Friday, December 12, 2008


Open Thread

Only 13 threading days 'til Christmas.

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Keep Bailing?

So, with the collapse of the congressional bailout Thursday evening, the Bush White House now says that it will move to tap some of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (i.e. bank bailout) money to help keep the Big Three floating for another few months.

Amazing. For those keeping track, this is now the third use of the TARP money since Congress voted the $700 billion three months ago. First, it was going to be used to purchase so-called "toxic" assets; then it was going to be used for direct investment into banks to help thaw the credit markets. Now, it's going to be used as a de facto bridge loan to troubled U.S. car companies. Two weeks from now, boys and girls, it will be used to buy Christmas presents for everybody!!! Yaaayyyy!!!!

The abuse of this amount of money -- in hindsight, pretty predictable, of course -- forces those of us who were nominally supportive of the bank bailout to want to offer up some major mea culpas. Yes, it makes us feel just like we did with the whole Iraq invasion situation: There's a crisis; we need near unlimited support to deal with this crisis -- and then after the congressional authority has been given, various follow-up reasons are and strategies are adopted to "win the war." Can't wait for the financial "surge" that will manage to reduce the economic "violence" that continues to rage. Fool me twice -- shame on me.

But, I digress.

The big irony here is that a case can be made that the $15 billion to shore up the auto industry may not be the worst idea in the world. After all, the government has already spent more than half the $350 billion of the financial bailout -- and it's far from clear whether it has actually done anything to help the economy. Given the 1.2 million in job losses over the last three months, I'm not sure letting the Big 3 (or two of them anyway) go bankrupt over the next few weeks is the best thing for the US economy. Even stipulating that UAW contracts get the autoworkers into this mess, just letting the companies die now -- when the country is facing one of its most severe economic crises in decades -- is not a good option.

Yet, there is something really bad about an administration requesting funds for Purpose A -- and then turning around and using them for Purpose B. Talk about misappropriation of funds. And oversight? What oversight?

And so, once again Congress and the Bush administration (and yes, incoming Obama administration, I'm looking at you, too) have put the country into a position where there are no ideal options.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008


No Sparing The Rod

In my previous post, I mentioned the abrupt end of the post-election Obama "era of good feeling." Several readers took that to mean that I think Blagojevich's indictment implicates Obama in the general graft that the governor was perpetrating. It doesn't directly. Indeed, Obama's best defense is Blago's profanity-laced tirade about the president-elect not willing to promise him any specific benefit for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.

Unfortunately, if the political-journalistic nexus worked in that logical manner, we wouldn't see half the political stories we see today (maybe that would be a good thing).

Just look at the Day Two headlines of the Blagojevich story:

GOP pressures Obama on Blagojevich

Big risks for Obama in Blago scandal

Will Obama confront scandals head on?

Obama's Answer on Blagojevich -- and the Questions It Raise

Union Official Allegedly Liaison Between Governor, Obama Team

Corruption Hangover Follows Election Night High


The implications in these headlines show the danger that this story has for Obama -- even if he's not a target of Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation(s). When a political scandal starts spreading, even the completely innocent get tainted. And, unfortunately, politics is a profession where even the "completely innocent" -- aren't. "Completely," that is.

Because everyone in politics has something they want "keep close to their vests," an unwillingness to be -- in the parlance -- "completely forthcoming" makes even above-board people look suspicious. And so, Obama will undoubtedly have to put one of his trusted aides on "Blago response/damage control" just to deal with all the hordes of questions that are coming down from reporters wanting to know the history of the relationship. Republicans, of course, won't be able to refrain. It is in the nature of the opposition party to take advantage when the other party is facing a scandal, if nothing else but to undermine confidence that the public might have vested in a just-victorious new president and administration. Again, all of the above is true, working under the assumption that Obama has done nothing wrong with respect to his relationship with Blagojevich.

But, what if there is more? And, what if Blagojevich -- in a spiteful mood -- decides he wants to "smear" Obama? One reader brings up an interesting question: Did Blago -- or chief-of-staff John Harris or an unindicted flunky text Obama's Blackberry on Senate seat? The probe is still ongoing. Would Fitzgerald ever get to a point where he might consider subpoenaing either Obama or Emanuel's Blackberry? Oh, and Tony Rezko hasn't been sentenced yet? Is it because he's still cooperating on the Blagojevich take-down -- or is there more going on?

The point is that scandals take on lives of their own. Sometimes they ultimately amount to nothing, but a politician -- even those exonerated -- rarely ends up in a better place before scandal machinery starts getting revved up. For Obama in particular, this comes at a problematic point because he has taken on this pseudo-president/head cheerleader role, carefully rolling out new members of the Cabinet, using his political capital and moral authority wisely to project confidence for the public during the holiday season. The best he has to offer is the promise of something better, come January 20th. If his press conference start getting bogged down by questions on his Blagojevich relationship or, again, Rezko's relationship to Blago and the whole real-estate deal, the glow off the new administration will literally be turned off before the Obama has turned the lights on in the White House for the first time.

Barack Obama wants his administration to be a breath of fresh air in Washington. Instead the Blago scandal (still NOT the "Obama scandal" -- yet) looks like a movie we've all seen before. And it's a skunk that makes everyone end up smelling bad.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Chocolate Prophecy

I've become a fan of Comedy Central's new Chocolate News created and starring Living Colour alum David Allan Grier. His opening "rant" always concludes with a demand that some individual or business not "lose your damn mind" with respect to some black issue.

Last week's segment seems strangely clairvoyant in light of today's Blagojevich indictment:

Like Grier said, Obama is at the top of his popularity right now -- or was last week. This week, he will inevitably face "What did he know and when did he know it?" questions related to the Blago scandal. Worse, much of the national press corps is already in Chicago covering transition stuff. It's so easy for them all now to switch over right away into Scandal Mode. Even though Blagojevich is the indicted one, it's much easier for lazy journalists to use the phrase "Obama seat" to describe the scandal.

Oh well, the Era of Good Feeling was great while it lasted.

Honeymoon is now officially over -- even before the presidency has begun!

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Wow. Talk about a nightmare story from hell coming from Obama's home state!!!

His governor, Rod Blagojevich, was arrested for trying to sell the appointment to Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat!!! Amazingly, Blagojevich did this -- even as he (like his convicted Republican predecessor, George Ryan) has been the subject of corruption investigation for months -- by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (yep, that one)!!!

Nothing to suggest yet that Obama knew anything about this, but it is still nonetheless a huge embarassment to the president-elect, at a time when he has been getting huge plaudits for running a seamless transition.

On the other hand, considering New York's pending $14 billion deficit, perhaps this is something Gov. David Paterson should think about for Hillary's seat. Considering the full-court press that the Kennedys are putting out to get Caroline appointed, surely they can afford a few mil, right?

UPDATE: The indictment.

UPDATE II: Jim Pinkerton explains why -- following the special-election wins last week in Georgia and Illinois -- that the Blagojevich indictment is Part 2 of the "Republican Comeback."

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Monday, December 08, 2008


The War On Christmas' Latest Leader... the man who discovered the war a few years ago: Bill O'Reilly presents The Great American Holiday Quiz!! We can't even have a Christmas quiz? What is this country coming to? How could this great piece of humanity betray us this way?

Who will stand up for the true spirit of Christmas now?

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American By Birth

The Supreme Court refuses to hear one of the lawsuits claiming Obama isn't a "natural born citizen" of the United States -- and thus ineligble to be president. Of course, this result actually proves that Roberts & Co. are "in" on the plot to install the Indonesian/Kenyan-born Muslim Arab Manchurian Candidate as the country's 44th president. Such treachery on the high court! The story goes that Clarence Thomas decided not to rock the boat because, well, you know, he's black. Obama also had something on Scalia (something related to his Italian heritage).

How the hell did that crazy-ass lawsuit even get to the Supreme Court so fast? And what will the court do with the other citizenship-challenging lawsuit? Who knows, maybe, six years from now, some White House intern named M'onika will end up testifying before a special prosecutor that she blackmailed Obama into sleeping with her because -- she found his real birth certificate!!!!

Stay tuned.

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This Guy Came To Play

Still don't know how he'll be as president, but, damn Barack Obama is scary in making loud statements in the quietest way possible.

Selecting Eric Shinseki as secretary of Veterans Affairs is so ruthlessly brilliant (or brilliantly ruthless), that it's almost indescribable.

In one action, Obama:

1) Rewards a military guy who made the correct call on troop strength going into Iraq -- and saw his career cut short because he stuck to hs guns on that strategic assessment in congressional testimony;

2) Puts a finger in the eye to Donald Rumsfeld (and George W. Bush) who made the wrong call on number of troops needed for the occupation -- and then had Shinseki pushed into retirement;

3) Puts this highly-respected retired general in the Cabinet post that helps oversee military hospitals that fell into disrepair during the Bush years;

4) Guarantees that, even though a Bush-appointee -- Robert Gates at Defense -- will be the person "closing down" the Iraq War, the face of the Obama administration welcoming veterans back from there and Afghanistan will be a guy who got the big picture right;

5) Oh, and gets a diversity credit, too! Shinseki is the first Japanese-American to serve as head of Veterans Affairs -- or in any military- or security-related Cabinet-level position.
Ruthlessly brilliant.


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Two Football Thoughs Thots

Following a rather all-around pathetic gridiron performance Sunday from the New York metropolitan teams, one can make these observations:

1) Obviously, the Giants would have been better off if Plaxico Burress had shot Eagles running back Brian Westbrook in the thigh. (One extra note: Burress' replacement at starting wide receiver -- Dominick Hixon -- had as much butter fingers on a sure-fire long-bomb touchdown as Burress had on his Glock).

2) The New York Jets played like the entire team was stoned -- not just recently-arrested driving-under-the-influence-of-MJ DE Shaun Ellis.

So much for that "all-NY Super Bowl" talk from a couple weeks ago (hey, if the Carolina Panthers win tonight, they conceivably can get home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, since they play the Giants later in the season).

UPDATE: Obviously, after running this blog for three and a half years (and having had some version of "Ragged Thots" in literary existence for more than ten years), it's now impossible for me to spell the word t-h-o-u-g-h-t-s properly, thus the nice typo in this post's headline! Sigh.

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Louisiana Meets Alaska?

Was Dylan right? Are the times really a-changing? This weekend, Bayou State voters (well, those in Nawlins anyway) followed in the footsteps of Alaska's and said goodbye to their walking embodiment of corruption.

Ted Stevens got the boot on November 4th (well, after all the votes were counted a week or so later). And on Saturday, Louisiana's delayed-by-hurricane congressional elections produced the electoral expulsion of William Jefferson, he of the "cold cash" bribery indictment. Amazingly, the indicted African American Democrat lost to a Republican by the name of Anh "Joseph" Cao, who will now be the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress.

So, in this year of Obama, Louisiana -- home of the first South Asian Indian-American (Republican) governor -- sends another "first" Congress. And, this from a state that pretty much wrote the book on tolerating political corruption (well, the chapters not written by Chicago politicians, anyway)!!!

Now, that's diversity!!

Yeah, there is indeed some major-league change going on.

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