08/03/2011 archive

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

Lawrence H. Summers is the Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard and former U.S. treasury secretary. He speaks and consults widely on economic and financial issues. The opinions expressed here are his own.

1 A debt deal that solves the wrong problem: Summers

Lawrence H. Summers, Reuters

1 hr 19 mins ago

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) – At last, Washington has reached a deal that raises the debt limit and averts a default that would have been a national embarrassment and an economic and geopolitical catastrophe.

The forces shaping the deal and the deal itself are multifaceted, and so is the right reaction to it. Mine has a number of elements.

Relief. There will be no first default in U.S. history; no economy-damaging short-run austerity; no attack on the nation’s core social protection programs or on universal health care; and no repeat of the last month’s shabby spectacle for at least 15 months. All of this was in doubt even a week ago as congressional intransigence threatened to make the problem of acceptably raising the debt limit insoluble.

Geithner reveals exactly what is wrong with his view of the Economy

Burning the Midnight Oil for the Economics of Freedom

Quoted by digby:

TIM GEITHNER: Well, let’s start with what this deal does. The most important thing is it creates more room for the private sector to grow because although it locks in some very substantial long term savings, the near term cuts are very modest. So that– that was the really critical thing in making sure that this economy continue to grow and recover. Now, it locks in a very big down payment and it sets in motion what we think is going to be a very effective process for forcing congress to come together…

Now, for the ordinary person reading this carefully, the only reasonable response is, WTF?. However, as your insider correspondent from the quite bizarre Economist Tribe, my response is, “oh, yeah, that bullshit again.”

Ah, well, economics is not the only science {*} where analyzing scat is a necessary research tool. Join me after the fold.

The Kind Of Deal Democrats Hate

For Democrats, the congressional budget deal is a Satan Sandwich.

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.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: From the debt debate to a hostage revolt

In the melodrama that is consuming Washington this hot summer, featuring the spectacle of how much Tea Party Republicans will be able to extort for agreeing not to blow up the economy, the values and priorities of most Americans were early casualties. That reality will drive – no matter what the resolution this week – new, independent citizen mobilizations challenging both Republican zealotry and Democratic cravenness.

The debt-ceiling debate has lasted long enough for most Americans to start paying attention and to realize just how divorced both parties are from basic common sense. With the economy faltering and 25 million people in need of full-time work, most Americans want Washington focused on how to create jobs and get the economy going, not on slashing spending for the rising number of poor children while sheltering tax havens for millionaires.

Amy Goodman: War, Debt and the President

President Barack Obama touted his debt ceiling deal Tuesday, saying, “We can’t balance the budget on the backs of the very people who have borne the biggest brunt of this recession.” Yet that is what he and his coterie of Wall Street advisers have done.

In the affairs of nations, Alexander Hamilton wrote in January 1790, “loans in times of public danger, especially from foreign war, are found an indispensable resource.” It was his first report as secretary of the treasury to the new Congress of the United States. The country had borrowed to fight the Revolutionary War, and Hamilton proposed a system of public debt to pay those loans.

Amanda Marcotte: How Abortion Caused the Debt Crisis

Last night, right before the fatal deadline, the U.S. Congress finally came to a deal that allows us to raise the debt ceiling, without which the federal government would basically shut down completely and start to default on its loans, creating a cascade of economic disasters.  Congress came to a deal before we had to learn those Depression-era money-saving skills (sadly, we don’t have flour sacks to make clothes from any longer).  Now it’s time to reflect on how our country has gone so far off track that we can’t even handle the basic responsibility of keeping the country from plunging into a manufactured crisis that nearly led to economic collapse.  There are multiple causes, but one that hasn’t been discussed much is abortion.

Yes, abortion. Or, more specifically, the sustained sex panic that has been going on in this country since the sixties and seventies, when the sexual revolution occurred and women secured their reproductive rights.  If it seems a little strange to argue that sex panic helped bring us to the verge of economic collapse, well, that’s the nature of the circuitous, ever-evolving world of politics.  But it’s sex panic that helped create the modern right-wing populist, and it’s the modern right-wing populist that created the current crisis.

Rebecca Solnit: Hope: The Care and Feeding Of

Recently, Nelson Mandela turned 93, and his nation celebrated noisily, even attempting to break the world record for the most people simultaneously singing “Happy Birthday.” This was the man who, on trial by the South African government in 1964, stood a good chance of being sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead. Given life in prison instead, he was supposed to be silenced.  Story over.  

You know the rest, though it wasn’t inevitable that he’d be released and become the president of a post-apartheid South Africa. Admittedly, it’s a country with myriad flaws and still suffers from economic apartheid, but who wouldn’t agree that it’s changed?  Activism changed it; more activism could change it further.

Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch, who’d amassed a vast media empire, banked billions of dollars, and been listed by Forbes as the world’s 13th most powerful person, must have thought he had it made these past few decades.  Now, his empire is crumbling and his crimes and corrosive influence (which were never exactly secret) are being examined by everyone. You never know what’ll happen next.

Linda McQuaig: Tycoons Laughing All the Way to the Bank

There are likely few characters less loved in America these days than hedge fund managers – widely regarded as among the archvillains of the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.

So, months ago, when Washington embarked on a frenzied search for ways to reduce the massive U.S. deficit, a tax loophole that allowed hedge fund managers to pay tax at the exceptionally low rate of 15 per cent certainly seemed like low-hanging fruit.

Cancelling the loophole would save the treasury $20 billion over 10 years, and the public would surely be unmoved by the pain inflicted on hedge fund managers – the top 25 of whom took home an average pay last year of $880 million each.

But as the stakes rose in the bizarre negotiations over the country’s debt ceiling, the Republicans managed to push reluctant Democrats into taking all tax increases off the table. All deficit reduction was to come exclusively from government spending cuts, hitting the middle and lower classes hard.

Sarah Churchwell: The Willful Ignorance That Has Dragged the US to the Brink

The Tea Party version of the American Revolution is not just fundamentalist. It is also Disneyfied, sentimentalized, and whitewashed

Here’s a monumental historical irony: a moment in the origins of the United States that every American schoolchild learns to view with pride, the Boston Tea Party, has now become a symbol of our (inter)national shame. In one sense, it is difficult to know what to say in response to the utter irrationality of the Tea Party’s self-destructive decision to sabotage the American political process – and thus its own country’s economy, and the global economy.

Last week, while the US government was locked in stalemate and risked defaulting on its national debt for the first time in its history (and thus also defying the Constitution that Tea Partiers supposedly hold sacred, which declares in the 14th Amendment that it is illegal for Congress to default), Michele Bachmann instructed her followers not to listen to those who attempted to “scare” them with untruths that the US would default if it didn’t raise the debt ceiling. When, of course, that is precisely what it would have done. But the Tea Party has never let facts get in the way of its belief system, and now that belief system is genuinely threatening the well-being of the nation they claim to love.


Another Hostage: Federal Aviation Agency

Congress has left town until after the Labor Day weekend leaving the Federal Aviation Agency unfunded. Because the Republican controlled house hates unions and workers, they are holding the FAA hostage on behalf of Delta Airlines. This effects 4,000 FAA employees who have been furloughed, 70,000 contracted construction workers laid off and the loss of $1 billion in tax revenue that will not be collected on ticket sales. While air traffic controllers will continue on the job with pay, safety inspectors are expected to work unpaid. All this because Delta Airlines is in a dispute with workers who want to unionize. Even worse is that most of these workers will be not have health care insurance to take care of themselves or their families.

David Dayen at FDL News gives the details in a nutshell:

Lawmakers in both houses of Congress have passed an FAA authorization bill. The particulars are in the range of 90% the same. While they work something out on the last 10%, they could pass an extension of the old authorization, the way they have 20 times since 2007. But House Republicans want to make it harder for Delta’s workers to unionize. They want to mandate that any absent voter in a union election is a vote against the union. They haven’t yet applied this to their own elections, but that’s how they want unions to operate. The NLRB passed regulations that would ban this practice, and Delta simply won’t allow votes for its workers under the new rules. And Republicans have hijacked the FAA on behalf of Delta.

That’s the real battle behind the FAA authorization, and the main reason that agency is partially shut down right now. The House passed an extension that basically punished rural airports in the states of the main Senate negotiators on the bill. But Harry Reid was actually willing to accept them yesterday and pass the extension. Senate Republicans blocked it by denying unanimous consent.

From Rachel Maddow:

Congress demonstrates a bankruptcy of principles with FAA neglect

Rachel outlines the damage being done in term of jobs and wated public money while the FAA awaits authorization from Congress.

The tea partying Republicans don’t give a rat’s butt about the over 74,000 workers who will add to the unemployment figures this month. Their only concern is the interests of a high flying CEO that contributes heavily to their campaign chests.

The tea partying republicans hate America and are worse than any terrorist group that uses explosives to take lives and destroy this country.

On This Day In History August 3

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 3 is the 215th day of the year (216th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 150 days remaining until the end of the year.

On August 3, 1958, the U.S. nuclear submarine Nautilus accomplishes the first undersea voyage to the geographic North Pole. The world’s first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus  dived at Point Barrow, Alaska, and traveled nearly 1,000 miles under the Arctic ice cap to reach the top of the world. It then steamed on to Iceland, pioneering a new and shorter route from the Pacific to the Atlantic and Europe.

The USS Nautilus was constructed under the direction of U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover, a brilliant Russian-born engineer who joined the U.S. atomic program in 1946. In 1947, he was put in charge of the navy’s nuclear-propulsion program and began work on an atomic submarine. Regarded as a fanatic by his detractors, Rickover succeeded in developing and delivering the world’s first nuclear submarine years ahead of schedule. In 1952, the Nautilus’ keel was laid by President Harry S. Truman, and on January 21, 1954, first lady Mamie Eisenhower broke a bottle of champagne across its bow as it was launched into the Thames River at Groton, Connecticut. Commissioned on September 30, 1954, it first ran under nuclear power on the morning of January 17, 1955.

USS Nautilus (SSN-571) was the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine. She was also the first vessel to complete a submerged transit across the North Pole.

Named for the submarine in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Nautilus was authorized in 1951 and launched in 1954. Because her nuclear propulsion allowed her to remain submerged for far longer than diesel-electric submarines, she broke many records in her first years of operation and was able to travel to locations previously beyond the limits of submarines. In operation, she revealed a number of limitations in her design and construction; this information was used to improve subsequent submarines.

The Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982. She has been preserved as a museum of submarine history in New London, Connecticut, where she receives some 250,000 visitors a year.

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for August 2, 2011-


Obama’s Shock Doctrine

In the “Shock Doctrine”, Naomi Klein describes disaster capitalism as “treating disasters as exciting market opportunities”. She also explains core economic philosophy of Milton Friedman, an American economist, statistician, academic, and author who taught at the University of Chicago. He was also economic advisor to President Ronald Reagan. What has now become known as the “shock doctrine” is Friedman’s lasting legacy. It is Friedman’s teaching that are at the core of the tactics being used by the Tea Party and the GOP in with the completely manufactured debt ceiling crisis.

Friedman observed in “Capitalism and Freedom:

Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depends in the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible  becomes the politically inevitable

This is precisely what has unfolded over the last 11 years since President George W. Bush cut taxes favoring the wealthy and corporations until today with the passage of the bill raising the debt ceiling and the creation of the new “super committee” that will inevitably slash Social Security, Medicare and any other social safety program while raising no revenues.

Friedman also noted that a new administration has a six to nine month window to achieve major changes and if it doesn’t seize the opportunity to act decisively in that period, it won’t get another chance. The Bush administration understood that along with controlling both houses of congress which facilitated the tax cuts, the passage of the Patriot Act and the trillions that were thrown at the wars and the banks in 2008 with TARP.

President Obama had the perfect opportunity to do do much of what he had promised in the first six months if 2009. The question is why didn’t he press his agenda with the Democratic majority controlled congress? If you look closely at his campaign speeches and interviews and his history in politics then the legislative and policy results of the last three years were quite predictable.

It was Rep. John Conyers (D-CA), angered at Obama during this debt ceiling negotiations, who pointed out that it was Obama who put the big three social safety programs on the table, not the Republicans. Republican were decimated in two electoral cycles partially based on the electorate fear that these programs would be thrown to the wolves of corporations and Wall St. Little did most voters realize that it would be a Democratic president and congress that would chisel away at those programs with “shock Doctrine” tactics of making them vulnerable with the ACA, which helped revive the Republicans, and the manufactured debt ceiling crisis.

Some Obama supporters, in attempts to explain his policy’s and what at first glance appears to be failure and leadership weakness, blame the obstructionist tactics of the GOP and feckless blue dogs in the Senate and the tea party. But it was Obama who created the deficit commission to look at ways to cut the deficit. It was Obama who appointed two deficit and anti-social security hawks to chair the commission. And who helped finance it? None other than octogenarian, billionaire Pete Peterson whose life’s goal has been to end Social Security and Medicare.

It was Obama who took single payer off the table even before talks on ACA began. He then proceeded to negotiate behind close doors with hospital executives, insurance and pharmaceutical industry to remove the public option and lower prescription drug costs.

It was Obama who failed to get a strong bank regulatory bill and prosecute the bankers for the fraud in the mortgage and housing collapse. It was Obama who agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for two more years worsening the deficit and cut payroll taxes making Social Security part of the deficit problem for the first time and actually raising taxes on households making less than $40,000 worsening their economic status. It was Obama who blocked cost of living raises for Social Security recipients and retires federal employees and froze pay for all federal employees.

Some critics are trying to explain away all these events as weakness either do not understand, or are just ignoring, that this latest “crisis” ws as much Obama’s making as it was the tea party’s.

Paul Krugman gets it now when he concluded that this is what Obama wants

Glenn Greenwald said “the President wanted tax revenues to be part of this deal.  But it is absolutely false that he did not want these brutal budget cuts and was simply forced — either by his own strategic “blunders” or the “weakness” of his office — into accepting them.  The evidence is overwhelming that Obama has long wanted exactly what he got: these severe domestic budget cuts and even ones well beyond these, including Social Security and Medicare, which he is likely to get with the Super-Committee created by this bill.”

At “Rolling Stone”, Matt Taibbi, on pondering Obama’s tack to starboard, thinks that Obama is doing what he is told

The Democrats, despite sitting in the White House, the most awesome repository of political power on the planet, didn’t fight at all. They made a show of a tussle for a good long time — as fixed fights go, you don’t see many that last into the 11th and 12th rounds, like this one did — but at the final hour, they let out a whimper and took a dive.

We probably need to start wondering why this keeps happening. Also, this: if the Democrats suck so bad at political combat, then how come they continue to be rewarded with such massive quantities of campaign contributions? When the final tally comes in for the 2012 presidential race, who among us wouldn’t bet that Barack Obama is going to beat his Republican opponent in the fundraising column very handily? At the very least, he won’t be out-funded, I can almost guarantee that.

And what does that mean? Who spends hundreds of millions of dollars for what looks, on the outside, like rank incompetence?

It strains the imagination to think that the country’s smartest businessmen keep paying top dollar for such lousy performance. Is it possible that by “surrendering” at the 11th hour and signing off on a deal that presages deep cuts in spending for the middle class, but avoids tax increases for the rich, Obama is doing exactly what was expected of him?

Yes, that is exactly what he is doing. This was and is Obama’s plan.

h/t Vastleft for the graphic

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

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Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 24 killed in Syria as Ramadan begins: activist


14 hrs ago

At least 24 civilians were killed by security forces across Syria, including 10 after evening prayers on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a human rights activist said on Tuesday.

The reports of new deaths came as the UN Security Council was to hold a second day of emergency talks on the deadly crackdown in Syria.

“Ten martyrs fell and several people were wounded by gunfire from security forces during protests in several Syrian towns after the ‘taraweeh’ evening prayers” on Monday’s first day of Ramadan, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman said, adding that the day’s death toll was 24.