10/14/2010 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.

Joe Conanson: “No new taxes” for GOP — except a national sales tax

Republicans swear they won’t raise taxes — but Rand Paul and Paul Ryan want to tax everything you buy

Can you guess which tax is bad, bad, bad when suggested by Democrats but perfectly acceptable when proposed by Republicans? Listening to Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, among others, the answer is a national sales tax or value-added tax, known in Europe as a VAT. While Republicans argue ferociously to preserve the Bush tax cuts for America’s wealthiest families, the notion of a new federal tax on goods and services – which would disproportionately penalize working consumers — is becoming fashionable among their party’s most prominent figures.

The Kentucky Republican Senate candidate made headlines yesterday when he proposed a national sales tax to replace the income tax, but Paul is scarcely alone in preferring a tax that falls most heavily on the middle class, workers and the poor. Rep. Ryan’s budget “roadmap,” released earlier this year to much fanfare in the conservative and mainstream media, relies on an 8.5 percent “business consumption” tax — yet another name for what Europeans call a VAT. From Arizona to  Maine, Republican candidates seem increasingly eager to impose a national sales tax — and although they usually say this new tax would “replace” the income tax and abolish the IRS, such fantasies aren’t contemplated by Ryan, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee.

Robert Sheer: Invasion of the Robot Home Snatchers

The Titanic that is the U.S. housing market has just sprung its biggest leak, and even some of the largest banks responsible for this mess, like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, are now imposing a temporary moratorium on foreclosures. They have done so very reluctantly and only after courts throughout the nation, and the attorneys general of 40 states, questioned the legality of a securitized system of homeownership that has impoverished tens of millions.

How do you foreclose on a home when you can’t figure out who owns it because the original mortgage is part of a derivatives package that has been sliced and diced so many ways that its legal ownership is often unrecognizable? You cannot get much help from those who signed off on the process because they turn out to be robot signers acting on automatic pilot. Fully 65 million homes in question are tied to a computerized program, the national Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), that is often identified in foreclosure proceedings as the owner of record.  

Teddy Partridge: Obama WH Aide Valerie Jarrett: 15-Year Old Justin Aarberg “Made a Lifestyle Choice”

If the closest adviser to the President on LGBT issues – the one he sent to make nice with the Human Rights Campaign’s black-tie supporters last Saturday – describes a 15-year-old suicide as having “made a lifestyle choice” we are absolutely doomed. . . . .

If a presidential adviser had made such a boneheaded remark about any other American minority group – let alone an incredibly loyal group that has provided the Democratic Party its margin of victory in any number of tight races across the nation – would that presidential adviser still have a job?

Does Valerie Jarrett live in the early 1990s? Does she really believe that being LGBT is a ‘choice’ and a ‘lifestyle’ – and will she really get away with insulting the memory of a dead gay teen with this horrifying out-of-touch language?

Elena Kagan and the Supremes

So far the newest Justice of the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, is still pretty much an enigma as to her judicial philosophy. The former Solicitor General to President Obama has had to recuse herself from 25 of the 51 cases that will be heard by the Court this session. So far she has sided with the men, mostly conservative, on the two cases that have come before the court.

The first, which Glenn Greenwald feels is the most telling, was the refusal of a stay of execution for Theresa Lewis, the border line mentally retarded woman who was convicted of murder for hiring two hit men. Lewis’ lawyers argued that because she had the intellectual capacity of a 13 year old, also because she had been manipulated by a much smarter conspirator, because she had no prior history of violence and had been a model prisoner, and because the two men who carried out the actual crime received life terms.  The decision by the court was 7 to 2 and, it is argued, that even if Kagan had sided with liberal Justices Ginzburg and Sotomayor it would not have changed the outcome. Still, this is not a good indication that she is as liberal as the Obama administration and the Republicans who objected to her nomination, proclaimed her to be.

The second ruling is a little hazier since she basically sided with the “boys” to not hear a case that involved the violation of the 1st Amendment rights of two Denver residents were removed from a Bush campaign event solely due to a bumper sticker on their car which read:  “No More Blood for Oil.” A lower court had dismissed the case and an that decision was upheld on appeal. Kagan did not join Justice Sotomayor who sided with Justice Ginzburg’s written opinion that dissented from the majority’s refusal to hear the case.

Her answer to questions of where she stood on executive privilege and indefinite detentions during her hearings fro Solicitor General were a clear indication that she was not even close to center let alone left in her opinions.

I am, however, in agreement with Greenwald in his conclusion which is not very optimistic about just how Kagan will rule.

Caution is warranted against reading too much into Kagan’s actions, particularly the latter one.  There are multiple factors which the Court must consider in deciding which cases to take, and a refusal to review a case does not denote agreement with the outcome in the lower court (of the two decisions, Kagan’s refusal to stay the execution is more revealing).  Moreover, in both cases, the outcome would not have changed had Kagan joined Ginsburg and Sotomayor, so it’s possible that her joining with the majority was merely some sort of strategic calculation to curry favor early on.  Still, these two decisions not to join Ginsburg and Sotomayor are substantive ones, and are at least worth noting as very preliminary signs of Kagan’s approach on the Court.

On This Day in History: October 14

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

October 14 is the 287th day of the year (288th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 78 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1947, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager becomes the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.

Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager (born February 13, 1923) is a retired major general in the United States Air Force and noted test pilot. He was the first pilot to travel faster than sound (1947). Originally retiring as a brigadier general, Yeager was promoted to major general on the Air Force’s retired list 20 years later for his military achievements.

His career began in World War II as a private in the United States Army Air Forces. After serving as an aircraft mechanic, in September 1942 he entered enlisted pilot training and upon graduation was promoted to the rank of flight officer (the World War II USAAF equivalent to warrant officer) and became a P-51 Mustang fighter pilot. After the war he became a test pilot of many kinds of aircraft and rocket planes. Yeager was the first man to break the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying the experimental Bell X-1 at Mach 1 at an altitude of 13,700 m (45,000 ft). . . .

Yeager remained in the Air Force after the war, becoming a test pilot at Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base) and eventually being selected to fly the rocket-powered Bell X-1 in a NACA program to research high-speed flight, after Bell Aircraft test pilot “Slick” Goodlin demanded $150,000 to break the sound “barrier.”  Such was the difficulty in this task that the answer to many of the inherent challenges were along the lines of “Yeager better have paid-up insurance.” Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying the experimental X-1 at Mach  1 at an altitude of 45,000 feet (13,700 m). Two nights before the scheduled date for the flight, he broke two ribs while riding a horse. He was so afraid of being removed from the mission that he went to a veterinarian in a nearby town for treatment and told only his wife, as well as friend and fellow project pilot Jack Ridley about it.

On the day of the flight, Yeager was in such pain that he could not seal the airplane’s hatch by himself. Ridley rigged up a device, using the end of a broom handle as an extra lever, to allow Yeager to seal the hatch of the airplane. Yeager’s flight recorded Mach 1.07, however, he was quick to point out that the public paid attention to whole numbers and that the next milestone would be exceeding Mach 2. Yeager’s X-1 is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

Morning Shinbun Thursday October 15

Thursday’s Headlines:

Living Planet: The world is not enough


FBI breaks up alleged plot to defraud Medicare of $100m

Bankers Ignored Signs of Trouble on Foreclosures


‘Cold turkey regime’ exposed in Russia

French unions to extend strikes over pension reforms

Middle East

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls for 9/11 investigation

Mideast conflict blamed for Christian exodus


Communist veterans want radical free speech reform

Is Yoshito Sengoku Japan’s real prime minister?


South Sudan leader douses civil war fears

DRC women relive terror of mass rape

Latin America

Iron discipline that saw the 33 through

Foreclosures hit post-bust peak in third quarter

288K homes affected, but many could now be challenged in court


Lenders seized more U.S. homes this summer than in any three-month stretch since the housing market began to bust in 2006. But many of the foreclosures may be challenged in court later because of allegations that banks evicted people without reading the documents.

A total of 288,345 properties were lost to foreclosure in the July-September quarter, according to data released Thursday by RealtyTrac Inc., a foreclosure listing service. That’s up from nearly 270,000 in the second quarter, the previous high point in the firm’s records dating back to 2005.

When, digby, will you believe?

What digby said

God, I hope this is just bullshit spin and not what he really thinks:

He’s going to need Christine O’Donnell to cast a spell on the Teabag Republicans because that’s the only way they are going to do anything remotely bipartisan. Even if he agreed to reduce millionaires’ tax to zero and barnstorm against gay marriage and abortion, they would not help him. They want to beat him, not govern.

If Obama goes too far in trying to appease these people, he’d better hope to hell the Republicans run the Palin/Paladino ticket because that will be his only hope for reelection.

I don’t think he’s a dumb person so I’m hopeful that this is pre-election spin designed for political purposes. I’m not sure what those are, but I simply can’t believe that he’s serious after what we’ve seen.

Latest Obama talking point: If we don’t appeal DADT & DOMA, Rs will kill health care reform and hate crimes law

Posted by John Aravosis (DC) at 10/13/2010 11:46:00 AM

There’s increased chatter, as the spies would say, from the Obama administration and from administration apologists about the notion that the President simply has to appeal our DADT & DOMA victories in court lest a future Republican president refuse to appeal legal challenges to Obama’s health care reform bill or the Hate Crimes bill.

The naiveté, or utter duplicity, of such an argument is breathtaking.

At its core, the argument comes down to this: A future Republican administration – let’s call it the Palin administration – is going to look to former President Obama for guidance when deciding how evil it wants to be.

That sort of logic encapsulates the problem we face as a community, and the broader problem Democrats face, with our less-than-fierce advocate. The President is either incredibly naive about Republican motivations, or he’s lying to us in order to get us to back down.

It’s tough to know which is motivating the President, as both theories have precedent. The President’s near fanatical desire for “bipartisanship at all costs” is by now legendary. He seriously seems to believe that by giving something to the GOP for nothing, the Republicans will at some future date return the favor. And, not surprising to anyone born before yesterday, they never do. But he keeps trying. He keeps scaling back his promises, keeps caving on key legislative provisions at the drop of a hat, keeps putting conservative Ds and Rs in charge of his major policy priorities, from health care reform to the budget deficit, and keeps ceding more and more power to his Secretary of Defense on DADT, as though Robert Gates were the boss of Barack Obama – all in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, one of these opponents will be nice to him since he was nice to them.

But it hasn’t worked out very well because life doesn’t work that way, at least not in Washington, DC. The Republicans are never “nice” to Democrats because Democrats ceded ground first. To a Republican, you didn’t give them a peace offering, you conveyed weakness. How many campaign promises does he have to self-sabotage before the President understands that the goody-two-shoes school of political diplomacy simply doesn’t work in this town?

The notion that President Sarah Palin is going to look to Barack Obama for guidance on what to do on health care reform is laughable. And the notion that any Republican is going to give a damn about Obama’s positions on gay rights when deciding whether to once again bash the gays is preposterous.

It’s beyond naive. It’s downright scary if this is truly what the Obama administration continues to believe: that the Republicans won’t use every opportunity at their disposal to undercut the Democratic agenda. And they do believe it, or they’re lying.

Either way: not very fierce.

If this is not enough to convince you, just where will you set the bar?

I have an early comment (about #5) I’ll quote (but I have no idea how to link given the terrible commenting system)-

ek hornbeck

So when, digby, exactly will you believe?  

He’s serious.

Prime Time

So the Rangers didn’t choke after all which puts me 3 of 4 on my brackets and should be a relief to my mom Emily who is a great Yankees fan because in my opinion the Rays matched up somewhat better against the Pinstriped Playoff Machine.

On the other hand, no Baseball tonight.  Starting Friday Junior League with the funny rules will be on TBS while real Baseball will wait until Saturday night and appear on Faux (sigh).

This is too bad since all you have is your usual broadcast premiers and-


Dave hosts Hilary Swank, Mike & Mike.  Jon has Condoleezza Rice (ugh), Stephen Austan Goolsbee (ugh).  No Alton.

BoondocksThe Itis.

Cuttlefish. Eh? Let us not, dear friends, forget our dear friends the cuttlefish… flipping glorious little sausages. Pen them up together, and they will devour each other without a second thought… Human nature, in’it? Ooor… fish nature… So yes… we could hold up here, well-provisioned and well-armed, and half of us would be dead within the month! Which seems grim to me any way you slice it! Or… ahh… as my learned colleague so naively suggests, we can release Calypso, and we can pray that she will be merciful… I rather doubt it. Can we, in fact, pretend that she is anything other than a woman scorned, like which fury Hell hath no? We cannot. Res ipsa loquitur, tabula in naufragio, we are left with but one option. I agree with, and I cannot believe the words are coming out of me mouth… Captain Swann. We must fight.

A Battle of Wits with the Unarmed

This is a battle of wits with the unarmed. Beautiful. President Obama put Stiglitz on speed dial if he doesn’t want to be on your Council.

Unfair fight: Joe Stiglitz versus Dick Armey

The Nobel prize winner and the former GOP House majority leader tangle over Keynesian economics

In the left corner is Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank, winner of the John Bates Clark award for best economist under the age of 40 and the Nobel prize for economics, boasting a PhD from MIT and teaching stints at Yale, Stanford, Oxford, Princeton and Columbia. On the right is Dick Armey, former Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives, onetime economics professor at North Texas State University and House majority leader for the first two years of George Bush’s first term, during which the “first round of the Bush tax cuts were passed, without any corresponding cuts in spending, with the result that the Clinton-era budget surplus was transformed almost immediately into annual deficits“.

The topic, the current economy and solutions for recovery.

The punch line from Stiglitz

Over the business cycle, it does make sense for us to have a balanced budget or certainly a much more balanced budget than we have had. The fact that we were running large deficits in the period of our boom was unconscionable.