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Wednesday News

Good Morning Conflucians!!

That sure was one stunningly bad speech the empty suit gave yesterday. BB already found a good roundup of some reactions. Let’s look at what else is happening today.

OK, can’t get very far without some news related to Obama’s performance. Stunning everyone I’m sure (snark), enthusiasm for Dem voters seems to be dropping. Say it isn’t so. Here’s a bit from that story (which points to more detailed poll results):

Midterm elections, when turnout is traditionally low, are all about getting voters engaged enough to actually go the polls and vote. In the USA TODAY survey taken Friday through Sunday, there’s sobering news on that front for Democrats. Just 35% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters said they were “more enthusiastic than usual” about voting in November. That’s down eight percentage points from May and a precipitous 22-point drop from the poll we took in March.

In fact, it’s the lowest level of enthusiasm for Democratic voters since 1998.

Enthusiasm among Republicans and Republican-leaning voters dipped, too, but not as much as among Democrats. Now, 53% of Republicans say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting, down six points from May and 16 points from March.

So Republicans now benefit from an 18-point enthusiasm advantage — an edge that, if it holds up, could be more important than money in the bank.

I guess the sky opened up for the lightbringer, but it was only to reveal a thunderstorm.

Meanwhile things are a mess over at MMS and Obama’s new guy, Michael Bromwich, has no energy experience. Something tells me at some point down the road, we’ll be hearing hell-of-a-job Bromwich, just before he’s tossed under the bus:

Michael R. Bromwich, a former federal prosecutor and inspector general for the Justice Department who is now a partner in the Washington office of a New York law firm, will head up efforts to restructure the former Minerals Management Service, Obama announced yesterday.

“His charge over the next few months is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry’s watchdog — not its partner,” Obama said during his Oval Office address last night.

Obama did not announce what Bromwich’s title will be. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has dissolved MMS, separated it into three parts and forced the resignation of the MMS director he had appointed, Liz Birnbaum. But Obama said in his speech that “the pace of reform was just too slow.”

The MMS job did not require Senate confirmation, and Bromwich’s would not involve confirmation unless Congress acts to change the status of the agencies Salazar has created.

Bromwich helped prosecute Oliver North in the Iran-Contra investigation in the late 1980s. After that, he was inspector general for DOJ during the Clinton administration. He then went into private practice at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. But his most high-profile work at the firm has been leading turnaround efforts at troubled agencies like the Houston and Washington, D.C., police departments.

The Harvard-trained lawyer’s sparkling resume has a notable gap — almost no energy experience. A document distributed by Interior says Bromwich “conducted many major internal investigations for companies … in the energy, pharmaceuticals, public accounting, and private security industries, among others,” but does not detail the energy work.

Fannie and Freddie to delist from the stock exchange:

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac said they intend to delist their stock from the New York Stock Exchange as the government-backed mortgage companies continue to struggle amid billions in losses.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, the companies’ conservator, said it directed them to delist their stock because of stock-exchange requirements for maintaining price levels above $1 per share.

“FHFA’s determination to direct each company to delist does not constitute any reflection on either enterprise’s current performance or future direction, nor does delisting imply any other findings or determination on the part of FHFA as regulator or conservator,” said Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco.

I particularly like the last bit quoted. Yea, sure, no reflection on anything that we had to delist. Good one.

OK, back to Obama’s speech for a sec. Take a look at this paragraph from this NYTimes article:

“Time and again, the path forward has been blocked — not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor,” Obama said. “The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight.”

OK, now push your lower jaw back up and close your gaping mouth. Yes, he said that. First taking advantage of the situation he’s talking about bigger energy plans. OK, I wouldn’t have gone there, but I can see it. But then he talks here about courage and consequences of inaction. Priceless.

General Motors is withdrawing it’s request for state aid for its european division. Interestingly, after they were already told no by Germany. Apparently they’re just not the same kind of suckers we are over the pond:

General Motors Co.’s European division said Wednesday it has decided to withdraw all applications for state aid in the region and finance the planned turnaround with funds from its parent, marking a broad strategic shift after the German government last week refused to provide aid to the U.S. auto maker.

Axelrove was on the tube this morning talking about the meeting to happen later today between Obama and the BP CEO:

A leading presidential adviser says a critical goal of a White House showdown with BP executives is to make sure victims of the Gulf oil spill won’t be “slow-walked by the company” to their compensation payments.

Senior adviser David Axelrod tells CBS’s “The Early Show,” that “it’s not a matter of trust. It’s a matter of holding them accountable.” He said that when President Barack Obama meets the BP executives later Wednesday, he’s “going to insist” on an independently administered claims processing system with billions of dollars in assets.

OK, anyone that believes that Obama has what it takes to actually intimidate the BP CEO or have any effect, I’ve got some swampland in Florida to sell you. I think this is one of those meetings where they’ll just laugh and say, yea, we’re supposed to be meeting and deciding things. Ha. They’ll just make small talk. And when done read the statements their respective PR departments already arranged for them. Like the WH and BP haven’t been working together from day 1 to cover up, smooth over, pretend there wasn’t that much oil, and act like they gave a damn.

San Francisco passed a law requiring cell phone retailers to post radiation levels:

San Francisco moved a step closer Tuesday to becoming the first city in the nation to require that retailers post in their stores notices on the level of radiation emitted by the cell phones they offer.

The Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to give preliminary approval to the proposal. Final approval is expected next week. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd was the lone vote in opposition. Mayor Gavin Newsom, an early proponent of the legislation, plans to sign it into law when it reaches his desk.

Cast by backers as a pro-consumer measure, the ordinance would not ban the sale of certain cell phones but would require retailers to provide the “specific absorption rate” – a measurement of radiation registered with the Federal Communications Commission – next to phones displayed in their shops. Consumers also would be notified about where they can get more educational materials.

“This is about helping people make informed choices,” said Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, chief sponsor of the legislation.

Everyone in LA is so excited that Michelle Obama is in town on her “let them eat cake” tour:

The visit kicked off sometime Sunday, after the First Lady finished her speech at Camp Pendleton. It was a private tour — so the White House had nothing official to say about it. But the sightings reported on Twitter were plentiful. And, if you go by them, the agenda was mostly un-Westside and un-Malibu.

On Sunday evening, Michelle Obama sipped a Stoli straight up over supper at Lucques with her girls, her mother, Marian Robinson, and three others (at least one of whom was drinking J & H chardonnay). Food is served family style on Sunday nights at Lucques, with just two main course choices. The Obama party — which indeed ordered from the menu and paid its bill — chose the slow-roasted lamb. But chef and co-owner Suzanne Goin sent out the Alaskan halibut as well.

“It was like a family hanging out over dinner,” said one of the restaurant’s managers, who added that they ate at a banquette in the dining room guarded by about a dozen Secret Service agents. No one tried to get an autograph.

“They were flanked by two Secret Service officers on the sides of where they were sitting. I don’t think it was an ideal situation for someone to go up and approach,” the manager said.

Meanwhile for us peasants, home building plunges:

As the government’s tax incentives for homebuyers expired, new home building dropped 10 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 593,000 units, the lowest level since December, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday.

Industrial production, in contrast, surged 1.2 percent. Some of was due to a spike in utilities as rising temperatures prompted many Americans to turn on their air conditioners. But manufacturing output was firm as well, climbing 0.9 percent, according to the Federal Reserve report.

Despite that performance, prices at the wholesale level retreated in May. The Labor Department’s Producer Price Index eased 0.3 percent as gasoline costs tumbled.

The grim housing picture is a concern for economists. Real estate was at the epicenter of the credit crisis, and many believe construction must play a role in any robust recovery.

“These numbers are not good,” said Dan Cook, senior market analyst at IG Markets in Chicago. “There’s too much (housing) inventory, and it’s going to take a while for the industry to work its way through that.”

Just as I’m writing this, another reaction to the great speechifier came in. So the ultimate kool-aid drinker and Obama worshiper and Clinton hater, Eugene Robinson, has this to say:

Less than a minute into President Obama’s Oval Office address, my heart sank. For the umpteenth time since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill began, an anxious nation was informed that Energy Secretary Steven Chu has a Nobel Prize. Obama’s speech pretty much went down hill from there.

For weeks, administration officials have been trumpeting Chu’s distinction at every opportunity. Earlier in the day, White House environmental guru Carol Browner cited the Nobel in a television interview. Presidential adviser David Axelrod talks about the Nobel all the time, as does Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. If there’s an official list of administration talking points about the response to the oil spill, “Chu’s Nobel” has to be at the top.

We can all applaud Chu’s accomplishment. But here’s the thing: Chu is a physicist, not an engineer or a biologist. His Nobel was awarded for the work he did in trapping individual atoms with lasers. He’s absurdly smart. But there’s nothing in his background to suggest he knows any more about capping an out-of-control deep-sea well, or containing a gargantuan oil spill, than, say, columnist Paul Krugman, who won the Nobel in economics. Or novelist Toni Morrison, who won the Nobel in literature.

In fact, Chu surely knows less about blowout preventers than the average oil-rig worker and less about delicate coastal marshes than the average shrimp-boat captain. His credentials, in this context, are meaningless. So do the president and his aides cite Chu’s beside-the-point Nobel to reassure Americans that the team handling the oil spill knows what it’s doing? Or are Obama, Browner, Axelrod, Gibbs and the others constantly trying to reassure themselves?

The president was cool, determined, forceful — stylistically, all the things that the braying commentators said he had to be. But where was the substance? Specifically — and urgently — where was the new plan to contain the oil spill and protect the coastline? I wish I’d heard the president order the kind of all-out marshaling and deployment of resources that now seems imperative. But I didn’t.

Ouch. If your biggest blowhard follower is giving you grief, you know you’re in trouble.

For those that missed it, yesterday Louisiana GOP congressman brought up suicide as an option for BP executives:

BP is America’s villain of the moment (take a breather, bankers), which means it’s our duty to chastise its pathetic leak-plugging efforts, mock certain British tone-deaf CEOs, and basically disparage the company in any way possible. But perhaps it’s going just a little bit too far to call on their executives to commit ritualistic suicide. During a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing today with representatives from around the oil industry, that’s basically what Louisiana GOP congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao, who was born in South Vietnam, suggested for Lamar McKay, the chairman and president of BP America.

“[Congressman Cliff] Stearns asked Mr. McKay to resign. Well, in the Asian culture we do things differently. During the Samurai days, we just give you a knife and ask you to commit harakiri.”

Um, well, we do things a bit differently in America. Similar, but different. Instead of disemboweling themselves, our disgraced executives just get paid millions of dollars to find a new job.

I don’t know, I kind of like his suggestion myself.

And just when you thought it was safe to watch TV, there will be a Housewives of DC and of course, how could it not be that way, the famed WH party crashers will be on it:

To the cynics who said there’s no way that Bravo would cut the White House party crashers out of “The Real Housewives of D.C.”: you were right.

Bravo confirmed Tuesday that Michaele Salahi will be one of the five housewives on its reality show, putting months of cynical speculation to rest. The show will have its premiere Aug. 5, the cable network said.

Ms. Salahi and her husband Tareq set out to be reality TV stars last year when they signed a contract with Bravo to be filmed for the first edition of the “Housewives” franchise set in the nation’s capital.

If you remember, the social secretary partly responsible for letting them slip into the party is involved with all of this (including financially). Yep, it’s the Chicago way.

On that crazy note, we’ll wrap up the news portion of the program. Please chime in with other news and fun things you’re seeing.

The Morning After the Oval Office Speech: Obama is toast, now what are the rest of us going to do?

Good Morning Conflucians! I’ve been surfing around, and I can’t find many positive reactions to the President’s Oval Office speech. Will Jon Favreau get the boot? It appears that no one else is going to pay for this clusterf&ck. And what are we Americans going to do now? It appears we are on our own. Our “leader” is completely impotent and ineffectual.

Here are some of the responses I’ve found to “the speech,” beginning with the formerly Obama-loving gang at MSNBC.

The folks at MSNBC pretty much trashed Obama last night. Too bad they didn’t notice he was an empty suit back when it would have mattered.

From Jason Linkins at Huffpo: Obama’s Oil Spill Speech: What Was the Point?

Are we operating off a booklet of Mad Libs, written by Jon Favreau, or something? I think you can swap out the references to energy and add back references to health care, and we can all take a trip down memory lane, to the time we all wondered why Obama wasn’t out there, actively pushing for something specific in the arena of health care reform. Right down to the “I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party” part, which basically commits Obama to a lengthy period of Chuck Grassley jacking himself off as the Republican Party returns with the idea of doing nothing that even remotely looks like it might be helpful to his Presidency.

Steve at The Left Coaster: Jumping the Shark

Obama failed to act like a chief executive tonight, opting instead for a dry sermon about energy policy and prayer. All the while, the speech avoided leadership, a sense of command, and vision. Rather, it seemed simply to serve as an opportunity for Obama to repeat whatever he’s said over the last six weeks, and then move on, just as the White House confirmed privately. Aside from some lame talk about holding BP responsible, he still managed to downplay the current crisis, in a rush to the future without dealing with current accountability.

Just like he treats the Bush administration.

Ezra Klein makes a lame effort to be positive: Where Have We Heard This Before

The elements of Barack Obama’s speech tonight that were specifically newsworthy were also broadly-expected: A liability fund that BP will pay into and that a third-party will distribute. A “long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan.” Both ideas sound good. But their worth will be determined by, well, their worth. And Obama did not name any dollar amounts.

He also did not utter the words “climate change” or “global warming.” The closest Obama got was to praise the House for “passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill – a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.” The section of his speech devoted to the issue avoided the politically-controversial problem in order to focus on the broadly-popular solution: Clean energy. “As we recover from this recession,” Obama promised, “the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of good, middle-class jobs.”

Obama did not make any specific promises about the bill he would support, or even that he wanted. He did not say he would price carbon, or that we should get a certain percentage of our energy from renewables by a certain date.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: Obama’s Oil Spill Speech: Running On Empty

The whole point of a prime time Oval Office speech (transcript here) is that it announces something big. On that score, Obama failed right from the start. He told us that lots of people are already working the cleanup. Yawn. That Ray Mabus is going to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible. A plan! Hurrah! That we’re gonna make BP pay for everything. Roger that. And then this: “I have established a National Commission to understand the causes of this disaster and offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place.” A commission! So much for “going big.”

James Fallows at The Atlantic: The Oval Office Speech, Seen From Beijing

I couldn’t see this real-time in China, so I’ve just now read the speech and watched an online replay. I have deliberately not yet read or listened to any on-line commentary. Thus my untutored reaction from the other side of the world is: Sigh. [….]

Judging it just as a speech, and applying the standards I laid out yesterday before seeing it, I think it fell short on all three standards.

Finally, from deep in Obot territory, Icebergslim at The Cheeto: sigh, he did not say anything.

This speech did not go into specifics of anything.

And if anyone wants to know what someone looks like in the bubble, we saw it tonight. I mean, damn, he did not say anything!!! I did not expect everything but some specifics on SOMETHING!!!

Yes, we heard a third party to process claims in the Gulf. But how much will BP give to the Gulf Escrow Fund? And notice, he did not use the word ESCROW!!! And we still don’t know about how MUCH FROM BP.

Yes, he gave a time line of what his administration DID, but who cares about that!!!

And yes, he told us we need to get off fossil fuels. We heard that speech before, but HOW. He did not even say he was going to get on CONGRESS for letting an energy bill just sit there for months!!

I pray to God, that what is happening in the background is worth it for this country in the end, because what I just listened to was nothing.

He said nothing.

None of these people apparently noticed that Obama said nothing specific during his entire primary and general election campaigns. I wish they had noticed he was an empty suit back in 2007-2008, when so many of us did.

But what are we going to do now that just about everyone knows the emperor has no clothes?

Please post links to your favorite speech reactions as well as other news in the comments.