10/11/2010 archive

Punting the Pundits

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.

Paul Krugman: Hey, Small Spender

Here’s the narrative you hear everywhere: President Obama has presided over a huge expansion of government, but unemployment has remained high. And this proves that government spending can’t create jobs.

Here’s what you need to know: The whole story is a myth. There never was a big expansion of government spending. In fact, that has been the key problem with economic policy in the Obama years: we never had the kind of fiscal expansion that might have created the millions of jobs we need.

Ask yourself: What major new federal programs have started up since Mr. Obama took office? Health care reform, for the most part, hasn’t kicked in yet, so that can’t be it. So are there giant infrastructure projects under way? No. Are there huge new benefits for low-income workers or the poor? No. Where’s all that spending we keep hearing about? It never happened.

Robert Kuttner: Obama Calls the Question on Geithner

By pocket-vetoing the bill that sailed through Congress to expedite mortgage foreclosures, President Obama may have begun a chain reaction that will blow up Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s confidence game with the banks. Let me explain.

In early 2009, Obama and his top economic aides faced a fateful choice: either do an honest accounting of the nation’s big insolvent banks, like Citigroup; or keep propping them up and collude with the banks in camouflaging just how bad things were — and still are.

They opted for camouflage. Geithner and the Federal Reserve devised a “stress test” exercise that avoided an honest accounting of the junk on the banks’ balance sheets; instead they used economic models based on very rosy assumptions about how bad the recession would be. Citi and the others were pronounced basically healthy.

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Shadowy players in a new class war

The 2010 election is turning into a class war. The wealthy and the powerful started it.

This is a strange development. President Obama, after all, has been working overtime to save capitalism. Wall Street is doing just fine, and the rich are getting richer again. The financial reform bill passed by Congress was moderate, not radical.

Nonetheless, corporations and affluent individuals are pouring tens of millions of dollars into attack ads aimed almost exclusively at Democrats. One of the biggest political players, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, accepts money from foreign sources.

The chamber piously insists that none of the cash from abroad is going into its ad campaigns. But without full disclosure, there’s no way of knowing if that’s true or simply an accounting trick. And the chamber is just one of many groups engaged in an election-year spending spree.

Dean Baker  and Sarita Gupta: Memo to the Tax Cut Party — Painful Double-Digit Unemployment Doesn’t Have to Continue

A modest tax on Wall Street financial speculation could raise more than $150 billion a year — money that would go a long way toward funding a serious jobs agenda.

here is a depressing complicity among much of the political leadership about the recession. Many politicians seem prepared to accept that we will have sky-high rates of unemployment for the indefinite future. Projections from the Congressional Budget Office and other authoritative forecasts show the situation improving little over the next few years.

At the moment, this means 15 million people unemployed, 9 million under-employed and millions of other workers who don’t even get counted because they have given up hope of finding a job and stopped looking. It is outrageous that we have this situation. Allowing high unemployment to continue for years into the future is unacceptable.

We know how to get the unemployment rate down.

Another Crisis Obama Ignored

Monday Business Edition

As much as I would like it to be, the chief problem with Barack Hussein Obama is not Civil Liberties on which he is in fact objectively worse than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.


It’s that he’s a coward economically.

We KNOW! what works and policymakers have willfully choosen to avoid it for the sake of academic reputation and neo-liberal policy purity.

The latest symptom in our economic fever is Title Fraud.  If you’ve financed or re-financed your home in the last 10 years (and who wouldn’t with the interest rates so low?) your title is now in doubt.

Not that this is a problem for you personally or, it shouldn’t be. You’ve maintained your good faith payments to your servicing company which they’ve presumably used in a rational manner to keep that 2nd derivative universe (of which they are MastersElanie‘ O’Donnell) cranking around.

In translation masturbatory fantasies of value created by leverage.

My ancient Economics 101 Perfesser (twisted and wizend from long years surviving an actual Depression) told me- “It’s only paper profits until you sell it.

Your good old mortgage should protect your serfdom to your property, but the people who’ve placed their bets on black are going to be exceedingly disappointed when the wheel stops on double zero.  This market has a long way to crash.

And we’ve done nothing at all about it and the economic team (with the exception of Geither) jumped ship to avoid accepting responsibility for this disaster.

Except of course the buck stops at that Oval Office desk Obama occupies.

Government had been warned for months about troubles in mortgage servicer industry

By Zachary A. Goldfarb, Washington Post Staff Writer

Saturday, October 9, 2010; 10:11 PM

Consumer advocates and lawyers warned federal officials in recent years that the U.S. foreclosure system was designed to seize people’s homes as fast as possible, often without regard to the rights of homeowners.

In recent days, amid reports that major lenders have used improper procedures and fraudulent paperwork to seize properties, some Obama administration officials have acknowledged they had been aware of flaws in how the mortgage industry pursues foreclosures.

Housing advocates and government reports gave several reasons why servicers try to foreclose so quickly.

In general, servicers make more money when they foreclose on a loan than when they find a better arrangement for the borrower. That’s because the payments to the servicer decline when a loan is modified. But if instead the borrower is in default, the servicer adds fees on the account and can collect when the house is sold, even at foreclosure.

In addition, servicers are under pressure to continue to transfer the money paid by the borrower to the investor in the loan. When a borrower isn’t paying the loan, the servicer has to cover the difference.

Moreover, servicers can expect to charge more if they receive higher ratings from credit rating agencies. And the faster a servicer forecloses when loans are in default, the higher the rating they stand to receive.

Business News below.

On This Day in History: October 11

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

October 11 is the 284th day of the year (285th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 81 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1982, The Mary Rose, a Tudor carrack which sank on July 19 1545, is salvaged from the sea bed of the Solent, off Portsmouth.

The Mary Rose was a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, and Brittany and after being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 19 July 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, she sank in the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of Wight. The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology. The surviving section of the ship and thousands of recovered artefacts are of immeasurable value as a Tudor-era time capsule.

The excavation and salvage of the Mary Rose was a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology, comparable in complexity and cost only to the raising of the Swedish 17th-century warship Vasa in 1961. The finds include weapons, sailing equipment, naval supplies and a wide array of objects used by the crew. Many of the artefacts are unique to the Mary Rose and have provided insights into topics ranging from naval warfare to the history of musical instruments. Since the mid-1980s, while undergoing conservation, the remains of the hull have been on display at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. An extensive collection of well-preserved artefacts is on display at the nearby Mary Rose Museum.

The Mary Rose had no known career as a merchant vessel. She was one of the largest ships in the English navy throughout more than three decades of intermittent war and was one of the earliest examples of a purpose-built sailing warship. She was armed with new types of heavy guns that could fire through the recently invented gun-ports. After being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she was also one of the earliest ships that could fire a broadside, although the line of battle tactics that employed it had not yet been developed. Several theories have sought to explain the demise of the Mary Rose, based on historical records, knowledge of 16th-century shipbuilding and modern experiments. However, the precise cause of her sinking is still unclear, because of conflicting testimonies and a lack of conclusive physical evidence.

Morning Shinbun Monday October 11

Momday’s Headlines:



Obama continues attack on Chamber of Commerce

How Hank Paulson’s inaction helped Goldman Sachs


New toxic sludge threat in Hungary

7 July London bombings inquests to begin

Middle East

Israeli cabinet approves loyalty oath for non-Jews


Pakistan’s nuclear arms push angers America

China’s security apparatus is as Orwellian as ever


Sudan president warns of greater conflict with south

Chombo feels the heat

Latin America

Journalists and a clown leave mark on ‘Camp Hope’

How big government should be stirs debate


By Susan Page, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Americans are having a crisis of confidence in their government.

A majority in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll disapprove of the jobs President Obama and Congress are doing and have unfavorable views of both major political parties. Only half express even a fair amount of trust and confidence in the people who hold or are running for public office. Just one in four are satisfied with the way the nation is being governed.

Meanwhile, six in 10 Americans say the government has too much power, and nearly half agree with this alarming statement: “The federal government poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedom of ordinary citizens.”

Damning Praise for Obama: Up Date

US Air Force Gen. (Ret.) Michael Hayden, former CIA Director and NSA chief under George W. Bush, was a guest on State of the Union with Candy Crowley. Naturally the discussion was about terrorism, the recent European travel alerts and the drone attacks in Pakistan that are perpetuating the cycle of terror threats from Al Qaeda. Naturally the discussion also turned to the possibility of another attack in the US and that Americans are on edge based on recent polling done by CNN.

CROWLEY: I want to show you a poll that we took between October 5 and 7, so a recent poll. And the question was, “Will there be acts of terrorism in the U.S. in the next few weeks? Forty-nine percent said it’s likely. Forty-eight percent said not likely. What does the former head of the CIA say?

HAYDEN: I’m not surprised that people are on edge. I’m a little surprised at the spread, particularly since you gave it a time frame in the next few weeks. I don’t think any of us inside government who have a chance to see the variety of information would attach that imminence to the — to the attack. But the probability, I think all of us would agree to. We’ve been quite good since 9/11. We’ve worked very hard. We’ve taken the fight to the enemy…

Keep that fear factor going.

Ms. Crowley then turned the conversation to Pakistan

CROWLEY: We of course, in order to make up for the lack of action in northern Waziristan, have been sending these drones in, record number in September.

There is a cost to it, of course, because the Pakistani populace, which in general doesn’t like the U.S. — the Pakistani government has to make sure that they don’t — there’s no uprising from them because it looks like the Pakistani government is cooperating too much with the U.S.

Do you think these drones have been excessive, and do you think they’re always helpful?

HAYDEN: Well, as you know, I’m not here to confirm or deny any specific operational activity.

. . . But I do know that taking the fight to the enemy, being able to take Al Qaida’s senior leadership off the battlefield, as we say, and that began about July of 2008, in the current effort has been, I think, the single greatest factor in keeping America and our friends safe. I know all activity…All activity that we do…to take the enemy off the battlefield is done very carefully. It’s great precision, high confidence in the intelligence. So I think it’s an appropriate course of action. In fact, it’s one that, in conscience, it would be very difficult for any administration to stop doing.

CROWLEY: You sound as though you believe President Obama is doing a good job on the terrorism front.

HAYDEN: There are some things that I disagree with, and I’ve disagreed with publicly.

CROWLEY: Such as?

HAYDEN: Making the CIA Office of Legal Counsel interrogation memos public, stopping the CIA interrogation program and not really replacing it with any other interrogation program, even to this date.

But, by and large, there’s been a powerful continuity between the 43rd and the 44th president, and I think that simply reflects the reality that both President Obama and President Bush faced in terms of the threat and the tools that are available to them.

(emphasis mine)

What digby said peas in a pod

Up Date: Glenn Greenwald picks this up today with this final comment:

Civil liberties and a belief in the need to check government power is something many people care about only when the other party is in control.  They seem to believe that there are two kinds of leaders — Good ones (their party) and Bad ones (the other party) — and it’s only when the latter wield power that safeguards and checks are necessary.  Good leaders, by definition, are entitled to trust and faith that they will wield power appropriately and for Good ends, thus rendering unnecessary things like accountability, transparency, oversight and even due process.  Of course, the core premise of our government from the start was that political power will be inevitably abused if it is exercised without constraints, that nothing is more irrational or destructive than placing blind faith in political leaders to exercise unchecked power magnanimously.  But the temptation to want to follow Leaders blindly — to believe in their core Goodness and to thus vest them with unverified trust — is almost as compelling a part of human nature as the abuse of power when exercised without checks and in the dark.

That’s why self-anointed defenders of the Constitution are instantly transformed into authoritarians and back again every time there is a change of party control:  many people don’t believe in these principles generally, but only when political leaders they dislike are in power. The problem, though, is that endorsing civil liberties abuses because one’s own Party is in power virtually ensures that those abuses will become permanent, available to future leaders from the other Party as well.  That was the argument which fell on deaf ears when made to cheering Bush supporters, and it’s barely more effective now.

(emphasis mine)

Do you hear this, Obama Loyalists? You CANNOT have it both ways.

Pique the Geek 20101010: Sustainability: Evil Plastic Bottles

Welcome to the third to last xx/xx/xx year in our lifetimes  Only next year and 2012 until we wait another 88 years for one.

Now that I have gotten your attention, actually MOST plastic bottles are not evil from a health and safety perspective, but the way that we use them certainly is evil.  I did say MOST, since by far the greatest number of plastic containers are made of polyethylene (PE, recycle code 2), polypropylene (PP, recycle code 5), or polyethylene terephthalate, (PET or PETE, recycle code 1).  These materials are not very apt to leach harmful materials into the contents.

Some plastics, notably polycarbonate (PC, recycle code 7 [7 is a catch all for “other”]) are apt to leach out harmful materials, particularly bisphenol A, strongly suspected as being an endocrine system disruptor because of its potential to mimic estrogen.  Polycarbonate containers are clear and usually thick, while PE and PP are translucent.  PETE is also clear, but usually quite a bit thinner than PC.  Just look at the recycle codes on the bottom.

Prime Time

Broadcast premiers.  The Amazing Race.  Sunday Night Throwball, Iggles @ 9ers.  You’d think Twins/Yankees on TBS, but the Yankees already closed out in 3 so you’ll have to settle for Phillies @ Reds on TNT.  No idea what TBS will fill with.

And how are our brackets doing?  Rays even up, told you the Rangers were not that good.  Braves even up against the Giants (pending this afternoon’s results, Giants 1 – 0 in the 7th as I write).  Phillies can close out.


Childrens Hospital, Metalocalypse (premiers).  New Venture Brothers (last week’s episode Everybody Comes to Hank’s

Prepare every vessel that floats.  At dawn we go to war.