Corn on Hardball: How Detached From Reality Is Cheney? (Video)

Dick Cheney is the gift (for pundits) that keeps on giving:

A Quote from Dick Cheney That Says It All

There's one quote from Dick Cheney's interview with Politico that says it all:

We did worry about [the economy], to some extent.

To some extent.

A Question About Bipartisanship

If you can't buy a vote on the stimulus package by giving a guy a cabinet secretaryship, how can you do it? And is this a sign that no matter how Obama reaches out to congressional Republicans, they are going to oppose him in order to make him and his promises of a new bipartisan era in Washington look foolish?

Madoff Whistleblower Tells Congress He Feared For His Life


Harry Markopolos is the independent financial fraud investigator, who, over a period of nine years, tracked Bernie Madoff's $50-billion Ponzi scheme, screaming to the heavens when no one would listen. Testifying this morning before the House Financial Services Committee, he took an opportunity to speak directly to the Russian mafia and other organized crime figures who lost billions when Madoff's hedge fund imploded. "I'm the good guy here!" he said, eager to have them understand that he was only protecting their investments from a financial predator. Madoff's victims in the US tended to be Jewish ("Ponzi schemes are first and foremost an affinity fraud," says Markopolos), whereas overseas he preyed on mafiosi, royal families, blue-blooded aristocrats, and the nouveaux riche. (It's interesting to note that his victims also indirectly included Iraqi refugees.)

Markopolos is used to living with danger. A former Army Special Forces operator, he told Congress that he and his small team of volunteers have all feared for their lives at various points during almost a decade of building a case against Madoff. His testimony (.pdf) reads like a John le Carré spy novel, detailing how he and three other independent investigators secretly conspired against huge odds and physical dangers to bring down one of the worst white-collar criminals in American history. "If Mr. Madoff was already facing life in prison, there was little to no downside for him to remove any such threat," Markopolos said. "Neither my team nor I had any personal knowledge of Mr. Madoff or his psychological make up. As such we had only the conclusions of our investigation into his fund to surmise of what he may have been capable. We did know, however, that he was one of the most powerful men on Wall Street and in a position to easily end our careers or worse."

Let's Wait and See on the Wall Street Pay Limitations

I asked Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and one of the in-house economists for the bloggy left, for his thoughts on the White House's new limitations on executive compensation at bailed out banks. (Times article here, full text of the new rules here.) I was pleased as punch by the announcement when it broke last night. "Finally," I thought, "an end to these massive bonuses and ridiculous perks."

Not so fast, says Baker. There are still some details to hammer out:

We will have to see the details of how this policy is implemented. Restricting the pay of executives at banks who are receiving taxpayer dollars to stay afloat is certainly appropriate. The real question is how widely will it be applied within a bank and how will it be determined that banks are subject to these restrictions.

Obama Says What Bush Couldn't: "I Screwed Up"

President Obama hit the networks last night for some serious self-flagellation. As an example, here he is talking to NBC's Brian Williams (via Pamela Leavey):

"I've got to own up to my mistake. Ultimately, it's important for this administration to send a message that there aren't two sets of rules — you know, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes."
"I'm frustrated with myself, with our team. ... I'm here on television saying I screwed up."

He repeated the sentiment on the other networks as well. It got MoJo's DC office to thinking — did former President Bush ever own up to a mistake in similar fashion? In a 2004 town hall debate with John Kerry, Bush famously ducked a question about his biggest errors in office. Here's the transcript of that moment, in all of its mealy-mouthed glory:

Finally, a Real Purpose for the Border Fence!


We're still building a border fence down south, and boy is it half-assed:

More than 600 miles of fencing are already up — a hodge-podge of metal panels, wire mesh and steel posts.... [Drug] smugglers build ramps to drive over fencing, dig tunnels under it, or use blow torches to slice through. They cut down metal posts used as vehicle barriers and replace them with dummy posts, made from cardboard.

The fact that the fence is so easily undermined means that government contractors "return again and again for repairs." You know what I call that?


(Photo of fence by flickr user hey skinny used under a Creative Commons license.)

Potential Explanation for the Gregg Pick...

Judd Gregg - Commerce Secretary Nominee

Wonk Room notes that while Commerce Secretary nominee Sen. Judd Gregg is a conservative Republican, he respects science and has long been a congressional champion of the oceans. That's important, because as Secretary of Commerce he will oversee a budget that devotes a full 60 percent of its resources to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It is one of the many miscellaneous agencies that, for one reason or another, have ended up in Commerce.

So Obama gets to say he is the first president since Teddy Roosevelt to appoint three members of the opposing party to his cabinet, and Gregg is actually good on his department's most important concern.

I'm slightly less befuddled than I was yesterday.


COMMENTS....Quick note from my deathbed1: We will be making the big switch to our new website this weekend. The migration of content from the old site to the new has already started, however, which means that any comments left between now and Friday will disappear when the new site goes live.

I repeat: Any comments left between now and Friday will disappear when the new site goes live. So if you post anything Pulitzer worthy for the next few days, be sure to keep a copy locally. You have been warned.

1Just kidding.

mojo-photo-bonnaroo.jpgI know you; you were just sitting there thinking, "Boy, I'd really like to go to Bonnaroo, the long-running Tennessee music festival, this year, but I just don't think one Phish performance will be enough for me." Well, don't fret: Phish will be playing two shows at this year's Bonnaroo, set for June 11-14, way out in the woods or wherever that thing is. You'll be so full of Phish you'll—what, I can't make a joke about "barfing up a tilapia?" Damn you Mother Jones and your editorial standards...

The 'roo has always been the dirty hippie cousin to Coachella's expensive-sunglasses-wearing LA fashion brat, but in all honesty their lineup gets better every year. In addition to that Phish deal, Bonnaroo 2009's got Bruce Springsteen, the Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, Wilco, Snoop Dogg, Erykah Badu, and Paul Oakenfold, as well as Party Ben faves TV on the Radio, of Montreal, Santogold and even Robyn, whose haircut is much more Coachella-y.

An interesting development in this year's festival circuit is an apparent acknowledgement of the tough economic situation: you can now pay for your ticket on the installment plan. Both Coachella ($269 + service fees + $3 charity) and Bonnaroo (from $224-$249 + service fees + $3 charity) offer the ability to spread your payments out over time, with Bonnaroo offering five easy payments and Coachella giving you the option to pay in two or three payments. Maybe they should start offering lower-class tickets, where for half price, we'll promise to sit in one spot and not take up room in the beer line?

Full Bonnaroo lineup after the jump.