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“I Need a Freakin Job”: President Obama

8:57 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

A clever group–inafj.org–has put up a huge billboard in Buffalo to attract President Obama’s attention. It reads:

>Dear Mr. President, I need a freakin job. Period.

Sincerely,

INAFJ.org

They have also come out with a short video clip (that can be viewed on the same link as that above) to promote their billboard and plea. The first minute or so are not exciting but when the music kicks in, you can feel their energy.

If you go to their website, you’ll see this message under INAFJ, "The Movement":

*INAFJ is a grass roots American movement, giving voice to the millions affected by the crazy unemployment numbers. As families suffer, our political leadership seems content with their dysfuctional posturing. …

*stupid is believing the problems we have can be solved by the same people that created them. …

*Sick is the billions of dollars that have been spent on bailing out financial institutions, while their own immeasurable greed was responsible for the collapse of America’s future.

*Tired is hearing career politicians saying one thing while doing another, most having never created a job or felt the burden of creating a payroll.

*Inexcusable is the rape of the US Treasury in plain sight and in daylight.

I have no idea who these people are (they say they have no political affiliation) but their message will certainly resonate with the unemployed, the underemployed, progressives and libertarians alike.

They also have a petition up on Facebook that you can sign here. Almost 8,000 people on Facebook alone have already said they like this idea.

What about Barack Obama? Boy does the president have a tin ear on this issue. Unemployment stands officially at 9.9% (up from the month before) and it would be worse if not for the seasonal-short term work provided by the census. Underemployment is almost at 20% and the rates for minorities (like Black Americans; Latinos) are even higher.

I guess Obama didn’t hear "It’s the economy, stupid!" that Clinton used against pappy Bush. Nor did he see the results.

The truth is, the Obama administration has been clueless on job creation. Instead of pushing money into massive public works projects (as favored by several leading economists) the president came up with a timid economic stimulus plan that Joe Stiglitz and other Nobel Prize winners criticized as being too little, too late.

Next week, voters in Pennsylvania and three other states go to the polls. Two incumbent Democratic Senators (if you count Arlen Spectre as a Democrat that is) could soon find themselves on the bread lines. More will follow in November.

I’m predicting that the Democrats will lose the House in November and that the Republicans will begin impeachment proceedings against Obama early next year.

Maybe then Obama will start to listen?

UPDATE:

CNN reports that the man behind the billboard and the message is Jeff Baker and that:

On CNN’s American Morning, the creator of the billboard, Jeff Baker, said he was inspired to help pay for the eye-catching gimmick because he wanted to "refocus the national dialogue" back to "basic job creation."

When the economy went south, Baker and his brother lost their 10-year-old textile business, which employed 25 people. Their family’s woes are reflected throughout the city of Buffalo, which suffers from one of the country’s highest poverty rates, with nearly 30 percent of its population living at or below the poverty line. Buffalo’s unemployment rate is at 8.6 percent, while the national average is 9.7 percent.[…]

Baker is asking for more frank discussion that leads to tangible job creation.

"I would love to sit down and talk about the small-business perspective, a beer-jobs summit with regular knuckleheads like me," he told The Buffalo News.

You can see a video interview on CNN with Baker here.

GREECE: Big Spender on Military Budget

5:57 am in Uncategorized by fflambeau

Greece, one of the smaller countries in the European Union, spends more than any other country in the EU on defense as a percentage of its GDP: 3.3%. By comparison, Germany, the most populous country in the EU spends less than 2% of its GDP on defense, these figures from a television report on Aljazeera broadcast today.

Wikipedia, relying on various sources, supports this:

It must be noted that Greek arms purchasing is among the highest in the world: Greece ranked 3rd in the world in 2004.

At a time when the country is an economic crisis, the Greek government intends to shell out 2.5 billion Euros on 6 naval ships and several submarines for .5 billion Euros each.

Apropos of this, Wikipedia, relying on a BBC report says that:

Regarding the purchase of 30 F-16 and 333 Leopard tanks in 2005, both parties criticized the New Democracy administration for spending money on weapons while doing nothing to relieve the lower classes and said that high military spending "does not correspond to the real needs of the country but is carried out according to NATO planning and to serve weapon manufacturers and the countries that host them".

Similarly, Aljazeera in its recent broadcast interviewed a member of Greece’s Parliament. He said his country is under severe pressure from nations to cut its budget but the same countries want it to spend more on military purchases.

The United States is the major arms seller to Greece.

According to the Federation of American Scientists (an organization of top scientists formed in 1945 from members of the Manhattan Project with Nobel Prize winners on its board) shows Greece to be a leading purchaser of “U.S. Defense Articles and Services” to the amount of:

$3 billion (from 1997 to 2000) ranking Greece #1 in Europe for those years and #5 worldwide;

$1.4 billion (from 2001 to 2004) ranking Greece #3 in Eur. for those years and #9 worldwide;

$170 million in 2004 ranking Greece #3 in Europe for that year.

Most of these weapons appear to be military planes. Indeed, the Wikipedia article cited above (see the comment following footnote #8) indicates that:

The Greek publication Elevtherotipia reported that former Ambassador Nicholas Burns had taken part in attempting to dissuade Greek officials from purchasing the Eurofighter in favor of a U.S. military aircraft.

So what we see is the U.S. government, through an Ambassador, acting to promote sales of a U.S. plane essentially acting as a salesman and doing the bidding for private arms manufacturers.

Moreover, on December 16, 2009, the Telegraph (U.K.) reported that Greece’s economy was under severe strain due to excessive military spending and that the amount of this spending was hidden from the public:

To make matters worse, there were fresh concerns yesterday about the true scale of Greek military spending, which is kept off the books of the debt agency.

“Greek military accounts seem to be regarded as a state secret,” said Chris Pryce, Fitch’s director of sovereign ratings.

“In every other EU country we can find out how much they spend on defence, but we don’t know for Greece. All we know is that their military spending is very large, around 5pc of GDP,” he said.

Analysts who have probed deeply into Greek accounts have been astonished to discover that parts of the public sector lack double-entry book-keeping, 700 years after it was invented by the Venetians.

Given Greece has misled the bond markets and Brussels in the past over its deficits, analysts suspect that Athens may try to hide problems behind a military veil. Mr Papandreou admits that Greece has lost “every shred of credibility”.

The same report contained some fascinating information relating to possible weapons purchases from Germany companies. It said that the Greek government in September, 2009, had warned ThyssenKrupp [both Thyssen and Krupp were favorites of Hitler; they merged in 2000 as discussed below in note #2] it would not take delivery of 4 of that company’s submarines thus canceling a contract for 520 million Euros and that early in December it also was canceling contracts for maritime aircraft worth 250 million Euros.

So, let’s see what we have here. First, the Greek government buys far too many armaments, so many its defense spending fuels an economic crisis. Then late last year the country threatens to cut 3/4 billion Euros worth of contracts to Germany’s huge war manufacturer, ThyssenKrupp. Greece totters closer to the brink BUT Germany leads the EU in putting together a huge package, worth a reported 150 billion Euros, to prop it up (see note #1 below). But it appears that a large amount of that taxpayer money (coming from assorted European countries) will now go to buying weapons from a private company in Germany. So who is the bailout really helping out? Greece? Germany? or ThyssenKrupp?

And where have we seen these kind of huge bailouts before essentially going to major multinational corporations?

So how about some budget hawks, in the United States, in Greece, and in the EU, standing up and demanding severe cuts in Greece’s military budgets and its arms purchases AND an investigation into why taxpayer monies are going to help out huge armaments manufacturers? Unfortunately, all we seem to be hearing instead is for the need for Greece (and the United States) to cut social programs.

Why is that do you think?

FOOTNOTE #1:

The amount of the EU bailout to Greece is still not clear but on May 12, 2010, the Daily Mail (U.K.) reported this:

Today, Bild [an important German source] said: ‘The EU and the Eurozone want to spend a massive 750billion Euros to save the European currency. Germany alone will have to fork out 123billion Euros for its bankrupt neighbours.

‘There is now not enough money for the planned tax cuts here!

‘Are we really the schmucks of Europe?

It appears that about 150 billion Euros of that package is specifically earmarked for Greece, according to various sources.

FOOTNOTE #2:

ThyssenKrupp is a huge German manufacturer with over 200,000 employees. It is the result of a merger between Thyssen and Krupp in 2000.

Friederick "Fritz" Thyssen was the head of his family’s business and helped to put Hitler into power. He gave huge amounts of money to the Nazis and in November, 1932, according to Wikipedia:

Thyssen and Hjalmar Schacht were the main organisers of a letter to President Paul von Hindenburg urging him to appoint Hitler as Chancellor. Thyssen also persuaded the Association of German Industrialists to donate 3 million Reichsmarks to the Nazi Party for the March, 1933 Reichstag election. As a reward, he was elected a Nazi member of the Reichstag and appointed to the Council of State of Prussia, the largest German state (both purely honorary positions).

Although Thyssen was tried for being a Nazi, he denied it and just paid a fine to get out of his difficulties and emigrated to Argentina.

For its part, the Krupp family and its companies have a history of over 400 years of selling arms. Krupp made most of Hitler’s panzer tanks. Krupp industries during World War II used slaves to make their weapons and bombs.

Hitler himself said this in an address to the Hitler Youth:

"In our eyes, the German boy of the future must be slim and slender, as fast as a greyhound, tough as leather and hard as Krupp steel" („… der deutsche Junge der Zukunft muß schlank und rank sein, flink wie Windhunde, zäh wie Leder und hart wie Kruppstahl.")

RentEconomist Jonathan Gruber’s Ties to Goldman Sachs/Hamilton Project/Obama

9:17 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

We’ve all heard in recent days about a prominent gay basher hiring a male prostitute from RentBoy, ostensibly to "carry his bags" but in reality to give him "the long stroke" on a steamy European holiday.

In my far less titillating research on the Hamilton Project (see work listed below), I have come across some interesting ties between MIT economist Jonathan Gruber and the Hamilton Project. Gruber–it turns out–carries bags for the Obama administration and the Goldman Sachs, Robert Rubin-funded Hamilton Project. Gruber is a RentEconomist ready and seemingly willing to take any economic position (pardon the RentBoy inspired pun) you might want, for money that is, lots of it as Emptwheel has shown.

Readers here at FDL are doubtless aware of Gruber because of the fine work done by Emptywheel and Jane H. on health care.

Emptywheel wrote this in January, 2010:

MIT health economist Jonathan Gruber has been the go-to source that all the health care bill apologists point to to defend otherwise dubious arguments. But he has consistently failed to disclose that he has had a sole-source contract with the Department of Health and Human Services since June 19, 2009 to consult on the “President’s health reform proposal.”

He is one source for the claim that the excise tax will result in raises for workers (though his underlying study is in-apt to the excise tax question). He is the basis for the argument that the Senate bill reduces families’ risk–even if it remains totally unaffordable.

Emptywheel went on to point out that while Gruber was providing intellectual support for Obama’s health care proposals, he was simultaneously taking in lots of money from Obama’s HHS Department. Money to the tune of $392,600. It’s all there in her seminal diary, "Jonathan Gruber Failed to Disclose His $392,600 Contracts with HHS."

But while I have been doing research recently on the links between the Obama government and Robert Rubin and Goldman Sachs and the think tank they founded, The Hamilton Project, I have found that there are Obama-Gruber-Rubin/Goldman Sachs/Hamilton Project connections going back to 2006.

A search of the Hamilton Project’s own web site reveals 21 connections spread over three pages: connections between the MIT-based economist and the Hamilton Project. That includes papers given at the project, books and events attended.

Perhaps the most important of these was at the launch of the Hamilton project back on April 5, 2006. Who attended the launch? Well, Robert Rubin, ex-head of Goldman Sachs was there, of course, because he and Goldman provided the bucks for the Hamilton Project. It’s a neo-liberal think tank cleverly hidden like a Trojan Horse within the Brookings Institution, which is generally seen by the press as "liberal".

Who else was there? Yes, RentEconomist Gruber was there; in fact he was a panel presenter. Who else?

None other than a young Senator from Illinois by the name of Barack Obama. RentSenator Obama gave a speech (you can see a video of it here as well as full information on the launch) at the Hamilton Project in which he thanked "my friend, Bob" [Rubin], and launched into a defense of NAFTA and the need for more NAFTAs as well as a need for cuts in entitlements (like social security). So is it any wonder that Obama has appointed to his budget cutting commission two people (Alice Rivlin and Anne Fudge) who espouse the same Hamilton project/Robert Rubin line and who have ties to the Hamilton Project/Brookings?

"He who pays gets to call the tune" applies not only to RentBoys. In this case, Robert Rubin-Goldman Sachs are paying and calling the tune. Rubin also made opening remarks at the launch.

Who else was in attendance for the Hamilton Project’s launch in addition to Obama, Robert Rubin and RentEconomist Gruber? A virtual Who’s Who of Goldman Sachs people, all budget hawks when it comes to entitlements. The moderator of the panel discussions at the launch was none other than Peter Orszag, the first Director of the Hamilton Project now in the Obama Administration as his Budget Director. Another panelist was RentEconomist, Austan Goolsbee, then an economist with the University of Chicago, now on Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Other people at the launch of significance included Strobe Talbott and Roger Altman. Both have huge connections in the Democratic party and with the Obama administration. Also, there, the Hamilton Project’s second Director, Jason Furman who would later serve as a chief economic adviser to Obama in his presidential campaign.

Let’s return to RentEconomist Gruber. His presentation was in a panel with Goolsbee’s; the panel topic was "Innovative Policy Ideas." There is a link to his speech here and you can read the entire transcript of his talk here.

Here’s a sampling of "Gruber’s ideas". I put that in quotes because he himself in his paper admits the ideas are those pushed by Peter Orszag. Significantly, they also are those of Barack Obama’s, the Hamilton project’s, Robert Rubin’s and of course, Obama’s deficit reduction committee:

"I’m going to be talking today about a proposal that I have developed with Peter Orszag and Bill Gale. They really deserve most of the credit. …What is the problem? Americans are leaving work earlier but living longer. Social Security was not designed to be a full income replacement. It never was. It is under, as we know, enormous financing pressure. Employer-provided pensions are disappearing. And most importantly, probably, the enormous rise in health care costs for the elderly are going to continue and place Medicare in jeopardy."

One of the RentEconomist’s "fixes" to this "social security problem" (actually social security at present doesn’t have an economic problem and if it did, it could be easily fixed by raising the limit of the social security tax on earnings to include all earnings but that would hit people like Robert Rubin hard) is essentially to privitize social security. Hence, Gruber wants each person to have a private annuity partly supported by the government. Note that there is a high probability that such a policy would create even more wealth for Rubin and Goldman Sachs who doubtless would have their fingers in the creation and administration of such annuities.

It bears repeating that the above views are also those of Barack Obama, the Hamilton project, Robert Rubin and, of course, Obama’s deficit reduction committee. He’s stacked that committee just as he stacked health care reform by taking single payer/the public option off the table. See the last article in the readings below for evidence that Obama has packed his commission with "social security looters".

With RentEconomist Gruber we see the circle coming full. Robert Rubin and Goldman set up a think tank that really is a Trojan Horse for their neo-liberal ideas: more free trade pacts, outsourcing jobs, cutting entitlements and cutting restrictions on financial/banking services.

Presto, we have the Hamilton Project.

It then invites nominally independent "experts", RentExperts like Gruber who are paid to come and give speeches and deliver papers that support the party line. They also bring on ambitious politicians (like Obama and later Joe Biden) to beat the drum. All the while, money and influence are flowing from a hidden source: Rubin and Goldman Sachs. They also bring on board journalists (like from ABC news) to spread the word. They float ideas that will make more money for themselves. In short, what we see here is the influence of money and power that completely subvert democratic institutions. Note that Obama has essentially outsourced to his independently appointed deficit reduction committee a task that should be Congress’s.

Gruber’s RentEconomist work with the Hamilton project didn’t, of course, end with the project’s launch. Other Gruber appearances include as an expert panelist at a Hamilton Project event on July 17, 2007, “Who’s Got the Cure?” presided over by Robert Rubin. Gruber later wrote a chapter in a Brookings Institution book with a similar name, “Who Has the Cure? Hamilton Project Ideas on Health Care” (2008). Importantly, the book was edited by Jason Furman (second Director of the Hamilton Project who worked in Obama’s team). It has another chapter by Jeanne M. Lambrew. Lambrew serves as Obama’s Director, HHS Office of Reform and is a close associate of Tom Daschle (they together wrote a book on health care reform). Daschle, it should be recalled, was Obama’s original pick to head HHS before it turned out he dodged and fudged on his tax returns.

Gruber’s other RentEconomist work (covering three pages of a search at the Hamilton’s Project’s own web site) can be looked at by the reader following the links above.

What is important here is that an enormously wealthy group of people headed by Robert Rubin have created an institution (the Hamilton Project) that appears to be independent and even progressive. It in turn brings in hired economic guns like RentEconomist Gruber who are willing to promote the purposes of that essentially undemocratic institution. For a price that is. So too with Obama himself. He’s a RentPolitician.

From them emanate a "call for reform" whether it be in health care, or in deficit reduction or financial reform. But behind it all there is a guiding hand hidden from the public. At least the RentBoy that our story began with was upfront. He acknowledged (through the RentBoy web site) that he would provide just about any service, for a price. Unfortunately, we have RentEconomists, RentExperts, and yes, RentPoliticians, who take the money and perform just about anything too at their master’s command.

They’re just not as up front about it!

FOR FURTHER READING:

Please see an earlier diary written here that contains an extensive list of the connections between the Obama government and Robert Rubin/Goldman Sachs/the Hamilton Project.

See:
"An Updated List of Goldman Sachs Ties to the Obama Administration Including Elena Kagan"

It also has a list of readings recommended (with links) at its end that cover subjects in this diary.

A revealing, important article written by Matthew Skomarovsky shows, as its title indicates that "Obama Packs Debt Commission With Social Security Looters". Read it here.

An Updated List of Goldman Sachs Ties to the Obama Government Including Elena Kagan

9:13 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

I. Introduction.

This essay shows the pervasive influence of Goldman Sachs and its units (like the Goldman-Robert Rubin-funded Hamilton Project embedded in the Brookings Institution) in the Obama government. These names are in addition to those compiled on an older such list and published here at FDL. In the future, I will combine the names here and those on the earlier article but I urge readers to look at the earlier list too (links below). Combined, this is the largest and most comprehensive list of such ties yet published.

For readability and clarity, I have NOT included many of the details and links that are found in the earlier article so as to make this one less repetitive and easier to read. So, if you want more documentation, please look at my earlier diary here at Firedoglake called "A List of Goldman Sachs People in the Obama Government: Names Attached To The Giant Squid’s Tentacles" published on April 27, 2010.

Note too that I have intentionally used the words, "Obama government" rather than "Obama administration" because some of these connections are not technically within his administration. These would include ambassadorial appointments and Supreme Court appointments (like that anticipated for Elena Kagan). This also includes lobbyists like Dick Gephardt who has multiple connections/input to Obama and to Goldman Sachs and the Hamilton Project.

In a similar vein, I use a broader definition than just Goldman Sachs (GS) because GS has funded, along with its ex-leader Robert Rubin, a right-leaning think tank called the Hamilton Project and embedded it within the Brookings Institution. Some of its activities thus also spill over into Brookings Institution projects which doubtlessly was one of the clever reasons Rubin and GS did this, along with providing their essentially neo-con/neo-liberal think tank with camouflage. This has worked beautifully for GS and Rubin as most writers–even critical ones like Matt Taibbi–seem unaware of the important doings of the Hamilton Project. The Hamilton Project has 32 people sitting on its Advisory Council and many have ties to Goldman Sachs, Rubin and the Obama government. Of the first four Directors of the Hamilton Project, three work in the Obama administration. Meanwhile, the most recent Director of the Hamilton Project came from academia and from a position as economic adviser to the Obama administration to Hamilton in the sort of "revolving door" that Washington is famous for.

The Hamilton Project (named after Alexander Hamilton whose most famous dictum was "The People are a Great Beast") is essentially pushing for cuts in entitlements (like social security), outsourcing American jobs, and for more NAFTA-type agreements. This is essentially the game plan for the Obama administration, not surprising since Barack Obama was the inaugural speaker at the Hamilton Project (and Joe Biden spoke there just weeks ago).

NOTE: This diary and its predecessor are the result of a lot of painstaking work. I am sure there are other Goldies out there in the Obama administration who I have missed. If so, PLEASE let me know by dropping their name in a comment below.

II. Additional Names of Goldies serving with Obama.

Enough background information, let’s reveal the Goldies with connections/jobs within the Obama government (or with "revolving door" status). For your convenience, I’ve listed the new names to the list separately and in the first section, led off by Elena Kagan because the buzz is that she is Obama’s pick to the Supreme Court.

NEW GOLDIES REVEALED (with respect to prior article):

KAGAN, ELENA.

Kagan was appointed by Obama to serve as the Solicitor General. The Solicitor General, often called the 10th Supreme Court Justice, is the person who argues the U.S. government side of cases before the court. Buzz has it that she is also Obama’s next pick to the Supreme Court, perhaps as early as this Monday.

At any rate, she’s already in the Obama government as Solicitor General. She also has ties to Goldman Sachs. From 2005 to 2008, according to USA Today and other sources, Kagan served as a member of the Research Advisory Council of the Goldman Sachs Global Markets Institute. Matt Kelley of USA Today wrote in his article, "Possible Supreme Court Pick Had Ties to Goldman Sachs" that Kagan received $10,000 from Goldman Sachs for her services in 2008, per federal disclosure forms. But since she was doing the same thing in 2005, 2006, and 2006, it would appear that she pulled in $40,000 from Goldman Sachs for what appears to be sitting in on one day sessions looking at big issues affecting the global economy. $40,000 grand for so little time is a nice gig if you can get it (and she likely got expenses too) for so little time. It’s not a huge amount but it is enough to affect a player’s mind.

Here are some questions that Senators on the Judiciary Committee might want to ask of Kagan:

1) Can you produce all the paperwork/receipts related to your ties to Goldman Sachs?

2) Did you report the GS payments as income on your income tax returns (lots of people in the Obama administration (like Timothy Geithner) or wanting to be (like Tom Daschle) seem to have trouble filling out proper IRS forms.

3) Will you recuse yourself in any cases brought before you at the Supreme Court (if confirmed) that have any connection, no matter how remote, to Goldman Sachs or its entities?

4) As Solicitor General of the United States, have you handled (defined largely) any cases relating to Goldman Sachs or its entities?
Have you given advice on any such cases?

5) Have you had any dealings with The Hamilton Project? This includes speeches given there, conferences attended, papers published etc.

BERKOWITZ, HOWARD P.

Here is a murky connection (but an important one) between Obama and Goldman Sachs. Berkowitz serves as the Chairman, Board of Directors of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINAP). It is an important Washington think tank that gives input to Obama. It was established by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in 1985, according to Wikipedia. People affiliated with WINAP are a virtual Who’s Who of foreign policy including Henry Kissinger, Warren Christopher, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Richard Perle.

Berkowitz also is Managing Director of BlackRock and sits on the Advisory Council of the Goldman Sachs funded Hamilton Project.

BlackRock is a global investmentment management firm with over $3.35 trillion under management. There is a virtual revolving door of hiring and acquisitions between BlackRock and Goldman Sachs as reported here.

DUDLEY, WILLIAM C.

Dudley, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York web site:

became the 10th president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on January 27, 2009. In that capacity, he serves as the vice chairman and a permanent member of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the group responsible for formulating the nation’s monetary policy.

Mr. Dudley was a partner and managing director at Goldman, Sachs & Company and was the firm’s chief U.S. economist for a decade. Earlier in his career at Goldman Sachs, he had a variety of roles including a stint when he was responsible for the firm’s foreign exchange forecasts. Prior to joining Goldman Sachs in 1986, he was a vice president at the former Morgan Guaranty Trust Company. Mr. Dudley was an economist at the Federal Reserve Board from 1981 to 1983.

Dudley seems to have Geithner’s old job, passed from one Goldie to the next.

EFFRON, BLAIR W.

Effron is a money man. As a bundler for the 2008 Obama campaign, he raised more than $100,000. According to this web site he also was a "Mega Donor" to Obama in 2008, giving more than $28,500 though committees supporting Obama. His wife is also a major contributor, giving tens of thousands of dollars.

Effron is a founding partner of Centerview Partners LLC. Their web site indicates he has executed over $400 billion in transactions.

Effron is also on the Advisory Council of the Goldman Sachs/Robert Rubin funded Hamilton Project.

FROMAN, Michael.

Froman (born August 20, 1962) is deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, a position to be held jointly at the National Security Council and the National Economic Council. His responsibilities will include serving as the White House liaison to the G7, G8 and G20 summits of economic powers.[

He's on my prior list but his name was misspelled there (as Frohman). Froman's days with Obama go back to Harvard Law School. Froman appears to be the original link between Robert Rubin/Goldman Sachs and Obama.

From Wikipedia:

>Froman received a bachelor's degree in Public and International Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University in 1985, a doctorate in International Relations from Oxford University and a law degree from Harvard Law School where he was a classmate of Barack Obama[2][3], and also an associate of Obama’s on the Harvard Law Review.[4]

After Harvard, Froman had lost touch with Barack Obama until Froman heard of Obama’s Senate run. Froman volunteered at that point to help, began raising funds for the candidate, and introduced the candidate to Robert Rubin, whom Froman had followed from the Treasury Department to Citigroup [Froman served as Rubin's Chief of Staff] after the Clinton administration.[4] Before moving to the Obama administration, Froman most recently was a managing director of Citigroup’s Citi Alternative Investments Institutional Clients Group, where he was head of infrastructure and sustainable development [5]. He also served on 12-member advisory board of the Obama campaign’s transition team.[1]

this source provides new information indicating Frohman, who was Mr. Goldman Sach’s former Chief of Staff, as an "informal adviser" to Obama. They spell his name as Froman, Michael.

FUDGE, ANNE.

Obama just appointed Fudge to his budget deficit reduction committee (whose real goal, like that of the Hamilton Project, is to cut entitlements). Fudge has been the public relations craftsman for some of America’s largest corporations. She sits, according to the Washington Post, as a Trustee of the Brookings Institution within which the Hamilton Project is embedded.

GEPHARDT, RICHARD (aka "DICK") A.

Gephardt is one of the movers and shakers in the Democratic party and served as the Democratic Majority Leader of the House from 1989 to 1995. While he doesn’t have an "official position" in the Obama administration his name was floated as a possible VP to Obama in 2008. Like so many ex-politicians, Gephardt has set up a consulting firm that has its fingers in just about every pie in the Obama government. Gephardt, for instance, advised the Obama administration, according to the New York Times, that universal health coverage could not pass in 2009 and urged Obama to "defer that goal." That’s what the people Gephardt takes money from wanted and that’s also what Obama did.

Here’s more from The New York Times:

One old friend links Mr. Gephardt’s assessment to his lucrative new career as a lobbyist. “He’s advising a lot of big corporations,” said Tom Buffenbarger, president of the machinists’ union.

Wikipedia says that:

Dick Gephardt started Gephardt Group in January 2005 and is currently its President and CEO. Gephardt Group is a multi-disciplined consulting firm focused on helping clients improve Labor Relations, develop Political and Public Policy Strategies and enhance Business Results by gaining access to new markets or partners.[15]

According to Wikipedia:

is also an active consultant for Goldman Sachs.

Gephardt also sits on the Advisory Council of the Hamilton Project funded by Robert Rubin and Goldman Sachs.

MURPHY, PHILLIP.

Obama appointed Murphy to serve as his Ambassador to Germany. In the 1990′s, Murphy, who worked for decades with Goldman Sachs, served as GS’s head of its German offices. From 1997-1999, Murphy served as President of Goldman Sachs, Asia (during the Asian economic crisis). In all, according to Wikipedia, Murphy spent 23 years at Goldman Sachs including as a Senior Director of the firm in 2003 before retiring from GS in 2006.

GRANOFF, MICHAEL D.

Granoff is a money man, and contributed lots of bucks as a "mega donor" to the Obama campaign. At least $28,500 according to Public Citizen.

Granoff is President, CEO and Founder of Pomona Capital, a venture capital group.

Granoff is also one of the 19 members of the Goldman Sachs-Robert Rubin funded Hamilton Project.

LIDDY, EDWARD MICHAEL.

Liddy was, until recently, the CEO of AIG which, during the Obama administration, was essentially taken over by the government. He served in high positions at Goldman Sachs including : Board Member (Chairman, 1990-94; Director, 2003-2008). He was picked to the Goldman board by none other than Hank Paulson, former head of Goldman Sachs who was Bush’s Treasury Secretary who with Obama’s Treasury Secretary (Geithner) fashioned TARP.

Wikipedia reports:

Liddy garnered national headlines in October 2008 for defending a controversial $440,000 AIG retreat for top-performing insurance salesmen at the luxury St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, California. The retreat, which was held shortly after the U.S. government rescued AIG from insolvency with $84 billion in loans, included $200,000 for rooms, $150,000 for meals and $23,000 for the spa. In testimony before the U.S. House Oversight Committee, Liddy stated that such retreats "are standard practice in our industry."[11] During the U.S. presidential debate on October 7, 2008, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama mentioned the retreat and said, "The Treasury should demand that money back and those executives should be fired."[12]

But that’s not what happened. Instead, Barack Obama as President kept Mr. Liddy on while AIG was essentially in receivership under the Obama administration.

How about this for a conflict of interest, again as reported by Wikipedia:

Liddy owns 27,129 shares in Goldman Sachs, at the time worth just over $3 million.[18] In April 2009 members of Congress called for Liddy to sell these shares, as they create a conflict of interest due to Goldman Sachs’ receipt of bailout money.[19] About two-thirds of Liddy’s holding is restricted and cannot be sold until May 31.[18]

Liddy announced on May 21, 2009 that he would resign as AIG Chairman and CEO when replacements were found, suggesting that the two roles be split.[20] Liddy was not paid for his time at AIG.[21] On August 3, 2009, Robert Benmosche was named President and CEO of AIG.[7]

NIEDERAUER, DUNCAN.

Niederauer is CEO of the New York Stock Exchange. While a private entity, it is heavily regulated by the government and has close government ties. Niederauer, for instance, is a frequent speaker at Federal Reserve events:

New York Stock Exchange Euronext CEO Duncan L. Niederauer delivered the keynote address today at the fourth annual global summit on financial literacy hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Visa Inc.

He has an extensive Goldman Sachs background:

He joined NYSE Group following a 22-year career at Goldman Sachs. He served as a Managing Director of Goldman Sachs since 1997 and was responsible for U.S. cash equities operations, including Institutional and Member Firm Client Group sales and client services for … both the New York Stock Exchange and NYSE Arca. Mr. Niederauer was previously a Partner at The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (United States) ("GS") where he held many positions.

PERRY, RICHARD.

Perry is an Obama supporter, adviser and fund raiser. He worked for Goldman Sachs and is on the Goldman Sachs’funded, Hamilton Project’s Advisory Council. He is also CEO of Perry Capital, a hedge fund. Perry owns the full floor penthouse at 1 Sutton Place in NYC and according to the Washington Examiner is one of 15 " fat cat Wall St. Banker" friends of Obama. These are the same "fat cats" that Obama sometimes flails out at in the press to pretend he’s a populist!

SHAFRAN, STEVEN.

Shafran served as an advisor/aide to Timothy Geithner especially on TARP. All of the advisers on that appear in a very murky fashion. And Shafran, like a lot of other TARP advisers, has extensive ties to Goldman as a executive for years. He’s especially shadowy, however. Here’s a link about him from CBS News.

THAIN, JOHN.

John Thain has served as an adviser to Timothy Geithner. Thain was President and Chief Operating Officer of Goldman Sachs from 1999 to 2003.

TYSON, LAURA D’ANDREA.

An economic adviser to President Obama. Tyson is a Hamilton Project Advisory Council Member. The Hamilton Project as noted above was founded by Bob Rubin and Goldman Sachs and has close links to Obama personally.

III. COMBINED LIST OF GOLDIES TIED TO THE OBAMA GOVERNMENT.

This lists compiles the names above and those in the prior diary on this. For more detail on names not annotated in this diary, see the earlier diary linked here):

ALTMAN, ROGER.

BERKOWITZ, HOWARD P.

BIDEN, JOE.

BRAINARD, LAEL.

BUFFETT, WARREN.

CLINTON, HILLARY.

CRAIG, GREGORY. (revolving door)

DONILON, THOMAS.

DUDLEY, WILLIAM C.

EFFRON, BLAIR W.

ELMENDORF, DOUGLAS.

EMANUEL, RAHM.

FARRELL, DIANA.

FRIEDMAN, STEPHEN.

FROMAN, Michael.

FUDGE, ANNE.

FURMAN, JASON.

GALLOGLY, MARK.

GEITHNER, TIMOTHY.

GENSLER, GARY.

GEPHARDT, RICHARD (aka "DICK") A.

GREENSTONE, MICHAEL (revolving door to Hamilton Project)

HAMILTON PROJECT, THE

HORMATS, ROBERT.

KAGAN, ELENA.

KASHKARI, NEEL.

KORNBLUH, KAREN.

LEW, JACOB (AKA "JACK") J.

LIDDY, EDWARD MICHAEL.

LIPTON, DAVID A.

MINDICH, ERIC

MURPHY, PHILLIP.

NIEDERAUER, DUNCAN.

OBAMA, BARACK H.

ORSZAG, PETER.

PATTERSON, MARK.

PERRY, RICHARD.

RATTNER, STEVE.

REISCHAUER, ROBERT D.

RIVLIN, ALICE.

RUBIN, JAMES.

RUBIN, ROBERT.

SHAFRAN, STEVEN.

SPERLING, GENE.

STORCH, ADAM.

SUMMERS, LARRY.

THAIN, JOHN.

TYSON, LAURA D’ANDREA.

RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING:

1. Greg Gordon (McClatchy Newspapers), "Goldman’s White House Connections Raise Eyebrows" April 21, 2010.

2. Fflambeau, "With the Obama Administration Infested With Goldman Sachs People, How Real is the Obama/Democratic Attack on Big Banks" FDL Diary, April 21, 2010.

3. "More Investigations of Goldman Sachs, A Double-Edge Swords for Obama and Democrats"

4. Paul Street’s article showing that Obama held corporatist ideas long before elected and his indebtedness to the interests of big business.

5. Matthew Skomarovsky, "Obama Packs Debt Commission with Social Security Looters", March 28, 2010 at Alternet.

6. Fflambeau, "A List of Goldman Sachs People in the Obama Administration: Names Attached to the Giant Squid’s Tentacles"

ESSENTIAL READING ON THE HAMILTON PROJECT AND ITS TIES TO THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION:

1. Kirk James Murphy, M.D. "The Hamilton Project: Same Corporatist Whine In New DLC Vessels." THE seminal article on the Hamilton Project which also features a video clip of then Senator Barack Obama talking about "my friend, Bob [Rubin]" and espousing cuts in entitlements and the "need" for more free trade pacts like NAFTA.

2. Fflambeau, "Obama’s ‘Smoking Gun’: His Hamilton Project Speech Shows His Links to Goldman, Entitlement Cuts, Part 1.

3. Fflambeau, "Obama’s ‘Smoking Gun’: His Hamilton Project Speech Shows His Links to Goldman, Entitlement Cuts, Part 2".

4. Another source for Obama’s Hamilton Project speech of April 2006. Contains video clip.

5. James Kirk Murphy, M.D., "Remember the Hamilton Project?" Dr. Murph’s latest look at the Hamilton Project.

6. David Sirota, "Wall Street Democrats Unveil Plan to Undermine Progressives", April 5, 2006.

Barack Obama: “Oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.”

5:14 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

On April 2, 2010, just 18 days before the BP offshore oil spill began and on the day when Obama reversed 27 years of government policy forbidding offshore drilling, Obama made this statement:

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want to put out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced. Even during Katrina, the spills didn’t come from the oil rigs, they came from the refineries onshore.

A video clip of Obama making this pitifully incorrect comment upon which his mistaken policy of opening the coasts up to offshore drilling was based, may be seen over at Democracynow. (Please see link above).

"Offshore" Obama’s Bush-like comment was discussed on a recent Democracynow program between the moderators, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracynow, and their guest, Kieran Suckling, Executive Director of the Center for Biological Diversity. Here’s Suckling’s response to Obama’s boneheaded comment:

KIERAN SUCKLING: Yeah, I mean, I think what the President has said here is actually just very, very critical, because he is repeating, and I suspect without even knowing it, the big lie of offshore oil drilling. For decades, the oil companies and the Minerals Management Services have told us, ‘Oil drilling is safe, it’s fine, that’s not where oil spills come from.’ In fact, that’s the basis of not doing any environmental review is, you simply assert it will never be a problem, therefore, you don’t even have to study it. When it’s true that they don’t leak often, but when they do leak, it’s absolutely catastrophic. It’s very similar to nuclear power plants. They don’t often fail, but when they fail it’s catastrophic. And, therefore, you have to plan for catastrophe. You have to do very intensive environmental analysis, not simply say, ’It’s rare, so we can ignore it.’

AMY GOODMAN: Kieran Suckling, what do think has to happen right now?

KIERAN SUCKLING: Well, first off, I think that the President should announce a complete moratorium on all new offshore oil drilling. This three-week time-out is really too little, too late. And it’s very important to do that now because the president, under the urging of Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, has planned to open up new offshore oil drilling in Alaska, in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and on the Atlantic coast. And that just needs to end. It’s not safe anywhere, anytime.

Secondly, the president should immediately revoke existing oil permits and especially in Alaska. Shell Oil, this July, has- is going to start doing offshore oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea of Alaska. And if you think it’s difficult to clean up oil in the relatively warm, calm Gulf of Mexico, imagine trying to do this with icebergs and sea ice, twenty hours of darkness in the Arctic oceans. It just cannot be done. If this spill had happened in Alaska, its magnitude would have been ten times worse than has happened in the Gulf.

Then, thirdly, the President should start an initiation of an investigation of Ken Salazar and his role in allowing this to happen. Salazar has been a major proponent of the offshore oil drilling industry. He passed legislation as a senator in 2006 to open up the Gulf of Mexico in the first place to offshore oil drilling. He gets campaign contributions by British Petroleum. And then he walks into this agency he is supposed to reform, and instead of reforming it, pushes it to do even more offshore oil drilling. So Ken Salazar is part of the problem here, not the solution. He should not be doing the investigation of MMS. He should be under investigation for helping to cause this crisis.

Instead of putting Salazar under investigation, Obama has essentially put him in charge of Obama’s investigation of the offshore oil catastrophe. Obama’s environmental mistakes go back far earlier with Obama’s selection of Salazar to head the federal agency that should be protecting the environment.

Here is some background information (from Wikipedia which is thoroughly documented) on Ken Salazar showing why Obama never should have chosen him to be our steward of the environment as Obama’s Interior Secretary:

He [Salazar} took office [As a U.S. Senator (Democratic) from Colorado] on January 4, 2005.

Soon after arriving in the Senate, Salazar generated controversy within his party by introducing Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales and sitting by his side during Gonzales’ confirmation hearings.

In 2005, Salazar voted against increasing fuel-efficiency standards (CAFE) for cars and trucks, a vote that the League of Conservation Voters notes is anti-environment.

In the same year, Salazar voted against an amendment to repeal tax breaks for ExxonMobil and other major petroleum companies.[6]

In August 2006, Ken Salazar supported fellow Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman in his primary race against Ned Lamont in Connecticut.

In 2006, Salazar voted to end protections that limit offshore oil drilling in Florida’s Gulf Coast.[7]

In 2007, Salazar was one of only a handful of Democrats to vote against a bill that would require the United States Army Corps of Engineers to consider global warming when planning water projects.[8]

Several prominent environmentalist groups are wary of Salazar, noting his strong ties with the coal and mining industries. Kieran Suckling, executive director of Center for Biological Diversity, which tracks endangered species and habitat issues states "He [Ken Salazar] is a right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agriculture in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species."[19]

Salazar was one of several Obama Cabinet appointees confirmed in the Senate by voice vote on January 20, 2009, shortly after Obama’s inauguration. Salazar became the 50th Secretary of the Interior succeeding Dirk Kempthorne,[a Republican] who praised Salazar’s appointment.[22]

On May 9, 2009, Salazar announced the upholding of a Bush-era policy that prevents the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions via the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a policy he pledged to reevaluate when he took office in January. The policy states that, despite the apparent negative impact global warming has on polar bears, an endangered species, greenhouse gasses cannot be regulated with the ESA.

Salazar stated in a conference call announcing the decision that "The single greatest threat to the polar bear is the melting of Arctic Sea ice due to climate change," but the Endangered Species Act "is not the appropriate tool for us to deal with what is a global issue." The decision was met with criticism from environmental groups and praise from energy groups including the American Petroleum Institute...

(emphasis added)

Salazar is Obama’s Brownie.

Has Obama Brought Chicago-Style Pay to Play to Washington, D.C.?

9:51 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

This diary asks the question: has Barack "Offshore" Obama brought Chicago style pay-to-play to Washington, D.C.?

First off, what’s meant by pay to play? In politics, pay to play refers to:

…a system, akin to payola in the music industry, by which one pays (or must pay) money to become a player.

Typically, the payer (an individual, business, or organization) makes campaign contributions to public officials, party officials, or parties themselves, and receives political or pecuniary benefit such as no-bid government contracts, influence over legislation, political appointments or nominations, special access or other favors. The contributions, less frequently, may be to nonprofit or institutional entities, or may take the form of some benefit to a third party, such as a family member of a governmental official.

The phrase, almost always used in criticism, also refers to the increasing cost of elections and the "price of admission" to even run and the concern "that one candidate can far outspend his opponents, essentially buying the election."

While the direct exchange of campaign contributions for contracts is the most visible form of Pay to Play, the greater concern is the central role of money in politics, and its skewing both the composition and the policies of government.

…Incumbent candidates and their political organizations are typically the greatest beneficiaries of Pay-to-Play. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have been criticized for the practice. Many seeking to ban or restrict the practice characterize pay-to-play as legalized corruption.

The city of Chicago and the State of Illinois have a long history of corrupt politics and pay to play. Former Governor Rod Blagojevich, of course, has been indicted and will soon face trial on what are essentially pay to play charges. But Blago wasn’t the first corrupt politician coming from Chicago nor will he be the last. One of Blago’s predecessor was the Republican George Ryan. Ryan was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison on federal corruption charges just a few years before Blago.

Robert Grant, the FBI agent in charge of the agency’s Chicago office, has described the Chicago/Illinois special place in the pantheon of political corruption (source same as above):

"If it isn’t the most corrupt state in the United States, it’s certainly one hell of a competitor," Grant said. And Fitzgerald, whose office also prosecuted Blagojevich’s predecessor, said Blagojevich’s "conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave."

It’s been that way a long time for lots of reasons. Mob connections, a rapidly developing urban atmosphere where lots of money can be made quickly, a history of disinterested citizenry–all have combined to create this cesspool of corruption and pay to play.

The face for Chicago politics has long been Richard J. Daley who served as mayor for 21 years until his death in 1976. Columnist and writer Mike Ryoko forever captured the picture of Daley in his wonderful book, Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago (1971). Boss shows Daley as corrupt, racist, cruel, mean and brutal. I still remember video footage of Daley shouting "Kike" and "Fuck you, you Jew son of a bitch" to Sen. Abraham Ribicoff at the 1968 Democratic National Convention as Ribicoff called out the brutal treatment of the city’s police toward antiwar demonstrators.

If you imagine Orson Welles, who played brilliantly the corrupt policeman in "Touch of Evil" on a larger scale, that would be Daley. Welles in that movie (one of his best performances) even looks like Daley.

Wikipedia describes how Daley’s system worked:

Daley’s chief means of attaining electoral success was his reliance on local precinct captains, who marshaled and delivered votes on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. Many of these precinct captains held patronage jobs with the city, mostly minor posts at low pay. Each ward had a ward leader in charge of the precinct captains, some of whom were corrupt. The notorious First Ward (encompassing downtown, which had many businesses but few residents) was tied to the local mafia or crime syndicate…

Among other things, Daley has been accused of rigging the vote in Chicago to elect JFK. Illinois Racing Board Chairman William S. Miller testified in 1973 that Daley had "induced" him to bribe Illinois Governor Otto Kerner. These accusations followed Daley to his grave. Kerner is another name high in the corruption pantheon. Wikipedia says it best:

Otto Kerner, Jr. (August 15, 1908 – May 9, 1976) was the 33rd Governor of Illinois from 1961 to 1968. He is best known for chairing the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission) and for accepting bribes.

(emphasis added)

Accepting bribes and kickbacks, forcing people and businesses to make "contributions" so that they could get preferential treatment or even needed services like fire and police protection (Royko’s book is great on this and highly recommended), that’s the Chicago pay to play system.

This is the political system that Barack Obama and his wife grew up in or were molded in. Indeed, Michelle’s daddy was a Democratic precinct captain under Boss Daley, and of course, he also had a nice city job as water plant employee. The Boss always took care of his people. Meanwhile, if you Google both Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and Rod Blago, you’ll find pictures of the three of them looking very chummy and patting each other on the back.

Let’s return to the main question that this diary poses: Has Barack Obama brought Chicago pay to play to Washington, D.C.?

In two specific instances, I believe that one can see at least the lineaments of this happening: 1) Obama’s relationship with Goldman Sachs and 2) his administration’s cozy treatment of BP.

Let’s look at Goldman Sachs first. Most people know that Goldman Sachs was the major contributor (aside from the U. of California SYSTEM (meaning a dozen or so campuses) to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. But they were also the main contributor to his Senatorial campaign. And as early as 2006, Robert Rubin (former head of Goldman and of Citibank) invited a Senator to the Rubin-Goldman funded Hamilton Project. At the Hamilton Project (remember Hamilton: "The People are a Great Beast") then Senator, Obama, paid lavish tribute to "my friend, Bob [Rubin] and went on to talk about the need to cut entitlements (meaning Social Security) and the need for more NAFTA-like agreements (making his statements in 2008 that he would reform NAFTA to be complete lies). A video clip of Obama’s neoliberal speech is available here. See also another informative diary by Dr. Kirk Murphy, M.D. and an article entitled "Wall St. Democrats Unveil Plan to Undermine Progressives" by David Sirota.

Recall that our definition of pay to play above indicates money given in exchange for political appointments. Certainly that has been borne out in the case of Obama and Goldman Sachs since his administration is riddled with Goldies. See this diary entitled "A list of Goldman Sachs People In the Obama Administration: Names Attached to the Giant Squid’s Tentacles". His two chief economic advisers, Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers have Goldman-Rubin connections and so do Geithner’s top aides like Mark Patterson.

Then there are top policy people whom you may not have heard about but who hold key positions in the Obama Administration. Like: Lael Brainard, Thomas Donilon, Bill Dudley, Douglas Elmendorf, Diana Farrell, Stephen Friedman, Michael Frohman, Jason Furman,
Anne Fudge, Mark Gallogly, Gary Gensler, Michael Greenstone (revolving door), Robert Hormats, Neel Kashkari, Karen Kornblum, Jacob J. Lew, David A. Lipton, Peter Orszag, Robert D. Reischauer, and Alice Rivlin. For a detailed look at the appointments-connections between Goldman Sachs-Rubin-and their affiliated groups like the Hamilton Project, please see this diary. Matt Taibbi was exactly correct with his image of the giant squid and its tentacles sinking into the Obama administration.

Pay to play, as we see above, means appointees and Goldman has not lacked them in the Obama administration. See also the article by Greg Gordon (McClatchy)"Goldman’s White House Connections Raise Eyebrows". This diary is also helpful. See also, "Obama Packs Debt Commission with Social Security Looters".

Pay to pay can also mean influence used to favor contributors. Recall how differently Obama’s Tim Geithner and the Obama administration treated Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers, one of Goldman’s main competitors? Goldman Sachs feasted from the Obama-Geithner bailouts; Lehman was left to starve and withered away.

Here’s how the Wall St. Journal described the situation on July 15, 2009:

Wall Street’s meltdown fueled the most profitable quarter ever at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which snatched business away from weakened rivals and churned out huge trading gains by revving up risk taking.

With competitors such as Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos. gone, and others like Citigroup Inc. flailing, Goldman appears to be pulling off one of the biggest market-share grabs in Wall Street history.

Net income in the second quarter was $3.44 billion, or $4.93 a share — more than Goldman earned in all of 2008, when it was hammered by the financial crisis. Analysts had expected strong earnings, but were surprised by how much the firm exceeded expectations.

The primary earnings driver was wider profit margins on the buying and selling of securities, in part due to fewer competitors.

Goldman’s resurgence, including a 33% jump in money set aside for compensation and benefits in the year’s first half, could invite criticism that it is benefiting too much from the government’s Wall Street rescue.


They also underscore the emergence of a handful of large U.S. financial institutions that are likely to profit mightily from the wreckage left by the financial crisis.

…Goldman’s stock-trading division posted net revenue of $3.2 billion for the quarter, up 59% from the first quarter, and 28% from the quarter ended May 30, 2008.

Goldman also picked up some business from clients that had used competitors in the past. U.S. Bancorp tapped Goldman Sachs as one of its lead underwriters on a stock offering in May, the first time it had used Goldman in that role in more than five years, Dealogic data showed.

The banking firm had used Citigroup and Lehman Brothers, among others, on similar deals.

(emphasis added)

Coincidence? The economic crisis actually helped Goldman Sachs get huge bailouts and squeezed out two of its main competitors? Coincidence that this happened after Goldman Sachs gave so much to Obama and has so many people affiliated with it acting in the Obama administration. Mere coincidence?

A fine interview between Bill Moyers and law Professor William Black over at PBS highlights some of the problems that the Obama administration seems unable and unwilling to come to grips with relating to the financial/economic crisis:

BILL MOYERS: Well, Bill, where are the other investigations? Why have there been no arrests? Why have there been no convictions?

WILLIAM K. BLACK Because we have still Bush’s wrecking crew in charge of the key regulatory agencies. Why are they still in place? They have abysmal records as major causes of this crisis.

BILL MOYERS: You talk about the Bush appointees still being there, but Goldman’s former lobbyist, his treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner’s chief of staff, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Gary Gensler, who may soon have new power over derivatives, worked for Goldman.

So did the deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, the under Secretary of State is a former Goldman employee. Goldman’s hired Barack Obama’s recent chief counsel from the White House on his defense team. I mean–

WILLIAM K. BLACK Don’t forget Rubin.

BILL MOYERS: Robert Rubin, whose influence is all over the place, who used to be–

WILLIAM K. BLACK It’s his protégés that are in charge of economic policy, under Obama.

BILL MOYERS: So is this administration, which still has some Bush holdovers in it, and now has a lot of Goldman people in it, is this administration going to be able to pass judgment on Goldman Sachs?

WILLIAM K. BLACK Well, so far, they haven’t been able to do it. They can’t even get themselves to use the word fraud.

There’s a huge part that is economic ideology. And neoclassical economists don’t believe that fraud can exist.

Coincidence that not a single person involved in this economic crisis (aside from garden variety criminals like Bernie Madoff) has been sent to jail? Contrast that with the more than 1,000 people who did jail time in the savings and loan crisis (a far smaller crisis) in the 1980′s. Coincidence that Barack Obama’s selection as Attorney General, Eric Holder, is best known for crafting the pardons to fugitive multimillionaire Marc Rich? Coincidence that the DOJ has been sitting on its hands and has no white collar prosecutions up and running on this? That’s an awful lot of coincidences to believe in.

Now let’s turn to BP. Like Goldman Sachs, BP pumped lots of money into the Obama campaign and administration. Indeed, BP gave more to Obama in 2008 than any other candidate and he heads their list of political contributions for the past 20 years. BP flushed even more money to Obama and his party through the Podesta Group, a lobbying/consulting group whose founders have close ties to the President. BP gave the Podesta Group $320,000 in 2008, $320,000 in 2009, and thusfar this year $80,000 as reported by Opensecrets. See also this. One suspects this is but the tip of the iceberg as there are plenty of other groups/individuals to send money through.

Now some here might believe that this is not really a problem since a) Obama also took in lots of money from small contributors and b) it’s only natural since Obama led all candidates in raising money. But not so. Virtually none of those small time contributors wanted to advance their specific business goals, or sought appointments, or wanted to buy influence. It’s a different story with major corporations and businesses as both Republican Senator McCain and Democratic Senator Russ Feingold know. They attempted to do something about the pervasive and harmful influence of political contributions: for this very reason. As to argument b) it is of note that BP has traditionally given to Republicans but they changed that pattern with Obama and made the Democrat their favorite. William Black, the law professor and former senior regulator for the Federal Home Loan Board who cracked down on banking during the Savings & Loan crisis of the 1980′s, made this wise observation that should be kept in mind:

"The highest return on assets" he told Bill Moyers on PBS, "is always a political contribution."

What is troubling about the news surrounding the BP blow out is how the Obama administration and especially Obama’s hand-picked man to head Interior, Ken Salazar has treated BP with kid gloves. The Washington Post has reported that the Obama administration waived environmental impact requirements for BP for its Gulf coast drilling:

The Interior Department exempted BP’s calamitous Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact analysis last year, according to government documents, after three reviews of the area concluded that a massive oil spill was unlikely.

The decision by the department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) to give BP’s lease at Deepwater Horizon a "categorical exclusion" from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on April 6, 2009 — and BP’s lobbying efforts just 11 days before the explosion to expand those exemptions — show that neither federal regulators nor the company anticipated an accident of the scale of the one unfolding in the gulf.

In one assessment, the agency estimated that "a large oil spill" from a platform would not exceed a total of 1,500 barrels and that a "deepwater spill," occurring "offshore of the inner Continental shelf," would not reach the coast. In another assessment, it defined the most likely large spill as totaling 4,600 barrels and forecast that it would largely dissipate within 10 days and would be unlikely to make landfall.

"They never did an analysis that took into account what turns out to be the very real possibility of a serious spill," said Holly Doremus, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley who has reviewed the documents.

Democracynow reports that the agency within the Obama administrative charged with oversight is little more than a rubber stamp:

Newly-released documents meanwhile show government regulators exempted BP from a comprehensive environmental review of the project that resulted in the spill. The Minerals Management Service granted BP a “categorical exclusion” from a full review before approving the project just over a year ago. In a statement, the Center for Biological Diversity said: “Instead of protecting the public interest by conducting environmental reviews, [the MMS] rubber-stamped BP’s drilling plan, just as it does hundreds of others every year in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Dan Froomkin, in an excellent article over at Huffington Post notes that the Obama administration didn’t listen to warnings from NOAA (the scientific body in charge of overseeing oil drilling) about the dangers of off shore drilling:

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration officials last fall warned the Department of Interior, which regulates offshore oil drilling, that it was dramatically underestimating the frequency of offshore oil spills and was dangerously understating the risk and impacts a major spill would have on coastal residents.

NOAA is the nation’s lead ocean resource agency, and the warnings came in its response to a draft of the Obama Administration’s offshore oil drilling plans. The comments were Web-published in October by the whistle-blowing group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

But NOAA’s views were largely brushed aside as Obama went ahead and announced on March 31 that he would open vast swaths of American coastal waters to offshore drilling… .

Froomkin further points out that Obama has failed to replace most of the Bushies in Interior who have been soft on regulations of the oil industry:

Jeff Ruch, the head of the public-employee whistleblowing group, said that as in many other regulatory agencies, Obama political appointees in the Interior Department’s notoriously troubled Minerals Management Service (MMS) have not taken enough steps to reverse the anti-environmental and anti-science policies of the Bush years.

"For the most part, the Obama team is still the Bush team," Ruch told HuffPost, noting that beyond a thin layer of political appointees, offices like MMS are run by managers who were "promoted during the Bush years — In many instances, promoted for basically violating the law. And from what we can tell, their conduct hasn’t changed."

Futhermore, Ruch said, Obama "sees environmental issues as a political bargaining chip."

Obama made the boneheaded statement on April 2, 2010 that modern technology made off shore drilling safe. A video clip of him saying that is widespread on the internet and was shown recently on Jon Stewart’s show. The oil spill began just 18 days later.

Obama on April 2nd reversed 27 years of policy on oil drilling, banned by former President Ronald Reagan,and permitted off shore drilling. Essentially, Obama flip flopped on prior promises and adopted Sarah Palin’s silly “Drill, Baby, Drill” position. His oil policy is worse than Reagan’s!

EVEN AFTER the oil spill, Obama has not said unequivocally that off shore drilling will be banned by him. Instead, he’s imposed a moratorium (for 30 days or so) so his administration “can study the problem”.

So we have seen kid glove treatment and a volte face on both campaign promises relating to off shore drilling and a reversal of 27 years of government policy forbidding it. We’ve also seen Obama make some misleading and un-lawyerlike comments (yet again) to the effect that BP will pick up the entire tab for the oil spill when that is far from certain and history proves otherwise (like in the Exxon Valdez case). See also this diary on these questions.

Coincidence?

I’m not in favor of witch hunts but I do see developing some troubling problems relating to the Obama administration with respect to its cozy relationship with big banks like Goldman Sachs and big oil companies like BP. Why so many people with Goldman connections in this administration? Why differential treatment? Why go soft on regulations in an inherently dangerous business like drilling oil in ocean waters that are more than a thousand feet deep? For that matter, one could also cite the cozy relationship Obama has with Big Pharma and the insurance industries and how he broke his pledge to hold open, public meetings on health care reform and televise them. The Obama administration even denied the meetings had gone on until the New York Times broke that story open published names and details of the meetings.

So, why the lack of openness and transparency from this administration which promised both? Why the unwillingness to enforce laws and regulations? Why the kid’ s glove approach to huge banks, oil companies and huge corporate interests in general? Why the "let’s look forward but not backward" mantra which is the antithesis, after all, of legal education and doctrine as enshrined in the notion of legal precedent?

We don’t need or want a witch hunt. But we need to ask questions. We as a society need to investigate and if necessary prosecute wrongdoing and pay to play just as has been done against Blago and other crooks. We as Democrats also have to ask the same tough questions and apply the same standards that we applied to Bush and his administration to the Democratic Obama administration. Republicans, Democrats and Independents should be looked at and judged equally.

In short, we need Obama and his administration to start living up to its promises of fairness and openness and we citizens interested in good, clean government have to speak up more and demand more of our leaders.

Senior Democratic Congressman David Obey Throws in the Towel: More Bad News for Democrats?

9:22 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

Congressman David Obey, who has represented a Wisconsin district since 1969, has decided to retire. Obey was first elected back in 1969 and is today the 3rd ranking Democrat in the House and Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee. For someone with the ego, power and good health that Obey has, this must be a recognition that he was facing a difficult, even losing battle in November.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, "Liberal Titan Obey to Retire" by Diana Marrero:

In his 41 years in Congress, David Obey developed a reputation as a fighter – the type of politician who called it like he saw it and didn’t shy away from conflict.

On Wednesday, the 71-year-old veteran lawmaker from the 7th District said he was too "bone-tired" to keep fighting and would step down from public office.

"The way I looked at public service, I believe the job of a good politician was to be used up fighting on behalf of causes you believed in, and when you are used up, to step aside and let someone else carry on the battle," he said in an emotional retirement announcement Wednesday afternoon. "Well, today I feel used up."

Obey, one of the most powerful members of Congress, chose to make his announcement in the congressional hearing room where he has helped shape the country’s spending priorities over the last few years as chairman of the Appropriations Committee. His wife, Joan, and two sons joined him as he spoke about his congressional career and his reasons for leaving the U.S. House.

That someone who has won 25 straight elections (mostly wins with over 60% of the vote) has decided to call it quits this year means that the anti-incumbent mood in this country is far more intense than previously believed.

It also means that Russ Feingold, who is also up for re-election as a Senator from Wisconsin, might be in a much tighter battle than expected. His likely Republican opponent is Dick Leinenkugel, a moderate Republican who served as the state’s Commerce Secretary under a Democratic governor. Leinenkugel is a famous name in Wisconsin. Dick Leinenkugel is the 5th generation offspring of famous beer makers (the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company) who brew Leinies. He’s exactly the kind of opponent (also a former marine who graduated from Marquette magna cum laude ) who should give Feingold a tough campaign. Here are words from Wisconsin’s Democratic Governor applauding him before he was appointed to his state job:

“Dick is a leader of one of the state’s marquee companies. He knows what it takes for a company to succeed in this state and I am confident his talent and experience are what we need to help create the jobs of tomorrow and move our economy forward.”

Obey was one of those larger than life politicians, someone with genuine convictions and principles, who seem rarer and rarer. As a youth, he was a Republican but when he was between 16-18, he changed to the Democratic party after seeing one of his teachers branded a communist by backers of Joe McCarthy. In Congress, Obey chaired the commission to write the House’s Code of Ethics. Among the reforms he instituted in the House was one requiring members to disclose their personal financial dealings so the public would be made aware of any potential conflicts of interest.

He is considered to be one of the most liberal members of Congress and has spoken out often against America’s military adventures abroad. He voted "no" on authorizing military force in Iraq; "no" on declaring Iraq part of the War on Terror with no exit date; and "yes" on investigating Bush for impeachment for lying on Iraq, as shown by his record over at Ontheissues.org (prior link). Obey also proposed a graduated surtax to pay for the war in Afghanistan, even as the head of his party escalated that war. War, he argued, requires sacrifice; paying for it on a credit card, in his opinion, is not much sacrifice. He indicated several times that he disagreed with Obama’s escalation policies but would give the young president one year to see if they work. Now this check on Obama, from his own party, is gone. (For more on Obey’s voting record, see Project Vote Smart).

Obey also is an outspoken critic of the mainstream media which he considers often trivializes stories and panders to the public:

Reporters are too “focused on trivia, driven at least in part by the financial collapse of the news industry and the need, within the 24-hour news cycle, to fill the airwaves with hot air,” Obey said. “I say that regretfully, because I regard what is happening to the news profession as nothing short of a national catastrophe. …

Obey was an avid player of the harmonica (see a video clip here) even playing a few bars of "Amazing Grace" at his retirement news conference.

In a sense, his loss is as much a blow for progressives in the House as Ted Kennedy’s death was to the Senate. Like Teddy he was well liked by many Republicans including Melvin Laird, the Congressman he replaced and former Secretary of Defense.

Said Laird in the same Journal Sentinel story linked above:

"We did not always agree on every issue but we were always able to discuss our different viewpoints with admiration and respect for each other," he said.

Laird added that the Congress has grown increasingly polarized over the years and knew that Obey was "tired of the bickering and partisanship that exists."

He was not afraid of mixing it up even with fellow Democrats over what he thought was right. Wikipedia notes the following controversy:

On June 25, 2009, Obey got into a fight on the House floor with fellow Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California. After the House floor had largely cleared following a series of votes, Obey and Waters split apart from a heated conversation about an earmark requested by Waters for a public school employment training center in Los Angeles that was named after herself. Obey rejected the earmark as violating policies against so-called "monuments to me." Waters revised her request to go to the school district’s whole adult employment training program, so the district could decide whether the money would go to the school named after herself. Nonetheless, Obey let it be known that the earmark would be denied. She approached him and complained, shouting, "You’re out of line!" while walking down toward the well in the House chambers. Obey shouted back, "You’re out of line!" before turning and walking away, but stopped, turned back toward Waters, and shouted, "I’m not going to approve that earmark!"

Waters then attempted to portray Obey as the bad guy by yelling out, "He touched me."

According to Politico, Obey is also critical of Obama’s funding requests for Afghanistan when Obama as done so little on the unemployment question:

An immediate issue is President Barack Obama’s must-pass war funding bill, which Obey has been slow to move; he’s demanding answers first from the White House and party leaders on where the jobs funding Obey wants will come from.

“I know there’s a time problem with that,” Obey said of the war funds. “But there’s also a time problem in terms of issuing pink slips to teachers whose jobs we saved last year that could be lost this year if we don’t recognize our responsibility.”

“Yes, the deficit is important long term, but the most important deficit right now is the jobs deficit and the income deficit for people who are out of work. I want to know what the hell we are going to do about it.”

Those are exactly the kind of tough, populist words that the tin-eared Republican-leaning Obama needs to hear. Obey has frequently called out Obama’s stimulus plan as insufficient and inadequate. With Obey’s retirement, Nancy Pelosi also loses another valuable ally (she also last Jack Murtha to death recently) hence driving the Democratic Party likely farther to the right (Obama’s plan all along?).

Barack "Offshore" Obama is going to make the Democratic party pay for his huge mistakes on: the bank bailouts; the Wall St. bailouts; the auto bailouts; the war escalations; the failed reform of health care; the non prosecution of wrongdoing in the Bush administration; inaction on the housing/mortgage crisis; inaction and indecisiveness on the employment/underemployment crisis; and now, the BP environmental catastrophe which is a direct result of Obama’s reversal of 27 years of bans on offshore drilling.

Expect a Republican House to begin impeachment proceedings against Offshore Obama next January.

In any event, thanks Congressman Obey for your 41 years of service.

Barack Obama Top Cash Recipient of BP Oil in 2008

9:14 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

Barack Obama received more campaign money from multinational BP Oil, the company whose rig is now leaking, than any other person in 2008 according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Note that 18 days before the leak began, in what is likely to be the largest such disaster of all time, Obama changed the nation’s off shore drilling policy. Obama reversed 27 years of policy and essentially took up Sarah Palin’s cry of "Drill, Baby, Drill".

The oil well in question, moreover, was drilled (March to September 2009) after Obama took office so it was under the supervision of his administration.

Here from Blacklisted News is part of their story which follows the money trail:

No wonder it took him nearly two weeks before getting on the ball with the Gulf oil spill. He’s the top recipient of British Petroleum donations in the last election cycle. Now watch him demonize them every chance he gets. If he wants to lead by example, he should return their money.

During the 2008 election cycle, individuals and political action committees associated with BP — a Center for Responsive Politics’ "heavy hitter" — contributed half a million dollars to federal candidates. About 40 percent of these donations went to Democrats. The top recipient of BP-related donations during the 2008 cycle was President Barack Obama himself, who collected $71,000.

BP regularly lobbies on Capitol Hill, as well. In 2009, the company spent a massive $16 million to influence legislation. During the first quarter of 2010, it spent $3.53 million on federal lobbying efforts, ranking it second (behind ConocoPhillips) among all oil and gas industry interests.

Its registered lobbyists include a number of former federal government and high-ranking political campaign officials, including longtime political operative Tony Podesta, former congressional chief of staff Bob Brooks, former congressional legislative director David Pore and vice presidential aide Michael S. Berman, the Center’s research shows.

Tony Podesta, of course, is the brother of former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta…

The Podesta family has important connections with Obama. Recall that John Podesta headed Obama’s transition team. For more on Podesta, see this Washington Post article. John Podesta also was a key adviser to Tom Daschle, whom Obama wanted in his cabinet before Daschle’s failure to pay taxes issue scuttled his appointment. Tony Podesta and his wife, according to a recent article in Huffington Post, have raked in millions in lobbying against change in Washington, D.C.:

But a sourpuss lurks among the journos toasting Podesta in print: Bloomberg’s Al Hunt, who writes that Tony and Heather Podesta "are raking in millions from the insurance and drug industries, tobacco companies and corporate interests fighting changes to labor laws or the overhaul of the student-loan program."

Hunt calls the Podestas "conscientious objectors to the culture of change in Washington" and says they personify the "ingrained money and political culture."

Heather and Tony Podesta’s firms represent clients opposed to just about every part of the Obama change agenda.

But Podesta told Al Hunt that "We have only some small differences with the administration and the Democratic leadership."

Following the money trail, the Podesta lobbying group, with its insider ties to Obama and his administration received $320,000 from BP in both 2008 and again in 2009. Thus far in 2010, BP has given the Podesta Group $80,000, but yeh, it’s only early in May. Remember that the Podesta Group is a virtual pipeline to the Democratic Party and Obama. Would a hard-fisted investigation into BP and it’s cash donations lead directly to Obama’s front door? You bet as the foregoing indicates.

Another important read on the oil spill is an excellent article by Dan Froomkin, formerly of the Washington Post, over at Huffington Post. Froomkin presents information to show that Obama had been informed by NOAA (the agency that oversees oil safety) that pursuing a policy of off shore drilling was very risky:

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration officials last fall warned the Department of Interior, which regulates offshore oil drilling, that it was dramatically underestimating the frequency of offshore oil spills and was dangerously understating the risk and impacts a major spill would have on coastal residents.

…NOAA also wrote that the administration’s "analysis of the risk and impacts of accidental spills and chronic impacts are understated and generally not supported or referenced, using vague terms and phrases such as ‘no substantive degradation is expected’ and ‘some marine mammals could be harmed.’"

Froomkin, moreover, quotes a whistleblower who notes that Obama’s policies (and personnel) are about the same as W’s:

Jeff Ruch, the head of the public-employee whistleblowing group, said that as in many other regulatory agencies, Obama political appointees in the Interior Department’s notoriously troubled Minerals Management Service (MMS) have not taken enough steps to reverse the anti-environmental and anti-science policies of the Bush years.

"For the most part, the Obama team is still the Bush team," Ruch told HuffPost, noting that beyond a thin layer of political appointees, offices like MMS are run by managers who were "promoted during the Bush years — In many instances, promoted for basically violating the law. And from what we can tell, their conduct hasn’t changed."

Furthermore, Ruch said, Obama "sees environmental issues as a political bargaining chip."

So, following BP’s money trail leads us to: Barack Obama. The same guy who 18 days before the accident changed the nation’s drilling policy, ignoring warnings from NOAA about how unsafe it was to do that. As a result, 200,000 barrels of oil continue to gush out of the leak each day.

This leak’s on Obama and his administration.

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Army Loses Potential Doctor/Leader Because of DADT

6:50 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

The army is in the process of losing a talented college student who likely will be a doctor because of its DADT policy.

Twenty-one year old Sara Isaacson for the past years has worked to follow the footsteps of her grandfather and become an army doctor. But because of conscience, the University of North Carolina senior made the decision this past January to tell the head of her Army ROTC program that she is a lesbian.

An excellent article about her situation, "Coming Out May Cost ROTC Student", in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel written by Sharif Durhams quotes the head of North Carolina’s ROTC program:

Lt. Col. Monte Yoder, the head of North Carolina’s ROTC program, said the Army is losing a "great young American" because of Isaacson’s decision to hand him a letter formally declaring her sexuality. He said he gave Isaacson a chance to withdraw her letter – a step he could take because Isaacson isn’t technically in the military, Yoder said.

Notes Durhams:

Isaacson’s situation is the result of a less well-known effect of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law that President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993. The law restricts military officials from asking service members about their sexual orientation, but it also requires gays and lesbians to keep quiet about their sexual orientation.

More than 13,500 service members have been discharged under the law since 1994 after being accused of violating the "don’t tell" portion of the policy. That’s the same policy that Barack Obama, in his inauguration address to the nation, promised to change. But DADT is just one of a number of major campaign promises that the Democratic Party leader has broken at a time when his party controls the presidency, the Senate and the House.

Isaacson’s integrity may cost her in another regard: she may be forced to repay $79,265.14, the amount paid by a full ROTC scholarship to cover her out-of-state tuition (she hails from Port Washington, Wisconsin) and books and other educational costs.

The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper at UNC, called for abolition of DADT in this editorial on Isaacson’s situation:

The antiquated “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy that prohibits openly gay individuals from serving in the U.S. military has reached an all-time low. Now it has extended its deleterious effects to the University.

Senior Sara Isaacson identified herself as a lesbian to the Army ROTC earlier this semester. The response that followed was nothing short of egregious.

Isaacson was kicked out of the ROTC program and asked to pay the nearly $80,000 she received in scholarship money for the four years she has been at the University. All this because she came out as a lesbian.

Defenders of the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy say it allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they are not open about their sexual orientation.

This guise of “neutrality” is nothing more than a superficial façade that serves to cover the blatant discrimination that this policy espouses.

…A stand needs to be made against this awful policy, and there is no better time than now.

The University needs to take a stand against the Army’s action and reassert its opposition to discriminatory policies.

Look at the leadership qualities the army and our nation will lose over this silly policy, a policy that Europeans laugh at. She’s been a member of the UNC marching band, a resident assistant in the dorms and participated in club gymnastics. She also was a standout in the ROTC, attending a 29-day military leadership court in Washington over the summer. And since she wants to be a doctor, her grades (she’s a chemistry major) must be very high.

What a loss for our society. She has spoken to a number of politicians to enlist their support including Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl; Representatives James Sensenbrenner and Tammy Baldwin (herself an outspoken lesbian representing Madison); and the offices of several North Carolina congressmen.

The problem is not public opinion or the opposition of a majority of people to gays in the military. Quite the contrary. As Teddy Partridge has pointed out in a recent diary here, polling shows Americans overwhelming (66% to 31%) regard DADT to be discriminatory and a slightly smaller majority see no threat for gays serving in the military.

But until that "fierce defender" of gay rights, Barack Obama stops dithering, nothing will be done and this dreadful policy will continue to take its toll.

Thank You Bill Moyers!

9:40 pm in Uncategorized by fflambeau

On Friday, April 30, 2010, Bill Moyers broadcast his final program of the Bill Moyers Journal on PBS. This diary is a thank you for all of the years of insights and the wonderful interviews that Bill Moyers has provided to American citizens.

Moyers was born in 1934, served as a summer intern to then Senator Lyndon Johnson and later became LBJ’s press secretary from 1965 to 1967. His journalistic career began when he served as publisher of the Long Island newspaper, Newsday. He moved it from a conservative to a progressive publication and brought in Pete Hamill, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Saul Bellow as writers. Under Moyers, circulation increased and the publication won 33 major journalism awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes.

Moyers later did commentary work for both CBS news and NBC. But he is best remembered for his affiliation with PBS which began in 1971. On April 25, 2007, Moyers returned to PBS with Bill Moyers Journal (he had done a show under this name earlier for PBS too). The first episode, entitled "Buying the War", had Moyers investigating the what he called the general media’s shortcomings in the runup to the War in Iraq.

His awards, according to Wikipedia include:

Recipient of the 2006 Lifetime Emmy Award, "Bill Moyers has devoted his lifetime to the exploration of the major issues and ideas of our time and our country, giving television viewers an informed perspective on political and societal concerns," according to the official announcement, which also noted that "the scope of and quality of his broadcasts have been honored time and again. It is fitting that the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences honor him with our highest honor—the Lifetime Achievement Award."[37] He has received well over thirty Emmys and virtually every other major television journalism prize, including a gold baton from the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, a lifetime Peabody Award, and a George Polk Career Award (his third George Polk Award) for contributions to journalistic integrity and investigative reporting. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, including a doctorate from the American Film Institute.[1]

One of the most insightful interviews that I have seen was Moyer’s interview with both Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner on his PBS show of December 18, 2009. To see it, or read the transcript of it, click here.

Here are but a few highlights of Moyers’s comments from that show which indicate that he was less than pleased with Barack Obama’s performance as President:

BILL MOYERS: If you were Republican, wouldn’t you feel right now that it’s going your way? I mean, the Democrats control the White House, they control Congress and the only thing they’ve been able to make happen this year is escalate the war in Afghanistan.

On the health "insurance bill" that eventually emerged under Obama:

BILL MOYERS: Matt, Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, a very progressive member of Congress who’s been at this table wanted a public option. He says this health care bill appears to be the legislation that the president wanted in the first place.

On how Congress is corrupted by donations and money:

BILL MOYERS: But members of Congress, they take the same contributions from the same insurance and real estate and drug industry. You look at the list of contributions to members of Congress- they are as saddled by obligations as the President, right?

On Obama not being an agent of change:

BILL MOYERS: But what if by nature, that’s not what he wants to do? What if, by nature, he prefers to head the establishment, than to change it?

And this interchange with Taibbi and Kuttner on how Obama mouthed banking reform but was really in bed with corporate interests:

BILL MOYERS: I was thinking about both of you Sunday night when President Obama was on 60 MINUTES and he said…

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street.

BILL MOYERS: Then on Monday afternoon, he had this photo opportunity in which he scolded the bankers and then they took it politely and graciously, which they could’ve done because the Hill at that very moment was swarming with banking lobbyists making sure that what the President wants doesn’t happen. I mean, what did you think as you watched him on 60 MINUTES or watched that press conference?

MATT TAIBBI: It seemed to me that it was a response to a lot of negative criticism that he’s been getting in the media lately, that they are probably looking at the President’s poll numbers from the last couple of weeks that have been remarkably low. And a lot of that has to do with some perceptions about his ties to Wall Street. And I think they felt a need to come out and make a strong statement against Wall Street, whether they’re actually do anything is, sort of, a different question. But I think that was my impression.

ROBERT KUTTNER: I was appalled. I was just appalled because think of the timing. On Thursday and Friday of last week, the same week when the president finally gives this tough talk on "60 Minutes," a very feeble bill is working its way through the House of Representatives and crucial decisions are being made. And where is the President? I mean, there was an amendment to put some teeth back in the provision on credit default swaps and other kinds of derivatives. And that went down by a handful of votes. And to the extent that the Treasury and the White House was working that bill, at all, they were working the wrong side. There was a there was a provision to exempt foreign exchange derivatives from the teeth in the bill. That–

I’m not sure about you, but I cannot think of another political observer/journalist who is considered part of the mainstream media who has been so prescient, so critical and so insightful of what is happening in American society. The only one who comes close is Amy Goodman of Democracynow but Goodman has always been seen and treated as an outsider. Not so Moyers. Maybe it’s because of that folksy way that he has, maybe it is because he seems to be able to get along with everyone while still preserving his integrity. Somebody should ask him how he has done that for all these years.

Fittingly, Moyer’s last show on PBS, the one that aired this past Friday, had Jim Hightower of Texas as his guest. Here’s a fascinating discussion between the two men (with a transcript from Truthout) on how the tea bagger movement differs from populism:

BILL MOYERS: How does the Tea Party differ from the people you’re talking about? We have two groups of Americans, both angry and defiant, and both calling themselves populists. What don’t they have in common?

JIM HIGHTOWER: Here’s what populism is not. It is not just an incoherent outburst of anger. And certainly it is not anger that is funded and organized by corporate front groups, as the initial Tea Party effort is, and as most of it is still today. Though there is legitimate anger within it, in terms of the people who are there. But what populism is at its essence is a, a just determined focus on helping people be able to get out of the iron grip of the corporate power that is overwhelming our economy, our environment, energy, the media, government. And I guess that’s one big difference between real populism and what the Tea Party thing is, is that real populists understand that government has become a subsidiary of corporations. So you can’t say, let’s get rid of government. You need to be saying let’s take over government.

How about this revealing set of observations from Moyers and Hightower on the Democrats and Obama:

BILL MOYERS: There’s someone we both know said to me just this morning, the Republicans work for Wall Street and the Democrats are afraid to work against them.

JIM HIGHTOWER: Isn’t that strange? You know, the– it’s odd to me that we’ve got a President who ran from the outside and won. And now is trying to govern from the inside. You can’t do progressive government from the inside. You have to rally those outsiders and make them a force to come inside.

If you want to read a nice tribute to Bill Moyer’s, here an excellent one from Michael Winship who has been associated with Moyers. He also has some good news. Moyers will still be around, will still offer us some of the best insights available:

With this week’s edition, Bill Moyers Journal goes off the air. But we’ll be continuing the conversation via our Web site at PBS.org/moyers. These weekly columns will be continuing for the foreseeable as well.

Thanks again Bill and keep those great comments coming!