Sunday, January 31, 2010

Margolis to Clear Bush Lawyers

I consider this a most disappointing development:

US torture ...NEWSWEEK has learned that a senior Justice official who did the final review of the report softened an earlier OPR finding. Previously, the report concluded that two key authors—Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor—violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics, say two Justice sources who asked for anonymity discussing an internal matter. But the reviewer, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded that assessment to say they showed “poor judgment,” say the sources. (Under department rules, poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct.) The shift is significant: the original finding would have triggered a referral to state bar associations for potential disciplinary action—which, in Bybee’s case, could have led to an impeachment inquiry.

The report, which is still going through declassification, will provide many new details about how waterboarding was adopted and the role that top White House officials played in the process, say two sources who have read the report but asked for anonymity to describe a sensitive document. Two of the most controversial sections of the 2002 memo—including one contending that the president, as commander in chief, can override a federal law banning torture—were not in the original draft of the memo, say the sources. But when Michael Chertoff, then-chief of Justice’s criminal division, refused the CIA’s request for a blanket pledge not to prosecute its officers for torture, Yoo met at the White House with David Addington, Dick Cheney’s chief counsel, and then–White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. After that, Yoo inserted a section about the commander in chief’s wartime powers and another saying that agency officers accused of torturing Qaeda suspects could claim they were acting in “self-defense” to prevent future terror attacks, the sources say… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Newsweek>

war criminal3 I consider this a terrible decision.  The US is obligated by the terms of several treaties to investigate instances of torture and prosecute those responsible.  The Obama administration has failed to meet that obligation.  As angry as I feel over this, he did promise during his campaign to govern looking ahead rather than focusing on past misconduct.  I knew this when I voted for him.  So for me to complain too much would be rather hypocritical.  Nevertheless, I had hoped that DOJ would act independently, investigate, and prosecute, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Addington, Bybee, Yoo, and the other top leaders of the Bush/GOP regime responsible for this stain on our reputation as a nation.  I wish that Obama would abandon his completely unproductive fixation on bipartisanship and do the duty our treaty obligations require.

My first response was to assume that David Margolis might be a Bush/GOP regime operative, who  had burrowed in at the close of the worst administration in history.  I went digging for dirt on the man.  I found that he has creds as a straight shooter and a reputation for non-partisan service.  Therefore I have to consider that there may well be a sound legal reason for his decision.  I look forward to the release of the full report and hope that some of the details about the roll top White House officials played in adopting torture will result in legal action.  Otherwise, our best hope is that some foreign nation will arrest them during foreign travels and put them before the world court.

As disappointed as we are over this, we must remember that, despite his protestations to the contrary, McConJob voted for torture in the Senate.  Had he been elected, we would still be practicing torture, a far worse alternative.

News IQ Results

Here is the original article for the quiz you took yesterday:

Pew-Overall The public has consistently expressed strong interest in the health care debate, but relatively few Americans can correctly answer two key questions related to the Senate’s consideration of health care legislation.

In the latest installment of the Pew Research Center’s News IQ Quiz, just 32% know that the Senate passed its version of the legislation without a single Republican vote. And, in what proved to be the most difficult question on the quiz, only about a quarter (26%) knows that it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster  in the Senate and force a vote on a bill. The survey was conducted before Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown won a special election to the Senate on Jan. 19; Brown’s election means Senate Democrats can no longer count on a 60-vote majority once he takes office.

About six-in-ten (59%) correctly identify China as the foreign country holding the most U.S. government debt. Nearly as many (57%) know that the United States imports two-thirds of the oil it consumes. As was the case in previous knowledge surveys, a majority (55%) knows the current unemployment rate is about 10%. However, far fewer (36%) correctly estimate the current level of the Dow Jones Industrial Average at about 10,000 points.

The news quiz, conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Jan. 14-17 among 1,003 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, asked 12 multiple choice questions on subjects ranging from economics and foreign affairs to prominent people in the news. Americans answered an average of 5.3 questions correctly.  

The survey finds that while the public struggled with most of the political questions on the survey, most Americans (56%) know that there currently is more than one woman serving on the Supreme Court. Notably, this is the only question on the quiz where as many women as men answer correctly; men scored significantly better on other questions. 

In response to questions about terrorism and national security, half (50%) correctly identify Yemen as the country where intelligence officials believe the suspect in an attempted Christmas Day airline bombing received training and bomb materials. A slightly smaller percentage (43%) knows that during all of 2009 there were more American military fatalities in Afghanistan than in Iraq; 32% said more U.S. troops were killed in Iraq. This question proved difficult for many, even though interest in developments in Afghanistan – and media coverage – picked up in late 2009 as President Obama announced his war strategy [See "Top Stories of 2009: Economy, Obama and Health Care," released Dec. 29, 2009].

Pew-Demographics Questions about people in the news round out the quiz update.  About four-in-ten (39%) know that Nevada Democrat Harry Reid is the majority leader of the U.S. Senate. About a third (32%) correctly pick Michael Steele as the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Interestingly, nearly half of Republicans (48%) are able to identify Reid as Senate majority leader compared with just a third (33%) of Democrats. More Republicans can identify Reid as majority leader than can identify Steel as chairman of the RNC (37%).

About four-in-ten (41%) correctly say that Stephen Colbert is a comedian and television talk show host. This is the only question on the quiz that more people younger than 30 than older people answer correctly (49% vs. 39%).

Asked how many GOP senators voted for the chamber’s health care bill on Dec. 24, only 32% know that the measure received no support from Republican members. About as many answer incorrectly, saying that five (13%), 10 (8%), or 20 (8%) GOP Senators voted for the bill. About four-in-ten (39%) do not know or decline to answer.

A smaller percentage (26%) knows that 60 votes are needed to break a filibuster in the Senate. About as many (25%) mistakenly say that a simple majority of 51 votes can break a filibuster.As with most other questions on the news quiz, well-educated people, older Americans and men are more likely to correctly answer the questions about the Senate vote on health care and the filibuster.

Less than a third of Republicans or Democrats can correctly identify the number of votes needed to end a filibuster (30% among Republicans, 25% among Democrats). College graduates fared better than other demographic groups on this question, but fewer than half of college graduates (45%) know that it takes 60 Senate votes to overcome a filibuster...

Inserted from <Pew Research>

Nine of us took the quiz and earned an average score of  9.77.  As a group we are more knowledgeable than 84% of the public.  If nothing else, this should highlight the responsibility we have to teach those with whom we interact.

Paul Volker: How to Reform Our Financial System

I think that Volker has some excellent ideas.

FatCat PRESIDENT OBAMA 10 days ago set out one important element in the needed structural reform of the financial system. No one can reasonably contest the need for such reform, in the United States and in other countries as well. We have after all a system that broke down in the most serious crisis in 75 years. The cost has been enormous in terms of unemployment and lost production. The repercussions have been international.

Aggressive action by governments and central banks — really unprecedented in both magnitude and scope — has been necessary to revive and maintain market functions. Some of that support has continued to this day. Here in the United States as elsewhere, some of the largest and proudest financial institutions — including both investment and commercial banks — have been rescued or merged with the help of massive official funds. Those actions were taken out of well-justified concern that their outright failure would irreparably impair market functioning and further damage the real economy already in recession.

Now the economy is recovering, if at a still modest pace. Funds are flowing more readily in financial markets, but still far from normally. Discussion is underway here and abroad about specific reforms, many of which have been set out by the United States administration: appropriate capital and liquidity requirements for banks; better official supervision on the one hand and on the other improved risk management and board oversight for private institutions; a review of accounting approaches toward financial institutions; and others.

As President Obama has emphasized, some central structural issues have not yet been satisfactorily addressed.

A large concern is the residue of moral hazard from the extensive and successful efforts of central banks and governments to rescue large failing and potentially failing financial institutions. The long-established “safety net” undergirding the stability of commercial banks — deposit insurance and lender of last resort facilities — has been both reinforced and extended in a series of ad hoc decisions to support investment banks, mortgage providers and the world’s largest insurance company. In the process, managements, creditors and to some extent stockholders of these non-banks have been protected.

The phrase “too big to fail” has entered into our everyday vocabulary. It carries the implication that really large, complex and highly interconnected financial institutions can count on public support at critical times. The sense of public outrage over seemingly unfair treatment is palpable. Beyond the emotion, the result is to provide those institutions with a competitive advantage in their financing, in their size and in their ability to take and absorb risks.

As things stand, the consequence will be to enhance incentives to risk-taking and leverage, with the implication of an even more fragile financial system. We need to find more effective fail-safe arrangements.

In approaching that challenge, we need to recognize that the basic operations of commercial banks are integral to a well-functioning private financial system. It is those institutions, after all, that manage and protect the basic payments systems upon which we all depend. More broadly, they provide the essential intermediating function of matching the need for safe and readily available depositories for liquid funds with the need for reliable sources of credit for businesses, individuals and governments.

Combining those essential functions unavoidably entails risk, sometimes substantial risk. That is why Adam Smith more than 200 years ago advocated keeping banks small. Then an individual failure would not be so destructive for the economy. That approach does not really seem feasible in today’s world, not given the size of businesses, the substantial investment required in technology and the national and international reach required.

Instead, governments have long provided commercial banks with the public “safety net.” The implied moral hazard has been balanced by close regulation and supervision. Improved capital requirements and leverage restrictions are now also under consideration in international forums as a key element of reform.

The further proposal set out by the president recently to limit the proprietary activities of banks approaches the problem from a complementary direction. The point of departure is that adding further layers of risk to the inherent risks of essential commercial bank functions doesn’t make sense, not when those risks arise from more speculative activities far better suited for other areas of the financial markets.

The specific points at issue are ownership or sponsorship of hedge funds and private equity funds, and proprietary trading — that is, placing bank capital at risk in the search of speculative profit rather than in response to customer needs. Those activities are actively engaged in by only a handful of American mega-commercial banks, perhaps four or five. Only 25 or 30 may be significant internationally.

Apart from the risks inherent in these activities, they also present virtually insolvable conflicts of interest with customer relationships, conflicts that simply cannot be escaped by an elaboration of so-called Chinese walls between different divisions of an institution. The further point is that the three activities at issue — which in themselves are legitimate and useful parts of our capital markets — are in no way dependent on commercial banks’ ownership. These days there are literally thousands of independent hedge funds and equity funds of widely varying size perfectly capable of maintaining innovative competitive markets. Individually, such independent capital market institutions, typically financed privately, are heavily dependent like other businesses upon commercial bank services, including in their case prime brokerage. Commercial bank ownership only tilts a “level playing field” without clear value added.

Very few of those capital market institutions, both because of their typically more limited size and more stable sources of finance, could present a credible claim to be “too big” or “too interconnected” to fail. In fact, sizable numbers of such institutions fail or voluntarily cease business in troubled times with no adverse consequences for the viability of markets.

What we do need is protection against the outliers. There are a limited number of investment banks (or perhaps insurance companies or other firms) the failure of which would be so disturbing as to raise concern about a broader market disruption. In such cases, authority by a relevant supervisory agency to limit their capital and leverage would be important, as the president has proposed.

To meet the possibility that failure of such institutions may nonetheless threaten the system, the reform proposals of the Obama administration and other governments point to the need for a new “resolution authority.” Specifically, the appropriately designated agency should be authorized to intervene in the event that a systemically critical capital market institution is on the brink of failure. The agency would assume control for the sole purpose of arranging an orderly liquidation or merger. Limited funds would be made available to maintain continuity of operations while preparing for the demise of the organization.

To help facilitate that process, the concept of a “living will” has been set forth by a number of governments. Stockholders and management would not be protected. Creditors would be at risk, and would suffer to the extent that the ultimate liquidation value of the firm would fall short of its debts.

To put it simply, in no sense would these capital market institutions be deemed “too big to fail.” What they would be free to do is to innovate, to trade, to speculate, to manage private pools of capital — and as ordinary businesses in a capitalist economy, to fail.

I do not deal here with other key issues of structural reform. Surely, effective arrangements for clearing and settlement and other restrictions in the now enormous market for derivatives should be agreed to as part of the present reform program. So should the need for a designated agency — preferably the Federal Reserve — charged with reviewing and appraising market developments, identifying sources of weakness and recommending action to deal with the emerging problems. Those and other matters are part of the administration’s program and now under international consideration.

In this country, I believe regulation of large insurance companies operating over many states needs to be reviewed. We also face a large challenge in rebuilding an efficient, competitive private mortgage market, an area in which commercial bank participation is needed. Those are matters for another day.

What is essential now is that we work with other nations hosting large financial markets to reach a broad consensus on an outline for the needed structural reforms, certainly including those that the president has recently set out. My clear sense is that relevant international and foreign authorities are prepared to engage in that effort. In the process, significant points of operational detail will need to be resolved, including clarifying the range of trading activity appropriate for commercial banks in support of customer relationships.

I am well aware that there are interested parties that long to return to “business as usual,” even while retaining the comfort of remaining within the confines of the official safety net. They will argue that they themselves and intelligent regulators and supervisors, armed with recent experience, can maintain the needed surveillance, foresee the dangers and manage the risks.

In contrast, I tell you that is no substitute for structural change, the point the president himself has set out so strongly…

Inserted from <NY Times>

Cousin FatCat, the Bankster, does not agree with Volker.  He agrees with Tim Geithner.  He wants business as usual, so he can get new diamonds with which to fill his litter box.  Why do you think he does not like Volker?

Poll Results – 1/31/2010

Here are the results of our poll on revisiting comments:


And here are your comments:

From Jolly Roger on January 24, 2010 at 1:29 am.


I almost always do, especially when I comment on right-turd blogs. You'd be amazed how many times my comment is either not what I wrote, or entirely gone.


From Otis on January 19, 2010 at 9:51 pm.


I am making sure my wife isn't making too much fun of me.


From Kevin on January 19, 2010 at 11:40 am


I am always interested in what others have to say in response to what I write, or if I made an error and someone corrects me, but sometimes I forget where I left my comment!


From Sue on January 17, 2010 at 4:47 pm


I always go back and see if my comment made an impact. I'm always flattered when someone agrees with what I have to say!



From sasha vagramov in reply to Sue on January 18, 2010 at 8:13 pm


what is this commet for?


From Sue in reply to sasha vagramov on January 25, 2010 at 7:11 pm


who is this sasha and what exactly is she saying to me??


From Lisa G. on January 17, 2010 at 2:21 pm.


I love to see what TC and everyone else has to say about my comments. You are all such smart people and I learn something from all of you everyday - thank you so much for my free education on all topics!

I voted almost always, because I do whenever I can, but at times I get so busy that by the time I get back to a site, I have forgotten where my comments are, and I seldom have time to explore old threads searching for them.

Sue, I think she was someone new who didn’t know how to use the comment section.

The new poll may evoke some controversy.  Check it out.

Open Thread – 1/31/2010

Yesterday I still got no visiting done, but I did spend almost seven hours replying to comments here.  I will do better today, even though the First Church of the Ellipsoid Orb requires my attendance for a minor holy day observance: Pro Bowl Yawning.
Today’s Jig Zone puzzle took me 4:02.  To do it, Click Here.  How did you do?
Here’s your cartoon:
Enjoy your Sunday.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What’s Your News IQ?


Pew Research has produced a fascinating quiz, and I’d like to see how well our readers do.  It’s easy to do, just 12 multiple choice questions with 3 more for demographics.  I got all 12, but don’t be disappointed if you do not.  I spend several hours a day researching.  Please Comment with your results.  Tomorrow, I’ll post an article on the quiz and compare our results to t6he country as a whole.

To take the quiz, Click Here.

Obama Surpasses Leonidas!

The Battle of Thermopylae resonates from the history of ancient Greece, and reminds me of Obama’s battle yesterday.

leonidas ...Leonidas is best known for his heroic defense of the narrow mountain pass of Thermopylae against the Persian army of Xerxes I in 480 bc. With an outnumbered force of about 7000 men, of which 300 were Spartans, Leonidas withstood the Persian invasion for two days. A Thessalian traitor, Ephialtes (d. 469 bc), however, showed Xerxes a new path over the mountain, and when Leonidas learned that he was about to be attacked from the rear, he sent most of his troops to safety. He remained with the Spartans and about 1100 other soldiers, mainly Thebans and Thespians, who refused to leave. The Thebans subsequently deserted. Leonidas and the remainder of his men perished bravely. The famous Battle of Thermopylae was recorded by the Greek historian Herodotus in his History…

Inserted from <>

There are similarities and differences of course.  Both heroically faced overwhelming odds. Both were betrayed.  But Leonidas had only one traitor, Ephialtes.  Obama has LIEberman and all the blue dogs that helped kill the public option and held out for back room deals.  Leonidas chose the ground to defend, but Obama went into enemy territory.  The biggest difference is that, in the end, Leonidas lost the battle.

GOPKoolAid In a remarkably sharp face-to-face confrontation, President Barack Obama chastised Republican lawmakers Friday for opposing him on taxes, health care and the economic stimulus, while they accused him in turn of brushing off their ideas and driving up the national debt.

The president and GOP House members took turns questioning and sometimes lecturing each other for more than an hour at a Republican gathering in Baltimore. The Republicans agreed to let TV cameras inside, resulting in an extended, point-by-point interchange that was almost unprecedented in U.S. politics, except perhaps during presidential debates.

With voters angry about partisanship and legislative logjams, both sides were eager to demonstrate they were ready to cooperate, resulting in the GOP invitation and Obama's acceptance. After polite introductions, however, Friday's exchange showed that Obama and the Republicans remain far apart on key issues, and neither side could resist the chance to challenge and even scold the other.

Obama said Republican lawmakers have attacked his health care overhaul so fiercely, "you'd think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot." His proposals are mainstream, widely supported ideas, he said, and they deserve some GOP votes in Congress.

"I am not an ideologue," the president declared.

But Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., pointedly asked Obama: "What should we tell our constituents who know that Republicans have offered positive solutions" for health care, "and yet continue to hear out of the administration that we've offered nothing?"

Obama showed little sympathy, disputing Price's claim that a Republican plan would insure nearly all Americans without raising taxes.

"That's just not true," said Obama. He called such claims "boilerplate" meant to score political points.

At times it seemed more like Britain's "question time" — when lawmakers in the House of Commons trade barbs with the prime minister — than a meeting between a U.S. president and members of Congress.

Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana defended Price on the health care proposals. He said a GOP agenda booklet given to Obama at the start of the session "is backed up by precisely the kind of detailed legislation that Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and your administration have been busy ignoring for 12 months."

Obama shot back that he had read the Republican proposals and that they promise solutions that can't be realized.

In another barbed exchange, the president said some Republican lawmakers in the audience had attended ribbon-cutting ceremonies for projects in their districts funded by the 2009 stimulus package that they voted against.

Pence said Obama was trying to defend "a so-called stimulus that was a piecemeal list of projects and boutique tax cuts."

Obama replied, "When you say they were boutique tax cuts, Mike, 95 percent of working Americans got tax cuts."

"This notion that this was a radical package is just not true," he said.

Republicans are feeling energized after winning a Democratic Senate seat in Massachusetts, and Obama is trying to refocus his stalled agenda more on jobs than health care. With Obama at a podium facing a hotel conference room full of Republicans, both sides jumped to the debate.

"It was the kind of discussion that we frankly need to have more of," said House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia.

"I'm having fun, this is great," Obama said when Pence asked if he had time for more questions.

"So are we," said Pence.

Some Republicans prefaced their questions with lengthy recitations of conservative talking points. The president sometimes listened impassively but sometimes broke in.

"I know there's a question in there somewhere, because you're making a whole bunch of assertions, half of which I disagree with," Obama said to Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, whom he mistakenly called "Jim."

Obama, a former law school professor, launched into lectures of his own at times. He warned lawmakers from both parties against demonizing a political opponent, because voters might find it incomprehensible if the two sides ever agree on anything.

"We've got to be careful about what we say about each other sometimes, because it boxes us in in ways that makes it difficult for us to work together because our constituents start believing us," Obama said. "So just a tone of civility instead of slash-and-burn would be helpful."

Republicans sat attentively for the most part. There was some grumbling when Obama remarked — after being pressed about closed-door health care negotiations — that much of the legislation was developed in congressional committees in front of television cameras.

"That was a messy process," Obama said.

GOP lawmakers pressured him to support a presidential line-item veto for spending bills and to endorse across-the-board tax cuts. Obama said he was ready to talk about the budget proposal, though he disputed accusations that his administration was to blame for big increases in deficit spending. And he demurred on the idea of cutting everyone's taxes, saying with a smile that billionaires don't need tax cuts.

In his opening remarks, Obama criticized what he said was a Washington culture driven by opinion polls and nonstop political campaigns.

"I don't believe that the American people want us to focus on our job security, they want us to focus on their job security," he said… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <AP/Yahoo>

One phrase the GOP has bantered around quite a bit of late is boutique tax cut.  In GOP-speak that is any tax cut in which the richest 5% do not get at least 90% of the benefit.

Here’s a video excerpt with some fact checking by Rachel Maddow.


Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

My findings were similar to hers.  I went to the GOP site and, after disabling a swarm of persistent tracking cookies, downloaded it the same pamphlet given to Obama with all the ideas they claim to have.  Reading it was a lot like looking at The GOP’s Silicone Sweetie, Carrie Prejean.  Their points, like hers, are pretty to look at, but nothing there is real.  There’s lots of fluff, but no substance.  The few ideas that they did spell out in any detail are the same tired policies that brought this nation to its current sorry state.

Obama clearly won the day, In the words of a Republican who was there, "It was a mistake that we allowed the cameras to roll like that. We should not have done that."

The First Corporate Candidate

It happened sooner than I expected.

roberts_evil No matter how much Alito may bobble his head in disagreement with the President over the Supreme Court's recent ruling on Citizens United v. FEC, this is the next logical step in affirming corporate personhood.

Corporation Murray Hill, Inc. has decided to run for the Maryland's 8th congressional district seat, one currently held by DCCC chief Chris Van Hollen. Murray Hill, Inc., will be running as a Republican(s?). From their corporate website:

Following the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to allow unlimited corporate funding of federal campaigns, Murray Hill Inc. today announced it was filing to run for U.S. Congress and released its first campaign video on

“Until now,” Murray Hill Inc. said in a statement, “corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence peddling to achieve their goals in Washington. But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves.”

Murray Hill Inc. is believed to be the first “corporate person” to exercise its constitutional right to run for office. As Supreme Court observer Lyle Denniston wrote in his SCOTUSblog, “If anything, the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission conferred new dignity on corporate “persons,” treating them — under the First Amendment free-speech clause — as the equal of human beings.”

Murray Hill Inc. agrees. “The strength of America,” Murray Hill Inc. says, “is in the boardrooms, country clubs and Lear jets of America’s great corporations. We’re saying to Wal-Mart, AIG and Pfizer, if not you, who? If not now, when?”

Murray Hill Inc. plans on spending “top dollar” to protect its investment. “It’s our democracy,” Murray Hill Inc. says, “We bought it, we paid for it, and we’re going to keep it.”

Damn straight. I think this is an excellent way to illustrate just how short-sighted and dangerous the SCOTUS decision was…

Inserted from <Crooks and Liars>

Here’s the video:


What say you?

Here’s Some GOP Grief

Here’s a story you won’t see on Faux Noise.

gopVision The economy grew at a faster-than-expected 5.7 percent pace in the fourth quarter, the quickest pace in more than six years, as businesses reduced inventories less aggressively, the Commerce Department said on Friday.

The first estimate put fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth at its fastest pace since the third quarter of 2003. The economy expanded at a 2.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast GDP, which measures total goods and services output within U.S. borders, growing at a 4.6 percent rate in October-December period.

Growth was boosted a sharp slowdown in the pace of inventory liquidation, a factor that could mask the strength of the economic recovery from the longest and deepest downturn since the Great Depression…

Inserted from <TPM>

The GOP won’t see the evidence here that the stimulus plan is starting to produce results, because like ostriches, they also have keep their heads somewhere the sun doesn’t shine.

Open Thread – 1/30/2010

Yesterday I got virtually nothing done.  Exhausted, I spent most of the day in bed after my most tiring week in years.  I hope to catch up on comments and do a little visiting today, but it will depend on how I feel.  I’m ready for bed again now, but still have articles to compose.  If not, I shall tomorrow.

Today's Jig Zone puzzle took me 4:50.  Do do it, Click Here.  How did you do?

Here’s your cartoon:

What’s up this weekend?

Friday, January 29, 2010

10 Ways to Stop Corporate Dominance of Politics

Here are some practical ideas to mitigate the effects of the extremist, ideologue fascist five SCOTUS Justices’ assault on freedom.

FatCat2 The recent Supreme Court decision to allow unlimited corporate spending in politics just may be the straw that breaks the plutocracy’s back.

Pro-democracy groups, business leaders, and elected representatives are proposing mechanisms to prevent or counter the millions of dollars that corporations can now draw from their treasuries to push for government action favorable to their bottom line. The outrage ignited by the Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission extends to President Obama, who has promised that repairing the damage will be a priority for his administration.

But what can be done to limit or reverse the effect of the Court’s decision? Here are 10 ideas:

  1. Amend the U.S. Constitution to declare that corporations are not persons
  2. Require shareholders to approve political spending by their corporations…
  3. Give qualified candidates equal amounts of free broadcast air time for political messages…
  4. Ban political advertising by corporations that receive government money…
  5. Impose a 500 percent excise tax on corporate contributions…
  6. Prohibit companies from trading their stock on national exchanges if they make political contributions and expenditures…
  7. Require publicly traded companies to disclose in SEC filings money used for the purpose of influencing public opinion, rather than for promoting their products…
  8. Require the corporate CEO to appear as sponsor of commercials that his or her company pays for…
  9. Publicize the reform options, inform the public of who is making contributions to whom, and activate the citizenry…

The measures listed above—and others that seek to reverse the dominance of money in our political system—will not be easy. But grassroots anger at this latest win for corporate power is running high… [emphasis original]

Inserted from <Alternet>

What I’ve done here is to include only the headers and minimal explanation from each of the ten items.  I strongly recommend that you chick through to the original for the meat of this.  I don’t agree with all ten.  I think that the first would take too long, if possible at all.  I like the sixth the best, except that it should be contributions and advertising.  Cousin FatCat disagrees with me.

Good night! (see today;s open thread).

Open Thread – 1/29/2010

Yesterday was a zoo.  I planned to take a brief morning nap and catch up on comments here before leaving for the prison.  Then I learned that a hacker got to the hosting provider the non-profit I work with uses, and trashed all the web sites there including ours.  We are far too small and broke to afford a real Webmaster, so I’m it.  I was still trying to unravel the mess when it was time to leave for the prison.  The meetings were productive, lasting later than usual, so I did not get home until late.  At this point, I’ve only slept a couple hours, so today I’m only posting one article in addition to the open thread.  Then I’m going back to bed.  My schedule is open until mid-week next week, so if not today, I shall surely catch up on replying to comments here and visiting blogs this weekend.

Today, the Jig Zone puzzle never came, so I went and got it.  I’m not sure how long the link will work.  It took me 4:14.  I should be easy to beat.  To do it, Click Here.  How did you do?

Here’s your cartoon:

Especially after this week, TGIF!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama Low-Key But Masterful in State of the Union Address

obamasotu In my opinion, Barack Obama hit a home run with his State of the Union address last night.  I do not agree with everything he said.  However, I respect opposing points of view. My most serious criticism is that he is still clinging to bipartisanship and gave Republicans far more respect than they deserve.  However, he made it clear that he took office in the midst of crises, and that the vast majority of debt under his administration was from enacting the bailout passed before he became President.  He made fools of the Republicans be enumerating the many tax cuts that have been enacted under his administration.  Because Republicans parrot “middle class tax cut” continually, they could not object.  They had to be fuming, because in GOP-speak “Middle Class Tax Cut” means “Tax Cut for the Rich”.  Obama’s tax cuts really were for the middle class.  I also liked the way he lampooned the Senate, by listing all the bills the House has passed and making it clear that inaction by the Senate is the sticking point.  I liked the way he called on Congress to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Although he could simply instruct the military not to enforce it, it is the law.  If he did, he would let Congress off the hook, and leave the law on the books for some future administration to enforce.   Congress passed it.  Rescinding it is their obligation, one which I fully support.  He also made it clear that Republicans are engaging in pure obstructionism, and made it clear that if they continue that tactic, they will have to answer to voters for it.

Keith Olbermann’s coverage excelled, as usual.  Here are two videos.  The first is with Howard Fineman:


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The second was with Markos Moulitsos:


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McClatchy DC has the full text of Obama’s speech.

According to a CBS News Poll, 83% of those interviewed approved of Obama’s proposals.  Only 17% did not.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell gave the Republican response.  McClatchy also has the full text of his speech.  While more respectful, better constructed, and better delivered that the Bobby Jindal fiasco after Obama’ last address to Congress, it contained only the standard GOP talking points.  One thing was clear.  McDonnell had not even listened to Obama’s speech before responding, because he did not know that Obama had put domestic fossil fuel development on the table.

Republicans were also polled. ;-)

GOPHypocrites (The Borowitz Report) - President Barack Obama's State of the Union address has already gotten a big thumbs-down from one key group of voters: Republicans who did not see the speech.

According to an instant poll conducted by the University of Minnesota's Opinion Research Institute, 90 percent of Republicans who did not see the President's speech strongly disagreed with it.

Additionally, 95 percent of Republicans polled agreed with the statement, "If I had seen the President's speech, I'll bet I would have hated it even more."

Davis Logsdon, who supervised the poll, said there were certain difficulties in polling Republican voters: "Many of them would not let us finish asking the question before answering 'No.'"… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Huffington Post>

Although Joe “You Lie” Wilson, promised to be on his best behavior, these Republican leaders just don’t seem to understand is that there are people watching who are trained to read lips.

McConJob_Busted Tonight in his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined steps he plans to take “to pay for the $1 trillion that it took to rescue the economy last year.” However, he first addressed right-wing criticisms that he is overseeing out-of-control spending by noting the situation he faced when he took office:

By the time I took office, we had a one year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door.

The camera then cut to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who leaned over to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and appeared to whisper, “Blame it on Bush.” The two men then laughed. Watch it:

… [emphasis added]

Inserted from<Think Progress>

That was John “McConJob” McCain’s best act since singing “Bomb, Bomb Iran” into a mike he did not know was open.

But even worse was the despicable breech of decorum by reactionary-right activist Justice Samuel Alito.

alito Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. responded to President Obama's criticism Wednesday night of a Supreme Court decision last week by appearing to mouth the words "not true."

Obama took issue with a ruling that overturned two of the court's precedents and upended decades of restrictions on corporations being able to use their profits to finance campaigns for and against candidates.

It proved to be a striking State of the Union moment: With six justices seated in their black robes directly in front of him in the House chamber, Obama said: "With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that, I believe, will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections."

As Democrats applauded, cameras showed the justices sitting expressionless. Except Alito.

"Not true, not true," he appeared to say, as he shook his head.

"I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities," Obama continued. "They should be decided by the American people. And I urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems."

The court's 5 to 4 decision, in which Alito was in the majority, said it did not have to address the question of electoral spending by foreign firms, because the law being considered did not differentiate between domestic and foreign corporations... [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Washington Post>


I was impressed with Obama for taking on the Supreme Court to their faces for that horrid decision.  While technically the court did not have to address the question of electoral spending by foreign firms, as Alito said, what Alito did not say, a lie by omission, is more important.  The court did not have to address the question of electoral spending by domestic firms either.  The only question before the court was whether or not broadcasting a single film crossed the line under settled law, well established by precedent.  This decision was judicial activism at its worst, and Obama said so.

In summery, the speech was masterful.  It was not what I would have said, but although I consider myself a wordsmith, Obama’s talents surpass mine far and away.  What remains to be seen is whether or not he follows it up with appropriate action.  I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, which I admit is considerable.

Oregon Voters Raise Taxes on Corporations and the Rich

Five days ago I encouraged support for Oregon Measures 66 and 67.  I’m happy to announce that both passed.

Yes_for_Oregon Oregon voters bucked decades of anti-tax and anti-Salem sentiment Tuesday, raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to prevent further erosion of public schools and other state services.

The tax measures passed easily, with late returns showing a 54 percent to 46 percent ratio. Measure 66 raises taxes on households with taxable income above $250,000, and Measure 67 sets higher minimum taxes on corporations and increases the tax rate on upper-level profits.

The results triggered waves of relief from educators and legislative leaders, who were facing an estimated $727 million shortfall in the current two-year budget if the measures failed.

"We're absolutely ecstatic," said Hanna Vandering, a physical education teacher from Beaverton and vice president of the statewide teachers union. "What Oregonians said today is they believe in public education and vital services."

The double-barreled victory is the first voter-approved statewide income tax increase since the 1930s. Other states, facing similar budget woes, are watching the outcome closely because Oregon, after all, is a state that capped property taxes and locked a surplus tax rebate program into the constitution… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Common Dreams>

The people of Oregon, although progressive in many ways, have a long standing antipathy to taxes.  Nevertheless, we recognized that it’s time for the rich, including corporations, to pay more.  We saw through an onslaught of rabid-right advertising laden with lies.  We have set the example for America.  Follow our lead!

Rachel Maddow Exposes Pimpgate Criminals’ GOP Connections

Rachel does an excellent job with this.


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I found it interesting that O’keefe and his coconspirators are intimately tied to the GOP mainstream and the Tea Bugger movement.

Open Thread – 1/28/2010

Yesterday I didn’t even reply to comments, but please rest assured, I shall to all.  After volunteer work with a therapy group for former prisoners, I had errands to run: a trip to a tailor shop, a trip to buy my February transit pass, a trip to the bank, and a trip to the store.  They are just spread out enough that by the time I was done I had walked three miles.  That’s a lot for me, even on oxygen.  When I got home I was pooped, but I still stayed up to watch the SOTU.  With luck, I’ll catch up on comments today, but that’s all.  Today is my volunteer day in the prison with a board meeting first, so I’ll be gone.

Tomorrow’s blog posts will be late, because my I won’t return from my volunteer work at the prison until late tonight, so please don’t worry about me if you see nothing new.  Just come back. :-)

Today’s Jig Zone puzzle took me 4:07.  To do it, Click Here.  How did you do?

Here’s your cartoon:

Have a great day!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

GOP Propagandist Busted!

This is rich!

okeefe In case you missed it, four people were arrested for trying to plant wiretaps in Senator Mary Landrieu's office. One of them was the lead actor in a recent hit job on a community minded organization:

A conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos shone a spotlight on alleged corruption by the liberal activist group ACORN was arrested with three other men and accused of plotting to wiretap the New Orleans offices of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. The FBI said in an affidavit that James O’Keefe was among the four men who were arrested Monday. Special Agent Steven Rayes said O’Keefe was helping two others, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan, who were dressed as employees of a telephone company ...

When the burglars behind the break in at the Watergate Hotel were first busted, Republicans were quick to call it a meaningless third-rate burglary. It turned out to be orchestrated at the highest levels of power and brought down Republican President Richard Nixon.

Via Media Matters, 31 House Republicans recently supported a resolution honoring today's accused felon. These scary freaks are heroes to a frightening conservative movement that reaches from militias and racists in every dark nook and cranny of the nation clear to the senior Republican leadership in the House and Senate. It's a movement that has been flirting with armed revolution and secession, disrupting political meetings in the tradition of the German Brown Shirts of the 1930s, and carrying semiautomatic rifles to town halls and Presidential addresses. The last time right-wing terrorist nuts were ignored two of them ending up blowing up a building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 innocent people including 19 children… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Daily Kos>

I see three things here.

First, there needs to be an investigation to find out just how high this goes to determine which GOP leaders authorized it and funded it.

Second, Okeefe’s criminal character, the assumption that his ACORN video was not doctored no longer holds water.  Congress must immediately refund ACORN.

Third, the 31 GOP extremists who voted to make this guy a hero must be forever tied to that vote.  Here are their names and districts:

republicanreich Todd Akin [R-MO2], Roscoe Bartlett [R-MD6],Joe Barton [R-TX6], Rob Bishop [R-UT1], Jo Bonner [R-AL1], John Boozman [R-AR3], Paul Broun [R-GA10], Henry Brown [R-SC1], John Campbell [R-CA48], John Carter [R-TX31], Howard Coble [R-NC6], Tom Cole [R-OK4], Michael Conaway [R-TX11], John Culberson [R-TX7], Mary Fallin [R-OK5], Trent Franks [R-AZ2], Louis Gohmert [R-TX1],Kay Granger [R-TX12], Ralph Hall [R-TX4], Jim Jordan [R-OH4], Steve King [R-IA5], John Kline [R-MN2], Doug Lamborn [R-CO5], Blaine Luetkemeyer [R-MO9], Daniel Lungren [R-CA3], Kenny Marchant [R-TX24], Joseph Pitts [R-PA16], Bill Posey [R-FL15], Phil Roe [R-TN1], Jean Schmidt [R-OH2], and John Shadegg [R-AZ3]

Haliburton/KBR Slime Jamie

This is a story I keep coming back to revisit, because it keeps getting worse.  The last time I talked about Jamie was here.

jamieleighjones In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. The attack occurred while she was out with a “small group of Halliburton firefighters,” just four days after her arrival in Iraq. After taking a few sips of her drink, she later woke up in the barracks, “naked” and “severely beaten.” Her “breasts were so badly mauled that she is permanently disfigured.”

In an apparent attempt to cover up the incident, the company then put her in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and “warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.” Even more insultingly, the DOJ resisted bringing any criminal charges in the matter.

Jones tried to sue the company for failing to protect her, but KBR argued that Jones’ employment contract — created for the company under the tenure of then-CEO Dick Cheney — warranted her claims being heard in private arbitration, without jury, judge, public record, or transcript of the proceedings. Basically, KBR argued that Jones’ brutal rape was a workplace injury — nothing more. But in September, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jones. “Jones’ allegations do not ‘touch matters’ related to her employment, let alone have a ’significant relationship’ to her employment contract,” wrote the court.

war criminal2 KBR is now petitioning the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling. The contractor is personally going after Jones’ integrity to argue that she shouldn’t have a fair and open hearing. Stephanie Mencimer from Mother Jones reports:

On Jan. 19, it petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision allowing Jones to press her case in a civil court rather than in arbitration. Among its many arguments in favor of a high court hearing: that Jones is a relentless self-promoter who has “sensationalize[d] her allegations against the KBR Defendants in the media, before the courts, and before Congress.” … KBR also suggests that much of Jones’ story is fabricated. The company says in a footnote, “Many, if not all, of her allegations against the KBR Defenandants are demonstrably false. The KBR Defendants intend to vigorously contest Jones’s allegations and show that her claims against the KBR Defendants are factually and legally untenable.”

The Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010 signed into law by President Obama in December contained an amendment by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) — inspired by Jones’ story — that prohibits defense contractors from restricting their employees’ abilities to take workplace discrimination, battery, and sexual assault cases to court… [emphasis original]

Inserted from <Think Progress>

I’m not going to vent my anger over this case at you today.  You’ve seen it several times before.  But I want you to consider something.  Given Al Franken’s heroic role in this affair, how good a chance do you think he will have in 2014 when ChickenHawk Cheney’s corporate criminal cronies are allowed to take vengeance against him by pouring $millions into ads against him?

Defective Rahm

Why is he taking heat from the left?  He deserves it!

rahm President Barack Obama's liberal backers have a long list of grievances. The Guantanamo Bay prison is still open. Health care hasn't been transformed. And Wall Street banks are still paying huge bonuses.

But they are directing their anger less at Mr. Obama than at the man who works down the hall from him. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, they say, is the prime obstacle to the changes they thought Mr. Obama's election would bring.

The friction was laid bare in August when Mr. Emanuel showed up at a weekly strategy session featuring liberal groups and White House aides. Some attendees said they were planning to air ads attacking conservative Democrats who were balking at Mr. Obama's health-care overhaul.

"F-ing retarded," Mr. Emanuel scolded the group, according to several participants. He warned them not to alienate lawmakers whose votes would be needed on health care and other top legislative items.

The antipathy reflects deep dissatisfaction on the Democratic left with Mr. Obama's first year in office, and represents a fracturing of the relationship between the president and the political base that mobilized to elect him. A little more than one year ago, Mr. Obama's victory led some to predict an era of Democratic dominance.

The anger on the left shows that Mr. Obama is caught in an internal battle over both the course of his administration and the Democratic Party.

Many in the party, particularly in the wake of the loss last week of a Massachusetts Senate seat, contend that the White House should chart a centrist approach focusing on the economy. They point to polls showing Mr. Obama's approval rating among independent voters has dropped by nearly 20 percentage points since early last year.

The left has gotten some of what it wanted: a ban on torture, an expansion of children's health insurance and an equal-pay law for women. But liberal activists say those and other measures add up to far less than what they expected… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Common Dreams>

To move to the center, Obama would have to take a giant step to the left.  The reason that Obama has dropped 20 percentage points with independents is simple.  Obama ran on a platform of change.  In part due to GOP obstruction, Obama has not delivered.  In part due to following the right wing advice of Rahm Emmanuel, and others, Obama has not delivered.  Independents see no change, and they do not have the investment in Obama that we progressives do, so of course they are bailing out.  Moving to what DINO Neoliberals  are calling a centrist approach is moving even further to the right.  Nothing he could do will alienate independent voters more.  Obama’s Rahm is defective, because Rahm can’t seem to remember why Obama one.

Even the most neophyte computer user knows that when RAM loses it’s ability to remember, you replace it.  The same applies to Rahm.

The Latest on Health Care – 1/27/2010

One chamber of Congress seems to be making progress.  One isn’t.

congress The political will is there on one side of the Hill for comprehensive healthcare reform. Greg Sargent talks to Dem House whip James Clyburn:

"I feel certain that the House Democrats will pass health care reform if the fixes that we feel need to be made to the Senate bill are guaranteed," Clyburn said. Asked directly if the House votes would be there if this happened, Clyburn said: "Yes, sir."

Clyburn’s comments suggest that if Dem leaders figure out a way of demonstrating to House Democrats that the reconciliation fix is iron-clad, they could support the Senate bill in large enough numbers to pass.

Clyburn cautioned, however, that House Dems would have to be convinced of the veracity of the fix, citing the "natural distrust between the two bodies." He added that House Dems would want to see the fix address their opposition to the "Cadillac" tax, to state-based exchanges, and to various sweetheart deals for Senators.

Clyburn called on the President to use his clout and prestige to urge Congressional Dems to follow this course of action during tomorrow’s speech.

Meanwhile, the Senate Dems reportedly didn't talk about reform at their weekly luncheon today… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Alternet>

Senate Democrats didn’t even talk about it?  The Nevada Leg Hound, Harry Reid, needs to pull his head out of his nether parts and get cracking!  Perhaps he should change his name to Ulysses so we can call him Useless for short!!

Of course the DINOs are whining:

Dino Two Democratic senators, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, have declared that they won't support a plan to have the House pass the Senate health care bill whole, then pass fixes to the bill through the reconciliation process.

A third, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, suggested lawmakers give up on the comprehensive health care bill entirely and pass reforms one by one.

"We need to focus on things where we have a consensus," Bayh said."Just ramming through a bill on a purely party-line vote on a strictly partisan basis will not do much to generate the kind of progress around here on other issues that we need."

Bayh also said he doesn't understand why the Senate dropped the version of the bill passed by the Finance Committee with one Republican vote. "Maybe we should take another look at that," he said. "If Sen. Snowe was willing to vote for it, perhaps there were other Republicans who were willing to."

Under reconciliation, legislation could pass with 50 votes (plus Vice President Biden as a tie-breaker), with no chance of a filibuster. So Democratic leadership could afford to lose a few votes and still be able to pass changes to the Senate bill… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <TPM>

Bayh has to be intentionally obtuse here.  Let me clarify.  He’s lying his head off.  Before any Republican votes for passage of any of the versions of health care reform that have been on the table, I will be arrested for poop-bombing SCOTUS, while flying over DC under my own power.  And Nelson has some nerve complaining about reconciliation.  He had no problem with the use of reconciliation in 2001 when he voted for Potomac Pinocchio’s $1.3 trillion tax cuts for the rich!