10/20/2010 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.

Dean Baker: Timothy Geithner forecloses on the moratorium debate

By refusing to halt foreclosures to sort out the mortgage mess, the treasury secretary again shows his favour to Wall Street

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is good at telling fairy tales. Geithner first became known to the general public in September of 2008. Back then, he was head of the New York Federal Reserve Board. He was part of the triumvirate, along with Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben Bernanke and then Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, who told congress that it had to pass the Tarp or the economy would collapse. . . . .

Now, Geithner has a new fairytale. This time, it is that if the government imposes a foreclosure moratorium, it will lead to chaos in the housing market and jeopardise the health of the recovery.

For the gullible, which includes most of the Washington policy elite, this assertion is probably sufficient to quash any interest in a foreclosure moratorium. But those capable of thinking for themselves may ask how Geithner could have reached this conclusion.

Amy Goodman: When Banks Are the Robbers

The big banks that caused the collapse of the global finance market, and received tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded bailouts, have likely been engaging in wholesale fraud against homeowners and the courts. But in a promising development this week, attorneys general from all 50 states announced a bipartisan joint investigation into foreclosure fraud.

Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, GMAC and other big mortgage lenders recently suspended most foreclosure proceedings, following revelations that thousands of their foreclosures were being conducted like “foreclosure mills,” with tens of thousands of legal documents signed by low-level staffers with little or no knowledge of what they were signing.

Then the Obama administration signaled that it was not supporting a foreclosure moratorium. Not long after, Bank of America announced it was restarting its foreclosure operations. GMAC followed suit, and others will likely join in. So much for the voluntary moratorium.

Dana Milbank: A Tea Party of populist posers

On the morning of Oct. 14, a cyber-insurgency caused servers to crash at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The culprits, however, weren’t attacking the chamber; they were well-meaning citizens who overwhelmed the big-business lobbying group with a sudden wave of online contributions. It was one of the more extraordinary events in the annals of American populism: the common man voluntarily giving money to make the rich richer. . . .

A movement of the plutocrats, by the political professionals and for the powerful: Now that’s something Tea Partyers should be mad about.

The Thomas “Can” Affair

Virginia Thomas is a Tea Bag lady, I use the term lady loosely here. I have no idea what the “obsessed” wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was thinking when she left a message on Law Professor Anita Hill’s office answering machine demanding an apology from Ms. Hill for her testimony 19 years ago but it certainly addled her common sense of decency, if she ever had any to start.

Perhaps she did it for the publicity for her work with her right wingnut nonprofit activist group, Liberty Central, “which is dedicated to opposing what she has characterized as the leftist “tyranny” of the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats. The group has drawn scrutiny in part because of the unusual circumstance of a spouse of a sitting Supreme Court justice drawing a salary from a group financed by anonymous donors.”

This is the classless, crass message that Ms. Thomas left:

“Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginny Thomas,” said the voice. “I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day.”

Prof. Hill thought it was a prank, having never met Ms. Thomas, so she reported it to the Brandeis University Campus Police who forwarded it to the FBI.

Ms. Thomas when contacted by ABC News further sank herself further into the sewer of tactlessness, adding insult to injury:

: “I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get passed what happened so long ago.

That offer still stands, I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same. Certainly no offense was ever intended.”

Ms. Thomas’ is possessed with the obsession that Prof. Hill is somehow enamored of her husband since this is not the first time that she has demanded an apology. I think she needs to watch the tapes of her husband’s confirmation hearings but then “love” is blind, obviously.

This latest media distraction falls in the category of the laughing stock of the midnight calls to the press from the bathroom to Helen Thomas by Richard Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell‘s wife, Martha, during the Watergate scandal.

“Ginny” is fast becoming the Washington Media Elites’ newest Martha Mitchell.  

On This Day in History: October 20

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

October 20 is the 293rd day of the year (294th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 72 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1973, Solicitor General Robert Bork dismisses Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox; Attorney General Richardson and Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus resign in protest. Cox had conducted a detailed investigation of the Watergate break-in that revealed that the burglary was just one of many possible abuses of power by the Nixon White House. Nixon had ordered Richardson to fire Cox, but he refused and resigned, as did Ruckelshaus when Nixon then asked him to dismiss the special prosecutor. Bork agreed to fire Cox and an immediate uproar ensued. This series of resignations and firings became known as the Saturday Night Massacre and outraged the public and the media. Two days later, the House Judiciary Committee began to look into the possible impeachment of Nixon.

The Saturday Night Massacre was the term given by political commentators to U.S. President Richard Nixon‘s executive dismissal of independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus on October 20, 1973 during the Watergate scandal

Richardson appointed Cox in May of that year, after having given assurances to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would appoint an independent counsel to investigate the events surrounding the Watergate break-in of June 17, 1972. Cox subsequently issued a subpoena to President Nixon, asking for copies of taped conversations recorded in the Oval Office  and authorized by Nixon as evidence. The president initially refused to comply with the subpoena, but on October 19, 1973, he offered what was later known as the Stennis Compromise-asking U.S. Senator John C. Stennis to review and summarize the tapes for the special prosecutor’s office.

Mindful that Stennis was famously hard-of-hearing, Cox refused the compromise that same evening, and it was believed that there would be a short rest in the legal maneuvering while government offices were closed for the weekend. However, President Nixon acted to dismiss Cox from his office the next night-a Saturday. He contacted Attorney General Richardson and ordered him to fire the special prosecutor. Richardson refused, and instead resigned in protest. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus to fire Cox; he also refused and resigned in protest.

Nixon then contacted the Solicitor General, Robert Bork, and ordered him as acting head of the Justice Department to fire Cox. Richardson and Ruckelshaus had both personally assured the congressional committee overseeing the special prosecutor investigation that they would not interfere-Bork had made no such assurance to the committee. Though Bork believed Nixon’s order to be valid and appropriate, he considered resigning to avoid being “perceived as a man who did the President’s bidding to save my job.” Never the less, Bork complied with Nixon’s order and fired Cox. Initially, the White House claimed to have fired Ruckelshaus, but as The Washington Post article written the next day pointed out, “The letter from the President to Bork also said Ruckelshaus resigned.”

Congress was infuriated by the act, which was seen as a gross abuse of presidential power. In the days that followed, numerous resolutions of impeachment against the president were introduced in Congress. Nixon defended his actions in a famous press conference on November 17, 1973, in which he stated,

“…[I]n all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice. And I think, too, that I can say that in my years of public life that I’ve welcomed this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their President’s a crook. Well, I’m not a crook! I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”

Dan Choi Re-Enlisted in the Army

U.S. Military Moves to Accept Gay Recruits

The United States military, for the first time, is allowing its recruiters to accept openly gay and lesbian applicants.

The historic move follows a series of decisions by a federal judge in California, Virginia A. Phillips, who ruled last month that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law violates the equal protection and First Amendment rights of service members. On Oct. 12, she ordered the military to stop enforcing the law.

President Obama has said that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy “will end on my watch.” But the Department of Justice, following its tradition of defending laws passed by Congress, has fought efforts by the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay organization, to overturn the policy.

Judge Phillips on Tuesday denied requests by the government to maintain the status quo during the appeals process.

The Pentagon has stated its intent to file an appeal in case of such a ruling. But meanwhile, it has started complying with Judge Phillips’s instructions while the dispute over her orders plays out.

With this announcement, Lt. Dan Choi, the Iraq war veteran, Arab linguist, and West Point grad turned “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal activist, decided to take the opportunity to do what he has said he has always wanted to do, serve his country in the military. First, he tried to enlist in the Marine Corps but being 29 made him one year too old. So instead, Dan went to the Army recruiters and filled out the application to re-enlist. He will return at 10 AM to begin processing as an enlisted soldier, most likely a specialist since he is a college graduate.

Dan, you rock.

AK Senate Race: Joe Miller’s Not So Private Army

The story about Alaska’s GOP Senate Candidate Joe Miller’s detaining and handcuffing a reporter at public event on public property because he didn’t want to take questions was bad enough. Now it turns out that the “security guards” were Active Duty members of the Armed Services. These men may be in a some trouble since they are in direct violation of the Department of Defense Directive 1344.10 titled “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Services”. While these fellows may have a lot of explaining to do to their commanding officers, that aside, as Glenn Greenwald stated:

The legality is the least of the concerns here.  That directive exists because it’s dangerous and undemocratic to have active-duty soldiers taking an active role in partisan campaigns; having them handcuff journalists on behalf of candidates is so far over that line that it’s hard to believe it happened.  

The real issue, though, is Joe Miller: the fact that he did this and then emphatically defended it reveals the deep authoritarianism of many of these “small-government, pro-Constitution” right-wing candidates.  Any American of minimal decency should be repelled by this incident.

We may have laughed at the bearded Mr. Miller’s “pompous piety”, as Matt Taibi of Rolling Stone described the disclosures of Mr. Miller and his family having benefited from the very welfare state that he currently rants against in his campaign for the Senate, but he has clearly stepped over the line with his use not only of unnecessary and excessive force but using Active Duty Military to carry out his orders. This incident was anti-democratic and un-American and should be completely intolerable.

Britannia Rules The Waves

In total there are 87 commissioned ships in the Royal Navy.

No more Falklands.  In fact, speaking as an armchair war gamer, it’s hard to see who they can beat unless you buy into the Special Ops/Single Bullet/Kentucky Rifle theory of war.  Unfortunately there are a billion Kalishnikovs out there and only so many of you.  Quantity is is its own quality, Shermans were not better than Panzer IVs, Panthers and Tiger Is and IIs, they were more (umm, arguably T-34s were better, just like Kalishnikovs).

And “insurgents” and “terrorists” live there and we’ve all seen that happen enough times that we should have learned a lesson- they are like fish in the ocean.  It is the beginning of the end of an Empire and I’m not talking about Britain.

Britain takes axe to armed forces in savings push

by Katherine Haddon and Alice Ritchie, AFP

Tue Oct 19, 3:31 pm ET

LONDON (AFP) – Britain announced Tuesday it will shrink its armed forces and scrap key assets like its flagship aircraft carrier, in a defence review that forms part of stinging cuts across the whole public sector.

As part of eight percent cuts to the 37 billion pound (42 billion euro, 58 billion dollar) Ministry of Defence (MoD) budget, the Royal Navy’s flagship HMS Ark Royal aircraft carrier is also being scrapped immediately along with Britain’s fleet of Harrier jets.

The changes in the defence review suggest that in the long-term, Britain could not engage in wars such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It assumes the armed forces will only be equipped to send 6,500 troops for a long-term operation and a maximum of 30,000 troops for a short-term conflict.

Cameron insisted Britain’s defence budget would remain the fourth largest in the world and would meet NATO’s target for members to spend more than two percent of GDP on defence.

UK’s Cameron announces military austerity plan

By DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press Writer

Tue Oct 19, 6:28 pm ET

Outlining the first defense review since 1998 – intended both to sweep away strategies crafted before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. and to help clear the country’s crippling national debt – Cameron said 17,000 troops, a fleet of jets and an aging aircraft carrier would all be sacrificed.

The numbers were stark. Naval warships, 25,000 civilian staff and a host of bases will also be lost, while the country’s stockpile of nuclear warheads will be trimmed from 160 to 120.

Two new aircraft carriers will be built at a cost of 5 billion pounds ($8 billion) – but one will effectively by mothballed and another won’t have any British fighter jets to transport until 2019.

Instead, Britain will invest in its much admired special forces and develop expertise on cyber threats to secure the country’s status as a major global power, Cameron said.

Defence and security review: Groping for a strategy

The Guardian

Wednesday 20 October 2010

There will be no carrier at sea with British jets on it for the next 10 years as a result of the decision to decommission the Ark Royal and retire the Harrier jump jet. One of the new carriers will have no aircraft on it for at least three years, while costing £1bn a year, and will then be mothballed or sold, and the second carrier will be adapted with catapults and arresting gear to take French and US planes. One bright day Britain will have both a carrier and planes to put on it, but not for some time yet. Even by the low standards of defence procurement, the continued muddle is madness. Rather than fashioning defence forces around real needs, Britain continues to pretend it is capable of providing the full spectrum of military roles.

Prime Time

Pinstripe fans seem disappointed today, but it was Cliff Lee, the Rangers’ Ace, and he went 120 pitches so you don’t have to worry about him for the rest of the series.  What you should be worried about is the bullpen implosion.  Six runs in the 9th?

I’d bring back CC on short rest tonight so that if he’s good and you need it he can pitch the 7th game too.  If he struggles then you have AJ to pick up the pieces.  Evidently Joe disagrees.

I understand a Senior League sporting team is also engaging in athletic competition today.  I think they should strive to succeed so they get their away split in the bag, but so far thei offense has been lacking.

And there are other things you can watch, mostly premiers on broadcast.


No Dave, Jon, or Stephen, 10/7, 10/13, 10/13.  No Alton.

BoondocksThe Return of the King (an excellent and surprising episode)

Zap2it TV Listings, Yahoo TV Listings

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 A million protest pensions plan as fuel shortages bite

by Charles Onians, AFP

1 hr 7 mins ago

PARIS (AFP) – Strikes threatening to paralyse France’s economy looked set to rumble on into Wednesday after a million people took to the street for their right to retire at 60 and fuel shortages began to bite.

Clashes erupted between youths and riot police in several towns Tuesday and shops in the city of Lyon were looted as workers and students came out in force around the country to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy’s unpopular reform.

Sarkozy refused to back down however and leading unions in some sectors including airports called for stoppages to continue on Wednesday, while oil refineries remained blocked, hit by a week of strikes.