"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Friday, February 19, 2010

Obama is going to take health care reform through reconciliation if need be, which is what he said he'd do last June.

Via Yglesias, Newsweek summarizes Hank Paulson's new book:
Meetings with Senate Republicans were "a complete waste of time for us, when time was more precious than anything" (page 275). Ideas that Republicans do add are "unformed," like Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor’s plan to replace TARP with an insurance program. In a rare moment of sarcasm, Paulson goes off on the minority Whip: "I got a better idea. I’m going to go with Eric Cantor’s insurance program. That’s the idea to save the day" (page 285).
Eric Cantor is the Republican's number two man in the House, which is scary.

Daniel Gross writes about Paulson's book also:
Paulson love-bombs Barney Frank as "scary-smart, ready with a quip, and usually a pleasure to work with," praises Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and notes that then-Sen. Barack Obama was "always well informed, well briefed, and self-confident."
But while Bush ("admirably stalwart") comes in for similar praise, Paulson has little positive to say about other Republicans. Sarah Palin annoyed him from the get-go. When he spoke to House Republicans about efforts to help Fannie and Freddie, he was chagrined that many responded with speeches about ACORN, the low-income housing activist group. House Minority Leader John Boehner was ineffectual. John McCain comes off worst of all: impulsive, ill-informed, and counterproductive. "This was crazy," Paulson writes of McCain's decision to suspend his campaign in late September 2008 and demand a White House meeting on the bailout. At the climactic meeting in the Cabinet room, Obama spoke for the Democrats, delivering a "thoughtful, well-prepared presentation." But McCain? "When it came right down to it, he had little to say in the forum he himself had called."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Abu Dhabi tightens grip on debt-stricken Dubai

Senior Hamas official assassinated in Dubai, probably by Israel.

Israeli officials declined to comment.
Assassinations are rare in Dubai, a polyglot business hub on the Persian Gulf where deposed foreign leaders sometimes sought shelter. But that began to change last year after a former Chechen rebel was shot dead in an underground Dubai parking lot. “The myth that Dubai is the eye of the storm, and no one will touch it because everyone has an interest, is being blown apart,” said Christopher Davidson, the author of two books on the United Arab Emirates, to which Dubai belongs.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Profligacy of Greed
I've taken Mel Gibson off my Axis of Evil list on the right since his latest movie was good for a bad movie, even though the plot line seemed devised by a conspiracy-minded 9/11 Truther. Plus famous people like Gibson tend to go insane and it's not generous to malign the mentally ill.

In addition to my Axis of Evil list, I have my personal Rogues Gallery, particularly awful human beings I will touch on and discuss from time to time. People such that your heart sinks at the mere mention of their name. So far, I believe I've mentioned George Will, Robert Samuelson, and Mickey Kaus. Let me add that scourge of government debt Peter G. Peterson to the list. As Matt Yglesias has pointed out, the stimulus last year was too small, even though it was the largest in history. It was too small because people like Peterson have been spreading propaganda about the deficit for years. And so many more people than need be will be unemployed in the coming years, the economy will be worse off, and hence the Democrats and Obama will suffer at the voting booth.

Let me add this anecdote from Yves Smith:
The one and only time I met Steve Schwarzman was in 1986, when he and Pete Peterson had just started the Blackstone Group. I was a manager (meaning a mid level working oar) at McKinsey. We had teed up a deal and were assisting our foreign client in hiring an investment banker. This transaction was sufficiently sexy that Felix Rohatyn wound up working on it personally.
But what did we get when we presented the idea to Peterson and Schwarzman? We explained why we came to see them. We got 40 minutes (I kid you not, I checked my watch) of name-dropping by Peterson, of all the senior folks he knew in our client’s country. But that wasn’t why our client came to see him; had he bothered to listen, the matter at hand was in the US.
Then he and Schwarzman spent the next 20 minutes talking about Blackstone, and they make it abundantly clear how jealous they were of leveraged buyout king Henry Kravis (at the time, Peterson and Schwarzman were mere advisor types, their looting wealth creating opportunities were far more limited than if they had oddles of investor and bank money to play with).
So in effect, they spent an hour telling us that they really wanted to be doing LBOs, that was SO much better paid than M&A, they wanted to grow up to be Henry Kravis, but since they hadn’t raised the money to do that yet, then yeah, our client’s deal might be worth their while in the interim.
I have never seen a pitch meeting (and this had been arranged at the senior levels of the firm) devolve into such a naked display of personal greed. The two partners who were there with me, neither one of them naifs, were as appalled as I was. As much as I have seen a lot of unprofessional conduct in my life, this still ranks as one of real doozies.
The Rule of Law is Sacrosanct*
(or don't fear the reaper, i.e avoid a bunker mentality**)

Glenn Greenwald is positively overflowing in his praise for Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder has been trying to do what's right and best for America in the face of the usual suspects' demagoguery and bedwetting over terrorism. As Obama has said more than once, "Let's not allow the terrorists to scare us into a bunker mentality." The only thing to fear is fear itself, as FDR put it. Greenwald:
Independently, Rahm Emanuel is the absolute last person who ought to be exerting influence over the Attorney General's decisions regarding where and how to try Terrorist suspects; remember when all Good Democrats agreed that Karl Rove's attempts to influence the DOJ was really bad because prosecutorial decisions are not supposed to be politicized?
Easy Glenn, don't want to praise Obama's AG Holder too much, it might make your never-ending hyperbolic criticism of Obama, that he's no better than Bush, etc., seem incongruent.

Last week there were news stories about a possible ouster of Emanuel after the Massachusetts Senate race loss. I disagreed with those who thought he should go, but after reading this I now wouldn't argue so strongly for keeping him. Emanuel might be right in is his argument that it would be better to get health care reform than try terrorism suspect as civilians and thereby respect international norms and put the Bush administration's lawlessness in the past.

I would say it's better to get health care reform than perform a witch hunt on a previous administration, which is what Greenwald wants. (People who complained about the witch hunts against Bill Clinton seem especially inclined to return the favor. Seems .... hypocritical and double-standardsish.) My hope would be that Obama follows his AG's advice and manages to gets health care reform done. That seems possible - even likely - while I believe they would have to chose between health care reform or partisan witch-hunt. (Besides Obama's whole Presidential campaign theme was bipartisanship, something his critics always seem to forget or ignore.)

According to the New York Times article Greenwald points to, Holder is currently reading "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a Swedish mystery-thriller, and Slavery by Another Name, about its unofficial persistence into 20th-century America."

My question to Senator Lindsey Graham - who I've always admired and who Emanuel is trying to placate - is that if we can treat anyone who is not an American in any manner we choose, why can't foreign nations do the same to American citizens? And if they do how can we protest?
**As Rorschach says in prison to his fellow inmates - many of whom he put there, "You don't understand, I'm not in here with you, you're in here with me!"
Ezra Klein: 
In related news, Evan Bayh has decided to retire. He said he wants to spend more time scolding his family for moving too far to the left.