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Pelosi’s Picks for Super Committee Embrace Tea-GOP Economics and Budget Gibberish

3:05 pm in Economy, Government by Scarecrow

If you’re hoping that Nancy Pelosi’s picks for the Congressional Super Committee have either the wisdom or courage to stand against the job-killing spending cuts Obama and Congress imposed on the nation, you’ll be disappointed.

Two of Nancy Pelosi’s picks, Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), revealed that their understanding of depression economics is no better than Herbert Hoover’s or Michele Bachmann’s. From Brian Buetler at TPM:

Democrats on the new joint deficit Super Committee will seek more than the $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction they’ve been tasked with finding, in order to help offset some of those costs [of funding jobs programs].

“All of us would like to set as a target for ourselves even more than $1.5 trillion,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who’s also the top House Democrat on the Budget Committee, told reporters at a Tuesday Capitol press conference. . . .

Committee member Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) agrees with Van Hollen, and says he’d be willing to put key progressive programs on the table if it gives Congress more running room to shore up the economy now.

“It’s incumbent upon the Congress and the government not to make things worse,” Becerra said. “I’m looking at the last six months and I’m not seeing how job growth has come from some of this cutting of services, but again I’ll be open to it so long as…there’s proof that the proposal will lead to job growth and deficit reduction.”

Where do they come up with these absurd notions? Read the rest of this entry →

David Brooks Is Disgusted . . . With the Wrong People

7:42 am in Economy, Executive Branch, Legislature, Politics by Scarecrow

David Brooks is disgusted at the Tea-GOP Zombies. In another bridge-burning column, he calls out the Tea-GOP Zombies for being not only ideological zealots “unable to accept compromise,” but also anti-intellectual morons having “no sense of moral decency.”

But before you cheer Brooks’ acknowledgement of what the rest of the planet realized long ago, consider what it is Brooks believes is morally indefensible versus what is reasonable and wise.

It seems those crazy Tea-GOP Zombies are immoral because they are preventing the presumably “moderate” GOP leadership from accepting the “deal of the century” on deficit reduction. They thus risk having voters conclude that the Tea-GOP has become nothing more than destructive fanatics who are “unfit to govern.” Uh, where have you been, Joe DiMaggio?

Though the Tea-GOP Zombies reject it for the wrong reasons, the “deal of the century” is not something the American people should want. Brooks can’t even get the most basic facts right. He claims this deal offers a 3:1 ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases. Uh, it’s more like 6:1 5:1, with revenues only 17 percent, but what’s a little math error when you’ve missed the larger point.

He claims it does nothing to imperil economic recovery, even though economists explain that any deficit reduction now will hurt the near-term recovery. Christy Romer points out that spending cuts will do more damage than tax increases; indeed, tax increases or spending cuts on the middle class are worse for the economy than increased taxes or spending cuts on the rich.

He claims the deal does not increase marginal tax rates, a favorite canard of those who can’t connect the dots when the feds deprive states of needed funding to prevent massive layoffs and cuts. States raise effective tax rates on public employees by cutting salaries and pensions and raising employee benefit contributions. If the tax rates on the rich were increased enough to avoid these de facto middle class tax increases, Brooks would be howling along with Cantor and Boehner about how unfair it all is and how foolish it is to raise taxes in a bad economy.

He claims the deal would put the country on a sound fiscal footing. Uh, no it won’t. In a rational world, sound fiscal footing needs solid growth and keeping productive workers employed and fairly sharing in the nation’s wealth, but this deal won’t help. We need an increase in tax rates or lower wealth transfers and subsidies for the wealthiest Americans for the simple reason those are unfair and wasteful. Those folks have hoovered up virtually all of the economy’s growth over the last two decades.

A sound fiscal policy would move to correct a maldistribution that is producing record poverty, record numbers of folks without health insurance, massive unemployment, starving education, and declining prospects for the bottom two thirds of Americans.

Even in strict budgetary terms, the long-run debt numbers are driven by the rise in private health care costs. While the reported “deal of the century” hacks away at Medicare and Medicaid (and Social Security cost of living adjustments, so they don’t cover actual cost of living increases) — programs that benefit primarily the middle class and poor — nothing suggests the folks at Joe Biden’s dining table have seriously tackled the industry’s greed, graft and market aggregation that are raising private health care costs faster than GDP growth.

So in the end, the “deal of the century” might cut $3 or $4 trillion from the federal debt but leave the national economy still at risk.

Nevermind that the negotiators are doing nothing to alter the continued looting and hoovering out of the American economy by an undertaxed, underregulated financial sector — heaven forbid we consider a financial transaction tax! Yet this is what Brooks calls “sound fiscal footing.”

The sad reality is that the supposedly sane, non-fanatic and fiscally responsible actors in Brooks’ morality play are themselves irresponsible loons facilitating the hollowing out of America. The Tea-GOP Zombies can at least claim they believe in what they’re doing, and their defense is ignorance and insanity. But only the most cynical hypocrites would claim there’s any coherent theory to what President Obama, the Democrat leadership and the supposedly “moderate” Republicans are now proposing to do to America.

A budget deal is supposed to help matters, not retard them. But there’s nothing here to actually help the American economy, nothing to resolve the housing decline, no theory or relevant precedent under which any sensible person can claim otherwise. There’s no help for the states, no protection for workers, no relief for the unemployed, no fix of a still broken health system, no funding for decaying infrastructure, no boost to education. There’s nothing here to end America’s ruinous $4 trillion wars nor question the “we can attack any nation or assassinate anyone, anywhere, anytime” mindset.

There’s no transition to an alternative energy future, no vision of any future that even catches up with what other modern nations already have and do. We once built transcontinental railroads to speed people and goods across the nation. The Europeans and Japanese now do this 2 or 3 times faster than we do. The Chinese are rapidly laying high speed rail tracks while we lay off teachers and argue about Amtrak.

Deal of the century? More like the deal that guaranteed America’s continuing decline. That’s the “no-brainer.” So who are the irresponsible idiots in this story, David?

Update, via Politico, we learn Brooks has the Tea-GOP confused about percentages, never mind currency sovereigns.

“If we are net borrowing every year, adding to debt, then we will never be in position to fulfill a ‘sacred pledge to pay the money back,’” Morrissey wrote. “ That’s a rather large flaw in fiscal policy and in Brooks’ logic, which may be one reason why some of these Republicans don’t pay much attention to ‘intellectual authorities’ like, er, David Brooks.”

Uh, if we have healthy growth so that the GDP is expanding at a rate faster than the debt, then the aggregate debt can increase every year but it becomes a smaller and smaller percentage of GDP. So there is no problem paying it back, even in their framework. Of course, this requires fourth grade math.

Comcast Lobbyist Buys Your President’s Dinner, And All We Got Is Weiners

8:10 am in Economy, Executive Branch, Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Hot Dog

Hot Dog by Mark McLaughlin

Until last night’s quarterly fund raising deadline, I kept getting these emails from Dan Pfeiffer et ilk telling me it’s not too late to join the lottery for dinner with the President. All I needed to do was donate $150 $75 $15 to something like the Committee to ReElect the President (CREEP) and I’d be entered in a raffle to win dinner with Obama.

I hope you saved your money. From The Washington Post’s blog, Obama Raises More than $1.2 million in Philadelphia.

President Obama raised more than $1.2 million at two campaign fundraisers here Thursday night, the last events of his money-raising blitz in this early stage of the 2012 campaign.

Campaign officials said about 800 people, each giving at least $100, attended the first event, at a Hyatt hotel. Later in the evening, Comcast’s executive vice president, David L. Cohen, hosted about 120 people in his home for a dinner, each of the attendees giving at least $10,000 for Obama’s reelection campaign.


Cohen, a longtime Democratic operative, has successfully sheparded the regulatory review of Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal earlier this year.

So the chief D.C. lobbyist responsible for successfully shepherding the merger of Comcast and NBC through the regulatory process is a chief fund raiser and bundler for the President’s campaign coffers. How nice.

Of course, it’s just harmless bipartisan fun. One of the Republican appointees to the FCC who voted for the merger soon resigned her position and took the Governmental Affairs lobbying job with Comcast-NBC Universal. All in the family.

Anyone who gets Comcast’s rising monthly cable bills and deteriorating service and looked at that merger would have asked how it could possibly be in the public interest to allow one of the worst corporate cable monopolies to merge with another corporate media oligopoly? Answer: it can’t. But of course, that was never the relevant question.

The only thing that mattered was how much could the corporate sponsors deliver and how much could the President’s men and both parties extract from the deal? In Afghanistan, it’s called corruption. These people belong in jail. All of them.

Remember this the next time you get a letter from these CREEPy people asking you to make a small donation of just $150 $75 $15. You can’t compete against the monopolists, and you can’t counter balance their influence. The dinner that matters has already been held, and you weren’t invited.

Update from commenter Wendydavis, who notes this Obama quote from the WaPo link:

“I’m prepared to bring our deficit down by trillions of dollars. That’s with a ‘t’ – trillions,” he said at the Hyatt. “But I will not reduce our deficit by sacrificing our kids’ education. I’m not going to reduce our deficit by eliminating medical research being done by our scientists. I won’t sacrifice rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our railways and our airports. I want Philadelphia to have the best, not the worst.”

Man is just phonin’ it in now; he forgot the ‘corporate jets’ thingie. That’s just not right!

Except mentioning the private jets would not be polite before having dinner later with an audience that probably owns private jets. The man is nothing if not polite.

The Hague Cites Qaddafi for War Crimes. What About US Officials?

8:57 am in Executive Branch by Scarecrow

The New York Times Reports that the International Criminal Court at the Hague has issued arrest warrants for Libyan Leader Qaddafi and his son for alleged crimes against humanity, citing the killings and persecutions of unknown numbers of Libyans during the uprisings there. The story is here.

In a world subject to the rule of law and the principle that government leaders who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity should be held accountable, we would applaud the existence of an international court to prosecute alleged criminals and serve as a warning and deterrent to would be criminals. And if that system applied its rules uniformly and fairly across nations, it would be a hopeful sign civilization can make progress towards a just society.

We are a long way from that ideal, and a primary reason is the fact that the US Government, including its recent Presidents and the most senior officials of the Defense Department and intelligence agencies routinely violated international laws against aggression, kidnapping, rendition, torture, and other prisoner mistreatment.

They invaded sovereign nations based on false premises and continue to attack or occupy them, reserving the unilateral right to conduct military hostilities, kill, arrest and imprison their citizens, or render them to Guantanamo or still secret “black sites” where they can be interrogated, tortured and held indefinitely, in violation of all civilized standards.

And against all efforts to hold responsible officials accountable for these crimes, the government insists courts have no right to question, inquire or prosecute, and victims have no legal redress. There is no law.

Since the Obama Administration chose to ignore its legal obligations under treaties America has signed to investigate and prosecute such crimes and instead chose to continue some of these crimes on its own watch, it has forfeited the right to applaud the Hague for initiating the prosecution of any other country’s alleged criminals.

You’d think that all lawyers and decent members of this Administration would be profoundly ashamed and embarrassed by this, but don’t hold your breath waiting for any spokesperson to say so. Appalling.

Dear Working People: You Are All Expendable Jawas [Update with Jane Hamsher on Cenk]

2:59 pm in Economy, Government by Scarecrow

I’ve been reading numerous articles on the wholesale, meat axe spending cuts in the House funding bills and similar apparently indiscriminate slashing of state budgets, such as Wisconsin’s. But what looks like indiscriminate slashing is actually concealing a more calculated agenda.

There is a scene in the original Star Wars where Luke and Obi wan encounter a disabled Jawa transport, and all the little Jawas have been slaughtered. Luke suspects Sand People, but Obi wan says, “that is what we are meant to think.”

photo: ewen and donabel via Flickr

“These blast points are too precise to be Sand People. They were made by Imperial Storm Troopers” . . . with a deeper agenda than just slaughtering Jawas. They were after something else.

In the budget fights, we too are meant to believe there is universal consensus on the need for radical spending cuts to reduce the deficits, but the budget deficits and the manufactured hysteria around them are a pretext for something else. The Tea-GOPers, just like mindless Storm Troopers wiping out Jawas, can be told that everything must be slashed, and so they will mindlessly slash everything.

Without the slightest concern or even explanations, they are slashing programs that will harm millions of Americans, damage the economy, and cripple the nation’s future. But that doesn’t matter, because those who direct them are after other, more specific targets.

The real targets are the government programs and regulatory authorities that can check the extremes of unbridled wealth and pose a threat to corporate power. If you go through the budgets, you’ll realize the real targets are things like this:

1. Funding for the EPA and its authority to adopt regulations that might impact costs or profits by limiting toxic pollutants and emissions that harm public health and welfare;

2. Funding for the Department of Human/Health Services to enact rules that affect profits of health insurers by regulating how they treat their customers and patients;

3. Funding for the SEC, CFTC and other financial regulators to implement the dozens of regulations called for in the financial reform bill that might check reckless behavior and affect the banks’ bottom line;

4. Funding for legal enforcement activities that might check illegal corporate behavior, including labor and union protection, stopping tax evasion, anti-trust actions and the ability of victims to sue on their own behalf;

5. Funding for any agencies that can independently test, research, publicize or limit the environmental hazards or health risks of the petro-chemical/agra industry;

6. Funding for any community/social services groups that provide assistance to groups that traditionally vote more Democratic and who, if they were empowered, could fight back — such as the poor, legal services, or women who need family planning services, etc.

Those are the precise “blast points,” and the millions of Americans who get harmed with wholesale cuts everywhere else are just Jawas. They’re just expendable cover and collateral damage.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Obama Ignores Actual State of the Union, Makes Nice Speech

7:17 pm in Economy, Executive Branch, Government, Politics by Scarecrow

If you ignore virtually every major problem facing America, particularly those posing immediate crises for unemployed families, broken communities and struggling states, and focus only on what a country would normally do in ordinary times, then you’ll find some things to like in the President’s address to Congress. Yeah, we should invest in education, and energy, and infrastructure.

But after listening to and reading his speech, I’m struck by how disconnected that speech is from the harsh realities facing the country. To be sure, the President notes that in some areas, America is falling behind China or India and is ranked 9th, or umpteenth, or something other than “we’re number one!” So what? Is that really the problem we should worry about?

You would never know from the President’s speech that there are 15 million Americans out of work. He never mentioned it. Think about that. America’s unemployment rate — from 9.4 percent to over 17 percent when you count underemployed and those who’ve given up — is still at crisis levels we’ve rarely seen since the Great Depression. Sure, this President wants us to improve investments and education to provide better jobs for the future, but there wasn’t a single word from a supposedly Democratic President that would address today’s actual emergency. . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Breaking: Quantico Military Holding Jane Hamsher, Impounding Car for Trying to Deliver Manning Petition

11:19 am in Government by Scarecrow

After letting us know in recent posts that she would again be driving David House to visit Bradley Manning, just as she has done without incident on several occasions, Jane Hamsher was stopped today by the military policy at the entrance gate to the base where Manning is being held. She appears to under unofficial arrest, for doing nothing illegal.

About an hour ago, Jane Hamsher began sending Twitter messages telling us the military guards at the entrance to Quantico were holding her, but not explaining why. The apparent reason is to prevent her from delivering a petition to military authorities asking them to improve the conditions under which Bradley Manning is being held.

One of the guards indicated they had been told to stop and detain her, and they’ve demand not merely Driver’s license but proof of insurance, Social Security numbers, etc. There is no legal basis for this. [Update: I'm told that authorities can request some ID to visit a prison, but it was David House who visits Manning, not Jane.]

Jane’s twitter feed is here:!/janehamsher
David House’s feed is here:!/DavidMHouse

Michael Whitney has posted some of her messages here.

They are not allowing her to enter, but not allowing her to leave. Usually, she waits in the nearby McDonalds when David House visits Manning. The guards will not allow her to go to the McDonalds.

Now they are impounding and towing her car, for no legal reason other than to harrass Jane. While one must show proof of insurance when stopped by police, what’s different here is the deliberate and selective harrassment of Jane, who has routinely driven House to the base, and David House, a person who has had ongoing permission to visit Manning.

We’ll continue updates as we get them.

Welcome to East Germany.

Update IV Jane has an important post discussing why the incident was directed at David House and Bradley Manning. A must read.

Update III: Jane and David House are now “released,” but the Marines prevented House from visiting Manning, even though he had been previously authorized to do so. And they prevented Jane from delivering a petition with signatures from 42,000 people. They harrased both of them for over an hour and will force Jane to pay $300 to get her car back.

Will the Congress read the First Amendment again, the part saying the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition their government for redress of grievances shall not be abridged? Apparently this government does not believe it applies to them.

UPDATE II: At 2:50pm the military released Jane and David, and told David he could go off base and come back on to visit Bradley. But visiting hours end at 3pm, so Bradley won’t get a visit.

UPDATE: Adding a widget which displays Jane’s and David’s most recent tweets.

At Quantico w @DavidMHouse to deliver 42,000 sigs 4 Bradley Maning to brig. Holding us at gate, never happened before:
January 23, 2011 at 13:06

Called Lt Brian Villiard of Quantico on Friday and again today as courtesy to say we were coming re: Bradley Manning, never called me back.
January 23, 2011 at 13:08

Demanding my social security number before they’ll let me on Quantico base, but won’t say why. Never happened before.
January 23, 2011 at 13:11

Quantico guards say I’ll be arrested if I go to McDonalds while @davidmhouse visits Manning. “That privilege has been withdrawn.”
January 23, 2011 at 13:24

Guess Lt Villiard better at reading FDL than returning phone calls. For first time, made us sign letter saying we won’t deliver any pkgs.
January 23, 2011 at 13:21

Now been here at Quantico gate for 30 min. Will not let us leave base, holding us.
January 23, 2011 at 13:25

Gunny Foster Military Police #1715 writing me ticket for not hving latest insurance card. Sorry to 42,000 people who signed Manning petition
January 23, 2011 at 13:27

Can’t leave base, can’t go 2 brig, can’t get my driver’s license, Gunt Foster threatening 2 arrest us. Haven’t done a thing.
January 23, 2011 at 13:28

Now Quantico guards want @davidmhouse driver’s license back for 2nd time.
January 23, 2011 at 13:29

Detained for 40 minutes now upon entering base. Advised that cannot leave.
January 23, 2011 at 13:34

Meanwhile visiting hours are expiring… Hopeful that I get to see Brad today. These visits are his only reprieve from solitary.
January 23, 2011 at 13:37

We’re literally being detained without any explanation at Quantico 40 min now. Won’t let us leave. #Wikileaks
January 23, 2011 at 13:38

When Gunny Foster asked 4 my SS# I said “what if I refuse?” He said he’s Military Police & he can arrest me. Is that true?
January 23, 2011 at 13:40

RT @Deongrein: @janehamsher Call the real cops… Tell them you are being held against your will…
January 23, 2011 at 13:40

Now Military Police asking @DavidMHouse 4 his SS# AGAIN.
January 23, 2011 at 13:41

My, that’s a big shotgun.
January 23, 2011 at 13:41

One of the many MPs around the car says his orders to stop us come from on high.
January 23, 2011 at 13:44

RT @tomwatson: @janehamsher @Deongrein I believe the technical military term for this is ‘chickenshit’
January 23, 2011 at 13:47

I am on approved visitation list; have been visiting since September. Was planning on asking Brad about his conditions today.
January 23, 2011 at 13:48

Gunny Foster towing my car bc they won’t accept my electronic proof of insurance, demanding paper.
January 23, 2011 at 13:49

Escorting us off base, hooking my car up to tow truck now.
January 23, 2011 at 13:50

Me “you won’t accept electronic proof of insurance.” SGT: “has to be printed.” Me: “it was printed off that.” “Unless u have a printer.”
January 23rd, 2011 at 13:56

Forcing @DavidMHouse 2 go 2 court. Wouldn’t give ticket, gave him a summons 2 appear in court.
January 23rd, 2011 at 13:57

Quantico guards didn’t give registration back 2 me, but demanding it again.
January 23rd, 2011 at 13:58

Now guards going 2 inventory vehicle.
January 23rd, 2011 at 13:59

Military police searching & impounding my car. Won’t let @DavidMHouse on 2 see Bradley Manning, won’t say why.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:01

Vehicle being searched and impounded.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:01

It’s 28 degrees, forcing us 2 stand outside.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:03

I am not being allowed to move on-base to see Bradley. The petition is in my lap in a tow-truck surrounded by MPs. Welcome to Quantico.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:07

Quantico Guard: “are u leaving anything in your car” Me: “I can’t check when they’re driving it on to tow truck.”
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:08

I called Lt Villard on Friday 2 say we were coming 2 Quantico, give courtesy head’s up we were coming. I guess I know he got the message.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:09

Me: “Can I go 2 store I can see fm here & print out insurance if u won’t accept electronic?” Foster: “No.” 15 min ago, could’ve had by now.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:12

In tow truck, waiting 2 b escorted off Quantico base. No idea how @DavidMHouse & I get back to DC.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:13

Still holding us, my car on tow truck but Quantico guards still won’t let us leave.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:14

Even though @DavidMHouse on approved list 2 see Bradley Manning, Quantico guards refusing 2 let him do so w no explanation. Still detained.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:15

Some offers have now entered guard house.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:16

MPs looking for a reason to arrest us; brass arrives. The US government is like any animal: scare it and it will try to tear your face off.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:16

Some officers have now entered the guard house & are talking 2 military police. @DavidMHouse & I detained w no explanation for 1 hr 20 min.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:18

We tried to leave & they wouldn’t let us @JPKalishek.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:19

For whatever reason, Quantico Marine brass don’t want Manning 2 have visitor now. Isolation & enforcement of solitary confinement complete.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:24

BREAKING: Military Harassing David House, Jane Hamsher for Visiting Bradley Manning
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:25

On phone w Trevor Fitzgibbon @fitzgibbonmedia who is working w Bradley Manning supporters. @DavidMHouse calling Manning attorney.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:29

I blame @Ggreenwald. ;)
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:33

Talking with my attorney, wants 2 know what why being detained: “Either u have clearance 2 b on base or you don’t & they turn u away.”
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:39

MPs still not letting us leave. To clarify I am authorized to be on base; have been on approved visitation list + visiting for 5 months.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:41

Nobody knows why Marines are holding Bradley Manning who is in the Army anyway. Manning attorney unable to get an answer.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:43

Marines now say House can’t walk to see House but can go off base, get a cab & come back on. But visitation over at 3pm.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:48

Tow truck driver says we also have to pay 4 time he had 2 wait for Quantico marines 2 release us: $300.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:51

Quantico Marine brass showed up PERSONALLY 2 make sure @DavidMHouse never got 2 see Manning. Next visiting period: next week.
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:52

Finally released, right as visiting hours conclude. What’s going on in the brig?
January 23rd, 2011 at 14:59

Quantico top brass made sure we were held until visiting hours were over & impossible 4 @DavidMHouse 2 see Manning. Message clear.
January 23rd, 2011 at 15:10

Copy of Article 138 Complaint filed by David Coombs, Manning’s Iraq vet atty vs Quantico CW04 James Averhart, abusing discretion re Manning
January 23rd, 2011 at 15:21

Article 138 Complaint:
January 23rd, 2011 at 15:22

Last wk Averhart put Manning under harsh conditions against advice of 3 psychiatrists, now harassing visitor 2 deny Manning cleared visitors
January 23rd, 2011 at 15:24

This is 1st time @DavidMHouse visited Manning since he spoke out w @CapehartJ on @DylanRatigan re Manning’s conditions
January 23rd, 2011 at 15:27

I hope people realize Bradley Manning has not had trial yet, hasn’t confessed 2 anything & in America is still innocent until proven guilty
January 23rd, 2011 at 15:33

After tow truck arrived, MPs demanded our driver’s licenses, SS# & registration a 2nd time 2 stall & assure Manning could not have visitor
January 23rd, 2011 at 15:39

Right now @DavidMHouse working w Trevor @FitzgibbonMedia on statement abt what happened & he will have soon
January 23rd, 2011 at 15:45

Statement of Events: Bradley Manning’s Primary Visitor Detained at Quantico
January 23rd, 2011 at 16:23

Goal of Quantico Incident Was To Abuse Bradley Manning and Intimidating David House
January 23rd, 2011 at 21:10

Breaking: Keith Olbermann Out at MSNBC [UPDATED]

6:15 pm in Government, Media, Politics by Scarecrow

Stunning his Countdown audience, Keith Olbermann announced at the very end of his show tonight that this would be the last edition of Countdown. He gave no explanation but thanked his audience.

Within minutes MSNBC released a statement indicating that it was not renewing Keith’s contract.

MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.

The new evening lineup would be:

6:00 p.m. Cenk (just “filling in”?)
7:00 p.m. Hardball
8:00 p.m. Larry O’Donnell
9:00 p.m. Rachel Maddow
10:00 p.m. Ed Show

We’ll add details as we get them. But the first question has to be: Is this the first action by cable conglomerate Comcast, after the FCC and Justice Department approved their takeover of NBC, in deciding what we see on television? Gosh, who coulda predicted?

Update: from the NYT coverage, “NBC executives said the move had nothing to do with the impending takeover of NBC Universal by Comcast.” Yeah, that’s about what I’d expect Comcast to tell NBC to say.

Update II, Saturday a.m.: Statement from Comcast (h/t Howie at DownWithTyranny):

“Comcast has not closed the transaction for NBC Universal and has no operational control at any of its properties including MSNBC. We pledged from the day the deal was announced that we would not interfere with NBC Universal’s news operations. We have not and we will not.”

More here and here on the implications of the Comcast takeover. Al Franken’s Senate speech on Comcast and internet neutrality.

Nobel Economist Hints NYT Propaganda Against Public Pensions Can’t Be Trusted

1:18 pm in Executive Branch, Government, Media, Politics by Scarecrow

Can it be the New York Times worries it may lose the fact-free deficit hysteria propaganda market to the Washington Post? Today’s Times has its leading front page article suggesting public employee retirements benefits are so out of control and breaking the backs of state budgets that we may need a Constitutional Amendment to push States into bankruptcy. That way, the poor states can renege on their promises to public employees, defy their own state constitutions, and just for giggles, break the backs of employee unions.

The two-column, front page headline hides the responsibility for this propaganda hit piece in the passive voice:

A Path is Sought for States To Escape Debt Burdens

. . . which is followed by the subheading, “Traditional Bankruptcy Is Not an Option, but Versions of It Gain Support.”

The editorial viewpoint in this “news” is then reinforced by the first five paragraphs, all above the fold, making it appear that responsible policy makers are hard at work trying to solve this very hard problem before it forces defunding of essential public programs. Just marvel at the dishonest journalism:

Policy makers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.

Unlike cities, the states are barred from seeking protection in federal bankruptcy court. Any effort to change that status would have to clear high constitutional hurdles because the states are considered sovereign.

But proponents say some states are so burdened that the only feasible way out may be bankruptcy, giving Illinois, for example, the opportunity to do what General Motors did with the federal government’s aid.

Beyond their short-term budget gaps, some states have deep structural problems, like insolvent pension funds, that are diverting money from essential public services like education and health care. Some members of Congress fear that it is just a matter of time before a state seeks a bailout, say bankruptcy lawyers who have been consulted by Congressional aides.

Bankruptcy could permit a state to alter its contractual promises to retirees, which are often protected by state constitutions, and it could provide an alternative to a no-strings bailout. Along with retirees, however, investors in a state’s bonds could suffer, possibly ending up at the back of the line as unsecured creditors.

So who are these heroes, these responsible “policy makers” and unnamed “proponents” and “members of Congress” who are quietly thinking about ways to save the Republic? Well, it’s the same gaggle of budget deficit hysterics who have systematically lied about the debt and the “crisis” in Social Security. The article eventually cites Sen. John Cornyn, House Republicans, and the paragon of fiscal virtue, Newt Gingrich! Those would be the same budget arsonists who gave us two unfunded wars ($1-3 trillion), an unfunded drug benefit (another trillion), Bush tax cuts (more trillions) and want extensions of the same (trillions and trillions) . . . forever!

It is not until we get inside the paper that the Times bothers to ask an employee rep what he thinks about this nonsense. And buried in a later paragraph, the Times barely mentions a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, but with little about what the CBPP says that might rebut the deficit/pension hysterics. It’s doubtful most readers will bother to check, even if they’ve read this far.

Enter a certain Nobel economist, who, unable to post much because he’s traveling, gives us this short note:

Probably no posting, unless we get stranded in some airport somewhere.

If you want something to read, look at Iris Lav’s debunking of myths about state and local finances

Huh. So what does the economist want us to read? Well, only that same CBPP report, where honest folks have politely but utterly debunked the entire premise of the Times front page and pension hysteria propaganda. The CPBB report is well written and should be read from beginning to end, but here are a few highlights:

A spate of recent articles regarding the fiscal situation of states and localities have lumped together their current fiscal problems, stemming largely from the recession, with longer-term issues relating to debt, pension obligations, and retiree health costs, to create the mistaken impression that drastic and immediate measures are needed to avoid an imminent fiscal meltdown.

The large operating deficits that most states are projecting for the 2012 fiscal year, which they have to close before the fiscal year begins (on July 1 in most states), are caused largely by the weak economy. . . . [i.e., the US could easily fix that, as they did partly in the stimulus act]

Unlike the projected operating deficits for fiscal year 2012, which require near-term solutions to meet states’ and localities’ balanced-budget requirements, longer-term issues related to bond indebtedness, pension obligations, and retiree health insurance — discussed more fully below — can be addressed over the next several decades. It is not appropriate to add these longer-term costs to projected operating deficits. Nor should the size and implications of these longer-term costs be exaggerated, as some recent discussions have done. Such mistakes can lead to inappropriate policy prescriptions.

What follows is a point-by-point debunking of all the fact-free gibberish from deficit hysterics that’s repeated on the Times front page. Samples:

Some observers claim that states and localities have run up huge bond indebtedness, in part to finance operating costs, and that there is a high risk that a number of local governments will default on their bonds. Both claims are greatly exaggerated. [followed by further historical data and rebuttal] . . .

Some observers claim that states and localities have $3 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities and that pension obligations are unmanageable, may cause localities to declare bankruptcy, and are a reason to enact a federal law allowing states to declare bankruptcy. Some also are calling for a federal law to force states and localities to change the way they calculate their pension liabilities (and possibly to change the way they fund those liabilities as well). Such claims overstate the fiscal problem, fail to acknowledge that severe problems are concentrated in a small number of states, and often promote extreme actions rather than more appropriate solutions. [followed by more factual rebuttals, including an explanation how misrepresenting or manipulating the assumed discount rate can make a more manageable $700 billion deficit look like a scarier $3 trillion deficit ]. . .

– States and localities have managed to build up their pension trust funds in the past without outside intervention. They began pre-funding their pension plans in the 1970s, and between 1980 and 2007 accumulated more than $3 trillion in assets. There is reason to assume that they can and will do so again, once revenues and markets fully recover.

– States and localities have the next 30 years in which to remedy any pension shortfalls. As Alicia Munnell, an expert on these matters who directs the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, has explained, “even after the worst market crash in decades, state and local plans do not face an immediate liquidity crisis; most plans will be able to cover benefit payments for the next 15-20 years.” [5] States and localities do not need to increase contributions immediately, and generally should not do so while the economy is still weak and they are struggling to provide basic services. . . . [more follows]

Once again, the same intellectually dishonest deficit hysterics who have been conning the public and the media into believing we face imminent financial crisis that can only be solved by cutting Social Security, are pulling the same con about public pensions. The con is to get states to renege on commitments, some embedded in state constitutions (so much for conservative reverence for the 10th Amendment!), to fund public pension/retirement programs that employees worked, paid, and bargained for, while claiming we have no choice. It’s a lie.

It’s shameful that the New York Times is not reporting this straight but has instead published a blatantly misleading propaganda piece on the front page of its news section.

Anti-Competitive Rules? It’s Been Obama’s Agenda

10:30 am in Economy, Executive Branch, Government by Scarecrow

I didn’t know whether to laugh or weep watching Rachel Maddow last night as she pleaded with her friend Gene to talk her off another ledge, this one driven by the fear our President has completely sold out to corporate capture and Republican frames defending it.

Don’t jump, Rachel, call them out. Hint: He’s not on your side.

The latest affront was the White House release of an Executive Order directing regulatory agencies to review their rules and scrub any that might be anti-competitive or costing U.S. jobs. Thank you, President Romney, for the ridiculous notion that America’s near 10 percent unemployment is caused by anti-business regulations.

Add to that Obama’s choice of Chief of Staff and other appointments getting rave reviews from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, plus his making Bernie Sanders wonder how any President, let alone a Democrat, could even consider slashing Social Security, a move that would logically force more older workers into a depressed labor market. He’s not a Dem, and not very smart either, Bernie.

But you have to wonder about any corporatist President pretending to care one bit about protecting genuine competition, and especially one whose two major legislative achievements were to ensure neither the largest banks and Wall Street banksters nor the nation’s largest health insurers and providers would have to face meaningful competition.

The thrust of the financial “reform” bill was to make sure the MOTU remained in power, now larger and more concentrated than they were before they destroyed and looted the U.S. financial system. The “regulatory reform” was deliberately structured to minimize statutory limits on the banksters’ size or behavior and leave as much discretion as possible in the hands of the President’s pro-bank appointees. President Tea-GOP will know what to do. More from Simon Johnson, here.

The Affordable [Care] Act was similarly designed to shield most insurers and health providers from competition, probably the only thing Republicans don’t object to. Hospitals are rushing to merge to take advantage in response, and the anti-trust agencies are sitting on their hands. Meanwhile, insurers watch warily, campaign checks at the ready, for any renewed efforts to create a public alternative, an escape from the anti-competitive market Americans will now be forced to enter.

And do we need to mention Obama’s coddling of PhRMA drugsters for all the anti-competitive measures, patent extensions, anti-compete shields they got in the deal in exchange for going silent when the Tea-GOPers try to sack even the worthwhile features?

Yesterday, two nominal Democratic appointees, including Mr. Obama’s Chairman, said it’s fine if America’s largest cable conglomerate gobbled up one of the major media broadcasters and entertainment conglomerates. Their competitors and users, outraged at the potential for discriminatory access and predatory pricing are left wondering what happened to fairness and justice, but the Department of Justice, assigned to enforce the nation’s anti-trust laws, seems to have lost its copy.

And in coming months we’ll watch Obama and the Chamber of Commerce rally Congress to ratify treaties that enable the Chamber’s largest contributors to ship US manufacturing jobs overseas.

It’s bad enough that this faux Democratic President continues to adopt Republican frames against responsible regulation of America’s rapacious corporate regime. But pretending this has anything to do with advancing genuine competition or protecting American jobs is insulting.

Shahien Nasiripour at HuffPo, Trillion-dollar banks could get bigger under financial overhaul law