Daily Archive: 01/15/2013

Jan 15 2013

Kthulhu!

With noted Villager Idiots Peggy Noonan, Al Hunt, Judy Woodruff, David Walker, and George Stephanopoulos.



Transcript. Abridged Edition.

What did you think would happen when you voted for the lesser evil?

Web exclusive content-

Transcript.

Jon Stewart doubling down on his personal ignorance-

Ok, I’ll stop blaming your writers and just blame you.  You’re a moron.  The one ruining their brand is you.

Not that I don’t have some nits to pick with Herr Doktor Professor who so intimidates you that you won’t even have him on your show.

Coward.

Jan 15 2013

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Josh Barrow: Will Obama Ruin the Economy to Ruin the Republicans?

With both the 14th Amendment and platinum coin options to defuse a debt-limit crisis (apparently) off the table, only two possible outcomes are left: a debt- ceiling increase or the government’s missing required payments and economic chaos ensuing (pdf). This is exactly the choice President Barack Obama laid out in his news conference this morning.

Politico reported today that top Republican staff members believe “more than half” their conference is prepared to push the government into default on some payments rather than cave on their demands for further spending cuts. [..]

By creating an object lesson of how unfit the Republican Party has become to govern, Obama can ensure himself a political “win.” But with a new recession sparked by a government payments crisis, the country would lose — and Obama, whose second-term plans would be hampered by the need to manage yet another recovery, would lose, too.

New York Times Editorial: Don’t Skimp on Sandy Aid

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey made an impassioned pitch on Monday to his fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives to vote on Tuesday for almost $50 billion in Hurricane Sandy disaster relief. “New Jersey does not expect anything more than what was done for Louisiana and Alabama and Mississippi in Katrina, and what was done in Joplin, Mo., what was done in the floods in Iowa. We don’t expect anything more than that, but we will not accept anything less,” Mr. Christie said. [..]

Northeast Republicans were told on Monday that there might be as many as 15 amendments to reach the House floor, which would mean at least 15 chances to cut the financing or make the package unacceptable to the Senate. For Republicans refusing to help Sandy victims, it is worth remembering that disasters are not confined to one region of the country. Those who vote against aid now may well find their constituents desperate for assistance sometime soon.

Robert Kuttner: The Mortgage Mess and Jack Lew

As Treasury Secretary, would Lew take a harder line with banking abuses?

The more information we learn about the mortgage settlement that was announced Monday-official documents are yet to be made public-the more of a smarmy backroom deal it turns out to be.

The deal lets ten major banks and other “loan servicers” off the hook for a corrupted and illegal process of millions of foreclosures, with a paltry one-time settlement of $8.5 billion. The economic damage inflicted on homeowners, and by extension on the economy, was many times that.

The deal was hatched by the weakest of the federal bank regulatory agencies, the Comptroller of the Currency, and signed off on by the Federal Reserve. [..]

The relevance to Jack Lew? The comptroller of the currency is part of the Treasury and reports to him, assuming that Lew is confirmed.

Dean Baker: The 3 Percent Cut to Social Security: aka the Chained CPI

According to inside Washington gossip, Congress and the president are going to do exactly what voters elected them to do; they are going to cut Social Security by 3 percent. You don’t remember anyone running on that platform? Yeah, well, they probably forgot to mention it.

Of course some people may have heard Vice President Joe Biden when he told an audience in Virginia that there would be no cuts to Social Security if President Obama got reelected. Biden said: “I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you.”

But that’s the way things work in Washington. You can’t expect the politicians who run for office to share their policy agenda with voters. After all, we might not like it. That’s why they say things like they will fight for the middle class and make the rich pay their fair share. These ideas have lots of appeal among voters. Cutting Social Security doesn’t.

Robert Reich: Obama’s Debt Ceiling Gamble Depends on the GOP Being Sane

A week before his inaugural, President Obama says he won’t negotiate with Republicans over raising the debt limit.

At an unexpected news conference on Monday he said he won’t trade cuts in government spending in exchange for raising the borrowing limit.

“If the goal is to make sure that we are being responsible about our debt and our deficit – if that’s the conversation we’re having, I’m happy to have that conversation,” Obama said. “What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people.”

Well and good. But what, exactly, is the President’s strategy when the debt ceiling has to be raised, if the GOP hasn’t relented?

He’s ruled out an end-run around the GOP. [..]

But Obama’s strategy depends on there being enough sane voices left in the GOP to influence others. That’s far from clear.

Mike Lux: Complicated Politics: Democrats and the Grand Bargain

It is a well-known fact that President Obama wants a “grand bargain” with the Republicans, a deal that would reduce future deficits both by raising tax revenues and cutting spending, including on the so-called “entitlement programs.” He has offered this idea up repeatedly to Speaker Boehner and other Republican leaders in the 2011 debt ceiling talks and in the 2012 fiscal cliff debate, and media reports suggest that he is discussing the idea again with Republicans in the lead-up to the next perils of a budget crisis that is only a few weeks off.

Democrats in the progressive wing of the party (of which, full disclosure, I am a card carrying member) think the idea of cutting Social Security, Medicare and/or Medicaid benefits is terrible public policy because senior citizens who can least afford it will be badly hurt, and we have been working hard to convince the president to back away from this offer. This may be difficult to do, though, as the president has some strong (wrong, in my judgment, but compelling to the president’s political and legislative team) political reasons for wanting to do this grand bargain. But the politics of this deal are very different for the rest of the party, and it may well be that progressives can win over a lot more of those Democrats than conventional wisdom currently expects.

Wendell Potter: Insurers Telling Only Part of the Story in Attempt to Gut Important Consumer Protections

As Ronald Reagan once famously said, “There you go again.”

The culprits in this case are health insurance companies that want to change ObamaCare so they can keep selling highly profitable junk insurance to young people and keep charging older folks so much in premiums they have little money left over for anything else.

What’s happening now is a repeat of the tactics insurers employed during the final weeks of the health care reform debate. Back then, they papered Washington with a flawed “study” warning that premiums would soar if lawmakers ignored their recommendations. And now insurers are once again disseminating a new study with similar predictions. This time they’re trying to convince us that coverage for all young adults will become unaffordable next year if Congress doesn’t gut an important consumer protection in the reform law.

Jan 15 2013

On This Day In History January 15

 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.

January 15 is the 15th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 350 days remaining until the end of the year (351 in leap years).

On this day in 1559, Elizabeth Tudor is crowned Queen of England.

Two months after the death of her half-sister, Queen Mary I of England, Elizabeth Tudor, the 25-year-old daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, is crowned Queen Elizabeth I at Westminster Abbey in London.

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Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was Queen regnant of England and Queen regnant of Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. The daughter of Henry VIII, she was born a princess, but her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed two and a half years after her birth, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her brother, Edward VI, bequeathed the crown to Lady Jane Grey, cutting his sisters out of the succession. His will was set aside, Lady Jane Grey was executed, and in 1558 Elizabeth succeeded the Catholic Mary I, during whose reign she had been imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.

Elizabeth set out to rule by good counsel, and she depended heavily on a group of trusted advisers led by William Cecil, Baron Burghley. One of her first moves as queen was to support the establishment of an English Protestant church, of which she became the Supreme Governor. This Elizabethan Religious Settlement held firm throughout her reign and later evolved into today’s Church of England. It was expected that Elizabeth would marry, but despite several petitions from parliament and numerous courtships, she never did. The reasons for this outcome have been much debated. As she grew older, Elizabeth became famous for her virginity, and a cult grew up around her which was celebrated in the portraits, pageants, and literature of the day.

In government, Elizabeth was more moderate than her father and siblings. One of her mottoes was “video et taceo” (“I see, and say nothing”). This strategy, viewed with impatience by her counsellors, often saved her from political and marital misalliances. Though Elizabeth was cautious in foreign affairs and only half-heartedly supported a number of ineffective, poorly resourced military campaigns in the Netherlands, France and Ireland, the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 associated her name forever with what is popularly viewed as one of the greatest victories in English history. Within 20 years of her death, she was celebrated as the ruler of a golden age, an image that retains its hold on the English people.

Elizabeth’s reign is known as the Elizabethan era, famous above all for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and for the seafaring prowess of English adventurers such as Sir Francis Drake. Some historians are more reserved in their assessment. They depict Elizabeth as a short-tempered, sometimes indecisive ruler, who enjoyed more than her share of luck. Towards the end of her reign, a series of economic and military problems weakened her popularity to the point where many of her subjects were relieved at her death. Elizabeth is acknowledged as a charismatic performer and a dogged survivor, in an age when government was ramshackle and limited and when monarchs in neighbouring countries faced internal problems that jeopardised their thrones. Such was the case with Elizabeth’s rival, Mary, Queen of Scots, whom she imprisoned in 1568 and eventually had executed in 1587. After the short reigns of Elizabeth’s brother and sister, her 44 years on the throne provided welcome stability for the kingdom and helped forge a sense of national identity.

Jan 15 2013

Jack Lew: An Epic Failure

Sen. Bernie Sanders has already decided that he will not vote to approve President Barack Obama’s replacement for Timothy Geithner, Jack  Lew, AS Treasury Secretary, with good reason. It seems that Mr. Lew, who currently is the president Chief of Staff, does think that deregulation had a role in the housing crash. This is Sen. Sanders’ statement:

Jack Lew is clearly an extremely intelligent person and I applaud his many years of public service to our country. I believe that he will be confirmed by the Senate. Unfortunately, he will be confirmed without my vote. At a time when the middle class is collapsing and millions of workers are unemployed, I do not believe he is the right person at the right time to serve in this important position.

As a supporter of the president, I remain extremely concerned that virtually all of his key economic advisers have come from Wall Street. In my view, we need a treasury secretary who is prepared to stand up to corporate America and their powerful lobbyists and fight for policies that protect the working families in our country. I do not believe Mr. Lew is that person.

We don’t need a treasury secretary who thinks that Wall Street deregulation was not responsible for the financial crisis. We need a treasury secretary who will work hard to break up too-big-to-fail financial institutions so that Wall Street cannot cause another massive financial crisis.

We don’t need another treasury secretary who believes in ‘deficit neutral’ corporate tax reform. We need a treasury secretary willing to fight to make sure that large, profitable corporations pay their fair share in taxes to reduce the deficit and create jobs.

We don’t need a treasury secretary who will advise the president that he should negotiate with the Republicans to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. We need someone who is going to strengthen these programs.

We don’t need another treasury secretary who believes that NAFTA and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China have been good for the American economy. We need someone in the White House who works to fundamentally re-write our trade policy to make sure that we are exporting American goods, not American jobs.

Matt Taibbi, contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine, and William Black, associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a white-collar criminologist and former senior financial regulator, joined Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez at Democracy Now! to discuss why Jack Lew is a “failure of epic proportions



Transcript can be read here

At Huffington Post, Prof. Black also described Mr. Lew’s role as OMB Chief during the Clinton administration, that set the stage for our current economic and financial problems, his path to Wall St. and back through the “revolving door” to the Obama administration. He calls Mr. Lew “another brick in the Wall Street on the Potomac,”

From CBS News:

   Obama is clearly comfortable bringing another ex-Wall Streeter into an administration that, beyond a recent ratcheting up of populist rhetoric, has done relatively little to rein in the financial industry.

   That, in turn, reflects the ease with which Washington hands like Lew shuttle between the Street and the Hill. Case in point: Lew’s predecessor as budget chief, Peter Orszag, left the agency and joined Citi as vice chairman of global banking. A job in politics is no longer a back-door to a lucrative job in banking — it’s a red carpet. The revolving door keeps spinning.

   The Citi alternative investments] division ultimately lost billions. As for Lew, he naturally made big bucks during his three-year stint at Citi, including a [roughly $950,000 bonus in 2009 — after the company’s federal bailout.

Lew helped establish finance policy under President Clinton. [..]

Lew’s predecessor as chief of staff was William Daley. Daley is a lawyer. Daley was on the executive board of J.P. Morgan-Chase during the crisis and before that he was on Fannie Mae’s board of directors. Daley is a member of “Third Way’s” controlling board. Third Way is a Pete Peterson ally that lobbies in favor of austerity and cuts to the safety net. It pushes Wall Street’s, and Pete Peterson’s, greatest dream — privatizing Social Security. Privatization would allow Wall Street to increase its profits by hundreds of billions of dollars in fees for managing our retirement savings. [..]

The obvious aspects of this pattern include: (1) Obama prefers to have Wall Street guys run finance (despite coming to power because Wall Street blew up the world), (2) the revolving door under Obama that connects Wall Street and the White House has been super-charged, and (3) even very short stints in Wall Street have made Obama’s finance advisers wealthy. The obvious is vitally important, and it is largely ignored by the most prominent media. The obvious aspects help explain why Obama’s economic policies have been incoherent, ineptly explained, inequitable, and often slavishly pro-Wall Street at the expense of our integrity and citizens. [..]

Prof. Black gives examples of the less obvious aspects of the pattern that compound problem of Pres. Obama appointing people who have failed, not just professionally, but ethically and morally. It is an eye opening, scathing critique of an administration that is trying to force a destructive policy of austerity and why Jack Lew is a terrible choice for Treasury Secretary.  

Jan 15 2013

In Aaron’s Name, Change This Law

SOPA Reddit WarriorComputer programmer, writer, archivist, political organizer, and Internet activist, but most of all son, brother and friend, Aaron Swartz tragically took his own life last week. One of the many achievements of Aaron’s too short life was to win a battle in the war for Internet Freedom, he helped lead the fight to Stop SOPA. SOPA was the Stop Online Piracy Act bill that sought to monitor the Internet for copyright violations and would have made it easier for the U.S. government to shut down websites accused of violating copyright.

This was Aaron’s address at F2C:Freedom to Connect 2012, Washington DC on May 21 2012.

Now we have a battle to fight in Aaron’s name to reform the law that overzealous federal prosecutors used against him, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Marcia Hoffman, senior staff attorney for Electronic Freedom Foundation, lays out the case for fixing this draconian law:

Problem 1: Hacking laws are too broad, and too vague

Among other things, the CFAA makes it illegal to gain access to protected computers “without authorization” or in a manner that “exceeds authorized access.”  Unfortunately, the law doesn’t clearly explain what a lack of “authorization” actually means. Creative prosecutors have taken advantage of this confusion to craft criminal charges that aren’t really about hacking a computer but instead target other behavior the prosecutors don’t like. [..]

Problem 2: Hacking laws have far too heavy-handed penalties

The penalty scheme for CFAA violations is harsh and disproportionate to the magnitude of offenses. Even first-time offenses for accessing a protected computer “without authorization” can be punishable by up to five years in prison each (ten years for repeat offenses) plus fines. It’s worth nothing that five years is a relatively light maximum penalty by CFAA standards; violations of other parts of that law are punishable by up to ten years, 20 years, and even life in prison. [..]

The Upshot

The CFAA’s vague language, broad reach, and harsh punishments combine to create a powerful weapon for overeager prosecutors to unleash on people they don’t like. Aaron was facing the possibility of decades in prison for accessing the MIT network and downloading academic papers as part of his activism work for open access to knowledge. No prosecutor should have tools to threaten to end someone’s freedom for such actions, but the CFAA helped to make that fate a realistic fear for Aaron.

In Aaron’s name please call on Congress and the White House to change this law.

Click here to send your message to your congressional representatives.

Please sign the Petition to President Barack Obama to Reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to reflect the realities of computing and networks in 2013.

Do this not just in Aaron’s name but mine, yours and everyone who uses the internet.