I'm catching up on things I missed, and found this article from last Friday on Elizabeth Warren in the New York Times. Actually, it's not so much about Warren as it is about the pressure on the White House to appoint her, which is as it should be.
What struck me, when I reread that article recently, was the bluntness of her language. She used words like “tricks,” “fleece,” and “bribe” to describe the actions of mortgage and credit card lenders. And I think a lot of her appeal stems from that simple fact: she describes abuses — predatory lending, hidden fees, bewildering “disclosures” that hide more than they disclose — in precisely the way most Americans have experienced them. She conveys a powerful sense that she understands what we’ve been through this last decade.
Wow. Meet Joe Miller, possible GOP nominee for the Senate, brought to you courtesy of the Tea Party Express, and rabid anti-abortion advocates in Alaska.
Among Miller's views: He wants to eliminate the Department of Education, believes the government shouldn't pay for unemployment insurance and says of climate change on his campaign site that it "may not even exist." Among the more mainstream GOP positions he's taken: Miller would cut welfare; eliminate health care for the poor by scrapping Medicaid; and the Anchorage Daily News reported that he has has called for sweeping cuts to Medicare and Social Security with a goal of phasing them out entirely in favor of total privatization.
A teabagger's dream, right there. Dick Armey with a beard, even. and it's just not that he thinks government shouldn't pay for unemployment insurance, but that he believes unemployment benefits are unconstitutional. In the words of Wickersham's Conscience when evaluating Miller's positions and background,
We’ve had more than enough liars. It’s a very bad sign if a candidate is padding his or her resumè from the start. And Joe, that’s a lot of different jobs in a relatively short period of time. Alaska also doesn’t need another quitter.
My own parents collect Social Security benefits and use Medicare. They, like millions of others, need and relied on the government's promise to provide these benefits when they were planning for their future. There is a contract between the federal government and those who paid into the system. That contract must be honored.
I am certain more will emerge on this guy. In the meantime, Democrat Scott McAdams was just given a decent shot at the Senate. More on him soon.
I was willing to give this whole Deficit Commission a fair hearing, but now that Alan Simpson has shown his ass to anyone paying attention, he just needs to go. It wasn't that it was sexist so much as it was stupid, selfish and mean, and an incredibly poor attempt to channel HL Mencken.
Of course the real question is why on earth did the administration pull this cadaverous joker out of his own cushy, federally funded retirement to head up the ill-conceived deficit commission in the first place?
If it was with the hope of intentional sabotage, that's been done. There's plenty of political fire to send this "old geezer" home. Get on it, White House.
After Tuesday's primaries, Beltway pundits are feeling pretty free to continue promoting Sarah Palin as the Tea Party's secret weapon against Democrats. They are all sure that Palin's endorsement is what threw Joe Miller over the top (for now, anyway) against incumbent Lisa Murkowski. Witness the Washington Post's breathless admiration of Palin's amazing political skills:
Palin may have withdrawn from official life in Alaska, but the surprisingly strong showing in Tuesday's GOP Senate primary by Joe Miller, the long-shot candidate she backed over Lisa Murkowski, made it clear to the entire country that she still exercises great influence in her home state.
Aw, poor Dick Armey. It's a terrible, terrible thing to be under siege. At least it is to Paul Bedard at US News & World Report, who is evidently so far out of touch with Tea Party structure that he describes Dick Armey as a "supporter", rather than one of the principal architects of their so-called movement.
As chairman of FreedomWorks, Dick Armey is the lobbyist-leader and organizer of the Tea Party, not just some ardent supporter of their work. Evidently his hard work isn't going unnoticed, by friend and foe:
"FreedomWorks and Dick Armey receive dozens of threatening and harassing calls and E-mails each day. Many imply violence and use of weapons," spokesman Adam Brandon tells Whispers. "As we get closer to the election we expect the harassment to increase."
He says that FreedomWorks will hire additional security, meaning less money for its election-eve, get-out-the-vote, or GOTV, campaign. "Unfortunately, we may have to use resources for security guards that we would rather use for GOTV," he said.
Awwww. Perhaps they should give Charles Koch a ring and see if he'd be willing to kick in an extra million or so. Or, they could just run down the hall to their media buddies:
The group plans to move to 400 North Capitol Street NW, a secure building two blocks from the U.S. Capitol. That building also houses Fox News Channel's Washington Bureau and several other media outlets.
Call me cynical, but I doubt these guys are all that worried about death threats. It's really just a way to let the world know they're moving in with their BFFs over at Fox News, because you know, there was so much doubt about which way Fox News leans politically. Right?
FreedomWorks provided some of the recordings of the threatening calls to Whispers and they include physical threats and profanity aimed at the group, Tea Party spokesmen and even conservative talkers. "You guys better watch it," says one caller. "Now, we are going to destroy and obliterate Rush [Limbaugh] and Sean Hannity," said another. "Those two guys are dead."
Even conservative talkers? Again, maybe it's just me, but when Media Matters has an entire blog devoted to debunking Rush Limbaugh's persistent lies on a daily basis and 119 pages of search results on Sean Hannity's hackery, I'd say the phony shock over them receiving death threats is, well...phony.
John Boehner's economic speech yesterday offered a golden opportunity for Democrats to ridicule, rebut, and remind everyone about who is really responsible for this shaky economy.
In what could possibly be one of the best speech edits ever, Ed Schultz lays out exactly what Boehner said: Nothing. Well, Boehner did tell everyone what he thought the President should do, and he said something about putting the adults in charge, too. My retort to that would be to suggest that he get out of the bars and the golf courses long enough to think straight, but that's just me.
The CBO had its own retort to this:
All this 'stimulus' spending has gotten us nowhere.
First, as a real-world matter, economic growth was pretty slow in the second quarter (April to June), but the CBO report makes clear that without the stimulus, it wouldn't have grown at all. In other words, a stimulus helped lead to tepid growth -- the absence of a stimulus would have been significant economic contraction.
Second, this CBO data, like reports from the Council of Economic Advisors and the Office of Management and Budget, should effectively end the debate about whether the Recovery Act did what it set out to do. The stimulus effort was too small -- criticism from conservative Republicans is completely backwards -- but as designed, it was intended to give the economy a significant boost, and save and create millions of jobs. It did exactly that. Anyone who argues otherwise is either not paying attention or is being willfully dishonest.
What? TanMan dishonest? Say it isn't so!
Everyone sing along now:
The stimulus worked.
It really, really worked.
It could have worked better
If it was bigger,
But it still really
Meanwhile, Boehner should be watching his back right now, because Eric Cantor hasn't made any secret out of his heart's desire to replace Nancy Pelosi, even while murmuring soft whispers of support for his orange counterpart. While Boehner may be today's minority leader, the Club for Growth is not all that happy with him (or Cantor, for that matter).
Of course, Club for Growth funds candidates like hand-picked Rove choice Tim Griffin, Rand Paul, Pat Toomey and Marco Rubio, so give their disapproval of Boehner and Cantor the full weight it deserves. Then consider helping Justin Coussoule send Boehner to the golf course for good?
Six plaintiffs recently filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County (Phoenix) alleging recently relaxed ballot handling rules ensure a lax chain of control over ballot papers in direct violation of Arizona law. Coupled with unapproved software installed on multiple election department computers, and it creates what the citizen watchdog group AUDIT AZ calls an "interlock." "This makes manipulation of vote counting easy and thus leaves elections vulnerable to undetectable fraud."
In reading the lawsuit, the "unapproved software" is a real eye-opener:
Defendants have installed software on their secure vote processing electronic systems for the specific purpose of communicating critical vote totals over the Internet over cellular communication networks (“cellular modems” or a “tethered cellphone”), in violation of the state-standard procedures manual at section “Election Management System Security” on page 87, items 6 and 7.
This is worse than what I've seen in the past with other voting machines and systems. First, there is no requirement for poll worker certification of the tapes, then observers are ordered not to observe the central tabulator systems, and finally, they intend to transmit the results via unauthorized software on the Internet via tethered cell phones?
Finally, Maricopa County plans to report election totals without segregating mail-in, precinct and provisional totals so that there's no clear audit trail if the count is questioned or a recount is necessary.
It's really good to see a publication that circulates in print and online put the Koch family in the spotlight in this weeks' cover story.
I've spent the past year researching the different tentacles of the Republican party and how the money flows, much of which I've reported here. But it never seems to slide into the mainstream. Until today, when Jane Mayer put it all together for New Yorker readers.
The only thing she missed was this: FreedomWorks is also a Koch enterprise. She started to go there, then backed off, but it's important to realize that both primary sources for teabagger funding come straight from the Koch family.
“Ideas don’t happen on their own,” Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, a Tea Party advocacy group, told me. “Throughout history, ideas need patrons.” The Koch brothers, after helping to create Cato and Mercatus, concluded that think tanks alone were not enough to effect change. They needed a mechanism to deliver those ideas to the street, and to attract the public’s support. In 1984, David Koch and Richard Fink created yet another organization, and Kibbe joined them. The group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, seemed like a grassroots movement, but according to the Center for Public Integrity it was sponsored principally by the Kochs, who provided $7.9 million between 1986 and 1993.
Citizens for a Sound Economy was FreedomWorks' predecessor. All assets were merged together, and FreedomWorks emerged as the new entity. Whether or not Koch continues to fund FreedomWorks, it unquestionably was spawned with their money and intentions.
After you read it, share it with everyone you know, because really, billionaires shouldn't be confused with angry populists and racists like they are now.
In the wake of the mortgage meltdown, a dangerous theme is emerging. On its face, it seems perfectly reasonable and even attractive, especially to the youngest generation of workers, who is already mired in student loan debt, credit card debt, and struggling to find a job. It goes like this:
The U.S. has long seen home ownership as an unquestioned virtue, dating to a 1918 government "Own Your Own Home" campaign. Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all talked as if owning a home was the only way to join the middle class. Not only did it promote social stability—recall Mr. Bush's "ownership society"—and build well-maintained neighborhoods, home ownership became a hedge against inflation and a way to save for retirement. Until it didn't. [read more...]
Some of those new homeowners, including those sold outrageously inappropriate subprime loans, should have remained renters. Many couldn't afford to maintain the houses they bought. Others were dependent on refinancing to keep their homes, an approach that worked only as house prices kept climbing. They didn't. At last tally, the U.S. home ownership rate was at 67.2% and sinking.
Even NPR has jumped on the story.
"The world we live in today is not quite the world that existed in 1950," he noted. "The nature of households and the rate at which they dissolve and reform, the nature of work and its transient nature across geographies are all things that suggest that maybe, just possibly, a middle-class American shouldn't stake themselves to an illiquid, very large, concentrated, leveraged asset —- that is to say, a house." [read more...]
Everything old is new again. Both of these articles blame Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for the mortgage meltdown, when the opposite is true. It isn't the middle class, minority or lower income buyers who caused the meltdown. In fact, the wealthy walked away from their mortgages when they found themselves upside down in a weak housing market -- not the middle class.
The subprime market made a lot of money for a lot of people. Easy credit and low interest rates enabled homeowners to sell for prices far above a realistic market price, while misleading buyers into believing they could actually afford a home at a price that was two to three times the value of the property. It drove developers to build at a record pace and in some cases, to self-finance their developments so they could pull more profit when the developments sold.
That video display with PacMan on it is supposed to look like this:
Yes, that is a voting machine. A voting machine that can be hacked to load PacMan without so much as a whisper of tampering.
Sequoia's voting machines, used in some 20% of U.S. elections, employ Intellectual Property (IP) still owned by a Venezuelan firm tied to Hugo Chavez. Sequoia itself is now owned by a Canadian firm called Dominion. (Though Dominion, like Sequoia itself before them, lied about the continuing Venezuelan/Chavez ties in their recent announcement of the acquisition, as detailed exclusively by The BRAD BLOG, to little notice, in June.)
The Pac-Man hack onto the Sequoia/Dominion voting machine was revealed this week. It was accomplished without breaking any of the "tamper-evident" seals that voting machine companies and election officials claim are used to ensure nobody can physically hack into them without being discovered.