicate that for many swing and undecided voters, Joe the plumber, who was the star of last night's debate (along with Bob Schieffer, who was far and away the best moderator of the four we've seen during the general election,) might not be the best poster boy for John McCain's economic principles. Of course, conservatives went gaga over Joe Wurzelbacher, the Ohio man who (totally, completely spontaneously ... ahem ...) confronted Barack Obama at a campaign event about his tax policies, and how they would affect Joe if he went ahead with the purchase of the plumbing business he works for, which by toooootal coincidence, just happens to cost around $250,000 -- the cut-off under Obama's tax plan. The full video below:



For righties, Joe became an instant symbol of can-do capitalism being clobbered by the big, bad government, and Obama's retort that he wants to give tax breaks to people who don't have a quarter million dollars to invest and to "spread the wealth around" was the blood curdling shriek of socialism.

But here's the problem for the right: most Americans, who are struggling and some cases freaking completely out in this dismal economy, wouldn't mind spreading a little wealth around. The idea of everybody doing well isn't socialism to most people, it's opportunity to get ahead and to achieve (and hang onto) the American dream. The reason people felt good about the 90s was not that rich people and investors made money, but that for a time, it seemed that anyone could become a millionaire. The Larry Kudlow philosophy of the rich gwaking up all the baubles they can and to hell with the rest of us was fine for the 1980s, when "Dallas" and "Dynasty" were hot. Now? I doubt very many people are even watching "Cribs."

A very wise man (named Chris Matthews) said four years ago during a presentation for members of the media at Miami's American Airlines Arena (back when I was at NBC 6,) told us that "politics is about where you put the wedge in." If the wedge winds up between the middle class and the poor, such that the middle identifies more with the rich, even aspirationally, Republicans win. But when the wedge is between the rich and the middle class, such that those in the middle feel like they're getting poorer, Democrats win. This year, I think it's clear where the wedge is.

Which brings me back to Joe.

CNN sent a reporter to watch the debate with a family who had recently had their home foreclosed, and they were sour on Joe, mainly because they couldn't relate to a guy who's got $250,000 available to buy a company during these hard times (the father in the family, who is a Republican, also said he couldn't relate to McCain, because the Senator "has seven houses." Actually, I think it's at least eight ...)

In any event, let's take a closer look at Joe's story. First, his estimated earnings. From the Department of Labor:

Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are among the highest paid construction occupations. Median hourly earnings of wage and salary plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters were $20.56. The middle 50 percent earned between $15.62 and $27.54. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $12.30, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $34.79. Median hourly earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters were:

Natural gas distribution $24.91
Nonresidential building construction 21.30
Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 20.44
Utility system construction 19.18
Local government 17.86

Meanwhile, the median hourly wage for all American workers was $15.10. That's not to say that people like Joe are "rich." I'd actually call $20 an hour middle class. But at that wage level, Joe would be in line for an Obama tax cut next year.

If, on the other hand, he were to earn $250,000 a year plumbing, that would put him in the top 1 percent -- that's ONE percent, of all American earners (and probably the top .0003% of plumbers.) That may not make a person rich, either, but in times like these, it sure ain't poor.

Second, if Joe buys a business that earns $250,000, I can't imagine he'd be paying himself all, or even most of that, which means his own income would again fall within the 95 percent of Americans Obama would give a tax cut.

Third, in order for Joe to buy that business, if that's what he truly intends to do, he's gonna need more than $250K. As former Los Angeles Daily News columnist and post-newsroom budget cuts blogger, Steve Young points out:

... If we’re talking a business that is bottom lining at $250K, a standard business acquisition falls into the 4 to 1 investment area, which would call for Joe

is buying a business that is making a profit of exactly $250K, the Obama tax break minimum. A normal business acquisition falls into the 4 to 1 investment area, which would call for Joe to come up with $1,000,000 to purchase his $250K business. If that plumbing business had assets like trucks, equipment and offices, the cost could be far more.

Add to that Wurzelbacher doesn’t appear in the Toledo Yellow Pages listings, yet has been able to put together at least a million to invest, especially in these dire economic times, you begin to wonder whether Joe is a plumber or did someone in the McCain campaign find him in central casting?

Good question.

Team McCain might want to back off from the new tack that "America didn't become great by spreading the wealth around," which he added to the candidate's stump speech today. Americans don't want to hear that the rich shouldn't pay more taxes, or that big corporations paying their executives tens, or even hundreds of millions of dollars, shouldn't have to provide basic healthcare coverage for their employees. Right wingers may like being hectored about tax cuts by talk radio hosts who sign $400 million contracts, get doped up on prescription pills in their Palm Beach mansions and fly around in private jets, but the rest of us are just not that stupid.

UPDATE: Turns out our friend Joe the Plumber has no plumbing license ... (and he insists he's no Matt Damon, either. Here's his actual quote (not making this up):
"I’m a flash in the pan, I’m not a megastar," Wurzelbacher said. "I’m not Matt Damon. I’m not any of those guys who have droves of women and men who want to be like them, that say 'Yeah, I’ll vote for him, because Matt Damon said so'."
Good to know!

UPDATE 2: Okay, you can't make this stuff up. A winger blogger close to the McCain campaign (or so he says,) claims that Joe the Plumber is related to none other than Charles Keating:

John McCain did great tonight in the debate. But every time John mentioned “Joe the Plumber,” some of us in the campaign banged our heads against the wall. If Steve Schmidt had any hair left, I hear he would have been pulling it out tonight. He reportedly screamed at John’s debate prep team tonight (out of earshot of reporters, of course). “You idiots - he’s related to Charles Keating… of the Keating Five scandal!” They thought they had a real live Joe Six-Pack who’s spurned Barack Obama’s tax plan. But what they forgot to do was check on Joe Wurzelbacher’s background.

Turns out that Joe Wurzelbacher from the Toledo event is a close relative of Robert Wurzelbacher of Milford, Ohio. Who’s Robert Wurzelbacher? Only Charles Keating’s son-in-law and the former senior vice president of American Continental, the parent company of the infamous Lincoln Savings and Loan. The now retired elder Wurzelbacher is also a major contributor to Republican causes giving well over $10,000 in the last few years.

Does any of this make Joe the Plumber a bad guy? Of course not. In fact, after that ill-fated night at the Watergate, he may finally be giving plumbers a good name. But at a debate where John goes full bore on Obama for guilt-by-association with William Ayers (and dodges a bullet by Obama not mentioning Keating Five), the press is going to bring it back front and center by midday tomorrow once they delve deeper into the most popular plumber in America.

Uh-oh...

UPDATE 2: It also turns out Joe, who wasn't at that rally by accident (he told ABC News he was contacted by the McCain campaign and "asked to show up at a rally...") doesn't have to worry about a tax increase under an Obama presidency, he has to worry about getting Wesley Sniped by the IRS because he doesn't pay his taxes.

UPDATE 3: A DailyKos diarist does some digging on Central Casting Joe:

Wurzelbacher had already met McCain, and per his story saw Obama walking through his neighborhood while he was out, and he walked over to get involved as he "always wanted to ask these guys a question and really corner them." On Obama’s answers to his questions, old ‘Joe The Plumber’ felt "unfortunately I still got a tap dance ... almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr."

It certainly made for good anecdotal reference. And the post debate interview made great RNC spin.

Yet something there seemed a bit too standard issue FOX News to me.

So after after some digging I found that Joe is indeed a registered Republican. No surprise.

But then I began wondering if old Joe The Plumber communicated this to the McCain campaign? The McCain camp, I’m sure, would see this as a wonderful way to play off Joe as a common connection during the debaters, and someone who was presumed by many (or at least played up to be) to be the quintessential uncommitted or independent voter in this middle American battleground state. Can you say "shill?"

It turns out that Joe’s dad is reported to be a heavy contributor to the GOP. Maybe Joe’s not quite such an independent voice after all. But again no surprise, this is America the polarized.

An unrelated final note, Joe it seems was at least accused of domestic violence by his first wife Jennifer according to papers filed in their divorce in Tucson back in 1997. Part of the court costs included the County’s charges for the Battered Women’s Shelter. http://apps.co.lucas.oh.us/...

Well, Joe’s just a regular guy all right. All the same fallibilities. And even the same pre-conceived allegiances. Nothing special.

Yep. Just a regular Joe...

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posted by JReid @ 12:05 PM  
Monday, October 13, 2008
A little truthiness: who caused the subprime crisis?
McClatchy does us all a service, by setting the record straight:
As the economy worsens and Election Day approaches, a conservative campaign that blames the global financial crisis on a government push to make housing more affordable to lower-class Americans has taken off on talk radio and e-mail.

Commentators say that's what triggered the stock market meltdown and the freeze on credit. They've specifically targeted the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the federal government seized on Sept. 6, contending that lending to poor and minority Americans caused Fannie's and Freddie's financial problems.

Federal housing data reveal that the charges aren't true, and that the private sector, not the government or government-backed companies, was behind the soaring subprime lending at the core of the crisis.

Subprime lending offered high-cost loans to the weakest borrowers during the housing boom that lasted from 2001 to 2007. Subprime lending was at its height from 2004 to 2006.

Federal Reserve Board data show that:

  • More than 84 percent of the subprime mortgages in 2006 were issued by private lending institutions.
  • Private firms made nearly 83 percent of the subprime loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers that year.
  • Only one of the top 25 subprime lenders in 2006 was directly subject to the housing law that's being lambasted by conservative critics.

The "turmoil in financial markets clearly was triggered by a dramatic weakening of underwriting standards for U.S. subprime mortgages, beginning in late 2004 and extending into 2007," the President's Working Group on Financial Markets reported Friday.

Furthermore, though they have become the whipping banks of the right:

Fannie, the Federal National Mortgage Association, and Freddie, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., don't lend money, to minorities or anyone else, however. They purchase loans from the private lenders who actually underwrite the loans.

And...

This much is true. In an effort to promote affordable home ownership for minorities and rural whites, the Department of Housing and Urban Development set targets for Fannie and Freddie in 1992 to purchase low-income loans for sale into the secondary market that eventually reached this number: 52 percent of loans given to low-to moderate-income families.

To be sure, encouraging lower-income Americans to become homeowners gave unsophisticated borrowers and unscrupulous lenders and mortgage brokers more chances to turn dreams of homeownership in nightmares.

But these loans, and those to low- and moderate-income families represent a small portion of overall lending. And at the height of the housing boom in 2005 and 2006, Republicans and their party's standard bearer, President Bush, didn't criticize any sort of lending, frequently boasting that they were presiding over the highest-ever rates of U.S. homeownership.

Between 2004 and 2006, when subprime lending was exploding, Fannie and Freddie went from holding a high of 48 percent of the subprime loans that were sold into the secondary market to holding about 24 percent, according to data from Inside Mortgage Finance, a specialty publication. One reason is that Fannie and Freddie were subject to tougher standards than many of the unregulated players in the private sector who weakened lending standards, most of whom have gone bankrupt or are now in deep trouble.

During those same explosive three years, private investment banks — not Fannie and Freddie — dominated the mortgage loans that were packaged and sold into the secondary mortgage market. In 2005 and 2006, the private sector securitized almost two thirds of all U.S. mortgages, supplanting Fannie and Freddie, according to a number of specialty publications that track this data.

In 1999, the year many critics charge that the Clinton administration pressured Fannie and Freddie, the private sector sold into the secondary market just 18 percent of all mortgages.

Fueled by low interest rates and cheap credit, home prices between 2001 and 2007 galloped beyond anything ever seen, and that fueled demand for mortgage-backed securities, the technical term for mortgages that are sold to a company, usually an investment bank, which then pools and sells them into the secondary mortgage market.

About 70 percent of all U.S. mortgages are in this secondary mortgage market, according to the Federal Reserve.

But what about the infamous Community Reinvestment Act (the CRA)? Isn't THAT Carter-era abomination to blame for the subprime crisis? Why, no...

Congress created the CRA in 1977 to reverse years of redlining and other restrictive banking practices that locked the poor, and especially minorities, out of homeownership and the tax breaks and wealth creation it affords. The CRA requires federally regulated and insured financial institutions to show that they're lending and investing in their communities.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote recently that while the goal of the CRA was admirable, "it led to tremendous pressure on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — who in turn pressured banks and other lenders — to extend mortgages to people who were borrowing over their heads. That's called subprime lending. It lies at the root of our current calamity."

Fannie and Freddie, however, didn't pressure lenders to sell them more loans; they struggled to keep pace with their private sector competitors. In fact, their regulator, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, imposed new restrictions in 2006 that led to Fannie and Freddie losing even more market share in the booming subprime market.

What's more, only commercial banks and thrifts must follow CRA rules. The investment banks don't, nor did the now-bankrupt non-bank lenders such as New Century Financial Corp. and Ameriquest that underwrote most of the subprime loans.

These private non-bank lenders enjoyed a regulatory gap, allowing them to be regulated by 50 different state banking supervisors instead of the federal government. And mortgage brokers, who also weren't subject to federal regulation or the CRA, originated most of the subprime loans.

As much as I love the folks at McClatchy, I said the exact same thing a month ago, in this fantabulous video:



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posted by JReid @ 12:36 PM  
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
52-40
The economy shakes more Americans awake, and Barack Obama takes a 52-43 lead over Crazy Grandpa John.
Two weeks ago, in the days immediately following the Republican National Convention, the race was essentially even, with McCain at 49 percent and Obama at 47 percent.

As a point of comparison, neither of the last two Democratic nominees -- John F. Kerry in 2004 or Al Gore in 2000 -- recorded support above 50 percent in a pre-election poll by the Post and ABC News.

Last week's near-meltdown in the financial markets and the subsequent debate in Washington over a proposed government bailout of troubled financial institutions have made the economy even more important in the minds of voters. Fully 50 percent called the economy and jobs the single most important issue that will determine their vote, up from 37 percent two weeks ago. In contrast, just 9 percent cited the Iraq war as their most important issue, its lowest of the campaign.

But voters are cool toward the administration's initial efforts to deal with the current crisis. Forty-seven percent said they approve of the steps taken by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to stabilize the financial markets, while 42 percent said they disapprove.

Anxiety about the economic situation is widespread. Just over half of the poll respondents -- 52 percent -- believe the economy has moved into a serious long-term decline. Eight in 10 are concerned about the overall direction of the economy, nearly three-quarters worry about the shocks to the stock market, and six in 10 are apprehensive about their own family finances.

Two weeks ago, McCain held a substantial advantage among white voters, including newfound strength with white women. In the face of bad economic news, the two candidates now run about evenly among white women, and Obama has narrowed the overall gap among white voters to five percentage points.

Much of the movement has come among college-educated whites. Whites without college degrees favor McCain by 17 points, while those with college degrees support Obama by 9 points. No Democrat has carried white, college-educated voters in presidential elections dating back to 1980, but they were a key part of Obama's coalition in the primaries.

In addition, Obama is favored by whites who are worried about the economy. He doesn't do as well with those who aren't.

Still, Obama pitfalls remain, including the 18 percent of voters in a new AP/Yahoo poll (have I mentioned my increasing lack of trust in the Associated Press?) who are undecided. In my book, at this stage and with this economy, undecided is generally American for "I can't vote for that black guy, but don't go calling me racist ... and I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm voting for McCain, knowing he'll screw things up even more."

Team Obama, beware.

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posted by JReid @ 1:53 PM  
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Carly Fiorina: Sarah couldn't run a company
Carly Fiorina proved again today why she isn't the woman standing next to John McCain on the stump: she has a truth tic. This time, it's not about Viagra. This time, she slips a little nugget into her Palin support schtick, saying Sarah couldn't run HP:



Not that the shareholders thought Carly was fit to run the company either, but... it probably wasn't "on message."

By the way, you're gonna love the Fiorina fix: she "corrects" herself by saying hey, John McCain isn't qualified to run a major corporation either! Crikey!

Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor, take it away:
"If John McCain’s top economic advisor doesn’t think he can run a corporation, how on Earth can he run the largest economy in the world in the midst of a financial crisis? Apparently even the people who run his campaign agree that the economy is an issue John McCain doesn’t understand as well as he should."

If Team Obama is smart, the economic meltdown of the United States, and John McCain's clear lack of understanding of it, will become the cudgel they beat Grandpa over the head with from now until election day.

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posted by JReid @ 3:21 PM  
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Things that are coming back
1. The "old politics" -- David Brooks laments the campaign John McCain hasn't run.
McCain started with grand ideas about breaking the mold of modern politics. He and Obama would tour the country together doing joint town meetings. He would pick a postpartisan running mate, like Joe Lieberman. He would make a dramatic promise, like vowing to serve for only one totally nonpolitical term. So far it hasn’t worked. Obama vetoed the town meeting idea. The issue is not closed, but G.O.P. leaders are resisting a cross-party pick like Lieberman.

McCain and his advisers have been compelled to adjust to the hostile environment around them. They have been compelled, at least in their telling, to abandon the campaign they had hoped to run. Now they are running a much more conventional race, the kind McCain himself used to ridicule.

The man who lampooned the Message of the Week is now relentlessly on message (as observers of his fine performance at Saddleback Church can attest). The man who hopes to inspire a new generation of Americans now attacks Obama daily. It is the only way he can get the networks to pay attention.

Some old McCain hands are dismayed. John Weaver, the former staff member who helped run the old McCain operation, argues that this campaign does not do justice to the man. The current advisers say they have no choice. They didn’t choose the circumstances of this race. Their job is to cope with them.

And the inescapable fact is: It is working. Everyone said McCain would be down by double digits at this point. He’s nearly even. Everyone said he’d be vastly outspent. That hasn’t happened. A long-shot candidacy now seems entirely plausible.

As the McCain’s campaign has become more conventional, his political prospects have soared. Both he and Obama had visions of upending the system. Maybe in office, one of them will still be able to do that. But at least on the campaign trail, the system is winning.


2. Hyper-inflation -- call it "that 70s show.."
Wholesale prices jumped in July at the fastest rate in more than a quarter century, furthering concern about a continued increase in inflation at a time when economic activity has ebbed.

New federal government data showed that the cost of materials used by businesses increased 1.2 percent in July and have risen 9.8 percent during the past 12 months. It was the largest yearly increase since 1981, as businesses absorbed sharp increases in energy and other commodity costs.

Today's report follows recent news that consumer prices are also rising faster than expected -- and faster than the Federal Reserve's generally accepted target rate of around 2 percent. Although wholesale inflation does not necessarily translate into higher consumer prices, it can be evidence of things to come.


3. The Taliban -- They're back, and attacking the French...
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents mounted their most serious attacks in six years of fighting in Afghanistan over the last two days, including a coordinated assault by at least 10 suicide bombers against one of the largest American military bases in the country, and another by about 100 insurgents who killed 10 elite French paratroopers.

The attack on the French, in a district near Kabul, added to the sense of siege around the capital and was the deadliest single loss for foreign troops in a ground battle since the United States-led invasion chased the Taliban from power in 2001.

Taken together, the attacks were part of a sharp escalation in fighting as insurgents have seized a window of opportunity to press their campaign this summer — taking advantage of a wavering NATO commitment, an outgoing American administration, a flailing Afghan government and a Pakistani government in deep disarray that has given the militants freer rein across the border.

As a result, this year is on pace to be the deadliest in the Afghan war so far, as the insurgent attacks show rising zeal and sophistication. The insurgents are employing not only a growing number of suicide and roadside bombs, but are also waging increasingly well-organized and complex operations using multiple attackers with different types of weapons, NATO officials say. ...


4. The Russian bear -- complete with POWs...
Russia has dismissed a warning by Nato that normal relations are impossible while its troops remain inside Georgia.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Nato of bias and of trying to save the "criminal regime" in Tbilisi.
He insisted Moscow was not occupying Georgia and had no plans to annex the separatist region of South Ossetia.

Earlier, Nato demanded that Russia pull out its troops from Georgia as agreed in an EU-brokered ceasefire plan signed by both parties at the weekend.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev told his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in a phone call that the pull-out would be complete by 21-22 August, with the exception of some 500 troops, who will be installed in peacekeeping posts on either side of South Ossetia's border.

France later tabled a US-backed draft resolution at the UN Security Council, demanding full compliance with the ceasefire and calling on Moscow to withdraw its forces to the positions held before the conflict.

Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, rejected the text. He objected to language on Georgia's territorial integrity, saying South Ossetia and Abkhazia did not want to be part of Georgia.

Some Russian troops have been seen leaving Gori, the largest Georgian town close to the South Ossetia border.
But BBC correspondents on the ground say there are still Russian artillery positions in place. In addition, there are Russian checkpoints close to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

As for the POWs:
In an apparent goodwill gesture Russia exchanged 15 Georgian prisoners for five of its own troops at a Russian checkpoint in Igoeti, about 30km (18 miles) from Georgia's capital.

Georgian officials told the BBC's Helen Fawkes, who was at the scene, that two of the Russian prisoners were airmen who had been shot down by Georgian forces about two weeks ago.


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posted by JReid @ 9:49 PM  
Thursday, July 31, 2008
War successes continue to mount!
Exxon Mobile strikes a blow for America's victory in the global war on terror, posting record-shattering profits, and Wall Street actually yawns:
HOUSTON - Exxon Mobil reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, the biggest quarterly profit ever by any U.S. corporation, but the results fell well short of Wall Street expectations and shares fell in premarket trading.

The world's largest publicly traded oil company said net income for the April-June period came to $2.22 a share, up from $10.26 billion, or $1.83 a share, a year ago.

Revenue rose 40 percent to $138.1 billion from $98.4 billion in the year-earlier quarter.

... But investors expected even bigger profits Thursday, especially after Europe's Royal Dutch Shell reported a 33 percent jump in second-quarter earnings of $11.6 billion, which fell just shy of Exxon's own record earnings from 2007.

Shares fell 2 percent, or $1.68, to $82.70 in premarket trading.
Shell and BP also did their part to aid the war effort, posting record 2Q profits of their own:
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Royal Dutch Shell PLC reported a 33 percent jump in second-quarter profits Thursday, its biggest quarter ever at $11.6 billion thanks to high oil prices and the weak dollar.

The company earned $8.67 billion in the same quarter last year.

Shell said its selling price per barrel of oil was around $112, up from $64 a year earlier. That pushed earnings at its main exploration and production arm up 90 percent to $5.88 billion, despite a 1.1 percent fall in production to 3.05 million barrels of oil and equivalents per day.

Chief Executive Jeroen van der Veer dismissed calls in Britain for a windfall tax on oil companies.

Britain's BP PLC reported this week that its profits jumped 28 percent to $9.47 billion in the quarter.

"If we do less investment there will be less supply for consumers" which would drive prices higher, Van der Veer said.

"The world needs energy."
Way to go, boys. You are true heroes of the West. And once again you've proved that George W. Bush's strategy of preemption pays great dividends. ... really great dividends...

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posted by JReid @ 9:00 AM  
Friday, July 18, 2008
Whew! My Starbucks is safe; WTVJ sold
Starbucks is closing 600 stores nationwide, but thankfully, my faves are still in play. Otherwise, where would I have meetings?

Meanwhile, my old haunt, WTVJ Channel 6, has been sold to the Washington Post Company.
The Post Co. already owns WPLG-ABC 10, so the two stations will operate as a so-called duopoly, merging most of their business functions and possibly some part of their news production, though nothing's been announced on that score yet. If the deal is approved by the FCC, WTVJ -- now owned by NBC, which put the station up for sale in March -- could change hands by the end of the year.
The story confirms an earlier Miami Herald report.
Terms have not been disclosed. Previous reports said NBC 6 could fetch between $350 million and $400 million.

NBC Universal put WTVJ up for sale in March -- to raise cash for other ventures. NBC recently said it will partner with two private equity firms to buy The Weather Channel -- for a reported $3.5 billion. And last year, the network bought Oxygen Media for $925 million.

NBC, which also owns Telemundo, has said it plans to keep that network's flagship station, WSCV-Channel 51.

WPLG vice president Dave Boylan did a walk-through of NBC 6 in late May. WSVN-Fox 7's executive VP/general manager, Bob Leider, did a walk-through, too. WSVN is owned by Ed Ansin's Sunbeam Television. Other broadcast and private-equity groups did site inspections, sources say.

Assuming the deal goes through: NBC 6 remains an NBC affiliate. It will eventually move from its Miramar studio-headquarters into WPLG's new headquarters, under construction on six acres along Hallandale Beach Boulevard in Pembroke Park. That $30 million-plus facility should be ready by March or April.

(WPLG is now in a three-story building at 3900 Biscayne Blvd. Post-Newsweek sold the 1.6-acre property last year, although WPLG has a lease through June '09.)

No word yet on how Post-Newsweek will run the two newsrooms. Up in the air is what happens to NBC 6's on-air talent. Morning anchor Bob Mayer has 39 years on the job. Other long-timers: Patricia Andreu, Nick Bogert, Kelly Craig, Pam Giganti, Diana Gonzalez, Jackie Nespral, Ari Odzer, Trina Robinson, Joe Rose, Tony Segreto, Willard Shepard, Hank Tester and Julia Yarbough.

''Every duopoly means some form of staff consolidation,'' says one local TV executive. ''Stations are looking for ways to gain efficiency of operation.'' Cost savings may also come through elimination of duplicated jobs, from producers and photographers to technical and sales staff.

In a duopoly, there is usually one general manager. WPLG's is Boylan. NBC 6's president/GM is Ardyth ''Ardy'' Diercks.

Stay positive, crew! The WTVJ reporting team are first rate, and if WaPo has any brains, they'll hang on to them all, especially Nick, Trina, Ari, Julia, Hank and the big man, Joe Rose (hope I didn't leave anybody out. Hey, I'm tired...) And they're crazy to give up the Miramar studio, which is only about eight years old, and gorgeous. Damn this Bush recession! And what's so great about the Weather Channel, anyway?

Anyhoo, the move could also affect Weather Plus, NBC's weather play in NYC. We'll see how it shakes out.

Here's the take from Local 10 online, where my former boss jumped ship once the sale was announced. The story's up at TVSPY, but not yet on the watercooler...

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posted by JReid @ 2:54 PM  
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Obama works his plan
While the media remains determined to dredge up more Rev. Wright schlock to pin on Barack Obama (what is he, the Reverend's personal secretary???) the candidate is actually talking about something Americans care about: the economy. Barack gave a speech on the subject that got pretty good coverage today, including from the WaPo:
Sen. Barack Obama, tackling the fallout from the collapse of the subprime housing market, today outlined major changes in the way the federal government regulates financial institutions and called for a second stimulus package to boost the economy.

The stimulus package would cost about $30 billion would include assistance to individuals and areas hard hit by the housing crisis and an extension of unemployment insurance for those who have lost their jobs. "If we can extend a hand to banks on Wall Street, we can extend a hand to Americans who are struggling," he said.

Speaking at historic Cooper Union in New York, Obama was sharply critical of the mindset that led to the subprime mortgage crisis. "Our free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it," he said. "That is why we have put in place rules of the road to make competition fair, and open, and honest."

The Democratic presidential candidate used the speech to criticize President Bush for contributing to economy's decline. The administration, he argued, instituted policies, including a costly war in Iraq and huge tax cuts, that "threw the economy further out of balance and has been slow to move aggressively enough to cushion the impact of the softening economy on ordinary Americans.

But he was equally critical of Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. On Tuesday, McCain said the subprime mortgage crisis should not result in major government intervention to bail out individuals or institutions who acted irresponsibly.

McCain's plan, Obama said, amounts to "little more than watching the crisis happen. While this is consistent with Senator McCain's determination to run for George Bush's third term, it won't help families who are suffering and it won't lift our economy out of recession."

While Obama was speaking, McCain's campaign issued a statement from the Republican candidate in which he emphasized that he is prepared to provide assistance to roughly four million homeowners who are facing foreclosure and the loss of their homes because of the housing industry crisis. "I am committed to considering any and all proposals to do so," he said in the statement. ...

That was from WaPo's Dan Balz ... how much does it suck to be named Dan Balz... sorry, juvenile moment...

Meanwhile, did you catch the McCainiack reaction? He's willing to look at proposals? Well gee, thanks Mr. Mideast Bomber in Chief ... Mr. War Guy. We'll be sure to get you some proposals, since I take it you weren't planning on having any of your own!!!... geez...

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posted by JReid @ 2:29 PM  
Saturday, March 08, 2008
John McCain's other problem
Forget eyeballing that female lobbyist or getting hated on by Rush Limbaugh. John McCain's real problem was encapsulated in a statement he made not too long ago about not knowing much about economics.

McCain would much rather fight the upcoming election on the basis of national security -- and win in a replay of 2004's "scare the vote" campaign by his new friend George W. Bush. But John McCain doesn't get to decide whether this election will be fought on the basis of national security, or Iraq (his other signature issue, which cuts both ways for him) or on the economy. Circumstances will largely dictate that. And right now, the circumstances are these:

The U.S. economy lost 63,000 jobs last month, the worst performance in five years, (it would have been 100,000 in the red were it not for government employment,) and even the Bush administration, led by a president who isn't even cognizant of where gas prices are, is revising its economic forecasts in a negative direction.

American economic insecurity IS the story of the current campaign, if not the future one, although as the onetime Man from Hope said (or as his campaign strategist James Carville did, back in 1992, it's the economy, stupid.)

That's why NAFTA is such a thorny issue (and if Team Obama is smart, they'll really begin sticking it to Hillary on that one...) And that's why a little story about Boeing will be the next shoe to drop on John McCain. From the AP this morning:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Angry Boeing supporters are vowing revenge against Republican presidential candidate John McCain over Chicago-based Boeing's loss of a $35 billion Air Force tanker contract to the parent company of European plane maker Airbus.

There are other targets for their ire — the Air Force, the defense secretary and even the entire Bush administration.

But Boeing supporters in Congress are directing their wrath at McCain, the Arizona senator and nominee in waiting, for scuttling an earlier deal that would have let Boeing build the next generation of Air Force refueling tankers. Boeing now will miss out on a deal that it says would have supported 44,000 new and existing jobs at the company and suppliers in 40 states.

"I hope the voters of this state remember what John McCain has done to them and their jobs," said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., whose state would have been home to the tanker program and gained about 9,000 jobs.

"Having made sure that Iraq gets new schools, roads, bridges and dams that we deny America, now we are making sure that France gets the jobs that Americans used to have," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill. "We are sending the jobs overseas, all because John McCain demanded it."

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. and its U.S. partner, Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman, won a competition with Boeing Feb. 29 to build the refueling planes in one of the biggest Pentagon contracts in decades. The unexpected decision has sparked outrage from union halls to the halls of Congress over the impact on U.S. jobs, prestige and national security. EADS and Northrop say about 60 percent of their tanker will be built in the U.S.

The trouble for McCain is that he has in the very recent past boasted about killing the Boeing deal, based on his never-ending crusade to battle Washington "pork." To be fair, people went to jail over a scandal involving a too-close-for-comfort relationship between Boeing officials and Air Force insiders in a position to place the construction deal. But McCain's holier-than-thou stance on his fellow Washingtonians' way of doing business could very soon come back to bite him in the electoral ass:
Rep. Todd Tiahrt, a Kansas Republican whose district includes a Boeing plant that could have gained hundreds of new jobs from the tanker program, said McCain's role in killing the earlier deal is likely to become an election issue. Both of the leading Democratic candidates for president, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have criticized the Air Force decision.

"I think we absolutely will hear more about it," Tiahrt said. "We'll hear it mostly from the Democrats and they have every right to be concerned."

McCain called such criticism off base.

"In all due respect to the Washington delegation, they vigorously defended the process before — which turned out to be corrupt — which would have cost the taxpayers more than $6 billion and ended up with people in federal prison," he said. "I'm the one that fought against that ... for years and brought down a corrupt contract."

Keith Ashdown, with the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, said Boeing executives who broke the law were to blame for the demise of the tanker contract — not McCain.

"This was theirs from day one," he said. "This idea that any lawmaker is to blame is a joke."

Still, Todd Donovan, a political science professor at Western Washington University, said McCain's opposition to Boeing could hurt him with voters in Washington and other states affected by the tanker program. Boeing would have performed much of the work in Everett, Wash., and Wichita, Kan., and used Pratt & Whitney engines built in Connecticut. Significant work also was slated for Texas.

"If he can be painted as somehow being associated with job losses ... it could hurt him on the margins," Donovan said.
Ya think?

The Boeing dust-up has been burning up talk radio, including the Ed Schultz show this week, and it won't stop there. Mixed up in this issue are a toxic brew of job losses, outsourcing (to France, no less) and the outsourcing of America's defenses abroad. McCain is going to have to choose between pushing his cost-cutting rep, or finally learning something about the economy.

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posted by JReid @ 2:13 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
Listen now:


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