Archive for June, 2011
Since when is it a “crime” to call the President of the United States a dick?
What is this? North Korea?
Hey, yo, all you Ronald Reagan-loving Republicans, this is what your hero had to say about not raising the debt limit:
In a November 1983 letter to then-Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker, Jr. (R-Tenn.), Reagan warned that without a higher debt ceiling, the country could be forced to default for the first time in its history.
Reagan wrote: “The full consequences of a default – or even the serious prospect of default – by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and the value of the dollar.”
In a 1987 radio address during another such clash with Congress, Reagan wrote that “Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinksmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the Federal deficit would soar.”
Then again, I know you ignore the things he said and did that you don’t agree with. It’s a facts-only-when-they-fit-the-narrative thing you’re in the habit of doing.
A sight for sore eyes.
Oh, and look at those eyes.
(Via Flickr user Kris “V.”)
The internet is abuzz this afternoon with faux outrage over Mark Halperin, the editor of Time magazine and a “political analyst” at MSNBC saying this morning that President Obama was “kind of a dick” yesterday at his press conference. It’s as if we’re in kindergarten and the kids are snickering and pointing over to lil’ ol’ Mark who’s standing in the corner facing the wall because he got in trouble. (MSNBC has since suspended Halperin “indefinitely” as if to prove it cares about the quality of commentary on its airwaves.)
But the snickers and gossip and the suspension totally miss the point, IMHO:
The real problem is the dickishness of our mainstream political analysis, especially from the “savviest” practitioners. Back during my days as media critic, I argued in Breaking the News and a related Atlantic cover story B that the laziest and ultimately most destructive form of political coverage came when journalists seemed to imagine that they were theater critics or figure-skating judges. The what of public affairs didn’t interest them. All they cared about was the how.
In this case, the “what” of Obama’s press conference — the unbelievable recklessness of mainly House Republicans in inviting the largest self-inflicted economic wound in American history — deserves every bit of frustration Obama showed, and lots more. In the long run we’ll have some sense of whether Obama’s typical surreal unflappability, whatever its origins (I have my theories, but for another time), was the wisest long-term response to today’s Republican party — and whether this unusual flash of emotion worked in directing public attention to a looming and entirely unnecessary blow to America’s wellbeing.
But the real news of the press conference, of course, was the economic, financial, political, and Constitutional showdown Obama was discussing. Not to understand that, and to act as if this was a free-skate program where a contestant should be judged on poise, costume, and sticking the landings, is just dickish.
Bravo, and that about sums up what’s wrong with our media in general.
Finally, corrupt bankers are being arrested. Oh, wait. In Afghanistan:
Afghan officials said on Thursday that they have arrested two former executives involved in the collapse of Kabul Bank.
According to Rahmatullah Nazari, the deputy attorney general, authorities arrested Sherkhan Farnood, the former chairman of Kabul Bank, and Khalilulah Frozi, its former chief executive officer, on Wednesday in connection with what he said was hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent loans to bank officers and insiders. . . .
They were the first arrests in the Kabul Bank affair since exposure of the bank’s huge losses last August. The move is likely to be welcomed by the international community, which has held up some aid to Afghanistan until government action is taken on Kabul Bank.
While Afghanistan is hardly a model of the rule of law — the arrests were effectuated by a corrupt government under severe pressure from outside factions on which they financially rely — it’s nonetheless true that in the U.S., even that minimal level of accountability seems impossible…
People go to prison for possessing a couple of joints. When are we going to see these guys doing a perp walk?
Massey Energy pressured workers at a West Virginia coal mine where an explosion killed 29 men to omit safety problems from official reports for the government while the company kept another set of accurate books for itself, government regulators say.
Even before the April 5, 2010, tragedy that was the nation’s deadliest coalfield disaster in four decades, Massey had a poor safety record and a reputation for putting coal profits first. The mine was cited for 600 violations in less than a year and a half before the blast.
So far, one Massey employee has been indicted. Security chief Hughie Stover was charged with lying to the FBI and MSHA and obstructing justice by ordering thousands of pages of documents thrown out.
Eighteen former Massey officials have refused to testify in the investigation, citing their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The voice of We the People really doesn’t matter around here anymore folks. This would be the Federal Reserve to you and me:
The stock prices of Visa and MasterCard are going gangbusters on news that the Federal Reserve is proposing to rework limits on the “swipe fees” that banks charge each time a consumer breaks out a debit card.
The Fed is proposing a base fee of 21 cents, about half the 44 cents that banks charge now, but better than the proposed rules that would have limited the swipe fees to 12 cents per transaction.
The swipe fee rules were part of the thick book of rules swept in by last year’s Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law. This afternoon, Feb poobah Ben Bernanake called implementing the fee caps “one of our most challenging rule makings under Dodd-Frank.”
Dodd-Frank was enacted by the United States congress. You know, the folks who represent We the People? Dodd-Frank is what Obama is referring to when he boasts about having enacted “financial reform.” But now the Federal Reserve is stepping in to arbitrarily “rework” that law in favor of the banks? A law is a law, right?
This is low:
The United States would immediately have its top-notch credit rating slashed to “selective default” if it misses a debt payment on August 4, Standard & Poor’s managing director John Chambers told Reuters.
Chambers, who is also the chairman of S&P’s sovereign ratings committee, told Reuters on Tuesday that U.S. Treasury bills maturing on August 4 would be rated ‘D’ if the government fails to honor them.
Talking Points Memo on May 19, 2011:
But two of the biggest ratings agencies say they could downgrade the United States’ triple-A credit if the government misses even a single debt-service payment.
“A sovereign’s failure to service its debt as payments come due is a default according to S&P’s sovereign rating criteria,” writes John Piecuch, spokesman for Standard & Poors, one of the “Big Three” credit ratings agencies, in an email to me. “In that case, the rating would be lowered to “SD” (Selective Default).”
Politico’s on it:
President Obama, who has expressed his fears about his daughter Malia becoming a teenager next month, is apparently dreading her birthday so much that for a brief moment on Wednesday, he thought she had already turned 13.
At a press conference at the White House, Obama suggested that his daughters, who “generally finish their homework a day ahead of time,” could serve as role models for members of Congress.
“Malia’s 13, Sasha’s 10,” the president said, even though 12-year-old Malia still has a few days to go until her July 4 birthday.
I can see saying Malia’s 13 because for all intents and purposes she is. She has 361 days of being 12 behind her and four to go before she turns 13.
Not only that but isn’t the point he was trying to make — about Republicans being more immature than his two young daughters — the bigger news?
Why are Democrats such chicken shits when it comes to drawing lines and standing up for democratic principles? (I really am beginning to think it’s a Stockholm Syndrome kind of thing.)
Last night a crowd of farmworkers, UFW leaders, and Democratic legislators gathered in front of Governor Jerry Brown’s Capitol office, awaiting word on whether he would sign SB 104, a bill that would help farmworker safety and prosperity by allowing them to organize unions via card check. The UFW pushed it after a rash of heat-related deaths in the fields in recent years, deaths that could have been prevented if more farmworkers had unions to protect them.
Brown had played up his connections to Cesar Chavez and the UFW during the campaign, and notably signed the Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975 recognizing the right of farmworkers to organize unions.
Instead they received a shock as Governor Brown vetoed SB 104, siding with big business over farmworkers. Brown’s veto message doesn’t really give any explanation for the veto, except that it changes the ALRA which, apparently, Brown wants to keep taking credit for even after its shortcomings have been revealed:
SB 104 is indeed a drastic change and I appreciate the frustrations that have given rise to it. But, I am not yet convinced that the far reaching proposals of this bill–which alter in a significant way the guiding assumptions of the ALRA–are justified. Before restructuring California’s carefully crafted agricultural labor law, it is only right that the legislature consider legal provisions that more carefully track its original framework. The process should include all those who are affected by the ALRA.
In other words, Brown wants something that will make agribusiness happy – the same people who have shown no concern over farmworker heat deaths, who are happy to continue to pay workers poorly.
Cesar Chavez is probably spinning in his grave.
There is no better evidence that the “news” we hear in the United States is pro-corporate (and anti-We the People) than when one listens to the coverage of the “riots” in Greece and listen to the anchors tut-tut about the “anarchists” who don’t want that country to accept the “bailout” as arranged by the European Union and the IMF.
Greek Protesters Are Better Economists Than the European Authorities
Imagine that in the worst year of our recent recession, the United States government decided to reduce its federal budget deficit by more than $800 billion dollars – cutting spending and raising taxes to meet this goal. Imagine that, as a result of these measures, the economy worsened and unemployment soared to more than 16 percent, and then the president pledged another $400 billion in spending cuts and tax increases this year. What do you think would be the public reaction?
It would probably be similar to what we are seeing in Greece today, including mass demonstrations and riots, because that is what the Greek government has done. The above numbers are simply adjusted for the relative size of the two economies.
If you have the time, read the whole article. In essence what’s going on is that the powers that be are bailing out the banks and making the people pay.
What will happen if gay marriage is legalized?
Horrible things. Aaaaaah!
Get used to seeing this. The “liberal media” won’t let it out of its sight:
Yeah, that hippie commie liberal thing about government “oversight” is so yesterday:
Mega-defense contractor Boeing has been vastly overcharging the Army for basic spare parts, forcing taxpayers to pay more than twice the “fair and reasonable” price, according to an audit conducted by the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General and leaked to the Project on Government Oversight. The IG looked at spare parts sales to the Corpus Christi, Texas Army Depot for two helicopters systems and found some egregious price gouging, such as charging $71 for a metal pin that should cost just 4 cents:
$644.75 for a small gear smaller than a dime that sells for $12.51: more than a 5,100 percent increase in price. $1,678.61 for another tiny part, also smaller than a dime, that could have been bought within DoD for $7.71: a 21,000 percent increase. $71.01 for a straight, thin metal pin that DoD had on hand, unused by the tens of thousands, for 4 cents: an increase of over 177,000 percent.
Not only that, Boeing is ripping us off in more ways than one. They don’t pay any income taxes. As a matter of fact, we pay them!
Oh, and Boeing wants to move from Seattle to South Carolina because labor is cheaper there. What’s next? It moves out of the country altogether?
What a bloodsucking company. And I’m talking our blood.
Check out this chart showing that the explosion of the debt is and will be mostly due to a lack of revenue:
We need to raise more money folks. We need to end the Bush tax cuts and raise taxes on people making over $250,000. All this talk about cutting programs that benefit the middle class and poor are a ruse so we’ll look that way rather than straight at what will really do the trick: Bringing in more money.
What the hell? We can’t even build our own bridges anymore?
At a sprawling manufacturing complex here, hundreds of Chinese laborers are now completing work on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Next month, the last four of more than two dozen giant steel modules — each with a roadbed segment about half the size of a football field — will be loaded onto a huge ship and transported 6,500 miles to Oakland. There, they will be assembled to fit into the eastern span of the new Bay Bridge.
The project is part of China’s continual move up the global economic value chain — from cheap toys to Apple iPads to commercial jetliners — as it aims to become the world’s civil engineer.
The assembly work in California, and the pouring of the concrete road surface, will be done by Americans. But construction of the bridge decks and the materials that went into them are a Made in China affair. California officials say the state saved hundreds of millions of dollars by turning to China.
I’m sorry — no I’m not — but it should be against the law to spend American taxpayer dollars in other countries. Period. Maybe then we’d start making things here again — other than guns and bombs that is.
Here are our tweets of the day:
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a 24/7 cable “news” media that dropped the repeat-the-same-4-stories-all-day-long format and branched out and brought us actual news? From around the world? Like this?
Farmers in Hans-Detlef Feddersen’s neighbourhood in northern Germany make $2.5 million in a good year growing wheat. They make $15 million harvesting the wind.
The first wind turbines came to his area 20 years ago. Local residents watched them go up, did the math, and founded their own co-op to build more.
Feddersen, who farms grain, canola and sugar beets, is the co-op’s manager.
This week he is touring rural Ontario with two Canadian groups promoting green energy, the Pembina Institute and Climate Action Network Canada.
In his district, there are 600 turbines spread over 1,800 square kilometres [694 square miles], “and 95 per cent of them are owned by rural area co-operatives in our community. Most of the people living in our area own, or partly own, these turbines.”[...]t says Germany draws about 17 per cent of its power from renewable sources, especially wind — far more than Ontario (where wind has a 1.9-per-cent share).
It boggles my mind that we gave the likes of Goldman Sachs $10 billion of our taxpayer dollars without any — any — caveats about them keeping that money, our money, here in the U.S.
Less than three years after receiving $10 billion in bailout money from American taxpayers, Goldman Sachs informed its employees recently that it will fire 1,000 workers in the United States and elsewhere, shifting their jobs to the cheaper Singaporean labor market.
The move to shift 1,000 jobs to Singapore is part of an overall effort by Goldman Sachs to cut $1 billion in operating costs over the next year. However, Goldman is firing American workers at a time of record profits for the company, which raked in $2.7 billion in profits in the first three months of 2011 alone.
Goldman’s plan is helped by conservatives in Washington who have prevented Congress from discouraging corporations from outsourcing. Last fall, Senate Republicans voted unanimously against a bill that would have ended tax breaks for companies that shift American jobs overseas.
Sayonara America! We’ll be in touch if we need another bailout.
This is what you get (House Democrats) when you snap into line no matter how many times Obama punches you in the gut:
House Democrats feel like jilted lovers.
They’re looking down Pennsylvania Avenue for some sign of affection from President Obama in the White House. But all they feel they’re getting in return is the back of his hand.
“How is it that the House Democrats played such an important role [in the majority], and all of a sudden [the White House says], ‘Forget it, we’ll work with the Senate and the Republican leadership?’ ” asked Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), vice chairman of the Democrats’ Steering and Policy Committee.
House Democrats’ frustration with Obama is boiling in the intense heat of negotiations to reach a budget deal and raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.
Capitol Hill Democrats have been steaming for months, since being sidelined during talks to extend the George W. Bush-era tax rates and fund the government this year. Many say the White House takes their support for granted but ignores them when it comes to making policy.
Hell yes the “White House takes their support for granted.” Whey wouldn’t it? We’re going on three years during which House Democrats have voted to approve some awful deals made by the Obama administration. So why wouldn’t it expect ya’ll to fall in line this time when they present whatever deal they make with Republicans regarding the budget?
The White House doesn’t respect you guys and it’s your own damn fault.
Check out this new anti-Paul Ryan (R-WI) ad:
Ouch. Look at this chart showing the decline in homeowner equity:
[T]he ratio of homeowners’ equity to value at the end of the first quarter was just 38.0 percent…the lowest on record. Prior to the run-up of the housing bubble, the ratio of equity to value had never been below 60 percent and it had been near 67 percent until the late 80s.
This signifies the loss of a whole lotta wealth.
OMG. The campaign for president on the GOP side is going to be a laugh a minute:
Rep. Michele Bachmann kicked off her presidential campaign on Monday in Waterloo, Iowa, and in one interview surrounding the official event she promised to mimic the spirit of Waterloo’s own John Wayne.
The only problem, as one eagle-eyed reader notes: Waterloo’s John Wayne was not the beloved movie star, but rather John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer.
Mrs. Bachmann grew up in Waterloo, and used the town as the backdrop for her campaign announcement, where she told Fox News: “Well what I want them to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That’s the kind of spirit that I have, too.”
John Wayne, the movie legend, is in fact from Iowa and the John Wayne birthplace is a celebrated landmark — only it’s in Winterset, which is a nearly three hour drive away from Waterloo.
Gacy, though, had his first taste of the criminal life in Waterloo, where he lived for a short time, and where he had his first criminal conviction for an attempted homosexual assault, which landed him in prison for 18 months.
(Video via BachmannLovesGacy. Heehee.)
The GOP mantra must be something like “close enough.”
Today marks the 31st anniversary of the massacre at Syria’s infamous Tadmor Prison. In 1980, hundreds of political prisoners were killed there after a failed assassination attempt on then-president Hafez al-Assad. Following the massacre, the prison was used as a tool of fear to quell opposition to the regime. And many of its prisoners were university students.
Tadmor is closed now, but the prison’s dark legacy lives on in the memories of those who survived the brutal torture there.
One of these survivors is Chicagoan Bara Sarraj. In 1984, Bara was a college student in Damascus when he was arrested and taken to Tadmor, where he was tortured almost daily for the next nine years. Now a transplant immunologist at Northwestern University’s School of Medicine, Bara recently sat down and wrote about his time in the prison. He’s posted his memoir online in Arabic, and has graciously shared his story with us.
Listen to Dr. Sarraj’s story here.
I’m watching Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (I) kick President Obama’s ass on CSpan2 right now. He is telling the President to listen to the American people: raise taxes on those making over $250,000, tax corporations and don’t cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Listen to the wishes of the people, not those of Wall Street and the rich.
If CSpan airs a rerun, I highly recommend it. You don’t often see a Senator standing up for ahem, we the 350,000,000 people in this country. They seen to have forgotten about us.
Markos Moulitsas (the founder of the DailyKos) predicts that Michele Bachmann will be the GOP nominee.
Michele Bachmann will be the GOP nominee.
Yeah, yeah—this could be wishful thinking. Bachmann would gift Obama a second term and would lead to another Democratic wave election in the House. And yeah, this assumes that Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin don’t get into the race. But this is the age of Christine O’Donnell and Ken Buck. Republican primary voters don’t give a damn about electability, but about casting a vote for the purest candidate.
Currently, there are three real candidates in the race—Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich is history, Rick Santorum is yesterday’s news, Ron Paul is a niche product, John Hunstman has six supporters, and Herman Cain exists only to allow Republicans to say, “Some of my best friends are black!”
Of the three credible candidates, Bachmann easily wins the purity test. Romney has been on the other side of pretty much every issue of current importance to Republicans, while Pawlenty supported the individual mandate. They’re toast.
But it’s not just policy substance. The early GOP nomination calendar clearly favors Bachmann.
The other thing about Bachmann is that she lies with a straight face and she sounds credible while doing so. Insofar as the “liberal media” doesn’t correct or call attention to lies, she could attract a real following of very pissed off people, of whom there are millions.
Then there’s Rick Perry. We’ll have to see how he fits into all of this.
Read the whole article here.
Litter from fast-food chains is spreading far and wide. When a team from the environmental nonprofit Clean Water Action surveyed litter in four cities in the San Francisco Bay Area, it found that trash from four restaurants (McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Starbucks) and one convenience store (7-11) made up more than half of the litter it collected.
So, fast food is bad for us in more ways than one. And natch, insofar as our governmental entities move at lightening speed, I’m sure they’ll get right on this.