Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Saving Grace of Saving Face

Comes the salvage operation for the House Republican caucus:

House Republicans, increasingly isolated from even some of their strongest supporters more than a week into a government shutdown, began on Wednesday to consider a path out of the fiscal impasse that would raise the debt ceiling for a few weeks as they press for a broader deficit reduction deal.

That approach could possibly set aside the fight over the new health care law, which prompted the shutdown and which some Republicans will be reluctant to abandon.

In a meeting with the most ardent House conservatives, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, laid out a package focused on an overhaul of Medicare and a path toward a comprehensive simplification of the tax code.

Somebody blinked, in other words.

The biggest loser in all this, not surprisingly, is House majority leader Eric Cantor. It was his very vocal support from the Teabagger wing of Congress that instigated this shutdown, that continued it beyond a symbolic gesture (and made me out to be wrong, something I will not tolerate, Congresscritter!) and embarrassed the mainstream majority of the Republican party, who must now fight for its very relevance while finding a way to shut up conservatives.

John Boehner found a path out and while he was not left untouched by the idiocracy, he deflected the bulk of the contempt off him while sniping from behind the cover of the Dark Side.

So what happened? Harry Reid happened.

In the meantime, Koch Industries accused Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, on Wednesday of spreading “false information” about the company by suggesting it was behind the move to tie a demand to keep the government open only if financing was eliminated for Mr. Obama’s health care law.

“Koch believes that Obamacare will increase deficits, lead to an overall lowering of the standard of health care and raise taxes,” Philip Ellender, the company’s chief spokesman, wrote in a letter to senators. “However, Koch has not taken a position on the legislative tactic of tying the continuing resolution to defunding Obamacare, nor have we lobbied on legislative programs defunding Obamacare.”

To be honest, this was probably the single most brilliant piece of subversion I’ve seen in many years. Reid is to be applauded for dragging this out into the light. As we say in fencing, le coup de grace, the final blow was when the Koch brothers found out that there's a price to be paid when Americans are paying attention carefully.

But do a quick thought experiment. Imagine being in that meeting where Ryan unveils the exit strategy. How nasty and spiteful are things going to get?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Waning Boehner

We’re starting to see the last throes of a desperate man at the head of a desperate caucus:

Boehner, responding to President Obama’s hourlong news conference, said he remained "disappointed" that Obama refused to consider talks centered on House-passed spending measures that included provisions tied to the healthcare law and that would "provide fairness" to Americans.

He also insisted that any action to raise the nation’s debt limit should be in concert with steps to limit future borrowing.

"There is going to be a negotiation here," Boehner told reporters. "It's time to have that conversation, not next week, not next month; the conversation ought to start today."

Translation: "You! Yes, you behind the bikesheds, stand still laddy!"

Foot-stomping and holding your breath until you turn….well, a normal white person would turn blue but someone of your hue would be more gray, I suppose…is the clearest sign of desperation you’ve shown so far, Weaker Boener. It all but cries out, “Look at me! I’m still relevant! I’m still relevant, dammit!”

The take-away from this quote is that President Obama has uncovered an endgame that circles around Boener and the Teabaggers, one that either Boener did not expect or was unprepared for.

It starts with this, however:

President Barack Obama has invited the House of Representatives Democratic caucus to a meeting at the White House to discuss the budget crisis and the looming debt limit deadline, a White House official said on Wednesday.

Other caucuses will be invited in coming days, the official said. The meeting Wednesday will take place at 4:30 p.m.

We’ll likely see a proposal cobbled together today, possibly kept private, until the President can meet with Boener and present it as a done deal, take it or leave it. I suspect the protocol will be House Democrats, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans, House Republicans, with the last two possibly being invited simultaneously to prevent attempts to subvert the deal.

Lest anyone think that President Obama has any reason to be patient with Weaker Boener, I will merely mention two words: Grand Bargain. He couldn’t deliver his caucus despite a handshake with the President. Why should Obama pay him any courtesy now?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013


In every crisis, there is a watershed moment where the solution – or at least, the denouement – appears. Thus endeth the shutdown:

Senate Democrats could introduce a bill to raise the debt limit this week, according to a Democratic aide. Considering the procedural roadblocks the measure could face, aides said they have to get the legislation rolling well before Oct. 17, when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said the government will run out of borrowing authority.

It was uncertain whether Democrats can muster the 60 votes they would need to push a debt ceiling bill, with no strings attached, through the Senate. The measure would likely run into opposition from Senate Republicans such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who has been leading the drive to make delaying Obama's healthcare law a condition for raising the debt ceiling.

I disagree with the Tribune in one respect: I think it will be fairly easy to get 60 votes, despite the grandstanding of Cruz. Even Rand Paul has signaled that he wants negotiations to begin in earnest to re-open the government, even if he lies and even if he clearly helped plan it. He has, I think, seen the writing on the wall, and he has to differentiate himself from Ted Cruz if he wants to make a dent in the GOP primary season in 2016. Showing himself as reasonable could garner him a lot of kudos, even as he maintains his nutcase caucus.

Meanwhile, the House Republicans continue to pass jigsaw puzzle funding of programs they like, which Harry Reid continues to ignore. This is an altogether proper way to treat little babies: let them cry themselves to sleep.

Weaker Boener continues to show himself as an ineffectual and ineffective leader, and he’s pissing off both wings of his caucus: the right and the far right. I have no doubt that come January 2015 (if not before) he’ll either be forced to resign or he’ll suffer the ignominy of being voted out as Speaker…assuming the Republicans hold onto the House, not a guarantee.

And it won’t be Teabaggers voted out. Most of them won by clear majorities, not pluralities, over centrist and even conservative Democrats in their districts. It will be moderates, and this will likely shift the House to a more liberal make up.

Ironic, then, that Karl Rove’s strategy of creating a permanent Republican majority in Congress by gerrymandering districts at the state level and polarizing election and Congressional districts could backfire so badly that the Republican party itself becomes wholly irrelevant in a very short time.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Why Is Weaker Boener Killing Children?

There are more than enough votes to put a clean continuing resolution (CR) up for a vote.

So why won’t Weaker Boener do it?

He’s Speaker of the House, and can destroy any member of his caucus who opposes him (oh, for the days of a real Speaker who could wrangle his people back into line!)

He has enough evidence that the shutdown is playing as a deeply unpopular Republican strategy. Even among conservatives!

And he’s already signaled that he will bring the debt ceiling to a vote next week and expects it to be raised, so he clearly has some stroke still.

So what’s he waiting for? The attempt to paint the shutdown as Obama’s doing, the attempt to smear the President as unwilling to compromise, has flown about as well as a three year old’s excuse that he didn’t stuff all that toilet paper down the drain, that somebody snuck in the house and did it.

Indeed, Boener is facing a major leadership crisis in the House as Democrats and moderate Republicans seek to bypass him and force a vote on a clean CR. He must know the clock is ticking. Is he determined to destroy the US – and by the extension, the world’s – economy? Is it possible he’s thrown up his hands and decided that the Teabaggers need to learn a lesson…at the expense of 7 billion other people on this planet, including 330 million Americans?

If there was ever a time to stop drinking and start thinking, Mr. Weaker Boener, that time has come.

Everyone's All a-Twitter

But I don’t buy this for a moment:

Twitter Inc.’s user growth is slowing and it shows no sign of turning a profit. Some fund managers say that’s not going to stop the microblogging service’s $12.8 billion valuation from treading higher. Much higher.

The $12.8 billion figure is derived from the fair value that Twitter put on its shares in an initial public offering filing last week. Ironfire Capital LLC and Gamco Investors Inc. (GBL) project the San Francisco-based company could be worth $15 billion to $20 billion once it begins trading.

Twitters expect to offer its initial shares at around $20 ps. I think that’s overpriced for a firm that’s never shown a profit, and makes it way too easy to dismiss advertising from your feed, and has some serious liability exposures on the horizon, from harassment suits to slander and libel claims.

Unlike Facebook, which actually had some commercial potential (and I called that one last year, saying the stock would linger in the $20s for a long time, which it did, from October until July of this year. I still think it’s overpriced now.) I don’t see where Twitter can sell products. I’d be guessing here, but my sense is a majority of users tweet from their phones now, and it’s hard to load a website while staying on the Tweeter.

My money would be on it hitting $8 a share before it ever shows a profit and starts to climb up, but also, keep in mind that the 1990s saw a lot of IPOs for vaporware stocks that ended up crashing the economy in a show of irrational exuberance on the part of investors.