What on earth is a fifty percent chance of rain? How do you respond to that, carry half of an umbrella? - Lawrence Block in the voice of Matthew Scudder, A Drop of the Hard Stuff, p.41
Say, dainty Nymphs, and speak:Shall we play barley-break?
Awwww... did wittle baby hurt himself? Why in Hell did Obama appoint this man to anything?Pity poor Alan Simpson. Three weeks after he and fellow presidential debt commission co-chair Erskine Bowles tried to put a positive spin on their incredibly controversial prescription to balance the federal budget, Simpson is still taking heat from critics on both sides of the aisle.
"I've never had any nastier mail or [been in a] more difficult position in my life," Simpson told the Casper Star-Tribune in his homestate of Wyoming.
"Just vicious," Simpson said. "People I've known, relatives [saying], "'You son of a bitch. How could you do this?'"
OK. Read what the "experts" say, and decide whether you think it's an earmark.
Democrats today are shopping around what they're saying is a really juicy (if totally predictable) tale of Republican hypocrisy: Just days after the Senate GOP caucus imposed a voluntary moratorium on earmarking, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) dumped $200 million in extra cash for his home state into a spending bill right before final passage.
But experts insisted to TPM today that what Kyl did isn't nearly as clear or egregious as the AP made it out to be.
Every time I hear someone saying it will take "a long time" or "years" or "a generation" to undo the mess we're in, I think, "Have you no understanding of history?" It was a miracle the Founders created what they did, and it took unique circumstances and thousands of years to get to that point. You think you're gonna come back from this? Unless something stops this train-wreck now - and I don't see anything like that happening - you can kiss it good-bye. Forever.
There are rapidly emerging signs the Obama Administration and Congress may be actively, quickly and covertly working furiously on a plan to retroactively legitimize and ratify the shoddy, fraudulent and non-conforming conduct by MERS on literally millions of mortgages.
When Congress comes back into session next week, it may consider measures intended to bolster the legal status of a controversial bank owned electronic mortgage registration system that contains three out of every five mortgages in the country.The system is known as MERS, the acronym for a private company called Mortgage Electronic Registry Systems. Set up by banks in the 1997, MERS is a system for tracking ownership of home loans as they move from mortgage originator through the financial pipeline to the trusts set up when mortgage securities are sold.
Just to make clear the implications of this craven action, the White House and Congress are conspiring to give a get out of jail free bailout card to the biggest banks and finance companies in the country to cover up and mask their illegal behavior and behavior that did not conform with state, county and local laws throughout the United States. On at least sixty (60%) percent of the existing mortgages in America.
This is one of the few times I am grateful I am not a "homeowner" (give or take a mortgage). If you are one, it seems you'd better make alternative plans, just in case. You know Obama is not going to let the industry suffer, and you know from sad experience who is important to Congress; that leaves homeowners and the entities (counties, mostly) to which they pay taxes to take the hit. Please read bmaz's post and click through to the CNBC column by John Carney.There are dozens of implications to individuals and both private and public entities. At a root minimum, it will likely decimate, if not bankrupt, most counties in every state of the union.
... Last month, the federal judge presiding over the case, Lewis Kaplan, banned the testimony of a key witness because the Government under George Bush and Dick Cheney learned of his identity not through legal means but instead by torturing Ghailani (and also possibly coerced the testimony of that witness). ...
But even had he been acquitted on all counts, the Obama administration had made clear that it would simply continue to imprison him anyway under what it claims is the President's "post-acquittal detention power" -- i.e., when an accused Terrorist is wholly acquitted in court, he can still be imprisoned indefinitely by the U.S. Government under the "law of war" even when the factual bases for the claim that he's an "enemy combatant" (i.e. that he blew up the two embassies) are the same ones underlying the crimes for which he was fully acquitted after a full trial. When he banned the testimony of the key witness, Judge Kaplan, somewhat cravenly, alluded to and implicitly endorsed this extraordinary detention theory as a means of assuring the public he had done nothing to endanger them with his ruling (emphasis added):[Ghailani's] status as an "enemy combatant" probably would permit his detention as something akin to a prisoner of war until hostilities between the United States and Al Qaeda and the Taliban end even if he were found not guilty in this case....
"I just missed that one," DeGuerin said sheepishly afterward, noting he only had obtained the calendar on Sunday. "The (Sept. 11) meeting was with a bunch of other people."
Yip Harburg, the songwriter, told Studs Terkel about the year 1932: "I was walking along the street at that time, and you'd see the bread lines. The biggest one in New York City was owned by William Randolph Hearst. He had a big truck with several people on it, and big cauldrons of hot soup, bread. Fellers with burlap on their feet were lined up all around Columbus Circle, and went for blocks and blocks around the park, waiting." Harburg had to write a song for the show Americans. He wrote, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"And today, as history repeats itself for a country that seems not to have understood what it said the first time around, I proclaim: "I made an investment in this country. Where the hell are my dividends? ... I am a dignified human, asking questions— and a bit outraged, too."
[Harburg quotes a verse of the song which I had not heard before. - SB]
Once in khaki suits,
Gee, we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee-Doodle-de-dum,
Half a million boots went sluggin' through Hell,
I was the kid with a drum.
Say, don't you remember, they called me Al—
It was Al all the time.
Say, don't you remember I'm your pal,
Brother, can you spare a dime?
It was not just a song of despair. As Yip Harburg told Terkel:
In this song the man is really saying: I made an investment in this country. Where the hell are my dividends? ... It's more than just a bit of pathos. It doesn't reduce him to a beggar. It makes him a dignified human, asking questions— and a bit outraged, too, as he should be. 1
|Peppercorn Parmesan French|
The large government deficits are the only factor sustaining demand following the loss of this bubble wealth. If today's deficit were smaller, we would not be helping our children; we would just be putting their parents out of work. Simpson and Bowles somehow think they have covered this concern by delaying their cuts until fiscal year 2012, 11 months from now. Virtually all projections show the unemployment rate will still be over 9.0 percent at the point when the Simpson-Bowles cuts begin to slow the economy further. This leaves the economy like a plane with one engine already out and Simpson Bowles prepared to knock out the other engine as well.
The failure to understand current deficits contributes to a misunderstanding of the debt burden. For example, Simpson and Bowles raised fears of an exploding debt reaching 90 percent of GDP by the end of the decade. There is no reason that the Fed can't just buy this debt (as it is largely doing) and hold it indefinitely If need be, the Fed can use other tools at its disposal to ensure that this expansion of the monetary base does not lead to inflation.
This creates no interest burden for the country, since the Fed refunds its interest earnings to the Treasury every year. Last year the Fed refunded almost $80 billion in interest to the Treasury, nearly 40 percent of the country's net interest burden.
This means that the country really has no near-term or even mid-term deficit problem, just paranoia being spread by many of the same people who led the economy into its current disastrous situation.
Pete Peterson’s Purchase of Cat Food Commission, Media Pays Off
By: David Dayen Thursday November 11, 2010 9:48 am
I wanted to highlight something about the Cat Food Commission to permanently shrink government, something we’ve all known about, but which hasn’t been laid out in specific detail in a while. This Presidential commission has been borrowing paid staffers from groups that are ideologically committed to destroying the social safety net in America. This hasn’t been well-reported in the traditional media until today.
Instead, about one in four commission staffers is paid by outside entities, many of which have strong ideological points of view about how to tackle the deficit.
The outsourcing has come under sharp criticism from seniors’ organizations and liberal activists, who say the strategy is part of a broader conservative bias favoring painful entitlement cuts over other solutions. The fears of some liberal groups appeared to come true on Wednesday, when the commission’s two leaders recommended significant reductions for Social Security and other social-welfare programs.
... Indeed practically all of the commission staff paid for by outside groups have one tie or another to Pete Peterson, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has sought to kill Social Security for several decades. And this is certainly true of the top-level staff. The Economic Policy Institute [our old favorite liberal economist Max Sawicki used to work for them - SB] sent one staffer, Ethan Pollack, to the commission, and he has clearly been sidelined.
And this played out in the outside coverage of the commission report, which mirrors the position of the commission because it’s paid for by the same person. One of the first words of praise for the Bowles-Simpson report came from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a Peterson-funded group. ...
She said, laughing: "Give us suffrage, and we'll give you socialism." Debs replied, "Give us socialism and we'll give you suffrage."
According to a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research memo (PDF), it was concerns about the “cuts” to Medicare in the new health care law that caused such a huge swing away from Democrats among the elderly.
The Republicans absolutely hammered Democrats with what the GOP labeled as a $500 billion cut in Medicare as part of the new health care law. The fairly misleading message clearly resonated with seniors who really don’t want their entitlements cut.
What the Democrats actually did was reduce projected Medicare spending by around $500 billion by mainly trying to address waste, overpayments, and inefficiency. The so-called cuts were not meant to affect the core coverage provided by Medicare. In addition, some of the savings were put toward reducing the Medicare Part D doughnut hole, reducing the deficit, and expanding coverage for others; positive things that should have at least partially mitigated anger over the “cuts.” But despite all that, senior citizens were still furious over it, and strongly punished Democrats at the voting booth.
Social Security cuts are coming for “virtually every American alive and those yet to be born,” in the words of Eric Kingson, co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign.
And for what? Corporate tax cuts.
Seriously: the co-chairs of President Obama’s deficit commission want to cut Social Security benefits for everyone making more than $25,000 a year. And then cap corporate taxes at just 26%.
Every member of this commission, every member of Congress, and President Obama himself must reject these insane ideas. We’re starting an emergency petition to President Obama, and his Catfood Commission to take Social Security cuts off the table.
• FDL Action (same link as above)
• Democracy for America (button on main page).
I’m not interested in re-litigating the health care wars, but I think everyone can agree that the delayed implementation for the benefit of a better CBO score was debilitating to the policy, at least in political terms. Because now we’re starting to get the first reports of how Americans are faring in a post-Affordable Care Act world, and because practically nothing that the law has created helps Americans get insurance, they only see that world growing worse:Well, folks, that includes me. I am 18-64 (a lot closer to 64). I have a couple of significant chronic conditions. I am uninsured because I am... was... self-employed, now have no work-generated income and simply can't afford insurance.
Nearly 59 million Americans went without health insurance coverage for at least part of 2010, many of them with conditions or diseases that needed treatment, federal health officials said on Tuesday.They said 4 million more Americans went without insurance in the first part of 2010 than during the same time in 2008.“Both adults and kids lost private coverage over the past decade,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a news briefing.
Among adults age 18-64, and in case you didn’t know that’s the voting age, 22% are uninsured. Half of the uninsured have incomes over the poverty level. 40% of them have one or more chronic diseases. This is not about being young and libertarian and free, this is about not being able to afford health insurance.
And so on. And so forth. If you are a certain age, and if you were born into the American middle class, you are by now nodding your head vigorously. I was born in the lower class, touched the middle class in mid-career, watched in dismay as my fortunes leveled off and then turned downward, and am nodding my head vigorously. It'd be hard to miss the course of things.In my reporting, I regularly travel to banana republics notorious for their inequality. In some of these plutocracies, the richest 1 percent of the population gobbles up 20 percent of the national pie.
But guess what? You no longer need to travel to distant and dangerous countries to observe such rapacious inequality. We now have it right here at home — and in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election, it may get worse.
The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.
So we've been cooked since Reagan's election. Not surprisingly, the middle-class sharing of the American dream has effectively vanished, starting at the same time as Reagan's election but continuing through every president since Reagan, Republican and Democrat alike. That is yet another reason why I am no longer a Democrat: the Democrats are a part of the plutocracy as surely as the Republicans. I am truly weary of being a servant of the wealthy, to no personal advantage. If wealthy Republicrats succeed in privatizing Social Security, it will be clear to all of us that both parties have nothing in mind for us but an infirm and impoverished old age spent in service to them. If that happens, at that point I will have to reevaluate my lifelong commitment to nonviolence.Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan also tried to warn us. He said President Reagan’s real strategy was to force the government to cut domestic social programs by fostering federal deficits of historic dimensions. Senator Moynihan was gone before the financial catastrophe on George W. Bush’s watch that could paradoxically yet fulfill Reagan’s dream. The plutocrats who soaked up all the money now say the deficits require putting Social Security and other public services on the chopping block. You might think that Mr. Bush today would regret having invaded Iraq on false pretences at a cost of more than a trillion dollars and counting, but no, just last week he said that his biggest regret was his failure to privatize Social Security. With over l00 Republicans of the House having signed a pledge to do just that when the new Congress convenes, Mr. Bush’s vision may yet be realized.
U.S. Representative Dist. 7 - my congressional district
State Senate Dist. 17 - my state senatorial district
Tea Partiers and New Black Panthers To Square Off At Polls In Texas
Ryan J. Reilly | November 1, 2010, 1:15PM
Members of the fringe group the New Black Panther Party have announced they intend to be at the polls in Harris County, Texas tomorrow. So has the Tea Party-backed group True the Vote -- with more than 1,000 poll watchers, they say. Both sides have already traded accusations of voter intimidation -- but, despite all their press coverage, neither will likely play a deciding factor at the polls tomorrow.
The face off between poll watchers alleging massive voter fraud in Harris County and many voters in minority neighborhoods of Houston during the early voting period have already been racially tinged. New developments indicate it will only get worse.
Now there's a show I don't even have to pay to see! Neither group behaves what I would call sanely; the Tea Partiers bear no relationship to the Boston Tea Party and the New Black Panther Party is not really connected to the Black Panther Party of my youth. Will we see violence at the polls when these two encounter? I rather doubt it, but who knows.
In any case, as sorry as this election is liable to be, I urge you to vote Tuesday. If one of your U.S. Senators is up for election, I especially urge you to vote in that race; if the Tea Partiers get their way and repeal the 17th Amendment, this may be the last time you ever get to vote for a senator. Paraphrasing the late lamented Molly Ivins... is this a great nation, or what?