09/06/2012 archive

2012 Democratic National Convention: Day 3

The Party of Austerity: Still Seeking that Grand Bargain

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Thursday September 6, 2012 11:36 am

One side (Republicans) wants to transform safety net programs and would probably get no further than cutting them; the other side (Democrats) wants to cut them and will use its power to force their allies along. Democrats have become the party of austerity, and they see the question as, bizarrely, one of credibility. You don’t earn your stripes in Washington unless you hurt a poor person, I guess.

Sadly, even in the midst of the speeches over the last two days, you had some austerity policy snuck in. Bill Clinton had a piece about Bowles-Simpson, the least well-received part of the whole address. Elizabeth Warren had a (fleeting, admittedly) reference to reducing debt, and she wasn’t talking about private individuals, for whom it would be a good strategy. Cory Booker introduced the party platform with several paeans to deficit fetishism. And according to a top aide, the President will pursue this as well tonight.

It doesn’t matter that the rank-and-file views this with skepticism. We saw how much the rank-and-file mattered on that platform vote yesterday. They’ll fall in line.

The austerity experiment in the rest of the world has been a total failure. The US is in a slightly better economic position at the moment, but that doesn’t really make it any better a position to sharply pull back on fiscal accommodation. Indeed, the fiscal accommodation is one of the reasons the country IS in that better economic position, relatively speaking. And the adequacy of these programs for beneficiaries should really be the focus rather than actuarial projections 25 years in the future. That’s especially true when there’s an ongoing mass employment crisis, a fire burning through the country of wasted human capital.

But Democrats have truly embraced this policy of fiscal austerity. What saved us from this once is the total intransigence on the part of Republicans to accept a good deal and provide the cover in the form of a modest tax increase. If Democrats let the Bush tax cuts expire, however, they can get what they term a modest tax increase through a tax cut bill, and layer on their spending austerity changes, including social insurance. So even if there’s no warp-speed “deal” after the elections, you would have to look out for one shortly thereafter.

If you want to raise your voice in dissent, now would be a good time.

Local News Anchor Challenges, Calls Out President on Kill List

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Thursday September 6, 2012 10:18 am

Swann not only asked the question about the President’s kill list and the assassination of American citizens from flying robots, he provided the necessary context. The President’s answer was one of casual evasion: “You’re basing this on reports in the news that have never been confirmed by me, and I don’t talk about national security decisions in that way.” Swann didn’t let it end there but explained precisely why this is a silly evasion. We have on-the-record accounts of virtually every major national security player in the White House – including the Chief of Staff, the former Director of National Intelligence, the former CIA Director and current Defense Secretary, and yes, President Obama himself – acknowledging the use of drones in assassination of suspected terrorists abroad. Common sense dictates that the targets for drones aren’t picked through use of a dartboard, but a deliberative process. In fact, the kill list article came out of direct quotes from White House officials to the New York Times. It was held up as an example of the President’s ruthlessness in dealing with national security threats. But when anyone questions it, he retreats to the cloak of secrecy. This mirrors how the Administration deals with these things in court. It’s OK to leak to the media to boost a President’s credentials during a re-election campaign, but if you actually raise the question yourself, it’s a secret. This guarantees a one-sided view of the matter.

Later, Obama said that the non-existent program that he can’t confirm was narrowly targeted against Al Qaeda, has been successful in “taking them off the field,” and that this has allowed us to “transition out of Afghanistan.” And Swann called B.S. on that too. First of all, the targeted drone strikes have gone far, far afield of Afghanistan. Second, this alleged narrow targeting goes all the way to Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, the 16 year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki, and like his father, an American citizen. Amazingly, Swann mentions Abdulrahman, probably for the first time on Fox 19 Cincinnati. “To say that killing those two American citizens in Yemen can bring an end to the Afghanistan war? That’s simply disingenuous.”

Kamala Harris Embarrasses Herself By Touting Terrible Foreclosure Fraud Settlement

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Thursday September 6, 2012 7:09 am

I have to call attention to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who drew the short straw of having to defend this Administration’s housing policy. And she delivered in all its disingenuousness. Maybe she knew the lie at the heart of her claims, because she gave as flat a speech as I’ve ever seen her give. I saw Harris give a surrogate speech for Obama in 2008 at the California Democratic Party convention, going up against Bill Clinton, and give the better speech than the former President. She knows how to do this. Yesterday, she didn’t.

(N)obody “took on the banks” in the foreclosure fraud settlement. It was designed to deliver immunity for the crimes that created the Great Recession, the largest consumer fraud in history. You should not describe a penalty for documented crimes as “winning $25 billion for struggling homeowners.” And homeowners will never see the bulk of that money. Dozens of states have stolen the hard dollars out of that settlement to plug their budget holes, and that includes Harris’ home state of California. The money designated for homeowners in “credits” has not materialized into principal reduction thus far, but has almost entirely gone to short sales, which banks were engaged in for at least a year prior to the settlement. A short sale is just a kinder, gentler foreclosure which ends with the homeowner out of the home. At the root, it’s a waiver of a deficiency judgment on a home sale (where the sale price is less than the price of the mortgage, a “deficiency judgment” allows banks to go after the individual homeowner for the balance), and in a dozen states – including Harris’ home state of California – banks can’t sue for a deficiency judgment anyway.

And the key thing you have to understand about housing is that nothing has fundamentally changed in the relationship between homeowner and loan servicer. … The broken servicing market has not been fixed, and given the fact that there were no consequences the first time around, it’s pretty clear that it will never be fixed.

Obama is indefensible on this issue. Completely. Totally. Utterly. Harris praises him for “leadership,” but generating a foreclosure mitigation system that was nothing more than “foaming the runway” for the banks, so they could absorb foreclosures more slowly, was anything but leadership.

Eric Schneiderman had the right idea by just not going to this convention, where he would have to defend the indefensible. Harris couldn’t help herself.

What are we cheering for?

Don’t let the conventions distract you from the real lesson of 2012: America is becoming increasingly undemocratic

By Matt Stoller, Salon

Thursday, Sep 6, 2012 12:47 PM EDT

Ultimately, we’re seeing that both parties are rotten. This rot is rooted in economics. Despite the bitter rhetoric, Obama and Romney are basically in agreement about how the country should be governed. Both Romney and Obama want to see the same core economic trends continue. These are, most significantly, a transition to an energy system based on hydro-fracking of natural gas and oil deposits (and some renewable energy), a large national security state, the sale of public assets to private interests, globalized financial flows, a preservation of the capital structure of the large banks, free rein of white-collar behavior and austerity in public budgets. This policy agenda is a reflection of the quiet coup that IMF chief economist Simon Johnson wrote about in 2010.

You can see significant policy agreements in both policy and personnel choices. For instance, Ben Bernanke, the leader of the Federal Reserve, which is the only institution with any latitude for policymaking, was a Bush appointee, but was reappointed by Obama. Top Romney advisor Glenn Hubbard argues Bernanke should be reappointed for a third term. And on a policy level, whether you call it Romneycare in Massachusetts, or Obamacare nationally, it’s the same healthcare program. On trade, Romney pledged, in his economic platform, to sign three free corporate agreements on day one of his administration, those with Colombia, South Korea and Panama. The Obama administration signed them last year, and brags about them in the Democratic Platform. Both candidates ardently support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the secretive NAFTA on steroids treaty being negotiated right now by Obama’s trade representatives.

And while much ink has been spilled on the lies contained in vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s speech, the Obama campaign is equally dishonest. The premise of the Obama campaign is that the country faces a choice, between a middle class-driven economy and an economy driven by inequality and the rich. But under Obama, inequality has increased even faster than it did under Bush.

The larger consequences of having two candidates who share similar policy ideas, who both believe in police state tactics to suppress whistle-blowers, who both are driven by their allegiance to a wealthy political class, are not acknowledged. It isn’t that American democracy is at risk. American democracy was at risk, perhaps four or eight or 12 years ago. Today, speaking of democracy in America is quaint – the country increasingly resembles an undemocratic state, with a free wealthy elite and a much larger poorer populace, constrained by monopolistic corporations that collude with the government.

In fact, the lesson of the 2012 election, if we are honest with ourselves, is simple, and disturbing. America is shifting from a democracy into an authoritarian state. This authoritarianism is soft, with some remnants of an open civil society, and there is as yet no violence used against domestic political actors. Nazi Germany we are not. But after 14 years of political crises, starting with the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the extreme financial deregulation of the late 1990s, it’s time to face the music about what kind of country we have become. The 2012 election is more than a contest of cynicism and disillusionment, it’s an unveiling of a new quasi-authoritarian political system in place of the traditional norms of democratic deliberation.

There is hope. Even authoritarian systems derive their legitimacy from the consent of the governed. That’s why the 2012 election drives such bitter rhetoric – the appearance of a contest makes the public believe it has a choice in its future, and that more radical measures are unnecessary or hopeless. Nonetheless, the public is losing faith in a rigged money-driven electoral system, which is a step toward reclaiming power. Next is a recognition that it is the elite political class as a whole that is the enemy, including well-marketed corporate figures like Barack Obama, and that it is political radicalism and not liberalism or progressivism that creates the bargaining leverage necessary to force corrupt elites to concede some ground. There has also been experimentation with new models of political organization, most prominently the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon, WikiLeaks and Anonymous, as well as models in other countries.

But the idea that America is shifting into an authoritarian system is a difficult truth to handle, as it flies in the face of an endlessly marketed notion of progress and deep-seated political rhetoric about American exceptionalism. Political elites are also very good at dishonest excuses. In her convention speech, for instance, Michelle Obama remarked that change is hard, and slower than we might like. Many Democrats point out that Republicans block change at every turn. But this is misleading – in fact, Obama has turned out to be a transformative president, and has in fact solidified a bipartisan consensus in favor of a sweeping political change, for endless bailouts and endless war.  Liberals do not want to recognize that this is his agenda, and that this agenda is designed to turn America into a society where democracy exists only in small rooms of elites. Better to say there hasn’t been enough change, than to recognize the radical change that has occurred.

My Dad has often claimed that Tom Brokaw is just a drunk, but in fairness he may simply be an Ambien addict.

FACT CHECK: Clinton claims of compromise a stretch

By MATT APUZZO and TOM RAUM, Associated Press

9/6/2012 8:18:40 AM ET

CLINTON: “Their campaign pollster said, ‘We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.’ Now that is true. I couldn’t have said it better myself – I just hope you remember that every time you see the ad.”

THE FACTS: Clinton, who famously finger-wagged a denial on national television about his sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky and was subsequently impeached in the House on a perjury charge, has had his own uncomfortable moments over telling the truth.

Frontiers in fact checking

By Greg Sargent, Washington Post

Posted at 01:13 PM ET, 09/06/2012

I’ve figured out what the AP is getting at with this. The AP is not fact checking Clinton’s quotation of Romney’s pollster, which is indeed accurate. Rather, it is fact checking the part of Clinton’s quote where he said: “Now that is true – I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

In this context, in reminding readers of Clinton’s mendacity during the Lewinsky affair, the AP is fact checking Clinton’s implication that he holds any moral high ground when it comes to criticizing anyone else for dishonesty. Clinton, in effect, is claiming: “The Romney campaign has tacitly admitted it is willing to depart from the truth, if necessary, in order to advance Romney’s presidential ambitions. I couldn’t have said it better myself!” But, see, Clinton himself told falsehoods during the Lewinsky affair – so his passing of judgment on the Romney campaign for dishonesty is questionable.

And so, if you look closely, it’s clear what the AP is trying to do here. But it’s highly innovative to call it “fact checking,” and it perhaps says more about the AP’s desire to appear to be fact checking Clinton aggressively than it does about what he actually said.

(Apparently nobody has a schedule of tonight’s speakers.  When I can find something I’ll post it here.- ek)

4:30 PM – 6:00 PM

  • Kay Hagan Member of the US Senate, North Carolina
  • Walter Dalton Lieutenant Governor, North Carolina
  • G.K. Butterfield Member of the US House of Representatives, North Carolina
  • David Price Member of the US House of Representatives, North Carolina
  • Mel L. Watt Member of the US House of Representatives, North Carolina
  • James Rogers CEO Duke Energy
  • Live Performance James Taylor
  • Call to Order Antonio R. Villaraigosa Chair of the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee Mayor of Los Angeles, California
  • Invocation Reverend Gabriel Salguero President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
  • Presentation of Colors American Legion Post 400 of Charlotte, North Carolina, Darrell B. Bonapart, Joe Michalic, Robert E. Welch, Marvin R. Weber
  • Pledge of Allegiance
  • National Anthem Marc Anthony
  • Progress for People Video: Seniors
  • American Voices Remarks Carol Berman
  • Donna F. Edwards Member of the US House of Representatives, Maryland
  • Barney Frank Member of the US House of Representatives, Massachusetts
  • In Memoriam Video and Remarks
  • Harvey Gantt Former Mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina

6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

  • John Lewis Member of the US House of Representatives, Georgia
  • Stronger Together Video: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
  • American Voices Jason Crow
  • Live Performance Mary J. Blige
  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz Chair of the Democratic National Committee Member of the US House of Representatives, Florida
  • Antonio R. Villaraigosa Chair of the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee Mayor of Los Angeles, California
  • Tammy Baldwin Candidate for US Senate, Wisconsin Member of the US House of Representatives, Wisconsin
  • Michael Nutter Mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Stay Stronger Together Video: Marriage Equality
  • American Voices Remarks Zach Wahls

7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

  • Jim Messina Campaign Manager, Obama for America
  • American Heroes Video: Auto Workers
  • American Voices Kenyetta Jones, Ryan Case, Ed Meagher, Martha Figueroa, Lucas Beenken, Rob Hach
  • Vice Presidential Nomination Intro Antonio R. Villaraigosa Chair of the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee Mayor of Los Angeles, California
  • Nominating Remarks Beau Biden Attorney General of Delaware and Son of Vice President Joe Biden
  • Vote by Acclamation
  • Live Performance Foo Fighters
  • James E. Clyburn Assistant Democratic Leader and Member of the US House of Representatives, South Carolina
  • Scarlett Johansson and Kerry Washington

8:00 PM – 9:00 PM

  • Caroline Kennedy
  • Xavier Becerra Democratic Caucus Vice Chair and Member of the US House of Representatives, California
  • Jennifer Granholm Former Governor of Michigan
  • Eva Longoria
  • Brian Schweitzer Governor of Montana
  • Charlie Crist, Jr. Former Governor of Florida
  • John Kerry Member of the US Senate, Massachusetts

9:00 PM – 10:00 PM

  • Video: Veterans
  • Admiral John B. Nathman United States Navy, Retired
  • Angie Flores
  • Dr. Jill Biden Second Lady of the United States
  • Vice President Joe Biden Video
  • Joe Biden Vice President of the United States

10:00 PM – 11:00 PM

  • Video
  • Dick Durbin Member of the US Senate, Illinois
  • President Barack Obama Video
  • Barack Obama President of the United States
  • Celebration
  • Benediction
  • His Eminence Timothy Dolan Roman Catholic Cardinal and Archbishop of New York
  • Retire Colors
  • Adjournment

Finally.  Now at last we can relax and discuss the truly important news of the evening- why there will be no balloon drop.

We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.

Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.

The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible than a man in the depths of an ether binge and I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon…

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

Dean Baker: Romney’s Success at Bain Capital: The Business as Scam Model

Mitt Romney is basing his presidential campaign largely on his success as a businessperson building Bain Capital into a leading private equity company. While it is questionable how much success in business prepares a person for success in the White House (Herbert Hoover was the last president with notable success as a businessperson), it is important to understand that Mr. Romney is not a successful business person in the same way as other people who have built successful companies. [..]

Private equity companies like Bain Capital are not primarily about producing wealth. They profit largely by siphoning off wealth created elsewhere in the economy. There are many different ways in which this diversion of wealth is accomplished. [..]

In short, Bain Capital is not about producing wealth but rather about siphoning off wealth that was produced elsewhere in the economy. There is no doubt that one individual or one company can get enormously wealthy if they are able to do this successfully. However you cannot have an entire economy that is premised on the idea that it will siphon off wealth produced elsewhere. It is not clear that Mitt Romney understands that fact, but certainly the general public should when it goes to vote this fall.

George Zornick: Progressives Want a Stronger Focus on Protecting the Safety Net

The Democratic Party platform released this week ahead of the national convention in Charlotte laudably opposes any privatization of Medicare and Social Security, and doesn’t mention those programs in the section on deficit reduction. But it doesn’t explicitly say Democrats will protect those programs from cuts-only that trimming them can’t be the “only” solution. That’s an important distinction, given the upcoming fiscal cliff negotiations and recent willingness by the administration to discuss, for example, raising the Medicare eligibility age.

I asked Representative Keith Ellison, a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, about the platform language yesterday. Speaking outside a church on the outskirts of downtown after a Progressive Democrats of America forum, he told me that nobody should worry too much about what the platform left out, but that he still wished it included stronger language on the safety net.

Glen Ford: What Obama Has Wrought

The meticulously scripted spectacles of the two corporate party conventions are very poor backdrops for clear thinking – but luckily, the ordeals are almost over. What remains after the tents are folded, are the crimes of this administration and its predecessor: both horrifically evil in their own ways. History will mark Obama as the more effective evil, mainly because of the lack of opposition. [..]

It is as useless to anchor a serious political discussion to this year’s Democratic and Republican convention speeches, as to plan the liberation of humanity during Mardi Gras. Truth is no more welcome at the former than sobriety is at the latter. So, forget the conventions and their multi-layered lies. Here are a few highlights of what Barack Obama has inflicted on the nation and the world . . .

Robert Reich: The Most Important Political News This Week

The biggest political news this week won’t be the Democratic convention. It will be Friday’s unemployment report.

If the trend is good — if the rate of unemployment drops and the number of payroll jobs is as good if not better than it was in July — President Obama’s claim we’re on the right track gains crucial credibility. But if these numbers are moving in the wrong direction, Romney’s claim the nation needs a new start may appear more credible.  

Gail Collins; Bill, Barack and Us

On Wednesday, the Democrats got to the point.

That was thanks to Bill Clinton, Beloved Democrat, a man who got negative ratings from only 27 percent of Americans in one recent national poll. There are pictures of kittens that get worse grades. [..]

So, we’re almost done, convention-wise. We’ve learned that both parties like God and moms, particularly moms with humble roots. They both have faith that people who work hard and play by the rules can overcome exposure to secondhand furniture while they’re in college. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of whether you want to raise taxes and balance the budget like Clinton, or cut taxes and plunge us into a hopeless sea of debt, like Bush. Let the fight begin.

Robert Kuttner: Party Animals

“I’m not a member of any organized political party,” Will Rogers famously declared,  “I’m a Democrat.”

Rogers would not recognize the 2012 Democrats.

I’ve been attending conventions since 1964, when as a student I smuggled floor passes to the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party insurgents in Atlantic City. And I’ve never seen anything as well choreographed and unified as night one of the 2012 convention. [..]

After decades and decades of being internally divided, the Democrats are stunningly unified and almost shockingly professional, yet without sacrificing genuine passion. Though an incumbent’s convention with no real business to transact can be criticized as just another stage show, there are good shows and bad ones. This one is off to a great start.

Robert Blum: Is John Roberts Coming for Your Vote?

Watching the almost uniform sea of white faces in attendance at the 2012 Republican National Convention called to mind one of the defining hallmarks of all reactionary movements of the modern era: Whatever their particular social and historical contexts, they seek not a new future free of past injustices but a return to mythologized past glories. [..]

Contrary to the right’s mythology touting the virtues of our lost democracy, voting was never a truly public pastime during the nation’s formative period. As political scientist Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, has noted, only 4 to 6 percent of the eligible electorate (which did not include women, black slaves and in many states white men without property) turned out to vote in the country’s first five presidential elections. And although voter turnout grew markedly after 1824, Jim Crow policies implemented after the Civil War caused turnout rates to nosedive again.  

You’re Fired!

It was the Law of the Sea, they said. Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top.


Angry Drunk Guy


Minority Appeal

Sometimes at dusk, when you were trying to relax and not think of the general stagnation, the Garbage God would gather a handful of those choked-off morning hopes and dangle them somewhere just out of reach; they would hang in the breeze and make a sound like delicate glass bells, reminding you of something you never quite got hold of, and never would.

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.

My Little Town 20120905: More on Jace and a very Happy Birthday

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

Well, tonight is different because I have an update about Junior Jace Potter, the new kitten.  And I also have to announce that henceforth I shall not use the term The Girl for The Girl.  She told me Monday that since she was going to be 20 years old Tuesday I should henceforth refer to her as The Woman.

Back in June I wrote about her cat being killed and how we found a kitten to fill in for him.  Tonight is part update on how he is going and part recap of her birthday party from yesterday evening.

In the text are some pictures of the gifts that I gave her, and Saturday night at 7:30 on the Big Orange I am guest hosting What’s for Dinner? with step by step directions for making the cheesecake in the picture here, with lots of pictures of the process.