Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Good Listening

If you don't listen to Sam Seder's Majority report, you're doing it wrong.

His interview with Tim Wise yesterday was great, because Tim Wise is awesome and should be listed to at all times.

His argument against Ron Paul's foreign policy stances being helpful in the debate is the probably best articulation of that position I've heard, and a good counter to the Glenn Greenwald article I posted a few weeks back. His point about the tone of criticism against Obama is interesting, and something worth struggling with, although I'm not 100% sure I agree with his conclusion.

Also his point (that I've heard him argue a lot before, but it doesn't make it any less true) on the role that racial resentment plays in the ability to defend and expand our social safety net is dead on, and very important if you haven't heard it yet.

Anyhow, listen to it, really good stuff.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Newt In Space

So it looks like he's going to lose tomorrow, but this photoshop from buzzfeed is incredible.

Click to Embiggen.

Don't give up Newt! Keep reaching for that rainbow!

More On The Mystery Task Force

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Up With Chris Hayes:

Here is an interview with Delaware AG Beau Biden. Does it seem like he's going out of his way not to mention Schneiderman? Am I reading too much into this? His question about the staffing does seem to be the best way to determine if this will actually do something or not.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mortgage Settlement News: Is it Good?

There was a major development in the mortgage settlement talks earlier this week:

WASHINGTON -- During his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama will announce the creation of a special unit to investigate misconduct and illegalities that contributed to both the financial collapse and the mortgage crisis.

The office, part of a new Unit on Mortgage Origination and Securitization Abuses, will be chaired by Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, according to a White House official.

Schneiderman is an increasingly beloved figure among progressives for his criticism of a proposed settlement between the 50 state attorneys general and the five largest banks. His presence atop this new special unit could give it immediate legitimacy among those who have criticized the president for being too hesitant in going after the banks and resolving the mortgage crisis. He will be in attendance at Tuesday night's State of the Union address

"The goal of this joint investigation will be threefold: to hold accountable any institutions that violated the law; to compensate victims and help provide relief for homeowners struggling from the collapse of the housing market, caused in part by this wrongdoing; and to help us finally turn the page on this destructive period in our nation’s history," reads a White House document outlining the objectives.

"This is a big achievement and something the entire progressive advocacy community wanted [with respect to] housing policy," added the White House official.

The unit will not supersede the efforts already underway by the Department of Justice. Instead, it will operate as part of the president's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. In addition to Schneiderman, the unit will be co-chaired by Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general at the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement at the SEC; John Walsh, a U.S. attorney in Colorado, and Tony West, assistant attorney general in the Civil Division at DOJ.

News of the new mortgage unit comes amidst reports of a potential settlement between the five biggest banks, the Obama administration and the state attorneys general. Under the deal, banks would agree to follow existing laws against abusive foreclosures and set aside $25 billion to both help homeowners who are underwater on their homes or who were wrongfully foreclosed. The agreement has been in the works for months, with disagreements over the level of legal immunity granted to banks accused of wrongdoing, and the scope of violations covered by the deal.

Critics of the pending settlement have argued that the president should couple the financial relief for homeowners with a robust law enforcement effort targeting lawbreaking by big banks. Schneiderman has been among the settlement's most prominent critics for months, insisting that a deal not release bankers from criminal charges, and urging AGs to look into violations outside the foreclosure process, including issuing fraudulent loans and improprieties in the packaging of those loans into complex bonds that would become toxic assets.
My initial reaction was not a positive one. The fact that Schneiderman was brought in by the White House insantly worried me, because it appeared that he had been co-opted to come on board with a settlement, of which he had been one of the biggest detractors. As recently as a month ago, the White House had been trying every pressure tactic in the book to force Schneiderman to sign on to the settlement, and now suddently they're giving him more power? Something doesn't seem right. David Dayen, the reported I trust the most on this subject, seemed to agree.

While I still have worries and doubts, I've read things in the last two days that have changed my mind about how terrible I thought this commission was. Dayen:
Schneiderman, according to sources, still has space to object to the settlement while agreeing to join the financial fraud panel. In negotiations, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and the Administration tried to link the two, but Schneiderman would not comply. And he still opposes the settlement in its current form. “The language we’ve seen would release claims we are not prepared to release,” one source said.

Schneiderman may look at a settlement if the release is incredibly narrow, more narrow than it is right now, and it doesn’t hinder the investigations being done at the state and federal level (the release has narrowed since the initial offer in August). There’s also the question of enforcement, and whether the settlement will have an actual independent monitor, with real fines for violations. You can see by Schneiderman’s words yesterday that he is making a distinction between pre-crisis conduct and post-crisis conduct, and he simply feels the banks have more exposure on the pre-crisis conduct, which would be the focus of the state/federal probe.

I always thought the point of focusing on robo-signing was that the banks, through depositions and court documents, were dead to rights on those issues (not to mention that they were more recent, and so statutes of limitations didn’t come into play), and that they could be leveraged into a comprehensive deal that gives homeowners what they need, with sufficient penalties on the banks. What Schneiderman seems to be saying here is that, no, it’s the pre-crisis stuff on securitization where the banks REALLY have the exposure, and going after them on that will create the desperation moment where the banks agree to whatever terms are necessary for homeowners.

I’m not sure I totally believe that, and I think giving up the more recent fraud – which is ongoing – is very risky. So is going into the lion’s den and partnering with the likes of Tony West and Robert Khuzami and Lanny Breuer, when their conduct as regulators and investigators speaks for itself.

Here’s what my sources say about that aspect of things. The panel was attached to the existing financial fraud task force because it didn’t require a new executive order. It gives the New York AG new resources that he can take to his state to pursue claims under the Martin Act. In other words, if things are found out by the investigation, and it fits better under New York statutes rather than the federal ones, Schneiderman has that flexibility. If the state statutes on mortgage origination, for example, have run out, the federal origination statutes can be employed. In a best-case scenario, this investigation puts a lot of people on the case, and gives Schneiderman every tool to operate in that context. There may even be other AGs eventually named as part of this panel. I am also told that Schneiderman has some suits ready to release in the coming weeks.

What about a worst-case scenario, though? What if this is, as I suspect, an attempt by the Administration to ring-fence Schneiderman, to slow-walk these cases, and to bottle up any accountability in committee? Sources, who preferred to speak off the record, made this commitment: if the investigation is going in that direction, the New York AG will walk away. And not only that, he will walk away in the most showy, public manner possible, letting everyone know who was responsible for the lack of prosecutions. At that point, Schneiderman can go back and use his own resources and statutes, which while perhaps less flexible than what a state-federal partnership can do, are nonetheless potent.
While I'm still nervous about how this plays out, the fact that Schneiderman can still walk out on the settlement is a huge positive. Additionally, if he's played the system as a way to leverage more resources from an Obama Administration who genuinely fears his actions, then he's bolder than I thought.

I'm still not sure if this commission makes us better or worse off, but it doesn't appear as bad as I initially feared. If you care about the economy, the cases against the banks and the bullshit settlement to shield them from accountability are probably the most important things you should be following over the next 2 years. After cramdown's failure, congress appears to be too fucked up to do anything about the housing/foreclosure crisis, and short of the Obama Administration doing something major from the executive branch (I'm not holding my breath), this is our best hope to fix the housing market and restructure the banking system. Those two things (housing market being fucked, and the too big to fail banks being insolvent) also happen to be the biggest factors holding us back from an actual recovery, so the importance of getting this right couldn't be higher.

Let's just hope Schneiderman knows what he's doing, cause we basically have to go all in with him, whether we like it or not.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Newt Gingrich Channels Dave Chappelle

No, really:
Newt Gingrich’s case for boosting federal investments into private sector space projects awkwardly embraces a core tenet of modern liberalism: the belief that government spending can help the economy.

“By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American,” Gingrich said in Florida, explaining that it would entail “commercial near-Earth activities that include science, tourism and manufacturing, because it is in our interest.”
Not that far off:

And because we're talking about one of my favorite skits ever...

What Does Nancy Pelosi Know?

John King, CNN: "Because of your history with Speaker Gingrich, what goes through your mind when you think of the possibility, which is more real today than it was a week or a month ago, that he would be the Republican nominee and that you could come back here next January or next February with a President Gingrich?"

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): "Let me just say this. That will never happen."

King: "Why?"

Pelosi: "He's not going to be President of the United States. That's not going to happen. Let me just make my prediction and stand by it, it isn't going to happen."

King: "Why are you so sure?"

Pelosi: "There is something I know. The Republicans, if they choose to nominate him that's their prerogative. I don't even think that's going to happen."
Did Nancy Pelosi watch Newt Gingrich bludgeon a man to death on the floor of the house?

And if you watch the video it's clear that she's saying "something I know will end his political career" rather than "everything we already know about Newt will end his political career".

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Post Racial GOP

Going along the lines of the recent viral videos everyone has seen, this playlist of "Shit Republican Candidates say about Black People" is a pretty solid/extremely depressing compilation.

Click over to Dominion of New York for Kelly Virella's annotations of the videos.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Assorted Thoughts

-BRING ON THE NEWTMENTUM! It seems like he'll probably flame out sooner rather than later, but just dreaming about the possibilities of Newt "IDEA MAN" Gingrich getting the Republican nomination fills me with joy. I'm finding myself wondering who he would pick for VP- would he resurrect some other 90s ghost, like Dick Army? Follow the Obama TEAM OF RIVALS thing and bring Romney in (ahahah, this guys career is built on petty grudges and vindictiveness, so nah)? Comedy option with Cain? John Bolton for SecState? Some maniac for SecDef? If Obama is determined to let creeping police-statism and the corporations continue destroying America we may as well let him pass the ball to someone who will do it with a real sense of panache, right?

-JOEPA. I had to look this one up to make sure, but this is the same guy who didn't call the police after hearing about child rape? And he dies and everyone is like "oh man, he sure was good at coaching sports." Ok... Seems to me like all the coaching in the world doesn't really make up for that, but based on the headlines and editorial cartoons it really hasn't derailed his legacy of being good at sports, so... alright? After the whole thing came out a bunch of people in PA had a rally to support... not the children who were raped, but the coach who didn't call the police on their rapist? Am I missing something on this one?

-OBAMA vs. WHISTLEBLOWERS. I've already let on that I'm not voting for Obama again, and this latest attack on leakers is a prime example of why. When even the WaPo is calling you out on your "unprecedented crackdown," and when you've had people like Bradley Manning held in solitary confinement for ages before reluctantly letting him interact with other human beings again... well, you've lost my vote. If Bush did this progressives would (rightfully) be up in arms about it, and its much to the shame of the left that we seem to have generally accepted the arguments for why it's ok, or simply shut up entirely on the subject. If it wasn't for Glenn Greenwald...

The Larry Summers Experience

Larry Summers has always been a frequent target here, mainly because I find it annoying that people ignore his extremely dodgy track record because he is a "brilliant mind", or something.

The size of the stimulus has always been a issue of debate. At the time, many of the economists whose judgement I trust (because they aren't constantly wrong about things) strongly criticized the stimulus as being not large enough, and being too focused on tax cuts rather than the more stimulative options at their disposal. In the months and years since it's become painfully obvious that they were right and Summers (and the administration) were wrong, there have been two main for why they screwed up. The 1st excuse that no one thought it was too small and fully understood how bad the economy is so wrong and easily disproved it's not worth discussing.

The second excuse is that political constrains forced a smaller sized stimulus than the administration would have otherwise wanted. This excuse was always hard to disprove since you can't know exactly how those meetings went, but it always seemed odd to me that Summers, Obama's lead economic adviser, would be including political considerations into his analysis.

In an interesting article in the New Yorker on Obama's first term, we get our answer:
Since 2009, some economists have insisted that the stimulus was too small. White House defenders have responded that a larger stimulus would not have moved through Congress. But the Summers memo barely mentioned Congress, noting only that his recommendation of a stimulus above six hundred billion dollars was “an economic judgment that would need to be combined with political judgments about what is feasible.”

He offered the President four illustrative stimulus plans: $550 billion, $665 billion, $810 billion, and $890 billion. Obama was never offered the option of a stimulus package commensurate with the size of the hole in the economy––known by economists as the “output gap”––which was estimated at two trillion dollars during 2009 and 2010. Summers advised the President that a larger stimulus could actually make things worse. “An excessive recovery package could spook markets or the public and be counterproductive,” he wrote, and added that none of his recommendations “returns the unemployment rate to its normal, pre-recession level. To accomplish a more significant reduction in the output gap would require stimulus of well over $1 trillion based on purely mechanical assumptions—which would likely not accomplish the goal because of the impact it would have on markets.”

Paul Krugman, a Times columnist and a Nobel Prize-winning economist who persistently supported a larger stimulus, told me that Summers’s assertion about market fears was a “bang my head on the table” argument. “He’s invoking the invisible bond vigilantes, basically saying that investors would be scared and drive up interest rates. That’s a major economic misjudgment.” Since the beginning of the crisis, the U.S. has borrowed more than five trillion dollars, and the interest rate on the ten-year Treasury bills is under two per cent. The markets that Summers warned Obama about have been calm.
There are no excuses for Summers. He was tasked with proposing what the economy needed for a turnaround, and was spectacularly wrong. I'm sure the Summers defenders will find a way to make "major economic misjudgment" another example of his genius, but for those of us who prefer to look at his actual record of policy beliefs and actions, it isn't a pretty one.

For most people, a screw up of that magnitude would cost them their jobs. For Larry Summers, he gets recommended for a more prestigious one.

Friday, January 20, 2012

RIP Etta James

"You're Pretty Terrific"

These things kind of speak for themselves:
A set of recently released transcripts of internal Federal Reserve communications includes a burst of profuse praise from then-New York Fed President Timothy Geithner directed toward then-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

"Mr. Chairman, in the interest of crispness, I've removed a substantial tribute from my remarks," Geithner said during a Jan. 31, 2006, meeting of the central bank's Federal Open Market Committee. Attendees responded with laughter, according to the transcript.

"I am most appreciative," Greenspan replied.

"I'd like the record to show that I think you're pretty terrific," Geithner said, prompting more laughter. "And thinking in terms of probabilities, I think the risk that we decide in the future that you're even better than we think is higher than the alternative."

Geithner's probability estimate was a bit off. Today, Greenspan is the subject of criticism from all corners -- notably including U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner, a Ronald Reagan appointee -- for his refusal to combat or even recognize the predatory lending-fueled housing bubble.

For several years leading up to 2006, Federal Reserve Governor Edward Gramlich had warned Greenspan and other central bank officials about dangers brewing in the subprime mortgage market. Gramlich left the Fed in 2005, but Greenspan declined not only to attempt to pop the ballooning housing bubble, but even to try to regulate abusive lending. Posner and others have denounced Greenspan's decision to keep interest rates low for a very long time as a monetary policy failure, which, combined with his refusal to enforce consumer protection regulations, allowed that bubble to ossify into an economic wrecking ball.

At the time Geithner praised Greenspan, the Fed chairman was widely respected among conservatives and neo-liberals, but concerns were already circulating about the potential implications of the subprime mortgage problems. Within months, Ben Bernanke would replace Greenspan as Fed chair and make a host of reassuring comments in the media about the subprime debacle being "contained."

Greenspan, an acolyte of novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, eventually acknowledged before Congress that his "ideology" was not equipped to handle the rapacious behavior of major banks during the housing bubble.

"I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms," Greenspan told then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) in 2008. "I have found a flaw. I don't know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Or Maybe it's the Shitty Policies?

This logic is always pretty incredible: (via atrios)
A depressing tale of austerity, job cuts and economic misery from our Ireland correspondent, Henry McDonald.

Henry reports that Northern Ireland's finance minister Sammy Wilson has told trade unions in the province to "shut up" over fears about job losses, and criticised the union's negative approach to the local economy.

On Tuesday the Irish Congress of Trade Unions claimed that 26,000 jobs could be lost in the Northern Ireland public sector as part of the Coalition's cost cutting, austerity programme over the next five years.

But Wilson denounced these projections saying that the predictions undermined efforts to build confidence in the economy.

Speaking on Radio Ulster, the Democratic Unionist minister said: "If they haven't anything positive to say, then they should shut up."

Wilson added:
Instead of engaging in rhetoric which damages the economy, I have been working as finance minister to try and mitigate the impact of decisions made in Westminster. We have been doing the thing responsibly, not going out trying to make the situation worse as the trade unions have been.
This kind of negative talk about what might happen undermines all the good work people are doing across Northern Ireland.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Internet on Strike

Wikipedia, Reddit and a bunch of other sites are going dark today to protest some pretty terrible legislation in congress right now that would completely change the internet as we know it.

So no new content in solidarity, but click here to read about the bills, and what you can do to stop them.

Actually forget all of that and watch this video on the oatmeal.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mitt Romney Fan Art

This is incredible. Via Mother Jones magazine, this portrait apparently exists at BYU.

Mitt The Ripper

If you haven't been following Colbert and Stewart's recent attempts to point out how stupid our campaign finance rules are, it's time to catch up. Warming Glow:
A small refresher: Last week, Stephen Colbert announced his intention to create an exploratory committee in order to run for the President of South Carolina. By law, if someone become a candidate for office, he or she must relinquish any control he has of a Super Pac, one of those independent organizations that raises money on behalf of a candidate but can’t actually coordinate with the candidate. It’s a not so subtle way of getting around campaign finance laws. As a result, Colbert had to relinquish control of his Super Pac, Americans For A Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. He gave it to Jon Stewart, who renamed it, The Definitely Not Coordinated With Stephen Colbert Super PAC. 
Like with many very cool things, I don't know how this ends, but it's actually not that important. Excited to watch this play out, especially anything else they do is as good as this first ad:

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Was A Drum Major

I know this isn't the biggest deal in the world, but it drove me absolutely insane and I'm really happy it was fixed.
A badly excerpted quote shown on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington will be corrected, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told the Washington Post on Friday. Salazar has given the National Park Service 30 days to come up with a more accurate alternative.
“I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness,” the quote on the monument reads.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Should We Publish Lies? Opinions Differ.

Here is how the New York Times defines the role of the public editor:
Arthur S. Brisbane is the readers' representative. He responds to complaints and comments from the public and monitors the paper's journalistic practices.
All the quotes from the following post are real, and were not taken from the Onion.

The headline of his post:
Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?

This should have ended there. Instead, who wrote an entire post on the subject.
I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.
Still having trouble believing this is serious. On one hand "challenging facts that are asserted by newsmakers" is the job of a news organization, and on the other hand... the person you called a liar doesn't invite you to their birthday party?
As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie. My question for readers is: should news reporters do the same?
Uhhh, yes?
That approach is what one reader was getting at in a recent message to the public editor. He wrote:
“My question is what role the paper’s hard-news coverage should play with regard to false statements – by candidates or by others. In general, the Times sets its documentation of falsehoods in articles apart from its primary coverage. If the newspaper’s overarching goal is truth, oughtn’t the truth be embedded in its principal stories? In other words, if a candidate repeatedly utters an outright falsehood (I leave aside ambiguous implications), shouldn’t the Times’s coverage nail it right at the point where the article quotes it?”
This message was typical of mail from some readers who, fed up with the distortions and evasions that are common in public life, look to The Times to set the record straight. They worry less about reporters imposing their judgment on what is false and what is true.
This reader is frustrated that we print falsehoods and don't correct them! It's as if they look to this newspaper as a place to be further informed on the issues. How quaint!
Is that the prevailing view?
For people who care about being more informed and facts, yes, it is.
And if so, how can The Times do this in a way that is objective and fair?
When someone isn't telling the truth, you point out that they aren't telling the truth? That seems fair.
Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another?
Yes. This is possible.
Are there other problems that The Times would face that I haven’t mentioned here?
Mainly that you think that refusing to print lies is some sort of confusing and brave new world for reporters?

This post needs to enshrined for future generations to as so they can better understand how everything went so wrong.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Real Talk on Foreign Policy, Imperialism

Your anti-imperial message, coming from a republican presidential candidate.

Incredibly powerful stuff. Wouldn't it be nice if someone in power on our side were openly talking like that?

We Are All Youssef El-Korma

Shit like this makes you proud to be a member of the human race.

Thomas Friedman visits Egypt, this happens:
"During a question-and-answer session, Friedman faced the ire of Youssef El-Korma, a member of AUC’s student leftist movement. “You can’t come here with a smile and preach to us on democracy when you’ve been demeaning Arabs and supporting war crimes in Gaza and Iraq,” said El-Korma. “We don’t welcome you here.”  El-Korma’s assertions were met with applause by the audience but failed to draw a response from Friedman, who replied to another student critic earlier by saying that, "In the Middle East everybody wants to own you, and if they can't, they will try to destroy you.""

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

No Change At Chief Of Staff

The horrendous Bill Daley of J.P. Morgan Chase has resigned as Obama's Chief of Staff. His goals were to "rebuild" Obama's relationship with the business community and work with congressional Republicans. Heckuva' job.

He is being replaced by Jacob Lew, a former Citigroup executive.

I didn't know banking experience was needed to be a chief of staff, but there you go. But in fairness to Lew, he isn't just any banking executive, he's an unbelievably shady one. Glenn Greenwald:
In 2010, Lew became head of the Office of Management and Budget when Peter Orszag left and then, a couple months later, accepted a multi-million dollar position as a high-level Citigroup official. Lew has spent many years in various government positions, but he has his own substantial ties to Citigroup. Here is what Lew was doing in 2008 at the time the financial crisis exploded, as detailed by an excellent Huffington Post report from last year:
[Lew] oversaw a Citigroup unit that profited off the housing collapse and financial crisis by investing in a hedge fund king who correctly predicted the eventual subprime meltdown and now finds himself involved in the center of the U.S. government’s fraud case against Goldman Sachs. . . .
[I]t is his few years at Citi — in particular the one year he spent at its then-$54 billion proprietary trading, hedge fund and private equity unit — that’s likely to raise the most eyebrows in the coming weeks as Lew faces a Senate confirmation hearing.
Especially his unit’s investments in a hedge fund that bet on the housing market to collapse — a reality suffered by millions of American homeowners.
In particular, the Citigroup fund run by Lew, Citi’s Alternative Investments, invested heavily in the hedge fund of John Paulson, “who made billions off the deterioration of the housing industry by making bearish bets on securities tied to home mortgages — particularly subprime home mortgages.” One of Paulson’s largest bets at the time involved Goldman Sachs, which the SEC has now charged with “defrauding investors by creating and selling exotic securities tied to subprime home mortgages in 2007 without disclosing that they were handpicked by a hedge fund [Paulson] that was betting on them to fail.”

Although these bets turned a profit for Citigroup as the housing market collapsed — a collapse that led to the foreclosures of millions of Americans’ homes — Lew’s unit “lost as much as billions of dollars in 2008 as its bets turned sour. In the first quarter of 2008 alone the unit lost $509 million; the company stopped publicly disclosing the unit’s individual numbers soon thereafter, but the part of the company that absorbed Alternative Investments lost $20.1 billion in 2008, according to the bank’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.” As a result of that and other losses, Citigroup received $45 billion as part of the Wall Street bailout, and also used a crisis-created FDIC program to issue another $64.6 billion in taxpayer-backed debt. All of that led to these comments when Lew was chosen last year to replace Orszag as OMB Director:
Lew’s role at the fund is raising some eyebrows among good government groups.
“That sounds pretty nasty, doesn’t it?” said Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, a group that monitors the budget office. “Any activity and any player that contributed to the economic calamity needs to be looked at.
“We already got enough players in this administration that certainly were key players in the economic malaise that we currently have,” Bass continued. “Why shouldn’t we have another one?” he said with a slight chuckle.
For his work at Citigroup, work that included betting on the housing collapse, Lew received a salary of $1.1 million. After Citigroup received its $45 billion taxpayer bailout, Lew — two weeks before joining the Obama administration — received another $900,000 from Citigroup as a bonus. This was revealed only in 2010; in 2009, when Lew first joined the administration as a State Department official, both he and the administration refused to say if he had received a post-bailout bonus from Citigroup (at the time, there was a huge political scandal over Wall Street executives receiving large bonuses despite needing taxpayer bailouts). There’s certainly nothing illegal about betting on a housing market collapse, but it’s quite symbolic that those who made millions of dollars from the crisis are now running government policy.

Lew (like so many key Obama officials) also participated in the orgy of Wall Street de-regulation that took place in the 1990s when he served as Clinton’s OMB head; after leaving Citigroup to join the Obama administration, he unsurprisingly said in response to questioning from Sen. Bernie Sanders that he does not believe deregulation contributed to the financial crisis.
Rahm, Daley, Lew. If they're anything this administration has been consistent on, it's making sure a corporate whore is the gatekeeper for the president.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Interesting Reading

I'm still digesting what was written, so I'm not entirely sure what I'd comment, but Glenn Greenwald and Matt Stoller wrote two really interesting and thought provoking pieces on Afghanistan, the drug war, civil liberties, and the awkward spot  Ron Paul's candidacy puts people in.

Stoller's piece. Greenwald's piece, and his follow up to the criticism he received. Corey Robin's post on this was also very good.

Attention Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL): Go Fuck Yourself

Nothing else to say, Autonomous Zone has the story, Mark Kirk is garbage.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Santorm Only Racist Against Blah People

We mentioned Rick Santorum's racism earlier this week. This might be the funniest/worst defense ever:
Iowa runner-up Rick Santorum said Thursday that he would be "a much bigger player" than expected in the New Hampshire primary and denied saying that he didn't want "to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money."

Santorum allegedly made the controversial comments when discussing welfare in an interview Wednesday night with Fox News, but he maintained that people misheard the word "black" when he stumbled on a word.

“I looked at that, and I didn't say that. If you look at it, what I started to say is a word and then sort of changed and it sort of — blah — came out.  And people said I said ‘black.’ I didn't," Santorum said.
My question is who are these blah people, and why are they taking other people's money?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Recess Appointments for All

Well, not all, just several important positions:
The White House confirmed Wednesday morning that President Obama will announce a recess appointment for Richard Cordray to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at a speech in Ohio later today. Cordray was a well-liked Ohio Attorney General until last year, after he was toppled by the GOP midterm wave in 2010.

Add the National Labor Relations Board to the list of agencies that will be given new life thanks to President Obama’s decision to thwart Senate Republicans and use his recess appointment power expansively.

The administration just announced that Obama will appoint Sharon Block, Terence Flynn, and Richard Grifin to the NLRB, preventing it from being crippled indefinitely thanks to Senate Republican intransigence.

One of the board’s members — Craig Becker — had to step aside this week after his recess appointment expired. That left the NLRB with only two sitting members — not enough, according to the Supreme Court, to constitute the quorum the board requires to function.
This is amazing news. Both positions make am immidiate positive impact on people's lives, and in Cordray's case, it allows him to start running a critically important organization that would have probably never gotten had this move not been made. The most interesting part of this whole saga is the end of Brian Beutler's story:
On Tuesday, they believed Obama could take advantage of a precedent set by Teddy Roosevelt, and filled those vacancies with the stroke of a pen and the blast of an email in the seconds-long window between sessions of the 112th Congress.

He didn’t do it. That meant the Senate went back in “pro forma” session, lackadaisically gaveling in and out every three days to avoid a technical “recess,” and thus prevent a recess appointment.

It’s customary for Presidents to heed this defensive tactic. But there’s nothing that says they have to. And Obama concluded he could move ahead. According to the Wall Street Journal the administration’s own attorneys don’t think they do — the Senate’s “pro forma” sessions are meaningless and Obama retains the Constitutional right to recess appoint whomever he wants until session begins in earnest.

This creates a significant new precedent — a bold power play in the face of an unprecedented act of GOP obstruction, but also something to which Obama (and Democrats more generally) have been pretty averse. Given that aversion, it’s hard to figure why Obama would choose to create a new precedent rather than avail himself of an existing one — unless you imagine he’s daring the GOP to make a big stink about it, and thus loudly side with Wall Street against him and middle-class consumers. It’s a safe bet that’s part of his thinking. 
So we had this power all along, and were just holding back to play nice? Are you fucking serious? Since Obama was elected it's been obvious to anyone with half a brain that the GOP was doing absolutely nothing in good faith, and was opposing everything that Obama wanted to get through (no matter how trivial), solely because they were dicks. Period.

Why now? And why not more? Why not use this power to place people on the federal reserve board where they could force Ben Bernanke to take the unemployement crisis seriously?

Don't get me wrong, this is incredibly good news. But there are plenty of times I wonder if politicians could actually do something about an issue, and the barriers they cite as obstacles aren't as insurmountable as they claim. This isn't to claim that idiotic rules that allow obstruction haven't made our government institutions broken, but that those in power don't really care about changing those rules that much because obstruction isn't as bad for them as they want you to believe.

Earlier this year Harry Reid stunned everyone when he single-handedly changed the rules of the senate for a comparatively trivial reason, because the Republicans were being dicks. No one was surprised that the Republicans were being dicks, but as an advocate of quite a few bills that were deemed "not to have the 60 votes" required to pass, I was a bit floored that the rules were only rules when people decided to follow them.

The dysfunction of our government is real, but moments like this show that there is quite a bit more Kabuki going on than we realize.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Last night in Iowa...
Mitt Romney – 24.6%
Rick Santorum – 24.5%
Ron Paul – 21.4%
Newt Gingrich – 13.3%
Rick Perry – 10.3%
Michele Bachmann – 5.0%
Jon Huntsman – 0.6%
99% of precincts reporting
I actually think this can fuck up Romney more than people are predicting. Santorum is crazy, but he's actually more polished than Cain, Bachmann or Perry, who were all able to surge for about a month before plummeting back to earth. The difference here is the timing on Santorum's surge is pretty ideal, especially combined with the news that Bachmann and Perry are dropping out. (update: Apparently perry isn't dropping out. Good luck with that!)

The craziest aspect of this primary has despite the fact that Romney is the only candidate that consistently beats Obama in the polls, he has only been able to get 30% of the GOP vote. Also, looking at PPP Polling's stuff a few weeks back, Romney wasn't the top second choice of any of these people, it was very much a Paul, Romney, and everyone else type division.

If Paul had won, I think there would be a movement among conservatives to suck it up and rally around Romney and make sure the greater evil (Paul) was defeated. The current situation could actually be a lot more troublesome for Romney. If Perry and Bachmann drop out, their support is much much more likely to go to Santorum than anyone else, especially Romney. Also, I'm not really sure where Newt's support will go when he drops out, but it does seem like he's willing to sacrifice any chance of winning to destroy Romney, which won't help Newt, but it would hurt Romney.

As absurd as this sounds, I could see a senario where Santorum's surge is perfectly timed, he gains the support of the other non-Romneys once they drop out, and wins the nomination. I've been wrong about this stuff on a fairly consistant basis before, but I do think that's a possibility.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rick Santorum: Also a Racist

Don't get how this quote hasn't gotten more attention:
At a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa on Sunday, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum singled out blacks as being recipients of assistance through federal benefit programs, telling a mostly-white audience he doesn't want to "make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money."

Answering a question about foreign influence on the U.S. economy, the former Pennsylvania senator went on to discuss the American entitlement system - which he argued is being used to politically exploit its beneficiaries.

"It just keeps expanding - I was in Indianola a few months ago and I was talking to someone who works in the department of public welfare here, and she told me that the state of Iowa is going to get fined if they don't sign up more people under the Medicaid program," Santorum said. "They're just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote. That's what the bottom line is."

He added: "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money."

"Right," responded one audience member, as another woman can be seen nodding.

"And provide for themselves and their families," Santorum added, to applause. "The best way to do that is to get the manufacturing sector of the economy rolling again."

It is unclear why Santorum pinpointed blacks specifically as recipients of federal aid. The original questioner asked "how do we get off this crazy train? We've got so much foreign influence in this country now," adding "where do we go from here?"
As I'm sure many of you know, most welfare recipients are white.

But Santorum singled out black people... at the very same time he's trying to win support of Republican base voters. Hmmmmm... can't quite put my finger on it...