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Tuesday :: Dec 16, 2014

Energizing the Base(s)

by Deacon Blues

We can now safely assume both Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are running for the GOP nomination in 2016. Both have some of the same financial backers as would Chris Christie, who still has delusions of being a viable 2016 GOP presidential nominee. So all three will be jostling amongst the 1% base of the GOP to demonstrate why they have what it takes to beat the Tea Party base and Hillary Clinton in the same cycle. Bush will be doing a balancing act of looking like a reasonable adult for the 1% against the base while reminding that same base he's quite conservative himself.

Against this backdrop and recent events over the Cromnibus, it's easy to accept the conventional wisdom that there will also be a "base versus the establishment" battle on the Democratic side between Hillary and Elizabeth Warren or others. But despite's best efforts, is Warren really interested in running for president and possibly slowing her long-term arc to becoming the leading progressive on the national stage, or is she as David Axelrod suggests really interested in making sure Hillary puts forward a reason for her candidacy that is as populist as possible? Despite the best efforts of the Beltway media to cast the recent battle within the Democratic Party over the Cromnibus as a chasm-inducing moment, the release of such energy on the left with Warren's leadership and that of Sherrod Brown and others is a welcome tonic to the lethargy facing the party these next two years due to its congressional minority-party status.

Even if the Cromnibus provisions upon further reflection may not be as dire as originally thought, and even if those who went along had a solid longer-game reason for doing so, it doesn't hurt for Obama, Clinton, and Harry Reid to know that the base has put them on notice for the next two years.

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Monday :: Dec 15, 2014

Falling Oil Prices Doom Keystone XL?

by Deacon Blues

One of the ironic byproducts of declining worldwide oil prices is that the economic sense behind the Keystone XL pipeline has evaporated. Extracting oil from Canadian tar sands and then shipping that oil thousands of miles across the American midwest to Gulf refineries not only does nothing to reduce the price of American energy and gasoline, but also requires a certain oil price-point to make economic sense. With oil now trading in the mid-fifties per barrel, and likely to go lower, that price-point is now well above the market.

According to some conservatives, this does not matter. Incoming Senate committee chairman Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma has already demonstrated that he doesn't care about scientific evidence when it comes to global warming; he only cares about political ideology. Inhofe is at least consistent: he's now demonstrating that he doesn't care about economics either.

Republicans say they will push for approval of the pipeline when they take full control of Congress in January, regardless of market conditions. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a longtime crusader for the project, said the pipeline's diminishing potential in the energy marketplace is beside the point.
"Oil prices and prices at the pump should have no bearing on support for an approval of the Keystone XL pipeline," he said.
The Obama administration, Inhofe said, has used the permitting process "as a political game and is simultaneously preventing American businesses from pursuing a project that would aid economic opportunity."

That's right; Inhofe is clearly saying that when it comes to this project, gas prices for everyday Americans are irrelevant whereas profits for oil companies getting an "economic opportunity" are all that matters. So if the GOP's own incoming committee chairman has undercut the gas-price argument behind the pipeline, and if the project has no significant amount of permanent jobs tied to it, then why are we even talking about this project any more if the economic rationale has evaporated?

In fact, principled conservatives in some quarters are quite clear about what they care about:

Even at the Manhattan Institute, a free market-oriented think tank with little patience for the arguments made by pipeline opponents, questions are emerging about whether Keystone still deserves star billing in the energy debate.
"I'm for cheap, abundant, reliable energy. Period," said Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the conservative group. "This is not ideological. This is about what the economics say.… The project is clearly very challenged right now."

So if these conservatives care about "cheap, abundant, reliable energy", they they should be open-minded to solar and wind, right?

One last thing: If oil prices keep falling over the coming months, and knowing how much of the fracking boom was built on risky financing provided by funds and regional banks, how likely is it that we'll see an "oil patch recession" in time for the 2016 election? How quickly will GOP and Tea Party politicians tell us we need to bail out the energy industry and their banks?

Deacon Blues @ 12:24 PM :: Link :: Comments (0) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Sunday :: Dec 14, 2014

30 Democratic Senator Sell-Outs

by Deacon Blues

Here are the 30 Democratic senators (more than half of those who voted in favor) who passed the Crominus spending bill yesterday and sent it on to President Obama for his certain signature. They knowingly endorsed a bill that stripped out a key protection of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, and a bill that endangered the pensions of many Americans.

Baldwin (D-WI)
Begich (D-AK) (defeated in 2014)
Bennet (D-CO) (defeated in 2014)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Coons (D-DE)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Durbin (D-IL) (leadership)
Hagan (D-NC) (defeated in 2014)
Heinrich (D-NM)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Johnson (D-SD) (didn’t run in 2014)
Kaine (D-VA)
Landrieu (D-LA) (defeated in 2014)
Leahy (D-VT)
Mikulski (D-MD) (leadership)
Murphy (D-CT)
Murray (D-WA) (leadership)
Nelson (D-FL)
Pryor (D-AR) (defeated in 2014)
Reid (D-NV) (the leader)
Rockefeller (D-WV) (didn’t run in 2014)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY) (leadership)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Udall (D-CO) (defeated in 2014)
Udall (D-NM)
Walsh (D-MT) (defeated in 2014)
Warner (D-VA)

Note how many of these senators were leaving office and therefore free to vote for the middle class without consequence. Instead they cast a vote for their next job as a lobbyist.

As for you Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Pat Leahy, Patty Murray, and especially Barbara Mikulski, how does it feel to speak out of both sides of your mouth?

Update: You might ask how a House Democrat could so easily vote to allow the same banks who destroyed the economy and stuck taxpayers with the tab back in 2008 to do it again just six years later. The answer? Money talks. According to MapLight, the banking industry bought and paid for those House Democrats.

One of the most controversial provisions is a measure that was written by lobbyists for Citigroup. The provision rolls back part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that prohibits entities insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) from trading complicated financial devices known as custom swaps, a type of derivative. Just four banks, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, control more than 90 percent of the banking industry's swaps market.
PACs of Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase, banks representing more than 90 percent of the swaps market gave, on average, 3.9 times more money to Democrats voting 'YES' ($12,956) than democrats voting 'NO' ($3,293).

And the industry as a whole saw this opportunity a long time ago and made sure to buy the government they wanted.

Lobbying: MapLight analysis of lobbying spending by the top four banks, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, andJP Morgan Chase, during the 113th Congress.
•Since January 1, 2013, the top four banks have spent a combined $30.7 million lobbying Congress and federal agencies.
•In the first three quarters of 2014, the four banks spent $13.1 million on lobbying.
•In 2013, the four banks spent $17.6 million on lobbying.

Remember this when the economy crashes again and you wonder why we're picking up the tab.

Deacon Blues @ 12:16 PM :: Link :: Comments (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Friday :: Dec 12, 2014

Democrats Sell Out Once Again

by Deacon Blues

"This is the kind of compromise the president’s been seeking from Republicans for years now."
--Josh Earnest yesterday, explaining exactly why this president is a disaster

Yesterday’s sell-out by the White House, Steny Hoyer, and the Senate Democratic leadership on the Crominbus and gutting of Dodd-Frank should serve as a wake-up call to the progressive wing of the party these last two years. Watching Barbara Mikulsky, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Hoyer, and the White House agree to GOP ransom demands is proof that the Washington wing of the Democratic Party deserved to lose last month. Going along with banking industry efforts to weaken Dodd-Frank, and allowing big donors to bankroll the political parties (something the Tea Partiers themselves oppose) for any reason is a recipe for Beltway Democrats to incite an insurrection inside the party.

Mr. President, thanking John Boehner for gutting Dodd-Frank will come back to bite you in the ass.

Obama apologists say that this was the best deal Democrats could get with the emerging GOP majority to avoid a government shutdown or a continuing resolution that would lead to worse outcomes next year. Yet these are the same weak-kneed enablers of GOP brutality who talk of “compromise” rather than confront and expose Republicans’ work on behalf of Wall Street at the expense of Main Street. Yes, many of these Democrats themselves take the same cash, but at some point the excuses for selling out are just that: pathetic explanations that only confirm these Democrats need to leave before they do any more damage to the middle class. As for Obama himself, he’ll give a good speech sometime next year talking a good game about vetoing some spending bill because it harms Dodd-Frank, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, or the middle class, but I won’t believe him. Obama would sell out his mom to get his legacy chiseled onto Mount Rushmore, and both Wall Street and the GOP know they’ve owned his ass since the night of his inauguration in 2009. It’s time the party realize this and figure out how to survive this White House without becoming just as irrelevant as the GOP will be.

Update: This atrocious piece of legislation, written by Citigroup with White House support, would also destroy your pension. Yet Barack Obama wants Democrats to support it as an example of bipartisan compromise.

Mr. President, nowhere in your 2012 reelection mandate were you given the freedom to destroy Dodd-Frank.

I have a better idea: tell Harry Reid and Barack Obama to go f*ck themselves. To see a "hope and change" president turn loose his allies today to attack Elizabeth Warren for calling him out, and to then call this a good bipartisan bill, speaks volumes for why the Democratic Party needs to get away from Obama and let him triangulate all he wants to hell.

And whatever you do, find a video of Senator Warren's systematic destruction of Citigroup today on the Senate floor, and then wonder why the White House and MSNBC don't want this video repeated over the weekend before the Senate votes to pass this traitorous piece of crap on Monday (Mitch McConnell cleverly is leveraging the confirmation of Democratic appointments on Monday for the evisceration of Dodd-Frank). Although Chris Matthews had the guts to run Warren's speech intact in real time during "Hardball", neither Chris Hayes nor Rachel Maddow did the same tonight (thanks Phil Griffin). And don't think for a moment that MSNBC, which is all about access to the White House, randomly decided that their lame prepackaged segments were more newsworthy than Warren laying bare the incestuous relationship between Democratic administrations and Wall Street.

Deacon Blues @ 12:30 PM :: Link :: Comments (1) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Thursday :: Dec 11, 2014

57 Shameful Democratic Votes

by Deacon Blues

It turns my stomach to see Obama and his White House staff trying to strong-arm House Democrats to pass the despicable government funding measure while they admit it rolls back key provisions of Dodd-Frank. Obama and his staff are trying to tell Nancy Pelosi's caucus that they should hold their nose and vote for "Cromnibus", even if Wall Street gets a big win out of it, and even if the GOP gets to allow Wall Street to bankroll their convention, because things will only get worse next year.

To which I say to the White House: "F*ck no."

The 1,603-page measure, negotiated by Republican and Democratic appropriators and leaders, sparked a revolt when rank and file Democrats discovered it would kill planned restrictions on derivatives trading by large banks, allowing them to continue trading swaps and futures in units that benefit from federal deposit insurance and Federal Reserve loans.
The Obama administration and Democratic lawmakers also were worried about setting a precedent that emboldens Republicans to cram more Dodd-Frank rollbacks into must-pass legislation, especially when Republicans have control over both chambers of Congress next year.

The White House is willing to gut Dodd-Frank because they get a full year of funding for most of the government out of Cromnibus, and don't want to allow the new House and Senate GOP to hold the White House hostage next year on must-pass funding measures that would cut funding for Obama's immigration action and cut other domestic funding by unacceptable levels. First off, Mr. President, your immigration problem is one of your own creation, and we shouldn't have to sacrifice Dodd-Frank on the altar of your political stupidity. Secondly, if you had any real guts, you should be daring and requiring the GOP to pass budgets next year that gut domestic programs while protecting Wall Street and the wealthy just so you can cut their nuts off with thermo-nuclear vetoes. But of course you and your limp White House staff want to avoid that and avoid facing a reckoning over your self-inflicted wounds on the immigration action you took. Tough sh*t dude, grow a pair.

This can be the moment that Elizabeth Warren, and yes, Hillary Clinton take control of the Democratic Party from Barack Obama. And it can't happen soon enough.

Update: Late today, 57 House Democrats went along with John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, Steny Hoyer, and yes, Barack Obama to pass the “Cromnibus” spending bill that gutted Dodd-Frank. Many of these 57 Democratic bastards, listed on the extended entry, no doubt will justify their votes by saying they were only doing so to lock in adequate funding for their pet programs for one more year and hold off the GOP Grim Reaper to come. And yet they all did so by gutting Dodd-Frank, as if they didn't have constituents who lost everything at the hands of the same Wall Street scoundrels to whom they sold their asses tonight. It is especially discouraging to see so many progressive champions on this list, like

Jim Clyburn
John Dingell
John Garamendi
Marci Kaptur
Nina Lowey
George Miller
Jim Moran

who all sold out. To them, I simply say "Shame on you. Enjoy your Wall Street blood money.”

To Barack Obama, who with this bill sacrificed Dodd-Frank to cover his ass for his immigration bullheadedness, I say “Go to Hell. Hope and change indeed, you disappointing jackass.”

And to Harry Reid, who now wants to slink away from hell by allowing a floor debate tomorrow on the bill he himself sold out the middle class for, all I can say to him and those Democrats who vote to gut Dodd-Frank is “we’re watching.”

Continue reading "57 Shameful Democratic Votes"
Deacon Blues @ 4:08 PM :: Link :: Comments (0) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Wednesday :: Dec 10, 2014

GOP Uses Spending Bill To Gut Dodd-Frank

by Deacon Blues

It should come as no surprise that House and Senate Republicans hijacked the government funding measure in the dark of night to add measures that would gut the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and allow Corporate America to bankroll the Republican National Convention. Leveraging congressional Democrats and the White House with these onerous provisions attached to a "must-pass" spending measure is right in line with the GOP's open war on the middle class.

But they had help: Maryland Democratic senator Barbara Mikulski actually negotiated the language with the House GOP to let Wall Street resume recklessly trading derivatives again with the FDIC picking up the risk of default. This is the same Barbara Mikulski who refused to provide the FBI and SEC with funding to aggressively investigate Wall Street for its crimes in the crash.

But really, using a Citibank-written provision to wipe out the Volcker Rule and let the same bad Wall Street actors who sank the economy and robbed millions of Americans of their homes, pensions, and health care do it all again, with another taxpayer-financed bailout calls into question what the Tea Party really stands for. If they really are against "business as usual" and government bailouts, then why would so many House Republicans support letting Wall Street rape America again? That is, of course, if the Tea Party really gives a damn about stopping "business as usual". With their support of such a transparent rip-off of Main Street to benefit Wall Street, we're about to see what the Tea Party really stands for, and it isn't Main Street.

As for the president, it's about time to call out John Boehner and Mitch McConnell for what they are trying to do here. He needs to go on TV tonight or tomorrow and simply ask why the Republican Party is willing to let the government shut down unless Wall Street gets to destroy the economy again.

Deacon Blues @ 3:31 PM :: Link :: Comments (0) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Tuesday :: Dec 9, 2014

Obama's Missed Chances

by Deacon Blues

I know I'm supposed to be angry about what's in the Senate Intelligence Committee's CIA report today, the fact that the CIA lied to everyone since 9/11 about interrogations and torture, even George W. Bush. And yes, the usual suspects within the Torture Industry like Dick Cheney, who should be in jail right now as a war criminal, and the lying weasel former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who himself is portrayed as a, well, lying weasel in the report are all up in arms about the report's release. But is anyone on the center-left really surprised at the findings? Haven't those of us on the center-left suspected and pieced all this together already?

Frankly, the bigger surprise is that a Democratic administration has fought off releasing this report this long, until faced with an incoming GOP majority that would forever bury these atrocities. It makes you sad that an incoming Democratic president in 2009 punted on a much-needed window to hold the other side accountable for a range of horrors during 2001-2008, like no prosecutions of Wall Street for the crash, and like no accountability for the defense-intelligence industry and what they did to this country in the name of fighting terrorism those sad years. But no, Barack Obama did none of those accountability "I'm the new boss" things when he first came into office. For whatever reason, there's been no real accountability on a wide array of bad deeds from the last decade, and now this same cast of borderline traitors are about to take power again when in fact many of them should be shamed out of ever having public office again.

Instead, we now get to see state Republican Attorney Generals sacrifice the public health of their constituents to whore themselves to polluters. We get to see the real desired result of Citizens United, where the five right wing activists on the Supreme Court intentionally gave billionaires the means to buy the government they want. And the incoming GOP majorities are already working directly with industry lobbyists to undo environment protections. But can the Democrats build a message with these travesties surrounding an economic argument and use it to push back effectively next year?

I say probably not, especially if the congressional leaders are still Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

Deacon Blues @ 12:41 PM :: Link :: Comments (3) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Tuesday :: Dec 2, 2014

Pushing Their Buttons

by Deacon Blues

Although I’ve questioned the president’s political wisdom in inciting the GOP with his immigration actions, I’ve also noted that such incitement may be part of a calculated White House approach to force the House GOP into serious errors, such as a government shutdown, more lawsuits, and impeachment talk rather than concrete action to address problems. With only two years left in office against an opposition more emboldened than even before, is it possible that the president and his team have settled on a sprint from the left rather than more of the same, and caught the GOP off guard in doing so?

I ask this question because I noted that last week the president pushed back hard against the GOP on two of their hot-button issues. On immigration, in several appearances, Obama almost mocked the outraged GOP with his demand to stop whining and just “pass a bill”. He knows that his action on immigration has made John Boehner’s job even harder, not that Obama cares because he knows now that Boehner dislikes him greatly no matter what lies the Orange Man spews. Boehner is having a hell of a time keeping the Nut Wing of his caucus from blowing up the government in response to the executive order on immigration, even as Boehner himself knows that Obama’s action cannot be defunded through an act of Congress. In mocking the GOP to “pass a bill”, Obama has the cards to play in telling the GOP he’ll even sign a series of bills, with security going first and then a separate effort on actual reform. Obama knows that he can sucker the GOP into passing their security bill and even signing it, while then making a big deal over when he can expect to see the citizenship measure. If the GOP balks or stalls the reform measure, Obama and the Democrats can then destroy the GOP 2016 incumbents with Hispanic Americans. In such a scenario, the power dynamic on the issue shifts from the GOP majority to the president, as he would control what gets through and what he’d sign, with the pressure only increasing upon the GOP the closer we get to 2016.

Second, the president also made it clear last week he wouldn’t sign a stop-gap bill on the expiring tax breaks if it were one-sided in favor of corporate or upper-income interests. He sounded downright populist on the subject; this follows advice given here and elsewhere that the White House and Democrats focus solely on economics, equality, and opportunity, with a little bit of security thrown in. If the White House is ready to turn left these final two years and hammer the GOP for a lack of focus on kitchen-table issues, the ground for doing so has already been set quite well. A new poll from CNN/ORC shows that the electorate already has some buyer’s remorse over the GOP taking control of Congress, with a majority thinking that a GOP takeover is bad for the country, and 68% saying that the GOP isn’t doing enough to work with Obama. With a House caucus set to erupt next year with their newfound power into a civil war, and a flummoxed Mitch McConnell unsure why Obama is coming out swinging, perhaps it’s time for the president to turn the tables on the GOP. After having four years of the GOP dictating the agenda, or lack of one, perhaps Obama can invigorate Democrats to sprint towards 2016 by setting an agenda of items that can gain his support, and then force the GOP to lower their poll numbers even further by acting out like spoiled children for not getting what they want.

Deacon Blues @ 10:32 AM :: Link :: Comments (1) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Sunday :: Nov 30, 2014

It's The Micromanagement

by Deacon Blues

I'll be writing on this in the coming weeks, because the GOP's new core argument against a Hillary Clinton candidacy is that besides being too old (and an old woman at that), the knock against Hillary is that her record as Secretary of State is thin of any real accomplishments during her four years. John McCain and others will argue that she is oversold and didn't fix anything.

Then, in the same breath, these same critics will say that their friend Chuck Hagel was railroaded out of the Cabinet by a White House staff that has too much control over defense and foreign policy, and a president who cares too much about risk-averse politics and legacy-building and not enough about making tough decisions based on input from professionals.

See the inconsistency there? McCain and the GOP can't have it both ways. They can't argue in the case of Hillary that she didn't do enough while also arguing that Obama micromanages on foreign and defense policy. This isn't an isolated issue with Hagel; his predecessors also complained about White House micromanagement by the National Security staff at the expense of more expert opinion on the ground.

As for Hagel, despite the spin from the White House about him not being the right fit, the simple truth may be that he realized what Leon Panetta and Bob Gates saw first hand themselves: this White House and its decision-making process takes too long and still ends up with a muddled mess (see ISIS/Syria, Putin/Ukraine, and Afghanistan for starters). Hagel was already on record, as was John Kerry, that the White House was wrong on these issues and arrived at policies that wouldn't work. It's just that Kerry wants to be Secretary of State so bad and achieve something for his legacy that he's carved out a role for himself within the existing straightjacket he operates in. Hagel saw no upside to staying around any more when Obama's original mistakes in Afghanistan policy from 2009 (and a new Afghan president) allowed for the Pentagon to do a do-over and go back in more aggressively through 2015, something that wouldn't have been needed if Obama had made the correct decision. Hagel knows that Obama's muddled approach in Iraq and Syria will lead to a similar recalibration sometime next year, at a far higher cost in terms of resources, when a more robust approach earlier would have avoided this sad end result.

As for Hillary, if you know you'll be spending your first term doing pooper-scooper duty overseas cleaning up Obama's messes, after seeing how Obama was saddled with doing the same for Bush, do you really want the job?

Deacon Blues @ 12:30 PM :: Link :: Comments (0) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
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