31 March 2009

Bye Bye, Jay

Via Yahoo: Cutler won't pick up, so he'll pack out.

Gear Check

Without getting into which side of the circumcision debate is more right, I'll simply remind everyone that tomorrow wraps up Genital Integrity Awareness Week. And that means, of course, demonstrations.

Karzai Legalizes Rape in Afghanistan?

From ThinkProgress, here's what you're not reading in your local paper about Afghanistan today.

The Telegraph has more.

What's the Big Deal About Cramdowns?

Here's an educational and eminently sensible take on the debate about mortgage "cramdowns," the judicial practice of writing down home mortgages to actual value. The practice amounts to a bailout for struggling homeowners, and saves multiple affected parties from foreclosure, which doesn't help anybody. Rick Santelli is famously against this type of government action (and Jon Stewart is famously against Rick Santelli). Obama seems to understand pretty well that nobody benefits from foreclosures.

So where does that leave the U.S. Senate? We will wait and see.

20 March 2009

Don't Look for Geithner to Go

Chris Cillizza argues that proxies on the Sunday shows need to make the case for Tim Geithner this weekend, or else.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, under fire for his handling of the bonuses paid to AIG executives, faces a critical weekend as he fights to remain as the Obama administration's lead economic spokesman.

Although White House senior aides insist that Geithner is perfectly secure in his post, the fact that President Obama and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs both saw fit to express their "complete confidence" in him over the last 96 hour speaks to the level of concern in the administration about the situation.

In the very same post, though, Cillizza quickly surmises that Geithner's job is safe.
Given the Obama Administration's demonstrated skepticism about the shark tank that is politics in the nation's capital, it's hard to see them making what they would regard as a knee-jerk decision on Geithner. Barring any other future bombshells, the treasury secretary is likely to stay in his post for the foreseeable future.

Hmmm. I think the whole point of the post is to whet appetites for the Sunday shows, and not actually to speculate on Geithner's job security.

And while I think the Treasury secretary's image could use a little polish after a rough week, I certainly don't believe Geithner's job is on the hook, at least not this week. Obama can't afford to lose his Treasury chief right now. Firing Geithner (or caving to calls for resignation) would be the equivalent of throwing a stick through the spokes of the whole administration velocipede. Not to mention, losing the Treasury chief would panic the markets. That's one thing you can count on the administration not to do right now.

But chatter about canning the Treasury secretary amid a swirling banking crisis makes for high drama, right? And good ratings?

Cillizza perhaps has forgotten that this is the "no drama" president.

So where is Cillizza's rationale for throwing so much scrutiny on the secretary's job security?
[T]his weekend will play a role -- perhaps a major one -- in shaping public perception about Geithner. Can the administration prove the chattering class wrong again?

If I read that correctly, then Cillizza is priming the pump for Obama's talking warriors to go out and exonerate Geithner and endear the Treasury Secretary to the nation.

I look at this differently. Geithner is a key player, but this is the president's rescue. If proxies do their jobs we won't be talking too much about Geithner this weekend, we'll be talking convincingly about what comes next. Health care. Energy. Education reform.

Really, that's what's at stake. If the administration gets bogged down in the banking crisis and can't solve that problem, then the "failure" Republicans will show that politics as usual is still alive and strong in Washington. The administration won't be able to avoid all conversation about the AIG bonuses, and needs to spend some airtime taking those questions head on and answering bluntly: some stinky deals were made. But progressives who are tweaked at the Geithner/Summers duo for economic affairs also should not be rooting for Geithner's removal, even if Geithner's relationships with the banking industry appear too cozy at times. Losing Geithner is the one thing right now that's sure to jar the administration and stall the momentum on health care. Watch Treasury fail, and this congress will lose the stomach for comprehensive health care reform and the big spending that our schools and energy infrastructure will demand as well.

So I'm looking for the administration to gut this out. It's ugly, and it might take some bare knuckles, and the administration will probably get its nose bloodied, and progressives won't be happy and neither with the newly minted bloc of centrist Dems who are vulnerable already come election season, but don't look for Geithner to go anywhere.

19 March 2009

Time: Treasury Knew About AIG Bonuses Prior to Geithner Claims

Yesterday I wrote about the uncomfortable position in which Chris Dodd finds himself over the language of the loophole that paved the way for the current AIG retention bonus scandal. And I intimated that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is quickly becoming the target of my ire.

Via TPM, Time magazine reported yesterday that Treasury staffers were informed about the AIG bonuses on February 28 in a memo from the New York Federal Reserve. Geithner spoke to congressional leaders this week and said he first knew about the bonus plan on March 10. Uh oh.

If Time's telling of the details is correct, then Geithner is on the hook for what his staff--insomuch as it exists--didn't communicate up the line. That's the best-case scenario. It's gonna look much worse if Geithner did get the message and misrepresented key chronology before congressional leaders.

To be fair to Mr. Geithner, he still does not enjoy the benefit of a full staff. And to make matters worse, he can't just go out and hire the most qualified people he knows, because those people either a) owe taxes on nannies or employed an illegal immigrant once or b) are connected to the key financial entities at the middle of this debacle. Should Treasury jump to make quick hires, the appearance of (further) tolerance for tax cheats or coziness with consultants to the recently-tarred banking industry would not work in the Administration's favor. Adding insult to injury, the handful of people who actually get named for posts at Treasury seem consistently to eliminate themselves from consideration.

So I get it that the flow of information at the Treasury might be rough. But that's not an excuse that'll fly before Congress.

What's more, the article points out that the memo from NY Federal Reserve to Treasury was sent three days before the Administration ponied up an additional $30 billion in bailout funds to AIG. That emergency arrangement may have been too far advanced to be stopped over a trifling $160 million in fine print, but taxpayers are looking to the Obama Administration to protect bailout funds before those funds can be scattered to the four winds.

And Obama?

Geithner received solid backing from President Barack Obama on the South Lawn on Wednesday before the President left for California. "I have complete confidence in Tim Geithner and my entire economic team," Obama said. "Nobody is working harder than this guy. He is making all the right moves in terms of playing a bad hand."

All right. My impression of the president is still more favorable than my impression of the secretary. But if Treasury's (mis)management of bailout negotiations continues to decompose before our eyes, then the White House is very much on the hook as well.

18 March 2009

A Tale of Two Spins: Chris Dodd and AIG Bonuses

Two spins on this article from CNN, two very different impressions.

First, from Politico: Dodd wrote the language that enabled AIG bonuses--and did we mention he's in a tight reelection campaign?

Next, TPM: Dodd loosened language that Dodd previously wrote because the Obama Administration asked Dodd to.

Whoooo. Either way you look at it, Senator Dodd isn't having any fun right now. From the right, Dodd is cast as the bad guy who let this grievous abuse of taxpayer dollars proceed. From the left, Dodd is cast as the patsy who let this grievous abuse of taxpayer dollars proceed. (And dammit, I've got some questions for the Obama Administration--I'm talkin' to you, Mr. Geithner--if this is all true.)

Read the original source, though, and it's obvious that Josh Kraushaar at Politico really goes out of his way to milk this one and leave out some pretty important story details in order to kick Chris Dodd in the nuts. Nice.

Scrabblers Beware

Don't laugh, you casual Scrabble addicts. If "qi" gets recalled, a lot of you (us) will be mightily frustrated with a bit more regularity. WSJ's Carl Bialik takes a look at the numbers behind the big little two letter words and other inflated anomalies in popular games.

From the "Never Too Early" Files

Poll results--yep, you guessed it--for Obamba vs. Palin in 2012.

Christian Science Monitor or The Onion? Palin to Keynote . . . Or Not

If it weren't for the banner at the top of the page announcing that this report comes from a major news outlet, I'd swear the text could have come straight from The Onion. At least the bloggers won't go hungry for snark bait as long as the Republican Party continues to figure out how to re-present itself to the nation.

House Health Care Committee: Miller, Waxman, Rangel

At a time when President Obama is having trouble knowing for sure even which Democrats will support the presidential agenda (see here and here), it's nice to see some sticking power taking shape in the House on the topic of health care. And I have a hard time seeing an accident the the shape of that sticking power.

From the Times:

George Miller and Henry A. Waxman of California and Charles B. Rangel of New York, all Democrats, have a combined total of more than 100 years of service in the House.

Mr. Miller, chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, which has jurisdiction over employee benefits, said the three lawmakers had decided to “try and work as one committee” to produce a comprehensive health care bill this summer.

Mr. Waxman, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said, “We intend to work from a single bill, and have that bill considered by the House before the August recess.”

Leading Republicans and insurance companies have expressed alarm at the idea of a new government-run insurance plan competing with private insurers.

But House Democrats are not backing down. “A lot of people don’t care whether it’s Medicare, Medicaid, public or private,” said Mr. Rangel, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. “They just want to know they can get affordable health care.”

For those at home more taken by the substance of what is said (thank you, Mr. Rangel) than the ceremony, let's just recap.

House. Healthcare. Committee. Reps: Education and Labor, Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means.

The representatives' combined 100 years and such is neat and all, but I'm more impressed with the numerology that neatly coincides with the president's agenda. From the campaign trail, we heard that America must focus on energy, health care, and education, in that order. By September the financial collapse overshadowed everything, and Obama fit the three planks of his campaign into a broader context of fixing the economy. Today, the Times reports that the House chairmen of the committees related to the issues that comprised the president's agenda will work together to put legislation before the president by August. That's some sweet jam.

Granted, all those committees are dual in nature. So George Miller, as the Times points out, has some sway over employee benefits in addition to education legislation. Miller's not simply involved on account of his chairmanship of the education half things and the fact that Obama has plans for education reform. There's a direct relationship between health care reform and employee/employer relations in this country. On the whole, though, one has to assume so much early collaboration among ranking House representatives bodes well. They stand to bring a lot of people with them.

I don't want to get gushy before we see what happens. This is politics, after all. Probably, we'll end up with a watered-down version of reform that only lays the groundwork for the comprehensive health care reform that Americans are desperate for. Such is the nature of the beast. But laying the groundwork is also essential, as long as we don't stop there.

On a side note: All this House camaraderie this morning makes me wonder: Is anyone still asking whether Rahm Emanuel is the right guy for the COS job?

16 March 2009

Bus Cook's Boy

I can't help but notice, at the very end of the article, that Jay Cutler's agent also happens to represent Brett Favre:

Cook also represents Brett Favre and helped facilitate the quarterback's trade last summer from the Green Bay Packers to the New York Jets.
Can we fairly paint Bus Cook as a man who specializes in quarterback controversy and fuels the primadonna-ism that's unfolded around these star QBs the last couple off seasons?

Jay Cutler may not like the way things have unfolded in recent weeks, and he may even be justified--to some extent--feeling betrayed. After all, Denver's young new coach admitted to going after Matt Cassel. But Cutler's behavior from day one, and pissy attitude thrown all over the local papers, has just been unprofessional and . . . unsportsmanlike. If this is the real Jay Cutler, then I'd say to Josh McDaniels that maybe it's best now to just let him go.

At this point, I say send the big baby to Detroit and let him see if he still likes the trade. But I notice that the Jets are looking for a QB, too. How ironic.

15 March 2009

Crime Down During Recession?

This post is for my friend John. He asked this weekend on a trip through Denver whether we'd noticed a spike in crime that aligned with the economic downturn. I said, "No, not that I can point to directly." Jenna backed that sentiment. And today, the Denver Post has numbers to suggest that, at least in this town, current trends buck an old pattern.