Daily Archive: 04/27/2011

Apr 27 2011

Bernanke Press Conference Open Thread

I’m not even sure I’ll watch it because I’m sure I won’t understand most of it.  While fluent in C and Basic I don’t understand Fedese (if there is indeed any understanding of it and it’s not just insincere shamen babbling nonsense in tongues to confuse and impress the ignorant).

Clearly Samuelson economics works and in the words of Krugman (who only has a Nobel Prize in Economics)-

(R)ight now, we’re living in a world in which basic economics points to conclusions utterly at odds with what Very Serious People are supposed to believe, in which radical outsiders base their views on standard economics while orthodox types turn to heterodox, highly dubious speculations.

Econ 101, buttressed if you like by fancier New Keynesian models, says that contractionary fiscal policy is, well, contractionary. Yet much of the world of movers and shakers bought into the exotic notion that expectational effects – the confidence fairy – would make contractionary policy expansionary. And they clung to this belief even as the supposed historical evidence in favor of expansionary austerity was thoroughly debunked.

The blogosphere is full of intellegent questions that will never be asked but my favorite so far was propounded by Sen. Bernie Sanders (via dday).

Sanders’ report found-

(N)umerous instances during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 when banks took near zero-interest funds from the Federal Reserve and then loaned money back to the federal government on sweetheart terms for the banks.

The banks pocketed interest on government securities that paid rates up to 12 times greater than the Fed’s rock bottom interest charges.



“This report confirms that ultra-low interest loans provided by the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis turned out to be direct corporate welfare to big banks,” Sanders said. “Instead of using the Fed loans to reinvest in the economy, some of the largest financial institutions in this country appear to have lent this money back to the federal government at a higher rate of interest by purchasing U.S. government securities.”

Chairman Bernanke, in light of this report, do you consider it good policy for the US to hand over money to the nation’s largest banks directly through this kind of scheme? Would it make just as much sense, if you find it good for the economy, to make the same investment strategy available to small businesses, states or the US government itself to deal with their budget problems? After all, it would take a true idiot not to make fantastic amounts of money if they can borrow at zero and loan money back at high rates. Why should individuals be deprived of this money-conjuring strategy?

Furthermore, shouldn’t those profits, rather than boosting the balance sheets of the large banks, have been put back into the economy? Shouldn’t that have been a condition of the direct subsidy?

I dare someone to ask that.

Anyway, your questions and reactions below and hopefully by tomorrow we’ll have some idea of what Bernanke actually said.

Apr 27 2011

9/11 First Responders Bill: Not Quite Right

Jon Stewart, who was so influential for getting the 9/11 First Responders Health Bill passed, found a major in the bill, put there by the GOP with the blessings of the Democrats. They really do hate the 9/11 First Responders.

Jon Stewart On Congress’ ‘Final Kick To The Nuts’ Of 9/11 First Responders

Jon Stewart tonight tackled the absurdity of a provision in the recently passed 9/11 first responders bill that requires any potential beneficiaries to first have their name run through the FBI’s terrorism watch list before they could collect any money. Some commentators described it as “adding insult to injury,” but Stewart more bluntly called it Congress’ “final kick to the nuts” of the first responders.

Transcripts for these videos can be read in this diary by Bruinkid at Daily Kos

Apr 27 2011

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”

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day. Scroll down for the gentlemen,

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Why Afghanistan could upend Obama’s reelection strategy

The outlines of President Obama’s reelection strategy are becoming more distinct. He’ll bet that the faltering recovery has enough momentum to sell, particularly to college-educated suburban independents. He’ll find a way to cut a deal with Republicans on deficits that doesn’t completely derail the recovery.

At the same time, he’ll draw bright lines to defend largely social issues that appeal to both his base and to independents – ending “don’t ask, don’t tell”; defending Planned Parenthood and family planning; protecting the environment. He’ll contrast Republican promises for more tax cuts to the rich with his plan to invest in areas vital to our future – education, innovation, infrastructure.

But in addition to the economy, the disastrous war in Afghanistan threatens to upend this game plan.

Laura Flanders: Oil Prices: Gouge Us Baby One More Time

Gas prices have been edging up since February, reaching $4 a gallon this Easter, and Republicans are gearing up to make a stink about it.

To blame Democrats, that is, for setting things up this way. Blaming green energy initiatives for driving up prices, House Republicans are planning to hold hearings on a slurry of bills aimed at expanding domestic oil production in response to high gasoline prices. Even the president admits gas prices effect his standing in the polls.

But it should be easy enough to fight back. While the five biggest oil companies report historically high profit earnings, the same GOP that would slash juice programs for poor kids in school stands firm for federal subsidies for big oil.

Amanda Marcotte:  The Authoritarian Agenda Behind Attacks on Contraception

In a recent piece for the American Prospect, Sarah Posner outlined how the fringe of the religious right increasingly dictates the larger conservative agenda, as evidenced by the bold Republican push towards open war on contraception.  Sarah writes about the reason for the attacks on Planned Parenthood:

   It is not solely about shutting down Planned Parenthood’s federal funding because the organization provides abortion services (indeed federal funding of abortion is already banned by the Hyde Amendment). It’s about shutting down Planned Parenthood because it provides contraceptives. That is a target because, as Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has put it, “an arrogant corrupt Washington elite” has “declared war on marriage, on families, on fertility, and on faith.”

Mike Huckabee has started to join the chorus of anti-contraception voices as well, calling Planned Parenthood “Planned Barrenhood”—basically signing off on the idea that any attempt to control fertility is wrong, no matter how you do it.  While the official argument is that this is still just about abortion, the mask slips more and more all the time, and the public is beginning to be clear about how radical the anti-choice agenda really is. And the thing is that when you drop the bloviating about fetal life and attack contraception head on, it’s much harder to distract people from how viciously misogynistic this agenda really is.

Joan Walsh: Haley Barbour’s neo-Southern strategy fails

Maybe America isn’t ready for a president who claims Mississippi racism wasn’t “that bad”

Only a few hours after the Washington Post reported that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was less than a week from his declared deadline to make a decision, “and most expect him to run,” Barbour announced the opposite. “I will not be a candidate for president next year,” the Republican said in a statement Monday. “A candidate for president today is embracing a ten-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else. His (or her) supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate. I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required.”

In a primary field still crowded with people who will never be president, Barbour’s departure is nonetheless good and bracing news. Late last year, the man from Yazoo City floated a new Southern strategy in what was probably intended as a positive Weekly Standard profile, and it went nowhere. Barbour told the Standard that racism in his hometown wasn’t “that bad,” and praised the local chapter of the notorious White Citizens Council for policing the Ku Klux Klan; later he refused the state NAACP’s request that he denounce efforts to issue a state license plate to honor KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest. I said at the time that Barbour’s Weekly Standard comments weren’t a gaffe, but a trial balloon for politics in post-Obama America: C’mon, isn’t everybody sick of all the whining about racism? It wasn’t that bad!

Dean Baker: What We’re Not Being Told About Paul Ryan’s Medicare Plan

The mainstream media has failed to report that the Ryan plan is a privatisation programme that will hand $30tn to insurers

The film Casablanca features one of greatest moments in movie history. With Humphrey Bogart standing with a smoking pistol over the body of the dead Gestapo major, Claude Rains, in the role of the French colonel, tells his troops: “the major has been shot, round up the usual suspects.”

Unfortunately, the Washington policy gang is busy following Claude Rains’ instructions. The nation is drowning in endless accounts of how the huge deficit will sink the economy and the country. These accounts invariably feature stories of a Congress addicted to spending and a nation that wants government benefits that it doesn’t want to pay for.

This story has nothing to do with reality, as all budget analysts know. The explosion of the budget deficit in the last three years is a response to the plunge in private sector demand following the collapse of the housing bubble. If the budget deficit were smaller, we would simply have less demand and fewer jobs.

The New York Times Editorial: The Republican Threat to Voting

Less than a year before the 2012 presidential voting begins, Republican legislatures and governors across the country are rewriting voting laws to make it much harder for the young, the poor and African-Americans – groups that typically vote Democratic – to cast a ballot.

Spreading fear of a nonexistent flood of voter fraud, they are demanding that citizens be required to show a government-issued identification before they are allowed to vote. Republicans have been pushing these changes for years, but now more than two-thirds of the states have adopted or are considering such laws. The Advancement Project, an advocacy group of civil rights lawyers, correctly describes the push as “the largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Why ‘False Choices’ Still Matter

WASHINGTON-The idea that “false choices” are distorting our politics is under attack. I want to defend the concept for both substantive and personal reasons.

The canary in the coal mine was my colleague Ruth Marcus’ column on March 31 in which she argued directly: “It’s time to retire the false choice.”

“As a rhetorical device, particularly as a political rhetorical device, the false choice has outlived its usefulness, if it ever had any,” she wrote. “The phrase has become a trite substitute for serious thinking. It serves too often to obscure rather than to explain.”

While I empathize with Marcus’ frustration that false choices are sometimes invoked to evade choices altogether, I respectfully but passionately disagree with her. And she has company in her skepticism.

Apr 27 2011

National Security Musical Chairs

While everyone was focusing on the bogus issue of President Obama’s citizenship and busily examining the authenticity of the newly released long form, there was a national security shake up going on that finally got it’s 5 minutes of attention by the media. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had announced that he would be leaving the Pentagon this year. There was some speculation about his replacement that included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She has since made it clear that she was not interested and would remain in the critical job steering Obama’s rudderless foreign policy. By law, the Defense Secretary must be a civilian and disqualified if having served in the military in the last 10 years, thus eliminating any of the current or recently retired generals.

The President met this morning with his national security advisors at the White house and announced that current CIA Director Leon Panetta would be replacing Gates and Gen. David Petraeus, the current Afghan war commander, would take over the CIA. The other announcement at the meeting was that Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who was ambassador to Iraq under President Bush, would move to Afghanistan to become the Ambassador there, replacing Karl Eikenberry. One of the most experienced diplomats in the foreign service Crocker has also served as Ambassador to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen would replace Petraeus as the commander of the war effort in Afghanistan. Not yet decided, or atleast not announced today was who would replace retiring Gen, Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Once again, as we did with Bush CIA Director, Gen. Michael Hayden who continued to wear his uniform, the military dominates the national security agencies. As David Dayen puts it

So the merging of the military and the intelligence community is complete. Within a few years it’ll just be one big black op. The good news is they can cut the military budget then, and put everything into the secret, off-the-books intelligence budget so as not to raise suspicion.

h/t David Dayen at FDL

The New York Times

Susan Crabtree at Talking Points Memo

Apr 27 2011

On This Day In History April 27

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.

April 27 is the 117th day of the year (118th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 248 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1805, Naval Agent to the Barbary States, William Eaton, the former consul to Tunis, led an small expeditionary force of Marines, commanded by First Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon, and Berber mercenaries from Alexandria, across 500 miles to the port of Derna in Tripoli. Supported by US Naval gunfire, the port was captured by the end of the day, overthrowing Yusuf Karamanli, the ruling pasha of Tripoli, who had seized power from his brother, Hamet Karamanli, a pasha who was sympathetic to the United States.

Lt. O’Bannon raised the US flag over the port, the first time the US flag had flown over a foreign battlefield. He had performed so valiantly that newly restored Pasha Hamet Karamanli presented him with an elaborately designed sword that now serves as the pattern for the swords carried by Marine officers. The words “To the shores of Tripoli” in the Marine Corps official song commemorate the battle.

Sources:

Wikipedia

About.com  

Apr 27 2011

Wikileaks War Log: Guantanamo Files

There wasn’t much in these files that wasn’t mostly already known. What they did confirm was that there were a lot of people tortured and some innocent people are still in Guantanamo because of that torture.

Newly leaked documents show the ongoing travesty of Guantanamo

by Glenn Greenwald April 25, 2011

Numerous media outlets — The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Telegraph, and NPR, among others – last night published classified files on more than 700 past and present Guantanamo detainees. The leak was originally provided to WikiLeaks, which then gave them to the Post, NPR and others; the NYT and The Guardian claim to have received them from “another source” (WikiLeaks suggested the “other source” was Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former WikiLeaks associate who WikiLeaks claims took, without authorization, many WikiLeaks files when he left).

The documents reveal vast new information about these detainees and, in particular, the shoddy and unreliable nature of the “evidence” used (both before and now) to justify their due-process-free detentions. There are several points worth noting about all this . . . .

WikiLeaks: Just 8 at Gitmo gave evidence against 255 others

by Tom Lasseter and Carol Rosenberg | McClatchy Newspapers April 25, 2011

WASHINGTON – U.S. military intelligence assessing the threat of nearly 800 men held at Guantanamo in many cases used information from a small group of captives whose accounts now appear to be questionable, according to a McClatchy analysis of a trove of secret documents from the facility.

The allegations and observations of just eight detainees were used to help build cases against some 255 men at Guantanamo – roughly a third of all who passed through the prison. Yet the testimony of some of the eight was later questioned by Guantanamo analysts themselves, and the others were subjected to interrogation tactics that defense attorneys say amounted to torture and compromised the veracity of their information.

Concerns about the quality of the “facts” from the eight men goes to the heart of Guantanamo’s “mosaic” approach of piecing together detainees’ involvement with insurgent or terrorist groups that usually did not depend on one slam-dunk piece of evidence. Rather, intelligence analysts combined an array of details such as the items in detainees’ pants pockets at capture and whether they had confessed to interrogators – American or otherwise.

Just to add to the outrageous actions of the Bush administration, Obama continues along the same path by denying the remaining detainees due process.

DOJ Warns Gitmo Defense Attorneys Not to Use Gitmo Files

by emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler)

The defense attorneys representing detainees at Gitmo in habeas proceedings received this email today.

   Subject: Information in the public domain 2nd reminder

   All:

   As many of you have undoubtedly heard or read, government documents that may contain classified information have been released via the news media. As a reminder, information that is marked as classified, or that a person with access to classified information knows to be classified, remains as such despite a potential public disclosure by unauthorized means. Classified National Security Information only becomes declassified when the appropriate original classification authority makes their determination that the information may no longer cause damage to national security and may be declassified. Accordingly, consistent with your Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreements and Memorandum of Understanding that you signed as a participant in the Guantanamo Habeas proceedings, counsel are hereby cautioned that this presumptively classified information must be handled in accordance with all relevant security precautions and safeguards, including but not limited to, use and preparation in the Secure Facility and filing under seal with the Court Security Officer.

   Thank you.

   Court Security

In other words, in spite of the fact that the entire world now sees the flimsy evidence on which many Gitmo detainees are being held, Gitmo detainees’ lawyers can’t use that now very public information to defend their clients without going through the court security officer first. In fact, they can’t even talk about this information, for example in public appearances to explain their client’s plight, without asking the government for permission first.

And this gem from Marcy that further restricts the tools that any defense attorney in a civilian court could use to refute the prosecution’s evidence:

While some of the changes are just procedural, others are more telling. A central difference is the assertion that everything a High Value Detainee says will be presumptively treated as Top Secret/SCI (an update to the DC District order, issued before Abu Zubaydah’s lawyers got materials in his habeas case, includes treatment of TS/SCI information). So anything al-Nashiri tells his attorney about the torture he suffered-including the torture still allegedly being investigated by DOJ-will be considered TS/SCI.

In a similar vein, the prohibition on sharing detainee statements in classified documents I mentioned earlier is an addition to the DC District order.

   Statements of the detainee that detainee’s counsel acquires from classified documents cannot be shared with the detainee absent authorization from the appropriate government agency authorized to declassify the classified information.

None of this would stand in a civilian court but that is not to say that the DOJ couldn’t get convictions. There are clearly cases where they could but it would be harder. Military commissioned tribunals are easier because they make up the rules as the circumstances change. Then there are those who will be held indefinitely, regardless of a lack of evidence or, quite possibly because that evidence is so tainted it could never be used in any court military or otherwise, Way to go there , Con-law professor.

Apr 27 2011

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for April 26, 2011-

DocuDharma

Apr 27 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 France, Italy call for reform of EU open-border treaty

by Nadege Puljak and Gildas Le Roux, AFP

2 hrs 27 mins ago

ROME (AFP) – France and Italy issued a joint call on Tuesday for a reform of the European Union’s visa-free treaty that would allow EU member states to re-impose internal border controls more easily.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi agreed on a letter outlining their demands to EU leaders at a summit in Rome following the arrival of thousands of migrants from Tunisia.

“We both believe that in exceptional circumstances there should be variations to the Schengen treaty,” Berlusconi told reporters after the meeting, as Sarkozy said a joint letter had been sent to EU leaders.