Daily Archive: 10/13/2010

Oct 13 2010

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Six US soldiers killed in Afghanistan

by Sardar Ahmad, AFP

46 mins ago

KABUL (AFP) – Six US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday as Italy became the latest NATO ally to detail plans to scale down its military presence and hand over territory to Afghan forces by the end of 2011.

Four of the soldiers were killed in a single bomb attack in the south, where the Taliban have concentrated their nine-year fight against the Western-backed government and where Western troops are suffering the most casualties.

The US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said a fifth soldier was killed in another bomb attack in the south and a sixth while fighting rebels in eastern Afghanistan, another insurgent stronghold.

Oct 13 2010

The Week in Editorial Cartoons – Exorcism, InsaniTea, and Helping Jerry Brown

Crossposted at Daily Kos and Docudharma



J.D. Crowe, Mobile Register

Bewitched

Christine O’Donnell has wiggled her nose and put a hex on the GOP establishment.  The novice Tea party candidate turned lots of heads, Linda Blair-like…But Karl Rove, the Warlock of W, has been taken aback by O’Donnell’s victory.  Even he thinks this girl is bat$#!+ crazy and that the Republicans have been given a Tea Party roofie.

Personally, I think she’s the best thing to happen to political satirists since her mentor, Sarah Palin. Republicans, on the other hand, are fingering the Yellow Pages looking for an exorcist. And maybe an antidote.

Oct 13 2010

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.

Nouriel Roubini & Michael Moran: Avoid the Double Dip

How Obama can save the fragile economy from going back into a tailspin.

Roughly three years since the onset of the financial crisis, the U.S. economy increasingly looks vulnerable to falling back into recession. The United States is flirting with “stall speed,” an anemic rate of growth that, if it persists, can lead to collapses in spending, consumer confidence, credit, and other crucial engines of growth. Call it a “double dip” or the Great Recession, Round II: Whatever the term, we’re talking about a negative feedback loop that would be devilishly hard to break.

If Barack Obama wants a realistic shot at a second term, he’ll need to act quickly and decisively to prevent this scenario.

Near double-digit unemployment is the root of the problem. Without job creation there’s a lack of consumer spending, which represents 40 percent of domestic GDP. To date, the U.S. government has responded creatively and massively to the near collapse of the financial system, using a litany of measures, from the bank bailout to stimulus spending to low interest rates. Together, these policies prevented a reprise of the Great Depression. But they also created fiscal and political dilemmas that limit the usefulness of traditional monetary and fiscal tools that policymakers can turn to in a pinch.

Paul Krugman: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? I Only Earn Six Figures

I live in a very sheltered world, yet I know young people just out of college who can’t find employment; men in their late 50s who have lost their jobs and think they will never find another; and families barely scraping by, terrified by what might happen if anyone were to get sick. These days, there are terrible stories everywhere you look.

Yet some Americans who have secure jobs and rather high incomes are feeling very sorry for themselves because it’s possible that they might have to pay somewhat higher taxes next year if the temporary reductions made during President George W. Bush’s tenure in office are allowed to expire for the wealthy.

Take, for example, an unnamed person mentioned in a recent online post by economist J. Bradford DeLong. This person supposedly makes $450,000 a year, has a family of five and after paying bills, loans, taxes and everything else (including private school tuition for three children and the costs of a $1 million house), is left with only a few hundred dollars a month of discretionary income. Mr. DeLong says this person strongly feels that he should not have to pay more taxes – “It is unfair: he is not ‘rich.'”

Robert Reich: 8 Ways to Fight the Right-Wingers and Corporations Buying Off Our Government

What the public wants means nothing if our democracy is secretly corrupted by big money.

Not only is income and wealth in America more concentrated in fewer hands than it’s been in 80 years, but those hands are buying our democracy as never before — and they’re doing it behind closed doors.

Hundreds of millions of secret dollars are pouring into congressional and state races in this election cycle. The Koch brothers (whose personal fortunes grew by $5 billion last year) appear to be behind some of it, Karl Rove has rounded up other multimillionaires to fund right-wing candidates, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is funneling corporate dollars from around the world into congressional races, and Rupert Murdoch is evidently spending heavily.

No one knows for sure where this flood of money is coming from because it’s all secret. . . .

According to FEC data, only 32 percent of groups paying for election ads are disclosing the names of their donors. By comparison, in the 2006 midterm, 97 percent disclosed; in 2008, almost half disclosed.

Last week, when the Senate considered a bill to force such disclosure, every single Republican voted against it — thereby revealing the GOP’s true colors, and presumed benefactors. (To understand how far the GOP has come, nearly ten years ago campaign disclosure was supported by 48 of 54 Republican senators.)

Maybe the Disclose Bill can get passed in lame-duck session. Maybe the IRS will make sure Karl Rove’s and other supposed nonprofits aren’t sham political units. Maybe pigs will learn to fly.

In the meantime we face an election that marks an even sharper turn toward plutocratic capitalism than before — a government by and for the rich and big corporations — and away from democratic capitalism.

Oct 13 2010

On This Day in History: October 13

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

October 13 is the 286th day of the year (287th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 79 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day on 1792, the cornerstone for the White House in laid in Washington, DC.

In 1800, President John Adams became the first president to reside in the executive mansion, which soon became known as the “White House” because its white-gray Virginia freestone contrasted strikingly with the red brick of nearby buildings.

Architectural competition

The President’s house was a major feature of Pierre (Peter) Charles L’Enfant’s’s plan for the newly established federal city, Washington, D.C. The architect of the White House was chosen in a design competition, which received nine proposals, including one submitted anonymously by Thomas Jefferson. The nation’s first president, George Washington, traveled to the site of the federal city on July 16, 1792, to make his judgment. His review is recorded as being brief, and he quickly selected the submission of James Hoban, an Irishman living in Charleston, South Carolina. Washington was not entirely pleased with the original Hoban submission, however; he found it too small, lacking ornament, and not fitting the nation’s president. On Washington’s recommendation, the house was enlarged by thirty percent; the present East Room, likely inspired by the large reception room at Mount Vernon, was added.

Construction

Construction of the White House began with the laying of the cornerstone on October 13, 1792, although there was no formal ceremony. The main residence, as well as foundations of the house, were built largely by enslaved and free African-American laborers, as well as employed Europeans. Much of the other work on the house was performed by immigrants, many not yet with citizenship. The sandstone walls were erected by Scottish immigrants, employed by Hoban, as were the high relief rose and garland decorations above the north entrance and the “fish scale” pattern beneath the pediments of the window hoods. The initial construction took place over a period of eight years, at a reported cost of $232,371.83 ($2.8 million in 2007 dollars). Although not yet completed, the White House was ready for occupancy on or circa November 1, 1800.

Shortages, including material and labor, forced alterations to the earlier plan developed by French engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant for a “palace” that was five times larger than the house that was eventually built.] The finished structure contained only two main floors instead of the planned three, and a less costly brick served as a lining for the stone facades. When construction was finished the porous sandstone walls were coated with a mixture of lime, rice glue, casein, and lead, giving the house its familiar color and name.

As it is a famed structure in America, many replicas of the White House have been constructed.

Oct 13 2010

Oil Spill Sell Out

This WaPo article is a revealing look at how Barack Hussein Obama is willing to sell out key principles, campaign promises, and core constituencies for…

Underpants.

How politics spilled into policy

By Michael Leahy and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Behind closed doors with his Democratic Senate colleagues, a frustrated Nelson was making no secret of his unhappiness with the administration’s deal making. Drilling advocates were getting concessions, while the climate-change bill appeared to be going nowhere. What sort of bargain was that? At a meeting on the bill in March, Nelson challenged Lindsey Graham.

Whose votes are you bringing with you? Nelson demanded.

“Only me,” Graham replied.

Nelson pressed him: You’re selling the gulf and you’re only getting yourself?

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who liked the idea of his state receiving royalties from drilling, stood in defense of Graham. “It isn’t just Lindsey Graham who wants offshore drilling,” Warner said, according to Graham and others who were there. “I’m a coastal-state Democrat, and I support drilling.”

On the day before Obama’s March 31 drilling announcement, Interior officials began calling influential Democrats to give them advance notice. Salazar left phone messages for some of his old Senate friends.

“I took care of you, Bobby,” he said in a voice mail to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), an apparent reference to the plan’s protection of New Jersey’s coastal area.

But Menendez was still upset by Obama’s decision to open Mid-Atlantic zones to possible exploration. A spill off Virginia, for example, might spread north with potentially devastating consequences for New Jersey’s waters and tourism.

“You’ve lost a vote for climate change,” Menendez told Salazar in a return voice mail.

And Obama is still doing it and is doing it again today.

He has the trustworthiness of Richard Milhouse Nixon without any of the political acumen.

Oct 13 2010

Title Fraud

Atrios and some other people have been collecting a few links, the most recent of which are gratifyingly starting to realize the gravity of systemic Title Fraud to home owners everywhere.

Since almost everyone else does I’ll start off with the 5 part Rortybomb series-

This piece from Salon references some of the Rortybomb coverage (another piece by John Carney is frequently cited as a one piece introduction)-

Obama’s foreclosure nightmare

By Andrew Leonard, Salon.com, Tuesday, Oct 12, 2010 13:45 ET

But the key facts are these: In the process of making mortgage loans, transferring ownership of those loans,  slicing and dicing them into securities and, finally, initiating foreclosure proceedings on loans in default, banks, lenders and mortgage servicers engaged in illegal activity on a large scale. The legally mandated procedures put into place to ensure that no errors are ever made with respect to the transfer of property  simply weren’t followed. Key documents necessary to prove ownership — to prove that a bank, for example, has the legal right to begin foreclosure proceedings, cannot be located and may not even exist.

Whether you want to dismiss this debacle as a concatenation of paperwork errors made while seeking economies of scale, or out-and-out calculated fraud by the mortgage industry against homeowners, is in some ways an irrelevant game of semantics. When legally mandated procedures aren’t followed, courts get upset, investors start wondering if they’ve been sold a bill of goods, and the litigation floodgates fly open. Bank of America and GMAC and other lenders have declared their own foreclosure moratoriums because they have suddenly realized that they are looking at potentially devastating legal liabilities.

Progressives can be excused for feeling an almost unlimited sense of schadenfreude at the suddenly scrambling banks. For many people, on the left and right, there would be nothing more pleasurable than the sight of, say, Citigroup, bankrupted by a sea of mortgage-related lawsuits. It is also of course enormously important to take advantage of this opportunity to completely rethink the government’s approach to the foreclosure crisis, and find a way to keep people in their homes with mortgages that are more appropriate to their current financial wherewithal. By itself, however, a national foreclosure moratorium isn’t going achieve that — it will just postpone resolution of the problem, and in the process conceivably create some dangerous new risks.

And here’s where Obama’s problem lies. The foreclosure crisis isn’t just about banks playing fast and loose with people’s homes. The recklessness with which banks and mortgage servicers handled their business has thrown into question the entire architecture of securities assembled from mortgages. All that toxic waste just turned a Hungarian sludge shade of bright flashing orange. If and when the owners of those securities start their own legal actions or demand that the issuers of the securities take them back, the biggest financial institutions in the United States will once again teeter on the brink — and threaten to bring all the rest of us down with them. There are systemic risk implications to this “paperwork” lollapalooza.



My guess is that the White House economic brain trust is fully aware of how bad this could get, and that their caution on endorsing a national foreclosure moratorium is connected to the uncertainty as to what the systemic implications of bringing the entire mortgage industry to a screeching halt might be. That’s fine, but it’s not enough. If Wall Street is once again teetering on the brink, then the Obama administration has leverage — leverage to make a deal that keeps Americans in their homes, defuses the foreclosure pandemic and ensures that the interests of average citizens are protected, along with the integrity (such as it is) of the larger financial system. Any kind of solution that attempts to address the gaping legal hole at the heart of the foreclosure mess must be paired with relief for distressed homeowners. It’s that simple.

Here’s a CNBC piece you may have missed-

Foreclosure Fraud: It’s Worse Than You Think

By: Diana Olick, CNBC Real Estate Reporter, Published: Tuesday, 12 Oct 2010 | 1:14 PM ET

A source of mine pointed me to a recent conference call Citigroup had with investors/clients.  It featured Adam Levitin, a Georgetown University Law professor who specializes in, among many other financial regulatory issues, mortgage finance. Levitin says the documentation problems involved in the mortgage mess have the potential “to cloud title on not just foreclosed mortgages but on performing mortgages.”

And one from AP-

Robo-signers: Mortgage experience not necessary

Banks hired hair stylists, teens to process foreclosure documents, workers’ testimony shows

Michelle Conlin, AP Real Estate Writer, Tuesday October 12, 2010, 9:21 pm  

NEW YORK (AP) — In an effort to rush through thousands of home foreclosures since 2007, financial institutions and their mortgage servicing departments hired hair stylists, Walmart floor workers and people who had worked on assembly lines and installed them in “foreclosure expert” jobs with no formal training, a Florida lawyer says.

In depositions released Tuesday, many of those workers testified that they barely knew what a mortgage was. Some couldn’t define the word “affidavit.” Others didn’t know what a complaint was, or even what was meant by personal property. Most troubling, several said they knew they were lying when they signed the foreclosure affidavits and that they agreed with the defense lawyers’ accusations about document fraud.



Though some have chalked up the foreclosure debacle to an overblown case of paperwork bungling, the underlying legal issues are far more serious. Yes, swearing that you’ve reviewed documents you’ve never seen is a legal offense. But at the center of the foreclosure scandal looms something much larger: the question of who actually owns the loans and who has the right to foreclose upon them. The paperwork issues being raised by lawyers and attorneys generals have the potential to blight not just the titles of foreclosed properties but also those belonging to homeowners who have never missed a mortgage payment.

Oct 13 2010

Separation of Powers Game of Chicken

Here is the argument for President Obama to appointment Peter Diamond, the Economics Nobel laureate, the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve and make other appointments that have been blocked by the obstructionist Republicans and some blue Dog Democrats. Dr. Diamond’s confirmation has been blocked by Republicans, chief among them, Sen. Richard Shelby who had the audacity to call him “not qualified”.

Victor Williams, Assistant Professor at the Catholic University of America School of Law and an attorney, writing for the The National Law Journal makes the argument that the pro forma sessions every three days during recess are little more “than a game of separation-of-powers chicken”. There is nothing in the Constitution and Appellate courts have ruled that “there is no minimum recess time required for a valid recess appointment”.

But there is no minimum recess required under any law. The three-day minimum recess is fiction – as fake as are the Senate faux sessions. Better to begin with nonfiction – the Constitution.

In 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled: “The Constitution, on its face, does not establish a minimum time that an authorized break in the Senate must last to give legal force to the President’s appointment power under the Recess Appointments Clause.” In Evans v. Stephens, the 11th Circuit, following prior 9th and 2d circuit rulings, broadly affirmed the executive’s unilateral recess commissioning authority during short intersession and intrasession breaks.

Even the Senate’s own Congressional Research Service reports: “The Constitu­tion does not specify the length of time that the Senate must be in recess before the President may make a recess appointment.” . . .

The president’s constitutional appointment authority cannot be trumped, or even limited, by Senate scheduling shenanigans. In fact and law, the 111th Senate is now dispersed to the four corners for six campaign weeks. Gaveling open, and then gaveling closed, a half-minute meeting of an empty chamber is not a legitimate break in the recess. A Senate quorum could not be gathered; neither legislative nor executive business could be conducted. Constitutional law demands substance over form.

The faux sessions only further expose the broken institution and its failed, dysfunctional confirmation processes.

At bottom, recess appointments are a matter of presidential will. In 1903, Theodore Roosevelt set the standard when he recess-appointed 160 officials during a recess of less than one day.

Mr. Williams points out that George W Bush’s failure to call this should not be Barack Obama’s.

Perhaps it is George W. Bush’s fault that the media erroneously reported that Obama’s recess appointment authority is lost. When majority leader Harry Reid first used the pro forma tactic against Bush over Thanksgiving, 2007, the 43rd president failed to push back.

Bush did not recess appoint for the remainder of his term despite calls for him to call Harry Reid’s bluff. A commissioning of even one noncontroversial nominee to a low level position would have asserted the executive’s prerogative. His failure to do so may be mistakenly interpreted as setting a precedent. It does not.

As I have noted on this site, Harry Reid appears to have gotten the better of George Bush; bluffing is a basic gambling skill for separation of powers and Texas Hold ’em.

Mr. President, you are a Constitutional Lawyer, starting the day after the elections, November 3, “buck up” and call the bluff.

Oct 13 2010

Prime Time

Goodbye Bobby Cox.  What has made the Atlanta Braves the most consistent team (in terms of post season appearences) over the last 2 decades is the same thing that has made the Yankees (in terms of world championships) consistent.

Ownership that was unafraid to spend what it took to field a competitive team and insisted on winning.

Ted Turner, the genius behind the Braves, gets maybe a little less credit than he should, because he took a struggling team and built a media empire around it.  Back in the days of early cable TBS was the Braves and WGN was the Cubs.  Is YES network on your cable today?

The Yankees have natural advantages based on their local market and nationally they’re the team everyone loves to hate so they sell the eyeballs where ever they go and get the most attention, but the Braves have a record too.

Tonight the Rangers have a chance to choke against the Rays.  Ah well, be careful what you wish for.

Premiers across the board on broadcast, you know who you are.

Later-

Dave hosts Matt Damon and My Morning Jacket.  Jon has Eric Cantor (expect one of those extended web interviews), Stephen- Brendan Steinhauser, Freedomworks (no link for you).  No Alton.

BoondocksThe Story of Gangstalicious

Zap2it TV Listings, Yahoo TV Listings