Daily Archive: 08/02/2011

Aug 02 2011

Paint It Black

So I’m watching CNBC and their stock spokesmodel is saying “Well, it’s a sea of red out there but we’re trying to focus on the green.”

CEO- “What people are missing is that corporate fundamentals are much better than economic fundamentals.”

Indeed.

I don’t know that I have much more to add so here’s a video-

Dow down 265.87, below 12,000.  S&P negative for the year, below 200 day moving average.  Both longest losing streak since October 2008.

You remember, the big crash.

“The bond market is not worried about our ability to pay our debts, they’re worried about our ability to grow.”

Aug 02 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”.

Robert Reich: Ransom Paid

Anyone who characterizes the deal between the President, Democratic, and Republican leaders as a victory for the American people over partisanship understands neither economics nor politics.

The deal does not raise taxes on America’s wealthy and most fortunate – who are now taking home a larger share of total income and wealth, and whose tax rates are already lower than they have been, in eighty years. Yet it puts the nation’s most important safety nets and public investments on the chopping block

It also hobbles the capacity of the government to respond to the jobs and growth crisis. Added to the cuts already underway by state and local governments, the deal’s spending cuts increase the odds of a double-dip recession. And the deal strengthens the political hand of the radical right.

Yes, the deal is preferable to the unfolding economic catastrophe of a default on the debt of the U.S. government. The outrage and the shame is it has come to this choice.

New York Times Editorial: Cruel Isolation

For many decades, the civilized world has recognized prolonged isolation of prisoners in cruel conditions to be inhumane, even torture. The Geneva Conventions forbid it. Even at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, where prisoners were sexually humiliated and physically abused systematically and with official sanction, the jailers had to get permission of their commanding general to keep someone in isolation for more than 30 days.

So Americans should be disgusted and outraged that prolonged solitary confinement, sometimes for months or even years, has become a routine form of prison management. It is inflicting unnecessary, indecent and inhumane suffering on tens of thousands of prisoners.

The issue came to the fore most recently because of a three-week hunger strike by inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison in California near the Oregon border that began on July 1 in the Orwellian Security Housing Unit, where inmates are held in wretched isolation in small windowless cells for more than 22 hours a day, some for many years.

Joe Nocera: Tea Party’s War on America

You know what they say: Never negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them.

These last few months, much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people. Their intransigent demands for deep spending cuts, coupled with their almost gleeful willingness to destroy one of America’s most invaluable assets, its full faith and credit, were incredibly irresponsible. But they didn’t care. Their goal, they believed, was worth blowing up the country for, if that’s what it took.

snip

For now, the Tea Party Republicans can put aside their suicide vests. But rest assured: They’ll have them on again soon enough. After all, they’ve gotten so much encouragement.

Robert Kuttner: The Goons of August

Let us face the momentous truth: The United States has been rendered ungovernable except on the extortionate terms of the far-right.

For the first time in modern history, one of the two major parties is in the hands of a faction so extreme that it is willing to destroy the economy if it doesn’t get its way.

And the Tea Party Republicans have a perfect foil in President Barack Obama. The budget deal is the logical conclusion of Obama’s premise that the way to make governing partners of the far right is to keep appeasing them. He is the perfect punching bag. He can be blasted both as a far-left liberal and as a weakling.

Dean Baker: US Debt Deal: How Washington Lost the Plot

Politicians and the media are obsessing on debt, deficit and cuts, but the real story is a stalled economy and rising unemployment

President Obama and the Republicans in Congress have finally worked out a deal over the debt ceiling. It appears as though the Republicans got most of what they wanted: big cuts to domestic spending and no tax increases.

On the plus side, social security and Medicaid appear to be largely intact, although the deal commits Congress to set up another one of those dreadful “bipartisan” commissions, and some cuts to Medicare are on the table. The main qualification for being chosen as a member or staffer for this commission will be that you were too ignorant of the economy to notice the $8tn housing bubble whose collapse brought on the current crisis. Fortunately, Washington has no shortage of policy wonks who fit this description.

Richard Means: Voter ID Is an Attempt to Suppress Democracy

At this critical time in our nation’s history, when wider participation by the American people in their own democracy should be encouraged, Republican politicians are instead suppressing that participation by limiting access to the voting booth.

So-called “voter ID” laws signed into law this year in several states have nothing to do with their purported aim of protecting the sanctity of elections and everything to do with concentrating political power in fewer and fewer hands.

As a former prosecutor of election-law violations in Chicago, I know a little something about election fraud. But what I found in years of pursuing cases of ballot abuse is that it almost never involved ordinary citizens who, say, voted when they weren’t eligible, voted under an assumed name, or voted multiple times.

Wendell Potter: Health Insurers Sacrifice Americans for Profit

Three of the biggest health insurers have announced quarterly earnings in the past few days. If Americans were able to eavesdrop on what executives from those firms tell their Wall Street masters every three months, they would have a better understanding of why premiums keep going up while the number of people with medical coverage keeps going down

It only takes three words, when you get right down to it, to describe the real of those folks: profits over people.

Aug 02 2011

Responsibility

The Hidden History of the Debt Limit Hijack: Democrats Started It

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Monday August 1, 2011 1:26 pm

I have a piece in the American Prospect today on five turning points in the debt limit fight. I think they’re actually in descending order of importance, and the biggest one is right at the top – this deal is the function of horrible economic stewardship in 2009 and 2010.



There is one turning point I, because of space constraints, did not include in there. That happened at the end of 2009, when Evan Bayh, Kent Conrad, Dianne Feinstein, Mark Warner and Joe Lieberman threatened to not increase the debt limit if they didn’t get in place a fiscal commission that would recommend spending and entitlement cuts. That’s right, Democrats started the hijacking of the debt limit. Barely anybody remembers this, but it set the stage for the deal being voted on today.



For the first time, perhaps in history, members of Congress tied spending cuts to raising the debt limit. This was the blueprint off of which John Boehner and the Republicans worked. The panel that Conrad wanted, along with Judd Gregg, would have had a mandate to reduce the deficit through spending caps, tax reform and entitlements, and would have submitted recommendations for an up-or-down vote without amendments or the possibility of the filibuster. That’s EXACTLY what’s in the bill being voted on today.



At this point, President Obama, who had pivoted onto deficit reduction at the end of 2009, said he would by executive order put together the deficit commission. And so the original Catfood Commission was born. They’ve been talking about deficits in Washington, in the middle of a jobs crisis, ever since.



The President could have stepped in at any time and shut that down. He could have told Conrad or Bayh to shut up and follow his lead. But this assumes that the President was against the whole idea of deficit reduction in the first place. We know he was not. In fact, all of these alternative solutions have to assume an actor in the White House who wanted to see a clean debt limit increase. It’s important for the public to know there were alternative, pushed by liberals and progressives, to what we see coming to pass today. But it’s just as important to recognize that nobody currently in power wanted to pursue them.

Aug 02 2011

Congressional Game of Chicken: Taking More Hostages

The House of Representatives raised the debt ceiling by a vote of 269 to 161 and the bill moved to the Senate where it was expected to pass by unanimous consent passed by a vote of 72 – 26 and was signed into law by President Obama this afternoon. Besides raising the debt ceiling enough so that it won’t have to be considered again until 2013, well after the election, the bill contains budget cuts that will total over $2 trillion, part immediately, the rest over 10 years.  The bill was called “a sugar coated satan’s sandwich” by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus due to the rest of the bill’s proposals. House Speaker John Boehner spoke with the press gleefully stating that he got 98% of what he wanted. On the other side of the Capitol building, Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell warning that there is more use of raw extortion as a negotiating tactic in the future:

: It set the template for the future. In the future, Neil, no president – in the near future, maybe in the distant future – is going to be able to get the debt ceiling increased without a re-ignition of the same discussion of how do we cut spending and get America headed in the right direction. I expect the next president, whoever that is, is going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again in 2013, so we’ll be doing it all over.

The bill includes the creation of an equally split “super committee” that abrogates the right of congressional parliamentary prerogatives to debate or amend bills that arise from any agreement and if there is no agreement on cuts, then automatic across the board cuts that include Medicare and military spending. Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment eviscerates the bill’s flaws and the consequences.

Transcript:

I close, as promised, with a Special Comment on the debt deal.

Our government has now given up the concept of right and wrong.

We have, in this deal, declared that we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all political incumbents are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Re-nomination, re-election, and the pursuit of hypocrisy.

We have, in this deal, gone from the Four Freedoms to the Four Great Hypocrisies.

We have superceded Congress to facilitate 750 billion dollars in domestic cuts including Medicare in order to end an artificially-induced political hostage crisis over debt, originating from the bills run up by a Republican president who funneled billions of taxpayer dollars to the military-industrial complex by unfunded, unnecessary, and unproductive wars, enabled in doing so by the very same Republican leaders who now cry for balanced budgets – and we have called it compromise. And those who defend it have called it a credit to a pragmatic president who wins some sort of political “points” because, having stood for almost nothing here, he gave away almost nothing for which he stood.

It would be comical if it were not tragic.

Either way, it is a signal moment in our history, in which both parties have agreed and codified that the political structure of this nation shall now based entirely on hypocrisy and political self-perpetuation.

Let us start with the first of the Great Hypocrisies: The Committee. The Republican dogs can run back to their corporate masters and say they have forced one-and-one-half trillion dollars in cuts and palmed off the responsibility for them on this nonsensical “Super Congress” committee.

For two-and-a-half brutal years we have listened to these Tea Party mountebanks screech about the Constitution of the United States as if it were the revealed word and not the product of other – albeit far better – politicians. They demand the repeal of Amendments they don’t like, and the strict interpretation of the ones they do, and the specific citation of authorization within the Constitution for every proposed act or expenditure or legislation.

Except this one.

Where does it say in the Constitution that the two houses of Congress can, in effect, create a third house to do its dirty work for it; to sacrifice a few Congressmen and Senators so the vast majority of incumbents can tell the voters they had nothing to do with this?

This leads to the second of the Great Hypocrisies: how, in the same breath, the Republicans can create an extra-Constitutional “Super Congress” and yet also demand a Constitutional Amendment to force the economic stupidity that would be a mandated balanced budget. Firstly: pick a side! Ignore the Constitution or adhere to it.

Firstly, pick a side, ignore the constitution or adhere to it. And of what value would this Mandated Balanced Budget be? Our own history proves that at a time of economic crisis, if the businesses aren’t spending, and the consumers aren’t spending, the government must. Our ancestors were the lab rats in the horrible experiments of the Hoover Administration that brought on the Great Depression, in which the government curled up into a ball while it simultaneously insisted the economy should heal itself, when, in times of crisis – then and now – the economy turns out to be comprised entirely of a bunch of rich people who will sit on their money no matter if the country starves.

Forgotten in the Republican Voodoo dance, dressed in the skins of the mythical Balanced Budget, triumphant over the severed head of short-term retrenchment that they can hold up to their moronic followers, are the long-term implications of the mandated Balanced Budget.

What happens if there’s ever another… war?

Or another… terrorist attack?

Or another… naturaldisaster?

Or any other emergency that requires A government to spend a dollar morethan it has? A Constitutional Amendment denying us the right to run a deficit, is madness, and it will be tested by catastrophe sooner than any of its authors with their under-developed imaginations that can count only contributions and votes, can contemplate.

And the third of the Great Hypocrisies is hidden inside the shell game that is the Super Congress. TheSuper Congress is supposed to cut evenly from domestic and defense spending, but if it cannot agree on those cuts, or Congress will not endorse them, there will be a “trigger” that automatically cuts a trillion-two or more – but those cuts will not necessarily come evenly from the Pentagon. We are presented with an agreement that seems to guarantee the gutting of every local sacred cow from the Defense Department. Except if the Congressmen and Senators to whom the cows are sacred, disagree, and overrule, or sabotage the Super Congress, or, except if for some reason a 12-member Committee split evenly along party lines can’t manage to avoid finishing every damned vote 6-to-6.

We’re cutting Defense. Unless we’re not.

The fourth of the Great Hypocrisies is the evident agreement to not add any revenues to the process of cutting. Not only is the impetus to make human budget sacrifices out of thepoor and dependent formalized… but the rich and the corporations are thus indemnified, again, and given more money not merely to spend on themselves and their own luxuries, but more vitally, they are given more money to spend on buying politicians, and legislatures, and courts, buying entire states, all of which can be directed like so many weapons, in the service of one cause and one cause alone: making bystatute and ruling, the further protection of the wealthy at the expense ofeverybody else, untouchable, inviolable – permanent.

The White House today boasted of loopholes to be closed and tax breaks to be rescinded — later.

By a committee.

A committee that has yet to be formed.

There are no new taxes. Except the stealth ones, enacted on 99 out of 100 Americans by this evil transaction. Every dollar cut from the Safety Net is another dollar added to the citizen’s cost for education, for security, for health, for life itself. It is another dollar he can’t spend on making a better life for himself, or atleast his children. It is another dollar he must spend instead on simply keeping himself alive.

Where is the outrage over these Great Hypocrisies? Do you expect it to come from a corrupt and corrupted media, for whom access is of greater importance than criticizing the failure of a political party or defending those who don’t buy newspapers or can’t leapwebsite paywalls or could not afford cable tv?

Do you expect it to comefrom a cynical and manipulative political structure? Do you expect it from those elected officials who no longer know anything of government or governance, but only perceive how to get elected, or how to pose in front of a camera and pretend to be leaders? Do you expect it from politicians themselves, who will merely calculate whether or not it’s right based on whether or not it will get them more contributions?

Do you expect it will come from the great middle ground of this country, with a population obsessed with entertainment, video games, socialmedia, sports, and trivia?

Where is the outrage to come from?

From you!

It will do no good to wait for the politicians to suddenly atone for their sins. They are too busy trying to keep their jobs, to do their jobs.

It will do no good to wait for the media to suddenly remember its origins as the ‘free press,’ the watchdog of democracy envisioned by Jefferson. They are too busy trying to get exclusive DETAILS about exactly how the bankrobbers emptied the public’s pockets, to give a damn about telling anybody what they looked like, or which way they went.

It will do no good to wait for the apolitical public to get a clue. They can’t hear the clue through all the chatter and scandal and diversion and delusion and illusion.

The betrayal of what this nation is supposed to be about did not begin with this deal and it surely will not end with this deal. There is a tide pushing back the rights of each of us, and it has been artificially induced by union-bashing and the sowing ofhatreds and fears, and now this ever-more-institutionalized economic battering of the average American. It will continue, and it will crush us, because those who created it are organized and unified and hell-bent.

And the only response is to be organized and unified and hell-bent in return. We must find again the energy and the purpose of the 1960’s and early 1970’s and we must protest this deal and all the God damn deals to come, in the streets. We must arise, non-violently but insistently. General strikes, boycotts, protests, sit-ins, non-cooperation take-overs – but modern versions of that resistance, facilitated and amplified, by a weapon our predecessors did not have: the glory that is instantaneous communication.

It is from an old and almost clich├ęd motion picture that the wisdom comes: First, you’ve got to get mad.

I cannot say to you, meethere or there at this hour or that one, and we will peacefully break the back of government that now exists merely to get its functionaries re-elected. But I can say that the time is coming when the window for us to restore the control of our government to our selves will close, and we had damn well better act before then.

Because this deal is more than a tipping point in which the government goes from defending the safety net to gutting it. This is wrong, and while our government has now declared that it has given up the concept of right-and-wrong, you and I… have not, and will not, do so.

Good night, and good luck.

Aug 02 2011

With Great Power Comes No Responsibility

The WØRD- 8/1/11

The only way for lawmakers to avoid voter reprisals is by creating an anonymous Super Congress.  With the proposed Super Congress, only 12 lawmakers will have to make unpopular recommendations, and the rest of Congress can avoid blame.

Why yes, I am guest hosting TDS/TCR.  Thank you for asking.

Aug 02 2011

On This Day In History August 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.

Click on images to enlarge

August 2 is the 214th day of the year (215th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 151 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1776, members of Congress affix their signatures to an enlarged copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Fifty-six congressional delegates in total signed the document, including some who were not present at the vote approving the declaration. The delegates signed by state from North to South, beginning with Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire and ending with George Walton of Georgia. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and James Duane, Robert Livingston and John Jay of New York refused to sign. Carter Braxton of Virginia; Robert Morris of Pennsylvania; George Reed of Delaware; and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina opposed the document but signed in order to give the impression of a unanimous Congress. Five delegates were absent: Generals George Washington, John Sullivan, James Clinton and Christopher Gadsden and Virginia Governor Patrick Henry.

The United States Declaration of Independence is a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain were now independent states, and thus no longer a part of the British Empire. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration is a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The birthday of the United States of America-Independence Day-is celebrated on July 4, the day the wording of the Declaration was approved by Congress.

The Declaration justified the independence of the United States by listing colonial grievances against King George III, and by asserting certain natural rights, including a right of revolution. Having served its original purpose in announcing independence, the text of the Declaration was initially ignored after the American Revolution. Its stature grew over the years, particularly the second sentence, a sweeping statement of individual human rights:

   We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This sentence has been called “one of the best-known sentences in the English language” and “the most potent and consequential words in American history”.

After finalizing the text on July 4, Congress issued the Declaration of Independence in several forms. It was initially published as a printed broadside that was widely distributed and read to the public. The most famous version of the Declaration, a signed copy that is usually regarded as the Declaration of Independence, is on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Although the wording of the Declaration was approved on July 4, the date of its signing has been disputed. Most historians have concluded that it was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed. The sources and interpretation of the Declaration have been the subject of much scholarly inquiry.

The famous wording of the Declaration has often been invoked to protect the rights of individuals and marginalized groups, and has come to represent for many people a moral standard for which the United States should strive. This view was greatly influenced by Abraham Lincoln, who considered the Declaration to be the foundation of his political philosophy, and who promoted the idea that the Declaration is a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted.

Aug 02 2011

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for August 1, 2011-

DocuDharma

Aug 02 2011

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

If you do not get Current TV you can watch Keith here:

Watch live video from CURRENT TV LIVE Countdown Olbermann on www.justin.tv