Daily Archive: 01/20/2013

Jan 20 2013

Rant of the Week: Bill Maher

It’s Not Your 2nd Amendment Rights That Are Under Attack, It’s All the Other Ones

New Rule: Someone has to tell America’s gun nuts to stop wetting their Army surplus pants about losing the 2nd Amendment. It’s not not your 2nd Amendments rights that are under attack it’s all the other ones.

It used to be that law enforcement couldn’t search you without probable cause. But now we are becoming a quasi-police state, where one minute you’re home quietly reading Fifty Shades of Gray, and suddenly, there’s a SWAT team in your living room waving guns. And you’re goiong “no, no! Kat Williams lives next door.”

Now, last month when no one was taking anyone’s guns from anybody, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to reauthorized a program where they can collect data on any American citizen and hold on to it forever. They can look at your e-mails, your texts, your Skypes …. and not a peep out of the crowd that’s always birching about what the framers intended. In fact the answer from almost everyone seems to be, “oh, what the hell the airport screeners have already seen  my ass anyway.”

The Facebook generation especially doesn’t seem to care that Big Brother knows everything about you. What books you read; what movies you watch; your Match.com account; your other Match.com account when you’re feeling a little freaky and want to meet the sortnof woman your other Match.com account wouldn’t approve of.

Call me old school but I don’t want the Feds googling what I’m googling. It’s bad enough when NetFlix pries into my private life: “If you watched “The Walking Dead” in zombieland, you might also like this interview with John McCain.”

I don’t want the government doing that: “You downloaded this article favoring the legalization of marijuana, you mght also like being incarcerated.”

You know they always say these programs are just to catch terrorists, heh, the next thing you know they’re using them to shut down the pot dispensaries. And that place was right on my way home. Now I’ve gotta go to Valley Village.

Doesn’t anyone care that this is the new normal? I guess not because gun nuts don’t care and neither do liberals. When Bush did warantless wiretapping. oh, he was wiping his ass with the Constitution. But when Obama does it, oh well, whatever helps Jessica Chastain find bun Laden, we’re good with that.

Yeah, both parties compete mightily to appear to be the greater champions of out our freedoms but the only the only thing that has bipartisan support in Washington. is not giving a shit about privacy. And when you talk to the NRA types, as I like to do down at my local Moose Lodge, they actually believe that what protects their rights isn’t laws, or courts, it’s if they have a gun. They think that’s what keeps the government from going too far. Without guns Obama would become an emperor and force everyone to gay marry, but he can’t because a guy in Kentucky named Skeeter has a .22.

Except that, you know while you guys were buying guns to protect your other guns, sittin’ up on the porch there waiting for Obama’s negro army, to come confiscate your weapons and go all Django Unchained on your ass, that’s when we lost all the stuff in the Bill of Rights about trials and juries and warrants.

You see the Red Coats they never wanted your guns, they wanted your liberty and that’s why the Founding Fathers said you could have the gun, dumb ass. And now the only right we have left is the guns and left nothing left to use the guns to protect. We’re like a strip club with a million bouncers and no strippers.

Jan 20 2013

Throwball National Conference Championship: ‘9ers @ Falcons

The Falcons are an expansion team of no particular note.  There’s really no good reason to hate them except the team colors (red and black in case you’re interested) and Michael Vick.  They’ve been historically somewhat ineffective in post-season play relative to their overall winning percentage.

The ‘9ers on the other hand are a storied program tracing their origin back to the All-American Football Conference.  Their ascendancy in the ’80s was roughly co-terminant with the despised ‘boys, but their fans were nowhere near as loud, obnoxious, and arrogant.

Now there are those pointing to the investigation of Michael Crabtree for sexual assault as a reason to favor the Falcons, but I don’t see it.  For one thing they didn’t fly him to the Georgia Dome to ride the pine.  A late breaking development is a second witness that supports his version of events.

In any case this particular edition of the ‘9ers is not a one dimensional team dependent on him or even Colin Kaepernick for that matter.  What they have this year that they lacked last is a solid offensive line that can protect anyone they put in the pocket and open lanes for their rushing game.  It’s not impossible that they’ll lose, it’s just hard to see how.

Jan 20 2013

Austerity, Triple Dip Recessions and Economic Crisis by NY Brit Expat

Sitting there looking vainly at the growth, or lack of it to be more precise, of the British economy quarter by quarter following the introduction of austerity measures is a dubious use of time. So rather than sit there each quarter and discuss a dismal economy, I think the first step is to understand that we are in a world-wide economic crisis of the capitalist system. We also need to understand that the policies being introduced are actually not only extending the current crisis, but given that they are leading to increased income and wealth inequality, they will have a devastating impact upon the working classes in the countries introducing these measures. Moreover, the impact of austerity is not accident, it is being introduced specifically to create the economic contraction and  the increased wealth and income inequality in the hope that private sector will take over the state sector services being undermined.

Capitalismo-1_zpsf6382764_edit photo Capitalismo-1_zpsf6382764_edit_zpsa1dcc66c.jpg

Triple-dip recession?

We need to understand that the introduction of austerity in an economic crisis does not lead to economic growth contrary to the absurd pronouncements of Prime Minister, David Cameron.  Essentially, following a slight blip caused by the Olympics, I suspect we will be witnessing rather bad news. The combination of “beggar thy neighbour” low corporate taxation (to supposedly encourage investment in Britain) and cuts to public spending, services and benefits is not leading to a reinvigoration of the economy; rather the opposite is occurring.

Quite simply, the fall in service sector activity (which accounts for 75% of British economic activity) for the first time in two years (note that it was not in great shape beforehand) means that the economy is contracting.

Jan 20 2013

When Fed Presidents start talking like Communists…

Dallas, we have a problem.

How to Cut Megabanks Down to Size

By GRETCHEN MORGENSON

Published: January 19, 2013

On Wednesday, in a speech in Washington, Mr. (Richard W.) Fisher (the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas) laid out a compelling proposal for shrinking financial giants in order to protect taxpayers. He suggested that megabanks be chopped into pieces, so that no one of them could endanger the financial system if it ran into trouble.



Why? Mr. Fisher argued that megabanks not only threaten taxpayers with bailouts, but that their continuing failure to lend is also thwarting the Fed’s efforts to jump-start the economy by keeping interest rates low. “I submit that these institutions, as a result of their privileged status, exact an unfair tax upon the American people,” he told his audience. “Moreover, they interfere with the transmission of monetary policy and inhibit the advancement of our nation’s economic prosperity.”

Smaller institutions, by contrast, have continued to lend in the post-crisis years, especially to the kinds of modest-size businesses that create so many jobs across the country. According to figures compiled by Mr. Fisher’s colleagues at the Dallas Fed, community banks – defined as those with no more than $10 billion in assets – hold less than one-fifth of the nation’s banking assets. Nevertheless, they hold more than half of the industry’s small-business loans.



There are roughly 5,600 commercial banking institutions in the country, Mr. Fisher noted. Some 5,500 of them are community banks. While these organizations account for 98.6 percent of all banks, they hold only 12 percent of total industry assets. They are routinely allowed to fail if they get into trouble. Few of them did during the crisis.

Contrast these figures with those of the nation’s 12 largest banks, whose assets range from $250 billion to $2.3 trillion. They account for 0.2 percent of all banks but hold 69 percent of industry assets. These are the banks that enjoy all the perquisites of the federal safety net: significantly lower borrowing costs and a taxpayer backstop, for example.



Understanding that it will be a tough battle to break up the megabanks, Mr. Fisher suggests that in the meantime, only commercial banking operations receive protection from the federal safety net in the form of federal deposit insurance. An institution’s other activities – securities trading, insurance operations and real estate, for example – should fall outside any backstop. Furthermore, he recommends that these banks require customers and trading partners to sign an agreement stating that they understand the business they are conducting is not covered by any federal protection or guarantees. That would begin to reduce the perception that all of these institutions’ counterparties would be protected in a disaster.

Jan 20 2013

On This Day In History January 20

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 20 is the 20th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 345 days remaining until the end of the year (346 in leap years).

On this day in 1801, John Marshall is appointed the fourth Chief Justice of the United States. Marshall (September 24, 1755 – July 6, 1835) was an American jurist and statesman whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law while enhancing the role of the Supreme Court as a center of power. Marshall was the fourth Chief Justice of the United States, serving from 1801 until his death in 1835. He had served in the United States House of Representatives from 1799 to 1800, and was Secretary of State under President John Adams from 1800 to 1801. Marshall was from the Commonwealth of Virginia and was a leader of the Federalist Party.

The longest-serving Chief Justice of the United States, Marshall dominated the Court for over three decades (a term outliving his own Federalist Party) and played a significant role in the development of the American legal system. Most notably, he reinforced the principle that federal courts are obligated to exercise judicial review, by disregarding purported laws if they violate the Constitution. Thus, Marshall cemented the position of the American judiciary as an independent and influential branch of government. Furthermore, the Marshall Court made several important decisions relating to federalism, affecting the balance of power between the federal government and the states during the early years of the republic. In particular, he repeatedly confirmed the supremacy of federal law over state law, and supported an expansive reading of the enumerated powers.

Nomination

Marshall was thrust into the office of Chief Justice in the wake of the presidential election of 1800. With the Federalists soundly defeated and about to lose both the executive and legislative branches to Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans, President Adams and the lame duck Congress passed what came to be known as the Midnight Judges Act, which made sweeping changes to the federal judiciary, including a reduction in the number of Justices from six to five so as to deny Jefferson an appointment until two vacancies occurred. As the incumbent Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth was in poor health, Adams first offered the seat to ex-Chief Justice John Jay, who declined on the grounds that the Court lacked “energy, weight, and dignity.” Jay’s letter arrived on January 20, 1801, and as there was precious little time left, Adams nominated Marshall, who was with him at the time and able to accept immediately. The Senate at first delayed, hoping that Adams would make a different choice, such as promoting Justice William Paterson of New Jersey. According to New Jersey Senator Jonathan Dayton, the Senate finally relented “lest another not so qualified, and more disgusting to the Bench, should be substituted, and because it appeared that this gentleman (Marshall) was not privy to his own nomination”. Marshall was confirmed by the Senate on January 27, 1801, and received his commission on January 31, 1801. While Marshall officially took office on February 4, at the request of the President he continued to serve as Secretary of State until Adams’ term expired on March 4. President John Adams offered this appraisal of Marshall’s impact: “My gift of John Marshall to the people of the United States was the proudest act of my life.”

Jan 20 2013

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis 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

The Sunday Talking Heads:

Up with Chris Hayes: Joining Chris will be: Gov. Dannell Malloy (@GovMalloyOffice), Democrat of Connecticut; Sen. Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown), Democrat representing Ohio; Sen. Tom Udall (@SenatorTomUdall), Democrat representing New Mexico; Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) , Democrat from California representing the state’s 13th congressional district; Patrick Gaspard, executive director of the Democratic National Committee. From 2009-2011, he served as director of the Office of Political Affairs for the Obama administration and served as the national political director of President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign; Bill Burton (@billburton), senior strategist with Priorities USA Action and Priorities USA, former deputy White House press secretary for President Obama; Neera Tanden (@neeratanden), president of the Center for American Progress; Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki), senior vice president and managing director at Global Strategy Group, former Obama White House deputy communications director; and Jared Bernstein (@econjared), senior fellow at the Center for Budget & Policy Priorities. Served as the chief economist and policy adviser to Vice President Biden from 2009-2011.

This Week with George Stephanopolis: On this inaugural weekend, White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe comes to “This Week” Sunday.

The powerhouse roundtable debates President Obama’s second-term challenges, with ABC News’ George Will and Cokie Roberts; political strategist and ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd; former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, host of Current TV’s “The War Room”; and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, chairman of Patriot Voices.

Plus, as Washington prepares for a party, George Stephanopoulos speaks with actress and Presidential Inauguration Committee co-chair Eva Longoria about the weekend’s inaugural celebrations.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Mr. Schieffer’s guests are David Plouffe, White House Senior Adviser; former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice; Dee Dee Myers, former Bill Clinton Press Secretary and Vanity Fair Contributing Editor; Bob Woodward of The Washington Post; Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal; Taylor Branch, author, The King Years; former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph Califano; Dr. James Paterson, LeHigh University; Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.

Meet the Press with David Gregory: This Sunday’s MTP guests are  Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who is also chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies; and a new face in Congress, Ted Cruz (R-TX).

The roundtable guests are  David Axelrod; MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough; Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin; Special Correspondent Tom Brokaw; Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and Chief White House Correspondent and Political Director Chuck Todd.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Ms. Crowley’s guests are White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe, and Senator John Barrasso (R-WY); former Clinton speechwriter Don Baer, and former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson; former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; USA Today‘s Susan Page; and CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein.

Jan 20 2013

What We Now Know

Up host Chris Hayes has what we know now since the week began. Joining him to discuss what they know are Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD)(@repdonnaedwards); Bill Fletcher (@BillFletcherJr), racial justice, labor and international activist; Ben Jealous (@BenJealous), president and CEO of the NAACP; and economist Dr. Julianne Malveaux (@drjlastword), president emeritus of Bennett College for Women.

Aaron Swartz Prosecutor Defends Charges, Days After Activist’s Suicide

by Ryan J. Reilly, Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz on Wednesday defended her office’s prosecution of Aaron Swartz as “appropriate,” days after the 26-year-old Internet activist took his own life.

Ortiz, the top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts, broke her silence for the first time since Swartz killed himself on Friday. His family and supporters have blamed the government for playing a role in his death, while members of Congress have questioned the Justice Department’s aggressive prosecution of Swartz on computer fraud charges.

But Ortiz maintained it was appropriate for prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts to bring the case. She said her office was prepared to offer a deal that would have put Swartz behind bars in a low-security prison for six months. Ortiz said prosecutors never said they intended to seek the maximum punishment.

Introducing ‘Aaron’s Law’

by Diane Sweet, Crooks and Liars

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced “Aaron’s Law” on Tuesday night, announcing it via the user-generated site Reddit. The piece of legislation would modify the the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to exclude terms of service violations. “There’s no way to reverse the tragedy of Aaron’s death, but we can work to prevent a repeat of the abuses of power he experienced,” Lofgren wrote. “The government was able to bring such disproportionate charges against Aaron because of the broad scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the wire fraud statute.” Read the full bill here (pdf).

Residential Segregation Contributes to Health Disparities for People of Color

by Kenneth J. Cooper, America’s Wire

Segregated black neighborhoods tend to be poor-poorer, in fact, than impoverished white neighborhoods. Recent research, however, has begun to show that race, not class, adversely affects the health of African-Americans in racially isolated communities.

Hope Landrine, a researcher for the American Cancer Society, reviewed the latest studies on residential segregation and black health, and compiled the findings last year in the journal “Ethnicity & Health.” Among them:

 

  • Two to three times as many fast food outlets are located in segregated black neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods of comparable socioeconomic status, contributing to higher black consumption of fatty, salty meals and in turn widening racial disparities in obesity and diabetes.
  • Black neighborhoods contain two to three times fewer supermarkets than comparable white neighborhoods, creating the kind of “food deserts” that make it difficult for residents who depend on public transportation to purchase the fresh fruits and vegetables that make for a healthy diet.
  • Fewer African-Americans have ready access to places to work off excess weight that can gradually cause death. A study limited to New York, Maryland and North Carolina found that black neighborhoods were three times more likely to lack recreational facilities where residents could exercise and relieve stress.
  • Because of “the deliberate placement of polluting factories and toxic waste dumps in minority neighborhoods,” exposure to air pollutants and toxins is five to 20 times higher than in white neighborhoods with the same income levels.
  • Regardless of their socioeconomic status, African-Americans who live in segregated communities receive unequal medical care because hospitals serving them have less technology, such as imaging equipment, and fewer specialists, like those in heart surgery and cancer. The predominantly white doctors in those communities are also less likely to have certification from the American Board of Medical Specialties, an accepted standard of professional competence.

Foreclosure Review In New Settlement Leaves Homeowners In Banks’ Hands

by Ben Hallman and Eleazar David Melendez, Huffington Post

For more than a year, housing advocates and their allies worried that a review of foreclosed loans managed by banking regulators was vulnerable to mortgage industry interference.

On Monday, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve Board — the two regulatory bodies that had taken the lead in making the nation’s largest banks accountable for rampant foreclosure fraud — announced that homeowners no longer need worry about the independence of the reviews. The regulators, essentially admitting that the reviews were too difficult to conduct, and that assigning appropriate compensation to those most harmed by the banks was no longer a priority, said the mortgage companies themselves will determine how to distribute $3.3 billion to more than 4 million homeowners forced into foreclosure in 2009 or 2010.

Housing advocates, while acknowledging that the foreclosure reviews were flawed, said they don’t understand how turning the process over to mortgage companies improves a system already insufficiently independent.

Foreclosure Review Insiders Portray Massive Failure, Doomed From The Start

by Ben Hallman and Eleazar David Melendez, Huffington Post

Last January, dozens of independent contractors showed up for their first day of work at a large, single-story Bank of America building in Tampa to right the wrongs of a foreclosure crisis that many had witnessed firsthand. Or so they thought.

They were lawyers, paralegals and other mortgage industry veterans. Along with thousands of other contractors working at banks and auditing firms like Deloitte and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the Tampa crew was to comb through the mortgages of people whose homes were in foreclosure at the height of that crisis, in 2009 and 2010. They were looking for lost paperwork, overcharges, botched loan modifications — evidence of the kinds of errors and misconduct widely alleged by foreclosed borrowers.

It was called the Independent Foreclosure Review, and it was one of the most ambitious and costly auditing projects in U.S. history.

It was also, some of the contractors soon came to believe, a fiasco in the making. At Bank of America, contract employees were to answer more than 2,000 questions written by Promontory Financial, the consulting firm the bank hired to audit its mortgage loan files. Those questions, the contractors said, were confusing and open to interpretation. Training was spotty and mistakes were frequent, they said. Sometimes, when they noted bank-caused mistakes, they were told by Bank of America managers not to believe their own eyes.

Jan 20 2013

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Gun control opponents hold rallies across the US

‘High noon’ events held in 47 states to protest against legislative proposals announced by Barack Obama

 Julie Dermansky and agencies

guardian.co.uk, Sunday 20 January 2013 01.07 GMT

Thousands of gun advocates gathered peacefully on Saturday at state capitals around the US to rally against stricter limits on firearms, with demonstrators carrying rifles and pistols in some places while those elsewhere settled for waving hand-scrawled signs or screaming themselves hoarse.

Activists promoted the “Guns Across America” rallies primarily through social media. Over 18,000 people RSVPed on Facebook, and the rallies kicked off at high noon in 47 states.

The size of crowds at each location varied from dozens of people in South Dakota to 2,000 in New York. Large crowds also turned out in Connecticut, Tennessee and Texas. Some demonstrators in Phoenix, Arizona, and Salem, Oregon, came with holstered handguns or rifles on their backs. In Frankfort, Kentucky, attendees gave a special round of applause for “the ladies that are packin’.”

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, over 200 people, mostly white, middle-aged males, turned up to show their displeasure with Obama’s 23 new executive orders and his attempt to reinstate the assault weapons ban.




Sunday’s Headlines:

Brotherhood Struggles to Translate Power Into Policy in Egypt

Campaign fights to keep EU cross-border crime powers

India’s ruling party names Rahul Gandhi as VP

Algeria ends desert siege with 23 hostages dead

Keep on trucking: The human impact of the rise of Monterrey’s new super-suburbs