Monday, March 30, 2009

Mitch McConnell, bullshitter

Michael J.W. Sticking
The Reaction
March 30, 2009

Here was Senate Minority Leader McConnell yesterday on John King's State of the Union:

I must say I'm disappointed. After two months, the president has not governed in the middle as I had hoped he would. But it's not too late. He's only been in office a couple of months. Still before him are the opportunities to deal with us on a truly bipartisan basis.

It would be one thing if a generally moderate Republican like Arlen Specter had said this. But McConnell? He's long been one of the nastiest and most vicious partisans on the Republican side of the aisle.

And, of course, what he means by being bipartisan is caving in to Republican demands -- and what he means by governing in the middle is being staunchly Republican. There's no "middle" in McConnell's world, you see, there's just the Republican way and the not-Republican way. Similarly, "bipartisanship" is just a rhetorical tool to sucker weak-kneed Democrats, or Democrats without principle or conviction, like Even Bayh, into abandoning their party and embracing the GOP.

Do you think McConnell ever expressed disappointment in Bush for not being moderate or bipartisan enough? Exactly.

Copyright 2009 The Reaction

Friday, March 27, 2009

Republicans Have a Better 'Plan': Tax Cuts for the Wealthy, a Budget with Imaginary Numbers, & Some Boffo Charts!

Buck Naked Politics
March 27, 2009

It's like the GOP is going out of its way to become a caricature of itself. Dave Weigl (Behold, Charts!):

An anonymous official quoted in Politico’s story on the House GOP budget plans said, “We need to hold something up and say, ‘Here are our charts. Here are our graphs. It’s real.”

So that's what they did: Unleash Hilarious ‘Road To Recovery’ Plan On Embarrassed Public. And we in the public especially like their health care graphic. It is choice.

Et...voila! Health care solved!


John Cole, on the subject of GOP seppuku:

That must have taken a lot of work to get together. They had to have spent at least… minutes. So why did they rush out in front of cameras to make fools of themselves?...

Pretty clearly, this debacle today was a result of this line from President Obama the other night at the fundraiser:...

And to a bunch of the critics out there, I’ve already said, show me your budget. (Laughter.) Show me what you want to do. (Applause.) And I’m happy to have that debate—because I believe in the vision of the Democratic Party. (Applause.) I believe in a vision that helps people help themselves. And I believe that in the end, the best way to bring down our deficit is not with a budget that continues the very same policies that led to the false prosperity and massive debts that we’ve seen. It’s a budget that leads to broad economic growth, moves us from an era of borrow and spend to save and invest....

...[T]he reason they ‘need’ to just throw out something, anything, is because they know they got bitch-slapped.

Ripley: "That's how you become great, man. Hang your balls out there!"

Yep, good times and awesomeness are just around the corner (


Check out all the neat charts in this plan like the one above, explaining (with pickshers) how the Republicans will use magical powers (War) to transform a possibly black homeless welfare bum into a cleaned-up white professional in the thriving sector of residential real estate development. Other innovative ideas include lowering the top income tax rate by 10% from current Bush levels, yelling at Jimmy Carter for trying to give houses to the blacks in 1977 and thereby causing the current depression, and this sentence: “Republicans believe the best antidote for market turmoil is certainty and economic growth.”

Ezra Klein:

Bush, famously, described his first budget by saying, "It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it." Indeed it was, and did. This isn't. There are no numbers. Let me repeat that: The Republican budget proposal does not say how much money they would raise, or spend....

It's true. Taylor Marsh:

[S]omething happened on the way from the calculator. No numbers. That’s right, none....

Beoher invited a bunch of reporters over to see the Republican response to Obama’s budget,
but they didn’t include any numbers, none at all.

It’s hard to believe these people get paid for this.

Apparently, some Republicans weren't too happy about this rush of the leadership to make fools of them all. Phoenix Woman notes:

Here’s something that you will never see on most evening TV news shows, or in most of the places where most Americans get their news — a story of Republicans in disarray:

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) objected to an abbreviated alternative budget “blueprint” released today — but were told by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) they needed to back the plan, according to several Republican sources.

“In his egocentric rush to get on camera, Mike Pence threw the rest of the Conference under the bus, specifically Paul Ryan, whose staff has been working night and day for weeks to develop a substantive budget plan,” said a GOP aide heavily involved in budget strategy.

“I hope his camera time was gratifying enough to justify erasing the weeks of hard work by dozens of Republicans to put forth serious ideas,” the person added.

Yes, we're all still waiting to hear those "serious" "ideas." Tax cuts for everyone! Er...everyone who still has an income. They'll all go right out and start up small businesses or something, I guess.

Jon at Yes, Let's Talk About This:

[T]he drubbing they are now receiving for the vacuity of their “plan” was completely and entirely avoidable and indeed, should have been avoided. In the meantime, the result has reinforced the notion that the Republicans are not a party to be taken seriously.

Copyright 2009 Buck Naked Politics

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Legislators want to accept stimulus funds

STIMULUS: Leaders say they want most of the federal dollars.

JUNEAU -- Top Alaska legislators said Tuesday they're likely to accept at least most of the federal economic stimulus money that Gov. Sarah Palin did not.

"I think at the end of the day we will end up taking most of the funds," said Anchorage Republican Rep. Mike Hawker, who is leading the House effort on the stimulus as co-chairman of the finance committee.

Senate Majority Leader Johnny Ellis agreed. "I would be surprised if we give up much or any of the federal money," the Anchorage Democrat said.

Palin announced last week she was not accepting $288 million of the $930.7 million that the state is due in the federal stimulus. Palin aides have said in the days since that the governor did not reject any money, leading some state legislators to charge the governor with backpedaling as a result of furor over the announcement.

The biggest chunk of money at issue is about $170 million for education. School district officials are mad, and Anchorage Democratic Rep. Harry Crawford said he doesn't expect legislators to withhold the money.

"I don't see anybody getting in front of that train," he said.

Senate President Gary Stevens, a Republican from Kodiak, said he's especially interested in the money that would go for special education and schooling for disadvantaged children. Stevens said his meetings with the governor prior to her stimulus announcement had given him the impression she was going to go after more of the money and he was surprised to hear otherwise last week.

But legislators do have questions about the stimulus package and plan on hearings in the coming weeks to sort out the details. Some share Palin's view that accepting federal money could create expectations among the public for services that the state would need to either fund or abandon after the federal dollars stopped coming.

"I am very concerned and I know Alaskans are about what we're about to do here," said Fairbanks Republican Rep. Mike Kelly.


Palin aides have said the past few days that the governor has been mischaracterized.

"The governor has not rejected any funds -- that I think was perhaps the interpretation and I know certainly in some of the coverage of the press event last week," Karen Rehfeld, the governor's budget director, told the House Finance Committee on Tuesday.

But Senate Majority Leader Ellis, a Democrat, said Palin's announcement "seemed very clear to me about rejecting one-third of the stimulus dollars. ... There's backtracking and explanation going on now."

Wasilla Republican Sen. Charlie Huggins said there was a shift in tone as a result of the public outcry that followed Palin's announcement last week that she wasn't accepting the money.

"The (Palin) administration worked through the weekend and they fixed some of their slides based on public sentiment. And that's the way the democratic process works: It's not good, it's not bad, it's just sobering," he said.

Chugiak Republican Rep. Bill Stoltze, however, disputes that Palin is changing the message and said she was just being cautious about the money.

"I looked at the governor's statement and I didn't hear a rejection." he said.

The governor or the Legislature must formally ask for the federal stimulus money available to Alaska in order for the state to receive it. Palin announced last week that she was only requesting the portion that would go for construction and infrastructure and that "in essence we say no to operating funds for more positions in government."

She made arguments for not accepting the money -- including that some has strings attached and that the state might be left to pick up the tab if people expect programs to go on after the federal money runs out. But Palin also said she would work with legislators and that a public discussion is needed about what should happen with the money -- "more opportunity for more information," the governor called it.

A reporter asked Palin at the time if it was fair to say she was rejecting the money.

"If that's the way you want to look at it," she replied.


Legislators said they are worried that, if they do accept the money, Palin will either veto parts of it or simply not fill out the necessary paperwork to receive it. Two Anchorage Democratic senators, including Senate Judiciary Chairman Hollis French, questioned if the state can even legally get the money if Palin doesn't expressly request it, although that's not the prevailing view among their colleagues.

Palin will not rule out vetoes. But her budget director, Rehfeld, said state agencies are continuing to do the paperwork necessary to ensure Alaska does not miss deadlines if the Legislature accepts the money.

One argument going on in the Capitol is about what strings are attached to the money. Rehfeld told legislators that up to 25 percent of the money Palin didn't accept could have strings that require a change in state policy. Some involves an increase in the eligibility for unemployment benefits.

But the biggest pot of money the Palin administration identified as having strings is $56 million for weatherization, energy efficiency grants and the state energy program. Rehfeld said accepting it could require implantation of a statewide energy code.

There's dispute over that.

House Finance Committee aide Larry Persily found the requirement for energy efficiency standards only applies to about half of that money. The Palin administration said it's trying to get a written determination on it from the federal government.

Anchorage Rep. Hawker objected to Palin saying it's a requirement for Alaska communities to adopt a uniform "building code," as she did in her statement to the press about not accepting stimulus money.

"I'm a little bit concerned there has been a myth perpetrated upon folks who are now using it. It fits on a bumper sticker very nicely and it's becoming conventional wisdom, and frankly it's just not true," Hawker said.

Rehfeld responded that it does require a statewide energy building code, similar to what the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation uses now.

Persily said accepting the money would require the state to adopt (within eight years) codes for residential and commercial structures that meet or exceed international energy-efficiency standards. The standards must apply to 90 percent of new or renovated building space; not existing structures. The requirement deals with energy-efficiency standards, not a complete set of building codes, Persily said.

"Out in the area I represent this is pretty sensitive subject matter," said Mat-Su Rep. Stoltze. "If it is a myth, let's go through the process of dispelling it, or portions thereof. But even pieces of a myth can be pretty overbearing for some parts of my district. It's not paranoia if they are really out to get you. So let's just make sure they are not."

© Copyright 2009, The Anchorage Daily News, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Company

Monday, March 23, 2009

Palin Pallin' Around with Scientologists: Todd & Sarah & John & Greta

Geoffrey Dunn
The Huffington Post
March 21, 2009

There is something absolutely bizarre and troubling going on in the political netherworld of Sarah and Todd Palin, Greta Van Susteren and her wannabe-queen-maker hubby, John Coale.

At best, it's a clear case of journalistic conflict-of-interest on behalf of Van Susteren; at worst, it's a sleazy, national power play by a couple of practitioners of Scientology--the controversial cult that Time magazine described as "a hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner."

Let's start with the easy stuff: Van Susteren is a flat-out hypocrite and a con artist. Quote me.Ever since Palin was first selected as John McCain's running mate last August, Van Susteren--she of the rather severe face lift and right-wing tilt--has been utterly infatuated with the Palins (especially with Todd) and has enjoyed unequaled access to the Last Frontier's first couple and their family. 


There's been the interviews in the kitchen with Sarah, the fawning (if not embarrassingtête-à-tête with the "First Dude" overlooking Lake Lucille, the softball conversation with Sarah after the GOP's defeat in November, and, most recently, the controversial interview with 18-year-old Bristol Palin and her infant son, Tripp.

While there's something ironic about Alaska's most famous evangelical Christians pallin' around with a couple who believes that 75 million years ago an entity named Xenu brought billions of people to Earth in spacecraft resembling DC-8 airliners, it's all been good for Van Susteren's ratings. It's also expanded her television profile from the narrow confines of legal journalism to broader national political commentary. She's ridden Palin's conservative steed into an entirely new level of public exposure.

Van Susteren first used her Fox blog to protect Palin after CNN--with whom Van Susteren had a less-than-friendly break-up in 2002--named her to its year-end list of "politicians who fell from grace in 2008." That particular all-star team included Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards and Rod Blagojevich. Van Susteren protested, and CNN quietly (and gutlessly) removed Palin from the list.

"Why didn't CNN PUBLICLY apologize for this one?" Van Susteren blogged. "They sure unfairly trashed her publicly on that list."

Unfairly? Palin's vicious and duplicitous attacks against Obama on the campaign trail alone reserved her a spot on that roster, not to mention all the lies and half-truths she spewed along the way, nor her moose-in-the-headlights moments with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric.


Two days ago, Van Susteren ripped into comedian David Letterman for his riff on Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston and the governor:

Letterman: You remember that Sarah, one of the deals was one of her children, daughters, a very young girl, was pregnant and was going to get married to the young man that knocked her up. And her name was Bristol, and the kid's name was Levi Johnston. You remember these kids? Well, they have broken up. Yes. So if you were going to send them a gift...[Laughter]

Okay. Let me say from the outset that I also found the jabs at Bristol and Levi insensitive--but then a lot of the humor on late-night talk shows tends toward the insensitive (that's why we laugh). It wasn't out of line by typical late-night standards.

But Van Susteren threw a hissy fit about it. She brought on as a guest, Jane Swift, the former governor of Massachusetts, to tag-team Letterman and excoriate him for his joke:

Van Susteren: He took it 15 steps further and picks on the kid. We left the Bush children alone. We left Chelsea Clinton alone. That was always something that people were respectful towards the children, recognizing it was different....Do you really have to go that far to make a buck, to make a laugh?

First of all, it's an outright lie that the Bush and Clinton kids were left alone. They took plenty of heat. It goes with the terrain.

But more importantly, the reason that Bristol Palin has now been elevated to late-night talk show fodder is precisely because Van Susteren brought the 18-year-old Bristol on her showand conducted an in-depth interview with her, one that led to chastisement from across the political spectrum, including the conservative right.

It was Van Susteren who made Bristol Palin a public figure, who pulled her out of her privacy with her child, and who played the ratings game with Bristol's private life. Not once did Van Susteren acknowledge that fact, reflect on it, nor express any regret for doing so. Not once.So much for insight and compassion. Bristol Palin has Van Susteren to thank for her being the butt of late-night jokes. Because Van Susteren went that far to make a buck.


Moreover, this was the second time in recent weeks that Van Susteren had used her bully pulpit to come to Palin's defense in respect to issues surrounding Bristol. She did it again with hack-man Bill O'Reilly against "the far left" who was "making fun of Bristol."

Van Susteren: But I mean, they live with themselves. They live with themselves. I'm just -- I am appalled because this is an 18-year-old kid.

Neither Van Susteren nor O'Reilly had the integrity to note that the far right was going after Bristol, too. So they skewed the news to do a hatchet job on the left. What else is new?

Even more troubling, however, was this exchange between O'Reilly and Van Susteren:

O'Reilly: Joining us from Washington, FOX News anchor Greta Van Susteren, host of "On the Record," who knows the Palin family well.

Van Susteren: Well, you know, you say that I, just as an aside, that I know them very well. The only way that I've met them is by interviewing them. So, you know, I don't socialize or spend a lot of time with them. But I do have a little bit of a sense having interviewed them multiple times.

What she didn't acknowledge then or any time before--and only acknowledged after being busted by the Washington Post--was that her husband, Coale, has been "helping" Palin'spresidential campaign. He's not helping her run the State of Alaska--which is her current job and for which she is being paid $125,000 annually, plus, of course, per diem--he's helping her with her exploratory campaign for the 2012 Republican nomination for President.

Coale apparently has some sort of fixation on powerful women, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. It's more about their position than it is about their ideology. (I'll leave it to Letterman to compose a crack about that.) But when Van Susteren failed to disclose her husband's relationship to Palin, whether he was paid or not, and claimed only a professional relationship with the Palins, she was engaging in out-and-out duplicity and covering up a blatant professional conflict of interest.

There are rumors that Coale, a powerful attorney in Washington, D.C., guided the formation of SarahPAC and that he even helped raise money--or put up some himself--to form Palin's political action committee (one that looks a whole lot like Hillary's) in Arlington, Virginia.

How weird is it? The Baltimore Sun reported that Coale admits to being "enamored" with Palin and that he refers to her as "his girlfriend." The Washington Times quoted Coale as saying in January, just before the Obama Inauguration, that "I am getting as far from D.C. as I can. I may go to Alaska and see Sarah."

Well, travel to the Last Frontier he did, apparently to hang out with Sarah at that ever so exciting sports event, the Iron Dog, during which the governor's husband was conveniently ensconced on a snow machine.

I was sent a photo--which also ran in Andrew Halcro's fine blog on the subject--in which Coale (at left) can be seen fixated on Palin at the Iron Dog, with Palin's daughter Piper in the foreground. If ever a picture said a thousand words, this is it:


Of course, Van Susteren put a feminist spin on it all:

He has fun doing it. He happens to enjoy helping them with advice. He likes to see women succeed...

As The Gawker wryly observed, "The elite Scientologist just likes helping the ladies."

Coale, 62, is a real piece of work. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Coale himself admitted in an interview: "I did a lot of drugs back in college." In another interview he characterized himself as a "pirate." He's also been described as an "ambulance chaser" and has been disciplined, along with Van Susteren, for illegally soliciting clients. In 1996, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia ruled that Coale and his wife were both guilty of professional misconduct:

"Accordingly, we find that respondents Allen, Coale, and Van Susteren engaged in professional misconduct by inducing others to initiate the improper telephone solicitations which we found violative of Rules 7.3(a) and 7.3(b)(1) of the Rules of Professional Conduct."

Coale has also played a central role in several major class action lawsuits, including those involving tobacco and Ritalin, as well as a suit against the FBI for its role in the Waco massacre. And during her divorce from Michael Jackson, Lisa Marie Presley, yet another prominent damsel in distress, chose Coale as her attorney.

Van Susteren also acknowledged that Coale met Palin through her in Van Susteren's professional capacity as a journalist--which he then turned into a personal and political relationship. There's another journalistic boundary that's been crossed. Well, maybe. As theAtlantic's Andrew Sullivan acerbically declared, that would imply that Van Susteren "is actually a journalist."

Maybe Tom Cruise will play Todd in the movie.•

Copyright 2009