Daily Archive: 08/18/2011

Aug 18 2011

Super Cat Food Committee: We Are So Screwed

This article was authored by our neoliberal Democratic saviors on the new and improved Cat Food Committee (h/t digby). We are so screwed:

Together We Can Beat the Deficit

By PATTY MURRAY, MAX BAUCUS AND JOHN KERRY

Our country has long been a beacon of light in the world because the American people always come together when times are tough. Over the past few months, in debating the debt ceiling and deficit reduction, that light of common cause has appeared to flicker at times in our nation’s capital. As appointees to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction-12 members of Congress charged with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade-we hope to remedy that.

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   Make no mistake, this is an important moment for our country. Millions of Americans are still hurting, working overtime to pay the bills, struggling to find a job and a way forward for their families. Trillions of dollars in private capital are sitting on the sidelines because businesses are not yet confident enough in our economy or in their lawmakers to invest in the future. These families and businesses are demanding that this new committee work together to overcome the partisanship and brinksmanship of recent months and put our fiscal house in order.

   The Standard & Poor’s downgrade of America’s credit rating was an unprecedented wake-up call for those who have for too long acted as if overheated rhetoric and dysfunction in Washington has no consequences for Main Street and working families. The shockwaves that roiled financial markets after the downgrade was a condemnation of Congress’s inability to address the unsustainable trajectory of our current fiscal policies.

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   None of us ran for office arguing that the United States should see its credit rating downgraded. Nobody ever campaigned in favor of mountains of debt or championed the idea that every American’s interest rates should go up. And no one has ever gone into a debate pledging that China and India should own this economic century because we can’t make our democracy work here at home.

   This moment demands leadership, but it also demands consensus. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was set up to require bipartisanship, and we are going to work hard to achieve it. We know that each of us comes into this committee with clear ideas on the issues and what our priorities are for our nation. But a solution can only be found by merging these priorities across party lines and finding a solution that works for the American people.

   We know that our goal is to reduce spending. But we also know that America faces not just a budget deficit but also a jobs deficit. Nobody on this committee would be happy if we reduced the budget deficit but even more Americans end up losing their jobs.

   So we are ready to get to work with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to report out a balanced plan, with the shared sacrifices this moment requires. One that moves past the partisan rancor, puts our nation back on strong fiscal footing, and allows us to continue shining bright in the world in this generation and for generations to come.

Like digby said: “Confidence Fairy, “shared sacrifice”, “balanced approach”, China bashing, the whole nine yards.”

Then there is Obama’s less than inspiring not a plan yet and the Chamber of Commerce clamoring for “for “reform of entitlement programs” like Medicare and Medicaid (which means cutting spending on these programs).”

The stocks of the maker of Preparation H may just save the tanking stock market  

Aug 18 2011

The Simple Truth Is…

Frank Luntz is a whore and we even know the price- $1000.

I’m only half kidding.  Stephen is using his PAC money to educate us.  We should pay attention.

Where did he get those words that are going to be the basis for his transformative campaign?  I suspect most of you already know the answer-

Aug 18 2011

Ratings Agency Under Investigation By DOJ

This is a start. But will it even get off the ground considering that it might lead to the prosecution of the banksters that are the root cause of this recession.

U.S. Inquiry Is Said to Focus on S.&P. Ratings

By Louise Story

The Justice Department is investigating whether the nation’s largest credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, improperly rated dozens of mortgage securities in the years leading up to the financial crisis, according to two people interviewed by the government and another briefed on such interviews.

The investigation began before Standard & Poor’s cut the United States’ AAA credit rating this month, but it is likely to add fuel to the political firestorm that has surrounded that action. Lawmakers and some administration officials have since questioned the agency’s secretive process, its credibility and the competence of its analysts, claiming to have found an error in its debt calculations.

In the mortgage inquiry, the Justice Department has been asking about instances in which the company’s analysts wanted to award lower ratings on mortgage bonds but may have been overruled by other S.& P. business managers, according to the people with knowledge of the interviews. If the government finds enough evidence to support such a case, which is likely to be a civil case, it could undercut S.& P.’s longstanding claim that its analysts act independently from business concerns.

At Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi has a in depth article of how the SEC, itself, ending and covering up investigations into Wall St. and the banking industry, as well as, the destruction of the evidence, over the last to decades that contributed to the financial crisis:

For the past two decades, according to a whistle-blower at the SEC who recently came forward to Congress, the agency has been systematically destroying records of its preliminary investigations once they are closed. By whitewashing the files of some of the nation’s worst financial criminals, the SEC has kept an entire generation of federal investigators in the dark about past inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation against companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AIG. With a few strokes of the keyboard, the evidence gathered during thousands of investigations – “18,000 … including Madoff,” as one high-ranking SEC official put it during a panicked meeting about the destruction – has apparently disappeared forever into the wormhole of history.

Under a deal the SEC worked out with the National Archives and Records Administration, all of the agency’s records – “including case files relating to preliminary investigations” – are supposed to be maintained for at least 25 years. But the SEC, using history-altering practices that for once actually deserve the overused and usually hysterical term “Orwellian,” devised an elaborate and possibly illegal system under which staffers were directed to dispose of the documents from any preliminary inquiry that did not receive approval from senior staff to become a full-blown, formal investigation. Amazingly, the wholesale destruction of the cases – known as MUIs, or “Matters Under Inquiry” – was not something done on the sly, in secret. The enforcement division of the SEC even spelled out the procedure in writing, on the commission’s internal website. “After you have closed a MUI that has not become an investigation,” the site advised staffers, “you should dispose of any documents obtained in connection with the MUI.”

Many of the destroyed files involved companies and individuals who would later play prominent roles in the economic meltdown of 2008. Two MUIs involving con artist Bernie Madoff vanished. So did a 2002 inquiry into financial fraud at Lehman Brothers, as well as a 2005 case of insider trading at the same soon-to-be-bankrupt bank. A 2009 preliminary investigation of insider trading by Goldman Sachs was deleted, along with records for at least three cases involving the infamous hedge fund SAC Capital.

The widespread destruction of records was brought to the attention of Congress in July, when an SEC attorney named Darcy Flynn decided to blow the whistle. According to Flynn, who was responsible for helping to manage the commission’s records, the SEC has been destroying records of preliminary investigations since at least 1993. After he alerted NARA to the problem, Flynn reports, senior staff at the SEC scrambled to hide the

The article is five fascinating pages that lays out the the revolving door of the SEC managers from the agency to the banks and Wall St. positions and back to the SEC as investigators. Another case of the felons in charge of the investigation of their own criminal activity.

Aug 18 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: How Austerity Is Ushering in a Global Recession

Not only is the United States slouching toward a double dip, but so is Europe. New data out today show even Europe’s strongest core economies – Germany, France, and the Netherlands – slowing to a crawl.

We’re on the cusp of a global recession.

Policy makers be warned: Austerity is the wrong medicine.

We all know about the weaknesses in Europe’s “periphery” – Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. But the drop in Europe’s core is dizzying.

Germany grew at an annualized rate of just half a percent last quarter, down from 5.5 percent in the first quarter of the year. France didn’t grow at all.

What’s going on in Europe’s core? Partly it’s a loss of confidence due to debt crises in the periphery. But that’s hardly all.

Robert Sheer: The Biggest Little Hypocrite in Texas

It is unfathomable that yet another Texas blowhard governor has emerged as a front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. The persistent appeal of the mythology of Texas as a model for the nation defies the lessons of logic and experience, and yet here we are with Rick Perry, a George W. Bush look-alike, as a prime contender to once again run our nation into the ground.

To begin with, Texas is not and never will be a model for the nation unless the other states discover similarly rich deposits of oil and natural gas that account for one-third of jobs and supply 40 percent of tax revenues within those states. If Texas energy receipts and jobs helped float Gov. Bush’s reputation, they have been nothing short of miraculous for Perry’s tenure. The price of oil rose from $25 a barrel when Lt. Gov. Perry replaced the newly elected President Bush to $147 in 2008 and has stayed at more than $80 a barrel since, to the dismay of anyone who has to buy gasoline.

Frances G. Bienecke: No to Arctic Drilling

ABOUT 55,000 gallons of oil have escaped into the North Sea since last week from a leaky pipeline operated by Royal Dutch Shell, about 100 miles off Scotland.

Last year, Americans watched in mounting fury as the oil industry and the federal government struggled for five disastrous months to contain the much larger BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now imagine the increased danger and difficulty of trying to cope with a similar debacle off Alaska’s northern coast, where waters are sealed by pack ice for eight months of each year, gales roil fog-shrouded seas with waves up to 20 feet high and the temperature, combined with the wind chill, feels like 10 degrees below zero by late September.

That’s the nightmare the Obama administration is inviting with its preliminary approval of a plan by Shell to drill four exploratory wells beginning next summer in the harsh and remote frontier of the Beaufort Sea, off the North Slope of Alaska.

New York Times Editorial: Wrong Answers in Britain

Nothing can justify or excuse the terrifying wave of violent lawlessness that swept through London and other British cities earlier this month. Hardworking people in struggling neighborhoods were its principal victims. Public support for racial and ethnic coexistence also suffered a damaging, and we fear lasting, blow.

The perpetrators must be punished, the police must improve their riot control techniques, and Prime Minister David Cameron’s government must do all it can to make such episodes less likely in the future. We are more confident about the first two happening than the third.

Mr. Cameron, a product of Britain’s upper classes and schools, has blamed the looting and burning on a compound of national moral decline, bad parenting and perverse inner-city subcultures.

William Pfaff: Assassination as Foreign Policy

Following the Second World War, people who had been involved with the American, British and other Allies’ “Jedburgh” teams supporting the European Resistance just before the Normandy landings, and the work of the British Special Operations Executive and the American Office of Strategic Services in Asia, were among those planning for the eventuality of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe.

We know now that this invasion never was a serious risk, either while Stalin was alive or after his death in 1953, but it was a threat that preoccupied governments in the West. Before the creation of NATO, a rudimentary “stay-behind” network of Europeans was developed to provide the nucleus for resistance following such an invasion. This was the work of the U.S. State Department-controlled Office of Policy Coordination, predecessor to the CIA, and British Intelligence’s MI9 department, which had run underground networks during the war. The U.S. part of the project was later assigned to the Defense Department. The operation was called “Gladio” (a Roman short sword) and remained secret until 1990. (In Italy and certain other countries, it had been corrupted by acquiring a right-wing conspiratorial political character.)

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: The GOP’s Summer of Discontent http://www.truthdig.com/report…

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is a cross between the Little Engine That Could and the big chain store fending off attacks from upstart rivals.

Romney gets little love from his fellow Republicans. He’s always confronting rumors spread by people who ought to support him that the existence of such a “weak field” will soon encourage new and better candidates to get in. The “weak field” line means they think Romney just doesn’t have it.

Yet Romney hangs on, methodically chipping away, avoiding mistakes and using his financial and organizational advantages to muscle his way through one month after another.

Sam Pizzigati: Doing Debt Ceiling Battle the FDR Way

At times of national fiscal crisis, President Franklin Roosevelt ever so firmly believed, you don’t give the awesomely affluent a free pass. You pound them – and then you pound them some more.

Against a Congress where zealously rich people-friendly conservatives hold the upper hand, how much can a President of the United States committed to greater equality realistically hope to accomplish?

The answer from today’s White House: not much. Advocacy for equality has to take a backseat, Obama administration insiders insist, once fanatical friends of the fortunate in Congress recklessly put at risk our nation’s full faith and credit.

But history offers another alternative. Back in 1943, halfway through World War II, a President of the United States confronted a debt ceiling crisis eerily similar to our own. That President, Franklin Roosevelt, faced a congressional opposition to inconveniencing the rich – with higher taxes – every bit

David Bromwich: Symptoms of the Bush-Obama Presidency http://www.tomdispatch.com/pos…

The Saved and the Sacked

Is it too soon to speak of the Bush-Obama presidency?

The record shows impressive continuities between the two administrations, and nowhere more than in the policy of “force projection” in the Arab world. With one war half-ended in Iraq, but another doubled in size and stretching across borders in Afghanistan; with an expanded program of drone killings and black-ops assassinations, the latter glorified in special ceremonies of thanksgiving (as they never were under Bush); with the number of prisoners at Guantanamo having decreased, but some now slated for permanent detention; with the repeated invocation of “state secrets” to protect the government from charges of war crimes; with the Patriot Act renewed and its most dubious provisions left intact — the Bush-Obama presidency has sufficient self-coherence to be considered a historical entity with a life of its own.

The significance of this development has been veiled in recent mainstream coverage of the national security state and our larger and smaller wars. Back in 2005-2006, when the Iraqi insurgency refused to die down and what had been presented as “sectarian feuding” began to look like a war of national liberation against an occupying power, the American press exhibited an uncommon critical acuteness. But Washington’s embrace of “the surge” in Iraq in 2007 took that war off the front page, and it — along with the Afghan War — has returned only occasionally in the four years since.

 

Aug 18 2011

Impact

We were all having a good inter-blog chuckle reading the reactions to an e-mail that was sent to supporters by the the New Mexico Director of OFA telling them to read the poorly written, unsubstantiated, hair-on-fire rantings of an obscure blogger/alleged activist named Spandan Chakrabarti. The article, which was supposedly written to “explain” the debt ceiling, was couched in pejoratives calling Nobel Prize winning economist Dr. Paul Krugman a “political novice” and President Obama’s critics the “Firebagger Lefty blogosphere.” It got a thumbs down reaction from several well known web sites, including this one. Now we here at Stars Hollow make no claim to having any greater on-line impact in the blogosphere than any other site, after all we are still in our “growing” stage, but to our amusement late last night, we discovered that Mr. Chakrabarti’s web site doesn’t compare to the impact of our Chief Editor, ek hornbeck. We googled Mr. Chakrabarti’s name and this is the first page of that search:

Please note, The Stars Hollow Gazette article that mentioned the name, “Spandan Chakrabarti“, is 3rd while the blogger’s own web site is further down the page in 6th.

ek hornbeck‘s reaction was “I told you his on-line impact doesn’t begin to compare with mine.”

This embarrassing kerfuffle hasn’t ended for OFA or this obscure blogger. This morning Dr. Krugman responded:

Well, at least they’re paying attention.

I would say this: on one side you have the GOP, which responds to completely crazed Tea Party demands by doing all it can to assure the hard right that it’s on its side. On the other, you have the Democratic establishment or at least part thereof, which responds to complaints from its own base that it’s going too easy on the crazies by lashing out at the base, with a bit of bearded-professor bashing on the side.

Way to strengthen your bargaining position, guys.

And the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent added his opinion:

That said, this story does provide a window into what I think is a real problem – the nature of the Obama team’s frustration with liberal critics. The problem is that some on the Obama team don’t reckon with what it is lefty critics are actually saying. Obama advisers get angry when they think liberal critics are refusing to accept the limits placed on him by current political realities, and when lefties presume at the outset that Obama will inevitably sell out. That’s reflected in Sandoval’s angry email and in other periodic explosions of anger at the “professional left.”

But the lefty critique goes considerably further than this. It’s an argument with Obama’s team about tactics and strategy, about what might be attainable if he handled these negotiations differently. The case from these critics is if Obama approached negotiations with a harder line, it would be better politics because it would juice up the base and show indys he’s a fighter. They also advocate for this course because the current dynamic is hopelessly broken – and they think a more aggressive approach has at least a chance of broadening the field of what’s substantively possible. (There’s a segment on the left that also thinks Obama wants what’s in the deals he keeps securing, but the points above are broadly what many lefties agree on.)

Whether you agree with this critique or not – people make persuasive cases in both directions – Sandoval’s email shows a broader failure to reckon with what it is that has lefty critics so ticked off. That’s the real problem here – and it’s one of the key causes of the tension between the left and the White House.

One good thing about all this is it got the attention of the traditional media and, for what it’s worth, the White House who denounced the e-mail by their own campaign director. And it got us more attention which is always a good thing. 😉

Aug 18 2011

On This Day In History August 18

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.

August 18 is the 230th day of the year (231st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 135 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified when the Tennessee General Assembly, by a one-vote margin became the thirty-sixth state legislature to ratify the proposed amendment. On August 26, 1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the amendment’s adoption.

It took 70 years of struggle by women of the Suffrage Movement headed by Susan B. Anthony to get this amendment passed. Gail Collins’ NYT Op-Ed recount of the story puts it in great perspective:

That great suffragist and excellent counter, Carrie Chapman Catt, estimated that the struggle had involved 56 referendum campaigns directed at male voters, plus “480 campaigns to get Legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters, 47 campaigns to get constitutional conventions to write woman suffrage into state constitutions; 277 campaigns to get State party conventions to include woman suffrage planks, 30 campaigns to get presidential party campaigns to include woman suffrage planks in party platforms and 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses.”

As Ms. Catt tells it and to no one’s surprise the Senate was the biggest obstacle, so the Suffragettes decided to take it to the states and amend all the state constitutions, one by one.

The constitutional amendment that finally did pass Congress bore Anthony’s name. It came up before the House of Representatives in 1918 with the two-thirds votes needed for passage barely within reach. One congressman who had been in the hospital for six months had himself carted to the floor so he could support suffrage. Another, who had just broken his shoulder, refused to have it set for fear he’d be too late to be counted. Representative Frederick Hicks of New York had been at the bedside of his dying wife but left at her urging to support the cause. He provided the final, crucial vote, and then returned home for her funeral.

The ratification stalled short of one state when it came to a vote in the Tennessee Legislature on August 18, 1920 and was short one vote to ratify when a young state legislator got a note from his mother:

Ninety years ago this month, all eyes turned to Tennessee, the only state yet to ratify with its Legislature still in session. The resolution sailed through the Tennessee Senate. As it moved on to the House, the most vigorous opposition came from the liquor industry, which was pretty sure that if women got the vote, they’d use it to pass Prohibition. Distillery lobbyists came to fight, bearing samples.

“Both suffrage and anti-suffrage men were reeling through the hall in an advanced state of intoxication,” Carrie Catt reported.

The women and their allies knew they had a one-vote margin of support in the House. Then the speaker, whom they had counted on as a “yes,” changed his mind.

(I love this moment. Women’s suffrage is tied to the railroad track and the train is bearing down fast when suddenly. …)

Suddenly, Harry Burn, the youngest member of the House, a 24-year-old “no” vote from East Tennessee, got up and announced that he had received a letter from his mother telling him to “be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt.”

“I know that a mother’s advice is always the safest for a boy to follow,” Burn said, switching sides.

We celebrate Women’s Suffrage Day on Aug. 26, which is when the amendment officially became part of the Constitution. But I like Aug. 18, which is the day that Harry Burn jumped up in the Tennessee Legislature, waving his mom’s note from home. I told the story once in Atlanta, and a woman in the audience said that when she was visiting her relatives in East Tennessee, she had gone to put a yellow rose on Harry Burn’s grave.

I got a little teary.

“Well, actually,” she added, “it was because I couldn’t find his mother.”

Aug 18 2011

My Little Town 20010617. Granddad and the Ivory Soap

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile of 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.

This is another installment about my grandfather, and he was quite the interesting guy.  I am trying to get some pictures of him, all in the custody of my former spouse, but I am sure that she will send them when she gets time.  We have no animosity, but she is just short on time.  He looked like Mr. Spock, after the surgery for the skin cancer on his ears.

But this is a very different piece.  I advise that you with young ones to read this piece first, because it is rather explicit.  But it is all factual.

Aug 18 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

Aug 18 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 US moral authority undercut by war on terror

By Lachlan Carmichael, AFP

18 hrs ago

The 9/11 attacks prompted an outpouring of international sympathy and support for the United States, but Washington’s subsequent “war on terror” undercut the superpower’s moral authority.

Ten years later, analysts say, America has not fully recovered its standing as a steadfast defender of liberty and fierce protector of the rule of law, handing Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda at least a partial victory.

Critics accused president George W. Bush of riding roughshod over civil liberties, signing off on torture, extraordinary rendition and warrantless surveillance as he waged his “war on terror” no matter what the cost.