Daily Archive: 02/12/2012

Feb 12 2012

Rant of the Week: Keith Olbermann

Why Susan G. Komen for the Cure remains corrupt under Nancy Brinker’s leadership

KEITH OLBERMANN: And now, as promised, a brief Special Comment on the resignation of Karen Handel from Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

There is no avoiding the simple fact that a week had passed since Ms. Handel decided that the Komen organization should collaborate with the witch hunt that the nation’s right wing has directed against Planned Parenthood. In the time until Ms. Handel’s exit this morning, Komen’s only real actions had been a mealymouthed partial reversal about a rule change it had first denied, a new-new policy to replace the new policy – a spineless convenience by which Komen has still not really committed to continuing its funding of Planned Parenthood and, perhaps more importantly, by which it has not committed to staying out of this dangerous, ideological game which will kill some freedoms and which could kill some women.

Komen could not do that by itself, of course.

If it never gave another dollar to Planned Parenthood, it would be doing the latter organization a fundraising favor, because it has raised the consciousness of many to whom the reality was not yet clear, that one of vote-getting machines in this country was zeroing in on Planned Parenthood as the scapegoat for all the evils which that vote-getting machine exaggerates – to whip up paranoia and political power among the easily led of this nation. Those who were thus awakened will find – or rather, fund – Planned Parenthood in ways Komen never has, and never could.

But the real issue here is the Komen organization’s attempt to hide its new partnership with that most base of political advocacy groups – the guttersnipe purveyors of hate, and fear and revenge fantasies – by couching as apolitical the most intense kind of political involvement; the willingness to participate in guilt by association; to echo the infamous call of investigation; to shun affiliation with a group or an individual purely to amplify suspicion and doubt and paranoia about that group or individual.

All of the dark periods of American history have begun with acts like Komen’s and excuses like Komen’s.

Planned Parenthood’s extraordinary services for men and women – 97 percent of which have had nothing to do with abortion – were to Komen’s advantage, until one Florida congressman decided to try to get himself re-elected by launching a specious investigation of Planned Parenthood.

And recall what we’re dealing with. Planned Parenthood’s opponents will believe anything and say anything. Remember well that tragic, comical story from yesterday about the Louisiana congressman who posted to Facebook, with horrified comments accompanying it, the story of an $8 billion Planned Parenthood “Abortion-Plex” being built in Kansas, without ever noting – perhaps without even caring – that the story was, in fact, from the satirical website The Onion. These are the people with whom Susan G. Komen for the Cure got into bed.

Ms. Handel’s resignation changes nothing of this. Komen’s statement today continues to lie about its own motives, to insist its attack on Planned Parenthood was, “Not based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology,” and to speak only of, “Mistakes in how we have handled recent decisions.”

Komen – specifically its president, Susan Komen’s own sister Nancy Brinker – has still not told the truth nor explained how she will again make this organization worthy of the donations from, and participation in and by, the women and men of this country who had put women’s health and valuable organizations like Komen and Planned Parenthood above politics.

Mrs. Brinker has dishonored both her sister’s memory and this essential cause. Until she acts, either by correcting what she acquiesced to, or by leaving the organization to somebody who truly cares, until she does one or the other – since are a thousand generous organizations which perform what Komen performs – Komen does not deserve a dollar in donations from a shocked public. Karen Handel is gone. Komen’s corruption remains.

Feb 12 2012

In Memoriam: Whitney Houston

Whitney Elizabeth Houston (August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012)

Where Do Broken Hearts Go

In 1991 at Super Bowl XXV, Whitney gave this flawless performance of the National Anthem that has yet to be matched.

May the Goddess guide her on her journey to the Summerlands. May her family, friends, fans and the world find Peace.

The Wheel Turns. Blessed Be.

Feb 12 2012

On This Day In History February 12

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.

February 12 is the 43rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 322 days remaining until the end of the year (323 in leap years).

On this day in 1924, Rhapsody In Blue, by George Gershwin, performed for first time

Rhapsody in Blue premiered in an afternoon concert on February 12, 1924, held by Paul Whiteman and his band Palais Royal Orchestra, entitled An Experiment in Modern Music, which took place in Aeolian Hall in New York City. Many important and influential composers of the time such as John Phillip Sousa and Sergei Rachmaninoff were present. The event has since become historic specifically because of its premiere of the Rhapsody.

The purpose of the experiment, as told by Whiteman in a pre-concert lecture in front of many classical music critics and highbrows, was “to be purely educational.” It would “at least provide a stepping stone which will make it very simple for the masses to understand, and therefore, enjoy symphony and opera.” The program was long, including 26 separate musical movements, divided into 2 parts and 11 sections, bearing titles such as “True form of jazz” and “Contrast: legitimate scoring vs. jazzing”. Gershwin’s latest composition was the second to last piece (before Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1). Many of the numbers sounded similar and the ventilation system in the concert hall was broken. People in the audience were losing their patience, until the clarinet glissando that opened Rhapsody in Blue was heard. The piece was a huge success, and remains popular to this day.

The Rhapsody was performed by Whiteman’s band, with an added section of string players, and George Gershwin on piano. Gershwin decided to keep his options open as to when Whiteman would bring in the orchestra and he did not write out one of the pages for solo piano, with only the words “Wait for nod” scrawled by Grofe on the band score. Gershwin improvised some of what he was playing. As he did not write out the piano part until after the performance, we do not know exactly how the original Rhapsody sounded.

The opening clarinet glissando came into being during rehearsal when; “…as a joke on Gershwin, [Ross] Gorman (Whiteman’s virtuoso clarinettist) played the opening measure with a noticeable glissando, adding what he considered a humorous touch to the passage. Reacting favourably to Gorman’s whimsy, Gershwin asked him to perform the opening measure that way at the concert and to add as much of a ‘wail’ as possible.”

Feb 12 2012

The Mortgage Settlement: Not Settled Yet

So one has yet seen the final agreement between the banks and the state attorneys general and it may be awhile before we do. And as Yves Smith at naked capitalism stated “You know it’s bad when banks are the most truthful guys in the room“:

Remember that historical mortgage settlement deal that was the lead news story on Thursday? It has been widely depicted as a done deal. The various AGs who had been holdouts said their concerns had been satisfied.

But in fact, Bank of America’s press release said that the deal was “agreements in principle” as opposed to a final agreement. The Charlotte bank had to be more precise than politicians because it is subject to SEC regulations about the accuracy of its disclosures. And if you read the template for the AG press release carefully, you can see how it finesses where the pact stands. And today, American Banker confirmed that the settlement pact is far from done, and the details will be kept from the public as long as possible, until it is filed in Federal court (because it includes injunctive relief, a judge must bless the agreement).

This may not sound all that important to laypeople, but most negotiators and attorneys will react viscerally to how negligent the behavior of the AGs has been. The most common reaction among lawyers I know who been with white shoe firms (including former partners) is “shocking”.

In fact as the American Banker points out the document does not exist:

More than a day after the announcement of a mammoth national mortgage servicing settlement, the actual terms of the deal still aren’t public. The website created for the national settlement lists the document as “coming soon.”

That’s because a fully authorized, legally binding deal has not been inked yet.

The implication of this is hard to say. Spokespersons for both the Iowa attorney general’s office and the Department of Justice both told American Banker that the actual settlement will not be made public until it is submitted to a court. A representative for the North Carolina attorney general downplayed the significance of the document’s non-final status, saying that the terms were already fixed. [..]

Other sources who spoke with American Banker raised doubts that everything is yet in place. A person familiar with the mortgage servicing pact says that a settlement term sheet does not yet exist. Instead, there are a series of nearly-complete documents that will be attached to a consent judgment eventually filed with the court. That truly final version will include things such as servicing standards, consumer relief options, legal releases, and enforcement terms. There will likely be separate state and a federal versions of the release.

Some who talked to American Banker said that the political pressure to announce the settlement drove the timing, in effect putting the press release cart in front of the settlement horse.

Whatever the reason for the document’s continued non-appearance, the lack of a public final settlement is already the cause for disgruntlement among those who closely follow the banking industry. Quite simply, the actual terms of a settlement matter. [..]

“The devil’s in the details,” says Ron Glancz, chairman of law firm Venable LLP’s Financial Services Group. “Until you see the document you’re never quite sure what your rights are.”

“It’s frustrating,” agrees Stern Agee analyst John Nadel. “But it’s not unlike anything else that’s been going on in financial reform generally, is it?” [..]

“It is hard for me to believe that they would have gone public in the way that they did if they didn’t have it all worked out. But it is unusual that we don’t have a copy of the settlement yet,” says Diane Thompson, an attorney for the National Consumer Law Center.

A spokesperson from the South Carolina AG’s office told American Banker that when the agreement is finalized it would be posted to this website “nationalmortgagesettlement.com,” which raised some eyebrows. David Dayen at FDL News Desk questioned why .com and not .org? Dayen also pointed out that by not having all the details ironed out is “just a shocking abdication of responsibility”:

This is incredible. The Administration, the AGs, everyone involved in this made a big show of an agreement reached on foreclosure fraud. But there is no piece of paper with the agreement on it. There’s no term sheet. There are just agreements in principle.

There’s a HUGE difference between an agreement in principle and the actual terms. I mean night and day. The Dodd-Frank bill was for all intents and purposes an agreement in principle. It left to the federal regulators to write hundreds of rules. And we have seen how that process of implementation has faltered on several key points. But the Administration wanted to announce a “big deal,” the details be damned. And they got buy-in from the AGs. Everyone else stayed silent.

Yves Smith appeared with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now to discuss just how bad this deal is.

The U.S. Justice Department has unveiled a record mortgage settlement with the nation’s five largest banks to resolve claims over faulty foreclosures and mortgage practices that have indebted and displaced homeowners and sunk the nation’s economy. While the deal is being described as a $25 billion settlement, the banks will only have to pay out a total of $5 billion in cash between them. We speak to one of the settlement’s most prominent critics, Yves Smith, a longtime financial analyst who runs the popular finance website, “Naked Capitalism.” “The settlement, on the surface, does look like it is helping homeowners,” Smith says. “But in fact, the bigger part that most people don’t recognize is the way it actually helps the banks with mortgages on their own books. … The real problem is that this deal is just not going to give that much relief.”

Yes, this could be a lot worse and won’t address the needs of the underwater homeowners or those who lost their homes through fraud.

Feb 12 2012

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis 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”.

The Sunday Talking Heads:

Up with Chris Hayes: Sunday’s guests are Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) (@johnsarbanes), Congressman from Maryland’s third district since 2007, member of Committee on Natural Resources and Committee on Science, Space, and Technology; Jared Bernstein (@econjared), Former Chief Economist & Economic Policy Advisor to Vice President Biden, and Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities; Zephyr Teachout (@zephyrteachout), Associate Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law and Visiting Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School; Errol Louis (@errollouis), Host of “Inside City Hall” on NY1 News; and Karam Nachar (@knachar), Cyber-activist working with Syrian opposition and Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University.

This Week with George Stephanopolis: George will interview former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, and House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). On the roundtable panel are ABC’s George Will, political strategist and ABC News contributor Donna Brazile, Fox News contributor and co-founder of Keep America Safe Liz Cheney, and Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Joining Bob this Sunday are GOP presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, and Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

The Chris Matthews Show: This week’s guests Gloria Borger, CNN Senior Political Analyst, Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post Columnist, Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune Columnist and John Heilemann New York Magazine National Political Correspondent.

Meet the Press with David Gregory: This Sunday David Gregory’s guests are GOP hopeful former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew. The round table panel guests are the head of the Super PAC supporting Pres. Obama, Bill Burton; Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan; Washington Post‘s EJ Dionne, and MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Ms. Crowley’s guests are White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew (Lew will need a long nap after all these stops), Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), CNN‘s Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash, and Time Magazine‘s Washington Bureau Chief Mike Duffy.

Feb 12 2012

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

  Risks of Afghan War Shift From Soldiers to Contractors

 By ROD NORDLAND

This is a war where traditional military jobs, from mess hall cooks to base guards and convoy drivers, have increasingly been shifted to the private sector. Many American generals and diplomats have private contractors for their personal bodyguards. And along with the risks have come the consequences: More civilian contractors working for American companies than American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year for the first time during the war.

American employers here are under no obligation to publicly report the deaths of their employees and frequently do not. While the military announces the names of all its war dead, private companies routinely notify only family members. Most of the contractors die unheralded and uncounted – and in some cases, leave their survivors uncompensated.




Sunday’s Headlines:

Younger Castro steers Cuba to a new revolution

Greece’s date with destiny

Southern African foreign ministers discuss AU deadlock

Syria unrest: Arab League to meet in Cairo for talks

Archaeologists strike gold in quest to find Queen of Sheba’s wealth