10/22/2010 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: British Fashion Victims

In the spring of 2010, fiscal austerity became fashionable. I use the term advisedly: the sudden consensus among Very Serious People that everyone must balance budgets now now now wasn’t based on any kind of careful analysis. It was more like a fad, something everyone professed to believe because that was what the in-crowd was saying.

And it’s a fad that has been fading lately, as evidence has accumulated that the lessons of the past remain relevant, that trying to balance budgets in the face of high unemployment and falling inflation is still a really bad idea. Most notably, the confidence fairy has been exposed as a myth. There have been widespread claims that deficit-cutting actually reduces unemployment because it reassures consumers and businesses; but multiple studies of historical record, including one by the International Monetary Fund, have shown that this claim has no basis in reality.

No widespread fad ever passes, however, without leaving some fashion victims in its wake. In this case, the victims are the people of Britain, who have the misfortune to be ruled by a government that took office at the height of the austerity fad and won’t admit that it was wrong.

Eugene Robinson: Lawyers got it right on the foreclosure mess

Don’t blame the lawyers. The crisis over faulty or fraudulent paperwork in mortgage foreclosures — which is either a big deal or a humongous deal, depending on which experts you believe — is the fault of arrogant, greedy lenders who played fast and loose with the basic property rights of homeowners.

Banks and other lenders, it seems, made statements in courts of law that turned out not to be true. Because judges have such an underdeveloped sense of humor when it comes to prevarication, this mess may be with us for a while.

The mortgage industry would love to blame the whole thing on predatory, opportunistic lawyers who are seizing on mere technicalities to forestall untold numbers of foreclosures that should legitimately proceed. The bankers are right when they complain that the delays are gumming up the housing market, as potential buyers for soon-to-be-foreclosed properties are forced to bide their time until all the questions about documentation and proper title are answered.

Linda Greenhouse: Calling John Roberts

As 1997 wound down, Bill Clinton was in the White House, the Republicans controlled the Senate, and the Clinton administration’s judicial nominees were going nowhere. Nearly one in 10 federal judgeships was vacant, a total of 82 vacancies, 26 of which had gone unfilled for more than 18 months. In Democratic hands back in 1994, the Senate had confirmed 101 nominees. In 1997, under the Republicans, the number dropped to 36.

On New Year’s Eve, a major public figure stepped into this gridlock. He was a well-known Republican, and although he had set aside overt partisanship, his conservative credentials remained impeccable. He had given no one a reason to think he was favorably disposed toward the incumbent administration or its judicial nominees. Yet there he was, availing himself of a year-end platform to criticize the Senate and to warn that “vacancies cannot remain at such high levels indefinitely without eroding the quality of justice.”

His name was William H. Rehnquist, chief justice of the United States, using his annual year-end report on the state of the federal judiciary to declare that with “too few judges and too much work,” the judicial system was imperiled by the Senate’s inaction. “The Senate is surely under no obligation to confirm any particular nominee,” he said, “but after the necessary time for inquiry, it should vote him up or vote him down to give the president another chance at filling the vacancy.”

“Last Person Out of the Burning Building”

Jon Stewart, as he did when he appeared on the now defunct “Crossfire” once again tells it like it is on the very network he criticizes during his appearance on “Larry King Live”

Transcript can be read here

On This Day in History: October 22

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

October 22 is the 295th day of the year (296th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 70 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1975,Air Force Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, is given a “general” discharge by the air force after publicly declaring his homosexuality. Matlovich, who appeared in his air force uniform on the cover of Time magazine above the headline “I AM A HOMOSEXUAL,” was challenging the ban against homosexuals in the U.S. military. In 1979, after winning a much-publicized case against the air force, his discharge was upgraded to “honorable.”

Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich (1943 – June 22, 1988) was a Vietnam War veteran, race relations instructor, and recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

Matlovich was the first gay service member to fight the ban on gays in the military, and perhaps the best-known gay man in America in the 1970s next to Harvey Milk. His fight to stay in the United States Air Force after coming out of the closet became a cause celebre around which the gay community rallied. His case resulted in articles in newspapers and magazines throughout the country, numerous television interviews, and a television movie on NBC. His photograph appeared on the cover of the September 8, 1975, issue of Time magazine, making him a symbol for thousands of gay and lesbian servicemembers and gay people generally. In October 2006, Matlovich was honored by LGBT History Month as a leader in the history of the LGBT community.

Born in Savannah, Georgia, he was the only son of a career Air Force sergeant. He spent his childhood living on military bases, primarily throughout the southern United States. Matlovich and his sister were raised in the Roman Catholic Church. He considered himself a “flag-waving patriot,” but always regretted that for several years he maintained the racist attitudes he’d been exposed to as a child of the South. Not long after he enlisted, the United States increased military action in Vietnam, about ten years after the French had abandoned active colonial rule there. Matlovich volunteered for service in Vietnam and served three tours of duty. He was seriously wounded when he stepped on a land mine in DA Nang.

While stationed in Florida near Fort Walton Beach, he began frequenting gay bars in nearby Pensacola. “I met a bank president, a gas station attendant – they were all homosexual,” Matlovich commented in a later interview. When he was 30, he slept with another man for the first time. He “came out” to his friends, but continued to conceal the fact from his commanding officer. Having realized that the racism he’d grown up around was wrong, he volunteered to teach Air Force Race Relations classes, which had been created after several racial incidents in the military in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He became so successful that the Air Force sent him around the country to coach other instructors. Matlovich gradually came to believe that the discrimination faced by gays was similar to that faced by African Americans.

In 1973, previously unaware of the organized gay movement, he read an interview in the Air Force Times with gay activist Frank Kameny who had counseled several gays in the military over the years. He called Kameny in Washington DC and learned that Kameny had long been looking for a gay service member with a perfect record to create a test case to challenge the military’s ban on gays. About a year later, he called Kameny again, telling him that he might be the person. After several months of discussion with Kameny and ACLU attorney David Addlestone during which they formulated a plan, he hand-delivered a letter to his Langley AFB commanding officer on March 6, 1975. When his commander asked, “What does this mean?” Matlovich replied, “It means Brown versus the Board of Education” – a reference to the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case outlawing racial segregation in public schools. For Matlovich, his test of the military’s ban on homosexuals would be equivalent to that case. . .

From the moment his case was revealed to the public, he was repeatedly called upon by gay groups to help them with fund raising and advocating against anti-gay discrimination, helping lead campaigns against Anita Bryant’s effort in Miami, Florida, to overturn a gay nondiscrimination ordinance and John Briggs’ attempt to ban gay teachers in California. Sometimes he was criticized by individuals more to the left than he had become. “I think many gays are forced into liberal camps only because that’s where they can find the kind of support they need to function in society” Matlovich once noted.

With the outbreak of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. in the late 1970s, Leonard’s personal life was caught up in the virus’ hysteria that peaked in the 1980s. He sold his Guerneville restaurant in 1984, moving to Europe for a few months. He returned briefly to Washington, D.C., in 1985 and, then, to San Francisco where he sold Ford cars and once again became heavily involved in gay rights causes and the fight for adequate HIV-AIDS education and treatment.

During the summer of 1986, Matlovich felt fatigued, then contracted a prolonged chest cold he seemed unable to shake. When he finally saw a physician in September of that year, he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Too weak to continue his work at the Ford dealership, he was among the first to receive AZT treatments, but his prognosis was not encouraging. He went on disability and became a champion for HIV/AIDS research for the disease which was claiming tens of thousands of lives in the Bay Area and nationally. He announced on Good Morning America in 1987 that he had contracted HIV, and was arrested with other demonstrators in front of the White House that June protesting what they believed was an inadequate response to HIV-AIDS by the administration of President Ronald Reagan.

On June 22, 1988, less than a month before his 45th birthday, Matlovich died of complications from HIV/AIDS beneath a large photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. His tombstone, meant to be a memorial to all gay veterans, does not bear his name. It reads, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” Matlovich’s tombstone at Congressional Cemetery is on the same row as that of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

A Website has been created in his honor and that of other gay veterans, and includes a history of the ban on gays in the military both before and after its transformation into Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and illustrates the role that gay veterans fighting the ban played in the earliest development of the gay rights movement in the United States.

I Need Hands to Hold

This is not anything but a call for help.  I am very depressed, and I need someone to hold my hand.  Everything has gone wrong, and I do not feel well, and can not go to sleep.

Morning Shinbun Friday October 22

Friday’s Headlines:

Silence of the dissenters: How south-east Asia keeps web users in line


US Tea Party Should Keep Its Hands Off Hitler

Top companies donate big to Chamber in policy fights


Why Sarkozy could win this fight without really getting his hands dirty

Vatican Bank funds retained in court money-laundering inquiry

Middle East

Bulldozer driver insists he did not see Rachel Corrie

Iran’s secret strategy for Islamic bank network


China unveils its own version of Google Earth

 For the Kims, the weakest link is family


British aid failing to get through to those most in need

Nigeria: Feared Muslim sect issues new threats  

Latin America

More than 100 dead in suspected cholera outbreak in Haiti

U.S. halts aid to some Pakistan military units

AP source: White House worried about human rights abuses


The Obama administration is withholding assistance to some Pakistani military units over concerns they may have been involved in human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and torture, a senior U.S. official said Thursday.

The official said aid to a handful of Pakistani units believed to have committed, encouraged or tolerated abuses had been suspended under 1997 legislation championed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. The so-called Leahy Amendment bars U.S. military assistance from going to foreign armed forces suspected of committing atrocities.

“In accordance with the Leahy Amendment, we have withheld assistance from a small number of units linked to gross human rights violations,”the official said.

Let’s Count The Frauds

You can categorize these different ways and I don’t claim this list is is exhaustive, but inspired by Dan Froomkin I thought I’d list briefly some of the Bank Frauds that are encapsulated in what is generally called “Foreclosure Fraud”, but which I call Title Fraud.

As you read them, keep in mind that the bankster position is that all these frauds are mere bagatelles and formalities and that the only time there is a problem is when some deadbeat asshole home owner stops paying.

Appraisal Fraud

  • Your house was never worth all that.  Your appraiser is paid based on the appraised value and by the bank which wants you to take the largest loan possible to maximize their fees and interest.  This is part of what caused the Bubble.  They lied to you and that is fraud.

Loan Fraud

  • Low introductory rate?  Try flat out usury which used to be considered a sin by Christians (remember Jesus and the Moneychangers) which is one reason they feel justified in their anti-semitism (and they wiped out the Knights Templar too).  They lied to you about the terms of your loan to your face and buried the details in the fine print.  That is fraud.

Income Assessment

  • NINJA!  No Income?  No Job?  Accept!  Loan originators encouraged people to lie on their applications so they could sell them the loan that generated the largest fees and interest.  That is fraud.

Conveyance of Title

  • Thousands of years of precedent.  No shit.  We have hieroglyphics from the Egyptians and cuneiform from the Sumerians.  All of it had to be recorded in stone (or wet clay), so the proof could be produced.  Ephemeral photons not so much.  There are legal requirements and MERS lied about fulfilling them.  That is title fraud.

Tax and Fee Cheating

  • Why did they do that with the thousands of years and all?  Well it’s really about the next item in my list, but a not insignificant second reason was to avoid billions in fees to State and Local governments.  Tax cheating is fraud.

Collateralized Debt Obligations

  • Here’s the real money and motivation.  It’s not about the property, it’s about the income stream and if I can package them in a way the promises a certain rate of return on investment I can sell it like bonds.  The problem is that if I don’t have title to the underlying asset and lie to you about the income stream and your ability to collect from it (Brooklyn Bridge) that’s fraud.

Debt Rating Agencies

  • Part of the way I lie to you is I pay some purported “independent expert” to come in and repeat my lies, just like I did with the appraiser.  That is fraud.

Multiple Sales of the Same Asset

  • Since all you care about is the general performance of the income stream to produce the revenues I promised, it really doesn’t matter if I include some “assets” that I know are guaranteed failures as long as the overall performance passes fictitious muster.  As long as I’m servicing my Ponzi Scheme no one will ever know.  This is fraud.

Credit Default Swaps

  • In order to convince you I’m a fair dealer, I offer to take the worst parts of the pie myself.  Then I turn around and buy insurance against them failing for pennies on the dollar from a company that doesn’t have the money to pay off the policy when I need to collect.  This is Insurance Fraud (hello AIG and back door bailouts).

Fees, Fines, and Foreclosures

  • How do I make money?  Well you may think it’s off the interest, but I sold that for cash to a pack of fools who got a pile of crap in return.  But they need a Tax Farmer and Rent Collector and I’m happy to do that for a price.  And if I happen to run short I’ll just make up a penalty by holding a check and imposing it just like I do on unsecured credit cards and then siezing the property for myself if your lawyers aren’t are good as mine (and I have mighty fine lawyers, you betcha).

Accounting Fraud

  • And why do I do this?  To keep the inflated assets on my balance sheet defrauding my investors so I can keep my billion dollar bonuses flowing in.  If we had mark to market every major bank in the United States would be as underwater as the most foreclosed home owner.

The problem with this story is that there are so many individual frauds that it’s hard to keep track of them and I hope this summary is helpful.

Inverted Totalitarianism, & Why The 2010 Midterm Elections Are A Cruel Joke

In case you missed it, following on the heels of the January 2010 ‘landmark’ decision in the Citizens United v Federal Election Commission case by the US Supreme Court holding that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment, in which the court struck down a provision of the McCain-Feingold Act that prohibited all corporations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, and unions from broadcasting ‘electioneering communications’, Pulitzer prize winning author, veteran war correspondent, and activist Chris Hedges spoke with RT America about the meaning and ramifications of an unregulated and uncontrolled flow of corporate funding into US electioneering on top of the already thirty five thousand or more paid corporate lobbyists already heavily influencing the US Congress and Administration.

RT America – February 13, 2010

Much of what Hedges has to say in this interview bears directly on why he said in his September 13 article Do Not Pity the Democrats that:

The menace we face does not come from the insane wing of the Republican Party, which may make huge inroads in the coming elections, but the institutions tasked with protecting democratic participation. Do not fear Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. Do not fear the tea party movement, the birthers, the legions of conspiracy theorists or the militias. Fear the underlying corporate power structure, which no one, from Barack Obama to the right-wing nut cases who pollute the airwaves, can alter. If the hegemony of the corporate state is not soon broken we will descend into a technologically enhanced age of barbarism.

“The Third Time is Enemy Action”

CNN: White House deputy Valerie Jarrett dismisses scolding from DADT victim Lt. Dan Choi

From Rayne in Jane Hamsher’s Valerie Jarrett Responds to Dan Choi

Remember the James Bond movie, Goldfinger?

“Mr. Bond, we have a saying in Chicago. The first time is happenstance. The second time is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”

Is this the second time or the third time for Jarrett?

What Jane said:

Number one, when did Obama say that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is unconstitutional? I’m rather sure she’s putting words in his mouth, I’d be happy to be wrong about that.

Further, Judge Virginia Phillips has already ruled Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell unconstitutional.   If the President truly does believe Don’t Ask, Don’t tell is unconstitutional, he has all of the justification he needs to let Judge Phillips’ decision stand.

But there is an extremely serious problem with having Valerie Jarrett continue to be the White House spokesperson on this matter.  I defended Jarrett earlier this week over her use of the words “lifestyle choice” when addressing the issue of LGTB teen suicide.  I said it didn’t make her a bad person, but it did show she was out of touch with the discourse in the LGBT community.  And that meant she emphatically should not be in charge of LGBT issues at the White House.

The fact that Jarrett could use a term that is like fingernails on a chalkboard to LGBT people, and still be out there as White House spokesperson on the issue of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, is symptomatic of something deeply wrong.

DADT may well be unconstitutional in light of the 2003 Supreme Court ruling that struck down Texas sodomy laws

WASHINGTON – In an historic decision with wide-ranging implications, the U.S. Supreme Court today struck down a Texas law that makes some kinds of sexual intimacy a crime, but only for gay people. The decision overrules the court’s 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, which was widely condemned for treating gay people as second-class citizens.  It was hailed by the American Civil Liberties Union as a major milestone in the fight for constitutional rights.

“”This decision will affect virtually every important legal and social question involving lesbians and gay men,”” said James Esseks, Litigation Director of the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.  “”For years, whenever we have sought equality, we’ve been answered both in courts of law and in the court of public opinion with the claim that we are not entitled to equality because our love makes us criminals.  That argument – which has been a serious block to progress — is now a dead letter.””  Esseks added, “”from now on, cases and political debates about employment, custody and the treatment of same-sex couples should be about merit, not about who you love.””  

In sweeping language, the Court said the Constitution protects the right of gay people to form intimate relationships and “”retain their dignity as free persons.””  Gay people, the Court said, have the same right to “”define one’s concept of existence, of meaning, or the universe, and of the mystery of human life,”” that heterosexuals do.  The Bowers decision, the Court said, “”demeans the lives of homosexual persons.””.

(emphasis mine)

Prime Time

It’s Junior League travel day and at least the Yankees have spared themselves the indignity of losing in the Stadium.

Tonight we get to see the Phillies blow my brackets, a rematch of Halladay v. Lincecum that was such a boring entertaining  matchup in an inside your eyelids kind of way in Game 1.  I do hope the Phillies win so I can watch the end of the series instead of napping.

But the big news is that they’re apparently going to run Korea after all.  Hamilton is promising not to give up, but frankly he needs a couple of big DNFs from Webber.  Practice starts tonight at 1 am on Speed.  Qualifying tomorrow, also @ 1.

Broadcast premiers mostly.  Mostly.


No Dave, 10/4.  No Jon or Stephen at all.  No Alton.

My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.

God darnit, Mr. Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore.

Take this down. I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.

Could you repeat that, sir?

Zap2it TV Listings, Yahoo TV Listings

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 French unions step up pressure on Sarkozy with demo call

by Charles Onians, AFP

51 mins ago

PARIS (AFP) – French unions step up pressure on President Nicolas Sarkozy to cave in on pension reform, calling for more mass strikes and street protests as parts of the country start to run dry following fuel blockades.

The call for workers to join two new days of nationwide demonstrations next Thursday and on November 6 came after another day of unrest across France that saw protestors blocking key sites and clashing with police.

“Strengthened by the support of workers, the young and a majority of the population… the labour organisations have decided to continue and to broaden the mobilisation,” the main unions said in a joint statement.