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No More Hummer Nation

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times


You know you’re in trouble when Old Europe chastises you for being too socialist. But, hey, nobody’s perfect — except maybe Michelle Obama, who landed in London with a huge Obama entourage, wearing a daffodil yellow dress and looking like a confident ray of U.S.A. sunshine.

As President Obama renegotiates the terms of American leadership this week in Europe, those of us left at home struggle to get over our affluenza. That condition, the bane of the middle class, is defined in a book of the same name as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.”

The president is obviously worried about leaving us alone and under the economic weather; that must be why his Department of Health and Human Services put up some advice Tuesday on its Web site about “Getting Through Tough Economic Times.”

“Economic turmoil (e.g., increased unemployment, foreclosures, loss of investments and other financial distress) can result in a whole host of negative health effects — both physical and mental,” the government Web page sympathized, offering warning signs such as “persistent sadness/crying” and “excessive irritability/anger” and tips for managing stress, including: “Trying to keep things in perspective — recognize the good aspects of life and retain hope for the future.” And one particularly useful for Rick Wagoner and those of us in the newspaper business: Develop new employment skills....(Click for remainder).

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Religion-and-Politics Poll Reaches 'Seinfeld' Proportions on Nothingness

By Wendy Norris
The Colorado Independent


Focus on the Family Action exposes a shocking revelation from a new poll on religious beliefs and politics — liberals and conservatives are different.

The evangelical pollster The Barna Group reveals this and other rather obvious conclusions at CitizenLink.com, the lobbying arm of the Colorado Springs-based ministry and publishing empire. Grab the smelling salts and read on.

The survey of 3,012 adults was overwhelmingly weighted toward self-defined social/political conservatives (992) vs. liberals (511) but is entertaining nonetheless for its “Seinfeld”-esque capacity to rationalize any predicament and make something out of nothing.

Survey Shows How Liberals and Conservatives Differ on Matters of Faith
The Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches
Liberals 27%
Conservatives 63%

Believe that Satan is real
Liberals 17%
Conservatives 36%

Contend that they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others
Liberals 23%
Conservatives 48%

Religious faith is very important in their life
Liberals 54%
Conservatives 82%

The primary purpose in life is to love God with all their heart, mind, strength and soul
Liberals 43%
Conservatives 76%

Jesus Christ did not commit sins during His time on Earth
Liberals 33%
Conservatives 55%
(Click for remainder).

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Obama Tries to Rally World to Cope With Turmoil


By Associated Press
MSNBC


LONDON - Stepping onto the world stage for the first time in his two-month presidency, Barack Obama sought Wednesday to rally the world's top and emerging powers to help cope with a global economic downturn, saying, "We can only meet this challenge together."

The president also disputed criticism that the United States was feuding with other nations about the need to pump more money into economic stimulus policies, saying any differences are "vastly overstated."

"I am absolutely confident that this meeting will reflect enormous consensus about the need to work in concert to deal with these problems," Obama said before the G-20 economic crisis summit.

Obama prodded nations to spur growth and work together on regulatory reform, and not to fall into the kind of protectionism and other mistakes that helped fuel the Great Depression.

"That is a mistake that we cannot afford to repeat," Obama said alongside British Prime Minister Gordon Brown....(Click for remainder).

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Obama’s Ersatz Capitalism

By Joseph E. Stiglitz
The New York Times


THE Obama administration's $500 billion or more proposal to deal with America's ailing banks has been described by some in the financial markets as a win-win-win proposal. Actually, it is a win-win-lose proposal: the banks win, investors win — and taxpayers lose.

Treasury hopes to get us out of the mess by replicating the flawed system that the private sector used to bring the world crashing down, with a proposal marked by overleveraging in the public sector, excessive complexity, poor incentives and a lack of transparency.

Let's take a moment to remember what caused this mess in the first place. Banks got themselves, and our economy, into trouble by overleveraging — that is, using relatively little capital of their own, they borrowed heavily to buy extremely risky real estate assets. In the process, they used overly complex instruments like collateralized debt obligations.

The prospect of high compensation gave managers incentives to be shortsighted and undertake excessive risk, rather than lend money prudently. Banks made all these mistakes without anyone knowing, partly because so much of what they were doing was "off balance sheet" financing....(Click for remainder).

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Minnesota Court Ruling Supports Franken; Coleman Appeal Likely

By Jeremy Gantz
The Raw Story


It could very well be the beginning of the end for Norm Coleman. Or the harbinger of a whole new legal battle for his tireless lawyers.

As much as Al Franken's lawyers celebrated it Tuesday, the long-awaited Minnesota state court ruling on Norm Coleman's appeal of the Senate race recount has – you guessed it – not quite put an end to the post-election showdown, now more than four months long.

A three judge panel has ordered that up 400 absentee ballots that were rejected by election workers be opened and reviewed – far fewer than the 1,300 Coleman argued should be counted. The ballots will be reviewed and many of them may be counted by Tuesday, April 7th – or not.

“To be clear, not every absentee ballot identified in this order will be ultimately be opened and counted," the ruling said.

Franken was left with a 225-vote lead after a hand recount of the election's result in November, so an overwhelming portion of the 400 ballots would have to go to Coleman for him to lose his lead. The decision is being celebrated by the Franken campaign as a win....(Click for remainder).

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Feingold Is Eager for Some Victories

By Jessica Brady
Roll Call


Sen. Russ Feingold’s (D-Wis.) early moves this year to ban the death penalty and amend the Constitution look like the bold strokes of a liberal lawmaker feeling liberated by a Democratic White House.

But despite the steady stream of bill introductions and press releases, Feingold’s frenetic pace and legislative to-do list are remarkably consistent even in an air of change ushered in by President Barack Obama.

“My level of activity is the same it’s always been. There’s just a greater possibility of actually accomplishing things,” Feingold said. “There’s a much higher comfort level with the president now than before.”

In Obama, Feingold has found a fellow Midwesterner and former constitutional law professor who shares a passion for legal issues and government oversight.

He has also found an ally on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue interested in banning alleged torture techniques used during the Bush administration and focusing on “restoring the rule of law.”

“There are things the president can do on his own,” Feingold said, pointing to Obama’s early moves to close the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba and end the use of torture when interrogating terrorism suspects.

But Feingold does not want to stop there....(Click for remainder).

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Will Europe Be Held Hostage in Prague Castle?

By Jan Puhl
Der Spiegel Online


The fall of the Czech government in a no-confidence vote last week has left the European Union reeling. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek fell victim to the murky political culture in Prague that has left the ideals of the Velvet Revolution far behind.

Mirek Topolanek, from the far east of the Czech Republic, likes to say that he's a "guy with balls" -- and he acts accordingly. He once shouted "I'll kill you" at a journalist and he's raised his middle finger at political opponents. He has referred to the EU's Lisbon Treaty as "a pile of crap."

But since becoming prime minister two years ago, the tough guy seemed to have gotten himself under control. He deftly hammered out a coalition and steered his Civic Democratic Party (ODS) -- middle class and traditionally critical of the EU -- on a Brussels-friendly course. And since January, Topolanek has even proved to be a passable statesman as his country holds the European Union's rotating presidency.

Then last week, he relapsed. Topolanek declared in front of the European Parliament that United States President Barack Obama's multi-billion-dollar stimulus package was "a road to hell" -- and this just as Prague is set to host Obama at the US-EU summit later this week. At that moment the Czech prime minister was once again very much the provincial politician from Vsetín. The EU Parliament in Strasbourg was confronted with a man who had nothing left to lose -- the evening before, the parliament in Prague had suddenly withdrawn its support for him in a no-confidence vote....(Click for remainder).

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Brian Fairrington: CM Collapse

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Un nuevo día para una sociedad de las Américas

Por Joseph R. Biden, vicepresidente de Estados Unidos

El mes entrante, el Presidente Obama viajará a Trinidad y Tobago para reunirse con colegas de todo el Hemisferio Occidental en la Cumbre de las Américas. Previo a esa histórica reunión, estoy viajando a Centroamérica y Sudamérica para realizar consultas con líderes latinoamericanos congregados en Chile y Costa Rica respecto a la cumbre y los desafíos que enfrentan los pueblos de las Américas.

Estas reuniones son un primer e importante paso hacia un nuevo día en las relaciones y el desarrollo de una sociedad entre los países y pueblos del hemisferio.

El Presidente y yo comprendemos que sólo al trabajar juntos, nuestros países pueden superar los desafíos que enfrentamos. Hoy en día, ya no sólo somos naciones independientes que sucede que están en el mismo lado del planeta. En el actual mundo interconectado, todos somos vecinos que enfrentamos muchas inquietudes comunes.

La actual crisis económica mundial nos ha afectado a prácticamente todos: a cada país, cada comunidad y cada familia. Los ciudadanos de todos los países buscan respuestas, buscan esperanza, y para ellas, recurren a sus líderes. Es nuestro deber como socios mundiales escuchar su llamado y forjar juntos la solución a un problema común.

Nuestra administración está tomando varias medidas para hacer que esto suceda. Nuestro Congreso ha aprobado la Ley para la Recuperación y Reinversión en Estados Unidos, que tiene como propósito promover la generación de empleo y fijar el curso para el crecimiento durante la próxima generación. Con su presupuesto, el Presidente se propone sentar las bases de la economía del futuro, con considerable inversión en cuidado de salud, educación y energía. Y estamos trabajando con nuestros socios en el G-20, que se reunirán la próxima semana en Londres, en un plan concertado para asegurar la recuperación y reanudación del crecimiento, y para reformar el sistema normativo y de supervisión internacional a fin de asegurar que una crisis de este tipo no vuelva a suceder.

Para el continente americano, reactivar la economía de Estados Unidos y asegurarse de que las instituciones financieras internacionales atiendan los intereses del pueblo es de particular importancia. Nuestra interconexión económica implica que la solidez económica de Estados Unidos es de beneficio para el hemisferio y puede convertirse en el motor que impulse el crecimiento económico de abajo hacia arriba y la igualdad en toda la región.

La economía no es el único desafío que requiere de nuestra cooperación. También enfrentamos un doble desafío de seguridad, tanto para nuestros países como sus pobladores. Nuestras naciones están agobiadas por la violencia de pandillas y el tráfico ilegal de armas y narcóticos.

En Estados Unidos, necesitamos hacer más para reducir la demanda de drogas ilícitas y detener el tráfico de armas y grandes cantidades de efectivo a través de nuestra frontera sur. Aplaudimos la valiente posición de México contra los carteles de drogas, como también los esfuerzos de Colombia por combatir las drogas, pero sabemos que tendrán el efecto secundario de empujar a los traficantes hacia Centroamérica. Nos basaremos en la Iniciativa de Mérida, iniciada el año pasado con el Presidente Bush, para ayudar a México y los países centroamericanos en un esfuerzo conjunto por enfrentar esa amenaza directamente. El narcotráfico es un problema que todos compartimos, y debemos encontrar una solución definitiva juntos.

Conforme a la Carta Democrática Interamericana, también debemos concentrarnos en forjar y fomentar democracias sólidas, donde la justicia, la igualdad social, el profundo respeto de los derechos humanos y el imperio de la ley son los principios que guían todo lo que hacemos. La democracia va más allá de realizar elecciones; requiere de buen gobierno, transparencia y una sociedad civil próspera. También requiere acometer de la forma más eficaz posible los desafíos de la pobreza, y la exclusión y desigualdad en la sociedad.

Reconocemos que Estados Unidos aún se esfuerza por cumplir con su objetivo constitucional de crear una "unión más perfecta" y que en el pasado, no hemos alcanzado nuestros propios ideales. Pero juramos liderar con el ejemplo y a diario honraremos los valores que inspiran a nuestra democracia. Es por eso que, en su tercer día en el cargo, el Presidente dispuso que se cerrara el centro de detención en la bahía de Guantánamo.

Finalmente, todos enfrentamos la amenaza que el cambio climático representa para nuestro planeta, y por lo tanto, compartimos la necesidad de crear fuentes de energía limpia para combatir —y revertir— esta peligrosa amenaza. El Presidente y yo nos hemos comprometido firmemente a ser líderes en la formulación de una respuesta urgente y concertada al cambio climático. Al colaborar como socios, podemos aprovechar el potencial de la energía verde de manera que proteja el planeta que recibirán nuestras futuras generaciones y, a la vez, catalice el crecimiento económico para las actuales generaciones.

Al encarar estas amenazas y hacerle frente a la más seria crisis económica en varias generaciones, los países del hemisferio deben fijar la vista hacia el futuro. Y debemos trabajar juntos, como aliados, para trasmitirles a nuestros ciudadanos la esperanza de que el futuro nos ofrecerá días mejores.

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A New Day for Partnership in the Americas

By Vice President Joe Biden

Next month, President Obama will travel to Trinidad and Tobago to meet his colleagues from across the Western Hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas. In advance of that historic meeting, I am traveling to Central and South America to consult with Latin American leaders gathered in Chile and Costa Rica about the Summit and the challenges faced by the people of the Americas.

These meetings are an important first step toward a new day in relations and building partnerships with and among the countries and people of the Hemisphere.

The President and I understand that only by working together can our countries overcome the challenges we face. Today, we are more than just independent nations who happen to be on the same side of the globe. In today’s interconnected world, we are all neighbors who face many common concerns.

The current global economic crisis has touched virtually all of us—every country, every community, every family. Citizens everywhere are searching for answers, looking for hope—and turning to their leaders to provide them. It is our duty as global partners to heed their calls, to together forge a shared solution to a common problem.

Our Administration is taking several steps to make this happen. Our Congress has approved the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which is designed to promote job creation and to set a course for growth for the next generation. The President has proposed a budget designed to set a foundation for the economy of the future, with important investments in health care, education, and energy. And we are working with our partners in the G-20, who meet next week in London, on a coordinated plan to ensure recovery and restart growth, and to reform the international regulatory and supervisory system to ensure that no such crisis occurs again.

Rekindling the U.S. economy and ensuring that international financial institutions serve the interests of the people are particularly important for the Americas. Our economic interconnection means that a robust U.S. economy is good for the hemisphere and can become an engine for bottom up economic growth and equality throughout the region.

The economy isn’t the only challenge requiring our cooperation. We also face dual challenges of security – both for our countries and for the individuals who inhabit them. Our countries are plagued by gang violence and the illegal trafficking of weapons and narcotics.

In the United States, we need to do more to reduce demand for illicit drugs and stem the flow of weapons and bulk cash south across our borders. We applaud Mexico’s courageous stand against violent drug cartels, as well as Colombia’s anti-drug efforts, but we know that they will have the side effect of pushing traffickers into Central America. We will build on the Meridá Initiative – started last year under President Bush – to assist Mexico and the Central American nations in a joint effort to confront that threat head-on. The drug trade is a problem we all share and one whose ultimate solution we must devise together.

Consistent with the Inter-American Democratic Charter, we must also focus on building and encouraging strong democracies, where basic fairness, social equality, and a deep respect for human rights and the rule of law are the guiding principles of everything we do. Democracy is about more than elections; it’s about strong, transparent governance and a thriving civil society. It is also about addressing as effectively as possible the challenges of poverty, inequality and social exclusion

We recognize that the United States is still striving to meet its constitutional goal of forming a "more perfect union" and that we have, in the past, fallen short of our own ideals. But we pledge every day to honor the values that animate our democracy, and to lead by example. This is why, on his third day in office, the President ordered the closure of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

Finally, we all face the threat to our planet posed by the changing climate, and, so, we share the need to develop clean energy sources to combat—and reverse—this critical threat. The President and I are deeply committed to leading in the development of an urgent and coordinated response to climate change. Working as partners, we must harness the potential of green energy in a way that protects our planet for future generations, while also catalyzing economic growth for the generations of today.

As we face these threats and as we confront the most serious economic crisis in generations, the countries of the Hemisphere must look forward. And we must work together, as partners, to give our citizens hope that brighter days lie ahead.

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"We the People" to "King of the World": "YOU'RE FIRED!" ...a letter from Michael Moore

By Michael Moore

Friends,

Nothing like it has ever happened. The President of the United States, the elected representative of the people, has just told the head of General Motors -- a company that's spent more years at #1 on the Fortune 500 list than anyone else -- "You're fired!"

I simply can't believe it. This stunning, unprecedented action has left me speechless for the past two days. I keep saying, "Did Obama really fire the chairman of General Motors? The wealthiest and most powerful corporation of the 20th century? Can he do that? Really? Well, damn! What else can he do?!"

This bold move has sent the heads of corporate America spinning and spewing pea soup. Obama has issued this edict: The government of, by, and for the people is in charge here, not big business. John McCain got it. On the floor of the Senate he asked, "What does this signal send to other corporations and financial institutions about whether the federal government will fire them as well?" Senator Bob Corker said it "should send a chill through all Americans who believe in free enterprise." The stock market plunged as the masters of the universe asked themselves, "Am I next?" And they whispered to each other, "What are we going to do about this Obama?"

Not much, fellows. He has the massive will of the American people behind him -- and he has been granted permission by us to do what he sees fit. If you liked this week's all-net 3-pointer, stay tuned....(Click for remainder).

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Fox News' La Jeunesse Ignores Effective Tax Rate to Claim U.S. Corporate Tax "Second Highest in the World"

By Media Matters

On the March 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent William La Jeunesse asserted that "our corporate tax rate is second highest in the world," ignoring the effective corporate tax rate, which is lower in the United States than it is in several other countries.

As Media Matters for America has noted, conservatives in the media, including The Wall Street Journal, Fox News host Neil Cavuto, and radio host Rush Limbaugh, have pointed to the U.S. statutory corporate tax rate of 35 percent to claim that the United States has one of the highest tax rates in the world. In fact, according to an August 2008 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), "Statutory tax rates do not provide a complete measure of the burden that a tax system imposes on business income because many other aspects of the system, such as exemptions, deferrals, tax credits, and other forms of incentives, also determine the amount of tax a business ultimately pays on its income." World Bank and GAO data indicate that the U.S. effective corporate tax rate is lower than 35 percent and lower than several other nations' effective corporate tax rate.

In its August 2008 report, the GAO estimated that "[t]he average U.S. effective tax rate on the domestic income of large corporations with positive domestic income in 2004 was an estimated 25.2 percent." Moreover, in June 2007, the Treasury Department concluded: "If special provisions were eliminated, the top corporate tax rate could be lowered to 27 percent or more than 40 percent expensing could be provided to all businesses for new the cost of tangible investments, and the tax system would produce the same level of revenue." Further, in its Paying Taxes 2009 publication, based on its 2009 Doing Business report, the World Bank-International Finance Corporation estimated that the United States has a lower effective rate of current corporate tax than that of several other nations, including Germany, Canada, India, China, Brazil, Japan, and Italy. The publication also included a figure that compared effective and statutory corporate tax rates for several G8 and BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, China] countries:

(Click for remainder).

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Elaine Donnelly Steps Up Crusade Against Gays in the Military

By Andy
Towelroad


Elaine Donnelly of the anti-gay Center for Military Readiness (you may remember reading about her testimony at last July's hearings before the House Armed Services Committee) has rounded up a group of 1,000 anti-gay retired military officers to get behind her bigoted crusade.

The AP reports: "A statement issued by the retired officers Tuesday said passage of that bill 'would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service, and eventually break the All-Volunteer Force.' Among the signatories were Gen. Carl E. Mundy, Jr., a former commandant of the Marine Corps; Adm. Leighton W. Smith, a former commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe; Gen. Charles A. Horner, who commanded U.S. aerial forces during the 1990-91 Gulf War; and Adm. Jerome L. Johnson, a former vice chief of Naval Operations. The retired officers said they strongly supported the principle that 'homosexuality is incompatible with military service' and warned that repeal of current law could jeopardize morale and 'unit cohesion.'"

Both Servicemember's Legal Defense Fund (SLDN) executive director Aubrey Sarvis and Unfriendly Fire author Nathaniel Frank criticized Donnelly.

Said Sarvis: "The signers of this petition are mired in the fears and politics of the past. More than 75 percent of the American public, including most younger service members as well as many active duty flag officers, realize the question is not if 'don't ask, don't tell' is repealed, but when and how."

You may remember Donnelly held a secret strategy meeting last October in Washington DC with Veterans Service Organizations which was busted by PFLAG after they intercepted a letter from Donnelly to the VSOs. It appears this is what has come of that meeting....(Click for remainder).

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After Flip-Flopping On Recovery Package, Rep. Cao Suggests He Might Support Obama’s Budget

By Ryan Powers
Think Progress


Several days before the House voted on President Obama's economic recovery package, freshman Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) told the Times-Picayune that he would "more likely than not" vote for the legislation because the "2nd Congressional District needs a stimulus package." When it came time to vote, however, Cao gave into pressure from his party and voted no.

Now, Cao appears to be flirting again with the idea of bucking his party, telling the Hill earlier today that he may vote for Obama's proposed budget:
Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.) may buck his party when the House votes on President Obama's budget proposal later this week. The freshman lawmaker told The Hill that his constituents are split, adding that he wants more information before deciding whether to stick with his party or side with the president. […]

"At this point, I'm not sure which is approach is better," Cao said Tuesday morning. If he votes yes, Cao would be the first Republican in recent memory to support a Democratic budget resolution.
Despite Cao's wobbly position on Obama's agenda, his constituents appear to support it whole-heartedly. Not only did Cao's district vote 75 percent in favor of Obama last November, but after Cao voted against the recovery package, several of his constituents initiated a recall campaign....(Click for remainder).

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Life in Mendota, Calif., where the jobless rate is 41 percent

By Chris Collins
Fresno Bee


MENDOTA, Calif. — The customer seemed interested in a black blouse offered for $1 at the thrift store. But instead of buying it, she set it on the front counter.

Maybe tomorrow, she told the cashier, she would have the money. Or the next day. But not now.

"That is the way people are now," said the cashier, Alicia Reyes, as she watched the middle-aged woman walk out of the store. "They just come in here and look. They just come in here to kill the time. And then they take off."

Welcome to life in Mendota — the unemployment capital of California. With a 41 percent jobless rate, the town's social fabric is tearing at the seams. Alcoholism and crime are on the rise. To save money, some mothers wash and re-use disposable diapers. Unemployed men with nothing to do wander the streets and sit on benches.

The irony is obvious: In a large swath of the nation's most productive farming region, many struggle to fill their own cupboards.

During this third year of drought, farmers on the west side are fallowing hundreds of thousands of acres and hiring fewer than half the workers they did two years ago. They blame the dry weather and federal environmental laws — meant to protect endangered species of fish — that have severely restricted how much water can flow into the west side.

With the prospect of more water shortages in the future, many farmers are shifting toward less water-dependent crops that don't require as many workers. That could prove devastating to hundreds, if not thousands, of families in west-side towns who have always depended on agriculture jobs....(Click for remainder).

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Jonathan Richards: The Elephant's New Clothes

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Alaska GOP Senator Smacks Jindal: "Monitoring Volcanoes is Critically Important"

By Eric Kleefeld
Talking Points Memo


Bobby Jindal's denunciations of federal spending to monitor volcanoes is now attracting some serious critcism from a Republican Senator -- namely Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, whose state has been recently disrupted by a series of eruptions from Mount Redoubt.

"Recently there were some comments made about federal spending for volcano monitoring being wasteful," Murkowski said from the Senate floor, without naming Jindal directly. "I can assure you that monitoring volcanoes is critically important to the nation and especially to my home state of Alaska."

In Jindal's speech, he said: "While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes ... $140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring.' Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC."...(Click for remainder).

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Waxman And Markey To Unveil Climate Change Legislation

By Ryan Grim
The Huffington Post


Two powerful House Democrats plan to unveil a draft of a climate change bill Tuesday, officially kicking off the legislative race to cap carbon emissions and create a regime of tradable credits that polluters can buy and sell.

[Update: Here's the draft.]

The draft is authored by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. The select committee was created by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who hand-picked Markey to lead it.

In general, the Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over legislation that raises revenue, but Waxman and Markey are charging ahead regardless. "We're going to work on a bill and where Ways and Means may have jurisdiction," Waxman told the Huffington Post, emphasizing "may" just as Markey walked by. "We'll work with them."

Some observers had expected Waxman to set a stake on the left with his opening bid, but the package he'll unveil is more generous to businesses as they are forced to transition to an economy where the cost of emitting carbon is borne by polluters and not merely by the sky. It broadly follows emissions reductions guidelines called for by the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of business and environmental groups....(Click for remainder).

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Goldfarb: ‘PNAC=Mission Accomplished; New mission begins’ with Foreign Policy Initiative

By Ben Armbruster
Think Progress


Last November, Weekly Standard super hawk Bill Kristol hinted that he would be starting up a new "think-tank" modeled after the neoconservative Project for a New American Century (PNAC). PNAC provided much of the ideological framework for the invasion of Iraq and many of its members and sympathizers lobbied heavily for it. Today, Kristol is officially launching PNAC 2.0 — or as it is now called, "The Foreign Policy Initiative" (started with fellow neocons Robert Kagan and Dan Senor) with an event in Washington D.C. on the future of the Afghanistan war. The Wonk Room's Matt Duss recently observed of FPI:
What do you do if your previous organization — and the ideology behind it — has become inextricably bound in the public's imagination to one of the worst foreign policy blunders in American history? Obviously, shut it down, and start a new organization with a new name.
However, Michael Goldfarb — Project for a New American Century alum, former McCain campaign spokesman and current Weekly Standard editor — sees it differently. Writing on Twitter yesterday, Goldfard claimed: "PNAC=Mission Accomplished; New mission begins tomorrow morning with the launch of FPI."...(Click for remainder).

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Obamas Arrive In London, First Leg Of Europe Trip

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The Other F-Bomb

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly

Just two months after the inauguration, so many conservatives throw around "fascism" and "fascist" to describe the White House, I already feel more or less desensitized. After seeing David Henderson join the club, Megan McArdle suggests it's time for a moratorium.
All this does is drag the specter of Hitler into the conversation. And the problem with Hitler was not his industrial policy -- I mean, okay, fine, Hitler's industrial policy bad, right, but I could forgive him for that, you know? The thing that really bothers me about Hitler was the genocide. And I'm about as sure as I can be that Obama has no plans to round up millions of people, put them in camps, and find various creative ways to torture them to death.

If he does, look, I take it all back. Use the F-word freely. Hell, I'll hide you in our spare bedroom when the state police squads come looking for you. But until then, can we stick to less inflammatory terms? Surely creative and intelligent adults can find ways to critique Obama without pointing out that Hitler was also a very effective speaker.
Oddly enough, Glenn Beck, Fox News' deranged media personality, has been telling a national television audience that the Obama administration might be setting up secret "concentration camps" to lock up conservatives. The president, Beck believes, may be using FEMA in this conspiratorial drive towards "a totalitarian state," so at least one prominent right-wing voice with disagree with McArdle's assumption.

But I digress....(Click for remainder).

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Taliban Leader: We're Planning Attack On D.C. "Soon"

By Ishtiaq Mahsud
Associated Press via The Huffington Post


ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's Taliban chief claimed responsibility Tuesday for a deadly assault on a police academy, saying he wanted to retaliate for U.S. missile attacks on the militant bases on the border with Afghanistan. Baitullah Mehsud, who has a $5 million bounty on his head from the United States, also vowed to "amaze everyone in the world" with an attack on Washington or even the White House.

The FBI, however, said he had made similar threats previously and there was no indication of anything imminent.

Mehsud, who gave a flurry of media interviews Tuesday, has no record of actually striking targets abroad although he is suspected of being behind a 10-man cell arrested in Barcelona in January 2008 for plotting suicide attacks in Spain.

Pakistan's former government and the CIA consider him the prime suspect behind the December 2007 killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. And Pakistani officials accuse him of harboring foreign fighters, including Central Asians linked to al-Qaida, and of training suicide bombers.

But analysts doubt that Taliban fighters carried off Monday's raid on the Lahore academy on their own, saying the group is likely working more closely than ever with militants based far from the Afghan frontier.

It's a constellation that includes al-Qaida, presenting a formidable challenge to the U.S. as it increases its troop presence in the region, not to mention nuclear-armed Pakistan's own stability....(Click for remainder).

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Labor Wins 'Prevailing Wages' in Stimulus


Expansion of Davis-Bacon Marks Break From Bush

By Jefferson Morley
The Washington Independent


Though stymied on the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to form unions, organized labor is about to claim a big consolation prize: the massive application of a law guaranteeing “prevailing wages” for hundreds of thousands of construction workers hired under President Obama’s economic stimulus program.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is now preparing guidelines that will expand the scope of the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, according to a department spokesperson.

“In some cases, the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage provisions will apply to federal construction contracts in the same manner as they currently apply,” said spokesperson Dolline Hatchett in an email. “In other instances, the prevailing wage provisions will apply to certain projects that may not have been subject to the Davis-Bacon provisions in the past.”

LaHood’s action will put a floor under wages paid for the more than 678,000 construction jobs (pdf) that the White House estimates will be created by the end of 2010. It also marks a sharp reversal of U.S. policy on public works projects under President Bush, who in September 2005 suspended Davis-Bacon in the Gulf States after Hurricane Katrina.

“This is good news for American workers,” said Tom Owens, director of communications for the Building Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. “Everything in the stimulus program is covered. Congress was very clear about prevailing wages.”

Marc Freedman, director of labor law policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, calls the Davis-Bacon standards “complicated and counterproductive” but conceded opponents have limited means to fight the measure because the stimulus legislation is so explicit.

The legislation, approved by Congress and signed by President Obama last month, mandates that all “laborers and mechanics” on projects “funded directly by or assisted in whole or in part” by the stimulus program have to be paid at least as much workers on similar projects in the same area, as determined by the Department of Labor. (pdf)...(Click for remainder).

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It's Not Supposed to be This Way

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly


There's a common misunderstanding in politics, especially among political reporters, that the Senate has always required a 60-vote supermajority to pass every meaningful piece of legislation. That's nonsense.

As Matt Yglesias recently noted, "Simple logic indicates that this is false -- it used to require a unanimous vote to end a filibuster and, obviously, non-unanimous bills passed. But there are more examples. For example, before the 1970s you needed two-thirds of the Senate to end a filibuster, but the Lend-Lease Act went through the Senate on a 60-31 vote (according to the rules of the day, you would have needed 66 as there were only 98 Senators) without the minority obstructing the bill.... [R]outine filibustering is a new tradition and not a time-honored principle of American government."

And yet, it's treated as if it were a historical norm, instead of a bizarre fluke with no foundation in the American legislative or political tradition. We're supposed to have a process in which legislation becomes law after passing both chambers of Congress and receiving the president's signature. Now, however, after no discussion or formal debate, we somehow got stuck with a system in which 41 senators can block a vote on almost anything they choose.

It is, as this chart from Norm Ornstein makes clear, an entirely modern creation.


If you're having trouble making out the years, note that as recently as the 1960s, filibusters were rare (and as it turns out, largely inconsequential). Now, they're an assumed hurdle for practically every bill. The last Congress broke a record, and there's every reason to believe Republicans' obstructionist tactics will break the record again in the 111th Congress that ends next year....(Click for remainder).

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Cheney's Snuff Squad

By Scott Horton
Harper's Magazine


In the course of a recent college event, Sy Hersh made waves by talking about a targeted killings program operated by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) which he said was being directed out of the White House by Vice President Cheney. Here’s the way he summarized it yesterday in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer:
I know for sure… the idea that we have a unit that goes around, without reporting to Congress… and has authority from the President to go into the country without telling the CIA station chief or the ambassador and whack somebody. … You’ve delegated authority to troops in the field to hit people on the basis of whatever intelligence they think is good.
Later in the day, CNN interviewed Cheney’s former national security adviser John Hannah. He started his response by saying that Hersh’s account was “certainly not true.” But this denial, it soon became apparent, rested on a semantic quibble. In fact, Hannah confirmed the existence of the targeted killings program:
There’s clearly a group of people that go through a very extremely well-vetted process, interagency process… that have committed acts of war against the United States, who are at war with the United States or are suspected of planning operations of war against the United States, who authority is given to our troops in the field in certain war theaters to capture or kill those individuals. That is certainly true.
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Mexico's War Must Be Our War

Helping Mexico take on the drug cartels helps us, but the effort will require unprecedented cooperation between our two countries.

By Senator John Kerry
Los Angeles Times


Writing From Washington -- Last month, a hit squad sent by a Mexican drug cartel brazenly broke into the homes of nine police officers in a ranching town in northern Mexico. They kidnapped the officers, piled them into a convoy of SUVs and sped off into the night.

After being summoned by local authorities, troops from Ciudad Juarez, 80 miles to the north, located the convoy and fought a running gun battle with the kidnappers. When the smoke cleared, 21 people were dead, including six policemen who had been tortured and murdered before the soldiers could save them.

 Even in Mexico, where a spiraling drug war has claimed more than 7,000 lives in the last 15 months, the scale of the violence was shocking. But in one respect, the shootout represented a breakthrough.

Soon after the bullets stopped flying, a Mexican military officer called a trusted U.S. contact and offered to let American officials inspect the weapons taken from the hit men. The guns were mostly AK-47 knockoffs, and U.S. agents traced them to a dealer in El Paso, just across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez. The dealer was already on trial for arming the cartels. He now faces new charges.

Mexico is not the failed state that some pundits have warned about, but the crisis is undeniable -- and it cannot be addressed without the United States and Mexico working together to combat crimes that respect no border. But our response must be respectful of our long partnership with Mexico.

Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a field hearing in El Paso to hear from U.S. and Mexican officials about ways to develop a better joint response to the border violence.

Our two countries are already cooperating at an unprecedented level. President Felipe Calderon has approved the extradition of a record 178 drug traffickers to the U.S., and he deserves praise for his courageous stand in going after the drug cartels. But there is more that can be done on both sides....(Click for remainder).

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Recession Puts a Major Strain On Social Security Trust Fund

As Payroll Tax Revenue Falls, So Does Surplus

By Lori Montgomery
The Washington Post


The U.S. recession is wreaking havoc on yet another front: the Social Security trust fund.

With unemployment rising, the payroll tax revenue that finances Social Security benefits for nearly 51 million retirees and other recipients is falling, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office. As a result, the trust fund's annual surplus is forecast to all but vanish next year -- nearly a decade ahead of schedule -- and deprive the government of billions of dollars it had been counting on to help balance the nation's books.

While the new numbers will not affect payments to current Social Security recipients, experts say, the disappearing surplus could have considerable implications for the government's already grim financial situation.

The Treasury Department has for decades borrowed money from the Social Security trust fund to finance government operations. If it is no longer able to do so, it could be forced to borrow an additional $700 billion over the next decade from China, Japan and other investors. And at some point, perhaps as early as 2017, according to the CBO, the Treasury would have to start repaying the billions it has borrowed from the trust fund over the past 25 years, driving the nation further into debt or forcing Congress to raise taxes.

The new forecast is fueling calls for reform of the Social Security system from conservative analysts, who say it underscores the financial fragility of a system that provides a primary source of income for millions of Americans.

"It suggests we better get working on Social Security and stop burying our heads in the sand," said Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. "The Social Security trust fund, though technically in balance, is going to put huge pressures on taxpayers very soon."

Many liberal analysts reject the notion that Social Security needs fixing, arguing that the system is projected to fully support payments to beneficiaries through 2041 -- so long as the Treasury repays its debts. But they agree that the news is not good for the federal budget.

"This is not a problem for Social Security, it's a problem for fiscal responsibility," said Christian Waller, a public policy professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. He said the new estimates would force President Obama and his budget director, Peter Orszag, "to stay on track in what they have set out to do, and that is rein in deficits."...(Click for remainder).

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"Mann" Coulter Bushwacked on Radio by Conservative Christian Anti-Choice Freaks

By Wendy Norris
The Colorado Independent


Ultra-conservative Christian talk-radio hosts are taking a new approach to get their message out — ambushing right-wing pundit Ann Coulter for supporting 2008 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Absolutist anti-abortion activists accuse Romney of being “willing to sacrifice children for your vote.”

The Denver-based American Right to Life Action (RTL) leads the charge against Coulter with a YouTube video that shows excerpts of Coulter’s on-air radio freak-outs and calls on the acid-tongued author to apologize and retract her support for Romney.


In typical Coulter fashion, she calls the critics “crazy Romney froofers,” “fanatics” and “on the order of 9-11 conspiracy theorists” before hanging up.

The foul-mouthed pundit, whose stock in trade is making withering remarks about liberals, may have met her match in American RTL’s leaders: ex-Colorado GOP chairman Steve Curtis, Brian Rohrbough, whose son Daniel died in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, and bombastic Pastor Bob Enyart — the three men are no shrinking violets themselves....(Click for remainder).

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Republican Hit and Run

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Obama Lands in the UK

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Andrew Breitbart's New Conspiracy Theory is Something Conservative (Like John McCain) Have Been Doing to Us For Years

By John Amato
Crooks and Liars


Andrew Breitbart tries to whip up the right wing bloggers into a frenzy over his new conspiracy theory about "comments" put by liberals on right-wing blogs which appears in the Moonie Times. This meme is on Memeorandum and is so laughable that I spit out my coffee:
A digital war has broken out, and the conservative movement is losing. Read the comment sections of right-leaning blogs, news sites and social forums, and the evidence is there in ugly abundance. Internet hooligans are spewing their talking points to thwart the dissent of the newly-out-of-power.

We must not let that go unanswered.

Uninvited Democratic activists are on a mission to demoralize the enemy - us. They want to ensure that President Obama is not subject to the same coordinated, facts-be-damned, multimedia takedown they employed over eight long years to destroy the presidency - and the humanity - of George W. Bush.
OK, Andrew. The beginning to your article is as ridiculous as the propaganda that you put forth. First of all, President Bush destroyed his own administration and the GOP. I don't think I need to list what he's done to this country and to the world that led to his own demise and turned the leadership of the GOP into Rush Limbaugh's hands. He lied to the American people to start a war in Iraq, if you've forgotten. All without our help. We just happened to notice -- unlike, say, you....(Click for remainder).

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More Beck Babble: Wind Power Needs Nukes to Work

Beck-EarthHour_03-30-09
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Just to be a jerk, Glenn Beck yesterday used his show to demonstrate -- like a number of his fellow right-wingers -- his utter contempt for Earth Hour: running his klieg lights at full blast to show how much energy he could waste. Yeah, that's the kind of responsible rhetoric we need more of. Whatever.

But the really special moment in the broadcast came when he started talking about wind power as an alternative form of energy with Tom Borelli of the "Free Enterprise Action Fund" -- a right-wing anti-environmental outfit -- about the Obama energy plan, and this burst out:

Beck-WindRant_03-30-09
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Beck: You can't make wind energy work without nuclear energy as well. Wind stops --

Borelli: You know that, but Congress doesn't know that.

Beck: Use your common sense! Hey America! Use common sense here! Let just try this out!

Wind, when it blows, makes energy. When it stops, you can't store it, so what's making the energy? Wind energy doesn't work without something else making energy for when the wind stops, which it does -- especially if Al Gore controls the temperature, and all the winds and everything else, so we never have blowy days!

Agh!

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Norm Coleman's a Sore Loser. Why Won't the Press Say So?

By Eric Boehlert
Media Matters


Any day now, a three-judge panel in Minnesota will rule on Norm Coleman's lawsuit to overturn the results of the state's Senate election recount, which was completed in January. The complete hand recount concluded that the incumbent Republican lost to challenger Al Franken by 225 votes. Coleman demanded a full court case; today, almost nobody, including Coleman's own attorney, thinks the Republican will prevail in the judges' upcoming ruling, which follows a tedious seven-week trial.

End of story, and after a drawn-out, 18-week process, Franken will finally be seated in the U.S. Senate, right? Wrong. If Franken prevails as expected before the three-judge panel, Coleman will then have 10 days to file yet another appeal, this one to the Minnesota Supreme Court. If Coleman loses there as well, Republican leaders in Congress are encouraging him to not give up his legal challenge and take his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could create a scenario in which the Minnesota election might not get decided until the fall -- almost a year after voters went to the polls -- even if the Supreme Court refuses to hear the appeal.

As we discovered in Florida back in 2000, the U.S. election system is hardly perfect. And when contests are extraordinarily close and invite unprecedented scrutiny, questions always arise. But states do their best to ensure accuracy, and in the end, even in ridiculously narrow contests, a winner has to be declared and the loser has to accept defeat.

Except, apparently, in Minnesota, where Coleman has adopted the rather unique strategy of litigating his case indefinitely, thereby preventing Democrats from seating their 59th member in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to cut off filibusters. Meaning, the battle for Franken's seat not only remains a news curiosity, but in terms of politics and power, it's a very big deal and has attracted nationwide press attention....(Click for remainder).

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When Faux Populism Meets Eric Cantor's Brain

By John Aravosis
AMERICAblog


I was just watching Cantor on TV the other day. Not exactly the brightest bulb in the GOP (though he'd give Sarah Palin a run for her money). Anyway, it seems that Cantor has a big problem with the stimulus package and all of its "wasteful" spending on things that don't "stimulate." Case in point: Bike paths and bike racks.

Hmmm...

First off, the folks who specialize in such things say that a dollar spent on bicycle infrastructure actually produces more jobs than a buck spent on highways. Could be the relative wages, could be how much money goes into materials versus manpower. Could be a lot of things. But what we do know is that Eric Cantor is continuing the GOP brand of faux populism that, at its core, is based on worshipping idiots.

For example, remember when the Republicans made fun of Obama for saying that additional offshore drilling would bring in about as much energy as simply inflating all of our car tires to the correct amount? The GOP ripped Obama for that "silly" suggestion - except, of course, we later learned that Obama was right.

But for the Republican fake outrage machine, facts don't really matter. Back to the case at hand. What, pray tell, does Mr. Cantor think really "stimulates"? (Perhaps he should ask Lindsey Graham, or maybe Aaron "Abs of Steel" Schock.) Projects that stimulate the economy are projects that create jobs. And that can happen in a number of ways. By direct hires, or by buying goods that help companies increase their revenues and thus be able to hang on to more employees during an economic downturn. What the impact of the stimulus does not have any correlation to is how serious or not the project sounds, which seems to be what Cantor is arguing....(Click for remainder).

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Geithner’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’: The Entire Global Financial System is at Risk

When the Solution to the Financial Crisis becomes the Cause

By F. William Engdahl
Global Research


US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has unveiled his long-awaited plan to put the US banking system back in order. In doing so, he has refused to tell the 'dirty little secret' of the present financial crisis. By refusing to do so, he is trying to save de facto bankrupt US banks that threaten to bring the entire global system down in a new more devastating phase of wealth destruction.

The Geithner Plan, his so-called Public-Private Partnership Investment Program or PPPIP, as we have noted previously is designed not to restore a healthy lending system which would funnel credit to business and consumers.  Rather it is yet another intricate scheme to pour even more hundreds of billions directly to the leading banks and Wall Street firms responsible for the current mess in world credit markets without demanding they change their business model. Yet, one might say, won't this eventually help the problem by getting the banks back to health?

Not the way the Obama Administration is proceeding. In defending his plan on US TV recently, Geithner, a protégé of Henry Kissinger who previously was CEO of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, argued that his intent was 'not to sustain weak banks at the expense of strong.' Yet this is precisely what the PPPIP does. The weak banks are the five largest banks in the system.

The 'dirty little secret' which Geithner is going to great degrees to obscure from the public is very simple. There are only at most perhaps five US banks which are the source of the toxic poison that is causing such dislocation in the world financial system. What Geithner is desperately trying to protect is that reality. The heart of the present problem and the reason ordinary loan losses as in prior bank crises are not the problem, is a variety of exotic financial derivatives, most especially so-called Credit Default Swaps.

In 2000 the Clinton Administration then-Treasury Secretary was a man named Larry Summers. Summers had just been promoted from No. 2 under Wall Street Goldman Sachs banker Robert Rubin to be No. 1 when Rubin left Washington to take up the post of Vice Chairman of Citigroup. As I describe in detail in my new book, Power of Money: The Rise and Fall of the American Century, to be released this summer, Summers convinced President Bill Clinton to sign several Republican bills into law which opened the floodgates for banks to abuse their powers. The fact that the Wall Street big banks spent some $5 billion in lobbying for these changes after 1998 was likely not lost on Clinton. 

One significant law was the repeal of the 1933 Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act that prohibited mergers of commercial banks, insurance companies and brokerage firms like Merrill Lynch or Goldman Sachs. A second law backed by Treasury Secretary Summers in 2000 was an obscure but deadly important Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. That law prevented the responsible US Government regulatory agency, Commodity Futures Trading Corporation (CFTC), from having any oversight over the trading of financial derivatives. The new CFMA law stipulated that so-called Over-the-Counter (OTC) derivatives like Credit Default Swaps, such as those involved in the AIG insurance disaster, (which investor Warren Buffett once called 'weapons of mass financial destruction'), be free from Government regulation....(Click for remainder).

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That's No Angry Mob, It's a Movement

By Michael Winship
Truthout


A college friend of mine, after much quaffing from the keg, so to speak, would start singing a faux hymn that began, "We are sliding into sin - whee!"

I've thought of his bleary tune from time to time as we all watched our financial institutions slide from thoughtless, wretched excess into calamity, aided and abetted by deregulation and bailouts, dragging the rest of us along on their speed bump-free ride.

You'd think there would be a modicum of contrition but mostly it has been deny, deny, deny combined with shivers of revulsion as an angry citizenry freely expresses its opinion. Former Clinton SEC chairman Arthur Levitt sniffed to The Wall Street Journal this week, "It has reached extremes of incivility that are intolerable," and on Friday the Journal editorially wrung its hands over "political Torquemadas" who would dare to prosecute Wall Street executives.

See here, you people, the seemingly dumfounded elite ask, why all this hollering? Well, it wasn't only those AIG bonuses that had folks mad as hell. For sure, they triggered the outburst last week. But then came an ABC News report that JPMorgan Chase - recipient of 25 billion in bailout bucks, courtesy of taxpayers - was pressing ahead with plans to spend $138 million dollars on two new corporate jets and a place to park them - a state of the art hangar with a "vegetated roof garden." Presumably, bank executives will use the vegetation to hide behind when the mob arrives with tar and feathers....(Click for remainder).

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Ed Stein: In Deep

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