Daily Archive: 06/15/2012

Jun 15 2012

Get Ready To Eat Cat Food

Here comes Simpson-Bowles to spare the bloated Pentagon budget and avoid letting the Bush/Obama Tax Cuts expire:

Geithner praises Simpson-Bowles framework as the way forward

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recently suggested the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction framework is the way forward in terms of balancing the federal budget. [..]

“We need to take advantage of the incentive created by the sequester and these expiring tax cuts to force this town to confront and take on the things that divide us now in these long-term fiscal reforms so we can go ahead and govern,” he said. “This is a place where people spend a lot of time worrying whether Washington can work again and for Washington to say, ‘We’re going to defer,’ I don’t see how that would be helpful to confidence.” [..]

David Dayen at FDL News Desk adds his take on Geithner’s appearance before the Council on Foreign Relation:

The lame duck session has so many fiscal issues expiring at the same time that many view it as an opportunity to put together the long-sought “grand bargain” on deficit reduction. Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson have recently come out of their shells and resumed a high-profile media tour in an effort to get their framework into the discussion for the lame duck session. The Bowles-Simpson plan does include tax increases of hundreds of billions above the Bush tax cut rates, albeit lower than what would occur if the Bush tax cuts were allowed to completely expire.

Because of this, Democrats like Nancy Pelosi have embraced Bowles-Simpson to tease Republicans for their opposition to higher tax rates. But that also puts Democrats on the hook for embracing cuts to the social safety net, including Medicare and Social Security. And on Wednesday, Geithner said that Bowles-Simpson is “the only path to resolution politically [and] growing essentially economically, and I think that’s where it’s going to end up.” He didn’t make the caveats on Social Security or other entitlements.

David also noted that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairperson of the tax writing Senate Finance Committee, would hold hearing in the next few weeks on Bowles-Simpson and Domenici-Rivlin, which combine revenue-raising tax reforms with restraint on entitlement spending. Baucus told The Hill:

“My view is everything’s on the table,” Baucus said. “That’s a psychology which I think is very important to keep people talking, keep people working.”

In his comprehensive article on Geithner’s alliance with JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Cat Food Commission co-chair former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-UT), Richard (RJ) Eskow had this to say about the coming of Simpson-Bowles:

Geithner said Simpson-Bowles was the perfect recipe: “tax reforms that raise a modest amount of revenue tied to spending savings across the government that’s still preserving some room to invest in things that matter to how we grow moving forward.” He added, “There’s no plausible way to get there economically or politically without that kind of balanced framework again that marries tax reform with broader spending reforms,”

Geithner is joining leading Democrats on the Hill like Sen. Max Baucus and Rep. Nancy Pelosi in backing the plan. And take careful note of the fact that they’re all using the phrase “tax reform” instead of “tax increases.” They don’t just plan to pay for the wealth and misdeeds of the Dimon crowd with your Social Security and Medicare benefits. They also plan to raise your taxes, not theirs. The Simpson Bowles plan would actually lower the top tax rate for people like Jamie Dimon, while “tax reform” would tax away tax deductions for the middle class’s health insurance, mortgages, and other expenses.

All our elected officials are completely out of touch with what Americans want and need. Yes, indeed, something wicked this way comes.

Jun 15 2012

Some Undocumented Immigrants Get Their Dream

Well, almost. President Barack Obama, who has deported more undocumented immigrants than any president since 1892, will stop deporting Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children:

The policy, effective immediately, will apply to people who are currently under 30 years old, who arrived in the country before they turned 16 and have lived in the United States for five years. They must also have no criminal record, and have earned a high school diploma, remained in school or served in the military.

These qualifications resemble in some ways those of the so-called Dream Act, a measure blocked by Congress in 2010 that was geared to establish a path toward citizenship for certain young illegal immigrants. The administration’s action on Friday, which stops deportations but does not offer citizenship, is being undertaken by executive order and does not require legislation. It was announced by the Department of Homeland Security.

What the younger immigrants will obtain, officials said, is the ability to apply for a two-year “deferred action” that effectively removes the threat of deportation for up to two years, with repeated extensions. “This is not immunity, it is not amnesty,” said Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary. “It is an exercise of discretion.”

Why now? Political expediency. Obama needs the Latino vote:

The Obama administration has failed to deliver on its promise to lift the threat of deportation for law-abiding undocumented immigrants, according to an alliance of Hispanic and civil rights leaders who warn that disappointment among Latino voters could damage the president’s chances of being re-elected.

A new report from the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (Firm) (pdf) criticises the department of homeland security for failing to implement its own policy that switched the target of deportations onto serious criminal offenders, or the “worst of the worst”.

Firm concludes that the lack of implementation could “undermine the credibility of President Obama’s standing with Latino and immigrant communities nationwide“.

Obama = Lying Hypocrite:

[C]onsider Obama’s 2008 campaign promise that he would tackle immigration reform his first year in office. He now has to explain why he failed to do this: “The challenge we’ve got on immigration reform,” Obama said in a Univision interview last month, “is very simple. I’ve got a majority of Democrats who are prepared to vote for it. And I’ve got no Republicans who are prepared to vote for it.”

That is a bold faced lie:

The DREAM Act would have passed if Democrats had shown unity on the measure.

But five Democrats voted against the legislation: Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and both Montana Democrats, Jon Tester and Max Baucus. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition to the DREAM Act Saturday in a statement Saturday but missed the vote.

Three Republicans crossed party lines to vote for the bill: Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Utah Sen. Bob Bennett.

Maybe if Obama had put some pressure on those 5 “Democrats” the bill would have passed.

The Obama administration claims that the number are up because they are focused on deporting criminals is another lie: Most of the immigrants who were deported were Latinos and not criminals:

[L]ess than 50 percent of the people removed have a criminal conviction, according to the Homeland Security Department’s own statistics. For example, 387,000 people were deported in 2010, of which only 169,000 had committed a crime. The statistics also show that the large majority of deportations are Latinos. Roughly 73 percent are from Mexico, 8 percent from Guatemala, 6 percent from Honduras and 5 percent from El Salvador.

Remember, this is a president who talks indignantly about the immigration enforcement laws passed by GOP legislators in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina – calling them “misdirected” and “bad law.” He has even instructed his Justice Department to challenge them in court.

This is good news for those undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children with their families. It is a step forward in solving a problem that Obama could have done three and half years ago without congressional approval but has chosen to do it now just to get the Latino community vote. The one thing it is not, a step towards citizenship. Hypocrite.

Jun 15 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”.

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Paul Krugman: We Don’t Need No Education

Hope springs eternal. For a few hours I was ready to applaud Mitt Romney for speaking honestly about what his calls for smaller government actually mean.

Never mind. Soon the candidate was being his normal self, denying having said what he said and serving up a bunch of self-contradictory excuses. But let’s talk about his accidental truth-telling, and what it reveals.

In the remarks Mr. Romney later tried to deny, he derided President Obama: “He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers.” Then he declared, “It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

Bill Boyarsky: Who’s Not Putting Americans Back to Work

The Federal Reserve report on Americans’ finances documents the terrible damage the Great Recession has inflicted on the nation, a toll that has been clear to its victims since the collapse began. The report’s dry language doesn’t begin to describe how bad things really are, and it stops short of blaming those who perpetuate the misery.

In pursuing this story since 2007, I and other journalists have seen foreclosed homes and visited unemployment offices, free food distributions, community health centers and mental health counselors. Former donors were now coming to free health clinics and food banks to get help themselves, an experience that will be forever remembered by their families. Lost homes, jobs and hopes are the legacy of this period.

Richard {RJ) Eskow: Dimon, Simpson, Geithner: This Week’s Three Horsemen of the Corporate-Politics Apocalypse

It had to happen sooner or later: Jamie Dimon, the bank CEO who’s become the public face for our greedy and corrupt banking system, is openly backing the austerity plan pushed by former Senator Alan Simpson, the arrogant and abusive voice of our country’s bought-and-sold elite “bipartisan” consensus. Will the Democratic Party led by Barack Obama stand up to that corporate consensus, or submit to it?

The “Simpson Bowles” plan is designed to force the American people to pay for the wealth, greed, and criminality of the banking class that Jamie Dimon has chosen to represent. The day after Dimon’s testimony another institution announced that it was planning to impose the Simpson Bowles austerity plan on us: the Presidential Administration of Barack Obama, as represented by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Sahar Aziz: Selective Counterterrorism Practices Threaten Social Mobility of American Muslims

At the Brookings’ U.S. Islamic World Forum in Doha, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough was asked whether President Obama would implement his Cairo speech commitment to stop government discrimination against American Muslims. Because Bush’s counterterrorism practices had stigmatized Muslims as the most distrusted minority in America, Obama’s pledge was particularly salient.

But instead of vowing to stop Obama’s continuation of Bush’s policies, McDonough pointed to American Muslims’ success in business and the professions. Rather than address the merits of legitimate grievances, McDonough diverted attention with a generic talking point that disregards the impediments to Muslims’ success as a result of profiling, selective prosecution, and discrimination in the post-9/11 era.

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: Campaign Cash Is the Gift that Keeps on Giving

If you’re visiting a candidate this summer and looking for a thoughtful house gift, might we suggest a nice Super PAC? Thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, they’re all the rage among the mega-wealthy. All it takes is a little paperwork and a wad of cash and presto, you can have, as The Washington Post describes it, a “highly customized, highly personalized” political action committee.

It’s easy — Super PACs come in all amounts and party affiliations. You don’t have to spend millions, although a gift that size certainly won’t be turned aside.  Cable TV tycoon Marc Nathanson got a Super PAC for his friend, longtime Democratic Congressman Howard Berman from California, and all it cost was $100,000. Down in North Carolina, Republican congressional candidate George Holding received a handsome Super PAC that includes $100,000 each from an aunt and uncle and a quarter of a million from a bunch of his cousins. Yes, nothing says family like a great big, homemade batch of campaign contributions.

Ari Melber: Exposing Obama’s Not-So-Secret War

Washington has many “secrets,” but few secrets. The Obama administration will face a test on the difference this month, in a case probing a major national security program.

The administration is defending a federal court challenge to one of its most significant operations in the war against Al Qaeda: the drone program of targeted killings. President Barack Obama’s lawyers insist the entire program is a “secret” – so it can’t even be hauled into court in the first place.

We know the program exists, however – thanks to the president’s own statements. We even know a little about how it works, based on the many leaks that drove detailed coverage of the drone killings, including that big New York Times exposé on how the “kill list” is made. Whether those leaks were illegal disclosures or acceptable protocol – often a political distinction – took on a new urgency Friday, when the Justice Department announced an investigation into the administration’s endangered secrets.

Jun 15 2012

American Aristocrats

David Brooks, The Follower Problem, The New York Times

You know, we always called each other goodfellas. Like you said to, uh, somebody, “You’re gonna like this guy. He’s all right. He’s a good fella. He’s one of us.” You understand? We were goodfellas. Wiseguys. But Jimmy and I could never be made because we had Irish blood. It didn’t even matter that my mother was Sicilian. To become a member of a crew you’ve got to be one hundred per cent Italian so they can trace all your relatives back to the old country. See, it’s the highest honor they can give you. It means you belong to a family and crew. It means that nobody can fuck around with you. It also means you could fuck around with anybody just as long as they aren’t also a member. It’s like a license to steal. It’s a license to do anything.

The Ancien Régime

Luke Russert, nepotist prince

Luke Russert is being groomed as a simulacrum of his father — but without the inspiring rags-to-riches story

By Alex Pareene, Salon

Thursday, May 24, 2012 11:35 AM EDT

Tim Russert was not the unalloyed saint of tough journalism that his celebrators describe in posthumous tributes, but he was at least a classic American success story, of the sort that we still enjoy pretending is common: Blue-collar kid from Rust Belt town becomes enormously successful thanks largely to brains and hard work. The story of Luke Russert, alas, is a much more common one in American life: No-account kid of successful person has more success thrust upon him.

Pretty much immediately upon the death of his father, Luke Russert inexplicably had a full-time broadcasting job, supplanting his part-time broadcasting job co-hosting a satellite radio sports talk show with James Carville. (That was a real thing that actually existed. Can you imagine a human who would want to listen to that?)

Russert isn’t the only famous child in media. He isn’t even the only famous child at NBC, which also employs Jenna Bush Hager and Chelsea Clinton (who renewed her three-month temporary contract earlier this year, despite barely producing any work for the network). Fox has Peter Doocy, Chris Wallace and, here in New York, Greg Kelly. ABC has Chris Cuomo, and CNN Anderson Cooper. A.G. Sulzberger is a reporter for the New York Times. Some of those people are fine journalists, by the way. Nepotism has always been a major force in journalism and media – it is a fact of life and one that would be exhausting to be continually het up about – and plenty of nepotism beneficiaries are wonderful writers and talented people. If you’re raised by interesting people and get a good education at home and at the finest schools, you really ought to turn out pretty smart. But Russert is emblematic of the sort of nepotism that gives nepotism a bad name. He’s not a wonderful writer or a particularly talented person. And unlike Chelsea Clinton and her very silly “reporting good news about people who do charity or something” beat, he’s actually got a real journalism job that someone else without the name Russert could be doing much more effectively. He’s not even particularly good on TV.

You mean, let me understand this, ’cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but I’m funny how? I mean funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?

Jun 15 2012

On This Day In History June 15

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 image to enlarge

June 15 is the 166th day of the year (167th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 199 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day 1215, Magna Carta sealed.

Following a revolt by the English nobility against his rule, King John puts his royal seal on the Magna Carta, or “Great Charter.” The document, essentially a peace treaty between John and his barons, guaranteed that the king would respect feudal rights and privileges, uphold the freedom of the church, and maintain the nation’s laws. Although more a reactionary than a progressive document in its day, the Magna Carta was seen as a cornerstone in the development of democratic England by later generations.

John was enthroned as king of England following the death of his brother, King Richard the Lion-Hearted, in 1199. King John’s reign was characterized by failure. He lost the duchy of Normandy to the French king and taxed the English nobility heavily to pay for his foreign misadventures. He quarreled with Pope Innocent III and sold church offices to build up the depleted royal coffers. Following the defeat of a campaign to regain Normandy in 1214, Stephen Langton, the archbishop of Canterbury, called on the disgruntled barons to demand a charter of liberties from the king.

Magna Carta is an English charter, originally issued in the year 1215 and reissued later in the 13th century in modified versions, which included the most direct challenges to the monarch’s authority to date. The charter first passed into law in 1225. The 1297 version, with the long title (originally in Latin) The Great Charter of the Liberties of England, and of the Liberties of the Forest, still remains on the statute books of England and Wales.

The 1215 Charter required King John of England to proclaim certain liberties, and accept that his will was not arbitrary, for example by explicitly accepting that no “freeman” (in the sense of non-serf) could be punished except through the law of the land, a right which is still in existence today.

Magna Carta was the first document forced onto an English King by a group of his subjects, the feudal barons, in an attempt to limit his powers by law and protect their privileges. It was preceded and directly influenced by the Charter of Liberties in 1100, in which King Henry I had specified particular areas wherein his powers would be limited.

Despite its recognised importance, by the second half of the 19th century nearly all of its clauses had been repealed in their original form. Three clauses remain part of the law of England and Wales, however, and it is generally considered part of the uncodified constitution. Lord Denning described it as “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despo In a 2005 speech, Lord Woolf described it as “first of a series of instruments that now are recognised as having a special constitutional status”, the others being the Habeas Corpus Act, the Petition of Right, the Bill of Rights, and the Act of Settlement.

The charter was an important part of the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law in the English speaking world, although it was “far from unique, either in content or form”. In practice, Magna Carta in the medieval period did not in general limit the power of kings, but by the time of the English Civil War it had become an important symbol for those who wished to show that the King was bound by the law. It influenced the early settlers in New England and inspired later constitutional documents, including the United States Constitution.