Pro-Bowl Open Thread

So far in the Pro Bowl, Chris Collinsworth has informed the viewers that despite the Steelers victory, what we should really focus on is how remarkable it would have been had Arizona finished the comeback, how remarkable the story would have been if Warner had won, and that if he had a vote for Defensive MVP, he would not have voted for James Harrison.

Why this guy still has a job is beyond me. And for those of you who do not understand what I am ranting about, having Chris Collinsworth do color for a football game that has anyone from the Steelers in it is like having Rush Limbaugh doing play-by-play for the NOW annual meeting.


Here is an actual transcript of a conversation between a man, Paul Kelleher, and Bank of America when Keller called to tell B of A and his mother’s other creditors that his mother had died:

Paul Kelleher: Yes, I’m calling to inform you that my mom died on the 24th of January.

Bank of America Estates representative: I’m sorry. Oh, it looks like she never even missed a payment. That’s too bad. Well, how are you planning to take care of her balance?

PK: I’m not going to. She has no estate to speak of, but you should feel free to just go through the standard probate procedure. I’m certainly not legally obligated to pay for her.

BOA: You mean you’re not going to help her out?

PK: I wouldn’t be helping her out — she’s dead. I’d be helping you out.

BOA: Oh, that’s really not the way to look at it. I know that if it were my mother, I’d pay it. That’s why we’re in the banking crisis we’re in: banks having to write off defaulted loans.

Apparently, this is standard practice:

Kelleher’s reported conversation, the former rep said, “sounds like how I would have attempted to collect” in such a situation. “I would have asked: ‘How do you plan on paying for this?'”

The (former B of A) rep said that employees were encouraged to walk right up to the line of actively deceiving a caller about the consequences of non-payment. “As long as you don’t get caught [lying],” the former rep added, “there’s no really no punishment.” The former rep did not work in the estates unit, but confirmed, based on direct knowledge of B of A’s practices, that it operates similarly to the former rep’s own unit.

When I read things like this, I don’t feel so good about having a credit card company whore as vice-president or about the 19 Democratic Senators who voted for the bankruptcy bill.

I’m not saying the Republican party is the Taliban

Michael Kinsley’s definition of a gaffe:

A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.

Republican House Pete Sessions today:

Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban,” Sessions said during a meeting yesterday with Hotline editors. “And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person’s entire processes. And these Taliban — I’m not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban. No, that’s not what we’re saying. I’m saying an example of how you go about [sic] is to change a person from their messaging to their operations to their frontline message. And we need to understand that insurgency may be required when the other side, the House leadership, does not follow the same commands, which we entered the game with.

I guess it’s not technically a gaffe since he said “I’m not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban.” But it’s certainly something like one.

This is why Obama doesn’t stand a chance of beating the right-wing message machine.

Remember, though, there are a lot of serious, bipartisan-minded people in the Taliban.

“Centrists” to fuck National Science Foundation

A number of people who comment and post at this blog — including Tim and me — are scientists, so this may be of some interest to some of you:

Among the initiatives that could be cut are $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $14 million for cyber security research by the Homeland Security Department, $1 billion for the National Science Foundation, $400 million for research and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, $850 million for Amtrak and $400 million for climate change research. But so far, none of the suggestions come close to being enough to shrink the package on the scale proposed.

Department of low standards

Anne Kornblut today:

The job of the media is, absolutely, to hold the government to account. And by and large, I think the media did a better job of it over the last 8 years than, say, the Bush administration did.

Pulitzers for everyone!

(Let me know when my WaPo Q&A shtick starts to annoy you.)

Who Needs The NRO?

When you have ABC news:

America’s CEOs are coming under fire these days not just for their hefty salaries but also for their use of private jets, limos with drivers and free trips to posh resorts.

But they aren’t alone in living this lavish lifestyle — the president of United States gets all these perks and more.

And unlike some of his Cabinet appointments, he doesn’t have to pay taxes on these benefits.

It might be a bit of a stretch to compare today’s corporate titans with the commander in chief, but some Wall Street bloggers clearly upset with President Obama’s attempts to rein in executive pay are doing just that.

I don’t think this is a “stretch” at all. This is excellent reporting, guys. Now that the “shoe is on the other foot,” I am glad the media is covering the hypocrisy of the Democrats, who are limiting CEO pay while living high on the hog themselves.

And the overhead of the White House should be discussed, too. Isn’t it a bit much for Obama to have that massive staff at the White House when everyone else is buckling their belt? I bet Rahm Emmanuel has room in his flat for the Obama family, and that could save a few bucks.

And why isn’t he paying for his security?

Wankers. I really don’t know what else to say. Wankers.


What Digby/Michael Hirsh said

I’m not in full-on OBAMA IS TEH FAIL mode yet. Far from it. And I believe that a stimulus package not too different from the one he proposed will pass the Senate next week. Not bad for three weeks work. But I think that Michael Hirsh’s take (via Digby) on what’s going on is very smart:

Barack Obama began making his comeback on Wednesday, apparently aware that he has all but lost control of the agenda in Washington at a time when he simply can’t afford to do so. Obama’s biggest problem isn’t Taxgate—which resulted in the Terrible Tuesday departure of his trusted friend, Tom Daschle, and the defanging of his Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner. Nor is the No. 1 problem that the president can’t seem to win a single Republican vote for his stimulus package. That’s a symptom, not a cause. The reason Obama is getting so few votes is that he is no longer setting the terms of the debate over how to save the economy. Instead the Republican Party—the one we thought lost the election—is doing that. And the confusion and delay this is causing could realize Obama’s worst fears, turning “crisis into a catastrophe,” as the president said Wednesday.

Obama’s desire to begin a “post-partisan” era may have backfired. In his eagerness to accommodate Republicans and listen to their ideas over the past week, he has allowed the GOP to turn the haggling over the stimulus package into a decidedly stale, Republican-style debate over pork, waste and overspending. This makes very little economic sense when you are in a major recession that only gets worse day by day. Yes, there are still some very legitimate issues with a bill that’s supposed to be “temporary” and “targeted”—among them, large increases in permanent entitlement spending, and a paucity of tax cuts requiring immediate spending. Even so, Obama has allowed Congress to grow embroiled in nitpicking over efficiency when the central debate should be about whether the package is big enough. When you are dealing with a stimulus of this size, there are going to be wasteful expenditures and boondoggles. There’s no way anyone can spend $800 to $900 billion quickly without waste and boondoggles. It comes with the Keynesian territory. This is an emergency; the normal rules do not apply.

I don’t blame Obama for not realizing what douchebags the Villagers and Congressional Republicans were going to be. Someone who had as low an opinion of human nature as is realistic (and as I personally have) never would have run for president in the first place.

But I think that at some point he has to come to grips with the fact that a good proportion of the Villagers and Congressional Republicans (and probably more than one or two Congressional Democrats) would happily shove the entire country into one of Bob’s brick ovens if they thought that would get them a book deal or a better committee appointment or more face time on Morning Joe or what have you.

Let’s take a step back. There’s essentially a “best practices” approach to dealing with financial calamity: you max out your monetary policy, which we’ve already done, and then you spend as much money as you possibly can without actually setting the stuff on fire (I’m exaggerating, but you get the point). That’s not Obama’s plan or Democrats’ plan, that’s the mainstream economic plan. Not everyone agrees with it, but not everyone agrees that you should take antibiotics if you’ve got pneumonia or that you should stop smoking if you’re coughing all the time.

So let’s admit that what we have here is a media and Congressional Republican assault on economic common sense. No one expects an assault on common sense. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition either (link added). But when either comes, you’d better react.