11/22/2010 archive

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is 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.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Frank Rich: Could She Reach the Top in 2012? You Betcha

“THE perception I had, anyway, was that we were on top of the world,” Sarah Palin said at the climax of last Sunday’s premiere of her new television series, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.” At that point our fearless heroine had just completed a perilous rock climb, and if she looked as if she’d just stepped out of a spa instead, don’t expect her fans to question the reality. For them, Palin’s perception is the only reality that counts.

Revealingly, Sarah Palin’s potential rivals for the 2012 nomination have not joined the party establishment in publicly criticizing her. They are afraid of crossing Palin and the 80 percent of the party that admires her. So how do they stop her? Not by feeding their contempt in blind quotes to the press – as a Romney aide did by telling Time’s Mark Halperin she isn’t “a serious human being.” Not by hoping against hope that Murdoch might turn off the media oxygen that feeds both Palin’s viability and News Corporation’s bottom line. Sooner or later Palin’s opponents will instead have to man up – as Palin might say – and actually summon the courage to take her on mano-a-maverick in broad daylight.

Short of that, there’s little reason to believe now that she cannot dance to the top of the Republican ticket when and if she wants to.

NIcholas D. Kristof: When Donations Go Astray

This holiday season, Americans will dig into their pockets for good causes. But these gifts will sometimes benefit charlatans or extremists, or simply be wasted.

Partly that’s because religious giving – and a good deal of casual secular giving – isn’t vetted as carefully as it should be. Researchers find that religious people on average donate more of their incomes than the nonreligious, and Christians, Jews and Muslims alike write checks to charities that they assume share their values. Dangerous assumption.

Some well-meaning Christians will support Feed the Children, a major Oklahoma-based Christian charity that describes its mission as providing food and medicine to needy children at home and abroad. By some accounts it is the seventh-largest charity in America.

But the American Institute of Philanthropy, a watchdog group that also runs Charitywatch.org, lists Feed the Children as “the most outrageous charity in America.” The institute says that Feed the Children spends just 21 percent of its cash budget on programs for the needy – but spends about $55 to raise each $100 in cash contributions.

Turkana: Do the Democrats remember why they are Democrats?

The Republican Bush administration inherited a budget surplus from the Democratic Clinton administration. The Bush administration destroyed the surplus and created the largest deficit in human history by cutting taxes, increasing corporate welfare, and launching a trillion dollars worth of wars. President Obama inherited one of the worst disasters inherited by any president. But he knew, going in, what he was getting. Or he should have.

The obvious answer should have included repealing and revoking as much of the Bush agenda as was possible. Let the tax cuts on the wealthiest expire. Cut corporate welfare. Draw down the two lost wars. Instead, one war was expanded and we now hear that the other may be allowed to continue. Corporate welfare to Wall Street increased. The tax cuts may be allowed to remain in place. And instead of helping the vast majority of the American people by upending the Bush agenda, we may actually see the burden fall even harder on the most vulnerable. Even Social Security is on the table.

Not even Bush tried to cut Social Security. Not when he had a Republican Congress and was soaring in the polls, and not in his second term, when he faced a Democratic Congress that wouldn’t have given such an idea a serious hearing. If President Obama follows the recommendations of the Catfood Commission, he will be going where not even Bush dared go. We will have a Democratic administration taking on the Third Rail of which Democrats, in particular, are supposed to be unwaveringly protective. We are told that the Catfood Commission is just advisory, and we shouldn’t fear the worst. We must hope that turns out to be true.

Blood Lust

Krugman and paradox say it precisely and I heartily agree.

Paul Krugman: There Will Be Blood

Former Senator Alan Simpson is a Very Serious Person. He must be – after all, President Obama appointed him as co-chairman of a special commission on deficit reduction.

So here’s what the very serious Mr. Simpson said on Friday: “I can’t wait for the blood bath in April. … When debt limit time comes, they’re going to look around and say, ‘What in the hell do we do now? We’ve got guys who will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give ’em a piece of meat, real meat,’ ” meaning spending cuts. “And boy, the blood bath will be extraordinary,” he continued. Think of Mr. Simpson’s blood lust as one more piece of evidence that our nation is in much worse shape, much closer to a political breakdown, than most people realize. . . .

How does this end? Mr. Obama is still talking about bipartisan outreach, and maybe if he caves in sufficiently he can avoid a federal shutdown this spring. But any respite would be only temporary; again, the G.O.P. is just not interested in helping a Democrat govern.

My sense is that most Americans still don’t understand this reality. They still imagine that when push comes to shove, our politicians will come together to do what’s necessary. But that was another country.

It’s hard to see how this situation is resolved without a major crisis of some kind. Mr. Simpson may or may not get the blood bath he craves this April, but there will be blood sooner or later. And we can only hope that the nation that emerges from that blood bath is still one we recognize.

paradox: Still Afraid of the Underwear Bomber

Ahhhh, an excellent political knifing on a Monday morning sure does a soul good, so richly deserved, so pithily done. Paul Krugman performs the necessary task on President Obama for this absolutely horrifying and offensive Catfood Commission, led by bloodthirsty Alan Simpson.

In 2009 we desperately needed another stimulus twice as large as the failure brokered in 2008, but instead we got an administration completely cowed and bullied by media chumps and political losers that the deficit was now the greatest threat ever. How convenient such claims of vast hypocrisy stopped any more spending for the little people, how noble and brave to pass off responsibility for stopping this offensive political insanity to a commission. . . .

I hear the White House is worried about Independent voters. At this point I seriously wonder if this insanity, belittling and constant losing to chump Republicans could possibly be worth it to the Party, I’m not voting for Alan Simpson enablers, I just can’t.

Perhaps it’s time to let history write what happens when one so ludicrously abandons base, Party and enshrined principles and programs. Perhaps it’s time for a President to know my vote is nowhere near automatic, one cannot insult and abuse me forever, I won’t put up with it.

Is that an ego-based immaturity? I didn’t get my way or what I see to be true, so I stomp off?

We shall see, so far liberals have received nothing from Obama, and we never demanded perfection. Perhaps it’s better to lose in one term and get it over with so we can try again in 2016. After enough mornings of Alan Simpson Obama politics I seriously do not see why losing is so bad given the benefits, I really don’t.

Your Fraud Update

You may be reading news about the FBI investigating insider trading and think that this is somehow an indication of action against the banksters.

Don’t delude yourself.

Madoff is not Wall Street (though it’s all a Ponzi scheme looking for new suckers at this point) and the people being targeted are by all indications low level employees.

My uncle was a Vice President on the Bond Trading desk and you know what that got him?  A Corner Carrel with a view of the window.  He still had to smoke on the street 20 floors below.

dday’s piece about TITLE FRAUD! is much more significant.

Deposition: Countrywide Never Sent Mortgage Notes to Trust; Mortgage-Backed Securities in Question

By: David Dayen Sunday November 21, 2010 12:01 pm

Now we have documented evidence, beyond anecdote, that Countrywide, one of the largest subprime lenders, which securitized almost all of the loans they made, never sent the notes to the trust. In a deposition provided to a US Bankruptcy Court in the District of New Jersey, Linda DeMartini, a supervisor for Bank of America Home Loans (BofA bought Countrywide in 2008), admitted that the original notes never transferred from Countrywide into the trusts.

Well, this is a multi-Trillion problem for your balance sheets because you just broke your contract with PIMCO, Blackrock, and The Federal Reserve Bank of New York (among other minor players).

The entire court document is below.

CASE FILE New Jersey Admissions in Testimony Notes Never Sent to Trusts Kemp v Country Wide

This is an enormous deal. If Countrywide never gave up possession of the note, then the trust has no standing to foreclose whatsoever. It also means that investors in the MBS don’t actually have securities backed by mortgages. The “allonge” appears to be an effort to clear up this situation, and it was signed years after the fact, well past the deadline of the pooling and servicing agreement, and not even affixed to the note as required by law.

This is a deposition from one supervisor, but it could mean that all mortgage pools that Countrywide sold are suspect. That would amount to perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars in MBS. And the law appears to be air-tight on this, and not governed by the Constitution but New York trust law and the specifics of the pooling and servicing agreement.

Now, tell me again how the banks are planning to get out of this.


Conflicting Interests

Monday Business Edition

This is not an easy story to tell in other’s words, so you’ll have to rely on mine.  I’m not an economist.

You’ll read today that Ireland has accepted a bailout.  They’ll get from 30 to 100 Billion Euros from the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund (which includes the U.S), Sweden, and Britain (with minor chunks from others).  In return for that they’re accepting an austerity plan that includes things like-

Middle class Irish families face the loss of tax credits and low paid workers, totalling 50 per cent of the labour force, will start to pay taxes for the first time.

Ireland’s minimum wage is to be cut 13 per cent and all Irish households face a new £257 property tax from 2012. Welfare payments, including jobseekers allowance and child benefit, will be cut five per cent.

As well as the steep tax increases, the EU has demanded extra public sector job cuts with a demand to cut the Irish civil service by 28,000 between 2011 and 2014.

The job cuts are double the level the Irish has agreed with trade unions and are expected to fuel protests and strikes. A trade union demonstration, predicted to be the biggest in decades, will take place in Dublin on Saturday.

As you might imagine, this is not very popular with the voters on whom politicians depend for their phony baloney jobs-

Irish ministers are so concerned over protests that austerity plans to cut chauffeur driven cars and police outriders have been shelved to protect the government amid heightened post-EU bail-out security.

Support for Fianna Fail, Ireland’s ruling party, has collapsed to 17 per cent the lowest level in 88-year history of the Irish Republic as pressure to hold a general election builds, threatening to plunge the country into more chaos.

What’s not changing, yet?  Corporate Tax Rates.

Corporate tax in Ireland is 12.5 per cent, compared to 34 per cent in France, 30 per cent in Germany and 28 per cent in Britain and the policy is credited with attracting over 1,000 multinational companies such as Google and Pfizer to Ireland.

Now, why is a bailout of Ireland ‘necessary’ at all?  Well, to prevent senior ‘secured’ creditors from having to take a haircut in the form of simply defaulting on the debt or alternatively converting it to equity and then having its market value drop to zero.  In this case senior ‘secured’ creditors means the ECB (European Central Bank) and the Central Banks of France and Germany (British banks also have major exposure).

In fact the total exposure of France, Germany, and the other members of the ‘Eurozone’ to the failed and insolvent banks of Portugal, Spain, and Italy (the next dominoes in the inevitable demise of the Euro) makes them insolvent should they have to mark their assets to market instead of the delusional values they’re now claiming on their books.  This has major political ramifications for the Very Serious People who have guided State Policy in the direction of a European Common Currency and a European Political Union for over 50 years now.

It exposes them as idiots.

What are the lessons to be taken away?  For one thing I invite comparison to the recommendations of the Catfood Commission, especially their insistence on imposing additional burdens on the middle class and the poor while cutting taxes on Corporations and the rich.

Trickle Down Supply Side Economics is a failure.  There is absolutely no evidence at all that it works.  Deregulation is equally a failure, Ireland was the Texas of Europe- a wild wild west.  As it turns out Texas was the biggest failure of Ronald Wilson Reagan’s Savings and Loan bubble, followed closely by other ‘Red’ states like Oklahoma that are smaller but experienced higher per capita losses.

Politicians, particularly Democrats, who support these policies are going to lose their phony baloney jobs.  This includes Barack Hussein Obama.  Street protests like you’ve seen in Europe are not our style, but as we saw in 2010 we voted for change and we’ll keep voting until we get it.

Republicans realize this which is why their goal is to block economic progress and hope that the disaffected vote either goes their way or stays home.  There is no reason to vote for a Democrat to enact Republican policies.

If Bloomberg runs in 2012 he’ll be much more successful than Ross Perot.

Business News below.

On This Day in History: November 22

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

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 22 is the 326th day of the year (327th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 39 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1990, Margaret Thatcher, the first woman prime minister in British history, announces her resignation after 11 years in Britain’s top office.

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS (born 13 October 1925) served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. Thatcher is the only woman to have held either post.

Born in Grantham in Lincolnshire, United Kingdom, Thatcher went to school at Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School in Grantham, where she was head girl in 1942-43. She read chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford and later trained as a barrister. She won a seat in the 1959 general election, becoming the MP for Finchley as a Conservative. When Edward Heath formed a government in 1970, he appointed Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science. Four years later, she backed Keith Joseph in his bid to become Conservative Party leader but he was forced to drop out of the election. In 1975 Thatcher entered the contest herself and became leader of the Conservative Party. At the 1979 general election she became Britain’s first female Prime Minister.

In her foreword to the 1979 Conservative manifesto, Thatcher wrote of “a feeling of helplessness, that a once great nation has somehow fallen behind.” She entered 10 Downing Street determined to reverse what she perceived as a precipitate national decline. Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation, particularly of the financial sector, flexible labour markets, and the selling off and closing down of state owned companies and withdrawing subsidy to others. Amid a recession and high unemployment, Thatcher’s popularity declined, though economic recovery and the 1982 Falklands War brought a resurgence of support and she was re-elected in 1983. She took a hard line against trade unions, survived the Brighton hotel bombing assassination attempt and opposed the Soviet Union (her tough-talking rhetoric gained her the nickname the “Iron Lady”); she was re-elected for an unprecedented third term in 1987. The following years would prove difficult, as her Poll tax plan was largely unpopular, and her views regarding the European Community were not shared by others in her Cabinet. She resigned as Prime Minister in November 1990 after Michael Heseltine’s challenge to her leadership of the Conservative Party.

Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister was the longest since that of Lord Salisbury and the longest continuous period in office since Lord Liverpool in the early 19th century. She was the first woman to lead a major political party in the United Kingdom, and the first of only four women to hold any of the four great offices of state. She holds a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher, of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire, which entitles her to sit in the House of Lords.

Morning Shinbun Monday November 22

Monday’s Headlines:

Carbon emissions set to be highest in history


Administration to Seek Balance in Airport Screening

‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ to be released day earlier than planned


IMF and EU bail out Ireland amid fears of Eurozone contagion

Villepin backs ‘Karachigate’ claims against Sarkozy

Middle East

No return to Middle East talks without halt to settlement construction, warns Abbas

Israeli troops guilty of Gaza abuse


New Zealand mine explosion: ‘Every chance’ miners are still alive, says PM

Film executive quits Hollywood to help Cambodia’s poor


New twist in SA’s Aids war

Uganda’s salt miners dying for a climate change deal

High-seas piracy drama plays out in U.S. courtroom

Five Somalis accused of attacking a Navy ship await their fate in the first such trial in almost 200 years.

By Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Norfolk, Va. –

The moon was bright, the sea was calm, and the pirates easily spotted their prey – a large gray ship plodding through waves 576 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia.

Three men jumped from a command boat into an open skiff and raced toward the target. They opened fire with AK-47 rifles as they neared the starboard side, hitting a mast and several life lines.

No one was hurt, and the April 1 incident normally might have drawn little notice. Somali sea bandits have attacked several hundred freighters, tankers and other merchant ships this year. They have successfully hijacked 40 vessels and their crews and held them for ransom..

My Views from Last Week

Posted at DKos as “Just Looking.”

I have a few pleasant photography stories to tell from a week ago. Between the autumn color and the desperation of one last warm weather week, it was a good week for a photo buff. Now don’t go busting my bubble by just looking at the photos because you can learn a lot from a photographer. We see things.

Below you will find a Third Rock from the Sun brief encounter during an evening walk in the Village. I have several memories from a lecture I attended on photojournalism. There is a pleasant Veterans Day walk under the George Washington Bridge on the New Jersey side followed by a sunset from the New York side. Then a Friday afternoon walk in Central Park with some music videos I made and all day Saturday there too. There is even a little taste of Florence, Italy.

Pique the Geek: An Analytical Treatment of “Small Business” Tax Increases 20101121

The concept of “small business” being damaged by increasing the progressive tax rates on what is purported to be them has not been presented correctly.  Keith Olbermann did a pretty good job a couple of weeks ago, but since his show is necessarily fast paced, the point did not make its mark as well as it might have done so.

That is no criticism towards him, because he is one of the “good guys”, but on a TeeVee show there is just not time enough to examine all of the documents that need some detailed explanation.  It he were to go into the detail that we are about to find, his show would be canceled for being extremely boring.

That is the one advantage that I have.  I can show exactly where the fallacies lie, without the restriction of a three minute treatment.  I will admit that he does indeed have a face for TeeVee, and I have one for blogs or radio.

Prime Time

Amazing Race.  Giants @ Eagles (I undestand my local team is in a sporting contest).  New Simpsons, Cleveland, Family Guy, American Dad.  More premiers.  Awards (ugh).

71 – 51 over Georgia Tech.  81 and counting.


Fourth Season Finale of The Venture Brothers, 1 hour special Operation P.R.O.M.

This season’s summaries-

Zap2it TV Listings, Yahoo TV Listings

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 World leaders scramble for funds to save the tiger

by Olga Nedbayeva, AFP

Sun Nov 21, 11:18 am ET

SAINT PETERSBURG (AFP) – World leaders sought Sunday to come up with the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to save the tiger from extinction and double the big cat’s numbers by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.

Russian prime minister and self-proclaimed animal lover Vladimir Putin opened his native city to the world’s first gathering of leaders from 13 nations where the tiger’s free rein has been squeezed ever-tighter by poachers.

“This is an unprecedented gathering of world leaders (that aims) to double the number of tigers,” Jim Adams, vice president for the East Asia and Pacific Region at the World Bank, said at the opening ceremony of the four-day event.