DAMASCUS (AFP) – Syrian opposition groups demanded President Bashar al-Assad’s immediate resignation Thursday, snubbing government concessions after a week in which activists said security forces killed more than 60 people.
Opposition groups called for the “immediate resignation of President Bashar al-Assad from all functions he occupies,” in a joint declaration at the end of a two-day meeting in Turkey’s Mediterranean resort of Antalya.
They urged the holding of “parliamentary and presidential elections within a period that will not exceed one year” following Assad’s ouster and vowed to work “to bring down the regime.”
Goldman Sachs has received a subpoena from the office of the Manhattan district attorney, which is investigating the investment bank’s role in the financial crisis, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The inquiry stems from a 650-page Senate report from the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that indicated Goldman had misled clients and Congress about its practices related to mortgage-linked securities.
Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, who headed up the Congressional inquiry, had sent his findings to the Justice Department to figure out whether executives broke the law. The agency said it was reviewing the report.
The subpoena come two weeks after lawyers for Goldman Sachs met with the attorney general of New York’s office for an “exploratory” meeting about the Senate report, the people said.
The subpoena is apparently based on information contained in a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report on Wall Street’s role in the housing market collapse. The report was critical of Goldman Sachs, and accused the bank of misleading buyers of mortgage-linked investments.
After the big Republican pow wow with the president at the White House, the so-called liberally biased media turned their mikes over to the Republicans so they could spout more lies about Paul Ryan’s budget, Medicare and the economy. One of the bigger lies about Medicare was a recycled one about Medicare from that little pouty demagog, Paul Ryan:
Millions of dollars of negative ads are being run to try and scare seniors and trying to confuse seniors. You know, the irony of this Bill, is with all this Mediscare that the Democrats are running, it’s Obamacare itself that ends Medicare as we know it. Obamacare takes half a trillion dollars from Medicare – not to make it more solvent but to spend on this other government program, Obamacare. And then it creates this 15 panel board of unelected, unaccountable, bureaucrats starting next year to price control and ration Medicare for current seniors.
Just how many times to we have to debunk this lie?
The ACA reduced annual increases in payments to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, and other institutions to spur productivity and cut overpayments to private insurers that are not delivering value for Medicare dollars. It used that money to expand coverage to 32 million Americans – many of whom were receiving uncompensated care at these institutions – to extend the life of the Medicare program and invest in new demonstration projects that aim to encourage providers to deliver quality care more efficiently. Seniors’ guaranteed benefits are in no way affected.
The “15 panel board,” as Ryan calls it, is actually the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). It will include individuals from across the health care field, all of whom will have to be confirmed by the Senate. Significantly, their proposal to reduce spending cannot “include any recommendationto ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums…increase Medicare beneficiary cost- sharing (including deductibles, coinsurance, and co- payments), or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria” (Section 3403 (page 409) of the Affordable Care Act stipulates.)
The Democrats need to tell the White House and the democratic leadership to take Medicare off the budget deficit negotiating table now. As Greg Sargent observes recent polling shows Americans are strongly opposed to cutting Medicare. If the Democrats agree to cuts it will doom there electoral advantage in 2012.
If Democrats in deficit negotiations agree to a compromise that cuts Medicare benefits to seniors, they risk squandering the advantage they’ve built up over Republicans on the issue since 2010 and risk losing their more general edge as defenders of the middle class, a top Dem pollster who just completed an extensive health care poll tells me.
Jeff Liszt, of the respected Dem firm Anzalone Liszt, has just completed a poll for two liberal-leaning groups finding that the Paul Ryan Medicare plan is deeply unpopular with voters, and particularly with seniors and independents, when the plan is described to them. The poll also found that Obama and Dems have increased their advantage over Republicans on Medicare, on health care in general, and on who can be trusted to defend the middle class.
After spouting off before the cameras, the house went back into session, and using a twisted rules maneuver attached the rejected Ryan budget onto the Homeland Security Appropriations bill in a ‘deem and pass’ move. From Nancy Pelosi:
Despite Americans soundly rejecting the Republican budget to end Medicare-with a new CNN poll out today finding 58% oppose and opposition from senior citizens even higher at 74%-House Republicans doubled down on ending Medicare by passing a Rule on the Homeland Security Appropriations bill (pdf) which “deems” that the Republican budget is passed:
Provides that H. Con. Res. 34, including the related 302(a) allocations printed in the Rules Committee report accompanying the resolution, shall have force and effect until a conference report on the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2012 is adopted.
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.
THIS week House Republicans overwhelmingly rejected a plan to raise the nation’s debt ceiling without simultaneous cuts in taxes and spending, setting up a showdown with President Obama this summer over the budget.
Mr. Obama is not the first president to confront the Cerberus of debt limits, taxes and spending cuts. Indeed, Lyndon B. Johnson’s struggle in 1967 and 1968 to raise the debt ceiling, ward off draconian spending cuts and raise taxes offers important lessons for Mr. Obama.
The first problem for Johnson was how much the government could go into debt. Because of increased domestic spending and the war in Vietnam, the deficit grew rapidly during the 1960s, and in 1967 we on the White House staff asked Congress to raise the country’s debt ceiling.
How bad will it be if we don’t manage to raise the debt ceiling in the United States? And what should President Obama’s negotiating strategy be? A few thoughts.
The direct effects of hitting the ceiling would be bad enough – sharp cutbacks in spending, which would undermine essential services, not to mention derail the economy. It’s not clear to me whether there would be some wiggle room through the accumulation of arrears – say, not actually paying workers and contractors, but promising to make it up when sanity returns. But it would be ugly indeed.
What might make it even worse would be indirect effects, of two kinds.
The current disconnect between Washington’s obsession with long-term budget deficits, on the one hand, and the frailty of the nation’s economy right now, is scary.
The question is whether today’s stock market wipe-out, coupled with the plunge in housing prices, discouraging news about economic growth, and what’s likely to be a paltry jobs report Friday, will be enough to force Washington to give up – or at least postpone – its games over the budget and debt ceiling, and take immediate action.
Maybe – especially now that Wall Street and big business have to face reality.
The stock market is beginning to feel the effect of an American middle class at the end of its rope.
Just ignore Tuesday’s vote against raising the debt ceiling, House Republican leaders whispered to Wall Street. We didn’t really vote against it, members suggested; we just sent another of our endless symbolic messages, pretending to take the nation’s credit to the brink of collapse in order to extract the maximum concessions from President Obama.
Once he caves, members said, the debt limit will be raised and the credit scare will end. And the business world apparently got the message. It’s just a “joke,” said a leader of the United States Chamber of Commerce, and Wall Street is in on it. Not everyone found it funny.
No matter how they tried to spin it, 318 House members actually voted against paying the country’s bills and keeping the promise made to federal bondholders. That’s an incredibly dangerous message to send in a softening global economy. Among the jokesters were 236 Republicans playing the politics of extortion, and 82 feckless Democrats who fret that Republicans could transform a courageous vote into a foul-smelling advertisement.
What was Timothy Geithner thinking back in 2008 when, as president of the New York Fed, he decided to give Goldman Sachs a $30 billion interest-free loan as part of an $80 billion secret float to favored banks? The sordid details of that program were finally made public this week in response to a court order for a Freedom of Information Act release, thanks to a Bloomberg News lawsuit. Sorry, my bad: It wasn’t an interest-free loan; make that .01 percent that Goldman paid to borrow taxpayer money when ordinary folks who missed a few credit card payments in order to finance their mortgages were being slapped with interest rates of more than 25 percent.
One wonders if Barack Obama was fully aware of Geithner’s deceitful performance at the New York Fed when he appointed him treasury secretary in the incoming administration. The president was probably ignorant of this particular giveaway, as were key members of Congress. “I wasn’t aware of this program until now,” Barney Frank, D-Mass., who at the time chaired the House Financial Services Committee, admitted in referring to Geithner’s “single-tranche open-market operations” program. And there was no language in the Dodd-Frank law supposedly reining in the banks that compelled the Fed to reveal the existence of this program.
That’s why 2009 and 2010 were so consumed by President Obama’s push for health-care reform and why Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposals are at the center of politics in 2011. Our long-term budget problem is primarily about two things: a shortage of revenue and rising health-care costs.
The revenue and health-cost issues are intertwined. The whole debate comes down to whether we want government to absorb a significant part of the risk of insuring us against illness, which means we’ll have to pay somewhat higher taxes, or whether we want to throw more and more of that risk onto individuals.
So let’s welcome Ryan’s call for considering his proposals on their merits. Yes, Republicans who invented “death panels” out of whole cloth and insisted, falsely, that Obama’s health proposal was nothing but a “government takeover” have a lot of nerve complaining about the “demagoguery”
To the wayfaring American citizen, the view of Washington, D.C., from abroad is as bizarre as that of Oz. One cannot believe what is happening. How can Republican leaders have convinced themselves that the way to be re-elected is by doing away with Medicare and Social Security-about all the security that America’s old people have to hang on to these days. (Not the rich ones. There are not very many rich, old people in the United States-look around you.) When the Republicans lose a “sure” Republican congressional seat to a Democrat on these issues, as they did in May in New York state, they display genuine bewilderment.
They think that voters are all single-mindedly obsessed with the national debt and the present fight over the forthcoming budget. I mentioned Oz, but of course the Wizard proved to be a warm-hearted mountebank who knew how Dorothy could get back to Kansas. Mountebanks are aplenty in Washington but they have nothing to offer Dorothy, who was just a poor farm girl from the Great Plains (where, incidentally, the American Populist movement of the late 19th century started, nearly electing president the great orator William Jennings Bryan on a “free silver” ticket).
The percentage of adults in the labor force is a figure that economists call the participation rate. It is 64.2 percent, the smallest since 1984. And that’s become a mystery to economists. Normally after a recession, an improving economy lures job seekers back into the labor market. This time, many are staying on the sidelines.
Their decision not to seek work means the drop in unemployment from 9.8 percent in November to 9 percent in April isn’t as good as it looks.
If the 529,000 missing workers had been out scavenging for a job without success, the unemployment rate would have been 9.3 percent in April, not the reported rate of 9 percent. And if the participation rate were as high as it was when the recession began, 66 percent, in December 2007, the unemployment rate could have been as high as 11.5 percent.
WASHINGTON – No American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent.
More than 13.7 million Americans were unable to find work in April; most had been seeking jobs for months. Millions more have stopped trying. Their inability to earn money is a personal catastrophe; studies show that the chance of finding new work slips away with time. It is also a strain on their families, charities and public support programs.
Ten presidents have stood for re-election since Mr. Roosevelt. In four instances the unemployment rate stood above 6 percent on Election Day. Three presidents lost: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. But Ronald Reagan won, despite 7.2 percent unemployment in November 1984, because the rate was falling and voters decided he was fixing the problem.
The stock market is dropping because corporate earnings are slowing. Corporate earnings are slowing because consumers are pulling back. Consumers are pulling back because they don’t have enough jobs or adequate wages.
The economy needs 125,000 new jobs a month just to tread water, given that at least 125,000 people join the potential labor force every month. Simply put, if new hires are in the range of five digits, American consumers will not have enough purchasing power to buy what the private sector can produce.
The leaders of the Street and big business may now have to wake up to a reality they’ve tried to avoid – that the central economic problem of our time isn’t the long-term budget deficit but the immediate deficit in aggregate demand.
Ray Charles was one of the founding fathers of soul music-a style he helped create and popularize with a string of early 1950s hits on Atlantic Records like “I Got A Woman” and “What’d I Say.” This fact is well known to almost anyone who has ever heard of the man they called “the Genius,” but what is less well known-to younger fans especially-is the pivotal role that Charles played in shaping the course of a seemingly very different genre of popular music. In the words of his good friend and sometime collaborator, Willie Nelson, speaking before Charles’ death in 2004, Ray Charles the R&B legend “did more for country music than any other living human being.” The landmark album that earned Ray Charles that praise was Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which gave him his third #1 hit in “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” which topped the U.S. pop charts on this day in 1962
Executives at ABC Records-the label that wooed Ray Charles from Atlantic with one of the richest deals of the era-were adamantly opposed to the idea that Charles brought to them in 1962: to re-record some of the best country songs of the previous 20 years in new arrangements that suited his style. As Charles told Rolling Stone magazine a decade later, ABC executives said, “You can’t do no country-western things….You’re gonna lose all your fans!” But Charles recognized the quality of songs like “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Don Gibson and “You Don’t Know Me,” by Eddy Arnold and Cindy Walker, and the fact that his version of both of those country songs landed in the Top 5 on both the pop and R&B charts was vindication of Charles’s long-held belief that “There’s only two kinds of music as far as I’m concerned: good and bad.”
Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004), known by his shortened stage name Ray Charles, was an American musician. He was a pioneer in the genre of soul music during the 1950s by fusing rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles into his early recordings with Atlantic Records. He also helped racially integrate country and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, most notably with his Modern Sounds albums. While with ABC, Charles became one of the first African-American musicians to be given artistic control by a mainstream record company. Frank Sinatra called Charles “the only true genius in show business.”
Rolling Stone ranked Charles number 10 on their list of “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” in 2004, and number two on their November 2008 list of “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”. In honoring Charles, Billy Joel noted: “This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley. I don’t know if Ray was the architect of rock & roll, but he was certainly the first guy to do a lot of things . . . Who the hell ever put so many styles together and made it work?”
A car bomb has exploded near a hotel used by foreign diplomats in Libya’s rebel-held city of Benghazi.
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2011
A huge car bomb has rocked a major hotel in Benghazi, the Libyan rebels’ city in the east of the country, but caused no casualties, witnesses and police say.
Two cars were destroyed in the explosion, which occurred in the parking lot of the Tibesti hotel, used by rebel leaders, journalists and senior officials of the National Transitional Council (NTC), the main rebel administration in eastern Libya.
Hotel staff said there were no immediate reports of injuries and the cause of Wednesday’s blast was not clear.
A police officer said a bomb was detonated in one car and the blast damaged a second car parked next to it.
Those of you who read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River. It was a redneck sort of place, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.
I rarely write about living people except with their express permission, but may make an exception or two here because I do not know for certain that two people are not dead. If not, they will be approaching 80 years of age. Hackett was relatively calm in the early 1960s, but that began to change in the mid 1960s. A group of hooligans began to take over the town, and they pretty much ruled it for a couple of years, at least at night. I do not know the names of all of them, and some might even still be alive, but too old to be reading this, so I shall name names.