Daily Archive: 06/22/2011

Jun 22 2011

Fox News Got A Lot Of ‘Pologizin’ To Do

Jon Stewart apologized to Fox News about being uninformed about Fox News viewers being “the most consistently misinformed media viewers.” Politifact rated the statement as “false” citing a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey, and worldpublicopinion.org,. That, however, was not the end of it as Jon proceeded to expose as litany of lies that have been spewed by Fox News calling them, “Fox news is like a lying dynasty. They’re like the New England Patriots of lying!” Politifact has annotated the lies cited in Jon’s righteous rant so you don’t have to try to pause or keep up with Jon’s rapid fire reparte.

Jun 22 2011

Greece: Saving the Banks, Destroying A Country

What Atrios said:

The people who run the world agree that ordinary people need to suffer so that the banksters don’t lose on their bets.

The people who run the world are awful people.

Shitpile is an understatement.

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is warning that a full-scale restructuring of Greek debt would have “completely uncontrollable”consequences on the financial markets.

Merkel said Wednesday that imposing a so-called haircut on Greek debt – reducing the amount to be repaid – would not only endanger banks and other creditors who hold Greek bonds, but also institutions that sold insurance policies against a default.

Merkel told a parliamentary committee that those credit default swaps have a higher face value than the debt itself.

But protect those bankers they no matter that they’ve destroyed Greece’s economy by the skin of the average Greeks’ teeth

ATHENS – Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece won a crucial vote of confidence early Wednesday, with all 155 lawmakers of the Socialist Party expressing their support for his beleaguered government, above the absolute majority of 151 votes required by Greece’s 300-seat Parliament. . . .

He defended the country’s foreign creditors, who have become a lightning rod for popular fury, saying, “They are giving us a helping hand in difficult times.”

But tens of thousands of people gathered outside Parliament, many voicing rage at foreign lenders, whom they see as a kind of occupying power, and at a government they blame for Greece’s financial crisis.

“They destroyed the country,” said Terpsichore Theofili, 23, a history student, as she stood in the crowd in Syntagma Square outside Parliament. “They should pay, not us,” she added.

David Dayen said it,

No, they’re saving their creditors.

In other words, a Greek default event would break the banks and the financial wizards who sold default insurance. This is all about protecting them, not the Greek people. . . .

Mohamed El-Erian of Pimco still thinks Greece will default. And maybe they will. Maybe the Parliament will succumb to the pressure of the street and refuse to institute more pain and suffering. Maybe this latest plan will just kick the can down the road, and default will be an inevitable future event. But Greece should have the power to set the terms here. It’s like the old joke: “If I lend you $100 and you don’t pay it back, you have a problem. If I lend you $1 trillion and you don’t pay it back, I have a problem.” Greece could hold that over their creditors, but so far their political leadership has been cowed.

Jun 22 2011

Afghanistan Withdrawal: Not Fast Enough (Up Date)

Up Date: The President’s speech with a link to the transcript is below. As expected, not big enough or fast enough nor will all the troops ever be withdrawn.

Only 10,000 troops from the last surge of 33,000 are to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012 the end of next summer. Seriously, another 18 15 months. There are 100,000 service men and women serving in Afghanistan alone. Leaving the money aside, what about the them? How many more killed, maimed and psychologically scarred? For what? A war that is not winnable where the US is doing more harm than good and is not wanted. I haven’t even mentioned the cost and suffering of Afghan civilians.

No, Mr. Obama, this is not good enough.

Cost of Wars a Rising Issue as Obama Weighs Troop Levels

WASHINGTON – President Obama will talk about troop numbers in Afghanistan when he makes a prime-time speech from the White House on Wednesday night. But behind his words will be an acute awareness of what $1.3 trillion in spending on two wars in the past decade has meant at home: a ballooning budget deficit and a soaring national debt at a time when the economy is still struggling to get back on its feet.

I’m not alone in my anger and frustration with the president’s policy. Since last year the vast majority of Americans are opposed to the war in Afghanistan. That number is now two thirds, two of every three Americans.

A new poll from the Washington Post shows American have turned decisively against our military engagement in Afghanistan. Nearly two-thirds oppose the war, and even larger percentage believes in a considerable withdrawal from the region

US Mayors meeting last week in San Francisco called for the president to “bring the war dollars home” and invest in America.

That resolution will now become official policy of the mayors’ organization — a small symbol of growing opposition to the war in Afghanistan. The mayors are asking that money spent on wars abroad be used in the United States to develop cities and towns. The last time the conference approved a resolution like this was during the Vietnam War.

Nor will there be any discussion about the 865 foreign bases that the US has scattered around the world that eat up precious tax dollars:

President Obama may claim he’s got to go slow in drawing down U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan but what’s his excuse for keeping open 268 U.S. bases in Germany? Is he expecting an attack by the Red Army? There are folks living well on those 268 bases at public expense as well as the military contractors supplying them.

No other nation begins to operate even a tiny fraction of the 865-plus bases the Pentagon runs overseas to, depending on your viewpoint, (a) protect America from dangerous potential enemies who are lurking everywhere, or (b) to dominate the rest of the world. And since 95% of all overseas bases located in somebody else’s country are operated by the USA, millions of people suspect (b) is the answer; indeed, foreigners fear Uncle Sam might subjugate them.

Democrats in congress are getting impatient as well

On Tuesday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of the most conservative Democrats in the chamber, sent Obama a letter urging a change of course in the war and an acceleration of the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“After 10 years and $443 billion, I believe it is time [to] focus our resources on rebuilding America, not on rebuilding Afghanistan,” he wrote. “It is time for the Afghan people to decide their destiny and take responsibility for governing themselves. … It is my hope that by redefining the mission in Afghanistan away from nation-building, you will pursue significant troop reductions immediately and end the scope of our current mission well before the 2014 deadline.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) is calling for a minimum withdrawal of 15,000 troops:

“In my judgment, a minimum of 15,000 reduction in troops would be needed for this to be a significant reduction, and since the president has committed himself a few months ago to a significant reduction, I think that’s what will happen,” Levin told reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

When asked how he came up with that number, Levin replied, “It’s based on what would it take to let the Afghans know the significance of the importance of shifting the responsibility — the principal responsibility to them for the security of their own country.”

Americans and Afghans will be paying dearly for years even after the last service person is gone from both Afghanistan and Iraq. This cannot happen fast enough for all our sakes.

Up Date: Obama spoke tonight about the troop withdrawal. 10,000 troops will leave by the end of this year. By the end summer in 2012, the other 23,000 will have left. By 2014, all combat troops will have departed but a residual force of about 25,000 will remain, forever and ever. The rest was pure political rhetoric. You can read the transcript to spare yourself the vision of another lie.  

Jun 22 2011

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Michelle Chen: Too Big to Sue? High Court Thwarts Wal-Mart Gender Discrimination Case

As legions of Walmart workers shuffled into work on Monday, the Supreme Court smacked down a major class-action lawsuit that might potentially have shifted the legal landscape on women’s rights in the workplace.

The gender-discrimination lawsuit against the world’s most notorious retail giant had been pending for years. Now the Court’s majority opinion has declared that, in light of “Walmart’s size and geographical scope,” the plaintiffs could not provide “significant proof that Wal-Mart operated under a general policy of discrimination. That is entirely absent here.”

And with that, Justice Antonin Scalia rendered perhaps hundreds of thousands of working women absent from the discussion on gender discrimination in today’s sink-or-swim economy. The split in the most significant part of the judgment, the class-action aspect, was five to four, putting all the female justices in the minority. The division ironically suggested a lack of self-reflection on how structural gender discrimination works in powerful institutions.

Amy Goodman: Japan’s Meltdowns Demand New No-Nukes Thinking

New details are emerging that indicate the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan is far worse than previously known, with three of the four affected reactors experiencing full meltdowns. Meanwhile, in the U.S., massive flooding along the Missouri River has put Nebraska’s two nuclear plants, both near Omaha, on alert. The Cooper Nuclear Station declared a low-level emergency and will have to close down if the river rises another 3 inches. The Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant has been shut down since April 9, in part due to flooding. At Prairie Island, Minn., extreme heat caused the nuclear plant’s two emergency diesel generators to fail. Emergency-generator failure was one of the key problems that led to the meltdowns at Fukushima.

In May, in reaction to the Fukushima disaster, Nikolaus Berlakovich, Austria’s federal minister of agriculture, forestry, environment and water management, convened a meeting of Europe’s 11 nuclear-free countries. Those gathered resolved to push for a nuclear-free Europe, even as Germany announced it will phase out nuclear power in 10 years and push ahead on renewable-energy research. Then, in last week’s national elections in Italy, more than 90 percent of voters resoundingly rejected Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s plans to restart the country’s nuclear-power-generation plans.

Deborah Weinstein: Paving the Road to a Hungrier, Unhealthier, and Less-Educated Nation

Massive spending cuts will make the future bleaker for millions of Americans.

The number of poor children had already grown by 2.1 million in 2009 over pre-recession levels, with continuing high joblessness among parents raising concerns that poverty will continue to worsen for some time. Since kids who spend more than half their childhood in poverty earn on average 39 percent less than median income as adults, we can expect lasting costs that will hurt the nation’s future economic growth.

And yet, a majority of House lawmakers want to narrow the deficit by making things worse for today’s kids.

Sarah Azaransky: Wal-Mart Ruling Erodes Rights of Women of Color

The Supreme Court’s ruling to throw out the sex discrimination class action lawsuit against Wal-mart undermines employment rights of women of color.

First to the ruling. The Court ruled that women did not show that Wal-Mart had a policy of discrimination. Since each Wal-Mart supervisor has discretion over pay and promotion, Justice Scalia concluded there was no “glue holding the alleged reasons for all those decisions together.”

Justice Ginsburg, joined by the Court’s three liberal justices, dissented on this point.  Citing evidence that “gender bias suffused Wal-mart company culture,” Ginsburg affirmed, “managers, like all humankind, may be prey to biases of which they are unaware.”

While all the plaintiffs in the case were women, thirty five percent were women of color and Betty Dukes, the case’s namesake and employee of the Pittsburg, CA store, is African American.

Laura Flanders: Walmart: Too Big to Sue?

The Roberts court decision to block the class action lawsuit for sex discrimination effectively defines Walmart as ‘too big to sue’

Let’s get this right: the world’s biggest boss, supported by companies as diverse as Altria, Bank of America, Microsoft and General Electric and backed up by the godfather of big business (the US Chamber of Commerce) has persuaded the US supreme court that thousands of women workers can’t possibly share enough of an interest to constitute a class?

It’s hard to know which part of the court’s decision in Dukes v Walmart hurts equity most: the assault on class-action jurisprudence generally, at a time of shrinking tools for workers seeking redress, or the defeat of history’s biggest gender-based claim before a court that, for the first time, includes two women, one of whom (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) made her reputation in sex discrimination law.

Maryam Al-Zoubi: Source of Missing Jobs in America Found: Forced Laborers

With unemployment at a near historic high in the United States, could you imagine any American company bringing in foreign workers to work for them below the minimum wage and with no benefits? Most people would say no. But can you imagine those same Americans forcing foreign workers to stay here, with no pay, and constant abuse? That is actually happening in this country today.

Forced labor is a real phenomenon in the United States agriculture business. Without awareness and investigation into where our supplies come from and who businesses are hiring, the American people become unwitting complicit supporters of labor trafficking.

Jun 22 2011

But We Can’t Raise Their Taxes

While CEO’s are rolling in more money than any average workers could imagine in a lifetime, raising their taxes and closing the tax loop holes that allow then to pay even less or, in some instances, nothing at all. According to a USA Today analysis, CEO’s pay went up 27% in 2010 while workers’ pay rose only 2%.

Paychecks as Big as Tajikistan

By Gretchen Morgenson

WHEN does big become excessive? If the question involves executive pay, the answer is “often.”


Answers to that question come fast and furious in a recent, immensely detailed report in The Analyst’s Accounting Observer, a publication of R. G. Associates, an independent research firm in Baltimore. Jack Ciesielski, the firm’s president, and his colleague Melissa Herboldsheimer have examined proxy statements and financial filings for the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. In a report titled “S.& P. 500 Executive Pay: Bigger Than …Whatever You Think It Is,” they compare senior executives’ pay with other corporate costs and measures.

It’s an enlightening, if enraging, exercise. And it provides the perspective that shareholders desperately need, particularly now that they are being asked to vote on corporate pay practices.

Let’s begin with the view from 30,000 feet. Total executive pay increased by 13.9 percent in 2010 among the 483 companies where data was available for the analysis. The total pay for those companies’ 2,591 named executives, before taxes, was $14.3 billion.

That’s some pile of pay, right? But Mr. Ciesielski puts it into perspective by noting that the total is almost equal to the gross domestic product of Tajikistan, which has a population of more than 7 million.

Warming to his subject, Mr. Ciesielski also determined that 158 companies paid more in cash compensation to their top guys and gals last year than they paid in audit fees to their accounting firms. Thirty-two companies paid their top executives more in 2010 than they paid in cash income taxes.

The report also blows a hole in the argument that stock grants to executives align the interests of managers with those of shareholders. The report calculated that at 179 companies in the study, the average value of stockholders’ stakes fell between 2008 and 2010 while the top executives at those companies received raises. The report really gets meaty when it compares executive pay with items like research and development costs, and earnings per share.

Using Disney CEO, Robert Iger and workers at Disney World in Florida as an example, Time looks at the ever widening income gap:

Disney’s Robert Iger got a 45% bigger bonus in 2010

The corporate PR teams are defending these bonuses by saying that the executives deserve the pay because stock prices and earnings are up. A Walt Disney spokesperson says that shareholder return at the company was up nearly 24%, substantially more than the Standard & Poors 500. But haven’t we already learned, through bubble after bubble, that stock prices are a poor indication of anything. They are irrational, give us false positives, and crash.

But here’s what is the real problem. Yes, if higher profits and a higher stock price warrant better pay for CEOs, why doesn’t the same ring true for the average employee. Workers at Disney’s Florida amusement park Walt Disney World fought for months last year and early this year for higher wages. What they finally ended up getting, in a new contract settled earlier this month, was an annual raise of 3% to 4% over the next three years. The workers will get a bonus, too, of $650, a mere 20,769 times less than Iger’s bonus. As long as it remains that only a small segment of our population will be rewarded for better performance, while the rest of us do more and more work for the same pay, the wealth gap in America is certain to get worse.

It is very evident that the White House, Congress and many state governors and legislatures have not learned that tax cuts for the wealthy will not improve the economy or create jobs. They have done nothing to reverse the trend of the widening income gap. They have dug themselves and us into a hole so deep that they cannot hear rational ideas for even stopping the spiral into a economic morass.

Jun 22 2011

On This Day In History June 22

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 22 is the 173rd day of the year (174th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 192 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the G.I. Bill.

The G.I. Bill was an omnibus bill that provided college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as G.I.s) as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It also provided many different types of loans for returning veterans to buy homes and start businesses. Since the original act, the term has come to include other veteran benefit programs created to assist veterans of subsequent wars as well as peacetime service.

By the time the original G.I. Bill ended in July 1956, 7.8 million World War II veterans had participated in an education or training program and 2.4 million veterans had home loans backed by the Veterans’ Administration (VA). Today, the legacy of the original G.I. Bill lives on in the Montgomery G.I. Bill.

Harry W. Colmery, a World War I veteran and the former Republican National Committee chairman, wrote the first draft of the G.I. Bill. He reportedly jotted down his ideas on stationery and a napkin at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.[2] U.S. Senator Ernest McFarland was actively involved in the bill’s passage and is known, with Warren Atherton, as one of the “fathers of the G.I. Bill.” One might then term Edith Nourse Rogers, R-Mass., who helped write and who co-sponsored the legislation, as the “mother of the G.I. Bill”.[citation needed] Like Colmery, her contribution to writing and passing this legislation has been obscured by time.

The bill was introduced in the House on January 10, 1944, and in the Senate the following day. Both chambers approved their own versions of the bill.

The bill that President Roosevelt initially proposed was not as far reaching. The G.I. Bill was created to prevent a repetition of the Bonus March of 1932 and a relapse into the Great Depression after World War II ended.

An important provision of the G.I. Bill was low interest, zero down payment home loans for servicemen. This enabled millions of American families to move out of urban apartments and into suburban homes. Prior to the war the suburbs tended to be the homes of the wealthy and upper class.

Another provision was known as the 52-20 clause. This enabled all former servicemen to receive $20 once a week for 52 weeks a year while they were looking for work. Less than 20 percent of the money set aside for the 52-20 Club was distributed. Rather, most returning servicemen quickly found jobs or pursued higher education.

Jun 22 2011

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

If you do not get Current TV you can watch Keith here:

Watch live video from CURRENT TV LIVE Countdown Olbermann on www.justin.tv

Jun 22 2011

The Abbreviated Evening Edition

Due to traveling playing in the mud (don’t ask, trust me it’s messy), the Evening Edition will brought to you by c’est moi.

Protesters besiege parliament before Greek vote

ATHENS (Reuters) – More than 20,000 chanting protesters besieged the Greek parliament on Tuesday before Prime Minister George Papandreou’s embattled government faced a confidence vote crucial to avoiding a sovereign default.

In the biggest protest in Syntagma square for several days, the protesters chanted slogans against the politicians, shone hundreds of green laser lights at the building and into the eyes of riot police outside and pushed their hands forward in a traditional insult.

Home sales hit 6-month low, supply rises

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Sales of previously owned U.S. homes hit a six-month low in May and supply rose, pointing to a housing market still struggling to regain its footing.

The National Association of Realtors said on Tuesday that sales slipped 3.8 percent month over month to an annual rate of 4.81 million units, the lowest since November.

It was the second straight month of declines. The drop was smaller than economists had expected, but the April sales figure was revised lower, leaving a report that was largely in line with expectations in financial markets.