Daily Archive: 09/06/2011

Sep 06 2011

Polls: Majority Says U.S. On Wrong Track

It takes three polls to tell us what many of us already knew without being told.

Obama ratings sink to new lows as hope fades

Public pessimism about the direction of the country has jumped to its highest level in nearly three years, erasing the sense of hope that followed President Obama’s inauguration and pushing his approval ratings to a record low, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

More than 60 percent of those surveyed say they disapprove of the way the president is handling the economy and, what has become issue No. 1, the stagnant jobs situation. Just 43 percent now approve of the job he is doing overall, a new career low; 53 percent disapprove, a new high.

Among political independents – a prime target of Obama’s new outreach – 78 percent see the country as off-kilter. The percentage saying so in January 2009 was 79 percent. Pessimism was even higher among independents – and everyone else – during the depth of the financial crisis in late 2008. But for Obama, things are back to square one.

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Obama hits all-time lows, according to NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll

Transcript

Battleground Poll: Obama approval rating down amid deep economic fears

The debt-limit showdown and the stalled economy have tarnished President Barack Obama’s standing with voters and dampened their optimism about America’s future, with nearly three out of four voters now saying the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to a new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll.

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Capturing a rapid erosion of confidence through the summer months, the poll found 72 percent of voters believe the country is either strongly or somewhat headed in the wrong direction, a jump of 12 percentage points since May. Only 20 percent of voters say the country is going in the right direction, a 12-point drop in the same period.

Sep 06 2011

Endorsing The Rick Perry Jobs Program

In a cloud over ozone

By Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post

Published: September 2

Republicans are trying to sell the false premise that protecting the environment inevitably means sacrificing jobs. President Obama should denounce this snake oil for what it is – rather than appear to accept it.



On Friday, Obama appeared to cede the point. He blocked new EPA rules limiting ground-level ozone – otherwise known as smog – as part of a larger effort to reduce “regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty” for U.S. businesses. The move came hours after a disappointing labor report showing that the economy added no new jobs in August.



As for the predictions of massive job losses, they sound just like the warnings we heard when environmental regulations ended acid rain or ensured that the citizens of Cleveland no longer had to worry about the Cuyahoga River catching fire.

There is plenty of evidence that the net effect of smart environmental regulation is to create jobs, not destroy them. New, more efficient plants are built; older, dirtier facilities are retrofitted. Companies innovate by developing new technology – ultimately making U.S. industry more competitive. And everyone is a little healthier.

Broken Windows, Ozone, and Jobs

Paul Krugman, The New York Times

September 3, 2011, 10:07 am

I’ve actually been avoiding thinking about the latest Obama cave-in, on ozone regulation; these repeated retreats are getting painful to watch. For what it’s worth, I think it’s bad politics. The Obama political people seem to think that their route to victory is to avoid doing anything that the GOP might attack – but the GOP will call Obama a socialist job-killer no matter what they do. Meanwhile, they just keep reinforcing the perception of mush from the wimp, of a president who doesn’t stand for anything.



(T)ighter ozone regulation would actually have created jobs: it would have forced firms to spend on upgrading or replacing equipment, helping to boost demand. Yes, it would have cost money – but that’s the point! And with corporations sitting on lots of idle cash, the money spent would not, to any significant extent, come at the expense of other investment.

More broadly, if you’re going to do environmental investments – things that are worth doing even in flush times – it’s hard to think of a better time to do them than when the resources needed to make those investments would otherwise have been idle.

Sep 06 2011

Reflections on 9/11

Naom Chomsky: Was There an Alternative? Looking Back on 9/11 a Decade Later

We are approaching the 10th anniversary of the horrendous atrocities of September 11, 2001, which, it is commonly held, changed the world. On May 1st, the presumed mastermind of the crime, Osama bin Laden, was assassinated in Pakistan by a team of elite US commandos, Navy SEALs, after he was captured, unarmed and undefended, in Operation Geronimo.

A number of analysts have observed that although bin Laden was finally killed, he won some major successes in his war against the U.S. “He repeatedly asserted that the only way to drive the U.S. from the Muslim world and defeat its satraps was by drawing Americans into a series of small but expensive wars that would ultimately bankrupt them,” Eric Margolis writes. “‘Bleeding the U.S.,’ in his words.” The United States, first under George W. Bush and then Barack Obama, rushed right into bin Laden’s trap… Grotesquely overblown military outlays and debt addiction… may be the most pernicious legacy of the man who thought he could defeat the United States” — particularly when the debt is being cynically exploited by the far right, with the collusion of the Democrat establishment, to undermine what remains of social programs, public education, unions, and, in general, remaining barriers to corporate tyranny.

That Washington was bent on fulfilling bin Laden’s fervent wishes was evident at once. As discussed in my book 9-11, written shortly after those attacks occurred, anyone with knowledge of the region could recognize “that a massive assault on a Muslim population would be the answer to the prayers of bin Laden and his associates, and would lead the U.S. and its allies into a ‘diabolical trap,’ as the French foreign minister put it.”

Glenn Greenwald: Endless War and the Culture of Unrestrained Power

The Washington Post woke up a few days ago and realized that despite everything that has happened since 9/11 — no successful Terrorist attacks on the Homeland in 10 years, a country mired in debt and imposing “austerity” on ordinary Americans, and the election of a wonderfully sophisticated, urbane, progressive multinationalist from the storied anti-war Democratic Party — we are still smack in the middle of “the American era of endless war” with no end in sight.  Citing the Pentagon’s most recent assessment of global threats, the Post notes that in contrast to prior decades — when “the military and the American public viewed war as an aberration and peace as the norm” (a dubious perception) — it is now clear, pursuant to official doctrine, that “America’s wars are unending and any talk of peace is quixotic or naive,” all as part of “America’s embrace of endless war in the 10 years since Sept. 11, 2001.”

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Those who wield true political authority as part of an empire are vested with immense power over other people, but those who exercise that authority as part of wars are more powerful still.  That kind of power not only attracts warped authoritarians and sociopaths like moths to light, but it also converts — degrades — otherwise normal people who come to possess it.  That’s not a new development, but rather as old as political power itself.  Those bolded quotes are a pure expression of a demented, amoral God complex.  That’s the mentality that produces Endless War, and Endless War, in turn, breeds that mentality.

This is why there is nothing more dangerous — nothing — than allowing this type of power to be exercised without accountability: no oversight, no transparency, no consequences for serious wrongdoing: exactly the state of affairs that prevails in the United States.  It’s also why there are few things more deeply irresponsible, vapid and destructive than demanding that citizens, activists, and journalists retreat into Permanent Election Mode: transform themselves into partisan cheerleaders who refrain from aggressively criticizing the party that is slightly less awful out of fear that the other party might win an election 14 months away, even when their own party is the one in power.  Renouncing the duty of holding accountable political leaders who exercise vast power makes one directly responsible for the abuses they commit.  To see the results of that mindset, re-read that paragraph from (Amy) Davidson about what the U.S. is doing not in 2004, but now more than ever, in the name of Endless War.

Joseph E. Stiglitz: The Price of 9/11

NEW YORK – The September 11, 2001, terror attacks by Al Qaeda were meant to harm the United States, and they did, but in ways that Osama bin Laden probably never imagined. President George W. Bush’s response to the attacks compromised America’s basic principles, undermined its economy, and weakened its security.

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ndeed, when Linda Bilmes and I calculated America’s war costs three years ago, the conservative tally was $3-5 trillion. Since then, the costs have mounted further. With almost 50% of returning troops eligible to receive some level of disability payment, and more than 600,000 treated so far in veterans’ medical facilities, we now estimate that future disability payments and health-care costs will total $600-900 billion. But the social costs, reflected in veteran suicides (which have topped 18 per day in recent years) and family breakups, are incalculable.

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Ironically, the wars have undermined America’s (and the world’s) security, again in ways that Bin Laden could not have imagined. An unpopular war would have made military recruitment difficult in any circumstances. But, as Bush tried to deceive America about the wars’ costs, he underfunded the troops, refusing even basic expenditures – say, for armored and mine-resistant vehicles needed to protect American lives, or for adequate health care for returning veterans. A US court recently ruled that veterans’ rights have been violated. (Remarkably, the Obama administration claims that veterans’ right to appeal to the courts should be restricted!)

Military overreach has predictably led to nervousness about using military power, and others’ knowledge of this threatens to weaken America’s security as well. But America’s real strength, more than its military and economic power, is its “soft power,” its moral authority. And this, too, was weakened: as the US violated basic human rights like habeas corpus and the right not to be tortured, its longstanding commitment to international law was called into question.

Sep 06 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”.

Paul Krugman: The Fatal Distraction

Friday brought two numbers that should have everyone in Washington saying, “My God, what have we done?”

One of these numbers was zero – the number of jobs created in August. The other was two – the interest rate on 10-year U.S. bonds, almost as low as this rate has ever gone. Taken together, these numbers almost scream that the inside-the-Beltway crowd has been worrying about the wrong things, and inflicting grievous harm as a result.

Ever since the acute phase of the financial crisis ended, policy discussion in Washington has been dominated not by unemployment, but by the alleged dangers posed by budget deficits. Pundits and media organizations insisted that the biggest risk facing America was the threat that investors would pull the plug on U.S. debt. For example, in May 2009 The Wall Street Journal declared that the “bond vigilantes” were “returning with a vengeance,” telling readers that the Obama administration’s “epic spending spree” would send interest rates soaring.

The interest rate when that editorial was published was 3.7 percent. As of Friday, as I’ve already mentioned, it was only 2 percent.  

Robert Dreyfuss: A Break in the US-Iran Logjam?

It’s probably too much to hope that talks between the United States and Iran might resume in a positive direction anytime soon, given the exigencies of the 2012 election and Iran’s seemingly frozen internal politics. But the latest statements from Iran about its nuclear research program are a good sign.

Fereydoun Abbasi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, this weekend offered to allow “full supervision” of the program by the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for five years in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. “By lifting the UN sanctions … the International Atomic Energy Agency can have full supervision over Iran’s nuclear work for five years.” What, exactly, he meant by “full supervision” isn’t clear, but it’s long been a demand of the world community for Iran to accede to the IAEA’s additional protocol for oversight of Iran’s activity.

Moustafa Bayoumi: The Long Life of Profiling, Ten Years After 9/11

The Associated Press has been doing some good investigative reporting lately. On August 24, the AP broke the news that the CIA and the NYPD are combining forces to spy on Muslims in New York City. Since the CIA is prohibited by law to collect intelligence on American citizens, this is more than newsworthy. It’s probably unconstitutional, which explains why the NYPD has, according to the report, kept these activities secret.

This is no ordinary program, nor does it seem to be merely about sharing expertise.

According to the report, the NYPD dispatches “rakers,” the NYPD term, into a “human mapping program” to monitor the daily lives of Muslim Americans in the places where ordinary living transpires, such as bookstores, cafés, bars, and nightclubs, without the hint of criminal wrongdoing. The police department also employs “mosque crawlers,” who scrutinize imams and their sermons, and have gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs commonly associated with Muslim workers.

David K. Shipler: Our Vanished Civil  Liberties http://www.thenation.com/artic…

Caricatures created by politics never fit comfortably into the Oval Office. Eisenhower was less deferential to the military than he seemed likely to be, Kennedy was not at all beholden to the pope, George W. Bush was smarter than portrayed and Barack Obama has not led a charge from the left-least of all on behalf of the civil liberties that have eroded since September 11, 2001.

In pursuit of both terrorists and common criminals, Obama has perpetuated so many of the Bush administration’s policies that even Republicans might take heart. Granted, he triggered an outcry on the right when he attempted to close the Guantánamo prison and try the accused 9/11 plotters in federal court, and he repudiated the Bush/Cheney torture policies by ordering interrogators to abide by the Army Field Manual. His moderately liberal judicial nominees, including two for the Supreme Court, have not won him points with the Federalist Society, which grooms young conservatives for the bench.

Michael Winship: Eric Cantor: Mean, Ornery and Just Plain Wrong

Cantor’s ideological purity overrules common sense and heart

For Manhattan at least, last week was the weather week that wasn’t. But the minor earthquake and weakened Hurricane Irene served as reminders of the caprice of nature and — only a couple of weeks before the tenth anniversary of 9/11 — the knowledge that at any given moment calamity literally is just around the corner.

Both also should serve as wake-up calls to those know-nothings and kleptocrats who reject the value of government and would like it rendered down to nothingness — the helpless infant that Eric Cantor, Grover Norquist and their pals wish to see drowned in the bathtub.

Harry Shearer: The Two Things Obama Got Wrong  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

August. The month that Democrats seem to think doesn’t count. Think John Kerry in 2004. Think Barack Obama the last two years. Somebody had better look at Washington Democrats’ calendars and circle August in red. It might help.

This August, in addition to the media swoonfest over Michele Bachmann’s meaningless Ames straw poll victory (which even the media polpundits admitted was meaningless), there have been new signs that the economy is swooning, too. Pinch me if I’m dreaming, but isn’t it 2009? It must be, because the president is about to deliver a major speech on jobs.

Sep 06 2011

No Liability For Banks

It is becoming quite apparent the New York State Attorney General Eric Scheiderman was right about the 50 state AG negotiations to settle the mortgage backed securities fraud. It will shield the banks from liability despite denial by Iowa Ag Tom Miller and others that it would not:

“The negotiation committee, working on behalf of all 50 states, does not have any intention of constraining the office of the New York attorney general in any way, has not tried to do so and could not do so,” Miller said. “Schneiderman was removed from the executive committee because he has, over the last several months, undermined our efforts to reach an agreement.”

In a Financial Times article on Labor Day by Shahien Nasiripour puts an end to that myth:

The talks aim to settle allegations that banks including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial seized the homes of delinquent borrowers and broke state laws by employing so-called “robosigners”, workers who signed off on foreclosure documents en masse without reviewing the paperwork.

State prosecutors have proposed effectively releasing the companies from legal liability for allegedly wrongful securitisation practices, according to five people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

Some state officials have expressed concern that they have offered the banks far too broad a release from liability. . . . . .

The worry over the states’ counterproposal stems from its treatment of loan documents. The term sheet proposes to release the banks from legal liability over how mortgage documents were maintained, prepared and transferred, people familiar with the matter said.

Though the counteroffer attempts to release the banks from liability with respect to home repossessions, and explicitly states that the release does not include securitisation claims, the language is broad enough in that it could prevent state officials from bringing securitisation claims in the future should they sign up to the agreement.

At the heart of securitisation claims, which involve missteps in how home mortgages were bundled into bonds, are allegations that the banks did not properly maintain and transfer documents from one step in the complicated chain to the next.

If banks are released from liability regarding documentation practices, some industry officials believe they would be able to evade state lawsuits directed at how they bundled the loans into securities.

Robert Sheer observed This proposed a settlement for a pittance of $20 billion is chump change compared what the banks reaped in “direct cash subsidies, virtually zero-interest loans, and the Fed took $2 trillion in bad paper off their hands while the banks exacerbated the banking crisis they had created through additional shady practices.

Matt Taibbi noted, too, that the banks are getting off the hook for really odious offenses:

   The idea behind this federally-guided “settlement” is to concentrate and centralize all the legal exposure accrued by this generation of grotesque banker corruption in one place, put one single price tag on it that everyone can live with, and then stuff the details into a titanium canister before shooting it into deep space.

   This is all about protecting the banks from future enforcement actions on both the civil and criminal sides. The plan is to provide year-after-year, repeat-offending banks like Bank of America with cost certainty… and will also get to know for sure that there are no more criminal investigations in the pipeline.

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To give you an indication of how absurdly small a number even $20 billion is relative to the sums of money the banks made unloading worthless crap subprime assets on foreigners, pension funds and other unsuspecting suckers around the world, consider this: in 2008 alone, the state pension fund of Florida, all by itself, lost more than three times that amount ($62 billion) thanks in significant part to investments in these deadly MBS.

The White House and AG Miller are doing everything in their power to discredit Schneiderman and block further investigations that could lead to recovering more than 20 pieces of silver.

Sep 06 2011

On This Day In History September 6

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.

September 6 is the 249th day of the year (250th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 116 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1995, Cal Ripken Jr of the Baltimore Orioles plays in his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking a record that stood for 56 years.

Calvin Edwin “Cal” Ripken, Jr. (born August 24, 1960) is a former Major League Baseball shortstop and third baseman who played his entire career (1981-2001) for the Baltimore Orioles.

During his baseball career, he earned the nickname “Iron Man” for doggedly remaining in the lineup despite numerous minor injuries and for his reliability to “show up” to work every day. He is perhaps best known for breaking New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played, a record many deemed unbreakable. Ripken surpassed the 56-year-old record when he played in his 2,131st consecutive game on September 6, 1995 between the Orioles and the California Angels in front of a sold-out crowd at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. To make the feat even more memorable, Ripken hit a home run in the previous night’s game that tied Gehrig’s record and another home run in his 2,131st game, which fans later voted as Major League Baseball’s “Most Memorable Moment” in MLB history. Ripken played in an additional 502 straight games over the next three years, and his streak ended at 2,632 games when he voluntarily removed his name from the lineup for the final Orioles home game of the 1998 season. His record 2,632 straight games spanned over seventeen seasons, from May 30, 1982 to September 20, 1998.

Sep 06 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Europe stocks fall 5.0%

By Ben Perry, AFP

6 hrs ago

European stocks plunged by about 5.0 percent in mid afternoon trading on Monday, hit by acute tension over the risk of recession in leading economies and over eurozone debt.

Bonds issued by Greece and Italy fell, and the cost of insuring against default by Italy and France, as indicated by the market for credit default swap (CDS) instruments, rose sharply.

German stocks were down by nearly 6.0 percent, while in London, the FTSE index fell by 3.06 percent to 5,129.97 points.

Sep 06 2011

Countdown with Keith Olbermann: Worst Persons 9.2.2011

Worst Persons: Lucien Chenier, Nan Hayworth and Mike Shaw{/center.

Find out why Lucien Chenier of Ottawa, Ontario, is WORSE; Westchester Rep. Nan Hayworth is WORSER; and Mike Shaw, the acting chairman of the Republican Committee of Pima County, Ariz., is the WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD for September 2, 2011.