Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Blogging, Chicago East, Politics, Walpin Scandal — Rick Moran @ 9:34 am

In Chicago politics, if someone starts investigating you, your cronies, or your dubiously legal activities, you basically have three options:

1. Come clean, beg for mercy, and agree to wear a wire to meetings with your partners in crime.

2. Send some goons to pay a visit to the investigator and try to persuade him that it is in the best interest of his continuing good health that he investigate someone else.

3. Get the investigator fired. (Preferable to #2 because goons are a big expense and not always feasible or available.)

In the case of nosy, independent-minded Inspector Generals, the Obama administration has eschewed the Goon Option for simply canning IG’s who displease them for peeking into the dark corners of the administration to sniff out corruption.

The tale of AmeriCorps IG Gerald Walpin has been instructive. Already a thorn in the administration’s side for barring Obama ally Sacramento Mayor Dennis Johnson from receiving any more AmeriCorps grants last year because hizonner insisted on using the monies for personal and political activities, Walpin really raised the hackles of Obama’s politicos when he refused to reinstate the mayor’s grant privileges so he would be eligible to dip into the stim fund cookie jar.

Getting in the way of a Chicago politician seeking to reward a friend is crazy, according to the White House. Or, at least, it shows that the IG who isn’t playing the game must be suffering from some kind of dementia as the Obama crew crudely smeared Walpin by saying that his firing was an “emergency” because he was so “confused” and “disoriented” that it questioned his “capacity to serve.”

Yes, that sort of thing happens in Chicago too although most of the time, it’s done with a little more subtly. Nothing so crude as a press release from the Mayor’s office accusing a high ranking bureaucrat of losing his mind. More likely, a call to a friendly reporter accusing him of being a drunk or having an affair suffices in the Windy City.

The effect is the same. Rather than giving legitimate reasons for firing a watchdog - not that there are any in this case - the White House made up some crap about Walpin being too old and feeble to do the job. No doubt, “witnesses” will turn up in the press shortly to confirm Dr. Rahmbo’s diagnosis of mental incapacity.

“Will no one rid me of this meddlesome IG?” Obama might have asked. Presidents do things for political purposes all the time and firing one IG for being a squeaky wheel is really nothing much to get too worked up about.

But what if he has fired two IG’s - in two weeks - and potentially de-gonaded a third?

He was appointed with fanfare as the public watchdog over the government’s multi-billion dollar bailout of the nation’s financial system. But now Neil Barofsky is embroiled in a dispute with the Obama administration that delayed one recent inquiry and sparked questions about his ability to freely investigate.

The disagreement stems from a claim by the Treasury Department that Barofsky is not entirely independent of the agency he is assigned to examine ¿ a claim that has prompted a stern letter from a Republican senator warning that agency officials are encroaching on the integrity of an office created to protect taxpayers.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sent the letter Wednesday to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner demanding information about a “dispute over certain Treasury documents” that he said were being “withheld” from Barofsky’s office on a “specious claim of attorney-client privilege.”

A White House spokesman declined to comment, referring questions to the Treasury Department. Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams said late Wednesday that the agency would read Grassley’s letter and respond to the senator before any public comment.


Separately this week, the International Trade Commission told its acting inspector general, who is not subject to White House authority, that her contract would not be renewed.

Grassley had become concerned about her independence because of a report earlier in the year that an agency employee forcibly took documents from the acting inspector general.

“It is difficult to understand why the ITC would not have taken action to ensure that the ITC inspector general had the information necessary to do the job,” Grassley wrote on Tuesday.

Less than three hours after the letter was e-mailed to the agency, the acting IG, Judith Gwynne, was told that her contract, which expires in early July, would not be renewed.

I know what you’re thinking, you Obamabots out there. “You got nuttin’. Where’s da proof? Nuttin’ happened here dat’s important. It’s a dis…a dist…it idn’t important, dat’s all.”

Perfect Chicago Way response. Better yet, why not include the defense of the year; “Well, Bush, he done it too!”

Got me there, pal. In 8 years, I’m sure Bush did indeed probably fire an IG or two. Can’t find any cites by googling but some intrepid lefty out there - my bet is on Steve Benen or perhaps Eric Boehlert - showing Bush doing the dirty deed will arise in the blogosphere by the end of the day.

And if he did, then what? Many on the left no doubt criticized Bush - quite rightly - at the time but are now defending Obama for doing the same thing? I guess because Bush wasn’t from Chicago, he just didn’t have the touch with these political executions. No style, no flair, no imagination in burying a hatchet in an IG’s head by smearing him as being senile.

It is the Barosfsky case that is the most intriguing. What is he on to? The response to Grassley’s letter was a polite way of saying “keep your nose out of our business.” What is that business? The FBI (and Barosfsky himself) believe there is massive fraud in the TARP program with possible kickbacks made to Congressmen. The IG’s office has already opened 20 investigations into such cases - probably about 19 more than the White House wanted. By playing a slow down game with the IG, Treasury is hoping their Democratic allies in Congress will rescue them by refusing to investigate. Grassley will try gamely but without the resources of a committee staff, he will be hard pressed to come up with anything.

Of course, this probably won’t deter Barosfsky. More likely, the White House is building a case to fire him as well - probably for “not following procedures” or some such transparent lie. With the press still on his side, why should they care what the reason is when the media and the Obamabots will accept anything they say at face value?

The Walpin story has already led to a criminal investigation being undertaken by the FBI for obstruction of justice in the Sacramento case. Proof enough that Chicago Way politics has migrated east and infected the highest levels of the American government.

Why couldn’t we have exported something else like Deep Dish Pizza or the Cubs?



Filed under: Bailout, Chicago East, Financial Crisis, Media, OBAMANIA!, Politics — Rick Moran @ 9:28 am

The game of softball has two incarnations. Most of the country plays the 12″ variety that features a fairly hard ball that the player needs a leather glove in order to catch it.

But around these parts, when one says “Let’s play softball,” we are talking about a great big 16″ “mushball” that you don’t need a mitt to catch it and is easy to hit. Much more conducive to playing spinoff games like “Beer Ball” and other variations, the game is marked by the painlessness involved in catching the ball due to its lumpen shape and forgiving texture.

Hence, the term “softball question” which apparently has its origins in questions asked certain Machine politicians in Chicago in the 1970’s. The exact date and origin of the term are unknown but anecdotally, I recall the great Chicago columnist Mike Royko using the term to describe the witlessness of Chicago beat reporters at City Hall who were a most incurious lot when it came to Machine corruption. This may have been unfair of Royko due to Mayor Richard J. Daley’s notorious hatred of reporters and the vengeance he would take against any who crossed him.

But the reference is to the 16″ variety which, unlike the more popular 12″ game is played with a true “soft ball” and is seen mostly in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs and ex-urbs.

No doubt Barack Obama is very familiar with the 16″ variety of the game. And after last night, he is now intimately familiar with the term “softball question:”

Question: Thank you, Mr. President. Earlier today in Indiana, you said something striking. You said that this nation could end up in a crisis without action that we would be unable to reverse.

Can you talk about what you know or what you’re hearing that would lead you to say that our recession might be permanent when others in our history have not? And do you think that you risk losing some credibility or even talking down the economy by using dire language like that?

Batter up! Play ball!

Announcer: Here’s Obama at the plate. So far the president is 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and a weak pop-up to the second baseman. He’s also been credited with a sacrifice when he lifted a medium deep fly ball to left field that advanced catcher Hillary Clinton to third.

Here’s the first pitch … it’s an underhand delivery from Jen Loven of the Associated Press who couldn’t decide whether to rush to the plate and kiss the batter or simply grovel at his feet. Obama takes a mighty swing…and misses!

Obama: That’s why the figure that we initially came up with of approximately $800 billion was put forward. That wasn’t just some random number that I plucked out of — out of a hat. That was Republican and Democratic, conservative and liberal economists that I spoke to who indicated that, given the magnitude of the crisis and the fact that it’s happening worldwide, it’s important for us to have a bill of sufficient size and scope that we can save or create 4 million jobs.

I doubt too many conservative economists recommended a bill that contained such a lopsided ratio of spending to tax cuts. He is either being disingenuous or lying. I have seen plenty of conservative economists say we need a stimulus bill but of “sufficient size and scope?” That’s one on me and it would be helpful if the President could give us the names of those economists. Not just to check his story but also to scream at any fools who would have recommended such idiocy.

But back to the game…

Announcer: Obama steps out of the box for a moment. He adjusts his immaculate uniform - evidently his cup is slightly out of place. He daintily spits into his government-funded, Taiwanese built spitoon that he insists on bringing with him to the plate (life must be hell for Barak ever since his wife forced him to quit smoking and switch to chewing tobacco). Time is called as Obama insists that the spitoon be emptied and out comes a stimulus funded worker, the Designated Spit Chucker, to take care of the problem.

Obama steps back in. The rookie looks nervous as his spikes paw at the dirt. He squeezes the bat and awaits the pitch from Karen Boeing of Reuters. Here it comes …oooooh a brushback pitch that narrowly misses Obama’s enormous ear:

Question: Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to shift gears to foreign policy. What is your strategy for engaging Iran? And when will you start to implement it? Will your timetable be affected at all by the Iranian elections? And are you getting any indications that Iran is interested in a dialogue with the United States?

Obama gives us all a lesson in how to say absolutely nothing in 1000 words or less.

And my expectation is, in the coming months, we will be looking for openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the table, face-to-face diplomatic overtures, that will allow us to move our policy in a new direction.

There’s been a lot of mistrust built up over the years, so it’s not going to happen overnight. And it’s important that, even as we engage in this direct diplomacy, we are very clear about certain deep concerns that we have as a country, that Iran understands that we find the funding of terrorist organizations unacceptable, that we’re clear about the fact that a nuclear Iran could set off a nuclear arms race in the region that would be profoundly destabilizing.

So there are going to be a set of objectives that we have in these conversations, but I think that there’s the possibility at least of a relationship of mutual respect and progress.

As long as Obama is willing to grovel at the feet of the Iranian government by “apologizing” for all the naughty things we’ve done in Iran without them having to apologize for their support of Hezbullah and Hamas, then I have no doubt that a relationship of respect and “progress” (whatever that means) can be achieved.

Just tell our diplomats to be careful what they say. Iran has already committed one act of war in taking and holding our personnel as hostages. No doubt they would probably find it efficacious to have a repeat performance.

Let’s pick up the game where we left off…

Announcer: Obama is getting up slowly and dusting himself off after the high heat put him on his ear. He glares at the pitcher but restrains his inclination to go after her with a bat. Obama appears to be disgusted that his uniform is dirty and may call for his valet to brush him off. I believe - yes - he is asking the ump for permission but Nester is having none of it. He points to the box and orders Obama to resume.

Obama looks determined now. His steely gaze is concentrated on Chip Reid of NBC as he goes into his windup. Here’s the pitch…it’s an eephus pitch that Obama slams deep to left. Back she goes…back…back…IT’S OUTA HERE!

Thank you, Mr. President. You have often said that bipartisanship is extraordinarily important, overall and in this stimulus package, but now, when we ask your advisers about the lack of bipartisanship so far — zero votes in the House, three in the Senate — they say, “Well, it’s not the number of votes that matters; it’s the number of jobs that will be created.”

Is that a sign that you are moving away — your White House is moving away from this emphasis on bipartisanship?

And what went wrong? Did you underestimate how hard it would be to change the way Washington works?

Not only does Reid set the ball on a tee for the president, he actually gets him started toward trashing his opposition while being able to appear “bi-partisan:”

As I said, the one concern I’ve got on the stimulus package, in terms of the debate and listening to some of what’s been said in Congress, is that there seems to be a set of folks who — I don’t doubt their sincerity — who just believe that we should do nothing.

Now, if that’s their opening position or their closing position in negotiations, then we’re probably not going to make much progress, because I don’t think that’s economically sound and I don’t think what — that’s what the American people expect, is for us to stand by and do nothing.

There are others who recognize that we’ve got to do a significant recovery package, but they’re concerned about the mix of what’s in there. And if they’re sincere about it, then I’m happy to have conversations about this tax cut versus that — that tax cut or this infrastructure project versus that infrastructure project.

But what I’ve — what I’ve been concerned about is some of the language that’s been used suggesting that this is full of pork and this is wasteful government spending, so on and so forth.

First of all, when I hear that from folks who presided over a doubling of the national debt, then, you know, I just want them to not engage in some revisionist history. I inherited the deficit that we have right now and the economic crisis that we have right now.

There may be some lonely back bencher (Ron Paul) who may want to “sit back and do nothing” about the economic crisis but to try and say that this opinion is even a minority opinion in the GOP is a lie and he knows it. And this is even worse:

Number two is that, although there are some programs in there that I think are good policy, some of them aren’t job-creators. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to say that those programs should be out of this particular recovery package and we can deal with them later.

But when they start characterizing this as pork, without acknowledging that there are no earmarks in this package — something, again, that was pretty rare over the last eight years — then you get a feeling that maybe we’re playing politics instead of actually trying to solve problems for the American people.

I’m sorry but $4.2 billion for “neighborhood stabilization activities” - much if which would go to ACORN and other partisan Democratic organizations smacks of a Hugo Chavez type of political program where organizing people at the neighborhood level, getting them dependent on those government programs earmarked for the purpose, and then when election day rolls around, actually paying ACORN and their sister organizations to get the grateful citizens to the polls would cement the Democratic majority in many states where big cities make up a sizable segment of the vote.

Here are 49 other “destimulating facts” about the bill (many of which I agree with Obama should be included but many others we can clearly do without).

It’s not that we expected the press to challenge Obama and ask him tough questions. There’s no opportunity for follow-up and the president calls on the reporters like a teacher calling on students in class. The modern presidential press conference has become a drama starring the President of the United States and featuring recognizable talking heads from the various networks, bit players from the dead tree media, and a cast of hundreds of extras. It is a political speech disguised as a press conference and the transparent willingness of the press to play their designated roll was nauseating.

No questions about Gitmo? What about Obama’s keeping some Bush era policies on rendition and the Terrorist Surveillance Program? Poor Glenn Greenwald has his panties in a twist because Obama won’t let the terrorists free in downtown Washington with an apology for inconveniencing their jihad by incarcerating them for a few years.

The fact is, there was not one question that discomfited him, not one challenge to a decision he has made. No questions about his cabinet picks who have backed out or his breaking his pledge not to put lobbyists in positions where they would have jurisdiction over the areas where they lobbied, or any questions on breaking his promise to wait 5 days before signing a bill into law in order to get feedback from his adoring public.

Announcer: Obama is circling the bases in triumph, women are swooning in the stands, men are weeping, and reporters are running next to him trying to get his autograph. Our hero-savior-president has triumphed and his enemies have been temporarily silenced.

Ain’t softball a grand game?



Filed under: Chicago East, Politics, Presidential Transition — Rick Moran @ 12:41 pm

Squabbling over the spoils of victory is a time honored American electoral tradition. After all, the winning candidate has, by definition, been able to cobble together coalitions of somewhat disparate groups and achieved victory by promising them goodies - or at least a friendly ear in the Oval Office.

In Obama’s case, his appeal to the center (which has gotten slightly more liberal over the last decade) has raised suspicions among his more rabid partisans on the far left that Obama just isn’t “progressive enough” and that putting pressure on the new Administration to toe the line and adopt their agenda should begin early.

(Note: I find it fascinating that complaints about ideological purity from both the Republican and Democratic bases could be exactly the same - except one side won and the other lost.)

Regardless of where you think Obama is on the ideological spectrum, it’s a good bet that the new president will try, at least at first, to tack more center-left in his policies than give in to his radical base of hard left activists who feel Obama owes them for their support. Big Labor, NOW, the Netroots, and other extremist elements in Obama’s coalition all think their support was decisive in putting the candidate over the top and now have their hands out. How Obama responds to their entreaties will determine his initial success or failure.

This piece by John Heilemann in New York Magazine details the initial skirmishing by some of these groups over Obama’s choice of Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff and his mulling over the choice of Larry Summers, former president at Harvard, for Secretary of the Treasury.

Summers is the rumored favorite for the Treasury posting having served in that position the last year of the Clinton presidency. According to Heilemann, he enjoys wide support on Wall Street and among the foreign financial establishment.

But he also brings some baggage that displeases Obama’s radical base. You might recall that he was forced to resign as Harvard president because he dared to quote empirical evidence that women do not do as well in math and science fields as men. He gave as an explanation three possible reasons; more men are willing to make the commitment in time and effort to advancing in these fields; that there were innate differences between the sexes; and that there was discrimination in the workplace and sexism in the socialization process.

All of these hypotheses are probably correct to one degree or another. But such truth telling always gets one in trouble with the left - especially since Summers said he believed that the likeliest explanation was the first reason he gave with the others in descending importance. (Brendan Nyhan has a better summary of the controversy here.)

Not recognizing the victimhood culture advanced by feminists as the main cause of the lack of women in math and science was Summers sin and he paid for it by eventually being forced to resign. Note that it wasn’t that he dismissed the idea, it’s just that he didn’t pander to the notion that every explanation for disparity between the sexes necessarily had to do with discriminatory actions of a male dominated culture.

The long knives on the left came out for Summers almost before the Grant Park celebration was over:

The mau-mauing of Barack Obama officially began less than 24 hours after he won the White House, when National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy piped up about the possibility of Obama picking Larry Summers as his Treasury secretary. Gandy told the Huffington Post she had “mixed feelings” about Summers, saying he “doesn’t seem to get” the economic implications of gender-based wage disparities. She cited Summers’s incendiary comments as president of Harvard about women’s intrinsic inaptitude for math and science—the ones that helped get him booted—as a cause for concern. And she expressed some displeasure that no female economists are being mentioned as contenders for the Treasury job. “We’re gonna be forwarding some names to the Obama transition team,” Gandy said. “It’s important that in this new administration women’s voices are heard and heeded.”

The next day, the HuffPo ran another anti-Summers story, this time revisiting a controversial memo on the economic logic of exporting pollution to the developing world that he wrote (or at least signed his name to) in 1991 at the World Bank—and also suggesting that his having once dated wingnut Laura Ingraham “could become a source of political embarrassment” to Obama. Soon enough, Summers’s inflammatory tendencies were being invoked all over cable news; in a post whose headline called Summers a “fat, hated burnout,” Wonkette declared, “Want change, a fresh start? Hire a notorious ex-Clintonite who masturbates to NAFTA!”

I once wrote of Wonkette that she looked like she was “pushing 40, pre-middle aged, dumpy, lumpy, policy maven” and that her site contained “No original thinking. Dull, drab, almost humorless, and totally without redeeming value. In short, a waste of time and bandwidth.”

She wrote me “You stay classy, guy.” Still something of a blogging newbie, I was somewhat ashamed and wrote a post the next day saying I had gone too far in my description of her personal appearance.

Today, I take it all back. I wasn’t half as rough on her as she deserves.

Besides Cox’s lack of coherence (Shocking sexual imagery to describe someone’s support for a trade agreement? Now that’s what I call a slutty policy maven.), the reaction of NOW and other opponents of Summers shows what Obama is going to be up against during the transition. These are groups that have been out of power for a long time and will seek to hold the new president’s feet to the fire on cabinet and White House personnel appointments.

Take the Emanuel choice for chief of staff. Rahmbo is part of the Chicago East mafia that will be moving to Washington as Obama takes charge. Several higher ups in his campaign, including David Axelrod (former press aide to Mayor Daley), Valerie Jarrett (Machine insider), and Marty Nesbitt (political fixer and moneyman) will also have prominent jobs in an Obama Administration. To claim that any of these folks are “agents of change” is laughable. Nesbitt headed up Daley’s Housing Authority while Jarrett chaired the powerful Chicago Transit Board. You don’t get those plum jobs by reforming anything. You get them by doing what you’re told.

Emanuel is better known as a Clinton attack dog but his roots are all Chicago. He has been called a “pragmatist” which is only slightly wrong. If “pragmatism” means doing anything and everything to win, then that fits Emanuel to a “T.” Policy and ideology are not as important to the new chief of staff as coming out on top. If this means knocking a few liberal heads together in order to shut them up and keep them from trying to push some cockamamie ideas on his boss, Emanuel is perfect for the job.

But Heilemann points out that Obama and Emanuel will have to deliver on something if they expect support for their agenda.

What’s easy to forget is that, in building his administration, the audience that Obama is—or should be—playing to isn’t hard-core, stone-cold Democrats. It’s the broader electorate, much of which has invested great hope in Obama but continues to watch him closely, waiting for proof that his promise of fundamental change isn’t, well, just words. What that audience would regard as more of the same wouldn’t be a handful of Clintonites in high positions but the sight of Obama’s capitulating to the hoary interest-group posse that’s just begun to rear its head, or to the demands of the extant congressional party Establishment. To a striking degree, and by design, Obama’s victory was won independently of these forces. He owes them precious little. And that gives him the freedom to build a government on the singular criteria of its capacity to get shit done.

The heartening thing is that, so far, Obama seems to get this deeply. It’s early days, of course, but both the Emanuel and Podesta appointments reflect clarity of purpose, maturity, and cold-eyed calculation in roughly equal measure. The choice of Summers would demonstrate all these things, too—along with a bracing lack of concern for what the carpers and ankle-biters think. For Obama, the trick will be remembering that change does indeed require change agents, but that agents of change can be found in the unlikeliest of places: the Clinton camp, Old Washington, and even the GOP. In 1992, Clinton promised an administration that looked like America. Obama is promising something much more lofty—transcendence, transfiguration, a new frontier. But a government that actually, you know, works would be a fine place to start.

So where’s the payoff for these groups? In addition to naming the cabinet, the president gets to appoint several thousand assistant secretaries,undersecretariess, members of various commissions - all of the non-permanent part of the bureaucracy. In many ways, these appointments will be even more crucial than his cabinet appointments because the president’s will is translated through the lenses of these true believers. And unless you have a cabinet secretary willing to rein in their excesses, Obama could find himself waking up one morning to headlines like “Department of Agriculture says catsup is a vegetable.”

Groups like NOW, Code Pink, Moveon, and other far left organizations know full well where their real payoff is coming. They are no doubt compiling lists of thousands of the fellow travelers as I write this, all set to hand them to John Podesta or some other conduit for consideration by Obama. These are the real “agents of change.”

And they are to be feared as people in the Middle Ages feared the plague.

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