12/02/2010 archive

Good for us

Liberal groups blast Obama for considering tax compromise

By Perry Bacon Jr., Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, December 2, 2010; 10:50 AM

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal group that has repeatedly attacked President Obama on the left, is airing an ad demanding that he not agree to any compromise with the GOP that would extend tax cuts for household incomes above $250,000 a year.

The spot is called “Obama Promised,” and the group says it will air on CNN and MSNBC and on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central over the next few days. It shows Obama in 2007 declaring that “we will also allow the temporary Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire.”

Meanwhile, Moveon.Org has its own new ad, titled “Obama Back,” which in cludes a video montage from Americans all over the country urging the president not to compromise.

“MoveOn members worked countless hours to help elect President Obama so we would have a leader who would go to the mat for regular Americans,” said Justin Ruben, Executive Director of MoveOn.org. “…We need the Obama of 2008 back to lead the fight and make the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.”

Lefty group running ad slamming Obama — in Iowa

By Greg Sargent, The Washington Post

Posted at 11:01 AM ET, 12/ 2/2010

This means actual voters will see the spot, the first hitting Obama from the left of the new cycle. Iowa has special significance, because it’s there that Obama made his 2007 campaign promise to let the tax cuts for the wealthy expire, which is the centerpiece of the ad. The spot demands that Obama stick to his promise and not “cave” to Republicans by extending the tax cuts for the rich.

“We’re bringing our ad to the place President Obama made his core campaign promise of letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire,” Green tells me. “There is no room for compromise on an issue where the promise is so clear and where the Republicans are standing with the wealthiest 2% of Americans against the entirety of the American people.”

Between this spot and the new one unveiled this morning by MoveOn, it’s clear that the left has settled on a strategy of actively trying to damage Obama politically with the base and with left-leaning independents by painting him as weak, to force him to draw a harder line against Republicans. The left, clearly, has no intention of stopping with these efforts.

Surely some will insist that it only helps Obama to be attacked from the left. But efforts to encourage the perception that Obama is weak and refuses to fight — which is gaining some traction with the mainstream media, whether fair or not — could very well damage Obama politically over the long term. And the White House will probably have to deal with it sooner or later.

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”.

Bill Clinton: We need to save more lives – with less

We risk losing our momentum, unless we find new ways to fill gaps left by reductions in Aids funding caused by the economic crisis

On World Aids Day 10 years ago, as I was preparing to leave office, the world was only beginning to grasp the severity of the Aids crisis. Nearly 36 million men, women and children were living with the disease, but only about 200,000 were receiving the treatment they needed. Funding was nowhere near the levels needed to prevent the disease from reaching pandemic levels.

Over the last decade, we have seen dramatic progress in both treatment and funding. In 2008 alone, $15bn was invested to fight Aids in developing countries, up from $6bn just three years earlier, due in large part to the US Government’s PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief) programme.

Josh Silver: FCC Chairman Announces Fake Net Neutrality Proposal

This morning, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced that he will finally seek a vote on President Obama’s top tech issue, “Net Neutrality.” Except for one problem: according to the New York Times, it’s not even close to the real Net Neutrality that President Obama promised the American people.

The Times report, based on an advance copy of a speech the Chairman plans to give today, indicates that the proposed rule is riddled with loopholes, and falls far short of what’s necessary to prevent phone and cable companies from turning the Internet into cable TV: where they decide what moves fast, what moves slow, and whether they can price gouge you or not: a shiny jewel for companies like AT&T and Comcast who have met with the Chairman more than anyone else during the past month, and whose affection he seems to crave more than making good on President Obama’s promise.

Now that the FCC’s proposed rulemaking has been officially announced, it will be deliberated and modified for the next three weeks, leading to a final vote on December 21st.

Nicholas D. Kristof: Haiti, Nearly a Year Later

Ultimately what Haiti most needs isn’t so much aid, but trade. Aid accounts for half of Haiti’s economy, and remittances for another quarter – and that’s a path to nowhere.

The United States has approved trade preferences that have already created 6,000 jobs in the garment sector in Haiti, and several big South Korean companies are now planning to open their own factories, creating perhaps another 130,000 jobs.

“Sweatshops,” Americans may be thinking. “Jobs,” Haitians are thinking, and nothing would be more transformative for the country.

Let’s send in doctors to save people from cholera. Let’s send in aid workers to build sustainable sanitation and water systems to help people help themselves. Let’s help educate Haitian children and improve the port so that it can become an exporter. But, above all, let’s send in business investors to create jobs.

Obstruction of Justice

Obama and GOPers Worked Together to Kill Bush Torture Probe

By David Corn, Mother Jones

Wed Dec. 1, 2010 2:47 PM PST

In its first months in office, the Obama administration sought to protect Bush administration officials facing criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies the that governed interrogations of detained terrorist suspects. A “confidential” April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid to the State Department-one of the 251,287 cables obtained by WikiLeaks-details how the Obama administration, working with Republicans, leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.

It would still be up to investigating Judge Baltasar Garzón-a world-renowned jurist who had initiated previous prosecutions of war crimes and had publicly said that former President George W. Bush ought to be tried for war crimes-to decide whether to pursue the case against the six former Bush officials. That June-coincidentally or not-the Spanish Parliament passed legislation narrowing the use of “universal jurisdiction.” Still, in September 2009, Judge Garzón pushed ahead with the case.

The case eventually came to be overseen by another judge who last spring asked the parties behind the complaint to explain why the investigation should continue. Several human rights groups filed a brief urging this judge to keep the case alive, citing the Obama administration’s failure to prosecute the Bush officials. Since then, there’s been no action. The Obama administration essentially got what it wanted. The case of the Bush Six went away.

Back when it seemed that this case could become a major international issue, during an April 14, 2009, White House briefing, I asked press secretary Robert Gibbs if the Obama administration would cooperate with any request from the Spaniards for information and documents related to the Bush Six. He said, “I don’t want to get involved in hypotheticals.” What he didn’t disclose was that the Obama administration, working with Republicans, was actively pressuring the Spaniards to drop the investigation. Those efforts apparently paid off, and, as this WikiLeaks-released cable shows, Gonzales, Haynes, Feith, Bybee, Addington, and Yoo owed Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thank-you notes.

Another perspective-

The Madrid Cables

By Scott Horton, Harper’s Magazine

December 1, 3:51 PM, 2010

These cables reveal a large-scale, closely coordinated effort by the State Department to obstruct these criminal investigations. High-ranking U.S. visitors such as former Republican Party Chair Mel Martinez, Senator Greg Judd, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano were corralled into this effort, warning Spanish political leaders that the criminal investigations would “be misunderstood” and would harm bilateral relations. The U.S. diplomats also sought out and communicated directly with judges and prosecutors, attempting to steer the cases into the hands of judges of their choosing. The cables also reflect an absolutely extraordinary rapport between the Madrid embassy and Spanish prosecutors, who repeatedly appear to be doing the embassy’s bidding.

The cables also reflect a high level of concern at the prospect that Spanish and German prosecutors-both looking at aspects of the kidnapping and torture of Khaled El-Masri-would share notes and begin taking action. In fact exactly this sort of cooperation occurred (as it has occurred between Spanish, German, and Italian prosecutors in several other cases involving the CIA extraordinary rendition program), and U.S. concerns that it would block their efforts were proven correct. After political pressure was applied to Germany to withdraw the arrest warrants, they were simply reissued by the Spanish magistrates, who were better shielded against political manipulation.

When you’ve lost Howard Fineman…

Obama’s Naivete on Bipartisanship Has Finally Caught Up to Him

Howard Fineman, Senior Political Editor, The Huffington Post

Posted: December 1, 2010 01:37 PM

On the Hill yesterday, GOP aides privately could barely contain their contempt — and their amusement — at the president’s declaration of a dawn of bipartisan optimism.

They know that Obama already in effect has conceded on a two- or three-year extension of all tax cuts, and they are going to insist on that before considering anything else — which, in the end, they won’t.

Barack Obama and his crew have many good qualities. But that list does not include skill and guts at legislative combat with Republicans. They don’t seem to really know the enemy or the game they are in, and the president’s meager and glancing experience in the trenches of politics has caught up with him.

The Federal Reserve Fleecing of America

$3.3 TRILLION went to purchase junk mortgage bonds from Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse, the two largest European banks, but there is no money to help out long term unemployed Americans. When you hear about how the banks have repaid the $750 million that was loaned to the large American banks and financial services, ask when that $3.3 TRILLION will be paid back to reduce the deficit and stimulate the American economy.

This is why Bernanke opposed the Federal Reserve Audit:

Fed Opens Books, Revealing European Megabanks Were Biggest Beneficiaries by Shahien Nasiripour at Huffington Post

NEW YORK — The Federal Reserve on Wednesday reluctantly opened the books on its monumental campaign to save the financial system in the midst of the recent crisis, revealing how it distributed some $3.3 trillion in relief.

The data revealed that the Fed’s aid was scattered much more widely than previously understood. Two European megabanks — Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse — were the largest beneficiaries of the Fed’s purchase of mortgage-backed securities. The Fed’s dollars also flowed to major American companies that are not financial players, including McDonald’s and Harley-Davidson, through unsecured short-term loans.

The measure, initiated in Jan. 2009 to stimulate the flow of credit and keep household borrowing costs low, led the nation’s central bank to purchase more than $1.1 trillion in mortgages packaged into the form of securities. The mortgage bonds are backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the twin mortgage giants now owned by taxpayers.

Deutsche Bank, a German lender, has sold the Fed more than $290 billion worth of mortgage securities, Fed data through July shows. Credit Suisse, a Swiss bank, sold the Fed more than $287 billion in mortgage bonds.

The data had previously been secret. It was released Wednesday per the recently-enacted law overhauling the federal financial regulation. The Fed, ferociously backed by the Obama administration, fought lawmakers’ desire for full disclosure throughout the financial reform debate.

(emphasis mine)

Cenk Uygur reveals the key points of what has been revealed so far.

On This Day in History: December 2

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.

December 2 is the 336th day of the year (337th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 29 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 2001, Enron filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a New York court, sparking one of the largest corporate scandals in U.S. history.

An energy-trading company based in Houston, Texas, Enron was formed in 1985 as the merger of two gas companies, Houston Natural Gas and Internorth. Under chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay, Enron rose as high as number seven on Fortune magazine’s list of the top 500 U.S. companies. In 2000, the company employed 21,000 people and posted revenue of $111 billion. Over the next year, however, Enron’s stock price began a dramatic slide, dropping from $90.75 in August 2000 to $0.26 by closing on November 30, 2001.

As prices fell, Lay sold large amounts of his Enron stock, while simultaneously encouraging Enron employees to buy more shares and assuring them that the company was on the rebound. Employees saw their retirement savings accounts wiped out as Enron’s stock price continued to plummet. After another energy company, Dynegy, canceled a planned $8.4 billion buy-out in late November, Enron filed for bankruptcy. By the end of the year, Enron’s collapse had cost investors billions of dollars, wiped out some 5,600 jobs and liquidated almost $2.1 billion in pension plans.

Accounting practices

Enron had created offshore entities, units which may be used for planning and avoidance of taxes, raising the profitability of a business. This provided ownership and management with full freedom of currency movement and the anonymity that allowed the company to hide losses. These entities made Enron look more profitable than it actually was, and created a dangerous spiral, in which each quarter, corporate officers would have to perform more and more contorted financial deception to create the illusion of billions in profits while the company was actually losing money. This practice drove up their stock price to new levels, at which point the executives began to work on insider information and trade millions of dollars worth of Enron stock. The executives and insiders at Enron knew about the offshore accounts that were hiding losses for the company; however, the investors knew nothing of this. Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow led the team which created the off-books companies, and manipulated the deals to provide himself, his family, and his friends with hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed revenue, at the expense of the corporation for which he worked and its stockholders.

In 1999, Enron launched EnronOnline, an Internet-based trading operation, which was used by virtually every energy company in the United States. Enron president and chief operating officer Jeffrey Skilling began advocating a novel idea: the company didn’t really need any “assets.” By pushing the company’s aggressive investment strategy, he helped make Enron the biggest wholesaler of gas and electricity, trading over $27 billion per quarter. The firm’s figures, however, had to be accepted at face value. Under Skilling, Enron adopted mark to market accounting, in which anticipated future profits from any deal were tabulated as if real today. Thus, Enron could record gains from what over time might turn out to be losses, as the company’s fiscal health became secondary to manipulating its stock price on Wall Street during the Tech boom. But when a company’s success is measured by agreeable financial statements emerging from a black box, a term Skilling himself admitted, actual balance sheets prove inconvenient. Indeed, Enron’s unscrupulous actions were often gambles to keep the deception going and so push up the stock price, which was posted daily in the company elevator. An advancing number meant a continued infusion of investor capital on which debt-ridden Enron in large part subsisted. Its fall would collapse the house of cards. Under pressure to maintain the illusion, Skilling verbally attacked Wall Street Analyst Richard Grubman, who questioned Enron’s unusual accounting practice during a recorded conference call. When Grubman complained that Enron was the only company that could not release a balance sheet along with its earnings statements, Skilling replied “Well, thank you very much, we appreciate that . . . asshole.” Though the comment was met with dismay and astonishment by press and public, it became an inside joke among many Enron employees, mocking Grubman for his perceived meddling rather than Skilling’s lack of tact. When asked during his trial, Skilling wholeheartedly admitted that industrial dominance and abuse was a global problem: “Oh yes, yes sure, it is.”

Morning Shinbun Thursday December 2

Thursday’s Headlines:

Manga, hip hop and high fashion: The world of Takashi Murakami


Chicago takes wrecking ball to its final tower of violence

Accused whistleblower ‘just wanted to live a normal life’


Wikileaks: Russia branded ‘mafia state’ in recent cable

Ségolène Royal’s presidential announcement throws French Socialists into disarray

Middle East

US papers twist Iranian missile tale

Mubarak party’s landslide election win leaves a bitter taste


Karzai brothers risk wrath of US over release of Taliban fighters

Pakistan stares into a valley of death


Farms destined for poor went to Mugabe loyalists

Nigerian troops attack camps, rebels say scores killed

Latin America

Cartel arrests fail to curb drug trade

Fed aid in financial crisis went beyond U.S. banks to industry, foreign firms

By Jia Lynn Yang, Neil Irwin and David S. Hilzenrath

Washington Post Staff Writers

Thursday, December 2, 2010; 12:15 AM

The financial crisis stretched even farther across the economy than many had realized, as new disclosures show the Federal Reserve rushed trillions of dollars in emergency aid not just to Wall Street but also to motorcycle makers, telecom firms and foreign-owned banks in 2008 and 2009. The Fed’s efforts to prop up the financial sector reached across a broad spectrum of the economy, benefiting stalwarts of American industry including General Electric and Caterpillar and household-name companies such as Verizon, Harley-Davidson and Toyota. The central bank’s aid programs also supported U.S. subsidiaries of banks based in East Asia, Europe and Canada while rescuing money-market mutual funds held by millions of Americans.

The First Night of Hanukkah


The Hanukkah Story

In 168 B.C.E. the Jewish Temple was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers and dedicated to the worship of the god Zeus. This upset the Jewish people, but many were afraid to fight back for fear of reprisals. Then in 167 B.C.E. the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus made the observance of Judaism an offense punishable by death. He also ordered all Jews to worship Greek gods.

Jewish resistance began in the village of Modiin, near Jerusalem. Greek soldiers forcibly gathered the Jewish villages and told them to bow down to an idol, then eat the flesh of a pig – both practices that are forbidden to Jews. A Greek officer ordered Mattathias, a High Priest, to acquiesce to their demands, but Mattathias refused. When another villager stepped forward and offered to cooperate on Mattathias’ behalf, the High Priest became outraged. He drew his sword and killed the villager, then turned on the Greek officer and killed him too. His five sons and the other villagers then attacked the remaining soldiers, killing all of them.

Mattathias and his family went into hiding in the mountains, where other Jews wishing to fight against the Greeks joined them. Eventually they succeeded in retaking their land from the Greeks. These rebels became known as the Maccabees, or Hasmoneans.

Once the Maccabees had regained control they returned to the Temple in Jerusalem. By this time it had been spiritually defiled by being used for the worship of foreign gods and also by practices such as sacrificing swine. Jewish troops were determined to purify the Temple by burning ritual oil in the Temple’s menorah for eight days. But to their dismay, they discovered that there was only one day’s worth of oil left in the Temple. They lit the menorah anyway and to their surprise the small amount of oil lasted the full eight days.

This is the miracle of the Hanukkah oil that is celebrated every year when Jews light a special menorah known as a hanukkiyah for eight days. One candle is lit on the first night of Hanukkah, two on the second, and so on, until eight candles are lit.

“I Think We Elected a Republican”

David Dayen @ FDL:

We’ve officially gone around the bend.

OFA Tries to Get Supporters to Write Letters to the Editor Praising a Federal Worker Pay Freeze

From Gaius Publius at AMERICAblog

The Fix is in on tax cuts.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Everybody in the city knows that the president has essentially agreed to accept a two- or three-year extension of tax cuts for all Americans, including the wealthiest.

It seems that this [working] group [with senators and Tim Geithner, etc.] is designed to come to the conclusion that they know they’re already supposed to come to and then give it back to the president.

The Republicans are going to make a big show of being reasonable by reluctantly giving up on their desire to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest into infinity. And they’re going to be the reasonable ones here, so they’re going to claim, by just agreeing to two or three years. And the president’s going to accept it.

And how do we know we are being sold out by this Republican in Democratic garb?  Just take a look who Obama has sent to negotiate the terms of surrender.

Obama Appoints Geithner, Lew to Seek Tax Deal With GOP

However, in one sign of action, Obama said he appointed Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and budget director Jack Lew to work with congressional Republicans and Democrats to come up with a deal on taxes in the next couple of days.

If no agreement is reached before Congress breaks for the holidays, taxes on all Americans would increase, a new year shocker that would increase pressure on Washington to act.

Immediately following the meeting, congressional Republicans said the discussion with President Barack Obama was a positive one in which both sides agreed to spend more time working together and finding common ground on tax and other tough issues.

The majority of Americans are so screwed.

Prime Time

Broadcast?  Feh.  Not much on cable either.  You could read a book or take a nap.

If you could’ve found out what Rosebud meant, I bet that would’ve explained everything.

No, I don’t think so; no. Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted and then lost it. Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn’t get, or something he lost. Anyway, it wouldn’t have explained anything… I don’t think any word can explain a man’s life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a… piece in a jigsaw puzzle… a missing piece.


Dave in repeats (11/18).  Jon has Sting, Stephen Michelle Rhee (ugh).  Conan hosts Joel McHale, Tim Gunn, and Cake.

BoondocksBitches to Rags.

As Charles Foster Kane who owns eighty-two thousand, six hundred and thirty-four shares of public transit – you see, I do have a general idea of my holdings – I sympathize with you. Charles Foster Kane is a scoundrel. His paper should be run out of town. A committee should be formed to boycott him. You may, if you can form such a committee, put me down for a contribution of one thousand dollars.

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