Daily Archive: 05/29/2012

May 29 2012

The lies we tell ourselves

Obama the Warrior

Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 07:59 AM EDT

Miller (Link Here) devotes himself to debunking one of the worst myths in Washington, propagated out of self-interest by conservatives and progressives alike: namely, that there is a vast and radical difference between the parties on most key issues and that bipartisanship is so tragically scarce. In the foreign policy context which is his expertise, Miller explains that – despite campaign rhetoric designed to exaggerate (or even invent) differences in order to motivate base voters – the reality is exactly the opposite.



The article (Link Here) describes in detail how “Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret ‘nominations’ process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical” – an actual presidential-led death panel (as always in American media parlance, “Terrorist” means: individuals alleged by the U.S. Government – with no evidence, transparencey or due process – to be Terrorists). Specifically, Obama himself “insisted on approving every new name on an expanding ‘kill list,’ poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre ‘baseball cards’ of an unconventional war.” In total secrecy – with no transparency or oversight of any kind – he then selects who will live and who will die.



One of the most glaring myths progressives like to tell themselves and others is that the GOP refuses to praise Obama no matter what he does. This is patently false. Virtually every one of the most far-right neocon Bush officials – including Dick Cheney himself – has spent years now praising Obama for continuing their Terrorism policies which Obama the Senator and Presidential Candidate once so harshly denounced. Every leading GOP candidate except Ron Paul wildly praised Obama for killing U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki without a shred of due process and for continuing to drop unaccountable bombs on multiple Muslim countries.

May 29 2012

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Trevor Potter: How I Became Stephen Colbert’s Lawyer And Joined the Fight to Rescue Our Democracy from Citizens United

The Supreme Court’s campaign finance legacy has undermined the “whole purpose of the Constitution,” to have a “functioning, representative” government.

I am often asked how, after 25 years as an election lawyer, service as an FEC Commissioner, and General Counsel to 2 presidential campaigns, did you end up as Stephen Colbert’s lawyer on late night TV.  The answer is “I was lucky…”

It just goes to show-90% of life is “just showing up”-and returning phone calls.

I was at my desk one day last spring and the Colbert staff called-“What is a PAC.  Would you be willing to explain it on the Show?”  And I’ve been doing it ever since…with the forbearance of my law partners at Caplin & Drysdale, although as one of them put it to me,  “For the first time in 30 years, my kids care what I do, because I work with Stephen Colbert’s lawyer!”

Stephen Colbert does have a knack for taking very complicated legal subjects and hours of staff discussions and research and distilling it into 4 ½ minutes of Q&A that captures the essence of the issue, and explains it in layman’s language in a humorous, captivating way.  What every Supreme Court advocate wishes for!

Joe Nocera: The Simplicity Solution

Time to fess up: With the two-year anniversary of the passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law approaching, I’m still not sure what to think about the darn thing.

Will the law prevent another bank bailout if we have a repeat of September 2008? Will it bring transparency to the trading of derivatives? Will the Volcker Rule truly eliminate the ability of banks to make risky trades for their own account? Are all the new regulations burying small and medium-size banks in excessive costs? Or are they ensuring their safety and soundness? No one can say for sure.

The crucial difference between the Glass Steagall Act, the landmark banking reform law that was passed during the Great Depression, and Dodd-Frank, is that the former had an appealing simplicity that Dodd-Frank lacks. Glass-Steagall did one basic thing. It forced banks to get rid of their investment banking arms. Dodd-Frank, by contrast, accepts the complexity of modern banking – and then adds to that complexity with its thousands of pages of regulations. That complexity is something to worry about.

Joe Atcheson: So You’d Like Me to Contribute to the Democratic Campaign?

Then Make Them Wear Diapers

You get them.  The letters from Obama or Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  The calls from state Democratic candidates telling you what’s at stake.  

They show up around election time with increasing frequency – sort of like Obama’s speeches about “change,” and his embrace of progressive principles.

In 2007, I gave what was for me, a lot.  And I ended up feeling like Charlie Brown after Lucy snatches the football away – fooled again.

No more.

Mr. Obama, Ms. Wasserman Shultz, Mr. Reid and the rest of you, here’s what you have to do to get my money this time.  And you’d better start now.

Stand for something besides compromise

New York Times Editorial: End of the Charade

The airwaves are already filled with blaring political attacks masquerading as “issue ads,” such as the one in the Missouri Senate race that ends with, “Call Claire McCaskill. Tell her Missouri doesn’t need government-run health care.” This ad, and dozens like it, is sponsored by the United States Chamber of Commerce, which likes to claim that it is merely educating voters about the issues rather than telling them how to vote.

The airwaves are already filled with blaring political attacks masquerading as “issue ads,” such as the one in the Missouri Senate race that ends with, “Call Claire McCaskill. Tell her Missouri doesn’t need government-run health care.” This ad, and dozens like it, is sponsored by the United States Chamber of Commerce, which likes to claim that it is merely educating voters about the issues rather than telling them how to vote.

Chris Hedges: The War on Gays

The sentencing of Dharun Ravi for the hateful abuse that may have driven his gay roommate at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi, to commit suicide, or Barack Obama’s public acceptance of gay marriage, prevents many of us from seeing that life for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people is getting worse-much worse.

No one understands this better than the gay activist and pastor Mel White. White, along with his husband and partner of 30 years, Gary Nixon, founded Soulforce, an organization committed to using nonviolent resistance to end religion-based oppression. White and hundreds of Soulforce volunteers protest outside megachurches that preach hatred and bigotry in the name of religion. White travels to communities where young gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people have committed suicide. He holds memorial services for them in front of the church doors. He accuses the pastors of these churches of murder. His books “Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America” and “Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right Tell Us to Deny Gay Equality,” are two of the most important works that examine the innate cruelty and proto-fascism of the Christian right. White, more than perhaps any other preacher in the country, has pulled young men and women back from the brink of despair, from succumbing to the tragic fate of Tyler Clementi. And White is scared.

Robert Fisk: The Going Price of Getting Away with Murder… Would $33m Be Enough?

La Clinton hath spoken. Thirty-three million smackers lopped off Pakistan’s aid budget because its spooks banged up poor old Dr Shakeel Afridi for 33 years after a secret trial. And, as the world knows, Dr Afridi’s crime was to confirm the presence of that old has-been Osama bin Laden in his grotty Abbottabad villa.

Well, that will teach the Pakistanis to mess around with a brave doctor who is prepared to help the American institution that tortures and murders its enemies. Forget the CIA’s black prisons and rendition and water-boarding, and the torture of the innocents in the jails of our friendly dictators. Dr Afridi was just doing the free world a favour. And WOW, Dr Afridi got shopped by Leon Pannetta when he was CIA boss, and now Barack Obama is accused of letting him down.

May 29 2012

On This Day In History May 29

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.

May 29 is the 149th day of the year (150th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 216 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1913, Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps makes its infamous world premiere

Some of those in attendance to see the Ballets Russes at the Théâtre des Champs-élysées on May 29, 1913, would already have been familiar with the young Russian composer Igor Stravinsky through his 1910 ballet L’Oiseau de feu (The Firebird). But if they expected his newest work to proceed in the same familiar and pleasing vein as his first, they were in for a surprise. From the moment the premiere performance of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps (Rite of Spring) began on this night in 1913, it was clear that even an audience of sophisticated Parisians was totally unprepared for something so avant-garde.

Premiere

After undergoing revisions almost up until the very day of its first performance, it was premiered on Thursday, May 29, 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and was conducted by Pierre Monteux under the Ballets Russes.

The premiere involved one of the most famous classical music riots in history. The intensely rhythmic score and primitive scenario shocked audiences more accustomed to the demure conventions of classical ballet. Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography was a radical departure from classical ballet. Stravinsky would later write in his autobiography of the process of working with Nijinsky on the choreography, stating that “the poor boy knew nothing of music” and that Nijinsky “had been saddled with a task beyond his capacity.” While Stravinsky praised Nijinsky’s amazing dance talent, he was frustrated working with him on choreography.

This frustration was reciprocated by Nijinsky with regard to Stravinsky’s patronizing attitude: “…so much time is wasted as Stravinsky thinks he is the only one who knows anything about music. In working with me he explains the value of the black notes, the white notes, of quavers and semiquavers, as though I had never studied music at all… I wish he would talk more about his music for Sacre, and not give a lecture on the beginning theory of music.”

The complex music and violent dance steps depicting fertility rites first drew catcalls and whistles from the crowd. At the start, the audience began to boo loudly. There were loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. These were soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually degenerated into a riot. The Paris police arrived by intermission, but they restored only limited order. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance. Fellow composer Camille Saint-Saëns famously stormed out of the premiére allegedly infuriated over the misuse of the bassoon in the ballet’s opening bars (though Stravinsky later said “I do not know who invented the story that he was present at, but soon walked out of, the premiere.”) .

Stravinsky ran backstage, where Diaghilev was turning the lights on and off in an attempt to try to calm the audience. Nijinsky stood on a chair, leaned out (far enough that Stravinsky had to grab his coat-tail), and shouted counts to the dancers, who were unable to hear the orchestra (this was challenging because Russian numbers above ten are polysyllabic, such as eighteen: vosemnadsat vs. seventeen: semnadsat).

After the premiere, Diaghilev is reported to have commented to Nijinsky and Stravinsky at dinner that the scandal was “exactly what I wanted.”

May 29 2012

Fed Bank Examiners Go Native

Not only did they go native, they were hand picked by the same bank CEO’s that sit on the Federal Reserve board of directors. This is great article of how that works from Prof William K. Black, associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, who explains some more of the reasons the TBTF banks need to be broken into smaller pieces.

Embedded Examiners always married the Natives, but now their Bosses Do Hook Ups

Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Ben Protess have written an extraordinarily important column for the New York Times about embedded examiners at JPMorgan.

Embedded examiners’ are federal regulators whose normal work station is a desk at the bank.  We only embed examiners for systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs) – banks so large that they pose a systemic risk to global economy.

Embedded examiners do not work.  They get too close to the bank officers and employees.  In the regulatory ranks we called this “marrying the natives.”  Nothing works with SDIs – they are too big to manage, too big to fail, and too big to regulate.  A conventional bank examination, scaled up to size to fit an SDI the size of JPMorgan would have 500 examiners and take 18 months to “complete.”  (Obviously, when it takes that long to complete an examination it is impossible to “complete” an examination in any meaningful sense – by the time you’ve spent 18 months examining an SDI it can be a radically different bank.)  One cannot conduct an effective conventional bank examination of even a medium-sized bank on a “real time” basis because of the amount of new information pouring in every minute.  Conventional examinations examine a bank’s records and operations “as of” some date (typically the last quarter-end for which reports have been filed).  Embedding examiners is an effort at achieving an “early warning” system.  It has one virtue – it indicates that some senior regulator(s) recognized that they cannot rely on the bank’s own reports to determine whether it is steering toward trouble.

In fairness, twenty-five years ago the proponents of embedding recognize the severity of the “marrying the natives” problem.  They simply viewed embedding as the least bad manner of attempting the impossible – effectively regulating SDIs.  Here is the key passage of the NYT column.

   Roughly 40 examiners from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and 70 staff members from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency are embedded in the nation’s largest bank. They are typically assigned to the departments undertaking the greatest risks, like the structured products trading desk. Even as the chief investment office swelled in size and made increasingly large bets, regulators did not put any examiners in the unit’s offices in London or New York, according to current and former regulators who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

   Senior JPMorgan executives assured the bank’s watchdogs after the financial crisis that the chief investment office, with hundreds of billions in investments, was not taking risks that would be a cause for concern, people briefed on the matter said. Just weeks before the trading losses became public, bank officials also dismissed the worry of a senior New York Fed examiner about the mounting size of the bets, according to current Fed officials.

The authors of the article frame the issue as whether Jamie Dimon’s role as Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York poses a conflict of interest and could have led to the regulatory failure to place any examiners in the chief investment office (CIO).  The CIO appears to be the largest de facto hedge fund in the world.  (Note: “hedge fund” is a deliberately misleading term.  Entities called hedge funds typically speculate rather than hedge.  When I call the CIO a “hedge fund” I mean that it largely speculates and disingenuously calls its bets “hedges.”) [..]

SDIs are not simply dangerous, they are also inefficient.  Shrinking the SDIs to the point where they no longer posed a systemic risk would also increase their efficiency, make them small enough to regulate, and help recover our democracy.

SDIs that function as banks pose intolerable risks to the global economy.  SDIs that function as (thinly disguised) hedge funds should be far beyond the pale.  Conservative and libertarian philosophy rightly condemn providing enormous federal subsidies to a private entity whose senior officers claim any wins and socialize any severe losses.

May 29 2012

FOIA Revelations Show Administration Role In Occupy Crackdown

DHS documents were released to Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) that despite extensive redactions reveal a greater administration role than previously known in the crackdown on the Occupy movement.

The release is described on the PCJF website:

Homeland Security Documents Show Massive Nationwide Monitoring of Occupy Movement

Documents just obtained by the PCJF from its FOIA request show massive nationwide monitoring, surveillance and information sharing between the Department of Homeland Security and local authorities in response to Occupy. The PCJF, also on behalf of author/filmmaker Michael Moore and the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee, has made a series of FOIA demands regarding law enforcement involvement in the Occupy Crackdown. …

This set of released materials reveals intense involvement by the DHS’ National Operations Center (NOC) in these activities. The DHS describes the NOC as, “the primary national-level hub for domestic situational awareness, common operational picture, information fusion, information sharing, communications, and coordination pertaining to the prevention of terrorist attacks and domestic incident management. The NOC is the primary conduit for the White House Situation Room and DHS Leadership for domestic situational awareness and facilitates information sharing and operational coordination with other federal, state, local, tribal, non-governmental operation centers and the private sector.”

Documents are available in 3 pdfs here, here and here.