Daily Archive: 09/21/2012

Sep 21 2012

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”.

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Paul Krugman; Disdain for Workers

By now everyone knows how Mitt Romney, speaking to donors in Boca Raton, washed his hands of almost half the country – the 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes – declaring, “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” By now, also, many people are aware that the great bulk of the 47 percent are hardly moochers; most are working families who pay payroll taxes, and elderly or disabled Americans make up a majority of the rest.

But here’s the question: Should we imagine that Mr. Romney and his party would think better of the 47 percent on learning that the great majority of them actually are or were hard workers, who very much have taken personal responsibility for their lives? And the answer is no.

Robert L. Borosage: Senate Republicans Shaft the Vets Senate Republicans Shaft the Vets

The young men and women who serve in our military return from fighting in the longest wars in American history to the worst jobs market in generations. They suffer higher unemployment rates than the general population: over one in ten is officially counted as unemployed — and that does not include those who have stopped looking for work or are forced to work part-time.

So yesterday, in one final vile act before adjournment for the elections, Senate Republicans used a point of order to block passage of the Veterans Jobs Corps proposal that would have provided a modest $1 billion to hire veterans to tend federal lands or gain priority in hiring at police and fire departments. The bill was crafted with bipartisan support. 58 Senators supported the bill, but Republicans put together the 40 votes needed to block its passage.

Why shaft the very veterans whose service politicians sanctimoniously celebrate at every occasion?

Is it because unemployed veterans are part of Mitt Romney’s scorned 47 percent?

John Nichols: Elizabeth Warren Wins the ‘Which Side Are You On?’ Debate

An overbearing and at times ridiculously aggressive Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown came across as a desperate man Thursday night, as he attempted to gain the upper hand in the first debate of this year’s most closely watched US Senate race and, by extension, in a re-election contest that seems to be slipping away from him.

Brown literally attacked Elizabeth Warren, his surging Democratic challenger, from start to finish. [..]

Warren was smooth and effective, “explaining things” with the same assurance that Bill Clinton displayed in Charlotte. It wasn’t always easy; as Brown interrupted at every opportunity-to accuse Warren of lying about her heritage, of attacking asbestos victims, of starting Occupy Wall Street.

But Warren never sweated it. She knew she had the winning hand.

And she played it. Again and again.

Ralph Nader: Not a Gaffe, but the Real Romney

There was something missing from the release of a tape showing Mitt Romney pandering to fat cats in Boca Raton, Florida, with these very inflammatory words: “There are 47 percent who are with him, (Obama) who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. These are people who pay no income tax.” Romney said his job “is not to worry about those people.”

Hey, Mitt, why start with the 47 percent? Fully 100 percent of the nation’s 500 biggest corporations are dependent on various kinds of corporate welfare – subsidies, giveaways, bailouts, waivers, and other dazzling preferences – while many pay no tax at all on very substantial profits (see their familiar names – General Electric, Pepco, Verizon etc. – here (pdf)).

Ari Melber: Why Obama Is Right About Change, Wrong About the Outside Game

The latest miniature controversy in the presidential campaign actually touches on an important idea.

“You can’t change Washington from the inside.”

That’s what Barack Obama said he learned as president, when questioned at a forum on Thursday.

Mitt Romney seized on the remarks, saying Obama has surrendered to the forces of Washington. Romney’s aides are eager to cast Obama in his own “YouTube moment,” naturally, and challenge his commitment to “change.”

Obama is correct, of course, that fundamental reform and social change is not usually hatched by Washington insiders. That is not a controversial view. It’s the premise animating grassroots conservative activism from Grover Norquist to the Tea Party, which primaries Republicans who represent the 2-0-2 for too long.

You can’t really understand Obama’s relationship to the inside game, however, without digging into the weeds of his unusual experiment with a grassroots, outside game: The 2009 creation of Organizing for America (OFA), which was designed to extend his massive field army from the last campaign into a governing force.

Katrina venden Heuvel: Progressives must work to retake the Supreme Court

While the election is dominated by talk of the economy and Mitt Romney’s latest foreign policy blunder, don’t lose sight of one important fact: Perhaps nothing will have a bigger impact on the United States’ future than the Supreme Court. And with four justices above the age of 70, the next president of the United States could have enormous power to shape the court for generations to come. Age is not, as Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner has suggested, just a number.

In a government paralyzed by partisan gridlock on the most important matters of the day, the Supreme Court has become what Bill Moyers calls “The Decider.” A majority of the justices has taken a far right turn in its decisions. [..]

They’re right. The court headed by right-wing Chief Justice John Roberts has suppressed the ability to organize through labor unions. It has weakened the right to bring class-action lawsuits. It has impeded ordinary people’s access to courts. It has given corporations more power – and personhood – to inflict their will on Americans. It has shielded financial institutions from accountability. It even threatened the Constitution’s commerce clause in its health-care decision, putting a range of social programs and protections at risk.

Sep 21 2012

Cover of the Rolling Stone

(Matt Taibbi on Sam Seder, h/t Susie Madrak @ Crooks & Liars)

Wall Street Rolling Back Another Key Piece of Financial Reform

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

September 20, 9:33 AM ET

Jefferson County, Alabama was the most famous case – the city of Birmingham went bankrupt after being bribed and goaded into taking on billions of dollars of toxic swap deals – but in fact it was just one of hundreds of similar examples of localities being duped into suicidal financial deals by rapacious banks and financial companies. The Denver school system, for instance, got clobbered when it opted for an exotic swap deal pushed by J.P. Morgan Chase (the same villain in Jefferson County, incidentally) and then-school superintendent/future U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, that ended up costing the school system tens of millions of dollars. As was the case in Jefferson County, the only way out of the deal involved a massive termination fee that might have been even more destructive than the deal itself.



Sounds simple, right? But Wall Street couldn’t have that. After all, if companies are required to have a fiduciary responsibility to cities and towns, how in the world can they screw cities and towns? The idea was a veritable axe-blow to the banks’ municipal advisory businesses.

So what did Wall Street lobbyists and trade groups like SIFMA (the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association) do? Well, they did what they’ve been doing to Dodd-Frank generally: they Swiss-cheesed the law with a string of exemptions. The industry proposal that ended up being HR 2827 created several new loopholes for purveyors of swaps and other such financial products to cities and towns.



So basically, if you’re underwriting a municipal bond for a city or a town, and you happen also to give the city or town advice about some deadly swap deal that will put the city into bankruptcy for the next thousand years, you don’t have a fiduciary responsibility to that city or town. The banks’ view is that being asked to perform the merely-technical function of underwriting a bond is very different from advising someone to take on an exotic swap deal – so if a bank is mainly an underwriter and happens to offhandedly recommend this or that swap deal, it just isn’t fair to drop this onerous financial responsibility, this weighty designation of municipal financial advisor, on its shoulders.



God forbid! Thankfully, this new law provides an exemption from that “highest standard of conduct” providing the bank or financial company is not just giving advice, but also performing a merely technical function like underwriting.

The details of this law are pretty hairy, but the basic idea is simple: provided a bank isn’t dumb enough to only provide advice, or to ask for separate compensation for advice, it doesn’t owe anyone any goddamned fiduciary responsibility. So they can keep screwing cities and towns as much as they’d like.

Sep 21 2012

On This Day In History September 21

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.

September 21 is the 264th day of the year (265th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 101 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1780, during the American Revolution, American General Benedict Arnold meets with British Major John Andre to discuss handing over West Point to the British, in return for the promise of a large sum of money and a high position in the British army. The plot was foiled and Arnold, a former American hero, became synonymous with the word “traitor.”

Born in Connecticut, he was a merchant operating ships on the Atlantic Ocean when the war broke out in 1775. After joining the growing army outside Boston, he distinguished himself through acts of cunning and bravery. His actions included the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, successful defensive and delaying tactics despite losing the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain in 1776, the Battle of Ridgefield, Connecticut (after which he was promoted to major general), operations in relief of the Siege of Fort Stanwix, and key actions during the pivotal Battles of Saratoga in 1777, in which he suffered leg injuries that ended his combat career for several years.

In spite of his successes, Arnold was passed over for promotion by the Continental Congress while other officers claimed credit for some of his accomplishments. Adversaries in military and political circles brought charges of corruption or other malfeasance, but he was acquitted in most formal inquiries. Congress investigated his accounts, and found that he owed it money after he had spent much of his own money on the war effort. Frustrated and bitter, Arnold decided to change sides in 1779, and opened secret negotiations with the British. In July 1780, he sought and obtained command of West Point in order to surrender it to the British. Arnold’s scheme was exposed when American forces captured British Major John André carrying papers that revealed the plot. Upon learning of André’s capture, Arnold fled down the Hudson River to the British sloop-of-war Vulture, narrowly avoiding capture by the forces of George Washington, who had been alerted to the plot.

Arnold received a commission as a brigadier general in the British Army, an annual pension of £360, and a lump sum of over £6,000. He led British forces on raids in Virginia, and against New London and Groton, Connecticut, before the war effectively ended with the American victory at Yorktown. In the winter of 1782, Arnold moved to London with his second wife, Margaret “Peggy” Shippen Arnold. He was well received by King George III and the Tories but frowned upon by the Whigs. In 1787, he entered into mercantile business with his sons Richard and Henry in Saint John, New Brunswick, but returned to London to settle permanently in 1791, where he died ten years later.

Sep 21 2012

They See Dead Voters

A North Carolina anti-election fraud group delivered a list of nearly 30,000 names to the state board of elections insisting that the names be removed from eligible voters list because, the group claims, these voters are dead. The facts are not all of these people are dead and the group, the Voter Integrity Project, had no evidence that any voted were cast by anyone using a dead person’s name.

The board began reviewing the list last Tuesday and determined that it had almost 20,000 of the names from a 10-year audit of data from the state Department of Health and Human Services, said Veronica Degraffenreid, the board’s director of voter registration and absentee voting.

More than one third of those 20,000 names were already listed as inactive, meaning they were on track for removal from the voting rolls, Degraffenreid said. Of the remaining names provided by the Voter Integrity Project, 4,946 had a match on first and last names and date of birth, Degraffenreid said, and county election boards will investigate to see if they should be removed.

She said that of all the records submitted by the organization, 196 showed voting activity after their date of death, though many of them died within days of the election and had submitted absentee ballots. [..]

Meanwhile, cases of fraud remain rare. In 2009, the board referred 29 cases of double voting to county district attorneys, according to a board report. Since 2000, the board has referred one case of voter impersonation, the report states.

Some voters were pretty upset when they received letters from their local board of elections informing them that they were no longer eligible to vote because they were dead.

Carolyn Perry remembers voting in her first election. It was 1967 in Ohio, a municipal election, and she was 21 years old.

“The people at the polls introduced me and said, ‘This is Carolyn and this is her first time to vote,'” recalled the retired special education teacher.

Perry, who has been registered to vote in North Carolina since at least 1975, according to election records, was dismayed to receive a letter this month from the Wake County Board of Elections suggesting she may no longer be qualified to vote because she might be dead.

“My initial reaction? I was mad as hell,” Perry said Monday morning. [..]

“I’ve had some people call who have been enraged,” said Gary Sims, deputy director of the Wake County Board of Elections. Others, he says, have laughed off the errant letters. That range of reactions has been seen in other states where either official actions or similar nonprofit-driven efforts have sought to purge dead voters. [..]

Gary Bartlett, director of the State Board of Elections, said state officials discovered that the Department of Health and Human Services wasn’t reporting some deaths that occurred out of state to elections officials. Those voters are now being investigated, he said.

But Bartlett adds that neither the state nor any of the county boards have yet discovered someone who voted when they should not have as a result of the Voter Integrity Project’s submission. Bartlett says he doesn’t rule out the possibility it could happen, but he points out that election officials have access to Social Security numbers, birthdays and drivers license numbers that citizen groups cannot legally get. All of those pieces of information have been used to differentiate between those who are really dead and those who are expected to show up at the polls this November, he said.

Sep 21 2012

“The West Wing” Returns

Don’t get excited. “The West Wing” hasn’t really returned but the cast did get together to make a campaign video for cast member, Mary ” Kate Harper” McCormack‘s sister, Bridget Mary McCormack who is running for State Supreme Court Judge in Michigan. The video also has a voting education lesson in it about filling out the non-partisan section of the voting ballot. This is how Michigan and 14 other states choose their supreme court justices. If you think that these races aren’t important, remember that this week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that returned that state’s controversial voter ID law (pdf) back to the Commonwealth Court for review.

Bridget Mary McCormack is a professor at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who also serves as Michigan Law School’s associate dean of clinical affairs. From her wikipedia bio, she is the founder and co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, the first exclusively non-DNA innocence clinic in the country. Lawrence O’Donnell interviewed the woman who reunited the “West Wing” on his show “The Last Word.”

Sep 21 2012

No Dancing X

I haven’t been to too many concerts actually.  I find them inconvenient, crowded, and noisy.  Still, you’ve got a friend and they have tickets, who’s going to say no?

Foreplay/Longtime

People did actually dance to that for about 15 minutes in 1977.  Tom Scholz made fair amount of money in Audio Electronics.