Sunday, December 28, 2008

I didn't know she said things like that

TPM: In an interview with the New York Times, Caroline Kennedy became somewhat annoyed when asked to describe the moment when she decided to seek Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. "Have you guys ever thought about writing for, like, a woman's magazine or something?" said Kennedy. "I thought you were the crack political team."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Jennifer Palmieri: Perfect for the Obama administration

So Jennifer Palmieri, the acting CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, for whom Matt Yglesias writes since his departure from the Atlantic, apparently received threats to her loved ones from Democratic advocacy group Third Way. She hasn't said so explicitly, but it's the only plausible explanation for why she decided to commandeer Yglesias's blog at 10:30pm last night to write the following:

This is Jennifer Palmieri, acting CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Most readers know that the views expressed on Matt’s blog are his own and don’t always reflect the views of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Such is the case with regard to Matt’s comments about Third Way. Our institution has partnered with Third Way on a number of important projects - including a homeland security transition project - and have a great deal of respect for their critical thinking and excellent work product. They are key leaders in the progressive movement and we look forward to working with them in the future.

As Atrios and others have noted, this is insane. The word "creepy" appears frequently in the 538-and-counting comments from outraged readers, and that's putting it lightly. Everybody who reads Yglesias's blog knows (or knew, until Palmieri bigfooted him) that his views are his own. The only "audience" for her Special Note was the delicate flowers at Third Way, whom nobody's heard of or cares about anyway.

But wait, maybe there's a reasonable explanation staring us in the face: Palmieri is apparently being considered for a job in the Obama administration, namely as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, and what better way to angle for such a position than by gratuitously pissing off liberals? Clearly, a president-elect so eager to enrage his biggest supporters that he'd have the Purpose Driven Asshole give the invocation at his inauguration would read this Special Note and wonder who is that fresh-faced go-getter?

More seriously, this Third Way thing doesn't have anything to do with Obama, but it's worrisome that someone as stupid and pliant as Ms. Palmieri seems to be is running the country's most influential liberal advocacy organization. After all, the reason she's the acting CEO is that the regular CEO is running Obama's transition team.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Harry Reid's core competencies

Sure, the Senate Majority Leader might not actually be any good at leading the Democrats' Senate majority, but if you're a dubiously qualified member of a political dynasty who wants an appointment to a vacated seat, Harry Reid's your man.

It's true that Caroline Kennedy hasn't been a deadbeat or anything, and she's actually a legitimate New York resident, which Hillary wasn't. But give me an effing break regardless. It's just a staggering display of bandwagon-jumping, and it would speak very badly of Gov. Paterson if he's actually considering rewarding it with a U.S. Senate seat she has no business occupying.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A word about the Mets' reliever moves

Well, I wasn't exactly lobbying for Francisco Rodriguez, but there's a big difference between the 5 years/$75 million that it was supposed to have taken and the 3 years/$37 million that it actually took. At that price it's hard to complain. The guy is pretty good, after all.

It's even harder to complain after seeing that the Indians had to go over $10 million/yr to get Kerry Wood, whose injury problems have been very real instead of just seemingly inevitable like K-Rod's.

And the 12-player JJ Putz deal seems borderline brilliant, as it appears that Endy Chavez might have been the most valuable player the Mets gave up. Heilman was going to do be assigned to mop-up duty at best, and I don't know of any particular reason to be worried that Mike Carp is the next Jeff Bagwell. Plus the throw-ins Omar got along with Putz are kinda interesting. Outfielder Jeremy Reed was once considered an elite prospect. Sure, he's not anymore, but at 27 it's not like he couldn't become a Chavez-caliber role player. And Sean Green, while unspectacular, gave up fewer home runs in 2008 than Heilman gave up in a bad inning.

I still don't like Santana, Maine, Pelfrey, ?? and ??? as a starting five, but I'm glad Omar didn't give A.J. Burnett what the Yankees did, and if he had to go out and get two famous Closers, at least he did it about as efficiently as one could hope for.

Velazquez drops out

Well that's disappointing.

Right at the start, Nydia Velazquez seemed plausible because she was Hispanic and a woman.

But in truth, she had been dropped out of the Hillary Senate sweepstakes by most informed observers a while ago -- partly because of a long ago suicide attempt, partly because of some grumbles about her votes on Israel that could have threatened the Jewish support a Democrat needs in NY in a competitive race, partly because she just didn't seem like a candidate that could be sold statewide.

None of those sound like especially good reasons to me.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Wilpons lost money in the Madoff scheme

CNBC just announced that the Fred Wilpon's Sterling Equities had "accounts" with Bernard Madoff (actually pronounced Made-Off), whose brokerage firm turns out to have been a $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

Still, it was a better decision than signing Mo Vaughn.

Bloomberg has the story here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cramer wasn't recommending Bear stock

Bad Rap Alert!

Foreign Policy has a list of the 10 Worst Predictions of 2008. I like that Bill Kristol gets the top spot, even though a lot of people thought HRC would roll Obama. But their #2 pick is a travesty.

My view of Jim Cramer's predictive abilities, and, yes, personal integrity have dimmed this year, but it's simply not fair to accuse him of recommending Bear Stearns (BSC) as a stock pick on March 11. What he was saying, accurately, was that it wasn't necessary for the caller to close his account with Bear's brokerage operation. Even as Bear shareholders got almost wiped out, Bear clients simply became JPMorgan Chase clients, and were no worse off for it.

Would he have said the same thing if he knew what kind of shape Bear was really in at the time? Probably not, but the fact remains that he was not telling people to buy the late BSC. Foreign Policy should stick to its guns!

via AMC's twitter feed

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Profiles in Discretion: Rod Blagojevich

You don't see political careers explode that spectacularly very often. When you've got a governor on tape saying, explicitly, "I want money" in exchange for the U.S. Senate seat he's authorized to fill, and pointing out how much leverage he has, since if they don't pay, he can always appoint himself to the Senate... Well, you're just being greedy if you ask for that governor to also be a Republican.

Monday, December 08, 2008

WSJ: "Mark-to-Market Likely to Remain"

Good. Suspending it was an unusually bad idea.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Blacks vs. Gays

Or BVG, when the movie gets made. Caitlin Flanagan and Benjamin Schwarz have a good op-ed on the Prop 8 fallout. The key point is that we shouldn't be too surprised to "discover that one oppressed group does not necessarily support the goals of another oppressed group." They also point out that the dominant party in a two-party system is of necessity a coalition of subgroups, majorities of which are bound to oppose each other on certain issues.

So the scapegoating of the 70% of black Californians who voted Yes, as either traitorous Democrats or ungrateful beneficiaries of the civil rights movement, is intensely stupid. Still, I'm not sure how sympathetic I am to those African-Americans who find the appeal to the civil rights movement "galling."

On the one hand, those who oppose gay marriage almost certainly don't see a fundamental similarity between the two, and the "Who had it worse?" contest is not close. But it's hard to see how the analogy could be taken as a sign of disrespect. People probably wouldn't compare their cause to another unless a) they also supported that cause, and b) the other cause was successful. Otherwise it's not a terribly useful analogy. And it should be possible to argue that two historical injustices are similar in principle without implying that they are responsible for equal amounts of human suffering.

Later the authors attempt to peel back the layers of the onion that is African-American opposition to gay marriage:

Furthermore — and perhaps even more painfully for those of us who support gay marriage and all that it represents — Christian teaching on marriage is not the only reason so many blacks supported Proposition 8. Although it has come as a shocking realization to many in this community, a host of sociological studies confirm that many blacks feel a significant aversion to homosexuality itself, finding it morally and sexually repugnant.

I don't know what community they're referring to, but I'm not sure why anyone would be shocked by those studies. That "significant aversion" is also called homophobia, and it can be identified in many whites too! It doesn't become some new phenomenon when it's found to be especially prevalent among black people.

My suspicion is that this gut feeling preceded the religious dictates that legitimized it, and that at this point Romans 1:27 is mostly a convenient fig leaf that spares people of all races from having to come out and say "Because it's just gross, is why!"

That's crucial because, in arguing that a large minority population must retain its narrower set of rights than that afforded everyone else, they know they need a better reason for it than the squick factor. Gay marriage opponents who are black shouldn't be expected to have a better explanation for themselves than those who aren't, but they all should have a better one than that.

British Sea Power - "No Lucifer"

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Don't do the Big Dog like that

The New York Times ran a story headlined "Bill Clinton Speech in Malaysia Irks Investors"

Now, I don't think I was the only person to read that and think that the investors were irked by something Bill Clinton said in his speech. But that's not really the thrust of the story at all. Clinton just said nice things about the guy who organized the event and paid him his $200k to be there. I don't think "investors" should have been too surprised by that.

What the story actually tries to demonstrate is that the organizer in question, a guy named Vinod Sekhar, is a sketchy character. If it manages to accomplish even this, it does so barely. The most damning accusation by anyone quoted in the piece is that the only reason he hired Clinton to appear is because "[h]e just wants to get new investors." Well golly. That's almost as bad as the charge of living in a rented house, which I'm pretty sure is legal. And yeah he settled some lawsuits (one from Bruce Willis) but the guy doesn't have a criminal rap sheet or anything.

So the story is actually about some disgruntled investors of Sekhar's who don't like him and disapprove of Clinton's shilling for him. And the Times runs with the headline "Bill Clinton Speech in Malaysia Irks Investors"?

I'm sure Bill Clinton will do something embarrassing or controversial soon enough, but there's no need to just make shit up.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I guess real estate didn't take

A little under nine months. That's how much time passed between the breaking of the Eliot Spitzer prostitute story and his first column for Slate. The title of this business column is "The Best Policy." That would of course be a reference to the old saw: "Committing adultery is the best policy." Anyway I have a few gripes with the debut column itself:

1. I don't think the fact that international buyers now trust the Chinese to manufacture aircraft (instead of, say, shoes or consumer electronics) is terrible news for America.

2. Using $7.8 trillion figure for the "cost" of the bailouts is pretty misleading. Yes, he specifies that it includes guarantees but he nonetheless talks about the money as if it's been "spent." The government hasn't spent anywhere near that much money. The difference between taking a loss and being exposed to a loss is very big.

3. Spitzer writes:

For years, we have accepted a theory of financial concentration—not only across all lines of previously differentiated sectors (insurance, commercial banking, investment banking, retail brokerage, etc.) but in terms of sheer size. The theory was that capital depth would permit the various entities, dubbed financial supermarkets, to compete and provide full service to customers while cross-marketing various products. That model has failed..."

This is nonsense. If anything the "financial supermarket" model has been vindicated. Look at the biggest of the survivors: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citi... all of them are supermarkets, with retail branches and investment banking operations. Bear and Lehman were pure investment banks, as was Merrill (which didn't end quite as badly). And now the remaining pure investment banks are looking to get into the retail business, because deposits are the readiest source of funding these days.

The problem isn't that the banks were supermarkets, it's that their proprietary trading, and the amount of risk they took on in general, was wildly irresponsible. But that mismanagement didn't flow necessarily from the diversity of business lines, and there are better ways to address it than to try to arbitrarily cap banks at a certain size. Reserve requirements can be imposed, better underwriting standards can be enforced in the mortgage industry, the rating agencies can be blown up reformed, etc.

I don't have a problem with "true competition with winners and losers; companies that disappear; shareholders and CEOs who can lose as well as win..." But it's worth separating the practices which are intrinsically flawed and prone to causing financial catastrophe from those that aren't.

Anyway I'm not a huge fan of the piece. It's pretty interesting, though, I'll give him that. I'll continue to read him even though he's a scumbag.

The HRC-Tweety nexus

A non-trivial drawback, as I saw it, to the nomination of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was that it would render large swaths of Hardball with Chris Matthews utterly unwatchable. But if Matthews is going to run for Arlen Specter's Senate seat, that means Tweety's fevered speculation about Hillary-Bill-Obama dynamics won't be a staple of every episode of the show from 2009-10. That's good news.

He might win, too.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The coveted SF endorsement

So there's apparently a good chance that, when Hillary resigns her seat post-inauguration, Gov. David Paterson will select my congresswoman, Nydia Velazquez, to fill her Senate seat and I'm hoping that he does so.

For one thing, she's clearly a twofer on the identity politics front, which is the cause of most of my optimism and some of my enthusiasm for her selection. But since she's been my representative I've checked to make sure she votes the right way on important stuff and sure enough, she has. It reminds me of an Alec Baldwin line from 30 Rock, where he's talking to the young white male NBC page Kenneth and informs him that, politically speaking, he's actually a latina woman. That's me.

My only beef with Rep. Velazquez was that she, along with I believe every other New York politician, supported Clinton in the primary. (I wrote her a letter sometime after Super Tuesday urging her to abandon ship and throw her support to Obama, but she took no heed.) And she also was a bit of a villain in David Einhorn's book, having failed to do anything as chair of the Small Business Committee over the utterly corrupt Small Business Administration (which pretty clearly falls in her purview), even after he made his case to her staff.

But on the whole, good peoples. And all the alternatives are either unknown or annoying. Andrew Cuomo? No gracias.

BTW the place to go for the latest on all the Paterson-stalking and nomination-jockeying is Elizabeth Benjamin's blog, which is the rookie of the year in my RSS reader.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Why would they stop covering for him now?

Josh Marshall explains the MSM's idea of "candor": "Let's go over this very slowly. For Bush to blame the failure of intel for his decision to invade is not a concession at all, and it is not an admission of failure on his part. Rather, it is the opposite of these things. It is an evasion of responsibility for what happened."

Not only will there not be adequate accountability for the Iraq War, there will hardly be any at all. Obama or no Obama, the vast majority of Americans don't have any appreciation for how thoroughly criminal the Iraq War was/is.